Tag Archives: Chandler

Farewell, My Lovely

If you heard my ChessFM interview with IM John Watson in early September (the blog entry is here), you’d have heard that I was close to shutting the door on being a professional chess player. That door is pretty much closed right now as I have no tournaments planned, and I’m applying for more regular jobs.

Rest assured though – I do not plan to shut the blog down. However, when (if?!) I get a job, I might have to come up with a new title …

Thank you to the late Frank P. Samford for setting up the Fellowship, without which a number of American players would not have even had the opportunity to try their hand at professional chess. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did the past two years without that financial support.

Continue reading


R&R: Relax and Rebuild

“I looked at my watch. Nine fifty-four. Time to go home and get your slippers on and play over a game of chess. Time for a tall cool drink and a long quiet pipe. Time to sit with your feet up and think of nothing. Time to start yawning over your magazine. Time to be a human being … and rebuild the brain for tomorrow.”

– Raymond Chandler in The Lady in the Lake

Normally, after my games at these Spanish tournaments, I’d go back to my room after dinner, watch a little TV, prepare a little for my next opponent, then read and go to sleep.

That’d be my routine in a normal tournament. Going into the second half of Sants, though, I was riding a wave of disappointment. My play in rounds 3, 4, and 5 wasn’t going to cut it, and the 1/3 I scored there left me with a paltry 3/5.

I decided a change was in order and I almost entirely stopped preparing! Instead, I focused on “rebuilding” my brain.

I was generally going to dinner with GM Mark Bluvshtein, who I got to know during my two visits to Montreal last summer. I played ping-pong with Mark a few days after the games, mostly doubles with Spanish or Israeli players in the same building. Maybe that served as a bit of an additional release for me, as my play started to pick up starting in round 6.

Continue reading

The Simple Art of the Swindle

In my last blog about Sants, I wrote how Round 1 was a let-down in terms of the quality of my play, but that I seemed to recover a little bit in Round 2. That seemed to bode well for my chances in the 3rd round, but that game was strange enough to merit its own post.

I was black against FM Lluis Oms (2360, Spain). As is often the case with lower-rated players, there wasn’t a whole lot to go on in the database. I did notice that against 2500+ players, he had played for a draw with some rather insipid lines (e.g., drawing lines in the Four Knights against 1…e5 and the Exchange against the French). Unlike some of the Four Knights lines, the Exchange French at least keeps the chance of some serious play, so I decided to play the French this time. I was mostly expecting 3.Nc3 against the French though, as he had the most games with that.

The game began 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3, a line that I don’t think I’ve ever faced in a regular game. A long time back, when I was about 9 or 10 years old and nearing 2200, I used to play something similar with white (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Qg4 was what I played). Both versions are supposed to be rather innocuous, and I had no trouble in equalizing (and getting a better position).

Many books on the French recommend a system where Black plays a quick …f6 (with the knight on g8), but while that my work in some concrete sense, it seems unnecessary to me. I played 4…Nc6 5.Bd3 cxd4 6.0-0 Nge7 7.Bf4 Ng6 8.Bg3 Be7 (diagram below), preparing to castle or play …f6/f5 depending on what White does. In this setup, if White exchanges on f6, Black will generally recapture with a pawn and then play …e5. With an extra pawn and a huge pawn center, the slightly weakened kingside is usually of little consequence.

(FEN: r1bqk2r/pp2bppp/2n1p1n1/3pP3/3p4/3B1NB1/PPP2PPP/RN1Q1RK1 w kq - 5 9)

Up to this point, it all seemed pretty normal to me. I thought he would play 9.Nbd2 here, preparing to go after the d4-pawn with 10.Nb3 next. Instead, he played 9.a3, which seems a bit slow to me. If, for example, his rook and bishop were on e1 and c1, then this plan with a3 and b4 would make more sense to me. With b4, he threatens to dislodge the knight and also prepares Bb2. But here, with the bishop already on g3, there is no good follow up to b4 if Black deals with the threat of b5

Continue reading