28 November 2012

Annotated Game #72: Round 1 - Round Turkey Tournament

This was technically the first round game of the 2012 Round Turkey tournament, although it was in fact played after the round 2 game (analysis forthcoming) against Rocky Rock.  TomG graciously took over Wang's spot, after the latter was a no-show, and played an interesting take on the Slow Slav as White against me.

One of the two main points of analytical interest in this game actually occurs quite early on, with move 6.  Black makes a standard-looking developing move (...Nbd7), which is in fact an unintended pawn sacrifice, a fact which I spotted immediately afterwards.  The variations that flow from the initial tactic, which involves a queen fork on b5, show a dynamic balance between material on the one side, and piece activity and placement on the other, that is worth studying.  White however avoids the line, instead relieving the central pawn tension with 7. c5, at the same time gaining a bit of space on the queenside.  I usually am perfectly happy to see these types of moves, since they pose no immediate problems and offer possibilities of counterplay by attacking the head of the pawn chain.

The second main point of interest is the 17th (and last) move of the game.  As played, it was the result of a misclick, the electronic equivalent of a touch-move fault in an over-the-board (OTB) tournament.  With 16. e4, TomG had thrown down the gauntlet in the center and I was forced to consider the various permutations of pawn exchanges and follow-up moves.  Unfortunately, this type of pawn structure is a particular weakness for me, as I have trouble calculating and evaluating it.  However, that makes it all the more important for me to play.  My intended move (17...Qe5) was fine on the surface, but would in fact have lead to a significant White plus following the next round of exchanges.  Taking with the pawn in the center would have led to equality instead.

Props to TomG for a well-played game until that point, which despite the premature ending still provided value to me in the post-game analysis process.

24 November 2012

Annotated Game #71: Mate in Never

Once the 2012 Round Turkey tournament is completed, I'll post analyses of those games.  This time, I'll continue my past tournament game analysis with this heartbreaker.

Following the relative success in Annotated Game #70 against a higher-rated opponent, in the next round of the quad tournament I faced another Class A player.  My opponent employed an offbeat defense as Black, starting with a queenside fianchetto; see Annotated Game #30 for a similar start.  Although White could have made some early improvements in play, he gets a favorable position out of the opening.  By move 11 there is an opposite-sides castling situation, which even without queens on the board can be dangerous for the player (in this case Black) with a weaker king position.

The course of the rest of the game demonstrates how weak my thinking process was at the time and the dangers of passive play once a winning advantage has been obtained.  Black in the middlegame ignores White's potential threats down the half-open c-file, which eventually are realized on move 22.  Breaking into Black's king position, White misses a mate in 3 on move 26 - a shocking rook sacrifice to shut off the king's escape - but nevertheless emerges with a comfortable winning material advantage.  Here is where things start going wrong, ironically.

Black refuses to go quietly and instead plays the most threatening moves possible, which is the best (and usually only) way to aim for a swindle.  White's key mistake is on move 35, where instead of calmly taking Black's h-pawn, he backs his king into h1. Objectively he is still fine, but the conditions for the swindle have now been created.

Black's immediate next move gives White a mate in 2.  I recall thinking hard about the position, knowing that there must be a winning possibility, but I was simply unable to see it.  The psychological pressure - all self-inflicted - simply got to me.  This is also another example of the importance of CCT (checks, captures and threats) in the thinking process.  The failure to see the mate is also symptomatic of a more general weakness of mine in visualizing mating nets.  I've gotten better at it, especially in the last year, but it's still an area for improvement.  The ratings gap (around 300 points) also contributed greatly to the psychological pressure; I've subsequently learned to put aside ratings fear and instead treat it as an opportunity.

The remainder of the game - still won for White up until move 43 - is a classic example of the winning side making a series of passive moves and failing to calculate the more active ones, for fear of losing.  This is punished effectively by Black, who never stops looking for aggressive continuations and finally traps White's king on the back rank.

I remember that after the game, one of the kibitzers mentioned to me that I had missed a mate.  I told him, feeling somewhat bitter, that I knew that.  Too bad that as it happened, it was a mate in never.

