Last Round Games

Tuesday’s Last Round Game

3…h5.  This is “The Racoon”, “popularized” locally by Life Master Brian Wall (it’s been told to me that he invented this opening).  The “Racoon’s claw” is Black pawns on f4, g5, and h4.

4.Bc4  4.d4 is considered to be most accurate here – i.e., you aren’t trying to stop …d5 so much as ..d4, since ..d5 is met with e5, or probably better simply trade on d5.

6…d6.  Even though Mark took a lot of time playing these moves (which probably contributes to my subjectively spending a lot of time back!), he could have blitzed all of these moves, as you now have the characteristic position of “The Raccoon” with claw included.

7.h3.  This move is not strictly necessary, and I don’t believe should be played yet, even though an engine will just as much chose this move as any other.  7.0-0 appears to be more thematic, but the best move in this position is the hard to find 7.e5! when after 7…g4, 8.Bxf gxNf3, 9.Qxf3 White is up +2, a-la Muzio Gambit style.

9.Ne2?!  This is momentum-shifter toward Black.  9.Qd3, and if 9…Nb4, then 10.Bxf7+ KxB, 11.Qc4+ wins a pawn after 12.QxNb4.  This is the King’s Gambit after all, so gotta play accordingly  😉

10.c3  10.Qd3 is another move.  Curiously, Crafty rates the piece sac 10.Bxf4 as only -.6, while these other moves are -.3, so there is still a lot of possibility left in this position.

11.b4?  Already in time-pressure!  White loses the thread of the position, as 11.Qb3!! is practically better for White, as the sackety-sac stuff is all favoring White now.

12.Bd3?  Once again, completely missing the thread.  12.exd! Nxd deflects Black’s immediate support of the f5 square, as well as sets up 13.Qb3!.

14.Qd3  After 14…Qd5! 15.BxB QxB, 16.Qc4 b5 (I saw this …b5, OTB but still allowed this variation to happen), White’s queen, and position are not as secure as they would be after 14.Qc2, when White’s queen can pop-up to the safer b3 square.

16.Qd3?  Here, I thought that 16.Qc2 was better, and after my move saw that Black had 16…a5, but in extreme time-pressure made this sort of insane trade-off that Qd3 “looked more agressive”, even though I hated the thought of 16…Qf5, 17.Qc4 b5 (which ironically Mark didn’t intend to play).  Even if I play 16.Qc2 or 16.Qb1! here, I will still be a tempo down over if I had simply played either of these moves on move fifteen.

17.Ne1??  But this is an even worse decision that 17.Qc4, as without the queen, White is simply down a pawn with insufficient compensation, and not enough tactics or positive initiative to show for it.

19.Nc5?!  This shouldn’t really be a consideration for a move, as White’s Ne2 and Bc1 are still searching for a purpose, and therefore 19.Bd2 makes the most sense.

25.Bxe3?  This ensures that three pieces are getting traded off into a lost endgame for White, therefore 25.Ng1, which avoids trades, is best.

27.Ng1(?)  Not the best practical move in my opponent’s time-pressure, as now we are simply left with a winning king and knight endgame.  There are more chances for mistakes with more pieces on the board.

I was disappointed by this loss as as even a draw would have let me split first and second place with Mark, but it did leave me with much valuable study material on the flip-side; I was able to look at quite a few sacs which White has which don’t show up in these simplified notes.

Thursday’s Last Round Game

I’m on a Windows 10 PC for the first time in nearly a decade, migrating over from my Kubuntu machine that was getting old. I plugged this game into Arena, but it keeps wanting to play me and not let me move to analyze, so for now this analysis of these games will be brief.

Travis the player who I lost to last month with Bxf7+ sac in the King’s Gambit, so I played Ruy here.

