Of abilities and instincts in a chess game

Round 3 Colorado Springs (annual) City Championship.  After two byes, I play my first game of this month’s tournament.

The long version might be: Of abilities, instincts, common-sense, sense of purpose, goals, style, superficiality, and maybe fitness in a chess game.

Paul Anderson is like “the Rosetta Stone” of my ever making Expert; until I can crack his playing style, I will hold onto the 1800 ledge with my fingers. Against Paul, I get these great positions that a 1.d4 player would revel in, but where I appear out of my element. Actually, I did take this Gurgenidze Caro-Kahn into something more resembling of a KID.

4.Nf3 4.Nc3 is by far the most commonly played move here.

9.Qc2 The first moment of real thought and choice. I played this solid move after much deliberation between first 9.Qd2, then h3, then Nfd2, then Nfe1, and also 9.a3, which appears in the database 3 out of 5 games from this position, and the most promising continuation. This was my longest think of the game, quite long. Threats I looked at included …e5 and …b5 in some lines. 9.a3 solves the problem of 9.h3 BxNf3, 10.BxBf3 Qb4, 11.Qe2 (ugly, but this was a factor in why I played 9.Qc2, as was this …b5 continuation that I didn’t get an objective hold on until later – …b5 weakens that diagonal after h3, Bxf3 Bxf3). After the game, Masters Bloomer and Wall both liked 11.Qb3 in this line.

15.e5 I spent quite a bit of time looking at 15.b5 but was very indecisive here, as it looks like a less centralizing move, but the lowly-looking at first glance 15.b5 is a very straight-forward continuation for a human to play for an advantage from. I would play b5 on this move or the next, if I were to every hypothetically get this position again. 15.e5 was also strong.

16.exd6?! hoping for 16…Nxd6, 17.Ne5 From this move forward, I was feeling the effects of time-pressure. 16.b5! not releasing the tension, was best. White is virtually winning, in a technical sense.

17.Bf4 This turned out to be as taking a pass on the position, hoping for the opportunity to play 18.Ne4 (attacking d6). Now, either 17.d5 or 17.Qb3 are best, but I would prefer making a more decisive, definite-looking move like 17.d5.

19.c5 19.d5 is also still strong, but I like 19.Qb3 best, now, in this position.

21.Bd4 A pleasing-looking move in time-pressure, and I had seen 21…Bh6 before playing it, but time gives you a chance to evaluate better. Master Bloomer was chomping at the bit to play 21.b5! during our post-mortem, where we all headed to the bar afterward.

22.Rb1 I felt 22.Be3 might be objectively better, and regretted not playing it, but it looks a bit weird in the psychological sense, to see it played.

23.Bd3? This is where the “ghosts”, and lack of true objectivity began popping up in time-pressure. Certainly, I wanted to play 23.Na4! with Nb6 fork on the way, but I was figuring after 23…Bf5 he would work out of that fork. Of course, it turns out that a knight on b6 is wildly strong regardless of its cheapo value. Ironically, now 23…Bxh3, which I had been concerned about all game long, is now a path to equality for Black.

24.Be5 Again, 24.Na4 is stronger, but I wanted to “give it up temporarily”.

25.Nd4?! Objectively, this looks strong, but again 25.BxNf4 BxB, 26.Na4 is the strongest continuation, as my Nd4 becomes a target for trading.

25…f6? I missed this move, so in time-pressure assumed it must be strong. Black’s best are the commital 25…Bxh3 followed by 25…NxBd3 as second stronges move.

27.Bf1 Here, I wanted to finally play 27.Na4! but was, after trading off my Bf4 defender, correctly worried about his …Bxh3 threat, however I completely missed the idea in this line. 27.Na4 Bxh3, 28.Nb6 (…gxBh3? Black is better, and I would easily lose this in time-pressure since it’s best to sac a piece back after this). I completely missed this intermezzo, shamefully, but Master Bloomer saw this intermezzo seemingly without thinking. That should have been instinctive for me to examine not taking on h3.

28.Nc3-e2? Now I am definitely “on-tilt”, in time-pressure. Yet again 28.Na4 is best, and my best next move would have been to move this Ne2 right back to c3. Not only would it cut out his future Ne4 move, but puts the Na4 option back on the table, minus a tempo.

