So, I am a bit pleased and stunned at the same time after I got my new rating of 1799. I was expecting an 1810-1814 rating (and that’s me feeling pessimistic). If am going to receive a rating under 1800 (which I did not consider a realistic possibility), then I will play at the Salute to Boris Spassky tournament on July 19 in the under 1800 section. I lost my last two to Anthea, last game to Kory Kohler (and consider his dad as a real threat to my rating as well), Should have lost to Lennon the time before last. So, hey, I guess that is where I belong at the moment and where I will be. We will see how it all turns out, as I would have to do an amazing job of it to not lose rating points in that section. We will see what is what, and who is who.

Okay, so in this Game I played against adorable little Sarah, who induces grown men to drop pieces against her (She beat a 1900 player recently). Honestly, I shouldn’t point fingers, since Brian Wall dropped a whole rook to me for no reason that one time.

I knew when I chose my standard 2.c3 line, rather than an Open Sicilian, that I would face this …e5 push, but I preferred to play this way as it will reveal how much that I can push my positional limits for a win.

I think it hits me a way of “Look at me, I am only 1799, I must be doing something wrong”. Although I did finished this game with 36 minutes, a couple months back I had won against Sarah with only 2 minutes on my clock. Against Richard yesterday, I finished with 24 minutes, so I have been making improvements in my game. It hurts me to be under 1800, but it is also an opportunity at the same time as I was planning on missing the Boris Spassky Salute tournament, but now I believe that I will go.


The Battle for Last Place

Okay, so it was hardly a battle, but it was still an interesting and exciting Game as always.

Poor Richard finished 0-4, although I would have finished squarely in last place, had I lost. Not that I had much to lose as a 1799 rating, for example, would be a sandbaggers dream, but I am not going to abuse the system like that and will always play my best.

I quickly got the impression that Richard should not be playing this opening against me. He played it a bit passively or overactively at the wrong times somehow, and by move twelve I was already having my choice of shots. For example, I looked at the fantasy line 12.Rc1 BxNf3 13.BxBf3 Nxc4?! (he told me after the game that this is what he was going for in this variation, so he probably would have played it) 14.Nb5 NxBe3, 15.fxNe3 Qb8 when Black is a pawn up, but his king and queen are awkwardly placed to say the least, and my pieces and center are developed. I figured that if he declined this, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted the rook from a1 on c1 or not. Besides. 12.Ne5 was so simple, and still improving the position.

16…Ka8! Else 17.Nd7+ is winning the queen for two minors.

17…Qd7?? Near the end of the game, I had wondered how I had gotten up a whole rook! I was anticipating 17…QxB, 18.c5 Qd7, 19.NxR Nc8, 20.Nxf7 Qxf7 but he must have gone wrong in his calculations because he had thought he was losing a piece there in any event, when he should have only been losing pawn and exchange. After this, I simply defended and realistically he was toast as I finished with 24 minutes on my clock, and had he played the end better and not dropped a piece, I still would have likely jacked up his position even more and looked great doing it. We both had fun, that is the important thing.

He might have been looking at this line when he dropped that piece. 19.NxR (as above), Nbd5, 20.NxNd5 NxN, 21.Qxh when I appear to have saved my Na8, and even if ..Nf6 I could play for example 22.Qxf7 if nothing else and now I am up possibly two pawns and the rook.

For anyone who “thinks that they can’t”, here is Magnus dropping a piece, losing a winning position, and still winning the tournament. I don’t even think his queening there at the end is good, why not play Nb4 instead of g8(Q)? I’m even surprised at how slow he was playing some of it. Anyone can have a bad day at chess.

Actually, I didn’t like how Anand took the inside pawn instead of the outside pawn. But big kudos to Anand for instantly skewering the pieces and not doubting himself just because Carlsen was the one who played it.


Some Stoyko-esque Analysis

I played two games this week, once was against the legendary Chess Master Brian Wall, and the other one was against my buddy Alex tonight.

Because Alex is my buddy, I didn’t want to see either of screwing up this nice Round 3 Game – Alex because one move loses and the other move draws, and me because I had only 6 minutes even to Alex’s 58 minutes at games’ end.

Me and Alex have a saying that whenever you are offering a draw to a friend, you are saying “Permission to beat you, sir!” and if they decline the draw that means “Permission granted!!” because it is most often the case these days with us that the draw decliner then loses.

Well, Alex accepted my draw offer. I pointed out that 24.Qf3 just loses to …Bf6, 25.Ra3 Bb2. However, I was worried about 24.Qg4 and offered the draw in his moment of confusion. He felt that 24.Qg4 was correct, he guessed a moment before I showed him that Bf3 loses, but he was very close to playing 24.Qf3 he said, and I’m thinking it’s because he was trying so hard to avoid the queen trade, particularly in my time-pressure. I think he was thinking Qf3 at the moment I offered the draw, but was in his right mind to accept it in any case.

