Tuesday, December 28, 2010

82 Moves -- Few if Any Brilliant Ones

1. e4 c5 2. ♘f3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. ♘xd4 e5 5. ♗b5 ♗d7 6. ♗xd7 ♘xd7 7. ♘f3 ♘gf6 8. ♘c3 a6 9. ♗g5 ♗e7 10. ♘d5 ♘xd5 11. ♗xe7 ♘xe7 12. c4 ♕a5 13. ♘d2 ♘c5 14. O-O ♕c7 15. ♘f3 ♘xe4 16. ♕e2 ♘c5 17. ♘g5 h6 18. ♘f3 O-O-O 19. b4 ♘e6 20. b5 ♘d4 21. ♘xd4 exd4 22. bxa6 b6 23. ♕f3 ♖hf8 24. ♖ac1 ♕c6 25. ♕h3 ♕d7 26. ♕f3 ♕c6 27. ♕h3 ♔b8 28. c5 dxc5 29. ♕g3 ♔a7 30. ♕a3 ♘d5 31. ♖fd1 ♘b4 32. ♕g3 ♘xa6 33. ♕xg7 ♕g6 34. ♕e5 f6 35. ♕e7 ♔b8 36. ♕e6 ♔b7 37. ♖b1 ♘b4 38. ♕e7 ♔c6 39. ♕e6 ♖d6 40. ♕c8 ♔d5 41. ♕xf8 f5 42. ♕a8 ♖c6 43. ♕d8 ♖d6 44. ♕a8 ♖c6 45. ♕a4 f4 46. ♕b3 ♔d6 47. ♕f3 ♘d5 48. ♖e1 ♕f6 49. ♖e2 ♔c7 50. ♖be1 ♕f7 51. ♖e5 ♖d6 52. ♖e8 ♔d7 53. ♖a8 ♘c7 54. ♖a7 ♖c6 55. ♕g4 ♔d8 56. ♕h4 ♖f6 57. ♕h3 ♖f5 58. ♕xh6 ♖h5 59. ♕d6 ♕d7 60. ♕xf4 ♖f5 61. ♕h4 ♔c8 62. ♕h8 ♕d8 63. ♕h3 ♕d7 64. ♕h8 ♕d8 65. ♕h3 ♕d7 66. ♖a3 ♔b7 67. ♖b3 ♖d5 68. ♕f3 ♕c6 69. ♕h3 c4 70. ♖f3 d3 71. ♖d1 d2 72. ♖a3 ♘b5 73. ♕h7 ♖d7 74. ♕h3 ♘xa3 75. ♕xa3 c3 76. h3 c2 77. ♖xd2 ♖xd2 78. ♕e7 ♖d7 79. ♕e2 c1=Q 80. ♔h2 ♕f4 81. g3 ♕ff3 82. ♕f1 ♖d2 0-1 {White resigns}

This afternoon, on the Free Internet Chess Server, I suffered through one of the most tedious, damnably dull chess games of my life. I was rated 1211 going into the game, and my opponent was rated 1109. He or she had set the time setting for the game, 3 12, and I had accepted the seek. 3 12 means that each player starts with 3 minutes on clock, and gains 12 seconds with each move. The clock starts after each player's first move. So on the second move, each player has 3:12, and, for example, if they take 5 seconds to move, their clock goes down to 3:07, then up to 3:19 until their next move. If a player takes 2 minutes to make his second move in a 3 12 and 1 minutes and 12 seconds to make his third move, he will forfeit on time on his third move.

If, on the other hand, each player takes less than twelve seconds per move, if neither player is checkmated or stalemated, and if neither player calls a draw for 3-fold repetition of the same board position or 50 moves without a capture or promotion, and if they build up enough time to take naps when they are tired, or get other players to cover for them while they sleep or do whatever else they have to do, then theoretically the game could last forever,

I don't know how long this game lasted. It felt like forever. I prefer games with no increments: 3 or 5 or 10 minutes or so per side to make all of your moves. That way you know it will end in 6 or 10 or 20 minutes or less. But I sometimes accept seeks for incremental games rather than just wait around for a 5 0 or a 10 0.

In chess, each player begins with 16 pieces. To be sure, some pieces are more powerful than others, but in a good game every piece is important. Generally speaking, all other things being equal, the player who best succeeds at using his pieces in combination and in marshaling all of them into the common cause will have the stronger game. For readers fluent in chess, it will give convey some impression of the nature of this afternoon's game when I say that my opponent, out of 82 moves, moved his Queen 42 times, and put me in check 20 times. As one of the leading chess writers of the past century pointed out, I apologize for not remembering the author and title of the book in question, novice-level players -- that certainly includes me and my opponent here -- often overestimate the importance of check. Check is not checkmate. My opponent checked me 20 times, I checked him 3 times. If the player who put his opponent in check the most times won, my opponent would've scored a rousing victory. But he lost.

A great danger for me in this sort of game is boredom, leading to lack of concentration, leading to blunders and often enough to lost games. It was clear that my opponent, who had manoeuvred his Queen into a position where could check me with it frequently, was going to check me about as many times as he could. 20 times, as it turned out. That's a lot. 42 is an awfully big number of moves for one piece in one game. 82 moves is an awfully long game. In this case, an awfully long, awfully monotonous game. Early on it became clear to me what my opponent was going to do: check me with the Queen relentlessly. There was none of the texture, the drama and surprise that comes from an attack co-ordinated between several pieces. All I had to do was stay awake and fend off one piece until I could find some holes in my opponent's position and exploit them.

I almost didn't. No, I didn't literally fall asleep, but at one point I lost concentration sufficiently to go behind in material.

Several times we had repeated the same board position twice, check with the Queen, evade, check with the Queen from another square, evade, then back to the first one -- once I thought we had a had a three-fold repetition, and I gladly hit the "Draw" button, willingly to lose a point or 2 or 3 in order for this to be over -- but I had been mistaken. And so hitting the "Draw" button didn't result in an automatic draw, but gave my opponent the option to accept a draw, end the game and win a point or 2, or 3. But he kept on.

And finally there was no way for him to keep checking me, I had manoeuvred out of that situation, he could either trade pieces or re-group, and he didn't want to trade pieces, maybe because that would mean no more Queen and hence no more hammer-away-with-the-Queen, and he couldn't regroup, apparently. All he could do was hammer away with the Queen, or quickly die. I'm not a great chess player, far from it, but there is more than one note on my keyboard, so once I silenced his one note, that was that.

So there we were, with his King on the 8th rank behind 3 Pawns on the 7th rank, and me with 3 pawns together in the middle of the board -- because you advance your Pawns, it's one of the basic things you do in chess if you have more than one note -- and enough skill to easily promote one of them, because all 3 were passed: no Pawns were facing them. My opponent floundered, lost material until we were even again, and then it was him with a Queen and Pawns and me with a Queen and a Rook and then with 2 Queens and a Rook, all 3 of them concentrated on the Pawn covering up his King, and he resigned 2 moves before I was going to checkmate him, taking that Pawn with my Rook, then taking his Queen and pinning his King on the edge of the board.

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