New Opponent

So I show up for Thursday Round 3 and I am pitted against a new opponent, he’s Ethiopian.

I play a bookish (I think) line against him from the Nimzo-Indian Defense. This is the first time I ever remember playing this line of the Nimzo-Indian, online or otherwise.

He says he’s rated around 1500, but he’s only played in 9 games, provisional rating, so I don’t know how to take him so I try my best to simply focus on chess. I notice later he lost to the one 1100 kid that I beat in Round 1, but I think he’s beaten Dean (1500) maybe twice already, and lost to higher-rateds. He’s actually like 5 wins 4 losses, but has had to play in a lower quad, that sort of thing.

Okay, he is playing fast and his pieces are not even landing on the squares but literally half on one square and half on the other, so that I have to ask him once “Which square is that on?!” rather curtly. He seems completely casual. This guy is definitely another “50 minute-r” (finishing with over 50 minutes on his clock).

At one point I get back from the bathroom and he says “It’s your move”, while my clock (his clock actually) is ticking. So I am thinking to myself “Is this guy really a duffer or what?” I slowly sort of outplay him, but then can’t help but notice that he suddenly brings his arm up from below the table to look at his watch, and I think “I can’t believe it, this guy is totally bored and is not even paying attention to what he’s doing!?” BTW, he played his last few moves instantly, and then without missing a single beat looked at his watch.

Shazam! Right when this is happening and I am thinking this, after he has just looked at his watch, I make a game-losing blunder! And he was playing for it! (another example of a game where MDLM was right, a missed simple tactic). He played Rxd6 with no hesitation, after I had played fxe4. This guy is hardly a 1400 player!

Well, I have no alternative but to play into it even though I see that I have been swindled nicely – lost my focus for one move, was starting to think that he was making random moves or something. I played the blunder quickly, even though I still had nearly half an hour on my clock.

Now I realize keeping the queens on with something like 26..Qf6 loses to 27.Qxc5 defending against mate, winning a pawn, and my king should prove nearly undefendable, so I go for a rook ending, just hoping.

And the rest? Well, like the saying goes, “..this is why they play the game.”

This guy had lost games to players like Alex, Rhett, Anthea. His game to Alex, he clobbered Alex’s king position, but then botched the endgame and lost, supposedly. Thank goodness for endgames, huh?

I blew it on move 13..Qc7. I didn’t notice that after 13..Bxc4, 14.Bxc4 Nxc4, 15.e5 Black has ..Nd5 and is up a pawn. With the c4 pawn gone, Black has the ..d5 square available to the knight. I did not visualize this possibility. I saw it from the perspective of “winning a pawn” and not from one of “removing the c4 pawn in order to free up the d5 square.” Even that pawn is not winning. Forget rating, I am thankful that I got a draw as Black in a middlegame position that I wasn’t familiar with. Not something I normally think or say, but with these provisionals, you don’t want to be the opponent who proves how good they really are.

I only spent 5 minutes on the ..Qc7 move, it was like taking a pass on the situation and simply developing my queen out of harm’s way. I had been looking (dreaming) about the ..Bb3 possibilities, but my instincts were actually right about having so many of my pieces offside there, while he may have a shot at my king.

13..Bc4, 14.e5 (I was worried about this, but Fruit initially gives it nearly -2) ..Bb3, 15.Qd2 BxR, 16.exNf6 Qxf6 (something like ..Bd1xNf3 doesn’t work because of the attack on Black’s king), 17.Qxd1 Qxc3, 18.Bxh7+ KxBh7, 19.Bd2 Qc4, 20.BxNa5 Qd5, 21.Qc2+ Kg8, 22.Rad1 then it gives Qf5, 23.QxQ fxQ, 24.Rxd6 (White has knight and bishop for rook and pawn, but Black’s pawns are split up) it’s close to +1 here according to Fruit.

This draw cost me 12 rating points. That’s too funny. On the bright side I will perennially be in contention for U1800 prizes. Anthea tied for first in Wyoming in U1800 last week and probably made two hundred bucks or so.

Back to resuming daily tactics study for me. I’ve barely touched the critical sections on Discovery, Diversion, Clearance, Attraction. I’m still on Knight-Fork right now. I missed a critical tactic in this game.

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13 thoughts on “New Opponent

  1. I don’t like the 4.a3 line. 5… c5 is a first choice here, has 56% score for Black.
    You were good, then, I think, you made a few mistakes, very familiar to me:

    – you had to take on c4, you over-complicated it, just take the pawn.

