Speculative Attacks

I played a new opponent tonight, Dan, who had the Black pieces in this game. Dan is one of my favorite people to see there (must be around my age), but I had never played him before. He is a very nice guy, and we used his analog clock and nice wood pieces.

Well, this is one of those games that you fit into 90 minutes, but it could have gone many different ways.

We missed a lot, by looking at Crafty’s analysis, but we had to play on to make time – 40/2 may have brought out more of the possibilities. This is one of those games that wouldn’t be bad to analyze more in-depth by setting up a board.

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s really nice to draw, as a loss sting more than a victory feels fulfilling. And actually, a draw is usually a well-fought tough achievement for both sides, so it is satisfying.

My new rating is approx 1710, so I made my goal of staying above 1700, given that I had some key tough losses this month, three of them. It is also much easier to hold a 1700 rating, yes. Alex won his three games at the Deli and got around 145 rating points just for those three wins. He is around 1685 now.

Outplayed and Outclassed

This is one of those precious few games where the rating does not tell the whole story.

I was playing as Black against Isaac in this game. In the distant pass I have had some quick wins against him, yes, but he beat the 1990 player last week. Anyhow, I was obviously playing for the win in the middlegame more than following a conservative plan, and he knew that my ..e4 was bad in that it blocks in the light bishop on b7.

I spent a long time and only found that my plan was a premature attack, quite refutable, and refute he did.

Qa1 was the real stumper, as I realized that it was a strong idea, good move, but that doesn’t mean that I still didn’t want to win the game anyway. However, I came to realize that I had miscalculated. Yes, I had seen Nh4, Nf5 before I pushed with …e4, but at first I thought that Nh4 Bxh2+, KxB (likely)Ng4+, BxNg4 QxNh4+ and then saw it doesn’t work as he has Bh3 to block the check with (which he also saw, but probably not on his move). Best I could come up with was ..g6, but by then I figured that I had to allow his Nc4 followed by ..d6. I realized that I could have safely played ..Bc7 instead of ..Bb8, to stop his Na5, but didn’t realize how strong Na5 would turn out to be. Thought it was merely a decentralized knight, but my Ba8 was horribly out of play.

Later I found out that Qa1 was a prepared move that he and his coach both knew about! Talk about your high-level win!

Going over this game does not do it justices as on move 23, low on time, I decided to sac the knight with …Ne5, hoping he would capture in the wrong order. I knew that I was losing an exchange as the best move is ..Bc6, whereupon White can play Ba6 Rc7, Bf6 winning an exchange. Not only that, but if I play something weaker, he was going to play …Bh8 and did successfully play it in the post-mortem as we could both see that his position was completely winning. He was also quick about it, spent maybe 15 minutes on the game, whereas I spent virtually all of my time, and was just as fast in the post-mortem. In the post-mortem, he was tactically seeing all of this stuff which Crafty is re-showing me now.

On move 23, after …Bc6, I still would have been down +2.23 according to Crafty. Queen pawn isn’t really my thing, but he worked it, and I should have played a more traditional center, being content with a draw.

Sometimes, one has to give an opponent their due, and he played some crazy good chess. It would take some study for me to best defuse his Qa1 move, positionally.

I played two rated games tonight

In the first game, I was Black against Sai the little Indian kid. Second time I have played him. I figured that I should have played ..Bc5 or ..Bb4, but my usual is to play the timid ..Be7 there, and I actually have nice results with it.

At the end of the game I played ..b6, and it wasn’t to win his Ba7, as he erroneously thought, it was to block his bishop out of play. Play could have continued 23. c5 (to rescue the bishop) Bxc5, 24. NxBc5 RxNd2, 25.Nxe4 Rxb2, 26.Rc1 Rf4 and Black has a mating attack.

Since Sai and I finished early, and Anthea’s opponent didn’t show, I got to play another rated game with Anthea.

In the second game (G/60), I was Black against Anthea. I respect her ability to play White in this Colle opening as she is knowledgeable on how to play it as White. Interestingly enough, the game speaks for itself more than I had realized.

Improvements that I could have made as Black. I thought that 7..Bd6 was better than 7..c5, but I was getting a little creative. The one move that I completely missed that I wish I had back was on move nine, I could have played 9…0-0 instead of 9…dxe, not realizing that getting out of the pin by castling means she can’t push with 10.e5, and that really killed all of my winning chances right there, if I were to have had any.

I could have played for the win with 43…cxd, and almost did. Believe me, that was what I spent my time looking at and it looked great, but I wanted to ensure the draw in the time-scramble. I checked it with Crafty, and although it is still a draw (as I suspected), White has to walk a fine line to draw it, and not try any funny business, but she was well composed in any case.

I have been in very similar pawn formations as Black and White nearly always won by going after the c5 pawn, or simply get Black to get all bunched up defending it and then exploit the immobility or dis-coordination of Black’s pieces. Crafty is not seeing it, interestingly. I knew from experience that the position is deeper than it looks and that White should play purposefully. So when I got my chances to equalize, I dutifully jumped on them.

