Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Game 38: Columbia Round 1

Ashland XXXII
A46: 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6: Torre, London and Colle Systems
White: Leo Rabulan (2112)
Black: Dan Quigley (1801)
Columbia, SC, Round 1, G/75, 30 sec. bonus, Apr. 11, 2013

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 h6 4.Bh4 c5 5.e3 Qb6

5…b6 is main line here, and I have played it as Black in server-based games before with reasonable success. However, I decided tonight I wanted more active piece play. Black has been most successful with 5…cxd4 here, but I don’t like to liquidate tension until I see an advantage for doing so, or the avoidance of a disadvantage.

6.Qc1 cxd4 7.exd4 Nc6 8.c3 Be7

8...Nh5 9.g4 Nf6 10.Nbd2=

9.Bd3 d6

Prevents intrusion on e5.

10.Nbd2 Bd7 11.0–0 Rc8 TN

Black ever playing …Nxd4 is an illusion. Better was 11…g5 as in Volovich - Rubenchik, Somerset 1992. White went on to win because he was the stronger player: 12.Bg3 Nh5 13.Re1 Nxg3 14.hxg3 d5 15.a4 Rc8 16.Bb5 a6?! (After 16…f6, intending …Kf7, Black is fully equal.) 17.Bxc6 Bxc6 18.Ne5 0-0 19.f4 Be8 20.Ndf3 f6 21.a5 Qd6 22.Nd3 g4? (22…Bg6 and Black is perfectly okay.) 23.Nh2 Bg6 24.Qe3 Bf5 25.Rac1 b6 26.Ra1 h5 27.Nf1 Qc7 28.axb6 Qxb6 29.Re2 Qb5 30.Nf2 a5 31.Qd2 a4 32.Ne3 Be4 33.Nxe4 dxe4 34.f5 exf5 35.Rf1 f4 36.Rxf4 f5 37.c4 Qd7 38.Ref2 Bg5 39.d5 Bxf4 40.Rxf4 Rb8 41.c5 Rb3 42.d6 Rd3 43.Qf2 Qe6 44.Rxf5 Rxf5 45.Qxf5 Qxf5 46.Nxf5 Kf8 47.c6 Ke8 48.c7 Kd7 49.Ne7 Rd1+ 50.Kf2 Rc1 51.Ke3 Rc4 52.c8Q+ 1-0

12.Nc4 Qc7 13.a4 0–0 14.Re1 Na5 15.Ncd2 a6

Covers b5 and prepares …b5.

16.Qd1 b5?!

Opening the a-file for White is dangerous. Preferable for Black may have been quiet moves like 16...Rfe8!?= in order to make White prove he has an advantage if he does anywhere.

17.axb5 axb5 18.Ne4 Nc4 19.Qe2 Nd5 20.Bxe7 Nxe7 21.Ng3?!

This move is a retreat. White’s only active move was 21.b3!? when 21...f5 22.bxc4 bxc4 23.Bc2 gives a slight advantage to White, but the position is complicated.

21...Nd5!

Threatening …Nf4.

22.Bb1

Also good for Black is 22.Qc2 Nf4 23.b3 Nb6 with a small advantage.

22...b4

My idea here was to rid myself of a weakness, the isolated b-pawn, and give my light squared Bishop more scope. But better was 22…Ra8, contesting White’s open file, or 22...f5 23.Qc2 Ra8 and Black has the easier position to play.

23.cxb4


23...Qb6??

With this blunder, Black hands the game to his opponent. 23...Qb8= with the same idea of playing against White’s shattered Queenside pawns would completely equalize. White has no easy plans for an advantage he can play in the position, a situation that often comes out of the Torre Opening. I was lulled into complacency by the quietness of the position and never saw that my Knight could be trapped, another reason I should have earlier offered a Rook exchange on the a-file.

