Monday, February 10, 2020

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Tata Steel 2020

Magnus Carlsen is the top seed in the 14-player round robin. Here is the forecast


Friday, December 6, 2019

The 2019 Canadian Memory Championship

The 2019 Canadian Memory Championship
By Matthew S. Wilson

I almost didn’t go.

You have to train to get better. This is certainly true in the long run. But it’s not always true in the short run. I had been training for about 2 hours per day, but right before the tournament, my results suddenly plummeted. For about a week, I was 10-20% worse in everything. I didn’t understand why. It was so frustrating. I had been thinking about going to the tournament, but I didn’t want to drive all the way to Montreal and then suck. A few days before the event, I tried to memorize a deck of cards and failed. Again. I decided not to go.

But on the next day, I looked at the situation from a different perspective. I had been making a lot of progress this year. Even on a bad day, I was still better than the Matt Wilson who qualified for the US championship finals. So if I had been willing to go to US championship in the past, then I should also be willing to go to this tournament. I signed up. Three days before the championship, my poor results vanished as quickly and mysteriously as they had arrived. In training, I posted my highest scores ever. The tournament wasn’t going to be a disaster!

Since I’m not a Canadian, I couldn’t become the Canadian Champion. But there was a section for foreigners (the Open section) that I could win. I considered myself to be the clear favorite unless Livan Grijalva showed up. He is a top American mnemonist who sometimes goes to Canadian tournaments. I can compete with him in some of the disciplines, but he is much better at memorizing cards and numbers. In the Canadian section, Braden Adams should win easily. Since we were in different sections, we weren’t competing against each other, but of course I still hoped to outperform him (though I knew that was very unlikely).

I drove to Montreal a day before the event. I might have gotten a Canadian Border Patrol agent interested in memory techniques. He enjoyed testing me a bit (e.g., “What was the second question that I asked you?”). I was afraid that he wouldn’t believe me when I said I could memorize a deck of cards in under 5 minutes. But he let me through. Maybe he’ll be at the competition next year.

Since my entry was so last minute, I wasn’t fully prepared for all 6 events. Luckily, Livan wasn’t there, so I would probably win the Open section anyways. The first discipline was Images and I wasn’t quite ready for it. A few years ago, there was a split in the world of memory competitions. One set of tournaments used abstract black and white images, like the ones here. The Canadian championship and many other tournaments used pictures of everyday objects like bicycles or computers. But all of the other events were the same in both kinds of tournaments. That’s why I focused on the other events. As a result, I’m not very good at memorizing pictures. A talented beginner might be able to beat me. We get 5 minutes to memorize as many rows of pictures as possible. Each row has 5 pictures. Then in the recall session, each row is scrambled and we have to put them back in the proper order. I attempted 25 rows, which is typical for me. One of the competitors had requested an extra sheet, since he planned on memorizing more than 40(!) rows. I thought it was going well, but during recall, I found myself guessing a couple of times. My guesses must have been wrong; I only got 21 of the rows right. But I didn’t know that during the tournament. The results weren’t posted until a few days later.

My poor preparation affected me again in Words and in Numbers. Usually when I train, I have 5 minutes for each of these two disciplines. But in the Canadian championship, we had 10 minutes. I got off to a good start in numbers, but then I struggled to maintain my focus in the second half. I wasn’t used to having an extra five minutes. After attempting and reviewing the first 288 digits, I still had an extra minute or two. Should I review more? Or memorize more? If I had just picked one and stuck with it, I probably would have been okay. Instead, I tried a bit more review, changed my mind, switched to more memorization, and changed my mind again. Combine this with my loss of focus in the last 100 digits, and we have a disappointment. I got 17 rows of 12 digits correct and half of the last row. This yields a raw score of 210 (17x12 + 0.5x12 = 210). This is barely any better than my results with 5 minute numbers. The other 7 rows had mistakes; the extra 5 minutes had been wasted. I was planning on memorizing 90 words in 10 minutes and found myself in the same situation: what do I do with this extra time? Again I was indecisive. I tried an extra column of 10 words mixed with review. I felt okay, but then during recall I realized that several details were hazy. For example, I wasn’t sure if one of the words was “magic” or “magician.” Then there was a part where I knew the word was similar to “cut,” but it wasn’t actually “cut.” I went through as many synonyms as I could think of, but none of them felt right. Mistakes like this can be quite costly due to the scoring system, so I only scored 72 points out of the 100 I attempted. Only slightly better than what I usually do in 5 minute words.

I was ready for Names and Faces. We had 5 minutes to memorize as many as we could. Then during the recall session, we saw just the faces and had to write down their names. I had trained for this. Usually I spend the first four and a half minutes on memorization and then quickly review the first part for the last thirty seconds. Inexplicably I got too cautious and spent more time on review. I think I remembered nearly everything I tried to memorize, but I didn’t memorize enough. Just 45 names! Usually I get more than 50. There is no penalty for writing the wrong name, so there is no reason for spending a bunch of time on review trying to get everything perfect. You probably see the pattern here: I don’t handle the pressure well. I have to be AMAZING in training so that even when I collapse in a competition, my results are still respectable.

