So, the match is over I guess, after this game Garingo said that the game 2 weeks earlier was just a practice game. We got paired in the normal tournament, something tells me soapstone played with the pairings... but nonetheless, we got the same colors we were due to have.
It's nice to be underestimated every once in a while. Garingo decided to avoid any preparation and played an absurd opening, hoping that I would forget how to play chess. My notes are extensive, but there are very few variations, this was a strategic battle and I showed very good depth and built a strong initiative from very little. In tournament play against Garingo I am now 2-1 and I have had Black all three games. I hope he is realizing that I am at least on his level.
So this helped save my rating after the disaster last round. I only lost 3 points, I'm up 100 since I moved back to Reno in July, not bad at all. Also Garingo got set back from 2173 to 2105 so maybe I will be able to catch him and win the race to master. I hope to make expert in the next few months, I may have to travel down to LA for the tournament MLK weekend to score some points.
Thanks LEP for the Chess Publisher Tips!
Side Note: Mamedyarov is on the ropes after losing his first game... I hope he can pull it out.
So, the match is over I guess, after this game Garingo said that the game 2 weeks earlier was just a practice game. We got paired in the normal tournament, something tells me soapstone played with the pairings... but nonetheless, we got the same colors we were due to have.
So I was reading a Chesscafe Book Review about the new book on Kasparov by Tibor Karolyi and Nick Alpin (I have their book on Karpov and it is very good) and the author mentions that Kasparov-Topalov, Wijk Ann Zee 1999 is probably the best game of Kasparov's career or "even in the history of chess". So of course I went to my database to look it up (I've seen it before I'm sure, it's in Stohl's book too, Stohl's annotations are in Chessbase). And it is quite a game. Kasparov's intuition is almost incomprehensible (apparently even to Topalov) and he sacs a rook and then a knight with very little apparent compensation and no end in sight. Just wondering what you guys think about the thought of a "best game in history" and this Kasparov game.
I would say the majority of games that I play in the Open Sicilian are played in the Najdorf. So I know the themes pretty well. If you want to play this opening for Black, learn it, or else this will happen:
Now this was a Scheveningen and I played 6.Bg5 by accident (I play 6.g4, the Keres Attack), and Black could have punished this by playing h6 but by move 9 we were in a Najdorf that I know all too well. Black can play Be7 or b5 here, but not Rb8. These lines are too fragile to be playing unnecessary moves.
All this talk of technique on BDK's post makes me sad I missed 15.Qh5 mate but it is blitz what are you going to do...
First off I must congratulate Daniel Naroditsky, those of us who play in the West have seen this kid around, for earning Gold in the Boys Under 12 World Championship and his FM title. He won on tiebreaks beating the favorite, who is an IM from Ukraine.
This November tournament has probably ruined my rating... I missed the first round because I was in Chicago and I have 1/2 with a performance of around 1450. My loss, incidentally, was my worst loss ever. (I checked with MSA Data) But I did beat Garingo, although it was unsanctioned and only G/40, which I'm pretty sure is Quick Rating anyway (although I guess some tournaments have 2-day options that are G/45 for some rounds, so....). I think we should lengthen the time controls on this match so that it will be rated normally, but I do not think we will be able to play two full length games in one night and it doesn't really matter since I don't really care about the rating as much as winning.
On a comment on Soapstone's Blog I stated that I wanted the club to section the tournament. This is not because I am afraid to lose, it is because I do not enjoy games with players of such disparate strength. When my opponent starts making serious errors in the first 12-15 moves I get bored. I am impressed if they can even last 30 moves to the time control. I would say that in most of these tournaments we get one or two good pairings and two or three bad pairings. Is it really worth it for me as a 1950 player to play opponents with average strength of 1650. This means that I have to achieve a perfect score to achieve a humble 2050 performance. I am lucky in that in games against much weaker players I can usually get away with using less than half an hour so my games don't last more than 2 hours. But for some players they are playing for 4 or 5 hours for nothing, hoping to get paired against a decent player in the later rounds. I also believe that rivalries (which I love) will be formed and there will be more excitement at the club. Also the players who win the lower section can step up and play in the higher section. Maybe we can even make a rule that if they score a point (or two) in the higher section they can continue to play the following month. Anyways, Ernie (soapstone) said that he is considering splitting the field for December. I think that is a good idea...
I brought my computer to work today so that I could work on Chessbase to prepare for Garingo. Our game tonight will most likely be a Maroczy or an Anti-Moscow. The Maroczy is not his style, but he beat me with it the last time we played. The Anti-Moscow is very much his style, but I am more familiar with the themes than he is and I like my chances. I will be happy with a draw (although in the Anti-Moscow I will play to win) and a chance to score another point in game 3.
So... Radjabov lost today to lose the match 2-0, he is the highest seed (3) to get knocked out so far and although I did not expect that much out of him in this tournament, I was really surprised to see him get crushed like this by someone over 100 points lower than him. Ponomariov lost yesterday and today had Black. The game looked very drawish but he was able to win, so looks like he will go through (he will win the playoff).
Other than that my IT guy was going through the programs on my computer at work and he's like "What's Dasher?" and I was like "I use it." hoping he would leave it at that, but he figured out it was for chess and deleted it... So no more ICC at work I guess... That sucks.
LEP brought up that there is no betting but, like March Madness, there is the potential for some impressive upsets. But then I started thinking... there's a bracket available on the Fide website... We should start a pool!! This round did see a couple upsets in the first game, young Radjabov avoided his normal Pelikan Sicilian and got trounced in the offbeat Ruy Lopez Schliemann, guess the experiment failed. Ponomariav lost again... which puts a lot of pressure on him. And poor Carlsen couldn't even get his pieces out (with White!) and by the time he did the game was equal and he was held to a draw.
