Interesting Struggle

So I played Dragan, for the fourth time I believe, with the White pieces.

When I got there, he seemed ready and determined (isn’t this always the case). I had just taken some tylenol and aspirin for a headache and was have a low-energy day. But okay that is neither here nor there, I suppose. He played The French Def. Arggh, right off the bat I had forgotten that he plays the French and had prepared The Scotch opening. I have four books on the French that I will study in earnest some day, but the last thing I wanted with Dragan was a closed, strategic struggle.

He surprised me early with 11…Na5! I am completely stumped. I knew that if I got stumped I would have a long think because I wasn’t feeling so spry and energetic. Okay, he is definitely having his day and it is not mine, I felt this throughout the game. I was going back and forth, but later (of course), I determined the best reply would have been Nfd2, to trade knights on c4 and not a bishop. But okay I play Na4 and he plays …Qc6 instead of taking it. Okay, so yes it is starting to feel like his day.

We play on, and it seems that if I push b5, then he can play …Na5 and best I would have is a draw, but I went for something far more dubious with my plan to launch a kingside attack. Okay, I realize that this plan fails tactically because he has threats like Nc4xBe3 followed by Bg5 after I have played f5, skewering anything on that diaganal.

Before I know it (I feel like I am playing against RollingPawns at this point. hehe) he is dictating on the c-file and I am scrambling to defend.

I wasted some ungodly amount of time early in the game after his …Na5, something ridiculous like 40 minutes on that move. So now I am down to 11 minutes vs his 18 when I finally create a tactical threat. I see that he can stop it by playing 27…Qe6, but I notice that I may have a tactical win if he plays 27…Nf8. I thought, yeah I’ll go home and Crafty will tell me all about it, wrong!

Crafty didn’t pick my clever 27…Bf2 move, and did not see that ..Nf8 is losing for close to a minute! What the heck, I thought we were supposed to let these engines find the tactics for us. But it takes some prodding, if it were just “going over the game” and set to pick out +1 high-points, it would probably never point this possibility out.

Anyway, I realized if he plays …Qe6, plugging up the hole there, I have nothing to play for, so I offered him a draw right away, not wanting to offer it after he plays ..Qe6, when he would have no reason to accept. He thought for two minutes and accepted.

I saw that he could play …Qe6-f7, then play ..Nf8-e6. I have the feeling that he would have finally settled on …Qe6, based on his reactions after the game, but I think he was also looking at putting a piece on h4 and not really looking at ..Nf8 at all, since he also saw the threat.

Anyway, I was at a low-energy level, and his was high, so that I was glad to escape with the draw. My next move after 27…Qe6 was probably going to be Bg3, and we both agreed that there was probably going to be a lot of piece-shuffling at a fast pace.

It was a four way tie at 3.5 (naturally the 2.5 guys get an easy opponent to knock off in the last round, so they got there the easy way – one 1400 player that I beat also had 3.5).

My first round opponent, Kenton, did not pay for the tournament, so that my win against him will not be rated. You should know when a guy shows up with no set, board, doesn’t pay and leaves his pen and scoresheet, which were likely supplied by the TD, that he may just skip on the rest of the tournament. ;-p

Dragan didn’t lose any games in this tournament, just draws and wins. I could sense that he was having a strong, determined tournament from how he watched my games in earlier rounds.

It’s too bad that this wasn’t a 40/2, G/1 game, it could have gone on for a lot longer, but I was satisfied with the draw. For example, (he knew a win was needed to avoid 4-way tie) if he had thought that ..Nf8 was something, he would have been like aha, strong knight on e6, I’ll keep playing! Actually, I think he missed that idea entirely and was simply about to play only a solid move when he agreed to the draw. Well, he was mostly looking at his rooks and ..Rc6 or ..Rf8 would have kept his slight advantage, so that I guess it was a rather nice struggle between us after all. I floundered around a bit, yet did not lose. I used to lose my games whenever I did that.

I though to myself “A GM would probably play 12.Nd2 here”. But I guess I couldn’t overcome my state of panic. It’s like you can see yourself from the outside looking in thinking “If I were a normal sane person, I would probably play Nd2”, but sometimes you think that and you are right not to play it, so it always appears more obvious later. I think that during the game it’s easier to think more about winning than simply playing solid chess.

