02 April 2019

Training quote of the day #23

From Mark Dvoretsky's Recognizing Your Opponent's Resources:
Your opponent also has a right to exist - Savielly Tartakower remarked with his characteristic irony. Absorbed in our own thoughts, we sometimes forget this, for which we have to pay dearly. As Viktor Kortchnoi wrote, Well, if you do not check what your opponent is doing, you will end up complaining about bad luck every game. No chessplayer has managed to completely exclude this kind of mistake, but some make it less often and others more often. Many who are over-self-confident optimists make it with unenviable regularity.

31 March 2019

Training quote of the day #22

From the Chess.com article "Chess Plans, Losing Streaks and Petrosian Speaks" by IM Jeremy Silman:
Viktor Khenkin’s question:
There is a widely-held opinion that the only players that enjoy competitive longevity are those who base their play not on the calculation of concrete variations but on positional understanding. In short, their play is founded on general positional considerations. Such a method allows a player to expend less energy, and hence to withstand better the tension of a tournament game. Is this true?
GM Tigran Petrosian:
I do not share this point of view. Positional understanding is indeed a sign of the great practical strength of a player. But with the years this skill also becomes blunted. It must be constantly stimulated and modernized; in other words a player must work on chess art and analyze.
But on positional understanding alone you will not go far. Without sharp tactical vision there is no chance of success. But as a player grows older his calculating capacity is markedly reduced, and he has somehow to compensate for this deficiency. Why did Botvinnik retain for so long his great fighting ability? Because he was able to recognize this irreversible process earlier than others and to ‘reprogram’ himself. In what way? In the same way as I am doing now.
Although I have never been assigned to the category of ‘chess calculators,' in my youth I used to work out at the board an enormous amount of variations. I used to calculate them quite quickly and quite deeply. Today too I can calculate deeply and well, only not for five hours at a stretch. I can now switch on my ‘calculating apparatus’ at full power only once or twice during the course of a game. Therefore I try to choose my openings and build up my play so that there is no need to analyze variations move after move. But if at a critical moment such a necessity suddenly arises, I can cope with this no worse than I used to.

25 March 2019

Commentary: Dortmund 2017, round 1 (Kramnik - Fedoseev)

Continuing with the commentary theme of the Caro-Kann Exchange variation at the super-GM level, the below game is from the first round of Dortmund 2017, featuring Kramnik as White. He makes a non-standard choice of 6. Na3!? which leads to some unbalanced play and a clash of ideas in the middlegame. Black (Fedoseev) deliberately leaves his king in the center and weathers a White attack with some classic Caro-Kann themes, including the half-open e-file and sacrifice on e6. Black's cool nerves give him the victory in the end.

[Event "45. Sparkassen Chess-Meeting"] [Site "Dortmund"] [Date "2017.07.15"] [Round "1"] [White "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Black "Fedoseev, Vladimir"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B13"] [WhiteElo "2812"] [BlackElo "2726"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "58"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. c3 Qc7 {immediately seizing the b8-h2 diagonal. Remarkably, Black has a plus score in all variations after this in the database.} 6. Na3 {a rare continuation, but with precedent.} a6 { essentially forced, in order to keep White out of b5. One could argue that the time-wasting moves cancel each other out in terms of tempi, but I would say that ...a6 is more useful to Black than White's knight moves are for him.} 7. Nc2 {where else?} Nf6 8. h3 {now White considers it best to prevent a future pin on f3 after ...Bg4, as Be2 would be a time-wasting retreat. Ne2 has also been played here.} e6 {shutting in the Bc8, but now there's nowhere for it to go on the kingside.} 9. Nf3 b5 {making room for the bishop on the queenside.} 10. O-O Bb7 {while it doesn't look well-placed here, in fact the bishop is able to influence the e4 square to good effect.} 11. Re1 Bd6 {the most dynamic option for bishop development. Black reinforces his control of the b8-h2 diagonal and doesn't worry about Bg5, which under other circumstances would be annoying. However, there is a tactical reason why it's not best for White, as we'll see.} 12. Bg5 (12. a4 {played immediately is what the engines recommend.} bxa4 13. Rxa4 O-O 14. Qe2 Ne7 15. Bxa6 Qb6 16. Bb5 Rxa4 17. Bxa4 Ba6 18. Qd1 Ng6 $11 {with compensation for the pawn. White's Ba4 is out of the action and Black's minor pieces are all better than their counterparts, while Black also is much better positioned to take advantage of the open a-file.}) 12... Ne4 $1 13. a4 (13. Bxe4 dxe4 14. Rxe4 h6 15. Bd2 Na5 16. Re1 Nc4 $11 {and again Black has compensation for the pawn, based on his superior piece placement and scope. The two bishops in particular are very nice in this position.}) 13... bxa4 $5 ( 13... O-O {is a pawn sacrifice that the engines evaluate as dead even.} 14. axb5 axb5 15. Bxb5 Rxa1 16. Qxa1 h6 17. Be3 Ra8 18. Qc1 Na5 $11 {The two bishops and Black's dominating piece play provide full compensation for the pawn. However, I can understand how Fedoseev might not think that the best course in the long run, given White's extra passed b-pawn.}) 14. c4 {it appears here that Kramink didn't want to go down the road of capturing on e4 or a4, which did not promise more than equality. White also hopes to take advantage of Black's uncastled king position.} (14. Bxe4 dxe4 15. Rxe4 h6 16. Bc1 Ne7 17. Re1 O-O $11) (14. Rxa4 h6 15. Be3 O-O $11) 14... Nxg5 15. Nxg5 dxc4 {otherwise cxd5 is threatened, with a pin on the e-pawn.} (15... Be7 {is an interesting alternative.} 16. Qh5 Bxg5 17. cxd5 Ne7 18. Qxg5 Bxd5 {is evaluated as equal by Komodo, with White now choosing among various ways of recapturing a pawn. However, it's not much fun to play as Black, with your king in the center and your opponent having open lines and initiative.}) 16. Bxc4 {White has sacrificed a pawn for open lines and an attack. The half-open e-file and sacrificial possibilities on e6 are classic Caro-Kann themes for white.} Nd8 $5 {visually this seems rather strange, retreating the knight and leaving the king in the center, but perhaps gives better chances for Black than the alternative.} (16... O-O {is a rather difficult line for Black, with a narrow path to holding the game.} 17. Qh5 h6 18. Nxe6 fxe6 19. Rxe6 Bh2+ 20. Kh1 Rf7 21. Ne3 Nxd4 22. Rb6 Raf8 23. Rxh6 gxh6 24. Qg6+ {with a perpetual check}) 17. Ne3 {bringing the knight into the attack, although this does let Black exchange off a piece.} Bf4 (17... h6 18. Nf3 O-O $11 {might be a simpler approach.}) 18. Qh5 $2 {White apparently misses Black's available defensive resources. This however is the most natural-looking move, bringing the queen into the action.} (18. Qxa4+ {regains the pawn and is evaluated as equal, although a long dance of the pieces ensues.} Bc6 19. Nd5 Qd7 20. Qa5 Nb7 21. Qa2 Bxg5 {to prevent the knight sac on e6. So far it's all been normal moves, but more complicated calculation and evaluation would be necessary to see it through.} 22. Nb6 {White's only move that doesn't lose} Qxd4 23. Nxa8 O-O { and now for example} 24. Qxa6 Bh4 25. Qxc6 Bxf2+ 26. Kh1 Bxe1 27. Qxb7 Bg3 { looks like an eventualy draw, but it's an imbalanced (albeit evaluated as equal) position.}) 18... Bxe3 $1 {removal of the guard of the Bc4.} (18... Bxg5 $6 {is inferior, giving White a reasonable game after} 19. Qxg5 O-O) 19. Rxe3 Qxc4 20. Rxe6+ Kf8 {this move requires steady nerves, but is the best. White can no longer make progress.} (20... Nxe6 21. Qxf7+ Kd8 22. Nxe6+ Kc8 23. Qxg7 Re8 $17 {still ultimately in Black's favor, but White is a lot more active.}) 21. Re5 h6 {well calculated by Fedoseev, the only move that wins. Once the knight is pushed back and Black follows with ...g6, his king is safe.} 22. Rae1 g6 23. Qh4 Kg7 $19 24. Nxf7 {a last, desperate attempt on the king. White does not have enough material left to successfully attack, however.} Nxf7 25. Re6 { with the threat of Qf6+} g5 {another instance of cold-blooded calculation.} 26. Qh5 {the queen is now headed to g6.} Rhe8 27. Qg6+ Kf8 {leaving White with no more threats, as the Nf7 holds the position.} 28. f3 Qxd4+ 29. Kh1 Rac8 0-1

