Saturday, January 5, 2008

Dragon's Lair

"Dragon's Lair: The fantasy adventure where you become a valiant knight, on a quest to rescue the fair princess from the clutches of an evil dragon. You control the actions of a daring adventurer, finding his way through the castle of a dark wizard, who has enchanted it with treacherous monsters and obstacles. In the mysterious caverns below the castle, your odyssey continues against the awesome forces that oppose your efforts to reach the Dragon's Lair. Lead on, adventurer. Your quest awaits!"

One of my favorite video games growing up was Dragon’s Lair. If I were to join the Knights Errant, I would be sorely tempted to replace the lame Sir Soapstone with Dirk the Daring. Dirk was always dying quickly and spectacularly. Man, did that machine eat quarters, two at a time. Now that I own the CD from Digital Leisure, I can use it to illustrate my chess blog. In a couple of scenes, slithering briars did Dirk in. Dragons and briars: that’s all the tie-ins I need for yet another themed post!

In my last post, I compared the thicket of variations in opening theory to a briar patch. Well, in Thursday night’s game, I dived right in and not surprisingly got totally excoriated. I decided to go into the heavy theory of the Sicilian Dragon, which I’ve only experienced from the Black side. The Dragon used to be one of my favorite defenses, but I got tired of being outbooked by teenage chess players whose ratings far underestimated their dragon-specific proficiency. Plus, perhaps the greatest dragon slayer of all time said that all he had to do was “sac, sac, mate.” My opponent had shown me what he does in a certain line of the 9.0-0-0 Sicilian Dragon that I always found annoying as Black. Armed with my new direction and this inside information, I decided I would turn the tables and see if I could surprise my opponent.

It didn't work out. The dragon bishop had me pinned with back rank threats in the late middlegame Just when I neutralized the dragon's fiery breath down the long diagonal, a pair of pint-sized Giddy Goons marched down the board and finished me off.

In the game, Dirk the Daring has five lives. In my postgame analysis, Fritz showed me five chances to get an even game. But I blew them all.

At the end of Dragon’s Lair, Dirk meets the dragon Singe and the love interest Princess Daphne. This is me after Nathaniel’s dragon got through with me.

My opponent claimed that by move 21, we were still in his opening theory. I had only memorized up to move 18. But there were two surprises: In my losing effort, I had fun. And I learned a few things. Many thanks to my opponent for explaining some nuances to me. His technique was not quite perfect, but good enough to win. My swindling technique was far from perfect, but I placed myself in a position to at least to have some chances. Strange how I didn’t feel nearly so bad as I felt after my last loss a few weeks ago. I’m on a streak of three losses in a row with five games coming up against experts. I hope I don’t become too comfortable with losing. I consider myself a pretty good sport - win or lose - with consistent gentlemanly behavior one of my highest ideals, but I still want to win and win in fine style. Without a competitive spirit, I might as well take up being a problemist.

Two knights battling on a chessboard

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