Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect in science refers to chaos theory where small things can exert a great effect. Edward Lorenz coined the term when he conjectured that a hurricane can form as a result of a butterfly flapping its wings. In Jurassic Park, mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) demonstrated chaos by dripping drops of water on the curved knuckle of Ellie Sattler's (Laura Dern) hand. The movie entitled The Butterfly Effect explored various outcomes when Ashton Kutcher traveled to the past to try to change his fate as well as those of his girlfriend and best friend. Ray Bradbury's short story A Sound of Thunder also utilized a butterfly when the outcome of an election in the present was changed after a time traveler accidentally stepped on a Cretaceous butterfly. Florida's butterfly ballot played a chaos-inducing part in 2000's POTUS election.

I suppose that a butterfly could be a suitable symbol for the rebirth of my chess career, but it remains to be seen if this bug has the lifespan of an autumn Monarch or an adult mayfly.

I had a pretty easy time of it in my first tournament game in almost two years. I did outrate my opponent by 400 points, but my opponent blundered on move 4 and never really recovered.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.d5 Bc5 4.Bg5?

Black has two choices to take advantage. I didn't even consider 5...Ne4 which is a little unclear if White resists 6.Bxd8 Bxf2# and instead chooses 6.Be3 Bxe3 7.fxe3 Qh4+ 8.g3 Nxg3 9.Nf3 Qh6 10.Rg1

Instead of that, I chose the pawn-winning route of 5...Bxf2+ 6.Kxf2, but I spent a decent amount of time trying to choose between 6...Ne4+ and 6...Ng4+. At the time, I thought that they were close to equivalent, but it turns out that one is clearly much better than the other. I suppose I could blame it on greedy and holey analysis where I began to see my queen taking 7...Qxg5 and then when 8.Nf3 Qe3 and then if 9.Qc2 then 9...Nf2, trying to win the exchange. Finally, I decided Ne4 is more useful when I want to prevent White from exchanging queens with 9.Qd2. I did look at the variations where the White King marches forward to g3 or e3, but I didn't look far enough to see that 6...Ne4+? runs into trouble when White plays 7.Ke3 Nxg5 8.h4!. I missed that the knight is trapped. Little things matter and 6...Ng4+! followed by 7...Qxg5 is the accurate way to stay one whole pawn ahead. As it turns out, my opponent failed to punish 6...Ne4+? by retreating 7.Ke1. By move 11, I was a whole rook ahead.

This morning I missed problem 78837 at ChessTempo where I completely missed an important variation.
After ...g3-g2
I started off preoccupied about where my king would go if I started with 1.Rh7 threatening mate 1...g1Q+. So my candidate was 1.Kf6. Assuming 1...g1Q, I worked it out for a few seconds that I would have forced checkmate after 2.Rf7+ Kg8 3.Rg7+ Kh8 4.Rh7+ Kg8 5.Rbg7+ Kf8 6.Rh8#. I congratulated myself for seeing that Kf6 protects Rg7 so that Rh8 mates. So I went ahead and moved and got the answer wrong. Black need not play 1...g1Q. Instead a little prophylaxis goes a long way. 1.Kf6? Rh4! stops the mating attack. Oh yeah. Rooks attack backwards also, protecting h7. So the correct maneuver is 1.Rf7+ Kg8 2.Rg8+ Kh8 3.Rh7+ Kg8 4.Rbg8+ Kf8 5.Kf6. Now the mate is set and 5...Rh4 6.Rxh4 serves only to delay the inevitable. In this case, a bunch of seemingly useless checks make all the difference in the outcome.

Commentators on this problem noted that Nimzowitsch discusses rooks on the seventh rank in My System. In Chapter 3, he talks about the enveloping maneuver and the crucial square h7.

Limited mobility and backwards attacks seem to be a disproportionate number of my blind spots. I guess I just need more practice. But trying to maintain the fun of chess is my primary objective for now.

No comments: