Sunday, 28 October 2007

Seeing ghosts

Why do I play bad moves? For many different reasons, no doubt, which makes it that much harder to stop doing it. A mistake that I find myself repeating, though, is to misevaluate a perfectly acceptable position as being slightly worse, and consequently play some inferior move to avoid it.

In last week's game, for example, 9 ... Be7 was quite unnecessary. I was afraid that my pawns would be doubled and my king exposed after 9 ... Nc6 10 Bxf6; but in fact Black is fine here, and the exchange on f6 doesn't seem to be unfavourable at all. Instead I went into a sequence of exchanges and a very dull position.

This week I'm White, and at move 12 I suddenly start to worry that things aren't going well. My opponent, my computer, and the cold light of day have all since convinced me that a normal move such as 12. Rb1 is just fine; but during the game it felt as though I was walking into some sort of disadvantage. So I decided to try and confuse matters, offering a pawn with 12. c4. Worse, I spent far too long taking this dubious decision. Black correctly declined the pawn, at which point I probably really was worse.

(Happily for me, more serious mistakes were ahead. 15 ... Rc7 allowed 16. Nd6+, which I missed, but after 16 ... Qc6, 17. Nd6+ was even stronger. After that I missed a few simpler wins in the time scramble but managed not to spoil anything; everything was straightforward once we'd made it to move 30).

So, where does the pessimism come from, and what can I do about it? At some level it must be a fear of losing - a pretty healthy fear, up to a point, but chess really does require objectivity. What to do about it? I suppose that I just have to be aware of the weakness and constantly be asking myself whether my evaluations are based on what's on the board, or on my own negative outlook. And perhaps I should try to take a few more risks - probably I'd lose a few, but probably I'd win few too.

Well that all sounds fine, doesn't it? But somehow at the board it's not so easy...

Link repair at

Many website link repairs have been made on the domain. The Learning section links should now all mostly be working. But the Reports section needs to be repaired still.

GM Baburin's column's section is now back as well as the archived What's new page.

Here is a link to the learning section which has many educational articles :

Learning section

Friday, 26 October 2007 presents T.Gavriel vs S.Swanson

Perhaps I should have asked to adjudicate rather than play on - so Steve would have to return to Barnet chess club to continue from the position. Instead I said to "play on" forgetting I would have to travel to Hertfords. i just offered a draw the next evening, which was accepted.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

The Boring System

When you go out to play a game of chess, what do you hope for? A win would be nice, naturally, and I don't suppose many of us would keep playing unless we won a few. But there's little satisfaction in beating much weaker opponents, so we must want more than that. Being made to think, seeing ideas that we haven't seen before, taking the other guy on in a real struggle... isn't that what it's about?

How, then, to explain a game like this? White plays the dullest opening he can think of; Black goes along with it. White offers a draw at move 15. Move 15! The position more than justifies the offer, and if we were two grandmasters playing for prize money, well, maybe it would all be understandable. But this is two club players trying to spend their evening doing something they enjoy. I played on a while in the hope that something would happen, but it never looked likely. Can either of us enjoyed this game? I know that I didn't.

Well, people will play the London System and suchlike against me from time to time and there isn't much point in whinging about it. We can only control our own side of the board, and certainly I must share the blame for the exchanges in moves 10-15 that killed this game off. Still, it's an opening where it's really quite hard to take White out of autopilot, if that's the way he wants to play, and the resulting positions seem to me to be tedious. So what to do about it? Perhaps it's 3 ... d5 that's the mistake - not objectively, of course, but since Ne5 is one of the automatic moves that White intends to play Black might at least be able to make him think a bit by playing some system with ... d6.

If any London System (or Colle) players would care to explain to me how the opening does in fact lead to interesting games - or even better, which Black variations they dislike meeting! - I'd be glad to hear about it...

Tuesday, 16 October 2007 presents T.Gavriel vs M.Pete

Barnet Elizabethans vs Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City, October 15 2007

Wednesday, 10 October 2007