Shanghai Competitors League 1, Rd. 1

Mar 8, 2016, 8:08 AM |
Tonight the first Shanghai Competitor League kicked off. It will be 5 rounds of swiss format follwed by 4 rounds of elimination.

Out of the field of 20 players, give or take, I may be dead last. I will consider it a big success if I take 1 or 2 points. Naturally the only game we need to hear about is mine (below).

I got psyched out because I felt like I was winning against a good player and the pressure to hold on and the excitement that I might surprise people and perform beyond anyone's expectations made me more and more nervous. I kept trying to calm myself down and be reasonable, but I was focusing on searching for and ruling out tactical shots and took home some tough lessons in strategy.

Lately I'm starting to see more ideas and plans and features of positions than before. It is shaking up my play, but it hasn't settled yet. I think this is how chess improvement normally goes. When you start seeing different things, at first it opens you up to too many ideas and many new mistakes to learn from. It's a constant cycle of settling and optimizing, and then throwing something new into the mix and messing it all up again.
After a night of sleep, the standout lessons of this game are...

1. fixed pawns (and the lack thereof) all have different meaning depending on which diagonal they are. I had no idea, in game, that having the c file half open (for me!) gave the normal looking Qb6 move access all the way down to g1! If I had knew this about c5, I would have counted that against the f3 move.

2. OPEN LINES, OPEN LINES, OPEN LINES. They are a killer and I am not instantly aware of them like I should be. I was oblivious to an open file and an open(able) diagonal until after they were shoved in my face. Not to mention all those sweet diagonals for the MONSTER DSB. Which brings me to the third lesson...

3. You create three holes on the kingside, all dark squares. You don't try to fix black's c pawn to c5, so now Qb6 hits all those holes. Maybe you should think about trading off your own DSB a bit in such a case. And certainly don't go and trade off another piece that could've helped. Neutralize the pressure on those squares, and get your king the hell away from them if you can (look at O-O-O). Fight to keep that DSB from being able to come down in the first place.


I made moves I instantly regretted and saw refutations for after making the move. I shouldn't move until more sure. examples: 9. Bg5 I thought Be7, 20. g3??? then suddenly saw my QR was overworked.

I was surprised by several straightforward moves of my opponent. I was too quick to believe I knew what the next move was. I shouldn't move until I look harder for multiple replies for my opponent. examples: 9...Qb6 surprised me, 18...Bh4+, I avoided the bad g6 but was forced into it the next move anyways. 21...Qd4 I didn't expect, nor 25...Rc7, 26...b5, 29...bxc4+

I passed on 12. Bxd7+ Kxd7, something I understood, and instead did something less clear to me just hoping it came together somehow. If I don't want to look at attack #2 then I should just accept whatever I am sure of, not randomly jump onto something I didn't finish thinking about because I feel I am going in circles and want to quit thinking about. I need to react to this state of mind and come out with a decision that is less blind. Optimistic leaps shouldn't come out of unfinished, hurried guesses. Control that!


I expected 18...Bh4+ but immediately saw that I didn't really have the right conclusion about where that move was going.

I should already know when I have two undefended pieces in an open file--actually I should know about it before even doing it. 25...Rc7

26...b5 surprised me, but I should expect my pinned piece to be a target instantly. It should be glaring.

I was looking to protect my b pawn, but without considering all the options (such as 15. O-O-O) I chose Rb1.

The power of that diagonal, specially all those mate threats on it, occured to me a couple of moves later than it could've. Open lines and holes should always be glaring to me, especially ones that can lead to checks.

I made some bad defensive moves. I had better chances and instead I kept making hopeful moves that were passive and perhaps delayed him but did not neutralize his attack or get any play. 24. Ne3? 25. Nxc4?? 27. Rd1?? failing to see his undefended Queen as an opportunity. 28. Kd3?? forgetting that once the knight is gone, those nasty mate in 1's I'd been fighting finally strike home.


I should immediately see the strategic implications of 9...Qb6.

This game ended up being all about me not defending black's very powerful plan on the board until too late. Instead I went ahead with my own plan, kind of hoping that his would not go ahead too quickly. If I can't be sure mine will work (lazy/confused/whatever), I should worry about their plan first and mine second.

My idea to push the b pawn lead to not even considering 15. O-O-O. It lead me to not consider attempts to deny the DSB key squares with moves like 16. h4, and to play moves like 18. a3. I didn't seriously assess the severity of his plan until 21. Nd1?! when I was already in a bind.

Most of all, and the biggest strategic blunder of the game, it lead me to play for small advantages like 17. Nxg6?? when a devestating attack was on the way, and I traded off a piece I could have used for his piece that I had already spent tempi weakening. His out of play Bishop was his worst piece and I traded my knight, which was around my king where all those horrible dark squares were, just to double some pawns.

It was worse than that. That horrible attack was aimed at the Kingside. I could have castled Queenside. In fact that Queen was on an open line straight to where my king would be if I castled. And I helped open black's h file so his rook could join in on the kingside attack!

I was too quick to think (or should I say "hope") that everything was handled. Instead of coordinating my pieces (which was necessary to--if it was even possible--capitalize on the pinned rook) I had a glaringly useless knight and black's DSB was ridiculously powerful--but I was still going ahead with my own little dream with moves like 18. a3, which, even if it succeeded, I should have seen, wouldn't even get the Queen off that diagonal, nor would it get me any closer to defending those holes from mate threats.

On move 15 I should have seen all that and started looking really hard for a solution. I saw that DSB as some impotent, hemmed in Be7-about-to-castle type stuff. I should be more paranoid than that, come on! This is chess!

Finally, 10. Bxf6, while setting up a potentially stranded king in the center (or a pinned rook), should have been seen for the gamble it was. I traded off my DSB, but all my pawns were on light squares. When trading off my Bishop I should at least consider whether I will be creating a monster.

I was trying really hard to not miss tactics this game. It might look bad to you but this was an improvement for me. However, this lead to some desperate tactic searching and "hoping" without even peeking at what the strategic situation was.

Hope I can learn from some of this.