Monday, February 28, 2005

The Smell of Blood

Experts are human. I've played against two in tournament chess, so far, and I can say that, indeed, experts are human. I have lost both my games against the experts I played, but in the first one I was almost able to hang on to a gambitted pawn.


In my second game, Silman's idea of imbalances really started to solidify itself in my mind when my opponent almost went pawn chasing and almost suffered what would probably have been a fatal kingside attack.


Then, I watched another Class C player in my last tournament defeat not one, but two (!) experts in the same match. And...get one of those games all of us kibbitzers (which included an expert), as well as the expert this Class C player was facing, mis-evaluated the ending that played out. It looked like surely the Class C player would lose with a bishop and pawns vs. rook and pawns. He proved us all wrong.

So, experts are human...and I think I smell blood.

Unofficial USCF Ratings Update

Earlier this month Rakshasas proposed that the Knights Errant take him up on his challenge to determine the effectiveness of the De La Mazian school of thought. I accepted that challenge with a beginning rating of 1479 (1474 if you include a late-rated tournament poor result from prior to my current De La Mazian studies). I track my rating obsessively (go figure!), and it's looking like after my recent showing in the Twin Cities tournament and this latest Open tournament are figured in my rating will be around 1518. So, an increase of 39 points in one month. Not bad!

Friday, February 25, 2005

2005 Greater Peoria Open

I'm playing in my first, big non-scholastic tournament tomorrow, so I won't be doing much posting for the next couple of days. Then, I want to catch upon on my analysis of both my Round 6 Twin Cities Championship game and the 5 rounds of g/120 I'll be dealing with starting tomorrow and ending Sunday. I have a good feeling about my game going into this tournament, so let's hope that my thought process is in line and my head is on straight. After my recent OTB results are tallied, I should be just under 1500 USCF. I'd like to see if I can get to 1550 after this tournament.

Well, I scored 3.0 out of the 5 rounds. It was enough for me to share the prize for top Class C player with one other person. My first game was against an Expert, and I had a pretty good attack going, but he defended wisely and I ended up in a losing endgame. My second game was against an 1100 rated player, and I won that one after my opponent undertook a bad combination. My third game was against a 1440 player, and I was able to use some tactics against him to land me the win. My 4th round was against a Class B player. I had a winning position, but this time it was I who undertook a bad combination and then I lost. My last round game was against a 1560 rated player, and it was a hard-fought game. I was able to get into an ending where I had 2 pawns, knight, and king against my oppenent's king and knight. I was able to convert the point, which enabled me to split 1st place for the Class C prize.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Generic Thought Process vs. SCAN Method

Still mulling over my thought process in an effort to make sure I'm on the right track today, I did a small experiment. What I did was to compare my current thought process, which runs along the lines of Dan Heisman's Generic Thought Process, and Russell Black's SCAN Method of Analysis. What I did was to apply both methods to problems from Convekta's Strategy 2.0 software and compared the results.

First, I started with the SCAN method. I won't go in to the details of either method, as the interested reader can get those from the links provided above. In summary, though, the SCAN method looks at a typical position in steps. First, it looks at king safety. Next comes central control. Then follows analysis of pawn weaknesses, control of lines, and is followed by a comprehensive look at all moves. Finally, it considers pawn structure and piece placement to determine what type of move should be chosen (whether it should be a simple developing-type move or something that is more dynamic). I worked a few puzzles with this method and discovered that 1) it took a lot of time to implement (around 10 minutes or longer which is too long for my typical OTB games) and, more importantly, 2) I didn't arrive at the correct answer.

Then, I tried Dan Heisman's generic method. The basic idea of this method is to consider all forcing moves first (checks, captures, other threats). These are then analyzed and if nothing promising results from the analysis a developing or position-improving move is made. I used this method on another few positions and discovered here that Dan's method 1)took less time (around 5 minutes or so) and 2)I was able to select the first move with 100% accuracy (I did have some trouble working out the entire variation tree, but this is probably due to my lack of relative chess strength).