Mamedyarov cruised to a win. Shulman drew Shirov with White, the other Americans won (Kamsky with Black!!). Some interesting games... this tournament is growing on me. I still say that with fewer players and more rounds per match it would be more interesting though.
I am serious about the pool, I think it would be cool to fill out some brackets and see who we put in the final four... even if there is no money involved.
So... I think I ended the slump. I played three games today, all pretty quick, and scored 2.5. The first game was a draw, if you saw my earlier post where I said I have only scored 16 draws in over 270 rated USCF games then you know this is a rarity. And I made this sucker work hard for this draw. I had a nice position, my knight was much better than his bishop, but he got me to trade. Then we were in a queen ending, then a pawn ending, then another queen ending, and I thought I would be able to pull something off the whole time but no, he earned his draw. Then the next game I was going to lose! But I found my game...
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nge2 e5 6.d3 Nge7 7.Be3 d6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.Bh6 f5 10.h4 Nd4 11.Nxd4 cxd4 12.Nd5 Nxd5 13.exd5 Qe7 14.h5 Bd7 15.hxg6 hxg6 16.0-0-0 Rac8 17.Bxg7 Qxg7 18.Rh6 Rc5 19.Rdh1
This position is so bad... I had originally thought that I could get away with Qxh8 and getting two rooks for the queen. But now that I am faced with the prospect of Rh8 I see the following... 19...Rfc8 20 Rh8+ Qh8 21 Rh8 Kh8 22 Qh6 and I am cooked. If only I could get Be8 and Rfc8 in I would be ok... or....
19...f4!! These kinds of moves end my slumps. This is a beautiful move, since the only problem in my position is the Queen coming to the h-file, I simply prevent it, and now I can carry on my attack and we end up in a good bishop vs. bad bishop endgame which white gets thoroughly lost in.
20.Rh8+ Qxh8 21.Rxh8+ Kxh8 22.gxf4 Rfc8 23.fxe5 Rxc2+ 24.Qxc2 Rxc2+ 25.Kxc2 dxe5 26.Be4 g5 27.Kb3 b6 28.Kb4 Kg7 29.Kc4 Kf6 30.b4 Ke7 31.Bg6 a6 32.f3 Kd6 33.Bf7 Bb5+ 34.Kb3 Bxd3 35.a4 Be2 36.Bh5 Kxd5 37.Bf7+ Kd6 38.Bc4 Bxf3 39.Bxa6 Bd1+ 40.Ka3 g4 41.Bd3 g3 42.Bf1 Bf3 43.a5 bxa5 44.bxa5 g2 0-1
After this game I felt pretty good and I took a break to look at a couple Kasparov pawn sacrifices from Chess Strategy in Action. Then I made an exchange sacrifice in my last game of the day...
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 Qc7 7.Bd3 Nf6 8.0-0 Bd6 9.f4 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Bxf4 11.Bxf6 Bxh2+ 12.Kh1 gxf6 13.Rxf6 Be5 14.Qf3!? I figured that Black losing the right to castle and the weak Bishop were adequate compensation.
14... Bxf6 15.Qxf6 Rg8 16.Rf1 d6 17.e5 Qe7
Black figures he can simplify and be OK, that I was relying on my attack to be compensation. But no! I was ready to exchange Queens, my activity is compensation (a theme of positional sacrifices, my work is paying dividends).
18.Qxe7+ Kxe7 19.exd6+ Kxd6 20.Rxf7 Bd7 21.Ne4+ Kc7? This is an ugly move, now White is just winning
22.Nc5 Rad8 23.Nxe6+ Kc8 24.Nxd8 Kxd8 25.Rxh7 Bc6 26.Rh2 Re8 27.Kg1 Re1+ 28.Kf2 Ra1 29.a3 Ra2 30.Rh8+ Ke7 31.Rh7+ Kf6 32.Rf7+ Kg5 33.Rf5+ Kh6 34.g4 Rxb2 35.g5+ Kg7 36.Re5 Ra2 37.g6 Rxa3 38.Re7+ Kf8 39.g7+ Kxe7 40.g8Q Kd6 41.Qg6+ Kc5 42.Qf5+ Kb6 43.Qe6 Ra5 44.Ke3 Rc5 45.c4 a5 46.Kd4 a4 47.Qd6 Ra5 48.Qb4+ Ka7 49.Be4 Kb8 50.Bxc6 Kc8 51.Qxb7+ Kd8 52.Qd7# 1-0 Mate with 0.4 seconds to spare... close call but a smooth win.
Beginning with 19...f4 I was ready to bring some creative solutions to the table and to think in more abstract terms. And it produced results. I need to study more...
I personally think that the knockout in Khanty-Mansiysk is one of the worst high level tournaments that there is. Why are there 128 players? Here is the first round http://cup2007.fide.com/results.asp. Aside from a couple upsets, pretty much what you would expect. The higher seeds getting through easily. I know that they want to experiment with different formats than the double round robin, but I would still rather see just the top 16 players go at it.
That being said I am rooting heavily for Mamedyarov, who has captured my attention in the past year and has been playing very good chess. I think that Ivanchuk, who did have a spectacular year, has collapsed (look at his more recent results) and will go down easily in the next few rounds. Carlsen is getting better very quickly but I do not think this is his year. Of course Svidler, Grishy, and Aronian should never be counted out and Shirov had a good performance in the Tal Memorial (relative to Kramnik's sheer dominance of that tournament). Anyways, the later rounds should be interesting but until then this tournament sucks.
