Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Black Hole

Originally I entitled this post "Event Horizon" because of the difficulties in calculating long variations. I’ve never seen the Sci-Fi/Slasher named “Event Horizon” so I decided to change to a movie I had seen, Disney's 1979 The Black Hole. In the movie, there are two main robots: a good R2D2-like robot named Vincent and a 7-foot tall frankenstinian evil robot named Maximillian.

Here’s a diagram from my game. Black to move.
One of my favorite chess sayings is the Indian proverb “Chess is a sea in which a gnat can drink and an elephant can bathe.” Well, sometimes it’s a frickin’ black hole that sucks up all your creativity, ambition, energy, and time.

The reason why I’m so annoyed is that I thought I had this position 90% figured out, but it turns out I knew only 10% of what was happening. I was playing Black and I had just wrested the initiative from White. For this blog, I was all set to moralize on how White neglected his development, fell behind, lost his f2 pawn to a deep combination, and couldn’t find a safe place to put his king. But my beautiful combination was torn to shreds by an evil robot named Fritz.

This is what I thought in the above position: I’ve piled up my knight and rook on the soft spot of White’s position at f2. The only defender available is the queen and even though I’m a pawn down, I’d “buy” White’s queen and f2 pawn for my rook and knight, so I’m definitely going to capture on f2. Now which piece to capture with? If I take with the knight, White can legally castle short and take advantage of the fact that we both have open f-files. I might even be behind in development because of my undeveloped c8 bishop. What if I take with the rook? It’s pretty risky since the only thing guarding it is the g5 knight. If after Rxf2, Bxg5 is definitely out because of Rxd2. What about Rxf2, h3, removing the guard? That’s trouble, but oh wait, I have Qh4. Discovered check is a very strong threat. But then hxg4 threatens my queen which is supposed to deliver the discovered check, so I might have to use the double check to fight my way out. Let me first check out Qxh1+, then Kxf2 and I come out an exchange ahead with Qxa1. My queen is offside, but I should be able to get out with Bd7 and Rf8+. Going back to hxg4, does Rxe2 dbl. ch. work? Kxe2 is pretty much forced, but this connects the two rooks and I can’t capture Qxh1 any more. What about Bxg4+? This almost forces him into playing Kf1 cutting off the rooks’ mutual defense, but he has the resource of Nf3. Then I get exf3+, but White gets gxf3 and my bishop and queen are both attacked. I gave up calculating Bxf3+ Kxf3 Rf8+ because it was beyond my “event horizon”. 16…Rxf2 17.h3 Qh4 18.hxg4 Rxe2+ 19.Kxe2 Bxg4+ 20.Nf3 exf3+ 21.gxf3 Bxf3+ 22.Kxf3 Rf8+. Thirteen ply make my head hurt. At least, I have the other variation 16…Rxf2 17.h3 Qh4 18.hxg4 Qxh1+ 19.Kxf2 Qxa1 and I’m ahead in material. So I made the move Rxf2.

It turns out the variation with the double check 18…Rxe2+ is better because after, 22...Rf8+ follows 23.Kg2 Qg5+ 24.Kh2 Rf5! 25.Rhe1 Qh5+ 26.Kg1 Rg5+ 27.Kf1 Qf7+ 28.Qf2 Rf5 29.Qxf5 Qxf5. Black has more pawns and a safer king in the duel between the Black Queen and the White Rooks. And I only had to calculate 27 ply to get here! The variation I settled on at the end of the last paragraph is bad because of 20.Nb3 Qb1 21.Qd8+ and White gets at least a perpetual check. In the end, Rxf2 is a good move and White’s best answer is probably h3, drawing Black’s queen to h4. Then White castles long and uses the time Black takes to unwind his pieces to launch a counterattack.

I guess since Rxf2 ended up being sound, I can still moralize that White lost because he fell behind on development. Sometimes this is the advantage of playing Black: White plays too loose, overestimating his opening advantage. I have been guilty of doing the same thing and accentuating the mistake by opening up the position as well.

Why should I be complaining about my third win of 2008? Winning with luck and serendipity seems cheap. Winning like I know what I'm doing is where I have to be to get to the next level. Check out Dana Mackenzie's analysis of IM Josh Friedel's win for an example of what I'm talking about. Interestingly enough, Dana also has a more recent post talking about good and bad aspects of computer chess.


Wahrheit said...

Eric once wrote a post on how he felt like and art thief when winning with the Budapest, I wonder how he felt when he saw it from the other side? He didn't use the line I drew with against him last year, I guess he thought it was a little wimpy.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, Hi Ernie, I've been really busy of late and therefore haven't been able to post on this interesting Rated Side Game.

