Round 3 – Sicilian O’Kelly variation

Round 3

I played Kurt tonight, and was 0-3 record against him going into this game. I prepared, but he deviated with the O’Kelly variation.

This game, I was still tired from yesterday night’s game, so perhaps that contributed toward missed opportunities.

I knew that the purpose of the O’Kelly is to play ..e5 after my knight lands on d4, but I figured that ..a6 probably wouldn’t hurt him enough in the C3 Silician. After the game, I remembered Nunn saying that “c4 is probably the only way to get an advantage against the O’Kelly”, or something like that, but I never even considered the obvious 3.Nc3, transposing back into normal Open Sicilian channels.

I missed his ..d5, which is a cliched move for Black in the Sicilian, only thinking of ..d6, or I would have played Nf3 instead of Nf5.

I was looking to play f4, but completely missed 18.f4. Black can respond with 18..Ng4, but I thought I was simply losing the c5 pawn for anything reckless looking like that. Plus, I didn’t want a Bb7 hitting my g2 pawn.

At the end of the game, he offered a draw. I had 3 1/2 minutes and accepted the draw with 1:59 remaining on my clock, figuring that I wouldn’t have time to win a won position, but I didn’t see the right continuation anyway. I was going to play 40.Kd3, which can retain some complicated winning chances, if played correctly. But the reason he offered the draw is because he saw 40.Rd5!

This is one of those situations where if I could have spent those last two minutes to make a “40th move”, I probably find 40.Rd5 in the last few seconds, and then proceed to spend an hour, assuming, working on trying to win the endgame. But at G/90, this is where my fallacious use of time comes back to bite, in an endgame against a strong player.

Another thing is when you are blitzing with a few minutes left, and someone offers you a draw, it throws you off of your blitzing rhythm, and now you are forced to think it out beyond just the current move. I was confident, but once he offered the draw, I had to doubt my intentions to play on with so little time remaining. Still, I made the right choice even for having a complex winning position where I could nab a pawn. Just not enough time to play it accurately. He had around 17 minutes remaining, so the time-scramble wouldn’t have been mutual, although I am sure he could see how I was gaining on him on the clock with every move.

I finally figured out how Black could draw it a pawn down in the rook ending. Engine score is not overly helpful because you know it’s a draw when the engine is saying +2, but you are simply repeating moves with the engine, going nowhere. I found a lot of White wins before figuring out the Black draw. Of course, if I had overstepped the time, I still would have lost.

I couldn’t believe it, Alex, Isaac, Dean, and Jason each congratulated me on the draw separately. I didn’t realize that not losing to Kurt was such a feat, but it was a nice surprise that a draw could be so well regarded. This is why it’s nice to always play tough, because people will love you for playing the role of spoiler (to help their chances), even if you can’t get the job done for yourself.

Probably, if you took a snapshot of my current rating after this game, it is 1800 or 1801, something like that. But I am going to play that 5-round tournament this weekend where I have to “run the gauntlet” of weaker players, since I am usually in the top 1/4, ratings-wise, of a local Open tournament.

Here’s the details:
Monument Open III, August 20 – 21, 2011
5 round Swiss system tournament.
Time Control: G/120
Site: The Inn at Palmer Divide, 443 State Highway 105, Palmer Lake, CO 80133
Open: One open section.


4 thoughts on “Round 3 – Sicilian O’Kelly variation

  1. I liked your play in this game, wasn’t sure about exchange on d4, but later events proved that “d4” pawn is just weak. It was balanced position, until he lost that balance a few moves before the rooks exchange.

    Your agreement to a draw reminded me about my draw at the Canadian Open, when I found at home that I could actually win his pawn, except you didn’t see Rd5 and you had little time left.
    I had enough time, but he got me by surprise and I had some kind of inertia from the previous thoughts that it looks drawn.

    A few years ago I had a couple of cases, almost in a row, when higher (by ~200) rated players offered me a draw in the endgame in unclear position (maybe having a little advantage), just because they had only 5 minutes left (I had a bit more). They told me the same thing, that they didn’t want to screw up in the time trouble.

