Settled In

I got a new opponent for the last round of the Wednesday nights Classical chess event.  I didn’t know what to expect, as he had already beaten Paul C. (a 1900 player) in the previous round.  He took all of his time, even went down to 6 seconds, so I had plenty of time to look at whatever I wanted to look at, unlike some opponents who are strong largely because they are fast.


Physical Letdown

This age thing is really catching up to me, if I don’t stay in physical shape, although I was prone to this sort of fatiguing back when I was 1300.

Round 5, final round

So, I guess I should preface this game by saying all I had to eat all day was a small sandwhich with some yoghurt for brunch.  I went jogging before the game, didn’t have much energy for that even, and then it was off to the game.  On the way home, after the game, I spilled the entire large drink in my car, first time I’ve ever done that.  I finished my food before I even got out of the car.  I didn’t feel hungry or tired, but was lacking that energy the way you get without food for half a day.

Calvin has been as high rated as 1900, but he’s been trying out new openings for him, and this is most likely why his rating has suffered.

6.Bg5  First time I’ve played this in a regular rated game.

27…g6, 28.Ne3  This is where my time and energy got low.  I felt that 28.Nxd6! was winning, which it is, but right around here couldn’t find the energy to calculate any longer.  As soon as Houdini said this was winning, I knew why, because of 29.Qa8+ and 30.Rc8, which I must have seen OTB, but my energy was coming and going a bit, and it turns out you really need to be on an even keel to calculate or visualize.

31.a4?  Terrible, and I knew this was super weak, but I was already relaxing too much.  As Paul A. pointed out after the game, I could have rounded up this pawn with Be2 or Rb7 moves.  All I had to do was make quiet maneuvers to not let up the pressure, but I had tactics on the brain, from thinking so much about tactics previously.

36.Be2?  Just 36.Rc6 or 36.RxN!  I sensed OTB this might be the right move, but couldn’t calculate with this energy inertia and time-pressure.  Houdini said 36.RxN was winning, and I saw this combo instantly.  I must say it’s not only time-pressure, it’s hard to play easily winning moves when the nerves take over in time-pressure.  Nerves can tell you not to look at these committal moves, or even sometimes quiet moves.

41.Kf3?  The start of a new time-control, adjournment?  Nope, just more time-pressure.  I saw 41.Bc4 instantly, but then noticed the idea of ..e4, …e3, …Rxf2+.  I also noticed that my extra pawn is the h-pawn and his is the e-pawn, so that now he could play …f5, Kf7-f6, and as I moved my king realized that I had not played 41.Bc4 and got suddenly dizzy.  I figured I could still draw the opposite bishop endgame, but he kept his rooks on.

47.f3?  The computer won’t say this is a mistake, but for a human it is.  I wanted to play 47.h4 here, but in time-pressure did not.  The game is much easier to handle after 47.h4, and would have played it had I not been so nervous in time-pressure.

49.Kg3??  I have to give Calvin credit for outplaying me in the endgame.  49.Ke3! Rxh2, and Black’s only pawn lever is …d5, which he can no longer play – this position is technically a draw, as Black’s king and bishop are fortressed in.  I wanted to stop …d5 in the game, but didn’t know this was the way to do it.  It’s kind of like how you said in your loss on Monday (RP), how you could have shed a pawn for the draw, but that you didn’t know that that’s what you should do, during the game.

This endgame is an easy draw, now that I look at it, but I made this losing blunder with exactly 1 minute.  With ten minutes or maybe only five, I would have been able to take in that this position is entirely drawn, but I wasted my dwindling time and energy looking for tactics earlier, which ironically was the right thing to do in a way, I just need to be able to hold out energy-wise, and not let nerves destroy my ability to think.  It takes a consistent energy level to play an entire chess game well.