Post-mortem, I was worried about 24.Qg4 Bf5 25.Qd4?, when a trade of queens would block the file and I couldn’t play Rd8 and recapturing the queen with the bishop was lame. I got home and it hit me that 25…Qe6, just stepping out of the way, and then White’s best is 26.Qxa7 (I was worried about this at the time), but then 26…Bf6 is once again lights-out – 27.RxNc1 RxR is the exchange for a pawn, but losing for White.

Then I started to see variations with 25.Qd4? Qe6, 26.Bg4, but then could see that the cold-hearted 26…Bf6 still comes through after 27.BxBf5 QxBf5, and the Qd4 is still skewered to the undefended Ra1, which is losing.

Then I looked at 25.Qf4! which allows an immediate ..Bf6 reply, so it is one tempo behind, but the gist of these variations is to step out of pins, 26.Bg4! and now I thought that this wouldn’t work because after ..BxRa1, 27.QxBf5 Black’s queen moves out of the way and is up an exchange.

At first I thought that 27.BxBf5 would fail to Ne2+, 28.Kh1 Qc6 (Queen is stepping out of the way), but now did not consider that White’s queen can also now step out of the way with 29.Qg4 which attacks the Ne2 as well as pressures the Rc8. Now 30.Ne2-c3 BxNc3 (double-attacks the Ba5 and Nd2, which I had seen this winning trick for Black in another variation). Here, however, White has 30. Ba5xBc3 (forced in all these variations) …QxBc3 and now White has Bg4xRc8 and material is even! =+/-+ about -.75.

But still, Why was 28…Qc6 necessary? We want to recapture on c3 with the Rc8 so as to not lose the exchange. I can see one other square for Black’s queen, namely, 28…Qd5, but now 29.Qg5! threatening 30.Bxh7! winning the queen, so 29…g6 30.e4! Queen moves …Qc6 (back to this square again, blocking the ..Rc8 from defending the c3 square) is equal, because if 30…Qd6??, then 31.Bg4xRc8 RfxBc8, 32.Qg4 once again double attacking the now hanging rook on c8 and Ne2, thus winning a piece, White is a whole piece up.

I’ve learned why from this game that the Slav was Shirov’s weapon of choice as the Slav is “Planet Shirov” and is best not to be navigated in time-pressure.

Here is my Wednesday Round 3. It is rather embarassing. At the end I had chances to push my d-pawn for a draw, and told him that I would have against any other (weaker) player him, but was of course feeling psyched out by a Master who was pretty much toying with me with that Bxh7 sac. It was a load of fun though. BTW, his current rating is 2296, almost 2300!

After 14.Rb1, I realized that he was not going to castle queenside, so lost control, chomping at the bit to get to his king. Correct is 14…0-0-0 with a d5 idea. Instead, I just couldn’t wait and immediately regretted playing 14…e5, even though I saw 15.f5 coming. He joked after the game saying that “He didn’t even know that …e5 was a legal move” (that’s how bad, but okay it’s not losing).

I think I am winning when he shocks me with 23.Ng5!! Here, I really didn’t have the experience to know how to handle this move as 23…Bxg5?? is easily losing. Black will gain two pieces for the rook, but after Rxh7 it’s lights-out for Black. Best is perhaps 23…RxN as everything gets traded of but his bishop and my knight. I looked at this but he was totally in my head as I thought he must have done it because it’s winning (which was my reaction to just about everything he played. haha)

It might be that Black is even winning after 31…Nd4, but it’s hard not to overlook a check which wins a pawn in time-pressure.

Starting at move 41, I could probably push that …d5 pawn for about 10 moves and draw, and I kept looking for the best time to play it, so that I was totally psyched out and lost for no real reason. Even as his king chased my pawn up the board I realized how ridiculous it would be and was because I was only improving his king. That is like psycho-time-pressure with 3 seconds remaining.

It was a great learning experience, quite fun, and not a disappointment at all.

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

In my Round 2 Wednesday game I suffered a loss perhaps both from exhaustion and from wanting not being willing to consistently play defense when required by the postion. I dropped a piece with 8 minutes remaining on my clock, and I really don’t remember the last time that I dropped a piece, although I know that I would play really well and then drop a piece back when I was around 1300 rating.

I dropped the piece seemingly in a span of three seconds. Saw the move, played it, Isaac immediately captures my Bb6 and I let out a groan, all happened that fast.

20.Bb6 was dumb because after …Rb6! he could swivel that rook out to h6. We played on, what would have happened had I played 20.Bd4, and he ended up sacking on h3 and I won both post-mortems. If only I had kept the faith and hung in there. I played 19.Bxa7, saw it a move too late as it was. Doesn’t seem there was much way around Bd4…g5, Ne1 in hindsight, which can actually hold quite nicely against subpar continuations, but I should probably be getting mated, sure, because of the lost tempos in the game, if nothing else.

