Thursday’s Silly Mistake

Final Round

This time, it was my turn to make the silly mistake.  Incidentally, it seems that most of my wins and losses are due to silly mistakes on my or my opponent’s part.

After the game, it was apparent that …g4 was a blunder.  I thought about playing ..h6 and should have.

I thought that …Bh4?? was a bad move at first, but then I calculated it and only saw the Qxh5+, but not the Qxe6+, so we both rattled the moves off after …Bh4, and then I resigned.  He had also beaten me on the battle of the clock, as my clock dropped just below 36 minutes when I decided not to take one more look at this line, I felt I was consuming too much time.  The only move he really used any time on was Nxe6, and I already knew that that move was best, so it didn’t help me much.

My e6 square was weak in any variation.  After the game, I showed him 14…Qa5, (he instantly played 15.Kb1 and thought I was still in the game) 15…gx3, 16.Qxh3 hitting e6, or 15…0-0-0, 16.hxg hxg, 17.Qxg4 Nxe5, 18.Qxe6+ Kb8, 19.QxNe5.  It just seemed my position was crumbling.  Also, I spent some time thinking about what if he lets me take on a2, and then gets a Ra1 in, but that wasn’t so likely a variation, but it takes time to work through all this.  I realized once I decided to write down clock times that that would be the kiss-of-death as it seems I always lose to higher-rated players whenever I do this because it makes me feel more conscientious about simply making the move.

Another line I didn’t blindfold deep enough until I got into my car after the game was 14…Qa5, 15.Bd3 Qxa2, 16.Bg6+ Kd8!  (still a horrible position for Black, but I’m surviving).  I noticed this first in the line 14…Rg8, 15.Bd3 Qa5, 16.hxg4 hxg4, 17.Bg6+ Kd8.  Well, I won’t feel too bad now when I play in the U1800 section of the Fall Classic.  If I had won this game, I’d probably have thought I was too good for that and played in the Open section instead.  This game settles that question for me, since the first two rounds are G/90, d/5, and I simply can’t keep up on the clock in an Open section.

I do think that it’s beneficial for me to go ahead and try to solve some puzzles with long variations, so that I get used to visualizing long variations more quickly and deeply.  This is going to be critical for my developing into a stronger/higher-rated player.

The funny thing is that I was planning on playing …Qe7, that was part of the plan, and I noticed I had that on move sixteen once I put in the game on my computer, but my problem seems to be that I just don’t notice things fast enough.  I notice one key thing right away, but then it takes me time to notice the other threats, which there are in just about every position.   I played out that endgame after 16…Qe7, and would most likely lose it OTB with such a time-deficit, and my opponent seemed very determined, like I’ve never seen anyone appear that determined before (he would move, press his clock, and write down his move and slam his pen down in what seemed like three seconds but I figure he may do this in every game, and I just somehow hadn’t noticed it before) , but I figured that endgame was losing even though I had looked at a line just like that.  In fact, it seems as if I was looking at that line, but I didn’t realize that I could allow Rh8+ after trading on g5.

I played out that endgame against Stockfish and it was beating me on most moves, as I couldn’t keep up with the threats, playing quickly.




The Expert Returns

Round 4 – final round.

So, right before I got to Colorado, seven years ago, there was a local Expert named Mitchell A. who was once rated as high as 2042, and was mostly over 2000 back then.  He was even the Colorado Springs City Champion once.  Well, he finally returned to play in his first tournament after all that time (would love to hear the backstory on what he’s done since then).  He said that he didn’t care about his rating just now since he’s only getting back into chess after a long spell.  He says he changes his openings all of the time, and tries to reach novel positions, so this game was no exception.

He missed 15.Nh4, and I thought it was unclear after 15…Qh7, 16.gxB Rg8, followed by …g5, when I was not planning on taking.  Stockfish does say that that’s equal, but 16.Bf3, taking time to attack, instead of grab material and defend, is +2.

