Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Open 2010 Game 1 Analysis, Part 2, 4. g3

Saturday is the greatest word in the English language.

At the end of my last post, I came up with 5 things I wanted to do to analyze Game 1 of my World Open tournament.

Those 5 things were:

1) Look at games that have 4. g3
2) Look at games that have 6. Nxc6
3) Look at games that have 6. e3
4) Look at games that have 6. Be3
5) Look at games that have 7. Bd2

To look for these games, I need to use a chess database. You can learn about how to find and use chess databases in my post A Beginner's Guide, Chess Databases [Coming soon!].

For the purpose of the this post, I used New In Chess Base Online. The NICBase has 66 total games after 3...g6. White has played 6 different moves on move 4. These are 4. a3 (1 game), 4. b3 (14 games), 4. d3 (1 game), 4. d4 (44 games), 4. g3 (2 games), 4. Rb1 (1 game).

So as it turns out, one move is by far the most popular 4th move for White, and I played this move. NICBase is not complete by any means, and popularity does not always mean a move is the best. However, this sends a strong signal to me that 4. d4 in my game may not be the best place to look for alternatives or improvements.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the second most popular move, 4. b3, is a move I did not consider. Thus, despite not having it on my to do list above, I should look at some of these games.

First, though, lets start with the original idea for an alternative, 4. g3. There are only two games, so lets look at both of them. Of these two games, White won one game and Black won the other. Lets be pessimistic for the moment and look at the game that Black won.

Well, before we even get to the game something is screaming at me right now! Can you see what it is? White is rated about 400 points lower than Black is. At any level that is a lot, but at top level chess that is huge. For the highest levels, even 100 or so points can signify a large difference in playing ability. This is largely because unlike games in the 1000 to 2000 range, games at the highest level have less variance with regard to outcome. A 1400 level player can beat an 1800 level player pretty easily if the 1800 level player blunders away a piece or completely bungles an ending. At the higher levels, these types of random occurrences are less frequent, such that the winner of the chess game has to out play there opponent. Of course, if when the 1800 player blunders his piece he is getting out played just like when the 2200 player misjudges his piece activity in an ending. So it is not like the things are totally different, but there is some difference.

Anyway, that the above all means that we shouldnt take this game too seriously. Sure, Black won, but Black could easily have had a worse or much worse position out of the opening. White may have simply bungled the end game or what have you.

Lets get to the game. Black responds to 4. g3 with 4...Nd4. Black then exchanges this Knight for the f3 Knight. After some normal looking developing moves, we get to the following position after 7...Nh6.

Here, White plays 8. b3. This is a fairly committal move for White. I am not so sure about it, either. On the one hand, it neutralizes Black's g7 Bishop, but on the other hand, it takes a lot of the dynamic potential out of White's pawn structure. In these c4/c5 English type positions, a plan of a3 and b4 (or a6 and b5 for Black) undermining the c pawn can be one of the main ways to open up the position and get some piece activity for one of the sides. By playing b3, White doesnt necessarily eliminate this plan, but it does make it much slower.

Further, Black has not committed himself much at all with his pawns. Thus, Black will be in a good position to respond to any pawn structure changes White makes. Lastly, White has quite a few good waiting moves. A waiting move is a move that doesnt necessarily do much of anything, but is helpful and generally good. These moves solidify a players position and allow him to wait and see what his opponent's plans are. Whichever player plays the waiting move will then have an informational advantage in making his next moves.

The most obvious waiting move in this position for White is Bg2. The Light Squared Bishop is very rarely well placed on f3. There, it blocks the f pawn, does not protect the vulnerable h3 square, and is much more susceptible to harassment then it would be on g2.

There are other waiting moves that White could play. 0-0 and Re1 or Rd1 might be worthwhile.

On the other hand, it is always easy to be critical of the losing players moves in early stages when that player's play was fine. So for now, lets just say I am skeptical of White's 8th move, but it is hardly a bad move.

I think it is best to skip to White's 13th move 0-0-0. The moves from 8 to 12 all seem fairly natural. Here is the position after 13. 0-0-0.

