Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Game 6: Augusta Round 4

B40: Sicilian Defence
White: Dan Quigley (1800)
Black: George Morton (1594)
Augusta, Georgia
(G/90) Round 4, Dec. 3, 2011


After a bruising loss such as the one I suffered last game – yes, I expect not to lose against lower rated players - in years past I would quietly withdraw from the tournament and sulk somewhere in private. However, I realize that this causes me to miss out unnecessarily on fun games of chess, and one doesn't make friends this way. A few years ago, I determined to improve my behavior in this regard, treat each game as its own separate entity, and force myself to be mentally tougher about losses. One thing that made my task easier was that I had played a good, blunder-free game the previous round. Also, even Magnus Carlsen loses from time to time. He still shows up the next day to play a good game of chess. I am pleased to say I managed it this time in most respects, congratulating the game winner last round and making small talk about the game with other interested parties, and continuing to dig deep to make myself want to play on in the tournament. I am particularly glad I did continue on a personal level because a long-time friend who I hadn't seen for a few years came in during this next round as a spectator, and I was therefore able to renew acquaintances. Where I failed this round was getting my heart really in this game, despite what I was trying to force myself to do, and I was on the verge of loss for most of it. I am embarrassed to have to present the game now, but here goes.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Nc3

Standard open Sicilian play is 3.d4, but White loses nothing in placing this move first and it gives White a chance to see a bit more of Black's intentions before playing d4.

3...a6

Ah, some sort of Schevinengen-Hedgehog. What do I have planned for the Hedgehog? Oh, that's right, nothing. I have been studying the Snyder Sicilian recently, which starts 2.b3, and had been planning to play that. Sigh. Should I head into the Hedgehog and hope I can remember more about it than my opponent has no doubt recently studied? Or should I see if I can still head for Snyder-like lines? I opted to head for Snyder lines.

4.a4

If I were to play 4.b3 directly, I did not like the looks of 4...b5, followed by ...Bb7, with threats on the e-pawn due to ...b4. So, I took a moment to discourage ...b5 before playing b3.

4...Nc6 5.b3 Nf6

Black, at least, is playing logically.

6.Bb2 Be7

Black wants to be castled before he makes a center-opening move like ...d5.

7.Be2

I decide to follow suit before playing d4 myself.

7...d6

Black decided to prevent an intrusion on e5, but I am not sure this was wise. For one thing, White often doesn't really want to play e5. It limits the scope of the Snyder Bishop. I prefer 7...0-0 here with serious consideration of ...d5 to follow. Black has it firmly in mind that he is going to play the Hedgehog though.

8.0–0 0–0 9.Kh1

Newcomers to the game are often confused why strong players play moves like Kh1. Here, the reason is simple. I am about to play d4, which opens a diagonal as well as a file, and I want my King off the diagonal first. Rybka shows 9.Re1 d5= as the way things ought to go, which of course is okay, but not my intention.

9...Qc7 10.d4 cxd4 11.Nxd4 Rd8 12.f4 e5

Black correctly judges that he needs to challenge in the center, and chooses this pawn to challenge it with. Also interesting is 12...d5 13.e5 Ne4 14.Nxe4 dxe4 15.Qd2 (heading for e3 to pick up a pawn) 15...Bc5 16.c3 Qb6! And Black picks up a Queenside pawn for the e4-pawn and penetrates White's position.

13.Nf5

White offers his thrice moved Knight for exchange, which Black quickly accepts.
13.Nxc6 bxc6 14.Qd2 h6= and 13.Nf3= were both more prudent.

13...Bxf5 14.exf5

White may have the Bishop pair, but with 14...d5 Black can gain the center.

14...Nd4?

14...d5 15.fxe5 Qxe5 16.Bf3 Bb4 is in Black's favor.

15.fxe5?

Opening the d-file for Black's Rook was ill-advised. 15.Bd3!?= is a viable alternative for White. As a result of this move, White's game becomes particularly difficult to play.

15...dxe5

Not only does Black's Rook on d8 come to life, Black has a new passed pawn: e5. White hunkers down and tries to untangle his pieces.

16.Qc1 Rac8 17.Bc4 Bb4 18.Na2 Bc5 19.c3 Nc6 20.Ba3

Rybka prefers 20.b4 Ba7 but still says Black is much better off. I never considered loosening the c4-Bishop's support this way. The c4-Bishop will have to retreat to e2 soon if White plays 20.b4.

20...Ba7

It is true that when attacking you normally want to retain pieces, but exchanging is okay if you can calculate favorable conditions as a direct result. Here 20...Bxa3 21.Qxa3 e4 is not outright winning for Black, but White's pieces are so uncoordinated as a result that it's impossible to believe he can hold out much longer after 22.Be2 to answer the ...Ng4 threat because Black's Rook then takes the seventh with 22...Rd2.

21.Nb4

Trying to exchange a useless piece for a more active one.

21...Ne7??

