He was winning,
but he didn't see it
and I escaped - as usual.

-Levon Aronian

My Achilles Heel

By drunknknite

I get as much pleasure from a clearcut positional win as a win by sacrificial attack. I have an attacking style for sure, but I win many games by positional finesse. My depth in analyzing strategic elements is solid, as is my calculation. I am able to evaluate positions at the end of lines very accurately although this for sure is the most difficult element of chess and I have many shortfalls in this category. My endgame is very strong although it needs to be much stronger if I expect to compete with masters. But there's one thing that costs me more games than any of these elements...

I used to call it haste or impatience, thinking that if I took my time I could overcome the blunders I made. Then I called it laziness, saying that I didn't work enough off the board and I didn't expend the necessary energy at the board. More recently I have called it boredom, because there are certain positions where I will not take interest and certain positions which I will produce very strong moves. But today I call it carelessness. I just find strong plans, I don't put the necessary effort into ensuring that the execution is sound. I don't care. I just figure it out along the way, even though I could easily check it and play another strong move if I tried. I have had this problem in school too. Once I know I can earn an A I don't really care whether I get it or not. That's led to a lot of B's that could have been easily avoided. Just like my carelessness at the board leads to losses. Losses, not draws, cause like I say I don't really care. If I think the game's going to be close and I'm going to have to work hard I might as well work hard trying to produce some sacrifice. This also helps me in my future games because I have real tournament experience in wild materially unbalanced games under my belt. But it hurts me because I don't remember how to win with even material (this is an exaggeration). And like I said I don't really care if I win or lose. But that's not true, I love to win tournaments, but just tournaments, not games. Don't get me wrong there are some games that are extremely satisfying to win and like I said I have won many games by a positional slight of hand. But usually I am only concerned with the first struggle, the first long tension, and if I win that I feel pretty good. Like I said I have been focused on that first transition for a long time and it's paid off. But there is another transition, and carelessness in this phase is the same thing I rely on if I lose the first transition. I get more determined and much more careful as soon as I have made a mistake. So why can I not achieve the same caution and care when my opponent starts to slip? Why do I assume they will make another mistake before I do? Am I really that arrogant during my evaluation of the position?



What I Learned in January

By drunknknite

I played 8 rated games this month against opponents with an average rating of 1944. I scored 3 wins, 4 losses, and a draw for a performance around 1900. Even though my rating is only 1950, I'm very unhappy with my performance this month, I should have made expert in LA. Taking performance on a month to month basis is pretty useless, but I actually learned a surprising amount from these games. I think playing more tournament games will help me improve considerably.

My endgame is weak to say the least, it needs to be my primary focus. I'm putting too much weight in my openings. Looking at my games I either gain a decisive advantage in the first 25 moves or I lose in about 50 moves (or in the case of my first round game in LA, BOTH). So at least my work on the opening and that first transition to the middlegame has paid handsome rewards. But I am finally getting outplayed in the endgame. When I was playing the C section I used to reach drawn endgames all the time and just convert them easily. This was also a theme of my dominance of the A Class at the Western States. But in expert things change, the mistakes are more subtle.

This new class is teaching me a lot very quickly. Chances are both players see most if not all of the tactical possibilities, which remain largely in the background. This is a sharp contrast to the lower classes where a missed tactic often decides the game. In this class tactics are used instead to alter the character of the position. But the effect of these tactics on the evaluation of the game often remains unclear.

This makes sense to me because rather than missing a strong tactic, stronger players allow tactics. No one will allow a change in the position that is obviously unfavorable so it comes down to either forcing an unfavorable change, or tricking an opponent into allowing an unfavorable change. The latter being through a positional sacrifice or often times a positional concession (IM Perunovic has been discussing accepting double isolated pawns as a form of strength at his blog). The former is done by punishing an opponent for a strategic blunder and is much more common at the expert level.

I have learned that experts make a lot of mistakes. They're subtle and there is usually no immediate punishment, but if I really seek them out I will find weaknesses. Then it is a matter of strengthening my technique to the point that once I find an advantage I convert it. That's where endgame study comes in. I've been reading Tal every day, just a couple games to get me warmed up, and in almost every game he discusses that from a certain point it is simply a matter of demonstrating his technique. At the beginning of the game he will make the position a little murky, of course usually launch a direct attack on the king, and then he just waits for his opponent to slip. Once his opponent slips it is over, Tal will never return the favor. But it is his strength in the endgame that is the complement to his ferocious attacks.

