Wednesday evening I reached the following position after playing 35. Qb3.
I was playing Andre who I had lost to a few weeks ago in the round robin. He's an older player whose rating has gone down a lot, but still can demonstrate why he once was a solid B player. In our last game I tossed a rook by overlooking a discovered check that attacked my rook. In this particular game I got my rook trapped, had to give up the exchange, and then several moves later give up a pawn. The one thing that had given me hope in this game was the knowledge that my opponent doesn't do well with time pressure, and I had a 12 minute edge on the clock.
35. Qb3 is annoying for Black, but there certainly plenty of ways to defend the pawn on b7. 35...Qc8, 35...Rd7 35...b6 or 35...b5. Any of these moves defends, and maybe I get some play on the diagonal. Truth be told it was a "hope chess" move. "I hope my opponent goes to d7." Which he did.
From this position I play 36. Qg8+ 36...Kh6 is suicidal so he played 36...Qg7. 37 Qxg7+ Black resigns because of 36...Kxg7 38. Nf5+ winning his rook. He'll have a pawn for the knight, but the big time edge and weakened pawn structure should make it pretty easy to win. I found a nice combination involving a knight fork, and managed to win a game that was pretty much lost.
The very next night I have another chance to utilize a knight fork in this position.
I'm Black, I lost a pawn earlier and my king side has been trashed. My opponent FM Boris Privman has just played 27. Ne5. I'm dealing with a few issues here. His immediate threat is 28. Qxf7+. The other threat is 29. Ng4 followed by 30. Ne3 attacking the pinned knight a second time. What is Black's best move in this position? [ 28...Nd4, 29. Qxf4 Ne2+ 30. Kh2 Nxf4] Answer in brackets. Even though Black remains a pawn down, I probably have some drawing chances since my rook is very active on the open c file.
I did not see the move so instead I played 28... Rf8? The game continued 29. Ng4 h5 30. Ne3 to reach the position below.
Can Black prevent the loss of her knight? Yes. Once again the potential knight fork allows Black to move the pinned piece to d4. Though in this position White is much better off since Black's rook is no longer on the open c file. Since I didn't see 30...Nd4 I resigned because I thought I was losing a piece and was way down on the clock.
So what makes these two games so different in terms of my ability to recognize and utilize the tactic? In one game I'm down the exchange and a pawn and in the other game I'm only down a pawn. I think the difference is that in the the first game the knight fork comes immediately after the queen trade. There was no risk in moving the knight. In the second game I had to find two knight moves to bring about the fork. The first knight move entails moving a pinned piece exposing my unprotected queen to capture. Since it appears that I'm simply hanging my queen I probably just outright rejected any knight moves including the one that sets up the fork and saves the knight.
I'm sure another factor came into play even though I may not have consciously thought about it. That being my history with these two players. It's true that I had recently lost to Andre, but overall I have a winning record against him. Also I know how time pressure effects him. I'm sure that played a part in my "hope chess" move of Qb3. Fritz thought that was my best move in the position, though it still rated the position after that move as -+ (-2.44) versus -+ (-2.62) for Qa3. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement of White's position.
My history against Privman is sad. I was 0-13 going into this game. The last few times I've played him I've come close to getting a draw, but I couldn't quite pull it off. Perhaps subconsciously I was saying "I'm playing a master, he's not giving me a way out. There is no way to save the knight." Yeh, yeh play the board, not the rating. Easier said then done, especially when you're not aware that your thinking is going in that direction.
Temposchlucker has written a number of very interesting articles this past week regarding the thinking and learning process in chess. There's been lots of lively debate in the comments section regarding different methods of studying and learning to improve at chess. When I read these discussions I start thinking more about my thought processes and how they impact my play. Comparing these two games that were played in a 24 hour period and seeing the difference in how I dealt with the two positions gave me a lot to think about. I'm not sure I totally understand his concept of active attention, but perhaps a lack of it caused me not to be able to see beyond "my queen is hanging if I move the knight, therefore I'm losing the knight because it's being attacked twice and I'm defending once."