Saturday, December 18, 2010

It’s the most Blunderful time of the year.

How much “chess knowledge” did I lose over three months? I decided to answer that question by going back to the club as my part time teaching gig winds down ( in addition to full time demanding job and other life distractions that younger players may not necessarily relate to).


Let me set the stage first. I spent last summer building up some opening tabias by way of understanding White’s perspective to pawn structures forming from d4. What this meant was, not necessarily studying the opening by memorizing lines and move order but trying to get a “big picture” perspective and understand what the themes are like. My White pieces were not doing so well as I liked 1.d4 but felt overwhelmed at the many replies Black would reply. I needed to break away from rote memorization habits and replace it with more of a pattern recognition and assimilate the correct strategy based on pawn structure. Pure memorization of move orders taxes my already feeble short term memory. I’m better off relying on long term memory recall of schemas and themes and derive move orders based on understanding and experience…in theory.


So how did I hold out? My first game out of the gate was actually at a one day event the weekend of Thanksgiving at the Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial. I was playing a strong Class A player from Maine, who I’ve played YEARS ago when I actually lived in Maine. The rating disparage was roughly 250 points and I had Black. The best laid plans for my pawn structure understanding had a BIG GAPING HOLE because I always meant to do the same cogitation for the black pieces but, life got in the way.


We begin a discussion in the Advanced Caro-Kann and I stutter out a 3…c5 turning it into a slow French minus a tempo, except I’m not that fluent in French. Let me digress for a moment, for me, learning an opening is a lot like learning a language. I’ve always struggled with languages as the nuances and conjugations always tripped me up. Add to that, a requirement for full immersion into the culture is really needed to practive. Likewise, an Opening requires both the Theory and Practice. At best I get sporadic chances to play typical lines but here with the Caro-Kann turned French, I am having trouble finding familiar words per se.


I invert my basic tabia understanding of d4 pawn structures and attempt to look at this from Black’s perspectives. By Move 7 I am behind development and cramped and already faced with a critical position. Do I develop or can I take better advantage of the open d8-a5 diagonal? To make a long story short ( and the Game is below), I didn’t know how to defend my Q-side and allowed him to walk all over me… he dominated the conversation in the opening. In the middle game he has a powerful knight outpost on my d6. I try to counter with a king side pawn push. I get a lucky break as my opponent decides to exchange his other knight for the marauding pawns. But I blow it in the end as I missed a mating threat.



Overall, I managed to withstand an inferior opening mistake by recalling some principles of positional play based on the pawn structures. I am alarmed at how I tend to under estimate my opponent’s ability to come in my Q-side and tend to get into trouble as black whether I play the C-K or Slav. Is it a Blind spot or am I missing the right “conjugation”.


Tactically, I am weak as evident in the game when I missed White’s mating threat. I realize that its not necessarily that I missed the pattern, rather, I didn’t bother to look because I felt I had a better attack blinded by material and what could HE POSSIBLY DO? Well, it starts with a check and soon my material gain is unraveling . With my material gain, I lost tempo which my well experienced opponent utilized by previously lifting a rook and going after two weaknesses on my part, the center and an exposed king.


Given my 3 month short sabbatical from chess playing, its encouraging to know that doing an examination of the various d-pawn structures stayed with me much better than remembering the actual variations to the 10th or more move because once I recognize a basic pawn theme, I can come up with some of the right moves. Where I am weak most is on the Black side and in particular understanding the nuances on the Q-side enough to recognize a threat. This has plagued me my entire career as the pendulum swings. I’ve been through periods where I was overly cautious and played too timidly. Other times, I would completely ignore a b4 attack and not respect the threat. There’s a balance in there and I need to find it. Here, doing a serious deliberation on the Black pawn structures in my game will help register the correct subtleties associated with the various positional ideas of a Slavic pawn structure with pawns on d6 and e6.


Good tidings to all.

8 comments:

Temposchlucker said...

