Friday, 9 September 2011

State Finals, Can't wait for the nationals!

Hi all,
Friday seems to be the day where i can publish a post here, however last Friday i was at the state finals helping out and didn’t get to publish anything.

Today i would like to discuss compensation. Of all the games that I recorded at the state finals, one really stood out, it was round 8 on board 1. Jason Tang won the individual prize on count back, but this was the game where he shouldn’t have won. His opponent, Allen Yu, played much like I would have, and went for an attack to put Jason under pressure. But at the critical moment he did not follow through with his attack and allowed Jason to consolidate his position. After I asked Allen what he was thinking in backing down, and he said that he couldn’t find a way to breakthrough or even draw. He and Jason were astonished when I said; “there was a forced draw that I saw during the game.” “Where???” They both said, Allen was annoyed with himself and Jason trying to refuse that it was the case.

I set up the board at the position after blacks 31st move, “Ne7+ draws doesn’t it?” they looked at it and were confused, they both claim to have seen it during the game, but amazingly neither of them looked at it for more than 2 moves! If Allen had taken a little more time he would have seem what I had during the game In that Ne7+ was a draw because of Ng6+ to follow and if black tries to avoid the perpetual check then he would lose his queen, this would allow white to equalise material and have initiative. In this case the attacker didn’t do what they needed to and the defender defended fairly well, this was not the case in my recent game against Ruben Nowak.

Ruben grabbed a pawn and didn’t appreciate the pressure that white would get in return. And once he made a mistake he did the worst thing a chess player could do! Make more mistakes deliberately because he would lose anyway, in his words, “I was going to lose so it didn’t matter” That’s rubbish; if the defender gives in then they will quickly lose, if they fight on, they might get back into the game.

When most people sacrifice a pawn in the way I did they expect to see a clear plan of attack, my compensation was a little different and somewhat even more dangerous. It wasn’t that I had a clear plan; rather my opponent was struggling to find any constructive move that wouldn’t lose on the spot. An easier way to describe it is, ‘it’s hard to defend against invisible threats’. As it turns out perfect play would have resulted in a draw, I would like you to let me know what you would try in different positions for black, I won’t refute them, but I will happily explain my thoughts.

Friday, 26 August 2011

My school friend

Hi everyone,
On this post I would like to talk about a game I had with a friend of mine, but he is not just any friend, he has been a student of mine. I will not disclose his name for confidential reasons. I met him at the start of the year, he knew how to move the pieces, some very basic tactics, and mostly taught himself how to play. When I first met him I would have estimated his rating to be about 800. Nothing special, but he has been very eager to learn and every lunchtime on Mondays and Thursdays he would ask me to have a game with him, during which I would teach him something new.

The first thing I taught him was the 3 golden rules of the opening, which he understood pretty well. New things he learned included different tactical motifs, the importance of the initiative, the value of a piece in any given situation and much more. I am still teaching him but I would like to share with you the game we had on Thursday. Throughout our games and lessons he has been claiming that he is not improving even though I was telling him otherwise. In the following game, he played better than he ever had before, so much so that for the first time I was not multitasking against him, rather I was in full concentration, as he was playing extremely well and was meeting every tactic perfectly. He showed his intuition was becoming a valuable tool as he made some of his moves on feel rather than logic.

We analysed the game with the help of a computer and he finally realised how much he had improved when he saw that he played many moves as the best moves! He is without a doubt a much stronger player than he used to be, and I would now estimate his rating at, at least 1350. The reason I am saying all this is simple. The aim of a chess coach is to teach a student so well that there is nothing left to teach them, so that they can be passed on to the next coach. For some coaches this is easier than others, a coach that is rated around 1000 won’t find this too hard. But for me, it is much harder, and my friend has improved so much that I am beginning to run out of thing to teach him.

Here is the game, and I would like really appreciate your comment on this game, for me, or my friend as I can pass on all messages to him. For those who are having trouble seeing the games I have put the game in pure word format below. This was played with a limited amount of time and his mistake at the end came under time pressure as the bell had just gone. The rightful outcome in my opinion should have been a draw.

