"...a Chessmaster should be a combination of a beast of prey and a monk."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Some games (I can attack sometimes!)

I'm starting to feel like I am getting back into the swing of things. I'm feeling more focused during games and am doing better tactically.

On the slow over the board league/club front, it looks like the promising start we had has kind of petered out. There just isn't that large a community of chess players here and most of them are more interested in blitz.

As far as studying goes, I am very happy with Silman's "Amateur's Mind". I really feel it is helping me to see the game and the board differently and to make different decisions in my games. I'm not sure how I would fare if he were to give me one of these tests, probably as poorly as many of his students. Still, like I say, it is making a very noticeable change in how I am viewing positions in the middle game.  I think it will take more work and more conscious effort but I feel so far I can definitely recommend this to someone in my rating range.

As far as other aspects of chess go, I thought I would post some of my recent casual games. I don't think these are representatives of great play but I am happy to say I have some successful attacks to my name now.

JabotScrob (1459) - RenoBezzina (1451)

Result: 1-0
Site: Chess.com
Date: 2015.09.21
[...] 1.e4 ♘f6 2.♘c3 d5 3.exd5 ♘xd5 4.♘xd5 ♕xd5 5.♕f3 ♕e5 6.♕e3 ♘c6 7.♘f3 ♕xe3 8.dxe3 e5 9.e4 ♗d6 10.♗c4 f6 11.O-O ♗g4 12.♘h4 O-O-O 13.♘f5 ♗xf5 14.exf5 ♖he8 15.♗e3 ♔b8 16.a4 ♘b4 17.♖fc1 a5 18.c3 ♘c6 19.♖cb1 b6 20.b4 axb4 21.♗b5 ♔b7 22.cxb4 ♖e7 23.♗xc6 ♔xc6 24.b5 ♔d7 25.a5 bxa5 26.♖xa5 ♖ee8 27.♖a7 ♖b8 28.b6 ♔c6 29.♖c1 ♔b5 30.bxc7 ♖bc8 31.♖b7 ♔a6 32.♖b6 ♔a5 33.♖a1 JabotScrob won by resignation
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One of my regular opponents has switched to playing the dragon. I used to play e4 and he used to play the french against e4. I had to search around and finally settled on the KIA against his French and we had many battles in that setup. During most of 2015 I have been playing the English pretty consistently but to give him practice I have been playing e4 and the mainline Yugoslav which I always thought was quite fun and still remember the basic theory for.

JabotScrob (1472) - RudiV (1574)

Result: 1-0
Site: Chess.com
Date: 2015.09.27
[...] 1.e4 c5 2.♘f3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.♘xd4 ♘f6 5.♘c3 g6 6.♗e3 ♗g7 7.f3 O-O 8.♕d2 ♘c6 9.♗c4 ♗d7 10.♘xc6 bxc6 11.O-O-O ♖b8 12.♗h6 ♗xh6 13.♕xh6 ♕a5 14.g4 ♕b4 15.♗b3 c5 16.a3 ♕a5 17.h4 e6 18.h5 ♕b6 19.hxg6 fxg6 20.g5 ♘h5 21.♖xh5 gxh5 22.♖h1 ♗e8 23.g6 ♗xg6 24.♗xe6 ♔h8 25.b3 ♖a8 26.♘d5 ♕d8 27.f4 ♕e8 28.f5 ♗f7 29.♘f6 ♕e7 30.♕xh7#
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In this game, I get pressure against his queenside and then am able to flip it over to attack his king. In the end I didn't get a checkmate but I won the exchange and from there found it pretty easy to convert against the knight.

Jabot (1490) - KiwiBok (1460)

Result: 1-0
Site: FICS freechess.org
Date: 2015-09-29
[...] 1.c4 f5 2.♘c3 ♘f6 3.g3 e6 4.♗g2 ♗e7 5.d3 ♘c6 6.♘f3 O-O 7.O-O a6 8.a3 e5 9.b4 d6 10.♖b1 ♖b8 11.a4 ♘d4 12.e3 ♘xf3 13.♗xf3 ♗d7 14.b5 axb5 15.♘xb5 ♗xb5 16.♖xb5 b6 17.♗c6 f4 18.exf4 exf4 19.♗xf4 ♘d7 20.♕g4 ♘f6 21.♕h3 ♕c8 22.♕h4 ♕g4 23.♕xg4 ♘xg4 24.♖h5 g6 25.♗d5 ♔g7 26.♖h3 ♘f6 27.♗h6 ♔h8 28.♗xf8 ♘xd5 29.♗xe7 ♘xe7 30.g4 ♖a8 31.♖e1 ♘c6 32.♖he3 ♘e5 33.f4 ♘xg4 34.♖e8 ♖xe8 35.♖xe8 ♔g7 36.♖e7 ♔f6 37.♖xc7 h5 38.♖c6 ♔f5 39.♖xb6 ♔xf4 40.a5 ♘e5 41.♖xd6 ♘f3 42.♔g2 ♘h4 43.♔f2 g5 44.a6 ♘f5 45.♖e6 ♘d4 46.♖e4 Black resigns
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This game isn't so much an attacking game as I feel I made a positional exchange sacrifice that seemed to help me win the game.

