Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Returning to Chess

It has been a very long time since I have blogged about chess, but I have recently gotten back into it again, and I'm interested in doing some posts of my more interesting games over these past few years, since doing these posts gives me some small insights into my own thought processes during games.

I believe the last game I posted about was from my years in Iceland, which means I haven't blogged about the tournaments I have played in both Hungary and Bahamas. So I hope to make up for that over the next few weeks, especially since there are some intriguing games I have played. I can't promise all of the ones I blog about will be fascinating, but I believe all of them will be instructive, at least for players lower than master strength.

So, I didn't get to play any chess during the two years (2009-2011) I lived in Baku, Azerbaijan. It's a strong chess country, but they didn't seem interested in having me play there. I spoke a couple of times with their federation officials and no one would tell me anything about clubs or trainers, and the one big open tournament they held each year was in September, which didn't work for my arrival, and also they held the event outside of Baku sometimes (I also lived in Baku from 2014-2016 and this latter problem prevented me from playing those two years as well).
I saw both Kasparov and Judit Polgar again while in Budapest
Thus I didn't get to play chess for a long time and was rusty again once I did get to play, in May 2011 in Budapest. We lived in Budapest for three years, from 2011-2014, and I played in three events there. The first one was one of the famous 'First Saturday' events held by Laszlo Nagy. My rust showed and I finished with 3 wins, 4 losses, and 4 draws. I'll show just some of the more interesting games. This first one was short and fun. The player liked to play the same weird opening as black against e4, so I got to prepare and it worked out very well for me.

[Event "First Saturday FM-A"]
[Site "Budapest"]
[Date "2011.11.08"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Zala, Gyula"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C40"]
[WhiteElo "2058"]
[BlackElo "1999"]
[Annotator "Cross,Ted"]
[PlyCount "29"]
[EventDate "2011.11.08"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "HUN"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d5
This is called the Elephant Gambit. I never had to play against it before, so it's a good thing I got to prepare in advance.
3. exd5 e4 4. Qe2 Be7 5. Qxe4 Nf6 6. Bb5+
Okay, so the better move here is 6. Qa4+, but Bb5+ isn't bad, and since I knew the line my opponent liked to play here, it was better for me to go along with his line since it led to an easily winning opening.
This here is my opponent's novelty, and it isn't very good except as a surprise, which it wasn't for me.
7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Bxc6+ Nxc6 9. Qxc6+ Bd7 10. Qa6
This is a pet opening of this fellow, though here he varies between Rb8 and Qc7. Yes, he's given up three pawns but he has a lot of development for them, and this is a very dangerous line for white if
he isn't prepared.
10...Qc7 11. O-O Rb8 12. Re1 Kf8 13. Nc3 Bc6?
It's usually hard to win fast in this variation, because black has so much initiative and white has to play under such stress, but this move lets me end things quickly.
14. Ne5! Ba8 15. Qc4! 1-0
With the queens forced from the board, black has no chances and thus resigns.

The next game was against the top rated player in the event, and it featured lots of tactics and big swings of fortune.

[Event "First Saturday FM-A"]
[Site "Budapest"]
[Date "2011.11.10"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Juracsik, Jozsef"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B98"]
[WhiteElo "2058"]
[BlackElo "2172"]
[Annotator "Cross,Ted"]
[PlyCount "81"]
[EventDate "2011.11.10"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "HUN"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Be7 8. Qf3
Qc7 9. O-O-O O-O
I have always enjoyed this opening, and I've always felt that castling here for black was too soon and gave white a ready-made attack.
10. Bd3
This is my personal preference, since the bishop here aims at the critical h7 square and also allows either of the knights to easily come back to e2 without blocking in the bishop. In many lines the pawn goes to e5, clearing the lane for the bishop's attack against h7.
10...Nbd7 11. Kb1
11. Rhe1 may be only slightly stronger here, according to the computer, but it scores much more heavily according to the database percentages.
11...Nc5 12. h4?!
My first doubtful move. This takes the position from a strong white advantage down to about equality. Much stronger was 12. Qg3.
12... b5 13. Bxf6 Bxf6 14. e5 dxe5 15. Qxa8?
It was a bad idea to take the 'free' rook. Now I could get into trouble. Much better is to keep an advantage with 15. fxe5 Be7 (15... Bxe5 16. Qxa8 b4 17. Bxh7+ Kxh7 18. Ne4 Kg8 19. Nxc5 Qxc5 20. Qe4 with a large advantage) 16. Qxa8 Bb7 17. Ncxb5 axb5 18. Nxb5 Qxe5 19. Qa5 Nxd3 20. Rxd3 Bxg2 21. Re1 and the computer struggles to understand who is better in this very complex position.
15... Bb7??
My opponent returns the favor with a big blunder, going from a winning position to one that is much better for white. He could have won with 15...exd4 16. Bxh7+ Kxh7 17. Ne4 Nxe4 18. Qxe4+ Kg8, and though it may not look it, the computer rates this as a huge advantage for black.
16. Bxh7+ Kxh7 17. Qxf8 exd4 18. Ne2 Bxg2 19. Rhe1 
My move isn't a mistake and white still has a large edge, but the defensive move 19. Rh2 leaves white even better for navigating the upcoming tactics.
19... Be4 20. Nxd4 Bxd4
Though white is up two exchanges, black's active pieces are all congregated around white's king. I needed to be more aware of the explicit dangers and to look more deeply at the tactics.
21. Rxd4??
A terrible decision that turns my advantage into a losing game. Correct was 21. Rxe4 Nxe4 22. Rxd4 Qxf4 23. Qd8 f5 24. a3 with a strong edge to white.
21... Bxc2+ 22. Kc1
The only way to continue, though it is as dangerous as it looks. Playing the 'safer' looking Ka1 gets white mated: 22. Ka1 Nb3+ 23. axb3 Qa5+ 24. Qa3 Qxe1+ 25. Ka2 Qb1#.
22... Ne4?
It's not so easy to see all the correct tactics over the board. My opponent misses the best continuation. 22... Bg6 23. Kd2 Nb3+ 24. axb3 Qc2+ 25. Ke3 Qxb3+ and black is winning, though these weren't exactly simple to see moves! 
23. Qd8
Now it's all equal again, though still a complex position where we can and do go wrong. Look at that board. It doesn't look very equal, does it! But the computer pegs it as dead even.
23... Qc5 24. Rdxe4?
Yes, my move is a mistake, but it wasn't easy at all to find the correct move to maintain equality, which was 24. Rd2! Bd3+ 25. Kd1 Qh5+ 26. Kc1 Qc5+.
24... Bxe4+ 25. Kd2 Qf2+ 26. Re2 Qxf4+ 27. Re3 Bg6 28. a3 Bh5 29. Qd3+ Bg6 30. Qc3 Bf5 31. h5 a5 32. Ke1 b4 33. axb4 axb4 34. Qb3 f6 35. Rg3 Qd4 36. Re3 Qh4+ 37. Rg3 Qf4 38. Rf3 Qd4 39. Re3 Kh6 40. Rg3 Kh7??
 Perhaps this seems easy to win, but over the board it didn't feel that way, and my opponent accidentally let the position repeat three times, making it a draw. It's not so clearly easy, though, as you can see by lines such as 40... Kxh5? 41. Qf3+ Bg4 (41... Kh6 42. Qh1+) 42. Rh3+ Kg6 43. Qd3+ Qxd3 44. Rxd3 f5 45. Rb3 Kf6 46. Rxb4 g5 47. Rc4 and it's equal
41. Re3 1/2-1/2

 Two games is enough for now. I'll return with more games from this event soon.