Thursday, July 8, 2010

A week in the life...

One of the most useful parts of my training so far has been the fixed opening games I play weekly with my training partner Andreas, and how I've been preparing for them. We take turns picking an opening and try to play a 30+10 (or a couple of 20+5) games with it as often as possible. To prepare for these games I pick a couple of random games from middle game/positional/general chess books, and annotate them before we play. I haven't looked at a "pure opening" book in over 18 months and it's done wonders for my chess; I still have a strong idea of the openings and this type of theme-based study of critical points in certain setups has made it much easier for me to find the right middle game moves.

After the games we usually annotate them (unless one of us does something utterly stupid!) and take notes on the types of errors we're making. The benefits of talking about 15+ games with the same opponent is obvious.

This week it's the Sicilian, (I'm playing it against Andreas, my TeamLeague 45+45 opponent, and in a correspondence game VS Carl Gorka) so what better motivation to annotate a few games on it?! I'm going to study 3 particular games:

1) Wotulo - Larsen (Manila 1973), from Andrew Soltis' Pawn Structure Chess - from chapter 2 on the Sicilian/English formation.

2) Mcdonald - Bronstein, Wrexham 1995, from Mcdonald's book Planning after the opening.

and 3) Tolush - Kotov from Max Euwe & Kramer's book The Middlegame.

This approach of studying games rather than theory/move order is probably put to it's harshest test by the Sicilian, when white needs to know a few tricks in the opening to deal with the more direct black attacks - I am not too fussed about the results as I know that the study I'm doing will inevitably be part of my understanding of the Sicilian anyway.

My opinion on studying opening theory is this:

  • First, you have to learn to beat players of your own level, and learning how to respond to un-theoretical moves in any given structure is far more important than knowing the rote-response to theory. Knowing theory usually only gets you a longer loss against a +2000 player if you're at my level, so- first, learn the fundamentals that will help you beat players of your own level.

  • At under 2000 level, even under 1600 level it is sad to say that moves are usually played out in perfect move order/theory for the first 10-20 moves, but, if they're not, neither player has much idea of how to exploit the inaccuracy.
Anyway, enough babbling! I'll let you know if I get crushed in all three games. Below is my study:

1. N. Mcdonald - D. Bronstein, Wrexham 1995: White attacks the "Hedgehog" Structure. (From McDonald's book "planning after the opening")

A 71 year old David Bronstein comes up with some great defensive moves against an aggressive McDonald chasing a GM Norm.

(2) Wotulo - Larsen, Manila 1973: (First concepts in the Sicilian) White's inaccurate move order allows black to activate with tempo (From Andrew Soltis' Pawn Structure Chess).

What this game shows us is that white must take some steps to slow down the black counter-play against e4, in any opening you play you can't simply ignore what your opponent is doing and his plans. Part of any successful opening encounter is developing with threats that force your opponent into certain moves he might not want to make, and slowing down your opponents plans. In this game we can see that the absence of a white pawn of f4 takes away any threat of an e4-e5 push, this type of thing makes the black pieces more free: it is in small details like this that opening advantages are won and lost. In short: rather than 8. 0-0? White had to play 8. a4! Then he can think about the maneuver f4, Bf3 perhaps.

3. Tolush - Kotov, Moscow 1945. (From Euwe & Kramer's "The Middlegame")

This is a great book & I recommend it to anyone looking for a broad look at the themes and pawn movements in the Sicilian. If it's teaching on everything else is as good as it is for Sicilian (and I guess it is...) then it's a cracker.

I'll post the annotation of that one tomorrow!

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  1. Great content ( just like the previous one ) I will have to play through the Sicilian games as these days I enjoy playing against the Open Sicilian.One question though: why the music on the blog ? I really distracts me trying to read it !!

  2. hehe I've removed it. I was looking through the possible "gadgets" you can add to your site like a search function and I found "The Legend of Zelda" which I used to play on Super-Nintendo.

    Awesome! I thought until I turned on the sound one day when I was on the site. Ug! I loved that theme song but it's not quite adapted to Bronstein-McDonald's ultra sharp Sicilian.