26 April 2023

Training quote of the day #43: Victor Korchnoi

   From the commentary to game 40 in My Best Games by Victor Korchnoi (2011 edition):

At this point I remembered or, it would be better to say, I sensed that I had reached this position 27 years earlier in a game with Polugayevsky! Generally speaking, it is useful for a chess player to have a good memory - very often he does not need to seek the best move himself, but it is sufficient for him to choose something from the examples that are available (and residing in his memory!) But there is a limit to any memory. Of the approximately five thousand games that I have played, it is doubtful whether I remember the contours of one quarter of them! But this game with Polugayevsky was one that I remembered. I made there an unusual move - with my knight to g1, and I won! Without thinking for long, that is what I played.

08 April 2023

Commentary: 2022 U.S. Women's Championship, Round 5 (Foisor - Yu)

This next commentary game also is a Slow Slav (by transposition), but has a much more unbalanced character than Cervantes - Lee from the earlier round 3 of the 2022 U.S. Women's Championship. Black goes for the unprecedented 11...g5, which while not the most solid move appeared to work as a strategic trick. White immediately commits to castling kingside and then makes a premature advance in the center, overlooking how Black can conjure up an attack on the h-file. Yu does not press the full attack, however, and has to settle for a dynamic equality while being up two pawns.

It is also instructive to see the resulting back-and-forth into the endgame and some missed breakthrough opportunities; it always makes me feel better as a Class player, when Master-level competitors also show how difficult it is to play an endgame fully correctly. Rather than fear the endgame, though, I have (mostly) learned to stop worrying about it and love the opportunity to play one.

