The Burden of Proof

…in chess lies on the higher-rated player. Perhaps this is part of the reason that I’ve become uncomfortable over the last half year in dry, technical positions. This is somehow getting worse over time possibly, particularly when combined with tight, sudden-death time controls.

I don’t seem to seriously think about or entertain the notion of draws anymore, as far as initiating them, but I receive draw offers now more than ever.

In this FINAL-ROUND game, my opponent Richard, who is not overly difficult to draw yet quite difficult to beat played 19.BxNg6, and then offered me a draw, thinking that he had given away his advantage with this trade. I had 7 1/2 minutes to his 32 minutes, and spent the next two minutes contemplating the position.

Richard had a correct assessment of the position, which I did not. I figured that he was around .65-.7 advantage, when in reality it is nearly equal.

I did miss a cute tactic at my disposal here at the end. I had feared 20.Rae1 (but mostly with the minor pieces still on the board, before that last trade) Kxh7, 21.Qd5 c6, 22.Qb3 b5, 23.a5 (creating a threat for later of Qb6, Qxa6 and the a-pawn is a passer), and this is equal after the nice tactical resource …RxRe1, 24.RxRe1 Re8 (where both rooks are geting traded because 25.RxRe8?? Qb1 leads to mate. But, I was not keeping this variation separate in my mind from variations such as 21…Re1, 22.Qd5 c6, 23.Qb3 b5, 24.axb5 axb5, 25.RxRe6 QxRe6, 26.QxQe6 fxe6 27.Rd1 d5, 28.b4 and Black has a backward pawn triangle +-.

It’s obvious now that in time-pressure that not only is it difficult to separate distinct variations, but it is also difficult to forget what you were thinking before your opponent played some other move that you weren’t anticipating (in this case, BxNg6).

Of course, I managed my clock atrociously, but I also did not find my way to an advantage in the complications. I did calculate that I was “okay” after the dangerous complications that I had decided to court after 14..BxNf5?! +=, but time must have already been telling as I was thinking there was a 40% chance that I would play the other move 14…BxBe3!, which is =+.

There was a lot to calculate in either of these variations and a lot of branching to consider when looking at both variations. I seemed to be drawn to the more complicated lines, which probably explains my choice, it was one which I could calculate out.

I did not see his, or rather had summarily dismissed his line of 16.fxNg6 and expecting instead either the likely looking 16.fxBe3 Ng6e7 =, or 16.Ne4? Qxf5, 17.fxBe3 Qg4 -+ trading queens. A short, but still rather interesting game.

I did seriously contemplate 14…BxBe3, but in hindsight I missed that I have around five pieces milling about his position after either recapture, where he has a sort of positional attack, but it is only the classic one piece and a pawn after 15.NxBe3, or “two-piece attack” after 15.fxBe3 at that moment.

So, because of that move fourteen failure, this game was more of a strategy slip-up than a tactical slip-up. I am misassessing positions, swotting variations, and most alarmingly of all not wanting to play technical positions. If you look at ragged, crazy tactics in your practice/study time, then it becomes harder to look at more normal positions during play. Back when I played a lot on FICS, I was more used to the technical positions, and was warmed-up when it came to playing them.

In the post-mortem, we did play out the position and twice he lost needlessly, going for a pawn race in both a queen and a rook ending and losing easily, which seemed really weird to me.

Like I say, if I had realised that it was an equal position, I definitely would have played on, but there was no flashing sign with an eval score hovering over the board, so I got that part of it wrong. Yeah, I was swatting up variations because it takes time to calm down from the previous position and just notice the position flat-out, and then it becomes obvious that the threats are no longer there.

Well, at least I am thinking like Fruit now. The variation I was most afraid of before the draw was 20.Qd5 c6, 21.Qb3 b5, 22.axb axb, 23.c4 (I didn’t see this move, but sensed something might be there) which Fruit thinks is like +.65, but then I played it out to a 70 move draw, and Fruit didn’t think it was a draw until the very end. What’s funny is that both I and Fruit, didn’t see 21…Re7 at first. I saw it immediately in the post-mortem, and the proceeded to worry about what White could do down the a-file, although I have the center and the center is open, so why would I worry about the a-file? Obviously I was worried here if he could get a rook on the back-rank and the other one lifted to the third-rank, then Rh3 and Rg3 and all that fun stuff, but it’s almost like you need to remove Black’s pieces from the board and only have White’s pieces on to realize this phantom threat.

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