Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2017 Land of the Sky XXX Round 2 Anton Taylor, 1916 - Michael Guthrie, 1757 French: Wing Gambit (C00)

2017 Land of the Sky XXX Round 2 
Anton Taylor, 1916 - Michael Guthrie, 1757 
French: Wing Gambit (C00)

1. e4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. e5 c5 4. b4 cxb4 5. a3 bxa3 6. Bxa3 Bxa3 7. Nxa3 Bd7
I have been looking at this gambit and up until now this has been the accepted mainline. It isn't common for masters to gobble the extra pawn so the pool of games in the database drops significantly after move 5. Anyway, there are three choices here c3, c4, or d4. Looking back on this game c4 seems the most active reply but my choice is in the database (but trades away the best piece, the queen's knight. 8. Nb5 Bxb5 9. Bxb5+ Nc6 10. Nd4 Ne7 11. c3 O-O 12. Bxc6 Nxc6 13. Nxc6 bxc6 14. O-O Qc7 15. d4 Rfb8 16. f4 c5? Here is where my opponent begins to play inaccuratelybymissing the point of my previous move. 17. f5! and white achieves equality. the simple g6 or Qc8 removes all of the White counterplay on the previous move. 17. ... c4 18. f6 g6 19. Qd2 Qd8 20. Rf3?
Komodo 10 really hates this move. At the time I was trying to ignore the threat of the advancing past pawn and throw everything at the Black king. I see now that the best white can hope for here is to use the threat of queen and pawn mate (on g7) to tie down the Black queen and then set up an "Alekhine's Gun" against the extra pawn. A balanced position is the result and probably a drawn rook and pawn ending. 20. ... Kh8 21. h4 Qg8 22. Kf2? I made this move in order to play Rh1 but this was white's last chance to tie down the black rooks before they get loose from the pawn and create an advantage. 22. ... Rb7! The power of this move was what I missed when followed by Rab8. Here the weakness of Rf3 becomes clear, the white rooks are uncoordinated and hopelessly so. 23. h5?? There is not enough time for this to be an effective method of attack but there is nothing better than committing to the bad plan that White started by playing Rf3 earlier. 23. ... g5 White is completely lost after this. 24. h6 Rab8 25. Ra2 Qg6 26. Rg3 Rg8 27. Rb2 Rxb2 28. Qxb2 Qxh6 29. Qb7 g4 30. Re3 Qf4+ 31. Ke2 g3 32. Kd2 Qf2+ 33. Re2 Qf5 34. Kc1 Qf1+ 35. Kd2 Qa1 36. Qxf7 Qb2+ 37. Kd1 Qb1+ 38. Kd2 Qd3+ 39. Ke1 Qxc3+ 40. Rd2 Qc1+ 41. Ke2 c3 42. Rd1?? Ra2 is the most logical reply but the text was the only chance to potentially slip away ... although there is really no chance as White's king gets caught out the open in numerous variations. Qc2+ 0-1

My conclusions from this game is that the wing gambit is just a bit lacking in bite against black. There are some exploitable tactics. It may be a viable option against class players in G/30 or faster time controls. However, with an hour it isn't quite there and I would have to do a lot more study in the line before I could use it with competence.

Here is the real problem. I have no real response to the French, at least none that are satisfying to me. This goes back to the opening repertoire questions I have already brought up. It may be best to look at the black side of the french. That way I can potentially use the french as a surprise weapon in the future. That's not at the top of my chess srudy to-do list but it is on there. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

2017 Land of the Sky XXX Round 1 Peter Michelman, 2072 - Anton Taylor, 1916 English: Anglo-Dutch (A10)

2017 Land of the Sky XXX Round 1 
Peter Michelman, 2072 - Anton Taylor, 1916 
English: Anglo-Dutch (A10)

1. c4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 4. Nc3 d5 5. d4 Bb4 Up until this Bishop move things have been quite normal and numerous games between masters exist in the position. simply c6 or Be7 are by far more common developing moves. The move c6 is preferred. I take another path in this game that quickly goes wrong. 6. Nf3 O-O 7. O-O c5??
Games by masters have continued c6. This move loses on the spot as the following moves will show. 8. cxd5 Bxc3 9. bxc3 exd5 10. Ba3 I debated on what to play here. My first choice was Ne4. I missed that the knight also hits the pawn on c3 as well as defending c5. So instead I play the grossly losing b6 with an even worse idea following. 10. ... b6 11. dxc5 Qe7 12. Ng5 I wasn't clear on why White would choose this move. Nd4 seemed better. 12. ... Bb7?? This loses immediately but the only real alternative (Rd8) is positionally lost. There are too many tactics in the air for Black to hold together or create useful complications. 13. c6! 1-0

This was a really embarrassing loss. My opponent is nowhere near master strength but that is the smallest problem I had with losing this game. This was played on board two of the Under 2200 section. The organizers had set up DGT electronic boards and were broadcasting the top games in each section live over the internet. So, the result of this game is that my first online featured live game was falling into a miniature by making an obviously bad choice.

