27 January 2013

Double My Egg Nog (single serving) results

I now present the results from the first (and only) round of the chess blogger Double My Egg Nog tourney, as Annotated Games 80 and 81.  The tournament unfortunately was cut short due to real-life issues faced by some of the players.  The first game against Rocky Rook you can also check out from his perspective.  Early on, I could have obtained a better opening by switching to a Stonewall structure, but essentially I was doing OK against Rocky's Colle System until the miscalculation with 19...Ne4 which forcibly loses a pawn.  (An eerily similar mistake was documented in Annotated Game #78).  A much more tactical game then results, as I try to gain compensation for the pawn; in fact, I miss a winning tactic with a deflection/back-rank theme on move 24.  After some ups and downs, I could have in the end held the draw a pawn down, but was over-optimistic about trapping White's rook, which threatens to wreak devastation on Black's pawns instead and I resign.

In the second game, Robert Pearson tries to avoid my known openings with 1. Nc3!? but nonetheless ends up in a structure very similar to a Caro-Kann, which I felt comfortable enough playing.  Some of the opening problems posed were different, however, and I was able to identify some key improvements for my play during analysis.  After both sides castle queenside, the fireworks start when Robert speculatively offers a pawn sacrifice on move 13, which I eventually end up taking on move 15.  White then had a possible sequence to get to an equal but unbalanced material situation (queen vs. two rooks) but opted to play more conventionally.  However, White's next moves essentially help Black shift his pieces into better positions and then launch his own attack on White's more exposed king.  The threatened rook sacrifice by White on the a-file would have led to mate, but he never had the chance to carry out the threat, as Black crashed through and chased the king into a mating net.  A fun and dynamic game.

