Pawn-grabbing in the Scotch

Another G/15 example of why crime doesn’t pay.

Note, my blitz rating on FICS is 500 points lower than my standard rating. I simply don’t find the tactics at that pace, really no time to calculate anything is my observation.


Find the win for White

After move 30…h5.

Here is the game

During the game I deliberated between Nb5 or e4 and of course choose the wrong plan, also dropped a piece at the end. 15/0 time-controls, but had enough time. Lots of draws in the air on that same move BTW, which is why you need to find the right move. Answer in the comments.

BTW, you see how he throws in that “tactical quip” (as I call them)? He was clearly winning but couldn’t take his foot off the tactical gas-pedal.

Wednesday’s Round 4 game

Got there 20 minutes early, the backroom was empty.

I was playing Isaac, son of Anthea, the tactical duo. So I knew what I was up against.

This game was interesting because I think we were both wanting to see just how tactically strong that we were. Both of us knew theory to the point where it left off. I almost played a Ruy Lopez because I figured that would be the “sensible” way to look for a win, and figured if I play Scotch he might play …Qh4 (being the tactical dynamo that he is). I also had guessed that Paul, his coach may have booked him up a little in this line. Lucky for me, it’s not really a strong line for Black.

I’ve seen …Qe5 in theory books before, but now that I see it with Crafty, I think it’s a bust. I didn’t play 9.f4, because ..Qf6 10.Nxf+ Kd8, 11.NxR Qxc3+ 12. Bd2 Qd4, and now White can’t castle, but didn’t notice that after 13.c3 that White can now castle. The theory behind this variation is that White gives up the e4 pawn to get Black to play …Kd8. So, Crafty is suggesting 8…Kd8 there. It’s funny how his blunders came when he didn’t want to give something up that he needed to give up. So psychology must have been working against him there.

I have to admit, when he moved his knight back I let out an audible “Wow!” – trying not to do this but some games a word slips out. At the end of the game, White threatens Ng8+(double-check)…Kg8, Re8 mate. Had 48 minutes left before my last move. I would have moved faster, but I started to sense early on that the game was in the tank. Uncharacteristically for him, he actually spent quite a bit of time in the opening, unlike last time we played where he was a blur. I guess he learned to slow it down.

I wasn’t nervous or tired and had plenty left in the tank after this game. After the game, he tried 14. Qh6, which I thought he was going to play, and mated him quickly in that line as well. Sure, he found a tactical quip wining a pawn, but it’s sorta meaningless to find those things when your position is so majorly shot to heck.

Went over another guy’s game with him, and also gave him my Mednis book, showed him that his tactics would have worked if he had looked a move deeper. I feel like I’ve improved his game a lot just discussing games/moves with him. I felt “on” today, surprisingly, like the chess-day where everything went right. It’s so funny to hear everyone talking about their rating at the D and C levels, like “I should be 1400 or 1500 or 1600” and they probably should, but it just sounds so funny. I wasn’t worried about my rating, but for me, well I guess I’ve sort of given up on the ratings chase unless perhaps I play in a weekend tournament against a strong field – those are coming up.

I felt like “Holy Toledo, all those books and studying all of a sudden finally paid off!” That Mednis book helped me a lot, that guy ought to be a better player if he studies it.

Chess book study

Okay, so I have read a lot of chess books lately. I am half way through Mednis’ ‘How to Defeat a Superior Opponent’, which is a rename of it’s original title ‘How to Beat the Russians’. If anyone thought I ran into time-trouble, check this game out:
Supposedly Geller had the wrong number of moves played written down for himself.
Because of this loss, Geller fell half a point short of playing Karpov (instead the spot went to Polugaevsky) in the candidates match. This is 1973 we are talking about. He also lost what should have been or was a clear draw when his flag fell against Biyiases, again he only needed a draw. It fell on basically an ‘only move’ as well, nothing there to think about.

