Paradoxical Positions

Anatoly Karpov was once quoted as saying that one of his interests in chess was in paradoxical positions (he was a fan of endgame studies).  This game got like that in the end, when I was unfortunately in time-pressure, literally playing on the increment.

In the 2…Nf6 Scandinavian Opening, the quietest choice of lines for White may have simply been 3.Bb5+ Bd7, 4.Bc4 when White faces little danger of losing, and should be on top for a while.

Instead, I tried a line I had never played before but always kind of wanted to see, and that is after 3…Bg4, 4.Be2.  I had tried 4.f3 before, and Black got a great attack; in fact it was against Teah where she lost her queen, but it was a tough game.  OTB, I almost played 4.Nf3 in order to transpose into normal lines, but then realized that it could be met by 4….BxNf3, 5.QxB Qxd5, trading down early.

Even though I had seen her moves coming, I was still startled at how tactical that this opening became, and so it unfortunately consumed a lot of time on my clock – would not have wanted to see this in a rapid game for the first time.

9.a3, My longest move of the game.  My original plan had been to play either 9.Ng3 or 9.Nf4, but Black will not trade queens but rather post his queen on g6 or f5 in response, to keep control over the light-squares.

9…e5.  I was happy to see this move, and quickly played 10.d5 without even bothering to analyze it properly, since I didn’t really believe in her …e5 move on a gut/surface level.

OTB, 13…Nxc3 seemed, and is strongest, yet I quickly sort of dismissed it as being likely to be played as (besides my being forced into this variation) doubted that she would give up her queen for the two rooks, even though it is indeed good for Black.

16.Qa8+  Me and Alex both thought that the exchange sac on d7 was probably winning for White, but in fact it is bad with best play and better for Black.  The biggest problem here was that I kept looking for a tactic, hence why I played the easily defended against short-term Nb5 move, instead of the long-term Nd5 move.  Simply put, I was looking for cheapo tactics and mates.  I considered 18.Nd5, but dismissed it due to 18….Bc5, and that is really short-term thinking, since the Nd5 can be supported by c4, and b4-b5 would kick the Bc5.  It’s funny, chess is a balance where you can’t get too focused on short-term tactics nor on long-term strategy.  You have to find the times when the position is calling for a tactic versus when it is calling for a simple, strategic, positional improvement.  18.Red1, attacking the unprotected e-pawn, is also a strong move.

23…f3?  It appears that I am strengthening e4, but in fact am weaking the king’s position and dark squares surrounding it.

 

 

 

 

 

Draws

Wednesdays Round 4

Thursdays Round 4

I’ve spent hours looking at these games, but at this point I don’t want to point out improvements, as my blog is readily available to local players.  I’d rather publish my improvements, OTB.  ;-)

 

 

Time to Test the Mettle

Round 3

After three straight losses this month, I got Jesse, who was rated 1467 back in October, and sadly has dropped back down to 1288, but I know he’s a LOT better than that.  My initial response was to want to play for the draw, against anybody as Black, to stop the blood-letting, but as early as move 3.b3, I realized that I needed to strike back and not let him get in anything for free.

On move 18. …d4, I was torn between playing d4 and c4, c4 looking best, but I wasn’t sure I was getting all that much out of it after all.  Surprisingly, Stockfish has been tracking our last few moves and now confirms that 18…c4 was a bit stronger.  I didn’t realize how much play I was giving him with 18…d4 at first, but actually it is very strong too.

I thought he might play 19.Na4 right away, which Stockfish says is best, but instead he helped me by resolving some center-tension first with 19.exd4?!

When I played 21…Ng4, I realized that the game could get crazy with 22.Ng5? which would actually be losing to some amazing complications, but I noticed that even say, 22…g3, 23.Qh3 h5 was better for Black, and Stockfish confirms that it’s close to -2, in favor of Black.  Stockfish says it’s actually -10 after 22…Bxh2+, 23.Kf1 Nce5, 24.Qxh2+ Kf8, 25.g3 Ng6, 26.Re1 Qc6.  So, White is so well off that White can allow a bit of a Black temporary attack just so that White can win that much more quickly.

