Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What's With That Double Vision?

Lately, I feel like a foreigner at the chess board; I am having Double Vision. My last three rated games have gone into the loss column and I must admit, in each of those games even a player rated a few hundred rating points lower than myself could spot the missed opportunities that were available in each of these losses.

My last three losses shared the following common themes:
*Exhaustion or “not well rested”
*Dismissing positional analysis in lieu of exercising supposed common chess strategies or an “easy out”.

In the end, I’m just plain seeing double vision; the result of a dull mind set.

Each of the following positions occurred in my last three losses, and each of these positions, if played correctly would have dramatically changed the game’s outcome.

Example 1:

In this game, I’m playing for the money in the final round of the Eastern Class Championships. In addition to those common themes listed above, I entered into this game with 2 hours downtime of complete boredom and a lack of respect for my opponent’s playing ability.

I’m Black and playing against the Smith-Mora Gambit. I always play the following against this gambit with 4…Nc6 5.Bc4 a6 6.Nf3 d6, but my head is locked into “forcing” a Sicilian Najdorf for some reason and I out right neglect White's early developement, thus suffering the positional consequences of not playing accurately to White’s gambit. Here is the critical position that led to Black’s demise, but if played correctly would have maintained an equal position and require White to seek out other moves or accept a draw.

In this position White is dogging after Black’s Queen and has just played 14.Bd4. Can you see the correct move for Black that would keep the positions equal? Black could just play 14…Qc7 and if White wishes to continue chasing Black’s Queen, Black would just return to …Qb6. Thus, White would need to come up with another move sequence or accept a draw. Now, here is the move that Black played; 14…Bc5? At the time, Black was thinking about inducing a bishop exchange and follow up with developing his queen-side pieces without ever giving White’s Knight on c3 any thought. White plays 15.Na4! Doh!!

Example 2:

This game was played at my local club in Natick MA. It is round 2 of a 5 round Swiss tournament. To emphasize the common themes above, I enter into this game with about 5 hours of sleep the night before and had a large latte earlier in the afternoon around 3:30pm. By the time the game starts, I’m crashing hard! All the ingredients are in place to play the game with double vision.

In this position, I’m Black and playing the Sicilian Najdorf against White’s Sozin Attack with 7.Bg5. White is up a minor piece for a pawn and is desperately trying to exchange pieces off the board whenever possible. Here, White has just played 29.Qg5, wanting to induce a Queen exchange.

This position if played correctly is a draw. Can you see the right move? Black’s Bishop holds a strong diagonal and has both Rooks beautifully lined up along the g-file to exert pressure, when the proper moment arises, along the 2nd rank. Black can at least draw with 29…Qxg5! Follow up line would be 30.Nxg5 Rf2!

If White wants to at least maintain a draw, his only move would be 31.Rg3 Rxc2 32.Nxe6 Rff2 33.Rxg7+ Kh8 34.Rxb7 Rxg2+ =

Unfortunately, Black wasn’t analyzing any of this because the first rule of thumb in chess; never exchange your big guns when you’re down material. That’s where my mind was, instead of analyzing this position properly, I was thinking, “What is the best move to avoid the Queen exchange?” So, exchanging Queens never entered into my thought process and therefore, the position analysis after such an exchange was never entertained. Black played 29…Qe8 and thus remained behind White in material and at a positional disadvantage until Black finally loses on TIME! My double vision got the best of me.

Example 3:

Here is another game played at the local club. It is round 3 of a 5 round Swiss tournament. All the common themes are in place and I just had a nice refreshing large afternoon latte! Its game time and you know what? My mind is racing but my body’s in lead; I fill my eyes with that double vision.

In this position, I’m White and playing the Yugoslav Attack against Black’s nasty Sicilian Dragon. Black has just played 13…Nxf3? Our positions prior to this move were equal, but now White is just better and with one move can gain a winning position and come out a full piece up in material. Can you see the move? Easy right; not when you have double vision. White is thinking simple exchange and wants to open up his g-file to exert pressure along Black’s king file. Besides, my Queen is under attack, so why not simply remove the attacking piece?

The winning move here is so blatant that I’m ashamed to even post this particular example, but I want to emphasize my mind and body’s state to the reader. Under normal circumstances, I would have hopped on this move and frankly, subliminally, this is what I was playing for. However, I decide to play for an “easy-out” and lazily play 14.gxf3. I’m not even going to tell you what the right move is, because you saw it before you even started reading my follow up for the diagram.

So, what do I do from here? Hmmm…hey, here is an idea! No more afternoon lattes! And, get this, how about getting some sleep the night before and…and…uhm...get back to my afternoon work-outs at the local gym where I’m a member! It’s the only way to void my eyes with this double vision.