So, in conclusion, Dan Heisman's method seems to work best, at least for me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Constructive Skepticism

One of the things I'll be working on this year is development of a good thought process. A good approach during a game might be to assume that your opponent has just made the worst move possible after every move. Then, it is your task to prove the correctness or incorrectness of this conclusion. First, see what threats are generated by the move, both tactical and positional (which I would describe as pre-tactical). Then, check the soundness of the move in terms of the best way to counter it or prove it wrong. You may not be able to prove it wrong. In that case, you can conclude that your hypothesis was incorrect and that your opponent has made a good move. Then, you must make a pre-tactical move that improves your position or at least maintains equilibrium. If you do find that your hypothesis was correct, you must find the best way in which to capitalize on the situation. I think that this approach does a couple of things. First, it helps mitigate any irrational fear one may have when facing a higher or much higher rated opponent. Second, it forms a loosely scientific way to look at the game by requiring the player to routinely prove or disprove the correctness of his opponents' moves.

Twin Cities Championship Round 6

My final round of the championship tournament is tonight. I should be facing another strong opponent as I have scored 3.5 out of 4 (my worst result is tossed, which was my round 4 debacle). There is one kid, a 5th grader I believe, who is 20th in the US for his age, who is undefeated. I think he will end up becoming the champion, but I will finish pretty close to him if I can win tonight. Game and my humble analysis will follow.

Update: I played the kid mentioned above. He had won every single round prior to playing me. I had the advantage through most of the game, but then I dissipated my advantage (as seems to be my problem lately) and we ended up drawing the game. He is the winner of the tournament, anyway, and I tied for 3rd place.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Discovered Attacks, Discovered Checks, Double Checks

I've started the first circle of what will comprise the next three chapters of Reinfeld's 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices & Combinations. After finishing my 7th circle on the Double Attack, I can say I finally get the idea of the many possible ways double attacks can occur during games. Boy, does my head hurt! Anyway, my goal is to complete 7 circles on these chapters by next Sunday, although I know it will be a challenge fitting everything in when I've got a 2 day tournament plus an OCL game plus an STCBunch Open game to fit in as well. We'll have to see how it goes!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Field Promotion

I was just contacted by my team captain for the OCL that I have been promoted to board 1 from my board 2 position for the rest of the winter tournament and for the spring tournament, which is coming up. Thank you to my captain, Lamtarra, for the vote of confidence. I hope to do our team proud.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

STC Bunch 2005 Open - Round 1

I don't think I really wanted to win. I was too eager to trade off pieces in the middlegame and completely blew an opportunity to win a pawn in the last few moves of the game. It was a draw, but I could have played much better. Sigh...I hope I snap out of this draw mentality soon....

danjc (1427) - CelticDeath (1718)FICS rated standard game FICS, Fremont, California USA, 19.02.2005
1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.e3 Book is: [4.cxd5 Bxf3 5.dxc6 Bxc6] 4...Nf6 5.Be2 dxc4 6.Bxc4 e6 7.Nc3 Bb4 8.Bd2 0-0 9.a3 Bxc3 [9...Be7 10.b4 a6] 10.Bxc3 Re8 11.Be2 Qe7 [‹11...Bxf3 12.Bxf3 e5 13.dxe5 Nxe5 14.Bxb7 Rb8 15.Ba6; 11...Nd5 12.Qd2 Bxf3 13.Bxf3 e5 14.dxe5 Nxc3 15.Qxd8 Raxd8 16.Bxc6 bxc6 17.bxc3 Rxe5] 12.Ng5 Bxe2? [>=12...Bf5 13.Qd2 (13.0-0 h6 14.Nf3 e5 15.d5 Rad8 16.Bc4 e4) 13...h6 14.Nf3 e5 (14...Ne4) 15.dxe5 Rad8 16.Qc1 Nd7] 13.Qxe2 h6 14.Nf3 Ne4 15.Qc2 f5 16.0-0 Qf6 17.Nd2 Nxc3 18.Qxc3 Rad8 19.Nf3 e5 20.dxe5 Nxe5 21.Nxe5 Qxe5 22.Qxe5 Rxe5 23.Rac1 c5 24.Rfe1 b5 25.f4 Red5 26.Kf2 c4 27.Re2 Rd2 28.Ke1 R2d3 29.e4 fxe4 [‹29...Re8 30.exf5 Rxe2+ 31.Kxe2] 30.Rxe4 Kf7 31.a4 a6 32.Re5 Re8? [>=32...Rc8 33.Re2 c3 34.bxc3 Rdxc3 35.Rxc3 Rxc3 36.axb5 axb5] 33.Rxe8 Kxe8 34.axb5 axb5 35.Rc3 Rd4 [35...Rxc3 36.bxc3 Ke7 37.Kd2 (37.Kf2? Kd6 38.Ke3 Kc5 39.Ke4 b4 40.cxb4+ Kxb4 41.Ke3 Kc3) 37...Kd6 (37...Kf6 38.g4 g5 39.f5 h5 40.h3 hxg4 41.hxg4 Kf7 42.Ke3 Ke7 43.Kd4 Kd6 44.f6 Ke6 45.Kc5 Kxf6 46.Kxb5 Ke5 47.Kxc4 Kf4 48.Kd4 Kxg4 49.c4 Kf5 50.Kd5 g4 51.c5 g3 52.c6 g2 53.c7 Kf6 54.c8Q g1Q) 38.g4 Kc5 39.h4 b4 40.g5 hxg5 41.fxg5 b3 42.h5 Kd5 43.h6 gxh6 44.gxh6] 36.f5 b4 37.Re3+ Kf7 38.Re6 c3 39.bxc3 bxc3 40.Rc6 Rd3 41.g4 Rd2 42.h4 Rg2 43.Rxc3 Rxg4 44.Kf2 Rf4+ 45.Rf3 Rxf3+?? [45...Rxh4] 46.Kxf3 Kf6 47.Kg4 Ke5 Game drawn by mutual agreement 1/2-1/2