30.Qg3? 30.NxNe6 is best, which is why this Nc3-e2 move was so unnecessary in the first place.

31.Ne2-f4?? Blundering the exchange. Again 31.Nc3 to redress the past wrong. It’s as if it were better had I done nothing in time-pressure and not made moves, as my moves to try to “defend” somehow were just weakening my position further and further.

36.Qh4 Instead of playing this out of obvious desperation, 36.Qd2 was better.

37…f5 I thought for sure he’d force the queen trade with 37…Qg5, and I’d be done for, but he didn’t see it, as often happens with winning moves – not seen or decided on by both players.

39.Qg3?? Again, this time I played it at bullet-speed, but in the next instant saw that I had blundered by not playing 39.Qf4. Naturally, I thought he and everyone else watching had noticed this, and that 39…f4 would finally put me out of my misery, but again he didn’t play the winning move.

41.Qc7? Hey, at least now I can pretend to blame their not being a second time-control for this blunder. I didn’t trust 41.Bxa6??, but after the game felt silly for not playing it; actually, Black traps the queen after 41…Qd8! 41.Nd4 is the path to the draw.

42…Be8? I was under ten minutes when he had 55 minutes, but ultimately I did bring him under 3 minutes eventually. Here, he plays this quickly, whereas after 42…Qf6, his queen can still infiltrate my position with threats.

44.Rc1 Stuck for a move, I played this, thinking if 44…Qb2, 45.a4, but then 45…Qa3, 46.Bc2 Rb8 wins the a-pawn via double-attack. Better was 44.Qd2.

46…Kg7? Paul is finally biting on one of my mock threats (it loses time, and commits his pieces to more defense instead of attack. Master Wall said he thought I could draw with 47.h5!?, although oddly, Stockfish thinks even stronger for Black is to trade off a pair of rooks here with 47.Re1 (I told them after the game that I should have traded a pair of rooks far sooner, but this is a curious moment to do so.)

47…h6? Ironically, it is only here, after continuing to pursue the wrong plan, that Black finally throws away the win. 47…Qc3 is better, attacking without weakening his kingside.

50…Qc3?! A waste of time.

51.Qd4+ It would be easy to attack an exclam to this move, even if only for psychological reasons, but better was 51.Rd1, and if 51…Qxa3??, 52.Qd4+ followed by 53.Ra1 traps the Black queen.

53…Kf7?! After the game, I told him I thought he could win with …f4! a couple times. Naturally it has the appearance of a commital move, and players can be loathe to play such moves during a game.

54.Kg1?! I should offer a rook trade now with 54.Re1, if I were ever going to, but strongest is 54.b5 which does equalize because at the end of the captures Black cannot play Rxc5 because the Nd6+ fork.

55.Kf1? After the game, Master Bloomer kept saying to play Kg2 (it seemed instinctive for him), and this move illustrates why.

55…Bb7? He’s stuck making quick moves by this point as well, and throws away another win. 55…f4!. If 56.Kg2 fxg3, 57.fxg3 Re3 infiltrates. After 56.g3xf4 Rh4, 57.Kg2 Bf5, 58.Rd1 Bg4 wins back the pawn (h4) while the pawns on the f-file are doubled and isolated. Lastly, 57.Kxg3 in this line will allow Black to win by trading pieces on f5, which will then open the g-file for one his rooks to penetrate down.

58.Nf3 Master Wall thought that 58.h5! might win; White is better, but not winning according to Stockfish.

72…Bxa6?? Unfortunately, this move was played on sight alone. I figured it should be either winning or probably enough for a draw, but both Masters Wall and Bloomer afterward were praising how I had created a fortress, and it struck me as obvious that they would have forced the draw and not kept playing on the way I did, by their comments afterward. This move needed to be calculated, and I got too excited and didn’t want to pass it up – played with a minute on my clock.

76…Kf7? Ironically, 76…fxg4 wins, but does not win the knight. Black’s d and g pawns are far enough that the White king can’t stop both, while the bishop drops back to c8 to cut off the knight from reaching the pawns in time – it can reach one pawn, but not the other.  Black needs to play either 77…g3 or 77…Bc8 in this line to win, as other moves draw.  We both wondered about 77…g3 after the game, and felt it should be losing for White, but it’s not easy to calculate or tell, OTB.

