06 August 2020

Bad chess attitudes #1: My opponent spoiled my opening


Many things can hold us back in our quest for chess improvement. One of the things that we can control (and improve) is our attitude towards chess, both at the board and away from it. Attitude directly affects our behavior and decisions, which in turn affect the outcomes we get at the board. This is why "chess psychology" is not some esoteric or academic topic, but in fact a very practical one for improving players.

I'll be highlighting in a short series of posts some bad chess attitudes that can actively harm our progress. To avoid being seen as too judgmental, I'll only share ones that I've struggled with myself.

From tigerlilov.com
1. My opponent spoiled my (favorite) opening (and must be punished for it)

This is an attitude you see a lot among amateurs, but almost never among masters. It is born out of frustration at frequently not reaching your favorite opening lines, ones that you've put so much time and effort into preparing. The attitude reveals an emotional attachment to particular lines and their aesthetics, which are then mentally built up into some sort of chessic ideal - which is then "spoiled" on the board by the opponent, who refuses to cooperate in creating this artistic masterpiece. I think having aesthetic value as part of your opening selections is actually helpful, since it is part of why we derive pleasure from chess as a game and an art, but becoming mentally wedded to some sort of "pure" type of opening position is not.

One common example is on the Black side of Sicilians, where amateurs can enthusiastically undertake preparation of lines in complicated systems (Dragon, Najdorf, etc.). These often get derailed at the board as early as move 2 or 3, which then results in complaints about opponents' poor attitudes or worthiness as chess players because they choose to avoid the "best" lines. This kind of reaction ignores the fact that your opponent always gets an equal vote in chess: it's called their move. It is just common sense, however, that if your opponent plays a move that is not theoretically best, but is nonetheless good or at least not a blunder, getting upset about it or wanting to "punish" it will not be very productive for you on the chessboard.

As with many things that are bad for us, social influence and pressure are factors that help create this kind of attitude. "Best" openings are frequently argued about, with fashionable variations or whole opening complexes pushed heavily in publications and public forums. This gives us the social phenomenon of opening popularity, which doesn't necessarily have anything to do with opening effectiveness for you.  Similarly, out-of-fashion openings are put down or ignored. We no longer see so much the Sveshnikov Sicilian against 1. e4, or the Grunfeld against 1. d4, or the Spanish game (Ruy Lopez) as White at top levels. Yet all were considered to be the top choices of professionals not so long ago - and may again be, in the future. No doubt you can think of your own examples.

It should be understood that at the top GM level, variations or openings tend to become unpopular because near-forcing drawing lines have been worked out in them, or it is found over time (and numerous practical examples) that one side (typically White) gets a slight plus with best theoretical play. However, this assumes that both players know how to play at that level and have worked out what to do through the middlegame or even the endgame (such as with the Berlin Wall variation of the Spanish game, which has frustrated professional-level White players). However, what is considered best for the 2600+ crowd at a particular time, while interesting to know, is not necessarily the best guide for your own play.

The most effective antidote for too often being a "taker" of others' opinions on openings is simple, but sometimes hard to do: think and evaluate for yourself. This is absolutely necessary to make progress in all phases of chess, but may be harder to do for openings, since so much material has been published on them. Your own evaluation of particular lines can of course be guided by "expert" opinion, but it should always be a conscious choice and for reasons that you understand. Otherwise your play and results will suffer, even if someone else (or an engine) has informed you that the position you reached was the "best" possible. The fact that any sound opening is playable, at any level, should be remembered. If you do at least semi-serious opening research, you will also inevitably find that "experts" disagree over time - and even at the same point in time - about their evaluations of variations, reinforcing the point that your own judgment is what counts most in the end.

Fundamentally, the purpose of the opening phase is for you to reach a playable middlegame position. This means one that is not clearly advantageous to the opponent, and contains elements and plans that you can understand and execute over the board. This seems like a simple proposition, but it is violated a lot in practice. We need to remember that opening preparation and analysis should be a tool for us to use for our own ends, not to blindly follow.

A modern-day analogy is the relationship we have with our phones: are they consciously used by us as an information and communications tool, understanding the trade-offs in time and efficiency involved? Or do we forego an active role and simply react to it, like a dog in Pavlov's experiment believing that it's always dinnertime when they hear something buzz? You decide.

