21 October 2020

Video completed: "Why You Should Always Muddy the Waters When Losing" by Tatev Abrahamyan

"Why You Should Always Muddy the Waters When Losing" is the eighth video in the Chess.com series by Tatev Abrahamyan. This is an excellent practical idea, both for while you are at the chessboard and to keep in mind during post-game analysis of your own games. You do not in fact get any points for losing more correctly, as the engine analysis scores of your games might imply. So to give yourself a chance to turn the game around - which means giving your opponent more chances to blunder - you may need to take more risks, in order to make your opponent's path to victory less clear. Specifically, this involves trying to generate the possibility of some counterplay, in order to complicate the situation. (This idea is also closely allied to the art of swindling.)

The first example is from a classic game, Amos Burn - Frank Marshall. Marshall, in trouble, gave up a rook on a8 (which wasn't doing anything anyway) in order to open up the center and further expose White's king. Black is lost in the long term, in terms of counting material, but moves in the short term from defender to attacker and effectively takes the White queen out of the game. Abrahamyan points out that for psychological reasons, these kinds of inflection points in games can sometimes trigger immediate blunders, since your opponent will have trouble adapting to the new situation and mentally switching gears.

The second example is GM Nana Dzagnidze - GM Marie Sebag, from the 2019 Cairns Cup. Here Black's position is "miserable", with one bishop completely out of the game in the corner and the other not doing much, with White about to penetrate on the queenside threatening to win a pawn. Instead of opting for static defense and continued positional torture, Black sacrifices a knight for two center pawns, immediately giving her excellent control of central space and activating her two bishops. Again, White goes from attacker to defender and has to completely rethink things. In the actual game, White eventually won, but as Abrahamyan puts it, Black was at least alive for much longer and was playing for three results rather than just two (loss or draw, with no counterchances).

The last example is IM Davaademberel Nomin-Erdene - GM Irina Krush (the video graphic intro reverses the order, although the audio makes it clear Krush has the Black pieces), from the 2018 Olympiad. Black is up a pawn, but similar to the previous example she has a bishop locked away at a8 and White is bearing down on the queenside, this time with two advanced connected passed pawns. Black (according to post-game discussions) felt she had messed up the game and just making natural moves would lose. Black pitched a pawn to try and gain activity, which gave White the opportunity to capture it with the wrong piece. Because of this, Black was able to sacrifice a second pawn, opening up her bishop on the long diagonal and getting her queen into a kingside attack, after which White blundered under pressure.

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