I almost forgot to congratulate Yuri Shulman (my old coach) for getting to the second round.
I woke up at 3:45 this morning half-hungover with really bad cottonmouth. I stumbled downstairs to grab two bottles of water, turned on some music (the silence was deafening), drank one of the bottles and figured I had just prevented a worse hangover when I woke up. But then the album ended and my mouth felt drier than the reading material for a statistics class. I got up and started browsing the internet while I drank the second bottle, then my eyes wandered to the board I have next to my computer. At the board was the end of a game, but last night when I was looking at it (very briefly) I thought Black was a little premature in resigning and I wasn't sure that I would even be able to enter into such a risky variation with White. But surely enough, at 5:00 AM, in the dark, with an annoying headache and slight nausea the variations poured out and Black is mated in all lines. Chess is weird like that.
So, this happened on Wednesday and I'm already over it but I still think it's funny. The other day when I said that I was going to get on ICC and murder some people I won my first two games and then there wasn't a good standard seek so I hit that stupid green button and waited for a five minute game. ICC has separate ratings for the five-minute pool and blitz, I'm like 1800 blitz and 1550-1600 five-minute, and I get paired against a 1700 and I'm like cool no problem right. So then after a few moves I look at his name and it has IM in front of it and I'm like damn... this isn't going to be as easy as I thought. So I find out after the game that he is 2780 in regular blitz, that's only 1000 points on me, no big deal... His name is Olivier Simon, he's from France, he's a douchebag.
Here's how it went down. He played the Rossolimo variation against my Sicilian. This is a pretty popular Anti-Sicilian so I have looked at the lines in some detail. One of the themes is that the knight goes from g8 to f6 to d7 to f8 to e6 before you castle because awkwardly enough you have time and this is the fastest way to get it in. So for the first 12 or so moves my play was book. Then he says "it's easy?" which I don't know what that means, he's French so maybe he thinks it means something. Then later he says that it's easy to learn an opening but that my play after that was horrible and that I need to learn to play not learn openings. I spend very little time studying openings, I just look up lines that I'm in and continuously develop around them. That's how I found that idea in the first place. But anyways, coming from a normal player I would just shrug that off and laugh but I really don't think IMs should act like that. Then he just leaves. So I was like wtf??? And I went to Fritz to see how "badly" I played. I hold a slight advantage for the first 30 moves, and my theory definitely doesn't go that deep... Then I made a mistake and lost 10 moves later. But wtf?? He wasn't even winning. And this is five-minute, what does real play have to do with five-minute. I hope I meet this guy OTB sometime. I have made beating him OTB one of my chess goals. Then I can be like we played online and you told me to learn to play so I did! :)
At work me and the girl in the cubicle next to me use Yahoo Messenger to pass jokes and links and what not. Anyways after I finished my last post she hit me up with another good video so I decided to share. Cause I have just found the one true love of my life.
Keytar Solo (I accidentally posted the link below originally, but I fixed it. So if you didn't see this yet, click this NOW)
And then when I was typing this one more, but last one I promise:
Best Guinness Commercial Ever Made
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
So, I got bored by going out this weekend and aside from work I've basically been cooped up in my room since Friday looking at chess (watching movies and playing some xbox too). Yesterday I didn't do any work after I got home (while I was at work I was looking at a game played by Samurai Pawn for a while) and I just went and hung out with a friend. It was a nice break; but definitely a short one. I can't get away from a board at this point. I was so eager to get back I wanted to look at some positions before work but I never have enough time. So needless to say I'm looking forward to some quality time with a board this long weekend. I should also start keeping track of what I'm doing, so I don't end up reading 7 different books at once. Maybe I'll murder some people on ICC to get my standard rating back over 2000. It's under 1900, which is unacceptable.
Thanksgiving Bonus: Crazy Japanese Video
I've been playing online again, for a while I was just studying, now I'm doing both. I've been losing badly. And not even losing badly, usually winning and then allowing my opponent to mate me or otherwise hanging pieces. There have been some interesting games though. And a lot of the time I can recover from positions that are so ridiculously bad. I have also been letting myself sacrifice for little or nothing on pure intuition and it has been going rather well. Some very pretty stuff. I'll have to find a couple good positions.
I came across MSA Data (click the link) on Liquid Egg Product's blog. It's pretty cool. I found out that out of 271 rated USCF I have 159 wins, 96 losses, and 16 (!!) draws. Yeah I'm a risk taker... I think it's probably a bad thing. I also used to resign very early because I used to attach a lot of emotion to the game when I was young. Now I am seasoned. I show nothing. I feel nothing. I couldn't even remember what my last draw was!! But I looked it up and it was over a year ago, I was so mad when I offered a draw that I couldn't win the ending but then he refused and I couldn't believe it. Someone watching was telling me to calm down and I was like "fuck that I'm the only one with winning chances here..." and then I calmly walked away. While I'm writing this it occurs to me that this may be the last time I sacked an exchange and tried to win with the bishop. I think it contributed to my aversion to piece sacrifices even when I know they are good.
On that note I was going through a Maroczy database I have and there is a game in the line I'm preparing where Kramnik and Anand had drawn and Kramnik was trying the line with White again. (The line is 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cd 4 Nd4 g6 5 c4 Nf6 6 Nc3 d6 7 Be2 Nd4 8 Qd4 Bg7, they played a different move order though) Anand defends for a while and then matter of factly sacrifices the exchange and says (it was his annotations in Chessbase) now black is completely out of danger because the pawns are on one side. OK... really?? That's all it takes for you to decide to snap off a bishop for a rook...?? So a couple moves later Kramnik starts to really press and Anand says this is a mistake and the next move Kramnik offered a draw and Anand decides to keep playing and wins the game down the exchange with black. Now I should justify this by saying that this was back in 1996 when Kramnik was just a lowly 2775...
