Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Quick Recap - Detailed Reports to Follow.

Friday I played 4 games at a time limit of Game/60. I started off with 3 straight draws, and then won round 4. I was encouraged by my play, and was looking forward to the slow games on Saturday and Sunday.

What can I say? Everything went all to hell. I don't understand what happens to me when I have lots of time to work with, and I actually use the time. Round 5 went almost the entire 6 hours, but I self destructed in a position that I was up a knight and a pawn. Round 6 I would have been better off skipping the round, just to unwind after the brutal loss. Instead I tried to tough it out, and lost that game.

Sunday was a fresh start, but gave away a game in round 7 that I was up a pawn against a 5th grade girl with one of those last names I couldn't spell or pronounce. The 8th round sucked. I just crushed. I had nothing left.

In the slow games I was not wandering the room much at all. Pretty much my trips from the board were for water, or answering Mother Nature's call. I need a couple of days to sort through this weekend I figure out what the hell happened.

Maybe Game/60 my time limit. 2.5-1.5 against players rated 1710 - 1790, followed by 0-4 on the slow schedule. Go figure. Maybe Linux-Guy can offer some insights since he got to watch me in action.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Greetings from LA!! - American Open

I got home late from Thanksgiving dinner last night. I caught a few hours of sleep, and then got up at 4:00 am New York time. Flew to LA at 6:30 am. The flight arrived 45 minutes early! So instead arriving at 10:00 AM LA time it was more like 9:15. Once again my rule of leaving early worked well. I had no checked luggage. My one bag in the overhead flew business class, I flew coach.

When one flies to LA to play chess it's not so terrible to be playing at a hotel on the airport property. Get off the plane, go downstairs, jump on the free shuttle and in my room before 10:00 am. I was so happy to have my room was ready!! Tried to nap a bit, but ended out going for a walk instead.

In an hour I start my insane schedule. I kept telling myself after Vegas "No more crazy schedules on a different time zone." So I lied. We'll see how it goes. At least I don't have to play a bunch of fast games followed by a slow game tonight. The slow part of the schedule doesn't start for me until Saturday morning.

Off to grab a bite to eat before the round at 12:00 and catch up with my west coast buddies. Hopefully I will have some good wins to share. Heck, I'd take bad wins to share. I hope I don't have any good train wreck stories to share.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. I will be going out to New Jersey to have Thanksgiving dinner with my nephew and his in-laws. One of my sisters will be there too. I think they only want me to come because of my specialty.


I've been making chocolate chip cookies for years. They keep getting better as I tweak the recipe. If they gave ratings for chocolate chip cookies, mine would be 2800 strength.

Lots more chocolate then the recipe calls for.

The finished product, hot out of the oven.

The chef doing quality control.

They passed the taste test. It's safe to go to dinner.

Next stop: Los Angeles and the American Open. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Adventures in Cracktion Land Part 2

After that disastrous evening the previous week, I wasn't sure I wanted to venture back down to the Marshall anytime soon. However knowing that Thanksgiving was coming up, and that my Wednesday club would be switching to Thursdays for 3 weeks, I decided I would give it another try. What was the worse thing that could happen? I couldn't get a lousier score. From 0-4, nowhere else to go but up. The WCC Fall Swiss had sucked up the remaining 7 rating points to bring me back to my floor. I couldn't lose anymore rating points.

Despite horrendous traffic coming back from my Thursday afternoon chess class in Connecticut, I managed to get home, make a sandwich that I remembered to pack, and make the train. I also managed to stay awake during the train ride. Already I was scoring better then the previous week.

Once a month the tournament is a Grand Prix event with 10 Grand Prix Points up for grabs and guaranteed prizes. Sometimes that means there are a few more grandmasters and masters the normal. That doesn't necessarily do much to my first round pairing except that I might play a 2180 in the first round instead of a 2050. Since the entry fee is a little higher and the competition is tougher at the top, it sometimes scares off the bottom. When that happens I find myself looking at a first or second round bye. I can tell when it's coming in the first round. Steve mutters something to me, and walks around the club saying "Any more entries?"

Sure enough he's walking around the club asking if anyone else is entering. He makes and posts the pairings, and yes I see "Please wait" next to my name. I suppose it's better to get it over with, and not get it in the third round. I just resign myself to having to wait an hour, and go back to eating my sandwich. Steve comes back into the back room and tells me I have an opponent. I see John Mac Arthur, and hope he's my opponent. Nope. I'm playing one of his students who he introduces to me as "young whipper snapper." Swell! Just what I need in the first round, a kid of undetermined strength.

