A Bit Of Redemption

Round 4, Final Round

Sometimes, it does help to study a chess book.  Recently, I had been going over this book titled “Study Chess With Tal”, and this time just getting those general insights into how Tal played, with Koblenc’s annotations, seemed to transfer over for me into how I approached different positions in this game.  Daniel and I both used a lot of time, so he wasn’t trying to hustle me at all, was simply trying to play his best chess.  Like I told Daniel, I didn’t see most of the star moves ahead of time, they just made sense to play when I reached those positions.  I wasn’t playing any theory that I can recall, it was just sort of my own take on it/style, although I’m sure it’s been played before and perhaps I had seen such moves in the past, etc.


The Cry Before The Storm

Round 4

This was an interesting game, and exciting game. I got into serious time-pressure, yet again, with my opponent having an hour on his clock. Yes, the familiar refrain of one hour versus one minute (he had 53 minutes this time).

After I played 24.Rae1, I thought that he had just taken a poisoned pawn, and he immediately began sobbing for a good five minutes, as if he knew it too (he’s a little kid with a lot of heart). At first I told myself I wouldn’t let it affect me, but then I figured he must think he was losing so I found a way to win against all of his losing moves. Even here, I left the board, and had left it many times during the game, but he never left the board once, and had never stopped thinking on my time either.

Then, the strangest thing happened, it’s as if the storm had passed. He got all calm, like he had just worked through all of his emotions, was now very patient, and played the best move, which at this point I knew it was such, but had still expected him to blunder (we had blitzed the last couple moves before his dramatic pause).

So, after 24…Qd5, I thought I must have had something here, hadn’t really analyzed this best move. I could see right away his idea was to play …Rf7, but I figured I could double my rooks, and then he would develop his other rook. After the game, I said I should have played (obviously) 26…RxRf7 here, but his next move shocked me in my time-pressure. After the natural-looking 27.Rfe1??, he played 27…Bc6, which I never saw coming.

27.Rg2 Yes, this is a blunder, but with two minutes and seven seconds or so (my real blunder, I felt, was once again clock-management) remaining it’s hard to fault it. I saw that I couldn’t defend with my queen because my king is in a sort of mating box with his pawn on d4, so this seemed the most reasonable attempt. Soon after I moved, I realized that I could have blocked with a rook instead, but that 27.R1-e4 would have been losing after …RxRe7, so must have needed to play 27….Re7-e4, I told him after the game.

29.Re1. Of course I was going to play 29.Rd2 immediately, and noticed his best move of …Qd4 seemed mating, but this walked into mate in one. As soon as he had played the mate, I asked what if 29.Rd2 and he said he was going to play 29…Re8, at which point the only move is to give up queen for rook. The more poetic finish would have been 29.Rd2 Re8, 30.Qh4 Qh1+, 31.Kf2 followed by either …Qg2 mate or …Qe1 mate.

I was more dumbstruck after the game when I came home to look at 27.R1-e4, upon which I immediately looked at 27…g6, thinking there must be some hard to find tactic that a chess engine will find. Turns out that White really is just lost here, no saving tactic.

The tactic I should have seen, and missed OTB and at home, was after 26.RxRf7 QxR. Now, all I could see here was that I am simply down his passed d-pawn, and it looks losing, but I missed 27.Bxh7! Somehow I missed this move even though I could see that there is a discovery on his queen. Now 27…Qe8, 28.Bd3 (which I would have played in such a situation to stop his pawn) Qe3+, 29.QxQ dxQ. Now this position may even be a win with brilliant play from White, but anything less than stellar should be only a draw.

Considering how well that Calvin had played against me, I was surprised to notice, after the game, that Calvin had lost to a 1300 rated player in Round 1.  After the game, when I told what had happened to Alexander, he said that Calvin had done this to him as well, but that it was “funny” how two hours later that Calvin was still in the game (Alex eventually won).

I got my traditional revenge by playing an online blitz game.  Well, of course I won this game with 2 seconds on my clock with the mate ready on pre-move.  But does this work, OTB.  No!  In this City Championship the winning formula has been to use all of your opponents time, and only then begin to use your own time.  This has been true in all of my games where I lost, and I see it in other games too, although surprisingly sometimes the guy with only 1 minute on the clock does win the game (Mark against Paul last night comes to mind).  Blitz works because the other person also doesn’t have time to gather themselves.  They are forced to blitz along with you, which is untrue in an OTB game, and these days people do put on the brakes when I try and blitz them and it’s not in their favor to blitz, so it’s like pick and choose for them as to when and when not to blitz.


