The Unfathomable Position

I spent 37 minutes on a single position.  No, I wasn’t looking for a move, and no I didn’t think my position was worse, I was simply comparing strategies roughly eight moves deep in a handful of different lines.  I know from experience that if I take a lot of time in a position, objectively the position warrants a deep investigation even if it’s foolhardy to do this OTB.  I had no idea.  I analyzed it again before I plugged in the engine, and this one is like staring into the Milky-Way.  I’ve heard of IMs and GMs talking about a position being like this, but this is the first time that I’ve ever experienced the feeling OTB.

Round 2

14…Ne4!  I didn’t think this was a strong move until he played it.  This is where I spent the 37 minutes.  My initial reaction was the move I played, realizing he doesn’t lose a piece.  It seemed about five minutes into my think I wanted to play 15.Bf3, but thought that without deep analysis it could just be a “coffee-house” move.  Now, I think that unless you are playing postal-chess, any move in this position could seem like a coffee-house move.

Later into my think, I almost played 15.Bh2, reached toward the board a second-time (the first time was for 15.Bf3), but ultimately played the move one would have thought all along, but that’s because I had finally come up with a strategy to make it playable.  I probably looked at close to ten moves/continuations actually, in all.  Trying to look ahead in any of these lines is like staring into the heavens.  Of course, when you replay it, the game continuation looks like a no-brainer, and may have been the best chance for an advantage after all.  After 15.Bf3, 15…Bg5! and 15…NxNc3 are both strong.

20.Rxe6?  20.c5! is winning, though it’s only initially +1.  Here is where the time wasted earlier really cost me.  Now I blundered my b2 pawn, didn’t even see I was dropping it, but 21.c5! is still += for White.

After the game Daniel (Expert), thought that I might be winning with 28.Qf7?? and wanted to know what the computer thought about it, but he is on the right track as 28.Rf7 Rg8 is 0.0 equal.

During the game, I wasn’t worried about him playing RxBg3, as I demonstrated in the post-mortem successfully, but was worried about his a-pawn promoting, which caused me to rashly play 29.Be5?? because I though that if defended passively that he would promote his pawn.  Even 29.Bf4 holds as the importance of the h-pawn is apparently sort of an illusion here.  I missed his mate threat, and resigned before the mating was actually played.



The English Opening

I’d never played 1.c4 in a rated tournament before.  Well, to be honest, I played it one time the other day, since I was planning on playing it OTB the next day.  I don’t ever remember playing 1.c4 even online before that, so if I have it must be astronomically rare.  I studied absolutely nothing but my one online game before playing this, and the English Opening actually has tons of different lines.  Nevertheless, now I can say I’ve played it!

Round 3

Magnus Carlsen’s Games

One impression I get from Magnus’ games is to adopt a Bobby Fischer saying about Alekhine “If you’ve seen one Magnus Carlsen game, you’ve seen ’em all.”  Another impression I get is Magnus will to win.

Magnus will vary his opening lines greatly, perhaps more than anyone, and yet know the theory or some idea in every unsharp line he plays.  Once Magnus opponent is worn down in some equal to += position, then he still has loads of energy to conjure something up.  Here’s a good example:

Carlsen vs Onishuk 2007

29.b4!  Sacking a pawn is the only way to make progress – getting the king involved is only equal.

32…f5??  Here it is Black’s turn to counter-sac with 32…Re7, giving up two knights for rook, or pinning the knight if 33.NxBb4.




Evaluations in Time-Pressure

….I’m sensing that this is one of the toughest things to do once you become a strong enough player, and I feel that this will always be the case, if not more so as my rating climbs.  If evaluations of positions are based on process of elimination, then this implies a process that takes a lot of clock-time.

Round 2

Paul wanted to play 17.Nxh7!!, and succeeded with winning the post-mortems, although he didn’t play it because for him he felt there was too much to verify before playing it.

