Thought Process

Since we are all doing one of these posts now, it seems, hehe, I should mention I started one on TommyG’s blog:

I just want to add that I can play fast when I am determined to, as per yesterday on FICS at 15 5 time-controls:

This game was used essentially as a “verification” of my opening-line preparedness (Be2 French def.) This is a legit use FICS to test your opening skill or memorization. In my case, I should have these lines memorized. The key line would have been …b5 (for which I am prepared), but he played BxNc3 which is even better for White. he blundered with …Qc7 instead of …Qd8, then I played the winning g4. He could have given up the exchange, I believe, instead of going “ballistic” with two pawns for a knight. But in any case, a main point for showing this game is it proves that yes I can move fast, but also paradoxically that you can’t realistically play this as a blitz game! Someone would have run out of time or goofed on it, and the learning value could have been less. Even 15 0, I’ve come to despise (because it allows players to purposely win on time).

Honestly, I would like to think that a persons FICS rating should mostly be used as their “horsing-around” rating. Although, I have used it in contrast mostly for serious purposes, sticking to the same openings. However, I think there is a “flaw” in some players’ game – players often try to play the sharpest response and win from the opening, barring that they seem to fall apart rather quickly. Probably this is a natural thing to do. It’s not really the most practical idea because once the silver-bullets are gone, the warewolves can attack.

My game last night, Anthony showed this principle of restraint in the …Qh5 Scotch and I was not mentally as prepared for it (..BxNc3). It won him some clock time even though it was not the best move can we say. Oddly, in his case I think it was a mistake since he is such a sharp player, and I am usually more reliable in a quieter game. Really, I had a low opinion of his move, but it made it for an interesting/pleasurable experience. Like I say, it’s not the perfect example. My last game against Neal was a much better example, how Neal played that is. Perhaps Anthony was trying to lure me into to going wrong instead of recapturing with the knight, or perhaps he was trying to throw me out of normal openings channels to look for combos later in the game, which is where the decisive ones usually lie/are.

Analyzing this 19.Rf4 game has gotten strange, with Crafty sacrificing the exchange to have knight and pawn for rook and then plays very actively .22 sort of advantage where it is easy for White to go wrong. This is a virtue of that position for White is that it’s hard for Black to sit still. Anthony doesn’t have a problem with sacs, but many players probably will.

Crafty wanted to play 40…Rc2 over …e3, but I made it chose e3 because Rc2 doesn’t seem like it’s going to hold up. Here is that hypothetical draw.


Wednesday Night’s game – final round

I decided to be much more responsible than Polly. Instead of leaving 1/100th of a second on my clock to reach move 30, I left a FULL second. 😀

I dropped a pawn against Anthony in my time-scramble, but reached time-control (actually, I dropped two pawns with that blunder, talk about a bad blunder). In the second time-control, I was able to pull out a draw in the ending. He offered a draw, but we blitzed out the remaining moves afterward, just for fun, and it was a draw.

Anthony, of course, also runs the shop so he occasionally gets a game in when someone doesn’t show up. I think his rating right now is around 1800, but most of the time it’s been around 1900. He is like a Mikhail Tal in the opening, so I played it conservatively and then made a fairly simple blunder later on. He thought I played part of the endgame “brilliantly”, so I am flattered. Of course I was simply playing to hang on and was relieved he didn’t finish me off right away after my blunder. I’m sure he missed more than a few wins, and before my time-control in particular. So, I am very pleased with the result, even though I was White and blundered.

Now I know why Reshevsky was positively gleeful about getting people to blunder (or blunder back) in his time-pressure. It’s like a train-wreck in motion that no one can take their eye’s off of; not that I or anyone else would recommend it.

In the opening, I spent most of time calculating giving up the e-pawn, but went the conservative route because I knew that once he had my e-pawn, g-pawn (after …Qxe, Be2 Qxg, Bf3 Qg6 and my king has nowhere to hide because of doubled c-pawns and an open g-file). Black could afford to give up the rook on a8 and a pawn on b6, when his king at least has safety compared to mine.

So I didn’t give much thought to the conservative route, though it was my initial instinct, such that after I played Bd3 I realized I should have played g3 first, to bounce his queen (Crafty second’s this notion), but after Bd3 it would have been bad.

I spent most of my time at move 19 looking at Rf4, but lacked courage and then quickly played Bf3 instead, which blunders a pawn – Neal was watching and I felt like I would be embarrassed by such an irresponsible looking move as Rf4 (suddenly self-conscious), but at first I thought the position called for it and that it was neat.

The actual game ended after his 40th move. I’ll show the full draw according to Crafty, but this isn’t how we skittled it out after the game. The way we skittled it out should have won it for him, had he played a tad more accurately and noticed that he had zugzwang (he actually sacked his e-pawn for my knight instead, when White has an easy draw after that – I think he played Kf1 instead of playing Kf2 which is winning based on zugzwang once he maneuvers his knight correctly).

