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Summers at the US Chess School: Matan on #22 Print E-mail
By Matan Prilleltensky   
August 29, 2013
Praveen Balakrishnan & Awonder Liang, Photo Elizabeth Spiegel
The 22nd session of the US Chess School opened on July 9th at New York City’s Marshall Chess Cub. The US Chess School is a program developed by IM Greg Shahade to provide top level training to the most promising young players in the country. This edition was made possible by the generosity of Dr. Jim Roberts, who financially supports the USCS, and the Marshall Chess Club, which donated its space for the weeklong event.

Greg Shahade, who continues to organize each session of the school, decided to invite a variety of top coaches to New York. In doing so, he aimed to expose students to a wide variety of perspectives on chess training and improvement. I will be focusing on positions from the 3 guest instructors; I have not discussed Greg’s excellent material here because his teaching style is widely discussed in previous USCS articles. The first coach was Grandmaster Yury Shulman.

Yury Shulman

GM Yury Shulman, fresh from his tie for first place in the World Open, started his session with a mix of pawn endgames and psychology. Yury actually started the World Open slowly, with draws in the first two games against lower rated (but still strong!) opposition, including the following game.

Jayakumar – Shulman, World Open 2013


White has some advantage. Should he enter a pawn endgame, or keep pieces on the board with Rd5+? In the game white went for the ending; it would have been better to retain the slight edge he has in the current position. As we will see, black is deceptively comfortable in the pawn endgame.
39.Rxc6+ Rxc6 40.Nxc6 Kxc6 41.g4
Yury indicated that after this move, white actually needs to be careful to avoid losing. It is surprising how active black's king can become; white's protected passed c-pawn does not restrict it nearly as much as I would have expected.
41...Kc5 42.Kf3 Kd4 43.f5 gxf5

After this move the game peters out into a draw. According to Yury, 43...g5(!) would have forced white to defend very accurately.
44.gxf5 Ke5 45.Kg4 Ke4 46.Kh5 Kxf5 47.Kxh6 Ke5 48.Kg5 f5 49.Kh4=

with a possible conclusion being
49...f4 50.Kh3 Ke4 51.Kg2 Ke3 52.Kf1 Kd4 53.Kg2 Ke4 54.Kf2 f3 55.Kf1 Kd4 56.Kf2 Ke4 and neither side has anything better than a repetition. ½–½

After this, his second consecutive draw to begin the tournament, Yury began employing a psychological strategy he recommended to the students: He started visualizing himself winning the World Open – never mind the details, just the outcome. Soon after, he started winning games in which his opponents suffered under gradually increasing pressure. Yury stressed the importance of sitting down to play in a positive state of mind. He told the students that if they find themselves thinking about something negative before the first move, they should take the time to pull themselves together and develop a positive mindset for the coming struggle.
Justus Williams, Nicholas Checa, Alex King, Photo Elizabeth Spiegel

Another psychological concept Yury elaborated on was the idea of equanimity at the board. Some players waver between emotional extremes during games; sometimes they are angry, sometimes thrilled, sometimes in between. According to Yury, the correct state of mind (or ‘level of happiness’) during a game is somewhere around 55%. Keeping an even keel throughout is the best way to deal with the vicissitudes of a serious game; something that, as Yury noted, applies to life in general beyond the chessboard.

John Bartholomew

Next up was International Master John Bartholomew. John spent the morning focusing on schematic thinking in rook endgames. The class made a detailed study of endings where one side has an extra rook pawn, and minor differences in piece placement for both sides can mean the difference between a win and a draw. The students quickly tackled a classic endgame from the 1927 World Championship match: The notes are frequently lifted directly from John’s annotations.

