Getting Behind The Eight-Ball

Round 4, final round

Going into this final round, I wasn’t overly concerned about the result, as a win would have still left me out of the prize-money.

I wanted to get something original out of the opening, don’t know what line of the Ruy Lopez he plays and thought we might get into that, but Mark (Class A) chose the Sicilian Defense just to vary from his usual reply.

6.Be2  He played the Classical Sicilian (…Nc6), and now it has become a “four knights” variation.  I wanted to avoid playing 6.NxNc6 bxN, 7.e5 Nd5, 8.Ne4 Qc7.  Years ago, I played this all the time online.  Always tried some hack against it, and regularly got good positions.  Objectively, this is White’s best try (60% in the DB), but the engines have never liked this variation too much, say it’s around -.15 in Black’s favor (equal).  I nearly played 6.g3, just seeking some new territory, which would have lead to a lengthier game.

6…Bb4  When I played 6.Be2, I was hoping that he wouldn’t respond this way, as I don’t have the “Pin Variation” type of refutation, which is to play Qh5 or Qg4 in response to …Ne4.  I’ve run into the sort of lame line that I played online, and gotten lame results, but here I stumbled into it again.  It’s funny, I was strongly considering 6.Bf4, and Houdini still plays …Bb4, which is bad here because of the NxNc6 formation described earlier.  I figured he could respond …Bc5 or with a bunch of different moves  …Qb6 and …Qa5 I had to look at in each line.   So, in the end, I tightened up, thinking I could play my way out of any hole.

Mark thought the best move here for White was 6.Ndb5 (with a3 to come) …d5, but Black has simply 6…Nfxe4 with 72% success in the DB.  I told Mark the computer will probably say that 6.Qd3 Ne5, 7.Qg3 is best.  Bingo!  I won that mock bet.

8.e5  Chess can be frustrating.  I looked at Houdini’s #1 continuation of 8.0-0 BxNc3, 9.bxB Nxe4, 10.Qd4 d5, 11.Qxg7 Qf6, 12.QxQ NxQ but figured I was giving up an e-pawn for a g-pawn.  Apparently, this is the line +.38, and White has been successful in the two tries given.  I mean, without seeing some previous games, how would I have known this?

8….Nd5  Around here I was realizing that “the struggle is real.”  I was much more afraid of the superior 8….Ne4, when I saw that 9.Qd4 Qa5, 10.QxNe4 BxNc3+, 11.bxB Qc3+ should be winning for Black.  Houdini and the DB here both recommend 10.a3, which simply gives up a pawn, but is only =+ in Black’s favor.  Keeping the pawn with 10.Bd2 NxBd2, 11.KxN Bc5 is -1 in Black’s favor “What does a cracker(uh) gotta do?”

10.BxNc3 Objectively, I thought that 10.bxNc3 Be7 or …Bc5 is equal, which it is, but failed to notice until immediately after my move that now Black has both …Qg5 (winning a pawn) and …Qa5.

14.Qf4.  I felt that objectively, 14.Bc4 would be strongest, which it is, but spent most of my time here deliberating between this move, and the more solid but less aggressive positional move  14.Qe3.

18.Rg3?  After the game, I told Mark, correctly, that 18.Ra1 followed by Ra4 was probably a stronger way to get the rook into the game.

18…Ba6?  I immediately felt this was a mistake, that he should have played 18…Bb7 with 0-0-0 to follow would have been better, but this would have been even weaker, nearly equal, because we apparently both missed the stronger idea here of 18….a5, pushing that passed pawn! (although I considered this later, coming up, when I decided to try and bail out of the position.

19.BxB  I played this move with the sole intention of pulling his queen off the defense of the weakened dark diagonals (which was my trump in this game).

20.Qf6  Houdini says that 20.Rb1 is the most accurate, but at this point in the bail-out mindset, that looks insane, a computer-move (but is probably right).

21.Rxg6?  Houdini indicates this is just losing, -1.65, and indeed this is where I was worried that he wouldn’t take my rook and would play something else.  Indeed, after 21…Qa4, 22.Rg7 Qxc2, 23.Qf3 a5, 24.Qd3 QxQ, 26.RxQ a4, Black is simply winning.  Luckily for me, he made this move 21…fxR?? without too much thought.

Even at the end, he could have played on with 23…Rf7, 24.Qg8+ Ke7, 25.QxRb8 =+, when my hopes wouldn’t have been too high at first, with his passed a-pawn, but I could sense that his nerves had had enough, and that he had instead chose for me to find a way to lose the position, which I wasn’t about to comply with.  It’s funny, in three of my last four games, I’ve went down a rook, in material, at some point.

Well, after getting bloodied just to maintain a 1500 rating on, I went over to FICS to make an assault on the 1600 summit, of which I was successful.  Here was the final game that got me to 1603 blitz.  I was playing at 5 min, 5 sec increment.  I was down a rook for a pawn (a familiar refrain as of late), when I was forced to play for an exciting win in full coffeehouse-mode.  Here is that game:


First Time For 1.d4

Round 4

I had never played 1.d4 before in a classical rated game before today.  I can’t even recall ever playing it even in blitz, quick, or unrated formate OTB; as far as I know, I’ve only tried it a meagre amount of times online, probably less than twenty.  Before I was a rated chess player, and played casually, I always opened with 1.d4 until I began learning about Bobby Fischer and his Sicilians.

[Event “Thursdays Swiss”]
[Site “Smashburgers”]
[Date “2017.03.23”]
[Round “4”]
[White “Brian Rountree”]
[Black “Dean Brown”]
[Result “1-0”]
[BlackElo “1505”]
[GameNo “-1”]
[WhiteElo “1832”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Nc3 b6 5. Bg5 O-O 6. e3 Ba6 7. Qc2 d5 8. b3
Nbd7 9. Bd3 Qc8 10. O-O Bxc3 11. Qxc3 Ne4 12. Qc2 Nxg5 13. Nxg5 g6 14. f4 Qd8
15. Rf3 Nf6 16. Rh3 Bc8 17. Nxh7 Nxh7 18. Bxg6 Nf6 19. Rf1 Re8 20. Rff3 c5 21.
Rfg3 Kf8 22. Bxf7 Kxf7 23. Rh7+ Nxh7 24. Qxh7+ Kf6 25. Rg6+ Kf5 26. Rg5+ 1-0

8.b3?  Not just because of 8…h6, 9.BxNf6 forced, but 8…c5 is even stronger.

