Last Round Games

Thursday’s Round 2

There is still one more round of this Thursday’s tournament, but I have dropped out of it.

I figured that 48.Kh4 was a blunder, but actually I simply didn’t know the drawing technique.  If I keep checking his king with my rook in front of his pawn, then it’s only a draw, but I was playing on the 30 second delay with well under half a minute on my clock.

Friday’s Last Round

My blitz rating on FICS is at 1500.  It’s funny how many years it took for me to get it to 1500.  By the time I got it to 1500, which was just a couple minutes ago, it feelt like nothing, like I could try to make 1600 now.  That’s the thing, if it’s hard you’ll never make it, it only comes easy.



The Time-Control Experiment

Round 4 Fridays

This week was the perfect experiment for how a d/30 vs an inc/30 affects a “turtle” (one of the local nicknames for me and Mark, who tend to use all our time and then blunder in time-pressure).

Yesterday, I played a 1550 rated player and blundered the king and pawn endgame away with under 30 seconds remaining on my clock; that game was G/30, delay 30.

Today, very next day, I play another player that is also rated 1550, once again as Black.  This time, it was probably at least equal for me once again in a king and pawn ending.  I built up at least five minutes on my clock, probably closer to ten minutes, just by blitzing nearly twenty different moves.  This extra five to ten minutes is what allowed to not only find the winning plan, but to execute the winning technical position without it becoming a classic botched job emanating from a time-scramble.

Both of my opponents moved at about the same speed and had about the same time remaining at the end of the game.  This was as perfect an experiment as you can get in real life and it shows that a delay 30 second time-control does not work for me, I need either a 30 second increment or a dual time-control.

32…d4   32…f3! is best, but Black is actually winning in both cases, it’s just that the move I played puts the engine more behind the “horizon effect”, so it takes a few moves for it to see it, not that I knew this at the time however.  My intuition told that …f3 should be winning, but I didn’t want to play controversial moves in time pressure.

Earlier, it seemed that 24…e4! was winning, OTB, but I consciously decided that I did not want him spending a massive amount of time finding an antidote to it, because it would probably be a move which I wouldn’t have seen, and I’d have five minutes to figure it out and also play the rest of the game with.  Well, I had more time than that but was definitely under twenty minutes by this point.  Alex looked at the game and I drew with a 25.Rc3 and Qb1 idea.  OTB, I was worried about 24…e4, 25.Bc7 and here …Rd7 is not winning (Black has to spend a critical tempo to protect or connect the rooks), but …Rc8! is.

I like to work backwards when commentating a game.  So, 24.c4?? is just losing, but When I was making my move of 24…Ne4, I noticed that I had shockingly not examined that our queens are attacking one another and that QxQ followed by Ne4 would be simply winning.  He returned the favor by playing 25.Qd1, which is what I originally thought I was forcing him to play.  I was happy he didn’t take my queen, but this is what Alex refers to as a “mutual delusion” where both players are afraid of the same thing and react accordingly, but where the threat is “a fake-threat” and not real.

It should be noted that when I played 17…Nf4, I had seen up to this position on move 21, and had already planned the trap 21.Nxe5 NxN, 22.BxN Qg6?!, 23.Qf1! (stopping mate on g2, and preventing …f5’s winning of a piece).  So, I had seen six moves deep when I played my 17th move, but 22…Qf5! is much stronger, and Black is picking up the piece in this line, but of course he never played into this trap.  21.Nd2 is best, and I had seen on move 20, that 20.Ne4-d2 appeared to be equal, and Houdini agrees that it is 0.0 at this point.

19.Bg3.  I considered that he would likely play this, but I missed the critical hole in my 17…Nf4 idea, namely 19.Bxh6!  The main problem with my 17th move was that I was trying to create a decisive position from an equal position. …Nb6 or …Be7 on move 17 would equalize, but it would be just as clear that Black isn’t particularly playing for a win, whereas  17…Qe7 would be a move that would cause more agitation for White in an immediate sense.  OTB, I realized right away that he played c4 one move too late.  on move 23.c4 was equalizing.

Well, other than for missed opportunities, I feel that I played a great game!  🙂










Unfortunate End

Round 1 Thursdays

I got down to under half a minute when I played 37…b4?!  This is the move that is supposed to keep winning and drawing chances alive, but it is only digging the hole deeper.

