Delicate matters

I won an open chess tournament. Wow. Last time that happened was 1998. (Yup.) Tied with IM Foygel and was fortunate enough to not play him, as he generally hands me my butt.

Strategic blunders ensue

Capsule of my last round game with Black against John Curdo (who also generally hands me my butt, at least when I have Black):

I’m better! I’m equal! I’m worse! I’m losing! I’m busted! I’m confused! I’m lucky! I’m totally winning! – oops. Draw.

Here’s an early critical position that I believe I botched at a fundamental level. White threatens invasion on the c-file and/or some a4-based ruckus. Black has a huge pawn mass in compensation for a sacrificed piece – but isn’t developed.

This is what I would call positionally delicate. I think the right strategy for Black is to develop in a way that doesn’t allow White to make trouble on the queenside, neutralize the c-file, then set up the pieces to support moving the central pawns forward. Can’t rush the pawn push.

I rushed it. I wanted my king around the center to help prevent c-file problems, but I brought it to d6 and then pushed pawns while my rooks weren’t in position to support that action. White put his rooks on central files and because of my king’s presence, the pawns became targets. 

It reminds me of the Pirc line where White sacs his queen for three minors: 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bc4 Bg7 5.Qe2 Nc6 6.e5 Nxd4 7.exf6 Nxe2 8.fxg7 Rg8 9.Nxe2. If your instinct is to push Black’s center pawns forward and sweep White off the board, you will get blown up. You have to develop very carefully and time those pawn pushes carefully.

I kinda stink at these positions because I am always in a rush.

Anyway, fast-forward. Much time-scrambling so neither player should be held accountable for how we got here or what happens next. :)


Now we’ve arrived at what I’d call a tactically delicate position. White has immobilized the pawns and aims to knock out the base of the chain, with a tricky supporting tactic that allows him to leave that rotten b1 Bishop hanging: 47.g4 fxg4 48.Rxg4 Rc1 49.Rxg7 Rxb1 50.Nd5+! Bxd5 51.Rxf6+ 1-0.  Oh, except 49…Re1+! 50.Kd2 e3+ 51.Kxe1 exf2+ 52.Kxf2 Rxf4+ 0-1. Oh, except 50.Kd4! Rd6+ 51.Ke5! hits d6 and f7, 1-0. Except 51…Rd7 maybe? Wait, 51…d2! 0-1. Oh, except 52.Bc2! 1-0.

If you put it in Fritz, you’ll presumably get one clear winning line, and everything will look so simple. But when you’re sitting at the board trying to figure this stuff out at blitz tempo, and every new idea switches your evaluation from 1-0 to 0-1 and back (which is what I mean by tactically delicate)  it’s crazy time.

Is it any wonder we fought/blundered our way to a draw?


12 thoughts on “Delicate matters

  1. Very interesting game against Curdo. It’s very difficult to score even a half point against him when he has the white pieces. Congrats!

  2. Hey, great work. For those of us who don’t know chess, what is H— in the IM’s line?

  3. Congratulations, Derek.

    I can only wonder how did you get e5 pawn in that opening line (which, by the way, is considered very doubtful), and I can only wonder how did you manage to lock white bishop on b1. That alone makes your game very interesting.

    I also want to thank you for providing invaluable information about other people’s opening tastes – now I know what John plays against 3…Nf6 French. Not to mention the knowledge of all your opening weaknesses…:)

  4. im very happy for you. impressive.

    and the highest rated chess blogger in our circle with the least chess ego. go figure: some of our most egotistic and most opinionated chess improvement bloggers are far south of 1600! no names mentioned but many examples abound.

    do you have a chess goal? and i dont mean a number, but seeking a state or beauty of to uphold or to renew or discover, etc?

    warmest, dk

  5. Denys – thanks – actually this is NOT exactly John’s usual line against …Nf6. We’ve played his pet line five or six times, and last time I finally won, so this time he varied. As for my opening weaknesses, you don’t have enough time to learn ALL of them :)

    David – also thanks – yes, the goal is to be able to beat Denys :)

    Actually you ask a great question which I think I will address in a new post maybe later this weekend.

  6. Oh! Sorry. Didn’t grasp that you were looking at the crosstable. H means he took a half-point bye. (Not uncommon on these weeknight tourneys where you might be unavailable for any particular Tuesday.)

  7. Thanks. Next question: Why is a bye worth half a point? Why not just raise his appearance fee and get him to show up and work for his result? Could I get 2 points for signing up and then taking 4 byes?

  8. Contentious subject. There are limits & conditions on byes, etc etc, but the overriding logic (I suppose) is that if you have to take a zero because you had a work conflict or something on one particular Tuesday, you’d be less likely to play that month at all. Yes, the rules can be manipulated for possible competitive advantage. I don’t worry about it – not worth the energy. (While we’re on the subject, though, re-entries are the most ridiculous contrivance of American Swiss chess. Just a stupid, stupid rule.)

  9. Yes, the half-point bye is weird. No one gets “appearance fees” at the MetroWest club, so we try to make it easy for all players to play the entire tournament even if they can’t make it any given Tuesday. (I say “we” because I’m a tournament director, and board member of MCC.) There’s a maximum of two for each tournament, and if a player wants one for the last round, he or she has to commit to it before the second round starts. This avoids someone winning three straight, then opting out of the last round at the last minute just to win a prize.

    We have eliminated re-entries. They are super-stupid for a one-weeknight-a-week club tournament,


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