Comments are Back Online!

by admin on September 18, 2014

Today I finally had a chance to dig around in the hidden areas of my blog… hidden even to me… and I figured out how to restore the comments. Not only the feature for posting new comments, but also the archive of all the old comments. Hooray! Feel free to take this opportunity to comment on anything. Did you like the premiere of The Red Band Society last night? What do you think of using the Elo rating system for football teams?

While the comments were down, I got one interesting comment via e-mail from Ladia Jirasek, whom I played against at the state championship earlier this month. Let me remind you of the key position.

jirasek nextFEN: 4r3/5nk1/b1q4p/p1P5/1p4QN/1P4P1/P4N1P/3R2K1 b – – 0 36

Position after 36. Qg4+. Black to move.

Actually, this isn’t quite the position from my earlier post. In Six Games, Six Positions, I showed you the position after 34. … Kg7, where I played 35. c5? Qc6 36. Qg4+, arriving at the position in the diagram. Here Ladia played 36. … Kh7? and offered a draw, which I accepted (??).

Ladia writes,

You’ve mentioned that after my 36. … Kh7 and my draw offer, I was surprised when you accepted. You are absolutely correct, I was surprised, but for a different reason than you stated. You had a clear win there.

I am sure that 37. Qf3 just wins outright. If I try to avoid the queen trade, let’s say 37. … Qe6, then you can play 38. Ne4 and block the h1-a8 diagonal. I now have no threats and am still 2 pawns down. If I exchange queens with 37. … Qxf3, then after 38. Nxf3, without a queen I have no more mating threats and your 2 pawns will win the game.

Absolutely correct! I would just add an exclamation point after 38. Ne4!, a deflection sacrifice that Black can’t accept because 38. … Qxe4 39. Qxf7+ leads to mate. I did not see this at the board. And I would also point out that after 37. … Qxf3 38. Nxf3 it looks for a moment as if Black has a good shot: 38. … Be2, forking the rook and knight. But in fact White has two good ways to meet this — 39. Rd7, to meet 39. … Bxf3 with the killing fork 40. Rxf7+, or the more straightforward 39. Re1, with a pin on the e-file. I missed that, too. I believe my thought process stopped after 38. … Be2. In all these lines I overlooked the importance of Black’s multiple unprotected pieces — the queen on c6, the knight on f7, even the rook on e8. Remember: LPDO (loose pieces drop off)!

It’s important to understand the psychological processes that lead to blunders. In this position, I had three minutes left for four moves. I was panicking because of the time situation and panicking because I was beginning to realize that 35. c5? had exposed me to a lot of danger. Panic is the enemy of calm, logical thought. Both of the lines I just mentioned require me to see something that isn’t obvious at first glance — that 38. Ne4! in line 1 is a killer, and that 38. … Be2 in line 2 is nothing to worry about. Give me five minutes and a nice cup of tea in a tranquil room and I think I could have figured that out.

But I didn’t have five minutes, a cup of tea or a tranquil room.

Lesson one: Don’t get in time trouble. Lesson two: When in time trouble, don’t panic.

But there is one other interesting point to make about this position. Ladia could have done better on move 36! In fact I already noticed this in my postgame analysis but didn’t mention it in my earlier post. Now, in view of the fact that 37. Qf3 is a win for White, it becomes even more important. Ladia could have played 36. … Ng5! in the diagrammed position, and he would have gotten very good chances to draw or even win if I make a mistake.

Given the time situation, I almost surely would have leaped at the opportunity to trade queens with 37. Qd7+ Qxd7 38. Rxd7+ Kg8. But now White faces a very tough decision. If I push forward for the attack with 39. Ng4 (threatening an elegant mate-in-two), Ladia draws on the spot with 39. … Re1+ 40. Kf2 Re2+. The most natural move is 39. Re1, to defend the back rank and put the rook behind the passed c-pawn. But after 39. … Re2 40. Rc1 Rxa2 41. c6 a4 42. c7 Bc8, the position is very problematic. I think that Black may even be winning.

Then, of course, there is the alternative 37. Rd7+ Kg8, going all out for checkmate. But the trouble is, there’s no mate in sight and Black’s counterattack is blazing hot. The best move I can find for White is 38. h3, but now Black can just very calmly take back a pawn with 38. … Qxc5, and if 39. Qf5 Nxh3+!! or if 39. Rd1 Be2! Ouches all around! I don’t see anything that looks like a clear win for White after 36. … Ng5.

What a comedy of errors at the end, almost all mine. Ladia gets credit mostly for a very well-timed draw proposal, and I get all kinds of demerits for panicking and for basically losing the thread of the position.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

ChessCurious September 20, 2014 at 8:23 pm

What, what is this? No comments after comments are back? Hmm..

Nice to see btw. that even chess teachers accept draws in winning positions AND end up time troubled in the first place.

P.S. Congrats for the great (that is: best on the web) article series on the Bird Defence. Adopted. Shame though we won´t get to see that in the WCC match, since Carlsen mishandled it badly.


Rob Radford September 21, 2014 at 9:20 am

I like White’s position even after 36…Ng5. You could try 37.Qd4 followed by Qd6 and I think you have an advantage but, and it’s a big but- you have to avoid getting mated, hang on to the c pawn and trade major pieces effectively all in time pressure. I probably would have accepted a draw offer too.


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