Saturday, May 31, 2008

London 1851 : Round 3 battles

While having a fine cigar at the Divan, I had a chance to reflect upon this round as I got into the mood of a battle of two types. Two matches were to be battled out to the end of 7 rounds while two will be decided in a clear sweep as the contestants test their mettle. For those interested, Howard Staunton's book of this event is downloadable for free by Google books at this link.

Since I've covered the match between Staunton and Anderssen Here as well as here, I decided not to cover this particular match. I will comment on Staunton's exhaustion as quoted in his manuscript in this game:

" But in truth to all who knew the labours entailed upon Mr. Staunton by the carrying-out this Tournament, and his seriously impaired health at the time, the
wonder was not that he played so ill, but that he could play at all. "

Keep in mind that there was no real tournament director, rather a management committee was formed by the likes of Staunton, Williams, Wyvill and Captain H Kennedy, which sustained heavy scrutiny from a rival club feeling this was an exclusionary tactic to bolster their clubs rankings in the kingdom. They were all players in the event they managed. At our club we have folks who double as TD's and players during our weekly events. It's extremely hard and could rightly cost them some playing strength as the concentration of maintaining a good running event is taxing.

The close battle between Williams and Wyvill is noteworthy. Williams was on his way to a fine sweep winning the first three games rather effortlessly. Wyvill seemed to be suffering the same impairment as Staunton when he finally snaps out of it and wins the last four games in a row to win the best of seven match. Williams consistent play of a Dutch style formation for either side was strong at first, but once Wyvill discovered the trick to dealing with it by controlling long diagonals and releasing sharp tactics, he was able to close the match the victor.

The Captain H. Kennedy crushed Mucklow. Mucklow was rather timid in these games which allowed the captain much run of the board. In the second game of the match, Mucklow gets a slight material advantage but Captain Kennedy manages to launch a successful removal of the defender tactic and breaks Mucklow's fighting spirit.

Josef Szen and Horwitz matches were an example endgame tacticians battling it out from the opening moves. Game 1 started the trend as Szen converted a seemingly benign advantage into an over all win as he allowed Horwitz to over extend himself in the center only to find it hard to hold on to as his pieces got over worked. The second match was a Berlin Defense of the Ruy Lopez had Szen's white king side under attack and weakened. An unfortunate misstep in a middle game skirmish swung the pendulum in Szen's favor and took the point. Following up after that in games 3 was a rush for both to reach an endgame with early queen exchanges only to leave Horwitz underdeveloped and with inactive pieces. Game 4, Szen opened up the game and this time made use of an advanced e-pawn to launch a kingside attack and cramp Horwitz.

So what are my lessons of round 3? For starters, even the legends have bad days. With tenacity, some recover rather gracefully while others just can't get their game on. In Staunton's book, he makes sure it is known that this is a tournament of amateurs. No professionals were here playing as he felt none should exist.

From a positional sense, the lessons in this round have to do with middle game strategies that allow one to expand in the center in a closed game only in hopes to over extend that opponent. The major and sub ordinate major diagonals ( a1-h8, a8-h1, a2-g8, b1-h7, a7-g1, b8-h2) are useful in such cases. Also, again, the idea of small advantages are to be nurtured until the endgame.

I will wrap up this tournament in the next and final round 4. It was a fun tournament to dig into. The more I read about and researched this event, the more I could feel the agony, smell the cigar smoke and cut the tension with a knife. I feel like I am there.

I am tuning up the time machine for Hastings 1895 in the very near future as my centennial edition of the event arrived today. This will be a good summer series once I wrap up spring time in London 1851.



Monday, May 26, 2008

Back to the Crystal Palace of London 1851

First, I really believe an in-depth study of this event has actually helped my game. In the past couple months I picked up 70 ratings points... most of which in G60 events. The most recent was yesterday where I played in the U2000 section of the Mass-Open 1day G60 event and finished with 3 out of 4 points winning a 1900 player and only losing to Howard Goldowsky. I found myself drawing from the experience of this game study as I looked for small advantages to nurture and grow. Nothing outrageous ( well... maybe but there will be another time to comment about THAT game)

The first round best of 3 knock out style was a good lesson on how to beat opponents with less skill as the second string players systematically got flushed. True a couple of powerful fall outs were inevitable which made for some strong matches already covered. The next round was going to prove more intense.