White: Anthony’s Friend Black: Anthony Hain
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.b3 g6 3.Bb2 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.d4 Nc6 6.d5 Nb8 7.Bc4 0–0 8.Qe2 Nbd7 9.Nc3 Nc5 10.Nd4 Bd7 11.0–0–0 a5 12.Kb1 c6 13.f4 b5 14.Bd3 Nxd3 15.Qxd3 a4 16.dxc6 Bg4 17.Ndxb5 axb3 18.c7 bxa2+ 19.Nxa2 Qc8 20.Rhf1 Be6 21.Nac3 Qa6 22.h3 Nd7 23.f5 Nc5 24.Qe3 Bc4 25.f6 exf6 26.Qf4 f5 27.Rxd6 Qa5 28.Rfd1 Nxe4 29.Rd8 Nxc3+ 30.Kc1 Ne2+ 31.Kb1 Qa2# 0–1

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Tal, my favourite player

Ok, from now on I am going to make sure that I make at least one post a week, this is mainly due to not having as much time as I first thought I had. For this post I thought I would talk a bit about my favourite player, Mihail Tal, if you search for his name in databases it comes up as Mihail Tal, while the internet has Mikhail Tal. I have no idea why this is, if anyone who knows for certain which is correct please let me know.

Mihail Tal was a genius, probably the most aggressive player of all time, he was not afraid to sacrifice material to get to his opponents king. After his amazing career which included becoming world champion from 1960 to 1961, he was asked a simple question, “Were the sacrifices you made during your career sound?” Tal’s answer was one to remember, “I don’t know, but they looked like fun.” OK so if he doesn’t know if they were sound then why did he play them? The first thing to remember is that Tal was playing before the time of computers, and he really liked to have the initiative, even at the cost of material, this meant he could use his tactical genius to create problem after problem for his opponents. Many of whom could not work out what was going on and would lose spectacularly.

If you were to put the moves of one of his games into an engine it would often say that Tal was losing badly, however that is only if the player would find the best defence, not an easy thing to do over the board. The game below is one of my favourites of Tal’s, he played this game while he was fairly young, I recommend you play through this game with the help of a computer keeping in mind that both players were strong grandmasters. The computers evaluation swings back and forth with pieces hanging everywhere, and tactics all over the place. Just imagine trying to defend this position against Tal with only a certain amount of time to fork out all the complications, it’s no wonder Tal was so successful.

On top of the difficulties on the board, Tal’s opponents had to deal with his intimidating and unnerving stare. Here is a picture of Tal performing his stare.

How on earth can you concentrate with that face looking at you? The intimidation factor clearly played a factor throughout his career as many of his opponents would be so scared that they wouldn’t play their normal game and would actually play worse than they could. There have been many examples where Tal would make a totally unsound sacrifice and his opponent would fail to defend even when there were some fairly obvious moves to allow them to win. It’s almost like a 2600 player when having to defend against Tal would play like a 2200 player!

Not taking anything away from Tal, he was a true chess player who made some great moves, he would not have become world champion by just intimidating his opponents. I have included a few more of Tal’s games for you to look at, with some of my personal favourites, sacrifices, big attacks and unclear positions. Take the computers evaluation with a grain of salt when analysing these games and keep in mind how difficult it would be to defend against the great attacking prowess of Mihail Tal.

For those who know me, you would know that my playing style mimics Tal’s and I often sacrifice material to complicate the position, as there are many gambits in my repertoire. Here’s a secret about me that I probably shouldn’t tell you. I will very often sacrifice the exchange to create an imbalance in material, even if it’s losing, as I, like Tal, like complicated positions with different pieces on the board. For example, if both players have knights then I find it boring, where as if there are bishops vs knights then the imbalance helps me to complicate the game. Now don’t try to use this knowledge to counter my playing style, as people tried to do to Tal, because it will probably fail badly.

