Thursday Final Round

I had the White pieces against Dean, who is around 1500. I missed one chance to infiltrate into his position, but unfortunately didn’t see it. I was only seeing one plan at a time and needed to see deeper. If I play Bg5 earlier, expecting ..f6, exf6 Bxf6, BxB RxB, then sure, nothing is dropping away, but it finally frees up f4 for my knight without having to worry about …Bh6 retort. Not only that, but then Nf4 can also be leading to Ne6 or even Re6, and I also did not notice that the Ne7 is like a statue right there, it can’t move. So if Re1…Rae8, then Ne6-c7 removes it’s defender. Sheesh, I wish this had been 40/2, G/1 and I think I find that sort of thing because the Ne7 did seem a bit odd and I had even considered Bg5-BxNe7 when he didn’t play …f6 later on. I didn’t really want to play Nc3 so much as Nf4, but all I saw was getting in Ne5 with the other knight, not even noticing that I could gain monster control over the more valuable e6 real-estate – and White is able to do this because Nf4 attacks d5 and e6, forcing the bishop out of the way to c6 to defend d5, and the queen is already totally out of the way on a7. This is usually the opportunity that I miss against Dean, he gives me a chance where a major piece is out of play like that.

At the end of the game, once again I definitely didn’t have time to play out a long game from here, and he had over an hour left on his clock. After he happily agreed to the draw, I said that I was simply going to lock it up as a pawn-fortress with g4-g5, h4, and then trade everything down the c-file. I’m surprised that Crafty gives me a 1.3 advantage here, seems pretty even since if I play g4, gxf5, he can play Nxf5.

I also missed that after …b5, if I take the b-pawn e.p., and very nearly did, that after …Rxb (which is all I saw) I have b5, winning his a-pawn and basically the game as his queen is pinned on a6.

Ahh, another opportunity goes missed. I have to see deeper no matter how much time I spend on moves. Chess is chess and not subject to the whims of our perceived time-limits. need to find the deeper plan next time, as no one is hollaring out “Git ur free pawns! Hot off the grill, free pawns!” Definitely have to work for it more than that in the future.

I should just write down on a stone-tablet somewhere “No one screws up OTB until move 16!” No one drives all that way to a chess game to mess up before move 16, it’s always move 16 and later when the chances start to come down like rain.

Spent plenty of time on move 17, so I can only blame it on not being motivated enough. Need to see/fit plans together as a sequence, rather than as isolated factoids that currently exist on the board. I also strongly felt that …b5 was losing, just couldn’t see the tactic. I played Qh3 instead simply because the clock was suggesting to me that I need to close this thing out somehow, instead of stringing the game along indefinitely.

This is literally how I threw away that win. Internal dialogue “Where should I place the knight, f4 or c3? f4 looks better but can’t right now. I know, I’ll trade the bishops, then I can play Nf4! (looks at clock) Well, I better play Nf4 then. Wait! What am I thinking? Nf4 will block in my bishop and he plays Bh6.” Completely forgetting that the bishops have already been traded first, and my concentration is once again blown by the persistent image of the current position on the board. I call this “analysis fibrillation”. It should be easier to play chess blindfold because the persistent image is not anywhere near as strong. It’s like if you were playing blindfold chess and someone told you there was a naked-lady on the chessboard, you could still concentrate on the chessgame, but if you saw a naked-lady on the chessboard while you were playing, that would be very distracting! That is sort of what the board does, or at least I don’t know how the good players ignore the “persistent image” unless they close their eyes, and I bet many do close their eyes, not just cat-napping.

The only way I could get my head around this position after Crafty showed it to me was actually to analyze what was going on after Bg5 in my head, MUCH easier to get why everything couldn’t be defended in time. It’s almost like when I see the pieces on the board I stop thinking and just start believing only what is there that I can see in a current position, it’s like a brain-vacation. I think this is why blunders happen so easily, you simply start to only trust what you see after a while, not see what is unseen.

I looked at Blunderprone’s blog from a few years back when he started the circles and wondered why he was still missing tactics, but then he also admitted he was only half-heartedly trying to solve them and hoped the answers would magically recall themselves due to the phenomenon of “pattern recognition”. Well, this is why straight pattern-recognition does not work, because as he said he could not recall the patterns. Well, recall is not as important as visualizing the future and reasoning it out; recall is like saying that chess improvement should be recall from the past rather than reasoning something new out going forward.

