29 January 2015

Training with Morphy

Playing set positions against a computer develops technique. It is one thing to claim that Black has a decisive advantage, but quite another to demonstrate that advantage against an emotionless monster. During the wee hours of the morning earlier this week, I played out positions from Schulten -- Morphy against Hiarcs on the iPad. The app gives Hiarcs's rating as 2950.

I started with the position that I marked as a decisive advantage for Black in my annotations to the game..

Black to move

Morphy's move is correct and leads to a decisive advantage, so I played 13...Rxe2 to start the game against the app. I set the time control at 10 minutes.

14.Nxe2 Nd4 15.Rb1

Hiarcs deviated from Schulten's play, permitting me to win the queen.

15...Bxe2+ 16.Qxe2 Nxe2 17.Kxe2

Black to move

According to point count chess, I am ahead two points--queen and knight for a rook, bishop, and two pawns. At the same point in the game, Morphy was materially down a rook and two pawns for two knights. By sacrificing material, Hiarcs has reduced the vulnerability of White's king.

I went on to win the game, but I missed a few instructive tactics that were revealed when I went through my play later that morning with Stockfish.

17...Qe7 18.Kf3 b6 19.Rhe1 Qb7+ 20.Kf2 Qa6 21.Rec1 Re8 22.Kf1 h5 23.h3 Qc8 24.Kf2 Qc5+ 25.Kf3

Black to move

I played 25...h4.

I could have played 25...Ng4! 26.hxg4 hxg4+ 27.Kxg4 Qf2.

In this game, it seems beneficial to be down material because that is how the White king is rendered vulnerable to attack. If White tries to keep the bishop, the king might get mated.

After winning this game, I started anew from one move earlier in the game.

Hiarcs (Schulten) -- Stripes (Morphy)

12...Nxc6 13.Bc3

Hiarcs found an improvement over White's play.

Black to move

I drew the first game, played more aggressively in the second and lost. On the third effort the following morning, I managed to score a victory.

13...Nd4 14.Bxd4 Qxd4

Hiarcs played 15.c3 here in the game that was drawn, but 15.Rc1 in the other two.

After 15.Rc1 Rad8 16.Nf3, we reach the next diagram.

Black to move

Black is still down two pawns while White's forces have hope of completing mobilization.

In the third game, I played 16...Qe3, but Stockfish considers 16...Bxf3 superior by the value of a minor piece.

This exercise demonstrated that I have work to do learning to exploit an initiative after having sacrificed material to achieve it. In the first two games, I regained the sacrificed material but slowly lost my advantage. In one case, the initiative transferred to White and the silicon beast prevailed.

My win came as a result of a combination that gained material superior to the pawns that Morphy had sacrificed.

17.Qd2 Qxd2+ 18Kxd2 Ne4+!

White to move

19.Ke3 Nc3+ 20.Kd2 Nxe2

I have a bishop for the two pawns. Moreover, my pieces are more active than White's.

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