My friend FM Alex Betaneli just held the 1st Wisconsin International Chess Festival.
I had offered to take a half day at work the day the tournament began so I could go help set up. Alex also asked if I would like to be a house player if needed, which I agreed to do.
As it turned out there were an odd number of players, so I did get the chance to play a game.
I was paired with Merissa Wongso, rated 1489. During this game I made two horrible decisions; one psychological, one strategic.
Here is the first position. I am White.
I have decent knowledge of the 9.Ne1 KID. I also have working knowledge of the 7…exd4 KID since I used to play it. I don’t know much about the Grunfeld since no one seems to play that against me, but I at least know a little.
So what do I do? Do I play 3.d4 and head right down the road to a nice mainline opening? Nope, I bail out with 3.g3. Now there’s nothing wrong with the move in and of itself, and had the move order been 1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 g6 you’d expect 3.Nc3 and this position arises anyways. But I don’t play 2.g3 for a variety of reasons and so easily could have avoided this.
The problem is that I sit there and convince myself that playing something that my opponent is less familiar with should work to my advantage. That’s ridiculous. I should play the more dynamic mainlines and not duck and cover.
So that’s the psychologically incorrect decision.
Here is the strategically incorrect one:
Here my opponent has just played 13…Nd4. I instantly saw that the pawn on b7 hangs. So after 14.Nxf6 Bxf6 15.Bxf6 Qxf6 16.Bxb7 Rab8 17.Bg2 I’m up material.
However, compare the two positions. In the second position two pairs of minors are off the board, all possibility for pressure on the king side is gone, and Black’s knight on d4 is strong.
Imagine instead I had played 14.Nd5 which forces 14…Bxe4 15.dxe4
In this position White is not up any material, but has a better position with more possibilities.
Here is the entire game. My opponent played the rook ending extremely well.
This past Thursday the first round of the Southwest Chess Club Joe Crothers’ Memorial Championship took place.
I am relatively pleased with my first round game. Other than one opening inaccuracy (11…c5 instead of 11…Bb7) and one ridiculous waste of time (17…Rc8, only to have to move right back to a8 on my next move) I think my play was fairly good.
For a while after I started playing again in 2011 I would jump at the chance to take a draw either from a stronger player in almost any position, or from an evenly matched player when I didn’t have a dominating position.
Lately I’ve gone to the opposite extreme. I don’t want draws at all. On the surface that’s not the end of the world since it’s a piece of advice that you see many players given by coaches in their quests to improve.
On the other hand, it can be very bad when someone goes to such great lengths to avoid draws as to play intentionally bad moves.
Take this position for instance. I’m white and it’s my move.
The correct candidate moves are 30.Bxc6, or possibly even 30.Bd5. However, I didn’t want to exchange pieces. I wanted to keep as many pieces on the board as I possibly could.
So I played 30.f3 and my position immediately goes from slightly worse (once the bishops come off I’ll have some light square issues) to strategically dead lost.
This is clearly a serious issue that I need to work to overcome.
So tonight after quite the long layoff I got back into some Yusupov.
The chapter this is from is one concerning open files and outposts.
Here is the position given:
Here I started down this long flight of fancy trying to make 1.Bxd7 work to get a rook on the back rank. Perhaps something like 1…Rxd7 2.Rb8 Qe7 3.Rxe8 Qxe8 4.Qf6+
Of course the problem is that after 2.Rb8 Black can simply exchange the queen for the two rooks and be fine.
Of course the actual plan is much simpler that all of that. White can simply play 1.Rb7 and his position is excellent, which is what happened in the game.
But this begs the question…why the blindness.
Well, it’s one of two things, and now I have to figure out which. It’s either because:
Since I’m looking at a “solvable” position I’m treating the exercise itself as too much of a tactical problem. Meaning that I’m looking at ideas which are far more complex than the position calls for in an effort to “win” the diagrammed position.
I’m just not seeing these sorts of natural, penetrating moves.
I sincerely hope that it’s the first, since that is the easier of the two to solve, but I am realizing that this is something I’m going to have to pay close attention to in the analysis of my own games.
For the past week I have been afflicted with a fairly serious ear infection. The most annoying part of this illness is that it makes it difficult to properly study chess.
I have still been doing tactical drills for 30-40 minutes daily, along with playing through a bunch of GM games in lines I plan on playing in the coming week based on upcoming club games, but that’s about it.
No actual work. No solving. No analyzing my own games deeply. Nothing.