Avoiding the exchange is right, but why retreat? Black instead should play the nasty move 21...Na5! If White now moves the c4-Bishop Black wins material starting with ...Qxc3. Therefore, 22.Nc2 Nxc4 23.bxc4 Qxc4 and White's demise is inevitable.

22.Qc2

Played in order to link Rooks and hopefully offer exchanges down the d-file.

22...e4 23.Rae1 Ng4

Throwing in 23...a5 24.Na2 first was even stronger. Then 24...Ng4 as in the game is even worse for White.

24.g3 e3 25.Nd3??

This move should lose quickly, but 25.Qe2 Nf2+ 26.Kg2 b5 was also unappealing.

25...Qc6+?

25...b5 makes everything clear 26.axb5 axb5 27.Bxf7+ (27.Bxb5 Qb7+) Kxf7 and Black is winning.

26.Qg2 Qh6??

I could not believe this move. Black lets his win slip away. 26...Qxg2+ 27.Kxg2 Rxc4 28.bxc4 Rxd3 29.Bxe7 Rd2+ 30.Kh3 h5 31.Rh1 Nf2+ is the clearest, most forcing way to win for Black.

27.Bxe7

Now it is White who quite undeservedly has the winning position.

27...Rxd3?

27...Rd7 28.Bh4 Rxc4 29.bxc4 Rxd3 30.Qxb7 Bc5 holds out longer.

28.Bxd3 Nf2+ 29.Rxf2! exf2 30.Rf1

30.Rd1 is more accurate 30...Qe3 31.Qe4 Rc7 32.Qxe3 Bxe3+-

30...Rc7? 31.Qe4 Qh3?

31...Qe3 was forced, though 32.Bb4 Rd7 33.Qxe3 Bxe3 is still winning for White.

32.Bd8 1-0

Game 5: Augusta Round 3

B23: Sicilian Defence
White: Bob Halliday (1670)
Black: Dan Quigley (1800)
Augusta, Georgia
(G/90) Round 3, Dec. 3, 2011

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.f4 d5 4.Bb5+ Nc6 5.exd5 exd5 6.d4 Nf6 7.Nf3 a6 8.Bxc6+ bxc6 9.0–0


At this point, I was feeling rather well about my position. I have the Bishop pair, and from experience playing White's side in similar positions I know White's pawn on f4 is more of a hindrance than a help.

9...Bg4?!

This is a theoretical novelty, and probably not a good one. The three times this position was reached previously, my database shows Black playing 9...Be7 winning two, and drawing the other. Preventing Ne5 in this position is apparently not worth giving up the two Bishops because after Ne5, Black's c5-d4 lever undermines the security of the Knight on e5.

10.Qe1+ Be7 11.dxc5 0–0 12.Be3 Re8?

Better for Black is to give up the two Bishops to recover his pawn now with 12...Bxf3 13.Rxf3 d4 14.Rd1 Bxc5 15.Ne2 Re8 and Black has an edge. Instead, Black gets a cramped position.

13.Qf2

White could also play his Queen back to the center with 13.Qd2 Bf5=

13...Rb8?

Again, Black should play 13...Bxf3 to recover the pawn: 14.gxf3 (14.Qxf3 Qa5 15.a3 Bxc5) Nh5 15.Qd2 Bf6 with an edge no matter what.

14.Rab1?

14.Ne5 Bd7 with advantage to White.

14...Qa5?

Again 14...Bxf3!? is the right move. 15.gxf3 Nh5 with advantage to Black.

15.Ne5 Qc7 16.Bd4!

The bishop is well placed on d4.

16...Bf5 17.h3 h5 18.Nd3 Qd7 19.Ne5 Qe6

I should retreat back to 19...Qc7 and be happy enough to draw, though White may elect to play on with 20.Rfe1 with an advantage.

20.Rfe1 Be4

In a position this cramped I decided my two Bishops were no strength and that I would therefore prefer to keep a Knight. That may have been inaccurate. I now think it would have been best to seek an outpost for my Bishop: 20...Ne4 21.Nxe4 Bxe4 22.Rbd1 and White still has an edge.

21.Nf3

I don't really understand this retreat. White has an active position, and I would expect him to keep moving forward.

21...Qf5 22.Re2

22.Nh4 Qh7 23.f5 creates difficult problems for Black, but I have seen Nimzowitsch games where the Queen was close to the King like this and felt I could last out the storm.

22...Nd7 23.Ne5 Nxe5

The cramped side should always be happy to exchange.

24.Bxe5 Rbd8 25.Bd4 Kh7 26.Rbe1 Bf6 27.Bxf6 gxf6

I failed to notice I could take with my Queen because after White picks up a pawn with central exchanges, I recover the pawn by taking on b2. Better was 27...Qxf6 though White can play 28.Na4 for an edge.

