Respect in Chess

Nov 11, 2011, 4:46 PM |

Respect thy opponents. Respect thy fellow chessmates.
For my first blog post, I'd like to discuss a topic that is very important and personal to me and yet doesn't get talked about much. The topic is, of course, respect in chess. I believe that chess players should respect the games and moves of other players, regardless of how strong they are and how well they play. It's quite easy for much stronger players to tell weaker players that their moves are horrible, their style of play is boring or, as someone described my style of chess as "dry and materialistic", which was very upsetting to me at the time. I've moved on since then, but my point is that it's one thing if a player is trying to help another player improve, but if all they do is criticize your play without offering anything else then I find that to be down right insulting. It could seriously discourage someone from playing/studying the game which is a shame because chess is supposed to be fun! So here's my advice: instead of telling someone that their move is terrible, why not ask the player why he/she played that move and then explain why you think that move is bad and suggest something different. That would be a lot more instructive.

Okay, enough rambling:) Let me show you a couple of concrete examples in chess games I recently played

Game #1: I was playing White and reached this following position with White to move:











When I reached this position, I thought for a long time about the best continuation and decided to play  30. Bf1. As I was about to play it, a stronger player, rated 400+ points higher than me, glanced at my game and told me not to play that move, calling it an "ugly" move. Well, I dismissed him and played it anyway :) Besides, playing something else because of his comment would probably be considered cheating. The thing that really ticked me off was that I spent about 5 min evaluating the position and he only looked at it for a few seconds and commented on it without giving any credit to my move (even if it happens to be an ugly move), which I found quite disrespectful. Now, let's examine the position and determine if 30. Bf1 is indeed an "ugly" move. 

I'll admit that 30. Bf1 does "look" ugly and it wasn't the first move that came to my mind, you can say a lot of bad things about it such as, the bishop is returning back to its original square, it's on a less active square, it's blocking the rooks, etc. I'll also admit that it is not the sharpest continuation. However, my idea behind Bf1 is very simple and logical: I wanted to improve the position of my light square bishop which wasn't doing much on d3. So I played Bf1 intending to play Bh3 attacking the Queen and later on Be6 (which I eventually did and had an easy win), a much better square for my bishop than d3. Now you might say that it's a pretty slow maneuver, but the thing is that I'm able to do this maneuver because the game is very closed up, with active play only on the a and b files. All the other files are blocked and White is the one who has control over the a and b files. Black's position is very cramped and cannot really generate any active play, which allows White to maneuver the bishop to a better square. So that was my evaluation and reasoning to play Bf1. After the game, I analyzed the position with Fritz to see if I missed anything or if there were better moves. The first two moves Fritz immediately came up with were like 30. Na7 and 30. Nxd6. I did consider 30. Na7 at the time and didn't like it as much and I missed 30. Nxd6, which is a pretty cool move. I missed the sac though, probably because I'm pretty weak in tactics, an area that I'm striving to improve on. After running Fritz for about 10 min, it actually came up with the move 30.Bf1 as the best move (!), giving it a +3.05 advantage, so that was pretty neat to see :) Anyway, all those moves are fine, White is in a great position and it's pretty hard for White to go wrong here but it's interesting to note that not only was the player's comment to me disrespectful but inaccurate as well.

Game #2: I was playing Black here, it's White's move








This position resulted after the following moves: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e5 (Czech Benoni opening, this was actually the starting position of the themed game) 4.Nc3 d6 5.Bg5 (here White deviated from the main line of 5.e4) Be7 6.Bxf6 Bxf6

Now, the same person glanced at my game and basically told me that my position sucked (paraphrased), that I have a terrible Bishop and very little space. Well this isn't quite true. Yes, I have a bad Bishop and yes, I have less space than White, but those are more results of the Czech Benoni system than of any inaccurate play on my part. This is actually a very decent position for Black due to some slightly inaccurate play from White's part. One of the goals in this opening for Black is to trade off the bad dark square Bishop so White's 5th move Bg5 actually helped Black to achieve this goal. Also, 6.Bxf6 seems like a waste of time; White doesn't really gain anything from this trade and lost his better bishop. In fact, as a result of this trade, my dark square Bishop actually became slightly better due to White's weaker dark squares. Later on in the game, my bishop had an important role on the h6-c1 diagonal when I launched a healthy attack on White's kingside, exploiting his weak dark squares.

Even though I'm referring to the comments from one person, I'm sure there are many other (arrogant) players like him out there. My point here is not to throw any blame on anyone but I just want everyone to realize that stronger players should not just dismiss weaker players' ideas but try to understand them if they want to be helpful and even if they don't agree, at least respect their moves and ideas. Furthermore, I believe that all players can learn from each other, even if they play at different levels. I often hear teachers say that they learn a lot from their students, whether it's in chess or other subjects. 

One more thought: someone I know (a different person this time!) said that Petrosian and Kramnik only know how to play defensively and do not know how to attack. He challenged someone else to find an attacking game from one of these players. I find this to be a completely preposterous statement! Sure, these two players usually like to play calmer games instead of flashy games full of sacrifices, but this doesn't mean that they don't attack! Seriously, We're talking about 2 former World Champions here and I would love to be able to play like either one of them. It seems like many people consider the games of positional players boring and prefer the more aggressive style players who produce more entertaining games. But can you imagine being a professional chess player and have people call your games boring? Anyway, if this sounds like you, then please think twice before you're about to make a bold statement and please please please pay some respect to the player you're addressing! Let's all try to learn from each other instead of insulting each other!