This week, we'll be exploring some common themes for club-level players by analyzing a typical amateur game that featured a lot of miscues. Concepts include: stopping counterplay, open vs. closed center, impatient pawn pushes, "phantom" tactics, and much more.
00:00 - Intro
01:50 - Nimzo-Indian Defense
14:12 - Phantom Tactics
15:15 - Impatient Pawn Pushes
16:57 - Feel-Good Checks
23:08 - Players who Stand
31:00 - Outro
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Welcome everyone. Thanks for tuning in. This week we're going to be discussing Phantom Tactics Material vs Initiative, players who stand up and lean over the board after making a winning move. What's up with that? The Nimzo Indian Defense stopping counterplay and a whole lot more. So stick around.Narrator:
Welcome to the chess angle. This is not your typical chess podcast. If you're an amateur or club level player, the chess angle is for you. Our content is aimed at busy adults who are serious about the game but have limited study time. Featured guests include both amateur and title players alike. And now here's your host, director of the Long Island chess club, ..Neal:
So let's jump right in and get right to the game. Now, this was a typical amateur sort of club level dynamic. I was playing a slightly lower rated player, but it was a very sloppy game. I wasn't really happy with the way I played. I did win the game, but both of us were trading mistakes. It was kind of a bad win. And one of the themes we're going to see is that sometimes you don't have your A game. Maybe it's your A minus game or your B plus game, but against certain players that's enough. I mean, you don't want to get into that mindset. You always want to bring your A game, but just the reality of being human and the fact that we're not going to be on top of our form every night, that comes into play. So it's not so much that you bring your best game, you just need to be better than the other guys. So this was a Nimzo Indian defense, which is one of my favorite openings. So I was black. He opened with d4. I opened with knight f6. Now let's talk about that for a minute. Remember, the classic goal for white in the opening is to get in e4 and d4, right, that classic pawn center. And black seeks to prevent it. So after d4, the traditional move is d5, having a symmetrical pawn opening, and then you're covering e4, so we can't get it in With the Indian defenses. You're playing knight f6, so you're covering e4 with a piece. Knight f6 is a great move. You can play it pretty much after anything. Now, the only exception if you played against e4, then you're getting into the Alakine's defense, which gets a little tricky after e5, but against anything other than e4, knight f6 is a great move. It's very flexible. It can lead to a lot of different things. You're developing a piece right away. You're getting ready to castle king side, so a lot of good things. So it was d4, knight f6, c4, and then e6, knight c3. And then I played the classic move, the Nimzo Indian move, which is bishop b4. And the idea there's several things actually. You're threatening to chop on c3 and not only double white's pawns but also gain more control over the e4 square. So remember, black wants to control e4, so does white, and since white's c3 knight controls e4, right now the bishop looks to undermine that and most of the time you're going to chop on c3. We'll talk more about that in a minute. Now, here white played e3, very solid. That's the Rubenstein variation. It may seem a little tame but it's very solid. It supports d4, and it gets ready to develop the light-squared bishop so he might follow up with something like bishop d3, something like that. So very solid. This is all book still. And then as black I played b6, which is my favorite variation against the Rubenstein. What you're doing is I'm going to fiend Keddo the bishop on b7, and add to my control over e4, which is a big theme in the Nimzo Indian defense Against these sort of queen pawn openings. I kind of like a queen's Indian or Nimzo Indian type of setup. Anyway, I mean, I play knight f6, b6, and bishop b7 against almost anything other than e4. I just kind of like that setup. I think it works really well for black. But b6, this isn't sort of a unique thing for me. That is a general and well-known book idea against the Rubenstein. So b6 is a book move, the idea of fiend Keddoing the bishop. So that's the line I went into. Then he played knight f3, which is actually the St Petersburg variation. Now usually instead of knight f3, white often plays bishop d3 or knight g e2. But he played knight f3, and then I took on c3. Now let's talk about that. In the Nimzo, black almost always takes like 99% of the time he's going to take on c3. He's going to trade the bishop for the knight For the simple reason that if you move the bishop back, like if he teases it with a3, if you move the bishop back, you're kind of just wasting time. And the idea is that by trading on c3, does a couple of things it doubles his pawns, it undermines white's control over e4, and it's with tempo because he obviously is to take back. You can then play a developing move. So with very few exceptions I'm not going to get into it now white black rather almost always is going to capture on c3. And he played b take c3, those doubled c pawns on the c file could potentially be weak. His eight pawn is now isolated, the