Medieval Costume Tournament


We both missed a key move more many moves, me with …Bd5, and her with …Nc4, although the fault is mainly mine.  I luckily swindled a pawn, which I saw far out but counted tempos wrong and thought I would get to that position one move sooner.  Technically, the ending should have been a draw, but I had to see this neat plan where I don’t move my g-pawn, she plays her rook behind my c-pawn, and then my rook goes to g5 and king runs to h5.  Not a plan one likely finds in a simul where one’s game is the next to last one done.  I resigned, and the board next to me resigned right after that.  I had missed, at first, that she could queen with check in the pawn race.

In the opening, when WGM Katerina reached to play the d3 pawn, then changed her mind to play Ng5 (two knights), my instant reaction was that she must know the Bf1 line in the Ulvestad variation, which is exactly what she played – it’s the #1 line.  If you think Black has no chance in this opening, here is a minature I just played.

I won all three games against this opponent, getting my blitz rating there over 1700, as he kept playing a bad KG line, as well.

As for the tournament itself, the time-controls for all five rounds were G/90, d/5.

Round 1

I did a good job of throwing away a winning position.  I missed his …Qd8 move when I sacked my d-pawn, but literally saw this reply before I pressed my clock.

Round 2

I eventually dropped my bishop with one second on my clock.  When I went up a pawn, I considered offering a draw, as I was in a bad way physically.  I play on mostly because in chess, I feel there is no room for excuses, because no one will give you a break after the fact, they will only look at your moves and that is it.

Round 3

I saw that I could win her d-pawn early in the game, but then saw a ghost as I saw deeper than was necessary, yet not deep enough, worried at the end of the line I might drop my bishop, but then she drops her Bb2 (if I had looked one move further), and after all this Houdini doesn’t care whether I win the pawn or not.  Luckily, I decided to focus on the center, and figured she will hopefully neglect it, which she did.

The line I was looking at goes something like (blindfolding it) 12…Nc6xd4, 13.Qxd4 Bxd7, 14.Re1 Bg4, 15.Nd5 Nh5 (Houdini says …Nd7 here), 16.QxBg4 BxBb2, and Black is slightly better.  I missed this last ply (only thinking the …Bg4 is dropping) , probably because when I look at so many lines on a single move, I have a hard time keeping the outcomes of the lines straight when not mentally fresh.

Round 4

LM Brian Wall offered a draw, neither of us seeing at that moment that I had a winning Qe2 or Qe1 move (he saw it after he offered the draw).  I played on not so much because I didn’t want to accept his draw offer, but again because I feel no one will give my slack for any excuse afterward, so I force myself to play on (this time, I was fine physically).  I missed the tactic, made a few more crappy moves, and luckily he accepted my draw offer.  He mostly accepted my draw offer because he had determined before the game, unbeknownest to myself, that he had only needed a draw in this game to win the tournament, which was fine by me anyway in that sense, as he was slightly better in the final position.

Round 5

I was lucky that she decided to play tactically, in what may have otherwise been a boring positional opening where a draw is likely.  I was 24 minutes late to this game (I was half an hour late to another game as well).  This time I had correctly determined that it is better to be in your best physical shape than to give a sh*t about what the clock says.

There was no third place prize.  I won nothing and perhaps deserved to win nothing (but a lot of other prizes were handed out).

To this day, I’ve never had my name on any kind of plaque or trophy or anything in that sense as it relates to chess.  Twice I won a trophy for winning the annual tournament at DeVry, but such a thing was never actually produced, only promised.  I’ve owned and read hundreds of chess books, played in hundreds of tournaments, but not so much as a sticker or a certificate saying that I did this or that in chess, only crosstables and the occasional monetary prize to remember me by.  Perhaps that seems fitting for a chessplayer, but I know how Kasparov, or Kramnik, or Alekhine (from Tzar Nicholas no less!) felt when they actually got a physical award.  Not a scholastic award either, people know those handed out like candy (even if I never got one).

