A new beginning

I played Gene for the first time as White in this game. After all the clock shenanigans that I’ve been through lately, I meant business when I showed up for tonight’s game.

Gene is a nice guy and didn’t know how to handle my Scotch opening really. This is also the line I am least familiar with, but that wasn’t really going to matter. After the game, I won a bunch of skittles games against him as I was trying to show him how to improve against the Scotch, after finally getting him to win one in an endgame. I was up for a tough game and really wanted to try out my new no-nonsense clock skills, but that expectation didn’t exactly turn out as I had anticipated. I did, however, manage to have over an hour left on my clock at the end of the game.

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Doomed

Another forgettable game.

Last week it was announced that I would be paired against a 1300 player, if pairings don’t change. I was surprised to find I was playing against a new player, seems I didn’t even spell his name right, anyhow he used his set and pieces (foreshadowing). Well, I was White and it was another decent game for a while.

Well, it seemed like the win was well in hand late, and I even wrote six of my moves down when I had only 3 minutes left on my clock, the last one was a blunder because I was so busy writing moves down, and he was blitzing by this point as well.

Anyway, I guess I wasn’t thinking about anything but making moves at this point, but it seemed as though I was getting surprisingly low on time even though that I was blitzing so fast that I had begun to make terrible blunders, and of course he was also blitzing so I really didn’t even have time to notice the clock.

Well, I guess the punchline is getting predictable for me these days as I noticed that I had 9 seconds left after his move, but the clock was instantly ticking. I look over to the TD and say I just noticed there is no delay, he says it’s my fault for not checking at the beginning of the game, so I instantly move, 5 seconds left but I just blundered a fork. He doesn’t see it because he knows he is winning by this point, anyhow. My clock runs out and I offer a draw, which he refuses without even looking at the board. He says he feels like crap about this, and so gives me the two minutes I requested (he could have forfeited me since we started with 90 minutes). Once we resumed, I made two pawn moves instantly, the second one was a blunder, I was so razzled by that blitz and interruption that it was like an autonomous-reflex to move instantly by this point. The postmortem showed that he knew he had the win well in hand after my last blunder (and before adding the 2 minutes to make me feel better).

It doesn’t matter though, a loss is a loss. Neither of us should have allowed our time to get that low, and the only reason he probably did was because he was able to stay a couple minutes up on me and he was losing until the last minute. Realistically, if I had taken it down to bare kings and a queen and lost on time, I doubt he would have been so generous, not that I know but it really doesn’t matter anyway. Who cares? I could care less if the other person felt bad about it. It’s my responsiblity to check the clock, but more importantly not get into time-trouble like that. If it weren’t for my doing it, I doubt my opponents would, they only do because I do and they know to stay ahead on time. This was a needless loss, needless to depend on a five-second delay, very bad habit to depend on a delay being there and thus “justify” a time-scramble.

There was one point where he forgot to press his clock for 12 minutes and I didn’t notice for 10 minutes. I didn’t say anything as I was much more down on time and so what, most opponents are not going to remind me either. After he pressed his clock I still spent another two minutes. That’s the thing, who cares, really, seriously, it’s both of our responsibility to pay attention to the clock and the outcome is all that matters. He said “it’s only a game” as he collected his $12 that I would have won if I had won (TD gives it to him right there as we finish and are sitting). Who cares, yes you are a nice guy, even if you did use up almost all of your time and your hand was shaking like a leaf after winning and trying to sign the score-sheet. Why do people feel they have a need to say something at all? It is what it is. I didn’t get upset about it, but I clearly wasn’t happy about it either as the TD reminds of the game tomorrow and next month, and then reminds us they need to close up and we leave. Please, give me a minute to myself after a tough loss to gather my thoughts.

If I had played 46.Rb8, it would have won on the spot as he showed me after the game. That game score is messed up and I can’t recreate the finale at all, as he really did a number checking my king all over the board after I dropped my f2 pawn. What essentially happened is this, I knew he had to play ..Rc8, but in the game he played ..h3. Because I was moving instantly, I did not pick up on his blunder and replied as if he had played ..Rc8 like he was supposed to have. Such is the insanity of blitzing at the end, and I would say he is the better blitz player so it was doubly foolish of me. In the game score on ChessFlash, I showed it as if he had correctly played ..Rc8, but that is not what happened.