39…g6  39…fxe4 is also drawing here.

40…Kc6?? With 15 seconds on my clock, I played this move thinking that everything is losing, but I at least should have gone into the unknown with 40…fxe4!, which no one could know draws at the speed we were playing it, but at least you can play it knowing that you don’t know yet whether it’s losing or not.   40…fxe4, 41.fxe4 Kd6, 42.Kd4 e5+!, 43.fxe Ke6, 44.Kd3 Kxe5, 45.Ke3 Ke6! draws.

41…Kd6??  Another surprisingly poor choice, since 41…fxe would at least give White the chance of going wrong with 42.Kxe?? which only draws, and 41…Kb5 would at least get into a pawn race where I queen one tempo short and White is required to show some technique.  He had plenty of time, over half an hour still on his clock, so there wasn’t much reason for him to falter, but it shows how I am just making guess moves in time-pressure.

I spent around two hours going over pawn endings stemming from this game.  Since I knew this game was heading for an endgame, I should have saved more time on the clock for the ending, and even two more minutes more would have given me a decent chance to find the draw, but I should allow the game to end with more time just because – it’s not like I was calculating checkmates against me, which would be different.  It was really poor to get into time-pressure since I was better nearly the whole game.  I was trying too hard to win, and the endgame was only equal.

A Tribute To MLK, tournament

A Tribute to Martin Luther King tournament did not turn out well for me, went 1 for 5 in the Open section.  The first two rounds were G/90, d/5, the last three were G/90, Inc 30.

Round 1

Blundered in time-pressure, I had 7 seconds left to his 6 seconds.  He blundered his rook blitzing, but I didn’t see it.  I blundered a pawn and he didn’t see it either, but I blundered last.

Round 2

Daoud had a terrible tournament and didn’t even look at the board during my turn, and left the board on most moves.

Round 3

Even though I got six hours of (restless) sleep before the tournament, I felt that I lost my usual focus at the board before this game and for the rest of the tournament.  The 2-3 hr wait in between rounds took a toll on me (I don’t know how Brian Wall does it at his age).  When I played Qe7 toward the end, I knew it was bad, but this was the first move where time-pressure really affected me in this game.

Round 4

I could play f6 or fxg6, eenie meanie minie moe, and chose the wrong one.  I was planning to sac on d5 (threat) so I figured he’d defend with …Ra7, and then I’d play Rxg4 but he beat me to the punch with …g3, and I was losing just like that, and then missed a couple of checks.  It was right when I decided to speed up my play that I played this f6 line.

Round 5

With the combined wait of over 2.5 hrs before this game, and only 5 hrs of restless sleep the night before, I started feeling really weird before this game, my body movements were slow and responded a bit sluggishly, like heavy arms.  I saw the drawing move ….Reb8, and that was my other choice, but it was last round and only keeping queens on could preserve a winning chance.  I missed his combo.  After the game, my brain felt strange like it was more full of fluid or something.  By the time I got home I felt much better.  I’ve heard of GMs (John Nunn, for example) not want tournaments to be scheduled too closely together so that they can recover.  I guess I didn’t realize I hadn’t played two weekend tournaments back to back before.  I was hesistant to play because I felt my brain was over-chessed (I really felt that playing blitz on Tuesday), and indeed it was; I felt that this might happen.

I reacted badly to time-pressure for the rest of the tournament after my round 1 debacle (Rhett’s dad says he practices playing G/30 seconds chess where they premove everything.  Rhett also played in the blitz tournament in the North American Open back in November.  There are no classical professional tournaments with a G/90 5 second delay, so it feels very fake/phony to me.

Actually, the night before the first day of the tournament I studied English Opening and a lot of Catalans, which helped me to win in round two.  The interesting thing is that if you don’t count Rhett’s blunder with 6 seconds on his clock in a time-scramble, the only blunder that any of my five opponents made was the one in round two which prompted my opponent’s immediate resignation.  Think of that, five rounds with only one blunder coming from opponents!  Because of my physical state, and the conditions, I’d say the tournament wasn’t really worth it to me, but it did give me some experience playing in an Open section of a multi-section tournament; something I don’t remember doing in the last twenty years!  I’ve played in the top quad back in CA many times, but that is only for one day and has a consistent, sane, and desireable time control unlike the tournaments here in Colorado (Chess Palace is 30/90, G/30, d/5).  If a TD is reading this and thinking “then I don’t have to play” my answer is “No, we do have to play at tournaments with undesireable time-controls, like G/90 d/5, to be able to face many specific opponents.”

