Never Give Up

Round 4

I was dead lost at multiple points in this game, not playing the most accurate moves, okay playing bad moves, but I did manage to use my clock better than Pete, and thus was still able to come up with creative tries, whereas he was missing at least one easy win, such as: 35…Rc6?  35.Rc7 is game-over.

Afterwards, Master Josh Bloomer and Expert Earl Wikle came up with a way to win the rook vs knight endgame for White with Rg1, then Rg5.  Needless to say, I was very happy with the draw.


Time Got Us All

Final Round

I felt like Alex had defended brilliantly in this game, and then time-pressure ruined his game.

I was down to 50 minutes after move 12, and down to 20 minutes by move 22, so we were both down to two minutes or just under when Alex decided to resign.

10…Ne4?  This blunders a pawn without prepping it with 10…c6 first, but he didn’t see it or play it.

On move 13 and 14, I should have played …e5; noticed this right after playing move 14.

17.NxBd7?  It’s 0.0 equal now.  17.c5 was the way to go.

22.Nh5.  The computer doesn’t like this, and even thinks White is a tad better after Black plays …f5 in the game.  Still, between two non-Masters, Black’s attack is preferable, particularly in time-pressure.  The engine likes …h5, then maneuver the knight to e6, and probably …g5 break after that.

25.Kh2?!  It’s nearly dead-equal after 25.b4, and the …g4 idea of locking up the position is still best.

The game-losing blunder for White was actually the modest-looking 35.Rc3-c1? when instead 35.Kc1 is only -.5, or half a pawn down.


Flipping the Script

Round 3

I finally got a chance to get in that line that RP and I had discussed against the Portuguese.  Teah played it aggressively with the opposite sides castling, and that is really what gave me the chance to play for the win, it felt like.  I told her that her late …Nd6 to …Nf5 is what gave me the winning advantage.

No doubt that Teah will be an Expert or higher someday, if she sticks with it.

I was happy to come out on the positive side against Teah this month, as last month her win hit my rating rather hard.  I stuck with it and didn’t panic in the complexities this time.




…doesn’t have much of a forum in a chess game, despite what books on sacs may say otherwise.

Round 3

The pawn sac didn’t lose, but afterwards I didn’t have time and played poor positionally.  Instead of Ne4, should have played d5.  At the end, if I had played Nc5, he had …Bd2 winning the exchange, he had seen.

Intuition First

….analysis second, and considering your opponent’s rating should be a distant third when selecting a move.

Round 2

I was playing against a Master as Black, and had missed work and overslept my nap due to a bad cold that has lasted roughly six days already.  When I got there, nearly an hour late, I was down to 42 minutes to start with.

In the post-mortem with Earl and Gunnar, Gunnar had analyzed more than I had OTB, but it seems in hindsight that I have a very strong intuition, and that’s probably from studying so many books and games.  A great calculator can make Master, but intuition progresses over a lifetime for most players.

24…d3.  Earl was mostly fascinated by 24…e3 which was interesting to analyze but not directly relevant to the game, as I had looked at that move in some variations, but here 24…d3 was clearly called for.

BTW, I was the only one of us who thought the best move here and on move 25 was RxBc4!, and we never even looked at it because when I said it they completely ignored me or cut me off and jetted on with a different line.

After 25.Rc3?, I was incredulous that Gunnar was giving me 25…g5!!, which I had felt might be winning on both of these moves, but in the end trusted his rating, and 25…d2? (played on the increment) seemed less risky.  Actually, I had 7 minutes left here, and suddenly my cold started kicking my butt, and I lost my desire to focus here.  25.Rc3? really contains the idea of Bb3-d1 in some lines, and is aimed at stopping ..d2(?) rather than ….g5(!!)  To reiterate, I needed to play …g5 on both moves 24 and 25, to stop White from equalizing with RxBc4 (trading off both rooks and ending it with a BxRc4+ move)

It’s interesting that I really didn’t understand how to play that line, the rook and pawn endgame part.  After 25…g5, 26.Be3 Bxe3, 27.fxBe3 Rf3, 28.Rf1 Rxe3? (here the Black rook can lift up and let the king over via f1) which equalizes after 29.Bd1! (switching diagonals)  So, 28…Rc8-f8! (threatening d2 and cutting off White’s king is the winner).  If White instead defends passively with 28.Re1, then after trading down on the c4 square, Black will eventually have the sac …Rxe3, Rxe3…d2 queening.