Annotated Game #80
[Event "rated standard match"] [Site "Free Internet Chess Server"] [Date "2013.01.05"] [Round "?"] [White "RockyRook"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D04"] [WhiteElo "1662"] [BlackElo "1666"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "89"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] {D04: Colle System} 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e3 Bf5 4. Bd3 Bxd3 5. Qxd3 c6 { avoiding the issues with Qb5+} 6. b3 e6 7. O-O Nbd7 8. c4 Be7 (8... Bd6 { is the most popular move.} 9. c5 Bc7) (8... Ne4 {is the "hottest" move according to the database and goes for a Stonewall setup, something I considered over the next couple of moves. Here's a high-level example:} 9. Nfd2 f5 10. f3 Nxd2 11. Nxd2 Bd6 12. e4 Qh4 13. g3 Bxg3 14. hxg3 Qxg3+ 15. Kh1 Qh3+ 16. Kg1 Qg3+ {1/2-1/2 (16) Aleksandrov,A (2601)-Caruana,F (2680) Rijeka 2010}) 9. c5 {This push gains space, notes Houdini via the Fritz interface, but I don't think it does White any favors. No games in the database have it.} (9. Nbd2 O-O $11) 9... O-O 10. Nc3 {puts an end to thoughts of ...Ne4.} a5 { played in order to restrain b4. The immediate ...b6 is perhaps better.} 11. a4 (11. Na4 {is a possibility here, but White instead wants to use his knight on the kingside.}) 11... b6 {Black decides to attack the head of the pawn chain and focus on queenside play.} 12. cxb6 Qxb6 13. Ba3 {evidently the idea behind the a4 push.} Bxa3 14. Rxa3 Qb4 {Black's idea is to take advantage of the holes on the queenside.} 15. Rfa1 {I was pleased to see both of White's rooks occupied doing nothing useful on the a-file.} (15. Raa1 {is Houdini's recommendation.} Qxb3 16. Rfb1 Qc4 17. Qxc4 dxc4 $11 {Black's extra pawn is only temporary.}) 15... Rfc8 16. Ne2 Rab8 17. Nd2 Rc7 {unnecessary and slow.} ( 17... c5 18. R3a2 $15 cxd4 19. Qxd4 Qxd4 20. Nxd4 Ne5 {looks good for Black. The backward b-pawn will be a constant weakness for White.}) 18. R3a2 $11 Rcb7 19. Rc2 Ne4 {my first miscalculation, as the back-rank threat is still covered afterwards by White.} (19... Rc8 20. Rac1 $11) 20. Nxe4 $14 dxe4 21. Qxe4 c5 { I decided to go for complications here, since I didn't see any prospects after taking the pawn, although according to Houdini it was objectively best.} (21... Qxb3 22. Qxc6 Rb6 {I did not see this move during calculation, which would have held things together and ejected the queen. Qxd7 is not possible since that would leave the Rc2 hanging.} 23. Qc3 $14) 22. Rc4 {lets Black off the hook.} (22. Rac1 $5 $16 {and if} Qxb3 23. dxc5 {gives White a dominating position, although he still has to watch for back-rank ideas.}) 22... Qxb3 $11 23. dxc5 Qb2 {at this point I was feeling rather desperate, with the White c-pawn threatening ot advance, but Houdini shows an equal evaluation.} 24. Re1 $4 {with this move White loses his initiative} (24. Rcc1 Nxc5 25. Qc4 $11 Rc7) 24... Qd2 $4 {instead of simply winning the game, comments Houdini. There is a reasonably simple deflection motif here, based on the back-rank threat. However, I failed to re-evaluate the calculation of ...Rb1+, which did not work before due to the possibility of White blocking with Rc1. With both the Ne2 gone and the rook on e2, the tactic would now work.} (24... Qxe2 $1 25. Rcc1 (25. Rxe2 Rb1+) 25... Qa6 $19 {and Black is winning, for example} 26. c6 $2 Nf6) 25. Kf1 $16 {after this White has a won game.} Nf6 (25... Rb4 26. c6 Nf6 27. Rxb4 Qxb4 28. Qd3 $16) 26. Qc2 (26. Qd4 Rd7 27. Qxd2 Rxd2 $16) 26... Rb2 {deciding to try for activity on the 2nd rank, but leaving Black's 8th rank defenses weak.} (26... Qxc2 27. Rxc2 Rc8 28. c6 $16 Rbc7 {looks like a better practical try.}) 27. Qxd2 Rxd2 28. c6 Nd5 $2 {a blunder in a bad position, says Houdini.} (28... Ne8 $16) 29. Nd4 (29. c7 {forces things more effectively.} Rc8 30. Rb1 $18 Nb4 (30... Nxc7 $2 31. Rxc7) 31. Nd4 Kf8 32. Nb5 Ke7 33. Rbc1 {and now nothing can stop Na7.}) 29... Rbb2 30. Ne2 Nc7 31. Rd4 $16 Kf8 32. Rxd2 Rxd2 33. Rb1 Ke7 (33... e5 {would take the d4 square away from the knight.}) 34. Ke1 (34. Nd4 e5 35. Nb5 Ne6 $16) 34... Rc2 35. Nd4 Rc4 36. Nb5 $6 {Black should be able to draw after this.} (36. Rb7 Kd8 {was what I was expecting.}) 36... Rxc6 37. Nxc7 Rxc7 38. Rb5 Kd6 {too aggressive. I incorrectly thought that the White rook could be controlled and the a4 pawn won in exchange.} (38... Ra7 {is a defense that should hold without a real problem.}) 39. Rxa5 Kc6 40. Ke2 Kb6 41. Rb5+ Ka6 42. f4 Rc2+ {the final miscalculation.} 43. Kf3 Ra2 $2 44. Rb8 $18 Ka7 {should have been played earlier.} (44... Rxa4 {was my original intention, but Black is now lost due to his undefended kingside pawns. For example} 45. Rf8 f6 46. Rf7 e5 47. Rxg7 exf4 48. exf4 h5 49. Rg6 {and Black's material losses will be fatal.}) 45. Rf8 1-0

