Do not overthink it! As no chess player could calculate every detail in a position, it is important to calculate a bit, use your prior knowledge, and trust yourself, even if you are not 100% sure that your solution is correct. After being an inactive player, focusing on the business and personal development the last several years, this year I decided to become active again, thanks to support from my wife Stacey. Since January 1, 2023, I have played several tournaments and have had some nice successes, including tying for fifth place in the Foxwoods Open U-2200 section with a score of 5.5/7 and winning clear second place in the Marshall Chess Club FIDE Mondays with a score of 4.5/6.
Here are four times I had to trust myself:
I had black in this position in the final round of Foxwoods Open against National Expert Michael Carey, who was previously 1-0 against me in tournament chess. I had the challenge of overcoming the tough loss I had in round 6. Had I won or drew that game, I would have been in the running for first place. I had a winning advantage at one point but ended up giving my opponent counterplay and he eventually won. I knew in this game against Michael Carey that I needed a win if I wanted a decent sized prize….. What should I do?
In this typical isolated queen pawn position, he has a good blockade on the d4 square and I have some good attacking chances. After long calculation, I trusted myself and played…. 21.Nxf2!, was a winning idea.
If 22. Kxf2, I correctly calculated that I would be winning after:
23. Ke1 Rc2!
If 22. Rxf2, I was playing on:
23. Qb1 Bxf2+
I would have been a little better here; the rook, pawn and exposed white king does compensate for the two pieces. However, much stronger would have been:
23. Qf1 Rc2!
It is hard to objectively say whether I would have or not, but had he played Rxf2, there is a good chance I would have re-evaluated the decision and played 22…Qxe3.
As Carey saw I was winning with either capture, he ended up playing the best move 22.Bd4 but was then down a pawn and had a weak king for no compensation.
I had this position as black on move 13 in the last round of Marshall FIDE Mondays agianst National Master Richard Herbst, who beat me in the US Chess League back in 2010. It was the day after my win against Michael Carey and I felt similar vibes as I was in the running for a prize and was playing another person I was 0-1 against.
I got confused I quickly saw the winning idea of 13….Qd6, followed by d4. Had I played a weaker player, I honestly would have estatically played it quickly, without much thought. At one point, I was tempted to play something else, thinking I must be missing something. When I played 13…Qd6, he quickly played 14.Rfe1. After I played 14..d4, disconnecting his dark-squared bishop from the knight on e5, he thought for about 20 minutes, realizing he was in trouble, losing a piece for no compensation. I won fairly easily after that. This game shows that even masters can blunder in the opening. I was reminded of the 1993 Christansen-Karpov Game, in which Karpov resigned in a mere dozen moves.
I was white in this positon aginst National Master Aakaash Meduri in Round 3 of the Marshall Masters on April 18. Like in my game against Richard Herbst, I at first lacked trust that I could have a winning tactic so early on in the game. However, I proceeded to play the winning idea:
15.c5! c6 (Had he played 15.. dxc5, white would be winning after the discovery 16. Nxb6.)
16. Nf4 Bc7
I was then up the exchange for nothing. (Unfortuantely, I did end up blowing advantage in time scramble and we drew the game).
In round 5 of Foxwoods Open, National Expert Xilin Chen played 43… Nd5+ and offered me a draw. Earlier in the game I was winning but I made some inaccuracies. My immediate instinct was that I should not take it as I must be winning. Our 118th Podcast Guest Grandmaster Max Dlugy describes how chess is like a duel. Every time your opponent offers a draw, capture, etc, your instinct should be to reject it and it is important to ask “why does he want me to take it?”
After thinking for 15 minutes, I realized I was losing and accepted the draw. I was nervous as I went to analyze the game after with my computer, thinking I would be disappointed in myself if there was something that I was missing and that I actually had a good position. However, with the looming threat of Nc3, double attack, black is winning. Computer gives evaluation of -2.7. I have been in touch with my opponent since and he wrote in an email:
“I felt my position was harder to play for a long time, and then I felt my position was at least not worse when I offered the draw. However, I wasn’t sure at the time if I was winning as you had a passed pawn on the 6th rank that may provide compensation and counterplay.”
It is safe to say I got a little lucky he offered a draw and I made the right decision!