From verywellmind.com

30 July 2020

Annotated Game #248: Meeting threats with threats

This second-round tournament game features a hard fight in the early middlegame, as my opponent does a good job of seizing the initiative by passing up "obvious" moves (such as automatic recaptures). Instead, she creatively seeks out ones that increase the number of threats on the board. The main clash is from moves 15-22 and I am only able to stay equal by using the same idea, meeting a threat with a threat.

After move 23, I am a pawn up but Black has both positional (the bishop pair) and dynamic compensation, including pressure against my king position. It's instructive to see how calmer defense (for example on move 25) could have better neutralized Black's threats; later on, more dynamic defense by creating counterthreats on the a-file would also have been an improvement.

In the late game, as often occurs, I started getting tired, and blundered on move 39. What happens is that I start cutting mental corners and do not look hard enough at my opponent's possible responses to candidate moves, which is a thinking process violation. Fortunately, my opponent was not in much better shape, however, and let me back in the game; I was able to save the draw in R+B ending with opposite-colored bishops. From a technical standpoint, the endgame analysis pointed out the importance of getting the rook mobile and active; instead, I did too much moving around with the bishop. From a psychological perspective, the game showed how continuing to fight after a blunder can be rewarded, if you are able to keep looking for ways to wrong-foot your opponent.

