28 October 2016


I won two USCF rated tournaments this week!

On Monday, I won a USCF online blitz rated game 10 on Chess.com. After winning two of the first three of such events that I entered earlier this year, I suffered poor results. Only once did I play well enough to raise my rating. But, this week, I played differently. Instead of playing super fast as is my usual pattern, I expended lots of time in the late opening and middlegame. Frequently, I found myself in serious time pressure near the end of the game, but usually with a very good position. Expending the time to calculate when I think I understand the position has been a focus in my training lately. My subpar performance through my last five weekend tournaments--dropping my rating more than 150 Elo--finally grabbed my attention and forced changes in my approach to chess.

After taking care of business against lower rated players in the first two rounds, I faced a strong opponent in the third.

Black to move

With the Black pieces, I spent 38 seconds in this position deciding that it was safe enough to castle queenside.

14...Qxe3 15.Bxe3 seemed to invite suffering.
14...O-O 15.Qxd4 exd4 looked to me like a losing proposition. Hanging on to the isolated pawn seemed futile.

14...O-O-O! 15.Bc2 Kb8 16.f3 Be6 17.Rd1

Black to move

Again, I spent nearly half a minute considering two possibilities.


The alternative, which I seriously considered, was 17...Qxd1+ 18.Bxd1 Rxd1+ 19.Kf2 Rc8 20.Ke2

18.Bxe3 Rxd1+ 19.Rxd1 b6

This move was played after eleven seconds and had been part of my consideration in the twenty-one seconds spent on the previous move. During this time, I decided that I would fight to maintain a position with good chances for equality and let my opponent decide whether to press for a win and endure the risk for doing so.

20.a3 Rc8 21.Bd3 Bc4

White to move

My plan was to swap bishops and rooks and go into an ending of knight versus bishop, thinking that my knight was possibly slightly better. My opponent opted to keep more pieces on the board, but this let my pieces become more active. Eventually, a few errors by White allowed me to win the pawns on the queenside. When I finally got my knight versus bishop ending, I was ahead a pawn. When we exchanged these two pieces, I had an elementary winning pawn ending.

In round four, my opponent stepped into an elementary tactic.

White to move

15.Rxd5 cxd5 16.Bb5 1-0

Trying a somewhat new (to me) idea in the French Defense, exchange variation in the last round, I missed a thematic move that I routinely play in similar circumstances and had to fight for a draw. After we had repeated the position three times, the game was drawn on move nineteen.

Black to move

I played 5...dxc4, conceding the initiative. 5...Bb4+ is the correct move.

With 4.5/5, I won clear first.

Last night, I played in a rapid event at the Spokane Chess Club. In the first round, my use of the Dutch Defense against the English Opening led to an interesting game. I secured the initiative and won a pawn. As a result of my opponent's counterplay, we reached a rook ending where I was a pawn ahead, but his pawn structure was better and his rook more active. I initiated some exchanges to activate my rook, but reached a position that was probably objectively drawn. Luckily, my opponent blundered in a way that allowed me to remove his last queening threat and exchange rooks ito an easily winning pawn ending.

In round two, I played John Frostad, who beat me and everyone else this summer to win the Spokane Contenders (see "Ne2?"). After he equalized too easily against my Catalan, he lost his way in the middlegame. with a time control of 15 +3, he spent more that six minutes on this horrid position.

Black to move

Playing the same position against Stockfish this morning, I faced the same moves that John played after his long think. Again, I had trouble finding my way in a superior position. Stockfish, however, did not have the time trouble that John faced last night. I went on to win against John. This morning, I beat Stockfish also, but not on my first attempt. I required several draws and at least one loss before I found my way against the Silicon monster.

I do not always record my games in rapid chess, and so lack a record of last night's games beyond my memory of a few key positions.

In round four, I was way ahead on the clock after my opponent squandered a clear advantage. I returned the favor, but he had four seconds plus the three second delay to my five minutes as he tried to hold this drawn position.

White to move

Perhaps a gentleman would have offered a draw in such a position, but I am no gentleman in rapid chess. My opponent flagged after many moves where I kept giving him opportunities to err.

In the last round, I played Pat Herbers, who has returned to active play after nearly a decade of inactivity. As he had drawn another opponent earlier, I could win the event with a draw. Mentioning this fact before the game, Pat recalled a story from the mid-1970s when he beat a young Yasser Seirawan in a tournament in Seattle. Pat was Spokane's top junior player in the 1960s and nearly reached master when living in Seattle a few decades ago.

I played a thematic d4-d5 push on instinct. As we both slowed our play to consider the tactical ramification, Pat found the refutation and I was down a pawn. His subsequent errors in a clearly superior ending, however, let us reach this position.

White to move

I opted to exchange my h-pawn for his f-pawn. Although my king was never able to leave g2 and h2, the existence of a passed pawn of my own kept his king from waltzing over to the queenside.

I offered a draw in this position.

Black to move

Pat accepted the draw offer and settled for a share of second place.


  1. Nice, glad to see you had a good result!

    Cool that you reached two theoretical rook+pawn positions after your recent post on this topic. I can only think of two times I have ever reached R+P vs R in a tournament game, although I am obsessed with this type of ending.

    It is really bad that your opponent managed to lose that R+g-pawn vs R ending. White can just shuffle Ra1-b1 and Black does not have a single idea to even make a threat. I wonder how your opponent got himself into trouble here?

    In your last ending, you could try to squeeze blood from a stone by using your f-pawn as a shield with 1.Kf3. Now one curious little trick is 1...a2 2.Ra5+ Kh4?! (2...Kf6! with idea 3.Kxf4 Rh1! reaching Philidor is clean) 3.Kg2! and you're going to win Black's a-pawn. Problem is, this structure is objectively drawn even if White wins Black's OTHER pawn, but your practical chances to win here are now nonzero.

    If you like these endings as much as I do, chesstempo.com has a great Endgame mode for $4/month where you can play 5-man R+P vs R endings against the computer. And if you are a truly insane person, you can pick up Secrets of Rook Endings by Nunn--an entire book on KRP vs. kr! (I haven't read that one, but I intend to one day).

    1. He was down to four seconds before the elementary ending was reached. By varying the amount of time I spent on my moves, I threw him off his rhythm to burn four seconds. We were using my DGT clock. On a Chronos, that four seconds would have been one, plus the three second delay. The DGT adds the three seconds at the end of each move.

      I have Nunn's two other books on the ending, as well as Minev's classic, Levenfish and Smyslov, Rook Endings (1971), and several other endgame books, including the first two editions of Dvoretsky--one print, one Kindle.

      I have used ChessTempo's ending course on occasion. I prefer playing against my own computers. These days, that's most often the iPad version of Stockfish.

  2. Oh, I misread, your opponent had four SECONDS plus delay in that first position. More plausible that he flagged now, though I think he should be able to hold that position on just time delay.