Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Grinch during off season

Tuesday I was in fear for my life over a 9 year old Asian girl who could pass as Little Cindy-Lou Who from the classic Dr. Seuss’ Story of how the grinch Stole Christmas. I saw through the cuteness, knowing she is ranked in the top 10 in the US for her age bracket. Being the epitome of the chess bully that I am, I approached this game with much grinch-like fan fare, complete with flaring nostrils, bushy eyebrows and “the Scowl”

She looked on with a blank expression, blinked those adorable eyes and moved 1.e4. I snapped 1…c6 Take that ! You are no match to My Caro-Kann BWAHAHAHA!

Calmly she continued 2.d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 Nc6, 5. c3 Qc7 HAHA! My “secret weapon” to the exchange C-K. Intending to disrupt her rote responses of placing a bishop on f4 and knights on f3 and d2. She was on to me though. The subtle 6. h3 was her continuation. I kept on developing …. Typically if she would have played 6. Nf3 first, I pick on it first with the Bg4 and entice my opponent to play h3. to break up the pawns on her king side first. So I looked at this as a little too cautionary which actually saved me a tempo and I went on developing as did she.

6… Nf6 7. Nf3 e6 8. 0-0 Bd6 9. Re1, 0-0 10 Nbd2, a6 11. a4, e5

I was considering opening the position and playing with an IQP to “throw her off” because I felt I knew this position. I thought of playing e5 earlier but I felt a6 was necessary preparation. A series of exchanges occurred:

12. dxe5 Nxe5 13. Nxe5 Bxe5 14. Nf3 Bd6 ( I should have moved this to f4 at this point ..instead I wasted a tempo) 15. Qc2 Bf4 16. Bxf4 Qxf4 17 Re7 … this was Just like little Cindy Lou Who murmurred… “ I only want a rook on the seventh rank!”

I grimaced “ Well well, My dear, you go right ahead and place that on the seventh.”

( position after move 17 Re7)

Then, when she was all done with her seventh rank rook placement, I went and did a LASKER move. 17…Bxh3! 18. gxh3 Qxf3 19 Re3 Qf4 20. Rae1 g6 Need to watch my h7. 21. Qd1 Rae8 22 Bc2 Qd6 23. Qd4 Re6 24 Rxe6 fxe6 I wanted to open up the f-file and have support for the d-pawn. It was a risk I was willing to take. She had all her energy on that Open e-file I needed to trip up this little whoville person.

25. c4 Qc6 26. Bb3 b5 27 axb5 axb5 28. cxd5 Nxd5 29. Rxe6!

“Oh Blast” I fell into a pinned position with that fowl plan of the fxe6 move. To top it all off, she recovered her lost pawn. So I saw a series of checks:
29… Qc1+ 30. Kh2, Qc7+ 31. Kg1 I offered her a draw at this point. She just shook her head. Qc1+ 32. Qd1 ( I thought of the queen exchange and probably would have faired much better exchanging down instead I went “Check!”) 32… Qg5+ 33. Kg1 Qf5 34. Re2 Qxh3+ 35. Ke1, Qh1+ 36. Kd2, Qh6+ I knew my knight was toast. This whole series of checks was an attempt to get her to trip up as I had some nice tactical shots AND the initiative.

Once the series of checks ran out of steam, I knew the knight was going away and I had a couple more tricks up my sleeve. With her King pushed to the queen side I was going to make a run for it with my pawns on the king side.

37. Kc2 Rc8+ 38. Kb1 Kf8 39. Bxd5 Rd8 Now who’s Pinned! 40. Qe1 D’oh! 40… Qg5.41. Bb3 h5 because in the end game, Pawns are pieces too.

42. Qb4+ Kg7 43. Qc3+ Kh6 44. Qe3 I knew it was inevitable. I also knew my chances of survival were MUCH better with Queens off the board. I was slowly dwindling her pawn supply off the board and was ready to exchange rooks when I hit that point. But then I saw something better. First I need to advance as far as I could the g and h pawns. .

