Following games online is one of the newest and most effective methods of training for the busy chessplayer. When I say busy, I’m talking about people who can’t dedicate a lot of time to working on chess because of different reasons. The good thing about following games is that you can nowadays do it with ease, thus making use of all that time that is considered to be “wasted” time. For example, when traveling or when just sitting idle by the beach. In our articles for The Chess World we have recommended this method more than once. When you’re following a game you should not hurry and turn the engine on in order to entertain yourself, but you should try to learn, from theory to new ideas and patterns. I was glad to find out that Jacob Aagaard also recognizes this approach in his last book Thinking Inside The Box. He even goes further and suggests a deeper analysis of the games you are following, like writing down the moves you think about in each position and then test them with the engine.
I mostly work as a chess coach and my time for improving my own skills is limited. Following games on my favorite app ”Follow Chess” is sometimes the only activity I do. I also try to involve my students in this, by sharing the games I find interesting via WhatsApp, for example if it’s a game with the opening we have been studying or if the game has interesting middle game planning or tactics and so on. I find this way very effective to stay sharp!
Here are two examples from my own experience of how you can learn a lot from watching the little screen in your spare time.
— Johan Salomon (@JohanSalomon) July 27, 2017
That was a tweet from the norwegian strong IM Johan Salomon. I immediately looked at this game from Sitges Open on FollowChess and indeed, it was a very impressive king’s walk by Jorge Cori.
The story is that this game was played just a day before my first round game in Erice Open in Italy. It is always very important to win the first round, but it can sometimes get difficult since your brain has not warmed up enough yet, at least for me.
I was playing with black against Laura Gueci, one of two talented sisters and after several imprecision from both sides we reached this position:
I’m sure this position is a dead draw. Black can’t really break white’s defenses and dominating the dark squares is not enough. There are simply no knights, no pawn breaks and there is very little material to sacrifice. However, black can play for free for a while and here this is exactly what happened. I got the idea I had seen just the day before – I can go with my king all the way to a7 and then, maybe prepare Rh6-Rxh5 with the advance of g5-g4 and mate the white king. It had to be tried!
After some moves we reached the following position:
I wanted to play Rxh5 followed by g4 but it is not clear that it works. My opponent took my threat too serious and played 61.Rg1? which loses after 61…f3! After this pawn sacrifice the F file gets open (Rf7-Rhf6) and the attack is decisive.
I was able to use my knowledge gained from following games online again in this tournament a few rounds later.
I was playing Artem Gilevych, an Italian player who achieved the International Master title in this tournament. I won a pawn in the middlegame and we reached the following position:
I can win the pawn on a2 with Rc1 – Rc2+, then he will take on b6 and put the rook behind the A pawn. This is an endgame that deserves deeper analysis and one that I have no idea what the outcome is. Then again, I remembered one idea I had seen earlier this year in Gibraltar in one of my favorite player’s games. See the next diagram:
This was Kantor-Topalov from Gibraltar. I was impressed how Topalov played rather dull and it seemed that the draw could be a likely result. But then he won a pawn and won the endgame convincingly. That endgame got stuck in my mind for days; it is one of the exceptions when the rook behind the pawn may not be enough to make the draw. Topalov employed the following plan; he played:
1…Rb6! then after white played 2.Rd7 he played 2…a6. His position is like a fortress and he can improve his king easily, by just playing Kf6-Ke6 and if necessary he can play f5. The only weak point would be g6 but it is effortlessly defended by the rook on the sixth rank. The game went on like this:
Back to my endgame, what did I do? I played 1…Rc6! (The exclam mark is just for remembering what Topalov did, objectively I don’t know if there is anything better) My opponent seemed a bit frustrated and didn’t know what is going on so he started playing quick and soon we reached the next position:
Seems like it’s all over now. The black king is approaching the queenside and the pawns will start rolling. Even if white gets his king to g5 (which he did in the game) the idea of Rg7-Rxg6 never works, as the pawn endgame is lost.
So here it is, if you are the busy type like me, being addicted to watching games on the phone could be a patch solution to keep you tuned. Of course… there would be other problems then. Good luck!