Winter is threatening to unleash itself on Bristol, so we thought we’d remind you of some all-weather chess events before Christmas
Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay – Sunday 21st October
Everyone’s favourite Sodbury – the Bristol league will once again proudly host some rapid wood-pushers in this charming town. Lunchtime visits to the antique/craft/charity shops and several pubs are recommended/obligatory. Details here.
Horfield vs. The League – Saturday 3rd of November
Still spaces left for Bristol league players of any playing strength to enter this friendly anniversary match. There will be two medium-length games, as well as puzzles with a difference, free refreshments, some history of Horfield & Redland club and perhaps a speech from their humble chairman.
Is it always this simple? Can you define a phase of a chess game? And does your perception of them change how you play?
Opening, Middlegame, and Endgame. This model is simple and may be a useful one to teach, and to define books and DVD’s (Master the Middlegame!, Improve your opening play, etc.). And I must admit I am a fan of chess quotes like these:
“Play the Opening like a book, the middlegame like a magician, and the endgame like a machine” – Rudolph Spielmann
“To beat me you have to do it three times – once in the opening, once in the middlegame, and once in the endgame” – World Champion Alekhine, at the height of his career.
However I also believe that seeing the game this way can alter your evaluations of your play and it can be limiting (“I’m really bad at endgames”) or (“That was lost from the opening”). It can be harmful to stop at these categorisations. You can get stuck in thinking only in terms of these three phases to the extent that it actually harms your moves. A few years ago I was stuck in thinking that a ‘lost’ endgame is irreparable – and I would prefer to make highly speculative moves in the middlegame rather than brave a slightly worse endgame. I didn’t appreciate that the endgame is long – and includes several phases.
To improve your game, we have previously advocated asking other players what type of player you are, and I realised something about my own play when someone said that I “win all my games in the middlegame”. I hadn’t realised, but he was right, I reached an endgame less often than other players.
Now, I’m of course still more than happy to win games in the middlegame – but when I am on the losing side I have learned to fight on and test out opponent’s endgame skills, rather than test their ability to refute a wild sacrifice. Through this, I have learned that a chess game is pretty long after all. The ‘endgame’ especially – can be exceedingly long both in moves played, and the amount of ‘play’ left. One example is this unfavourable position last season, which I managed to turn around:
I was forced to give up a pawn after a bad opening. Crucially though I had kept the game slightly alive and decided not to panic, and offer to go into double-edged middlegames and endgames. That doesn’t always mean keeping the queens on, it doesn’t always mean closing up the position – it just means finding some imbalance. Here I found myself in a double rook endgame where I could attempt to get my own passed pawn. It still wasn’t great, but it was enough to try.
I eventually conjured up a passed f-pawn which won me the game after a very natural move Rb8 was played here: (Full playback below)
My machine says that the game was about +3 to White from move 28 until the mistake on move 43. That’s 15 moves where Black is effectively down a whole piece. But in human terms, it was an extra pawn and some serious work to make it count.
Losing the psychological game
It can be the hardest thing to win a won game. And in amateur chess there are so many swings in the endgame (like the game above!) But take this as a positive – you can play for a win in a lot of positions, just stay positive and try to either prolong or complicate things until your opponent slips up. When you think you are losing, don’t stop looking for wins!
Have you ever been on the back foot in a game, and offered/accepted a draw only to realise that you were actually winning in the end position?
I think this has happened to many of us. If you reach an endgame and think “okay – I’m playing for a draw” then you may miss chances to steer thing around and transition to a winning ‘endgame proper’ – and instead of hanging on, you’ll see ways to complicate the position and create chances for your opponent to slip.
In A + B, the ‘+’ is an important ingredient. Or something like that. The point is there is a moment between the Opening and Middlegame, or between the Middlegame and Endgame, which are called transitions. They may last a few moves, and there may be several of them in a row. Some examples include:
Exchanges – e.g. trading the queens to go into a ‘Berlin Endgame’ or trading minor pieces to ensure an ‘opposite-coloured bishops ending’
Pawn advances to change the structure – e.g. advancing a pawn to block up the centre – turning the game into a blocky, manoeuvring battle
Pawn advances to attack – typically the f or g pawns moving two squares with opponent’s castled kingside, signify so much about your plan (and because pawns can’t move backwards, you’re sort of stuck with it!)
Sacrifices – these change everything!
There are others of course, but transitions are often more than just one move, they may be preceded by preparatory moves or by other exchanges. They can be short phases – but incredibly important.