No dought I am not the only person who plays like this, my advice when playing people that are that aggressive, is to brush up on your tactics and be prepared to defend, and whatever you do, don’t try to hold on to all the material given to you. Many tried to directly counter Tal's style of play, and pretty much everyone failed.
Here are some of Tal's games.

Friday, 5 August 2011


Sorry to all my viewers that I haven’t made a post for a while, I have been busy, tired, and a bit unwell, but with everything back to normal (hopefully) I can return to regular blogging.

It seems no one was able to get all 5 tactics puzzles right, plenty of people got 4 out of 5 but with no 100% scores, I have been at a loss. Increase the tactical difficulty or decrease it? Why do I say this? I have very sharp tactical games and that is my forte. However not all games are decided on tactics, though most are. I was having a discussion with a friend of mine. And it went something like this.

“I get the most satisfaction after a tactical crush”, then my friend said, “I find it better when I can have full control and just grind them down”. At first It sounded to me like a positional player talking nonsense. But then I had a thought, having control could mean not allowing any counter play, while grinding them down might mean using your pieces to slowly strangle your opponent like a boa constrictor.

With this thought in mind I thought I would talk a bit about outposts, many of us know what they are, but not many people seem to know what to do with them. Being an aggressive and tactical player I like to outpost a piece for aggressive reasons, take the below position for example.

Clearly white is better, maybe even winning, but the most prominent feature of his position is the bishop on d6. It has found a square on the opponents side of the board and is not only protected by pawns, but can’t be kicked with an enemy pawn either, hence it’s on an outpost. Not surprisingly, white won this game, but what would an attacking player want with an outpost? It is quite simple; an outposted piece creates tactics that the opponent has to constantly be aware of. It can get annoying actually.

Another reason for using outposts like this is to do with the idea of tension between pieces. Meaning in the above position, white’s bishop could capture the knight whenever it wants and the knight does not return the favour. Put yourself in blacks shoes, try to imagine that after every single move you have to consider, bishop takes knight, bishop takes knight, bishop takes knight, and the one time that he doesn’t look at it, is the one time that it works! That would suck, but it shows the power of the outposted bishop here.

The best piece to have on an outpost is actually a knight, as they can jump away from their outpost and really cause problems.

Now i would really like to know what you want to learn about, so let me know as a comment and i will look at it, dont ask for an opening like, the 'sicilian' as it is way to vast, but 1 line or variation is fine.
The answers for the puzzles were.
1. Qb2 wins a rook at least
2. Qxf7+ forces mate
3. Rxc4 followed by Nf2+ wins a truckload of matierial or mates
4. Although Qd8 is enough to win, by far the best is Qe6 which will force mate.
5. Rxa3! what a move, it at least wins the queen, if white wants to keep his queen then he wil lose his king.

No puzzles this time, if you want me to regularly create puzzles then let me know.

Here is the full game from above.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Back Rank Tactics

The back rank is often the subject of many tactics, i was once told that if i spend some time studying back rank tactics then i would be less likely to fall victim to them in the next few weeks. Irronically when i was told this, the three weeks that followed i had a number of wins through back rank tactics, culminating with my game against Ganesh Krishnan where i had an amazing combination ending in mate. This is the game below. i was black. and my opponent made a big blunder on move 24 just to find my mating reply.
So why do so many back rank tactics occur? when someone castles they get thier king out of the centre, behind a barrier of pawns to protect it, but with no pawns on the back rank you need to defend it with a piece, however when your pieces move up to attack or do other things your king can often be left behind. stuck behind his loyal protectors they might not let him escape should he need to.

So that is why these tactics occur so often, but what can we look for to avoid falling for them. one of the most common ideas to do with the back rank is the idea of distraction, no i dont mean destracting your opponents so that they dont see your threat, rather when a piece is defending the back rank you might try to distract that piece from the defence. here are a few examples. send me the answers in the comments area. if your are correct i will leave you comments and leave a comment of my own. the colour dot in the bottom left corner tells you whos move it is. Not all back rank tactics end in mate. but the threat of mate can be a useful way to win matierial.