I analyzed a combo with some others at the club the other day. They were quick to want to know the answer and what the trick was. But that is not what improves your game, what improves your game is to find the answer by visualizing future positions, not by simply “knowing” what it is and “recalling” it later. That doesn’t really work, but that is what wrote learning is, and that is mostly how we have been brought up to expect how to learn to “improve”. Even MDLM’s focus seemed more on spotting all tactical possibilities rather than analysis and planning – there is a sometimes fine, but important line between those two endeavors. Pattern-recognition may be necessary, but by itself is not sufficient IMHO.

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Wednesday Final Round

Played Anthea again as White.

She saw that she had good endgame chances but agreed to draw out of respect for my endgame abilities.

She is really kicking my butt at this G/90, though. I see some chances, but it’s G/90 so I pass, but I still get in time-trouble for only having made 23 moves, it’s like playing in “no-man’s land” for me. I guess her best moves, but then she plays them quickly, which is even worse.

I took clear-first, but could just as easily have lost that game.

…Nc3 should have lost the game, according to Crafty. I figured the knight was potentially out of play, but simply didn’t find the resources that White had in the 3 minutes I spent on it. The opening, I could have blitzed through, …Nc3 was the first critical move of the game and could have just as well been the last. I was worried that maybe ..h5 would kick my queen from defending d4 before I had a chance to play BxNf5.

Okay, …h5 does save Black, I was actually right, avoiding Crafty’s awesome killer lines for White. Not only that, but I found a resource a few moves later when Crafty thought White had a big advantage still. That’s odd. Looks even, too weird. I simply missed the fact that it’s okay to take on h5 and surrender the d4 pawn, would have given me a sure slight edge rather than the sure edge that Black got in the game. So perhaps the truth was in the middle.

This got even weirder. Crafty had a big idea earlier in the game, trade for the Bd5, then play b3 followed by Ba3. Well, I diffused that advantage on behalf of Black. I’m pretty sure that Fritz is much stronger, but this is the trouble I sometimes have with dropping suggestions from engines, sometimes they don’t work. It does seem like Fritz is a lot stronger though.

I think all of this ties in to why some people can play much faster than I, based on intuition. They don’t rely on computer-training and second-guess themselves as much.

Monument Open

2.5/5 A fair, if not unremarkable and disappointing result, but I can only blame myself for the blown opportunities. Round 2 was real howler, that is the one where I had no business losing such a won position. It’s one of those games where I don’t need anyone to stumble onto this blog like a week from now and point out one of super-obvious blunders that even a Class D player wouldn’t have made.

Round 1
He missed a tactic early that cost him a piece.

Round 2
In this tournament, I saw my blunders immediately, but I also figured out the part of my blundercheck that is wrong, it’s called needing to predict what the opponent will actually play on his next move before making one’s own move. I dropped a piece when instead Bf6, as I saw even then, was a huge advantage. I had decided to play an experiment and make fast moves and I played for a combo quickly there, then no sooner had I played it than I realized he doesn’t take the bishop. Later I had equalized to 0.0 but “took him at his word” that there was rook sac on my g3 pawn, which doesn’t work. In time trouble, I defended with my queen but just as quickly realized he would simply improve his bishop. An “ouch” game, for sure, had no business losing this one.

My opponents suggestions after the game were even better than blindly following Crafty’s suggestions.

Round 3
I went into this tournament more results-focused than ratings obsessed. I spent a lot of time looking at …dxc followed by …e5 breaks, but ultimately decided that if he doesn’t open up the position and make a blunder, then I will be satisfied with a draw. I was tired and not in the mood for any funny business for the sake of not losing a bunch of rating points.

Round 4
Arguably this miniature was the most interesting game of my tournament. I have more respect for Anthea as a chessplayer than any other player that I have been playing recently, and would play her if I could only play one other person. Her games are tactically inventive, and she actually has a lot of talent, not just another overrated player due to experience or gamesmanship. …Bf5 was obviously the losing move, but there was more to this game than meets the eye. For what I know this Kf1 variation is a novelty than I invented OTB, although I’m sure someone’s played it before somewhere. Crafty has a lot of bad moves stored in it’s DB for some reason, so the e4 sac would seem to be a blunder for White. She should have played …Nf6 back, and kept the single pawn advantage.

