Saturday, January 19, 2008

Deus Ex Machina

Back in the days of ancient Greek theater, there was this crane that plucked people off the stage in representation of a divine intervention, producing a miraculous ending to a drama where everything seemed doomed. The intervention of the crane was called Deus Ex Machina, literally “god from a machine”. Nowadays the phrase represents miraculous endings to stories.

The problem with the Deus Ex Machina ending is that it comes from out of nowhere and the characters, seemingly through no merit of their own get to enjoy an unearned happy ending.

Last night, I was playing at the club, with the Black pieces against a relatively new player at the club, an expert. He beat a strong expert last week with the Black pieces, so I figured he was no slouch, but I just couldn’t psych myself up to prepare for this game.

Add to this some TD drama in that one of the Class A players dropped out and I had to organize a merger of the two quads. I was polling the players and hearing arguments for and against the change while being shushed by players who had already started their games. I didn’t have high hopes for breaking my 4-game losing streak.

Here’s the quiz. In the following diagram it’s White to move. If he goes forward with a plan to hammer g6 starting with 25.Bd3, how can Black defend g6?

In the opening phase, I tried to play a Budapest Gambit or at least a King’s Indian, but my opponent countered with a Veresov, probably offering a Blackmar-Diemer, so I tried to take it into Pirc territory. My opponent played a system I’m only vaguely familiar with, basically involving a rapid h4 push. I tried to react logically, but soon I found my play in the center and queenside squelched, leaving a tough defense on the kingside. Somehow I worked a rook into an awkward but active position, but my kingside was crumbling under heavy fire much like last week. I was certain I was going to get crushed.

But suddenly, my opponent sacrificed the exchange and got no compensation. He began shaking his head sorrowfully. A few moves later, I had swapped off queens and my rook was rapidly moving to scoop up pawns. My opponent resigned rather than suffer through while I figured out the best way to win an exchange plus pawn ending.

The answer to the quiz is that after 25.Bd3 Rxe1! 26.Rxe1 Rxh4!, if White takes 27.Bxg6??, he loses to 27…Rg4!, a minor for a pawn. Backward attacks just look so weird. The potential swindle from last week required several backward moves. I think I need more practice seeing them.

Afterward we agreed he was crushing me and simply blundered in an attacking line. When people asked me how I did, my response was, “I won, but it was through no merit of my own.” It was all luck and blunder.

Normally, I have this recurring experience where I win a game of chess and then I go back home and Fritz shows me how badly my opponent and I played. When I entered the game into Fritz, I expected it to show that I was being crushed in the moves leading up to the blunder. But the damn machine surprised me again and told me that I was doing a pretty good job of defending. It doesn’t ever show White with much more than a +0.7 which is an advantage, but Black can live in many openings with that against him. I’ve not had the experience of Fritz showing me that I was doing better than I thought. Even more surprising in a game where I thought I was dead for most of the time. I still think luck had a lot to do with it, but I’m a little more satisfied that at least I put up some stubborn defense to take credit for.

1 comment:

Robert Pearson said...

Ernie, "Who's afraid of the BDG?" "Not I!" said almost everybody...

I'm kidding, but really is anything he can get after 2. .d5 as good as a mainline Pirc for white? I don't think so. Kudos for stout defense in the middlegame, however.