Goals

Okay, it’s probably about time to state what the next step is.

The next step is 1900, and then Expert. Yes, it’s well known, but it’s probably time to make that next climb up the mountain. Time to let go of the safety of the current ledge, the last few grains of the 90 minute hourglass, and strike up that ratings mountain.

I just played this game on FICS, which is a teency bit of inspiration, since I haven’t written anything else for this glorious Memorial Day weekend. 🙂

fics_game

And you know what making Expert means….it means taking down a Master! Well, really the goal is to make Master, but Expert would be a huge step toward leaving the small pond, and playing in bigger and better tournaments in the Open section.

Sounds far out there, I’m getting dizzy just thinking about what that entails. But it is possible and achievable, right?! 😉

One thing that keeps smacking me in the head is that better players have an improved feel for the dynamic. This is what Katar has, this is also what IM Greg Shahade has. I watched a few of his videos on the Anand-Topalov match, and players like this, their radar goes off at the slightest whiff of a king-hunt.

When I get time, I want to solve tactics puzzles OTB, which I haven’t done in a while. Most of them involve mates and that seems to be a top priority to improve on.

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Fairytales do come true

….it can happen to you, if you’re young at heart.

Round 4 and Buck showed up, so I knew I was going to have to try and earn it this time. Very nice guy, older guy who is pretty much a fixture of the Colorado chess scene.

So we started with the English, which curiously enough I predicted! (he played e4 against me last time – Vienna Game). Well, I guess I am lucky that I have some actual preparation for this opening, dating back to my internet games and I personally knew a Master who played similarly as Black and recommended it to me.

Still a bit out of it, wobbly, and drained from last weekend the first thing I did was order coffee, Dr. Pepper (drinking a few cups of each), and a cookie to try and gain some energy. After that I was okay, and started out alright.

He locked down on my light-squares like a pro, but then began avoiding a queen-trade, in an obvious effort to beef up his winning chances, which got him into trouble. Before I knew it a pawn lay at my feet for the taking.

Then he really spent some time and thought about it, and threw out the nifty f4, even niftier in that I was well under 5 minutes (although there is 5-second delay). At this point I started dropping pawns like water, and could tell I was making bad moves as I was playing them.

Then, something strange happened, he traded his bishop instead of just the rooks, which would be winning. Suddenly, I have a draw on my hands. But now, just when I would expect h4, he sees that h4 is a draw yet goes for a draw by marching his king in the other direction. He offers the rook trade and I sense a win, but at least a draw, and so I trade rooks and play an endgame tactic, a pawn push.

He looks at my clock, saying something like “would you believe it?” My clock has 9 seconds left on it, and he resigns, demonstrating the win afterward. He said that I was “a good player”, and I felt speechless, an Expert resigning and telling that to me, I thanked him and was very grateful when he unexpectedly shook my hand, congratulating me.

I finished the tournament with 3/4 – two wins and two draws, tying for first with the older 1956 rated gentleman that I drew (his other half-point was a bye). Would you believe it, my rating is back above 1800? it’s at 1802 now. All this time, and all of a sudden it’s unexpectedly back to Class A again. 97 rating points gained in one month. 🙂 The last time I was rated 1802 was 1 year, 2 months, and 36 tournaments ago!! A miracle.

I guess my wish for improvement would be that, now that RollingPawns has come back down to 1800’s to give me a hand, that we could both march up to 1900 again, it would be first time for me. Tactics are where I need to improve most, for example I only did two tactical puzzles this week, one from Anthea’s game, and one from my game. My last online game was a week ago, and I have lost my desire to spend any energy playing there, it was great for openings though, some of it was anyway.

I think the thing that had helped me the most lately was reading over games from Jan Timman’s book a month back. Yes, I have been tactically weak at times, and I worry that I have enough depth in openings, particularly as Black, as probably do many others, but the Timman book encouraged me to look a bit more deeply at lines, considering what is best for my opponent and how to prevent it. Chess is not always OMGBBQ!, there’s a tactic! Sometimes the position is even, and a little murky, and so play has to be considered for both sides, and above all I think Timman was good at “not losing”, which helps tone down my crazy play. Timman will use crazy-looking lines as justification for his play, but it’s in an objective sense with an eye for positional resources and counterplay.