Rating points are very ephemeral.  It’s odd that chess has this big tradition of money, which strikes me more as gambling, unless it were some great big prize in some great big tournament where someone could live off the earning for a while.  Yet, in “adult” chess there is no honor unless you can say you were the State Champ, or something like that, and even then you probably don’t get any physical award for that (other than money).  Actually, you get your picture on the cover the state chess informant, if you win the state championship for that year, so that at least is pretty cool.

Since there is no Expert certificate in chess, the most that any “average” mortal can hope for in chess is to one day win a Master certificate, which is something 98% of people who get one either earn as a teenager or never do (as in die trying).  lol.  The odd thing about all this is that chess, other than for the fun of it, “should” be played for honor and not for money (again, it’s just gambling if no one is living off prizes in any meaningful way).  You can play in, and win a lot of chess tournaments, and end up with the same rating you started with, but people will act like nothing happened because your rating didn’t go up over that same period of years or decades.




Imbalanced Material Endgame

Round 4

A game I could have well lost!  Well into the endgame I played 38…e5??, after first contemplating the better move 38…Qa7.  Not seeing that after 39.dxe5 QxR??, 40.e6+! wins the queen for rook – technically, it would only be += then, but Black would be walking on a wire at that point.  Masters Wall and Bloomer instantly saw that I could only take the rook with the king, by playing …Kc7, and that taking rook with queen would lose the queen.  It’s funny, they would see that tactic even if this were bullet-chess.

I told Clinton after the game that in each game against me has (needlessly) sacrificed a piece.  This time, Clinton played 39.Nxe5??  What timing!  Not only that, but I almost blundered earlier a couple time.  Once, I wanted to play 31…Nc7, but noticed he has 32.Rxa7.  Later, I began reaching my hand down to play 36…fxBg5??, but noticed the royal fork as I moved my hand downward (he said he was hoping I was gonna play that).  At this point, he had about a minute, and I had about three minutes and a few seconds, but the time-scrambly nature of the previous moves was really about who got their bearings first.  I was up on the clock, but he was playing stronger, faster in time-pressure!

Of what I did see, I was calculating well OTB.  For example, when I played 14…Ba3, I had calculated many different lines, including the game continuation, up to move 18…Qc6, but stopped there, and thus missed 19.Rc1, although that’s not a problem because it’s around +4 for Black in any case.

I knew that 15.Rab1 was the most challenging reply, and was happy to see 15.Nb1?, but I also had calculated, for example, that 15.Be5 was nothing to be afraid of for Black.

LM Brian Wall said that 21…Ne8 is strongest, as in “Why didn’t you play 21…Ne8?”  For him, a move like this is instinctive, for me I can spend too much time, confused for the whole think, only to finally settle on a second-rated workable plan.  He kept saying in the endgame “Just play …a5!” and Houdini agrees.  It’s like no thought is required for a Master, and he is always amused at how I see ghosts – even as I showed him what I was worried about.  I can’t tell that the ghosts aren’t real.




Friday Night Quick Chess

….at Club Chess!!

Round 1

I lose to a 1202 rated player!  He looked to be a teenager (his quick-rating is 1186 or so), but then I heard he is over 1800 blitz on chess dot com.  I didn’t have enough time to calculate the tactics in that one.

6…Nd5 I forgot to play …Qe7 somehow, and remembered on the next move.

9.c5 9.b3 is standard.

I didn’t even see 10.Bf1xg2, while playing, but it’s not as strong as …Ba6. Black has an edge now.

12.f4 I was expecting the stronger 12.Bf4

12…Bc5 definitely a time-pressure thing. I saw 13.Ne4 coming, but played this anyway. I considered the best move 12…Qb6, and 12…Bb4. All I can say is that while I was not physically nervous, I was still mentally nervous as this was my first quick-rated game, OTB, in a while.

