Chess Tactics: Wang Chen — Wei Yi, 2016

Wei Yi
Wei Yi. Photo: FIDE

Wei Yi was born in Yancheng, China in 1999 and was one of the greatest child and teen chess prodigies.

He earned his Grandmaster title at the age of 13 years, 8 months, and 23 days in 2013. At the time, this made him the fourth-youngest GM in history.

Wei won the World Under-12 Championship in 2010 and became the youngest winner of the Chinese Championship in 2015, a title he defended in 2016 and 2017. He took the 2018 Asian Continental Championship as well.

In March 2015, at the age of 15, Wei Yi became the youngest 2700 player ever, a record previously held by Magnus Carlsen, and one Wei still holds.

In August 2017, at 18 years old, Wei Yi reached his peak rating of 2753 and peak ranking of World #14. Today he sits at 2729 and World #21 … he’s not 23 years old yet, but such a distant peak for a young player is concerning.

I’m rooting for Wei to hit new heights in the coming years.

 

In this game from the 2016 Chinese League, how did Wei Yi conclude a nice game against International Master Wang Chen?

Black to play.

21… ?

 

Direct beats Indirect

Reader Question: Which Sicilian?

A few weeks ago I received this question from a reader; sorry for the late post and reply!

Hi Andre,
My name is Marc and I love your website! I am trying to find my Sicilian! I like your article. I don’t want to play Sveshnikov or Dragon or Najdorf as it’s too much theory. Though I do like sharp positions.
I was thinking of playing the Richter-Rauzer and vs most other moves [like] f3, Bc4, and Bg5 play a Dragon (or if Be3, play …Ng4) or play Schevenigen with …e6 move order and deal with Keres attack.
I think Taimanov though also combative is under hard times somewhat due to Be3 and Qf3.  Or do you have another idea?
Thanks,
Marc Sicina

Hi Marc,
Thanks for the kind words and the question!
My first thought is that if you want to play a sharp Sicilian, don’t run from theory.
I don’t think the Classical (against which the main line is the Richter-Rauzer, as Marc points out: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 and now 6.Bg5) is right for a sharp player. It’s more of a positional system.
I’m not an expert on the Scheveningen, but allowing the Keres Attack seems very risky and gives your opponent the sharp position, not you!
The Sveshnikov is theory-heavy, but not super-sharp, but of course a great choice.
I’m going to give you the answer you probably already know but won’t like: I think if you want a sharp (and sound) Sicilian, you have to choose the Najdorf or Taimanov, if you want to avoid Dragon theory. Remember that you whatever theory you don’t know, generally your opponents will know even less!

Chess Tactics: Gaprindashvili — Idelchyk, 1964

Nona Gaprindashvili
Nona winning the 2018 European Championship among women 65+. Photo: Vestnik Kavkaza

Nona Gaprindashvili was born in 1941 in Zugdidi, Georgia (then part of the Soviet Union). An unstoppable force from a young age, she convincingly defeated Elizaveta Bykova 9-2 (7 wins, 4 draws) in 1962 to become the 5th Women’s World Champion.

She earned no less than 20 gold medals (individual and team) across 12 Women’s Olympiads from 1963 through 1992, and competed successfully in “men’s” international tournaments.

In 1978, she was the first woman to be awarded the International Grandmaster (GM) title by FIDE. Unfortunately for Nona, this would be the year she lost her Women’s World Championship title to countrywoman Maia ChiburdanidzeGaprindashvili’s 16-year reign nearly matched that of Vera Menchik (1927-1944, the year of her death).

Ukraine wins Gaprindashvili Cup
Ukraine with Gaprindashvili Cup (42nd Olympiad in Baku, AZE). Photo: European Chess Union

Since 2004, the country that scores the most total points in the Open and Women’s Olympiad wins the Gaprindashvili Cup.

Russia won in 2004, 2010 and 2012; China won in 2006, 2014 and 2018; and Ukraine won in 2008 and 2016. 

 

I mention all of this because I came across a very nice Rossolimo played by Gaprindashvili in 1964 against Lyubov Idelchyk (1936-2006), Ukrainian Women’s Champion in 1963 and 1969 who later immigrated to the USA.

