Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thinking Processes again

If you're playing someone much higher rated than you, or much lower rated than you, do you change your style of play? And should you? I have to admit, that my policy has been to play more solidly against lower rated players, while trying to mix things tactically against higher rated players. As a result I usually grind down players much lower rated than me, although I do sometimes end up drawing (or even losing the odd game), and against higher rated players I sometimes have big wins but not that often. So is this general plan desirable or should I be playing true to myself each game irrespective of my opposition?

So far in the Monday night tournament at the MCC, I have played 2 games against players quite a bit lower rated than myself. In both games I followed a similar pattern. I sought as much space as I could get, tried to consolidate my gains and then brought my pieces to their most effective positions behind my pawn cover before breaking through. My opponents both defended quite passively and allowed me the time to fulfil my goals. Against Bill Reid last week, I questioned my calculation skill in the following position:

One line I looked at here was 19.Nd5 Nxd5 20.Bxd8 Nf4 21.Bc4 Qg6 and I asked in my last blog post what did I miss in this line? Well, quite a bit actually. After 19.Nd5 Nxd5 (I think black must take because of the threat to c7) 20.Bxd8 (This is not an obligatory capture. White has a comfortable edge after 20.Bc4, but forcing moves like 20.Bxd8 are easier to calculate) 20..Nf4 (Black should play 20..Rxd8 which will leave him with 2 pieces for a rook after 21.Bxe6 Ne2+ 22.Kf2 Nxd4) 21.Bc4 Qg6 (and now 22.Qd2 would win material for white, though this line is pointless because of 20..Rxd8).

My trouble in these lines was seeing opportunities for my opponent, and alternatives (especially non forcing moves) in variations. In my game last night against Tanya Kolak, I worked hard on these aspects and was pretty happy with the way I was thinking. I noticed once again that I looked for forcing lines at one point, ignoring another possibility, though it may have another cause other than calculation problems. I reached the following position for black.
Black has a wide range of moves and plans to choose from. I chose 11..d4 creating extra tension in the centre. One move that I merely glimpsed at, and then ignored was 11..e4. But this move has a lot going for it. It opens the h2-b8 diagonal, displaces white Nf3, vacates e5 for a black minor piece, and holds back white's e-pawn which currently blocks the dark squared bishop.

So why didn't I choose such an obviously good looking move? I think the reason is one of familiarity. I have played pawn advances such as 11..d4 often and I'm usually comfortable with an opening of the centre. In the above position, I judged that my better development would put me in good stead if lines opened. Partially closing the centre with 11..e4 is something that I tend to do rarely in my games, and I tend to feel less comfortable in positions with a closed centre. Looking at more positions like those above and comparing them can only help a player to understand the game better, and perhaps the style that suits his natural game the most.

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