I wasn’t ready for the Exam Cramming discipline, an event unique to the Canadian tournaments. They give you notes and 15 minutes to study. It has information about made up historical events, geography, and other subjects. It’s all fictional to ensure that no one has an advantage from studying these areas ahead of time. I had attempted this sample exam at home. My practice result was a disaster: just 51%. A lot of it was just hard to memorize and I got flustered. The format of the practice test took me by surprise as well. To make matters worse, my printer had run out of color ink, and trying to distinguish the black and white photos of different praying mantises was tough. It’s very hard to practice for this event, so I just hoped to avoid a complete meltdown. Thanks to the practice exam, at least I knew what to expect. When I came across something that looked hard to memorize, I just skipped it instead of getting flustered. Then I came back to it later. Again I found myself with extra time. But I stuck to the plan: don’t try the bonus questions, just review again. All the pictures were in color, which helped. I felt good about my performance, but in view of how badly the practice test had gone, I didn’t want to get too optimistic. If I got 70%, I was happy.

I scored 90%!!! I had not dared to even hope for a score that high. Even Braden Adams, who had dominated the previous 4 events, couldn’t keep up with that. It feels great to beat an entire country at something.

The last event was Speed Cards. We had to memorize a deck in 5 minutes or less. I was a bit nervous about this discipline. Even though I had largely recovered from the disastrous results I had a few days before, I was still wobbly in cards. Just a day before the tournament, I had screwed up a deck. Maybe I’m still traumatized from botching the first deck at the 2018 US championship. There were 2 attempts, but what if I messed up both times? I decided to be extra slow and careful in the first round. I memorized the deck and then reviewed it once. That took 70 seconds. Slow by my standards, but it dazzled that Canadians. While I waited for everyone else to finish, I went through the deck in my head. I was pretty sure I had it. During the recall session, I took another deck and rearranged it to match my recollection of the first deck. I double checked and was confident that I had it. We had 5 minutes to recall, but I finished early. I didn’t want to start second guessing myself and ruin a deck that was almost surely correct. But when the judge was checking my results, I suddenly got nervous near the end. It was outside of my control now. But I had recalled it perfectly. Now that I had secured a decent result in round 1, I could afford to take risks with the second deck. By “take risks,” I mean going faster, which makes a mistake more likely. Since only your best result counts, this is the right strategy. I was hoping to memorize it in under a minute – something that I routinely did at home, but doing it during a competition with all the pressure is another matter. I zipped through the deck. But during review I suddenly realized that I didn’t know if a certain card was the 10 of Hearts or the 10 of Diamonds. I lost a few seconds double checking, but it didn’t throw me off. I finished in 62.333 seconds. If I hadn’t stumbled, maybe I would have done it in under a minute. But I was happy with this time. Usually I don’t perform well under pressure, but here I was just a few seconds slower than I was at home. I reviewed the deck in my head while waiting for the rest of the competitors to finish. A few details were hazy, but I thought I would probably get it. What I like about cards is that you can use the process of elimination. For instance, in this video this video, I wasn’t sure if a certain card was the King of Hearts or the King of Diamonds. I went through the rest of the deck in my head and realized that the King of Hearts came later, so this card must be the King of Diamonds. The same trick worked in Canadian Championship. Everything fell into place. I had recalled the deck perfectly. Meanwhile, Braden took 88 seconds to memorize his deck. Everyone else was much slower. Once again, I had beaten an entire country at something!!

I clobbered my rivals in the Open section (full results here). Though I was ineligible to be the Canadian Champion, I still hoped that I could beat the top Canadian. Unfortunately, Braden’s dominance in the first 4 events outweighed my victories in Exam Cramming and Speed Cards. He still would have won even if we disregard all the extra bonus he got that I was ineligible for. I finished 2nd overall. We’ll get ‘em next time!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

IM Jay Bonin defeats e4stat

I spent Labor Day weekend at the New York State Championship. My first game was against a well-known IM. It didn't go very well. Here's how to beat a 2100:


