Game Spotlight: Know Your Middlegame Plans
While I’ve written before about how to learn an opening, it’s worth pointing out exactly why the focus should be on learning how to handle everything after the opening moves stop. As an example, we had a thematic tournament 2 years ago starting from this position (with Black to move at the “start” of the game):
This is the Sveshnikov Variation of the Sicilian Defence. The point of the thematic tournament (consisting of 3 rapid games) was to get some experience with this position, as it’s the most direct way to get this particular Sicilian pawn structure with pawns on d6 and e5. Unlike what you might expect from a Sicilian, there’s no crazy tactics here — at least not unless someone makes a mistake. Instead, this is a more technical position, requiring both sides to know how to handle the themes here: Black with the two Bishops, White with the Knight outpost. So I was surprised when in both of the games I where I was Black, play proceeded:
With White’s best piece gone, this is much easier to play for Black. In fact, there’s a simple plan that’s hard to stop (and that White shouldn’t allow in this kind of position), consisting of moves like …Rd8 and …Ne7 to force through …d5. So trading the Knight is a positional mistake.
This problem is not unusual among club players. As it turns out, it’s more useful to understand these positional ideas that show up in middlegames than it is to memorize opening moves. You can’t just sit down and randomly expect to play a position without any consideration of these things. Here’s another example, from the Kenya Premier Chess League:
If you want some practice in the Caro-Kann, you’re in luck. We’ve just announced a Caro-Kann thematic tournament in our Chess.com club. Sign up by April 1 to participate. In addition, with the COVID-19 situation, we’ve already had a blitz tournament and started a team tournament over there. Make sure to join the club if you don’t want to miss any upcoming events. And please, follow proper health guidelines at this time to protect yourself and those around you. Check with the most reliable information (which you can find on the World Health Organization’s page devoted to the pandemic), and don’t worry about looking silly. If the worst that happens is you looking a bit silly while taking proper precautions, that means it’s working. The faster we get transmissions under control, the sooner we can all get back to normal. We at Nairobi Chess Club look forward to bringing you the Le Pelley Cup as soon as it’s safe to do so.