February 2017

Wed 1st: About a Move
Wed 8th: Half an Attack
Fri 17th: Conversion Problems I
Sat 18th: Conversion Problems II
Sat 18th: Conversion Problems III
Sun 19th: Always drawn
Sun 19th: Conversion Problems IV

Wed 1st: About a Move
Much though we may hate to admit it, games are lost rather than won. Sometimes a loss can be attributed to a series of weak moves, one or more of which may be survivable, but all in combination aren't. More often though defeat can be traced to a single ill-judged move which gifts the game to the opponent, should tey be disposed to accept it. For RR's game with Karl Lockett, the critical moment arrived on move 21.

Karl Lockett v RR after 21 Nc3e2

RR probably has a small lead here as he already has major pieces on the open files and a knight on d4 whereas his e6 pawn keeps white out of d5. Against that he has a loose pawn on b5 and the long diagonal to his king is currently pawnless and so ripe for pins.

At this point RR reduced his candidate moves to two, with the fear that playing the first would prevent the second. Neither of the moves were Stockfish's preferences of either resolving the tension between the b5 and c4 pawns or bringing the queen into play on g6 or h5, both of which were (too?) briefly considered before rejection.

Move A was e5, substantially reducing the danger on the long diagonal. However this would allow a black knight into d5, so Move B was played:

21 ... Nxe4 This cannot be ignored since the follow-up Nf2 is double check and mate. Nor does Bg2 fare too well:
22 Bg2 Nf2+, 23 Rxf2 Rxf2 and white cannot grab the bishop on b7 as Rxh2+ will produce mate the next move. Thus white is down a pawn, the exchange and is still under attack.

22 dxe4 Bxe4+, 23 Bg2 It is now difficult for black to maintain the momentum of the attack, though swapping material on g2 and f1 goes some way to achieving this. However such exchanges seem counter-intuitive after a sac, so RR attempts to increase pressure, though it doesn't help.

23 ... Qg6, 24 Bxd4+ e5 (cxd4 runs into Qxd4+ and the e4 bishop dies)

25 Bxe5+ dxe5, 26 Ng3 and white holds on to his piece and his king. Effectively game over.

Whilst black's position wasn't lost after Nxe4 he put himself behind and in a position where only the best moves in a complicated position gave him any chance of survival.

The biggest frustration though is that in a short chat after the game Karl revealed that his intended follow up to move A wasn't Nd5 but Nf5, after which move B Nxe4 is still available and blows white out of the water. Naughty words!
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Wed 8th: Half an Attack
Next up a cup game against Stafford, with RR having black against Matthew Harborne. We join the game at move 10. Somehow RR has castled first, and is feeling comfortable despite, or perhaps because of Matthew's early d5.

Matthew harborne v RR after 9 ... 0-0

r1b2rk1/pppnqppp/1n1b4/3Pp3/2P5/2NBB3/PP2QPPP/R3K1NR w
10 Nf3 f5, 11 Nd2 So far so good, but as so often RR starts getting greedy. he'd like to play e4, f4 and f3, but such play could be interrupted by Bxb6 after f4 and the loss of the e-pawn. So instead of being sensible and playing just e4 and then Ne5 with perhaps Ng4 to follow, RR worried about conceding dark squares to white, and so made a vague waiting move thereby losing the initiative. Sometimes the mere act of trying to retain control loses it.

11 ... h6, 12 Nb5 Nf6 again e4 should have come

13 Nxd6 cxd6, 14 f3

Matthew harborne v RR after 14 f3

Now what? e4 is not as attractive as before, though perhaps is still best. RR's not overly worried about being given doubled b-pawns as the half-open files he'd get in exchange would be adequate compensation provided he can avoid reaching an endgame too quickly. Now however the enemy d-pawn is causing problems as it is difficult to get the black pieces to good squares (another good reason for playing e4 since after the likely exchanges g4 would become available for the bishop). Bd7 is another reasonable move, connecting the rooks. However RR selected a slower and inferior line:

14 ... Nbd7, 15 0-0 b6, 16 Rfe1 Ne8 No. The slow dance of the knights is giving white ever more time to get eady for his attack, and given RR controls the centre, the white attack will surely come down the queenside. Thus Nc5 and Bb7 are the moves that RR should have been considering.

