Thursday, August 31, 2017

Simple Chess: Tactics Training


This is David the chessnerdbird. I have been wanting to make my blogs a little more instructive than just words on a screen. Therefore, I have started a YouTube channel where I stream and upload my games and training. I am also recording my live feedback during the games and during the training.

This allows you to see my thought process. For those lower rated this is decent insight into a Class B player and how I think. For those around my rating you can see what you do better and maybe something that I do better.

Also, by starting my YouTube channel I hope to hold myself a little more accountable in both playing and training. I have been recording videos since Thursday of last week and the biggest thing that I have noticed already is that playing and studying chess is fun again. I am also learning more because I can replay the video and see where my thinking process failed or if I missed any calculations.

I hope you find this new format fun, interesting, and instructive. If you like the videos that I share in the blog please make sure you subscribe to my channel as I plan on uploading videos at least 5 times a week.

Before we get to this week's video on tactics training I wanted to share two puzzles that I either found instructive or that I missed during my training. See if you can solve them before watching the video. Once you spent some time on these then watch the video for the answer or to see how I missed them.

Puzzle 1 - White to Move (4:38 in the video)

Puzzle 2 - Black to Move (7:43 in the video)

Thank you for joining me on my journey to reaching the Expert title. I look forward to seeing you at a chessboard soon!

Next week I will be posting a video of going through a lesson on covering a strategic concept.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Simple Chess: Tuesday Night Action 35! Round 5 (Clayton vs Blackwelder)

It has been rough on my road to 2000 since June. I peaked at a rating of 1783 and have been in free fall ever since winning only 2 of my last 9 games. It all started with my miserable performance at the Carolina's Classic. If you haven't read that recap then you can do so by clicking here. My rating has now fallen to 1696. I'm not worried about my rating but I am upset at my decision making at the board as well as my lazy calculations.

Posting my frustrations is not a way to get a pity party going. Instead I think it is important to know that if you want to continue to improve at chess there will be moments where it is frustrating. There will be times where you feel like you can't improve and instead you are going in reverse. If you want to improve, you have to keep pushing.

With that being said I am excited to introduce the new format my blog posts will take starting next week. Balancing your knowledge and skills in chess is important and therefore my blog posts will have a topic that is covered each week. For example:

The Thursday following round 1 of Tuesday Night Action 36 will be about tactics training. I will include positions that I solved on during one of my daily 30 minute sessions. This will include my thought process, my ability or inability to calculate to the end. Hopefully you will gain some knowledge either in a new pattern or in how I think when calculating.

Following round 2 the next week the topic will cover a strategic concept that I will have studied using the lessons. I will highlight my thought process, the key concepts that stood out to me, and anything else I found useful.

Following round 3 I will share my work using the drills feature. This means I will be working my way through key positions that one should be able to win or hold out for a draw. I will post my actual methods used against the computer. I will also go back through and include some analysis. These positions will mainly feature endgame positions but there will be other instructive positions as well.

Following round 4 I will share a game where I try and guess the moves of a strong player. You will be able to see a complete game by a stronger player. You will get to see what moves I thought were accurate. You will get some insight based on the annotations of another strong player. I am most excited about this portion of my upcoming blogs.

Following round 5 I will post all of my games from the recent Tuesday Night Action tournament with complete analysis. This will hopefully be a great way to link everything from the previous four weeks together including how I learn openings.

The goal behind the process of writing my blogs this way is so that someone can truly join me on the road to chess improvement.

Here is my round 5 game of Tuesday Night Action 35:

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Opening Preparation: The French Defense - Introduction

After what has been a very busy summer, I am writing a six-part article to prepare an opening repertoire for both Black and White in the French Defense. Before going through what each section will cover, let me give you a little history and background.

The French Defense got its name from a correspondence match between London and Paris. Chamouillet, one of the players on the Paris team, convinced the others to play this line, and the Paris team won. The opening remained a rare bird for the rest of the nineteenth century as 1...e5 retained the popularity because opening theory was not established like it is today with computers. However, in modern times, the French Defense is the second most popular response to 1.e4, trailing only the Sicilian in popularity.

From my own personal experience, while I may have learned how to play the game at the age of eight in 1983, I didn't get seriously involved in studying books until 1995, and while I was studying beginner level books on strategy and tactics, I was playing what came naturally to me since I knew nothing about openings at the time. I was playing what felt right and natural, and one day asked if what I played had a name, and low and behold, it was the French Defense, and so I established my interest in the French Defense in a similar manner that a baby determines if it will be left- or right-handed. While I played my first tournament in 1996, it was March of 1997 that I regularly got involved in tournament chess, and while I played other openings for brief stints, my primary defense for my first 10 years of competition against 1.e4 was the French Defense. Then came 2007. A number of new ideas came up for White in the Advance Variation, and it was starting to cause just as many headaches for Black as 3.Nc3 has. 3.Nc3 has always been considered the main line, and White's best shot at an advantage. This caused me to go through an eight year drought of not playing the French Defense, and going with other openings from 2008 through 2015. Then came 2016 and I started playing the French again, particularly after finding a slightly offbeat line against the Advance Variation, and since playing it, I have either won or drawn every game in which I was on the Black side of the Advance Variation. Now that I am older, being in my early 40s rather than 20, I don't see myself discontinuing the French any time soon, if ever!

