Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Squashed Like A Fly

Wow, I felt I was being swatted like a fly on FICS (freechess.org). I played the first 3 games and lost them all, I was hit left, right and centre. Cruising for a bruising... as they say. These players are easily at least 1700++ rated players and I was mightily impressed with the systematic way my position was torn apart. Wished I could have saved my log (using the Java interface). It would provided me with valuable insight on what is wrong with my position.

I guess I just need to be more careful of the nuances in my position and to pay more attention to my weak squares.

I made a very nice plan in another game today. I'm sure Fritz would suggest something better once I've let it analyse the game but at that point in time, this is what I could have come up with during the game.

This games started with the Bb5 Sicilian. My opponent played 9.... g6 (see diagram). I am White.

I sank into a long thought over this. I had a few alternatives. I had a slight headstart in my development but I need to be careful of the queenside pawns storming up the board. I also knew that I need to quickly develop my pieces. My question was:

What do I play? There are no immediate threats to my pieces yet and Black is still trying to develop his pieces.

So developing a minor piece is the most natural move. But which piece do I move? Do I:

a. do a pawn push e4-e5 or d4-d5? I looked at it and wasn't comfortable wasting another tempo to open up the position as my pieces weren't developed yet.
b. move my Bishop? But where can it go to? Bg5? That move doesn't threaten anything.
c. move my Knight on b1? But where should my Knight go? c3 or d2?
d. move my Queen? The Queen is pretty solid as is, holding up the position and over protecting the d4 pawn - which is always good.

Now I look at my Black's camp. Does it have any weaknesses? Yes. The c-file is open. It would be nice to occupy it straightaway with my Rook but how do I that?

Is there another weakness? Yes. Ironically, it's the b5 and d6 pawns that are weak. So how do I put pressure on either of them and improve my position? I decided to lay a little trap.

10. Nc3 (tempting the b-pawn forward) b4 (my opponent took the bait).
11. Na4 (correct, my Knight is heading now for the b5 square where it guards the squares c7 and attacks d6) Bg7 (my opponent needs to castle quickly and bring his pieces out)
12. a4 bxa3 (I thought this move wasted a tempo)
13. bxa3 O-O
14. a4 (now my Knight has a safe outpost) Nb6? (I thought Rc8 looked more threatening as it occupies the c-file)
15. Ba3 (preparing to attack d6) Nc4 (see 2nd diagram)

I took another pause. With this move, Black gave me a marvelous opportunity to take control of the c-file.

16. Qb3 Nxa3
17. Qxa3 Nd7?
18. Rac1 Nb6
19. Rc7 (I am planning to double my Rooks now with Rec1 and increase Black's suffering) e5?? (I thought this was horrible as it locks in his dark-squared bishop and weakens the d6-pawn)
20. d5 (the d6 pawn is now lost - see 3rd diagram)

I proceed to win this game afterwards. It's surprising that Black allowed me so many opportunities to consolidate my position because of a few bad moves.

But then I'll take each win as they come. I'll let Fritz analyse this game once I get home.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tactics #2007-10-27

While poring through some of the "old" games, I noticed this interesting tactical trick. This is in the game Portisch v Garcia Palermo, Reggio Emilia 1992.

The actual move played by Black was 57. ... Rb4+ and Portisch proceeded to win this game a few moves later.

The problem with the position lies in this. What if Black had instead played 57. ... Rh2? (as highlighted in the diagram)

Is there a problem with this move? If so, why?

White to play.

The answer can be found by highlighting between the brackets
[57... Rh2 58. Qf8+ Rg7 59. Qf6+ Rg6 60. Qh8#]

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Blowing Hot And Cold

The rapid competition at my chess club started tonight. They were essentially 25 minute games. I won 2 but lost my third and final game to Les Mikolajczyk(a middlegame miscalculation *tsk tsk*). Les and I played the Bb5 Sicilian main line and I ultimately paid the price for a rash pawn move to e5 as I didn't take the time to calculate. Ouch!

