A Tale of Two Sides of the Board

March Thursdays Final Round

For nineteen move, neither side moved neither a piece nor pawn beyond our fourth ranks. Perhaps this was a sign that we were both still licking our wounds from the previous rounds toll, trying to steady ourselves. And then, and then it was over on move twenty when the first pawn crossed the frontier. 20.e5! is already decisive.

Another funny thing is that on many moves during the game, I had looked at this sac 19.e5!! dxe, 20.Nxc6 bxc6, 21.Bxc6, but had given up looking at it, never thinking that if he moves ..Re8, and his other rook is still on …a8, which was very likely, then this sac would work.

Expert chessplayer Paul Anderson pointed out that I could have played the sac sooner, and that 24.Qc3 is much more decisive than 24.Kh1 – threatening to take the knight on c5 and also Bxf7+ with the discovery RxQ.

On move twenty-nine, if 29…Rd8, I was prepared to play 30.Bd6, attacking the queen, followed by 31.Nf5 putting the question to the bishop, and exchanging on d6 would add a pawn and lanes to my attack against his king.

Once upon a time I played chess this well, just not at G/90, but perhaps it’s getting there.

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Time-pressure Fatigue

I almost didn’t play because I was still sneezing when I got there, but was fine throughout the game. We got down to where I had 9 minutes to his 6, but then Alex started blitzing me. This time I kept score, but started getting really tired as he rattled off his moves.

Final Round Wednesday’s

In the end, it was his 4 min 16 seconds vs. my 2 min 37 seconds, but by this time I was hunched over the board in a stupor, and never even saw that I had dropped my queen until he took it.

38..f6?? Throws away the win. Simply 38…Qc5 is an obviously winning position. I was afraid he might push his e-pawn, and saw the Qb8+, but didn’t see Qxb5.

After the game, I felt quite tired as I am still getting over this cold, the tail-end of it.

The good part of this game is that I feel that I would have won it at 40/90, G/30 (could use up all my clock time on those last 3 moves, and 38..Qc5 alone would have sealed it). Also, I didn’t feel so bad losing to my buddy Alex, and he got the second place prize. I would love to play in an U1800 money tournament, should I get the chance again. Of course, I would brush up on tactics before such an event as well.

Composure

Not sure if I will play this week because getting over a cold.

I’ve switched to only playing blitz online. I’ve lost some better positions from time-pressure, but in my last two games, I’ve really kept my composure, and kept the clock in sight.

I started playing blitz to get better at weird tactical situation quickly, and get a feel for different opening variations, but I’ve come to learn that the purpose of blitz is to find one’s composure and form while playing quickly.

Game 1

Game 2

If you look at these games, there are virtually no tactics. My opponents simply help-mated themselves after inferior positional play. I was looking at a snippet from “The Art of Attack” (which I do not own), and noticed that even though a particular position looks even, the side with the tactic generally has the superior positional aspects – which would probably be lost on most class players. There are often positional ways out of jams as well, as in give up a pawn to avoid the sucker cut-down.

What really matters is kings (MVP 1), then queens (MVP 2), and down the line. That pawn in the early going is just such a small part of the picture, if you have otherwise been developing well, and your opponent poorly.

I’ve been reading the Yermolinsky book “The Road to Chess Improvement”, and he just keeps hammering on the positional play. He doesn’t get so involved in the cute tactical finish, no need to point out the obvious, the point is how the game got to that point!

Stunning Rejoinder

Round 3

I played ..g5 with 30 minutes remaining, and he undoubtedly had a half hour plus clock advantage.

He spent quite a bit of time on the move 15.BxNg5, so I knew he was going to play it by the time he did. There were two lines out of the pin, the crazy tactical, hopeful bail-out line, and the calm, more serene response of 15…BxBb3.

I am not sure or not whether I calculated that 16.Qxb3 Qe6 is okay because 17.QxQ fxQ defends the bishop – I may have thought this line unnaceptable, but also didn’t line 16.axb (my a-pawn will hang, and his queen is free to come over to my kingside, which would take more time to calculate.