77…d4! I didn’t see this move. I was expecting 77…Kg6, 78.Ke3, which draws.

78.h5?? I felt this move would surely lose, but didn’t know what else to do as my clock was expiring.  I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that I could try losing a move with my king, as he cannot stop every pawn without letting one of my kingside pawns run (h or g pawns), and this is why I can play 78.a5 as well.  I considered playing this, though the only move that really loses is the one that I played.

After the game, Paul tried to pass the d-pawn, while letting me queen a kingside pawn, and he finally checkmated me on the first rank that way, but he can’t force my king from a dark-square blockade of his passed d-pawn, I simply mistakenly let him do it, so I would credit his play in the post-mortem, but it’s not a win.

One last point to this endgame is that White does have to play a5 eventually, or Black’s king will be able to come in and play …Kxf4 because White’s pawns are not in time (now I can’t even find that position anymore).  During the game, I figured that Black’s king would be able to come in and take my b4 pawn, but the …d4 move blocked his path (it was a draw anyway) so that after a5 it is a perfect fortress, where if Black tries to win he loses.  If I had to take this position again before 78.h5?? I’d take White, as it’s Black that has all the interesting chances that all lose, which is possible OTB in time-pressure, which we both were.














Last game before leaving Cali

Round 2, Wednesdays

I played an older gentleman, didn’t realize his rating was so low (it was listed over 1600 on the wallchart, for some reason).  When he took his time to think, he played the moves that I too had been looking at, because they were the challenging ones.  On a couple of critical moves he went astray, and then the position appeared to play itself.

Saturday Quads

I played some high-rated kids (ages 8-12).  I am posting these here to have a place to put them for now, but don’t have time to comment at this moment.  I let two of the three game ruin in time-pressure.  I wasn’t in good form, tired, nervous, and felt it probably wouldn’t be my day anyway, and after the first loss was basically playing for the sheer competitive fun, since I knew I was out of it after that.  I really wasn’t bothered by my results, as the kids moving so fast, and I moving too slow, and I made some nervous mistakes.

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

The third round game is an approximation.  I lost the scoresheet and could only remember up to where before we both started blitzing anyway.  I went up three pawns, then lost them and he perpetualed me with 9 seconds on my clock.  I normally would have won both first and third round games but got blitzed by these young kids.

Round 1  I got into extreme time-pressure, and would have blitzed out the saving Rfd8 on instinct, but had just enough time to analyze yet not be sure.  Naturally I saw I forgot about my piece dropping the moment I played my move, since I was going to push the pawn at first.  In the post-mortem, I played out this continuation, and drew from a completely losing position (down and exchange) quite easily; he would have been weaker in the endgame, had I not dropped the piece.

Round 2 was a nervous mistake, quick move, yet I saw I was dropping the pawn as I took my hand of the f4 pawn.  I felt I should have played Bg2 first (I was worried he would play …e5 first, and forgot that move left a hole, even though I had told myself that it did.).  It was sudden inspiration to play f4, and I spaced out on why I couldn’t play it right away.  Naturally, he was moving quickly, and I was laboring over all moves in all games, and really never got away with a quick move the way they could, but they were playing more defensively in style, so they could move more quickly than I.  I should spend more time on blunder-checks going forward, no doubt, since everyone else goes with intuition, then does a blundercheck, whereas I simply try to analyze everthing, and so can’t afford to forget anything.

A Wednesday night game in California

Round 1

I decided to play one round (will be back in CO next week), and luckily got at least a Class B player, with the Black pieces.  He’s an older gentleman, and asked my rating and wasn’t too pleased when I told him what it was (looks as if his rating has been on a recent downward slide).

My opponent’s kingside demonstration was doomed, and I was glad he did it.  He could have given me more fits by hitting my queen with b4, but he apparently wasn’t focused too much on this as he needlessly dropped the b3 pawn (I don’t think he even saw it beforehand).

I made the 30 move time-control with a minute and twenty-nine seconds, whereas he still had 1 hr and 2 minutes when he made time-control.