His name was familiar to me since he's played in some scholastic tournaments I've directed, but I had no idea what his rating was. When I asked him, he said he didn't know. I found that a little hard to believe, since most kids can tell you within a rating point what their latest rating is. When I asked for a ballpark figure he couldn't even give me that. Maybe he was trying to be coy with me, but I decided it didn't matter. Most of the kids who show up to play on Thursday night are solid players regardless of rating. I would just play my game, and see what developed.

I played cautiously. At times I was too cautious, and I missed some simple tactics early in the game. It went into a reverse Accelerated Dragon, so it's not like I hadn't seen these positions before. When he played 9...Bh3, I could have simply taken it. After 10. Bxh3, Qxh3 I have 11. Nxd5. How many times as Black have I seen White play Nb3 before playing Bh6? I look for the overworked queen as Black in these positions, but some how I wasn't looking for it as White. Instead I played the really wussy move of 10. Bh1 to prevent the exchange of light squared bishops.

Fortunately for me, I got another opportunity to win the bishop when he pushed f5, cutting off the queen's protection along the h3-c8 diagonal. At the time I was very pleased with myself for finding the combination of the discovered attack on the queen, and attacking the unprotected bishop.

When I gave him a little bit of counter-play my mind started wandering off to negative thoughts about "If I lose I'm going to be really annoyed." "I wish I had just taken the bye." That's the sort of thinking that gets me into trouble so I tried to keep my mind focused on looking for good moves. Anytime I said to myself "Don't blunder and don't get overconfident." I told myself to replace those negative reminders with positive statements such as "Look for good moves." and "Stay focused on winning." I'm trying to be more aware of positive and negative thoughts, and how they impact my board vision and thought processes.

Here's the game.


In round two I played Leif Pressman. He's rated 2300. I was holding my own, but lost a pawn on the 20th move. It's hard to give pawn odds to a master. Eventually he ended out with a passed a pawn that I could not get back and stop. it's even harder to give a master queen odds, so I resigned that game.

In round 3 I played Michael Hehir, rated in the mid 2000s. I probably would have played him in round one if my first round opponent had arrived on time, and the pairings done normally. I tend to play him in the first or second round at least once a month. We always have interesting games, and occasionally I have nicked him for a draw or a win. Most of of the time I'm on the losing end. This evening would be another one of those losing nights. I actually thought I was doing okay. My pawn structure was better, but doubled rooks on an open file more then make up for two sets of doubled pawns. Here's the abrupt ending.

PW-MHehir ending.pgn

In the last round I was paired against a high 2100 with a drinking problem. This was one of those nights when he was stinking drunk. He even told me at the beginning of the game that he had been drinking since 7:00 am. I didn't understand what he said to me. Somebody afterward told me that. It's very sad to see people in such a state. I've played him before when he's been drunk. I beat him one time, and I've lost a few times. I didn't allow his state to impact my play. I was going to play as if he were sober. Even after he lost a piece, I kept reminding myself to stay focused on the game. It's easy to get overconfident in a situation like that. Eventually he lost another piece, and resigned.

Just another night in Cracktion Land. The rating points I tossed the previous week were returned to me the following week. Easy go, easy come.

Wacky Wednesday: Adventures In Cracktion Land!

As I mentioned in my high altitude post, I decided that traveling almost an hour each way to play one chess game that could last anywhere from an hour (totally stupid play) to the full four hours (thinkathon) was not worth the time and expense. As it was, three out the six weeks of the tournament I ended out playing in the cracktion den upstairs. Fear not gentle readers, I have not totally reverted to the dark side. It's just that if I'm playing at the Marshall Chess Club on Thursday it will be with the cracktion-heads upstairs, not the slow pokes downstairs.

My first trip in a month to cracktion-land was not pretty. Even though the calendar said Thursday November 12th, I felt like Friday the 13th came a day early. It started in the morning with my Tae Kwon Do master telling me after class that he thinks my technique has regressed. He said my kicks were better when I was a purple belt, and that my stamina doesn't seem to be as good. I thought I was doing okay, but I have felt like my brain has been in overload as I've been working on relearning and refining the old forms. In a future post I will discuss the overload issue because it does tie in with chess learning. ACIS of Martial Arts?

I had debated about whether I wanted to play that night, but decided I needed to get my mind off of Tae Kwon Do for awhile, and try to utilize my brain over the chess board. The train ride down to the city should have an indicator that I was not at my peak mentally. First I realized I had left my sandwich at home which meant I was going to have rush and get something before getting to the club. Then I started reading. After a few stops I found myself getting tired, so I put the book down and decided to nap. That was one hell of a nap. I fell dead asleep and the train cleaner had to wake me up at Grand Central to tell me "last stop". Good thing I was getting off at the last stop or knows where I would have ended out.

