An Anti-London System based on Chigorin’s Defence: Part 2

A few weeks a go I published an article highlighting the idea of fighting the London System using principles derived from Chigorin’s Defence.  Given the prevalence of the London system in amateur circles and its reputation for being stodgy, I wanted to try to showcase a line that was more tactical and open in nature. The article proved very popular and promoted a lot of conversation, particularly around the 4. Nc3 lines.  Today we revisit this line to update our analysis and build upon this blossoming approach to fighting the London.

First of all, if you haven’t read my first article on this anti-London system then I strongly recommend that you do as it introduces the wider system and the four major lines of 4. Nf3, 4. e3, 4. cxd or 4.Nc3 and their respective merits. The rest of this article will not make much sense otherwise…

It was the 4. Nc3 lines that caused the most conversation online. IM Frendzas from Greece rightly questioned and then found a much superior line in the Nc3 variation that I had overlooked in the first article.  Lets take a look.

1.d4 d5 2. Bf4 Bf5 3. c4 Nc6 4. Nc3 e5?! 5. cxd5 Nb4


IM Frendzas puts our initial choice of 5…Nb4 in jeopardy

Previously I had suggested 6. e4 for white with a messy position but IM Frendzas found a nice alternative leading to a clear advantage for white, 6. Bxe5!


“Go ahead, I don’t care about the c2 square!”

At first it seems astonishing that white can play this and voluntarily leave his king in the centre but as we will see, whites king is more than safe and ends up running to the queenside.

6…Nc2+ 7. Kd2 Nxa1 8. e4!


Black has won a rook and forced whites king to the centre yet unbelievably is in an inferior position

As IM Frendzas points out:

  • white has two pawns and a massive centre for the rook;
  • The knight on a1 is ultimately doomed;
  • The white king can run to the queenside (probably being the one to gobble the a1 knight)
  • Black is sorely lacking good squares to develop his pieces too.

Having debated the merits of the above position (the computer agrees too, giving an evaluation of between +0.7 and +0.9 for white) its hard to find much pleasure in the position for Black, no matter how great it initially looks.  The initial recommendation of 5…Nb4 doesn’t seem to be holding up  in the Nc3 lines so we need to find an alternative if our anti-London system is to survive past its infancy.

Line #4a – 4. Nc3 e5 5. cxd5

Having looked extensively at 5…Nb4 its too good for white.  Our subsequent discussions and analysis shows that the best line for black in this variation is likely to involve accepting weak pawns with the interesting move 5…exf4


Black accepts weak pawns to remove whites annoying black squared bishop

This leads to the almost forced line of 6. dxc6 bxc6 7. Qd2 Bd6 8. g3!


Black retains the bishop pair and has a clear plan of development

The position is unusual (something we wanted to achieve in our anti-London philosophy) and whites black squared bishop is no more.  The computer evaluation of this position gives us +0.3 so it would seem to give a playable position for black.


So our anti-London Chigorin system is still alive and kicking albeit with a necessary re-evaluation of the tricky Nc3 lines.  My thanks to everyone who has commented and contributed thus far but especially to IM Frendzas for his insight and analysis. So what is next?

Well despite almost all theory and top masters agreeing that after 2…Nf5 whites best response is 3.c4, I have still received a lot of comments from London players wanting to stick to their system with c3, e3 and the traditional London structure.  It seems that a third article may be required to look at blacks options in the event of the player of the white pieces proving particularly reticent to push the c pawn two squares.


Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

January 2018 Review

Yes, January has been and gone and for the South West it meant club derby’s, new grades, individual runs coming to an end, and a bumper edition of game of the month!

Division 1

All three club derby’s took place this month – with 6 fighting draws at the cricket club (Downend), Clifton B overcoming their A team, and Horfield A restoring the balance in the universe with a last-minute win. It was a big win for Clifton B who separate themselves further from Clevedon in the relegation zone – the Uni are just above them so we’ll have to see if the students can repeat last year’s late winning streak.


Division 2

Horfield C and North Bristol A split their matchpoints for the title race, so South Bristol B have taken a bit of control at the top for now; in the mid-table Thornbury scored a crucial 4-pointer against Downend C, whilst the latter’s D team struggle in last place.


