Friday, April 04, 2008

An Object Lesson

First round of the Reno Chess Club Championship Swiss last night, and I lost to Kevin Gafni aka drunknknite (2020 USCF) when I squandered a position the exchange up; besides any mistakes in calculation I had what I'd call an attitude problem.

Allow me to explain.

After an interesting opening (I was Black in the Center Counter) we reached a position where he had two rooks and a bishop against my two rooks and a knight, he overlooked a knight fork and I won a clear Exchange.

So what did I do then, you ask? Instead of opening up the game for my two rooks, pieces which can only show their stuff with open lines, I wasted lots of time shuffling my king over to "get in front of his passed pawn" and keeping my rooks back "to cover any possible weaknesses" while he did what good players do in this kind of situation, activated his pieces and clamped down on my pawn breaks. I drifted around a bit more and pretty soon his passed pawn was dangerous, seeing as how I had scurried around like a timid little mouse. And I had a hallucination that lost a rook, and it was over.

If you've got seven minutes, please watch the clip before proceeding:
(Warning, strong language follows)

"You can't play in the man's game, you can't CLOSE them, then go home and tell your wife your troubles."

The encouraging thing about a game like this is to remind me that I'm in a tournament with a bunch of Experts and A-players now, and I can play with these guys, I know I can, but when you get an advantage against them you've got to be a--Relentless. Fucking. Closer. Trying to avoid "risk" didn't work, it usually doesn't; I'm going to start watching this clip each week before my game to remind me what it takes to finish, to close.

Otherwise I'm just another fish with delusions of being a shark, and I'm just not going to let that happen.

My chess blogging friend tanc(happyhippo), who is not really Lousy@Chess, pulled out the old Nietzsche quote in commenting on my last post; "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger." Fuckin' a.

Now, bring on next week and a new challenge.

ADDENDUM 04/04/08: Even some of the greatest players experience this kind of thing occasionally. From How to Beat the Russians by Edmar Mednis (1978), this note on the game Sax-Polugaevsky, Hilversum 1973 (after move 20): "Thus the game here starts an interesting psychological turning point. Sax feels 100 percent certain of an imminent loss, and with nothing to lose starts playing freely. Polugaevsky, sure of a win, tries not to take the slightest chance. Objectively, White is lost for many moves to come, but he has the important factor of momentum. On the other hand, Black becomes less and less certain of the position, and his nerves finally go completely to pieces."

When I post the game soon, you'll see how accurately that describes this one, too. Me and Polugaevsky, two peas in a pod. Heh.


transformation said...

a. i love this video. thank you.

i also want to watch this before playing and--in my current environment--each day before work.

not that how many dollars i take home is my current game (it definitely isnt right now) but because it is about being empowered to do what the higher ups are clearly asking for but definitely impede, all at the same time.

b. the nietzche quote is always misquoted thus, if i am not mistaken. i read nietzche for one whole year once, long ago. it is "what does not DESTROY me makes me stronger."

c. this setting, in this video. i have been there many times. it is very, very hard. i have been on both sides of this one personally and professionally. i swear, i know this guy.

take care, dk

Blue Devil Knight said...


Wahrheit said...

dk--yes, I know the quote but was just using happyhippo's version, with spelling... :)

ChargingKing said...

That sucks man. I was there to watch you win the exchange and it looked like you were gonna finish him off and as I came back about 20 minutes later it looked like you hadn't made a move and Kevin had made 5 or six!

Good luck next round!

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, you let that one get away. An easy way to finish him would be to look at things from a more wordy point of view.

Open a line, double the Rooks, he has to challenge or you own the file. Win a pawn more, or maybe two, allow one set of rooks to come off the board, then with your already Won King and Pawn Ending (see Silman's Flowchart idea), sac the rook on the bishop. Then it's either mate or resignation. Game over.

Of course, you have to respond to threats, but one has to do that anyway if they come up. If any of the A's or Experts had that same position, he would have gone home with a loss.

But don't feel to bad, I nearly also last night. I was able to save the game because I'm fairly decent at the endgame and Hong floundered a bit in this area. But he was winning.

As far as ruthlessness, a healthy reading of "Mein Kampf" wouldn't hurt. At least you wouldn't hide in a shell. After you won the exchange, it seemed to me that you were expecting the game to maybe win by itself. I have never seen happen before.

Soapstone said...

I remember GlennGarry,GlennRoss. I didn't appreciate it back then for the colorful language, but I'm older now. Didn't Jack Lemmon's character resort to desperate violence in the end? Did he discover that the GlennGarry leads were a hoax?

I failed to close against Eric last night. So many opportunities blown...sigh.

tanc(happyhippo) said...

Hello Wahrheit,

Great video you've put up! And your post certainly brought up a lot of food for thought wrt being stone-cold ruthless on the chessboard.

As for being lousy at chess, thanks for the vote of support and encouragement but I actually am pretty lousy at chess, I kid u not.

I can tell u of the inane blunders I made against opponents (under no time pressure at all) in positions where I had an advantage and things just simply went awry.

