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

Friday, October 9, 2015

Getting Better at Attacking

I am definitely starting to think of myself as positional player. I feel that I am at my best when there is more maneuvering and the targets are smaller, like pawns or even just positional concessions. Don't get me wrong, I am still playing like a 14-1500 player. I just mean where I am better. I play like an 1100 player a lot of the time when I am doing a king-side attack. However, I am still very committed to the notion of being a well rounded player. I very much believe that while there is value in identifying our strengths, it is a mistake to box ourselves in. So, I still want to practice my attacking chess and play for an attack when I feel it is called for on the board.

This is a game where I felt the king-side attack was a warranted strategy. I am happy with this game because I managed to play more like a 1400-1500 player while I was carrying out this attack. I was thinking through my decisions and avoiding mistakes I have made previously. I am sure from just going over the game that a stronger defender could easily have squelched my attacking chances at several points and just been up material.

I feel my attitude has changed a little bit though. Instead of seeing my opponents mistakes and feeling that they make the win worthless, I am seeing it as a case of improvement. I think I pursued my chosen strategy doggedly and continued to maintain my initiative and will to win. My choices were reasonable enough that when my opponent made mistakes I was still in the game enough to take advantage.

Lastly, I kept my head even at the end and didn't fall into psychological traps I have fallen into before. So for these reasons I see this game more as progress not perfection. I know my attacking skills are weak but I am continuing to work at it and I seem to be getting better.

I think these kinds of opportunities are valuable because they allow me to see some things that do work and give me encouragement as well as the necessary punishment I have taken when my play was worse.



funghetto (1328) - JabotScrob (1523)

Result: 0-1
Site: Chess.com
Date: 2015.10.09
[...] 1.e4 c6 2.c4 d6 3.d4 e5 4.d5 cxd5 5.cxd5 ♘f6 6.♘c3 ♘bd7 7.♗b5 a6 8.♗xd7 ♗xd7 9.f3 g6 10.♗e3 ♖c8 I obviously played g6 with the possibility of Bg7 and 0-0 in mind. However, fairly early I had noted that the central structure is closed, so castling isn't as high a priority as usual. I am also unfamiliar with playing this kind of pawn structure, but I did notice that according to the "pawn pointing rule" I should aim to play on the king-side. I also noticed that because of f3 and the open c-file his king might be vulnerable on either wing while my king might actually be more secure in the center than if I castled first and allowed opposite sides castling. For these reasons I here started making some moves which were mostly designed to wait for him to choose so I could decide what to do. 11.♕b3 b5 12.♘ge2 ♘h5 I was again looking for something non-commital when I saw this. Part of my idea is that Ng3 is not so appealing now because opening the h-file isn't as powerful if I'm not castled king-side. I was also thinking about Nf4, and f5 as future possibilities. 13.O-O f5 14.♖fc1 f4 15.♗f2 ♕g5 16.♔h1 ♕h6 17.♕a3 This is one of the balances I see that you have to walk in attacking. Here he is making a threat on the queenside. I have to decide now whether I am going to respond and so possibly cede the initiative (can you tell I just read that chapter in "Amateur's Mind") or if I think the counter-play is weak enough that I should just proceed with my attack. Here the road forks because if I go ahead then I will begin shedding material and then I have to have sufficient compensation in terms of attacking chances. I have erred both on the side of crazy stupid allowing material loss without compensation and also being too cautious and watching chances evaporate. Although I clearly will lose 2 pawns, and he will open up the queenside for his own counter-attack I decided to just push ahead as I felt I didn't want to give up being in the driver's seat. 17...♗e7 18.♕xa6 g5 19.♘xb5 ♘g3 20.♘xg3 fxg3 21.♖xc8 ♔f7 22.♗xg3 ♖xc8 One of the problems with the attack was the fact that I hadn't cleared my own lines so my pawns were keeping my rook out of the game. g5 was an attempt to work on that but with this little tactical trick I realized that I could bring the rook into play on c2. 23.♕b7 ♗h3 I did this because again, particularly now that I had already started shedding material I couldn't back down and start passively defending. Notice here that there are some tactics on my c8 rook. If he plays gxh3 and I play Qxh3 which was my idea, the rook is immediately defended against the queen taking it, but because the bishop is pinned by the queen and my queen is defending the d6 pawn, if I do take on h3 right after he does then I will lose the rook to Nxd6+ forking the rook. That would absolutely be game over 1-0. 24.gxh3 ♖c2 25.♘c7 I think this is a major mistake because it breaks the pin on the bishop, gets in the way of the white queen and places the knight on a square that is attacked by the rook which ties the queen to the defense of it. It also gives up the threat of Nxd6 which was keeping my queen from taking on h3. I also don't see any real positives that it offers. 25...♕xh3 26.♖g1 h5 My attack is gathering steam again. 27.♕b3 Here I thought for a good while. The different possibilities were moving the rook along the 2nd rank, giving up the rook and proceeding with the remaining material (maybe looking for a bail out perpetual), and lastly taking the c7 knight. Option one seemed bad because there was no where to put the rook where the opponent couldn't simply attack it again and make progress towards working his queen into the defense of the king. It's the initiative again. The second option just didn't have any tactical justification. Option 3 seemed bad because it seemed to release the initiative and simply go into an endgame down 2 connected passed pawns. The reason I chose option 3 was because I felt that it gained me back a significant chunk of my material investment but I still had some attacking possibilities. This is another part of the balance, when to worry about material in an attack and when to shed it. From here on I begin swinging the material balance back the other way. 27...♖xc7 28.a4 h4 29.♗f2 g4 30.♕d1 g3 31.♗xg3 hxg3 32.♖xg3 ♕h5 I've won another piece and am now only down roughly one pawn but I still have some threats. 33.b4 ♗g5 34.a5 A tactical blunder, but again, I think this is part of the sport aspect of chess. I maintained pressure on the opponent through much of the game and he eventually succumbed to a blunder. He feels the danger is passed. He thinks I am threatening only the future threat Bf4 which is easily parried. I think he must have felt some sense of relief that I had resorted to such meager attacks and that his pawns would now triumph. I don't know what the engine will say here but I think with my extra bishop I have good chances to win back my pawns even if he didn't blunder here. 34...♖c1 35.♕xc1 ♗xc1 36.a6 ♗e3 37.b5 ♗f2 38.♔g2 The last significant decision. Do I win more material with Bxg3 and ignore the pawns relying on my unopposed queen to sweep down and gobble them up or do I allow him to keep his rook and maintain a wall on the b6 and a7 squares. Now is my chance to make the same psychological mistake and feel that now the material pendulum has swung completely in my favor and I have won the game and further increasing the material gap will finish it, ignoring the actual possibilities on the board. I stopped and started calculating and decided the pawns were just to dangerous to trade off the bishop. 38...♗e3 39.♖h3 ♕g5 At the end I was still trying to be cautious. I am still thinking about his possiblities and remembering that if somehow I were to put my queen on my second on the a or b file (by capturing a pawn with my queen for instance) then he can x-ray me with Rh7+. Simply a possible blunder that I could make if I allowed over-confidence to make me stop thinking about my moves (which is a flaw I am quite familiar with) but that instead I am spotting ahead of time. These are the moments that make me feel that I am getting better at chess.
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