Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Round 3: Win (Self-Criticism)

Here's my third-round game from last month's tournament. (Just in time for me to play again this weekend, work permitting.) This was hard to annotate, because superficially it seems to be a fairly easy win. It wasn't. In particular, avoiding Black's attempts at a perpetual check was draining.

I had a couple of real tactical blind-spots. Missing 28...f3 and 44.Qxf8+ were especially bad; it was just luck that my position was so strong they didn't matter. I also missed several opportunities to win by a direct attack on the King, being hypnotized by the prospect of strangling all of his Queenside pieces in their beds.

Once interesting thing is that I feel much better about my play overall now, looking at the game after several weeks, than I did right after the game. I think my realization of those tactical flaws colored my perceptions, and made me think that all my middle-game play was too slow, when in fact it was mostly fine. Another part of the problem is that I don't feel I'm good at exploiting certain kinds of advantage, such as the extra space and better development I had in this game. So I criticised myself for not acting faster, when in fact my simple development and strengthening of my position was appropriate.

I study my games in two phases. First, right after the game, I jot down my immediate thoughts about what I was thinking about during play, what things I missed, and so on. Later, I do a slow pass over the game, usually starting from the end, looking for improvements and verifying--or debunking--my initial impressions.

In this game, to point out the differences between my initial and later impressions of my play, I've put my first round of notes in quotes.

Your position and pawn structure, to me, just scream for central play. So, I wonder if something like 15. Rad1 would be an improvement instead of e5. Also, I wonder if fxg3 is really that bad for you. After all, the dark squared bishops are off the board, so a weak f2 doesn't appear to me to be so threatening. There might have been a more active move than g4.
15.Rad1 is a perfectly good move, since Black can't play ...e5. But, since White wants to open the Bishop's diagonal and get a good square for the N on d2, 15.e5 makes a lot of sense as well.

I confess, I played 17. g4 mostly because I did not want to spend time every move deciding if fxg3 was a real threat, but it also has the virtues of gaining space, setting up a possible Kingside pawn-storm, and leaving Black's f-pawn sitting there as a target. But a more active move might have been even better, yes.

There's something I'm finally starting to figure out about weaknesses on a color-complex (like White's dark squares after a possible ...fxg3, or black's dark squares after ...c6 and ...g6 in the game: Exchanging Bishops on that color benefits the attacker more than the defender in most cases.

It's an odd thing, since usually, if you're under attack, you want to reduce the attacking force, but I think the Bishop defending the weak squares is more important than the one attacking them.
I saw your rating history today, and see that you achieved a 2243 rating. Awesome. Wonder when will I ever reach that orbit. Tell me, is reaching it really very hard. I've heard anyone willing to work can do it.. but still, it must take years and years?

Well, it took _me_ years and years, anyway. About 10 years from the time I started taking the game seriously to make expert, and then stagnated around 2100 for another 6 years before I started applying the often-repeated advice to carefully study my own games. About a year after that I finally got into the 2200s.

I think how long it takes depends on three things: how much "talent" you have, how hard you work, and how effectively you study. Unfortunately, you can only tell how talented you are after you apply the work--the less it took to reach the goal, the more talented you must be. 8)

In my case, not so much talent; and, especially after I made 2000, not so effective at studying. (Another problem is that what effective study is depends a lot on how string you are, so you have to keep finding new ways to study in order to advance.)
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