I am now trying to split up my worship of Caissa into three specific categories: study, live chess, and correspondence chess. I am not necessarily spending equal amounts of time on each one, but I at least try to spend some time on each category every week. The actual ratio of time spent between study and play is dependent on several factors, including how much time I have to spend on chess and what I feel like doing during that time. Sometimes I feel like a game, some times just a tactical puzzle or two. As for correspondence chess, it's pretty much ongoing. I either spend time on it (which I do enjoy) or I forfeit the games.
Here is my report for volume V:
As I reported last time, I borrowed a copy of "Reassess Your Chess" by Jeremy Silman from the local library. I haven't had much time to crack the spine on this classic work, but I have started it. The beginning of the book is on basic endgames. So far, I have studied about the opposition, which is essential in king and pawn endgames. I am now in the chapter on rook and pawn endgames. I have been using Chessmaster to practice the positions. I set up a position from the book and then play it against the Chessmaster (rated 2699 according to the software). Doing this has shown me just how weak my endgame is. I need to spend much more with this book.
I played three games this week on FICS, winning two and losing one. The first was on Wednesday against josephandrew, rated 1249, in a 10 minute blitz game. I had the black pieces and played a Scandinavian in response to 1. e4. Yes, I know, the Scandi is an inferior opening for black (in theory). But I just love it. He rejected the gambit of my queen pawn with 2. e5 and we played on until we reached this position:
Looking at it now, I think I should have played hxg5. The queen can't take the rook because it is guarded by the knight. So I would gain the white knight for free. However, at the time I thought there was a tactic that would lose material for me. But for the life of me, I can't see it now. So instead I castled right into the lion's den. A few moves later, a strange thing happened. At this point, I had 5:10 left on my clock and my opponent had 7:39 left. Suddenly, my opponent wasn't moving. I waited and waited and waited, all the time watching his clock. I didn't know if he had been disconnected, or couldn't decide what to do, or had a heart attack. As the minutes frittered away I waited for a move, but none was coming. I didn't want to win on time, but I was willing to accept it if that's how it came. I mean, a win is a win, right?
Finally with 0.7 seconds left on his clock, he played 13. b3. I thought, well, here's an easy win. So I played 13. ..Bb6, a move I had been thinking about earlier, but not one I would have played immediately if I had not thought his time was about to expire. He then played 14. g4, threatening my knight on f5. He still had 0.6 seconds left on his clock. So I moved the knight to e7 out of harm's way. That left this position:
He then, inexplicably (or perhaps because of obvious time trouble) played 15. Bxg6??. This is a horrible blunder because after 15. ..fxg6, the white queen is trapped. He played 16. g5 and his clock ran out. Or so I thought. The game seemed to continue with his clock continuing to run in negative numbers! I didn't know what to do or think, but I figured I had better get on with the game, so I took his queen. After losing his queen, he battled on valiantly, but it was too much to over come. In the end I sacrificed the exchange to get a strong attack and win a rook and my opponent resigned. I still don't understand why he was allowed to go over time. But, what the hell. It is always better to win the game on the board and not the clock.
Almost immediately after completing the first game, I received a challenge from a player named bingopm, rated 1087. This was also a 10 minute blitz game but this time I played the white pieces. I was holding my own in this game, with some decent chances at winning, when I became a victim of a mouse slip.
After move 22, this was the position:
I was cruising along fine, albeit a bit overextended, and my intention was to make the move 23. Qb3 to guard the bishop and prepare 24. Bxb4. Unfortunately, a slip of the mouse caused me to drop my queen at d3??, which neither protects anything nor threatens anything. My light square bishop was gone. Then, to make matters worse, I brainlessly played the unfathomable 24. Ra1??. This allowed my knight to be gobbled up by the black queen as well. Needless to say, I lost that game. Oh well, shit happens. That is all the blitz games I played on FICS. My blitz rating there is back over 1000, sitting at 1019.
On Friday night, I played a 15 minute standard rated game on Chess.com against JefUNIX, rated 1139. I had the black pieces and eschewed my fave, the Scandi, when my opponent pushed his king pawn to e4. Variety is the spice of life, right? So I went with the tried and true (and dull) 1. ..e5. And speaking of spice, my opponent's response was to play 2. Qh5!?. I've heard of players, even master level and above, playing this type of opening before. But normally, one plays this in bullet games and such. This was supposedly a favorite of Hikaru Nakamura, who became a legend playing bullet games on ICC and is now a super grandmaster.
In any case, once I got over the shock of this move, I developed my pieces rationally, eventually being up the exchange. In the endgame, I won a knight, leaving me up a rook and a pawn. However, my opponent had a passed rook pawn that I lost track of for a moment. On move 49, with me to move, I had this position:
Unfortunately, not only did I miss the winning combination, 49. ..Bc1!, but I played 49. ..Ra5??. This loses the rook to the knight fork 50. Kb7+. I eventually neutralized the passed pawn, but was running short of time. Still, I had yet another chance to win when my opponent played 62. Kf6+ in this position:
But, no. I didn't play 62. ..Bxf6. No, I played 62. ..Kf4?. But I probably didn't have time to queen my pawn and trap his king anyway. So, despite the fact that I ran out of time, the game ended in a draw since he had insufficient material to mate. This was my only live standard game on Chess.com this week. My standard rating there is now 1268.
