Another win in the EU amateur cup prelims, securing a semi final spot.
My luck continues as a fairly strong opponent gets caught in some opening tactics, which with best play probably see him emerge down a pawn with a rather inferior position. However some routine moves meant he dropped a piece and never really recovered.
The game, with rather brief notes, can be found here.
The European Amateur Cup preliminaries have recently finished, having commenced in March 2020.
So the saying goes. Warming up for tonight’s game by solving a few online problems on the Chessbase server. Rating at a mediocre 2238. Was over 2300 a few weeks back. But that’s why we keep plugging away! Maybe time to introduce a tactics book into my training material and tackle the subject a little more systematically.
This round paired me against the tournament leader and no1 seed Trefor – a player I have known for many years having previously shared a hometown and both having played for various clubs in the local league. Being of similar strength we have shared plenty of battles over the board.
This game had an extra sense of rivalry – Trefor had recently visited to pick up a DGT board from me and took the opportunity to browse my chess library – diligently noting the opening books in my collection. We both assumed we would be playing the following week and joked about what we might play, trying to throw each other off the scent.
I think in this sense it was a draw – I correctly predicted he would try the Milner-Barry gambit in the French, although he surprised me with an early deviation.
The game can be replayed with notes here
Things move slowly in correspondence chess. The below cross table is a tournament just finished, that commenced 06/11/2019. My Live ICCF rating is now 2150.
This week’s round saw me pitted against an opponent c400 points lower rated – but being a Swiss, he had scored the same points as me so far – nothing could be taken for granted.
A smooth game overall: I obtained a favorable position on the White side of a Tarrasch out of the opening and at a critical juncture, not only did my opponent miss the critical continuation, he miscalculated the tactics and emerged a piece down.
There followed a brief hoovering of a few pawns by our Rooks, before I proceeded to encircle his King – and whilst he embarked on his retreat, I managed to advance a pawn sufficiently down the board that it’s prospects of becoming a Queen drew a resignation.
The game with light annotations can be found here
Following my disaster in last week’s round, where I let slip an overwhelming advantage of both time and position, I was extra focused for this game, knowing it was a must win already to keep in contention with the R1 winners, some of whom are unlikely to drop points.
My opponent played 1.e4 allowing me to come out swinging with the French, that most cowardly of openings. Unbeknown to him, it’s one of the very few openings I know fairly well and despite it not being the only thing I’ve been known to offer against the King’s pawn, I must have at least a few hundred correspondence games in the French structures, from both sides.
Thankfully, my opponent didn’t wimp out with an exchange variation, like so many club players and indeed LiChess members do against me in blitz!
We had an Advance variation with 6.Be2 and I followed the 7…Nh6 line given by Berg in his GM Repertoire series published by Quality Chess. I remember a few details about the main options for White and how to deal with them, but the one thing I could recall clearly, is that my opponent’s plan of Na3 – c2 is actually dubious in this line, despite being good in many other French systems. 
Following the opening inaccuracy my opponent, perhaps a little out of book, made another couple of errors, allowing me to pick up a few pawns. The rest, as the cliche goes, was a matter of technique.
Replay the game with my annotations here
 Berg, E. (2015) Grandmaster Repertoire: The French Defence – Volume Three. Glasgow: Quality Chess, p62
Having plucked the only book I really need to study from my collection of nearly 600 (yes, I have a problem!) to get to FM strength, namely Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual, I elected to start at the beginning.
The first section covers pawn endgames – I like these as they are great for calculation training. Fairly simple “counting” exercises on the face of it that become monstrously complex very quickly.
Key squares is the first topic of the chapter and despite thinking I understood this concept very well, the following example was rather instructive.
J. Moravec, 1952 : White to play… Solution here
Dvoretsky, M. (2008) Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual. 2nd ed. Milford: Russell Enterprises, p. 15
My first competitive game in over a year seemed a good place to start the JourneytoFM project. A comfortable game where I was better throughout yet blundered by moving too quickly when trying to keep my opponent on his clock when he dropped to his last couple of minutes.
We ended up in a …Nbd7 variation of the Fianchetto King’s Indian, where my opponent chose a sub-optimal plan, allowing me to neutralise both his KID Bishop and one of his Rooks, in addition to him spending tempi trading off my “Bad Bishop” for his “Good” one.
However, late in the day, playing too fast despite having 18 or so minutes on the clock, I blundered into a draw. I was moving too fast. My opponent had dropped to under 2 remaining minutes and I was trying to keep the pressure on him. Rookie mistake.
To his credit, when it mattered and his chance appeared, he took full advantage and found the correct continuation to force the draw.
Due to Covid restrictions currently in place in the UK, the game was played on the Lichess server and can also be found here…