Blog Post 22-12-14: Dealing with Failure

Fri, 2015-01-02 20:10 -- IM Max Illingworth

Hello everyone!

Do you know what it’s like when you really want something, you want it so much that you’ll make some sacrifices to maximise your chances of getting it?

I was very determined to attain my final Grandmaster norm at the recently concluded Australasian Masters in Melbourne, and with all my other writing and coaching along with my tournament preparation and playing, the blog took a back seat…but I’m back and well!

Those of you following the tournament will know that I had my worst FIDE-rated tournament for the year, the reasons for which I won’t divulge here…but it would be nice for some people other than my opponents to benefit from my failings in the tournament.

From memory another Australian chess blogger wrote some theoretical words on the subject of failure, but the main point he made is an important one: everyone fails before a success.

You aren’t born good at something, you have to work at it and practise it so you can ‘iron out’ the mistakes in your play, study and self-management.
It’s harder to find a better model for this than a World Champion. After all, I promised to cover the rest of the World Championship with my previous post, so let’s complete the picture there 

[Event "WCh 2014"]
[Site "Sochi RUS"]
[Date "2014.11.23"]
[Round "11"]
[White "Carlsen, M."]
[Black "Anand, V."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C67"]
[WhiteElo "2863"]
[BlackElo "2792"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "89"]
[EventDate "2014.11.08"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "RUS"]
[Source "Mark Crowther"]
[SourceDate "2014.11.24"]

{Fittingly enough, this success for Carlsen also came after two 'failed'
attempts to defeat the Berlin Wall, but you'll complain about all the 'boring'
Berlins in this post if I analyse them, so let's observe some chessboard
bloodshed!} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6
7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 {I regret to inform that exchanging the queens won't
make the game sharper...} 9. h3 Bd7 10. Nc3 h6 11. b3 Kc8 {It might seem
strange to move the king so early...but there are plenty of pieces on the
board that could hurt the king, so he gets out of the firing zone. Spoiler
alert: the king would be really nice on c6, shielded by a pawn on c5!} 12. Bb2
c5 13. Rad1 b6 14. Rfe1 Be6 15. Nd5 g5 {This setup may seem really strange; we
played all these pawn moves, moved the light-squared bishop twice and have
only two pieces developed! But in such a closed position it is all about the
piece placement and strategic factors, and you might notice that with nearly
all our pawns on dark squares, our mighty unopposed light-squared bishop can't
be attacked by a knight. I dare you to make 50 non-capturing moves in a row to
see if you can still safely attack my bishop!} 16. c4 Kb7 17. Kh2 a5 18. a4 Ne7
19. g4 Ng6 20. Kg3 {White wants to play h4, exchange the Black g-pawn for the
White h-pawn and then run Freddy the f-pawn to f5 so the kingside majority can
turn into a passed pawn. But Vishy will have none of it!} Be7 21. Nd2 Rhd8 22.
Ne4 Bf8 23. Nef6 $6 {I haven't given any variations yet but the Berlin isn't
that sort of opening - it is all about understanding where the pieces belong
and what pawn structures and piece endgames favour you or the opponent. But
all it takes is one slack move and there will be a chance to pounce!} (23. f3 {
was better to secure the placement of the White knights. Admittedly it isn't
so easy for either side to improve their position then; the queenside is
fairly fixed (unlike in the game!) and the kingside is under good control by
Black's pieces. I suppose White could play for f4 but it's a lot easier said
than done with the pawn on e5 needing some protection!}) 23... b5 $3 {A really
nice move - White can take the pawn either way, but doing so will run into
tactical problems (as I'll explain below). But in general it's a good idea to
exchange the White queenside pawns like this - we can't really attack that
b3-pawn in a good way (unless lots of pieces are exchanged and we get our
bishop to the b1-h7 diagonal and then c2) but without the b3 buddy, the a4 and
c4 pawns will be isolated!} 24. Bc3 $1 {Carlsen failed to spot ...b5 but you
can't take back your last move - so Carlsen makes the best of what he has and
stabilises the position a bit. At least that rook on a8 will think twice
before moving!} (24. cxb5 c6 $1 {is a nice move - if the White knight moves,
Black will take on b3 and open the position for his bishop pair (the archers
love the open ranges!) but after} 25. bxc6+ Kxc6 26. Ne3 Bxb3 {White has to
play the very passive} 27. Ra1 {to avoid losing the a4-pawn right away. It's
advantage Black big time after} Rd3 {, maybe even winning; he will bring his
pieces in with ...Rb8-b4, advance the c-pawn and so forth.}) (24. axb5 a4 {
(undermining the base of White's pawn chain)} 25. bxa4 Rxa4 {is also quite
tricky for White - yes, he's up a pawn, but he'll be really tied up trying to
keep it with} 26. Rc1 Ra2 27. Bc3 Be7 {and the threat is to take on f6;
whichever way White recaptures, he will lose a pawn. Whereas after} 28. Nxe7
Nxe7 29. Ne4 Kb6 30. f3 Rd3 {Black is ready to invade White's position with ...
Ng6-f4 (and Rg2 mate if he lets us!), or even gobble the White pawns with ...
Bxc4 and ...Bxb5. As I mentioned in an earlier post, opposite-coloured bishops
don't always equal a draw, least of all in the Berlin Wall!}) 24... bxa4 25.
bxa4 Kc6 26. Kf3 Rdb8 (26... Be7 {is great for Black according to the computer
- the ideas aren't too different to what we saw in the 24.axb5 line, only we
aren't down a pawn here!}) 27. Ke4 Rb4 $2 {Possibly the key moment of the
World Championship. It goes without saying that the stakes at such a moment 
(penultimate game of the match) are very high and it is Anand who 'cracks'
first. The best thing you can do in such a 'big game' is to forget about the
momentous nature of the occasion and just try to play the best moves, but
that's like playing 'The Game' (where you have to forget that you are playing
the game; the kids reading will understand what I mean).} (27... Rb3 {was the
right move, intending to hit the a-pawn from the back with ...Ra3. Then Black
has some definite pressure but it's too early to say it's all over, red rover.}
) 28. Bxb4 cxb4 (28... axb4 {may still have been tenable, but the show must go
on!}) 29. Nh5 Kb7 30. f4 gxf4 31. Nhxf4 Nxf4 32. Nxf4 Bxc4 33. Rd7 {Black's
last moves weren't the most tenacious - now the White rooks are very powerful
and while you still have to concentrate hard and keep calculating to the very
last move, Carlsen was up to the task.} Ra6 34. Nd5 Rc6 35. Rxf7 Bc5 36. Rxc7+
Rxc7 37. Nxc7 Kc6 38. Nb5 Bxb5 39. axb5+ Kxb5 40. e6 b3 41. Kd3 Be7 42. h4 a4
43. g5 hxg5 44. hxg5 a3 45. Kc3 1-0 

