Sunday, May 8, 2011

Coaching, thought process and the philosophy of taking on strange opening moves

So, the last tournament I played I was lucky enough to win the A-group rating prize, which was some coaching with FM (2347) Michael Baron. Michael has a style I admire; no computers, no inordinate amount of opening study; you can tell he's studied chess in the Russian style and understood the game in a way that's different to most top Australian-born players.

We looked at the following game, the focus was mainly philosophical and based on thought process, so don't read on if you're expecting to learn anything specific about Sicilian positions! Michael then gave me 4 games to study with similar/relevant themes which i'll go through in more detail.

What is the best move for black in this position?
That was a trick question. The point of this lesson was that black shouldn't necessarily be looking for the best move. Candidates for "the best move" might be:
  • d5
  • Bxa3
  • Nc6
  • Bc5
Which all try to look at the position as some finite riddle to be solved. Looking at the specifics of this position and trying to refute or exploit the opening was not the right way to go about it. Michael gave d6! as the best move and now that I look at it I totally agree with him. Thinking about it:
  1. If white plays c4?! hoping to go into a Maroczy Bind setup, we can assume the a3 knight will eventually go to c2. A knight on c3 is crucial in the Maroczy as it covers black's two liberating pawn breaks b5 and d5. So that setup is out for white
  2. Nc4 will be met with the excellent b5! when Black gets a free tempo setting up his normal Najdorf setup with pressure on e4.
  3. What other plans does that knight have?!!?!
Finally, it gave me a first insight into chess coaching. It's an interesting experience. No chess player worth his salt doesn't have his or her own opinions about the game, about learning and about their philosophy on chess. But in coaching there's no room for ego and if you want to learn anything you have to be ready to accept, or at least consider without ego in the way, the wisdom of others!

Stay tuned for the 4 games which i'll try to get through this week:)

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