Playing for a win

Jonathan had a frustrating game recently, where his hopes of an interesting game with chances to win came to nothing. Have a play through this one and have see what you think.

Murray-Waley, 2011

With hindsight, the various exchanges and the symmetrical pawn formation with likely further exchanges of Rooks were strong drawing factors. So we can suggest:

  • finding an opening formation which retains more tension
  • the tactical sequence at move 12 should have been avoided
  • more patience and perhaps more subtlety was needed later to build up an advantage, but perhaps by then it was already too late to avoid the oncoming draw

We can see the same double-whammy of symmetrical pawns, two open central files and imminent Queen exchanges in this encounter:

Waters-Paulden, 2011

So, how to play next time? Alexander Alekhin showed a game with this theme in the very first issue of chess magazine in 1935:

Forder-Alekhin, 1935

The whole magazine can be downloaded from

It's not impossible to play for a win from unpromising symmetrical material, but you need a bit of grandmasterly technique, and perhaps grandmasterly grit as well:

Miles-Webb, 1975

Lastly, the player who I associate more than anyone with making something out of nothing is the great Cuban champion:

Capablanca-Vidmar, 1924

Chess Quotes

"A lot of the difference between an IM and GM is a seriousness to the game. The GM is willing to go through all this. He's willing to put up with anything. This shows his dedication. One other thing is the GMs superiority in tactics. For example Christiansen can find tactics in any position. If you're a GM you should be able to overpower the IM tactically. The GM will often blow out the IM in this area. "
— Nick de FIRMIAN, in How To Get Better at Chess : Chess Masters on Their Art by GM Larry Evans, IM Jeremy B Silman and Betty Roberts

EDITORIAL NOTE: This of course contradicts David Norwood's view. While David's opinion is based on research, I think Nick's is the correct one. I have a wonderful proof of this theorem, but unfortunately this page is too small to hold it. - Dr.Dave.