I basically just dont like this move at all. Given the f2-g3-h4/f7-g6-h5 pawn structure on the King side, and the fact that White's Light Squared Bishop is on the f3 square, it just seems like the King side attack will be opened much more slowly than the Queen side. Further, White's Queen side pawn structure a2-b3-c4 is one of the easier pawn structures to break open. Black can play a5-a4-axb3 and now he has an open a file leading right at White's King. In the end, this is actually what Black does, though he is careful to prepare it properly.

White also didnt really need to do this, as far as I can tell. This may be one area where the rating difference starts to mess up any objective analysis, though. If White were to castle King side, he would have a decent but not very big advantage over Black's position primarily because of his ability to use the d5 square. Maybe White was worried that in a long positional grinder, Black would be able to out last him. Maybe White needed or wanted a win at this point in the tournament and was willing to take a 1 out of 3 chance at the win, rather than try and play for a draw.

For the purposes of this post, however, I think we can pretty much end our analysis here. White has some interesting ideas up to this point, and the following position

looks pretty good to me. A plan here like d3, a3, b4, then move the Rooks and other pieces around to break something open looks promising.

Ok, now lets look at the other 4. g3 game, the one where White wins.

Here, we do not actually have the ratings for both players so we cant make any pre judgments about the quality the moves. That is not a big deal.

In this game, Black responds to 4. g3 with 4...b6. There are a bunch of normal looking moves, so lets skip to the position after 10...Nce7.

The first thing I think about this position is Benoni. White is going to have the e4-d5 pawn structure, and Black will have counterplay down the Queen side. It is pretty rare, as far as I know, for White to fianchetto his light squared Bishop in the Benoni. Black's light squared Bishop is also not exactly well placed on the b7 square.

I would be very happy with this position as White.

White, on his 13th move plays a4.

This is a nice move that does a lot of things. First, it slows down Black's counterplay on the Queen side by controlling the b5 square. Second, it allows White to move his Knight to c4 without fear of harassment. The Knight is very well placed on c4. It controls the e5 square, and it also gets out of the way of White's dark squared Bishop.

On move 20, White finds the good move 20. g4.

I am not doing this analysis with my computer (it is good to attempt this stuff with just your brain!), so I am not exactly sure what the tactics are that make this move possible.

My guess, though, is that if Black played 20...fxg4 White would respond 21. f5, possibly with some helpful intermediary move. If Black doesnt play 21...gxf5, White can play 22. fxg6 and Black's King position looks pretty loose. If Black does play 21...gxf5 then White can respond 22. exf5 and is threatening Qg5+ with bad things happening to Black.

Notice that Black's Light Squared Bishop, Queen side Rook, Queen, and even Knight and King side Rook are all to a certain degree poorly placed to deal with an attack against Black's King.

For White, it looks to me like only his light squared Bishop or Knight will have difficulty getting into the attack. I say or because one of them will be able to use the e4 square and get into the attack very quickly.

I am not going to spend as much time as I probably should on trying to figure out the tactics in this position. So, I will just conclude by saying that White has a nice attack at this point.

I will just briefly mention that White starts a nice combination with 26. Bxf6+.

White is able to pin the f6 Knight to Black's King, and this pin eventually allows him to invade Black's position with his Queen. He wins the d6 pawn, and everything after that is pretty much clean up.

Well, this seems like a good place to stop for now. I think in the end, my conclusion on 4. g3 can be fairly positive but not exactly enticing. In these positions, it is seems very important to be careful with your pawn moves. If you commit your pawns too early, the other side can take advantage of this.

In the first game, we saw Black close up the center and attack down the Queen side. This might not have been as big a deal if White had castled King side.

In the second game, we saw White transpose to something similar to the Benoni. Black's pieces were not set up all that well for this pawn structure, especially Black's light squared Bishop. The Bishop was left without a job while White prepared an attack against Black's King. Black was able to thwart White's attack against his King, but this cost him in the end game.

Finally, I have added something to my to do list, and that is look over 4. b3 games.