I am not totally happy with the other 2 games I won either. I didn't really have to do anything special except not blundering and slowly improving my pieces to better squares. In my first game, my opponent erred and trapped his own Queen and it was pretty much downhill all the way for him from there onwards leading to a winning Q+R v R+N endgame. In my second game, I could easily have lost and my opponent missed the tactical shot and blundered his Rook and resigned. If I had been playing my brother-in-law, I would've got whacked easily.

I notice a dangerous pattern appearing in my play. I would take my time to calculate and then spot the move I AM NOT supposed to make but 3 moves later, I had totally forgotten about it and blundered just the same.

At the same time, I looked over my brother-in-law's play. He was White and played the Nimzo Indian (albeit his opponent missed a winning tactical shot that would have won him a piece). Bill Gletsos won his game in a French Exchange. The endgame was reached as shown.

It looked tricky and curiously enough, Steven, Bill and I couldn't find a way for White to win from this position. However, things are now more apparent with Fritz and indicates White can win but he has to be precise. The familiar theme of zugzwang raises its head again. The quickest way for White to win is 1. Bb8 (blocking off the crucial b8-h2 diagonal for the Black king) then h5! (to first crimp the Black g7-pawn) and subsequently play Bc7 and once the Black King moves to e6, then f4 followed by Be5.

One thing for sure, I learnt a lot about this endgame play from Fritz.

Anyway, next week. It'll be another issue and I'm already looking forward to it. I'm not entirely happy with one of the players tonight. As soon as she finished, she started to talk loudly, disturbing other players. I can understand if you want to raise an issue but I would really really appreciate if you can at least whisper or take it out of the playing hall. Silence is golden. :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Exams Are Over!

With a monumental sigh of relief, I've cleared my Finals Exam for the first semester with a flying score of 88% and I can now finally look to getting back to chess training again!

The Ryde Eastwood is organising some kind of rapid competition tomorrow night so it looks like I'm going to be there. My brother-in-law Steven is heading there and it'll be great to see him again.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Endgame: Centurini

Ok, so there's good news and bad news. Last night at the social chess, I lost two games in 10 minute blitz games (now I wonder why I bother to play such fast games) and I won a game against my opponent where we played without a clock.

My school starts next week and as expected, my chess club decides to commence their rated competition (just great) - which probably means that I can't really maintain a consistent rate of play.

I do notice that my endgame is starting to have an effect eg. have a look at this position. Is this a draw or a win for White? White to play.

This is the classic example of a position where Centurini's rules apply. There are 2 simple governing principles (and they only apply to B v B+P endgames):

1. The game is a draw if the black king can reach any square in front of the pawn that is not of the color of the bishop.

2. If the defending king is behind the pawn and the attacking king is near the pawn, the defender can draw only if his king is attacking the pawn, he has the opposition, and his bishop can move on two diagonals that have at least two squares each.

Now this is where Black runs into trouble in this game here. Because this is a Knight's pawn, Black's bishop cannot move on 2 diagonals with more than 2 squares each (see the highlighted green squares - Black is in trouble because while the a8-h1 diagonal is fine, the other diagonal a6-c8 is only 3 squares but 1 of them is crucially held by the White king - b7) and Black will gradually be eased out by White who will start to move his bishop to the vital square b7 via f5-c8-b7 (to drive off the Black Bishop off the a8-h1 diagonal) and when Black's bishop goes to a6 (only position possible to stop the pawn from advancing); sacrificing the White bishop via the following moves b7-g2-f1 ensures the pawn queens, reaching a winning Q v B endgame.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Days Like These

What happens when you are in a slump?

I was wondering about this because I realised that despite my work on endgame technique (which has since gotten better), my tactical vision appears to have suffered.

For example, take this game. For reasons beknownst only to myself, why for the life of me I didn't play h5 followed by Rh1 to try for an advantage didn't occur to me (Black cannot of course play Rxh5 because of Bg6 forking the 2 Rooks).

My general play on FICS appears to be suffering. I've lost games I normally would have won and it's tough plucking yourself up to take on game after game, only to stumble and fall at the first hurdle again and again.

Something is seriously wrong with my game and it's starting to scare me.