pawn on eight, two. So that's an imbalance that black can work with. And the thinking is you know, but white has the two bishops now. But again, you know how I feel about that. I think the whole concept of, well, I have the two bishops, so I have an advantage, I think that's really overblown at the amateur level, because even though players at this level know that they have the two bishops and they're aware of it, they generally don't have the skill to take advantage of it. It's one thing to know that theoretically you're supposed to you know, quote, unquote have the advantage, but actually playing the right moves to take advantage of that is another story. All right, but the idea is white is the two bishops, black's getting smooth development. He also has the double pawns. He created the double pawns for white on the C file and this is all normal stuff in the Nimzo. Then I played knight e4. Now this may seem almost like a beginner's move because you're moving the same piece twice and it just seems like kind of a cheesy attack on the c pawn, on the c3 pawn. But the truth is that knight, as we're going to see, is going to be very hard to budge and that's a major positional idea for black in the Nimzo. White then played queen c2, so my knight's being attacked. And then I simply followed up with bishop b7, which not only protects the knight, but I was going to develop there anyway. Right, because I played b6. So this is all normal. Black's position is great here. And then white played bishop d3, attacking the knight again. And then here's an important idea now. I then played f5, locking in that knight in the middle. All right, this is a major idea in the Nimzo. Now let's talk about this for a minute. F5 does a couple of things. It protects the knight. But after I castle king side, you can then get your heavy pieces over to the h and g file and start an attack against white's castle king, assuming he castles there. That's an idea. So after you castle, black can go like rook f8 to rook f6 and swing it over. They call that the rook swinger. You can also go queen e8 and then bring the queen over to h5, maybe in some lines, but that's a common idea in the Nimzo is you get that attack on the h and g file with your heavy pieces. That's one idea and the fact that you played f5, that knight is very difficult to budge Because if he goes, bishop takes knight, then black goes, bishop takes knight, attacking the queen. He's got a great position. So black's doing very well here. The idea here is again to castle, maybe get in d6. You're taking away the e5 square from white's knight, follow up with knight d7 and then maybe knight d to f6. These are all different ideas but this is a typical Nimzo position with the knight on e4. So here we made some pretty standard moves. We both castled and then white played a4, which is a decent move. Usually when there's a fiend kettled pawn like when you have that pawn on b6, it can be vulnerable to attack. So he's looking to kind of chip away. So I simply played a5, blocking the pawn, and now also his pawn on a4 is now cemented there. That could be a potential target. All right, because remember we doubled his pawns earlier when we did bishop takes c3. We kind of damaged his pawn structure over there. White's totally fine, but these could be, you know, potential weaknesses as we move on. And then here we played some typical like amateur inaccuracies. He did bishop a3 attacking my rook, and then I did rook f6, which probably wasn't the best idea. Okay, d6 might have been better because it blocks the bishop and I planned on playing that anyway. So we make some moves here. Then we get to a position where I sort of didn't fully analyze my opponent's idea, and stopping counterplay is so important. You need to be aware of your opponent's ideas, not just potential moves. It's not enough to say, okay, if I make this move, what does he have? Is it a blunder? Am I hanging anything? You also have to look at his ideas in general, not simply what are his responses to your one move. And that's the mistake that we make so often is we say, okay, if I play rook f6, you know what does he have? Is that a blunder? Am I going to drop something? Is there a check? But that's not enough. When you make a move you also have to say, okay, let's blunder check that, but let's also check his larger plan. Like you know what are some of his ideas. And I sort of slipped here and he got in c5. I'm still okay, but I had better moves than what I did. So he gets in c5. He's playing pretty well so far. I mean a couple of typical inaccuracies, but no one's really blundered yet. Then I decided, I think correctly, to attack his a4 pawn, which is weak and isolated, and then he blocked it with his bishop. Now I end up winning a pawn here. Okay, so we make some trades, I end up winning that a pawn. So blacks up a pawn here and let's talk about that. Don't assume that just because you're up a pawn, that the game is won or that you're winning or that you have a better position. There's being up a pawn and being up a pawn. Even though I'm up a pawn, here, the position is actually perfectly equal. I mean, according to the engine, it's actually 0.00. And you may say well, how can that be? If you're up a pawn Because he still has active pieces, he has counterplay and it's not the type of position where being up a pawn is decisive enough. He still has some