There are a number of players at the GM level that played the French Defense heavily, and many cases their entire life. I would recommend looking at their games. These include Mikhail Botvinnik, Viktor Korchnoi, Wolfgang Uhlmann, Evgeny Bareev, Nigel Short, and Igor Glek. As for the White side, the biggest advocate of the line I am going to recommend for White would be, by far, Evgeny Sveshnikov, and I would recommend looking at his games if you are an e4 player.

So let's take a brief look at what the future articles will cover. The first five articles will cover the repertoire for Black with the French Defense. They will be covered in the order of importance based on my own personal view of how easy or how difficult it is to fully equalize, starting with the easiest and finishing with the most critical lines. Then, part six will cover a complete repertoire for White on beating the French Defense. Let's have a look at them now:

Part One: This article will cover the Exchange Variation. I can hear the groans already. Oh my god, the dreaded, boring exchange variation! Not all success comes with excitement. You will have plenty of opportunities to show off a bunch of thrilling victories in the French Defense, but in this case, I am going to advocate a very solid line that immediately equalizes for Black, and rely on White to implode. Most of the people reading this article are not grand masters over 2600, and so don't go thinking that White's going to play the perfect game. If he does, you take the draw, but odds are, he won't play a perfect game unless he is a 2600 player, in which case, it would be a moral victory for just about anybody reading this. I will show an excellent game that I played as Black that remained symmetrical into the double-digits against another expert that I then won because of understanding many of the minute details. In addition, more minor options for White will also be covered.

Part Two: This article will cover the Tarrasch Variation. The Tarrasch seems to be all the rage when it comes to coaches recommending a variation to their students on how to beat the French. I will show you once again that, like the exchange, an understanding of ideas should get you an equal game, and if White doesn't know what he's doing, you'll win more than you won't. Many of my games from the Black side of the Tarrasch in 2017 have been published in previous articles. I will be showing games from much higher level competition where Black plays the lines I will recommend and you'll soon feel that the Tarrasch is a non-issue, just like the Exchange.

Part Three: This article will cover the King's Indian Attack. For those that don't know the theory, this is a very tricky variation, and there are many places for Black to go wrong as some of the ideas aren't as clear cut as they are in the Exchange or Tarrasch. It will take a lot of studying to master the line, but in the end, Black should be able to equalize here as well.

Part Four: This article is when we start getting into the most critical third move for White, 3.Nc3. Against this, I am going to recommend the more sane 3...Nf6 over the wild Winawer, which is 3...Bb4. While 4.exd5 will transpose to the Exchange Variation, there are two very critical moves that White can play. The first is 4.Bg5, which will be covered in this article, against which I am going to recommend the MacCutcheon Variation.

Part Five: This article will cover the second half of 3.Nc3 Nf6, namely the Steinitz Variation, which is 4.e5. I feel this is the most critical line you will have to face, and through coverage will be given when we get to this point.

Part Six: This article will shift to covering how to beat the French Defense, which I am going to recommend the Advance Variation. I am a firm believer that it is the only option White has aside from 3.Nc3 in order to get an advantage, and 3.Nc3 is very dense in theory, whereas the Advance Variation is more about understanding the ideas rather than knowing reams of lines.

So now I will bet a number of you are asking yourself "so what am I supposed to do against the Advance Variation when I'm Black? That is what I am going to cover here. It is the only real offbeat line that I am going to recommend, and it is the line that ultimately caused me to bring the French Defense back as my primary weapon against 1.e4.

So without further ado, let's take a look at what to do against the Advance Variation.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3

We have the starting position of the Advance Variation of the French Defense. Black has a few options here. The main response here is, by far, 4...Nc6, with a number of options at move 5. The second most popular response is what is known as the Wade Variation, which is 4...Qb6 followed by 5...Bd7, intending 6...Bb5 and looking to trade the Bishop. The center is complete shut down, and so play will be a little slower and Black can use this argument to spend the time to attempt to get rid of the bad Bishop. That said, I don't trust this system at all, and the main lines with 4...Nc6 appear to give White an advantage, and have viewed it this way now for the last 10 years when a lot of the recent ideas in the Advance French came about in 2007, almost all of the new ideas being for White. All of these lines will be covered in Part Six.

The little-played line that I am going to recommend is similar to the Wade Variation, but it won't involve misplacing the Black Queen.

4...Bd7 5.Nf3 a6

So we now have the starting position of the line I'm recommending against the Advance Variation. The idea is simple. Black is using the basis of the center be closed as a way of figuring that he has time to exchange off his Bad Bishop without falling too far behind in development.

It should also be noted that this position can also come from a specific line of the O'Kelly Sicilian, namely 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6 3.c3 e6 4.d4 d5 5.e5 Bd7.

