Monday, December 13, 2010

Learning from your victories

It's one of the great cliche's of chess that it is easier to learn from your defeats than it is to learn from your victories. But that doesn't mean that you can't learn from your victories as long as you are objective about the game. Of course, if you have a coach this is easier as they can act as a devil's advocate asking you all the awkward questions that you would normally ignore because you had obviously played perfectly in your game. However, most adults don't have coaches and we have to do most of the hard work ourselves.

During the Australasian Masters I did hardly any thorough analysis of my games, and I am beginning to go through them now. I remember reading a book by Soviet trainer Vladimir Zak who stated that on average a chess player should be spending between 12 -15 hours analysis on each of his games. This included opening study and tactical practice resulting from the game, but it still seems a bit excessive. I have spent a few hours looking at my win against Vladimir Smirnov. Some of this was working on the opening, and I think I have a better understanding of the Dutch now, though I want to do some more work on this opening. However, I also addressed some interesting strategic and tactical issues that arose from the game. Try to answer the questions to these positions which arose during the games, or could have from variations.

1. It is Black to move, what is his best move?

2. What is white's best move?

3. What is white's best move?

4. What is white's best move?

5. What is white's best move?

6. What is white's best move?

What struck me from looking at this game was that I became very dogmatic in my thinking. It is generally regarded that when attacking on opposite sides of the board you make few, if any, moves on your defensive side, while pulling out all the stops on the other side where you are attacking. But because of this, both me and my opponent missed some amazing chances, and there were moves which I never even considered because I wasn't looking for anything on that side of the board.

1. Black should play 1..a5 holding White's queen side expansion. Instead he continued with his king side action.

2. White can play 1.Rfb1, because the f2 pawn is taboo. Although it doesn't look it, black's back rank is weak. I had decided the rook on f1 was needed for defence, and hadn't considered moving it.

3. White has the amazing 1.g4! decoying the bishop from it's defence, and after 1..Bxg4 white can take a piece 2.Rxa5. This resource was not seen by me, but luckily the variation didn't arise.

4. White can again play 1.Rfb1 as 1..Rxf2 loses to 2.Bxe6 Qxe6 3.Kxf2. Again, I wasn't looking at tactics in front of my king, and I'm not sure I'd have found them if I'd been forced down these lines.

5. White has another amazing resource, 1.Bh3 as the queen can't take on h3 because it is needed to defend e8. I prosaically took on a7 without looking at any king side possibilities. My move was good enough, but certainly not best.

6. Funnliy enough, after making no moves on the king side throughout the game, I now played 1.h4 preventing mating possibilities. A safe choice, but my opposite sides policy would have been capped off if I'd played 1.a7! and went for mate myself. 1..Bxg2 2.a8=Q [not 2.Kxg2?? Qh3+ 3.Kg1 Qxh2#] 2..Qh3 3.Qg8+ Kg6 4.Qae8+ Kg5 5.Qxg7+ Kf5 and white can choose between 4 mate in 1's.

So you can learn from your victories as long as you are objective. I will be looking at more unusual resources in positions where there are attacks on opposite sides of the board, and will be working harder on my tactical ability which is obviously not as good as it could be!


  1. Hi Carl,

    I just wanted to say that of the many chess blogs I have read, this is one of the few informative and objective blogs I have read. We have all read too many blogs with explicit favouritism towards certain players, and this blog is a refreshing change from this unfortunate trend.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks. I try to say things as they are without a subjective slant. The blog is mostly about me, but as I'm my biggest critic this blog has very little to do with self promotion.