Playing The Clock, Not The Board

Round 5 was not going to be a money round or anything like that for me, if I lose it wasn’t like I was going to play someone weaker the next week, as this was the last round.

I took a nap before the game, and completely overslept and had to rush out the door, so there was about 13 minutes less on my clock, which didn’t make too much difference to the competitive nature of the game, realistically.

This game was a case of “Dr. Jekyl and Mr Hyde”.  The first part of the game, I had achieved a solid +- advantage.  The second part of the game, I realized I had achieved the advantage on the board, and now I would try to press him on the clock as well – bad decision.

On move 18, I was fully expecting to see 18…Ne8 played, by which I would follow up with 19.e4.  He spent a long time on this move, and he had been spending lots of energy on defense as well, so I decided to press him on the clock.  When he played 18…exd, which only transposes into the line I have already pointed out, I was thrown off by the move order, and quickly and inexplicably played 19.Nxd? which I instantly regretted, but I felt “It’s okay that I just bungled my game, as I am leading on the clock 14 minutes to 9:59”

23.QxQ.  I spent a couple minutes looking at 23.Nge4 Ne5, 24.Ne4f6+ Kh8, concluding that I wasn’t really going anywhere with this.

27.Kh1? played quickly.  After the game, going over it with Alex, I immediately recognized that this was a blunder, and should have traded his good c-pawn for my weak e-pawn, and then the Nd5 will be unassailable there as well.

28.Nd4?? Effectively losing the game.  Once again, with Alex I showed right away the correct move 28.Nd2 here, as 28…f5 could be met by 29.g4 or 29.e4, and 28…Nd7 I saw right away while plugging this game in that it could be met by 29.Ne4 Ba7, 30.Nxf6+ gxf6, 31.Nxf6+ Kf8, 32.NxRe8 KxRe8, which is admittedly is tricky to judge, so perhaps this would be a mistake as well to sac, but clearly the position is worlds better after 28.Nd2 than in the game.  In the game, I had played hope-chess and visualized him playing 28…BxN, leaving him with the knight instead of the bishop.  This is still bad, but not seeing the bishop being left on the board instead of the knight is a decisive mistake.

32.Ne7?  At this point, I saw the writing on the wall with ..Be5, …Rd8-d1 possibility, so I panicked and play this move.  His 33…c6 didn’t come as a surprise to me, only to see it played first did, but I knew I wasn’t solving the position and was expecting bad things and to lose by this point.

35.Re2, I knew I was dropping the knight when I played this move, I had seen his upcoming maneuver, but felt that losing my a-pawn would also be  decisive (two pawns down).

We played a post-mortem where his son Rhett suggested 31.Re4, which I had also very briefly considered, and there followed 31…Be5, 32.Kg1 Rd7, 33.Kf1 c6, knight retreats and then he trades bishop for knight and had no trouble blitzing out a winning rook endgame against me, outclassed me there.  Actually, he considered some of my poor suggestions, and he would know right away that a position was a draw or not, and even when he conceeded that he had blown it and it was probably a draw, his son Rhett stepped in and found the killer-shot, plan, saying it’s winning and it didn’t take him any time.  I was baffled, but he could have blitz won it.  So in the endgame, I would not have been in my element as much as I though to try blitzing it out.  My element was the opening and middlegame.

I finished the game with three minutes on my clock, which may seem ironic, but I’ve learned to play as if these last couple of minutes are “unusable”.  I feel that with a time-control of 30/90, SD/30 this is a completely different game from both the competive and the artistic aspect, as I would have recaptured on d5 with the d-pawn, and it would have been far more instructional than the simple mess that it became.  I am not the same player at G/90 as at a dual-time control; I’ve always known this, but it’s clearly illustrated here.

Next year, I plan to try not to make such a mess of it on the clock, and to try to play better chess even if I lose on the clock because that’s preferable to what happened here which was _just_ playing  on the clock.  Our new night will be Wednesday’s at Smashburger’s.  I greatly prefer Tuesdays and playing at the club as well, but I’ll take what I can get.  The restaurant happened to be dead last time, and is a great backup site, but I think that going forward it will be awkward with us camping out in a burger joint where it is a business built on moving customers quickly in and out with fast-food, whereas for example Panera was more like a coffee-shop where people lounge around for sometimes long periods of time.