My conclusion from this game is two-fold

First, I need to stop playing blitz. Or at least not with a view to actually win. If I'm in attacking mode I play in this way: Cavalier, unsound, and completely recoverable in a five minute game. this creates problems for online opponents and they fold under the pressure. When someone has hours to work on problems such moves are losing.

Second, I must develop a systematic method of creating and maintaining an opening repertoire. up until now I have depended on my memory and intuition to determine most of my opening choices, This has worked out in most games but in the special cases that crop up now and then where the wrong move is thematic and the right move is counter-intuitive I go wrong. I was recently reminded of Samuel Reshevsky who would study openings tirelessly and couldn't remember anything he studied. His poor memory is legendary.
GM Samuel Reshevsky
My memory is not so poor. However, my intuition is not developed enough in the openings I'm playing to not prepare a repertoire. But how to do it systematically? I'm not skilled in the use of custom chess databases. More research is needed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Mistake Check-in #1

The Mistakes

Poor Concentration – Nearly all of my losses have come from a loss of concentration. I lose interest in the position as time passes and lose my grip on what is needed. This has resulted in disaster (the game against IM Ronald Burnett at the smokey mountain open) as well as narrow escapes. My game against Woodward at Winter Sucks and the game against Deshpande at the smokey mountain open are great examples.

Playing Without a Plan – I find myself many times questioning what I'm doing in a given position. I may play objectively the best move and then on the very next move I'll miss the idea behind the previous move and flounder about. I find this in blitz as well … I tend to push the pieces around a few moves sometimes before finding the right idea.

Time Management – I find in blitz situations I save too much time by moving too quickly in key positions. This is ironically the opposite problem form what most people associate with time trouble.

King Safety – I still have issues with my king's safety. This mostly occurs in blitz. I often miss long-range tactics involving queens, bishops, and rooks against my king.

Pawn Weaknesses – This is a bad habit I have gotten from blitz. It can be seen in a few games previously. Pawn structure has taken a back seat in my mind in place of piece activity. So far I have won games by making piece moves that were unexpected. In positions where there are no comfortable piece moves I often make embarrassing pawn moves that destabilize the position.


Planlessness (if that's a word), time issues, and even king safety boils down to the problem of concentration. It is worth researching concentration training methods outside of chess. When I find a direction for concentration training I will share it with the readers and put it into action.

I know I have some books and other study materials on pawn structure. It is time to dust those off and reignite my connection to the “soul of chess” as Philidor called the pawns.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2017 Winter Sucks Round 5 Anton Taylor, 1906 - Connor Zhang, 1551 Ruy Lopez Closed (C90)

2017 Winter Sucks Round 5
Anton Taylor, 1906 - Connor Zhang, 1551
Ruy Lopez Closed (C90)

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5 5. Bb3 Nf6 6. O-O Be7 7. Re1 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. a4 
The best objective move is 9. h3 but I played this move to muddy the waters for my opponent. That's not the best idea but it made a fun game. 9. ... Bg4 10. h3 Bh5 11. Qe2 b4 12. Bd5? Up until this move we have followed a game Kosteniuk-Nikolic 2005 instead of my Bd5? Kosteniuk played a5 with a gain of space. d3 is also a potential alternative to the troubles white makes for himself with Bd5. 12. ... Qd7? Nxd5 followed by Na5 was the bid for a black advantage. This move in a sense justifies Bd5. 13. Bxc6 Qxc6 14. cxb4? A bad move for a number of reasons. Firstly, it concedes the bid for the center as finished as d4 is no longer supported. And secondly, it leaves white's b-pawn and d-pawn with no clear home or future. So, while it may look like I win a pawn (temporarily) this actually loses the extra pawn and probably a second pawn. d4 is the correct move. 14. ... Rab8 15. b5 I realize the hopelessness of my position and elect to return the pawn in exchange for putting a piece on a square where I can attack it with a knight trying to catch up my development. 15. ...axb5 16. axb5 Rxb5 17. Nc3 Rbb8 18. d3 d5 Had I seen the e-pawn is hanging I would have played g4 in response to this move. Instead, I saw ghosts. 19. Bg5 dxe4 20. Nxe4 Bxf3 21. Qxf3 
I was very happy with this position. the threat of Nxf6 followed by Qxc6 is rather scary. My opponent wrote down Rxb2 in his notation book and then quickly scratched it out when he saw the tactic. I said nothing but let him rethink. It wasn't long before he made a similarly fatal error. 21. ... Nxe4?? 22. Bxe7 Rfe8 23. Ba3 Qf6 24. Qxe4 h6 25. Rac1 Qb6 26. Rc6 Qa5 27. Rec1 Rec8 28. R6c5 Qb6 29. Rxe5 c6 30. Re7 Rb7 31. Re8+ Rxe8 32. Qxe8+ Kh7 33. Rxc6 Qd4 34. Qe4+ Qxe4 35. dxe4 g6 36. f3 Kg7 37. b4 Rd7 38. Bb2+ Kh7 39. Rc8 g5 40. g4?? Rd1+! would win the piece back. My opponent misses his chance to win and instead loses from here. Rb7 41. Rh8+ Kg6 42. Rg8+ Kh7 43. Rg7+ Kh8 44. Rxf7+ Kg8 45. Rxb7 and with mate coming soon black resigned.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2017 Winter Sucks Round 4 CM Billy Woodward, 2015 - Anton Taylor, 1906 Dutch Rubinstein (A84)

