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.