Hanging around against a Master

Final Round

In this last and final round for the month, I was set to face Life Master Brian Wall.  At first, they thought that Alexander was going to show up, and in that case I would have only faced a 900 player, so this was a pleasant surprise for me.

Brian said that his strategy with openings is “to be unpredictable”, and thus his reasoning for choosing Petrosian’s variation of the Petroff Defense, which he said that Petrosian nearly always could draw from; besides, Brian said he wasn’t so pleased about the opening against me last time he faced my Scotch.  I, on the other hand, remember what happened the last time I tried to pull out my unprepared King’s Gambit against a Master (got slaughtered), and so here went for the safer bet.

I played 7.c4, but Stockfish first suggested 7.Nc3, and then changed it’s mind to 0-0, Re1, and c3.  Needless to say, I played more aggressively than that.

11.g4.  I wasn’t sure whether or not 11.Qd2 might be a better try, but Stockfish surprisingly rates the position as 0.0 after 11…BxNf3, 12.gxB d5, 13.cxd5 Nb6, and this is presumably because Black has no kingside pawn-weaknesses, whereas White has one, even though it is an opposite-sides castling position after 14.0-0-0.

13.Qd3?!  This is where I missed my “big chance” to go up +.60, according to Stockfish, with 13.Qb3!  Actually, I never gave it any thought, didn’t see it, and did feel a bit stuck for what to do next.  The line given is 13.Qb3 Nb6, 14.0-0-0 c6.

15.b4?! Stockfish gives 15.0-0 as best, and evaluates it as 0.0.  As tempting as 15.0-0-0 looks, the computer puts black over a pawn up after 15…b6, 16.b4 a5.  The same problem lies with 16.cxb6 because after …axb6, Black will have 17…b5, followed by 18…Qa5, which is an even more winning line for him.

So after 15.b4?!, Stockfish is giving this as =+ for Black after 15…Re8.  However, he returns the favor with 15…b6?!, and after 16.0-0 Re8 (best), as played, now White has the +=.

17.Bf4?!=  It’s hard to knock this move, but Stockfish gives the nod to 17.Re1 Qc8, 18.Bd2 a5, 19.a3+= which is the sort of position that only a computer could seemingly love, but I’d much prefer being on the White side of it.

I spent a lot of time on move 17, and against a weaker opponent, I may have been more tempted to play this strange 17.Nf3-d3 with f4 idea, but I felt it had too many weaknesses.  One line I sparred with against Stockfish is this one: 17. Nd2 Qc7 18. f4 a5 19. a3 Bf8 20. Rae1 axb4 21. axb4 Ra3 22. Ra1 Rea8 23. Rxa3 Rxa3 24. Qc2 bxc5 25. bxc5 Be7 26. Ndb1 Ra5 27. Bd2 Ra7 28. Kg2 Nf8 29. f5 gxf5 30. Qxf5 Bd8 31. Bf4 Qb7 32. Be5 Ng6, but White is down more than -1 here.

Brian Wall was more concerned about if 17.Re1 Qc7, then White can spring an 18.Nc3-e2, 19.Bf4 idea.  I did see this idea OTB, but the main thing that I missed regards timing; commit to the building move first, and thwart opponents plan only after that.

The funny thing about B.W.’s 17…Ne4, is that I thought he would play a pawn-sac in the line 17.Ne2 Ne4?!, but then I sort of slapped myself on the head, proverbially speaking, when he played this move anyway.

When I played 18.Re1, I saw the line 18.NxN exN, 19.Qxe4 Bxc5, 20.Qxc6 Bxb4 (both of these lines are 0.0), but all things being equal, I wanted to keep the tension and keep material on the board.

18…f5.  I thought he would play this, but the computer prefers 18…NxNc3 (best) or 18…g5 (2nd) or 18…bxc5 and calls them all equal.

