The idea to title the post about the tournament where I just played “No pain, no gain” got quick approval after reading an excellent article
in Wikipedia about this expression.
First it was introduced by Jane Fonda in her aerobics workout videos and it was regarding
working out past of experiencing muscle aches. Bodybuilders liked it, they think (and it’s true) that muscles grow only if they suffer
and you can’t become professional if you avoid this.
And the origin goes back to the beginning of the second century.
Rabbi Ben Hei Hei said, “According to the pain is the gain.”
So, it was a big tournament, 3 days, 6 games, 40/2, SD/1.
I decided to play in U200 section and was in the bottom of the rating list.
There were 4 games for me because I had to take 2 byes on Sunday.
The result was 2 draws, 2 losses, that explains the title.
I was better or equal after all the openings, never was in the time trouble, but it wasn’t enough.
I see some things that went wrong, but I would appreciate any opinion, as well as long-term advice.
You can bypass first Fritz’s comments to get your own general view.
Game 1 –  I am White, playing with young guy, 20+.
Scandinavian. People that follow my posts know that I hate it, but I learned a few things.
He plays Qxd5, Qd6 variation and after Nf3/Bg4 I use the advice from my friend linuxguy
(given after discussion of one of my losses) and play h3/Bg5, g4/Bg6 and then Ne5.
I like my position, Fritz 11 too, but then I start to miss the good moves,
one of them – +2.79! He gradually equalizes, but his king is still in the center.
I make pawn sac to open the lines, which I thought after the game was too aggressive,
but it’s actually Fritz’s choice, though it doesn’t give any advantage.
I play the bad move, then soon another one and my position deteriorates, his kingside pawn majority becomes decisive.
I am in the bad endgame, which I step by step lose.

The idea to title the post about the tournament where I just played  “No pain, no gain” got a quick approval after reading an excellent article in Wikipedia about this expression.

First it was introduced by Jane Fonda in her aerobics workout videos and it was regarding working out past of experiencing muscle aches. Bodybuilders liked it, they think (and it’s true) that muscles grow only if they suffer and you can’t become professional if you avoid this.  And the origin goes back to the beginning of the second century.  Rabbi Ben Hei Hei said, “According to the pain is the gain.” (The Ethics of the Fathers 5:21).

So, it was a big tournament, 3 days, 6 games, 40/2, SD/1.  I decided to play in U2000 section and was in the bottom of the rating list. There were 4 games for me because I had to take 2 byes on Sunday.  The result was 2 draws, 2 losses,  that explains the title.

I was better or equal after all the openings, never was in the time trouble, but it wasn’t enough. I see some things that went wrong, but I would appreciate any opinion, as well as long-term advice.

I posted all the games,  you can first bypass Fritz’s comments to get your own general view.

Game 1 –  I am White, playing with young guy, 20+.  Scandinavian defense. People that follow my posts know that I hate it, but I learned a few things.  He plays Qxd5, Qd6 variation and after Nf3/Bg4 I follow the advice from my friend linuxguy (given after discussion of one of my losses) to play h3/Bg5, g4/Bg6 and then Ne5.  I recently remembered it, found it in DB, it’s called Lasker variation when it’s played after Qa5, but it’s also played after Qd6 . Funny that the same variation was played afterwards in the blitz game between my opponent and Russian GM and GM played h3, g4, Ne5 too!  I liked my position, Fritz 11 too, but then I started to miss the good moves, one of them – +2.79! He gradually equalized, but his king was still in the center.  I made pawn sac to open the lines, which I thought after the game was too aggressive, but it’s actually Fritz’s choice, though it doesn’t give any advantage, just equal.  I played a bad move, then soon another one and my position deteriorated, his kingside pawn majority became decisive.