24.b3 Nc3 25.Qd3 Nxb1 26.bxc4 Qxb4 27.Rexb1 Qxc4 28.Qxc4 Rxc4 29.Ne4 1-0

Game 37: Columbia Club Championship Rd. 5

Columbia Chess Club Championship
C42: Petroff Defence: 3 Nxe5 and unusual White 3rd moves
White: Dan Quigley (1807)
Black: Paul Potylicki (1494)
Columbia, SC, Round 5, G/75, 30 sec. bonus, Mar. 21, 2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6

The Petrov Defense. I am seeing this more often at the club lately because I think 1…e5 players there may know how well prepared I am for 2…Nc6 3.Bc4 (Evans Gambit with 3…Bc5 4.b4 or Two Knights Defense 3…Nf6 4.Ng5) and prefer to steer for calmer waters.

3.Nxe5

This is the most popular response and the one whose lines I first studied in the 1980s and know the best. Still, there are four good alternatives for White, all of which are favorable for White statistically: 3.Nc3, 3.d4, 3.Bc4, and 3.d3. Of these, most impressive to me is 3.d4 and I have put in some work on lines stemming from this move in some server-based games. However, it has been a long time since I played and looked at those games, and I didn’t think I could remember the lines. Next time will be a different story.

3…d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 Bg4

The main line is 5…d5, but to an opponent who is not versed in opening theory 5…Bg4 would be more logical than moving the same pawn twice in the opening. The problem with 5…Bg4 is that this move is played in order to put pressure on the d4 pawn. There is no way Black can develop pressure on this pawn. Therefore, 5…Bg4 is somewhat nonsensical. All that is “threatened” is to trade a Bishop for White’s Knight, which would not harm White in the least.

6.h3

I could have ignored the Bishop and played 6.Bd3, but I like putting the question out there. If Black backs up, then I can undo the pin whenever I wish with a later g4.

6…Bh5 7.Bd3 Nf6 8.0–0 Be7 9.Re1 0–0


10.c4!? TN

In this position, White usually plays 10.Nbd2. I considered this move, but it looks drawish to me. Why play in cramped style? White has a space advantage right now and my move is designed to grab even more space.

10…Nc6 11.Be3 Qd7

Black really needs to consider playing 11...d5 in order to uncramp his position and to try isolating my pawn on d4. I still like my position after 12.Nc3 though. I have read Baburin’s now difficult to find modern day classic Pawn Structure Chess, and have some ideas of what to do with the isolani on d4.

12.a3

To prevent …Nb4. Probably better was 12.Nc3. If 12…Nb4 13.Bb1 and then a3 frees my position. I didn’t want to bury my Queen Rook this way though.

12...Rfe8

Black could try to equalize with the more complicated 12...d5 13.cxd5 Nxd5 14.Ne5 Bxd1 15.Nxd7 =

13.Nc3

White prepares to occupy d5 himself. Also promising was 13.Nbd2 d5 14.c5 +/=

13...h6?

A poor move. Black creates weaknesses around his King for no good reason. A later g4, Bg6, Bxg6, fxg6 should give White a promising attack on the Kingside. Best for Black was 13...d5 14.cxd5 Nxd5 15.Nxd5 Qxd5 16.Rc1=

14.b4

Black has a cramped position, but taking advantage of this is far from automatic. Probably best for White was 14.Nd5 Nxd5 15.cxd5 Nd8 and White is better because he can post both Rooks to half-open files to generate pressure.

14...a6 15.Be2

I could not find a plan for White. If 15.d5 Bxf3 16.Qxf3 Ne5 and …Nxd3 chops a lot of wood. Probably best was still 15.Nd5, hoping for 15…Nxd5 16.cxd5 Na7 17.Rc1 +/=

15...Nh7

I never dreamed White would play this move. My last move was in preparation for 15...d5 16.Ne5 Bxe2 17.Rxe2 +/=

16.d5 Na7
17.Qd2

Amother idea is 17.Ra2, so that after the f3-Knight moves and Black plays …Bxe2, White can double Rooks on the e-file.

17...Bf6 18.Rac1 b6

Consolidates c5.

19.Kh2

I played this move intending Rg1, g4, g5, g6, etc.

19…Bg6 20.Bd3?!

