Friday, June 16, 2006


I ended up taking a bye last week in the June Swiss, as the wife and child were both feeling unwell. So after a two week lay-off I was back last night to play Arlo Mann (1550) with a chance to get to 2.5 out of 3 and an opportunity to play a 1900-2000 rated player the following week. I love to take on the best players in the club whenever possible. It is only by playing on even terms with them that I can become one of the best myself.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves...because I was not on my game last night, somewhat unfocused and preoccupied with other things. Naturally, this resulted in Arlo handing me my head on a platter:

White: A. Mann (1550)
Black: R. Pearson (1613)

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cd 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be2 Nf6 7. 0-0 a6 8. Bg5 (a little unusual, but not bad. He wrote down Kh1 on his scoresheet first, and that's probably more 'normal.') Be7 9. Kh1 b5 10. a3 Bb7 11. f4 e5 (a usual response to f4 in these lines, but there is usually no possibility of Bxf6) 12. Bxf6 Bxf6? (gf would give an intersting double-edged game) 13. Nd5 Qd8 14. Nf5 ef? (I wasn't thinking, or calculating, or really looking at his possibilities. I was just moving. That's no way to play. Chess is like a fish swimming in the ocean--you've got to stay alert or you'll be eaten by another fish...) 15. Nd6+ and not only does he win a piece, but he has a dominating position with Black having no play at all. I dragged it out until move 31, which was probably too long. 1-0

So now it looks like I'll be playing Arlo's son, James (1538) next week. You can bet I'll be better prepared.

Meanwhile the Reno CC Ch. 'Elite Eight' matches were being played, and a couple of upsets are in the making. Eric Shoemaker (1860), The Sage in the Tower, rated 100 points below uber-organizer and tireless promoter of chess Jerry Weikel (1960), won with White again to take a 2-1 lead, while Edgar Reyes (1823) won against top-rated Eleuterio Alsasua (2112) to take the lead after they had drawn the first two games. Club Secretary Ernie Hong (2016) closed out his match with David Peterson (1847) with a third straight victory. And despite a rating difference of almost 500 points, club President Mike Filipas (1545) drew with Nevada State Champion Arkia Bayati (2031) to stay within a point at 1-2.

So, today's lesson--mental preparation to play your best is probably more important than opening preparation. Without the first, the second won't take you very far.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

June Swiss

As I noted earlier, I won the first round game last week in the Reno CC June Swiss against G. Smith (1255). The game went:

[Event "Reno CC June Swiss"]
[Site "Reno, NV"]
[Date "2006.06.08"]
[Round "1"]
[White "R. Pearson"]
[Black "G. Smith"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B41"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. c4 Nc6 6. Nc3 Bc5 7. Be3 Nxd4 8. Bxd4 Bxd4 9. Qxd4 Qf6 10. e5 Qh6 11. Ne4 Ne7 12. Nd6+ Kf8 13. Qb6 Nc6 14. Qc7 Ke7 15. Rd1 Nxe5 16. Nxc8+ Raxc8 17. Qxe5 Rhd8 18. Be2 d6 19. Qe4 Rc7 20. O-O f5 21. Qe3 g5 22. f4 g4 23. Bd3 Kf7 24. b4 Qf6 25. Rfe1 Re7 26. Bc2 Qb2 27. Bb3 h5 28. c5 d5 29. Rxd5 Rxd5 30. Bxd5 Qf6 31. Bc4 h4 32. Qe5 Qg6 33. a4 h3 34. g3 Qf6 35. b5 Qxe5 36. Rxe5 axb5 37. axb5 1-0

The interesting thing is that on move 15 I thought I had him all tied up and ready for the kill--but as Nevada State Champion Arkia Bayati pointed out in the postmortem, instead of the piece-losing 15. Nxe5, Rd8! would have given good counterplay.

I have a tendency to think too highly of my position and miss opportunties for 'the other guy,' which is one of my biggest weaknesses and something that's limiting my progress. Tonight I will probably be playing a high-rated A-player or expert. As part of my training, I'm going to have a note under my scoresheet that says something like "Look for his good moves, too!" We'll see if that helps.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Fine Art of Annotation (Part I)

After some serious vacation time I'm back to the chess blog! I won my first round game in the Reno CC June Swiss, but as promised below it's time for a little something different from me, me, me--I'll get a brief description of last Thursday's game up tomorrow.

What I'd like to pontificate on now are annotations, the good, the bad and the ugly (a nod to this by my friend The Sage in the Tower).

I believe that one can learn a good deal by studying unannotated master games, but quality annotations by strong players add a lot of valuable information, especially when the annotator is one of the players of the game in question. He or she is able to put context, color and psychological considerations into the notes, if they so choose, that even a super-GM who wasn't present can't really understand. But some writers are superb annotators of both their own and other's games, while others, even World Champions, don't always hit the mark.

I have a few 'must haves' that need to be present in order to consider the notes to a game of to be excellent, and also a laundry list of 'annotating blunders (?)' that are for me, as a critic, inexcusable. Here they are, with examples:

Must Haves

First and foremost, every decisive game must have a question mark attached to at least one of the loser's moves. Just about every chessplayer (with Weaver Adams and Hans Berliner [see also here] as notable exceptions) strongly believes that if both sides make nothing but good moves, a game will end in a draw. Sure, White has some advantage, as the approximately 56-44 percent edge over several million master games shows, but it's not enough to win if Black makes no bad move. So it really annoys me when I play over a decisive game and the annotator doesn't identify the 'losing move' or moves. If not, what good are they? I vividly recall a Karpov game he annotated in Chess Life against some poor IM, where K went through the first 17 moves with brief, innocuous comments, gave his move 18 a (!) and implied that the other guy was already lost, or almost lost. Okay, Tolya, then where was the question mark?! Of course, he was 'protecting' his opening 'secrets,' but if that was a concern he never should have chosen to publish anything on this game in the first place.

The other thing that is required for me to consider annotations good is at least some mimimal commentary in words. I'm playing over the game for enjoyment, as well as for the practical goal of improving my playing strength. So the famous Informant-style notes, with nothing but variations and symbols, have never excited me much. But that's just me, I suppose. To a professional ploughing through hundreds of games for purely practical reasons, perhaps words are just a waste of time. I recall one game by a Polgar sister where the all notes went something like '32. f4 h5 33. Bc5 h4 34. Bxe7 Qxe7 (...Bxe7 35. Ng5 wins) 35. Qc3 Qf6 36. Qxc7 wins.' Only they were mostly 8 or more moves long...and all the 'wins' happened to be for the annotator. While Susan writes some very instructive material for us amateurs these days, whichever Polgar this was seemed basically to be saying 'I saw everything, every move, and this poor 2450 fish never had a chance.' Probably they didn't mean it that way, but to this reader it seemed to have that tone.

I'm going on so long here I think I'll make this a two-part post. Next, more pet peeves, some specific writers that I especially admire, and some that I don't like very much.