    – you relaxed after his move 23, you said you were slowly overplaying him – the thing is, you did not yet, Fritz estimation is -0.30.
    His rooks are good and d6 pawn is weak.
    Psychologically this and also seeing his behavior explains your blunder.

    Then difference in level started to show up. His 26. Qxd6 – I would never go into the rook endgame, by Fritz it goes from 1.23 to 0.45.
    You played rook endgame better, except offering him a rook exchange (which he didn’t do), it could give him a Q+2P vs. Q+P endgame.
    Fritz says in the very end you were even better, I don’t know. The draw was OK after all the adventures.

  2. lol. I was so happy to see his 26.Qxd6. I wasn’t sure at the board, but it appears to be a pure draw, he also offered it. Went over it after the game with Alex and Jason. It looked like a draw OTB, but I wasn’t sure.

    Thanks for your comments, RolingPawns. 🙂 I never would think about not …c5 or taking on c4 since I don’t know this system, so I will look at it and remember that for next time.

    At the time, I figured if he goes after the h-pawn he wins, but he was afraid of my pawn, he said. Reality is I knew that f3 would clinch it for him, keeping my king from e4, but I was in hope-chess mode. Luckily, he pretty much played to my beat and against my clock. The rook trade offer stumped him and he finally took some time here. I saw that I could either escort the pawn or give it up and march into his pawn position to get a draw, might not be right, but that is how it seemed. In either case, if I were perfectly calm, I could have calculated both accurately in his time.

    I missed that tactic. I would have had to be focused to find it, and I shouldn’t need to be that focused, it should be part of a pattern-recognition scan, see it right away. I would have played ..f4, expecting his Qf3, played it out with Fruit, it’s a pure draw of a position.

    Don’t worry about any double posts, I remove them easily, I appreciate your comments. 🙂

    This opening gets tricky with that Bg5. I saw it and figured I could play …Nd7, but it’s so tricky that I’ll have to look at it or play ..h6. ..Na5 was premature, but even ..Qc7 instead, then Bg5 does not look appetizing should I not take your advice and try this system again.

    The one crucial thing MDLM says in his move decision/selection process is “Is there a tactic?” I did not ask myself this, but it’s a lot easier than it sounds because most tactics involve the most direct captures. For example, Rxd6, while seemingly a blunder at first perhaps, is the most direct capture on the board. If you had to look at one direct capture/forced sequence in this position, that would be the one. So I didn’t ask myself if there were tactics or analyze the most direct capture on the board (the direct capture is mainly done for purposes of deflection/removing a defender). Even though it was my turn, I should have looked at not only my most direct capture, but also his most direct capture, especially as it is a response to my move. I also violated that “cardinal rule” in chess by not predicting his next move whatsoever.

    I should have said “Well, if I capture the pawn on e4, his rook has to go somewhere. Perhaps the rook capture the d6 pawn. Yes, there is a deflection tactic there.”

    I think there are two-scans. One scan is preliminary, a point-count scan which looks to see that everything is, for the moment, defended once (or just enough). The next scan is a tactics scan for forcing sequences, unrelated to material ahead of time, it might lead to material or checks/attack on the king.

    One thing that makes Anthea so talented is forcing sequences. She is much better at this even than she is at the material-count part of complications. So she frequently loses material, but then makes it back because she continues to look for forcing sequences better than her opponents, on every move.

    My positional/combinational sense in this game was very strong. I was looking at either ..Qc7 or ..e5 there, both playable, and it’s easy to go wrong with anything else. Bxc4 becomes a mandatory ..Bb3, when Black can end up in that -.7 position described earlier. But my direct tactical sense was completely lacking compared to his. His dxc followed by e4,e5 was a very nice tactical plan as well. He is much stronger than his current rating.

    He reminds me of Rhett, in the middlegame. More direct opening, but played the endgame too quickly. It’s funny how many people play like this, looking for the tactical middlegame, but with a quick, goofy ending at some point.

  3. When to stop studying tactics dilemma isn’t so difficult. You can stop when you start getting a bunch of them right and it gets too easy. When one is really rusty, they take a long time and you choose mis-solutions, that is the best time to continue studying tactics until you find your rythm again.

