Tuesday, September 25, 2012

LCCC Sets Another Attendance Record!

Twenty-three players including five (5) new attendees showed up for some chess action.
We would like to welcome Levi and Mike S, Jack H, Chris M and Jon R to LCCC. Great to have you as members!
That brings us to a total of 37 active members, 8 in-active and 25 MIA. But with chess season here, we might be seeing some old members return.
We had a make-up of a league game with Trent D winning.
The ladder action picked up also with Trent getting a win there also to rocket up the ladder!
Scott M defended his top perch successfully – TWICE!
Don J also won to maintain his lofty ladder status.
Just a reminder that if you have an August 20 challenge still on the list, next week (Oct 1) is your last week to get that game played.
And for everyone’s information – in case you didn’t notice – we now have a Chess Supplies for Sale list on the blog. Any member with equipment to sell can get it listed there. If you have anything you wish to sell, email the club or tell the blog-master and it will get listed.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Not Chess Burnout, But Definitely a Slump

I am in one right now. I felt at first it was burnout, but that is a much more serious condition, and I don’t have those symptoms.

I am no where near the place where I don’t want to play anymore. I certainly want to play. I just don’t “have it” right now. Virtually every chess player goes through this phase from time to time. I’ve had it before….and I have it now….and I will have it again.
The chessboard has not changed dimensions, but mentally, right now it seems to me to be about the size of Texas. I can’t see it all no matter how hard I try.

And ideas, tactics and threats are also as easy to find for me as a snowball is …..in Texas…..in August.
I am not finding the right move in a serious game, a friendly game, on on-line game, a speed game, in a tactics puzzle or playing over games and covering up the last six moves or so to figure out the winning thread.
Nope – wrong decision again!

There are several ideas on why slumps happen. Race horses go thru this. They will run at peak speed for three to five races in a row and then slump. They still need to be ‘raced’ in order to stay in shape, but they are not pushed to win or the owner will risk injury to the horse.

Baseball, softball, pool, poker players, golfers, bowlers and even fishermen go thru slumps. And with a season like chess has (never ends unless you decide there is an end), slumps are bound to crop up.
So, what are the solutions to a chess slump? Well, the best solution is to ….not play for a short little while and re-evaluate the situation you are in. Take stock in everything.

How is your overall health?
Are you getting enough rest?
Are you eating properly?
Are there outside pressures unrelated to chess that are sapping your mental or physical strength or concentration?
Are you in a rut (playing rote) and doing mostly the same stuff but expecting different results?
Are you having fun or really want to play, or are you just going thru the motions?
Are you playing lazy…expecting moves to appear, opponents to blunder or expecting opponents to be blind to your tactics and you never consider …what if they see it?

As you see, we are moving out of simple slump territory and into “I’m no longer working hard enough territory.

If you are in a slump of any kind, take a time out and think about where you are at mentally, physically and personally. Many times there is a reason you are not performing well, rather than it being an actual slump.
As for me? A quick and easy review of my situation showed that I an not getting enough rest, I have some work pressures right now, and I am playing lazy. 

All but one are easy to fix...starting now. 
Good night!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

LCCC League Starts and it was a HUGE Success!

Although there were a few no-shows for the league’s first night, six league games were played and another ten players showed for casual chess games! That means we set a record for attendance with 22 players! Thanks to everyone for being here.

The league standings will be posted soon on the website and the blog. And some of the more interesting games will be posted also. Stay tuned.

The Ladder Challenge Tournament did not have any action, due to the league going on. But it will start in earnest again next week. One player, Dave S joined and immediately made a challenge to Lamila M., so we are looking forward to that game.

Jason M reviewed some grandmaster games prior to the start of the league, showing some interesting twists and tactics. Thanks Jason!

The next league action is not until October, so there is still time to organize a team (within the league rules), play some make-ups and get involved. If not, there is always the Ladder Tourney or relaxing skittles chess.

Stop on by next Monday.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Jason M Annotates Mike N's Tournament Loss - part 2

Jason continues:

6. …. Be7

7. Be2 O-O

8. O-O Nbd7

9. a4 ?! ….

“Now there is no excuse for Black not to play ….b6, as he is running out of chances to stop White’s queen-side advance.

The main thing to point out is that Black is playing very passively and allowing White to take even more initiative. Black will soon find himself with no counter-play on the queenside, having to defend weak pawns.

The move 9. a4 is weak as it allows Black time for 9. …. h6 and takes away the square for the c3 knight later on.

Consider this: If it was really this easy to get an advantage with White in the Queen’s Gambit Declined line, why do so many grandmasters play it as Black?

9. …. a5?!