Chess Tactic of the Day #34

White to move and win.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chess Tactic of the Day #33

White to move and win.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

World Open 2010 Game 1 Analysis, Part 1

For this post I am going to focus on the first 8 or so moves.

Here is the position after move 8:

This is a critical moment in the game. Both White and Black have committed themselves to certain types of positions. This is an excellent spot to look at and think, well, maybe I should have avoided this entirely.

Personally, I dont think that was the case in this game for me though. I am White, by the way.

The most obvious points in this position are White's doubled and isolated pawns on the c file and Black's lack of a dark squared Bishop. Both of these things present problems to White and Black, and both White and Black should strive as best as possible to attack these weaknesses.

Thus, White needs to somehow attack Black's weakened dark squares. Black needs to attack White's weak c pawns.

That is more or less the end result of the opening.

So, lets go back and look at what moves might be preferred before we get to this critical point. I am going to largely do analysis from White's perspective, because I had White and this is my opening! However, it is absolutely critical to look for Black's best moves and objectively analyze the positions that may come from those moves.

Starting from the beginning then,

1. Nf3 (not going to change this...yet!)


2. c4

Here, I actually do have a fairly compelling alternative. I am not and really have never been a 1. e4 player, but when I do play 1. e4 I always like to play against the Sicilian. That is somewhat strange, because the Sicilian is one of Black's best openings out of all of chess!

For a Class A player, though, I think the White side of the Sicilian is a little bit easier to play then the Black side. White trades off somewhat ethereal positional considerations and gets free and aggressive development. These types of positions are probably where I feel most comfortable. I can do the grinder thing, especially with White, but recently I have become more enamored with attacking.

My Bloodlust knows no limits!

The problem with playing 1. e4, though, is that it leads to a wide variety of very complicated positions. Further, these positions are not at all similar to many of the positions I get into. The difference between and English, Hedgehog and King's Indian isnt all that much. A lot of times, things will transpose anyway. Plus, when my opponent goes off the beaten path, I have a good deal of built up intuition. I can make moves based on this intuition.

If I switch to 2. e4 and go into the Sicilian, I will not be nearly as comfortable, especially in off beat paths. As a quick example, if my opponent played 2...b6 I wouldnt have any idea what to do. How should I defend my e4 pawn? Where are my points of attack?

These sorts of big changes in playing style are very fun, and are a great if not critical thing to do at some point.

I have a feeling I am not at that point though.

Moving along.


3. Nc3

I dont really see any good alternatives to this move. It just makes too much sense. Maybe 3. d4, but why not play 3. Nc3 first? What variations will White not play Nc3?


4. d4

Here, I think I have a decent amount of alternatives. One problem, though, is that if I dont play d4 here, likely will not get to play it later. 4. g3 is a very possible alternative. I tend not to like the double fianchettoed positions because they can be fairly drawish. The symmetry is something I kind of dont like, but looking into a few games using this move would be a good idea for me.

I dont see any other good alternatives that interest me.

4...cxd4 5. Nxd4 Bg7 6. Nc2

This is the main place to look for alternatives. 6. Nxc6 is the main alternative I can see. This allows White to play Qc2 and avoid the double isolated c pawns. The problem, and the reason I avoided this, was that Black plays 6...bxc6 and strengthens his center. Also, the b file is opened. It gives Black a lot of play.

Another alternative is 6. e3. This blocks in the dark squared Bishop, but maybe something like b3 and Bb2 will possible later on in the game. That seems like a good plan to look into.

Finally, 6. Be3 with the idea of g2, and Bg2 might be a good plan as well. The problem I had with this sort of plan though is that it is fairly slow. The e3 Bishop is also very susceptible to harassment by a Knight on g4 or d5. Maybe this is just being afraid of ghosts though.


7. e4

Here, I think the main alternative is 7. Bd2. Nothing else really prevents the double isolated c pawns, and if White is going to get double isolated c pawns he should probably get a good lead in development, space and some sort of attacking possibilities.

To me, 7. Bd2 looks kind of clunky and slow. At the same time, though, we havent been talking much about Black.

