Tuesday, May 7, 2019

My Games from the Maryland Open

Over the weekend I played in the 65th Maryland Open in Rockville, MD. The theme for me this tournament was opening disasters! In all three of my black games I misplayed the opening, and as usual there were plenty of adventures...

I played in the two-day schedule, where the first two rounds were G/45+30. In round one I got black against GM Alexander Fishbein, who I've played a few times before. I've recently started learning the Classical Sicilian, a new opening for me, and was happy to get a chance to try it out against a good player. We had a long but instructive struggle, where both of us made several mistakes.



Almost 100 moves! I think I've only had two tournament games against GMs that went over 100 moves - one where I was pushing for a win in a rook and pawn ending against Shabalov (but drew) and a 133 move draw against Vladimir Belous where I had to defend RB vs RN+P.

To summarize this game:
  • I went wrong early in the opening with 14. ... Rac8?!, rather than the correct 14.Rfc8!
  • White returned the favor with 16.b4?!, when instead 16.Nb5! would have exploited the weakness of Rac8 by pressuring the weak a7 pawn and giving white time to play b3-c4.
  • After the exchange of opening inaccuracies, the game was about equal, but I could have played for an advantage with 20. ... f5! rather than 20. ... Nd7?!, which only led to equality.
  • Fishbein outplayed me in the open middlegame after move 25, and got a near-winning position by move 35, but missed multiple chances to finish me off and allowed me to fight hard for a draw in the rook and pawn endgame.
We finished about 15 minutes before the next round started, so I had no time for lunch, but thankfully my next game was not quite as strenuous.



A relatively smooth win against a lower-rated player. I only made one bad decision with 11.Bxc6?! after which I had no advantage out of the opening. However, my opponent later failed to take the opportunity to correctly set up his hanging pawns with 17. ... c5!, and instead chose 17. ... Rfe8?!, allowing my knight on a4 to come back into the game from c5 to d3. He ultimately tried to get activity with the speculative 18. ... Nh5!? and 19. ... f5 idea but it backfired horribly as his own king proved to be weaker.



In round 3 we switched to the long time control of 40/90 SD 30 + 30 sec/move. This game was quite a scare for me, as my careless opening play against an expert quickly landed me in a disastrous position.



Well, my opening decision of 5. ... d6?! was objectively not the best, but certainly 6. ... e6!?, going into a Hedgehog with my knight already on c6 was pushing my luck (6. ... g6 was a better choice there). Once I realized those earlier mistakes, 9. ... h5?! was a gross overreaction (9. ... Bd7 and just putting up with white's Nd5 was relatively better), and of course 19. ... g5? was just awful.

This game is a good example of how too much knowledge can hurt you in chess! I have a lot of experience in Sicilian and English Hedgehogs, so I know how dangerous white's attack can get if black plays too passively. I certainly know how dangerous Nc3-d5 can be, especially if my king is still in the center. In this particular game though, the Nd5 lunge, although a good move for white, would not have been winning, and I incorrectly just assumed it would be without analyzing concretely. It would have been far better to allow Nd5 than to destroy my position with a move like 9. ... h5?!, embarking on the Nc6-e5-d7 maneuver at all costs.


In round 4 I had white against the young up-and-coming expert Alex Chen - I had done a bit of research on him and seen that his rating had been going up quickly and I think he had drawn a GM last year, so he was certainly dangerous. Therefore, I played 1.e4 and headed for the sharpest Sicilian possible...

...just kidding. I did play 1.e4, but quickly steered into an endgame where I outplayed my less-experienced opponent.



By the way, that 9.e5!? idea is not mine, I think credit should go to Vladimir Onischuk, who was the first GM to play it in 2014. He's won every single game with it, including three against strong GMs, so it's clearly not so bad!

Even though I didn't get to use that tricky sideline, my strategy of going to the endgame worked well - on moves 17-20 my opponent clearly didn't know what to do, and spent a lot of time on strange moves like Rd7 and then Rc7. Just one bad decision with Nd5-b4-d3 was enough to land him in trouble, and once I won the e5 pawn and invaded with my rook to the 7th it was all over.


In the last round I drew a master with black - I was actually lucky to get this draw too after misplaying the opening again.



