A Mental Lapse & A Smooth King-side Attack

A Mental Lapse & A Smooth King-side Attack

Feb 17, 2019, 6:26 AM |

In February, following a modest showing in the Slow Chess League's 2018 Championship, I played one of my worst and one of my best games in the last few years. The first game ended prematurely when I failed to summon the strength to go on after a mental lapse.  It was not a typical ‘blunder’, nor was it a mouse slip: I decided to make one move but played another, and I don’t know of any standard term for that kind of mental event. Here’s the analysis of this short game:


CAP Score: Strangely enough, 70.70 for White and 90.83 for Black, which rates me somewhere between 2000 and 2100. That’s just too kind!

Lucas Chess Elo Performance Estimate: 2130 for White and 1820 for Black, which makes a lot more sense.

Move of the game: 11.e5. Quite obvious, but the only move that gets the job done, and White did not miss it.

Blunder of the game: 10…g5?? (Instead of the almost-winning 10…e5!)

Model game for the opening: It was not easy to find one. Apparently Black suffers quite a lot even without the dubious 4…e6?!. In Nguyen - Wang Hao, Dubai Rapid 2014, Wang Hao sensibly and rapidly exchanges some minor pieces and holds a draw against his 2621-rated opponent without any problems: https://www.chess.com/games/view/13569093

Notes: I do not care much about the ‘lapse’ itself. Weird brain shit happens occasionally, and it’s going to happen again. Of course I can try to be more careful, attentive, focused etc. to limit their frequency, but what matters more to me is how I respond to them once they happen. My real disappointment comes from my total psychological downfall after the lapse. I immediately lost all will-power to go on. I should have followed the motto Bruce Pandolfini tried to instil in Caruana: ‘Fight like Botvinnik! Fight like Botvinnik!’ That day I did not fight like Botvinnik. One ameliorating point is that I genuinely evaluated the position as much worse than it objectively was for Black: I thought it was a matter of several moves for White to bring forth a mating attack. But how much of that is attributable to my mental state at the time, and how much to my overall chess judgement, I’m not sure.

There’s an ‘in-board’ chess lesson to take too: the …e5 break! Again, I don’t really care much for the fact that I did not make the move, but I do care that I did not even consider it, even once. I think I filter out those center-break opportunities in the opening until I castle, which means there’s a lack of deliberation behind my moves. It is telling that in the short post-mortem analysis, my stronger opponent was quick to mention that he was mainly worried about …e5, while it had never entered into my candidate moves.

The next game was a success. After messing things up in the opening I was lucky to obtain a playable early-middlegame, and then from an innocuous-looking position I found a very concrete way to grab the initiative and started a King-side attack, which I developed with a reasonable level of accuracy.


CAP Score:  98.51 for White, and 72.85 for Black, which rates me as slightly stronger than Carlsen. I think that should be good enough for Chess.com to choose me as one of the dozens of wild cards available for the upcoming IoM FIDE Swiss and let me have my shot at the world championship title. It is an objective measure of strength, after all, and that would be the fair thing to do.

Lucas Chess Elo Performance Estimate: 2834 for White and 786 for Black. Nice, but ridiculous. I mean the estimate for White must be correct, as it is consistent with the CAPS, but my opponent played much better than that!

Move of the game:  Actually the most difficult move was 24.Nf5!, and it seems it’s the only move that maintains White’s advantage. But I’ll nevertheless pick 28.Qf4! because it is more decisive and aesthetically pleasing: White shows faith in his attack and simply side-steps the Queen exchange to wait for the support troops to arrive.

Blunder of the game: What I like about this game is that Black did not lose the game with any single move which drops the evaluation from equality to much worse. But it was 25…Rxg5? that converted White’s advantage into a forced win.

Model game for the opening: In Aronian-Balogh 2013, White similarly plays f3-e4 and a later f4 with Black’s light-squared Bishop on g6, and an extremely sharp struggle ensues with many bizarre things happening! A strange and beautiful game: https://www.chess.com/games/view/13312603

Notes & Lessons:

This was perhaps the smoothest King-side attack victory I ever had, and what’s especially satisfying is that it all started from a position that looked stable and the sequence was forced nearly all the way through.

The opening mix-up is comical, and I shouldn’t have missed 7…Nd5, after which tactics flow very nicely for Black. It was interesting to see in post-mortem analysis how sharp these Queen’s Gambit lines can get. It is a myth that d4 openings are not tactical: just one slip and you’re in the middle of a jungle.

The latest trend is that I consistently lose against 1800+ players, draw against 1700s and beat 1600s. Not bad, for the time being, since I’m barely floating above the 1700 line, but to jump to the next class I must start stealing the odd draw from the 1800+ bunch and occasionally win against the 1700s.

Thanks to my opponents for the games, and good chess to y’all!