Spring 2009: Behind the Scenes at BlunderLab

Jun 28, 2009, 9:33 AM |

I’ll continue with the Zurich 1953 next post. First, I want to emphasize that I am by far, no master-level player, nor do I ever pretend to think I am. I am a chess enthusiast who puts himself in the category of adult improvement seeker. My analysis in these games are purely for exploration and discovery in this game. The more I learn, the more I understand but usually also means the longer the road becomes. Sure, I would like to be a master some day but, more importantly, I want to understand this game, its history, and human nature as to why some rocket to the top while others, try, but reach mediocre results.

Philosophically speaking: ( My journey so far)

I study the historic games and try to apply what I learn while playing. I also never claim to be a historian. I am a mere hack in comparison to Bill Wall, Ed Winter and Sarah Beth ( aka batgirl). Taking a historic tour has allowed me to no longer have that feeling of impending doom because I may not fully understand why and how a particular opening variation is played. My obstacles come from the transitions from opening to middle game and coming up with the correct plan.

When I studied the London 1851 series, the games were very dynamic but obvious. The openings had clear purpose with tactical results almost immediate with the placement of the pieces. The Hastings 1895 event built up from the swashbuckling the importance of positional play. Not only did it show me a respect for accumulations of small advantages but opening ideas around the center and pawn structures became more apparent.

The Hypermodern movement, shown moderately with the New York 1924 event, taught me that longer range planning of pieces meant a closed position could eventually open up when you least expect it. Placing bishops on long diagonals that are closed will eventually enjoy the freedom as they game open ups into the endgame. The appreciation of pawn structures for winnable endgames seemed to be more important.

The Zurich 1953 games (so far) , takes the hypermodern ideas from a quarter century prior and underscores once again, the importance of accumulating advantages while taking risks in your own position in an effort to create favorable imbalances. These nuances are advanced concepts, which require repetition and reviewing multiple games in order for me to recognize these patterns.

In all these events, I find digging for the biographical facts of the players brings to life this rich history. For me, anyways, it’s also been supplemental to creating more long term memory markers when I recall a position.

One thing I learned when I did the MDLM seven circles of hell tactical training was the visual challenge of 2D diagrams translating to three dimensional play during real tournaments. I found that I was not recognizing the same pattern presented with depth. I converted the CT-ART data base to PGN and ported it to Chess base were I can set view to 3D. It’s blocky and chunky but has helped tremendously in visual pattern recognition. Igor Foygel was the one to suggest playing the puzzles on a real board or at least converting them to 3D representation.

In that light, my chess lab ( the wife calls it my MAN CAVE), includes my laptop with a dual screen so I can feel like a mad scientist. I also have a dedicated full size set that I work through critical positions, especially where the games transition from opening to middle and late middle to endgame.

I advocate using a real tournament size set for study. Simulating near OTB experiences is critical to securing the learning process into deliverable results. I have to admit, that I was given a set by CSN distributers ( toysandgamesonline.com) by agreeing to set up a link on my blog. Long story short, they approached me because of the popularity of this blog ( thank you all for the support) and I negotiated with them and received the top end Dreuke Wooden set and board ( retails $150) all for setting a link on my blog. Call me a sell out, I don’t care. It’s my first official sponsorship! Take that Monroi!

A closer look: A lesson in two types of gambits

(I couldn't help with the microscope shot, I was aiming to tribute my blogging friend, BDK, who was also photographed beside a microscope on Transformer's post back in June of 2007)
Some folks have been asking me to post a couple of my recent games.Rather than bragging about the wins, I want to dissect a couple of my losses to underscore why my journey needs to continue .

Exhibit A, I call “Swatting at Flies” because it results in a game that I was unfamiliar and underestimated, the Benko Gambit. I’ve seen a lot of QGD and QGA, but this one surfaces later in the history tour. A poor excuse, but I have run into this and the Benoni more often lately at the club and local events. The “tabia” I knew was to advance d5 when Black plays an early …c5 without a d5 in place. But then the Benko surfaces : 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5.

I know now, when in doubt, ALWAYS accept the gambit. That’s what my posthumous mentors, like Steinitz , Pillsbury, and Lasker would lead me to believe. Unless I have a prepared line, make your opponent prove the merit of the position while holding on to the extra piece. “Declining a gambit is almost unsportsmanlike ” ( Anderssen). Giving back material is always an option. In this game, I declined the gambit and played positionally.

At one point I seemed to have a rather good game until my opponent decided to open up my king side with Knight sacrifice for two of my sheltering pawns.

Like a muscle bound weight lifter trying to do yoga contortions, I could not bring my piece majority around to defend my king who was being swarmed.

The next game, I played an alchemist. I call Rumpelstiltskin because he was able to turn a rather crappy position into gold. I was on the black side of a Panov-Botvinik Caro-Kann. I started out on a quest on White’s c3. By move 12, I was ahead in development, I had his pawns fixed and a good weakness on c3 to build from. Then, I got it in my head that advancing the e-pawn was going to bring me fame and riches. In hindsight, this turns out to be an outrageous plan since White, with the bishop pair, would benefit more with an open game. By move 14 I boldly played into a bad plan. I wanted to expand e6-e5, exchange pieces. In the meantime, my opponent conjured up a Knight and Queen attack on my king. In an arrogant display of over confidence, I felt I really could walk away from it.

I think at this point I could have salvaged at least a ½ point. Instead I was spooked but the possible queen pin and dropping a piece. Greed motivated me in trying to hold on to material. I captured with the f-pawn and my game crumbled even further despite having a material advantage.

What did I learn?

In both games, the theme was around gambits. The first being more a traditional gambit pawn for piece mobility, the second, a piece gambit to gain initiative for an attack. In the game where I faced a Benko gambit, I decided a more positional challenge than sticking to basic principles. I didn’t have a prepared line and my opponent understood the nuances of the position better than I did. In the second game, I needed to give back material in order to neutralize the attack.
See you next time in Zurich 1953. It's back to the time machine as my journey continues.