7.d4 is best. I thought he might play 7…Bg4, 8.dxe NxB, 9.axN BxNf3, 10.QxB dxe, but Rybka says this is -1 for Black because of 11.Qg3 (double-attacking e5 and g7), and then Rybka sacs with …Bd6 instead of defending with …Qf6, 12.Nc3 Ne7, 13.Bg5 Qg6, 14.BxN BxN, 15.Nd5 Bd8 – this last part is my own analysis since I can’t get the program to cooperate.

8…c5? Bb7

13.Re1. Rybka thinks 13.Nc3 is most accurate.

I’ll have to finish this post another time when I get a program downloaded that will cooperate. It was an interesting game.

On Tuesday I played Mark for the final round and should have played a Lopez, but played a King’s Gambit needing only a draw, then tried to draw it but a pawn down, and wasn’t sure on a move that seemingly would have drawn it against him, but I saw better for him and chose the wrong square for my queen and then let him trade into a pawn up endgame which was winning for him, and he converted it despite getting down to 11 seconds and such.

Future plans: I am not planning on playing any Wednesdays next month as I feel that I need a mental break from playing/analyzing too much chess. I will be giving a lecture for a thematic chess tournament on the last Tuesday in March, which is probably going to be on the Evan’s Gambit. Also, coming up is the Colorado Springs Open March 12-13 which I may be playing in (I’d really like to play in it) particularly to widen the field of opponent’s from whom I normally play (might even get Alexander to come with and play in that one).

I may skip Thursday’s this month, which I really like playing in but I also need to focus other things like possibly looking for a new job, or getting into a new line of work. On the other hand, I will play on Thursdays for sure in April because the CSCC club is having G/30 Log Cabin Fever Reliever, and also Quick Chess, which I am not interested in wasting mental energy on, even though sure it’s fun; IOW, I won’t be attending. Like I said last year, I am done experimenting with time-controls (unless they offer more time or a second time-control).


Playing Against A Positional Attacker

Round 3

The analysis of this game isn’t quite as superficial as might first appear, which is why I delayed annotating it for so long.

7…Bd7  Objectively, White’s queen sortie doesn’t do too much, and the exact reason for this is that Black can now take the pressure off of that h4-d8 diaganol that the queen is exerting influence over by playing 7…exf4, where White no longer has the “pull move” f4xe5 at his disposal.  This is an example of where releasing the tension, even as Black, is actually beneficial, since that tension is a powerful tool for White in the majority of cases, and brings trouble on Black.  I knew that fxe favored White during the game, and feared it, but he thought simply that it would “release the tension”.  This is an excellent example of knowing what tension is for, that it’s power is in transforming the position into something else.

8…a6!  My intuition told me this was strongest, although I was still worried about 9.Bd3, but after 9…e4, 10.Nxe dxe, 11.Bxe Qe7, 12.Bxg6 (which I saw OTB), but now 12…hxg6!, 13.QxRh8 0-0-0, 14.Nf3 Nb4, and Black is much better.


10…Qe7?  It was necessary here to play 10…exf to avoid 11.fxe! fxe, 12.QxQ NxQ, 13.Ne2! where the d4 pawn is now undefendable, thus winning a pawn even it were to be pushed.

11….0-0-0.  Now this variation does work for Black because the rooks are connected, and if 12.exf fxe, 13.QxQ NxQ, 14.Ne2 e4, 15.BxR? exNf3, 16.gxf (else if 16.Bb2 f3xNe2) RxBh8.  This line above goes to show how concrete and exacting that this game really was; there were imperatives to be played that were ignored.

13…Rf8!  I thought at the time that 13…Rd8 may have been more accurate, and saw 13…h6 which Stockfish likes along with 13…g5, but I really wanted to finish getting my pieces developed by this point.  Stockfish finally agrees that this move 13…Rf8 is a bit better than …Re8 because it does more against White’s e4 move.

