Opening Misadventure

Round 3

In this game, I had the White pieces on board 1 against Paul. He normally plays 3..e6 and offers to transpose to a French Defense, and really I was interested in seeing his French Defense, even though what I had prepared against him was an Open Sicilian – sometimes, you can prepare and then it would seem boring to finally play that preparation.

Instead, he played a mainline 3..d5, and I had the feeling he probably doesn’t know this line and I was glad that I got it against him; this turned out to be the case.

There aren’t many traps in this opening, but believe it or not 8.Bc4 is not decisive according to Fruit, only around +.6 or something. In any case, it caught him by surprised and I guess he panicked in some way, or “wanted to test me tactically” – which he actually said at one point. To be honest, I would rather someone test me tactically than positionally, not because I am all that in complications, but because positional play can be more excruciating at G/90 for just about anyone.

Anyhow, 8..Qa5 is surprising blunder. I should really give “mad props” out to RollingPawns at that this point because Paul said that before the game he had been going back and forth with a client over a web-programming, and couldn’t satisfy them (they were making braile signs), and he was worn out and said “take it easy on me tonight”.

Well, he tried a new opening line for himself tonight, and was probably just burnt out from the day, but it goes to show how much of chess is merely a performance. If we are both at our best, he should be a more knowledgeable chess player than I, but on “any given Sunday” anyone can win a game, as they say in football-speak here. Not being at your best on weekdays can affect adversely. It’s interesting that on ‘The Chess Improver’ blog, Nigel D. said this sort of thing once, wondering how many were too tired to play a straight game after work, compared to kids and the unemployed, who can be more fresh.

At the end of the game, I expected him to play 22…Rc7, and then I was going to play 23.Nb5. In the post-mortem, he played well and equalized from this point (it must have been from a different position, the final position was rather decisive, but I blundered something in the post-mortem), and he was up a pawn, before blundering the game again trying to win from a drawn position against me. Afterward, I went to the coffee-shop and played Alex two blitz games. I won one as Black in the Scotch, since he didn’t really know it, and then lost the second game where I was down a pawn in opposite-colored bishop, which I assumed that I could draw. This really let me know that I need to save time for endgames and not blitz them out. I’ve been crazy to blitz out endgames in my OTB games. An advantage can disappear real fast in a hastily played endgame, or even a draw.

It may seem weird, but my biggest strength in this game was finding all of the candidate moves. I wasn’t calculating any better than I might normally.

On a sadder note, I guess I could call it that, the E. Coast Deli will be closing at 6pm to save money (they weren’t getting much business recently, when we were there). So, the Wednesday G/90 chess tournaments will no longer exist until we find a new venue. They could probably move it to Tuesdays where the Colorado Springs chess club plays (I have never been there, and most of the time they play quick, unrated chess). This month, the club on Tuesday was actually having a monthly G/90 tournament. Imagine that, 3 G/90 tournaments going on in the same week! I think that Rhett was playing in that one, and some other strong players.

I am taking a bye tomorrow as I need to focus on web-work for a client, and then maybe see my girlfriend. I will play the last round next Wednesday (the final final one), and may cancel the Thursdays for this month. I will play Thursdays next month though, for sure. 🙂

Defense

I think a sign that someone is not tactically strong enough is king-defense-weakness.

Here is another game, on FICS, seems like a continuation of my last Round 2 game, where someone plays moves that look “positional” but don’t defend the king.

Defense

I blundered my rook at the end, but he didn’t see it. I took the wrong rook but should have been winning easily by taking the right one. But this is what happens when one makes a move in 12 seconds, not realistic for OTB play.

I was never sweating it in this game as his attack kept developing my own.

Endgame again

Round 2

I played against Kurt for the first time as Black. I decided to play the Fischer variation of the Nimzo-Indian to see if that would throw him off a bit (as if any of us are really openings experts).

I got through the opening unscathed, and I thought he got too aggressive in the middlegame, not playing defense and giving me an attack.

Apparently, my 19.gxf6? was a blunder, and he should have replied with 20.Bh6, that was his winning chance.