17…0-0-0 I did see 17…Qe4+, 18.Kf2 Qd4+, 19.Be3, but missed that Black has 19…Qxb2+ after this.

20…f5?! I spent a lot of time examining 20…Bd3!, but chickened out because of the time-control, thinking I may have missed something, but I didn’t miss anything except for the confidence to play it. 20…Bd3, 21.RxBd3 Qa1+, 22.Kc2 RxR, 23.BxR QxB. White has the e-file now, and can try to quickly swing in the rook as well, while not worrying about White rook getting to a3.

22…Bc4. I found the best move 22…Bg4 on my own, before turning on the engine.

23…Bb3 I am losing my way in time-pressure, 23…Bd5 was best, didn’t consider it.

26…Be6?? 26…Qg1+ draws (which I somewhat suspected). I saw 27.R4xBe6 as soon as I took my hand off the piece, and still didn’t see the equally strong 26.Qa5, which could have been prevented by 26…Bd5, for example.

I resigned and flagged at the same time. Clearly, the clock got the better of me on this one. With G/24, you have to be confident with your tactical calculations, and not hesitate too much when you are confident. I think it comes down to training your form when practicing calculating. You need proper form at the board, just as if it were with good posture versus poor posture.

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4

The game score is accurate nearly to move 40, but the rest is a recreation.

So, I went 2 out of 4, and won my EF back, minus one dollar.  Not bad for a refresher at a quicker OTB time-control!

Of abilities and instincts in a chess game

Round 3 Colorado Springs (annual) City Championship.  After two byes, I play my first game of this month’s tournament.

The long version might be: Of abilities, instincts, common-sense, sense of purpose, goals, style, superficiality, and maybe fitness in a chess game.

Paul Anderson is like “the Rosetta Stone” of my ever making Expert; until I can crack his playing style, I will hold onto the 1800 ledge with my fingers. Against Paul, I get these great positions that a 1.d4 player would revel in, but where I appear out of my element. Actually, I did take this Gurgenidze Caro-Kahn into something more resembling of a KID.

4.Nf3 4.Nc3 is by far the most commonly played move here.

9.Qc2 The first moment of real thought and choice. I played this solid move after much deliberation between first 9.Qd2, then h3, then Nfd2, then Nfe1, and also 9.a3, which appears in the database 3 out of 5 games from this position, and the most promising continuation. This was my longest think of the game, quite long. Threats I looked at included …e5 and …b5 in some lines. 9.a3 solves the problem of 9.h3 BxNf3, 10.BxBf3 Qb4, 11.Qe2 (ugly, but this was a factor in why I played 9.Qc2, as was this …b5 continuation that I didn’t get an objective hold on until later – …b5 weakens that diagonal after h3, Bxf3 Bxf3). After the game, Masters Bloomer and Wall both liked 11.Qb3 in this line.

15.e5 I spent quite a bit of time looking at 15.b5 but was very indecisive here, as it looks like a less centralizing move, but the lowly-looking at first glance 15.b5 is a very straight-forward continuation for a human to play for an advantage from. I would play b5 on this move or the next, if I were to every hypothetically get this position again. 15.e5 was also strong.

16.exd6?! hoping for 16…Nxd6, 17.Ne5 From this move forward, I was feeling the effects of time-pressure. 16.b5! not releasing the tension, was best. White is virtually winning, in a technical sense.

17.Bf4 This turned out to be as taking a pass on the position, hoping for the opportunity to play 18.Ne4 (attacking d6). Now, either 17.d5 or 17.Qb3 are best, but I would prefer making a more decisive, definite-looking move like 17.d5.

19.c5 19.d5 is also still strong, but I like 19.Qb3 best, now, in this position.

21.Bd4 A pleasing-looking move in time-pressure, and I had seen 21…Bh6 before playing it, but time gives you a chance to evaluate better. Master Bloomer was chomping at the bit to play 21.b5! during our post-mortem, where we all headed to the bar afterward.