I am going to cover three games and a game fragment with this variation. The first game and the game fragment will illustrate what can happen if White blindly tries to expand on the Queenside like he often does in the main lines. However, it can mean trouble for White in this variation. The first game and the game fragment will cover lines where White tries to expand on the Queenside, and yet all it does is gets him in trouble. The second game will cover 6.Be2 and the last game will cover White's best move, 6.Bd3.

Part 1: White Expands On The Queenside

A game that I played against Emily Hu in the Washington, DC area will illustrate why Queenside expansion is not a good idea in this line. As will be seen in Part Six, the early a3 idea, looking to expand with b4, works best when Black has already placed his Queen on b6.

Cherry Blossom Classic, Round 6
W: Emily Hu (1862)
B: Patrick McCartney (2063)

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Bd7 5.a3

Better is to play 5.Nf3.

5...a6 6.b4 cxd4 7.cxd4 Bb5 8.Bxb5+

This does double Black's pawns, but it also exposes White to tactics based on the Rook on a1 being unprotected.


One might think that White has just blundered, but actually, it's a mistake later on that give Black the opportunity at a big advantage. The position, despite the temporary pawn loss, is still equal.

9...Bxb4 10.Bb2 Bxc3 11.Bxc3 Nc6 12.Ne2

Once again, 12.Nf3 would be slightly better

12...Nge7 13.Qb3 Qb6 14.Rb1 O-O

The correct move. Trying to hold the pawn with 14...Na7 is clumsy. Black goes for activity over material.

15.Qxb5 Qxb5 16.Rxb5 Rxa3 17.Rxb7 Ra2 18.f3 Nf5

Black has a very slight, nagging advantage due to the the more active position and arguably better minor piece as the Bishop on c3 is pretty bad.


This, however, is a major error. White was likely afraid of 19...Nh4, thinking that 20.Rg1 was too passive, but in reality, Black gets nothing special as a result of that. It's not like castling is a necessity for White at this point. Of course, 20.Kf2 would drop a pawn to 20...Nxg2. However, since 20.Rg1 would work fine against the artificial threat, White should instead play more actively with 19.Rc7! This puts the Black Knight in an awkward position. He could retreat with 19...Nfe7, but all advantage is lost then. 19...Na5?? loses to 20.Ra7 and 19...Nce7?? loses to 20.g4. Best for Black would be 19...Na7 when 20.Rc5 holds Black's slight edge to a bare minimum. After the move played in the game, Black is close to winning.


Oh no! Black misses the opportunity and the position is once again roughly equal. Winning is 19...Nh4! White has no defense.
  A) 20.Rf1 Ng2+ 21.Kf2 Nf4 22.Re1 Nd3+ -+
  B) 20.Kf2 f6 21.Ra1 Rxa1 22.Bxa1 fxe5 -+
  C) 20.f4 Ng2+ 21.Kf1 (21.Kf2 Nxf4) f6 22.Rc7 fxe5 23.Rxc6 exd4 24.Bb4 Ne3+ 25.Ke1 Rb8 26.Nc1 Nc2+ -+

20.Kf2 Nc4 21.Rhb1

White should first play 21.Rc7, gaining a tempo on the Knight. The position is still equal, but it would complicate matters for Black.


Black ceases all hopes for White at victory.

22.f4 f6 23.exf6 gxf6 24.Rd7 Ra7 25.Rxa7 Nxa7 26.Rb7 Nc6 27.Ng3 Nd6 28.Rd7 Rd8 29.Rc7 Rc8 30.Rd7 Rd8 31.Rc7 1/2-1/2

While this case of dropping the b-pawn wasn't totally fatal to White and White's mistake came later in the above game, the following game fragment will show you that White isn't always that lucky when Black pulls off the trap, and actually, the above example was the exception, not the rule. The following game was played just a week and a half later.

Tuesday Night Action 33, Round 5
W: David Blackwelder (1695)
B: Patrick McCartney (2066)

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Bd7 5.Nf3 a6 6.a4

Here White tries to outright stop Black from trading the Bishop off, but there are other problems that White is going to encounter here.


Re-instating the threat, and moves like 7.Na3 don't work here because of 7...Qxa4 where if White tries to use the same pin on Black, he will be up a healthy pawn after 8.Qxa4 Bxa4 9.Nb5 Bxb5 10.Bxb5+ Nc6.


So White tries to keep Black occupied by capturing, forcing Black to take with the Queen, and then chasing the Black Queen away. Little does he know that expanding like this on the Queenside in this specific situation is causing more harm than good for White.

7...Qxc5 8.b4 Qc7

So White has succeeded in keeping the Bishops on the board. That said, he now has a weak pawn on c3. His d4-pawn is no longer there to cover e5, so he has to use his pieces to cover it. He is also severely lagging in development, and then there are numerous tactical tricks, one of which he falls for shortly.

9.Bd3 Nc6 10.Qe2??

White must play 10.Bf4 here, but already his position is a mess. The problem with the Queen move is that she needed to baby the Bishop on c1 until either the Bishop or the b1-Knight moved. Now we have tricks again on b4!