However, even though that line above with 27…Rf3 is completely winning, like -3, there is an even better line which would have taken more clock time to calculate OTB.  27…Bxb3!!, 28.RxR d2! (the point), 29.RxRf8+ KxR, 30.Rc8+ Ke7!, and now White cannot play 30.Rd8 to stop the pawn, as the king would simply take it.  Earl was looking at the ….Bxb3 move in the 24…e3 line, but it is something completely different and gets refuted by a5…Bb6-b7, when the position has nearly equalized.

In the end, I blundered and flagged, and even had I taken the free d4 pawn with my king, it was still +5 for White as his king is stopping the advanced pawn (which is what I had failed to calculate, OTB), and after he plays his rook to the open file (Rb1), it’s curtains for Black in just a couple moves as the a-pawn will be swallowed up.

I feel like I lost this game due to laziness, but that a big part of that was my cold kicking in at the wrong time.  If I had started with full clock, I probably would have used a lot of it to overcome this situation and would at least have had more winning chances than in the game, or potentially won it (particularly had I not had the cold).

Gunnar missed …g5.  I missed that the rooks or rook endgame was so completely winning out of a all proportion.  This is the endgame I’ve had the least experience with, OTB and in books.  Most people’s “best games” books rarely include zugzwang rook endings with so many pawns (and rooks) on the board.  I’ve gotten some nice experience from going over this game, and it’s too bad I didn’t try it out OTB.











It Was Like Playing in a Match

Round 2

Mark decided to dodge my King’s Gambit this month, but unfortunately for him he appeared to have picked out an even rustier opening from his arsenal, this time the Scandinavian.

6…c6?  I knew that this was the mistake that I was looking for, OTB.  Normally, Black might play 6…Nc6, and in any case, I never get in Bf4 for free, like I do here.

7.h3  This move hardly requires an explanation, but here it serves the double-purpose of preventing …Nh4 from being effective should I play Bf4, and giving that bishop the h2 retreat square.

10…Be7  This might seem tame, but after 10…Bb4 I was looking forward to playing 11.Qb3 with advantage, since he will almost certainly have to trade off the minor exchange on c3, bishop for knight, while building my pawn-center for me.  still, Stockfish indicates that Black gets more play with 10…Bb4 and if 11.Qb3, then 0-0, 12.a3 BxNc3, 13.bxBc3 b6.

12…Qd8  I knew that this was a mistake before he played it, so I was already anticipating 12…Qb6 where his queen is out of play and I can slowly build up, possibly with g4 and then developing both rooks before opening up play.

12…Qf5 is confirmed best by Stockfish and Mark spent a long time looking at this move and analyzed it well, but did not play it.  This comes back to the old concept of needing to play what you looked at (if you couldn’t find a problem with it) or you are just killing yourself on the clock, and opening yourself up to the alternative of an equally difficult and far less analyzed alternative.

13. d5!  Before I played this move, I had calculated this appeared to win his b7 pawn, and that …e5 was the most likely reply.  In fact, I had done all of this before he had even played ….Qd8, and it was more a matter of verification at this point.

14…e5?!  14…Bxf3! was best, and probably his last best hope to draw the game.

17…Nbxd5??  I had figured that this was simply blundering a piece, and was expecting 17…Bd6, when I told Mark that I would have probably followed up with 18.Qf3.

