October 2008

Doing some chess search, I came to Dan Heisman’s web site to the page with his guidelines. There were quite a few of them, very useful stuff. I chose ten I liked the most, so here they are:

1. “You would not give up the Bishop Pair for nothing any more than you would give up a Queen for nothing.”

I have a correspondence game now where I am pawn down, my only hope is a pair of bishops. I’ll see how it will develop.

2. “You improve (and your rating goes up) when you

a) learn a new pattern or principle or

b) when you identify a mistake and are able to avoid repeating it – not when you win a bunch of games.”

I will trace it.

3. “Play as much as you can, especially slow chess – it helps you develop board vision.”

I switched from online blitz to online correspondence chess, will see the effect.

4. “*Don’t be afraid of losing. Be afraid of playing a game and not learning something.  Losing can be a great motivator if it helps you identify and correct things you are doing that cause the loss”.

This is very right.

5. “*Time management is an important skill in chess; having 15 minutes left when our opponent has 5 (in a sudden death time control without time delay) is worth about 200 ratings points!”

The opposite (5/15) happened to me twice lately and the result was disastrous.

6. “A bishop is good behind its own pawns if they are mobile. If those pawns are fixed, then it may be a bad bishop.” (but remember Suba’s ‘Bad Bishops guard good pawns!”).

I am playing 4 bishops correspondence endgame right now, will use it.

7. “In the Ruy Lopez, the play is rich enough that the better player almost always wins.”

I love Ruy Lopez exactly for that.

8. “Botvinnik’s rule: In slow games, use about 20% of your time for the first 15 moves.  In fast games, use LESS than 20% of your time for the first 15 moves”

I will try to make it a golden rule for me.

9. “When looking for tactics – for either player – look for Checks, Captures, and Threats, in that order – for both players.”

I miss threats when they come not on the current move, but on the next one.

10. *”Never push a passed pawn passed its zone of protection (unless it promotes by force!).

I was punished twice for that in the last dozen OTB games.

Interesting how many out of this ten somebody else reading this post will select as helping him/her.

As my very favorite AC/DC say:

“Kicked in the teeth again
Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win
Kicked in the teeth again
Ain’t this misery ever gonna end?”

This is exactly what’s happening with the tournament I am playing in (except second “sometimes”). This Sunday I played and guess who was my opponent?
The son of the guy I played with a week before ( see my previous post ).
Of course, I was White again and of course, he played Scandinavian defense.
What I thought when I was accepting the same freaking Portuguese variation ?
First – I got some knowledge about that during the week
second – he shouldn’t be as experienced as his father.

Maybe he isn’t, but his rating is 160 points higher. Anyway, I didn’t get into that kind of trouble as last time. I successfully avoided king-side attack and even had euphoria about getting 2 bishops, but then I got into different trouble, my queen-side lagging in development. It was another theoretical move, that I didn’t know.
I heroically struggled, again spending a lot of time.
It reminded me later my former countryman – GM Kramnik, getting into prepared novelties in the same variation twice in the current match with Anand. Finally almost everything was exchanged except R+B vs. R+N and pawns. And here I made a mistake and lost a pawn, but recovered after that, winning his pawn and finally getting into B vs. N with a passed pawn on king-side and 2P vs 3P on queen-side.
The hope returned, but I had only 5 minutes left. I made a move advancing the pawn and setting a trap, he didn’t bite, played another move ( which I didn’t see ) and I lost my pawn.
I think, I could draw even then, but time was going and having less than 90 seconds on the clock I missed a fork. I would probably lose by time anyway, he had a huge advantage here.

Probably I made a mistake by completely stopping my blitz activities on FICS and got out of shape, but most importantly, I realized again that my endgame technique is not acceptable. If you know how to play, you can play fast and you can win.
I found a very similar endgame by Capablanca-Corzo, 1901, pretty famous and another B vs. N endgame by Kramnik. I swore, that I will memorize at least the first one, all 59 moves, though it wouldn’t be as easy as many years ago.

I am slowly recovering from the devastating loss that I had this Sunday.
I played in my local club, it was a guy about the same age as me, rated 250 lower.  I had White and he played Scandinavian. I don’t quite like to play it, because usually it gives kind of easy piece play for black, also they bother my d4 pawn.  Though, I held my own well playing my only OTB game with it against almost 300 higher rated guy and getting a draw.
Getting back to Sunday’s game. The guy played Portuguese variation, here is what Chess Central says about it:
“The resulting play is sharp and trappy. An added benefit is the newness of the line,  which came into prominence only in the early 1990s.
Therefore many players of White can still be caught unaware, falling victim to an early knockout”.

This is exactly what happened. I spent a lot of time on the opening, finding the right moves.  The guy moved fast, looks like he played quite a few games like this one,  I spent essentially more time then him.  I was fighting on the enemy’s territory.  When I thought it’s time to attack, he suddenly created a mate threat.

I didn’t like h3 because of possible Bxh3 (not sound, of course, but I don’t like to defend such positions), so I played bad move g3, of course right after that I saw obvious Nbd2.

After 14. … f5, White were -.77.

The move looked like a placeholder, just putting the pawn on important square, so I thought I got a break, played Rac8 and was shocked by f4!. I don’t understand why I didn’t see it, as I made same move myself in the past (see for example post here about Marshall attack). It didn’t help, of course, that I didn’t have enough sleep the whole week and probably played too much correspondence chess, so I didn’t feel “fresh” when I came to play.

