by GM Denes Boros
I recently faced a 2700+ rated Super Grandmaster, Le Quang Liem, in the San Francisco Open tournament. I had to prepare myself for how to deal with this situation, while also playing with Black pieces.
I wasn’t sure at first what to do, so I decided to follow a checklist.
1. Don’t panic. You are playing a very strong chess player, but he is human after all.
2. Look for something you are comfortable with
When I was deciding how to play my game against Le Quang Liem, I was looking for a situation that would at least not be unfavorable for me. When you are playing a top player it’s not always easy to get an equal position with Black, especially with the heavy preparation they have with White.
3. Divise a Game Plan
I decided to choose something that might seem a little bit tricky; I chose to play an opening rarely played on the top, the Tarrasch Defence! I was aware of the fact that my position would possibly be worse, but I knew there would also be room to fight!
4. Be ready to fight till the last bullet!
I already knew that there was a high possibility that I would have to defend, so I mentally prepared myself for a long game, which in fact helped me to achieve my goal in the end!
I actually achieved what I was aiming for in the opening, Le Quang Liem only got a slight advantage with White, but I was still under some pressure. In the middlegame, he clearly improved his position, but by the late middle game, I put enough pressure on his position to create real counterplay. I still had to find some fine defensive ideas, like a pseudo-rook sacrifice, but after that I was never in real danger. That’s how I held a draw against a Top 30 player with Black!