chess strategy


I knew that a big tournament was coming and I had to decide to play or not.
There were a few factors, negative and positive influencing my decision:
– I had an party to attend on Friday night, when the 1st round would be played.
– My rating after Thursdays tournament would drop drastically and I didn’t want to meet a New Year with it.
– I had a feeling that I returning into a good shape.
– A 3 weeks break from chess was coming and I needed to somehow survive that.

So, because it was only one negative factor I just decided to take a bye in the first round and registered 5 minutes before the deadline.

Saturday. I came early to pay the entry fee, just after I did it I saw a familiar face from the Thursdays club. Suddenly he told me: “You know, we were paired on Friday and you didn’t come.” I ran straight to the registration table and had a discussion about it, how it could  happen when I took a bye and got an e-mail with a confirmation. So TD admitted that something went amiss and fixed the standings/pairings. I thanked god that I met that guy before the round started.

Round 2. I got a boy, had White and played Ruy Lopez, he chose Chigorin Defense. Computer doesn’t quite like my 17. f4 because of 17… exf4 18. Bxf4 Nc4, but after 18. fxe5 dxe5 it is equal. I maneuvered and got about 0.7 advantage after 25 moves, but then it slipped away. Then again he made a mistake by playing 28… Nxc4, I could play 30. a4 with advantage. The crucial moment came  when I managed to play 37. c4. Instead of playing 38… Qe7 he allowed me to advance the “c” pawn. My advantage then increased, but I missed a chance to win on the spot by 54. c7.

My move 60 needs a special explanation. So I wanted to queen my pawn, there were no queen at the table. I took a rook, flipped it, said like 3 times that it is a queen and put it on 8th. Then I went to find a real queen. When I am finally found one, I suddenly saw TD near my table and ran back dropping the queen. While I was running around looking for a queen my opponent meanwhile protested and TD came. So he looked apologetically at me and made the judgement:
“By the rules it is still a rook. You had to stop the clock and go to me to ask to allow you to find the queen.”
I saw that I am still winning and agreed with the decision. I also suddenly remembered the incident that made a lot of noise in chess Canada.

During the tiebreak for the Canadian Championship title one player wanted to promote his pawn with a few seconds left, but couldn’t find the queen. Only on video (which came out afterwards) it could be seen that his opponent was holding a queen plus two other pieces of the opposite color  in his hand for quite some time. So the guy flipped his rook, declared it a queen and made a move. The arbiter intervened right away and said that it is a rook.

Here is FIDE rule 6.12b: A player may stop the chessclock only in order to seek the arbiter’s assistance, for example when promotion has taken place and the piece required is not available. Under US Chess Federation rules and in casual play, an upside-down rook may be used to designate a queen.

So a rook is not a queen and the guy lost the game, championship and the right to play in the World Cup. He appealed later the decision, but lost.
Sad. Luckily for me, I was in a much better situation. I just exchanged this rook and then put another queen, this time using the queen I found before. He soon resigned.

I had about 90 minutes break, 30 minutes before the 3rd round I saw the pairings.
I checked my opponent’s games in DB, saw that he played some kind of Scotch gambit and decided to avoid that altogether by playing Hungarian Defense.

Round 3. The game started with 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 and I played Be7, Hungarian Defense. He had to castle on move 7. Then 10. Ne4 instead of castle was not a good idea. His play struck me as slow. After my bishop check on b4 he unexpectedly moved his king to f1. Later computer pointed that something else was losing, for example 11. Bd2 Re8 with a win. Then I tried to increase the pressure. 15. g6 was a bit slow, intended to prevent Qd3 or Nh5.  Then I saw a possibility to win a pawn threatening by skewer.

Interesting that computer recommends to play 19… Qxd4, but I didn’t want to exchange queens in this position. 20… Qd6 was defending g6 and also attacking the knight on g3, then the same thing happened with him as with me in the last round of the February’s tournament, he blundered the knight not seeing the pin. After he played 22. hxg6 I saw Bxf2+ and played it, after Re1+ he resigned. The best was 22. Rh3, but Bxf2+ and Re1+ still followed, gaining knight plus two pawns advantage.

