Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tuesday Night Marathon: Round 4

This game wasn't a success by most measures. I gained some experience playing the white side of the Catalan. I'm still learning this opening and I carelessly played what looked like a natural move only to find that it was a true gambit of a pawn. I still had reasonable Catalan-like compensation, and I thought I managed to hold things together with a key exchange sacrifice that give one or two moves to consolidate (somehow I need to consolidate to be better, not the rook, it was strange) I would've had a nice position, but my opponent found some accurate moves to put the point away. Kind of sad, I missed a few opportunities in the middlegame, but I think I got a much better feel for the position which is necessary before I can really start analyzing it intelligently on my own.

Kind of a curious point here. It's very hard to simulate the ideas you get under game-pressure at home. I've tried, but the development isn't normal. Maybe I just need to work on the exercise a little more. I've been thinking about this a little. I guess part of the problem is it becomes a little trickier when if you miss an idea for one side you will likely miss it for both, but still it seems there should be some reasonable way of trying to do this type of exercise for an hour or so a couple of times a week. Find some middle-game position in an opening I play, try to put in serious time and do some solitaire chess. Afterwards take a quick look to see if any of my ideas had interesting merit, check them out and be done with it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tuesday Night Marathon: Status after round 3

I decided to give the Tuesday Night Marathon another go even after my heart-breaking finish in my last attempt. I am 2/2 as white so far which is slightly out of the ordinary for me lately, but these games were both playing down so we'll see how things go in future rounds. I'm 3/3 after 3 rounds overall, this tournament is one of the few FIDE-rated events in the bay area so I figured I should be playing in it with any attempt to get more rated games, starting next round I should get a crack at some of the stronger opponents, I just need to keep winning like I did last time so I can keep playing them. I would say my nicest game so far was a quick win in round 2 where my opponent played an inaccurate move order in the opening which I responded to with the best move and then my opponent overreached a little bit by playing moves which somewhat attempted to refute my opening which was a pretty good sign I would have resources to get a better position. I did, which he followed up by letting his queen get trapped so he had to sacrifice it for a rook and knight, but being behind in development and not having a reasonable place to castle he was doomed and resigned a few moves later. Round 1 I showed an amazing ability to miss the same idea multiple times as part of a tactical sequence to only amazingly see it later when it somehow still worked, I wasn't too proud of this performance, but hey, it got the job done.

Round 3:
This game I played okay, I think I missed some early opportunities to get a very large advantage, but I did manage to go into an endgame with a large positional edge and quickly won a pawn. After this I will admit I played somewhat inaccurately, but then something happened which isn't entirely new to me, my opponent, clearly being the defender and being a pawn down offered me a draw. Now, I will admit, I'm not 100% sure the position was winning at that point, but I'm positive it was not a trivial draw either. I've seen people do this and I think once you're above 1800 it's an absolutely rude and ridiculous thing to do, especially to a higher rated opponent. I even saw my good friend offer a draw to a grandmaster in a 4 vs 3 rook ending from the defending that may have been defensible from the defensible, although I have my doubts, but was certainly no clear draw. But I think any player above 1800 should at least follow this rule: if it is clear that your opponent is even nominally better and it's clear that you have 0 chances to win, do not offer a draw, it does not show your understanding of chess, what it does show is a lack of class. I especially love when these players then after the game tell you the position "was an obvious draw" after they go on and lose the game. I mean it is known that King + Bishop + Rook vs King + Rook is a draw, I expect 99.9% of players to make the defender play it out. It doesn't matter how trivial the drawing technique is by the way for an endgame, let the attacking side offer the draw, you show you understand what's happening on the board that way.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Western Class Championship Results

Western Class Championship Results

The tournament got a decent turnout, GMs Yermolinsky and Khachiyan both played along with IMs Sevillano, Matikoziyan, Pruess, Mezentsev, and Stein. I started out playing okay. I had an interesting game against Robby Adamson in my first game, I had a strong advantage, but made a couple of obviously bad decisions which allowed him to complicate the position with an unclear sacrifice that was much easier to play for him regardless of the true assessment. In my second game a strong expert from Arizona in what was a complicated positional struggle where an early decision to leave the king in the center was later a deciding factor after I defended for quite a while. In the third game I faced IM Mezentsev and I unfortunately walked into a little trap in the opening that left him (with the black pieces) with a better position and me with little active play, I tried to stir things up, but the position was already too bad and I lost in short order. In my 4th game I achieved a position with an extra pawn and a better position straight from the opening, but after one missed move and a couple of serious miscalculations I achieved a position where my opponent had a lot of counterplay despite being a pawn down, in this game I was particularly upset at the various missed tactics even though I saw some reasonably tricky ideas that were necessary to keep the game in control, but ultimately I was only able to draw. In the next game I was paired down and I made several bad decisions missing my chance to get the better of the position, but fortunately my opponent missed his opportunity to put me into serious danger and then in what was at best a slightly better position for me he actively blundered a piece to give me the game. This guy says he's a reader of my blog so I give him the utmost respect. In the last round I was paired agianst a slightly higher rated expert who I've played before, this game was flawed in many ways, I "tactically" won a pawn from the opening, but it turns out the tactic was flawed in a few fairly obvious ways that we both completely missed. After a few more moves I was essentially just a pawn up, but there were aggressive possibilities for both sides. I made a bad practical decision right before the time control (which I could have delayed until after the time control by repeating moves one more time) and then quickly blundered into mate. Overall I feel like I played well, unfortunately my struggles as white continued, it's arguable that I played my toughest opposition as white, but I got good positions in two of the games and then mishandled the positions completely so I think it's fair to say I need more practice both playing an analyzing these types of positions.