2017 Winter Sucks Round 4
CM Billy Woodward, 2015 - Anton Taylor, 1906
Dutch Rubinstein (A84)

1. d4 f5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. h3 I have never seen this move before. As it turns out my response is the main response in the sideline. Always a good sign. 4. ... b6 5. Nf3 Bb4 6. Bd2 Bb7 7. e3 Nc6 8. Qc2 Qe7 9. O-O-O a5 10. d5? Up until this move the position is equal. I sensed this move was bad but failed to find a satisfactory refutation. 10. ... Bxc3 11. Bxc3 Nb4 
When I played a5 the idea was to gain space in an equal position and placing pawns on squares of the bishop I knew I'd be trading (always a good idea). It seems lucky that the move supports this strike. If I were Alekhine I envision saying something like "ah! The point all along!" but this was luck on principle, not analysis. 12. Qb1 exd5 13. a3 
This position is definitely worth a diagram. I played Na6, again working on principle instad of concrete analysis. The c5 square looks great for the knight. Komodo gives 13. ... dxc4! when there is no adequate defense to Be4 and axb4? opens the file for the rook and the white king gets hunted down. 13. ... Na6 14. Qxf5 O-O 15. Qc2 dxc4 16. Bxc4+ d5?? For the third time in this game I play on principle instead of analysis. I did not manage my time very efficiently in this game at all. I made this move almost immediately and it is a blunder. The simple Kh8 gives an equal position with chances. 17. Bxf6 Qxf6 18. Rxd5 Kh8 19. Ng5 g6 20. Ne4 Qg7 21. Rd4 Bxe4 22. Qxe4 Nc5 23. Qc2 Rad8 24. Rhd1 Rxd4 25. Rxd4 Qf6 26. Rd2 Kg7 27. e4 Qf4 28. Qc3+ Kh6 29. f3 Rd8 30. b3 b5?? With both players in time trouble I make a potentially decisive error. I am already completely lost but this is just sad to allow white even greater possibilities. 31. Bd5 Na6 and in a time scramble I manage to trade my knight for the bishop and extra pawn, trade the queens off, and simplify into a drawn rook endgame escaping disaster. 1/2-1/2

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 Winter Sucks Round 3 Meghan E. Waters, 1611 - Anton Taylor, 1906 Caro-Kann: Panov-Botvinnik Attack (B13)

2017 Winter Sucks Round 3
Meghan E. Waters, 1611 - Anton Taylor, 1906
Caro-Kann: Panov-Botvinnik Attack (B13)

1.e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nf3 Be7 7. Be2 Nc6 8. O-O O-O 9. Be3
This move is in the database but has an extremely small sample. Bf4 has a much larger sample, takes over a lot more squares, and just looks far more aggressive. 9. ... b6 10. a3 The majority of games where this move was tried in this position are lost by white. Rc1 is the mainline at this point (and scores 70% for white so pretty good actually but still a small sample). 10. ... dxc4 11. Bxc4 Na5 12. Ba2 Ba6 13. Re1 Rc8? 
This was an inaccuracy on my part. The better plan is Bc4 tradin the Bishops immediately or gaining complete control of the c4 square and displacing white's bishop. 14. Rc1 Bb7? Here I lose my grip on the plan in the position. If I had intended this move it was better to play it on the move I played Ba6 and save time. Komodo still likes Bc4 to seek the slight advantage. 15. b4? Qe2,Qd3, and Ne5 are all better alternatives to this move. b4 wastes time chasing the knight to a square it wants to go to anyway. 15. ... Nc4 16. Nb5? This is the losing move. The a3 pawn needs no defender as Ne5 contests the c4 square and threatens to trap the knight if it takes on a3. 16. ... Nxe3 17. Rxc8 Qxc8 18. Rxe3 Nd5 19. Bxd5 Bxd5 20. Ne5 Qb7 21. f3
It's hard to suggest a better move that this. losing the g2 pawn loses so in a sense it is forced but Bg5 activating Black's potential monster bishop is a nasty threat. 21. ... Bg5 22. Rc3 Rc8 The text is winning but 22. ... f6! wins on the spot. I only mention the move because I focused too much on the threat of Rc7 to see the counter-blow and never even considered f6. 23. Rxc8+ Qxc8 24. Nxa7 Qa6 25. h4?? Nac6 was necessary. This just loses a piece for nothing. 25. ... Be3+ 26. Kh2 Qxa7 27. Qd3 Bf4+ 28. g3 Bxe5 29. dxe5 h6 30. f4 Qc7 31. g4 Qc4 32. Qd2 Qf1 33. f5 Qh1+ 34. Kg3 Qg1+ 35. Kh3? This allows a mate in six moves that I missed (Komodo gives 35... Bf3 36. h5 Bxg4+ 37. Kh4 Bxf5 38. Qf4 Qe1+ 39. Qg3 Qh1+ 40. Qh3 Qxh3#). I choose instead to simplify into the won endgame a piece up. 35. ... Bc4 36. h5 Bf1+ 37. Kh4 Qg2 0-1

