The End of a Tough Month

Final Round Thursday

Fun fact, I’ve never drawn Dean before with the Black pieces, it’s been all wins.  We have at least 5 draws, with no wins for him, but all of the draws came where I had the White pieces, until now.

19…Bd8?  I’ll go ahead and give this move a question mark because I knew I was trading my “good” bishop for his “bad” one, and I could see how kluge-like his kingside attack on me was, and how it probably would have been unnatural for him to continue that attack, but being I had an unhealthy clock situation to his very healthy clock situation, decided to steer it toward a draw, and then to look for a final chance there.  I saw 19…h6, 20.Bf4, which the engines like, but didn’t want to keep that complexity with my clock (with a second time-control, btw, I would keep the complexity).  I could possibly play …Bc7 (or somewhere) and …Rb8 to play on the queenside.

At the end, I blunder, and it’s almost as if I saw that I was blundering before I even played it, but all of the other lines are drawing, and it’s hard to say if the final position really is a win for White or not.  In any case, Dean offered the draw, and of course I accepted.


Nerves, Again

Final Round Tuesdays

I played a new opponent tonight, a computer programmer as it turns out.  I am 0-3 in this tournament, worst result since I was 1500.  My opponent said that he has done little more than look at a few tactics puzzles a while back.  Well, I played the opening quickly, eight moves with still the full hour and a half remaining, but then lost my nerve once he defended against my first attack with 14.Rg3.

14….h5? was bad, sort of a pass really, since after …h4, he can still defend with Rg4.  I considered 14…c6, and Alex confirmed that I should have chosen this, with  the idea of keeping his b2 bishop entombed, plus I could play …b5 later, possibly, to kick his other bishop.

15….0-0-0??  At first, I planned to play 15…Nd4-e6, 16.Ne3 g6, 17.BxN and wasn’t sure about this, so I avoided the whole argument altogether by castling, only once looking at, and summarily dismissing his taking on g7 as bad for him.  Well, he went for 16.NxNf5 exf, 17.Rxg7 without hesitation and only then did it slowly dawn on me that my move was like a nuclear bomb going off in terms of mistakes.  I had unleased his bishop pair, saddled myself with a weak f4 pawn, was trying to salvage what I had left, without even attempting to dispute the g-file, and worst of all the trades seemed all in his favor not mine, and I would be lucky to get them in yet still!

I spent my longest think on 17…Ne6, eighteen minutes; it would have been my blitz move, but it would be nice to see some sort of active plan with 17….Rdf8, ….Qe8, ….f5,  …fxe followed by …f4, but this isn’t so realistic in any battle of tempos.

18.Rg2?  18.BxNe6 would have harmed my pawn structure irreparably

19.RxR? RxR  Suddenly, I am getting back into the game.  19.Qg1 is close to curtains for Black.

20.BxNe6?!  He should have taken sooner.  Now my pawn structure has been repaired and my tempo situation looks a lot healthier than it did.

22.Qh1.  This was the first move I looked at, and later thought he could grab space with his pawns, perhaps pushing the a and b pawns as far as they will go, although this plan with 22.Qh1!? turned out to be more effective than I otherwise would have suspected.

25.Rxh5?  25.Qg2 would have given him a lot control over the position and a definite advantage.

25….Kb8!  I need to eliminate back-rank issues and free my pieces for other tasks.

26….Rg8!?  Black’s attack is extremely annoying.  The alternative was …Qc6.

27.Kg1??  27.Kh2.  This move is obviously losing.

32.Kd3?  I was much more worried about 32.a3! and was even considering 32…Qg7, which may be good enough for the win (Alex, thought so, and it seemed so).

32…Qxa2?!  32…Bxf2! as Alex pointed out, was even more effective.

41.Qxf3?!  As Benjamin pointed out here, after he resigned, White has 41.Qd1 mate!

Scary to think that I was that close to going 0-4, and even got under 3 minutes before finding 37.Rg2+! putting away the game.

Next month, the City Championship is 5 rounds at G/90, increment 10, and I am not looking forward to playing at those unplayable controls(!)

This Week’s Games

I will post these games today, as time goes by.

This morning, I played this game on FICS which funny enough brought my Standard rating there up to 1961.  8 min, 21 seconds spent for 30 moves.  OTB positions are not this easy, and this opening was sort of a give-away for White.  It’s fun though to clock a quick victory, and it reminds me how much that the 3 minute blitz has improved my problem solving abilities, blending intuition with analysis at the appropriate times.

Tuesday’s Game, Round 3

In this game, I lost to little Calvin, mostly out of nerves.  I “knew” that my 19…Ng4 was a “coffee-house” move because I correctly evaluated that White is better after 20.Rg2, but since I was under 10 minutes by this point I decided to play it rather than play a “correct” game.  I “knew” that it was losing for him to take this piece.

The 21…Qh2+ line loses because White can shuffle his rook between g1 and g3, as I showed Alex and Stockfish confirmed.  Oddly, I had looked at the move …Bh4 in that line many a time, but did not see that 22….Qf4?? was giving up a check until I removed my hand from the piece, and instantly realized that I was losing on the spot.  After the game, I showed Alex the correct line here of 22…Bh4, 23.Qd2 g3, 24.Rg2 Rh1+, 25.Rg1 g2+, 26.Kxg2 Qh2+, 27.Kf1 RxR+, 28.Kd2 Re8+, 29.Kc3 RxQ (or find the mate) wins.

Stockfish agreed with this, but found that 23.Qc1 also loses, after reversing it’s initial evaluation.