The Endgame proper
One phase that definitely deserves recognition is the ‘Endgame Proper’ – how many half points – or even full points – have you seen be lost or won with just a few pieces left? For example this one:
Or how about a rook and king vs bishop and king? Can you draw with the bishop? Can you mate with a bishop and knight? These are all ‘Endgame Proper’ examples and well-worth knowing!
The education of a chess player
I may be over-simplifying this, then again it may be a useful way to think about it, but I believe that the more phases you are able to distinguish in a chess game, the more chance you have to improve in all phases.
Let’s follow this through a typical learning curve:
New player – 1 phase
At the very beginning, you see 1 phase – just the game of chess; one long, incredibly complex and surprising string of moves that don’t seem to relate to each other that much. Total chaos in other words!
Beginner – 3 phases
Soon after learning a few things, you see 3 phases:
This helps to break down that enormity and – for example – help you focus on learning the Guioco Piano, or queening an outside passed pawn in a king+pawn endgame.
Beyond – 5 or 6 phases
Later on you see more and more phases and start to think differently. For example, right now I am trying to see up to 6 phases:
Some people have suggested 7, with the addition of another Opening phase – but I’ll need to know more theory for that one! And some have suggested 5, in various combinations.
Of course at some point the distinctions become a less and less practical – like arguing how many dimensions or universes there might be. But even thinking about going beyond 3 can lay the groundwork for improvement.
And who knows what really happens in the minds of the Super-GMs – there may be many more definable phases, as well as the infinite parallel-universe games played out frantically on analysis boards. (If you are a super-GM reading this, by the way, please let us know what goes on!).
Chess is a game where it can all change in one move – let alone one phase – but the longer you see the game to be, and the longer you are willing to play it, the more ways you will see to win it.
Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess
We take a look forward to the season – starting tomorrow! – and a look back at our predictions last time around.
First off, a few tournament results:
Mike Meadows (Downend) won the Downend Summer Rapid tournament with a great last night to pull ahead of clubmate Oli Stubbs and David Painter-Kooiman – congratulations! A thorough – totally unbiased – report is on Downend’s site.
The Steve Boniface Memorial was missing GM Arkell, and the heavy favourite IM Alan Merry could not repeat his Spring victory – instead Graham Moore won it with a perfect 5/5! Tim Woodward took another victory in the major, and Jonathon Gould scooped the minor.
It’s officially the start of a new season, so we better get the prizes for last year wrapped up.
Newsflash: BCT reaches 100 articles! Thanks to all contributors – we have had 13 authors from 7 different clubs, and lots of engagement from readers. What’s next for BCT? Well I’m sure we’ll write an article on it! Meanwhile its (digital) founder, Jon Fisher, welcomes his second son into the world earlier this very day – congrats buddy! Well, on with the chess and two other fine specimens to admire in wonder:
We gave you ten ‘Games of the Month‘ last season – you have picked your winner and so have we. Prizes will be awarded at a convenient time (i.e. when I next play against the winners’ club in a match), so without further ado…
The deluge of votes from the great chess public went for…
This is a common tempt in the opening – a bishop and knight for a rook and a pawn. As Aron ruthlessly demonstrates, the extra minor pieces can be immediately useful whereas the extra rook takes a while to get going, so this trade is often not advised for the offender.
The queen was given up in the hope of defence but it was all over – replay below. Nice one, Aron!
We agonised long and hard over a few different games; it was a close call but we went for an original game where both sides played with plenty of adventure and spirit. And the winner is…
Ethan Luc! (University) – “I’d rather be Luc(ky) than good”
Comments are from both Ethan (EL) and us (BCT):
Well done Ethan and great stuff everyone!
More games this season please!
This season (18-19) we are hoping for more games to showcase not just for Game of the Month but as educational articles like this one on the Hippo. So don’t be shy! Games will not be analysed to within an inch of their lives – just enjoyed by chess-lovers alike. Here are some ideas:
Send in other people’s games – (there are no rights issues here!)
Send fragments of games (e.g. just an endgame is fine!)
Send games from tournaments (often longer time-controls make for better games)
Send in puzzle-like variations of games
If you’re that way inclined – send in computer analysis (maybe you played a ‘perfect’ middlegame?)
We’ll do our best to publish all games and will be continuing Game of the Month – so always appreciate more fodder.
Have a great season everyone!
Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess, sometimes underwater.
We take a quick look back at the spring congress to see what’s in store this weekend – and an update on my training for the diving chess world champs.
The last bit of tournament chess before the season begins! Bristol will once again battle for five intense rounds in three sections – in honour of legendary arbiter Steve Boniface.