24.Qxd4??  I can’t lie, I was happy to see the game over with a favorable result, and  an interesting game it was!  You were playing very well Jesse! (not that he reads my blog).

I was expecting the game to continue with 24.Qe4 Nc4, 25.Qd3 NxB, 26.QxN, and now Stockfish finds 26….Qb5! threatening 26….Rd7, and Black’s d-pawn is immune.  Jesse’s strategy seemed to be to beat me on the clock, hence his game-ending blunder.

In other news, Travis “AKA the 1300 player” lit up Sam, who is near 1900, in a real tour de-force victory as White, with a very fine sac.  Travis will be shooting up to Class A soon, if he keeps playing.

 

 

 

Lazy Calculations

Round 3

14…Na4?!  14…g5! is better according to Stockfish.  Thought about it, but didn’t spend much time evaluating the difference.

15.Rxd7?  15…NxRd7 is equal (it covers the critical b6 square) after 16.BxBe7 NxNc3, 17.BxRd8 (Black is giving back the exchange) RxB, 18.Rc1 Ne4, 19.Rd1 Nf6, and Black is back in time to defend.  Sara pointed this out to me after the game, and I never even bothered to calculate it OTB.

19.g4?!  Not a good move, but it served it’s purpose in giving her king luft and distracting me by it in my time-pressure.

21…Nxg4??  I felt this move was anti-positional, but I knew that either Ne5 or h3 would defend it, and it seemed it may be now or never to take it, but Black needs to grab more space with 21…b5, 22.Ne5 Rcc8, 23.h3? Ne4, 24.Bh2 Ne4-c5, 25.Bd1 f6 (hitting the Ne5, which has nowhere useful to go, and Black is winning.  I needed to grab position rather than material.

26….Re8??  My blitz instinct was to correctly play 26…Rd2, but I neither saw White’s next move, nor the point of 26…Rd2, which only works after 27.Nd4 Nxe3! (and White is only up +1, amazing), 28.fxNe3 Rxe3, 29.Bf2 Re4.  I can’t even begin to explain how this position works outside of the reduced pawn count – A rook and three pawns for a bishop and two knights.

I said after the game that taking the g4 pawn cost me the game, and I was right.  After overnight analysis, the computer now says that it is +2 for White, to have a bishop and rook as White vs rook and three pawns as Black.

26… Rd2 27. Nd4 Nxe3 28. fxe3 Rxe3 29. Bf2 Re4 30. Rf1 Bc5 31. Nd7 Rg4+ 32. Kh1 Rxf2 33. Rxf2 Bxd4 34. Nf6+ Bxf6 35. Rxf6

At the time, I didn’t think that my clock was deciding the game, but it seems that it was in time-pressure that my game deteriorated yet again.  Also, when I did use my time I didn’t work hard enough in analyzing continuations – didn’t bother to calculate many of them, only the ones I wanted to, and how I wanted to.

 

 

Kamikaze Into The Unknown

Round 2

After taking a first round bye, I wasn’t even sure which player Travis was until he introduced himself to me.  I knew he was Pete’s friend, just hadn’t associated the face with the name more than once before, and had never so much as played a blitz game with him before.

Naturally, I peeked at his rating listed at 1267 after 4 games, but it’s now at 1503 after only 11 games, and rising!

My first instinct was to play a Ruy Lopez and grind on him in order to feel out his strength, and that nearly always works for me, but today I was on the wrong side of correct decision-making, and opted to play my “normal” opening, to have him show me what he knows.  Little did I realize until he told me after the game that he plays the King’s Gambit as White and has played hundreds of online games with it!

3.Nf3 – The Knight’s Gambit.  Travis prefer’s 3.Bc4, the Bishop’s Gambit, because he knows all of the traps in it.

3…d6.  The start of The Fischer Variation (4…g5).

4…h6.  The Becker Variation

6.h4  Not sure if this would still qualify as a Kieseritsky Gambit with getting h4 in this late or not.

7.Nc3?!  My gut told me to play the best move 7.c3, and I had played it before and wanted to challenge myself, and authors of old loved to call this a wimpy (but it’s solid and strong!) move for a KGA player as White.

10.Bxf7+?? Losing immediately.  10.e5 is the best move in this position, but it’s better for Black if Black plays it right, though still not winning, and White still has winning chances as well.

