Improving Your Intuition at the US Chess School
By David Brodsky   
July 20, 2015
Back row from the left: Andrew Liu, Joshua Sheng, Aaron Jacobson, Nicolas Checa
 2nd row: Jennifer Yu, Aravind Kumar, Marcus Miyasaka, David Brodsky
3rd row: Josh Hernandez-Camen, Matthew Miyasaka, Hans Niemann, Akshita Gorti, Carissa Yip
Front row: John Michael Burke, Brandon Jacobson

My third US Chess School Camp was held at the Marshall Chess Club, where I have played many tournaments. The field was strong, with 14 National Masters and an average rating of 2277. It included 4 FMs, the 2014 World Girls Under 12 Champ Jennifer Yu, the 2015 Pan American U14 Champion, Marcus Miyasaka, and John Michael Burke, who recently scored his first IM Norm at the World Open. As a 2300, I fit in the group quite nicely.

The four-day camp covered so many subjects.

Positional Intuition

On the first day, we started off with a test Greg designed. We had 30 minutes to solve 60 positions. With an average of 30 seconds per position, we had to rely on our intuition. I had never done anything like this before. Since I rarely get into time trouble, it was rough for me at the beginning. I fell behind on the clock, but got the hang of it later into the test and finished with a couple minutes to spare. I was still pretty sure I did badly, but ended up with 35 out of 60, which was quite reasonable. The highest score was 43, and the average was 29.

The positions weren't spectacular; the thought process behind them was quite simple. Common ideas included:

·       Prophylaxis
·       Restricting the opponent's pieces
·       Gaining squares (sometimes sacrificing a pawn to do so)
·       Exchanging off bad pieces (or the opponent's good ones)
·       Superfluous knights
·       And many more typical ideas

Here's my favorite position from the test:

Test 1 - White to play


Show Solution

Though I finished reasonably well, I felt that there were a couple positions I really should have solved.

Attacking chess

On the second day, GM Alexander Stripunsky gave a guest lecture on the Bxh7/h2 sacrifice. He told us that when the position is complicated, and we can't possibly calculate all the variations to the end, we should rely on our intuition. The easiest way to judge it is the attackers vs. defenders ratio.

We started with an example from a game of one of the US Chess School's former students, James Black:

Mitchell Fitzko (2102) - James Black (2223)

Knowing the theme of the lecture, the obvious move is

In the game, White played 18.Ng5 and eventually lost after 18...h6

but how to get to the Black king?
I, like many others, suggested 19.Ng5+?! But Black can go 19...Kg6! and it isn't clear how White gets to the king.(only looking at 19...Kg8 20.Qd3 (20.Qh5? N7f6) 20...g6 21.Rxe6!)
19...g6 20.Ng5+ Kg8 transposes



The reason the queen has to be on d3 is because after 20...N7f6 21.Bxf6 Nxf6 is impossible on account of 22.Qxd6+-]and now the key idea is 21.Rxe6! winning the game.

After a couple more examples, GM Stripunsky gave us a tough position:

Ree,Hans - Timman,Jan H

12.Bxh7+ Kxh7 13.Ng5+ Kg8 14.Qh5


We were supposed to write down the best continuations after Black's candidate moves: Nf6, Nf8, Ne5, Qf6, and Bxh2+. We were then supposed to decide whether or not White should sacrifice.
The only move which doesn't lose for Black. [14...Nf6 loses to 15.Qxf7+ Kh8 16.Re4! Bxh2+ (16...Nxe4 17.Qh5+ Kg8 18.Qh7+ Kf8 19.Qh8+ Ke7 20.Qxg7#) 17.Kxh2 Nxe4 18.Qh5+ Kg8 19.Qh7+ Kf8 20.Qh8+ Ke7 21.Qxg7+ Kd6 22.Nf7++-; 14...Nf8 fails to the same idea 15.Qxf7+ Kh8 16.Re4+-; 14...Ne5 is very tricky. I thought White only has a perpetual after 15.Rxe5 Bxe5 16.Qxf7+ Kh8 17.Qh5+ Kg8

but I missed the key idea 18.b3!! bringing the bishop to a3 and winning the game.; The crafty 14...Bxh2+ is met with the cold-hearted 15.Kh1! (The idea is to meet 15.Kxh2 with 15...Qc7+ 16.Kg1 Nf6; and 15.Qxh2 is met with 15...Nf6) 15...Qf6 (15...Nf6 16.Qxf7+ Kh8 17.Re4+-) 16.Qh7+ Kf8 17.Ne4! Qg6 18.Qh8+ Ke7 19.Qxh2


Qd6 is a threat, so White will regain his pawn and have a winning position.