Black isnt exactly developing his pieces at lightning speed. So my constant issues about slow moves might be unmerited. Because of this, a lot of these slower ideas might be better than what I played.

After 7. e4 Bxc3+ 8. bxc3 the position is more or less set.

There is a great deal of imbalance in the position, which is always cool.

So, as a matter of recap, I should do the following things.

1) Look at games that have 4. g3
2) Look at games that have 6. Nxc6
3) Look at games that have 6. e3
4) Look at games that have 6. Be3
5) Look at games that have 7. Bd2

For my next post, I will try and find and post one game for each of the above.

Chess Tactic of the Day #32

Black to play and win.

Chess Tactic of the Day Answers #8-#14

Tactic #8:

1. Qxf6+ Nxf6 2. Bxf6#

Tactic #9:

1. Qxh5+ Rxh5 2. Bg6#

Tactic 10#:

This is a famous game played by Morphy against a Duke and a Count. The game was played at the opera! As you can see from the game, Morphy makes quick work of the Duke and Count. Probably he wanted to watch the opera instead of playing chess with patzers! This game exemplifies the importance of quick development. Another good rule of thumb is not to weaken your position with attacking moves if you are behind in development. The move b5 is really terrible!

Tactic #11:

1. Qc2+ Kxe3 2. Bg1# or 1. Qc2+ Ke1 2. Bg3#

This is a really nice example of a Queen and Bishop working together on different diagonals.

Tactic #12:

1. Ng4+ Kd5 2. Bxf7# or 1. Ng4+ Kf5 Qf6#

Tactic #13:

1. Qe3+ Kd1 2. Qd2# or 1. Qe3+ Kf1 2. Nd2#

Tactic #14:

Another great and famous win by Morphy. Apparently, Morphy took all of 12 minutes before playing the Queen sacrifice on move 17. Assuming Morphy calculated out all the variations, this represents an incredible speed for calculating moves. I am surely impressed! I make these sorts of sacrifices and realize, oh yeah, on the 3rd move he can parry the check by moving his pawn. Oops!

Hope you had fun with these tactics!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Logistical Update 3

As a reminder, these Logistical Updates do not contain any helpful chess information. They are just ways for me to explain parts of the blog, so if that does not interest you ignore this post.

Basically, I just wanted to say that I put up a bunch of Chess Tactics of the Day and attempted to make up for missing about 5 or 6 days because of the World Open. I kind of planned to Blog during the World Open, cause I thought semi Live blogging was a great idea. That didnt work at all though! I did post my first game one morning, but after that I was like Ugh. I didnt want to over do the chess stuff, and figured I would try and save my energy for the games. That didnt work out either though!

I will post my games with various comments. Because posting an entire game with comments takes a lot of time (See lack of US Chess Championship Posts), I am going to try posting my games in parts. This way, I can work through what I work through, post some stuff, and then try and get back to it as soon as possible. Rather than having a huge amount of work looming, and then have unfinished projects from months ago, this may be a good way to go. Anyway, it is worth trying out.

This also goes along with a bit of new philosophy I am going to try out about learning chess. That is more substantive though, so I wont talk about it in the Logistical Update.

See you later!

Oh wait, one last thing. I got real psyched today when I googled Smyslov the Slayer and noticed that 3 other websites had my name on it. There were just link dump sites I think, so it wasnt like anyone actually visited my blog yet. Haha, it was still pretty cool to know that people might accidentally stumble on my blog once or twice.

Chess Tactic of the Day #31

Black to move and win.

Chess Tactic of the Day #30 (July 6)

White to move and mate in 2.

Chess Tactic of the Day #29 (July 5)

White to move and mate in 2.

Chess Tactic of the Day #28 (July 4)

White to move.

Chess Tactic of the Day #27 (July 3)

White to move and win.

Chess Tactic of the Day #26 (July 2)

White to move and win.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

World Open 2010, A Tired Rambling Recap

Well, the World Open is over. I didnt win, or even play all that well! I had a good start of the tournament. Things pretty much collapsed about half way through. That gives me a lot of interesting things to talk about though, especially regarding chess psychology.