The other alternative was a more concrete calculation, and in fact 15…Bxf2, 16.Kxf2 Ng4+, 17.hxg4 QxBg5, 18.BxBe6 (to prevent 18…Bxg4 attacking Qd1) fxe6+, 19.Kg1 Qf4 is indeed a draw unless White has intentions of playing on for a loss.

I feel that the time control is affecting me badly in this “resolution phase” of the game, right before the technical part of the game (and even that is another story). I felt like I didn’t play a chess game, but rather studied an openings monograph, as the …Be6 was a very poor move, and even Fruit suggested playing ..Be6 back to ..d7 where it should have been posted originally.

For example, the game would have gone in a very different direction had I been able to play 11…Nh5, but then can come 12.Be4, when 12…Be6-d7 retreat is the best move. Actually, Fruit says that White’s best response for showing up Black’s Nh5 move is to play 12.d4, which gives White a comfortable advantage/edge. After the stress of all this, I played some random bad move, 11…Rb8?, when I knew that 11…Bb6 was a much more practical move, but I was at “mental circuit-overload” by this point. I actually got a whole zero hours of sleep last night (lied down for one hour but did not sleep), and then napped for under an hour before the game (45 minutes was good rest).

Anyway, I obviously never saw 17.Qg4! coming, which seals the deal for White. Just as surprising was how quick that he played all of his moves for someone that wanted to borrow my book on tactics (which I haven’t studied in a long time) because he thinks that he is weak on tactics. Yeah, here, let me make you even stronger at tactics, by giving you my book, after losing like this. lol.

I also missed that White had a weaker line which is still close to +.8 after 17.hxNg4 QxBg5, 18.Nf5! I was worried about missing something, but G/90 is where you have to find it all quickly,the complications, no matter what your move choice is, unless you want to just sit there and eventually lose on time.

I originally wanted to title this post “Why psychology doesn’t work” because I “knew” that Imre, well at least previously, shied away from tactical complications like Nxg5, even if such a move seemed to be calling out, because there were so many other possible avenues of attack for White. Perhaps he was just as afraid that I might mount an attack if he didn’t take – maybe ..Nh7 with eventual..f5 to follow. During the game, I had preferred a ..g6, ..f5 sort of formation, which still takes many moves, and during the game I was planning on just hunkering-down instead by this point.

After the game, I thought I should have played ..BxB3 when he played Nf1. It’s funny because Aronian had my same exact position on his board today (I was not aware of these games at the time I was playing) except that he had played the move …Re8! Actually, I should have played this move as well because it allowed him the immediate follow-up of …d5. So, Aronian had the proper plan though out, whereas I was playing move-to-move. I too, wanted ..d5 at some point, but didn’t want to commit the f8 rook to e8, which is silly because that is where it belongs anyway because …Re6 is also a common procedure or recapture or support of Nf6 against Bg5 pin.

…BxB3 concedes the Nf5 square to White, as it did in their game, but Black handled this by resolving the center (..d5xe4) and then playing …Ne7, as Nc6 was no longer needed to cover the center. Curiously, my …Qe7? move blocked the file for a …Re8 and also prevented …Ne7 idea. …Qe7 was like a roadblock for my pieces. hehe.

This should be enough to make one realize that super-GM is not all about tactics, these guys can work out the opening, and middlegame schemes too.

Tactical Misfire and Misevalauation

Round 3

I was somewhat tired going into this game from the online blitz games that I had played the last couple of days – for some reason, study doesn’t burn me out anywhere near as much as playing does. In fact, blitz burns me out a lot more than relatively leisurely-paced slower games do.

I decided to throw caution to the wind and play the Open Sicilian against Paul, which is an opening I’ve always lost to against him. Paul says after a few moves “This is the same opening we played last time.” I corrected him, but was thinking “He doesn’t remember the three Alapin Sicilian games I played against him, where I won all three? Hmm, perhaps I could have gotten in a fourth win with that as well.” Instead, we have the reverse where I am going for the third or fourth loss against Paul’s Taimanov Sicilian. I get my chances in these games, but the key is to get Paul to make the crazy move first, and not to step in it yourself.