17.Nxh7? I saw his 18…Nf6 move right after starting this attacking sequence, but there was no backing out now, not that I wanted to in any event.

Second Time With 1.d4

Fridays Round 4

[Event “Fridays Swiss”]
[Site “IHOP”]
[Date “2017.03.24”]
[Round “4”]
[White “Brian Rountree”]
[Black “Joe Reininger”]
[Result “1-0”]
[BlackElo “0”]
[GameNo “-1”]
[WhiteElo “1832”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nf3 Bf5 4. Bf4 e6 5. e3 Nb4 6. Na3 c6 7. Be2 dxc4 8.
Bxc4 Qa5 9. O-O Nf6 10. Rc1 Nbd5 11. Bg3 Ne4 12. Nc2 Nxg3 13. hxg3 Bg4 14. Qd2
Qxd2 15. Nxd2 h5 16. f3 Bd6 17. Ne4 Bc7 18. fxg4 hxg4 19. Kf2 f5 20. Nc5 b5
21. Nxe6 bxc4 22. Nxg7+ Kd7 23. Nxf5 Raf8 24. e4 Nf6 25. Ke3 Re8 26. e5 Nd5+
27. Kf2 Rhf8 28. Kg1 c5 29. Nfe3 Nxe3 30. Nxe3 cxd4 31. Rxf8 Rxf8 32. Nxc4 Ke6
33. Rf1 Rd8 34. Kf2 Kd5 35. b3 Rf8+ 36. Ke1 Rxf1+ 37. Kxf1 Bxe5 38. Nxe5 Kxe5
39. Ke2 Ke4 40. Kd2 d3 41. b4 Kd4 42. b5 Kc4 43. a4 Kb4 44. Kxd3 Kxa4 45. Kc4
Ka5 46. Kc5 Ka4 47. b6 axb6+ 48. Kxb6 Kb4 49. Kc6 Kc4 50. Kd6 Kd4 51. Ke6 Ke3
52. Kf5 Kf2 53. Kxg4 Kxg2 54. Kh4 Kf3 55. g4 Kf4 56. Kh5 Ke5 57. g5 Ke6 58.
Kh6 Kf7 59. Kh7 1-0

3…Bf5?  I was so nervous playing 1.d4 again, and this time against an unrated who is probably playing a line that he plays online, that I didn’t want to mess this game up.  Still, I was rather out of it before this game and figured I’d probably miss stuff.  During the game, I figured after 4.cxd5 he’d have …Nb4, which is impossible due to 4.Qa4+  It’s +- after 4.cxd5.  He has to play 4…BxNb1 because 4…Qxd, 5.Nc3 Qd8, 6.d5 Nc6b8, 7.e4 Bg6 is a surpring (for an 1.e4 player) +2!

4.Bf4  A lemon.  4.cxd5! is almost winning, but 4.Nc3 is also stronger.

5.e3?! Another lemon, allowing …Nb4.  I made this move unprovoked in my last game as well.  I looked at 5.c5, but figured he could play …b6??, not seeing that 6.e4!! Bxe4 (or dxe, 7.Bb5), 7.Bb5 refutes it.  5.cxd5 and 5.Nc3 are both better moves.

8…Qa4?!  Not a strong move, but the trappiest one!  Luckily, OTB, I spotted 9.Qd2? Nd3+, 10.BxNd3 Bb4 skewering king and queen, although 11.Nc4 holds the edge to only -1 for White.  I nearly played it at first, as if Black instead plays 9….Nc2+??, I win a piece with 10.Na3xNc2 QxQ, 11.KxQ and now my king defends c2.

11.Bg3?  This move is plain weak, but it shows how I am not a 1.d4 player (yet!  😉 )  11.Be5 is preferable as if a knight captures the Be5 it is replaced by Ne5 recapture, but on g3 if it is taken, it just messes up White’s pawn structure in front of his king.  If you want to get a sense of what you are missing with 1.d4, plug in the move 11.Bxd3.  11.Bxd3 is not the best move because of 11…exBd5, but every other recapture gets smoked by White!  Using an engine, check it out!

Here is the difference between intuition and calculation.  My intuition told me, correctly, that the best move was 12.Nb1, when it can reposition itself harmoniously on d2 or c3.  My calculation told me “No way man, that is some nasty sh*t!” after shocking continuations such as 12.Nb1 b5, 13.Bd3 Nb4, 14.BxNd3 (forced) BxB Black has won the minor exchange, White’s treasured light-squared bishop, so I stopped here, but if we are to continue, then 15.Nc3! Bd5, 16.NxBd5 cxN, 17.a3! Na6, 18.b4 Qa5, 19.Qc2 Qb6 (to stop 20.Qc6+ forking Ke8 and Ra8), 20.Qc6+ (anyway) QxQ, 21.RxQ and now the Na6 is trapped and lost (if 21…Nb8, 22.Rc8+ and 23.RxNb8 picks up the knight).  These queen pawn game tactics are totally different than in 1.e4 – they are much more positional!

12…NxBg3?!  I was glad to see this, as he is finally relieving some pressure from White’s position!  After 13…Be7, I now would have had to make the protracted maneuver 14.Nc2-e1-d3.

13…Bg4  This is interesting, but 13…Bd6 and …Nb6 or …Nf6 totally equalize.

15…h5?? Picked up that this was dropping a piece, right away, but now comes the slops-ville quick play from me.

