An Annotated Training Game

Stephen, with assistance from Spohn and other SM members

Recently a new Unrated Standard option was introduced to the ever expanding list of variants supported by SchemingMind. Unrated Standard is simply a normal game of chess but one in which the result does not affect the rating of either player. Spohn and I decided to use this new facility to play a training game in which we openly and frankly annotated each move played and invited anyone else watching the game to add their thoughts. The purpose of this article is to provide a report on the game, hopefully providing a coherent record of the main comments made and possibly providing a useful training resource for others.

02/09/2005

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The classic text 'Logical Chess Move by Move' by Irving Chernev adopts the approach of presenting a series of games, annotating each move played. This tried and trusted method has recently been adopted by GM Neil McDonald in his book 'Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking'. This article attempts to follow that format, although it is accepted that the players involved are a very long way short of grandmaster standard and so our annotations won't contain anything like as much insight as Chernov's but somebody might find something useful or even amusing in them.

Enough of the preamble, here's what happened when Spohn had the White pieces against Stephen...

1. e4

White chooses the King's Pawn opening hoping that the board will become open, with his pieces moving freely in beautiful attacks. Too early for that of course, but nobody could argue with White's choice of first move!

1... d5

Not surprisingly Black doesn't want to fall in with White's plans for a beautiful attack! This move takes us into the Scandinavian or Centre-Counter defence which although slightly less common than some other Black defences to 1. e4 is certainly respectable - it was played by Anand against Kasparov in one of their 1995 PCA World Championship games (although Kasparov did win that game) and has been played by many other top Grandmasters. Interestingly in Britain there have been no fewer than three books published on the defence in the last few months (one by IM Andrew Martin, one by GM James Plaskett and one by GM John Emms) although I haven't read any of them yet! It is worth noting that there are strong players who regard the Scandinavian as an inferior defence (including GM Nigel Short) and this view was restated in the Chess Chat forum during this game but to my knowledge the opening has not yet been refuted at the top level.

Another point worth bearing in mind is that by playing the Scandinavian, Black is taking the game down a line that he chooses. In my view this may give him a significant advantage if it turns out that he knows his chosen defence better than his opponent.

2. exd5

White could think about moves like 2.e5 or 2.Nc3 but the move played is by far the most frequently encountered response.

2... Qxd5

At this point Black has two main options. The more attacking Black player might opt for 2...Nf6 treating the lost d-pawn as a gambit pawn and getting on with developing his pieces as quickly as possible. He will try to build up an attack while White spends time trying to hold onto his extra pawn. In this game Black opts for the more positional 2...Qxd5.

Many players are taught early in their chess careers to avoid developing their queen prematurely and so how can it be right for Black to move his queen to the centre of the board as early as move 2? It is in fact this aspect of the defence which causes many players to regard it as inferior.

On the other hand Black knows the dangers of this move and expects to lose at least one tempo when his queen is harassed by White's normal developing move of Nc3. However he hopes that by playing this line he will be able to build up a solid position and freely develop his other pieces - note for example how his first move (1...d5) cleared the way for development of his light squared bishop along the c8 to h3 diagonal. We'll see how this theory stands up as we get further into the game.

3. Nc3

Sound opening play by White. If you can develop one of your pieces and threaten one of your opponent's pieces at the same time then that is usually a good idea - your opponent will probably have to lose time reacting to the threat rather than developing as he wishes.

3... Qa5

The move played is by far the commonest in the position and at least leaves the queen on a reasonably safe square (for the moment). On the plus side for Black the queen is on the same diagonal as White's king; she also may hinder White's development by discouraging (but not totally preventing) d4; finally a5 is not a square Black intends to move his minor pieces to and so the queen is in play without hindering development.

3...Qd8 has also been played but seems unattractive psychologically, the queen returning to base 'with her tail between her legs'. Another consideration might be that in some Scandinavian lines the queen may be better away from d8 so that Black can castle queenside.

3...Qd6 is possible but on the d6 square the queen may interfere with the future development of Black's dark squared bishop.