In each of these recent losses, the theme has been the same, burning one too many bridges late in the game.  If I were sacking pieces in the opening like Tal, that would be one thing, but that’s not how my play and games have been going.  I look for sharp moves in time-pressure and lose sight of the draw in a given position.  I’ve told myself that I just need to not lose sight of the draw, and draw more games, but I keep looking for one more win/loss position even at the cost of remembering to know where the draw is at all times.  I need to keep more time on the clock because physically I am not keeping up the intensity like I used to, particularly while sitting there waiting for my opponent to move.  My playing level can kind of fade while waiting, or moving between slow and fast play, or between attack and defense considerations.  In some of these games, I could bail out into a slightly better ending and have a chance to outplay my opponents rather than trying to outright refute their moves so often.

I know what the problem is.  The problem is “assumed competence”.  To have such a quality in a winning position is associated with having confidence, but to have that quality in non-winning positions, even if they are advantageous, could be classified more as arrogance.  A draw for me is usually far more of an achievement than a win; I don’t have nearly as many of them as I should, and I usually have this smug internal demeanor about draws (particularly with Class D or C players) as though they just couldn’t get the job done.  I remember my draws more vividly, the struggle.  Often, lower-rated opponents will agree to my draw proposal when it was dead equal, but I didn’t even know how to hold the position, whereas higher-rateds don’t agree and then just win.

Nowadays, when I do try to draw I often come up short because I keep looking for wins or am just not as competent to blitz them out as I think I am (definitely not that competent, there should be no doubt).  Even when I can draw easily a position when I am not in time-pressure, that same position, simple as though it may be, can seem insurmountable for me to draw in time-pressure.  In my last game on FICS, I missed a draw as late as move 50 in a very simple king and pawn ending, missing that very same move for three moves in a row.  Part of the problem is that I have been conditioned to the Swiss-System and Elo Ratings system where everything has to be a win, all the time, which has detracted from my experience level at drawing games.  There is a psychological component to being able, willing to draw games as well.  It’s not all chess that one has to learn!  It’s important to remember that chess is in fact a draw.

The other reason I can’t blitz anymore is that everyone is on to it, everyone is so hip to blitzers these days.  Despite Calvin’s emotional distress OTB for a period, he didn’t move again until he had seen a three-move winning plan.   ….Qd5,…Rf7,…Bc6.  He blitzed those three moves together as one cohesive plan.  After that, he didn’t move until he had another three move plan again.  He did not play from move to move in my time-pressure, and that sort of discipline really does in the blitzer because to blitz move-by-move is one thing, but you can’t blitz a three-move planner, they just go from plan to plan instead of from move-to-move.





Round 3

I was paired against a comfortable opponent for me, nothing to complain of, but my nerves got a bit better of me than they should have given that the game was going all my way, laid out like a red-carpet.

Gene should have played 17.Rd1, but instead dropped the exchange with 17.Rc3??  Then he mysteriously didn’t capture my knight (after the game he said it was a “poisoned piece”, but it wasn’t) with 19.Rc2??  So I started to think about how I was going to manage my time for the rest of the game, and rather quickly played 19.Ne4?, thinking there was a slight chance that he would resign upon seeing he was down a full piece, not even somehow bothering to realize I could take his Rf1 and be up a whole rook!

I was going to play 21…Ng3? forking rook and queen, 22.fxN Nxe3 forking his rooks, but then got cold feet thinking his knight would be strong on e5, and decided to play for a knight trade instead.  Stockfish shows that this doesn’t work as planned and is only about +1.5 in my favor, whereas the original …Nxf2 that I was looking at was +3, as in the game.

At one point in the game, I got down to one minute.  Both of our clocks read “one”, but his was one hour and mine was one minute.

