Monday, January 15, 2007

Towing the Line...

(Re-writing the post since Blogger crashed on me last time)

I decided to participate in the BCC $10 open this past Saturday. I played in the Open section ( because I am "officially" on this side of 1600 and my unofficial rating could not be used). All in all, I finished with 1.5 points after four rounds of G60 events.

For the first round, the pairing sheet indicated that my opponent had a "0" rating. I assumed a very confident un-rated person was tempting fate in the open section. I played a Skotch game as I had white. He was defininetly a solid player and I seemed my unrated may have been rated in some other country. I reached the following popsition and blew a simplification .

So, thinking my "unrated" opponent was going to steal a 1/2 point from me, I decided to tempt fate. I avoided the exchange rather than pair rooks down for a safe game. Going against previous advice from a friend at the club who suggested "slipping a draw" is better than losing a point to unrated or under-rated players. Well, looking at the position now its obvious Black has a better King position and an agressive rook. It almost shouts..."EXCHANGE THE FREAKING ROOKS!"

Oh well, I lost the point. and went on to play in the next round against another "0" rated player. I had black which gave me a chance to play the Caro Kann.

Let me digress momentaroly about the children who played at this event this weekend. Those that showed up to the BCC ten dollah open while all the other kids were at the state qualifiers. I asked, " Why aren't you at teh qualifiers?" " We are already pre-qualified!" was the smug response. So, in short, these kids were already top in the state. GULP!

The following position was reached with less than 3 minutes on each clock:
Again, in the comfort of my arm chair and NO TIME PRESSURE, I can clearly see what Black's plan is suppose to be. I can hop my knight on the back side of teh pawns and try to firk the king and a pawn. Then I can march my pawns. But at this point in the game, I decided to "slip the draw" and hands were shook and a 1/2 point was marked.

Third round, I had white against another prodigy but the rating was known ( just under 1400). I managed to trounce on the poor kid using a smith morra that Takchess would be proud of. The poor kid didn't understand the gambit, tried to defend and played passively. Out of the opening I had managed to pin both his uncastled king, and queen. This allowed me to pick up two minor pieces... for free. Later, the following SWEET position manafested itself:
I just played Nxf7. If he takes with the rook, I take with my rook winning the rook on a8. He decided to ignore the potential in my position and go after my b2 pawn. 4 moves later I had mate.

The last round, I played someone who knew me as my alter-ego on this blog and was hoping I lived up to my name. I also promised him I would go easy on the him on the blog. I had black and realized its been a while since I refreshed my memory on the Slav. He managed to trap my bishop while I was chasing bad plans on teh queen side. Yeah, I blundered in true fashion. Psychologically it was brutal... my game rapidly went south following the loss of the bishop.

All was not lost. This one opponent was rated in the high 1900's. Then I found out what my other two "unrated" opponents were. The first round loss was actually against another upper 1900 player. The kid I drew against was rated in the mid 17's. So I didn't fair as badly as I did in my own head. Afterall, I could have drawn against a 1900+ player and almost beat a 1700+ player in a Knight and Pawn endgame. Not bad for 8 hours of chess.

Rating wise, I believe I pick up about a wapping 7 points. I'll take them considering my latest follies. So I can say I at least towed the line.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Plan 2007