The general consensus from people watching the game was that 3...Qe5+ has little to recommend it; White will perhaps block the check with Be2 and then harass the queen again with Nf3 (although 4.Be2 c6 5.Nf3 Qc7 may not be too bad for Black).

4. Nf3

This is a straightforward developing move by White. Against the Scandinavian Spohn likes to get a rook to e1 as soon as possible and so often chooses to delay the d4 push until after castling. 4. d4 is another popular choice here, staking a claim for central territory and allowing later development of the dark squared bishop. One advantage of White delaying movement of his d-pawn is that in some lines he can play d3 if Black develops his light squared bishop to f5. Obviously this would have the effect of limiting the effectiveness of Black's bishop.

4... Nf6

This is probably the most common move in the current position, a natural developing move.

5. Bc4

Spohn commented that this is his favourite developing move. The bishop is unprotected at the moment but its development allows White to play a later d3 if appropriate without worrying about blocking it in. It is worth noting that the bishop is eyeing the f7 square which in many games is a weak point and hence a target for White forces.

5... c6

Black has an interesting choice of moves here and it helps to be reasonably familiar with the Scandinavian to be able to assess each of them. Black plays 5...c6 with two main points in mind. Firstly it opens up an escape route to c7 or d8 for his exposed queen should she need it. Secondly players of the Scandinavian need to be aware of the danger if White plays d4 and is then able to play d5, forcing open the centre when White is ahead on development and Black hasn't castled; in simple terms Black will probably be routed and so here 5...c6 is bolstering the defence of the d5-square before White can threaten to get there.

As an alternative Black could consider 5...Bf5 (which is a very common move in the Scandinavian but can be blunted by White playing d3 as mentioned in a previous note) or 5...Bg4, but since Black isn't sure exactly where the bishop should go at this stage he chooses a more flexible move. 5...Nc6 would be undesirable (because it gets in the way of the useful ...c6 move), as would 5...Nbd7 (blocking in Black's own light squared bishop). 5...e6 would be counter to the whole purpose of Black's opening; he has sacrificed tempo by exposing his queen in order to achieve easy development and then this careless move blocks in his light squared bishop.

6. O-O

White continues with his plan of castling and then moving his rook to e1 to claim the semi-open e-file.

6... Bg4

It is 'make you mind up time' for Black's light squared bishop. I suspect that both 6...Bg4 and 6...Bf5 are playable here and frankly I don't know which is best!

7. d3

Spohn chose 7. d3 here because he wanted to keep a solid pawn chain and had no intention of playing c3 later to connect with a pawn on d4. The move played releases White's dark squared bishop, while protecting his light squared bishop. Also White wants to show that Black is behind in development and one possible way of doing this would be to get his rooks connected and maybe even doubled on the e-file.

7... e6

Looking at things from Black's perspective, 7.d3 looks very solid but doesn't challenge for central space in the way that 7.d4 would. Again Black seems to have two obvious developing moves here - 7...Nbd7 or 7...e6 (freeing the dark squared bishop). Black chose 7...e6 because he felt a need to get his king off the half-open e-file as soon as possible. Playing for a king-side fianchetto after 7...g6 may be too slow when Black is already behind in development. Another advantage to 7...e6 over 7...g6 is that it reduces the scope of the bishop on c4 and protects the vulnerable f7 square.

8. Bd2

The d2 square doesn't seem a particularly active location for the bishop in the long term, although it does make Black's queen feel a little uncomfortable in the short term.

During the game Spohn mentioned the possibility of pushing his f-pawn to forcibly open the e-file but this plan never got off the drawing board!

8... Nbd7

The alternative line 8...Qh5 9.Ne4 Bxf3 10.Qxf3 Qxf3 11.gxf3 is worth looking at for Black because the pawn structure in front of White's castled king could be compromised. However that in isolation wouldn't be a decisive advantage for Black and so he decided it would be better to stick to normal Scandinavian opening principles.

