My son’s chess teacher from the Tuesday class suggested that he should have a go at the Scandinavian defense during the Begonia chess competition that I just posted about. The reason he suggested this opening is twofold; firstly it is relatively unknown and so you are less likely to face a well prepared answer, secondly it is aggressive and that suits my son’s chess style. I chose to use it too because I like trying new things.
The Scandinavian defense has mixed reviews and is not often played at the highest level. My Fundamental Chess Openings book includes 5 or 6 pages at the back and notes that it can be sharp. The variation we were hoping to try was 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 then if 3.c4 play e6 or if 3.d4 then play Bg4. As the competition approached we looked at a few games in a database that showed these sequences to get a feel for what moves are thematic and what patterns arise – we didn’t, however, look in any detail beyond these three moves. I ended up playing 2 games with this opening and my son played one.
My game against at 1500+ player which shows the opening working fine.
And a game I ruined with my tournament blunder – but the opening worked.
Spot Quiz! What is Black’s best move?
Here is my son’s game. It was analysed in the Box Hill Club newsletter by the talented Laurence Matheson and his commentary is used below. (You can click on the variations in this game).
My son and I have just come back from a long tournament – the Ballarat Begonia 2015. This was my first long tournament and it was a seven round event over 3 days with each game lasting 90 minutes plus a 30 second increment. At the end of the tournament I scored 2/7. Happily my son and I were one place apart (him above me) in a field of 104 players, I don’t think that will last long!
The curious thing for me was that 5 of my games were great, close, hard fought battles, this is despite a huge rating difference between my opponents. Of the two other games one was quite easy and in the other it was easy until I made my only serious blunder of the competition (it was still close but it couldn’t be classed as a great game).
I think the closeness of my games have a lot to do with my perception of the other player. I think much more carefully if my opponent has a higher rating, less if they are rated lower. Obviously I should change this and give all my opponents due respect – this should help my scoreline.
Below are two of my games showing how close they were despite the rating difference. One game is against a player rated in the mid 800 on the ACF scale (no FIDE) and one against a player with a FIDE rating over 2020.
And this against a seven year old!
The competition was well run and there were a lot of great players. In the end the top three places went to IM Kannan Izzat, IM James Morris and IM Ari Dale respectively. I enjoyed the competition and hopefully we’ll be able to go again next year.
This weekend I travelled to Canberra with my son because he was competing in the Australian Junior Chess Championship. The competition consisted of 9 rounds (1hr + 10s/move) with 3 rounds being played on each day. On the fourth day there was a problem solving competition in the morning and a 5 minute ‘lightning’ competion in the afternoon.
Obviously I wasn’t taking part but it was interesting to absorb the atmosphere of the competition. I have been in multi day competitions before but only in Melbourne where I can take a couple of byes and stay at home when I’m not playing. In Canberra we stayed on site and were fully immersed in chess to the extent that we had to escape it for sanities sake. Managing the highs and lows of competition was tricky because I was also emotionally attached to the outcome. There was a great sense of elation with a win and fairly crushing devastation for a loss. I spent my time trying to temper emotions so that my son faced the next game from a neutral standpoint.
On the last day a lightning tournament for adults was casually put together and I joined in this. It was a fun tournament of seven rounds with a very mixed field. I played well but made illegal moves in two games and lost. I also lost and won to a couple of players that preferred to ignore the ‘touch’ move rule but given this was a friendly I didn’t care. My overall score was 2/7 but all the games were good and some players were 2000+. When playing white I used the Polish opening which worked very well – either tricking people or at least getting into an even middlegame.
In the dead of night I watched some live games from round 2 of the Tromso Chess Olympiad. I was watching the Australian team playing Armenia and next to the onscreen boards was a gauge that showed whether the current advantage was black or white according to stockfish. It was fun to watch the changing fortunes of each game and I have felt those changing fortunes accutely this weekend in my Friday and Sunday games. In both of these games I felt I was in a wining position but I ended up losing the Friday game and drawing the Sunday game (see Sunday game below).
At the Olympiad the round 2 Australian game with the biggest shift was the game between Max Illingworth and Sergei Movsesian. In it Max seemed to dominate for most of the game but his attack faded away and the initiative was lost. Here is the game.
A graphical printout of the game shows that the game was ‘won’ for max.
And here is the game I played on Sunday.
