Monthly Archives: Jul 2017

The Move …g5 in the Sicilian

I spent the last week in Spain at the Spanish U16 championship and I watched many games between young and talented players. They play well, follow theory and still have a lot to learn. My student Angel Luis Cubas Cabrera had a tough tournament – he played well, but so did his opponents! He entered the last round undefeated and a win would have brought him a shared 4th place. Alas, he faltered and lost… But today he had a fantastic tournament in the rapid and finished shared 2nd, half a point behind the winner. He is only 15, one year younger than most of the others, so all this looks pretty promising.

While watching the games my subconscious was working and somehow I was reminded of an episode from my tournament in Reykjavik in 2015. In the second part of the tournament I wasn’t playing well and to make things worse I got two Blacks in the last 2 rounds. Still, a last round win would have made it a decent showing.

I was paired against Ni Shiqun. At that time she still didn’t have the success of reaching the quarter-final of this year’s Women World Championship, but it was obvious she was good.

During my preparation I noticed that my young opponent, born in 1997, played some boring lines in the Scotch against 1…e5 and the non-critical 3 c4 against the Sicilian, after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6. Since I was determined “to play for a win” I decided to go for the Sicilian.

I had several ideas in mind against 3 c4 and eventually I settled for the sharp line after 3…Nc6 4 Be2 g5!? In fact, I was convinced this was so good I even started thinking I refuted the whole 3 c4 line! If, for example, White plays 4 Nc3 instead of 4 Be2 then 4…Nge7 is very good, intending …Nd4 and …Nec6, and if White pushes 5 d4 now, then after exchanging twice on d4 and playing 7…Nc6 Black has excellent play on the dark squares.

The last round was a morning game, so I couldn’t prepare as deeply as I wanted – many of the lines were checked to a point where the position was good for Black, even though I sensed they needed deeper analysis. There was one factor, however, that I failed to take into account and that factor was the character of the position.

I noticed that my opponent was an excellent calculator (as most young players are) and my own calculations weren’t to my usual standard during the tournament. And the positions arising after 4…g5 were sharp and required calculation, no matter in which favour they objectively were.

By now you can probably sense how the game developed. Thanks to my good preparation I obtained a better position as early as move 9, but the position required serious calculations and by move 16 I was lost! Here’s the complete game:


You can now imagine my regret of not playing the boring Scotch… At the closing ceremony I had a chance to chat with Artur Jussupow and I described to him my last round game, with my line of thought during the preparation and my decision to “play for a win” and choosing the Sicilian.

Artur has seen everything in chess, so he knew what I was talking about. He told me that first and foremost, you must take your own state into account. Evaluate precisely how you feel, how your head is working, how confident you are. Everything else should come from there – the opening choice, the strategy for the game. The opponent’s preferences and how to use them come later, sometimes they are even irrelevant – it’s always better to play what makes you feel comfortable than trying to take advantage of an opponent’s shortcoming.

My game with Ni Shiqun is an excellent example – I did take advantage of her poor opening, but I nevertheless lost the game because she was more comfortable in the ensuing position even though objectively it was a better position for me!

This was a valuable lesson for me at the time. Nowadays I try to listen to my inner state more intently and I try to teach my students to do the same. Once it becomes a habit, it will raise the level of self-awareness and the good results will follow.


Kasparov Youth Chess Festival

I received information about a youth tournament organised by the Kasparov Chess Foundation Adriatic, so I thought I can share it for all who may be interested.


International Youth Chess Festival
“Adriatic 2017“
Crikvenica, 22 – 27 August 2017


International chess camp ICS

22 – 25 August

International chess camp ICS website

Hotel Katarina


Blitz youth tournament

(U10, U12, and U16 ) – 5′ + 3”

25 August

Blitz youth tournament website

Hotel Katarina


Rapid youth tournament

(U10, U12, and U16) – 10′ + 5”

26 August

Rapid youth tournament website

Hotel Katarina


Garry Kasparov Simul

26 August at 18:00h

Garry Kasparov simul website

Petar Preradovic street


URS Blitz tournament Crikvenica

All ages tournament – 5′

Garry Kasparov will open the tournament

Prize fund 2000 €

27 August

Blitz tournament website

Hotel Kaštel

U10 – Includes participants born in 2007 and younger

U12 – Includes participants born in 2005 and younger

U16 – Includes participants born in 2001 and younger


Video Game Analysis #5

A good positional win by David, in spite of some inaccuracies. And an interesting way to treat the Moscow Variation by playing 4 a4 and then basically transposing to a reversed English Opening. Could be useful even for me!






100 Endgames You Must Know – Chessable Edition

I was very pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Chessable started a cooperation with New in Chess and the first product of this cooperation was a book that I recommend to all my students.

