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Archive for January, 2012

Crushed in the Sicilian Najdorf

In round 3 of the local city championship my young opponent completely crushed me with the Siclian Najdorf. You can replay the whole game here. I wasn’t really prepared for the Najdorf and was actually happy to remember my opening variation. This didn’t really help because two passive moves in the early middlegame were enough for Black to start a strong attack.

So what would you play here? In hindsight it’s clear that White’s chance is a strong king side attack and he must not waste time. My 13. Bc4? wasn’t in spirit with this, I overestimated Black’s chances and thought that I need a bishop as defender of my king. Black is already better and can continue with his simple plan while I stumble to find something concrete over the board. And fail – a deserved win by Black.

Next time I will be better prepared and games like this are the reason why I need more practice. Only by getting the positions on the board it’s possible to learn something about the middlegame plans or to try out different paths to find out what works or what doesn’t.

One day later I had another OTB game, this time in the Lower League. My 1736 rated opponent also played the Sicilian but obviously without knowing the theory. It looked like a Paulsen spiced up with agression. After surviving the first 10 moves I got the upper hand and easy attacking moves. He was already low on time (20min left for the last 20 moves) and finally made a mistake that immediately broke his spirit:

20…d5? loses to 21. exd5 with discovered check. The game can be replayed here.

This week I will have Black in the 4th round of my tournament, and I will meet the sister of my opponent from round 2. She usually plays 1. Nf3 but maybe she prepares something against the Sicilian, who knows.

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We have beautiful winter weather, almost too good to play or follow chess. The lake on the first picture is quite large, from one end to the other it’s more than 1.4km (0.9 miles). The other is smaller but closer to the place where I live and they don’t charge for skating.

In round 2 of the city championship I faced a young woman rated 215 points below me so chances for a win were good. Somehow I thought to remember that her sister plays the Alapin variation (2. c3) against the Sicilian and as I haven’t played it in ages I better prepared for it. Of course it came completely different, we played an Open Sicilian and I had the chance to try out my hedgehog:

The hedgehog setup looks quite unchallenging but once the position opens it gets pretty dangerous. Here, however, I had a tactical shot and played 13…Bxe4. I thought 20 minutes about it to make sure that the counter attacks don’t work. What I didn’t want to do was the allow some crazy sac that blows the position around my king apart.

White had the chance to cause some trouble after move 19:

20. Rxe5! looks very interesting because after 20…Qxe5 21. Bf4 the queen is trapped and only the brave counter attack 21…Bxb4 will save the day for Black. Very dangerous! In the endgame I had the advantage and was able to convert it into the full point. You can replay the game here.

Next week I will meet an opponent from last year – last time he had a rating of 1664, today it’s 1819. I will have White and after looking at the games from the other players I came to the conclusion that

  • players of 16yrs or younger prefer 1.e4 and 1…e5
  • players between 16 and 30, well, anything is possible, from Pirc to Reti.
  • older players most of the time play 1.d4

I will spend some time this week to study the Ruy-Lopez. I am well prepared but I want to study some model games to understand the typical plans better, especially how to counter the attack on the queen side.

 

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The Magician from Riga

My chess buddy Paul has posted an interesting article about Tal with many nice quotes. This reminded me that I still have to finish / continue my book with Tal’s sacrifices and I did the first step last night.

I don’t have to tell you how unique Tal was so let’s head over to his fascinating game against GM Hans-Joachim Hecht, which you can replay here. What would you do in the following position?

Definitely not 19. exf6!, a queen sacrifice à la Tal. The story goes that Najdorf kissed Tal for this move and people were feeling the echos of the game Lilienthal – Capablanca, 1935 where the following happened:

Lilienthal played the forcing 20. exf6 and Capablanca resigned 6 moves later. It’s not a real sacrifice, Black’s king is trapped in the center and White will capture at least one more minor piece. With a potential doubling of the rooks on the e-file and a pawn on g7 White is clearly better here. In the game Black played the queen to the e-file and White ended with 2 minor pieces for a rook and a huge advantage in activity.

In the Tal game it wasn’t so clear although the computer evaluates the position as equal. This is a clear reminder that you have to look at all candidates even if they look completely crazy at first sight. Chess is a creative game and playing unconventional moves is great fun. Look at the position after move 21:

Would you like to play Black? Hecht mentioned that he was a bit shocked by this move and that it took him minutes until he was able to calculate the variations. Under this pressure he was able to find the best defensive move 21…Nxh4. He later made positional inaccuracies that lost the game.