Click here if the full games are not displaying properly

[Event "New York State Championship"] [Site "Albany"] [Date "2019.08.31"] [Round "1"] [White "Bonin, IM Jay"] [Black "Wilson, Matthew"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A61"] [WhiteElo "2408"] [BlackElo "2120"] [Annotator "Wilson,Matthew"] [PlyCount "117"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. Bg5 {I knew about this move, but I did not consider it to be dangerous. Wrong assessment - the pin turns out to be quite annoying. I didn't have any prep for this line, so I just played natural moves. That didn't go very well.} Bg7 8. Nd2 O-O 9. e4 Re8 10. Be2 (10. f3 $4 Nxe4 $1 { But of course you don't catch IMs with a simple trap like this}) 10... Na6 11. O-O Nc7 12. a4 Rb8 13. f4 a6 14. e5 $6 ({I was anticipating} 14. a5 Bd7 { . The engine loves White's position, but I felt that I still had chances. Nc4 can be met by ...Bb5}) 14... dxe5 15. Nde4 h6 $2 (15... exf4 $1 {It's counterin tuitive to open the f-file, but this is best. In variations with Rxf4 and d5-d6, Black can pick up a tempo on the rook with ...Ne6 or ...Ncd5. And in sharp positions, every tempo matters a lot.} 16. Rxf4 $2 (16. Bc4 {is the engin e's choice, but clearly this wasn't what White had in mind when he played 14. e5. It leads to complications that eventually fizzle out:} Bf5 (16... b5 17. d6 Ne6 18. axb5 axb5 19. Bxe6 (19. Nxb5 Nxg5 20. Nxg5 Rf8 21. Rxf4 Bh6 22. h4 Bf5 23. Nxf7 Rxf7 24. Rxf5 gxf5 25. Ra7 Kh8 26. Rxf7 Be3+ 27. Kf1 { (27.Kh1 or 27.Kh2 would walk into a mating net)} Ne4 28. Qd5 Ng3+ 29. Ke1 Qa5+ 30. Nc3 Qa1+ 31. Nd1 (31. Qd1 $2 Qxb2 {and Black wins}) 31... Qa5+ 32. Nc3 { with a repetition}) 19... Rxe6 20. Rxf4 Bb7 21. Qf1 (21. d7 Bxe4 22. Nxe4 Qb6 { and Black's defenses hold together}) 21... Bxe4 22. Nxe4 Rxe4 23. Rxe4 Qxd6 24. Rf4 Nh5 25. Rxf7 Qd5 26. Re7 Rf8 27. Qc1 { and Black has enough compensation for the Exchange}) 17. d6 Ne6 18. d7 Rf8 19. Bxe6 fxe6 20. Qd6 h6 21. Nxf6+ Bxf6 22. Bxf6 Qxf6 {is equal according to the engine. Black is 2 pawns up, but his position is loose and the passer on d7 is very strong. One sample variation is} 23. Rxf4 e5 24. Qd5+ Rf7 25. Ne4 Bxe4 26. Rxf6 Bxd5 27. Rxg6+ Kh7 28. Rd6 Rd8 29. Rxd5 Rdxd7 30. Rxe5 { with a drawn rook ending}) 16... Bf5 17. g4 {During the game, this move deterred me from playing 15...exf4. However, Black has a defensive resource that is hard to see from afar. Unbelievably, White's e2-bishop is undefended in some variations, and that changes everything!} (17. Nxc5 Qd6 $1 { Black breaks the pin with tempo and the d5-pawn will fall}) (17. d6 Ne6 18. d7 Nxg5 $1 {Stockfish's move. My notes suggested 18...Rf8 and White's attack runs out of gas, but this is stronger} 19. dxe8=Q+ Qxe8 20. Nxg5 Qe3+ $1 { and White loses material}) (17. Nxf6+ Bxf6 18. Bxf6 Qxf6 19. g4 Qg5 $1 { I think I saw this during the game. White can try to seize the f-file as compensation, but it doesn't work:} 20. Qf1 Rxe2 $1 21. Nxe2 { and now Stockfish likes} Bd3 $1 {This is much better than my suggested 21... Bxg4. White is tied up and d5 is going to drop off.}) 17... Bxe4 18. Nxe4 Ncxd5 19. Bxf6 (19. Rxf6 Rxe4 $1 {and White doesn't have any good discoveries.} 20. Rxg6 (20. Re6 Rd4) (20. Rf5 Bd4+ $1 {shields my knight with tempo}) 20... Qd7 $1 {and the rook is stranded}) (19. Nxf6+ Bxf6 20. Rxf6 Nxf6 21. Qxd8 Rbxd8 22. Bxf6 {The e2-bishop is hanging, but White replies with a counterattack against my rook. However, after} Rd6 $1 {one of the bishops will fall.}) 19... Nxf6 20. Qxd8 Rbxd8 21. Nxf6+ Bxf6 22. Rxf6 { and now the undefended bishop on e2 drops off:} Rxe2 {and Black wins}) ({ During the game, I had been counting on} 15... Bf5 {, but then I noticed 16.d6. I didn't like what I saw. After rejecting 15...exf4 and 15...Bf5, I played 15.. .h6? without much further thought and missed a simple tactic.