To me, the weird part is confusing delay with no delay as they are really two different games. It’s not enough to say someone “forgot” (he didn’t realize there was supposed to be a delay) because if I knew it were no delay I would have created a draw at some point, knowing that I could claim “insufficient chances” for losing once pawns were off and he only had a knight. But with the delay, I can’t think that way as a loss on time is never a draw. All this is moot though, because I feel I would have won with the delay, and yet I was wrong for even taking that sort of risk.

Thursday Round 3 – Jan 2011

I don’t even want to post this game, as I’ve sort of had it with G/90, it’s almost pointless, although I could still incrementally improve on the clock as I did waste plenty of time on moves that I saw coming.

He moved very fast and the only reason I gained an advantage is because I am, get this, actually taking the time to observe the board when my opponents just make their quick moves, which isn’t chess since they don’t see it coming, just react intelligently. I saw his feeble counter-attack coming with ..Bxf7+, couldn’t believe he actually played but I had already analyzed it, but then it doesn’t matter because I take too much time making sure.

Once I got into time-pressure, my game completely fell apart.

For instance, I was going to play 20…Bf6, but then failed to notice that I can stop him with 21.BxB exB, 22. Qxb7+ Bd7 (did not notice this move even as I had considered …Kh8 with …Bd7 and …Bc6 previously).

I was going to play 30…Nd4 FTW, but then wasn’t sure what to do after 31.e5, not noticing that although it removes the queen as defender, the Rf4 is now defending the knight.

Once he played 31.Ng5, I did not know how to stop the fork, should have taken the chance since I am losing anyway, on 31…Nd4 which actually wins for tactical reasons that no way did I have time to analyze.

He had about 50 minutes more than me, and didn’t start using them until I got into time-trouble. This whole game was an exercise in futility, since he wasn’t thinking a whole lot, mostly just won on my clock, hence he avoids the trades and my first huge blunder was some sort of desire to trade queens in time-trouble.

The game went on to a rook vs. knight ending with an extra pawn, but there was no way I could hold that ending together, even with more time. He eventually won my knight, but by then was already winning the pawn endgame even if he had traded rook for knight.

The USchess.org site looks like they messed it up. Maybe that is an omen to quit chess. It seems pointless right now. Okay, they fixed it.

Getting back to my move 30, though. Immediately after I played 30…Qd6, I though “OMG, why didn’t I simply triple on the f-file!”, it’s one of those “zen moments” one has such as after dropping a piece. On the way home, I thought if I had tripled and he still could have defended with 31. Qd3 Nd4, 32.QxN RxN, 33.QxQ RxQ, 34.f3 and he may still draw. Of course, 31…Nd4 is not the thing to do, the thing to do is to apply more pressure with 31…e5, which I had even considered momentarily during the game as an intelligent “pass”, but even then there is some sort of way I need to keep up the complications as Crafty has Black up by -2.76 if I do that, but I simply did not have the luxury of spending that much time.

Ah! …e5 bolsters the …Nd4 move, which will be a rook and pawn endgame with two pawns to the good as White has lots of isolanis on his fourth rank. Or even better, for example 31…e5, 32. b4 (White is in zugzwang) …Nd4, 33. Rc3 NxNf3, and after trading the remaining pieces on f3, Black will be up a queenside pawn for a sure-footed win.

If this were my old club where 30/90, G/30 prevailed, this game would have been a sure win, as would so many others have been wins or draws rather than losses. My G/90 rating is like having half my brain tied behind my back. I never got nervous during this game, though, only stupid on the clock.

Kicking myself

Not now, but I was during the game.

This was only the second time that I’ve faced Paul. I got off to a great start, but then I was blowing it on the clock, which forced me to move too fast on three moves.