Hope you enjoy these puzzles.

Friday, 29 July 2011

The Marshall Gambit

The Marshall Gambit was first introduced by Frank Marshall against Capablanca in 1918. It is a very dangerous option for white unless he is extremely well prepared. One of the many gambit lines against the Ruy Lopez, it has enjoyed great success over the years even at grandmaster level. for example, in the 2004 world championship match between Kramnik and Leko, Leko played this gambit against the world champion and won. White is even trying to avoid this line by playing 8.a4 or 8.h3 instead of 8.c3.
Here is the main line of the marshall along with the start of my game i had with Rad Chmiel where i was white (and won comfortably) as an illustration of an attempted marshall gone wrong. It began with the previously discussed c3 italian and black got an inferior game due to the superior position of whites knight, take a look at the similarities of the 2 positions and then the differences and you will understand what i meant by white avoids such gambits by playing the c3 italian.
So what makes the Marshall so dangerous? Well Black, for 1 pawn gets a large amount of development and alot of pressure against the white king, also black can also, very often be satisfied with just winning material. White is underdeveloped and his king is looking quite unsafe. The practical results are fine for black in this opening. I dont care what the computer would think in a position of this type, i would want to be playing black without a second thought. I have provided you with the Kramnik-Leko game with analysis by Raymond Keene. i have inserted his anaysis lines for you as well. My recomendation, avoid this if your white!

Hope you enjoyed this, If you have anything you want me to look at let me know by leaving me a comment.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

c3 and d3 italian

The italian has been around for a very long time, it aims to hit blacks weakest spot, (f7), and create different kinds of attacks. The Ruy Lopez seems to be the most common after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6, however if white plays the ruy lopez he needs to know alot of theory, because black has lots of gambit lines against the ruy lopez. So if white wants to build up a good position with attacking potential without allowing black such drastic counterplay then the c3 and d3 italian is a great option. in its nature its looks slow, and some call it a delayed ruy lopez, however black needs to tread carefully or he will find himself a victim of a very large kingside attack. This is exactly what happened a few weeks ago in my game against Justin Tan. He played typical moves that are 'supposed' to equalize for black, made a move order inaccuracy and found himself very quickly getting crushed with a MASSIVE yet so logical attack. Although i missed the queen sac that would lead to mate i still managed to win 3 pawns which was easily enough to win the endgame comfortably. The thing to understand about this system, is that you wont always get a large attack, but white will always get a good centre, along with kingside play. it is almost like playing a system because your aim is to have knights on f3 and g3, with the light squared bishop on the a2-g8 diagonal, and if black tries to trap or remove the bishop from there then it will always have a safe square on c2 where it supports the centre and a kingside attack when the centre opens as it innevatably does when white plays d4 at the right moment.
Currently in grandmaster practice there is really ony one way for black to solve all his opening problems, and it is by getting his knights to f6 and g6 copying white so he can try and play c6 and d5. Black can try to play actively by playing d5 quickly but he needs to be ready to both defend his e pawn as it will become weak and a new target of attack, but even if he does this succesfully white can always play d4 and resovle any activity problems he might have, in which case still often gets a better game. For tactically sharp players it it a good opening as they can play without worry of counterplay. The key to remember is that the f5 square is a key in any attack in this opening and white tries to occupy this square with one of his knights, as both can get there easily and black cant easily contest this square. Here is my game with Justin Tan who is rated 2160 fide, showing that even really good players can fall victim to this seemingly quite opening, while it was not perfect play it is very instructive. all the key ideas that i have mentioned above, and i mean ALL of them happened in this game and black got crushed. beacause of the nature of the opening there arent so many opening lines to talk about but the ideas can make it a tricky position for black to play. If black does manage to 'equalize' with the main plan and obtain a fairly symetrical position, then white needs to understand that and such position is in his favour as it will be his turn to move.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Poisoned pawn against Voon