Annotated Game #81
[Event "rated standard match"] [Site "Free Internet Chess Server"] [Date "2013.01.06"] [Round "?"] [White "RLP"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D01"] [WhiteElo "1701"] [BlackElo "1594"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Houdini"] [PlyCount "58"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] {D01: Veresov Opening} 1. Nc3 d5 {avoiding possible transpositions to double king pawn openings (...e5) or the Sicilian (after ...c5)} 2. d4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Bg4 (4... Bf5 {would be more in the spirit of a Slav defense. For example} 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 e6 7. e4 dxe4 8. Bxe4 Bxe4 9. Nxe4 Qb6 10. Bxf6 Nxf6 11. Nxf6+ gxf6 12. O-O Qxb2 13. Rb1 Qxa2 14. Rxb7 Qd5 15. Qd3 Bh6 16. c4 Qd6 17. Re1 O-O 18. Re4 Rfb8 19. Rxb8+ {Gausel,E (2325)-Moen,O (2285) Gausdal 1985 0-1 (36)}) 5. Qd3 $146 {out of the database on move 5! Done in preparation for queenside castling.} (5. Ne5 $5 {is how the majority of the handful of games in the database went.}) 5... Nbd7 {the knight essentially has to be developed to d7 anyway, plus it protects f6 again.} 6. e4 dxe4 7. Nxe4 {the position now has a structure similar to a Caro-Kann.} h6 {not the best solution, as driving back the bishop will give it a protected base at g3.} (7... e6) 8. Bh4 (8. Bxf6 {is Houdini's preference.} exf6 {taking the e5 square away from White's knight is important, as it could otherwise hop in after ...Nxf6.} 9. Qe3 Qa5+ 10. Nc3+ Be7 $11) 8... Qb6 {targeting b2 and developing to the queenside, in anticipation of White's next move.} (8... g5 {was a consideration here as well, but I thought it would leave Black's position too loose.} 9. Nxf6+ Nxf6 10. Bg3 Bg7 {would produce a very different type of game.}) (8... e6 {is the solid option, again.}) 9. O-O-O {White has an active position} O-O-O {Black typically also castles queenside in analagous Caro-Kann positions, as White's pieces otherwise have a strong kingside attack.} 10. Nxf6 exf6 {I wanted to reserve the knight for possible support of c5 and also to prevent Whtie playing Ne5 in the future.} 11. h3 {this seems like a tempo loss, just helping Black redeploy his bishop to target the queenside.} (11. Bg3 Be6 $11) 11... Be6 12. c4 {White starts getting threats rolling on the queenside. Black now has to take into consideration threats of both d5 and c5 pawn advances.} Qa6 { I thought for a whille on the best position for the queen, a6 or a5. Houdini prefers a5.} (12... Qa5 13. Qb3 g5 14. Bg3 f5 15. Kb1 f4 16. Bh2 Bg7 {looks pretty good for Black.}) 13. Qc3 $2 {this pawn sacrifice turns out to be dubious, but this wasn't clear immediately.} (13. Kb1 Nb6 14. b3 Qa5 $11) 13... Kb8 $6 {here I didn't take the a2 pawn, worried about the initiative White might get if I went pawn snatching. However, Black should go ahead and take it. } (13... Qxa2 14. Bd3 {nothing better} Nb6 {and now} 15. d5 {doesn't work because of} ({nor does} 15. Kc2) 15... Na4 {which is a key move in a number of variations (that I did not see at the time).} 16. Bb1 (16. Qc2 Nxb2 17. Qxb2 Ba3) 16... Nxc3 17. Bxa2 Nxa2+) 14. Bg3+ Ka8 15. Bd3 {a sensible developing move, but White misses his chance to force the issue in the center.} (15. d5 Bf5 16. dxc6 bxc6 $14 (16... Qxc6 $2 17. Nd4 Qc5 18. Nxf5 Qxf5 19. Be2 $18)) 15... Qxa2 $11 {I finally decide the pawn is worth having, not seeing a forcing continuation for White leading to an advantage.