Whose attack is faster in a tactical Semi-Slav? (YouTube)

In the latest episode, we showcase a tactical explosion in the Semi-Slav from a recent Division 1 clash between Horfield A and Horfield B. We look at the idea of a bad plan is better than no plan and how the speed of a players attack can be deceptive.

 

Whose attack is faster in a tactical Semi-Slav? – (23 minutes long)

If you are enjoying our game reviews and would like to nominate one of your games for the channel then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Please do remember to subscribe on YouTube and share with your chess friends!

Until next time.


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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.

Practical decisions in the Symmetrical English (YouTube)

In episode 1 of the newly launched Bristol Chess Times YouTube channel we look at a game from the recent Division 1 clash between Clifton B and Horfield C.  A quiet opening sees both sides manoeuvring before white finds a way to disrupt the pawns in front of blacks king but he loses the e-file in the process.  We start our analysis in the middle game where several key positions arise in quick succession that present white with a number of tricky decisions. Lets pick up the action…

 

Practical decisions in the Symmetrical English – (20 minutes long)

If you enjoyed the video please remember to Subscribe on YouTube and share with all your chess friends!  We aim to produce a range of monthly videos and articles on the Bristol Chess Times so please get in touch if you feel there is an interesting game we can cover.

Until next time.


mecircle

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.

Welcome to The Bristol Chess Times YouTube Channel

Today we are delighted to announce the launch of The Bristol Chess Times YouTube channel! We feel video is the perfect format for talking through the cut and thrust of your typical amateur league chess match and have worked hard to present a clean and professional looking approach. We hope you subscribe, share and most importantly enjoy!

Our first video is simply a short introduction (three minutes) to the YouTube channel outlining mine and Mike’s ambitions for pushing The Bristol Chess Times and the Bristol & District Chess League forward.

Until next time!


mecircle

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.

Why don’t amateurs play mainline openings?

I will confess that I had an alternative name for this blog post that went something along the lines of “Wading into the Sicilian swamplands”. However I decided that sounded more like a pulp fiction thriller than a conversation on amateur chess player habits.  In addition I feared it would put too much emphasis on the Sicilian rather than the wider aversion of amateur chess players to tackle openings more usually employed by the professionals.  Across the amateur chess scene you are more likely to see Owens Defence (1…b6) than a Berlin but why is that and what are we so afraid of?

 

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What shall we play today? Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

So unfortunately I fall into the category of amateur chess club player.  To give you an idea of the kind of club player I am I’ve broken down some facts about my play for you:

  • My OTB grade has hovered between 145 – 155 ECF (1788 – 1863 ELO) for the last 10 years.
  • I tend to play in Majors at weekend congresses where I occasionally win a prize
  • Recently i’ve played at the bottom of several Open tournaments where I claim the odd scalp and end up dining out on that far more than the three games I lost in the endgame (of which with best play I should probably have drawn two)
  • The type of openings I play include the Nimzo-Larsen Attack (1.b3), the Scandinavian (1…d5) and the Clarendon Court (1.d4 c5 2. d5 f5?!)

Like a lot of club players, I console my lack of progress (and justify my opening choices) by saying things like “I don’t have time” (note – I really don’t, my children are 2.5yrs and 13 days old) or “My openings drag my opponents out of book“.

But heres the thing.

The entire amateur chess scene says this.  The choice of obscure / semi-sound / non-mainline openings for time poor amateurs is further reinforced by a huge range of system style books and DVDs. As a result it is not unusual to watch a game in a Minor or Major section of a tournament involve 10 opening moves of system style openings where both players are overlooking obvious opportunities on the board in the name of getting to “their desired set up” (as dictated by whichever latest book or DVD you have studied this month).

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing overly wrong with this approach and indeed works well for a large number of club players.

Earlier in the year I wrote several pieces on reviewing your opening repertoire but also how, in my opinion in the amateur world sidelines are the new mainline.

However, is it ultimately limiting the growth of many players? This question is based on a recent eye opening experience that has challenged my belief in this approach.

Time to kill with a stale repertoire

As regular readers will know, I recently suffered a serious accident which has left me convalescing in bed for the last five weeks. As a result i’ve played a lot of rapid chess (10 minutes, no increment) online.

Forced to rest with a lot of time to kill and a growing believe that my repertoire needed updating I started playing anything in order to spice things up.  This radical approach led me to start playing…whisper it…the Sicilian.

1…c5

I know.

Take a moment.