things at play here. You need to be aware of that. Don't think because you're up a pawn, that that automatically means it's a winning position. Often it might be, but in this case there's still a lot going on. He has a lot of play and I have to be careful. All right, but I still like my position. Then you know, he attacked my queen. He's playing very well right now. And then we make some trades and then we get to a point where I slipped up a bit. Now, looking at it now, I really don't know what I was thinking, because this is not a move I would normally make. I must have seen something that I thought was there or misread it. It happens Now against a much higher rated player. I probably would have gotten punished here, I'm sure, but I kind of got away with one and I want to talk about opening up the center versus keeping it closed. You have to determine the counterplay of your opponent and whether it's going to benefit him or benefit you. And here I incorrectly opened up the center. I should have kept it closed. He pushed his d5 pawn attacking my e6 pawn, and I should have just pushed instead of trading. I should have pushed, keeping it closed. I have pressure against his backward c4 pawn. Excuse me, I kind of misread it here, because I was looking at opening it up and I thought I could get some attacks on his queen After I take the pawn he takes with the rook and I thought it was still winning. But I kind of misread it, I didn't. It wasn't really a blunder here, it was more of a one-question mark move. But you really need to assess the position and really analyze if you're gonna choose to open up the center or keep it closed, because that's gonna dictate most of the middle game. So I traded in the middle, which was horrible, because now I have a very weak pawn on d6, like I. Like I said, I'm looking at it now, I don't know, you know, and so it goes right. The life of the amateur player. But I'm okay, you know I'm not. I mean, even the engine says it's pretty, even you know I still I realized after his response that this probably wasn't the best plan. Okay, but I'm keeping a cool head. And then it got to a point where I missed a nice tactic. He attacked my rook and Basically I know this is audio, only I Could have actually kept the rook where it was and I had like a little night maneuver that threatened a fork of his queen and rook. It was a little tactical thing. If you plug in the PGN You'll see it. But I kind of misplayed here a little bit. I simply moved my rook to safety, but that wasn't the best idea. And then he played an interesting move here and this leads us to what I call Phantom tactics. Now, that's just a term I use. If you heard somebody else use that term, you know, give that person credit. I didn't Google it or anything to see if that's like a thing, I call it phantom tactics. That's where a player makes a move Thinking it's like this brilliant tactical shot, but there's really nothing there, like the opponent can either ignore it or just make another move. So he made this bishop move and, basically, if I take with the pawn because he has two connected rooks on the file, it leads to kind of a tactical check on his part where I can lose my queen. And I saw it. I didn't fall for it, but this is a common thing. You you really have to look at your opponent's responses. So if you make a move and you say, oh well, if he takes it, I'm winning, yeah, but what if he doesn't take it? Like does he have to take it? So he played this bishop move and I saw that it was basically a phantom tactic. There was nothing there, so something to be aware of. I simply moved my queen and then he moved his bishop, and then I actually made a double-question mark blunder, which leads us to another theme, and that is Impatient pawn pushes. Like an impatient pawn storm. Shame on me. I didn't analyze enough and I got away with one here because he could have had a winning position. So I played g5 attacking his bishop, and I got lucky because he then made a mistake as well. Okay, he moved his bishop back, but he actually could have taken it, and then he has a tactical move with his queen. Now, to be fair, his response is a little tricky to see. We both missed it. Even if I had his position there might have been a chance that I missed it as well, but I got away with one. But the idea of those Impatient pawn pushes is very important because that can lose the game. They're irrevocable. That's the thing. Right, like when you were a kid. Right? No, backsies can't move upon backwards. Oops, you know, once you move upon, that's it. You can either just capture something or move it forward. They don't move backwards folks. And if you move like a knight or a bishop to a square and you realize it's wrong, you know if it's not a wild open position, you can probably just concede that it was a mistake and move it back and you're fine. Once you make a pawn push, you're done. Like I said, I got away with one here because it was. It was impatient, it didn't work and I didn't see this tactic with his queen. It's a little tricky to see, but you know what I've played this guy before. On another night he might have seen it. So I got lucky. So we make some moves here now. I'm a little bit better now because when he moved his bishop back after that pawn push that I did. Moving the bishop back was a mistake. So my knight on e4 is excellent. I have a rook on the h file, like