Saturday, June 30, 2007

Chess Openings: Part 2

We study openings because we find that it is unpleasant to lose games without having at least convinced ourselves that we had a fighting chance. A few 12-move losses, and it's hard to show your face at a chess club, and that's the honest truth.
The trouble is, it's really hard to know what the best way to study an opening is. What are you trying to learn, and how will the lessons take root? For example, assuming that we can agree that ideas, tactical motifs, and positional patterns for strengths and weakness are more important in one's knowledge of an opening system than concrete lines, what happens if we misapply something? It's easy enough to read through a few variations, get an idea, and then try to generalize. Here are some praxis examples:

White: Joshua Haunstrup (1825)
Black: William Michael (1730)
Event: MCC Fall Swiss (4)
Date: 2006-09-26
(B45 Sicilian, Taimanov V)
1 e4 c5
2 Nc3 e6
3 Nge2 Nc6
4 d4 cxd4
5 Nxd4 Nge7?
Poor William was trying to play Taimanov's system in the style of Taimanov himself I'm sure. Grandmaster Mark Taimanov pioneered the whole modern interpretation of the Paulsen Sicilian complex, but then went off on an eccentric and very interesting tangent with lines that include Nge7. Most of these lines are theoretically considered a little suspect, but they are very creative and different for the Sicilian, and several opening books expound the virtues of them. HOWEVER, even when playing Taimanov's own pet lines, there are some basic rules for development in the Paulsen complex, and playing this move on move 5 is an absolute no-no. What followed was:
6 Ndb5

6... d5?
This loses quickly, but even after the necessary 6...Ng6, William would have been forced to give up his dark-squared bishop after 7.Nd6+, and would then have been saddled with an inferior game with weak dark squares and an ugly and unpleasant defensive task.
7 exd5 exd5
8 Bf4 Ng6
9 Nc7+ Kd7
10 Qxd5+ Ke7
11 Qc5+ Kf6
12 Qg5++ 1-0
Afterwards, he told me he was sorry that he didn't give me much of a game. Sure, there were some tactics involved, but it's really hard to spy complex tactics from the getgo. At the beginning of a game, the heuristics of patterns are supreme. They tell us how to play a position, what to anticipate, what to be afraid of, what to strive for.
Here's a subtler example:
White: Christopher W. Chase (2316)
Black: Joshua Haunstrup (1826)
Event: MCC Stanley Crowe Memorial (4)
Date: 2006-10-24
(A08 Réti, King's Indian A)
1 e4 c5
2 d3 e6
3 Nf3 Nc6
4 g3 d5
5 Nbd2 Bd6
6 Bg2 Nge7
7 0-0 0-0
8 Nh4

Alright, so I knew that Chris played the King's Indian Attack, and I knew some variations of the opening pretty well, as my father always played it, but I didn't recall what black was supposed to do here. More generally, I think that I lacked a sense of the positional themes of the opening. I knew some moves, and after that, I would adopt a wait and see attitude, doing my best to parry the kingside attack. There's more to an opening than that though. You have to put your pieces on coordinated squares and then know how to use them once they get there.
8... b6?!
This move does all of nothing, but it looks alright, I mean it's a move that black does make in other variations...
9 f4 dxe4
10 dxe4 e5
11 c3 Ba6
12 Rf2 Qd7
13 Nf5

And here it's panic time. Chris has some nasty threats, my position looks about as rock solid as swiss cheese, and I don't have the foggiest idea what I'm doing. Have I blundered? Not really, although yes, in a sense. My game is coming close to indefensible and I haven't even started playing, all because I don't know the opening.
13... Nxf5
14 exf5 exf4
15 Ne4
And here I should have just resigned.