If you were to ask my partner in crime at the Bristol Chess Times, co-editor Mike Harris, my personal opinion of the Sicilian he would probably tell you that its not safe for work and should be broadcast after 9pm in the evening. I hate the Sicilian.

Its complicated, it has entire libraries of theory and literature and every player has a special anti-Sicilian sideline (I’m looking at you 2.b3 weirdos) which makes studying it a nightmare.  Of all the possible opening moves available, I have never played 1…c5.

Well I guess circumstances eventually forced my hand and it turns out that i really like the Sicilian!

Its fun, its tactical and at no point have I bothered to learn any names of any variations.

That last point is key to my message today.  When I first started throwing the C-pawn forward I just started applying sound opening principles to see what happened.  I was just playing chess rather than starting from the position of looking for a new book or DVD involving the words “Crush”, “Win” or “Beat”.

I started winning.  I started winning cool exciting games. Beating 1900’s and 2000’s become the norm rather than the exception. My online rapid play grade went from 1840 to 1950 ELO, a personal best.

Lets look at the numbers taken from my rapid games on Lichess:

  • Scandinavian Defence – Won 38% / Drew 4% /  58% (24 games)
  • Sicilian Defence – Won 59% / Drew 0% / 41% (29 games)

Obviously being 10 minute games amongst amateurs the number of draws is very low. However, the difference is stark!

Noticing my general happiness in my chess improving following the adoption of the C-pawn, I decided to look up the variation I had naturally been playing.  Turns out its called the Scheveningen Variation and has been championed by none other than Gary Kasparov in the past.

Hold on.  This doesn’t compute. Im an amateur player. Every book, DVD and YouTube video  tells me I should be playing a system style opening that crushes all before me and yet I seem to be having fun and winning using a mainline opening played by possibly the greatest world champion of all time.

I shouldn’t be having fun. I certainly shouldn’t be winning because I haven’t learnt any theory in this behemoth opening that has always terrified me. Whats happening?

Style beats theory

Turns out that there is something about the Sicilian that resonates with me.  I genuinely don’t know whether that is that the plans make sense to me, I like the types of tactics or it dissolves into endgames that make sense to me? It could be all three to be fair.

Whatever it is, my personal style seems to connect with the Sicilian and it has really reinvigorated both me personally and my results. Ive learned a valuable lesson.

How much are amateur chess players holding themselves back by not playing mainline openings due to a fear of a lack of time and an intimidation of theory?  How much are club players short changing or even stunting their chess development by burying their heads in their hands because mainline openings are scary?

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“Curses! A mainline opening…(sigh)” Photo by taha ajmi on Unsplash

Ask someone else what your style is

Amateur chess players are famous for telling themselves stories about how they play (“Im a tactical wizard” or “Im a positional master“) but often the reality is far different.  Today I have spoken about how I have accidentally found a love for a mainline opening after shunning it for years.

Remember my point is not to go into realms of time consuming study. I have no more time in my daily life now than before and have still not studied any Sicilian Scheveningen theory (although somebody did mumble something about the Keres Attack, g4, blah blah something something).

Therefore, in my opinion, perhaps the most important challenge for amateur players is identifying their actual personal style rather than starting from the position of which time saving system shall I play? Given we often tell ourselves stories my best recommendation would be to ask your club mates, friends or coach about how they think you play.  Work through several of your games and look at the raw data, even if that data is from blitz games online. You might just surprise yourself over what you learn whilst saving yourself both time and money on that next “Beat everyone with this system” DVD you were eyeing up.


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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 (Yes. I know its not a mainline…).

The Forgotten Lady Champion who defeated Emanuel Lasker

Here on the Bristol Chess Times we have previously written about the often over looked Mary Rudge who could be considered the unofficial first womens’ world champion. Not many of her games survive but one of note is her adjourned victory against Emanuel Lasker in a simultaneous display in 1898.  Even in a simultaneous display, defeating the reigning men’s world champion in the 19th century was no mean feat. Lets take a look.

Before continuing if you are wondering “Who is Mary Rudge?” then I strongly recommend you read John Richard’s excellent thesis on her life and times as a pioneering female chess player in the 19th century.

Very little is known about this particular simul other than it was held in the Imperial Hotel but whether that is Bristol, London or elsewhere is unknown.  It is understood that Lasker was running out of time in general and a number of games went to adjournment. He graciously conceding defeat due to best play resulting in a win for black (modern computer analysis of the final adjourned position indeed shows a sizeable advantage to black of -3.23).