My opponent (a junior) showed good sportsmanship, but was clearly disappointed with the outcome, for which I can't blame her. It may have been a little frustrating for her playing me again as well. This was our third tournament encounter in two years, with the previous game being a 77-move draw that I should have won in the endgame. We were both Class A at this point, but she had started out as a low Class B and had gained much more than I had over time (a common pattern with juniors). However, it seems that we were well matched, in all three games drawing after a hard struggle.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class A"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E14"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 13.2"] [PlyCount "109"] {[%mdl 8192] E14: Queen's Indian: Classical Variation (4 e3)} 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 d5 4. e3 Be7 5. b3 O-O 6. Bb2 b6 {heading for a Tartakower QGD setup.} 7. Be2 (7. cxd5 $5 {appears a little more challenging and in the spirit of the English.}) 7... Bb7 8. O-O Nbd7 9. d4 c5 {the most effective move for Black, challenging White's center. The pawn structure is now symmetrical and piece development is nearly so. Technically this is now a Queen's Indian Defense.} 10. cxd5 (10. dxc5 $6 {this scores poorly for White, as it just helps Black's development and central control, whether the recapture on c5 takes place with knight or pawn.}) 10... Nxd5 11. Nxd5 { the Nc3 is not as well placed as White's other knight and this exchange also opens the long diagonal for the Bb2.} Bxd5 12. Rc1 {activating the rook} Bf6 { Black has a variety of choices here. According to the database, normally the pawn on d4 is exchanged before playing ...Bf6.} (12... Rc8 13. Ba6 Rc7 14. Qe2 Qa8 15. Rfe1 Bb7 16. dxc5 Rxc5 17. Rcd1 Nf6 18. Bxb7 Qxb7 19. Bd4 Rcc8 20. Ne5 Rfd8 21. Rc1 Nd7 22. Qg4 Nxe5 23. Bxe5 Bf8 24. h4 Rd5 25. Bd4 g6 26. Qf3 Bg7 27. Bxg7 {Gelashvili,T (2604)-Esen,B (2441) Athens 2007 1/2-1/2 (34)}) (12... cxd4 13. Bxd4 Bf6 14. Qd2 Rc8 15. h3 Bxd4 16. Nxd4 Nf6 17. Bf3 Bxf3 18. Nxf3 Qxd2 19. Nxd2 h6 20. Nf3 Rxc1 21. Rxc1 Rd8 22. Rc7 Rd7 23. Rxd7 Nxd7 24. Kf1 Kf8 25. Ke2 Ke7 26. Kd3 Kd6 27. b4 {Mendoza,S (2169)-Secopito,C (2127) Quezon City 2019 1/2-1/2 (31)}) 13. Ba3 {getting the bishop off of the b2 square where it was hanging and pressuring the a3-f8 diagonal.} (13. Qd2 {has been played more often, keeping the bishop on b2.} Qe7 14. dxc5 Bxb2 15. Qxb2 Nxc5 16. Rfd1 Rfd8 17. Ne1 Rac8 18. b4 Ne4 19. Bf3 h6 20. a3 Qf6 21. Qxf6 Nxf6 22. Kf1 Bxf3 23. Rxd8+ Rxd8 24. gxf3 Rd5 25. Rc8+ Kh7 26. Rc7 Rd7 27. Rc2 Kg6 { Hund,G (2059)-Staub,G (2046) Baden 2014 1-0 (45)}) 13... Rc8 {it looks obvious to reinforce the c-file, but White can now activate the light-square bishop to good effect.} (13... Be7 14. Qc2 $11) 14. Bb5 $14 {putting the bishop on a much more useful diagonal (a4-e8) and clearing e2 for the queen. It also physically blocks potential future ideas of pushing the b-pawn.} (14. Ba6 { is also possible, controlling c8, but I wanted to leave this in reserve.}) 14... Be7 {opposing the Ba3 and freeing the c-pawn to move, as well as reinforcing it.} (14... Bc6 $6 {immediately challenging the bishop leaves White with a plus after} 15. Bxc6 Rxc6 16. b4 Qc8 17. bxc5 bxc5 18. dxc5 Rd8 ( 18... Nxc5 $2 {grabbing the pawn does not work out in the end, as White can increase the pressure on the pinned Nc5 and then bring the Nf3 over to win material. For example} 19. Rc4 Be7 20. Qc2 Rc7 21. Nd4 Re8 22. Nb5) 19. Nd4 $14 ) 15. Qe2 {this consolidates control of the f1-a6 diagonal and connects the rooks. It's nice to have a clearly best square to place the queen, which often does not happen in these types of positions.} a6 {having just played a move to dominate the diagonal, I was not expecting this. After some thought, I take the safe route by exchanging the bishop, which was disappointing after the previous maneuvers.} 16. Bxd7 (16. Bxa6 $5 Ra8 {is the problem, as both the Ba3 and pawn on a2 are hanging, but White still is a little better after} 17. Bb2 Nb8 18. Bd3 Rxa2 19. Bb1 Ra7 20. Rfd1 Nd7 (20... Bxb3 $2 21. Qd3 {forking the Bb3 and the h7 mating square})) 16... Qxd7 $11 17. dxc5 {I now have the urge to simplify further, which is not bad, but allows Black to gain the initiative.