Archive for September, 2010

Pawn ending in the TL playoff round 1

I scored a somewhat lucky win with Black in the first playoff round against my 200+ points higher rated opponent. You can replay the game here.

We reached an interesting position around move 21.

(Position after 21. Bc3)

I did my best to calculate the lines and evaluated the piece exchanges as equal. However, I missed that I could attack the d-pawn with my e-pawn, activating my pieces and reaching a better endgame. Instead we reached the following position:

(Position after 25…Qd5)

I thought that the queen trade is good for Black, but this only shows my poor understanding of pawn endings. It will be much easier for White to reach the center with his king, e.g. 26. Qxd5 exd5 27. f4 Kf8 (27… f6 28. exf6 Kf7 29. Kf2 Kxf6 30. Ke3 Ke6) 28. Kf2 Ke7 29. Ke3 and White is better.

Luckily White was fooled (?) by my low rating and decided to keep the queens on the board. He did it with 26. b3?? and Black replied of course 26…Qxf3.

Endgame time. I was happy to have reached a drawn pawn ending and just tried to avoid traps. After the game my team mate Guoruey gave me a great lesson on how to handle such positions. He was quite upset about the poor moves and I was extremely lucky that my opponent made mistakes as well and finally overpressed.

We reached a typical book position after 39. a6:

(Position after 39. a6, Black to play and win)

Try to find the right move on your own.

Okay, I played 39…Kg5?? and White returned the favour with 40. f3??, which loses immediately.

The right move was 39…f4!. White has to move back (otherwise he loses his e-pawn), Black now uses his extra tempo to play b5 and it’s over, we have reached a Trebuchet situation and whoever has to move will lose his pawn.

I was completely ignorant and missed these themes, however, the game motivated me to look them up so I will be better prepared next time.

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On my quest to read award-winning and popular SF stories, it was time for Harlan Ellison. Usually you can already guess from the title that it’s an Ellison story, who can forget I have no mouth, and I must scream or "Repent, Harlequin!", said the Ticktockman, two of my all-time favourites.

Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38 54’N Longitude 77 00’13"W, which can be found in the Deathbird Stories collection, has not the same quality. The beginning is excellent. A man desperately looks for a way to die and meets a special agency that can provide instructions to fulfill his wish. It takes a while but one day everything is set and the protagonist is ready to go on the final journey. This part with the journey puzzled me a lot. There are hints to possible connections but it’s all very vague and I don’t know to which other book or story Ellison is referring to.

An original story but not Ellison’s best.

Side note: The title is kind of a joke, I am sure not many people know where the Islets of Langerhans are. The coordinates point to a crossing in Washington.

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Calculation training (1)

I will soon start to focus on calculation training like the one below.

What is the best move for White in this position?

(White to move)

I didn’t find the solution in 20 minutes. Training, training, training…

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How not to play the Sicilian Kan

Yesterday was the second game in my chess 9030 tournament, the long awaited duel with Signalman. All strategic knowledge was in vain because I already lost the game in the opening phase. I completely underestimated the danger of being behind in development, started an adventure on my own and suddenly faced huge threats on the queen side.

Congratulations to Signalman who once again has shown his biggest strength: a very good feeling for piece activity and to use it in fast attacks. Usually my opponents play too slow and I have time to organize my defense. With all these pawn moves in the Sicilian Kan, Black usually falls behind in development and must be careful in the first 15 moves. I knew this but to face the situation in a real game was new to me. The temptation to win a pawn was too big and I paid for that.

The game was a high quality chess lesson and taught me to pay attention why moves are played in a certain order in the Sicilian Kan. It’s a flexible system and requires a flexible mind that understands what’s going on. Delaying development only works if the opponent is doing the same.

I start to miss my trainings games with Paul. We used to pick an opening and played it for both sides. This works really great to get a feeling for it and to find out which plans work and which don’t. In no time Paul would have smashed me with his better sense for tempo and initiative and I would have learnt this lesson earlier.

A funny thing is that the loss doesn’t bother me. The inside I gained outweighs by far any personal feelings. I hope that the game against Ilre will be similar, maybe with a different result but of the same quality.

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Chess 9030 has started

My first game in the chess 9030 tournament was a rather easy win. The only unknown fact was if my opponent farbror has trained somewhere else so that his current ICC rating was kind of misleading. It was a rather short adventure, Black forgot to develop his pieces and was quickly outplayed. We reached the following position after 15 moves:

Position after 15...Bf6

White is easily winning here and one move is very tempting: 16. Nxf7!

I calculated the variations as good as I could but finally came to the conclusion that White doesn’t get the material back. After the game I looked at the position again and found that the move was indeed winning for White in all variations. It’s great that I considered the move so my thought process is in good shape. I really need to work on my calculation skill though.

