Flagged

Round 3, I played a new kid.

Another cocky kid in Co. Springs, so what’s new?  The Herman kids are the only holdouts, it seems (i.e., not cocky).  Atharva seemed to think he was winning all along or something after the game.  I said that I didn’t want to analyze, but he wanted to prove that he was winning at the end of the game, but it seemed that I was the one winning the postmortems or showing him his wins (even though it should be losing for White).  I could give more than one example of something I didn’t like of his, but for example at the beginning of the game, before I made my first move I held my hand high above the board, looking at my clock to watch the five-second delay was set (only took a couple of seconds), when he says to me “You need to move!”  This coming from someone who was 5 minutes late and didn’t want to look at me so I could start the clock until he got everything written down on his scorebook, despite the TD telling us repeatedly to start the clock.

So, what happened in the game?  Basically, I took way too much time.  Spent around 35 minutes on 9.Nd5+.  I knew that I was going to play it for sure after 15 minutes, but then spent another 20 minutes before I played it.  How could this possibly happen?  Honestly, it was this really weird vibe that I had going on that I didn’t want anybody…ever…to criticize this move is what it seemed like to me.  I had never played this kid before and was not nervous during the game, but I felt a pressure of expectations, as if I weren’t allowed to draw this kid.  I wasn’t result-focused at all, was just trying to do my best to concentrate on the game.  If this were at the Herman home, for example, I would have been fine, but because there were people who don’t play me that much walking around looking at my game, I think I had an attack of the “imaginary audience” – you can look it up, it’s a psychology term that almost exclusively applies to adolescents, but whatever.  It’s not something that I wished upon myself, more like the opposite, it’s unwelcome but it can happen apparently.  Definitely, one can’t be thinking about chess and thinking about something else like that at the same time, can’t serve two masters.

Actually, I think my opponent had something to with this as well because the whole game his whole aura was screaming at me “Oh my gosh, I am going to beat a Class A player!”  In my time pressure, he was nervous but I wasn’t, and he was leaning over the board staring at me as if to say “You are going to lose on time, I am going to beat you!”  And I was thinking “Yeah, so what, is anyone going to let me focus on actually playing the game?”  I’m not 100% positive, but I do believe that he stopped recording moves when I got to 5 minutes, and I kept recording down to 20 seconds.

If I could use an analogy here and say that “I could win this game in my sleep” the opposite analogy would be “There’s no way I could avoid losing if I were to get too excited”  There is definitely a different type of vibe to the Tuesday club, probably because it’s in an auditorium, where there is this chatter about winning/losing, opinions about the rules.  At a restaurant or a home, there is more of a natural distraction, less of an over-focus on chess.  At CSCC, I buy bottled water out of a vending machine, and Carl’s Jr is the only place that is close, is overpriced and closes at 10pm, so there is this exclusive focus on chess.  Well, that’s my 2 cents about that, or 5 dollars I guess!

The part that I don’t like so much is that it’s like hey, I am there to have fun.  If this were a tournament with money on the line, you could practically sit on my face and I wouldn’t be distracted from chess.  I play well when the occasion is there.  Problem is, the occasion is _always_ there, and someone always wants to take you down in chess, it’s a given.  I like rated games because I know my opponent is trying his best, but I think it gets ridiculous when I can pick up on my opponent’s ego, when there is hardly anything more than pride on the line.

The clock was already affecting my play by move 15.  No reason not to play 15.g4 here.  I was relieved when he put his pawn down on ..f6 rather than ..f5.  I was already playing hope-chess here on the clock, gambling that I could play 20.a3 without him responding with …f5, which is gambling, not chess, but it worked.

23. Bf2?  In time pressure, I was only able to see two moves ahead and not three.  Naturally, I was hoping he would play …NxBf2 there.  The correct continuation should have been 23.Kc2 (threatening to play b4 because stopping the …Nd3 move now) …a4, 24.Bf2.  Threatening BxNc5, and then to play Nd2-b1-c3 (I wanted to get this variation in during the game, but it was all a messy flow in my mind of which moves come first, unlike the feeling I have about it now or after the game).