Friday, February 18, 2005

Better Get Your Anterior Cingulate Cortex Checked

As a chess player, I readily admit to having quite an OCD. It keeps me doing De La Mazian circles and trying to learn something very few people can actually master. Now, consider Bobby Fischer. Of course, I would never compare my chess play to Bobby's, but it appears apparent to many that Bobby suffers from some form of mental illness - perhaps even schizophrenia. Now, there may be an explanation why chess players like me are OCD and, at the same time, why Bobby suffers from mental illness. The answer may lie in a malformation of our brains.


I got sidetracked from completing circle 3 last night, as I was trying to create a post that compared some very different conclusions Rakshasas had arrived at in analyzing my Round 5 Twin Cities Championship game. I worked for several hours on it only to have my PC lock up on me and lose everything. Nonetheless, Rakshasas did prove to have done the better analysis of the game, and my hats off to him. I'll try to recreate that post this weekend where I identify 24 points of contention and award points based on who gets closest to Fritz' evaluation of the best continuations.

My opponent for this weekend's STCBunch 2005 Open Round 1 game contacted me. We'll be playing our game tomorrow, and I'll post my analysis of the game afterward(or should I ask Rakshasas to do this? ;->). He apparently is a reader of this blog, as well, so a hearty welcome to Danjc.

I still plan on completing the 7th circle of Double Attack this weekend, although it might take me until Sunday.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


I think I've had an epiphany concerning tactics. I've always considered tactics and strategy as two separate things in chess. Well...they're not. Now before you get all P.O'd at me, hear me out. Before, I thought that tactics were the ways strategy got implemented. This, I still believe, is true.

But, what I now realize goes beyond this small idea. It's not that tactics are the ways to implement strategy. It's that tactics are the way to play chess. They are the only way to play chess. You see, no moves should be made in chess unless there is a sound tactical basis for making those moves.

For instance, say you have a choice between developing a knight to f3, but without generating any threats that the opponent must repond to, or developing a bishop with check. Which would you do? Chances are good that the bishop move is best because it limits your opponent's responses.

What if none of your choices of moves would create any tactical threats? Then, you must choose the one that creates the greatest possibility of future tactics. You see, this is why all the talk about counterplay with inferior positions being more important than having a sound, but passive, position is all about! This strikes to the very heart of the dynamic school of thought.

So, I feel even more comfortable about the necessity of becoming a master of tactics, because not doing so will limit my potential development in my chess career.

On Tap For This Weekend

I've almost completed my 2nd circle on the Double Attack theme. I will finish that tonight and possibly begin my 3rd circle. Tentatively, I will complete circles 3 and 4 tomorrow and 5-7 on Saturday. Then, I will begin my next area of tactical study on Sunday. I plan to group the next three chapters of Reinfeld's 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations together for this next set of 7 circles. These smaller chapters are on Discovered Check, Double Check, and Discovered Attack, which seem to go together. I want to complete my 7 circles through this book in a 10-week span, so I see more chapter grouping up ahead. Then, I'll spend about 5 more weeks as follows before I will claim to be an MDLM graduate:

Week 11 Pins, Knight Forks, Double Attack
Week 12 Second grouping, TBD
Week 13 Third grouping, TBD
Week 14 Fourth grouping, TBD
Week 15 1001 WCS&C in its entirety

So, it looks like Sunday, May 8th will be my 1001 day. 8 hours of pure tactical insanity!!!