Division 3

Surely its another two-horse race between Yate and Keynsham this year; both close to 100% – their own crunch match is postponed till April. Bath B continue their winning streak with 2 for 2 in January, whilst Hanham A have climbed out of last place, leaving Downend E in their wake.


Division 4

Its all about the resurgent North Bristol – they lie 1st and 3rd; the B team with a commanding lead at the top, whilst one of our games of the month comes from a crucial C-team encounter. The division has started to separate – still very close in the middle but with a few teams in the promotion and relegation zone (assuming there’s Division 5 on the way in 2018-19?! There have been a fair number of default points across all divisions this season but membership in general is growing).



The long harsh month of January also saw some individual runs come to an end, so we thought we would give some shout-outs. Jerry ‘unstoppable force’ Humphries was on 10/10 which is a remarkable feat in division 1 – but on his 11th game faced Andrew ‘immovable object’ Cooper – who stopped Jerry by continuing his 100% drawing record. In the same match Andrew Munn finally had to split a point peacefully – ending his run of zero draws from 13 games. A combative style is what we like to see!

Finally, the out-performers – players who are on a plus performance score compared with their grade. Congratulations to the following who are a whopping 30 points or more above their grade:

  • Elmira Walker (Downend, +30),
  • Yuvraj Kumar (Downend, +31)
  • Christian Brown (Bath, +35, also no draws),
  • Kwame Benin (Harambee, +35),
  • Pete Marks (Horfield, +38),
  • Max Walker (Clevedon, +39, also no draws),
  • Jonathon Long (University, +44)
  • Oleksii Novakov (Clifton, +45).

Game of the Month

We have several games to showcase this month all following a theme of defensive wins with Black. At the excellent Somerset congress in Clevedon there was two such games. Coincidentally a win with Black was exactly what I needed in the major section, but instead I got a little bit crushed by tournament specialist Chris Timmins. In the intermediate and minor however, players rose to the challenge and managed to resist White’s attack before clearing up the debris:

Check and mate

Rich Wiltshir forced resignation from his opponent with this very pretty finish.

Both wins allowed the victors to win (or jointly win) the congress – well done!

In the league Waleed Khan’s game was instrumental in North Bristol C’s rise to the top; with a calm response to an attacking battery and then some swift pressure on a bishop pinned on c2 and it was all over.


In his first season in the league, Waleed Khan posted a statement of intent with this strong victory in Division 4.  The bishop on c2 is hopelessly lost

But our game of the month come from the 4NCL (4 Nations Chess League) where Bristol regular Steve Woolgar played a blinding Najdorf and dismantled his opponent in 25 moves (editors note – did anyone win with white in January?!).


MVL would be proud indeed!  Congratulations to Steve Woolgar for the Bristol Chess Times  Game of the Month

What’s in store for February? Well its a startling lack of title race crunch matches, but that means plenty of room for upsets! More importantly its the KO cup semi-finals, watch this space..


Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.

Using explorer to prioritise opening study

For most of us in the amateur club scene we regularly purchase books or trawl YouTube for the latest “Win with Black with the Bonecrusher Opening” (editors note – This is not a real opening). Many club players spend ages reading and nodding along with the main line of their new opening only to discover that hardly anyone plays it against them.  Thus the big dirty secret of amateur chess emerges – the frequency of mainline theory is far far lower in amateur chess circles. Often the lines covered as an afterthought at the back of opening books, DVDs and YouTube under the “Other sidelines’ title are the very lines that we encounter most often. Lets look at how we can overcome this problem using a great feature on called MyGames Explorer.

For a while now I have been interested in the differences between professional and amateur chess players with regards to opening choices.  Fortunately, contains a lovely feature that does just that! Lets first look at what this feature is and where to find it and then we will look at an example using the Nf6 Scandinavian.

Looking at My Games with the opening explorer

When logged into go to “Explorer” in the navigation:

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 09.43.47

The Explorer option is underneath the weird blue and white icon with an arrow on it…

You will see the following page:

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 09.34.00

The main Explorer page on

At the top of the Explorer page are two dropdown menus. Change the first dropdown from “Master Games” to “My Games”.  And you will get a full breakdown of statistics for all your games.  The second dropdown menu allows you to view your games with black or white.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 09.41.42

With MyGames and black selected I can start to look at the opening statistics of different lines that my opponents play against me online.