} 16. Nd2 {if White intended to take the initiative for the pawn, he should have immediately threatened to trap the queen with a subsequent Ra1, which in any case would give White the a-file.} (16. Kd2 Nb6 17. Ra1 Nxc4+ 18. Bxc4 Qxc4 19. Rxa7+ { we will see this idea later in the actual game} Kxa7 20. Ra1+ Qa6 21. Rxa6+ bxa6 22. Qxc6 Bb4+ 23. Kd3 $11) 16... Nb6 $17 {increases the pressure on c4 and makes the knight more active.} 17. Bb1 (17. Bc7 $5 {was a possibility I had considered.} Qa1+ 18. Kc2 Qa4+ 19. Qb3 Qxb3+ 20. Nxb3 Rd7 $15) 17... Qa4 18. c5 {this appears to simply improve Black's position, but the c-pawn otherwise would be difficult to protect. White's forces are tangled up on the kingside and his king position has holes in it which the Black queen and light-square bishop can expoit.} Nd5 19. Qf3 $2 (19. Qb3 Qxb3 (19... Qxd4 $2 { doesn't work here, since the Black queen cannot escape along the 4th rank.} 20. Ne4) 20. Nxb3 b6 $17) 19... Nb4 $6 {Houdini prefers to go ahead and take on d4. I had thought White would gain some extra activity and it would not be worth it. However:} (19... Qxd4 $5 20. Nb3 Qc4+ 21. Qc3 $19 {and Black is two pawns up with no evident compensation for White.}) 20. Ne4 {White continues to pass up chances to play more defensively and exchange queens. An exchange would make sense because Black's queen is much more active and has mate threats, while White's queen threatens comparatively little. However, this would essentially doom White to a defensive struggle, which my opponent evidently was not interested in.} (20. Qa3 Qxa3 21. bxa3 Nd5 $17) 20... Na2+ (20... Bb3 { I had thought about this move, which Houdini prefers, but wasn't able to see a concrete way to make progress afterwards. It would make Black's subsequent threats more potent.} 21. Rd2 (21. Nc3 Qa1 $19) (21. Rde1 Bc2 22. Nc3 Qa1) 21... Na2+ 22. Bxa2 Qxa2) 21. Bxa2 $17 Qxa2 22. Nc3 (22. Qa3 $5 $17) 22... Qc4 23. Qe3 {not the ideal square, as we'll soon see.} (23. Qe4 {would cover f5 and keep the queen on the more valuable h1-a8 diagonal.} Be7 $17) 23... g5 { I knew at this point it was critical for Black to activate the dark-square bishop or at minimum get it out of the way of the rooks. This was played with the idea of an eventual ...f5, giving the bishop the long diagonal.} (23... Be7 $19 {was the simpler way to get the bishop out and connect the rooks.}) 24. Kc2 $2 {this loses by prematurely exposing the king. At the time I thought Robert must have missed the possibility of ...Bf5.} (24. h4 Rg8 $17) 24... Bg7 $17 { I was still fixated on getting the bishop out.} (24... Bf5+ {could have been played immediately.} 25. Kc1 Qa6 {with the threat of ...Qa1+}) 25. Ra1 $2 { Houdini gives this a question mark, but it is perhaps the best practical chance for White at this point, threatening mate with a rook sac on a7.} (25. Kc1 $5 $17) 25... Bf5+ $19 {Black spots the sac and doesn't give White the time to execute it.} 26. Kd2 (26. Kc1 Rxd4 27. Rd1 Rxd1+ 28. Kxd1 $19) 26... Rxd4+ {after this breakthrough, White's position is hopeless.} 27. Qxd4 Qxd4+ 28. Ke2 Re8+ (28... Qd3+ 29. Ke1 Re8+ 30. Be5 Rxe5+ 31. Ne4 Rxe4#) 29. Kf3 (29. Kf1 $19 {praying for a miracle}) 29... g4+ {I saw this mate and went for it.} ( 29... g4+ 30. hxg4 Bxg4#) (29... Qd3#) 0-1

