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James Altucher

@JamesAltucher

My 60 Memorable Losses

Officially starting this book. I will probably do most of it as private lists but want to give the first few chapters/games here.

The idea is: you learn the most when you study your losses. not only in games and sports but in all areas of life.

Jocko Willink's book, "Extreme Ownership" says it best. Well, he doesn't say it. The title says it best. Own your mistakes. Don't be a victim. The things that cause suffering are exactly what will catapult you to leadership. IF you study them.

There was a famous book in the 60. Bobby Fischer's book, "My 60 Memorable Games". I think all of them were wins.

On my quest back to be better than I ever was when I last played in tournaments 25 years ago I've already been through a lot and it's been painful.

But each loss is a treasure trove of valuable insights into how I can improve my game.

Here are some of the first few basic ideas. I plan on writing the whole book here on NotePD. Albeit in private lists mostly.

Here are some of the games I will analyze in the book. As I write the book I will branch off of each idea / game below to write up that idea. Those wll probably be the private list.

But here are some of the games I plan on using and some basic thoughts.

    1. Grandmaster (GM) Dimitry Gurevich vs me

    This was the most incredible loss I ever had.

    Before the game I research a bit what sorts of openings he played. I saw that he played the "Mar Del Plata Ne1" variation of the King's Indian Defense. Which I means I play the King's Indian and he tries to refute it with the Mar Del Plata.

    After the game he told me the variation he played was one he developed when he was working with Victor Kortschnoi in the early 80s. Kortschnoi was the #2 player in the world then.

    So I had to play against preparation that was used at the World Championship level.

    There are many more details but by move 24 we were stlll in "book", i.e. variations that he had been playing for 40 years.

    I had a new move though that I thought would work and it did. When I look at the computer to analyze the game it says my new move gave me a winning position. The computer had me at "+2", which is winning.

    THEN, he played the most amazing move ever played against me.

    He saw he was going to get mated if he did nothing. AND...there was absolute nothing to do!

    So he made a move that made the position WORSE for him. After his move I was "+5". It was world domination!

    He gave up a piece for nothing,. But he slowed down my attack.

    So instead of having a probably win quickly, he gave me a DEFINITE win but it would take longer.

    And then I had to switch strategies. I had to consolidate my extra piece, organize my pieces towards the center, and fight off his mininmal counterplay and then chalk up the win. It would take another 30 moves but that's what I had to do.

    Well, I didn't realize that all I needed was to keep calm and trade pieces and win. Instead, I continued my attack even though it had been diffused. That gave him time to build his own attack and he won.

    But he was very nice about the game. "I was totally lost", he said, and we spent two hours going over the game.

    Just to see the move he played.

    In this position all my pieces are perfectly organized to attack and checkmate his king. I'm going to do g5, open up files, checkmate.

    Well, when he made his move I almost laughed. It was genius. I knew it meant I was winning. But he completely transformed the game.

    This is the position where he is clearly lost but he is about to make a stunning move.

    Preview

    2. The move he made


    This is a class-act Grandmaster move. He is now losing EVEN MORE than the move before and he knows this.

    But now my main plan, getting my g pawn one square up and ripping the board open, is foiled.

    Foiled because he put his Knigt there! An simply game me a piece. Which I took. I knew I was totally winning. Typically, in this sort of position, white will try to get an attack on the other side of teh board. But he has no pieces there. There's no attack. I'm winning!

    But I lost the thread. I tried to keep attacking his king but there is no attack. And how is my dark squared bishop going to get out. All my pawns are on dark squares, blocking my bishop.

    "You are winning," he told me, "but it will take another 30 moves."

    I had to be patient and I wasn't.

    Preview

    3. 7 moves later...

    Notice:

    now he has two rooks on the open c file, ready to invade.

    My pieces haven't really gotten any more coordinated. My bishop is still trapped behind the pawns what the heck is my rook doing all the way to the left. Compare my rook with his rooks. And my knights are "dominated by his pawns". How are my knights going to break free.

    The irony is, I'm still winning here according to the computer.

    But it's one thing when the computer says it, it's another thing to do it. I lost the thread here and drifted and lost the game.

    When I analyze this for the book I'll contain more detals but this game taught me some valuable lessons.

    Preview

    4. Me vs GM Illia Nzynsky


    Illia is the #43 ranking player in the entire world.

    He played a Sicilian Taimanov Defense. I had never played against it in my life but studied it a bit before the game since we get notified in advance who we are playing and I saw he played this line.

    In the image below I had achieved all of my goals. My pieces are aimed at his king.

    His king is also a bit weak. The dark squares around the king can be invaded potentially. Plus my rooks and bishops can jump into the attack.

    There's saying, "To attack, bring all of your pieces into the game." All of mine were ready to go. And not so easy to defend.

    When you have more pieces ready to attack the key is to open lines and try to force the situation.

    I have a very good move here which leads to a pretty big advantage. Not a winning advantage but it would be hard for him to survive the attack.

    Preview

    5. The move

    Just move the f pawn one sep up.

    - breaks open his position.

    - gets my queen to his kingside.

    But more importantly, there is a concrete way this could win.

    If he takes the pawn (see next position), I will take back with my Rook! Completely giving up a rook.

    Preview

    6. Taking with the rook after PxP.

    Now he can take my rook with his pawn. But you can see. I will be down a rook but now my bishops are more in the game.

    Also, notice his queen. Nothing protects it. This will be critica.

    So after PxR I can slide my queen two spaces to the right (to g3) and check his king. Then he is forced to move his king to the corner (to H8).

    THEN, I have a major move (see next image).

    Preview

    7. The fatal move.

    Once the Queen checks , the King goes to the corner and then the center pawn moves up, My bishop is checking the king and my queen is attacking the queen. This is a "double attack". So the queen would be lost.

    So f5! would've been a good move for me. He wouldn't have let me go all the way with this but no matter what I would have secured a great advantage against the #43 player in the world.

    What do I learn from this? When I calculate I should've at least stuck the basic system of: keep calculating until there are no more checks and captures. Then I would've seen this whole move. Particulary since f5 was a move I had been preparing for anyway I should've given it the proper respect.

    Preview

    8. WGM Sabine-Francesca Foisor

    Another game where I played well but just couldn't pull it through.

    Afterwards she (a former US Women's Champion) said, "Why did you play that crazy move? You could've just played Nb7 and won."

    Well, I went crazy.

    Here's the game:

    9. FM Deepak Aaron vs me


    Deepak is a strong player who I've played quite a bit. We played this game in the third round of the Georgia State Championship where both of us had won the first two games.

    i was never winning in this game. But I was solidly equal and then made a mistake and lost a pawn.

    But unlike all of my opponents in the game above, i just started defending passively. When I analyzed it later (as i will in the book) I saw that I had great counterplay that could've given me winning chances.

    But I didn't believe I had counterplay. I had negative self-talk like, "Why did I lose that pawn. I'm such a loser."

    And that has a bad effect on play. I learned valuable lessons this game about counterplay.

    The game is here for those interested in it plus some of my analysis: https://lichess.org/study/StQzqw6A

    10. Me vs GM Alexander Shabalov


    I first me Shabalov in 1993 but he doesn't remember. I showed him how he could play chess on the Internet.

    Now he's one of the strongest players in the country.

    This game was fairly equal and I had some good chances in the middle of the game.

    But then I went on an "adventure" to try and win a pawn on the other side of the board while he was building up an attack on my king.

    I learned quite a bit about how to be more paranoid about king safety.

    Here's the game: https://lichess.org/study/StQzqw6A

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