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

-Levon Aronian

The Qualifier Continues

By drunknknite

My first two games of the championship qualifier were scary. I ended up ok but I played absolutely horrible chess. The third game was similar...

But the fourth game went really well.

Here are the two games.

The main thing I was doing in the fourth game that I wasn't doing in the first three games is rejecting my own conclusions. Over time I was able to gain a firmer grip on the position and avoided making mistakes out of carelessness.

I really wanted to win but more than that this felt like a must win game. I was not positioned well in the tournament after losing my third round and also it was against Shoemaker who I have a not so secret vendetta against. I told him I would beat him 10 times before he ever beat me. I have 3 after last Thursday... Vern Young said "If you had lost that game you would have never heard the end of it."

During the day of this game I felt an overwhelming sense of confidence. It was very weird. I knew that I was going to win I just had to pace myself and continue finding strong moves. And that's what I did. I used my time well and I produced a nice clean win. No chances for white, no tricks, just steadily building on a lead. Just like I said I wasn't doing in the last post. I haven't felt this good about a win in months, my play was very strong. It was a good day.



Sorry Team...

By drunknknite

I joined wang and chessaholic as a Patzer Boy and proved that I am a huge patzer. Playing on board one against a 1650 I obtained a huge advantage and decided that the game was going to play itself. I could make a lot of excuses but really I just played horribly. Meh, it's round one. Here's the game. Try not to laugh at the end.....



I Lost Interest, But It's OK

By drunknknite

So I've been playing poorly (I lost last Thursday) and I really think I needed a break from chess. Good thing my coach is playing in the European Individual Chess Championship right now. I was in the wrong state of mind for chess. I was more in love with my recent accomplishments than with the game. And that's bad. I wanted to improve my chess, I didn't want to learn chess. So to reinstill a love of the game I dusted off Great Predecessors Part 2 and looked through the first two games...

And it worked! I like chess again. A lot. I forgot what it was about. I forgot why I was good in the first place.

The last three games I've played I've been playing carelessly. I haven't been focused on making the best move. I've just been making moves and hoping that I get to a position where I can just win. I joked with my friend who I've been playing poker with lately that poker has been ruining my chess. We're playing these $50 buy-in tournaments at a local casino on Monday evenings and they're intense. It's 2 hours of decision making and it's a different form of decision making than in chess. In poker you cannot possibly have all the information, not so in chess.

The best part of the Predecessors series is Kasparov's analysis. It's deep. If I get lazy and read just the moves I get bored easily, but once I play through the variations I see why all of them are included. Also they usually bring to light themes that are not pursued in the game.

Euwe-Bogoljubow 1921 is the second game. I must note that the first comment to this game is by 'drukenknight', this is not me. I have never made a comment on chessgames.com. I spent a full hour looking at this game last night. It wasn't really only this game since there are several games embedded in the text, but still. It's a line that I play for white and it's a very interesting one.

After 21.Qf6! the endgame is lost for Bogo, but even this move is fascinating. It seems white has an attack and would want to keep the queens on, but Euwe just simplifies and quickly decides the game. Anyways if you scroll through the game quickly it looks like Black gets crushed. And he did. But.... THERE IS SO MUCH PLAY FOR BLACK. I couldn't believe how much. Even after 13.Bg6, Nd4! keeps the game level. I want to talk a little bit about how there is so much play, and then about how this heightened my perception of chess.

OK, so looking at move 12.Rh3, this is the crucial moment. Euwe has just completely committed to a kingside attack. Kasparov gives two other games in the notes where Euwe uses this Rh3 and Bg6 idea to beat this variation, it's a nice attack. So Black must mobilize his pieces or he is done. One of the things that was always unattractive to me about these positions for Black is that he is so underdeveloped it seems as though White will have no trouble executing any plan he wishes. It turns out that this is not the case. Instead of 12...Qa5 Black must play 12...cd which forces White to recapture. So after 13.cd Black plays just Bd7 (or Qa5 and then Bd7, no real difference). White's threat after Bg6 is that if fxg6 Qg6 and then after the king moves Qf6 winning the h8 rook. So Bd7 defends this rook with the a8 rook and takes away the threat. For instance 12...cd 13.cd Bd7 14.Bg6? Qa5 15.Kd1 fxg6 16.Qg6 Kd8 17.Qf6 now accomplishes nothing because of 17...Kc7 which holds everything. Just realizing this was absolutely amazing to me. The inclusion of the simple pawn exchange completely nullifies the attack.

