Round 5, last round
I was already running late when my windshield wiper threw it’s blade, and I had to stop at the auto parts store and buy and put on a new wiper, then I got a call from my mom letting me know a plumber was on his way to check out my hot water heater and give an estimate, so I then drove back home to let him in and explain the situation with the hot-water heater. When I finally got to the tournament, I had 40 minutes remaining on my clock, and my opponent, who only played in this round, used only 12 minutes for the entire game, much like the Tuesday before last when I played him.
Mike showed me a different variation than he had played last time, and so I sunk deep into thought, using my remaining time mostly on the opening, which I was hoping to get out of but never did. Once the game was over and the nerves were off, I played rather convincingly against him in the post-mortem variation. I think if the game had gone on, and I hadn’t blundered it away, we would both have begun to trade oversights, since he simply moves too quickly.
I wasn’t seeing deeply the way I needed to in those positions, but I don’t think he was seeing deeply at all compared to the requirements of the positions. I believe he was mostly playing for the result, and that worked for him.
While this game was meaningless in terms of the tournament result (not rating), it was meaningful in the sense that it was the last round at this venue. We lost the Friday day, and neither TD wants to pick up any other days of the weeks. So, there won’t be chess three days a week next month.
I came home and played one blitz game: https://www.chess.com/live#g=2026744031
You can see that I can play a normal game. Tournament chess, though, is more like a search for the truth and the problems are generally less trivial, as online in a complex position both players would be likely to blunder through it. I could have played my game tonight that way as well, but chose not to.
4…exd4. My nervousness made it difficult to concentrate. I knew the right move was 4…Bxd4, but I did a poor visual, saw 5.c3 Bc5?? (…Bb6), 6.Qd5 winning the piece. Luckily, I caught this error on my own as soon as I got home.
6.Bg5. Naturally, on most of his moves he played the move I hadn’t calculated, and thus wasted my time that way.
7…Bb4+ I wanted to play the stronger 7…Bb6, but wasn’t able to calculate at the beginning of the game. My original intention was to get some coffee before the game, but I just didn’t have time for that distraction.
8….0-0?! 8…h6 threatens to win the e4 pawn with 9…g5, so White must then trade on f6 or be worse. I noticed after we both castled that I was a move too late to do this; he also thought that I would play 8…h6 now.
10….Bxc3?! I still haven’t gotten a grip on the position as of yet. I played this because it was the only way I could see to make a …Na5 follow-up move safe to play. Again, after playing this move/idea, I now saw that ….Bg4, which would have been the correct move here, will make the …g5 push more safe for Black. Also, …Bg4 renews the threat of taking on e4, since 10….Bg4, 11.Nd5? g5, 12.Bg3 Nxe4, and if 12.Nd5xNf6 QxNf6, 13.Bg3 BxNf3, 14.QxBf3 QxQ, 15.gxQ Nxd4 wins a pawn. I never looked at a deep line like this! Shallow analysis caused me to lose this game.
11…Bg4 Oddly enough, this move is in the database (#1 move), with 16 games played. I spent a lot of time looking at 11…Be6, and this is the sort of move that I routinely blitz out over the internet, but I knew it was a concession, and didn’t get to the truth of the position; e.g., 11…Be6, 12.BxB fxB, 13.Qb3 Qd7 14.BxNf6 (to protect the e4 pawn with tempo), RxB, 15.Qxb7 Rb8. Black is down a pawn, but has an easily playable position (I showed this line to Michael after the game). OTB, lately, I have been trying to get away from this lazy-chess, but of course it affects my results adversely to search for truth OTB. Although, in truth, I also realized that the analysis to it was complicated, since the best line here is 12.d5 Na5, 13.dxBe6 NxBc4, 14.Qb3 Na5 (I saw to around here), 15.Qb4 and now …c5 is best. I though it might be alright, and he said he might have played it, but when you feel time-pressure it makes you want to go with best ideas which you know are good without analysis.
12…Bh5 This is a close second best move to 12…Re8 here. I can only say that now time-pressure was seriously affecting my game, and I was probably already under two minutes when I made this move. Naturally, I did have some ideas with an upcoming …Bg6, and this does make the move …g5 more safe, which prompted me to play it.
