This weekend saw me participate in the USATN for the fourth consecutive year. Just like last year I had a pretty miserable performance.
This year I went 2.5-2.5 (the same result as my team) and managed to lose to a 1400 player when I over pressed when my team needed the win, and then in the very next round I blundered a two move mate to an 1136 player.
So the tournament was a disaster, and it’s time to get back to work.
Things did get off to an interesting start on Friday when I played this game and held a draw.
Although we both missed some stuff in the above game, it was nevertheless interesting.
Last night at the Southwest Chess Club I played the following game as White against Spencer Pinkston.
On the one hand, the expected result happened. On the other hand, I’m very pleased to have found 17.h3. It was the best way to exploit an error in judgment. It wasn’t particularly difficult to find, but it did require some precision.
Yesterday I played a game at the Southwest Club that I’m proud of. As you will see, it’s far from perfect, but I’m happy with the fact that I didn’t “play it safe” when it comes to material like I usually do.
I plan on making this the start of a new trend in 2018. It’s time to get back to my attacking roots and to be much more aggressive as long as I’m not being reckless.
Chess can be a cruel game. You can be winning the entire time, and then one slip and you can throw away a half, or even a full point.
This game is a perfect illustration of that. I was winning a nice game until I got a bit lazy mentally and allowed a perpetual.
My plan to work on this is to solve a lot of “Mate in Two” puzzles from Lazlo Polgar’s book as so many of them deal with restriction themes, which should help me become more aware of which squares are available to pieces.
Wednesday I played the final round of the Late Fall Swiss in Waukesha.
I thought that my game went very well, but as it turns out I blundered late and gave up half a point, only to get lucky that my opponent missed it as well.
First, here is the game. Play through it, then we’ll talk about games like this for a moment.
So let’s talk about games like this. I outrated my opponent by 360 points or so. I’ve been told that you should never bother looking at games like this or showing them because, duh, lower rated player, etc.
Yet if you actually take the time to look through a game like this and annotate it sincerely it becomes clear that sometimes you win games like this simply because you weren’t punished for your mistakes. FM Alex Betaneli once gave a lecture at the Southwest Chess Club where he made the point that you need to look through wins as well to see what you are missing.
You will find that in your wins as well as your losses.
Last Sunday in my fourth game of the Sevan Muradian Memorial I committed two cardinal sins at the end of the game.
First, here was the position. I have just played 27…Qe3+
My opponent, who has about 11 minutes left (time control was G/90+30 sec) looks up and says “Draw?” and I shake his hand. The two sins? First of all, I should insist he play a move and then I should have spent as much of the 34 minutes that I had left deciding whether to accept or not.
As it turns out, Black is completely winning – at least according to the engine. The win is simple if White plays 28.Rdc2 as Black plays 28…Qe1+ 29.Rc1 Rb1+ – I’ll leave you work through the lines.
If White plays 28.Rcc2 then the win isn’t quite that easy. In fact, neither myself nor my opponent found it in analysis and we went over the game for close to an hour afterwards. Nevertheless, there is a win there. The sin isn’t that I didn’t find it, the sin is that I didn’t look.
So why didn’t I look? Why didn’t I get into the mindset of fighting til the last breath to bring home the point? Simple, because I had put myself in the mindset of needing to survive.
Let’s look at the position after my 21st move.
Here I’m in some pretty serious trouble. White can play c4 and then my knight is running out of squares. Instead, White blunders away his e pawn two moves later by playing 23.Rd2 in this position.
Now the emotional rollercoaster of chess is in full force. It’s been even – no, I’m losing, – no, I’m winning!
A couple of moves later I’ve given back the pawn I’m up and here we are in the critical position.
So now I’m trying to find a win but not seeing anything direct. The downside here is that I’m having a truly difficult time keeping the thread of this game. The position has been sharp enough that the thought of making a slip and losing is creeping in, although I’m fighting to hold it at bay.
And now I’m looking at the above position, and I realize that I can take on c3 and pretty much guarantee myself the opportunity for the perpetual since if White doesn’t recapture he’s going to wind up in pretty deep.
So I go for it. And my opponent offers me the draw. But instead of insisting that he offer it properly and then evaluate for a long time I jump at the chance.
I’m not mad I didn’t see the win. I’m mad I didn’t look.
This seems to be a matter of pure psychology, so therefore it should be correctable, although it may require quite a lot of work.
This is an important position to remember in rook vs pawn endings.
This position generally arises when there is a pawn on g7 which would be promoted on the next move if not captured.
The reason that this is such an important position has to do with transitions.
Take this position for example.
This is the game Comas Fabrego – Piket 1998. Here White has just played 67.Kf5 attacking Black’s rook. The key here is that Black needs to play 67…Re8. This will tactically protect the pawn on f6 as after 68.Kxf6 Kf3 the first white pawn will fall, following shortly by the second.
Instead Black plays 67…Ra6 and White saves the draw by knowing the position we started out with. Please feel free to try to work out the idea yourself as a training exercise.
My last two tournaments have not been great. I’ve managed to lose three games to improving juniors.
This has had the effect of dropping my rating around 40 points. While I’m not that upset about the rating since ratings fluctuate, I am incredibly annoyed with the way I have played as I have thrown away promising positions quite often during this streak.
Yesterday I played a game which I hope is the start of a turnaround, although I still missed a huge opportunity and was lucky to get a second chance.