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I got another win in the club championship. This was a mad game - my opponent was very aggressive and I was on the defensive for the whole game.
Really I should have lost this game. I grabbed a couple of pawns but gave up lots of tactical opportunties. Luckily for me however these weren't taken but I don't think I could get away with that again.
→ posted on December 15, 2017chess
My first game in this year's club championship ended in a loss. I was kind of ok out of the opening but ended up in a cramped position. I played well enough to get out of that and gave myself a shot with a tactic on move 27.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to calculate it well enough. I felt that Qh3+ was the move to play but I didn't see what to do after Qg2. Putting it in a computer it says to just grab the f pawn and even if white picks up the exchange, I still have three pawns for it. Once I missed the tactic, I was wiped off the board. Players are ruthless that way at the 1800 level.
→ posted on October 30, 2017chess
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
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
→ posted on June 4, 2017chess
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
I ended the club championship with two walkover wins. This was a fairly disapointing conclusion to the league for me. I'm going to drop rating points as I lost my games against higher rated opponents earlier in the league but never got the chance to earn them back by facing players at my own level. I'm not sure what can be done to solve the walkover issue but I win about 20% of my games in the league via them which is way too high.
→ posted on May 19, 2017chess
A tense day in the Munster Leagues as the relegation battle came to a head. We were behind Limerick B going into our head to head match and needed a win to boost our hopes of staying up.
In the end we did win our match 3.5 to 1.5. I had a somewhat fortunate win in my game. I think I was worse after the opening and my opponent was starting to get an attack going on my king. However I managed to get an outside passed h pawn and that proved to be my saviour as it gave me counterplay. Without that I would have been in serious trouble and I'm not sure I could have won.
That gave us some breathing room over Limerick B. Our next game was against Limerick A and a result here would have put us clear. Unfortunately we lost that match. I had a shocker in my game. I was well up and about to pick up the exchange. However I played a careless pawn move, my opponent made a knight jump which I hadn't seen and then I panicked and collapsed.
If Limerick B got a result against CCYMS, we would have been in big trouble. That match came down to the final game but luckily for us CCYMS came through. So going into the final day we are half a point ahead of Limerick B and need to match their result to stay up.
→ posted on April 30, 2017chess
The Cork Congress happened over the weekend of 29th-31st March and I didn't do too bad in it. I finished third in my section and got some cash for my troubles! The event was very well organised - great credit must go to those at the club who ran the tournament.
Thankfully this year didn't coincide with the clocks changing but it did share the hotel with a Fawlty Towers show! It's a bit sureal to be playing the game and hearing Basil's German speech coming from the adjacent room. At times during my games I wished I was in that show rather than at the chess board!
My first game was a long draw. I got an ok position as black in the QGD but then lost the plot a bit and got into some trouble. I managed to get into a rook endgame where both of us were threatening to promote. I picked up an extra pawn here at this stage but when things simplified it was into a theoretically drawn position. I could and probably should have played on here but my brain was frazzled and I was down to a couple of minutes. My opponent had offered a draw and I accepted. One of my problems here is that I know the position is a draw but I'm not sure what to try to do to complicate it and win. In future if I have this position, I think I would play it until the pawn endgame and see what happens.
I was paired against an unrated opponent in the next round so I had no idea of how strong he was. It was a crazy game. He attacked on the kingside and I on the queenside. I held him off and I think I had a good position before it all went to pieces in mutual time trouble. I missed a win with Nxc6 - I managed to miscalculate this both during the game and also in the post mortem. He managed to get a pawn on f3 and with the way my pawns were arranged I realised I had serious back rank issues. Thankfully he missed some critical moves and I managed to get a win when he blundered his rook.
The next round had me as black against the French Exchange. I always think that this is the variation to go for as white as the pawn structures and positions are completely different to the other French variations. I've had good results though with it but I'd struggle to find a coherent plan or common thread in my Exchange games. I equalised fairly easily in this game but wasn't sure where to go from there. I had a bye booked for the fourth round so when my opponent offered a draw and I didn't see much of a plan I took the opportunity to knock off early for the day. The idea was to come back more refreshed the next day and try again.
Realistically this bye and the two draws put me out of contention for the top prize from early on but I was enjoying myself playing at this more relaxed pace.
The first game on the Sunday morning was another King's Indian game. I tend to lump these in with the Dutch and various kingside fianchetto games as they all seem to end up in similar positions. I think I'm learning in these positions. Up to now I tended to mess around on the queenside too much with unnecessary preparation moves. This time I just went for it with the attitude that if he survived my attack and countered then fine - but at least I'd get an attack in first. This worked out well for me and I won an exchange just out of the opening. I slowly increased the pressure and managed to convert the win. I may have had an easier win on move 26 with Bxf7 Qxf7, Nxe5 Bxe5, Rd8+ getting the piece back and gaining a pawn. I was worried that my rook may find it hard to get back out but going over this after the game I think it would have been fine. I went for the more solid option and eventually my opponent flagged in a lost position.
My last game in the tournament was one in which I was fortunate to get a win. I thought I was winning a piece after the opening but in reality it just forced him into playing it as a sacrificial attack! I had to give back the piece to survive. I think I took my longest think ever for a move on Qc7 - about 30 mins. My opponent waited a bit, went away, got a coffee, came back and still had to wait for another 10 minutes. I was thinking that I was in trouble during the game but on the computer I'm perfectly fine. I have great trouble evaluating these kinds of positions. In the endgame I think he should have tried to keep on both rooks as that would have been far more drawish. Once I won a pawn and traded off the rooks, the King and pawn endgame was always going to be good for me and eventually I queened and won the game.
In the end I won a prize for joint third place in my section. I even gained a few rating points! All in all a good tournament for me.
→ posted on March 29, 2017chess
This was a bad day for us in the Munster League. We lost both our matches to Adare and Limerick B. The Limerick B match was especially bad as they now leapfrogged over us in the table.
I was close to getting a draw against a much higher opponent in my first game but lost a crucial pawn in the endgame and went down from there. The second game was a disaster for me. I got a slightly better position going into the endgame - my opponent had an isolated pawn - but then I lost a piece to a pawn fork and with it, the game.
On a more amusing note, the Munster Chess Union got a little confused as to what game we were playing. We'd probably have had a better chance in the rugby!
→ posted on March 26, 2017chess
The club championship continued and I also continued my streak of losing to higher rated players. I had a chance to get a great position early in the opening with 9. Ng5. I looked at it, thought it was good and was going to play it. Then however I thought I would take a deeper look, completely miscalculated and convinced myself the move was bad. If I was a worse or better player I would have played the move. Unfortunately I had just enough knowledge and skill to make a complete mess of things.
After that my opponent got a great attack against my kingside and finished it off nicely. I still think I'm messing about with less active moves in these positions and should be more direct on the queenside in future.
→ posted on March 24, 2017chess