Down for the Count

The Berkeley Fight Club concluded it’s 2008 edition a couple days ago, with GM Giorgi Kacheishvili wrapping up first place with a score of 7.5/10. The final standings are posted on the tournament website, here. GM Zviad Izoria took sole second place with 7.0/10. A total of 4 norms were made – IM norms by FMs Daniel Rensch and Marc Esserman (his 3rd IM norm!), and an IM and WGM norm by WIM Iryna Zenyuk.

As detailed in my previous post (here), I struggled in my first four games, only scored 2.0/4 against an average opposition around 2350 FIDE. Things only got worse the next couple days.

In the 5th round, I had the white pieces against fellow GM-house member Jesse Kraai. I would’ve preferred not to play any of my usual study partners in this event, but with such a small field, it would be tough to avoid it. It feels somewhat awkward to play someone you work with so often, and partly more so because I had shown Jesse my general opening repertoire when I first moved in. Thus, the game followed my usual response to the Nimzo-Indian (the Rubinstein Variation), but where I played the Classical Variation instead of the Modern Nge2 line.

In the game, we reached the following position after I played c3-c4 (I had probably already messed it up slightly by this point, as I shouldn’t have allowed his knight to come to e5):


Jesse played the very strong 16…Neg4! now. When I went for this position, I had assumed that after 17.hxg4 Nxg4 18.g3, Black’s only way to continue would be 18…Nxe3, when I could have a choice of a draw (after 19.fxe3 Qxg3+ 20.Kh1 Qh3+, with a perpetual) or playing on with a likely advantage after 19.Qe2 Nxf1 20.Nxf1. After he played his move, though, I realized I had totally overlooked 17.hxg4 Nxg4 18.g3 Qb6!, threatening the bishop on b2 and to swing over to h6, when mate after …Qh2+ is unavoidable.

This was a really bad shock, and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do. In the end, I found 17.hxg4 Nxg4 18.f4 Qb6 (again if 19…Nxe3, White is happy after 20.Qh5! or 20.Qc1!? Nxf1 21.Nxf1) 19.Qb3 Qh6, I can play 20.Rfe1 to create an escape route via f1, e2, and d1 for my king. The game ended in a draw after 20…Qh4 21.Nf1 Qf2+, when the perpetual check after 22.Kh1 Qh4+ 23.Kg1 Qf2+ is unstoppable. Actually, Jesse could have played on with 20…Qh2+ 21.Kf1 Bg6!!, when Black maintains the initiative.

The following day brought more bad news – I was paired with white against the other member of the GM-house troika, Josh Friedel. The game was another Nimzo-Indian Rubinstein Variation, but this time, after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0-0, I smelled a bit of a rat and played 5.Nge2 for the first time in my life. Usually I play 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nge2, but I had looked at some of my games in this line with Josh, and prior to this event, I had gone over the key games in the 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 c5 7.0-0 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Nbd7 variation with him. He normally plays 4…b6 or 4…Ne4 against the Rubinstein, so when he played 4…0-0, I realized that he would play something that we had looked at together.

The game was somewhat crazy, but one where I thought I maintained a small advantage for most of the start of the game – after 21…f5, the following position was reached:


Black is down a rook for a knight and pawn, but his knight is obviously magnificently placed on e4. Black has some compensatioin for the exchange in my view, but not full compensation yet. The obvious move here would be to play 22.gxf5, undermining the support of the knight, and that was my original plan. However, on further review, I decided to play 22.g5, thinking it cut the other knight off from f6. To my dismay, 22.g5? was met with the simple 22…Nb8, when White is already in some trouble. The knight on e4 is rock solid and the other knight is going to target the weak d4-pawn. White’s rooks, meanwhile, have no open files to speak of.

The game went downhill for me after that, and although I fought on, I was playing for a draw. However, near the end of the first time control, I got ambitious and decided to play for more with the stupid 37.Kg2?, when the planned 37.Qg4 would have done just fine. Still, the draw was within my grasp and the following position was reached after 42.Qd3+:


Now if Black plays 42…Kf7, White has 43.Qf3+, when Black’s king has a few choices:

(1) if it goes to the e-file, say with 43…Ke6, then 44.Qe3+ Kd7 45.Rxc3 wins for the White (the white queen covers the e1-square now);

(2) if it goes back to the g8-square with 43…Kg8, then 44.Qxd5+! is strong, as after 44…Nxd5 45.Rxc8+ Kf7 46.Kf2 is winning for White;

(3) and if it goes back to the g6-square with 43…Kg6, then 44.Qd3+ brings about a draw by repetition.

Thus, Black played the only move to try and keep the game going longer with 43…Kh5! – the game is still objectively drawn after this, but it is trickier for White, and move after move, I threw away my drawing chances before I was left with a lost position. The easiest draw for White after 43…Kh5 is 44.Qxh7+ Kg4 (the only move) 45.Kg2 Kf4 46.Qh4+ Ke3 47.Qf2+ Kd2 48.Qf4+ Kd3 49.Qf3+ Kd2 50.Qf4+ and there is no good way to escape the checks.

When I resigned, I felt absolutely horrible. Not only was I playing badly in general, but to lose in such a fashion was disgusting. There’s an interesting discussion of dealing with defeats at the FIDE website here, where the players in the current Grand Prix tournament were asked how they dealt with defeats in chess. This game mirrored Rajdabov’s answer a bit, where I felt I was better and shouldn’t have lost, but kept making stupid decisions to throw everything away.

So after 6 rounds, I was sitting on a brilliant 2.5 points, down about 15 FIDE rating points, and emotionally down in the dumps. I’ll wrap up the event in another post tomorrow. In the meantime, happy Festivus!


One response to “Down for the Count

  1. Hi Vinay,

    It’s very interesting to see your comments on the Friedel game. I wonder if you could compare or contrast this game to your ninth-round game against Milman, where you were the one sacrificing the exchange (again, somewhat speculatively, I thought). Against Milman, were you confident of getting an advantage, or did you just decide that you would play it and see what happened?

    In both of these games, it seems as if the person who had the initiative eventually got more of an advantage than he should have, because the pressure of having to defend eventually forced the opponent into making unnecessary concessions. Is this something that you can count on? Or do you try to stick to objectively correct moves, and leave psychology out of your calculations?

    Also, I found your reference to the FIDE page very intriguing. It seemed to me that most of the players were surprisingly unprepared for dealing with defeats. I liked Wang Yue’s answer the best.

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