Clear Second

Final Round

Up until move 13.Qb8?, this position looks as if it must be a tabiya, as a lot of logic has gone into both sides play, but starting with move thirteen, Black makes a series of technical errors that only compound his problem.  Before this down-slide, it would seem about as equal as Black could reasonably expect from an opening variation.

If anyone asks, I can say that I have reached a smothered mate position OTB, except of course that my opponent resigned before I could demonstrate it, which is probably mostly what happens in these situations.  I don’t see why it would be that uncommon in practice, for a Class player.

Nerves

Round 4

Hard to believe that I hadn’t won in a while going into this game, my last outing with White against a lower-rated player was a draw, and now I faced a player who was higher-rated than that one, and who moves quicker as well.  My four-mile jog before the game takes away my calm-energy, and I am left with nervous energy, which is good, but can lead to nervous mistakes as well, and a lowered level of a confident feeling while playing.

7…BxNf3?

9.Be3  White has a sizeable advantage here, but I didn’t have the guts to go with Daniel’s post-mortem recommendation.  9.Na3 (the d-pawn is still immune) Qb4+ (…Qe6+, 10.Bee Nf6 also looks suspicious for Black), 10.Bd2 Qxb2, 11.Nc4 Qxd4.  I stopped my analysis OTB here, questioning just as much why I want to go down two pawns to a 1600ish player who should be able to beaten by simpler means.  However, Daniel confidently continued with 12.Qa4! Nf6??, 13.Be3 Qd7 14.Rc1 Rc8, 15.Ne5 wins. So, instead if 12…e6, 13.Be3 Qd7 (13…Bb4+? should fail to 14.Kf1!) 14.0-0, and after 15.Rd1 and 16.Rc1, you probably wouldn’t want to be Black, thinking about holding those two pawns, when White is developed, Black is no castled and very worst case scenario is getting at least say the a7 pawn back as compensation, but no one strong would stoop to this if it only gained a pawn from the position.

12.Qa3.  Daniel liked 12.Qb3, but I had calculated OTB 12…Qb6 (..Be7 is also very possible and likely best), and if 13.d5?! BxNd2+, 14.KxB QxQ, 15.axQ exd shows that such a shot here would be premature)

15.QxQ.  I thought strongly about playing 15.Rc5 here, and probably should have played this based on positional principles, but at the last second changed my mind based on faulty calculation of the line that I played.

19.Bf4.  I had missed that after 19.Bd2, Black has the fork 19…Nb3!, and I didn’t even see this until I started to reach for my bishop.  I was far from touching the piece, but couldn’t find a move here that I liked anyway.

28…Rb8?? A blunder of a pawn this late in the game, with no compensation, is just losing.

32.Bd7?  At this point in the game, I was just a bundle of nerves, knowing that this move was a mistake, but playing it anyway because I didn’t want to calculate any more as I went below four minutes.  32.Rd7 was the obvious move, where 32…Nc5 fails to 33.Ra7, and 32…Nd8 fails to 33.Bf3 a6, 34.bxa6.  These lines are clear as day, but I was feeling too nervous to calculate clearly and simply.

34.Rb6?  Rb7 is clearly better, defending White’s seventh rank

37.Rc8+  Around here, Pete came to look at my game, and I shot this move out first for some reason, because I didn’t want to calculate that 37.Rc6 is winning based on his king can’t reach a passed c-pawn in time.

38…Rg8?  Here I had taken the time to calculate and was hoping she wouldn’t play 38…Kf7, as 39.Rc7+ Kf6 and it’s going to be long endgame.  40.bxa6 Rxa6, 41.Rc4 when White can cleverly still play for a win due to Black’s pawn islands.  40.Rxa7 is probably just as strong, or at least against a Class player, due to the pawn islands of Black and healthy pawn front of White.

An Interesting Battle

Round 3

An interesting improvement I had seen OTB, but not quite fleshed out at the time, was 10.d5 Na5, 11.Bb5+ Bd7, 12.Qe2 (threating b4) b6, which should give White the clear edge.

14.Bg5, hoping for either …Bf6, when 15.h4!? or 15.Ne4! or 15.NxNd5 are possible replies, or 14…Qb6?, where I spotted 15.Na4 Qb4, 16.QxQ NxQ, 17.Be7 picking up the exchange, since I had seen that 17…Nc2 wasn’t working out for Black.

