Sunday, March 23, 2008

Luck be a lady

So naturally my initial foray back into tournament chess was a mixed bag. Much like the halloween sack toted around on a dark fall night (minus the face-paint and ill-fitting superman cape) I stuck my hand in and literally did not know what I was going to pull out. The first goodie I retrieved started off sweet, turned sour, then ended up bland and tasteless, like gum that I've chewed for too long: A draw. Sure it was against a kid rated 1130 but I've learned over the years the ratings of junior players are rarely accurate. I had the black pieces and at one point I had the following position:

Optically, this looks OK for black. White's pieces are jumbled and passive and I have a decent pawn presence in the center that's clearly pointing me towards the white King. It's like my pawns are saying "Psst! Go here! Go this this way!" Yet chess is not always so clear cut. My own pieces are nothing to write home about, as a matter of fact, I'm not even developed! And white can start chipping away at my big one way sign with f3. Being "new" to this thing all over again, my plan from this stage didn't go over so well and I barely escaped with my life. Ten moves later I had just taken his c-pawn fully aware I was losing a pawn right back. Can you see the win of a pawn for white in the position below? There's actually two ways to do it, although only one keeps white in the game:
The "good" way to win the pawn back is 1. Nxf7 Qxf7 2. Qxf7 Kxf7 3. Ne5+ forking the Bishop.
The "bad" way to win the pawn back is 1. Nxf7 Qxf7 2. Qxe6 Qxe6 3. Rxe6 and now black has Bxf3 4. gxf3 cxb4 5. Rxa6 Rb8 which looks winning for black.

Check out the game score in the annotated games section for how it ACTUALLY went down.

Round two brought a wolf in sheep's clothing since my 1365 rated opponent played much stronger than that. He came out swinging for the fences and I had a chance early to refute his attack and proceed with a better position. I missed the chance though. Sobering when you go over your games later and (with the aid of our silicon friends, i.e. chess-playing software) find very simple, straightforward moves that, quite honestly, I didn't even comtemplate over the board. My rust is showing! After black plays this Queen sortie to the H-file (Nh5, 0-0 Qh4, g3 Qh3 was the sequence) I'm thinking this is all very bold of him. What does he take me for, some patzer? Turns out I more than obliged that thought as you can see from the game score. At any rate, I missed the calm Nd1-Nf2 manuever which would trap the black Queen:

But did I see this over the board? Noooo, of course not. I attacked the Queen with the N to f4 which is just awful. I ended up paying the price for this and losing material. By move 30 I'm just sitting back defending, defending, defending, waiting for the final blow. Oddly enough I had this weird fortress constructed and black had a hibernating bishop on b7 that he didn't know what to do with. Thus entereth the fatal disease of thine class player: "HOW TO WIN A WON GAME". My opponent did not get this memo luckily. Not that I've ever read the missive myself, mind you. While my opponent was busy just being busy (he did not seem to have a clear plan after winning the exchange. Like the one-hit wonder rock star, he came and played his hit and then it was "Thank you! Good night!"), I was busy missing ACTUAL tactics that would have gotten me back in the game! For example, after his Ra7, the point of which escapes me, I missed d5! uncovering an attacking on the R at a7:
Apparently I left my x-ray glasses at home. The juicy continuation of that is in the annotated game on the right. Later on in the time scramble, with the rest of the games finished and everyone huddled around our board waiting for my demise, my persistent chipping away for any kind of activity paid off, my opponent hung his Bishop (the same one he didn't know what to do with) and I escaped with a win.

I'm post the final two rounds tomorrow. I've played in a second tournament since this one and have plenty more chess to share. Stay tuned...

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