21.Nxe6??  I literally saw this blunder as I was moving my knight, it’s just too bad that my attempt to speed up the game lead to such a blunder.  21.BxN followed by 22.Nxe6 was so obvious in hindsight that I can hardly explain why I did it.  Daniel walked up to the board, and then I moved, thinking I had blunder-checked this move.  The one good thing is that the quick moves meant that I had enough time in the endgame, not that that justifies blundering.

22.Nxg7?  Objectively, my intution told me that 22.NxBc7 must be preserving the advantage, and indeed I would follow up with 22…NxNc7, 23.Na3, 24.Nxc4 and then Nc4-e5, when the c6 pawn is still backward.  This continuation flashed through my mind when the greedy-whore-calculator part of me suddenly decided “Hey, you can’t beat two pawns! (except when they are right in front of your king, doh!), and I played this bungling move instead.

23…Raf8?  This was a big mistake, and it’s actually losing now.  Here is an endgame position for the big-boys.  The best move is 23…Nf6, taking the e4 square before I do (note that the greedy 23…Nf6, 24.Kg1 Nh4?, 25.e4 Nxg3, 26.NxNg3 BxNg3 wins a pawn for Black, but is +1 for White).

At the board, I was more worried about 23…Rab8, but White doesn’t have to defend, as a line like 24.e4 Nf6, 25.e5 Nd5, 26.Nce3 Rxb2+, 27.Kg1 Rxa2, 28.Rxc4 is nearly +1 for White.  Once again that materialistic whore calculator component of my chess brain was wrong about how to assess (or at least think/worry about) a position.  In the future, I should really test these assumptions by looking at longer variations.

26…Nd5?  I thought he would play this, as it was a quick move, however 26…c5 is more testing, and White needs to play a Rd1 so as to recapture on d4 with check (which prevents the e5 pawn from falling).

27.Kf2?  (+.7) This was my longest think of the game.  I thought that 27.Ke4 Nf6+, 28.Kf4 followed by 29.Kxg4 was over optimistic, that perhaps I wanted his g4 pawn to be there as a shield-for my king, but this was over-thinking it.  This line is +2 for White.

This was a sloppy game on my part, and I am lucky/fortunate that the endgame was winning, although objectively it probably would have been better to lose this game to give this kid rating points as it is his first tournament and would have left my rating virtually unaffected.  I just wanted to win to get a better pairing in the last round.

29.Nfe3?!  This move leaves his d-pawn on the board.  Much better was 29.Na3!, when the Nf5 is still available to recapture on d4.  After this, I got lazy for not capturing his rook for the sake of playing quick moves; I have to admit that I guessed correctly that he would also return the favor by not trading them – by the time I traded rooks, I was sure it had been right for both of us to trade them all along, and since I traded first, I got the significant advantage, although only +.5.

34.Kf2?!  This move only draws.  I also looked at the winning move 34.Rf6+, but without seeing deeply into each line it would have been difficult to know.  Ironically, in the winning line you are pinning the Black king, and in the drawing line the White king is the one getting pinned, in a number of moves.  34.Rf6+! Kd5, 35.b3 Bxd5, 36.Rf5 Re8, 37.Kf2! (37.RxB+ only draws) Ke4, and now 38.RxB+ wins, as it transposes into the game continuation.

34…Kd5.  34…Rb8, 35.b3 a5 (with the idea of …a4, bxa Rxa4) is already a draw.

35…Rf8+?!  35…Bxe5 is a draw.  Now the rook trade is forced, else my king gets in close with 36.Ke2.

36…Bxe5??  I had that instant feeling that this move was losing, and that feeling is almost never wrong unless I’ve walked into a trap.  Unfortunately, my ability to analyze usually falls behind in backing up my intuition, and in this case it was clock-time and luck that came to the rescue.  Clock-time allowed me to eliminate all of the alternatives, and luck that the only line that didn’t lose also happened to win.  😉

Black has a likely draw here with 36…d3!, 37.Ke1 Kd4, 38.Kd2 Be8! and it’s difficult to see how White can make progress.  He had plenty of time, but played this quickly.  Chess, and endgames in particular, are not trivial, but are rather exact!

My first time playing White against the Dutch Defense:

[ECO “A86”]
[Event “Live Chess”]
[Site “”]
[Date “2017.03.26”]
[White “linuxguy1”]
[Black “Sallustius”]
[WhiteElo “1515”]
[BlackElo “1591”]
[TimeControl “300+5”]
[Result “1-0”]
[Termination “linuxguy1 won – game abandoned”]
[CurrentPosition “2rn1r1k/1p2q1pp/2N5/3B1p2/3P4/4P1P1/3Q1P1P/1RR3K1 b – – 0 22”]

1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Bg2 O-O 6.e3 d5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Bd2 Nc6 9.Nxd5 Bxd2+ 10.Qxd2 exd5 11.Nf3 Be6 12.O-O Qe7 13.Rfc1 Rac8 14.a3 a5 15.Rab1 Bf7 16.b4 axb4 17.axb4 Nd8 18.Ne5 c6 19.b5 Be8 20.Bxd5+ Kh8 21.bxc6 Bxc6 22.Nxc6  1-0


A Balanced Education

Round 3

I got or let myself get outplayed in this game.  Mike is a strong tactician with a provisional rating, and he is much stronger than this rating, but either way I can’t let that be my excuse.

Obviously, I had no business hanging around in this game, per se, and could have resigned but sometimes it pays to know your endgames as well.

I spent half an hour on move 5…Ne5.  I was ready to blitz this out the moment he played 5.Ng5, and oddly I ended up playing this game much as if it were merely a blitz game.

It’s not until I fire the computer up that I realize that my thoughts at the board were completely valid, as I was looking at lots of lines which did exist under the two principle first moves 5…Ne5, and 5…d5.  I considered all of the moves here listed in the database.