} (17. e4 Bb7 18. dxc5 $11 {is an improved version, with the Black bishop not so well placed.}) 17... Qb5 {This was well played by my opponent, passing up the automatic recapture on c5, which would have resulted in an isolated pawn for her. I did not like the idea of exchanging on b5, but further simplification would not be so bad, as I underestimated the threats the queen could make. Protecting the Qe2 is the other option.} 18. Nd4 $6 { the thinking was to remove the knight from the threat of being exchanged with gxf3 forced. However, Black's queen now becomes more active and again targets my a-file hanging pieces.} (18. Rfe1 Qa5 (18... Qxe2 19. Rxe2 Bxf3 20. gxf3 $14 {is actually given a small plus by Komodo, as after} Bxc5 21. Bxc5 Rxc5 22. Rxc5 bxc5 23. Rd2 {Black's isolated queenside pawns and White's control of the d-file outweigh the flaw in the kingside pawn structure.}) 19. Bb2 $11 { now Black is not winning material.} Qxa2 $6 20. Nd4 {threatening to trap the queen} Qa5 21. Qg4 $16 {targeting g7 and creating tactical ideas involving the Bb2 and Nd4.}) (18. Qxb5 axb5 19. Nd4 Ra8 20. Bb4 Rxa2 {and Black has a small edge, but this is still better than the game continuation.}) 18... Qa5 $15 19. Bb2 bxc5 {this creates additional problems now as the Nd4 is under threat.} 20. Bc3 {the best response, meeting the threat with another threat (to the Qa5) and protecting the a-pawn along the second rank.} Qb6 21. Nf3 c4 {Black now presses further with the c-pawn, but overlooks my response, again meeting a threat with a threat.} (21... Qb5 $5 {is worth consideration} 22. Qb2 Bxf3 23. gxf3 f6 $15) 22. e4 $11 {finally getting the bishop out of the center.} Ba8 23. bxc4 {I'm now up a pawn, but Black has full compensation in the form of the two bishops and more active pieces, especially since the c-pawn is isolated.} Qc6 {pressuring both c4 and e4, as well as creating a battery on the long diagonal that threatens mate on g2.} 24. Nd2 f5 {a logical break, as exf5 is not possible. Here I thought for a while but did not find the best solution.} 25. f3 {a natural response, blunting the mate threat, but Black now fully utilizes her more active pieces.} (25. Rfe1 {is the calm response, protecting e4 again.} Bg5 {now has less bite after} 26. Rcd1 {for example} Bxd2 27. Qxd2 Qxc4 28. Be5 $14 {and Black has to be careful about the weakness on g7.}) 25... Bg5 26. f4 {weakening the pawn structure again, but I assessed that having the bishop pressuring me on the h6-c1 diagonal would be worse.} Be7 27. e5 $2 { a key error. As with the previous f2-f3 push, I was thinking safety first, but this cuts off my active play on the long diagonal, in exchange for nothing.} ( 27. exf5 {looks scary, exposing g2 again, but it is adequately defended. Good defense requires calculation and courage.} exf5 28. Kh1 $11) 27... Bc5+ $15 { not the most critical follow-up, however.} (27... Rfd8 $5 28. Kh1 Qa4 $17 { and Black once again threatens my underprotected queenside.}) 28. Kh1 Be3 { the bishop is safe here due to the mate threat on g2.} (28... Qa4 {is no longer is such a problem, since after} 29. Nb3 {the pawns are no longer hanging. Black can regain the c-pawn after some exchanges, but the threat is reduced.}) 29. Rf3 {an adequate defense.} (29. Bb4 $5 {is an interesting active defense. The point is less to target the Rf8, rather to get the bishop to a better square for blocking and countering Black's pieces.} Rfd8 30. Bd6 $11) 29... Bxd2 $11 {Black has nothing better, as this removes a key White defensive piece. However, it also results in opposite-colored bishops, which will be a key drawing factor later on.} 30. Bxd2 Qa4 {the a-pawn now falls and material equality is restored.} 31. Rfc3 Qxa2 $15 {Black has kept a bit of an edge, largely due to her better bishop on the long diagonal.} 32. R3c2 Qa4 33. Be3 {by this point I felt a lot better about my game, having emerged essentially unscathed from Black's pressure. My bishop is now more active and my queen and rooks are coordinating.} Rfd8 {activating the rook.