Thursday, June 4, 2009

Two Games and a Lesson

So I went to the Miami Chess Academy for the first time. Had a lesson with the owner, IM Blas Lugo. It was very productive. It never ceases to amaze me how very strong players can just look at a position, any position it seems, and quickly come to a conclusion about the proper plans and ideas for both sides. If you're in Miami and you want some chess lessons, I'd highly advise the Academy. It is a little pricey, but chess lessons are expensive everywhere. One funny note: Blas told me $50/hour, which is pretty normal. I got there, and we sat down in a room without a clock. I had assumed we'd go an hour, even though Blas hadn't said anything of the sort. I think I assumed it because that was how the price was quoted. Anyway, we went through some games and then did some problems, and I was thinking 'this is more than an hour, is he giving me some extra time because it's my first lesson, or what?' only when I went to the bathroom and saw that three hours had passed did I realize that the rate was in fact, as Blas had said, an hourly rate and not a rate per lesson. For an unemployed guy (me), $150 is a lot to spend on a chess lesson, but it was extremely instructive. My wife insisted, by the way. She just laughed at me when she heard the price, because she knew it would bother me more than her. In the future I'll probably just stick to game analysis since problem solving involves lots of (expensive) time in which I just sit there and analyze. It's great to do it with a strong player there, but I can't afford that. $100 every 3-4 weeks wouldn't be so bad though. I plan on going back when I have enough questions to fill 2 hours. Not every game is worth going over with an IM, after all.

Speaking of games, here are two that I played recently. Both came down to endgames, which is a new thing for me. Think about it: when you are ~1600, your games are often effectively over by 30 moves or so. Someone drops a piece or otherwise blunders, and the endgame (if there is one) is usually just mopping up. Now that I'm getting good enough where I don't drop pieces or pawns that often, I'm starting to reach endings in almost every game. I really like the endgame, but I'm not so good at it yet because I've played so few.

But I have been (as I usually do) studying my ass off with Dvoretsky's endgame manual. I think one of the things I like most about it is how hard it is. The exercises are very challenging, and it's like having a teacher with high expectations. You get a sense for how hard you really have to work to get to a high level, and depending on your penchant for study that either excites you or scares you. I get excited because as I work and study I realize that I can in fact do it, I can see deep enough and calculate accurately enough if I really put in the effort. It's tough but rewarding (that could apply to almost any activity worth doing I suppose). I think it's already payed off, as you'll see from these two games. In the first, played in Boca, I made some mistakes in the middlegame and got into a clearly worse ending. I ended up sacrificing the exchange to maintain a passed pawn on the 6th rank which distracted my opponent enough that I was able to draw. He made some mistakes in the later stages, but they weren't obvious and it just goes to show how hard the endgame is to play well.


I really should have lost that game, but I feel I defended well and I'll always take a draw in such a position. I do feel that endgames tend to favor the defender. In the middlegame the attacker often has natural squares for his pieces and a variety of tactical threats, while the defender is forced to walk a razor's edge to avoid defeat. In the ending this situation is often reversed, and the side that's better has to find 'only' moves to avoid turning a win into a draw. If you have pressure in the middlegame, it's often sustained whereas in the endgame one inaccurate move can completely change the evaluation of a position. What makes things worse is that mistakes are often not obvious at all. I must say the subtelty of endings is one of the things that attract me to them the most. The next game is not so high quality in the opening or middlegame (especially on my opponent played the middlegame well despite a pretty bad opening), but the ending is a pretty example of how strong, subtle threats can get you a win without your opponent making any obvious mistakes. I am somewhat proud of my endgame play in this one. I didn't miss a beat, and that's something I can hardly ever say about my games.


I feel that Bruce played above his rating in this game, which makes it even sweeter to get the win. I believe it was Spielmann that said "play the opening like a book, the middlegame like a wizard, and the endgame like a machine". I've got the opening part down (at least for my level), and I'm rapidly improving on the third part. I wonder where I go to learn magic..?


CHESSX said...

$150 for a chess lesson when you where excepting 50 is bad.

Good games nice save in game 1,the advanced pawn made all the difference.
Game 2 was a good attacking game,i still cant get to play games like that.
I wish i could be more attacking but i play to defenceively.

CHESSX said...

I should have mentioned you have a very understanding wife.
Myn thinks chess is a waste of time.

Caeruleum Canis said...

Well, the trick to playing attacking chess is to choose attacking opening variations and then aim your pieces at the king. It's really not so hard, you just go in with the attitude that you want to checkmate the guy more than you're afraid of being checkmated yourself. And yes, my wife is very understanding. She hates when chess makes me angry, but other than that she's very cool.