Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Chess World.net Instructive game: Reducing the bias of the love of risk taking! Part 3 of 3

Barnet holds League Champions Royston to a draw 2.5 - 2.5 !

Hutchinson vs. T.Gavriel, Board 3
Away at Royston

Part 1 of 3

Chess World.net Instructive game: Reducing the bias of the love of risk taking! Part 2 of 3

Barnet holds League Champions Royston to a draw 2.5 - 2.5 !

Hutchinson vs. T.Gavriel, Board 3
Away at Royston

Part 1 of 3

Chess World.net Instructive game: Reducing the bias of the love of risk taking! Part 1 of 3

Barnet holds League Champions Royston to a draw 2.5 - 2.5 !

Hutchinson vs. T.Gavriel, Board 3
Away at Royston

Part 1 of 3

Sunday, 8 November 2009


I think that most of us would say that a game of chess ought to be drawn; and that when a game is not drawn you should expect to be able to find an error in the loser's play.

There doesn't seem to be any real prospect of proving this - chess remains too big to be solved - but for practical purposes I think it's more or less certain. Surely noone has ever lost a game and afterwards considered that they played perfectly, that they wouldn't change any move, that they lost because - well, because black is lost?

That being so, I suppose that all defeats are self-inflicted: no matter how brilliant your opponent, the bottom line is that you lose because you play bad moves. Some defeats, though, are more self-inflicted than others.

Today's game is another Kan. This time out I had read some of Hellsten's book - but 5. Be2 doesn't show up until page 300 and I certainly hadn't got that far. So playing on my own, again, I had reached a cramped but tenable position (the computer gives 13. ... h6 14. Bh4 Nh7=). However, the ingenious player can always find a way to lose...

Sunday, 1 November 2009

A missed opportunity

I'd met this same Opponent only a couple of months earlier; a game in which I'd played the opening rather weakly and been fortunate to escape with a draw. This time around I was a little - only a little! - better prepared and managed to follow something close to a main line.

As soon as we had to think for ourselves, of course, the game started to go downhill...

In post-mortem we both thought that white had had much the better of the opening - but with the benefit of hindsight, databases and computing power I no longer think that this is true. It's probably not until 23. ... d5?! that black is in any real danger. That didn't last long, though:

After either 26. Ba4 or 26. Bf1, white should win a pawn and have a very good chance of taking the point. I can't really explain how I came to play 26. Rxd5? instead. You'd think that the game continuation (26. ... axb5 27. Rxe4 Rxa2) was both easy to see and the first thing you'd check. The sorry truth is that I spent so long checking that my tactic still worked after 26. ... Nxc3 or 26. ... Ne7 and suchlike that I just failed to make sure of the obvious.

We might have played on a bit longer, I suppose, but I think that the final position should be drawn - and probably both players felt that they'd made too many mistakes to deserve to win. Certainly my mind was more on what might have been than what might yet be.

Thursday, 29 October 2009


I've been meaning to blog the last few games of the 2008/9 season for some time now. The problem is that I know there are a few ugly losses to get through - the one in this post really isn't too bad compared to what's coming - and I must admit that I do find it harder to publish the losses than the wins.

Having said that, one of the things that I like about doing the blog is that it does encourage me to make some sort of objective analysis of my play. And that's probably worth more with the bad games than the good ones, so really I ought to just get on with it.

So, onwards. A week or two before playing this game, I had picked up a copy of Johan Hellsten's "Play the Sicilian Kan" in the local charity shop. I'd not previously had any intention of playing the Kan, but I do think that my opening repertoire could do with some expansion - and I don't find brand new chess books in charity shops often enough to ignore them. However, as the game will make clear to anyone who has actually read the book, I hadn't bothered to pay any attention to it (I leave the proposed repertoire at pretty much the first opportunity). It will likely take several more games before I'm familiar enough with the positions to remember what I'm supposed to be playing...

In fact I don't think that the opening turned out too badly, largely improvised though it was. It would be nice to blame this defeat on straightforward Kan ignorance, but I don't think that I can do it.

