Archive for August, 2009

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Do I need some tactical practice?

August 28, 2009

Though I won this game, it was a lot harder than it looked. I played the same opponent I played 2 weeks ago (in which I had no trouble at all) – but while that game was totally one-sided, this was a much more open affair. We both missed several chances and I am getting a bit nervous about my perceived strength – the tactics. I have always preferred playing sharp lines with lots of tactics and generally avoided quiet positions – after my past few games where I’ve missed several tactics that I would normally back myself to find, maybe I need to work on my tactics again? Anyway, here’s the game (and I was black):

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. a4 Nc6 7. h3 Qb6 8. Nxc6 bxc6 9. Bd3 g6 10. a5 Qc7 11. Bd2 Bg7 12. O-O Rb8 13. Na4 Nd7
Playing the Najdorf is still new for me and I’m not used to the various ways white can tackle it on. Even though I had never played against 6. a4 before and I wasn’t sure how to play it, I came up with a reasonable plan and played quite well in the opening. Here, I looked at both O-O and d5 and finally settled on the text move, to try and discourage the white knight from settling into b6. I was also hesitant about playing d5 without first castling, though Fritz seems happy enough about it!

14. Rb1 O-O 15. Qe2 Qa7 16. b4 Bb7
16… Ne5 17. Nb6 Nxd3 18. Qxd3 Be6 and the position is equal.

17. c4!?
After our previous game, I was somewhat surprised by this very active plan. The computer also suggests 17. Be3 c5 18. bxc5 dxc5 19. Nb6

17… c5
I thought long and hard here. I was worried that I was opening the door for 18. b5 and white has a strong passed pawn. Then I realized that as long as I don’t trade on b5 (giving him connected passers), I can still hold the position and he’s not queening just yet.
(17… Bd4)

18. f4?
You could see from his expression that he realized his mistake as soon as he picked up the f-pawn. By then of course, it was too late and he was committed to the move.
(18. b5 Qa8)

18… cxb4+ 19. Kh2
(19. Be3)

19… Bc6 20. Nb6 Nxb6 21. Be3 Qa8?
(21… Qc7 22. Bxb6 (22. axb6 Rxb6 23. Bxb6 Qxb6 just transposes) 22… Rxb6 23. axb6 Qxb6)
The computer suggests the line above where I give up the rook for his bishop to gain connected passers on the a and b files. I did have a long think about the line in the game but wasn’t able to evaluate if it was the right choice. Apparently, it was!

22. Bxb6 Bc3 23. c5 dxc5 24. Bxc5 Bb5?!
(24… Rfd8 25. Rf3 Rd7)

25. Bxe7 Rfe8 26. Bc5
(26. Bd6 Rbd8 27. Bxb5 Rxe4 28. Qf3 Rxd6 29. Bd3 Re8 30. Qxa8 Rxa8)

26… Bxd3 27. Qxd3 Rxe4 28. f5 Qc6 29. Bb6 Rbe8 30. fxg6 hxg6 31. Rf2 Qc4 32. Qf3
(32. Qxc4 Rxc4)

32… Rf4
(32… Re1 33. Rxe1 Bxe1 34. Rf1 Bc3)

33. Qg3 Be5
(33… Rxf2 34. Qxf2 b3)

34. Kg1 Re4 35. Qg5
(35. Qf3 b3)

35… Bd4?
Time control made with less than a minute to go. 35… Bf4! 36. Rxf4 Rxf4 was very strong! 35… b3 was also much better.

36. Bxd4 Qxd4 37. Rbf1?
Here my opponent missed that his rook on f2 is pinned! This wasn’t necessarily the losing move – the next one was – but this is already quite bad. (37. Qf6 Qc4 38. Rbf1 R8e7)

37… Re1 38. Qf4??
Now this is definitely a huge blunder!
(38. Kh2 Rxf1 39. Rxf1 b3 40. Qf4 Qxf4+ 41. Rxf4 Rb8 42. Rf1 b2 43. Rb1 Kg7)

38… Rxf1+ 0-1

Despite my far from perfect play, I have now seemingly turned the tide from my long winless streak at the beginning of the year. I have only lost 2 games in my last 14 (with 3 draws), and both my losses were against higher rated players (along with one of the draws). At least I have been beating the players I am expected to beat!

