Friday, March 28, 2008

King Kong Sr.

I have the 10 year old version of King Kong who I haven't had to play recently. My schedule has been such that I've been unable to attend Friday Quads so I haven't had to face Kevin. But lately I've been dealing with the senior citizen version of King Kong. We have played 33 times and my record is 4 wins, 2 draws, and 27 losses. This is third Thursday night in a row that I'm playing him in my last round. All three games I've been black. The last two Thursdays he's played a Closed Sicilian, and I've gotten crappy positions. Two Thursdays ago was when he toyed around with me in my time pressure, and I over looked trapping his queen. Last week was one of those insipidly boring games where I chucked a couple of pawns. I've lost 5 games in a row against him, and 14 out of our last 16 games.

I can go months without having to play him, and then I get these spells where I seem to play him all the time. He has not missed a Thursday night in a couple of years, so it's no great surprise that we cross paths a lot. We tend to play in round 4 when we're both 1-2, or in the brutally strong tournaments we play in round 3 with both of us being 0-2. He finally gets paired down in round 3 and I get paired up again. Losing to him under either of these circumstances is painful because it means I'm finishing 1-3 for the night, or perhaps 0-3 and a bye if I'm lucky. If I'm having one of those miserable nights where nothing is working I may even end out 0-4.

Once again I'm sitting at 1-2 and I'm paired with Gabor again as black. I think he was tired of playing against my Sicilician so he played 1. d4. I didn't know whether I should jump for joy for not having to play against the Closed, or burst in tears because I'd see another random queen pawn opening. Given my lack of success against random d4 crap I didn't really think this was much of a bargain. Despite giving up a few tempos early on, I managed to trade off some stuff and won a pawn on the 20th move. I had a comfortable lead on the clock so I felt I had good chances. However one thing I've learned from our many encounters is don't count him out. He's very adept at handling time pressure, and usually finds interesting counter play to mix things up. He won the pawn back on move 32.
We traded off queens and the remaining pairs of bishops and reached this position after 47. Re2. I played 47...R3a4 and offered him a draw. I didn't really see anything progress being made. He can stay on the second rank as long as he wants and I can stay doubled on the a file. Given my time edge I figured he'd take the draw, but he didn't.

The game continued 48. Rc1Ra3 49. Re4 Kf6? I completely missed Rxa2+. That tends to happen when you're in draw mode, but still expecting the worse to happen. 50. Re2 Ra6 51. g4 R3a5 52. Rec2Kg7 53. Rc6? Rxa2+ I don't miss Rxa2+ a second time. The game continues 54. Kb1 Ra1+ 55. Kb2R6a2+ 56. Kb3 Ra3+ to reach the following position.

He has 51 seconds left and I have 2:18 left. At this point he says "Okay I will take draw now." Okay tournament director wannabes, what is wrong with this picture?

It's an improper draw offer. He's supposed to move first, offer the draw and then press his clock. I know this rule. I'm a Senior TD. I have the experience qualifications to become an Associate National TD, but I don't have the time or energy to take the test. But some how in the heat of a chess game that I don't want to lose, all my rules knowledge goes to right out the window. I stupidly agree to a draw without making him move first and decide based on where he moves whether I still want the draw. It was as if I had made the offer on that move and he accepted.

In the last paragraph you will notice the phrase, chess game that I don't want to lose. It doesn't say a chess game that I wanted to win. That choice of wording tells all you need to know about my mental outlook on the game. I would be satisfied with not losing, instead of going for his throat and trying to win. I think was dwelling to much on this game of ours from September.

I almost had the feeling that he knew that he had conned me with his "draw offer". He wasn't so anxious to talk about my possibilities in the position. When I mentioned that perhaps I had winning chances he brushed me off with "maybe." After I left the club and was walking to the subway station I started thinking about the position and realized that I had winning chances, and shouldn't have taken the draw. On the train ride home I got out my Mon Roi and analysed the position. Depending on where he moves the king, I can give another check, trade the rook on a1 for the c1 rook and then capture the pawn on either f2 or g4. He may pick off my a pawn, but I'll get another one of his king side pawns and then push through. It's not easy but it's doable, especially with the time edge.

