Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Storm Crimps ACIS Notes

The "Blizzard of 2009" put a big crimp in my ACIS activities this weekend. For example, I wanted to respond to Phaedrus' comments on my ACIS-Notes-002, but a snow storm that left way over a foot (~35cm) of snow had me shoveling for over four hours... Ugh. I think Blunderprone had a similar fate...

Next weekend...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

ACIS Notes 002 -- Strong and Weak Squares

I am still making my way through Grooten's Chess Strategy for Club Players. In Chapter 9, Strong and Weak Squares, there is another idea that startled me concerning strong squares. The idea is to use a strong square not only for an outpost (like a Knight on d5), but also to use it like conveyor belt to bring more pieces through that strong square and into the game. I have already been introduced to a related notion of echanging. When you exchange, you give your opponent the opportunity to bring their pieces forward. Here we will see White using a square to cycle his pieces through a strong square, and not necessarily as a result of exchanges. Also, while exploring these ideas, I try to make special note as to the reasoning behind which pieces you want to keep, and which pieces you want to exchange. Please comment if you think I am incorrect, since I need to learn what is correct.

Below is a position from Grooten-Hazewindus, Eindhoven 1982 (Chapter 9, p.137, Grooten):

We start by noticing White's control of d5 and e4, Black's isolated pawn on e5, and the opposing bishops, White on e4, Black on f5. According to Nimzowitsch, in order to control a pawn, you must first blockade. The owner of the pawn wants to advance it, and to do that you need control of the square in front of it, thus Black wants to keep the light Bishop, and White will want to exchange it. In addition to the Bishop struggle over e4, White's Knight on d5 is very strong.

1...Qc5 2. Nc3 is a dual purpose maneuver: (1) for the White Bishop to attack b7; (2) for the Knight to control d5. This allows another White piece to occupy d5. 2...Rc7 3. Rd5 Qc4 4. Re1. The White Rook moves to d5 with tempo, and the second White Rook comes up to relieve the White Queen. At first, this looked like a lot of meandering, until I played it through a few times and was able to "see" the masterful maneuvering (not that I would be able to create this myself yet - but then again, that is the purpose of ACIS, to improve...). 4...Kh8 5. Qd2 Be6 6. Rd8 Qc5 7. Rd1 Note how all of White's heavy pieces are lined up on the d-file in a formidable battery. The pressure is a bit much for Black, but there are not many choices. Here the alternatives that Fritz11 found:

  1. (0.57): 7...Rcf7 8.Rxf8+ Bxf8 9.Bd5 Bxd5 10.Nxd5 Kg8 
  2. (0.64): 7...b6 8.Rxf8+ Qxf8 9.Bd5 Rd7 10.Qe2 Qe7 
  3. (0.68): 7...Bf6 8.Rxf8+ Qxf8 9.Bd5 Bf5 10.a3 Bg7 

7...Rf7 8. Rxf8 Qxf8 (Fritz likes ...Bxf8 better) 9. Qe3 (keep the pressure on, and the White Bishop on e4 to prevent ...e4, thus freeing the Black Bishop). 9...b6 10. Bd5 (Qe2 prevents ...e4) and here we see the third White piece cycling through the d5 strong point. Before I read Grooten's explanation, I would have never understood all the "meandering". Now I can see that it is "maneuvering", and not just to shuffle pieces. The movements are designed to double attack, or threaten double attack and put the opponent on the defensive, gradually weakening his position and making it more passive. The d5 conveyor belt is a great way to get pieces in the enemy camp safely, while tying up Black in defense. 10...Bxd5 11. Rxd5 (piece number four on d5) 11...e4. At this point Black has a choice. To leave the pawn on e4 where it will remain weak and eventually fall, or try to get some activity for his Bishop. 12. Nxe4 Re7 13. b3 h6 14. Qd3 Qf4 15. Rd8+ Kh7 16. Qd5 h5 17. Ng5+ Kh6 18. Nf3 Rc7. Black tries to stir things up, but White maintains an iron grip on the center, and soon it proves to much for Black. 19. g3 Qc1+ 20. Kg2 Rc5 21. Qe4 (1-0).

The next game is from the same chapter on Stong and Weak Squares, Botvinnik-Szilagyi, Amsterdam 1966:

The action starts with 15. Be2. Despite White's Bishop as being "bad" it can certainly be active, since Black has no opposing Bishop. The best diagonal for pressure on the Black King will be a2-f7, and therefore White wants to place this Bishop on c4. Here Fritz suggests 15...a5, ...a6 and ...Bc7, which mobilizes Black's Queen-side, and attacks White's Queen-side. Also I believe that Black will want to keep his c-pawn glued to c6 in order to oppose the White pawn on e4, over control of the d5 square. 15...c5. I believe Szilagyi is motivated to attack White's Queen-side, but ...a5 is probably better, because with the text move, Black blocks his own Bishop.

Now, at this point, we see what separates me from a really strong player. My fist instinct (actually just a blind following of a rule of thumb) is to say "open the position up, I have the 'two bishops'!". Botvinnik on the other hand says "hey I have the light squares, we can close thing s up for a while then I will penetrate my opponent's position along the light squares...". That is a defining difference between me a strong players (hopefully not for long) in that a strong player will think of advantages along a whole color complex, and for me I'm just starting to see that such a thing exists.

