I played my first game in the new season of the Ladder tournament last week. I played an opponent that I've played a couple of times before (here and here). That's always interesting for me as it allows me judge if I've been making any progress at all. My answer after this game is I haven't a clue!
It was a strange game. I should have lost straight out of the opening, then should have been better, then traded into an ending which I knew was drawing and then lost that ending.
My previous games against the same opponent involved me firstly losing hopelessly without any real counterplay and then losing in an ending after an even enough game. So possibly getting an advantage at some stage and even getting to a drawn ending could be seen as progress, but I really shouldn't have gotten anywhere near that.
In this game I really should have lost in the opening. I played the wrong opening moves - I was hoping he would play c4 to transpose into a Bg5 Queen's Gambit Declined position as I had a game coming up against an opponent who tended to play that. When that didn't happen I played the wrong plan and got my pieces marooned on the queenside. Suddenly he had serious mating threats due to his bishop pointing at h7.
I didn't see how to defend myself and after Ne4 to block the diagonal. I assumed that he would take that knight and grab my center pawn. This looks lost with his queen and knight attacking my king and his rooks ready to swing over. Instead he preserved his bishop and traded off knights but this really dissipated his attack. That bishop turned out to be a lemon for the rest of the game. It did nothing until it traded itself for my good bishop.
After that I was able to get my Queen defending my only weak spot on f7 and then once I got my rooks active was even better at one point. I should have done better in the middlegame but I was in severe time trouble. The game time for this was 60m + 15s and I used up pretty much all of that surviving the opening. It's hard to know which of the missing tactics I would have seen if I had more time.
I initially missed Rd8 but saw it later - maybe I would have seen it earlier with more time. I could see that there were potentially g5 ideas but couldn't calculate those properly. I would never have seen the Rxh3 ideas. I could see afterwards that I was too focused on short range moves around the h-file. With the rooks and queen I should have been more focused on more long range moves - the queen on h4 can support the rook "slingshotting" around h8, d8 and to d1. I don't think I'd have seen this with extra time but it's something to be aware of in future.
I knew that the rook ending was drawn but the pawn being so far back confused me. In all literature on rook pawn endings they have the pawn on the 6th or 7th rank. In those cases you want the king on g7 or h7. However with the pawn so far back putting the king there allows the opponent to walk his king over to the pawn, drive away your rook as it doesn't have enough files to operate, then cut off your king on the e file, getting a winning position. The proper drawing technique here is to use the tempi that your opponent will spend getting his king over to your rook, to get your king over to the a file. Best case you can get your king in front of the pawn and then use the back rank defense and go to sleep. Worst case you reach the c file and then your opponent can't use b8 to swap his king and rook so you get a draw. I hope to write a more detailed explanation in a future post.
→ posted on October 28, 2017chess
Started a page on rook endings. Beginning with links on rook + rook pawn vs rook.
→ posted on October 23, 2017microposts
Apparently each month Fide have trainers upload instructional articles (called surveys for some reason) to their site.
→ posted on October 22, 2017microposts
The Munster League started back up again in Charleville last weekend. The B team were in action and in the first game lost 4 1/2 to 1/2 against the Cork A team. In the second game we shared the spoils with Charleville.
For the first game we were treated to the luxurious conditions that the A team expects - leather seats, wooden boards and pieces. No expense spared! I had a mixed game in a Rubinstein French. I was well prepared and only used the increment for the first 20 or so moves and built up a huge time advantage against my much higher rated opponent. This was especially useful later once I started to make my customary blunders as my opponent didn't have a great deal of time to find the best moves! I got a comfortable, equal endgame position and then hallucinated that my opponent was winning a piece. I made some terrible moves and ended up losing most of my pawns giving my opponent had an massively winning position.
Luckily for me he failed to find the win and I managed to trade into a Rook & split a and c pawns against a Rook endgame. I had done a great deal of work on my endgames recently with Jesus DeLaVilla's 100 endgames course on Chessable so I was fairly confident here. I held out for 50 moves and only gave one winning chance around move 85. Again my opponent failed to find this and I escaped with a draw.
For the second game we were back slumming it with the typical B team standard. No more leather chairs, plastic sets! I got a bit confused out of the opening against my opponent and ended up in a blocked position. I decided to swap my bishop for his knight as I felt that an extra knight would be better suited to the position. I ended up getting a really strong position - probably winning as I was up a piece. However then it all fell apart for me. My opponent got a really strong attack with his queen and my pieces were forced into awkward positions. I missed the fact that I could get my queen to e7 via a check on c7. If I had found that I think I would have converted the game. My opponent offered a draw but I felt that as the match result was hanging on this I should try to play on. Naturally I blundered into to a losing position but fortunately got back to draw in the end.
→ posted on October 15, 2017chess
Some great videos on rook and pawn endings covering rook pawn + 3vs3 and rook pawn vs 4vs4.
→ posted on October 3, 2017microposts
Excellent article on Checkers World Champion Marion Tinsley and Jonathan Schaeffer's quest to solve the game.
→ posted on July 25, 2017microposts
→ posted on June 4, 2017chess
The Bongcloud opening. I love this.
→ posted on June 2, 2017microposts
Last night in the club we had an entertaining attempt at trying to mate with two knights against a king and pawn. This is a really tricky mate. You have to blockade the pawn, drive the king to the corner using just one knight and king, almost stalemate him there and then bring your blockading knight over to mate just before his pawn queens.
It seems impossible. I played it out on Shredder tablebases and some of the moves seemed very unintuitive - e.g. moving the knight away from the king. You would never find them over the board.
However I did see some common mistakes from people trying to win this and here are some plans for the defending side.
Based on the our attempts I feel confident in saying that if I was defending this position, I would be happy for my opponent to consult the entire room and still still bet on him not mating!
→ posted on May 30, 2017chess
My results in the Munster League since Christmas have by and large been terrible and I finished up in the final round in the same manner by losing as black.
Looking back on the game I made some bad strategic mistakes that I thought I'd dealt with in these types of positions. I went back to aimless developing moves instead of urgent action on the queenside. I need to do some work on memorizing opening plans so that I don't make similar mistakes in future.
The AGM after the game was very interesting. I'd never been at one of these before. There are big changes planned for the league in the coming years with a shift to two six team divisions. This will be a positive change for us as I think we will enjoy more challenging in a competitive division 2 instead of bringing up the rear in division 1.
→ posted on May 21, 2017chess