Monday, October 30, 2006

Opening Tactics

Openings are not my main weakness. In most games I manage to get a decent play even against stronger opponents, as the start game of my last tournament shows.

But the tournament has also shown that I have a severe opening weakness: tactics. It has two main sources, as far as I can see now. Firstly, I am not yet tuned to tactics in the opening. My main goal is a fast positional development. Secondly, I try to move fast in the opening in order to gain time for the middle game and probably for the endgame.

A typical example of this weakness is my 3rd round swindle. I must confess that I saw the tactic immediately, but I also saw that it would involve a queen swap. Instead of looking deeper at it I decided quite quickly to play for mate and to keep queens on the board. This was easily refutated and I ended in a middlegame without queens and without tactics.

I managed to win at last, but only because I set a trap using a tactic. Against a stronger opponent this would not have worked.

The lesson to be learned from this game is: Stay tuned for tactics from the very first move! As soon as a possible tactic emerges, use some extra time on your clock.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Chess Week Telegram

Time controls: 120 min/40, 60 min rest.
  1. Youngster +500 Elo. I attack a Caro-Cann which I do not know by theory, but get an advantage even so. Too cautious in the middlegame, trying to save time for a hard endgame fight. Pawn weakness which I defend passively instead of counter-attack. Fast transition to a bad endgame which I lose. Standing: 0/1
  2. Senior +200 Elo. Ruy Lopez with Black. Good opening with minimal advantage. I risk too much, deliberately opening the g-file. Get crushed by his counter-attack. Standing 0/2. Disappointed by the start.
  3. Lady -100 Elo. I need my first point. Attacking a Philidor with clear opening advantage. I see a tactic but postpone it for one move and it is too late. Still a good game but I am out of my plans. I lose the thread and all of a sudden have to give the Exchange for maintaining activity. Already losing I offer a poisoned pawn as my last chance. She takes it and I have a Bishop Fork combined with a Back Rank Mate. Endgame with Bishop up is easily won. Standing 1/3. Oops!
  4. Lady +200 Elo. Again defending a Ruy Lopez. Again good, active position. She plays wait and see. I launch a dubious knight attack. She parries easily and my knight is offside. She counters, I have to prevent a mate at the cost of much time and 2 pawns. Bad endgame in zeitnot is lost. Standing: 1/4 again disappointed.
  5. Senior +100 Elo, and once more a Philidor defense. Same tactic as two games before with the subtle difference that it loses a piece. I play it nearly a tempo. Oops. Give up? Thinking 8 minutes, then I continue. I see some compensation. A weak move of his brings me back. Nice tactic swindle, making use of 5 different pins in all directions against King and Queen plus a discovered attack that wins material back. He gives up in move 27. Standing: 2/5. Oooops!
  6. Senior +200 Elo serving an Evans Gambit which I decline. Giuoco Piano, due to his passive play I get upper hand. Pawn storm against his King. He tries queenside counter-attack. I parry, using x-ray motif and all is covered. He gives up 3 moves before mate. Standing: 3/6. I feel ok.
  7. Old routinier +300 Elo. Finally my first Morra Gambit! I get active play, going for his King. He defends well but has to give the pawn back. Equal rook endgame which he wins due to his experience and my time shortage. I lose because I defend weak pawns with my rook. I know this must lose, but I had no time to look for active plans. Standing: 3/7. I comfort myself with having made a good opening (the Morra is okay, yeah) and middlegame.
  8. Senior +200 Elo. English, I defend well and have good play. Shock! I blunder the Queen! Short shakehands and I leave the site, sad, sad, sad. Go home and watch the Kramnik-Topalov tiebreak. Topalov blunders a Rook and loses the match. I feel okay again, we are all patzers.
  9. I sit there and focus. No small talk with buddies. This must be My Game today. Old routinier +200 Elo, defending French and dissatisfied like me. Some incorrect play on both sides, but no gross blunders. I get a good attack against his poorly defended King. But unfortunately I moved a queenside pawn too far in the opening. He manages to keep me busy at queenside. Finally I get my King attack, but always a tempo too late. He stikes back in the center, winning 2 pawns. I prepare a mate net meantime. Zeitnot begins, I have to decide fast. Postmortem shows that I choose the right decision. Yeah. Due to one tempo I get no mate but only a perpetual check with 2 pawns and a bishop down. He could have tried to win with 2 pawns against the Exchange but agreed to draw. My best game of the match. Final result: 3.5/9
Conclusion: Without my gross blunder in game 8 I could have topped my result of last year. Am I satisfied? Yes and no.

Yes because my tactical strength has improved markedly, allowing me to swindle two points from lost games. Chess Tactics Server pays, this is for sure! Yes because I can beat a 1900 any time. Yes because most of my openings are well played despite I do not know the theory but rather apply general principles.

No because my safety management has still big holes like a Swiss Cheese. Sometimes I do a safety scan carefully, such as in game 9. Sometimes I do none at all such as in game 8. This point needs a special training of the same intensity as at CTS. No because I am a weak endgamer.

To put it shortly: This tournament has shown my strenghts as well as my weaknesses, and I see quite clearly what I have to do in order to improve my play. I'll come back to this question in later posts.

The games of this match will later be posted at chesslog.de

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Real Thing

Today my tournament begins. I'll close this blog for the next ten days and concentrate on my games. But of course you'll get a review later. I am very curious if my intensive training at Chess Tactics Server will pay. I have reduced my blunderrate down to roughly 5 percent during last week. For a tournament, this may still be too high, but the time restrictions there are magnitudes lower than on CTS. Well, time will tell. I am quite optimistic when I see the improvements of Temposchlucker in his OTB play after massive CTS training.

Bye. Wish me luck.