Saturday, March 21, 2009

February Flubs and March Misses

I've had a bunch of crazy games lately where either my opponent or I have missed a crucial move, changing the course of the game. I'm afraid I was the one missing the crucial more often then not. However Caissa showed me some mercy in the midst of a miserable losing streak that went on for 10 games by allowing my opponents to give me some gifts, and rating points.

I love alliteration, which is why I come up with things like Tuesday Teaser, Wacky Wednesday ,Freaky Friday and Psycho Psunday. When trying to come up with a title for this post, it took me awhile to come up with a clean adjective or noun to go with February. As I mentioned in my NY State Scholastic Championships post, I had a lousy tournament that weekend. I ended the post by saying I wouldn't forget about it, but I'd move on. However a post like this one would not be complete without including some of the positions from that tournament.

Sad Saratoga

After my first round upset in the Under 1800, I switched to the Open section. I played a 2115 in round two. I was feeling pretty good about switching sections after reaching the following position.

Black just played 48...Bd5. I'm up a pawn, and I have two connected passed pawns on the queen side. My only problem is I have less then 30 seconds on my clock. Remembering the old saying "Passed pawns must be pushed!", I played 49. b4? I totally ignored his bishop move and made the pawn move immediately. Naturally he accepted my gift and played 49...Bxa2.

I'm now in a slightly worse position, but may be able to hold the draw. However in the position below I make another mistake. The position may not be exactly like this since neither of us were keeping score at this point.

He just played ...Bc4. I should retreat the knight to e1, but I think I played g3. What followed was ...Bxd3, Kxd3 Kxb4. After that I'm in a king and pawn ending down a pawn. He eventually picked off another pawn and traded down to 2 pawns and king versus king.

I was hoping things would go better in round three. It looked as though I was getting my wish, having won the exchange for a pawn on move 24. We reached the following position after 33...Bf6, 34. Ne3.

I was expecting the knight move, but thought 34...d4 would chase the knight and bring my passed pawn one square closer to the other side. What I didn't see was the in between move of 35. Bc4+ winning back the exchange after 35...Kg7 36. Bxb3 dxe3 37. Kxe3. I was hoping maybe I could hold on with the opposite color bishop ending, but he played it very nicely.

Here's the entire game.


Would Sunday be any better? 9:00 am is way too early to be playing chess as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps you can tell why I'm not a morning person when you look at this position. I continually tell my students, "If you leave the board for any reason always double check the position when you return." I left the board after playing 10. Be3. While I was out my opponent played 10...Nd7 to reach this position.

I looked at 10...Nd7 and thought to myself, "He's probably going to push f5." I wasn't overly concerned about that move so I castled. I didn't follow my own advice. What the heck, it's only the 11th move, what possibly to go wrong? 11. O-O? exd4! That's what could go wrong. Another case of do as I say, not as I do.

Marvelous Monday

How does one cure a losing streak that has gone on way too long? Go to the local club and play someone who she's beaten over 50 times. Though it would be unfair if I didn't mention that I've played him almost 100 times, and accompanying the 51 wins are, 30 losses and 15 draws. This game would make win #52. Every time we play I have to wonder which Silvio will show up? The one who has spent too much time watching first graders leave their queen en prise for 20 straight moves without the opponent noticing, or the one that comes up with clever tactics and takes advantage of my clock woes. We reached the following position after 10...Nc6.

I was expecting him to simply play 11. Bxc4, but instead he plays 11. d5? At first glance it looks like White is going to get pressure on the pinned knight after 11...exd5 12. Nxd5. But this is one of those classic positions where the player resolves the pin issue by taking with the piece behind the pinned piece. What White neglected and what I almost overlooked is Black can play 12...Qxd5. If he plays 13. Bxf6 I simply play 13...Qxd1+ 14. Rxd1 gxf6. I can live with doubled isolated f pawns for a knight. He chose to play 13. Qxd5 Nxd5 and I'm up a piece with my pawn structure intact.

In the third round of that tournament I would receive another gift. After White played 25. a3 I knew he was planning to play 26. b4 to drive my bishop off the open c file. I would play the quiet but potentially killing move of 25...Bg6. What is Black up to?

He plays 26. b4 anyway. "Must unblock c file for my rook!" 26...Bd4! "You can have the file my friend, but it's going to cost you." 27. Rc2?? Bxc2 0-1.

Now I'm on a two game winning streak, and actually pick up 31 rating points. Unfortunately I'm like the gift that keeps giving, so that Thursday night I would hang mate in a drawn position. That game has another story besides the mate, so I will save it for another post.

Messy Monday

This past Monday I played number two on my most played list. Alan and I have played 69 times. We're fairly close in our rivalry. I have 26 wins, 22 losses, and 21 draws. If it weren't for the missed opportunity in the position below it would 23 losses and 20 draws.

