Friday, February 18, 2005


What Makes a Good Player?

What makes a good chess player? Typically, players with analytical minds make good player. Former world champion Max Euwe was a mathematician, and Mikhail Botvinnik was an electrical engineer. Is that it? No.

Talent – Talent is innate, but can be improved.
Knowledge – Openings, tricks, endgames, tactics. Many of these are learned. How often you seen them depends on your talent.
Time Management – Time pressure can cause blunders and lose games.
Clear Head – You need to be in the right frame of mind to play.

We see books on chess taught by grandmasters. Sometimes it feels like they are talking over your head. Sometimes we sit and play out moves, and everything makes perfect sense. However, when you sit down at the board, sometimes you make the moves, sometimes you don’t. When you play moves out in your head, sometimes you neglect to see where the pieces actually end up and what squares they cover.
Here is a game I played recently against a Yugoslavian club player rated about 1800. I have the black pieces and have a dominant position. I have 31 minutes on my clock versus his 29.

Here I played 23…Re4 which threatens the continued 24. Qd2 g5. 25. Rae1. Originally missed was 23… Rxg3 24. Qxg3 Qd8! The real game continued 25…gxh4. Again I missed 25…. Rxf4 26. Rxf4 Qxf4 27. Qxf4 gxf4 28. Rc1 fxg3 29. Rxc4 Be3! Instead 26. g4 h3 27. Rxe4 hxg2+ Kxg2 fxe4. 30. Qc3. Here I am still up a bishop, but the position is open and the queen’s are on the board.

I play 30…Kc8?! in order to protect the g7 pawn and get my king into a safer position. 30… Kd8 was probably better as it would have avoided complications resulting from 31. Qxc4. I see 32. Rc1 coming. Not only can the bishop be pinned to the queen, it can be pinned to the king. So moving my queen would result in 32. b4. 31… Kb8 can be either met with 32. Rc1 or even 32. Qxe4. Now, I have a bishop for two pawns and my advantage is not decisive. What I missed was 31…Rh2+!! 32. Kxh2 Bxg1+ or 32. Kg3 Bf2+ wins the queen. Instead I played 31…Qb6? thinking that he would have to play b3 and I would have another tempo to move my king. Otherwise (remember these are my thoughts) If he played Rc1, I could play Qxb2 then play b6. What I forgot was that 32. Rc1 Qxb2+ 33. Rc2 blocks the queen with tempo for white. Thus I squandered my advantage and had to settle for a draw. After my 31st move I still had 13 minutes (compared with his 19). I wasn’t in time trouble. So why did I blank? How did I fail to see that he wouldn't be able to block on c2?

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