The game went on for a few more moves, but with 4 seconds left I hit the top of my clock, and it is my clock, squarely and yet missed the flag, so that it ran to zero with my plunger still up and unpunched. It’s next to impossible to do this and yet this is what happens when you get your first day, go jogging for a few miles, and then try sawing down a tall tree (I had to saw it up high so that it wouldn’t fall into the street).

Each Wednesday, my first day off, I overdo it with exercise and then am too tired to play chess at G/90. On Thursday I do nothing and have plenty of energy even without much sleep, and feel like I will win all day even before I play – because not drained. I am sensitive to altitude (still, and I have gotten dizzy on Thursdays, particularly in the summer when the air and oxygen is less dense, although it’s effect lessens a little bit more over the years), so it affects me to play at the higher elevation on Thursday, but that is far more than offset by the fatigue from Wednesday’s exercise so that it’s not even close to compare the two. The most important thing before a chess game is to not “overdo it”, whatever it is, and to just go in “normal”. The fitness thing is hogwash (or at least at mile-high altitude it is), as is virtually anything else, compared to just feeling normal. You should win based on your chess-skill and your chess-study level of industriousness, but again not needing to overdo any aspect of it. Balance is best, all things being equal – an oxymoron to make a point, if not interpreted cynically. Thinking about what I just said, it’s easy to understand why Bent Larsen lost 0-6 to Bobby Fischer in a record heat in Denver. Bobby came ahead of time to acclimate himself, heck Bobby Fischer was actually conceived in Denver.

After I played 12.Rc1, I saw that I could have won a pawn with 12.Qb3. This is what happens when tired, and not playing at some really long time-control, you see everything a move too late. Eventually, this is almost the technical reason for the loss.

Round 2 Thursday was a different story, as alluded to before. 20.gxf gxf would have been another way to play this position, but I don’t know what White does next here, doesn’t appear as playable as the game continuation.

27.Nxe7? This was a silly move caused by time-pressure, AKA “clock-management”. It would take some time to calculate, but after the game I noticed the weakness of Black’s king, as well as the e-file, when showing the game to Alex and Peter.

27.h4! axb4 28.cxb4 Bxb4? 29.hxg5 hxg5 30.e7 Rae8 31.Qe6 when 31.. Rxe7 allows 32.Qxf6 threatening 33.Qxg5 as well as 33.Rh4 mate. 32.. Bxe7 allows 33.Qf7+ Rg7 34.Rh4 mate. No engine, I am just seeing this now.

Once I had oversimplified the position I noticed the positional flaw which I had suspected was there, namely that 28…c5! is probably only a draw. I was relieved he hadn’t played this move after his long think here.

43.Rxg7+ Simply 43.Rc7-c5! looks devastating enough, or at least superficially it does.

44.Rc5? It’s probably only a draw after 44.Rd1 Rd5 or 44.Rc7+ Kf8 45.Rf8+ Ke8 46.Rxf6+ a4 47.Rxh6 Rxf5 48.e7 Kxe 49.Ra6 followed by 50.Rxa4. White will have an extra pawn, but it looks like only a draw to me. I am not sure why he didn’t play 44.RxR! but he probably wasn’t sure about the resulting queen ending, as I was also unsure at the time, but now it looks definitely not winning for White, or even winning for Black.

Transposing To A Loss

Didn’t play on Wednesday, went to a hearing instead.

I played Today and messed up as I was not well composed, going into time-pressure. Round 1.

I transposed into a losing ending, and played it poorly to boot, even if it was a lost ending all the way (I’m assuming it was).

So, I went for the faulty combo and saw in time pressure that it was losing, but then because I was in time-pressure nerves and a bit tired forgot that the Rc8 is no longer there to cover the NxBb8.

Alex pointed out that I should have transposed the move-order and played a winning combo 21…Nxf2!!, 22.KxN Rc2+! winning instantly. Instead, I only looked at 21…Nxf2, 22.KxNf2 Qg3+, 23.Kd2, and it had seemed to me that White is escaping, but as Alex pointed out 23…Rc2+!, 24.Kd3 e5! 24.dxe5 Qxe5, 25.Nd2 Ba7, 26.QxR RxQ, 27.KxR Qxe3 is winning, and if 25.QxRc2??, then 25…Qe4+! finishes the job.

The losing combo came from a tough postion, and I still don’t know what was best there. I thought I should have played …Qc6 instead of …a6, but it’s really tough to know what is best. It looks like Black should have an advantage but it’s hard to find one, really. It’s as if it’s a queen and bishop ending – very finesse, which is what I was trying to avoid in time-pressure.

Ah, I see the win now. 24…Qc6, 25.Bd2 Bd6! this is the move that I had missed all this time. I told Alex tonight that I refute attacks well but that I am often lame at finding building moves, and this is the magic building move. Now Black really is threatening 26…b6, 27.Nxa6 Ne4, 28.Qg2 Bg3+, 29.Kd1?? Qa4+ picking up the night on a6. This plan should be strong regardless of where White moves these pieces.

Here is a nice Game that I played on FICS today that shows I am still actually capable of playing well, even at blitz.