On the back of my mind is of course my studies, yet again, which I have to resit for my exam and to make matters worse, my lecturer hasn't gotten back to me.

While I still enjoy and love playing chess, there's something in me that's just not .... well, right. I can't explain it. It's like some kind of weird "writer's block" that I cannot seem to overcome.

Tonight is my chess night again at my local Ryde-Eastwood League club and I'm seriously thinking of giving it a miss and the fellows are having a blitz social session, I think.

Btw, I purchased a small digital DGT Easy chess clock. This is primarily used as a timer to gauge myself when I am working on endgame studies. It's also useful when my nephews visit me and want to have a nice little game of chess.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Recklessness On The Board

Yesterday, while I was playing against my brother-in-law, while in the midst of an extremely messy situation, I suddenly found that because of the position of our pieces, tactics were flying all over the board with pins, counter-pins, exchange sacrifices and skewers. No doubt some of the moves were less than optimal, but overall, it was a very fun game and we enjoyed it very much.

It was after this game that I noticed my preference for unbalanced sharp positions are heightened where I can strive for dynamic positions. While I used to worry about losing pawns and all that, I find that if I can create enough headaches, unless my opponent is a better tactician than me, he/she is going to encounter problems. Some players I played with are happy to take the pawn that I sacrificed and then spend the remainder of the game trying to defend an extra pawn - which kind of works for me.

I also noticed one more thing, the players at my club are a real conservative lot. They want to move slowly, positioning pieces, not being aggressive etc. I am more aggressive (and reckless), if something looks good, I go for it rather than miss the window of opportunity. Of course, I would not do this in real competitions (I will be calculating far deeper) but for 5 minutes blitzes, they are just pure fun.

I also noticed that 5 minute blitz games are terrible for my chess and I usually end up in inferior positions (that's because I normally don't play my opening repertoires in 5 minute blitz games as I see no point in them as I could do that by playing on the Net instead to sharpen my opening repertoire).

Hmmm.... my endgame technique is still not much better these days after going through Convekta's training set. One of my games, I failed to see a drawing line for an endgame. Hopefully, this would improve as I'm now working my way through the 2nd training module.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Biting The Bullet

After much thought, I finally acquired Convekta's Total Chess Training 2.

The software on the CD came with the following 5 separate applications:

Encyclopedia of Middlegame II
Chess Tactics for intermediate players
Mate Studies
Theory and Practice of Chess Endings
Chess Endgame Training

I've already started working my way through the Theory and Practice of Chess Endings and there is a huge amount of material to digest.

Last Wednesday, out of the 3 rapid games I played, I lost 2. The 2nd game I fell into a blunder of enormous proportions by allowing my young opponent a mate in 4 (oops! LOL). My third game was with Mick Waters. Mick is a fine gentleman and he's a very active and steady player here in Sydney. I see him playing on Mondays at Manly, again at North Sydney on Tuesdays and Ryde Eastwood on Wednesdays.

Mick is a dangerous opponent to face (his rating is about 1500) for me as I've lost to him before. In our game, Mick opened with the French Defence. After 5 moves, I deliberately took Mick out of book and played an unusual line in the Tarrasch variation of the French Defence. We ended up in the position shown in the diagram after some 20 odd moves.

While thinking over this position, I suddenly realised that I have a winning endgame! I didn't like my dark-squared Bishop earlier on and deliberately swapped it off with one of his Knights as my central pawns were on the dark squares. I am exerting a huge amount of pressure on Black's 2 main pieces holding the position. The Knight on c6 and the Bishop on e6. My plan here is fairly simple, use my Knights to attack the Queenside, exchange off another one of his piece and Black will be in trouble. So my first course is to rip his center to shreds with Bxe4 (exploiting the pin on the Queen again). As expected, shortly after, a flurry of exchanges occur. My Knights continue to gobble up his remaining Queenside pawns and I managed to get 2 connected passed pawns on the Queenside in a winning R+4P+K v R+2P+K endgame.

I am indeed thankful to have won this game and 2 months back, I would not have known what to do in this position.