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.

The One That Got Away

So, lo and behold Round 1 was a revanche.  After losing last Thursday and Rhett smirking that I had played “The Freeman Variation”, which is a nice pre-fight setup since I am to “blame” for teaching it to Alex F.  I had one idea going into this line again, 8.Be3, which is a move played by Karjakin (I just looked at chessbase online last night, only the first few moves, looking for an idea to justify trotting it out again).  Ultimately, I may not have played the opening right, and was again at a disadvantage, but limited the damage and was able to outplay later on.  I wanted to prove that the f4 variation was playable, as well, and since Rhett only recently dropped below Expert, I think I proved my point enough to prove it; and honestly, that was worth more to me than the ultimate result of the game.

There were some interesting traps and analysis, but I’ll jump to the end since most people are more interested in results.  There was a time-pressure silliness/follies.  We were playing with a club digital chronos clock that doesn’t blink or anything when the clock reaches zero.  Anyway, Rhett had 9 seconds to my 2 seconds, when I knocked over the pawn when capturing it on move 40.  Somehow, and Rhett is so mild in time-pressure at first, he was complaining that he had to set up the pawn before capturing it and I noticed that he had flagged, but he said he was also trying to stop the clock.  Anyway, he had somehow fiddle-faddle-farted away his nine seconds.

Well, we played on to see if his clock would flag as in blink or something, and it doesn’t do any of that.  I know how preposterous this sounds.  Really, I got Rhett to agree after the game that we should have had both 2 seconds remaining (it’s five second delay).  I think he wanted to claim 2 minutes or something like that, but he didn’t say.  Anyway, I had 2 seconds remaining when we resumed at move 44.  I can’t remember how I allowed stalemate because the two queens were further back, but one on the second file and the other on the seventh rank.

It will seem strange that I did not win, but besides my ridiculous rushing and not spending any time on my moves, there is another reason, and that is that you need mental breaks at least every ten to fifteen moves or so, and when your opponent doesn’t give them to you then it’s like you suddenly can’t think because you never used any time to come up with a plan, to checkmate king or cut off king first, etc.  You can’t play for too long without going from plan to plan and not blunder.  This is is an area of my game that I need to improve on for sure!

It’s funny how I was still able to play a good chess game after 10 hrs work and 5 hrs sleep, and getting over a cold.  For the first time, I’ve lost my voice, from that cold, and I’m glad I have these two days off!  It just goes to show how much of it is chess skill.  The reason I played so well  is that Rhett used a lot of his time as well.  Once it came down to none of us having time is when I began to have issues, and sure I should have moved more quickly on my earlier moves, but I need to learn to calm down and not physically get the shakes in time-pressure, and work that 5 second-delay, get used to moving at the pace of a delay.  It’s funny, but now that I think about it, if I were really smart (@ss) then I should have said “You know what, you are right Rhett, let’s add two minutes to your clock for me knocking over your pawn (onto the right square)”  because that would have helped me!   Well, technically I captured his pawn, so it was my pawn that was on the square, and rolled a teenie bit in the square.

BTW, the arbiter, Shirley, did a great job and I don’t want to get into the technical details of what happened, but I could have called flag after we played on but didn’t, and I felt that I really should have been able to win with two seconds on my clock, but I guess I was just a wreck.

Defensive Collapse

Thursdays, Round 1

When I got back to Colorado, I got two hours sleep Tuesday night, then less than three hours sleep on Wednesday night, running around town partying with Alex.  So by the time Thursday comes around and I find out there is a game, perhaps that does leave me with some excuse for what was to follow, Shirley’s nice quiet house and free coffee not withstanding (it is ideal tournament conditions playing there, BTW).

My feeling was that 1.d4 and a King’s Indian Defense would give me a solid advantage against Rhett, but I decided to play this sharp system instead, even knowing that it’s virtually walking right into his preparation.

My first suspect move was 10.Bd2.  I wanted to play 10.Kh1, but figured he would at least equalize with ..exf, 11.Bxf Qh5.  But now I missed that after 10.Bd2 exf, that my planned, 11.Nd5 does not work because of …Qc5+, picking up the knight.

Stunned by this, I play 11.Kg1? when a more interesting move may be 11.Ne2!? with a nice attack on Black’s queen, plus interesting recapture on f4 possibilities.  Of course I was holding this knight in reserve to trap the queen in lines where Black might take on b2, and Na4 traps the queen.  It’s interesting how my tendency to maximize caused me to swot lines.  Earlier, it was Na4 lines which caused me to miss the …Qc5+ threat, and here it was this queen trap line which caused me to not realize that this was a fresh position where b2 pawn could be given up with an attack on his king.  For instance.  11.Ne2!? Qb6, 12.Bxf4 Qxb2??, 13.Qd2, and actually 14.Rf1b2 would be trapping Black’s queen!

13.gxf3? I had so much time to think at this time-control that I went into this sketchy position for the allure and fun of it.  Most of my time was spent calculating the serious 13.Rxf3 Ne5, 14.Bxf4 Bd6, and then what to do with the rook?  15.Rf1 would simply give up the d-pawn after …NxBd3, 16.cxN, Rxd3, but there is probably a lot more here than just that, and even 15.Rh3 or Re3 may be possible.

17.Na4?  17.b4 deserves the most consideration, although Black has such fancy continuations available as …Bc5, 18.bxc6 Be3, 19.c6xb7+ Kb8! or 17…c5, 18.b6 a6.  White might still be losing, but at least is sort of forcing, if not tempting Black, to develop his remaining two pieces.