From playing players that are under 2000 I have gotten so used to seeing multiple mistakes. This is how the game usually goes: my opponent makes a mistake in the opening and I get a lot of pressure, then my opponent makes another mistake and succumbs to the pressure giving me an easy win. This is why my wins are averaging about 30 moves. If you look at the post below in the third game against Shoemaker you will see how this can hurt me. I got a lot of pressure and then I just waited because (I guess subconciously) I assumed he would make another mistake. And then I slip and let off some of the pressure and all of a sudden I am required to be extremely precise once again. I have been playing as if it is only required for me to be precise until I gain an advantage. This is not the case against stronger players, your play must be precise throughout. Gaining an advantage is only half the battle. Precision is the name of the game.



Triple Play

By drunknknite

Yesterday I had a slow day at work so I was able to annotate my other two games from the Western Class and my game from Thursday. They're all after the break...

Game 1

This is the game from the first round of the Western Class. He played the Pirc, which I love playing against, it's hard for Black to equalize. I get a winning attack and blow it returning the game to equality. We both make a lot of mistakes but I honestly have no losing chances until I blow a chance to win my opponent's queen and then blunder in the endgame. I played well overall but I made some silly mistakes.

This was a very disappointing loss but I learned from this game and the next game that it is not like they are seeing a lot more than me, I am outplaying myself.

Game 2

This is the game from the third round of the Western Class, it actually features the same opening as the game below from Shoemaker. For some reason I was afraid to play a normal kingside attack against this kid (turns out he's the 11th best 13 year old in the nation, but he looks older). I ended up just defending which is not my style at all and even though I kept it even for a long time I end up in a bad endgame which he handled very well.

Again a tough loss, but I learned from it and played a different strategy when Eric Shoemaker decided to abandon his regular 1...e5 in favor of the Dragon in our first game (although there will certainly be many more I'm pretty confident he will never play this opening again).

Game 3

The Class A Championship has been interesting to say the least, one player dropped out so now everybody has to take a bye. Eric had his bye already, so he was one point behind me, but if I had lost he would have a chance to take the lead next week during my bye week. I managed to win on time (only the third time this has happened in my experience) in what is probably a won endgame, but there was a lot of work to do. I should have probably won well before the time control if I had just played like myself, but I was hesitant. The analysis of this game has helped restore my confidence.

No losing chances at all in this game. Although I avoided double-edged lines that were obviously in my favor. I am not happy with this game.

Unfortunately, the tournament in LA set my rating back 30 points, so I may still lose the race to expert yet. However, maybe I needed the set back to get back to studying, I had this weird feeling that my play couldn't get any better over the last few weeks (isn't getting any better from studying may be a better way to put this) but there is obviously a lot of room for improvement. So I'm spending today with a few grandmasters in my room over the board.



Ceiling Chess

By drunknknite

Last night I was reading a post from polly on chess psychology and there was a comment from happyhippo regarding shirov's use of the ceiling in his calculation. I had just read something on it and I forgot where and it was really bugging me (I literally opened 3 or 4 books last night trying to find it). So I googled "Shirov ceiling" and it came back with a bunch of garbage, but I found an interesting article about some controversy that arose between Shirov and Kasparov and came to a head during their game at Corus in 2001 (I just can't ignore coincidences like this, finding a random article about a tournament going on right now). Anyways then I remembered where I read it, funny how little things trigger that, so here it is...

"In the '80's appeared a new generation of chess stars from the Soviet Union who created quite a splash, not so much because they were such fantastic players, but because of what they did at the chess board: they spent more time looking at the cieling ( or the spectators) than they did at the chessboard.

I remember the first time I played Shirov. It was '90, Paris, and I was paired against this relatively unknown youngster from Latvia. I played my normal game, and was quite astonished when I noticed that he would only look at the board from time to time, and that most of the time he spent staring at the ceiling! I still remember thinking that there was something quite wrong with the fellow! ''I will have no problem with this fellow'' I thought.

But was I amazed by what this guy ''saw''!! I still am impressed.

He was combining the usual 'visual' chess thinking with , what for lack of a better word, 'blindfold' chess thinking, and the results were very impressive. Even to this day he employs this technique.

Other players of his generation who did this also are Ivanchuk, and Gelfand. But it is a mistake to think that these players just 'happened' upon this new technique: it was a technique developed by Soviet trainers looking for a way for the new generation of young players to get an edge on the existing generations.

Today perhaps Anand is the most visible exponent of this 'school'...

There are many things you don't 'see' in chess which you do 'see' when you close your eyes, and of course, the reverse is equally true. I suggest you try some experiments!" -Kevin Spraggett (Here's a link to the post I made when I first read the article).



