Monday, January 26, 2009

A Simpler Explanation

On further review, the shortcoming that prevents my further improvement is that I'm a moron:

I didn't want to post about this one, but my friend Tim saw the result on the Marshall website. He emailed me demanding the game, and I was reluctant to disappoint half my readership, so here it is.

Do I have a theory about why I play moves like 6...Bf5? (Aside from the above obvious explanation.) Of course I do--my brain produces theories like rotting meat produces maggots; nor do the similarities end there.

But there's no reason anyone should be even slightly interested in my latest theory, since I clearly know nothing whatever about Chess. So to hell with it.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Long Answer

In the comments to my last post, Tempo asked me what my shortcomings are that prevent further improvement, and I replied: "The short answer is that it probably poor selection of candidates and/or limited ability to visualize positions 5 or 6 ply down a forcing sequence. That's why I'm trying the Hertan and Dvoretsky books. The long answer will be a blog post in a day or two." I guess this is that post.

The long answer is that every part of my game seems weak, to the extent that everything I've done to improve has resulted in finding new ways to lose.

In a post last March that I've referred to recently, I listed all the things I did in the last couple of years. I concluded, "a hundred point difference could be chance", and I have begun to think that it was. Also, you could argue that it wasn't a hundred points, either--my rating only moved 50 points, the other 50 was a combination of bad performance when my rating was crashing down and good performance when it was recovering.

I worked my opening repertoire, partly because I'd noticed that in games where I used a lot of time in the first 10 moves, I did poorly even when I got a good position. That "worked"--I rarely get out of book early now, and when I do it's just as likely that it's because I'm refuting bad play by my opponent as forgetting my lines, and so my score in those games is just as good as my score in games where I don't use up a lot of time in the opening. But my rating overall doesn't move.

I did a lot of work on tactics, and I can see that I make fewer outright blunders than I did. By my rating doesn't move--I miss tactics several moves down a variation instead in the first couple of moves.

I worked on visualizing positions, and I can play through games blindfold pretty well--but I don't seem to see the possible continuations in the positions I visualize.

And so on. I do things to improve certain perceived problems, and those problems get a but better--and something else causes me to lose anyway, so my rating doesn't move.

Maybe I'm just grumpy. Maybe having a rating 50 points higher than a couple of years back indicates a real (but slow) improvement.

Anyway. I'll be working on visualization and especially on candidate selection, because those seem like obvious problems. I can point at places in my games where I didn't consider the strongest move at all, especially a few moves down the tree of variations. We'll see how that works.

Friday, January 02, 2009

2008 In Review

Warning: I'm the kind of geek who keeps detailed lists and statistics. Here come some now:

I played 56 tournament games in 2008. That's a lot for me--the most since 1988, when I played 57. (I also played 57 in 1976; 68 in 1987; and 90 in 1977). I had five wins against players rated 2200 or over, the most I've ever had in a year.

Almost all those games were played at 30 moves in 90 minutes (followed by one hour smash clock); 5 games from the Marshall Championship were 40/120, and 4 from the Marshall Amateur Team were Game/120. I never played much at fast time controls, and don't think I ever will.

Total score for the year was +28 =17 -11, a performance about 2172; +16 =6 -6 with White (2175) and +12 =11 -5 with Black (2168). That's a very small difference between White and Black performance; +80 Elo is more typical, and it probably means my White openings could stand a little work.

Looking at individual openings, as White, I had a lot of games with the Symmetrical English with d4, and did not do great (2140); I also did poorly with the Reti opening ("London" lines where Black plays ...d5 and ...Bf5 or ...Bg4) (2100), and was +0 =1 -1 against the Dutch. I did very will with the Catalan and Tarrasch QGD (close to 2400), and my Larsen Variation King's Indian was OK (2240). So maybe I need to start playing 1.d4 instead of 1.Nf3.

As Black, my Caro-Kann continued invincible (+7 =9 -0, 2190), with a performance over 2350 against players rated 2000 or above. I've lost only one game with the Caro since I took it up, against GM Charbonneau. I draw a little too much with it against weaker players, but that's the last thing I'm going to worry about at the moment.

Against closed openings, not so successful, although my Queen's Gambit Declined started doing OK (almost 2300, in fact) after being around 2000 the last couple of years). But I've already looked over Vigus' _Play The Slav_ and will start using that. Maybe playing 1...c6 against the English and ...d5/...c6 against the Reti will help with my sub-2000 performance against those.

Anyway, I hope not to study openings too much this year. My wife--who indulges my hobby terribly--got me three books for Christmas: Hertan's Forcing Chess Moves, Lars Bo Hansen's How Chess Games Are Won And Lost, and Dvoretsky's Analytical Manual. I'm working on the Hertan book now, and a bit on the Hansen; later I'll move on to the Analytical Manual. I also need to buckle down to analyzing my own games.

I suspect it's all futile in terms of improvement, but I won't know unless I try.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

One To Forget

Here's a game I'd like to forget--I'm posting it to make sure I don't. My opponent is about 12 years old, and his name may be familiar to those of you who read the Marshall Chess Club blog.

Very nice execution.

And that concludes my chessplaying year. At the very least.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Stocking Stuffer

Lev Alburt's Chess Pocket Training Book II, like his first pocket training book, is a nice little collection of positions--many tactics, but also endgames and positional problems--in a handy little book suitable for sticking in the pocket of your jacket or overcoat.