While this position isn't a common one, White's last move provides an example of an idea which is very common in the Scandinavian. The idea is for White to move his c3-knight (perhaps to d5 or e4), discovering an attack on the Black queen by the bishop on d2. While Black is keeping his queen safe, White hopes to profit by causing some mischief with the knight. There are however other positions arising from the Scandinavian in which this idea is of more significance because in this position it doesn't appear to be too dangerous for Black. Hence Black simply tries to carry on developing and avoid losing any further tempo.

9. Nd5

White forces Black's queen back to d8. However this knight move is not so much of an attack but a repositioning to e3 where it will be more centralized while freeing White's bishop to go to c3. It also gets out of the way of White's queenside pawns so that White can consider a pawn storm on that wing if Black castles queenside.

9... Qd8

9...Qd8 seems to be the obvious move that I would play in an over-the-board game. However 9...Bxf3 might be interesting option.

10. Ne3

White continues with the re-location of his knight as discussed. From e3 it should be ready for action on either side of the board if needed.

10... Bh5

Black doesn't particularly want to exchange his developed bishop for one of White's knights at this stage. The position is interesting because although Black is behind in development (White has all his minor pieces off the back rank and has castled; Black's dark squared bishop hasn't yet moved) there are no obvious weaknesses in the Black position and therefore he hopes to be able to hold his own.

11. a4

Spohn's idea was to try and provoke Black into making a move that would undermine his now sound position. At this point White wasn't concerned about where Black castled; if Black castles long then White is ready to launch a pawn storm on the queenside and if Black castles short then White has both knights on the kingside so that attack should be possible on that wing. Another point to a4 is that it stops Black from attacking White's light-squared bishop with ...b5 (after which the bishop might have had to retreat to b3 making it harder for White to whip up an effective and speedy pawn storm).

Whilst in itself 11.a4 probably isn't a bad move, White now runs into problems because he has neglected to fully consider what Black might do next. It could well be that 11.d4 is the best move for White in the position, cutting out any chance of Black's next move and gaining some central space.

11... Ne5

Black is keen to complete development, and so a move like 11...Bd6 appears to be called for in this position. However he is attracted to the possibility of disrupting the pawns in front of White's king with 11...Ne5 (followed by Nxf3).

Black could have done something similar at an earlier stage of the game but it somehow seems a better option now because the queens will remain on the board. In fact Black's queen may be in a strong position for attacking the White king. Since there is no immediate threat to Black's position, that's what he decided to go for.

12. b4

During the game Spohn was not overly concerned about his pawns getting disrupted since he felt that White was still ahead in development and if Black castled kingside White would then have the half-open g-file to attack the castled position. In the meantime White could continue with his idea of opening up the queenside.

12... Bd6

Disrupting White's pawns can wait. Black's perspective on the position after this move is that in practice, White probably does not have a significant development lead. Black still has a compact position with no obvious weaknesses. There is a danger that if White spends too many moves trying to open up the board, Black will have finished development and his pieces may be as well placed as White's to take advantage of the open lines. It just shows that chess involves a lot of opinions and judgements; we'll see how it goes...

13. b5

White is still just trying to open up some lines in the board. He feels that development is equal apart from the White castled king and the game board looks equal. Perhaps if this were a GM game, the players would shake hands and go grab a drink?

Or maybe not...

13... Nxf3+

Black is not so sure that the position is equal. He is beginning to think that he might be able to attack on the kingside - after the move played White's doubled f-pawns will get in the way of the defence of his king. Black's king is still uncastled but he is under no threat at the moment.

14. gxf3

In this phase of the game I think it is fair to say that White underestimated Black's attacking potential. He felt that the half-open g-file would help him just as much to attack Black's kingside. He also noted that Black had moved a knight three times to capture a White knight that had moved only once. He conceded that the doubled pawns would have to be dealt with but maybe by sacrificing the forward one later in the game.

14... Ne4!

This was a move that Black enjoyed playing and one that White had missed. It clears a path for the queen's re-emergence, this time aggressively on the kingside. It seems likely that White should avoid taking the knight with either pawn. Obviously if 15.fxe4, Black will respond 15...Bxd1. On the other hand if 15.dxe4, then 15...Qh4 looks very dangerous with immediate mate threatened on h2. Of course if White doesn't take the knight then a number of other tactics come into play.

