Lessons from Club Play

Apr 7, 2014, 11:02 AM |
I haven't posted in a few months, but have played quite a few games at my club. I'm hoping that writing this post will help me synthesize some of the important lessons from my last two losses, which have come after failing to convert an advantage in the late opening/middlegame. So I'm looking especially for important endgame lessons. Maybe more important than any of these ideas is energy  - I'm regularly running out of steam after 2.5 hours of play and beginning to make hasty moves in the mistaken belief that endgame positions don't contain the possibility of serious threats that need a response. 

Here's a case in point, from last week:

Here I 'kicked' the rook pointlessly, with the brain dead 32.Na7, thinking of Rxa5. For starters, if the idea is to kick the rook and clear the fifth rank, Nd6 does the job without completely sidelining the knight! But the greater concern is that I am not considering ...Rc1+. This check is not fatal for white, but I have to at least have it in mind! Now, the king must wriggle towards e2 so that White's rook can eventually interpose. I also missed this idea!!

Clearly hanging a4 to ...Rc4+. With Black using only his rook, it should be very obvious which tactical threats I need to keep in mind. I played moves 32-36 very hastily, wrongly believing that Black's series of checks was completely harmless. Wouldn't it be better to actually know that the threats were harmless by doing some analysis? 

Furthermore, the logic behind my 34.Kg3 was terrible - I intended to head for h3 and hide the king behind a later g2. This is exactly the wrong idea. Activating the king as soon as possible is a important endgame idea. Hiding it is not. Being unable to hide, I attempted to run towards Black's king position and suffered from an even more costly fork - another misguided plan uninformed by real analysis. 

Summary of endgame lessons:
• with only a few pieces left on both sides, certain tactical themes should stand out!
• think of king activity along with safety!
• think of piece activity too! If a move is safe, is there another safe move that leaves the piece better positioned?
• overconfidence and fatigue can lead to haste - commit to finding opponent's threats and your own best move, every move! 

There were plenty of other interesting ideas in this instructive (for me!) game. Here is the entire review, based on our review after the game and engine review with HIARCS Chess Explorer. 

One more error from the previous week to round out the post:

Now, thanks to earlier calculation, I understood that Rxh4 loses the rook to the queen fork Qxg5+! So I made a somewhat random (and losing) rook move. Mental mistake: The queen fork would not only lose a hypothetical rook on h4, but the real bishop on h5! Instead, I might have continued with the not-so-obvious 26.Bxg7 Qxg5+ 27.Kb1 Qxg7 28.Rxh4 and held on to the advantage, or at least considered 26.Kb1 to escape the threat of the fork more simply. 

A simple lesson, but one worth noting:

• remember to consider the repercussions of a tactical idea on another piece than the one you're considering moving! 

This game was also an instructive Scotch opening from the white side, so here is my review, with a bit less detail than the one above.  

As I mentioned earlier, there is almost certainly a more fundamental problem than the actual endgame ideas in both games. I have to find a way to stay committed to finding the best move in spite of feeling tired. Hopefully, playing more long games will help me develop my ability to last further into the endgame. Maybe getting up for a breather to have a look at the other games still running will be helpful too. 

Comments are very welcome. Thanks for reading!