Now, did I learn from this fiasco you ask? No, not at all. I simply made a mental note that f5 could be a problem square in the King's Indian Attack, and I stored that memory for a future date. Ahem.
White: Max Enkin (2249)
Black: Joshua Haunstrup (1877)
Event: Harry Nelson Pillsbury Memorial (1)
Date: 2006-12-02
(A08 Réti, King's Indian A)
1 e4 c5
2 Nf3 e6
3 d3 Nc6
4 g3 d5
5 Nbd2 Bd6
6 Bg2 Nge7
7 0-0 0-0
8 Nh4

Here we go again. Another master, the same position, time to show that I learned.
8... f5!?
Ahhh, much better, at least it's a playable move!
9 f4
And now what? IM John Watson gives 9...b5, but that's not the sort of move that you would innocently think up by yourself. No, I played what seemed logical again, and was out of my depths in no time:
9... dxe4?!
10 dxe4 Bc7?!
Whoops, this can't be right. What about the gaping hole on e5? That looks like a positional disaster, but at least he's not going to kill me on f5, right?
11 c3 e5?!

Problem solved... ha! The end draws near.
12 fxe5 Bxe5
13 Nxf5 Nxf5
14 exf5
And, up a pawn and with freer pieces, Max finished me off easily.
These kinds of opening disasters are common place in class competition, and they really do underscore the need for concrete knowledge. It's not about knowing specific moves, it's about having a sense of where your pieces need to be and what you need to be afraid of.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Ivanchuk in Style

Two major topflight tournaments are in full swing internationally now. One, the Aerosvit open, has had little press, as it is a lower category event, while the other, Dortmund, with Kramnik, Anand and Carlsen playing, has been a total snoozer, draws, draws, and more draws.

Not so Aerosvit, with an engaging and interesting array of games and many tough fights. Going into the last round, through some wild and persistent play, Vassily Ivanchuk has stolen the show, an occurrence that always makes for spectacle.
Ivanchuk has been among the world's top players for over fifteen years now, and he has always retained his flare for eccentricity. Rarely looking at the board, instead staring blankly at the wall as he plays, Ivanchuk is notorious for his mercurial temperaments, outbursts, irregular wardrobe, and unpredictability. Top players jokingly relate that he lives on "Planet Ivanchuk", a world unto itself.
In round one, he essayed the Accelerated Dragon, an unusual choice. This then became a Yugoslav Dragon by transposition, making it yet more of an oddity, but it fizzled it out quickly, though not without color.
White: Karjakin,Sergey (2686)
Black: Ivanchuk,V (2729)
Event: Foros UKR: Aerosvit (1)
Date: 2007-06-18
(B78 Sicilian, Dragon, Yugoslav A, 10.O-O-O)
1 e4 c5
2 Nf3 Nc6
3 d4 cxd4
4 Nxd4 g6
5 Nc3 Bg7
6 Be3 Nf6
7 Bc4 O-O
8 Bb3 d6
9 f3 Bd7
10 Qd2 Rc8
11 O-O-O Ne5
12 Kb1 Re8
13 Bh6
Instead, 13.h4 is the main line. Black has generally done well after Bh6.
13... Bxh6
14 Qxh6 Rxc3
15 bxc3 a5
16 a4 Karjakin's move here is a novelty it seems, varying from 16.a3, and I suppose that it is an improvement, but not much of one. The real teeth in white's approach to the Yugoslav still come after 9.0-0-0.
16... Qb6
17 h4 Bxa4
18 h5 Nc6
19 hxg6 Bxb3
20 gxh7+ Kh8
21 cxb3

21... Nxd4
22 cxd4 Qxb3+
23 Ka1 1/2
After a nice win over Nisipeanu in the second round, Ivanchuk then settled down to rattle off 22 moves of straight theory in a drawish line of the modern Benoni, following a 1996 Karpov-Topalov game. His opponent, Sasikiran, varied on move 23, but unimpressively, and the game ended in a draw five moves later.