There are two interesting conclusions:

  • If you have the choice between a solid move or a positional sacrifice, chose the latter. Humans don’t like pressure and often collapse if they have to find many only moves in a row. Not to mention that the defensive capabilites on club level are not the best.
  • Always look for a defense, no matter how lost the position may look. It’s amazing what you can do to stay in the game and stubborn resistance is an important skill to get better in chess.

Tal’s games are great for motivation. Right now it’s not really necessary because you can enjoy good chess in the Wijk an Zee tournament. And if you still wonder why learning to make with bishop + knight is good for your chess, look at Carlsen’s win against Aronian. That’s piece coordination!

 

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Me vs. Caro-Kann

In the first long of this year (2 hours for 40 moves, 1 hour to finish the game) I had the white pieces and my 1963 rated opponent played the Caro-Kann. I mixed up the opening moves a bit but reached a very interesting position where I had  enough pressure to make life difficult for Black. There was even the chance to win a pawn with a very simple tactic:

Alas, I missed my chance and after 3.5 hours of playing I went for an unsound knight sacrifice and overlooked a backrank mate. Game over. You can replay the whole game here.

My opponent takes chess serious and we had a long post-mortem analysis session. This was actually the first time that it happened that deeply, usually my young opponents are too shy and the older ones only play for fun.

The next game is on Friday and I will play against a young woman rated 1435. Her whole family plays chess so I definitely need to watch out. I remember that her sister uses 2. c3 to counter the Sicilian and I will have to spend some time to prepare accordingly.

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It’s time to look back at the chess year 2011.

I have played my first 2 tournaments and greatly enjoyed them! Including league games I played 16 games over the board (OTB):

  • 8 games with White, 4 won, 2 drawn, 2 lost
  • 8 games with Black, 1 won, 2 drawn, 5 lost

I have analyzed the games deeply and it became clear that I didn’t lose any of the games in the opening. Most of my opponents were not booked up anyway and we ended in unknown variations very early. Getting familiar with the resulting positions will have the top priority.

Online I played more games:

  • 24 games with White, 12 won, 8 drawn, 4 lost
  • 25 games with Black, 13 won, 2 drawn, 10 lost

This is quite interesting. As Black I lost 2 Benko Gambit games  but won 4 games where the move order resulted in English games or in the Reti. With the Sicilian I won 6 games in my favourite Kan/Paulsen system and lost 4 so this is clearly something that can be used to win games. In addition I lost 2 closed Sicilians.

With White the top openings were 5 Caro-Kanns (1 win, 3 draws, 1 loss), 5 Ruy Lopez (3 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss), 4 Sicilians (1 win, 2 draws, 1 loss) and 3 French (1 win, 1 draw, 1 loss).

At the moment I need to play more games to see more middlegame positions and to learn the attacking plans. OTB games are especially useful because something is on stake and the mix of focus and high tension results in creative play from both players. I will get my chance this weekend when the first round of the city championship starts (7 rounds, 2h for 40 moves + 1h to finish the game). Considering my current rating of 1650 national ELO I will have to face a strong opponent in this round, probably someone around 1900-2000.

Wish me luck!

Some might remember that I have set myself goals for 2011. I have achieved the number of long games (65 instead of 50 planned) but failed to analyze 30 games (28 only). Regarding chess material I radically changed my plan in the middle of the year and I noticed that if you play a lot of games, you don’t have much time to study new topics. At my level it doesn’t matter that much. Being tactically alert and following the right thought process is more important than acquiring specific knowledge. The motivation is much higher if I go wrong in a game and look up the correct way post mortem. The knowledge will be connected to a particular experience and can be easier retrieved.

Goals for 2012

My goals for this year are:

  • Playing 50 long games. The more the better and I particularly have to look for strong opponents.
  • Focus on the implementation of the right thought process. No additional knowledge is required at the moment, it’s enough to deepen what I already know but forget to use in a game.
  • Annotate 30 games.
  • min. 10 puzzles on Chesstempo per week
  • Play 1 long game per week + post mortem analysis or alternatively analyze 2 games. This will result in two long chess related sessions covering all aspects (opening, middlegame, endgame).
  • Review the status in Summer 2012 and identify the main weaknesses. Create a trainings program for Sept-Dec to address these weaknesses.

That’s it, nothing sophisticated. It’s my 3rd year of serious chess study and there is no pressure yet. The goal is to collect enough material to make progress towards ELO 1800.

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Happy new year 2012

I wish all my blog followers a happy new year! I used the holidays to spend wonderful days in Eurodisney, a fantastic way to start the new year. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is especially thrilling where you are in an elevator that … falls down. Just below the Hotel writing is a door that opens and you can look outside before the door closes again and the elevator drops down.

This week I will think about my chess goals for 2012 and come up with a new plan. After my vacation I am not really motivated but I am sure that this is going to change very soon.

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