Back to the game, 16. b5 Ne8 17. Nc4 (entombing Black's dark Bishop) 17...Nd6 18. Bg5. This move would make no sense to me, if I didn't understand Botvinnik's strategy of total domination of the light squares. So now Black has a choice - (a) allow a further weakening of light squares with ...f6, or take the Bishop and allow further disruption deep inside his territory with Nxd6, threatening Nxc8. 17...f6 18. Be3 Nxc4 This activates another "change of the guard" or conveyor belt as we saw in the previous example. The Knight is traded away, but now the White Bishop can come in with force, and together with the Queen invade along the light squares, which was Botvinnik's plan from his 15th move. 20. Bxc4+ Kh8 21. a5 Bc7 Here Botvinnik decides to trade off the Rooks, and start the invasion on the light squares. 22. Rfd1 Nf8 23. Qa2 The Rooks are ready to be traded, and the Bishop-Queen battery is established. 23...Rxd1+ 24. Rxd1 Rd8 (through this whole exchange of Rooks, Fritz slightly favors keeping them on the board with ...b6) 25. Rxd8 Bxd8 26. a6 (more light square domination, and locking in Back's dark Bishop) 26...b6 27. Kg2 Qd7 28. Qe2 (this begins maneuvering to change the Bishop-Queen battery into a Queen-Bishop battery without allowing a Queen exchange) 28...Ng6 (essentially a 'pass') 29. Bb3 Ne7 30. Qc4 Done! 30...h6 (more weakening, but what else?) 31. Qf7 Kh7 32. Bc4 Qd6 Here it is worth noting the difference between methodical following of a plan, and catching the occasional opportunity. At this point, there is a King-side attack opportunity, starting with 33. g4, threatening 34. Bxh6 see below.

  1. (8.23): 33.g4 f5 34.exf5 Qf6 35.Qe8 Bc7 
  2. (2.85): 33.Kh2 Bc7 34.g4 Kh8 35.Be6 Qd8 
  3. (2.71): 33.h4 Bc7 34.Be6 Qd8 35.g4 Bd6 

Botvinnik stuck with his guns, and played 33. h4. 33...Qd1, trying to get some action to no avail. 34. Qe8 f5 35. exf5 Nxf5 36. Bg8+ Kh8 Black resigned here, in the face of 37. Bf7+ Kh7 38. Qg8# (1-0).

Saturday, December 5, 2009

ACIS -- Google Group started
It's restricted to ACIS members, go to the group and ask to join if you want to contribute. You will be asked for your ACIS blog URL, motivation to contribute, etc.

This group was started by Blunderprone and myself. It is for the hard core ACIS members who want to have a place to store links to resources (like wikis and Exeter CC, etc.), as well as kibbitz on discussion groups to help you prepare to make your own blog posts.

Remember, the ACIS method is yours. You are tailoring general ideas into a method that works for you...

ACIS Notes 001 -- Passed Pawns

Valery Frenlakh used to tell me "chess is a game of squares, not pieces!" Unfortunately all the good things he told me sunk long after I was done taking lessons from him. He also used to tell me "make copies of positions you need to remember!". Now it seems, that is a major cornerstone to the ACIS "tailored" method started by Blunderprone.

So I will log my ACIS journey in the form of notes. These notes will be of any topic, in chronological order of discovery or reflection, on my part. As I
mentioned earlier I have an index in a Word file. If the notes are interesting to people, I could publish the index.

Back to "chess is a game of squares, not pieces!"...

I am reading
Herman Grootens "Chess Strategy for Club Players", and I have to say, the material is similar to Aron Nimzowitsch's My System, but somehow, much more readable. I'm actually able to plow through it and get reinforcement, and sometimes surprise out of the concepts. In Chapter 6 "Passed Pawns" (a Nimzowitsch favorite) I came across something that startled me. I always knew Aron said "passed pawns must be pushed", but how do you create passed pawns? And what about the fact that creating a passed pawn (an advantage for you), can sometimes allow an advantage of a different sort for your opponent.

Consider the case of the "small center" out of the Semi-Tarrasch. A schematic of the position is
here (diagram C4 from Exeter CC).

The basic point is the potential for a passed pawn in the center for White, balanced against the wing pawn majority for Black. What was never obvious to me (at all!) is how these imbalances of pawn structure affect choices of what pieces to keep on the board - and the choice of what pieces to keep on the board influence their placement. For example, in the diagram on the left, I've always wondered, "where should I put my Rooks?".

My typical response would be to observe: (a) the open c-file, and then; (b) possible potential passed pawn in the center, means; (c) put my a-Rook on c1 and f-Rook on d1.

What I did not consider is that (a) Black wants to exchange Rooks, and keep his minor pieces, to exploit his pawn advantage on the Queen-side; (b) White wants to exchange minor pieces, and keep his Rooks to exploit his advantage in the center (push passed pawn), and; (c) placing Rooks on an open file is practically guaranteeing that the Rook(s) will be exchanged. This is covered in detail in Chapter 6 of
Grooten's "Chess Strategy for Club Players". Once it sunk it, I was startled how I missed a pretty basic chunk of chess logic all these years:

  • What does your pawn structure tell you about your strengths and weaknesses relative to your opponent?
  • What piece play, relative to the pawn structure is warranted/advised?
  • What does this mean in terms of which pieces you want to keep vs. exchange?
  • Only then devise means to exchange/keep pieces, and post the ones you want to keep on the right (strong) squares.
  • NOTE: I know that Silman tries to drum in the "imbalance" concept, but it seems like he focuses on Knight vs. Bishop. What I totally missed was pawn structure imbalances that inform you of whether to keep major pieces on board or not, and if so don't exchange, even if it means not trying to "claim" an open file! For me (chess novice) this is revolutionary...
Below is a good example of White properly taking advantage of the "small center".

The big decision for White is on his 13th move. This is when he decides to put his f-Rook on e1. Followed by the a-Rook on d1 on his 14th move, and the thematic d-pawn push to d5 on his 15th move. This creates the much written about isolated d-pawn. Petrosian is a master of trading advantages, and he trades this passed d-pawn into a passed c-pawn on c6 on his 19th move. This passed pawn, so deep in his opponents position is defended masterfully by Kortschnoj. Petrosian takes advantage of Kortschnoj's passive position on his 27th move with 27. h4, starting a King-side attack. Petrosian induces weaknesses in Kortschnoj's King-side, and wins a few moves later with 37. Qxh5#.