10...Nxb4! 11.cxb4 Qxc1+ 12.Qd1 Qxd1+ 13.Kxd1 Bxb4

And now with Black up two pawns for zero compensation, the rest of the game was meaningless. I will save White the embarrassment and just say that Black mated White on the 43rd move.

Part 2: White plays 6.Be2

So now we are moving on to the line with 6.Be2. There is nothing systemically wrong with this move, but it does give Black exactly what he is looking for. Here I am going to cover a game that I played in late July that well illustrates what Black can achieve in this line.

Master Trek, Round 1
W: James Dill (1931)
B: Patrick McCartney (2057)

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Bd7 5.Nf3 a6 6.Be2 cxd4

It is important to throw this move in first. Note that before now, it would be too early to take on d4 because then White can place his Knight on c3, preventing Black's bishop from going to b5. That said, Black should do it here because unlike the previous game where White has advanced b4, the c3-pawn would not be weak if White were to trade on c5, and with no light-squared Bishop, if Black were to win the pawn on e5, he could be opening himself up to a weakness on e6, and so Black would rather have the open c-file and the d4-pawn as a fixed weakness rather than a semi-open c-file with an e5-target. This also prevents any c4 ideas in response to the Bishop going to b5. When we get to Part Six, we will see this idea of advancing the c-pawn to c4 in the Wade Variation.


So what we have can be viewed as the starting position of the 6.Be2 variation. Here White has a critical decision to make. He can continue with development by castling and allowing Black to take on e2, which is probably White's best idea, or he can capture on b5, which does double Black's pawns, but comes at a price. The opening of the a-file for Black does expose White to tactics on b4, and so moves like a3 by White won't prevent anything. More importantly, the argument against exchanging on d4 too early for Black is that it opens up the c3-square for the White Knight. Often times it is viewed that Black should wait to trade on d4 until the White Knight has moved to d2 or a3. But in this case, it was best for Black to trade, and another downside to White doubling the Black pawns is that ...b4 can come at just about any point in time, removing the White Knight from his desired square.

In the game, White went with the better plan and continued to develop.

8.O-O Bxe2 9.Qxe2 Nc6 10.Nc3 Nge7 11.Bg5 Qb6 12.Bxe7

Trading off the dark-squared Bishop for a Knight can't be recommended here. White is allowing Black to have his good Bishop with no opposition. Better here was 12.Qd3 with a level position.

12...Bxe7 13.Rfd1 O-O 14.Rac1 Rac8 15.b3

This move is almost never good in the French Defense, and it certainly isn't good here. White should probably have played 15.Rc2 followed by moving the Queen to cover the d4, probably by going to e3, and then double up on the c-file. In other lines, when you see White expand on the Queenside, you see the pawns on a3 and b4, dark squares, which prevent activity from Black's dark-squared Bishop, which is his good Bishop. With Black's pawns on light squares, it doesn't make sense for White to put his on light squares, especially with his opponent having an unopposed dark-squared Bishop. The dark squares on the Queenside are now extremely weak for White, and Black takes full advantage of it.

15...Ba3 16.Na4 Qa7 17.Rc3

Once again, the Rook should have gone to c2.

17...b5 18.Nc5

This move loses material. Relatively best was 18.Qc2 Ne7 19.Nb2 Bb4 20.Rxc8 Rxc8 21.Qb1, but the advantage still belongs to Black. Note that the immediate 18.Nb2 fails to 18...Nxd4!.

18...Nxd4 19.Nxd4 Rxc5

Also possible was 19...Bxc5 20.Rdc1 b4 21.R3c2 Rc7 followed by 22...Rfc8, but taking with the Rook seemed safer. Both are winning for Black.

20.Rh3 Rfc8 21.Qh5 h6

With no dark-squared Bishop to contend with to sacrifice itself on h6, Black's King is perfectly safe.

22.Ne2 Rc2

The best moves are moves that attack and defend at the same thing. The attacking nature of this move is obvious, but what isn't quite as obvious, and White missed it in the game, is that this move also defends h6 until the Knight moves.

23.Qg4 Bc5

Black ignores the threat on h6 by posing larger threats of his own. Two of White's pawns are now hanging, and Black threatens to take the White Knight, removing the piece that is pinning the g-pawn to the King, if White tries to take on h6. Clearly White missed this.

24.Rxh6?? Rxe2 25.Qxe2 gxh6 0-1

The fact that Black's King is slightly exposed is no match to being down a whole piece, especially with very little material left on the board. White decided to throw in the towel.

Part 3: White Plays 6.Bd3

So now we come to the "main line", if there is such a thing. This is White's best response in this variation. I am going to show a game played at the Australian Masters in Melbourne in 2005 that illustrates how Black should react to this line. And actually, this game started out as an O'Kelly Sicilian, which as mentioned earlier, can directly transpose to the line we are covering.

2005 Australian Masters, Round 4
W: William Jordan (2304)
B: Peter Froehlich (2367)

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6 3.c3 e6 4.d4 d5 5.e5 Bd7 6.Bd3 cxd4 7.cxd4 Bb5

So we are at the starting position of the "main line". There is one major difference between this line and the line we covered with 6.Be2. White is able to avoid the Bishop trade!