  2. Yes, my excuse was not wanting to mess up, but now I realize that was irrational way to think about the offer.

    I was positive that I could probably win this position with enough time, but as soon as he offered the draw I had felt I had to take a negative look such as “What if I play Ke3 and he plays Rd6?” Not thinking positively of “Okay, then play Rd6 to prevent his rook from going there first” The question I should have asked myself is “Can I win his pawn?” If I can win the pawn, then play on because I can force the draw later, if nothing better turns up. But, I wasn’t prepared to react to the draw offer. I wanted to keep playing, but thought “What if I don’t win the pawn or he makes it a long endgame?”

    I wish I had kept playing because as Jason informed me after the game “He only offers a draw when he knows he is losing.”

    The funny thing about blitzing is that I can play move to move usually quite well. It’s a catharsis in relief to the rest of the game where one is trying to think everything out before moving. The only way I could have stayed in this state would have been to immediately move and ignore his offer, which is what I should have done, since once he offered it I tried to be as optimistic about his position as I could be, which wasn’t realistic, and I even felt that way. Then I sort of say, “Well he’s almost 2000 rated, even if I win this pawn he could stall me in the endgame and win on time”, but if I’m winning the endgame, he is not going to stall me on time. I wasn’t prepared to process this question, mostly since once I stopped to think about it, well I was too tired to think and only had energy to play.

    I would have found ..Rd6 even blitzing, but not analyzing. How is this? Simple, in endgames you take away your opponents’ play, so it’s a simple move to suddenly find. BUT, I don’t know how to process beyond that move when blitzing. I am only thinking move to move and see what turns up, not “Do I think I have enough a winning plan and enough time to play it”, that sort of question is overwhelming. It was my pessimism that made me not want to find Rd6, and actually it was before I had taken his Rb6, (that move didn’t get played on the board) even though I felt he would play it and I would trade and he would be losing. It was a FEELING, and I was right, but when I tried to think about it (all the way through), that proved impossible in my physical state. So I was simply thinking “Well, what if he can thwart it?” instead of simply playing winning chess.

    There is another weird phenomena to be aware of. Sometimes you have a blitz win or a blitz draw, but the other person still has a lot more time. That extra time, you have to not let it work against you because it gives you too much time to doubt yourself. My round 2 loss in that tournament, the endgame, I had the blitz drawing move prepared, but he took so much time on his move that I began to doubt “What if the bishop could get trapped?” It would have stopped his pawn advance which gave me doubled pawns, and I saw this. But then I made another move instead, thinking to myself “With all of that extra time I feel that I made a more solid move.” But that was ‘fear thinking about the position’, not what my instincts told me to do. As a result, he broke up my pawns and it took me too many tempos to trade that bishop.

    If we had kept playing, the #1 thing would have been to not doubt at all, which can become easy to do, as long as you remember this.

    Sample Win

    You’ll see how in the continuation above the win for White is to give up the b-pawn to win the h-pawn.

    Black can play 69..Re5+, 70.Kd6 Re8, 71.Rf7+ Kxb6, 72.Rxh7 and now Black’s king is completely boxed out. White’s king will promote the extra kingside pawn. e.g., 72..Kb5, 73.h5! gxh, 74.g6 and now the Black rook can’t hold it’s line from keeping the White king out, it will have to try to prevent the pawn from queening, which is futile of course.

    When I laid down to bed last night, that was the question that kept me stirring, why didn’t I think of simply sacking the b-pawn? This is the sort of thing that I was not thinking about at the board, even if I had had the extra b-pawn.

    My situation was a little different from yours. This one looked won, but the draw gave me a chance to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ (my clock), even though I was playing well, and quickly. It’s much harder to shake off the drawn feeling that you had to look for a win. That’s probably even less likely to happen except that you didn’t spend the rest of your time not finding a win before accepting a draw. If you could see the win, then a couple minutes to play it out should have been sufficient. I gave in when I saw 2 minutes on my clock, although if I had seen the win like I had now, I still should have won with 2 minutes.

    One thing this game made me realize is that against “true” Class D or even C players, it seems to be more about checkmates, but as you get into that Expert range, it turns out to be more about tactical endgames or queenless middlegames. There is still a ton of tactics to calculate, provided one side or the other has gained a decisive initiative.

    If I had played 18.f4, that would have been a long but winning line of calculation, and it branches once. I understood at the board that the win had to be there and spent more time on that move than any other, but I was looking at piece-play rather than f4, which appeared ponderous. In the end, I took a pass and headed for the endgame.

    Here is a sample line of 18.f4 exf, 19.BxN fxN and now 20.cxb? RxB! equalizes for Black, but 20.BxNf6! gxB, 21.Nd5+ Kf8, 22.cxb is winning for White.

