Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The what and the how

This weekend I played in a tournament with stiff competition. From the 42 men in my group there were 2 grandmasters and 15 (international) masters. And 3 Dimitri's, which is an indication of the east-block caliber. The opponents I faced hoovered between 1919 and 2140. I was the lowest rated player with 1874. I played 7 games and got 2.5/7 (+1 3= 3-) which is about what to expect.

What can I say about it?
It was very instructive.
In the 3 games I lost my opponents admitted I was better in the opening untill deep in the middlegame. Due to my (relatively) well understanding of the Polar bear and the resulting positions. My opponents had little clue. But in the second half of the middlegame I committed a slight inaccuracy and was invariably heavily punished for that. I played 6 Polar Bears and 1 Caro Kan.

I felt that there was little difference in our tactical ability. Allthough I'm somewhat slower. In two of the drawn games my opponents played a (pawn)gambit. But my understanding of gambits helped me to outplay them tactically. In one case I was a piece up, in the other two pawns. But in both cases I had to accept a draw due to time trouble. So in the world of what could have been I would have had a full point more:)

Provisional conclusion.
Tactical exercises have prepared me quite well to meet 2100 players. I know how to play against them. I lost my fear. But in certain middlegame position I simply don't know well enough what to play. That's why I play inaccurate. I'm not able to judge between two positons due to lack of knowledge and experience.

What and how.
The how I associate with tactical ability and the what with positional knowledge. It is obvious that at the moment I can make the most progress when I work on my positional knowledge. Which is what I'm doing lately. No matter how well you are in tactics, if you don't know what to to play it doesn't help you. If you execute the wrong plan in a tactical brilliant way you will still lose the game.


  1. Minor sidenote: one could say that before the "what to play" comes the question "how to evaluate" the position. Not thinking about what to play, but solely examining all the many features of the position. Defining them in terms of imbalances. Then the what is to find a plan which highlights the imbalances which are favorable to you and unfavorable to your opponent. But I guess this was already known. I sometimes think of imbalances as different angles to look at a position and then to find a plan as a way to give the position a slight turn so that your favorable angle becomes the main axis along which events take place. An imbalance can be very minor, hardly noticable, and the aim of the plan is to highlight it more. Good luck! and thanks for the great read!

  2. International Chess School. I think you are finally ready. :)

  3. Blue,

    LOL. There will come a moment, my friend, there will come a moment.