I thought that I was better after 13…e5, which explains why I went for this faulty combination starting with 14.Bg5 instead of 14.Bg3. After he played 14…e4, I was simply “playing my analysis” when I blundered with 15.Bxe4??, immediately seeing my mistake as soon as he recaptured, that I had forgot about his Bb6 defender of d8. Nevertheless, Fruit finds an advantage for Black after 13…e5, which means that I had a false appraisal of this position.

My only consolation is that I had blundered with 39 minutes on my clock (to his 1 hour and 17 minutes), and still had an attack going. Unfortunately, I was once again too optimistic and went for another bad tactical decision. Instead of being half a pawn down, according to Fruit, after 21.Nxb7, I decided to keep wratcheting up the tactics with 21.Ne6?

When he played the rather obvious 22..Bxf2!, it felt like a bit of a bolt from the blue, which tells you how poor my form was. After I played 23.Rd1, I was kicking myself that I should have played 23.Rd4 as planned, even though Bf2 covers h4, because I have g3 to block it, or even Rg4; but this is all pure fantasy as White is lost after a …Qd5 queen trade offer. It took Fruit to knock some sense in to me. Not to mention that Black is getting in his back-rank attack first.

I didn’t want to win that third pawn (Nxb7) for the piece because the queens are still on the board and this opens a file to my king, but in reality this is just a lot of hand-waving and nowhere near a concrete appraisal of the position, for it is Black who must force the queen trade to stay afloat! I thought that Black had …Qc7 after Nxb7, but that would just lose the Be7, so I completely missed this relatively easy tactic to spot.

I rejected 23.Bxe7 Nxe7, 24.QxN BxRe1, 25.QxB because of inferior endgame and time, and that I would be playing into the point of 22…Bxe2. I didn’t even look beyond that to notice that 25..Qg5+, 26…Qxg2 and Black is up 2.5 points according to Fruit.

Also, I should have played 24.Re7 to trade queens and win his b7 pawn once again. I spent a long time considering this, but perhaps all of this consideration is what was making me even more tired, low on the clock, and not wanting to get into the simple endgame where Black is -+ and having all of the time and energy.

When I played 33.Qxg6?? I had only 3 seconds on my clock, and it was obviously hopeless. I even laughed about it as I was making my move and then promptly resigned. Beaten on the board and the clock, and in the evaluation department, and perhaps even before I showed up since when Paul asked “Are you ready for battle?” before the game, I responded “No, I am tired.” Tough day at the office, yet still a great learning experience.

Jumble-aya

I played a mix of games during my “weekend” this Tuesday and Wednesday. First up is my best game of the bunch, Wednesday’s G/90 game.

I thought that I had played one of the longest, best combinations that I can ever remember having played in a tournament, but I was already in time-trouble. I hadn’t thought I would need much time against my particular opponent, and boy was I very wrong about that.

Wednesday Round 2

During the game, Wolf was defending with an attitude, and I felt that because of that and most likely because this is marginal/precision opening, that I would need to “go deep” against him to pick up the point.

I blew the tail-end of this combination, but I was still taking pride in the position I had created and did not want to accept his draw-offers, even after I had lost control over the game (at this time-limit). Actually, I won, but I can’t recreate it because it went on seemingly forever. Let’s put it this way, when I had pawns on a5 and c7, king on a6, he played Qa8+ and then had run out of checks. I checkmated him with two queens and five seconds left on my clock.

It was even crazier than that because he hadn’t set the delay, I complained and he generously added five minutes (otherwise it would have been a draw), and so with no delay I won with only five seconds left.

So here is what I meant to play 23.Bxe7 instead of taking on b6 (with d6 and possibly even d7 to follow), but then I found what I thought was a flaw, 23…Bd4+. This line is winning for White however because 24.Kf1! holds the queen on e2 (never considered this). Just as spectacular however is 24.Kh1 Bc5, 25.RxBc5!! bxRc5, 26.d6! is pretty much game.

After this I missed taking the e7 pawn apparently, and even that I could have taken his rook and escaped a perpetual.

This game made me thing of this Rush song, when it comes to how sophisticated a win can be when playing the c3 Sicilian as White.