My night was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or perhaps Dr. White and Ms-played Black. I played decently with White against my higher rated opponents in rounds one and three. I lost both those games, but it was a matter of an extra pawn. I didn't feel bad about those games. I can deal with losing if the games were close.

However my play with the Black pieces was just horrendous. In my second round game I reached this position after 14. Qe2 Bd7? (taking away the escape square for my knight.) 15. Be3

I saw that my queen was under attack. At the same time I realized that with his bishop on e3 he would have 16. f4 after I move my queen. My knight has nowhere to go. I was trying to find a move that would protect my queen, and give my knight an escape square. Such a move did not exist, but somehow in trying to give my knight an escape square I forgot about White's bishop and my queen. I played 15...f5?? which was met with 16. Bxb6! Oh crap! I couldn't even blame that on time pressure. I still over 15 minutes left on my clock.

I followed up that ugly game with a hard fought loss with the White pieces in round 3. Now I'm sitting at the bottom with an 0-3 score with a bye be a distinct possibility. After the two close losses with White, and the butt ugly loss with Black I was kind of hoping I'd get the bye in the last round. Put me out of my misery please!! Given how the entire day had gone, it should not have surprised me that the number of players remained even. I got to play another game with the Black pieces. This game was just about as ugly as my second round game with Black. We reached the position below after 11...Nb6 12. Be2

There are a number of moves I can make here. However, I made the insipid pawn capture of 12...cxd4. He answers with 13. Bb4 winning the exchange after 13...Qd5 14. Bxf8 Kxf8. The game continued 15. Qxd4 Qc6 16. Qb4+ Kg8 17. Rfd1. His position is strong and my development isn't even completed. At this point I look at my watch. I'm trying to figure out if I resign at that moment, whether I can make the 11:14 train. "Let's see. It's 10:50. That gives me 24 minutes to catch the subway and make it to Grand Central. The worst that will happen is if I miss the 11:14 I can take the 11:45 train. Either way it sure beats playing this out, and being on the 12:30 train."

"I'm outta here! Good night!"

For the first time all day I had played the winning combination. My timing was perfect. A subway pulled in practically the moment I arrived. The 11:14 train was on one of the track platforms closest to the subway exit. What more could I ask for? I decided no naps on the way back, otherwise I might have ended out in North White Plains. Another ugly night in cracktion Land and almost all of the rating points gained last month, down the tubes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wacky Wednesday! Payback is a .......(edited)

Yesterday I mentioned that the two games that I lost in the recently concluded event were against opponents I had beaten in our previous game. In round one Reva paid me back for the game at the New York State Championship. In round three Peter Wojnar got a chance to avenge himself for the ugly loss he incurred during the Westchester CC Summer Round Robin. This time he enjoyed the fruits of some ugly moves on my part. Sometimes we get to enjoy dinner, other times we are dinner.

"I'll have the fish of the day."
"I'll take that to go."

This was one of those games I felt like that fish. Just swimming along minding my own business, and bam! Where did that bird come from? In my case it was the White queen and rook that swooped in. My biggest problem putting my b8 knight on c6 instead of d7. That move would come back to bite me when I was forced to relieve the pin of the knight on f6. Here's the game. (This is the correct one! The first one I had was our previous game where he blundered.)


Once again I saw the threat and the defense, but when White didn't play what I was expecting I forgot about the threat. With my knight pinned on f6, I knew I had to concern myself with the eventual e4. However my response to e4 would be g5 to block the bishop. I just didn't want to open up my castled position with g5 until it became necessary. I expected him to play e4 after he brought his bishop to d3, but he delayed the move and completed his king side development with Ne2 and O-O. After awhile I just didn't think he was going to play the move. It wasn't until he played f4 that I realized my defense to e4 was no longer viable. At that point it was too late.

The game was done in an hour. That's not a good thing when playing such a long time control. My play was for the birds. If nothing else it gave me a good excuse to post a few of my "osprey going fishing" pictures.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chess Analysis That Doesn't ADD Up

Last week was my last round in the Game/80 tournament at the Westchester Chess Club. 2-2 record. On the surface that doesn't look too awful, except that my two wins came against unrated players. One was playing in his first tournament and the other one was playing in his second tournament. Neither game was a blowout. Both opponents put up a good fight.