Round 5
I was even or had the tiniest advantage until I blundered, according to Crafty. I saw my blunder as soon as I took my hand off the piece, another horror moment, but I’ve done it before. I think he took close to a minute verifying before he took the knight. After the game I asked him what he would have done had I played the obvious …Re7 instead. He replied “I dunno”. So I basically threw this well played game onto the garbage heap.

What happened is that I started to get tired after having barely slept for the past two nights. At 28 minutes I told myself to stop doing a blundercheck and play fast (under 30 minutes) right before playing it. Famous last words. What a blundercheck should be, and now I’m clear on it, is to ask yourself what your opponents next move will actually be (best, reasonable, or most immediately forcing move) before playing one’s own move. This is what I didn’t get, although I often did it when I was spending lots of time on moves.

After the game, I wondered if I had played ..Re7 instead followed by doubling rooks on the c-file, before focusing on his isolated pawn. Crafty also liked the doubled rooks on c-file. The thing is though, best I could come up with was a 70 move draw. I realized that his style is not to worry about advantages in the opening as much as maneuver in an equal yet playable middlegame, with some initiative, until I, his opponent either mess up due to the clock or blunder, pretty much one and the same. Saving 28 minutes against his style is not enough, since one must go the distance to assure a draw.

Incidentally and rather ironically, Black has so many tactics against White, that if I had played …Re7 the NxNd6 move becomes virtually forced anyway to avoid losing. Another example of how a “true blundercheck” is actually finding your opponents next move, and not simply “Oh, nothings hanging or loose, so I must be okay.” Not so.

Another form of “bad blundercheck” was show in round 2. Verifying that your calculations are accurate doesn’t mean much if your opponent plays an entirely different move that you didn’t even consider, particularly an obvious one!

Thursday Round 3

Played a game as Black against Anthea where I had never played the position before – a main-line Colle. Took me about an hour to work out all of her kingside attacks and Black’s defenses. She spent 17 minutes on the whole game, never slowed down.

Playing a new variation gives me a certain amount of enjoyment/excitement and I’d rather not do the try things out on FICS thing anymore anyways. I don’t think playing on FICS makes me any stronger any more, just seems that way, sometimes. I find studying opening book lines a better use of time than false knowledge/confidence gained from FICS play.

Game was pretty much decided by my time-trouble as I realized that if I defended statically, that I would lose on time. I figured …b6 was not sound/blunder, but she quickly showed me why. Next move, again, I saw …Ne7 was losing and couldn’t find an adequate spot for the knight, so it was a blunder to move it and I lost.

After the game, Qd7 appeared obvious enough, but again, she can keep improving while I shuffle my pieces and lose on time one way or the other. I’ve always known that in acute time-pressure, only an active defense will work. She kept coming up with more ideas though as I missed her whole c5 idea and really didn’t want to trade rooks, which would be useful for defense, but in time-trouble, I almost have to play actively.

With more time, I could have defended more, but that’s the way it goes. The only thing that seems to work against her is to get her bored, that is how I got the chance that I missed in the one draw against her. She can lose her cool in the position if she gets bored with it, that’s about all I know of her style.

I played this new variation to see if I could get more activity than the last one, but she is a strong player and can seem to shut out my activity no matter which variation I decide to play against her.

She was very worried of my queen getting opportunities, hence the trade at the end; with her healthy respect of that fact, it’s actually the #1 thing to watch for, I just looked at a variation that wins for White, so it was still very doable regardless of what score that an engine gives to it.

One thing I need to do in the future is not run out of ideas. In this case …Nd4 anchored by ..e5 would be a cogent way to grab back some initiative. Chess is not just analysis. If I simply stand there, my opponent is going to break through, particularly with knight and queen and pawns to push on both sides.

During the game I looked at ..e5, but really should have played it because not going with that plan to free the bishop is what allowed her to play Ne5, plus it could have taken the bishop on c6. Also, when I played …a6, …h6 would have been much better if I were planning on a passive defense. The important thing, though, is an active defense; the knight needs a more advanced outpost and with pawns to clog up the middle of the board.

This week, I’ve been suffering from chess burnout. I’m solving problems, but slowly. Last time on ChessTempo it was taking 30 seconds a problem, now it’s almost 2 minutes longer, but I’m doing a better job of it. Made 1600 on ChessTempo, got a whole slew of them right in a row.