Chessed out

I played as White in this game against.

I could tell when I got there that I wasn’t mentally into it, had played a bunch of chess for four days and then was zonked today. That is the worst combo, being chessed out, and then not playing a warm-up game all day.

My strategy for this game was to work the clock, get deeper into the game. that strategy is even worse when one is tired as I had about 51 minutes still on my clock when I failed to win the hanging piece. I went for something cute, so that I wouldn’t have to calculate the ..Nf4 reply carefully, then immediately noticed that after ..Rxc6 recapture, that the BxQ+ is a meaningless check, we are simply trading queens, so all I did was trade a piece. Should have played Qc2 as I originally wanted to, but was avoiding …Ng6-f4-d3+ sort of thing. White was fine though.

I was going to playe Qc2 and 0-0, as I should have, but wasn’t sure if …Nd3+ was going to fork Bb2 and Rc1, but I missed that Black is forced to recapture on c6 because the Qd7 is en-prise otherwise, and that pulls my rook out of harms way on c1, but I also wasn’t getting the material counts right, because even if that had been possible it still would have only given up an exchange for the captured piece.

It’s interesting to note that I could have even formed an Alekine’s Gun on the c-file, four attackers vs. four defenders, and I still would have tactics that win a piece, starting with a Ba6, b5 idea – bxNc6 attacking his queen is a zwischenzug. In other words, his terrible tactical pickle was not going away anytime soon.

I think online, you know you are winning the piece, so you just play. But OTB there is the temptation to want to know “how” you are going to win it. Then, if your analysis isn’t clean and efficient, and you are just too lazy to bother, then you are like “I don’t know how I really should win it”, then doubt sets in. I had 3 people walk up to the board during that move and then walk away, as if it were something simple. So then there is some social pressure, too. Later, they had all assumed I won the game at first, and even Mark commented on why not simply play RxNc6, which is what I had mistakenly done. Of course then he quickly finds the win. That is the thing, there is no quickly, unless you get takebacks.

Something simple that I missed. I did not realize 18.Qc2 Nf4, 19.BxNc6 RxNc6, 20.QxR Nd3+, 21.Ke2 QxQ, 22.RxQ NxBb2 and White has gotten rid of Black’s good rook and White’s bad bishop. White has a winning advantage. I wasn’t weighing that material count up at all. I showed him that line after the game, but somehow didn’t realize I was up the exchange. I was pretty loopy, though, because I have been cutting back on my caffeine and my brain chemistry was not normal today (the caffeine was making me space out, tired).

Now stamina starts to take it’s toll, as I didn’t bring much mental energy to the match – no, let me rephrase that, I had mental energy, but I was at the stage of exhaustion where chess-blindedness sets in (obviously not from just this one particular game). I completely miss his 28…Qe1, then spend a bunch of time calculating Bc1, and when I finally saw that it loses after a bunch of moves, played Rc1 (what else?) having only cursorily looked at the Qe2+, thinking I could play Rc2 or Qc2, but once he played it I realized the king had to move and he wins my bishop, but he thumped down the mate anyway.

It’s sort of one of those dangerous situations where you are gassed, but still think you have enough to beat a lower-rated opponent. But I find out, that is how they can win! Little Isaac won his game against John the 1990 player I lost to last Thursday. So it was a day for upsets.

I believe there are two phases to a chess game. Phase 1: See if either player gets a cheapo out of the opening. Phase 2: If no cheapo (rare), or player flubs the cheapo, then chess gets complex/hard. Now there are lots of positions to look at and the most alert, creative player has a big edge and it can drag out for quite a number of moves.

Playing nightly games requires a lot more discipline. Back when I played on Saturdays it was great, 3 games in one day, at an actual chess club. When one plays at night, you have to be even more disciplined to not play during the week, saving strength for a night game after a long day. It helps to not be a chess-addict under this situation.

I prepared (but still couldn’t find anything good to play) against the Scandinavian, but he played French. I knew I had it too good when I saw that, but chess is about more than an opening advantage, particularly OTB. Online, one doesn’t get nervous and use excess time and caution, but OTB one does, so going the distance and stamina are much more important than in online chess. Also, there is a type of fatigue that only chess players understand. I would rather only get 2 hours sleep and not be “chessed out” than get 8 hours of sleep and be mentally burned out.


Do you have one of those openings where you’ve gotten burned so bad that you vowed something like “never again”?

The Vienna is one of those openings for me. I know White is trying to pull a fast-one in the opening, so I respond in kind. Here is a nice one, although he could have prevented it, but that is always the case in chess:

The basic mistake in this game is that White tried to play a hyper-aggressive variation, but then got too casual about things once it didn’t work out.

Thursday Round 2 – February 2011

I played a new opponent as White in the game. Older gentleman, didn’t realize he was in his 60’s.