Alekhine vs. Capablanca, Buenos Aires 1927 (Game 34)


The contours of the ending are now apparent, as White will head to the queenside to assist in the pawn's promotion. Black has two ways to oppose this: 1) An offensive plan of attacking the White kingside pawns with his own king (perhaps first weakening them using his own pawns), or 2) A defensive plan of travelling to the queenside with his king to assist (and possibly release the rook for counterplay by using his king as a blockader on a6). As it stands, White's pawn structure and rook are perfectly placed to deal with plan #1 (John explained that having pawns on f2/g3/h4 is frequently an ideal defensive structure), so Black has no real choice but to adopt the "passive" plan #2.
54...Kf6 55.Kf3 Ke5 56.Ke3 h5 57.Kd3 Kd5 58.Kc3 Kc5 59.Ra2!
An excellent waiting move, putting black in zugzwang.
59...Kb5 60.Kb3
Alekhine bides his time.
60...Kc5 61.Kc3 Kb5 62.Kd4!

Preparing to infiltrate on the kingside.
62...Rd6+ 63.Ke5 Re6+ 64.Kf4 Ka6 65.Kg5 Re5+ 66.Kh6 Rf5


IM Jonathan Hawkins: "Strangely quite a lot of analysis has been  published on this position, even though White is winning very easily." John Bartholomew drew extensively from his study of Hawkins’ recent book “Amateur to IM” in his presentation, asserting that extensively studying fundamental endgames (as Hawkins recommends) is one of the best way to study chess.
67.f4 Rc5 68.Ra3
Covering g3. There is absolutely no rush for White.
68...Rc7 69.Kg7 Rd7 70.f5
Destroying the Black kingside construction.
70...gxf5 71.Kh6 f4 72.gxf4 Rd5 73.Kg7 Rf5 74.Ra4 Kb5 75.Re4 Ka6 76.Kh6

The a-pawn has performed admirably in its diversionary role, so White lets it 'retire'.
76...Rxa5 77.Re5 Ra1 78.Kxh5 Rg1 79.Rg5 Rh1 80.Rf5 Kb6 81.Rxf7 Kc6 82.Re7

Cutting the Black king off and ensuring an easy win. Capabalanca resigned. 1–0

Then, John used Botvinnik-Borisenko to demonstrate how the weaker side can implement the active plan of gaining kingside counterplay, partly based on a less than ideal pawn structure for the attacking side.

Botvinnik vs. Borisenko, USSR Championship, 1955


This ending is extremely similar to Alekhine - Capablanca. Here we'll see the defending side successfully implement the 'active' plan of creating an imbalance on the kingside and attacking the resulting pawn weaknesses. For now, White must blockade the a-pawn.
Correct is 45...Kg7, following the example of Alekhine - Capablanca. Black should still be winning here, HOWEVER you should recognize that the structure f6/g6/h5 is weaker and gives the defending side more chances to draw. Having a firm pawn base on f7 (or f2, as Alekhine did) is HUGE in these endings.

Botvinnik was a connoisseur of rook endings, and he doesn't miss his chance for counterplay. White intends g3–g4, fracturing Black's structure. His own structure will be damaged in the process, but that's a small price to pay to prevent Black from executing the kingside march seen in Alekhine - Capablanca.
46...Kf5 47.g4+ hxg4?! 48.fxg4+ Ke5 49.h4 Kd5 50.h5 gxh5 51.gxh5 Ke6 52.h6 Kf7 53.Rg4!


Cutting the Black king off from the h-pawn.
53...Kf8 54.Rf4 Ra6 55.Rg4 Ra7 56.Rf4 Kg8 57.Rxf6 a4 58.Rf2 Kh7 59.Ra2 Kxh6 60.Kf2 Kg5 61.Ke3 ½–½

John’s expertise in these endings was evident, as was the enjoyment he derived from sharing it. Later in the day he presided over a puzzle solving competition, a winning plan in any group of hyper-competitive, ultra-strong young chess players!
Justus Williams at the 22nd US Chess School, Photo Elizabeth Spiegel

Alex Stripunsky

On the last day, it was GM Alex Stripunsky’s turn. Knowing that many of the coaches had worked extensively on theoretical endgames, Alex focused his morning session on dynamic factors. He led the students through a series of positions where one side has a lead in development and requires energetic action to profit from this imbalance.

Alex knew students would be familiar with the following example, but used it for its instructive value: The theme of a pawn breakthrough in the center followed by an attacking knight move is a key theme he emphasized throughout the class.