Final round

19.Rf4 was definitely the correct way from that point (I actually thought of Petrosian when I was thinking about it, but finally looked it off). White gets a += positional edge. Weird, Crafty chose a bad move for Black …d5, but instead after …Ne5 White can cramp Black and Crafty even gives up the last bishop for knight. Weird thing is this is a very human way to play chess, not a computer-engine way. You see lots of these types of positions at tournaments. I didn’t feel that pushing the f-pawn all the way type of cramp was the best way, simply the most forcing and thus practical considering my time situation. Early on, Anthony was with a customer, so I didn’t want to move and make him feel rushed to have to come back to the board, but the reality is that he blitzes his moves, so it hardly would have mattered.

Anyway, that’s the advantage of endgame experience, you can often turn a loss into a draw and a draw into a win. I’m still scratching my head over how Bxh3 never got played. I believe that was the correct position. Kinda wow, huh? But that’s how it goes, I guess. hehe. 30/60 not the same quality as 30/90 (or even as much as G/90, really). Afterward, he said he was trying to see if he could get a win on time – hence probably why he missed Bxh, which would have all but ended the game (among other moves, probably).

Clock issues

Saturday, I played in a 6-round swiss-style tournament.

First game beat an Expert. I was an exchange down, but he let me get away with the win.

Second game I lost to an Expert. It was even, but I blundered on move 29. I had 56 seconds to his 1 minute 12 seconds.

Third game I had a visual hallucination on move 30 and hesitated to presss the clock because I thought I was lost for a moment, even though my moves were forced and obvious. Then we realized it was a draw, he said it was a draw, but then I pointed out that the clock was staying lit red and at zero seconds and move 29, even though we have played a few moves past that point (blitzed past it actually). He said “Oh, did you not make the time control?” I said yes by a couple seconds (last time I glanced at the clock it was at 12 seconds so I just missed it), but the clock isn’t supposed to call flag on me!? Then Randy (who works as a TD at the big tournaments) says to me “What did you think was going to happen?” (I didn’t say it, but I thought that the clock would just start counting negative time) I guess I am about 10 years behind the techno-times, I told them I had never heard of a clock calling a flag, I am just archaic and out of touch, I guess. Yes, I knew the clock counted the moves, but I didn’t suspect that the clock does it to rat out the person who steps over.

To be honest, I didn’ t make my 30th move on time because I was about to resign instead, but then decided to play on and realized I wasn’t losing, that it was a visual error from a moment of fatigue (even resignation takes time to verify, to be sure). The problem must have been that I was visualizing Kc8 after Qd5+, which loses to both QxR+ and Qg8+, but the king sort of “triangulates” out of danger by going to the c7 square, and then to b8. They said it didn’t beep, but it did beep as I was reaching to make the move, it’s just that no one else was paying attention to it. I marked it as a win for him on the sheet, since he was going by the rules – Crafty gives it 0.00 dead draw.

Game 2, I spent about 4 seconds on my 29th move, and if I had spent half a minute, I would have been fine. When he played …Rb8, I thought that was needlessly passive and was far more worried about fxe. On move 25, I knew I had messed up taking his pawn exf6 instead of Rfd1. I didn’t see his Bh2+, but my intuition told me I messed up, had 4.5 minutes, time-pressure mistake. At the end, I needed to play g7+, after …Qc8, then Rh7+ saves my rook and is equal, roughly.
Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
New Rating: 1825 -> 1826.

Incidentally, the only easy draw that White would have had is 33. RxRc6 QxR 34. Qf7+ Qd7 35.Qxf6 followed by the Black queen putting the White king into a perpetual check. The rook endgame could very easily have been lost for White from the resulting position.

Wednesday’s game

I played Mike, a grizzled-veteran of club play, as Black in a French. He said he’s been giving away Christmas presents early this year, I won in a short but exciting game (at least for me, anyway, Crafty would probably find it a yawner).
December ’09 Open, round 2

We both made our mistakes, and had our chances. I slept before the game. When I got there, Mike asked me if I wanted to play G/2 hrs instead of the usual, so right there that got rid of two of the usual suspects that contribute to my losses.

He blundered with d4 (or at least now I know), but he was creative about it, and I decided wrongly against …Qe8, which looks obvious now (he thought that …Qe8 looked winning for Black, but probably figured this was the trickiest he could make it). The real blunder of the game was his move Rh8-e8. It’s hard to think that that’s such an incredible blunder, but Crafty gives me about 2 more points after …Bxh, in what could have been an even game (but I still liked my chances, and apparently he liked his – we went over the game afterwards). Nice fellow. Going over the game together afterward with someone who wants to is always an enlightening experience, to get their perceptions.