2017 Winter Sucks Round 2 Anton Taylor, 1906 - CM Jerry Baker, 2111 Caro-Kann: Panov-Botvinnik Attack (B13)

2017 Winter Sucks Round 2
Anton Taylor, 1906 - CM Jerry Baker, 2111
Caro-Kann: Panov-Botvinnik Attack (B13)

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nf3 Be7 7. Qb3
This move is suspect to me. I was playing experimentally (read that as "planlessly") and the result of this move in particular resulted in a lot of time taken off of my own clock later. 7. ... O-O 8. Bg5 Nc6 9. cxd5 Nxd5 10. Bxe7 Ndxe7 11. O-O-O? Rd1 followed by Bd3 and O-O is the best plan. 11. ... b6 12. Bd3 Bb7 
I had difficulty finding a plan for White in this position. Objectively best is moves like Kb1, Be4, etc. preparing a d5 break and getting things coordinated. Instead I chose a risky plan with Bc2 and a Queen march. I see now that it was a waste of time but the moment is the key. Hindsight is 20/20. 13. Bc2 Na5 14. Qb5 Nd5 15. Nxd5 In this position I had planned to play Qd3 but the attack goes nowhere against the Black king and actually a move like g6 helps black save time in the endgame not having to avoid a back-rank mate. So, I decide to trade off the queens. The trade is bad for me of course because my queen has moved far more than the Black counterpart. White's position is completely lost here. 15. ... Qxd5 16. Qxd5 Bxd5 17. b4 Nc4 18. Bb3 a5 19. bxa5 Rxa5 20. Kb1 f6 21. Rhe1 Kf7 22. Rc1 b5 23. Kc2 Rfa8 24. Kc3 Nb6 25. Kb4 Bxb3 26. axb3 Nd5+ 27. Kc5 Ke7 This is the move I missed in my analysis of Kc3. I could blame this oversight on lack of time but the position is already lost so it doesn't matter why I set about to make things worse. The only result of this position is to complicate it with trading a rook for knight and pawn. 28. Rxe6+ Kxe6 29. Re1+ Kd7 30. Kxd5 Ra2 31. Kc5 Rb8 32. d5 Rc2+ 33. Kb4 Rxf2 34. Nd4 Rxg2 35. Nxb5 Rxh2 (35... Rg4+ 36. Ka5 Ra8+ 37. Kb6 Rb4 38. Kc5 Rxb3 wins immediately but the text is still winning) 36. Rc1 Rb7 37. Kc5 Rh3 38. b4 g6 39. Nd4 Rh5 40. b5 Re5 41. Nc6 Re2 42. Na5 Rc7+ 43. Nc6 Rb2 44. Kb6 Kd6 45. Re1 Rg7 46. Re6+ Kxd5 47. Rxf6 g5 0-1

There were some chances to escape disaster in this ending but I was playing with seconds on my clock and had no time to find them. I was psychologically beaten anyway so it is unlikely I would find them. My conclusion is that this game started going downhill after 7.Qb3. I dislike the idea that I beat myself but it has become apparent to me that that is the only way I lose at all. Place the blame where it belongs. Don't dwell or obsess of course but study and do better. Win or learn.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2017 Winter Sucks Round 1 Anton Taylor, 1906 - Darrel P. Griffin, 1568 Petrov/Russian Defenese (C42)

2017 Winter Sucks Round 1 
Anton Taylor, 1906 - Darrel P. Griffin, 1568 
Petrov/Russian Defenese (C42)

This is the same opponent I played against in the Petrov/Russian defense previously.  
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Bf5 7. O-O In the previous game in this variation I played Qe2 and he responded with Qe7. I liked my position after that but Qe2 isn't very objective (although if I could ensure the Qe7 response it would be fine).  7. ... Be7 8. Nc3 
Up until this move everything has been mainline. I considered c4 and Rel here but decided that the developing move Nc3 was an interesting sideline. The move is in the database but it isn't very favored. 8. ... O-O 9. Bf4 Qe1 is the database move for this position but it seems unconvincing to me. There are not nearly enough games in the database to convince me of the validity of the move. Bf4 keeps up with the development and works toward getting a bad piece in front of the pawns. 9. ... Nxc3 10. bxc3 Be6  This move is a waste of time. Bxd3 keeps some initiative and allows Black some time to catch up development. 11. Rb1 b6 After this there are too many light square weaknesses in the Black camp. Komodod recommends c5 and if White takes either pawn he could run into problems.  12. Ne5 Nd7 13. Nc6 Qe8 14. Nxe7+ This move is not accurate. Ba6 takes advantage of the light-square weakness and wins an exchange. 14. ... Qxe7 15. Qh5 Nf6 16. Qh4 c6 Rfe8 is better. 17. Bxh7+ Kh8
 18. Bd3+ I made this move too quickly. Bg5 wins on the spot.  18. ... Kg8 19. Rfe1 Again I miss playing Bg5. 19. ... Qd8 20. Re5? Here I considered Bg5. I had missed the reply. 20. ... Ne4! While not being a brilliant move it is certainly the most stubborn defense. 21. Qxd8 This move squanders my advanateg but I could find nothing better. Komodo instantly finds Rg5!. This tournament was played at G/30 and that is not nearly enough time for me to find the right moves. 21. ... Raxd8 22. Bxe4 dxe4 23. Rxe4 Bf5 24. Re2 Rde8 25. Rbe1 Bxc2?? Black sees ghosts and blunders a rook. 26. Rxe8 1-0

