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