Sunday. I had 2.5/3, so had high expectations that morning. I saw the pairings before leaving home, familiar opponent, =1,-1 score in rapid, no games in DB, surprisingly I got Black.

Round 4. He started 1. c4, I decided to transfer it into Semi-Slav. After his 13. Bd3 I didn’t feel comfortable, but computer evaluates the position as 0.00. It looked like queens exchange that he offered would solve my defense problems. Maybe this worried state continued, as my 16th move was bad. I think I didn’t like Nb5-d6, though I just could exchange my bad bishop to his good knight.

Then I really wanted to play Bb5, but thought that after bishops exchange as well as rooks exchange the pawn endgame would be not good for me. And, yes, after 21… Bb5 22. Bxb5 axb5 if rooks are exchanged and Black does nothing that pawn ending is lost. But keeping at least one rook would hold I think.

I was defending OK, but he increased the pressure by 35. e4. On move 37 I played passive Kc8, instead 37… Ra1 38. d5 Re1+ was keeping the balance. 40… Ra6 was a mistake, after double rooks exchange I didn’t take into account 43. f5 with resulting better queen endgame for White. But he didn’t see it and just played f5. My 43… Rg2 was a crucial mistake, Rg7 which I thought was passive and allowed Rh6, was better. From that moment it was impossible to save this game and I resigned on move 60.

Round 5. My opponent was a boy, he played French, familiar variation, I had it with a master. But his 8… Bc5 was a rare line and after 9… Qb6 I had to think for a while. The best move was 10. c3, if 10… Qxb2 then 11. Nb5 and White wins. His 11… Ng4 took me by surprise, but I saw that I got “f” vertical and tried to develop some attack there, but 15. Ng5 was premature.

Then I didn’t understand why he played Rc8 unless he took on d4. My answer was forced, computer doesn’t like f5, recommending g6.
I prepared to play Nxf5, again I didn’t feel like I have much choice and there was definitely some compensation. Computer evaluates the position after sacrifice as +0.5.

His Rc7 was a mistake and after 25. Qf7 I had +2.8 advantage. Then he made another, crucial mistake when played 25. Kh7. I saw that I have perpetual and started to look for more. I spent a lot of time, thought that Qf6 was a key defensive move. Then I saw that I have only 15 minutes left and went for a perpetual. At home computer told me that paradoxical 27. Rf1!! was winning. The thing is if Black takes on f1, it loses control of e8 square and it is mate in 9 – 26. Qg8+ Kg6 27. Rf1 Bxf1 28. Qf7+ Kg5 29. h4+ Kxh4 30. Qf4+ Kh5 31. Bd1+ Kg6 32. Bc2+ Kh5 33. Qf3+ Kg5 34. Qg3+ Kh5 35. Be2 Bxe2#.

Another, more “normal” winning move after 26. Qg8+ Kg6 was 27. Re1. After 27… Bf6 it was mate in 8, starting from Bc2+. Otherwise after 27… Bd3 28. Re6 White is winning.

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It was a first round, I got a young guy rated 1531. I had White, Ruy Lopez, he played Berlin defense. I decided to play simple and after a6 took on c6. I knew right away that Bg4 was a mistake.

I liked my position the after the opening. Then he played 20… g5, I thought that it is not a good move and replied by h4. Computer approves it, but then recommends 22. Kf2 with the following Rh1, it looks logical to me after h4. I kind of felt being forced to play 24. Bxg5, but later regretted it. The thing is I thought that I can’t defend e4 pawn and didn’t like exf5, letting the bishop on the open. Ironically that was the best move, 24. exf5, because after 24… Qxf5 25. Nc3 e4 I had 26. Rxe6! cxd6 27. f4 Qg6 28. fxg5 hxg5 29. Bxg5 with +1.2. 25… Qxc2 was not better after 26. Rc1 Qg6 27. Ne4 Be7 28. Bxg5 Bxg5 29. Nxg5 hxg5 30. Qxe5.

These lines would allow me to play comfortably for a win instead of what happened in the game. Anyway I found a defensive plan associated with my rook placed on e4. Then I played Qg4 forcing him to choose between an unpleasant endgame and losing a pawn. First option was better, but he chose the second one. But just when I thought that I have a stable advantage he suddenly played 30… g4. I knew that I have to cover d2 square, but missed that after a queen check his rook can go to h1.