The second example is where White reaches too far, and Black profits.

After Black's 17th move, we have a similar setup (d4, e4 pawns vs e6 pawn), however, White's King-side Rook is on d1, and the Queen-side Rook is still on a1. By White's 21st move, White has a connected passed pawn on d5, which is good, while Black contests the c-file with his Queen-side Rook, leaving White with an offside, passive Rook. However with 21...Nc4, Black pushes White's only active Rook off course, and with 22...Ne6 starts a multi-piece pileup on the e4 pawn. The initiative passes to Black. With 25...Rd1+ he forces an exchange of Rooks, which Black wants, and White does not. After 29. f3, we have a good Knight (Black) vs. bad Bishop (White) ending, however White does still have the protected passed pawn on d5. The challenge for White after 37. Bxa4 is that now White has to block Black's passed outside a-pawn with the Bishop. That is just enough of a distraction to turn the game in Black's favor. I may be oversimplifying a bit (maybe a lot - I'm a chess novice remember), nonetheless, from my perspective, White had no heavy pieces to convert the advantage of the protected passed d-pawn, and he left himself open to Black gaining the initiative. From there, the rest is technique (LOL - I've always wanted to say that but honestly I have no idea what that means).

ACIS Notes - Introduction

In the spirit of chunking my improvement to bite size doable pieces, I'll blog about my "ACIS Notes". Part of my (personalized) is to make notes of things to remember. The steps are:
  • Make a note in a Word file in my ACIS chess folder, in reverse chronological order, so that all I have to do is open the file, make a note and I'm done
  • In the note, I specify the original source materials that inspired me. Was it an example ina book, a complete game, position, tactic, opening sequence?
  • If the note includes a game, I find and make a blog entry in so I can grab a replayable game to insert in this blog. This takes approx 1 min after finding the game. Finding the game can be quick, or take a long time if the player has a name with a lot of different spellings (grrrr...) like "Kortchnoj", "Kortchoi", etc.
  • Then make the blog entry, embedding the playable games. This makes it easire for the readers, and it takes up less space than jamming the PGN into the text.
I am anticipating then, that my blog entries will make a good place for me to periodically review, and with my Word file being an index, I'll be able to find examples later on...

ACIS Method Observations so far...

Blunderprone's challenge for each of us to devise an improvement method is:
  • Much harder than I thought it would be, and;
  • The right thing to do
I've decided that I need to keep my improvements in bite size chunks due to generally heavy work loads. In addition I'll categorize my chunks into a prioritized list:
  • Tactics - I'm muddling through this with no clear direction
  • Positions - I need to figure out what the heck Blunderprone is suggesting we do. I agree on keeping positions (Valery used to chastise me about that), but I haven't figured out the Chessbase muscle movements yet. Maybe Blunderprone can put the position/database technique into a step-by-step single blog/document (hint).
  • Strategy - I am going through Grooten's "Club Strategy" book, and it is awesome. A lot of it is reinforcement in clear language and examples. Some topics startle and amaze me, and I will cover those in blog entries.
I'll have to figure out how to get on an even keel in all those areas, but for right now, just making progress, anywhere, will be huge.

For those (very few who read my blog) who wonder about me always complaining of not having enough time, due to heavy workload, suffice it to say I am a system engineer in an FFRDC non-profit who helps the fed gov't try to use IT/computer/software/SOA/cloud (you name it) in a reasonable way. As you can imagine, it's sort of like herding cats...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reflection, and a New Start

Update - after my success at Foxwoods, my chess went to the crapper. In August, at Sturbridge, I had my worst performance ever (1.0/6.0). I've been recovering somewhat recently at MetroWest CC, and enjoyed myself at the B.U. Open a few weekends ago. At the BU Open I achieved 1.0/3.0 which on paper is not great, but my two losses were to the 1st and 2nd place winners.

I am now earnestly going through Chess Strategy for Club Players" (Grooten) to make sure I file off my rough edges, and knowledge gaps in strategy. In parallel I still seek to improve my tactical ability. I am recently re-energized by Heisman's 4th post at ChessCafe:
I also dug up my old copy of Averbach's "Tactics for Advanced Players" and will pledge to run through it end to end.

Last but not least, I will throw my hat in the ring of the new ACIS, organized by the intrepid BlunderProne. I want to learn how to make my own "blunder-rep" database and so on. The method sounds practical and (hopefully) effective. Actually part of his method reminds me of what Valery Frenklakh always told me - "make copies of positions from your own games...".

BlunderProne's blog can be found in my blog list on the right column of this blog.

I'll report back in a few weeks with my perspectives on the method.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tournament Report :: Foxwoods 2009 :: Prize Money!

I just got my prize money check of $33.29 for 10th-16th place at Foxwoods! Of course winning my last game would have put me in big money :-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Analysis :: Foxwoods 2009 (round 2)

[Event "Foxwoods"]
[Site "Preston CT"]
[Date "2009.04.10"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Reed, Harvey"]
[Black "Chen, Jeremy"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D55"]
[WhiteElo "1429"]
[BlackElo "1274"]
[PlyCount "45"]
[EventDate "2009.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2007.01.03"]

1. d4 e6 2. c4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 Be7 5. Bg5 O-O 6. e3 c6 7. Bd3 c5 8. Bxf6 Bxf6 9. cxd5 cxd4 10. Nxd4 exd5 11. O-O Nc6 12. Nxc6 bxc6 13. Rc1 c5 14. Nxd5 Bxb2 15. Rxc5 Be6 16. Nc7 Qd6 17. Bxh7+ Kxh7 18. Qxd6 Rad8 19. Rh5+ Kg6 20. Qc5 Bf6 21. Nxe6 fxe6 22. Rh3 Rf7 23. Qh5# 1-0

Reed,Harvey (1429) - Chen,Jeremy (1274) [D55]

Foxwoods Preston CT (2), 10.04.2009

1.d4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bg5 Even though Black has already played ...Be7, White intends 6.e3 and wants to get his dark bishop outside the pawn chain. 5...0–0 6.e3 White prepares to develop his light bishop. 6...c6 [6...h6 is stronger.] 7.Bd3 Prepare to castle.