20 January 2013

How Carlsen makes us feel better about chess II

As with the previous post on Carlsen's attitude, I'd like to briefly comment on what Carlsen's approach offers the Class player.  In this case, the reference is the GM Daniel King commentary from round 6 of the 2013 Tata Steel (Wijk aan Zee) tournament presenting Magnus Carlsen's win over Ivan Sokolov.

The basic strategy Carlsen followed was simply to get a playable position in his game as White, in this case a relatively quiet line of the Ruy Lopez (aka Spanish Game).  The most striking aspect to me was Carlsen's understanding of the position and what possibilities it gave him on the board, along with the necessary patience to wait for his opponent to go wrong.  This was the secret to his success in this game, rather than Kasparov-style cutting edge opening preparation intended to overpower his opponent.  The full commentary is well worth reviewing, as Daniel King explains the key ideas at every turn, which I found understandable.  Carlsen's own post on the game makes a good counterpoint to it, with an objective and critical (including self-critical) summary of key points.

I am a fan of opening study and this game by Carlsen demonstrates the powerful idea that one should have a deep understanding of one's opening repertoire and the core ideas and requirements of the middlegame positions that result, rather than being "booked up" on memorized lines or having to play sharp, tactical openings to obtain winning chances.  In this case, even a Class player can follow the thread of the game and see how key positional goals were identified and executed, with a final tactical flourish.

While this is an example of top-level chess, I feel that Carlsen's basic approach is well worth emulating by the improving player.

19 January 2013

Annotated Game #79: Happy just to finish the tournament

This was the last round of the tournament and was a fitting end to a rather poor series of games.  At least this time I secured a draw, rather than losing, although in the final position I accepted a draw after a poor move by my opponent.  Psychological factors often come into play in the timing of draw offers and acceptances; in this case, I had been forced to defend an inferior position for a significant amount of time and was happy to take the draw.