@game
with advanced pawns the center is blocked so the king is safe in the middle.

Qb6 looks somewhat premature. Given the pawn structure it is logical that you expand on the queen side while white expands on the king side. Where would have been no king if you don't castle. Qb6 prevents your queenside expansion.

@pawn structure in general. How would you formulate the essence of pawn structure. What are the essential criteria or goals when you move a pawn?

LinuxGuy said...

I like your general philosophy of pawn structures, not because it should mean that much (other than be a simple and useful device) but I think that it keeps you grounded in strategy.

That said, as someone who has seen nearly everything a closed French could possibly offer, I'll put forward my thoughts.

4.c3 is a weak move, IMHO. You should exchange pawns and play ..Bf5 immediately, and Black is already possibly better.

7..Bb4+, no need to trade your good bishop for his bad one, although it's an okay move toward the draw. 7..Qb6+ is more or less automatic, then again I don't begrudge playing against the Milner-Barry gambit as Black.

17..Nf5. You should know that White gets easy wins in the French Advanced with BxNf5, therefore I like 17..Nc8 there, and it doesn't look like he is mating you on the kingside in the interim, without his dark-bishop.

20.Qf4 is a serious blunder; he should be doubling rooks on the c-file instead.

23...Ne6. The only thing you need after this move is his signature next to "Black wins".

I like 24..b5 with 25..Qb6 on the way (threatening to trade queens), and of course there is a ..d4 and possibly ..Bc6 on the way as well. I just looked at the line given in the notes and I'd ad in that position I'd be quick to trade rook for knight and pawn in the center there and consider it winning for Black.

The ..Ne6-d8-b7 idea is misguided since you are winning and should be attacking, not attempting to consolidate here. It also has the tactical flaw in that your queen was so nice on the dark-diagonal, since his e6 push could be met with QxNd6, preventing his Qe5+, which is all White had going for him. Well, actually it appears that Qc3+ could mate as well, so simply no need to remove your knight from the blockade - ala Nimzovich 101. As soon as he got e6 in, that was the game.

My advice, don't worry about your situation in the opening as you did well there. HE is the one that should be chastised for his Qf4 and needless knight sac, and he probably already knew what to do up to that point, so it was like follow some theory and then flop.

My #1 advice is don't panic over the opening, you played it well, stop kicking yourself and enjoy the game. That is what Black gets, but you played it eloquently with your ..f6 and ..g5, who could ask for more?

My #2 advice would be that the put-away should have some time and energy put aside for it. Don't invest so much emotion into the opening, but really focus/bear down when you have the win.

This is what Class A players generally do, they play the opening like total crap or from rote,blitz, seen it in a diagram once, or they simply screw it up, but when their opponents mess up they swiftly crush them. That's the part that needs working on in your game the "swiftly crush them" part.

Take care and don't beat yourself up over openings since you did well in this game, simply didn't finish your advantage in a conclusive manner, that's all.

BTW, I really like your blog, it's possibly the best one on the internet for all that it covers. ;-D

LinuxGuy said...

I like your general philosophy of pawn structures, not because it should mean that much (other than be a simple and useful device) but I think that it keeps you grounded in strategy.

That said, as someone who has seen nearly everything a closed French could possibly offer, I'll put forward my thoughts.

4.c3 is a weak move, IMHO. You should exchange pawns and play ..Bf5 immediately, and Black is already possibly better.

7..Bb4+, no need to trade your good bishop for his bad one, although it's an okay move toward the draw. 7..Qb6+ is more or less automatic, then again I don't begrudge playing against the Milner-Barry gambit as Black.

17..Nf5. You should know that White gets easy wins in the French Advanced with BxNf5, therefore I like 17..Nc8 there, and it doesn't look like he is mating you on the kingside in the interim, without his dark-bishop.

20.Qf4 is a serious blunder; he should be doubling rooks on the c-file instead.

23...Ne6. The only thing you need after this move is his signature next to "Black wins".