In any case, he sacked his queen and smiled at me, as if it were a wink.  He had some ideas to make the queen sac work, but mostly I think he was just trying to have some fun and an interesting game.  He’s not a weak player, he just decided to try and have some fun, and I’ve gotta say we’ve all done it at some point, from time to time.

I was thrilled that I didn’t get into a technical game with him, as he strikes me as an ace at technical positions/endings, which you would expect from his rating, and those are the games in which he seems to win with ease.

I did see Nf3-g5xf7 forking rooks idea (since he hasn’t moved his bishop on f8), but I guess I forgot about it, much like he said he saw my Nh4 move, but forgot about it.  Putting up the game score, I realized that I was worried about him playing …e5, and then his Qd5 does cover f7, and I was worried that Ng5 would give up …e5, so that is probably what I was looking at, but the engines say it works and is over +1.5

This tournament brought my rating back up over 1800 (1819).  We’ll see what tomorrow night brings.  I’m looking forward to playing in the Fall Classic 2 1/2 weeks from now, even though the first two rounds are at the club-like time-conrol of G/90, d/5.




IronMan Open

Round 1

27…Nd4,  This is a mistake because I can trade on d4, then play Rh2.  I did see this idea, but wasn’t sure if I should commit a rook(s) to the h-file just yet.

29…Be3?!  Played quickly (in my time-pressure), and I instantly sensed it was a mistake, but didn’t see a refutation until right after I move.  30.Qb4! is a no-brainer move, unless you see it a moment too late that is.  I thought I had blown my chance here, but I would get more chances to come.

32…Qh6+?  Josh said “Wow!” as soon as I replied with the unexpected 33.Rh2.

40.Qd3?!  Funny that this would be a natural time-control move.  Here I debated between improving, and then trading my queen, versus playing f4, followed by Nh3-g5, pressuring h7 with the rook and knight, and eyeing Ne6.  f4, I also observed, traps the bishop onto e3.

40…Kg7?! Protecting the g7 pawn.  Now the king is a target for Nh3-g5-e6+ and Rh7 in that line.

41.Qe4?  A groveling invitation to trade queens.  Soon, the queen will be a target, f4 never happens, and the Be3 thereby also gets out of the trap.

42…Re7  Completely missed this move.

43…Bh6 and missed this move as well.

44.Qxd?? I realized this move may and probably loses, but was in acute time pressure, less than half a minute left.  44.Ng1 is the only move that holds the position, but not so easy to find in time-pressure.

I gave up on my “chess-dreams”/plans too easily in this game.  Time-pressure was a big factor.

Round 2

21…c5?  The complexity level given by Stockfish is 1.14/1.19.  I’ve never seen it that high before.  So, I did seriously contemplate the best line, 21…QxQ, 22.RxQ Bd6, 23.Nd5, but cut it off around here because it’s difficult to visualize the further branching lines in this position as there are so many possible discovery attacks for White, that I didn’t want to try to handle it OTB, and then just blundered instead.

24.Bf4  White can win a pawn with 24.Bxc5!, which I missed.  I only expected the move he played.

33…g4.  I did consider that 33…Rd8 plan looked strong, but I went for this other plan instead.

40…Rxd3??  I suspected that this was a make-or-break move, that the only move had to be either this one or 40…Rd2!, but had no true idea at that moment how true that observation would be.  He was down to 3 minutes, and I to less, and again it’s the dreaded 40th move with no second time-control, and we were both quite tired, I presume for him as well, by this point.

A more well-played game than I had realized it was OTB.