22.Rb1 I felt 22.Be3 might be objectively better, and regretted not playing it, but it looks a bit weird in the psychological sense, to see it played.

23.Bd3? This is where the “ghosts”, and lack of true objectivity began popping up in time-pressure. Certainly, I wanted to play 23.Na4! with Nb6 fork on the way, but I was figuring after 23…Bf5 he would work out of that fork. Of course, it turns out that a knight on b6 is wildly strong regardless of its cheapo value. Ironically, now 23…Bxh3, which I had been concerned about all game long, is now a path to equality for Black.

24.Be5 Again, 24.Na4 is stronger, but I wanted to “give it up temporarily”.

25.Nd4?! Objectively, this looks strong, but again 25.BxNf4 BxB, 26.Na4 is the strongest continuation, as my Nd4 becomes a target for trading.

25…f6? I missed this move, so in time-pressure assumed it must be strong. Black’s best are the commital 25…Bxh3 followed by 25…NxBd3 as second stronges move.

27.Bf1 Here, I wanted to finally play 27.Na4! but was, after trading off my Bf4 defender, correctly worried about his …Bxh3 threat, however I completely missed the idea in this line. 27.Na4 Bxh3, 28.Nb6 (…gxBh3? Black is better, and I would easily lose this in time-pressure since it’s best to sac a piece back after this). I completely missed this intermezzo, shamefully, but Master Bloomer saw this intermezzo seemingly without thinking. That should have been instinctive for me to examine not taking on h3.

28.Nc3-e2? Now I am definitely “on-tilt”, in time-pressure. Yet again 28.Na4 is best, and my best next move would have been to move this Ne2 right back to c3. Not only would it cut out his future Ne4 move, but puts the Na4 option back on the table, minus a tempo.

30.Qg3? 30.NxNe6 is best, which is why this Nc3-e2 move was so unnecessary in the first place.

31.Ne2-f4?? Blundering the exchange. Again 31.Nc3 to redress the past wrong. It’s as if it were better had I done nothing in time-pressure and not made moves, as my moves to try to “defend” somehow were just weakening my position further and further.

36.Qh4 Instead of playing this out of obvious desperation, 36.Qd2 was better.

37…f5 I thought for sure he’d force the queen trade with 37…Qg5, and I’d be done for, but he didn’t see it, as often happens with winning moves – not seen or decided on by both players.

39.Qg3?? Again, this time I played it at bullet-speed, but in the next instant saw that I had blundered by not playing 39.Qf4. Naturally, I thought he and everyone else watching had noticed this, and that 39…f4 would finally put me out of my misery, but again he didn’t play the winning move.

41.Qc7? Hey, at least now I can pretend to blame their not being a second time-control for this blunder. I didn’t trust 41.Bxa6??, but after the game felt silly for not playing it; actually, Black traps the queen after 41…Qd8! 41.Nd4 is the path to the draw.

42…Be8? I was under ten minutes when he had 55 minutes, but ultimately I did bring him under 3 minutes eventually. Here, he plays this quickly, whereas after 42…Qf6, his queen can still infiltrate my position with threats.

44.Rc1 Stuck for a move, I played this, thinking if 44…Qb2, 45.a4, but then 45…Qa3, 46.Bc2 Rb8 wins the a-pawn via double-attack. Better was 44.Qd2.

46…Kg7? Paul is finally biting on one of my mock threats (it loses time, and commits his pieces to more defense instead of attack. Master Wall said he thought I could draw with 47.h5!?, although oddly, Stockfish thinks even stronger for Black is to trade off a pair of rooks here with 47.Re1 (I told them after the game that I should have traded a pair of rooks far sooner, but this is a curious moment to do so.)

47…h6? Ironically, it is only here, after continuing to pursue the wrong plan, that Black finally throws away the win. 47…Qc3 is better, attacking without weakening his kingside.

50…Qc3?! A waste of time.

