Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Shouldering Through the Slide

So... the Continental Open (6 rounds, $2000 prize, section cutoff just above my rating) was a great opportunity to break out of my month-long slump and rekindle some good form, but alas, it was not to be. Nay, instead, 2 draws and 2 humiliating losses in, all against much lower-rated opponents, I found myself rather confused and bewildered. At a certain point when you're losing in all manner of novel ways and not winning a single game, even the really, really won ones, you have to begin to wonder if there's a fundamental concentration problem, though I suppose that Ladyluck certainly has it within her whimsy to deal a month of snakeyes if she should so desire. Anyhow, it started ugly, and it ended ugly, and, on some level, I'm still scratching my head.
This is my round 1 game, I was white, position after my sixteenth move. The opening has essentially just ended, and it looks dynamic and interesting. I have barely strayed from theory - not mainstream theory - fringe theory - but theory nonetheless. However, I think that the position is already quite suspicious.
16... b4
17 axb4 Nxb4
18 g5 Nd7
19 Bg2 Bb7
20 Qf2
It's really hard to find a good spot for her majesty. This doesn't really seem like a blunder of a move, but it can't be good. In truth, I don't really know how to improve on my play from the above position.
20... Rfc8
21 Rd2 Nc5
22 Qe3 a5And it's about time to think of what I'm having for lunch. Yeah, he's just got too much firepower. As if the cuteness of ...Na2+, Nxa2 Nxb3 wasn't enough for me to sweat over, now that horrorshow of an a-pawn is breathing down my neck and my king is just whimpering. I lasted eleven moves more before I had had royally enough, and each one of those moves was painful to make!

On to Game 2. I was black. This is one that I blew badly in the opening. Then, after suffering in a miserable - and probably losing - position for hours, my opponent suddenly caved in and I just didn't have the composure to punish him.White has missed his shot here and now needed to retreat his Rook to e1 to hold, but instead, he played:
25 Re5?
Which loses a pawn.
25... Qxa2
26 Rxb7 Rab8
27 Rxb8 Rxb8
28 Re2 Qb1+
29 Re1 Qxb2
30 Qe3 Rd8
31 Qd3 Qb5
32 Qc3 g6?!
I was very twitchy from the long fight, and I didn't want to take any chances. The trouble is, this weakens the one diagonal that can conceal a tactic viz the advance of the white d-pawn. Pushing the h pawn was much preferable, and best was probably the simple 32...Qa4, as the surest way to maintain an advantage is to figure out how to avoid trading the a-pawn for the white d-pawn.
33 Ra1 Rb8
34 h3 Rb6
35 Ra5 Qc6
36 Rc5 Qd6
37 Rc8+ Kg7
38 d5+At this point, I was feeling quite shaky. I could see dimly that blocking the check with e5 would allow Rc6, forcing the exchange of the a and d-pawns, and I thought that the resulting position could hardly offer much to black, but certainly it had to be better than what I did play!
38... f6?!
Now the position is cover-your-eyes frightening.
39 Rc7+ Kh6
40 Qc1+ g5
41 Qc2 Rb1+
Whew! I found that last resource and I have a pulse, but my winning chances are completely gone.
42 Qxb1 Qxc7
43 dxe6 Qe5!
Black's threats with the a-pawn are enough now to maintain the balance.
44 Qb6 a5 1/2

Now, for one more painful anecdote. In round 4, I had the black pieces after another traumatic draw that should have been a win. Here I got an essentially winning position from the opening, but I think that by now I was getting pretty tired, and certainly, I was feeling very unsure of myself.
Here, in response to my idea of targeting the weak e3-square with Ng4, white has played Ng3-e4, threatening to come in at f6 with a fork. Objectively, this isn't much, and I have a simple way of smashing him, but I just didn't see a way forward for the life of me, and I was feeling very nervous. So, I played:
23... Kg7?
If instead I had played the necessary 23... f5!, sample lines are 24.Nc3 e4 25.Nd4 Nxe3! or 24.Ng3 Nxe3 25.Rf2 e4 and white is absolutely finished! The game continued:
24.c5 Bc7
25.b6 Bb8
26.h3 Nh6
27.Nfg5 f5
Even here I had the chance to stir things up with 28...Rd3 29.Nb5 Nf7, but after the further silliness,
28... Ng8
I was well on my way to another passive collapse.

So, I have consigned myself to a little break, some long nights of sleep, maybe a little better nutrition, and then I'll be ready for another go at it. I just can't quite put a finger on precisely what I've lost from a few weeks ago.


Blogger BlunderProne said...

Does this men I will not be playing you on tuesday? I can rest now, knowing you're not goign to try and revamp your streak?

2:30 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

Naw, GD, how could I possibly miss out on playing you? Win, lose, or draw, it's been too long since we've had each other over the board.

I passed up on the BCC today and have been focusing on packing up my things for this year's annual September 1st bash (I've been moving every year for many years now...) but hopefully I'll be in some kind of form on Tuesday. I wonder what you'll play.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Chessbuff said...

First of all, you are missing the knight on g4 in the diagram for round 4. Second, if you played f5, the fork is still there...Nf6+. am i mistaken?

2:53 PM  
Blogger Chessbuff said...

yes, i am. forgive me! yes, the knight on g4!

2:55 PM  

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