13…Na5?! 13.Nf3-d2 came as a big surprise to me. Suddenly, I was worried about …f5, …f4, when the bishop on h5 is trapped. My natural instinct was to play the #1 move, according to Houdini, 13….g5, but after 14.Bg3 and 15.f4 to come this proposition looked scary. 13…Bg6, the #2 move, also looked risky. I can only say that I chose this third best move because it required virtually no calculation, although I knew it was losing a tempo!
After the game, I confidently found 13…g5, 14.Bg3 d5! This idea had crossed my mind and I did an instant analysis of it, but in my mind this and a previous move got crossed in my brain. Previously, I had looked at a …Ng4 move if Qe3, and I was looking for a way to open up the e5 square for my knight. Here, it’s a different idea/position, but I had still thought, in my time-pressure, that I was supposed to be opening up the …e5 square instead of this other idea. IOW, I was playing slow-chess in my mind, but then tried to speed it up and couldn’t keep the different positions compartmentalized in my mind. If I had started this game thinking it was a G/40, like I should have, then this would not have happened, but it was a lesson to the wise. This shows that I didn’t want to play …g5 until I found the follow-up idea, which I found rather quickly in the post-mortem.
Interestingly enough, in the post-mortem I played 14….d5, 15.exd Nc6-e7?, 16.Be7 Ne7xd5?, 17.Qf4 (17.f4 is crushing, but even 17.BxNd5 NxBd5, 18.Qh3, winning the h3 pawn, is +2) Bg6 (+.7) and now since he has an attack, he has a chance to screw it up, which he managed to turn into an equal position and did make at least one piece-drop blunder.
My biggest weakness is in the opening, when I am not able to complete development, which happens to me in these “trappy” attacking lines too frequently. “Trappy” is code for I’m not analyzing deeply enough. After 14…d5, 15.exd in that line above, Black should play 15…Bg6, 16.Qf3 Na5, and if 17.Bd3, then …Bh5, 18.Bxc7 BxQf3, 19.RfxBd8 gxBf3, 20.Nxd5, down a pawn but totally drawable. This is an example of how deeply that you should really calculate OTB. Without analyzing this deeply, you are merely guessing (albeit an educated one!) versus getting at the exact truth of the position.
16…Ng4?? I played this move ‘a la tempo’ or to the beat of the time-pressure, as this and my last move were virtually played together. After 16…Nh7, I am still in the game, but he whipped out 17.h3 and I knew I could resign here down a piece. This also sort of explains my following blunders, as I was disgusted with myself after this.
After the game, I felt this was a good learning experience, as it showed that I don’t analyze enough OTB and require too much time to do it. Also, I don’t block out distractions like the pros do. My opponent was sitting there the whole time, and twitching about nervously enough for me to notice (although he wasn’t doing anything unnormal), and I could hear him breathe heavy and then stop, and then do that again and it would disrupt my chain or even ability to analyze. I have to work at intentionally blocking things out. Lower-rated players, I know that all they want to do is move, and it makes them nervous to sit there, and so they fidget as if to say why aren’t you moving yet. But that’s my issue that I have to work past. I guess, if I am nervous, and then they are nervous (for seemingly no reason to me since it’s my move), then it really just makes me want to block them out somehow until I get my head into the game.
One of the most stunning realizations I got from analyzing this game with Houdini was the move 14…Nxc4. Houdini will tell you that 14…Bg6?! is best (and …Re8?! is another try), but in the game I was afraid of 15.f5 Bh7, which Houdini will show to be losing down the road. Without a doubt 14…Nxc4! is the best practical try. Again, 15…g5!! Houdini will tell you this move is not even a top choice, but 15…d5 will lose down the road with best play.
16…Ng4?? was game-over. After 16…Nh7, I should be able to hold this position, and if I play well even have chances for a win down the line. I spent about two hours going over these last two moves with Houdini, and all it did was confirm the power of intuition for me. If anything I had to go on intuition at this point and it was _over-confidence_ that made me quickly play …Ng4?? in acute time-pressure.
A chess Master commented on the last reply in this thread about calculation, and I think he hit the nail on the head. This was reassuring to me, because I somehow felt that I was going about calculation all wrong and wasn’t doing it right. It is important to be able to quantify the ideas in a position, and sometimes this is done intuitively, rather than worry about how to calculate the incalculable. There are positions that can be simply answered by calculation, and these positions are probably the best use of calculation skills; other positions are often best solved using a strong blend of intuition. My biggest weakness is the one that I thought I had all along, threat-recognition. I need to improve my practice of looking for threats before making a move. If I am happy before making a move, then I need to be equally happy for my opponent’s next move (their best response), as it’s more difficult for me to have equanimity in time-pressure.