  4. I’ve made it to problem #494 – Discovery – beginning of this section. The knight fork section helped build my recognition a lot. This is really the way to go, I must have solved 25 problems just this morning. Building up pattern recognition takes a bit of the load off during a game, plus it improves tactical results.

  5. The obvious just struck me. The book I’ve been studying is called “_Combination_ Challenge” so it is not really “a book on tactics”, but rather one on combinations grouped by theme.

    I just looked at one, for example. It’s 11 plies deep (6 of your own moves), but there are four variations to it, depending on how Black tries to defend. The way to tackle this problem, since the first move/idea, you will probably at least suspect is right, is to calculate a “principle variation” all the way through and then ask if you are up any material (or attacking compensation). In this case, the simple, desirable, most straightforward line is 9 plies deep. It’s actually Black’s best defense. Black loses a pawn at the end, but then gains it back on move. So really, the combination doesn’t win anything, trades an isolated pawn for a good pawn and makes another of Black’s isolated, but White was up 3 pawns before the combo, so the purpose was to trade into a winning rook endgame. However, White has to also be winning in any of the other defensive try sidelines and is in fact conclusive winning in each of those.

    Then they throw in some that are more like tactics, to reward you for your pattern recognition and give a breather. It’s well-paced in that regard. 😉

    If you tried to do this on a chess-tactics site, the problem above would be a solid 15 minutes, if you were “good” and found it, but otherwise quite a bit of time working through after not being sure enough to play it.

    Here’s my upcoming itinerary. May or not play in Denver (62nd Colorado Open):

    Pikes Peak Open August 6 – 7, 2011 Manitou Springs
    Monument Open III August 20 – 21, 2011 Palmer Lake
    62nd Colorado Open September 3 – 4, 2011 Greenwood Village
    Tri-Lakes Open October 1 – 2, 2011 Palmer Lake
    Winter Springs Open December 3 – 4, 2011 Manitou Springs

    The tactics stuff is really draining, and if it isn’t then you’ll solve them until it is. It is systematic, like going to college, so a lot of people leave chess after that because they see no ROI in chess, and tactics study is for the ROI (ratings points, if not money).

    This is why it must be done over a long period of time. The first circle is supposedly 5 months. I believe that the first circle could take twice that time, which is why it has to be a top priority in one’s chess study. My circle is 1154 problems. I am on problem #521 and nothing springs to mind that works when I look at it. The “Discovery” section is one of the toughest ones, so far. I solved #521 now, had to combine both sides of the board. The thing with discovery is when you look at the board there are a couple pieces/pawns in the way that you have to remove to get to the solution.

    OTB, I would not have seen it, would have simply focused on that one corner of the board, but I knew something was there and so now would find it OTB as well.

    My brief synopsis of The Knights Errant. MDLM’s book comes out in 2002, by 2005 there is a critical mass of KE bloggers. Social people seem to enjoy bandwagons. By the end of 2005 it’s dying off and by 2007 most have one post that says something to the effect of “I didn’t die, simply had life/priority changes.” As of today, Blunderprone appears to be the last one standing, although even for him that tactics quest mostly came to a standstill, whereas he was big into it years earlier.

    So, I’d says it’s over. For me, it represents where I need to emphasize with my study, however occasional it may turn out to be. I too, may stop studying chess in the near future and only play occasionally. One never knows when that will happen, but it is best to part without too many regrets. Many did complete a circle.

  6. 9. … Nc6
    For some reason I do not like this move. I would have gone 9. … Bb7 10. … Nbd7 and go from there.

    19. Qf3
    Why not the immediate Qg4+? Probably does not give white more then the played move but the played move feels weird to me, what is his plan?

  7. ChessTiger, your suggestions are probably better than the game.

    I played this system just so I could say that I did it once, and I had little to fear of Qf3. That is where he placed it half on g4 and half on f3, and I had to ask him. He was putting the clamp on my position, then hoping I would go wrong as I did, otherwise it’s even. I was hoping to trade queens, and only way I could do that is if he came at me with his.

  8. I looked over a couple of games from “Beating the Sicilian 3” by Nunn, and even now, I don’t see the mates ahead of time, it is so pathetic, and so studying the opening becomes useful for studying the tactic??!

    It’s really about calculating the exhaustion of squares for the king, that is what keeps getting missed. Not necessarily about sacs and mates, it’s looking at which sequence leads to “square-exhaustion” for the opponent’s king. It’s odd, but I had to make that concept up since seemingly no one states it as such.

