28 August 2013

Annotated Game #103: Right ideas, wrong moves

This round two Slow Chess League tournament game saw me go down in flames early in a Caro-Kann Panov variation.  The opening in general can be a little tricky for Black, as if he's not careful White can make some quick threats on the kingside and tactics also loom in the center.  Black should be able to equalize with correct play, naturally, but I was unfamiliar with this particular line and made incorrect strategic choices at key points, helping lead me into a game-ending blunder:
  • The first strategic choice occurred on move 10, when I play ...a6.  Not a bad idea in itself, but the logical follow-up of ...b5 and ...Bb7 never happens, stranding the bishop on c8 until its development is problematic (and in fact loses the game for me later!)  The database shows how Korchnoi used the ...Na5 idea, which gains a tempo on the Bc4 immediately, allowing the ...Bb7 development.
  • After White goes for the immediate liquidation of his isolated queen pawn (IQP), Black goes for the exchanges on d5 and then goes adventuring with the knight on b4.  The immediate 13...Bf6 or on the subsequent move would have concretely improved Black's pieces and started making threats down the long diagonal.  I eventually play this, but at a point where its impact is lessened and my position in the meantime has been weakened.
  • By move 16, Black is faced with another choice under worse circumstances, of how to blunt White's pressure on the h7 pawn.  I chose a superficially active move (...f5) that had a much greater drawback of opening the a2-b8 diagonal, which is what White soon after uses to defeat me.
This game, in addition of being a reminder of the importance of CCT with the losing move, also served to illustrate how one can have some of the right ideas and recognize good candidate moves, but fail to execute them properly (or at all).

25 August 2013

Annotated Game #102: In which I fail to crush my enemy

In this first-round game of an online 45 45 tournament game in the Slow Chess League, I singularly fail to crush my enemy as I should have.  Out of the opening, I take advantage of an overloaded bishop on g7 to win a pawn and then pick up an exchange with a skewer.  After this, however, I must give full credit to my opponent for his strong resistance and constantly seeking active ways to make threats.  This eventually pays off as I fail to find winning ideas at key points and barely manage to avoid a mate threat.  At the end, low on time and with an uncertain endgame, I go into a threefold repetition.  While not the result I wanted, it was great for training purposes and points out how I need to be more steely in the face of danger (real or imagined).

24 August 2013

Chess Blogs That Used to Be Good (and might be again)

For those who haven't seen it, Blue Devil Knight's Blogotypes post was one of the most popular ever on a chess blog.  Here's what could be considered a new blogotype; ironically enough, BDK's blog heads the list.  Perhaps you can identify some other examples.

Blogs That Used to Be Good (and might be again)
These chess blogs used to frequently titillate the reader with witty, useful or simply entertaining content, but no one really knows when they'll be updated again or if the blogger still cares about his/her followers.  Bloggers who are dead (or at least dead to the chess world) are ineligible. 

Confessions of a chess novice

BDK's tour de force of bloggery.  Follow this former Knight Errant of the Michael de la Maza (MDLM, not to be confused with MDMA) school through his journey into the world of chess improvement, the Seven Circles of Hell, and entertainment galore.  Blog derailed due to child and Post-World Open Stress Disorder.  However, he is Only Mostly Dead; has been seen at the International Chess School forum and in the occasional blog comment.  (Arguably could also be considered Blogotype #12.)

Soapstone's Studio

Highly creative and entertaining story-based annotated games (see Saving Private Ryan) mingled with reflective chess improvement insights (Goblet O'Training) and periodic chessic existential angst (perhaps the reason for infrequent appearances).  Not completely dead, having been sighted in 2013.  Seeing a link to this set me thinking about the blogotype.

Robert Pearson's Chess Blog

The Artist Formerly Known as Wahrheit is still alive and kicking, but posts are infrequent and limited to links to occasional flashes of activity at the Chess Improver.  Mysterious allusions are made to "projects in a different field" he is working on.  Anything to do with the Area 51 project declassification?


Contains a mix of endless speculation on the thinking process, real-world examples analysis, and repeatedly changing theories.  Helped firm up my appreciation of the importance of CCT even after the blog moved on to other theoretical pastures.  I haven't always agreed with his posted conclusions - which sometimes contradict themselves over time - but the posts always made me think.

Blunder Prone

An entertaining blog by an everyman chess/guitar player you want to root for.  Tournament experiences (including the aptly hilarious Grinch vs. Whoville series), historical stories and improvement insights are all abundant.  Derailed by family upheaval and professional reinvention.  Comeback possible?