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A tactical slugfest

August 25, 2009

I wouldn’t say that the game was perfect – far from it. But I played well in some critical moments and despite some ups and downs, was able to pull out the win. My third game against the same opponent (I had earlier played one black and one white against him) was with black:

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. f4 e5 7. Nf3 Nbd7 8. a4 Be7 9. Bd3 O-O 10. O-O b6
Having played against him before and knowing what to expect, I had looked into the theory of the Najdorf with 6. f4. Here, the main line went 10… Nc5, but considering he played this line quite regularly and would be more familiar with it, I chose a more offbeat variation that probably suited my style of play a bit better.

11. Qe1 Bb7 12. Qh4!?
This move caught me by surprise. I now had to figure out if the capture on e4 was flawed:

12… Nxe4!
I first considered 12… Nxe4 13. Ng5 Bxg5 14. fxg5 but that doesn’t work because now my knight on e4 is threatened thrice (and protected only once); moving the knight to f6 or capturing on g5 with it loses the knight; and moving it anywhere else results in mate on h7. But then I looked at the variation 12… Nxe4 13. Ng5 Nxg5! 14. fxg5 g6 and that seemed good for black.

13. Qh3! Ndc5 14. Nxe4 Bxe4 15. Bxe4 Nxe4
I had worked my way to this position when I played my 12th move. Here, I was expecting white to capture on e5, but he first played an intermezzo.

16. Qf5 d5! 17. fxe5 Bc5+ 18. Kh1 g6 19. Qh3
When I played d5, I calculated until this position and knew I could win the exchange with Nf2+. If I did play it, white would get serious attacking chances using the weak dark squares around my king. Unfortunately, I made the wrong choice and went for the material. I couldn’t see a forced win for white (and the computer still shows a slight edge for black), so I figured I could pick up the material – but I should have anticipated that my position wouldn’t be easy to play and that the slightest error on my part would be fatal. Instead what I should have focused on was that I had two very powerful minor pieces on the board and that I could play on normally with a distinct advantage.

19… Nf2+?
(19… Qe7 20. c3 a5)

20. Rxf2 Bxf2 21. Bg5 Qc7 22. Bf6 Be3?!
When I played Nf2+, I had intended to play 22… h5 in this position. But I couldn’t see a way forward after 23. g4 Qd7 24. Qg2. I thought that white was probably better in this position. In fact, the computer shows that the line leads to a draw by repetition.
(22… h5 23. g4 Qd7 (23… Qxc2 24. gxh5 Qf5 25. Qxf5 gxf5) 24. Qg2 hxg4 25. Qxf2 Qf5 26. Qh4 Qxf3+ 27. Kg1 Qe3+ 28. Kh1 Qf3+)

23. Nh4 Bd2?
A flawed idea – I will lose my bishop shortly. I should have realized that the knight now blocked the queen’s access to h6 and should have taken the opportunity to re-route my bishop to the f8-h6 diagonal instead where its much safer and better placed.
(23… Bc5 24. Nf5 h5 25. Qg3 Rfe8)

24. Nf5 h5
(24… Rfe8)

25. Qd3 Bf4
(25… Bg5 26. Ne7+ Qxe7 27. Bxe7 Bxe7)

26. Ne7+ Kh7 27. Nxd5 Qd7 28. Nxf4 Qxd3 29. Nxd3 Rac8 30. c3 Rc4 31. Kg1 a5 32. Kf2 Re8?! 33. Rc1? Rxa4 34. h3 Kh6 35. Ke3 g5 36. Rf1 Kg6 37. Rf2 Rc8 38. Bxg5?
(38. e6 fxe6 39. Be5)