As I turned the time machine back on to London 1851, I prepared for some long battles with even matched opponents ( except on Williams sweeping Kennedy). The tournament shifted gears and required a best of 7 match now that the chaff was separated form the wheat. I have to admit, some of these games were rather dull and boring but lessons were learned in each one.

Since I mentioned Williams already, I begin with his sweep ( I lumped all four games in one post at the site so be patient as it loads) against Mucklow. Recall that Willimas was a student of Staunton's, as well as a strong player who defeated Lowenthal in round one. Mucklow was a second string fill in who defeated another second stringer ( E.S Kennedy) in the first round. So it came as no surprise that Williams easily defeated him. Games 1 and 2 Williams was able to dominate with tactics and outplaying in the endgame. Game 3 looked like both opponents were either asleep or drunk. Despite the miss used Wyvill pawn formation and unpunished hanging queen, Williams closes with when he finally takes up the hanging rook. Game 4 was more decisive as Williams knew how to use a Wyvill pawn formation and make use of c5 and f6 levers in a Slav like formation as black.

The first four games of the Staunton vs Horwitz matches ( again please be patient all 7 games loaded in one post at this link) was like a tennis match. Staunton was steadfast with his favorite English opening as white. Horwitz approached it with a dutch f5 winning both times. Stuanton successfully deployed a Sicilian Defense against a Grand Prix style ( thematic to the Dutch formations played as black). Both players played almost identical as Black AND as White. Game 5 broke rank with a drawn English versus Dutch. In Game 6 Horwitz tries a different approach. Instead of heading into a Sicilian with 1.e4 he plays 1.f4 to head for familiar grounds with a dutch set up. At about move 26 he misplays a critical position and underestimates Staunton's position and drops material. Rattled, match 7 leaves him scrambling for a slightly different move order of the same old trick for this old dog. Again its an English versus Dutch ( yawn) but Staunton was better prepared and ripped it open, closed in like a pair of vise grips.

Now, Anderssen versus Szen was another tennis match but a lot less boring. It only went six rounds and showcased flexibility where both players comfortably went into Sicilians, Frenches and even a queen's gambit. Anderssen played an early version of the Schevenigan variation of the Defense while Szen played an open style. Anderssen turned a small advantage into a win in the first match against the Exchange French variation which was as common at the time as the sicilian is today. The second match Szen went after Anderssen's uncastled king position following the Sicilian Defense. As much a fan I am of Anderssen, Game 3 was unimaginative and boring as Anderssen tried his hand with 1.d4. Szen played an uber symmetrical variation that Anderssen later blew and lost the exchange. Anderssen went on to steam roll the last 3 games against Szen turning small advantages into a point in closed positions. That was my inspiration for the my recent wins. Learning how to turn a small advantage into a victory.

I only commented on the last match ( of another 7 round tennis volley) of Wyvill versus Kennedy which has a brilliant Knight sac pawn grab on move 14. This game had a lot of potential as Wyvill clearly knew how to handle the pawn formation derived from this Exchange Slav variation of the QGD. H. Kennedy's pieces were not well placed which allowed for this decisive attack.
I will wrap up round three in the next post. Since I covered a couple of the games ( Staunton vs Anderssen) already, I will focus more on the other matches and provide commentary of the match winning events.
Studying round two taught me about the importance of turning a small advantage into a point. Equally matched opponents means precision of piece placement can decide the game.
Hope you all enjoy. Thanks for your patronage.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Self Analysis: Or Why I still SUCK at chess

Before I dive into round 2 at the London 1851 time machine, I decided to do some much needed analysis on my most recent losses. Mr. Jacobs, the MDLM cult Naysayer, did have some sound advice about looking over the most recent loses to get a hint of where you need to improve. But his idea isn't all that original, in fact, You'll find the likes of Dan Heisman and my friend Rolf Wetzell ( of Chess Master at any Age).