} 16. d6 ({ During the game, I saw that} 16. fxe5 {isn't dangerous.} Rxe5 17. Nxf6+ Bxf6 18. Bxf6 Qxf6 19. g4 Qg5 20. h4 Qe3+) 16... Ne6 (16... Ncd5 17. Nxd5 Bxe4 18. d7 $1 {Stockfish's move} (18. fxe5 $2 Bxd5 19. exf6 {is in my notes. Due to tactics, neither one of Black's bishops is hanging. However, I couldn't find a satisfactory move for Black.} Bc6 (19... Be6 20. d7 $1 Bxd7 { (both 20...Qxd7 and 20...Rf8 run into 21.fxg7)} 21. fxg7 Qxg5 22. Qxd7 { Again, the e2-bishop is hanging, but here that doesn't save Black. The clergyman is immune because of 23.Qxf7#}) (19... Re5 { I thought that this just lost to} 20. Bf4 {, but Stockfish sees further:} Qxf6 21. Bxe5 Qxe5 {and actually Black is fine}) 20. Bc4 { and inexplicably I missed the obvious} Bf8) 18... Re6 19. fxe5 Bxd5 20. exf6 Bf8 (20... Rd6 21. Bg4 $1 (21. Bf4 {lets Black off the hook.} Qxf6 { Black can afford to give back the Exchange since he will round up the d7-pawn.} ) 21... Bf8 22. Bf4 Qxf6 23. Bxd6 Qxd6 24. Rf2 $1 {followed by Rd2 ensures the survival of the d7-pawn. Black is down material and busted.}) 21. Qxd5 Rxe2 22. Rae1 $1 {Black loses control of the e-file. White will follow up with Re8 and there isn't much that I can do about it.}) 17. Bxf6 (17. fxe5 Nxg5 18. Nxf6+ Bxf6 19. exf6 {spooked me during the game because it looks like} Qxf6 20. g4 { wins a piece. However,} Qd4+ $1 {saves the day}) 17... Bxf6 18. d7 Rf8 19. Nxf6+ Qxf6 20. g4 { Stockfish's choice. I gave this move a question mark in my notes.} (20. Nd5 Qg7 21. g4 Be4 22. fxe5 Qxe5 23. Nf6+ {In my notes, I thought White was doing very well here. Knight on f6, pawn on d7, control of the f-file, etc. But Stockfish is unimpressed. Black also has his trumps. White's king is exposed and the e6-knight is itching to go to d4. And the e4-bishop is a strong piece}) 20... Nxf4 {Here my notes correctly observe that Black gets too much compensation after 21.gxf5 Qg5+. However, I overlooked} 21. Rxf4 $1 exf4 22. gxf5 { White's monster on d7 outweighs Black's material advantage.}) 16. Bxf6 Bxf6 17. d6 Ne6 18. d7 $1 Bxd7 19. Qxd7 Bg7 20. Nd5 $2 { Stockfish frowns on this move. Apparently Black is still alive after 20...Kh8!} Qxd7 $2 {Now it's over.} (20... Kh8 21. Qxd8 Rexd8 {and Black picks up a third pawn for his piece. However, White remains in control with a big advantage.}) 21. Ndf6+ Bxf6 22. Nxf6+ Kg7 23. Nxd7 Rbd8 24. Nxe5 Nxf4 {A little trick that recovers some of the material, but White's bishop outweighs the pawns.} 25. Rxf4 Rxe5 26. Rd1 Rxd1+ 27. Bxd1 b6 { Or else 28.a5 fixes the pawn on a light square} 28. Bb3 f5 29. Bc4 { Well played. Now my queenside majority loses its mobility.} a5 30. Kf2 Kf6 31. Rf3 Re4 32. b3 Ke5 33. Re3 g5 34. g3 f4 35. gxf4+ Kxf4 36. Rh3 { Winning a pawn. But I found some counterplay to keep the game going.} Rd4 37. Rxh6 Rd2+ 38. Ke1 ({I was hoping for} 38. Be2 Rb2 39. Rxb6 c4 $1 {The engine says that White is still winning, but this would give me real counterplay.}) 38... Rb2 39. Kd1 g4 40. Kc1 Rg2 41. Bd5 Re2 42. h3 { It looks like a mistake at first glance, but the IM has worked everything out.} g3 43. Rg6 Rh2 44. Rg4+ Ke5 45. Bb7 Rxh3 46. Bg2 {Black can't keep his passer. So 42.h3 was not a blunder - it just liquidated the kingside pawns.} Rh6 47. Rxg3 Rh4 48. Bf1 {Stopping ...c4} Rh1 49. Rf3 Ke4 50. Rf7 Kd4 51. Kd2 Rh2+ 52. Be2 Rh3 53. Rd7+ Ke5 54. Bd3 Rh2+ 55. Kc3 Rh4 56. Rb7 Rh6 57. Rg7 { Threatening to force a trade on g6. I stop it} Kf6 58. Rh7 { But now I'm forced to trade on h7 instead.} Rxh7 59. Bxh7 {I resigned.} 1-0