15…Qg7?  This drops the f6 pawn, as does 15…Qf7? Which I thought was better after playing my move.  Correct is 15…Qd6 stopping the future e5 pawn fork after 15…Qg7, 16.Nxf6 NxN, 17.fxe5 which is a strangely difficult  fork to spot at the board even though it is a simple two-move tactic.  After 15…Qd6, 16.fxe fxe, 17.Ng5?! (Rhf1) Qe8, 18.Rhf1 Qd8!, 19.Rfe1 (Qg3 Nh6!) is equal.

16…Nxd4??  The game is effectively over at this point.

20…Nb4  20.Nxf4 was best, but required more time to spot and evaluate to play it correctly.


No Need To Fear, The Master Is Here

Round 3, final round

I wanted to keep the game interesting, and it was, even if I didn’t realize I would be getting blown-out after move 10.

10…Na5?  Josh thought I was losing after making this move because the whole maneuver wastes too much time.  He advised me to watch the Magnus Carlsen vs Ding Liren 2016 Tata Steel last round game.  There Black plays 10…Be7, followed by …d4, and the game is on course for a draw after a couple of more moves.

13…Nb7?  As Josh pointed out, best is 14…NxNd2 followed by 15…Ne4.  If 15…Na4 he was going to ignore it and play f4-f5, etc.

14.NxNc4!  I knew it was game-over by this point, but wanted to hang in there as long as possible.  We both had now seen 14…dxN, 15.a4 c6, 16.axb cxb, 17.Nxb5 (…QxNb5??, 18.Ba4 skewer wins).  Also, and …Bg4 intermezzo is punished by e6.  What’s remarkable is that he saw that this variation where he is taking the bishop on e6 is even stronger than winning the b5 pawn.  I was actually set to play after 15.a4 c5!?, but even here the computer says that 16.NxBe6 is still strongest and crushing (I am down like -6).

15…QxQd1.  Best, although it drops the c7 pawn.  Josh pointed out that after 15…fxe6, he has 16.Qf3 and 17.Be4 trapping and winning the Nb7.

27…Bg5?  Time-pressure mistake.  I saw 27…Bd8, knowing I can’t take on b6, but right after my move I realized I should have gone in for 27…Bd8, 28.Rh7 (his immediate reaction) Nc7, but then he saw 29.Bc6 after a think, trying to set up a mate.  The funny part about it is that he is close to +5 just based on all of my pieces being trapped, so that he can eliminate my light-squared pawn chain, even though I am only a pawn down in that position for the moment.

It’s funny how this tournament was only six players, even though we had a Master and an Expert playing.  I got a free chess lesson from a Master, who is probably at least FIDE IM strength, if not GM strength.  It was well worth showing up for this game, and it was very enjoyable as well!

Carlsen vs Ding Liren 2016 Tata Steel, final round

Weak In The Knees In Time-Pressure

Round 2

Going along with the theme from last week,   I offered a draw after 33…Ne3+, knowing Black is winning but with 2 min 6 sec remaining after the move.  Luckily, Daniel declined my offer, but then blundered later by offering  a queen trade in a 0.0 position.  I missed a bunch of opportunities there, seeing …a5 a lot but too wary to pull the trigger on the increment.

Compromises in Time-Pressure

Wednesday Round 2

I decided to play the Open Sicilian, although I was more in the mood to play the C3 Sicilian, because Alex wanted to see me play it, and I also know that RP has potentially switched to it.  😉

I debated between 5.Nb3 and 5.Nf3, but settled on 5.Nb3 for this occasion because I wanted to prevent the move …Bc5.

I’ll confess that I really don’t know the best way to gain an advantage against this variation at this time.

8.Bc4.  I felt that 8.Bd3 was more circumspect, but didn’t want to spent time OTB calculation …d5 breaks, and 8.f3 seemed passive and problematic if I weren’t getting kingside castling in.

13.0-0? This turns out to be a strategic mistake.  After 13.Nf1 Be6, 14.Ne3 BxB, 15.NxB  White is holding a normal opening plus into the middlegame.

