Up on a Soapbox

I learned something playing 15 min/ 10 sec inc on chessdotcom (incidentally, here is the last game I played, flashy finish – taking the Rf6 loses – but I missed a lot too  French Winnawerhttp://www.chessvideos.tv/chess-game-replayer.php?id=110902).  I learned that at a higher level, chess is not really a game as much as an analysis apparatus.  Slow-chess on this site really emphasizes analysis. and endgames, and patience; playing my chess-nemesis Paul A. also achieves this condition.

Chess in the USA is sold as a game, like a blitz battle in the park, luring in kids.  At a higher level, chess is less about a game and more about analysis and decision-making, like some business adventure.  When you play a lot of Class C players and below, you sometimes get that good feeling, like after eating a ding-dong, but you immediately realize it’s empty calories (or worse).  Against lower-rated players, I’ve won “on the board” a lot, and thought that’s what chess was.  Chess is rarely about winning “on the board” for titled players, instead it’s about winning the battle of analysis.  Usually, if the position is within +- 1 on the board, the result will usually side with the player performing the better analysis, not with the player who had the <+1 advantage.  However, in both cases, chess is fun, and that is the part that everyone gets right!  🙂

This video on calculation is awesome!


Here is a blindfold calculation exercise:  http://www.thechessdrum.net/chessacademy/CA_VisionBlindfold2.html

I got 12 of 15 right, even though it said I got only 10.

I got #8 wrong, saw the right answer (knew that move, actually, as a tactical pattern), but thought there was a mate in 1.  Upon realizing I got it wrong I “noticed” that there is a pawn in the way.

I breezed through 11-13 and got #11 wrong because I hurriedly thought it was the Kalishnikov the way I play it, without c4, and so forgot about that pawn.  I got #11 wrong because I mixed up the colors/color to move from the “diagram”, and had thought it was suspiciously too easy at first (actually, it’s even a tricky problem).

This was a better result than I was expecting, as I was able to solve blindfolded, my errors came down to forgetting about a pawn twice, and mixing up the colors/direction in an endgame diagram, which is sometimes easy to do when looking at an endgame diagram visually.  Remembering where pawns are is usually the most important thing you get better at with blindfold practice, so I’d say my result makes perfect sense to me.


This Week’s Games

I’ll start it with a game from Chess dot com played at 15/10, and end it with one played at 3/2.

The slow games helped me improve, and the blitz games are more like a status check, they don’t make you better, only more primed to make quicker decisions.

I feel confident my chess has gotten better, or at least more 1900 than 1800.  I think some techniques like at least trying to blindfold or guess the opponent’s moves help, but it all sort of goes out the window in blitz, as my third or fourth blitz game was the type where ya don’t realize when or where the piece was dropped.

Tomorrow night is rounds 4-6 of quick chess.

Round 4

Round 5

Round 6

In rounds 4 and 5, I didn’t always take material when they hung it, to keep the games interesting.  I said Scott could take his move back, when he dropped his Bd7, but he said no but thanks, because it’s a rated game.

I played …b5 in a haste against Paul, and was considering the three other best candidate moves …Rab8, …Rfb8, …b6 were my other three candidate moves, best ones, but I quickly played some blunders, and was even looking at better moves at times, but didn’t have the experience level where I could just know, without spending time to calculate, whether I could fortress up or not.  Either way, I was a little better, but that ensured that Paul got his type of technical game, and he outplayed me for the umpteenth time.  I spent hours analyzing this game.

On the one hand, it’s a bummer losing to Paul at any time-control, and G/24, inc 5 sec feels real enough, even if he calculates and moves faster than anyone in terms of okay moves quickly.  OTH, I feel as if I should have only been playing Paul for the last 7 years, since he plays the game that I need to improve against, a purely technical player/opponent.


July Quick-Chess, Rounds 1-3

This week and the next, our club is having a six round quick-chess tournament.  Here are the first three rounds:

I set my clock wrong for the first two rounds, I set it to G/25, d/5, it was supposed to be G/24, increment 5.  I set it correctly for round 3.

Round 1

I only spent 10 minutes on this game, but for example, I played 2.Nb8-d6, then put it on c6 without releasing my hand.  This was foreshadowing, as at age 50, it serves me better now if I go for a jog on the day before or the day of.  My mental endurance without fitness isn’t as good now, but the positive of that is that if I do work out, my mind seems as sharp as ever, if not sharper than ever.

Round 2

I was up a rook for two pawns, and I think I even saw putting my rook on the a-file and winning another pawn, but I had around 4 min. 56 seconds, and suddenly had this blah feeling, like with the clock and my energy level, I still may only draw this, which is what happened.