The g4 plan was a chimera that never really goes anywhere, e.g. 20.Rg1 Nc8 21.g4 Bxc3 22.Qxc3 Nf6 23.g5 hxg5 24.Nxg5 Ne7, intending …Nf5 and Black has no worries. The way to play with a space advantage like the one White currently enjoys is to move pieces into nice positions. Best was 20.Nd4, intending 21.Bg4, and Bf4 and Nf5 to follow along with a Queenside pawn advance, if needed. Black’s position would be under tremendous pressure then and something would probably give.

20...Nc8!

Black seeks to improve the position of his most inactive piece, a really good idea.

21.Bxg6 fxg6 22.Nd4 Qf7 23.Re2

If 23.Ne6, Black would just offer a trade via 23…Nf8 +/=

23...Ne7 24.Rce1 Be5+ 25.g3?!

Secures f4, but weakens f3. Best was 25.f4 Bxd4 26.Bxd4 Nf5 27.Bf2 with a miniscule edge for White. Black has done a really good job of hanging in there all game and is now rewarded by a chance to put some pressure on White, which is met by inaccurate play.

25...Bxd4
26.Bxd4?

I saw neither the danger, nor the solution. Counter-intuitive as it may be, 26.Qxd4!? was essential. Then, on 26...Nf5 (26…Ng5? 27.Bxg5 +/-) 27.Qd2 is equal.

26...Ng5 27.Rxe7??

This makes a bad game worse. Best was to just let Black win the exchange: 27.Kg2 Nf3 28.Qd3 Nxe1+ 29.Rxe1. Black should still win this, but there is still chess left to play.

27...Rxe7

White is completely lost. Given the rating disparity, I play on only in the hope of swindling the game away from Black somehow, but it wasn’t meant to be this time.

28.Rxe7 Nf3+ 29.Kg2 Nxd2 30.Rxf7 Kxf7 31.c5 Nb3 32.Be3 bxc5 33.b5 Nd4 34.bxa6 Rxa6 35.Bxd4 cxd4 36.Nb5 Ra4 37.Kf3 Kf6 38.Ke4 g5 39.Nxc7 Rxa3 40.Ne8+ Ke7 41.Nxg7 d3 42.Ke3 Ra2 43.Nf5+ Kf6 44.Nxd6 Ke5 45.Nf7+ Kxd5 46.Kxd3 Rxf2 47.Nxh6 Rf3+ 48.Ke2 Rxg3 49.Nf7 Ke4 50.Kf2 Rf3+ 0–1

Monday, March 18, 2013

Game 36: Columbia Club Championship Rd. 4

Columbia Chess Club Championship
B20: Sicilian: Unusual White 2nd moves
White: Birney Blind (1226)
Black: Dan Quigley (1807)
Columbia, SC, Round 4, G/75, 30 sec. bonus, Mar. 14, 2013

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bc4

As anyone who has played much chess on the Internet knows, this early Bishop deployment is very common for people who do not like to study chess theory. There is nothing wrong with it, but Black now has a very good plan to adopt against White’s setup, namely …e6, and …d5. Once these moves are in White will have to lose time moving the Bishop again. Black has the option to throw in …a6 to prevent the Bishop from coming to b5 if he wishes to. Also, if needed, Black can play …Nf6 and …Bb4 in order to bolster the impact of …d5 when it comes.

3…e6 4.Nge2?!

Unless there is a specific reason to prefer a Knight deployment to d2 or e2, Knights are always better developed on c3 and f3. I see no reason to prefer e2 in this case.

4...Na5?


At the time, this move made a good deal of sense to me. White’s Bishop is almost in a Noah’s Ark type trap. If 5.Bd3, c4 will prove embarassing, for example. In fact, there is only one saving move. Unfortunately, that saving move places White in a very strong position, much stronger than I realized at the time. Rather than become diverted by what I thought was a White mistake last move, I should have likewise continued with my most logical development plan, 4...Nf6, in order to be able to play …d5 soon.

5.Bb3?

5.d3! is not only forced, it is much stronger than it first appears. If 5…Nxc4 6.dxc4 White has an excellent Maroczy Bind position. Black will have great difficulty getting …d5 in, if it’s even possible. Without the …d5 break, Black’s position will be cramped and very difficult to play. The two Bishops will also be markedly inferior to White’s Knights and the space advantage he will enjoy. After the text, White will lose material, but he gets some compensation for it. White’s position is not lost yet, but it does become very difficult to play.