Yes, that was it, I was convinced that the 12.Nd2 Rc8, 13.Na4 (only now) was best during the game, but it was based on intuition, and I still couldn’t describe to myself why I felt that was best. In the end, I got lazy and assumed Black would take on a4 rather than play ..Qc6, a surprise to me. With a Nd2 first, I could assure myself that I would grab control of the c-file first, where no ..Nc4 was possible. I did look at b5…Qc7, but then did not equate that with the following move Rc1. Perhaps because in the first variation that Rc1 move does not prevent a ..Nc4, but in the second variation, it does prevent it. So, I wasn’t putting the big picture together, but my opponent was. I had a sense that the Nd2 (playing it first) variation was different, but was a little too tired to work it all out like that. My opponent understood that he did not want to play his knight on a5 back to c6, but I mistakenly thought it was better on c6 (not as good as at c4 though, doh!), but it’s not as strong at c6 with the Qa4 pinning it. I wasn’t seeing the big deal so much with the Qa4 pin, but when comparing how much initiative that White would have had as to in the actual game, it’s a dramatic difference.

I just looked at this long line. It’s ridiculous how hard it is for White to try and get a winning advantage with this opening, OTB. Black holds too easily. I could just as well play 1.d4 against French Defenders, it’s ridiculous. I need to learn the Winnawer Def. I completely suck at that defense, with both sides. The Winnawer becomes closed, too, though. I think 2.d3 and f4, that’s still the line Black doesn’t like to see.

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10 thoughts on “Interesting Struggle

  1. Na5 was good, right. Still, if you go along the first line you have a slight advantage: 11. Nc3 Na5 12. Nd2 Rc8 13. Rc1 Ng6 14. h4 Be7 15. g5 .
    You went along the second line and after 11. Nc3 Na5 12. Na4 Qc6 13. Nc5 Nc4 14. Qb3 there is 1 win for Black and 1 draw. I will look at the rest with Fritz.
    Your draw offer is understandable. Physical and mental shape is important, recently I didn’t go to the club, because I felt not concentrated and I know very well how it ends, They give you a good run for your money.
    I’ll look later with the Fritz at the rest of the game, it’s difficult to evaluate it.

  2. Thanks for your comments, RollingPawns! 🙂

    h4, now that is interesting, just being willing to spend a temp on that. During the game I didn’t feel I had enough initiative on the kingside to play g5, and looked at it with Crafty and it’s so close to Black’s home base that Black can really defend by allowing pawn exchanges on f6, falling back with the the knights, and then his queen and dark-squared bishop become active and can draw by trading queens.

    The fact that he saw ..Qc6 and said after the game that “it was the only move” that he saw (he played it within seconds of me playing Na4) told me that he was really seeing this position much better than I was. I should have gone with my intuition Nd2 then Na4, but it’s one of those times where intuition is stronger than ability to calculate or fully understand why. White can get nice advantage after Nd2 then Na4 if he plays BxNa4, Qxa4+ Nc6 because then b5 Nb8 and White can play for a win. But if he doesn’t take on a4 in that line, and plays Qc6, then I think White can play b5 Qc7, Rc1 and White is more in control that in the game, but there is no +- advantage or anything like that. White would have to simply keep playing until Black makes a mistake somewhere later on in the game, if he ever does make one.

    I would rather play the exchange var. and launch a kamikazee c4 pawn, that would have been more of the game I was after against him, but I can tell that his chess has improved a lot. I wanted a tactical game against him, yes.

    Yes, like what you said, the other person is always thinking “Okay, this is the day that I beat the big Cajuna!” It’s like a boxing match where one fighter says “Oh is it boxing day, today?” Everyone has that eye of the tiger at the beginning of the game. He gave me a look right before the end, a smile, that suggested to me he might be willing to take a draw. I know those H.S. kids would all adamantly refuse a draw in that position from either side and play to win on time, or just to play fast chess and see who wins. Which is one reason I don’t like to play on Thursdays as much as on Wednesdays. 😉

    If he had played ..Qe6, I would have instantly whipped out Bg3 and, I think would have continued to gain time on him just because I have experience playing quickly at that point in a game, but I still did not like my position in that case. I can only play for quick moves there.

    My new rating is 1817. It would have been about 1821, if my first round opponent that I had won against paid his entry fee. So, that win became listed as a 1 point first round bye for me instead (it’s bad enough that I had to risk a whole bunch of rating points just by playing him, an unknown lower-rated player).

    Dragan is going to play on Wednesdays next month. I know that there will be some strong players there just because of him, and probably Paul will show up too.

  3. This variation is so deep, Stoyko deep, hehe, that I really need to post it as it’s unlikely someone will find this at any cursory level.

    Variation 1

    19…Rc7 is a blunder here, 19…Rd8 is +1 for White, and I would play him this variation again just to get this position (quickly! I might add).

    Crafty suggested 18…Qc7, but this can’t be good for Black if already forced into making this move (a6 and b5 are weak).

    Variation 2

    The variation above is judged to be +3 by Crafty.

    He thought that he was losing his c-pawn in some variations, and I never saw it. We had both seen that White wants to play a4 and get a Ra7, but I had thought that he could play ..b6, NxBd7 QxNd7 then probably ..b5 where a subsequent a4 would leave my b4 weak to his bishop and possibly rook or queen with no Nc5 in the way of b4 to protect it. BUT, I missed the important zwischenzug in the above variation where I CAN win a pawn! So, as I suspected all along, he was thinking better during my clock-time than I was.