Stockfish says that 19.b5 is +=, and this would have been difficult to find OTB, given my (typical) clock situation.  In fact, I should look for safe advantages like this one when I play a Master.  Ultimately, after 19…Qc8, that line would be equal too, but at least it would have given him more to think about, defensively.

19.Ne5?  The first bad move of the game, and played quickly (time-pressure).  19.b5 may have been best, but even 19.Rac1 would have been more believable than this move.

21…Bxc5 winning a pawn.  Naturally, I hadn’t forseen this continuation when I played 19.Ne5?

22.f3?  22.NxN fxN, 23.Qc3 Bd6, 24.Qxc6 BxB, 25.exB Rxe seemed unappetizing to me, and B.W. should win this against me, even if it slightly less than -1 advantage.  So, I went for the great unknown with 22.f3?

22…Rxe5!! I thought that he may play this a move down the road or so, but not straight-away.  He’s -2 here.

23.dxBc5?  Relatively best was 23.fxN, but after …fxe, 23.Qc2 Bb6, 24.Kg2 Re8, he’s extricated his pieces in time to remain up those two pawns.  Still, this would be a total loss for White.

When I had 23.dxBc5? I had forseen ….Nxc5 24.Qd4 forking, but had missed …RxR, 25.RxR Qh4, or rather that it is attacking the unprotected rook, when Black remains up the two pawns.  B.W. had seen this line, but then somehow was also contemplating or worried about 25…Nd7, when he is two pawns up but thought I might have some attack out of there, which I thought was rather silly to be concerned about , but okay, it probably would have lead him to the 25….Qh4 line anyway.

One final note is that if 23.Kg2, not only does Black have simply 23…Bb6, once again retaining his two pawn advantage, but also has the lights-out move of 23…Nf2 (24.KxN?? Qh4+ skewer) 24.Qd2 RxR, 25.RxR Qh4, 26.dxB (26.QxN?? QxQ, 27.KxQ Bd4+ picking up the Nc3 as 28.Re3 walks into the pin) …Nxh3, 29.Qe3 (say), then …Nf4+ sets up unavoidable mates, so that 30.QxNf4 Qh4xRxe1+ is -10 for Black.

23….Qa5?  B.W. said that he had seen this move at the last second and decided to play it instead, which is rather strange, and I felt it was a blunder OTB, but I realized that I didn’t really have the time to deal with it properly and at this point needed to pace myself toward an endgame, for clock and energy reasons.

I could see by the look on his face that he was none too pleased with his 23…Qa5?, but I still felt that he had probably done some analyzing of it, as he had spent quite a long period of clock time on this move.  He thought that he “could simply resign” after 24.Qe5, but these are rather harsh terms he has given himself, even if he were to go down an exchange for a pawn after 24…Qc3 (24…Qc5 is same problem), 25.QxQ NxQ, 26.RxR  and this is what we both missed, that the rook is hanging on e5.  It’s tough to say whether or not I would win from this position, with my endgame skills against his, but it’s all rather a moot point as he has instead 24…Ng5!, and if 25.QxR, then …Nxf+ followed by …NxQe5 wins, so he was still up -2.7 after 24…Ng5!  Actually, my move of 24.fxN was quite attractive in it’s own right, as I am getting a knight for three pawns, and Stockfish says it’s equal (0.0).

26.Na4?, it’s interesting how Stockfish at first thinks this is equal, then says it’s down -1.37 after …Qe7, and this is mostly because the other move that I was considering 26.Qg3 -1, gets out of the way of the pawn-roller.  Interesting note is that at this point, I initially thought I’d probably lose after the queen trade, and then …Rb8, because B.W. is AKA “The pawn-wave guy”, as he has won a lot of games this way.  Ironically, he thought I had made a grandmaster move, forcing him to trade queens, and that he thought he was probably losing.








