Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Linares 2009. Round 6. This was the draw that got everyone talking. Ivanchuk, playing white, agreed to a draw with Dominguez Perez in this position. Who said that a draw can't be reached in a winning position? There must be something else aside from chess that led to this draw. All white had to do was to play 48. e4, threatening a fork on e5 and ultimately crashing through the kingside. Fritz9 scores this position as +- 3.39. So, it was drawn, regardless of positional and tactical factors.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Topalov just scored the first win in the match, and that's going to put Kamsky in a deep psychological hole. He hasn't won a single game against Topalov ever, and it was imperative that Kamsky score the first win in this match. I am afraid that with this first win Topalov will set the tone in the match, and that will require Kamsky to play riskier. After two rounds, they get a day's rest and that will work in Kamsky's favor. Speaking of riskier play, these first two games are not exactly play-safe games. I think we have seen fighting chess in these first games, and they foretell an exciting match. In today's game, Kamsky's bishops, both of them, were hanging at one time.

Wesley So is playing in the Aeroflot 2009 tournament with a first round win over a GM and a loss to an IM in the second round. He's in Group A1. Let's wish him the best.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Some people have asked about my game with IM Alex Lenderman, and so here it is on Lenderman's move 16...f6 17. ef6. This wasn't a French, but a Sicilian Alapin with black fianchettoing his king's bishop. Frankly, I dislike maintaining pawn centers like such because ultimately they crumble and you have to come out of it not a pawn less. I felt that I had better chances at defending the d4 pawn than a pawn on e5. And Fritz9 suggested the same move. The game went 17... Bf6 18. h3 Bf3 19. Bf3 Nc6 and we have the position below.

There are three pieces attacking my D pawn which is only twice defended at the moment. I don't mean to make excuses, but keep in mind that this was a G/60. Not much time to check out all the lines of analysis. I played the very passive 20. Ne2, defending the D pawn which at the same time opened up the C file for tactical possibilities. Clearly, black has the initiative. There was another option other than 20. Ne2. More active was 20. Bg4 Nce7 21. Nb5 a6 22. Rc8 Rc8 23. Nd6 Nd6 24. Be6+ Kg7 25. Bc8 Ndc8 26. g4 and black is still somewhat ahead. Lenderman played 20...Ncd4 (below)

Here, I made a game-losing move, 21. Rc8. This was simply awful. The check on f3 had to be addressed, and capturing on c8 ignored it completely. The knight on d4 must go one way or another. There was 21. Nd4 Rc1 22. Bc1 Nd4 23. Bg4 h5 24. Be3. The other way was to capture via 21. Bd4 Rc1 22. Rc1 Bd4 23. Nd4 Nd4 24. Bg4. These two lines are much better than 21. Rc8. When Lenderman played 21...Nf3+ , white's position lost all hope. Game over on the 27th move.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Consistency. I wish I knew the secret to it. Is it a good night's sleep? Is it diet? I am a vegetarian, and so my results should be consistently good. There hasn't been a dead animal in my body for a long time. Should I not play when I don't have the killer instinct? Is it a matter of concentration? Good Lord, there are just too many variables in the equation.

Take a look at my ratings chart on Chessbase's It shows my performance over roughly four hundred games. If this was a ride in a theme park, I'd be bragging about this roller coaster. The part not shown, games 1-290, is equally zigzaggy. It would, however, include a similar soaring climb to my best rating just like the one shown here. Pretty volatile, don't you think? I don't know if and when I will surpass my all-time high of 1670. Mind you, 1670 here is not 1670 USCF. It's a good rating at Playchess.

