I was asked recently when I would play a regular tournament again. I don’t really know – I’m sure that I will play a tournament at some point, but I just don’t know when. At this point, it’s been 19 months (and counting) since my last tournament. I try to take the USCL seriously, but for these purposes, I’ll discount it because it’s not FIDE (or even USCF) rated.
I haven’t really been playing on ICC either. I wasn’t an ICC addict beforehand, and I regularly go months without ever playing a game on there. However, in the past month, I’ve played more blitz games on ICC than in those previous 18 months combined!
(As a side note, this isn’t even my longest break from tournament play. During my senior year of high school, I didn’t play a FIDE rated event for 8 months after the World Youth U-18 Championship. Then after a brief flurry of 3 events packed into 1 month, I didn’t play a FIDE rated event during my first two years at UC Berkeley.
Amusingly, I made my first GM norm after that 8-month break during my final year of high school. I made my second GM norm after another 8-month break, following my graduation from college. The pattern broke for my 3rd GM norm, but I also didn’t give it a chance as I didn’t play for a year after my 2nd norm. Does this mean anything? Probably not.)
Anyways, I thought I’d share some recent blitz games that I found interesting.
r1bqkb1r/pp1n1p1p/2p2np1/3pN3/3P4/2N1P3/PP1B1PPP/R2QKB1R b KQkq - 0 8)
This is from a game (I have the black pieces) against an FM in the 5-minute pool. White’s last two moves, 7.cxd5 and 8.Ne5, really surprised me. It took a little while for the old grey cells to start working, but I managed to come up with 8…Nxe5 9.dxe5 Ng4 10.f4 d4 11.exd4 Qxd4 12.Qf3.
This probably looks better at first than it really is – the simple 10…Bf5 was probably best, just developing as White’s not going to play h3 with …Qh4+ available. However, I thought I saw some clever ideas to keep the initiative. I played 12…Bf5 13.h3 0-0-0.
2kr1b1r/pp3p1p/2p3p1/4Pb2/3q1Pn1/2N2Q1P/PP1B2P1/R3KB1R w KQ - 0 14)
My thinking was that White would play 14.Rd1 here, but then he played 14.0-0-0. For what it’s worth, my plan on 14.Rd1 was to play 14…h5 (because after exchanges on g4, the rook on h1 is hanging), but I missed 15.Bc1! when White is definitely on top. Instead 14…Nxe5 15.fxe5 Bc2 is a mess.
However, my opponent played 14.0-0-0 and this got me thinking. Doesn’t this allow 14…Nf2? But then I saw 15.Be3 and cursed my luck. So I went back to my idea of 14…h5. I saw 15.Be1 Qe3+ (which looks about equal), but then I checked 15.Ba6. The point was that the Rh1 would be guarded, while if …bxa6, White can take on g4 and c6. But not to worry, Black can play something like 15…Qb6, which keeps everything together on the queenside.
That got me thinking though – can I play …Ba3 myself? A quick glance confirmed it doesn’t do anything in this position – it doesn’t threaten anything and there isn’t even a follow-up if White takes.
But then it all clicked.
After 14…Nf2, 15.Be3 is the only attempt to avoid losing material in a non-obvious manner. But thanks to that long think, I had noticed the …Ba3 possibility and blitzed out 15…Qxc3+!. My opponent was definitely surprised and took back after 30 seconds. Then 16…Ba3# finished things off. It’s been a long time since I used that mating pattern!
In another game, as black against GM Mikhail Oleksienko (also in the 5-minute pool), I executed what I thought was a nice attack.
r1bq1rk1/pppnb1pp/2n1pp2/3pP3/3P3P/2PB1N2/PP1N1PP1/R1BQK2R w KQ - 0 9)
The above position arose from a Guimard French that I probably played incorrectly. Oleksienko thought for a bit here, and bit on h7. After 10.Bxh7+ Kxh7 11.Ng5+ Kg8 (11…fxg5 is suicidal after 12.hxg5+ Kg8 13.Rh8+!, 14.Qh5+, and 15.g6.) 12.Nxe6 Qe8 13.Nxc7 Qg6, a mess was well underway.
r1b2rk1/ppNnb1p1/2n2pq1/3pP3/3P3P/2P5/PP1N1PP1/R1BQK2R w KQ - 0 13)
It may not mean anything, but White played 14.0-0 here. After 14.Nxa8, 14…Qxg2 15.Qf3 probably isn’t in Black’s best interests, so 14…fxe5 15.0-0 would transpose. However, by playing 14.0-0 first, I had to think – do I want to save my rook? I could choose between 14…fxe5, 14…Nb6, and 14…Rb8.
In the end, I went with 14…fxe5 – probably not the best objectively, but it’s only a blitz game. After 15.Nxa8, I pushed forward with 15…e4. Black is currently down an exchange and two pawns, so I was definitely banking on a winning attack here.
White went wrong immediately with 15.h5. This is a useful move to play, because it kicks Black’s queen off the g-file (something like …Nf6 and …Bh3 could be embarrassing otherwise). But White should first have removed his knight from a8 with 15.Nc7 because after 15.h5 Qd6, White isn’t going to get a second chance. Instead after 15.Nc7 Nf6, it’s still not totally clear, but White still has his material at least and a computer would probably win with the white pieces.
Oleksienko was banking on 15…Qd6 16.c4, though, thinking that opening the center would force me to release the bind. I didn’t see a way forward at first either, but then I hit upon the right plan with 16…Nf6!. After 17.cxd5, the position in the following diagram was reached:
N1b2rk1/pp2b1p1/2nq1n2/3P3P/3Pp3/8/PP1N1PP1/R1BQ1RK1 b - - 0 17)
Instead of taking one of the d-pawns, I began to swarm the kingside with 17…Ng4!. Playing 18.f4 exf3 19.Nxf3 Rxf3 doesn’t really hold Black back – I didn’t see the win, but I figured there was going to be something there and indeed there is. White played 18.g3, but now because of the weakened f3-square, it’s safe to take on d4 with 18…Nxd4
After 19.Nxe4 Qxd5 20.f3 Nxf3+!, White is toast. The game dragged on for a while, but the next few moves were 21.Kg2 Qxe4 22.Rxf3 Ne5 23.Bf4 Nxf3 24.Qxf3 Bh3+! and it’s definitely over as White will lose his queen.