Saturday, June 23, 2018

Playing on

It's a really difficult skill to move from defence to offence in chess. Imagine you've been soaking up pressure for a good while, and then your opponent makes an inaccurate move, or a few inaccuracies. Suddenly you have the chance to take the initiative and go for it. But this psychological shift is difficult to put into practice.

For a lot of players, when the pressure comes off, they are first and foremost relieved that they have survived. This doesn't lend itself to picking up the gauntlet, and going for the win. There can also be a lack of objective assessment. For instance, if I feel my position has been difficult, then I might be looking at the negative sides in my game rather than objectively assessing who is in the better position. Finally, there is an energy factor. It is generally tougher to defend than attack, and after a tough defence it might be that a player just doesn't have the energy to turn things around and start playing for a win.

My game is generally based on stodging positions and especially with Black, holding on to some fairly ugly positions int he hope that I'll be able to equalise and then take my opponent on in the endgame, where I feel confident. In the Box Hill Chess Club Championship which is coming to a close, I have had 2 positions where my opponents have offered me draws that I'd like to look at.

Here I was Black against young FM Luis Chan who had just played 17.Re1 and offered a draw. For the previous 15 moves I had basically grovelled, trying to cover any weaknesses I might have and develop some pieces. White has some difficulties with having over extended on the queen side, and I declined the draw offer and played on. The game should have ended a draw, but after some adventures from both sides, I managed to win this game.

This position is from last night, where White, FM Eugene Schon, has just captured my rook on c8. He offered a draw here, and after some contemplation I agreed. Again, I had been trying to equalise in this game for about 15 moves and I have probably just done it. I feel that I could have played on in an attempt to get something from this position, but my fighting spirit just wasn't at the same level. In this position, White is a pawn up and has the bishop pair, but Black will regain the pawn on d6, and Black's knight will probably be at least as good as either of White's bishops. White's pawn weaknesses are an issue.

So how to explain why I decided to play on in one game, but not in the other? To be honest, I can't explain it, it is totally inconsistent, and that has been a factor that has plagued my play this year. So for the rest of the year, I intend to play on whether I want to or not! I will force myself to keep playing moves, and to seek chances while there is still something in the position, a la Carlsen!

Perhaps I can also inspire others to not give in too easily to the temptation of taking a draw. After all, the logical conclusion to this is that eventually, our fighting spirit will wear down, and we won't put up the best defence in positions. So taking draws early, may lead to us losing defensible positions, because we can't put up enough of a fight.

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