Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Two Games in 30 moves!?

I played two games on Saturday, one against a 2200 and one against a 1656. I lost the former and won the latter, both last a mere 15 moves. The first began unconventionally:

1. Nc3 c6 2. e4 d5 3. Nf3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bg4 5. Bc4 e6 6. h3 Bh5 7. Ng3 Bg6 8. h4 h6 9. Ne5 Bh7 10. Qe2 Qe7 11. d4 Nd7 12. Bf4 Ngf6 13. O-O-O O-O-O 14. Nxc6 Qd6 15. Bxd6 1-0

Position after 13....O-O-O

What a blunder O-O-O was. I'm certainly not going to hit 2000 soon if I make moves like that. Sometimes I feel it's easier to see the tactics against you opponent than it is to see potential threats. After 14. Nxc6 the game is lost. Taking the knight loses to Ba6# and Qe8 looses to Nxa7#.
As for the odd opening, a move like Nc3 can be played a player with a flexible opening strategy. It essentially can let black dictate the opening, but if he is not careful, he can find himself playing an opening that is he not used to. For example 1. Nc3 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. e4 and all of a sudden the position is a philidor's defense. My transposition to the Caro-Kann was relatively fine, but I wasn't terribly used to the 2 knights variation. 13...Nb6 14. Bb3 Nd5 would have been best for me and lead to a fine position.

The second was a reversal of fortunes:

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e5 Nd7 6. Bxe7 Qxe7 7. f4 a6 8. Qg4 g6 9. Nf3 c5 10. dxc5 Nxc5 11. O-O-O b5 12. Nxd5 Qb7 13. Nf6+ Kf8 14. Rd8+ Kg7 15. Nh5+ 1-0 as it is mate in one.

Position after 11.... b5

12. After Nxd5, the loss is rather forced, though it took me a few minutes to find it. There is no better move for black than Qb7. 13...Ke7 also loses to 14. Ng8+ Rxg8 15. Qg5+ Ke8 16. Rd8#. is the only Hopefully this win will break my slump which has seen me go 3-5-1 since my win streak ended.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Lackluster Results

After a couple of busy weeks, for which no chess was possible, I returned to competitive play with lackluster results. In the first round I played a rather unexciting game versus a 1625 as black. It drew, but I was the one fighting for the draw. The second game began much better for me against a 1654, but the result didn't turn out so good. Now I've had two losses in the last four games. When you lose, it's best to analyse why, not only game, but the surrounding circumstances.

I got into time trouble at the end and that's what made me lose, but what was the cause of my poor time management? Instead of working on openings, perhaps I was playing a little too much blitz on the net? I think playing blitz at time controls less than 5/0 hurts your game. Playing at these quick times disrupts your timing as well as playing any chess variants does. 5/0 blitz is good practice for openings, but you need to back it up with other studying. Playing itself, doesn't necessarily improve your game.

1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 exf4 4. Nf3 Bd6 5. d4 Nf6 6. Bc4 O-O 7. O-O Bg4 8. Qd3 c6 9. Nc3 b5 10. Bb3 b4 11. Ne4 Nxd5 12. Nxd6 Qxd6 13. Ne5 Qe6 14. Bxf4 Bf5 15. Qf3 Nd7

I thought for a while here. I looked at 16. Nxc6 Be4 17. Bxd5 Bxf3 18. Bxe6 Bxc6 19. Bb3. I thought, all that, and I would just win a pawn. Chessmaster (CM) liked it, but engines tend to go for the quick pawn. I thought that it would eleviate all the pressure and that winning with just a pawn isn't a walk in the park. However, black's b4 pawn is very weak and 20. Bd6 will fork the rook and the pawn. Something like this is hard to see when you are playing. I decided instead to bring the other rook into the game and continue putting pressure. It was still a fine move (2nd best according to CM)

16. Rae1 Nxe5 17. Rxe5 I also looked at bishop takes, but thought Bg4 was an easy way out for black. Turns out that CM likes Bxe5 much better. 17...Qg6 18. Bxd5 cxd5 19. Qxd5 Bxc2 20. Rg5 Qd3 21. Rg3 Qe4 22. Qc4 This is played to continue to prevent the f pawn from moving. 22...a5 23. Be5 g6 24. Qc7? This was my major mistake, although it's not obvious! I thought the queen was the most ill placed pieced so I wanted to try to bring it around to f6. I was running short on time by this point though. I had about 7 minutes to my opponent's 25. While 24. Rgf3 would be winning and would have given me a score of 2.47. Instead CM calls it an even game after O-O. Sometimes, you need to create a weakness and then switch to where you are attacking. The only was to protect f6 is 24...Ra7 but 25. Bd6 would have white with a much clearer advantage.

24...Bd3 25. Qe7 Ra6! 26. Rc1 Rc6! 27. Qg5?? f6 I saw f6, but I didn't have time to realise that the rook trade on c1 first, would kill my chances to recapture his bishop. 28. Qd2 Rxc1 29. Qxc1 fxe5 0-1 There was a few more moves, but I shortly ran out of time afterwards.