I played 29…Nd4? intentionally quickly, not bothering to calculate, but then quickly realized I was going to drop the d5 pawn.  If I had bothered to calculate, I would have played 29…Ne7, to defend the pawn with knight.  Anyhow, I didn’t want to trade rooks, but was feeling flustered by what had just transpired, and played 31…Qg6, thinking I might have a tactic for trading queens, but again it was no hard analysis and for a moment I thought I might be losing.  Luckily, my only move was winning.

He offered a queen trade, which Stockfish says is best, but I knew it was over there, although still needed the thirty second increment to pull through and finished with three minutes on my clock.  Apparently, he was upset at himself that I could have won a pawn with my queen a couple moves earlier.

I was really lucky to get out of this one with my dignity intact.  He played well, aside from his blunders, and the way I handled it felt more like a loss on the way home, but now it feels good to have won it.  🙂

Ultimately, Gene spent 1 hr on the game, I spent 2, and so it was approximately 3 hrs long, and yet we were clearly the last board done of maybe 14 boards.  I didn’t even feel he was playing that fast,  but that my speed of play keeps getting outpaced by the times.  Chess seems to be getting quicker and quicker all of the time, and I wonder whether I have become archaic, without really needing that question answered.

Beaten On The Clock

….or at least that’s how it felt OTB.

Round 3 of Colorado Springs City Championship.

I got down to 1 minute on my clock against Dan’s 50 minutes, and then blundered by letting my rook get trapped.  It was one of those positions I felt was drawn, and I just needed to shuffle my pieces, but it’s hard to have that discipline in time-pressure, waiving off useless targets such as his h-pawn.  I made a decision, thought I had messed up and let my rook get trapped, then wanted to play ….Rh3 on move 41, for example, but didn’t see why that worked until I plugged it into my computer, saw the eval, then immediately understood why that was, that the king can’t really approach it.  I didn’t actually flag, but resigned since I knew my last few moves were all blunders and that it was over.

Dan’s last tournament was the Colorado State Quick Championship on Friday.  It’s funny, me and Alex avoided that, and he avoided the weekend tournament (in the same hotel), and that is sort of how this game played out.  He wasn’t quite putting me away on the board as he should have, and as I expected, thought about resigning earlier, but he did put me away on the clock, as it would have been very difficult to hold that position for fifty more moves on my clock.  I would say he wasn’t even spending 30 seconds on any of his last four moves, or six of the last seven moves.

I should play …Ra1 and just let him try to make progress, since if he moves he rook I can play …a4.  His king can’t get out while I control the d-file (and I would have loved to see a rook trade), and his knight can’t be improved, and neither his pawns, which I did realize during the game.  If I had have another five minutes, I believe I would have drawn the game. I didn’t realize he was rated as high as 2138 back in 1995.

Fall Classic

Round 1

I felt this guy was dominating until he went into self-destruct mode in my time-pressure.  It’s odd how every game was decided in my time-pressure  I got down to 2 seconds in a couple of games and never finished a game with more than a minute on my clock, which is how everything that got so weird seemingly got so weird.

Round 2

This game is a reminder of how sickening it can be to watch an ending played under 3 minutes (he finished with 23 minutes remaining) with only a five-second delay.  After the game, when I signed his scoresheet, I noticed he had stopped keeping score on move 19, and had asked to see my scoresheet when I reminded him that he didn’t need to keep score because I was under 5 minutes.  I kept score until move 26, the queen trade, because that is when I actually went under 5 minutes.  Also, he offered me a draw there, which made me burn up a lot of time doubting myself.  He’s been 1775 rated before and he is on a rating low, for some reason.  This opponent is now in sole first-place with 3/3.

The first two rounds were G/90, 5 second delay, the last three rounds are G/90, 30 second increment.

On move 31, for example, I was kicking myself for not playing 31.a4 right away, which I had been planning, and playing c3 first, which allowed him to push his pawn onto a light-square and make my extra pawn backward, and I even let him do this on the other side of the board.  What was I thinking?  I know, it was crazy moves.  Basically, I was looking for legal moves, and it shows.  I was thinking 31.b3 after the game, and yes, you can just play 31.b3 and 32.c4 there, game over.  Ridiculous how a time-control is allowed to mar a game like that.  They are pushing to have Round 2 be G/90, 30 increment in future tournaments.