Easily Tempted

By drunknknite

This is the last game I played before I headed home in disgust. I play the opening with absolutely no ambition, allowing myself to fall very far behind. Then when I realize I am behind I succeed in fighting back only to be tempted into a very poor piece sacrifice. In the position where I sacrifice a piece I probably could have just waited around for a little bit and outplayed my opponent. He was lower rated and he had played rather poorly from the time he gained an advantage. But as I have done so often I force matters immediately and it backfires when I miss a mate and resign out of shame.

If you are wondering what prompted my sudden collapse at the end. I missed the mate after Rxd4. I thought I would be able to play c5 and c6 regaining the piece, but that is obviously flawed since the queen covers h2 and I get mated by Rd1.

This was really not all that surprising to me. After losing the first three games I was in no mood for chess. I was expecting to have a bye cause I was in last place (Sarkia had a half point). So I wasn't even really ready to play. Then I avoid the Marshall for some stupid reason and I just get myself into trouble trying to confuse him rather than playing good moves. At the end I really just wanted to see what would happen, but the sac is bad, I should have seen that. I really couldn't take a draw though, I would have been just as disappointed, so I tried to mix it up. Win or lose.




By drunknknite

After my first round game I wanted to go over it cause I was mad that I blew it but I didn't to conserve my energy for the second round. This round was my only game playing Black out of 4. I was paired with Amanda Mateer, who is one of the top rated 17 year old players in the country. Against the Queen's Gambit I used to play the move order 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 but I now play a different order to avoid 4.e4. For some weird reason in this game I played my old move order thinking I was protecting myself against weird Slavs that I didn't want to play. I was expecting a main line Semi-Slav (which I would have gotten if I had just played my current move order), but she fired off 4.e4. After the game she said that she had been 0-2 in this line prior to our game and she likes Black's chances but she's been playing it because someone told her to.

Every game except my last game reminds me of another loss I have played recently, so I'll include the other game as well and try to think of one that reminds me of my game in round 4.

This game comes from round 5 of my last 'real' tournament, the Western States Open in October.

11...Nd7 is forced and 12.e5 will win the bishop.

The game with Michael, who was also at the tournament in LA, came after 4 straight wins and had I won that game I would have guaranteed first place. So the pressure might have gotten to me a little bit. But somehow I am prone to these kinds of silly errors. What's funny is that in middlegame positions where little things like this are lurking around I will nearly always sniff out the danger but in the opening I am asleep for some reason. I need to reserve most of my thoughts on this topic for another post because if I start getting into them here it will become a very long discussion. But the long and the short of it is that there are certain positions where I am prone to lose interest and I basically just want the game to move along so that I can get interested in the ensuing positions. These positions are usually where I lose.



I Need to Work Harder

By drunknknite

I succeeded in getting my ass kicked, sort of. I really only got my ass kicked in one game, the rest of the games were very close. The first game I played was a real heartbreaker and I think the fact that I analyzed it before the end of the tournament really hurt me because I lost confidence in myself for missing such an easy win. Some of my classic errors told in this tournament, temporary loss of interest I think is hurting me the most, more about this soon. I went 0-4 and I was already scheduled to take a bye in the last round to drive home and I was afraid I would get a bye in the fifth round so I left last night got back to Reno about 7 this morning. Important thing is I actually learned a lot, also it was nice to get some good chess in, not enough of that in Reno. The drive home really sucked, especially since after two chess games and 6 hours of driving with only about an hour left I hit a snow storm and thankfully my car is all wheel drive so I could go 35-50 through it otherwise it would have taken much longer. Los Angeles is really cool though, land of four lane freeways. I don't know how it is during the week cause I heard traffic there is a bitch but I could easily get around at 80-100 anywhere I went which is cool. Big open freeways. It helped when I needed to think about my losses. I'll post them worst to best over the next week with more info on what I learned. I can't really do any worse in this section, I guess that's good.



It felt like I was back in London

By drunknknite

Tonight I played Grant, who is a good player but has told me that I am getting better faster than he is and that he will probably never catch me. I remembered that he played the London System, and before I brushed up on it I went to the Reno Chess Archives to make sure he was still playing it. Turns out he's been playing e4 and the Bb5 Sicilian, I feel much more vulnerable in this variation than in the London System so I just studied the Rossolimo Variation in preparation for Thursday's game.

When Grant showed up for some reason he decided to go back to d4 and his London System, he admitted after the game he hadn't played it in over a year and a half because he felt it was weak. I agree that it doesn't give White any advantage with accurate play by Black. He played it because he figured I wouldn't know about it, but I actually have looked at this line quite a bit because I've run into it online quite a few times.

Note: The actual game went 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 c5, immediately after the game I had my computer with me so we threw it in ChessBase to sort some things out and I used the move order below to get to the position in the game...

