Thursday, 8 February 2007

Stream of Chess Consciousness

I've been playing practice games on my Palm Tungsten E PDA using Hiarcs for around 18 months now. The games are all casual games played whilst travelling to and from work on the train and I've enjoyed it tremendously - it's been great value for money.

I thought that for the first time I would play a slower game against Hiarcs (no time control, just taking my time and taking moves back if I make a big mistake) and record my thoughts on this blog (a stream of chess consciousness) so that I can examine my thought process in more detail and try to discover what mistakes I am typically making and how I can improve.

My father taught me to play chess when I was five years old and I played regularly at a local club from the age of 9 to 15, before giving up competitive play when exams and life in general got in the way. I kept an interest in chess and resumed playing in earnest when I bought a PC and started playing against Fritz (and other players online).

My highest rating during my teen years was 1715 Elo (due in part to a slightly fortuitous win against a 2100+ player in a cup competition) and I estimate my strength to be around the 1600-1700 Elo mark now.

I hope my stream of consciousness blog entries will be useful for me and perhaps interesting to others. Here goes, I'm White; you can play along using the buttons under the board. Please feel free to contribute your thoughts - especially if you are a stronger player who can give me a few pointers!

1.e4 I've been a King's pawn player since I can remember and I don't see much point in changing now. 'Best by Test' as Fischer said. 1...c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6

So Hiarcs plays the Accelerated Dragon. My knowledge of theory isn't much (especially main line Sicilians since I usually play 2.c3) but all I remember is that you're supposed to play c4 and set up the 'Maroczy Bind'. 5. c4 Nf6 6. Nc3 d6

I had my first significant think at this point. I decided that my King would be a lot safer on the Kingside rather than the Queenside, so I would castle that way and I might as well do it quickly. 7. Be2 Nxd4

I was a bit surprised at this exchange. I think I'm usually surprised if Black chooses to exchange in this sort of position. I think that's because it seems to me that Black has exchanged off one of his developed pieces and brought my Queen to a nice central square.

8. Qxd4 Bg7

The disadvantage of my 'centralised' queen position is immediately clear! Black's bishop eyes it menacingly down the long diagonal.

9. O-O O-O

Is Be3 a good idea in a position like this? I'm always afraid of Ng4 attacking the bishop. Anyhow, I didn't see any tactics (not even any worthwhile discovered attacks from the g7 bishop) so I simply developed my last piece.

10. Bg5

I tend to be wary of playing this sort of move because I think that Black will play h6 and simply kick the bishop back, making me waste time. But thinking about it a bit more, I was happy because if Black did that, then the h6 pawn would be weak and I might be able to attack it with Queen and Bishop in future.


This looks a bit odd at first brush because it blocks the Black e pawn, but Black doesn't want to advance the e pawn anyway since it would leave the d pawn weakened (on a half open file) and also it doesn't block in the other bishop because it's already been fianchettoed. On the plus side, it attacks the potentially weak pawn at c4. I was so concerned about this that I thought I would move my rook to the c file to prepare to support it. I still didn't see any tactics for Black.

11. Rac1 Nd5!

Oops! Damn it. I think I missed this move because I was so focused on what I thought was the point of Black's last move (to attack the c4 pawn) that I didn't realise that the bishop was also creating another threat by protecting the d5 square.

12. Qd2 Nxc3

No material will be lost, but my pawn structure will be shattered if I take back with my pawn at b2, leaving me with doubled and isolated pawns on a half open file.

I think it's time for my first take back. Much earlier than I'd hoped! I will resume in a future post from the position before I played 11. Rac1.

I feel I've learned something worthwhile here already. I should make sure that I think carefully about what my opponent's last move is threatening. There may be more than one threat and they may not be obvious. Also, I shouldn't forget to re-examine potential threats I've noticed before when the board position changes. A move from the knight at f6 to discover an attack on my Queen was an obvious threat and I should have checked all possible knight moves as a matter of course.

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