I'm also including a pgn version of this game here without any comments or move anontations. I will start doing this for my games that I post and I recommend others do it as well. Although screenshots are nice, it's still hard to follow a game. If you to the "Chess Lab" site, hit the link for Load Game, then cut and paste the below, the game will be loaded for easy replay! Proper format is no "!" or "?", one space in between the number and the move, castles are with "O"as in oh, not "0" as zero.
1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 exf4 4. Nf3 Bd6 5. d4 Nf6 6. Bc4 O-O 7. O-O Bg4 8. Qd3 c6 9. Nc3 b5 10. Bb3 b4 11. Ne4 Nxd5 12. Nxd6 Qxd6 13. Ne5 Qe6 14. Bxf4 Bf5 15. Qf3 Nd7 16. Rae1 Nxe5 17. Rxe5 Qg6 18. Bxd5 cxd5 19. Qxd5 Bxc2 20. Rg5 Qd3 21. Rg3 Qe4 22. Qc4 a5 23. Be5 g6 24. Qc7 Bd3 25. Qe7 Ra6 26. Rc1 Rc6 27. Qg5 f6 28. Qd2 Rxc1 29. Qxc1 fxe5

Sunday, May 22, 2005


M-tel Masters-Updated

Just finishing in Sofia, Bulgaria, a super-GM tournament. The big catch is that draw agreements are not allowed, removing the tendancy of GMs to draw after 20 moves. I did well with my predictions! I figured of the top 3 playing (Topalov, Anand, & Kramnik) that the early draw happy Kramnik would have some psychological difficulties.

Final Score out of 10 games (ties breaks are included in placing):
1: Topalov 6.5
2: Anand 5.5
3: Polgar 5
4: Ponomariov 5.0
5: Kramnik 4.0
6: Adams 4.0

My pre-tournament predictions:
1: Topalov (home field advantage)
2: Polgar (she's a risk taker)
3: Anand (how could he finish less than third?)
4: Adams (typical Adams finish)
5: Kramnik (he'll be uncomfortable playing on in certain positions)
6: Ponomariov (who is he going to beat?)

Monday, May 16, 2005


Playing Juniors

I haven’t played any over the board games in a few weeks so I don’t have too much new to discuss. However, I was thinking about play against juniors.

Playing children can be psychologically challenging to adults. Perhaps you are scheduled to play a 10 year old in your next round of your tournament. He can’t drive, vote, and hasn’t even learned algebra, yet he may be your rating equal at the chess board. It certainly can be intimating because you fear a serious loss of pride if you lose. Perhaps you have some friends with you that will amplify that loss as well. However, I think it’s time to turn the tables on them

My anti-kid strategy:

1. Play slow. Kids tend to play quickly. Don’t play at their speed. Use the time you have to work out combinations and strategy. Making them sit there and be bored will make them impatient.

2. Play old openings. Kids tend to play openings that are in fashion…which means Sicilian, Roy Lopez, etc. They know the opening moves by heart. They have several lines memorize, but they don’t necessarily understand the strategy behind them. I love the look of bewilderment on a kid’s face when I play the King’s Gambit. Often then, they go into a bad line. Since nearly all children play the Sicilian, a closed Sicilian of some type works well against them. They never see them when they play against their friends at school. It's all about quick attacks.

3. Closed positions: Kids are all about tactics, tactics, and tactics. They seem them and they can run through them quickly. What they don’t understand are slow buildups, queenside expansions, minority attacks, weak pawns, control of individual squares, or endgames.

4. Complicated positions: When there is a lot going on in a position, whether tactically or strategically, kids get frustrated having to sit there and think about all the complications. Typically they will trade to get out of it. Make sure any result trade gives you an advantage, like in pawn structure.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Sicilian - Alapin variation

Originally wanting to drift away from the opening complexities of the Open Sicilian, I was looking for a viable alternative. I played the Alapin 1. e4 c5 2. c3 a few times with mixed success. I continued looking and found the Grand Prix, which has given me much better results.

The Sicilian Defense, Alapin Variation begins 1. e4 c5 2. c3. It looks rather intriguing, but I don’t see white gaining much of an advantage. Although, I’m certainly not qualified to evaluate an opening, I can see how effective an opening will be for the club player who has a limited amount of time to study. For the average tournament player, it doesn’t seem troublesome for black can easily equalize.

