If At First You Don’t Succeed

…then it may take you another sixty moves, assuming that you do succeed.

In this Round 2 game, I had the position in the palm of my hands on move twenty-eight, but did not see the winning idea until after the game, which I spotted nearly instantly as I showed the game to Alex.

I knew the winning move was 28.g4, all along, but could not spot the winning idea, and didn’t feel like crucifying myself on the clock when a reasonable looking alternative in 28.Nc5 existed – whereupon he played 28…Nd6, equalizing, and I immediately regretted my mistake.

The winning “move” is 28.g4 (…Na6, 29.Nc5 is winning) Nh4, 29.Nd6+ Ke7 (..Kf8 is even worse), 30.Nc8+! (the winning “idea”). Now comes the third stage, the “verification” of the winning move and idea. If 30…Kd8, 31.Bb7 (..Bd7, 32.Na7 Kc7, 33.Bxa6 Kb6, 34.Bxc6 Bxc6, 35.Nxc6 KxN is only two pawns for a piece, losing. 32.Nd6 Kc7 wins a piece. The answer is in the problem-like 32.Nb6! when a piece trade will still win the a6 pawn, so 32…Bd8, 33.Na8!! forming a fortress. Now if 33..Kd7, 34.Bxa6 Kc6, 35.Bxb5! KxBc6, 36.Nc7+ forking bishop and king and winning. Little did I realized this would turn into an endgame composition! I just did all that without an engine :) ) Kc7, 32.Bxa6 Kb6, 33.Nd6 and Black cannot move his bishop to prevent White’s bishop from escaping via either b7 or c8 (30…Kd7 is the same story, plus the Black king has to move again or White will take the b5 pawn as well).

The move and verification part of it I do alright at, it’s spotting the idea that makes it all work that is the tricky, yet beautiful part of it.

If you are wondering if I see deep at the board, then I’ll point to the move 22.RxRc8. When I played this move, I already knew that I wasn’t winning a pawn by 22…Rc8, 23.Bb7 Nd6, 24.Bxa6 Qb6, 25.Bc8 Bc6 and I can’t see a way to stop 26…RxBc8 winning a piece, although I would surmise that there are numerous weird “computer lines” which makes this look half-playable for White; but like I say, I haven’t computer-checked any of the game, so I wouldn’t know.

I was shocked and pleasantly surprised when Shirley brought me a glass of water while I was playing her own son! That is amazing. Of course, all Daniel had to do at any point at the end was march his king to h8 and camp out there for the draw. He did finally ask for a draw at that point, but his king was going the wrong way, which is why I played on in the 0.0 position and eventually won. BTW, he had an hour to my 7 seconds when he asked for the draw, which surprised the onlookers when I played on.

I am taking a bye tonight, Thursday, so this will be my only game for this week.

Playing Against Your Own Preparation

…is what this opening felt like. In this Game I was playing the Black side of a C3 Sicilian with the e-pawns traded off, and even that is not too unusual. This tabiya is even more important as it is an equalizing line against the Scotch Opening, and I played the repertoire that the Master with the “ChessExplained” Youtube chanel uses. Be that as it may, I still was not comfortable playing Black against the two bishops here as this line he stumbled into is in my repertoire for White!

Spassky and Petrosian used to make their opponents play against their own openings like this because it is a very heavy thing to deal with psychologically, and in the instance of this game I spent a boatload of time dreading the rest of the game, which never came. Actually, once I saw him play Bf4 instead of Be3, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, and White quickly collapsed given that he was attacking me behind an <1400 rating.

Once again, I pulled up a word-processor and simply filled in the pgn blindfold-style, and then directly loaded it up to the site. The only mistake I made this time was to put …Qxf7+ instead of …Qxf2+. This is a positive exercise for me since my biggest weakness, given my rating, is my lousy score-keeping.