22 March 2019

Book completed: How Chessmasters Think

I recently completed How Chessmasters Think by IM Paul Schmidt, who was a strong Estonian player in the Paul Keres era and subsequently emigrated to the United States.  I ran across the book largely by accident a while ago and got it on Kindle, it being hard to find otherwise.  It's rarely referred to in chess improvement literature, but the subject matter seemed to be very relevant.

Rather than a tutorial on how chess players should think, the book is more of a descriptive exercise in how master-level players do think during a game, both on a theoretical and practical level.  The author presents a series of annotated games, but rather than talking about the ideas or giving analysis in the usual method, instead writes annotations based on an imagined thinking process for each player.  Essentially, he answers the question "why did the player choose this move" with a thought experiment for both sides of the board.  Periodically he will also introduce an objective voice (the "critic") when critical moves are overlooked by both players.

I found several advantages to the author's approach and learning benefits from the content.
  • Some clear and valuable explanations of specific strategic considerations in main line openings, especially relatively early choices, which all too often are skipped over.
  • Each of the chapters has a theme regarding chess situations and judgment which can be generalized, at least to some extent, in terms of facing similar future decisions.
  • The games themselves are varied and high-quality, with frequent appearances by world-class players such as Keres, Alekhine, and Euwe, along with games involving Botvinnik, Fine and Capablanca.  Some lesser master games are also included that are relevant and interesting, by people known to the author.
  • The combination of strategic and tactical considerations as part of each side's "thought process" emphasize the practical aspect of thought, rather than pure strategy or tactics, as is often presented.
A couple things were less helpful, from my perspective.
  • A few move typos are scattered throughout the book, in both the game score and given variations.  Most of the time it's clear what the move should be (for example Nc5 instead of Ne5), but in one or two spots it was really head-scratching.  I expect this was due to the Kindle OCR conversion process.
  • The author has the tendency to include 2-3 pages of variations of 8-10 moves and stream-of-consciousness thought in the early middlegame, which make it difficult to keep following the thread.  He admits late in the book that most chess masters will calculate 3-4 moves ahead in non-forcing situations, but that it is necessary to go further when necessary.  So the stream-of-consciousness over the length of a long variation sometimes comes across as a bit artificial.  On the positive side, the moves then play out as part of the game, which makes it much easier to understand what is actually going on.
  • While it's good to have to work things out for yourself, I found some annotations and explanations cut off a bit prematurely or were of the "...and wins" variety, when it wasn't immediately clear why it would win (eventually).  The author seems to have been assuming an advanced (around master-level) audience in those cases.
I would say that players around Class B and up would benefit from the book, which isn't terribly long (16 chapters / games).

18 February 2019

Commentary: Tata Steel 2019, Round 2 (Duda - Van Foreest)

Today's commentary game naturally follows from the earlier Tata Steel 2019 Round 1 game. Van Foreest (on the White side of a Caro-Kann Exchange) lost the earlier struggle against Anand, but then became a winner on the Black side of the same opening. This game is quite different, though, as White's early choice to vary his development scheme sends Black down a more classical path, instead of Anand's setup featuring an open g-file and opposite-side castling.

Some key takeaways from the game, for Caro-Kann players and in general:
  • The benefit to Black of exchanging light-square bishops
  • Conditions for being able to defend against White's ideas for pressure on the h-file
  • The key role of queenside counterplay (see moves 23-25) so as to not give White a free hand on the kingside
  • The recurrence of tactical ideas such as Ne4-d2, which eventually becomes decisive for Black
  • How either player could have chosen to go for a drawing line (perpetual) at different times

