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Archive for September, 2012

What I do when I don’t play chess…

I recently stumbled upon a very nice, old-fashioned Adventure game for the PS3:

It’s called Machinarium and you can play a demo version online. I really loved the old adventures from Lucasarts like Indiana Jones, Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle. They combined tricky puzzles with humor and great stories and it was a pleasure to play them.

Machinarium looks fantastic with its cute robot and the old robot city. Unfortunately the game itself has a tendency to hide things in the scenery and with the PS3 controller it can get tedious to find out what is usuable and what’s not. On a PC it will be much easier although even there I prefer to focus on the puzzle without worrying about a missing part. The puzzles become very difficult in the end and there are a lot of mini games to solve as well so the game will keep you busy for quite some time.

Play the demo and see for yourself. 🙂

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Spanish Galore

I played two more long chess games last weekend. On Saturday the local chess league started and I had my first OTB game after 6 months. I had White and reached a good position after my opponent lost a pawn after a miscalculation. Unfortunately I spent too much time finding a winning plan and ended up in serious time trouble:

Here I should have rather retreated the knight to keep the minor pieces on the board. Now a series of exchanges started and I even won a second pawn but lost it soon and in the resulting queen + 2 rooks ending with many pawns I made the final mistake to exchange queens. After that it was a technical draw. Quite annoying but a good lesson how to keep winning chances.

The 2nd game was a Team4545League game, board 1 against a lower rated player. I underestimated Black’s chances in the middlegame and was a bit lucky that my opponent didn’t look hard enough at the following position:

It looks quite ugly for White but the open g-file could be very dangerous for Black. Anyway, the obvious 19…h4 was rather bad because I get two pawns and a bishop for my rook together with a strong attack at the king. The game didn’t last long and the finish was nice:

Black couldn’t do much here and I spent some time to calculate the winning attack that starts with 29. Qg6. I guess my opponent still didn’t see what will happen soon but after this key move it was mate in 5 no matter what Black does.

There will be one more long game this week and the next OTB game is due in 3 weeks. Enough time to analyze the games that I have played and to address my weak areas.

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Some thoughts about my ELO 1800 goal

When I restarted my chess training, I set myself the goal to reach ELO 1800 by summer 2013. From today’s perspective this is unrealistic and it will rather take another 2 years (at least). The main reason is of course my own laziness. I had long periods where I haven’t done much and consequently my strength and rating remained roughly on the same level.

It took me some time to revise and restart my chess training. First of all some psychology! I applied something that I learnt from playing virtual pinball: there are always people who are better and people who are worse. Don’t have expectations you can’t fullfill – have fun, enjoy the game, practice and it will come automatically. And if it doesn’t come, don’t care – it’s just a game and there are more important things in life.

For chess this means that as long as I learn new things and enjoy the game everything is fine. Losing to a player who is rated 300 points lower doesn’t matter – on that day he/she was better and I don’t accept the pressure that I must win against everyone with a lower rating. This also means that I will continue to look for winning chances in every position unless I am already exhausted and want to get home. 🙂

Playing long games is the key right now and with the start of the local league and 1 or 2 upcoming tournaments I hope to get plenty of practice. The Team4545League is great for that as well and I had the chance to play two more games.

In the first I ended in the Old Benoni and finally had the wrong defensive idea that decided the game:

     

My 23…Bxf6 might be understandable but it was better to take with the e-pawn. The variations are pretty interesting – Black gets some counter play going. After 24. f5 I played gxf5?? and this loses on the spot. 24…g5 puts up more resistance, I clearly lost the feeling for the game here and it was over in no time. The were some interesting middlegame positions with tactical tricks and I really enjoyed the game despite the outcome.

The second game went better. I was able to set up a normal hedgehog and caused some trouble with my knight among White’s pieces. My tactical vision is horrible at the moment, especially in this position I could have decided the game immediately:

Is it now safe to capture the knight? The threat of course is Ra1 pinning the bishop – and winning it?! Tricky. 🙂

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New Team4545League season is on the way

I know, it has been a long time without any updates but for the rest of the year it will hopefully improve. Vacation time is over and one of the places I visited was this one:

Image taken from wikipedia

I think you all know where this is and it was incredible to see the tower with my own eyes.

Anyway, back to some chess related stuff. I have joined the new Team4545League season in round 3 and of course I felt quite rusty. In my first game everything went quite smooth and despite the pressure the game was equal most of the time. Then, in this position, I got too excited:

Can Black win back the pawn with Nxd4?

No, White threatens a backrank mate, which I completely missed. Now my only chance was to put queen and rook on active squares and make use of the slightly unsafe position of White’s king. We reached the following position where White just captured with the queen.

This was the only move that was not good in this position. White will lose material or gets mated so I luckily got away with my blunder. No hard feelings though because some months earlier it was the other way round in at least 2 games – that’s chess.

Game 2

The other game was a positional desaster. In the opening I missed the only move that kept the advantage:

The best move is now 9.e5, which works because the knight can jump to g5 threatening e6, which is quite nasty for Black. I missed it and followed the wrong plan to exchange dark bishops, which left me with a super-bad light bishop and a terrible position. There was another interesting tactic that I missed as well:

It looks that after Ne2 the queen is almost trapped after Qxb2. I checked a4 followd by Reb1 but now Black can capture the e-pawn with the knight to win a tempo at my queen. The right idea after Qxb2 would have been to play Qa5! and now there is no escape anymore. I never even considered a queen move here so this was a good kick at myself to look at the moves more systematically to find hidden resources.

Anyway, with a good portion of luck I managed to draw the game. Black missed the winning idea in the following position:

He had to get the bishop to b5 somehow, even if this means that a pawn had to be scacrificed. White can try to protect his weak d-pawn with king and rook but there is not enough space so sooner or later we will reach a Zugzwang position. 40…b4 was the winning move.

That was an interesting game and I learnt much about middlegame strategy and endgame play with bishop+knight vs rook.

 

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