Warming Up (Once Again)
After yet another long hiatus, I'm very excited to get back to live chess, and especially the wonderfully organized events of the DHLC! Before the first round of the 17th Slow Swiss tournament, I played two black games in the weekly single-game event against the same opponent.
My last serious slow live game was about 5 months ago, which had resulted in a rather too unambitious draw against a much lower rated player. And my engagement with chess since then had reached and all-time low in many years, and was limited to less-than-frequent tactical exercises. Chess.com had reluctantly renounced its spot on the home-page of my web browser that was unchallenged for ages. (Sigh, what on earth have I been thinking? Why was I doing this to myself?!)
So I wasn't really expecting any brilliances from my first game, which unfortunately happened to be a pretty optimistic assessment. I jumped into the struggle with no opening preparation, and played a very weak game, missing crucial tactical threats from my opponent and most importantly, crumbling on the first psychological setback I faced when I got frustrated by failing to find a proper way to make progress with my extra material. In the end, I spoiled a 2 pawns advantage and was even lucky to get away with a draw in a losing endgame position!
OK, after 18...g6, white can immediately force a draw, that much is not difficult to find. But white also has a study-like move that is actually winning. Try to calculate and find it for your self. It is not easy, though.
The following week, I was paired with the same opponent. (Perhaps we need more players to join the weekly events at the DHLC!) I didn't organize my time well and failed to prepare some openings again. I'm not really sure, but I think I might have played the Caro-Kann in a slow live game for the first time in my life. It was a last-second decision, and since I have a severe weakness in my openings relative to my rating range, pretty much anything would do here.
This time, things went much more smoothly. I got through the opening with a slight initiative, and soon we walked into a queenless middlegame. I did make some inaccuraices but I just hung in there, didn't make hasty decisions and when my opponent made a blunder, I switched gears and carefully converted it without any problems.
And finally, the first game of the 17th DHLC Slow Swiss Tourney! I was paired with a lower rated opponent (300 points difference), but chess is a difficult game, and I knew from previous encounters that weaker players often can put up very serious fights! (See me struggle with a hopeless position and run away with tactical win on the last minute with a series of sharp moves starting with Bc5).
My initial strategy for this game was to simply go right at it from the first move and throw myself against my opponent with a very sharp game. But for that, you need some serious opening preparation, and once again, I had failed to organize my day properly to spare enough time. I did quickly skim through my opponent's games for 10 minutes though, and noticed that he had been facing d4 extremely rarely, so I went for d4 and modified my mindset towards a more reserved, slower approach.
What struck my attention immediately was that my opponent was a serious thinker and a quick win with an opening blunder was not very likely, since he took several minutes for every single move. This turned out to be a symptom of a severe time management problem though, he had spent more than 60 minutes for less than 15 moves! Let me just shut up before I spoil the plot and allow you to check out the game below:
In the end, I'm quite satisfied with this game. Well, the result is not really impressive, considering the rating difference, but still, I didn't rush things, patiently kept making decent moves, didn't make any blunders, and when my opponent did make the critical mistake, I took advantage of it and even spiced things up towards the end for a quick knock-out \o/
My patzer level should be obvious to you all, but I did my best to make a reliable and accurate analysis and annotated the games with the help of the world's #1 engine, the free & open source Stockfish 5. All feedback is much appreciated! I'll do my best (for real, this time, promise!) to keep the blog updated weekly. Thanks to all my opponents for the games, and cheers to you all, happy wood-pushing!