Monday, December 31, 2018

December 2018 Tactical Training: Part 2

Let's finish off 2018 in the usual fashion: More (easy) puzzles!

Also, check out the following article, which rounds up the greatest chess stories of 2018:

Monday, December 24, 2018

Cairnhill Chess Festival 2018

With the holidays here, I could get back into the game by going for more tournaments wherever possible. Thus, it felt good to be back at the Cairnhill Chess Festival this year, especially after missing the 2017 edition. After all the 15+10 rapid games (or worse, 15+0 IFG games), longer time controls are always welcome.

Cairnhill CC playing room

What can we learn from this game?
  1. Avoid unnecessary pawn pushes that give the opponent free tempo, e.g. 15... a6. In fact, White's 10. h3 move might not have been the best, since it would tie down my light-squared bishop and hence become incapable of unleasing its full potential on the long diagonal. Perhaps I could follow it up with a g3-g4 to restrict Black's bishop and relieve some pressure, which was one of my ideas (eventually not needed) during the game.
  2. Principle of two weaknesses: Control over the e6 square alone was not going to win the game. To stretch thin Black's defenses, another weaknesses must be sought: In this case, combining e6 with c-file invasion proved to be an effective plan.
  3. Control of open diagonals can be effective in denying the opponent of key squares: White's control of the a1-h8 long diagonal after move 22 prevented White from bringing his king to bear onto e6.

What can we learn from this game?
  1. Again, the power of controlling key diagonals cannot be underestimated: White's Bf4 and Qa4 dominated large swathes of territory in the enemy camp, greatly restricting the motion of Black's pieces.
  2. Sometimes, a tactical motif cannot be executed immediately, but leaving it there can allow one to exploit it in other ways. On move 22, Black could not utilize the a7-g1 pin to play 22... Qxg3 immediately, but it can be used to buy time to get the rooks into the game (i.e. 22.. Rac8). Instead, I chose passive defense with 22... Rad8 and threw away a potentially winning game ):
  3. When the opponent makes a sac, remember that it is possible to return some material to blunten the attack (e.g 29... Kh8 giving back a pawn to eventually force a queen trade, instead of 29... Rd6??)
As always, my weakness of being unable to calculate effectively under time pressure, or properly exploit tactical motifs, come to the fore. I will need to continue working on it in order to convert more points. Maybe one day, I should join a proper 90 + 30 tournament to fully utilize the time given ... but then again, I tell myself that every year, and keep shying away because of commitment issues ._.

Monday, December 10, 2018

World Chess Championship 2018 Highlights: Part 1

As promised earlier, I wanted to go through selected games from the recent World Championship (and the Women's World Championship). Today, we look at the most dramatic part of the event: The tiebreakers.

While both players showed that they were evenly matched in the classical games, it was a different story altogether in the tiebreakers. Carlsen dominated all three games to sweep a 3-0 victory, proving that his rapidplay skills are one level above the rest of the world.

Game 2 was a short but brutal game where Caruana's position rapidly fell apart after a premature pawn break:

In Game 3, which was a must-win for Caruana, Carlsen was able to force a simplification, and clinched his third victory when the American overpressed and made even more inaccuracies:

Caruana resigns his third rapid game (Image from

In the next part, we will look at some of the more memorable draws from the classical games.