Gelfand?

Man, that was a weird match. Gelfand played to trap Grishuk in every game. Grishuk was at least trying to win with an attack.

For a while it would look like Grishuk would win, but then allowed himself to get trapped, or perhaps it was a trap all along, hard to tell. He played this solid looking ..b6, but I wondered why not retreat that bishop back somewhere, to e6 or f7, let White take the b-pawn and keep bearing down on White’s king a bit more.

Grishuk resigns with 45 seconds, but I don’t understand why since it’s bishop, and knight for rook and a pawn I believe.

Bobby Fischer Memorial – the final day

This post is for all of you who wished to win money some day at a chess tournament. 🙂

Round 3, I played my namesake Robert for the first time, no immediate relation but I am sure that we are distantly related.

Round 4, I played Rhett, a favored player to win the tournament.

My game scores are a mess, but I will post them as I get them up.

In the end, I split first place with one other player that I didn’t play against. Interestingly enough, the other first-place player played the guy I drew against and their game also appeared to be a draw the whole way, but the 1400 level player finally needlessly allowed his pawns to be doubled in a king and pawn endgame where they both had around 6 or 7 pawns, so that they co-champion won at the very end due to some slight error.

It was a fifty-five dollar entry fee, but splitting the first place prize netted me three hundred and fifty dollars. Couldn’t have come at a better time, and it’s always nice to be rewarded monetarily for playing chess. 😀

Oh yeah, my preparation, basically didn’t study much chess for the past week other than for analyzing my Wednesday game. Rest and Relaxation, that was my preparation. 😉 The result of a tournament is in God’s hands, I feel, or as some say there is always an element of luck in winning a chess tournament.

The luck part of the tournament was that Rhett and Anthea played a six-hour draw in round 3 (they shared first place at the time), so that in effect it is quite likely that they both knocked themselves out of the tournament by the sheer exertion and short recovery time between rounds. They both lost their final round game.

Time-control-wise, I had 17 minutes left at the end of my round 1 game, but was blitzing my last three game toward time control. For example, in my round 4 game, I had 27 minutes left to reach time-control after making my 20th move, and that was quite typical. Because of that, the quality was a little low in spots, but I was still able to plan in a hope-chess sort of way, and see when I was winning a pawn. It was really the big decisive combinations which required a lot of time in rounds 3 and 4, those are things to save time for. As far as technical play, I was able to do this quickly when needed, and my opponents didn’t play so much to prevent me from playing a loose, easy technical game.

I want to make a comment about the Grishuk vs. Gelfand match. I sort of feel sorry for Gelfand because he is a counter-attacker, and the easy prediction would be that Grishuk will take all the quick draws that he can get so that the match will be decided by rapid games where Grishuk could have a seemingly overwhelming advantage, although one never knows an outcome in advance.

Anyway, the stress in my final round game was unbelievable once he sacked his rook. His biggest mistake, as he said after the game, was making that sac after the time-control rather than before. For a long while, I did not notice that my queen would have the escape square of b7. …Bb3 was an easy move for me to find, but it seemed as if I had waited 20 minutes to play it simply because I realized how much was at stake – no prize vs nice prize.

Bobby Fischer Memorial

Day 1

In Round 1, I played Dean for the umpteenth time, he has never beaten me. After the game, I told him I thought my 7.f3 was weak and 7.Bb5 is stronger. Actually, Black is practically busted after 7.Bb5 followed by 8.e5, according to Crafty (but mysteriously it gave 7.f3 as book!). Naturally, he panicked with that sac and that was the game. I told him it was only equal, knowing that Crafty will probably say that Black was up, -+, and sure enough…

After the game, I showed him a checkmate if he had continued with 33…Rbc8, 34.Be5 and if …Rc2 (..Kg8 is forced), then I would have played for mate with 35.Rf6xg6+. Naturally, I study mating attacks, and the one I found OTB was never played.