JabotScrob (1471) - RudiV (1567)

Result: 1-0
Site: Chess.com
Date: 2015.09.13
[...] 1.e4 c5 2.♘f3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.♘xd4 ♘f6 5.♘c3 g6 6.♗e3 ♗g7 7.f3 O-O 8.♕d2 ♘c6 9.O-O-O d5 10.♗h6 ♗xh6 11.♕xh6 ♘xd4 12.♖xd4 e5 13.♖xd5 ♘xd5 14.♘xd5 ♗e6 15.♗c4 ♖c8 16.♗b3 ♗xd5 17.♗xd5 ♕c7 18.c3 b5 19.h4 b4 20.c4 ♖fd8 21.b3 ♕b6 22.h5 ♖c7 23.hxg6 ♕xg6 24.♕xg6 hxg6 25.♖d1 ♔g7 26.g4 g5 27.♖h1 ♖d6 28.♖h5 ♖g6 29.♔d2 f6 30.♔e3 ♖h6 31.♖xh6 ♔xh6 32.♔f2 ♖c5 33.♔e3 ♖a5 34.♔d3 ♖xa2 35.c5 ♖a1 36.♔c4 a6 37.c6 ♖c1 38.♔xb4 ♔g6 39.♔a5 ♖a1 40.♔b6 ♔g7 41.c7 ♖c1 42.♔b7
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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Slow Chess in Taipei

Well, I've been talking to some people here and it's looking like we may have the beginnings of a slow over the board league here in Taipei. It remains to be seen how many people are actually willing to show up to play, but so far things seem to be moving in the right direction. It will be informal with no real world rating points at stake, but the idea of pooled cash prize and league ranking or rating of some kind are possible.

As far as I go, I have gotten back to my regular weekly casual games online and have been trying out some new opening ideas there. I have also gotten back into a couple of online slow chess leagues so I am picking up there as well. Unfortunately, while I have played some good games, my blunder rate has shot up quite high again. I think this is lack of practice because I think in maybe the 6 months or so before I left I was playing at a better level, and blunders were much more clearly linked with being very tired or some external factor when I played.

As far as study goes, I have been doing some amount of tactics everyday. I've also been watching some of the St. Louis chess center videos. Particularly Ben Finegold and Yasser Seirawan.  Have watched a couple of Alejandro Ramirez's vids as well.

I am also trying to give the Yusupov training series a go. So far I am liking it and can see it being a valuable chess education if I stick with it.

I still want to get more game reviews done, both my own and to get back to analyzing some Anderssen games. I guess the hold up here is that often this can be intimidating in terms of the amount of work I feel it takes to do it properly.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Twin Ports Game 1

Here's my first game. It was a total disaster.

Unfortunately, I felt there wasn't a whole lot to learn from on the board.

The thing that sucks the most is that he plays the Vienna and I have studied the black side of the Vienna but I just totally forgot all of it.  There were two guys at the club here in Taipei who sometimes play it as white against e5, so I had booked up a bit.  This kind of thing just doesn't stay with me much though. So when I saw him play 2. Nc3 I was kind of upset because I know that this is a line where a lot can go wrong for black in the opening if he doesn't know what he's doing. To be honest, I think this was a mental toughness issue. My opponent was rated over 2000, which according to the ratings I was used to meant he would be super good. I knew the line was dangerous and that I probably couldn't remember much. I think I probably mentally folded pretty much on move 2 because looking back at the game, I don't really remember thinking much about my moves or calculating anything, and it was over very quickly both in terms of moves and time.

So, in terms of lessons. 1) While in general I downplay the value of studying openings for myself, there are clearly times when I should. Yes, it's good for me to have some Ruy lines memorized and to be set to play against the Italian, but if I am going to play 1...e5 I clearly have to be prepared against some of these less frequent but sharp lines and if I want to compete I have to review them if I can't remember them. 2) As I said above, I think in some ways I sort of shut down and didn't really put full effort into the game. It's not something I consciously thought or noticed at the time, but looking back it's pretty clear I wasn't putting much effort into the game. I should have just buckled down and at least tried to avoid disaster by actually calculating stuff.

