Sudden ideas


White to play – what is the best option?


I saw a game a few days ago that made me think about something that often happens to us: While we are calculating our main line, going deep, looking for nuances, we can get a sudden epiphany! But what about: “this!”


While this sometimes is a stroke of genius, there is no guarantee that this is the case. But the emotional impact can be rather big, skewing our judgement.


The example in question is the following:

Rasmus Skytte – Lawrence Trent, Aarhus 23 Feb 2014


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 g6 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.e4 0–0 6.Nf3 e6 7.Be2 d6 8.0–0 exd5 9.exd5 a6 10.h3 Re8

Black wants to play …Bf5 or …Ne4. So:

11.Bd3! Nbd7 12.Bg5 h6 13.Be3

13.Bf4! makes much more sense to me, but White provokes the exchange sacrifice. Usually the bishop is only on e3 because it blocks a check.


13…b5! 14.cxb5 Nb6 was the way to create counterplay. White is better, but perhaps not greatly so.

14.fxe3 Qe7 15.Qd2

15.Qe1! was more accurate.

15…Nh5 16.Ne2 Ne5?

16…Bxb2! 17.Qxb2 Qxe3+ 18.Rf2 Qxd3 probably still favours White, but at least Black has some counter chances. 19.Qc1!? g5 20.g4 Ng7 21.Qc3

17.Nxe5 Qxe5 18.Nf4

18.Rf3!? was maybe a bit better, but I can understand why Rasmus played the way he did. It did not seem to me that Black could easily get the pieces into the game. 18…Qxb2 19.Qxb2 Bxb2 20.Raf1 f5 21.g4 Nf6 22.gxf5 g5 23.Rb1 Be5 24.a4 with a big edge is one option.

18…Ng3 19.Rf3 Nf5?!

19…Ne4 was better. Black needs to get the bishop on c8 into the game.

20.Raf1 Nh4 21.R3f2 Nf5


I like 22.Nh5 better, if White has to play like this. I showed this position to a student and he quickly came up with 22.Qa5!! as being devastating to Black. Taking on e3 is not an option, so White can easily change from consolidation to attack.

22…Bxf5 23.Nh5 Bh8 24.e4!

Great concrete play.


24…Qxe4 25.Ng3 and wins.

25.Nf6+ Bxf6 26.Rxf6 Bf5

The moment I was talking about. Rasmus was planning to take on f5 from quite a bit back, but suddenly he saw a “winning move” he had not previously considered. Not able to keep his cool, he made it, only to realise that it was a bad blunder.


27.R1xf5? gxf5 28.Qxh6 Qe1+ gives a draw.

But 27.R6xf5! gxf5 28.Qxh6 does not give Black a defence against Qg5+ and Qxf5 with an extra pawn.

27…Qxc3 28.bxc3 Rd8!

The move Rasmus had missed. Without it, it is of course just resigns.

Now Rasmus had to adjust from being “winning” to defending a worse ending. He simply could not, which I understand. One moment he was thinking of the GM-norm, the next his rook was trapped. Not something most of us have a lot of practice in dealing with.


29.R1xf5 gxf5 30.Rxh6 was another, probably better, try.



30.Rxd6 Rxd6 31.gxf5 will probably still draw, though not easily. After the move in the game, it is almost impossible to imagine White can survive. And he didn’t.

30…Kxf7 31.gxf5 g5 32.Re1 Kf6 33.Re6+ Kxf5 34.Rxh6 Ke4 35.Rg6 Kd3 36.Rxg5 Kxc3 37.h4 Kxc4 38.h5 Rh8 39.Kf1 b5 40.Ke1 Kd4 41.Kd2 c4 42.Rg4+ Kxd5 43.Rh4 Rh6 44.Ke3 Ke5 45.Re4+ Kd5 46.Rh4 b4 47.Kf4 c3 48.Ke3 Kc5 49.Kd3 d5 50.a3 a5 51.axb4+ axb4 52.Kc2 d4 53.Kb3 Ra6 54.h6 Ra3+ 55.Kc2 b3+ 56.Kd3 b2



My point is quite simple (I like simple; nothing wrong with simple!): When we get an impulse, our blood pressure will often change, we will have an emotional reaction. What is basically happening is that the suggestion from our brain is very powerful (unlike most of our constant intuitive reactions, which carry a very low level of suggestion in one direction or other).


At this moment it is very important to regain control. Closing our eyes, thinking of the least sexy person we know (yes him!) or maybe just stir the spoon a few hundred times round the edge of the cup of coffee that has gone cold next to us, as was Miles’ habit. But we need to gain control. Because no matter what psychologists say, intuition alone is a poor way to play chess. We need to use all our weapons if we want to win.


The sad thing about the game above is that Rasmus would have made his first GM-norm with a win. Now he lost in Round 8 as well (fair and square, it seems) and failed to win a two-pawn up (but maybe drawn!?) minor piece ending in the last round. That he will become a GM if he puts in the time (as he does) is beyond question. But I would have liked to see my friend make the norm after starting with 5.5/6 in this tournament!


Thank you to Rasmus for allowing me to talk about a few important moments in this game and for sharing what really went on.


5 thoughts on “Sudden ideas”

  1. How dare you, sir. How dare you describe my shortcomings publicly with such pinpoint precision. Have a heart.

  2. Hope my sarcasm was clear, and my respectful undertone heard. Your articles give me more insight into ways of improving than anything else I’ve ever seen. Always accurate, penetrating, and thought provoking. My only complaint: where were you 20 years ago! Genuinely, I thank you sir.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top