I missed my winning chance, played 29..Kg7?, really under the notion of “It seemed like he blundered, so a blunder must = hanging piece.” I was in time-pressure and blurted out this move. After the game, two other 1900 level players told me they thought I had missed a win by not playing 29..Ree2, and I didn’t realize why that would be winning until I thought about it while driving home. I realized that his Rf6 defends against the mate, but that it’s overworked and can no longer oppose the bishop, so 30..Bh3 would be next. Up until I realized that, I was not upset that I had lost, but came home and sure enough Fruit found what I had been thinking of, but only after a few seconds. Of course I realized that ..Kg7 was a dumb move right after I had played it, but I did not think of the win until driving home.

When we got into an opposite colored bishops endgame, I was thinking draw, but he got two outside passed pawns, and I had pawn islands on the side of the board where his king was. I could have played the endgame better, and we did so post-mortem, and he said it was a draw, but for some reason I kept incorrectly thinking that his dark-bishop was the same color as the queening square on a8. I didn’t even realize that it was the wrong color until just now.

Going over the missed tactics in the middlegame, particularly with my own chances, I realized that there is a temptation to only look for hanging pieces in time-pressure. But the important thing in chess is not what is hanging, but rather what is over-worked. Overworked, under-developed, under-defended, interposed against, it could be a piece or a square or a file. Chess is not a game about grabbing free-material, and it’s not a game about simply waiting for it to happen. A piece can be purposely made to be overworked as well, not simply waiting to spot it once it’s happened. That is lazy chess, and I was playing it. I guess this is what happens when I have been busy working and no time to study tactics this past week. Time-pressure is really an excuse to be lazy, because deep down, you wanted to not blunder in the opening, but do whatever without bothering to analyze later in the game.

The sporting explanation of what happened is that he intentionally blitzed me in my time-pressure, as he had 48 minutes left at the end, and I only a few seconds. Not only did he blitz, but he could blitz a strong endgame, and that is not where I wanted to be against him. A tactical try for the draw (or win or loss) would have been a better idea than going into this endgame, drawable or not.

I was held up by a train and a few accidents on the highway, else i was going to eat and get some coffee when I got there, so that I was never nervous and didn’t have my usual nervous energy in time-pressure, which helps motivate in those tactical situations. But I realize that it is better not to drink coffee and eat, and simply manage the clock better instead. Then I can play better and not be nervous. There is also less nervous energy when I realize this isn’t someone I have to win against, but then I should play smoother on the clock to substitute for the reduced nervous energy.

I missed the mate. 31..Ree2 (instead of ..Kg7?), 32.Rxf Rg2+, 33.Kh1 Rxh2+, 34.Kg1 Bh3, 35.Be5+ Kg8, 36.Rg7+ Kf8, 37.Rxh Rcg2+! (never even considered this because I didn’t see…)38.Kf1 Rh1 mate. So basically what you need to see as Black is that mate, plus the fact that the ..Bh3 is dragging the White rook off of the f-line. Of course their is also the nice and useful aesthetic that White’s pieces look stuck for a move, but that is not the concrete solution. It takes time or skill to find the solution. Naturally, skill is always preferable.

Another interesting thing about that line above is that it doesn’t even cost Black a tempo to take that h2 pawn because of all the checks. So it’s the same effect as moving your Black rook to h2 and bishop to h3 all in the same turn. It’s important to keep that fact in mind because then you can confidently look for Black’s tactical follow-up after that, without worrying about any type of concluding attack for White just yet. ..Kg7 was simply a way to “cheat” around calculating, not seeing the obvious ..Raf1 reply. I had calculated most of that line above, but the conclusion of a calculations is a very important part of it.

I should mention that this tactic would not have been the end of the game for White. In fact, white can sac the exchange on h3 and Black must play right. For example, White has plays like d7 ..Rd2, Bd4! interposing a bishop sac to promote the the pawn. So Black has to play Rcg2+, Kf1 Rcd2 followed by Rh6 to overwork that bishop with a mate threat, in order to win the passed d-pawn. It was a tricky position, no doubt. It definitely required quite a bit of time there, and should have had 20+ minutes on my clock left for all of this.

The point of this is that I missed a mate in 2 and lost, and I think Alex did in his game and lost to, to Katie. I told him that mate in 2 can be tough to find, and he didn’t agree, but I am guessing that’s what happened to him because he said that I would have found it, and he seemed depressed that he missed his.