28.Kh2 Re6 29.g4

This would have been even stronger if prepared with 29.Rg1!? first, e.g. 29...Ree8 30.g4±

29...hxg4 30.Qh4+ Kg8 31.Qxg4+ Qxg4 32.hxg4 f5 33.gxf5?

33.Nxe4 Rxe4 34.Kg3 Rde8 35.Rxe4 dxe4±

33...Bxf5 34.Rxe6 fxe6 35.Kg3 Kf7 36.Re2 Rg8+ 37.Kf2 Rg4

White's advantage has fizzled away and computer programs consider this position to be dead equal. I now had below five minutes of time, and so I discontinued keeping score. I don't remember the subsequent moves of the blitz game, only that I played this endgame inappropriately aggressively....

Update: My opponent was under less time pressure than I was, which enabled him to keep the complete score of this game, and with which he generously supplied me. Now I can revisit just how I messed up this drawn endgame while in time pressure. Onward then!

38.Ke3?

This was an inaccuracy by White because I could now play 38...e5! and if 39.fxe5? d4+ forks White's King and Knight. To avoid ...d4+ then, White must move his Knight or King. Moving the Knight gives Black the f4-pawn for free. So, White has to play 39.Kd2 in order to get Black's e5 pawn in compensation for the pawn being given up on f4. Doesn't chess always get complicated right when you run out of time to calculate variations? So, after 39.Kd2, Black should play 39...d4 40.Nd1 e4 with some serious threats. Better than the text for White was 38.Kf3, and the game is still completely equal. But, no worries. I did not find 38...e5! Instead, monkey saw check.

38...Rg3+? 39.Kd4 Kf6 40.Re3 Rg2 41.Re2 Rg3 42.Re3 Rg4

Given my time pressure, I should be sensible, ignore the fact White is lower rated, and take the draw with 42...Rg2, but ambition (greed?) prevailed.

43.Ne2!

I hoped for 43.Rf3 instead, when 43...e5+ would be an easy win.

43...Bxc2

I have finally evened up the material count.

44.Kc3 Bd1??

I just didn't have time to look for the danger. 44...Be4 instead, to keep White's Rook out of my position, was necessary and still completely equal. In making the text move, I am looking no further than my threat of ...Bxe2 and ...Rxf4, emerging a pawn ahead with victory in sight, and if White moves the Knight, then his f4-pawn drops even quicker. Unfortunately, White has a great move to play here.

45.Nd4!

Game over. White now just wins in every variation. My pawns are weaker.

45...Rxf4

45...Kf7 46.Rxe6 Rg3+ 47.Kd2 also loses for Black.

46.Rxe6+ Kg5 47.Rxc6 Kg4 48.Rg6+ Kh3 49.c6 Rf7

49...Bg4 doesn't help because White then just wins with 50.Rg7.

50.Kb4 Bg4 51.Kc5 Kg3 52.Ne6 Kf3 53.c7 Ra8 53.Ng5+ 1-0

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Game 4: Augusta Round 2

Not being an early morning riser, I took a bye for the first round.

B07: Pirc Defence
White: Dan Quigley (1800)
Black: Hannah Whatley (978)
Augusta, Georgia
(G/90) Round 2, Dec. 3, 2011

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f3 Bg7 5.Be3 0–0 6.Qd2 Nbd7


Against Black's Kingside fianchetto systems vs White's Kingpawn opening (typically the Sicilian Dragon, Pirc, Modern, and some lines of Alekhine's Defense) Black may have what appears to be a cramped position, but there is a good deal of dynamic play available to Black. Against a Black defender who knows what he or she is doing, White has to proceed carefully and not overreach.

Unless Black is willing to put in a lot of study, I would never recommend a Kingside fianchetto defense to 1.e4 to a student. The Yugoslav Attack I am playing here, characterized by e4, f3 pawns, Be3, Qd2, Nc3, 0-0-0, with the middlegame plan of launching the Kingside pawns, followed by Bh6 and Bxg7 and Rook sacrifices for the Knight on h5, and swarming pieces on Black's King is just too easy for White to play.

Does this plan always win for White? By no means. GMs can and do play these fianchetto defenses successfully. However, the road is narrower, and if Black does not implement the standard middlegame countermeasures, Black gets no play.

That said, Black's last move was my first indication she may not know this defense all that well. The move 6...Nbd7 is known, of course, but the main line is 6...e5. Also, I can see no reason to prefer d7 as a square for the Knight over c6. After 6...Nc6 7.d5?! Ne5 8.f4?! Neg4, White's "progress" is anything but happy. 9.Bd4 would follow, to preserve White's best minor piece, but then both 9...e5 or 9...c5 would harass the embarrassed Bishop further. This would be the type of game Black plays for with his cramped defense. Induce White's center pawns forward to create weaknesses and then exploit the weaknesses from a position that has made no weaknesses in return.

7.0–0–0

White's winning percentage from this position is an astronomical 83%, although computer programs show they consider Black to be equal.

7...b6?