If anyone considers the question of “How to play G/90 delay 5” to be part of a chess improvement post, then I will share what else was/is going through my mind.  Once I saw that were down to my 14 minutes to his 10, that’s when I realized that I would have less of his time to think as well.  I do much better when I have 14 minutes and my opponent has an hour remaining because either A) I will get to think on their time, or B) They will blitz me and blunder.  In our game’s scenario, I knew I wasn’t going to have his time to think, which is brilliant for Black because the lack of time should nearly always ensure that White, who overwhelmingly often will get a +/- advantage at G/90, will now not have enough time to think, and therefore both players playing sloppy will almost ensure the draw with one caveat; the caveat is that both players play at least competently to the naked eye.

For me, the general competency late in the game in time-pressure goes out the window as I either play brilliantly or horribly.  Mark, by  comparison, is the perfect example of an inveterate time-trouble player drawing many of his games because of the scenario that I described above.  For me, any dual-time control would be welcome, as would the 30 second increment.  At least in the 30 second increment I could blitz some moves, and slow down for key moves, such as in this game where I should have played Nxc7, and that was my first instinct (and should have made the draw rather easy), but my lack of time caused me to play that move quickly and decide on Kh1 instead.  It’s not that I didn’t “see” the right move, or calculate the right move, it’s that the time-pressure usually affects judgment badly, unless you are in a position where you just know you are winning or have easy winning chances, and your play is more straight-forward than the other guy’s play.

Actually, my thinking on that play/move was “If we trade off c-pawn and e-pawn, then his bishop will have more scope, and knights (my knight) like a clogged up position with lots of pawns”  It’s not that I can’t calculate quickly or make a judgment-call on a position in time-pressure, it’s that the judgment is often patently silly, and I have a lot of complex throughts and variations going through my head.  Alex showed me one his games where DuWayne dropped a piece and Alex won, and for instance I showed him that he could choose not to take the piece and I blitzed out a win/mate for him with an intentional queen then knight sac.

Some people, Alex to take an example, will tell me that I need to “learn to move faster”.  I notice that a lot of players know themselves quite well and will see something instantly or not at all.  I am at the opposite end of that spectrum and will tend to see everything if given enough time, so that I tend to not “know my own mind” the way many other players will when it comes to moving quickly.  Even if I feel that I do know what I want to do on most moves, chess is about what you do on the moves where you don’t know.

Weird comment:  The WordPress spell-checker incorrectly thinks that judgment should be spelled as judgement, which is wrong if you look it up.  I’ve always been a good speller.  This is what I mean by relying on computers for judgment!  BTW, most of my calls as “tech support” these days are where I get consulted because of a computer or system error, and have to be the one to find some work-around to solve the customer’s issue.


Steinitz End

I realize that this deserves it’s own post.  I was going over how Steinitz lost to Lasker today, and here is my own analysis of what I came up with.  Comments of course are appreciated.  I feel that Steinitz in his prime was ridiculously better than he was in these games, but it shows how much of a performance that a chess game can be.  Steinitz had mad-skilz when he was winning in his prime, but all it takes is not being ready for prime-time (vs the “all you need is skills” way of thinking about performance) to come up with a completely disasterous result.  Let’s take the treadmill away from Magnus, tack on 100 lbs, and see if he can beat Aronian or Caruana – all who are very skinny, BTW, no wasted blood circulation among those three!

When I go over a Max Euwe game, I can already tell the difference in the quality of play (Tartakower’s is strong in relation, too) between the later era the 19th century era.  Whereas, the more modern era’s of chess are more intuitive, back in the 19th century they didn’t have a lot of games to look at, so they had to rely on calculating things out more, and they had time to do it, so the results always looked fantastic whether the play was good or bad.

I just looked at two games by Lasker vs. Steinitz, and they both make me scratch my head.  So for example:

Earlier in that game, I would have played 9..g6, which would be a more modern take.  I think 11…Nc4? is already uber-crazy as it chases the queen to a good square (g3) and leaves night and bishop in the lurch.  11…BxB should be obvious enough to be all but blitzed out – but stuff like that is how their games get so crazy.