It’s hard to do real work when your head feels like a balloon. This makes it tough to focus in any meaningful way. Luckily I’m now on day three of a ten day course of medication to cure the problem, but it may be another few days before I am close to 100% again.
There is also a bad news/good news aspect to this. The bad news is that with really aggressive goals of finishing one Yusupov book per month for the next two months this puts me far behind the timeline of where I need to be.
The good news though, and this is the part that I am choosing to focus on currently, is that I have not used this illness as an excuse to stop working completely.
While it seems likely that my tactical drills are having limited impact since my ability to learn new patterns is probably affected by my inability to focus clearly, I am certain that I am at the very least staying sharp with the patterns I already know.
In the “old days” (i.e. prior to the Quality Chess Challenge) I would have used illness as a reason to just take a complete break.
Instead I have stayed active to the best of my ability.
Here’s hoping that I recover soon and can get back to real work, but until then I’ll just keep plodding along.
Here is the game I promised to post. I still haven’t had time to analyze it as I’ve been fighting a fairly serious ear infection this past week, but it’s still instructive nevertheless.
In the final position I am clearly better. Plainly and obviously better. However, this was the one round of the tournament which had no secondary time control, and I’ve had a couple of games like this against Allen where I was better and then lost the thread in time pressure.
So from a pragmatic standpoint the result seems OK on the surface. In fact, I believe this makes my past two games against Allen draws, although the last one was dead dead drawn.
Yet from the standpoint of wanting to improve this result stings. I know that I should have pressed, but I did not. It’s tough to justify this. The good news is that it’s been years since I last did this, so let’s hope it’s years before I do it again 🙂
All in all I’m pleased with my play in this game although I am annoyed at my lack of fighting spirit.
Yesterday I played a game which I thought was a fairly good game by myself, only to realize that I missed the simple win of a pawn on move 10.
I did realize that William could have simply gone down the exchange instead of a rook after 25…Ke7 instead of 25…Kf8, but even here I missed the intermezzo 27…Bxe4 which leaves White with a smaller advantage than I had thought I’d have.
So while I’ll take the win, the bottom line is that there is still a lot of work to do.
In this game which I played earlier this evening my opponent shows the importance of time in the game of chess.
One of the first intermediate concepts that I learned was that of time. I watched Yasser Seirawan’s video series and when he spoke about the four elements (time, space, force, and pawn structure) I fought hard to grasp the concept of time.
This game illustrates the importance of time. First, in the way that Jim plays 3…Be7 then 4…Bb4. And again later when undergoing the series of queen moves (e8-f7-e8-d7-f7-g6) which start with 17…Qe8
Here is a game I played at the Waukesha Club on Wednesday.
I didn’t want to allow the position to become completely closed with no tension so I came up with the dubious idea of 11…Nh5 which would allow me to get 12…e5 in, but I completely missed the 13.Nc4 idea.
After that I am probably strategically lost. I have a lot of work to do analyzing this game completely yet, but the ending was just bad for me since my rooks were passively stuck behind my pawns.
I also thought that Ivan’s idea with 30.b4 was really good. My guess is that it might not be the most precise move according to an engine, but that from a practical sense it’s great since it allows him to open up a second theater of operations (principle of two weaknesses) and break through.
All in all a very instructive game, although now my work is cut out for me to salvage my tournament there with three rounds to go.
As I have been talking about for a while now, I am working through the Yusupov series of books by Quality Chess. Recently I have experienced my first failure.
For those who may not be familiar with the series, each chapter works as follows: first, there are various positions with analysis designed to convey the subject matter. Then 12 test positions are given, each with a point value. Once the reader has taken the test and scored their results a mark is given of either Excellent, Good, or Passing depending on the number of points scored. If the reader scores below the minimum threshold then they are encouraged to go back and redo the chapter.
After passing all previous chapters with varying degrees of success I finally ran into a snag in the chapter on converting material advantages.
Interestingly it wasn’t that I didn’t correctly pass the test, it’s that I was having a hard time even finding ANY answers to the majority of the positions.
After trying to come up with solutions over three different sessions and only finding any possible ideas for around half of the positions I gave up and decided to simply read through the entire chapter again and then re-approach it with fresh eyes.
What makes this such an interesting subject to ponder is that unlike so many of the other chapters this one is far more esoteric in nature. After all, if you fail the chapter on the opposition you can just study the opposition and work through the problem. But this is so much more ethereal of a subject.
After all, I don’t have a problem in my own praxis with converting a material advantage. So this comes down to more of an issue with planning and efficiency.
So that’s something else I should be working on when analyzing my own games. Food for thought anyways.