[Event "81st Tata Steel Masters 2019"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee"] [Date "2019.01.13"] [Round "2"] [White "Duda, Jan-Krzysztof"] [Black "Van Foreest, Jorden"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B13"] [WhiteElo "2738"] [BlackElo "2612"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "100"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bf4 {an alternative try to the usual Bd3. White accelerates his seizure of the h2-b8 diagonal and does not let Black's queen get to c7.} Nc6 5. c3 Nf6 (5... Bf5 {is in alternative way to play, anticipating the Bd3 development by White and looking to exchange off bishops early. In the game, this happens much later and also results in a change of Black's kingside pawn structure.}) 6. Nd2 {the second most popular move in the database. White prepares to support Ngf3 after Black's next.} Bg4 7. Qb3 { a normal reaction by White, once the bishop ceases protecting the b7 pawn.} Qc8 {this is less committal than the alternative ...Na5.} 8. Ngf3 e6 9. Bd3 (9. Ne5 $5 {is an interesting idea here, but simply retreating the bishop to f5 seems to take any sting out of it.} Bf5 $11) 9... Bh5 {a relatively rare option, with ...Be7 being standard. The idea here is to retreat to g6 and exchange off the Bd3, which otherwise is well-positioned to target Black's kingside.} 10. O-O Bg6 11. Bxg6 {Komodo, in contrast to some other engines, assesses that it is better for White to not exchange on g6. For White, often the idea behind this exchange is to create a target for an h-pawn thrust, which is what in fact occurs later on.} hxg6 12. Rae1 {committing to a central/kingside strategy.} Be7 $11 {Taking stock of the position, Black has full equality. The light-squared bishop exchange has left Black solid on the kingside and White has no obvious advantage, although he can try for play on the h-file, as in the game. Duda's next move is a novelty in the database and was likely an attempt to introduce some uncertainty into the position, while again looking for chances on the h-file.} 13. g3 $146 {as we will see later, the idea of this move is to prepare the pawn thrust h2-h4.} (13. Ne5 {is a typical try by White that scores well in the database (67 percent), but should not objectively be a concern to Black. The database figures also seem to be skewed by lower-rated games.} Nxe5 14. dxe5 Nd7 {similar to the game continuation looks fine for Black.}) 13... O-O {no reason to postpone castling.} 14. Ne5 Nxe5 {Black chooses to remove the well-placed central knight immediately. Although not forced, this is an excellent defensive idea, as otherwise White typically starts developing tactical ideas on the e-file to target the e6 pawn, with a knight sacrifice a possibility later on g6 or f7.} 15. dxe5 Nd7 16. h4 { White follows up on his earlier idea of g3. Should Black be worried? As the defender in this type of position, the usual assessment is that after two minor piece exchanges, Black should be all right, since the sacrificial possibilities by White are limited. White will also need time to bring his other pieces to bear on the kingside.} Nc5 {puts the knight on its best square, kicking the queen and eyeing e4 and d3.} 17. Qc2 Qc6 {putting the queen on the long diagonal and improving its mobility. Now White's lack of a light-squared bishop to oppose it is highlighted.} (17... b5 {is what the engines like in this position, following up with ...Qb7 to put the queen on the long diagonal and give black the option of a minority attack on the queenside.}) 18. Re3 { this just ends up being awkward for White and wasting time. Presumably the idea was to eventually transfer the rook along the third rank.} (18. Nf3 $5) 18... Qa6 {pressuring the a-pawn and also placing itself on another useful diagonal.} 19. Qb1 {with this move, it's clear that White no longer has the initiative and must start responding to Black's threats.} Rac8 20. Kg2 { needed to clear the first rank for his rook to shift to h1.} b5 {now Van Foreest plays the pawn advance, gaining space and with the eventual idea of a minority attack along with the a-pawn.} 21. Bg5 Qb7 {although Black has been moving his queen often, each time it has been with a purpose and has improved his relative position. This time is no different, as the queen will still be well-placed on e7 after the exchange of bishops, and the a-pawn is now free to advance.} 22. Bxe7 Qxe7 23. Rh1 a5 24. Qd1 b4 {Black's counterplay on the queenside balances White's play on the kingside.} 25. Qg4 (25. h5 {would amount to the same thing after} bxc3) 25... bxc3 {active defense.} (25... Qb7 $5 {is another interesting way to defend.} 26. h5 d4+ 27. Rf3 bxc3 28. bxc3 dxc3 29. hxg6 fxg6 30. Qxg6 Rf5 $11 {and White has nothing better than a perpetual.}) 26. bxc3 Rb8 {Black again correctly emphasizes counterplay, threatening to go to b2 with his rook.} 27. h5 g5 {Van Foreest goes for the option that is equal, but allows him to keep going in hopes of a win. The correct decision, as it turns out.} (27... Rb2 28. hxg6 fxg6 29. Qxg6 Rxd2 30. Qh7+ Kf7 {is a perpetual for White.}) 28. h6 g6 {this defensive idea should be well known to Caro-Kann players, to prevent a breakthrough on the h-file.} 29. Nf3 {targeting the weak g5 pawn, but} Ne4 {holds everything together for Black. } 30. Re2 {covering the second rank against the threat of ...Rb2. However, this leaves the c-pawn hanging.} Nxc3 31. Rc2 Ne4 32. Nd4 {although Black is a pawn up, now White gets to have equivalent play for it, gaining the initiative in compensation. The main threat here is the knight fork on c6.} Rbc8 33. Nc6 Qa3 {preserving the a-pawn.} 34. Rhc1 Kh7 {another important defensive idea for Black, blockading the h-pawn to prevent a future sacrifice on h7. The h-pawn is now a long-term liability for White, especially in an endgame, when Black opening the h-file by capturing the pawn will no longer be of consequence. Black does have to be careful to manage potential threats from any occupation of the f6 square by White, however.} 35. Qe2 {now Black has to take care of his Ne4, which is out of squares after a White pawn advances to f3. Previously it could have gone to d2, with the tactical idea of Rxd2 followed by ...Qxc1. The Qe2 instead now covers the d2 square.} g4 {Black gives back the material so his pieces regain freedom of movement.} 36. Qxg4 Rc7 37. Qf4 {this appears to be a try by White to maintain winning chances.} (37. f3 {leads to lines where Black can win the a-pawn, but his queen is too exposed to White's rooks for it to matter, so essentially White can get a perpetual on the queen.} Nd2 38. Rc3 Qb2 (38... Qxa2 {doesn't gain Black anything either} 39. R3c2 Qa3 40. Rc3 Nb3 $11) 39. R3c2 Qa3 $11 {with a repetition of position to follow, whether Black takes the a2 pawn or not.}) 37... Rfc8 $15 {obvious and good. Now White has to be careful about the Nc6, which has only one viable square (d4), as well as his currently under-protected rooks.} 38. g4 $6 {White likely underestimated the consequences of Black's next move.} (38. Qg4 Qd3 $15) (38. Nd4 {bailing out with the knight is likely the best (and most practical) option.} g5 {now has much less sting, since the g4 square is available for the queen.} 39. Qg4 Rxc2 40. Rxc2 Rxc2 41. Nxc2 Qf8 $15) 38... g5 $1 39. Qh2 (39. Qf3 Qxf3+ 40. Kxf3 f6 41. exf6 Nxf6 {and the h-pawn will fall after} 42. Nd4 Rxc2 43. Rxc2 Rxc2 44. Nxc2 e5 {first preventing the knight's return to d4} 45. Ne3 Kxh6 $17 {and Black (at the GM level) should be able to convert the endgame with his extra passed d-pawn.}) 39... Nd2 $19 {using the same tactical idea with the knight move to d2 as before, but now threatening ... Qf3+. By this point, White is essentially lost.} 40. Rc3 (40. Qg3 {is objectively better, but still leads to a lost endgame, so White tries something else.} Qxg3+ 41. Kxg3 Kxh6 $19) 40... Qa4 {the only winning move, threatening the g4 pawn. It's not too hard to find, though.} 41. Qh5 {protecting the pawn, but now Black's queen dominates in the center.} Qe4+ 42. Kh3 (42. f3 Qe2+ 43. Kg3 Nf1+ $19) 42... d4 {passed pawns must be pushed! Now White's position collapses all over the board.} 43. Rg3 ( 43. Qxg5 $2 Rg8 $19) 43... Qf4 {threatening the f2 pawn as well as ...Ne4 with a double attack on the rooks.} 44. Rd1 Ne4 {an elegant finish.} (44... Rxc6 { is straightforward, but perhaps required a bit more calculation. Or Black just preferred winning with the text move.} 45. Rxd2 Rc3 (45... Qxd2 $2 46. Qxf7+ { with a perpetual.}) 46. Rb2 Rxg3+ 47. fxg3 Qf1+ 48. Rg2 Rc2 $19) 45. Rxd4 Nxg3 46. fxg3 (46. Rxf4 Nxh5 {and Black is a full rook up, with the Nc6 next to fall.}) 46... Qf1+ 47. Kh2 Rxc6 48. Qxg5 Rc2+ 49. Rd2 Rxd2+ 50. Qxd2 Rc1 0-1

