Sunday, June 28, 2009

June 2009: Behind the Scenes at BlunderLab

I’ll continue with the Zurich 1953 next post. First, I want to emphasize that I am by far, no master-level player, nor do I ever pretend to think I am. I am a chess enthusiast who puts himself in the category of adult improvement seeker. My analysis in these games are purely for exploration and discovery in this game. The more I learn, the more I understand but usually also means the longer the road becomes. Sure, I would like to be a master some day but, more importantly, I want to understand this game, its history, and human nature as to why some rocket to the top while others, try, but reach mediocre results.

Philosophically speaking: ( My journey so far)

I study the historic games and try to apply what I learn while playing. I also never claim to be a historian. I am a mere hack in comparison to Bill Wall, Ed Winter and Sarah Beth ( aka batgirl). Taking a historic tour has allowed me to no longer have that feeling of impending doom because I may not fully understand why and how a particular opening variation is played. My obstacles come from the transitions from opening to middle game and coming up with the correct plan.

When I studied the London 1851 series, the games were very dynamic but obvious. The openings had clear purpose with tactical results almost immediate with the placement of the pieces. The Hastings 1895 event built up from the swashbuckling the importance of positional play. Not only did it show me a respect for accumulations of small advantages but opening ideas around the center and pawn structures became more apparent.

The Hypermodern movement, shown moderately with the New York 1924 event, taught me that longer range planning of pieces meant a closed position could eventually open up when you least expect it. Placing bishops on long diagonals that are closed will eventually enjoy the freedom as they game open ups into the endgame. The appreciation of pawn structures for winnable endgames seemed to be more important.

The Zurich 1953 games (so far) , takes the hypermodern ideas from a quarter century prior and underscores once again, the importance of accumulating advantages while taking risks in your own position in an effort to create favorable imbalances. These nuances are advanced concepts, which require repetition and reviewing multiple games in order for me to recognize these patterns.

In all these events, I find digging for the biographical facts of the players brings to life this rich history. For me, anyways, it’s also been supplemental to creating more long term memory markers when I recall a position.

One thing I learned when I did the MDLM seven circles of hell tactical training was the visual challenge of 2D diagrams translating to three dimensional play during real tournaments. I found that I was not recognizing the same pattern presented with depth. I converted the CT-ART data base to PGN and ported it to Chess base were I can set view to 3D. It’s blocky and chunky but has helped tremendously in visual pattern recognition. Igor Foygel was the one to suggest playing the puzzles on a real board or at least converting them to 3D representation.

In that light, my chess lab ( the wife calls it my MAN CAVE), includes my laptop with a dual screen so I can feel like a mad scientist. I also have a dedicated full size set that I work through critical positions, especially where the games transition from opening to middle and late middle to endgame.

I advocate using a real tournament size set for study. Simulating near OTB experiences is critical to securing the learning process into deliverable results. I have to admit, that I was given a set by CSN distributers ( by agreeing to set up a link on my blog. Long story short, they approached me because of the popularity of this blog ( thank you all for the support) and I negotiated with them and received the top end Dreuke Wooden set and board ( retails $150) all for setting a link on my blog. Call me a sell out, I don’t care. It’s my first official sponsorship! Take that Monroi!

A closer look: A lesson in two types of gambits

(I couldn't help with the microscope shot, I was aiming to tribute my blogging friend, BDK, who was also photographed beside a microscope on Transformer's post back in June of 2007)
Some folks have been asking me to post a couple of my recent games.Rather than bragging about the wins, I want to dissect a couple of my losses to underscore why my journey needs to continue .

Exhibit A, I call “Swatting at Flies” because it results in a game that I was unfamiliar and underestimated, the Benko Gambit. I’ve seen a lot of QGD and QGA, but this one surfaces later in the history tour. A poor excuse, but I have run into this and the Benoni more often lately at the club and local events. The “tabia” I knew was to advance d5 when Black plays an early …c5 without a d5 in place. But then the Benko surfaces : 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5.

I know now, when in doubt, ALWAYS accept the gambit. That’s what my posthumous mentors, like Steinitz , Pillsbury, and Lasker would lead me to believe. Unless I have a prepared line, make your opponent prove the merit of the position while holding on to the extra piece. “Declining a gambit is almost unsportsmanlike ” ( Anderssen). Giving back material is always an option. In this game, I declined the gambit and played positionally.

At one point I seemed to have a rather good game until my opponent decided to open up my king side with Knight sacrifice for two of my sheltering pawns.

Like a muscle bound weight lifter trying to do yoga contortions, I could not bring my piece majority around to defend my king who was being swarmed.

The next game, I played an alchemist. I call Rumpelstiltskin because he was able to turn a rather crappy position into gold. I was on the black side of a Panov-Botvinik Caro-Kann. I started out on a quest on White’s c3. By move 12, I was ahead in development, I had his pawns fixed and a good weakness on c3 to build from. Then, I got it in my head that advancing the e-pawn was going to bring me fame and riches. In hindsight, this turns out to be an outrageous plan since White, with the bishop pair, would benefit more with an open game. By move 14 I boldly played into a bad plan. I wanted to expand e6-e5, exchange pieces. In the meantime, my opponent conjured up a Knight and Queen attack on my king. In an arrogant display of over confidence, I felt I really could walk away from it.