Opponent was critical after the game of 9. ... g6. He may be right but - now that I have read at least some of the Hellsten book - I find this a tricky issue. Clearly in the game (and certainly after 18. ... e5?) the dark square weaknesses turned out very badly. But there seem to be plenty of lines where Hellsten is happy to regard ... g6 as strengthening the defences. Probably it's going to take a few more unpleasant experiences before I get near to any understanding of when the fianchetto is a good idea, and when it isn't. For what it's worth, the computer is reasonably happy with Black's position after 18. ... Bh8; patience is required in this sort of position.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Another endgame

Earlier in the season I'd been a little lucky to agree a draw in a rook ending, with both players failing to notice that the pawn ending they were about to enter was won for Opponent.

In this game I actually went into the losing pawn endgame - and was again lucky enough to get away with it.

I strongly suspect that all of the last four moves have been half-point blunders and in this position 33. a4? almost certainly is (I think that 33. axb4 holds). After 33. ... Rxd5 34. Rxd5+ Kxd5 35. h4

... Opponent played 35 ... gxh4?, missing a win that I'm tempted to describe as "study-like". Correct is 35. ... c4 36. bxc4+ Ke6!

In the game position with the g-pawns exchanged, 37. ... Ke6? loses easily to 38. Ke3, when white has the b-pawn covered and black cannot stop both the c-pawn and the h-pawn. However with the g-pawns still on the board, the line goes 37. Ke3 b3 38. Kd2 b2 39. Kc2 f4!

and black wins.

Saturday, 22 August 2009


When I was last here, some months ago, my chess was going rather well. Results from the second half of the season, though, were distinctly less good - I reckon that I lost about a dozen (ECF) grading points by continuing to play from April onwards.

Obviously it's not all about the grades, but while I'm on the topic... I see that the online database claims that I played 26 games last season. I can only find 25. I wonder how I did in that bonus game.

So anyway, I'd better start working my way through the backlog - here's the first of several more-or-less disappointing games.

If I remember rightly Opponent offered a draw at move 13 or thereabouts, which I turned down mostly on the grounds that it was a bit early for that sort of thing. Instead I went wrong almost immediately with 14. ... e5?. It's a doubly bad move; tactically speaking I'd stopped too soon (at 18. ... exf3, failing to notice that 19. Bxf3 hit my knight), but in any case it doesn't now look like the sort of move that Black should be playing even if it were not an outright blunder. A definite case of trying too hard to make something happen - perhaps the draw offer was a cunning piece of provocation all along!

Friday, 21 August 2009

New club grades are out


Ref Name Sex Age Club(s) Category Grade Last Year Cat Rapid Last Year
117144G Pigott, John C M Barnet Elizabeth D 218 200 B 221 220
111156F Georghiou, Paul T M Barnet Elizabeth A 207 201 205
110285A Ethelontis, Alexandros N M Barnet Elizabeth A 195 193 C 194 190
111117G Gavriel, Tryfon C M Barnet Elizabeth A 188 196 D 209 206
113039A Hotham, David C M Barnet Elizabeth B 175 171 D 187 185
259880C Zajicek, Petr Barnet Elizabeth D 167 162 E 178 178
246276L Ben-Nathan, David M Barnet Elizabeth E 165 165 E 154 155
118406E Royce, Roy M Barnet Elizabeth D 161 168
144928L Pepe, Salvatore M Hendon C 159 163 B 162 154
268300D Shalabayev, Syrym M Ealing A 157 162 D 177 177
234128B Desai, Amit M 16 Q Elizabeth School Barnet C 153 140 B 137 147
230252E Ahuja, Akshaya M 17 Q Elizabeth School Barnet D 151 160
164371L Myers, Philip M Barnet Elizabeth B 150 153
107078C Bowie, Brian S Barnet Elizabeth D 150 151
275984G Shalabayev, Salim Ealing D 148
150997E Wright, Dennis J M Barnet Elizabeth B 143 153
208832A Pattni, Kishan Hendon C 139 132 B 142 139
113863H Jones, Michael N M Barnet Elizabeth A 138 138 D 138 136
234129D Desai, Anup M 16 Q Elizabeth School Barnet C 135 127 B 141 129
225946B Hoong, Jonathan M 17 Q Elizabeth School Barnet D 134 160 C 140 137
106033J Baig, M Azam Barnet Elizabeth A 125 118
261452C Butcher, Ray Barnet Elizabeth A 123 117 C 109 114
144358G Perlstein, Steve Barnet Elizabeth D 120 123
252240J Elango, Madhi M 13 Q Elizabeth School Barnet A 118 112 A 105 111
181078K Robson, Caroline J F Barnet Elizabeth A 118 114 C 118 125
182955F Macaulay, Ian M Barnet Elizabeth C 117 100
234975K Leighton, Ian M Barnet Elizabeth B 116 109
273581H Njoku-Goodwin, Jamie M Barnet Elizabeth B 114 85
270488C Close, Dean Barnet Elizabeth E 111 108
241546L Devan, Matthew Barnet Elizabeth B 110 113
112080D Harding, Malcolm S M Barnet Elizabeth A 108 127
204712D Nunn, Geoffrey C M Barnet Elizabeth B 106 108 E 95 95
179705A Riddoch, Ian M Barnet Elizabeth B 98 122 D 97 94
105207L Osland, Brian M Barnet Elizabeth C 96 112
266709F Van Der Schyff, Kevin Barnet Elizabeth E 69 71