October’s Last Rounds

Round 5 Tuesdays

I was going to play 36….Rgf6, but then in time-pressure absent-mindedly played 36…Qg4??, and then waited for her to take my rook, and then immediately resigned.  It was a 10 second delay, but just for the record I will not ever play a 5 or 10 second delay weeknight tournament again, as I really do have better things to do with my time, seriously.

In the game score, I show how this could have been a hundred move game with good play, which shows that a 30 second increment is really necessary, barring a second time-control.

I had seen the mate with 25…Nxg4, (26.g3 Bf6) 26.Nf6 Rf6 followed by 27…Rh6, but forgot what the line was in time-pressure, and decided that it would be “fun” anyways after 26…Qxg4, and it was until I messed up playing 31…Qh6? instead of 31…Qh5! (still winning) after maybe 5-10 seconds thought (which shouldn’t happen when playing at 30 second increment since any non-obvious move should have at least 30 seconds spent on it at that time-control).  Switching time-controls back and forth all month has been a big headache for me, and I can’t adjust to them back-and-forth that quickly, especially on weeknights.  I fail to see how time-pressure is “fun” When I am the one with 1:29 on my clock, playing at a delay, to my opponents 41 minutes.  How is that fun?  Even if it is fun, it certainly doesn’t last very long at that.

Round 5 Thursday

New opponent.  Teah played rather well, and so it was fortunate for me that she blundered.

This Week’s Games

Round 4 Tuesday

11…Qh4, 12.g3 Qe7 Stockfish likes this, and I debated playing it since it seemed quite alright.

15…Bf8.  Stockfish likes 15…Qc8, which adds strength to f5 square.

17…c5  17…a5 is thematic and stronger.

18…Be6.  I regretted not playing …Bf5, and Stockfish agrees (because White’s queen is babby-sitting the knight here).

On various moves, I should be playing ….a4.

24…Qf7.  I didn’t believe in this move, but was already in time-pressure.  24…Qc6, 25.Ra4 c4! and Black is better.

32…g5?  It’s equal now.  I looked at 32…c4!, but rejected it in serious time-pressure, probably because it creates a complex position, and I needed to draw it here.

Round 4 Thursday

22….Nf7.  I was going to play 22…Bf6, and if 23.Nxg3?? Bh4 with 23…Bg5 hitting the Rc1, and then 24…Bf4 with …Nf7, …Qh4 and winning down the h-file.  If you play this out with your kibitzer, it will change it’s mind from equal in a few moves to Black is totally winning.  I get castigated by a lot of people I know when I point out that a particular “long plan” is winning or is anything at all.  Good thing the higher-rated Stockfish backs me up!  Intuition like this is important because the chess program won’t tell you these things straight away; you have to plug in the moves and wait for the eval to come back.

However, I decided to play 22…Nf7 at last second, not thinking she would take on g6 because of Qg5, which I had only analyzed a little and felt was iffy, but still a bit shocked that she took the g3 pawn right away, and so I replied …Qg5 right away.  My original idea was to play 23…Bh6, followed by 24…Bf4 which computer says is still best, ignoring that she just won a pawn in front of her king, and saving one tempo in getting the bishop to f4 in two moves versus three.  I was a little put off by her possibility of then playing 24.Nf5, and saw …Bxf5, 25.exf hitting the …Rg6 and stopped looking at it there, and even though I did envision queen and bishop hooking up, did not envision bishop and rook hooking up via 25…Rg6-h6, 26.g4 Be3+, 27.Kf1 Rh1+! winning her queen.  But I outnumbered her five pieces to one, so it was silly to think like this anyway, and I should have been analyzing this line deeper.

24…Rb8??  I was going to play 24…Ra7, 25.Nb5 Rd7 for the longest time, and Stockfish agrees that Black is better, but I overthought it and my skill wasn’t as strong as my intuition as trading a pair of rooks is trading my only defender and thus losing.