So definitely my 10th and 11th moves weren't very good - 10. ... b5! instead of 10. ... Bb7 would have been a more active way to continue. I thought I could just develop naturally and play for ...c5 and be fine, but instead I just got a passive position and had to defend for the rest of the game. Probably I should study that opening line a bit more before playing it again, or find something sharper to play with black against lower-rated players!

Anyway, my next tournament is probably the New York State Open in a couple of weeks - I'll make another post about my games from that tournament too. After that, get ready for my simul on May 22! I'm planning to crush you all :)

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

How's Your Theoretical Endgame Knowledge?

In the endgame, "theoretical" knowledge refers to the fundamental building blocks, including everything from mating with a queen to the Philidor position in R+P endings to defending R+B vs R. These are the endgames that you should know by heart.

Here, I'm providing you with a master list of all the theoretical knowledge that I know of, split up by what I think are appropriate rating categories. See how many of the bullet points you know and where your endgame skills are! There are a few puzzles at the end too, going from easy to hard.

Basic: Beginner up to 1200
  • Two rook checkmate
  • Queen checkmate
  • Single rook checkmate
  • K+P ending, basic opposition
  • K+P ending, rule of the square
  • K vs. K + rook pawn
  • K + two pawns vs. King, one file separation
  • Q vs. pawn on the seventh
Intermediate: 1200 to 1600
  • K + g&h pawns vs. king
  • K+P endings, intermediate opposition and triangulation techniques
  • K+P endings, outside passed pawns and "Bahr's rule"
  • K+P endings, winning with an active king (basic)
  • K+P endings, shouldering (basic)
  • Opposite colored bishops, file separation of passed pawns
  • Rook vs. pawn
  • Rook vs. two connected passed pawns
  • R+P vs. R, Lucena position
  • R+P vs. R, Philidor position
  • R+P vs. R, Vancura position
  • R+P vs. R, the frontal attack
  • R+P endings, the umbrella technique
  • Q vs. B mate
Moderate Advanced: 1600 to 2000
  • Two bishop checkmate
  • Bishop & Knight checkmate
  • K+P endings, winning with an active king (advanced)
  • K+P endings, shouldering (advanced)
  • K+P endings, distant opposition and outflanking
  • K+P endings, Reti's study
  • Defending Knight vs. rook pawn
  • Rook vs. Knight
  • Rook vs. Bishop, critical positions
  • N+P vs. knight, critical positions
  • B+P vs. bishop, critical positions (i.e. "Centurini" Position)
  • B+P vs. knight
  • R+P vs. R, cutting off along the rank
  • R+P vs. R, short side/long side
  • R+P vs. R, queening a rook pawn
  • R+ f and h-pawn vs. R
  • R and 4 vs. R and 3 (same side)
  • Q vs. R, Philidor position and other fundamentals
  • Fortresses in Q vs. R+P
  • Q vs. N mate
Side note - getting Q vs. N is highly unusual, but I actually got it once against an expert several years ago, and can confirm that it's not that easy to do in really bad time pressure (I successfully converted it).

Advanced: 2000 and up
  • Two knights vs. pawn checkmate
  • Two bishops vs. knight
  • Rook and bishop vs. rook, Philidor position
  • Rook and bishop vs. rook, general defense
  • Rook and knight vs. rook, critical positions
  • Q vs. R, general
  • Q vs. R+P, breaking fortresses (advanced)
  • Q+P vs. Q, fundamentals
Now here are the puzzles:

1 - Rating level: 800
White to move - win or draw?

2 - Rating level: 1000
Black to move - win or draw?

3 - Rating level: 1200
White to move - win or draw?

4 - Rating level: 1400
Does white win or draw?

5 - Rating level: 1600
White to move - can he draw?

6 - Rating level: 1800
White to move - win or draw?

7 - Rating level: 1950
White to move - win or draw?

8 - Rating level: 2100
Black to move - win or draw?

9 - Rating level: 2250
White to move - win or draw?

10 - Rating level: 2400
Black to move - win or draw?

11 - Rating level: 3600
I just have this one here for fun, because it's way over everybody's head. It is the longest possible win in the 7-piece tablebase, where black loses by force with perfect play in 297 moves! It's too difficult even for beasts like Stockfish.