Attacking into an abyss

Round 4

I played one game in this tournament against an unrated player.  This player is now 9 wins and 1 loss out of 10 total games, so he is truly under-rated.  I asked him if he had a FIDE rating or a rating from another federation (such as the Phillipines), and he said he didn’t have another rating.  He went 4-0 in this tournament, beating another high 1800 player, besides myself.

I looked at a lot of variations in the opening, seeing nearly all computer lines, but it was difficult to pick one that worked successfully.  I thought after the game, I should have played …e4 straight-away, instead of …Rg8, but he has this …Bh5 move.  I played …Bc3 to keep his queen off of h5, because I was afraid of Qh5 with Bd3, but turns out it may have been best to play into that line.  It’s really difficult to choose between all these lines, OTB, and I’m sure it looks like a bunch of stalling to an opponent.  He had an hour and a half left at the end of the game, whereas I flagged after making my last move in a lost position, and pushing the clock a second too late.

9…Bc3.  Better was 9…e6xd5, and then to let him take on d5 with his bishop, which was his plan, but that is strong for Black.

16…Bg4?  I came very close to playing 16…Qg4 (best chance), but it’s difficult to rely on this do-or-die calculation with so little time remaining on the clock.  He surprised me with his quick, strong, and accurate play.  He thought he was better in the opening, but I felt certain he wasn’t.  The position, however, was quite computersque, which is what I was going for, yet couldn’t pull off.

Judging by his response after the game, he was looking at playing h4, in some situations, if I had played …e5 instead of …Rg8, and then Rh2, so I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have found Bh5 in that line, and would have gone down in the opening, but it’s live by the sword, die by the sword, when I choose to play this way, which is just as well.


Last Game of the Month

….before I’m off to Cali.

Round 3

Clinton was playing very well until he played 19.Nxf3, which I could tell OTB was a time-pressure blunder.  If Clinton hadn’t given me a free piece, for virtually no reason, in two of our last three encounters, then I think his rating would be a couple hundred points higher than it’s currently at.

23.Bxf5  He must be a giving soul.  He was worried about my winning the exchange after 23.Rc1 Bb2, but I was too stingy to do it, anyway!  I figured, if it were there later I’d play …Bc2, but first I wanted to get my knight out from h7.  Houdini agrees with him that I should win the exchange, with my good dark-squared bishop, but of course he was simply acting rash in his decision to give up a full bishop for a pawn.

Needless to say, as big a score as I had accumulated in the middle-game, I was pretty fortunate, in time-pressure, to get a big passed pawn served up into my lap after 43.Kf2??  I was under two minutes, and he had three minutes.  With the low times, even considering there is a thirty second increment with a relatively easy position, it is still stressful to continue to play on without an error, without some huge guiding beacon such as a passed pawn.



A Miniature in Time, Saves Nine

Round 2

So it looks like I won’t be able to make it for round 3 as I  am flying back to CA for a week, next Wednesday!  🙂

The saying in the title is from “A stitch in time, saves nine.”

Incidentally, if 7…Ndb4, then not 8.a3 d5, 9.Qe2 (9.exd6?? Bf5) is only equal.  The move that gives White the advantage after 7…Ndb4 is 8.Bb5! a6 (…d6??, 9.QxNb4!), 9.Ba4, and it’s like a 40 move long, forcing line, one of the longest I’ve seen, that White/Black must know or veering off can lead to a losing position for Black at least.  I let Dean know he might want to try 7…Nb6 next time, as that is what I saw in the CO Open tournament when I played this line.

10…Qd8??  It wasn’t difficult to sense that this must be game-over.  We both missed 10…Qb4, 11.BxNc7 Qxb2, attacking both Ra1, and Nc3 with check.  It makes more sense, given that he did not spend enough time on this move, that we did not find this saving path.  It’s surprising that after 10…Qb4, 11.QxQ NxQ, 12.BxN7 Nxc2+, White wins two pieces for rook and pawn and Houdini gives this a blase +=.  I saw this line OTB, and figured it must be +-/+=.

12.BxNc7  At the board, I felt the most principled move must be 12.Ne5, but didn’t know why.  I saw 12.Ne5 (must be captured as it threatens to take the Bd7) NxN, 13.QxN Rg8, but when I saw Houdini’s eval score, I immediately noticed that 14.QxNc7 must be the move.  That’s funny, I missed that I was winning a piece on move OTB, on move 14!  This could have been an even shorter game.  😉  Have to say, I felt something may be there, but could already see that 12.BxNc7 should be a concrete win.