I finished the book. There is an essay at the front of the book that is about “How to defeat a superior opponent”. I really admire Mednis for not being afraid to speak his mind, especially as he is no longer with us.
1. Play with confidence (goes into detail)
2. Don’t do anything stupid! – stupid opening choice, stupid middle-game, etc.
In one game, Suetin plays 1.c4 and Mednis writes “The losing moment” because Suetin is a regular e4 player and his opponent was a strong positional player on both sides of the English opening.
There are about 10 of these, the last one is about ‘Don’t get into time-pressure’.

Well, I’ve studied my games collections for now. After this one, no more books for a while except for rudimentary tactical puzzle books.

Thursday final round

I think she spent < 15 minutes on the game

I blundered, actually thought I could give up the rook to win her Bh6. This G/75 time-control, I am not me. It’s an hour later and I am more tired than on Wednesday. Normally, I would look off something like that and play the right move (Rd3 instead of Ne2).

I wanted to see how she would handle the Open Sicilian even though I felt pretty tired. Actually, I should have played C3 Sicilian, not for the rating points but because I would have won $24 if I had won this game, and I knew playing the Open Sicilian could be foolhardy. Actually, she played the variation I am worst at, Najdorf with early …b5. Because it’s an off-beat move-order, I should have played Bg5 or something more aggressive. I can probably play f4 and Bf3 as well, instead of a3, since Black’s knight can’t afford to take the free a4 pawn after a3…Nd5.

I blundered this game in a strange manner. It’s almost as if my subconscious mind were in control rather than my conscious mind. Even if I hadn’t blundered, she was planning on playing …f5; she was on top of her game.

I didn’t even see …Bc8, which she played almost instantly, and how much she can ignore my attack. She even played RxN like it was a blitz game, which gave her Qb6+, protecting her 6th rank with tempo before BxNf5. Crafty shows she didn’t even have to worry about that, but it’s like recon intelligence, now I know that if I need a win against her it has to be a positional game. I sort of knew that coming in, but I was just dying to know how tactically strong she was. I saw another game where she did a greek-gift sac on h7 and it was just bad, completely unnecessary and losing. But, if I don’t get her into a boring position where she feels like lashing out, she is technically very strong with her tactics, just like her son Isaac. It makes me realize just how much Action chess in Pueblo that she plays.

I was 20+ minutes early, whereas she was 15 minutes late. The one thing that extra clock-time does is it really gives me a chance to look at things from my opponent’s perspective more, that is the big difference.

Paul 1900+ actually lost as White to Justin, who I beat last week. Paul plays fast, and he won a pawn that way, but I could tell it probably wasn’t winning and the position was very open. IOW, when he moves quick, I feel it’s more or less just a quick move and probably not as good as a slow move – I think he actually lost because of a “touch move” where he immediately saw the blunder, his opponent said “touch move”. Whereas when Anthea moves quickly, I feel it’s either because she knows her stuff, as in my game, or she is lashing out to get some play. I think she mostly knows just her stuff. Still, I was jaded by a lot of bad moves that I had seen her make in other games. She seemed very motivated to take the first place prize – tied for first.

After 6..b5, I had to look this up in MCO; the most significant find was that it wasn’t there. Instead of 7.a3, 7.f4! and if 7…Bb7?, then 8.Bf3! and what does Black do? ..Nc6, ..b4, ..e6, ..e5, and ..g6 all have serious flaws, even ..Nbd7-c5 looks bad. Incidentally 7..b4, 8.Nd5 ..Nxe?? 9.Bf3 f5 also does not look playable.

BTW, ECO gives as a footnote that White should play 7.Bf3 straight away. 7.f4 first looked stronger to me, but Bf3 does give White an advantage after ..e5, Nf5 BxNf5, exf. White is +/- there. I think Aziridine would have a better sense of why 7.Bf3 instead of 7.f4?

She choose the most aggressive response in the Sicilian, which probably works against someone unbooked in an Action Chess game, but does not appear to hold up under scrutiny. For me, G/75 is like Action Chess, so I stand to lose a lot of games where I am not booked-up properly. In slower chess, I can take a hit on the clock better when figuring out a response OTB.