A nice way to go into this tournament. But I'm still pretty sure I'm going to get my ass kicked. I've been playing really well at the club though and that's a good indicator that it's time to go and learn some lessons the hard way.



The Black House??

By drunknknite

Normally this blog is very chess focused but this one was too good to pass up. Also with all the fun we had yesterday over at LEP's entertaining blog maybe I'll start posting random shit I see as well.

This article is about a joke, I think it's actually kind of funny but I guess the people at the event didn't like it.




By drunknknite

I just started snowboarding a month and a half ago. I figure if I have to live in Reno I might as well get into the best thing Reno's got going. I'm getting pretty good, I can pretty much carve down the mountain without falling. Some friends and I have a night pass to a resort about 40 minutes from my house and last night after work we went up there. It's usually pretty icy which makes it much harder and last night it was about 19 degrees at the base with probably 20 mph winds. It was cold. So we only spent about an hour and a half (I know that's how long it takes to get there and back but it's honestly worth it every single time). When I got home I wanted to study but I didn't know what. So I decided to follow the advice I gave to chessloser (I was thinking about him anyway because of how cold it was) and pull out Tal's Life and Games and just flip through it.

I had to do some digging to find it but I did and it was actually really nice to read it again. I haven't read Tal in a long time and his prose is truly unique. It is an inspiring read. The second game I looked at (Novopashin-Tal 1962) was a Sicilian Scheveningen (marked by knight on f6 and pawns on d6 and e6) but White played his Bishop to c4 (the most common approach is the Keres Attack which starts with 6.g4). Tal was Black and said that his opponent had been creating problems for Black in this line and on move 8 he says if he played a6 or Nc6 his opponent would be very well prepared. So he plays 8...Na6 and says this:

"I had to find something out of the book - even if only to gain a psychological advantage."

What other grandmaster (at this point he was former world champion) would say something like this to justify a move in the opening? This was also a game he felt he had to win! It was during the 1962 Russian Chess Championship and he had to play this game in between rounds because he was sick. He felt that if he didn't win the game he would not be close enough to Korchnoi to catch him (not that he ended up catching him, but still). The game from this point on is very instructive. Tal plays a standard d5 break, leading to an isolated pawn. He defends the pawn indirectly by activating his pieces with tactics behind the scenes, initiates a trade on e4 to get the pawn off the d-file, and uses the pressure from the advanced passed e-pawn to build up a winning attack.

This game was very inspiring to me. I have had a relative lull in studying for the last couple weeks and I wasn't exactly feeling confident about the 7 games I have signed myself up to play through Monday. Last Thursday I could barely hold my concentration through one game and Saturday through Monday I have to play 6 back to back. But after I read some Tal I was all fired up. I knew once I got to the tournament and made a few moves I would be comfortable. After all, it's just chess. And I'm playing Expert for the first time. So there's not even any real pressure, it's nothing like when I was playing A at the Western States and I knew I had a chance to win. So now I'm really excited and since I'm only 11 points away from the magic 2000 hopefully I'll be able to play some good chess and prove my worth as an Expert.



I was thinking about something...

By drunknknite

Last night I was working on the Maroczy a little bit when I realized something. I've been going about this all wrong. I have been looking at moves when I should be looking at games. You do not gain an appreciation for an opening by finding the next book move, you gain an appreciation for an opening by watching strong masters handle it against other strong masters. I don't even know the plans for White really, just the moves. And this is what has cost me, I've been missing the nuances because I haven't really been looking at games, I've been looking at positions. I haven't been looking at plans. In the Peterson game I knew he was going to play f5 after he played f4, but I didn't care to figure out how to play against it I just ignored it because I didn't really understand the main points. I have to figure out the main themes before I can make any progress.

Although I think AFTER you have acquired the themes by osmosis it is important to find the correct move orders to reach positions you are familiar with and comfortable in. Yesterday I got a lot of good ideas from a very unexpected source. More about this in a few months when I am ready to try them out.



Continental Chess Survey

By drunknknite

In my email I received a survey from Continental Chess asking about start times. I said start times should always be later. I'm sure a lot of you got the same survey. But the email was clearly a form letter that they had and upon closer inspection they didn't even change all of the fields, some of the fields were left as instructions as what to put in the field. There is also a 25% coupon but it is not clear whether it was intended to be there or not. Quite comical.

'Insincerity is easy to spot. Sincerely Bill Goichberg.'

I must add that I love the Goichberg tournaments and I will be playing in one next weekend. Still really funny though.




By drunknknite

One thing's for sure: I am not invincible. And the Maroczy may be my Kryptonite...