    Also, 18.f4 Ng4, 19.BxN exB, 20.Nd5+ with 21.cxb is winning. For a Master, finding simple winning lines like this is a must. The key is to recognize that this isn’t about “calculation” it’s about finding very consequential consecutive moves. If you aren’t looking at the board consequentially enough, as Spassky might say, you won’t find these moves. It probably takes more courage than ability to find that line. 😉 For my part (excuse), I was well aware of his 3-0 record against me and didn’t want to go overboard on a line that may lose, or at least I was thinking more worriedly in that respect. One thing about this endgame intiative, there is tactical threat on every move for seemingly 20 moves. It would be so easy to miss any one of these “consequences” from playing either side. This is where your extensive blitz play would kick in, it’s like a “stop-threat” mindset.

    There is an axiom that came up with when solving tactical problems. “If you don’t know what to do, look for a pawn move.” This is because we equate tactics with piece-play, that part we get right. Other useful things to remember are “Don’t miss long moves (i.e. a piece that moves more than 3 squares)”, the other is “Don’t miss checks, mates, because as long as you keep checking the king it is like getting to make multiple moves in a single turn.” Sometimes a single check will turn out to be four or five consecutive checks.

    RollingPawns, as usual, thanks for your comments. 🙂

    Sort of an interesting side-discussion, Maurice Ashley talks about the secret of chess being about the “drawbacks” of a move. I don’t feel the word “drawback” carries the same moral weight, connotation, as does the word “consequences”. “What are the consequences of his move? What are the consequences if I play this reply?” Sounds like a more realistic approach to me. You may keep in mind or remember drawbacks (I knew that if his Nf6 moved that I could get in Nd5+), but I didn’t examine the “consequences” of playing the move f4. f4 takes advantage of the positional drawbacks, but it’s the actual lines involved which are the consequences, which is more than mere hand-waving about the problem/position.

  3. Hello LinuxGuy,
    I have been “lurking” some time on your blog.
    After 7 … Qxd5 instead of Nxd5, I think Black has equalized.

    I recalled seeing the “d5” trick in a book by McDonald
    Winning with the Kalashnikov.

    If you have the book, there are some ideas on p129
    The position was similar -but not exact – no a6 – there was a knight on c6 etc.

    I enjoy reading your blog and the comments.

    I have not played otb in a couple of years. I play on fics 3 0 mostly ; my handle is pcannon.
    Hopefully, the blitz won’t ruin my chess understanding if I start playing in tournaments again.

  4. Hi, Paul, welcome to my blog! Glad that I actually have more readers. 🙂

    I had that book, sold it. It’s such a standard trick in the Open Sicilian, Black sees Nf5, Black plays ..d5, that I should practically have a flash-card made up just for that.

    I didn’t like his premature attacking moves in this game…Nd4, ..Bc5, ..b6, even capturing on d4 with a pawn instead of the dark-bishop, that it’s a wonder that I didn’t put this game away. Naturally, I didn’t feel comfortable about it until I cowardly ran home to my computer to get confirmation of this. If he were a lower-rated player, I would have taken my chances.

    I don’t think I am talented enough for blitz. It requires extremely fast pattern-recognition and my strength is when I take time to think things out in a long time-control. I can play endgames on experience, blitz them, but that is not the same as blitzing an entire game well.

    I had figured that ..Qxd5 was strongest or at least the most straightforward, but that he would probably also play ..Nxd5 instead to keep the position more unclear. I was more surprised to see his ..Nf6 retreat instead of ..Nb4. Fruits idea to protect c2 then is not Na3, but a3 …QxQ, KxQ, when it’s rather equal. I didn’t want to play Bg5 instead of exd because of the reply …Qb6, hitting b2.

    The interesting thing is that his openings knowledge allowed him to equalize, although I outplayed him from there. Which tells me something, I probably shouldn’t be losing to him so much, particularly as White (all of my losses/games against him have been with White)

    This is what I remembered seeing OTB with f4.
    18.f4 Nc6, 19.fxe Ng4 and now Black is threatening to regain his pawn, capture the Be3, and if the bishop moves then Nf2 forks the rooks. So, basically I saw a whopping 2 moves ahead, plus a threat that I didn’t like upon facing the third move.

    BUT, here is the win, in astonishing style:

    Completed 750 combinations.

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