After 18.Nh3, I sensed it was my turn to attack, and arriving early in time-pressure, this was part of the problem.  I wasn’t nearly as nervous as Paul, perhaps because I was under the weather all day and I could hear my breath rate far, far slower than his, but his nervous energy prevailed, whereas I felt the lethargy you feel when your body was fighting something and relaxing.  Anyway, the problem is that I though Black stood a lot better, though it was only equal or tiny bit of pull for Black.

20.Bg2!  Once he played this, I noticed that I had missed the possibility of 21.Be4+, so I reluctantly closed the center.

24.f3!  Here, I could not believe that this position should be equal, which it would be after the best move 24…exf3, 25.Qxf3 (which we both saw was forced, and I saw deep into this line), so I played the second best move 24…Rcf8 to get some tactical chances as we both approached time-pressure, me with over 2 minutes, and him with 9 minutes.

26.Rf1?  Unfortunately, my idea was to follow-up 26.Rxe4 with …Bf5?, 27.Nf2 BxR, 28.NxBe4 forking rook and queen, which Houdini says is at least +1.

26…..RxRf1+!  After sizing up the possibilities, intuition told me this move was best.  After the game, I was miffed that I had lost my way from here, but it was clearly time-pressure affecting my ability to find and choose the right ideas.

27…Qf6?!  A clear-headed decision would have been to play 27…e3 (which I considered), followed by 28…Rfe8, which I didn’t have the common-sense under-the-gun to see the obviousness of this plan.

28…Ne7?  Both me and Paul had seen 28….Nxd4, he said he thought it was nothing, and I thought it looked okay, but a little “out there”.  This was the first time that I noticed I could trade a piece for two pawns, and likely keep the pawn I was about to lose, but I still wasn’t so sure.  It turns out that 28…Nxd4! would have been the best path for equality, and it’s equal there.

32…e3!  Probably the best chance, from a psychological point of view.

33.Nd1? (Ne4!)  It worked!  However, now I played 33…Bc6?, with two seconds on my clock, and just shook my head because I knew that whatever the real move was I hadn’t found it in time.

This is where it gets a little strange.  I had spent quite a bit of time examining 32…Nf4?? and concluded it must just be a blunder.  So on this move, because Paul took so long, I was curious about 33…Nf4!!, seeing that I at least get to keep my pawn, have two connected pawns for the knight, saw that he could blockade the two pawns and thought to myself “He must be able to win the base pawn somehow down the road, but I like how his knight is out of play.”  It turns out that he would have to sack his knight for the two pawns, but would then be a pawn up.  This was my last chance to stay in the game, but in extreme time-pressure it was just too much for me to follow the logic of this line that far, and then to determine whether it was better than the alternatives.

I flagged as I played my last move, but I got a sense of satisfaction out of taking Paul down to 9 seconds on his clock as well, two moves before I flagged.  It’s very rare that I can bring Paul down anywhere close to being under a minute with me, and see him get flustered like that.  We both had a lot to look at in this game, and it’s too bad with a game like this that there is not a second time-control, as there would have been in most classical chess-games.  However, at least from a creative point-of-view, this was a very satisfying game to have played at these time-controls.

After the game, Paul tried 53.Qe2, and I said that was best, and then pointed out that White is simply winning after 53…Qh1+, 54.Ke3 Qc1+, 55.Kf2!




Bravery in Chess

… is often like delayed gratification; you get rewarded somewhere later on down the line.  In our game tonight, Daniel was brave for facing a line I was perhaps more familiar with, but then again he is one of the bravest players I know.

Round 1

4…Nc6  I play this move here, as I do not yet want to determine where I want to place the dark-square bishop, on …e7 or …b4 for example.

8….Qf5  Most miniatures that I have seen where Black loses features 8….Qh5, but strangely enough the most popular line here is the move 8….Qa5, which I wasn’t aware of (although my database is stuffed with games of Class players’).

9…Rxe4.  9….Nxe4 is far more common.

If 10.Nh4?, then not 10….Qf6, 11. Nd5 Qd8 =+, but 10…Qc5! is -+, according to Houdini.

11…Rd8.  If 11…Bc5??, 12.g4! wins a piece, as given by Houdini.

