Uncompromising Chess & Instructive Moments at the Philadelphia Open; on Computer Analysis
I always love playing chess in Philadelphia. This time around, just about every game had a very interesting twist, which I hope will prove useful for the reader to study.
Though the tournament wasn't entirely consistent for me, it started very well, when I had my biggest USCF win yet (vs. USCF 2400). I begin by covering that game in this blog below. The overall result wasn't anything to write home about (well, technically I did text my supportive family a few updates ), but I generally held my own against several strong masters and gained 22 points USCF and more than 30 points FIDE, so I was pretty happy to continue moving in the right direction toward my next goal, FM, while playing some uncompromising, fighting chess.
Before I begin to delve into the games, there is something that I have to get off my chest. If I see another annotated game with purely computer-generated analysis, I think I'm going to explode! Fellow humans, this is not what we were meant to be! Humans created these machines (in part) to help us better understand chess, and yet now we are often using them simply to spit out "best moves" (which we all too often accept as fundamentalists accept the gospel), which is quite different from understanding chess itself. Indeed, our humanity demands more of us! I have seen far too much commentary, regarding the Moscow Candidates matches and elsewhere -- not to mention many of the comments of the super GMs themselves in the post-mortem press conferences (though to be fair, they were fatigued) -- that merely provides lines and says, "this is good for white" or, "black can improve with A, B, and C," without any genuine, in-depth analysis or discussion of plans, strategy, and the abstract thinking that differentiates human play from that of our silicon counterparts. What good will this do for the aspiring reader/viewer?! We are better than an algorithm! After all, such analysis can easily be gleaned by plugging the game into a chess engine ourselves -- and no, the role of chess journalism can't just be to take this shortcut for us. Perhaps this is my push-back against some disturbing modern tech trends I'm seeing in general. Regardless, in pursuit of the truth (after all, what are we pushing wood for?), I feel that it needed to be said in one way or another.
Now, in the below analysis, I set out on a quest to do just the opposite: providing some very human analysis that focuses on planning, strategy, abstract concepts (hopefully made more concrete through this blog), psychology, and the human thought process (perhaps to a fault!). Most importantly, in doing so, I aim to provide something that, regardless of your experience level, you can actually understand and walk away from feeling you have gained something concrete. If so, then I have done my job. (Please, be as relentless as you like in your critique.) Now let's jump into it!
Round 1: White vs. Erik Santarius (2410 USCF, 2343 FIDE)
White to move. Black has just played ...Rfc8. The move looks a bit strange, as you'd think that black would want to place this rook on the d-file if anything, but it has a point. If you'd like, before reading ahead, take a moment to think: why did black play this move, what are the plans for both sides, and how should white proceed?
Erik had a tough start to this tournament, losing his next game, too, then bouncing back and winning four games in a row! This demonstrates the kind of resilience that a strong tournament player possesses, which I detail in this blog.
Wow, I delved so deeply into this first game that I spent the entire evening/night writing it -- time I thought would be spent covering a key moment of each of the nine rounds (a bit unrealistic for a night's work, I know). There's always a fine balance between passion and cold, hard logistics...in this case I definitely favored the former, but there's plenty of the latter, too (though I could've used more of it to stop Nxf5!)! This was such a fascinating game (at least I think so; you be the judge) that brushing it over simply wouldn't do it justice, and there's plenty to digest above for the time being.
As I mentioned, though, there was lots of fascinating play throughout the tournament -- regardless of the result of each particular encounter -- so I'll be sure to write additional blogs in the coming week or two covering some of the other highlights, including how I got utterly outplayed by a strong Indian GM (a great learning opportunity, though). In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the above analysis and find it useful, and as always, please feel free to share your thoughts/critiques/suggestions, etc.
Lastly, an update: in addition to my in-person DC area lessons, I'm now offering online lessons in English and Spanish (and hope to get some YouTube videos up in both languages as well, which I'll repost here), so check out my website and reach out if you want to give it a try or have any questions!
"You can only get good at chess if you love the game." -Bobby Fischer
Photo courtesy of Wikiipeda, Opening Ceremonies at Centennial Exhibition at Memorial Hall (World's Fair), Philadelphia, 1876