Role Reversal

I played Mark, with the White pieces. Hadn’t played Mark in a long time. He played the Scotch, and I got a major advantage out of the opening, but then played just “blah”.

Round 5

I wasted clock time looking for a concrete plan when all it seemed there was to go on was intuition. So, I spent 25 minutes before playing my “blitz move” at one point. I left myself no time to calculate in the ending, which explains why I missed one tactic of Rxe5 after ..d6, obvious tactic. Also, I didn’t like the NXQf6 continuation later on, and even after the game defended it for Black. That is one of those situations where, given proper calculation White is winning, but I was naturally too partial to Black’s chances, even though I sensed White’s moves correctly, simply mis-evaluated it, and “liked” Black better.

I got lulled on Mark’s clock. For example, he had 15 seconds for a number of moves, then 3 seconds for a number of moves. He was offering me draws, then I offered him a draw once I was down to a minute. Then I moved and he accepted the draw a split second before his clock beeped. I had to think about it because I thought maybe it was a move back when I offered the draw, and I still have that impression, though Paul said otherwise after the game.

Anyway, Dean asked me if I agreed to the draw result and I told him yes. Of course, I realized that I was losing in that final position and had blundered. I made the very same mistake that Paul had made against me last week. I saw that he had 3 seconds so I started playing drek moves, thinking that nothing can lose and everything should win because of his only 3 seconds remaining. I was happy that he had agreed to the draw, and congratulated him on his defense, but was a bit miffed at my time-management and that I had let him get away. Others saw my tactics. I could have won the e-pawn, but played h3 because I didn’t see that my queen would be recapturing on e5 with check. This move and result would only happen in my time-trouble, not if I had managed my clock properly. I let him lull me on the clock, since I was up. It’s so easy to do against him and think you will win on time, but that only works for me when I can achieve a great time-disparity.

I missed that 25.NxQ RxQ, 26.Nxh Rfd8 fails to 27.Rxe Rd1, 28.Re4-e1 defends the back-rank mate.

Alright, I have chased down all of these “winning” continuations and have found draws for Black with best play. I finally had to go back to the endgame, where I knew I must have had something better earlier, and even this grandiose continuation which Fruit thought was winning was drawable:
Example Defense

What’s more, Mark would have played ..Ng6, if I had played f4 instead of b3 (which I knew threw away my advantage). I had my hand around f4 pawn, almost touched it and picked it up, but then threw out b3, that is what time-pressure does. But look at that line anyway above. Mark preferred b4 for White (instead of attacking purely with pieces ala Fruit).

The long and the short of it is, I do need to win against Mark partly by remaining half an hour ahead of him on the clock, and partly because I would need a huge time differential to win from a drawable position, but where I have the advantage. I’m starting to think that a lot of the strength of GMs and maybe IMs is that they can draw from bad positions, so that clock differential is essential.

Before I was thinking, “Yes, I could beat Mark on time but that would be sort of a cheap-shot because I want to win by finding the best chess moves.” Now I realize that that time advantage is probably the only thing I have going for me. The dominant position leads to a dominant time advantage, not so much some kind of automatically winning position which should play itself. For example, the big advantage is not thinking that “Winning the e5 pawn is winning.”, the big advantage would be to find and play that move quickly while still having saved up lots of time on the clock.

Naturally, White doesn’t get a position like this, however, without getting some “big” shot chances. For example, 14.Bh5! did seem the only way to play for an advantage, but it seemed like Black had too many options to defend in regards to placing something on g6. I just looked at one continuation which starts out +3 for White after 14..g6, but ends up move 24 as only +.8! White has 4 pawns for the bishop. Still, this represented one possible best course of action. It was difficult to see that the real purpose of Bh5 is to open the e-file so that after RxNe5 exchange sac, White will have mating threats on c7 with knight and bishop. So, I failed the “combo test” here. Oh, it’s because I followed up with Qxb6 throwing away advantage. After Qf6 White is down a rook for 2 pawns but +4. Even now this is difficult to understand until I go through it with Fruit to see what it has in mind. I would have had to believe in this position by either sheer faith or experience to have wanted to reach it. It’s a Bg4 sham deflection, ..Qd8, Nd6+ and mate if not ..QxN, QxQ. That is definitely an advanced tactical ability, to sac a rook to play for those tactics. Still, the king would have been in the center and the queen was overworked.