5...c4 6.Ba4 a6 7.d4 b5 8.Nxb5 axb5 9.Bxb5 Qb6 10.Nc3 Bb4 11.Ba4?

This move surprised me. I expected 11.a4!?, after which I planned 11…Nf6 with pressure on White’s center.


11...Nf6?

I failed to do a reassessment of the position to realize that I could now win a piece with 11...Nb7. White can’t save the Bishop, which has nowhere to move. White’s best bet would be to seek counterplay with 12.Qg4, but even then Black’s threat to win a piece is not disappearing. I could play 12…Kf8 or 12…Ne7 13.Qxg7 Rg8, and then win the Bishop at my leisure. After 11…Nb7, White’s position would be lost.

12.f3

Better was 12.e5, but even so Black emerges with a winning game, e.g. 12…Nd5 13.Bd2 Qxd4 14.Nxd5 Bxd2+ 15.Qxd2 Qxd5 16.Qxd5 exd5–+

12...0–0

I still fail to realize I can win White’s Bishop with 12...Nb7.

13.Bd2?

I don’t think White realized this move drops a pawn. Best was 13.Qd2 Nc6 14.Bxc6 dxc6, but Black is winning here too.

13...Qxd4

It is still probably preferable to win a piece with 13...Nb7 than to win just a pawn, but I never saw this possibility during the game.

14.Nb5??

White’s position was bad. The best plan, 14.a3 Be7 15.Qe2, will not bring White joy in the long run either. This mistake simply hastens the end.


14...Qe3+ 15.Qe2 Bxd2+

Black wins a piece. In view of 16.Kd1 Qxe2+ 17.Kxe2 Bh6, Black resigned.

0–1

My play this game was not the sharpest. I failed to fully evaluate the positional consequences of 4…Na5 5.d3 Nxc4 6.dxc4 to see how bad my position would then become as a result. I think I am putting too much weight on the advantage of having the two Bishops in many of my games. Going forward, I will strive for this only when I am sure I can have an open board afterwards. I also never saw the possibility of winning a White piece on move 11, 12, or 13 by simply backing up my Knight. This means I need to widen my search horizon a bit every move.

I was informed after the game that my opponent does not like to play up. I have never really understood this attitude among some low rated players. I personally relish the chance to play stronger or higher rated players. It is less damaging to my rating to lose these games, and those are usually the games I learn the most from, win or lose. Not wanting to play up is a really self-destructive preference, it seems to me.

A question was asked me via this blog site regarding whether it bothers me more to lose to someone lower rated. The answer is definitely “Yes!” All losses bother me to some extent, of course, though I try not to show it, and to accept the fact as graciously as possible that defeats are inevitable. Even Magnus Carlsen gets beat fairly often. However, for me to lose (or draw) someone who is lower rated, usually I have beat myself by making mistakes that I should know better than to make. Beating myself this way is always frustrating, sometimes even deeply embarrassing, like my recent loss to Andrew Manion (Game 35) was.

Even still, such losses are a natural part of the game. If you can’t stand the pain, and many can’t, then tournament chess is simply not for you, which is a shame because you then also miss out on the joy the flip side of the coin (winning) brings. People who can’t take the competitive aspect, I have noticed, still find other ways to involve themselves. They may play informal chess games only, for example, or become kibitzers, spectators, chess gossips, chess teachers, chess politicians, or tournament directors. I am not saying anything negative about these categories. I am very grateful directors exist, and South Carolina's are tops, one reason I choose to live in this state. Our state president and USCF delegate David Grimaud is my ideal of what a chess politician should be, if only more were like him. There is more than one way to enjoy chess than competing directly. Those ways just aren’t for me.