In a modernization approach and following advice from a source I can't remember where found ( so if you recognize this method and its you... sorry for not shouting out and linking to original post), I make use of a data base to achieve my goals.

First the idea: Wetzel suggests to create flash cards of critical positions in your recent games to help you move the ideas to a more permanent memory. Modernizing this is to use a data base to catalog these critical positions.

I picked my last 10 losses at the club and evaluated each one on my own first adding my thoughts, fears, misconceptions I had at each point in the game.

Then I fritzed ( saving my annotations) doing a group analysis of the sorry lot by going into Data base mode for Fritz, selecting the games to evaluate and running the tool over night.

After the analysis was complete, I painstakingly went through each game to see where I sucked. I created a "critical position" and tactical training ( right click on move and select special annotation to get to the menu). I can later go back and do tactical puzzles in MDLM style if I so wish to BURN into my brain what to do RIGHT next time.

I now have a growing database of sucky games I played! What patterns did this reveal to me as weaknesses to work on?

1) ROTE VERSUS SHARP : I tend to play openings really sucky. I play rote " natural" moves rather than recognize a weakness on my opponents and play according to what the position dictates.

2)ENDGAME PRECOGNITION: In the early middle games, I am not in tuned with pawn structures and how to use them to my advantage for when the game shifts to endgame tactics.

3) PREMATURE ATTACKS: A lot of my losses are due to a premature attack that fizzles out when king safety or shoring up weaker posts first make better sense.

4) TACTICAL NEGLIGENCE: I can see tactics for ME... but I fail to properly evaluate my opponent's ability to inflict tactical pain on me.

My plan as I prepare for the World Open will continue with studying master games ( Old Timey chess in particular as well as Master Games of the openings I play to get an understanding of nuances and types of pawn structures and how to play them in the early and middle games.

As for the endgame precognition, I think this site from the Exeter Chess Club on Pawn Formations will be helpful. It has a nice overview of every pawn formation imaginable and plans for both Black and White. I want to know the pawn formations I encounter most down cold! It presents a whole new level to pattern recognition.

Premature attack prevention will have to be a result of diligent awareness over the board as experience is the best teacher.

Tactics.... back to the circles for a refresher but add to it the new tactical training from my Sucky database.

As for Blunder-daughter, she's coming with me to the World Open as well and prepares for the U900 trophy. But finishing eigth grade is her number one priority.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What would Anderssen do?

My wacky Wednesday entry today:

I was black this week at the club and happened upon this horrible position that had White's bishops coming down on my kingside like a meteor shower. I was impressed with the Lasker like Bishop sacs to open my position which was reached via a Blackmere gambit gone wildly like a Caro-Kan:

1.d4 d5 2.e4 c6 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3 Bg4 6.Bc4 e6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Be3 Bd6 9.Bd3 0-0 10.Qe1 Qc7 ( better would have been a Nbd7. I totally underestimated the power of Qh4) 11.Qh4 h6 12.Bxh6 Nbd7 13.Qg5 g6 14.Bxg6

(for easy viewing click here)

I was in a tight spot and by rights I should have given him the point. But being who I am and the tenacious personality in a seemingly lost position... I played:

Kh8 15.Bh7 Nh5 This was a hard one to see but I figured exchanging the bishops was necessary. Time to liquidate the forces and bear down for a endgame with a rook versus minor piece.... I hoped.

16.Qxg4 Ndf6 17.Qh4 Kxh7 18.Bxf8 Rxf8 19.Ng5+ Kg6 20.Nge4

I thought about this awful predicament I got myself into knowing my opponent was 200 points lower rated than I but tactically sharp and more awake than I.

I bucked up and figured what the hell, " What would Anderssen DO?" I could liquidate even more but at the cost of a bishop and be a whole rook down. However, my opponent's second rook isn't active yet and I would have my minor pieces all over on the exposed king. He may have some tactical acuity, but I had TIME and calculation skills that were this shy of mediocre. ( duelling patzers). I played the following moves:

Bxh2+ 21.Qxh2 Qxh2+ 22.Kxh2 Ng4+ I calculated up to this juncture and saw that if the king tried to attack my knight on g4 I had f5 and could now set up a mating net!

