Sunday, December 30, 2012

Year End Wrap Up: 2002

I was on vacation last week, so I didn't play much chess. Looking back a decade though, I had a memorable  December tournament in 2002. I defeated my first three A-class rated players in the same event! The first of these wins was against BG Dennison, possibly the only person to ever play rated games in all 50 states.

Here is the game with my annotations from shortly after the event.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tonight's Lesson - A Story

This post is a story and a couple of puzzles. See how your solutions stack up to mine and those of my eight year old student.

I decided today to teach one my students a lesson on the bishop pair. For the first example I started with one of my tournament games, which had reached the following position with black to move. What would you play?

After considering many options, this student decided on 1... Rg8! This was the move I played in the game. I consider it the most logical choice in the position. (You could argue that 1... Qxh3+ 2. Kg1 Bxg2, is as good, but in that case you are probably a computer, because position looks much complicated to me than the game continuation.) The kid had worked out how 2. Bf6, maybe white's most natural looking move, loses spectacularly to 2... Qxh3+ 3.Kg1 Rxg2! 4. Nxg2 Bd4! and white gets mated on g2!

Instead of allowing mate, the game continued 2. Qf5+ Qxf5 3. Nxf5, leading to the next diagram with black to move. What would you play?

The student thought for a few minutes in this position. He nearly grabbed his c6 bishop to play Be4 or Bd7, both tempting moves that don't improve black's position (White has Nd6 and e6 respectively as responses). I figured that he would most likely follow my play in the game and choose 3... Rxg7. Black would have two bishops against a rook and pawn, which in this case can easily be converted into a win. My version of Fritz evaluates that position as nearly two pawns in black's favor.

Instead, my student played 3... Bxe5!? I hadn't remotely considered this possibility during the game, but it turns out to be just as good. Furthermore, it is much more spectacular than my decision! Our training game continued 4. Bxe5 Rxg2 5. Nd4 (5.Rf1 lets black carry out a classic windmill tactic - 5... Rxa2! 6. Kg1 Rg2! 7.Kh1 Re2+ and black will win easily.) 5...Rc2+ 6. Nxc6 Rxc1+ 7. Kg2 Rc2+ 8. Kf3 a5... Black will soon capture on a2 and promote one of his queen-side pawns.

You can follow this whole game fragment below:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

DC Chess League: December Edition

I was back at the board on Friday night, playing down 300 points in the DC Chess League. This presented a special challenge because I had a large rating gap and needed to win, both for my pride and to ensure a victory for the team. After looking at a couple of my opponent's games online I realized that he sometimes played a very drawish continuation against one of my main defenses against e4, so I turned to a line I knew well but hadn't played in a couple of years. Fortunately, a half hour of flipping through Mihail Marin's, "A Spanish Opening Repertoire for Black" gave me the needed confidence and even though he played a sideline, many of Marin's ideas were relevant in the game.

 My opponent played pretty well and I made a couple mistakes, so the game was roughly even until move 34 (pictured below) when he was overly hasty with the move a4. He didn't think long on this move because attacking my a6-c4 pawn chain is a normal idea, but he missed a couple tactical details that let me pick up a pawn. I think he became discouraged after losing the pawn and blundered twice more before resigning the game.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Titled Player's Can't Play Endgames (Part II)

I beat a 1900 in a long game last night, but I haven't processed it yet, so instead I'm sharing another win from a bad endgame on the Internet Chess Club. My opponent is a Russian IM, who was ranked fourth in the 3 minute pool on ICC.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Grandmasters Can't Play Endgames (Part 1)

I realized recently that I hadn't played anyone over age 12 in any form of chess for a couple of weeks. That's the excuse I made to myself for playing a couple hours on Internet chess club. I had some pretty good results by relying on my ICC specialty, getting into lost or difficult rook endgames and then winning them. A couple of these endgames were against strong players. Here's the first game, lightly annotated with another to follow soon.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Move First Think Later

I recently purchased a chess book by that title. Despite the name it's not a primer for how to play better blitz. It seems to be written as a challenge to the classic models of how to train at chess and how chess players think. Essentially, the author (IM Willy Hendriks) challenges the assumption that players evaluate the position and its imbalances before looking at candidate moves. Instead, he thinks that we simultaneously calculate and evaluate and you can't do one without the other. This part of the argument persuaded me, although I'm not convinced yet about some of his ideas about subconsciousness decision making.

The book isn't just a work of chess philosophy. My favorite chapter so far was a fantastic lesson on line-clearing sacrifices. The two diagrams below are a simple line clearing tactic and a much more difficult one. The first tactic is from one of my hundred or so games while entertaining kids at a tournament yesterday. The second tactic is from the book and much harder. I eventually stumbled on the answer, mostly through trial and error. Please leave solutions in the notes:

Question 1: Black to move and win:

Question 2: What is the best move for white?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Childhood Simul

Last week I posted about a simul I gave in Madison over Thanksgiving week. That time I scored 6.5/7, sparing the host of the event from having to make good on his promise of donuts to anyone for winning (or to me for getting a sweep).

I recently remembered a childhood game of mine from 2002, where I was on the other side of the simul tables. I played against Grandmaster Alexander Goldin, a multiple time winner of the World Open Chess Tournament. I played very badly in the opening, probably just not taking my opponent's threats into account. Somehow though, he let me stick around and then made a typical simul over-site  to actually give me an advantage. I think that another player also got a draw and GM Goldin won the rest of the games. Probably no one got donuts that time either. I think that there is still a lamented copy of this score-sheet somewhere in my parent's home in Madison.

Here is the game with my original annotations from shortly after playing the game. Calculation errors and spelling errors are reproduced as they were.