Friday, July 18, 2014

The last time

Black to play and kiss goodbye to two hundred nicker

Three hours after this piece publishes I should be boarding a train in Sheffield, to take me to Birmingham, where I'll change trains for for Aberystwyth and the 2014 British Chess Championship.

It'll be good to get another game again: I've been preparing for the Championship by not playing chess, an eleven-month non-intensive program of not-playing-chess which began after the Hampstead Bank Holiday tournament last August.

This tournament, which offered a first prize of £200, saw an exciting last-round climax in which Black, needing a win for outright first, dominated from the off, turned down a draw, and, a piece up, missed at least one chance to be consolidate before suffering the tragedy introduced above.

I was that soldier.

Funny thing is, I wasn't too upset about the two hundred quid, having considered myself a dead man on leave ever since, two rounds earlier, I had been monumentally lost against a junior graded some three hundred points below me.

I pulled the game out of the fire nonetheless.

Black to play: White actually won this one

I'd also have been rather more traumatised had I not already qualified for the British, since along with the money, first prize brought a qualifying place for the Championship: indeed I see my opponent will be among the competitors. So I assure readers that any damage I suffered at the time was of a purely temporary nature and my eleven months off were nothing to do with what happened in the diagram position.

I can laugh about it now

Not quite the Worst Move On The Board, true. But close. Damned close.

There was some trauma. "Jesus Christ", I said. Said? I could probably be heard across the room.

I shall try not to do that again. In either sense of "that".


Andrew Gelman said...

Hi, if you have the patience, could you please explain how the second game shown in this post is won for Black? I mean, sure, I can see that White's in bad shape because his king and knight are completely trapped, his bishop is stuck for the indefinite future, and his rook and his queen can't easily get anywhere. But what exactly can Black to do convert? At first I was thinking of marching the pawn down to h3, which does seem to win the knight, but is that enough? Or is the trick for White to take advantage of Black's immobility by doing xb4 and then using those four connected pawns on the queenside with the support of the bishop, queen, and two rooks? I'm guessing it's the latter (or maybe start with xb4 and then do the h-pawn march, using the queenside threat to stop White from doing anything useful), but I have to say that this is the sort of position I find myself in occasionally where I feel like I should be able to do something but I can't figure out what.

Meanwhile, perhaps White needs to either hope for a Black mistake on queenside or else do something like Rd2, Rf2, Rf4, Qe3, Rg4 to get at the black queen? This seems ridiculously slow but White needs some plan, right?

At least I hope this has amused you by giving you some insight into the mind of the patzer . . . Thanks in advance for any reply. I've enjoyed trying to work though these questions.

ejh said...

Well, I suppose it isn't so clear, in so far as there isn't a short, clear line you can point to that ends 0-1! But basically, Black's just got far too much for White in the position.

a. Black has much the better pieces - compare Black's bishop and queen with the White pieces which are able to do next to nothing.

b. Four pawns are too much for the bishop and five pawns will be even more so, and eventually they ought to roll towards promotion, causing chaos as they advance.

So take on b4, say, that gives you five pawns for the piece and a huge attack - and even if the attack is fought off, the passed pawns ought to win the endgame easily.

But you're right to suggest that that isn't the same as a self-evidently won game. Perhaps this is demonstrated as well as anything by the game continuation which was 23...Bxb2? (no need to give up the fantastic bishop for the lousy knight, though Black is still winning) 24. Bxg2 Qxe3+ (that's five pawns for the piece, so that has to be good, right?) 25.Qf2 (and now queens are exchanged which being an ending, has to favour the side with the pawns, right?) 25...Qxf2+ 26.Kxf2 and it transpires that Black's blown most of his advantage because White's king is no longer vulnerable, while the h1-a8 diagonal and the d-file are both his to cut out and keep.

Black has actually exchanged off all his advantages except the material one, when he could have kept the material one and the others too! (Black in fact then played 26...Rad8? and after 27.bxc5 went downhill very quickly indeed.)

Andrew Gelman said...

Thanks, that's helpful. I'm happy to see that I basically got it right, although of course I had the advantage here of having zero pressure and also having the hint that Black could blow it if he wasn't careful.