He played 16.Na7 and I immediately thought “This can’t be right” and was going to play …Ra8 before noticing Bxb6. Then someone was watching during this move, and I moved too fast. Then I started shaking my head as I noticed that I could have trapped his knight with …Bc5.

Virtually the same thing happened on move 20.Nxe2+. This time, he forgot to press his clock, and I did spend about two minutes but then thought this is simply bad sportsmanship on my part using his clock, so I just took the knight with check. Then I realized that I could have played 20.RxB! which actually does win for Black, but I mistakenly thought that it would have won a piece. It’s a really long line to follow, but it’s enough to know that White doesn’t solve the case of his trapped knight on a7 once again.

Anyway, at this point I knew that I had blown it twice and had 13 minutes left on my clock when I blundered the game away with 21…Qg5. This blunder makes more sense when you realize my state of mind at this point. I knew that 13 minutes left was not enough time to hold off Paul who is an excellent technical player (older guy). It’s as if I knew I was already screwed and had half a mind to resign, so I threw out 21…Qg5 in semi-disgust, and only half-caring, and he immediately played …f5 upon which I in turn knew that I was immediately lost since I played the mate threat with a piece hanging. I knew it was unnecessary for me to make that move, but my concentration had been broken weighing up my poor clock management and missed opportunities.

After this game I was thinking all I need is consistent opportunities to play stronger players. This play someone strong, then someone weak yo-yo-ing around has caused me to adopt terrible clock management practices. Against a strong player, one has to save time for many different complicated positions, it’s not one bang and it’s over as it can seem to be against much weaker players. Really, the time should be for complications, not openings, and that is how he budgeted his time as well. He messed up during the opening, but spent time on the complications. The couple times he didn’t spend time on the complications are what should have been his blunders.

Boredom wins

In this game as White, I played a new opponent, little kid of Indian descent named Sai.

After the game yesterday, I was a shell of my former self today and really shouldn’t play on Thursdays. I spent an hour on this game. My opponent was so bored with waiting between moves that he resigned before any coup de grace had been administered. I probably shouldn’t even annotate it. hehe.

I told him that he should have played …Kg8 instead of resigning and went over the game with him afterward. I felt sorry for him because his mom was there, so I said he played well, which he did, except for the resigning needlessly. He asked for a draw a couple of times and I declined. He got an interesting post-game analysis from me and Gene, but he wanted to know where he went wrong and I could only offer general pointers in regard to the game.

To be honest, I got stuck in one of those “idiot” variations, on my part, and didn’t want the game to get ugly for myself. He suggested that I play Nbd2 instead of Be2. This is one of those times I wish I could just give the kid a draw so that he would know that he is on the right track, but I really can’t or I’ll get paired down in the next round. I care more about the pairing than I do my own rating points.

After the game, I figured that at least I could perhaps get Nf5 in there to achieve a static advantage, but it was Gene (1600ish now, a steady point gainer except for his losses to me) who pointed out to me White’s winning strategy to me with no hesitation, f4, then …exf4 is forced, so Nxf4. Then, I figured Ne6 and it does win in many variations, no need even to play BxN first, which can also win we figured.

To counterbalance this game, I will show a quintessential game on FICS that I just played. Is there a purpose to this game? Yes, I wanted to see where this pawn sac lead to, should I accidentally ever play it OTB (and to stretch out the tactical muscles). I make a bad piece sac, and probably your average 1200 player would win as White from this position. But, I quickly pull off some tactics thanks to my opponents poor defensive play and score a win…with plenty of time on the clock remaining! lol.

Positionally Suspect

I have had success, as White, against Dean in the Open Sicilian, Accelerated Dragon, but those are hair-raising tales and I figured that I could use more OTB experience with the C3 Sicilian. Besides, after missing so much OTB play, I wanted to put myself through the paces. No warm up games on FICS today, either; I’ve had enough training on FICS to last me a very long time.

Let’s get onto the game. It started out normal, he seemed to have something prepared, but then he went into “trade” mode as he often does against me (why trade the bishop after having had played ..g6 already?) and yet, wait for it, with my previous move I was avoiding Nc3 in anticipation of …Bb4+, but now I wonder why, and yet I was right (??) It’s like a mind-read or something.

