Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Defeating stronger players

In a simple position your strong opponent will see all that there is to see and will exert better control over the situation than yourself. They'll make sure that all of their pieces are defending each other and will anticipate all your threats well in advance. They can calculate straightforward positions better than you can.

So what to do? The obvious answer is to avoid the type of position where everything is in plain sight, where everything can be determined. If, on the other hand, the position is a "mess", they too will find it harder to calculate variations and this is when opportunities arise.

The problem is three-fold. Firstly, it is often difficult to steer into such positions - and, secondly, our usual instinct is to avoid such anyway (because we all like to feel that we are in control of the game, that we can see all the strengths and weaknesses). Thirdly, we don't always recognise such positions for what they are. Myself, I can easily create "messy" positions, no problem - but they are usually riddled through and through with weaknesses.

As on many other occasions in life we avoid this type of analysis, largely because we suspect it will not lead to any solution, merely reinforce our doubts about our ability to overcome difficult problems. But if you can rise above this negativity you will actually find the pot of gold waiting for you at the end of the rainbow! In other words, you may not be a Grandmaster who has all the answers , but your goal is to "Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best" - Henry Jackson van Dyke, 1852-1933, Germantown, Pennsylvania.

In this case, we recognise that a large part of any success against stronger players is governed by our choice of opening. Yes, I am saying that you need to go back to your studies - even just comparing some of the positions that arise from various openings. This does not have to be arduous, you don't have to do a complete analysis of ALL the lines. Be creative when it comes to 'studying', enjoy the process, fit it into your normal schedule and don't immediately say "Oh, I haven't got time for that!". Maybe you could try out a few new openings in Blitz play, just to investigate the type of middle game positions that arise. I just want you to look at some new positions, not analyse them to death!

Here is an inspiring example of what can be achieved with the right approach. It is taken from the 8th Gibtelecom Masters - where the Black player, Victor Havik (Elo 2093) was up against Ivan Cheparinov (Elo 2660). According to the ratings, Black should have been squashed like a bug! I shall only comment on the 'fireworks' that took place at the end - if you would like to see the match with photos of the players and an excellent commentary, then you should visit http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=6098.

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