Just When You Are Looking For a Long Fight

…your opponents over 1700 will almost always sense an unfavorable energy-mismatch, and offer a draw, which is what happened in this Round 3 game. My opponent offered a draw, said he wasn’t feeling well after the game. I accepted the draw because I had been outplayed in the opening and on the clock – he had spent around 10 minutes compared to my 46. I didn’t want to find out what would happen after 20.cxQd4 Ng4, 21.f3?? Ne3, 22.BxNe3 RxBe3, 23.b4 (forced) cxb, and White is losing. Alex pointed out that I have 21.Bf4 (a critical defensive move/position).

I wanted to play on, but really had no business doing so, so I accepted his draw offer. It seems he would have played 20…Bg4 in reality, but he can force a draw or hold onto an advantageous position or probably both.

Anyway, I made lots of mistakes in the opening, and he took advantage of these opening innacuracies quite skilfully.

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Helpless On Defense

That is how I felt during and after this Round 3 game, utterly helpless to defend myself at that G/90 time-control.

I wish someone could teach me how to defend better, be it a mindset or whatnot. This is something that RollingPawns seemed to calculate deeply at, and have a feel for, but which for me I can’t find even an elementary defense, nor know when to defend or how to combine attack and defense. Sure, it’s easy to attack when your opponent has zero counterplay, but this wasn’t the case in the game.

While trying to examine a little of theory, I played the …Bb4 line against myself last night as Black and lost. I can’t even defend against myself as Black. haha. So I decided to try a new line against Joe, knowing that I would be better off playing the line we always play, but at some point I need to grow as a chessplayer and not play that same line which I can hold at rather easily, but seem to draw every tim from, so I wasn’t going to be shocked, going into this line, if Joe were to win.

I did violate the rule where you are not supposed to have a big meal before the game, so I don’t know how much that hurt me, and Joe was moving fast throughout. I hate it when I can sense and know beforehand that all of Joe’s G/30 etc games will help him. He will play on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday all in the same week and I feel that this makes it hard for me to keep up with him at the board with the speed of play and of thought. I am trying to learn something and play, whereas I feel like everyone else is just going straight for the result/scoretable.

Stockfish likes …d5 just as much as grabbing the e4 pawn.

I was going to play …Be6 after his c4, but tried to get fancy with …Ba6, but each time I did something weird like this, I felt that the speed of his play was causing me to try to make some unjustified attacking move instead of stick with positional play and ignore that his attacking moves were played so quickly.

22…Rd7?! was my longest think of the game and where I first felt that I had lost the thread of position, simply not knowing what to do. Somehow I saw 22..gxh4, 23.Bxh4 Re5, 24.Qg4+ Qg7, 24.Qf4 threating Bf6 fork. But I completely missed that after 22…gxh4, 23.Bh4 I had the simple 23…Qe5+! trading queens, and maybe I can even win from here. I sensed I must be missing something but could not find it. Perhaps not being as mentally conditioned as Joe was was already taking an obvious toll on my ability to keep up in the game. My analyis was too shallow and not done in a systematic way. For example, I did look at 23…Qe5+! but only noticed that after 24.f4 that both my rook and queen are attacked, but did not notice that his queen is hanging there, so White must trade queens and my biggest middlegame situation of the game is solved.

So, there was a simple intrinsic defense to the position and my analytic abilities were too marginal to find it. I was looking at exotic moves/continuations like 23…RxBd3!? giving up the exchange for another pawn, and instead played 23…Rd4?! This has been my problem in nutshell. Instead of making more defensive-minded moves, when unsure, I give the position a steroid-shot of attackingness, which comes back to bite me. I need a lot of time to mentally settle in to playing a move whose highlight is a defensive value. Part of this stems from always needing to win to maintain rating points. Even this game was really only against an equally rated opponent, so I will lose a lot of points. I’ve had so many draws in last couple months that I really wanted to play for a win. I could have given up my queen for bishop and rook at the end perhaps, but didn’t want to bother with defending, didn’t want to switch mindset back to defense, but I’m lost on the clock anyway because quickly played defensive moves are what would have saved me.

After the game, we both preferred 24…hxg5, and I did spend a lot of time on this move, but spending a lot of time on it was the worst thing about my move, as Stockfish even slightly prefers 24…Qxg5 (but it’s very sharp).

25…h5?? At this point, I was not able to re-orient myself to the ever changing strategy on the board. I wanted to keep the h5+ double attack on Re1 open, but I was running out of time and needed a plan, even the bad plan of trying to trap his …g3 bishop. I was hoping to then be able to think on his clock, but this sort of thing doesn’t happen when playing against Joe, he just keeps on moving. When I got home, I figured that this must have been the moment that I should play the strong retreat 25…Ba6-c8, and Stockfish agrees.

26. Re1! This was already like a bolt from the blue for me, White is winning here. I was kicking myself for not playing 25…Bxc4, but after the game, realized that 26.Bxc4 (He seemed to initially miss the power of this move in the post-mortem and may have played differently, but he knew how to follow it up for the win) Rxc4, 27.Re2 Qg7, 28.Re1+ with 29.Be5 coming to finish it up for the win (something like that). Therefore, 25…Bc8 was correct, which threatens …Bg4 and can lead to …Be6, clogging up the important e-file from White.

27…Re5. I knew this was coming, but didn’t have time to calculate how decisive it was. My last move 26…Rd8 was already the end, as 26…kf8 even looks better. No, …f6 looks mandatory. The one thing I wanted to avoid was being “lost on the clock”, but really I already was here.