In Round 2, I had serious brain-lock. With so little time to recover between rounds, I spend nearly an hour on my first ten moves because my brain was still fried after the first round game. I got into a variation I felt dubious …Bc5, but played it anyway because of his rating. But then, I got deep into the game, and things weren’t as easy as they appeared, such as ..Bg4 possibility, deep variation that goes nowhere, it’s even.

The thing I didn’t grok (but looked at a bunch of times, yes) was that trading on d4 and ending up with a pawn on d4, which I felt sort of freed both his bishops, was not bad. Anyway, it wasn’t until I figured I need to switch over to the defensive that my brain had finally woken up, been revived, and not a moment too soon. It was around here that I realized that he probably had already beaten a top-seed in U1800 in round 1!

I felt fortunate to get a draw by the end, he was tougher than his rating. I realized 22…Nxe4 would have been easier at the end, allowing a quick 23..c5 equalizing more easily, I think. The endgame, he could have played it a little stronger. At the end, he was going to continue with 40.g5. Apparently, he had looked off 40.f5 because he had noticed …g5! Hurray for him, he played well and deserved that draw. I had just over a minute for my 40th move when he offered a draw, which I immediately accepted.

Naturally, I wasn’t thrilled with the draw, but I thought I found a moral lesson in this. As Black, against lower-rated, a good idea is probably to choose a comfortable, flexible setup, and not try and force things with the most vicious looking setup. hehe. For example, I was thinking afterward how …Bd6, a …Bb7, with a …Nbd7 if Bg5 would have been so free and easy. I probably could have gained some real winning chances. As it was, I really didn’t know how to play this symmetrical looking formation, stumped. At first I was up for a challenge, but then, after a long think, just wanted out. I wish I had traded on d4 earlier, it seemed so obvious.

Wow, the knight trade on d4 (can’t believe Crafty wanted to play Bxd4) was very tricky to play for Black. Given my condition, I’m glad that I didn’t play it. My intuition was correct after all!

Certainly, I could have only played as well as I have because of the time control. I knew going into round 2 that I have had serious trouble OTB lately with Black, and virtually always in round 2. I am this weird person that seems to play well in round 1 regardless of rating, and usually plays worse in round 2 (second game of the day), regardless of opponent’s rating. Most people are much more even-keeled than I.

Same Ole Story

I played a new opponent, as White, in this game. Really old guy, at first I thought he must be 1100 or something, but then he told me he was around 1950.

It was a pleasure to play him as he really concentrated, as did I, no annoying mannerisms so that I think we were both deeply focused.

There is a caveat to this game score. The actual game ends at move 23…Bb5 whereupon he immediately offered me a draw, and I accepted it, having no reason not to. The reason I offer a long score here is that our post-game analysis went to move 27…Ba6, where both of us thought that he must be winning because of either his ability to double on the c-file, or due to his ability to play …e5. Not so, as you can see by what happens after that. Actually, Crafty prefers not to trade knights there as White at the end and instead play Nc4, but you can see that the two pawns and bishop for rook give White at least a +1 advantage. But look at how long it takes to reach a quiescent position!

Anyway, it was the same old story because of the tactical shots that I missed. His 19…Rd8 looked suspicious, but then I reminded myself that he was higher rated, after all, so it was perhaps best. He thought I could win with 20.Bf4, and I did think at first that I could take advantage that he hadn’t played …Nd5 yet, but then saw 21.Ng6 as nothing, which is correct, but I think I only briefly glanced at 21.Nc6, thinking my knight may be trapped after 22.NxRb8. What I didn’t realize is that I was very lazy and didn’t even come close to calculating that to a quiescent position.

What’s worse is that we both missed that White is simply mating after 20.Bxh6! I saw Crafty’s score and thought “How does that work? The only possible follow-up is…let’s see…Qg3”, but then I utterly did not check this line out, looked at Bxh6 for a split second and blew it off, for the second game in a row I have done this sort of thing!

