Taking It up a Level
(It's been our pleasure at the Evanston Chess Club to play a couple of simuls against NM Jon Burgess. The simuls were a lot of fun, but the games we played left some of us asking, "How can I play better chess against stronger players?" So we asked Jon to talk to us about how to improve our games and be more effective when we play up. The following lecture was given on February 22, 2011, and features three games in which David beats Goliath. Thanks to NM Burgess for providing his materials for publication on the ICA Chess Blog. — Maret Thorpe)
Before the games here is a list of things not to do when it comes to playing a stronger player
Don’ts and Do’s
Don’t change you’re opening because the opponent is stronger than you. Play your normal opening.
Don’t sit down at the board and think you have no chance. If you do you might as well resign at move one.
Don’t over analyze your opponent's rating or who they are. Ratings are just numbers and everyone can have a bad day.
Do believe you can beat anyone no matter what strength you are.
Don’t simplify the game for the sake of it. Stronger players love when weaker players trade down all the pieces because they are stronger in the endgame.
Do play the board not the person.
Don’t doubt yourself when you see a good move. Play it even strong players don’t see everything and often make mistakes.
You must want to win more than your opponent. You must have the hunger to destroy as opposed to saying "if I make it to move 30 I will be satisfied." Or "if I get a draw that’s great." No, you sit down and play to win.
Stronger players love when weaker players play for a draw. Why? Because the stronger player knows that the weaker player is playing for a draw and can use that against them.
Stronger players win because weaker players are scared of them.
The first game is from the 2004 Chicago Open. I played GM Yury Shulman who did become US Champion. The game was sharp and full of tactics. I played the board and not the player. If you respect the person you’re playing you will lose the game. I knew to win this game I didn’t have to simply win I had to destroy my opponents position and win his King.
Burgess,J (2215) - Shulman,Y (2616) [C44]
Chicago Open (1), 05.2004, Open Section
1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Ngf3 Nc6 5.g3 e5 6.Bg2 dxe4 7.dxe4 b6 8.Qe2 Bc5 9.Nb3 Bd6 10.0-0 a5 11.Rd1 Ba6 12.c4 a4 13.Nbd2 Nd7 14.Nf1 Nc5 15.Ne3
- White has many active pieces
- White Rook on D1 is strong
- Black Bishop on D6 is pinned
- White is castled Black isn’t
- White has strong Knight squares to go to D5 and F5
15...0-0 16.Nf5 Ne6 17.Be3 Now bxb6 is threatened followed by Rxd6!
- White has a strong Knight on F5
- White threatens Bxb6
- White may someday start a Kingside attack
- All of Whites pieces have an important role
17...Qb8 18.Ng5 Nxg5 19.Bxg5 f6 Now the hardest move of the game is hard to see how white can continue an attack here with few attacking pieces in play! 20.Bh6 If gxh6 then am sure Qg4 check then Kf7 Qg7 check if Ke6 then Bh3! or if Ke8 then still Bh3 with threats of Nxd6 followed by mate on d7!
- White has offered Black a free Bishop on H6 however then the White Queen will come to G4 attacking the Black King
- The Black pieces are very cramped with the Queen on B8 and Rook still on A8
20...Rf7 21.Qg4 Bf8 22.Bxg7 Now if Bxg7 then Nh6 check Kf8 then Nxf7 Kxf7 Rd7 check Ne7 Rxe7 check Kxe7 and Qxg7 ! 22...h5 23.Qg6 Now Nh6 mate is threatened and black is in all kinds of trouble. 23...Rxg7 24.Nxg7 Bxg7 25.Rd7 Qf8 Now how does white continue the attack considering black has his bishop defended nicely by the Queen? 26.Bh3 Threats are Be6 check and Qh5 mate or Bf5 and Qh7 mate! 26...Nd4 Now what for white? The Nd4 covers E6 and f5 squares and holds blacks position together.