51.Qd4+ It would be easy to attack an exclam to this move, even if only for psychological reasons, but better was 51.Rd1, and if 51…Qxa3??, 52.Qd4+ followed by 53.Ra1 traps the Black queen.

53…Kf7?! After the game, I told him I thought he could win with …f4! a couple times. Naturally it has the appearance of a commital move, and players can be loathe to play such moves during a game.

54.Kg1?! I should offer a rook trade now with 54.Re1, if I were ever going to, but strongest is 54.b5 which does equalize because at the end of the captures Black cannot play Rxc5 because the Nd6+ fork.

55.Kf1? After the game, Master Bloomer kept saying to play Kg2 (it seemed instinctive for him), and this move illustrates why.

55…Bb7? He’s stuck making quick moves by this point as well, and throws away another win. 55…f4!. If 56.Kg2 fxg3, 57.fxg3 Re3 infiltrates. After 56.g3xf4 Rh4, 57.Kg2 Bf5, 58.Rd1 Bg4 wins back the pawn (h4) while the pawns on the f-file are doubled and isolated. Lastly, 57.Kxg3 in this line will allow Black to win by trading pieces on f5, which will then open the g-file for one his rooks to penetrate down.

58.Nf3 Master Wall thought that 58.h5! might win; White is better, but not winning according to Stockfish.

72…Bxa6?? Unfortunately, this move was played on sight alone. I figured it should be either winning or probably enough for a draw, but both Masters Wall and Bloomer afterward were praising how I had created a fortress, and it struck me as obvious that they would have forced the draw and not kept playing on the way I did, by their comments afterward. This move needed to be calculated, and I got too excited and didn’t want to pass it up – played with a minute on my clock.

76…Kf7? Ironically, 76…fxg4 wins, but does not win the knight. Black’s d and g pawns are far enough that the White king can’t stop both, while the bishop drops back to c8 to cut off the knight from reaching the pawns in time – it can reach one pawn, but not the other.  Black needs to play either 77…g3 or 77…Bc8 in this line to win, as other moves draw.  We both wondered about 77…g3 after the game, and felt it should be losing for White, but it’s not easy to calculate or tell, OTB.

77…d4! I didn’t see this move. I was expecting 77…Kg6, 78.Ke3, which draws.

78.h5?? I felt this move would surely lose, but didn’t know what else to do as my clock was expiring.  I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that I could try losing a move with my king, as he cannot stop every pawn without letting one of my kingside pawns run (h or g pawns), and this is why I can play 78.a5 as well.  I considered playing this, though the only move that really loses is the one that I played.

After the game, Paul tried to pass the d-pawn, while letting me queen a kingside pawn, and he finally checkmated me on the first rank that way, but he can’t force my king from a dark-square blockade of his passed d-pawn, I simply mistakenly let him do it, so I would credit his play in the post-mortem, but it’s not a win.

One last point to this endgame is that White does have to play a5 eventually, or Black’s king will be able to come in and play …Kxf4 because White’s pawns are not in time (now I can’t even find that position anymore).  During the game, I figured that Black’s king would be able to come in and take my b4 pawn, but the …d4 move blocked his path (it was a draw anyway) so that after a5 it is a perfect fortress, where if Black tries to win he loses.  If I had to take this position again before 78.h5?? I’d take White, as it’s Black that has all the interesting chances that all lose, which is possible OTB in time-pressure, which we both were.













Last game before leaving Cali

Round 2, Wednesdays

I played an older gentleman, didn’t realize his rating was so low (it was listed over 1600 on the wallchart, for some reason).  When he took his time to think, he played the moves that I too had been looking at, because they were the challenging ones.  On a couple of critical moves he went astray, and then the position appeared to play itself.

