Friday, June 27, 2008

Chess and Second Chances


McAuliffe - Goeller
White to move after 14.Qe2 Qd7


Goeller - Kernighan
White to move after 22...h3


Goeller - Kernighan
White to move after 26...h2


I played a couple of games in the Kenilworth Chess Club's Summer Tournament, which I took the time to annotate for my own benefit and thought I'd share: see Goeller - Kernighan and McAuliffe - Goeller.  Both were played at Game 60 and have some error on both sides.  And both reached complicated tactical positions with lots of possibilities. Looking through these games, I was reminded of how you often have second chances in chess. You just have to be awake to claim them.

In his article "The Bobby Fischer That We Loved" in Chess Life, GM Larry Evans reprints an interview he did with Frank Brady in which he says: "I subscribe to a theory of the second resource. That is, no matter how bad your position, if it’s not totally lost, you will reach a point during the game where you will be presented with an opportunity to win or draw if you take advantage of it."  

Nowhere is that "second resource" more common than in amateur games, where you will typically get even a third or fourth resource before the end.  In his book Rapid Chess Improvement, Michael de la Maza suggests using a computer to construct "evaluation graphs" of your games so that you can see where you lost concentration or lost the thread.  I imagine the graphs for most amateur games would show quite a bit of fluctuation.

The diagrams above show three moments from my two games where second or third chances were missed.  

In the first diagram, which could have occured in the game had McAuliffe chosen the more natural 14.Qe2 rather than 14.Qc2, White has a hidden resource after my intended 14...Qd7.  Surprisingly, his best move would then be 15.Ng5! and if 15...h6 (which I had intended) then 16.Nde4! leads to advantageous simplifications for White.

In my game with Kernighan, I tossed away a pawn early in the game but fought back rather well into a complicated middlegame with mutual chances.  In the second diagram above, after 22...h3, I had the chance for a very strong attacking plan with 23.Qg4!! intending Qg7 (which Kernighan had seen).  If then 23... h2 24. Nxh2! Rxh2 25. Qg7 Ke7 (25... Qe7 26. Rb8) 26. Qf6+ Kd7 27. Nb6+ Rxb6 28. Qxd8+ Kxd8 29. Rxb6 is close to winning.  Best would likely be 23... Qe7 24. Rb8 Kd7 25. Rxc8!? Kxc8 26. Qg7  and White has the edge in a complicated game.

In the third diagram, after 26...h2, I missed my second second chance by playing the passive 27.Rh1? when I could have gone on the counter-attack with 27. Ra1!! as pointed out by a class C player after the game. Fritz says it basically forces a draw against best play by Black.  If 27...h1=Q? then White is actually winning after 28.Rxa2! And if 27... Rc7 28. Nxc8! Qxc8 29. Qf6! Rxg5 (29... h1=Q 30. Qg7 wins!) 30. Qxg5 Qb8 31. Rxf8+ Kxf8 32. Qh6+ Kg8 33. Qg5+ Kf8 34. Qh6+ Kg8 (34... Ke7 35. Qf6+) 35. Qg5+ forces a draw.   Relatively best may be 27... Rb7 when 28. Rh1  is about equal and a huge improvement over the game.

The 2008 Kenilworth Summer Tourney (or KST) continues every Thursday until the end of August and it is never too late to join.  Check out The Chess Coroner's blog for continuing coverage and games.  And be awake to your second chances.

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