- White has to work out how to remove the Black Knight on D4 since it defends many important squares like E6 and F5
- The White pieces Queen and Rook are very threatening on the Black Kingside and if White can get a Bishop on E6 or F5 the game will be over
27.Rd1 Now the threat is R1xD4 removing the defender then Be6 check and Qh5 mate again! 27...f5 28.R1xd4 exd4 29.Bxf5 Qf6 The only move that saves Black for now but here comes the kill moves! 30.Qh7+ Kf8 31.Be6 A diversion move diverting the Queen now the important thing is if Qxe6 then Qxg7 check then Ke8 and Black gets away with it !
- White has played the strong move BE6 threatening QG8 mate
- What happens if Black plays QxE6?
- After QxE6 does White have anymore good moves left?
31...Qxe6 32.Rxg7 Threat Qh8 mate winning on the spot so black is in a difficult position for sure now! 32...Bxc4 33.Qh8+ Qg8 34.Rxg8+ Bxg8 35.Qf6+ Bf7 Now white should play Qxd4 but he forgot oops ! 36.e5 Re8 37.e6 Rxe6 38.Qxd4 Re1+ 39.Kg2 Rc1 Now forced win available the Rook on C1 is vulnerable to a check on H6 by the Queen! 40.Qd8+ Be8 41.Qf6+ Bf7 42.Qh6+ Game over I win the Rook and the point 1-0
The second game is from the 2009 Greater Peoria Open. The game was between Trevor Magness who is now a Master and Brian Villarreal an 1800 rated player. In this game White deviates from safe moves in the opening and moves in for the attack very early and pays for that decision.
Magness,T (2148) - Villarreal,B (1649) [B90]
Greater Peoria Open 2009
B90: Sicilian Najdorf: Unusual White 6th moves, 6 Be3 Ng4 and 6 Be3 e5 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Be7 9.g4 [9.Be2 0-0 10.0-0 This may be a safer line for White instead of playing G4 and getting in such a complicated position with his King still in the center of the board.]
- White has played a very aggressive move in G4. The plan is to play G5 and displace the Black Knight on F6 however it is now Black to move and he has a powerful move to break open the center of the board.
- It would have been wiser for White to have played Be2 followed by 0-0 or Qd2
9...d5 10.g5 [10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxd5 Bh4+ 12.Bf2 Bxd5 Black has a much better position] 10...d4 11.gxf6 last book move 11...Bxf6 [11...Bxf6 12.Bf2 dxc3 13.Qxd8+] 12.Bf2 dxc3 13.bxc3 Even though it seems obvious for White to play bxc3 it is a very weak move. Much better was QxD8 + for White followed by 0-0-0 +. [13.Qxd8+ Kxd8 14.0-0-0+ Nd7 15.Nc5 An interesting position with White having more play and active pieces.]
- White has now saddled himself with doubled weak c pawns on C2 and C3
- White will have a hard time finding a good square for the Bishop on F1
- Black will put his Rook on C8 along with the Queen and attack the weak C pawns
13...Nd7 14.Qd6 Be7 15.Qd2 White now has very weak C pawns on C3 and C2. 15...Rc8 16.Rg1 g6 17.Rb1 White's position is hard but Rb1 doesn't seem to do much. 17...Qc7 The White pawn on C3 is doomed 18.c4 Bxc4 19.Na5 Be6 20.Rxb7 Qxc2 21.Bxa6 Material is equal right now however Whites minor pieces on the A File look like they may be easily attacked.
- White now has several loose minor pieces on the A File
- The White Knight on A5 is loose because if the Queens come off and the White Rook on B7 moves off the B file then Black will have Bb4 + winning the White Knight on A5
21...Qc1+ 22.Ke2 Qxd2+ 23.Kxd2 Ra8 24.Ba7 White's pieces on the A File are now overloaded and Black has a nice tactic. 24...Rxa7 25.Rxa7 Bb4+ 26.Ke2 Bxa5 27.Bb5 [27.Ra8+ Bd8 The position is complicated Black has 2 minor pieces for a Rook however his pieces are tied down and White has a passed A pawn.] 27...Bb6 28.Ra8+ Ke7 29.Rxh8 Bxg1 30.a4 This is possibly a fatal mistake by White because now Black can block the White Rook in on H8. 30...Nf8
- White has now got his Rook trapped on the Kingside behind Black’s pawns
- Black has 2 Bishops against White’s one Bishop and a passed A pawn
31.Rg8 This move RG8 is a mystery not sure what purpose it serves. 31...Bb6 32.Kd3 Bb3 33.Kd2 Ba5+ 34.Ke2 Bb4 35.Kd3 Kf6 This weak move by Black KF6 allows White to play A5 with the threat of RxF8 if Black plays BxA5. 36.a5 Ke7 [36...Bxa5 37.Rxf8 White wins a piece for a pawn in this nice variation.] 37.a6 Bc5 Black has all the play.