Here, see Ivanchuk watching intently as Sasikiran struggles to center his knight on the square. Ivanchuk's chagrin that he did not wear a pink shirt to match his trousers is clearly in evidence.
After this rather uneventful encounter, Ivanchuk seemed to lose interest for a time, drawing his next three games in a row in 18, 23, and 17 moves. By that time, his countryman, Karjakin, had taken the lead, and Ivanchuk seemed to find motivation afresh.
In round 7, he distmantled Eljanov's Queen's Indian. Then in round 8, with the black pieces, he destroyed Rublevsky's Sozin attack, demonstrating rather convincingly once again, and sadly alas, that the Sozin is not very effective with opposite sides castling against Najdorf. In round 9, tied with Karjakin now for the lead, Ivanchuk strove his utmost to break Dominguez Perez down in an even endgame, fighting on for 77 moves without an appreciable change in predicament only to draw at the end. Whew!
In round 10, he had black against Alexei Shirov, and they played a Ruy Lopez. It proved to be one of the most interesting games of the tournament.
White: Shirov,Alexei (2699)
Black: Ivanchuk,Vassily (2729)
Event: Foros: Aerosvit-2007 (10)
Date: 2007-06-28
(C91 Ruy Lopez)
1 e4 e5
2 Nf3 Nc6
3 Bb5 a6
4 Ba4 Nf6
5 O-O b5
6 Bb3 Be7
7 d4 d6
Shirov's 7th move is unusual but probably not that strong. White suffers somewhat for allowing the pin on g4.
8 c3 O-O
9 Re1 Bg4
10 Be3 exd4
11 cxd4 d5
12 e5 Ne4
13 Nc3 Nxc3
14 bxc3 Qd7
15 h3 Bh5
16 g4 Bg6
17 Nd2 a5
18 f4 a4
19 Bc2 Bxc2
20 Qxc2 f5
21 exf6 Bxf6
22 Nf3 Rae8
23 Bf2 h5
24 Qg6 Re4
25 Rxe4 dxe4
26 Nh2?!

The position was rather balanced here, but after Shirov's inaccuracy - the knight ought to have gone forward to g5, Ivanchuk unleashed a monster of a move.
26... Nxd4!
After this, it was a walkover.
27 cxd4 Bxd4
28 Rb1 e3
29 Bg3 h4!
30 Bxh4 Rxf4
31 Qd3 Qd5
32 Nf1 Rf2
33 Nxe3 Rg2+
34 Kh1 Qf3 0-1
With a solid draw in the last round, Ivanchuk sealed the deal. Amazing what a spurt of inspiration can do.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Studying Openings

At the risk of sounding blasphemous - flying in the face of all of those trainers out there - I want to assert that I think that studying openings is valuable, imperative even, for chess improvement. Maybe there is so much force on the other side of this argument because so many books focus on openings and so many players obsess over openings. Maybe it's because teachers think that students simply memorize the moves without thinking them though - maybe they do some of the time.
Studying openings though, is about learning the patterns.
It's easy enough to say that studying tactics will get you through the opening; just don't make any mistakes. Heh. Yeah. The trouble is, you can easily find yourself in disastrous positions because you didn't see a tactical motif many moves away and now you have your pieces positioned so that they can't do anything about it. More frustrating even, you can find yourself all happily developed in a position where your pieces aren't useful, aren't able to do anything effective.
In this sense, the study of openings is about learning position types, usually by learning thematic structures and reading through games played in them so that you will have a sense of the paths and ideas in the middlegames that you will be seeing in your own praxis. Knowing exacting sequences is helpful, sometimes necessary, but the key is the ideas.
All right, enough bluster, how about some examples then, right? Well, plenty of times I have played the opening ignorantly but without error only to find myself in positions where I had no idea what to do.
White: Lior Rozhansky (1651)
Black: Joshua Haunstrup (1699)
Event: MCC Tuesday Swiss (3)
Date: 2006-02-21
(A46 Queen's Pawn Game)
1.d4 Nf6
2.Nf3 e6
3.Bf4 c5
4.e3 Be7
5.Bd3 Nc6
6.Nbd2 cxd4
7.exd4 d6
8.c3 a6
9.0-0 0-0
10.Qc2 h6
11.Rfe1 Bd7
12.Ne4 Nxe4
13.Bxe4 Rc8

So what is black doing here? Don't look at me, I only played the game. My pieces look rosy; I have the central proponderance; I'm sure I thought I was better. But what's that knight up to on c6? Where can it go? Should I push d6-d5 and let white's knight to e5? What's the game plan.
I followed up with the rather vacuous but seemingly logical sicilanesque,
and then I was smacked in the teeth by
15.d5 Ouch!

