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.