Anyways, work's over now so I'm going to just post this and go home, but the exchange sacrifice and the positional pawn sacrifice are definitely my two biggest areas of study right now. Let me know if there's anything I should look at...
I had mentioned in my last post that I had been doing well making databases that are opening specific. Shoemaker responded that he does not think of grouping "chess concepts" but rather makes databases for aesthetic value. When I want to see something of aesthetic value I pull out Kasparov's Greatest Games, Volume 2, I turn to a random page, and I try to sink in parts of the game. There's no way that I can begin to comprehend any of these games, but they are pleasing to look at. When I'm going through a database to work on my game, I will focus the database not on "chess concepts", but on specific opening lines. For instance with the Caro-Kann, I wanted to play a new line. I found that Kasparov had chosen predominantly the main line, I went over all the games in my database that Kasparov had played in that line, I would say I spent maybe 2 or 3 hours on creating the database and going over it a few times. Then I played it online a little bit. And then several months later I faced Grant Fleming and he played c6 and I decided to try it out:
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.Nf3 Nf6 7.h4 h6 8.Ne5 Bh7 9.Bc4 e6 10.Qe2 Nd5 11.f4 Nd7 12.Bd2 Nxe5 13.fxe5 Qb6 14.0-0-0 0-0-0 15.Rhf1 Qxd4 16.Bg5 Qb6 17.Bxd8 Qxd8 18.Bxd5 cxd5 19.Rxf7 Bg6 20.Rf4 Be7 21.Qg4 Bxh4 22.Qxh4 Black Resigns 1-0
Now neither of us played very well, although we were both over 1800. But the first game against Parreira, in the Rough Day post is the only other time I have played this Caro-Kann main line in a tournament and I have been able to understand games in this line much better since going through this database. The most noticeable differential to me in between these games is the exchange of the bishop. It develops White's Queen for free and gets rid of the powerful albeit cornered black bishop, which has already moved 3 times and will now move a fourth. These are the things I look for when I study openings, it is impossible to play the middlegame without knowing what exchanges are beneficial and which are harmful. And it is true that there are other ways to evaluate this, and good players can find this information at the board. But where does such information come from. Study of endgames obviously helps in the later middlegame, but in the early middlegame oftentimes you can rely on empirical information, the games of very strong grandmasters in the same lines.
You can find them trying your idea and see the best opposition at the same time and I think that this is important. At least knowing what the best tries are, I oftentimes will dumb down my line because I don't think that my opponent will be able to keep up, but I usually know the game I'm giving up too. I think that in order to actually find the openings that I want to play I have to find the middlegame positions that I'm getting myself into and either get to know them or find an alternative. That's how I've built the repertoire that I've been playing and I have no holes. The English has been a catastrophe of late I will admit but I have a line. The Maroczy also I have several lines. I am closing holes before you can even find them, stacking up two or three alternatives in case we play a few times and I want to jump around, discuss a different topic. And if you find one, please believe you will never find me there again, and if we are going down the same path, walk slow and carry a very big stick.
So since I have started this blog I have had a renewed flame for chess. I had gotten to a point where the material seemed pointless but now that I have found a place to put my frustrations and insights I want to keep going. I was really considering slowing down with chess. I haven't really revealed much of my normal life. But I finished my BBA in Finance in less than four years and right now I'm working but I will be returning to school shortly for an MBA/JD. I have never really focused as much energy as I should have on school or on chess, kind of bouncing back and forth between the two and then following random paths as they crossed mine. But I have a 167 LSAT, 95th percentile, which pretty much guarantees me entry into a top tier law school, so eventually I should probably follow that path. The problem is that I don't really want to go to law school and start a career and a life that is that intense without at least earning a title (or convincing myself that I will not be able to keep improving). I have exceptional chess vision and I have always maintained that learning chess at a young age and teaching myself to study chess has allowed me to learn other concepts more quickly and to have a greater appreciation for logic and reason. I have always wanted to have at least a six month or one year period of just pure chess work, but I don't know if I'll every be able to get it. I think the best place for it is Europe, although New York also seems to have a pretty significant chess culture. I had almost given up on a "chess career", more likely chess sabbatical :), but now that I have somewhere to actually post my work and talk about what I am doing I am actually excited about the work because I have found other people that are doing the same thing.