Here's another one, similar in many ways,
White: Joshua Haunstrup (1699)
Black: Nikita Konovalchuk (1783)
Event: MCC Tuesday Swiss (2)
Date: 2006-02-14
(B06 Robatsch (Modern) D)

1. e4 g6
2. d4 Bg7
3. Nc3 c6
4. Bc4 d6
My position seemed very active. A good diagonal for the bishop. So far so good.
5. Be3 Nf6
6. Bb3 0-0
7. a4

Like a Sozin Sicilian, right? Then I remembered something about not allowing b5 in the modern complex, so, alright.
7... Nbd7
8. Nf3 e5
9. 0-0 h6
Yuck. Now there's no Qd2 because of the icky Ng4 threat. What am I doing now anyway? Beats me, but I sure haven't blundered anything, I just don't know the opening, haven't a clue.
10. h3 Kh7
11. Qe2 Qe7
12. Rae1 Nh5

Oh, I get it, f5 is coming. That's peachy.
13. dxe5 dxe5
14. Nd2 b6
No no no, a7-a5 and Ba6 is terribleness. Better put the bishop back on the f1-a6 diagonal.
15. Bc4 Qh4

Uh-huh. That's cute. Give a guy all day to come up with something and eventually he will.

The point is that even if you don't make any bad mistakes, if you don't know what you're doing in an opening and resultantly, in a position, you can't really compete. At a certain level, your opponents will probably eventually drop something if you don't but beyond the point of severe blunderitis, you will just lose if you don't have a plan.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

One of my Best Games

For anyone reading back and seeing the work I invested in my effort to diffuse the Reti last year, I thought I would just share one of my best games. It's old now, but it really tickled me at the time, and it's definitely my favorite game to show off.
White: AP (1788)
Black: Joshua Haunstrup (1699)
Event: BCC Spring Open (4)
Date: 2006-04-02

1.Nf3 Nf6
2.c4 Nc6
3.d4 e6
I had just recently lost a miserable game to Paphitis out of his pet Reti lines, an experience that I discussed some time ago in one of my posts. This revised approach was the result of an extended meditation. Basically, After 2...Nc6 white can either allow an e5 English, which is a totally different creature from a symmetrical English, or else play 3.d4, which allows black to force the game from the Reti into the Catalan. This move order allows black to escape from the Reti all together.
4.g3 d5
I guess I won't go so far as to call this move dubious, but it's definitely not the best. 5.Bg2 would be standard with a Catalan position. My Opponent was still trying to steer things back into his territory, but I wasn't obliging.
5... Bb4+

I think that white has bitten off a bit much here. Conceptually, the position is kind of like a QID except that black has much better development and more central bite. White will struggle to hold the center together and is riddled with awkwardness as a result of his slow play.
6.Bd2 Be7
7.c5 a5?!
Almost certainly, 7...e5 is best, punching back immediately.
8.Bc3 Ne4
9.Bb2 e5
10.e3 exd4

I guess I won't make any big claims here, as white can certainly take back with the d pawn at which point he will stand solidly enough, but his position would be rather illogical then, with the Bb2 hemmed in and a weak pawn on d4. Black would also have a relatively free hand on the kingside with those bishops - I'd say that I would have won the opening duel then at the least. Instead, White tried to keep the long diagonal open, but this more or less lost by force.
11.Nxd4 Bxc5
12.Nxc6 bxc6
13.Bxg7 Bb4+
This is the point of my play. All of white's ambition has resulted in a terrible plight for his king.
14.Ke2 Rg8