38… Kxg5 39. Rxf7 Re8 40. g3 Re6 41. Rg7+ Kh6 42. Rf7 Kg6 43. Rb7 Kf5 44. Rf7+ Kg5 45. Rg7+ Kh6 46. Rf7
I took this repetition of position to be an implicit draw offer from my opponent. I realized I was worse here, but felt I should push for a win. This was round 3 of a 5 round Swiss tournament, and I had a 1.5/2 score. With 4 of us tied at 1.5 and 2 others having won both their games so far, I felt I needed to win this game to be in with a good chance at winning the tournament. In addition, my opponent was down to less than 5 minutes on his clock while I still had more than 10. Despite these factors, I probably made the wrong decision to go for it 😦

46… Ra1? 47. Ke4 Rg6 48. Nf4 Rxg3 49. Rf6+ Kh7 50. Rxb6 Re1+
50… Ra4+ 51. Kf5 Rf3 52. Rb7+ Kh6 53. b4 Rxc3 54. e6 Rxb4 55. Rxb4 axb4 56. e7 Rc8 57. Kf6 b3 58. Nd3 leads to a draw.

51. Kf5 Rge3 52. e6 Rf1 53. Kg5??
Game losing blunder, and my gamble pays off!
(53. Rb7+ Kh6 54. e7)

53… Re5+ 0-1

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My new chess rating

August 16, 2009

My new published ECF rating is 152. Not bad, considering I went through a very rough stretch of 4-5 months. Going by the conversion tables, that translates to 1866 on the FIDE scale and 1816 on the rating scale of other countries.

While living in the US, 2000 USCF was always a big target for me – the highest I got to was the low 1600s. This is the closest I’ve ever gotten to that magic number. I need to get to 175 (a big ask without a doubt) to make it. But first things first – I can hit FIDE 2000 if I get to 170! With the English federation publishing ratings only once a year, I can make a serious run to get into the 160s over the next year.

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My most recent games

August 16, 2009

Here, here, and here.

As black against a higher rated opponent, I did just fine throughout the entire game until my very last move. Though one is never happy with a loss, I felt I was in good form and wasn’t too discouraged by the game.

1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Na3 Nc6 7. Be3 cxd4 8. Nb5 Qd8 9. Nbxd4 Bd7 10. Be2 Be7 11. O-O O-O 12. c4 a6 13. a3 Qc7 14. Rc1 Rac8 15. h3 Rfd8 16. b4 Ne5 17. Nxe5 Qxe5 18. Qb3 Bc6 19. f4 Qb8 20. Nxc6 bxc6 21. c5 a5 22. f5 e5 23. Bc4 Nd5 24. Rfe1 axb4 25. axb4 Qxb4?? 26. Bxd5 1-0

Again, as black. Playing someone who has given me trouble in the past (I have now played him thrice, each time with black), I felt that his endgame play was the weakest and where he was very indecisive. So my plan was to play …c5 as early as possible – a lesson learnt from my previous game (the second game on that post) with him – and to try and get into an early endgame with him. Once there, I was able to outplay and outmaneuver him to win the game. In fact the position was quite drawish (he offered me a draw after his 32nd move) and there would’ve been nothing wrong in accepting the offer. On the other hand, I felt I couldn’t lose the position and decided to play on to see if I could break through. Eventually, he made a couple of inaccuracies and allowed me to win! There was only one move in the game where I missed a pretty tactic to gain a small advantage in the endgame.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 e6 5. Nf3 Be7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Be2 O-O 9. O-O Bb7 10. Ne5 a6 11. Bf3 Qc7 12. Ne4 Nxe4 13. Bxe4 c5 14. Bxb7 Qxb7 15. Qf3 Qxf3 16. Nxf3 Nc6 17. dxc5 Bxc5 18. Bd2 Rac8 19. a3 Rfd8 20. Rac1 Bb6 21. Rc2 Ne7?

