IM Sandeep Annotates - #4 - Great Gambits and Surprising Sidelines

This week’s article will feature a game from the 2023 K-5 Rockefeller Invitational, which was played by Sachit. In this game, Sachit purposely employed a risky response to the Fried Liver, because he knew that his opponent would have to find some very accurate moves to maintain the advantage, and it would be very likely that he would take over at some point. We will go over how and when you should utilize this strategy, along with its pros and cons.

Also featured is a game by Coach Sandeep, in which I found a way to deal with my opponent’s opening preparation. Here we will learn that the best way to deal with that annoying feeling when your opponent is spouting out what their computer told them before the game is to take them out of their preparation, even if you’re not playing the objectively best moves. A reminder: this only works if your move is difficult to refute.

A Student’s Version

This game featured an MCA student, Sachit, who participated in the 2023 K-5 Rockefeller Invitational Qualifier in his state, going on to win the event and qualify for the 2023 Rockefeller Tournament of Elementary School State Champions as the representative from Illinois. Sachit had Black, and his opponent chose the Fried Liver, and since Sachit wanted a fresh game where he could outplay his opponent, he opted for a sideline. This sideline is not computer-approved, but it became very difficult for the opponent to navigate the complications. Check out the annotated game at to see if the strategy worked.

A Coach’s Version

This game was played against a strong FIDE Master, Seth Homa, in the 2022 US Masters Tournament held at the Charlotte Chess Center. I was trying to clinch my final IM norm, and to have a chance to do so, I would have to win this game. My opponent played a relatively drawish line in the Reti, and it was clear that he had prepared with a computer for this game. I knew that the only way to get winning chances would be to take him out of his comfort zone, even if I had to play “dubious moves”. However, I had to make sure that these moves weren’t too easy to refute. A good way to do this is to see if you can refute your idea. If you can, you might not want to try it, and if you can’t then it could be a good option. The best risky moves are those that you feel should be wrong, but can’t quite refute. Check out how I did this at

Some Key Takeaways

  1. Don’t let the computer evaluation dictate everything you do. Sometimes the computer only goes crazy because of one specific move that can be very difficult to find, and the computer doesn’t account for how easy it is to lose the advantage.
  2. When your advantage is temporary in nature (e.g. Opponent has a weak king, You have a lead in development), you have to make use of every tempo, or else it can quickly disappear.
  3. The side with the weaker king usually wants to keep the position closed, while the attacking side wants to open the position to create more attacking avenues.
  4. You can’t only be responding to your opponent’s threats the whole game, or else it’s impossible to win. You also have to create your own threats and look for mistakes in their play, even if they are higher-rated.
  5. When pieces are uncoordinated and the king is weak, there are almost always tactics lurking in the background

Test Your Knowledge

Try to solve these positions and then check out the answers in the annotated game.

chess position 1White has a lead in development and Black’s king is stuck in the center. How should he open up the position?


chess position 2
White has just pushed his d-pawn and is attacking the e5-pawn which is the crux of the black position. How does Black solve his Problems?


chess position 3

White to move and refute Black’s risky play. If you can calculate the full variation, then you very likely would have beaten Coach Sandeep in this game. This is a very difficult puzzle, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t find it.


chess position 4

White has made a mistake, and now it is our chance to capitalize. But to do so we have to play accurately. Black to move.

Gambits Week Camp

You can learn a lot by studying gambits.  In the featured game, Sachit used a rare sideline, the Ponziani - Steinitz gambit, to win with the Black pieces and qualify for the Rockefeller tournament.  Although the computer evaluation was bad his human opponent had trouble navigating the complications.  If you would like to learn more about chess gambits, you can try our Gambits Week online summer camp, starting on June 12.  We have eight different gambits in the camp and maybe you will find your secret weapon among them. 

About This Series

IM Sandeep Sethuraman

Our new series is written by International Master (IM) Sandeep Sethuraman and will feature analysis of tournament games played by our students.  Sandeep is a rising high school senior in Arizona and one of the top players in the USA for his age.  Students are encouraged to submit games for future articles by contacting our online team. 

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