After taking a half point bye, I scored a nice win over a master.

[Event "New York State Championship"] [Site "Albany"] [Date "2019.09.01"] [Round "3"] [White "Wilson, Matthew"] [Black "Howard, NM Dean"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B19"] [WhiteElo "2120"] [BlackElo "2005"] [Annotator "Wilson,Matthew"] [PlyCount "81"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. Nf3 Nd7 7. h4 h6 8. h5 Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 11. Bf4 Qa5+ 12. Bd2 Bb4 13. c3 Be7 14. c4 Qc7 15. O-O-O Ngf6 16. Kb1 O-O 17. Ne2 e5 $6 {At first I thought , did Black just equalize? But then my knights begged me to occupy f5.} 18. Ng3 $6 {Right idea, wrong execution} (18. dxe5 Nxe5 19. Nxe5 Qxe5 20. Bc3 { is more accurate, since Black doesn't have the ...Qf4 defense that we will see later. True, Black can force a queen trade with} Qe4 {, which greatly reduces White's attacking prospects. But Stockfish points out that White retains a big advantage after} 21. Ng3 {. The f5-square remains weak.}) 18... Rfe8 (18... Rfd8 $6 19. Qe2 $1 (19. Nf5 e4 $2 (19... Bf8 { keeps White's advantage to a minimum}) 20. Nxe7+ Kf8 21. Qa3 $1 c5 {and White h as lots of ways to win. My notes suggest 22.dxc5, which should do the job, but Stockfish prefers the simple} 22. Nf5 exf3 23. Qxf3 { White is up a pawn and his attack is just getting started}) 19... Bd6 20. Nf5 { In my notes, I thought that Black was okay after} exd4 (20... e4 21. N3h4 { is very good for White}) {But I missed} 21. Bxh6 $1 gxh6 (21... Re8 22. Qc2 gxh6 23. Nxh6+ Kf8 24. Nxf7 {transposes}) 22. Nxh6+ Kf8 23. Nxf7 Re8 24. Qc2 Kxf7 25. Ng5+ Ke7 (25... Kf8 26. Qg6 Re7 27. h6 $1) 26. Rhe1+ Kd8 27. Rxe8+ Kxe8 28. Qg6+ Ke7 29. Qf7+ Kd8 30. Ne6+ {and White wins}) (18... exd4 { is suggested by the engine} 19. Nxd4 Rfe8 20. Ngf5 Bf8 { and now the prophylactic} 21. Qc2 {preserves an edge for White}) 19. dxe5 Nxe5 20. Nxe5 Qxe5 21. Bc3 (21. Rhe1 {was my original intention, but I feared that Black could swap off all the rooks in some lines. It's not hard to imagine ... Rad8 and ...Bf8 in the near future.} Qc7 (21... Rad8 $2 22. Qxd8 Bxd8 23. Rxe5 Rxe5 {and I missed that I can just grab a pawn with} 24. Bxh6 {(thanks, Stocky) }) (21... Qc5 {is Stockfish's suggested defense.} 22. Bc3 { pursues the same plan as in the game, but it's not effective here:} Rad8 (22... Nxh5 $4 23. Re5) (22... Qxf2 $2 23. Rf1 { followed by Nf5 with overwhelming compensation for the pawn}) 23. Qf3 Rxd1+ 24. Rxd1 {and now Black can clip an important pawn with} Qxc4 { , which also takes control of d5}) 22. Bc3 (22. Nf5 {and Black has time to play } Bf8 {without fearing Bxf6}) 22... Red8 {(clearing e8 for the knight)} 23. Qe2 {My notes recommended 23.Qf3, but Stockfish prefers this move} Rxd1+ 24. Rxd1 Ne8 {Hoping to contest the f5-square with ...Nd6} 25. Be5 $1 { And now we see why it was important to play 23.Qe2.} Qb6 (25... Bd6 26. Rxd6) 26. Bxg7 $1) (21. Qf3 { is the best chance to preserve an edge, according to Stockfish. But after} Qe6 22. b3 Bc5 23. Rde1 Qg4 {, Black is only slightly worse}) 21... Qc7 $2 (21... Qg5 22. Nf5 {and the g2-pawn is obviously taboo}) (21... Qf4 {was the only move } 22. Nf5 Qxf2 {I spent a bunch of time trying to refute this} ({I overlooked} 22... Qe4 {during the game. In my notes, I thought that it solved most of Black's problems, but Stockfish thinks that White still has a clear advantage}) (22... Ne4 $1 { is Stockfish's solution and it refutes 22.Nf5. The tactical justification is} 23. Nxg7 $4 Nxc3+ 24. Qxc3 Bf6 { But if 22.Nf5 is unplayable, then White has nothing}) 23. Rdf1 Qc5 { The g2-pawn is still immune} (23... Rad8 24. Nxe7+ $1) 24. Qg3 $1 { and Black is defenseless}) 22. Nf5 Rad8 23. Qf3 { Setting up tactics against the f6-knight} Kh7 { It's hard to find a decent move for Black} (23... Bf8 24. Nxh6+ $1) (23... Rxd1+ 24. Rxd1 Rd8 25. Re1 $1 Rd7 26. Nxh6+) 24. g4 Rxd1+ {Relatively best} ( 24... Bf8 25. Rxd8 {Stockfish's move} (25. Nxg7 {is similar to the game}) 25... Qxd8 (25... Rxd8 {meets a similar fate}) 26. g5 $1 {This idea is more powerful with the White rook on h1. That's why it's best for Black to swap rooks.}) 25. Rxd1 Bf8 {Falling into a tactic, but Black was already busted. All he can do is decide which tactic he wants to walk into.} (25... Rd8 26. Re1 Rd7 { Dreaming of playing ...Ne8 to hold his position together} 27. Nxg7 $1 { (Stockfish)} ({My notes suggest} 27. g5 $1 hxg5 28. h6 $1 { , which also does the job}) 27... Kxg7 28. Rxe7 $1 Rd1+ 29. Qxd1 Qxe7 30. Qd4 c5 31. Qf4 $1 {and Black is paralyzed}) (25... Bd8 {and now Stockfish loves} 26. Qd3 $1 ({My notes suggest} 26. Nxh6 { , which is also strong. The tactical justification is} Kxh6 27. g5+ $1 Kxg5 28. Bd2+) 26... Kg8 27. g5 $1 hxg5 28. h6 $1 g6 29. Ng7 Rf8 30. Ne6 $1 fxe6 31. Qxg6+ Kh8 32. Rxd8 $1 {Very impressive, but that's a lot to calculate}) 26. Nxg7 $1 (26. Nxh6 {seemed to be harder to calculate; Black has options like 26. ..Ne4. But the engine assures me that it was also good. Bizarrely, neither one of these moves is Stockfish's top choice. It likes 26.Kc2. Apparently Black can't improve his position, so White can take a few tempi to strengthen his hand before capturing on g7 or h6.