I like 24..b5 with 25..Qb6 on the way (threatening to trade queens), and of course there is a ..d4 and possibly ..Bc6 on the way as well. I just looked at the line given in the notes and I'd ad in that position I'd be quick to trade rook for knight and pawn in the center there and consider it winning for Black.

LinuxGuy said...

The ..Ne6-d8-b7 idea is misguided since you are winning and should be attacking, not attempting to consolidate here. It also has the tactical flaw in that your queen was so nice on the dark-diagonal, since his e6 push could be met with QxNd6, preventing his Qe5+, which is all White had going for him. Well, actually it appears that Qc3+ could mate as well, so simply no need to remove your knight from the blockade - ala Nimzovich 101. As soon as he got e6 in, that was the game.

My advice, don't worry about your situation in the opening as you did well there. HE is the one that should be chastised for his Qf4 and needless knight sac, and he probably already knew what to do up to that point, so it was like follow some theory and then flop.

My #1 advice is don't panic over the opening, you played it well, stop kicking yourself and enjoy the game. That is what Black gets, but you played it eloquently with your ..f6 and ..g5, who could ask for more?

My #2 advice would be that the put-away should have some time and energy put aside for it. Don't invest so much emotion into the opening, but really focus/bear down when you have the win.

This is what Class A players generally do, they play the opening like total crap or from rote,blitz, seen it in a diagram once, or they simply screw it up, but when their opponents mess up they swiftly crush them. That's the part that needs working on in your game the "swiftly crush them" part.

Take care and don't beat yourself up over openings since you did well in this game, simply didn't finish your advantage in a conclusive manner, that's all.

BTW, I really like your blog, it's possibly the best one on the internet for all that it covers. ;-D

wang said...

Hey Blunder, good to see you back. Overall I'm not a fan of the 3...c5 Caro Kann. Generally I find it to be an opening where black is slightly behind in development so the c5 maneuver has never made much sense to me. I prefer the 3...Bf5, but its a personal choice.

I have adopted your philosophy on pawn structures, but more on that later.

harvey said...

Hey BP!

It's good to see you back at the Club. I'd like to know more about how you decide which positions you need to study. I am just starting to seriously struggle with openings. Right now, I got a few Chessbase DVDs on openings, just to get my head wrapped around the topic. But I can see myself after going through those...now what?

Right now, the DVDs I will try to go through (over winter vacation) are:
- General opening
- 1.d4 (White)
- French as Black
- Queen's Pawn as Black

Not that I will actually "learn" an opening, but rather to (hopefully) "get a feel" and prepare me to actually study and opening... but what does that mean, really?

I'll blog an update on my progress if I make any.

Any tips in the meantime are much appreciated!

BlunderProne said...

@harvey: What I am doing lately for opening preparation is to understand the typical pawn structures first to get “the big picture”. I’ll either use Wikipedia or a link on Exceter Chess club ( its moved by the way to http://exeterchessclub.org.uk/content/pawn-formations ).
Here I get middle game ideas like “ Minority Attack” , “IQP” , “ Pawn Centers” , “ Semi-open positions” or various “ King side attacks” with various ideas like a Knight outpost on e5 or “lasker’s Bishops” etc.
These become the MUST study themes for the openings I play so I know how to play them.
My problem lately is knowing what to do when my opponent isn’t as cooperative. They play a move that isn’t quite thematic to the position yet I have no idea how to “punish” them without tripping up my own fragile balance and understandings.

I hope this helps.

millie said...

I think the game transposes into a french advance early on actually, which is an important distinction to make. It's much more caro kannish to play Bf5, though obviously this invites the super complicated 4.Nc3 lines, those are pretty fun to play if you're prepared. here are a couple caro articles i wrote a while ago before I started Brooklyn64.com http://greenpointchess.org/2010/08/29/caro-kann-advance-continuing-the-theme/

http://greenpointchess.org/2010/10/20/caro-kann-advance-4-nc3-bb4/