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Post-Smokey Mountain Updates

It took me several days to find time to analyze my games from the 2nd Smokey Mountain Open. That's the life of the working man. If I could afford to take time off of work to just write about and play chess I definitely would. I'm sure you probably would as well so it's a situation where I think few people want to talk about. It comes into play for my training as well. When am I supposed to study chess? I lose sleep at night staying up to look up that one important variation. Truthfully, it would be far better for my advancement to just sleep. The end of last year I splurged on my coming dream of chess mastery and purchased Komodo 10 and and Chessbase 14. Since that time it is like a kid in a candy store. I have been answering opening questions that I have had for years. I highly recommend these resources (or similar ... a chess playing software package and a database ... the two I mention just happen to be the top of the line at the moment). Once the newness of these tools wears off I will actually be in a better position to improve further.

Anyway, I'd like to make some remarks on my previous tournament. I lost the first two games. Can I end the story there? On the trail to 2200, right out of the gate in my first event of the year, I was sitting on a score of 0-0-2. I wanted to quit. I wanted to call it all off and go home. I'm not going to lie. That made me angry. It makes me angry even thinking about it now. I showed up to the third round still feeling the fear and anger at myself. I showed up and played. That game is such a horrible one for both me and my opponent. It wasn't a shining moment. And yet ... and yet ... that game is where I achieved the greatest victory. I changed my mind. In the course of the game I stopped wanting to quit. I stopped wanting to give up on the dream. I started wanting more than equality. In a completely lost position I started to want to win. It was powerful. Thinking back I am convinced that my opponent felt the resolve. He ignored clearly winning moves in straight sets and conceded to me. As ugly a game as it was I won it. I could continue with the dream.

That's the mentality that I'm going into the future with. I will continue the dream by any means necessary. I gained eleven rating points from the event and that pushed me over the 1900 rating barrier. That is my highest ever achieved USCF rating. Within days of reaching that milestone I received an invitation to Kentucky's most prestigious closed tournament ... "Three Tables Chess". The minimum rating for that event is 1900 and I have to maintain the rating by the time of that event in February. I'm very excited for that because I will be the underdog and I have a good chance of gaining a great number of points in that event.

Monday, January 9, 2017

2017 2nd Smokey Mountain Open Round 5 Suhas Gummadi, 1681 - Anton Taylor, 1895 King's Fianchetto (A00)

2017 2nd Smokey Mountain Open Round 5 
Suhas Gummadi, 1681 - Anton Taylor, 1895 
King's Fianchetto (A00)

1. g3 d5 2. Bg2 e5 3. d4 e4 4. e3 Nf6 5. Ne2 c6 6. O-O Bg4 7. b3?
Bg4 invited White to play h3 with perhaps a small advantage. This move is questionable though. fianchettoing both bishops is destined to positionally fail. It is better to have a good and a bad bishop than to have two mediocre ones. 7. ... Na6 I decide here to just develop and to do it in such a way that I can support the d-pawn with the knight by Nc7 if necessary. 8. Bb2 Qd7 With not much to do but develop it is easy for me to find the right plan. The idea? Prevent h3 and start a great offensive against the White king. According to Vladimir Vukovic in his landmark work "Art of Attack in Chess" you need three pieces to assail a castled king. 9. a3 Qf5 10. Qd2?? This move is the decisive error but it is difficult to see that leaving the pin and playing something like c4 is the way to go. My opponent was the third junior player I had played in a row and they tell them to avoid pins like the plague so this mistake is understandable. 10. ... Bf3 11. c4 h5 12. Qc2 Bxg2 13. Kxg2 h4 14. Rh1 I really thought Ng1 was the better defensive move. hxg3 15. fxg3 
15. ... Qf3+ Here I miss the destructive Ng4! When White cannot defend against both Qf2# and Nxe3+ 16. Kg1 Ng4 17. Nf4 Nxe3 18. Qe2 Qxe2 19. Nxe2 dxc4 20. bxc4 Nxc4 21. Bc1 f5 22. Kf2 Nc7 23. Nf4 Kf7 24. Nc3 Rd8 25. Nce2 Nb5 26. Be3 Bxa3 0-1

2017 2nd Smokey Mountain Open Round 4 Anton Taylor, 1895 - Kavin Jayavel Kumaresan, 1758 Ruy Lopez, Marshall Gambit (C89)

