Category : Instructional/Coaching

Mastering Chess Middlegames

I have heard many times about Alexander Panchenko’s teaching methods and successes. A talented player whose playing career was cut short by an unexpected request to head a school for promising young players. He put all heart into the work and in times (1980s) where it was very difficult to collect and organise high-quality training material he was one of the best ones in doing so.

Apart from the Middlegames, Panchenko also had a similar course on endgames, something he valued very much and following Capablanca’s principle that chess should be studied from the endgame backwards, he emphasised the study of the last part of the game.

Very recently my friends at Chessable.com prepared Panchenko’s Mastering Chess Middlegames in their well-known inter-active format. The whole book is organised in chapters, videos and problems to solve in the already recognisable and highly efficient manner. As a preview, they offer a free one-hour sample video that you can see here.

Mastering Chess Middlegames is a book that is a result of Panchenko’s work throughout the years. The organisation of the material and its quality is its highest value. The Chapters have the names like Attack on the King, Defence, Prophylaxis, Equal Positions etc. all being equally important for a successful navigation of the middlegame. Each chapter ends with several positions to solve individually.

It is not obligatory to read and study the book from the beginning until end. I was interested in the chapter Realising an Advantage and went directly to it.

One of the main things that I have noticed in the games of my students is that once they have an advantage they sort of “switch off” (Panchenko’s expression). They expect the games to be won by themselves and just sit back and relax. Coupled with this attitude can be a lack of combinative ability and these two together are the most difficult factors to overcome as a player doesn’t really expect he needs to play combinations or attack, as these two are never associated with “technique.”

Closely related to the combinative ability is the feeling for when “to go over to active operations.” Panchenko says that “this ability usually comes with experience.”

In the same chapter Panchenko addresses the problem of time trouble. It is often that an advantage should be realised with limited time on the clock, especially nowadays with the shortened time-controls and eternal 30-second time trouble. He states 5 main reasons why players fall into time trouble and of these I have found the “uncertainty in oneself and one’s strengths” to be the most common one.

When showing examples of successful realisation of an advantage Panchenko shows quite a few games where direct king attacks and aggressive play are involved. I found it very important to get used to the fact that realisation of an advantage is not a boring, “technical” task!

But there is plenty of that too, as the title “Playing for a Squeeze” would suggest. The classical game Botvinnik-Zagoriansky never fails to impress me.

This is how the whole book is structured. With so many instructive examples it is inevitable that you will increase the level of your play. And add to this Chessable’s structured repetition with their trademarked MoveTrainer and you have a winning combination to increase your playing strength.

Mastering Chess Middlegames is out soon on Chessable (linked) and you can claim your free 1h video here.

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QGD Video Course

The video course for my Chessable book Queen’s Gambit Declined: A Grandmaster Explains is out (and the link offers you a free 1 hour 20 minute lesson on it!)

It was hard work, but eventually I think it was worth it. In more than 8 hours of video I go through every single line of my proposed repertoire and explain all the subtleties of the move orders and typical plans and ideas. I paid particular attention to the tactical motifs I didn’t mention in the comments and also to the so-called problem moves that the readers found difficult while studying the repertoire on the platform.

The course consists of an Overview, which you can see on my YouTube Channel, and  5 videos, one for every chapter of the book. These are The Exchange Variation, the Main Line 5 Bg5 h6 6 Bh4, the Main Line 5 Bg5 h6 6 Bf6, the Main Line 5 Bf4 and the 5th Various moves by White.

What I liked about the recording of the videos is that we managed to do it in a really professional manner. I would like to thank David (the Chessable CEO) for his dedication and attention to detail – if it wasn’t for his professionalism the final product wouldn’t have looked that good!

I have limited experience when it comes to recording, but I also cannot deny that I liked the process. It was tough, yes, we filmed more than 8 hours of video in a day and a half, but there was something special being seated in front of a camera and addressing an invisible audience that I knew was listening and paying attention!

I already wrote that the repertoire is based on my own analysis and preparation. In the videos I tried to add a new dimension by providing explanations that I didn’t include in my written commentary. My readers have also played a big role in improving the repertoire as during the course of its use they have come up with various questions and I hope that my answers helped clarify their doubts.

Chessable is launching the video course today and you can even see a whole chapter as a free sample. The chapter on the Main Line 5 Bg5 h6 6 Bf6 is 1 hour and 20 minutes long – please take a look and see the work we’d done:

Queen’s Gambit Declined: A Grandmaster Explains

The link to the full course is here.
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Tactics For Beginners

The chess learning site Chessable I am actively cooperating with, recently released a new book that completes the site’s coverage of all the phases of a chess game.

Chessable is primarily an opening-learning platform (and it has a large number of available books on openings to be learnt there) but some time ago they also introduced an endgame book on the endgames you must know. With their latest inclusion, 1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners, they covered the middlegame as well. I am quite happy that Chessable grew to an extent to cover all the phases of the game!