Colorado Springs Chess Club (Quads) – Round 1

This was a G/30 event, which explains why I didn’t take time to examine the winning capture 27.RxNh5 is game. I did want to examine this capture, oh most definitely I did, but the clock was screaming in my other ear.

Believe it or not the finish was exciting as well, but I lost on time. I had won his knight, but had a lost position. In fact, he could sac the exchange, and be down a rook, but his two connected passers would equal a rook and queen upon promotion.

I’ll post rounds 2 and 3 later.

Thursday Round 2

The big advantage came when Annie castled early and I didn’t.

12…h6 was intentionally a “second-rate” move, as I had seen 13.Bd2, but then White needs to move Ra1, and after …BxNc3, BxBc3 all of White’s king-side defenders are just about gone, so the game should be a miniature.

I was glad when she took my a7 pawn. Another nice finish would have been 28.Qg1 QxR!, 29.KxQ Ne2+ followed by 30…NxQ. It took me a while to see this OTB, but I saw it on her clock. Game took just over 30 minutes of my clock time.

Colorado Springs Chess Club (Quads) – Round 2

A week later, I am recreating the game score against Alex from memory, as I cannot find the sheet I had written it on. Update: I’ve found the original scoresheet, and the move-list is now accurate. Alex was visably tired before the game, well he was actually a bit run down whereas normally he is a healthy bundle of energy. I told him after the game that I would have accepted a quick draw just because he appeared under the weather, but he is so used to beating me (7 straight wins against me in the last 12 months). We kibitzed at his house afterwards and I won a …Nc6 KID vs. his Saemisch var as well.

Colorado Springs Chess Club (Quads) – Round 3

The final game was a bit of a laugher, as I missed a variation in the opening from not looking deep enough (which happens at G/30), then I had 4 minutes to his 14 minutes, so I went in for that funky combo which dropped a pawn. At the very end, I dropped my b-pawn, then he pushed his b-pawn, I almost captured it before seeing he would capture my rook, so resigned. Paul is an excellent technical player with the knight as well as with the rook pair.

After the game, Alex pointed out that I had missed the equalizing shot 38…Rg6+! Really, 33…Kg6? is also an error, and I believe that I could try 33…Kf8, 34.Ree7 Rg6, followed by ..h6 and ..Kg8.

Endgame Expert

Round 1

With a winning position in time-pressure, I regretfully decided to exchange queens in order to better keep track of the game. I could have kept queens on and gained a tempo, but my decision was also based on not wanting to give him three connected passed pawns, plus the line 36…Rxa??, 37.Rxc. It never occured to me that Paul A. would play 36…Ra6!, leaving my a2 as a future target, and then consolidating his position with a king march. The difference in those two moves was three whole points! That is like dropping a piece, if Black were to trade pawns there.

I sacked the bishop because I figured I would be up the exchange in equal pawn territory, but this was the equivalent of a business-plan written on a cocktail napkin. This plan was thrown together in time-pressure and I could see it wasn’t going to work out due to the undefendable h4 pawn with check, but went with it because it offered chances, or so I thought.

I blundered with Kg2??, sensing that I needed to make some kind of aggressive move here – Kg1 is 0.0. Last but not least I never appreciated the weakness of my pawn position like Paul did. I even missed a stalemate swindling change by giving up my rook with 49.Rxa Rh3+ 50.Kf4 RxR?? stalemate.

Obviously, I should have kept queens on and avoided an endgame. This would have kept a lot more flexibility, a very “human” pressure on Black’s position, a much more likely shorter game in moves. Add to the list avoiding my opponent’s strength, and also the fact that since it’s not an endgame, the fact that there are three connected passed pawns may not matter as they may just as well offer “holes” in the opponent’s position as well as objects of attack, sacrifice, plus obstacles for opponent maneuvering. You’ll never hear all of this from an engine though, just from the “school of hard-knocks.”

Oh, yeah, I wasn’t going to play but am glad that I changed my mind at the last second. Hard to believe this game was played after exactly three hours of sleep last night, and a nine hour workday, at a G/90 time-control. At least my games have been getting more interesting. 😉