The Art of Chess

I began this post as a reply to TommyG’s post:

…with me, it’s usually a piece move that I need to find. The pawn move usually is strong because it involves the pieces.

Keres games give me a good jumping off point to look at even further sacrificial ideas. He was a great builder of positions, and sacs for initiative became available from those positions.

I’ve spent multiple days studying just one Keres game, and it was mostly for the side possibilities. He was someone who believed in his attack, and didn’t just shuffle pieces in the opening; the book on his open games shows this.

Keres style was to pinpoint the weakness in his opponent’s defense and overload the weak spot, remove the defender. He did this like no other player that I can recall. Perhaps Capablanca or Botvinnik, they were also good at removing the defender, this same sort of style.

Here is the Keres game which I was referring to, and it’s a shame that there is no kibitzing on that page. This game deserves a closer look.

Paul Keres vs Peter Hugh Clarke – Amsterdam 1954

Keres doesn’t play the namby-pamby line of 12.Nc3, but instead offers a pawn sac with 12.Nf4 – this is the correct way to play chess, particularly as White, IMHO. Black can win the b-pawn, but white can drum up a compensating attack for it.

12…BxN, 13.BxB Qxb, 14.Be5 Rd8, 15.Re2 Qc3, 16.Rc2 Qa5, 17.Bg3, and now an idea for White is to play Bb5, BxN, Ne5 or really just dispense with the Bb5 and play Ne5 immediately and White should be +- if Nc6xNe5 because White recaptures with bishop and plays Rc7. A lot of active play for a b-pawn.

13…Ne4? was refuted by 14.g3!

17.d5! Probably the type of pawn move that TommyG was referring to that he misses in games.

21.Nd3 White is already up a pawn, and here we can have a great “parting of the ways” as to how to achieve the win. Even stronger than Keres’ building move was to sac the exchange (Varnusz points this out) with 21.dxe QxR, 22.exBd7 Re7, 23.Qb3+ followed by 24.Rad1. This is a great way to get know the power of the queens in the middlegame. White has lots of crushing options, too many for Black to handle well OTB, very clever attacks with the queen. I can imagine that Tal or Kasparov would have taken the exchange-sac route to victory.

26…Qh3? Black should have traded queens right away according to Varnusz. A nice technical finish follows.

The point of this game is that you have to be a great “builder”. Seirawan once said something like “the great players are the great builders”. The best club-player builders I know of are RollingPawns and DuWayne L. Of course, building isn’t enough, one still has to pull the trigger at the end of it, and that is what RP is working on. I am still working on the building part of it. 😉

I can come up with lots of examples like this, of needing to sac something to generate activity. The most appalling example I found was a game of Liang Awonder’s in Chess Life. He’s around 1876, but because he didn’t sac a pawn in the opening, he got a lost position, but then played a cheeky rook move which saved the day for him but was still losing to an exchange sac, which I saw immediately, and then it is +- for his opponent.

I saw another game of Liang’s where he was praised for making the right move ( a move too late, but opponent didn’t take advantage of it). There is a reason we are Class A players, and largely it is due to finding the right move a move to late. Until we stop doing that, we will still probably be A players!

The point is that sacs are a part of chess. They are not as “optional” as we would at first tend to believe. I’ve lost my “sac” games recently, but I was +- in all of them after the sac, and simply bungled the follow-up moves.

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Vexed

It’s a tale of two cities, against weaker players I play like this:
Wednesday Round 1

But against stronger players I play like this:
Thursday Round 2

My same weakness crops up game after game against other players who are 1700+ rated – it’s the queen-play in the opening and middlegame. It made me realize that I have no business playing G/90 unless I get better with complex queen positions. Tomorrow I find out my new schedule at work; so I figured that if this were my last clubgame for the forseable future, then at least I am under no illusion of where my chess game is currently sitting.

My original plan was 11.g3 e3, 12.f3, thinking this was strong but it’s not after Black plays a ..Nf5-d4 sort of response, and at best I can equalize in a complex way (Qd3 instead of BxNd4). So my response of 11.Rd1 was best, but both lines revolve around strong queenplay.

At first I thought that I was trapping his queen, then I realized that I wasn’t trapping his queen and didn’t know what to do. I played 13. b2 just so that after ..Qa3, I no longer have to worry about any forseable Qxc2 moves, now how weak is that? 13.Qd4 with 14.Bc4 to follow is +.67. I didn’t really grasp that Qd4 was the essence of the position until after I had played b3 and now the Bc4 idea is too late.