Now you know where to find this great feature, lets start to use it to understand how amateur chess players differ from professional and thus aid ourselves in directing our study efforts.

Comparing Profesional to Amateur Opening Statistics – An example

Ive been playing the Nf6 Scandinavian for almost 18 months and like most players who want to learn a new opening I bought a book and started playing loads of blitz games.  I highly recommend Smerdon’s Scandinavian by GM David Smerdon if you are interested in this opening, it really is one of the best opening books I have ever read. One feature I love (which is sadly missing from most opening books) is a diagram outlining the likelihood of facing each line out of every 100 games.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 09.46.22

The diagram (editors note – taken from Amazon’s preview feature, I don’t know why its grey and blue?!) at the start of Smerdon’s Scandinavian showing the likelihood of each line occurring. A wonderful feature for all opening books.

Im not going to dwell on Scandinavian opening theory in this article.  What I want to look at is the percentages of common lines occurring amongst professional / strong players according to GM Smerdon:

1. e4 d5 2. exd Nf6:

  • 3. d4 – 47% 
  • 3. c4 – 19%
  • 3. Bb5+ – 17%
  • 3. Nf3 – 11%
  • 3. Nc3 – 10%
  • All other lines – 6%

This all looks nice and normal right?  It would seem that I would be sensible to prioritise looking at d4, c4 and Bb5 lines as part of my study. Now lets compare these statistics to my own experience in online games against 1300 – 1900 rated opposition.  The MyGames Explorer feature on shows me that I have played 340 games of (admittedly blitz) in the Nf6 Scandinavian and my opponents have responded in the following way:

1. e4 d5 2. exd Nf6:

  • 3. Nc3 – 26%
  • 3. c4 – 18%
  • 3. d4 – 17%
  • 3. Nf3 – 13%
  • 3. Others – 8%
  • All other lines – 18%

Comparing the predicted occurrence of a line in the book to amateur occurrence shows some interesting insight:

  • The d4 mainline occurs a whopping 30% less of the time compared to predicted theory.
  • The third best line for white, Bb5, is not even on the radar of most amateurs with a measly 7 occurrences from 340 games or 2% of the time.
  • The fifth most common line at professional level, Nc3, is the most popular line at amateur level occurring 2.5 times more often.
  • Almost 20% of players don’t take on d5 on move 2 (compared to 6% of professionals).  A response widely regarded by theory as leading to inferior positions for white.
  • The propensity of greed (i.e. keep the d5 pawn) amongst professionals and amateurs is about the same (editors note – this is a joke before anyone kicks off!)

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 09.59.47

Amateur chess players seem to demonstrate an annoying obsession with 3. Nc3…

To back these numbers up in over the board play, in the last 18 months I have played the Nf6 Scandinavian 12 times with the following breakdown of white responses:

1. e4 d5 2. exd Nf6:

  • 3. Nf3 – 25%
  • 3. d4 – 25%
  • 3. Bb5 – 25%
  • 3. Nc3 – 25%

Admittedly 12 games is not a large sample size but the percentages are certainly close to the amateur statistics observed online (with the exception of Bb5).

This is not the first time I have spoken about the differences between amateur and professionals in their opening choices. My article from last summer comparing responses to Larsen’s Opening has become one of the most popular blogs I have written and highlighted stark differences again. To me it is becoming clear that there is a demand at the amateur chess scene for opening statistics for the club level player to help prioritise which lines to study, especially given how time poor your average club player is with regards to study. This is exactly the gap that I see’s MyGames Explorer filling.



Whilst we all recognise that below 2000 ELO, opening study is unlikely to yield big changes in rating compared to studying tactics and endgames, we can’t get around the fact that we all love playing with our opening repertoires. Using the My Games Explorer has the potential to identify differences that we didn’t even know existed and allow us to plug valuable gaps in our knowledge at the amateur level.

I remain fascinated by the differences in move choice between amateur and professional levels and am certain that many publishers and producers of opening content could benefit from thinking about and recognising these differences.  In my opinion, we can’t ignore the fact that when it comes to amateur chess the sideline is the new mainline.

