Move First, Lose Sooner!

…a play on the title “Move First, Think Later!” if that is indeed what the title was implying.  If you watch this Round 3 game, then you will wonder how I lost so easily, but it requires a bit of explanation.

When I got there, I was four minutes late off of the clock, and was semi-disappointed that I was going to “waste” a White game against a Master, since I would rather dump a game as Black, where I will still learn something, but not lose out on playing White in the next round, but I suppose building experience as Black is more important than rating.  Anyway, “small potatoes”, as the American expression goes.

So, I got into the C3 Sicilian, where I know he had hammered me on the clock last time we played this, and naturally history would repeat itself.  I spent 30 minutes on 14.Bc4, so I must have been freaking out that I had spent too much time on that move when I told myself to just play a candidate move, being 15.Nd6 even though I hadn’t finished analyzing it, and hadn’t finished “going through my progressions” of looking at the different lines to play.  No sooner had I played it than I kicked myself for not playing 15.a4, which I would have surely played at a slower time-control.  But actually, he can reply not play 15…a6??, but by 15…Rc8, and then 16.Nc3 is probably best, so why not play it at move 15?  This is the conclusion that Master Bloomer had come to as well.  However, even the move 15.BxNd5 QxNb5, 16.Bb3, my first and modest inclination, would have been quite an acceptable choice.

At this point, the game takes a bit of a surreal turn, as my “out” against 15…Na5 was to play 16.Ne4, assuming there was nothing better, or nothing else worked.  Well, I looked at 16.Ne5 QxNd6, 17.Ng6 e5, 18.Bxe5 QxNg6 for an example of that line.   I also looked at 16.Qd2 BxNd6, 17.BxBd6 NxBc4, 18.Bc5 NxQ, 19.BxQ NxRf1 winning a rook for Black.  16.Qd2 Bxd6, 17.Bxd5 Bxg3 is still immediately losing a piece for White, and 16.BxNd5 exd5 and now my Nd6 is trapped and lost.

The only move, as Josh pointed out afterward was 16.b4, which I had considered, but curiously enough had never analyzed my “out” or my “go to move of 16.Ne4, and I it must have been because I was so disgusted with myself that I still had not finished solving the position when I played 16.Ne4 (a clock management move, really, since I am not the type to make moves that I don’t want to make), I pressed the clock and noticed his recapture and skewer as soon as I looked back at the board.  This is mainly because I realized that I never even taken a look at this line, hadn’t analyzed it yet, it was just part of the guesswork of the position at that point.  Well, he took at least 5 minutes before recapturing and skewering my rooks, and I spent at least 5 minutes before deciding not resign on the spot, although both of these events felt more like 10 minutes.  So this is what had happened in this game.

As I told Alex after the game, I would have rather flagged in an advatageous or equal position than to have played blunders for the sake of the clock.  Lesson learned.  Also, I need to become more efficient in analyzing quickly.  I need to build up that sense, possibly, of what not to look at, and also to make sure that I do look at the stuff that I am actually going to play.

Romantic Miniature

Round 2

….or so that is how this one felt like.  I showed Dean improvements he could have made after the game, such as ….Nd7 instead of …Bd7 (and yet I had to convince him as his database said  …Bd7 most often played).  Thinking about this now, I am so glad that I don’t have to rely on a database or a chess-engine as a “surrogate brain”.  It’s funny how I think the database and engine are frequently wrong, and don’t feel the need to consult one, particularly for my own OTB games.

I inadvertently let out a chuckle when he played 21…Ne6, because I knew that to play that move he must have overlooked that after 22.Nxd5 Nxd4 (with the idea of 23.BxNd5 Rd8 skewering) White has 23.Ne7 mate.  The thing is though that Dean takes so much time on his moves that it enables me to see all of this – a luxury which I don’t get against higher-rated players.

Dean resigned before I could play 23.Rhe1 with the idea of 24.RxNe6 and 25.Nc7 (I showed him this as soon as he resigned).  He made his move and resigned immediately, so I didn’t have a chance to play my next move.

So, next week is the “real game”.  I will have Black against a Master, either Brian Wall or Josh Bloomer, or will play Mark McGough, who mated Expert Paul Anderson with a double piece-sac.  And of course, I barely know what to do against 1.d4, so will probably play something conservative, or will perhaps look up some lines of whatever I chose to play (don’t really know how to study against 1.d4).