Round 3

I had a major hallucination in this game, and AFAIK this has never happened to me before to such an extreme extent.  For example, I never do this in online blitz, but OTB at quicker time-controls, it’s like I’m trying to bend time with my mind to compress the game within the time limits.  If I played quick-chess like three days a week, man it would be such second nature that it would be essentially a real game for me.

10…Nc4.  I didn’t play 10…d6 because 11.a4 appears to win a pawn, but actually now I think 10….d6, 11.a4 c6 doesn’t drop a pawn 12.dxc6 and now either knight can capture on c6.  Even now I can see that if I played quick-chess OTB a lot, my speed of calculating would improve and become stronger and my regular rating would shoot up as a result.  Somehow, online chess doesn’t have this same effect on me, possibly because I don’t feel as accountable when I am playing online chess.

Okay, so brace yourself because here goes my hallucination now.  11…d6  Naturally, I would have played 11…Nb6 except that I hallucinated that my bishop was on f5!  Never mind that exBf5 would be the result of that.   So, I sacked my c-pawn intentionally, with the game move, calculating 12.Qe2 Bb7 (yes, that bishop is on b7 for real, and also on f5 in my mind!),13.Qxc4 Nxd5, 14.exNd5 BxBc2.  Three games in such a short space of time, it’s almost like the fighter who is knocked-out on his feet (you can see it in their eyes), but still fighting anyway.

So, when Mark played 14.Nd2 I noticed that I had hallucinated that my bishop was also on f5, and my first reaction was “I wonder what (mutual) hallucination that he was suffering under, as he could have simply taken on c4 with his queen.”  I never asked him about this move though, we only considered the late middlegame and endgame.

After 14.Nd2, I played …f5, as he can no longer go Nf3-g5-e6, but even looking at this position for a moment, I want to now play …c6 here, which is the better move.

18…gxf5.  Here, I had 18…d5!, as Houdini pointed out, defending the c4 pawn, and advancing in the center, sacking my f5-pawn, essentially, instead of my c4 pawn.  This also opens the f-file for Black, which I would have been delighted to see in the game!

19.Qxc4  I was happy that he took on c4 with the queen, which was a mistake, but apparently I wasn’t supposed to trade queens either, but I can see the real reason why for that is that it develops his knight, which became the huge SNAFU for me in the game.

26.Nb7  This move escaped my attention entirely, so I had a long think here.  Incidentally, my last move 26…Rad8 was a blunder, and I should have defended d5 with …Ng6-e7, but missed this possibility entirely.  Naturally, I was a tempo short of being able to play …Be6-f7.

28.Nd7  I was happy to see this as I sort of “tricked” him into not taking on d5 and being two pawns up, which he said after the game he should have done.

Mark called my flag to end the game.  Apparently, I had flagged a move or two prior, so I know what happened.  I looked at the clock and punched it, and I was happy that I had done it in time, but apparently a split second after I turned my head, still thinking it said 1 second, it must have ticked down to zero, as if it had taken an extra few milliseconds for my clock punch to register.

The way my quick-chess games went, in the result-sense, was kind of silly.  I would have won round 2 in a much-slower time format (but I also realized that he had made silly blunders as well, such as …Bxa4 when …Bb3 and he was better, and then he missed my Ba3 skewer), and round 3 would have went on much longer as well.  However, it bears repeating that I could build on this, if I played this quickly regularly, however I would also need to be in fine physical shape, more like an athlete as chess-players like to call themselves nowadays and I can finally begin to see why.  Timur has run an ultra-marathon, and Nakamura is going to run a marathon soon (26.2 miles) – he says his brother and mother run half-marathons.  These guys really are athletes, after all!



Optimism and Pessimism

Game 3 of a 4 game match.

UPDATE::  Peter sent me a photo of the yellow copy, and I have corrected the game score.  If you haven’t read this post already, then some of the notes won’t make sense now that the game score has been corrected.  Imre moved his king artfully toward the end, and I wanted to see how he did that.  Even the scoresheet got scribly at the end, but I remembered what happened anyway.  When his king started wandering, I thought I could play for the win, and saw this maneuver, which it turns out is winning  …Bd3-f1-g2-f3, but I wanted to delay it for a move (but can only delay it for two moves), thinking he might change his mind, bring his king back, and it would only be a draw.  However, in acute time-pressure, I wasn’t sure and chickened out.    I may have even played 41…Bd3-b1?? (instead of 41…Bf1) to delay that maneuver described above, but it’s WAY too much of a delay – but at least now you can see what was going through my mind.  This is an example of the insane sort of pseudo-calculation which takes place in time-pressure.  If I had just played the maneuver described outright, I probably would have won the game, but I was unsure about the pawn race, if we trade bishops on f3, for one thing.  A sad way to go down from what could have been a win, it’s basically the equivalent of flagging but where you play on in a completely losing position.