In fact White's best chance of survival is probably to play 15.Ng2 but even that doesn't look very palatable (e.g. 15.Ng2 Bxf3 16.Qxf3 Nxd2 17.Qe3 Nxf1 18.Rxf1).

15. dxe4

White felt that he would get a knight for a couple of pawns but had missed a trick.

15... Qh4

The queen takes up a very aggressive position. Black is hoping that if the king 'escapes' to e2 then he will be able to arrange to play ...Bxf3+ winning the White queen.

16. Re1

White has to try and make an escape route for his king.

16... Qxh2+

After 17.Kf1 Qh3+ White has major problems. If 18.Ke2 then 18...Bxf3+ as discussed above, winning the White queen. If 18.Ng2 to block the check then 18...Bxf3 again and Black will win material. If 18.Kg1 then mate is inevitable after 18...Bh2+. At this point White resigned.

Looking at the game afterwards I felt that there were two fairly clear general lessons to be learned from the game.

  1. Firstly Black played an opening which invariably gives White an early lead in development. The game only lasted 16 moves, so what happened to White's development lead? I think that the important thing to note is that a development lead is a good thing to have but it is a transient advantage and you must use it or expect to lose it. In the game White lost his development lead by making pawn moves on the queenside (however well intentioned) which gave Black time to catch up with the development of his pieces. If White had ever managed to open up the board, it is likely that Black's pieces would have been as well placed to capitalise as White's. White needed to try and find some way of keeping Black on the back foot so that he did not find time to complete his development efficiently. Of course it may not be possible for White to achieve this objective if Black plays well but then again the player with the White pieces has not divine right to win a game of chess!
  2. Secondly White decided on a plan and then stuck to it without fully considering and responding to what Black was doing. I am all for playing attacking chess when the opportunity arises but I do not think that attacks can be played just because a player decides to play one; in some ways you have to earn the right to launch a successful attack. In this game White felt he had the right to attack because he had a development lead but he should have borne in mind that actually Black had no particular weakness to attack. It is likely that White was so busy trying to attack on the queenside that he did not properly anticipate Black's moves on the kingside and the end result was that Black won the game before White's queenside pawns had any impact whatsoever.

I hope that this article proves to be of some interest to some of our chess friends on SchemingMind. Please give us some feedback if you did enjoy either the game or the article, who knows we might do it all again some time!

Books referred to in this article

From Amazon.co.uk

Irving Chernev, Logical Chess Move by Move
Neil McDonald, Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking
Andrew Martin, The Essential Center Counter: A Practical Guide for Black
James Plaskett, The Scandinavian Defence
John Emms, The Scandinavian

From Amazon.com

Irving Chernev, Logical Chess Move by Move
Neil McDonald, Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking
Andrew Martin, The Essential Center Counter: A Practical Guide for Black
James Plaskett, The Scandinavian Defence
John Emms, The Scandinavian

Link to the game

Annotated Training Game

Comments

AuthorComment
nasmichael
02/10/2005 06:15
This is a great use of the Journal to increase conversations about the games.

ConspTheory06
02/10/2005 22:36
Yeah Stephen did awesome even if you were getting help from my bro ;)
Alopinto
02/11/2005 22:17
Oh brother... I am going to be hated after this one... :(

1.On the moves

The idea is very good but some of the moves deserved more explanations in my humble opinion:

White could think about moves like 2.e5 or 2.Nc3 but the move played is by far the most frequently encountered response.


Yes, of course White could have considered these moves. The problem is that they are not as principled as the 2.exd5. The authors should have deepened in these alternatives and take a stance explaining why is A better than C, D, or X. For instance, 2.e5 allows Black to do 2...Bf5 and he would have a French without the trouble of the light squared bishop or 2...c6 entering a Caro Kann that should not be troublesome for Black... In any case, I believe that more explaining was needed in this move.