Round 3

I had finally attained a drawn position as Black, realized this, but the emotional twists and turns to reach this position lead to collapse of my nerves, and I dropped a piece with 1 min 8 seconds still on my clock, but it wasn’t the clock, it was all the blitzing.  I blundered and resigned so fast that I don’t believe my opponent even realized that I had dropped a piece or why I was resigning – he was looking at my king, and seemed confused for a second, but I stopped clock and knocked over my king.  He was making a lot of his moves right after me, before I could write my move down, and this added to the nervous toll, got me moving faster than my brain could keep up with.  Another time-control on move 60 would have saved me.  ;-p

Earlier in the game, I should have played …h6 instead of …g6, figured, but played ..g6 anyway, then should have stopped his h-pawn with …h5.  Made plenty of losing moves, but he kept giving them back to me until I finally dropped the piece and resigned.  He didn’t even know it was drawn and we played it out for over ten minutes after the game.  This game reminded me of back when I was 1200 or 1300 and could have a nervous collapse after being up multiple pieces.  Even later this would happen with fixed time-controls or 5 second delay.  Mark is a Denver club player (G/70 d/5), so for him blitzing the endgame with fifty minutes to an hour still on the clock probably seemed like a normal club game to him.

Round 4

Objectively, my worst game, and my mind was rather fried.  14.h3?  Haven’t even kibitzed this game yet, but I debated between playing this and the seemingly required 14.c4!, but then decided to take a fashion-risk.  Once I had moved and left the board, I realized how illogical this move was as his Nf6 can’t play ….Ng4 and cover the d5 square at the same time, and I didn’t consider the line deep enough, but it was obvious on second-thought that 14.c4 Ng4, 15.cxd NxBe3, 16.fxN exd, 17.Nb3 would be best, since there is a knight outpost on d4 now.  After that, I was just playing bad moves until he came up with something.  His tactic was winning, but he got ahead of himself with the follow-up, and I can only describe this as a gift-win, as he played that queen capture quickly and I was delighted to see it rather than …QxBc8.  Plus  …Rc8-d8, and then …Ne4 is end-of-story as well.

Physically, I had flipped back over to waking up at 8am just a couple of days before this tournament, but I think that and the emotional energy burned up and driving and playing eventually caught up to me on this day.  My new rating is 1797, so in in the future I still may qualify for U1800 prizes.  :-p  I won back my entry fee exactly, so the tournament didn’t cost anything.  Yay!

My overall impression of this tournament:  Well, very nice hotel first of all.  I was glad to have played three players that I had never played before, and in fact that was my main goal going into the tournament.  As the tournament went on, I realized that this thinking was correct.  What I need(ed) more than anything is to play as many different Class A and above players as possible.  There is something you learn at the board by playing these guys, when to move fast, what moves to consider, style, etc.  I think if you ever wanted to be a “pro”, so to speak, then this would be the number one consideration of improving playing lots of different strong players all over the country.  Caruana, for example, not only did this but also went to Europe and did that there as well.




I Drew It!

Round 4

Me and Alex have this little joke where if someone beats a higher-rated player they can say “I did it!” even if they’ll only beat that other player once ever.  Well, in this case, I didn’t do it, but drew it.  It was a great game that’ll be interesting to go over, since much was missed and possible but not played.

I believe that both of us played well for most of the game.  Daniel thought his …a5 move was a blunder, and he showed me a win that I missed, but overall it was quite interesting.  I got down to two minutes to Daniel’s 17 minutes when I offered a draw and he accepted.

27.Qc3+  Here, I was looking for a flashy move, but the simply 27.Ne4-f2 is already winning.  Both his a and f pawns would be “hanging”, and the knight makes a great kingside defender in ensuing complications.

It’s interesting that if I play 27.Ne4-f2, and he responds 27…Rf6, I felt right now that best would still not to be to take the a-pawn and Stockfish agrees.  In fact, I was looking at this follow-up g4 move a lot OTB.  28.g4 hxg, 29.Nxg4 Rg6 (I had seen this sequence OTB in some variation, and I found this whole line quickly by myself right now) 30.Qc3+ Kf7, 31.f5 easy win (31….Qxf, 32.Rf1 skewers).  It’s funny that I was trying to make this idea of g4 and Nxg4 work OTB, but I wanted something “less complicated”, which didn’t happen because I missed the simple wins anyhow.  I was worried about his two hitters on Ng4 OTB, but once I set this position up, the f5 block was easy to see in the line above.