I knew that all I needed was a draw to take sole second, but the way I played and manage my clock, nerves, energy level, you can see why I hardly ever draw.  so I lost out on the extra $12 I would have won with merely a draw from this game.  Incidentally, I had know since last week that I was going to be paired against this 1200 level player, and he knew it too, but the Russian player who had just come back from vacation didn’t show up/play, perhaps because he was out of the running, so Paul A. on board one, got the 1200 player, instead of the Russian, and finished up with 5-0.

It’s weird that two tactically winning moves flickered through my mind, but that I did not play them.  I wonder why there is so much more doubt during a game than when training.  It me realize that you have to know exactly why something does or doesn’t work.  You can’t rely on seeing winning moves for a fleeting moment, and then the next moment doubting that it was there.  I do a lot of fleeting analysis during practice, which works wonders with my focus and attention span in practice, but OTB things have to become more deliberate, unless all you ever do is blitz.  My opponent had over an hour on his clock at the end of the game, btw.

I was going to drink a Dr. Pepper at the start of the game, but felt alright and didn’t bother to buy one.  It’s weird that you don’t know that you are tired until after the game, even though I had stopped blindold visualizing during the late part of the game, it’s like it doesn’t register until after the game.  Chess is like a boxing match, as long as you are on your feet you feel okay, even if you are “out on your feet”.





This Week’s Games

Round 4 Tuesdays

Round 2 Wednesdays

The leftover rust from yesterday.  I knew 6.Ng5? was only equal, but I couldn’t figure out why OTB.  I knew I should play 0-0, c3, d2-d4-d5 for an easy advantage, but then chose this line, thinking she might mishandle it, then I though “What are you doing?  This is supposed to be a positional opening!”  My only explanation is that I was still affected by yesterdays game.  Mike has this come and get you style, so I was looking for something sharp right off the bat, and couldn’t switch gears from yesterday.  Also, I hadn’t played any online blitz to shake off that game, either.

The Ruy Lopez sucks, if you leave well established theory, because then everything tends to end in a draw, barring gross blunders; much more so than in the Scotch or KG or etc.  For some reason, I was thinking I’d lose maybe 4 rating points for a draw, but will lose 8 actually, by the time it gets rated.  I hadn’t drawn in so long, but I’ve drawn with her a lot!

After I played 6.Ng5?, I suddenly saw the refutation 6…Nxd5, 7.Qf3 QxNg5, 8.QxNd5 Qg6 and …Bb7 =+.  When she played 6…Nd4!, it had never occurred to me that she could play this move before capturing on d5, even though it looks like it should have been obvious in hindsight.

I got under 20 minutes and offered a draw, since I wasn’t going to avoid a repetition anyway.  I considered 20.Re4, but the only thing to play for is a more probable loss, it feels.  I look at continuations for many moves forward with Houdini, and it’s like dry as dust draw-land as far as the eye can see.  You really have to follow your prep, and not wander off the path, when playing the Lopez as White.  I was hoping she would play more adventurous, rather than playing the solid moves that she played that I was hoping she wouldn’t play.  I felt lucky, as it was, that she played that strange …Rd7 move.

Part of me says that if you are going to play the Lopez (and somehow can’t play it at blitz speed), then may as well either be content with a high percentage of draws, or consider switching over to 1.d4.  I mean, if your goal is to play solid, while still retaining some room for creativity, especially after going off-script, then 1.d4 fits the bill.  😉

Perhaps it’s much tougher than usual, not to play “flat”, when playing chess two nights in a row.  I figure that must have at least something to do with it, as Daniel has drawn while playing far down (he plays Tuesdays in Denver), two rounds in a row!

One other thing to point out, and I didn’t want to use this as an excuse.  I had looked at this position before and with 43 games in the DB, White has quite a high or at least equal winning percentage in all lines.  I had glanced at this position and those stats before so I told myself, unfortunately, to dismiss this move.  …Nd4! is actually a great move and the statistics are terribly misleading.  This is the downside of “relying” on a database.  Black is definitely better after …Nd4 as played in the game, in all White continuations.  When I realized this it also made me think of the slogan some chess player recently said ( “You practice like you play” – GM Sokolov, I believe, although I’m sure he meant “You play like you practice.”)

