31 July 2016

Don't Look Too Close

Blitz chess reveals a player's skill. It reveals intuition, judgement, and pattern recognition. Sometimes, it shows endgame strength or the ability to perform elementary checkmates in under ten seconds.

My strength is evident by my rating, which put me briefly on the USCF list of the top one hundred players older than 50 (see "Top 100"). My chess.com blitz rating, which is based on vastly more games, tells another story. It is volatile because my skill rises and falls day-by-day and hour-by-hour. Sometimes I play well when I squeeze in a game or two between other activities. Sometimes my play is horrid, especially during an addictive binge.

The Past Ninety Days

My ability to play well during a winning streak cultivates self-confidence. It reveals that I am a strong player as long as the games are not examined too closely.

This morning, I prevailed with the White pieces against a Sicilian Taimanov. We castled on opposite wings and both threw our pawns at the other's king, just as Alexander Kotov recommends in The Art of the Middle Game (1964). With a clear attack, I shed a bishop with nary a worry, Then, I blew it. An error in calculation gave my opponent a clear win.

White to move
After 21...Qb7
White's space advantage should lead to victory, However, Black might get some play on the a-file if White dallies.

The game continued:

22.g6 fxg6

Black's prospects improve after 22...e5, but White still has the edge.

23.hxg6 hxg6

I was prepared to meet 23...h6? with 24.Rxh6.

24.Bc4 d5 25.Qh2! dxc4 26.Qh7+ Kf7

White to move

27.Nxc4

This defensive move was unnecessary.

27.Rh6! Bf6 28.Qxg6+ Ke7 29.Bxf6+ gxf6 30.Rd1 and White wins.

27...Bf6 28.Bxf6 Kxf6 29.e5+

29.Rcg1 is better.

29...Ke7 30.Qxg6??

It should not have required more than a few seconds to calculate 30.Qh4+ Kf7 31.Qf4+ Ke7 32.Nd6 Rdc8 33.Qg5+ Nf6 34.Nxb7.

30...Bb5 31,Qg5+ Kf7 32.Rhg1??

Black to move

32...Bxc4?

32...Kg8 and is is White's turn to defend. With best play, Black will prevail.

33.Rxc4= Qd5 34.Rf4+ Kg8 35.Qe7

Black to move

35...Rd7??

35...Qd3+ 36.Ka1 Qc3+ and Black forces a draw by repetition.

36.Rf8+ Kh7 37.Rh1+

37.Qh4#

37...Kg6 38.Rg1+ Kh7 39.Qh4#.

In the end, I could not even coordinate my queen and rooks with enough precision to demonstrate skill. It might be time to give up blitz after such a performance. On the other hand, blitz is fun. I also managed to play two games in a row with the Taimanov Sicilian, winning first with Black, then with White. Even though the games do not bear scrutiny, the experience could prove useful should I play the Taimanov in a tournament game.

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