15.b3  My inexperience shows as it was apparently best to allow …Nc4.  15.Qd2 (gets out of …Bf3 pin as well) 15…Nc4, 16.BxNc4 BxB was White’s best continuation here.

16.Qd2  I considered 16.a4 here, and should have played it – it gives White the best chance, although Black should hold with best play.

21.a3?!   21.c3 makes the most sense here.  I was even eyeing the trade of queen for two rooks, but Stockfish says it’s best to get the queen off of that file with Qe3 at some point.

21…Qg6?  This moved seemed like a mistake, but I had so little time to refute it.  22.Qe3! is best.

23.Qxa6?  I am trading two pawns, one of which is a center pawn, for a wing-pawn, very bad mistake.  Simply 23.axb and White is better.

24…Rxc2?  24…Qxb4 should be played, and it’s even; this the move I feared, but didn’t prepare at all for 24….Rc2.  The best response on this and the next few moves is simply to push the b-pawn.

27.Qc4??  In time-pressure, I decide to test Sara’s endgame skills, but this is one of those “game management” decisions that throws it all away.  It throws away the tension and gives the opponent an easy problem rather than a “hard problem”.  I was going to play 27.Qb6 Nc6, 28. Qc7 (Stockfish says to play 28.b4, but 28.Qc7 is apparently an even harder problem).  In the post-mortem, I showed this, Sarah had seen it during the game and thought she’d have to give up the d-pawn.  The variations are quite complex.  The endgame was child’s play with her 20 minutes remaining, and I flagged in a lost position.


Thursday Round 2

6…0-0?!  Once again, castling is inaccurate because in case of 7.e5, you want to play …Ng8.  Therefore, 6…c5! is the most accurate move-order.

9.h4 and 10.g4 seemed immaterial, losing time and giving me an endgame advantage.

13…Qf5.  I spent a lot of time here, even though all I saw was what I played all along.  However 13…Nb8, followed by 14…Nc6 seems best.

18…b5!  How else can Black fight for the initiative, let alone crash through?  The fi-file just didn’t seem like enough by itself.


23.c3?  23.Rd3! with the idea of 23.Rc3 is equal.

Now White defends with the best moves.

31….Bc8!  The engine prefers 31…Ke7, and Master Bloomer preferred it as well, but when I played many moves on, White’s advantage petered out.  This move may seem passive, but again illustrates the advantage of maintaining the tension, even as late as into the endgame.  The only downside was how much time that I spent on this move debating.

43…Ne7?  Regretfully, as soon as I blitzed this move I saw that I should have played 43…a5! and could have played it on the previous move as well, but was blitzing these moves.

47….Bf5?!  47…e4! is decisive, and as soon as Master Bloomer saw this position he told the me that I probably should have called his bluff and won the piece, and then whipped out his analysis as if this were bullet-chess (i.e., very easy) for him.  The one thing to keep in mind here is that you have to know your knight and bishop mate from the best resulting position for White.  I went over the bishop and knight mate endgame with Stockfish for a while, and am confident with it, particularly if I can get my opponent close to the side of the board.

54….Nb5?  One thing that makes it hard when playing Jesse is that not only can he play a mean endgame, but that he blitzes them.  Constantly as I was writing down my move he was making his move at the same time, so I’d look at it out of the corner of my eye before I could write my move, and then it would confuse my score-keeping.  Both of us kept score, but after the game I noticed that his yellow copy, while looking neater than mine, was no more legible.  You can read both of our scoresheets before the bishop trade.  After the bishop-trade both of our scoresheets become illegible (I could read a lot more of my moves, but couldn’t make some of them out on either of our sheets, so I had to recall what happened at the end), and yet we were both scribbling down all of the moves.  I really wish the increment was 1 minute, and the G/60, just to put an end to this sort of blitzing.  Keeping score at 30 seconds feels about the same as keeping no score with a 10 second delay while blitzing.