New rating->1825

It’s ironic that Neal was surprised by my tactic at the end, since it was only a two-mover. This is why it pays to study tactics. I saw it right away, simply pattern-recognition, only 2 moves! 🙂

I played this opening again because I was feeling inspired, fresh, but this variation does have an obvious weak spot. A pawn on e5 can support a knight on d6 for White. Like I told Mike after the game, my hope/plan was not to allow him to cover the e5 pawn with f4, as then I would never be able to get rid of the supportive e5-pawn. If Mike had known theory, he probably would have got that f4 pawn going early, and then the opening becomes much more problematic for Black, I would guess, until the proper defense could be found.

Inductive reasoning

I started this on Harvey’s blog a little bit, but I think I should continue this thought here because I’m noticing a trend I find a little irksome (not Harvey’s blog, but on other blogs).

Chess is not all deduction, but induction as well. GM Melikset in one of his lectures talked about “describe your chess fantasy for this position, not what is possible on the board right now, but what you would like to see.” That is describing inductive thought.

Deductive thought is analyze this position for half an hour and come up with the correct conclusion as if it were a combo that needed solving. I see some blogs where you are supposed to analyze a position and then compare with computer or author.

Actually, I am surprised how often, when I give some thought OTB, that it does correlate to the chess engine. Other times I get afraid of something not real and use that to cut my calculations short on what is in fact the most promising line.

But you know what? None of this matters. The thing that holds me back the most in terms of practical results is precision in execution, not whether the plan was any good. It’s a cliche to come up with the right plan and fail due to execution. The other day I lost to a 2070 player on FICS, I was up a pawn and should have had an easy win, almost made the right move, but made a very simple pawn drop mistake instead (because I stupidly did not want to trade bishop for knight). It was even, but I made a mistake in the endgame where I should have played Rc2 for a slight edge, not that I was taking it all that seriously at the time in any case, but lately this is where I am failing, in tactically executing the plan, but not in being unable to find a good plan so much.

This is where tacticians who are well-drilled, ala MDLM, do well. Joe is now around 1985, almost an Expert, and here I beat him like 3.5/5 the first times I played him. Does this guy know more about Botvinnik says blah, and blah more than I do? heck no, you’ve got to be kidding me, no one progresses that fast because they studied Botvinnik’s games after finishing their homework. Let’s get real. Being able to visualize the execution of a tactical plan is huge, at least if you want to make Expert. I dunno, maybe ChessTiger is an Expert or next to it (FIDE), but most of us bloggers are not even Expert USCF rated, and I think that is the goal that many of us have set for ourselves (thus, yes, tactics is probably our main weakness).

The other thing about being a strong tactician is that some of them are also quick at it – I would imagine that MDLM was as well – which means that they can play lots of fast tournaments like G/60 and also just throw out whatever opening even though they don’t know it, because tactically they can make up for it if you don’t grind them down positionally, or if you slip up. I was a pretty good grinder and didn’t use to slip up so much, but tactically not much to be feared for an A level player except when I was “on”, and it was part of a positional attack. Also, unlike Joe I did not play as many games as he has been playing, last two weekends business-related things have come up.

OTH, I like the fact that even though we are not Experts, and don’t play all that much OTB, that we treat chess study as an endeavor to be taken seriously and have respect for the great accomplishments of other players, past and present. It’s still a beautiful game with deep meanings, even if our own ratings/performance are whatever they are.

The real reason to be tactically strong is so that you don’t get zapped yourself, that is how we end up with these positional games like in Zurich ’53, because the players were good at tactics and many positional concessions were based on preventing the allowance of even more lethal tactics.

I do see a lot of moves that I miss when I go over my games with Crafty, but time is a factor too, and it’s not necessary to see everything, even if only because not all these moves are played by the opponent – he/she may avoid a branch entirely. That is my main ACIS strategy of late, letting Crafty show me the error of my ways. Here is an example of that, par excellance:

Crafty kick’s Linuxguy’s butt

Notice how he moves two pawns in front of his king’s position, and no pawns in front of my king’s position, and mates me in 21 moves; talk about inducing pawn weaknesses, he was inducing mine while I was pushing them against his king! Now I know why Gligoric hated pushing pawns. lol at this game. Who said chess wasn’t funny?

The other day I was playing my Nephew and was giving him four free moves in the opening, and realized that my pieces were still swarming his king and mating within 20 moves. It made me realize that chess is less about tempo-counting than I thought it was and more about knowing what you are doing.

Chess is mostly just calculation. I remember that “conveyor-belt” idea from “Logical Chess Step by Step” which I read cover to cover a couple times back in the early 1980’s. It’s a stupendous idea, but it’s like maybe 1% of chess, tops, that’s the problem. Something like backing away from a square, to chase your opponent back into it, a “killing field” is a niftier idea that I see come up more often, tactically than a blockade. You can be master of the Universe at blockading and still have a crap rating because it is such a small part of chess. But for “collegial” purposes, it’s great to study for the broadening of chess views sort of effect.