Castling Queen Side

Clever title from this experienced chessplayer/TD/instructor who documents her travels and travails in the chess world.  Some great tournament posts from far afield, including Bermuda, interspersed with the pain of "cracktion" and chess parents.  Other interests like Tae Kwon Do may have taken over from chess (or at least chess blogging).

19 August 2013

Training quote of the day #5

Mongol General: ...Conan! What is best in life? 
Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women. 
Mongol General: That is good! That is good.

18 August 2013

Commentary - Tromso 2013 FIDE World Cup round 3.1

The ongoing FIDE World Cup tournament in Tromso, Norway has produced a number of upsets.  In the first game of round 3, Levon Aronian was defeated in a Dutch Stonewall by Evgeny Tomashevsky.  It is a model game for Stonewall aficionados, in which Black's mastery of the opening's ideas and strategic themes is evident throughout.  I'll have to take a look at Tomashevsky's past games to see if there are some similarly instructive wins as Black.

Some notable elements of this game:
  • Black's use of opening transposition to get a favorable version of the Modern Stonewall as of move 6.
  • The correct strategic decision by Black to transfer the light-squared bishop to the kingside.
  • How the early pawn exchange in the center was favorable for Black.
  • Black's strategic achievement of opening the f-file, set up by the thematic 16...Ne4
  • Black's seizing of the initiative and White's inability to generate any counterplay after move 19.
  • How naturally Black's kingside attack develops and then bursts in a flurry of piece activity targeting the f3 pawn, after temporarily sacrificing the key "stonewall" d5 pawn along the way.

11 August 2013

Slow Chess League

In place of training games against computer opponents, which I've never been very enthusiastic about, I've started playing in the Slow Chess League at Chess.com.  It's organized by the Dan Heisman Learning Center and has an impressive organization behind it, including very active and helpful TDs.  After a player has qualified for the league by playing in a single Micro-Swiss game - a process which helps orient you to the league logistics and also helps weeds out unreliable players - all of the other tournaments are available for signup.  Standard time control is 45m/game+45s move increment (45 45), but there are also tournaments at 90 30.  Games are played on a weekly basis and scheduled at a mutually convenient time.

From my qualifying Micro-Swiss game (which is Annotated Game #101 in the database), I learned a few new things and was also reminded of some past issues with my play.  Specifically:
  • Exchanging down into a worse endgame was a poor strategic decision and the root of why I lost; see Annotated Game #4 (my GM Alex Yermolinsky simul game) for a similar development.  essentially, the decision to exchange queens on move 22 rendered my queenside space advantage into a weakness rather than a strength.
  • The calculation error on move 30 sealed my fate, after having felt negative psychological pressure from the worsening trend of the game.  The outsize effect of game trends is something that Yermolinsky covered well in his book The Road to Chess Improvement.

04 August 2013

Commentary - Dortmund 2013 round 6

The Kramnik-Fridman game from round 6 of the Dortmund tournament is an outstanding example of high-level master chess.  Some thoughts on it, in addition to the game annotations:
  • Kramnik adopts a strategy in the English vs. Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD) setup that he is very familiar with. Although White's setup at first glance appears passive, in fact it contains significant kingside attacking prospects, once Black's early pressure in the center is dealt with. The fact that overall White has scored close to 60 percent from the inoffensive-looking position on move 8 is, I suspect, evidence that the White players who adopt this strategy simply understand the position to a much deeper level than their opponents.
  • Tactical defense is used multiple times by Kramnik in this game to good effect, covering his weaknesses in a dynamic fashion and not tying down his pieces unnecessarily.
  • Kramnik' sacrificial attacking idea that begins with 20. f6 is something born from deep positional understanding of the problems Black will face afterwards on the kingside.  It takes Houdini a few moves down its primary path before it is able to see in its evaluation function that White has full compensation for the material.  (Another good example of the pitfalls of computer analysis for the uninitiated.)
  • The combination starting on move 29 is the highlight of the game and is worth looking at closely, especially because the initial knight sacrifice appears to come out of nowhere.

03 August 2013

Annotated Game #100: The Fun Milner-Barry Gambit

Inspired by a recent Brooklyn64 post on a swashbuckling Milner-Barry Gambit in the French Defense, here is my one and only tournament game featuring it.  This was played early in my scholastic career when I was still an e4 player and had a low Class C rating.

I had relatively little idea at the time how to most effectively conduct attacking play, but the gambit nevertheless showed promise against my significantly higher-rated opponent, a veteran of the local tournament scene.  For White players who hate facing the French, it's an fun way to take it on while avoiding typical position types.