Redemption

So, after losing the last two games at the G/30 Cabin Fever Reliever tournament, and after having a winning position in both games, not to mention my poor showing on Thursdays, I felt that I needed to turn this show around.

The losses:

Cabin Fever Round 3
I was up a pawn, but played risky d4 instead of castling (Sacking the exchange was also a bad idea, but I correctly used psychology to guess that he would let me build a big center.

I missed a draw with 39.Qf7, mostly due to lack of experience here. I also missed a winning position with 21.Qc3, I believe it was. Threatening a whole lot of things, the g-pawn, c-pawn, opening up files against king and bishop is hanging, etc.

Cabin Fever Round 4
This game was ridiculously winning and hardly requires a comment. I really did figure out the best continuation after the game, but of course by “Fritzing” the position during the game just to test myself meant that I was too low on time and too weak tactically to find the sacrificial killshots at the end (there were many). I knew I wasn’t going to win the tournament and so unfortunately didn’t care about losing, but Tim beat an Expert and won the tournament!

I was going to play the winning 21.Qg4+ instead of 22.Qf5, but with seconds left on my clock began to doubt myself, as I had trouble judging compensation (yes, every move does win. lol) and am not used to strange material imbalances so afforded myself the luxury of needlessly looking at all kinds of lines deeply, and optimizing them for Black.

I missed a trick, though, which Tim saw, to his credit. Nxc7, and then instead of NxRa8, to play Nd5 forking his Qe7 or Qf6 and Bb4, but I was looking at all kinds of stuff which was valid but not necessary to look so deeply into.

The turn-around:

Thursdays Round 3

I played a little shaky or overly steady, depending on how you want to look at it, against this 1,000 rated kid. Missed my chances, but I thought I had played it rather well, not sitting back, enticing him into some traps, etc.

Thursdays are difficult for me because I only give myself a few hours sleep, and then work a non-stop roller-coaster ride at work for 8 hours that day.

Wednesdays Round 3
Poor Isaac became the victim of my fury over the Tuesday debacle. He played the incorrect 8.Bb3 instead of 8.Be2, and then topped it off with f4 and h3, which practically handed me the game.

Wednesdays Round 4
I don’t know why on earth I play on Thursdays, though (not to mention Tuesday action-chess) if I care at all about my rating. It’s too bad that I can’t get off from work to play on weekend tournaments, where I could focus more, and get some more clock-time during my games. Oh well.

As for the game, I couldn’t believe my eyes when Paul played 14…Nxd4??, figured he might play 14…Bd6 or some other move. But, he is the most speculative 1900 player that I have come across, and I was half-banking on some sort of weird reaction like this during the game.

I felt like a dope going into that queen and knight endgame position, and played it rather poorly, but I saw the light when he didn’t play something like 36.e4 (say ..Qd4), Qf3+, but actually I could defend in that position. In the real game position (missed this in the recreation because I was blitzing) I thought my king was on h2 and he had ..e4, Qd4 e3!. All this is to say that I was more than happy to give up the h-pawn (was quite relieved). Originally, I should have moved my king to protect my knight but didn’t think of it and had the bad reaction of playing Kh2.

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Find the Win

Round 2, Thursdays

Imre showed me 1.e4 for the first time. I decided to play …e5 to test his positional play, maybe learn something even if I lose. Well, he simply did not play for an openings advantage and let me dictate the initiative, even though the computer most often thought it equal, or that White still had an edge for a long while.

Nevertheless, the game came down to blunders, nearly all mine, in a sharp technical finish. his …Qxc4 move was a blunder, I realized this, but I failed to calculate or simply know that Qxf3 was winning. QxQ was boneheaded – trying to save time for the endgame. Allowing the rook trade was the end of the game, final blunder. Simply ..Kg7 holds the balance, and this should have been a common-sense move, but I lacked it here.

Me and Alex spent a long time examining the queen ending after the game.

Spellbinding Snap-mate

Wednesdays Round 2

I played Justice for the first time. This was sort of a big-event for me because I knew this meant that I would be faced against the dreaded “cheesecake” opening – dreaded because it dares Black to go for more than just a draw.

Justice had crushed Anthea, who is usually around 1800 at slow tournaments, in round 1. I didn’t realize it until I went over the game with Fritz that this is one of the best games that I have ever played.

During the game, I thought that pushing …d4 instead of ..cxd would have been more forcing, but they were both -+, strongly in favor of Black. During a game, I often have this warped sense that the other player’s position is better when it isn’t. I was planning on playing ..Qf6, but decided to throw in the ..Ng4 move first just to see.

This turns out to be a more important game than might appear because what we often face as Black are lower-rated players who want to play a technical system which ensures a draw or possibly more.

Tactical Lapse

My Thursday game from last week featured a tactical meltdown against a Master.

Round 1, Thursdays

I was low on time, and couldn’t afford to slug it out with 15.Ba4, which I knew was the correct move, but would take about another hour to play it out from.

However, my tactics were atrocious, missing the calculation that my Bb3 being sacked meant I couldn’t cover the Nb3 fork in time. Then I miss that I can win my rook back with 23.BxN RxN, 24.Ne4 (which I looked at, but because I was moving quickly only noticed that he can still stop mate). Black would still win, though, because the knight is beautifully trapped for an easy win in two different variations after 25..Bd5, 26.NxR Qxf6 (it would have been a flashy loss, at least).