Anyone can have an off day due to a low grade headache, personal distraction, or become impatient at the board due to chess over-saturation, but still decide to try his luck nevertheless. The last condition (chess over-saturation) is easily avoidable, except maybe when playing in a multi-round per day tournament, and I have made a rule for myself to have little to do with chess for at least 24 hours before I am due to play a tournament game, and to try to avoid playing at extremely long time controls when possible. The break from chess makes me fresher and less impatient when I do sit down at the board, and I will think longer about my moves. The first two are a matter of experience in not doing the things that cause a health issue to arise, when at all possible, or in successfully compartmentalizing away personal distractions. Being ready for a game in the ways I have described will help make losses to lower rated players a more infrequent occurrence, I am convinced.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Game 35: Columbia Club Championship Rd. 3

Columbia Chess Club Championship
B28: Sicilian: 2 Nf3 a6 (O'Kelly Variation)
White: Andrew Manion (1340)
Black: Dan Quigley (1802)
Columbia, SC, Round 3, G/75, 30 sec. bonus, Mar. 7, 2013

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6 3.d4?! cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.f3?

Not good. Why make a move that affects only e4 when you have a move available that fights for both e4 and d5? 5.Nc3 is the normal move, though I consider Black’s position already slightly advantageous even so.

5…e5 6.Nb3 d5

Black threatens to win material: dxe4.

7.Bg5 dxe4

This position with Black to make his seventh move has been reached five times in my database. Black has played three options, all of which I considered: 1) maintain the tension with 7…Be6. I didn't care for 8.exd5 Bxd5 9.c4 Bc6 10.Qxd8+ Kxd8 and decided not to go for this line. 2) Black can push the d-pawn on down the field, but then White can lay claim to the beautiful c4-f7 diagonal for his Bishop. White’s opening play surely doesn’t justify such a reward for White. 3) Finally, there is 7…dxe4 to consider. If the first option had to include acquiescence to a Queen trade, perhaps it’s best just to get it over with. I normally hate to allow this kind of simplification in my chess games, but I am consciously trying to expand the types of positions I am willing to play. Simplified chess causes me discomfort and I am bad at it in great part because I get bored and then impatient with the resulting positions. However, they are a part of chess and I have to learn how to play them. That is why I have been studying Capablanca. Unfortunately, my timing to play it here is off. I should not be making an exercise of trying to learn how to play simple chess when playing down nearly 500 points. I can tend to lose the advantage of that 500 points of experience. Objectively speaking, 7…d4 is the best move, and Black is ahead by about a quarter of a pawn. After …Be7 and …0-0, White’s c4-f7 diagonal does not amount to that much because g5 is occupied by a Bishop rather than a Knight.

8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.fxe4 Be6 10.N1d2

Or 10.Bxf6+ gxf6 11.Nc3 Nd7 12.0-0-0=

10...Nbd7

Around here I gave a lot of consideration to playing 10…Kc7. The King seems like it will be safest on this square and Black’s Knight can develop normally to the c6-square. But surely moving the King in the center of the board voluntarily like this can’t be right, I figured. After the text move though I start to feel a bit cramped.

11.0–0–0 h6 12.Bxf6+ gxf6

Black has the pair of Bishops, but I could never make them work for me.

13.Bc4 Rc8 14.Bd5 Bxd5 15.exd5 Nb6?

White is taking forever to decide on his moves and I am starting to feel really bored and miserable. I should not have spent time studying chess earlier today and writing that Capablanca article. I am burned out. I made this move quickly with no thought, and it is a horrible error. Not only am I decentralizing my Knight, I am self-discoordinating my entire Queenside for ephemeral pressure on White’s d5-pawn. The position before this move is equal if Black continues to play with care. The right plan is 15...Rg8, activating the Rook. After 16.g3 Rg4 Black is comfortable.

16.Ne4?

Better is 16.Rhf1 first so that after Ne4, Black does not have …f5 as a response. I would then have to eat crow and play 16…Nd7, grovel for ten or twenty moves, and hope for the best.


16...Bg7?

I considered 16...f5!?, but then saw that White could play 17.Ng3 attacking f5. I have no idea now why this concerned me so much at the time. I could then play 17…f4 with a fine game. My 16th move is a serious mistake that gives White real winning chances for the first time.

17.Nd6

Besides this one, White has a number of good plans he can consider. Another is 17.Rd3 Nc4 18.Rf1 h5 19.Nbc5 with a strong bind.