13….Ne7  13…Nd4 was objectively better, yet appeared more drawish.

14.Ne1  Not challenging my interpretation of the position.  Certainly, 14.Ng5 was the critical move, to which I was planning to play 14….Bh6 (to prevent 15.Ne4), 14.f4 and I noticed that here BxNg5 still looks better for White, though I figured it would be Black’s best, too.  Once the guantlet is dropped, the openings-duel is over, and this was that point, IMO.

20…Rae8  I knew this move was a mistake as soon as I played it, although this site’s engine (http://analysis.cpuchess.com/) says it’s only a slight mistake and Black has many other options.  In any case, OTB I was going to play 21.b4 cxb, 22.axb Qa2, and figured that 23.Bc1 BxB would then be White’s best follow-up.  This engine now agrees with me, after I plugged in 23.Bc1, but thought 23.Rb1 with idea of 24.f4 would be best, at first.

I line I was planning on playing was 22.b4 (he also could have played this on the previous move – stronger then) Qa4, 23.NxNd4 cxd4, 24.f4 Qb3 (this is as far as I saw, looked challenging enough for White) 25.Qe2 b5! (I wanted to work this move in, OTB).

24…Nd4  This was not the strongest move, and I felt I was playing a bit of hope-chess at this point, as my clock was dwindling, and the move I didn’t want to see at the time was 25.Ne3.  All this is apparently beside the point, as I need to mend my position, most notably the dark-bishop.  24….Nd2 was an idea I missed (it puts pressure on f3 and c4), so that after White shuns my bishop with h6…Bh8, then I have to play …e4 to free that bishop, and can meet Bb2xBh8 with the intermezzo …exf3+ (White can’t recapture it).




Attacking into an abyss

Round 4

I played one game in this tournament against an unrated player.  This player is now 9 wins and 1 loss out of 10 total games, so he is truly under-rated.  I asked him if he had a FIDE rating or a rating from another federation (such as the Phillipines), and he said he didn’t have another rating.  He went 4-0 in this tournament, beating another high 1800 player, besides myself.

I looked at a lot of variations in the opening, seeing nearly all computer lines, but it was difficult to pick one that worked successfully.  I thought after the game, I should have played …e4 straight-away, instead of …Rg8, but he has this …Bh5 move.  I played …Bc3 to keep his queen off of h5, because I was afraid of Qh5 with Bd3, but turns out it may have been best to play into that line.  It’s really difficult to choose between all these lines, OTB, and I’m sure it looks like a bunch of stalling to an opponent.  He had an hour and a half left at the end of the game, whereas I flagged after making my last move in a lost position, and pushing the clock a second too late.

9…Bc3.  Better was 9…e6xd5, and then to let him take on d5 with his bishop, which was his plan, but that is strong for Black.

16…Bg4?  I came very close to playing 16…Qg4 (best chance), but it’s difficult to rely on this do-or-die calculation with so little time remaining on the clock.  He surprised me with his quick, strong, and accurate play.  He thought he was better in the opening, but I felt certain he wasn’t.  The position, however, was quite computersque, which is what I was going for, yet couldn’t pull off.

Judging by his response after the game, he was looking at playing h4, in some situations, if I had played …e5 instead of …Rg8, and then Rh2, so I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have found Bh5 in that line, and would have gone down in the opening, but it’s live by the sword, die by the sword, when I choose to play this way, which is just as well.

Last Game of the Month

….before I’m off to Cali.

Round 3

Clinton was playing very well until he played 19.Nxf3, which I could tell OTB was a time-pressure blunder.  If Clinton hadn’t given me a free piece, for virtually no reason, in two of our last three encounters, then I think his rating would be a couple hundred points higher than it’s currently at.

23.Bxf5  He must be a giving soul.  He was worried about my winning the exchange after 23.Rc1 Bb2, but I was too stingy to do it, anyway!  I figured, if it were there later I’d play …Bc2, but first I wanted to get my knight out from h7.  Houdini agrees with him that I should win the exchange, with my good dark-squared bishop, but of course he was simply acting rash in his decision to give up a full bishop for a pawn.