} 34. h3 $6 { here I fail to find an adequate plan, or perhaps it is more the execution of it. The idea behind the move is to get the king out of the line of fire of the Ba8, but this allows Black to regain the initiative.} (34. Ra2 Qb3 $11) 34... Qc6 {choosing to renew the mate threat and penetrate on e4 with the queen, rather than the bishop.} (34... Be4 {would be more of a problem for me.} 35. Ra2 Qb3 36. Kh2) 35. Kh2 {this at least makes the g-pawn unpinned and mobile.} (35. Ra2 $5 {is Komodo's suggestion, with the point being that pressure is put on the a-pawn and White can also defend along the 3rd rank.} Rb8 (35... Qe4 36. Rc3 $11) 36. Ra3 {and there's a slight plus for Black but nothing major, it seems.}) 35... Qe4 36. Bb6 $6 {this would be a clever idea, except I missed my opponent's next respose.} (36. Rc3 {looks simplest, protecting the bishop and freeing up the queen to move.}) 36... Rd3 {now we see why in the earlier variation having my own rook on the 3rd rank was a good idea.} 37. Qxe4 { I did not see a better alternative.} (37. Qf2 {my queen is certainly not any better than Black's, so avoiding the trade doesn't look like it gains me anything. Having the queen and rook threatening to combine against White's king, along with the Q+B battery that is still pressuring the long diagonal, did not seem appetizing to me.}) 37... Bxe4 {the centralized bishop increases its power, but it is not decisive. Better would have been for me to get the Rc2 out of its line of fire and over to the a-file, to pressure Black's pawn.} 38. c5 {this looks like a natural move, protecting the Bb6 and advancing the passed pawn. At the same time, however, it blocks the bishop on the a7-g1 diagonal, limiting what it can do, and the pawn itself was not under real threat.} (38. Ra2 $5) 38... Rb3 39. Rc3 $2 {as often occurs, I was getting tired here and started slipping in terms of finding all of my opponent's threats in response to a move.} (39. Rd2 $142 $15 {would keep White in the game }) 39... Rb2 $1 $19 {now the g2 pawn cannot be defended with Rg3.} 40. Kg3 { nothing better.} (40. Rg3 $4 Rxb6 {and the Rc1 is hanging, preventing the recapture.}) 40... h6 {obviously intending ...g5 to follow up after capturing with the rook on g2, which would be devastating, but my king can get to h4 first.} (40... Rxg2+ 41. Kh4 $19) 41. Kh4 Rxg2 42. Rg3 $2 {defending against .. .g5, the best try I could find.} (42. c6 $5 $19) 42... Kh7 $2 {this lets me back in the game. My opponent was also rather tired after the long struggle.} ( 42... Rf2 $142 {ends the debate, states Komodo via the Fritz interface. The f-pawn now falls.}) 43. Rxg2 $17 Bxg2 {we're now in a pawn down R+B endgame with opposite colored bishops, so I felt that I had good chances to hold the draw.} 44. Kg3 Bd5 45. h4 Kg6 {correctly using her king actively and looking to penetrate.} 46. Ra1 {time to use my rook more actively as well.} Ra8 47. Ba5 (47. Rc1 $5 {would be less committal and keep the rook active and mobile.}) 47... Kh5 48. Bd2 $6 {I don't understand the importance of using the rook more and instead move the bishop to a worse square. I was too focused on trying to restrain ...g5, but this made my pieces less effective and more vulnerable.} Rc8 $19 (48... Rb8 {is even better, according to Komodo.} 49. Rxa6 Rb2 50. Be3 Re2 $19) 49. Be3 Bc4 {Black having given me a target, I finally move my rook.} (49... Rb8 $5 50. Rxa6 Rb3 51. Kf2 Kxh4 52. c6 Rb2+ 53. Ke1 $19) 50. Rc1 Bb5 { the bishop is a little less dominating here than on d5.} 51. Rd1 Rc6 $6 { it's a serious error to let my rook onto the 8th rank, where it can be much more effective.} (51... a5 $142 $5 $19) 52. Rd8 a5 {it now makes a big difference that my rook can get behind the pawn, and Black's bishop cannot cover the queening square.} 53. Ra8 a4 {too impatient. Now I spot the saving move.} (53... Ba6 $5 $17) 54. Ra5 $15 {my opponent missed this rather unusual rook fork, made possible by the pawn giving up its square.} Bc4 55. Rxa4 { we were both rather exhausted and the game should be a draw at this point, so I was happy with the result, while my opponent was rather disappointed.} 1/2-1/2