Around move 33, I offered Atharva a draw and he refused because I had 4 seconds remaining.  I figured that I would probably, almost surely win if this were increment, but I believe that I would flagged somewhere because it’s 5 second delay.  I think I would have won with the 10 second delay they are discussing adding, but I figure something like that is beyond my control.

So, I instantly play 34.Rxg?? He spent a lot of time on this move, but I ignored his move because I was basically making a “pre-move” in my waning seconds.  Later, he spent quite a bit of time again, and I already knew that I was going to play 36.Rg3 before he played his move.  But this time, I wanted to make sure I was taking close to 5 seconds and not making that blunder as I did earlier, but somehow I flagged with 3 seconds on my clock.  I made my move on the board, but he called my flag instantly, as soon as it happened.  After the game, I went home and checked my clocks, couldn’t believe it.  Then I sort of vowed to never get below 5 minutes again, finish a game with 30 minutes, etc.  So that’s how I felt about it, disappointed that if I remain calm and don’t get the shakes, then I can’t do the blitz thing at the end.

The one good thing is that because I lost, I went home and studied a lot of chess, unlike when you win and think you are walking on sunshine.  I’ll definitely be more mentally prepared when it comes to my next game, with time-pressure and etc.

Safe Play

For the last round, Round 4 I had been planning on playing a Sicilian Dragon (my nemesis variation) against Dean, but I was feeling stomach distress at the start of the game, and felt daunted by the circumstance and also my lack of recent study on it, and so stuck with the C3 Sicilian.  In any case, once I ate the free Smashburger that Shirley paid for (she bought everyone a Smashburger), I felt great actually, but had already started the game in any case.

There’s not much to impress with in this game, as it has a “seen it all before” feeling to it.  I can say that I knew that his …0-0-0?? move was dropping a piece before he even played it.  Luckily there was the 30 second increment or it could have been more stressful.  As it was, I got down to 8 minutes on my clock, but sure appreciated the increment!

There is that odd nagging feeling when entering a game like this, as I know that Dean “Fritzes” his games, and it seems like could have improved on many moves.  I enjoy a good game.  It’s weird how I can play so positional and still make it look so easy, against Dean in this case.

My rating dropped from 1797 to 1787, and I have one win as Black for a couple of rating points on Tuesdays; so I do have the start to the month one can feel good about.

Solid Play

This game is for all the fans of this (or any) blog that like to see their author conducting a well-played game.

Tuesday Round 2

It wasn’t quite as easy as it looked.  I was up four minutes in time-pressure, trying to keep score (obviously this isn’t exactly what happened, but it’s difficult to keep score after one’s opponent has stopped), when I ended up having 14 seconds to his 7 seconds at the game’s end.  My clock started beeping when he had 10 seconds left, as it was accidentally set to sound (but if you are a loyal reader, you should be getting used to the weirdness at how my games end by now).

I was up for the game, felt like something special would come of it in the end, and I believe it did.  Inspired by Magnus for this game.  It sorta looks like some ho-hum Magnus game against a much weaker player than himself.

Jess actually went 3-1 at the bottom section of the Winter Springs, losing only to the first place player.  He might be close to 30 and takes his time at the board like I do.

I castled quickly, then realized I should have played ..a6, but it made it all the more fun.  When he played g4, I quickly realized that …Qf7 is winning by force (within a minute), but probably spent close to 10 minutes on the move just to make absolutely sure of each variation (nerves, and too many botched tactics of late).

A Technical Game

My recent Round 3 game against Kevin “Gene” L shows that I still don’t have my full mental focus back, although I have been effectively using mental discipline as a substitute.