My new, hemorrhaged and over-chessed, rating is 1813.

The big difference between playing one round on a weeknight (assuming you don’t go in tired after a long day at work) is that a tournament really tests your stamina.  When I finished round 4, I had 2 hrs. and 10 minutes to wait until the next round even after finishing my subway sandwich, so then I went for coffee, and grabbed some yoghurt at Whole Foods, but really if the rounds were half an hour apart I wouldn’t do any of that.  At the Chess Palace, I could get by on a large soda because the rounds were closer together, three of them, and got to sleep alright after I got home and took a walk.  Here on day one, I drank a coffee, and a large cappacino between rounds, and went home wired, and then more out of it on day two.

When I have a lot of energy, the time between rounds serves to calm my nerves, but when I am already tired I have no nervous energy anyway, then the gap between rounds seriously wears on me.  In round 5, when I played …Re6?? I was looking at my own drawing sacs on his king.  …Reb8 was correct, and if he trades rooks I figured I could draw, but I was more concerned about him playing …Rb1, and then after RxR, RxRb7…a6, I wasn’t sure whether I could defend my a-pawn still, or whether after ….Nd7, …c5 which it turns out was possible, I wasn’t sure what would happen after e4 with my knight on d7.

When you are tired in a last round in particular, it feels tough to defend.  I came home and played two blitz games online, won both, but it was me not knowing how to defend a pawn in a new position, losing it and having a lost position, then setting a trap which my opponent promptly fell into and couldn’t figure the way out of – this is totally not how high-rated classical tournament chess typically works because they see your traps or find the exits.

What I now know about being over-chessed is that it affects one’s endurance, and in my case there is a physical feeling in my brain too.  I feel sharp right now, could go online and win blitz games where a shorter attention span (it’s a short game) prevails, but if I were to sit at a board for over an hour I would begin to feel it.  Actually, I blitz my first moves more in this state because it’s tougher to concentrate on subtleties.  Conversely, I would likely have been better off getting less sleep, and napping between rounds, than going into the tournament over-chessed.

I don’t know if re-adjusting to the altitude in CO (mile-high) played any significant role, but what I do know is that I have a more consistent playing experience in CA, when I play in one day quads and drive up there alone, mentally composed and gathering my thoughts.  My roommate Alex, who normally wakes up at 7am (I wake up at 11 am normally) was very fresh and went 4 wins 1 loss in the U1800 section after losing his first game by making a bad sac which would have been winning had he not got checkmated first.  Also, the Saturday quads in CA start at 11:30 am, which also makes it easier on me to go in fresh, being a late riser.




Chess Palace Quads

Round 1

9.Qd3.  I did spend a lot of time considering 9.0-0, which is the more critical line.

10.d5?!  Again, castling was better.

12…Ng6??  I missed 13.Nxd5!

14…Bf5??  This move could have been played two moves ago, when I would have responded Qe3 with an equal position.  Of course, I’d been waiting for this move, and it’s surprise value was history by the time he played it.  Simply 14…0-0 was best.

15…Ng3??  Doubling-down on a poor position.  I was expecting to see 15…Be6 +-.  15…Ne7? fails to 16.Nxf7 KxN, 17.QxNe4 (works due to the double pin).

18…fxe6.  It looked a bit more complicated to see 18…f6 when I was going to respond with 19.Bxd Qe7, and then Nxh7 wins another pawn.  The last part is something I had seen, but OTB it’s difficult to remember and keep everything in order.  When he got out of the restroom he played this move instantly, and then resigned within a minute or two seeing the continuation that I had seen, namely 19.Qxe6+ Kh8, 20.Bxd5 Qe7 (else …Rc8, 21.Qg8+ RxQ, 22.Nf7 is smothered mate), 21.BxRa8.  He pointed out this continuation excitedly, but I refrained from playing it more quickly because it was a committal and decisive sequence, and he had been showing a lot of will to win in his moves.