 7...c5 8.Bxf6 White wanted to give Black an isolani without the possiblity of Black's knight recapturing. [Fritz suggests 8.cxd5 cxd4 9.Nxd4 exd5 which gives Black an isolani, but 8...Nxd5 is possible.] 8...Bxf6 9.cxd5 cxd4 10.Nxd4 exd5 Black has two bishops, and an isolani. It's up to White to prove that the isolani is more of a liability than the benefit of two bishops.

11.0–0 White is playing tough but conservative. As a result he missed a simple combination to pick up a pawn. [Perhaps 11.Qh5 could be considered for the power of double attack (mate and double attack on d5). 11...g6 only 12.Qxd5] 11...Nc6 White has a choice, retreat the d4 knight (say to f3), and risk creating an isolani, or exchange knights, and help Black create hanging pawns. In the judgement of White, creating the hanging pawns was the more profitable choice because he is confident that he can keep them from advancing, which means that they then become a target and a liability. In fact, immediately after the bxc recapture, the c-pawn is backward, and White thinks he can put pressure on it quickly. Black won't be able to immediately advance to c5 because of the Bxh7+ tactic. 12.Nxc6 bxc6 13.Rc1 White starts to apply pressure on the c6 pawn.

13...c5? Black wants to get his hanging pawns moving, but this fails to tactics. 14.Nxd5 Black cannot recapture. Black also has an isolani again. White is attacking c5, while Black is attacking b2. 14...Bxb2 Black wants to trade off his isolani. However, with White's Rxc5 recapture, this attacks the c7 square twice. 15.Rxc5 Be6 16.Nc7 White feels he has an advantage. 16...Qd6?? Black is double attacking White's rook and knight, trying to force them back. [16...Rc8 Doesn't work 17.Nxe6 Rxc5?? (17...fxe6 18.Rxc8 Qxc8 19.Qc2) 18.Nxc5; 16...Rb8 A little better 17.Nxe6 fxe6 but still results in an isolani. 18.Rb5] 17.Bxh7+ White didn't see this tactic twice in one game (also on Black's 13th move).

17...Kxh7 18.Qxd6 Rad8 19.Rh5+ Black still has two bishops, so White still has to be very careful, and keep Black on the run. 19...Kg6 [19...Kg8 Holds out longer.] 20.Qc5 Threatens 21.Qg5#.

20...Bf6 only. 21.Nxe6 [White missed 21.Qc2+ Kxh5 22.Qh7+ Kg5 (22...Kg4 23.f3+ Kg5 24.h4#) 23.f4+ Kg4 24.Qh3#] 21...fxe6 22.Rh3 White prepares mate, expecting Black's king to run to f7. 22...Rf7 Oops. 23.Qh5# 1–0

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Analysis :: Foxwoods 2009 (round 1)

[Event "Foxwoods"]
[Site "Preston CT"]
[Date "2009.04.09"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Grossman, Kurt"]
[Black "Reed, Harvey"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D51"]
[WhiteElo "1332"]
[BlackElo "1429"]
[PlyCount "73"]
[EventDate "2009.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2007.01.03"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Nbd7 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Qb3 c6 7. g3 Bd6 8. Bg2 h6 9. Bd2 O-O 10. Nh3 Nb6 11. Qc2 Bg4 12. O-O Qd7 13. Nf4 Nc4 14. e4 dxe4 15. Nxe4 Nxe4 16. Bxe4 Nxd2 17. Qxd2 Rfe8 18. Bg2 Bxf4 19. Qxf4 Re2 20. b3 Rae8 21. Bf3 Bxf3 22. Qxf3 R8e4 23. Qc3 Rxd4 24. Rfe1 Rde4 25. Rad1 Qf5 26. Rxe2 Rxe2 27. Qd4 Rxa2 28. Ra1 Rxa1+ 29. Qxa1 a6 30. Qe1 Qe6 31. Kf1 Qxe1+ 32. Kxe1 Kf8 33. Kd2 Ke7 34. Kc3 Kd6 35. Kb4 b6 36. f4 Kd5 37. f5 0-1

Grossman,Kurt (1332) - Reed,Harvey (1429) [D51]

Foxwoods Preston CT (1), 09.04.2009

1.d4 Black was hoping to get some Queen pawn openings in this tournament, so this was a welcome sight. 1...d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 Leaving open the possibility of ...Bd6 later. 5.cxd5 exd5 White exchanges, signalling to Black he is seeking to avoid complications. 6.Qb3 Black is anticipating playing ...c6 and is expecting White to play e3. If so White would be right to aim for queensdie play, and Black should aim for kingside play. However, with this move, White's queen is in an awkward position for a minority attack. White's double attack on d5 is easily met with a move that Black wanted to play. 6...c6 7.g3 White signals to Black that he will fianchetto his light bishop. Black anticipates an e4 break by White, but that can be easily met with dxe, leaving White with an isolani on d4, and a bishop with no targets. [Perhaps 7.e3 is more solid. ] 7...Bd6 Black feels he has a shot at equality in a few more moves. 8.Bg2 h6 Put the question to White's bishop. 9.Bd2 0–0 10.Nh3 Black thinks that White is preparing to exchange his dark bishop on f4 without risking doubled pawns. 10...Nb6 Eyeing c4. 11.Qc2 [Perhaps 11.Bf4 is better for White, seeking to exchange Black's good bishop.] 11...Bg4 Black wants to (a) develop his light bishop, and (b) prepare to create a bishop-queen battery to double attack Whites h3 knight, or White's g2 bishop, giving White a weak light color complex, which will be important if White castles kingside. 12.0–0 Qd7 13.Nf4 Nc4 14.e4 dxe4

