This article is a follow-up on How To Deal With Mistakes In Chess-II
Reason 4: You insufficiently posed your opponent “real” problems
It is also important to pose “real” problems to your opponent. Real problems are not just problems that lead to a chess technical disadvantage for the opponent, but also problems that have a certain psychological effect, in other words: problems you can feel.
Of course it helps if you know your opponent and the openings and typical positions he dislikes. Choosing a lesser known system against his favorite opening f.i. can do wonders, since the opponent may think that the system you choose is your favorite and that you are probably knowledgeable about it, while he himself has more experience with the main lines and despite the knowledge that your line should not pose a real threat, has less experience with the position, thinks longer and starts to feel less and less easy. An example:
In this game White had chosen the Alapin (2.c3) to combat my Sicilian. His choice turned out well psychologically, because I hate this method and have considerably less experience with it than the Open Sicilian.
If Black does not react theoretically sharp enough, White will have the chance to bring his pieces onto good squares and create attacking chances. Something similar is the case in the diagrammed position.
The position is that of a typical Isonali with no pieces exchanged, which is in White’s favor. With some difficulty and clock time Black has managed to direct his pieces to decent squares, but for the moment must limit himself to a strategy of constraint because his light pieces may be well placed, they can also not be removed comfortably.
But that was asking too much of the second player, because with time trouble on his doorstep he wanted to liberate himself and join the party! There followed: 1…g6? It was better to wait with this weakening move until Ba2 would really appear on b1, for there was no threat yet. Now the bishop on a2 would seek his glory elsewhere. Necessary was the design of my own plan with: 1…Rc8 to pressure Whites center.
The game continued: 2.Qh3 (to drop a bomb on the white squares when given the chance, or also to launch a mating attack with Dh6 and Td3-h3). 2…Nh5? and suddenly Black cracks up! 3.Bxd5! And that too is a shot to remember!
Immediately I saw the lines and realized that I was lost instantly. My wish to exchange pieces had been so big that I had given into wantonness not to calculate any lines after 2…Ph5.
There followed: 3…Bxd5 4.Bxe7 Qxe7 5.Nxd5 exd5 6.Nxg6 Qxe1+ 7.Rxe1 hxg6 8.Qf3 and Black resigned. Not a chess technical victory, but a psychological one! This opponent had posed me real problems.
These are very instructive moments, because in this way you learn to value positions from both a technical and psychological point of view. And a next time I will know to “sit still” and gradually try to activate my heavy pieces with moves such as Rc8, Qd6 and a7-a6 to keep a white knight out of b5.
We have just seen an example on the psychological value of a certain choice of opening. This choice led to a feeling of uneasiness for the second player and was the cause of his loss. Also a more chess technical approach of “real problems” can contribute to your opponent’s discomfort, since everything has to do with pressurizing your opponent and that is exactly why there is such a thing as “The Theory”. After all, Theory decides which moves have been most suitable for creating winning chances throughout the years, and winning chances exist in a position where the opponent has to go by the abyss and that never feels nice!
I remember reading an interview in which IGM Jeroen Piket once stated that as a top player you have to play Theory. I belief that he said that because of the fact that less sharp ways of playing do no longer scare today’s top players either because of their amount of experience with them and subsequent comfort, or the fact that their chess technical abilities are such that less objective danger is easily kept at bay. A striking example of the height and importance of modern opening theory and it’s knowledge among top players can be seen in the following game:
Karjakin – Malinin, Sudak 2002
1. e4 Nc6
2. d4 e5
3. Nf3 exd4
4. Nxd4 Qh4
5. Nc3 Bb4
6. Be2 Nf6
7. 0-0 Bxc3
8. Nf5 Qxe4
9. Bd3 Qg4
10. f3 Qa4
11. bxc3 0-0
12. Nxg7!! Kxg7
13. Bh6+! Kxh6
14. Qd2+ Kh5
15. g4+ Nxg4
16. fxg4+ Qxg4+
17. Kh1 d6
18. Rf6 Qg5
19. Be2+ Bg4
And this could be the reason why 4…Qh4 in the Scottish game might not be the best move… Little Sergey, back then the world’s youngest Grandmaster with 12 years and 7 months, was well informed! And so Theory is a very good means to breath down your opponents neck!