So that's definitely not all the analysis in the book, but it is enough for the scope of this discussion. I am not looking at enough themes when I play. I want to get the game down to one line and just play that one line but there's so much more to every move. So many themes that I am just ignoring. I'm not giving chess enough credit. It is much deeper than the little traps I set and the checkmates I see. I am increasingly defaulting to moves that look good rather than moves that are good. I know how to find good moves. I really do. But so much of the time I am just waiting to find a knockout. I don't even know if I'm capable at this point of just building on an advantage. The thought sounds foreign. Going back through my games this is what I'm missing. I just want to win right away.

What I really needed to get from last night was that BLACK HAS PLAY. My opponent has play. There's always play in a position. ALWAYS. Kasparov in his book is able to insert complications that have been found in the 80 years since this game has been played but in reality he just sheds light on modern chess. In a recent post chessloser was saying that he wants to speed up his process of learning by looking at modern games. The problem with that is that modern games break the rules. They play positions that are 'unplayable'. Positions we naturally reject because we cannot possibly comprehend the depth of their thought. Games at the top level traditionally followed a set of rules, and these rules were steadily broken (new rules were introduced - double isolated pawns, exchange sacs, positional pawn sacs, etc.) until we got where we are today.

The game is about constantly fighting. Not only making the best move (as this is subjective a lot of the time) but presenting your opponent with unsolvable problems. To do this sometimes you have to accept unsolvable problems as well, and this is what annotators mean by positions that are unclear or have chances for both sides. Then you just fight. Minimax style. Limit their chances and maximize your own. That's what it's about. Sometimes I forget and I think I see a win, but all I really have to do is shut my opponent down. In order to do that I have to remember that there is ALWAYS PLAY FOR BOTH SIDES.



Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

By drunknknite

After I scored my fourth consecutive point at the Western States last October I lost a game in 12 moves cause I dropped a piece. Someone who had been watching the fourth game asked me how I did in the fifth round and when I told him what happened he said "You're a freak!"

Check out the first two rounds of the Club Championship Qualifier.

There's this weird side of me that comes out sometimes and I don't really know why or how but I miss the most obvious things. Luckily in this tournament I have managed to salvage 1.5/2 points and I am tied for third with Simanis. If I continue to play like this I may not even earn a spot in the finals.



Far West Open 2008 Continued

By drunknknite

So it occurred to me today that I haven't posted my games from rounds 4-6. It's been almost a month! Since I've been holding out on you guys, here they are.

The first game is disappointing to me. I fell apart after I saw that he had found some good strategy. In reality I was still in the game.

The second game I just made a typical 'Gafni' blunder (more to come in the next post). Somehow I get away with having a high rating and still making awful, awful moves. It happens, that game sucked.

The third game was a nice way to close out the tournament, sure he played horribly but I finished him well.



Live: Midnight Study Session

By drunknknite

I thought this might be a cool idea...

12:00 AM: I'm in my garage. I have a board to my right and I'm on my computer (hehe). I went over some rook endings earlier today per my last post (I've been working on 4 pages of Dvoretsky for a week). Though not for very long. I also played a few games today. I won them all, but in one specifically I had a very bad position. I got caught in an opening trap. The other two had interesting openings too and I realized I haven't been looking at openings so enter midnight study session.

Game 1: Open Ruy

This one I did not get caught in a trap just didn't really know the theory and I want to feel more comfortable next time I play the position. The game went:

So now I want to get a feel for these other options, I'm not sure I want to be playing 9.a4, let's take a look at the other moves. I start by running an Opening Report on the position after 8...Be6. For those of you unfamiliar with the Opening Report it is a fantastic tool. It takes the position and gives you all of the options for the other side as well as statistics and famous players who take each side. For instance:

In this line I have 22 games where Anand plays Black, 86 games where Korchnoi takes Black, and even 44 games where Euwe takes Black. Since these are world class players, they will have world class opponents, and this usually means quality theory.

So I click on the 44 games for Euwe and a few of the notable White opponents are: Alekhine, Boguljubow, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Keres, and some guy named Fischer, R. I'll look at those games.

Alekhine-Euwe (2 games)

I looked at the game from 1937 first, Euwe demonstrates how to maintain the balance with queenside expansion. Very nice technical game holding the great attacking player Alekhine at bay. Then I looked at the game from 1935, Euwe was even more impressive here. He obtained a completely won position and then squandered the advantage attempting to simplify. Alekhine found the beautiful 38.b4 and began a dangerous pawn race which was enough to equalize. Very cool game. But Euwe definitely demonstrated his proficiency in this line. Let's see how future generations handled it.

Boguljubow-Euwe 1941

This game is a little later, Euwe crushes Boguljubow easily with an attack on the kingside that is nothing short of fierce. Very good stuff. When is White going to learn to play this?

