Monday, 20 October 2008


Readers with long memories will recall that I'm no great fan of adjournments, and might even remember a particularly dull occasion on which I was brought back to play three moves and agree a draw.

Tonight's game is also adjourned; but for once I almost approve. The game has been splendidly messy - Opponent misplayed a dangerous attack (or just possibly I defended marvellously; I haven't figured out which) to leave me completely won, only for me to make some errors of my own as we approached the time control - and has now reached an intriguing balance. The computers still like me (I've plenty of pawns for an exchange) but, in the cursory analysis that I've so far made, keep failing to find a way to win the endgame. It looks as though, if I can find the time and motivation, there should be plenty of worthwhile work to do in this adjournment. Probably I shouldn't say too much more just yet; the game is, after all, still in progress.

So, on adjourning, once more... I've some sympathy with the idea that the two of us shouldn't now be obliged to spoil the game, by playing even worse in a rapidplay finish than we have done so far. But at least that would be one-one-one, Blogger versus Opponent - and on the whole, I still think that's a lesser evil than having us get our computers and friends show us what we're supposed to do. Still, it is an interesting position. Hence, I almost approve of this adjournment.

Ironically, this interesting adjournment is against the same Opponent as was the dull one mentioned above.

Meanwhile in the match, Barnet are leading Watford I by 2.5-0.5, with this game and one other still to complete. If nothing else, I guess that means that Opponent is unlikely to offer me a draw...

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The London System, again

Very attentive followers of this blog might recall this game, where I expressed surprise that an Opponent who outrated me fairly substantially should choose nothing more ambitious with the white pieces than the London System.

I still consider this the principled position, but it would be a dull world if we all thought the same way - and when I met the same Opponent again this week, he was sticking to his guns.

Not for the first time, my view of the game was very different while playing it than it is with the benefit of hindsight. At the time it felt as though White was building up a rather frightening attack. Now, however, and especially with our silicon friend calmly refuting all tries, it looks as if there really wasn't much to fear.

Two key moments in the game both involved me blundering, only to be followed by Opponent blundering worse. (Chess is an ugly game at my level). First, at move 21:

Here I hastily played 21. ... Bxh4 (21. ... Rxf5 seems to be fine) which should simply lose a pawn after 22. Nxh4 exf5 23. Nxf5. Perhaps Opponent was spooked by 23. ... Bc8 (though he has no problems after 24. Bxe4 dxe4 25. Qh5) because instead he went with 23. Rxf5, losing material to 23. ... Nf2+.

By move 30, then, I'm doing well:

Here I played 30. ... Qe7. It's the right idea but significantly less accurate than 30. ... Qd8, which would have prevented 31. Ne4. Opponent missed the threat and obligingly played 31. e6. Readers who don't see the problem are referred to the game.

This game was played at Hertford where, as kingscrusher has already reported, we won the match 3.5-1.5. As regular relegation candidates in the Hertfordshire first division, it's very pleasing to start the season with two match wins.

Thursday, 16 October 2008 Instructive game: Powerful exchange sac!

Barnet 1 beats Hertford 1 away - 3.5 to 1.5, in what must be a historically rare match victory!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Known knowns, and unknown unknowns

Some players make a point of asking their opponent for their grade before a game. I take the opposite approach, preferring not to know. My theory is that one should aim to be objective on the board, and that any information outside of the game itself is not just extraneous, but distracting.

It's a theory that has all sorts of problems. For a start, chess is a small world; and chess in North London even smaller. So after two or three years with Barnet, it's pretty much impossible for me not to have some idea of how strong most of my opponents are: I know either the opponent or his teammates.

That's a practical objection, but even intellectually I don't think I'm consistent. I believe that if my opponent is 'too strong' then I'll find myself intimidated and fail to play as I should. I also believe that if my opponent is 'too weak' then I'll not give him the respect that he deserves, and again not play as well as I should. Presumably I'm therefore obliged to believe that there's some optimal opponent somewhere in the middle against whom I am most likely to play my best chess... but that doesn't sound right at all. Certainly I wouldn't like to say who this perfect opponent is.

So anyway, I don't ask; instead I look it up when I get home. How disconcerting, then, to find that Opponent appears to unrated... where has he come from? Should I be pleased with my draw, or disappointed? Am I - horror - going to have to analyse the game itself to decide how well I played?

Here's my game, against an unrated opponent, from last night's 3-2 win at St. Albans (not 2.5-1.5 as kingscrusher reported - I wonder whether he forgot that I was there). The opening seemed satisfactory enough, but I carefully uncoordinated all of my pieces and then made a more serious error with 20. ... h6. Things continued to get worse and by about move 30 the computer is convinced that white's advantage should be decisive. No doubt it's right; but fortunately for me we humans will make errors, especially in a quickplay finish, and I managed to scrap my way to a draw. : Play on both sides of the board!

Barnet wins against St Albans 2.5 to 1.5 in Hertfordshire league first match !