Also, this weekend, I'll be playing in Round 1 of the STCBunch 2005 Open. I'll post the game and analysis later, of course!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Twin Cities Championship Round 5

Well, after last week's debacle, I'm effectively out of contention for the championship. I'll be playing round 5 tonight and could still face some tough competition as some other upper board players faltered last round as well. As per my usual, I will post the game and analysis in the next couple days.

Update: I won my game against someone I've played against many times and had only beaten once before (and that was in a blitz game), and who is rated 44 points higher than I am now.

Here is the game score and my analysis:

My Opponent (1523) - CelticDeath (1479) [A60]Twin Cities Chess Club Championship Normal, 15.02.2005 1.c4 My opp favors the English Opening. I wanted to keep my options open so I played... 1...Nf6 2.d4 A surprise! My opp wants to tangle in the world of the Indian. 2...c5 I'm pretty sure this was a surprise for him, too. He was probably wondering how much Modern Benoni book I knew. 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.Nxd5 I'm not sure if this is an actual Modern Benoni variation. At any rate, I had not come across it before this game. I toyed with taking the knight right away, but what would I do after White retakes with his queen? So, I proceeded along normal Modern Benoni lines. 5...d6 6.e4 Here I thought it prudent to take the knight. It's looking more and more like I won't be fianchettoing my darksquare bishop, and I wanted to keep it, so I decided to take.... 6...Nxd5 7.exd5 [‹7.Qxd5 Nc6 8.Nf3 Be6; >=7.cxd5] Here was my last chance to work in a dangerous fianchetto on g7... 7...Qe7+ 8.Qe2 [‹8.Be2 g6 9.Nf3 Bg7 10.Rb1] 8...Qxe2+ 9.Bxe2 Now, I searched to find the most economical way to protect my weak d6 pawn. 9...Nd7 10.Nf3 Ne5!? Allowing a passed pawn, but I was pretty sure I could keep it contained. 11.Nxe5 dxe5 12.0-0 Bd6 13.f4 0-0 14.Bd3 This move just wastes a tempo. [>=14.Be3] 14...f5 15.fxe5 [15.Be3 e4 16.Bc2 Bd7=/+] 15...Bxe5 16.Rb1 I had to think for a few minutes here. I tried to evaluate how the game would progress if I decided to blockade with the lightsquare bishop instead. I didn't see any immediate problems with this, and d4 is a strong square for me, so.... 16...Bd4+ 17.Kh1 Bd7 18.Bf4 I was a little worried at this point that he would try to advance the d5 pawn. So, I endeavored to get his darksquare bishop off the b8-g3 diagonal. 18...h6 19.b3 g5 20.Bg3 Rae8 Beating him to the e file. I might not have been able to do this if he hadn't wasted the tempo on his 14th move. 21.Bf2 I had another long think here. I had to evaluate the position after Bxf2 vs. allowing him to take on d4. I'm still not sure if I made the right decision, but I needed a threat of my own, which I hoped a passed pawn would give me, even if it was going to be difficult to protect. 21...f4 22.Bxd4 cxd4 23.Rbd1 Re3 24.Bb1 Ok...what do I do now? Was my evaluation off? 24...f3! 25.gxf3 [25.Rxd4?? fxg2+ 26.Kxg2 (26.Kg1 gxf1Q#) 26...Bh3+ 27.Kg1 Rxf1#] 25...Bh3 26.Rf2 Rexf3 27.Rxf3 Rxf3 And, again, the d4 pawn is taboo. 28.Kg1 Rf4 29.Re1 Kf7 30.Bd3 White's game is starting to fall apart. 30...Rg4+-+ 31.Kf2 Rg2+ 32.Kf3 Rxh2 33.Kg3 Am I going to lose a piece? Did I blunder? I think not! 33...Rd2 34.Bb1 Bd7 35.c5 h5 36.d6 h4+ 37.Kf3 g4+ 38.Kf4 Kf6 39.Rf1 g3 40.Ke4+ Kg7! [40...Kg5? 41.Rf7; 40...Kg6 41.Ke5+] 41.Kf4 Rf2+! White resigns. 0-1

Double Attack - Blind Spots

I completed my first circle with the double attack theme. I still find it strange, how I can get a string of them correct and then have no clue whatsoever on yet another string of them. It's like part of my brain is missing. There must be some reasons why the ones that elude me do so. I will take a closer look at that as I do circle 2. If I still struggle on some of them after circle 7, then I'll ramp it up to Don levels and complete 10 circles on this theme. I've struck a gold mine here. Now, it's time to dig....