[Event "U.S. Women's Chess Championship 2022"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2022.10.09"] [Round "05"] [White "Foisor, Sabina-Francesca"] [Black "Yu, Jennifer"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2203"] [BlackElo "2297"] [ECO "D12"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Dragon by Komodo 2.6.1"] [TimeControl "5400+30"] 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 Bf5 4.c4 c6 {by transposition, we now have the "Slow Slav"} 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 ( 6...Be4 {was played in the previously analyzed game from this tournament. I prefer it because it is more active and normally forces f2-f3.} ) 7.Be2 Be7 {this could be viewed as prematurely committing the bishop, with ...Nbd7 being by far the most played here.} 8.Nxg6 hxg6 9.Qc2 {White scores very well in the database from here, over 80 percent.} 9...Qc7 {taking advantage of the open h-file to pressure h2, however this is easily frustrated by} 10.g3 Nbd7 {finally getting the knight developed.} 11.Bd2 {and now White develops her final minor piece. Black has to decide on her strategy at this point, and chooses something very unusual.} 11...g5 {Perhaps this was more of a waiting move, to see what White would commit to first. Later the g-pawn actually becomes useful when White allows Black too much leeway on the h-file.} ( 11...O-O {would be a standard approach, followed by playing for exchanges in the center.} ) ( 11...dxc4 {immediately, similar to what occurred in the previously analyzed game, also looks good and perhaps more active for Black.} ) 12.O-O {this is safe for the moment and not a bad choice, but White should watch out for ideas by Black to be able to attack using the h-file, as in fact happens later.} 12...dxc4 13.e4 $6 {White is not yet positioned to adequately support this attempt to control the center, so Black's counter-thrust is more impactful.} 13...e5 14.d5 {essentially forced, otherwise Black exchanges on d4 and then has the ...c5 and ...Ne5 ideas.} 14...Nb6 {dominating d5 and protecting the c4 pawn. This leaves the g5 pawn hanging, but White chooses not to take it, which was probably simplest for equality.} 15.dxc6 $6 Qc8 $1 {while not yet winning, this is much more effective than recapturing on c6, as now the queen threatens to go to h3.} 16.Bf3 $6 ( 16.g4 {was necessary, as the engine points out.} ) 16...Qh3 $19 17.Rfe1 {the king needs space to run after ...Qxh2.} 17...bxc6 {h2 cannot be defended and White's king cannot move, so Black calmly recaptures.} 18.Be3 {putting the bishop on a better diagonal for defense and opening up the 2nd rank for the Qc2.} 18...Nfd7 $6 {this delays Black's attack too long and allows White to insert a good defensive move. It also removes from the action a potentially excellent attacking piece for Black. It does allow the Be7 to protect the g5 pawn, which perhaps was why it was played.} ( 18...Qxh2+ 19.Kf1 Qh3+ 20.Bg2 Qh5 {now Black has the threat of ...Ng4 with an excellent attack.} ) 19.Na4 Qxh2+ 20.Kf1 Qh3+ 21.Bg2 Qe6 {the best square for the queen, as the attack has spent itself and Black needs to cover the c4 pawn and central squares. White should now be able to recover at least one of the pawns and can think about counterplay, although she is still a little worse off.} 22.Rac1 $15 f6 {this gives the king an immediate bolt-hole on f7, but weakens the light squares complex.} ( 22...g6 $5 {is recommended by the engine, covering more squares on the defense of the kingside.} ) 23.Red1 $10 {White's threatens counterplay down the d- and c-files.} 23...Kf7 24.a3 ( 24.Nxb6 {appears more straightforward for White.} 24...Nxb6 25.a4 c3 26.Qxc3 Nxa4 27.Qc2 Nb6 28.Qxc6 Qxc6 29.Rxc6 {with compensation for still being a pawn down, as White has the two bishops and more active rooks. Compare with the main game and White clearly has more scope for her pieces.} ) 24...Nxa4 {Black goes for simplification.} 25.Qxa4 Nb6 26.Bxb6 axb6 27.Qxc4 Qxc4+ 28.Rxc4 c5 {simplifying Black's tasks at hand, although locking in the bishop.} 29.Rc3 {White wants to give her rook more room to maneuver, but this would allow Black to lock up the kingside and the Bg2 further.} ( 29.Bf3 {would keep the bishop active, regardless of Black's next.} ) 29...b5 ( 29...g4 $5 ) 30.Rcd3 g4 {now Black finds and executes the bishop restriction idea, but White has better rooks than before.} 31.f3 $6 {the general idea of breaking the bishop out is correct, but before White's 3 pawns were successfully containing Black's 4 on the kingside. This exchange results in a weak structure for White.