In the beginning, I made all the wrong guesses as to what type of game to play. First, I wanted to try 4.dxe5 but had no experience with that variation, so I turned it into an Advanced French because I didn’t want to play without experience in hand against a much higher-rated opponent – reality is that this turned out to be a wrong decision.

Then he plays 6..a5 and I did not realize that this is a main line. 8.Bc2 seemed like the sensible move, but I went for Milner-Barry Gambit style. Almost as soon as I had moved I began to regret it as ..a5 is probably a more useful move in the Milner-Barry than is a3 for White, but I had somehow liked the idea that it stopped a piece from landing on b4. Later, I find out he is also a long-time French player and knows the gambit well. I’m batting 0 for 3 so far.

Perhaps the real turning point was right in the beginning. I vascillated between playing 12.Qe2, which would have been my blitz move, and other such moves as 12.Kh1, so I played 12.Kh1? to see what was up his sleeve. He immediately crossed me up with 12…f5! Had I played 12.Qe2 instead, his sudden attack would not have come off anywhere near as well, IMHO, as I could have left the pawn on f2 and played a Re1 plan, and I think that that move was the turning point of the game.

I was never able to come up with an effective plan, and always down in score, according to Crafty, before making a final blunder. I was going to initially play the correct move 30.Bxe4, but in time-trouble did not like my back-rank troubles and weak h2 pawn/square.

Had I played the correct move, I’m sure it would look like some impressive loss to you guys, but it was still very much losing in a quite solid manner with simply his e6 pawn marching down the board, when he will win b6 and the pawn on b7 will decide. Surprisingly, he found a variation he thought complex, being up the exchange, until I told him that he could sac the exchange back to win the b6 pawn for a win.

I was in time-trouble, he was not, so he would have had little trouble winning in any event – not because of my time-trouble (as he incorrectly thought – I don’t need time at this simplistic, losing stage of the game), but rather because of his surplus of time. After the game, he told me he was once rated as high as 2150.

Wednesday Round 2 – February 2011

This was my third encounter with Dragan, one win and one draw previously. This time I had Black again against his Scotch, and went for a variation that can produce wins.

Unfortunately, I went in to this game already “chessed out”, and so it took me a while to get my head in the game. I seem to suffer badly during some games, or perhaps all games, where I can’t adjust to looking at a 3-D board for about half an hour. It would be better if I close my eyes and visualize everything in my head, and would be handy if there was a wall-board. The 3-D part of chess messes me up big-time. I can see how past masters didn’t have computers in their day, so wouldn’t have this problem. I think I am one of those few who suffer from this affliction. Or I could study with a board, and stop playing online, which is probably best.

In the opening, I made a visual blunder with 9…Qb6?!, and then spent a bunch of time waiting and hoping that he wouldn’t play 10.b4 BxN, 11.BxB Qe6, which I thought was probably losing for Black at the time, but it isn’t.

I completely didn’t see his solid 10.Qb3 response, but when he traded queens, I was very pleased at the direction that the game was going.

According to Crafty, he shouldn’t have traded on f5 as it handed me the initiative, which of course I was grateful for.

17. Kf2? was an obvious blunder since 17.Rfe1 was forced. I played 17…Nd3?!, but 17…Bd3! was winning right away. What I missed was 17…Bd3, 18. b3, Ng4+!! 19.fxN RxBe2+ followed by 20..RxNd2, sacking the knight but then winning two pieces after that. Naturally I had seen the Re2+ in other variations.

He played 18. Rfd1??, but in the post-mortem even 19. Rfe1 was lost (we both saw that), and that is why he did not play it.

With 21. Re1?, he was making a last desperate bid for a draw, sacrificing a piece instead of giving up the exchange. He felt that that the position was not complex enough to hold, down the exchange.

After the game, I suggested he may have drawn the rook ending by playing Ne4..BxN, fxB Rxe – so, just a pawn down on the queenside, but we played that out quickly, and I effortlessly won that ending too.

It took me a while to get my head into the game, but the fact that my opponent used a lot of time on his clock covered up for that lapse. Even with 17…Nd3+, I played it because I had become tired of analyzing the position. Yes, one of those games where I was simply happy that I won.

Next week I play Alex, who has been on a tear, beating Mark (1800ish) and Paul (1900ish). I even advised him not to play the French against me, but rather to play the Scandinavian. So now I am going to have it doubly tough next week as White, both on the board and clock.

Right now, my feeling toward chess is the same as the scene where Forrest Gump decided it was time to stop running across America. I can see that chess is full of a bunch of up-and-comers with no jobs that can study chess all day. Even the Russian pros, if you really think about it, if they had not been state-sponsored, they were basically a bunch of talented guys, with no jobs, who played chess all day. 😉 This particular opponent had a job, so he he was doomed (sarcasm).

RollingPawns, how did you do yesterday evening? Did you play?