Some key points from analysis:
  • White's attempt to get Black out of book on move 3 was ill-advised; an inferior move like that offers no practical benefit in exchange for its weaknesses.
  • Black could have played the more challenging 6...Bg4 (and I probably will the next time I'm in a similar position).
  • Houdini validates the active 12...e5 for Black, striking in the center with White's king still there.
  • Unfortunately the bishop retreat soon after on move 15 invalidates this strategy and puts Black in a hole for the rest of the game.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D04"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "63"] [EventDate "2006.??.??"] {D02:1 d4 d5 2 Nf sidelines, including 2...Nf6 3 g3 and 2...Nf6 3 Bf4} 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nbd2 $6 {apparently done to avoid any book knowledge by Black, more than anything. It blocks in the Bc1 and contributes little in compensation to White's development.} Bf5 {Black scores over 60 percent with this move.} 4. e3 e6 5. a3 Bd6 6. Nh4 {now out of the database, although it's a logical enough move, seeking to exchange the Bf5 and develop the other knight more usefully.} Be4 (6... Bg4 {is a little more challenging.}) 7. Nxe4 Nxe4 {the idea behind the previous move, to establish a strong central knight or force White to make concessions in his own position to remove it.} 8. Nf3 ( 8. Qg4 {would be an aggressive way to protect the knight, but White doesn't have enough going on the kingside to make it a real threat.} Qf6 {would be a simple way to defuse the situation.} (8... g5 {would also work tactically:} 9. Nf3 $2 h5 {and the queen is trapped.})) 8... Nd7 9. Nd2 Ndf6 10. Bd3 O-O 11. Qf3 Nxd2 12. Bxd2 e5 {the correct decision, according to Houdini. Black strikes in the center while White still needs to take time to castle.} 13. dxe5 Bxe5 14. O-O-O c6 {deciding to stay solid in the center, supporting d5.} 15. Qf5 (15. Kb1 {would be more prudent, vacating the square and allowing the defensive move Bc1.}) 15... Bd6 $6 {this one move hands White the initiative and puts Black in a positional hole, by abandoning the a1-h8 diagonal.} (15... Re8 {would develop the rook and maintain the bishop on the diagonal.}) 16. Bc3 $14 Qd7 $6 (16... Re8 $5 17. Bxf6 Qxf6 18. Qxh7+ Kf8 $14 {would leave Black with at least some counterchances for the pawn.}) 17. Bxf6 $16 Qxf5 18. Bxf5 gxf6 {Black has material equality, but the shattered king position affords White long-term benefits and the initiative. Houdini assesses the position as the equivalent of Black being a pawn down.} 19. Rd4 (19. c4 $5) 19... h6 20. Kb1 (20. c4 Be5 21. Rg4+ Kh8 22. cxd5 cxd5 $16) 20... Be5 (20... Rfe8 {would at least get the rook into play, instead of leaving it dead on f8.}) 21. Rh4 Kg7 22. Rg4+ Kh8 23. f4 $6 {this cuts the Rg4 off from the queenside, limiting its usefulness and helping reduce the threats to Black.} Bd6 24. Rd1 Bc5 { pointing out the other weakness of f4, leaving behind a weak e-pawn.} 25. Rd3 Rg8 26. Rh4 Bf8 $6 {a poor decision, limiting Black's piece activity. In a rook ending, activity is key.} (26... Kg7 {would be a better defensive move.}) (26... Rxg2 {is the most active alternative.} 27. Rxh6+ Kg7 28. Rh7+ Kf8) 27. g4 (27. e4 dxe4 28. Bxe4 Re8 29. Bf3 Re7 {would leave Black in a more difficult position.}) 27... Re8 {preventing further thoughts of e4.} 28. Rb3 Kg7 $2 (28... Re7 29. Bc8 b6 30. Bf5 $14) 29. Rh3 $6 (29. Bd7 $1 {and a combination of interference and pinning themes would allow White to win a pawn. } Re7 (29... Rb8 30. Bxc6) (29... Re4 30. Rxb7 Rxe3 31. Rxa7) 30. Rxb7) 29... Bc5 $6 30. Kc1 {missing the tactical continuation.} (30. Rxb7 Bxe3 31. Bd7 Re7 32. Bxc6 $14) 30... Re7 $11 {now Black protects against all of White's threats. } 31. Kd2 Rge8 {The pressure on the backward pawn e3 grows, notes Fritz.} 32. g5 $4 {among the various equal moves available, White picks a poor one and then offers a draw, which I unfortunately accepted. Capturing with the f-pawn would simply leave Black a pawn up after the exchange, with no real threats from White, which however I didn't see at the time.} 1/2-1/2

16 January 2013

Auto-analytics for Chess

I recently had some time on a plane to catch up on my journal reading and ran across an article on auto-analytics from the Harvard Business Review.  Auto-analytics is defined as the practice of voluntarily collecting and analyzing data about oneself in order to improve.  As the article notes, "athletes have long used visual and advanced statistical analysis to ratchet up their performance" and then goes on to discuss its applications to the workplace.  Here, of course, I'm more interested in its usefulness for the chess player.

Chess is a natural fit for the discipline, especially in the modern era of database software, as each player can easily store their own games in a personal database for subsequent review and analysis.  Analyzing your own games, which I believe should be a central practice of the improving player, should probably be considered as part of the analytics process, since it reveals in-depth your strengths, weaknesses, and specific patterns of errors.  (One recent example of the last category was the repeated miscalculation of the ...Ne4 move that I uncovered, first seen in a Colle System structure from Annotated Game #78.)

Auto-analytics is more generally applicable to examining patterns of personal data to see what they reveal about your performance and behavior.  Simply arranging and presenting the data can often be useful, as they will almost always highlight areas of particular importance that you were not aware of.

Let's look at a simple set of categories, using my own (200+) games database as an example, accompanied by my best explanations and observations regarding the results.  A couple of minor surprises appear, along with some clear indications for where I should best concentrate my study and improvement efforts to have the most impact on my overall performance.  Any player using computer chess resources should similarly be able to generate their own set of results.