I really do wonder how I can improve at chess. I have a lot of ideas about what would be the best things to do, but many of them are conflicting.

Taking a break from chess, or at least tournament chess is somewhat top on the list. A big problem I had and have had over the past year or so has just been spacing out at the chess board. I somewhat doubt that reading chess books or doing tactics will have any impact on this at all.

At the same time, I wonder if maybe reading chess books and doing chess tactics more frequently will make playing chess less of a mental strain. If this is the case, taking a break would be the worst thing to do!

Haha, so in the end, I have a lot of data (ie, chess games, chess moves, and my thought process leading to those moves) but the analysis leads to one of two opposite conclusions.

Either I need to take a break or I need to study more! May as well add in the third option, I am doing everything fine right now and just need to keep on doing what I have been doing.

On the other hand, maybe I just needed to drink more coffee during the games.

I will be posting all my games, by the way, with some commentary. A lot of the commentary will probably be focused on my brain thinking rather than objective chess.

I am very interested in how to learn, and analyzing objective things like a chess game is one of the best ways to try and figure things out.

I ended up with 3 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses. That gives me 4 points out of 9, or a half point under even. There is nothing especially good about even, but it is nice to at least break even.

Like I said earlier, the start of the tournament went well. I drew my first game, and won my next two. I lost my fourth game, and then won my fifth game. Not an great start, but a very good start. I was pretty happy with where I was at, at that point.

Then I lost my sixth game, drew my seventh game, and lost my last two games. It should be noted, and you will see later, that I was pretty badly lost in my seventh game. Truth be told, I was probably lost in my first and third games too!

I think a turning point of sorts was my sixth game. Not just because I didnt win any games beyond that, but because I started failing at basic calculations. I mean real basic. I would miss things like, the Knight takes the Queen. Fortunately I have enough intuition etc. so I didnt drop my Queen in any of my games!

That gets to the heart of the problem. How do you solve problems like that? It is one thing to miss a tactic because it is hard to see, or screw up an endgame because you dont know how to play it right. It is another to leave something en prise.

Maybe it actually isnt different. It sure is frustrating though. As a beginner, it is pretty much the normal course of things to leave stuff en prise. For whatever reason, beginners dont see that something is under attack (that is what en prise means by the way).

As you get better at chess, though, you sort of stop looking for things that are undefended. Maybe as a positional concern, but usually you just let your brain spot this automatically. Obviously, my brains auto pilot failed me towards the end of this tournament.

That gives me a good, or at least common sense, idea of trying to figure things out. I must cut out the auto pilot.

I know some books focus on looking around the board and trying to find candidates moves, and finding all of those moves, and then going back and searching each one individually etc.

That is time consuming, and I never found the idea all that appealing. I actually dont know why I brought it up, because I am probably not going to do that.

Well, I guess I brought it up because it is a very systematic way of playing chess. Normally, I think systematic ways of playing are bad. They in effect are auto pilot, which is not going to lead to very good moves.

Maybe my lack of any sort of system is holding me back though. It is somewhat of a shame, because I did mention in one my earlier posts (or maybe a draft of a post to be published?) that it is a good idea to look over what pieces are en prise, what the pawn structure is like etc. especially on your opponent's time. Sadly, I forgot to do this!

That probably would have helped.

There is also the issue of whether or not I have sufficient passion for chess. It may be the case that I dont.

I can and still do get pretty upset about losing, but winning doesnt really excite me all that much. That is probably a problem. That is primarily where the break talk comes in. I figure I am just burned out a bit, and playing chess in this state would not be helpful at all. It would be bad for me too continue playing chess just because I played it so much in the past.

If something is over, it is over!

All my chess books sure would look silly though. So would this blog, I guess.

At the same time, I doubt anything that dire is what is needed. After all, I do tend to have extreme emotions, so if I had gotten 6 out of 9 I may be making a tired rambling recap about how I just need to study 5 days a week for 2 hours a day and then I will be well on my way to Grandmaster.