Wednesday Round 3

I played Kevin for the first time, in this game, as Black – this is the 1400 level player that beat Anthea last week. Presumably we are both 2-0. Anthea’s omen almost proved correct when she complained that he could just play for the draw and she lost going for the win. He was also playing best moves, though, which helps.

Opening started out French Exchange var. where I got a pleasant advantage, but just then was my first blunder. I had been planning ..Be6 if he had played Nh4, but that was still the move to make here. Of course it was one of my fastest moves, did only a basic blundercheck, but saw the problem as soon as I came back to the board, Ne5, and of course he then found the move and started playing well from that point. This is the point of the game where I kind of joke to myself “What would Victor Kortchnoi do? – answer: he wouldn’t have!”

So then I am, okay, what can I do with this ending? When I played …Kb6, I was like uh-oh, probably should have not blocked the b-pawn. Naturally, my opponent is playing well, but I play worse! Somehow my opponent plays into my time-pressure and I am relieved that he does not play g4! Why did I even allow it, I dunno, went into hope-chess mode, and had even knew that g4 would bust it when I played it, but was out of ideas and running out of time.

I knew that the knight exchange was a draw (hence, the hope part of it), but then he chose not to lay off with Kf3-Kg2, draw, and kept quickly prodding for the win. For a change, I was enjoying this sequence. Then he gives me one last chance at the very end, having given me some of his time to think, and I did not miss the mark. What a finish.

After the game, analyzing with Crafty, I realized that I had missed d4 not only at the wrong time (I kept looking for it) – b4 was another quick move. Okay, it’s actually a draw if he plays g4 after …d4, but if White takes the d-pawn, right away instead of waiting for …dxc, then White loses. I’ve looked at hundreds of moves, and I would have to say that the ending was completely drawn in any event, but by pushing forward, I gave him a chance to mess up. One of the best ways to secure a draw in this situation, for either side, is to create a pawn fortress, that is for a stone-cold draw vs. an active draw (where one side could mess it up).

When I finally did push …d4, it should have been a game-losing blunder. Instead, …Nd6 holds, although White can push Black back for quite a bit, with correct play (and even that was interesting to see) Black will draw.

Sidenote: I would actually be back to 1800 at this moment, if one of my previous round opponents had not lost a 100 points over the weekend playing quick chess – as it is, this will cost me 5 rating points. So, I have won all 3 rounds, somewhat miraculously, since even a draw in my last game would have wiped out all of the 12 rating points.

This weekend I am going to play in Monument, 5 rounder (G/2hrs, finally!). Last moment decision. I guess I figure it’s my last chance at a shot for some rating points, but it could also become a case where I have to win against every 1500 level player under the sun just to try to stay at 1800, we’ll see. Also, I have never stopped at Monument and this is the last important town locally, that I’ve wanted to see. I’ll have to try and play at the same pace and simply think of the 30 extra minutes as time for the endgame, a long one.

Endgames

I’ve been studying endgames recently. The catch is that these games take longer than combinations (compare to my game below) as I am frequently losing on time on FICS even where winning and starting out with 30 minutes for the game (we are talking 70+ moves to win such a game). It’s been interesting in terms of time-trouble psychosis, and I think I understand it now. There is a dichotomy between the clock and the position. Somehow it’s natural to want to play it close to the vest in time-trouble, but the safest thing is often to spurn the clock and live dangerously. The safer looking position can kill you on the clock even more because the game just drags on, better to find the win now, at any point.

Side note: Greg, here is a game that I played recently where I lost the initiative, and a pawn. My opponent tried trading queens, probably figuring that a technical game would suit him. But this game illustrates well how tactics ability can come into play. I spent a total of 7 1/2 minutes on this game. Incidentally, if you are wondering how I see this in my mind, while I am playing, well I win a lot of games based on what I call “priority of attack”. IOW, your king is worth more than my rook. I am constantly amazed at how often otherwise highly capable players will let this fact slip, and I do it too!

Actually, I got lazy in that game, can keep the extra piece, but instead should have played Rf7+, h4, then Rh7 mate. I figured during the game I probably could have done it, but am just looking at it now, don’t even need to use Crafty on this one.

Thursday Round 2

In this game, I decided to keep it interesting instead of playing Nxc7+, followed by NxRa8.

I spent less than half an hour on the game. Spent more time there hanging out afterwards with some of the other players, only 2 games took place, though.