8.Bc2! Bb4+ 9.Bd2 a5

Once again, Black tried to egg White on to take his Bishop and open up the a-file for his Rook. With the Knight coming to c6 and possibly the Queen to b6, the doubled pawns, once again, would not be a real weakness for Black.


Black now has a critical decision to make. There are two decent moves here for Black. I am going to recommend the one that is slightly less common that is played in this game.


The more popular move is 10...Ba6, but White is going to force Black to trade the Bishop for the Knight anyway. Why waste time retreating? In the game R.Siddharth - N.Sanjay, Vizag GM Open, Round 10, Visakhapatanam, IND, White put his Bishop pair to good use and scored the victory after 10...Ba6 11.a3 Bxc3 12.bxc3 Qc7 13.Ng5 Nc6 14.Qf3 h6 15.Qh5 Nd8 16.Nh3 Ne7 17.Nf4 g6 18.Qh3 Ndc6 19.Rc1 a4 20.Bxa4 Bc4 21.Bc2 Rxa3 22.Nd3 Qa5 23.Bb1 Qb5 24.O-O Nxd4 25.cxd4 Bxd3 26.Rc7 Bxf1 27.Qxa3 O-O 28.Rc1 Nc6 29.Rxf1 Nxd4 30.Bd3 Qb3 31.Qxb3 Nxb3 32.Bxh6 Ra8 33.Rb1 Ra3 34.Kf1 d4 35.Bc4 Nc5 36.Bd2 Ra4 37.Bb4 Ne4 38.Bd3 1-0.

11.bxc3 Nd7 12.Qb1 Ba6 13.Bxh7 Nb6

Trying to trap the Bishop with 13...g6 is not a good idea. Black is not fully developed, and his King will be severely exposed, and at no cost to White as he'll get three pawns for the Bishop. In fact, here White would be completely winning after 14.Bxg6 fxg6 15.Qxg6+ Kf8 16.Ng5 Qe8 17.Nxe6+ Ke7 18.Bg5+ +-.


White gets nothing out of 14.Bxg8 Rxg8 15.Qh7 Rf8 16.Qxg7 Qc7 17.Qg4 (17.Qg5 Qc4 18.Qe3 Rg8!) Na4 18.Ng1 Nb2 19.Ne2 Nd3+ 20.Kf1 Qb6 with an equal position. After the game continuation, Black's response offers White another pawn, and accepting it leads to a fairly lengthy forced sequence.

14...Nc4 15.Bxc4 Bxc4 16.Qxb7 Rb8 17.Qc6+ Kf8 18.Bc1 Nh6 19.Bg5 f6

White has forced Black to expose his King, but it's not like White's is any safer.

20.Qc5+ Kg8 21.exf6 gxf6 22.Bxh6 Rxh6

After all the fireworks, White has a slightly better position, but his advantage is no more than the slight advantage White gets from the main line of any normal opening and Black's position is still manageable.

23.Nd2 Bd3 24.h4 Kh8 25.Rh3 Bf5 26.Rh1 Rc8 27.Qa3 Qg8 28.g3 Bd3 29.O-O-O a4 30.Kb2 Qe8 31.Ka1 Qb5 32.Rhe1 Bc2 33.Rc1 Bf5 34.Re3 Rh7 35.f3 Rb7 36.g4 Bh7 37.c4 dxc4

Both sides have continued to play really well, but now Black has a major threat with 38...c3, which tactically defends against moves like 38.Rxe6?? since 38...c3 39.Ne4 (attempting to block the Bishop on h7 from eyeing b1) fails to 39...Qb2+ 40.Qxb2 cxb2+ 41.Kb1 bxc1=Q mate. However, White ends up choosing the wrong way to prevent ...c3 by Black, and the game ends abruptly.


Correct was 38.Ne4 e5 39.d5 with an equal game. Note that if Black attempts to build up on b1 with the move 38...Rcb8, White can easily stop the threat with 39.Ree1 and any push of the c-pawn by Black will be captured by the White Knight, and so the tricks on b2 are no longer there like they would be in the lines where ...c3 was allowed.

38...Rcb8 0-1

However, now the Rook on c3 can't come to the rescue of the King by covering the b1-square again. White can only prevent immediate mate by throwing a piece away on b3, and even then, the prevention is only temporary, and so White Resigned.

This concludes this article on the introduction of what is to come, and this interesting, offbeat line for Black against the Advance Varition. At the bottom of each article, I will include links to the other parts of the article. I would recommend saving at least one of them to your favorites so that it will be easy to access, and then you can use the links at the bottom to navigate from article to article.

Links to the rest of the articles.
Part One: The Exchange Variation
Part Two: The Tarrasch Variation
Part Three: The King's Indian Attack
Part Four: The MacCutcheon Variation
Part Five: The Steinitz Variation
Part Six: Beating the French with the Advance Variation

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Top Seeds win Reverse Angle 75

Author: Grant OenCCCSA Assistant Director

CCCSA held the 75th Reverse Angle Tournament on Saturday, August 12.  60 total players competed for the always guaranteed $850 prize fund in three sections: Top, Under 1800, and Under 1400.