White now has an isolani. 15.Nxe4 Nxe4 16.Bxe4 Nxd2 Black now has the two bishops. 17.Qxd2 Rfe8 18.Bg2 Bxf4 Black exchanges in order to: (a) pull off minor pieces off the board, favorable in an isolani endgame, and (b) divert White's queen from guarding the e2 square. 19.Qxf4 Re2

Now Black has a rook on the 7th. 20.b3 Rae8 [Black considered 20...g5 and saw 21.Qf6 (The likely response is 21.Qc1 Qxd4 which wins a pawn.)  but didn't see the continuation 21...Re6 such is tournament chess. 22.Qxe6 Bxe6] 21.Bf3 Anticipated. This just hastens the queen and rook endgame where White has an isolani, and Black has a rook on the 7th. 21...Bxf3 22.Qxf3 R8e4 Now Black aims to win the d4 pawn. 23.Qc3 Rxd4 Black is estimating that the endgame favors Black, especially as the heavy pieces get traded. 24.Rfe1 Rde4 25.Rad1 Qf5 Increasing pressure on f2. This was a theme for the game for a few moves, and makes double attack easier. 26.Rxe2 Rxe2 27.Qd4 White can't defend the f2 pawn and the rook pawn at the same time. 27...Rxa2 Black captures second pawn up, and defends the a7 pawn. [Fritz likes 27...c5 28.Qd8+ Kh7 29.Rf1 forced 29...Rxa2 Black captures the rook pawn in any case. 30.Qe7 b6] 28.Ra1 Rxa1+ 29.Qxa1

29...a6 Black is playing it safe. [29...Qc2 30.Qxa7 (30.Qa3 a5 Provoking White. 31.Qxa5 Qb1+ 32.Kg2 Qxb3 33.Qd8+ Kh7 34.Qe7 Winning.) 30...Qxb3 Winning.] 30.Qe1 Qe6 Black is interested in exchanging queens. [30...a5 is probably better, preparing to create a protected passed pawn.] 31.Kf1 Qxe1+ 32.Kxe1 Kf8 Now the game is a matter of endgame technique. 33.Kd2 Ke7 34.Kc3 Kd6 35.Kb4 b6 36.f4 [36.Kc4 Ke5] 36...Kd5 37.f5 0–1

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tournament Report :: Foxwoods 2009

[NOTE: To see the pictures full-size, click once]

I played in U1500 section the Foxwoods 2009 tournament last week Thursday 9 April to Sunday 12 April. The crosstable is here

RESULT: 4.5/7.0 

If I won my last game I’d be in line for about $500-1000 in prize money. The pairing sheet for the last round is below. I have White on the 4th board.

Even so, I’m thrilled with 4.5 points. I will be analyzing games and will post analysis shortly. For now, here is a qualitative summary:
  • Overall the environment, hotel, food, people, and of course chess(!) was great.
  • My two losses were completely the result of my head not being “in the game”, and trying to push the game too much, one the result of eating poorly and quickly right before my last round.
  • The draw was hard fought – first I was down a pawn, then picked up two pawns to be a pawn up in a knight/pawn endgame
  • The four wins were pretty smooth. Of course I usually found the much longer but comprehensible (to me) path to victory (other people pointed out shorter wins), but practice will help.
Thursday I worked until 2:00 pm, before leaving to pick up Kappy. We arrived a bit before the tournament started and had a chance to walk around and take in the venue, minus players, organizers, and spectators. Here is what we found, two huge empty playing halls:

with lots and lots of boards:

and when the rounds started, the venue was full of chess players, ready, willing and able to rip into their opponent's chess positions!

Round 1, Thursday PM, I played Black, win:
Grossman-Reed (0-1)
This game started as a QGD (Queen's Gambit Declined), then White exchanged cxd, opening the position a bit. The middlegame featured mostly play in the center with many exchanges. Eventually Black doubled his Rooks, and planted one on the 7th. This was a turning point since White was a bit awkwardly placed, and couldn't answer an additional double attack on his d4 pawn, then ultimately lost it. This motivated White to muster an attack against Black's doubled rooks, which forced an exchange of one pair, but one Black rook remained, on the 7th again, this time picking up the a-pawn. White allowed the exchange of queens, which shifted play into a king and pawn endgame, where Black is up two pawns. The rest was technique. White resigned a few moves later.

Round 2, Friday AM, I played White, win:
Reed-Chen (1-0)
This game started as a QGD with an early 5.Bg5. Black challenged White's center with 7...c5 which left Black with an isolated pawn on d5 after exchanges. White tried to keep the iso blocked, but Black challenged White's blocking knight with a c6 knight, so White exchanged, aiming to trade advantages (iso, for a backward pawn on c6). Before White had a chance to put pressure on the c6 pawn, Black pushed the c6 pawn to c5 thinking this will become a strong "hanging pawn" pair. The truth was that Black committed a tactical error, allowing White to pick up the c5 and d5 pawns in exchange for giving Black the b2 pawn. This rattled Black, and two moves later he committed a similar (motif) tactical error, and lost his Queen. He continued to fight valiantly, but was checkmated on move 23.