18…Ne5?  Who does this?  18…c5 is screaming to be played.  After 19.bxc Qc5 or better yet 19…Nxc5! Black should be okay.  But just look at what happens next.  To us, this is all intuitive, we would find there to be no need to play with fire as they did so frequently back then.

Here is another:
36…Nge5?  Same sort of mistake as in previous game, letting the opponent’s knight get wild.  After 36..g6, 37.hxg6 Kxg6, 38.Nd4 Bxd4 it’s a draw.  Alternatively, if 38.Nc1 …d4, 39.cxd4 Rd5, 40.Nb3 a5, and now 41.a4?? RxNb3, and if 41.Nc5 BxNc5, 42.dxc5 Rxc5.

In our day intuition, combined with about 10 minutes on your clock to spend on this move, would find a right answer to draw this game, and actually we have very little time to work with, and OTB in time-pressure, I can calculate these things fairly quickly.  I believe Steinitz was old and Lasker young, so pretty sure that Steinitz was gettting blitzed here, even though Lasker did like long time-controls (as opposed to Capablanca, who in his turn blitzed Lasker).  Fischer blitzed Spassky, Carlsen blitzes Anand, the chain of progression never breaks.  😉

It can be difficult to play against someone whose pace is so much faster than yours, as it leaves you time-warping on your clock, not realizing that the whole game is going by on your own clock.  Even Dean had about an hour to my seven minutes, but then I blitzed him down to 20 minutes.  Roles were reversed, we were instead now both thinking on his clock.

Third example

9.Nb3  This might be a good move, but it’s the footloose and fancy-free air to their games that this is characteristic of.  It’s as if there were a tease factor going on where they could simply reposition their pieces endlessly.  A modern take (or my take) might be 9.Be3, and if 9…Nd5?, 10.Ne4!

24.b5?  This move is a long way off.  24.h3 would make more sense, and then to reposition the White pieces more actively first.

43.Nd7?? Giving up his knight for two pawn.  In the notes below he says it should be a draw after 43.Na6?! when White will trade on c1.  White will definitely not trade here and will instead play for a win.  Perhaps …Qb7 or …Qb6, …Be6 (..Bh3), …h6.  Black has all kinds of nice moves, so there should be a better plan than to trade off for a draw.  43.RxR BxR, 44.Ne4 Bxb5 (or ..Qxb5), 45.Nd6 QxNd6, 46.QxBb5 would seem to be (hate to wear out this term) a more modern way to play for a draw.

Then I see Steinitz says “The ending is beautifully played by Lasker”.  Man, that was like the household ravenous dog licking up the floor after table-scraps were thrown down.  hehe.  I wouldn’t exactly call that an ending, particularly when it is against a young, energetic opponent with plenty of clock time.  Even then you can see that Lasker 3-fold repetitioned the position, which would be a draw today, but back then you had to six-fold repetition or repeat the moves three times and not the position, stuff like that (so Lasker still felt the need to gain clock-time there).

It’s a “broken-record” now.  Four out of four needless losses by Steinitz (I don’t want to slam Lasker too hard, after all 4 out of 4 is the best one can do.  hehe.  But I wouldn’t say that Lasker is best evuh! just by looking at a lot of games like this, as he clearly had the draw in hand himself the entire time)  😉

Fourth Example:

Finally, someone in the comments agreed with me, last comment at the bottom.  21.Kb2 and if 21..Ba6, then 22.Nc1 offers a bishop trade, and if 21…Na5, then 22.Nf2 is covering both e4 with the knight, and c4 with the bishop.  Needless loss.

If this were a marching song out of the “Jody Callbook” it would be this one:

The sad part is that this isn’t the “real Steinitz”, this is just the shell of a chessplayer, six years before his death, who was probably in terrible health and needed the cash (he died in poverty, apparently penniless).

Fifth Example

Wow, people aren’t even commenting on these games.  It’s as if they’ve given up, much like Steinitz had, or Stenitz was only looking at the ending superficially.  I remember seeing in a picture that Steinitz was incredibly overweight by this period, so you knew he was on his last legs here.