Anton Taylor, 1895 - Kavin Jayavel Kumaresan, 1758
Ruy Lopez, Marshall Gambit (C89)

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 Be7 7. c3 O-O 8. Re1 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6 12. d4 Bd6 13. Re1 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 15. Qf3 Bg4 16. Qg2 Qh5 17. Bxd5
After I played this game I did a little database work and it looks like 17.Be3 is the best try for white to get equality against the Marshall. 17. ... cxd5 18. Be3 Up until this point the game has followed theory. Technically even this move is part of theory but is inferior (and even losing). 18. ... Bf3 19. Qf1 f5 20. Nd2 In this position I had assessed f4 as being equal and leaving me an extra pawn. My opponent apparently felt the same way but the key to winning here is diving in with the pawn. All the engines agree that White is completely lost here. 20. ... Bg4 21. f4 Rf6 22. Qg2 Qf7 23. Nf3 Bxf3 24. Qxf3 Re8 25. Bf2 Re4 26. Rxe4 dxe4 27. Qe2 Rg6
In spite of having created a passed pawn by force Black is completely lost now and this move doesn't change anything and in fact makes it worse. The rook is headed to environs that limit its power while White's rook is going to become a monster. 28. Kf1 Qd5 29. Be3 Rg4 30. a4 bxa4 31. Rxa4 a5 32. Qc4 Once the qeens come off the board White can cruise to the full point. There is no way for Black to create complications 32. ... Qxc4+ 33. Rxc4 h5 34. Rc6 Be7 35. Ra6 h4 36. Kf2 hxg3+ 37. hxg3 g5 38. fxg5 Kf7 39. Rxa5 Bd6 40. Rxf5+ Ke7 41. Bf4 Bxf4 42. gxf4 Ke6 43. Re5+ Kd6 44. Ke3 Rg2 45. Kxe4 Rxb2 46. g6 Rb7 47. f5 Rg7 48. Kf4 Kd7 49. Kg5 Kd6 50. f6 1-0

2017 2nd Smokey Mountain Open Round 3 Neil Deshpande, 1854 - Anton Taylor, 1895 Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch (by transposition from Panov-Botvinnik Attack)(D40)

Neil Deshpande, 1854 - Anton Taylor, 1895 
Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Tarrasch 
(by transposition from Panov-Botvinnik Attack)(D40)

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 My opponent thought for a bit too long in this moment. Every white player knows exactly what he is going to play in this position. He knows which system he plans to use and executes it quickly to save time. But here my young junior opponent didn't do that. He thought too long and it was a tell. His hand hovered a fraction of a second and he makes the next few moves, 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 As we exchanged these book moves I remembered an important detail. During the previous round when I had been crushed in the miniature by the Panov-Botvinnik my opponent in this round was sitting at the very next board to mine. He had seen everything and wanted to make quick work of me. My faith in the Caro-Kann had been shaken but more specifically my faith in the Bg5 variations. Sooo ... I follow a different path. 5. ... e6 6. Nf3 Nc6 Bb4 is a more common move in this position and gives it a Nimzo-Indian flavor. It is awkward to know that you will find ideas for plans in a variation of the Caro-Kann by studying the Nimzo-Indian but I think that's chess. everything is related. 7. Bd3 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Bg5 b6 This move is interesting to me. There is no good way to develop the light-squared bishop but this is a step in solving the problem while also helping control c5. 10. a3 dxc4 11. Bxc4 Na5
This move has been played at a reasonably high level but I am not convinced that it has a real purpose or is coming at the right time. The reason to play the move is to help seize control of the d5  square by forcing the Bishop to leave it. However, if that square was so important to control then why concede by making the pawn trade? The two moves don't work so well with each other. Simply Bb7 at this moment should have been fine. 12. Bd3 Bb7 13. Be2 Bc2 makes more sense and the bishop will have more influence. 13. ... Rc8 14. Ne5 h6 15. Bh4 Nd5 16. Bxe7 Nxe7 17. Qd3 Nac6 18. Rad1 Qc7 19. Qg3??
I had not analyzed this move but Komodo equated it with an immedately losing position. My reply is the powerful response. 19. ... Nf5 20. Qf4 Nfxd4 21. Rxd4 Nxd4?? Up until this move I was onto the winning idea ... just winning a free pawn and having better piece activity. However, Nxe5 was the correct path. The text just leads to a losing position since the minor pieces areso well coordinated. 22. Qxd4 Rfd8 23. Qe3 f6 24. Ng4 h5?? An even worse mistake that sinks black further into the mire and makes his opponent's pieces more active than they were before. 25. Qxe6+ Qf7 26. Qxf7+ Kxf7 27. Ne3 g6 28. Re1 Rd2 29. Nb5 a6 30. Nc4 Rcd8 31. Nxd2 Rxd2 32. Bc4+ Kf8 33. Nc7 b5 34. Ne6+ Kg8 35. Nc5+ bxc4 36. Nxb7 Rxb2 37. Nd6 c3 38. Nc4 Rb3 39. Ne3 Rxa3 40. g3 Kf7 I have been playing on in a completely lost position trying to drum up complications and here I have it. Two pawns for a Knight could provide enough complications to justify staying in the struggle. Before this round I had determined to "stop the bleeding" and so in a completely lost position I play for the win. 41. Kg2 Rb3 42. Ra1 Rb6 43. Nd5 Rc6 44. Rc1 Ke6 The only way to win is to get the active king and pawn to counter the extra piece. White's plan should be to accept this trade by giving the piece back and mopping up Black's other pawns when Black cannot return his king and rook fast enough to save the game. 45. Nxc3 a5 46. Re1+ Kd6 47. Re3 Kc5 48. Re4 Kb6 49. Ne2 f5 50. Re8 Kc5 51. Kf3 Ra6 52. Ke3 a4 53. Nd4 a3 54. Re5+? Here is where White really goes wrong. His king's lack of activity will lead to Black's "equality" ... when you are completely lost and then you get equality it is often not so far off to get a winning edge. 54. ... Kc4 55. Nc2 Kb3 56. Kd2 a2 57. Re3+? Once more the rook moves to the wrong place and gives a useless check that does not prevent Black's plan. 57. ... Kb2 58. Rc3?? This is the real losing move. 
58. ... Rd6+! 59. Rd3 Rc6 60. Na1 Kxa1 61. Rb3 Rf6 62. Rb4 g5 63. Kc2 Rc6+ 64. Kb3 Rc1 Here I commit an innaccuracy. Kb1 is the quicker path to decide matters. 65. Rd4 Kb1 66. Rd2 My opponent made this move and then offered me a draw. I could only frown and decline. Had he offered me a draw earlier I would have definitely taken it. The win for Black from here is easy. 66. ... a1=Q 67. Kb4 Qc3+ 68. Ka4 Qxd2 69. Kb5 Rc3 70. Ka4 Qb2 71. f3  0-1