Monday, February 14, 2005

Double Double Attack Attack

I've nearly completed Circle 1 on the double attack. I've begun to do better at them the farther along I've gone and 3 and 4 move puzzles are now within my grasp. There are still some (especially the longer ones) that simply stump me, and I'm forced to run to the answer section. Fortunately, when I have had to do that, the answer makes sense to me, and I don't think I'll have as big a problem with them when I begin Circle 2.

I also did some problems from Convekta's Strategy 2.0 program. As I worked through some of those problems, I found it remarkable just how important tactics are for implementing strategy. I even found a few instances where my current tactical theme of study was used. Another thing I noticed was how often material would be sacrificed temporarily for some other advantage, usually for the attack, only to be returned later (with a better or equal position). This is something I need to think long and hard about, because this, IMHO, is the key to becoming a great chess player.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

At Last...Discomfort!

I finished the 7 circles with Pins and Knight Forks. Some of those were challenging, but they weren't always. Now, I've begun my first circle of Double Attack tactics. I'm starting to see that this area is a real weakness for me. I don't seem to have a big problem with 2 move problems, but if I try to solve puzzles much more complicated than those I struggle. I mean...really struggle. I often can't even see the first move, even though I can usually find the first move on complicated puzzles for which I cannot find the follow up. Some might get disappointed in this situation, but I'm ecstatic! I don't see this as a failing, but rather it is a real opportunity for me to improve my game. If I can overcome this (and I will!) and get a real sense for this kind of tactic, I'm sure I can add some more scalps to my belt.

OCL Round 3

I won my game against my opponent Samjk, giving me a new FICS high rating of 1718. It wasn't a pretty win, as I didn't have the initiative until the endgame. My opponent stumbled once the endgame was reached and offered a draw, which I fairly quickly declined. The rest was a matter of technique, as they say.

I had intended on posting my analysis, but my Fritz ate it! I got done analyzing it and went to save it, but something got screwed up and I lost all my work. I wasn't about to recreate it. Here is the game in all its ugliness:

[Event "ICS rated standard match"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2005.02.13"]
[Round "3"]
[White "SamJK"]
[Black "CelticDeath"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1605"]
[BlackElo "1707"]
[TimeControl "3600+15"]

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Be2 Nxd5 5. d4 e6 6. Nf3 c5 7. O-O Nc6 8. c4 Nf6 9. Nc3 cxd4 10. Nxd4 Bc5 11. Nf3 O-O 12. Bg5 h6 13. Bxf6 gxf6 14. Ne4 Be7 15. Qd2 f5 16. Ng3 Kh7 17. Rad1 Bc8 18. Qc3 Qc7 19. Nh5 Rg8 20. Nf6+ Bxf6 21. Qxf6 e5 22. Nh4 Nd4 23. Bd3 Nf3+ {Fritz hated this move and gave it a ??. It does lose a pawn. However, I think that this move had a psychological effect on my opponent as it helps get rid of a dangerous attacking piece.} 24. Nxf3 e4 25. Bxe4 fxe4 26. Nh4 Bh3 27. Kh1 Be6 28. b3 Rg4 29. Nf5 Rg6 30. Qe7 Qxe7 31. Nxe7 Rg7 32. Rd6 Re8 33. Nd5 Bxd5 34. Rxd5 f6 35. h3 e3 36. fxe3 Rxe3 37. Rd2 Kg6 38. Rdf2 Re6 39. Kh2 Kf7 40. Rd1 Ke7 41. Rdd2 Rg5 42. Rde2 Rge5 43. Rxe5 fxe5 44. Re2 Kd6 45. g4 e4 46. Kg3 Ke5 47. h4 Kd4 {I think it was here that Samjk offered a draw.}48. h5 Kd3 49. Re1 Kd2 50. Rf1 e3 51. g5 e2 52. Rh1 e1=Q+ 53. Rxe1 Kxe1 54. g6 Re5 55. Kg4 Rg5+ 56. Kh4 Kd2 57. b4 Kc3 0-1

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Knight Forks Completed

Well, I only was able to finish Circle 3 last night, instead of doing both Circles 3 and 4. So, I made up for it this morning by completing Circles 4-7. I'm done for now with knight fork circles. Tonight, I'll begin the next chapter in Reinfeld's 1001 WSC which is Double Attack.