A lot of books came off my shelf this last week. A lot of games from different time periods and different authors. That's how I like it, an abundance of positions from an abundance of sources. At least to start. From now on I really need a more focused plan. I'm jumping from book to book trying to figure out what I actually want to read. Chess Strategy in Action is priority number one. It will ground me for a little bit and start me off on the right track. Really I am facing no problems in the great majority of positions I have been in in the last few months. I've been playing some pretty good chess. I'm 19-4 in rated games since I moved back to Reno. That's including the win against Garingo and the loss to Parreira on Thursday. I have been having problems committing to complicated positions, I think that this reflects the quality of opponent I have faced in recent months. There's no reason for me to take a complicated position against a player that is truly weaker. For instance of my five wins at the WSO (I lost one game in 11 moves!!!) I would say that 3 of them were completely drawn endgames, and I just outplayed my opponent from that point. Now those were A players, and two of them were undefeated in the later rounds. So I am not afraid to go into an endgame as long as I see that I will still be able to find some play. The problem with this strategy is that as I face higher rated players in the coming months (I will have to move up to expert eventually) I will not be able to win against more stubborn opposition and I am going to have to bring back the creativity that I have been suppressing to win games on pure technique. I get into bad slumps sometimes, especially on ICC (my handle is macdre by the way if anyone wants to play sometime), where I am playing really well but I just can't win a game. It's almost as if I put on some autopilot that is a result of having seen a similar position or theme a few times but not really enough to understand it and I just play natural moves and ignore my opponent completely. I just stop working on the game, a lot of times if it is online I start switching windows. I would say that I lose more games because of a shotty effort than from actually getting outplayed. These games are also a product of my suppressed creativity. I think I will dig up a game and give an example in a post this week. When I was seeing Shulman he wanted me to do 10-15 studies a week, (he used to go over studies with me after my hour was up for an extra hour, we would just put the position on the board and take 10 minutes each, it was interesting). I think that the purpose of this is to stimulate creative solutions, as precision and use of many conflicting and overlapping chess concepts is required to solve these types of problems. Maybe I should bring out the Nunn book Solving in Style, that has a lot of good studies in it. Also a lot of my best work has been creating databases (25-100 games) in a specific opening and running through it to get an idea of typical tactical and strategic themes, piece placement, standard exchanges, pawn structures, endgames, etc. I just haven't committed to any openings lately and I don't know what I want to do with my repertoire on both sides. I don't even know what to work on. The match with Garingo will force me to do some intense homework in a few good lines, but I need a broader approach.
I think I will read Secrets of Chess Transformations, by Marovic. Part of a superb four part series on middlegame play. I highly recommend Dynamic Pawn Play in Chess also, but the other two books deal with topics that are discussed in several sources so I don't think that I will get them. This book talks a little bit about converting a space advantage, and then devotes a heavy majority of the discussion to "Real Sacrifices" which the author defines as sacrifices without immediate compensation. Positional sacrifices in essence. I feel that against stronger opposition these types of sacrifices are essential to understand. I cannot tell you how many times I have gotten into a position where I do not feel like there is a way to improve without some kind of material sacrifice, only to shy away because I do not feel comfortable and find that it was indeed sound after the game. On one hand it is good to know that my instincts are good. But I am so cautious sometimes, especially considering my aggressive style. I need to add some flair into my game and one reason that I hadn't read this book is that I didn't feel it was necessary, I felt that there were more pressing things to learn. But now I have gotten to a point where in almost every game I feel that a more revolutionary change in the position is necessary to find what i want. I'm tired of playing boring positions just because neither player is willing to take any risk and I'm tired of playing dead drawn endings when at least I could be playing unbalanced endings. These are the positions that really test an opponent.
Anyways this was a long rant that started as appreciation for the blog community but then got severely sidetracked. Kind of like me trying to stay on one book...
So after my game was done on Thursday I wanted to play some blitz with Garingo and he started talking about how he was bored with the club and he wanted to play matches instead of tournaments. I'm pretty much in the same boat, as shown by the effortless games I have posted so far from this tournament. I've spent only 20 minutes on both games so far this tournament and I don't even get any pleasure out of finishing the game, I get lazy. Anyways so we decide to play a match because I'm pretty sure I can beat him. Once you neutralize his tactics, he goes wrong, this is easily done through good opening preparation, and a match is the best place to show off good opening preparation. So I say I want white first because I haven't had white against him in a longer game and we decide on the time controls and we go straight into a dragon. We spent very little time on our first 13 moves, and then started making mutual mistakes. I built up a very large advantage saw a very promising continuation but rejected it for the safer continuation and the blundered a few moves later squandering my advantage. I will not post any notes at this time for obvious reasons, but I will post my analysis after the match is complete.
I had fallen behind two pawns to expose the black king, but I had not been able to find a tangible solution and indeed there is none as long as Garingo does not get too excited. This seems to be his fatal flaw, he gets too wrapped up in his own attack. Until he played b3 he had not seen a glimpse of mate the whole game, as soon as I allowed him to take on c2, which I could have easily prevented with Rg2 instead of Rgg1, he overlooked Rxh7 and started his mating attack. I had not lost hope as I knew that his win was a very difficult technical endgame away and my win was always only one big mistake away. It is interesting to note that Fritz only awards Black four-tenths of a pawn after the move Rgg1 instead of Rg2, agreeing that the pawn sacrifice is not completely without compensation. The problem with Rg2 is that after the Queen captures on f5, a Queen trade is forced because of the weakness of the f1 square. But with the rook on g1, the f1 square is not weak, so after the Queen takes on f5 i can play Qg2 threatening Qg8 and forcing Rc8 and then Qb7 threatening the a6 pawn and retaining the Queen and some initiative.
He claims that he won the game, it is true that at the end he was winning and he just blundered. But I was winning by a larger margin earlier in the game and I blundered, so really we both made mistakes. I got ahead early and failed to capitalize, but I was hardly outplayed. Then in desperation I started throwing some complications in the mix and he slipped. Same as I did against Parreira, same as Pearson did against Garingo himself. Chess is a game of mistakes. I hope to make Garingo's serious mistakes a theme of this match and minimize the damage of my own.