my pieces are very, very well placed, my weaknesses are Protected. And then he made a check with his queen and I call this a feel-good check now, even though the diagonal looks good, he did queen b2 check. You don't want to check your opponent's king if he can just move it and it doesn't lead to something positive, because the thing is he checks me, I move it and then the queen's really not doing anything there. It looks great on the diagonal but it's not really doing much. So when you check your opponent's king, there should be some purpose to it other than simply checking the king. I ended up taking his bishop with my knight because I saw that I had a good position, regardless of whether he takes back with the each point or f pawn. But interestingly I missed a winning tactical shot. Now here, you know it's funny I played one pawn push that was wrong and now I had a pawn push that was correct and I didn't see it Right. So, like I said, one of the themes in this game this was a little bit of a messy game. For me it was a little bit sloppy. It was kind of a bad win. Like I call this type of win a bad win. It's like I won the game, but it was like it was a little bit of a mess. But if I go f4 here I have a winning position. It leads to a tactical sequence, but on the other hand, what I did play, I saw that it was still winning, or at least slightly better. I would rather play a move that's not the best move, maybe it's the second or third best, but I clearly see the follow-up and the ideas then play another move. That's correct, but maybe I don't fully understand it and I, you know, I mess up the follow-up. I'm not going to beat myself up because either way I like my position. Anyway, after Knight takes g3, he took back with the H pawn All right, which is probably correct. Now, either way, I get an advantage when he takes back with the H pawn, which he did. I now get an open H file for a possible attack and my rook is there on that file. If he takes back with the f pawn, then his e pawn is hanging. So I just go. Queen takes e3 check winning a pawn. I was happy with how I played here, even though I missed a better move. I still like my position and I can possibly get an attack on the h file, which ended up happening. Let's talk about tactics for a minute. I know that everyone knows this, but tactics are huge. Huge because your opponent could have a positional advantage Most of the game and could be wearing you down, but if he slips up once and you have a tactical shot, you can totally turn the game around. It's just so important. That needs to be a part of your regular study plan and it's really what wins most games. Ultimately, it comes down to a tactical shot. That's just the harsh reality. All right, but, like I said, we were trading mistakes like crazy. This was kind of an ugly game, but you know, for these types of Game analysis episodes, I kind of like to do typical things that happen between amateur players. I think if I were to show a game that was really clean, where every player or each player played like near perfect moves, I don't know that you're gonna learn as much from that, because these types of mistakes are just so common and I think you're gonna learn more from that. So the position now. So I'm on move 30 and he moved his queen to d4, attacking my b6 pawn. So he moved his queen to d4 and a major theme here is the idea of the position itself and the initiative versus material. He's attacking my b6 pawn but I'm looking to mate on the h file or get a vicious attack, and I correctly assess that the b pawn is nothing to worry about. Now, if you're going to ignore an attack on a pawn, you have to read the position correctly, because what happens is in this case let's look at this case then a case where it's not correct I saw that if he goes queen, takes b6, after I go queen h5, I have a winning attack and losing that pawn doesn't matter. But if I were wrong let's say queen h5 didn't win and he takes the pawn on b6, what happens is I'm now down a pawn for nothing and if we trade down, he'll probably win in the end game. This happens all the time, where your opponent will attack a pawn and you think, oh, I don't need to worry about it because I'm going to have a winning attack. It turns out you don't have a winning attack, he defends, and then guess what You're now down a pawn and often that's enough to lose the game. But in this case I correctly assessed it, I really took my time here and he can't go queen b6. So right now the threat from black is queen h5. If I play queen h5, I have my rook and queen on an open h file aiming at his king. It's game over. I'm big game hunting. Now I'm not worried about the pawn on b6 because I see that my attack, my initiative, is going to trump that. He could take both those pawns over there. It's not going to matter. And then here he played a very bad move double question mark blunder. He moved his rook over attacking the b pawn again. He completely missed the queen h5 idea. He needed to play g4. I'm a little surprised because it's kind of obvious. It's like when your opponent puts his queen in front of his bishop and he's threatening mate, like on g2 or something or on g7. And it's so obvious. But sometimes they look like, oh, maybe he won't see it. You know what I'm saying. When I did queen f7, I thought queen h5 was ridiculously obvious. But it happens he needed to play g4 