Speelman's Agony #61

by Jonathan Speelman
9/17/2017 – This week's games are by Andreas Niedersberger, pictured playing chess against his very beautiful cat, which apparently has a predilection for the Rubinstein French. Andreas gave up chess — a childhood hobby — at age fourteen, and only when his own children had grown up a bit did he return to the game. His two games feature a Tarrasch (or Semi-Tarrasch) and an open Sicilian.

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Reviving a childhood pastime

Andreas wrote me a long and very informative email last April:

"I’m 49 years old and live in Vienna. Now that our kids have grown up and moved out of the house I started a couple of years ago playing chess again.

Actually, I started playing quite early at the age of five, learning the game from my father. On Sunday afternoons we usually used to visit some friends of ours where he played a couple of games. To begin with, I was only allowed to kibitz, but later on when my game improved a bit I was also allowed to cross swords with them. In fact at around the age of 10 I think I was — for my age — not a bad player, even achieving an excellent position against the later 10-time Austrian champion Niki Stanec (at that time, however, he also was only 10 [years old] so maybe not at the height of his chess capabilities! But anyway...).

Unfortunately, I lost this game due to a blunder (an unjustified Queen sacrifice) and immediately after the game I tore the score sheet apart (before analysing the game). So I will never know for sure, if once in my life I had a winning position against a superstrong player (at least by Austrian standards).

The problem with my early chess career was that I never received a proper chess training. I owned a couple of chess books (mostly on openings) and learned some universal rules from my father and his friends (knight on the rim is dim etc). But that was it. So I guess after the age of 11-12, I never really improved, and when I was around 14, I stopped playing chess. I tried again during my early years at university, but not for long.

Just a couple of years ago when our kids, Lukas and Sophia, were not so much interested in spending weekend afternoons with their parents, I started playing again. First on the internet, then for our bank in the “Betriebsliga” (company league) and later on for a local club.

The main difference with my previous attempts is now that even without a trainer there is an abundance of material, which you can use to improve your game (computers, data bases, training videos, books). I also briefly worked with a trainer, but apparently this didn´t work as expected for me, so I stopped again.”

Andreas sent me several games and I would have used them here earlier had they not disappeared into the black hole of my filing system. Happily he sent me a most polite reminder a couple of weeks ago and so here they are now.

Both of the games he is mainly interested in were against appreciably higher rated opponents and we start with the “Agony” of which he writes very perceptively:

"I played the opening quite nicely and managed to come out of the opening two clear pawns up. Then, however, my play went astray and I could not manage to find a reasonable plan. I permanently switched between ideas of letting my pawns run or solidifying my king side structure. In the end, I didn´t achieve either of the goals: my kingside got ruined, my queenside pawns first got weak and then lost, and finally I blundered a full knight.

However, a couple weeks ago I was relieved (well not really relieved but anyway...) to see that in the US championship Caruana achieved a similar position and also managed to lose. So at least I saw that the task was not a no-brainer.”


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See also:

Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.


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