The combatants, Emanuel Lasker and Mary Rudge

With little more historical context available, lets look at how one of the finest female players of the 19th century handled the second world chess champion.

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The final position shows whites sacrificial play has come to nothing and as soon as blacks king gets safe, then the world champion is lost

So a calm defensive approach from Mary seals her a famous win against the second world chess champion.  At no point in the game does she really probe the world champions defences but she comes away with the full point through solid defence and tempting her romantic era opponent into some profoundly unsound sacrifices.  Indeed, one of the common observations of modern GM’s is their super defensive powers compared to their predecessors.  Its interesting to note how disruptive a good defender would have been in the 19th century when swash buckling sacrifices were the expectation of the day.

Our previous article on Mary Rudge was very warmly received so I am pleased to finally get an annotated game of hers on The Bristol Chess Times. I hope you enjoyed this historic game, especially if you are interested in the history and development of the womens’ game.


mecircle

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.

Season preview and August news

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.

No joint winners this time in any section! Results available on chessit.co.uk, and an annotated game by Toby Kan here.

2018/19 season predictions

It’s scary to think its almost 2019 – so let’s have a quick review of our predictions from last year:

Division 1: Clifton A – WRONG (Actual winners: Horfield A – our ‘Dark Horses’ pick)

Division 2: South Bristol B – WRONG (Actual winners: Clevedon B)

Division 3: Yate A – WRONG (Actual winners: Keynsham – our ‘runners-up’ pick)

Division 4: Downend F – WRONG (Actual winners: North Bristol B – our ‘runners-up’ pick)

So, let’s try to beat that score shall we? Here are all the competitors:

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A fresh start – what surprises are in store this season?

Division 1

Champions: Horfield A

We are going for a successful defence of the title for Horfield (again, totally unbiased). They have lost star player Aaron Guthrie, but they remain strong and are hungry for more.

Dark Horses: Bath A

Bath are always knocking around the top of the table and it is tough to play them away – can they step up this year?

Division 2

Champions: Clevedon B

A great season last time around for the club and a strong junior presence – surely they’ll be ruffling a few feathers.

Dark Horses: North Bristol A

Can they consolidate their squad and put out a regular mean team? We think maybe!

Division 3

Champions: Cabot A

With Yate A and Keynsham A stepping up, division 3 is surely wide open – come on the Cabot!

Dark Horses: South Bristol B

The strength of the team is unknown as yet but South Bristol have always been able to produce strength in depth.

Division 4

Champions: Clevedon C

I’m running with the confidence theory with all those fresh trophies in the cabinet.

Dark Horses: Congresbury

Welcome back to the league! An unknown quantity this season so certainly worth a punt.

Well let’s see if I can do better than Jon with 8 predictions rather than 12. Right, season begins tomorrow – time for some preparation!


 

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Mike is co-editor of BCT and plays regular league and tournament chess

Problems in August 2018 with GM Jones

I’ve previously referred to the late Norman Macleod, the second British problem composer to receive (in 1991) the title of Grandmaster of Chess Composition, who was a strong player (scoring 7 / 16 on Board 3 for Scotland in the 1958 Olympiad) and who latterly played for Gloucestershire. His chess composing talent spread over many styles of chess problem, and is seen to good advantage in this fairly traditional one:

 

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1st Prize, Variantim 1988
Mate in 3

Solution Below

An experienced solver looking at this position might note that White is lined up against e5 (Bxe5# is thwarted only by the bRe1) and d5 (Rxd5# is thwarted only by the bBg2). This might lead the experienced solver to consider what happens if White places a piece on the intersection of Black’s two lines of guard, e1-e5 and g2-d5, i.e., on e4. If we ignore for the moment Black’s other two main defenders, the Rd1 and the Bh2, then moving either wN to e4 would do the trick, threatening both Bxe5 and Rxd5, and if …Bg2xNe4 then Bxe5# and if …Re1xNe4 then Rxd5#. (These moves to e4 are termed by problemists Nowotny interferences. They do occasionally crop up in actual games!)

However, Black’s other two defenders come to his rescue. Whichever white Knight goes to e4, a new line of guard is opened – so if 1.Nde4+? then 1…Rxe4! and if 1…Nge4+? then 1…Bxe4!.