Two blunders would change the entire course of my life!

Thinking about it, I think the best solution is just to go over master level games over the board at a slow and in depth pace. After all this introspective talk and what not, the difference between 6 or 7 out of 9 and 4 out of 9 was really just a few calculating errors.

Rather than look for big picture solutions, I should just focus on correcting the small details. I dont know about you, but I know this is something I could do throughout my entire life to improve it. It sure is fun to think about the big picture stuff, but in the end you dont get a whole lot done with that. Plus, it is a lot easier just to focus on the details.

Despite this post being somewhat whiney/depressed, the World Open was actually pretty fun. I still dont like the Valley Forge location, but it wasnt nearly as bad this time. For one, I stayed at the Scanticon which is right above the chess tournament. In between games, I could just go upstairs and nap or watch TV or whatever. Avoiding those dreaded 4 hour breaks between morning and evening game made a huge difference as far as having fun. I didnt have to just kill time for 4 hours, which can really turn even a successful tournament into a bad experience.

I also had a fairly relaxed attitude throughout the tournament. I was pissed that I was losing, especially towards the end, but I was also fairly resigned to it. Part of this was that all of my games were interesting and more or less fun, including the games I lost. I didnt get ground down in a hopeless position at all. Or at least, when I did, it took a long time and I was able to put up a good fight!

Losing is a lot easier to deal with when the game was interesting and you had your chances.

Maybe my last game I didnt have chances. Well, this wasnt so bad though because I had to take the bus home. I was pretty happy to get out at about 6:30 or so. I got home at 9. If my game went to 9 o'clock instead of 6, I probably would have gotten home around midnight or later. On top of this, I dont especially like to walk around at late night, so I may have taken a cab, which would be kind of expensive. So, even though my last game was kind of a joke, it doesnt really bother me that much.

As far as expense goes, yeah I did kind of just waste a lot of money. Haha, it was the 4th of July though, and I am a patriot! Seriously, it wasnt actually that much. I split the hotel room with a friend, which is a huge money saver. Too bad we couldnt get 1 or 2 more people to split the room. Yeah, we all sleep on the floor but 25 dollars a night would be great!

The food was pretty terrible. Really terrible. I am somewhat spoiled, though, because I have a Greensgrow Farm share. That is all good food from local farms, so when I eat things like frozen processed Sweet Potato Fries or Papa Johns Pizza I am kind of like what did they do to my food? Haha, I cam home, boiled up some potatoes and was like, mmmmmm, these are good. I just really cant stand eating the processed food, I dont know why exactly. It just tastes so weird.

The coffee was even worse. Oh man. They did have starbucks, but 3.50 for a 16 oz. is pretty crazy. There were no convenient stores nearby. I dont know if you guys know this, but convenient stores for the most part actually have really good coffee these days. It is not like sludge from a gas station. So that would have been fine, but you cant really walk to any of those places from the Convention Center.

I got a 2 dollar refill of really really awful coffee down stairs by the chess tournament. Seriously, it is the kind of coffee that gas stations give away for free! Actually, people would probably be ashamed to give away coffee like this for free.

Along these lines, I thought it was pretty funny, though mildly rude, that everybody was clapping the last round when the tournament director said the tournament would be at the Sheraton in Philly next year. Yeah, Valley Forge sucks. Oh well.

In defense of Valley Forge, though, I think the Convention Center is designed to just be an open space where various businesses or wealthy people can do their thing. It is actually very well suited for this, as it would be a nice cheap spot to rent out a huge room. If you are, for instance, having a wedding you are going to be paying for a caterer anyway, so what do you care if the Starbucks costs 3.50! Similarly, you dont really need snacks from a convenience store.

So, it is a nice venue for things like businesses and what not where guests are going to get catered meals. It isnt suited very well for a chess tournament, where the players have to buy there own food and such day to day.

Well, that is pretty rambling, which is great. I have to go now. All in all, it was an ok tournament, that was disappointing in many ways. At the same time, though, it was pretty fun and interesting.