  9. Here’s something you never want to really do, study openings, endgames, and combos in the same day. But having done so, I came to some rather startling conclusions:

    Studying theoretical Endgames: Knowledge-based. It’s like going to college, you learn the trick.

    Studying Openings: Pattern recognition. I still hardly know transpositions, extended nuances, etc.

    Studying Combinations: Conceptualization. Not as subject to either knowledge or pattern-recognition, as I had previously thought – those properties are found more with openings and endgames. Endgames are also about analysis, but I analyze the dust out of everything on everymove anyway, so endgame study is sort of a meaningless idea to me. A lot of players don’t analyze well and thus this does not apply to them.

    I was just looking at a knight-fork in a diagram and realized something. I can hold the diagram book 4 ft from my face and I still don’t see “the fork”. I see the Nh6 forking the Kg8, THEN I LOOK DOWN, and see the Nh6 forking the Rg4. It’s two separate eye-movements. Probably OTB this is done so quickly as to look like one view of the fork. When I conceptualize it blindfold, without LOOKING at the board, I can easily conceive that h6 forks both g8 and g4, just like a simple mathematical formula.

    It’s interesting that blindfold didn’t make me see tactics just as a blind person wouldn’t see tactics that is say 1000 rated, because a lot of it has to be learned. But once I’ve learned it and know what to look for, then blindfold does help executing the analysis of the variation.

    Interestingly enough, a knight fork is much easier to see OTB than in a diagram because the pieces are in 3-D, where you mostly see it, but partly conceptualize it to fill in the (much smaller) visual blank. In fact, it is easy to see the fork if you stand up and look at the board, which some players do. I think this is why MDLM touched the squares that the knight could go to, because his way around this was to build up a physical feel of how far the knight could go in any direction. The problem with this is what if someone is playing on a tiny board/pieces or jumbo board/pieces, then that “free-throw” shot will be physically off. The squares have to be conceptualized in one’s mind for accuracy.

    Also, remember that it’s easy to see the fork when the pieces are in the squares. When analyzing, the pieces are not always in the squares yet. Still it is easier to see this looking at a board than in a tiny diagram, but the board becomes a “crutch” if one relies on looking at it’s physical dimensions to analyze with.

    I’ve done 547 problems now. I’ve missed more than half of the ones in the ‘Discovery’ section, as this has been my weakest section by far (the tactic I missed on Thursday was also a Discovery). It’s good to struggle at the beginning of a new section, and spend some time, but once one starts catching on, I think it bodes well to spend less time and then look up the answer. It’s not about whether you are “a good chessplayer or a bad chessplayer” – if you didn’t suck at some of this, then there would be no point in going through it, it would be a waste of your time. It is very helpful, yea I’d say absolutely necessary that it is grouped by theme rather than strength. Getting the concepts down is great, but the end result is quick pattern-recognition. May take 100 from one section to get that recognition part down, but that is the goal. That is why there are circles, for pattern-retention. This is not about calculating (when you first start out it usually is, but not after so long), it’s just about recognizing the ideas quickly.

    The funny thing is is that this book came out in 1991, long before MDLM started play in rated tournaments. The examples are grouped by them and on the back cover it says “The book is a MUST for players under the Master level”. This book is so old it farted dust before the Knight’s Errant was an inkling in it’s eye. There is nothing controversial here. The only amazing thing is that I bought a ton of books which didn’t help my rating before I stumbled upon my tactical deficiencies against higher-rated, even though I beat lower-rated tactically online in the same vein.

  10. I really hope your effort pays off.
    I played yesterday, lost to Expert, same story, didn’t see/calculate deep enough in the crucial moment, so missed perpetual. I posted the game.

  11. RollingPawns, thanks! 🙂 It would be nice to think/hope that this pays off.

    The tactics study does pay off, I believe, but last two days I’ve had to go through a few other books I am letting go, namely:
    Karpov’s Endgame Arsenal
    Beating Sicilian 3
    Chess the Adventurous Way
    Complete C3 Sicilian

    Going over the last book right now. I do not like the “complete” series. While complete in terms of game coverage, the annotation is lacking and the C3 Sicilian is nothing more than a draw. Same could be said of any mainline opening or Open Sicilian, but with C3 it can be really obvious you are only playing for mistakes as White. Black has little trouble equalizing in the 2..d5 line, IMHO. But it is a fun, interesting opening for what that’s worth.

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