01 February 2019

Exchange sacrifices (intentional and unintentional)

Unfortunately most of my exchange sacrifices to date have been unintentional ones.  In other words, my opponent is able to win the exchange (a rook for a bishop or knight) because of an oversight on my part, but then I fight on with some positional compensation.  In some cases I can even win (as in Annotated Game #161) by focusing on maximizing the effectiveness of my minor pieces and playing aggressively to target my opponent's weaknesses.  Of course, it's even better to focus on doing that before you're down material.

Deliberate positional exchange sacrifices are a characteristic of master-level games, where the compensation obtained is intentional, with long-term positional and dynamic benefits.  (If it's an exchange sacrifice that leads by force to a mate or material gain, then it's not a "positional" sacrifice and should be thought of more as a combination.)  Although there is always a certain element of guesswork to any sacrifice without forcing winning variations, it's an indication of mastery to be able to identify concrete gains on the board, as well to have an intuitive feel for when an exchange sacrifice is a good (perhaps best) option.  I think pawn sacrifices are a related concept, and I have had a similar experience with them in that regard, although recently I've started to deliberately incorporate sacrificial ideas with pawns into my thinking.

Perhaps the clearest definition and explanation (with well-chosen illustrative examples) that I've seen is "Positional Exchange Sacrifices" by IM David Brodsky over at chess^summit.  This is a topic that gets referred to a lot, but not many people take the time to address it in depth, so it's well worth checking out.

27 January 2019

Training quote of the day #21

The most intelligent inspection of any number of fine paintings will not make the observer a painter, nor will listening to a number of operas make the hearer a musician, but good judges of music and painting may be so formed.  Chess differs from these.  The intelligent perusal of fine games cannot fail to make the reader a better player and a better judge of the play of others.
-- Emanuel Lasker, World Champion 1894-1921
(Cited in The Art of Planning in Chess: Move by Move by GM Neil McDonald) 

Commentary: Tata Steel 2019, Round 1 (Van Foreest - Anand)

As mentioned in my previous game post, I'll again start working in commentary on master-level games to my rotation of training analysis. I think it's useful to alternate that with analysis of your own games, at least to some extent.  Different lessons can be learned, in part because the overall quality of play tends to be (much) higher.  I've found that with master games, often it's analyzing why they didn't play a particular line that is illuminating, in addition to critical turning points in games.

The below game is from round 1 of this year's (still currently ongoing) Tata Steel tournament. I selected it because Anand adopts an aggressive setup as Black in the Caro-Kann Exchange Variation that is deliberately designed to cause interesting dynamic and structural imbalances.  Essentially Black wants to exchange bishops on f5 and thereby open the g-file, while castling queenside.  I find Black's typical ideas to be more straightforward and understandable, although not necessarily easy to execute.  The dark-square weakness and White's space on the queenside serve to counterbalance things and engines give White a small plus out of the opening.  However, in the middlegame White runs out of productive ideas, then critically weakens his own dark squares, after which Black finds a threat using his advanced doubled f-pawn that White cannot handle.  Anand's finish is quite strong and worthy of remembering.