}) 26... Bxg7 27. Qf5+ $6 { Objectively not a bad move, but it makes White's task far more complicated.} ( 27. Bxf6 Bxf6 28. Qxf6 Qe7 (28... Re6 {and now we see the idea behind the "precise" 27.Qf5+. In the Qf5+ variation, the Black king is on g8, so ...Re6?? loses immediately to Rd8+. But in the 27.Bxf6 line, ...Re6 is a viable option since Rd8 does not come with check.}) 29. Qf5+ Kg8 30. f3 Qe2 31. Qd3 { is much simpler than what happened in the game. White is up a pawn for nothing. }) 27... Kg8 28. Bxf6 Bxf6 29. Qxf6 Qe7 30. Qxh6 {I spent a long time on this move. If only the Black king were still on h7! Then I would have time to consolidate with 31.Qf5+ followed by 32.f3. I regretted playing 27.Qf5+ Kg8.} ( {The main alternative was} 30. Qxe7 Rxe7 {, leading a complex rook ending. White has an extra pawn, but will it be enough to convert?} 31. f3 Re3 32. Rd7 Rxf3 33. Rxb7 Rf4 (33... a5 {is Stockfish's move} 34. Rb6 f5 (34... Rf6 35. Ra6 {rounds up the a-pawn}) 35. Rxc6 fxg4 36. Rg6+ Kf7 37. Rxg4 Rh3 38. Kc2 Rxh5 { and Stockfish keeps wanting to play the anti-positional} 39. a3 {, which allows ...a4. But the engine has calculated that everything works out in the end:} Rh2+ 40. Kb3 a4+ 41. Kxa4 Rxb2 42. Re4 {cutting off Black's king} h5 43. c5 { and White wins}) 34. b3 ({My notes dismiss} 34. Rxa7 {because of} Rxc4 { ; the g-pawn isn't running away. But Stockfish prefers this over 34.b3, since it gives White a head start in the pawn race. Its main line continues} 35. a4 Rxg4 36. a5 f5 37. Kc2 f4 $2 (37... Rg1 {is a slower way to die}) 38. a6 f3 39. Kd2 Re4 40. Ra8+ Kg7 41. a7 f2 42. Rg8+ $1) 34... Rxg4 (34... a5 35. Rc7 Rxg4 ( 35... Rf6 36. Ra7 {- one of Black's queenside pawns drops off anyways, and he doesn't get the g4-pawn in return}) (35... f5 {is Stocky's choice, which initially makes no sense. The f-pawn is destined to be a mighty passer; why exchange it off for a g-pawn that was doomed to die for nothing?} 36. gxf5 Rxf5 37. Rxc6 Rxh5 {And now we see that there was a method to Black's madness. His goal was to create an outside passer on the h-file rather than the f-file.} 38. Rb6 Kf7 39. Rb5 Rh1+ 40. Kb2 h5 41. Rxa5 h4 42. a4 Kg6 43. Ra8 h3 44. Rh8 h2 45. a5 {and White prevails}) 36. Rxc6 Kg7 37. Rc5 { and if Black continues with 37...Rg5, then he loses the pawn ending}) 35. Rxa7 {White's a-pawn is very dangerous, but so is Black's f-pawn. During the game, this was unclear to me.} Rg2 { The best practical chance. Black tries to keep my king at bay.} (35... f5 36. Kc2 {and White wins since his king can stop Black's passer, while the Black potentate is powerless to do the same.}) 36. Kc1 (36. a4 f5 37. a5 $2 { So natural, but this throws away the win!} f4 38. a6 f3 39. Ra8+ Kg7 40. a7 f2 41. Rf8 Kxf8 42. a8=Q+ Kg7 {Amazingly, there is no way for White to win!}) 36... f5 37. a4 f4 38. Kd1 (38. a5 $4 f3 39. Kd1 Rg1+ $1 { My notes give 39...Re2, but this move from Stockfish wins on the spot}) 38... f3 39. Ke1 Rb2 40. Rb7 c5 41. a5 Ra2 42. Rb5 Rb2 43. a6 Ra2 44. Rxc5 Rxa6 45. Kf2 {and White will win}) (30. Qd4 Qe4+ 31. Kc1 c5 32. Qxc5 Qxg4 {is inferior to the game, and Stockfish points out that 31...Qe2 may be even better}) 30... Qe4+ 31. Ka1 Qd4 $2 ({I thought he was going to take on g4, but he said that he was afraid of opening up the g-file.} 31... Qxg4 32. f3 (32. Qc1 {was my int ention back when I played 31.Ka1, but then I noticed that this move is stronger}) 32... Qg3 {(the move he missed. Black keeps my rook off the g-file.) } 33. Qd2 $1 (33. Qc1 Re2 {and now I got bogged down trying to calculate} 34. Rd8+ (34. a3 {and now my notes like} Kh7 {- even awarding it an exclamation point - since it takes the sting out of Rd8. But Stockfish replies with} 35. Qc3 $1 {There is no ...Re1 or ...Qxf3 and Black has to find a way to deal with Rd7. Because 35.Qc3! is so strong, Stockfish recommends that Black play 34... Qe5 instead.}) 34... Kh7 35. Qb1+ Kh6 36. Rh8+ Kg7 37. Qh7+ Kf6 38. Qh6+ Kf5 { and White doesn't have a knockout}) (33. a3 Re1 { Without the rooks, White's attack runs out of gas}) {Since White can't convincingly punish 33.Qc1 Re2, it's best to play 33.Qd2. The tactical justification is} 33... Qxf3 $2 34. Rg1+ Kf8 (34... Kh7 35. Qg5 $1) 35. Qd6+ Re7 36. Re1 Qf6 37. Qd8+ {. If Black avoids this trap, the evaluation for 31... Qd4 is only a little bit worse than for 31...Qxg4. But White's job is significantly more difficult if the g-pawn falls. Miscalculate something and then the h-pawn may drop off and then White has nothing.}) 32. Qg5+ Kh8 33. Qh6+ {Repeating the position in order to get closer to the time control. I had about 20 minutes at this point.} Kg8 34. Qc1 { He resigned here - a pleasant surprise. The game might have concluded with} Qxf2 35. Qg5+ (35. h6 { was my intention during the game. Here Stockfish suggests} Qe3 {and White shoul d win, though rook endings are notoriously drawish. I thought he would play 35. ..Qf6, when White still has a lot of work to do}) 35... Kf8 36. h6 Re1 $2 37. Qd8+ Re8 38. h7 $1 Qh2 39. Qd6+ $3 Qxd6 40. h8=Q+ Ke7 41. Qxe8+ $1 1-0