13.Nd5  I was going to play 13.Nb5, and spent most of my time on that move, but then changed my mind after a second go-around because it looked a safer way to win, primarily on the variation 13.Nd5 Qd6, 14.Nb6 Bf5 looked like a strong, safe advantage for White, but I missed that Black has …f5 in both of these lines; this move simply escaped my attention.  I saw in the line 13.Nb5 that …Qa5+, 14.b4 should be losing for Black, and was only really worried about 13…Qb6, 14.Nd6+ Kd8, 15.Nc7+ Kc7 (if 15…Ke8, 16.NxRa8 Qxb2, 17.Nxg6 hxNg6, 18.Qxg6+) 16.NxRa8 Qxb2 looked messier than necessary.  But, why was I worried about his counterplay there, as even OTB, I could tell it was non-existent(?)

16.Qc4+  I wanted to play 16.Bc4+ here, but just as I had finished playing 15.Nf6+, I noticed that he could play 16…Kg7 in that line.  I didn’t realize that 16.Bc4+ does work, as 16…Kg7, 17.Qd3 Qxb4+, 18.c3 queen moves, then 19.Nxd7 wins a piece – it’s funny how easy it is to be scared off by a single, meaningless check (17…Qxb4+), under the ticking clock.

I just want to say that if you think this game has to end like an Alcoa NFL presentation “Alcoa presents, fantastic finishes….”, it’s not true.  During the game, I was considering playing the lowly, non-committal 15.Qh4, and then apparently it is best for Black to simply give up a piece with 15…Nxb4, 16.Qxb4 QxQ, 17.NxQ.  Naturally, I would have expected to see 15….Qd8, but when I saw Houdini’s eval, I correctly guessed 16.b5 Na5, 17.Qd4 Rg8, but here figured only 18.Ng5 (still over +1), not realizing the precious king pin is back on with 18.Qe5, with the idea of for example 18…Kf7, 19.Ng5+ Ke8, 20.Nf6++.  So, the more plausible 18…Bg7, 19.Nc7+ (easy, instinctive move to look at) with the simple idea line being 19…Kf7, 20.Qd5+ (…Be6 drops Qd8) d6, 21.Qxd7+ wins the Bd7.




The Fire-Alarm

Round 2

Unfortunately, what happened in this game has to be explained by outside circumstance, to get a full picture of what happened in the game.

It was around 10:45 pm, I was blitzing, we were the only game still going and Clinton was watching us when suddenly the fire-alarm goes off.  I think, oh Paul still has 15 minutes, so we can’t blitz this one out for that long (the fire-alarm is loud, it’s for the whole building).  So I notice Clinton is walking away very slowly, got all his gear, I say “Clinton, can you close the door on the way out?”  He says “What?” and I say, “The fire-alarm is hurting my hears, can you close the door on the way out.”  No definite response, he walks back to our table.  We motion to my opponent Paul (who is also the TD).  He says “How long has that been going off for?” as he pulls his earplugs/loud rock-music out of his ear.  We say “like ten seconds.”  A few moments later we hear the fire truck.  I turn around and say “The fire truck is here!”  Meanwhile, Paul had made his move and walked from the table with Clinton while I had my back turned.  Bewildered, I didn’t even know what move he had made.  I yell to them “Can I pause the clock?”  “Yes.”  Meanwhile, I lost a good ten seconds in the confusion, having 28 seconds remaining by the time I paused the clock.  I looked at the board for a couple of seconds before getting up, quickly realizing I could draw with Nc7, and caught up to them as we walked out of the playing hall.

I used the restroom, then we walked back to the playing hall, realizing no fire, and closed door behind us.  I knew 100% that I had a draw.  I had been getting over a cold the last five days, tired when I got there, and the soda machine was out when I got there, so this incident had kicked in my adrenaline level, along with my time-pressure.  Anyhow, I made my move at the board, Paul responded quickly with the losing 41.Ke5.  In all honesty, this surprised me, as I thought OTB he might be losing, the he plays this, and I can’t say why I didn’t simply play 42.Nb5 straight-away, no real explanation, but I was listening to the firemen as they walked out the door, and the alarms were off, and it was peacefully quiet for the first time, and then I could feel my adrenaline leave me as if I had just survived some ordeal.  Then I looked at my clock and saw that I had flagged, and suddenly the adrenaline hit me again, not knowing to resign, or offer a draw, or make a move.  I played Nb5 hurriedly, sloppily putting it onto a square, and within a few seconds he figured out I had flagged.