10. Bd2 Qb8?!


To understand why Qb8 is dubious, let’s take all the pieces off the board and look at the pawn structure. Surprisingly, we’ll find that White is somewhat worse off here.

In a book by GM Andy Soltis, he discusses the importance of studying chess in terms of basic pawn structures. In that book, he pays particular attention to “levers”. Levers are pawn moves that open lines for pieces.

What levers does Black have? What are his plans? First, he must strive to create a backward pawn at d4 by playing e5 and then exd4. If allowed, this is a permanent weakness for White that will not go away. In addition, the snipe at c5 is STILL there with b6! And since White can no longer play b4, he has to capture at b6 or allow a permanent pawn weakness at c5. After this, Black still has another round in the chamber with c5!, hitting d4 again.

Meanwhile, White cannot counter in the center with f3 and e4 because after dxe4 and fxe4, White has a permanent weakness on d4.

[diagram 2]

Now let’s add the pieces back to the game. The diagram here shows the ideal placement for Black. The rooks are connected, the Queen at c7 supports both b6 and e5 and guards a5. The Knight at f8 is ready to join in the fight after e5 and then Nfe6.

So, after the ordinary non-threatening developing move of 10. Bd2, Black should have take stock of his position in terms of the pawn structure, and then he would have found the right plan.

Conclusion: Black had the better game because he had better levers, but let White off the hook.”

More next time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jason M Annotates Mike N’s Tournament Loss – Part I

Take it away Jason!

“Mike asked me to annotate two of his games from the 2012 Michigan Open. Here is the first. In general, I will stress the important themes and concepts in favor of showing multiple variations. I think this is more useful to players in the 1000 to 1600 range. But when appropriate, I will give some lines.

White: Villain #3

Black: Mike N.

Opening: Slav Defense: 4.Nc3

1. d4 d5

2. c4 c6

3. Nf3 Nf6

4. Nc3 Bf5

5. e3 e6

6. c5?!

Here Mike is critical of his last move, apparently because of his opponent’s reply. However, he has done nothing wrong, and his position is a typical Queen’s Gambit Declined – Slav.

This is a well-known position inaccuracy, since Black has an excellent reply in 6. …b6!, attacking the head of the pawn chain. Note that 6. …h6 intending to save the Bf5 bishop runs into 7. Bd3 Qxd3, which means Black loses two tempos (moves).

If 6. ... b6!, 7. b4 a5! And White cannot play a3 because his Ra1 rook is pinned after axb4. If 8. bxa5 then Black destroys the center with bxc5. Black is threatening both c4, gaining a protected passed pawn and Qxa5.

Another line is 6. …b6! 7. b4 a5, 8. b5 but Black is OK after 8. …bxc5, 9. bxc6 Bd6, 10. Bb5 O-O, 11. dxc5 Bxc5 or if 11. O-O then Black is better after 11. …c4.

Strategically, White should have kept the pawn tension (the mutual attack between White’s c-pawn and Black’s d-pawn) as long as possible and just continue his development, since this slows Black’s counter-play in the center (with c5 or e5).

Black should have struck immediately at c5 with b6. But instead, they played on.

Continued next article.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fifteen Players Re-Open LCCC after the Labor Day Week

Our outstanding facility is closed on holidays, so LCCC was dark last week. But we were back at it last night, with an average attendance night.

One ladder game as Mike N stopped Vince V from climbing the ladder quickly with a hard fought draw result. This was no small feat as Vince is in top form after a 5 win showing at the Michigan Open last weekend.

Just a reminder, there are some ladder challenges (dated 8/20) that according to the rules, need to be played within the next two Mondays.

With the league starting on the second Monday, it may be tough to get the games in. We didn’t have a league when the Ladder Rules were written. So, the Ladder TD is extending the date for the 8/20 ladder challenges to be played on or by 10/1.

There were some casual games played, but a lot more game reviews going on than usual. Some had GM games they were looking over and others had Michigan Open games to review. I think this is all in preparation for LCCC league that starts in a couple weeks.

Jason M was nice enough to analyze and annotate a couple of losing games played by Mike N and we went over them at the club. It was a very informative review that will help everyone who listened to the autopsy of a loss.

The game featured some counter-attack tactics, which even though failed during the game, led to some fun analysis of “what ifs”, including turning this loss into a draw and even a win! Lots of very instructive notes hit upon.

Look for Jason’s analysis to be posted right here, and for some games to be posted on the website shortly!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vince V.’s Report on the Michigan Open

“I scheduled today off from work because I figured I'd be spent from the Open this over the weekend, and I was right. My last 2 games were difficult.

The last one was more so because my opponent was a snotty teenage lad. He repeated moves and I offered a draw in fairly even position. I thought I had better chances but not enough to win and he arrogantly declined.