I was planning on posting everything in chess publisher but too much analysis I think, this happened before once. So just the game in chess publisher, and everything else here.

Peterson,David (1876) - Gafni,Kevin (1989) [B39]
Reno Class A Championship, 10.01.2008

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.Be3 Ng4 8.Qxg4 Nxd4 9.Qd1 Ne6 10.Qd2 Qa5 11.Rc1 a6? The early a6 is a good idea in the other system I play against the Maroczy, here it is wrong [11...b6;

12.f4 d6 13.Be2 Bd7 14.0-0 b5? Still incorrectly following this plan, which is not effective here

15.f5! my position is in shambles already

15...Bxc3? I am falling apart, I missed the threat

16.bxc3?! [16.Rxc3 it must be stronger to leave the pawn structure intact]

16...Nc5 17.fxg6?! [17.e5! Qc7 18.exd6 exd6 19.Bd4]

17...hxg6 18.Qd5? This move looks very strong, but [18.Bxc5 puts nails in the coffin 18...dxc5 19.Qd5]

18...0-0 19.Bxc5?!

[19.Rxf7! Rxf7 20.Qxa8+ Rf8 21.Qd5+ Be6 22.Qg5]


[19...Qxa2! move order is important here 20.Rf2 Be6 21.Qg5 dxc5 22.cxb5 axb5 23.Bxb5 Qa3 I do not see White winning this]

20.Bb4 Qxa2 21.Qd1 [21.Qd3 Bxc4 22.Rc2 Bxd3 23.Rxa2 Bxe2 24.Rxe2 doesn't seem so bad, although White is still winning]

21...Bxc4 22.Bxc4 Qxc4 23.Qd4? "I just figured it would be an easy win" -Peterson [23.Ra1 Qxe4 This is very difficult for Black]

23...Qxd4+ 24.cxd4 a5 25.Bd2

OK, so I have these connected passed pawns, there are two ways to draw this, one is to get the piece for the pawns, the other is to trade one pair of rooks and get all of white's pawns and go into a drawn (impractically won) R+B v R ending

25...Ra7? This is inaccurate, I should not be afraid of Rc7 as this takes away from White's defense of my passed pawns [25...a4]

26.d5? White returns the favor [26.Ra1 a4 27.Rfb1 Rb8 28.Kf2 the pawns are stopped]

26...a4 27.Be3?

[27.Ra1 Rc8 The pawns are sterile with the bishop on the e1-a4 diagonal]

27...Rb7 28.Rc6?!

I was hoping for this move, White is hoping to attack the Black position, this is incorrect, he should just play against the pawns

[28.Ra1 Ra8 This may still be drawn, the pawns are ready to roll]

28...Ra8!= with initiative! This felt good.

29.Rfc1 a3 The rook on a8 threatens to become active on a4

30.Bd4 f6 no mates here 31.Rc8+

[31.Rc7 Rxc7 32.Rxc7 Ra4! 33.Bc3 b4 34.Ba1 b3 35.Rb7 Rxe4 36.Kf2 b2 37.Bxb2 axb2 38.Rxb2 Black is winning]

31...Rxc8 32.Rxc8+ Kf7 33.Rc3

[33.Ra8 b4 34.Kf2 b3 35.Rxa3 b2 36.Bxb2 Rxb2+=]

33...b4 34.Rb3 a2

I found the way to regain the piece

35.Kf2 Ra7 36.Ba1 Rc7

It's all about rook play

37.Rxb4 Here my opponent offered a draw

[37.Rb2 Rc1 38.Rxa2 b3 39.Ra7 b2 40.Bxb2 Rc2+ the bishop is still lost]

37...Rc1 I moved almost instantly and decided to keep playing. It's not as though I have particularly good chances, but it is very hard to change your frame of mind and I was counting on a mistake, his pawn structure is weaker

38.Bd4 a1Q 39.Bxa1 Rxa1 40.h4 Ra3 41.Rb2 Rd3

42.Re2?! if the rook doesn't voluntarily become passive then Black can make no progress

42...f5! 43.Re3 fxe4?

I had been intending to play [43...Rd4 44.exf5 gxf5 I thought this was a draw, I'm not really sure. It's definitely better than the game though 45.h5 (45.Rf3 Rd2+ 46.Kf1 Rxd5 47.g4 Kg6 48.Re3) 45...Rxd5 46.Rg3 f4 47.Rg4 Rf5 48.h6 e5 49.Rh4 Kg8 50.h7+ Kh8 51.Rh6 d5 52.g4 (52.Ke2 Rg5 53.Kf2 d4 54.Kf3 d3 55.Rd6 Rg3+ 56.Ke4 Re3+ 57.Kf5 Kxh7 58.Rd7+) 52...fxg3+ 53.Kxg3 d4 54.Kg4]

44.Rxd3 exd3

45.g4! I missed this move when I played fxe4, I had convinced myself that he would have to go after the pawn but this is foolish[45.Ke3 Kf6 46.Kxd3 (46.g4 still draws) 46...Kf5-+ a pipe dream] ½-½

This game reminds me of a game about a year and a half ago that I had forgotten but I will dig it up and post it. It was also an Accelerated Dragon (but not a Maroczy Bind), I fell behind to the point that it looked as if there would be no salvation. But then found a winning endgame and ended up drawing.

