Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Continued Slide

The MN Winter Open provided me much material to learn from: +1-2=2. I started the tournament with a loss to a master in an endgame, which I entered with a slight advantage. I finished the tournament by getting crushed by an expert while defending with a Pirc (I relied on a failed combination to hold my position together). My two games as white were in my new openings (Open Catalan and Tarrasch), in which I made opening errors and had to struggle to get draws.

I definitely need more experience in my new openings, a lot of experience. Once the chess season is over, I will definitely work more online games into my routine.

Based on my game with the master (who played a kind of QGD in reverse, so I went with a kind of Catalan in reverse), I think my opening change will be good for me. I will be stressed in exactly the areas of Chess where I am weak and need work.

It sure is going to play havoc with my rating, in the short term, though.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


The first tournament of the season is over. A local 4-round G/60 tournament last Saturday.

I played poorly, and was wondering if I am losing ground, not just reaching a plateau. OTOH, one loss was due to errors in the early endgame, and a faulty decision on the exchange combination that led to the endgame. Just the areas of my game, that I want to work on.

The other loss was a dead draw, but I lost on time. Maybe, not so bad on a fast time control for me.

One major change in 2011 was that I did not play any online chess. This greatly reduced the amount of chess games vs humans that I was playing. The computer does not make tactical mistakes (except Fritz sparring), so perhaps I am missing opportunities in my human games.

I will try to add at least one daily online game to my routine.

Three more tournaments in the next 4 weekends plus a round of the TCCL.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Training with Fritz: Forcing a Tabiya

One of the training things I have been wanting to do is set up Fritz to play specific openings. It is not too hard.
  1. Open up your large database and filter on a tabiya (key position from an opening you want to play against Fritz). I like to pull The Week In Chess database have on ChessDB and transfer that over, but the one that comes with Fritz is fine. If you have Chessbase and have kept it updated, then that is good, too. I used the position below from the NeoGrunfeld
  2. Save the games from the filtered position as a new database. I think the best way to do this is select all the games, then copy, open a new database and paste.
  3. Open Fritz, and create a new opening book (Menu->New->Openings Book) and name it to match.  I used NeoGrunfeld. Now the current opening book in Fritz is blank and has a name.
  4. Now we have Fritz improve the blank opening book by learning from the database.with the Openings Book from the Openings Book pulldown under Analysis. Select the Import Games option and select the database you created with the filtered games. The length in the dialog is the number of ply (half-moves). I suggest that you do add too many ply. Your opponents will not play the book moves, and your sparring against Fritz should be about learning the ideas/tactics of your opening, and not memorizing moves. (especially if you have the book pane open!) You can repeat Import Games

With this special opening book, Fritz will follow the many transpositions to this position and then play from there.

To return to the full opening book, just open the Fritz12.ctg opening book file (Menu->Open->Openings Book)

After figuring most of it out, I found this video: Database into Fritz opening book which explains a perhaps clearer way to do this.

Monday, January 16, 2012

TCCL round 5

The team did well to draw the match, as I was unable to hold against National Master David Heurung. The annotated game in a viewer is at the end of the post.

My preparation in the Neo-Grunfeld worked well for me. I still made a few wasted moves and my position eventually fell apart. I made him use up most of his time, though. I did not do too badly, considering it was the first Grunfeld of any kind I have played in my life (against a human, I did some sparring against Fritz, but I will talk about that in a post soon)

The Neo-Grunfeld splits into three lines, and the annotated games I could find were in one we did not play: the "solid" variation after 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 O-O 5.O-O c5 6.d4 d5

Neo Grunfeld solid variation
If Black does not support his d-pawn with c6, White can allow Black the option to take on c4, or can play as I did end up in the last variation. Once again, I ended up outside my opening book by move 10, but it was entirely my fault. (or the fault of not enough time learning this new opening for me.) My 10th move allowed him to easily equalize, and though he later made an inaccuracy that would have allowed me to regain a slight edge, I missed something important on my 21st move.

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 g6 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. g3 Bg7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O Nc6 8. Nc3 Nb6

Here white has two main ideas. 9.d5 is aggressive and pushes black around, and my choice this time 9.e3 which solidifies d4 and tries to preserve the center pawns. The drawback is that the dark square bishop is blocked in for a while, but as is often the case with the queenside bishop, it is not yet clear where it should go.