Here's a nice little problem from it--not hard, but pretty:

White to play

Solution will appear in the comments after Christmas (or when Tempo sees it).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Forcing Chess Move

I've been reading Charles Hertan's Forcing Chess Moves. It looks pretty good so far (I just finished the first chapter; I'll write a review when I've finished the book). It may be pitched just a bit low for me, but it has some very nice positions in it. Here's one:

White to play

Solution in the comments.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Illness, work deadlines, Seasonal Affective Disorder. No Chess playing this last month, and so no blogging.

Normal service to resume shortly. Happy Solstice to all, and best wishes for the holidays of your choice.

Monday, November 24, 2008

One To Remember

I'm very pleased with the game I played last Thursday night against IM Renato Naranja. There are plenty of mistakes by both sides, but it was a good fighting game. And I got to offer sacrifices of both Rooks. And sac a Bishop at the end. And it's not another member of the "almost a good game except I screwed it up at the end" club.

As I said, lots of mistakes, but it's a game I'll remember.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Good Draw

Here's another nice game of mine from the Marshall Championship. My opponent is a strong young master who--I'm told--is something of a theoretical expert on the opening variation in this game.

I was pretty happy to have held the draw, but it was the kind of game where losing wouldn't bother me unless it was because of some gross blunder. I found the middlegame fascinating.

In the comments to this post by Temposchlucker, I've been discussing pawn-up endgames where the superior side should avoid trading certain pieces. There's an example at move 30 of this game; White would be much better off if Black couldn't force the Queens off.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Best Game From The Marshall Championship

To start clearing my backlog, here's my most fun game from the Marshall Championship. My opponent was a pleasant young fellow who recently wrote an engaging article for Chess Life about his struggle to get his rating over 2200. (Here's a popup javascript viewer of the game.)

White: NM Evan Rosenberg
Black: NM Ed Gaillard

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Be7 5.g4?!

after 5. g4?!


I think this is advocated in one of those books on surprise lines- _Secrets of Opening Stupidity_ or _Dangerous Boomerangs: 1.d4 d5_ or something of that ilk.


9 minutes. It seemed right to play a Semi-Tarrasch with g4 in for White.

6.g5 Ne4 7.cxd5 Nxc3 8.bxc3 Qxd5 9.Rg1?!

Despite the airyness of the Kingside, White should probably play 9.Bg2 and O-O. Then Black is only slightly better.


16 minutes. Decided I wanted as many open lines as possible with his King permanently in the center; 9...Nc6 10.Bg2 cxd4 11.Nxd4! is not exactly "good" for White, but seems less awful. However, there may have been a slight flaw in my reasoning.


10.Qxd4 was probably an improvement (though still -/+); this is why 9...Nc6 was possibly more accurate.

10...Nc6 11.Bg2 O-O 12.h4?

He spent 12 minutes, and was only 5 minutes ahead of me on the clock. This is "pseudo-agressive"; what is White going to do, deliver mate on the g-file? Developing some pieces might be a good idea.

12...Rd8 13.e3 Qf5

10 minutes. 13...Qc4 14.Bf1 didn't seem to lead anywhere special.


after 14.Qe2

Wait a second...


9 minutes, leaving 58. I had a sudden turn--I realized I hadn't considered 15.Ne5 in response (only e4 and Bd2), so I had to work that out (decided on 15...Qc2 in that case)

15.e4 (15 minutes, leaving 1 hr 5 minutes.) 15...Qa5 16.Bd2 b6

only 3 minutes on this move. 16...Nc2+ is also very strong, perhaps better than this.

17.Rc1 (24 minutes, leaving 41.) 17...Ba6 (6 minutes. I think I was, ah, away from the board.) 18.Qe3 Qxa2

11 minutes, ...Rac8 being the main alternative.

19.Bf1 (7 minutes, 34 left.) 19...Rac8 (4 minutes, 34 left.) 20.Rxc8 Rxc8

Played quickly; Crafty really likes ...Bxc8., which never crossed my mind.


after 21.Bxa6

Time to work it out

Ah, I had forgotten that the Rook was going to be loose if I won the Queen. I took 18 minutes, leaving 16, and worked out what I thought was a clearer win. Gratifyingly, Crafty seems to agree with my analysis.

21...Qa1+ 22.Ke2 Qxa6+ 23.Kd1 Qa4+ 24.Ke2 Qb5+ 25.Kd1 Nc2 26.Qf4 Qb1+ 27.Ke2 (6 minutes for him, leaving 19.) 27...Qb5+ 28.Kd1 Qb1+ 29.Ke2 Nxd4+ 30.Nxd4 Qxg1

after 30...Qxg1


And there we are. (I calculated this before 21...Qa1+.)

31.Nf3 Qa1 32.Ne5 Rf8

32....f6 is simpler.

33.Nd7 Rd8 (3 minutes, leaving 7.) 34.Ne5 Rf8 35.Nd7 e5

This pretty much ends White's counterplay.

36.Qg3 Rd8 37.Nxe5 Bd6 38.Bc3

I was actually rocked by this, but it appears it only took me a minute (of my 4 remaining) to work it out. (If the mating line weren't there, 38...Qa4 is also easily winning.)

38...Bxe5 39.Qxe5 Qd1+ 40.Ke3 Rd3+ 0-1

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