How to be a LEADER

Before we begin the lesson, let me remind you about the survey. It will expire on Tuesday the 18thand you won’t be able to send me your questions anymore. If you haven’t taken part in the survey yet – please, do it NOW: LINK
I have collected some interesting positions from the recent TOP tournaments. At the end of this lesson we’ll conclude with some important practical rules (how to take on the leadership). But first, let’s test your current skills. :)

Please find the solution in positions below. Of course you should calculate all corresponding variations as well.
Diagram 1
GM Erenburg – GM Stripunsky

Black to move
Diagram 2
GM Kamsky – GM Leko

White to move
Diagram 3
GM Nisipeanu – GM Ivanchuk

White to move
Diagram 4
GM Anand – GM Adams

Black to move
Diagram 5
GM Vallejo – GM Aronian

Black to move
After you are done with all 5 positions, you may download the solutions and check your accuracy:LINK
Were your solutions correct? Actually, these positions are pretty simple (except the last one :)).
As you may have noticed, all these games illustrated a COUNTERBLOW idea. This powerful tactical motif can help you to shock your opponent and get a nice victory.
Although all players know about a counterblow, very few people can really implement it in their games. So let’s analyze how you can apply this idea in your practice.
Chess is a battle of 2 opponents. If you want to be on the top, you should LEAD this battle.
In my recent lessons about preventing blunders I’ve told you to think about your opponent’s ideas first. That’s true and it will help you not to miss something.
At the same time, after revealing the opponent’s threats it’s natural for you to start caring about them. HOWEVER, by focusing solely on the opponent’s plans, you forget about your own ideas. You then become a secondary player (a passive responder), and it is your opponent that becomes the leader. That’s not what you want.
So how can you be cautious to opponent’s threats, but keep LEADING the game?
Here’s the rule:
Know the opponent’s plan, but keep following your plan.
This powerful idea has a profound meaning. Yes, you should be aware of an opponent’s plans. However, it does NOT mean you have to counteract them. Instead you should switch back to your plans and try to follow them.
Often you’ll be able to LEAD the game into a direction that YOU want. Thus your opponent’s plans will be crashed automatically.
Let’s try to apply this rule for one of the examples above.
GM Erenburg – GM Stripunsky

Black to move
White just played 19.f4, attacking the Black’s knight. Of course you should take notice of this threat.
HOWEVER, after that you should switch back to your plans. Ask yourself, What do I want to do here? What is MY plan?
The White’s king is weak, while his king-side pieces are undeveloped. Of course Black wants to make use of this favorable situation and start an attack. When you come to this idea, you’ll find the move 19…Qd6 easily.
Many other players, however, would retreat the knight automatically, without even thinking about anything else.
That’s the power of a seemingly simple rule:
Know opponent’s plan, but keep following your plan.
Follow this rule in your games. You’ll find a lot of shocking counterblows. You’ll lead the games and will be a winner! :)
If you have some questions or would like to propose a topic for future lessons, take part in this survey. It will be closed on Tuesday the 18th.