Monday, May 19, 2008

Dr. Jekyll/Ms. Hyde: Will The Real Chess Player Please Stand Up!

I just wonder how the same person can be playing this game. I'm cruising along up three pawns and then the bottom falls out. Who took over my mind after move 32? Or did the little overconfidence monster strike earlier when the stray thought about being able to recover from my crappy start in the tournament by winning this game crept in shortly after winning the third pawn? I tried to beat back that thought by reminding myself that I've lost better positions. I also reminded myself to stay focused on the board, and not worry about potential 4th round opponents or recouping pissed away rating points.

This is from the third round of our club championship. I was off to a rough start having drawn with an underrated adult 1190 in round one, and then losing to a 1300 after turning down his premature draw offer. How much worse could it get? After this game I don't want to know!

The problem was how I reacted to my opponent's 32nd move. When I played 32. e5, I was totally oblivious to queen pinning the e4 pawn to my rook on b1. I did not see 32...Qxb1 until he played it over 3 minutes after I had played e5. When he did take, I was totally shocked. I did manage not to have a premature resignation meltdown like I did last year. However I think it upset me just enough that my confidence was shaken. Instead of settling down and playing simple chess by trading off his potentially pesky bishop and pushing my passed pawn to e7, I panicked. I traded off his do passive rook on b8, and started giving stupid queen checks. By move 35 I had let him equalize despite my extra pawns. Overlooking the hanging pawn on e3 was deadly.

These were not errors caused by time pressure considerations. I missed an attack on a long diagonal. However the exchange of rooks in that manner wasn't a huge mistake. In fact it gave me a potentially powerful passed pawn, but I got too upset with having to defend against the pin on f1 and giving him one of the pawns back. Giving the c3 pawn up to break the pin on f1 was actually good because then I can simply trade off the bishops. However I was too busy beating up on myself about allowing him play and the opportunity to gain back some of the material. What's a pawn among friends when one has another one that can get to e7 and e8 without many problems?

I guess the lesson from this game is step back from one's inner critic who can't be emotionally detached, and get back to the real position. I had a chess teacher who would like at games like that and ask me what is wrong with simple chess? Push those pawns, eliminate the annoying threats and get it done.

Am I going to have to sit in the car and meditate for 30 minutes before my game, and just show up and play? The mind is a terrible thing to mind.


tanc(happyhippo) said...

hi polly,

it appears to me that if you're not seeing the position and the pin, it is usually down to a couple of factors.

a. chess blindness. for some reason, the reverse pin just didn't register in our minds. it's not a common move and part of the reason why we don't see it is the position is unusual and seldom met OTB.

b. tiredness and distraction. when the mind is not performing optimally, we tend to overlook tactical shots like this one.

c. overconfidence proceeded by a loss of confidence. this usually happens when the game swung one way to the other. the mind still harbours on the win and the drastic turn in circumstances makes the mind unable to react appropriately. this is a much common failing than most people realise. this occurs upon the sudden realisation of the reversal in fortunes and suddenly the brain overreacts.

players tend to suffer from this fault (you're not alone). after "cruising" for a few moves, the player takes for granted the win is in the bag and is unable to shake off the winning feeling. then the mood suddenly swings and mistakes creep into our subsequent play.

d. not taking the necessary precautions or inability to identify the critical moments of the game. the most dangerous times are when your opponent's back is against the wall. this is where you should be at your most alert and calculate like you've never done before. having a winning advantage isn't worth anything if you cannot convert it. because if you don't calculate, you can bet your opponent will. imagine if you were in your opponent's shoes, would you not try to find every trick in the book to get out of the mess?

in critical moments, it is important that you maintain a cool head. if you find you cannot, i find that just standing up and coming back to the board after a minute helps.

dun beat yourself over it. mistakes happen to the best of players.


Polly said...

tanc: Thanks for your insightful comments.

chess blindness: I tend to suffer from that frequently when I over focus on one part of the board. I was too busy focusing on where his rook would go after being attacked by e5 that I didn't consider how the position changed after e5.

tiredness and distraction: Sometimes by the time evening rolls around I can be tired. This particular week was the day before I was leaving for Pittsburg so it's possible my mind was on my "to do list".

overconfidence/loss of confidence: I've experienced that sensation way too many times. Though in this game it's not like allowing him to take the rook on b1 was a deal breaker. In fact it went along with my overall plan of making trades to head into the end game with my 3 pawn advantage. Even though it fit into my plan, overlooking it was just enough to unsettle me.

precautions/critical points: The two things that I did not take care of after 34...Qxc3 were the light square weaknesses around my king. (Resolve by trading off light squared bishops) and the backward e pawn (push it, keep defending it or give him something else to worry about {passed d pawn}.)

I know what went wrong, but how does one train the mind not to overreact to to these things? Sometimes I feel like I'm too emotional play well.

Anonymous said...

The guy at the convenience store said these "Pep Up" herb/caffeine pills should do the trick.

BlunderProne said...

It's hard to play in serious chess events on a week night and not have any of these factors that Tanc mentions become a factor.

Lately, I've been practicing a sort of meditation while i play when i feel my emotions start to swing in one direction or the other. I close my eyes, take a cleansing breath focusing on centering the energy back to my abdomen instead of my head. I exhaul and open my eyes and look at the baord as if it were a new position.

On several occasions, this has done a couple things. Prior to my meditative moment, I may be fixated on a particular line or move order. When I come out of my zen-moment, I usually see a better move or at least come out with a new positional perspective and plan.

In the game, it looked like at one point you could have advanced the d-pawn to d7 after teh check. Sure there was the Qxe4 check but after Kg2. You might have had a chance to queen the d-pawn. I have to look at it in more detail. So this may be bunk.

Polly said...

The d pawn should promote easily if traded bishops. That's why the the hanging rook trade was not that bad. After I take his rook that pawn has a decent shot. Exchanging the bishops instead of Qf5+ is an easy win. Qf5 gives him the draw even if I guard the e3 pawn with Qe4. He trades on f1 and then has perpetual check..