I think this game exposes several character flaws that may trip me up on my quest to become a master.

First, overconfidence. This tells in my shallow approach to the position, falling so far behind so early. I haven't been challenged in a long time and this leads to laziness and cockiness. It also shows off the board, I have been lazy lately because I have been playing well. I just don't want to study, even though I believe that the regular habit of studying helps more than the tangible knowledge gained from studying. I am going to play the expert section at the Western Class Championships and hopefully this will humble me a bit so I can close out this tournament with the necessary determination and effort. Also in my last game in the Maroczy I was playing a different line, and I was prepared to play it again and had found some options. But for some reason I reverted to the line I used to play, a line I haven't looked at in over a year. This was definitely a good chance to use it but then I ended up playing the plans from my new variation instead of the plans from my old variation. Very sloppy.

Second, tunnel vision. In the analysis to my last game I mentioned that I probably would have played 13.Ng5 in response to 12...Rg8 because I had seen it several moves earlier and I thought it was strong. Here I play 14...b5 because I am on autopilot, I am not even paying attention to White's options I am merely trying to free my game. Again, sloppy.

Third, mental fatigue. After White squanders his chance and loses his way I should keep pressing. There's no reason not to play 43...Rd4, I was ready to play this and I was ready to keep pressing. Then I got caught up in 43...fe and convinced myself that this was winning overlooking a very simple reply. This is quite uncharacteristic. Although I had not spent very much time (I spent about 10 minutes after we reached the time control and 40 minutes on my first 30 moves), I really worked to find the solution I did. I think this must have had an effect on my ensuing play because usually my calculation in pawn endings especially is on point. If I think I can play well in Los Angeles next weekend I'm going to have to be much sharper than this. Study habits obviously contribute to the sharpness of your brain as long as you don't overwork it. I'm trying to find a balance this week.

The Maroczy is certainly a challenge for Accelerated Dragon Players. In his series on Jeremy Silman's website IM Timothy Taylor discusses his frustration with the Maroczy. I may be looking for alternatives. My next two games I also have black but against 1.d4 players, it would be interesting to see if they decide to hunt me down in this line instead.

One good thing about this game, I'm realizing why I lose games.

This song pretty much sums it up:

I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in
And stops my mind from wandering
Where it will go

I'm filling the cracks that ran through the door
And kept my mind from wandering
Where it will go

And it really doesn't matter if
I'm wrong I'm right
Where I belong I'm right
Where I belong
See the people standing there
Who disagree and never win
And wonder why they don't get in my door

Bonus: A quote from Hillary Clinton when she was in a hispanic neighborhood in Las Vegas: "We treat these problems as if one is guacamole and one is chips, when ... they both go together," Good metaphor...




By drunknknite

In my last game I talked a little about how I wanted the game to be over and I stopped paying attention. The game presented after the break is very similar. I get a huge advantage very early and by the time the queens are exchanged at move 33 I am up the exchange and two pawns. I was so mad that he wouldn't resign. I know this may be the wrong reaction but honestly this isn't in the D class, we are A class players. Why do I have to play this out? So I proceed to move my king into a skewer since I figured I didn't even have to look anymore and then I realize I just gave up my exchange....

On move 42 he offered a draw. I was furious. He doesn't have any winning chances. Of course he wants a draw. I am the only one who should offer a draw. I laughed (I know that's rude but fuck him) and he got all smug after I refused like I was disrespecting him in some way. How is it that old people (he was OLD) can be so disrespectful and not even notice and think that you are disrespecting them when you take offense? And then he makes such a passive move on move 46 and from there I was on cruise control. I wasn't even spending any time at the board that's an elementary win and he's still just playing it out like he's going to find a draw. In the lower classes it is not a guarantee that they will win so easily but I do not think any player rated over 1700 would have any trouble converting the position after Black's move 46 into a point. Would you play this out? Why?

I can say that I wouldn't play this ending out.

My last question for you is how confident are you that you would win this ending? Does this affect your answer from earlier?



Can A Move Be Ugly And Beautiful?

