Thursday, May 28, 2009

Memorable Game 1: R. Gentil - RLP 02.26.86 0-1

Chesstiger asks in the comments to the previous post "to see a game of you against a higher ranked player just to see how well you can play if needed."

As I noted, a couple of weeks ago my chess archives arrived after almost seven months in storage. I was thinking about a game to post and remembered the one below, the memory of which has remained vivid during the 23 years since it was played. While I was higher rated at the time, Ron Gentil peaked at 1868 USCF in 1993, about 40 points higher than my own peak in 1990. I would add that I ran into Ron a few years ago at a tournament in Reno, and he is still, as always, a gracious gentleman.

While I was rated slightly higher at the time, ratings actually have no bearing at all on the charm this game has always had for me. Sure, the opponent made mistakes, but a creative idea followed up with what seem to be nothing but good moves, all the way to mate...

Enough of the self-flattery, here is the game:

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

RLP - B. Bezenek 05.16.09 1-0

I described the game in a previous post, but now that I had a chance to look closer I'm not happy at all with my play. I win, but the missed opportunities are embarrassing, at best. I whip up an interesting attack and just when I could put the hammer down and finish, a series of missed opportunities, easy two and three move tactics, allows him to nearly save the game. I obviously need to get back to work on my game!

Here you go, in all its glory:
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

R. McDowell - RLP 05.16.09 0-1

My first game from Saturday, as referenced in the previous post. I played poorly until move 16, and pretty well after that. Better than the other way round!

Thanks so much to Glenn Wilson of Houston Chess for the cool pgn viewer, ChessFlash. Chris, give it a try!

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Double Good, Double Fun Weekend

I can truly say I "lived it up" this weekend. I unloaded 6,000 pounds or so of household goods from a shipping container into my new residence, thereby getting my chess books back after six months in storage, and also managed to play my first rated chess games since last July.

I'll spare you the details of the moving part, let's go to the chess!

On Saturday the Juneau Chess Club had its first rated tournament since I arrived back in town, and due to work schedules and probably the fact that it was a glorious sunny day (not all that common here in Southeast Alaska) there were just three of us, Brian Bezenek, Russ McDowell and me. Well, Brian and Russ are both experienced tournament players and our ratings are within a couple hundred points of each other, so it turned out to be a pretty good match up.

I managed to win both games and thus the tournament, but not without some difficulties. We had the public library conference room for five hours, so we played at G/40, which is a quick enough time control to produce plenty of twists and turns. In the first round Brian played his usual King's Indian Attack as White against Russ, and after Russ went f5-f4 and opened the f-line...Brian proceeded to dominate it, won material and with mate coming up and a minute or so left on Brian's clock Russ resigned.

In round 2 it was my turn to play Russ. I had many games with him after I first came to Alaska over 20 years ago, and it was great to play him again, but early on it looked like the result would not be good, at least for me. As White in the King's Indian he played an unusual move, 5. Bd2. I recalled seeing this at least once before but whatever I had learned from that game two years ago didn't prevent me from getting outplayed; Russ trussed me up like a chicken, won the Exchange and threatened to trap my queen. Plus, he was at least five minutes ahead on the clock. At these fast time controls though, you gotta just keep trying, and he finally made a mistake that lost a couple of pawns, I got a lot of counterplay and I ended up queening a pawn and checkmating him with a minute or so left on the clock.


In the third round I had White against Brian, and played into a Queen's Gambit where I castled 0-0-0 and pawn-stormed the king side. These types of positions always seem to be complex and nerve wracking, and this one was no execption. Brian defended pretty well and got three pawns for a piece while staving off the attack. Again, my opponenent was ahead a few minutes on the clock, but I forked the Exchange and emerged a rook to the good, and exected a two-rook stairstep checkmate with a minute or so left on my time.

Whew, again.

While it's nice to win, of course, I felt a little rusty and was definitely not playing "Real Chess" on each and every move. My game needs work; months of internet blitz and mostly casual club play have taken some of my edge off.