44… Qxe3 45. Rxe3 h4 46. Rh3 Kg4 47. Be6 Rh8 48. f3 Kf4 49. Bg4 g5
Now I have my pawns united. The rook is free to move about. 50 Kc2 Re8 51. Rh2 Re3 52. Rh3 Re2+ 53. Kc3 b4+! AHA! 54. Kxb4 Rxb2+ Cleaning out the pawns on the q-side. 55. Kc3 Rg2 56. Kd3

and now the SHOCKING 56… Rxg4! I knew with 2 connected advanced passed pawns, I could fair well against the rook. I knew this endgame a little … and she was unfamiliar. So I went for it.
57. fxg4 Kxg4 58 Rh1 h3 59. Ke2 Kg3 60 Rg1+ Kf4 . I played to f4 instead of h4. At midnight, I was bleary eyed and someone pointed out after the game that I might have been able to force a win somehow. I was more concerned in keeping her king out of the corner. She offered a draw ( I say finally accepted my offer 30 moves earlier). I extended my furry green hand, grimaced and shook her hand.
Final Position (draw)

Little Cindy Lou from Whoville ( rated 100 points higher than me at age 9) had her ½ a point stolen from her by this Grinch! My cold little black heart still beats.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Jorge teaches George ( prequil)

With my upcoming world open and future OTB events planned and to my wife’s agreement, I can finally break down and get a coach. I live in a great area with many resources. I go to a great club, with many resources as well. So who did I ask to be my coach?

None other than Jorge Sammour-Hasbun who showed up at our club earlier this year after his 10-year hiatus from the game. I struck up a conversation with him and found that at an early point in his life he had taken lessons from Mikhail Tal. He’s very down to earth and has a life to balance outside of chess as well. I felt very comfortable around him, as he’s very approachable and genuine.

I was at the Mass-Open tournament over the Memorial day weekend and took a bit of a beating in the U2000 1-day event. I happened to pass by Jorge and got enough courage up to ask if he coached. Sure enough, he does and can accommodate me.

I am so excited. This is the first time I am able to splurge on official training and to have found someone like Jorge tops it all off.

I plan to post some of the highlights of my lessons in the future. These probably won’t begin for a couple weeks as I have a busy schedule with graduations in the near future.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Where am I going and why am I in this Hand Basket?

My game lately has been going to hell in a hand basket, at least I’m enjoying the ride. The past couple of weeks at the club I had been playing real sloppy. Revisiting my thought process, I found I hit that human wall of inconsistency. This past week for instance, I went through the opening rather unscathed and in book. My opponent even knew my opening and was compliant up until he knew what difficult line to throw at me.

Then my brain went on FICS… because I’m still indulging WAY too much on this scourge of my chess game. I saw a cheap shot, only did a cursory check of threats and let go of my piece. My opponent, taking more time, was able to see a double attack. I played the rest of the game in a slow spiral starting with a bishop down, then a rook and then, when I could not be a pain in the ass anymore… I resigned.

Last month, I was doing real well. I was focusing on thought process as I described here with much improvement in my ability to carry out a decent game. I thought I’d jump into FICS and practice more on the thought process in action. Since I’m finding that this game is one where we have to practice more than collecting more knowledge, I justified going to FICS as a healthy means to do such. Well, its not working, I am not practicing my thought process, rather I am looking for cheap shots and not doing “real” chess.

On the other hand, there is something appealing about it. Last year at the WO, I played in a side blitz tournament ( insanely after 11PM) and did poorly. So … more justification I suppose.. I look at the FICS-Blitz as a good way to practice blitz …which I realize I SUCK at. Also, relaxing after work without fear of losing my “real” rating… and only having my FICS rating affected is appealing.