The new book, written by Franco Masetti and Roberto Messa and published by New In Chess, is a very handy guide to the basic tactical motifs a chess player must be familiar with. To be honest with you, I am never quite sure how a certain motif is called (deflection, decoy etc.) but I can assure you that I can spot them immediately! I find the main advantage of the book in the systemisation of the motifs and providing the reader with a lot of examples to drill those in, thus committing them to memory (the motifs, not necessarily the names!). If you add to this Chessable’s unique learning algorithm, you have a winning combination (pun intended) and a fast track to tactical mastery.

The book opens with relatively easy Mate in 1 exercises, followed by Mate in 2. Then the main tactical motifs follow and the book ends with Mixed Motifs for both White and Black and then with Mate in 3, Mate in 4 and Curiosities. As the title suggests there are 1001 exercises but they are quickly solved and time flies doing them.

The Introduction begins with “Chess in 99% tactics!” and I couldn’t agree more. In fact that is what players of all ages and strengths are doing when trying to get into shape – they solve tactical exercises. True, the ones Carlsen solves will differ from the ones I solve, but the core is the same. If you want to get better and get into a right frame of mind for a good game of chess, you must follow down the path of tactical work. There is simply no other way.

1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners

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An Exclusive Interview with Boris Gelfand

During the European Club Cup in Skopje in 2015 I had the bright idea to conduct interviews with the elite players. One of the best interviews was with the wonderful Boris Gelfand.

Boris agreed to meet us (me and my very good friend Kiril Penushliski, a PhD and an avid chess aficionado) after the tournament and we spent a few good hours walking in the park and talking about chess, life, Universe and pretty much everything else.

It is probably long overdue, I should have published this gem long time ago, but the initial plan was to have the interview transcribed and publish it in a written version. Alas, this never materialised, so I decided to publish the audio version.

I would like to thank Boris for giving us this opportunity to talk to one of the best chess players in the world. He answered truthfully and at length, it was sheer delight to talk about chess with somebody who has seen and done it all.

You can enjoy the interview following this link.

 

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Why the QGD?

I recorded a short video explaining why I play and recommend the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

I used the questions from Alexander Froemis, a reader of my Inner Circle who asked quite a few pertinent ones about it.

You can view the video on my YouTube channel here.

As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.

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Video Game Analysis #8

David decided to take up the QGD and his first game was a success! It’s always a good sign when you win the first game with a new opening!

He got a great position, but then he misplayed it. And as it usually happens, the game was decided by a blunder.

Still, an encouraging start for his build-up process of construction of a new repertoire. Hopefully he continues to win games with the QGD!

Here’s the video of our joint analysis:

 

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Video Game Analysis #7

David switched to OTB games rather than online, which is very important. I have always said that OTB play is hugely different (and infinitely better) than online. The physical presence of the board, pieces and an opponent forces you to concentrate and try harder.

Here we analyse two games of his, I quite liked his treatment of the typical structure arising from different openings (Caro-Kann, Reti, Scandinavian) here:

 

 

In his White game David messed up the opening but then defended well and was richly rewarded!

 

 

 

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A Quick Petroff on my YouTube Channel

I finally managed to find some time to record another video. Inspired by what is happening at the World Cup in Tbilisi I am showing a quick and easy to use set-up for Black in the Petroff. As I mentioned in my post about Tbilisi, the Petroff is experiencing some sort of a revival, just to add to the misery of the White 1 e4 players, if the Berlin wasn’t more than enough.

But that is good news for the Black players who prefer solidity without too much theory. The set-up is simple and straight-forward, but do your homework before trying it out. Here’s the video:

 

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A Wild Game

In my last two tournaments I had a wonderful experience playing chess. I was thoroughly enjoying myself and the process of playing. I was comfortable at the board and my game was flowing.

I already wrote about Llucmajor and my strategy there and I also analysed a couple of games. The recently finished Spanish team championship (the Second Division) in Linares (where I returned after 15 years!) was a similar experience only this time I was facing weaker players. I had a small dip in the performance in Rounds 3 and 4 (I didn’t play in Round 1) when I even lost a game to a FM that went on to score an incredible 6/7 on Board 1! I won the other games in good style.

Here I would like to present the game from Round 4. It is one of the wildest games I have ever played and it could have been my “immortal” had I been a bit more lucky. It is funny how I was thinking whether I will get the chance to play the combination while waiting for his 23rd move, wondering whether I will get to experience this moment of exquisite beauty and joy from playing chess, but, as it has usually been in my chess career, fate wasn’t very generous. Well, I can only hope that perhaps an even better chance will appear in the future! For now, enjoy the game.

 


 

 

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New Video On My Youtube Channel

In between flights I managed to make another video for my Youtube channel. This time I talk about Black’s possible reactions and defences against White’s minority attack in the Carlsbad structure.

And also why I didn’t walk around Milan this time.

Hope you enjoy it and find it interesting and useful.

 

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