A fraction of a second

Feb 23, 2015, 3:56 PM |




More travails of a (wanna-be) improving chess player...



Sometimes in sports contests, the difference between a win and loss can come down to the merest fraction of a second. With the clock running out, the basketball rises to shoot the would be game winning shot --- he scores! BUT if the clock gets to zero before the ball leaves is hand, it's no basket and his team loses.

In chess it is rare to have a contest come down to a split second. Time is important. And under time pressure we can all make unusual mistakes or wilt under the pressure. But something similar to that last second basketball shot?  Not very common in chess. 

But it happened in a recent game I had with Gunners2004.  Guns, as I call him, is one of my favorite opponents. We've had some rather feisty scraps in the past. Never a dull game among them. And he usually beats me but that doesn't lessen the pleasure of the contest for me.

So when Mark (that's his other name!) hooked up with to schedule a game I was excited and looking forward to it.

FIRST let me give you a copy of the full game with some quick annotations by me.  Then if you look further below, I'll go into some of the backstory of the game as it unfolds.



Guns doesn't like to play boring openings. Nope. He usually uncorks something unconvential against me, and he didn't disappoint me this time as he chose to try the Elephant Gambit.



Now, why is the opening 1. e4  e5  2. Nf3 d5 called the Elephant gambit?

(1) Because it is large and moves slowly;

(2) Because it is afraid of small rodents;

(3) Because once you've seen it you, like an elephant, will never forget it

(4) Good question! If you expect to get real information you are reading the wrong blog

 Correct answer: #4

I was planning on playing a calm Four Knights opening. But, noooooooo. Gunners won't have that. Instead it's hours of hard tactical positions that are so sharp they cut by just looking at the board :)



 This is the board after black has played 10. ... exd3.  White is temporarily up a piece (however, the bishop on f6 is enprise as is the white queen. A move or two early when I saw this position coming, I was planning on playing 11. Qf3. By now, both Guns and I have used a lot of time. This is a 45/45 game but we are both below 30 minutes on move 10!







Now just as I was ready to play Qxf3 I realized that this was losing. Black can just play Re8+ and white is doomed.

The idea behind Qf3 was to get the queen away from a potential pin by the rook on the e-file. When I realized that Qf3 wouldn't work, what thought process did I have to arrive at my next move?

(1) I used a random number generator to pick a move. What the heck. Sometimes you get lucky!

(2) I carefully re-examined the position and carefully examined all my possible moves again.

(3) I tried to play QxQ and tried to make that move thousands of time. Who know. There could be a bug in the chess.com software that would eventually allow me to make an illegal move.

(4) Since I wanted to make a Queen move, I looked for another Queen move. Oops, forget that I'm not really solving the potential pin problem. Just move the lady.


Correct answer: #4. I chose to play Qe5 which seemed to solve most of my problems. After I played 11. Qe5 I looked at the position while Guns was thinking about his moved. I started to sweat because it looked like if Black played Qd7 I didn't have an answer (Qd7 would, for one thing, make possible Re8 pinning the White queen).

Fortunately, Gunners missed the possibility and let me off the hook (well, somewhat off the hook) by playing Qxe5.




Consider the position two moves later. The queens have exchanged and Black has the the bishop pinned.  White to move. What to do?

(1) Try castling long. It's absolutely crazy to castle right into dxc2. But, you only live once!

(2) Distract your opponent with something completely unexpected: g4!

(3) Start writing a blog about the game, because it's hopeless for white.

(4) Protect the bishop with f4


Correct answer: #1. Castling is just crazy enough to work here! Black can't play dxc2, because White plays Re1 (protecting the Bishop), and if Black tries to win the Bishop with f6 (or Nc3), then White can play Bc4+! which connects the rooks, and then the bishop can be moved to safety.



After a grueling struggle where I watched my position get more and more grim, a minor miracle occured. While searching for the best move, Guns ran out of time. More accurately, his flag fell as he was actually making a move! He was literally a fraction of a second from getting a good move in. And in my frame of mind, I'm pretty confident that I was going to crack under pressure! The winning shot at the buzzer .... except ... the buzzer went off before the shot was released.

Considering that I just got the win, how did I react:

(1) I let out a scream of joy that startled neighbors a block away!

(2) I shook my head and sent the message: "Oh, Mark!"

(3) Since it was so much fun, I hit the "Rematch" button. Let's do it again!

(4) I collapsed, a complete nervous wreck.


Correct answer: It wasn't a time for a boisterous celebration (so #1 is out). It was fun I was almost, but not quite, a nervous wreck (so #4 is not quite correct). And it was fun, but I was exhausted and there was no way I could go through that again immediately (so #3 is out). Thus, the correct answer is #2.  After a struggle like this you have bonded with your opponent. So, rather than joyous exuberance, you feel for/with the opponent. And you are grateful for having had the opportunity to share the experience with a friend. And a fine one at that!

So, Gunners2004 --- Here's to you, my friend. Thanks for the game. Thanks for the adventure. I look forward to our next battle!