I double-checked my scoresheet when I got home, to make sure those endgame chances really existed, but apparently I did miss a few opportunities there.  In 50+ games, I have never drawn Paul, and he said he would have accepted an offer because of the fire-alarms, but of course I could not have known this as he has never accepted an offer from me before.  In the final position, White is up +2, according to Houdini.

Personally, I’d rather have Zurab Azmaiparishvilli screaming in my face before every game, than to get a fire-alarm like that in time-pressure, that late at night.  Next time something like this happens, I will pause the game right away, but like some GM said “You can’t play serious chess in a restaurant!” ( I say this because TD Shirley still thinks playing at Smashburgers – with it’s loud music, is a good idea, as compared to paying more to play at Club Chess!!)  Granted, this was our club, but it’s also the ballroom of an apartment building, not it’s own dedicated building.  The weird thing is that I didn’t care about losing the game, even when I got home.  For the first time in my life, I was more relieved about something outside of chess being taken care of, while playing, than I cared about the chess game in front of me.

It’s too much too ask for to pay attention to the game and the fire-alarm situation, unless you play with this stuff happening all the time.  If it had happened earlier, okay, but somehow at that hour of the night, my body is closer to the twilight zone than the normal zone, and this is also a reason I have lost many rating points on Tuesdays nights, as I told Alex even before I left tonight.  Your body, at that hour, has a hard time-coping with crises – or at least mine does, but other people seem to act like they are 100% until their head hits the pillow, I guess.

If I am still on the board next year, I am definitely going to motion that we move our start time to 6:30, or at least try that for a while (it’s free parking on the street after, and parking doesn’t seem any worse half an hour earlier, and actually it appears better earlier.

I don’t think any strong players played tonight, except for me and Paul (Okay, Smith was there >1600), which means Paul will now win the full tournament prize.

After the game, Paul showed me his idea of 42…f4 (forced), 43.Kf3 Bd2, and he said he can play Bd2-b4-d2 endlessly for the draw, but after seeing Houdini’s eval, I figured out I could play Kf3-g5-h5 and win that h6 pawn, because he can’t hold onto everything.  Didn’t take me long to see that, but Paul calculates more quickly OTB.  Since “the better players always get lucky”, and I’m never getting that second time-control, I need to make my own luck by not spending 7 minutes on every move earlier in the game.  The more self-control I exert in my play, the more the odds seem to go toward my favor.

Paul also pointed out he should have kept rooks on the board.  It’s interesting that why didn’t he just do this in the game then?  The obvious answer I immediately got from this is that he values saving his time more than he does playing the best move, at times.  Even in the endgame, he wasn’t spending a lot of time on moves and was blitzing even more in the endgame than the opening.

In the post-mortem, we looked at 31…Re2, then I said I would have played 32.Rb3, then said I was looking at 32…f4 for him, but he wanted 32…Rc2, so I said you might as well play 32…Re4 then, so he realized he has to play 32…a6 first to do that, then 33.Ne6 Re4, 34.Rf3 Rxc4, 35.Rxf4 but from here, he somehow outplayed me with his passed c-pawn, even though it is equal.  This is the problem with not saving time for endgames with higher-rated players, they calculate more quickly, and they can tap into their endgame experience more efficiently.





Round 1, Wednesdays

In this game, I felt I made a number of inaccuracies, and managed my time very poorly as well. I evaluated that I could have taken his knight on e4 with doubled-pawns, but I also felt my position was okay to where I was not so limited.

The critical mistake was not playing 21…cxd4 (+.34 or +=) before 21…e4?? I’ll explain. …e4 opens up the long dark-squared diagonal. Naturally, I figured that Be2 would be forced, after taking on f6, but it isn’t, Black can open the long diagonal with tempo by playing 23.dxc5! and this is what I missed (but he saw it right away). So, getting back to move 21, the reason for playing 21…cxd is so that there is no pawn on c5 where White can capture on c5 with tempo. This was something I missed, a hole in my understanding. I was merely trying to “keep the position closed” in an abstract way, and that is how I missed this concrete idea.