After that I lost a piece and the game went downhill. I resigned after 28 moves.

So, what can I do rather than just feel awful? I learned about that variation and I am playing a correspondence game with it right now.
Also, I realized that you shouldn’t be trying to find good moves in the opening  your opponent wants you to play. I actually did what Kramnik did twice in a row. Try to shift the game into the familiar direction, if possible.

After posting the game that went bad ( see “Lucena” post ), I decided to post something good :). Here is the recent online correspondence game, played mostly “real-time”. After 14. f4 I looked at the different ways of saving the bishop, didn’t like h6, etc.. and decided to sacrifice a pawn by playing 14. … Be4.



I saw that I have a check Bh4+ and thought that it will give me sufficient compensation. 15. Nxe4 Nxe4 16. Bxe4 Bh4+ 17. Kf1 dxe4




Here white took the pawn, it proved to be wrong. 18. Qxe4 Re8 19. Qg2 Qd2 20. Rb1 Rad8 (with the threat Qd1+). 21. Qf3 Re3!  




White resigned ( 22. Qg2 Qd1+ 23. Rxd1 Rxd1#, so white has to give up the Queen). 




After the game I realized that final mating position reminds me the mate from the famous Morhy’s game at the Paris Opera with Duke Karl/Count Isouard. Many years ago I read a book about Paul Morphy, adored him and memorized a few games, including that one. Interesting, was it somewhere in my mind when I was playing this game? 



There is an expression in Russian – “Tishe edesh’ – dal’she budesh’ “,  literally – “going slower will get you further”, or similar expression in English – “slow and steady wins the race”. I am restructuring my chess training lately. It involves not playing online “real-time” games after midnight ( it automatically decreases their number quite essentually), studying endgames, etc. The new element I introduced is online correspondence chess. I never played before any correspondence games and always was sceptical about it. But realization that I need to play more slow games forced me to find some solution. I can’t play more OTB games than I play now, so I decided to try online correspondence on one free server. You can play several games at once, time limit is 1, 3, … days per move and you can use opening databases, game explorers, books, but not chess engines or somebody’s help. The first unexpected thing  was that initial rating is very low and unlike in usual online chess you can’t quickly raise it, so you have to play with low rated opponents. The good thing is that as I found, people do more than one move per day. I already won one game and plan to win more to get to the more appropriate rating and opponents! soon enough. It’s funny, I do not remember blitz games I played yesterday, but I do remember most of the game I won, even there was nothing special at all. I remember most of the 4 games going on right now – 2 Spanish ( Ruy Lopez ) as black and Scandinavian and Alekhine as white. I can even think during the day about the next moves (  very roughly, though ). I hope my openings and my endgame technique will get a boost, as I look for the best moves in opening and for similar endgames as well, having one day per move. Probably I can increase twice the number of the games, not sure if I want that,  definitely no more than that. I’ll see how it will go, hopefully I am not setting my expectations too high.

On Sunday I played an OTB game in my club.  The guy was rated ~250 lower than me, said “wow” learning about my rating, but didn’t hesitate at the board at all. He pressed pretty well playing white Giuoco Piano (Italian game), I had to defend most of the time and finally it went into the drawn R+2p vs. R+2p endgame. Suddenly (he told me later that he thought he has an advantage and played for win) he made a mistake allowing me to activate my rook, so finally I got R+P vs. R.  After suffering a terrible loss in summer in the endgame R+Ps vs. R+Ps I learned Lucena and Philidor positions. I got Lucena only once ( out of ~3000 games online) before that and I drew it.

So, now I get an excellent chance to demonstrate my knowledge.  OK, I carefuly move the bishop pawn with the king,  all games were finished and a few people are watching.  Here I am, proud of myself, doing all by the book and reaching the position, where my nice bridge is almost built.  There is “still” about 5 minutes on the clock. Instead of checking my king and allowing me to finish my bridge ( Rf7+ Kg4  Rg7+ Rg5 ) he suddenly plays Kd2-d3. 

I think, how I should proceed and see Re4. There is something that I don’t like about it, but time goes, I have to move, so I do it. Suddenly he with a little “boom” takes my pawn …

I was humiliated, I came home and felt sick. The worst draw I ever had.  I spoiled my Lucena.

I think I was concentrated too much on the “bridge” part of the board and forgot about the pawn.  Maybe time was the factor too, having let’s say 20 minutes I would probably see it. Also, simple things like this I see OK in the middlegame having a little time (pattern recognition), but this is an endgame pattern (with the king), there are no such positions in the middlegame. 

So, somehow I should get that experience of playing endgames.  And of course, I should study them, this game was a pretty convincing argument.

Destructive sacrifice – “sacrificing material to destroy the pawn cover or other protection around the enemy king. Usually a point of no return.” (dictionary).

Many of us are familiar with the bishop sacrifices – Bxh2/h7/h3/h6/… etc.  Rook sacrifice is a bit less common, maybe because it takes time and effort to get the rook into the striking position.

The first example is from my online game. My time was running out, and  after I made move Qd6-e6, I had 7 seconds left. Luckily for me, my opponent didn’t suspect anything and played c4-c5.

After Rxh3+, gxh3, Qxh3# I still had a few seconds.

Second,  more complicated example is also from my online game. Frankly it was a blitz game and I saw just a first few moves, it looked bad enough for white, so I went for it, then found the rest. Mate in 8 – can you see and calculate it (if not, see the comment)?