8.d3  Master Josh Bloomer (2300) took one look at this position, said he liked it for White,  and then said “I think you need to castle, then play Re1, get counterplay as quick as you can.” and he is right.  8.d3 is too slow (although it was Houdini’s first choice until I showed it the 8.0-0 line).  After 0-0, and Re1, I may need to play Nc3 or d4 before I need to play d3.  Another Sokolov axiom is that it’s the move after the first mistake that usually costs you (mistakes come in back to back moves).  I was rattled, thinking that I probably wouldn’t find the best move, and would hunker down instead.  It’s difficult to switch emotions at the board, and keep looking for a strong continuation.  I did try to do that, but couldn’t hold out.

8.d3 The idea behind this move is that if she doesn’t play 8…NxBb3 right away, then I will defend the d5 pawn with c4.  Houdini could care less about this idea and says that 8…Bc5, 9.c4 is -.5, for as much as you can trust Houdini.  Houdini shows that after Black plays …bxc, dxc, for example, that White’s missing d-pawn gives Black a big attack on White’s kingside, and it’s like -.65 at least, and it doesn’t like Bxc4 in that line either even though Black saves the minor exchange and a pawn for the moment.  So, my idea wasn’t so hot, and a chess Master’s instant take on the position was better than Houdini’s.  It figures.  hehe.

Incidentally, 8.Nc3 is met by 8…b4, and if 9.Nc3e4 h6.

An inspirational song by Journey, with amazing lyrics, was always one of my favorites by them.

Final Game of Match with Imre

Round 4 of 4

I wasn’t sure what to prepare against Imre, but a Grand Prix Attack felt right.  I wanted to get Imre out of his patterns, and his main pattern seemed to be playing …Nbd7 in the Najdorf, so I sort of faked a Closed Sicilian to encourage his …Nc6, and it apparently completely threw off his usual patterns.  It’s only equal if he plays 8….Nf6, and after the game he thought he should play 8….e6 +=, so I guess he relished his pressure on d4, and perhaps was considering a future ….Ne7 or even possibly …Nh6, probably …e6 with …Ne7 he was looking at.

I had already detected that 7…a6 looked unusual for this opening setup, and out of about 150 tries in the DB (7…Nf6 is played 134 times), 7…a6 was only played once!  Houdini will say it’s almost dead-equal after 7…a6, but after a while you should learn not to trust computers so much from a strategy viewpoint.  One reason this is so is that 7…a6 didn’t go perfectly with the pattern he was looking to play in the game; namely,…e6, …Ne7.

Just as Donald Trump has learned to be himself, the President, and his own P.R. guy all at the same time, I have learned to be my own second, and the player at the same time.

8…Qc7.  He played this quickly here, and it’s obvious that he wants to control the …e5 square for some reason, which he normally does do in his standard …Qc7,…Nbd7,…e5 Najdorf variation that he has used quite effectively against me in the past.  Apparently, he must have been figuring that I might trade knights on c6, and then queens on d8 before he can castle.  Looking at this right now with Houdini, it shows that after 8…Nf6, 9.NxNc6 bxNc6, 10.e5 Ng4! =+ with advantage to Black, for example 11.Be3-g1 0-0, and Black is way up in development.

9.Nd5  This move must have come as a total surprise to him.  I was already looking at this move in case of 8…Qb6, I was prepared to reply 9.Nd5 (and saw that 9.Na4 was also possible here) – as d4 is hit three times, and moving Nd4 drops Be3.  Also, if 9.0-0 then he can take on d4 twice and play …Qc5, trading queens.