I think at this point I could have salvaged at least a ½ point. Instead I was spooked but the possible queen pin and dropping a piece. Greed motivated me in trying to hold on to material. I captured with the f-pawn and my game crumbled even further despite having a material advantage.

What did I learn?

In both games, the theme was around gambits. The first being more a traditional gambit pawn for piece mobility, the second, a piece gambit to gain initiative for an attack. In the game where I faced a Benko gambit, I decided a more positional challenge than sticking to basic principles. I didn’t have a prepared line and my opponent understood the nuances of the position better than I did. In the second game, I needed to give back material in order to neutralize the attack.
See you next time in Zurich 1953. It's back to the time machine as my journey continues.


Blue Devil Knight said...

Hey is that a dreamcatcher on your oscilloscope? Does it help you capture good data?

Fun post! I was just reading about the Panov Attack (black's perspective) last night. I still feel like I'm just memorizing variations for this opening, not really understanding plans and principles. Houska talks about it as a battle of structure (black) versus activity (white), but I don't feel that in my bones yet. Partly it's because I basically never see it in practice (except against one person), so it is mostly a matter of variation-memorization!

BlunderProne said...

@BDK: Yes it’s a dream catcher because sometimes debugging requires “magic”.

I’ve made piece with the Panov on the black side by understanding principles of an Isolated queen pawn game. Basic principles for White: e- and c-files are open and should get occupied by rooks; support the advance of the d-pawn with minor pieces; while black redirects the forces to block the advance, prepare a king side attack; avoid exchanges when possible.
For Black: Plant a knight on d5 to block the advance; force exchange of pieces when possible; expose the weakness of the IQP in the end game; make use of a pawn majority once you capture it.

So in reference to the activity versus structure; White’s game is a little freer as a result allowing him some flexibility : two main themes 1) advancing the d-pawn to get rid of the “burden” ( but act as a central battering ram) and 2) launch a King side attack with the knight and queen followed by a rook lift. Black’s game is solid defense but should assert himself through aggressively attempting exchanges. The theme for black should be Block first, then confront the open files and diagonals.

In the C-K, people who play the Panov are hoping this is black’s weakest link of preparation. I see it a lot at the club because most (anti) C-K books speak highly of this game. White will also attempt to lay an IQP on you as well, I tend to avoid those lines and support d5 with Nf6, e6 etc. I don’t worry about getting the QB out of the pen. My first priority is supporting d5. Once you come to terms with playing ( on both sides) an IQP, you will have better grounding of this rather tame barking Chihuahua.

Blue Devil Knight said...

BP: that's all very helpful stuff. I am just starting to think about these IQP positions, but your quick summary is very helpful. Since it will become a weakness in an endgame, black should head to an endgame. White, on the other hand, needs to get in an attack and win before the endgame when his/her structure will be a liability (either that, or use the activity advantage to induce structural weaknesses in black's position as compensation).

Once you come to terms with playing ( on both sides) an IQP, you will have better grounding of this rather tame barking Chihuahua.


linuxguyonfics. said...

I played the Benko in tournaments for a few years, and never once in years since.

I believe yes, that Black is either giving up a pawn or White can reject it for positional pressure.

Retaking with a pawn on c4 is a more modern line, but the classic response is for White to use/recapture that square with a piece/knight.

The problem with Benko is Black really doesn't have a lot of options, such as with opening up the position more.

I don't get the bishop retreat to h5 as the sac on g4 seems losing and BxN on f3 looked good for Black.

Your ..e5 in the Panov looked brilliant, nice defense too. Wasn't he just down a piece, where you play ...Rc8 instead of the knight move and just win? White's Ng5 looked too tongue-in-cheek to me.

I originally did have the book by Benko at one point. Benko was awesome, truly, but it was new at that time (originally volgagrad gambit, I think) so games would have followed a little bit more of the suckers path as White (hey, Black still had to pave the way), but later it became fashionable to decline in different ways, so you could throw the book out the window them. harhar.

It's interesting how you follow the history. The present is very much built on their footsteps.

chesstiger said...

Nice blunderlab! Even with a microscope to disect your games to the bare bones. :-)

Anonymous said...

Great post. You are to chess blogging what Michael Jackson was to Pop, or maybe pedophilia.

Aziridine said...

I was just looking at that second game with the Panov. Your note to 12...Qd8 struck me as rather strange. Black, if anything, is behind in development (2 knights developed + castled, while White has four pieces out); White's pawns are not really fixed in that he can play c3-c4 anytime he wants; and for the same reason, c3 is not a weakness. And of course, White has the bishop pair. I think your evaluation here has a lot to do with your overoptimistic play later on.
I'm not familiar with Panov theory, but 8...Qa5 doesn't look like a good idea if Black has to put the queen back on its original square four moves later.

liquideggproduct said...

The concept of having a "BlunderLab" is so cool; be proud of your "man cave"! But you really need the white lab coat to fill out the image.

Re: playing for the endgame. This is the part of chess strategy that I admire most, that great players understand how the openings and pawn structures in the early moves influence the very end. Sometimes you'll read that GM X was playing to get some particular endgame, and it's like move 7. And I'll be thinking "Wow!" Getting better at tactics...that's one thing, it's comprehensible, you see some moves ahead to get a particular result.

Congrats on the sponsorship!