I blew the endgame, which is rather obvious but I’ll spell it out. I should have played ..Bg4 to stop his passed pawn, and then I would have kept one more of my queenside pawns than in the game (I played the king over instead like a bone-head, under the pretext of “well, I wanted to move my king closer anyway.” This sort of thinking is the peril of blitzing.). To get a passed a-pawn, he then decided to sac the c-pawn in the post-mortem. But I advance my then c-pawn and “sac” it to win his d6 pawn. I let his king take my f7 pawn and defend his passed a-pawn with my king. Then when he marches his h and g pawns up, I exchange one of them with my h7 pawn and sac my bishop for the other pawn. His a-pawn is on the wrong color of his bishop, so it is a draw that way.

Endgames take time

Round 2

Blackmar-Diemar Gambit. Anthea has changed up her opening repertoire lately. I forgot that last time she tried a Ruy Lopez against me. I am just here to play chess. 🙂 Not really prepared for a main-line opening, so it’s great when for me when opponents avoid them. 😀

Going back over this game with Alex and the Fruit engine, I realized that I played this game sort of “Petrosian-esque”, positionally. This was mostly because I didn’t want to entertain tactical complications against Anthea. For example, Fruit chooses the more tactically obvious 14..g5 followed by 15..Bxh2+, but I didn’t want to spend a tempo removing the bishop from h2. Actually, the Bh2-g3 move would hit her queen later on. Anyway, it’s interesting that at the end of that line, there is a ..c5 move, since that is thematic, and the score isn’t much different. Still, I should have played that line and didn’t realize that 14..g5, 15.Qf2 Ng4 forks queen and bishop (didn’t see this, so caught up in the pawn-roller over there). Also, 15.Qh3, then g4 forks queen and rook.

She played her attack quickly, using very little time. I sensed that 23.Rxe6 was a blunder, but I didn’t know for sure until I played 24..Kb8.

On move 40.Ka6?? I had been planning on playing Rc6 for a few moves already, and considered it there, but was wondering if I would blunder in time-pressure because I am trying to keep three ideas in my head there, the Rc6, the Ka6, and Rc3+. Simple, I know, but it only got worse after that. I will have to study this ending because I knew that I was messing up. I don’t believe that the score is fully accurate, but it is close enough (a problem with my games being played out in time-trouble). The endgame has tactics, yet is mainly calculation. There isn’t enough time to calculate while blitzing, and this is the main problem with blitzing an endgame. It’s also easier to start seeing ghosts when one feels rushed.

Still, it was an interesting game, and I kept it positionally in control enough that when the tactic did come, I didn’t have a lousy position, and so could still defend. For example, I thought I had blundered with 19..Nd5. Actually, after 20.BxNc5 QxB, 21.QxQ bxQ (straightening out my pawns there), 22.Rxf7 Rd7 I am one pawn to the good.

In the real game, I believe that I did play 44..Rd2, 45.Kf3 Rd5, 46.h4 (I was trying to get the tempo count right in the posted game score), but I though she could play 46.Kf3, not realizing that Black has 46..g4+!, trading off all of the kingside pawns. The endgame is nothing if not a collection of finesses.

Still Coasting

Round 1

You’d think that after last night’s game that I would go for a sharper finish, but mediocrity has become my latest trend, sort of like ‘taking the day off’ and yet still playing.

Today I hung sheet-rock and mowed weeds. No coffee or tea before the game, and was playing my chess buddy. IOW, my motivation to finish strong wasn’t very high.

This game should have ended soon after his sac, and I did see the stronger continuations that I didn’t play. For example, I played Rxc8 in only a few seconds, but as soon as I played it I was shaking my head that I did not play Qa4+ first. That sort of thing. He liked his sac and was upset that he lost. I guess this is what I get for not putting the game away sooner. I was practically winning an even endgame, instead of refuting his sac.

Took the easy way out

I had the White pieces against Dean Brown in this evening’s first round.

Round 1

Have you ever wondered when chess would ever get easy, and their would be that automatic win? This game felt fairly close to that. My opponent wasted a couple tempos, as Black, right off the bat and it was pretty much over after that.

The funny thing about this game is that I played 12.Qa4 for a relatively assured win, though not entirely assured. Although I debated between playing this and 12.cxb Bxb7, 13.Qa4+ Kf8, 14.e5, and I guessed right that Fruit would chose this exact same continuation.

Actually, my continuation seems like an easier win, and I wasn’t feeling up to putting that much effort into it as I had had enough dynamic wins lately, that it starts to get boring in some way. I just kind of cruised through this one.