A similar comment goes for the second move by Black. 2...exd5 aims at undermining the occupation of the center by White allowing a tempo loss. The alternative 2...Nf6 should have also been explained a bit more.

Now, on the third move by White there is also 3.Nf3 which although doesn't chases the queen is a sound alternative (Alburt) Similarly, against 3...Qd8 it is very hard for White to prove an advantage (see Shamkovich at Chesslife Nov, Dec 1997)

Surprisingly, many comentators miss the point of playing 4.Nf3 before 4.d4. After 4.d4 Black has the option of 4...e5 which is, to say the least, very annoying. With 4.Nf3 White prevents it, as after 4...e5 White plays 5.Bc4! (and that's all I have got to say!)

The authors didn't mention 5.d4 which is the normal move here. 5.Bc4 is premature in my humble opinion because the bishop doesn't really know where to go yet... But that's just an opinion...

2.Regarding the game in general

In general, in my opinion, White played passively the opening and didn't test Black's set-up. Castling short in the Scandinavian is in my opinion a no-no for White.

The fact that there are no question marks or exclams is also a point that deserves to be mentioned. These marks guide the reader through the game and are warning signals.

3.Literature cited

I would also like to say that it would have been nice to see the resources that the players explored and quoted some games as part of sharing chess culture with the readers (this is a correspondence game and as such deserves more anotations.) The sources that the players mention in the article are very important works but saying something like:

Interestingly in Britain there have been no fewer than three books published on the defence in the last few months (one by IM Andrew Martin, one by GM James Plaskett and one by GM John Emms) although I haven't read any of them yet!


leads me to conclude that they should have not been included in the biography... More so when the opening was played, in my opinion, irregularly by White.

The idea of producing this article is fantastic but more research should have been provided (it is a correspondence game after all!) Also, it seemed to me that the authors were afraid to be self-critical of their moves.

Spohn02/11/2005 23:04 I would like to point out that all of these annotations were made during the course of the game not afterwords, which means that if we were criticizing our moves then we wouldnt have made them then.
It should be noted that the article was not a critic(spelling) of the Scandinavian Defense it was just an annotated game that we played. Also your points on the scandinavian are also very uneducated and unbacked! First of all the game we played didnt have 2.e5 or any other move and so since they werent entirely relevant we didnt include them. Also 3.Nc3 is pretty much the only move played at the top level. I just checked my database websites that I use (Chessgames having the biggest one) and it had 1356 games where 3.Nc3 were played and only 50 in which 3.Nf3 was played. Again Castling short is not wrong in the Scandinavian, in fact castling short and quick is quite often played!
You also tried to point out that Stephen did not include the names of the books he used, yet if you had actually read the whole article they are listed with links at the bottom. And to make it clearer that you did not actually look at the article you missed 14...Ne4!.
If you want to help the process of our games annotations I would invite you to come and annotate while we play. We are playing another one http://schemingmind.com/game.aspx?game_id=8625
Alopinto02/12/2005 00:21Spohn,

Easy... I meant no harm... Please don't feel attacked... Let me clarify what I stated in my comments and let us be gracious about this...

I would like to point out that all of these annotations were made during the course of the game not afterwords, which means that if we were criticizing our moves then we wouldnt have made them then.


So while writing the article why not be critical about the moves already made? The game was already over so why not acknowledge mistakes made and show the theory of the Scandinavian? Showing other ideas in the game after de facto in a publication is a sign that you guys did your homework and even read the treaties that you mention alternatives are pointed out in the opening.

Also your points on the scandinavian are also very uneducated and unbacked! First of all the game we played didnt have 2.e5 or any other move and so since they werent entirely relevant we didnt include them.


But in one of your notes to the moves you say:

White could think about moves like 2.e5 or 2.Nc3 but the move played is by far the most frequently encountered response.


So you did mention these alternatives in the notes and I was merely suggesting expanding the explanation! Nothing more, nothing less! Also, I didn't claim that I am an expert of the Scandinavian and my comment of your article can hardly be the space to discuss this opening thoroughly.

