Compromises in Time-Pressure

Wednesday Round 2

I decided to play the Open Sicilian, although I was more in the mood to play the C3 Sicilian, because Alex wanted to see me play it, and I also know that RP has potentially switched to it.  ;-)

I debated between 5.Nb3 and 5.Nf3, but settled on 5.Nb3 for this occasion because I wanted to prevent the move …Bc5.

I’ll confess that I really don’t know the best way to gain an advantage against this variation at this time.

8.Bc4.  I felt that 8.Bd3 was more circumspect, but didn’t want to spent time OTB calculation …d5 breaks, and 8.f3 seemed passive and problematic if I weren’t getting kingside castling in.

13.0-0? This turns out to be a strategic mistake.  After 13.Nf1 Be6, 14.Ne3 BxB, 15.NxB  White is holding a normal opening plus into the middlegame.

15.b3  My inexperience shows as it was apparently best to allow …Nc4.  15.Qd2 (gets out of …Bf3 pin as well) 15…Nc4, 16.BxNc4 BxB was White’s best continuation here.

16.Qd2  I considered 16.a4 here, and should have played it – it gives White the best chance, although Black should hold with best play.

21.a3?!   21.c3 makes the most sense here.  I was even eyeing the trade of queen for two rooks, but Stockfish says it’s best to get the queen off of that file with Qe3 at some point.

21…Qg6?  This moved seemed like a mistake, but I had so little time to refute it.  22.Qe3! is best.

23.Qxa6?  I am trading two pawns, one of which is a center pawn, for a wing-pawn, very bad mistake.  Simply 23.axb and White is better.

24…Rxc2?  24…Qxb4 should be played, and it’s even; this the move I feared, but didn’t prepare at all for 24….Rc2.  The best response on this and the next few moves is simply to push the b-pawn.

27.Qc4??  In time-pressure, I decide to test Sara’s endgame skills, but this is one of those “game management” decisions that throws it all away.  It throws away the tension and gives the opponent an easy problem rather than a “hard problem”.  I was going to play 27.Qb6 Nc6, 28. Qc7 (Stockfish says to play 28.b4, but 28.Qc7 is apparently an even harder problem).  In the post-mortem, I showed this, Sarah had seen it during the game and thought she’d have to give up the d-pawn.  The variations are quite complex.  The endgame was child’s play with her 20 minutes remaining, and I flagged in a lost position.


Thursday Round 2

6…0-0?!  Once again, castling is inaccurate because in case of 7.e5, you want to play …Ng8.  Therefore, 6…c5! is the most accurate move-order.

9.h4 and 10.g4 seemed immaterial, losing time and giving me an endgame advantage.

13…Qf5.  I spent a lot of time here, even though all I saw was what I played all along.  However 13…Nb8, followed by 14…Nc6 seems best.

18…b5!  How else can Black fight for the initiative, let alone crash through?  The fi-file just didn’t seem like enough by itself.


23.c3?  23.Rd3! with the idea of 23.Rc3 is equal.

Now White defends with the best moves.

31….Bc8!  The engine prefers 31…Ke7, and Master Bloomer preferred it as well, but when I played many moves on, White’s advantage petered out.  This move may seem passive, but again illustrates the advantage of maintaining the tension, even as late as into the endgame.  The only downside was how much time that I spent on this move debating.

43…Ne7?  Regretfully, as soon as I blitzed this move I saw that I should have played 43…a5! and could have played it on the previous move as well, but was blitzing these moves.

47….Bf5?!  47…e4! is decisive, and as soon as Master Bloomer saw this position he told the me that I probably should have called his bluff and won the piece, and then whipped out his analysis as if this were bullet-chess (i.e., very easy) for him.  The one thing to keep in mind here is that you have to know your knight and bishop mate from the best resulting position for White.  I went over the bishop and knight mate endgame with Stockfish for a while, and am confident with it, particularly if I can get my opponent close to the side of the board.

54….Nb5?  One thing that makes it hard when playing Jesse is that not only can he play a mean endgame, but that he blitzes them.  Constantly as I was writing down my move he was making his move at the same time, so I’d look at it out of the corner of my eye before I could write my move, and then it would confuse my score-keeping.  Both of us kept score, but after the game I noticed that his yellow copy, while looking neater than mine, was no more legible.  You can read both of our scoresheets before the bishop trade.  After the bishop-trade both of our scoresheets become illegible (I could read a lot more of my moves, but couldn’t make some of them out on either of our sheets, so I had to recall what happened at the end), and yet we were both scribbling down all of the moves.  I really wish the increment was 1 minute, and the G/60, just to put an end to this sort of blitzing.  Keeping score at 30 seconds feels about the same as keeping no score with a 10 second delay while blitzing.

58…Ng5??  58.Kd4 is equal.

I remember him giving  me a chance to not take his pawn, and that 58…Kc4! would be winning, telling myself not to take the pawn, but again I made the “game management” decision 58…Kxb4?? to not leave him with mating material as I made this move with around 9 seconds on my clock, even though I figured that he had about a 75% chance to draw the game with my move.  I wasn’t able to yet see his draw, but was not shocked when it came.