Anyhow, he went into his typical defensive posture. I spent 20 minutes on the move 15.b3, mostly analyzing Na4 as deeply as I could, but it was a winning move that I should have played on my previous turn, and doesn’t have as much punch here.

He meanders a bit with 19…b5, basically handing me a free tempo, and so I just go for the Nf6 plan, which I was contemplating not going with had he played Nf5, although I was still thinking about doing it and not taking on f5.

I was surprised by his resourceful 21…Ng8, but saw his …h6 plan coming. I was going to sham-sac with the winning Ng3-h5! (that was my plan when I played Ng3), for example 28.gxh6 Nxh6 29.Ng3-h5, but hadn’t planned it for this this exact position. I did look at it here briefly, though, but cut off my calculation prematurely to look to see if there was something simpler. To be honest, I was beginning to get worried about the clock and went for the wimpy continuation instead, which only picks up a pawn (a lot of my same bad habits were revisited, yes, but I wasn’t nervous or paying attention to the clock until toward the end of the game).

Still, I spent a long time on the obvious 32.Qf4 because I was looking at a lot of sacs in that position, but his attack comes first. Then I missed 34.Rxd4 being an obvious win, with Rh8 mate. I also missed a quicker win with 36.Bh7+, but naturally the Nh5 mate threat required less calculation, so I went for that.

He defended well, although he thought my g4 push was a mistake – I don’t think it is when he can’t refute it with either f6 or h6.

Wow, what a game. It’s easy to think that lower-rated players should just fold, but time in complications seems to be the difference-maker. That and general strategy. There is always some thought of “What the hell, I could lose this game?” that occurs sometime late, and really it’s very possible, one slip and then done on the clock, if not also on the board.

Plus, I played this C3 Sicilian because Chesstiger needed another attacking game to look at. 😀 Okay, maybe that wasn’t my prime-motivator. Avoiding boredom and others’ preparation is usually what pulls me most.

One thing I will say is that there is not the same psychological pressure when playing a few hundred points down. I mean, when you are getting a free tempo around every third move, it’s not as difficult to find one’s composure, and not “crack”. I have “cracked” many times against Class A and above. Now, I see it as not such a big deal what their rating is, as I have lost plenty of games already (I am not kidding myself), but the game would become more tense without all of those free tempos, and against someone who sees what I am up to, more often. Still, even this opponent saw a lot of what I was up to for it to become unnerving on the clock.

I must mention another possibility on move 26.Qf6+. I had momentarily considered this move, but it seemed a bit ridiculous since I figured I should have something better than this, but really it is simply winning. For example, 26…NxQf6 is simply losing the knight, but 26…QxQ, 27.exQ! and the Black knight is trapped, permanently out of play, on g8! If Black declines with 26…Kf8, White trades rooks on c8, then Qh8 followed by Nf6 wins the pinned Ng8. I sure missed a lot of good stuff. 🙂 Better yet, this exactly the sort of thing one would miss in a quicker game on FICS, and even the sort of position you’d probably not reach positionally there, in the first place.

About this tournament, it had a good turnout. I am also going to play in tomorrow’s tournament which has a good turnout as well. I had to take a bye for rounds 1, since I was busy selling my trailer (for same as what I paid for it), which also caused me to miss a four round G/60 tournament the past Saturday (not that I play well at G/60). One thing to note is that I felt like my game was slightly irrelevant, as everyone had left and no one had hung around to watch any of it. I got to talk with one of my friends there, though, which was fun. Such an interesting game, and yet I guess it is lame in some way compared to people who can play a good G/30 game. I asked if there were any upsets, and there weren’t any. Nope, it was just me taking too long to close out a game that I am supposed to be capable of closing out as White. The story of my life.

After this game, I looked at a lot of potential mates in it. One thing is that his play looks bad and yet okay. It really takes some digging to find out why his position doesn’t work. He is not dropping pieces against me, so much as hanging positional weaknesses which require combinative solutions, which in turn require a time investment.