By drunknknite

I came back from London very eager to play a game. Hungry almost. Then as Thursday approached I started getting a little nervous. I haven't been nervous when playing experts, but I think because I am 'expected' to win the A section it adds a little pressure. I have the highest rating and also my good results lately translate into a huge target on my forehead.

Also I had never faced this opponent. He is at his floor of 1900 but at one time he was rated well over 2100. He doesn't play regularly at the club and so I had very little idea of what to expect. I was also toying with the idea of opening with 1 d4. All in all I was just a little jittery, probably a result of my week off.

In the end I decided to play e4 and my opponent introduced a sideline in the French Winawer. When I saw his ninth move I literally cringed. My spirits were lifted; I rose to the occasion and attained a completely won position on move 12! Black tried to create complications with an exchange sacrifice but was busted by a very straightforward finish.

There are a couple moves I want to talk about in more detail.

9...Nd7 - This move condemns the Black Queenside to passivity. The Bishop is trapped and consequently the rook is trapped. Here I paused because I knew Qc7 was coming next and I had to put two pieces on e5, I chose to play Bb5 and defend indirectly because this meant that Black had to go to extraordinary lengths to get his pieces out. The bishop cannot even be kicked by a6 because Black's a-pawn is pinned to the rook. The French is marked by Black's inactivity in the early stages, if White can prolong this inactivity into the later stages of the game then Black has lost.

12. Kf1 - This move is profoundly strong. When I first started playing 3. Nc3 I was unable to appreciate moves like this. It always seemed to me that king moves like this were made mostly from a position of weakness, not from a position of strength. The variations that arise from the Winawer are very sharp, and the game hinges on White's ability to establish and maintain the initiative. My position after this move looks so ugly at first glance, but there is undeniable harmony between my pieces. Black's position at first glance looks very solid, but upon closer inspection we realize that none of his pieces can move and holes will be created before his pieces get into the game. I found Kf1 before I played Bb5, because I wanted to attack f7. I realized that by pinning the knight Black couldn't play Ne5, which would defend f7, but then I saw that if I moved my knight from f3, then Qe5 comes with check. So Kf1 parries this check. It also gains a tempo by hitting the rook. It also allows Rg1 which is the strongest follow up to any of Black's rook moves. The king needs a home, obviously castling is out of the question, but on e1 the king is vulnerable to checks from e5 or c3.

12...Rxf2 - I was very surprised when returning to my computer after leaving Fritz to dissect this move for several hours that Fritz recommended this move over all the alternatives and by a large margin. My opponent and I were under the impression that this move was an error but it turns out that White's initiative has become so strong due to the time lost by Nd7, Rg2 and now another rook move that Black will be forced to lose material in the ensuing moves. I think this sacrifice was provoked by the fact that it looks like White's king will not be so safe at f2 and also White's king has just moved and now must move again.

The hypothetical 12...Rg8 13 Ng5? - I may have already convinced myself to play this move during the game, but by the time Black played Rf2 I had found the strength of Rg1 and I was starting to play with different move orders. This move would have been a mistake, although I am pretty sure Black would have played 13...Rg5 anyway which allows White to retain some advantage. I have gotten over the bad habit of playing premeditated responses instantly (the psychological effect is not nearly enough compensation for a faulty plan, this used to be a very serious defect in my play) so I may well have found the strength of 13. Rg1, but in any case the fact that I had thought Ng5 was so strong is an error. I was too caught up in the plans that I had started to consider on 10. Nf3 and I was not open to other plans of kingside attack. Also, I overestimated White's chances after 13...Rf8. This error has taught me a valuable lesson, and also shown me that even in such a strong victory it is still possible to gain insight into my own faults.

15. bxc3 - I had glanced at the rook sacrifice on f2 at some point and as soon as I saw this position I knew that there was no chance for Black. All of his play is gone and my position is so strong. My rooks are connected, everything is defended, the king is inaccessible. I'm up the exchange and he has no compensation whatsoever.

17. h4, 18. h5, 19. h6 - After Black has retreated his queen to d7, he has blocked his Bishop in again. Fritz recommends taking the a7 pawn, which is obvious, as slightly better than 17. h4. But Black is several moves away from ever using any of his pieces and all my pieces are on good squares. Also I had realized that there was no stopping this pawn without making serious material concessions. The fact that I can play these three moves in succession show how poor Black's position really is.

20. Rag1 - I wanted to take on f6 and it took me a little bit to see Black's reply (20. exf6 Qg3+), this move puts the rook on the open file where it threatens to penetrate into Black's kingside, and also threatens exf6 since now there is no Qg3.

