19 August 2020

Video completed: "Why You Should Always Have a Plan" by Tatev Abrahamyan


"Why You Should Always Have a Plan" is the seventh video in the Chess.com series by Tatev Abrahamyan. I've resumed going through them after being distracted by various things. The main point of this lesson is to continue to actively plan at all stages of the game, including while playing with a winning advantage. In other words, don't just assume that once you achieve a comfortable position, even one where you should win, you can just coast for the rest of the game.

The first example game is Akobian-Caruana from the 2017 U.S. Championship. Caruana is up two connected passed pawns in the late middlegame, which should be enough to win. A apparently careless move by Black drops a pawn, then after a rook exchange they end up in a Q+N endgame with just the one extra passed pawn for Caruana - which again should be enough to win. Black passes up a chance to grab back a pawn and then White is able to get an annoying pin on his knight. Getting out of this, Black opens himself up for a knight sac tactic that would result in a perpetual check. White did not in fact play this, which turns out to be lucky for him, as later Black blunders and drops his knight, losing. It's not mentioned whether the two are in time trouble or not - which seems likely - but the game is still a good illustration of why even strong players cannot simply go on autopilot with what should be a winning advantage.

The second game is GM Alejandro Ramirez vs. GM Le Quang Liem, from round 5 of the 2019 Gibraltar Masters tournament. Abrahamyan points out how White followed an incorrect plan in the early middlegame starting on move 15, moving his knights without much purpose around the queenside instead of focusing on available kingside targets, with complex play. The outcome was poor placement of the White knights and giving some free improving moves for Black, who then was able to target White's weaknesses and collapse his position relatively quickly.

The final example is FM Carissa Yip - FM Annie Wang from the 2019 U.S. Women's Championship. Abrahamyan highlights how well White has set herself up in this Classical Sicilian, but in the middlegame she does not find a good plan to go from there. Black in contrast has a clear plan to play on the queenside, attacking White's castled king position. White decides to force the issue in the center, where she has built up her forces, but the resulting exchanges actually give Black better central pawn control and free up her pieces as well. The resulting attack is instructive, with Black bringing all her pieces into play while White's pieces all end up on the kingside, providing little help.

In each example game there are opportunities to pause and look at some key positions, which helps make the lessons more engaging beyond the overall theme, which underlines how drifting planless in the middlegame (or endgame) is a bad idea.

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