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Stalemate is just a cool checkmate, right?

Road to 2000 Week 3

ChessAnalysisEndgameTactics
Stalemate is just a cooler version of checkmate

Progress!

This week honestly felt like my best week of chess in a long time, even though it was full of ups and downs. My motivation was much higher and I was making some active efforts to apply what I have been studying. I'm going to go over the numbers real quick, but mostly going to focus on three games that I was proud of, where I could see a lot of my training paying off! (Oddly enough not all 3 of these are a win)

Numbers recap

FormatWinLossDraw
Blitz302
Rapid851
Classical1*10

*I won a Lonewolf game on forfeit due to an opponent no-show. So it wasn't a win, but given it's a win on Lonewolf, just want to track it here.

CorrectIncorrectPercentage
SP CTFC Deflections495098%
S&T Blunder Check Lvl 2*2540%
Review S&T Warmups172085%
Review Endgames 1.1**61346%
Review Endgames 1.2**91369%
HTRYC CH4 Material***3560%

* I'm slowing down the rate I do the level 2, going to do 5 a week (as they are demanding) and focus on also redoing all the warmups and level 1s to improve my recognition of certain patterns.
** I counted correct in the endgames review as getting the whole variation correct (which vary from 3-12 moves) but I find the moves I made mistakes on were the critical puzzle moments, so it's better to count them as incorrect.
*** I didn't finish all of these puzzles, again due to them being very demanding, but I'm aiming to finish this and the next section of chapter 4 this week.

Tactics and Calculation training paying off!

One area I mentioned I felt weaker for at my level back in week 0 was tactics. I felt in-game my ability to recognize combinations, calculate variations (breadth and depth), and identify when a tactic is present was below par. This week I have had mixed results there, but have been making a much more conscious effort at attempting to calculate and identify tactics. I'm not always correct, but instead, I'm now finding blind spots in my calculations as opposed to making a move and instantly noticing a blunder. These blind spots are giving me patterns to practice and fix.

However, I had one moment this week, where I truly excelled in tactics and calculation. It came from this position.

https://lichess.org/study/L4SmLxZx/Fvp5ELaO#65

White is pretty clearly better in this position, and after making my move Re1, but my opponent and I started on a think. I've annotated the study with the variations I was computing, but frankly, I couldn't see any winning moves for black. There are a few tactical ideas here that are important. For starters, the pin, while black's bishop is threatening the rook, it's pinned to the queen. Moving it loses the queen and creates another threat, mate. Black's king safety in this position is poor, there are no defenders for it on the back rank, so black needs to be cautious. Lastly, the knight on c6 is dominating the position, guarding some of the queen escape squares, and preventing the rook from doubling up on the bishop.

My opponent then made a massive blunder, a variation I calculated because I focus on looking at my opponent's captures and threats. The move was Rd4??.

https://lichess.org/study/L4SmLxZx/Fvp5ELaO#66

My opponent completely missed the back rank threat! What I believe my opponent had calculated was Qxd4 Bxd4 Rxe7 Bxa1, missing the critical move Re8#. I took a few seconds to just perform a blunder check, revisiting my calculation and confirming I didn't miss any in-between moves and then abruptly captured on Qxd4. This is where my opponent realized their mistake and attempted to bail out on h6, but it was over after Rxe5. While this wasn't a super hard tactical shot, I was proud of this. I didn't strictly focus on the material and kept going one move deeper in my variations to ensure I knew the best lines.

Surviving and Thriving

Blundering is going to happen, I'm trying to minimize it, but occasionally I'm going to make a mistake. I'll take a winning position and throw it out the window. However, that doesn't mean I am losing or should let it mentally crush me. Survive and Thrive has been helping me with that, solving puzzles where it's about saving positions and not outright losing, to keep drawing or winning chances on the board are great. I had a prime example of that this week. See the position below:

https://lichess.org/study/L4SmLxZx/Dt4PRKia#73

I suddenly realized my greed, capturing the pawn on b3 was a giant mistake. My opponent now had a powerful mate threat! However I remained calm, something I feel like I would have not done in the past. I would have been likely beating myself up for throwing a huge winning advantage. I assessed the situation and realized my king had an escape route. It might mean losing a pawn or two, but I'll still have chances. I also noticed my opponent did have a perpetual, if they wanted to draw, so my fate was in their hands. However, I found the best (and arguably only move, because even after Rd1+ it's necessary to play this move) g5.