With 7:43 remaining on my clock, I began to unzip and take off my jacket whereupon Eugin resigned before I could, sensing that I was going to make perfect work of it. As soon as he resigned, I showed him that I was going to play 24.Ka6 Qc4+ 25.Kb7 Rb8+, whereupon Alex played 26.Kxc7, and I instantly played Re7+ 27.Kd6 and then Daniel grabbed the rook and played the picturesque 27…Rd8 mate.

Birthday Present

…was how Jordan described our Round 1 game when he resigned. I told him that I hadn’t wanted him to resign because I wanted to get the variaation on my scoresheet 21.Qe1 or Qc1 ..NxB, 22.QxN BxRf1, 23.RxRf1 Bxh2+, 24.KxB QxRf1 where White will be up two clear rooks.

Without the blunder (I pointed out after the game that he should have played 8.Be2 instead of 8.Bb5??) there might be no win, but the biggest victory for me, besides the score, was getting him out of his Cheescake opening familiarity (although he said that we were still in his system on move 8).

I didn’t feed this game into an engine. In fact, I put all the moves to the game down on a text file, blindfold, and then checked the scoresheet. I only made two transpositional errors. One was I thought he played 2.Nf3 instead of e3, and the other was I put …0-0 before ..Ba6, but I figured something was wrong here anyway since I remembered castling before him, and that explained the discrepancy. See, you hardly need a computer after all other than for record-keeping!

Rating Point Bleeding Has Stopped

Round 4

New opponent, will annotate later.

Me, Alex, and Rhett co-won the tournament with 3.5/4. :-) Rhett made 2000 even, Alex made 1801, and I got my rating back up to 1833.

In the game, I spent too much time on the 10…Bd7 sham-sac, which he declined and the position transposed anyway. I have always disliked this variation as Black and I had to feel my way through it to gain the confidence – this is something that a blitz game in this opening will not give you.

White didn’t find a way to continue the attack (I would have come up with sharper stuff as White), and so it was up to Black to break through.

I have not done any engine analysis of this game, but I feel the way to get to Expert is actually to shut the engines off and figure it out for yourself. You need to be that strong on your own, that’s the only way anyone makes it to Master, otherwise one could follow an openings book to Master or etc.

22.Nf3. To be a solid class A player one can’t sort of “wimp out” like this. 22.f4 was the move I was afraid to see, solidifying the center, then he can get back to his Nd2 with ..a5 business.

25.Nd2 Now it is too late for the …a5 idea because the bishop’s diagonal will be opening up.

28.Nd2 He continues to “return to the scene of the crime”. Why not grab the d-file with a rook or get some h3 luft in here. He is probably stuck on the …a5 idea, but it’s stronger as a chessplayer to be flexible. I would simply take on a5, then give up the c5 pawn for the b7 pawn after trades.

29.Rcd8 I played this move with misgivings. This was the last opportunity to play 29…Bxb2, which I almost played. After 30 RxBb2 c3 30. Rc2 (or Ra2) cxNd2 this should be winning for Black here with back-rank ..Rc1 type threats or promote on d1. After last night I decided to win this game “Botvinnik-style” instead of “Tal-style”, but really the slow positional way takes more time to flesh-out, unless your opponent cracks and blunders seeking undue activity, which is what happened in this game.

32.e4?? This is the loser in a lost position, but it stunned me because I had thought it not possible. In fact, I thought I had determined that this drops the Nd7 but in time-pressure couldn’t remember why! (…Bg5 wins). I played 32…Rd4? as a “clock-move” being down to 59 seconds on my clock, and then slapped my face, walked away from the board to curse my stupidity. Not only had I forgotten …Bg5 in response, but I had dropped a pawn as well. Like I say, the unrefuted move becomes the “good move” – I noticed this back as a 1500 player, and I’ve never heard anyone else notice this or write about this other than myself, so it’s probably just assumed at a Master level, but ough to be explicitly pointed out at the class level.