Tonight, I've got my OCL Round 3 game, so I'll post that game and my analysis of it either tonight or tomorrow.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Knight Forks Progress, II

Busy day at work yesterday, but I managed to complete Circle 2. I also did 42 problems this morning from Circle 3. My plan is to complete Circles 3 & 4 tonight unless I'm scheduled to play an OCL game in my Chessville tourney.

One thing I'd like to relate is something that happened last night along the lines of what De La Maza wrote had happened to him. I was completing Circle 2 last night in the bathtub (one advantage of a book over software!). I was mentally exhausted from my workday as well as from the tactics exercises. A couple times, I had to lay the book down and close my eyes and nap. I began dreaming about knight fork puzzles! After I would come to, I'd check to see if my dreamed up solutions were even close to relevant for the puzzles at hand. They didn't seem to be, but those were interesting occurrences nonetheless....

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Knight Forks Progress

Last night, I completed Circle 1 of the 72 knight fork problems in Reinfeld's 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations. This morning, before work, I began Circle 2 and completed 33 of them. I plan to finish circle 2 tonight. Tomorrow, I'll try and complete circles 3 and 4. Saturday, I'll complete circles 5-7, and on Sunday, I'll begin Circle 1 of the next chapter - double attack. After I finish circle 7 of double attack, I'll be nearly a third done with the book. What I plan to do after I finish the last chapter of the book is to work another 7 circles, but this time with the whole book. I may even divide the book up into 4 chunks and do a sort of recap 7 circles on those chunks before attempting the whole book at once. One thing I'm noticing is that CT-Art 3.0 problems at level 50 or harder are more difficult than the most difficult ones I'm encountering in 1001 WSC. I'm not sure what that means at this point....

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

What and How as Determined by Why

Tactics is "how" it gets done. "How" can be something as grandiose as a queen sacrifice for a mating attack on your opponent's king or something as obscure as determining the proper move order to place a knight on an advanced outpost. "How" is the actual conversion of temporary positional advantages into permanent advantages. Since you cannot win a chess game without permanent advantages, you must always be on the lookout for opportunties to convert temporary to permanent.

Strategy sets the stage for tactics and tells you "what" to do. "What" is always an idea. "What" can be something like occupying that knight outpost or exchanging a bad bishop, etc. The "what" must always be attended to and the "how" is the way to do it.

"What" and "how" define the game of chess. But, to properly understand "what" and "how," one must know "why." "Why" describes the learning process in chess. The more "why" that you understand, the better your "what" and "how" will be. "Why" is the reason chess study, practical play, and post analysis of your games is so important. Also, "why" must focus on both the "what" and the "how," although at the class level the "how" is the most important.

Misevaluation -> Misplanning -> Misery

My round 4 OTB game last night did not turn out well. My opponent played the Stonewall system, which I was only vaguely aware of how to play against. He succeeded in taking me out of my tactical game, but I did manage to maintain a slight advantage. However, I had chewed a lot of time off the clock in thinking about how to play against this opening system. In the end, I chose the wrong plan for the position and entered a losing endgame. Here is how the game went:

My Opponent (1386) - CelticDeath(1501) [A45] 08.02.2005 1.d4 Nf6 2.e3 c5 3.c3 e6 4.f4 cxd4 5.cxd4 d5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.a3 Bd6 8.Bd3 0-0 9.0-0 Ne4 10.Nbd2 f5 11.Ne5 Qh4? Simply a wasted move. The queen now gets driven back with tempo. [>=11...Bd7 12.Ndf3 Nxe5] 12.Ndf3 Qh5 13.Be2 Qe8 14.Bd2 Bd7 15.Rc1 Nxe5! Gets rid of the pesky knight. Now if White retakes with his other knight, Black will take with the Bd6. 16.fxe5 Be7 17.Bd3 Bb5! Exchanges a bad bishop for a good one and now the knight has a semi-permanent home on e4. 18.Qe2 Bxd3 19.Qxd3 g5? Losing my way again. I thought that since White's knight was exposed on f3, I should drive it back and launch a kingside attack against White. However, a better plan was to neutralize White's counterplay on the queenside. [>=19...Rc8! 20.Rxc8 Qxc8 21.Rc1 Qd7] 20.Rc7 g4 21.Rxe7 Qxe7 22.Bb4 Qf7 23.Bxf8 Rxf8 24.Nd2 Ng5? [>=24...Nxd2! 25.Qxd2 Rc8 26.Rc1 Qd7-/+] 25.Rc1 h5 26.Qc3 Ne4 27.Nxe4 fxe4 28.Qd2 h4 29.Qe2 Qg7 30.Rf1 Rxf1+ 31.Qxf1 g3?? Loses a pawn. Mandatory was Qg5. [>=31...Qg5] 32.Qf4 gxh2+ 33.Kxh2 Qg3+ 34.Qxg3+ hxg3+ 35.Kxg3 Kg7 36.b4 b5?? The losing move. [>=36...a6] 37.Kf4 Kf7 38.Kg5 Kg7 39.g3 a6 40.g4 1-0