22 July 2020

Publishing games online using the ChessBase replayer

A question recently came up on the Chess.com forums about using Blogger with ChessBase to publish games; this blog switched to using the ChessBase online replayer back in 2018.

Since the instructions at the ChessBase site aren't quite step-by-step, I thought it was worth responding. It's worth noting that this doesn't require any ChessBase software, just a PGN file of the game, so anyone can use it to embed a game in a post.

Here's my answer reproduced:
If you're trying to use the ChessBase program's publish game feature, Blogger isn't going to work with it unless you host the game file separately and then link to it, which kind of defeats the purpose of using Blogger in the first place rather than your own web hosting solution. 
What does work in Blogger is the online ChessBase PGN publishing feature, which embeds the ChessBase game replayer in the post. I switched all of the pathtochessmastery.com published games to it back in 2018, you can take a look there if you want to see the results.
There are two things to do in Blogger to make the game replayer work. I'm still using the old Blogger interface, btw, so the new interface may be slightly different. 
1) In a post where you want to place a game, paste the PGN into the html view of the Create Post screen, wherever you want it to go. Then put
<div class="cbreplay">
right above the start of the PGN, and
</div>
at the end of it. If you post multiple games, do this only once, at the top and bottom of the entire group of PGNs. 
2) To enable the replayer function, do the below once for your blog.
Edit the html formatting for the blog by going to Design - Theme - Edit HTML button.
Towards the top of it (I put it around line 14 in mine) paste the following three lines and save/update
<link href='https://pgn.chessbase.com/CBReplay.css' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'/>
<script src='https://pgn.chessbase.com/jquery-3.0.0.min.js'/>
<script src='https://pgn.chessbase.com/cbreplay.js' type='text/javascript'/> 
Note that this is done via https, so make sure that is enabled by default in the Blogger settings.