Round 2

7.fxe  7.0-0 is better, allowing …exd4, Nxd4.

10…Ne5?!  10…0-0 is the straightforward way to play.

11…NxNf3+?  11….Ng6? fails to 12.e5, but …Nfg4! and if 12.Qxg Ng6 threatens to trap the queen with …Bf8 (and Black can take on h2), so Be3-g1 (to give the queen the e3 square) +=.

14.Qg3  Simply not ambitious enough.  14.Qe3! was the way to avoid the queen trade, while Black is still seeking shelter for his king.

11.Qg5!  After a long think, I found this idea.  It was not easy to spot this move.  Black’s idea was to take on f3, then h2 and control that dark diagonal with his bishop, which could rest on f4, hence my concern to find a strong reply to this idea.

27…f6.  After great endgame play by Black, I felt that this move gave me a new lease on trying to play for a win.  The computer likes this move, but now he has to play this endgame very well, whereas there was no real way for White to make progress here I showed him in the endgame, and he proved it post-mortem.  Well, …f6 happens sooner or later, according to Houdini and I can see why after some analysis with it.

In the endgame, I was worried that Black would turn it into a race, when my slower extra pawn could turn it into a draw.  As Neal started moving his king further toward my pawns, which was the start of the wrong idea for him, my expectations for the outcome of this game began to soar.  He was guarding a backwards pawn on the queenside and had no space over there, and was down a pawn there.

35…Rd2  This is where he started to go wrong.  I expected 35.Ke7, and I wanted to play 35…Rf5 instead of 35…Rb8 because he appeared to have had the fast outside passer.  White actually wins this endgame by a single tempo because the a8 queen can take the h1 queen; e.g.; 35… Ke7 36. Rb8 Rxf3 37. Rxb7+ Kf8 38. a4 Rg3 39. Ra7 Rxg4 40. Rxa6 h5 41. Ra8+ Kf7
42. a5 h4 43. Rh8 g5 44. a6 Kg7 45. Rb8 h3 46. a7 h2

Once you see that White is winning in that line above, I want to backtrack one move.  When I played 35…Rf8 it was because I had looked at this (best) line: 35. Rb8 b5 36.
Rb6+ Ke5 37. Rxa6 Kf4 38. Rg6 Kxf3 39. Rxg7 Rg2 40. Rh7 Rh2 41. g5 h5 42. g6, and after move 37.Kf4 I hadn’t bothered to look any further, feeling it was unclear, but it’s clear as day once you follow that entire line or up to the simple idea behind 41.g5 that White is winning.

47…Re5+?  I was expecting 47…Ke6, but I knew when I played 47.Rb8 that 48.Rc8 followed by 49.Rc7 would be decisive.  Also, I sensed that 47.Kd5 was best and was tempted to play it, but 47.Rb8 was more immediately clear-cut with less to consider, and I had maybe 3 minutes left, so I didn’t want to have the chance to confuse myself.

50.Rc7  50.c5+ also works because after the rook trade …Ke6, 51.Re8+ Kd5, 52.RxR I can play the c6 pawn-promotion sac, but I hadn’t seen this idea yet (51.c6 bxc6 52.Rxc6 Rb5+, 53.Ka4 will also win).

Going over this game has given me the sense of how difficult it is to defend against a += position.  In fact, it is likely to be one of the hardest things to do in chess between two strong players.  He was defending better than I realized at points, but his task was also a lot larger than I had assumed.

Round 3

13.c5  I spent a long time debating between this move and 14.b3, but for better drawing chances, I wanted to play a more forcing line, which wasn’t a good reason to do it.

20.a4  f4 is a stronger idea, because it will give me a possibility of playing g5 in response to the …Bf6, …Nxd4 idea.  I wanted to play Bd3, but was concerned about …Bf6, threatening to take the d4 pawn.

23.Rhf1? Loses the exchange.  I thought about this game the next day, as I was getting ready to take a shower and thought I should have played the other rook to this square, as it was unfortunate that I didn’t have a check after Be2, in order to get out of losing the exchange.

24.Bxf4  Houdini gives Rxf4 as much better, and it’s easy to see why, keeping the bishop pair on the board.  There are a number of errors that we both made after this point, me making the most, but despite the differences in evals between moves this ending should be won for Black.