I felt good about the round, so I walked over to see the top boards. It was great to see so many top players, but a bummer that I couldn't understand their positions LOL:

Round 3, Friday PM, I played White, loss:
Reed-Shefton (0-1)
White opened 1.d4 and ended up in a Grunfeld/King's Indian. Pawn structure-wise it also had a Benko like feature with the c and d pawns. When I post my analysis I'll figure it out more exactly. The bottom line is that the position was very unfamiliar, and White quickly got into a defensive posture. This is ok, if White would have stuck to defense. Instead, White engaged in dubious exchanges, and lost a piece outright. And if that wasn't enough, White then launched into a completely unwarranted adventure with his a-file rook, and then promptly lost control of the a-file. Black penetrated with all three of his pieces, against White's queen and rook, and White was overpowered. This loss was constructive though because it showed me the difference between having my head in the game, for each and every move, and what happens if you don't.

Round 4, Saturday AM, I played Black, draw:
Parrish-Reed (1/2-1/2)
White opened 1.e3?! Wow, Black was taken aback, and the rest of the opening was White waiting for Black to overextend, and Black trying to figure out when he might be overextending. As you can imagine, the position became very closed, with the first pawn exchange happening on move 15. This pawn exchange was the result of Black trying to get a break in. The break allowed Black to put pressure on f2, starting on move 17, which was significant because White isn't castled yet. Meanwhile Black has an isolated pawn on h6 that is under attack but can't be taken due to the threats on f2. However, Black spaces a bit and ends up losing the pawn on move 23. However, Black did have some positional compensation and managed to double rooks, with one of them on the 7th on g2, increasing the persistent pressure on f2, and allowing an exchange of rooks on h2, in order to take support away from pushing the now passed White pawn on h5. The queens were exchanged directly after, and now it's a rook/knight/pawn endgame. White soon lost his h-pawn, as well as traded down to a knight/pawn endgame. Black was very comfortable in this type of endgame, and was soon a pawn up, with the remaining pawns on the a. b, c-files. Draw. And I forgot to take a picture. Darn it.

The organizers open the partitions between the two playing halls for Saturday PM. Prior to this, the lower sections (me) play in the hall that have latecomers play fast games to catch up. This is a noisy process, hence the partition, so as not to disturb higher rated players. After opening the partition, it's cool to see how big the venue really is:

Round 5, Saturday PM, I played White, win:
Reed-Fisher (1-0)
Black played a Slav but played his bishop to f5 before playing ...e6. White decided to play conservative and played e3, keeping his dark bishop on c1 without first moving it on g5. Early in the opening, Black moved his knight to e4, and White prepared for the knight being there a long time, first by challenging the Black e4 knight with a bishop on d3. Rather than have the tension build, Black immediately exchanges his e4 knight for White's c3 knight, opening the b-file and strengthening the center after 10.bxc3. At this point White realizes he needs to play on the queenside, and start immediately before Black can muster any center or kingside action. By move 23, White has a rook-queen-rook b-file battery staring down at Black's b7 pawn, with a pawn on a6 in reserve. Black is defending with a rook on b8 and a rook-queen battery on the 7th. White led the combination with Rxb7 and ended up a pawn up with a rook on the 7th. The rook on b8 couldn't take because axb7 promotes, so after Black's rook steps aside, White's rook picks up the g7 pawn. Two pawns up in a rook and pawn endgame is a decisive advantage, and White won 10 moves later.

Round 6, Sunday AM, I played Black, win:
Desmond-Reed (0-1)
Black plays QGD, White plays exchange variation. This signals to Black that White will be conservative. On move 11 Black exchanges his g4 bishop for White's f3 knight, seeking to remove a defender of h2, since Black thinks he will be able to muster a kingside attack faster than White can start a minority queenside attack. Both Black and White vigorously attack, White with queenside minority attack, White with a kingside attack. On move 17 White takes his eye off the queenside attack, which stops, and begins responding to Black's kingside attack. On move 21 White allows his g3 bishop to be exchanged by a bishop-queen battery, thus losing a pawn after fxg recapture, and leaving a Black queen on g3. This gets Black's attention, who promptly moves resources from the queenside attack to the kingside. In a few moves White's other bishop on g4 is exchanged for Black's remaining knight, and White gains another pawn after the hxg recapture. At this point, White's only king cover is the g2 pawn, with Black's queen on g4, and Black's rooks moving into kingside attack position, so White brings his rooks and queen into position. For the next 16 moves Black and White maneuver their rooks and queens in order to attack and defend White's king respectively. On move 42 Black forces an exchange of rooks, which decreases the amount of force on the board, and increases the scope of heavy pieces. On move 49 Black's h-pawn is now advanced to h4, and forces a trade of queens, down to a winning rook and pawn endgame for Black. Black won 7 moves later.

Round 7, Sunday PM, I played Black, loss:
Reed-Rajendran (0-1)
White opened 1.d4 and Black played a Nimzo-Indian defense. By move 9 there is a massive exchange of pawns (c and d-file) and soon White's queen on c2 is opposed by a Black rook on c8. Rather than be conservative and move the queen off of the c-file, White plays for an edge, and loses the queen for two pieces and a pawn on move 16. White resigned immediately. No picture. There is no excuse for this poor result, but two reasons are (a) shortly before the round, I was actually contemplating withdrawing from the last round (heavy work schedule the following day), and worse yet (b) eating poorly right before the round, plus fatigue set White up for massive headaches. The lesson is that chess is a sport and White needs to make sure both mind and body are fit. 