15.Qh7+ Kf8 16.Ne4! Qe5! The move I missed. I only wrote down 16...Qg6? 17.Qxg6 fxg6 18.Nxd6 Re7 19.cxd4 where White is winning.
17.f4 Qd5 18.c4 Qc6 19.Qh8+ Ke7 20.Qxg7 things are totally unlcear here. The game was eventually drawn, but the sacrifice was sound.

To end his lecture, GM Stripunsky showed one of his recent games from the World Open:

We were supposed to write down how White should continue after 17... Nc6 and 17... Bd7.
17...Nc6 actually loses by force to 18.Bxh7+! Kxh7 19.Ng5+ Kg8 20.Rxf8+ Kxf8 21.Qf4+ Ke7 22.Qf7+ Kd8 23.Qf8+ Kd7 (23...Kc7 24.Qd6#) 24.Qd6+ Ke8 25.Rf1
Analysis after 25.Rf1

25...Qxd4+ (25...Ne7 is impossible on account of 26.Qxb6) 26.Kh1 Ne7 and now the final blow is 27.Rf8+ Kxf8 28.Qd8#]
I missed this move. The idea is to play Qh5 next. It wins.  [18.Bxh7+ is very tempting, but things are unclear after 18...Kxh7 19.Ng5+ Kg8 20.Rxf8+ Kxf8 21.Qf4+ Ke7 22.Qf7+ Kd8 23.Qf8+ Kc7 24.Rc1+ Nc6 White can win an exchange, but Black has all sorts of counterplay.]
An illustration of White's ideas is 18...Bb5 19.Bxh7+ Kxh7 20.Qh5+ (20.Qh4+? Kg8 21.Ng5 Rxf1+ 22.Rxf1 Bxf1) 20...Kg8 21.Ng5 
and Black is getting mated.21...Bd3 (21...Rxf1+ 22.Rxf1 Bxf1 23.Qe8#; 21...Qxd4+ 22.Kh1 doesn't help for Black.) 22.Qh8+ (or 22.Rxf8+ Kxf8 23.Qf7#) 22...Kxh8 23.Rxf8#]
19.Bxh7+? doesn't work anymore on account of 19...Kxh7 20.Qh5+ Kg8 21.Ng5 Qxd4+ 22.Kh1 Qd3! and Black is the one who is winning.
19...g6 20.Bxg6! 
The attack is crushing.20...hxg6 21.Qxg6+ Kh8 22.Ng5 Qxd4+ 23.Kh1 Qh4 24.Rf7! Black resigned. 1-0

Note to my future opponents: I'd appreciate a few extra opportunities to sac on h7 (or h2)!

GM Stripunsky stayed with us for the rest of the day and lectured on some more attacking chess against the castled king. That too was a lot of fun.

Practical Advice

On the third day, IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy gave an interesting lecture on what steps he took to go from a 2300, 2400 player to an IM, a topic you don't often get to hear about. Alex expanded his opening repertoire, to become more flexible and harder to prepare for. He said that he also read random chess books which gave him a few ideas. The opening in this game was one of them:

Overall, I found this lecture very interesting and practical for a player in my situation.

Positional Intuition (again)

We ended the camp the same way we started it: by doing another intuition test that Greg designed. It was the same as the previous test (except of course, different positions). This one seemed a lot easier to me, probably because I knew what to expect. I paced myself very well and was ahead on the clock for most of the test. I ended up with 40/60, which was quite a bit better than I had done last time. The funny thing is, the highest score on this test was also 43. The average went up by 3. Not bad for a 4-day camp! Here's my favorite position from that test:

Test 2 - White to play

Show Solution

Blitz Tournament

As usual, the traditional filmed blitz tournament was exciting with surprising twists. Don't expect me to tell you who won. If you want to find out, you'll have to keep tabs on!

Of course, the camp wasn't 100% serious. We had a lot of fun getting to know each other and playing lots of blitz and bughouse. And who knows? Maybe one day, one of us will be giving a lecture on how to become an IM or even ...

I would like to thank the US Chess School, IM Greg Shahade for organizing and teaching the camp, GM Alexander Stripunsky and IM Aleksandr Ostrovskiy for guest lecturing. Huge thanks go to the sponsors, Dr. Jim Roberts and the Scheinberg family, and last but not least the Marshall Chess Club for generously hosting the camp.