Back to Square One

by admin on February 24, 2008

It’s hard to think of an appropriate title for today’s post, because most of the titles I can think of are not appropriate for family viewing! I lost my sixth-round game in the Santa Cruz Cup in the most annoying possible way. Playing the White pieces against Ilan Benjamin, who was tied for first place with me, I reached the following position after 26 moves:

On the previous move I had actually thought of offering a draw, because there’s not much to play for here. The natural move would be 27. Rd4. But here I had a sudden “inspiration” — let’s try a kingside pawn storm! And so without even checking it, I played 27. g3?? Qxf3+.

Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s check. Oops.

Of course, time was a huge factor here. I had 11 minutes left for 14 moves, and Ilan had about 50.

I absolutely hate losing a game this way, because there is nothing chess-wise that I can learn from it. What’s the moral here? Don’t blunder away pawns in a dead even position? Thanks, but I already know that.

The only lessons are the same old lessons of psychology and time trouble, which I have learned a million times already. Don’t get in time trouble. And when you are low on time, don’t get so nervous that you start making ridiculous mistakes. I know these things. But try as I might, I can’t seem to make the lessons stick.

For example, take my time management strategy for this game. My goal was to make the first 10 moves in 10 minutes, the next 10 moves in 20 minutes, and the next 10 moves in 30 minutes. So how did I do? Let’s see…

First 10 moves: 4 minutes. (Yeah!!)

Second 10 moves: 90 minutes. (Uh… Do you see something wrong with this picture?)

Third 10 moves: 20 minutes and one losing blunder.

Need I say anything more? The seeds of my defeat were already sown in the second 10 moves.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy Hortillosa February 25, 2008 at 9:27 am

We all share your frustrations because these things happen to us as well even oftener. Even Purdy lamented about his inability to follow his own system to prevent blunders.

My revised version of Purdy’s system calls for mentally verbalizing the function of the piece about to be moved. By the way, I am writing this for the benefits of other readers since these things are already known to you.

The pawn on g2, besides shielding the king, supports the pawn on f3. Before it can be moved, the support duty must be replaced by other pieces especially if the supported piece is in danger of immediate capture. One other key point to observe is that the player who captures with check essentially has gained an extra move since all checks must be attended to first before other moves can be legally played.

Commenting on the game positionn itself, I would say that White has the advantage. You possess the only lever in the position. So your natural instinct to initiate a pawn storm is valid.

Black can only play for a draw but you can play for a win if you can successfully engineer a g4 and f5 pawn storm. You will gain a passed e5 pawn and Black’s d5 pawn will become weak.

Your instinctive choice of Rd4 is correct followed by Rf2, f4, Qf3, g4 and the consequent f5. All in all your mind’s eye found you the natural move Rd4 which is in accordance to the principle to first restrain counterplay.

Black’s rook on e7 has no square along the f-file to defend f5.

White is definitely for choice here.



admin February 25, 2008 at 12:34 pm


Thanks for your comments. I especially like the point about Purdy lamenting that he couldn’t apply his own principles in his own games!

You’re right that, in principle, the diagrammed position should be more pleasant for White than for Black. Even if Black’s resources are technically sufficient (which I think they are) the point is that White has complete control over when and whether a break with f4 and f5 ever occurs. That fact at least makes it psychologically more difficult for Black.

However, my mental state was completely the opposite of the relaxed, “I’m in charge” frame of mind that I should have had. The 11 minutes left on my clock were preying on my mind, and all I could think about was making my move quickly.


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