Monday, March 18, 2013

Game 36: Columbia Club Championship Rd. 4

Columbia Chess Club Championship
B20: Sicilian: Unusual White 2nd moves
White: Birney Blind (1226)
Black: Dan Quigley (1807)
Columbia, SC, Round 4, G/75, 30 sec. bonus, Mar. 14, 2013

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bc4

As anyone who has played much chess on the Internet knows, this early Bishop deployment is very common for people who do not like to study chess theory. There is nothing wrong with it, but Black now has a very good plan to adopt against White’s setup, namely …e6, and …d5. Once these moves are in White will have to lose time moving the Bishop again. Black has the option to throw in …a6 to prevent the Bishop from coming to b5 if he wishes to. Also, if needed, Black can play …Nf6 and …Bb4 in order to bolster the impact of …d5 when it comes.

3…e6 4.Nge2?!

Unless there is a specific reason to prefer a Knight deployment to d2 or e2, Knights are always better developed on c3 and f3. I see no reason to prefer e2 in this case.


At the time, this move made a good deal of sense to me. White’s Bishop is almost in a Noah’s Ark type trap. If 5.Bd3, c4 will prove embarassing, for example. In fact, there is only one saving move. Unfortunately, that saving move places White in a very strong position, much stronger than I realized at the time. Rather than become diverted by what I thought was a White mistake last move, I should have likewise continued with my most logical development plan, 4...Nf6, in order to be able to play …d5 soon.


5.d3! is not only forced, it is much stronger than it first appears. If 5…Nxc4 6.dxc4 White has an excellent Maroczy Bind position. Black will have great difficulty getting …d5 in, if it’s even possible. Without the …d5 break, Black’s position will be cramped and very difficult to play. The two Bishops will also be markedly inferior to White’s Knights and the space advantage he will enjoy. After the text, White will lose material, but he gets some compensation for it. White’s position is not lost yet, but it does become very difficult to play.

5...c4 6.Ba4 a6 7.d4 b5 8.Nxb5 axb5 9.Bxb5 Qb6 10.Nc3 Bb4 11.Ba4?

This move surprised me. I expected 11.a4!?, after which I planned 11…Nf6 with pressure on White’s center.


I failed to do a reassessment of the position to realize that I could now win a piece with 11...Nb7. White can’t save the Bishop, which has nowhere to move. White’s best bet would be to seek counterplay with 12.Qg4, but even then Black’s threat to win a piece is not disappearing. I could play 12…Kf8 or 12…Ne7 13.Qxg7 Rg8, and then win the Bishop at my leisure. After 11…Nb7, White’s position would be lost.


Better was 12.e5, but even so Black emerges with a winning game, e.g. 12…Nd5 13.Bd2 Qxd4 14.Nxd5 Bxd2+ 15.Qxd2 Qxd5 16.Qxd5 exd5–+


I still fail to realize I can win White’s Bishop with 12...Nb7.


I don’t think White realized this move drops a pawn. Best was 13.Qd2 Nc6 14.Bxc6 dxc6, but Black is winning here too.


It is still probably preferable to win a piece with 13...Nb7 than to win just a pawn, but I never saw this possibility during the game.


White’s position was bad. The best plan, 14.a3 Be7 15.Qe2, will not bring White joy in the long run either. This mistake simply hastens the end.

14...Qe3+ 15.Qe2 Bxd2+

Black wins a piece. In view of 16.Kd1 Qxe2+ 17.Kxe2 Bh6, Black resigned.


My play this game was not the sharpest. I failed to fully evaluate the positional consequences of 4…Na5 5.d3 Nxc4 6.dxc4 to see how bad my position would then become as a result. I think I am putting too much weight on the advantage of having the two Bishops in many of my games. Going forward, I will strive for this only when I am sure I can have an open board afterwards. I also never saw the possibility of winning a White piece on move 11, 12, or 13 by simply backing up my Knight. This means I need to widen my search horizon a bit every move.

I was informed after the game that my opponent does not like to play up. I have never really understood this attitude among some low rated players. I personally relish the chance to play stronger or higher rated players. It is less damaging to my rating to lose these games, and those are usually the games I learn the most from, win or lose. Not wanting to play up is a really self-destructive preference, it seems to me.

A question was asked me via this blog site regarding whether it bothers me more to lose to someone lower rated. The answer is definitely “Yes!” All losses bother me to some extent, of course, though I try not to show it, and to accept the fact as graciously as possible that defeats are inevitable. Even Magnus Carlsen gets beat fairly often. However, for me to lose (or draw) someone who is lower rated, usually I have beat myself by making mistakes that I should know better than to make. Beating myself this way is always frustrating, sometimes even deeply embarrassing, like my recent loss to Andrew Manion (Game 35) was.

Even still, such losses are a natural part of the game. If you can’t stand the pain, and many can’t, then tournament chess is simply not for you, which is a shame because you then also miss out on the joy the flip side of the coin (winning) brings. People who can’t take the competitive aspect, I have noticed, still find other ways to involve themselves. They may play informal chess games only, for example, or become kibitzers, spectators, chess gossips, chess teachers, chess politicians, or tournament directors. I am not saying anything negative about these categories. I am very grateful directors exist, and South Carolina's are tops, one reason I choose to live in this state. Our state president and USCF delegate David Grimaud is my ideal of what a chess politician should be, if only more were like him. There is more than one way to enjoy chess than competing directly. Those ways just aren’t for me.

Anyone can have an off day due to a low grade headache, personal distraction, or become impatient at the board due to chess over-saturation, but still decide to try his luck nevertheless. The last condition (chess over-saturation) is easily avoidable, except maybe when playing in a multi-round per day tournament, and I have made a rule for myself to have little to do with chess for at least 24 hours before I am due to play a tournament game, and to try to avoid playing at extremely long time controls when possible. The break from chess makes me fresher and less impatient when I do sit down at the board, and I will think longer about my moves. The first two are a matter of experience in not doing the things that cause a health issue to arise, when at all possible, or in successfully compartmentalizing away personal distractions. Being ready for a game in the ways I have described will help make losses to lower rated players a more infrequent occurrence, I am convinced.

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