Monday, May 3, 2010

Soul searching

I don't suppose that it is terribly radical to suggest that chess can help us live our lives a little better, to gain a little more self belief. We can assume that any activity in which we push everyday cares to one side - and enter into some sort of thoughtful, trance-like state will reap dividends. But, as I am sure you will agree - chess additionally pushes you to explore possibilities which are linked to many important characteristics of our human existence. Let me list a few of them, to see if you agree at all:

behaviour under pressure from the opponent
time pressure when playing with clocks
behaviour when encountering a weaker/stronger opponent (human or computer)

I seem to be going through a stage where, although I try to place my pieces on their optimal squares, there is something in my subconscious which always contrives ways of leading me to positions where I have given up the centre or where I have allowed the opponent to assume control. Maybe this is some sort of self-destructive impulse - maybe a character defect? Oh dear, I don't want one of those, thank you very much!

Well, that's part of the fascination of the game. It allows one to recognise that such a possibility may exist, whereas otherwise we might not even be aware of it. And it may be that we are then able to develop strategies for dealing with it. Yes, I am suggesting that analysing chess positions will actually have the knock on effect of improving that aspect of my personality which predisposes me to automatically give way to others, to allow them to 'dominate' the conversation - the English problem of possessing an unassuming demeanour.

In the following tortuous analysis you may be able to discern some of my many attempts to avoid letting my opponent take control. Unfortunately this leads me to devise strategies which are simply too ambitious. I push too hard and experience the problems of being TOO aggressive. Again I have to say that this happens in real life too! Eventually I settle for Re1. As in any real-life decision it seems to be something realistic and sensible - the best a fair compromise to make given the circumstances. But as in real-life the possibility still exists of tripping up over one's own feet! We'll find out.

Here is the position where I need to find a move as White. I see that his weak d-pawn is a possible target, but also notice the discovered attack on my knight on f4 if he should move his king's knight.

13.Re1 e5 14.dxe5 Nxe5 15.Nxe5 Bxe5 16.Rxe5 Bc6 17.Ne6 Qd6 18.Bf4 Rfe8 19.Qe2 Bd7 - a first try.

13.Re1 Ne4 14.Bxe4 Bxf4 15.Bxf4 Rxf4 16.Bc2 Qb6 - the discovered attack problem.

At this point I begin to lose faith in Re1 - even though (after lots of analysis) this is what I actually play in the end.

13.Re1 Ne4 14.Bxe4 Bxf4 15.Bc2 Qb6 16.b3 Nb4 17.Ba3 Nxc2 18.Qxc2 Rfc8 19.Qd1 - not good.

13.Re1 Ne4 14.Bxe4 Bxf4 15.Bc2 Qb6 16.Bb3 Na5 17.Bxf4 Nxb3 18.axb3 Rxf4 - still flogging a dead horse.

My impression is that I should not have followed the 1996 game between Jianu, Vlad Cristian (White) and Petrosian, Davit Gevorgi (Black) [Wch U12 Menorca 1996 · French, Tarrasch, closed variation, main line (C06)] which lead me to this impasse. I show the game in interactive format below. Maybe my opponent simply found an improvement to Davit Petrosian's 12...Bd7.

Now you see me countering what I believe to be my innate passivity (?) with an aggressive idea, thus:

13.Ng5 Nxd4 14.Nxh7 Nxh7 15.Bxh7+ Kxh7 16.Qh5+ Kg8 17.Ng6 Kf7 18.Bg5 Qc7 19.Ne7+ g6 20.Qxg6++

Of course Black can easily avoid this (with 13...h6 for example) - well, it looked nice at the time. At this point I returned to 13.a3, just to be sure ... and 13.Ng5 for a second look. I concluded that the latter would only produce results if I could either move the wobbly knight on the fourth rank or protect it a second time. Finally I went for 13.Re1 with an immediate retreat if he should move his knight with a discovered attack on my knight.

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