here. But then I go queen h5 and now it's over. Here I breathe a sigh of relief. And I saw that it was unstoppable. I mean, even the computer says that blacks up like 4.46. All right, so I'm winning here. Now of course I have to check counterplay, I have to look at checks, but I saw that the attack down the h file is unstoppable. And this all started before when I traded bishops on g3. Because he had to go, h takes g3. And now I have an open h file. And if you recall from the beginning, one of the ideas in the NIMSO Indian is, after that early f5, you swing over your heavy pieces to the h or g file and get an attack. Now I want to talk about a phenomenon that happens at over the board tournaments. I've only seen this a few times at the Long Island chess club, but in some of the major tournaments I've seen it a lot and it's players who stand up and lean over the board I'm talking about. They stand up both palms on the board and they lean in after making a winning move. So annoying, so frustrating, I don't know what's up with that. It's almost like high in your face. Now, a lot of kids will do that. But with kids, even though it's annoying, they're victims of their age. I mean, if it's like an eight year old kid or a nine year old kid and he does it and he's excited, all right, yeah, it's annoying, but I mean he's a child, can you really blame them? But when an adult does it, it's just really really frustrating. But this is something I've seen and it's so annoying. I don't know if you've had a player do that. I'm curious. That's something I've seen. They play a winning move and then they like stand up. You know it's like there's no need for that. So I played. I didn't do that here. This didn't happen during the game. I'm just saying like when I played this move, it just reminded me of that and I just thought I'd mentioned it. I played Queen H5 and I'm just. You know, I kept my poker face, I mean inside I was like, okay, I see that I'm winning. You know, I've been doing this long enough to know that this was definitely a winning position. I don't need to see the engine in front of me now to know that because, like I said, the penetration down the H file, he can't stop. Something to think about if you play a winning move against your opponent in an over the board tournament, don't like stand up and like rub it in his face. All right, there's no need for that, one of those annoying behavior things. Anyway, we move on. Let's talk about attacks and counterplay. You have to look at checks from your opponent and possible counter attacks, because what happens is, with an attack is you won't see it through. You'll look at maybe one or two checks and, oh great, I'm gonna check his king. I have an open file, but you have to see if it gets to a point where you run out of checks, like you might still be winning. But if you run out of checks, does he then have a check? And he turned around like you have to look at that. You have to look at checks. That's a big part of Counterplay prevention. You have to look at checks and I did so here. So he has queen d5 check and Understand that when I played queen h1 check, I actually thought for a long time. Obviously, when we do this postmortem, we go through it a little bit quickly. But during the game, before I played queen h1 check, I really, really looked at his counter, playing his ideas and I said you know, do I run out of checks? Is it definitely winning? Can he turn this around? Because we all, we've all been there. I mean, how frustrating is it when you have this winning position, you have this attack and you miss like one check that he has and he completely turns it around. Very frustrating. I wasn't about to let that happen. But I looked at it, I analyzed it through. I saw all the lines. He has a couple of checks but then the check stop and then I have a winning attack. But you need to analyze that. You have to look at your opponent's ideas and your opponent's counterplay. Do I have anything hanging, things like that? So his queen d5 check. I saw, I analyzed, it's nothing to worry about. So then I basically continue my attack. When the check stop, he goes queen d5 check. But again, I looked at all this. I simply blocked with my rook. He goes queen a check King, goes up to h7. He has nothing. He actually resigned here. A lot of players probably would have played it out. But at this point I mean black is actually up 42.9. This happens very often at the amateur level, where they'll play pretty well like a lower rated player Might, you know this is true even for higher rated players. But players of all levels at the club level They'll play very well for most of the game. I mean they might make a few missteps I mean not any really double question mark blunders, but they'll play really well and then boom, they'll just make that one mistake. You just got to wait them out. Patience is so important and that's what happened here. When he missed G4, he needed to play g4. And when I played queen h5 and I had both the rook and the queen on the h file, it was over, all right. But if he didn't miss that it would have been a game. But again, you know this was an ugly game. It was an ugly win. Yeah, I turned it around at the end, but that was with a little bit of luck because he missed the queen h5 move. So not my best outing. But as you play in more tournaments You're gonna see. It's just the reality of playing in