Pigott beat Vaganian!

Vaganian - Pigott, London 1975, simul
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.f4 Bg7 8.Bb5+ Nbd7 9.e5 dxe5 10.fxe5 Nh5 11.e6 fxe6 12.Nf3 exd5 13.O-O O-O 14.Qxd5+ Kh8 15.Bg5 Ndf6 16.Qxc5 Bf5 17.Rad1 Qa5 18.Nd4 Rac8 19.Qe7 Bg4 20.Rd2 a6 (see diagram) White has 69 moves here. 21.h3 axb5 22.hxg4 Nxg4 23.Rxf8+ Rxf8 24.Qe6 Nhf6 25.Bxf6 Nxf6 26.Ndxb5 Qb4 27.Qd6 Qh4 28.Re2 Ng4 29.g3 Rf1+ and White resigned.


Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Chessworld.net presents ECF Results, 2009 Season

Tryfon Gavriel's results Email from the ECF today

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Bobby Fischer's Visit to the Philippines 1973 with President Ferdinand Marcos

Some recently discovered pictures of Fischer in 1973 for his visit to the Philippines

Friday, 8 May 2009

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Chess Publisher

Browsing other chess blogs today, I noticed that those who have published games using www.chesspublisher.com currently have "This Account Has Been Suspended" in big letters across their blog, rather than the game that they'd expected to see. It looks as though it has been that way for a few days.

When something similar happened last year I knocked up an equivalent service using Google's servers - and I've been using it on this blog ever since. Since googlepages is free, this has the great advantage that it doesn't rely on anyone remembering to pay their bills...

So: a public service announcement. You all are more than welcome to make use of our version of the game viewer. There's a link in the top left of this page.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

A pretty win

A pleasing game, this one, for a couple of reasons. First, the game itself was good - it's always nice to win quickly, and the key moment is attractive:

Opponent has just played 14. ... Bf8-d6?. We continued with 15. Qb3 Bc8, after which 16. e5! isn't perhaps very difficult (actually I think it fairly begs to be played), but it is both pretty and strong. I don't ask more of my moves than that! Although he made another dozen moves, Opponent might reasonably have resigned a fair bit sooner.

Last time I played this Opponent, he crushed me rather convincingly. 'Revenge' seems like a strong word - it's not as though I've been nursing a grudge for the last year, desperate for an opportunity to avenge myself - but it was good to even things up, and that's the other thing that I liked about this game.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Automatic play

Last time I played this opponent I noted that a 20 (ECF) point rating advantage was by no means enough that you should expect to win. It's annoying to prove myself right so soon, but this time round Opponent played a good game, while I didn't do a lot and missed the one clear opportunity when it came. Indeed, in the end I even lost a pawn and was happy to reach a drawn endgame.