At this point, 14...Qg5 was actually probably best -- I'll let you work it out -- with the same ideas from the game but in a clearer delivery. Unfortunately, I don't have balls of silicon, and I wasn't that diligent in my calculations... In any case, it's a losing struggle for white, and an ugly one, but what fun it was to sit behind the black pieces!
15.Be5 Qg5
16.Bf4 Ba6+
17.Kf3 Qg4+
18.Kg2 Qxd1
19.Bxa6 Qc2 0-1

Last Round Melt Down

For as long as I have been playing chess, the last round to win position has always been disastrous - I mean simply not do-able. 2000 Harvard Open, I was 3/3 and lost, 2004 G/60 Champs I was 3/3 and lost, at the 2004 Northeast Chess Summer Getaway I pulled it out and won, but that was just the once. Since then, 2005 G/60 Champs I was 2.5/3 and drew, MCC Dec 2005 I was 3/3 and lost, 75th MA Open I was 4/5 and tied for first and I drew, and then 2006 RI Champs I was 4/4 and lost. Sometimes, like at the RI tournament, I was the major favorite and even had the white pieces, and still managed to lose in a game that I only had to draw!
I don't know what it is, call me a choker, but I never seem to be able to pull it out at the end. This week at MCC, I had 2.5/3 and needed to win for a share of first, and I had the black pieces. Not the most auspicious set of circumstances, though it's quite nice to come back after a break and go through three rounds without a loss, but arghh, I could feel it coming again. So I can't exactly say that I pulled out all the stops, but I thought long and hard about what I would play and what my strategy would be, and for a while there it seemed to be going alright.

Edward Astrachan (1866)-Joshua Haunstrup (1880) after 22...Bc4
Black has some active ideas from here, and white's center is likely to become more of a liability than an advantage. Certainly, it's not the kind of raging crazy position you would generally pick for a must win game, but I thought it had potential.
and now I got to thinking. It seemed that the best thing to do was to keep him on his toes. I looked at 23...Ng3 with something like 24.Rfe1 Bxd3 25.Rxd3 Nxe4, but this seemed uncertain and dubious because of the revealed threats. I think I even considered 23...Nf6, but that certainly wasn't any good. Finally, I settled on
23...Bb3 and the game proceeded
24.Rde1 Nc4
25.Bc1 Rad8
and now I was beginning to unravel. Sure, I had looked at this possibility plenty of times, but I always seemed to think that I could get my knight back to f6 to move to d5 supported by the other knight first. It was one of those things where I had considered it a long time ago in my thought process and then just assumed that it was a constant - as if the shifts in the position elsewhere weren't affecting the evaluation of this idea. I guess I could now have played something like 26...c5, continuing my activity, but I was growing afraid of g2-g4, which perhaps is a ghost, as it will take white a while to gobble the knight, and meanwhile, his position may collapse, but needless to say, I went in for:
27.Nxe5 Bxe5
28.Rxe5 Rxe5
29.dxe5 Rxd3
and when the dust settled, I found myself looking at a draw. Yeah, that's right, another no go fourth round.
I think that the best line was where I chickened out on move 23 and should have played:
24.Rfe1 Bxd3
25.Rxd3 Nxe4
26.Bxh6 Nxc3
27.Bxg7 Rxe1+
28.Nxe1 Ncd5
29.Bh6 Re8
With what should be a steady advantage in the endgame. But I was lazy I suppose, and didn't calculate carefully enough... Someday I'll learn to pull one of these things out.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

One Step Forward, One Step Back

Looking over games from the months just before I took my break from chess, it is amazing to see how little I learned from my own experience at times. Having made the leap from 1600 to 1800 in the course of a few short months, I was often jogging to keep up with the theory of opponents at my new level, and struggling to assert my strength against the dangerous youngsters.
For example, in the course of a relatively short span, I had two games with the white pieces against Jesse Nicholas (currently 1790). The opening of the first game was a bit of a surprise, as Jesse played the rather antiquated Classical System in the Ruy Lopez with the line that entails an early Qf6. I knew that the variation existed, but was rather unprepared, though I think that I hacked out a reasonable game:
1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6
3.Bb5 Bc5!?
4.0-0 Qf6
5.c3 Nge7