Steinitz vs. Von Bardelben, 1895


1.d5! cxd5 2.Nd4 Kf7 3.Ne6 Rhc8 4.Qg4 g6 5.Ng5+ Ke8 6.Rxe7+ Kf8 7.Rf7+ Kg8 8.Rg7+ Kh8 9.Rxh7+ Kg8 10.Rg7+ Kh8 11.Qh4+ Kxg7 12.Qh7+ Kf8 13.Qh8+ Ke7 14.Qg7+ Ke8 15.Qg8+ Ke7 16.Qf7+ Kd8 17.Qf8+ Qe8 18.Nf7+ Kd7 19.Qd6# 1–0

Fast forward almost 100 years, and we will see another world champion using the same theme.

Tal vs. Chandler, 1982


Alex challenged students to find the strongest continuation here.
14.d5! exd5
14...Bxf1 15.dxe6 fxe6 (15...Bb5 16.exf7+ Kf8 17.Nd4) 16.Qxf1 Qc7 17.Nd4±
15.Nd4 Rc8 16.exd5 cxd5 17.Re1 0–0 18.Bxd5 Bd6 19.Ne6 fxe6 20.Bxe6+ Kh8 21.Qxd6 Bb5 22.Qxb4 Bxa4 23.Qxa4+– and white went on to win.

Throughout his session, Alex was equally focused on the content and the students, making sure to involve a variety of voices and regularly probe thinking. The level of engagement sustained on the last day of camp reflected this.

The following example was particularly eye-catching:

Kramnik vs. Beliavsky, 1995


12.e4!! fxe4 13.Ng5
hopefully this theme is becoming familiar by now!
13...Qxg5 14.Nxe4 Qe7 15.Bg5 Qf8 (15...Nf6 16.Nxf6+ gxf6 17.Bxh6) 16.Qxd5 exd5 17.Nxd6#; 13...Qe7 14.Nxe6 Bf7 15.Nxg7+ Kf8 16.Nxe4 Kxg7 17.Bg5 Qf8 18.Bxh6+ Kxh6 19.Qe3+ Kg7 20.Qg5+ Bg6 21.Nxd6 Qxd6 22.Re7+
14.Ndxe4 dxe4 15.Nxe6 Bxe6 16.Qxe6+ Qe7 17.Rxe4 Kd8 18.Qd5 1–0

Students spent quite some time calculating the following position, eventually reaching the full solution with a form of collective analysis.

Vaganian vs. Nikolic, 1985


12.e6! Bxe6 13.axb5 axb5 14.Ne5 Bd5 15.Bxd5 Qxd5 16.Rxa8 Qxa8
So far so good, but now what? Remember that the students didn’t have the benefit of moving the pieces from move 12.
17.Qg4 e6 18.Qh5! g6 19.Nxg6 hxg6

19...fxg6 20.Qe5 Rg8 21.Qxe6+ is the key idea
20.Qxh8 and white went on to win.

Alex also showed a complete game by Grandmaster Michael Adams, one that he said cannot be found in the databases. My notes are frequently directly from Alex’s comments.

Williams vs. Adams

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nc6 4.d3 Bc5 5.f4 0–0 6.f5

White is trying to limit the mobility of c8 Bishop, but it's another pawn move, another loss of tempo. After the previous examples, the refutation looks quite natural!
6...d5! 7.Nxd5
7.Bxd5 Nxd5 8.Nxd5 Bxf5 9.exf5 Qxd5
7...Nxe4  8.dxe4 Qh4+ 9.Kd2 Bxf5
Black has completed development and connected the rooks, resolving the strategic issues of the opening.
10.Bd3 Bxe4 11.g3 Qg5+ 12.Ke1 Qf5 13.Qe2 Bxd3 14.cxd3 Nd4 15.Qd1 Qd7 16.Nc3 Qc6 17.Ne4 Bb6 All the white pieces are passive; white resigned. 0-1

The USCS continues to be the greatest opportunity available to top American youngsters. As Greg recently noted on his blog, the recent US Junior Closed was composed exclusively of students who have attended the school. Greg has bigger plans for the future, envisioning more regular meetings (6-10 a year) around the country. Supporters of American chess, stay tuned!