How did Gaprindashvili conclude her attack? White to play.

23.?

 

Drafty Kingside

Sicilian Attacks: Powerful Charges & Typical Tactics

Sicilian Attacks: Powerful Charges & Typical TacticsSicilian Attacks: Powerful Charges & Typical Tactics
GM Yuri Yakovich
New in Chess, 2010
Paperback, $21.82 (new) on Amazon

This is the third book by Yakovich, after The Complete Sveshnikov Sicilian (Gambit, 2002), and Play the 4.f3 Nimzo-Indian (Gambit, 2005). Those books were well-reviewed, and this effort makes the author 3 for 3.

Note: I may receive a commission on products purchased through Amazon links on this page. Thanks for your support!

 

 

Struggling Against Mainline Sicilians? This Book WILL Help!

A familiar dilemma

The biggest headache that normally dissuades tournament players from opening with 1.e4 is the Sicilian Defense (1…c5) — specifically, the Open Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 and then 3.d4).

Of course, it’s possible to employ an anti-Sicilian, but this is already a partial victory for the second player. While systems with 3.Bb5(+) or an early c2-c3 are respectable, your opponent should not be afraid of these. I would not recommend employing lesser setups like the Smith-Morra Gambit or Grand Prix Attack every time.

Allowing Black to enter their pet mainline system is intimidating for the non-professional. But I have decided that this is a lesser evil than switching to the closed games (1.d4, 1.c4, 1.Nf3, etc.), as the second player has endless options there, too.

Besides, I have always enjoyed studying opening theory and reaping the rewards of my efforts. I strongly believe players don’t study their openings enough.

Which approach versus Open Sicilians?

It’s possible to face mainline Sicilians without playing in a berzerker fashion — check out IM Timothy Taylor‘s interesting 2012 book Slaying the Sicilian which advocates for a quieter approach like playing an early Be2 in many lines. World Champion Anatoly Karpov and perennial Candidate Efim Geller scored a ton of points this way.

Of course, many players dream of launching breathtaking attacks against the Black king.

Even if you’re an attacking-challenged player like I am, you can play aggressive setups if you study well and learn important ideas. The systems Yakovich discusses also have a sound strategic basis. The English Attack and Yugoslav Attack are well-covered, for example, but you won’t find ultra-aggressive “is-this-completely-sound?” stuff like the Velimirovic Attack or Perenyi Attack.

Yuri Yakovich
Yuri Yakovich. Photo: FIDE

Sicilian Attacks is the guide you need.

The Russian Grandmaster wrote a dense book (only 208 pages!) with lots of variations and computer analysis, no doubt about that. But it also contains generous text annotations and key diagrams, so you won’t get lost in a forest of endless lines. This is not a database dump!

You’ll have to take your time with this book, but you won’t be left scratching your head. An ambitious player rated 1500 would benefit, but the 1800-plus crowd will really make hay with Sicilian Attacks.

So, what’s in it?

 

Contents

Sicilian Attacks contents 1

Sicilian Attacks contents 2

Really, the only major system not covered is the Sveshnikov! And it’s much easier to find explanatory material for White on that setup than some of the others reviewed here.

 

Sample Pages

Sicilian Attacks page 72

A typical page in this book. Dense analysis, but good commentary to help the reader navigate it. Well worth the needed time investment to absorb the main ideas.

 

Sicilian Attacks page 151

At the end of each section, the author includes these “Conclusions” — a nice touch!

Yakovich’s chapters on facing the Yugoslav Dragon is the best I have seen anywhere, and alone worth the price of the book. He also makes sense of “strange” nuances in different Sicilian variations understandable.

 

Sicilian Attacks is really a middlegame book — plenty of discussion of pawn structures and piece placements, sometimes going as far as the endgame. That’s why you should not be put off by the 2010 publication date, at all.

Highly recommended for players willing to put in the work to play the Open Sicilian.