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2017 2nd Smokey Mountain Open Round 2 Adam Steed, 1847 - Anton Taylor, 1895 Caro-Kann, Exchange (by transposition from Panov-Botvinnik Attack) (B13)

Adam Steed, 1847 - Anton Taylor, 1895 
Caro-Kann, Exchange (by transposition from Panov-Botvinnik Attack) (B13)

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Nf3 Bg4 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Qb3 Bxf3 9. gxf3 Nb6 10. Be3
Up to this point in the game everything has been theoretical. Nb6 is unusual (e6 is more popular) but there are several games with the Nb6 line in the database and I'm not convinced that e6 is even safe for black. Nb6 is more dynamic and versatile. However, both me and my opponent were moving quickly and I was playing on principal instead of calculation and committed a major blunder here. 10 ... Nxd4?? 11. Bxd4 Qxd4 12. Bb5+ Nd7 13. O-O O-O-O 14. Rfd1 Qb6 15. Na4 Qg6+ 16. Kh1 Qf5 17. Rd5 Qh3 18. Rad1  1-0

After this game I did a bit of analysis with my opponent in the lines following 10. ... e6 and was not convinced that Black can achieve much while fighting for equality. After returning home to my database I found the following recent game:

RUS-ch rapid, Sochi October 2016 Evgeny Shaposhnikov, 2557 - Alexey Dreev, 2660 
1. c4 c6 2. e4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Nf3 Bg4 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Qb3 Bxf3 9. gxf3 Nb6 10. Be3 e6 11. O-O-O Be7 12. d5 exd5 13. Bxb6 Qxb6 14. Qxb6 axb6 15. Nxd5 O-O 16. Nxe7+ Nxe7 17. Kb1 Rfd8 18. Bd3 g6 19. Be4 Nc6 20. a3 Kg7 21. Kc2 Kf6 22. Kc3 Ke5 23. Rhe1 Rxd1 24. Rxd1 Rc8 25. Kc4 Nd4+ 26. Kb4 Rc7 27. Re1 Kf4 28. Rd1 Nxf3 29. Bd5 Rc2 30. b3 Rxf2 31. Bxb7 g5 32. Rd6 f5 33. h3 h5 34. Rxb6 h4 35. Rf6 Nd4 36. a4 Rb2 37. Bc8 Rxb3+ 38. Kc4 Rb8 39. Bd7 Ke5 40. Ra6 Rd8 41. Ra5+ Kd6 42. Bxf5 Nxf5 1/2-1/2
It is worth noting that in spite of a one hundred point rating difference Black could find nothing better than a draw in this position (where Black is slightly better in the ending).

So, to set the tone for the ending to this game I now had zero points after the first two rounds. It was a true test of my resolve and my nerve. When you love to an 1850 rated player in less than twenty moves you begin to question whether or not you're good enough to become a master in a year. I asked myself a lot of questions. None of those questions had any answers by the time the next round started.

