A Heartbreaking Defeat from a Winning Position

A Heartbreaking Defeat from a Winning Position

Apr 7, 2019, 10:20 AM |

April started with a heartbreak: a dire defeat from a completely winning position against an opponent who now can be said to ‘have my number’. In the first round of the monthly tournament at the Slow Chess League I got paired with the Chess.com user ‘madsenm’,  against whom I have a habit of making crude blunders: our previous two encounters were decided by ‘puzzle-rush-level’ mistakes, and I had a draw with White and a loss with Black. Although my opponent is slightly higher rated, our overall chess strength should not be too far apart, and I was expecting to level the score this game. I analysed my opponent’s games and prepared for the opening. The only distraction I would allow myself during the game was switching back and forth between my favourite classical radio stations, and I decided to make a conscious effort to use my opponent’s clock-time wisely. I was in the zone and ready to fight.

While studying madsenm’s openings (including the game we played before where I had the black pieces) I realized that they’re one of those players who strictly adhere to a ‘system’. I knew that they would very likely play d4, e3, Nf3, Bd3, Nd2, b3, Bb2 and Qc2 in one order or another, pretty much regardless of what Black does. It is indeed a very tricky setup, White builds pressure against the h pawn and Black should be careful about the threat of Bxf6 followed by Bxh7.

No offense intended to my opponent, but I find this type of rigid system-following unprincipled, and was looking forward to try to find a way of taking advantage of the inflexibility of the approach. I think I managed to do that, although to a very small extent, and was supposed to come out of the opening with a slight advantage, but then White blundered a Knight, and the 'necessity' to play Qc2 according to the system was remotely responsible for this. But I could not maintain the fighting spirit I had at the beginning and then came the heartbreak. Here’s the game with analysis:


CAPS: 98.5 for White, 97.0 for Black / Lucas Chess rating estimate: 3071 for White, 1598 for Black (this is with Stockfish. With Komodo, White stays about the same but Black rises up to 2288). Surprisingly high, given that White blundered a piece and Black still managed to lose the game, but as I said to my opponent later, after losing the Knight they played the rest of the game almost like Carlsen!

Move of the game: 48.h6! The only winning move in a puzzle-like position.

Blunder of the game: Oh, too many choices! But I’ll pick 25…Rd8 even though objectively it’s not even a blunder, for the reasons explained in the game analysis.

Model master game: Magnus Carlsen vs. Gawain Jones in Tata Steel Chess 2018, where Carlsen blunders a piece but manages to win the game anyway. Check out the game and a brief analysis in this news report by Peter Doggers: https://www.chess.com/news/view/tata-turmoil-giri-beats-mamedyarov-carlsen-blunders-but-wins

Lessons to take away:

I’ll have to get very basic here: Checks, captures, attacks, threats. Repeat: checks, captures, attacks, threats. There is no excuse to ever stop considering your opponent’s replies, especially the forcing ones. Winning positions do not play themselves. You have to keep making decent moves. Abstract ideas are only abstractly useful. Sitting and waiting for your opponent to resign is a trap, it takes away your edge.

But also important is to not get disheartened even after your heart is broken. Shit happens, hearts break, life goes on. I’ll get the hang of it eventually.

Thanks to madsenm for the game, and good chess to y’all!