Chess Tactics: Smirin — Afek, 1992

Ilya Smirin
Ilya Smirin. Photo: FIDE

Ilya Smirin was born in Vitebsk, Belarus in 1968. He earned his Grandmaster title in 1990 and immigrated to Israel two years later.

Smirin was Israeli Champion in 1992 and 2002. He also won the final edition of the New York Open in 2000, and the Biel GMT (Grandmaster Tournament) in 2002.

His highest FIDE rating was 2702 in July 2001, and he has been ranked as high as World #13 on two occasions.

Here Smirin wins a miniature against International Master and prominent chess composer Yochanan Afek.

Something has definitely gone wrong for Black. White to play.

8.?

 

Beware Early Queen Sorties!

Chess Tactics: McShane — Cheparinov, 2009

Luke McShane keeps it simple

Luke McShane
Luke McShane. Photo: FIDE

Luke McShane (born 1984) is an English Grandmaster who won the World Under-10 Championship in 1993 and Wijk aan Zee B in 2011. He reached a peak FIDE rating of 2713 in July 2012, and his peak world rank of 29 in November of that year.

He has scored victories over Michael Adams, Levon Aronian, Etienne Bacrot, Magnus Carlsen, Sergey KarjakinVladimir Kramnik, Alexander Morozevich, Hikaru Nakamura, Ruslan Ponomariov, Nigel Short, Wesley So, and Radoslaw Wojtaszek

…in classical chess.

McShane added another notch to his belt when he took down Ivan Cheparinov in just 20 moves during the 2009 European Team Championship.

Longtime readers of the Chess Essentials blog know I’m not fan of sidelines, espeically with White. Many are playable, some even good. But I think players sometimes get into trouble overthinking how they should play these lines. If your line calls for an all-in attack, go for it!

I don’t know how Cheparinov felt, but I would be taken aback by such shameless aggression! I don’t recommend this approach every game against strong players, but I’ve long said that simple, direct plans executed well are easier to play and very effective. Luke McShane provides a great example with this Closed Sicilian/Grand Prix Attack hybrid.

 

So Easy, A Caveman Can Do It

Which Chess Opening Move is Best? Part 1

Should I Open with 1.e4, 1.d4, or something else as White?

Not surprisingly, the short answer is “it depends.”

Let’s dig deeper.

First, there is one thing you certainly should not do. Don’t play offbeat moves (1.b3, 1.b4, 1.f4, 1.Nc3, etc.)  just to avoid theory. I’ve touched on this before. Only use moves like this if you enjoy playing the resulting positions. 

Having gotten that out of the way, we really have only four or five serious moves left. There’s no question which one we should discuss first.

1.e4 — Best by Test?

The famous game Fischer-Tal from the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad was a sharp draw in the French Defense. You can actually purchase a print of this photo here.

To a certain extent, I think Bobby Fischer was right. But not everyone should follow his advice.

Opening with the King Pawn requires the most well-rounded skills. Generally, you must attack the Sicilian Defense or give Black at least equality. Aggressive play is also the best recipe against the French Defense, Caro-Kann, and Pirc Defense, among others.

At the same time, patience and maneuvering skills are needed to play the Ruy Lopez or Italian Game well.

The higher up the rating ladder a player advances, the less opponents are afraid of gimmicky attacks — aside from feeling confident against gambits, they might willingly enter slightly worse positions with a chance to grind you down. Michael William Brown was in my group at the 2008 Western Invitational Chess Camp (organized by Robby Adamson). His main defense was the Closed Ruy Lopez, and he really knew how to play it. Sure enough, Michael became a Grandmaster in 2019.

Maybe the biggest question is: can you break down the Berlin Wall or Petroff Defense?

My point is, I think 1.e4 requires the most diverse range of skill to play well consistently — in other words, to legitimately play for a win against strong opposition. Contemporary role models include CarlsenCaruana, and Karjakin. 

It’s no coincidence these players have contested the last two World Championship Matches!

Not everyone prefers the King Pawn, or possesses the ability to play it well — or at least as well as the ability to play other first moves.

In Part 2, we discuss some alternatives, starting with 1.d4.

In Part 3, I give my opinions on various Flank Openings.