All in all this was a great tournament!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Analysis :: Eastern Class 2009 (Round 1)

[Event "Eastern Class"]
[Site "Sturbridge MA"]
[Date "2009.03.06"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Jackson, Dane"]
[Black "Reed, Harvey"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D03"]
[WhiteElo "1546"]
[BlackElo "1436"]

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Bg5 e6 4. e3 Be7 5. Bd3 Nbd7 6. Nbd2 O-O 7. c3 b6 8. Qc2 c5 9. dxc5 bxc5 10. O-O c4 11. Be2 Rb8 12. Bf4 Rb6 13. a4 a5 14. h3 Nc5 15. Nd4 Bd7 16. N2f3 Nd3 17. Bxd3 cxd3 18. Qxd3 Rxb2 19. Rfb1 Rxb1+ 20. Qxb1 Qc8 21. Be5 Ne4 22. Nb5 f6 23. Bh2 Nxc3 24. Qd3 Bb4 25. Nfd4 e5 26. Na7 Qb7 27. Ndb5 Rb8 28. Nxc3 Qxa7 29. Qxd5+ Kh8 30. Ne4 Be7 31. g4 Qb7 32. Qd3 Bc6 33. Nd2 Rd8 34. Qe2 Bb4 35. Nb3 Bh1 36. Qf1 Rd3 37. Rb1 Qd5 38. Bg3 Bf3 39. Kh2 Rxb3 40. Rxb3 Qxb3 41. Qb5 Qg8 42. g5 Qc8 43. Qd3 e4 44. Qd5 fxg5 45. Qxg5 Qe8 46. h4 Bd1 47. Bc7 Qf8 48. Bf4 Bxa4 49. Qe5 Bc2 50. Qb8 Qxb8 51. Bxb8 g6 52. Kg3 Kg7 53. Be5+ Kf7 54. f3 Ke6 55. Bh8 exf3 56. Kxf3 Bd6 57. Bb2 Be5 58. Ba3 Kd5 59. Ke2 Bc3 0-1

Jackson,Dane (1546) - Reed,Harvey (1436) [D03]

Eastern Class Sturbridge MA (1), 06.03.2009
[Reed, Harvey]

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bg5 This is the Torre Attack (Tartakower Variation) (D03) 3...e6 4.e3 Be7 5.Bd3 Nbd7 6.Nbd2 0–0 7.c3 b6 Black is anticipating  8.Qc2 which is not the most popular move in CB, but probably the most obvious to class players.  8...c5 The plan is to expand the Queenside, and in the process to displace White's d3 Bishop, thus disrupting the Queen/Bishop battery. 9.dxc5 Black was fully expecting White to play 9. b3 in order to put up more resistance. Black does not want to exchange on d4, which will not only release pawn tension, it won't displace the Bishop either. Rather, Black wants to get a c4 push in, and although it releases pawn tension, it displaces the White Bishop on d3. Then Black can think about a Queenside attack starting with ...Rb8, ...b5, ...b4, etc. 9...bxc5 [‹9...Bxc5? In addition to allowing a tactic for White, capturing with the Bishop stops the planned Queenside expansion. 10.Bxh7+ Kh8 11.Bd3] 10.0–0 This was White's last chance to stop 10...c4 with 10. b3.

10...c4 11.Be2 Rb8 Black puts pressure on b2, first step to securing the hole on b3 12.Bf4 Rb6 13.a4 The hole is becoming a reality, and the text move is easily parried with 13...a5 14.h3 Black considers this a pass, and with Black's next move, begins to get the initiative 14...Nc5 15.Nd4 Bd7 Black continues development, with the thought of tying White down to defense whenever possible 16.N2f3 Nd3 Black trades in his pressure on b2 for a Rook on the seventh, converting one advantage into another 17.Bxd3 cxd3 18.Qxd3 Rxb2 19.Rfb1 Rxb1+ 20.Qxb1 Qc8

Black trades the Rook on seventh for awkward White pieces, now White will find it hard to defend the c3 pawn 21.Be5? White is thinking that the Bishop will indirectly protect the c3 pawn, but the Bishop is easily attacked 21...Ne4 22.Nb5 f6 23.Bh2 Nxc3 Now Black has a clear one pawn advantage 24.Qd3 Bb4 25.Nfd4 e5 In the spirit of maintaining pressure and tension, Black did not liquidate with ...Nxb5. It's not clear how to hang on to the d5 pawn without liquidating though 26.Na7 Qb7 27.Ndb5 Rb8 28.Nxc3 Qxa7 29.Qxd5+ Kh8 At this point, Black realizes he botched the last segment in the game, but he does still have the two Bishops and a more active Rook. There are also vague back-rank mate ideas 30.Ne4 Be7 31.g4 Qb7 32.Qd3 Bc6 33.Nd2 Rd8 34.Qe2 Bb4 35.Nb3 Bh1 36.Qf1 

Black is tying down a Queen with a Bishop, and has the initiative 36...Rd3 37.Rb1 Qd5 Due to threats, Black is forcing White to think longer and longer on less and less time, and White drops a piece 38.Bg3 Bf3 39.Kh2? White drops a piece right before time control 39...Rxb3 40.Rxb3 Qxb3 41.Qb5 Qg8 Consolidate 42.g5 Qc8 43.Qd3 e4 The rest of the game consists of Black taking squares away from White 44.Qd5 fxg5 45.Qxg5 Qe8 [It's late at night, so we both start missing continuations. Better is 45...h6 to open air for Black King, and threaten ...Qc1 and ...Qh1#] 46.h4 Bd1 Black conserves mental energy and goes after easy and significant targets. Capturing White's a4 pawn gives White a huge new problem, a passed pawn on a5 47.Bc7 White tries to force an exchange of Queens 47...Qf8 48.Bf4 Bxa4 49.Qe5 White again tries to force the exchange of Queens. White the a5 passed pawn prepared, Black does not avoid the exchange 49...Bc2 50.Qb8 Qxb8 51.Bxb8 g6 The two Black Bishops should be able to restrain the White King. The Black King's job is to protect the kingside from unseemly advances by the White King 52.Kg3 Kg7 53.Be5+ Kf7 54.f3 Ke6 55.Bh8 exf3 56.Kxf3 Bd6 Prepare to exchange dark Bishops 57.Bb2 Be5 

58.Ba3 Black's Bishop now owns the a1–h8 diagonal, needed for queening. The Black King can restrain the e3 pawn 58...Kd5 59.Ke2 Bc3 0–1

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tournament Report :: Eastern Class 2009

I played in the Eastern Class chess tournament last weekend, Friday 6 March to Sun 8 March. The crosstable is here, and I played in the C section. Out of five games, I played four, leaving early on Sunday to spend the evening with my S.O. Shortly before the tournament, my rating spiked (see earlier posts about coming back to OTB from hiatus), pushing me from the D to C section, so I was low guy on the totem pole. This is a good place to be... if you want good competition...