I would add that it’s a real distraction for me when people come up at the end of the game to watch it.  Calvin’s father stood way far from the board and didn’t bother me at all, but it bothers me when some others watch, and in reality as a player, you can’t look at it as if it’s a spectator sport, as if other’s are watching it and seeing things, since they are probably missing a lot and just wanting to see what you play anyway.

Thursday’s Game, Round 3

Alexander played the best move 24.Qe2 with 1 second on his clock, but then instead of showing 31 seconds after hitting his clock, it showed 30 seconds and flag (which it showed for a couple more moves before going away, as it continued to otherwise function normally).

I wanted to play on, and besides thought I was probably winning anyway, and was a bit miffed at not finding a win after he took my “pogie-bait” pawn on a6.  When stockfish confirmed I was up around 1.7 here, I covered up the analysis so that I wouldn’t see the move, and quickly found 29…Rc1+ on my own, especially as I had not taken it seriously OTB.  But after 30.NxR Qe1+, 32.Kh2 QxRd2, 33.Na2 Qxb2, 34.Nb4, it was Alex who found for me 34…Qe5+, 35.Kh1 Qxe3, conveniently also defending the b3 pawn, and Black is clearly winning here.

Keeping the rooks on might have been a good idea, and 42…Kd7 is winning for Black, but it is very difficult, even playing on increment, to transition for middlegame to endgame play – this is what second time-controls are for!  Alex claimed 3-fold, which it is, and I accepted his implied draw offer as well.  The endgame only seems simple having analyzed it after the game.  As Alex pointed out at Denny’s, Earl and Daniel missed the win because they traded off the queenside pawns, and then tried to win it on the kingside, instead of keeping the queenside pawns on the board as well.  Move 40 would have been the perfect spot for a second time-control to kick in of, say, 30 minutes.  One of the important things of a second time-control is to lose your nerves, walk it off for a few minutes, and get some fresh air or refreshment before playing on – this was very effective for me in back in California where we had a second time-control.

Perseverance and Persistence

….are what wins chess games.

In round 2 on Tuesday, I did not have this but on Round 2 Thursday, I did.

On Tuesday’s game, I sensed that 25.fxe6 was winning, but in time-pressure played another move 25.BxNd7 because I could not calculate the winning move (the f-file pressure is decisive in many lines, and not just on this move).

Then on move 27.fxe6?  I correctly sensed that 27.h4 was winning, and was going to play it, but then backed out at the last second while evaluating 27…exf, 28.hxg5 fxg4, and played something even worse instead.  At the end, I could not find a move that works and played 28.Be5? while my flag had fallen, when 28.Bf2 is the move, found by Stockfish.

This game was an important lesson on trusting one’s instincts.  When I could combine instincts with analysis, I was fine, but when it came to trusting my instincts alone, I chose not to and paid the consequences.

On Thursday’s game, on move 18 I moved the wrong knight to e4, then paid for it when it came to 21…exd5!, which was a surprise for me.  Perhaps the best thing I did in this game was to trust in my instincts and not flag, as my time-pressure was just as bad as in Tuesday’s game with the exception of how I handled it better, and capitalized on the opportunity that would not have presented itself had I not hung tough, avoiding the flag.

Playing Against a FIDE Master

Round 1

I went to the club, expecting to get White against a 1100/Unr sort of opponent, and instead got the top pairing.  Josef, I hear, has recently moved to the Springs or at least to Colorado, and was once rated as high as 2360 back in 1996.  He’s also an Original Life Master, it appears; a very friendly older gentleman.

I played the QGD, Capablanca variation, because that happens to be the one line I felt most familiar with.


14…b6.  The other plan that I considered here was 14…Bf6 with …Re8 and …e5 to follow.  Definitely, this was the simpler and safer plan to play against a Master.

15…Bb7.  Once I released the piece, I began to see a tactic for White.  16.e4, Nf6, 17.Nxf7 RxN?, 18.Bxe6.  Then I noticed that the king would need to take on f7, but that Nf4 and Qb3 seemed to be crashing in, and also that the Nf4 and queen could coordinate on g6 as well, and I sort of got lost in all the ways for Black to lose, so much so that I just played my original move 16…Rc8 anyway.  I figured that …Qd6 would expose her to a fork, as would …Qc8, and that …Qe8 seemed very playable here, but did not want to play ….Qc7 for some reason, as Josef suggested after the game, but realized as soon as he said it that I was silly for not playing it.  Really, it’s easy to get lost and caught up in seeing ghosts on e6, but it’s important to realize that it’s just a valid attacking idea and should probably not be so simply winning.

19…exf?  I saw 19…Nd5, 20.Qb3, but 19…Bf6 was the sensible move.

24…KxNf8?  Unfortunately, I was already in time-pressure here and decided on playing the most “coffee-house” line in the position.  24…RxB, 25.Qd2 QxNf8 is the most solid continuation, IMHO, but even here White is markedly better, not in material but in position.  In my last analysis with Alex, as White I got a Nc3, Rf5 and Qf3, three hitters on d5!  Black simply has too many weaknesses to probe.

Another line I rejected, as too risky, was 24…Qe3+, 25.Kh2 RxBc4 (this is the proper recapture – can’t let Black push d5 as in the game), 25.Qh7+ KxN, 26.Qh8+ Ke7, 27.Nc3 and now the king is exposed to Re1+ when the Black queen moves to defend the h6 pawn.

Regarding Blitz, I do not feel like I am a natural blitz player as much as you, RollingPawns, probably because my game is not as well-rounded as yours.  I can attack well, as in Standard, but my defense is poor and consumes clock-time just as in OTB.  The biggest problem with blitz is that it kills my desire/ability to want to analyze positions deeply.  I have to play an OTB game after that just to remember what it’s like to analyze again, and appreciate that that is what I like about chess.  😉