I remember Brian Wall telling me to play the Bxf7+ Cochrane Gambit in against the Petroff, if I wanted to make Expert, but this doesn’t qualify as the same thing.  For some strange reason, I made a visual error here that I’ve done before, somehow not realizing that the king would be on f7 in ensuing variations, which is actually a great square for Black’s king here!  The king is getting closer to his undefended kingside pieces now that the Rh8 is no longer there to defend them.

13.Nd5  After 13.Qf5+ Qf6, 14.Qc8 f3, 15.Kf2 White can draw, but instead simply 14…exd4 is around -3.5 in favor of Black.

13….Nc6!

14.exd5  I didn’t want to do this, as Black’s Ne5 becomes virtually the best posted piece on the board, on the other hand allowing 14…Nd4 which forks the Qf5 and fork check on c2 would be fatal.

16.Bxf4?  A bad sac, but here illustrates one of the fatal flaws of the Bxf7+ sac, White was not developed enough to play it in the first place!

17…c6!  Cutting out the forlorn hope of White playing 18.Nb6.

22.Rh7  Desperately clinging to the hope of a lower-rated players’ blunder, but after 22…Bg7!  White is pushed back into oblivion.

I flagged as I reached to press the clock, and then resigned, but he wasn’t looking at the clock and was focused on playing 22…Rd8+, which leads to a mate in three after or a royal fork after 23.Ke1 Qd2+, 24.Kf2 Ne4+ royal fork, or 24.Kf1 Neg4, 25.Nc3 Ne3+, 26.Kg1 Qc1+, 27.Kf2 or Kh2 is met by …Nf6-g4+ followed by …Qf1 mate or …Qh1 mate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Let-Down

Round 2

I was upset for losing this game because it was so won.  I anticipated correctly Paul’s premature attacking style, and figured I was winning after his quick 13…Qh3??, but still took the most time on this move, probably got too involved with it actually.  After a while during the game I noticed, and showed right away in the post-mortem that 17.Rxf3 Rad8, 18.Nd4 is easily winning, but then decided to see if 17.Nxf3 “looked more positional” and so I looked at it, and it seemed like a more sure way to trade down pieces, by attacking the queen of course.  I get mesmerized by queens, a very bad tendency of mine.

19.h3?? This was the move that attracted me to this line, but it’s certainly not thematic as placing either knight on e4, once again, is completely winning and covers g3 to boot!  However, I missed that I was giving up …Rxg3+, and without this resource White is still winning in all lines.  Nevertheless, the object of the game is checkmate and one cannot miss such a check – it’s a big eval changer, and it’s a decisive error.  Another thing to note is that even though 15.cxb7+ was the best move, if I hadn’t of played it in the h3 line I was still winning because I could have then taken the knight on g4 with check after his ….RxBe3 move, and hence traded queens at the same time.

I decided that 20.QxNg4 was best in the post-mortem, but it was still easily winning for Black  I determined after a few moves (it is the best, but still -8.88 after retreating Nf3 in a couple moves as the trading g-pawn for f-pawn loses quickly, as does trying to protect the g-pawn ).

I missed 22…Qh4, and then saw as as I was taking my hand off the piece that 23…Rh3+ was possible and would mate, and so as soon as he played it I resigned.

There’s just this bit of rust from my not playing regularly that decided this game.  I had this unsure feeling about 19.h3??, but just didn’t see the issue until he made his move.  I was too cavalier about the situation and made this move rather quickly.  It’s more pathetic than it  is sad that as a chessplayer, you really have to play a lot to keep from throwing away a position with a single move – it seems to have less to do with skill than it has to do with being warmed up.  Yesterday, I played a couple of blitz games at the club after the meeing and noticed this happening to me, total blunders such as this one, from easy superior positions.

This game looks like childs-play in hindsight.  How was it even possible to not win this game as White?  I pretty much had to blunder exactly as I did to not win this game.  I can’t afford to have a single tactical hole like this in my game, because it just goes to show I could have lost to anybody by making such a blunder.  This was one of those games you just want to throw away, as a game, but the analysis is still interesting because it was such an exciting middle-game setup.