Kings Gambit at last

Round 3

I’d like to say that I was calm, cool, and collect, but actually I was a bunch of nerves. I finished with 4:56 left on my clock, and her 12 and half minutes.

Dealing with the vicissitudes of play during a King’s Gambit at G/90 is like living a miracle. Actually, I’m grateful that I got this one under my belt so that I can study and learn from it because I didn’t have a clue regarding how to evaluate what I was looking at. It was a bit of a tortured mess, and Fruit thought I was ranging from +- to += the whole way, but I was “tripping out” over a lot of what I saw.

Alexa is is very sweet and a strong analyst. The fact that I probably study chess more than her is what gives me the big advantage, I feel. She was definitely more composed at the board than I was, as I sort of lost my mind at the critical points.

In the opening, I could have played 5.d4 straight away, and you can see how worried I was about a …Qh4+ after Black sacking a piece on d4, but it’s a ghost threat. Anyway, in this opening Alexa basically made the mistake of trying to combine a KG Accepted with KG Declined, “mixing systems” in chess parlance.

When I played 11.Qc2 it was after a long think where I felt I couldn’t quite find the handle on the position, and after playing it and leaving the board, it suddenly occured to me, blindfold-style, that 11…BxN, 12.RxB Bxd4, 13.cxd4 Nxd4 forking the Rf3 and Qc2 is really weird and I thought I had blundered and that that would be good for her, but Fruit says no, still gives me a +=, but what a weird position! As Black, a little confusion should be desirable, whereas for White it’s a nightmare to lose order over the board like that.

After 11…Rde8 the threat I described was even a more legitimate looking one, to take on f3 with 12…Bxf3, but I realized that trading queens and then taking on f7 was always a bailout plan and I was surprised that Fruit likes White here. At the board, there is a lot of worry and speculation, which eats at the clock. Even playing the King’s Gambit against her took two minutes off my clock thinking whether to do it because I thought I would have had Black against her.

The reason I avoided 12.Rae1 was because of 12…Nh5, which gives Black an instant attack and turns the tide in her favor, plus it’s my bad bishop getting chased.

After 16…a5, 17.b5, I was basically up a piece with her bishop out of play like that, so I turned my attention back to the kingside, knowing that I had a free hand to attack with, even though the action is taking place in front of my king.

I thought she had finally cracked a bit when she allowed me to play 19.Rxf6. No doubt she was probably looking to reply …Qg4, and had just missed 20.g3

I saw that I could win the h6 pawn on move 20, and that was probably best, but as Magnus says “I decided to shut it down” as in this case my nerves and ability to calculate that huge mess at G/90 were getting taxed.

I was stunned at 22…d5, since I had not considered it, and at this moment my nerves were turning to jelly as I just took the pawn, thinking that I needed to keep reacting confidently, and then noticed that I had blundered the bishop before she took it. At this point a crowd suddenly gathered around and right after she took my bishop I said to the crowd “I know, I dropped a piece.”, and then we both smiled at each other for a moment (her smile is always a nice smile). Luckily, I then found h4 and went with that, focused just as much on managing the clock by this point. BTW, the relaxed response was to see that all is in order with White’s position and simply play 22.Bf1.

My basic idea after 28.h5 was to create a pawn-roller while her rooks were still fumbling around and her minors out of play. Naturally, I was happy that she had blundered quite a bit, later on, as I didn’t want to be tested on the clock. It was a fortunate escape because even though the computer can like your position and suggest that you not panic, that is rarely the case OTB and this is where ratings come into it. A GM is not going to panic in the times when I am freaking out trying to figure out what is going on.

Next week, I won’t be so lucky, I will play William who is another one of those players that can finish a game with an hour on his clock.


Chess Improvement

I’d like to start off with a game of Blackburne’s, playing here as Black like the bad-@ss that he was.

Blackburne was suprisingly also a very good endgame player, and he won games against all of his contemporaries, the best players of the day. He had a genius for sacrificial play.

Blackburne has notated many of his wonderful games that you can find on The notes aren’t much, but they do make you feel as though you are studying at his shoulder.

One of the things you pick up going over games is pattern-recognition. It was Joel Benjamin who once advised to look over lots of games to improve.

So, after looking over one of Stenitz’ games, and one of Burn’s games, I have a little surprise as Black awaiting for the Spanish player. Now at the club, because I am over 1800, there is a good chance that at least one person will adopt whatever I play and learn what I play. This is particularly true because they probably have little or no study time of their own.

BTW, this post could just as well be described as “Chess Study” because “Chess Improvement” is often equated as “Ratings Improvement” (which are not the same thing, because one is more long-term than the other). The latter would probably mean to study tactics until reaching Expert level, and otherwise just to be as resourceful, cagey, and swindle-y at the board as possible (which is what you tend to get from tactics study, anyway).

Yes, apparently the MDLM thing didn’t work so well for bloggers, but I can tell you that for MDLM and the players at the club it did work because they also play a lot of OTB games, many play in more tournaments than I do. Some didn’t even have to play that much – they combined playing-speed with tactics, which is devastating when you are thinking on the other guy’s clock at shortened time-controls.

Here is a game that might put this whole argument into perspective:

I haven’t computer-checked this, but it appears to me that White’s first combo is perhaps just optimistic.

I believe that 19.Nc3!? is the move, positionally, because …Bxd4?!, 20.Nxc6 Qc7, 21.NxBd4 QxNc3 gives White a credible attack on the king – this position looks +/- at least.