23.Bg3.  If I had to play this position again, I would probably go combo-central with 23.Qf4 g5, 24.Bxg5 fxg, 25.Nxg5 Rf8, 26.Qg3 followed by 27.Rc7 allowing Qxd4, and 28.RxBg7+ KxRg7, 29.Nf3+ wins the queen.  Even now I can envisage such a combo quickly enough that he is fortunate that I didn’t have much time remaining at this point (still, it would take me a few minutes to flesh this sac out and play it).  Most of my time in a game is spent on how to retain the initiative.  So instead of that beautiful sac, I now start playing like an idiot who is low on time.  hehe.  ;-)

25.Qc2?  Completely missing his next move(s).

48…Qh7.  He offered me a draw here with 25 minutes on his clock to 1 min 11 sec remaining on my clock.  I spent half a minute and accepted the draw.

What went through my head when considering the draw offer?  A number of things, but first an objective look at the position and clock times let me know my answer right away, and I thought my having that minute plus made him realize he couldn’t play for a clock-win.  I was glad about this as I had run out of water at the table, and they had removed the extra waters from the room already.

Also, he had been spending good amounts of time on finding defenses against mating threats, and even after the game said he offered the draw because he was seen a lot of those sorts of threats.

After the game, I said I would have played (whipped out) 49.Be7, to which he considered the moves 49…Qf7 (which seemed to work fine, post-mortem against 50.Qg5+ which likely isn’t best…Kh7), 49…Kg7? (I know he wouldn’t have ended up playing this), and 49…Qh6 which he liked and probably would have played.  I thought that 50.Qd4 would have then been winning and would have instantly played it, but this is too slow.  For example 50…Bd7, 51.Qb6 Qf4+, 52.g3 Qe5, 53.Qxb7 e3!, 54.QxBd7 exf is not losing for Black and likely winning.

However, 50.Qb6 straight-away might be winning, but the odds are high that I would have missed this. 50…f4+, 51.g3 Qd2, 52.Kg2 Qe2 is already looking like a perpetual.

Subjectively, I had a good chance of winning by playing on, but I decided to be objective about it and usually am when deciding on draws offered to me.  I realized that I hadn’t lost to Dean in about 20 tries and didn’t want this to be my first, especially considering how I had just flagged on increment to Daniel two nights before.

Endgame Problem

I started this tournament with two byes.

Round 3

39…e5  Alex suggested that simply 39…cxN (which I hadn’t even considered, probably because it’s a change in strategy) is winnning, and post-mortem-wise, it was easily winning, although it would be nice to have computer confirmation.

I rejected 39…Re5 because of 40.Nc2, when 41.Ne3 could follow and it’s more difficult to judge.  Well, White should be fine if not winning, after 40…Kd5?, 41.Ne3+ when ..Kd6? 42.Nc4+ fork wins, and 40…Rd5, 41.Ne3 Re5, 42.Nc4+ also forks and wins.  So 39…Re5? appears to be a loser.

39…Ke5 is still an interesting way to win the position, and if I had four more seconds on my clock would have completed it in time.  Daniel called my flag right as I was reaching to pick up the king and move it to e5, so I actually made the move on the board anyway.

First off, I should point out that 40.RxNd4 cxR, 41.Nc6+ Ke6, 42.NxR KxN should be winning for Black, I should think.

In the post-mortem, Daniel quickly pointed out that he didn’t have to repeat the position of …Nb4, as apparently I had lost a tempo in this line.  I had seen OTB 40.Na6 Kd6, 41.Rc1 (assuming he doesn’t repeat with 41.Nb4 and it seems he would not have repeated) Re5.  I was also a touch worried about 41.Rb1 but he doesn’t have this move because the e-pawn will roll, as you will see in further analysis.

Let it be known that a move like 41.Kg1 changes nothing, as Black still has a simple winning line such as 41…e3, 42.Rc1 (anyway) e2, 43.Kf2 Nc2! (44.RxNc2? e1(Q)+ wins), so 44.Nxc5 e1(Q), 45.RxQ Na4 where if Ra1, then 46.Nc3, but now 46…Kc5 is convincing as Black will not hold the a-pawn and is down the exchange and pawn already.