In general, in my opinion, White played passively the opening and didn't test Black's set-up. Castling short in the Scandinavian is in my opinion a no-no for White.


Is what I said and please notice the wording of my comment and you will see "IN MY OPINION" I didn't say that castling short isn't valid (of course is legal...) but that I consider it not to be optimal in this opening.

Also 3.Nc3 is pretty much the only move played at the top level. I just checked my database websites that I use (Chessgames having the biggest one) and it had 1356 games where 3.Nc3 were played and only 50 in which 3.Nf3 was played. Again Castling short is not wrong in the Scandinavian, in fact castling short and quick is quite often played!


Fair enough. My source is this book:

"The Chess Advantage in Black and White : Opening Moves of the Grandmasters (Mckay Chess Library)"
by IM LARRY KAUFMAN

In there, the alternative 3.Nf3 is discussed thoroughly... Offbeat and less played than 3.Nc3? Yes... A valid alternative to 3.Nc3? By all means!

You also tried to point out that Stephen did not include the names of the books he used, yet if you had actually read the whole article they are listed with links at the bottom.


There is a misunderstanding here: I saw the links at the bottom of the article and read the entire article. What I don't understand is that if some of the sources were not consulted during the course of the game, why were they listed? Notice the contradiction:

Interestingly in Britain there have been no fewer than three books published on the defence in the last few months (one by IM Andrew Martin, one by GM James Plaskett and one by GM John Emms) although I haven't read any of them yet!


You say that you haven't read those books but then you add them as the biography for your article!

Andrew Martin, The Essential Center Counter: A Practical Guide for Black
James Plaskett, The Scandinavian Defence
John Emms, The Scandinavian


My comment was more in the lines of citing concrete games of master practice that had the same opening moves that are cited. That's all...

And to make it clearer that you did not actually look at the article you missed 14...Ne4!.


How do you know that I missed 14...Ne4! from my comment to your article? :-)


If you want to help the process of our games annotations I would invite you to come and annotate while we play. We are playing another one http://schemingmind.com/game.aspx?game_id=8625


I am afraid that your answer to my comments to your article makes me feel discouraged to participate in such an interesting exercise... I meant no harm in commenting on your article and consider it a great idea but I am sorry that you took my comments as an attack...

I am sorry if I inconvenienced you in any way with my opinions

Austin
02/12/2005 23:50
OK... first of all - this is a great article by Stephen and Spohn, just the kind of thing I set the journal up for.

Writing an article here *is* difficult (anyone who thinks it isn't is welcome to try) - the three months of full membership (worth a paltry £2.50 or $5) are token compared to the effort required. Remember, these articles are in the public part of the site so are not confined to SM members, but they are also indexed by search engines and are therefore visible to the world (many of the previous articles we have published here appear on the first page for relevant Google searches - above far more professionally written articles).

None of us here are master level players, neither are we professional chess journalists. My criteria for including an article in the journal is only that it has been well considered and thoughtfully written, criteria which this article clearly meets. Yes, it has faults and omissions (but it's better than anything I could do!) - and the reason there is a feedback section on this page is so that these can be discussed in a constructive and supportive manner... but let's try and keep our expectations of the articles published here in the context of an amateur site!

To answer one specific point, I added the book references at the end of the article after it was submitted to me (in the hope of boosting my commision from Amazon sales!) - this section was not added by the authors.
ConspTheory0602/13/2005 00:32My bad i thought Stephen had added them :)
mikhailtal02/26/2005 14:542....Nf6 is a better move in my opinion. I tried to hold on to my pawn in a couple of games and got mushed. If you let the pawn go and play d4 and c4 it's quite tricky positional stuff for white, no obvious attacking moves.
mikhailtal02/27/2005 11:11Regarding d3 in the game, it seems to invite Bg4 and cause all sorts of problems for white. d4 is a much better move as it allows Qd3 at some point, unpinning the knight if necessary and controlling e4.
ConspTheory0602/28/2005 00:48Yes i agree with both ..Nf6 and ...d4 instead of what was played in the game.

 
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