In the game, 19…Qd7, 20.Qa4 QxNc6, 21.Nc7+ Kd8, 22.QxQ+ KxQ, 23.NxRa8 Ba5, 24.Bxa6 (what else?) Nd6 and the Na8 is dropping where Black will be up a piece. 21.Rc1 a6xNb5, 22.Bxb5 RxQa4, 23.BxQ+ Kd8, 24.BxRa4 Bd7, and Black’s problems appear solved. White has that a-pawn for a piece, but Black has solved most of the tension and has the move once the Ba4 retreats (can’t afford to trade it).

Okay, so from the armchair I can often pick apart optimistic attacks to my satisfaction. In the game, however, Blackburne would have been moving quickly, spotting tactics even from inferior positions. He liked to do things like announce mate-in-nine, OTB, which tells me that he was probably doing a lot of calculating on his opponents’ time.

I went over a Burn-Blackburne game deeply (the Burn book has deep annotations). The difference between deep annotations and shallow annotations are similar to this. Shallow: “Perhaps Black could have avoided the mate in 12 by playing this move, but it’s still debateable”. Deep: “White is winning brilliantly, but now blows it with this move, and Black doesn’t find the refutation, ad infinitum”. So in the deep game, you are not only analyzing some players “trophy win”, but you are showing moves/flaws that would have won the game against them, and better moves that both sides missed.

I broke out MCO (which I do maybe once a year) and studied an opening variation for Black, that builds on two of the games that I have already analyzed. Now that I am a stronger player, opening theory is more useful than it was previously. Probably at class A level is where opening theory begins to be useful, particularly at short time-controls such as G/90.

Round 2, February 2014

After last week’s draw, I figured that I would get paired against one of the kids. Rhy’s looks like he’s maybe seven years old, but of course all kids quickly rise in rating to a more sensible level.

This past weekend, Rhys’ rating went up from 731 to 955, and he has already beaten a 1600 player this month as well, not yet rated.

Anyway, here is the Game.

Naturally, my play wasn’t the best, but it was sufficient. I felt that my 8.d5 move was not the best, and perhaps should have stuck with my first guess of 8.e5. Actually, best is to 0-0 and get Black to push a pawn in the center first; Black does not have a desirable position to commit anything from.

I pretty much knew that 9.cxd5 was best because my queen has issues on the e-file, and I’d prefer to see the c-file opened, keeping the center pawns on the board, but yes, I cracked a little looking for a cheap win and bingo! I got one.

I was happy to see 11…BxNc3?? as this solved all of the problems of my position, and I quickly realized that after 12.BxBc3 that Black has no good moves and is completely busted on the spot. After the game, I told him that he should have played 11…c6 instead, chipping away at d5 here is thematic and what I was most worried about.

I have to credit Rhys for playing the tricky 12…Re8?, but here Fruit says 13.Qe4 is +5.

I finished the game with 55 minutes on the clock to his 66, so it was almost exactly one hour for the game, and I stayed on pace with the clock, budgeting 2 minutes per move figuring that I needed to get to move 30 with 30 minutes remaining.

The Rematch

For some strange reason, I was bottom of the top-half and Alex was top of the bottom-half of the pairings, and so we got paired tonight.

Round 1

This game, once again, shows how I just can’t seem to finish as Black in the G/90 format.

A couple of points in the game require explanation. When I played 21.Qd5?? I was going to play …Kf8, and then move the queen, but sort of like last week’s loss, I forgot why I needed to play the first move of the sequence, and it’s largely due to the time-pressure. I simply make bone-headed mistakes like this in time-pressure, and for some reason I never see the time-pressure coming until it has arrived.

The end of the game also requires explanation. I had 1:43 remaining on my clock when he played 32.Ne5?? and so I immediately played …Bf5+ and offered him a draw, which he immediately accepted. I recall him having 30 minutes left on his clock.

In the post-game, we looked at the continuation 33.Kh3 BxNe5, 34.Qxe6 forking the Ba6 and the Be5, but for some reason we both missed what Fruit found 34…Bd6 protecting both bishops, which is -1.3 in Black’s favor. The best continuation that we could see was 34…Bf1, 35.QxBe5 Rd2, putting all of White’s pawns on the 7th rank in jeopardy, where we both thought it was looking drawish still, but Fruit cooly says that this is +2.4 for White.

I don’t know why I have such a problem with G/90 and yet I very much do. This was in improvement, though, over my previous draws, so I did manage to get some of the hesitation out of the way if not nearly enough of it.

It’s difficult to pull off a clean win at G/90 unless it is a miniature because the clock dictates that you make some “filler” moves at some point.

In my case, this is what I failed to do, I failed to think schematically in some positions, which is just as much a requirement as thinking concretely, if not more so. The concrete approach is not flexible and is an exorbitant expenditure on the clock when a flexible plan will suffice. Some positions, one has to “common sense” them and not look for some heavy-handed all at once continuation, but rather a more gradual one that involves patience in maneuvering.

In some positions my “spidey-sense is tingling”, calling for a refutation for one side or the other, but this is not the case on most moves, so I can’t act on the clock as if this every move. Most moves you play something positional and then just “see how your opponent reacts” (as the kid in the Chess Kids video trailer says), particularly in positions where there isn’t much sharpness for your opponent to spring on you.

The problem with most books I’ve found is that they don’t teach you, or virtually never teach you, how to make “nothing” moves. How to sit on a position and make it more solid without hurting it, without seeking to beat your opponent when your opponent is not making mistakes. At best, these moves seem to go uncommented in books. Authors love to show you how to win, but basically never show you to sit on a position and bide your time skilfully.