The culprit in making this game more precipitous for me was 12…Bh5? This was the tempo robbed. If 12…Re8!, then I can play either idea of 13.Nf3-d2 g5, 14.Bg3 d5! or 13…Na5, and if 14.f4, then NxBc4 followed by …d5 works now. This is the important thing, not so much the calculations, but finding the right ideas, and coming to the right conclusions. The easy way to think of this is that I missed an opportunity by not playing 12…Re8, which provided a new array of tactics for me to work with (…Bh5 was just too slow). In chess, if you pass on, or don’t take advantage of your opportunities, it usually comes back to bite you. I feel like the question to ask at the board is “What are the true threats in this postion?” emphasis on the word true, attacker/defender neutral. A threat is not a true threat if it can be countered.
Sometimes, when poor moves lead to precipitous positions which only a grandmaster can defend, I call these “Grandmaster positions” because only a GM could defend them, regardless of the objective evaluation of a computer (which might call any move in a sequenced of forced moves as equal). As a Class player, you usually don’t want to get into these “Grandmaster positions”, which are usually the result of poor or precipitous “quiet moves”. Often, these positions are labeled as “unclear” in theory books.
My conclusion on the theory for this game is that with best play, Black is already losing after 8…0-0?? It’s beyond the horizon of the computer to tell you this up-front, but I’ve spent a full work-day analyzing all variations after this for Black, and Black is just busted. for starters, 8….h6, 9.Bh4 g5! is good for Black, as the 10.Nxg5 sac loses here, but this line after 8….0-0?? the sac would be winning for White! After this, White’s positional problems become insuperable. I stole a tempo from White with 12.Qd3?, which I was glad to see in the game instead of 12.h3!! which is the only thing that made this line playable for Black.
Opening theory is a profound thing, I’ve been discovering lately, particularly with 1.e4 openings, where many lines are critical. There used to be a time when I thought it was just fun learning openings OTB, and even thought that that’s what you were supposed to do; now, I realize “You can’t keep doing that!” if you want to maintain a Class A rating or above. BTW, I’ve used this Houdini now so extensively that I can tell you it is weak as sh*t when you take anything it says as a long-term correct eval. You are probably far better off looking at correspondence games for theory in an unclear position than from an engine, unless you want to spend all day working out every sub-line in a line (where it’s horizon effect causes it suddenly change it’s mind and go from +.7 to +2 all of a sudden).
I looked at the games in the DB of ChessKing where Black wins after 8….0-0. No one over 2100 and White played weak lines in all of them (many like 1600 or 1700!)
Okay, I stand corrected, I hadn’t gone back far enough in the game. The blunder is not 8…0-0 (which is the _only_ move), rather the game losing blunder was 10…BxNc3 because that strengthened the d4 pawn. So, after the correct move 10….Bg4, 11.h3 BxNf3, 12.QxNf3 Nxd4 drops the d-pawn. So after 10…Bg4, Black has little to worry about because of the weakness of d4, and can look forward to playing normal moves like …a6, or …Ba5, or …Rb8 or even …g5. If 11.Nd5 g5, 12.Bg3 Nxe4 wins a pawn for Black, and is equal.
I’ve even got a “seconding” line for someone who wants to pop this on Michael, if he falls into it. 10…Bg4, 11.Re1 a6, 12.Re3 (White’s trick that somone in the DB tried, with idea of h3 and g4 or RxBf3) …g5, 13.Bg3 BxNf3, 14.RxBf3 BxNc3, 15.bxc Nxe4. Black is up a pawn, but White has the bishop-pair (vs. the knight-pair). It’s risky for Black, but at least you make it out of the opening with only scratches, and it will probably look like you know what you are doing to your opponent. 7…Bb4+ wasn’t best to begin with (although it often is best in the Italian and Scotch), but at least this makes it playable, which is mostly what I’m after. I can’t always figure out a new opening line OTB when I show up a bit frazzled. Learn an opening line right, and you can get back to studying your endgames! 😉