A lesson in chess mastery

by Davide Nastasio
9/1/2018 – Master level games are not engine like, they are human, with their mistakes, slightly imperfect moves, and mind battles. The game we see on the board, tell us only part of the story. NM Shanmukha Meruga shows us five of his tournament games, with the drama, ideas, and errors typical of human play.

Typical mistakes by 1600-1900 players Typical mistakes by 1600-1900 players

Some mistakes repeat themselves often in amateur games. With themes such as "Miscalculating Forcing Lines", "Being Too Materialistic" and "King Safety" Nick Pert shows you how to avoid making typical mistakes.


"Beat the Heat" Open

Often we wonder what's the difference between a master level player, and the average club player. Is it about the depth of calculation? Evaluation of the position? Experience in the endgames?

$600 a week for 2 days at the board!

These are in fact many factors which are important. National Master Shanmukha Meruga (NM) graciously shares his last five games in a local weekend open tournament held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta, on August 25th-26th.

GM Finegold (pictured) runs tournaments very professionally, and most of all pays prizes immediately!

Here in the USA small tournaments like this one have on the order if $600 as first prize, giving a young adult a chance to earn some money from chess while being a full-time college student.

Then, of course, there are other forms of income like private chess lessons, camps for kids, teaching chess in schools, etc.

NM Meruga won with 5 out of 5. When he was commenting on his games,  I couldn't write down everything he was saying, because he was running like a train! In fact, just a couple of hours after the tournament was over, he was already giving chess lessons. However I think I captured most of his thoughts and analysis, and I wanted to share them with ChessBase readers because one of the keys to improvement is definitely going over well-annotated games.

Final standings

tournament standings

The English Opening Vol. 1

Williams main teaching method behind this set of two DVDs is to teach you some simple yet effective set ups, without the need to rely on memorising numerous complicated variations.


Personally while going over the games I was puzzled by the speed of his analysis, how well he remembered them, and how deep they would run sometimes. Showing me calculation is very important. I admit I couldn't understand if his brain is simply faster than mine, or if I need to exercise more, watching master level games, and guessing the moves, like NM Meruga did for years. I was also awed by his opening knowledge, which I was able to match thanks to reviewing many ChessBase DVDs. I realized he is fluent, like with languages, in many more pawn structures and relative middlegame plans, compared to the ones I know.

And then, of course, there was the realization about rook endgames. Most of the games were won in rook endgames, showing clearly that one needs to practice them in order to achieve mastery. There is no shortcut! Do the rook endgames, or don't complain about lack of improvement!

Here are the games analysed. Please try to gain some insight from each one. The games are not engine-like, or 2700-level, but they show what happens in real amateur tournaments. Thanks to the ChessBase game viewer, one can click on the engine if one line wasn't deep enough to understand the evaluation given.


The English Opening Vol. 1

Williams main teaching method behind this set of two DVDs is to teach you some simple yet effective set ups, without the need to rely on memorising numerous complicated variations.



Davide is a novel chess aficionado who has made chess his spiritual tool of improvement and self-discovery. One of his favorite quotes is from the great Paul Keres: "Nobody is born a master. The way to mastery leads to the desired goal only after long years of learning, of struggle, of rejoicing, and of disappointment..."
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genem genem 9/15/2018 11:26
Nastasio wrote of the White player (Creighton, Sasha, Elo 1793):
"Asking the draw in a position where White has a material advantage doesn't make sense. He was clearly scared of his higher rated opponent."

Well, White's draw offer seems quite intelligent given that White later lost the game. The evidence suggests White was more smart than "scared" about his chances of maintaining his advantage.
jbchess1 jbchess1 9/4/2018 05:40
I enjoyed this article and playing through the games. It's nice to see some
love being shown to the weekly club players, experts and the Masters who play in
tournaments every week in cities across the US.
melante melante 9/3/2018 03:24
Very instructive games. Thanks for the analysis!