[Event "81st Tata Steel Masters 2019"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee"] [Date "2019.01.12"] [Round "1"] [White "Van Foreest, Jorden"] [Black "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B13"] [WhiteElo "2612"] [BlackElo "2773"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "56"] [EventDate "2019.??.??"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 {the Exchange Variation has been making a comeback at high levels.} Nf6 (4... Nc6 {is the main line, forcing White to play c3 in response.}) 5. c3 {White plays it anyway, which eventually leads to a transposition back to the main line, at least for Black.} Qc7 {placing the queen on c7 this early used to be a quirky sideline. It's now more mainstream, I'm sure in large part due to its practical success. The main idea is straightforward, to take over the b8-h2 diagonal and prevent White from playing Bf4. As the queen wants to go here in most lines anyway, playing it early and preventing White's bishop from seizing the diagonal makes a lot of sense.} 6. h3 {this is seldom played. The evident idea is to take away the use of the g4 square from Black, for either the knight or bishop.} g6 {a new move in this position according to the database, but not a new idea in the Exchange Variation. Black looks like he is fianchettoing his bishop, but in fact the main idea is to play play ...Bf5 and then open the g-file.} 7. Nf3 Bf5 8. Ne5 { White holds off on the bishop exchange and places his knight on the e5 outpost, ready to take back on d3. This also potentially opens up f3 for his queen.} Nc6 {although this position isn't in the database, for Black it's a standard setup in the Exchange Variation. In this game, White is further behind in development than normal, with only two pieces out to Black's four.} 9. Bf4 { now White has essentially caught up, as Black will have to move the queen again either immediately or after an exchange on e5.} Qb6 (9... Nxe5 {it might seem under general principles that exchanging off White's central knight is a good proposition. However, leaving the a4-e8 diagonal open results in a small plus for White. For example, this continuation leaves Black's king in the center:} 10. Bxf5 Nd3+ 11. Bxd3 Qxf4 12. Bb5+ Nd7 13. Bxd7+ Kxd7 14. O-O $14) ( 9... Bxd3 {engines like this move, but it betrays the original idea of the variation.} 10. Nxd3 Qb6 11. O-O {and White has an easy game, while Black is solid but without real prospects.}) 10. Bxf5 gxf5 {this is what Anand was going for with the variation.} 11. Nd3 {this avoids a possible exchange on e5 and protects b2, but is still a backwards move of the same piece in the opening. Moreover, exchanging on e5 or taking on b2 for Black does not look dangerous.} (11. Nd2 Nxe5 (11... Qxb2 $6 {going pawn hunting will leave Black dangerously behind in development.} 12. Rb1 Qxa2 13. O-O Qa6 14. Ra1 Qb5 15. Qf3 $16 {with Rfb1 a threat.}) 12. dxe5 Nd7 13. O-O Rg8 14. Nb3 $14) 11... e6 { the standard consolidating move for Black in this structure.} 12. Nd2 {getting the final minor piece out.} Rg8 {by this point Black has achieved a dynamic equality. He has some longer-term structural weaknesses (including the h7 pawn and dark-square holes) but in return he has dynamic piece play and the half-open g-file.} 13. O-O O-O-O {the only real place to put the Black king, also developing the queenside rook.} 14. a4 {now that Black has committed with his king, White grabs some space on the queenside. This is not dangerous for Black, though, as a4-a5 is not yet possible.} Ne4 {improving this piece considerably, as the most it was doing on f6 was guarding h5. With Black's king tucked away on the queenside, though, that is not critical.} 15. Rc1 (15. Qh5 Rg7 $11) (15. f3 Ng3 16. Rf2 Be7 $11) 15... Bd6 {a case where exchanging minor pieces is clearly indicated for Black. White's dark-square bishop would otherwise help dominate the dark squares, while the Black counterpart has nowhere else as useful to go.} 16. Bxd6 Nxd6 17. b4 {this type of position is important for Caro-Kann players to understand. White's pawn thrusts on the queenside look scary, but Anand deals with them effectively.} Kb8 {taking the king off the c-file and removing it from potential tactics involving the rook opposite it. Also vacates the c8 square for another piece. This is a good example of a move that "doesn't do anything" immediate but is valuable in the long run, with White not having a concrete threat in the meantime.} 18. Qe2 ( 18. a5 Qc7 19. Nc5 Ne4 $11) 18... Qc7 {proactively retreating the queen. It was doing no good on b6 anyway, now it can move along the 7th rank and also is well-positioned on the b8-h2 diagonal.} 19. Qe3 {White with this move basically admits he has nothing on the queenside and tries to generate some action in the center.} Ne7 {improving his weakest piece. On c6 the knight was shut down by White's pawns.} 20. f3 $6 {perhaps attempting to be prophylactic and shut Black's knight out of e4. However, now White has a more serious dark-square weakness, absent his bishop, and it affects the space in front of his king, with g3 and e3 now becoming more vulnerable.} (20. Kh1 {would step away from the g-file and keep the balance.}) 20... Ng6 {Black's knight immediately gets into play. The threat is now f5-f4, as we shall see.} 21. Ne5 $2 {White must have miscalculated the impact of Black's next move.} (21. Kh1 { as in the previous note is more prudent, but Black still gets an edge.} f4 { the pawn is tactically protected, due to a "removal of the guard" being available if White takes with the knight.} 22. Qe1 (22. Nxf4 $2 Nf5 $1 { chasing away the queen and the Nf4's only protection.}) 22... Nf5 23. Rf2 { and White's pieces are awkwardly tied up.}) 21... f4 22. Qe1 Nf5 23. Nxg6 { this just clears the way for Black on the g-file, but White appears to be losing in all variations.} (23. Rf2 {would be analagous to the above variation, but now White has a lot more problems. The Ne5 is vulnerable to ...f6, among other things.} Ngh4 $1 {and White has no good response to Black's threats, including piling up on the g-file and playing ...Ne3.} 24. Nf1 (24. c4 { doesn't gain White anything after} Rc8 $19) (24. Ng4 h5 25. Nf6 Rg6 26. Qe5 Ne3 {and White loses material.}) 24... f6 25. Ng4 h5 26. Ngh2 Rg6 $19 {it's looking grim for White on the g-file and Black also has the ...e5 pawn lever coming.}) 23... Rxg6 24. Rf2 Rdg8 {simple and effective.} 25. c4 (25. Qe5 { exchanging queens won't help White.} Qxe5 26. dxe5 Nh4 $19 {and the g-pawn falls.}) 25... Ne3 {Black correctly ignores the attempt at counterplay on the c-file.} 26. cxd5 Nxg2 {no need to wait for the capture, as White's queen is now also en prise.} 27. Qe5 Qxe5 28. dxe5 Ne1+ {with the fork ...Nd3 to follow. A strong finish to the game by Anand.} 0-1

22 January 2019

Training quote of the day #20

Gukesh is unusual in that he doesn't obsess about his results. He plays every game to win. He tries to be flexible in his opening choices and he studies the classics. He is level-headed enough to know that this aggressive maximal approach is going to lead to losses every so often and he can shrug them off.
...His favourite player is the late Bobby Fischer...In his best games, Gukesh concocts a similar blend of classic positional build-ups coupled with sharp tactics. 
(From the article "Dommaraju Gukesh's journey to becoming India's youngest grandmaster" in the Business Standard)

21 January 2019

Training quote of the day #19

From GM Lev Polugaevsky's Grandmaster Performance:
Some 30 years ago, when I was still a boy, I was given some advice by one of the oldest Soviet chess masters, one of Alexander Alekhine's fellow players back in the 1909 St Petersburg Tournament, Pyotr Romanovsky.  "If you want to play well," he said, "in the first instance study games.  Your own and other peoples'.  Examine them from the viewpoint of the middlegame and the endgame, and only then from the viewpoint of the opening.  This is more important than studying textbooks."
Perhaps such advice is not indisputable, perhaps it will not appeal to everyone, but I accepted and have followed this recommendation all my life.  Of course, on becoming a master, and then a grandmaster, I had to make a detailed acquaintance with opening monographs and with endgame guides, but nevertheless the analysis of games still remains for me the most important thing.

