Thursday, April 16, 2009

Two Game and Some Book Reviews

Two games in this one, both white piece draws against higher rated players. The first was played a few Fridays back in Boca Raton. My opponent was a young, strong expert. After a theoretical opening, I got a huge advantage that I subsequently pissed away via a series of slight (and not so slight if I'm being honest) inaccuracies. The opening was an f3 Nimzo, which I have studied but not had many opportunities to play OTB. Not so many 1800s seem to play the Nimzo, probably because of the wealth of options white has against it. Also, you have to learn either the QGD or QID as well, and since so many people start out playing the QGD they probably don't bother to learn the Nimzo despite its excellent reputation.

I have vacillated a bit about what to play against the Nimzo. The f3 variation has been a favorite of mine after examining several games in which Shirov rolled some super GMs, but I have dabbled in the Qc2 and Rubinstein as well. The biggest issue for white is that black can often seize the initiative, and while white may have more space black is often calling the shots, while white is primarily reacting. Like all broad statements in chess you can certainly find many examples in Nimzo-Indian praxis that indicate otherwise, but overall my opinion is that black has the initiative. Believing that to be the case, I've settled on a variation where white at least gets a pawn for his trouble, even if it's hard to hold. In addition, the open position favors his bishop pair unlike in the Rubinstein, where the center can often be semi-closed. The fact that Anand played it against Kramnik only boslters my belief that there's something there for white, even if it's hard to prove. This game is a good example of what white gets if black doesn't play with great activity, though I did screw up the ending horribly to let him off with a draw.


So the ending is an embarassement, but you must admit that white's domination in the middlegame was absolute.

The other game I have is from last night (Wednesday), played in the final round in Margate. It had been a bad day. I was trying unsuccessfully to do last minute taxes, and since everyone else in the US was too the site was running very slowly. I spent 8 hours on it, getting kicked off the disconnected, waiting for the site to process forms, etc, all the while playing really bad ICC chess duing the load times. I was in a shitty mood when I got to the club. So of course I had to play a Benko.

I hate playing against the Benko gambit. My results aren't horrible and I feel that I understand white's aims in the opening more than in many others I play, but white's strategy is very hard for me to stomach. Take your pawn, hold for 25 or 30 moves until black's activity is gone, and then hopefully win in the ending. I've done it successfully several times, but it requires a lot of patience and vigilance which I didn't have last night. I ended up fudging the move order and allowing a knight into c4, after which point only an endgame blunder by my opponent allowed me to draw. It was dispiriting to say the least.

It is funny how critical one piece on the right square can be. The system I play, the Fianchetto Benko, is designed to do one thing and that is prevent a knight from getting to c4. I had never allowed it to happen before, and I will never let it happen again after last night. God, that sucked. You can see for yourself.


Terrible. I was not pleased with this game at all. I was lucky to draw.

And now, a book review or two.

Winning Chess Middlegames, Ivan Sokolov

Great book, if you play d4 or c4. Not so much if you play e4. This book is similar to Soltis's classic 'Pawn Structure Chess', with an emphasis on pawn structures arising from more modern variations, primarily in from the Nimzo-Indian and English openings. Sokolov's annotations are excellent and at times dry and witty as he questions whether or not certain moves or variations are as good as their reputations. The book functions well as a games collection too, with many coming from Sokolov's own praxis (wins and losses). The author's tone is not removed and pedagogical, but very engaging. As you might expect, Sokolov's own games are discussed with added verve. By the way, for those who don't know, Sokolov was one of the best players (consistent top 10) of the 90s, so when he chooses to write a book it's worth getting.

Fighting the Anti-Sicilians and The Bb5 Sicilian, byRichard Palliser

Recently got these two because I wasn't happy with my anti-Sicilian repertoire. For those who don't know, anti-Sicilians are any but open Sicilians. I was unhappy with the repertoire I built using Rogozenko's book on the subject because I always seemed to end up passive (though equal, in deference to Rogozenko). Since I hate playing without the initiative, I wanted a more active approach and so I checked these two volumes out. The two books are very different, but I have found both useful.

FtAS is organized in a tree of variations format, which I usually don't care for but in this case appreciate because there are many variations to cover. The lines are active and fighting, though as such I feel that black takes a little more risk than he otherwise might. d5 against the Alapin with Nc6 and Bg4 to follow is one example. The Nf6 lines are dull IMO, but safer. Another example is Palliser's choice of Nf6 against the Closed rather than Nge7. I will probably try it out, but as I usually end up playing a pseudo-Swedish English against the Closed anyway I don't know if it will make it into my permanent repertoire. Palliser's style is easy and clear, and the book reads well despite its variation tree format.

tBb5S is organized by complete games which I prefer, though the best setup is the Hybrid system with games and an MCO like table ala the incomparable Mihail Marin in 'Beat the Open Games'. In any case, the games are modern and topical and the coverage seems thorough. If you have little experience in anti-Siclians, then these are both good books to start with as I feel they're more accessible and promote more active systems than Rogozenko's classic.

I'll try not to go so long without a blog posting in the future. Still no job, due to recession. Peace.


CHESSX said...

2 good games to play over for us.
The middlegame of game 1 was very good for you.
The a pawn could have become a game winning passed pawn but the rook has it under control.
If you had been black would you have agreed a draw?

Game 2 could have been just 2 kings.
I think you are hard on your self,but we are our own worst judges.
No game will be error free.
The good thing is you know you made them,rather than wonder why things did not go right.

Caeruleum Canis said...

Well, thanks for that. In the first game, I would have agreed a draw having less than 4 minutes on my clock as was the case in the game. In any case, that position is drawn though you're right that black has easier play and white is more likely to screw up and toss the draw.

Tommyg said...

Thanks for posting the games AND the book reviews. I have been thinking about getting The Bb5 Sicilian book (to play on the white side).

My coach recommended I get the Soltis Pawn Structure book but unfortunately I can't seem to find it on Amazon for less then $50 all of a sudden.

Have a good one!