GM Jesus de la Villa wrote a masterpiece with his 100 Endgames You Must Know. The book consists of the most basic core of endgame knowledge any player, from beginner to GM, must know. When an opening finishes the middlegame begins; when the middlegame finishes the endgame begins; when the endgame finishes, the game ends. One can hope to rectify the mistakes of the opening and the middlegame, but the mistakes of the endgame are usually the last ones. Simply put, the endgames must be played well.

“But they are boring, aren’t they?” I have always wondered why people thought like this. To my mind, these people have failed to grasp the beauty of the harmony that the few pieces left are capable of creating.

The 100 endgames are a must, as the title says. They are the basis upon which a player will build all his subsequent knowledge. And in order for that subdequent knowledge to be useful, the basis must be solid.

The combination of Chessable’s learning method and the 100 Endgames is a match made in heaven. You need to remember those endgames, learn them almost by heart. De la Villa wants you to learn the principles so he spends quite a few words in explaining them. Based on these principles you should find it easier to produce the moves and eventually remember them. Add to this concept Chessable’s powerful learning method and you have a winner – thorough textual explanations and a scientific method to memorise the moves effectively.

I have also used the 100 Endgames for my own improvement. It is a handy book for a quick overview of the basics once you know them. I would say that this blend of endgame knowledge presented in an easy-to-learn way is a must for players who want quickly to improve not only their endgame skills, but also their overall playing ability. Go ahead and study the book – you won’t regret it and you will see the results from this work fast. What more can one ask?

100 Endgames You Must Know by Jesus de la Villa


Dortmund 2017 Ends With a Bang

This year’s edition of the Dortmund Sparkassen turned out to be very strange. Until Round 7 there was a total of 4 decisive games. In the last Round 7, all 4 games were decisive. Add to that the fact that Kramnik was last from Rounds 1 to 6 and you get the idea.

The tournament was won by Radoslaw Wojtaszek, who used to be a long-time second of Anand. He achieved his biggest triumph to date by beating Nisipeanu in the last round, scoring 4.5/7.



Second and third place were shared by Vachier and Fedoseev, both coming to +1 in the last round. Vachier beat Andreikin with Black in a b3 Sicilian chosen by Andreikin in an attempt to avoid theory. It worked and the position was very unbalanced by move 20. Still, it was White who needed to be more careful and Andreikin cracked. It was Andreikin’s first loss and Vachier’s first win.

Fedoseev beat Wang Yue in what seemed like a smooth game. Wang Yue’s opening went bad and from then on it was pure torture for him. He even didn’t show his usual stubbornness and resigned on move 39 where he could have played on for a long time. The tournament could have been much better for Fedoseev – he misplayed the theory early on and lost to Bluebaum in Round 2 and missed a clear win against Nisipeanu in Round 5. Still, a promising result for the young Russian as it is apparent that there are quite a lot of things he can improve.

Sole 4th was Kramnik, the only player on 50%. He only achieved that by beating Bluebaum in what is becoming his trademark last-round win.



A beautiful game by Kramnik. Though he tried, he couldn’t do anything similar in the previous rounds and spending the whole tournament in last place definitely wasn’t pleasant. He failed to win yet another Dortmund and lost 10 rating points in the process, but his spirit is intact. I am eager to see how far that spirit takes him in the World Cup.

Last places were shared by 4 players – Bluebaum, Andreikin, Nisipeanu and Wang Yue. Bluebaum should be satisfied, though his losses to Kramnik and Wang Yue show a lack of resistance typical for the elite level. Andreikin last round loss was unfortunate, but his save against Bluebaum with a rook and a pawn against two rooks was epic. Nisipeanu played too many times openly for a draw and eventually was punished. Wang Yue is below 2700 nowadays and is not the Top-10 player he used to be. His technique is still here, but the bad opening on the last day cost him dearly.

Dortmund didn’t shatter the chess world in any sense – no big novelties, no new world order. I would note the promising debut of Fedoseev and I am looking forward to his further elite appearances.

The summer has a lot of chess going on. The most exciting will definitely be the Sinquefield rapid and blitz with a certain retiree making a comeback. Time is approaching for that one…



Video Game Analysis #4

This time David lost.

He was winning though and it wasn’t very complicated. But as it usually happens in chess, when you miss the first opportunity, the second one is already more difficult. If you then miss the second opportunity, provided there is a third one, it will be more difficult than the second one. So it pays to be precise.



Goldchess Genius Test

The Genius Test is one of the many possible tournaments you can play on It starts on the 1st day of the month and you can submit your solutions for the duration of the whole month.

The following position turned out the be more difficult than what it may look like at first sight. The required solution was to win on move 53 with two queens on the board.



With so many misses, it is both easy and difficult to win. Easy, because titles and rating don’t matter and literally everybody can win; difficult, because you may not get it right immediately and it may require some time and effort. But the satisfaction from the win is great, especially if you have managed to be better than a lot of players from around the world!

I am quite curious how the planned Millionaire Tournament will work out. I think it deserves our support – after all, many have promised millions in chess, but for now only Goldchess seems on the path of actually fulfilling its promise.