14…a5?  Why would Black force White to make a move he wants to make anyway, namely b5 to stop Bc6?  14…Nc6-d7, and if 15.b5, then ..Nd5 here will equalize, should be a draw without any real trouble.

25…Ke7?? 25…RxR, 26.RxR dxe, 27.Bxe+ Be6, 28.Bxb7 Bb4.  Now if 29.Ra1 Rd8, and 29.Rc7+ is going nowhere soon either.  Looks like a draw to me.  Granted, it’s easier to know where he went wrong AFTER we saw how strong d6+ was, but still, this _is_ a world championship match, supposedly anyway.  Also, 26..Kf6?  Either 26…Kf7 or 26..Kd8 look stronger, but perhaps it’s still already too late.  I like 26…Kd8, then 27.RxR BxR, 28.g3 (to stop ..Rf4), then ..e4, 29.Ke3 e5 shedding the pawns.  If White can trade bishops and center pawns, then this may still be a draw.

Sixth Example

30…Qh4 Steinitz is going for useless activity here, which explains his subsequent moves.  Obviously Steinitz was before Petrosian, whereas Petrosian might giggle at this position and play a …Rd5 exchange sac fortress.

Of course, getting a knight there would be ideal, and Black can first play 30…Rc7 and if 31.Bb3, Black has the resource 31…Rc6 as well.  Ideal solution might be to play …Re7-e8, …Ng6-d7-d5 or to c6.  But even if an exchange sac is done right away on d5, then ..Re4 is a powerful response from that position, and White would have tons of work to do, and it’s still probably only a draw if Black plays well (they would both have lots of work to do, don’t get me wrong) – however, well played is still well played.

Seventh Example

At this point, I am having a moral epiphany.  (32.Rb1?? Or as Brian Wall might say “I didn’t think this was a legal move!”) How does anyone not play 32.Kg2 here?  32.Kg2 with the idea of Re2 and Be2-g4xNf5.  This once again, as in the other games, should be a draw.

It’s surprising how many of the comments on this Idée fixe on the tactical resolution of the game, which is generally something that should have never occured, is the real point I am trying to make.  But hey man, if you want tactics, these old games have them in spades!  hehe.

I have to admit that the tactical part of that ending was quite beautiful, but it was also poetic justice as White was still trying to play for a win himself, not satisfied to play for a draw from an even or slightly inferior position.  In fact, it seems as if “the drawing chromosome” was absent from Steinitz’ play.  Perhaps there was some strange stipulation that the winner of each game gets an extra fifty bucks, and hence no incentive to play for a draw?  Or perhaps that draws counted toward a fixed number of games to be played, and so it was this “got to make up for the losses” mentality.

Steinitz 8th and final loss to Lasker in this match  is here:

This post has quickly become the meme of “Improve your chess by finding the draw for Steinitz!”  Well, here goes.  First, after 20…Bxf3?! The White light-squared bishop has no opponent.  The easy draw was better to be had with 20…Bf5, 21.Rd1 (otherwise …Bd3+ and e4 become possible.  A king move would hand the keep the initiative with Black) Rxd1, and the position doesn’t seem so dangerous once the rooks are off.

25..Ne8?!   25..Bc7 breaks the pin, and 26.Rc1 Bb8 should hold.  26…Rd7?  He’s definitely seeing ghosts now as 26…a6, 27.Na7 with the idea of 28.Nc6 leads nowhere.  If 28.Ba4, Black has ..b5, and if Bf5 let’s say, then …Rc7 will attack the Nc6.

28…a6?  Yes, 28…Rb7 gives up the e-pawn (one pawn in sum total), but this move gives up the exchange in order to not drop the pawn (which will now still need to be  defended, naturally).

Anyway, that is pretty much the game right there, IMHO, the rest is technique, which Dr. Lasker definitely has.

9th loss, yes I found another

21…Re6 gives Black a small advantage, I feel, and simplifies things a bit for Black, less risky.  Apparently Steinitz missed 32…Kf8 according to one kibitzer, and should have won this brilliant game, brilliant for Steinitz!  But, he flubbed it up and now everybody thinks that Lasker is the brilliant one.  lol.  This was the most computeresque of all the games that I mentioned, the only one that seems truly fritz-worthy.  Computers by definition take on risk, lots of it, and can change their minds back and forth every two seconds; humans never have this luxury OTB.

