Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Meet my friends ...Smith and Morra.

I believe it was both Reassembler and to some extent Globular who commented:

“But now that you have mastered the 7 Circles and conquered de la Maza’s terrain and memorized all of CT-ART, I believe that you should start using your hard-won tactical acumen for good and not for evil, i.e. start wheeling out some crazy openings and throwing down some monster sac attacks.”

Well, last night I was white and played my-now-year-old opening system 1.e4. and faced the Sicilian at the club by a relatively strong 1700 player. The game was OPEN, full of tactics, a positional advantage and allowed me an opportunity to sac a Bishop first then sac a rook before my opponent resigned.

The PGN of my game is here ( cut and past into the PGN viewer down the list on my side bar) :

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 e5 6. Bc4 h6 7. O-O Bb4 8. Nd5 Bc5 9.
b4 Bd4 10. Nxd4 Nxd4 11. Bb2 Nc6 12. Qg4 Kf8 13. f4 d6 14. Qg3 Nf6 15. Nxf6
gxf6 16. fxe5 Nxe5 17. Rad1 Nxc4 18. Bxf6 Qb6+ 19. Bd4 Rg8 20. Rxf7+ Kxf7 21.
Rf1+ Ke7 22. Qh4+ Kd7 23. Bxb6 axb6 24. b5 Rxa2 25. Rf7+
08/27/2007 August Swiss at MCC Round 4 1-0} 1-0

Mind you, I spent Monday night intently watching the Lenderman lectures on the Smith-Morra gambit on ICC. I think my opponent was one of the few I’ve faced recently at the club that didn’t have any idea how to handle it. I was glad for the lucky break.

Black’s move 5… e5 was OK and implies a Bb4 to follow. The idea is to go after my Nc3 which can be a pest on b5-c7 or d6. Instead he played the weak 6…h6 to prevent any f7 attack via Ng5. All this did was put him further behind in development.

I spent a lot of time before “settling” on castling which seemed really lame. But after 7. Qd5 Qe7 ( forced) 8. Nb5 Nf6 ( the best response) I really couldn’t see much more other than a retreat back to d3 with the queen. Its still a good position and all. Then there was the line with 7.Qb3 which puts a lot of pressure on the f7 square. I wanted to mobilize the knight and getting my king out of the way was a good idea ( although it does give up some initiative).

The following series of moves had me opening the center even more and swallowing anything that my opponent threw at me like Nibbler on Futurama. The sweet move was on my move 17:

I liked the bishops beaming on the diagonals. I really wanted the a1-H8 diagonal opened up and f-file was now ripening like a tomato in my garden.
So I dropped the Bishop intentionally and played out a couple scenarios in my head. Bxf6 is obvious but Black does have some “in between” moves with a Queen check on b6 and a rook attack on my queen on the semi-open g file. To top it off, once his knight grabs the c4 bishop e3 is vulnerable once the queen stops defending it. So I had to find some sharp play in this position.

17. Rad1 Nxc4 18 Bxf6 Qb6 19 Bd4 Rg8 and now the shocking Rook sac 20. Rxf7+! Kxf7 21. Rf1+ Ke7 22. Qh4+ and I looked at this line way back before I moved on 17… if Black plays Rg5 to block, I get the queen with 23. Bxb6 ( takes back with either the knight or pawn and I grab h6 with a good attack. True it’s a tough endgame but with the two extra apwns on the king side and his undeveloped queen rook I felt it was well worth the chance plus he had to watch for double attacks. All my pieces are primed on the king side ready to attack the open king and his lonely rook.

Instead he moved the king 22.. Kd7 23. Bxb6 axb6 24b5! Seal in the king in his tomb and now he played the greedy yet fatal capture with Rxa3 and I had mate in 2.

I hope that had enough fire for those wishing I played less positional chess ;)


PS. I picked up 47 USCF rating points this month at the club! I sure needed them as my rating was bleeding since the World open.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A strong cup of coffee in Seattle

Mrs. Blunderprone and I made it to Seattle to help our daughter pack after her summer internship at Microsoft. Besides packing tape and trips to UPS, we managed to see a few sights and do the usual touristy things ( Pikes market, Museums, and Boat rides). I didn't get much of a chance to play any chess since my business was for other things... our anniversary was in celebration during the trip...meaning " Put the chess away, dear".
The closest to chess I came was a brief encounter with David K., the DK-Transformation of the Chess Improvement Blogosphere. DK is like a blast of espresso made with Arabian Mocha Sunani. One small cup delivers the full essence of an entire pot of coffee. The brief encounter on the Harbor steps had us all fully caffeinated. The man is as intense in real life as he is on the blogs. He is also very much in tune with all verbal and non verbal cues. My family was well accommodating in amusing me while I had to investigate this curiosity for real. DK met us as we were finishing a Sushi outing nearby and provided a good segue to our early evening adventure. David picked up on our daughter's discomfort and was forward enough to address it in a non threatening way. The Ladies wanted to go have a mom and daughter chat and excused themselves while Dave and I connected with our different approaches to CT-ART, Seattle and Stocks.