https://lichess.org/study/L4SmLxZx/Dt4PRKia#76

As can be seen, if my opponent doesn't choose the perpetual route, Raf8, my king will escape. I'll lose a pawn or two, but with my material advantage, I should be able to hold and convert the win. This is exactly what happened in the game. I was proud of this, sure I had blundered away a massive lead to a draw, but I recovered, and found the way to save. Even with a draw, I would have been happy that I didn't turn this into a complete loss, but my opponent in return got greedy king chasing and I took the win!

Endgames are hard

Man endgames are hard, natural moves are deceiving. This game was a bit frustrating for me at first as I had thrown a win twice, but I realized since it was blitz I was autopiloting too much. So, I stopped doing that. I wound up at this potion, which is a draw.

https://lichess.org/study/L4SmLxZx/Dmk5nijy#92

It's without a doubt a draw, but black still has some winning chances. I need to try to keep the king away from my pawns and make progress to get in.

https://lichess.org/study/L4SmLxZx/Dmk5nijy#96

My opponent starts trying to make their way in, but it's still a draw.

https://lichess.org/study/L4SmLxZx/Dmk5nijy#100

We dance to this position, which is still a draw but requires a good understanding of the opposition. Honestly, something that I felt I understood more, before this week, but learned through the endgame course that I really didn't have a great grasp. The white king needs to stop black from getting in. However, naturally, players think they need to move back and protect their pawns. This is a major mistake and my opponent blunders by playing Kf2??

https://lichess.org/study/L4SmLxZx/Dmk5nijy#101

That's a major issue now, the black king is going to get in! There's nothing white can do to stop it. Kg2 Ke3

https://lichess.org/study/L4SmLxZx/Dmk5nijy#104

Black's king will be able to reach the g pawn and start making the critical f pawn break. Kh3, Kf3, Kh2, f4!

https://lichess.org/study/L4SmLxZx/Dmk5nijy#108

This position is lost now, white cannot defend the pawn. Kh3 or Kg1 will just see it advance. So gxf4, Kxf4, Kh3, Kf3. Regrabbing the opposition and ensuring the black's king will snatch the last pawn. So we reached this position, which of course should win:

https://lichess.org/study/L4SmLxZx/Dmk5nijy#116

The game plays out a bit more and we get to:

https://lichess.org/study/L4SmLxZx/Dmk5nijy#129

And here is where I stress it's important to play these endgames out on both sides. Sure my opponent lacked a strong understanding of opposition, but I make a pivotal mistake. See a common concept is to get the king on the second and run the pawn in. King first. You hear it all the time. Most of the time it's right... However, there is a major problem here. The white king is hidden in the corner. The correct move here is either h3 or g2+. Force the king to g1, make the other pawn move which will then force the king to h2. I however play the hilarious Kf2 and laugh at myself when the game pops up a stalemate. My problem was again I didn't blunder check and played on instinct.

Now sure I should be frustrated, and I was a bit, but I was proud and learned something. I showed a much better mastery of opposition and king positioning than my opponent in the moves leading up to this ridiculous blunder, and I learned something. Pay attention to the king when it's in the corner. I'll take this lesson and learn from it moving forward, this memory will likely be burned into my brain and if I have time on the clock I'll take the time to check if my opponent's king is in the corner!

Ta ta for now

Next week I'm going to continue with what I've been doing. I'm like the rapid 15+10 format, it's forcing me to think more and allows me to use what I've been practicing. Going to keep the studying up, I'm really glad I added the course on endgames in week 2, as it's been immensely helpful already. Hoping to keep the positive momentum rolling forward. Next week will be the one-month mark, so I'll check out a bit of progress, granted it's only been a month so not expecting much.