I haven't posted for a week for a reason, I've been looking at more games and I was in Vegas for work Tuesday through Thursday with limited access to the internet (I didn't feel like paying $12/day when I know things to do in Vegas...). So yesterday was game day at the club and it was an interesting one, although I failed to bring actual effort into the building (perhaps a result of the fact that my flight to Reno landed at 6:50; I was 25 minutes late; I caught up on move 12 or 13). I had been looking at the games of Botvinnik on Saturday (Sometimes I just decide to look at a random book that I have, in this case Botvinnik's 100 Selected Games; definitely a great read as it is written by Botvinnik himself; his reign is almost as impressive as Kasparov's). Anyways, this led to me reading Botvinnik-Tal 1961 while I was in Vegas. There is a very interesting history during Botvinnik's reign of the chess realm. There was a rule in effect that said that he was entitled to a rematch one year later if he lost the championship. This rule helped him regain the championship twice, he lost in 1957 to Smyslov, and then lost in 1960 to Tal (he had almost lost in 1954 to Bronstein and there is some speculation that Bronstein threw the match, although Bronstein denies this in several sources); regaining the title the following year in the return match. I haven't actually read Botvinnik-Tal until this point and I was looking at the games and much like the first time these two met, nearly every game that Tal played white was a Caro-Kann.
So when I arrive I am due to play David Parreira who I murdered the last time we met in a Caro-Kann:
I decided to play e4 and go into the Caro-Kann again, but then I decided to play a more exciting line from the Advance Variation:
There is some explanation necessary here. Filipas-Garingo had just ended in a draw and so I was going over some lines because I could not believe that there was a draw there. I was spending very little time at the board because I had a crushing position and he was spending a long time at the board. Then I went to play Bc5 and had already grabbed the Knight when I realized that the f3 square was covered by that pawn and I was mated. Another advantage of the earlier Bb5 tells as the f1 square would have prevented the embarassing mate.
After this Nathaniel and I decided to play a 10 game match with G/40 time controls. I won the first game with a mate however he had a very large advantage when this happened. I'll post this game later as these two games took some work. At least something came out of my poor performance.
Last night after posting a game in my pet line, the Accelerated Dragon, I faced a very similar position over the board at the Reno Chess Club. This game is the type of position I am at home in, and I played a pretty accurate game. I couldn't help feeling maybe there was something more there for White, but as the notes confirm there is hardly anything. I played pretty well, I'm happy with it.
(14) Clifford,John (1591) - Gafni,Kevin (1916) [B34]November (2), 08.11.2007[Gafni,Kevin]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.f3?!
[7.Bc4 0-0 8.Bb3 a5 9.f3 d5 is the main line]
7...0-0 8.Be2 d5! 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.e5 Nd7 11.f4 e6 12.h4 c5 13.Nxd5? exd5 14.Qxd5 Rb8 15.b3?
[15.0-0-0 Qa5 16.h5 Nb6 17.Qxc5 Qxa2 18.Qa3 Qxa3 19.bxa3 Bf5-/+]
15...Bb7-+ 16.Qc4 Bxg2 17.Rh2 Ba8?!
[17...Nxe5 I had a feeling this move was better during the game but I chickened out 18.fxe5 Bxe5 19.Rxg2 Bxa1 20.Bxc5 Rc8-+]
18.0-0-0 Qc7 19.h5 Nxe5 20.Qxc5
[20.fxe5?? Qxe5 21.Rh3 Qb2+ 22.Kd2 Bd5-+]
20...Qxc5 21.Bxc5 Bh6! 22.Rf2 Rfe8 23.Kb1 [>=23.Bxa7 Rbc8] 23...Rbc8
[23...Nc6 24.hxg6 fxg6 25.Bc4+ Kh8]
24.Bb5?! [24.Bxa7 Nc6] 24...Ng4 25.Bxe8? [25.Rfd2 Bc6] 25...Nxf2 26.Bxf7+ Kxf7 27.hxg6+ Kxg6 [27...hxg6 may be better] 28.Rd6+ Kh5 29.Bxf2 Be4 30.Bxa7 Bxc2+ 31.Ka1 Bxf4 32.Rd5+ Kg4 33.Kb2 Be4 34.Rc5 Rxc5 35.Bxc5 And it's just technique from here... 35...h5 36.Be7 Bg5 37.Bd6 h4 38.Bh2 h3 39.b4 Bf4 40.Bg1 Kg3 0-1
After the game I was playing with Nathaniel, who is probably the best player at the club right now. I get frustrated by our games, I know that if I wait I can just beat him but I can't help attacking which really allows him to show off his style. Either way I really regard our blitz as more of a preparation for a real game. We're 1-1 right now in tournament play but I have yet to have White and I have a nasty line prepared if he plays his usual Dragon. In blitz last night he played the Taimanov, which was weird, and provoked me to sac a knight for nothing, which led to more sacs and me just running out of pieces. Then I played black and used under a minute for the game but actually got a pretty good position for the speed with which I was playing. Then I blundered and lost. Oh well. Blitz is blitz.
So I figured I would post some games from the summer of 2005. I thought they might take a while to dig up but today while I was waiting for my wrinkled shirt to get out of the dryer (I'm much too lazy to use an iron) and writing some notes for my first post today I picked up an old book of games and sure enough all my games from the first half of that summer were there (a happy coincidence) including the ones I can remember best. My rating that summer went from 1584 to 1787, over 200 points in a mere three months. I had always felt that I was underrated, but my performance that summer was when I started proving myself over the board (My quick rating also got a 332 point boost that summer, in only 8 games! I had only played 24 quick games until that point so that helped). This game is not a very well played game but it features a highly entertaining finish.