Annotated Game #206: Don't forget your own preparation

In this last-round tournament game, my problems (as Black, in a main line Slav) can be initially traced to forgetting my own preparation.  On move 7 I start believing (incorrectly) that my opponent has played a significant deviation from theory (and therefore could be "punished" for it).  So on move 8 I make a dubious choice.  The line isn't necessarily losing - in the notes you can see that GM Bent Larsen even played it (although he lost that game...) - but it gives my opponent a free positional plus, in a rather imbalanced position (White king in the center, but with a defensive pawn mass and half-open g-file to compensate).  Unfortunately ratings fear and loathing also seemed to play a part in my decision-making process, to no good end.

Despite the favorable position, my opponent shortly gives back the advantage with the loosening 13. f4?! and I aggressively follow up, achieving a tactically winning position by move 19.  At this point a calculation error on my part leads to a "safe" choice, which instead of consolidating the winning advantage takes me into a rook and minor piece endgame, only giving me a pawn for my troubles.  My opponent plays well after this and my own game deteriorates rapidly, in part no doubt due to the psychological letdown, but also due to my failure to recognize the importance of rook activity (the key to success in rook endgames).

Looking back on this tournament, it was generally a disappointment, despite it being the first one where I defeated a Master (and even if only due to a tactical oversight, in Annotated Game #199).  My performance continued to plateau in the middle of the Class B rating range and the quality of my play was generally not satisfactory, being too variable.  Essentially I was both unable to properly convert advantages (as in this game) and made too many poor decisions that overlooked the strength of my opponents' replies.

I'll continue the fundamental practice of looking deeper into my own games for lessons, but I also plan to resume providing Commentary games at the Master level, based on matches of particular interest and relevance.  The ongoing 2019 Tata Steel tournament has provided some excellent recent examples, plus I have a number of other ones I've been saving for personal analysis over the past year or two.
[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class D"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D16"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "85"] {[%mdl 8256] D16: Slav Defence: 5 a4: Lines with 5...Bg4 and 5...Na6} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Na6 {the relatively rare Lasker Variation in the mainline Slav. Its main benefit is that it avoids a lot of theory.} 6. e4 Bg4 7. Be3 {normally the c4 pawn is immediately recaptured here, but the move order is not in fact important. However, I erroneously thought my opponent was deviating, contributing to the poor decision on move 8.} e6 8. Bxc4 Bb4 $6 {here I forget my opening preparation and play the wrong piece to b4, being excessively optimistic about my prospects, with vague notions of following up with ...Qa5. I have to think that the ratings difference contributed to this faulty mindset. Now White gets an immediate advantage, with the Na6 out of play and better central control.} (8... Nb4 {is standard and the main idea behind Black's 5th move.}) 9. Qd3 Bxf3 {the best reaction, although the doubled pawns aren't really detrimental to White, who can also think about using the half-open g-file.} 10. gxf3 {simply looking at the state of piece development shows White's advantage, with Black's minor pieces scattered and not cooperating well.} Qa5 (10... Nc7 11. Rg1 Nh5 12. Ke2 g6 13. d5 Bd6 14. dxc6 bxc6 15. Qd4 O-O 16. Rgd1 Bxh2 17. Qxd8 Rfxd8 18. Rxd8+ Rxd8 19. Bxa7 Be5 20. a5 Nf4+ 21. Kf1 Rd2 22. Nd1 Na8 23. Be3 Rd7 24. a6 Kf8 25. Nc3 {Polugaevsky,L (2625)-Larsen,B (2620) Riga 1979 1-0 (39)}) 11. Rg1 g6 {I thought for a while here and decided that blunting White's pressure on the g-file first was important.} ({The immediate} 11... O-O {is favored by Komodo.