This move is Black's first real mistake. It is natural for Black to want to develop her last minor piece, but b7 is not the square, not with White pawns on f3 and e4, which seldom move until late in the middlegame. Even worse, ...b6 reveals that Black does not understand where the source of her middlegame play will be coming from. It is possible for Black to strike back in the center now, either with 7...e5 directly, or better yet, by preparing it with 7...c6, followed by ...e5 at the first opportunity. By doing so, she may get lucky, and get enough central play to neutralize White's coming Kingside attack. This is the old school way of handling these positions.

Enterprising modern players play these Kingside fianchetto systems quite differently, however. If Black wants to play for a win, she has to attack White's King just as ferociously as White is about to be attacking Black's King. To do this, Black is going to have to push Queenside pawns at warp speed. 7...b6 when you want to be playing ...b5 to harass the c3-Knight is just too slow.

The best line of play for Black here in my opinion is 7...c6 (feinting like 8...e5 is next) 8.g4 b5!? 9.h4 b4 (9...Nb6!? threatening to go to c4, if after ...b4 White were to retreat the c3 Knight to its natural square on e2, is interesting but insufficient: 10.h5 b4 11.Nb1 a5 12.Qh2! and White will break through first.) 10.Nce2 h5! And Black's compensation for his gambitted b-pawn is stopping White's Kingside attack to get his own Queenside attack going, e.g. 11.g5 Ne8 12.Qxb4 d5 13.e5 c5 and a very complicated position that looks like a lot of fun for Black to play.

8.Bh6 c5 9.Bxg7 Kxg7 10.g4 Bb7 11.h4 Qc8

For some reason, Black inexplicably never plays the most logical move for her in the position ...cxd4. This would open the c-file for a Rook on c8, give her Knight the c5- or e5-square, and avoid ever having to assess White's threat to play e5 at some future point. After 11...cxd4 12.Qxd4 Ne5 13.h5 White still has an advantage, but it is smaller than that achieved in the game.

12.h5

White gets the king attack under way immediately. An alternative was to prepare it more with 12.Nge2 and 13.Ng3.

12...Rh8

Best is still 12...cxd4 13.Nb5 d3 14.Bxd3+-

13.g5

The computer program prefers 13.Nge2 and considers my contemplated line of play dubious. I expected 13...Nh5 and planned 14.Rxh5 gxh5 15.f4. The computer program says this position is slightly favorable for Black, but I nevertheless still prefer White.

13...Ne8?

This move leads to catastrophe. There is no alternative for Black than to play 13...Nxh5 and make me prove the exchange sacrifice works.

14.hxg6 fxg6

14...hxg6!? 15.Rxh8 Kxh8± is no better for Black.

15.Bc4 Rf8??

The final mistake, not that it matters anymore. Again, 15...cxd4!? was indicated, but White can ignore the threat to c3 now and play 16.Be6 dxc3 17.Qd4+ which also wins.

16.Qh2

I missed my mate in three here: 16.Rxh7+! Kxh7 17.Qh2+ Kg7 18.Qh6#

16...h5 17.gxh6+ Kh7 18.Nh3

Almost any move wins now, but most efficient was 18.Qh4 cxd4 19.Rxd4 Rf6+-

18...Nef6?

More resistance can be offered with 18...cxd4 19.Rxd4 e5 20.Ng5+ Kh8+-

19.Ng5+ Kh8 20.h7 Kg7??

This move simply worsens the situation, and allows a forced mate in 9, but 20...cxd4 21.Bg8 Nh5+- only prolongs things.

21.Qh6+ Kh8 22.Qxg6 Qe8

22...d5 doesn't change the outcome of the game 23.Ne6 Ne8 24.Nxf8 Ng7 25.Qxg7+ Kxg7 26.h8Q+ Kf7 27.Rh7+ Ke8 28.Ng6+ Nf8 29.Rxe7+ Kd8 30.Qxf8#

23.Bf7

I missed the cute mate in two: 23.Qg8+ Nxg8 24.hxg8Q#

23...Qd8 24.Ne6

24.Qg8+ Nxg8 25.hxg8Q#

24...Qc8

24...Nh5 does not solve anything 25.Rxh5 Rxf7 26.Qg8+ Qxg8 27.hxg8R+ Kxg8 28.Rg1+ Rg7 29.Rxg7#

25.Qg7# 1–0

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Game 3: Grovetown Round 3

B30 Sicilian Defense
White: Josh Lewer (Unr.)
Black: Dan Quigley (1800)
Grovetown, Georgia
(G/90) Round 3, Nov. 28, 2011

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Bc4


This used to be a move only a duffer who knew nothing of the Sicilian Defense would play. However, starting in the late 1980s, strong players who were dissatisfied with White's game in main-line Sicilians began experimenting with 4.Bc4 ideas. They have not had much success and the line has not yet really caught on. This is not because there is anything inherently wrong with White playing Bc4 without d4 first.