It’s something about that cold that goes around that affects my brain, even though I barely have the effects of it – the dry mouth finally went away today, lets see how my lungs hold out at work.  But even this morning I wake up and my brain has trouble with simple things at first, and then I am more or less fine.  I get that feeling like something is very gently pulling on the top of my brain, as if thinking were a physical act; and none of this ever happens in the Summer, for example, where I virtually never get sick.

I had a big-think on move 7 of half an hour, not sure how to proceed against this setup which was entirely new to me.  Then I came up with this plan of 7…Ng4, 8.h3 N6 with the idea of …f5, and semi-possible follow-up of …b6 and …Bb7, saw this line twice but then my brain got foggy, couldn’t concentrate, kept trying to remember this line but couldn’t, then played 7…e5 and immediately remembered it.  The tournament conditions were perfect from a chess-players view, it was just my brain that could not focus properly, and I blurted out the 7…e5 move out of frustration, as I could have blitzed this move initially (didn’t feel comfortable with other ideas like …c5 or …c6).  After this, I was able to focus much better the rest of the game, though.

29…g5?  My blitz move, that I had seen before he even moved his queen, was to now play 29…BxN, 30.QxB Qa1+, 31.Qe1 Qxa, 32.Qd1 Kg7, 33.Qb2, but then I wasn’t feeling 100% confident that I could win from this position, but really I should have had more confidence (perhaps it was from all my bad luck as of late with my results).  So, I decided to look for a “squeeze” move and came up with this clunker.  It’s doubly silly since I was planning to defend the pawn with Bg3 if his knight moves, and then to threaten …Bh2, but I feel the time-pressure got me here because it’s a finesse-move situation here and I really hadn’t saved time on the clock for one.  After the game, I strongly felt that I should have played 29…Kf8, and then this would shut-down his e-pawn push that he surprised me with next.

31…Qa1.  When I played this move, I already knew I would be trading queens, and thought that it was winning at the time.

35…c5?!  Not the right move, although it’s hard to evaluate with more extensive analysis whether or not I had winning chances.  It’s probably just a draw here, but “chances” is the operative word.

37…h4.  I begrudgingly played this move to stop h5 from being played, which would probably win for White I felt; If this move hadn’t been necessary, then I had already calculated out a win for Black.  So, I knew that I had dumped my win and that I was going to have to try mightily just to hold after this move.

So it turned it was just a draw.  Now it was obvious that Gene could simply force three-fold with his next move, so I looked at him rather impatiently, and he looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and turned his hand up near him, so I grabbed his cold hand thinking it was draw offer but realized it was more of a question, and then he said “I guess it’s a draw”, then said “Can I play 55.Kd2??” and I replied “I’ll hit your clock if you want to play on”, and then he said that “Well, you have that 30 second increment” hesitatingly.  So, essentially, it seemed relatively certain that if I had been playing on the 5 second-delay rather than the 30 second increment that he would have played on to press me on the clock and then lost.  A fittingly bizarre way to end the game – as so many of my games seem to end!

Slaughtered

King’s Indian Defense, “round 2″, as they say.  Actually, this was the third and final round of this thatTuesday night tournament.

It’s apparent what I’ve let happen to my game.  Instead of going for the “eval” computer-move, I’ve just chosen the craziest lines that I could possibly play and gone with that.

I was already  disappointed when he played the steady 8.Be3.

15.h5  I was anticipating something more solid, I saw this line 15.Rc1 Bd7, 16.Nb5 QxQ+, 17.KxQ BxNb5, 18.BxB, OTB, which is probably equal, with a pull for White.

15…Nb3?  Even during the game, I didn’t feel like this was the best move, but I played this game like an excitement-junkie.  I bet that someone like Grishuk would have known to play a steady move such as 15…Bd7!? (controlling the b5 square) without a second thought.  Once again, I felt that Nb5 might bite me later, but I was definitely going for the wow-fun factor here.