Monday, September 9, 2019

2019 Fall Chess Classic

The St. Louis Chess Club is hosting another strong 10-player round robin. The forecast for the A Group:




Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Another GM beats e4stat

E4stat played in the Philadelphia Open. I won a prize and gained a few rating points, but it was not because of this game. GM Bryan Smith gives a lesson on how to beat 2100 players; hopefully you can learn something from this.



[Event "Philadelphia Open"] [Site "Philadelphia"] [Date "2019.06.29"] [Round "2"] [White "Wilson, Matthew"] [Black "Smith, GM Bryan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B57"] [WhiteElo "2112"] [BlackElo "2512"] [Annotator "Wilson,Matthew"] [PlyCount "92"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bc4 Qb6 7. Nb3 e6 8. O-O Be7 9. a4 { This move is less effective if Black hasn't played ...a6. 9.Be3 is better. I forgot my prep. } O-O 10. Be3 (10. a5 {is more consistent}) 10... Qc7 11. f4 b6 (11... d5 { is playable, according to the engine:} 12. exd5 Nb4 $1) 12. Be2 Bb7 13. Bf3 Rac8 14. g4 (14. Nb5 Qb8 15. c4 {doesn't work} a6 {Stockfish's recommendation} (15... Nb4 { is in my notes, but Stockfish finds} 16. Bd2 { and Black shouldn't go pawn grabbing:} Rxc4 17. Na3) 16. Nc3 Nb4 17. Nd2 Rfd8 { and ...d5 is coming}) 14... Nb4 15. g5 Nd7 ({ Stockfish briefly likes a weird tactic:} 15... Nxe4 16. Bxe4 Bxe4 17. Nxe4 Nxc2 {. However, it soon realizes that this doesn't end well for Black} 18. Rc1 Nxe3 19. Rxc7 Rxc7 20. Qe2 Nxf1 21. Kxf1) 16. Bg2 Rfd8 17. Rf2 {A multi-purpose move. White can double on the f-file, swing the rook over to d2, or play Qh5 without dropping the c2-pawn. But these plans are too slow. Stockfish recommends 17.Nd4.} Nc5 18. Rd2 {Preventing ...d5} ({ After the game, I thought that} 18. Nd4 { was more accurate, but in my notes I realize that} d5 19. e5 Ne4 { is still miserable for White}) (18. Nb5 Qb8 19. Nxc5 bxc5 {is Stockfish's recommendation. It thinks that the position is equal since ...d5 is far less dangerous now}) 18... d5 {Oh...I guess I didn't prevent it after all.} ({ Stockfish points out that} 18... Nxb3 19. cxb3 d5 {is more accurate, since it prevents(!) White from playing c2-c3 in some variations}) 19. e5 $6 ({ I saw his trick:} 19. exd5 $6 Nxb3 20. cxb3 Bc5 $1 { and Black regains the pawn favorably.} 21. Bxc5 Qxc5+ 22. Kh1 Nxd5 23. Nxd5 Bxd5 24. Bxd5 Rxd5 25. Rxd5 exd5 {and Black is much better}) (19. Nb5 { was the only way to maintain the balance.} Qb8 20. c3 { Stockfish's recommendation} ({My notes dismissed 19.Nb5 due to} 20. e5 Ne4 { but Stockfish thinks that it's equal after the awkward 21.Re2. Instead, it thinks that Black should meet 20.e5 with 20...Nxb3 followed by ...Ba6, with a slight advantage.}) 20... Nba6 21. e5 (21. exd5 Nxb3 22. Qxb3 Bc5 $1) 21... Ne4 {and the engine goes to triple zeros land}) 19... Nxb3 20. cxb3 Bc5 21. Bxc5 $2 ({During the game, I saw} 21. Bd4 Bxd4+ 22. Rxd4 Qc5 $1 23. Kh1 Nc2 $1 { and White is busted}) (21. Bf2 Bxf2+ (21... d4 { leads to complications and throws away most of Black's advantage} 22. Nb5 Qe7 ( 22... Qd7 23. Nxd4 Bxg2 {(Stockfish's move)} (23... Nc2 {is in my notes, but I missed that} 24. Bxb7 $1 {wins for White}) 24. Kxg2 Bxd4 25. Bxd4 Rc2 26. Rxc2 Nxc2 27. Qxc2 Qxd4 28. Rf1 {Black retains the initiative, but White is hanging on}) 23. Nxd4 Bxd4 24. Bxd4 (24. Rxd4 $2 Rxd4 25. Bxd4 Rd8 26. Rc1 (26. Bxb7 Qxb7 27. Rc1 ( 27. Qd2 Nc6 28. Qg2 Rxd4 29. Rc1 Nd8 {and Black keeps his extra material}) 27... Qe4 $1 (27... Nc6 $2 28. Qf3 $1) 28. Rc4 Nc6 {and