17...Rc7 18.Nf5 Bf8 19.d6 Rc4

My alternative was to play 19...Rc8 so that after 20.Na5 I can play 20…Rb8. That was just too sad. I opted for piece activity instead.

20.Na5 Rf4 21.Ne7?

This lets White slip out. Best was 21.Rhf1!? to maintain the pressure. Black would be positionally lost at that point with only some squirming left as a possible resource.

21...Bxe7 22.Nxb7+ Kc8??

I made this move impatiently and with no consideration whatsoever. I thoroughly deserve this loss. 22...Ke8 was necessary 23.dxe7 Kxe7=

23.dxe7

To my horror I now realized I can’t take the Knight on b7. The game is over and Black is lost. Normally, I would resign here. The only reason I played it out is because of the possibility that a D player could allow a Knight fork. The rest of the moves are without interest.

23…Rd4 24.Rxd4 exd4 25.e8Q+ Rxe8 26.Nd6+ Kd7 27.Nxe8 Kxe8 28.Rd1 Ke7 29.Rxd4 Ke6 30.Rh4 Nd5 31.c4 Nb4 32.a3 Nd3+ 33.Kc2 Ne1+ 34.Kc3 Nxg2 35.Rxh6 Ne3 36.Rh3 Nf5 37.b4 Kd7 38.a4 Kc7 39.c5 a5 40.b5 Ne7 41.Kc4 Ng6 42.Rh7 Ne5+ 43.Kd4 Kb7 44.c6+ Kb6 45.h4 Kc7 46.h5 Kd6 47.h6 f5 48.c7 Nf3+ 49.Ke3 1-0

Thursday, March 7, 2013

On Chess Mastery and My Issue with Capablanca

I think rather than have this blog be devoted solely to my analysis of my chess attempts that I am going to expand the topics to include chess tidbits that interest me and that I think are worth sharing with the public at large.

I have been looking at Capablanca’s games recently. Capablanca is a World Champion whose chess style troubles me because it is furthest from my own, one I understand the least, and find least emulatable. How does he win from such simple positions? Capablanca’s win over Euwe from London, 1922 is a great example. Capablanca plays the Black side of a Ruy Lopez in as insipid a style as can be imagined. He literally sits back and does what appears to my eyes nothing for 20 moves, emerges by winning a pawn somehow, gets handed the two Bishops, and then future World Champion Euwe resigns fourteen moves later. How can this type of play win games? I am still working on that question and have no answer I can share yet. Here is the score of that troubling game for those interested:

Euwe – Capablanca
C66: Ruy Lopez
London (Round 1), 1922

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 d6 5.d4 Bd7 6.Nc3 exd4 7.Nxd4 Be7 8.Re1 0-0 9.Bf1 Re8 10.f3 Nxd4 11.Qxd4 Be6 12.Qf2 c6 13.Bd2 Qb6 14.Na4 Qxf2+ 15.Kxf2 d5 16.e5 Nd7 17.g3 Bf5 18.Rac1 b5 19.Nc3 Bc5+ 20.Kg2 Nxe5 21.g4 Bg6 22.Kg3 h5 23.Bf4 f6 24.Bxe5 fxe5 25.Bd3 Bf7 26.g5 g6 27.Re2 Bd6 28.Kg2 Kg7 29.Rce1 Re7 30.Nd1 Rf8 31.Nf2 Be8 32.b3 Ref7 33.c4 Rxf3 34.cxd5 cxd5 35.Bb1 Bc6 36.Rd1 R3f4 37.Be4 Bc5 38.Nd3 dxe4 0-1

But that is not what I am really writing about. The interesting tidbit I wanted to share came from the fourteenth round of the London, 1922 tournament. Capablanca had first place all but sewn up, being a point ahead, but has Black against a dangerous rival who is tied with Alekhine for second place: Akiba Rubinstein. After playing his thirteenth move as White in a not very interesting opening, Rubinstein proposed a draw and Capablanca accepted. Here is that game:

Rubinstein – Capablanca
D02: Queen’s Pawn game
London (Round 14), 1922

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Bf4 e6 4.e3 Bd6 5.Nbd2 Bxf4 6.exf4 c5 7.dxc5 Qc7 8.g3 Qxc5 9.Bd3 Nc6 10.c3 0-0 11.0-0 b5 12.Ne5 Bb7 13.Qe2 ½-½


Apparently, some London (or maybe Dutch) spectators must have been disappointed not to have seen what would have resulted from this opening had the two titans instead decided to fight on. I searched my database and found only six games played from this position. The surprise was that they were all from 1922! From this, I surmise that some wealthy chess patron must have soon after the tournament commissioned several strong players, one of whom was Euwe, another was Tarrasch, to take up this position and play on from it. I append those six games below for those who are interested in seeing them.