12.Qa4+?!  At first, I thought this was forced, but to my chagrin I finally spotted 12.Qe5, so was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t played.  Actually 12.Qc4! is best and equal, a move probably neither of us spotted.  One good feature of this move is that the queen can play to f1, if I try taking his Re4.

13.Qa5??  Here, once again, it was a while before I spotted the move 13.g4! which I showed Daniel after the game.  He simply missed this idea, and thus the move (Andy Soltis calls it “super-luft” – …g5 or …g4, for example, in his book “What it takes to become a GM” or similarly titled).  If an Expert can miss a move/idea, then it goes to show that it can probably happen to most anyone.

So, the real question is “What happens after 13.g4?”  I flippantly suggested 13…Qc5? +-, never having given it any real thought, but perhaps most surprising is that Houdini suggests 13…Qxf2+, 14.bxQ is best, but in it’s best line still only gives Black as having an =+ advantage (while up two pawns in this line!).

I actually left the table at this point, since I knew I would have to find some response to 13.g4 in a blind-folded manner, but really I just ended up getting a Snapple lemonade/tea, and then visiting the restroom, both times sneaking a peek to see whether or not the move g4 was on the board!

It had also taken me an emabarassingly long time, luckily on Daniel’s time, to notice that 14.RxB+ QxRe6, 15.Qxb5+ c6, 16.Qf1! (the move which took me so long to find) which is only =+.  Instead, I was going to play 14…fxRe6,  and after 15.g4 bxQ, 16.gxQ Houdini says it’s +2.45 in Black’s favor, even though only up the exchange and a pawn.  You can’t count on an Expert missing a move like …g4 every day; so on the one hand I was very lucky in this game, but OTH it was still a well-deserved victory, I feel.

14.Bg5!  I realized that developing the bishop would be the only way to play on, but I was kind of surprised to see it, thinking he might choose to resign here.  At this point, I spent 20 minutes on 14….Qb7, but it was just as much a breather to steady my nerves, as I realized that I could go down from the lovely advantage of a whole rook, to just a piece for two pawns!  The surprising 14…Qb4! is +4 in Black’s favor, but both 14…Qc6 and 14…Qb7, which I was deliberating over, are +3 for Black.

16…Kc8 The only move!  I wish I could say that I had seen this accurately before, but I knew I would figure it out when I got to this point, as the previous move was really about calming my nerves.

18…QxQa7.  At first I considered 18…QxNb5, and thought I would lose my queen, then considered 18…Bc5, and felt the complications needless.  Both moves were 0.0 equal!  Just goes to show it’s never too late to throw away a won position!  Daniel said he saw some perpetuals here, much to his credit.

21.Re1.  As I realized, all moves here are hopeless for White.

23…Bc5.  Scary moment, as I reached out to play this move, the tip of my index finger, to my horror, touched and rocked the light bishop (I poked it, as my fingers are more used to moving boxes lately, than chess pieces), and then I quickly grabbed the dark-squared bishop and played the intended 23…Bc5.  Neither the TD, who was watching, nor Daniel noticed, but as she said afterwards accidents don’t count.  In the past, I have knocked over the king with my arm so many times when making a move.  I really need to learn to be careful how I reach for a piece, and now I think I know why some GMs of the past like Rubinstein, or maybe even Petrosian, don’t reach out with their index finger toward a piece they would like to move, and instead grab it with other fingers!

I did miss 24.Nb3, when I played 23…Bc5, but then saw that 24.Nb3 Bxf2+ would win a piece.  So here, Daniel chose the appropriate moment to resign.  I had at least 23 minutes remaining at the game’s end, as I had 28 minutes remaining after playing 21…Rd8, and had seen the game continuation even then, and verified it mostly on Daniel’s time.

The reason why you need to learn rook-endgames

Rook ending

I played this game on today.  My 1700-level opponent resigned in a drawn position (rook pawn is drawn), but that’s not why I am posting this.

When I play 24…Rc1??, I should have played 24…Ra1.  If you don’t know why one move is drawing and one move is losing, you should plug this game into your computer engine to figure out why, stat!  There’s a reason why the joke about most of Rubinstein’s wins being rook endings, because other’s thought they rarely reached them, but against Rubinstein, hmm, sure happened to them a lot.

