I first played chess with my father when I was a child, and I also remember playing (but not understanding) the chess computer game Fritz und Fertig. In school, I’ve been part of the chess club in some years, and spent some breaks playing chess with a friend.
In January 2019 I picked up online chess1, and joined SC Réti, a local chess club, in late summer of 2021. We meet almost every Monday to have dinner and play, analyze or study chess. Having played two years of online chess, meeting with other people in person and playing on physical boards is a very different experience compared to online games, and I enjoy it immensely.
I played my first nationally rated chess game on April 30, 2022, in a tournament called the “Schweizerische Mannschaftsmeisterschaft” (SMM)2 for the SC Réti in our sixth team, Réti 6. I’ve played a few games before with long time controls, mainly during Réti-internal tournaments, but those did not count towards my offical rating.
To hold myself accountable, I’ll try to share analyses of my games here.
The time control during SMM games is 90 minutes per player from move 1, with a 30 second increment from move 1 as well. Time control is reached after 40 moves, and both players get an additional 30 minutes added to their clock.
My opponent is rated about 1200-1300 Swiss ELO. We begin 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 g6 3. Nc3 d6 4. e4, which I looked at briefly before the game.
Black gives me good control of the center, and I feel very comfortable. After the game the Black player told me he disliked his position during the opening. We continue 4. … Bg7 5. Qd2 0-0 6. 0-0-0 a6. I avoid all problems Black’s fianchettoed Bishop poses with 7. Bh6, leading to 7. … Re1 8. Bxg7 Kxg7.
Having castled on opposite sides, nothing prevents me from pushing the f-pawn. of course, pushing the h-pawn is also an option here, but I like pushing the f-pawn a bit more because it also fights for the center and prevents Black from playing e5. Thus, it continues 9. f4 b5 10. e5 dxe5 11. fxe5 Nd5. I’m not scared of Black exchanging our knights on c3. Taking Black’s knight would run into 12. … Qxd4!, a double attack against the g2 and a2 pawns, equalizing.
The g2 pawn feels a bit weak anyway, so I decide to develop the bishop to f3 via e2. 12. Be2 Nxc3 13. Qxc3 Bb7 14. Bf3. Only after moving my bishop to f3 I notice that the Black bishop can go to d5, posing the exact same problems as the knight did. Thus we get 14. … Bd5. Taking on a2 is not an option for Black, as I can trap the bishop with b3!. We continue 15. Nh3 e6 16. Nf4 c6, with me completing my development and my opponent still having some troubles with his knight. We both start our attacks with 17. h4 a5. I feel like I am faster though, especially since my queen quickly enters the kingside with 18. Bxd5 cxd5 19. Qg3.
Black develops his knight with 19. … Nd7. I don’t see how Black can stop my attack, so I play 20. h5 Nf8 21. Kb1 b4 22. b3 a4 23. hxg6 fxg6. 23. … hxg6?? would have immediately lost to 24. Qh3!.
I spent some time considering 24. Rxh7, but I didn’t see a sensible continuation after 24. … Nxf7. Stockfish shows the way: 25. Qxg6+ Kh8 (26. … Kf8? 27. Rf1! with mate to follow, as the Black king cannot escape via e7 due to Qg7#) 26. Qf7! and Black must sacrifice his queen avoid getting checkmated.
24. … Kxh7 also loses material after 25. Qh3+ Kg1 26. Rh1 Kf7 27. Qh1! and Black is completely paralyzed. The knight must defend the mate threat on h7, and 27. … Ke7?? runs into 28. Qg7#. Black must sacrifice material to survive.
However, I am not Stockfish, so I play 24. Nh5+ Kh8 after some consideration. Both Kg8 and Kf7 lose by force, but it is not terribly difficult to see. 25. Nf6 Re7 26. Qh3 and my attack has seemingly halted. During the game I don’t feel like I missed something obvious, but I have a very strong feeling that the position is equal now, if not slightly better for Black.
Now its Black’s turn to attack: 26. … axb3 27. Qxb3??. 27. cxa3 looks much easier to defend than Qxb3, which the engine agrees. 27. Qxb3 blundered into 27. … Ra2!, which my opponent fortunately overlooked as well. Instead we get 27. … Qa5 28. Rd3 Ra2 (now too late) 29. Kb2 Qxa2+ 30. Qxa2 Rxa2+ 31. Kb3 Ra3+ 32. Kxb4.
32. … Rxd3 33. cxd3 Rxg2 Black exchanges a pair of rooks and wins a pawn, however my king enters the black position after 34. Kc5 Kg7 35. Rf1 h5 36. Kd6 Rd2 37. Ke7, threatening to win the knight with Ne8+. Thus we get 37. … Nh7. I decide to take the pawn first, thinking that Nxf6 is better for me. In hindsight this isn’t true, and only gave black the opportunity to exchange his bad knight for my great one. 38. Kxe6 Rxd3 39. Ne8+ Kh6 40. Kxd5. 38. … Nxf6 would have been better according to the engine. I feel very comfortable again, as my pieces are well placed for the endgame: my rook defends the first rank and prevents lone pawns from promoting, my knight dominates Black’s knight and my connected passed pawns are one square closer to promotion than Black’s.
Black tries to push with 40. … h4 but the h-pawn alone cannot promote while my rook patrols the first rank. 41. Ke4?, better would have been 41. e6 immediately. 41. … Ra3 42. Kd5 h3 43. e6 Ra8 44. Nc7 Rd8+ 45. Ke5 Rf8?. After my opponent offered me the exchange of rooks, I can win the game on the spot and take my time to calculate the following sequence: 46. Rxf8 Nxf8 47. e7 Nd7+ 48. Ke6! only winning move, as otherwise the black knight defends the e8 square from f6. 48. … Nc5+ 49. dxc5 h2 50. a8=Q and Black resigns, because 50. … h1=Q is followed by 51. Qh8+! … 52. Qxh1, and the game is over.
I was very happy to have won my first rated game, but I felt that I was lucky my opponent made some mistakes in the endgame, allowing me to win after he had equalized in the middle game.
A fun puzzle
During the game, my endgame was winning due to having 49. dxc5 after 48. … Nc5+. It turns out that this endgame is also winning without the pawn on d4, can you find an alternative winning sequence?
one year before the pandemic and the ensuing popularity surge ↩︎
translates to “Swiss Team Championship” ↩︎