Game 10, the final one:

12…Nb5? Oh goody, the bone-headed move is easy to spot this time.  After 12..RxBd8 (is as plain as Day) it is equal, Black has a comfortable game.  It’s really a shame as he had outplayed Lasker up until then.  You get the feeling that Lasker, with his useless openings, is thinking to himself “I wonder how my opponent is going to f** it up this time?!”

There was a chess lecture in St. Louis, GM Bryan Smith said something like “I don’t know if Zukertort was a good tactical player or not” (lost to Steinitz in the game he showed).  Zukertort was an excellent tactical player, IMO, BTW.  Would have been funny if someone had replied.  “I dunno, you’re paired against him next week, you should check out his games!”


Round 4 saw me playing against one of my most frequent opponents.  I don’t want to say that I have 20 wins and 2 draws against him and no losses, but it’s probably somewhere close to that.  I finished this game with 59 seconds on my clock to his 19 minutes.  For that reason, it felt like both a win and a loss at the same time.  This time, my “big think” move was 16…Qc5, which of course looks completely obvious when you see it; sure, I had seen this move early on, but it was more of a decision, as even …Qb4 is a possibility, for example, but …Qc5 is clearly best.  I spent approx 15 minutes on this move, half of what I spent in the other game on my big-think there, but this was still disappointing.

It’s as if I’ve finally mastered 30/90, G/30 as we had it back in CA, but it’s nowhere close to being a true G/90 game.  I was happy that I had won, but also depressed that I had failed to manage my clock well, despite trying my best.


Round 3, I played a new kid.

Another cocky kid in Co. Springs, so what’s new?  The Herman kids are the only holdouts, it seems (i.e., not cocky).  Atharva seemed to think he was winning all along or something after the game.  I said that I didn’t want to analyze, but he wanted to prove that he was winning at the end of the game, but it seemed that I was the one winning the postmortems or showing him his wins (even though it should be losing for White).  I could give more than one example of something I didn’t like of his, but for example at the beginning of the game, before I made my first move I held my hand high above the board, looking at my clock to watch the five-second delay was set (only took a couple of seconds), when he says to me “You need to move!”  This coming from someone who was 5 minutes late and didn’t want to look at me so I could start the clock until he got everything written down on his scorebook, despite the TD telling us repeatedly to start the clock.

So, what happened in the game?  Basically, I took way too much time.  Spent around 35 minutes on 9.Nd5+.  I knew that I was going to play it for sure after 15 minutes, but then spent another 20 minutes before I played it.  How could this possibly happen?  Honestly, it was this really weird vibe that I had going on that I didn’t want anybody…ever…to criticize this move is what it seemed like to me.  I had never played this kid before and was not nervous during the game, but I felt a pressure of expectations, as if I weren’t allowed to draw this kid.  I wasn’t result-focused at all, was just trying to do my best to concentrate on the game.  If this were at the Herman home, for example, I would have been fine, but because there were people who don’t play me that much walking around looking at my game, I think I had an attack of the “imaginary audience” – you can look it up, it’s a psychology term that almost exclusively applies to adolescents, but whatever.  It’s not something that I wished upon myself, more like the opposite, it’s unwelcome but it can happen apparently.  Definitely, one can’t be thinking about chess and thinking about something else like that at the same time, can’t serve two masters.

Actually, I think my opponent had something to with this as well because the whole game his whole aura was screaming at me “Oh my gosh, I am going to beat a Class A player!”  In my time pressure, he was nervous but I wasn’t, and he was leaning over the board staring at me as if to say “You are going to lose on time, I am going to beat you!”  And I was thinking “Yeah, so what, is anyone going to let me focus on actually playing the game?”  I’m not 100% positive, but I do believe that he stopped recording moves when I got to 5 minutes, and I kept recording down to 20 seconds.