I still remember this game. The game before I had also lost the exchange from a won position and I had also won convincingly. I was extremely surprised to find out, much later, that 18...d4 is actually the best move. I was going over some games with GM Shulman last winter, I only saw him 5 or 6 times but it was pretty helpful, and I showed him this game and he liked 18...d4 a lot. I had thought that I had miraculously recovered from a severe blunder when in fact I had simply crushed my opponent. I was also surprised to find out when preparing this game to be published that 22...dxe2 (which in the game I thought was the turning point from being behind to regaining the advantage) actually squanders a lot of my advantage if he simply takes my queen on b6 and plays with the rook against the two bishops. The mate is unbelievable, it was very hard to sit still when my opponent picked up his king and slowly placed it on e1. I had seen the mate when I played dxe2 but considering if he takes on e2 he loses his queen by force I did not think I would actually be able to play it. Many more to come just a nice miniature to give you a taste.
My last couple years of high school I basically stopped playing, then when I was a freshman in school in Chicago I started playing a lot of blitz cause there are places to play (North Avenue usually has some good players hanging around). So then I started playing again and I really didn't know what openings to play. I had played the Accelerated Dragon for a long time (I still do) so I didn't need any help against e4. But I had no idea what to play for white or what to play against d4. I had played both e4 and d4 at different times in my youth and against d4 I had played the Benko and I had also played the KID, enjoying good success with both. But I was in the mood for a change so I started looking around. Then I found a complete repertoire book from Larry Kaufman called The Chess Advantage in Black and White. Now I would never buy a book like this now, but back when I had limited knowledge of theory it was a very useful find. He sets up a repertoire for white based on e4 with the Spanish Exchange, the Bb5 Sicilian, the French Tarrasch, the Caro-Kann Short System, and the Be3 Pirc. These systems share the fact that the theory is relatively easy to learn and they are all highly respected systems. For Black he recommended e5, which I ignored, and the Semi-Slav, which is a system that I like playing a lot. So I read the book and started playing these systems. But I found that with white I wanted more than these lines gave me, so I gradually made substitutes.
The first line to go was the Spanish Exchange, I learned the Scotch exclusively from a database and was getting good results with it online but I don't think I ever had to play it in a tournament. Throughout this whole period I was not playing tournament chess during the year as Chicago unfortunately does not have a good club (actually did not while I was there). Next I began experimenting with other Caro-Kann systems (also from a database), the advance with Nc3 and g4, and the main line. I am confident that in tournament play I could play any of these three systems at will although I have not looked at the advance Caro-Kann for a long time. Next to go was the Sicilian, from another repertoire book incidentally by Jacob Aagaard (and others) called Experts vs. the Sicilian. If you want to learn the Open Sicilian I would start with this book, it gives you a very strong introduction to the lines. Then I switched from the Tarrasch (or Trash as I like to call it (only because of my style, it is a very solid opening)) to the French Main Line, with help from Lev Psakhis in two texts from his four volume survey of the French. I have only read the two focusing on Nc3 (one is on 3 Nc3 Bb4 exclusively and the other is the rest of 3 Nc3) but assuming the other two are of similar quality this series is indispensable if you play the French. So that's how I built the repertoire I have now. You'll notice I am mostly drawn to the main lines, this has been a gift and a curse. These lines are very theory intensive, if you cannot learn theory easily then this is not a repertoire for you. What draws me to these lines is that the ensuing games are extremely fascinating. I used to think the French was boring and dull, but now I've played several Winawers and Alekhine-Chatards and I realize that this is far from the truth. The problem with playing main lines is that you are biting your opponents pet line. When you are learning the Open Sicilian you have to prepare to meet many systems (Najdorf, Dragon, Classical, Sveshnikov, Kalashnikov, Four Knights, Kan/Taimanov, Scheveningen, etc.), your opponents on the other hand only have to be prepared to face a few lines within each system. For instance I know when my opponent plays the open sicilian against me that I will only have to face the Main Line or the Maroczy Bind, but at that point (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3.d4) my opponent must be ready to play against the Kan/Taimanov, the Classical, the Four Knights, or my Accelerated Dragon. This used to be very frightening when playing the Open Sicilian, especially when I knew I could play Bb5 and get a comfortable game. And the lines are usually at least 10 moves long, in the 4th round of the WSO I played a game in the Dragon that followed a well-known game until my opponent deviated on move 25! (we had played each other the year before and we could tell we were playing each other so we both hit the databases hard in between rounds). However, the strategic and tactical themes are surprisingly similar throughout all of these systems, so once you start to pick up on these it makes it much easier to be confident in facing c5 with the Open Sicilian. My conclusion from learning main lines is that they are a lot of fun but they are very difficult. The primary reason that I learned the main lines is that I feel that they are essential if you want to be able to play to win at a higher level. This is obviously a controversial statement and there are of course other systems that afford White good practical chances. But the fact remains that these are main lines for a reason and against a seasoned player it is very difficult to gain any sort of an advantage in the opening with a side line.
Now that I have a good hold on the main lines of e4, I would like to broaden my repertoire further to include d4, primarily to give myself experience in different types of positions. I played d4 three times last year, once after losing three straight games, it was a nice win against a weaker player. I also played d4 in two out of my three games with white in the 2006 National Open and both were very impressive wins. So I'm sure that I can be successful with d4 but I am not sure where to start, but I have a repertoire book about 1. d4 on my computer so looks like I will repeat the process with which I built my current repertoire. If anyone has suggestions as to books or systems I would appreciate it.