Since the start of this year, I've resolved never ever again to let an advantage slip and to learn to "read" the board better, even if it takes me months to do it, I will strive on because I know in the end, I will get there.

In chess, one cannot afford to let one's guard slip for one move, each move must be played accurately, calculated concretely and examined thoroughly. Because one move is sometimes all it takes to bring one's position down.

Chess is a game that encourages ingenuity and aggression. No chess player has ever becomes World Champion by playing non-aggressive nor non-purposeful moves.

I believe it was Bruce Pandolfini who said that,"every move must have a purpose."

Great post nonetheless and thank you for sharing it!

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, I know of another movie where Ben Affleck gives basically the same speach, but without the foul language. I'll try and remember the name of it.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Eric: here it is.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Or perhaps this.

Nobody is as good as Alec Baldwin though. That is just bad ass.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Thanks Blue Devil Knight, until now, I couldn't remember.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, Blue Devil Knight found my missing movie that I couldn't recall. Strong language here also, but more palatable. I like Alec Baldwin too, but he ever called me a faggot, he would be picking his teeth off the floor as I lose my job!!

Eric Shoemaker said...

So Robert, which speech did you like best? I like them both.

Wahrheit said...

Eric, I like 'em both too, but the Alec Baldwin was more appropriate for the way i felt about my play in the game! I had never seen Boiler Room so that was interesting.

ChargingKing said...

Boiler Room is a pretty good flix.

drunknknite said...


I know how you feel. I've been there several times. It's so easy to get complacent in a winning position.

I don't know where I was for the first part of the game. For some reason I thought it would be ok if you forced me to move my king, I wasn't there at all. You were completely winning after Bb4. Then I was forced to mix things up and after you offered to exchange queens I got a very comfortable endgame. Basically the idea in my endgame is that the d6 pawn is weak and if it ever goes to d5 I will play c5 obtaining a passed pawn. I think for this reason White should be guaranteed a long term edge. But after Nd5 I somehow forgot that this was my plan, I saw Kd3 or Kd2 as dangerous due to a potential opening of the d file. But you can't open the d file and the King is safe.

Also, interestingly enough when I played e4 and you played Ne3 I spent a good 60-90 seconds thinking you were just forking the King and g2 pawn, so I started looking at the play after Ng2. It was only later that I looked down and my rook on d1 was hanging. Then I felt really bad about this game. If I was not aware of simple knight forks how could I possibly save this?

But I did have a plan if you had tried to immediately open the game as Eric says. And it was very resilient. Basically if you tried to play f5 right away, or even later, I take on f5 and if you take back with the e pawn then rather than pushing my pawn to c5 I play my bishop to d5 and it protects everything. This is a fortress position and Black has an extremely hard time getting anything done because there are no targets. In fact, when I played Rg3, I was trying to provoke f5, when you played g6 I realized that now my plan was in jeopardy because you could recapture with the g pawn in case of exf5 and this would leave me in very bad shape. But all in all my plan was to build a fortress and get good drawing chances.

I think my first two moves after losing the exchange, in hindsight, were what changed the course of the game. I played Rd2 and then I played my Rook back to d1. There were no productive plans until you played d5, so I just waited. But from the other side this waiting is admitting defeat. I am telling you that I am lost. I am telling you you have all the time in the world (which you actually do).

I did not like your plan of bringing the King to the queenside. I thought a lot of my chances were relying on that passed pawn and with your king to defend it would be harder for me to draw. I think bringing the king to c8 is fine.

At some point, however, I realized that you were not going to open up the position. The biggest turning point for me was when you played d4. From there I was once again playing for a win, and even if you don't drop the rook I think I have at least a draw. At that point I have blockaded your passed pawn and my pawns on the queenside become dangerous very quickly.

A quote phaedrus left on one of your posts made a lasting impression on me, and put into words something that I have been incorporating in to my game subconciously: 'a very significant difference between masters and class players is that the masters tend to raise tension and that classplayers tend to resolve tension'

It is a real challenge to break out of a method of thinking. And I used to approach the board looking at the problems and trying to offer solutions to the problems, ie resolve the tension. The reason why is that the position is hard to evaluate with the problems on the board. I think this is part of why you did not go into the complications of opening the game. You could not get an accurate evaluation of the game with more lines open. It was difficult to assess how and when and why to open lines.

One of my major turning points in chess was when I realized that gaining an advantage or beating someone for 10-20 moves means absolutely NOTHING. It doesn't matter if you have a won position, it doesn't matter if you are up material. There's no such thing as 'I should have won', only I won or I lost. And when I saw this video (this is such a classic, I LOVE this video) I knew you found the right idea. It's hard to admit that you didn't play well. But for improvement's sake it must be done.

BTW, I always thought that Affleck's rant in Boiler Room was just an imitation of GlenGarry GlenRoss, both are good though.

Wahrheit said...

Kevin, thanks much for your comment, I pretty much agree with everything you will be a few more days before I post this game, probably, but for now I'll just say it does look harder to win than it seemed at the time!