When Anand lost the World Championship Match to Carlsen last year, his response was to win the 2014 FIDE Candidates in March to qualify to play Carlsen in the just completed World Championship Match. But this time around, Anand’s ‘comeback’ (not that Anand didn’t give Carlsen a good run for his money) came much faster! And the comeback came not just in the better result, but in the knowledge Anand gained from his Berlin Wall games against Carlsen (not to mention all the preparation that came before that).

[Event "London Classic 6th"]
[Site "London"]
[Date "2014.12.14"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Adams, Michael"]
[Black "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C67"]
[WhiteElo "2745"]
[BlackElo "2793"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "72"]
[EventDate "2014.12.10"]
[EventRounds "5"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[EventCategory "22"]
[Source "Chessbase"]
[SourceDate "2014.12.18"]

{It's very common for players to want to give up an opening after a bad loss
with it, but Anand had a pretty good position out of the opening in the last
game so he gives it another go! It's normal to make mistakes in an opening and
lose with it from time to time, but the more you play it, the more you will
learn about it and if you do your analysis well (or have a coach who does) you
won't make the same mistake next time. So it was with Anand, who appreciated
that this ...b5 idea could work even without that precious light-squared
bishop!} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 ({One of
my better games from the Australasian Masters continued} 6. dxe5 Nxb5 7. a4
Nbd4 8. Nxd4 {, when there's a drawing line that can arise from 8... Nxd4, but
I mixed it up a bit with} d5 $5 9. Nxc6 bxc6 {in A. Smirnov-Illingworth,
Australasian Masters 2014. This is basically the Two Knights Defence with 1.e4
e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.e5 d5 6.Bb5 Ne4 7. Nxd4 Bd7 8.Bxc6 bxc6 (I
hope you're still following!), but where the d4 and e4 knights aren't on the
board!}) 6... dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. h3 Ke8 10. Nc3 h5 11. Rd1 {A
slightly strange move when the Black king already went to e8 voluntarily, but
in such a position almost any move can be tried if there's some plan in mind.}
(11. Ne2 b6 12. Rd1 Ba6 13. Nf4 Bb7 14. e6 Bd6 15. exf7+ Kxf7 16. Ng5+ Kf6 17.
Ne4+ Kf7 18. Ng5+ Kf6 19. Ne4+ Kf7 20. Ng5+ {wasn't a particularly successful
game for White in 1/2-1/2 (20) Carlsen,M (2863) -Anand,V (2792) Sochi 2014.}) (
11. Bf4 Be7 12. Rad1 Be6 13. Ng5 Rh6 14. g3 Bxg5 15. Bxg5 Rg6 16. h4 f6 17.
exf6 gxf6 18. Bf4 Nxh4 19. f3 Rd8 20. Kf2 Rxd1 21. Nxd1 Nf5 22. Rh1 Bxa2 23.
Rxh5 Be6 24. g4 Nd6 25. Rh7 Nf7 26. Ne3 Kd8 {reminds very much of the
opposite-coloured bishops theme I discussed in a previous blog post. White has
some pressure despite being a pawn down but Anand hung on with a nice
forthcoming piece sacrifice in 1/2-1/2 (122) Carlsen,M (2863)-Anand, V (2792)
Sochi 2014.}) 11... Be7 12. g3 {A problem that often arises for White in this
line is that Black can fix two pawns with one by playing ...h4 (don't forget
g4 hxg3 en passant). But now if Black plays ...h4, White goes g4 and the en
passant option is no longer on the cards. But Black's position is by no means
a one-trick pony either.} b6 13. a4 Bb7 {Usually the bishop goes to e6 but
with White not really positioned for an e6 break to pry open the gates to
Black's king, it can find refuge on the long diagonal too.} 14. a5 $6 {This
queenside play is a bit slow (typically this is where Black is stronger due to