How I did at my goals?
Well, I didn't finish +1, in fact I finished -1, but I was within range. I was very good at spending 10-20 seconds on early moves making sure I didn't have two positions confused, thinking about what other options I had, I think this worked quite well as I felt like I didn't catch myself not thinking on any moves, now as to the quality of my thought that was a little lower than I was hoping for. I did miss a few of my opponents moves, but it was at least a rare occurrance. This doesn't sound like a complete success, but I am pretty satisfied and if I can continue this positive trend I will have good results in the future.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Western Class Championship

I'm going down to Agoura Hills, CA this weekend to play in the Western Class Championship. This year it's back to it's glory as a 7 round event (although I can't play tonight so I'll be taking a 1st round bye) after first being reduced to 6 rounds and then 5 rounds last year it's certainly a nice change of pace. Last time it was 7 rounds it got a very strong field, this year I doubt it will have as many strong players since the prize fund has since been reduced, but I imagine it will get the usual suspects from Southern California.

My goal for this tournament is to finish with a plus score, it won't be easy, but it shouldn't be impossible either. I guess in keeping with the spirit of my new year's resolution one of my other goals for the tournament is to reduce the number of moves where I spot critical variations only AFTER I move. So I guess wording it in an affirmative manner is make sure I'm actually calculating and not making superficial judgements. I know this may seem strange coming from a player of my rating, but I'm really not sure if I calculate more than like 2 or 3 moves deep in the deeper variations of my calculation except for when that is extended by forcing moves like checks, captures, or mate threats. I mean the latter part makes sense as those are the easiest variations to calculate. At the same time I don't want to start to become one of those players who spends ridiculous amounts of time on simple moves. Another goal for this tournament is to spend a little more time thinking in the opening. This doesn't mean I'm going to try to innovate significantly at the board, but I think spending 15-20 seconds at least on each move should help me get my wheels turning a little bit so I don't wake up in a middlegame position without having "warmed up". Should be nice to get a full 2 hours for the first 40 moves after my TNM game on Tuesday with only 90 minutes for the first 30 moves (believe me, although the ratio is the same it's a big difference).

Anyways, wish me luck.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

2006 Review / Goals for 2007

2006 Review / Goals for 2007:

The year 2006 was a good year overall for me. Chess did not go as well as I had hoped. I figured I should reflect on my goals from last year, see where I hit and where I missed and make some new goals for 2007.

My goals last year were to:
1) Break 2200 USCF, preferably by the end of National Open
2) Reduce the frequency of offering/taking draws from superior positions.

Well on #1 I would say I failed, but I don't think I appreciated the difficulty I would face in trying to break this mark. So after the last tournament of 2005 (North American Open 2005) my rating was 2094 coming off of 2 strong results. This year started with some solid showings. I failed to show good form in a couple of rounds in last year's Western Class Championship, but then followed it with a strong 5.5/6 (4.5/5 played) at Amateur Team West to help my team win and with the 4th board prize. I followed that up with some reasonable results including a tournament I was quite happy with at Western Pacific Open where I think I showed some good chess, but had one game which I lost a totally dominating position due to missing the critical moment in the game. Probably due to a lack of confidence I had some bad results following that and lost most of my progress.

Then came my move to San Francisco which I started with a particularly lucky result to get a 4.5/5 in a g/45 tournament up here which was immediately followed with a heartbreaking Southern California state championships candidate tournament which went beautifully with a draw against my friends (as solid master) as black round 2 and a win over a strong expert in round 3 just to carelessly blunder a piece in round 4 and barely miss qualification. Again I saw a some mixed results in g/45 tournaments which doesn't particularly bother me so much as the results in such quick time controls can be somewhat random, but I had very bad showings in both the Northern California State Championships and the Western States Open in Reno while simultaneously having an amazing result in the Tuesday night marathon which I spoiled when I blundered execessively to get miniatured in the last round as white. Still though even through these bad results I luckily managed not to lose FIDE rating points in any of them while my USCF rating did a little very temporary dip below 2100. Lately I feel like I've been playing quite solidly with real chances to have breakthrough results, but I've kept coming short. American Open I managed to show a very sad quality of poor technique in winning my won positions which I was very disappointed with. I played the strong East Bay FIDE Swiss and had a solid performance there, but again missed some key opportunities in some of my games both where I could have failed to win a won game and where I failed to be as resourceful as I could in some of the other games. Then recently in Las Vegas I saw laziness in quite a few of my moves. I'm hoping this was just due to fatigue after just having finished a long tournament, but I will be very aware when I play in my upcoming event in 2 weeks.