18 players entered the top section, including National Masters Tianqi "Steffen" Wang (2379), Daniel "DJ" Cremisi (2333) and South Carolina's Klaus Pohl (2201).  It was a highly competitive section, as they were joined by plenty of Experts and A players.

The top seeds proved their mettle, as Wang and Cremisi scored 3/3 and $125 each.  Vishnu "Can I call my dad?" Vanapalli (1954), Ziyang "many sisters" Qiu (1936), and Aditya "draw?" Shivapooja (1770) all scored 2/3 and won top Under 2000 honors, good for $17 each.

Reverse Angle 75

Final Standings: Reverse Angle 75: TOP

#PlaceNameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3TotPrize
11-2Tianqi Wang2379W13 (w)W12 (b)W5 (w) 3125.00
2 Daniel Cremisi2333W14 (b)W8 (w)W6 (b) 3125.00
33Sulia Mason2030D10 (w)W13 (b)W11 (w) 
44-7James Macdougall2039W16 (b)L6 (w)W10 (w) 2 
5 Vishnu Vanapalli1954W15 (b)W11 (w)L1 (b) 216.67
6 Ziyang Qiu1936W18 (w)W4 (b)L2 (w) 216.67
7 Aditya Shivapooja1770L8 (b)W16 (w)W12 (w) 216.67
88-10Keith Eubanks1955W7 (w)L2 (b)D9 (w) 
9 Adharsh Rajagopal1883L11 (b)W15 (w)D8 (b) 
10 Rohan Iyer1787D3 (b)W14 (w)L4 (b) 
1111-15Klaus Pohl2201W9 (w)L5 (b)L3 (b) 1 
12 Ernest Nix1959W17 (b)L1 (w)L7 (b) 1 
13 James Dill1917L1 (b)L3 (w)W17 (b) 1 
14 Jeremy Chen1903L2 (w)L10 (b)W18 (w) 1 
15 Luke Harris1767L5 (w)L9 (b)B--- (-) 1 
1616-18Xiaodong Jin1810L4 (w)L7 (b)H--- (-) ½ 
17 Austin Chuang1785L12 (w)D18 (b)L13 (w) ½ 
18 Robert Moore1700L6 (b)D17 (w)L14 (b) ½ 

Under 1800
The largest section of the day was the U1800 section, which featured 22 players, with top seeded Carson "threepeat" Cook (1755) having won this section at RA73 and tying for first at RA74.  Carson ended up winning clear first at RA75, with 3/3 and adding another $150 to his wallet.  William Odom (1652) and Jaiden Chuang (1634) each earned $38 for their split of second place.

The Under 1600 class prize was split between Andrew Jiang, Douglas Taublib, Hassan Hashemloo, and Eric Shi ($13 each).

Reverse Angle 75

Final Standings: Reverse Angle 75: Under 1800

#PlaceNameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3TotPrize
11Carson Cook1755W6 (w)W15 (b)W7 (w) 3150.00
22-3William Odom1652W22 (w)D12 (b)W11 (w)37.50
3 Jaiden Chuang1634D17 (b)W9 (w)W12 (b)37.50
44-9Connor Liu1734L7 (b)W16 (w)W17 (b) 2 
5 David Richards1680W16 (b)L7 (w)W19 (b) 2 
6 Andrew Jiang1541L1 (b)W18 (w)W13 (b) 212.50
7 Douglas Taublib1529W4 (w)W5 (b)L1 (b) 212.50
8 Hassan Hashemloo1433H--- (-)D19 (w)W21 (b) 212.50
9 Eric Shi1316W23 (w)L3 (b)W15 (w) 212.50
1010-12Spencer Singleton1580D19 (b)D17 (w)H--- (-) 
11 Sam Fuerstman1456H--- (-)W21 (w)L2 (b) 
12 Advaith Karthik1453W13 (b)D2 (w)L3 (w) 
1313-20Danny Cropper1686L12 (w)W22 (b)L6 (w) 1 
14 Kiru Mendez1593W18 (w) --- (-) --- (-) 1 
15 Sampath Kumar1556W20 (w)L1 (w)L9 (b) 1 
16 Mahesh Padhi1449L5 (w)L4 (b)W22 (w) 1 
17 Arav Goldstein1423D3 (w)D10 (b)L4 (w) 1 
18 Paul Jones1408L14 (b)L6 (b)B--- (-) 1 
19 Nishanth Gaddam1373D10 (w)D8 (b)L5 (w) 1 
20 Dan Boisvert1329L15 (b)B--- (-) --- (-) 1 
2121Debs Pedigo1414H--- (-)L11 (b)L8 (w) ½ 
2222-23Connor McElroy1428L2 (b)L13 (w)L16 (b) 0 
23 Rohan Parashar762L9 (b) --- (-) --- (-) 0 

Under 1400
The U1400 section had 20 players.  Featured at the top of the wall chart were previous U1400 Champions RA73 champion Paige Cook (1380), Gautam "got em" Kapur (1346), and RA74 co-champion Donald "Johnson &" Johnson (1301).

