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.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Poikovsky Karpov tournament

Artemiev has gained a bunch of points lately; he is the top seed in the 10-player round robin.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Altibox Norway Chess

World Champion Magnus Carlsen has been performing very well lately. He enters the tournament as the big favorite.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Memory Competition (part 3)

One last post about memory. Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.


The 2019 National Memory Championship

            I had made it to the finals last year! This gave me a bunch of motivation. I had been training for about two and a half hours per day. But the national championship had a different format than the tournaments I was preparing for. Both of them had cards and numbers, but in the qualifier, we also had to memorize poetry and names. So I added those to my routine. But I only had a few months to train for names and poetry, so I knew I wouldn’t be great at them. However, I would run up the score in cards and numbers, where I had made enormous progress. I thought that I would qualify for the finals comfortably. If all goes well, I could even finish in the top 5. I faced a tougher field this year. All of the best memories in America were there except for former World Champion Alex Mullen. And only 8 of us would advance to the final. But I had improved so much that I was still very confident.
            The first event: Names. They passed out sheets with names and headshots. We had 15 minutes to memorize as many as possible. Then we got new sheets with just the headshots. We had to fill in the names from memory. I memorized 100 names. Decent, but not great. Four-time US champ Nelson Dellis set a national record by recalling 235 names – an astounding performance. But I didn’t need to beat Nelson at names. I just had to stay close to the top 8 and then compensate with cards and numbers. So far, it was going according to plan. I had been hoping to break my personal record (104 names), but 100 was good enough. It was way better than my performance last year, which was just 56 names.
            The second event: Numbers. We had 5 minutes to memorize as many as possible. In training, I was usually getting about 160-200. There were two attempts. My plan was to try 160 in the first round. That way I would have time to review it thoroughly and I should nail it. In the second round, we get a new sheet of numbers and I would shoot for 200. Only the best score counts. Because of that, it’s common to memorize a smaller amount in round 1. Once you’ve done that and secured a decent score, you can get ambitious in round 2.
            I turned the sheet over and started memorizing. The font was noticeably smaller than what I was used to. I tried not to let it bother me. The five minutes zipped by faster than I had expected. I turned in my sheet and then tried to write down the 160-digit number from memory.
            The small font, the pressure – it must have gotten to me. There were several places where I just drew a blank. And the scoring system severely punishes stuff like that. Make one mistake in a row of 20 digits, and you get zero points for that row. You have to get the row perfect in order to get 20 points. I messed up 2 rows. Five rows were perfect and in the last row, I only wrote down the first 14 digits because I wasn’t sure about the last 6. I scored just 114 points. That’s reasonable by the standards of the national championship, but I really needed to do well here in order to compensate for names and poetry. Defending champ John Graham memorized more than 300 digits.
            Then they passed out the second sheet of numbers. I tried 160 digits again, but I really needed to get it right this time. I was able to go faster; perhaps I had adjusted to the font size. I reviewed it twice. When I was writing the number down from memory, there was just one row that I was uncertain about. Was there a “1655” in the middle of that row or was it a “5516”? All I could remember is that I had made a mental note to be careful about that part. I put down “5516” on my sheet. I recalled the rest of the number comfortably, so I went back to double check. Then I erased the “5516” and replaced it with “1655.”
            It was 5516! No points for that row, but the other 7 rows were perfect. I scored 140. A bit disappointing. I was in 10th place and only the top 8 would advance to the final. One of the high schoolers had put up a phenomenal score in names and then there was a new guy who somehow memorized 260 digits in his very first tournament. There were still two more events in the qualifier, but suddenly I was not sure if I could make it to the final.
            Event #3: Poetry. They passed out sheets of paper with an unpublished poem. We had 15 minutes to memorize as much as we could. In a last minute rule change, the author read the poem aloud at the beginning. I knew that there was no way I could keep up; people read faster than I can memorize. I tried to ignore it and focus on the paper. I just hoped it wouldn’t throw me off. And given my precarious situation in the tournament, I really could not afford to screw up. I budgeted 9 minutes for memorization and 6 minutes for review.
            Time’s up! I handed in the poem and started writing down as much of it as I could remember. I was pretty sure that I had all the words right. But I was a bit unsure about some of the punctuation. Is there a comma at the end of that line? If I got it wrong, I would score zero points for that line; you only get points for the lines that are perfect. I had to make some guesses. Only a day ago I thought I would sail through the qualifier comfortably; now my sloppiness with punctuation might eliminate me.
            Event #4: Cards. We had to memorize a deck in five minutes or less. They were still scoring the poetry event, so I didn’t know where I was in the standings. I did know that I had to hit it out of the park in order to qualify. Just like last year’s situation, I thought. That was not very comforting. Last year, I screwed up the first deck. The pressure. But I had improved at cards and it was one of my strongest areas. But that’s what you told yourself before the numbers event and look at how that turned out. Take it slow on the first deck, make sure you get it right this time. I started my timer. I got through the deck and reviewed it. I put it down and stopped the clock. Immediately I was disappointed by what I saw. A minute and thirty-nine seconds?! In practice, I could go at least 15-20 seconds faster without losing any accuracy. The pressure – it must have gotten to me again. I didn’t feel nervous. But memorizing in a competition and memorizing at home are two very different things. If you look up a memory tournament and scroll down to the bottom of the standings, there will probably be somebody who memorized just 6 or 7 cards in 5 minutes. You know they can do better than that. But the pressure gets to people. I reviewed the deck in my mind while waiting for everyone to finish. Everything was clear. At least I wouldn’t mess up like I did last year.
