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.
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
This past Thursday the great 1…e5 experiment continued in a game against Rishav Bhattacharyya.
My personal philosophy when it comes to playing kids is that it’s important to run up a huge score against them when you still can, because as they get older (and much better than you!) it’s surprising how often they will also remain slightly afraid of you and you can score some points and half points that you might not otherwise be able to.
I’m annoyed with my inaccuracy in the opening and with my horrendous move that threw away my advantage almost completely at the end. Other than that I’m relatively pleased with my play.
This lyric from the great John Lennon pretty much sums up my performance this past Thursday.
Here is a position. It’s White (me) to move. I have decided that I can’t win this position after having felt like I was better. I decided to just play a move and offer a draw, but I didn’t really take a look to figure out how Jim might try to win this (third misunderstanding – why third and not first? You’ll see that I misunderstood things earlier as well!)
So I play 41.Kf3?? and it’s the losing move. After the game I felt that I could have played “either Kd3 or f4 and would have been fine.” But f4 also loses since I can’t keep the Black king from getting the c4 (fourth misunderstanding.)
In this earlier position my opponent, Jim Coons, has just played …Kh7 and offered me a draw. I felt I was better (first misunderstanding) and then felt that it would be easier to win this without queens since I’d no longer need to worry about keeping his queen out of my position (second misunderstanding) and so I played 33.Qe7 and Jim immediately traded queens.
After the game Jim told me that he felt that I was lost from this point on and I strongly disagreed. He looked at the game on his iPad with Stockfish and told me the computer agrees.
I wasn’t going to disagree with the computer per se, so I ran it through Stockfish 8 on my laptop and after thinking for a while the machine agrees that while slightly worse, overall I’m fine here.
However, where I missed the boat was in not understanding that with the queens still on the board then all of the typical zugzwang motifs in these same colored bishop endings are negated.
Here is the entire game – featuring 9.Rb1, a move that shows I really need to work on this opening!
Had I drawn this game my rating would have remained relatively flat for this tournament, but as it was I lost 16 points, dropping me to 1785 and leaving me with a lot of work to do in the Publisher’s Challenge.
There is a saying that it’s better to be lucky that good, but that’s not the case in chess. OK, rating wise, who doesn’t want some luck, but that won’t make you better in the long run.
Take this position from the game Wainscott – Gill from two days ago.
Seeing the threat against the queen the instinct is to move it. So Governor plays 34…Qc3, but now after 35.Rc2 the queen is lost.
However, had he fought the instinct to move the attacked piece and looked a bit deeper perhaps he would have found 34…b5, which saves the queen with a nice counterattack.
So all in all I’ll take it, but I am not in any way satisfied with my play in this game. I felt I was better, but then 29…Qh4 fell from the sky like a Thunderbolt and I was in some pretty serious trouble.