Naturally, it looks silly of me not to play …exBf3, but since dxc5 will happen in another move with tempo, the passed pawns are a winning position, and I wasn’t able to resist at all in the post-mortem other than he wanted to play Qd2 then Qd5, in the game, but he would need to capture the f3 pawn with his queen. At first, in the post-mortem, he allowed me to play ….Ne5, and then he had to retreat his queen to avoid losing it, but he saw it so fast that I don’t think he would have blundered in the game, and he was seeing the correct path, otherwise.

It may not sound like much to lose 3 rating points to a Master, but every rating point is hard-fought. I only gained 5 rating points in 5 games, for example, in Denver last weekend. Gunnar needed just one rating point to make 2300, and now he has it. It’s free for a Master to play in this tournament – $20 for over 1800 players, and $25 for the rest. So, I don’t think Gunnar is playing in this tournament, he lives two hours north, he just needed the one game.

I should have seen that he could give up two pieces for a rook and two pawns in that game, when I played …Rf6?, but I was already looking for quick moves, and hadn’t spotted that variation.

This has to be one of the craziest endgame wins.  Check this game out I just played on Chess dot com.  It shows how weak doubled pawns can be, a surprising outcome.

Unrated Opponent

Round 1

Our game was over fairly quickly, as I still had 56 minutes on my clock.  After he played 4.d3, I didn’t expect that as players online will typically play the most aggressive moves (which makes the …g6, …Bg7 idea work).  4…a6 seemed right, even though I figured it looked a little sketchy after 5.Bc4, when I’d have to play …h6, then …d6, but it seemed playable as well.  I was even thinking of playing …Ne7-c6 and having no kingside knight (always a concern).

Well, he went for it right away, and he even said after the game that he had played over-aggressively (he’s a kid).

Colorado Open

I should mention that the first two rounds were G/90, d/5 and the last three rounds were G/90, Inc/30.  I used to think that this was simply bad for me, but now I realize that if the higher-rated player can manage his/her clock during these rounds, that the pressure is more on the lower-rated player to “do something”.

Believe it or not, I only got maybe 20 minutes of sleep before this tournament.  I woke up Friday at 1pm, jogged five miles at a 12 minute pace, and didn’t go to sleep until 5:45am to 6:15 am, and spent at least ten of those minutes laying there thinking.  I lied down on the couch after my jog, but didn’t sleep, just closed my eyes for maybe twenty minutes.  The odd thing is that the only time I was tired was during round two in the opening, where I forgot any Catalan prep I had, but figured I’d just try to outplay him.

Round 1

I couldn’t recall why I was supposed to play Nc3 before Bf4 – I remembered not playing Bf4 allows my queen to go to the king’s side, but didn’t think as to why that may be necessary, needless to say at G/90, d/5 I was trying to avoid any deep thinks.  When he played …d6-d5, I even told myself that I would save time by not looking at it – not a good policy for playing chess.

Round 2

At least someone decided to go ballistic against me in time-pressure, and he was really working that better position, just lost his cool I guess.  We were both under five minutes, but I played better with a minute on my clock.

Round 3

The was the most losing game, of a few, that I somehow managed to save.  Cory is a dangerous tactician, and the most dangerous one I faced, but he doesn’t always convert his endgames, and so this was one of those dream examples in my favor.  At some point, I felt he should have been picking up all of my pieces, but he likes to liquidate into endgames, perhaps too prematurely – that’s a danger of falling in love with concrete lines at the chess board, sometimes.

If 42…Bb4, I was planning 43.Rd4 Bc5, 44.Rxd2 BxB, 45.KxB RxR, 46.KxR should be dead equal.

Round 4

Round time on day two was 9am, which is pretty typical, but by the time me and Alex got there, my clock was at 75 minutes remaining (fifteen minutes late).  At the end position, I could see nothing for either side to do, as he was not willing to brave the g5 push, which would have gone, for example, 31.g5 hxg, 32.hxg f5, 33.exf5 Qxf5, 34.Qxb7 Qxc2, and it remains to be seen by Houdini what the eval is, as we did not find out that answer OTB.

Round 5

Crazy opening, and I was fortunate that he fell into my plans.  I didn’t know anyone’s rating before the games, but Jeff was the highest rated player that I faced.  Those early draws, in fact, unfortunately kept me away from ever getting the chance to play any of the first through fourth place finishers in the U1900 section.  I normally want to play the hottest players in my section, so that I have a chance to knock them back a point.  I got more sleep on Saturday than I normally do during a tournament, but woke up about ten times and got about five hours of sleep in all that.  I don’t normally sleep well before, during, or after a tournament, but I felt fine enough to not blame any external factors for my performance.