- The White Rook is still trapped on the Kingside
- White has a passed pawn on A6 however it will never Queen since Black has 2 Bishops against 1
The White Rook on G8 is totally shut out of the game. 38.Bc4 Bd1 39.Bd5 Bxf3 40.Kc4 Bd4 41.Bb7 Be2+ 42.Kd5 Bd3 43.h3 Nd7 Black threatens to play NF6 check winning the White Rook on G8 or the White pawn on E4. 44.Kc6 [44.h4 Nf6+ 45.Kc6 Nxg8] 44...Bxe4+ 45.Kc7 Bb6+ 46.Kc8 Nf6 47.Rh8 The White Rook is now back on the H8 square so White wasted 2 moves playing RG8 then RH8. 47...Bf5+ 48.Kb8 Bxh3 49.Bc6 [49.a7 Nd7+ 50.Ka8 h5 An interesting position White has a pawn on A7 however his King cannot move right now.] 49...e4 50.Kb7 Bd4 51.Bb5 e3 52.Kc7 Nd5+ 53.Kb7 Nc3 54.Re8+ Kf6 55.Bc4 Bg2+ 56.Kc7 Bf3 57.Kb8 e2 58.a7 Bxa7+ 59.Kxa7 h5 60.Kb6 White resigns after being overwhelmed by the Black minor pieces and pawns a great game by Black. White lost some tempo in the endgame with RG8 then Rook back to H8.
- The White Rook has now got some freedom
- Black has a passed pawn on E2 ready to Queen and 3 more connected passed pawns on the Kingside
In the Third game which is taken from the very recent USAT North Team Tournament Expert Vincent Hart downs Master Len Weber in a very simple game which illustrates that everyone can put a piece on a bad square.
Hart,V (2006) - Weber,L (2201) [A10]
USAT-North (1), 02.2011
1.c4 e6 2.g3 f5 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.d3 D3 seems like a very passive move by White. It would be better to play D4 immediately. [6.d4 Nc6 7.Nc3 d5 An interesting position for both sides. Both sides have pieces developed however the Black Bishop on C8 is hemmed in by the pawns and has yet to find a home. Also Black has a backward pawn on E6.]
- Instead of the passive move D3 White should play D4 and seize the initiative
- Both sides have castled and Black should play in the center with D5
6...c5 7.Nc3 Nc6 8.e4 d6 9.exf5 exf5 10.d4 Now we see how White lost a move by playing D3 first followed by D4 instead of an immediate D4 on move 6. 10...Ne4 11.Nd5 Bf6 12.Be3 b6 13.Nxf6+ Qxf6 14.dxc5 dxc5 15.Ng5
- The White pieces are very active and White is threatening to play NxE4 or QD5 + winning some material
- If Black plays NxG5 then White has QD5 + and he will win the Knight on C6
Nxg5 16.Qd5+ Kh8 [16...Be6 17.Qxc6 Ne4 18.Bxe4 fxe4 19.Qxe4 Bh3 20.Qd5+ Be6] 17.Qxc6 Nh3+ 18.Kh1 Qxc6 19.Bxc6 Rb8 20.f4
- The Black Knight is trapped on H3 with no way to escape
- White has a very strong Bishop on the White squares
Rf6 21.Bg2 Bb7 22.Bxb7 Rxb7 23.Kg2 Re7 [23...Rh6 24.Rad1 Kg8 25.Rd5 This is a very difficult position for Black. The Black Knight on H3 is trapped and the Black Rook on H6 is tied down to protecting the Knight.] 24.Rfe1
- The Black Knight on H3 is almost lost
- If Black plays RH6 then White can play Bxc5 winning a pawn