Donald Johnson defended his title, scoring 3/3 and tying with Barringer's Nikhil Kamisetty (1182), each earning $113.  Winning the Under 1200 class prize were Robert Murray-Gramlich, Saanchi Sampath, Pranav Swarna, and Rohit Gottiparthi ($13 each).

Reverse Angle 75

Final Standings - Reverse Angle 75: Under 1400

#PlaceNameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3TotPrize
11-2Donald Johnson1301W13 (w)W9 (b)W6 (w) 3112.50
2 Nikhil Kamisetty1182W20 (w)W15 (b)W5 (w) 3112.50
33Arjun Rawal1273H--- (-)W18 (b)W10 (w) 
44-9Paige Cook1380L9 (w)W11 (w)W12 (b) 2 
5 Gautam Kapur1346W12 (b)W8 (w)L2 (b) 2 
6 Robert Murray-Gramlich1171W14 (b)W16 (w)L1 (b) 212.50
7 Saanchi Sampath1156L15 (w)W20 (b)W14 (w) 212.50
8 Pranav Swarna1139W17 (w)L5 (b)W15 (w) 212.50
9 Rohit Gottiparthi1108W4 (b)L1 (w)W16 (b) 212.50
1010-11Brian Miller1256D11 (b)W19 (w)L3 (b) 
11 Avneesh Tamhankar1063D10 (w)L4 (b)W18 (w) 
1212-17Akshay Rajagopal1075L5 (w)W13 (b)L4 (w) 1 
13 Zihui Qiu1071L1 (b)L12 (w)W19 (b) 1 
14 Richard Trela1049L6 (w)W17 (b)L7 (b) 1 
15 Matthew Odom1002W7 (b)L2 (w)L8 (b) 1 
16 Rohan Parashar762B--- (-)L6 (b)L9 (w) 1 
17 Bruce Stevensunr.L8 (b)L14 (w)W20 (w) 1 
1818-19Matthew Mecia1151D19 (b)L3 (w)L11 (b) ½ 
19 Henry Nguyen871D18 (w)L10 (b)L13 (w) ½ 
2020Parijat Majumdar1055L2 (b)L7 (w)L17 (b) 0 

UPSETS - 150 points or more
U1400, Round 1 - Rohit Gottiparthi (1108) def. Paige Cook (1380) - 272 points
Top, Round 2 - Vishnu Vanapalli (1954) def. Klaus Pohl (2201) - 247 points
U1800, Round 3 - Eric Shi (1316) def. Sampath Kumar (1556) - 240 points
U1800, Round 1 - Advaith Karthik (1453) def. Danny Cropper (1686) - 233 points
U1800, Round 1 - Douglas Taublib (1529) def. Connor Liu (1734) - 205 points
Top, Round 3 - Aditya Shivapooja (1770) def. Ernest Nix (1959) -  189 points
Top, Round 3 - Sulia Mason (2030) def. Klaus Pohl (2201) - 171 points
U1400, Round 3 - Nikhil Kamisetty (1182) def. Gautam Kapur (1346) - 164 points
U1400, Round 1 - Matthew Odom (1002) def. Saanchi Sampath (1156) - 154 points
Top, Round 2 - Douglas Taublib (1529) def. David Richards (1680) - 151 points

USCF Rated Results

Reverse Angle 76 is Saturday, September 9.  Rated Blitz tournament featuring IM John Bartholomew next Friday, August 18!

Until next time,

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Simple Chess: 2017 Carolina's Classic Tournament

I promise I didn't disappear, I have been out of commission with a broken hand. While not impossible, it just took too long for me to try and type a blog post every week. Now my hand has healed enough for me to type again. More chess articles to come!

For me it was a last minute decision to play in the 2017 Carolina's Classic tournament. I was originally going to play in the US Open this year. However, other obligations hindered me from playing. Therefore, I decided to play in a local tournament.

Before we get any further: A huge thank you to Peter, Walter, and Rudy for making it an amazing event. Thank you to everyone behind the scenes that I didn't get to see or don't know the names to the faces. Without people sacrificing time and sometimes money we wouldn't have these great events. Thank you!

I had played in the first Carolina's Classic tournament in 2016. In fact, I scored 4.0/5 which was half a point behind tied first. I felt I was better this time around. I thought I could take first place this year in the U1800 section with my training that I had been doing.

Well, thinking and doing are two different things.

This was a very mentally draining tournament for me. I hope to share not only the game analysis but also the mental and emotional struggle that one can experience through a tournament like this. 

Alright, enough babbling let's get to the chess. I will update this within a week with the analysis of the games. I simply wanted to get the mental and human aspect of my experience of the tournament out first.

I was confident leading up to the tournament until a few days before when I started to doubt my abilities in the opening. This was caused by a terrible game I had played during the 5th round of the Tuesday Night Action tournament. I had a losing position after 10 moves! It was a confidence killer for sure. 