4...Nf6 5.0–0 Be7

I took a long, hard look at playing 5...Nxe4 instead here, and after 6.Nxe4 d5 7.Nxc5 (Rybka prefers 7.d3 by two tenths of a pawn, assessing the position to be slightly in White’s favor.) 7...Bxc5, I realized that Black has a Caro-Kann pawn structure (Black's c-pawn has been exchanged for White's e-pawn). I judged the pawn structure to be a disadvantageous one for Black because Black's Queen-Bishop is stuck behind his light-squared pawn chain, and I therefore decided to forgo this idea for now, but to keep it in mind for later. Rybka judges the position after 7…Bxc5 to be dead equal, which is also what the course of the game yields.

6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Nxe4?

After 7...0–0 Black’s position is equal if a bit passive. Instead I played combinatively and entered complications I had not thought through well or accurately.

8.Nxe4 d5 9.Bb3??

Both my opponent and I failed to realize that 9.Bb5! actually saves White from having to return the piece at all because White's double attack on c6 is too dangerous to ignore. If 9...dxe4 10.Nxc6! Rxd1 11.Rxd1 a6 12.Nxe7 axb5 13.Nxc8 Rxc8 and White has winning material advantage. Therefore, best after 9.Bb5 would be 9...Bd7 10.Nc3, but Black's position is practically lost.

9...dxe4 10.c3

White supports his Knight at d4 and controls b4. Nevertheless, the more direct 10.Nxc6, which equalizes, would be preferable for the pawn weaknesses it would create in Black's camp.

10...Nxd4 11.Ba4+??

White miscalculates. 11.cxd4 is the best option for White, though Black's play against White's isolani will put White on the defensive for many moves to come. After 11...0–0 12.Re1, Black is a little better.

11...Nc6

Computer programs prefer 11...b5, which makes life even easier for Black, e.g. 12.Be3 bxa4 13.Bxd4–+ Instead, I took the direct route to being a piece up.

12.Qe2

12.Qg4 0–0 13.Qxe4 f5–+

12...f5

12...Qd3 was the alternative, but if White exchanges on d3, Black's advanced d3 pawn might be difficult to protect.

13.Bf4 0–0 14.Rad1 Qa5 15.Bb3 Kh8 16.a4 b6

16...Bf6 intending ...Ne5 and Black can already relax 17.Rfe1–+

17.Qh5?

Black threatened ...Ba6. However, even if White plays the superior 17.Bc4, then 17...e5 18.Bd2 Bb7–+ is still very much in Black's favor.

17...Ne5 18.Bxe5

18.Bc2 doesn't improve anything after 18...Qc5–+

18...Qxe5 19.g4

19.Bc4–+ was White's best hope.

19...Ba6 20.g5

20.Rfe1 doesn't get the cat off the tree 20...Bc5 21.Re3 Qf4–+

20...Bxf1 21.g6 h6 22.Rxf1 Rad8 23.Bd1

23.Bc4 does not save the day after 23...Rd2–+

23...Rd2 24.Bg4

24.b4 loses to 24...Qxc3 25.a5 b5–+

24...Qf4 0-1

White's b-pawn can't be defended.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Game 2: Grovetown Round 2

This week, my game was with the host of the house where we are holding the tournament. I have played Steve in a number of blitz games and always found him a challenge. So I was really looking forward to this, our first tournament game.

A82 Balogh Defense
White: Dan Quigley (1800)
Black: Steve Boshears (1600)
Grovetown, Georgia
(G/90) Round 2, Nov. 21, 2011


1.e4 d6 2.d4 f5


This move constitutes Balogh’s Defense, and was named for J├ínos Balogh (1892–1980), a Hungarian International Correspondence Chess Master (ICCM). The opening is rarely seen today because it weakens Black's kingside somewhat, and often results in a backward e-pawn and/or a hole on e6 after Black's light-squared bishop is exchanged. I remember having read ICCM Keith Hayward’s articles on the opening that were published in some American Postal Chess Tournaments (APCT) Bulletins back in the early 1990s. Shortly afterwards, Hayward put his theories on the viability of 2…f5 to the test against APCT’s top player, Jonathon Edwards, in a game heavily annotated by both players, and had trouble proving that 2…f5 was survivable. But neither Steve nor I play at anything approximating that level, and I remembered little of the specifics of the theory of this opening. It has simply been too long since I have seen it. If you are interested in playing this opening, I have just found a lot of Hayward's analysis of it online at http://www.chessville.com/UCO/TRNT/BaloghCounterGambit_Part_One.htm

3.exf5

I did remember that White’s two main choices were 3.Nc3, protecting e4, and 3.exf5, allowing the liquidation of e4. Pushing past the pawn with 3.e5 was out of the question since it allows Black to initiate a Queen trade starting with 3…dxe5. Since playing the game, I see in my database that White has been enjoying some remarkable success with 3.Bd3!? as well. I guess the point of 3.Bd3 is that it practically forces 3…fxe4, when White’s Bishop then comes to the long diagonal. I chose the text because I didn’t care after 3.Nc3 fxe4 4.Nxe4 to have my Knight kicked on e4 with 4…Bf5, though it is certainly a playable line for White.

