Sunday, June 15, 2008

KNB Blues

Yesterday I finally got a KNB ending in 5/0 blitz, and naturally screwed it up. Didn't see it coming up either, and was happily exchanging everything off as fast as I could. Then of course my opponent sacs his rook for the last pawn, and I'm up against the typical textbook KNB, with the king already near the edge. I had 25 seconds left, and my opponent 1min 10s or so, but I knew I could do it, so I started pushing his king against the edge. I could already taste the sweet taste of "I told ya so" after showing him how wrong he was to even dare to suspect I couldn't mate him with a king, knight and a bishop!

So what happens? It turns out my head is suddenly totally empty of any knowledge on how to push him against the edge. So, painfully aware of the ticking clock, I start to move my pieces around rather randomly, hoping he'll accidentally move where I wanted. Because from the edge I could go more or less on autopilot, of that I was quite sure.

Of course it turns out the guy knows his KNB as well, and correctly tries to keep his pesky king in the centre, easily avoiding my futile uncoordinated piece movements. So it takes me twenty moves to even get him against the wall, at which time my clock also runs out. A cold metallic voice mocks me by informing that a draw by timeout & unsufficient mating material is a fact, and flock of birds set of from a nearby tree as a scream of frustration cuts through the air.

1. f4 d5 2. Nf3 c5 3. g3 b6 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. d3 e6 6. O-O g6 7. c3 f5 8. Na3Bg7 9. Ne5 Nd7 10. Nb5 Nxe5 11. fxe5 Bxe5 12. Bf4 Bxf4 13. Rxf4 a6 14. Na3Nf6 15. h3 O-O 16. c4 e5 17. Rf1 Qc7 18. e3 Rad8 19. Qe2 Rfe8 20. Rac1 d421. e4 Bc8 22. Nc2 fxe4 23. Rxf6 exd3 24. Qxd3 Bf5 25. Rxf5 gxf5 26. Qxf5d3 27. Ne3 d2 28. Rd1 Rf8 29. Bd5+ Kh8 30. Qg5 b5 31. Rxd2 bxc4 32. Nxc4 e433. Qe5+ Qg7 34. Qxg7+ Kxg7 35. Bxe4 Rxd2 36. Nxd2 Re8 37. Kg2 c4 38. Kf3Kf6 39. Bxh7 Rh8 40. Bc2 Rxh3 41. Nxc4 Rh2 42. Ne3 a5 43. a3 Rh1 44. b4axb4 45. axb4 Ke5 46. b5 Kd6 47. Ke4 Kc5 48. Bd3 Rg1 49. g4 Kb6 50. Kd5 Rg351. Nc4+ Kxb5 52. Ne5+ Kb6 53. Ke4 Kc7 54. Kf5 Kd8 55. g5 Ke7 56. g6 Kf857. Bc4 Rg1 58. Kf6 Rf1+ 59. Ke6 Kg7 60. Bd3 Rf6+ 61. Kd5 Rxg6 62. Nxg6 Kf663. Nf4 Kg5 64. Ne2 Kf6 65. Ke4 Ke6 66. Ng3 Kd6 67. Kd4 Ke6 68. Ne2 Kf6 69.Ke4 Kg5 70. Kf3 Kf6 71. Nd4 Ke5 72. Ke3 Kd5 73. Nc2 Kc5 74. Ke4 Kd6 75. Kd4Kc6 76. Ne3 Kd6 77. Bc4 Kc6 78. Nf5 Kd7 79. Kd5 Kc7 80. Nd4 Kb6 81. Kd6 Ka582. Kc5 Ka4 83. Nc2 Ka5{wormstar ran out of time and LuckyAsterix has no material to mate} 1/2-1/2

So what went wrong? I did have enough time, I did know what to do basically, and I had done it dozens or maybe even hundreds of times before. But the thing was, I had never really formed any concrete mental guidelines for driving the king against the wall, and was trying to do it ad hoc. With obviously weakened knight vision compared to when I had trained KNB extensively. The controlled squares did not pop up, I failed to keep the pieces behind my king rather than in front (where they'll obstruct my king and act as a shield for the defending king), and I didn't even remember immediately which corner to head for.

So today I've been drilling KNB quite a lot, and focusing especially on systematic ways to drive the defender against the wall. Trying to visualize the squares I'm controlling, find patterns to aim for etc. And it has helped. I see more now, have more strategic guidelines developed, and of course the actual mating sequence starting from the wrong corned I can do pretty much as fast as the mouse allows. But I want to get as fast on the cattle drive part as well, so there's still work to be done.