Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wacky Wednesday: Eating My Words

A few weeks ago I shared part of my Black Belt essay, and then ended the post with the following:

I'm still working on how to transfer the focusing and self-discipline piece to chess.  I'm encouraged by the fact that I've managed to not toss away winning positions by losing focus, and getting distracted by external factors.  Every time I've gotten a winning position recently, I've reminded myself that it's not a win until checkmate, the opponent's flag falls or he resigns. 

I guess this blog would get pretty boring if all I showed were mundane wins and losses with no good story behind the result.  I don't think it's my deep and insightful analysis of the moves themselves that draw most people to this blog.  There are far better players and annotators out there that can provide the deep analysis of various positions.  What I have to offer is another train wreck story which would not have occurred if I had been able to make an earlier train.

In a recent Thursday night cracktion tournament I was having a bad night. I dropped 2 pawns against an IM within the first 20 moves.  By move 26 those pawns were being shoved down my throat. In the second round I played a kid rated over 200 points lower rated then me who seemed to want to do nothing but trade and go for a draw.  She got her wish because it was just a nothing position and I couldn't see anything worth playing for.  In the third round I played another kid and I managed to get my knight and bishop forked on move 14.  It just went downhill from there.

It was one of those nights if the round 4 pairings had "Please Wait" next to my name I would have probably given the tournament director a kiss.  Making the 11:15 train would have made my day.  However on a bad night things don't work out that way.  It was one of those nights where the pairings were up 20 minutes early but my opponent had left the building.  Every single player in the tournament got to start 15 to 20 minutes early except me.  I couldn't even start his clock before 10:45 because that was the scheduled start time.

Up until this summer I had this kid's number.  Every time we would play he would have some meltdown and after losing a piece would resign.  Some kids wait far too long to resign but this kid sometimes resigns without even trying to put up a fight.  After drawing with me in June he started beating me in July.  From July to early October we played 4 times and he won every game.  I'm not so sure it was him improving tremendously or me just having lots of time management issues.  Whatever the reasons now he had my number.

I was till a little annoyed about our last game which ended out being a draw.  It was annoying because I had filled in for one round and had to play him.  He just started trading things off and we ended out in a bishops of opposite colors ending with an even number of pawns.  I offered him a draw after playing 32...Ke6 to reach the following position.

There was not going to be any clock issues.  We both had about 15 minutes left.  I think I could hold a draw in the position even with 2 seconds and delay on my clock. He refuses the draw. What? He trades down and then refuses the draw?  The game continues 33. Bc3 Bc6, 34. g3 f5 35. Ba5 g6 36. Bc7 a6 At this point all my pawns are on light squares and his king can't get in. We were not using my clock or set.  The clock owner wants to leave, so I get my clock and set it with the correct times. I give him back his clock.  Then he says "that's my board and set."  I'm thinking "Am I really going to have to get out another set and set up this position because my opponent wants to keep playing on?" 

Most of the time I will not say anything and will quietly stew over what is happening, but I couldn't help myself. I asked my opponent "Are you really going to make me get out another set in order to play out this ridiculous position?" He looks at me like he has no idea what I'm asking.  I finally say "I'm offering another draw. Do you really want to keep playing out this position?" He takes the draw and I give the other player his set and board. 

Afterward I ask my opponent why he wanted play the position out. He tells me his dad isn't coming for another 45 minutes and he's bored. I offered to play blitz chess with him, but he declined.  Then I made the observation that he was better at one point in the game and wondered why he didn't opt to recapture with his rook at one point. Recapturing with the rook would have given him a battery on the d file. He tells me he doesn't feel like he's good enough to try to win against me.  What the hell?  He's beaten me the last 4 times we've played and he's telling me he's not good enough to try to play for an advantage against me!  He blames his winning on my blundering.  Yes I did blunder in our games, but he was making things difficult which in 3 of the games put me in bad time pressure.

Back to round 4 on that Thursday.  I'm irritated because; 1) I was played like crap all evening.  2) I really didn't want to be playing the last round, but I don't like to drop out and stick somebody with the bye when I'm having a crappy tournament.  I was so hoping to get the bye and go home early.  3) Everyone else has started early and I'm still waiting for 10:45 to come so I can start his clock. Finally I can start his clock.  He still hasn't come back.  Now I'm thinking to myself "So help me if he left thinking he told Steve he was taking a bye for the last round I'm going to kill him!" I've actually have had that happen to me.  I've been paired against someone whose coach was supposed to tell Steve he wasn't playing the last round, and the coach forgets.  I have to sit there for 30 minutes until his time runs out.