28. Nd4 - The c2 pawn protects my king from checks along the second rank, the knight defends c2, the bishop defends the knight, and the king defends the bishop. Black's queen has nothing to attack.

The last few weeks it has been nice to see my effort away from the board produce such strong chess over the board.



Time to Study Fischer

By drunknknite

Three years ago I was just developing a habit of studying and I really didn't know what to study. I had never put any real effort into my game. I had been stuck at 1600 for three years although I was probably already stronger than this. The reason that I lost interest in chess in the later years of high school was mostly that I did not want to work at it. I wanted to be good, but I did not have the discipline to make it happen. This is one of my major shortfalls, I am so used to things coming easily to me that when I am faced with a challenge I often do not step up to the plate. I also had no guidance, no one to tell me what to read, what games to look at, I was on my own. So coming off my hiatus I crafted a repertoire and studied openings, just as I had done in high school. I also studied endings every once in a while cause people say you're supposed to. But I had never really given any thought to just looking at annotated games....

Of course I had seen a lot of games, but when I was studying I would very rarely look at annotated games. When I was looking at annotated games the annotations hardly made any sense. I was looking at more recent games and the themes were too advanced for me. The opening was way over my head, then the middlegame would feature comments that seemed like Chinese, and annotations in the endgame were simply exhausting. Then I came across Capablanca's Best Chess Endings by Chernev. I studied this book almost exclusively during the first half of 2005 and my rating went up 200 points over the summer (which was my chess season during college). As I read this book, I found themes that I could understand. In Capablanca's time there was no advanced opening theory, no exchange sac, no Chinese, just pure simple chess. Exchange the pieces at the right time in the right place and convert. So simple, so beautiful. My tendencies to attempt to create brilliancies because I had seen Tal and Fischer and Kasparov do it went away and I just played simple winning chess. I have a distinct attacking style, but there is nothing I like more than reaching a drawn endgame and outplaying my opponent. And I started to realize how to reach won endgames from the middlegame, and how to convert won endgames into full points. I realized that the sense of urgency in my play should be controlled and avoiding conflict can be useful. I was no longer trying to find holes in my opponents moves, I was finding holes in their positions.

After the summer when I was done with Capablanca I read Watson and all of a sudden everything made sense. I was unable to look at annotated games because I didn't understand them. It was not that Watson explained modern chess so well that I absorbed each individual concept and was able to put them into practice. It was that I realized that each individual concept was a product of the games of the masters of the past. Each concept had been introduced slowly through hundreds of games and to gain a full understanding I would have to turn to the past. I bought the Kasparov's My Great Predecessors, Volume 2 (I was done with Capablanca, time for the next era). This features the games of Euwe, Botvinnik, Smyslov, and Tal. I had never even heard Euwe, but from this book I gained a great appreciation for him. I knew my strategy was correct. I could understand the games of this time period. As 'new' ideas were introduced I was acquainted with them and studying became not a chore, but a compulsion. I sped through Euwe and arrived at my first chess hero, Mikhail Botvinnik.

If you had asked me my favorite player (or my opinion on the best of all time) before 2005 I would have said unhesitatingly Fischer. I was in love with the story of Fischer, but I knew very little about his chess. In fact I knew very little about chess history in general. When I started to read Botvinnik I fell in love. Botvinnik's play was so dominating, so methodical. In many of his games it seems as though his opponent is merely going through the motions and does not get any say whatsoever in the course or outcome of the game. After reading Kasparov's portion of Botvinnik I bought Botvinnik's self-annotated games and his analysis is so well thought out. It all made so much sense. I didn't feel as though any of the analysis was out of reach. To break such a scientific approach to the game new ideas were required and who better to introduce these ideas than Mikhail Tal. To fully appreciate Tal I think you have to read Tal's prose. He is such a talented writer, his evaluation of the position is so down to earth. He gives it to you straight. During this time I also read a lot of Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games, but I was going to wait until I reached the fourth volume of the Kasparov books before I performed a detailed analysis of Fischer.

Studying the Kasparov books seemed like such an accessible way to gain knowledge on the history and now I have finally reached the Fischer book. I am ready for the themes that Fischer imparted on the game. Not that I am not already familiar with them in many ways, but I think it is important to understand the source. I ended up skipping around a little bit because I was studying Karpov and also studying a lot of modern themes. But as far as my chess history goes, it is time to learn about Fischer.



Is Anyone Going to This Tournament??

By drunknknite

I want to go to the Western Class Championships in LA during MLK Weekend. I would much rather share a room and transportation costs (I can drive from Reno) than get a room by myself. Is anyone else considering going to this tournament? I suppose if you are in the Southern California area and have a couch I can sleep on that would work too.