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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sicilian Defense (2), room for improvement

Today’s game is the first round of our chess club’s annual championship tournament. Using accelerated pairing, my opponent was a class A player and last year’s club Player of the Year. My downward trend began early when I didn’t exchange my Bishop for his Queen-Knight on my 5th move.. From there it was a slow positional demise until I made a game-losing blunder on the 25th move.

In addition to my regular studies, I am re-taking the Chess Exam and Training Guide, by Igor Khmelnitsky to find where I have improved and where I need additional work. After the first 40 questions, I have interim scores that show that my over-the-board play is two full class levels below my chess knowledge. Both interesting and discouraging.

To summarize, a list of the most important things that I need to improve:

Opening studies – 2.Nf3 in response to 1...c5 does not follow my opening studies, need to review my tabiyas more frequently. I am also deleting from my tabiya the Sicilian Defense lines and changing to one that is more Bird-like.

Positional play – after exchanging my light-colored Bishop, I kept putting my pawns on the dark squares, turning my dark-colored Bishop into a tall Pawn. Later my opponent also had a space advantage and my Knight was back on my second rank. I know better, but I do not apply that knowledge during the game. 

Blunders -  26.Rd1??, which caused the loss, was moved  in under 15 sec and without adequate blunder-checking.  Need to work on blunder-checking all moves, especially when responding to threats.

Today's endgame study: FEN "8/8/4N3/8/7p/3K1k2/7P/8 w - -"


  1. "After the first 40 questions, I have interim scores that show that my over-the-board play is two full class levels below my chess knowledge"

    If I may offer a piece of advice here, like many chess students, you may be trying to improve too many things at the same time. Chess engine analysis is a great tool, but may create confusion if you don't try to sum up things at some stage and focus on only a couple of very specific things to improve your play. I'm rated ~2040, and whatever my computer tells me, I only try to extract 2-3 critical ideas out of every game. No more. The difficult job is to try and identify those 2-3 ideas.

  2. I found your game strategically difficult to play as white, but you're probably more familiar with this opening than I am :-) After leaving theory, the first move that strikes me as a bit strange is 11.exd6, not so much because Black can develop with tempo, but because thistrade makes a monster out of his unopposed light-squares bishop ! OTOH, after say, 11.d4, you're playing a kind of French defence and closed position, where his bishop pair is probably less of an advantage.

    The question coming next is : are you comfortable with the various pawn structures arising from the Bird opening ? (or here GP attack). In this variation, do you know where you compensation lies after allowing the trade of your LSB ? What do white players do in their games to ensure = or even some initiative ? Because I agree that putting all your pawns on dark squares wasn't the right way to proceed. But what could have been a reasonable set-up ? If you can't answer this question, what are you going to do next time you meet the Sicilian ?

  3. If for example you choose to avoid this problem by playing 5.Bxc6, then it's a good idea to look at a couple of games and take note of the positional ideas (not only exact moves) that players from the white side can use.

  4. Laurent,

    I believe my main problem is that I do not rigorously follow a set thought process. This results in not always validating my chosen move by asking the two questions: ‘Does this move give my opponent a tactical opportunity?’ and ‘Does this move improve my position?’ A rigorous thought process is going to become my main objective in upcoming games and hopefully that will allow incorporation of those things that I know but do not apply.

    The reason I am re-taking the Chess Exam is to check for any other glaring weaknesses that I may have overlooked. A man who consults only himself has a fool for a client.

    Sicilian vs. Bird. I will play the normal Bird against future Sicilian attempts. I am familiar with the pawn setups, defensive moves and attacking possibilities. I have played the Bird for two years with reasonable success. It was only Timothy Taylor’s Bird book recommendation that lead to 2.e4 in response to 1...c5 and I now know that that recommendation presents a large learning curve with limited potential gains (for me) for the effort involved.

    One of the main objectives with the Bird is to post the K-Kt on e5, which is the primary reason for trading the LSB for the Q-Kt and embarking on a dark squared strategy.

    Thank you for the feedback. I found it both helpful and thought-provoking.

  5. I know how difficult improvement can be : sometimes you need to try many things before it falls into place. Working on your thought process will certainly be beneficial.

    It seems you're trying hard to objectively analyze your play, and it's bound to help your chess a lot. You never know exactly what's going to trigger the jump to the next stage, but hopefully, you'll get there soon ! Good luck !