I was at my most tired during this game, after only 3 1/2 hrs sleep.  I left for the restroom like 6 times (to throw water on my face), and only once did he not move as soon as I left.  Once I left just because I knew it would get him to move, and immediately returned to the board.  I lost well over ten minutes off my clock because of these incidents.  Right around move 16.Bg5 is where I began to lose it.  I was going to play the much better 16.Qg3, but at that point, I was more concerned about grabbing control of the game, and the clock for later.

Round 3

Before you feel sorry for this guy, know that he gained 99 rating points in this same tournament alone!

1.e4 e5 is a risky proposition, versus the Scandinavian defense, for example, in terms of what you might get faced with.  Here is an example of what I thought about early in the opening (the Perreux variation of the two knights), and why an easy to use database of master games would be desirable.  It’s weird trying to visualize this during a game because your opponent is wondering what you could possibly be thinking about, and you are trying to reinvent the wheel on some variation that he won’t even play.



Round 4

I finally got to play Ann; she usually finishes around second place in these big tournaments, so I knew she was strong in this section.  Actually, I cannot find my scoresheet for this game at the moment, so I just recreated this entire game from memory rather quickly.

Round 5

This turned out to be a money-round, but I wasn’t honestly entertaining those chances, just trying to get in a good, competitive game if that.  I figured I might draw, but just as likely to lose in time-pressure.  I got into acute time-pressure and blundered my f7 pawn, but then unexpectedly he had a difficult time finishing me off.  As it was, LM Brian Wall showed me that I missed a rook and knight mate on previous move.  38…Qf5 was another laughable move, since I saw a few seconds after making the “pre-move” that I could have threatened mate, and the rook with 38…Qg6, 39.Nf3-e1 Nxh3+


City Championship Round 2

Okay, so admit I titled it this way because it “gets the goat” of everyone from the Springs who’s not participating in it.  ;-p    Mekonnen played on board two, so it was interesting to have someone there that hasn’t been to the club in a while.  There were some other new players, another one that I had never seen before.

Round 2

This game was more interesting than it looks, but I’ll have to add the annotations tomorrow.

4.c4.  Stockfish prefers 4.dxc, and I sort of remember that this is supposed to be the refutation of Black not taking on d4.  I figured the only reason could be that it’s better to have the knight on f3 than d4, and it is because you can use the d-line right away, which is unusual in Open Sicilians.  Black is put in a position to weaken something such as the d-pawn or the a4-e8 diagonal.

9.d5  I thought of Keres’ comment “If you prefer an open position, you can play this move”, and in this case 9.d5 is a tad stronger than 9.dxe5 followed by Nd5, much as it was in Keres’ game (albeit, in an entirely different opening).

10.Kh2  My longest think of the game.  So, after 18 minutes I compromised on making this move, and immediately after thought I should have just played 10.Re1 Nf4, 11.Bf1 (which I had been considering since ten minutes previously), and then Kh2 could be played, but not g3 because by then h3 would be dropping from Nf4 and Bc8.  The pickle was that I realized that trading either bishop for the Nf4 would be subpar, and Stockfish agrees, giving the nod to Re1 and Bf1.  Even during the game, I knew that 9…Nh5! was strong (10.Nxe5?! is not good), and that with 9.d5, I had really ceded the initiative to Black.

10…f5?  Of course, 10.Nf4 was indicated, and I noted OTB how lucky I was that it took him so long to play it.

14.BxNf4?!  This is an error, as it will not open the e5 square up for his knight, not to mention the long diagonal, which you don’t want to do!  Instead 14.Nc3-e2 takes control of the dark squares d4 and f4, and if 14…g5?!, which superficially seems to enlarge his attacking space (but all on dark squares), then simply 15.Ne2-g3, eyeing Nf5, takes advantage of such a weakening move from White, by positional means.

10.Qd2  This isn’t even Stockfish’s list of top ten replies, but it doesn’t dislike it much either compared to the other moves.  Alex thinks I should have left his f4 pawn on the board to shield the f-pawn and my kingside, while I develop through the center.  What do you think?  In any case, taking the pawn ups the complexity of the position somewhat.  It’s funny because during the game I considered 10.Re1 Ne5, 11.RxNe5 dxR, and Stockfish thinks that is no worse than what I played, even though 11.RxN is again not even a top ten reply.  This is the point you come to in chess where the computer can no longer lead you, and perhaps barely even serve to guide you; it can mostly only serve to validate your own ideas and feelings that you had at the board.