15 July 2020

Annotated Game #247: Winning this game, again

This first-round win highlights a concept mentioned before on this blog as one of the keys to gaining playing strength (and rating points) - identifying, studying and exploiting common errors made by opponents in the opening systems you play. This means not just memorizing trappy lines, but understanding the fundamental characteristics of the positions into the early middlegame.

In this game, which features the 3...c5 variation of the Advance Caro-Kann, that key element is the struggle for the d4 square, which is occupied by a White pawn. If White is not careful, Black can pile on the pressure and end up a pawn. Through experience, I've seen how this situation can sneak up on White if they just ignore the potential problem. So essentially I've won this game before, by picking up the d-pawn while not allowing White any counterplay. This gives Black a comfortable strategic edge, if not quite an outright victory.

Here, White went down this oblivious path, missing a last chance on move 12 to avoid problems, although the necessary sequence (found by Komodo) is long, complicated, and unlikely to be calculated over-the-board. Of course obtaining an advantage doesn't mean that your opponent goes away, or that you can put your own play on autopilot. The final outcome required careful play from move 14 on, but at least was relatively simple.

It's worth highlighting that finding the most rapid way to a win is irrelevant to the outcome. It's better to keep the advantage in hand, snuff out any counterplay from your opponent in advance, and win easily, rather than try to always play "best" moves and win quickly. This is even the case when you are low on the clock, since calculating "best" moves accurately can actually take longer - especially if the variations are more complex and you need to be absolutely sure of them, rather than simply blunder-checking the "good enough" ones.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B12"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 13.2"] [PlyCount "94"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 {a secondary but still popular line of the Advance variation of the Caro-Kann, with the main one being ...Bf5.} 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. c3 Bg4 {the point of not previously playing ...e6 and locking in the bishop, which now can go to g4 with the pin on the Nf3. This is more important in this line than in some others, as there is a big fight for d4.} 6. Be2 e6 7. Be3 ({ Relevant:} 7. Nbd2 Rc8 8. O-O a6 9. h3 Bh5 10. Re1 Bg6 11. Nf1 cxd4 12. Nxd4 Nxd4 13. Qxd4 Ne7 14. Bg5 h6 15. Qa4+ Qd7 16. Qxd7+ Kxd7 17. Be3 Nf5 18. Bf4 Bc5 19. Rad1 Rhd8 20. g4 Ne7 21. Be3 Ke8 22. Bxc5 Rxc5 23. Ne3 Bh7 24. f4 g5 25. Ng2 Be4 26. Bd3 Bxg2 27. Kxg2 gxf4 28. Kf3 d4 29. cxd4 Rxd4 30. Bb5+ Rxb5 31. Rxd4 Ng6 32. b4 a5 33. a4 Rxb4 34. Rxb4 axb4 35. Re4 b3 36. Rb4 Nxe5+ { Yuffa,D (2534)-Romanov,E (2619) Sochi 2016 0-1}) 7... Nge7 {ignoring the c-pawn in favor of development.} 8. h3 Bxf3 {removing a defender of d4 and not wasting time with the bishop by retreating.} 9. Bxf3 Nf5 {increasing the pressure on d4 and clearing the diagonal for the Bf8. Although the c-pawn is still hanging, capturing it would lose the e-pawn for White.} 10. O-O cxd4 { it is sometimes difficult to understand at what point it is best to exchange the pawns or keep the tension. Here Komodo evaluates the text move as equal for Black, favoring increasing the pressure with ...Qb6.} (10... Qb6 $5 { targeting both d4 and b2, which guarantees Black the pawn. Notice that the Nb1 cannot participate in the fight, unlike after the pawn exchange on d4.}) 11. cxd4 Qb6 {now White has a single way to stay level, with Nc3. The sequence is not obvious, however.} 12. Qd2 $2 (12. Nc3 Ncxd4 13. Bxd4 Nxd4 14. Qa4+ Nc6 15. Bxd5 {regains the pawn, in a very non-obvious way, as White has compensation if the bishop is captured.} exd5 16. Nxd5 Qd8 17. Rad1 Be7 18. Qb5 Rb8 19. Nf6+ Bxf6 20. exf6 (20. Rxd8+ Bxd8 $15) 20... Qxf6 21. Qc5 $11) 12... Ncxd4 { I thought here for a while to make sure the correct knight was being used.} ( 12... Nfxd4 {is inferior, for example} 13. Bh5 Qb4 14. Nc3 Nf5 15. Bf4 $17 { and compared with the game continuation, White retains the two bishops and is better developed.}) 13. Bd1 {now Black no longer has the ...Nxf3 tactical resource, so it's time to trade off the pinning bishop.} Nxe3 14. fxe3 { the trade-off is opening the f-file for White's rook versus creating a weak, doubled e3 pawn.} Nc6 $19 {at this point I judged that Black has a strategically won game, being up a pawn and with White's pawn structure shattered in the center. I still have to watch things like the weak f7 square though.} 15. Nc3 Bc5 {targeting the weak e3 pawn.} 16. Re1 O-O {I thought about taking the e5 pawn, but thought that improving king safety and dynamic play would be better than pawn snatching. Komodo agrees.} (16... Nxe5 17. Ba4+ Ke7 {is still winning but gives White extra chances, or at least hopes.}) 17. Rc1 d4 {I judged that the pawn advance would force the issue in the center and open it to my benefit. White's next move had to be taken into account, though.} (17... Nxe5 $5 {might be a simpler path, now that there is no downside to the capture.}) 18. Na4 Bb4 (18... Qb4 {is the other possibility.}) 19. Qc2 { not the best square for the queen, but White is lost anyway at this point.} ( 19. Nxb6 $6 Bxd2 20. Nxa8 Bxc1 {and I should pick up more material.}) (19. Qe2) 19... Qa5 20. Re2 dxe3 21. Qe4 {this was unexpected. I decided to take the opportunity to simplify.} Qxe5 22. Rxe3 {my opponent evidently thought this was a clever intermediate move before capturing the queen, but I have one too.. .} Bd2 {the bishop fork stays valid after the queen exchange on e5.} 23. Qxe5 Nxe5 24. Rxe5 Bxc1 {the extra exchange now seals the game, as my technique is sufficient to win.} 25. Bf3 Rad8 {favoring rook mobility over trying to hold onto the pawn.} 26. Bxb7 Rd1+ 27. Kf2 Rfd8 (27... Bxb2 $5 28. Nxb2 Rd2+ 29. Ke3 Rxb2) 28. Bf3 R1d2+ 29. Ke1 Bxb2 30. Nxb2 Rxb2 {now with a two-pawn and exchange material advantage and no White counterplay, it really is a matter of technique.} 31. Ra5 Rdd2 {being careful here, to calculate avoiding any back-rank issues.} 32. Rxa7 Rxa2 33. Rb7 g6 34. Rb1 Kg7 35. Kf1 Ra7 36. Re1 Rda2 37. Re3 Rc7 38. Kg1 h5 39. Kh2 Re7 {perhaps not the fastest plan, but the idea is simply to get a rook behind the passed e-pawn and push the pawn majority up the board.} 40. Kg3 Ra5 41. Re4 f5 42. Re1 e5 43. Re2 e4 44. Re3 Rd7 45. Be2 Rd2 46. Kf4 Kf6 47. h4 Raa2 0-1

02 July 2020

Training quote of the day #31: Kayden Troff

From GM Kayden Troff's blog "The Ongoing Life of Chess":

Be Honest with Yourself

This may be something you don’t really think about when it comes to improving in chess, but I think we all (especially chess players) have a tendency to overstate our mistakes or try to ignore them. We need a good in-between, which is honesty. Now the obvious question is why is that important? Well, I think of it as fixing a hole in a tire or fixing a leak in the pipes in your house. You can’t really do anything until you actually locate where the problem is. But once you do then you can decide the measures you need to take to fix the problem. And it is the same in chess. To fix the things you need to fix you first need to understand what you need to fix. And that is where honesty comes in. When you are honest and objective about the mistakes you are making then you are identifying the problem and thus one step closer to fixing it. Sometimes it is difficult to identify the problem yourself and that is where outside assistance comes in, but even then you have to be honest and humble in being able to say whether or not someone’s suggestion of what you need to work on is a correct suggestion. Honesty is not just accepting it, but it is not just rejecting it.

Full post: https://www.chess.com/blog/Troffy/the-road-is-not-the-same-for-everyone