            I got it right. Though it was slow by my standards, a minute thirty-nine might be enough to propel me to the final. My dreams were still alive. As with numbers, there were two rounds and only your top score counts. Since I had already secured a good result, now I could go at top speed with the second deck and not worry so much about making a mistake. I zipped through the deck and reviewed it quickly. Usually “top speed” means under 70 seconds for me. But in a competition, there’s so much pressure… I stopped the clock. A minute and twenty-five seconds. Mildly disappointing. I recalled the deck perfectly. Now we just had to wait for the judges to tally up the scores. Maybe I would make it to the final. Maybe I wouldn’t.
            During the lunch break, I talked to a few of the other competitors. Some of last year’s finalists stumbled in the cards event. The pressure! It affects everyone. When I finished up lunch, the organizers were still working on the results. All I could do now was wait and hope.
            A spreadsheet appeared on the big screen. “The names highlighted in green are the finalists,” the organizer said. I was sitting in the back and couldn’t read it. I got up and went over for a closer look. Predictably, the “Big Four” made it. That’s defending champion John Graham, 4-time champion Nelson Dellis, world record holder Lance Tschirhart, and Livan Grijalva. I knew I couldn’t beat them. New-guy-who-memorized-260-digits-in-his-first-tournament made it. A pair of outstanding high schoolers qualified. And so did Matt Wilson! I finished 7th.
            When they passed out the awards, I got a special mention. The announcer told everyone about the Boston Globe article I appeared in last year. I reenacted the pose in my famous photo.
            But there was not much time to celebrate. The final would begin shortly. They took the finalists to a separate room and handed us a sheet with 300 random English words. We had 15 minutes to memorize as many as we could. Then on stage, the finalist in the first seat would say the first word. If they got it right, then the next person would have to say the next word. But if the first person screws up, they’re out. In that case, the second person would have to say the first word. This continues until 3 people are eliminated.
            I was prepared for this event. You never have to memorize all 300 words; in the past, enough people would mess up early on that it never went past 100. But the field was stronger this year. In training, I had been targeting 120 words in order to be safe. But I had lost confidence after my performance in the qualifier. At the last moment, I decided to do just 100 words. Then I would have plenty of time to review and I should nail it. The 15 minutes flew by. We went back to the stage and took our seats.
            I was a bit slow at recalling the first words, but then I got into the groove. The new guy stumbled quickly. In his training, he had focused on the qualifier, so he was not ready for this event. Seven finalists were left. Only five of us would advance.
            It was John Graham’s turn. The defending champion. He hesitated. You only have 15 seconds to answer. I know he can memorize a ton of words. But on stage, in front of a large audience, facing high expectations…the pressure is so huge. He drew a blank. The champ was eliminated!
            I only had to outlast one more finalist in order to advance. Whenever it was my turn, I recalled everything quickly and accurately. But I only knew the first 100 words. Would that be enough in today’s hypercompetitive championship? Around the 95th word, I realized that I might be in trouble. No one else was stumbling.
            Livan correctly recalled Word #101. He passed the mic to me. My turn. “That’s as far as I got – I’m out.” I got down from the stage. I left the room to get some water. A few kids in the audience congratulated me. I have fans!
            Seventh place in the qualifier, sixth in the final. That sounds great, but I’m mildly disappointed. Officially, the Random Words event finished when I was eliminated, but they kept going to see how much everyone had memorized. One of the finalists messed up in the very next round. So if I had memorized just two more words, I would have outlasted her. And the pressure got to me in the qualifier and I didn’t do as well as I had hoped. The 1655 will haunt me for a while. They say that baseball is a game of inches. I feel the same way about memory tournaments. I knew I was not going to win the championship. But finishing in the top 5 was very much within reach.
How far could I have gotten? On a good day, I might have forced a tiebreak (but it’s more likely that I would have collapsed under pressure). The next event was the Tea Party. Six “tea party guests” read a script with a bunch of personal information. Name, birthday, phone number, etc. The finalists had 15 minutes to memorize it all. They could also review a sheet with the same information printed on it. In training, I had struggled with this event. But at the last minute, the organizers changed it to just 5 guests instead of 6. However, the finalists still had the full 15 minutes to memorize. Due to that rule change, I might have survived this event if I hadn’t been eliminated earlier. Livan was eliminated quickly, but Lance, Nelson, and the two high schoolers advanced.
The last event was the Double Deck. The finalists would have 5 minutes to memorize 2 decks of cards. Even at my slow pace of 1 deck in a minute twenty-five, this isn’t hard. But in the tiebreak, I would have been busted. There would be two decks again, but this time we would only have 3 minutes. That is beyond me. Memorizing a deck in 1:25 is very different from memorizing 2 decks in 2:50. It doesn’t scale up like that. For example, memorizing a single card in 1 second is easy, but doing 52 cards in 52 seconds is not. I can’t do 2 decks in 3 minutes. But Lance memorized a single deck in under 30 seconds(!), so he could do it. My plan had been to do a deck and a half and hope my rivals stumbled.
The high schoolers were knocked out quickly. Only Lance and Nelson were left. I was almost certain that it would go to tiebreaks, but Nelson messed up on the 102nd card. The pressure! Lance became our very deserving national champion.