Needless to say, as big a score as I had accumulated in the middle-game, I was pretty fortunate, in time-pressure, to get a big passed pawn served up into my lap after 43.Kf2??  I was under two minutes, and he had three minutes.  With the low times, even considering there is a thirty second increment with a relatively easy position, it is still stressful to continue to play on without an error, without some huge guiding beacon such as a passed pawn.



A Miniature in Time, Saves Nine

Round 2

So it looks like I won’t be able to make it for round 3 as I  am flying back to CA for a week, next Wednesday!  🙂

The saying in the title is from “A stitch in time, saves nine.”

Incidentally, if 7…Ndb4, then not 8.a3 d5, 9.Qe2 (9.exd6?? Bf5) is only equal.  The move that gives White the advantage after 7…Ndb4 is 8.Bb5! a6 (…d6??, 9.QxNb4!), 9.Ba4, and it’s like a 40 move long, forcing line, one of the longest I’ve seen, that White/Black must know or veering off can lead to a losing position for Black at least.  I let Dean know he might want to try 7…Nb6 next time, as that is what I saw in the CO Open tournament when I played this line.

10…Qd8??  It wasn’t difficult to sense that this must be game-over.  We both missed 10…Qb4, 11.BxNc7 Qxb2, attacking both Ra1, and Nc3 with check.  It makes more sense, given that he did not spend enough time on this move, that we did not find this saving path.  It’s surprising that after 10…Qb4, 11.QxQ NxQ, 12.BxN7 Nxc2+, White wins two pieces for rook and pawn and Houdini gives this a blase +=.  I saw this line OTB, and figured it must be +-/+=.

12.BxNc7  At the board, I felt the most principled move must be 12.Ne5, but didn’t know why.  I saw 12.Ne5 (must be captured as it threatens to take the Bd7) NxN, 13.QxN Rg8, but when I saw Houdini’s eval score, I immediately noticed that 14.QxNc7 must be the move.  That’s funny, I missed that I was winning a piece on move OTB, on move 14!  This could have been an even shorter game.  😉  Have to say, I felt something may be there, but could already see that 12.BxNc7 should be a concrete win.

13.Nd5  I was going to play 13.Nb5, and spent most of my time on that move, but then changed my mind after a second go-around because it looked a safer way to win, primarily on the variation 13.Nd5 Qd6, 14.Nb6 Bf5 looked like a strong, safe advantage for White, but I missed that Black has …f5 in both of these lines; this move simply escaped my attention.  I saw in the line 13.Nb5 that …Qa5+, 14.b4 should be losing for Black, and was only really worried about 13…Qb6, 14.Nd6+ Kd8, 15.Nc7+ Kc7 (if 15…Ke8, 16.NxRa8 Qxb2, 17.Nxg6 hxNg6, 18.Qxg6+) 16.NxRa8 Qxb2 looked messier than necessary.  But, why was I worried about his counterplay there, as even OTB, I could tell it was non-existent(?)

16.Qc4+  I wanted to play 16.Bc4+ here, but just as I had finished playing 15.Nf6+, I noticed that he could play 16…Kg7 in that line.  I didn’t realize that 16.Bc4+ does work, as 16…Kg7, 17.Qd3 Qxb4+, 18.c3 queen moves, then 19.Nxd7 wins a piece – it’s funny how easy it is to be scared off by a single, meaningless check (17…Qxb4+), under the ticking clock.

I just want to say that if you think this game has to end like an Alcoa NFL presentation “Alcoa presents, fantastic finishes….”, it’s not true.  During the game, I was considering playing the lowly, non-committal 15.Qh4, and then apparently it is best for Black to simply give up a piece with 15…Nxb4, 16.Qxb4 QxQ, 17.NxQ.  Naturally, I would have expected to see 15….Qd8, but when I saw Houdini’s eval, I correctly guessed 16.b5 Na5, 17.Qd4 Rg8, but here figured only 18.Ng5 (still over +1), not realizing the precious king pin is back on with 18.Qe5, with the idea of for example 18…Kf7, 19.Ng5+ Ke8, 20.Nf6++.  So, the more plausible 18…Bg7, 19.Nc7+ (easy, instinctive move to look at) with the simple idea line being 19…Kf7, 20.Qd5+ (…Be6 drops Qd8) d6, 21.Qxd7+ wins the Bd7.