Goldchess Millionaire Open

The expanding site Goldchess is on its way to make history.

Chess has never been able to attract too many players in one event, but Goldchess aims to change that. For next year they plan to have a massive, world-wide tournament with unbelieavable prizes.

Their plan is also to get the national Federations involved, with serious amounts of money foreseen as stimulus for their work.

The tournament will consist of 5 consecutive games and total duration of 1.5 hours. These will be spread over 3 days in April.

Even though the final prizes are yet to be determined, it is believed that the first two prizes will be in the region of hundreds of thousands of US dollars, while the next will be in the region of tens of thousands!

The CEO of Goldchess has this to say about the upcoming tournament: “But if million participants are really registered, I can tell you that the prizes for winning the games will be a lot higher, and in the final game there will be half a million dollars at stake! Now go and practice your chess skills!”

Players may enroll for the tournament starting from 23 September 2017 until 31March 2018 on the official site.


Dortmund 2017 Starts with KGB

The traditional Dortmund supertournament started with 1 decisive game. Kramnik has won 10 times in Dortmund, but the last time was in 2011. Probably pumped up for an eleventh triumph and playing the Aeroflot winner and rising Russian star Fedoseev, he went berserk.

So in case you were wandering about the KGB in the title, it is not the notorious Soviet establishment, but rather my own concoction of “Kramnik Going Berserk.”

This wasn’t a first time that Kramnik loses with White in Round 1 in Dortmund. He has lost to Georg Meier and Arkadij Naiditsch in previous editions. This is definitely not a good omen for Mr. Dortmund.



The other games were drawn, so for now Kramnik is last. Less KGB and more solidity should do the trick for him. An interesting tournament lies ahead!


Lasker’s Psychology

Quite a controversial idea probably, but I really believe it is true. This text is from my newsletter, to which you can subscribe using the yellow form on the right. The next newsletter is due on Saturday.


Lasker’s Psychology

I will start immediately with the shocker – there wasn’t any.

As many books have often repeated, I’ll paraphrase here, Lasker played the opening in a dubious manner in order to lure the opponent into unfamiliar territory and then outplay them. Nothing can be further from the truth.

No strong player plays the opening dubiously on purpose. The fact that Lasker often ended up in dubious positions after the opening doesn’t mean that he intended it. As I have already written about this, and I advise you to read the part on Vukovic’s books for better understanding, I will just say that like anybody else he preferred to have a good position after the opening.

If there was any psychology in Lasker’s play, it was almost entirely his own. He didn’t care about the opponent so much. He was primarily concerned with his own safety.

Don’t let this confuse you. Popular literature leads you to believe that Lasker was the risk-taker, the gambler, the great fighter. Yes, he could be all these things once the game was under way, but before the game he was very cautious and often insecure. I would like to discuss two very famous games of his to demonstrate my point. In both he used the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez.

The first one is the first game of the match with Tarrasch in 1908. Here’s the game without comments.



We know that Tarrasch was a fierce critic of Lasker and often publicly stated that he wasn’t a worthy World Champion. They finally met in a match in 1908. It is not widely known, but before the first game Lasker was nervous and this showed in his comment to his brother. I don’t recall the exact words, but he said something along the lines, if I play the Exchange Variation, how can I possibly lose?

Note that he was primarily seeking a safe haven, he wanted to avoid losing in the first place!

The fact that he won shows that once the game started Lasker was just playing chess, trying to find the best moves. If an opportunity presented itself he would grab it and win the game, even if before it he was content with a draw. The game with Tarrasch was around equal most of the time, but Tarrasch erred and Lasker took his chance.

The second game is even more famous. In St. Petersburg in 1914 Capablanca was having a dream tournament. He was leading comfortably and playing excellent chess. He won the preliminary tournament with 8/10, a full point and a half ahead of Lasker and Tarrasch. These points counted toward the final standings and in the final he continued to play well. So what chances did Lasker have when they met in Round 7 in the final? He was trailing by a full point and he was playing a dangerous young opponent against whom he suffered for 100 moves in Round 2 of the final and who was openly intent on claiming his title.

Losing that game would have been a disaster for Lasker in the eyes of the public. Not winning the tournament and coming second behind the Cuban genius, much less so. How does then Lasker approach the game? No experiments, keep it safe and play the trusted Exchange Variation!



Just like in the game with Tarrasch, once the game started and he was safe out of the opening, knowing that he cannot possibly lose from that position, he started playing chess. And he outplayed Capablanca, who was probably somewhat confused: he became more relaxed after the innocuous opening choice but also concerned about what Lasker was trying to achieve.

These two games were the most striking examples I found of Lasker’s psychology. I was very surprised that even Kasparov, in his Predecessors book, fell for this myth of “Lasker the Psychologist” who played the Exchange Variation in the Ruy Lopez for a win.

“Lasker was a great man,” Capablanca said on more that one occasion. And great men are often misunderstood.


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