I am analyzing my games now, and will post analysis shortly. For now, here is a qualitative summary:

Round 1, Friday PM, I played Black, win:
I got to the playing hall in Sturbridge MA with just minutes to spare. I was working all day on analytical products and my brain was cooking, so all I needed to do was chill a bit, and shift gears to chess. My opponent played 1.d4 to which I am starting to learn the 1...d5 response. I was channeling Silman and worked hard to impose my will on the game, and overcome fears of Bd3 and Qc2 battery staring down my hapless h7 pawn, by using fast Queenside action to take my opponent off balance. After that I was channeling Petrosian (*) and spent time thinking mostly about taking away my opponents squares, even at the expense of perhaps a quicker win. Several people commented on my game, some noting how I shut down all my opponents' counterplay, some noting I missed quicker wins. 

I am happy with the game. My heart and soul were in the game the whole time and not wavering. My opponent re-entered, played the fast games Saturday morning, and ended with a respectable 3.0/5.0 result.

(*) Or so I thought. Some people have pointed out that I am not at the level where I can really comprehend Petrosian, so let's say that I focused on his "prevent my opponent's plans" part of his style. I have yet to really understand his subtle maneuvering...

Round 2, Saturday AM, I played White, lose:
I faced a familiar opponent with whom I've played off-beat openings with in the distant past, and this game was no exception. I later learned I experienced the joys of the Budapest Defense and I was on my own wits starting on my opponent's second move. I took the pawn and battened down the hatches, bracing for an attack, giving back the pawn when doing so allowed me an opportunity to consolidate. I went on to defend against a relentless attack on my Kingside, through move 20, and even starting some Queenside counterplay on move 21. We both burned up plenty of time on the clocks, since I was not just defending, but also giving my opponent a few problems to solve. Around move 25 my opponent had about 1 minute left on his analogue clock. I had four minutes. All I had to do was wait him out. My position was fine. But like all the previous twenty-some-odd moves, I needed to be on the lookout for one move mates, cheapos, etc. On move 27, it looked like the Kingside tension was subsiding, and the Queenside was heating up (which it was), but... there was still one more cheapo to defend against. In this transition moment of shifting tension, I took my eye of the ball for just a second, and missed a mate-in-one. Doh!

I am disappointed in the loss, but am pleased with my play prior to move 27... My opponent went on to win the section with a 4.5/5.0 result.

Round 3, Saturday PM, I played Black, draw:
I faced an up and coming, and very well mannered junior, who plays 1.e4, so I played the Caro-Kann, despite still being rusty with it. Of course he enters into a line that I am unfamiliar with 1.e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5.Be3. Hmmm... I proceed to burn up time, because I knew I needed to push ...c5, but kept thinking I needed to prepare more. Meanwhile he already played c3. Then I think I need to prepare more, and so on. I never end up doing the ...c5 break I wanted to do. In the end, I 'm not sure he had any more clues as to what was going on because I was pressuring him in ways that was not called for in the position. This culminates in a combination which looks favorable to him (win the exchange), but a few moves later I can force the exchange back, and worse for him, now we are in a drawn endgame. He was very gracious, and we agreed to a draw.

I really need to practice being flexible (like Round 1) and when one plan doesn't work out (like waiting too long for the ...c5 push), formulate a new plan and move on. My opponent went on to a very good 3.5/5.0 result.

Round 4, Sunday AM, I played White, lose:
I faced an opponent who is a nice chap, but whose play for some reason, brought out bad habits in me which I thought I had overcome. First bad habit was assuming that Sunday's games are going to be easy. In fact, going into Sunday AM with 1.5 points practically guarantees that your opponent will be gunning extra hard for a win. And they should be. That's the point. The second bad habit is not respecting your opponent's moves. I can't verbalize this precisely, but that's what was going on in my head. Why, I can't tell you. In Round 1 I was busy trying to get into my opponent's head and shutting down his plans. In this game I wasn't respecting his moves, only to get annoyed when his moves start to add up to serious pressure. As early as move six I start to be adventurous in ways that are unwarranted. Followed by an over-reaction on move 10 that led to a permanent and debilitating weakness. My opponent rightfully picked on this weakness until he had a severe cramping effect on my game, snuffing out any/all maneuvering, ultimately forcing severe material loss.

My opponent played well, I certainly didn't. My opponent went on to get a reasonable 2.0/5.0 score.

I will post analysis of my games shortly. All in all, of the four games I played I am pleased with three of them, and my last was a big warning that bad habits never really die, they just lay in wait. My best good-bad habit ratio was Round 1, my worst good-bad habit ratio was Round 4. My job as a chess novice is to keep my bad habits down so my good ones can thrive. 

The good habits I want are:
  • Keep my heart and mind in the game at all times, don't let up even for one move
  • Be flexible. Look for short plans that are doable
  • Respect your opponents moves, figure out his plans, and act to shut them down
  • For goodness sake, I need to learn openings out to at least 5-7 moves (with ideas)!
  • Keep up the analysis routine
The bad habits I need to suppress are:
  • Not paying attention (not respecting) your opponents moves, plans, etc.
  • Being OCD about plans whose time has come and gone
  • Being a slacker regarding opening preparation and analysis
This is going to be a long journey.