So we need to hold these possibilities in mind while seeing if we can make a different threat, which may induce Black to weaken his defences. And the move we’re looking for is 1.Bf6!, threatening 2.Bd8 and 3.Bc7 (and if 2…Ne6 3.Be7). This threat is difficult to meet. In fact, the only way that Black can defend is by threatening a check, which, if allowed, would prolong proceedings beyond 3 moves. One way Black does this is by 1…d4, enabling him to meet 2.Bd8 by 2…Bb7+. But this move blocks the d1-d5 line, so we can now move the d2N to e4 (which is check!), and we do now have 2…Rxe4/Bxe4 3.Rd5/Bxe5#.

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One potential solution starting with 1…d4

Similarly, 1…f4 meets 2.Bd8 with 2…Bh3+ but blocks the h2-e5 line, allowing 2.Nge4+! Rxe4/Bxe4 3.Rxd5/Bxe5#.

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A second try beginning with 1…f4 also falls to checkmate.

Excellently matched play on diagonal and orthogonal lines – I’m not surprised it won a First Prize!


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Christopher Jones

Christopher holds the Grandmaster title for Chess Problem Composition and uses his skills to write a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times. He is also a longterm Horfield Chess Club player (where he is acting secretary).

Celebrating one year of the Bristol Chess Times

The 20th July is International Chess Day!  It is also dangerously close (a matter of days) to the first anniversary of the relaunched Bristol Chess Times.  Happy Birthday to us!  I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the last year and everything we have achieved and learned as well as looking ahead to the future.

 

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A shot from the inaugural Bristol Chess Times Invitational Tournament held in May 2018

Setting up a chess blog 12 months ago, it was difficult to know how successful we would be.  Myself and my co-editor Mike Harris have talked long and hard about providing a blog that can be enjoyed by all chess players world wide whilst still covering the regional elements of chess in the South West of England.

Looking back on the last year we have published a remarkable 93 articles covering all manner of topics and local authors including:

  • Tournament reports across the South West
  • Game of the month and league reviews
  • Exciting game reports from the league
  • Quirky and dubious opening recommendations
  • A monthly problems column (thank you Christopher Jones!)
  • Historical pieces on past players, clubs and editions of the Bristol Chess Times (thank you John Richards)
  • Book reviews
  • Items for sale

Its fair to say that some topics are more popular than others but I wanted to extend a massive thank you for the feedback and encouragement we have received.  Looking ahead into year two it is clear where we can continue to improve to provide the chess players of the South West (and beyond) with an entertaining and engaging online magazine.

Helping the Bristol & District Chess League

One of the primary objectives of the Bristol Chess Times is to help the Bristol & District Chess League grow and encourage new members.  Lets look at some key statistics over the last 12 months:

  • 17,298 views on the Bristol Chess Times
  • 9,280 unique visitors
  • 93 articles
  • 12 different authors
  • 735 visits to the “Find a club” page

The final statistic for the “Find a club” page is key as we want more and more prospective players in Bristol to find chess clubs and get in touch.  On the “Find a club” page we have links (and phone numbers) to all 16 clubs in the league.  Of the 735 visits to this page i’ve broken out how many prospects clicked through to each individual club (please note that despite my protestations not every club in the Bristol & District chess league has a website in the year 2018…):

  • North Bristol – 60
  • Clifton – 55
  • Cabot – 51
  • Downend & Fishponds – 44
  • Horfield & Redland – 44
  • Hanham – 31
  • South Bristol – 28
  • Bristol University – 20
  • Bath University – 7

Whilst its difficult to tell how many of these prospects actually joined the clubs they contacted (please do get in touch if your club has had players join as a result of the Bristol Chess Times) its encouraging to see these kinds of numbers, especially as the online visibility of the Bristol Chess Times will only continue to grow and grow in the upcoming years.

Given that most chess clubs vary in size from 5 to 40 players, the kind of numbers seen above are really encouraging as the addition of only 5 new players to a club can make a real difference.

Which leads us to the next logical question…

Did the league grow in the 2017/18 season?

Working closely with Jerry Humphreys of Downend & Fishponds chess club we have identified a two key metrics that we will be tracking for the health of the league moving forward:

  • Total number of players in the league
  • Total number of players who played at least 5 games

I am in the process of working with Match Secretary Dave Tipper to identify these metrics from past years but the data is still a little patchy.  However we are able to compare the data from the year before the relaunched Bristol Chess Times and last season.

Total number of players in the league 

  • 2016/17 – 329 players
  • 2017/18 – 337 players

An increase of 2.4%.