I should preface this game that Imre never got below an hour and 4 minutes. On most moves in the opening, he mainly just reacted to what I played, quickly, seemingly without too much thought, but I feel as though this was likely his game plan going into the game, play quickly and try to pick up rating points by drawing on his (Master-level) endgame experience.

Also, I left my scoresheet there, so this is a recreation from memory, but pretty accurate.

2.Bf4, the London Attack. My first reaction was to want to play 2…d6 and 3…g6, but I hadn’t tried it OTB before, and didn’t want this game to become about the opening, thinking it may take a long time to establish …e5, and I was worried about Bh6 variations before Black castles, but Houdini then stoically says that Black would be =+ for some reason.

5.h3?! Not very challenging, but it does allow a hideout for the bishop on h2, and prepares g4, his prep apparently as he played this quickly, but on second thought I rememeber Magnus quote that if you play the opening quickly, they will think it’s your prep.

10…Ne4 We both felt after the game, correctly, that 11.NxNd7 was stronger for him, and likewise 10…NxNe5 here is a stronger continuation for Black, preventing White’s idea. 10…Nxe5, 11.BxNe5 Ne4, 12.Qc2 NxNd2, 13.Qxd2 f6, 14.Bg3 Bd6, 15.BxB QxB, 16.0-0-0 c4 17.Bc2 b5 is better for Black =+

11.NxNd5 I thought he’d play the stronger 11.Nf3, particularly since I haven’t traded pawns on d4 yet.

13.dxe5 After the game, we both thought 13.Bxe5 was stronger, but I played 13…Bd6, and even had a successful mating attack in the brief post-mortem.

13…QxQ. I spent a bit of time here, and during the game was worried by the variation 13…a6, 14.Qd7 QxQ, 15.BxQ Rfd8 (…b5 is best), 16.0-0-0 Bc8?! ( but …Bd5, …g5, and …b5 are all stronger moves), 17.Bc6 when White is unnecessarily +.7 ahead instead of behind. I told myself during the game that I’d be optimistic and figure it out later, which was the right thing to think – I told myself not to lose by being pessimistic.

16…Rd7 I wanted to play 16…Bh4, 17.Bg3 BxBg3, but saw that he could instead trap my bishop with 17.g5 Bxf2, 18.Raf1, but this is an illusion as Black’s plan of doubling rooks and allowing that bishop to be trapped is even stronger (RxB is met with …RxB-+), and it’s =+ if I just let the bishop stay on h4, as many GMs are able to work out. however 16…Bh4, 17…Bxf2?? is met by 18.h4 and 19.Rh2, winning the bishop.

28.Kc2 I felt like I was putting more thought into the game, as 28.h6 forces 28…gxh6, 29.Bxh6 which really frees up his bishop. I understood he wanted to chip away at my queenside, but it seemed he was playing more on instinct than analysis to not notice this device. Now, it could be that he noticed it, and Houdini says like every move is equal, but from a human perspective, getting in h6 sure looks desirable to me.

30.Kb2?! Here again, if he played 30.Bg5, I was going to play 30…Kf8. It’s as if the point of the whole game was to trick me once I got low on time. A pretty effective strategy, and if that was the strategy, consciously or subsconsciously, then it definitely was a successful one.

33.Bg2 At some point, if he had played Bg3, I was going to play …f5 (which Houdini likes a touch better), but since he didn’t appear to me, anyway, to be taking …Bxe5+ too seriously, I decided to play it (again, the mantra, be optimistic!)

40…Bg4!? Once again, a second time-control would be nice, and I was already playing on the increment here. I wanted to play 40…Bg6!, saving a tempo, but couldn’t determine, lickety-split, whether 41.BxBg6?? would be losing or not. That’s the problem, he gave me no time to think in the ending.

43…e4? I figured this would likely draw unless there was a zugzwang. 43…Kh4 is winning, but I didn’t “know” this, as I would have needed some time to figure this out, since I don’t have a Master’s endgame experience to look at a position like this and just “know” without thinking that it is a win. I have …Kh4 winning on the next move, as well.

53.Kh5 =+ I wasn’t sure here whether he had decided to play for a win at all costs, but didn’t have time to think soberly about this either. I thought I could play for a win as well.

