Monday, March 31, 2008

Save Two Birds With One Move

I was going to name this one “Don’t Panic! Part Deux” in honor of Leslie Nielsen’s latest movie “Superhero Movie”, but I decided recycling titles was lame and besides, Nielsen was never in “Hot Shots! Part Deux”. Although panic was probably the underlying systemic error, I realized that I repeated another kind of sporadic error that I should have learned from years ago.

Here is the older error from three years ago at Far West Open 2005. I was playing Black and was down the exchange and a pawn, but I set up a combination that should win back some material and give me equal chances. However, I only saw the beginning part of the combination. White has just taken a pawn on 27.Rxa7.

Black to move and gain material. Try to accurately analyze at least five ply. My error and solution are at the bottom.

Round 4 of Far West Open 2008 was against another kid, a 9th grader. Not that I’m well traveled or that I follow the Bay Area scholastic scene, but I had never heard of him until this tournament. My main source of information was Michael Aigner’s blog of this very tournament. I knew this kid must be quite strong because he came out on top of the blitz tournament ahead of both Michael and a Fide Master.

The next morning, a fellow club expert who had seen my material deficit in the endgame asked, “You didn’t resign that ending did you? Knight and rook pawn versus king is not trivial.” I had a small panic attack that I threw away significant swindling chances by resigning, but looking at the endgame later, an expert should be aware of the stalemate danger and be capable of avoiding it. After all, what else would I have been playing for? Basically, White works his king to g6 and his knight to f7 and the h-pawn waltzes in. Only if White neglects to use the knight to guard h8 (or at least be within one check) when the pawn advances to h7, can Black swindle a draw.

During the postmortem, I felt like I was analyzing with a phenomenon. His suggestions seemed to go straight to the heart of the position; no second best continuations here. Bad ideas suggested by me were quickly refuted. I came away a bit envious thinking, “Damn! I gotta get me a brain like that.” Still, I count it a moral victory that I managed to hang close until 26...Qxd4?? Both Steven Zierk and Daniel Naroditsky finished in a tie for second in the Open Section at 4.5/6. Two of their nine points came just from me. If I break down my tournament demographically, I scored 0.5/3 against those under age 18 and 2.5/3 against those over age 18.

At this point I had gone 0.5/2 in day one, and 1.0/2 in day two. Dare I hope that day three could be even better? I've already given it away in the previous paragraph, but stay tuned.

In the diagram, White erroneously allowed me to play 27...e3! Now both the Bd2 and the Ng5 are hanging. 28.fxe3 Rxg5 29.e4. My elation became deflation. I never could find 29...Nf4! until after I had moved 29...Rg4?? and of course he took with 30.exd5, eventually winning the game. When I had two pieces under attack, one being a knight, I was blind to the possibility that I could save both. In neither case was I in such serious time trouble that I couldn't sit for another minute. If I can’t see such an elementary defensive move with the position in front of me, I have little chance of finding it three ply deep in a combination. I think I’m going to revive my Wetzell-inspired flashcard training (coincidentally halted right before the 2005 Far West) with this being the first new card.

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