GM Simul Tips

Recently I played in the Grandmaster Simul against GM Alex Fishbein at the Denver Chess Club on June 23, 2011.  I was able to not lose for the first time in a simul, by getting  a draw!

It was a really nice event, and I had a lot of fun.

I have played in simuls against various other players over the years:

  • Against GM Gregory Kaidanov at the Dallas Chess Club.  It was interesting, because they submitted these games to chessbase, and this game currently appears in their database products, such as “Mega Base”, and their online database.  Last time I checked this was the only game I have published in their databases.  This was the first time that I played in a GM simul.
  • Against GM Roman Dzindichashvili in a weekend long class that he taught for the Denver Chess Club around 2002.  This was a lot of fun, because Roman would make little jokes and smart ass comments as he was walking around and making moves.  He crushed me quite soundly, and was probably my worst beating in a simul.
  • Against the Polgár sisters, Susan Polgár, Sofia Polgár, and Judit Polgár in Las Vegas at the National Open Chess Festival.   This was very interesting, because they played a tandem simul, where all three of them were walking around the boards making moves.

Anthea Carson playing against GM Alex Fishbein in a simul at the Denver Chess Club

Some tips for playing in Simuls:

  • Openings - I would recommend playing openings that are somewhat “off the beaten path”, but not totally unsound.  For example, I got a good position against GM Fishbein with the Budapest Defense (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5!?) and my friend Francisco Baltier beat Walter Browne with the “Fishing Pole” (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. 0-0 Ng4?!).  If you play a really main line variation of a popular GM opening, like in the Ruy Lopez or Sicilian, the GM is likely to know it really well.  You want to get them “out of book” as soon as possible.
  • Most likely you will have black in the simul, although some GMs will let some of the players have the white pieces.
  • Grandmasters will make mistakes in their simul games, including hanging pieces, missing a mate in one, etc.  They are rare, but they do happen.  So be on the lookout for these – they are not computers!
  • Some of the simuls can go quite long depending on how many players there are, and how quickly the GM is moving.  Be prepared to be there for a while.
  • It is easy to get distracted when playing in a simul, because you want to see how the other players are doing.  Try to concentrate on your own game, and make the best moves that you can.
  • A lot of players tend to drag out their games, so they can say something like “Well, I lasted 50 moves”, or something similar.  If you have a totally lost game, they probably will appreciate it if you resign.
  • Often the GM will do some sort of question and answer session along with the simul.  These can be quite entertaining, and informative, so make sure that you show up on time for this.
  • If your game is one of the last ones, or goes into an endgame, the GM will be coming around very quickly to make his moves.  This can be a large advantage for the GM.
  • Don’t be afraid to offer draws.  The GM might accept the draw, and the worst case is that they say “no”.  Repeated draw offers are considered bad etiquette however.
  • Often the GM will allow you to take a “pass“.  Sometimes it is more formal where you get a certain number of passes, and sometimes it is rather informal, such as take as many passes as you want.  Don’t be afraid to use your passes to take the time you need to find the best move.
  • Getting a draw against the GM can be considered a good result.  Look for tactics that can force a draw, such as a perpetual check, repetition of moves, or fortress position.  The GM might not be aware that a repetition has taken place, especially if it is a tandem simul, or there are a large number of boards, so this can be a “cheapo” way to get a draw.
  • Wait to make your move until the Grandmaster is at your board.  Otherwise they might not know where you went.
  • Normally the GM will go over the rules of the simul beforehand.  Each simul is slightly different.  Some even use clocks, or are done blindfolded.  Sometimes the players are seated by rating, so that the GM has an idea of their opponent’s strength.
  • Playing in a simul can be a lot of fun.  If you win, and beat a famous player, it can become a really celebrated game.
  • Most Grandmasters won’t mind if you take pictures, or videos, and be sure and have them sign your score sheet when the game is over.
  • Have fun!  Playing in a simul will be a game that you will never forget!

Tim Brennan playing against GM Alex Fishbein at the DCC Simul

Tim Brennan playing against GM Alex Fishbein at the DCC Simul

Thanks to Anthea Carson, who took the pictures.  You can read her articles about the Simul here:

Here is my game from the simul

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