When I played 27…QxN, I already knew that I was losing a piece, and even Stockfish agrees there is no way out of it, and I muttered my disgust before playing 27…QxN, and really had given up on the game at this point. as 29….Nd5, 30.Nb6 wins the Bc8.

Alex is still in detox for anyone reading this blog out of concern for what’s going on with him.  I checked my voicemail as soon as I got there, right after pairings were announced, and then let Earl know that he’d have to re-pair.  I got a voicemail from his Grandma that said he had slipped and hit his head and was now in detox (I just told some people that he had gone to the hospital, so understandably they’d be concerned as to what’s going on).  Alex had let his grandma know to tell me this, which makes me think he’s actually alright, just needs to blow a 0.0 to get out.

Sara was very gracious and it goes without saying that she deserved this victory; particularly when you consider how out-gunned she is in the opening theory department – she had to win on her technique and she did so.

Fumble In Time-Pressure

Round 3 Colorado Springs City Championship

I had anticipated the possibility of his 18…b6?? blunder, but I was in time-pressure starting right around here, spent a lot of time on my move, and still didn’t play it right.

My “blitz-move” was going to be 21.Rdc1, but I spent a lot of time trying to find something that keeps the attack more, and came up with 21.Bf4?!

24…Rae8??  I saw that 24….Re4 was best, and of course hoping he wouldn’t play it.  Now Stockfish says that 25.NxNd4 Bxd4, 26.Be3 is +3, whereas as it was played in the game is only +2.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to ponder such differences in lines.

26.fxe3  I even considered here 26.NxNd4 Re5, 27.Rxa7, which is cleaner than in the game, but not as strong, but again I simply had to move.

28.Kf2?  My instincts told me not to play this move, and I did momentarily look at 28.Re1!! which finishes the job with the trade of rooks, but then I saw 28…e5 and in my time-pressure wanted to play moves that “looked” good to the eye.

This is how insidious time-pressure is, it can make a person actually go against their blitz instincts.  This is not a 30-second increment tournament, it is a 10-second delay tournament.  As soon as I stopped writing my moves down with 3:35 remaining on my clock, so did Earl, who finished with 4:45 to my 12 seconds at game’s end.  It’s legal what he did, but this exemplifies the difference between increment and delay; it’s much easier to get “blitzed” in this situation.

29.Rd2?  I didn’t see that he had two hitters on b2 until after I had made my move.  I had wanted to play the correct 29.Rxd5 followed by 30.Rxa7, which is +-, but was reacting to suddenly noticing that 29…Rxb2+ comes with check.

30.R2xd5  While this is not a blunder, I was kicking myself as soon as I had made it.  The computer thinks this move and 30.Rxa7 are both equal, but the latter is easier for a human to play who is unsure of what he/she should be choosing as an objective in time-pressure.

31.Rd8+?  I knew I was sorta throwing in the towel here, as I did not have time to build up any

confidence in the correct move 32.Rb7, which I also considered but did not know w

hether or not it would work out.

After this, the moves are to my best recollection, and as I played this ending in just over one minute, this makes it easier to understand why I took a whacky stab at the whole thing.

Round 3 Thursday

I blundered a rook with four minutes on my clock because I couldn’t get it out my head that this wasn’t a G/90 game.  My score-keeping became illegible at this point as well, as I felt as if I had 4 minutes to play the whole game instead of the 30 sec increment.  He had 3 1/2 minutes and was calm, but had quickly played d4 and Nd5 because that was the plan that he had spent time on.   After …Rxb at the end, which I had seen to play, it was 0.0 eval by Stockfish, and I felt it was a draw.  My blunder was caused by seeing that if I hadn’t played Bb5, he could prevent it with …Nc3, but still, eating the pawn on b7 was good enough, no need to get feel as if the pin were strictly necessary in all lines.  There is also this pressure on me to practice as if it were G/90 because of the event in Denver in late October, which is first three rounds at G/90.  However, I can’t practice this time-control when my opponent doesn’t have to and can play with the 30 sec increment!

