Last night I played the longest game of my life. It was just short of four hours long and as I played it a shift in my playing style occurred. Normally I get frustrated with closed positions and I try to do something forcing, it makes me feel like I have the initiative. But last night I took a different approach, I felt I was ahead, that my position was safe and that I was ahead on time and so I decided to bide my time. I manoeuvred my pieces to squares where they would frustrate the progress of my opponent and I let him look for solutions. I hoped that in doing this he would play something rash and I’d be able to get the upper hand. He wasn’t rash but I did maintain my lead as the game went on and was in a comfortable position. Unfortunately we were both getting exhausted and errors started to creep into the game. I suffered first from this and went from a winning position to a losing one in the space of a few moves and was on the verge of resigning when I chose to embrace the role of a tenacious defender. As I played on I drew inspiration from Magnus Carlsen’s ability to keep looking for solutions and it was my opponents turn to lose his concentration. He went from a winning position to the ending below. I am white.
And a draw was agreed. After the game a spectator claimed that it was a win for my opponent but this is not clear. Theoretically it is a draw but to defend and maintain the draw is very hard. Given the length of the game, the time pressure my opponent was under, the 50 move rule and the lateness Of the day it was sensible to call it a draw. There is a note about KBR vs KR endings here
The suburb I live in, St Kilda in Melbourne, has a history of post Second World War emigration by Jewish Russians and Polish people. Many of these people play chess and an area was set up in the local St Kilda Botanic Gardens for chess. It consists of a series of tables with chess boards embedded into their tops around a central giant chess set. On most days people play chess here in the afternoons. A friend of mine, Chris, has recently gotten into chess and plays online, I suggested to him that it would be good to catch up for an over the board game and suggested we meet at the park. I also got in touch with Tom from my Tuesday night chess and suggested that he join us too. They both agreed and they, my son and I all met for chess at 10am today – the weather was perfect. Chris, and Tom also brought their kids and Tom additionally brought along his wife which made the atmosphere very mellow – this was a perfect antidote to Friday’s frenzied blitz competition. We played for a bit over an hour, each taking turns at playing each other and it was a great way to chill out. Last year I started a group on chess.com called ‘The St Kilda Botanicals’ where I suggested playing over the board chess and I got so me interest but unfortunately this was just as winter was setting in so it never happened. I will try to get it going again and hopefully we can get a bit more park chess going.
It was a holiday today but rather than enjoy the beautiful sunshine I decided to take part in my first blitz competition. It was a round robin competition and there were 12 of us taking part. We each had to play five 5 minute games with each other meaning that we each played 55 games! My theory was that here was an opportunity to develop some pattern recognition.
My first opponent was a FIDE master (FM) and of course he won all the games. I then played someone rated around 500 points higher than me (as opposed to 900) and again I lost all my games, then another FM… It then dawned on me that I could conceivably come away without winning a single game. Thankfully I did play a couple of people roughly my level and won 2 out of 5 against them both, giving me a grand total of 4 wins out of 55 games – the competition started at 10am and continued till 7pm! I felt I deserved a slightly higher score because I did play some great games against tough players but a loss is a loss and that’s all that counts.
Did it improve my pattern recognition? I don’t think so, I feel like I learn more from tactics. Was it fun? I enjoyed some games but when there is a big rating disparity then only a blunder will even out the score and a blundered game is never a good game. I think I’ll stick to casual blitz games with friends.
My son gets a chess lesson once a week and I am allowed to tag along. His teacher asks him to do a small amount of homework, usually to do with middle game positions: weak pawns, opening lines, piece activity, calculation, etc… A couple of weeks ago he went through a Kasparov game and my sons homework was to remember the game and, most importantly, the reasons behind the moves. Learning a game was new to my son and we both did this homework. This game has become the first game that I know by heart.
Many chess teachers recommend learning from games by masters but I always feel that tactics training, positional study and opening theory is a more worthwhile way to learn. On Monday my son and I played at our Monday evening tournament. My son was able to play the same opening that occurred in the Garry Kasparov game he had studied and during the game he was able to push some of the same ideas Kasparov used. This certainly helped my son to beat an opponent with a higher rating than him.
Today I am off work with a miserable cold and I have been watching some chess videos about when to attack. The video presenter, GM Simon Williams, was looking at some of Tal’s games and it was clear that he had been inspired by, and had learnt from, Tal’s games. So I want to start memorising some games – my next problem is what games should I choose?