Jon Speelman's Agony Column #14: David vs Goliath

by ChessBase
8/11/2016 – Facing a much higher rated opponent can always be a significant challenge, as much psychological as technical. The reverse is also true as playing as hard and focused can be a challenging proposition when our brains relax thanks to excess confidence. In this week's column, grandmaster Jonathan Speelman analyzes a game with just such challenges throughout. Enjoy this lesson and try your hand at the Training questions.

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This week, we have just a single game which comes from Dominique Contero, who is English and lives in Northamptonshire, a county in the East Midlands of England.

To fulfil (loosely) the criteria, Dominique has sent a fine game (Ecstasy) but also emphasised his opponent's Agony as he lost control. Dominique kindly sent me some notes and I've incorporated these as DC while the bulk of the notes are by myself though I have occasionally put in JS to be clear. You will also find a few key moves in the notes as Training questions to test yourself with.

In his introduction, Dominique explains the conditions of his game: "Chris Ross, a player of my first division team in the Northamptonshire Silver King League, is one of the top player in the Northampton Chess Mates Chess Club. We have always had interesting blitz games in the past and this game was the only time, to-date, that we met in a slow game. Chris, with already an International Master norm in his pocket  was the favourite to win our encounter. I was however not too worried playing with the black pieces as I knew that the Pirc defence, my pet defence against the King's Pawn Opening, was going to be a very good practical opening against him. We were both leading the club championship, and the winner of this game was sure to win the championship."

Facing a much higher rated opponent can be intimidating at times, but grit and heart can overcome much. Above is a depiction of the famous biblical battle between David and Goliath. On a sidenote, this excellent article describes it, and now...

Chris Ross - Dominique Conterno

Many thanks for your continuing emails, which are the life blood of this column. Please do send games - preferably a pair of "Agony" and "Ecstasy" but a single good game is also fine . The best format is either ChessBase .cbv or  .pgn as an attachment . I can also lift games in text format from the body of an email and paste them into the growing database.

About the author

Jon was born in 1956 and became a professional player in 1977 after graduating from Worcester College Oxford where he read mathematics. He became an IM in 1977 a GM in 1980 and was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980-2006.

Three times British Champion he played twice in the Candidates reaching the semi-final  (of what was then a knockout series of matches) in 1989 when he lost 4.5 - 3.5 to Jan Timman. He's twice been a second at the world championship for Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.

He's written for the Observer (weekly) since 1993 and The Independent since 1998. With its closure (going online but without Jon on board) he's expanding online activity and is also now offering online tuition.

He likes puzzles especially (cryptic) crosswords and killer sudokus.

If you'd like to lambast Jon or otherwise he can be contacted via his email

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