Then I completely miss 16..e3, which never even occurred to me – I guess I thought that that pawn would sit there at e4 forever or something. I knew I was lost but needed to make a quick move by this point, and my opponent had spent maybe 5 minutes total of his own time on the entire game. Of course I missed 16..e3 because I thought that he had to respond to the threat of 17.Ba3, which I had planned with my previous move of Bb2, so that it was hard to look it off when I was simply looking to start making some quick moves.

I could cop out that I had to be at work by 5:30 am the past two weeks of training, and that surely didn’t help my play, but the queens thing, that has simply been something that has vexed me at G/90 time-controls in particular.

I should probably also point out that Wednesday’s game took a grand total of about 15 minutes to play, total time between both of us. So, it’s not that I run into time issues in every position, but mostly in positions where my skills are lacking.

12.Qd2 is not even the strongest move, apparently 12.Qxe4 is, but this is another level above where I should have been playing at. I didn’t like 12…Bf5, 13..Bxc threat, naturally.

April 2012 – Round 3

Round 3 Wednesday

I’ve included both of my games this week. The first game requires more explanation. Both games, I got off work at 2 pm and the days before was going straight home to bed. Of course, like a true chess addict (right?), I went to play chess on Wednesday at 6pm and was pretty out of it until I had 2 cups of coffee right before the game.

I made an instant move that I had been planning, but saw it was a blunder once I had played it. He spent 5 minutes, never seeing he could simply take my Ne4. He offered a draw, I declined and promptly dropped my rook with just over a minute on my clock. Just recreating this game is hard because I was blitzing. I ended up down the knight and two pawns in the endgame, but he just kept moving back and forth in my time-pressure until I tried to attack him in an anti-positional manner and got skewered. It is interesting to note that he was willing, even that far up, to win on time, and I don’t even think that that was completely intentional on his part.

Round 3 Thursday

Thursdays game, I took a 40 minute nap before the game, and drank 2 cups of coffee an hour before the game, this is key. The day before I was awake, but the coffee kicked in late and I was terrible in time-pressure being somehow tired and wired at the same time, bumbling my pieces around on the board while blitzing.

I had looked at old scoresheets in my bag, games from CA, and I noted the games were much longer and the score-keeping much neater all game long, and I used to record times. So on Thursdays game I recorded times, kept my scoresheet legible, and ended the game with 30 minutes still on my clock. I would have played well against any opponent, but that is how it is, you often don’t get paired against weak opponents when off or strong opponents when feeling on; in fact, this month it was always the opposite of that.

I will get a new permanent schedule next month, and may be able to play at none, one, or perhaps even both days of club chess. Almost surely I will have the swing-shift, so that if I play any club games on my day off, then “look out” as I may be winning all or most of these marginal games which I have been playing recently. 😉

Out of it

Round 2

There’s not much to say about this game, other than first I started running out of time, and then I ran out of energy. I worked an hour OT, instead of taking a break before I got there and having some coffee and such like I normally do. I was mentally burnt out since Tuesday, my day off, and was in a fog for most of the week. Did I really play this game? I missed mate in three and many easy wins, but didn’t look at the game much, seems like it happened in a dream perhaps.

Before the game I learned that I would be starting a new position at my work (right before I left work to play chess), after training for the next two weeks. I won’t know my next schedule until then. I had mixed feelings about playing this game, not wanting to become too attached during the game so that I wouldn’t feel like I would be missing chess, since it is possible that I won’t be able to play anymore weekday games depending on my future schedule.

I spent a really long time before deciding to sac the d-pawn early in the game, but then quickly realized I had a winning position and was much better than my opponent, but then I was done on the clock and done with mental energy, and wasn’t so concerned with the result by that point. It was too much of week, and this game was sort of like a blip, a bump in the road somewhere. In any normal state I am winning this game easily, spotting the mate in 3, etc.

“Only Move” mate

Round 1

I got paired with Mark (both rounds I’ve had Black). The game was rather interesting, although cut short; I had 34 minutes and he had 25 at the end.

Of course, I could see that capturing with the queen 11…QxBd5 (+1 for Black) was intuitively best, but I was going with my analysis instead, and also saw that ..Be6 looked more solid than ..Bb7.