This is also a point in the game where “human” planning becomes important.  What is the plan behind 10.Qd2(?)  Well, a logical test of the plan would be to evaluate the continuation 10.Qd2 Qf8, 11.Nc3-e2 Ne5 (hitting c4), 12.b3 Bg5, 13.Kg2 h5, which is approximately equal according to the computer.  Therefore, 10.Qd2, despite it’s initial eval, signifies the start of an incorrect plan.  Actually, Stockfish wants to course-correct after this by playing the queen to a light square such as c2 or e2.

17.b3? +1, whereas  17.Bg2 was +2, but I didn’t figure this out until a move later.

17…Qg5.  OTB, I was expecting 17…Bf6! which is strong, and contains the threat of …Nxg4 followed by Be5 royal skewer, which I hadn’t seen.  But even stronger was 17…Ng6, which I never even considered, 18.Qe4 Bf6, 19.Rac1 Be5+, 20.Kg1 Bd7, followed by …Qh4 and …h5, and possibly …Re8 or …Rf8 is a ready-made-attack for Black, which is only += for White! (i.e., no longer winning at this point).

18…Bd7?  I knew it was over after this passive move.  18…h5 is +.87 for White.  18…Qd2 was most interesting, OTB, and I had planned 19.Nb5 Bxf2, 20.Qe2 (+2), but 20.Rad1 is even stronger (+5).  It’s an easy win from here either way, so the rest of the game requires no comment.













Quick-Chess is Brutal

The difference between a five second increment and a thirty second increment is like night and day.  I saw that I was down to 4 seconds against Earl, made my move and pressed the clock as fast as I could, and I still somehow flagged.

By the way, I am including people’s regular ratings as that way you have an idea of how strong they really are.  Quick chess ratings are often down a couple hundred rating points, probably because people are not quick enough, particularly below Expert level.

Round 1

I actually had 4 minutes left at the end of this game, and that was to prove to be the last time that I had more than say 12 seconds by game’s end.

Round 2

There was an obvious time-scramble at the end, where I missed a win, then gave him a perpetual-check chance but he missed it.

Round 3

At the end of this game, I saw 4 second and move my arm all the way over from one side of the board, where I had just placed my captured pawn, to the other side of the board to play 36.Kh2, which was right next to my clock, and somehow, amazingly I still did not complete the move in time.  Immediately after the game, Daniel showed on the board 36.Qa8+ Kf7, 37.Qxb7+ Kd7, 38.Qa8+ Ke7, 39.QxN+ winning at least the knight and trading queens.  Losing this game probably cost me at least a second place prize.  Yes, it’s amazing how it all come down to that move!

Earlier, I was going to blitz 30.Qf3, but then I got cagey and played 30.Qf2, hoping he might bite on 30…Qxh3??, and then saw my a3 pawn hanging after that.  I was going to play Qb2 there, but I dropped the pawn, and then I was going to play Rb1 after Bb5, but dropped the exchange and knew it was a blunder as soon as I had played it.  Crazy how that 5 second increment only can destroy a game like that.  OTB, the increment feels the same as a 5 second-delay, next to nothing.  Between them the difference may be large, but not compared to the difference between those two and a 30 second increment.

Round 4

As there was no time to shake off a loss, I went into this game still feeling a sense of dejection from the result of the last game.  This game was a melt-down, but also the most useful to go over, as this is the opening I seem to most dread facing as Black, but even during the game I recognized that I had made some silly oversights.  I flagged as I was playing 23…bxa.

Apparently, I took revenge for my humiliating quick-chess performance with an online blitz game:


Quick take-away from this tournament.  It is obvious that I wasn’t used to playing four tournament games back-to-back-to-back, one after another until done.  That’s very evident in the fourth game.  Another is that it was probably helpful to have played in that Ironman Blitz tournament, as Rhett and Earl did for example.  OTB is not the same thing as online, as when you play OTB you are tweaking your OTB instincts to respond more quickly, and efficiently.  In online play, also, you can look for tactics in all of your games and go from win to loss.  In OTB play, you are more naturally and rightfully concerned about strategy, and you don’t want to toss away a game as much in the interest of pretty tactics as much as you may want to online.