    BTW, I’ve always knows that I am my mentally at my best when I have a headache, since I was a boy, so it’s a tradeoff. No headache and concentrate less, or headache (probably all night long) and think well. Just a tidbit comment aside. But the real story of this game is that I needed to be thinking as well as a Master would by move 12, and this was the situation that I had feared – there were lot of ways for White to go wrong as well. I was thinking in general terms, such as I don’t want to allow his Ne7-d5 without analyzing the position very, very concretely to realize that this wasn’t quite possible. Well, it is possible, as is ..Ng6, it’s just that he has to give up a pawn to do it unless he wants to go down the road of that first variation with the a4 attack, instead.

    Also, it turns out better to give up the light-bishop in return for this initiative (but only if played right as above) as then I don’t have to worry about a ..Nf4 being played which either trades off the bishop anyway or forces it off from the key e2-d3-c4 diagonal – unless I play Bc1, which turned out to be rather clunky, even when White forces a rook trade on c1 to get the Bc1 in some variations. Only by winning the c4 pawn is trading the light bishop on c4 justified, otherwise it is nearly -1 in Black’s favor.

    Black could simply give up the pawn in that second variation game above with …Nd5, when White is +.7, then normal moves follow, with White having that extra backward d-pawn. Curiously, if Black doesn’t play ..b6, then White has Na5 winning the b7 pawn, so that ..b6 is essentially forced.

  4. He gets advantage when he doubles on “c” line. Then he missed a couple of opportunities to gain ~a pawn advantage, both involving play on “c” and exchanging bishop on e3:
    I. 23… Nh4 24. Nd2 fxe5 25. fxe5 Nxe3 26. Rxe3 Bg5 27. Rh3 Rc1 28. Qb2 Rxf1+ 29. Nxf1 Rf8 30. Ne3 Nf3+ 31. Kh1 h5 32. Be2 hxg4

    II. 26… Nxe3 27. Rexe3 Rc1+ 28. Bf1 R8c2 29. Qb3 Qc6 30. Rc3 Rxc3 31. Rxc3 Rxb1 32. Qc2 Rxf1+ 33. Kxf1 Qd7 34. Rc7 Qe6 35. Qd2 Qb6

  5. 31.Nxc3 is better for White in that second line, but Black does win the f-pawn.

    In that first line 32.Be2? 32.Qf2! Qf7, 33.Rxh5 is -.54 according to Crafty, so 31..g6 is better than ..h5, and still -1. Probably beyond the event-horizon of that engine from the initial position. But yes, I knew that he held the chances at the end. My only hope would have been quick play, and I was wanting to outplay him in tactical complications all along, so I probably would still have had fair practical chances for a draw, if not for just because I had been studying tactics and not openings. 😉 He did have reasonable chances to force me into a game-losing move, though. What I mean by that is that a pawn advantage with, say, 5 minutes left is not the same as a pawn advantage with 30 minutes left, or 5 minutes even a few moves after the pawn win. Before that sure, he was winning, I was just trying to put up a pseudo-defense by that point and work him on the clock.

    I may play this 30 min. 30 sec inc. 4 round tournament on Sat. It’s a block from my house, easy walking distance. $30 EF, a fundraiser, so prizes won’t be much. I should have pre-registered yesterday at $25. It seemed like chess-ratings suicide, but maybe I’ll try it. I guess it depends how I feel. So many local chess tournaments, yet the next one (besides weekdays) is not for 2 months. I’ve been mentally wiped out the last two days, probably from tactics training, that stuff still takes a toll on me over the long run, even doing a little bit of it adds up.

  6. Thanks, TommyG! Yay, an engine for Linux! I have not had an chess engine for Linux and am eager to try a new one. Thanks again, Tommy! Yes, I’ll try it out. 😀

  7. Hey LinuxGuy!

    You are welcome. I think you will dig Critter.

    It has been holding it’s own against Rybka and Houdini in various tests! And as I said it is a tactics monster.

    I am going to post my last game from last week’s tournament tomorrow morning.

    And then I gotta get the July BLog Carnival post together for Monday since I am hosting it at my site this month.

  8. Yes, it is still an exercise in frustration on Linux so far. My Windows machine is weak, so I would prefer to run it on Linux.

    I downloaded the Critter binary and pointed xboard to it, but the engine didn’t run. I don’t understand why this sort of free chess software is a second-class citizen on Linux, but I imagine has some install program on Windows.

  9. I don’t know xboard very well I thnk Critter is a UCI engine instead of a winboard engine.

    Did you set xboard to read it as a UCI engine? (I tried winboard once and found it impossible to load an engine)

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