During the game I mostly felt rather pessimistic about my position - I often do - but looking at it now, and with silicon assistance, I think that I overestimated the dangers. Opponent didn't seem to share my evaluation - twice he offered a repetition, and at move 24 he explicitly offered me the draw. I played on more through ratings arrogance than anything else; a dangerous game, but actually I would have been vindicated had I been more alert as Opponent blundered almost immediately:

Play went 24. d5 exd5 25. Rxe8+?, when 25. ... Bxe8 wins a pawn, due to back rank tricks. But I missed it. It's hard to say why - I think perhaps that because I believed that I was worse I simply wasn't expecting any such opportunity to appear. I don't record how long I take over my moves (maybe I should), but I'm pretty sure that I played 25. ... Rxe8 almost without thought.

Well, I'm all in favour of analysing your errors, but I don't intend to beat myself up too badly about this. It could have been worse - I did still make the draw, after all - and actually 1.5/2 against this Opponent is roughly what our respective grades predict. So I say: you can't win them all, and on to the next game...

Saturday, 28 March 2009

A lucky escape

I'd gone rather badly wrong in this game, losing a piece on move twenty with only some ineffective threats as compensation. But sometimes even ineffective threats can be enough.

Here Opponent was visibly surprised by 28. Rf3. He still has plenty of ways to win - but was somehow unable to adjust correctly from "I'm winning easily" to "I have to make some good moves here". He played 28. ... Bxf2+ 28. Rxf2 Qc1+ 29. Rf1, which is all fine...

... and now if he had found 29. ... Qe3+ and 30. ... Nf4, I should probably have resigned. But he missed it and bailed out with 29. ... Qxf1+, after which I may even be better - though I was extremely happy to make a draw a few moves later. Accepting the draw, Opponent remarked that after what had happened he didn't deserve anything more, and I felt rather the same about my own play.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

A little learning is a dangerous thing

This game was played the day after that of the last post, and I wouldn't like to say whether or not it supports my suggestion that you can mostly get away without knowing the theory.

As in the earlier game I played a Polugaevsky Najdorf; and it must be admitted that I knew not much more of the theory on Tuesday night than I had done on Monday. Opponent, I assume, was taking a similarly reckless approach - only, worse than not knowing any theory at all, he seems to have mixed up his lines horribly. After lengthy thought he uncorked the typical sacrifice 9. Ncxb5 in a position where it just isn't very good - and then followed up by blundering another piece, and resigning.

All fine from my point of view, I suppose, but I suspect that Opponent would feel that he ought to take another look at the opening manuals.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

You don't know what you're doing II

I've touched before on the joys of playing highly theoretical lines without knowing the theory. If I were a class or two stronger, I doubt that I could continue to get away with it - but at my level I find that, mostly, opponents haven't memorized everything any more than I have. So we can have fun getting into crazy positions and trying to work out what to do about it.

In this week's game, a Polugaevsky Najdorf, Opponent blinked first.

I'd been out of book for at least a couple of moves - pretty shameful, considering that we're right in the middle of the main line - but had made good moves anyway. Here White is apparently supposed to play 12. Qg4, after which things get distinctly complicated. While I didn't know that, I was pretty sure that 12. Nf3 couldn't be right...

Still, I'm nowhere near good enough to be winning (or losing) games due to a few opening inaccuracies, and the game's critical errors came a bit later:

Here I played 22. ... f6, anticipating the game line: 23. Rxe6+ Kf7 24. Rb6 Bxg2, with the point that after 25. Rg1, black has 25. ... Bc5. But this is a mistake, as white should play 24. Re2 fxg5 25. Rf1+ Kg6 26. Re6+ Kh5 27. Re8, winning back his piece. Therefore it seems black should settle for 22. ... Bxg2, when he has plenty of pawns and is still better.

I was slightly surprised by Opponent's resignation. Certainly white is lost, but I'd expected to have to play a few more moves to prove the point.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Chess is a fight

... except when it isn't.

After a recent success, I was pretty happy to get another crack at playing the Panov-Botvinnik Attack. But this time round, for reasons that I don't completely understand, the game fizzled out without really getting going.

Exchanging pieces on moves 15 and 16, I'd thought that I would be a touch better in the endgame - and that may even have been right. But when Opponent offered the draw a few moves later I found that I couldn't convince myself that there was any meaningful advantage, and that I wasn't really in the mood for a long struggle... so I agreed.