} ( 31.Rd7 ) 31...gxf3 {immediately taking advantage of this, but White's structure would be so bad after taking on g4 that Black can afford to do other things first.} ( 31...Kg6 32.fxg4 b4 33.axb4 cxb4 34.Rd7 Bc5 $17 {is one illustrative line.} ) ( 31...b4 $5 ) 32.Bxf3 g6 {with the idea of supporting an eventual advance of the f-pawn.} 33.Kg2 b4 {this move now has less impact than it would have earlier.} 34.axb4 cxb4 35.R1d2 {conservatively guarding the b-pawn.} ( 35.Rd7 Rhd8 {is still fine for White, since if all the rooks get swapped, White should have no problem holding a draw in the opposite-colored bishop endgame.} ) 35...Ra1 {the active choice.} 36.Bd1 {correctly blocking the first rank. Now Black gets a bit of initiative, however.} 36...f5 37.Rf3 {pinning the f-pawn.} 37...Bg5 38.Rd7+ Ke6 39.Rfd3 Be7 {the only move, guarding the d6 square. White continues to hold the balance through her rook activity, despite being a pawn down with worse structure.} ( 39...fxe4 $4 40.Bg4+ Kf6 41.R3d6# ) 40.Rb7 $2 {this however would allow Black to simply win, now that there is no mate possibility.} ( 40.exf5+ gxf5 41.g4 fxg4 42.Bxg4+ Kf7 {and White should draw.} ) 40...Kf6 $2 {missing the breakthrough chance.} ( 40...fxe4 $1 41.Bg4+ ( 41.Bb3+ Kf5 $19 ) 41...Kf6 42.Re3 Bc5 43.Rxe4 Rg1+ $19 ) 41.Rb6+ Kg5 {correctly advancing on the kingside, rather than staying passive defending.} 42.Rb5 Rb1 {preferring to trade the e- for b-pawns.} 43.Rxe5 Rxb2+ 44.Kf3 Bf6 45.Red5 Bc3 {a safe choice to guard the b-pawn.} 46.exf5 gxf5 {with opposite-colored bishops and both rooks on the the board, this should still be a draw for White, but it's of course easier to play for Black.} 47.Re3 Rh1 48.Be2 Rh2 {while this looks threatening, there's nothing Black can actually do, since White has everything covered. Until the next move, that is.} 49.Rd1 $2 ( 49.Re8 ) 49...Bf6 {missing another breakthrough chance.} ( 49...Bd2 $1 {is spotted by the engine. The problem is that White's king is boxed in and the Re3 cannot leave the 3rd rank.} 50.Rd3 Bc1 51.Rxc1 Rbxe2 {without the opposite-colored bishops on the board, it is now won for Black, who has the outside passed pawn.} 52.Rf1 Ra2 $19 ) 50.Re8 Rb3+ 51.Re3 Rxe3+ {double rooks are typically better for drawing, so an exchange benefits Black's practical chances to win.} 52.Kxe3 Be5 {posing White diffficulties that she fails to solve.} 53.Rb1 $2 ( 53.Rd8 Bxg3 54.Rg8+ $10 ) 53...Bd6 $19 {the simple winning continuation. White cannot threaten the b-pawn, while Black will eventually get the g-pawn, which is stuck on a dark square.} 54.Kf3 Bc5 {creating a mating threat on f2.} 55.Rf1 b3 {the principle of two weaknesses in action. White can (barely) cover her kingside pawn and the mating square, but that leaves the queenside open.} 56.Bd3 b2 ( 56...Rd2 {would put White in zugzwang after} 57.Bb1 Bd4 ) 57.Bb1 Rd2 58.Ba2 Bb6 59.Bb1 Bd4 60.Ba2 Rd3+ 61.Kg2 Be5 62.Rf3 Rd1 {threatening to advance the b-pawn.} ( 62...Rxf3 $2 63.Kxf3 {and the opposite-colored bishops force a draw after White goes Bb1.} ) 63.Rf1 Rxf1 64.Kxf1 Kg4 {now the g-pawn falls without Black having to give up anything.} 65.Bb1 Bxg3 {White can resign now.} 66.Ke2 f4 67.Ba2 f3+ 68.Ke3 ( 68.Kf1 Kf4 $19 ) 68...Bh4 69.Bb1 Kg3 70.Be4 Bg5+ 71.Kd4 {...f2 72. Bd3 b1(Q) and Black queens one of the pawns.} 0-1
Evaluation chart generated by HIARCS Chess Explorer Pro

06 April 2023

"5 Things to Know - Before playing your first over-the-board tournament" - Chess.com article

This Chess.com article - https://www.chess.com/article/view/playing-your-first-chess-tournament - which confusingly has different titles on the site - is an entertaining view of the initial OTB tournament experience by streamer Jules, who recently re-started her tournament career. There are different takes on this "first tournament" experience across the chess community - including this blog's "Your first (serious) chess tournament" - but seeing them is always a good reminder for me of the special nature of a tournament experience. It also should be encouraging for people who want to start (or re-start) their own tournament career, so they can see they are not alone in experiencing how sometimes fearful but also exhilirating it can be.

Since it's a personal take on the experience, nothing is really "wrong" about the article, although perhaps it shouldn't be taken literally as a to-do list. For example, learning how to set your own clock prior to the tournament is just good planning, either using its instruction sheet or a YouTube video, rather than relying on the kindness of strangers. (You also don't need to say "adjust" when straightening pieces on the board before a game has started.) That said, her "Just Leap" advice is otherwise good.