The first variation to evaluate is 2...d5. Many of the moves are natural but I don't think black has any trouble bring out his pieces. Looking at the below position, White has an isolated pawn, Black can put his light bishop on b7. It already looks drawish at best. The position isn't complex enough to give White chances to attack. Many pieces will probably get traded and white's isolated pawn will be a liability. 1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Be2 Nc6 7. O-O cxd4 8. cxd4 Be7 9. Nc3 Qd6

The other major variation is to play 2...Nf6. Here white's pieces are slightly better placed. The pawn on e5 is a good pawn and hinders a Black defense of his kingside. White has better chances to attack. However, white has two isolated pawns on the Queenside. If Black can trade pieces, he will have an endgame advantage.
1. e4 c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. e5 Nd5 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nf3 e6 6. cxd4 d6 7. Bc4 Nc6 8. O-O Be7 9. Qe2 O-O 10. Nc3 Nxc3 11. bxc3 dxe5 12. dxe5 Qa5

The third variation, which people didn't seem to play, transposes into the Advance variation of the French defense after 1. e4 c5 2. c3 e6 3. d4 d5 4. e5.

In Part II, I'll add positions I faced over the board.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


The Streak Is Over. Oh the Horror

I had managed to stretch my unbeaten streak to 21 games (+18 =3), which included two masters (both wins), and 16 people over 1600, and I had also won 17 of the 18 games. This period also saw my rating go from 1699 to 1915. All good things must come to an end, I guess. I lost a battle with a 2000 rated player during a time scramble. Both of us had under 3 minutes and I blundered first. I’m not too distressed because I know I played a solid game.

The opening began favorably for me. I’ve had good results with the Grand Prix. I was actually 7-0 with it before this game.

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. f4 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Bc4 Nc6 6. O-O Nf6 7. d3 O-O 8. Qe1 Be6

I decided trading the bishops here would open the h-file for him and add a pawn in the center.

9. Bb5 a6 10. Bxc6 bxc6 11. Qh4 Nd7 12. f5 gxf5

Here I thought for a good 10 minutes. There are many different possibilities and continuations to consider. The other variation I looked at was 13. Ng5. after 13…Ng5 14. fxe5 Bd5 15. Ne4 Bxe4 16. fxe4 I saw this position. I didn’t really know how to continue from here. Perhaps 16. Nxe4 would be better? Perhaps Rf3 could follow. I chose to continue the way I did because I wanted to get the bishop in the game before “blocking” it by knight. It may have been the move to make but it’s quite difficult to decide at the time.

13. Bh6 f6 14. Qg3 Rf7 15. exf5 Bxf5 16. Nh4 Be6 17. Nf5 Bxf5 18. Rxf5 Kh8


13…f6 is an excellent defensive resource. My 14th move also took a long time to think. There are several things to consider. If I allow the light squared bishop to go to g6, any attack is stopped. I also don’t want to allow his rook to control the g-file. I want to bring my other pieces into the attack, but also am aware of how long that will take. Ne5 looks to be like another defensive resources. His dark squared bishop isn’t great, so I’m also not in a rush to trade it away. I looked at 14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15. Qh4 pinning the f pawn to the bishop. I even looked at Ng5 sacrifices, but I don’t think they worked. I decided on the line I played because it allowed my knight to move out of the way for my rooks to come into the game.
The line I looked at took me here. I didn’t want to trade bishops as mine is better. His really just gets in the way.

19. Bd2 Rb8 20. b3 Ne5 21. Rh5 Qd7 22. Qh4 Bf8 23. Rf1 Qg4

Here black is able to force a trade of queens. Perhaps 23. h3 would have been better. At this point I have about 6 minutes to his 30 minutes. I spent so much time trying to find the correct attack.

24. Ne4 Rg7 25. Qxg4 Rxg4 26. h3 Rg6 27. Kh2 Nf7 28. Rf4 Rh6 29. Rh4 Rxh5 30. Rxh5 Bg7

Now black’s pieces are coming alive and he’s up a pawn. However I think my piece aren’t bad at all. Black has three isolated pawns to guard and it won't be too hard to pick off one. After 32. Rh4 I have the option of Ra4 as well.

31. Ng3 e6 32. Rh4 f5 33. Nh5 Be5+ 34. Bf4 Rb7 35. Bxe5 Nxe5 36. Nf4 Rb4 37. Kg3 Kg8 38. Nxe6 Rxh4 39. Kxh4 Kf7

The rooks get traded and we go into a knight and pawn endgame. I think I have a significantly better position here. I think with time, I could have won this position. He has three isolated pawns. However, he’s got about 4 minutes at this point, and I’ve got about 3. That’s the downside of a G/60…the endgame will suffer. I might have even started to play TOO quickly. At one point, after about move 43 or so, I even had more time than him. However, I was moving somewhat blindly at 5 seconds a move or so. Resulting, I walked into a pawn fork. I’m not too disappointed with the loss. I know I played solidly. Perhaps next time I will have a better feel for the attack and not have to spend as much time on planning it over the board.

40. Ng5 Kg6 41. Ne6 Kf6 42. Nf4 d5 43. a4 Nf7 44. Kg3 Ke5 45. Ne2 Nd6 46. Kf3 Nh6 47. Ke3 f4+ 0-1

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