It’s yet to be confirmed whether regular GM Keith Arkell will return to seek revenge on IM Alan Merry for the final round defeat in the Spring – the 26-move French is shown below. Alan won the tournament along with FM Mike Waddington. The top of the player lists for all three sections is shown below – watch out for the return of the irrepressible Frank Palm, now resident in Germany.
Here is the miniature from Alan (or is a miniature less than 25 moves? I forget, but its a nice handling of the French defence anyway).
All three sections are packed with past champions so it should be a bloody weekend! Sadly neither of your editors will be playing. Jon is currently nursing multiple injuries (not chess-sustained) and expecting a second child imminently, whilst I am (perhaps more importantly) playing in the world championships of diving chess. If you don’t know what that is, watch this video on YouTube. But it’s basically chess – underwater. The clock is your ability to keep breathing.
Here is me on a recent intensive training camp in Tuscany:
Wish me luck, won’t you?
Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess
All 10 Games of the Month from last season in Bristol&Bath. Please submit votes for your favourite! We have made our choice just in case, but there is a people’s vote as well as an editor’s pick, so get choosing! Comments, emails, and Facebook votes all welcome.
This season was the first full one for the Bristol Chess Times – one of our initiatives was a ‘Game of the Month’ (GotM). This relied on submissions from players, or captains, but also on us to look around at tournaments or on other websites where games are published. This is a known bias – one month we were so starved of games that we had to go with one of mine – but hopefully this will only spur on more game suggestions for next year!
*Rest assured as co-editor my effort in October is exempt from winning Game of the Season (GotS) but let’s have a recap of the 10 ‘Games of the month’ and we’ll let you decide the rest:
Remember September? Perhaps this swift ‘Greek Gift’ win from Aron will jog your memory:
This lively game was a crucial part of Horfield B’s surprise win over Downend A early in the season:
Perhaps this all-out war between Lewis and Oliver, who clearly agreed to a ‘no castling’ rule before the game, will get your pick:
(December had no GotM)
We went with a bumper edition in January, to pull out 4 defensive/counterattacking wins with Black. First up was Rich Wiltshir’s cool defence to claim joint first in the Clevedon Congress major:
Next was tournament organiser Graham Mill-Wilson showing disregard for a knight settling next to his king for most of the game and getting the job done to win the minor section:
League newcomer Waleed Khan played a classical game here from a Sicilian position, developing and centralising until a deadly pin was enough to force resignation:
And finally for January, a deadly and accurate finish emerging from another seemingly normal Sicilian by Steve Woolgar:
Devon didn’t know what hit it when Thornbury’s Lynda Smith won the day with a smooth and controlled attack:
Back to the league and the ever-enterprising Mike Meadows was elegantly unhinged here by university’s Ethan Luc:
(April had no GotM)
Finally, Jerry Hendy was under some pressure in this league game but gives up three pawns for a resignation:
Phew! 10 is a lot of chess games. But we have picked a winner! We’ll announce both the ‘people’s vote’ and the ‘editor’s pick’ soon.
One thing I notice is that all of these games are wins. A draw can often be an epic struggle and worthy of any prize, so maybe next season we’ll have of few more of those.
Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess
Avid readers will recall that on June 15th I gave this advice for a must-win tournament situation against 1.e4: Play the Latvian Gambit – “…2.f5… Bd6, sack a rook and win the tournament in a blaze of glory”. That very night the Bristol Spring Congress commenced and as if I had scripted it – a player called Mike played the Latvian twice, won twice, and (jointly) won the tournament in a blaze of glory.
Unfortunately for me it was FM Mike Waddington – who in a cruel twist of fate also beat me with White after I played an ambitious f5, miscalculating after arriving 27 minutes late. But that’s another story.
Mike appears to also have a soft spot for the Latvian Gambit (and a better understanding of it). Here are his two wins which helped him on the way to 4.5/5 in a very competitive open field:
Gambit accepted: the exf5 line
“The best way to refute a gambit is to accept it”. After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 White can play 3.exf5 – and the game is on.
Mike appears to have read my advice (scroll to 3. exf5) and goes for e4, Qe7, Nc6 and rapid bishop development:
After Nxc6 dxc6, d3 and Bxf5 Black has some control and is not any material down – the engine gives it -0.44 (small advantage for Black). After a few more moves (play through the game below) the queens come off and Black is fine with the pieces on good squares and White’s d-pawn isolated.
The middlegame was not a typical Latvian tactics fest – but Mike eventually wins the endgame after a favourable exchange of the last piece.
Mike got a second chance to play the Latvian and got the main line where the queen enjoys an early outing to g6: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.Nxe5 Qf6 4.d4 d6 5.Nc4 fxe4 6.Nc3 Qg6
The engine gives it around +1 here, but as I discuss in the original article it is often officially good for White but actually difficult to play. For example in our game here, it becomes a dangerous prospect for White to castle on either side of the board.
