Chess Improvement

I’d like to start off with a game of Blackburne’s, playing here as Black like the bad-@ss that he was.

Blackburne was suprisingly also a very good endgame player, and he won games against all of his contemporaries, the best players of the day. He had a genius for sacrificial play.

Blackburne has notated many of his wonderful games that you can find on The notes aren’t much, but they do make you feel as though you are studying at his shoulder.

One of the things you pick up going over games is pattern-recognition. It was Joel Benjamin who once advised to look over lots of games to improve.

So, after looking over one of Stenitz’ games, and one of Burn’s games, I have a little surprise as Black awaiting for the Spanish player. Now at the club, because I am over 1800, there is a good chance that at least one person will adopt whatever I play and learn what I play. This is particularly true because they probably have little or no study time of their own.

BTW, this post could just as well be described as “Chess Study” because “Chess Improvement” is often equated as “Ratings Improvement” (which are not the same thing, because one is more long-term than the other). The latter would probably mean to study tactics until reaching Expert level, and otherwise just to be as resourceful, cagey, and swindle-y at the board as possible (which is what you tend to get from tactics study, anyway).

Yes, apparently the MDLM thing didn’t work so well for bloggers, but I can tell you that for MDLM and the players at the club it did work because they also play a lot of OTB games, many play in more tournaments than I do. Some didn’t even have to play that much – they combined playing-speed with tactics, which is devastating when you are thinking on the other guy’s clock at shortened time-controls.

Here is a game that might put this whole argument into perspective:

I haven’t computer-checked this, but it appears to me that White’s first combo is perhaps just optimistic.

I believe that 19.Nc3!? is the move, positionally, because …Bxd4?!, 20.Nxc6 Qc7, 21.NxBd4 QxNc3 gives White a credible attack on the king – this position looks +/- at least.

In the game, 19…Qd7, 20.Qa4 QxNc6, 21.Nc7+ Kd8, 22.QxQ+ KxQ, 23.NxRa8 Ba5, 24.Bxa6 (what else?) Nd6 and the Na8 is dropping where Black will be up a piece. 21.Rc1 a6xNb5, 22.Bxb5 RxQa4, 23.BxQ+ Kd8, 24.BxRa4 Bd7, and Black’s problems appear solved. White has that a-pawn for a piece, but Black has solved most of the tension and has the move once the Ba4 retreats (can’t afford to trade it).

Okay, so from the armchair I can often pick apart optimistic attacks to my satisfaction. In the game, however, Blackburne would have been moving quickly, spotting tactics even from inferior positions. He liked to do things like announce mate-in-nine, OTB, which tells me that he was probably doing a lot of calculating on his opponents’ time.

I went over a Burn-Blackburne game deeply (the Burn book has deep annotations). The difference between deep annotations and shallow annotations are similar to this. Shallow: “Perhaps Black could have avoided the mate in 12 by playing this move, but it’s still debateable”. Deep: “White is winning brilliantly, but now blows it with this move, and Black doesn’t find the refutation, ad infinitum”. So in the deep game, you are not only analyzing some players “trophy win”, but you are showing moves/flaws that would have won the game against them, and better moves that both sides missed.

I broke out MCO (which I do maybe once a year) and studied an opening variation for Black, that builds on two of the games that I have already analyzed. Now that I am a stronger player, opening theory is more useful than it was previously. Probably at class A level is where opening theory begins to be useful, particularly at short time-controls such as G/90.


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