After 33.Qxf4, luckily I have an only-move which may still be winning in …Bg5, but I knew that 34.f4 was probably losing, and not the way for White to play. After the game, I insisted he must have a better move here, and he found 24.Nf6! which threatens to create perpetual chances or win back the exchange when White is a pawn up. Idea is to play Nf3-e5 next, hitting the Qd6 and coming further into Black’s king position. I don’t know how realistic his drawing chances were, but combined with his 4 minutes to my 1, his chances would have been a lot better that way.

Expert Game

Paul did show up for the last round even thogh a bye would have secured first place. He showed up for a shot at ratings, as he is trying to make 2100.

Dean said “If your oppoent is not here, you can start the clocks”, so I did so and Paul was 7 minutes lates.

In this Game, Paul varied from his Moden Defense and played the Caro-Kahn instead.

As usual, I am getting over a cold and sneezing as I type this. My call-center job/environment has been getting me sick on a near weekly basis as of late.

On move 27.Nxd5, I played this combo at 11 minutes remaining with the intent of clock management; it leads to a 0.0 position, but keeps me in the game on the clock, which is what I was looking for at my lessened energy level from the cold. I did consider 27.Nfe4, which is +2.5, but it was beyond my reach at G/90. Against a lower-rated player, I would have opted for my originally intended 27.Ng4 Nd7, 28.Rc7 Qc5, 29.Qf4 with the idea of Nf6 (attacking h7) and after ..NxNf6, QxNf6 followed by Qe7 QxQ, RxQ and the rook/s can dominate (this is not an engine variation) – but I hadn’t fleshed-out that trade on e7. Also, I considered getting the Nf7 and then to d6, but that is still a vulnerable place and takes time to prepare and calculate. At a longer time-control, this game would taken a different path here.

27.Nd5, I believe is most like a phantom combo, as White should first set this up with Re1 to save the e5 pawn, but after a knight move from Black the combo likely won’t exist anymore, not sure about that though. In any event, I realize that I should have continued to build the position here, and the combo was too much of a cop-out.

I should have traded queens right off the bat, and Paul makes some inaccurate moves to keep the draw within reach for me. At the end, I was going to play 62.Rf3, but it had gotten difficult for me to think quickly here, and I played 62.Rf4 instead and immediately resigned. It didn’t help that I had a cold, nor that I had 26 seconds remaining on my clock and made that game-losing blunder with 24 seconds. If I had made it past that move, it would have been 0.0, but the swindling chances then would have been more on my side than his, but really it is an easy draw at least for White, but should be for both sides there.

The Fix Is In

Whoever thought that chess didn’t have it’s fair share of drama? I say this humorously, as I could theoretically go 3.5/4 this month without getting a shot at the tournament leader. I suspect that if he takes a bye, then it will be to “punish me” for my earlier draw. It’s comical how many are taking byes. Not sure who I might play as Black next week, possibly Rebecca who has been an “upset” queen of late, and is currently rated 1420. Daniel is my other likely opponent, he’s around 1700.

Well, I played Sarah. She is a sweet and talented kid, and once rated in the mid 1300′s after one tournament, but you know how kids ratings are all over the place.

Round 3

I blitzed out the part where I won the piece on c5, as little Fabio had stopped to watch at this point. I was going to play 13.Ba3, but was feeling rather complacent at this point, playing 13.Bd4 quite quickly and then noticing my blunder. At this point, some people found the game “interesting”, but I knew that it never was in the winning sense.

Stockfish likes the c4, d5 push when I had the chance, thinks it’s a big deal, but I would have to analyze since I don’t see it yet.

Both of us played inaccurately during non-critical moves, and I played less accurately than her aside from the blunder, but we both played well during critical positions. For example, 15…NxBe3 16.fxNe3 Nxe3 17.Rf4 and Black is not winning the exchange after all; this was another trap I had calculated during the game.

Well, Sara almost had me on my second scoresheet, and had my clock down to 2:28 remaining compared to her 51 minutes, so kudos to her.