The interesting thing is that if I had played 26…Rxb7, he was going to play 27.Nf4, and I was instantly replying 27…Bb5?? to which he thought that 28.Rxg2+!! was now winning.  I quickly played 28…Kf1 thinking he was losing, and he never bothered trying 29.Rxf2+! which is mate in 8, giving up rook for a pawn, but he is a piece up, and still has queen, rook, knight, and pawn to mate with there, while keeping up the cavalcade of checks.  So it might have been a brilliant win on his part, or he could have blundered back from a winning position, and been just as ugly as what I had done, in that sense, as he had had maybe four minutes or less right there.

The Accidental Bird

cI played a blitz game on FICS this morning, accidentally playing Bird’s Opening 1.f4.  I didn’t even realize what I had done for a couple moves, and then had to stop and think about it to realize the situation.  It’s a good illustration that style and strength are not bound to openings knowledge, and I’d probably have an easier time of it with this opening as well!

Bird’s Opening blitz game

The rook on f1 momentarily disappeared from sight (perhaps because I was trying to pre-move it) for some reason, and I couldn’t understand how I lost it, because I was planning on playing 30.Rf7+ followed by 31.QxR and 32.Qxg6 mate.

My opponent graciously resigned, but it took me a while afterwards to find 33…BxN, 34.Qxe6 c4, 35.Rh1+ Bh6, 36.RxB KxB, 37.Qh3+ Kg5, 38.Qg4+ Kh5, 39.Be2 mate.

Other games this week will be posted here:

Round 2 Colorado Springs Chess Club City Championship

Round 2 Thursday’s

I blitzed through 14..Qe7, as I say 14…Bg4 after I made my move, and then after 15…Qxe5, knew right away I had blundered into a draw after this move, but like I say was foolishly trying to blitz, as I did look at 15…Be6, which holds the win, and even saw the follow-up 16.Qb5 Rb8.

After I played move 38, I paused the clock and got the assistant TD that was not playing because Eugin had asked me twice if he could see my score-sheet to catch up on the moves, which I always feel you aren’t supposed to do in a one time-control situation, and it distracted me so much because I had 58 seconds on my clock and couldn’t add any more worries to my plate.  I made a claim for two minutes, which was granted (Joe asked Shirley).

Just for the record, despite Paul A lauding Eugin for trying to keep an accurate score-sheet (he was trying his best), my score-sheet was perfect throughout (although I had trouble looking at move 36, which Eugin asked me about and I even had trouble making that one out at the time – it’s the only half-move I have trouble making out, but it was still written accurately).  My move-count, etc, everything is accurate, and I never needed the two minutes either as Eugin took a lot of time in this phase.  It seemed as if I was gaining time on every move but one that I remember, and finished with 3:38 on my clock.   I turned in my yellow copy, in case anyone wants to look at it to verify.

The End of a Tough Month

Final Round Thursday

Fun fact, I’ve never drawn Dean before with the Black pieces, it’s been all wins.  We have at least 5 draws, with no wins for him, but all of the draws came where I had the White pieces, until now.

19…Bd8?  I’ll go ahead and give this move a question mark because I knew I was trading my “good” bishop for his “bad” one, and I could see how kluge-like his kingside attack on me was, and how it probably would have been unnatural for him to continue that attack, but being I had an unhealthy clock situation to his very healthy clock situation, decided to steer it toward a draw, and then to look for a final chance there.  I saw 19…h6, 20.Bf4, which the engines like, but didn’t want to keep that complexity with my clock (with a second time-control, btw, I would keep the complexity).  I could possibly play …Bc7 (or somewhere) and …Rb8 to play on the queenside.

At the end, I blunder, and it’s almost as if I saw that I was blundering before I even played it, but all of the other lines are drawing, and it’s hard to say if the final position really is a win for White or not.  In any case, Dean offered the draw, and of course I accepted.