Black wins a piece}) 26... Bxg2 27. Kxg2 Qd7 (27... Qb7+ $2 28. Qf3 $1 { and tactics hold White's position together}) 28. Qg1 Qd5+ { and at the very least, Black can recover his pawn with a big advantage}) 24... Bxg2 (24... Nc2 25. Rxc2 Rxc2 26. Qxc2 Rxd4 {and White is okay}) 25. Kxg2 Qb7+ 26. Qf3 {and White hangs on}) 22. Rxf2 Qc5 (22... d4 $2 23. Nb5 Qe7 24. Bxb7 Qxb7 25. Nd6) 23. Nb5 Ba6 24. Bf1 { is bad for White, but it's better than what happened in the game}) 21... Qxc5+ $1 ({I was expecting} 21... bxc5) 22. Kh1 Qe3 23. Nb5 (23. Rd4 Nc2 (23... Nc6 $1 {is a much simpler refutation}) 24. Rd3 { leads to some very entertaining variations:} Qxd3 25. Qxd3 Nxa1 26. Qd1 { (My notes suggest 26.Ne2 as an improvement, but Stocky prefers 26.Nd1)} d4 $1 27. Ne4 (27. Bxb7 dxc3 28. Qxa1 c2 $1 {and Black wins}) 27... d3 28. Nf6+ (28. Qxa1 Bxe4 29. Bxe4 d2) 28... gxf6 29. Bxb7 d2 30. Bxc8 Nc2 31. gxf6 { and it looks like} Ne3 {wins, but White turns tables with} 32. Qg1+ $1) (23. Ne4 Qxf4 24. Nd6 Rc7 25. Nxb7 Rxb7 26. Rd4 {picks up the b4-knight, but if Black plays 23...Ba6, then it's clear that White is just setting traps}) 23... Ba6 $6 {A natural move that I passed over in my notes} ({Stocky prefers} 23... a5 $1 {The point is that after} 24. Qe1 Qxf4 25. Rd4 {, Black's knight is protected. So White can't save his f4-pawn and his position collapses.}) 24. Nxa7 $4 {I felt like I was almost in zugzwang. At the moment, ...Qxf4 is not a threat due to Rd4, but it seemed like every move worsens my position, e.g.} ( 24. Rd4 Nc2 25. Rd3 Qxf4 26. Rc1 Nb4 (26... Ne3 $1 {is even more powerful according to Stockfish} ) 27. Rxc8 Rxc8 28. Rd4 Rc1) (24. Rc1 Qxf4 {and now Rd4 hangs a rook}) (24. Nc3 Nd3) (24. Qe2 Qxf4 25. Rd4 Qxd4) (24. Rb1 Bxb5 25. axb5 d4 $1) (24. Qe1 $1 { was the only move} Qxb3 ({Stockfish prefers} 24... Qxe1+ 25. Rxe1 Bxb5 26. axb5 Rc2 {. White is clearly suffering, but there is still hope}) 25. Nd4 Qc4 26. Rad1 {Stocky's move. My notes originally suggested 26.Bf1, but then I noticed that 26...Qxf1+ was strong. White has lost a pawn, but he has a firm grip on d4 and he has mostly sealed up the holes in his position.}) 24... Ra8 $1 { I missed this idea. I thought he was going to double on the c-file} 25. Rd4 ( 25. Nb5 $4 {drops a piece}) 25... Nd3 26. Rxd3 Bxd3 27. Nc6 Re8 28. Qf3 { This is Stockfish's top choice, but now White goes down without much of a fight } (28. Qg1 {is recommended in my notes} Qxf4 29. Qxb6 {and White can dream of pushing his passed pawns. Of course it shouldn't work, but you have to create opportunities for your opponent to go wrong}) 28... Qc5 $1 (28... Qxf3 $2 29. Bxf3 {will be much harder to win. White will withdraw the knight to the wonderful d4-square.}) 29. Qxd3 Qxc6 30. Rd1 Rac8 31. Kg1 (31. f5 Qc2 { and White's "attack" is not going anywhere}) 31... Qc2 32. Qxc2 Rxc2 33. Bf1 Rec8 34. Rd4 g6 35. Rb4 R8c6 36. Bb5 (36. Rd4 Rxb2 37. Rd3 {is a slower death, but it doesn't give me any counterplay. With the text, I hope to pick up the b6-pawn and create queenside passers.}) 36... Rc1+ 37. Kf2 R6c2+ 38. Be2 { Losing a piece, but my position was already hopeless} Rxb2 39. Rxb6 { The bishop cannot be saved} (39. Ke3 Re1) (39. Kf3 Rc3+ 40. Kf2 Rcc2) 39... Rcc2 40. Rb8+ Kg7 41. a5 Rxe2+ 42. Kf3 d4 43. b4 Re3+ 44. Kg4 Rg2+ 45. Kh4 Rxh2+ 46. Kg4 Rhh3 0-1

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Grand Chess Tour - Croatia

The 12-player round robin begins next week. Magnus Carlsen has put a lot of distance between himself and his rivals, so he is the big favorite in the forecast.