} ) 12. Ke2 {a natural move, connecting the rooks. White's king is also currently well-protected by his pawn mass.} (12. Kf1 $5 O-O $14 13. Ne2 { would alternatively allow White to bring the knight into action.}) 12... O-O 13. f4 $6 {over-ambitious, as it drops White's king safety and allows my queen to get in the game, instead of languishing on a5.} (13. Na2 $5) 13... Qh5+ $15 {immediately taking advantage of the open h5-d1 diagonal.} 14. Kd2 (14. Kf1 Rad8 15. e5 $15) 14... Nc5 {I thought for some time here as well, deciding to take advantage of the tactical possibilities offered by White's K+Q lined up on the d-file.} (14... Qxh2 $6 {is too greedy, opening up Black's kingside to the White rooks.} 15. e5 Nd5 16. Rh1 Qg2 17. Qe2 $14 {with the threat of Rag1 coming.}) (14... Rad8 {is more direct.}) 15. dxc5 {this is in fact the best choice.} (15. Qe2 $2 Ncxe4+ 16. Kc2 Qxe2+ 17. Bxe2 Nd6 $19 {is probably the simplest path to victory, with Black now a pawn up and White's structure shattered heading into the endgame.}) 15... Rad8 16. Bd4 Bxc5 17. Ne2 $2 { a reasonable-looking defensive move, but it should lose.} (17. Bxf6 {would hold out} Rxd3+ 18. Bxd3 Bxf2 19. Rgf1 Qxh2 20. Ne2 $11 {and the engine considers the position equal. Black no longer can make progress against White's king and my opponent has equivalent material. I'd still prefer playing my position, though.}) 17... Bxd4 $19 18. Nxd4 c5 19. Rg5 Rxd4 $2 {I thought that this lead to a "safe" win, but it is in fact a major calculation error. Any Black queen move that threatens f4 wins, as it would result in a fork of the Kd2 and Rg5.} (19... Qxh2 {is the most straightforward.} 20. Rxc5 Qxf4+ 21. Qe3 (21. Kc2 Qxf2+ $19) (21. Ke1 Nxe4 $19) 21... Nxe4+ 22. Ke2 Qxe3+ 23. Kxe3 Nxc5 $19 {is probably the simplest winning continuation.}) (19... Qh4 20. Rxc5 Qxf4+ {etc.}) 20. Qxd4 cxd4 21. Rxh5 Nxh5 $17 {so instead of winning major material, I'm a just pawn up in a R+B vs. R+N endgame.} 22. f5 e5 {reinforcing d4.} (22... Kg7 {is a safer choice, getting off the g8-h2 diagonal.}) 23. Bd5 Nf4 {this visually looks good, centralizing the knight, but is inaccurate. Either activating the rook - rook activity being paramount in endgames - or breaking up White's pawn formation would be better.} (23... Rd8 $5 24. fxg6 hxg6 25. Rc1 Rd7 $17) (23... Rc8 {is also good.}) (23... gxf5 24. Rg1+ Kh8 25. exf5 Nf6 $17) 24. Rc1 (24. fxg6 hxg6 25. Rc1 Nxd5 26. exd5 Rd8 27. Rc7 Rxd5 28. b4 $15 (28. Rxb7 $6 Ra5)) 24... Nxd5 {betraying a lack of imagination. Better would be to undermine the bishop's pawn support first.} (24... gxf5 $5) 25. exd5 $15 {now we have a pure rook endgame and White's rook is better, giving him some compensation for the pawn.} Rd8 26. f6 {I missed this idea and started to feel a lot of pressure. This was unnecessary, however, as I could have immediately acted to free the king with an h-pawn move.} Kf8 $2 {Black is ruining his position, comments Komodo via the Fritz interface.} (26... h5 27. Rc7 {at the time, this looked too scary, but it works out in the end for Black. } Rxd5 28. Rc8+ Kh7 29. Rc7 Rd6 30. Rxf7+ Kh6 {and the f6 pawn is doomed.}) 27. Rc7 $18 {White is now winning.} Ke8 {I understood at this point I was in big trouble.} 28. Re7+ {the correct continuation.} (28. Rxb7 $2 {is what I was hoping for.} Rd7 29. Rb8+ Rd8 30. Rxd8+ Kxd8 31. Kd3 $16) 28... Kf8 29. Rxb7 a6 30. d6 $1 {a great move, using my back-rank problems to freeze the Rd8.} Ke8 { everything loses at this point.} 31. Re7+ Kf8 32. Ra7 {still winning, but not optimal.} (32. d7 $18 {would clinch things for White now, as I'm frozen and White can march his king forward.}) 32... Ke8 33. Rxa6 $6 Kd7 $2 (33... Rb8 { again, the principle of rook activity dominates.} 34. Kc2 Kd7 $14) 34. b4 $18 { now White is back on track.} Ke6 35. b5 Rxd6 $2 {desperation.} (35... Rb8 36. Kd3 $18) 36. b6 Kxf6 37. a5 e4 38. Ra7 Rd5 39. b7 Rb5 40. Ra6+ Kg5 (40... Kg7 41. Rb6 Rxa5 42. b8=Q e3+ 43. fxe3 Ra2+ 44. Kd3 Ra3+ 45. Kxd4 Ra4+ 46. Kd3 Ra3+ 47. Ke2 Ra2+ 48. Kf3 Ra5 49. Qd8 Rf5+ 50. Kg3 Kh6 51. Kg4 Kg7 52. Rb8 h5+ 53. Kg3 h4+ 54. Kg4 Rh5 55. Qd4+ Re5 56. Qxe5+ f6 57. Qe7+ Kh6 58. Rh8#) 41. Rb6 e3+ 42. fxe3 dxe3+ 43. Kxe3 (43. Kxe3 Re5+ 44. Kd4 $18) 1-0