22 November 2012

Book completed: The High Window

From Chapter 15 of Raymond Chandler's The High Window:
The chessmen, red and white bone, were lined up ready to go and had that sharp, competent and complicated look they always have at the beginning of a game.  It was ten o'clock in the evening, I was home at the apartment, I had a pipe in my mouth, a drink at my elbow and nothing on my mind except two murders and the mystery of how Mrs Elizabeth Bright Murdock had got her Brasher Doubloon back while I still had it in my pocket.
I opened a little paper-bound book of tournament games published in Leipzig, picked out a dashing-looking Queen's Gambit, moved the white pawn to Queen's four, and the bell rang at the door.

From Chapter 36:
It was night.  I went home and put my old house clothes on and set the chessmen out and mixed a drink and played over another Capablanca.  It went fifty-nine moves.  Beautiful, cold, remorseless chess, almost creepy in its silent implacability.
When it was done I listened at the open window for a while and smelled the night.  Then I carried my glass out to the kitchen and rinsed it and filled it with ice water and stood at the sink sipping it and looking at my face in the mirror.
'You and Capablanca,' I said.

18 November 2012

2012 Round Turkey Tournament (final update - Nov 26)

2012 Round Turkey Tournament organization 

Organizer: Rocky Rook


Rocky Rook
TomG (replacing Wang)

Time Control: 60 5 (Game/60 plus 5 second increment)

Site: FICS

Round 1:

TomG vs. ChessAdmin   1-0
Rocky Rook vs. Moth    1-0

Round 2:

ChessAdmin vs. Rocky Rook   1-0
Moth vs. TomG  1-0

Round 3:

Moth vs. ChessAdmin  0-1
TomG vs. Rocky Rook  0-1


I'll keep the above updated with results as they come in.  Once I have a chance to analyze my games, I'll also put up annotated versions as separate posts.

Will have to think about my openings selection for this tournament.  Should I use the tried and true ones, but which my opponents can prepare for ahead of time?  Or go with new, untested weapons that may still be partly on the drawing board?  Hmm....

Nov 22 update:  It's been an interesting two games so far.  The one with TomG would have been a whole lot more interesting if I hadn't misclicked and put my queen down a square off, which forced an early resignation. Will be useful to look at the game up to that point in analysis, though.

Nov 24 update:  Had a nail-biter of a game against Moth (Tim Clark), managed to pull it out in the end.

Nov 26 update:  Final results are in and I've won the tournament on tiebreak.  Many thanks to Rocky for coming up with the tournament idea and to him and my other two opponents for playing such interesting games, which will be analyzed over the next week or so.

04 November 2012

Annotated Game #70: Early endgame struggle

This next tournament game is from the first round of a quad.  My Class A opponent chose early to head for a queenless middlegame, which I think mostly benefited Black.  Some interesting tactical and positional themes arose at various points and in the final position I had the only winning chances, but accepted a draw due to the ratings difference (over 250 points).  While an understandable decision, this really isn't the way to improve one's chess, which requires the mental toughness to take on and defeat superior opponents.

Some highlights of the analysis:
  • The White line with 4. a4 is considered a sideline of the Slav with 3. Nc3, apparently with good reason.  Black scores quite well in it and is not seriously challenged.  The counterblow 4...e5 is quite effective here.
  • The tactic on move 9 that White missed is instructive.  The White knight can simply run roughshod over Black's queenside, which is undeveloped, with the dual threat of Nc7+ and Nb6.  The intermediate bishop capture on d2 for Black doesn't help.
  • Black shied away from concrete analysis on move 18 of the obvious pawn advance, kicking the Nc3 and winning a pawn on d5 after the exchanges are through.  The actual move played, 18...Nd4, in fact invalidates Black's potential tactic by blocking the pin on the d-file.  This shows how my thinking on tactics was in the past much more muddled; I was unable to clearly break down the tactical elements in a position.
  • Black keeps plugging away, however, and makes the good strategic choice to simplify down into a minor piece endgame where by move 27 his pieces are relatively stronger.
  • The move 33 variation with ...h5 is an excellent example of endgame strategy and tactics.  Black could have assured his superiority on the kingside with this tactic.
  • The move 39 variation has a game-winning tactic based on promotion and a unique X-ray motif.  Another useful pattern, along with the move 33 variation, to keep in mind for potential endgame tactics.