17 Bf2 Ndf6, 18 a4 Bd7, 19 b4 things are beginning to look ugly. White's attack is beginning to gather momentum, with blacks minor pieces tripping over each other if they try to get back to the queenside - a knight on d7 or b7 would now be quite nice - whilst having spurned the chance to push in the centre earlier such activity is no longer a sensible option for black.

Matthew harborne v RR after 19 b4

The grovel and squash went
19 ... Nc7, 20 b5 Qd8, 21 Nb3 Qb8, 22 a5 Qb7
23 Ra2 Kh8, 24 Rea1 Ncxd5 well sitting won't achieve anything, so try giving up a knight for a couple of pawns

25 cxd5 Nxd5, 26 Qd2 Nf4, 27 axb6 axb6, 28 Bf1 Be6 Rxa2 must be better and then Be6 as it keeps one pair of rooks on, and the more heavy artillery on the board the more likely that R will get a glimpse at salvation.

29 Rxa8 Rxa8, 30 Rxa8+ Qxa8, 31 Nc1 Qb8, 32 Nd3 Nxd3
33 Bxd3 d5, 34 Bg3 f4, 35 Bf2 Not a waste of time by white since black will now find it difficult to play e4 with the support of the f-pawn gone, so has even fewer counter-play options.

35 ... Qd6, 36 Qc3 Bd7, 37 Qa1 g5 Black is running out of moves, but this one opens up mate threats against his king.

38 Qa7 with the g7 pawn having abandoned his post black's bishop is pinned.

RR really should be resigning, but he found a further eleven moves before doing so. Another blob for the collection.
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Fri 17th: Conversion Problems I
The words to describe RR's play so far in 2017 are not acceptable in polite company, but he won't get out of his deep rut by hiding from the board, so its off to Doncaster for a weekend full of moves. Will his play be of the desired quality?

Sit down any group of chess players and ask what they find particularly difficult about the game and sooner rather than later someone will mention winning won positions. Should you press on and possibly leave your king victim of a swift counter-attack, or attack proof your own monarch at the possible cost of giving the enemy time to organise his own defences? How do you arrange the exchange of sufficient material to leave a simple won endgame without advancing pawns and weakening your king? And how many ways do his pesky knights have of threatening material winning forks? A winning position is also a no win situation, for now you can only do worse than expectatuons, not exceed them. No wonder that winning can make you nervous.

And so to RR's round one game, which despite being in Doncaster, was against Rich Wiltshir. RR is black.

1 Nc3 OK. Confess dear reader. Do you have lines up your sleeve waiting to be produced in reply to this? RR is notoriously poor on opening knowledge, his preferred approach being to rely on playing what he hopes are non-losing moves until some clear patterns emerge. Inevitably over time repeated use of some openings has allowed a small numder of lines to percolate into a fairly fixed position within his cranium, but often, as here, he is in the familiar territory of making it up as he goes along.

1 ... d5, 2 Nf3 c5, 3 e3 Nc6, 4 Bb5 a6, 5 Bxc6+ bxc6
6 b3 Qc7 Preparing e5. Closer inspection reveals that e5 can be played immediately:
6 ... e5, 7 Nxe5 Qg5 forks the knight and g-pawn.
Further if 8 Nxc6 Qxg2, 9 Rf1 d4 and both white knights are under attack. It never ceases to amaze how quickly crazy positions can develop.

7 Ba3 e5, 8 h3 Slow. White is better to get Na4 in before blacks Bd6 as this would mean black having to choose between surrendering the c5 pawn or playing his queen to a7 (perhaps after playing e4) or possibly a5, as the only other way of maintaining material equality is c4 which is surely ugly.

8 ... Bd6, 9 Na4 e4, 10 Ng1 Qe7 Diagram left

Rich Wiltshir v RR after 10 ... Qe7

The queen provides a second line of defence to the c5 pawn from a more comfortable square, though b6 is now undefended.

11 Nb6 Rb8, 12 Nxc8 Rxc8
13 Qg4

Rich Wiltshir v RR after 13 Qg4

OK, I admit it. Didn't see this coming when playing e4, so can take no credit for the c8/g7 fork not working.