58…Ng5??  58.Kd4 is equal.

I remember him giving  me a chance to not take his pawn, and that 58…Kc4! would be winning, telling myself not to take the pawn, but again I made the “game management” decision 58…Kxb4?? to not leave him with mating material as I made this move with around 9 seconds on my clock, even though I figured that he had about a 75% chance to draw the game with my move.  I wasn’t able to yet see his draw, but was not shocked when it came.





The Dangers of Blitzing

Round 1

Me and Shirley picked up where we left off after our last “blitz” games last week, except that this one was regular rated.

Although this was G/90, 30 sec Inc, I had taken only two minutes (actually, close to three minutes) before she had resigned (1:28 remaining).

At first, I thought there was no three-fold, and I was simply adding time to my clock, but then I noticed that …Na6 had been played three times.  Luckily for me, the first time it had been played my rook was on a8, and the last two times my rook had been on b8.

17. Qe2  Here, she had made the mistake of playing 17…Nxb4, which I had seen works against 17.Qd3 (but she played it anyway, probably because she was down two pawns).

When she had resigned, we both had seen that she could lose her Rh8, but I had been looking at 20…Ke7, 21.QxNa6+?? QxQ, 22.Nd8+?? (thinking this forked the a6 and e7 squares) QxNd8.  I quickly played this after she resigned and we signed score-sheets, just to show her, but realized it was a blunder as soon as I touched her knight.  This is the meaning of trading blunders during blitzing, and the last blunder hurts the most.  I can’t say for sure whether I would have played it or not, but I immediately got the sense and message to myself that chess is humble game.



Paradoxical Positions

Round 1

Anatoly Karpov was once quoted as saying that one of his interests in chess was in paradoxical positions (he was a fan of endgame studies).  This game got like that in the end, when I was unfortunately in time-pressure, literally playing on the increment.

In the 2…Nf6 Scandinavian Opening, the quietest choice of lines for White may have simply been 3.Bb5+ Bd7, 4.Bc4 when White faces little danger of losing, and should be on top for a while.

Instead, I tried a line I had never played before but always kind of wanted to see, and that is after 3…Bg4, 4.Be2.  I had tried 4.f3 before, and Black got a great attack; in fact it was against Teah where she lost her queen, but it was a tough game.  OTB, I almost played 4.Nf3 in order to transpose into normal lines, but then realized that it could be met by 4….BxNf3, 5.QxB Qxd5, trading down early.

Even though I had seen her moves coming, I was still startled at how tactical that this opening became, and so it unfortunately consumed a lot of time on my clock – would not have wanted to see this in a rapid game for the first time.

9.a3, My longest move of the game.  My original plan had been to play either 9.Ng3 or 9.Nf4, but Black will not trade queens but rather post his queen on g6 or f5 in response, to keep control over the light-squares.

9…e5.  I was happy to see this move, and quickly played 10.d5 without even bothering to analyze it properly, since I didn’t really believe in her …e5 move on a gut/surface level.

OTB, 13…Nxc3 seemed, and is strongest, yet I quickly sort of dismissed it as being likely to be played as (besides my being forced into this variation) doubted that she would give up her queen for the two rooks, even though it is indeed good for Black.

16.Qa8+  Me and Alex both thought that the exchange sac on d7 was probably winning for White, but in fact it is bad with best play and better for Black.  The biggest problem here was that I kept looking for a tactic, hence why I played the easily defended against short-term Nb5 move, instead of the long-term Nd5 move.  Simply put, I was looking for cheapo tactics and mates.  I considered 18.Nd5, but dismissed it due to 18….Bc5, and that is really short-term thinking, since the Nd5 can be supported by c4, and b4-b5 would kick the Bc5.  It’s funny, chess is a balance where you can’t get too focused on short-term tactics nor on long-term strategy.  You have to find the times when the position is calling for a tactic versus when it is calling for a simple, strategic, positional improvement.  18.Red1, attacking the unprotected e-pawn, is also a strong move.