his queenside majority) and I would have gone} (14. Bf4 Rd8 15. e6 fxe6 16.
Bxc7 Rc8 17. Be5 {with rough equality. The engines prefer White's better
structure to Black's bishop pair but that's a bit optimistic in my view.})
14... c5 (14... Rd8 {first was better to prevent White's next move.}) 15. Nd5
Bd8 {A very passive move to have to make, but} (15... Bxd5 16. Rxd5 Rd8 {s a
bit compliant as White still keeps his initiative after} 17. Rxd8+ Bxd8 18.
axb6 axb6 19. b3 {.}) 16. Bg5 (16. c4 {leaves Black without an active move and
for that reason I would have played it instead.}) 16... Rf8 17. c4 $6 {Now
this move is mistimed as at some point Black can trade on g5 and then place a
knight on d4 (as happened in the game). With every pawn move you weaken at
least one square and so you should be careful that you don't lose control of
your position as a result of too many pawn moves.} Bxd5 $1 {The bishop's sight
was impaired by the knight so it's no great sorrow to trade it already.} 18.
Rxd5 Bxg5 19. Nxg5 Ke7 20. Kg2 Nd4 {The position is objectively equal, but
it's easier for White to go wrong as he has a number of potentially weak pawns.
It would be nice for White if he could play f4, yes, but then where do the
pawns go? Even if White gets in g4, Black can still play ...g6 to stop White's
kingside majority running up the board.} 21. Rd1 Rad8 22. Nf3 (22. b4 $1 {was
correct to simplify lots of pawns with} Rxd5 23. cxd5 Rd8 24. axb6 axb6 25. d6+
cxd6 26. exd6+ Rxd6 27. bxc5 bxc5 28. Ne4 Rd5 29. Nxc5 {and it's a dead draw.
But Adams also needed a win to win the tournament and so he tries to keep some
play in it.}) 22... c6 (22... Nc6 {is interesting to attack the a5 and e5
pawns, or jump to b4. But the knight endgames are usually similar to the pawn
endgame (which would be losing for Black here) so it's natural that it was
rejected in the game.}) 23. Rxd8 Rxd8 24. Ng5 b5 {The best winning chance - if
those pawns get undoubled, the queenside majority might actually transmute
into a passed pawn!} 25. cxb5 cxb5 26. Ne4 Nc6 (26... c4 {keeps the pawns on
the board but it's hard to make further progress from there; if Black ever
plays ...b4, Nd6 will be a sobering reply.}) 27. Rxd8 Kxd8 28. e6 $2 {In
trying to win, Adams pushes himself over the precipice. It's a bit cruel to
say but sometimes the opponent does the heavy lifting for you!} (28. f4 Nxa5
29. Nxc5 {holds the position together; Black can try to advance his queenside
pawns but} Nc6 (29... Nc4 30. b3) 30. Kf3 a5 31. Ke4 {is pretty balanced; if
anything White's position looks better, not that it means much in reality.})
28... fxe6 29. Nxc5 Ke7 {Suddenly White has to make his knight very passive to
protect his overextended a5-pawn.} 30. Nb3 {Actually the last comment wasn't
completely true and maybe activating the king with} (30. Kf3 Nxa5 31. Ke4 {
offered better drawing chances.}) 30... Kd6 31. Kf3 Kd5 32. Kf4 $2 {I don't
know if White was still holding this position but certainly he is too slow
when it comes to a pawn race (as is generally the case in the Berlin, I might
add).} (32. Ke3 Ne5 33. Kd2 Kc4 34. Nc1 a6 {followed by ...Kb4 will win the
a5-pawn, and that means very good winning chances for Black anyway.}) 32... Kc4
33. Nc1 Nxa5 34. Kg5 Nb3 35. Ne2 (35. Nxb3 Kxb3 36. Kxh5 Kxb2 37. Kg6 a5 38.
Kxg7 a4 39. h4 a3 40. h5 a2 41. h6 a1=Q 42. h7 Kc2+ {is easily winning for
Black.}) 35... b4 36. Kxh5 a5 {White resigned as Black's knight and king cut
off the knight from giving its life for the a-pawn that is running down to
promotion.} 0-1 

