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

On advanced ideas:
"After giving a student the basic mating patterns and strategies you must begin giving them advanced concepts. At first these ideas will not make sense, many players will have a vague idea of what you are talking about but nothing more. Even a fragmented understanding of these concepts will prove useful though, and eventually they will improve as these lessons are assimilated by repetition and example."
— Jeremy SILMAN, The Amateur's Mind, 1995


"We begin with the hypothesis that any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development. ... (The "spiral curriculum") ... Is it not possible ... to introduce them to some of the major ... ideas earlier, in a spirit perhaps less exact and more intuitive?"