The MyGames explorer on could prove an invaluable tool to the average club player in terms of prioritising which lines to study or atleast which lines to have a response too. For example, I am now very comfortable with my response to 3. Nc3 in the Scandinavian scoring a respectable 53% with black. No I’m not telling you what it is, I need some secrets!

Thank you for reading and do let me know if you discover any other interesting differences in your own opening repertoires and if that changes which lines you study.


Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.


An Anti-London System based on Chigorin’s Defence

The amateur chess world has been flooded recently with the London System, thanks in no small part I expect to GM Simon Wiliam’s excellent three part series on this opening (his three videos on “learn the London System have amassed 180,000 views on YouTube). If like me you are tired of facing this frustrating system as Black, then today I want to share an approach I have been working on based on principles taken from another of GM Simon William’s opening choices, the Chigorin Defence.

The approach I am advocating in this article is based upon the “copycat” sideline (as nicknamed by GM Williams) where Black initially mirrors White with 2…Bf5.


GM Simon William’s advocates that in this sideline of the London, Whites best response is to play 3. c4 with plans to play a quick Qb3 hitting b7.  Indeed, 2..Bf5 is the one move where GM William’s is advocating playing c4 (rather than c3).

So basically after 2…Bf5 White is left with two choices:

  1. Continue with the usual London System setup with c3, e3 and Bd3 leading to (in my opinion) a one way ticket to a boring line where Blacks moves are easy and Whites core plan is neutralised;
  2. Transpose into a Queens Gambit style position with 3. c4.

It was this “admission” to abandon the traditional London setup and enter a Queens Gambit type position that inspired me to try a response based on Chigorin’s Defence.

Chigorin Principles

The move order I am advocating involves transposing into a type of Chigorin defence with 3..Nc6 quickly followed by a later e5 break.


White is faced with four choices of which three score highly in practice for white, hmm.

From ChessBase, White scores the following:

  • Line #1 – nf3 – 77 games with a score of 67% and a computer eval of +0.20;
  • Line #2 – e3 – 49 games with a score of 71% (bare with me readers!) and a computer eval of +0.24;
  • Line #3 – cxd – 0 games (?!) with a computer eval of 0.00;
  • Line #4 – nc3 – 11 games with a score of 54% and a computer eval of +0.08;

Lets look at the main lines.

Line #1 – 4.Nf3



Chigorin would be proud (if not slightly unsound…)

Played twice on Chessbase with a win and a draw for Black!

5. Nxe5 Nb4 6. Na3 f6?! 7. Nf3 dxc


Not exactly the nice closed systemic approach that most London players are hoping for out of the opening.

8. e3 Nd5 9. Bg3 Bb4+ 10. Nd2 c3!


The style of game and position is open and dynamic.  In the amateur chess world where the London is so pandemic at the moment, I would certainly like my chances of scoring well from here.

Line #2 – 4. e3

Again we stick to our Chigorin Principles with 4…e5


Played five times on ChessBase with a score of 60% for White:

5. dxe dxc

6. Nc3 (not 6.Bxc4 when the following equalises: 6…Qxd1 7. Kxd1 Rd8 + 8. Nd2 Be4 9. f3?! Bb4 fxe4 Rxd2+ =) 6… Bd3 7. Bxd3 cxd3 8. Nf3 Qd7 9. 0-0 Ne7


White has a pawn, and although not exactly the type of game that most London players want I’m not convinced by this line for Black. A better alternative to 5…dxc we can also look at 5… d4!


Whites best response here is 6. Nf3 followed by:

6…dxe 7. QxQ+ Rxd8 8. Bxe3 f6?! 9. exf Nxf6


A nice open board where Blacks loss of a pawn is compensated by open lines and great development.  The computer gives an evaluation 0.00 in this position.

Line #3 – cxd

Unbelievably no-one seems to have played this line.  The key seems to be the removal of the b1 knight before it gets chance to jump to c3.  As below:

4. cxd Qxd 5. Nf3 (protecting d4) Bxb1 6. Rxb1 e5!


This line appears to be the strongest so far for Black, breaking up the centre and resulting in very unlike London formations.