Here are my thoughts: I've never lost using the Budapest and I consider nearly sound, but it is easy to avoid--just play 2. Nf3 and Black will need a "companion" defense.

Robert: I remember our draw and I consider it the best line and is the line I would normally have used.

The reason and the sole reason I didn't use it against Ernie was because I wanted to at least try out the sharper alternative myself and since I wasn't doing particularly well in the tournament, this game seemed the time and place for an experiment.

There's not much left to play for after 6. Nbd2. White has the slight advantage with some space and the Bishop-pair, but it's probably not enough. I think this is the main reason why it is not particularly popular with GM's rather than any lasting defect in the defense.

In the future, I would play the easier game, which is the line Robert used to draw against me as it is the safer method. The doubled-pawns in "this position" are a source of trouble for White, but he wants to try and refute the Budapest, then he needs to look at this line.

I am very sporadic in my play these days, but I can say this: it is very dangerous to play the same things against me more than once; so if anyone has that intention, then do so at own peril!

It is also not my nature to use up so much time in the opening. I normally prefer my "deep thinks" to be in the Middlegame.

Wahrheit said...

Ernie, since I happen to be stopping by I thought I'd say that your round robin idea for the Club Ch. qualifier is a good one. Now I just have to get in there...

chessloser said...

"Well, sometimes it’s a frickin’ black hole that sucks up all your creativity, ambition, energy, and time."

perfectly said...

"Winning with luck and serendipity seems cheap. Winning like I know what I'm doing is where I have to be to get to the next level."

i feel the exact same way. really, this whole post is about how i feel, it's like we are the same guy, except you are waaaaaay better at chess and more intelligent and stuff...

Soapstone said...

Wahrheit - Lombardy said "All openings are sound below master level." But since master level is what I'm aiming for, my opening choices are somewhat dubious. Still, I like the asymmetric, yet direct clash that comes from challenging White's central pawn on move one or move two. There's a certain kinship between the Scandinavian and the Budapest in this regard.

Eric - 2.Nf3 usually leads to my King's Indian repertoire without the dreaded Four Pawns Attack. I tried to play the Budapest against Alsasua and he avoided it by 3.d5. Theoretical debates are fun, especially when they motivate me to actually learn my openings in depth.

CL - I humbly accept compliments on my wordsmithing from the Grandmaster of wordsmithing. I still can't get over your "clown posse insane" phrase. When I started out blogging, I thought, "I can put words together in coherent sentences and draw on various corners of my experience to entertain and/or educate." But I now realize that writing is much harder than that and like anything to get above mediocrity, it's going to take practice and work. Good luck in Sturbridge! And remember to have fun! I've never met her, but Polly seems like a very nice and grounded chess nut.

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Ernie, huh? I had a strange feeling you were trying to avoid my "Four Pawns Attack", you must have liked my game against Simanis recently.

I probably would have had to fall back on a much more tranquil line that leads to nothing.

Wahrheit said...

And by the way, I think your writing here is darn good, not mediocre; you have a nice way of relating stories to games, and vice versa.

qxpch said...

Hi Ernie,

Thanks for your links back to my blog! I think your writing is fine, you have nothing to worry or apologize about.

By the way, your experience in this game is similar to the one I wrote about recently, where I analyzed a variation 14 ply deep and then lost track of where one of my opponent's pieces was -- and as a result, I didn't play that variation, when it was in fact winning! I discussed this all in gruesome detail, in the post just before the one you linked to about computers and humans in chess.

Boy, I would love to have Josh's control at the chess board. Instead, the middlegame is the phase of the game where I'm likely to be running out of time and therefore most out of control.

Soapstone said...

Eric - As a King's Indian player, I love a good pawn storm as long as it's moving away from me. The Four Pawns is psychologically disturbing because the storm instead comes up the middle and at the player of the Black pieces. The wing storms are quelled and the game transforms into an open fight over the center which is again, pulling the hedgehog-like King's Indian player out of his element.

Wahrheit and QxPch. Thanks for your support. It's just so hard to gauge whether eccentric egocentric blogging offers any real value to the audience. I suppose it's my own fault, really. I'm too lazy to hook up with a site meter and I have a tendency to not answer comments written here. Why should I expect feedback if I don't even return the favor?

Wahrheit said...

C'mon Ernie, the site meter takes about 2.5 minutes to set up--and then you just do a post titled "Jessica Simpson Nude Chess" and watch the Google refs roll in...