Now I understand why pattern-recognition is so powerful in chess. We like to think of going by the “Don’t move until you see it, Josh!” rule. In positions like this, a person’s intuition and pattern recognition are going to be more powerful than this notion of trying to calculate the tree of candidate moves until one finds the winning solution.

What I discovered from combination study is this, it’s easy to calculate the answer once somebody tells you the solution. So calculation is not the problem so much as weak intuition and non pattern-recognition. You naturally won’t want to calculate something which you think is bad. I would suspect that many a GM would calculate in a position like this only to confirm what their intuition and pattern-recognition and imagination had previously suggested to them. For example, I would have sacked a piece on d6 in this game, and wanted to, but would have balked at a full rook until I saw this line with Fruit.

I couldn’t recall under the sudden finish, but now I remember I offered him a draw (whether before or after I played the pawn push), then he pushed the pawn, then I played my losing reply, which I did sense was losing, then he accepted my draw offer “I accept your draw offer” as if I had just made it. I would have accepted it anyway and not claimed a clock win because I knew that morally I had lost on the board anyway. Man, these strange finishes. hehe. The point is that I recall he refused because he had the pawn push (his reply to my offer), which is why I was so confused when he accepted the draw a move later because I thought he was now playing for a win. Such is the stress of time-pressure!

I’m surprised that my rating is as high as 1824 after this tournament. I think that’s because I lost to Isaac, who got 4/5, so that I didn’t lose as many rating points as I thought I would. The 1270 guy that I beat ended up winning against Mark and Anthea and is now 1405, so I was right about him not being a 1200 player. 😉

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2 thoughts on “Role Reversal

  1. You had a won position in the opening due to him playing a risky variation without knowing it well – you knew it better or just found the right moves.
    Then after his 8… Qe8 you had a decisive advantage until move 14.

    I don’t find all the solutions that Houdini offers easy – like 9. Bf4 d6 10. Nxc7 Kxc7 11. Nb5+ Kd8 12. Bxd6 Bd4 13. Nxd4 Qd7 14. Nb5 a6 15. Nc7 …. with 5.63 evaluation. The last of them as you rightly mentioned is 14. Bxh5, yeah, it’s a very nice line with a mate on c7 and winning rook h8 threats.
    14. Bg3 misses all the advantage.

    In the endgame your moves 40. f3 and 41. Qe4 just intuitively look risky, the second move being a losing one. Yeah, probably draw is a fair result, though you could win it right in the opening.

  2. Yeah, it’s funny how when playing it can be more difficult to focus at times than when studying or looking at someone else’s game from the comfort of home. It’s easy to be distracted by thoughts like “What is going on here, I must be winning but can’t find a line. I’m taking too long, what’s wrong with me, people are staring at me like I have a problem and I do!” hehe. You never think stuff like that when at home where calmness and rationality prevails.

    Once the winning attack was there and I had to pull the trigger on the position, I simply could not focus and was not analyzing lines deeply, even where my intuition lead me there. I wore contacts playing chess for the first time in years. I think I am going to go back to glasses because I need to calculate a lot of lines close up and my contacts are better for distance viewing (last time I wore contacts I had a bad tournament, trouble seeing the board as well as I do with glasses). Actually, I see the board fine, just didn’t want to stare at it like I needed to, and calculate. Not calculating much at the critical time, as if I wasn’t feeling up to such a task. I guess that’s what I get for looking at too many of the answers with combos instead of getting them right.

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