Ilya Krasik of the Boston Blitz, during post game analysis, humbled me by saying " What are you so excited for? You are down a rook and should lose! All White should do is Play Kg1. Otherwise he loses."

Since I wasn't playing Ilya ( rated 2100+), the game went according to plan:

23.Kh3 f5 24.Rae1 Rh8 25.Rxf5

He panicked. This was not a Greek gift this time. This just gave me back the game. It happens to all of us. He was running short on time. exf5 26.Nd6 Nf2+ 27.Kh2 Nf6+ 28.Kg1 N6g4 29.Re6+ Kg7 I can't go to g5 because of the forking checking on f7.

30.Nxf5+ Kf7 31.Re2 Rh1# *

A wild ride indeed. As ugly as this duckling was... here was the swan that got me the point:

Monday, May 12, 2008

Part 2: London 1851 Round 1 wrap up

( Back to our regularly scheduled program. I'm glad you all liked my Knight's errant Promotional Video)

The other matches I wanted to touch on in this historic event, are Karl Mayet versus Captain Hugh Alexander Kennedy; Elijah Williams (aka the "British Sloth) versus Johan Lowenthal and the terribly lopsided match between Jozsef Szen and Samuel Newham.

The single elimination knock out round one had some powerful players paired off from the start only to get eliminated. Johan Lowenthal represented Hungary despite having fled to America following his participation in the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1848. He briefly established himself in business while residing in America but following the London 1851 tournament, he established a permanent residence in England. Later, in 1857, he defeated Anderssen to win first place in the Manchester Tournament. Later, he became a somewhat of a mentor to an up and coming Paul Morphy when he traveled to New Orleans to play this phenom. So it's little sad that he got knocked off in the first round by a student of Howard Staunton's, Elijah Williams.

In their first encounter ( More game commentary here) , Lowenthal does a misstep in the position below on Move 26 and plays 26. Qe7 which allows the sloth to do a deflection tactic netting a minor piece. I think Lowenthal might have been frazzled by his opponent's notoriously long decisions ( on average, it was reported that he took two and a half hours PER MOVE!)

During the second match , Lowenthal made a tremendous comeback and applied the strategic principle of multiple weaknesses, overworking William's defenses and breaking through. The final match turned a bishop pair into a an imprisoned bishop as the Sloth got the upper hand in the best of three match.

Former British army captain and leading London chess player, Captain Hugh Alexander Kennedy, was paired against Carl Mayet and knocked him out in two games. The first match was also a case where the laws of two weaknesses prevailed. The second match was a rather dull mirrored English opening. It looked like Mayet threw away the endgame in this position when he takes the bishop on move 59...Rxc4+.

Jozsef Szen was an endgame madman from Hungary. In the first game against the second tiered fill-in Samuel Newham, he makes use of the power of 2 connected passed pawns on the 6th rank versus a Rook! In the second game he eyes the endgame by move 7 and plays accordingly. He makes use of the bishop pair in a semi open game which proves to be not a match to Newham's passive play with knights. Then his outside passed pawn is becomes a strategic advantage.
The exercise of going through all these first round matches in this first International Event was worthwhile. Even the "bad games" had some lessons as to how to win against a weaker opponent. I have it done to myself all too often but there are times I don't know how to make use of an advantage given my opponent's playing strength or passive middle game. All these games I find very instructive. Forcing myself to understand them on my terms first has left a longer impression other than the read and nod approach of the past.
In the commentaries to my games collection at my blog ; Likesforest commented that for the Romantic Period of chess ( 1851 was prime time for this period), quite a few of these games were more of the Scientific or even Hypermodern style. I have to agree, I was watching these games hoping to see more swashbuckling gambits. Instead, positional themes developed like IQP, and the law law of weaknesses.
I plan to cover the next 4 rounds but not all the matches. Rather I will focus on the matches of Anderssen, Wyvill, Williams and Staunton through the next few rounds as these were the first through fourth place winners of this event and should prove some merit. I hope to have my commentary done on this event by the end of the month. Then I will spin the time machine to Hastings 1895 as a Warm-up for the World Open.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Rocky Errant Picture Show

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program to present tonight's theater.