So, instead of 42.Rc1, there could have followed 42.Bf1, but this move is the signal for Black to play 42…g5, then …f4, …f3, …e2, rolling pawns and winning.  :-)

Another elaborate way for White to win through interlocking the pieces in formation is (I like to call this the Magnus Carlsen technique) 41…Rd5, 42.Kf2 Nc6, 43.RxR (forced, otherwise if 43.Rc1 then …Nc6-e5-d3 controlling c1, b4, and blocking a bishop at f1 from defending the Na6, followed by …c4 and …Ra5 winning the Na6 – just to illustrate one winning setup.  Another winning setup here is if 43.Rb1 instead of 43.Rc1 (yes, I could play this line anyway, just illustrating the multiple winning lines), then …Rd2+, 44.Kf1 Rxa2 is winning on the spot after 45.Nb8 e3, 46.Bf3 Rf2+ picking up the Bf3.  Anyway, after the 43.RxR KxR, White is busted here because my knight is boxing out his knight, his bishop can’t stop my c-pawn, and his king is too far away.

All in all, it was a lot to consider, and I had been using up most of the increment.  In fact, it was after 28.Ne3 that I spent possibly seven minutes, wondering if I should simply resign, but playing on to see his technique.  If I had played on quickly here in this “losing” position, I would have had time to capitalize later on all of his poor endgame moves, which is something I didn’t expect to have happen.

I guess all that FICS playing from years ago, does give us a strength edge even over a lot of kids who seemeingly play endless chess and haven’t caught up to us chess-wise, but have surpassed us in clock management and energy levels.  Daniel doesn’t blitz in my time-pressure, so I had no adrenaline to play on and was starving for blood-sugar energy, which I finally got after the game from a vending machine with peanut M&M’s.  I had already put my coat on, which means I had decided to stop burning energy, which slows me down, and I knew I could lose because of that, but I was gassed (jogged a few miles before the game at a decent pace).

Incidentally, Tuesdays is G/75 30/Inc, unlike Thursdays (that tournament venue may leave us), which is G/90 30/Inc.  I finished my last Thursday game with 12 min. remaining, but even that would have put me 3 minutes under the time-control here.  I’ll bring some snacks in the future to munch on during the game, never had to do this before, but I need it at my age, when energy levels can deplete from so many other things before a game.

Also, I pointed out to Alex after the game that instead of the sac that I played on move 24, I also had 24…Nc3, followed by ..Nc6-b4 or …Rb2 (depending), and then to bring the other rook to b8, and then …Rc2 would be trapping the queen in one line, but it’s winning in all lines.  This is where time-pressure kicked in; I considered this, but played the reckless move instead.

I spent a long time looking at this endgame because I realized it’s where I need to improve my game the most.

Positional Attack With The Black Pieces

Round 2

Now that my father has passed away. I feel more inspired to play well, to honor his legacy.  He was a meticulous student himself, had great handwriting, and really applied himself when he studied something like history – it’s as if it were part of his personality that he could blend in so well with what he studied.  I still have his marked up copy of Thucydides’ book, it’s beside me right now, the 1967 edition, which is also the year I was born.  Although I read this book in college, it was hard for me to have the take-aways, which he found in the book, in order to write a book report on it.  Just called my step-mom and she said “Yeah, he liked to read (a lot).”  hehe.  He had a current fictional novel on his coffee-table that he had begun to read, and I have to admit that even I don’t have the patience to read as much as he did, but it’s good to know he was able to read up until the end!  I also read some of his Time magazines, New Yorker, and NY and LA Times newspapers while I was up there.

In Thursday’s above game with Teah (who looks around eleven or twelve years old), I decided to play very positionally, and in fact I learned this line as Black from RollingPawns, how to handle the d4 sac by White.  :-)

Naturally, I could have won an exchange with 13…Ng3, but was already up a pawn and didn’t want to give White an attack with his queen and bishop-pair – and potentially pawn/s, and rook, since I would have to weaken my kingside, and also likely need to defend awkwardly with my heavy pieces.

It would appear as if 20.Re2 were a blunder, however as I look at it now I can see that Black is threatening to play 20…c5 (21.Bxc5? Ne4 forks), 21.Be3 Nc4 fork and Black still has a lot of space and open lines to attack from.

20…RxRe2.  During the game, I thought that 20…Nc4 might have been more accurate, but I confess that is not my style as much and it’s difficult to come up with a plan that maintains Black’s advantage as much, after 21.Qc2, although 21…QxQc2, 22.RxQc2 a4 would be keeping the pressure, and bind, up.  In fact, I have ideas of ..Rb8-b5, which could threaten c4 as well, and doubling rooks on the b-file.