I had decided to play the 3 day option so my first round game was at 730pm Friday night. My first round opponent was Kiru Mendez. A friendly blitz competitor after our Tuesday night games. I usually have an advantage over him so I was happy to see this match up. While I didn't think it was going to be easy, I felt comfortable since I already knew his style of play.

Well, the game was going my way and then against my own judgement of playing "simple chess", I decided to complicate matters and then failed to convert one more time to end up in time pressure and refusing a draw with 9 seconds on my clock due to being stubborn.

Here is the final winning position for me:

After feeling like I should have won and not, I decided to do something I never do. I reentered the tournament.

My "first" round game was at 10am Saturday morning. This time I was paired against Luke Harris and I had a 2-1 record against him. I had the White pieces which meant I was going to see the Dragon variation of the Sicilian defense. Sure enough I did. This time I grabbed my pawn early in the game but it allowed way too much activity for his pieces and my King succumbed to his fiery dragon.

Man. At this point in the tournament I am in the exact same position of 0/1. However, mentally I was 0/2. I tried to mentally remind myself that I still only had 1 loss and that I won money last year with only losing one game.

This didn't work. My confidence was falling faster than American's trust in our political system.

Then round 2 was here. I wanted a win. I needed a win for my mental state. I chose to play the Dutch against his 1. d4. I was playing it pretty well too and then I left a crucial pawn without any defenders and the strategic poison of the Dutch started to corrode my position and mind. Another loss.

Tournament showed me 0/2. But my mind was telling me 0/3. Ouch!

I took a walk over to Boardwalk Billy's and got some chicken tenders. They usually make me feel better. Usually.

I walk back and challenge some people to blitz games and even though I lose 90% of them it got my excitement for chess back.

I had considered withdrawing and spending the rest of the weekend with my family. Not that I don't love my family but I had worked too hard to just give up.

Alright, time for round 3. Time to turn this around, hopefully. I just wish my mind would stop reminding me I was really 0/3.

Finally, my mind clicked through to chess mode and my opponent made a mistake in the opening to lose a central pawn in the Ruy Lopez. Then I decided to go on a Napoleon-like conquering expedition of the entire board. Meanwhile I allowed my king to be stabbed through the weak holes like Julius Caesar. Once we traded down, I think my opponent had a final chance to put some nails in my coffin in a King, Rook, and pawns endgame. However, he failed to keep the pressure and I went on to demonstrate how to win the game.


A win. It was the one I needed to give some of the confidence back that I had lost. Confidence is a lot like a chess rating though. You can lose a lot at once but it takes much longer for it to build back up. This wasn't a clean win but it was a win. I could go home and sleep a little better. Tournament results so far: 1.0/3. Mental results so far: 1.0/4.

Now it is Sunday. The final day. Only 2 games left. My plan is finish with at least 2.5/5. Do or die.

Round 4 turned out to the toughest game for me the entire tournament. I decided to play the Kan Sicilian and it felt extremely tactical during the game. I took a lot of time and I think I actually ended up in a worse position in the middle of the middle game. However, I have also learned how to complicate positions over the board as well for people around my rating. I got to play some deflection tactics, I won the exchange thanks to my opponent trapping his rook in the middle of the board, and I was able to finish the game by sacrificing my rook to promote a pawn. Then my Queen was able to battle his Knight to bring in the win.


2 wins in a row now. 2.0/4 in the tournament. Only half a point away from my plan. The confidence was seeping back into my body now. I could win the final round. Sure I could. I just need to play smart chess. Let's do it.

Round 5, here we go.

My opponent opened with 1. d4. Since I would be okay with a draw here I elect to go for the solid Slav defense. I held up well against Kiru in the first game and my loss came because of mistakes after the opening phase. I can do this. And then I make a rookie mistake.

I try to hold onto my pawn after capturing on c4 with b5 and then a6. I am now down a pawn early in the game. Now mentally upset with myself and the rest of the tournament is rearing itself back into my mind. I close my eyes, take several deep breaths, slow my heart rate. Reopen my eyes and shove the negative thoughts into a locked box. Time to focus only on the game in front of me. I'm only down a pawn, I can still hold out for a draw and maybe I can even get a win.

The game continues and gets even more complicated in the middle game. Multiple captures and multiple in-between moves to consider in my calculations. The pressure is on.

The smoke has cleared and as I stare through it with only one eye halfway open, I am surviving.

Then to my surprise, my opponent boldly miscalculates and loses a piece!

Alright, time to close my eyes, take several deep breaths, and slow my heart rate. I have lost several won games before in the past (some in this tournament) and so I know it is time to focus even more.

I end up in a King and pawn endgame except I have a Bishop. I don't think I played it accurately but I was able to finesse my King around his king and pawns and went on to win the final game.


After starting out 0/4 I finished 3/6. In the tournament I finished with 3.0/5.

I don't think my games are that instructive. What I hope is more instructive is the mental toughness that one can have even when they don't think they can. One thing I find that will separate great players from good players is perseverance. I may have started too late to be great but I won't stop until I find out.

I am competitive. I am driven. I don't know how to stop. This is my road to the Expert title. I look forward to seeing you all along the way.