Live and learn

Played against an Expert as Black. Older gentleman, friendly, outgoing. After the game, after the part where he blundered, he said “Now this is chess!”

The game started in typical fashion, I overslept my nap and was 10 minutes late. I spent about 25 minutes on 11.Ne1, the alternative was ..Na5, which probably would have been better. I could played that move in just a fraction of the time, but got lost in a ‘smell the roses’ moment which I so typically do.

My opponent surprisingly blundered soon after, but I had made the even bigger blunder of not saving enough time on the clock to play an endgame vs. an Expert. My endgame was very passive, conservative, and superficial, and he quickly played all the right moves. I waited too long to get in ..b4, and so he quickly snuck in c3, which left me with little counterplay and a bad bishop. I asked Anthea her opinion after the game, and I liked her suggestions for more active play on the kingside, such as ..f6, ..Kf7, ..g5 (well, at least the first two moves would have been a lot better). I was still thinking middlegame, how ..f6 would weaken e6, but the very slight importance of such a middlegame notion had long passed, plus I had that bishop covering it anyway.

Once I had played 34…NxNe4, giving myself that symmetrical pawn position, he felt he had the win assured at that point. Really, I noticed my opponent had lost to a 1600 level player last month, so I took it for granted too much that he would make a bad move somewhere in the endgame, but that was probably the last thing that was going to happen there. This game probably merits a lot of study to find improvements for Black, where they were and why, alternative ways of playing it.

My feeling after the game was that:
A) I was lazy
B) Wasn’t sure what to think of it; probably need to put more analytical work into the endgame.

He didn’t spend much time on this game, had over 45 minutes left when I resigned, so it wasn’t like I was sitting around on his turn looking for improvements – weaker players seem to give me that time, and stronger players don’t.

BTW, I should have played …Bc8 before he forced it with g4. I say that because that was an easy improvement to find, I mean improving play after that point. We both thought that I should have recaptured with the pawn on move 34 to maintain more active chances. When I blundered at the end with the insta-move, the position was already far lost.

One thing is that he did blunder later with Bf4. I was expecting Bc1, he trades a rook, then he can play Rb2 and Bf4, although it takes a few more tempos. Black had …NxBf4, NxN..Nxb2 winning. It’s interesting that you can look at it two ways: 1) It’s a spurious tactic and I should have figured out a way to save the endgame structure. 2) There is no endgame structure worth all the thought to hold or able to hold, you simply have to find the random shot that the opponent serves up for you. I actually think #2 is correct. I played that move quickly, but not because I wanted to, simply didn’t notice the shot in the half a minute that I looked at it. Shot aside, the position looks difficult to hold for Black on a practical level – I am sure a postal player could hold this position. hehe.

This position was easily won with pawn takes on e4 instead of knight. In time-pressure, I was worried about the “tactics” of holding onto the isolated pawn. There are no tactics, the Knight easily holds a4 and also prevents an unprotected f5 push by White. In my heart, I felt like taking with the pawn might be my only chance (and in fact is easily winning). This was another time-control loss, with an additional SD 30 minute period (don’t need that much time, just saying) I easily win this game. Completely unnecessary loss. It’s like my brain wasn’t keeping up with the fact that fewer and fewer pieces were on the board.

The b3 with c4 push, attempt to dislodge the knight from defending the e4 pawn, will lose a pawn, plus Black’s pieces and passed pawns get loose; e.g., Knight recaptures on c4, then wins the pawn on a3 while simultaneously covering the c2 square so that the rook can’t get at the backward c-pawn. The knight was really working well with that pawn structure, but I didn’t realize it. Plus, recapturing with a pawn on e4 not only means that it is passed, but even more importantly gives a way for the bishop to enter the game – bishop gets to d5 via f7.