19…Bg4??  Here I forced Daniel to play nearly the only move in the position, 20.Kg2, which I hadn’t seen and White wants to play this move anyway.  Actually, I miss these defensive king moves a lot.  After the game, Daniel said “I don’t get it, you aren’t threatening anything, I can just play this…”Whereupon he played some move and then I lit his kingside up like a Christmas-tree, Tal style, and then swiped his Nb5, completely winning.  But that is not the point, the point is that I just couldn’t calm myself down enough to “eval” the situation, and make the rational move.

If you don’t believe me (which by now you surely do), I was planning to play for example: 13…Bxg4, 14.fxg4, Nxd5, 15.NxNd5 NxNd5, 16.Queen moves …Rc8, until I noticed that White would defuse this combo simply with 14.BxNc5, so that in the end this distraction cost me around 10 minutes just to play 13…Qa5.

18…h5?? is another blunder.  Surely, Black has nothing to fear after 18…Qa5 threatening 19…Qd8.  I actually spent quite a bit of time on this move and was drawing a mental blank, which shows that I was simply not thinking clearly this late at night.

I should have played 19…Rfd8, as Daniel pointed out after the game, but this didn’t suite my no-holds barred, non-defensive psyho-chess style.  Naturally, this is the eval move and spreads out White’s attack, even gives me an impetus to gain the c-file with a rook, which is what I was looking for.  Crazy.

26…Rab8.  Even if I had seen his queen-trap and played say 26…Nc8, he could still play 27.d6 and trap my queen with Na2 on the next move.

32…Rbc7.  Here I blundered with 3.5 minutes remaining, but even after the more obvious looking 32…Rbd7, he was going to play 33.c5, which after 34.c6 is going to pick up that a7 pawn with 35.Nxa7, but in any case it’s a pawn-avalanche, drubbing to be.

Daniel always has this wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing rating whenever he plays me.  I believe he is 6 out of 6 in the month of November, or darn near it.  You could mentally swap our ratings and that would be a lot closer to the truth.

It’s funny, after the game Daniel said that he didn’t know the theory, and I assumed OTB that this must be some prepared line, since he didn’t play a normal move like Nf3.

King’s Indian Defense

Round 2

In this defense, White generally has two plans, one involving Nf3-d2 followed by e4, and the one you see all the time in this day and age of b4, c5 queenside attack.  So after the game, I let Shirley know of these two different ideas, and that she may want to try the first one, but that it’s a very theoretical opening, which is what it made it hard for her to know what to do after her basic setup was completed.  But this is also the rub, because maybe the Nf3-d2, f4 plan only works if I play something like …c5 or …Nc5, and she needs to queenside attack versus the setup that I played.  This is one of the reasons I take so long in the opening OTB because I don’t know it exactly.

I took half an hour in the opening, Shirley got impatient and sacked her knight for my g-pawn; we both wondered why she hadn’t taken the f-pawn instead if one is to be taken, so we looked at that continuation after the game and it’s much better for White than what happened next.

I showed Shirley the line I was looking at after the game: 8…Nc5, 9.Qc2 a5, 10.a3 a4, 11.Be3 and now …Bd7, 12.BxNc5 bxN, 13.Nxe5 drops the e-pawn, and 11..Nf6d7 just looks silly sitting there blocking in the …Bc8 as part of a static defense of the a4 pawn.  It’s usually bad continuations that I need to “look off” that I need the time for.  Once Shirley sacked her knight, I more or less played on the 30 second increment for the rest of the game.

At the end, 33…Qf2 mates against any legal move, so I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to play the variation 33.Qd2 Qf2+, 34.QxQ gxQf2 mate, which I also would have played against 33.Rd2 for instance, just because it’s such a pretty mate.

So the real question is whether Vishy will still have a chance to tie the match and go into tie-breaks if he loses today.  Vishy says his favorite move is 1.e4, but plays 1.d4.  Carlsen says his favorite move is 1.d4, but plays 1.e4; something is wrong with this picture.