Another ironic part to his 20…Nd5 is that, after playing this move, his only piece defending his king is the Nf8, the other 5 pieces are out of play for that purpose. I did realize that he was trading off his only really good piece when he played …Nd5xBd3, as the queen and knight combo were almost all he had going in his favor. If I hadn’t noticed this minimalist, safe advantage, then surely I would have looking for more. It’s like the fox that drops off the $1 bill in front of you so that you don’t notice the $100 bill behind you (just made that up). If I had played this mating attack, Black virtually has to play …Qc7, then White plays Rc1 and gets both rooks into the mating attack against his paltry defense of knight and queen (the f8 knight gets traded off on g6).

For two moves I had this Bxh6 mating attack, but what did I play the second time, I play 21.a3, doh!

Oh, regarding 23.Rf1, that was the one move where I looked at the position, just made a sensible looking move and went to take my only bathroom break. When I got back I noticed that I had completely overlooked his 23…Bb5 threat (he still hadn’t played it yet) and realized that I’d have to defend with 24.Nc4, as 24.Qe4 can be met by ..f5 attacking both queen and Rf1 still.

I accepted his draw offer with 20 minutes on my clock and just under an hour on his clock. This is basically what I am doing, I am spending too much time and energy on the opening, then I get to this point where I already think that this is the “technical phase” of the game, when in reality it is far from that and is in reality the most explosive, combinative high-point of the game. I am moving relatively quickly here and simply seeking to pad my positional advantage rather than trying to “guess which briefcase has the million dollars in it”, already.

I studied checkmates this weekend and that is still my most egregious shortcoming as a chessplayer, I feel, not seeing the mates or bothering to calculate them, granted that more time and energy at that point might of helped. I can take comfort in the familiar refrain from RollingPawns which goes something like this “Well, at you can take confidence in knowing that if you had seen/played the mating attack, you would have won.” hehe. My mating attack in these past two games has been non-existent.

The ironic part of this game was afterward when he told me that he should play better, as of late, but that he spends too much of his time and energy in the opening – naturally, he appeared to have both the time and energy still, but rather this has been my problem! If anything was slightly wearing him out (he didn’t seem tired at all to me) was all the time that had been spent on my clock.

Here’s the mating line I was looking at:
20. Be3 Nd5 21. Bxh6 Qc7 22. Qg3 g6 23. Bxf8 Rxf8 24. Rac1 Qd6 25. Bxg6 fxg6 26.Qxg6+ Kh8 27. Re4 Nf4 28. Qh6+ Kg8 29. Rc3 Qe7 30. Rg3+ Qg7 31. Qxg7#
I picked 23.Bxf8 because it is straightforward, removes a defender immediately.

I can say this, this situation is possibly the one time in the game where you have to look away from the board to visualize possible combos and use your conscience to determine what is right. The question isn’t “Is there a checkmate?” as that can and will be blown off “Oh, Bxh6 looks risky and ‘out there’ “. The real question you have to ask yourself is “Why _isn’t_ it a checkmate?”, which forces a person to give it some introspective and accurate analysis. “Why isn’t it?” That is the question which must be answered. The hardest part to find are all of the sham-sacs involved, and sacs for mate are what give chess it’s beauty, otherwise it would be like “Yeah, you dropped the exchange, now it’s over”, but the GMs know there are a lot of times you don’t want to accept the exchange, that it’s not all about material, but having “an attack” as well.

Wednesday

I’m starting to not like this idea of playing on Wednesdays. I already know that I am out of it after drinking coffee the night before and getting bad sleep. Let’s face it, all anyone is thinking about on Wednesday is either A) Their job, or B) Finding work.

This is why it is easy to find venues to host in the middle of the week, but it explains why they do little business as well.

One good thing about a club, dedicated facility, is that games can be held on better days, such as Friday through Tuesday. Playing on Wednesday is like a cruel joke, which probably explains why so many do badly. If one is actually up for a game, it’s not so hard to win.