At the end of the game, he missed the Bh7+ sac mate, which I saw, but instead he played …Qh6 and I hardly remember what I did. I should have played QxBd3, but after Rg5+ Qg6, Be5 that would end any doubts as mate is coming up.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

…then it may take you another sixty moves, assuming that you do succeed.

In this Round 2 game, I had the position in the palm of my hands on move twenty-eight, but did not see the winning idea until after the game, which I spotted nearly instantly as I showed the game to Alex.

I knew the winning move was 28.g4, all along, but could not spot the winning idea, and didn’t feel like crucifying myself on the clock when a reasonable looking alternative in 28.Nc5 existed – whereupon he played 28…Nd6, equalizing, and I immediately regretted my mistake.

The winning “move” is 28.g4 (…Na6, 29.Nc5 is winning) Nh4, 29.Nd6+ Ke7 (..Kf8 is even worse), 30.Nc8+! (the winning “idea”). Now comes the third stage, the “verification” of the winning move and idea. If 30…Kd8, 31.Bb7 (..Bd7, 32.Na7 Kc7, 33.Bxa6 Kb6, 34.Bxc6 Bxc6, 35.Nxc6 KxN is only two pawns for a piece, losing. 32.Nd6 Kc7 wins a piece. The answer is in the problem-like 32.Nb6! when a piece trade will still win the a6 pawn, so 32…Bd8, 33.Na8!! forming a fortress. Now if 33..Kd7, 34.Bxa6 Kc6, 35.Bxb5! KxBc6, 36.Nc7+ forking bishop and king and winning. Little did I realized this would turn into an endgame composition! I just did all that without an engine 🙂 ) Kc7, 32.Bxa6 Kb6, 33.Nd6 and Black cannot move his bishop to prevent White’s bishop from escaping via either b7 or c8 (30…Kd7 is the same story, plus the Black king has to move again or White will take the b5 pawn as well).

The move and verification part of it I do alright at, it’s spotting the idea that makes it all work that is the tricky, yet beautiful part of it.

If you are wondering if I see deep at the board, then I’ll point to the move 22.RxRc8. When I played this move, I already knew that I wasn’t winning a pawn by 22…Rc8, 23.Bb7 Nd6, 24.Bxa6 Qb6, 25.Bc8 Bc6 and I can’t see a way to stop 26…RxBc8 winning a piece, although I would surmise that there are numerous weird “computer lines” which makes this look half-playable for White; but like I say, I haven’t computer-checked any of the game, so I wouldn’t know.

I was shocked and pleasantly surprised when Shirley brought me a glass of water while I was playing her own son! That is amazing. Of course, all Daniel had to do at any point at the end was march his king to h8 and camp out there for the draw. He did finally ask for a draw at that point, but his king was going the wrong way, which is why I played on in the 0.0 position and eventually won. BTW, he had an hour to my 7 seconds when he asked for the draw, which surprised the onlookers when I played on.

I am taking a bye tonight, Thursday, so this will be my only game for this week.

Playing Against Your Own Preparation

…is what this opening felt like. In this Game I was playing the Black side of a C3 Sicilian with the e-pawns traded off, and even that is not too unusual. This tabiya is even more important as it is an equalizing line against the Scotch Opening, and I played the repertoire that the Master with the “ChessExplained” Youtube chanel uses. Be that as it may, I still was not comfortable playing Black against the two bishops here as this line he stumbled into is in my repertoire for White!

Spassky and Petrosian used to make their opponents play against their own openings like this because it is a very heavy thing to deal with psychologically, and in the instance of this game I spent a boatload of time dreading the rest of the game, which never came. Actually, once I saw him play Bf4 instead of Be3, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, and White quickly collapsed given that he was attacking me behind an <1400 rating.

Once again, I pulled up a word-processor and simply filled in the pgn blindfold-style, and then directly loaded it up to the site. The only mistake I made this time was to put …Qxf7+ instead of …Qxf2+. This is a positive exercise for me since my biggest weakness, given my rating, is my lousy score-keeping.

With 7:43 remaining on my clock, I began to unzip and take off my jacket whereupon Eugin resigned before I could, sensing that I was going to make perfect work of it. As soon as he resigned, I showed him that I was going to play 24.Ka6 Qc4+ 25.Kb7 Rb8+, whereupon Alex played 26.Kxc7, and I instantly played Re7+ 27.Kd6 and then Daniel grabbed the rook and played the picturesque 27…Rd8 mate.

Birthday Present

…was how Jordan described our Round 1 game when he resigned. I told him that I hadn’t wanted him to resign because I wanted to get the variaation on my scoresheet 21.Qe1 or Qc1 ..NxB, 22.QxN BxRf1, 23.RxRf1 Bxh2+, 24.KxB QxRf1 where White will be up two clear rooks.

Without the blunder (I pointed out after the game that he should have played 8.Be2 instead of 8.Bb5??) there might be no win, but the biggest victory for me, besides the score, was getting him out of his Cheescake opening familiarity (although he said that we were still in his system on move 8).

I didn’t feed this game into an engine. In fact, I put all the moves to the game down on a text file, blindfold, and then checked the scoresheet. I only made two transpositional errors. One was I thought he played 2.Nf3 instead of e3, and the other was I put …0-0 before ..Ba6, but I figured something was wrong here anyway since I remembered castling before him, and that explained the discrepancy. See, you hardly need a computer after all other than for record-keeping!