tournaments and how hard it is and, being human, you're gonna get a lot of these ugly wins, like these scrappy wins where it's like I don't, like. You know, I didn't play my best game. It was a bad win At one point when I played that Double question mark pawn push, he could have turned it around, you know. So if I really want to be hard on myself. I could say that this is a game I won, that I had no business winning. If you're playing a Slightly lower rated player or a much lower rated player, sometimes you can get away with it. Not my best game, but I wanted to show you a game that you know was realistic. You know, and from the amateur scene, the types of mistakes and flubs and miscues in this game very, very typical at the amateur level, and I've seen players Even higher rated make these kinds of mistakes. It happens. It's the human factor. Now I'm looking at this engine. I'm kind of new to this chestcom Engine. I really like it. I was using chest base for a while and I'm seeing this like M9 like. One of the lines is like M9. I'm like what is that like? Mach 9? I'm thinking of like the Top Gun movie, which, by the way, is a side note, I know I'm a little late to the party the new Top Gun movie, Top Gun Maverick, is Outstanding like oh my goodness, it's so good you got to check it out. I ended up watching that and then went back and watch the original. Anyway, I'm seeing this M9. I realize it means mate 9. I'm like what is that Mach 9, like I played that well. Anyway, one other thing if you're interested in the Nimzo Indian defense, if you go back to episode 48 of this podcast, I did a dedicated episode to the Nimzo and Queens Indian defenses, so you might want to check that out and a book that I recommend I've mentioned it before, I'll mention it again and I'll put a link for it. It's starting out the Nimzo Indian by Chris Ward. That's by Everyman Chess. It's on Amazon. I'll put a link for it again. Just as a side note, the starting out series you've heard me say this before by Everyman Chess is outstanding. Now they have a starting out book for almost everything. They have starting out like for all the different openings, all the mainstream openings. They have, like a starting out for rook endings is starting out like for the middle game. There's a whole like series. But for openings, as far as books, I know, obviously online there's courses and there's YouTube videos and All those you know puzzles. A lot of online stuff. I get it, but if, like me, if you actually like a physical book and they also have it on Kindle twos is an electronic version if you like an actual book for openings, the starting out series is excellent. It's geared towards club players and improvers and advanced beginners. There's a lot of excellent written Explanations. They really make you understand the ideas. It's not just a list of endless variations. There's a lot of written pros, which is what you want. You want to understand the ideas and the themes. You don't just want to memorize moves. But I highly recommend that book. I hope this was helpful. We looked at a number of practical ideas that are very common in amateur games and I wanted to show a game again. That was a little bit ugly because it kind of highlighted a lot of common themes that you'll see at the club. So I hope you enjoyed it. There's a PGN of the game, right, pgn? I think I said PDF in the last episode by accident. Yeah, pgn, portable game notation. There is a PGN of the game in the show notes, so if you want to copy and paste it into an engine to follow along and see all my horrible moves, you can do that. But I think it's a good learning game. If you're interested in the Nimzo Indian defense In particular, it's something you might want to look at and I will say you can use the Nimzo Indian and Queens Indian defenses as a complete system against D4. Even if White plays some system openings, even if they play something like the Kali opening or even the London system, you can still use these defenses against that. For example, when I face the London system, as I've mentioned, I will use the Queens Indian. It works very well against the London Leads to kind of a very strategic positional game, which I like. But the Queens Indian plays very well against the London right Because you're still fighting for that E4 square. So it'll save you some time in opening study because it's flexible, something to think about and that's not just for amateurs. Many strong, accomplished players will use the Nimzo and the Queens Indian as a complete repertoire against D4. So just wanted to throw that out there. Really appreciate you listening. As a little teaser, I will be doing an episode this season on the English opening, which is one C4. And, to be clear, it's going to be an episode from Black's point of view. It's not gonna be so much how to play C4. It's going to be how to deal with C4. So when you're Black and White plays C4, I'm gonna give you some ideas on how to fight that because from comments that I've heard a lot of people when they have the Black pieces, they see one C4 and they start freaking out. So I'm gonna do an episode about that, just to talk about some ideas that's gonna be coming up I don't know exactly when, but it'll definitely be this season. So hopefully you'll enjoy that. Really appreciate you listening and, as always, I hope you win your next game. Have a great day, everybody.