3…Bxf5 4.Qf3

My database shows that White most often selects 4.Bd3 here, but I like to keep pieces on the board, generally speaking. I was debating between Nf3, Be2, and 0-0, or something a little less usual. As in my game last week against Julie, I opted for the less usual course in order again to try to unbalance the position. Is this a psychological weakness of mine?

4…Qc8

Commenting after the game, Steve said he considered this move forced, and the seven games I have in my database with this position show it was Black’s unanimous choice. I agree that 4...Qc8 is best. What I was hoping for was 4…Bxc2 5.Qxb7 Nd7 6.Nc3 Rb8 7.Qxa7 Nf6 when Black may have compensation for his pawn investment in terms of open lines for his pieces, but lags in development.

5.Bc4

My idea is to protect my c-pawn for one move.

5…Nf6 6.Bg5

Amazingly enough, I am without knowing it actually following in the path of a game played in 1846 between Kieseritzky and Horwitz in their first match in London. The three other times this position was reached, the modern players preferred 6.Nc3 (“Knights before Bishops”). The idea with White's Bishop deployment is that there are some cases in which White may want to try to open lines towards Black's King with Bxf6, and White may want to play his pawn to d5 and want Black to have one piece less to contest d5 with. These considerations caused me to value 6.Bg5 over 6.Nc3, but since neither Bxf6 nor d5 were ever played by White, I am thinking the 6.Nc3 players might be right here after all.

6…Bg6?!

I was expecting 6…Bxc2, as played by Horwitz, when White has enough piece activity to compensate for being a pawn down, e.g. 7.Nh3 Qg4 8.Qxg4 Nxg4 9.Be6 Nf6 10.Na3 Be4 11.0-0 Bd5 12.Nf4 Bxe6 13.Nxe6 Kd7 14.Rfe1 Na6 15.Rac1 c6 16.Rc3 Nb4 17.Rb3 Nfd5 18.Nc4 b5 19.Nxf8+ Rhxf8 20.Rxb4 bxc4 21.Rxc4 Rab8 22.b3 e6 23.Bd2 Nb6 24.Rc3 Rf5 25.g4 Rd5 26.Re4 Rf8 27.f4 h6 28.h4 h5 29.Kg2 hxg4 30.Rg3 Rdf5 31.Rxg4 R8f7 32.Rg5 Nd5 33.Rxf5 Rxf5 34.Kg3 a5 35.Re2 Nf6 36.Kf3 c5 37.Rg2 Nh5 38.dxc5 Rxc5 39.Rg5 Rxg5 40.hxg5 a4 41.bxa4 g6 42.Bc3 Kc6 43.a5 e5 44.fxe5 Ng7 45.exd6 Ne6 46.a6 Nxg5+ 47.Kf4 Ne6+ 48.Ke5 Nc5 49.a7 Kb7 50.Bd4 Nd3+ 51.Ke6 Nb4 52.d7 Nc6 53.Kd5 Ne7+ 54.Kd6 Nf5+ 55.Ke6 Nxd4+ 56.Kd5 1-0 Kieseritzky – Horwitz, London (Match 1, Game 5), 1846

The computer programs prefer to take material for Black with 6…Be4 7.Qg3 Nh5 8.Qh4 Bxg2 9.Qxh5+ g6 10.Qe2 Bxh1, but after 11.Bf6! things are not so simple, e.g. 11…d5 12.Bxd5 Qxd5 13.Bxh8 and Black’s advantage is present, though miniscule. What a computer line though!

7.Nc3 c6 8.0-0-0?!

To my horror, after making this move I noticed that Black now had 8…Bh5, which wins the exchange. I also realized that after 9.Qe3 Bxd1 10.Kxd1 White would have some pressure on Black’s King and that there was still plenty of chess left in the position. Still, this is not at all the position I wanted to play. Luckily for me, Steve missed it too.

8…Qf5 9.Qxf5 Bxf5 10.Nf3

I gave serious consideration to playing 10.d5 so that Black could not play his pawn to the square, but the resulting position after 10.d5 does not give Black any problems either. So, I made the normal developing move instead.

10…d5 11.Bd3 Bxd3 12.Rxd3 Ne4

12…h6, putting the question to White’s Bishop is also okay for Black.

13.Bh4 h6 14.Re1 g5 15.Bg3 Nxg3 16.hxg3 Nd7 17.Rde3

White has the pressure down the e-file typical of the Balogh Defense, but it’s tough to make it count for anything.

17…Kf7!? 18.g4

Computer programs suggest 18.Na4 followed by Nc5 as the way for White to play. I considered it during the game, but did not judge my d4-pawn on c5 as being an improvement. I played the text in order to fix Black’s pawns and make space for a Knight on g3.

