In my previous post I played a live game where I missed an opportunity to open the center for immediate material and positional gains. I just played another game with a similar theme, and I missed a key chance to open the center again–doh! (see video at bottom of this post for analysis)
The position in the beginning was quite interesting because I was playing an opponent who was intent on attacking my center and winning pawns–not bad things on their own, but after 12 moves, he still hadn’t moved a single kingside piece!
Take a look at the image below and see if you can find the winning continuation for white (the title of this post should give you a hint!). Note that the sequence of moves results in equal material, but Black’s resulting position is lost.
In the video below I show the winning continuation and provide some analysis of the game.
1. If your opponent’s King is in the center, look for ways to open the center and begin an attack. It doesn’t always work, so we shouldn’t force it, but this is a theme to look out for if your own king is safe or closer to being safe and if you have a lead in development and well-placed pieces. Opening the center tends to be even better when your opponent is very far away from castling, as in this game.
2. If you see a move that seems to fit with chess principles (in this case, opening the center when the position calls for it), but the move doesn’t seem to work at first, take some time to see if the move can be supported tactically, positionally, or both.
3. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice. Sacrifices in the early are often bad, but if you can generate a strong attack on your opponent’s king in the center, you will often be able to get your piece back or more. Of course, if you are going to sacrifice, you should usually have some concrete follow-up calculated to make sure it works.
4. Check to see whether you are really losing a piece. In this game, I saw that I would lose a piece in the critical continuation starting at move 13, so I immediately discarded the idea. However, if I had taken time to calculate the sequence afterwards, I probably would have seen the potential to get a winning position, and even get my piece back. You know you are in good shape when you have a huge attack and didn’t even have to sacrifice anything for it (in this case, the sacrifice was only temporary–for two moves).
5. Spend time on critical positions, even in blitz. This was a 5|0 game, but even in this time control, I could have spent another 30 seconds or so on the key move–I sensed that the position was critical, so that should have been a sign for me to slow down and try to find a win. Of course if you spend 2 minutes and don’t find a good move, then you’d be in trouble, but the better your sense becomes about when a position is critical, the more accurate your time investments will be. Here I simply played too quickly.