A bit craven, perhaps. White's risks are pretty limited here and he can hope to make some progress pushing his queenside pawns, so I probably ought to play on for a bit and see what happens.

I was going to write that I thought this timidity was a fault that I often suffered from. However before doing so I went and checked my database - and now I don't think that it's true after all. There's only one other case where I slightly regret agreeing the draw - but, being an adjournment and, further, with the draw clinching the match, I think it's reasonable to consider that exceptional.

Perhaps a fault that I actually do suffer from and which is demonstrated in this game is an over-willingness to simplify. I might think about that one and write more some other time.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


After some dubious early moves, I'd spent most of this week's game slightly worse but feeling as though I ought to be able to reach a drawn ending. A careless reading would suggest that this is indeed what happened, but in fact I think that the game finished with a nasty double-blunder:

Here 41. Kd3? is, as best I can tell, a losing move. 41. ... Kg5 as played is the right way - but the draw offer that went with it is not!

The problem for white is that after 42. Rxe5 dxe5, the black king goes f6-e7-d6-c5-b4, and wins; while other plausible moves all seem to fail to 42. ... Kf4.

In post-mortem we'd actually thought that white had missed a win with 41. f4 Rxe3 42. Kxe3 Ke7 43. Kf3 Kf6 44. Kg2 Kg6 45. Kh3 Kh5

46. b4! axb4 47. b3, and wins the h-pawn. But on getting home I notice that winning that h-pawn doesn't do white any good (black just keeps his king on g6/h6/h5), so this is in fact the drawing line that should have been played.

I've written before about my dislike of adjournments, but I must admit that a quickplay finish does have the unpleasant effect that just as we're running out of time we reach the part of the game where every slip is a half- or even full-point blunder. All the more reason, I suppose, to study this sort of stuff at home.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

A gift

Not a very exciting game, this one. It was heading towards an apparently inevitable draw when Opponent made a simple oversight and gave me a piece. So I took it and won.

I'd much prefer to have won the previous game and drawn this one, but there you go.

The game is given below, as usual, but I wouldn't bother. Instead, here's a position taken from the last time I met this Opponent (a quickplay game in 2006). White, to play, missed a cute finish - can you do better?

Sunday, 1 March 2009


Here's a third encounter with an Opponent who has previously appeared on this blog - and for the third time, Opponent had white and played the London System.

On previous occasions I have followed the approach outlined in my last post, and allowed White to play just the way that he wants to. This time I felt that doing the same thing again would be pushing my luck rather, and decided instead to avoid ... d5 for a while - so as at least to make him think a bit before going ahead with his autopilot plan (a white Ne5 being less attractive in such positions). This didn't turn out too well - I played the opening weakly and spent the next couple of hours hoping to find some way to wriggle out.

As we approached the final few minutes - the game was being played to a blitz finish - things began to change.

Here I played 34. ... Rd1+ 35. Kf2 Ne4+, winning an exchange. I think that the position is still level, but the momentum was with me and I began to believe that I might even win the game.

Alas, we both stopped recording moves at this point (as we're allowed to do when in the last 5 minutes) so I can't give exact details, but the scramble did indeed go well - until with only a few seconds left each, we reached a position something like this (black to play):

Obviously almost anything wins (... Qh1+ mates at once). Obviously I wouldn't bother with a diagram if I'd played almost anything. Obviously I played ... Qxf3?? stalemate. Oh dear.

I'm pretty sure that I've never been three queens and a rook up before; I wouldn't have guessed that it would happen in a drawn game. It's cold comfort to think that for most of the evening I'd have been delighted to escape with a half point.

I expect that Opponent's teammate was trying to make me feel better - probably! - when he told me "Yeah, I've done that too... but not since I was twelve". (He's somewhat older than that now.) It didn't really help.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Clockwork openings

There are some systems where one side knows what he's going to play, more or less regardless of what's happening on the other side of the board. Usually it's White who has this luxury, and usually he's playing for some sort of automatic kingside attack. You know the sort of thing - a King's Indian Attack, or Grand Prix Attack, or one of the Colle / London / Stonewall type setups.