23…f3?  It appears that I am strengthening e4, but in fact am weakening the king’s position and dark squares surrounding it.

24…f5!  I was ready for this, OTB, but now White is losing despite what an engine’s initial evaluation of this position may be.  She took longer on this move than I thought she would, so by the time she played it I had seen that 25.Nc3 Qe3+, 24.Kh1 Rd8 was not looking good for me, and quickly finished finding the mate, after the game, where White continues with 25.RxR+?? NxR is mate in seven for Black, according to Stockfish (I found the cute B + Q + pawn mate right after the game).  Instead 25.Nc3-d5 is the formation I was hoping to achieve during the game, but 25…Qe2, 26.Nbc3 Qf2, 27.Nb5 Rd7, and the engine disproves of 25.c4? after a long think (-1.4), and even 26.h3 is calling it -.96 after a while.  Still, this would have been best.

25.g3  This move was understandable in terms of both kicking the queen, and giving the king some breathing room on the light-square g2, but now after 25…Qh6(forced) it makes playing 26.Nc3 impossible as Black has e4 where 26.fxe and 26.f4 are both met by 26…Ne5!! which I had found against the first line with Alex, but didn’t find against the second line until the computer suggested it, and then I was able to quickly calculate why that is.

27.h4  During the game, I didn’t trust the more normal looking 27.Rf1? because for one thing I saw that 27…Qh3 was annoying (-.76 or so), but after 27…Bb6, 28.Kg2 Rd8, the position is already over -3 according to Stockfish (even though I fed it the move 28…Rd8).

28.Rd5?? It is here, in the most paradoxical stage of the game, that I was playing with under half a minute on my clock.  I considered first to play 28.Kg2, where if she plays 28….fxg3?! instead of 28…BxN! I can use that g3 pawn as a shield for my king.  Instead, I am probing with my rook to get her to make an error, which she did.

28…Be3?  Black had here the lovely continuation 28…fxg3!, 29.RxBc5 Qxh4!! letting the knight continue to hang instead of taking it, as the pawn on g3 is far, far more important than the Nf2.

30.Ng4??  It’s odd that I wanted to make a positional move here, instinctively, rather than a tactic, but with only half a minute didn’t have the time to figure out the flaws in neither the position nor the moves.  I was attracted to 30.Ne4 initially, but played this tactic since it was easy to see that it wins a piece.  The best move is 30.Nh4!  preventing the future …Qh2+ in the most economical manner possible.  The funny thing about this position is that it is given the eval of -2.75 but is one where Black could make some natural move and have the eval quickly drift toward positions where White could still hope to draw it.

31.QxBe3??  I saw 31…h5 coming, but was hoping that I could figure something out after playing this move, even though I continued to see nothing saving White the whole time.  Instead, the paradoxical looking 31.Nxc7 (winning only a pawn instead of a piece, but weakening Black’s kingside much as she has been weakening mine).  Now White has great swindling chances after 31…KxNc7, 32.Rb5!   32….Rb8??, 33.Qf7+ is equal.  32…b6??, 33.QxBe3 is also equal as is 32…Nd8??, 33.Qc3+ or 33.QxBe3.  After 32…Ba7?? 33.Rxb7+ is mating for White!  In fact, even after the correct 32…Rd8!, 33.QxBe3 h5??, 34.Qb6+! would draw, and thus Black needs to make one more move with foresight such as 33…Kc8! since 34.Qb6 could be now met by 34…Rd2+, which is crushing, and other moves allow 34…h5, winning the Ng4 at long last.  Curiously, if Black does not take the Nc7 on move 31, then 32.Na6+ is either a perpetual or mating for White.  So, there were still hard problems for Black to solve after the blunder 30.Ng4?? and also on the move before, but I didn’t pose them to my opponent in my time-pressure.