56…Ke5?? When I got home, I figured the computer would say that this is the move that lost it, and it is. I figured it was losing OTB, but was about to flag. I had an idea to play 56…Bg2=, then 57…Bf3, but beween his blitzing, and needing to summon the courage for the final push, I let pessimism get the better of me and let it win. Sure, I couldn’t calculate the draw, who could in every variation with so little time? Still, I should have played on, and realistically should have still drawn the game, although there is still a trick or two left in the position. In either case, I flagged on the next move (saw 3 seconds on my clock and made the move, but not fast enough), but he didn’t realize it, so I played on until I resigned (it was a hopeless position in any event).

It may seem hard to flag someone with a 30-second increment, but against an ex-Master who is blitzing an endgame against you it’s not too difficult to flag. Part of the problem is needing to keep notation because of the increment. Also, the board’s notation was set up wrong, and even though I knew this I kept noticing it on each move, probably because the notation on this board seems unusually big (his board).

If I had stayed optimistic, that should have been a draw. I don’t feel I was outplayed in this game, in chess-terms, the same way I felt I was “outplayed” in human terms, or match strategy. Normally, I would feel depressed by a loss, but this time I felt more upset by it. I could have played a rematch right then and there, but had to go home in order to get another game. I mauled two hapless players on chess.com. Sorry I had to take it out on them.

The result of this game underscores, in a way, if I were always playing opponents of my rating, I would have had more endgame experience by now. I lost the opportunity of getting a lot of this experience by playing miniautures against lower-rated players. I should have managed my clock better as well. In the end, after I flagged and played another 15 moves or so, he never spent more than 5 seconds on any one of those moves (and I was moving instantly, for the obvious reason).

In the future, I will say the moves played to myself, so that I am always focused on the moves, so I can do the notation without thinking (something you don’t worry about in an online game, or with a 5 second delay).  As it was, keeping track of the notation kept getting in the way of my analysis because I was treating it like a nuisance chore, to the point where this nuisance-factor was making me almost incapable of handling the situation on the board.  I was more frustrated by the end of the game, than anything else.

I like how Naka is always calling out the notation.  This takes some discipline to build a habit as strongly as his.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyqGwt9lvXs

The draw was super-easy in my game, but the win was super-hard.  I almost think the difficulty of finding a win caused me to collapse to prevent the easy draw.  I knew this at the time, that I am prone to this, but studying endgames seems to be one of the best preventions.  I’ve had to study this endgame quite a bit to get the hang of it, and I had no realistic possibility of learning it in any kind of time-pressure.

My chess has gotten a bit stronger very recently.  Fourth win in a row in last two days on Chess.com  Played this against a 1700 using less than one minute and a ten second increment – Blacks side of a KG.  http://www.chessvideos.tv/chess-game-replayer.php?id=110801







July Mating Game

The mating-game is a four round tournament, played yearly.  I missed the first two rounds on the 4th of July, and wanted to get in this opportunity for some classical rated play.  The time control is G/45, d/10, so it wasn’t going to be pretty, and indeed it wasn’t!

Round 3

Jeff has clobbered me many times in the past, over the years.  The opening was rather adventurous, and the last couple moves may not be accurate, yet was descriptive of what happened.  He made an exchange sac on c6 that Houdini didn’t consider, but liked, then I blundered an exchanged and was lost when he practically had to set up the blunder for me that I was looking to exploit.  In time-pressure, I thought he would claim a repetition, but he didn’t, and later he said it was because he wasn’t keeping score (we both had stopped keeping score for many moves, but I had 1 second left on my clock for the last 25 moves or so).  Anyway, he finally dropped his rook, then I was up a queen and three pawns for bishop and pawn, closing in on the mate, when he flagged while looking for a way to stalemate the position.

Round 4

Round 3 had taken it’s toll in a way.  I drank a Dr. Pepper at the start of this game, but never got the energy back that I started game 1 with.  Mark played 23…BxBg2, which I was expecting, and immediately offered a draw.  He had around 38 seconds and I 2.5 minutes, although I was at 3.5 minutes the move before.

I spent two minutes considering the draw offer, realizing that although I wanted to play on and this seemed like it would be a fun time-scramble, this was also going to affect the regular rating.  Well, from the past few years at this club, I have been up to my eyeballs in “moral victories” where I lost a ton of rating points, so I kept this in mind.

When he offered the draw, I made the mistake of looking at the moves that I wasn’t going to look at, instead of the line I was actually going to play.  For example 24.exd6 Qxd6?? loses, but …Bxd6 is equal.  I should have focused only on the 24.QxBg2 line, which I was planning on blitzing out.  A big part of the problem, besides fatigue, and lack of skill to cope with the situation in the time given, was that I felt like this position was interesting because it was so experimental, and I would have to figure it out OTB, but the time thing got in the way and this part was predictable.

