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The joy of being a spectator! (1/2)

by WGM Soumya Swaminathan - 23/03/2017

WGM Soumya Swaminathan is an extremely strong chess player. More often than not you see her hunched over the chess board trying to find the best way to beat her opponent. However, there are times when she is 'relegated' to being a spectator. Every once in a while when Soumya did this, she realized that it was a refreshing experience. She learnt things that helped her grown stronger as a player. These tips she now shares with you.

Body Language and advantages of Watching live games

By WGM Soumya Swaminathan

 

How lovely it is to be a spectator at a tournament! My first experience at being a spectator was at the World Juniors 2014 in Pune, where I was one of the official commentators. I remember I felt so relaxed and tensed at the same time, a little bit like how we feel in a tournament, but not in the same degree...no, nowhere close!

Picture of me as a commentator at the World Juniors taken by my good friend Amruta Mokal 

It was a very enjoyable experience to simply go and watch the games live, without having the burden of the result on my head. Or shoulders. My main job was to comment on the games, but when I was not doing that, I would spend time observing the players, their body language, mannerisms, tournament habits. Evenings after the game were relaxed, and involved talking to other players or simply hanging out with my friends.

 

Dinners were free from unwanted guest like Mr. regret who follows a loss, or Ms. Anticipation who comes with the next day's pairing. It made for a good change and gave me a different perspective towards my own attitude during a tournament.

First time as a commentator

Studying player's body language!

Sometimes I would try and guess how the players were feeling about their position by their reactions. It made me realize my opponents must be doing the same during a game!

This is one of my favourite playing pictures, and the reason why I like it more than the others is because I seem so confident and in control!(Picture from the Official website of World Team ch. 2013)

It is important to look confident and not give away our real feelings. Have you noticed, our calculations, evaluations are much quicker when we have to take a decision in somebody else's game! When there is no clock ticking beside the board or no tournament standings or rating calculations to consider. For me, my involvement is much higher when I am present at the venue and watching the game live, rather than watching a game live online. One of the reasons could be that, at home if I am not sure about a certain move, I tend to check it immediately with the engine provided by the website or the followchess app, rather than forcing myself to calculate (This is actually a very bad habit, the right way to check would be to 1st apply your mind and then check with the engine if necessary).

 

Also, it's just much easier for me to recollect Dominguez - Shirov from Corus 2010 or Nakamura - Sasikiran from Olympiad 2012, than any game I have studied at home, because I was present at the venue and watched them make the moves on the board at the time.The other day I was solving some positions from Jacob Aagard's exceptional book on calculation, titled... "Calculation" (duh!) & came across this position.

Koneru Humpy - Ushenina, 2011, White to play

(ChessBase 14 has this nice feature of saving the position on the board as a picture, which is very very useful. To use it, go to file --> save --> save position.)


Actually, I didn't notice the players' names when I saw the position, but I immediately recognised the game. It was played in the World Team Championship 2011, when I was a part of the team and was watching this game live. I remember this game quite well, Humpy built up the attack move by move and gave the winning blow in exactly this position. She played 1. Qh6!! The game ended after 1...gh 2. e6 + f6 3. Rf6 Kg8 4. Nf7+ 1-0.

[Event "WchT (Women) 3rd"]
[Site "Mardin"]
[Date "2011.12.18"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Koneru, Humpy"]
[Black "Ushenina, Anna"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E14"]
[WhiteElo "2600"]
[BlackElo "2463"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "4rn1k/pbq1rppn/1p5p/4P1N1/2P4Q/P5R1/1B4PP/1B3RK1 w - - 0 41"]
[PlyCount "7"]
[EventDate "2011.12.18"]
[EventType "team"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "TUR"]
[SourceTitle "CBM 145 Extra"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2012.01.03"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2012.01.03"]
[SourceQuality "1"]
[WhiteTeam "India (W)"]
[BlackTeam "Ukraine (W)"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "IND"]
[BlackTeamCountry "UKR"]
{[#]} 41. Qxh6 gxh6 42. e6+ f6 43. Rxf6 Kg8 44. Nf7+ 1-0

 

The flipside of this information was I found no reason to argue with her and wrote down the same move as my answer - which is not the best move!

So now have a look at this position, and try to find the best move for White. Also try finding what is wrong with Qxh6.

For 1. Qxh6 black can go 1...Qc5+ 2.Kh1 Qc4! 3.Bd3!! gh 4.e6 f6 5. Bc4, White is still better, though engine does not give a huge advantage. The variations are very nice and very difficult for Black to defend, but the defence does exist. The right answer is 1. Nxh7! Nxh7 2.e6! white wins immediately. Try & figure out the variations and after you have done so you can check it on the replayable board below:

[Event "WchT (Women) 3rd"]
[Site "Mardin"]
[Date "2011.12.18"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Koneru, Humpy"]
[Black "Ushenina, Anna"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E14"]
[WhiteElo "2600"]
[BlackElo "2463"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "4rn1k/pbq1rppn/1p5p/4P1N1/2P4Q/P5R1/1B4PP/1B3RK1 w - - 0 41"]
[PlyCount "7"]
[EventDate "2011.12.18"]
[EventType "team"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "TUR"]
[SourceTitle "CBM 145 Extra"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2012.01.03"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2012.01.03"]
[SourceQuality "1"]
[WhiteTeam "India (W)"]
[BlackTeam "Ukraine (W)"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "IND"]
[BlackTeamCountry "UKR"]
{[#]} 41. Qxh6 ({The correct answer is} 41. Nxh7 Nxh7 42. e6 $1 fxe6 (42... f6
43. Rxf6 $1 Nxf6 44. Bxf6 gxf6 45. Qxh6+ Rh7 46. Bxh7 Qxh7 47. Qxf6+ $18) (
42... Qc5+ 43. Bd4 $18) 43. Qxh6 $18) 41... gxh6 {was played by Ushenina which
loses on the spot.} (41... Qc5+ $1 42. Kh1 Qxc4 43. Bd3 $1 gxh6 44. e6+ f6 45.
Bxc4 $14) 42. e6+ f6 43. Rxf6 Kg8 (43... Nxf6 44. Bxf6+ Rg7 45. Nf7+ Qxf7 46.
exf7 Re1+ 47. Kf2 Rxb1 48. Bxg7+ Kh7 49. Bxf8 $18) 44. Nf7+ 1-0

 

But the best part of visiting and watching live games at a tournament is it makes me feel like I am a part of the tournament. It can be a very inspiring experience you know! You should try it!

 

Soumya Swaminathan is the former World Junior girls Champion. She has been one of the top players of Indian chess and has won the National and the commonwealth title. On 21st of March, Soumya turned 28 years old. ChessBase India wishes her a belated happy birthday!

 

Part II of this article deals with Soumya's adventure in Moscow, where she watched many of the games of the Candidates 2016 live.