7. Nxe5 and the game can continue in a relatively equal position.

The mistake 7.dxe leads to advantage Black with the following two lines: 7. dxe Bb4+ 8. Bd2 Qxa2 OR the very nice line 7.dxe Qe4! 8. Qc1 Nb4 9. Ng5 Nd3+ 10. Kd1 Nxf2+ 11. Ke1 Nd3+ 12. Kd1 Qxf4 with a clear advantage to black (see below)


7. dxe appears to be a mistake as demonstrated with the resulting position above.

Line #4 – 4.Nc3

The lowest scoring line for White but it seems a sensible plan.  Lets strike again with e5 and see what happens:

4…e5 5. cxd Nb4 6. e4?! 


White is provoked into a very un-London like e4 leading to a messy position

6…exf5 7.exf4 Nxd5 8. Qb3 Bb4 9. Bc4 Nf6


In this line both sides get a game as they say with active piece development.  But at risk of sounding like a broken record, how many London System players envisage this kind of position at the start of the match?


Obviously there is a greater level of depth required to this analysis in all these lines. For the sake of this article I have ventured only a handful of the most obvious positions. At the time of writing I have only tried this approach in online chess with modest / good results.  However, I am excited by its potential and the reason for this is threefold:

  • In the world of amateur chess where the London System has become so prevalent, psychology and clock time play a huge part in leading to mistakes.  By forcing confrontation in the centre of the board with an early Nc6 and e5, Black is ultimately saying to white “I will not play on your terms“.  I would predict this approach to the London will leave the amateur white player atleast feeling uncomfortable, if not worse on the clock as well.
  • From move two you are forcing the player of the white pieces to make a choice.  Either accept that their conventional setup of c3, e3 and Bd3 will be immediately contested in a dry boring, drawish opening line OR go into a range of tactical lines involving high-levels of early calculation.  This choice is not one that I would predict most players of the London System are thrilled about, particularly in amateur club circles.
  • I admit that their might be some queries around theoretical soundness but even the initial analysis shown in this article indicates that white is at best only half a pawn ahead in the best lines.  Personally a cost I am prepared to pay in order to gain the psychological and time advantages mentioned above.

When you put the above three points together, you can see that here we have a potentially interesting line against the London System with strong practical chances. Just like the real Chigorin Defence, another advantage is that many of Blacks moves are thematic in nature such as nc6, e5, Nb4 and Bb4.

I hope you have enjoyed this line and if you have any thoughts, or better still, venture this line in one of your games then please let me know. I would love to develop the theory on this Anti-London System further!


Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Beating the London System from two pieces down

Today on the Bristol Chess Times we welcome new columnist Mike Fielding from North Bristol Chess Club.  A club well in the ascendancy who are rapidly growing and striving for Division 1 status, North Bristol have been combative all season.  

The London seems to be everywhere in amateur chess at the moment so here is a recent game from the recent North Bristol B vs. Hanham B clash where Black launches a lovely attack against this tough opening system.

[Event “North Bristol B Vs Hanham B”]
[Site “Ratepayers Arms, Filton.”]
[Date “2018.01.25”]
[White “Kevin Marshall”]
[Black “Michael Fielding”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “A80”]

1. d4 f5

The Dutch isn’t something I usually play so I thought i’d trot it out to try to catch my opponent out.

2. Bf4

The infamous London System. Buckle up.

2… Nf6 3. e3 b6 4. Nf3 Bb7

In the Dutch it’s usually good to fianchetto the queen’s bishop if white doesn’t fianchetto the kingside bishop.

5. c3 e6 6. Be2 Be7 7. h3 O-O 8. Nbd2 Nd5


Probably not the best move but I though I can either kick his bishop back to a worse square or win the bishop pair.

9. Bh2 Na6 10. Qc2 Nf6 11. O-O-O c5 12. Rhg1 cxd4 13. exd4 Ne4 !?


13… Nb4 is a good try but I couldn’t really see where the knight was going. My main aim was now to hit hard and fast.

14. Rdf1 (14. Bxa6 Bxa6 15. Nxe4 fxe4 16. Qxe4 )

This line would give up a pawn but the bishops become a bit better and I’ve got a simple plan to pawn storm the queenside. Although I’m a pawn down I’ve always thought the 2-2-2 pawn formation is favourable.