The title of this blog should be a clue that I know how to have a good time. I've been known to go out 5-7 days a week. The week before the WSO, still going out every night, I would study 2-3 hours every day to be prepared, it paid off. This has me wondering what would happen if I kept up the habit for a month. Or a year. I hear from a lot of people that they don't have time to study. That's bullshit. When you get to a certain level it becomes very hard to actually study. What do I learn next? Should I learn new openings? Should I study a particular player's games? And as you look into these things it's difficult to assess how much you are actually helping your game. Certainly spending 2 hours a day (a mere 15 hours a week) on chess is worthless if you don't feel like you're getting anything out of it. But consider this, spending any time, at a board, with a titled player's commentary, helps your chess. There is no way that you are going to gain insight on a position from playing a blitz game online in that position, when you feel that you don't understand a position, find a much stronger player that has played that position and try to understand his explanation of it. If you're serious about being a competitive chess player, then you should spend at least 10 hours a week on your chess. I am guilty of putting off studying for days on end as I'm sure everyone else is, but when I do sit down to work, I work hard. If chess is simply a hobby and you want to put your time elsewhere, that's great too, but don't complain about not having time to study. There is always time.
Now for those of you who don't know how to study I have been in your shoes. Back when I was in C and even in my early days in B I had no idea what these titled players were talking about. The variations they give end and you have no idea how they came up with the evalution they did or why they give the advantage to one side. Because they give one side a slight advantage you start to try to find concrete variations that will win for that side and there's nothing there. Then you discard the evaluation as premature and "grandmaster voodoo" and you start to lose hope that you will ever be able to look at a similar position and arrive at a similar conclusion. DO NOT LOSE HOPE! It is at times like this that you are struggling with a new concept that you have not come across on a chess board before. It is easy to apply concepts that you have already learned and integrated to a position. But to apply a concept that stronger players have learned is not easy, it takes a good author to get this concept across in a clear way. For players in the middle classes I would look to authors like Silman, Soltis, VUKOVIC, Chernev, Fine, and maybe Nimzo or Capablanca. You'll notice that all of these authors with the exception of Silman and Soltis (who tend to cater to a lower rated crowd) all wrote over 40 years ago. The theory that we all take for granted today has been built steadily beginning with Steinitz over 100 years ago. Older games are simpler, a book like Capablanca's Best Chess Endings will teach you how Capablanca dominated his generation (essentially by exchanging pieces on squares that were favorable to him). Since Capablanca everyone realizes the importance of using discretion when exchanging so this is just one thing that you have to learn if you are going to compete. One series that I really enjoy is Kasparov's My Great Predecessors. By going through each time period individually and slowly moving forward you see how the openings developed and why certain variations are preferred over others as well as how middlegame theory and technique developed and how players in different time periods approached similar positions. This will help you understand why in 2007 we can rule out so many positions as bad. I will provide more book recommendations in the future but if you want some ask me in the comments and I will be more than happy to talk with you about it (I have a very extensive library also if anyone in Reno wants to borrow something).
But I started this post to detail what I am reading now and what I want to commit to until my next tournament (which may end up being the Far West Open, unfortunately). So here it is.
As the title implies, I want to spend 2-3 hours a day, or 15-20 hours a week. When I was at school I used to just wake up Saturday and read for 5-6 hours (assuming my head felt alright :) ). That is a habit I have long since forgotten but one that I would like to start bringing back. 5-6 hours really gives you a chance to get in depth with an opening or get a good chunk out of a book, or both.
As far as the focus of my studies, for this week I want to work on Chess Strategy in Action by John Watson. For those of you unfamiliar with Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy, his first book that was not focused on openings, I suggest that if you are over 1700 you buy it right now. Seriously, forget this post, buy that book and come back to read this later. This is the single best book on chess I have ever read, period. I was in a deep slump coming off of my star summer in 2005 and I really didn't know how to progress and I read that book and broke out of it completely. This book will help you focus on what's important on the chess board. This is also the book that instilled in me a love of studying, it hasn't felt like a chore since. Then there's this other book, Chess Strategy in Action, a much, much more difficult text. Targeted at players of at least 2000 strength the issues seemed trivial to me when I first attempted to read it after SOMCS but when I picked it up to prepare for the Western States I realized that I am now ready to embark on this text. But I rarely read only one book at a time, also this week is Anatoly Karpov Engame Virtuoso, which features Karpov's refined endgame skill in great detail (I would recommend this if you are 1800+); and probably some Spassky from Kasparov's My Great Predecessors Volume III.
The bigger project is switching from e4 to d4, or rather learning d4 so that I can choose which of my opponent's openings I will face. I started to write about it in this post but I think that there will be another post to follow shortly in which I will detail how I built my healthy repertoire over the last 3 years.
I've been playing chess as long as I can remember, my dad taught me on a plane when I was very young. However there have been several lapses in my career. I would say that I really became serious as a student of the game in fall of 2005 when at school. I had just broken through 1700 (now I have just broken through 1900) with a superb performance throughout the summer and I was basically buying two or three books a month from Amazon and just tearing through them.
I am, as Eric Shoemaker pointed out, primarily an attacking player, although I have won many games with positional finesse. I think that the reason that I am drawn to attack is that I have a good feel for the initiative. I am also extremely good at finding concrete lines and evaluating them. I have often been criticized for playing too quickly or pursuing plans (usually sacrifices or other significant changes in the position) when I could have simply improved my position or when it is speculative. I generally like positions that are very unbalanced, it gives me a good chance to be creative and it usually guarantees winning chances. The positions that I dread, not because I will lose them but because it is hard to win them, are positions that have the same pawn structure on both sides.
Anyways that's just a brief summary of my experience. I think that I will post a lot of games on here, study habits, results, rants, etc. It seems like fun.