Total number of players who played at least 5 games

  • 2016/17 – 254 players (77% of the league)
  • 2017/18 – 260 players (77% of the league)

An increase of 2.4%.

So lets not get too carried away but its fair to say the league stabilised in the last year. Its also difficult to attribute all of that effect to just the Bristol Chess Times as several other clubs (hats off to the noisy neighbours North Bristol Chess Club) have done sterling efforts in their own self promotion.

However, I also feel its really important to acknowledge how important slowing and stabilising the decline of over the board league chess is.  Historical data from 1998 to 2006 shows that the number of league players over that time declined from 467 to 320.  In the last 12 years the league size would appear to have remained relatively stable. Therefore any upward trend, no matter how small, can be seen as a positive step forward.

Looking ahead into the next 12 months, we can expect to see the online visibility of the Bristol Chess Times increase as articles are indexed correctly by major search engines and more and more chess players share our articles (hint hint).

ECF Website of the Year 2018 Nomination

One final highlight of our first 12 months in business is the recent nomination for ECF Website of the Year 2018.  Whilst we were unfortunate not to win due to not being “ordinary” enough (see the committee statement here) my thanks goes out to all those who recognised our efforts and nominated us.

Looking ahead with the Bristol Chess Times

So its been a hell of a year and one that has truly laid the foundations for success in the years to come.  At the risk of banging a tired drum, the clubs in the league who have supported and engaged in digital promotion have really benefitted.  North Bristol Chess Club have had a cracking season of growth whilst my own club, Horfield & Redland, have launched a new website and its members have been very active in the Bristol Chess Times. At the AGM last September we had a list of 23 members but by May 2018 we now have 33 players representing us.  A remarkable growth in membership of 43%!

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Thanks for everyones support!

League Chess in 2018 is alive and well in the South West of England and across the UK.  Too often I hear the cry and lament from players about the decline of league chess. But the efforts and ambitions of a small group of individuals and the statistics from the last 12 months indicate that by embracing modern digital tools we can not only halt the decline, but stand ready and primed for success in the future.

Until next time.


mecircle

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.

 

 

 

Problems in July with GM Jones

This problem of mine recently won 1st Prize in a 2017 tourney of the American magazine ‘StrateGems’. (Yes, the founder of the magazine misspelt ‘stratagems’, and his mistake has been immortalized! The capital “G” is intentional, but not that vowel in front of it.) You may want to avert your gaze and read the next article in BCT straight away, because when it comes to what you can do with a set of chess men this problem is at the opposite end of the spectrum from playing a game of chess. However, I’m hoping that a few readers may read on from curiosity or morbid fascination or whatever.

The problem is ‘helpmate in 3.5 moves’. As you may know, in a helpmate we have a sequence of black and white legal moves in which Black and White conspire together to produce a position in which Black is mated. Just in order to be sound it has to be the case that it looks very unlikely that White could mate Black and that is certainly the case here! In a helpmate in 3 we’d have Black kicking off a sequence of moves leading to mate but as this is in 3.5 move we actually start with White – so we have WBWBWBW sequences. “Sequences” plural, because there is a second part: (b)Pc4>e4 – when that pawn is shifted the (a) solution no longer works but a new solution now does.

You may like to consider how on earth White could mate Black here. Or you may prefer just to read on. (Or that other option – switching to another BCT article – remains open, of course.)

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“White was pleased to get Black out of book early in the game”…A help mate in 3.5 moves

SOLUTION BELOW

The white rook is so immobilized that it looks as though it will have to be the white bishop that does the legwork. It seems that there’s a real risk that when the white bishop moves Black will have no option but to capture the white rook or even administer mate himself. The only alternative after a move by the white bishop is to interpose one of the black Knights, but these give check. There may be a possibility then, though, of playing PxN, and it might be a good thing to get White’s one other combatant, the c2P, involved in the action in this way…

Even so, the only way in which the white rook is going to be able to participate in giving mate is if the mate is by double check…

Putting this all together, you might (or may already have; if so, well done!) come to the first solution (confusingly, because in most helpmates Black begins problemists always write helpmate solutions as though Black had started the game): 1…Bxg6+ 2.Ncd3+ cxd3 3.Ne4 Bf5 4.Rhc6 dxe4. And similar ideas work in (b) 1…Bxb5+ 2.Nfd3+ Bxd3 3.Nb3 cxb3 4.Qc6 Bc4. Move by move the solutions show the same strategy (or should I say “strategems”?!), but the details are all different, which really is a prerequisite for a problem like this, and one reason why the tourney judge gratifyingly had such a favourable impression of it.

