I’ve lost quite a few disappointing games in the past couple of weeks, so this was a welcome and refreshing victory that gave me insight into some common problems I’ve been having. Given its (albeit brief) instructional value for myself, I felt it was worth a surface analysis and commentary. I hope you enjoy!
One of my favorite parts of playing daily chess is how the battles unfold over several days. There are some positions that go fast and others that seem to drag on forever. Then there are those moments where it seems that both sides are ready to lash out. I find myself constantly checking to see if I’ve received a notification that it’s my turn to move when there are tight positions and it’s all hanging by a thread. The game that follows is one such game that I recently played. It was a close battle for most of the game with blunders and mistakes on both sides, but ultimately, I pulled out a very nice win.
Since I returned to writing about and playing chess regularly, I’ve tried to center myself more on developing a comprehensive study plan and maintaining some sense of focus. Previously, I was obsessed with openings, but these days I’m trying to focus more on positional play and strategic level positions in the middlegame. I’m finding myself more able to find discovered checks and push my pawns forward with more momentum and purpose.
The game above was played against an internet opponent on Chess.com on the Daily Chess function. The time control was 1 move per day, but we finished it much sooner than that. I decided to annotate this game because while it’s filled with amateur mistakes, I believe it’s representative of my improvement in the middlegame and my growing ability to identify key moments that can turn a losing position into a winning steamroller. My opponent played hard, but I was fortunate that the chess gods shined their light on me for this one.
Have you ever set down to play a game against an opponent who seems hell bent on driving you completely insane with irrational moves? Maybe you’ve played against someone who insists on moving every single pawn forward before activating any of their back pieces. Sometimes, we meet an opponent who defies all traditional logic of the game but can be just as deadly as a precision player. I recently played against an opponent who embodied some of those traits. The first few moves of the game were infuriating and it led to a wild game where the balance tipped many times, but I managed to come out on top.
I doubt that the player himself was trolling me, but it certainly felt like it at times, especially in the opening. Of course, this is a very low rated game and sloppy as hell, but I am pleased with the result given the frustration that played out on the board. This was a daily chess rated game with a time control of one move per 24 hours.
I’ve been carving regular time out of my day to do chess studies and they have started paying off. Despite all of the mistakes and blunders, I believe that my fundamentals are improving steadily as a result. Here’s a solid game I played recently on lichess.org that I felt was worth annotating.
The following games were blitz games played on lichess.org in the past few weeks. I decided to annotate and share them because they show some of my continued progress (and regression) over the past few weeks. I continue to read, study, and play as much as possible, so I hope that these games reflect some improvement in my overall play style.
The first game is a very nice win with some cool tactical elements. There were moments where I felt like I just got lucky, but others where I felt like concrete principles were starting to sink in for me.
This next game is a devastating loss. It is no good for a chess player to only share his/her winning games. As Chess Coach likes to say: losing is learning. Well, this is a painful loss, so check it out:
Chess improvement can be a slow and grinding process. It has been a rollercoaster-like ride full of ups and downs (mostly downs) over the last few years. I am excited to be approaching the 1300 rating threshold after several setbacks over the past few months. Some of the losses this year have been brutal and some of the wins have been incredible, but learning to live with win and losses is one of the biggest challenges when learning the game.
This is a game I played last night that placed me within 2 points of the 1300 threshold. I have been too busy today to put my mind to another game, so I figured I would annotate this game and show some of the things I continue to learn on the long to road to chess mastery.
The balance of power in a chess game can change with a single blunder or amazing move. Although, in my case it is usually the former. This game was played last night on lichess and while it was heartbreaking, I found it to be a worthy educational experience.
Magnus Carlsen put the final nail in the coffin for the 2016 World Chess Championship with a spectacular finish in the 25 | 10 rapid tiebreaker. Carlsen had been frustrated throughout the event and fell behind before managing to equalize the standings in Game 10. He went on to win the last two games of the rapid event, which finally put an end to his challengers efforts and solidified his place as World Chess Champion for the next two years. As the main portion of the event drew to its conclusion, many in the chess world began taking note of the precarious position Sergey Karjakin could find himself in against one of the strongest rapid and blitz players in the world.
The first two tiebreaker games were drawn with Karjakin narrowly escaping a loss in the second game but unable to stop the onslaught that ultimately allowed Carlsen to retain his title.
Carlsen’s incredible finish to the rapid tiebreaker event.
The position above is stunning and reaffirms why Magnus Carlsen is the best chess player in the world. With Qh6+, Magnus brought his opponent’s bid to become the next world champion to his stunning halt. There were moments throughout the event where it seemed that Sergey Karjakin was poised to overtake Carlsen, but never found a way to convert his opportunities into solid wins. Of course, there were moments throughout the event were Magnus seemed to struggle both with his chess abilities and his ability to keep his emotions in check (no pun intended). Magnus took a little bit of criticism on social media for his outburst following his loss in the classical round, but I have to say that him storming out of the press conference is the kind of stuff that chess needs if it wants to become a popular, respectable, and marketable activity in the United States.
Agon, which has become a four letter word In the chess community has refused to release (at least for now) the exact number of people who purchased their premium package for viewing the event, but initial estimates project that less than 10,000 people paid for the premium streaming and commentary package. Personally, I was pleased to be able to follow the games as a premium member of Chessbase, on ChessBomb, and to watch the exceptional commentary and analysis from some of my favorite people over on chess24.com. Still, just a long way to go if it wants to build an American audience to the point where corporations like Pepsi, Red Bull, or other major corporations are willing to sponsor the events. As mentioned in an excellent news article published shortly after Carlsen’s victory, chess needs a series of dramatic stories in order to sell itself to the American people. Bobby Fischer made history as the lone genius who challenged the world’s greatest chess power, the Soviet Union, during the Cold War which allowed the American people to relate what was happening on the board to what was happening every day in their news. When professional chess can find a way to bring the drama and excitement of playing the game to people in a way that relates to their everyday struggles and experiences, then it will find itself at a buffet of sponsors and fans. Compelling drama and personal connection sells products, not frivolous litigation.
The cycle of life ebbs and flows with some periods being more demanding than others. August to October of this year has been particularly demanding, which forced me to cut down on my chess writing and playing. Curiously, that break preceded a jump in my online game successes both in live challenges and on the damnable Chess.com Tactics Trainer. My online ELO currently sits at 1101, which is the first time it has surpassed that benchmark since March 13 of this year.
Pretty charts, but still a long way to go. (Credit: Chess.com/Campfire Chess)
Of course, some of my recent wins were clearly undeserved (abandoned by opponent, etc.) but I believe that many of them are starting to reflect my constant dedication to studying and learning about the game. For example,
Winning and losing in chess is like the tides, so I am trying to prepare myself mentally for the time when the wins don’t come and the only way ahead seems to be down, like this heartbreaking loss:
Until next time, keep the flame burning, campers!