It’s been a while since I treated you to any chess analysis and I know you all love the heavy intellectual stuff on a Monday morning. Yesterday morning, I played the following game of chess online. Yes, that’s right, on a Sunday morning. At six o’clock if you’re wondering. I’m at my very best in the morning. If they held chess tournaments before breakfast, I’d play in a grading section above my normal rating. Anyway, here’s the game… … please note that this embedded game takes its code from my video channels site which also has an interactive chess viewer capable of generating these game graphics. This means that if your browser has a plugin which blocks cross-site scripting attempts, you won’t be able to see the moves. You can disable the cross-site scripting block for this post only, if you like… if you don’t trust me, you can use your own preferred chess animator or just visualise the game in your head!
The academic question is, who played best? In the old days, we could only answer this question by poring over the board and its various permutations for hours or by asking a more experienced player. These methods are a lot of fun still and, really, do teach us much about the game because they force us to think about our own decisions. When I joined a chess club, one of the older fellows there complained that, “in the old days there were only ever two people sat at a chess board, now there are three: the player with the white pieces, the player with the black pieces and the computer“. He had a computer himself but he couldn’t figure out how to use the analytical software, so he was no longer improving his game. I still couldn’t beat him though!
For my analysis of this game, I’m going to use Shredder Chess 1.2.2, because it is conveniently nearby, on my Android phone. To flip it into analysis mode, first press the ‘Play’ button on the screen, then your phone’s ‘Menu’ button, then the ‘New Game’ on the menu, select ‘White’ (because the 2D board should always be looked at with the white pieces at the bottom for consistency with all other chess analysis on the planet), then your phone’s ‘Menu’ button again and, finally, ‘Start Analysis’.
Before I start the analysis, I should mention that the existence of these tools has practically wiped out what used to be called correspondence chess because they make cheating too easy. Although I play some correspondence style chess online, I don’t treat it too seriously. That said, cheaters should be aware that any properly organised chess server will know fairly swiftly that they cheat because their standard of play is so much better than any human and fits a more complex algorithm. That’s right – computers are now just better than humans! That’s also why I prefer the snappy 5 minute blitz game – it is very difficult to cheat without losing valuable time with only 5 minutes for the whole of each player’s game. Here’s the analysis, with a combination of my thoughts and Shredder’s tips.
Scrapper_Duncan (1443) v think1879 (1562), 5th August 2007, Time Controls: 5 minutes each – White lost on time (Black had less than three seconds left)
Played at chess.com
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.d4 d5 3.c4 e6 4.Bg5 Bb4+ 5.Nc3 h6 6.Bh4 g5 7.Bg3 Ne4 8.Rc1 Shredder prefers 8.Qc3, recording Black getting a small advantage here (-0.45 says the evaluation score ~ a whole point is roughly equivalent to a pawn’s advantage, though there may not be a material difference on the board)
8. … c5 Shredder says Black had lost their slight advantage with this move. These subtleties are, as my old teacher Luke Rutherford used to say, “above my pay grade”.
9.e3 Qa5 10.Qb3 Bd7 I missed the point of this move altogether. Although Shredder thinks it ever so slightly tilts the advantage to White (+0.3), no-one can really capitalise on these tiny differences in positional strength. The received opinion is that only advantages of close to +/-1 are worth worrying about. Nevertheless, White’s best move here is probably 11. c4xd5
11.Bd3 ??? When I saw the move that came next, I didn’t need Shredder to tell me I was in real trouble. Shredder suddenly calls the game as won by black (-5.63). Curiously, Shredder suggests the move Black actually plays isn’t the best, preferring instead 11. … Nxg3 followed by (best moves for either side) 12.a3 Bxc3+ 13.Rxc3 Nxg1 – had that sequence been played I would just have resigned. Playing on from a position you know you’ve lost is pointless, unless the 17th piece (time) is dramatically in your favour. It just familiarises you with losing positions.
11. … Ba4 this move is almost as bad for White (-5.51). I knew it but wondered whether, under the very short time controls and perhaps some external influence might help me. His telephone might ring. Since s/he lives in Qatar, perhaps he might be very tired and make a blunder himself. Desperate stuff. If it hadn’t have been a blitz game I would have resigned.
12.O-O Being unable to win back any material with my inevitable Queen loss by attacking with the Queen, I left it in situ to see if I could recover more material and a positional gain. Thanks to Shredder I now see this was a hopeless ambition but I can’t think as quick as the processor which normally sits in my pocket.
12. … Bxb3 13.Nxe4 My plan was to get my Bishop on e4. Shredder doesn’t have a tip which says, “Resign! Resign! Resign!”, so instead it suggested the same move.
