Saturday, October 11, 2008

Now I see it, Now I don't.

Chess can make you absolutely giddy when finding a nice combination, or utterly frustrated when you miss the combination that saves you from catastrophe. Lately I've been on the chess roller coaster where I'm soaring to new heights with good play and nice wins, and then plunging into the depths of utter frustration as hard earned rating points get pissed away by stupid moves or mental meltdowns.

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."


Rolling Pawns said...

Interesting story. Regarding first, these back-rank checks saved me many times, they usually are "brutal". Second - that Nd4 move is really not so easy to see, I missed recently "two knight moves to bring the fork" and lost an exchange, first knight move was also kind of unusual. I only hope that we learn from our mistakes, not only specifically chess ones, but psychological too.

Temposchlucker said...

When you are playing, you are already too late. Your conscious attention goes where your unconscious supportive skills lead it. If those supporting skills aren't well educated, there is little you can do about it while in emergency.

Polly said...

Tempo: I guess I need to go read your blog to see what I'm missing.

tanc(happyhippo) said...

polly: i got the first one easily but the 2nd game was a little harder to see until i saw the weakness of the e2 square. this shows my tactical skills definitely need more work.

thanks for the post.

Diamondback said...

Can you post your draw it you think it was a fighting draw ? with Atomic Patzer aks Thomas Stanics that you played at the ICA 2008 Fall Open? Thanks ! Diamondback

Anonymous said...

I guess in the first game the knight fork was easily seen by you because your opponent didn't had a threat of which you were worried and grained your brain on over and over again.

In the second game your internal conversation was a broken record. 'If i move my knight i will lose my queen' was were the needle of the recordplayer couldn't get over the bump. Instead of using that sentence you probably better had an internal conversation like 'Isn't there a way that i can solve this pin on my queen? Hmmm, lets see what happens if i move my knight to somewhere. ...' I think that if you had run over all the knight moves you would probably have seen that Nd4 would regain the queen with Ne2+. But since you kept repeating i lose my queen when i move my knight you actually forgot about looking for forks and such because it was etched in your brain, thanks to the mantra you kept repeating over and over again, that the knight couldn't move.

So maybe next time try to think in a more positive way instead if the negative 'I cant ...' .

Phaedrus said...

Hello Polly,

The second game is actually not only about knight forks, but also about a battery. 1 ... Nd4 also attacks white queen. It might well have been that this motive is less familiar for you. Furthermore, the fact that your queen is apparently undefended also might have convinced you that your knight was pinned (which is true) and therefor could not move (which is false).

Anonymous said...

Great post, Polly!

Just wondering, does Ng3 accomplish the same things as Nd4, in those 2 positions, or is there some additional defect to that move? My eye was drawn to it because it also attacks the rook and psychologically seems more aggressive, though practically speaking it seems clear that capturing the rook is not a plausible outcome.

Actually, looking again at the first diagrammed position in the 2nd game I just realized that 30....Ng3 is not as good as 30...Nd4 because of the line 31.Qxf2+ Qxf2 32. Nxf2 Kxf2 33.fxg3 (the last move, regaining the knight, would not have been an option in after 30...Nd4). But in the *second* diagrammed position from game #2, maybe 30...Ng3 could have worked as an alternative to 30...Nd4?

Best regards,

Polly said...

diamond: see my ICA report part 2. I posted the game there.

tiger: I think your suggestion is excellent. I have a tendency to get negative and beat up on myself mentally. When that happens it's hard to find good moves.

phaedrus: I was aware of the battery build up on f7, and knew that moving the knight is attacking white's queen but the mental block was that it's White's move and he can take my queen first. If I saw the fork that follows I would have been able to get past my hanging queen

Hank: I couldn't follow your analysis because Qxf2+ would be another move for black after Ng3.