There weren't a lot of complex tactics available in this game, but I think I can draw some conclusions from it, just the same.

1. The key to playing against the Stonewall is to eliminate or reduce the effectiveness of White's knights. This is not too difficult to do with proper play.
2. The smaller the advantage that you hold, the faster your plans need to be. Instead of slow pawn roller kingside attacks, look to seize open diagonals, ranks, and files.
3. There are two basic ways to win - either by a highly tactical attack or by accumulating small positional advantages. The proper method is determined by the pawn structure. With this highly blocked pawn structure, with few inroads into my opponent's position, the proper plan was to fight for those few inroads and not attempt a kingside attack until my pieces are better placed.
4. There are two basic plans for winning - either by an attack in the middlegame or by winning the endgame. If my positional advantage is slight, I should play for a winning endgame. Only if I have a large positional advantage, then an attack may be successful.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Free Time

It's amazing what a scarce commodity free time is. It's hard for me to get much done chess-wise during the week with kids and wife needing my undivided attention until 8:00p or so. After that, I'm able to have some "me-time" and study chess. Last night I continued my plod through around the halfway point of the knight forks chapter in 1001 Winning Sacrifices and Combinations. I also got my latest Chess Life mag with my highest published rating (1501), and I worked and solved the 1st 2 Chess to Enjoy problems by GM Soltis.

Tonight is chess club, where I'm at the halfway point in the Twin Cities championship. I scored 2.5 out of my 1st 3 rounds and will finish out the tourney over the next 2 weeks (round 4 is tonight). I should be playing the black pieces tonight against a formidible opponent. I will analyze and post my game either tonight or in the next several days.

Monday, February 07, 2005

February = Tactics

My sole focus on improvement this month is tactics. After a less-than-spectacular showing in my Jan. 29 OTB tournament (Peoria Winter Tornado), I realized that I'd been really focused on strategy, openings, and endgames to the detriment of what I perceive as my core strength - tactical ability. Sure, I'd been regularly working CT-Art 3.0 level 50 problems after having worked to death levels 10 - 40, but when I sat down to play in the last tourney I realized that something was missing from my game. I was lazy at the board. I also allowed too many tactics to be played against me. It took me until the 3rd round before I had settled down enough to play a reasonable game.

So, I'm taking somewhat of a break from CT-Art 3.0. I still work the level 50's on my lunchbreak, but I've gone a different route. What I began last week was to dig out my old Fred Reinfeld 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations book and go through, De La Maza style, each chapter. I began with pins last week and did 4 circles over most of the week, making sure that I analyzed each position and looked for breaks in the solutions. Once I'd satisfied myself that the solution indeed was the best and that there were no good saves for the other side - only then would I move onto the next puzzle. My last 3 circles for the Pinning chapter were all done on Sunday morning. These were for pattern reinforcement, and I spent about 1 hour on the 4th circle cranking down to about 20 minutes for the last circle of the total 108 problem set.

Last night, I began my 1st circle on the 2nd chapter - knight forks. I must have an affinity for this type of tactic, because I'm finding them much easier than I found the pinning puzzles. I plan to finish my 1st circle of knight forks tonight (around 70-80 problems) if possible. I don't want to sacrifice quality for speed, however.

Welcome Traveller

To the world of CelticDeath. Follow my trials and travails as I attempt to improve from a mere Class C chess player to ranks of National Master. Fasten your seatbelts. The ride will not be and easy one, and the journey has just begun....