My mistake was that I thought only about defense. 32. Qe4 was serving the same defensive purpose, but also was taking g6 square under control. After 32… Qc1+ 33. Kf2 Rh1 the following 34. Qg6+ with the series of checks forced his king to a7 and then Qe3+ would force the queens exchange where I would have +2 advantage.

So 32. Qc3 gave up the win, but I still had a draw. The problem was I had less than a minute left. When he played 34… Qg1+ I had a choice between Kg3 and Ke2. Unfortunately I didn’t like Ke2, not seeing that he doesn’t have anything more than a perpetual and played Kg3. It was a losing move. After 35… Kf5 I realized that e4 is coming, also I suddenly saw that I have only 4 seconds left, so I have to move right away. My move was a blunder, while it was sinking into me, my flag fell.

After the game he said that 36. Re4 probably could save me, but 36… Rh7 was winning anyway.

It was a last round, my opponent was a boy rated 1399. He played Scandinavian and then it became transposed Blackburne-Kloosterboer gambit. I found later that I played against it in 2010 and won, didn’t remember that. I think d3 made bishop on e2 passive. Then I made a bad move playing Nfd2. The idea was to force bishops exchange, but I didn’t see Nd4.

On move 10 he could play Bh3, though it looks above not only his pay grade, but probably mine too. He continued to press, but his 13… g5 was really bad being punished by 14. Nb5. After 14. Nxf5 I suddenly saw, that he has Bc5+ and Ng3#, so played Qe1. He couldn’t stop attacking, his Nh5 was a bad move. I realized that after queens exchange I will be better. Then I found 18. f4, 18… Nxf4 was better then 14… Nhg3+, which was -3. After bishops exchange he offered a draw, of course I refused.

It became technical, I made actually more moves than in the score-sheet. I played c4, d4, managed to win his “b” pawn and in a completely lost position having about 10 seconds left, he blundered a fork and resigned.

 

It was a last round in Monday’s club, my opponent was a man rated 1813, new in the club. I got White, played Ruy Lopez, he went along with Chigorin variation. He didn’t look quite sure about the order of the moves, I used it and played 14.d5.

After the opening he started attack on the queenside, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Computer thinks I had to be more careful and play 17. Bd2 and then b4 or b3. So he got some advantage and then I made a mistake by playing 22. Qe2. Only after I made the move I noticed that I can’t take on c4 because of Bb5 and my queen is trapped. He saw that too. By the way the idea to attack c4 pawn was good, but for that I had to play 22. Nf3 then 23. Nd2.

I saw that my chances don’t look very good and decided to sharpen the game by playing typical Nf5. Computer still recommends to play Be3 before that, saving the bishop. I was able to improve my position, but then missed 35.Qg4 with an equal game. So I was again worse after 37… Rb3. Then I didn’t see that I can’t defend my pawn by playing 38. Qf3.

I realized that my only chance was to use the weakness of his light squares. On move 44 I missed very strong d6, as I was occupied by the idea of the rook sacrifice. After I played 44. Re4 I noticed that he has 44… Rc1+ and 45… Qc5 and thought that he can threaten my king. But 45… Qc5 was losing after 46. Qf7, my king after checks was safe on h5.

The move that was saving him was 45… Qa7 and then if 46. Qf7 then 46… Qe7. After he played 44… Rb3 I realized that I won the game. The final position after Rxh6+ and Qg8#  looks similar to Max Lange’s mate.

 

I played two games this week, both in penultimate rounds, Ruy Lopez with Black, both featured the same line of Chigorin variation.

Game 1 – it was Mondays club, my opponent was a master rated 2233. I decided to try 15… Nc6 and 16… exd4. I forgot the next book move 17… Ne5 and played Re8. I knew that I need to play d5, but didn’t execute it well. After 19… d5 20. exd5 I needed to play intermediate Nb4 and only after that Nxd5. So he suddenly sacrificed his bishop on h7, I didn’t see it.