But's that's okay; it was just great to be back in action. Many thanks to Russ and Brian for showing up to play chess on a sunny day.

I'll post the games soon. Now that the great and powerful Glenn Wilson has made Chess Flash even easier, there's no excuse not to post every game for all the world to critique. And now that I have retrived from storage my box of game scores from the last couple of decades, readers are likely see one of my "best games" from the past here on occasion. I'll probably throw in some "worst games" for amusement, as well.

As TommyG would say, "Hope everyone had a great weekend!"

Monday, May 11, 2009

Alekhine's and Centre-Countre: Black in Charge

The excellent Wang writes about his (good) play in a recent tournament in a post with the delightful title Drunkn Monkey Kung-Fu Patzer Chess, and touches on his use of Alekhine's Defense (1. e4 Nf6). He plays it exclusively.

This set me to thinking about openings from the "amateur's" point of view. There are a million (okay, hyperbole) thousands of chess books and columns aimed at amateurs by professional masters that advise us not to spend much study time on openings until we reach 2000 or 2200 or 2299 or whatever on the ratings list. We should be spending almost all of our limited study time on tactics, say most, or on a mix of tactics studies and instructive annotated master games.

Long-time readers here (all one of them) may remember that the late, great Dr. Kenneth Mark Colby (Secrets of a Grandpatzer Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), recommended the opposite, indeed, recommended memorizing (horrors) main, main lines as a way to save clock time and mental energy in tournament play. As a borderline Grandpatzer who will likely never crack 2000, and thus supposedly never study openings for the rest of my days, I'll go with the Professor; there are real, tangible, practical benefits to doing an efficient amount of opening study, as long as you don't make openings your primary subject in chess.

Now, the Good Dr. Colby recommended the Dragon Sicilian and King's Indian Defense (KID) as the main part of the "Grandpatzer plays Black" repertoire, and as a King's Indian fanatic I (of course) heartily concur with the second half of the prescription. When it comes to meeting 1. e4 though, I think that Wang's Alekhine and my own favorite of the past few years, the Centre Countre (Scandinavian) 1. e4 d5 have some things going for them that you might want to consider.

One of the qualities these two have in common is that they are about the only openings out there that are forcing from move 1. Think about that. No matter your first move as White, Black has five or six decent replies, e.g. 1. d4 d5-Nf6-c6-e6-f5-g6. And if Black against 1. d4, White has five or six sytems against, for example, the King's Indian: the Be2 "Main Line," Four Pawns, Saemisch, Fianchetto, h3 variations...etc. We KID people have to think about all of these, and the same with the Nimzo-Indian, Slav, and so on.

But in the Scandinavian, and even more so, the Alekhine, it seems that White has only one really good reply, 1. e4 d5 2. exd5, and 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5, respectively. Most other second moves for White are considered to allow Black instant equality, for example 1. e4 Nf6 2. d3?!. After 1. e4 d5 2. d4 White goes into the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, but I don't remember getting this played against me more than once in scores of tournament and blitz encounters, and it's nothing to be afraid of, anyway. The Alekhine has the defensive 1. e4 Nf6 2. Nc3, and again Black has no problems equalizing.

For any deeper insight beyond move 2 you're going to have to go to another source, as I don't intend to analyse these openings here, just point out their unique utility for the enthusiastic amateur chess player. Use of either of these openings will usually allow you to meet 1. e4 pretty quickly and efficiently, without too much time or mental energy spent on the first few moves. You'll need all of that you can summon for the middlegame.

It's interesting to note that the reason these two are so forcing is the basic fact that after 1. e4 the e-pawn is unprotected, unlike the d-pawn after 1. d4. So is d4 "theoretically" a stronger move? In a sense, after e4 Black is "in charge" of determining the course of the game. Various chess writers have put it in these terms for over 100 years.

But Robert J. Fischer, a pretty fair player and theoretician, apparently disagreed...