Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Skill, Luck, or Pity?

Last Thursday I played against my friend and coach Nate Garingo. The night started off rocky. Jerry was late and the TD duties once again sucked me in. I can't seem to avoid working for the club. I asked myself, "Why didn't someone else make the pairing cards by now?" "Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in." I'm trying to avoid responsibilities because they detract from the fun of the game. So the pairings were almost an hour late. My passive aggressiveness kept me from suggesting that I could pair the round in 2 minutes on my computer. Jerry wouldn't approve of the computer and USCF pairings anyway. It's his tournament, not mine.

So my mindset was that even though the round was starting an hour late, I would still get home at a decent hour because my defeat would be quick. When Nate and I sat down, he asked if this was our sixth game. I thought it was our fifth. He recounted each of our games by their openings. I didn't remember the first one, but eventually his description of an errant knight maneuver in the English jogged my memory. A couple dragons, a bayonet King's Indian, and a Scandinavian. Yeah that's five. Nate won them all. This would be the sixth.

The game itself also started off rocky. It was my second French game ever. Book was quickly thrown out. First I made mistakes, then he made some. And then a surprising thing happened...

Here are three crucial positions from the game:

White to play. White has wedged his Queen into a tight spot. Is he genuinely in trouble? What's the best move for White?

White to play. Can White get some compensation for his pawn?

Black to play. How should Black deal with the threat of Nc7+?

The answers are in the analysis of the game:

I was proud that I found 11.Ne5, 17.Nxd5, and worked out almost all the lines of how to rescue my knight. I'm disappointed that I didn't see moves like the first 13.Bb5+ and the analysis Kb8 Rxg5 idea. Most importantly, I broke through a psychological: that I could no longer beat the strong tactical players in the club.

Capablanca said, "A good player is always lucky." "Luck" in chess seems to happen when your opponent's blind spots coincide with with your good plans. I was lucky I didn't blunder 9.Qh8?, didn't miss Ne5! with alternatives h4/g3/Be2, didn't choose 19.Bxc6, and didn't "blunder" 22.f3. I was lucky Nxd5 worked out with the knight getting away. I was lucky Nate missed 13...Bd7, 14...Rh8, 17...Rb8, and overlooked 20.Rxb5.

I half-jokingly accused Nate of throwing the game in order to prop up a friend's fragile chess ego. My case would include points like: he chose to give up his book advantage, he allowed the trade of queens which dampened his dynamic strength, he miscalculated the critical phase, and he shuffled his pieces around almost aimlessly (Nb8-d7-f6xh5-f6-d7, Bc8-d7-c6-b5-c6). Funny enough, the last game we played was 364 days prior in the 2008 edition of the Holiday Swiss. He knew that my enthusiasm for chess had tanked around then. Nate assured me that he wouldn't lose a game on purpose, but my ISTJ personality keeps the nagging doubts close.

Nate and I have discussed chess and pity before. I think Larry Evans tells a story about the most beautiful chess move in history involving someone resigning before his opponent's flag fell. This move doesn't strike me so beautiful as dumb. Chess is not a place for mercy and pity. If you play with pity for your opponent and somehow play weaker because of it, you not only hurt your game, but you also rob your opponent of part of the spoils of victory because you have only allowed him to triumph over your sympathetic chess avatar. "Oh, I was trying to go easy on him" is a rather lame excuse unless you're trying encourage a child, and even then, it's questionable. A French Proverb says "You cannot play chess if you are kind-hearted."


Eric Shoemaker said...

I have a much more practical approach.

1) I never throw games or hand out draws, not even to friends. If they play well, they earn it.

2) When I win, it was due the Karpov/Capablanca skill that I have in me...somewhere.

3) When I lose, my opponent really should have been in a casino, because it was obvious to me and usually everyone else that he got extremely lucky.

64 squres of mind said...

Roughly early October, I was analyzing games from Radjabov - Alekseev the game is very entertaining for me because;

a.) Radjabov and I has a lot of things in common when it comes of repertoire and style.

b.) Alekseev played sounds, nonviolent and anti-tactical chess that suggest "deeper understanding of chess"

After I went over through on that game I became somehow, obsess of end game!

Going back on our game, my game plan is so simple.

1.) Avoid dynamic line so that I would be able to use my "real chess understanding" because if I play my repertoire it will be Sicilian and that line does not give me chance to play me new chess.

2.) Conserve pawn structure- I decided to play French hoping that you will play "exchange variation" because I know that you love playing equal position and I am falling in love with that, too.

2.) Play endgame and beat you there- the most tangible point is to see a position (endgame) that you were studying spending hours and hours.

At the end, I failed because I overlooked you Rxb5 which leaves me nothing! I must admit that I miscalculated it. When I played ... Nd7 I already saw those position, but like what I said, I overlooked the Rxb5.

After the Nc7+, I don't have a choice but to move my king to d8.

Sometimes there's a combination that requires decision 5 moves or more ahead but no turning back when you execute it and the only best way to deal with that is to stick your head on that plan.

I played good, but you played best. That game is, indeed, my best learning game ever. It is also worth mentioning that Radjabov played goofy chess "it is funny because we played like amateurs" he said after they played ping pong blunders.

Aronian,L (2737) - Radjabov,T (2744) [A15] Grand Slam Final Bilbao ESP (10), 13.09.2008

Also shows that terrible blunders happens even in the 2700 GMs, on that game Aronian was totally winning but blundered at move 45.Reb2?? turning 1-0 into 0-1.

At the end, you should compliment yourself because you deserve it. It is funny because you are thinking reason how did you win while other people thinking bunch of excuses to make themselves never beaten player which commonly result of being "unhealthy person" I called unhealthy because they would say "my stomach hurts that is why I lost" or "I am sick" and "I am dizzy" whatever.

Bottom line is, I was trying to kill you but you killed me!

Have a happy thanksgiving Ernie!

November 26, 2009 2:30 AM