It was not that bad because I got two bishops, but my next move, 23… Bf6, was a big mistake. It went down after that and after 26… Be6 the game was basically over.

Game 2 – it was Thursdays club, my opponent was a boy rated 1509. We went along the same line of Chigorin variation as on Monday. I thought maybe I will outbook him, as I looked up that line. I played 17… Ne5 this time and we followed the book for 19 moves. Then he played 20. Ng3. I had to play d5 on moves 20, I think I considered it, but thought that he has Be4 after exd5. There was actually an intermediate move 21… Bb4 and then Qxd5 with an equal position.

So my weak d6 pawn got under pressure. I tried to defend it and on move 25 made a crucial mistake playing 25… g6. After 26. Qd5 he was winning a piece – 26… Qxd5 27. Nxe7+ and Nxd5 or if I would avoid Qxd5 he would follow with 27. Nh6+ with a forced mate. But he didn’t see it and eventually I equalized.

We transferred into a R+N vs. R+B  endgame, I think then he offered a draw, I refused. Then we got into a N vs. B endgame. I liked my position and thought that I have a chance. I probably had it, but played 42… Nc7 instead of 42… a5 43. Bh2 b4 44. axb4 axb4.

I tried to use his bad bishop, but to no avail. He again offered a draw, I said I will think about it. Somewhere around move 50 he started to look at the scoresheet looking for a 3-fold repetition, there actually was one. I didn’t say anything, but soon decided to agree to a draw.

It  was 5th round in the Thursdays club, my opponent was a boy rated 1479. I got White and played Ruy Lopez. I think I was not yet in a good shape, that’s why I played anti-Marshall after 7… 0-0. I played it only once and lost to 1900 rated guy.

Computer thinks that I could play Ba4 on move 15, I played it a move later. I decided not to give up my Spanish bishop for an extra doubled pawn, computer approved, giving only 0.12 after 16. Bxb4 Nxb3 17. axb3 d6. Then I got a feeling that my position is somewhat inferior and tried to improve it. 33. Rxc6 with following 33… Qxc6 34. Bd8 was better than my 33. Bc3.

After 33… Qc4 I didn’t like Qc2, it looked passive and decided to sacrifice a pawn by playing Ra1. It was not sound, but he played Kh7. Though my next move wasn’t the best, computer still wanted me to play Qxc2, I intercepted the initiative in a few moves. He decided to counterattack on the kingside. His f5 didn’t look like a good idea to me, but I missed 44. g4, I saw it only after I played Qd5. I wanted to use his king’s position, but couldn’t find the right move, I had left less than 5 minutes after 48 moves.

There was 50. Qf1 Nc7 51. Qd3, I missed it. Than it came a crucial moment after 52. Qc6 Qb3. I could play 53. Qxb5 with following 53… Qd1+ and Qxd2, but I had like 1 minute and 20 seconds left and that queen endgame didn’t look clear to me. I didn’t see that after 53… Qd1 I had 54. Qf1 Qxd2 55. Qxf5+, then Qe4 with extra pawn, computer evaluated it as +1.  So instead I went for a perpetual.

It was a first round in the first tournament of the season , because of the problem during registering I was manually paired with my friend rated 1518.  We had 6 draws in the past, his rating dropped lately. He played English Opening, I replied with c6.  His 15. f3 was slow, I expected e4. His 18. Bh3 looked strange, 18… Ne8 (with the idea of Ne8-Nd6-Nc4) was better than my 18… Rc7.

After his 20. g4 I evaluated the position and decided that knight on f6 and bishop moved to f8 could hold it. So I continued my initiative on the queenside. Instead of his 24. Rc2 computer offers 24. fxe6 Nxb2 25. exf7+ Kf8 26. Qg6 b4 27. Rf2 bxc3 28. Rg2 Ng4 29. Qh7 Bf6 30. Bxg4, with some attack (for the knight for two pawns) with -1.5 estimate.

Then I found 24… e5, I thought it was stopping completely his attack. He had to play 25. dxe5 Nxe5 26. Qd4, still after queens exchange Black was better. After 25. Bc1 his position continued to deteriorate and he resigned after 35. Rxh3.

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