It can be rather annoying to play against this stuff. Not that it's objectively so frightening; but practically speaking White is likely to get his attack, and probably also an advantage on the clock in a type of position that he plays every week - and that's not to be sniffed at.

Nevertheless, my approach in defending against all this is generally to allow, or even encourage, White to do what he wants to do. I tell myself that so long as I haven't made any serious mistakes then there's no reason that his attack should deserve to succeed; and that if and when it fails then I have every chance of being better. This seems to me to be the principled approach: I don't believe that you can expect to play automatic moves and checkmate me, and to prove the point I'm going to let you try.

Sometimes, this goes wrong.

Here I have willingly accepted a pawn, and if I find 18. ... Re8 then I ought to be able to hold on to it. But instead, after 18. ... Qd7? 19. Bxf6 h5 20. Bxg7:

... I was still labouring under the misapprehension that I should be winning. Therefore I rejected 20. ... Kxg7 21. Qc3+ f6 22. Rxf6 Rxf6 23. Qxf6+ Kh7 with equality, and instead played 20. ... hxg4? - completely missing 21. Bf6! and losing quickly.

Yes, being principled, and even being right, is all very well; but you still have to play good moves.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Happy new year

Here's a rare thing, and a nice way to start the new year: a game that I'm pretty much happy with.

It's not perfect of course - I'm not strong enough for that! - but it went about as well as I could hope: a favourable opening leading to a dangerous-looking initiative, and some attractive tactics to finish.

Here's the position after Opponent's 19. ... Rf8-h8:

I want to play 20. Nxf7: while it all looks promising I can't see far enough to be sure that I haven't missed some defence. Can I (should I) screw up the courage to play it anyway?

Maybe I was just feeling reckless, but actually this wasn't a particularly hard decision. I spent a little more time than I would on a 'normal' move and decided that, so far as I could see, 20. Nxf7 was strongest. So, play it! There's not much point in figuring out what the best move is if you're too scared to go through with it. Yes, you might be wrong, and if so then you might lose - but I'd rather lose by being wrong about the chess than by being too cowardly to make the right moves.

The course of the game says that I certainly made the correct practical choice. My attack looks a bit slow-motion, but it seems to be rather hard for black to get coordinated. On getting home I was delighted to find that the computer even blesses my sacrifice (or is it only a combination?) as being sound. The silicon defends a bit more stubbornly than Opponent managed, but still agrees that 20. Nxf7 is best, and gives white a nice advantage. Happy days. If only it went this well every week...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

How not to play an adjournment

Finally wrapping up 2008, I present the last few moves of this adjournment.

After an error-filled first session, we had left the game here:

I'm afraid that the standard didn't improve much when we came back. 39. ... Qf1+? misses the opportunity to bail out with 39. ... Rca7 40. Nc5+ Kc7 41. a4 Rxa4, which appears to be dead drawn. Really if I'd done my homework properly on the adjournment I ought to have known this.

After this Opponent is winning but blundered with 44. Qd3? - only to be allowed back into things by 48. ... R2a4? As blunders go, though, 48. ... R2a4 was rather a fortunate one - I had completely missed the point of 48. g4, which was to threaten 49. Qg6+ Qe6 50. Rxd5+! Kxd5 51. Qd3+ Kc6 (51. ... Ke5 52. Qd4# - aha, so 48. g4 was to cover f5) 52. Nd4+.

By the end of the game I think we were both rather relieved to take the draw; given more opportunities I'm sure that either of us could have found plenty more ways to lose this one.

In post-mortem, Opponent pulled out an enormous sheet of paper filled with microscopic writing giving a variation tree from the adjourned position. All very impressive, and it certainly made my own approach to the analysis look rather casual (which, in fact, it was). I'm not in any rush to have another adjournment, but perhaps I'll try to produce something similar myself next time.

The team score had been poised at 2-2, so of course this draw meant that the match was also drawn. With 4.5 out of 5 we find ourselves top of the table at the new year.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Letsplaychess.com Instructive game: Don't play a passive opening!

Letsplaychess.com Instructive game: Don't play a passive opening! Barnet beat Royston in Herts Division 1 league!