Incidentally, I was the only one in the U1900 to finish in the 3.5 point score-group.  When playing for prize-money like this, I only wish the tournament could have gone on four another four rounds, so that I would have a chance to tackle the top players, particularly while in top-form, like later rounds usually are for me.  Paul C. said I should try playing in the US Open, lots of rounds and it keeps getting tougher (the opponents).  But this is perfect for an under section, and I suppose it’s ideal in the sense that that sort of thing could really stretch one as a player in an Open section as well, getting to play really high-rated players as long as you keep up a positive result.

Certainly, at the end of this game, Jeff saw the continuation 21…Be6, 22. BxB fxB, 23. Ne5 NxNe5, 24.Rd8+, winning.  He is very nice, and said good game and shook my hand, but kind of swept the pieces aside a little in disgust as he was putting them away.  I felt bad that his tournament ended this way, but I really got lucky because I was using way too much time, and he was able to find strong common-sense sort of moves quickly.  Undoubtedly Jeff has a strong ability level, you can tell by his common-sense approach and quick calculations, but I got lucky that he decided to play quickly as he watched my clock dwindle.

After the game, I walked outside and visually (blindfold) calculated 21…Bf5, 22.Bxf7+ RxB, 23.Rd8+ Rf8, 24.RxR+ KxR, 25.Ne5xNc6 bxNc6, 26.d8(Q) ++- just to be sure.  when you calculate visually like that, you think of the logic of each move and the purpose behind the position, and you say the moves to yourself verbally.  When one combines all of these approaches together, you’ll find that it is not necessary to “see” the board so much as to understand what the pieces are doing in a position, but it’s far easier to calculate a forced line like this, nevertheless.

No sooner had I typed in the above paragraph and read it, did I notice that 26.d8(Q) is impossible for the c7 pawn.  A line I am looking at now goes 21…Bf5, 22.Bxf7+ RxBf7, 23.NxRf7 KxRf7, 24.Rd8 Ne7 appears to hold for Black.  I guess just 22.Nxf7 will do the trick for now, if nothing else, as 22…RxNf7, 23.Rd8+ NxRd8, 24.cxNd8(Q)++ is mate, and otherwise White is up two pawns with one of them being a pawn on the 7th rank, with a discovery check on the way.

I turned on Houdini, and both 23.Bxf7+ and 23.Nxf7 are +7, but the interesting part is why 23.Bxf7+ works.  After 23.Bxf7+ RxBf7, 24.NxRf7 KxNf7, 25.Rf1!  I call this “context switching”, which is often difficult for people to do during a game, as it is easy for this Rd8 move to etch out a trace in one’s mental circuit board.  25.Rf1 simply pins and wins the Bf5.  The key here, if one were to try to blindfold this, is to think of the open f-file, and that the pawn formation there is g2 and h3, so that g4 is still available in conjunction with that 25.Rf1 pin.  I see that I still did not complete the variation, though.  After 25.Rf1 Kf7g6 (again, you have to think of the pawns on g7, h7, there is no pawn on g6 to block the king from landing on this square), 26.RxBf5 KxBf5, 27.c8(Q)+! is that final position which one must see.

On the rating side of things, it tentatively has my rating going up from 1862->1867.  It’s kind of a no-man’s land of a rating, tougher to hold, still under 1900 yet not quite winning a prize for U1900.  In the future, I will probably play in the Open section, and compete for Under prizes there.  I can probably win at least a game and get draws in the Open section, too, just can’t play as shaky as I did here and expect to get away with it.  At higher levels, there is one mistake, and then a long exploitation phase.  At lower-levels there are more mistakes and shorter exploitation phases.  Playing at lower-levels is more fun in that sense, and at higher-levels preparation becomes more important.

To be fair though, I feel a rating (if you could filter out external factors – some people have a busy life outside of chess) is ideally a measure of one’s chess common-sense.  A chess game is testing your chess common-sense against your opponents’.  This is why chess games are not just calculating variations, but knowing which variations to choose as well.  Computer’s can’t teach a person a humans’ common-sense approach to chess, where to put the pieces, etc.

I just played one blitz game as a warm-up for tomorrow night.  I played most of this game with under a minute on my clock – the other guy had most of his time at that point, but ended up flagging.  It made me realize that most of blitz chess is simply board-awareness, and a veteran OTB player can handle the strategy part.  Second blitz game look at how much easier it can be to wipe out a Catalan with White than to play 1.e4 all the time.