I think what I need to do is to take every game seriously. By that, I mean to invest in a few seconds of reflection before every game, for serious and casual games, a period of mind-clearing, to begin a state of good concentration. And when I suffer successive losses, I need to lay off chess for a few hours if not days. I need to recognize when I am in a funk. No, it is not going to get better in the next few games. It's only going to get worse. If I knew when to quit, I wouldn't have such dreadful dives as the chart clearly shows.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It was a chess-filled weekend, and if I wasn't philosophical about my losses it I would have gone berserk with frustration. I mean, cops would have to hold me down for my own good. I trust that many of you know the feeling. After a year's hiatus, I should be more realistic in my expectations. But that is not the only reason for my miserable performance, 1.5/4. I suspect that age and the breakdown of analytical ability is beginning to manifest themselves. The hardware is getting old, and an old engine's compression suffers when the seals are no longer as tight as before. Heck, I am only 52 years old and I am already talking sunset years.

The International Chess Academy in Teaneck, New Jersey held its annual Winter Open at the Bergen Academies in Hackensack. This is a well-run tournament, offering both open and scholastic sections. Our president at the Dumont Chess Mates, Lawrence Constance, performed TD duties for the Open section. He does a very good job at the club, having infused the club with new vitality and spirit. We spoke about how our respective wives are turning into chess widows, the grumblings, the seemingly endless excuses we make so we can attend a chess event. If I heard Lawrence right, he said he almost forfeited a GM when his cell phone rang during the game. All were requested to turn off their cell phones at the beginning of every round.

It was heart-warming to see scores of school children compete, little eager beavers with great expectations and remarkable resilience. Their parents transformed the hallways into their respective battle stations, laid out with their reading materials, laptops, and life-giving food. You know the scene. I thought about approaching a couple and warn them about over feeding their son between rounds. It's all about blood circulation, and how a full stomach keeps blood away from the brain. Well, on second thought, I decided that might be true for older people only.

It was just my damn luck to face IM Alex Lenderman in the second round, having won my first. I played white and the C3 Sicilian. He went into the fianchetto variation with 2...g6. I survived the opening until around the 18th move when that eternal pest of a move Qb6 came up. I hate that move and its counterpart, when you're playing black, Qb3. I reckon the young IM has got everything figured out, and he must have fought valiantly from falling asleep during our game. I remember looking at his clock and he had spent ten minutes to my thirty. Anyway, the outcome was never in question. If I sounded negative, that's not the case. I felt it was a good experience to play against someone rated above 2500. Normally, we would never have been paired but it was a comparatively small open section. In my last round, I was up a bishop but lost it in the rapid play that occurs when each of you have only three minutes left. We drew. What a spoiler. That was Sunday.

Came Monday at the Dumont Chess Mates. I played my last round of quad, thus three rounds altogether but one round a week only. I played a beautiful first round win, then a loss for the second round after my pieces refused to cooperate and coordinate. I always have trouble telling my pieces what to do. This last game, I don't know who was making the moves for me because they were so outrageously weak. I got my two rooks forked, after losing my center pawn gratis. This game, I want to forget. There must be a bubble in my brain, a kind of dead zone or black hole where the electrical messages enter but never leave. Maybe it's time for my first senior tournament.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Here's the finale to one of my blitz games on It shows you that playing on, seeking chances, is better than resigning early. I had already in mind a drawing mechanism which caught my opponent by surprise. All I needed was one tempo. He played 34. Qd7+ Ka6 35. Qc8+ Ka7 36. h7? allowed 36...Rb2+! and the perpetual checks followed.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Corus 2009. Group C. Round 13.

It shouldn't surprise anybody that Wesley So and David Howell drew their last round. That clinches sole first place for So in Group C. I am not even going to put up a diagram of the final position because it was a draw of convenience more than anything else. Congratulations to Wesley So. This performance will qualify him to, at least, Group B next year. If So continues to play competitively during the course of this coming year, he may even end up in Group A which isn't a stretch, in my opinion. He deserves a hero's welcome in Manila. I think he is the best player the Philippines has ever produced, notwithstanding Torre and Balinas. I hope that I have provided some good coverage of his games in Corus 2009.