Mike manages to get in d5 and gets the classic Latvian bishop to d6 after: 7.Ne3 c6 8.Bc4 d5 9.Bb3 Nf6 10.Ne2 Bd6. Looks comfortable enough:
And it gets uncomfortable for White after some pretty natural moves – f4 was played here to try to avoid the oncoming assault on the king:
After f4 we have Bg4 and the pressure switches to the centre and White’s queen is quickly needing some space. Lewis gives up the exchange instead but there is no real compensation. Mike ends up three pawns up after giving back the exchange to get a comfortable ending:
Well done to Mike who also won against 4th seed Graham Moore (and against me, but that’s less impressive), to tie 1st place with IM Alan Merry.
We hope to see some more Latvians played at the top level soon!
…And in fairness to Mike’s other victims, here is my game:
Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular Bristol chess
One of the hottest days of the year and a massive cycling event blocking a lot of roads in the centre of Bristol wasn’t the best day for chess – but the hardiest fans still arrived ready for a different kind of heat over the board (and the actual heat).
If you’re ever having a bad day, then my performance in this tournament may cheer you up. Casually late for round 1 I was lucky to get a half-point bye, then an undeserved win with White in round 2 gave way to four straight losses. From the benign to the blunderous and then the classic ‘forget your own surprise opening and burn a rook’.
But there was also some good chess happening – first of all in the Open there were many Cliftonites (Cliftonians?) setting the pace but one newcomer Antony Stannard from North Bristol managed to work his way through the pack to get to board 1 for the final round – a win over IM James Cobb would steal the title. Sadly no heroic tale this time, as James calmly took the title ahead of the other IM Cobb (Charlie, looking on from board two in the final round).
In the major it was a cleaner sweep for North Bristol with Graham Iwi pipping Gareth Cullen to the post. Here is Graham surviving some pressure from Steve:
More North Bristol success came in the form of Waleed Khan who came third and also took the grading prize. We bring you one of his games against the top seed in the major. After some solid opening play, Gareth is on the attack – but Waleed finds the shuffling manoeuvre of Kh8, then back to g8, and Kh8 again to dodge the various attacking ideas – and he ends up a rook ahead with no danger left:
Well done to Clifton (particularly Igor and Dave) for organising, Geoff for arbitrating, and for North Bristol for a resounding success!
As for me I’ll hit the books.
News about upcoming tournaments
South Bristol Rapidplay (message from Roy Day):
To all our past entrants, friends and anyone that intended playing in the annual South Bristol chess clubs open tournament this year; I have been organising this tournament now for several years and thought I would give it a rest this year.
I apologise to all who may have intended playing but maybe this year with the present hot climate it may be for the best and we do not have air conditioning
All the best to all chess players
Downend Summer Tournament:
If you’re up for something a bit different then this may be up your street – a well-structured innovation from Downend to fit around busy summer calendars. Four nights of blitz chess but only your best three results count towards the total. So if you missed round 1, not to worry! The next round, conveniently after all the football and tennis excitement, is the 17th of July at Downend. You also play opponents with White and Black, so you can claim immediate revenge for that cheeky swindle…
Bristol Summer Congress:
Same place, similar huge field (probably) and cooler weather (probably) on the 24th-26th August.
Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess in Bristol
I used to think GM’s were all the same. They were all at least 50 years old, they played only the most mainstream openings, they never sacrificed anything and they won games by grabbing a pawn and hanging on to it.
This was when I was still at school and before the internet boom. Kasparov and Short were on TV when I was 6; I had learnt to play a year before that but I don’t think I watched it or knew what it was – and I didn’t find out they were both aggressive, highly creative players until much later (just think of Kasparov’s immortal game and Short’s infamous king-walk).
In 2018 we have an abundance of creative players, not least the exciting junior Richard Rapport. Check out any of his games for some fresh ideas, but meanwhile here’s a finishing attack against none other than Levon Aronian from 2016:
Here Rapport unleashes Rh1+! Whichever way White takes it there is devastation to follow (Nxh1 and Nf3+ or Kxh1 and Bxd4 followed by Qh4+ and mate soon) – but the more important point is that Rapport had to imagine this idea before he played the rook manoeuvre over to h5, as if the attack fails then it is really out of place there.
That’s how these young GM’s do it! But no, I thought GM’s had to be super patient, super restrained, super technical and super ruthless. And this is how I think many people outside chess still see it. Imagine for a second you don’t know the rules. You see on TV someone studying for 25 minutes and moving a pawn forward one square – you see the crowd going wild. What the…? As an observer you are hardly going to appreciate creativity here – because you won’t be seeing everything they are – chess is not naturally a spectator sport in this way.