It’s true that this stuff should be thought out at home, but it’s just as fascinating the conclusions these lines lead to.  Of course, once he played 6.Qxd4, which I figured he might, all of my half hour spent went out the window at that point.  I’d been playing so much blitz the past couple days that time actually seemed to have slowed down OTB, and the clock wasn’t moving as fast.  Eventually, I got down to a minute and 27 seconds when he had an hour and 7 minutes, that was was sort of funny to look at.  The bigger issue than time was that this half an hour spent sapped my energy for the rest of the game.  I need to get into physical shape as I haven’t had a physical workout in about two weeks.  If I played more energetically, I think I would have had a decent shot at playing for a win.  It probably wasn’t even the half hour spent so much as I went in there with low energy to start with.

Here was one of the epiphanys that I suffered through OTB, and at first it seems …Ne5 and …d5 will transpose anyway.  Okay, so his line seems objectively best in retrospect, but OTB I was worried about 5…Ne5, 6.Bb3 (with the idea of 7.f4), so 6…d5, 7.exd (I also had to look at 7.Bxd, of course) Bb4+, 8.c3 dxc (jettisoning this pawn before he wins it with his queen), 9.bxc Bd6.  Here, Black is okay on material because he has traded his d-pawn for White’s b-pawn, but I overlooked this part when counting material.  I was seeing the #1 way to play this for Black , but didn’t realize the eval here is =+, in Black’s favor.

The other part of this equation/line that I was contending with was 7.Qxd4, in which case the scary part OTB was that White is simply up a pawn after 7…Bd6, 8.e4xd5 0-0.  However, Black has a bit of an attack, and is actually a little better here.  So, although down a pawn, the Black position is the more desireable one to have!

Okay, that may be well and good in that line above, but how about capturing with the bishop 8.Bxd5(?), which I was also looking at OTB.  Now, mind you I could have blitzed out 5…Ne5 OTB, and only analyzed after 6.Bb3, but I had been putting the analysis of this line OTB off for years (despite having played tens of Scotch Gambits), and felt it was time to figure it out now.  Besides, at the board I didn’t know and couldn’t “remember” why it worked, but that’s because I never understood it for one thing.

Okay, so here goes, 5…Ne5, 6.Bb3 d5, 7.Qxd4 Bd6, 8.Bxd5 0-0, 9.f4 (Ne5 is hanging, and 10.e5 would fork Black’s Nf6 and Bd6) Nf6xBd5, 10.QxNd5 (if taking with the e-pawn, then White’s pawns are broken up and the e5 fork doesn’t exist) 10…Ng6! (the critical move because Black is trying to get the lost pawn back in this line) 11.0-0 (to protect f4) h6, 12.Nh3 c6!, 13.Qb3 BxNh3!, 14.QxBh3 Qb6+, 15.Kh1, and looking at this with Houdini the thought crossed me “Oh, no, Black can take on f4 here!” 15…Bxf4!, 16.BxBf4 NxBf4.  Black has gotten his pawn back at long last as 17.RxNf4?? loses to 17…Qxb2 eyeing both Qc1+ and QxRa1, can’t stop both threats.  White is now the one with the isolated pawn; one look tells you that Black is better here.  This is exactly what I love about chess, these sorts of lines; in fact, it’s what drove my love for chess before I ever had a rating!

Now, back to 8.exd5, which is a surprisingly critical line for White.  Houdini shows 8…0-0, 9.0-0 h6, and now the obvious 10.Ng5-e4 is better for Black, as after …Nf6xNe4, 11. QxN Qf6 (or Re8) Black’s attack is rolling.  Best for Black is to give up the pawn with the shocking 10.Bf4 Re8, 11.Ng5e6! fxNe6, 12.BxNe5 BxB, 13.QxB e6xd5, 14.Qd4.

This is analysis which you can actually use to win games as Black (OTB, White will be hard pressed to play so exact).  In the game, he played what I figured was the objectively best, and equal line, which has the advantage is being clear and simple for White to play.  He probably knew that he would play this line all along.

10…Bg4 (47% success rate).  After I played it, I thought that perhaps I should have played instead 10…h6, 11.Nc3 Qd8, (45% success rate) which is incidentally the #1 continuation chosen int he DB.

11…Be6  OTB, I felt this was a “give up” move, but I was already feeling exhausted.  I wanted to make 11…Bf5, but felt I couldn’t find the justification at that (low) moment.  Ironically, it works because of a tactic I had seen OTB, but just didn’t have the energy here to put it all together since 11…Bf5, 12.Re1 0-0!, 13.QxNe7?? Re8.  Since I had seen this OTB before this point, I can hardly explain why I didn’t see it now.

17…Kb8.  This is Houdini’s #1 move, and seems rather obvious, but in retrospect simple equality after 17….b6 would have made life easier for Black (that however, is another subject).

20…Ne3  After the game, I said that I should have taken on c2, after all, taking one pawn not directly in front of one’s king is not all that dangerous.

21.Rfe1?!  I felt this was a mistake due to 21…Nxc2, but it’s too bad that I didn’t chance it, and here I began noticing the clock as well.  I knew that I was throwing away my advantage with 21…Ne3-f5, and I sorely wish I hadn’t made this decision.  After all, after 21…Nc2, 22.Rac1?? (22.Rec1?? fails to 22…NxRa1 which I figured out as soon as I saw the computer’s eval, which tells me that I must have simply been out of gas OTB.) fails to 22…NxRe1.  Again, as soon as I saw the eval I figured this must be the line and saw the whole neat line.  So, a little more will and gas and I see this line OTB as well.  It’s almost inexplicable that I could be this lazy OTB, but I seem to do it in every game.  The funny thing is that even if I don’t see these tactics I could follow up with …Rd5, as I saw in the game, since the pin on the c-file is not so important here.  This occurred to me as soon as I reached this position in analysis, seeing the game again.

24…Nd6  Here, I wanted to play 24…e5, and can only say that time-pressure factored into my decision not to.