Apparently this move is unnecessarily conservative, as the rabid seeming 6.d4!? exd4 7.Bg5 Qg6 8.Bxe7 Bxe7 9.cxd4 is much more topical, although not necessarily good enough for much of a white advantage. In any case, after,
6. ... h6
7.Be3 Bb6
8.d4 exd4
9.cxd4 0-0
10.Nc3 d6
11.h3 Qg6
12.Kh2 Rd8
13.Qe2 d5
I had what I thought a very promising position that I went on to win rather comfortably.

Afterwards though, I couldn't help wondering how I was "supposed" to handle the position, and went to the bookshelf and rummaged around until I found some theory, which I studied dutifully and then promptly forgot, and that was the end of that.
Some time later of course, I ran into Jesse again. I recalled in advance that he played the Classical Lopez, and I had a dim recollection of the game that we had played before, but I seemed to think that I had played 4.c3 in that game, and this time I played 4.0-0, imagining that I was varying from my earlier praxis according to whatever it was that I had studied. Unperturbed, Jesse comfortably whipped out his moves, and the game proceeded as follows:
1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6
3.Bb5 Bc5!?
4.0-0 Qf6
5.c3 Nge7
Yes, here we were again, though I didn't remember it as such, and I sat there all over again trying to decide how I ought to proceed. Predictably, my instincts were true, and after,
we reached the very same untheoretical position as before:

Play continued to follow our earlier game,
6. ... h6
7.Be3 Bb6
Whereupon, I sank into a protracted think, and emerged with the indisputably inferior, and quite strange,
8.Na3!? Intent on going after the b6 prelate. From here, play proceeded,
8. ... 0-0
9.Nc4 d6
10.Nxb6 axb6
11.d4 exd4
12.cxd4 Bg4
13.Be2 Ng6
14.h3 Bd7
15.Qc2 Rac8
16.Qd2 Rfe8
17.d5 Nce5
18.Nxe5 dxe5
19.Kh2 Nf4

In many ways the games proceeded in a remarkably similar manner, demonstrating the consistencies of both of our chess processing minds. Once again, I conspired to find my king on the strangely obtuse h2 square, and attempted to force through central expansion at the expense of stability, resulting in a slightly shaky structural position. This time, however, my game proceeded in a decidedly inferior manner - as the result of... innovation! Yes, confronted with the exact same technical problem and position on the board with the benefit of added study time and much extra playing time, I went through the same progression and proceeded with a weaker plan.
It's hard to make sense of a situation like this in the immediate aftermath, and when I went home and hit the books again, I was rather raw at myself. With the benefit of hindsight though, I think that it is safe to reassert the old adage that learning is the faculty that allows us to recognize a mistake when we make it again, and perhaps to go a tad bit further and add that when we realize we are making the mistake even worse the second time, it's time to take a breather...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Learning From Disasters

Here is a game from just a little while before I took my hiatus - a game where I lost miserably. I often find that while such experiences are miserable, depressing even, they are some of the best learning experiences.
I was playing Daniel Schmidt, a fellow trivia player from Chris Chase's team at Pizzeria Uno's, and was initially excited at the opportunity to play another 1800 player - most of my games are either against higher or lower rated opponents. Apparently, he was experimenting with the 2 Knights' Sicilian for the first time, and I was playing a line that I had studied a bit, so I should have had the edge...

White: Joshua Haunstrup (1826)
Black: Daniel Schmidt (1828)
Event: BCC October TNIS (2)
Date: October 12, 2006
(B45 Sicilian, Taimanov V)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Ndb5 Bb4
For those unfamiliar, 6...d6 is a popular move here with a transposition to the Sveshnikov.
This is a move that Judit Polgar popularized, and it has a nice aggression to it, but it may not be the theoretically strongest - just good for some fun, at least that is what I hoped...
8.Nc7+ Kf8
9.Qf3 d5
10.0-0-0 Nxc3?!