13 ...Rd8, 14 f4 Taking on g7 runs into the counter-fork Be5

14 ... Qf6, 15 Rb1 Nh6 h5 is stronger, but RR is still having difficulty recognising the right moment for advancing his kingside pawns.

16 Qh5 Nf5, 17 Ne2 h6
18 h4 g6, 19 Qg4 Be7
20 g3 d4 Surely my pieces are better placed, so opening the centre looks natural.

21 Kf2 Rg8, 22 b4 dxe3+
23 dxe3 Rd2, 24 bxc5 Qc3
25 Rb3 Qxc2, 26 Rhb1 h5

Rich Wiltshir v RR after 26 ... h5

That should be a winning position.

27 Qh3 Rxe2+, 28 Kg1 f6 takes time out to create a hole for his king. probably not necessary, but why take risks?

29 R3b2 Qd3, 30 Rb3 Qd2, 31 Bb4 Qxa2, 32 Bc3 Kf7 Fancy Nxf3 here, but I'm not going to allow the possibility that I'd be missing something after Qc8+. Does he have anything with such a move? No, but winning nerves say "don't risk it!".

33 Bd4 Rd8, 34 g4 hxg4, 35 Qxg4 Rh8, 36 Bxf6 Nxe3 0-1

A successful conversion.
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Sat 18th: Conversion Problems II
Round 2, and white against Khaled Muflehi. 1 Nf3 c5, 2 c4 g6, 3 Nc3 Bg7, 4 e3 Nf6, 5 Be2 e6
6 d4 O-O, 7 d5 d6, 8 O-O a6, 9 e4 e5

RR v Khaled Muflehi after 9 ... e5

Presumably white's extra space created by the locked central pawns gives him a plus. What next. RR decides on queenside expansion, arguing that black cannot stop both b4 and keep the knight out of b5.

10 a3 Ne8, 11 b4 Nd7, 12 Be3 f5, 13 Ng5 Nc7

Ne6 is now tempting, but to RR it is difficult to see whether this leads to a lasting advantage or simply surrenders a pawn. Three pawns for a piece could be more interesting as so many of his pieces are still out of play.

14 bxc5 f4, 15 cxd6 Qxg5 16 dxc7 fxe3

RR v Khaled Muflehi after 16 ... fxe3

Naughty words! RR has miscalculated, and the intended third pawn, currently on e3, cannot be taken.

17 f3 Rf6 Rational consideration reveals that white has adequate compensation through his marauding central pawns, which should be pushed. For example
18 d6 Nc5, 19 Qd5+ Ne6, 20 d7 makes black feel ill, whilst he would not be much happier after
18 d6 Bf8, 19 Qd5+ Kg7, 20 c5
But RR convinces himself that pushing d6 would enable black to pick the pawns off. Talk about not thinking straight. 18 Na4 Bf8, 19 Qb3 Nc5, 20 Qc2 Bd7, 21 Nxc5 Bxc5 How many wasted moves did RR make there? Now blacks bishops dominate the position. Meanwhile white has diddly squat. It should just be mopping up operations for black, with white's only hope being that black experiences conversion problems.

22 d6 Rxd6 Several moves too late, but white has to do something.

23 Rfd1 Qe7, 24 Rd5 b6, 25 Qd3 Bd4, 26 Rb1 A move RR wanted to play, so being forced off a1 acts as a disguise.

26 ... Rc8

RR v Khaled Muflehi after 26 ... Rc8

27 c5 needs must bxc5, 28 Rb8 A small triumph, a rook behind his position.

28 ... Kg7, 29 Qb3 Rxc7 RR is now down a bishop and a pawn, with his own bishop tied to blockading the e3 pawn as the advance e2+ would be terminal.

30 Rxd6 Qxd6, 31 Qg8+ Kh6

RR v Khaled Muflehi after 31 ... Kh6

RR has managed a check, which is an attack of some sort. Trying to crush the king with pawns is the only remaining hope.

32 g4 Be6, 33 Qh8 Qe7, 34 Kg2 If he is going to play Qh4 RR is stuffed anyway. So hope that black thinks he needs the help of his queen in defence.