18 January 2019

Training quote of the day #18

Mikaela Shiffrin

“You start to think, ‘Yeah, maybe I am unbeatable,’ ” Shiffrin said. “And as soon as you start acting that way, you get beat.”

(From the Washington Post article, "The world's most dominant athlete at the moment is 23 years old, and getting better")

17 January 2019

Annotated Game #205: A strategic turning point that is tactical

This next tournament game features an interesting struggle in the English, versus a King's Indian Defense (KID) structure.  As often happens, White tries to press on the queenside while Black focuses on the kingside.  Here, I think both sides neglected the center too much and missed better opportunities, so that is a useful general lesson to take away.

The key strategic turning point occurred around moves 19-21, where Black makes his initial kingside push.  I only considered the idea of pushing g4 too late, when it was forced, and did not consider the full ramifications of Black's strong Nf5.  For me, it is a good example of how tactical threats and strategic considerations can intersect and determine the course of a game.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "ChessAdmin"] [Black "Class A"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A26"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Komodo 11.2"] [PlyCount "100"] {[%mdl 8256][%evp 0,100,16,-12,-9,-28,36,28,19,19,11,-1,31,7,50,-10,-2,-17,-4, -20,-14,-11,-11,-9,44,9,10,1,16,21,20,8,8,-4,-9,-18,-7,-7,2,-13,20,7,43,-68, -74,-138,-149,-136,-96,-100,-103,-89,-92,-73,-67,-217,-203,-209,-187,-187,-144, -162,-163,-168,-147,-174,-178,-191,-218,-226,-238,-229,-253,-253,-223,-220, -230,-244,-111,-273,-274,-274,-274,-300,-338,-289,-229,-235,-242,-242,-241, -237,-236,-466,-295,-286,-378,-767,-848,-29997,-29998,-29999,-30000] A26: English Opening vs King's Indian with ...Nc6 and d3} 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. Nf3 d6 6. O-O e5 7. d3 {the standard setup for White in the English, facing the KID structure.} Nc6 8. Rb1 Re8 9. Bg5 {a key idea in this variation for White. As soon as the Black rook gets off the f-file, the bishop comes out and can be exchanged for the Nf6. This gets rid of a strong Black attacking piece on the kingside, while not giving Black as much potential momentum on the f-file. Naturally it's not the only way to play, but I find the idea simple to execute.} h6 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. b4 Bg4 12. h3 {the first real decision point for White. This move is not the most incisive, as it's not clear that the bishop is particularly well placed on g4. The h3 pawn can also become a target.} (12. b5 $5 {is more straightforward.} Ne7 13. Nd2 $14) 12... Be6 13. Nd2 (13. b5 Ne7 14. Nd2 Qc8 15. Kh2 Bg7 16. Qb3 f5 17. Nd5 c6 18. bxc6 bxc6 19. Nxe7+ Rxe7 20. Qa3 Qd7 21. Qa4 d5 22. Nb3 Bf7 23. Na5 Rc8 24. Rb7 Qxb7 25. Nxb7 Rxb7 26. Rc1 dxc4 27. Bxc6 Rbc7 {Medjkouh,S (2080)-Chumfwa,K (2180) Maputo 2011 1-0 (55)}) 13... Rb8 14. b5 Ne7 15. Qc2 {not necessarily a bad move, but perhaps a little timid. The queen has little prospect on the b1-h diagonal, nor does it do much to support anything else. On the positive side, the rooks are connected.} (15. Nd5 $5 {this is a common theme in the English, the knight leaping into d5 only to be exchanged off with doubled d-pawns. However, the resulting advanced d5 pawn and dynamic features of White's position typically compensate for it.} Nxd5 16. cxd5 Bd7 17. Qc2 {and now the queen has more to do on the half-open c-file.}) 15... Bg7 16. a4 {it would have been better to immediately play Kh2 here, anticipating Black's next.} Qd7 17. Kh2 f5 18. a5 {we now have a classic queenside vs. kingside expansion "race" on.} f4 {this is one of those moves that looks aggressive but in reality is premature. White has several good responses.} (18... c6 19. Rfc1 $11 ) 19. Nd5 {an example of a good idea played at a less-optimal time.} (19. g4 $5 {looks a bit loose, but White is set up well enough on the kingside and in the center to keep Black from breaking through.} Rf8 (19... h5 $2 20. gxh5 gxh5 21. Rg1 $16 {and it's White who is better positioned for action. For example} Kh8 22. Nde4 Nf5 23. Qa4 Nd4 24. Bf3) 20. a6 $14) (19. Qa4 {is another idea, lining up on the a4-e8 diagonal.} fxg3+ 20. fxg3 $14) 19... fxg3+ {this reduces the tension and is a typical Class player inaccuracy.} (19... Nf5 $5) 20. fxg3 $14 Nf5 {we now reach a key strategic decision point, where it is revealed that I don't know what I'm doing in the position. The overlooked tactical threat is the knight fork on the e3 square, which is only temporarily covered by my Nd5. The e2 pawn is also currently undefended.} 21. b6 $6 (21. g4 $5 {kicking the knight is the best solution.} Nd4 22. Qd1 e4 23. e3 $14) 21... axb6 $15 22. axb6 $6 (22. g4 $5 {is now required, but at a disadvantage to the previous variation.}) 22... c6 $17 {kicking the Nd5 and gaining the advantage, although it still wasn't too late to play the g4 idea, which I only find after it's forced.} 23. g4 Nd4 24. Qd1 cxd5 25. cxd5 Bxg4 $1 {a winning, if tricky, sacrificial idea.} 26. hxg4 Qxg4 $6 {this could allow White to escape, but I don't find the correct continuation.} (26... e4 {is the winning continuation, but it requires a further sacrifice.} 27. e3 exd3 28. exd4 Re2 {the key idea, as now Black's queen can penetrate to maximum effect.} 29. Rf4 Qe7 30. Kh3 Qg5 31. Bf3 Qxf4 32. Bxe2 dxe2 33. Qxe2 Qxd4 $19) 27. e4 $2 {this optically looks like a good defensive move, but the d5 pawn is not under threat and the pawn does much less on e4 than on e3.} (27. e3 {threatens the Nd4 and Black therefore does not have enough time to generate winning threats.} Qh4+ 28. Bh3 $11) 27... Ne2 $19 (27... Qh4+ {is even more effective.} 28. Bh3 Rf8 29. Nf3 Nxf3+ 30. Rxf3 {and now Black can choose how he wants to win, with White's pieces overburdened and a hole on the 2nd rank. For example} Rf4 31. Rxf4 exf4 32. Qg4 Qxg4 33. Bxg4 h5 $19) 28. Rf3 Nf4 29. Rg3 Qxd1 {my opponent chooses to head for an endgame with an advantage.} 30. Rxd1 Ra8 31. Nc4 Bf8 32. Bf3 $6 ( 32. Rd2 {defending the 2nd rank is better.}) 32... Ra2+ 33. Rd2 {now things fall apart quickly.} (33. Kh1 Rea8 $19) 33... Rea8 (33... Rxd2+ 34. Nxd2 Ra8 35. Nc4 $19) 34. Kh1 (34. Rxa2 Rxa2+ 35. Kh1 h5 36. Bxh5 Nxh5 37. Rxg6+ Kh7 $19 ) 34... Rxd2 35. Nxd2 h5 {Black's connected passed pawns ensure victory.} 36. Rg1 Ra6 37. Nc4 Kf7 38. Rf1 Be7 (38... Ke7 39. Kg1 $19) 39. Rd1 $2 (39. Bd1 $5 {taking advantage of the pin on the Nf4.}) 39... g5 40. Rf1 g4 41. Bd1 Kg6 { by this point the outcome is inevitable, but I stubbornly play on.} 42. d4 { the only chance for any counterplay, even if it is a false hope.} Kf6 (42... g3 {passed pawns must be pushed!} 43. Rf3 g2+ 44. Kh2 $19) 43. dxe5+ dxe5 44. d6 Bd8 45. d7 {it's great to see my pawn one square away from queening, but unfortunately there's no way of removing the Bd8 that is blocking it.} g3 46. Bf3 (46. Rg1 h4 47. Bb3 $19) 46... h4 47. Ne3 (47. Rd1 {a fruitless try to alter the course of the game} Ra4 48. Ne3 Ra3 49. Ng4+ Ke6 $19) 47... Kg5 48. Nc4 Ra2 {the engine now shows a mate in 10, but I accelerate the process.} 49. Nxe5 (49. Rd1 {does not improve anything} Rh2+ 50. Kg1 Rf2 51. Rd2 Rxf3 52. Rc2 h3 53. Rd2 g2 54. Rd1 Ne2+ 55. Kh2 Rf1 56. Rxf1 gxf1=Q 57. Ne3 Qf2+ 58. Kxh3 Ng1#) 49... Rh2+ 50. Kg1 Nh3# {an aesthetic end, at least.} 0-1

04 January 2019

Training quote of the day #17

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
— Will Durant (not Aristotle)