Anyway, he ended up resigning in a bit of time trouble but with a lot of game to play. After looking at the game again this morning I'm pretty sure I was better enough to win but the game still had a lot of room for mistakes on both sides. Oh well, I'll take it.

Round 6 was my longest game. I won a pawn around move 25 or so and then somewhere around move 45 my opponent really could have resigned - legitimately. It was just a matter of walking my king to pick up his remaining pawns and eventually queen a pawn and check mate him.

Well, he made me do it and, for his last 8-10 moves took his merry ole time calculating the many complex variations that would arise from moving his king to the ONE available square I allowed for it. It finally ended with checkmate at around move 70. And, we were off to lunch - finally!

Many thanks to Mike N, Ken L and John R for the camaraderie and support - Mike N especially for the laughs and stories - the best! And also to Ken T for making a special stop for us and the good vibes he sent our way. Very much appreciated!

This was my first tournament in 35+years and it was still as exhilarating and nerve wracking as I remember it being when I was in high school. I'm looking forward to the Chess Festival in November the same was I did when I was in high school - a lot of anxiety, nervousness and apprehension but also very excited and great anticipation of the challenges.”

Vince V.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Report on the Michigan Open: Final Day

Finishing the report of yesterday; John R drew a long game in round 5 and moved to 3-1-1. Nice job John. That moves LCCC to (8-10-2).
Ken L. withdrew from the tournament because of exhaustion. Three straight days of long rounds of chess can do that to you.
Round 6 ended early for John R as he took a quick draw. Just as well as he was probably tired from last night’s marathon anyway.
Mike N. won a pawn in the middle game and was forcing a win, when his opponent hung a rook. So much for the drama after that.
Vince V. also won a pawn in the middle game but he was not so fortunate. He had a long hard road in order to get the victory! But it was a victory none the less.
LCCC now stands at (10-10-3).

Round 7: Mike N. offered a draw at move 16, and was graciously turned down. The very next move, his opponent tried something that cost him a pawn, and positional equality. Twelve moves later, when the villain is two pawns down with two doubled pawns and an isolated pawn in the center, he asks if I still want the draw – tongue in cheek of course.
John R. got in bad time trouble, then hung a rook and lost on time anyway. I think the late round 5 game finally caught up to John. As I said, tournament chess is a strain on a person.
Vince V. also offered his opponent a draw at move 20 and it was rudely declined. I think the term used was, “No way!”
But as his opponent moved his rooks and Queen back and forth and up and down on a shut down queenside, Vince slowly and methodically started a king-side attack. His opponent, in a little time trouble and seeing the approaching storm, resigns.
Vince had several ways to mate or steal material with his building attack, but at the post-mortem at Buffalo Wild Wings later, Mike N. found a defense that returned the position to the town of Drawville.
Too bad for that guy. He didn’t get that draw. NO WAY!
Just a note on turning down draws. It’s ok to do so if you think you have an advantage, either in the game or talent-wise. But you don’t have to try and win the game immediately after turning down a draw. I have seen this many times, and actually it is a fair tactic to use to throw an opponent off. Players tend to push the issue after declining a draw offer. It's like they feel they have to justify the turning down of your offer.
Many players immediately think they must have an advantage if you are offering them a draw and try to push the position immediately after your offer is made. It is a natural response, so don’t fall for it yourself. If you turn down a draw offer, slow down. And don’t be too proud to offer it yourself if it still looks like a draw later.

LCCC finished the tourney at (12-11-3).
Vince V went (5-2)
John R went (3-2-2)
Mike N went (3-3-1)
Ken L went (1-4)

It was a great time and more members should take advantage of playing in a tourney with other club members. It’s nice to have someone around to share the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat with. Not to mention the car pooling!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Report From the Michigan Open; Day 3

Somebody is reading the LCCC blog! Tournament postings now put up in two places!

Finishing the report of yesterday; John R won a long game in the last round and moved to 2 – 1. Nice job John. That moves LCCC to (5-6-1).

Round 4 did not start out well for LCCC thanks to Mike N. Obvious tournament rust causes me to fall into an opening trap that featured a ‘family fork’ opportunity, and resignation came after only 17 moves. Ouch!

Then another ouch! Vince V. had an over-whelming position and over-looked an easily defended counter-punch losing the exchange and a pawn and resigns.

Ken L. played his best game of the tournament seizing center control as his opponent lunched on a few useless pawns. Ken countered with his center and g-file control to eventually win back more material and then finish his opponent off in the endgame.

John R. was in monster time trouble in a tough middle game. Not only did he survive that, but he wrestled control away from his opponent, then won his endgame in another marathon.

LCCC is now (7-8-1).