Saturday Quads

I played some high-rated kids (ages 8-12).  I am posting these here to have a place to put them for now, but don’t have time to comment at this moment.  I let two of the three game ruin in time-pressure.  I wasn’t in good form, tired, nervous, and felt it probably wouldn’t be my day anyway, and after the first loss was basically playing for the sheer competitive fun, since I knew I was out of it after that.  I really wasn’t bothered by my results, as the kids moving so fast, and I moving too slow, and I made some nervous mistakes.

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

The third round game is an approximation.  I lost the scoresheet and could only remember up to where before we both started blitzing anyway.  I went up three pawns, then lost them and he perpetualed me with 9 seconds on my clock.  I normally would have won both first and third round games but got blitzed by these young kids.

Round 1  I got into extreme time-pressure, and would have blitzed out the saving Rfd8 on instinct, but had just enough time to analyze yet not be sure.  Naturally I saw I forgot about my piece dropping the moment I played my move, since I was going to push the pawn at first.  In the post-mortem, I played out this continuation, and drew from a completely losing position (down and exchange) quite easily; he would have been weaker in the endgame, had I not dropped the piece.

Round 2 was a nervous mistake, quick move, yet I saw I was dropping the pawn as I took my hand of the f4 pawn.  I felt I should have played Bg2 first (I was worried he would play …e5 first, and forgot that move left a hole, even though I had told myself that it did.).  It was sudden inspiration to play f4, and I spaced out on why I couldn’t play it right away.  Naturally, he was moving quickly, and I was laboring over all moves in all games, and really never got away with a quick move the way they could, but they were playing more defensively in style, so they could move more quickly than I.  I should spend more time on blunder-checks going forward, no doubt, since everyone else goes with intuition, then does a blundercheck, whereas I simply try to analyze everthing, and so can’t afford to forget anything.

A Wednesday night game in California

Round 1

I decided to play one round (will be back in CO next week), and luckily got at least a Class B player, with the Black pieces.  He’s an older gentleman, and asked my rating and wasn’t too pleased when I told him what it was (looks as if his rating has been on a recent downward slide).

My opponent’s kingside demonstration was doomed, and I was glad he did it.  He could have given me more fits by hitting my queen with b4, but he apparently wasn’t focused too much on this as he needlessly dropped the b3 pawn (I don’t think he even saw it beforehand).

I made the 30 move time-control with a minute and twenty-nine seconds, whereas he still had 1 hr and 2 minutes when he made time-control.

13….Ne7  13…Nd4 was objectively better, yet appeared more drawish.

14.Ne1  Not challenging my interpretation of the position.  Certainly, 14.Ng5 was the critical move, to which I was planning to play 14….Bh6 (to prevent 15.Ne4), 14.f4 and I noticed that here BxNg5 still looks better for White, though I figured it would be Black’s best, too.  Once the guantlet is dropped, the openings-duel is over, and this was that point, IMO.

20…Rae8  I knew this move was a mistake as soon as I played it, although this site’s engine ( says it’s only a slight mistake and Black has many other options.  In any case, OTB I was going to play 21.b4 cxb, 22.axb Qa2, and figured that 23.Bc1 BxB would then be White’s best follow-up.  This engine now agrees with me, after I plugged in 23.Bc1, but thought 23.Rb1 with idea of 24.f4 would be best, at first.

I line I was planning on playing was 22.b4 (he also could have played this on the previous move – stronger then) Qa4, 23.NxNd4 cxd4, 24.f4 Qb3 (this is as far as I saw, looked challenging enough for White) 25.Qe2 b5! (I wanted to work this move in, OTB).

24…Nd4  This was not the strongest move, and I felt I was playing a bit of hope-chess at this point, as my clock was dwindling, and the move I didn’t want to see at the time was 25.Ne3.  All this is apparently beside the point, as I need to mend my position, most notably the dark-bishop.  24….Nd2 was an idea I missed (it puts pressure on f3 and c4), so that after White shuns my bishop with h6…Bh8, then I have to play …e4 to free that bishop, and can meet Bb2xBh8 with the intermezzo …exf3+ (White can’t recapture it).