Chess has taken the back seat over the last couple weeks. I saw my folks the week prior up in Maine and had a wonderful time at my sister's house. My father commented that I need to stop thinking too much. He reads my blog regularly and laughed about how I am training "too hard". Yet, he has a slight touch of jealousy since I have access to a lot more chess resources in Massachusetts than he does. So the last couple weeks have been a good break. I've been doing some on line work but not with the same intensity.

I might make it to the New England Open next weekend.... but I have to help move our other Daughter to school first. I'm thinking of taking a first round bye. I'll be ready to get back in the ring after the moving "work out".



Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On Application of knowledge and Consistency

It has been my observation ( and a culmination through much discussion with other players) that most of us players “stuck” in the class ratings ( below 2000 USCF) are here because of inconsistencies in our ability to apply our knowledge base. We work feverishly to expand that knowledge and even attempt to apply through practice. Why is it then, some days we can be on top of our game and other days have our “chess period” as CL put it once?

I’m a Class B player. I play in tournaments and against Class A players I can hold my ground often enough. Other times I play class C opponents and I am hanging a piece. These two scenarios are fundamental insights into the problem of consistency. I think my ability to play well consistently takes on many components. I can only speak of my internal observations but I am sure others will identify. I list them as follows, feel free to add to them… in no particular order.

1) The Psychological component takes on several forms. There’s the sizing up one’s opponent that often leaves me with a predisposition on what the outcome should be. This will either make me play timidly or over aggressively in certain circumstances. Learning to play the board versus the rating is a tough transition. Another issue is the psychological state I may be in due to external issues outside the 64 squares ( Life worries etc). I try to set my worries aside once I enter the arena but its hard. Lastly, my psyche can get broken during a game when the position suddenly changes direction either in my favor or against. If it’s a win to a loss transition, I am fighting anxiety over the loss of the point. If it’s a point in the game where it looks like I might win, I have a different kind of anxiety over whether I will blunder it away and not get the point.

2) Physiological needs are the next factor. Did I get enough sleep? What did I eat? Did I eat too much? When is the next break between rounds? There are others, but the bottom line is that these are basic survival needs and if I don’t take care of them, they will get in the way of my consistent application of knowledge.

3) Chessloser was talking about “mindfulness”. Being in the present. My wife insists I have adult ADD because I am driven to distractions.( I love the fact that I have someone to look after my well being). Staying focused means I have to get up and walk about sometimes so I can come back and be one with the board. It’s a tough call for me. I practice meditation to center myself but even with that, I am inconsistent.

4) Finally, the mechanics of gather the knowledge in the first place plays an important role in my consistency. What I study, how much I study, where and when I study…all have bearings on this component. This is the essence of the CIB ( chess improvement blogs) I try to journal my trials and errors in my improvement process. I used to never believe in over preparation until my results suggested otherwise. Learning to learn… not memorize. I liked the notion of self speak brought up by BDK to reinforce concepts because it was something I was not doing regularly while doing a ridiculous amount of tactical problems. Then I’d wonder why I still sucked at it. I was under the “field of dreams” method of training. Cram it and the knowledge will come eventually at the subconscious level. But if I don’t stop and take the time to give the necessary memory tags, retrieval is like looking in the filing cabinet under one folder called “tactics”.

My bottom line is that with these components of inconsistencies, improvement lies in minimizing them as much as possible. I don’t think its ever possible to get rid of these idiosyncrasies. I do feel its important to learn about them on an individual basis and see where you can make the most improvements. Awareness is the first step.

The difference in my ability to be an 1800 player ( or higher) or where I am now, is rooted in how I can resolve this part of the process. The knowledge is there. These are the blocks to the application of that knowledge.