This move came as a big surprise. I was aware of the possibility of 10...Rb8 and of 10...e5, but I hadn't even really thought about the Knight capture, evidently because it's not very good, but in the moment, I got stumped, and sat there very confused. I couldn't figure out what would happen after 11...Ba3+ If 12.Kb1, I was afraid of the impending mate threats with a queen swing over to b6. Horror of horrors though, I hadn't even seen somehow that if my knight takes on a8, the queen has no access to my king. Obviously such lines are very nerve wracking, but white should be fine, better eventually, with good chances for eventual success. In the game, I suffered a total calculating collapse, and went in for the groveling retreat to d2 after which I lost without much fight.
11.bxc3 Ba3+
12.Kd2? e5
13.Nxa8 exf4
14.Ke1 Be6
15.Be2 Bd6
16.Rxd5 Bxd5
17.Qxd5 g6
18.Kd2 Kg7
19.Bc4 Qd7
20.h4 Rxa8
21.h5 Rd8
22.hxg6 hxg6
23.Bd3 Be7
24.Qf3 Bg5
25.Ke2 Ne5
26.Qe4 Nxd3
Obviously, it was well past the point for giving up. This game was a real eye opener, and very miserable. Reflecting on it afterwards, I realized that probably the most important mistake was just the result of bad calculating. However, I suppose that more universally, the game demonstrated the dangers of playing a dangerous and complex variation without first having spent much time in analysis of sidelines and natural responses. It's easy to get in over your head!

Back with a new Discipline - I hope...

I have been away from the game of chess for quite some time. My last tournament game for many months was back in December. Then work intervened, and chess had to take a temporary backburner that became a long break, and then a longer one, and before I knew it, I had to go searching through boxes even just to find my chess books.

Needless to say, I am back, hopefully to stay, and whatever the conventional wisdom is, I don't seem to have that many cobwebs in my brain, thank heavens!

The world of chess has not stood still though. The World Championship has come and gone, uncommented upon on this blog. Players have risen and fallen, and it is time to get cracking again. So, without further ado, I shall begin with a recap of my own recent game history, looking at success, failures, learning experiences etc.

My first game back went off with a bang, round one on a Tuesday night at Metrowest. I started in the U1900 section, as the top rated player, and had the luxury of the white pieces to boot.

White: Joshua Haunstrup (1880)
Black: Amrit Gupta (1784)
Event: MCC Summer Solstice (1)
Date: June 5, 2007
(B42 Sicilian, Kan, 5.Bd3)

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nc6
This move came as quite a surprise. I think I vaguely new that this was a line, a rather stodgy line, but it seems unnatural - a sort of uncomfortable hybrid between the Taimanov and Kan variations. It would make sense in the position after 5.Nc3, but here?
6.Nxc6 bxc6
Apparently this move has had a lousy reputation ever since Fischer smashed it up in a now somewhat ancient game, but it's not objectively so bad if black follows up correctly. At this point, white would like to play e5 as in some 2 knights' lines, but Qa5 puts the kabosh on that, so castling comes first.
7.0-0 Nf6?!
7...d5 was almost necessary.
8.e5 Nd5 9. a3
This move probably was not necessary, but I wanted to cut back on his options.
9...Bc5 10.c4 Nb6 11.Qg4! g6?!
I think that 11...Kf8 or even 11...Bf8 would have been preferable. Now Gupta has serious positional problems.
12.Nc3 d5
I was eyeing d6 with the knight via e4, so Gupta resorted to desperate measures.
The black position seems rather helpless already, but it gets rapidly worse.
This just gives me a tempo.
14.Qf3 Bxd6
It's pretty much all over from here.
16.c5 Be7
17.cxb6 Qxd3
18.Bh6+ with rapid mate to follow

Well, welcome back, right? More thoughts and recap to follow.