As i promised here is my game with Richard Voon, for those who dont know him his fide rating is 1914.
It begins with a najdorf sicilian, and i played my favourite line, which is also the sharpest and most aggresive line against the najdorf, 6. Bg5, the main line followed and voon played Qb6 on move 7, this was a move first introduced by David Bronstein in the 1940's, and whites attack depends on the ability to keep the knight on d4, if Nb3 to defend the pawn then the attack will slow down. Then Paul Keres played 8. Qd2, saying you want my pawn, come and get it. After the pawn is taken whites queenside structure is destroyed and can no longer play for positional compensation, however the time taking this pawn has left black underdeveloped and a fairly unsafe king, naturally white tries to open up lines to begin the attack immidiatly, either e5 or f5, in this game i played f5, black played all the right moves and we reached a critical position where black has to make a choice on move 13. i had just played e5, a second pawn sacrifice, the main line goes dxe5 with the next moves provided. Nd5 was played, though playable it requires more knowledge of the position on blacks part to survive, Rb3, hitting the queen and defending the knight on c3 is a new move in the position which prior to this game i had prepared with the help of a computer, it is both sound and dangerous, whites aim is to play for compensation, and alot of it! Simply developing his peices and castling and white is ready for a full on assault on the black king and his underdeveloped army. So it was played, Be2 and 0-0, black finally captured the pawn on e5 with the idea of winning matierial by playing Bb4 to pin the knight and attack it for a 3rd time. However, this allowed a tactic which gives white a superior endgame at best for black, or a devastating attack at worst. If black had more knowledge of the position he would have played Bc5+ instead of Bb4 to get as many of his peices out as possible.
An evaluation of the position after move 16 is, white has completed his devlopment, while black has at least 4-5 more moves to do this, whites king is safe, blacks is not, the real problem for black is how to develop his light squared bishop and his rooks as they dont seem to have any good squares. So what is good about blacks position? Well, he is 2 pawns up, but they are doubled, lonely and weak, and can easily be attacked.
White has full compensation for the 2 pawns but he must act quickly to expoit this or black will catch up in development and just win.
Back to the game, 17. Rxb4! another sacrifice, 2 pawns down and now sacrificing the exchange, well thats not quite true, because the tactics work out that white gets 2 peices for the rook no matter how black plays, its well known that 2 minor pieces are better than 1 rook, but in this position those to pieces were blacks only developed pieces! Blacks positon will quickly crumble when he has no good pieces and white has 2 monster bishops with a very active rook and knight. In the game blacks pieces got totally tied up defending and black never had any counterplay, so there really isnt much more to say, i have provided a few possible continuations at the critical moment of the game around move 17. If you have any questions just leave a comments and i will respond well withing 24 hours unless its a saturday. 1 last comment on the game, The second last move was a fairly easy move to see if you know what tactics are occuring, but it still looks nice, just playing Nd5 to stick the knight in the way.
If there are any sharp positions you want me to disscuss let me know, otherwise ill talk a bit about the italian with c3 and d3 as this seemingly quite opening is full of tactics and complications. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

My first Blog

Hi all,
My name is Anthony Benjamin Hain, i am 20 years old and love chess. i have been playing chess since i was 4 years old. I am a Stylistically aggresive player and love taking risks. In this blog i hope to show you some of my games and other ideas primarially to do with attacking chess. Feel free to give your imput on my blogs as i would be glad to see what others think.
Although i am currently rated around 1500 my recent performances should, come september, should skyrocket that up much higher. I am currently on a 7 game win streak in the mcc open and malitis memorial. 
I also teach chess to others with chess kids.  
Enough about me, lets get on with chess.
My favourite topics are gambits, sacrifices and poisoned pawns, so ill have a look at some of them over the next few weeks, in particular the najdorf sicilian has been added to my repertoire and i now know it very well due to hours upon hours of study on it.
My next post will include my game against Richard Voon in a poisioned pawn Najdorf, and i will discuss some of the complications that arise in the opening.