Chess Tactics: Boleslavsky — Böök, 1948

Isaac Boleslavsky: The Most Underrated Chess Theoretician?

Isaac Boleslavsky
Isaac Boleslavsky. Photo: chessgames.com

Isaac Boleslavsky (1919-1977) was born in present-day Ukraine. He was one of the best players in the world during the 1940s and 1950s.

Runner-up in back-to-back USSR Championships in 1945 and 1947, he narrowly missed a chance to face Mikhail Botvinnik in the 1951 World Championship match. He later assisted Tigran Petrosian in his title matches.

Despite this formidable résumé, Boleslavsky’s legacy can be most clearly seen in the Ruy Lopez, King’s Indian Defense, and Sicilian Defense. His ideas are everywhere in these systems. Unfortunately, I doubt most casual players have even heard of him!

 

Original Grandmaster

The Grand Hotel Saltsjöbaden, site of the 1948 interzonal.

The very first Interzonal was held in 1948 in Saltsjöbaden, Sweden. Up for grabs were places in the Budapest Candidates Tournament of 1950, the next step in the World Championship cycle. Boleslavsky qualified easily with a strong third place result in Saltsjöbaden behind David Bronstein and Laszlo Szabo. These three players were part of the first 27 awarded the new International Grandmaster title by FIDE.

In the first round of the interzonal, Boleslavsky won a miniature against Finnish master Eero Böök with an important new idea.

 

A Dangerous Queen Maneuver

200 Modern Chess Traps in the Fianchetto Openings

A Book on Chess Traps that is Cheap, Abundant, and Still Useful

200 Modern Chess Traps in the Fianchetto Openings
Howson’s book was issued in hardcover with dust jacket!

200 Modern Chess Traps in the Fianchetto Openings was written by J.B. Howson in 1970. As you might expect, the notation of choice is Descriptive.

The author divides his material into three parts: Queen’s SideKing’s Side, and Miscellaneous.

Looking through the chapters in each part, you realize that “Queen’s Side” refers to closed games: King’s Indian Defense, Grunfeld Defense, Modern and Old Benoni, Queen’s Indian Defense, Nimzo-Indian Defense, and English (1.P—QB4 and 2.N—QB3) and Reti Openings (1.N—KB3 and 2.P—QB4).

In the “King’s Side” section, you’ll find just two systems: Pirc Defense (Including Robatsch) — Robatsch is the traditional name of the Modern Defense — and Sicilian Defense. The Sicilian section mostly features various Dragons and Accelerated Dragons, but also a few Najdorfs and Classical Sozins.

“Miscellaneous” contains the Budapest, Bird (including From Gambit), Catalan, Center Counter (Scandinavian), Dutch, King’s Indian Attack, Alekhine Defense, Orangutan, Spassky’s Defense (!? — this refers to 1.N—KB3 N—KB3 2.P—KN3 P—QN4), Grob, Three Knights, and Chigorin Defense.

The author incudes complete games or game fragments that illustrate the trap in question. Each trap has one or two diagrams.

 

Order it Now. Here’s Why.

Obviously, this 50-year-old book doesn’t contain the latest hot theory! But I think most players would have greater opportunities to apply the lines here than what might be found in contemporary games.

No matter which openings featured in this book appear in your games — I’m betting several do regularly! — there are important pitfalls that aren’t obvious at all. You might be surprised to see the names of some of the victims!

Almost any player would find this book helpful. It can be had for under ten bucks on Amazon. I’m sure there are at least a handful of points to be harvested using the ideas in Howson’s book … well worth it, I say.

How to Increase Your Chess Rating Fast

You can increase your chess rating quick, fast, and in a hurry. Almost immediately, in some cases. But if you’re a “chess romantic,” this method is not for you.

Increase your chess rating and win more prizes at tournaments.

Everyone wants to win more games, but what price are you willing to pay? If you’re 1000+, I have long been convinced that the quickest, surest path to more wins and a higher rating runs through the opening.

Embrace this. Don’t allow yourself to be brainwashed by the group-think that pervades chess instruction and insists you look for a pot of gold at the end of the tactics rainbow. Or worse, insists you focus on endgames.