But that’s still not entire why I’m posting this.  The main reason why I’m posting this is to illustrate why you should know the drawing technique at the end.  Your engine may say that it’s +2 for White, but it will always be a draw with the right technique.  Also, you have some random, but virtually meaningless pawn formations on the kingside, so that this position won’t readily appear in a tablebase until more of the pawns get traded off.  Incidentally, I was hoping the whole time that he would push his a-pawn further and further.  He had some practical winning chances, I figured, before pushing the a-pawn too far – not saying it was winning even then, but at least practical chances for Black to go wrong.

I’ll post my game from tonight at the bottom of this post, after I finish playing it.

Round 1 Tuesdays

I played this game today on against a Lopez type position.  I believed that I played this miniature well and that you will like to see how I did it!  🙂

They key was that I had a minute and 27 seconds left, instead of flagging in a winning position.  😉

Lopez game as Black

Yeah, Got Crushed

Round 4, final round

Like I said after the game, I was hoping that Daniel would speed up his play and not refute my moves, or at least take a long time doing it 8…Ndb7?, 9…e5?? where I wasn’t so sure that either of these moves wasn’t a blunder, OTB, but I was banking on surprise value as well.  Daniel’s style of play now reminds me of his coach, Master Josh Bloomer.  Both take a lot of time in the opening trying to recall lines, but as soon as you mess up they are quick to be all over it.

I played something I hadn’t tried before against the Trompowsky, 2…c5, hoping that this would add to the fun value and take us out of the books, but that totally backfired.  This game became one all about capitalizing on opening missteps.

Even if I had played this opening properly, I now realize that it is not terra-firma, it plays more like a correspondence game on opening theory – it does not play like your standard chess game.

when I played 4…Qxb2, as I said to Daniel, I was hoping he would play 5.Na4 Qb4+, 6.c3 Qa5, which Houdini puts at -1, in Black’s favor, but Daniel said he would never offside his knight like that (which is what I was hoping for).  As soon as I saw 5.Bd2, which I figured he probably wouldn’t do (he could have captured on f6, which I would have immediately captured back on f6), I could see that it was very strong, and didn’t waste too much time in retreating my queen all the way back to d8.

I thought that Daniel might play 11.Ng5, but once he played it, I saw that my preliminary thinking of 11…Nb6, 12.Bb5+ Bd7 was going to be refuted by 13.Nxe6!, and so I spent most of my time considering other possibilities.  Houdini gives a lot of moves which if you run through turn out more poorly than it indicates at first.  For example, I almost did play 11…Nb8, but then got fatalistic over 12.Bc4 which Houdini doesn’t even suggest, so I plug in 12.Bc4 d5, 13.exd5 exd5, 14.Nxd5 Nxd5 (winning a piece for Black, right?) 15.0-0, but then Houdini starts finding all kinds of shots for White and actually ends up with an eval around +5 for White!  12.e5 was Houdini’s #1 choice until I plugged in 12.Bc4, which it thought was nothing at first.  Either way, both moves win.

Two solid ways to play this for Black are 8…g6, and 8…e5.  Both have a tricky style to them.

LM Brian Wall makes a good point, my 8th move was not a blunder, but it requires a more than average imaginative follow-up.  9…Qc7, 9…Ng4, and even 9…g5 are quite playable.  9…Nbd7-b6 may look okay at first, but if you follow it down the line after White plays a2-a4-a5, the evals will switch on you and White is taking a commanding lead.  9…g6 is also semi-suicidal as White can respond with 10.e4-e5, then e6 when Bb5+ can win a piece if a pawn is left on e6 – also, after 10.e5 fxe, 11.Ng5, as Daniel showed after the game, is a very effective follow-up at this point.

I did suggest that 8…e5 might be playable, after the game, but that was after we had also looked at 8…Nf6-d7, which I had also been considering, and that didn’t turn out too well in the post-mortem.

My rating ends up 1767 after this tournament, still in the U1800 dungeon.