This was just another one of those games where I let feelings get in the way of objective analysis. If I could simply separate who I was playing and the circumstances I would have been able to work it out, and not jump on the draw after winning the pawn. Sigh. Will I ever learn?


Temposchlucker said...

You are way too harsh on yourself. In time trouble this position is difficult to win and easy to lose against a stronger opponent. No matter that he has less time.

It is your instinct that tells you to draw. Don't weaken your instinct by not listening to it.

You even forgot your TD-knowledge. That tells that your mind is already in a bad shape because of the time trouble. Your instinct knows that. A draw is quite acceptable in this situation.

Polly said...

Tempo: I guess it's easy to look at a position on the train ride home with no pressure, and work out the winning possiblities. Then kick oneself for not playing it out. Under the gun of the clock there were certainly ways that I could have gone wrong even with the edge of time and the pawn. Given my history with him and that game in September where I blew it, maybe a draw was best.

There is a fine line between remembering the past and letting it haunt you, or forgetting the past in order to move forward. One's personal history with a particular opponent can be useful in knowing their strengths and weaknesses, and deciding whether you can use that knowledge to your advantage or not.

I think I was pissed off at myself for falling into the "draw acceptance" that really was not done according to the rules. However it's just part of the gamemanship that occurs at times. Live and learn.

Phaedrus said...

Hi Polly,

At what time controll are these games played.

Polly said...

Phaedrus: game/30. If one burns too much time in the opening there isn't much time left later when one might really need it.

tanc(happyhippo) said...


You cannot play a proper game under G/30 controls and expect to think straight in a mad time scramble.

Dun beat yourself up over this. :)

Phaedrus said...

HI Polly,

I agree with HH that these timecontrolls are to fast to blame yourself for decisions in the last minute under high tension.
Furthermore I am convinced that next time when the opponent offers a draw, don't react at all untill he has moved. He has made a slight rule violation, so you punnish him with some extra timeloss because he will not be able to know if you heard or not and maybe hestitate before making the move.

Anonymous said...


I think it depends on your goal. If your primary concern is the immediate result, then perhaps agreeing to a draw makes sense given the opponent's strength and your past record against him.

However, if your goal is to improve your play, then I would think playing out the game would be more advisable, even if a loss was more probable than a win given your opponent, mental state, etc. It would give you more practice/experience in this type of situation. You might learn something you didn't already know (or perhaps take to heart something you did already know).

You would have an endgame to go over later to see where you went wrong and what you need to focus on to improve that aspect of your game.

That said, I completely understand that given your record against your opponent, the draw was psychologically equivalent to a win, and hard to resist.


Anonymous said...

It's not so much the bad draw offer, but the "let's avoid talking about the game" that's grating.

To a degree it's understandable...who enjoys having to be reminded of their poor play? But there are diplomatic ways of avoid post-mortems such as:

1. "Oh, no, that's my [fill in my family member] calling; I have to go." If pressed, claim your cell phone is on silent.

2. "My diarrhea's acting up again." It's more plausible if you use the restroom a lot during matches.

Oh, and the draw? Not unreasonable in that position with that much time left against a powerful sworn enemy.

Icepick said...

As someone else who plays a lot of G/30 I have to disagree with some of the other commenters. With 2:18 left to his 51 seconds you were NOT in a mad time scramble! (Was there an increment?)

With or without an increment you had a substantial lead on the clock and on the board. Unfortunately the nature of the preceeding battle had left you in something of a draw mode and your opponent exploited that.

Lately you've clearly been working on your attitude towards the game, to good result. Perhaps you need to think about the nature of what you should consider as time trouble situations. Perhaps you can convince yourself that 2 minutes is plenty of time.

I do this by playing lots of 1 1 games on ICC against dumbed-down comps like BulletB and BulletC, as well as some of the "Bachs".