18.Kg1?  18.Rg1, which Rhett offered post-mortem, is a far better defense as …Nxf3, 19.Rg2, threatening 20.Rf2! appears playable, and indeed we got into a double rook endgame where I was only down a pawn yet still managed to lose with risky bad play.

19.h2xNg3??  Not good.  By this point I was getting more short-sighted in time-pressure, and not able to think rationally.  19.Rf2 NxB, 20.RxN Nxf3+, 21.Kh1 was still a whole lot better than losing immediately.

This looks like a terrible loss, and is, even on paper, but it did give me a better sense of when not to sac a pawn and when to.  If I had had a real attack, it may have been a different story.  I thought that Anthea’s loss to Alex began when she decided to recapture Alex’s pawn instead of letting it stay there and ignoring it – different game, different position – whereas I think others looking at that game with me didn’t possess that sort of sense as much as I have developed by making dumb pawn sacs myself (I know a good one when I see one, or one that can be recaptured later).

It would be a little intriguing to know whether or not an engine agrees with my analysis here or finds anything that I didn’t find, and slightly wonder if it won’t, although surely it ought to.

Positional Madness

City Championship, Round 3

At first, I thought this was just another ridiculous loss of mine, but I did through in some excitement value as well, as the ship went down.

11.Nc3? was positional laziness, just as much wanting to see how he would proceed.  Perhaps I could play 11.h3 or some other move here.

13.fxe5??  I didn’t like “the look” of 13.dxe5, and made my move after maybe half a minute of thought.  The thing is that I had been calculating Black playing …Rd8, and he played it here, but I hadn’t calculated it at all on this move, and suddenly I am just losing a pawn.

21.Bg5? I had told myself that it was positional madness to play this move, and yet I played it anyway once I realized how “boring that it looked” to play 21.dxc6 (I knew that dxe6 would make his knights strong and well placed, as I told him after the game) bxc6. 22.Ne4 NxN. 23.QxN Bg7 being a pawn down and trying to hold on in such a non-dynamic position, but it would have been better than the coffee-house moves which I chose that followed.

22.fxe6?  This is why I had played 21.Bg5, because I had tempted myself into taking on e6 after all.

23.Bd2?!  I am already playing for tricks, really, as I hadn’t wanted to allow …BxNc3, ruining my pawn structure -+.

24.Bd5? Can you blame me?  I saw that I was simply dropping the pawn after 24.Ne4 NxN, 25.QxN Be5, 26.Bf4 Rxe6.  The idea behind 24.Bd5 was to follow it up with …cxB, 25.Nxd5 Qf8, 26.e7, but this was hope-chess because I never saw the reply 24…BxNc3 until he played it, although honestly he simply needed to see what I was up to and then find it’s fatal flaw, which is more or less what happened.  He used his clock impeccably, always solving the problem on the board and never making “clock moves”.

I flirted with the intermezzo 26.Bxf6, but it just doesn’t lead anywhere after ..QxBf6, 27.g4.  Also, 27.e7 Rae8, 28.g4 will fail tactiacally to …Rxe7.

I completely missed 27…Nd4, and was rather surprised that it appeared to work, although 28.Qc4 would have been more of a common-sense replay which Alex found in post-game analysis, and should at least win a pawn versus what I played.  Actually, 28.Qc4 Qd6? would be a blunder due to either 29.Rxf6 or 29.e7, either one should work, but after 28…Rad8 Black should be up that piece safely for no more than a pawn.  29.Bxa5?! b5! 30.Qb4? Nc6

Playing Straight-Up Chess

Round 4

After yesterday’s goofy debacle, I was not of a mind to play any weird, overly spicy moves for this game, except for late in the game where I am winning, of course.

I had realized that 19.g4 was a terrible move, but so much so that it made me lazy.  I saw his move, had a short debate between 19…Nd7 (idea of …Nb6), which should be a relatively easy and straight-forward win, and 19…b6, which I played very quickly and immediately realized I had blundered by playing the wrong move-order.  This is a classic example of trading blunders, the psychology behind why this sort of thing can happen.

So now I had to “win differently” as the GMs like to say.  After 20…gxf6, which Alex had predicted and was happy to see, he also let me know this is called the “submarine” pawn formation.  Luckily, Paul’s technique was relatively atrocious (although just as understandable) from this point forward and I bagged the win.  I’ve seen him play a lot better than this, but this is what happens when you get a bit rusty from not playing every week like so many of us do.  For example, his longest think was on 20.BxNf6, and I thought that he should have snapped that off instantly, after my 19…b6 blunder.

I stopped keeping score at some point under five minutes, and ended up with 17 seconds remaining on my clock to his half an hour, but I queened the f-pawn for example, before he resigned, and picked up his knight to boot.

The Piece Sac That Dropped A Piece

Round 2

I was very tired before this game, worked 10 hrs, but then ate a burger and drank a large coke right before the start of the game.  So then I must have still been thnking a little loopy, but felt fine and had energy, thus had a very false sense of security.  I thought about playing 13…h6, 14.Bd2 to set-up the sac, which would have blocked him from his rook lift, and kept the game winning h-file closed, but I was deluded.  Even then it would have been quite an unnecessary sac.

had asked for a bye, but then changed my mind and decided to play, knowing that I won’t get to play, most likely, in California, and one of the last chances to see people here before I go at the end of the month.  I thought I would lose when I played this sac, but didn’t know how, and actually thought in some lines that I could play Qh6; quite delusional.  Really makes you realize how it’s all about hampering opponent development, not always about your own play unless you know it’s coming in relatively unopposed.  Very, very needless loss.  I was at least happy that I got in a Chebanenko Slav – have a book on it, but haven’t read any of it.  I was more or less okay out of the opening, just decided to go psycho and “have some fun”.  Yikes!