26.Kf1? An obvious blunder, but it appears that it is already too late for White to save this position.  I was expecting 26.Kh2, and was then not sure how to specifically proceed, but it didn’t take long after coming home from work today (I took yesterday off from work and so will probably work next Tuesday before my game then) to come up with an attacking line.  For example: 26.Kh2 Qf4+, 27.Kh1 (27.Kg1? Qf3, 28.g3 Ne4, 29.Be5 Qxf2+) Ne4, 28.Rf1? Ng5, threatening …Nf3 is a winner.  28.Rg1 Ng5, 29.Kh2 Qf3, 23.g3 (23.gxQ Nxf3+ is a cute mate)..Qe2 and threatening 24…Nf3+ should be enough.  So 29.Qa8 (29.Qa6?? c5.  29.Qa4?? c5) Ne4, 25.Rf1? Ng3+, 26.Kg1 Ne2+ (not stooping to win the exchange), 27.Kh2 Qe4 28.f3 and the attack continues.  Probably with…Ng3+, 29.Kg1 Qe2, 30.Rc1 (30.Rf2? Qe1 mates) Ne4, 31.g4 Qxf3+, 32.Kf1 Qxh3+ looks convincing enough to stop there.  If White just sits tight with Kh1 and R1, then White has a thematic attack with …Ng5-e6, …c5, …d4, …d3 and …Nf4.  By this time BxNf4 should be too late to stop both the runaway d-pawn and the king’s position, and the a-pawn is too slow.

Again, not using an engine for any of this analysis, not building up a dependency, simply going old-school so can solve these problems OTB.  Of course, this may seem a bit of overkill for a game against a class D player, but I am studying up mostly for stronger players, and besides even she jumped up 500 rating points in under four months.

When I play a game like this, trying to keep it tight and correct, I am working on building up my chess ability for the future.  Part of that ability is to keep score correctly, so in this game I kept my handwriting very neat, even writing down some clock times, kept composed there.  It’s all of these little things, which are easy to gloss over, that add up to a rating.  For example, even making your moves confidently is another little factor.  I have started screwing my pieces into the board a little, something I never used to do (Smyslov and Kasparov both did this).  You can’t be all shaky with hand-writing and move-making and get too far, as I’ve come to find out.  Time-pressure is also part of this lack of confidence.  I saw Pete’s game, for example, where he lost and showed him that he should have won by confidently sacking an exchange for a pawn, and that he shouldn’t have tried to analyze it so much, just play it, and then he got into time-pressure and blamed that for his loss.  Of course, he can play better than anyone in time-pressure, but it’s needless, and instead of defending so much from a blatantly superior attacking position, should have been knocking-out the win.

Going into this game, I’ve gotta say I was still impressed with this Yuri Balashov game:http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1024130

For him to play Qf3-d1 on one move, and then sac a piece in a deep positional combo on the next move, well it caused a big impression on me, as well as paving the theory of this line for future Grandmasters.  Moral here is that when the position calls for a quiet move, make the quiet move, when it calls for the sac, make the sac.

After I posted my analysis, I realized that 26…Qf4+ would probably have not been good since Be3 is coming anyway.  More methodical would simply be …c5, …d4 and prove that the d-pawn is quicker and doing more than the passed a-pawn.  Also, the kniight is doing just fine on e4 supporting this pawn advance for now.  OTB, it’s natural to look for a tactical cure, but truer positional chess can be confessed to in down-time like these.

Tournament in California

After I attended my father’s funeral in CA, I went to play some chess against the regulars there, they were pretty much there as before, not much had changed in the five years since I had left it, although they had moved to a new location down the street from where they were last.

My result was a dismal 1/3, although the play wasn’t all as one-sided as might appear from that description.  I’ll post the games as I get them uploaded.

Round 1

19…Nb8?  I drop a pawn here in time-pressure, but that’s basically the only reason that I lost both games anyway.  Note that if I had played 19…Na7, that my follow-up move of 20…Bc6 would have worked.

The king and pawn ending was a time-pressure blitz as well, so I can’t even recreate exactly what happened, but needlessly to say that the gallery was eager to point out all of the draws I had missed since his extra pawn was doubled (he didn’t even get his king as aggressively posted as I am showing here).  So, I threw away the draw in time-pressure, too.

Round 2

This game was interesting because I was playing against a little kid and I wanted him to take my pawn so that I could get some quick win/loss action leading up to the next round, as the previous round had been too much of a grind to want another slow game.  I’ve never seen analysis on why Black should not take this pawn, as the book line is not to take it, but here I give a little miniature on why it is best to think twice before grabbing the pawn (letting me recapture the pawn would have lead to a dull game, I was afraid).  I knew there was the strong possibility that he was in trouble as soon as he had played …Bb4 rather than the more solid-looking …Be7.

