I started my day with that opening monograph on the French, recalling some interesting lines in the non-..Qb6 Adv French, then a really neat, pivotal Milner-Barry game which should probably be memorized, that Black wins, two masters or GMs. Then this game:
This is also an important game, but even more so for the “finishing” tactics at the end.
If 20…NxRb3, 21.Nxd5! QxNe6, 22.Bg5! threatening the fork 23.Nc7+ RxNc7, 24.Qd8 mate.
It’s important to point out that White would also be winning with the simple 21.QxNb3, down an exchange for a pawn, yet ++- as well. It’s simply that the tactics end the game much quicker. Positionally, Black’s ..g5 was simply bad and loses, no tactical expert required, yet it is highly tactical. Of course, Black wasn’t looking at ..NxRb3 but rather Ne2+, Kh1 Ng3+, hxN QxRf1+, Kh2 leaving both Rxb7+ and Qxe7+ wide-open.
I looked at lots of continuations to that game. Later tonight something strange happened. I haphazardly picked up the book on combos and I was solving all of them, and it got easier and easier, then real easy, even the longer ones. MDLM was right about how they get easier. I think the “pattern recognition” thing is sort of rubbish now, as probably do others, but it greatly helps one’s tactical intuition, and I think it’s absolutely necessary to do one circle of 1,000 problems that covers the tactical devices. The memorization part is ridiculous, it’s much more important to solve the problems, and actually you may even recognize a problem and “remember” the answer in a foggy sort of way, but it probably won’t make sense because you probably haven’t attached actual MEANING to what you memorized. So it will seem like dejavu, but since it still won’t make sense, the answer, you probably still won’t play it or analyze why what you remembered works, unless bored.
I have completed 927 of 1150 problems from that ‘Combination Challenge’ book.
The problem with thinking that tactics is everything is that tactics will generally be avoided if the player does not feel that they can perform it in a position in a live game. Openings are unavoidable, you own what you get/did at the board, there are no two ways about it. Endgames are similar to this, but allow for more flexibility in approach, and more pure analysis over guessing.
If I went by the hearsay advice from GM Gregory Kaidanov of “Show me your last ten losses, there will be a pattern there.”, my pattern has been getting into strategic openings where I am not comfortable on how to proceed, and then being tired or only having 90 minutes to play said game, or both. This is when I usually do some crazy attack that blunders, or make overly safe moves which don’t address the position, too afraid to “hang” things the right way, and lose passively.
So really, at G/90, which is quick for me, I think openings would be the biggest improvement to my rating. Tactics are important at this time-control, but I have shored up my weakness much more in this area.
I lost a game to the Halloween Gambit online a couple days back. This is one, for example, where you wouldn’t want to face it for the first time OTB. I think how to counter gambits as Black is a great place to study openings, particularly so you don’t have face a surprise of facing one in the last round of the day at a tournament.
Here is an interesting article on that gambit:
Here is the guy whose engine played that gambit a lot online:
I downloaded his db file. The text file with it says “… Although I
think that this line is not sound, it is very hard to survive for black if
he hasn’t seen this before.” Amen to that.
An honest assessment of my play is that I am best at counter-attack and intuitively judging a position. A couple of the people I play are great at sacking and tactical attacks, the problem is that they are always thinking offense, and a lot of times that really doesn’t work. I know because I do catch them multiple times in post-mortems until they find the correct attacking move (they never look to play a normal defensive move, it’s always an active defense). OTB, one of those times I’d probably catch them. So, what you want is a sound position and then catch them “attacking you badly, in some needlessly presumptuous over-aggressive move.”
I know it’s not just me thinking that this is as obvious as it is because one of the 1900 players will walk by, look at the position for 10 seconds, and tell the other player that their position is bad. Of course, this doesn’t bridle their optimism for trying to find attacking moves from unsound positions, and a lot of times they will catch an unwary opponent.