Carlos Diaz - me

Result: 1-0
Site: Duluth, MN
Date: 2015.08.15
[...] 1.e4 e5 2.♘c3 ♘f6 I did remember that this was probably the move I am supposed to make. 3.f4 ♘c6 I remembered learning that taking the f-pawn is very bad for black, but I forgot what to do. I played Nc6 just hoping it was ok. The database shows this as very bad (many fewer games and a very big jump in winning percentage for white). The right move that I had learned before is d5 here. 4.♘f3 d5 5.exd5 ♘xd5 6.fxe5 ♗g4 I made this move because it developed a piece and pinned the knight, threatening the e-pawn. Considering what happened though. Probably developing the king's bishop in order to castle as quickly as possible was the better try. (6...♗c5 7.d4 ♗b6 8.♗b5 O-O) (6...♗e7 7.d4 (7.♗b5 ♗d7)) 7.♗b5 ♗c5 My idea here was to develop bishop, preparing to castle, and to prevent him from castling. 8.h3 ♗xf3 (8...♗h5 9.g4 ♗g6 10.♗xc6 bxc6) 9.♕xf3 ♘xc3 My idea was just to get rid of this situation. Again, I wasn't really calculating anything I was just sort of jumping on the first reasonable looking idea that came into my head. (9...♘de7 Maybe a better try.) 10.♗xc6 bxc6 (10...♔f8 11.♕xc3 ♗d4 12.♕a3) 11.♕xc6
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Saturday, September 12, 2015

General Tournament Overview

First, just a word about tournament prep. I think actually my greatest fear was about food. I actually put a pretty big effort into making sure that I had enough to eat in a bag with me at all times plus water. I had read some horror stories online about games going long and then the player having to rush to next game without time to eat. I'm not diabetic but I do have pretty serious reactions to blood sugar swings. I think it was smart of me but fortunately the schedule was quite relaxed, so even though one of my games did go fairly long, I was never in a situation where where I was desperate for food. 

I was visiting my family in Minneapolis. I arrived there late Thursday and spent Friday hanging out and doing a very slight amount of opening prep, then drove the short 2 hours up to Duluth after dinner. I did have a slight problem with the hotel due to some complications with the online booking, but fortunately it got sorted out and I was into my room before too late. Word of warning: I didn't realize Duluth is a bit of a vacation spot in the summer, so actually hotels are super expensive for what you otherwise might be used to.

Round 1 was Saturday morning. The tournament venue was quite nice and there was plenty of parking in the area. It was right near the lake front, there were restaurants and a coffee shop. Also, Alex Yermolinsky was playing in the tournament.  I'm still at that stage where seeing these famous grandmasters is unusual and cool for me. This is the second GM of real fame I had seen in person. (Nigel Short was here in Taipei campaigning for Kasparov at one point.)  Also, IM John Bartholomew (of youtube fame) is a native MN player and was playing in the tourney.

Another thing I was happy to see was a surprising number of young women at the tourney.  A number of these seemed to be teenagers. This seems to be a significant issue in the chess world.  I don't want to stir controversy, but I guess I will just say that in my opinion, we will see the level of women's chess rise when we get more women playing at all levels and that begins with developing talent at the early stages. I can certainly understand that people feel there is room for argument on this topic, and this isn't my full view, but that's my basic belief.

Some pics
This was the playing hall. As you can see not huge. This was both the Open and the U1800 (which was actually larger than the Open I believe).

This is the view from the window of the hall. That big red boat is out of commission and apparently you can tour it.

My first round game, I went to my spot. Unfortunately, because I was traveling, I didn't have a board or a clock and this was an issue a couple of times. This first game, the fellow was super nice, but he hadn't played over the board in a while I think, and his clock was an analog one that couldn't do increment which it was supposed to. So we had to fuss around a bit at the beginning, eventually we got a digital clock but I think it still didn't do increment or we didn't know how to set it right, luckily it didn't matter at all.

Second game was against a little Russian girl who was rated maybe 1850 or so according to the tournament. I played white and we had a long game which she ended up winning despite the fact that several people told me (and I myself believed) that I was winning at one point. You may or may not think it strange, but I didn't much mind losing that game in the end. I felt quite good about it for the most part, and felt very much that I had gotten my confidence back, because online and against an 1800 something player I usually don't have much of anything happening.