25…Nc4? (…e5).  In time-pressure, I am drifting.  After passing up my chances to be better earlier, I am now on my way to losing this position.

26.Qh4!  A bolt-from-the-blue for me.

26…Nc4-d2?  26…Nd6, 27.Nxe6 Rd7 is best.  Also there is 26…Qd5 (I had seen this idea, but it seems mind-boggling to calculate out 27.Nxe6 Rd7, 28.Nf4 Qf7, 29.RxRe8 QxR mostly because there are so many alternative, cheeky tries for Black which fail.  Ironically, a lower-rated player may defend better and find this line more easily because they don’t have the skill-level to try to pull off all the crazy-sh*t that a higher rated player can often pull off.  IOW, a higher-rated player has more lines to eliminate to get to the only move.

26…Nb2  I felt like this was a strong, important move to consider as well, but I didn’t know why.  It seems amazing that after 27.Reb1 b6 (what else?), 28.RxN bxN, 29.bxc+ that Black still has a holdable position, which is something you wouldn’t think so much ahead of time.

27…Nxf3??  Now, I was simply in full coffee-house mode, as it’s so much easier to see an attack than it is to figure out an accurate defense to a position.  Also, you have to have the will to look for some long forced line which is a pawn down and leads to your only drawing chances.  Here, 27…Qd5, 28.Rae1 RxR, 29.NxR Rc8, 30.Qd4 QxQ, 31.NxQ is that line.  Instead, I played my move, left for the restroom, and when I came back I said to him “I was hoping you’d take my knight!” which of course would have given the advantage to Black, as I figured he had some loose rooks, which he does.  I looked at other lines such as 27…g5, and noticed that even the simple 28.RxQc6 gxQ, 29.Rc6-h6 appeared winning, and it’s +2.  That shouldn’t mean that I don’t look for a defensive line, but when a couple of sharp moves are unexpectedly thrown at you like this in time-pressure your eval of the position doesn’t have a chance to catch up with what’s going on in the position either.

29…Nd4?!  I should have taken his rook, but then his Nc6 becomes a monster, and my back rank and queenside pawnside structure looks hopelessly weak.  Plus, since I’m dead lost, I also wanted to keep more pieces on the board.

46.g6??  46.Rc5! wins, as it drives the knight away so that the pawns can no longer advance, plus it sets up 47.Rb5+ winning the b-pawn.  I often say that missing one simple endgame tactical idea like this is the most common culprit for holding an 1800 player from achieving a 1900 rating.

51…Kd5  And here it is my turn to miss that little tactic that holds the balance, 51…Ng8!  Of course, this king move looked so pretty that I wanted to play it and not calculate at all.  He never considered that allowing me to take his knight would lose for me, so 52.h6 would thus win after all because now it will be the g-pawn that promotes, not the h-pawn, and so it is with check!  Again, I should have lost this game so late, as I have done so frequently to Experts and Masters because the game all comes down to finding such a simple tactical device in the endgame.  All the preceded can come to naught all due to missing one tactical idea, one endgame slip-up!

I hope it goes without saying that Michael (provisionally rated) is also under-rated.  He beat Dean (1500) with a nice tactic just last week.  He said he was once high-rated a long time ago (but apparently picked up a new USCF id when he started playing again recently(?)).


















Having a Cold, and Focus in a chess game

Round 3

So, I’ve had this terrible cold all week, but by the time I was on my way to the club had finally stopped sneezing.  Essentially, I’m now over the usual sympoms, except that I couldn’t focus on chess all day (and have had next to zero energy all week), and wanted to see how it would affect my game.

I was fairly certain that I would get paired down (at .5/2, I was more or less out of this tournament) and wanted to practice moving more quickly.

Matthew is a strong up-and-comer, very under-rated, so this would be a good test.

I was surprised that when I calculated lines on my turn, I was very efficient, and generally pretty accurate.  On Matthew’s turn, however, I wasn’t able to focus so much.  Matthew’s weakness in terms of rating, shows up in time-pressure, but it was obvious that this game he was very determined to move quickly other than for on a few moves.  When I made a move, he would immediately put his food down and come join the board.

My strategy for time seemed to be to calculate definite tactical threats on my turn, and then consider general strategy on his turn.  This strategy had a major flaw in that I would see/find/consider non-forcing, developing moves typically on his time rather than my time.  So I was always seeing his actual next move only on his clock but never on my own.

(sneeze – I spoke to soon).  In this post,  I want to illustrate the difference between accurate, effective calculation and focus.

13…Ne4?!  Not such a great move, as the trades will speed up his attack, and are strategically good for him.  This crossed my mind as soon as I moved, but here is where my lack of focus began to hurt me.  I thought …b5 would be a better move, even before making my move, and definitely after, but somehow the poorer move was more calculation oriented, so I went with it.

16…Nf6.  …Nb6 and …Qd6 are reasonable moves here, no worse, but my move was the one easier to calculate (the same could be said for many of my opening moves as well).

17…Be6  This as an easy move to go with, but 17…dxe4, 18.dxe4 Qd(any) was the more creative move/idea to look for.  Hitting d4 occurred to me, but this creativity did not.

18…Nd7  Here, I resorted more to generalizations, wanting counterplay with …c5, supported by the Nd7.  18…Nh5 was also interesting, and I gave it some thought, but didn’t look critically at any lines, only looked for ideas.

19…g6.  Didn’t think this was going to be necessary until now, when I should have calculated more correctly earlier.  I saw 19…c5, 20.f4 cxd4, 21.fxB dxN, 22.e6xN (missed this one until I was here).

20…Nf8?  I didn’t really want to play this move, but it’s the result of settling on an obvious-looking move in terms of future eventualities, almost like choosing a move “by committee”.  I figured he would play this move, but spent my time in the bathroom and walking around waiting for him to move.