21…Nd4 22. Rxc8 Nxf3+ 23. gxf3 Rxc8

22. Rfc1 Rxc2 23. Rxc2 f5 24. g3 Rc8 25. Rxc8+ Nxc8 26. Bc3 Nd6 27. Ng5 Ne4 28. Nxe4 fxe4 29. Kf1 Kf7 30. Ke2 g6 31. Kd2 Ke7 32. Bd4 Bc7 33. Kc3 Kd6 34. Kb4 Kd5 35. Bc3 Bd8 36. Bd4 h5 37. h3 Kc6 38. Kb3 Be7 39. a4 Bd6 40. Bc3 Kd5 41. Bd4 Bc7 42. Bc3 bxa4+ 43. Kxa4 Kc4 44. Bd4 Kd3 45. Kb4 Ke2 46. Kc5 Kxf2 47. g4 e5 48. gxh5 exd4 49. hxg6 Be5 50. exd4 Bf6 51. d5 e3 52. d6 e2 53. d7 e1=Q 54. g7 Qe7+ 0-1

Very rare for me to have a game which is totally one-sided. Playing the white side of a Pirc with opposite side castling, I was able to attack on the kingside without any defensive worries. My opponent made no efforts to complicate play by initiating counter-play on the queenside or in the center. I could therefore just focus on my attack and despite one move which nearly threw away all my advantage, I was able to wrap up the game in short order.

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Be3 Nf6 5. f3 O-O 6. Qd2 e5 7. O-O-O exd4 8. Bxd4 Re8 9. g4 a6 10. g5 Nh5 11. Bxg7 Nxg7 12. Nge2 Nc6 13. Ng3 Be6 14. h4 Ne7 15. h5 Rf8 16. Qh2 f5 17. gxf6 Rxf6 18. hxg6 hxg6 19. e5 Rf8 20. Nce4 Nef5 21. f4 Kf7 22. Qh7?

At the time it seemed like a strong move. But after 22…Rh8, most of my advantage disappears. 22. Nxf5! was much stronger and the way to maintain the winning attack. But my opponent failed to take advantage of my error and it was smooth sailing from there.

22… Ne7? 23. Ng5+ Ke8 24. Qxg7 Bg4 25. Nh7 Rxf4 26. Nf6+ Rxf6 27. exf6 Kd7 28. fxe7 Qxe7 29. Qxe7+ 1-0

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A visit to the Staunton Memorial

August 16, 2009

On Friday, I went down to the Howard Staunton Memorial tournament for a few hours. It was easily the strongest chess tournament I’ve been to. All in all, a mixed experience:

The good points:

  • Entry was free!
  • Being in the same room as 3 world championship challengers was  a first for me. Especially being in the same room as Korchnoi was a privilege.
  • I moved a lot between the playing hall and the bar area outside where people outside could discuss and analyze the games being played.
  • When David Howell blitzed out 28.Qh8+ against Sokolov, Nigel Short, who had been sitting on a couch, jumped up and said, “Wow. I need to go get myself a drink. I didn’t see that coming.” What a thrilling moment!
  • Watching Korchnoi play against Timman was like going back in time. More than any other player in the hall, you could feel the energy emanating from him. It was incredible to see a 78 year old man focus on the board for more than 5 hours without for a moment resting his eyes. In fact, about 3-4 moves before Timman resigned, you could spot a gleam in Korchnoi’s eyes and his fingers started playing with a couple of the captured pieces. Even if you knew nothing about chess or you couldn’t view the board, you knew this wily warrior had victory in his grasp.

The bad points:

  • The playing hall was very spectator unfriendly. The boards were positioned so that the spectators couldn’t get a good view of most boards. The salvaging fact was that the closest table to the spectators was the Timman – Korchnoi game.
  • To add to that, the boards on the wall (meant for the spectators) were way too far and way too small. While I could see there was a white piece on e4, I couldn’t identify the piece.
  • Out in the bar area, a laptop was used to project the games onto a screen. Unfortunately, only one game could be viewed at a time and one of the organizers would periodically cycle through the games. It surely can’t be that hard to have more games up simultaneously.
  • It would have been really nice if they had someone to provide master commentary and analysis and channel some of our discussions.

Random observations:

  • The two players who never even got up to view the other games in progress: Korchnoi and Adams.
  • If I had any doubts before, I have none now. I am definitely going to the super-tournament in December for at least 2 or 3 days!