This win gave Anand the first place in the recent London Chess Classic on tiebreak, as the tiebreak used to decide the winner was ‘wins with Black’ and only Anand had won with Black of the three leaders at the end!

I’ve heard that a number of players like to watch some inspiring movies before a big tournament, to give them the ‘mental toughness’ needed for success in elite competitions, and a favourite of many is the ‘Rocky’ series. In fact, I watched this series for a fair part of the Australian Championships I won earlier this year in Springvale, and a key part of my success was remembering Rocky get defeated by his rival and coming back to defeat them when it counted when my games got dicey!

For those of you who are too young or culturally distant to know the series, I’ll treat you to another recent comeback in real life – in the World Mind Games in Beijing, Radjabov came last in the first tournament (the Rapid), but bounced back to finish in 3rd place in the Blitz event and 2nd place in the Basque (rapid) event!

For those of you who don’t know what ‘Basque chess’ is, it is where you play two games at the same time against the same opponent – one white and one black. That’s with a clock too, so you won’t be able to score one point against me by copying my moves! I won’t analyse the next game but, at least for a rapid game, it’s a pretty good indication of how to stop Black’s typical play in the King’s Indian. Yes, I know it started out as a Ponziani, but the arising middlegame structure is identical to a King’s Indian!

[Event "Beijing Sportaccord rap"]
[Site "Beijing"]
[Date "2014.12.11"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"]
[Black "Radjabov, Teimour"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C44"]
[WhiteElo "2714"]
[BlackElo "2734"]
[PlyCount "93"]
[EventDate "2014.12.11"]
[EventType "rapid"]
[EventRounds "7"]
[EventCountry "CHN"]
[Source "Chessbase"]
[SourceDate "2014.12.18"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3 Nf6 4. d4 d6 5. d5 Ne7 6. Bg5 Nd7 7. c4 h6 8. Be3 g6
9. Nc3 Bg7 10. g4 a5 11. Nd2 Nc5 12. h4 h5 13. g5 O-O 14. Qc2 Bd7 15. Bh3 Bxh3
16. Rxh3 c6 17. Bxc5 dxc5 18. O-O-O Qd7 19. Rd3 cxd5 20. Nxd5 Nxd5 21. exd5 Qg4
22. f3 Qxh4 23. Ne4 b6 24. d6 Rfd8 25. Kb1 Qf4 26. Qa4 Qf5 27. Qc6 Rab8 28. a3
Qe6 29. Qb5 Bf8 30. Qb3 b5 31. Rd5 bxc4 32. Qc3 Rb3 33. Qxa5 Rdb8 34. d7 Rxb2+
35. Ka1 Be7 36. d8=Q+ Bxd8 37. Rxd8+ Kg7 38. Qxc5 Rb1+ 39. Rxb1 Rxd8 40. Rb6
Qf5 41. Rf6 Qh3 42. Qxc4 Rd1+ 43. Ka2 Qd7 44. Rb6 h4 45. Rb8 h3 46. Qc5 Qd5+
47. Qxd5 1-0 

