Saturday, May 19, 2012

Part 2: What have I forgotten? Holes in my games.

I played three games this month at the chess club after a long absence. I went in with the intent of see where my biggest memory loss is showing up and what skills have remained. 
The first round game was an abysmal mess. I totally missed the point in QGA and played the opening all wrong and gave up e5 too easily. I managed to struggle back only to forget some simple rules of when ahead simplify. Missing some tactical errors, I allowed black to regain  some lost material.

The second round game, I was black against a Colle system. My opponent offered a piece and instead of simply taking it, I complicated matters and overlooked an in-between move which just ruined my incentive. 
When he offered the draw I jumped on it to save myself from further embarassments. 

The third game I was faced with another QGA. This time I recalled some things from the first round and managed to hold my ground and gain some good central attacking chances. I underestimated my opponent's counter attacking chances and totally missed a saving move in the heat of battle. Had I played the correct move, I might have even won this one. 

Overall, looking at these games, TACTICS is the one thing that seems to jump out. My board vision is as sharp as it had been before I took this haitus. 


LinuxGuy said...

"3. I don't mean to sound like a coach, but I think it would be worthwhile to find where your advantage slipped away in that third game, which I'm kind of wondering myself."

To answer this question, it seems like 16.BxB BxB, 17.NxNf6 is just winning. and if 17..Be7, then 18.RxBe7! seems right. This just has to win, looking a bit deeper. Also, if 17..gxN, then 18.Bh6+ Kg8 (super-ugly move), 19.QxB has won a piece. There is probably mate or even more material.

I could be wrong or missing something with my analysis, but IMHO this is where you took your foot off the gas-pedal. You gave Black a bad pawn structure, but you also traded off your attack. lessened complications, and more importantly gave up the attack to Black so that Black was able to repulse your attack just in the nick of time.

What failed you in this game, IMHO, were your tactics. This is what fails most everybody. What helped you in a major way was your sense of attack, book knowledge, plus putting a lot of great thought into this game. You pull off the attack in the end and have a GM initials in front of your name, and this game maybe pops up in a book on chess theory someday. Tactics are virtually always, if not most commonly, where the rust comes in, IMO, because that is where the fine-tuning is. The part that should really matter is what lead up to it, but we know that chess is cruel in that way, that we have to win the won games.

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Joshua said...

In the first game, I'm sort of partial to 14. Nxf8 with the idea of Qd6. e5 and b6 are hanging, and the black position starts to look very shaky. I agree that you didn't play the opening terribly purposefully, but it seems like black's development is weak and he has a number of pawn weaknesses, especially b6, which seems odd to me for a QGA. that pawn is almost always on b5 or b7.

In game 2, 9... e5 feels a bit artificial. I think it ends up uncoordinating your pieces, with the Qd6 and Bc5. Feels... clumsy. Obviously, 14... NxN was winning, but your position wasn't all that it could have been before that, latent threats of white q-side expansion, etc.

The third game is definitely stronger, but even there, your coordination isn't great after the opening. 11.Bf4 feels odd to me--not quite sure what the bishop is doing there. Personally, I feel a little uncomfortable with the 7.a4 line the way you're handling it here. It looks like the correct piece placement is Qe2, Rd1, Bg5, to better accommodate the irritating, latent threat of Nb4 and whatever implications that has. Mark's b6 is also odd, but that's another story.

Seems to me, and I'm sorry if I sound a bit pedantic here, that, apart from tactical errors (which we all make), your problem is a lack of 'general familiarity' with these opening systems. Rather than memorizing specific move orders, what's really helpful (I find) is to spend time playing through complete games in the systems you're planning to play. Try to get a feel for how the pieces harmonize, where they tend to go and how they work together within the pawn structure. I think what's happening to you is that your pieces aren't coming into the game as a team, resulting in positions where it's hard for you to figure out what to do, then you scrounge for ideas, drift a little, and that makes you ripe for mistakes. I would say you should see if you can find some games in the database and just peruse (with whatever study time you can steal) the lines you want to play. Even better is if you can find a famous player who plays your line. For example, Kramnik used the 7.a4 QGA in one of the 2000 WCh games against Garry. I think he's used the line at other times too, and his positional handling might be very instructive.

Anyhow, nice post; very candid. Good luck. Maybe I'll see you over the board again some time, life permitting...

Joshua H.

Blunderprone said...

Joshua! Thanks so much for the critique. I appreciate the in depth feedback.

Game one, yes I see clearly now, with Black's king still centralized and having a slight lead in development, 14. Nxf8 makes much more sense especially followed up with 15. Qd6.

In Game 2, What was I thinking with 9...e5? Freeing moves of c5 and e5 if I were the one with a Caro-Slav Structure is all I can think of, otherwise a developing move or shoring up the Q-side with a6 then b5 perhaps.

As for the QGA with Mark. I like the 7.a4 line and I believe I looked over a couple Kramnik lines in the past... as I have a link on my side bar under Pawn Structure series. I have a couple problems: 1) How to go over games and not make it about memorizing move orders. 2) How to get a deeper understanding of these openings so I can recall the ideas later. I tried to do this with understanding the skeletal pawn structures. I do find this effective, but still struggle with some placements or cross polinations of wrong concepts in similar yet different structures...I am open to ideas.

Joshua said...

Similar yet different structures can be tricky. I got crucified once by Carey Theill for playing a position as if it was a... I think the right way to think about it is in terms of plans. In most situations, assuming you're not playing something like the Bg5 semi-slav, subtle differences in the position don't fundamentally change the availability of plans/ideas. On a grandmaster level they dictate which plans will be most effective, but guys like you and me can usually stick our guns with a plan we like, and whether or not it's the best plan is less important than whether we know how to execute it.

Taking the 7.a4 QGA position, for example, it seems like white is angling for an IQP position, rook behind the d-pawn, staring down the black queen, knights angling for e5 and/or c5, with the latent possibility of a regrouping with Bc4-b3-c2 and Qd3, threatening that cute mate with the Bg5 against the Nf6. Black struggles to find a good role for his QB in these positions and often has some trouble on the white squares. It looks like white is trying to play with space, creating threats on either side of the board with the aim of getting black to commit and then trying to outmaneuver black, who will have a harder time adjusting due to a lack of space. The d5 push is thematic, but it should probably come at a time when white can get a good grip on the white squares. I think the main issue in your game was the queen on d1. Qe2 and Rd1 is more in the spirit of the position. To give you an example of my thought process, and I'm not super familiar with this variation, but I looked at your game on the move where you played 9.d5 and I thought, hmm, the move feels like it should be 9.Qe2, then Rd1, and perhaps d5 then if black hasn't already played cxd4. Intuitively, you have to say to yourself, okay, so 9.Qe2, why not cxd4? 10.Rd1 and then if e5? Oh, well exd4 and the queen is perfectly placed to pin the pawn. The pieces are harmonized, and the position seems to fall into place; it's always easier to play a position when the pieces coordinate well with the structure. I guess what I do is play through games and try to remember the squares where the pieces go; you're looking for patterns, almost like the tactical tricks. Bishops here and here, knights here and here, where does the queen go, and that works in structures like this. If the structure is a little different, but still similar, it will usually "mostly" work, and at that point it's probably good enough to get you going. It's always better to play a worse position that you're comfortable with than a better one that you don't understand.