Why didn't I break 2200?
I don't think I was working as hard and specifically on the right areas as I should have been. I've been making a serious effort to improve my calculation lately, I still feel like this is one area I'm significantly lacking in and I will continue to work on. Right now I have two problems in that I'm both a lazy calculator (I miss opportunities for both sides) and my calculations are a little slow, but there are instances where I've seen some improvement lately. I also think I underestimated the difficulty of this goal, but I feel confident that I'm closing in on this barrier.

What about the other goal?
I think I did a better job of declining draws in positions where I felt I was the one with more to play for, possibly a few slips from this, but for the most part I showed a good killer instinct in this respect. On the other hand I saw that I was having a lot of trouble winning won positions which I feel I should be able to win a very high proportion of the time.

Goals for 2007:
1) Break 2200 USCF (currently ~2128): I'm hoping this won't be as hard as it's seemed lately, I need to continue to work on my calculation.
2) Break 2200 FIDE (as it stands approximately 85 points to go): This will have the nice benefit of enabling me to play in such events as the Las Vegas Masters more easily, I think I need to fix some of the problems I have where I make bad decisions to lose the games in simple situations. This is particularly bad against lower rated players where I should win more often than not.
3) IM or GM scalp. I had more than a few good shots in 2006, the older and wiser me should be better at carrying through.

If anybody thinks of some more good ones that I should have I'd be more than willing to consider them.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Game of the Year 12th Place

Game of the Year 12th Place

Privman vs Krasik

This game contained mistakes yes, but it was not as if it was blunder-filled and the move Rxe4 was a very nice move to have on the board, I really think this really deserved some more credit in the voting. Imagine the match situation: Boston only won this match 3-1 so a loss for Krasik would have meant only a tie for the Blitz and Krasik still has the confidence to play the fantastic move Rxe4 when the consequences of a miscalculation would completely change the outcome of the match. I think it's a little strange not to take the situation in the match into serious consideration. I think Arun's ranking is probably more appropriate, a few other games were mostly given game of the week due to a few surprising moves and the comment "the technique was less than perfect, but good enough to win."

As for the lack of comments, this seems strange. How does nobody mention the importance that this game took place on board 4 in a close match between a gigantic sports rival. In the regular season the matches don't get much more exciting than New York - Boston unless San Francisco is involved and it seems overly criticizing the quality of the moves in a real game in a complex position is a little uncalled for. And where is the comment for the Shabalov + Vicary team vote? Here are a few of my (very serious) theories on what happened here:

1) Clint Ballard paid off the judges to make sure Krasik would not finish near the top, but unfortunately this was included in the comment.
2) Shahade didn't get the vote from Vicary and Shabalov in time and and decided to vote for two and figured voting for another team was enough, no need to put words in their mouth too.
3) Vicary and Shabalov decided to make genital jokes about Rxe4 and Shahade was trying to keep the comments at least PG-13.
4) To counter-act and east-coast bias in the geographical location of the judges Vicary and Shabalov decided to tank their vote on this game and explicitly mentioned this in their comment and to prevent controversy this was censored.
5) The comment reveled that it indeed takes exactly 43 licks to get to the center of a tootsie pop and Shahade decided to keep this secret to himself to try to raise money for the league with this ultra-sensitive information.
6) ???
7) Profit!

Anyways, I'd like to give a shout-out to Krasik who I met at last week's North American Open. It's always nice to meet more US Chess League personalities in real life, I hope those of you that read this blog ever will let me know what you think if you catch me at a tournament, at least those of you I don't already know are readers.

Monday, January 01, 2007

North American Open Result / New Year's Resolution

I'm pretty tired right now and I have work tomorrow, but I figured I'd post some brief results. I went 4/4 with black and 0.5/3 with white, this could be considered coincidental, but I think in all 3 games as white I had real opening problems in some sense. In my last 9 games as black I'm 6.5/9 with the only 2 losses coming against GMs. This is a solid result. I'd like to make my white results equally as good.

Chess New Year's Resolutions:
1) Improve my calculation and try to play fewer superficial moves at the board.
2) Improve my calculation.
3) Improve my calculation.