If I could use an analogy here and say that “I could win this game in my sleep” the opposite analogy would be “There’s no way I could avoid losing if I were to get too excited”  There is definitely a different type of vibe to the Tuesday club, probably because it’s in an auditorium, where there is this chatter about winning/losing, opinions about the rules.  At a restaurant or a home, there is more of a natural distraction, less of an over-focus on chess.  At CSCC, I buy bottled water out of a vending machine, and Carl’s Jr is the only place that is close, is overpriced and closes at 10pm, so there is this exclusive focus on chess.  Well, that’s my 2 cents about that, or 5 dollars I guess!

The part that I don’t like so much is that it’s like hey, I am there to have fun.  If this were a tournament with money on the line, you could practically sit on my face and I wouldn’t be distracted from chess.  I play well when the occasion is there.  Problem is, the occasion is _always_ there, and someone always wants to take you down in chess, it’s a given.  I like rated games because I know my opponent is trying his best, but I think it gets ridiculous when I can pick up on my opponent’s ego, when there is hardly anything more than pride on the line.

The clock was already affecting my play by move 15.  No reason not to play 15.g4 here.  I was relieved when he put his pawn down on ..f6 rather than ..f5.  I was already playing hope-chess here on the clock, gambling that I could play 20.a3 without him responding with …f5, which is gambling, not chess, but it worked.

23. Bf2?  In time pressure, I was only able to see two moves ahead and not three.  Naturally, I was hoping he would play …NxBf2 there.  The correct continuation should have been 23.Kc2 (threatening to play b4 because stopping the …Nd3 move now) …a4, 24.Bf2.  Threatening BxNc5, and then to play Nd2-b1-c3 (I wanted to get this variation in during the game, but it was all a messy flow in my mind of which moves come first, unlike the feeling I have about it now or after the game).

Around move 33, I offered Atharva a draw and he refused because I had 4 seconds remaining.  I figured that I would probably, almost surely win if this were increment, but I believe that I would flagged somewhere because it’s 5 second delay.  I think I would have won with the 10 second delay they are discussing adding, but I figure something like that is beyond my control.

So, I instantly play 34.Rxg?? He spent a lot of time on this move, but I ignored his move because I was basically making a “pre-move” in my waning seconds.  Later, he spent quite a bit of time again, and I already knew that I was going to play 36.Rg3 before he played his move.  But this time, I wanted to make sure I was taking close to 5 seconds and not making that blunder as I did earlier, but somehow I flagged with 3 seconds on my clock.  I made my move on the board, but he called my flag instantly, as soon as it happened.  After the game, I went home and checked my clocks, couldn’t believe it.  Then I sort of vowed to never get below 5 minutes again, finish a game with 30 minutes, etc.  So that’s how I felt about it, disappointed that if I remain calm and don’t get the shakes, then I can’t do the blitz thing at the end.

The one good thing is that because I lost, I went home and studied a lot of chess, unlike when you win and think you are walking on sunshine.  I’ll definitely be more mentally prepared when it comes to my next game, with time-pressure and etc.

Safe Play

For the last round, Round 4 I had been planning on playing a Sicilian Dragon (my nemesis variation) against Dean, but I was feeling stomach distress at the start of the game, and felt daunted by the circumstance and also my lack of recent study on it, and so stuck with the C3 Sicilian.  In any case, once I ate the free Smashburger that Shirley paid for (she bought everyone a Smashburger), I felt great actually, but had already started the game in any case.

There’s not much to impress with in this game, as it has a “seen it all before” feeling to it.  I can say that I knew that his …0-0-0?? move was dropping a piece before he even played it.  Luckily there was the 30 second increment or it could have been more stressful.  As it was, I got down to 8 minutes on my clock, but sure appreciated the increment!

There is that odd nagging feeling when entering a game like this, as I know that Dean “Fritzes” his games, and it seems like could have improved on many moves.  I enjoy a good game.  It’s weird how I can play so positional and still make it look so easy, against Dean in this case.

My rating dropped from 1797 to 1787, and I have one win as Black for a couple of rating points on Tuesdays; so I do have the start to the month one can feel good about.

Solid Play

This game is for all the fans of this (or any) blog that like to see their author conducting a well-played game.

