The President of Shanghai

The President of Shanghai

Jul 24, 2015, 10:29 PM |

It was a crazy night at Time Passage this week. We had a full crew, and crazy bughouse was flying on one side while people were inventing new ways to drink Canadian Club on the other. Between the new drinks and the games with "the President", the nachos, the bughouse and the dude, I didn’t even have time to play “The Chef” (Chinese Name: 确定吗).

I sat down at the bar and immediately began dominating the club president in our first game of the night. I lost on some minor technicality or whatever, but I humored him and gave him a chance to earn a real win, promising to post the results here.

To really grasp the depth and profundity of the positional chess that ensued, it’s best that we start out with a puzzle to get your head in the right place: 


Time Puzzleage

Take a good, hard, deep look at this position. Fair warning, you probably will need several seconds.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Some background, first. High level stuff.

President James and I arrived at this position by 1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nf6? The Marshall Defense to the Queen's Gambit (D06).

I probably shouldn't have ranted on and on about how I was going to show him why this line is refuted because after 3. cxd5 Nxd5 I can take the center with tempo.

If I kept my mouth shut I'm sure that's just what would happen. Instead, dude goes 3. ... Qxd5?! Which is actually would have been good for me, if I kept my cool and played reasonably.

You might not know this since you're probably a beginner compared to me, but at the highest levels chess is an internal struggle. Masters of the wood, as we're called, have so much potency that it's hard to keep discipline that seems trivial to mere mortals, and these lapses of discipline are where what seem like obvious blunders come from.


4. Nf3 Nc6 5. Qc2??????

I should have known that I didn't look at all my options or the critical features of the position. In fact, on some deep level I could "feel" that I didn't yet. I was being lazy and trying to skip all that, a horrible habit at the chess board, but I'm sure a damn good one in other aspects of life. I've got to learn to be more aware of this feeling and not move pieces so easily when I feel it. The internal struggle.

I'm sure President and myself were playing perfect chess, though. Unrelated, it was around 5. Qc2?????? that we had invented a new drink, the Negronian Club. It's like a Negroni but it is enhanced by Canadian Club, a bottle of which we had previously bought after a friendly wager went awry. So tonight, we still had the remainder of the Canadian Club at our disposal (we took care of that). I had been showing him how soda water and whisky was a fine drink, but then came up with this idea.

The bartender recommended strongly against it, but in the end it was a great hit. Never let a bartender get in the way of your dreams.


So, if you are below 1200 like my girlfriend, you might want to know why Qc2 is so horrible:

  • Fails to meet the needs of the position. You should immediately see, in the diagram above, that the d4 pawn is attacked by two black pieces and two white pieces. That's a whole lot of pressure on one piece. Probably should think about that. Obviously, moving one of those pieces means the other guy may be winning a pawn, so you better calculate before you do anything silly like that. So yeah, Qc2 drops the pawn immediately.
  • It's the opening. You want to develop pieces. What's the best piece to develop here? 5. Nc3!! If you Nc3 here, black has to do something that probably isn't what he wants to do, then it's your turn again. (That's called initiative, and looking for ways to keep it often shows you pretty good moves. Just keep in mind that if the position is getting crappy that you might have to pay the piper when your initiative keeping moves run out.) More importantly, he has to move his Queen twice in the opening, so you're developing a piece with a move that he isn't. You're winning a tempo." It's like you got to Nc3 for free and we skipped black's turn (Just keep in mind that if we're not talking about developing moves this may not apply--never threaten a piece that can move to a better square. Then you're wasting your move and he's getting to improve his piece for free. You spent your move to improve his position, good job buddy!)


5... Bf5 6. e4??

And we reached this position:

I guess 4. e4 was the [very brilliant but fatally flawed] idea of Qc2. But e4 has the same problem that the d4 pawn already had. They say two wrongs don't make a right and they certainly didn't here.

The e4 pawn, just like his d4 brother, is also double attacked but defended once. White is weak all over the place now. [In fact if Black trades down a bit white will lose his rook to a fork: 6...Bxe4 7. Qd1 Bxf3 8. Qxf3 Qxf3 9. gxf3 Nxd4 10. Bd3 Nxf3+ --Stockfish bro.]

Both pawns are hanging, so now the President loads up his drones and gets to work on his "peacekeeping" mission:

6...Bxe4 7. Bc4??

So do you think I moved my Queen to safety and maturely accepted my losses, or do you think I made another blaring "maybe it's a good move" kind of thing? Yeah, I tried a "desperado" tactic but there was one in between move I didn't really calculate right, but I did see it (which is probably worse). Check it out, bro.

At first glance it looks fine, right? 7... Bxc2 8. Bxd5 then it would be fair, right? But what's different is that after that, my Bishop would be threatened but his wouldn't be.

7...Bxc2 8. Bxc5 Nxc5!

If he hadn't seen 8...Nxc5 (like me) then this desperado tactic would have improved my situation a bit, but I was still losing.

Now, I'm curious. What would your plan be as white now? What move would you do? Please post your thoughts in the comments.

I played 9. a3, taking away the b4 square from his two knights. In fact, the only places those knights can go are: a6, b8, d8, f4, and f6.

9... O-O-O 10. O-O g6? 11. Be3?? Nxe3 12. fxe3

I thought I was looking better than before here. Now I've got a pawn duo in the middlle and my knight is also controlling the middle.

Do you see why I'm wrong? So very, very wrong? President James sees it.

12... Bh6

Threatening my weak pawn. I can't defend it with a pawn, so one of my pieces would be stuck on pawn duty. That is, if I saw it.

13. h4?????? 14. Bxe3+ 0-1


Long live chess! Long live the Negronian Club! Viva La Vida Loca!