Cumulative Score 
Wins: 37.1%
Draws: 28.2%
Losses: 34.7%
Average rating of opponents: +22 Elo higher than me
It's nice to have a small overall plus for my career, but the most revealing statistic for me is the 28% draw rate.  This is in fact below my original impression - I might have guessed at least 35% - and I would consider it as reasonable, not worryingly high.  (A high draw rate at the Class level can be a problem for the improving player, often a sign of over-emphasizing safety over winning chances.)  I usually prefer to play in higher-rated sections or in open tournaments, which is reflected in the fact that my opponents have on average been rated slightly higher.
As White

Wins: 38.4%
Draws: 29.3%
Losses: 32.3%
A significant plus that is greater than the average expected plus for White.  Reflects well on my choice of the English Opening (although see below).
As Black

Wins: 35.9%
Draws: 27.2%
Losses: 36.9%
A small overall minus, indicating that I should pay greater attention to my openings and overall play as Black, if I want to have a more significant improvement of my winning percentage and therefore my overall performance.
Game length
Mode: 29 moves (White: 36 and 39, Black: 29)
Mean: 39 moves (White: 40, Black: 38)
Range: 11-76 moves
I am almost never "busted" in the opening phase of the game, so unless my opponent makes an early mistake, the game is likely to be around 40 moves.  (The mode shows that a shorter game will occur with some frequency, however.)  In any case, I should not expect quick results and should have the patience to settle in for a long middlegame and possibly endgame struggle.
Openings highlights (and lowlights) by ECO code
As White
A16: 50% (7 games) - notable for its frequency, if not its result.
A17: 62% (4 games) - closely allied to A16, with Nimzo-English or Queen's Indian type setups. Overall, a strong score.
A28: 38% (9 games) - the opening (English Four Knights) is normally played well, but I have often stumbled in the subsequent middlegame.

As Black
A00: 100% (2 games) - I do well when faced with irregular openings; they do not throw me simply because they are out of my personal book.
B18: 41% (12 games) - a disappointing result in the Caro-Kann Classical, although this is mostly due to middlegame problems rather than weak opening play.
C02: 0% (2 games) - my particularly bad losses in the Advance Caro-Kann are classified officially as an Advance French opening, which is what they transposed into (a tempo down).
D10: 58% (6 games) - the basic Slav Defense is a real winner for me.

14 January 2013

Double My Egg Nog - halfway done

Although it now has a New Year's holiday theme rather than Christmas, the Double My Egg Nog tourney is now half over, with the first set of games against Rocky Rook and Robert Pearson completed.  By the end of the month, the second set (with colors reversed) should be finished.  I intend to post back-to-back game analysis for each player (double the fun!) once the games are complete.  (Unfortunately, our third player Tim dropped out incommunicado.)

In the meantime, Rocky Rook has our first game posted, which was a see-saw battle where I missed a tactical win and went on to lose.  I look forward to the rematch, let's just say.

06 January 2013

Annotated Game #78: Chess is 99% Calculation

This fourth-round tournament game continued my woes and ended rather quickly due to a calculation mistake.  Eerily I made a very similar mistake in yesterday's game against Rocky Rook during our first game of the Double My Egg Nog tourney, involving a miscalculation that dropped a pawn after ...Ne4 (see move 17 in this game).  Had I fully analyzed this game beforehand, I probably could have avoided that mistake.  Losing twice in that manner should be incentive enough to avoid doing so again, however.

The opening is similar to the Colle that made an appearance in Annotated Game #75 (and in the Rocky Rook game).  White, rather than going for the b-pawn on move 6, instead transposes into a Stonewall Attack formation.  White's early unusual move order choices (2. c3 and 3. e3) indicated that was a strong possibility from the start.  Black has no troubles in the opening, despite helping White's cause by prematurely exchanging pawns on d4 and then trading off White's bad dark-square bishop.  It's pretty obvious from these moves that I had no idea at the time how to play a Stonewall formation.  Nevertheless, Black was equal coming out of the opening.