Thinking out loud… hope it makes sense.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Une Conversation en Français

I played against the French again tonight. I’ve had a pretty good score against it lately. I’m not sure if its because I am taking up the morning commute to work time by listen to The Pimsleur French lesson series on tape ( trying to relearn stuff I once knew too long ago) or the fact that I’ve played the French in the past. But every time I am paired against this person at the club, we always seem to have this same conversation in French:

Blunderprone – Club Prez
August swiss 2007
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bxe7 Qxe7 7.f4 a6 8.Nf3 c5 9.dxc5 Nc6 10.Qd2 Qxc5 11.0–0–0 b5

Its white to move ( that’d be me) Normally the book says 12 Bd3. I knew my opponent was in the same book and used his memory as a crutch. I also knew that in order for white to get an advantage, pairing down the pieces on the queenside was in order…especially the queens. So I continued:

12.Nd4 Nb6 13.Nxc6 Qxc6 14.Bd3 b4 15.Ne2 a5 16.Nd4 Qc5 17.Nb5 Bd7 18.Nd6+ Ke7 19.Kb1 f6 20.Rhf1 a4 21.Nb7

Where should the queen go? I am attacking the b4 pawn. ( 20…a4 was weak). He would have been better off dropping back to attack my knight on b7 and drop the pawn. nInstead he played into my trap:

21...Qd4 22.c3 bxc3 23.bxc3 Nc4 24.cxd4 Nxd2+ 25.Rxd2 Rab8 26.Rb2 a3 27.Rb4 Bc6 28.Ba6 fxe5 29.fxe5 Ra8 30.Nc5 Rhf8 31.Rxf8 Rxf8 32.Rb6 Be8 33.Rb7+ resigns 1–0

I missed an opportunity to mate even earlier. Instead of 30.Nc5 playing 30. Nd6 and allow him to take my bishop. Mate follows after 30...Rxa6 31. Rf7+ Kd8 32 Rb8#. Oh well, I still won.

My opponent then feared my blog. He said" You aren't going to post this on your blog are you?"

It's been a while since I had a good win against a higher rated opponent I told him... but that I'd go easy on him and leave him anonymous... to an extent. After all, it was the club president I played ;)


Sunday, August 05, 2007

I hate dropping pieces

I still have a lot to learn. The last couple of games I played at the club I lost due to an abysmal error of not seeing a fatal double attack on a piece after having made my move.

For instance:

I had black against an 1800 player. I didn’t even consider the potential double attack with white’s Qd4+ because I FORGOT my king was on an open diagonal. Instead I was considering Qc7 to be a weakness because of WHAT? Rxb7? I was tired and not seeing straight. I wanted to move b6 in this position to support the knight. I thought moving the Q to a6 was a safe bet… not even thinking about the the looming double threat. After I dropped the piece, I trudged onward… and made him say checkmate in a 58 move endgame pawn race with a piece down.

On ICC, I am beating up the highest rated WimpB bot and my rating climbed to 1399. It took a nose dive as I challenged myself to the U1500 2 8 blitz tournament. I lost 3 of the 4 games I played… to dropping pieces… after being up material. Should have…could have … would have…Oh well.

While playing the bot repeatedly, it provides for some consistent training. For instance, I learned with WimpB, if I don’t play too erractically, I can usually win in the end game. I also have a chance to throw a tactical shot in the late midgame and pick up material. If I play to forcefully, I drop a piece and get crushed. Its all good. WimpB also gives me opportunities to hone my defense against d4 as it tends to play that a lot.

What transpires though as a I play “real” virtual opponents, is the predictable nature goes away. My opponent may not be too adept to my opening, but is rather sound positionaly or tactically ( or both). The endgame struggles are more challenging.

This all lead me to a great “AHA!” moment. The revelation I had is that I tend to play OTB games better at the club. There is a predictable nature about it very much like how I train with the ICC Bots. I see the parallelism here. Going to a weekend event where my scope of opponents has increased outside the predictable norm, I am adjusting to new styles of play. In those instances I tend to have a poorer OTB performance. Much like what I experienced last night on ICC during the online Blitz tournament.

So what can I learn in all this?
1) My Opponent is faced with the same issue if they never played ME before. I should put any fears or anxieties aside and remove the psychological block preventing my creativity and tactical vision.
2) I am still trying to make stuff happen that isn’t there. ( My funk at the world open). This is BIG for me. This is my greatest stumbling block. I get to thinking, that I MUST do something rather than listen to my inner Nimzovitch make a positional move in quiet positions.
3) Real chess… it all boils back down to the great chess prophet Mr. Dan Heisman. Checks, captures and threats …OH MY!

This is my path. I am destined to repeat the same mistakes until I learn. I’ll be given plenty of learning opportunities I’m sure. For all three of the above, the only way for me to improve is through more “conscious” play. Blogging about this revelation helps keep it in the top of the stack.

Hope you all are well.