Tuesday Round 2

It wasn’t quite as easy as it looked.  I was up four minutes in time-pressure, trying to keep score (obviously this isn’t exactly what happened, but it’s difficult to keep score after one’s opponent has stopped), when I ended up having 14 seconds to his 7 seconds at the game’s end.  My clock started beeping when he had 10 seconds left, as it was accidentally set to sound (but if you are a loyal reader, you should be getting used to the weirdness at how my games end by now).

I was up for the game, felt like something special would come of it in the end, and I believe it did.  Inspired by Magnus for this game.  It sorta looks like some ho-hum Magnus game against a much weaker player than himself.

Jess actually went 3-1 at the bottom section of the Winter Springs, losing only to the first place player.  He might be close to 30 and takes his time at the board like I do.

I castled quickly, then realized I should have played ..a6, but it made it all the more fun.  When he played g4, I quickly realized that …Qf7 is winning by force (within a minute), but probably spent close to 10 minutes on the move just to make absolutely sure of each variation (nerves, and too many botched tactics of late).

A Technical Game

My recent Round 3 game against Kevin “Gene” L shows that I still don’t have my full mental focus back, although I have been effectively using mental discipline as a substitute.

It’s something about that cold that goes around that affects my brain, even though I barely have the effects of it – the dry mouth finally went away today, lets see how my lungs hold out at work.  But even this morning I wake up and my brain has trouble with simple things at first, and then I am more or less fine.  I get that feeling like something is very gently pulling on the top of my brain, as if thinking were a physical act; and none of this ever happens in the Summer, for example, where I virtually never get sick.

I had a big-think on move 7 of half an hour, not sure how to proceed against this setup which was entirely new to me.  Then I came up with this plan of 7…Ng4, 8.h3 N6 with the idea of …f5, and semi-possible follow-up of …b6 and …Bb7, saw this line twice but then my brain got foggy, couldn’t concentrate, kept trying to remember this line but couldn’t, then played 7…e5 and immediately remembered it.  The tournament conditions were perfect from a chess-players view, it was just my brain that could not focus properly, and I blurted out the 7…e5 move out of frustration, as I could have blitzed this move initially (didn’t feel comfortable with other ideas like …c5 or …c6).  After this, I was able to focus much better the rest of the game, though.

29…g5?  My blitz move, that I had seen before he even moved his queen, was to now play 29…BxN, 30.QxB Qa1+, 31.Qe1 Qxa, 32.Qd1 Kg7, 33.Qb2, but then I wasn’t feeling 100% confident that I could win from this position, but really I should have had more confidence (perhaps it was from all my bad luck as of late with my results).  So, I decided to look for a “squeeze” move and came up with this clunker.  It’s doubly silly since I was planning to defend the pawn with Bg3 if his knight moves, and then to threaten …Bh2, but I feel the time-pressure got me here because it’s a finesse-move situation here and I really hadn’t saved time on the clock for one.  After the game, I strongly felt that I should have played 29…Kf8, and then this would shut-down his e-pawn push that he surprised me with next.

31…Qa1.  When I played this move, I already knew I would be trading queens, and thought that it was winning at the time.

35…c5?!  Not the right move, although it’s hard to evaluate with more extensive analysis whether or not I had winning chances.  It’s probably just a draw here, but “chances” is the operative word.

37…h4.  I begrudgingly played this move to stop h5 from being played, which would probably win for White I felt; If this move hadn’t been necessary, then I had already calculated out a win for Black.  So, I knew that I had dumped my win and that I was going to have to try mightily just to hold after this move.

So it turned it was just a draw.  Now it was obvious that Gene could simply force three-fold with his next move, so I looked at him rather impatiently, and he looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and turned his hand up near him, so I grabbed his cold hand thinking it was draw offer but realized it was more of a question, and then he said “I guess it’s a draw”, then said “Can I play 55.Kd2??” and I replied “I’ll hit your clock if you want to play on”, and then he said that “Well, you have that 30 second increment” hesitatingly.  So, essentially, it seemed relatively certain that if I had been playing on the 5 second-delay rather than the 30 second increment that he would have played on to press me on the clock and then lost.  A fittingly bizarre way to end the game – as so many of my games seem to end!