Thursday, March 26, 2009

A real win. Hurrah!

So I got paired with the highest rated player in the tournament (~1950). I have beaten this guy before, so I was actually looking forward to it. I had white, and I knew that this player's openings were very weak. This guy relies upon creativity to win, but I was fairly sure that I could get a position I was familiar with. Against d4, you're basically going to play some sort of d4-d5 opening, a dutch, or some variation of a fianchetto with delayed central breaks. I was perfectly happy to play any of those (no Latvian gambits against d4). He played an offbeat, extremely slow variation of the Slav which ended up looking a lot like a Cambridge Springs. Here's the game:


I was very pleased with this game because I didn't make any careless moves. 100% safety checking, which I've often struggled with in the past. It's easy to get too caught up in one specific idea and look past your opponent's play, but in this game I didn't do that. In fact, I saw several strong ideas for him that he didn't even end up playing (such as ...g5, which would have been strong on several different moves).

I also think my opening study is really starting to bear fruit. Even when I don't get a variation I've specifically studied, I almost always end up in recognizable positions with clear strategic themes. In many cases these positions have recurring tactical ideas as well, so I find myself getting caught off guard by canned tactics very rarely. I think consistently getting familiar positions is a definitely a function of acquiring a critical mass of opening (and concurrently, early middlegame) knowledge. This game is a good example. Not a single move of his surprised me, because the ideas of this position are so consistent. After he played Bb4, I knew that Qa5 and Ne4 were coming, with the other knight coming to f6 via d7. It was totally thematic, and it was the only plan that made a lot of sense. I was also ready (from a strategic sense) if he played Be7 and dxc4, with a Caro/Slav type of position. Regardless of what anyone says, I'm really glad I studied all those openings.

Speaking of opening study, if you haven't ever read Pawn Structure Chess by Soltis, then by all means go buy it. I've found that book to be essential in my own career, one of the few that I keep going back to over and over. It's an older book, but I think Soltis's discussion of planning based upon pawn structure is the best treatment I've seen of that crucial subject. On a related note, I have just ordered Sokolov's Chess Middlegame Planning from Amazon. It's similar to Soltis's book, with an emphasis on newer 'standard' structures, in this case more dependent upon specific openings. It's a little more of a specialist volume, covering a variety of modern Nimzo-Indian and English typical pawn structures (though not only those, that just seems to be where the emphasis lies). I can't wait to get it. Some of the doubled c-pawn Czech Benoniesque closed centers you get out of the f3 and Rubinstein variations of the Nimzo are very hard to handle, and I am anxious to see what a player as strong as Ivan Sokolov has to say about them. I realize that's a very technical sentence above, so here's a game to illustrate what I'm talking about:


All annotations are mine, by the way. No plagiarism. Navarra handled that beautifully, but it didn't hurt that his opponent made some significant strategic mistakes (what the hell was ...a5 about?). Anyway, looking forward to that Sokolov book. I'll let you know if it's as cool as I'm hoping.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Huzzah. A win.

So tonight marked my return to competitive chess (if you want to call it that) since my surgery. This game was uneventful. It was the first round of a Swiss, and I was at the bottom of the top half of the tournament. It was patzer time.

Now normally I try very hard not to talk any shit about anyone, and I think 'patzer' is generally a really cruel thing to call someone, because everyone has their own goals in the game, and people also vary into the amount of time they're able to put in, even if they're willing. If you take up the game as an adult when you have a job and a family, it's going to be hard to study. So I try to give players the benefit of the doubt. Tonight though, this guy did one of the things that annoys me more than anything else in chess: he made me checkmate him, using two queens. If it were ICC, I might have suggested (the degree of politeness would vary inversely with how drunk I was) that there was a reason God and the admins invented the resign button.

Of course, over the board you can't do such a thing unless you Kasparov (because he's a jerk, not because he's the best player ever. I just wanted to pick a jerk you all knew. Though IMO, best ever hands down.) So I had to play on and checkmate this guy with my two queens. I thought about doing the Nakamura thing (or so I've heard) and make 4 knights and then checkmate him in some obscene knight net. I thought better of it when I realized he probably wouldn't get the joke. He's probably have just left the table thinking I was an idiot.

Perhaps I shouldn't be so hard on him. The guy is very new, and he did play one or two good moves. He also made several blunders. The hardest part about games like this is forcing yourself to keep concentrating after you're completely winning. Just because a person't rating is low doesn't mean they don't see anything. They may see quite a lot when they look, but looking tends to be rare in the lower classes in my experience. I probably should have told him after the game that it's polite to resign when down two queens to someone 700 points higher rated than you with no hope of stalemate, but again I'm not trying to offend anyone. If that's what he enjoys doing, it's his prerogative. It just annoys the piss out of me. Here's the game:


So that's that. I post it only out of habit. If Mr. Lyons happens to read this blog, nothing personal, just resign when you're that far down in material. I know how much it sucks to sit there and know you're going to lose. It's okay to resign. Only little kids make you play it out, because frankly kids are more likely to screw up. Against 'A' players ('B' players too, really) it's just insulting.

