Concrete Problems, Part 2
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Concrete Problems, Part 2


    Now we're into the second part of this series, and I'm sure most of you are still confused about what a "concrete problem" is. I could have defined it better, but it boils down to this: any situation which gives you an opportunity to make a fairly serious mistake. Now as all actual chess players know, this must be a reasonable mistake: your parents thinking your opponent sacking a piece for no reason should be a factor in your choice of move doesn't count.

    This week, we'll look at two very similar losses of mine and see why sometimes I hate chess for not being cumulative. null

    Chess sucks sometimes. You can spend twenty moves completely outplaying your opponent and throw it away with one oversight, something that's happened to me dozens of times. Even when I've set my opponent four or five concrete problems, it doesn't matter when they're small problems, since my opponent just sets me a big problem which I end up failing.

    I have two games which show this more than any others: two losses to the same opponent in the same opening as the same colour, two games where I pushed my opponent's position to the edge only to slip just when I became winning.

    But at the same time, they're very different. Here's the first game, where my downfall was the same kind of concrete problem we talked about last post: a Knight coming into c3 and tactics along the a7-g1 diagonal.

    In this second game, there were no problems. Almost to the end Black's position remained solid and non-threatening. The problem here wasn't any threat, or any piece. It was the solidity of Black's position. How was I supposed to go about trying to win this position anyway? Add to that a couple of instructive tactical oversights and you get a real mess.

    As much as I love squeezing Black to death in these Maroczy Bind Accelerated Dragon lines and piling up all kinds of positional advantages, it seems that eventually I have to open the position and kill Black's play all over again in order to win, and that's where I lost both of these.

    I thoroughly outplayed my opponent in both games, but I set them very few problems. Then when they set me one back, I instantly buckled. It's the eternal lesson of chess: just as it's more about who makes the most significant mistakes than who makes the most, the biggest opportunities to make a mistake are often the ones that decide games.

    The other morals of the story:

  • When you're playing for two results, keep it that way! Sitting on my advantage for a few moves in the second game instead of pushing 24. e5? could have saved me a lot of trouble.
  • When your opponent has done something really wrong, punish them for it! I missed about six lines that would have led to winning positions between these two games, and I could have found them all by looking to punish my opponent.

    Still, I like to think I'm a better player than I was when I played these games. I haven't lost an SCL game by falling down the "slippery slope" in a while, and I'm quickly making my way back up to my peak rating of 1594.

    Maybe next time I play this guy, I can finally finish outplaying him.

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    Bye for now!