18…Re8 19.Ne2 e6 20.Ng3

The threat is Nf5, not that this amounts to anything significant.

20…Bd6 21.Nh5

I do not want tripled pawns on the g-file, and from h5 the Knight can support g3/f4 ideas.

21…Nf6 22.Nxf6 Kxf6 23.Ne5 Bxe5 24.Rxe5 Rh7 25.R1e3 Rf7 26.Kd2 Rfe7 27.Ke2 Kg6 28.Kd3

I had planned to play for g3 and f4, but I was worried about giving Black an outside pawn on the Kingside. I may have to take Black’s h-pawn with my King in some scenarios in exchange for my f-pawn, which leaves Black’s King in so much a better position it can win. So, I decided to see what I could do with a space advantage on the Queenside instead. I still think this was the best decision.

28…Kf6 29.a4 Rfe7 30.a5 b6!

An important move for keeping White’s King out of c5.

31.a6 Rfe7 32.c4 dxc4+ 33.Kxc4 Rd8 34.b4 Rd5 35.Rf3+ Kg7 36.Rb3?!

In order to play b5 and hopefully penetrate with my King after a trade of Rooks, but this turns out to be a chimera. There is no real way for White to make any progress anyway. The position is dead equal.

36…Kf6 37.Rf3 Kg7

And Black offered a draw, which I should accept. Instead I decided to overpress now.

38.Rfe3 Rxe5 39.Rxe5?!

39.dxe5 is the slightly more desirable recapture because it advances the pawn, but I rejected it because it locked the pawns up even more.

30…Kf6 40.g3 Rd7 41.b5?

Illustrating that White is on the wrong trail. White can not improve his position, only make it worse. Thus it was time to make a piece move and propose a draw myself.

41…cxb5+ 42.Rxb5 Rc7+ 43.Kd3 Rc1!

Black noticed White had no way to protect his pawn on a6.

44.Rb2 ½-½

On my offer. Black accepted because he was starting to feel time pressure, and (Steve confided) he does not feel comfortable in Rook and pawn endgames. I had 37 minutes left on my clock and he had only 14. We were not playing with a delay. If Black chooses to play on, he will be up a pawn, but it is no easy win for him. As an example of the complexity that might ensue, look at this line: 44…Ra1 45.Rc2 Rxa6 46.Rc7 Ra2 47.Ke3 a5 48.Rc6 (48.Rh7 is another possibility) 48…Ra3+ 49.Ke4 b5 50.d5 Ra4+ 51.Kd3 Rxg4 52.Rxe6+ Kf5 53.Re8 Rc4 54.Rb8 Ke5 55.Rxb5 Rd4+ 56.Ke3 Rxd5 57.Rb6 h5 58.Rh6 Rb5 59.f4+ Kf5 60.Rxh5 Kg6 61.Rxg5+ Rxg5 62.fxg5 Kxg5 63.Kd4 and draw, assuming Black did not run out of time before this. Rook and pawn endgames are notoriously drawish, and often a one pawn advantage is not enough to win. If there is a forcing winning line for Black after he goes up a pawn on move 45, I honestly don’t see it. I think Black made a good, practical decision in this case not to overpress and accepted the draw. I am fortunate my failure to avoid overpressing this game did not cost me the full point.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Game 1: Grovetown Round 1

My first rated game in more than a year was played in Grovetown at the home of Steve Boshears. Steve graciously agreed to host a tournament one round every Monday night for members of the online chess meetup group that has been active in the CSRA since Spring 2001. It is the first rated chess I am aware of that has been played in Augusta in more than five years, and I am so very glad to have this opportunity to play rated chess locally again that I will do all I can to support it.

Tonight, five tournament players came. Two more made plans to but cancelled. Our TD, Adam Shaw, is also a strong chess player (many of the annotations to the game below were his ideas), but has decided to play only when needed in order to make an even number. To those who could have come but did not, all I can say is you missed a really great time. Playing conditions were ideal. The room we played in was spacious, well lighted, and the tables and sets were of the highest tournament quality. Even digital clocks were furnished! The snacks and drinks Steve supplied were really appreciated too. There was a great air of camraderie and fun, besides which very good chess was played tonight on two boards. The games began at 7:00 and were over shortly after 9:00 p.m. There are two more rounds, and those who want in on the second round are welcome to enter and will be given a half-point bye for the first round.

My opponent this Monday evening was our chess club president, an enthusiastic and rapidly improving newcomer, Julie Sheil. As you will see, the opening of our game was very interesting.

B40 Sicilian Defense
White: Julie Sheil (1118)
Black: Dan Quigley (1800)
Grovetown, Georgia
(G/90) Round 1, Nov. 14, 2011

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3


White plays 3.d4 and heads for the Open Sicilian approximately 100 times more often in master play than he plays 3.g3. Nevertheless, White’s score with 3.d4 is only 50.1% in my database, whereas White scores 52.4% with 3.g3. This goes to show that even in chess, fashion counts for little. This is also why chess teachers stress how unimportant openings study is below the level of master. Critical mistakes almost always come in the middlegame.