Are you still reading? Good. Let me be very clear about what I mean, and explain my reasoning.

 

Use opening study to drive your rating gains

Knowledge is power in chess. When looking to increase your chess rating, laziness won’t do.

That said, there are different layers to opening study.

 

Wait! Why not tactics and endgames?

Don’t worry!

  • You are working on tactics! If you study openings properly, you will learn recurring tactical ideas in lines you actually play. This makes them easier to find in real life instead of hoping to apply something from solving thousands of random puzzles.
  • Your endgame results will also improve as a side-effect of serious opening study. Not only will you get more familiar positions and practice playing them, good study will provide you with better endgames than you had in the past!

Okay, let’s keep going!

 

Know what kinds of positions you play well, or can learn to play well.

A player can’t completely avoid tactics or strategy — we all know this.  As for the lecture about “stunting your chess development,” that applies to aspiring 2700-rated grandmasters. Almost everyone else spends their chess career managing their weak spots.

If attacking play comes naturally to you, play openings that allow you the kinds of attacks you like to play. Not all attacks are the same!

Do you consider yourself a strategist? Fine (that’s a hint by the way, study his games). Do you like to maneuver in closed positions? Maybe you prefer queenless middlegames? Perhaps you have an affinity for certain types of endgames?

Research “candidate” openings that might suit you. Then test them out against good opposition online. I recommend playing games in the 5-minute pool. The results aren’t important; focus on whether or not you like the character of the play.

 

Don’t be delusional

I’m a poor attacker … and after 25 years of chess, this won’t change very much. While I’ve had some success with the Sicilian Najdorf (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6) , I have played the Dragon Variation (5…g6) exactly once in a tournament game — at the Manhattan Chess Club in 1996! I lost badly, too.

What’s the difference? The Najdorf is dynamic, while the Dragon is a straight attacking race.

On the other hand, I like playing queenless positions, and for some reason I’ve always been able to play any kind of endgame with rooks well. Slow maneuvering is not my forte, which I guess explains why several attempts to play the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5) as black have been a failure. My attempts to play the English Opening (1.c4) have been disastrous.

As WIM Iryna Zenyuk once told me: “Play YOUR chess.”

 

A word about system openings

I’m referring to the King’s Indian Attack, Colle System, London System, Torre Attack, etc.

I would mostly avoid them … and not because of nebulous ideas about “limiting your potential.”

As I’ve said before, avoiding main line openings forces you to work harder at the board when you have nerves, a ticking clock, and an opponent to deal with.

Instead, choose openings with defined main lines you can study in advance and learn well. If your opponent deviates, you will either know how to deal with their subpar moves, or can take comfort that you have a route to a clear advantage. In other words …

 

Raise your rating by shortening the game

The more of a game you can pre-plan, the better your results will be — if your prep is good.

Think about it: do you have more confidence in your own moves, or those you learned from Stockfish or Grandmaster XYZ? As long as you have an idea of your moves’ purpose and aren’t blindly memorizing, I think the answer is clear. Lofty ideas about being creative or original stop most players from increasing their chess rating. That, and not wanting it badly enough.

Yes, you’re going to have to memorize some lines … some of them 15+ moves. That’s a good thing: your hard work will leave your peers behind and raise you to a new level. Let them do 20 minutes of tactics a day and play openings “based on ideas.” They will be at the same level five years from now.

 

Action steps to improve your rating

    • Buy ChessBase if you haven’t already. I consider it indispensible if you’re serious about trying to increase your chess rating.
    • Search for openings/positions you might be interested in playing.
    • Test these lines in online play to see if they suit you and you like playing them.
    • Create a database in ChessBase with your opening lines. I call mine “Opening Lines.” In this database is one “game” (line) for each opening.
Increase your chess rating with detailed opening study
A peek at my current database.
    • Constantly play through GM games in your chosen lines, and keep testing online.
    • Add/edit lines in your database … this could take months to begin with, and never really ends. Be thorough.
    • Maintenance. Keep studying games, memorizing your lines, and practicing online.

I eagerly await comments on this one!