Monday, March 18, 2013

A Coffee House Player

According to a definition I found in Wikipedia Coffeehouse chess is:

"..a move, player, or style of play characterized by risky, positionally dubious play that sets traps for the opponent. The name comes from the notion that one would expect to see such play in skittles games played in a coffeehouse or similar setting, particularly in games played for stakes and/or blitz chess.."

Now having played a number of players who could be described in these terms, I know that typical Coffeehouse Chess players can be pretty strong, especially tactically. But there have been some pretty strong players over the years who have been called Coffeehouse players in a derogatory sense, with Judit Polgar springing immediately to mind. Judit is an excellent tactical player, who has played for many traps during her games. But that doesn't mean she doesn't understand how to play positionally. I don't think anyone who makes it to the top 10 in the World should be described as weak positionally.

The latest victims of the label Coffeehouse player is the current leader of the London Candidates tournament, World Number 3, Levon Aronian and the man he just beat, Vassily Ivanchuk. When commenting on Ivanchuk's play, Aronian said:

"I tend to do things like this and friends tell me I'm a coffee house player"

Well, that is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, and anyone who can trap a top 20 player tactically should be pretty happy with themselves. That is what Aronian did to last year's defeated World Champion Boris Gelfand in round 2.

Gelfand as black had just played 24..Bd8 and Aronian's thinking is interesting. "After Bd8 I was thinking which move should I play to provoke Rc8" said Aronian after the game. Aronian played 25.b4 in the hope of his opponent playing 25..Rc8 which he duly did. Aronian had set a trap which Gelfand walked into. 26.Bh6+! which wins a pawn. Gelfand played 26..Kg8 (26..Kxh6 27.Rxc8 Bxc8 28.Nxf7+ followed by 29.Nxd8 is the point) 27.Rxc8 Bxc8 28.Nc6 winning material as the knight threatens d8, a7 and another fork on e7.

Going into the first rest day, Aronian is clear leader on 2.5/3. He is followed closely by Carlsen and Svidler on 2/3, Kramnik, Radjabov, Grischuk 1.5/3 and Ivanchuk, Gelfand .5/3. There is a long way to go, but I'm hoping the Coffeehouse player can stay ahead of course. Here are his 2 wins in the tournament so far, where he shows how to be a coffeehouse player, and how to beat a coffeehouse player.

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