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The final position is a pleasing double check

chriscircle

Christopher Jones

Christopher holds the Grandmaster title for Chess Problem Composition and uses his skills to write a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times. He is also a longterm Horfield Chess Club player (where he is acting secretary).

Does your chess need a palete cleanser?

There is something to be said about not giving a damn in chess.  As aspiring amateurs we often find ourselves trawling YouTube videos, congress book stalls and other sources of knowledge for the definitive answer to our self improvement.  We desperately pour over each game looking for the secret kernel of truth that will lead to a couple of extra rating points. We self categorise and insist on playing a certain way because “thats who I am”. Ive spoken before about amateur players categorising themselves as a certain type of player (“Im a positional grinder”) and the dangers that this can bring.  Perhaps sometimes we just need to stop all this philosophising and just play? So what does happen when we stop caring and leave our baggage at the door?

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Wash your mouth out! Other analogies to playing carefree chess are also available…Photo by Sven from Unsplash

It was last week when I found myself on the wrong end of a bad blitz session online.  Going full tilt (its a poker term for those who haven’t heard this before) meant I kept playing and playing and playing, losing more and more rating points and perhaps most importantly of all playing worse and worse chess.  Having lost over 200 points in ELO I did the right thing and shut down the browser window.

How could this happen?  I know my opening repertoire inside out.  Some of them I’ve been playing for years. Ive been studying tactics and endgames yet I’m hanging pieces for fun.

I was in a bad mood.

I had a bad taste in my mouth.

Back to basics

The next day was the Second Chess Patzer Blitz Arena Tournament on Lichess (do check out the ChessPatzer movement here – Ill be doing a future piece on these crazy streamers).  I had a trip to IKEA planned and knew I couldn’t take part but could probably squeeze a few games in. Remembering my disastrous play the day before I approached it with a kind of “f*** it” attitude and decided I would simply toss pieces up the board and play.  Enough with the systems Ive studied endlessly and the memorised lines. Still smarting from the day before and with half an eye glaring at my new 200pt lower rating I clicked enter.

My first opponent in the Chesspatzer Tournament popped up.

Oh Joy.

An FM with a 2389 rating.

Im black.

He opened with c4.  In true care free fashion I played something novel and burned a pawn just because I could and I didn’t know what I was doing anyway.

I won in 19 moves!

Ok it was a crazy game of online blitz so we can’t put to much weight behind the result but it is still my largest victory by a country mile.  At the time my opponent being almost 700 ELO above my rating.

My point is that for the first time in a while I stopped thinking about the ratings and the openings and the sidelines and all the other stuff and just played.

I felt free and liberated.  From move three I was having to actively think and check lines.  the autonomy of bashing out the first 15 moves of theory that I know off by heart had gone and I was actually playing chess.

By move 16 he was going to win the exchange.  I didn’t even blink.  I didn’t care.  I would just attack his king where previously I would have been racked with guilt searching for the right move.

By the time I delivered the killer blow on move 19 I was probably just as surprised as my opponent. Suddenly reality returned and I was left staring at the screen wondering what I had just done.

Im back” I confidently declared as i moved onto my next game and promptly lost to a 1500 rated player as I resorted to my established repertoire and habits.

Cleansing the palete

Somehow I achieved one of my best results in all my years of chess by playing an opening I didn’t know, sacrificing material I didn’t know I could afford and ignoring the fact that my opponent was titled.

As amateur chess players we often spend an age defining ourselves and the way we want to play.  Whilst this can be great and is part of the joy of establishing your chess persona, sometimes you do just need to swill your mouth out.

Just once every now and then.

Try playing a game that really pushes your comfort zone.  That really challenges everything that you have defined about yourself and the game.  Most importantly, don’t give a damn when you do so.

Apart from my immediate loss to ChessPatzerWAL straight after this game (Well done BTW), I clawed back 150pts of the 200 I had lost almost immediately.  I am convinced that a lot of those subsequent victories were because of my “system reboot” game where I stopped caring, cleansed the pallet and remembered how to play chess.

Regular readers can see this post as the unofficial third article in my summer series on assessing your chess, in particular your opening repertoire.  The earlier articles can be found here:

Summer is a great time to seek changes and improvements in your game.  It would also appear to be an especially a great time of year to stop caring.

Until next time.


mecircle

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.