One of the hardest things to do in chess is for a junior to actually beat a good player even though he may have a “winning” position.
At the start of the game the good player is expected to beat you and the game is played out on that basis. You have nothing to lose so perhaps you go for a wild attack … perhaps you get lucky and get a winning position … then something strange happens. Suddenly the roles are reversed! You have the won game and are now expected to win. You tense up in expectation of this major upset. You don’t want to spoil your win so suddenly you start playing safe instead of pushing home the attack. Your opponent switches into “swindle mode” and starts trying to set you problems. Your time is running down. A crowd is gathering around. The pressure mounts.
Of course you can guess what happens. You make a mistake, perhaps only a small one. You overlook a trick and your opponent escapes with a draw … or worse still hits you with an unforeseen tactic and you snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The good player has no doubt been in this position many times before and knows how to make it hard for you. That’s why he is a good player. Still it is a valuable lesson to be learnt on the path to becoming a chess master.
I showed some of my students an example of this from one of Luke Li’s games in the Box Hill Championships the other day. Luke was a passed pawn down with no attack and his opponent’s pieces were all well placed. He should have lost but his opponent was too desperate to try to exchange queens and soon gave Luke counter-play. I gave my student’s Luke’s opponent’s position to play out … and of course they too lost rapidly! They just didn’t come up with the correct plan and then allowed their opponent to create chances. A valuable lesson that has been dealt out many, many times over the years.
Last week’s column was about Frank Marshall, one of the top players in the world in the early 20th century, and in today’s puzzle Marshall found himself with an easily lost game against a lesser player – the British master Yates. Did Marshall lose? Did he draw … or perhaps even snatch an unlikely win?
Let’s find out. It’s White to play. See if you can beat the American grandmaster.