Moderation… as in anything else, is the key. I need to get back to working on my thought process so I can be consistent at OTB events I attend. This is my goal this year. Its not a rating threshold like I had in the past, rather, I want to play more consistently. Not like I am doing currently or have done in the past. Why can I be so “ON” in one event, and the next one I go to, it’s like my brain has been replaced. Am I a chess schizophrenic? Well, I am human I suppose. We all have off days.

I send this Huzzah out to chessloser! He’s attending his first USCF tournament. May your brain be with you.

Have a good weekend all.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Blunder Prone takes on the World!

I got an early father’s day gift hint…. And set my reservations for Valley Forge in early July. I’M HEADING TO THE WORLD OPEN ( again). I’m going to try my hand in the under 1800 section again and ward off all those cheaters and win that 20K!... or at least have some fun trying.

Since I’ve been training all along in the spirit of no new knowledge, I plan on continuing my regimen of tactics and non-annotated master game analysis of my selected openings. I’ll mix in the GM-RAM endgame studies as well as the classic games in that gem of a book. Oh, and I’ll try not indulge too much in internet chess.

I am excited. Lastyear I had a blast and finished with a plus score and a rating boost. I was so close to Nakamura that I could tell what he had for lunch by the spinich stuck in his teeth. I plan on dong more late night insanity with blitz tournaments.

Look out world, here I come!


Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I avoided playing on FICS for the longest time, then all of a sudden I found myself playing almost nonstop for the past two weeks. I must taper off because it will curve my spine, rot my mind and make me go bald! ( well... I exagerate)

I need to get back to the discipline of my training routine. I won last night's came only by dumb luck as I was playing for cheap shots ( like i did on FICS) I ended up missing having my Queen and Rook skewered. I got lucky because the kid droppped a rook and thus I was up a piece.

The previous week I had a good attack forming against a 1700+ player but I couldn't sustain the intiative. The problem with the Smith Morra ( as well as other Gambits) is once the rush dies out, you have to play with a pawn down.

So its back to the Spartan regimine of GM-RAM, Ct-Art, going over GM games of my openings and of course the Alburt 300 Pocket Chess Training with Olga Zoueva in her sexy black dress on the cover. That's why I bought the book. ;)


Sunday, May 06, 2007


I have Lev Alburt's 300 positions . He has 300 positions that he claims are essential for tournament players. It’s my take everywhere book. I ma on my third pass on this and still feel more like the kids in Sandlot rather than the crimson caped, speed-o wearing Spartan 300. Thus I present the Sandlot 300 because this is more like the noise in my head versus the reality OTB.

In other news, I missed Tuesday night chess club and was hankering for a game. I decided to give FICS a try again. Normally I have been opposed to internet chess since I play quickly. But I’ve been playing a lot this week, only playing higher rated players. So far my rating after a little over 20 games is 1641. Its hard to practice real chess, but I am having some good games in the sandlot.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Progress Not Perfection

I completed my level 30 problems for the 10th circle of hell on CT-ART .

I have a less than stellar results as I only scored a meager 68% as compared to the 76% when I completed the 7 circles rush last summer. I am doing it differently this time. I am not doing the concentric maze like before instead I am doing a more “traditional” sequential approach. Rather than relying purely on memorization I am focusing on approaching these with a consistent thought process as if I were in a game. I recognize some but I try to look at the “tactical seeds” before I start the calculation.

What’s frustrating is that my thought process is not as consistent as I’d like. (could be the fundamental problem of all human players) But this is reality. Some weekend events I can come in and have my “game” on. Other times, I’ll have external influences clouding my performance. So likewise, being able to train under varying circumstances is what I strive for because it best represents the dilemma that a weekend warrior like myself will encounter.

What I am finding though, is my thought process HAS improved. I am being more cautious, playing less erratic and the last couple of games I lost were purely due to calculation errors. I am better able to analyze a position with more accuracy and form the right plan ( at my level at least).

I know I can’t strive for perfection when it comes to the inner noise. Practice and progress is my mantra.