Following the plan and inflexible thinking.

May 27, 2011, 10:03 PM |

The title of this post could as well be "making decisions in the rapid game" or, more vaguely "missing out on the best moves (again)". It's inspired by the short middlegame sequence which occurred in my game yesterday at the Marshall Chess Club rapid tournament. In the second round game below I had Black pieces and the following position arose after my 9th move now, it's White to move:







So here my thinking went along the lines "it would be nice to play ..e5 in my next move, forcing the retreat of his knight, which doesn't seem to have good squares to go to- if it goes to f3, I push the pawn one square further to e4 and his f3 knight and d3 bishop will be forked; and if it goes to e2, my e4 pawn push will be winning this time as well, because the knight on e2 will be blocking his bishop's retreat from d3. However, if in the position on the board it was my turn to move, e5 would run me into trouble because of his bishop going to a3 and forking my queen and rook. So the plan is to move rook to e8, to make e5 push possible; my opponent is probably seing what I'm seeing and will try to react to this, but let's see what he comes up with, and ...Re8, aside from the support of ..e5 is not a bad move anyway".  So that's what I thought about the dynamics of these few pieces in this position- "play Re8 first, so you don't get pinned when you play e5 next". Short-term plan, like thousands of others that go through the heads of people during a chess game. 

On the next move my opponent played 10.Nc3, a "natural developing move, bringing his last light piece into a game" (quotations to emphasize that this description is nothing else than the ironic recycling of the chess terminology slogans that we have all seen in the chess literature so many times). So the position on the board now was :







This move is actually a blunder, not a "developing move", "bringing the piece into the game" or anything like that. Or actually it may be developing and so on, but first and foremost, it's horrible, because I can play ..e5 now. What did I do ? I played 10...Re8(???). Missed opportunity! Give me this position in a puzzle book and I'll never answer with Re8! So WHY did I play it ? I think there are at least two reasons for this- first of all, I had my plan which I thought was a good one. So I just wanted to stick to it and played the first step of the plan. My thinking didn't include the option of adjusting the plan to something unforeseen (however before White's move I could have asked myself a question "what should I play if he plays Nc3 now?" and maybe I would have found ..e5). The other reason was that the game was played in the rapid time control (25min per player with a 5sec delay), so there isn't a lot of time to think in such a game, and by the 10th move you still move fast, because you think you're still in an opening. This position, however, is not a part of opening theory, where you just make moves from memory, which you know you want to play in certain positions. This is different, this is already a middlegame. Real decisions have to be made. It is important to STOP  for a moment and think about the consequences of each move, yours and your opponent's- what changed in the position, what are the chances/threats. I didn't do that, I spent no time on 10..Re8, I probably made this move in less than 5 seconds, so my clock would stay where it was before the move. This isn't blitz however. If you get a good position, you still should have enough time left in the end to finish the other guy off. And the time delay can be helpful too, where you're remaining time won't be melting so much as in the sudden death game. And if your opponent has a worse position than you, he'll probably start spending more time on the clock, trying to fix it. So the conclusion is- don't play the rapid game so fast as it was blitz, because it's not. Spend half a minute , two minutes, even 5 when you have to calculate a bit deeper, and it will be worth it. 

My Re8 was just toooo slow, and White played 11.Na4 and the game went on. I had a better position when we entered the endgame, but it wasn't winning right away, there was work to be done, I made mistakes and lost. None of this would have happened had I played 10..e5. This is a long post, it probably sounds like frustrations of an unaccomplished patzer, who has nothing better to do than to drink too much wine while typing all this, so you're the only person left reading. You're probably right. But let's look what would have happened had I played the best move, 10..e5:


I would just have won a pawn for free, pushed his knight back to b3, established strong pawn duo in the center, at least. It would probably have forced him to think for few minutes had I spent half a minute longer on my clock than I did. My game would have been much easier, with material and positional advantage. But none of this happened, because I was convinced that I had a plan. Funny thing was, the moment I hit the clock after 10..Re8, I realized that following my plan was a bad decision.