And the graph for my Sunday game:
Tactic was Nxd5 (Queen is threatened and if she takes the Bishop I can ‘Royal Fork’ with the Knight and grab the Queen)
I’ve just started playing in another weekly tournament where one game is played per week in a seven round Swiss format. Every adult that turned up, and who I have played with in the past, has beaten me so I don’t expect to do well. Having said that I have enjoyed all my previous games with them and I am looking forward to some good games that will teach me something. There were some juniors there too and I imagine they’ll be tough competitors too.
This afternoon’s game was with an adult with whom I had a very erratic game with previously. This was mainly because I kept attacking without worrying about what he was doing. In the end my attack, which often appeared suicidal, didn’t work and I lost that game. Today’s game was better and more considered but it did follow a similar pattern and the middlegame was where the trouble lay.
The following game analysis was written before a computer evaluation. After writing the analysis I ran the game through the chess.com engine. I have since added whether the computer sees the move as a blunder (??), a mistake (?) or an inaccuracy (?!) in parenthesis. At the foot of the post I have appended the full computer analysis.
Going through the game, and re-reading what I have just posted it is clear that my biggest problem is a lack of concrete calculation. There are a number of choices that I made that I was uncertain about and that I moved based on gut feelings. My Rook moves at move numbers 21 and 23 for instance. I hope to recognise these moments better in future and change my thinking from intuitive position based assessment to logical concrete assessments. I also haven’t yet started to work through my tactics and problem books and I must.
Once a month I go to a seven round, Swiss format, 15 minute per side tournament at Box Hill Chess club. This months tournament happened yesterday and for me it was a mixture of good chess and frustrating chess. Of the seven games that I played one was against a much weaker opponent, three games were ruined by my blunders, one was marred by my opponents blunder and two games were good. My first good game was against an opponent born in 1923 and I have no doubt that chess keeps him young and sharp. The game was close but he gained a small advantage which became greater as we moved towards an endgame. I was down to two minutes when I resigned. The second good game saw me facing a kid who was perhaps 11 years old. I had played him at the last monthly tournament where he started with 1.d4 and I replied with a Kings Indian defence. I lost but it was a close game that took me down to my last minute. Again he played the same opening and again I responded in the same way and we had a very closed, positional, game in which he had a small advantage as we approached the endgame. I counter attacked well and the advantage shifted to me and I was lucky with a draw on my last second! (the arbiter called it a draw after three repeats). When it finished a 2000 rated player who was watching pointed out a three move mating net that in my urgency I missed – always nice to know.
It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and I debriefed with a friend from my Tuesday chess club on the drive home.
Yesterday I went to my first competition with a time control of more than 15 minutes. The competition had a time control of 1hr and started at 7pm with one game per Friday for seven Fridays in a Swiss format. I arrived at 6pm because there was a junior club then that I brought my son to. While I was waiting I ended up playing some casual games with another adult. We played three very sharp, close and interesting games in the hour before the competition. I won all these games and I think my opponent settled into thinking I was quite a bit better. When the pairings were announced we discovered we were playing each other again. The tournament director told us to start our clocks and we were off. I think because of my wins earlier I took the wrong approach to my game. I played quickly and fairly aggressively and recklessly. At an early point in the game, maybe move 5 or 6, I sacrificed my knight to get a pawn and to bring his king out (preventing later castling). My sacrifice was ill conceived and he managed to stay ahead in the game and pushed his lead further by wining an exchange. I was in bad shape and consequently I started worrying about the game more and concentrating better. The game was into its 50th plus move and I think my opponent was getting exhausted, I think we both were but he was the one to start blundering. The position levelled again; we both promoted pawns and I had a queen, a pawn and my king to his queen and king. I also had the initiative and could keep checking him which I did for many moves. We were both mentally exhausted and I moved my queen onto a square where he could take me with his queen and win the game – an absolute blunder. Instead he moved his king, I realised what I had done and I took his queen. A hugely disappointing finish to a bad game full of inaccuracies that only took me 20 minutes to play.
Thinking about it today made me understand that I need to work on my focus in addition to my knowledge. When I go back next week I will be much more careful about my frame of mind and I will try to bring my more methodical correspondence chess approach to an over the board setting. I need to get rid of any preconceptions about my opponent and treat the moves as I would a postcard move. I will report back then and hopefully I will have worked out better how I can focus.