Last night, I played in the Cabin Fever Reliever tournament, part 1, games 1 and 2 – games 3 and 4 will be held next Tuesday night.

Round 1, Tuesdays

I never even looked at 16.Ng5!! hitting f7 three times, and if for example ..Qd7 and ..h6, I have Ne4, Nc5 – this should be a winning position against an under 1800 player, but because of the time-control I felt I had to be more defensive minded, mostly fearing a …Na5 sort of move, or eventual ..Rad8.

The other thing, the trade of rooks on b8, I was planning on a move such as the correct 29.Re1, but when he played it, I suddenly wanted to give my king luft right away, and so play 29.RxR, 30.g3 almost to the rythm of the clock, throwing my last chance away.

I’ll post my round 2 game in a later this afternoon.

Round 2, Tuesdays

I have to say that the Open Defence is one of the more “iffy” lines at Black’s disposal – which is strangely why I picked it up, because I used to always lose online with it, and felt that I could learn most from it. Marc gets an unstoppable mating attack with the White piecs, but then plays the mating attack somehow positional instead. In an even ending Mark finds a risky way to play for chances. Okay, so I maybe weak tactically, but not so weak to fall for tricks easily, although I have against _him_ on a few occasions over the years.

I should take one of these tournaments off and study tactics instead. Lack of tactical study is holding back both my play and my rating from progressing as much as they should.

Schachmatt

There’s nothing like the Sicilian Defense to give off that occasional realization that White is playing for checkmate.

The accelerated pairings are over, were voted down at the yearly meeting, so that the pairings for Round 1 were back to old-school.

Wednesday’s Round 1

The ending could have been more picturesque if Rebecca had played 24… Ke8, then either 25.Qg7 Ne7, 26.Nf6 mates or 25.Qxh7 Ne7, 26.Nf6+ Kf8, 27.Qh6 mates. The computer prefers 25.Qxh7 because it is a pawn, and 25…QxNd5 is actually forced.

I had 25 minutes remaining at the end of the game.

Technique

I played this Game on FICS today.

As you can see, I have nothing to lose in this game being at my 1900 floor. Okay, so that is a dry joke. I accidentally played this game, meaning to play a blitz game instead, and my first thought actually was “Wait, this guy could draw me.”

I made some poor technical moves in this game, but this is how technique improves, by playing long games.

No computer analysis, BTW.

17…b6 is clumsy. Instead 17…Nf5 holds the steady win.

After the game, I could see that my silly 30…b5 ..c4 pawn advance could have been taken down by a4.

Instead, 30…Rd7, threatening to double on the d-file, was the correct idea. So that after 31.RxR BxR, the bishop will be able to post up at e6, where he belongs.

I noticed 29…Rxd3 combo as I was making my move, but that would have given me a tougher endgame than the one I got, so it was one more chance for my opponent to go wrong.

He could have tested me with 53.Bb8, but then …f6! followed by ..Bd1 and ..Ka3 or ..Kb3 is easily winning.

Your technique will generally improve more by playing, followed by post-game analysis (without a computer).

Chess Move Thought-Process

I haven’t updated this topic in a while.

Here is my latest advice, and how I approach it.

1. Assessment – The pulse of the position, which points to defend and which pieces to bring into the attack. Class players can spend proportionately more time on this phase, and this is where clever players do most of this thinking on their opponent’s time where possible.

2. Tactical Alertness – King danger (how many moves from checkmate – at least give it a passing thought). Moves that smite – low hanging fruit. Pins? Are there any tactics sitting on the board which both sides have been missing? This is usually the decisive factor at the class level.

3. Plans and Refutations. What is the hope behind a move, the plan, if not refuted. Is opponent’s previous move refutable, particulary tactically? Is your move you’re about to make safe, refutable?

This third stage is the fine tuning which requires clock time, depends on your prudence, available time, and tactical ability. GM games spend more time or quality on this.

If there were a flaw in the DeLa Maza system, it would be that the gist of it would be to include 1 and 3 almost as subcategories of number 2, which is the furthest thing from the case of how I would recommend approaching a position.

If one player does have more tactical ability, then their sense of 2 will obviously be more heightened, active, and they will see tactics which the other player doesn’t see. This is a big deal if said player spends the time, has the efficiency, and quality for finding and playing such moves.

A lot of rating points are to be had in #2, hundreds, but all things being equal, the system I’ve given would make more sense.

My biggest win has been to speed up #1 in the opening, and I am very efficient with it in time-pressure, this is what catches my opponents off-guard (Mark M. is like me in this regard), plus I actually do all three steps in a matter of seconds.

Still, in the middlegame, #1 has continued to plague me. In my last game, starting with move 13, I spent 7 minutes coming up with 13…Ne4!, which was warranted, but then spent 7 minutes deciding on playing 15..Qc8 rather than ..Qb8 (at least I got it right), then spent 7 minutes on 17..Bf5 (as opposed to the passive and weaking ..f5 with ..Bd5 plan, and BTW White can eat my a5 pawn with not much compensation for it). I was so hesitant to commiting myself to a tactical defense that by the time I played it I did not have time to calculate the tactics.

Also, I was so concerned about my defense that I did not try or exude any real tactical ability when it came to refuting White’s b5 pawn advance. I looked at in principal, but in variations I just gave it a thumbs-down instead of finding one line which might work for Black (the suspension of disbelief required to find such a line).

My other biggest weaknesses and areas for improvement are 2 and 3.