We finally ended in a king and pawns ending and here I saw some ghosts.

I calculated some variations in which the 4 king side pawns were able to break through and promote. A more detailed look with the computer showed that there was nothing to fear. The simple plan for White having 3 connected pawns was to play b4, c4 and to clean up with the king. The counter play for Black was tricky though and was a good lesson in pawn endings.

The next game is on Monday and will be more exciting – Signalman is waiting!

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Superman stumbles

What a terrible game last night in the STTourney. My opponent was krankenstein, his rating varies a lot between 1200 and 1400 (in my game he had 1227). He has played a huge amount of games so he might be an older guy with enough time to enjoy the game. My self-confidence was enormous and I thought that I can beat him easily. I was completely wrong – he crashed me in 20 moves.

The first problem was the opening. 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 and I was out of book. I really need to have a plan B for such situations. The time control of G60 practically forces you to play quickly in the opening so that you have more time later. I didn’t think much and played on as usual.

2…c5 3. Nf3 e6? 4. Bf4

(Position after 4. Bf4)

I completely underestimated the danger that White can put his knight on c7. Next time it will be very important for me that I stop my mindless play and spend some minutes to come up with squares for my pieces. The whole position feels like a Sicilian so I could have continued with a6, d6 (blocking the bishop) and so on, aiming for a hedgehog like setup.

(Update: I had another look at the opening moves to find a way how to transpose the game into something I already know. The best option for me was to play 3…cxd4 4. Nxd4 d6 and then to continue the development as in a typical Sicilian. Usually I play e6 first and then d6 but in this case it’s not correct because White threatens e4 followed by e5 and Black’s knight has to go away.)

My inflexible brain however didn’t mind to continue with the original fianchetto plan, ignoring any possible threats.

4…g6?? 5. h3 Bg7 6. e3 0-0 7. Be2 Nc6??

This not only loses a pawn, it still ignores the threat of a knigt on c7. Black’s backward center pawns limit the activity of the pieces.

8. cxd5

I was completely frustrated now. I have lost a pawn, my position was ugly and it was very difficult to activate the pieces. I have messed it up. Instead of taking enough time now to find a way out to get some counter play, I continued my fast play. This is a good lesson for next time: carefully assess unknown positions. If possible, take the easy way out (like an early capture of the d pawn) instead of making your position even worse.

8…Nd5 9. Nxd5 exd5 10. c3 Re8 11. 0-0 Ne7 12. Nd4 b6 13. b4

(Position after 13. b4)
It looks already very lost. The best move here was a6 to prevent the knight from using b5 to get to c7 but of course I didn’t notice it.

13…Nc6?? 14. Nb5 Be5 15. Nd6! completely dominating the position

Game over. I played on a bit but resigned at move 22 after losing even more material. I was very upset after the game and must apologize to my opponent for my rude attitude in our chat. As many players do he said “good game” which I took as a personal insult. I played terrible and felt very bad. Was this a good game? He insisted that it was, which annoyed me even more, but a minute or two later I was calm enough to take it easier.

Krankenstein, if you read this, my apologies. I am usually not like this.

Even such a poor game of mine provided interesting lessons, I actually learnt quite a lot. Never underestimate your opponent. Be careful in unknown opening positions, spend some time to find squares for your pieces. Simplify if possible. Prevent a knight outpost on the 5th or 6th rank. Beware of a possible knight jump to c7 supported by the dark bishop.

I remember in my 2nd OTB game, my opponent thought a long time about his third move. This was time well spent!

Fortunately the desaster happened on ICC in a friendly competition. My goal is now to win the next 2 games in the STTourney to reach 50%. I won’t make the same mistakes again…

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First TL win in U1800

My week of long games has started with a nice win. You can replay the game here, I won’t comment too much on it. My opponent didn’t really know how to handle the position. Usually you attack very quickly in the Grand Prix attack, otherwise Black completes development and starts to attack himself – and this was exactly what happened. The critical moment for me was move 13.

(Position after 13. Ne3)

All the other moves were flexible decisions to wait if White creates a weakness. He didn’t and it was time to attack.

Black has a couple of typical pawn breaks in this position. e5 is not so good because it weakens the light squares d5 and f5. The same is true for b4, it weakens c4. c5 is also not good, after a couple of exchanges Black hasn’t gained anything.

This leaves the move 13…d5. White countered with 14. e5 but Black retreats the knight to d7 and after a later 15…d4 we have two great outposts for the knights on e3 and c3. My f5 move was a slight mis-calculation, luckily for me it worked anyway. With just a few minutes left on the clock, it became very difficult for White to hold the position. He finally blundered and it was all over.

A nice win and I hope to follow up on it tonight in the STTourney.

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