One thing I’ll say is that studying some tactical puzzles (from Chess Life) did get me back into the swing of firing off with the sharp refuation in this game.  I solved/studied six tactical puzzles from one of Soltis columns, and the next time I solved six puzzles (Nezhmetdinov’s games this time) from his column, it seemed like I got 5/6 in just 10 minutes.  So, definitely do study tactics to sharpen your game!

Here is a blitz game I played on FICS not quite a week ago (notice the times). – opponent disconnected before I could play Bh6+ followed by Qf4, which will mate on either h7 or g7.  Tactics are coming back to me.  If there is one slight downside it’s that when I calculate tactics it’s like my face gets hot and I throw water on it in the restroom.  It’s as if the “computer chip” in my brain is running hot, checking variations, even though I see initial lines right away.

I wish I had taken a chance on that Millionaire Open tournament, but next week will be the real test.

Fabiano Versus Magnus

I want to add some chess news opinion that I have here.  I just watched this video (click on word video) of Magnus losing to Caruana

Unfortunately, based on results, and Caruana’s recent result of starting 7-0, the vast majority will come to a conclusion of Caruana being the best.  Well, the streak speaks for itself, but in this game in particular I thought it showed that Manus was the one having the greater conceptions about the position, but since he lost naturally most everyone will see differently. 

Actually, I feel Caruana’s great “victory” was in opening preparation, getting Magnus into an uncomfortable spot so that Magnus was forcing the play.  I believe an average IM would have won as Black because to make White’s attack work, you had to be hundreds of ratings points stronger as White than Black to make this attack work.  Jerry said he didn’t know why Magnus played h3, but clearly he was envisioning the Bxf7+ sac when he played this.

Jerry went over some spots so fast, for example not examing the QxNf2 sac – although I’ll take his word for it, you’d have to examine this position still.  Also, I would not have made the decision to play e6 as White if it could be defended on e5 – perhaps this doesn’t work, but the video skipped over it.

This in some way confirms what I told Paul C the other night after he said that he didn’t win (a game), Shirley lost it, and I blurted out “that’s all games”.  Surely, in this case Magnus lost it since Black “merely” has to find best moves, and in any case this was never Black’s attack, Black’s attack is really only the refuation of White’s attack.  I remember Life Master Brian Wall recently saying that to win against a lower-rated player, don’t give them “only-moves”, instead give them lots of choices [so that they will surely go wrong somewhere].

My initial “five-second take” on this game is that it boosts my desire/justification to put in some openings study work.

One other think I note after watching Caruana’s win against Hikaru is just how well Caruana defends.  BTW, I think Gareev’s video line from Brian Wall’s list was awesome on how to defend against bogus attack’s.  Then there was Master Josh Bloomer defeating Richard Brown from endgame position that almost looked hopeless.  In hindsight, everything is a winning attack, but when you are watching live or for the first time, you may notice how often the higher-rated player is simply the superior defender.  Superior defense can win!

BTW, here’s the video where Timur Gareev (click on his name) makes defending against suspect attacks look easy.



Wednesday Round 1

Chess nerves were showing in this game. 

 7…Ne4 ought to be played.  Instead, I hung back and completed development.

11..Qc7 to stop e4 (protect the Bd6), which she almost played once already.

15. a4.  White is putting the onus on Black to come up with something.

16. Rf3  An inaccuracy, although it was difficult to guess where White was going to go next in this position.

17. Qd4  Drops the game in quite a nerve-wracking position for both players.
Perhaps simply 17.Rf2.  I was looking for non-commital variations here which give me an “out”.  For example, at the time I wanted to play ..b6, ..Nb7, ..Nc5, but this is simply not possible on account of Bxa6 +-.  I would have been forced to find correct play OTB.  17…e5, 18.Bd2 looks best for White.  White can play more active with 18.Nf5 Bc5, 19.fxe Qxe, 20.Nd4, then possibly trade down on d4 or play …Rc8-d8, and in any case add pressure down the e-file.  Black may have an edge, but most importantly finally has counterplay or active play.

I half expected her to play Nxd5 sac as she did, and had already seen that even trading queens would land me up a rook, but I went for best play.  After the fork, it was finally “child’s play” for me OTB, could feel that.

Stressful game, as it usually is for me as Black, even though I had 33 minutes remaining still.  Shirley made a blunder in a very nervy position which surprised, and yet didn’t surprise me at the same time given what I said before.

The final position is a mate in 3 after Kf1…Qd1+, although Shirley resigned right away.


Winning One For The Gipper

After my recent losses, this one was short and sweet. 