What about the two losses? It was payback time. I had beaten both of them in my last games against them. Someone once said "you can't win them all." Someone else said "Payback is a b@#$!" In round one I played Reva Singh who I had beaten in round four at the New York State Championship. This time she had White. I knew this was going to be a tough game. She chose the Maroczy Bind to counter my Accelerated Dragon. Even though I don't enjoy playing against the Maroczy, I don't find it as frightening as the Grand Prix or some of White's other aggressive responses against the Sicilian. Defending against the Maroczy tends to be an exercise in patience. Black's game is cramped, but it's not all that easy for White to attack.

One of the things that I have found difficult in playing longer time controls is staying focused while analysing a complex line. Tied in with that is remembering that threats don't necessarily go away just because the opponent hasn't played the moves that create the threat.

We reached the position below after 23. a3

White had made a number of the typical Maroczy Bind issues go away for Black by trading on c6 giving me the chance to play d5. Without the d5 break Black tends to have a very cramped position. Here I have a protected passed pawn on d5, but no easy way to start pushing it. My concerns here are the holes on f6 and d6. I don't want her being able to stick her knight on one of those squares with no easy way to dislodge it, so I really wanted to trade the pawn on e4. I spent 6 minutes trying to figure out if 23...f6 was sound or not. If White takes right away I have the option on recapturing with the rook or the knight, but I will have a backward pawn on e6. I concluded that opening the e and f files would free up my position, and that White can't really take advantage of the backward pawn. One possible continuation might be 24. exf6+Rxf6 25. Qd4 Qc7 26. Rae1 Kg8 27. g3 e5 28. fxe5 Rxf1+ 29. Rxf1 Qxe5 30. Qxe5 Nxe5.

After I played 23...f6 White actually played 24. Qd4 giving me the opportunity of capturing on e5 and giving her an isolated pawn that I can target. The game continued 24... fxe5 25. fxe5 Qb8 26. Rxf8 Rxf8 27.Ne4? to reach the position below.

It took me no time at all to the reject the knight trade of 27...dxe4 28. Qxd7+. Perhaps the outright rejection of that move caused me to miss 27...Rf4! winning White's knight. 28. Re1 Nxe5 29. Qd2 Rxe4 30.Rxe4 dxe4. Instead I was focusing on whether I could take the hanging pawn on e5, and be able to hold it. What I was forgetting about was White could stick her knight on d6. Though it didn't seem like it could do much since its only safe destination was b7. The game continued 27...Qxe5 28. Qxe5+ Nxe5 29. Nd6 to reach this position below.

One of the things I had taken into consideration was what I would do if White played Re1 attacking my knight. If she does, I can bring my king to f6 to guard it. My king will not be in danger, and White's knight still doesn't have useful moves. However in the course of my analysis leading up to 27...Qxe5 I had given thought to playing ...Rf6 at some point to guard the backward pawn if my knight moved, and to retain control of the open f file. When taking that move into consideration White's knight was not on d6. Now the knight is on d6. Where is the knight going?

I'm sure you can see where this leading and you're probably thinking to yourself, "Please tell us you didn't play 29...Rf6?" Unfortunately in one of those ADD moments that I'm prone to, I did play 29...Rf6. After having spent over 6 minutes on 23...f6 and another 4 minutes on 27...Qxe5, I used less then a minute to play 29...Rf6. She took all of about 3 seconds to find 30. Nf8+.

It's hard to describe what goes through my mind when I'm trying to work out different variations. There are the the moves themselves I'm thinking about, and then there are the little internal reminders to myself. "Stop looking at Dan's game." "Take another look at move X." "Look at the board, not at her facial expression." etc.

So why didn't 'blunder-check" mode kick in at this point? I think I was too busy drooling over being up a pawn and having two connected passed pawns. Also I had written her knight off as not dangerous. I was correct that her knight isn't dangerous. Even if she has Ne8+ as long as my rook is not on f6, it's not a dangerous move. The only worse moves I could have played in that position would have been 29...Re8 or 29...Rc8.

Despite losing the exchange at this point, it's far from over. I still have the passed e and d pawns. Fritz gives White + over =, so not even a full pawn advantage. However it was a complex ending that required a lot of analysis and counting squares. I constantly had to be concerned about White pushing b5 to create a passed pawn on the queen side. Two things I had to keep thinking about were keeping my king close enough to get back in time, and having my knight ready to blockade if necessary.

Almost every move from move 32 onward I kept looking at White playing b5. I kept counting how many moves it would take to get the king back. Each time I can get the king over in time. However White can make some pawn trades, and it's still quite complicated. We reach the following position after 34...a6

I thought 34...a6 would prevent b5, but she can play it here. Better for me would have been 34...Ke6. The game continued 35. g4 e4 36. g5+ In another ADD moment I forgot about why she had not played b5 up to this point. I played 36...Kxg5?, and now my king is too far away. Now she plays 37. b5.