Now let’s see one of the last-round games (remember, this is Basque chess!) that gave Radjabov his second place in the Basque tournament. There’s a nice puzzle coming up so switch your brain on!

[Event "Beijing Sportaccord Basque"]
[Site "Beijing"]
[Date "2014.12.17"]
[Round "5.8"]
[White "Harikrishna, Penteala"]
[Black "Radjabov, Teimour"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C50"]
[WhiteElo "2727"]
[BlackElo "2734"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "45"]
[EventDate "2014.12.16"]
[EventRounds "5"]
[EventCountry "CHN"]
[Source "Chessbase"]
[SourceDate "2014.12.18"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. d3 Nf6 5. Nbd2 a6 6. c3 O-O 7. Bb3 d6 8. O-O
Re8 9. h3 Be6 10. Nc4 b5 11. Ne3 Bb6 12. a4 Rb8 13. axb5 axb5 14. Ng5 Bxb3 15.
Qxb3 Qd7 16. Nd5 Nxd5 17. Qxd5 Nd8 18. Be3 h6 19. Bxb6 Rxb6 20. Nf3 Ne6 21.
Rfd1 Nf4 22. Qb3 d5 23. Nh4 {Black to play. Can you find the move Radjabov
played and why he played it?} 0-1 
[Event "Beijing Sportaccord Basque"]
[Site "Beijing"]
[Date "2014.12.17"]
[Round "5.8"]
[White "Harikrishna, Penteala"]
[Black "Radjabov, Teimour"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C50"]
[WhiteElo "2727"]
[BlackElo "2734"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "4r1k1/2pq1pp1/1r5p/1p1pp3/4Pn1N/1QPP3P/1P3PP1/R2R2K1 b - - 0 23"]
[PlyCount "13"]
[EventDate "2014.12.16"]
[EventRounds "5"]
[EventCountry "CHN"]
[Source "Chessbase"]
[SourceDate "2014.12.18"]

{Radjabov played the very strong} 23... Nxh3+ $1 {(even the engine needs a bit
of time to see this wins, but it's quite clear that with a queen and rook
coming into the attack against a knight, the attack will be crushing)} 24. gxh3
(24. Kf1 {doesn't just cut White's losses to a pawn as} dxe4 25. dxe4 Qg4 26.
Nf5 Nf4 {continues the attack, and there is ...Rg6 coming at some point to
bring more attackers in, or even ...h5-h4-h3.}) 24... Qxh3 25. Nf5 (25. Ng2 Rg6
{is pretty sad too.}) 25... Rg6+ 26. Ng3 Rxg3+ {Actually, it is forced mate
now! Just kidding, you don't have to calculate it :)} (26... h5 {and ...h4
also worked.}) 27. fxg3 Qxg3+ 28. Kh1 (28. Kf1 Re6 {threatens ...Rf6 followed
by a piece coming into f2, and there's not much White can do about it.}) 28...
Qh3+ 29. Kg1 Re6 {White resigned as the devastating ...Rg6 can only be delayed.
} 0-1 

Finally, I could point to myself as a player who has come back from bad tournaments in the past – for instance, this year I had a bad tournament just before I scored my second GM norm in Budapest, and also in 2011 I’d had a few bad tournaments before achieving my first GM norm.

The key to my success there was that I learned what I did wrong in the tournaments and worked hard to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Merry Christmas! It’s too early to say ‘Happy New Year’ as I’ll write another blog post before then! Consider it a pre-new year resolution ;). Max