14… Rc8 15. Kd1 ?

The king is definitely asking for trouble coming back into the centre !

15. ..Nc7

I think I copped out a bit with this move. I always worry about missing tactics so I thought just reroute my knight back in and try to open up. Nb4 is better I’m sure.

16. Bd3 Nd5 !

Let the fun begin. Things soon start to open up with the king still in the centre.

17. Nxe4 fxe4 18. Bxe4 Nxc3+ 19. bxc3 Bxe4 20. Qxe4 Rxc3


This is the line I calculated. White’s king is stuck in the centre with the rest of his pieces stuck awkwardly in the corner. Now I just need to pile in.

21. Qb1 Ba3 22. Kd2 Qc8 23. Ng5 (23. Rc1 Bxc1+ 24. Rxc1 Rxc1 25. Qxc1 Qa6)


I though that white would give the exchange back to free his pieces. Even after the mass trade off I can’t help but feel I’d pick one of his loose pawns up.

23… g6 (23… Rf5 The better move. 24. Ne4 Rc4 25. Qd3 Bb4+ )

24. Ne4 Rc4 25. Kd3 ?

Stepping out the frying pan and into the fire.

…Qa6 26. Ke3 d5 27. Nd6 Rc3+ 28. Kd2 Rc6


28… Bb4 This moves to a forced checkmate. I applaud any human that would have found that over the board and had the bottle to play it! 29. Kd1 Rd3+ 30. Kc1 Bd2+ 31. Kc2 Rc8+ 32. Nxc8 Qc4+ 33. Kd1 Bb4+ 34. Ke2 Rb3+ 35. Kd1 Rxb1#

29. Qb5 Bb4+ !


Trading queens just ends up in a losing endgame for me. Sacrificing the second piece allows me to infiltrate and keep the advantage.

30. Qxb4 {Forced.} 30… Qxa2+ 31. Ke3 Rc2

Now the rook has infiltrated white has nowhere to go. Although I’m two pieces down they’re doing nothing. I can start to rearrange my pieces and cause more problems.

32. Qe1 {White cracks.}

32. Kd3 Rb2 Was the only try but white’s completely tied down. With perfect play white can probably wriggle out of it but with less than 20 minutes on the clock it’s easier said than done.

32… Qb3+ 0-1


Play through full game

So what can we learn from this game? Sometimes you’ve got to speculate to accumulate and quality over quantity. I know that computer evaluations should never be blindly followed but after the sacrifice on move 20 the silicone based overlords always had black as having an advantage, even when I was two pieces down the evaluation never went positive. Although my moves may not have been computer accurate it’s much harder to defend than attack and eventually that told..

Michael Fielding (1)

Mike Fielding

Mike can be found throwing the kitchen sink for North Bristol or hustling some backpackers in a remote youth hostel; trying to help turn North Bristol into a Division 1 side. Ex-Weymouth. UK NATO Chess Team 2015. MOD Chess Champion 2017.


Bristol Chess Times – January 1993

Continuing our theme of revisiting the Bristol Chess Times from 25 years ago, today we offer an insight into the league in January 1993.  The full PDF edition is available at the bottom of this article.


Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 10.46.50

Highlights include:

  • Bristol still debating whether it should enter the newly formed National Chess League;
  • Nigel Short preparing for Jan Timman in his quest to face Kasparov;
  • A new company taking over Teletext?!! (Editor’s note – Younger readers should Google Teletext)
  • Bath, Grendal, Cosham, Hanham, Sun Life and Thornbury leading the respective six divisions;
  • An exchange visit to Hannover, Germany from a squad of Bristolians!
  • GM Stuart Conquest holding a simul to help Horfield celebrate 50 years.

You can download the PDF here: BCT93


John Richards

John has been playing for Horfield for longer than anyone else cares to remember (but was actually 1983). Never quite managing to get to a 180 grade, he is resigned to the fact that he probably never will. He set up the original Bristol League website and has been, at various times League General Secretary, Recruitment and Publicity, Chess Times Editor, Bristol 4NCL Manager and an ECF Arbiter.

