Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I lost again last Thursday. I wavered about what theme I could use for this post. I was going to whine about how difficult it is to be an expert among masters. I was going to say that I feel like Bruno Kirby next to Robin Williams in “Good Morning Vietnam”. In my heart, I know I’m good at chess. I was going to say that TD stresses and disappointing results have taken their toll and that I was going to take a break from chess after I fail to qualify for the club championship this Thursday. I was going to sink into a morass of self-doubt and bitterness. It seems the chess blogosphere has a flurry of bad weather lately. I tried to go against my natural tendency toward morosity and try for levity, but I got nothin’.

I consider my opponent the strongest player in the club. He apparently has some bad days like the rest of us, but on good days, he can beat regular masters and draw IMs and GMs. After a couple rating performances around 2350, he seemed genuinely surprised that his FIDE rating was so high and that he could just claim a FIDE Master title. There was some argument about what it takes to become an established rated player in FIDE, but the current rulebook says nine games is it. It’s going to cost him $105, but I think most of us untitled players would think earning any certified master’s title – and perhaps flaunting it a little - would be priceless.

Like my other two games against the 2100+ rated club members, I didn’t feel like I was in this game at all. When I blundered, I tried to hang on and fight for some kind of counterplay, but I could find none. I agree with drunknknite when he says you have to fight to refute the erroneous idea of the one-move turning point. But I didn’t feel like I went down fighting so much as I rolled over and piddled on myself in these three games.

Before the game, I had good reconnaissance that he would play a Four Pawns’ Attack against my King’s Indian. I tried to book up with my coach, but one two-hour study session can’t erase years of floundering through my openings. Afterward, my opponent and I discussed the theory of this opening as well as the Budapest Opening that I experiment with sometimes. It was disheartening to see that if I knew my lines up to move twelve or so, he knew them at least to move twenty.

The thing I find most discouraging about the quest for the master title is that there are people like Edwin and Dana who have made it, but in a sense, just barely. Edwin has never been a National Master in the USCF system. Dana has been a National Master, but his rating drifts in the 2100s these days. But they both seem light years ahead of me in their chess calculation ability, and their opening and endgame knowledge.

I guess the silver lining is that I'm finally learning about these openings work and I'm paying for the experience by losing. As for my intermediate-term chess plans go, we'll see what happens this Thursday and let the chips fall where they may.


frenez said...

why play into an opening that you know your opponent knows? he's probably got 20 years in the 4 pawns and you have 2 hours! you just got out booked. fischer ramdon anyone?

you just got nervous (i'm guessing)when he played e6, but that just looks scary. pxe6 is best and if ng5, bx, qx, nc7(just don't trade your bg7 for the nc3)and black is fine. even bxf3 (after e6) followed by pxe6 and then work on the e6 pawn is good and i'll bet you'll find if you play it out, you'll gradually improve until you win that e6 pawn.

i'm doing this from memory so i might have some of the moves messed up. all this unsolicited advice and 1 more: throw the computer out and do this analysis the old fashioned way. write it all out, including the sub vars, after you're done and you're sure you're right, this takes a while btw, then check it against the computer.

Wahrheit said...

As a practitioner of both sides of this opening, I might add that Ng5 a move earlier may be even stronger--then e6 gets even more bang for the buck if permitted. If 11. Ng5 Bxe2 12. Qxe2 I would rather be White.

On the other, and better, line you give after 10. ...dxe5 11. fxe5 I personally like to take on f3 first--Bxf3 12. Bxf3 Nfd7; the bishop goes to g4 in this line mainly to give itself up for the knight.

I feel a little presumptuous telling you how to play the opening but I've been playing the Four pawns as White for quite awhile (no one seems to play it against me when I'm Black).

Soapstone said...

frenez - Normally, I wouldn't play into established lines; my repertoire is typically English and Modern. But I am trying to actually learn some openings. Unfortunately, you're right. A bad strategic decision to play into the teeth of my opponent's preparation. I just hope some day someone looks back at a mutual game and asks themselves, "Why did I play into Soapstone's book?"

Perhaps I was giving a bishop too much respect, but when the white bishop takes back on f3, I kept envisioning it taking on b7 and eating my paralyzed rook on a8.

(from Steve Martin's "The Jerk") I don't need one other thing. 'Cept this laptop running Fritz at 1.8GHz. And this paddleball game. I can quit using Fritz for analysis any time I want. Thanks for the tough love. I'll try to get away from the laziness of computer analysis.

wahrheit - Youch! 10...Ne8 11.Ng5 Bxe2 12.Qxe2 dxe5 13.fxe5 Nc7 14.O-O looks strong. Black is losing after 14...Nxd5 15.e6!

Again, I was hallucinating that Bxf3 would be very strong along the diagonal, not actually finding lines.

Don't feel presumptuous. I'd like to think that I'm not too pompous to learn from anyone. “Humility, that low, sweet root,” writes the poet Thomas Moore, “from which all heavenly virtues shoot.”

qxpch said...


Edwin is a tough player. It's definitely no disgrace to lose to him. Is his FIDE rating really 2350? Or is that just an estimate of what it will be?

It's hard to know what is more frustrating ... looking up at 2200 and wondering whether you will ever get there (you) or having actually been over 2200 but now groveling around in the 2100s and wondering what has gone wrong (me). I'm sick of being an expert. I want to play in master sections. But when I do that, recently, I just get fricasseed.

On opening prep... I think one question is, what kind of opening is it? If it's a positional, strategic opening, such as an English, then I don't think you should worry about whether your opponent knows more moves than you do. If it's an ultra-sharp variation like the 4 P's variation of the King's Indian, then I really think you need to do your homework before playing it. Not just two hours of booking up for this guy, but several hours of study with the idea that you are going to play this against other people some day.


Soapstone said...

Dana - Edwin's FIDE rating is 2357(USCF 2120). He just got his official FIDE Master title last week.

Yeah, I guess it's the usual expectations thing. Here we are whining about not having a master rating while a lot of other people would be glad to be where we are.

I'm trying to sharpen my openings for general consumption which means I have to tax my memory a little more. Nothing like a gambit to inject some fun into your chess game.

ADH said...

Edwin's case is a possible argument that one can make FIDE master faster than USCF master.