Round 4

This game just came down to propper planning by White versus poor planning by Black.  Black should have organized a …d4 push much earlier than in the game (his next move, if not for getting checkmated, would have been to play …d4).  In the absence of direct threats he seemed to find it difficult to come up with a plan, or didn’t try hard enough to.  Like I told Alex, “He just put his pieces on pretty squares (without a real plan).” 

Win one for the Gipper

Beautiful Losses

Wednesday Round 2

I went over this game with Brian Wall after the game, and he was nice enough to flatter me and say it was the craziest game he’d ever seen.  I was feeling woozy before the game, and not in good physical shape, so that I was trying to avoid exactly the type of game that this one became.  We went over it until Brian Wall had the win for White down to a science.  I didn’t see that I was dropping my queen until after I took his rook, but I felt strangely that I might be winning since he was creating a tactic from an inferior position.  Anywhere between move 22 and 25 (for four moves) you could insert e5xf6 and White is surely winning, ++-

Well, when I am not feeling well I compensate by taking gobs of time, basically knowing that I can blunder anything back in time-pressure, which is exactly what happened.  I debated between retreating my knight and bishop, not even paying attention that the knight was hanging.  I hung it at 2:25 remaining on my clock, so you know I was in bad shape.  I could still analyze well, given all the time, but in time-pressure blitz I was hopeless.


Wednesday Round 3

Richard offered me a draw on move 40, but I played my next move with 52 seconds left because, as I said to him, I didn’t feel like I had gotten enough chess in yet (and the position wasn’t completely played out yet, so I kept going).

Richard is this lower rated player who can play a surprisingly nice endgame, and he’s surely at least Class A at the endgame.  I tested him once again and had that “Kasparov moment” where I just about bolted back in my chair when he played 53.g5, which I somehow never expected, but within a couple seconds realized that I was just losing.  Great endgame lesson on how to win with knight vs. bishop.  Richard is a knight-endgame magician.

Incidentally, I had tried to purge both of these games from memory by not posting them, and left the one scoresheet at Alex’s nearly 3 weeks ago, but was able to recreate the game from memory just now rather quickly.  Kind of amazing how you remember the mistakes.

Oddly enough, I didn’t offer or take any draws in these games, as if finally living up to the Bent Larsen tagline admonishment to never take a draw until you reach Master level.


Beautiful Dreamer






Took The Long Way Home

In this Round 1 Game, I had Black against Dean – usually get White against him. Dean was not so long ago rated 200 points higher than he is now, but has been playing a lot more lately and ironically enough sometimes playing more causes you to put less emphasis into any single game.

Well, I start out with what ultimately should have been a relatively simple win, IMO, if I had played 14…Rfe8, and the …Rad8 and …Qf5 should seal the deal. I almost didnt’ play 14…Rae8? because of 15.Ba3!, but then played it anyway because I missed seeing 16.b5 until after he played 15.Ba3, which strangely seemed best to me anyway. So now I was goading a lower-rated player into making best moves – not good for one’s rating.

Little did I realize that I was dropping the d-pawn as well. I felt that after 20…Bxf2, 21.Rxf2 that I might not be coming out of this alive, and pawn structure is not so important in this type of variation.

25.Qd4? Game should have reached an even, if not technically demanding endgame after 25.Qd8+ QxQ, 26.RxQ+ Kg7, 27.f4 Rxc4, 28.Re7! Rxf!, 29.Rxb7 Re4!, 30.Rxa Rxe5, and Daniel, who was watching our post-mortem, called this a “book draw”. Ultimately, I should be able to get my rook behind his pawn, and then also cut off his king with my rook, and lose tempos with a Khg7-h7 type of shuffle.

If 37.Rd5+, then …Kxf4, 38.RxR?, bxR, 39.c5 Ke5, and my king easily catches the pawn for example.

If 38.Rd7 Kxg3, 29.Rxf7 Kxh4, 30.Rg7 Kg4, 31.Rxg6+ Kxf4, Black has the sole kingside pawn, and 32.Rg2 can be met by Ra3 with the h-pawn advancing while the a2 pawn is babbysat. This is the sort of thing which is difficult to calculate in time-pressure, or at least is for me. I finished the game with about 3 1/2 minutes to his 7 minutes. I’d say at least half an hour is spent during the game just considering the “ratings point type of consequence” behind key moves. It’s as if I knew what to do, but had to waste time starting into the disbelief of the best chances offered.

It’s amazing how one simple tactical mistake (laziness) against a much lower-rated player can nearly send one into ratings-point purgatory. Dean has beaten players such as Expert Paul before, for example, so he is not so weak, but it’s his rating that’s weak.