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.
Here is a position from my game Thursday night. I am White and it’s my move.
So here I see this tactical idea and I calculate 10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.Nxd5 cxd5 12.Qxd5 and now the rook on c8 is lost unless Black gives up the knight with 12…Nc6. I now realize that after 13.Qxc6 my queen and Black’s queen are both on the sixth rank and – oh no – 13…Bb4+ unleashes a discovered attack on my queen would cost me the game.
So I make a different move then I realize that I missed a key aspect of the position, which is that my thirteenth move is not 13.Qxc6, but 13.Qxc6+
Since this would also pick off the rook this tells me at the time that clearly this was the way to play and that I missed something major.
So I spend the next few moves of the game annoyed for missing something “obvious” in the position. Fast forward to today. I start looking at the position again and something just doesn’t look quite right.
I start moving pieces around and something just isn’t adding up, but I can’t quite find it. As I had just read a piece by Jacob Aagaard explaining that if you’re going to use an engine you need to use it in such a manner as to let yourself discover the reason certain moves are good or bad rather than just the fact that they are good or bad I turn on the engine after Black’s ninth move …b6, which gives us the position we first looked at:
The engine is insisting that this position is equal. “Well, OK” I think…”10…Qxf6 isn’t forced. After all, Black can play 10…gxf6.”
Nope, that position the engine shows as much better for White. So I follow the line closely until we get to this position:
Here Black has an amazing trap in the position. First he plays 12…0-0, then after 13.Qxa8 Nc6 14.Qb7 Rb8 the engine is screaming that 15.Qxc6 is the least bad of the options although Black will pick up the Queen after 15…Bb4+ 16.Qc3 Bxc3+ 17.bxc3:
Here White is up the equivalent of a pawn, but Black’s position is so much better than the computer shows the position to be about -1.2 in Black’s favor.
“Yeah, but why is 15.Qxc6 considered best?” I ask myself. After all, White can save the queen with 15.Qa6. Now we reach the most critical part of the position, this:
Black now slams shut the jaws of their trap with 15…Nb4. Not only does this threaten the queen on a6, but at the same time it also threatens the fork 16…Nc2+
So all in all an amazing position which teaches the analyst to always keep looking for resources.
Friday I was hanging around the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St. Louis with my friend Glenn Panner when the opportunity to schedule a game against one of the local kids came up.
One of the Junior SPICE members, Ben, was sitting at a rating of 1995. His mother was trying to find a game for him in hopes that he could get over 2000 and get that pressure off of him.
I agreed to play him Saturday night at the club when nothing else was going on. The conditions were perfect since the club has amazing lighting and we were playing with an elegant wood set on one of the beautiful chess tables the club has. (Side note – I once looked up those tables and they cost almost $5000 each…though I’m sure if you buy them in bulk as the club does you probably get a discount!)
The agreed time control was G/90+30 and Ben and I wound up having the entire second floor of the club to ourselves. The only spectators were a friend of Ben who came to look at the game and WGM Anna Sharevich who took a look at the position and then went back downstairs to give her evaluation to Ben’s mother who was curious. Anna’s eval…totally even.
The only other interruption was equal parts amusing and annoying. The closing ceremony for the Sinquefield Cup was taking place across the street at the same time and one of the guys from the tech crew came upstairs at one point to lower a needed cable to someone below. He opened the window and then got into a relatively loud discussion with whomever he was lowering the cable to. I don’t know what an “S loop” is, but it was something he clearly didn’t think was a good idea to have!
Luckily this only went on for a minute or two and didn’t seem to disturb Ben too much. It happened pretty much equally on my time vs. his.
As for the game itself, it was a hard fought battle until I blundered the exchange although the reason I did so is instructive in and of itself.
Here is the game in it’s entirety. Thanks to Ben and his mother Stephanie for the opportunity to play this exciting game! Also, congratulations to Ben who it looks like will be an expert once this is rated!
Here is the game that I played Thursday. I felt like the game was slightly better for me, but then I fell into a perpetual trap by my opponent.
The question when you fall into these sorts of things is “why?” Answering that question is where improvement comes from.
With the exception of a handful of times, “you should have seen that” just doesn’t hold water. There is a reason people don’t see things.
It’s easy to say “you study tactics, therefore you have no excuse” but the truth goes so much deeper than that. Especially as all tactics are not created equally.
In this case I think it’s quite interesting and the answer seems to be that I still assume that all re-captures are just automatic.
Interestingly this is related to an issue I was having around five years ago when I was 1600 or so and had a tendency to miss in between moves all the time. I was able to fix that with careful work, so now it would seem that I need to do that with this problem as well.