34 ... c4, 35 h4 g5, 36 Re8 Qf7, 37 Rf8 Qg6
38 h5 Qf7, 39 Rxf7 Rxf7, 40 Qe8 1-0

RR v Khaled Muflehi final position

Black lost on time, looking forlornly at the final position as the last minute ticked away - the intermediate time control was after 42 moves. However with black about to suffer a serious material loss, white should have no problem converting this time.
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Sat 18th: Conversion Problems III
Conversion problems are not restricted to attempts to win. Drawing is not always as easy as we would like to think, particularly when confidence is low and we are liable to try too hard to prove the draw. Such was RR's experience in round three at Doncaster when black against Paul Robson.

Paul Robson v RR after 21 g4

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Whi is winning here? Don't know, but recent scars mean that RR's normal approach of always wanting to play out a position is absent. All he can see is that his king position is becoming increasingly ventilated, and this drowns out his natural wish to shove h5. Instead he grabs the exchange and tries to hard to draw.

21 ... Bxd1, 22 Qxd1 Qd8, 23 Ng3 Nxe5 with intent to return material in order to exchange queens, though in truth even if white accepts this his two minor pieces will probably trump blacks rook and pawn. c5 would have been a saner continuation.

24 Nh5+ Kf8 Stockfish agrees that this is the least bad square for the king, which says something about how quickly the black position has deteriorated.

25 Qe2 Now its panic stations. Move the knight and the e pawn dies, else the knight dies - and in either case his pieces are swarming around my king.

25 ... Nc6, 26 Qxe6 Qe8, 27 Qg6 1-0

You could say RR grabbed defeat with both hands!
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Sun 19th: Always drawn
Sunday morning and RR has white against Tobi Okusanya. This was one of those games that are interesting to play, containing many options and small inaccuracies that lead to fluctuating valuations, but never far enough from equal to say that either player missed good winning chances. Consequently the game is simply given here for completeness but without comment.

1 Nf3 d5, 2 c4 c6, 3 e3 Nf6, 4 b3 Bf5, 5 Be2 e6
6 O-O Be7, 7 Bb2 Nbd7, 8 cxd5 cxd5, 9 Nh4 Bg6, 10 d3 Rc8
11 Nd2 Qa5, 12 Nxg6 hxg6, 13 a3 Bd6, 14 g3 Ke7, 15 b4 Qb6
16 Bd4 Qc7, 17 Rc1 Qb8, 18 Nb3 b6, 19 Bxf6+ gxf6, 20 Nd4 Qb7
21 b5 Nb8, 22 Qb3 Bc5, 23 Bf3 Bxd4, 24 exd4 Rxc1, 25 Rxc1 Rc8
26 Qb4+ Kd7, 27 Re1 a5, 28 Qd2 Ke7, 29 a4 Qd7, 30 Qh6= Rc3
31 Qd2 Rc8, 32 Qa2 Kf8, 33 Qa3+ Kg7, 34 Rc1 Rc7, 35 Rxc7 Qxc7
36 Kg2 f5, 37 h3 Kg8, 38 Kh2 Kg7, 39 Kg2 Qd8, 40 Be2 Qf8
41 Qxf8+ Kxf8, 42 h4 Nd7, 43 f4 Nf6, 44 Kf2 Ke7, 45 Ke3 Kd6
46 Bf3 Nh5, 47 Bxh5 gxh5, 48 Kf3 f6, 49 Ke3 Kc7, 50 Kf3 Kd7
51 Ke2 Kd6, 52 Ke3 1/2-1/2
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Sun 19th: Conversion Problems IV
Simon Wells v RR after 22 Qc3-f3

I'd rather not show you this one, but honesty dictates I should. When play is on opposite wings an optimistic rather than pessimistic frame of mind is preferable as it can be a race to break through first. RR is a pawn up with a better structure, but has been nervous about white's kingside prospects throughout. White has just removed some protection from e1, and for long enough for him to make a bad move RR thinks he can spy a quick kill.

22 ... Qxd4, 23 Rxd4 Censored! Re1+ won't be a back rank mate. 1-0.
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