Round 3

In the final round, my opponent spent a lot of time in the opening and after Qxd4 he had about 30 minutes remaining to my approx 70 minutes.  At this point, he offered a draw.  I asked him how many points he had and it was clear that a draw would win first place for him.  I told him that I had paid too much entry fee not to play on ($25 for 3 rounds, and I had blown another $17 on lunch and $17 on gas), plus I couldn’t win anything that way and it would be a disservice to the other two players in our quad.  When I had 30 minutes to his 3 minutes, I realized I could probably blitz a win with no trouble, but since he didn’t move while I took bathroom breaks, I did the same for him and also spent a lot of time looking at RxNd7 variations on move 21, even though I ended up playing my blitz move, which I had seen two moves previously.  I felt obliged to take my time and not blitz him, since he took his time in the opening, and I didn’t want to win that way.  As it turned out, the other two players in our quad didn’t even stick around to see the end of the game.

27…Nb6?  I realized his blunder straight away, and that I should be winning, but for some reason, even though I was never nervous all day, I suddenly got nervous thinking about not wanting to blow the win, and spent lots of time for no reason at all since I had seen the continuation that was to follow.

31.  Nxd8?  In all my excitement, I had messed up my score-keeping in that little forced exchange preceeding this and didn’t know what move I was on, and panicked and grabbed the knight and said “crap!” knowing I was supposed to play 31.Rc8, but had to move my knight now.  I even played 32.Rc6? quickly, knowing it was a bad move but then asked him about the time-control and he said “I think we’re a few moves over it”, but he kept score except for one move I think.

I can see, looking at this now that 32.Re1 would have let me play 32.f3 and get my bishop out.  Once I took a good look at my position, I realized I was doomed even with rooks on, although I should have kept them on anyway.  All the steam left my sails once I had made that move 31 blunder, and I am only realizing now that that was the move after I had already made the time control.  I put this into my tablet and let Stockfish look at a couple positions, and it says it is approx .5 advantage for White had I won his a6 pawn in the 31.Rc8 variation.  If I had carried my time advantage with me into the second session, I probably would have won, but it was tricky and 30 minutes for him would have been a lot of time, and he seems like a strong second-session player.  In any case, I would have won $18.50 had I won this game.

Finding Balance

Round 4

Possibly the two strongest players of the tournament, Pete notwithstanding, faced off in this game with all the tension and prizes on the line.

18…Qxe7? (played quickly)  I made a greedy move here, trying to give myself easy drawing chances, should Daniel not punish me here, but punish he did.  I wanted the queen on e7 and then …Nh6, but that was asking way too much.  As soon as I saw 20.e6, I knew I had overlooked this strong move, and it’s “refutation-central” as Alex might say.

I almost went for 24…Nd7, and asked Daniel after the game what he would have played, and he played 25.NxNd7!  keeping the initiative so that he can follow it up with 25.bxc bxc, 26.Qf3 hitting another sensitive diagonal, when he wanted to play Qf3-e2xc4, and putting pressure on c6 as in the game.

27…Rd8??  I felt like this would be a blunder, but I also felt that 27…Nd5, 28.Nxc4 was game-over, which it would have been as well.

38….NxBd5?  A blunder, but it’s already next to helpless.

39…Qc8?? I still had two and a half minutes remaining, but the position is hopeless.  I played 39…Ne7 post-mortem, and he quickly replied 40.Qxc4, and then got his rook over onto the d-file and pinned it against my king.  40…f3, 41.gxf resigns might be a cute finish as White is in total control, and as Daniel appropriately put  it “You have a weak king!”

Walking into this game, I felt as though Daniel should be the favorite, and yet I hadn’t seen much of his games in quite a while, and wasn’t sure of how his style would be now.  I feel as if his style is a cross between Gunar and Paul Anderson’s styles.  Post-mortem he wanted to go for one speculative combo, which I could easily refute, but then said “it’s probably bad” – he used to go for those sort of things and lose games that way, but in the final round he knew not to play anything speculative.

I feel a game like this is a “maker” sort of moment, and Daniel easily played this game at Expert level, and I learned something as well.  I drank a bunch of coffee that I didn’t need because I was more enamored by the waitress than the game, and let up at the key moment on this effort, but I feel that this game was really more a “coming out” of Daniel’s chess-strength, to me anyway.