13. … dxe4 d5xc4 would have been better…
14.Bxe4 Bxa2 15.Bxb7 O-O 16.Bxa8 Nd7 17.Bc6 Nf6 18.Ra1 Qc7 ??? This was the catastrophic blunder I was hoping for! Although I have been steadily decreasing my disadvantage (down t0 -3.11 before that move), I’ve been fighting a lost game until this point, to borrow a phrase from Churchill I had been “buggering on”. With this move, Shredder calls the game for White (+7.79). It is the chess equivalent of David Cameron suddenly announcing the capitalism cannot be made to work and calling a general election on the spot. Unfortunately, I missed the startlingly obvious nature of this blunder. Come on Scrapper!! He’s only just plonked his Queen directly in the firing line of my Bishop. I was thinking about something else and the clock was ticking…
19.d5 that’s almost all of my newfound advantage squandered. As soon as I play this move, I realise what I have missed.
19. … Qa5 Black isn’t going to make the same mistake again but seems to be rattled. Don’t forget his grade is significantly higher than mine. He moves his Queen back to protect the hanging Bishop
20.dxe6 The far better move would have been to push my pawn to d6. White’s Queen is protecting its Bishop but the Bishop is also pinned to the Queen.
20. … fxe6 21.Ne5 Nh5 This move just looks all wrong. It does nothing to resolve the pinned Bishop. Shredder now has White’s advantage down to (-1.77). Basically, my standard of play has been consistently better over the last few moves. If I can keep up the better play, I might claw this back?
22.Rfd1 Nxg3 23.hxg3 Qc7 24.f4 gxf4 25.gxf4 Bb3 ?? This is one of those moves which just assists the opponent’s development. I was never going to keep my Rook on d1, that was a transitory occupation. It was heading for d7. Shredder calls the advantage as swinging back to White, decisively (+2.68).
26.Rd7 I’m launching an attack with a potential mating threat buried in it. If there’s any non-chess players still reading, please note that in this context mating is not in any way connected with the conclusion of a romantic episode.
26. … Qc8 White appears to disregard the threat. Perhaps there’s work to do in Qatar? (+4.9)
27.Raxa7 Qxd7 White has realised the risk and killed it along with his Queen. By now, he probably thinks I’m a chess hustler.
28.Rxd7 Bc2 29.g4 Bh7 30.Kf2 Ba5 31.Ke2 Bd8 Knowing that I have a distinct advantage, I’m preparing for the end game by bringing my King forward and putting it to work.
32.Nd3 Bf6 33.e4 Bd4 34.Kf3 e5 35.f5 Rb8 36.Bb5 Kh8 37.Ke2 Bg8 38.b3 Ra8 39.Ba4 Rb8 I’m playing fast solid moves, improving my position. I didn’t think Black could attack. With every improving move, Black’s position becomes harder to maintain or s/he is reduced to time wasting moves, whilst I become stronger. Although time is short, Black’s time is shorter than mine. Having come back from certain defeat, I’m determined not to foul this up.
40.Kf3 Ra8 Black is plays a time wasting move as quickly as he can. His only hope now is that I run out of time before him. We’ve got about 30 seconds left each. S/he may have slightly more.
41.Kg3 Given Black’s predicament, I decide to throw in a series of quick solid moves. Shredder seems to agree (+4.33).
41. … Bxc4 This move gave me a fright. I didn’t see it coming. It means I will lose material. I haven’t got time left for the full analysis. Leaving that to Shredder now, I can see that it makes little difference (+4.33 again). I quickly decide to ignore it. Always remember, you are not being forced to swap pieces, except when you are!
42.Kh4 I’m on about 25 seconds but my opponent has less than 10 now. Can he win or draw the game before he runs out of time? A strong player could but we’re not at that level, apparently. Whilst this may not be the best chess, it is perfectly acceptable as fair play. We both started with the same time on the clock. If you mismanage your time, you deserve to lose. Shredder, however, knows nothing about the time controls. It preferred 42. Kh4 with best moves for either side then being 42. … Rxa4 and then my first move on the following go 43.Kh4
42. … Bxd3 43.Kh5 Bxe4 44.Kxh6 Be3+ 45.Kg6 Rg8+ 46.Kf6 Bf4 47.b4 cxb4 48.Bb3 Rf8+ ?? Shredder suggests steady play here instead for Black (not easy when you’re short of time, of course) with 48. … Rxg4 (the move actually played converts my advantage to +8,000,000)
Shredder is no doubt whatsoever, it’s a lost position for Black. Black also didn’t manage their time properly, which is probably what caused the errors. That’s a lesson in life, as much as it is chess.
When there are just seconds left on the clock and you’re in a losing position, sometimes playing complicated threatening moves can force your opponent to think about them and thus take longer. This is a perfectly legitimate tactic. A well organised player will not allow themselves to get into this scenario, hopefully! Let’s see how Shredder sees the game playing out, without time controls…
49. … Rf6+ 50. Kxf6 Bc6 51.Rd8+ Kh7 52.Bf7 Bc6 By this point, Shredder realises that Black’s best chance is to somehow get a stalemate (a position where it cannot move and thus the game is drawn).
53.Rxa8 Bg5+ 54.Kxg5 and the game is very obviously lost for Black.