9…Qd8??  I realized that this was his worst option and loses the game.  I also noticed that 9….Qb8 drops an exchange (but is his best chance).  I knew that after 9…Qa5, that I would always have 10.c3 here, but was prepared to look deeper at 10.b4, should he choose this route.  After the game, I saw very quickly (this is where blindfolding practice is very helpful, and you don’t have to blindfold so much as follow/call out the moves in your head).  9….Qa5, 10.b4 Nxb4, 11.Bd2 Bxd4 (this is how much I saw OTB during the game), but in the post-mortem finished the line with 12.BxNb4 queen moves, 13.QxBd4 winning a piece.  This shows that all you have to do to move up a level is to look through the lines you are looking at even a ply or two deeper.

After he resigned, wasn’t quite expecting his hand to be reached out, I wondered for a minute what to do after 17…Ke8, as after 18.0-0 it appears his queen could win both my e-pawns, but then I noticed that 18.0-0-0 threatens mate on d8, deciding the game.

The match finishes with a 3 to 1 score in my favor.  It usually felt the ones that should have been won were lost and vice-versa, for both of us, but the last game left no doubt.  Imre moves quickly in the opening, and so throwing him off his usual patterns in a sharp opening position, possibly turned out to be a successful ploy (assuming it wasn’t just fatigue on his part), and anyway it appears to have been successful.

A final spoiler to all of this is that Teah had gotten into this same position against Master Josh B. last Thursday in a blitz game, and had actually beaten him as Black from this position.  Apparently, he was going for a tricky mate where he had to give up a rook, but the mate wasn’t quite there, so he actually lost to her!  I found this out after the game, she let me know she had faced it last week, and I knew she beat Josh, and apparently this might have been part of Josh’s “blitz repertoire”, which who knows maybe those DB games were blitz as well because this shouldn’t be part of White’s “professional repertoire” as some GM recently distinguished between the two.  Although, she might have beaten him in a different line/game, but it felt like this was the opening he lost to her with, though can’t say that for sure – the mumbly inuendos suggest it was in this line.  I realize I need to look for sharp lines later in the game, not so early where they might be familiar with them.



If I lose any more winning positions

….I’m going to have to change my name to Caruana.  ;-p

Round 3

There’s a tendency I’ve suffered from since my 1300 days, and that is to not analyze thoroughly late in games.  Sure enough, the move in question was move 39, a notorious move to blunder on.

On move 39, I had 39.Nxg5! winning.  I saw 39.Nxg5 Nxc4, and told myself I’d come back to this line, but never did (so I never saw 40.Ne6+ in this line).  One thing Kosintseva showed in her video is that you always have to come back and make a second pass of all your lines, and I failed to do this.

Instead, I played 39.d6? figuring on at least a fighting draw out of it.  I expected him to take my bishop instead of my knight, then I decided to give up a pawn for activity.  After the game I said I should not have given up the pawn, but then he beat me from the even material line, anyway.  I think it’s a deadly combination of 1) I get tired, and 2) My endgame skill is not as high as my middle-game skill.  Before this move, I did not feel tired, but looking at lines during this move wore me out a bit.  I collapsed in the endgame.  Not only is the endgame losing, but I blundered with 51.Rd5? in time-pressure, seeing right afterward that I should have played 51.Be2 to defend the g-pawn, although it’s still completely lost.

I often think if I could just force myself to do puzzles from the Volokitin book where you have to look at lots of long lines from a single position, that I would have more endurance and capability OTB to play them.  Most of these wicked complicated positions come after, say, move 28.  You need endurance and legitimate analytical skills to do really well in chess.  I mean, you can blitz chess games up to a point, but then you really have to do a lot of quality analysis in some position, particularly positions later in game where decisions become more concrete because there are less resources to wiggle out from bad decisions.

This marks my 7th consecutive game, OTB, where I had a winning position.  I need to close these games out, as endgames are infinitely more tougher.

I played at ClubChess! Wednesday night.  They have a Wednesday night tournament for at least this month and the next.  Here is my Round 1 game.  Great location, site, and hosts!

15…g5 was winning a move earlier as well, as she is just dropping a piece.