 9. e3 a5 10. Na4?! White's knight on c3 is better than Black's on b6. I should not have used tempo to trade a better piece for a worse piece. Also, here is where I leave my "book". Black played what I expected up to move 9, and I forgot what I should have played 10. b3 here. e5 (10... a4 11. Nxa4 Nxa4 12. bxa4 Be6 13. Rb1 Ra7 14. Qc2 Qc8 15. Ba3) 11. Ba3 Re8 12. dxe5 Nxe5 13. Nd4 c6 14. Qc2 Nd5 15. Nxd5 cxd5 16. Bb2 Be6 17. Rac1 Rc8 18. Qd2 $14) (10.Qe2 Bg4 11. h3 Be6 12. Rd1 Nb4 13. Nd2 Qc8 14. Kh2 Rd8 15. Nde4 c6 16. b3 N4d5 17. Bb2 a4 18. Nxd5 Bxd5 19. Nc5 Bxg2 20. Kxg2 a3 21. Bc3 Nd5 22. Be1 b6 23.Na4 Qb7 24. Rac1) (10. Re1 a4 11. d5 Nb4 12. e4 a3 13. Qe2 c6 14. Rd1 cxd5 15.Rb1 d4 16. Nb5 e5 17. bxa3 Nc6 18. Bg5 f6 19. Bd2 Be6 20. Bb4 Rf7 21. Bc5 Na4 22. Bb4 Rd7 23. Qd2 Nb6 24. Bf1 Nxb4 {Juhasz,K (2268)-Nanu,C (2535) Val Thorens 2009 0-1 (53)})

10... Nxa4 11. Qxa4 Bd7 Black kicks my queen around for the next few moves. 12. Qc4 Be6 13. Qe2 Qc8 a very nice multipurpose move. The queen and bishop battery sets up to trade off light square bishops and the queen clears d8 for a rook to control the d-file. 14. Ng5 hinders Black's Q+B battery with the idea of repositioning the knight to c5 or c3. Bg4 15. f3 Bd7 leaves all of his options open 16. Bd2 I thought I had a spare move, but...
after 16.Bd2
16...e5! which is the thematic pawn break in the Neo-Grunfeld when Black has a Nc6. 17. d5 Ne7 18. Qc4 c6 19. d6 Nf5 20. Ne4 Rd8?!  (Keeping the balance was 20... Qb8 21. Qd3 c5 =)
after 20...Rd8
21. g4? throws the chance away. Black does not really want to leave his knight on f5, so there is no need to push it off. White needs the tempo to support the d-pawn with 21. Qc5 Be6 22. Bxa5 and a modest advantage for white.

21... Be6 22. Qc5 Nxd6 23. Nxd6 Bf8 24. Bxa5 Rxd6 25. Bb4 (25. Qxe5 ?? drops the bishop to Rd5) 25... Qd7 26. Qxe5 Rd5
after 26...Rd5
27. Qc3? does not leave the Bb4 enough freedom. In particular c3 is likely to be the best square for the bishop. The last chance to make is a struggle was 27. Qe4 f5 28. gxf5 Bxf5 29. Qf4 Ra4 30. a3 c5 31. b3 Ra6 32. Bc3 with a small advantage to Black.

27... c5  and the white queenside pawns will fall in order to preserve the bishop 28. Ba5 Qb5  29. Bc7 Bg7 30. Qc2 Qxb2 31. Qxb2 Bxb2 32. Rab1 Rd2 33. Rf2 Rxf2 34. Kxf2 Rxa2 35. Kg3 Bb3 36. Bb6 (36. f4 c4 37. Bd5 b5) 36... c4 37. f4 c3 38. Bd4 Bc2 39. Rf1 39... Bd3 0-1

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Rich Tactical Position (plus Position Analysis Sheet)

Last night at the local chess club an interesting position arose with white to move:

Can you find a way out? A small crowd of us spent an hour looking at this position, and we could not find one.

FYI: Black's main threat is 1...f3

FEN for position: r4rk1/p5pp/2Nb4/3b4/2R1pp1q/8/P2BQPPP/1R4K1 w - - 0 1

(select below to see some of what we looked at)
We fiddled with a null move first to examine how 1...f3 would work:
2.g3 fxe2 3.gxh4 Bxc4 and black is a clear rook up.
Key things to notice:

  • Black f3 frees up the Bd6 attack on h2
  • White recapture Qxc4 comes with check
  • White Rc4 pins the supporting pawn if either ...e3 or ...f3 

First try: The natural 1.Rcc1 fails to both 1...e3 or 1...f3. We missed White's best reply to 1...e3 (2.f3 which still is losing after ...exd2)  and followed 2.fxe3 f3 3.g3 Bxg3

Second try: 1.f3 blocks the Black f-pawn from moving and unleashing the Bd6, but 1...exf3! 2.gxf3 Rae8 3.Qd3 Qg5+ 4.Kf1 Re3 looked devastating.

Third try 1.Rd4 saves the rook, threatens the undefended Black bishops, and maintains the potential pin on the e+f pawns, but 1...f3 still works, because the threat to h2 prevents 2.gxf3, so 2.g3 Qf6! 3.Qf1 Bxc6 4.Qc4+ Kh8 and the Bc6 is immune, because the Rd4 would be loose. Black is up a piece and maintains his initiative.

We tried some other things, that I have forgotten.

I wish I had brought one of my new position analysis sheets to keep track:
Position Analysis Sheet