AMATEUR chess players frequently ask grandmasters: “What should I do to improve?”
Alan Minnican, who plays for the Wandering Dragons club
in Edinburgh, recently posed this question to my colleague, GM Jacob Aagaard. Knowing that Minnican had limited free time for chess, Aagaard suggested ignoring the start of the game, known as opening theory, and concentrating instead on preparing for the later fight. Specifically, spend just a few minutes a day solving chess puzzles, sharpening up the calculation of short forcing sequences.
Minnican followed this training plan for a few weeks, and then last month in Crete he played the tournament of his life to win the World Amateur Championship. In this event the definition of an amateur was a player rated below 2200; to give an idea of what that means, a player with a rating of 2200 would be ranked about number 30 in Scotland. Minnican was unbeaten in the event and his key win was the following strategic crushing of a German player who was at the time leading the tournament.
White: R Tueckmantel; Black: A Minnican. Opening: Dzindzi-Indian Defence.
1 c4 g6 2 d4 Bg7 3 Nc3 c5 4 d5 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 f5 Black chooses a rare and quirky line. White’s c-pawns are weak, so he should seek compensation by opening the position for his bishops with plans involving h2-h4-h5 and e2-e4. 6 Nh3 Not a bad move, but not aggressive enough to be in the spirit of the position. 6...Qa5 7 Qc2 Nf6 8 f3 d6 9 Bg5 Nbd7 10 Nf4 Ne5 11 Bxf6 exf6 12 e3 Bd7 13 Rb1 0–0–0 14 Bd3 Rde8 15 0–0 Qa4! White’s unkempt structure would favour Black in an ending, so the white queen must retreat. 16 Qe2 Re7 17 Rfe1 Rhe8 18 Kf2 The pawn on c4 is attacked twice and defended twice. How can Black add a third attacker? 18...b6! A beautiful positional move: the b1-rook is blunted, but the main idea is ...Bd7-c8-a6.
19 Qf1 Kb8 Black could consider 19...Qxa2+ but he prefers to collect c4 instead. 20 Rb2 Bc8 21 e4 Ba6 Now c4 drops off and Black is winning. 22 Ne6 Nxd3+ 23 Qxd3 Qxc4 24 Qb1 fxe4 25 fxe4 Bc8 White’s position is collapsing,
so he lashes out with one last desperate try. 26 Rxb6+ axb6 27 Qxb6+ Bb7
28 Nd8 Or 28 Qxd6+ is also no problem for Black after 28...Kc8. 28...Qa6 29 Nc6+ Ka8 White resigned, as he will be a piece down.