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.

[Event "Live Chess"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2013.08.10"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin_01"] [Black "ATaleOfTwoCities"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A26"] [WhiteElo "1164"] [BlackElo "1814"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "70"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] [TimeControl "45"] {A26: English Opening vs King's Indian with ...Nc6 and d3} 1. c4 g6 2. Nf3 Bg7 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O e5 7. d3 Nc6 8. Rb1 a5 9. a3 {all standard developing moves to this point. White will force through the b-pawn advance and try to leverage a space advantage on the queenside.} h6 { preventing the standard White plan of Bg5 and exchanging the Nf6.} 10. b4 axb4 11. axb4 Be6 12. b5 Ne7 13. Nd2 d5 14. cxd5 {the first major decision point; White has several different options. Here I opt for opening the c-file, with the idea of eventually playing Qc2 and placing a rook on c1. The pawn on b5 in this case plays a useful role.} (14. Bb2 {is equally popular, for example:} c6 15. bxc6 bxc6 16. Ra1 Rb8 17. Na4 Nd7 18. Qc2 Re8 19. e3 f5 20. Rfc1 g5 21. Nb3 Bf7 22. cxd5 cxd5 23. d4 e4 24. Ba3 Ng6 25. Bd6 Ra8 26. Bh3 Be6 27. Qc6 Bf8 28. Bxf8 Ndxf8 {Sunye Neto,J (2520)-Urday Caceres,H (2475) Sao Paulo 1998 1/2-1/2 (45)}) (14. Qb3 {is played with a similar frequency, though not as successfully.}) 14... Nexd5 15. Bb2 Re8 16. Nde4 $146 {I liked the centralizing of the knight here, although it may not be the most effective move; playing Qc2 earlier, as in the sample game below, seems less committal.} (16. Nc4 {I considered during the game, but decided it did not promise enough. A sample continuation:} Nxc3 17. Bxc3 e4 18. Na5 Bg4 19. Nxb7 Qc8 20. dxe4 Ra2 21. e5 Nd7 22. e6 Bxe6 23. Bxg7 Kxg7 24. Qd4+ Nf6 25. e3 Bh3 26. Nc5 Bxg2 27. Kxg2 Qa8+ 28. Kg1 Rd8 29. Qf4 Qc8 30. Ra1 Rxa1 {Stanec,N (2504) -Freitag,M (2390) Tweng 2007 1/2-1/2 (41)}) (16. Qc2 {is the preference of both Houdini and legendary GM Ulf Andersson, as shown in this game.} Nb4 17. Qc1 Nfd5 18. Nc4 Nxc3 19. Qxc3 Nd5 20. Qc2 Nb4 21. Qb3 Nd5 22. Rfc1 f6 23. Ra1 Qd7 24. Ra4 Kh7 25. Rca1 Rab8 26. Ra7 Bf8 27. Ba3 Bxa3 28. R1xa3 Qe7 29. Qb2 Qc5 30. R3a5 Nb6 31. Ne3 Bc8 32. Ra1 Re7 33. Rc1 Qd6 34. Qa3 Qd8 35. Rc5 Rg7 36. Qc1 Qd6 37. Rc2 f5 38. Ra3 Be6 39. Rac3 f4 40. Nf1 Nd5 41. Bxd5 Bxd5 42. Rxc7 Rbg8 43. Nd2 h5 44. Ne4 Bxe4 45. dxe4 fxg3 46. hxg3 Qb4 47. R2c4 Qxb5 48. R7c5 Qb6 49. Rxe5 Rf8 50. Rec5 Rgf7 51. f3 h4 52. gxh4 Rf4 53. Kg2 Qe6 54. Rc7+ Kg8 55. Qb2 { 1-0 (55) Andersson,U (2640)-Temirbaev,S (2480) Yerevan 1996}) 16... Nd7 { my opponent thought this was not the best move. Houdini agrees with him.} ( 16... Nxe4 17. Nxe4 Qe7 18. Qd2 $11) 17. Nxd5 Bxd5 18. Qc2 f5 {the expected follow-up to the 16th move.} (18... Nf8 19. Ra1 Rc8 20. h4 $11) 19. Nc5 (19. Nd6 $5 Bxg2 20. Nxe8 Bxf1 21. Nxg7 Kxg7 22. Rxf1 $16 {Houdini evaluates this as the equivalent of a pawn up for White. Black is going to have trouble covering his weaknesses with the c- and e-pawns, among other things.} Rc8 23. e4 c6 24. exf5 cxb5 25. Qb3 gxf5 26. Qd5 {is one possible continuation.}) 19... Nxc5 20. Qxc5 Bxg2 21. Kxg2 Qd6 {unexpected by me. Here I thought for a while and made a poor strategic decision, to exchange queens. The only alternative I looked at was Rfc1 and it didn't seem to give White anything. My opponent suggested Qc4+, which allows White to significantly improve his position by gaining a tempo and forming a battery on the c-file while avoiding the immediate queen exchange. Houdini agrees.} 22. Qxd6 (22. Qc4+ Qe6 23. Rfc1 Qxc4 24. Rxc4 $14) 22... cxd6 $11 23. Ra1 Kf7 24. e4 {I played this in order to fix Black's e-pawn and prevent tactical ideas based on the hanging Bb2.} Ke6 25. Rxa8 {unnecessary and begins White's slide into negative evaluation territory.} (25. Rfc1) 25... Rxa8 26. Ra1 Rxa1 27. Bxa1 {at this point the engine gives Black a slight edge. White certainly has the more difficult game, due to the advanced b-pawn, which in the endgame is now a weakness.} d5 28. exf5+ gxf5 29. f4 Bf6 30. Kf2 $6 (30. fxe5 Bxe5 31. d4 {this is the move that I missed in my calculations and why I played 32. Kf2. Other moves here give a significant plus to Black.} Bf6 $11) 30... e4 {this looks good for Black, who holds all the cards now.} 31. Bxf6 Kxf6 32. dxe4 dxe4 33. g4 $2 {desperation} (33. Ke3 h5 34. b6 $19) 33... fxg4 34. Ke3 Kf5 35. b6 h5 {and it's inevitable that Black wins the endgame.} (35... h5 36. Kd2 Kxf4 37. Kd1 e3 38. Ke2 h4 39. Kf1 g3 40. h3 Kf3 41. Ke1 g2 42. Kd1 g1=Q+ 43. Kc2 e2 44. Kb3 Qxb6+ 45. Kc4 e1=Q 46. Kd3 Qeb1+ 47. Kc4 Q1b3#) 0-1

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