More mini games for coaching chess

The less experienced you are, the harder it is to take specific lessons from a full game of chess. This is the claim that I made in the last article on coaching. There are just way too many factors in a full game, and most of the time any interesting strategic play will be dwarfed by blunders. It is for this reason I believe more in the value of mini games – this means a game specifically designed to teach one or two aspects of the game.

Last time I showed a few games which only use one major piece.

Bristol league alumnus Chris Russell has contributed a further mini-game which he has used with great success in coaching: King, Queen and 8 pawns vs. King, 2 Rooks and 8 pawns. A queen vs. two rooks does come up from time to time in games, and depending on the position, can be much better for either side. The rooks like to be co-ordinated, and the queen likes more open positions and some loose targets. In the scenario with 8 pawns on their starting ranks – Chris notes that the queen has a slight edge because she can keep attacking pawns early on, and the rooks find it hard to establish the right battleground for them – but there’s not much in it.

Since writing the first article, I’ve also discovered that has several training games of exactly this nature. I tried the ‘Queen vs. Queen with two extra pawns’ game (you have 5 pawns, the computer has 3) and surprisingly I ended up losing the first two games…
Once I had snapped out of that I managed to press the advantage for a bit and ended up drawing the next two. Fifth time lucky, I triumphed – but I had to calculate a queen trade very carefully. It just shows how hard these ‘winning’ positions are to convert! Anyway, this time let’s see a few other types of mini-game:

Classic mini chess

I started playing this as a youngster; it is arguably a streamlined chess game, reducing down to one of each major piece. Apart from being a shorter game, I like this one for coaching for a couple of reasons. Firstly there is an immediate way to blunder checkmate, so it doesn’t take much to explain the link between a general strategy and checkmate. Let’s take a look [n.b. the board is 5×5, pieces set up with R,N,B,Q and K on a- to e- files; and pawns in front of them, which can only move one square per move, unlike regular chess]:


1.d3 ed??

Blunder! (You have given your opponent both control and access to the square right in front of your king!) It is forced mate in four:

2.ed – threatening Qe2+ and mate on e4. Black can prolong this with cd (answered by cd) or Nc3 (answered by bxc3) but mate will come on e4 soon enough.

The other thing mini-chess should teach well is that pawns are powerful weapons – where they are only three moves away from queening from the start, strategies for promotion should quickly become apparent.

(It can also teach you about zugzwang – but that’s a bit advanced!)

Push or defend

For this one you’ll have to imagine a solid line between the a and b file. One pawn starts on the a file and can freely wander to the other end. Once it is promoted, you win the game.

However, the other side is trying to checkmate you. Try this one: (White doesn’t have a king in these games, just some pieces to attack with. Here it is Qh1, Rg1, Pf2. Black has the pawn on a7 – which will promote in 5 moves unless Black uses up some moves to avoid checkmate: Kg8, Rf8 and pawns on f7,g7 and h7.)

Push or defend.PNG

This should teach the basic importance of time, and having your own plans (counterplay). As an attacker it should force you to think about forcing moves, and see which threats really are threatening.

Endgame cuts

This one I recommend for absolutely all levels of chess – and was surprisingly inspired by a method for cutting cake fairly! I remember a puzzle from years ago about cutting cakes that are not uniform – different amounts of icing, toppings, corners etc – a potential minefield for any cake cutting scenario. The question was how can two people can ensure a cake is cut fairly between them, using only a knife? (n.b. you are not told anything about the shape or design of the cake).

The answer was pretty simple: One person makes the cut, and the other one gets to choose their piece. This encourages the cutter to cut as fairly as possible.

Okay, its not perfect – it’s a little unfair on the cutter. However, the same approach actually works much better for chess training:

One person sets up an endgame, and the other person chooses their colour.

Why does this help? Two reasons – it gets you to try to evaluate positions. As you set the board up, you will be thinking through all the various parts of the position. Material, time, and quality. Two connected past pawns? Maybe that’s equal to a bishop? Maybe they’re not, maybe they’re easily better. The point is it’s up to you, and you can modify the position until you think it’s equal.

The second reason I like it (except that it trains endgames, which let’s be honest we all need to do more of!) is that when you lose with the side that you picked, you are forced to re-evaluate. Psychologically it’s much harder to ignore the flaws in your thinking when it’s you who chose the position!


Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.