29.Bxf5 was one of the “easy wins”  that I missed.  Another easy win was 23.Nc3-e2-g3 maneuver, easily picking up the f-pawn.  This is one of those things that in the calm of your own home, the next day, is readily apparent.  Any sort of two-move piece maneuver in time-pressure can seem stressful to look for OTB, which is probably why I only found this one-move rook maneuver 23.Rfe1 OTB.  Or maybe I am just stressed OTB, which is why I look for the crazy blitzkrieg instead of the calm/simple?

30.Bg2?  Again, at a natural time-control with no more time to optimize, I decided to go into my shell or “porcupine” mode as me and Alex call it.  There was no reason not to play the other move that I was looking at 30.Re3 h6, 31.Nf3 Ng6, 32.Rde1 Rf8, 33.Qd2 Qe8 (I let Stockfish play Black’s moves).  Stockfish gives this position (which is obviously better for White) at +1.5 roughly, but I can see that if I can move my queen to h4 here, trade knights on h4, then e7 has no knight defender (my own plan, Stockfish just shows a bunch of moves and no real plan here).

34.Nf3  Time-pressure panic.  I wanted to play 34.Nc6 (which I also liked because it controls d4 square) Rd7, but was worried about his Nxf4 tactic after 35.Bd5 (which is what I wanted to play here), but you can see that in the calm of battle Kh1 can simply be played.

38.Re1-d1  The computer likes this move, but for a human it’s much easier to understand that winning is the simple.  38.Bh3, when you can gang up on the f-pawn with 39.Re5 (saw this move OTB, but it was difficult to plan in time-pressure, wasn’t sure which idea was best), 40.Nh4.  If he defends f-pawn by retreating the knight, you can sac on f5 if it pins the pawn to his king because then you have g4 to win it back.  It’s probably going to happen and be crushing or you just win the f-pawn outright if Black avoids this by putting his Kh8.

39.Ne5?  A time-pressure blunder, which is how I said it right after the game.  Again, just gang-up on the f-pawn and it’s all over at the human level.  39.Ne5 is one of those moves best described as “not flagging”, as I was under half a minute when it was played.  An instant blunder with no real purpose behind it.  I thought I could get my Rd7, but 39…Nd4 (completely obvious reply) simply blocks the file.  I had seen this, and yet not seen this with my hope-chess continuation.  This shows how the need to play a blitz move can affect calculation ability.









Goofy Game

Round 3

I was going to play 23…Qc4, but he played quickly here, and I wasn’t spending much of my clock time (15 minutes for the entire game on my clock), so got lazy and played 23…RxBc3??  I quickly saw that it was a blunder, but wasn’t too worried about it, since it simply made the game more interesting.

If he had played on, I was planning on mating with bishop and knight.


Thursday’s Draw

Round 3

This move 5.c3 looks coached/prepared, else it was accidental, but I have never seen this system before.  It’s actually not a terrible move, may be okay, but I have an antidote for it now, but it’s quite elaborate I must say.

In the game, I decided not to take any risks, perhaps because she threw me off guard so early, and I am playing with the Black pieces anyway.  As Black, the game has to be _your_ work of art, not White’s, so it would be time-consuming to want to play it best OTB, although I still should have.  Their coach reads my blog from time to time, so I can’t give too much away here.

Chess Master Drops A Rook!

Bet that got your attention!  Okay, so it wasn’t my game.  Master Josh B. dropped a rook against Alexander, from Russia (who will perhaps make Expert now with this draw), and still managed to draw the game!  Josh was up two pawns, and should have won a third pawn, but instead decided to win an exchange, which actually hung a rook.  However, ChessMaster Josh B. rebounded and drew with king+rook+3 pawns against king+rook+bishop+2 pawns.

In my actual game against Scott, he hung a piece right from the git-go, and we both used less than half an hour on our clocks to finish the game.

Round 2

Actually, I’ll probably play Josh as Black this Thursday – projected pairings – so stay tuned.  ;-p  (btw, I’ve never seen him drop anything before last night).