Monday, 26 August 2019

055. Computer Says No

White: M. Poppe - 1st North Sea Team Tournament, 1998

Searching my games by ECO code, looking for one that hasn't featured here before, brought up (along with numerous others) three examples of C96. This code covers lesser lines of the Closed Ruy Lopez, Chigorin System (9...Na5). All three games continued 10 Bc2 c5 11 d4 Bb7 12 Nbd2 cxd4 13 cxd4 exd4 14 Nxd4 Re8.

Yes, it's a bit loose for Black in that the d6-pawn is left as a weakness, backward and isolated. On the other hand, there's little prospect of being cramped under the Spanish Torture. Black has open lines and active pieces and can look to strike back in the centre with a timely ...d6-d5.

GM Oleg Romanishin (see Game 29) played this way on 24 occasions in 1988-97, for a plus three score. My own score was plus one: two draws and the win below.

It seems I was pleased with the win, since exclamation marks are strewn enthusiastically through my notes: 19...d5 “!”, 20...Bc5 “!”, 21...Nh5 “!”. Okay, I'll just check those with Stockfish now...

Tap, tap, tap.

Computer says no.

And that's no to all of them. In particular, the engine bangs out 21 Ngf5! instantaneously, assessing the position as winning for White; e.g. 21...gxf5 22 Nxf5 Bxf2+ 23 Kh2 Bxe1 24 Qxe1 and Black's extra rook is useless against the white queen coming to the kingside. Yurk. My notes don't mention 21 Ngf5 at all.

To be fair (to me) 23...Rxe2 “!” was good, and the idea of trapping the h6-bishop with 28...g5 “!” was good too. Computer says yes. But as for my earlier moves...

Computer says no :/

Saturday, 10 August 2019

054. Playing On ’Til Checkmate

White: rgs56 - all-play-all tournament,, 2018

There are always a few players who don't or won't resign in utterly lost positions but carry on ’til checkmate. Or, very often, the move just before checkmate. And that's fine.

In correspondence chess, back when we played by post, it was annoying because you were forced to waste money on stamps sending unnecessary moves back and forth. Your opponents might thus consider themselves slightly revenged on having been beaten, albeit at the cost of their own stamps and reputation.

In online server games pecuniary penalties do not apply, so the only effect of playing on is to postpone an inevitable result for as long as possible – a strategy which can, if desired, be further extended by not replying until the very end of the time limit for each move.

Take the game below, for instance. At move 22, Black's extra bishop and knight are better than White's extra rook and pawn. At move 46, I assessed my position as winning. And by move 65 I thought it was time for Black to resign. My opponent opted to play on for another nineteen moves, ’til just before checkmate.

No worries. I got to look at my happily won position for significantly longer, make an aesthetically pleasing bishop retreat to the far corner, with zugzwang, and deliver mate with a pawn. Or nearly.

And sometimes I'll carry on in losing positions myself – if I want the game to resolve in a particular way to my own satisfaction. And I like my opponents to do likewise. I prefer some things to be played out rather than "left in the notes". Sometimes I'll play on ’til mate too – if it's going to be a nice one, say, and will happen soon. Such as in Game 35. Anyone can play any position on if they want to, and for whatever reason.

As it happens, another of my games (against the same opponent) is going the same way. I'm currently a rook up with a passed f-pawn one square from promotion. At one move per week (I usually reply straight away), if the game runs its full course we'll be enjoying it for three months yet. One of us will anyway.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

053. Grandmaster

White: M.L. Nicholson - Koshnitsky Memorial, 2002


I'm not a CC grandmaster. The best I can say – and indeed have already said – is that I once got a GM norm. This came from a joint second place (on 10½/14) in the CCLA's Gary Koshnitsky Memorial.

I also managed to win against a proper, OTB GM (Colin McNab) by copying the moves of another, stronger GM (Evgeny Gleizerov). Colin's improvement, when it came, wasn't much of one and I won relatively easily. But this was a Modern Defence and hence not blog relevant.

Instead, here's another King's Gambit. For some reason I discarded my usual 3...h5!? as Black and opted for 3...g5 “!” and a Kieseritzky, the only one I've ever played in a serious offline game. The subsequent 6 d4 and 9 Be2 was analysed by GM Joe Gallagher in Winning with the King's Gambit (Batsford 1992), with the open-ended conclusion that “practical tests are awaited”.

Practical tests duly came and went and the line was more or less abandoned. In particular, Gallagher's 9...Nc6 10 c3 Bf5 11 d5 Nb8 12 0-0 Qxh4 13 Nd2 g3 14 Nf3 Qh5 15 Qa4+ Nd7 16 Rae1 is well met by 16...Bg7! 17 Bc1 0-0 18 Nf4 Qg4, as in C.Santagata-S.Sabaev, ICCF EM/M/A071 1999, when White is struggling to show the slightest compensation.

My game saw 12 Na3 Bg7 13 Nc4 and then 13...Bxc3+. That was the threat behind ...Bg7, with the idea 14 bxc3? Nxc3 15 Qd2 Nxe2 16 Qxe2 Bxd3 and wins, so I went ahead and played it. My various engines (Stockfish, Houdini, Deep Fritz, Deep Rybka) now all go for 13...h5 “-+”. I guess I was dubious about the significance of Black's extra f7-pawn in the typical Kieseritzky structure.

It didn't matter. It doesn't matter. 6 Bc4 is regarded as the critical continuation nowadays, though Black has a plus score there too.