I lose about as often as I win, but mainly I'm trying to condition myself to finish winning positions with little or no time. These 'dumber' programs drop a pawn or two with enough regularity in the opening that I get plenty of positions which ought to be winning, and playing them out has helped somewhat. Whether or not that has been balanced out or even negated by the overall superficiality of the play is another question....

PS It could be worse! This last Saturday I struggled mightily for 30 moves to try and defend a losing position. Then, after finally achieving not just equality but even a slightly superior position, I essentially forced my opponent into mating me in one move. It was only his second tournament. Oh, my aching ego....

Polly said...

Marty: You're absolutely correct about deciding on immediate result versus the improvement aspect. It was the type of position that would have been fun, but challenging to play out under those conditions.

I had opted for immediate result, but in some ways regretted not playing it out to it's conclusion. It's certainly an instructive position and I can spend some time trying to win it as black, and defend it as white.

Ice: There was no increment but there was a 5 second delay. The TD does require 5 minutes be taken off if playing with the delay, so in this tournament it actually becomes game 25/delay 5 for digital clocks. The schedule is such that the 5 minutes needs to be deducted.

When I first played game/30 I didn't think the 5 second delay was worth losing 5 minutes for. However the more I've played it over the years, the more I want the delay versus the 5 minutes. I'd like to have both, but it doesn't always work that way. I had too many positions that I didn't have time to win with no delay.

I didn't feel the time was the issue. My having a 1.5 minute edge on the opponent can work to my favor. I just need to not be sucked into trying to out blitz him, and use the time wisely. It simply reacting too quickly to the "draw mode" reflex instead of buying time by making him move first. After his move then I can decide whether or not I can use the time and material edge to my advantage.

ChargingKing said...

It's intimidating to play someone that has crushed you with regularity. In fact you can easily get into the mindset of "I don't wanna lose" but in fact you are correct to realize that you should look at the position objectively and ask ones-self "can I see any way for me to make progess against him?" If so than play on, if not take the draw and be happy to have a result that is better than a lose!

Thanks for the comment on my blog by the way!

larrytamarkin said...

Polly: I have a couple of ideas for you that might win you more games - Here they are; 1.Forget about offering or accepting draws, play all games out to bare kings; This will give you more 'steal' for your nerves - After-all, you're playing for experience and to improves in every way you can and the E.F. is hardly an important consideration here.
2. Play differently depending on the opponent; If you're playing a kid then play for pawn-structure and/or the endgame (kids are bad there!), If you're playing an old guy like Gabor then play for attack! - But also to wear him out in time-pressure or complications...If you're playing a 'hot-shot' higher-rated player like me then play some stupid-ass gambit (even if its bad) - I can tell you from experience that guys (and girls) like me hate it when a substantially lower rated player plays for total chaos and pawn-sacking inititive and we lose more often to that then to some random classical opening. Anyway - Good luck!, Larry (except against me -:).

qxpch said...

Hi Polly,

I just found your blog because you linked to mine. I like it!

Your entry on "King Kong Sr." was particularly interesting. I think that Larry Tamarkin gave you the best advice. If you get in the habit of declining draw offers until the position really is a bona fide draw, then you won't be tempted like this again. Practice the warrior mentality. You never want to do anything out of fear at the chess board -- whether it's backing off from a good move out of fear, or accepting a draw out of fear.

But there is an exception to this rule, which is that you should also know yourself. If you recognize that your emotions are not in a state that will allow you to find the right moves, then I think it would be reasonable for you to accept the draw. In that case it's not giving in to fear -- it's a victory for self-knowledge.

By the way, no one commented on the position itself. I think that it is extremely good for you. His problem is that he has no good place for his king -- every square except b4 loses a pawn or worse. If you win his f2 pawn you should be winning the game. And the problem with Kb4 is that he gets chased into no man's land after ... a5+ Kb5 Rb3+ Ka6. This is really bad for him -- his king is trapped on the edge where it could still face mating threats, and it is preventing his rooks from getting behind your a-pawn. I would absolutely play on in this position. White should have to prove he can draw it.

But that assessment is, of course, based only on the position, not on the state of your emotions and nerves.