In the end, I simply didn’t know what was going on in the position.  For example, after 24.QxBg2 dxe5, 25.Nd4-c6! is winning, and I did not see this move even after looking at this position for a minute after seeing Houdini’s eval.  He said he was worried about 25.Nh6+, and I convinced him that it was nothing, and he said he probably would have played 24….dxe5 (after I basically sold him on it).  Actually, I think there is a good chance he would have played 23…Kh8, to which I’m sure I would have quickly played 24.e5xd6, which looks great, but it only +=; again 24.Nc6 is the move, and here I would not have seen it because there was no reason to look so hard for this move.

Of all players, Mark is the player I least want to go into time-pressure with.  Mark makes instant evaluations of positions, as he told me he would never take that pawn on e5, too dangerous – which is right.  I traded into a middle/endgame and he was crushing me, and totally outplaying me in the post-mortem.  If I had seen this Nc6 move OTB, I would have played on with under a minute on my clock, no question, but I simply couldn’t figure out how I would continue other than I had calculated lines that were equal.  With a longer time-control there is no way the game would have ended here, but I had a foreboding feeling that something like this would happen to our game.

My rating went up from 1832, and it should be around 1855 after this tournament gets rated tomorrow.  My play may not look much better, but I kept my confidence high enough to avoid “moral victories” i.e., losses, lately.  The tough part of quicker time-controls is the next game, as in you play more than one game a day when you speed up the time-controls.  We played a rated blitz tournament, me, Paul, Jeff, and Mark after the games were over.  I lost all three, two of them on “finger-fehlers” where I resigned after touching the wrong piece.  I wasn’t getting outplayed so much as I have a harder time coping with blitz, in general, than others at my rating or higher.  Also, my draw with Mark had demoralized my competitive spirit to some extent.  I felt rather dejected from my performance as I left the club, particularly from the two rated game and especially the last one, although objectively perhaps it wasn’t so horrible, and was actually positive in the sense of the outcome, but it could have been better, no question.

Going over the final position with Houdini, trying to guess the move quickly, showed how amazingly blind I was.  I had control of both the long light and the long diagonal, and I had a safe vertical, the g-file with no counter-pin against my own king there, and couldn’t calculate the tactics quickly.  OTB, because the bishops had come off just then, in my mind I was still thinking my king position was exposed – oddly, Mark exposed this in the post-mortem by getting his queen to g6, but it’s ridiculous that I should allow anything like that with good play of my own.

Missing all these shots is like a good reason I could quite competitive chess, but I’m also reminded that this is why my rating is built on longer time-controls.  At blitz, rapid, I still don’t have these quick instincts down.  For all that training I’ve done on CT-Art, to try to get me to see simple tactics quickly, I’m still not seeing them quickly, and I could feel the difference between having someone tell you there is a tactic that works, and not knowing that.  But even when I’m told there’s a tactic, sometimes I see it under 10 seconds, but sometimes it takes me a minute or two, or longer, which still isn’t quick enough for blitzing out a game.  Most stuff _isn’t_ pattern recognition, unless you have some remarkably consistent opening repertoire, which isn’t something I have.


Deliberate Practice

I want to write another post on blindfold chess, yet I’ll start here with this article on deliberate practice, and Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak:


Ironically, once back in junior college, I told two aquaintances, who were talking about baseball, that baseball hitters probably have 20/10 vision, and they laughed and agreed, and here for some reason, just as out of the blue as I bring it up now, a study in the article showed this same thing.

Anyway, blindfold training and deliberate practice are linked at the hip.  I can blindfold recall Morphy’s “Opera game” in under two minutes, and I blindfolded an opening line in the KGA last night, and I realized that I can remember openings more certainly by doing it this way.  Blindfolding does have to be deliberate, though, you have to decide to turn on that switch, otherwise it’s just as likely that nothing changes in your play.

I find blindfold training linked to memorization, which is one reason I find it harder to see how people use blindfolding in live games because, as I’ve said before, blindfolding is more suitable for remembering the past than seeing the future, or even the present sometimes.  However, blindfolding is useful for solving puzzles, which are static in a way because the actual game has long been over with by the time you see the puzzle.  I can and have used blindfolding to see long lines in analysis, or to solve a tactical puzzle.  In a game, this is trickier due to time-limits.  Blindfolding is not that fast until you become highly proficient at it, like Timur.

If you want to learn blindfold chess, it will help you later on by starting with memorizing the board, and as much of that as you can, as otherwise you will have to reteach it to yourself over and over again here and there.