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.