BTW, for any local players reading this, the tournament conditions are outstanding at the Herman home.  Coffee, espresso (even some wine!), we ate fresh-baked cookies.  It’s very quiet and low key, so it’s easy to concentrate and be at your best, with good lighting too!

Dispossessed

….of the strength, time, and will to resist.

Round 2

This is one of those games where you play because you want to, not because you should.  The first half of the game was like Cinderella before midnight, and then the stagecoach turned into a pumpkin, etc.

Coming into the game, I had been up/awake since 11:45 pm the night before, and still fighting this light flu.  Actually, I lost my voice for three days last week and took two days off of work because of it.  Anyhow, there are always chess reasons for losing a game.

I has happy to get paired against William because my physical strength was ebbing away.  Like I say, the first half of the game went fine, when one can take their time, but in time-pressure that’s when I realized that I didn’t have it.  I didn’t get the shakes like I do when I win, or knock over any pieces, didn’t even get nervous, and that’s just as much because I had no nervous energy to get nervous with.

William only used 26 minutes for the game, but I can’t remember ever using his clock to find any improvements.  He didn’t move when I went to the restroom multiple times to blow my nose and cough, but he moved instantly at the board, particularly in my time-pressure.  After the game, I immediately found improvements on each move and my play was like one long blunderthon.

20…dxR After the game, I had wondered why I hadn’t traded off that last pair of rooks with 20…RxR, not that it matters much as I blew easy wins the whole way along.

23…Qd6.  Right after I played this, I questioned why I hadn’t played …Qd7 as I need to keep my queen on light squares, and after …Rd8 to follow, this would soon be a game-over position.  Just watch, the queen on dark-square follies is like never-ending until I misplace her on a light square.

25…Rec7.  How many pieces can I misplace on dark squares at once?  Rd7 or Qe6, putting pieces on light squares is an easy win.

27…Qc6 (forced).  Finally on a light-square, hurray!

28…Qc3.  Oh no, more dark-square badness!  28…Qe8, putting her on the light square is back into the easy-win column.

…..more pieces on dark-squares hell follows….

35….Qg6.  Choosing the wrong light-square this time!   Again, …Qf7, need I say more?

36…Rxd5??  I suspected something was up, but you can see that I needed the proverbial Snickers bar by this point (It’s an American commercial).  I was out of every kind of chess gas that you can think of.

43….a6.  I didn’t play 43…Qa1+, 44.Kg2 Qxa2, 45.Qe3+ because I was “afraid of a perpetual” even though under a minute on my clock, more like 45 seconds, if that.  You practically need a second time-control or a 30 second increment to play from here.

I was going to offer a draw, but didn’t get a chance to until my h-pawn had dropped.  At this point the play was so fast and furious that I’m not so sure that that’s how I even dropped the h-pawn.  He rejected my draw offer after that quite naturally, and then I was down to one second on my clock, and he checked me about twenty times, to the point that I had been lulled into a false sense of security, but it was tough because I had to avoid the queen trade, even though it doesn’t look tough because I am not showing all of the messy positions we got into.  Anyway, I showed the mate that I walked into in the game-score.

Well, I got a good chess lesson.  Funny thing is that I found all of these improvements after the game and here now rather instantly; I guess is what happens when one plays a technical position badly against a lower-rated player who happened to play that same technical position very well himself (so kudos to him).  Anyway, I went home, talked with Alex, and then went to bed as I wasn’t feeling my strength mentally or physically.  Of course, I feel much better after waking up after some sleep and getting a cup of coffee in.  It’s just one of those things.  William is a very beatable player, but you can’t have a bad day against him, that’s for sure, as he comes with a lot of energy and determination; he’s a really nice elderly gentleman.

I do note how in this game, it shows how later on in the game you do need more time than you when you are just looking for tactical shots because instead winning becomes all about superior positional moves and plans, and not about finding shots as much – shots being a wil’o-the-wisp trail which can lead one onto the wrong path just as often as not.  A tactics fixation can also lead one to looking for sharp, concrete lines at innapropriate times as well.