I looked at 20…c5, 21.Rg3 cxd4, 22.Ne2 (#1 continuation by Houdini) but then wanted a move which covered more eventualities – again, this sort of thinking covers for a lack of focus.  Next, I really wanted to play 20…Kh8, that was the move I wanted to play, but wasn’t sure and kept missing on and off that I had the Bd7 covering the h3 square.  Even …Qh4 is a move, but somehow I forgot countless times about my bishop covering that h3 square, so in the end played the blunderously passive 20…Nf8? move.  Of course, I couldn’t decide OTB, and actually wasted a lot of time not calculating anything, but sort of in a fog, and immediately regretted not playing 20…c5 after playing my move.

22…c5?  I did consider the better 22…f5, (and 22…Nh7, but only seriously after the game).  Again, that …Qh4 move was floating in and out of my consciousness at best.  I should also mention that before making this move, and had taken my second and final bathroom break (mainly to get away from the board) and paced the room until he moved, and didn’t really consider the game while doing so other than that he would probably play that move, and I’d double-check 22…c5.

After the game, Expert Earle pointed out that he thought I should have played 22….f5, only move, and only now do I see the computer’s line of 22…f5, 23.exf Qxf, 24.Bxg6 Qxd4+! (I can’t believe I rested my opinion during the game, half a ply short of this move!).  The thing is that Earle was probably looking at the board for only half a minute.  Master Josh and Expert Daniel also see things and conclude much faster than do I.  I really need to step-up my OTB habits of analyzing.

23…c4?  When I played this move, I wanted to double-check the capture line on g6, but told myself not to as I should have had the discipline to check it fully when playing …c5.  Well, five seconds after this move I saw that 24.fxg6 c4xBd3 would be met by 24.g7+ followed by 25.gxNf8+ winning a piece.  Here, I figured I was probably busted, missing the 24.g7+ line (only considering 24.gxf7 before I made my move).

26…Qh4.  I already saw his mate before I played this move, but knew it was time to resign and this is how I choose to do it.

In the end, I wish I had played 22…c5 in time, as I saw the ideas of taking on d4, opening the c-file, getting a check with …Qc5+.

I had seen some other lines accurately, and OTB was surprised at how well and efficiently I could calculate, but it only came in bursts and as you can see my real problem was/is not in calculation (except where I didn’t do any of it), but in focus.  I was not focused during this game.  It even took me a while just to get into the mood where I could focus enough to write this post.  I sounded like I had a cold, and Matthew said that’s why I won.  I don’t want to take anything away from his victory since it was completely legit, and it’s not like was dropping pieces except for missing that g7+ move in that one line.  Actually, I was totally, obviously out of it, just as I was when I went to grocery shopping afterwards, but that’s because of the cold not because of chess.

The point I wanted to have come across is that when you lack focus, decision-making is harder to come by and sometimes irrational.  Certainly, I should have done more calculating on some key moves while in doubt, but it’s almost as if the lack of focus is what caused me to not want to calculate so much (sneezing again now).

Focus is what helps with your game-management, when and what you choose to calculate or not calculate.  There was too much in this game that I didn’t calculate or more importantly stopped short on.  I need a more efficient algorithm when it comes to choosing a move, and I need to calculate more.  I can calculate way more than I am OTB, I just need to tell myself to do so, and practice doing it more so that it becomes more a part of what I do OTB.  Looking back, my focus was super-sloppy during this game, and I need to reprimand myself for looking deeper into lines and then comparing them.  If you can’t tell yourself, then no one else will get inside your brain to tell you to do it either.

I arrived with 13 minutes off my clock, mostly because it was hard to drag myself out the door, and could have resigned with 14 minutes on my clock.  This was more like a G/60, 30 increment for me, the way I chose to approach it.  It made me realize how dependent I’ve become on having the full 90 minutes, and the differences in my play, and more aware of some of my very substandard analytical habits.

After taking three motrin for my thumb pain, I fell asleep near the fire and slept for eleven hours.  I feel so much better, have finally beat this cold; I heard Alex come home late sneezing, however, so maybe he picked it up late.  My thumb is doing a good job healing; I can only hope that months from now the nail will grow back in straight like it was.

Here is a nice game that I just played on, as if to illustrate my inconsistency:





Unclear Attack in Time-Pressure

Round 2

26.Rdd3?  I played this in time-pressure, knowing it might not work, and we both missed a mate on c2, apparently.

I was 16 minutes late due to a home repair project.

The pawn sac wasn’t so great and I spent a lot of time on it, but then I played it because I had so little time that I wanted some attacking chances in time-pressure.

I suppose I am perhaps too optimistic to be a chess player.

10…h4?  I debated whether to play 11.f5 gxf, 12.Bxf e6, 13.Bd3, and thought his kingside pieces might have trouble developing, but I didn’t realize that the problem with defending f7 isn’t going away, and that it would be +-.  I figured play could continue …Bh6, but didn’t seriously consider 14.0-0! here, which puts the rook onto f1 immediately.  I sensed to play Qf6 at some point in there, but didn’t evaluate this final position of …BxBc1, 15.RxB Nh6 (thinking this is fine for Black), 16.Qf6! hitting the rook and preventing 0-0, since the Nh6 would be hanging.

Other noteworthy comments are that I got a cold from LM Brian Wall when he was down here.  Monday, I drank a bunch of coffee so that would have been a good time for me to play, but on Tuesday and today I was out of it all day, sneezing, feeling tired.  I was going to get a soda from the vending machine there, but they were out of everything, and since I lose my appetite when not well, I forgot to eat anything.  I find that the worst part about playing with a cold is that it really kills my short-term memory, I simply forget why I was going to play a line and then play something else instead.

