I would have ended 2017 and started 2018 on a good note had I not dumped 25 USCF rating points in two consecutive tournaments. So much for my happy end of 2017 article. Anyway, not my idea of fun… Now my play wasn’t that bad – almost no massive blunders in 15 games – but it wasn’t good either. My play was just off; it wasn’t only bad luck. I feel I’ve played like this before (i.e. at the 2017 US Masters), and I’m hoping to eradicate this kind of chess out of my system. Maybe writing about it will help.
1: Winning this position with black with 6 seconds on the clock (and a 10 second delay)
Arjun, K (2258 USCF) – Brodsky, David (2508 USCF)
Black to move
Without rooks, this is easily winning for black, but with four rooks, this endgame is a mess. Big time. I have no idea if black is objectively winning or not, but with no time, I’m so relieved I managed to win this one. Here’s the end.
Okay fine, earlier in this game I made my life a lot harder than necessary, but swindling someone in a time scramble feels good!
2: No mid-tournament breakdowns
Despite my bad play, I never lost two games in a row. I was always able to stop the bleeding.
3: Staying alive with black in this game
Wang, Kevin (2380 FIDE) – Brodsky, David (2405 FIDE)
White to move
White is a pawn down, but black’s position and coordination are in shambles. Engines proclaim that after 28.Qe5! Bb7 29.Ng5! white is +5 (and going up). Nevertheless, with a bit of luck, I managed to stay alive. Okay, getting into a -5 position is nothing to be proud of, but being able to survive it without your opponent blundering terribly takes more than just luck – your opponent won’t play perfectly, so just make your opponent’s life as hard as possible. During the game, it wasn’t obvious to me at all that black is totally busted after 28.Qe5! Bb7 29.Ng5!, and my opponent erred by playing 28.Bg5? after which he still should be winning but it’s harder. Overall in this tournament, my defensive skills weren’t really that off. If only this game had ended a little better…
1 & 2: Blundering twice in the above game
I survived that busted position and actually had a chance to rob a full point…
White to move
Black is in dire straits in this bizarre position. Though he’s up an exchange for a pawn, he’s tied up. His king is shaky, and he doesn’t have a clear plan. White should just continue on the queenside with 47.b4!, and he’s near-winning. Instead, as black, I got a gift when he played 47.Ne4??, and I returned part of it by responding with 47…Qxh4??. I could have just gone 47… Qxe6! 48.Nf6+ Kf7!. White isn’t winning the exchange because his rook on d7 hangs. White has nothing. He’s busted.
After missing that fairly basic tactic, I went on to blunder again. He played 48.Ng5, threatening Rxe7 Rxe7 Qd8+, and therefore I responded with 48…Qh6 with the idea of playing Qf8 in the end. He responded with 49.Ne4
Here, I should have gone 49… Qh4!, but I somehow didn’t realize that it was repeating the position. Instead, I played 49…Qg7?? too quickly. After 50.Qg5! black is busted. He can’t stop Nf6 from landing hard. After 50…Rxd7 51.exd7 I had to resign.
What’s the moral of the story? That’s unclear to me, but in three moves I pulled off two terrible blunders. I fully deserved to lose this game. My tired, confused brain needed to stay tactically alert and be able to calculate straight.
3: Not winning completely winning positions
On January 12th, I got two completely winning positions against two IMs, and managed not to convert either of them. Here’s the first one, against IM Alexander Kalikshteyn:
Black to move
Black is up a clean exchange here, has two powerful passed pawns here, and appears to be completely winning. Indeed, after 40…Rd8!, more or less forcing a trade of bishops with Bd5, white is busted. Instead I played 40…b5?! and let white coordinate. After a few more mistakes, I let him play f6 (with his bishop on the long diagonal), and my king was blown open. I even ended up in trouble (see puzzle 2), but I survived and the game was a draw. A huge miss.
And here’s the second one, against IM Kassa Korley:
White has the bishop pair in a fairly open position and an extra pawn to boot. Everything is just dominating, except that his king is a little shaky on the 2nd rank. Though it’s no big deal now, it turned into one later… After 44… Nd3!? I was way too greedy and grabbed a pawn with 45.Bxd3? cxd3 46.Rxd3 only to miss 46…Qc4! which is winning back the a4-pawn. Now I have coordination problems, and my king is really loose on the 2nd rank, and I doubt I’m winning. Instead, I should have just gone 45.Bc3! after which I’m more or less winning. Black’s knight jumps are nothing.
That day was terrible for my morale. Now as for lost positions that I’d saved… that would be a grand total of one game, against IM John Bartholomew. There, I believe it would have been harder for Bartholomew to win than in my two fails above.
I’m going to give you a few puzzles from my games, and I’ll do the same thing like last time. I’ll post the answers in the comments on Sunday. Enjoy!
Black to move
How to deal with white’s pressure?
Black to move
What to do in this bizarre position as black?
A game ends in four moves with a b-pawn giving mate. Find out how. (Don’t worry, I’ll explain the backstory behind this one later…)
Philosophically speaking, I got plenty of opportunities in those tournaments. Next up is actually exploiting them… Though I certainly did not want this to happen, it was a revealing display of my weaknesses at this point.
Until next time!