As great as this sounds, I am still looking at Black mating in 69 moves because both sides promote a pawn. Theoretically, the win is a done deal, but he probably had the better sense that he could drag me out on the clock like that. I believe he had 49 minutes left at the end, and most of the time he spent luxuriously was on the opening. So once he blundered, he went into fast-play mode, which I can’t stand because it seems like I spend too much effort writing down moves as opposed to playing them. Lesson learned.

Anything other than 38…Ke7 is losing for Black, may take 80 moves before the mate, but losing. Now I have to look at that move. This has been the most endgame analysis that I can ever remember doing for an OTB game that I played. 38…Ke7 is losing elegantly. It’s beginning to look as if it’s fair to say that my intuition was correct, that the Nxe4 instead of d5xe4 was too symmetrical to gain pawn or piece play and is a slow loss for Black. White can mess it up, but after the game he suggested that he could have played Re2, etc, he was really on top of the endgame.

Instead of 36…c5, which is the losing move as it introduces another weakness, Anthea’s suggestion of 36…f6 holds on for the draw, as long as Black doesn’t try and disturb the position (hopefully someone doesn’t move their king around in circles here to get me to forfeit on time. 😉 ). If after …f6, Black still wants to go for the win (Crafty suggests ..c5 at this point), then in the continuation that I followed through with Crafty, Black is getting mated in a mere 102 moves! Mah head asplode! And more importantly, my clock explode! 😉

I need to pace myself now because I’ve seen enough of these quick bad moves to know that I can monopolize on them through a patient, complete game. I don’t really need to be a genius or anything. In these big tournaments, I don’t have the luxury of knowing my opponents that well, although I will eventually get around to playing them. So, I won’t have that advantage of knowing their game, but I will often have that extra time.

Another wasted opportunity. I’ll get there, it just pushes the marker back further when I do this.

Unrated opponent

He’s been playing online though, and the TD estimated him at 1600. Here is the game.

I like how Crafty thinks I had it “made in the shade”, but during the game I felt I was losing at times and that his a4, h4 (drowning sailor’s dream) really let the foot off the gas for his attack.

I played …c5, which I wasn’t as familiar with on the theory that anybody (any rating) can periodically get in a Greek-gift shot win against the Steinitz type of defense. Because I was playing against unrated and he had already lost to Anthea 1700’s, I felt like I needed more of a guarantee toward a win.

I felt that …Bd7 was the solid move, but felt I should try for a more active setup. My decision to fianchetto is what cost me the moves ..Qa5-c7 and Nd8 (which Crafty seems to have not much opinion on). …Nd8 was played because I felt that I had erred by not playing …Re8 on the previous move (then …Bf8 protects e6) – it was only at the last minute that I decided not to play …Re8, but then regretted it. Also, I could have simply played ..Bd7 and thereby left my queen on a5.

My opponent really got on himself that he was just losing the pawn and such, so he really doubted his moves, even quite a bit more than I doubted my own and that is saying something. Crafty appears to agree with him, but I would feel more in my element as White during this game as I could have been only one inaccuracy away from a “kill-shot” as Black. Luckily, he wasted tempos so that I was probably more like two inaccuracies away

We had a bunch of byes today, more than half the people in the tournament. Thankfully, Jason got the bye (last place) and not me – TD didn’t want to play, I guess. So there were only 2 games. It’s a little weird that someone will show up on round 2 and miss rounds 1 and 3, probably disturbs the results. This tournament/club is only guaranteed to go on until the end of August. I don’t know if I will play at Panera Bread on Thursdays, if that happens.

Problem is it’s easy to generate a lot of these wins (and potential losses) against unrateds and have no rating points to show for it. Even Jason, who I beat last Thursday, had his rating go up over 100 points from his last months tournament, so one doesn’t feel like one is getting assessed correctly for a win or loss against a semi-ringer. Luckily, my results have been strong recently. I have had my grave doubts, though, during some of these games.

Here is how a confident game could have gone. Note that this style of play takes a lot of confidence, precision, and not least important strength on the clock. But this is how a game “should” go, I reckon. I made Crafty play the sac on e6 because it’s important from a _human_ perspective, compensation and psychology-wise.