But take IM Danny Rensch’s analysis of Gelfand’s extraordinary queen sacrifice here, saying he fell off his chair. This is more like the reaction you want for chess – seeing moves that are unexpected and intuitively creative – like a cheeky drop-shot in tennis. But creativity takes many forms and it is difficult for chess commentators to bring it all out.
From watching a lot of mainstream TV interviews with chess players over the years, the non-chess-playing interviewer often seems fascinated that the chess elite ‘spend their whole lives within 64 squares’ – they ask how a person can do it, they ask if it ever gets boring, they ask if they miss out on normal life. They are both in awe and also a little condescending towards the GM who is often attempting to debunk the myths of calculating 30 moves ahead, seeing every possibility, or of an inevitable descent into paranoia. What they never ask about is creativity.
The fact is that in chess, like in art, there are principles. To be good at art, you can learn the principles, but to be a great artist, you need to break them. Great chess players know when to break the rules – and they do it surprisingly often.
Every game is different. And to improve at chess it’s not just about openings, and not just endgame technique or tactics. You have to adjust how to approach your own thinking about chess positions.
And yes – part of this is your own brain – your own ideas and imagination. You will have many previous learnings about chess (doctrines like “passed pawns must be pushed!” or certain styles like Nimzowich’s ‘overprotection’). Let them advise you but don’t let them control you. The real fight is happening in your own mind – balancing impulses against logic, the innovative against the tried-and-tested, the right brain against the left brain if you will. Just let your creativity have influence – and have trust in your own moves.
See this video (or the game below) by Ronen Har-Zvi called ‘Trust your calculations’ where he focuses on a wild game from Dr. John Nunn. Notably Vishy Anand also said that the first time he beat a GM he learned to “believe in his own moves”.
I have a very different view of GM’s now – in fact almost the opposite from my 10-year old self. Sure they are technically very good, and sometimes win games by grabbing a pawn and hanging on to it. But to get there they had to hone their own style, and their own personal take on the game. They had to create something.
Here’s the game between Nunn and Anthony – played in Bristol in 1981!
Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular Bristol chess
A massive field and many new players this year – the Spring Congress was as tough as ever.
The Bristol tournament scene continues to go from strength to strength with a whopping 117 entrants to the Spring Congress – including a GM, two IM’s and a host of other masters in a very competitive Open field.
The British weather was compliant also – not taunting dedicated chess fans with too much sun streaming through the windows.
I entered the Open but I also had clubmates from Horfield in every section to cheer on, and a good excuse to loiter around the top boards and try to ‘improve by osmosis’.
The Open was more than twice the size of some previous tournaments which meant that drawn games were likely to cost you at the top. After 3 rounds nobody had a perfect score – though plenty on 2.5.
Before the final round there were three on 3.5 and GM Arkell lurking on 3. The Merry-Arkell match-up (seed 1 vs. 2) was the final round everyone wanted to see – this time Merry sealing the deal – he couldn’t take the prize outright though as Mike Waddington beat Graham Moore to also finish on 4.5.
Another dream final match-up was for the title of Bristol League champion – between league players only. Patryk Kryzyzanowski was leading on 3, whilst a host of others (including myself) were on 2.5. Steve Dilleigh got the honour of trying to leapfrog Patryk – and was doing well in a rook ending, up a pawn and with a slightly easier king position – could Steve emulate Carlsen and squeeze it to steal the title? After some calculated risks to keep his rook active, Patryk did enough to hold it and is now Bristol champion!
Over the last year the juniors have been threatening a takeover, this time the prize was shared between one of them (Yuyang Wang) and 3 ‘non-juniors’ (Bob Radford, winner on tiebreak; Brendan O’Gorman; and Chris Strong) with 4/5 each.
Bob won a crucial game in round 3 vs. Max Walker, where he showed tremendous resolve to come back a piece down – making use of a few tempi and some useful central pawns and eventually forcing a rook to drop – winning this game gave him the best progressive scores overall and the title of major champion!
More good news for my own club (Horfield) with Mike Jennings sharing first place along with three others: Daoyi Wang, William Taplin and John Harris.
It was a fantastic weekend for Bristol chess – the organisers have done a great job raising interest and ensuring everything runs smoothly; more players, more newcomers, more non-Bristolians and more prizes.
We’ll be back soon with analysis of a few games from the Open section.
Look out for the Steve Boniface memorial on the 24-26 August for more high quality chess bouts!
Mike Harris is co-editor of Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess in Bristol