Here is the entire game.


It's frustrating when this sort of stuff happens. Thoughtful analysis goes right out the window in a brief lapse of concentration. In looking back at this game I thought that I might have played Kxg5 because I was in severe time pressure. I wasn't at that point. I spent a couple of minutes on the move, and played it anyway because I forgot about b5. (Senility or ADD?) Then when she played b5 I had to burn a lot of time trying to see if my knight could cover. The time scramble came after I was lost.

I haven't found anything in the literature on coping with ADD that covers how get through a complex chess position without losing concentration or getting distracted by a sudden burst of overconfidence. Maybe trying to resolve that problem will be my contribution to ACIS.

Tomorrow: A Wacky Wednesday case of forgetting about threats.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Random Thoughts From 30,000 feet. (edited at 0 feet.)

Greetings from Delta Flt. 1780 Atlanta to New York. I don't have a lot say, but just thought it would be fun to blog from such heights. Sometimes when I'm playing I think my brain is at 30,00 feet while my game is at sea level.

The slow chess on Thursday nights experiment is over. It's too much like work to schlep down to Greenwich Village once a week to play one game of chess. The slow crowd is not as friendly and sociable as the fast crowd. Maybe I just like life in the fast lane. I'm not giving up on slow chess. I'll still have my Wednesday night slow games, and just maybe I can find some people who would like slow games on Monday. Back to Thursday night cracktion, but not as often.

As it turned out during the six weeks of the slow tournament I ended out playing cracktion three times. The first was because I played like an idiot in the slow game and lost in an hour. I decided I didn't have enough moronic play so I went upstairs and lost three more games. The second time was because I had gotten a bye in round four. The third time was totally unplanned. I wanted to see if I could snap out of my prolonged slump that had encompassed almost two months with a couple of draws and no wins. I really wanted to make the slow time limit work for me. However Caissa had different plans for me in round six.

You've heard the expression "too many cooks spoil the broth." The same can apply to chess tournaments when one director does one thing, and another director does something else. One director had made the round six pairings and told the player who was going to get the bye that she did not have to come that evening. Bad move. 15 minutes before the round a played called in to say he couldn't make it. To make a long story short, they asked me if I'd be willing to play upstairs so that they didn't have to give the bye to a player who had 2.5 points and would win money if he got the bye.

What the heck! The worst that could happen is I have another 0-fer night. That was not to be. After having my usual round one loss against a master I got paired down against a former student. He has yet to join the "ex-students who have beaten Polly club." I thought with the way I'd been playing lately this might be his night. However he got sac happy, and I won. He'll have to wait another day to earn membership into that club.

The next round I got paired against his current teacher. I had a good game against him, but lost on time. I was satisfied with the result. I had not blundered and held my own against him. I just couldn't manage the time so well. Last round I was paired against my long time nemesis, Gabor Schnitzler. I've played him over 40 times and only have 8 wins and a few draws. Too many times I've let him wiggle out of a mess, and he's found a way to win. This would be my night for the cheap shot. I had an edge on the clock, and since he never takes draws until no other choice I played on. In this position he blundered allowing me mate in two with a pawn in a rook and pawn ending.

White to move and blunder. 45. f4??

I did a double take when he made this move, and had to ask myself does 45...f5+ really lead to mate? I played the move and the game continued 46. gxf5 gxf5#. I did not announce mate. One I don't like to do that, and two I was still finding it hard to believe it really was mate. He stuck his hand out to shake. Only then was I sure.

I'm running out of time. I'm in airline time pressure, and soon I'll have to put the laptop away.

By the way, despite my statements to the contrary I will be making another chess trip outside of the grade nationals in Dallas. Thanksgiving weekend I'll be heading out to LA for the 45th American Open. It would have been Jerry Hanken's 45th. It's my salute to a good chess friend who I miss.

Fasten your seat belts, stow tray tables and turn off all electronic devices.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Vacation Is Coming To An End.

In case anyone is wondering, I have not defected to golf yet. Though being down here in golfer's paradise it's tempting. Golf seems to be an expensive variation of chess using clubs. The vacation from chess is coming to an end.

I guess wearing a chess tee shirt doesn't count as doing chess.

I'm heading back home tomorrow. I'll have a slow game on Wednesday, and we'll take things from there. Hopefully my opponent will not be like this guy below.

End of vacation bites!

Here are a few birds in flight. Hopefully my flight will be as smooth.

We egret to tell you.....
Heron today, gone tomorrow.
Pelican Variation

Back to chess!