After I play the losing move ..Bb7 (-3 or so), I look at the position and think to myself “This can’t be right, White is better developed and must have something, but I don’t see it.” Then he offers a queen sac, and I understand immediately that my position is much worse. I looked and saw that everything was losing (for example, 13..BxN, 14.QxB+ Be7, 15.Bg5 f6, 16.Rad1 is lights-out), then looked at Mark and he looked out of it, dead-tired, so I figured he must have missed that I had the d1 escape square, but when he played ..Nf6++, I saw the pretty mate he had to have seen before his queen sac.

I tried to play the clock, but this is what happens, analysis can lead to rabbit-trails which have a sudden and unfortunate end. The interesting thing is that after ..Bb7, Black has lots of tactical tricks and is winning in many different lines except for the queen sac line. I showed it to a group of other players which came by and none of them found the queen sac move. I used to joke to Alex about how he gave up mate to his opponent’s because he forced them into “only-move” mating him, but here is an example of where I did this to myself (and Alex won against Rhett tonight).

It was a nice game, but for the 45 minutes of traffic getting there (and I left an hour early this time), it’s not worth it to continue on being down 0-2 this month, even if my only games have been with the Black pieces.

I just looked at 13.RxNe4 giving up the exchange, ..BxR, 14.QxB+ and it made me feel sick to think that Black is getting mated shortly, but I wasn’t able to see the tactics. My strategy for this game was to move more quickly, not be tired, get there early, but my opponent’s strategy of being wiped out tired (he looked a bit tired even before the game) and just being better tactically, was superior. He was more afraid that I would win and exhaust him in the endgame, but he was afraid that I would have a winning endgame, and we looked at some lines where I could have given White an isolated pawn endgame.

Round 1 – April 2012

I played on Wednesday and also on Thursday this week.

On Wednesday I was exhausted, and after battling traffic just to make it there on time (it wasn’t much of a battle, just stuck in that parking-lot-speed commute), I was ready to turn around and go home.

Unfortunately for me, I ran into Rhett in Round 1 and was pretty upset about it. Rhett has won the last two Wednesdays tournaments and has looked fresh, but Wednesday is my tired day it seems.

There was a new “Accelerated Pairing” baloney that they were doing for this tournament, as I shouldn’t have otherwise gotten Black against Rhett in Round 1. I was chessed-out and mentally toast by the time I had blundered. I had seen that Qd7 was a blunder, and that …BxN followed by ..Nf6-d7 was correct, but I had forgotten the blunder and suddenly had some vain hope-chess thought that I need to make a quick move and might have time for ..g6. I was quite disgusted not by the loss but that I had been caught thinking I would get paired with an easier opponent and wouldn’t need to be “fired-up” for the game or anything like that.

On Thursdays my energy level is much better, but made another quick, weak move for the sake of the clock, as I had had the …Bb4 winning move even a move earlier. I didn’t see it until Fruit showed it to me. Oddly enough, however, I saw that White could give up the Rh1 after ..Nf2 because White ignores it and plays Ne2-d4, and even the engine keeps re-evaluating a couple moves later like it didn’t understand that Black’s one-piece attack was not real.

I praised Daniel after the game for his defensive, positional resources, but he did still miss that blatant tactic.

I stayed up til 2:30 am last night at McDonald’s, going over chess stuff with Alex. I focused on defusing his marvelous combos with Black and won some blitz positions against him, and had a completely winning position against Katie (she’s 1900) in our blitz game, but blundered and lost. I prefer that, though, because it means in a slow game I would keep eating up her Taimanov Sicilian Defense.

Rhett moved quickly in that game against me, didn’t move his queen much and played quietly against my quiet play. He has changed his manner of play now, I see.

There were a lot of factors for why I was sort of too tired to play on Wednesday, but one thing I did was to drink coke and play scrabble and dumb-ass board games the night before, and win all of the games. I should have been drinking a beer playing that stuff, not trying to win at everything all the time.

Anyway, in the Wednesday game, I was fearing eventualities where my opponent gets in both g5 and e5 against my g6/Bg7 plan. I blundered because I was fearing eventualities more than I was playing the position at hand (eventualities don’t happen right away or even necessarily, depending on what the opponent actually plays). I didn’t play ..Nh5 or ..Nf6-d7, I had seen both moves, because I was more worried about eventualities than I was for the need to simply play chess move-by-move.