I played one more standard, 15 minute game on FICS against Brucerchess, rated 1274. I had black in this game, which started out as another king pawn game. There were a lot of early exchanges and after 15 moves we had traded off the queens and both of our knights. I was up a pawn, but it was a doubled rook pawn, so I was unconvinced of its worth. I quickly won another pawn and had a good attack forming on the king side with an open g-file. We exchanged off one of the rooks and that is where I started to take control. I then brought my light-squared bishop around to the king side, sacrificing a pawn to win his light-squared bishop. I won another pawn while trading dark-square bishops. Plus, I had a passed rook pawn (one of the doubled ones) that was rolling down the board toward promotion. My opponent put up a valiant defense, but he was overwhelmed. I eventually sacrificed the rook pawn to win his last rook and my opponent resigned. This bumped up my standard rating on FICS to 1482.
Then came my first online live chess tournament! It was an open blitz (5 min./game) tournament on Chess.com. There were 6 players, including myself, in a Swiss system format. We played four rounds and I won two and lost two, coming in 4th place in the tournament. I missed out on a medal by 1/2 point.
In the first game, I was up material and he had an exposed king, but I lost on time. I had a good aggressive attack and should have won. But, my time management needs some work. All games, even many casual ones are timed and if one is to become an advanced player, one must learn to manage the clock as well as the board, regardless of the time control.
In the second game, I played black and played the Scandinavian. Yeah, baby! Unfortunately for my opponent, he blundered away his queen on move 14, and was checkmated on move 19. That's what I love about the Scandi, it's open and sharp. Yeah, I lose with it quite a bit. But win or lose, it is always dramatic.
The 3rd game of the tournament was another win, this time with white. I played the Vienna Gambit, another of my favorites. Like the Scandi, it can be very sharp and always interesting. Of course, one can also crash and burn rather easily when playing against someone who knows the opening and its weaknesses. But I still like it. Besides, I really don't know that many openings. And I abhor queen pawn games. I won the exchange early (bishop for rook) and then went on a king hunt, dealing death in 20 moves. The black king finished the game on the c2 square and his king bishop, queen, and queen's rook never left their starting squares! It's one of those games I am proud of. Yes, my opponent blundered quite badly, but one must take advantage of those mistakes and make the opponent pay, and I did that.
So now I am feeling rather full of myself and here comes the next lamb for the slaughter, my fourth and final opponent. I got this one. Well, maybe not. I had black and this game started 1. e3 e5, 2. Qh5!. WTF??? Twice in one week. Well, I just developed casually. I traded queens early, which probably wasn't the best idea because I was already two pawns down. Yet, I continued to trade off my pieces and quickly found myself down 3 pawns. He had a formidable center and his pawns just came marching down the board like barbarians storming the castle. There was nothing I could do except resign.
I think for my first tournament, especially a 5 minute blitz tournament in an open section, it went fairly well. I feel good about my live chess this week, both wins and losses. I enjoyed playing in the tournament. My plan is to play in at least one every two weeks. Maybe more if I can. It is hard enough to find time to play single games much less multi-round tournaments. I will probably stick to shorter time controls, such as the 5 minute tournament that I played in. Chess.com has tournaments going on constantly. Drop by and join one!
With the two wins and two losses in the tournament, my blitz rating on Chess.com is currently 1256.
This is the problem with playing more games during the week. I am tired of writing about it. So, I will just give a cursory update of my correspondence adventures.
First, and foremost, I'm a winner!! The good news is I have recorded my first win in correspondence chess. The bad news is I had to claim a win on time. It was in my game against Mukanya, which is a 5 day per move time limit game. After only 7 moves, though somehow it seemed like more, Mukanya was nowhere to be found. I waited for 5 days after the time limit but he still did not move. I was going to wait longer, but in the rules it states that if no move is taken after twice the time limit plus one day, then the game will be considered abandoned and no result will be given. I hated to call time on someone, but I didn't want all the hard work to go to waste either.
I tried to send Mukanya a message apologizing, but since I am only a guest member, I am not allowed to send messages to other players. So, it is still a win, but one that is tempered with a bit regret. Oh well, the world moves on.
In my game with Dodger, my opponent is on life support and fading quickly. He is now down two rooks and a bishop, but seems intent on playing it out to checkmate. I don't know how long that will take, but I have time. It's all fun.
In the game against Kootenays, I have won the exchange (rook for knight) and another pawn to put me two pawns and the exchange up through 25 moves. True to my self-doubting nature, however, I am sure there is some combination I am missing that will take me down. He is just biding his time.
In my newest game, against Joe Wurdak, we are still even through 15 moves. This game was my first attempt at the French defense. My opponent has some very active pieces on my king side (where I castled). It's got me a little worried.
In my correspondence game on chess.com, against xadrezenico, things are heating up. I have grabbed another pawn and now have 3 passed pawns on the queen side along with an open a-file. It looks like he is started to make a move on the king side. I need to consider how I am going to handle it. I think that I should have no problem queening one of my pawns or winning big material. I just have to make sure I keep my king safe and don't allow too much counterplay.
So that's it for this time. It was a busy week. I don't think I can keep up that kind of pace and I don't plan on it either. It was a good week for me as well. I dipped my toes into the tournament pond and found it inviting. I won my first correspondence game. And I played some decent live games.
I have also received another game invitation that I am very excited about. I will discuss that next time.
So, until then, happy mating!