The four of us left the venue for lunch just before Ken T. showed up to see his fellow LCCC'ers in action. But with the next round not til much later and none of us around, there was not much to see. But thanks for stopping by Ken T.

Round 5 not only had a late start because of the Michigan Chess Association elections, but then the round started late because of some last minute withdraws and new board pairings.

In this round Ken L. went pawn hunting and that took his queen out of his opponent’s attack zone. It did not end well for Ken.

Vince V. won the exchange on move 6 and took care of business after that.

Mike N. played a much better game than last round and made the decision to go for the win rather than play it safe. But my opponent never made a mistake and I could not take advantage of the holes I made in his defenses sacrificing the exchange (rook vs bishop). I could not turn it into a win. I guess nothing was really there in the first place, and I got grounded down to a lost endgame.

We could not find John or his result before we left this evening. We will catch up again with the final report. LCCC is now (8-10-1).

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Report: From the Michigan Open; Day 2

The rounds started on time, the numbers of tables were plentiful and there were boards available to post the rounds on.

However, why there is only ONE posting of the round pairings to look at is still a mystery. It is an absolute zoo at the board. People crowd in to see their pairings to read print font so small, you think you are looking at the loan application to buy a car.

I understand posting results on only one sheet. You can take down the other sheets once the rush is over. But one sheet is just crazy.

And the rudeness at the pairing board is just obscene! Read your name under your color, get your board number and go! Standing there at the start of the round and analyzing who is playing who and where your friends are playing is just stupid.

I literally saw two guys standing in front of the pairing board for round 3 for over three minutes at the start of a round! No one could read around them. What the heck are they looking at? They were just lucky my knuckles were still sore from punching out the guy that did that in round 2.

On to the action. Round 2:

Mike N (me) got a perpetual queen check draw on a much higher rated player (150 points) on move 10! Not exactly fighting chess I grant you, but I didn’t like the other options. (1-0-1)

Ken L. lost position early and that got turned into a knight pin later on that resulted in a real loss. (0-2)

Vince V. won a tough game basically the same way. He turned a positional advantage into a passed pawn and victory. (1-1)

Round 3:

Mike N. got rolled in 27 moves due to 10. …..a5, post analysis showed. And it did not look like a death nail when played, but it was obvious my opponent knew what to do after I played it (270 points higher than me). I want to get to that point – where he is! (1-1-1)

Ken L. lost another king-pawn endgame. Yes, he knows where he has to do some work. (0-3)

Vince V. won a beautiful game by taking control of the center, then dismantling his opponent’s king side. (2-1)

John R. joined us by entering the 3-day event. Didn’t see him play his first two games as our schedules didn’t cross. (1-1) And we left before his 3rd round game was over. It looked like a battle! But I will get a full report today and let you know tomorrow!

LCCC is (4-6-1)

AND A REMINDER! LCCC is CLOSED Monday for Labor Day.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Report: From the Michigan Open: Day One

Your humble scribe got there early thanks to a fortuitous work scheduled trip to the area. I was so early that I was the first one there, so I got to hear a panic stricken tournament director telling the hotel manager that “you don’t have enough tables and chairs set up” and “I told you I needed a place to post pairing and wall charts! I emailed and called you people about both of these issues and was told it was no problem!”

Oh, the fun filled experience of running one of these things! It’s always something. Jennifer Skidmore, the TD did announce that this may be the biggest Michigan Open of all time!

Three LCCC’ers played the first day of the four day schedule; Ken L, Mike N and Vince V. We hope some more join us today, as there is a 3-day and a 2-day format entry available. Come on out!

1st Day results:

Vince V won the opening with much better position, but when he tried to turn that into a pawn majority advantage, missed a counter attack opportunity for his opponent and had to resign.

Mike N (me) did the opposite. By changing my mind about which defense I want to play at move 4, I end up playing what I am now calling “the hyper-modern Numbskull Variation of the Wood-pusher Defense” - and drop a pawn.

But several moves later, I see a trap to win a piece for a pawn. But my opponent somehow sees this ingenious and well hidden - one-move combination – and not only thwarts it, but wins another pawn!

Well, at least I am not in time trouble. My opponent has two pawns and one of them passed in the center. I got him right where I want him!

I do have some open files, open diagonals and the bishop pair. Using these tools and an opponent now set on “not losing” rather than “winning” the game, I am able to run my lonely A- pawn THRU my opponent’s A and B pawn to win the game.

I did go home and check, and my newly “invented” defense is not listed anywhere. So I got that going for me.

Ken L.’s game went way into the night. But he lost a tight King-Pawn endgame.

So LCCC is 1-2 after Day One. The struggle continues today with another two rounds of action.