My 9.Bf4 was actually a mistake. It seemed that 10..e6 was forced because otherwise White can play Rc1, then Nc7+, but actually Fruit points out that Black has 10..Nxd4, 11.NxNd4 e6, 19. knight moves …e5, forking the Bf4 and Nd4.

He lost this game by playing ..Ne7 instead of ..Nf6 (so that after Qxd6..Nxe4, etc). To win, White needed to play the line 12.cxb Bxb7, 13.Qa4+ Kf8, 14.Qb4! Bc6, 15.Bxd6+ Ne7, 16.Bc4 Be8 – if Black throws in a ..dxe4, then Ng5, which is something I considered, but I never considered Qb4 because I didn’t notice that Bxd6 is going to hit any Rb8. If 14.Qb4 is not played, then Black is back in the game with ..Bh6.

Tri-Lakes Open

Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
Round 4
Round 5

I am playing in a 5 round tournament, G/90 + 30 second increment.

I arrived 25 minutes late, considering it an accomplishment just making it there as I was out of it last night and this morning. When Buck runs a tournament, that is about when it starts, but I found out that it starts on time with Fred (I can’t remember a tournament here ever starting on time before).

So in Round 1, I had 25 minutes less, and botched it in time pressure. First, I gave up the exchange because I really didn’t have enough time to calculate a ..Ne4 sac, didn’t see it, that would avoid the mate of 3 captures on g6. I figured this might not be an actual threat, but that takes lots of time and nervous energy to find that defense. I was going to play ..h6 instead of ..g6 at first, and then noticed the triple-attack on g6.

Later in the game, it was close, but I quickly played Bd6, seeing that I could get it to g7 in 3 moves, then realizing how stupid that was, should have played Bg7. She was much stronger than I realized, never played her before. In any case, I overlooked the 21..Bh6+ which is -+, picks up the Nf3 after Qg2+, which is why she so adroitly played the correct Rg1, upon my flawed 21..Bxe5 capture (only trades a pawn, instead of wins a piece).

Round 2, got lucky enough that Black decided not to castle, returning the exchange, which would have been around +1 for Black. After the game, I told him that he should have castled, played ..Nd7, etc. The winning move for White would have been Nd4 rather than the b4(?!) move which I played.

Round 3, I got the brother of the girl in Round 1. This kid played the opening fast, then suddenly he spends around 8 minutes on Qxh7 (which was obvious to me and expected when I captured on d4). I didn’t play h3 before that combo because Black could sidestep it with Qd3, I figured.

Then Justin spent over half an hour on the Be3 move, and I had already lost my chess composure, and it was like starting the game all over again as if I were cold. I had seen Ra1, before and after I played Rxa2, but after waiting so long to move, I was willing to play anything that wasn’t a blunder. Now I see what that does to a person when the other person takes so long on a move. It’s very hard to pick up where one left off. Anyway, I didn’t have the discipline, and I went over it with Fruit. There is a “Karpovian” way to win that seems almost unbelievable at first, by pawn-rolling the f and e pawns while White is in zugzwang. Anyway, I was not that capable of a chessplayer, particulary at G/90, which I am so accustomed to now. The positional stuff is pure hell at this time-control, and this all we really play at these days G/90ish time-controls. I include defensive positional play in that comment.

The girl in Round 1 was rated 1082 at the beginning of this year. This tournament is as I dreaded and knew was coming, attack of the killer kid, under-rated chessplayers.

Anyway, the London System is one of those few openings that I have no answer for in my repertoire. You can see that I faced it twice, against the brother and sister and tried something different each time. In round 1, I should have taken the Ne5, and that was my gut reaction. Also, I could have played a ..Nh5, but I didn’t realize who I was up against.

I feel like I am lucky to get a draw against any of these opponents; all three are quite capable. I don’t expect that it will get any easier in the final two rounds. Maybe I will face some higher-rated players tomorrow, that way regardless of result I have less to lose to some extent. But I would lose a lot of rating points almost no matter who I would play. This is why when the really high-rateds lose a game, they often pull out of a tournament, probably knowing that continuing on is a lose-lose proposition and therefore a waste of time.

I’ve learned quite a bit about this London System going over Round 1. The thing about this opening is that the person who knows more of it’s positional ideas will have the bigger practical edge.