2017 Pikes Peak Open

Round 1

Round 2

Time-pressure is really a confidence check.  If I were playing a Class C player, I would have played 28…Qe5, 29…Qc5 and won easily, a rook up, which I saw, but was worried that since he’s an Expert he might have seen something here, such as 28…Qe5, 29.Nf5 Qc5, 30.Ne7 and 31.e5+.  Also, after 29.f4, can take on f4, or just play Qc5.  In time-pressure, I believed him enough to think I could win without the risk.

43…Kg7.  With 1min5sec on my clock, I was still writing down moves and only looked at the board enough here to actually make a move, otherwise 43…d6xe5 is blindingly obvious, as is not moving my king into a fork.  Even here, this would have been a relatively easy win with a 30 second increment, but I was playing on a 5 second delay for this game.  It’s ironic that superior blitz skills are a factor here, in an otherwise Standard time-control game.  In hindsight, I should have stopped writing down moves (he was still writing them down, and not playing faster than he felt he needed to, though he is practically a blitz specialist), but this is also a bad habit to get into for the 30 second increment time control.

Round 3

Off to a 2W 1L start.  I was winning the game I lost, but blundered a piece with a minute and 5 seconds on my clock (G/90, 5 second delay for first two rounds).

Round 4

38….Qf2+??  We were both under a minute.  A panicked move in time-pressure.  I told myself when playing 37…Qf6, that my next move was going to be do move the knight as a discovery on the queen, and I had seen the fork at some point as well, but I was trying to work out if there was either a mate or perpetual for some reason, and just blundered from here.  I knew I had blundered with this move, but compounded it on my next, and then blundered my rook on the following move while thinking about a “winning endgame”.

Round 5

This game took less than 20 minutes from my clock, a sad last round pairing, considering I could have been playing for prize-money instead had I won that previous game.  Alex finished his game quickly and wanted to go home, so I wanted to finish my game quickly as well.

Sadly, I noticed as soon as I had played 9.exd6? that he had 9…Nf5 in reply, yet he blundered the game by taking with the queen anyway, then he played …Nf5 instead of …Nc6, so he had to give up the queen to avoid Ne5 mate.

I feel as if this game I just played is representative of where my level is at in chess right now, it’s somewhat higher than previously, and of course every time I’ve studied some of Tal’s games it’s helped my strength.  The main thing about this game is that I knew where I was going in this game straight out of the opening, much better than he/she.  I could tell during the game, even though it’s blitz, that my opponent was falling in with my plans.  Chessdotcom 5/5 blitz game

Round 2, Tuesdays

Round 2

I usually get paired with Expert Paul A. in 2nd rounds, but this time the turnout was lower, and I got another Expert instead (a newly minted Expert).  I figured if I got paired with Paul, I could at least try to draw him since that would be a first for me, believe it or not.  I wanted to make up for last weekend in this game, thinking no one is going to believe me that I brought my “B game” to that weekend tournament, and why should anyone care anyway?  No one looks through a database and sorts through which players had a cold during their games, for example.

This game was fun to play, and we both got down to under a minute, finishing hours after the other games where the top players won quickly.  Unfortunately, when I play in the tournament in Manitou Springs this coming weekend, the first two of five rounds will be G/90, d/5, boo!  I was lucky, yet happy to get a win after putting my body through the abuse the past week.  It’s tough to be able to play in a day tournament, at that time, and also in a night tournament in the same week.  Generally, you are probably either more of a morning person or a night person.  Some, such as Mark, play well sleepy-eyed.

It was poor form of me not to have had the guts, in time-pressure, to push e5 on various moves, which was my plan all along.  Still, it was nice to show that I could find another way to win, even if he had an easy draw close to the end by putting his king on h8 before dropping his pawn.  I figured it was one of those mistakes on his part, in time-pressure, to try and defend his pawn, although after the game Paul showed that he could have defended it with his knight as well.  When I see a technical Expert, like Paul, find a draw relatively effortlessly, it casts an impression on the importance of technical play – from either side of the position.