I made a mistake early and got my rook trapped so I gave up the exchange on move 17. He was attacking like crazy, and had a lot of pressure on the f2 square. I had warded off the attack for the time being, and very casually played 27. Ne5? After I let go of the piece I saw that I was going to lose the knight after 27...Ra5. That isn't even Black's best move in the position.

What is Black's really nasty move? Answer in the brackets [27... Rxf2 28. Kh1 Rxf1+ 29. Bxf1 Qe3 30.Kg2 Qf2+ 31. Kh3 Qxf1+]

Much to my relief he did not play either move. Instead he played 27...Rd2. 26 moves later he offers a draw after playing 53...Ke7 to reach this position. Note: I had wrong position earlier. This is the actual final position.

I have 6 seconds and he has 30 seconds. I gratefully accept the offer. It's difficult to see how Black can make progress even with lots of time on the clock.

Thick Thursday (Sick Sursday?)
I couldn't find an adjective that starts with th.

My final offering occurred in the last round of this past Thursday's "Ten Grand Prix Points Tonight!" It was a fitting finish to a totally weird night. It was night that would see me getting a stealth bye in round two. That's the bye that's not really a bye. I was paired down against the lowest rated player in the tournament, who after losing the first round to a player 600 points higher rated bursts into tears and drops out of the tournament. He neglects to tell Steve that he's quitting the tournament, so he's paired. His coach informs Steve that the kid left, so Steve found a house player to play me instead. I was perfectly happy to play the higher rated house player instead of some kid rated 1350. The funny thing is if he dropped out properly there would have been an odd number. Since everyone below me was taking a 1/2 point bye in the last round, I would have been in line to get the full point bye in this round.

I have a few questions for the kid's coach. 1) "What is this kid doing in this tournament if he can't take losing to someone 600 points higher rated?" 2) "Why did this kid enter this extremely strong tournament when he's only played in 3 non-scholastic tournaments that were limited to players rated under 1600?" 3) "Didn't you tell him he'd probably lose all of his games?" 4) "Are you nuts for sending such a kid to this tournament?"

End of my dumb coach rant.

Speaking of kids. I played two extremely polite kids in rounds one and three. They shook hands at the start and end of the game, asked me which side I wanted the clock, talked about the game afterwards, complimented me on my play, and wished me luck in the following round. Though I have to ask myself "What's wrong with this picture? I get beat by a 1550, and he tells me afterwards I played really well. How well could I have been playing if I lost to a 1550?" I'll give the kid credit. He played the ending much better then I did.

Last but not least. The position that tops all of the above positions. White has 3 seconds and plays Be5. Black has 1 second. Black to play and lose.

Black stops the clock, extends hand and says, Good game.

White: What are you doing?

Black: I resign.

White: Good game, but you could have played 1...Nxc5+ and it's a draw after 2. Qxc5 Qxd5+

Black: Arggggh!!!

Who says there's no luck in chess?


Aziridine said...

Checks and captures! Watch those checks and captures!
As for that endgame from the game on Monday, I don't think Black should have too much trouble winning. In the long run White can't defend the e5 pawn and there's no way of trading all the pawns either (White can't get to the pawn on h6). So something like ...Re2, ...Bd4, and ...g4 to prevent f2-f4 when necessary.

Polly said...

Azir: I realized as I was reading your comments and looking at the analysis, that I had the wrong position. Black already had played g4 and h5. I fixed the diagram. My idea for defending is to keep my bishop on the f1-a6 diagonal guarding the knight which in turn is guarding the e5 pawn. Black may be able to get Bd4 and attack the pawn a 2nd time with the king or the rook. If he comes into e2 with the rook I can chase him with Kf1.

During the game I thought he might be able to penetrate my king side with his king, but he has to be careful that my pawn doesn't get to e7 with his king at f5.

likesforests said...

Haha. Nice Thursday win! Good lesson for your opponent to spend those last 1 or 5+1 seconds to examine checks and captures rather than considering whether to resign. :)

chesstiger said...

A lot of mistakes either by faulty thinking proces but most of them seem to come from lack of concentration.

But dont worry to much, losing happens to us all when in a bad streak or not loved so much as usual by Caissa.

Gladly i can say that instead of losing i seem to play lots of draws instead of losing (against lower rated players) lately. Maybe it's a sign that i improved (not losing but drawing in a bad streak)? :-)

Anyway, i guess the cure of your problem is to keep concentration.

Polly said...

Like: I hate to admit this, but I was Black in that position. The time didn't really matter. It was a matter of my mental state at the time. Having lost all my games up to that point, I was in a losing mindset. It's hard to break out of that type of rut when so many things have gone wrong. Since the schedule is so tight (15 minutes between rounds), it's hard to even to take time to clear one's head out and move on.

When I saw the queen pinned to the king, I just gave up. The only move I considered was Qxe5 which just loses. I didn't even consider that there might be a check for me to counter his threat. You're right that Black needs to spend that last 6 (5+1) seconds looking for checks. Though the way my night was going, I would have found it in 6 seconds and lost on time. :-|