In other news, I am leaving Thursday for Colorado. It should be fun. I will soon be 27. That feels much older than 26 somehow. Especially since I'm unemployed. Thanks Wall Street.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Return to Chess...

...sort of. This game wasn't rated, and while we both took some time it's obviously different when it's just for kicks. I think my opponent took more chances than he would have in a tournament game, but at least it made the game entertaining.


In other news, I have started looking for jobs in earnest. It's pretty depressing. I blame Greenspan, Wall Street shortsighted greed (as opposed to long term greed, which bothers me less), and Bush. In that order. South Florida has a higher rate of unemployment than the rest of the country as well, though I hope that is mostly unskilled workers whom I'm really not competing with. Construction has been slammed down here, for example. We have more foreclosures than anywhere other than the West Coast.

At least I'm healing well. Went to the gym for the first time today, and it was sad. 15 minutes on the elliptical. It'll come back quickly. This Friday I plan to play my first rated game since my surgery. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Getting back to full strength...

...chess strength at least. The physical strength is taking a while. The two big wounds still haven't closed, but everything else is healing beautifully. I want to go back to playing tournament chess soon, though I'm somewhat worried about sustaining concentration over a long game. That might still be asking a bit much.

Have you been following Linares? It just finished, with Grischuk and Ivanchuk sharing first, Grischuk with the better tiebreaks. A nice breakthrough for Grischuk whose style I really like, and another amazing performance from Chucky. I love that guy. He's totally crazy. If he ever releases a book of best games, it will have no repeated openings. He plays everything in the book, coming up with significant theoretical novelties in the most varied positions. It's a pity his nerves will almost certainly prevent him from ever taking the World Championship. Of the players who came up in the early 90s, Anand, Kramnik, and Ivanchuk were by far the strongest (Shirov close behind, Topalov's a little younger). I personally think they all were strong enough to win the world title, and in some ways Ivanchuk is the most brilliant. He plays some games that just blow me away with their originality and complexity.

In any case, congrats to both. Just because I like posting games, here's a little blitz effort I put together online tonight after re-upping my ICC membership. I really hate anti-Sicilians on principle (I sometimes play the Grand Prix, and I feel like a bitch every time), so it's nice to deliver beat downs to anti-Sicilian players.

Gotta Watch Out For That Boden's Mate!.pgn


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

So Topalov beat Kamsky...

...hopefully after Anand WHIPS HIS ASS sometime later this year, the blatant FIDE favoritism towards Topalov will be over. Finally. But I doubt it. I also realize I haven't written a proper sentence this post. Deal.

Seriously though, who would have thought that the Tarrasch French would be the opening of the match? The French wasn't exactly a mainstay of Kamsky's repertoire prior to this match (though it does fit his style in my opinion), and I can't imagine that his team spent as much time on the Tarrasch as on the Nc3 mainlines since that is what Topalov has mostly played. For what it's worth, I expected Topalov's team to outdo Kamsky's team and that didn't happen. Kamsky got drawable positions from the opening, he just messed up. Time usage continued to be an issue for him, and lack of time definitely played a role in his errors.

In any case, Kamsky should have been playing Anand directly but since I think he would have lost that match much worse than he did this one, it doesn't bother me so much that he didn't. With FIDE you have to expect disruptions and changes for no reason, and this is just another example of that.

In other news, Mamedyarov has accused Kurnosov of cheating at Aeroflot. If you look at the game (a short and brutal crush of Shak), there were only something like 6 moves out of theory and they were relatively forced. I think a player much weaker than Kurnosov could have found them. I have always thought that Shak Mamedyarov was overrated. Obviously his 2750 rating isn't BS, but he seems to duck the top tournaments and when he does play against Carlsen, Anand, etc, he doesn't impress. I think he'd probably do a Loek Van Wely swan dive if he couldn't play the slightly weaker opens like Aeroflot. His opening repertoire is offbeat which is not necessarily a bad thing, but he's no Morozevich and I think he gets a few points from playing positions his opponents aren't as familiar with. That wouldn't work at Linares. You can probably tell I think this cheating accusation is bunk and that Shak is acting like a child after a brutal loss to a weaker opponent. He should stop bitching, stop accusing people, and reassure himself that losing to a 2600 player is not such a bad thing. 2600 does in fact mean you can play some chess. Though Shak did have white.

On the personal side I don't recall if I mentioned that there was too much scar tissue to do the surgery laparoscopically or not, but that was in fact the case. They had to open me all the way up, and so recovery is taking much longer. I have 30some staples and I don't get those out until Friday. Even after that's done, it will be a while. A bit of a setback, but no serious infections (thankfully). I'll be playing again soon.