Third game, neither my opponent nor I had board or clock so we had to get one from the organizers. I am quite sure that I was won, but I blundered and allowed him a perpetual or forced repetition to escape with a draw. This was a bit frustrating because I really felt I was set to win. I think this is where tournament inexperience came in. It had already been a long day with ups and downs. Again, the player was rated significantly higher than me and by ICC standards it should have been no contest for him. I am also very aware that sometimes it can be harder for me to hold it together when I think I am winning than when I think I am losing. I actually don't feel too bad defending, but I can get quite over-excited when I feel I am winning, especially if there are other issues to increase the nerves.  So, I was consciously trying to rein in my excitement and focus on the game, but in the end, I fell victim to a kind of tunnel vision that I am familiar with where I start focusing just on finishing the opponent off and forget that he still has possibilities. I also felt that my opponent was less than perfectly polite. It wasn't anything egregious, and I definitely would not say anything unsportsmanlike, I just felt a sort of unpleasant attitude from him, and he had a habit of getting up and walking around the room to look at other games a lot. Again, there's nothing wrong with that at all, but due to my inexperience it affected me a little bit and contributed to a sub-optimal headspace.

So, after this I went back to the hotel. I thought I might study a bit, but I ended up just taking a shower and watching a Johnny Depp movie and chatting with my wife on skype a bit.

Morning round, on Sunday. Actually had fairly high hopes going into Sunday. (Obviously not for money or anything.) My idea coming up here was to win one game.  I figured this was possible because if I kept losing I would eventually be paired against a player much closer to my level. After how I played on Saturday, I actually felt like I had a chance to go 50%. I felt I had gotten good positions against players that were ratings wise heavy favorites, and that on Sunday I would be paired with players at the bottom end like myself.  Unfortunately, not to be.

Round 4, my opponent had a fancy digital clock but didn't know how to operate it. Luckily we were able to find someone who could help us after the round had already started. I felt in round 4 I played the opening well and was starting to get an attack going where he didn't have much going for him.  I'm not sure how accurate this impression was. I will have to analyze to find out. However, I felt I was doing ok. I think I have an idea of one turning point in the game, and this was followed by a blunder on my part that simply dropped a piece. I played on for a bit but it ended quickly then.

So, again, I was disappointed but felt there were things to be happy with. I took a break and came back determined to win my last game, only to find I had been given a bye. Fortunately they had a house player. So, I got to get a rated game in. Now they told me before hand that he was rated about 1200 and that he was just a parent of one of the chess playing kids. So this game didn't change my tournament result which was 1.5 / 5, but it did change my USCF rating.

Luckily I got white, and played my now standard English. He seemed to leave a pawn hanging in the opening. As I have said before, this is another mental weakness, that when I expect to win a game, sometimes I don't check such things because I feel that this is just what to expect. Luckily, I double checked, found the trap and avoided it. However, he played surprisingly well given what I understood about the rating system at that point, and he ended up beating me in a nice endgame. It was I think a valuable game in terms of learning potential, but of course did leave me feeling slightly sour about my point total. He himself was super pleasant.

Overall, my experience was really great. I obviously have a lot of things that I need to work on. In that respect I feel my result was an accurate reflection of my ability to play over the board chess. However, I still feel good about a number of the positions I was able to create on the board, so surprisingly I ended up feeling pretty happy.

Also, want to thank the organizers, as I did have a couple of small issues come up as I mentioned and things were always resolved smoothly.  I would definitely do it again if I could.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Hello Again!


I just got back from a long trip to the US.  Flew to Vancouver, then drove, (with many stops) all the way to Louisville KY, then all the way back to Vancouver much more quickly, then turned around and drove back East to Banff Canada where we spent a week before driving back to Vancouver and then flying back to Taipei with a tough layover in Shanghai.

In many ways the trip was amazing. I got to see many family and friends. We traveled through a lot of very amazing scenery. I also made it to and played in the Twin Ports Open that I had mentioned before. I will be honest. I scored 1/2 out of 5. (The tournament report has me at 1.5 because I received a bye for the last game. However, I played a rated game with a "house player" for the last game that didn't count in the tournament and I lost, so I think of it more as 1/2 out of 5.)  I have various excuses. I will also admit to a small amount of sourness about this result. On the other hand, I really had a great time.  I really loved being there with other chess players and playing the games. I also feel, that while the result is "accurate", I also feel that I felt happy with much of my play. Part of that has to do with the fact that because I had no rating, just a fresh blank uscf id, I had to play in the open section. I will try to do some more detailed analysis of the games and post them here. So results-wise not so great, but in terms of doing something I enjoy doing it was quite a success.

On the whole, I felt a strong rush of motivation toward chess playing again. I bought a bunch of hard copy chess books in the US. I also made some resolutions.  Unfortunately, it remains a fact that I live in a country that, while I love it in many ways, just doesn't have much of a chess scene.  Partly, to be honest, there are some things I need to overcome. I am not a great people person.  I have let some personality conflicts keep me away from the small chess scene here, and probably it would be good practice for me to work at those issues.

Anyway, I also came up with a variety of topics I am interested in writing about on the blog, or some things I want to do with the blog.  As always, I remain a changeable person, but in the short term this blog and my chess activities look like they are on the upswing.