Also, I was 1-0, Paul was 0-1, but I got paired with him because Calvin took a bye (I like how other people protect their ratings when they are not feeling well, or up for it), and Pete is a high-rated house-player, so when he doesn’t play to let Paul play it inadvertently screws with the pairings.  This month, I have played five games with 1956 player, two Experts, a Master, and a 1349 player.  I went one win and four losses, and I still got all these high-rated players.  I don’t need to point out the level of pairings manipulations in CO Springs, whether legal and understandable, it doesn’t change the fact that they are what they are.  It wouldn’t even be as bad if I knew ahead of time I was getting paired up.  This is why Saturday tournaments in California were so ideal.  You only show up when not sick, play the whole tournament, and people  don’t go in and out of the tournament like they do here a lot.

In my opinion, realistically, Master Josh (whose live rating is 2300, it’s 2297 now) should get a one point bye.  He played me because we both have half-point byes in round one, but Shirley was able to be given a zero point bye, which she didn’t even want.  So yeah, it doesn’t matter if I go there because I feel like crap, and don’t want to miss out on the experience, I still get paired with the ringer, and that’s part of my rating too.  Friday I will get paired with someone uber-low because there simply isn’t anyone high to pair me with.  Go ahead and pair me with Daniel or Mark, I’ll be more than up for it, but that’s still laughable because the bottom-half on that day is still a far larger contingent.  I’d rather be paired up now because then I can pull out of the tournament, if I lose, and simply be done with it.

We’ve gotten a lot of new players in Co Springs, but most drop out.  The ones that stick around tend to be either scholastic players (they can use experience from losses against adults to win against kids their own age), and a few stalwarts that have stuck around, still trying despite their losses and near misses.  Many of them study chess, quite a bit too, and thereby want to see results and improvement in their own play.



Real-Time Chess Against a Master

Round 2

I played Josh the same line as I had played Sara, as I believe he is the one (coach) that taught it to her.  I considered playing 9.Bc4, and would have played this if I had been paired with Sara, but I figured he is a Master and would probably know it better than I, and I wasn’t sure he’d play 9…d5 since it’s so much closer to the draw.

17.Rc1  I thought about 17.Rd2, and thought perhaps this was a mistake, after the game.  However 17.Rd2 is actually a weird line, as Houdini follows it up with 17…RxBd3, 18.cxR Qa4, 19.b3 Bxb3 where I lose if I take the bishop.

I wanted to play 17.h4, but saw that it fails to 17…RxB, 18.cxR Qc2+, 19.Kb1 Qa4! winning.  My hope-chess line was 19…Qxg2 losing for Black!  I just checked with Houdini and that assessment is correct, and Josh also confirmed he would have played 19…Qa4.

18.a3??  I never intended to play this hideous-looking move.  I was going to play the correct 18.b3 all along, but then spotted that I didn’t see how I could stop him from mating on a2, if he got a rook lift in.  I actually saw his reply 18…Rc3 when I played 18.a3, but at the time I was only noticing that I would be okay against 19.Qd2 RxBd3.  It wasn’t until he made this move that I seriously considered him playing 19…Rxa3, as obvious as that move may look in hindsight.

Sometime after making my move, I thought and said after the game that “I probably should have played 18.b3 Qa3, 19.Rcd1 Qc1 to protect b2, (and then mumbled or just thought to myself) I bet Magnus would have played that!”  Sure enough, this uber-defensive idea is correct, and the only way to continue.  I wanted to get my attack in down the h-file too badly, and consequently never did.  Houdini puts this plan at 0.0 score.  The funny thing is that after 19.Rcd1, Houdini says …Qc5 is equal, but then I plug in 19…a5 and now it prefers that instead and says that is =+, -.21  It wasn’t even a top three move until I plugged it in, and it wants to play after 20.Qc1 b5 continuing an attack.

Another interesting line he had to refrain from was 19…Rdc8, which I thought he might play.  Houdini shows that now 20.Rhd1 Rxa3?, 21.bxR Qxa3, 22.RxBe6! is +- for White.

I used up my time in this game, but I never got into time-trouble.  I could have gotten down to 12 minutes or so and found that 0.0 plan above, but then I would have had 12 minutes for the rest of the game to draw an even position against a Master with.  In my last two games, I would have done better had I “loaded up” on a key move, and then played the rest of the game at a severe time-advantage, but I’ve told myself “where is the fun in that, if I manage to hold for an extended period of moves, only to collapse later on the clock and thus artificially shorten the game?  In both of these games I’ve been disciplined on spending a reasonable amount of time, and then just going with whatever I have in mind at that point, and not overly worrying about the result.  If anything, I figure, I simply need to calculate more quickly next time in those spots.

It’s difficult to know whether I should a) trust my intuition and just play 18.b3 without complete analysis, or whether b) I should analyze until I find the line that works, or c) I should both trust my intuition, and simply analyze 18.b3 until I find how it works, while spending less time considering undesirable alternatives.  Perhaps the last option would be best.

I’ll probably drop out of Thursday’s very small tournament (0-2), and only play on Tuesday and Friday next week.

[Event “Fridays Swiss”]
[Site “IHOP”]
[Date “2017.03.10”]
[Round “2”]
[White “Brian Rountree”]
[Black “Josh Bloomer”]
[Result “0-1”]
[BlackElo “2287”]
[GameNo “-1”]
[WhiteElo “1832”]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8.
Qd2 Nc6 9. O-O-O d5 10. exd5 Nxd5 11. Nxd5 Qxd5 12. Nxc6 Qxc6 13. Bh6 Bxh6 14.
Qxh6 Be6 15. Kb1 Rfd8 16. Bd3 Rac8 17. Rc1 Qa4 18. a3 Rc3 19. Qd2 Rxa3 20.
bxa3 Qxa3 21. c3 Bc4 22. Rhd1 Bxd3+ 23. Qxd3 Qb3+ 24. Ka1 Rxd3 25. Rxd3 b5 26.
Rd8+ Kg7 27. Rd7 a5 28. Rc7 a4 29. Re1 e6 30. g4 Qa3+ 31. Kb1 Qd6 32. Ra7 Qd3+
33. Kc1 Qxc3+ 34. Kd1 Qd4+ 0-1






Walking Into It

Round 2

At 0-1, I had figured on getting Shirley(1000), Dean(1500), or Doug (161 rating), but got Sara with the White pieces.  I was pleased with the pairing, but it meant that I had not prepared for her pet line because I thought I wouldn’t face her for another week.