The Dangers of Blitzing

Round 1

Me and Shirley picked up where we left off after our last “blitz” games last week, except that this one was regular rated.

Although this was G/90, 30 sec Inc, I had taken only two minutes (actually, close to three minutes) before she had resigned (1:28 remaining).

At first, I thought there was no three-fold, and I was simply adding time to my clock, but then I noticed that …Na6 had been played three times.  Luckily for me, the first time it had been played my rook was on a8, and the last two times my rook had been on b8.

17. Qe2  Here, she had made the mistake of playing 17…Nxb4, which I had seen works against 17.Qd3 (but she played it anyway, probably because she was down two pawns).

When she had resigned, we both had seen that she could lose her Rh8, but I had been looking at 20…Ke7, 21.QxNa6+?? QxQ, 22.Nd8+?? (thinking this forked the a6 and e7 squares) QxNd8.  I quickly played this after she resigned and we signed score-sheets, just to show her, but realized it was a blunder as soon as I touched her knight.  This is the meaning of trading blunders during blitzing, and the last blunder hurts the most.  I can’t say for sure whether I would have played it or not, but I immediately got the sense and message to myself that chess is humble game.



Paradoxical Positions

Round 1

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 weakening the king’s position and dark squares surrounding it.

24…f5!  I was ready for this, OTB, but now White is losing despite what an engine’s initial evaluation of this position may be.  She took longer on this move than I thought she would, so by the time she played it I had seen that 25.Nc3 Qe3+, 24.Kh1 Rd8 was not looking good for me, and quickly finished finding the mate, after the game, where White continues with 25.RxR+?? NxR is mate in seven for Black, according to Stockfish (I found the cute B + Q + pawn mate right after the game).  Instead 25.Nc3-d5 is the formation I was hoping to achieve during the game, but 25…Qe2, 26.Nbc3 Qf2, 27.Nb5 Rd7, and the engine disproves of 25.c4? after a long think (-1.4), and even 26.h3 is calling it -.96 after a while.  Still, this would have been best.

25.g3  This move was understandable in terms of both kicking the queen, and giving the king some breathing room on the light-square g2, but now after 25…Qh6(forced) it makes playing 26.Nc3 impossible as Black has e4 where 26.fxe and 26.f4 are both met by 26…Ne5!! which I had found against the first line with Alex, but didn’t find against the second line until the computer suggested it, and then I was able to quickly calculate why that is.

27.h4  During the game, I didn’t trust the more normal looking 27.Rf1? because for one thing I saw that 27…Qh3 was annoying (-.76 or so), but after 27…Bb6, 28.Kg2 Rd8, the position is already over -3 according to Stockfish (even though I fed it the move 28…Rd8).

28.Rd5?? It is here, in the most paradoxical stage of the game, that I was playing with under half a minute on my clock.  I considered first to play 28.Kg2, where if she plays 28….fxg3?! instead of 28…BxN! I can use that g3 pawn as a shield for my king.  Instead, I am probing with my rook to get her to make an error, which she did.

28…Be3?  Black had here the lovely continuation 28…fxg3!, 29.RxBc5 Qxh4!! letting the knight continue to hang instead of taking it, as the pawn on g3 is far, far more important than the Nf2.

30.Ng4??  It’s odd that I wanted to make a positional move here, instinctively, rather than a tactic, but with only half a minute didn’t have the time to figure out the flaws in neither the position nor the moves.  I was attracted to 30.Ne4 initially, but played this tactic since it was easy to see that it wins a piece.  The best move is 30.Nh4!  preventing the future …Qh2+ in the most economical manner possible.  The funny thing about this position is that it is given the eval of -2.75 but is one where Black could make some natural move and have the eval quickly drift toward positions where White could still hope to draw it.

31.QxBe3??  I saw 31…h5 coming, but was hoping that I could figure something out after playing this move, even though I continued to see nothing saving White the whole time.  Instead, the paradoxical looking 31.Nxc7 (winning only a pawn instead of a piece, but weakening Black’s kingside much as she has been weakening mine).  Now White has great swindling chances after 31…KxNc7, 32.Rb5!   32….Rb8??, 33.Qf7+ is equal.  32…b6??, 33.QxBe3 is also equal as is 32…Nd8??, 33.Qc3+ or 33.QxBe3.  After 32…Ba7?? 33.Rxb7+ is mating for White!  In fact, even after the correct 32…Rd8!, 33.QxBe3 h5??, 34.Qb6+! would draw, and thus Black needs to make one more move with foresight such as 33…Kc8! since 34.Qb6 could be now met by 34…Rd2+, which is crushing, and other moves allow 34…h5, winning the Ng4 at long last.  Curiously, if Black does not take the Nc7 on move 31, then 32.Na6+ is either a perpetual or mating for White.  So, there were still hard problems for Black to solve after the blunder 30.Ng4?? and also on the move before, but I didn’t pose them to my opponent in my time-pressure.















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.