I notice that in Keres's games against Euwe, he managed to find a form, losing the first game in 1937, he drew in 1939 and then won in 1948. I went through in chronological order.

Keres-Euwe (3 games)

In the 1937 game Keres gets crushed. Euwe beats him on both sides of the board and controls everything. By 1939 Keres has found some interesting ideas, he attacks on the kingside immediately and effectively. Euwe answers by also attacking on the kingside, interesting, and finds good resources to force a drawn endgame. This one was hanging on the edge. In the third game Keres has found the answer. He fights for the d4 square and establishes a good knight on d4 to play against the horrible bishop on e6. A very interesting method, he allows Euwe to trade on b3 recapturing with the a pawn and giving himself double isolated b pawns, and then manages to trade b3 for c5 to firmly establish control of the d4 square and the game. Keres certainly matured in the 10 years in between his first session with Euwe. That's cool.

The Fischer game is not interesting but the Smyslov game, which appeared 3 rounds after the Keres game in the 1948 World Championship is impressive.

Smyslov-Euwe 1948

Smyslov must have sensed the weakness of the queenside after the Keres game and destroys the whole queenside complex, relying entirely on his lead in development. This is a very good Smyslov game.

OK, so after Smyslov and Keres destroyed this opening in 1948, let's see Korchnoi revive it.

Hm. Karpov-Korchnoi is 13 games... That's a lot. Also appearing on the White side: Tal, Bronstein, Geller, Shirov, Ponomoriav, Ivanchuk, and Timman. It's now 1:00, I'm going to call it a night. I think this was productive though. And I know where to go from here to learn this opening.

To be continued....

PS: It's my birthday today.



I'm still here.

By drunknknite

I took a break from posting. I haven't even really looked at my fourth round game and that was supposed to be my next post so it will be a little while. Maybe tonight actually, but I'm not sure. After posting my first three games my life got a little busy. I used the weekend to make up on the snowboarding I missed during the tournament. But I wasn't giving up on chess. Quite the contrary...

I met for the fourth time with my coach on Saturday. The first two times were just him feeling me out and then the next two times I wanted to look at endings and I also showed him my games from the Far West. So we looked at them and I got a lot of ideas from him. It wasn't just him giving me advice and lines and finding good moves. It was more his evaluation of my attitude at the board and my approach to the game. Then when we were doing endings I got a little embarassed by my lack of knowledge in such simple positions as Lucena and Philidor.

So since then I've been working on those positions a lot. And I realized these positions are fairly easy. I've just never taken the time to really learn them. Not just learn the principles, I know those, learn the positions. Just like I know my openings. It's good to know the themes, but there are a few key positions and I should know them, know how to get into them, know how to win and draw them. In my sleep. I'm starting to see why these positions are important. After all getting a won ending is the goal of chess. What if I ended up in a won R+P ending and I couldn't convert? That's not the way to beat a master.

But there's more. I used to study all three phases of the game at a time. I think that during these periods I learned the most. I recommended it to chessloser and Vern at the tournament because I think it is a key element in my success. When I encountered these positions, I went over them, but I didn't learn them. Whereas when I encountered problems in the opening I looked to solve them completely, really learn them. And whereas when I found interesting middlegames I would look for numerous examples of the theme. In the ending I got lazy. I couldn't build the necessary motivation to learn these endings really well. So I stopped studying the ending. And now I have ok endgame knowledge that is a poor complement to my strong opening and middlegame. I can't help thinking how many endings I've avoided because 'rook endings are drawish'. I don't even know what a won rook endgame looks like.

So what's the point of all this? Study endings right. Well yeah, but there's more. When we used to run the mile in PE I used to sprint the last 100-200 yards as hard as I could because I knew I had the strength in me to do it and that was the end. Right now I'm 180 points away from that magic 2200 number. Also this is my first club championship so I thought: what better way to squash the doubt that I am the best player at the Reno Chess Club than to win the championship and make master the same year? So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to win the club championship and sprint to the master title this year. Period.

Since I've hired a coach, it would be a waste of time to not study as hard as I can. If I lean on him for support then I will get nowhere, but if I take his suggestions to heart and learn the positions he wants me to then he can help me move forward.

When I have found determination to study in the past I have achieved strong gains very quickly. Usually I have the knowledge to outplay my rating first, then my play comes second. That's how it has to go again. I have been focused on improving my play but it is time to turn back to knowledge and just learn as much as I can over the coming months.

I knew I had expert in me, so I slowed my studies and just kept winning til I got it. But now it's time to really prove myself. Everything up until now has just been leading up to this push. This final push. I've known I was capable of being a master since I was very young. Time to push myself hard and prove it to everybody else. Catch me if you can.