Well, she played fast, the entire game in 17 minutes.  I had an opposite problem from her in that this was the loudest that Smashburgers has ever been, and the second loudest game I’ve ever played in (there was one time at Panera it was louder, but only because there were no booths to shield the noise).

She played 13…Qc7 instantly, and I knew this was the main line, but since she played it instantly, I felt I had to test the assumption that her rook wasn’t hanging.  Well, before I even looked at that I was planning on 14.Qc5 Qb7, 15.b3 Be6, and now I didn’t like 16.Qa3, but I never saw that I could play 16.Bd3 Bxa2?, 17.Be4 skewering queen and rook.

The noise and commotion made me not so much nervous as excitable.  I saw that she couldn’t trap my queen, and might follow-up with …Be6, but I stopped my analysis there before even noticing that she forces the trade of queen for two rooks for queen with …Bf5 mate threat.  I was okay with this, but was amazed that I had missed this, and part of the reason was that I was having trouble getting focused.  One of the Scudders was yelling at her on my move where he was going to be after the game, and then multiple people stopped my with that sort of line “Oh, honey look, they are playing chess”, and “Oh my gosh, I think they are having some sort of competition!” (of course right next to us because it’s a small walkway).

16.Rd3?  16.Rd2 is the only way to draw from this position.

16…Qe5  Completely missed this move, but for some reason wasn’t thinking much anyway.

17.Bxf5??  I had spent quite a bit of time here, but I was going to do one last check to see whether 17.Be4? was better when Expert Daniel (her brother) stopped by the board for the third time on this same move, and I was beginning to feel dumb for taking so long.  Actually, lots of people were stopping by, and then leaving so as not to block the narrow walkway, and I had to tune this, the loud music, and lots of background conversations out.

18….Qb6  In my mind, my king was still on c1 in this position, but her check had put my king on b1, so now it’s a mate threat which wins the piece.  I don’t believe my blindfold analysis failed me, but I do believe that whenever I get too excitable (unfocused) I find it easy to base my moves on “hope chess”, and that is what continued to happen in this game until I finally got focused (and the crowd disperses after dinner rush-hour).

23.g5?  This was another hope-chess move, as I already felt like resigning and played this in the hopes of her not taking with the queen, which she took less than half a minute to make.  After this, I decided to dig in, if not for just to try and find my focus, which I did but it was too late here.

After the game, I thought I could hold with 17.Be4, but she had too many practical chances after 17…Qxb2, and 18…Bc3+, she was also instantly noticing the shots.  With the queen on, there is a double-attack on every move, or a setup move which leads to a double-attack on the next move.  She immediately saw at one point that I could not take a pawn because it would lose to a double-attack, and disconnecting the rooks was the same story.  I wanted to trade my last bishop, but that leads to a double-attack or winning ending too.  White has to win Black’s a-pawn straight away or it’s losing, and I had thought I could move my king and win it later.

Only 17.Kd2 is a try for a draw (starts out as -.5 by Houdini), and OTB I only saw 17…BxB, 18.cxB? Qxb2+, not noticing that I had 18.KxBd3, which I would have noticed had I gone over the three lines again (I was never in time-pressure).  Still, I played this line multiple times against Houdini, even following it’s own recommendations, since I was blundering on virtually every move, and it turns out that Houdini can’t even hold this position against itself.  Basically, the draw was to play 16.Rd2, win Black’s a-pawn for White’s e-pawn, shove the c-pawn up the board as fast as possible, give up an exchange and a perpetual so that Black can force a draw.

On reflecting, I remember that her brother had told her when I last beat her in this line how it is dangerous for White to win this pawn.  It’s better for White to avoid getting into this …d5 line unless a draw is an acceptable result, and winning the pawn, while playable (certainly not taking the Ra8, however) is a bit questionable unless there is some deep(er) analysis behind it.

One of the problems with lack of focus, and excitability is that these qualities are unfortunate to have in dangerous positions where both sides have mutual mates and threats because the tendency is to only want to see your own threats unless you are really grounded and centered.  Sara was seeing her threats, my threats, and how she could ignore my threats, and the music/noise/commotion didn’t seem to be having an effect on her whatsoever – certainly a seasoned tournament warrior.

Sara also said that she has fun playing from this …d5 position, which let me know that I probably wasn’t the first victim in this line, and I feel she’s won many times from it before.  There is really nothing for Black to lose by playing this …d5 line, that I have determined, it even seems recommendable.


[Event “Thursdays Swiss”]
[Site “Smashburgers”]
[Date “2017.03.09”]
[Round “2”]
[White “Brian Rountree”]
[Black “Sara Herman”]
[Result “0-1”]
[BlackElo “1963”]
[GameNo “-1”]
[WhiteElo “1832”]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8.
Qd2 Nc6 9. O-O-O d5 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. exd5 cxd5 12. Nxd5 Nxd5 13. Qxd5 Qc7 14.
Qxa8 Bf5 15. Qxf8+ Kxf8 16. Bd3 Qe5 17. Bxf5 Qxe3+ 18. Kb1 Qb6 19. b3 gxf5 20.
Rd3 Bf6 21. Rhd1 Qa5 22. g4 f4 23. g5 Qxg5 24. Rd8+ Kg7 25. R8d5 Qg2 26. R5d2
Qxf3 27. Rg1+ Kh6 28. Rd3 Qf2 29. Rh3+ Bh4 30. Rd1 Kg6 31. a4 f3 32. Kb2 Kg5
33. Rd3 Kg4 34. Rhxf3 Qxf3 35. Rxf3 Kxf3 36. b4 e5 37. c4 e4 38. a5 e3 39. b5
e2 40. b6 e1=Q 0-1