I was inspired by this rant.

Since the knights errant are now considered a cult by Jon Jacobs and others, I decided to clarify that this is more like a cult fad of the Rocky Horror sense rather than the Reverend moon.

With thanks to LEP's Mascot who I was able to cast in the role of Riff Raff, and BDK has a cameo as Rocky, I now present my madness:

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Blunder- Productions Presents

With all the amature chess videos out there by the likes of BDK, LEP and J'Adoube. I decided to make an attempt at a video.

In a GROSS mockery of PBS's Ken Burns series ... I put together a narrative video blog of this tournament as a mock-umentory presentation. No game analysis just me blathering with some pictures flying by.

I hope you enjoy it, I had some fun doing this on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I'm not about to quit my day job as I realize doing voice overs suck.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

London 1851 Round 1 Wrap Up Part 1

I went back into the time machine and pulled a few more nuggets from round 1 of this first international event. Much to your dismay, I am inevitably reviewing and annotating every single game so far. Thus, I will have to wrap up the first round in two parts as the field was wide in this knock out elimination event.

Some of the lesser known losers of this round were a result of the Feud between George Walker's larger London Chess Club and Howard Staunton's club oddly named "St. George's". Though he had the club with the right name, the London Club players George Walker, George Perigal, and George W. Medley would have made for stronger competition in comparison with the substitutes that ended up playing: E.S. Kennedy, Edward Lowe, James R. Mucklow( Incidentally won in this round) , and M. Brodie. Henry Buckle, a jovial player of the time could not attend.
The Committee of Management was under the leadership of the Duke of Marlborough. Staunton was its Secretary and most of its members were from Staunton's chess club, St George's. This political climate was enough of a catalyst for George Walker's London Club to declare a boycott to the event. Hmm, who's name do we remember more, and who has a chess set design named after him?

As a result of the rivalries between the two clubs, I can see why the then 15 year old Paul Morphy inscribed in his copy of The Chess Tournament, London 1851 by Howard Staunton published in 1852, " ... and some devilish bad games." The first round had a couple of howlers.

In the game Staunton vs Brodie, an early queen sortie results in a fatal 15 move miniature. The Second match with Brodie vs Staunton, is a good demonstration by Staunton on how to exploit under developed opponents.

The match between Mucklow vs Kennedy E has a nice "how to handle a pawn advantage with dueling Knights" endgame if you can stomach the backward opening play. The second match of these two amateurs isn't pretty but Mucklow does earn the point. The first game takes the form of a lame Zukertort 70 years before that system was better refined. The second was how not to play a Taimonov Sicilian 100 years before its time.

Aside from the previously post Anderssen first round matches against the first blunderprone, I want to point out the matches between Horwitz and Bird as well as Wyvill and Loewe. Horwitz was a well known endgame strategist in Germany. In the first match against Bird , Horwitz was behind in a Rook versus Rook and Knight endgame when he finds a resourceful perpetual check to pull off a draw. The second match, Bird beats him in his own comfort zone. The two are evenly matched by round 3 when Horwitz uses Zugzwang to his advantage. Bird gets the upper hand coming out of the opening as he weakens Horwitz's pawn structure. This deciding game ends with Bird taking too big of a risk and gambits a piece for control of the kingside and center. Bird slips into a passive coma and Horwitz barges in, sacs his queen and advances a passed pawn to get the point.
Wyvill's match against the lesser known Loewe are both showcases in how to make best use of a mobile pawn center in both game one and game two.

Up next, I promise to cover the one man called "The British Sloth" ( Elijah Williams) for his speedy 2.5 hours per move on the board that caused a revolution in chess to bring on time control the following year! Incidentally, The sloth was a student of Staunton's!