It's the early middlegame where Black's lack of understanding becomes even more obvious and hurtful.  Pieces are moved incoherently and there is no real plan.  Had White been more quick to exploit this, he could have had an excellent game, for example with 17. Rc7.  However, it wasn't good play by White, but rather a miscalculation by Black that ends the game, in the sequence starting with 17...Ne4.

This game is an excellent example of where it's not enough to see a tactical theme, one must calculate and visualize its consequences.  The saying that Chess is 99% tactics isn't quite true; it's 99% calculation.  Black in this case wasn't forced into the sequence; rather, it was chosen based on faulty calculation and judgment (why do it at all?)  A good lesson for the future, both for this particular middlegame structure and in general.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class B"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D00"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "2006.??.??"] {D00:1 d4 d5: Unusual lines} 1. d4 d5 2. c3 Nf6 3. e3 {one way to get to a Stonewall Attack type formation.} Bf5 4. Bd3 Bxd3 5. Qxd3 e6 $146 {as pointed out in Annotated Game 75 in a similar position, this involves a pawn sacrifice if White follows with Qb5+. Black scores well with the other two main moves, for example:} (5... Nbd7 6. Nf3 e6 7. Nbd2 c5 8. O-O cxd4 9. exd4 Bd6 10. Re1 O-O 11. Ne5 Qb8 12. f4 b5 13. Re3 Rc8 14. Rh3 Nf8 15. g4 Bxe5 16. fxe5 Nxg4 17. Nf3 f6 18. Bf4 Ng6 19. Bg3 Qb6 20. exf6 {Prymula,R-Jirovsky,M/CSR 1990/EXT 2002/0-1 (40)}) (5... c6 6. Nd2 Nbd7 7. f4 e6 8. Ngf3 Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. Kh1 Rc8 11. g3 c5 12. h3 c4 13. Qc2 b5 14. a3 a5 15. g4 b4 16. Rg1 b3 17. Qb1 g6 18. Rg2 Qc7 19. g5 Nh5 20. Nf1 {Nykanen,O-Hodokainen,J/Mikkeli 1998/EXT 2000/ 0-1 (59)}) 6. f4 (6. Qb5+ $5 {is noteworthy, says Fritz.} Nbd7 7. Qxb7 $11 { Nonetheless Black's better development and piece activity will compensate for the pawn.}) 6... c5 7. Nf3 {Now the Stonewall Attack formation has appeared.} cxd4 {typical amateur move, Black is in a rush to release the tension. Further development with Bd6 or Nc6 would be better.} 8. cxd4 Bb4+ {Black helps White here by exchanging off White's bad bishop.} 9. Bd2 Bxd2+ 10. Nbxd2 O-O 11. O-O Re8 {poor developing move, as what exactly is the rook going to do on the e-file?} 12. Rac1 Nbd7 {this isn't bad, but putting the knight on c6 would have been a little more active placement.} 13. Rc2 (13. Ne5 {if White is going to play the Stonewall Attack, he really should go for this move, which thematically uses the e5 outpost.}) 13... Rc8 14. Rfc1 Rxc2 15. Rxc2 Qa5 { this starts an unsupported, unproductive demonstration against White's position by the queen. The better plan would be to clear the c-file immediately, for example with Qb8 followed by Rc8.} 16. a3 Qa4 17. h3 (17. Rc7 {would punish Black for his inattention to the c-file.}) 17... Ne4 $2 {this simply loses a pawn, due to miscalculation of the following sequence.} (17... Nb6 $142 $5 $14 {is a viable option, notes Fritz.}) 18. Nxe4 $16 dxe4 19. Qxe4 Nf6 20. Qd3 Nd5 {I had seen things to this point and thought that Black would be able to recover the pawn by force.} 21. Ng5 h6 22. Ne4 Nxe3 $2 {the key miscalculation. The deflection theme was there, of course, but I simply overlooked the blocking move with threat to the queen.} 23. b3 $18 1-0