On a chess politics note, as much as it gives me headache just to bring this up, I will say that I was scheduled to play Paul Anderson on board 1 on Wednesday, and Rhett on Board 1 on Thursday. Both players are taking a last-round bye to lock in their prize money. Okay, so once a couple years ago I took a last round bye at the last moment because I was sick and had been working that day, and I don’t know what happened there but I had split first place on the bye and was completely taken by surprise when Dean emailed me about where to send the prize money check to (it was maybe for $20, tops). What’s taking place these days is planned, and the first place winners frequently even show up to these last rounds after having taken their bye.

What happened to old-school toughness? I feel if players are going to put the pressure on to go 3-0 just to make the last round interesting, then it should be an eight-round two month tournament! Zero point last round byes, which Shirley and I favor, is another a great idea. I still catch heat from Alex sometimes that I took that last round bye at the last E. Coast Deli tournament. He wanted to win the last tournament there, whereas I probably felt the last tournament there made it more of a “lame duck” tournament.

A Non-MDLM Game

Round 3

The game was agreed drawn after move 26 as we were both down to seven minutes remaining and realized that the position was too complex to be played out. I had seen all the way to move 29, but wasn’t sure what he’d do there and it looked scary how he could reposition his knight (in our mutual time-trouble). I show what seems obvious to me, the 30.d5 push, and that is around +.6 after …Qc3 coming up, but actually 30.b5 is winning (..Na8 instead of ..Nd7 had been a blunder), but this is quite difficult to see at the board, and if you had seen it you wouldn’t have enought time to analyze or play it correctly most likely – a pity, really.

A great game, but the piece de resistance would have been on move 30, and it’s more of a combination, and not a tactic.

I am not even sure why Stockfish thought that 29.Na8 was +.9 or more. My main computer crashed (probably a bad data cable), and stockfish on an Android tablet, well these tablets are hard to navigate (I am on my laptop now).

Actually, I wasn’t worried about the 28..Qf6 variation during the game, I was worried about a 28..Nf6 variation, where the knight would like to go to e4 or g4 and it’s very difficult to account for knight like this in time-pressure, as I told him after the game. During the post-mortem, he even got in this ..Rxd4, …Rd2 followed by ..Qb2 or ..Qd4 with this mating battery against my king; this could happen for example if he simply sacs his Nc7, and then I lose instantly by playing Qxb7 after that instead of Qb6. I would have been surprised and most likely have lost if he uncorked this during the game, as one of the reasons that I accepted the draw was because I thought that my king was looser than his.

One thing I have to improve on, even in time-pressure, is simply to believe that he repositions an active piece to somewhere else that it is then attacking something else, yet undefending possibly an even more important point. I can give up d4 to take e6, which is more devastating for Black. If the knight moves back, then not only does it undefend d5 and b5, but is also pinnable to the king along the back-rank. The Nc7 sac variation would have been extremely challenging for me during time-pressure, and that is the one variation that I am still not clear on; undoubtedly, I am missing a resource which I will find, but would not have found in time-pressure.

I found the simple defenses to the Nc7 sac, and I am glad that I don’t have a computer to help me because I know that my opponent tonight for example, Rhett, would never miss these simple defenses. For example after …Rd2, Black can resign after Qc7-e5. If instead of ..Rd2, Black plays ..RxR, BxR Qd4+, Kh1 Qd2, Rf1 with Bf3 coming up if needed, and Black can resign again as White also has Qe5 to play if needed.

All this takes us back to the …Nf6 variation which I was afraid of, but mostly because of the time-pressure. After ..Nf6, Bc2, I thought that neither side had a breakthrough, and didn’t realize after all of his defensive play that he might choose to play it sharp here, instead. We both admitted that we didn’t have time to play the position out correctly, which is why we both were okay with a draw.

…Qf6 is a bad move. It is better to develop the knight instead. Intuitively, I fell this, but OTB I have to calculate refutations and often by this point simply do not have the time to do so so opponent’s can then get away with stuff, and unrefuted moves often turn into wins for the side playing them.