Game 2 – I am White again, playing with the old guy. I knew he will play Caro-Kann and he does. I play Tartakower (fantasy) variation that GM Bareev suggested,  I played quite a few blitz games with it, liked it and it looks to me like a less common variation. The guy confirmed that after the game,  saying it was a first time he got it. Good!  Nevertheless, he chooses the best answer e6 – 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 f3 e6, then in a few moves he gives me 2 bishops. I feel I am better, but can’t decide what plan I should pursue. Meanwhile he counters in the center and I get some calculation work to do. Pawns get exchanged, then queens. I am a bit underdeveloped, so I try to fix it without giving up any material or position. Still, has to give back the bishop, position becomes completely equal, he offers a draw, I agree. Fritz’s estimated this position as 0.00. Interesting, that as opposed to the first game, Fritz doesn’t find anything to criticize me for at all, “perfect game” :).  

Game 3 ( 5th round) – I am Black, playing with the guy 45-50 years old. He starts 1. c4 Nf6 2. d4. I decide to play Benko gambit, it resurrected in my blitz play recently after a year of absence, I found that it’s easier than Grunfeld, where there are too many variations and some of them I don’t quite like.  In total I counted ~100 Benko blitz games,  so good time to try it. I think it took him by surprise, nevertheless he accepted it, and for some time played it quite right. But the time he was spending was 1.5 times more than mine. I played all the book, then all the typical moves. He was almost suffering under pressure. Suddenly, after thinking for 20-25 minutes, he makes the move I was afraid of – 22. Qa4,  forcing the queens exchange . Yeah, they say that even after that the Black in Benko gambit still has the initiative, but I didn’t feel like that. So, I retreat, but finally queens are exchanged. He has about 12.5 minutes for 16 moves, I have about 40, but the position became pretty simple and another rook exchange is coming up with his next move. He makes that move and suddenly offers a draw. I think for 5 seconds, weighing my 2 bishops and time against his spare “a” pawn and agree. He points at his pawn with some gesture, meaning it’s not worth much and hurries away.  I realize later, that the max I could get was his “a” pawn, the rest was on the kingside where 2 bishops wouldn’t be such a big advantage.  Fritz evaluated this as – -.27, just quarter of a pawn for me. And he would probably make his moves in time in such a simple position. I don’t know.  I saw how FM whom I know very well, grinded down one guy rated 270 lower than him in completely equal R+B endgame, cornered his king – something like Kh1,  R at g2 and B on the same diagonal and made a pawn break. The guy having just 30 seconds left until end of the game to think about it simply resigned. They both agreed that the guy screwed up and it should be a draw. But my guy was rated 100 higher than me, not 270 lower. Still, here is the professional approach. Funny that at home Crafty finds that his best move was the worst one, losing a piece in 3 moves. “Meaningless” queens exchange , then my nice bishop for knight? and boom! I attack his knight and he has nowhere to go. OK, exchanges are looking absurd when I am a pawn down,  but it’s a forced line, right?  So, I have to calculate it, no matter I like it or not  and evaluate the arising position. I didn’t do it, so didn’t get rewarded for the lots of time spent for the opening preparation and for actually well played game.

Game 4 ( 6th round) – I play with an old guy, Black again, 1. e4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. Nc3 transpares to French, Classical. I am OK after the opening, but then chose the wrong plan 15. … f6.  I just don’t see f4 coming, which refutes my plan with Bg6. I miss the possibility to counter-attack on the queenside and don’t find the right defense against his maneuver  Nc1-d3-c5  (though I see it) with the purpose of attacking a6 and e6. I lose a pawn, but it’s not the end of it. My bishop is really bad and the pressure becomes stronger and stronger. Finally I miss his rook penetrating to the 7th line with the forced mate in a few moves. Painful loss, and I leave the tournament being pretty upset. I calm down later after running the games through Fritz and seeing that I had my chances and not everything was bad.

I feel that something important is missing from my preparation. The ability to find the right plan, to see the right move and calculate doesn’t come with blitz, so blitz will be essentually reduced. I don’t actually know how you learn it – by l0oking at GM games, playing slow games? I don’t quite like artificial exercises and don’t feel anymore that playing correspondence games gives me much. Maybe I should try to play longer games on the Web?  One of my thoughts before the tournament was that  I should play more OTB with the stronger opponents and I saw how right it was.

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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.