Finally my opponent comes in at 10:52 so I have a 7 minute edge on the clock.  Just like our last game he has White and plays the c3 Sicilian.  I have mixed feelings about this line.  It can be annoying at times, but I'll take transposing into it versus accepting the pawn in the Smith-Morra.  I decided I would play a little more actively and not necessarily make every trade offered to me.  After 7. Nc3 instead of trading right away I played 7...Bb4.  I did trade after he broke the pin with 9. Bd2.  I was interested in seeing whether he would try to trade down again.  After I played 9...Bxc3 he recaptured with 10. bxc3.

One of the problems with having a big edge on the clock is the temptation to move too fast.  For the most part I didn't feel like I was rushing my moves, but I did miss several opportunities to either win a piece or the exchange.  The first opportunity on move 20.  I saw the move after I played a different move.  I won a pawn on move 27 and then went conservative trying to nurse my pawn advantage and the big edge on the clock.  I figured I might just be able to squeeze him and run him out of time.

Then something bad happened.  I was winning the exchange.  Normally that's a good thing, but not when the mind set switches from play safe and squeeze it out to "I'm going crush this sucker!"  We reached the position below after I played 34...Ng5.

My opponent had a dejected look on his face after my knight move.  In a number of the games where I've beaten him he's resigned the moment he drops a piece.  Given his past, I'm thinking to myself "He's going to resign soon.  I'm going to be up an exchange and pawn and he has less then two minutes left and I have 10 minutes."  He didn't resign.  Instead he played 35. Qb2.  I see that there's a discovered check after 35...Nxf3 36. Nxf3+.  I didn't think the discovered check was a big deal after the recapture.  Instead of moving my king off the diagonal and eliminating the discovered check, I mindlessly played 35...Nxf3.  In my rush to crush him in time pressure I neglected to notice that he doesn't bother to recapture on f3.  Instead he plays the killer knight move 36. Ne6 + +.  It took me a moment to realize it was not a simple discovered check, but instead it was double check that had no outs for me.  My two choices were 36...Kh7 or 36...Kg8.  Both moves are answered with 37. Qg7#.

I stared at the position for probably a minute or two just soaking in what had happened.  I look up at my opponent and just shook my head and laughed.  I couldn't believe how an easily won game quickly turned into mate in one for my opponent.  Laughing was about the only thing I could do at that point.  I suppose crying or sweeping the pieces off the board in a fit of anger might have been a more normal response.  However there was just something utterly comical about expecting a resignation from my opponent, and instead being the one that was doing the resigning.  I was not going to make the king move hoping he didn't see it.  It was clear from the speed at which he played the last two moves that he went for a desperate cheapo and it was successful on his part.  I wasn't going to allow the game to end in mate.

Here's the game in it's entirety.


It wasn't until the train ride home that I realized how I let myself lose focus and got over-confident.  It was stupid on my part.  The rook was going nowhere even after I spend a move to get my king off the diagonal.  His rook will still be pinned.  There's a fine line between self-confidence versus over-confidence.  I'm not there yet.  I would have another one of those moments the following week in a slow game at the Westchester Chess Club.  I did bounce back this past Monday with 2.5 out of 3 and a nice gain of points.  I continually need to keep my emotions and focus in check.


LinuxGuy said...

Nice game!

Right away, I can see Kh7 is the best spot for the king, but in G/30 probably make the same mistake that you did, particularly not seeing Qg7 mate rather than the simple NxR move.

What I would have done, though, is move quickly once I see it, and then hope he makes a quick NxR reply in return (one time-pressure move deserves another). Probably doesn't, but is only 1500-ish, so you never know. You sort of gave it away, though, by your reaction.

Getting mated on the board doesn't bother me a bit, in fact I'd rather see that than resign a lost position beforehand (unless the other person is moving slow and has lots of time) - it's losing that can be bothersome, getting mated at least you know you left it all out on the field.

That was a nice, tricky tactic that he pulled, so losing that way in G/30 wouldn't kill me, as simple as it was. I agree with your assessment though, you play Kh7 instead and are completely winning. And like you say, that other game was a draw.

Polly said...

I never saw Ne6+ until he played it, so there was nothing to give away. I had played NxR and expected NxN. He banged out Ne6 so quickly it was clear he had it worked out the moment he played Qb2. He got what he wanted when I moved too quickly.

chesstiger said...

Like you mentioned, a game is only over until one is mated, one of the players resigned or a draw is agreed. Until then its focus and hard work every single move.

Kudos to your opponent to find that one possibility in the position to still win the game. It needed a big blunder of his opponent but nevertheless he was on the look out for posibilities in a difficult position.

Polly said...

Tiger: I really have to hand it to my opponent because in the past he would just fold up and resign in a position like that. I think given his past history with me I think it totally caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting him to come up with a neat little shot like that.

They say that those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it. However in chess I think it's probably better to forget history in order not to depend on it.