The new year is a good time to lay out a new training plan. Other knights seem to be doing this as well. So I will make an attempt to list my goals.
Ongoing: Daily Tactical training using CT-ART 3.0 ( 10-20/day)
Since I've done the seven circles I find I still need to do daily training. I am on my way to doing another 7 circles but modified from my previous "concentric maze". Instead, I am doing "mini" cirlces of levels 10-40 ( I am completing my second circle as I just finished the 30's and am moving to the 40's) Also, I am forcing myself to avoid the "need for speed". Rather than going " OK problem 339, let's see sac the queen (click) ...NO! I forgot what I did last time." I am taking each problem like a fresh position to be analyzed. " Hmm, Black's King is weak, but I see a possible knight fork with his queen...if it weren't for that Bishop" In other words, I am trying to approach it like OTB position. IN real life, during the games, there is no "White to move and win" So I want to learn to recognize "The Seeds of Tactical Destruction". My problem I had during the first set of circles, I thought I saw Tactics in everything and took WAY too many risks in 2006... which hurt my rating. It was to the point where even when I saw no clear win, I took the cheap shot because it looked so "cool". Aside from getting " that was the most interesting game I ever played" from my opponent, it really didn't benefit me.
One of the "yet-to-be-under-the-tree" gifts that's due to arrive, is the Book called GM-RAM. I have read controversial comments about it but decided I liked controversy. After reading Zebra's and Tigers, I've concluded the best way for me to improve is to develop positional evaluation skills. Since GM RAM doesn't have solutions, it encourages the reader to work through and annotate on their own thier own language to better instill the concepts of the 300 ( or 250) key positions essential to be a better player. I want to make this my center work for training this year. By the end of the year I hope to be comfortable with the positions in the book that I will develop more confidence in my own game positional analysis.
I am going to continue down the path of 1.e4 for white. I plan on continuing down the path of Skotch 4 knights and smith Morra as my new arsenal. ( I am already prepared for the French and Caro-Kann as I have played those as Black over the years) I will continue to use the Book-up utility and use the 3D view. My training consists of using Book-up in training mode reviewing the lines the day before a rated event. Then after the game, see where I screwed up. This has been effective for me in transitioning from 1.d4 to my new opening system. I plan to keep 1.d4 refreshed once a month and plan to pull it out about that often or 1 out of four times I play white. ( Depending on the opponent). I want to be ambidexterous so to speak with both openings.
I want to develop more depth in the Skotch and S-M. So I will also build my database of games. I want to investigate and be familiar with tactical themes for each of these. To do this, I will filter out all the short games ( >=25) and group them according to Black wins and White wins. I will also study drawn games as they reveal "correct" play on both sides and attempt to annotate at least 5 games for each. Part of what I run into, is what to do when a player goes beyond the theme of the opening. Beyond the tactical traps that can occur in the opening, correct positional analysis is required. This is a weak area for me.
Its getting to point I need more structure in my endgame studies. I have Studies 2.0 from Convetika. I've started circles training on this as well. But I need to be more consistent like Tactics. I would like to get to the point where the first couple of levels are at my finger tips and not in my head. To get there I need to do 10 endgame puzzles a day on top of the tactical training.
Some will be jealous, but I did get the Degroot Book for Christmas from my son! I am taking my time with this book. It's very insightful ( and not a very light read) from the psychological perspective of amateur versus master.
Well that's my plan for '07. I'll try to keep you all posted. Note, this time I didn't set lofty "rating" goals for myself like I did in the past. I'm avoiding this as it seems to be too much a destination thing and not a journey thing. The road to mastery is a continuous journey. I want to continue to have fun.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A misfortunate win...

I played a strong 1390 player last night at the club. It happened to be a kid who is coached by IM Igor Foygel . First, the money shot:

I reached this sweet position because the goddess Caissa was smiling that night. 10 moves earlier the kid had blundered his rook and gave me a game I was struggling to even get the draw. ( Rxf7 is what I played in the above position)

Frtiz is ruthless on my Skotch 4 knights play ( the kid didn't take the d-pawn instead moved to d6.) The first few moves were fine and I was cramping Black's game due to passive play. but by move 9 I started to slip down the slope of a series of bad decisions. This was the position that Firtz says Black's game is cramped:

I had just played Ne2 when he brought his Bishop to g4. I was thinking of getting action going to the kingside and covering f4. I also was thinkging that the knight at f3 is no longer pinned and if he does bring the bishop over I can "hop" into action at g5... which I did. But after 9.Ng5, h6 10.f3, Bd7 I had no where to plant that knight on g5 but 11.Nh3, Bxh3 gxh3 then I said, OK I "meant" that... I wanted to open the g-file up ANYWAY! Yeah, that's the ticket.

He castled and I got created a battery leading with my queen and a rook on the g-file. Seemed to be going pretty well. then I ran out of steam.

Its a rather nice position. But OTB, its hard to come up with anything tangible... at least for me. I tried making a break with h4 which he responded with h5 then i saw f4 adn played it... focusing only on a cheap shot... but this allowed him to come dangerously close to my already exposed king. Allowing Ng4 followed by Bxh4... I managed to stave off a mate and simplified the position at the cost of a pawn. I managed to keep controll of the g-file with both rooks while Black's pieces were uncoordinated. He kept snatching up q-side and central pawns while I tried to continue to put the pressure on teh king side. Then he blundered and I was given the game.

As I was heading out to my car, Igor confronted me ( in a jovial manner) " Why you beat my boy? He was ahead?" I told him it was because I knew it was "his boy" and that perhaps he should teach him Knight and rook endgames. We both laughed.

Bottom line, this year I am desparately trying to find the right moves in these kind of critical positions OTB. At home, I can take my time and figure this stuff out but in practice I REALLY Suck. The lesson here is that I was too busy chasing after a linear plan of the g-file when way back in the cramped position of move 8 ( or earlier like instead of moving Ne2) I should have made plans for a queen side play since I had more SPACE and freer mobility of my pieces on that side of the board. All too often I get locked into a bad train of thought and end up down the wrong path. Always look for a better move. ALWAYS!