Friday, January 6, 2017

2017 2nd Smokey Mountain Open Round 1 Anton Taylor, 1895 - IM Ronald Burnett, 2416 Robatsch (Modern) Defense (B06)

Anton Taylor, 1895 - IM Ronald Burnett, 2416
Robatsch (Modern) Defense (B06)

1. e4 d6 Before the round commenced I had looked up Ronald in a database. I noticed he played the Robatsch/Modern quite often so this was no surprise. 2. d4 c6 3. Nf3 Qc7 4. Nc3 g6 5. Bc4
The position after this move is given a huge plus for white by komodo and yet it doesn't appear anywhere in the database. I find that bizarre as after Bc4 white considered to be almost winning. 5. ... b5 6. Bb3 Bg7 7. O-O b4 8. Ne2 Nf6 I spent several minutes looking at 9. e5 here and could not determine if it was a good or bad option. I chose instead to keep the tension unsettled in the center and went with a more solid option. However, the e5 path is given a +0.8 evaluation by Komodo ... so almost outright winning. My safe move Ng3 is given +0.5 so here is the key moment where the advantage begins to slip (but white is still better). 9. Ng3 O-O 10. Bd2 a5 When I had looked at e5 earlier I had determined that there was a better chance of success down that path with one more piece attacking the square. That is why chose the variation/maneiver to get the Bishop to c3. It is not a bad idea but it does lead to a further dwindling of White's advantage. 11. c3 I did not even look at this position and trusted in my analysis on move 9. Had I looked harder at this position I would have found 11. a3 followed by Rxa3 and another of White's pieces joins the fight with a strong influence and a clear advantage. 11. ...bxc3 12. Bxc3 Nbd7 13. Rc1 Qa7 14. Ba4 c5 15. e5?? 
This was my plan from earlier. Don't think I "saw" everything that has transpired but the move e5 has been there in my mind floating just waiting to be played and I choose to play it here. Unfortunately the immediate reply gives Black not only equality but great comfort or even a slight edge. Better was 15. d5 shutting down Black's queenside counterplay and keeping a small edge for White. 15. ... Nd5! 16. Bc6 Nxc3 17. bxc3 Rb8 18. Re1 dxe5 19. d5?!
This move is a terrible blunder according to Komodo but here is where machines are not like humans. the pawn is a cramping complication that Black no doubt felt he should keep a sharp eye on. Objectively the pawn will never make it to the queening square but it "looks" quite scary. 19. ... Qc7 20. Qa4 Nb6 21. Qxa5 Nxd5 22. Qxc7 Nxc7 23. Nxe5 Rb6 24. Bd7?? and here is a giant howler to end this game. I completely miscalculated this move completely missing 25. ... Bxg3 in my mind's eye. I asked my opponent after the game if Ba4 was any better. He showed me the main variation and indeed I had to agree it is very bad for White even in that case, a completely lost position. 24. ... Bxe5 25. Bxc8 Bxg3 26. hxg3 Rxc8  0-1 So ended my first game against an IM. I was very happy and left smiling. I may have lost this game but I had made an important discovery. IMs are humans. They could be beaten. They could get into losing positions against little old insignificant me. The way I put it to a friend was "They can bleed".

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Fixed Problem and Pre-First Tournament Nerves

It is 11:05pm the night before I leave for a three day tournament in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Over the past week there has been an important development in my chess understanding that I wanted to share. Let me backtrack and give a bit of my own personal history. Not long after I first learned chess I wanted to play all the time. At that time (the dark ages) my family had a dial-up internet connection which was "ok" but not the best. The result was that I could not play chess live. My connection was constantly dropping off and I would become increasingly agitated with it as I lost games just from my poor internet. The solution came in the form of correspondence chess. I could play chess for hours, play well, and if my internet wasn't working I could come back the next day and not lose a game.

Looking at those early correspondence games I played horribly. In fact, I played worse than even bullet or blitz games these days. However, on the site I chose I was one of the strongest on the forums. That's another story ...

Back to this week. I caved and fell back into the old habit of playing correspondence chess. I started twenty games in a matter of two or three days. My play suffered. I was not properly focused on any of the games and made some howlers. I made moves on my phone and spent only a few minutes on a position. Essentially, I was playing one long simultaneous exhibition match. I was winning a few but mostly losing. I was happy to see games end and start new games. My opponents weren't taking enough time either. I did zero analysis in the post-mortem of the games. Therefore, what was the point of the games? And then the big epiphany hit me ... and the reason for this post ... correspondence chess AND blitz chess are not comparable skills to standard time control over-the-board chess. Sure, they have uses, I will still use blitz in my preparation and to keep me tactically sharp but correspondence is out. The return on the time investment in correspondence is just not sufficient. That's my sacrifice for the cause of mastery this year. I loved my time playing correspondence chess but I just can't do it and work on my OTB game. Sacrifices must be made.

My final note is on my nerves, Because of all this terrible correspondence business my ego had taken a huge blow, If you can't beat 1800s in correspondence then how can you hope to make master in a  year. I see now that this was an oversimplification and that in fact any master might have trouble playing twenty 1800-1900s at once. I reduced the number of games immediately. Games with poor positions that might be saved or even won were immediately resigned and I started no more games. I played a few blitz games and impressed myself with my focus. Even the losses were of better quality playing only five games or so in a session. My confidence has been restored and I know I'm ready for the event starting tomorrow.