19.Qc4.  I was going to play 19.Qe4?? with my 35 minutes remaining compared to Mark’s half a minute, as it is so easy to keep up the momentum in one’s opponent’s time-pressure, but then I realized that he would have the reply 19…Nc3!, nearly equalizing.   So, I moved 19.Qc4 after half a minute’s thought, only to notice 19…Nb6 right after I moved, but then I saw that my knight covers c4, so that I am still winning his knight there after 20.RxQ NxQ, 21.RxR+ KxR, 22.NxN.  19.Qf3 is the most accurate move, according to Stockfish.  So fortunately after this, he resigned, with 8 seconds on his clock  to my 34 minutes.

An interesting point is that this is the most time I’ve ever finished a chessgame against Mark with after many many years of encounters, either one of us to my recollection.  I’ve noticed that the over-all trend is that I am using my clock more wisely than I was previously, and part of this can be attributed to playing more blitz games recently.

My longest thinks of the game were on his time, but my longest think of the game on my own time was 8.Bf4 (8 minutes).  Of course, I really needed zero minutes to play this move, but as it was committal, and I didn’t see many direct threats of his, I wanted to make sure of my game plan going forward, and get comfortable with it before making this move.  I arrived late with 1hr 21 minutes on my clock, whereas Mark had the full allotment of 90 minutes.  Mark’s longest think was 34 minutes on move 14…e5.

In the end, Mark dropped a knight on d5, but I wasn’t as suprised by that as I might have been had I not played against Mark before, as I knew that it’s a big focusing point for him as to who is winning with an extra pawn, so that he focused on that more than on the “bigger picture”.







Round 1 Games

Tuesday Round 1

On moves 7-9, I have the pawn-break …e5, which I failed to consider, and is quite strong.

9…a6?!  I knew this was “weak-sauce” when I played it, as was my next move, simply didn’t solve the position, OTB.   9…Bd6 is strongest, and 9….e5 is second strongest.

10.Re1  Kicking the can (e4) down the road for one more move.  10.NxN bxN, 11.e4 a5! (with the idea of 12…Ba6!

10…Bd7?!  Black cowardly throws away the advantage.  10…Be7, 10…a5, 10…e5 all give Black an edge.

10.e4??  10.Nc3-e4 was equal.  Now the game is effectively over.

Thursday Round 1

7…0-0?!  7…d6 holds only a tiny edge for White, so it’s a playable position.  During the game, I was fearful of 7…Nxe4?? (fork-trick), 8.Qe2 not realizing that 8…Qe7 simply hangs the knight – probably because in my mind, I was still associating the e4 pawn capture with a fork-trick, but the Black knight no longer controls the d5 square, nor does the Black queen, and it is not a playable move here.

8…Ne8??  After 8…d5, 9.Bd3, White has an interesting tabiya, with lots of potential, and has achieved the goal of the opening.

Another move I was worried about was 8…Nh5, 9.Bg5 (after 9.Be3, the e5 pawn will fall if White castles 0-0) Qe8.  Here I wasn’t sure of this position, but 10.Nd5! puts the question to rest, as after NxBb6, this diagonal is no longer the threat that it was.

After 8…Re8, which she wondered if she should have played, and I had thought she would play (she just seemed to doubt herself, OTB), I noted that 9.Ng5 seemed to be a tactical refutation (it’s +1.1), and that even 9.Bg5 looked hard to fathom (it’s good for Black), Stockfish suggests that 9.0-0 d5, 10.Bb3 is actually much better (1.79), probably because all of the play (the pawn-chain, and pawn-breaks) favors White (Bg5 still looks nasty).

Poor Tara had just played in a Bullet tournament the knight before, and I just knew that this would be the antidote of that, since you can see how in the King’s Gambit Accepted, you are often having to correctly analyze four or five different lines, not simply making a move; and the game, with one mis-step, can easily be over before move ten, as it was here.  The same thing happened on the clock as it did on Tuesday, once I got the winning position I was nearly able to play on the increment, and had 61 minutes at the end, versus Tuesday’s game where I had 60 minutes – you can’t blitz the opening, though.