3...Nc6

Normal gut reactions to the moves 3.c3 and 3.g3 are 3…d5. I know this, but I decide to play 3…Nc6 first anyway. The Knight can’t possibly belong on any other square, I figure. I might as well put it where it belongs immediately.

4.Bg2 d5 5.exd5

A good reaction by Julie. This exchange increases the scope of her long diagonal Bishop on g2.

5…exd5 6.0-0

Now comes my first difficult decision. The natural moves for Black to play in this position are …Nf6, …Be7, and 0-0. But the drawback of this development scheme is that White has a natural, good, and clear line of play in that she will be able to pin my Knight with Bg5. I could preface the sequence with a time-consuming …h6, but taking such time to make Rook pawn moves is considered inadvisable in open positions. Nevertheless, I judged the natural moves …Nf6, …Be7, and 0-0 to be objectively strongest in this position, and if I were playing someone of equal or higher rating, I would play this way. However, I am playing down in terms of rating strength. So after considerable thought I opted for an objectively weaker line in order to attempt to unbalance the position a bit (as in very similar French Defense Exchange line), and to throw my inexperienced opponent more problems in terms of finding her moves, since the naturally best moves will now be less clear for White (I hope).

6...Bd6 7.d4!

My opponent found a good plan. White will soon play dxc5, set a blockade on the d4 square and then liquidate my d5-isolani, a mode of play the immortal Nimzowitsch writes about in detail in My System. Has Julie really advanced so far that she has read this? I realize I may be in for a long game now.

7...Bg4?

This move is a novelty, and not one I would repeat. The eight times previously that this position was reached in my database, Black simply played 7…Nge7, adhering to the dictum “Knights before Bishops”. Black drew seven of those games, and won the eighth, so the position with 7…Nge7 is decidedly rather dully equal. I had a different idea and therefore did not play 7…Nge7. I chose instead to try to put stress on White’s d4. This is typically done by pinning Knights that defend central squares one wants to apply pressure to. The pinning move thus seemed the natural one to me. Nevertheless, 7…Bg4 is premature for reasons we will soon see.

8.Qe1+! Nge7 9.Ne5?

White’s best course of action here is 9.dxc5! Bxc5 10.Qc3 with a double attack on c5 and g7 and long term strategic play against Black’s d-pawn isolani. Because of this double threat, I would be forced to give up my light-squared Bishop and play 10…Bxf3 11.Qxf3 0-0 with an unfavorable (because of the piece exchange) isolani position to defend. White’s text move is ambitious, even if not best, and envisages following up with f4 with a huge positional bind to follow.

9...Nxd4?

As Black, giving up the d6 Bishop for the e5 Knight may look strategically dubious, but was actually best, e.g. 9…Bxe5 10.dxe5 0-0 with equality. I also did not care for 9…Nxe5 10.dxe5 Bc7 11.Qe3 +/=. So, I went for complications and played the text.

10.Na3?

White makes a serious mistake and plays to defend against me instead of advancing her own attacking idea. I calculated 10.Nxg4 Nxc2 and did not go much further, figuring that two pawns and a Rook for two pieces was okay for me since it helped me get out of the positional bind White was threatening to establish on e5. However, my thought processes were lazy. After 10.Nxg4 Nxc2, White then has the sensational 11.Qc3! (not the less ambitious 11.Qe2 I glanced at, unimpressed). After 11.Qc3!, if 11…Nxa1 12.Qxg7 the threatened Nf6+ is devastating, e.g. 12…Rg8 13.Nf6#, or 12…Ng6 13.Nf6+ Ke7 14.Re1+ winning for White. Black would therefore actually be forced to run with 12…Kd7! 13.Nf6+ Kc7 when Black’s game is very difficult to play. After the text move 10.Na3? from White, I am never again in any danger. The rest of the game is fairly straightforward technique and can be easily enough understood without further comment.

10...Be2 11.Bf4 O-O 12.c3 Bxf1 13.cxd4 Bxg2 14.Kxg2 cxd4 15.Nb5 Bc5 16.b4 Bb6 17.Rd1 Ng6 18.Nd3 a6 19.Na3 Rc8 20.b5 Rc3 21.Nb1 Rc2 22.bxa6 bxa6 23.a4 Re8 24.Qb4 Ree2 25.a5 Nxf4+ 26.Nxf4

26.gxf4? Qh4 and Black soon wins.

26...Rxf2+ 27.Kh3 Qd7+ 28.g4 Rxh2+ 29.Kg3 Bc7 30.Rd2 Bxf4+ 31.Kxf4 Qc7+ 32.Kf3 Rh3+ 33.Ke2 d3+ 34.Kd1 Rh1# 0-1