Modern Chess

Like it or not, the game has changed some. Going over the Zurich ’53 book, great positional games and wins. There’s only one problem, today’s game is much faster. Sure, there are the occasional 40/2 G/1 tournaments (which even by the standards of those days was fast – try 40/2.5 and addl. 20/1 OR slower!). Even in those tournaments, you will probably run into little Johnny the blitzer whose parents were probably not even born in [insert your country’s name here].

The premium now, I believe, is on knowing your openings well enough to play them QUICKLY (otherwise, it’s not necessarily doing you a whole lot of favors). But the real premium is on calculating swiftly, and being patient for your tactical chances. If you calculate slow or poorly, the clock will find you wanting. This implies that tactical study is probably going to pay the best dividends.

In Zurich ’53, my gosh, there were games where one person would move their knight back and forth to induce pawn weakness. In fact, there was a lot of this inducing pawn-weaknesses by force stuff, during this tournament. “Who on G*ds green earth” plays like this nowadays? You would NEED 40/2.5 20/1 to be able to play like this. These achievements wrought from near equal positions were remarkable, but not quite as likely in today’s game unless you can play them quickly.

Inducing a pawn weakness (for the doubters)

BTW, it’s not a perfect game. I like Bronstein’s idea of playing h3 and g4 to “attack the light squares” at the very end of the game. But, Black played into it beautifully (why not instead play Kh7, and leave the rook on the a-file to guard it?).

This book was valuable for me because most of the games were d4 or c4 games (mainly d4), and I play/see mainly e4. I can imagine what a turnaround it was when the e4 generation was ushered in (Fischer, Tal, and Karpov – who at least started out playing e4 as a GM); I can see how that would have helped them get their wins as White, although I have to give them credit for their successes with Black, as well, against d4 – of course, there they also tried to get into tactical channels.

The most popular opening at Zurich ’53 seemed to be the Nimzo-Indian, so if you play the Nimzo as Black and want to comb through that opening, this tournament had some instructive games. The second most popular opening was the King’s Indian Defense, but even here quite a few of them were dxc type variations, although Najdorf had a great win as Black, in a closed variation of it, against Taimanov in game 28 (round 4).

Foolish attack

I was playing Neal again, 1900ish player. I got a Scotch game as White and just about jumped out of my shoes, couldn’t contain myself (irrational exuberance) and lost.

I played g4 and realized after Bxg that the combo didn’t work and was losing a pawn. RxB NxR Rg1 Bf6! Qe3 BxNc3 gxB Nf6.

So, instead of calmly playing on a pawn down with a nice attack, I suddenly went into ‘berzerk’ mode and tried to scare him a bit. But instead of playing …g6, he calmly realized that even if I win his light-squared bishop back, it will cost me another pawn. Doh! It was worse than that because he later played …Bh5, so I never did get that bishop back, and his next move …Ng4 was decisive.

He rightly pointed out after the game that I should have prepared that attack with Kb1 and h3, as I had a strong advantage (or at least he thought so). I thought he could castle queenside, but he said he couldn’t. He used about 12 minutes for the game, and I used 59 minutes. It definitely affects my play, the clock time. I am thinking of playing in the G/60 tournament on Saturday, but what if I have 8 minutes late in the game or something and see a possibility? Will I keep my cool and play it, or avoid complications for the sake of time? I would hope that I don’t let the clock shy me away from something, even though I know that that would be prudent.

I’ll post the game with an hour.

After the game, he asked if I had thought he would play Nxg instead of Bxg, and I said “No, I knew you were going to play Bxg”. My problem is that I simply didn’t analyze quickly enough, so I looked at my clock and realized I needed to make immediate decisions/moves, and then found out why it didn’t work afterward, during the meager time he spent on his moves.

Funny thing is that my whole game plan in this opening was to push e5, not attack on the wing. I simply never saw that after 10.e5 dxe 11.Bxe Bc6 12.Qf4 that Black has no useful way to defend the c-pawn. I had imagined 12…Rc8, but Black’s queen is being attacked and he has to move it, something I had not considered! After the game, he thought I had all kinds of great stuff, and chief among his worries was “Where is my queen going to go?”

Man, it’s hard for me to play when the other person moves quick; I do better against other slow players.

Foolish attack

I think that Neal won the psychological battle as I was not looking forward to another endgame with him, and I also wanted to see how I would handle a speculative sacrifice, get myself used to playing something like that without getting rattled.

1808 would be my new rating. I guess I just wasn’t into it, without the extra time to think.

Kb1 is too slow, and e5 is too nullifying, but h3, g4 gives White an advantage.