Sunday, 28 October 2018

A painful (but important) lesson

Sometimes a defeat can be difficult to swallow. But this is all part of the learning journey. 

Chess is tough at times and often very unforgiving.

This past week I experienced one of my worst defeats I can remember in a long time, completely collapsing from a winning position and as a result, missing a great opportunity to win my first SCL (Slow Chess League) Monthly Challenge.

Past monthly winners of the SCL are invited to join the SCL champions league at the start of every new year so I now only have 2 more months to attempt to qualify: November and December.

I am, however, determined to REALLY learn from this defeat, so as to prevent such an occurrence from happening again.

Here is the game annotated in full by me.

A game that I liked (ChessBase 14)
[Event "Live Chess"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2018.10.24"] [Round "?"] [White "Myself"] [Black "Opponent"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D02"] [WhiteElo "1890"] [BlackElo "1616"] [Annotator "Dr_Chessdad"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [TimeControl "2700+45"] {Quite a high stakes game. Winning this would give me the chance to win October SCL which allows me to qualify for next year's SCL championships in Jan 2019. My opponent was rated almost 300 points lower than me and I had the White pieces to boot. Never was a better opportunity than this.} 1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 {my trusty London. I have been playing with this system since graduation from medical school which is over 7 years now. The theory has developed a long way since then.} Nf6 3. e3 c5 4. Nd2 Nc6 5. c3 e6 6. Ngf3 Bd6 {so far so good. My opponent has walked right into my preparation. I had spent very little on the clock here and had even more time then my starting amount!} 7. Bg3 O-O 8. Bd3 b6 {Here White has tried many moves...} 9. e4 $1 {this is the one i like best for now} (9. Ne5) (9. Qe2) (9. Bb5 {have all been tried before.}) 9... dxe4 $6 {this natural looking move actually gives Black a tough time as White gets good initative.} ({The counter intuiative move} 9... Be7 $1 {has shown to be best in master practice.} 10. e5 {the game's pawn structure takes on a very french advanced-like theme with pawns on e5/d4/c3} Nh5 $11 {with some moves being tried here.}) 10. Nxe4 Nxe4 11. Bxe4 Bb7 12. dxc5 Bxc5 13. Qa4 $1 { The queen develops and threatens to win material on c6. Already here White scores excellently in practice.} Qc8 $2 {Protecting the knight but fails to spot a tactical resource for White} (13... Rc8 14. Rd1 Qe7 15. O-O Rfd8 16. Rfe1 h6 17. Rxd8+ Qxd8 18. Rd1 Qe8) 14. Bxh7+ $1 {the start of a winning attack. Amazingly I had prepped for this line just hours before. Imagine my delight when I saw it appear over the chessboard.} Kxh7 15. Qh4+ Kg8 (15... Kg6 $4 16. Qg5+ Kh7 17. Qh5+ Kg8 18. Ng5 {is mate in 8}) 16. Ng5 {The next few moves are pretty much forced.} Rd8 17. Qh7+ Kf8 18. Qh8+ Ke7 19. Qxg7 Rf8 { I remember distinctively thinking to myself here that I had pretty much won the game and the result was just a matter of 'time'. As a result, my mind drifted into an 'easy' mood.} 20. Rd1 $2 {[%cal Ga1d1] A very natural looking move made only aftter a few minutes thought. My plan was Nh7 followed by Bh4 and I couldn't really see how Black could defend. However, after nearly 15 mins thought, my opponent found an amazing resource for Black. Can you spot it?} (20. O-O $1 {was simple and clean. Get the king into safetly and centralized the rooks. Black will have a torrid time defending his king} { stockfish gives the best defensive line as} e5 21. Bxe5 Qf5 22. Bg3 Rg8 23. Rfe1+ Kd7 24. Rad1+ Bd4 $1 (24... Nd4 $1 25. Qxf7+ Qxf7 26. Nxf7 Bd5 27. Ne5+ Kc8 28. b4 Nc2 29. Re2 Bd4 30. Rxc2 Bxe5 31. Rxd5 Bxg3 32. hxg3) 25. Qxf7+ Qxf7 26. Nxf7) 20... Nd4 $3 {Black finds the only move which keeps him in the game. Blocks the d file and threatens ..Nf5/Nc2 ideas} 21. cxd4 $6 (21. Rxd4 $1 { was best.} Bxd4 22. Qxd4 Qc5 23. Qh4 Qf5 24. Ne4+ f6 25. Bd6+ Kf7 26. Bxf8 Bxe4 27. f3 Bc6 28. Ba3 $11) 21... Bb4+ 22. Kf1 $4 {I had failed to recognise that the c file was open!} (22. Ke2 Qc2+ 23. Ke3 Rac8 {and now Black also has an attack}) 22... Qc2 $1 {And White is forced to part with too much material.} ({ I had calculated this originally.} 22... Ba6+ 23. Kg1 Qc2 24. Ra1 $11) 0-1

Take Home Lessons

Time management. 

Honestly, I should have taken more time to think through my moves, esp after 20..Nd4!! It's called SLOW chess league for a reason. Since I had gained so much time on the clock thanks to my opening preparation, I  should have invested it back into working thru the different variations and drawing the right conclusions. Not spotting 22...Qc2 is truly inexcusable at my level. 

'It ain't over till it's over'.

I realize that I have a bad mental habit: I tend to err on the side of laziness and not think hard enough for my opponent. As a result, I am prone to overlooking my opponent's threats and resources which lay the foundations of many many defeats. In short, I don't think hard enough for my opponent. 
I also tend to give up too easily when my position is starting to crack.  Both of these attitudes have got to change if I want to get better. 

Chess is a struggle which reflects life: Nothing good ever comes easy.  You have to work really hard to bag the victory. This is probably why victory in chess tastes so sweet.

Conclusion

I hope that this will be the last time I throw away such a big advantage in a competitive game of chess. We all make mistakes in our lives, just don't make the same mistakes twice!













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