What I want to focus on in this article is the position after Rubinstein’s thirteenth move. What do you make of it? If you had Black, what would you play as your thirteenth move response? Please take some time now to really look at the position.

White has just played his Queen to e2. He could have instead played 13.Nb3 to kick Black’s Queen back. He might have played 13.Nf3 to ensure that in the event of an exchange on e5, he would be able to maintain a Knight there. Perhaps Rubinstein pondered both options for a while and decided to postpone the decision by making the Queen move to threaten Black’s b5-pawn, a threat that had to be responded to. And if he threw in the draw offer, maybe Rubinstein figured he could get off the hook for having to decide which way to go with the Knight at all.

Okay, so let’s you and I take Black. Our b-pawn is threatened. What are our realistic options? We can protect the b-pawn with 13…a6, right? We can advance the b-pawn by playing 13…b4 as well, right? Each of these alternatives has its plusses and minuses, and we can sit there and ponder them for quite some time. In the six games played from this position, the masters chose 13…a6 four times, 13…b4 twice. Computer programs tell us that each option is about as good as the other and that White’s advantage is only around a quarter of a pawn either way. Here is the important question: is there another alternative we should be looking at?

The surprising answer is “Yes!” We need to fully consider and appreciate the strength of 13…Nxe5!?, a move found by a computer program. This move is just as good as the other two, although very independent strategically. Yet few if any humans would give it the consideration it deserves. I suspect not even players up through IM level would fully consider this move. That’s because on the surface it looks absurd. It appears to do nothing to address the pressure White is placing on b5. Even worse, it invites a pawn recapture, which would force Black to move the Knight on f6 in a way that can’t help the b5-pawn one iota. What gives?

Well, the thing is we have to take our consideration of the possibilities out one move further. We have to see that after 13…Nxe5 14.fxe5 Nd7 15.Bxb5, Black has a very playable countermove. Black should then play 15…Nxe5. White can take the Knight on e5, but then he has to give up the Bishop on b5 for it. The position after 15…Nxe5 is quite comfortable for Black, probably even slightly more comfortable than the positions reached after playing the other thirteenth move alternatives.

In my opinion, this position and example are worth a great deal of study and are very important to fully understand and appreciate. The heart of chess mastery is truly in this example. One can not look at only two of the three viable alternatives and hope to beat the person who has the ability to see and consider all three. It’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight! The way to chess mastery is accurately looking moves ahead to find the real consequences of best move alternatives. I hope this discussion helps you as much as it helped me.

Game 1
13…a6 14.Rfd1 Rfd8 15.h3 Rac8 16.Nb3 Qb6 17.Nxc6 Bxc6 18.Qe3 Qxe3 19.fxe3 Nd7 20.Rd2 Kf8 21.Rad1 Ke7 22.Kf2 h6 23.h4 f5 24.Nd4 Nf6 25.Ke2 Be8 26.Re1 Bh5+ 27.Kf1 Be8 28.Kg2 Bd7 29.Kh2 Rh8 30.Kg1 Rcg8 31.Nf3 Ng4 32.Bf1 Nf6 33.Bd3 Ng4 ½-½ G. Oskam – L. Fick, Gravenhage theme-A (3), 1922

Game 2
13…b4 14.Rac1 Rac8 15.Nb3 Qb6 16.Nxc6 Bxc6 17.cxb4 Qxb4 18.Qe3 Ba4 19.Qd4 Qxd4 20.Nxd4 Bd7 21.b4 Rb8 22.a3 Rfc8 23.Ba6 Rxc1 24.Rxc1 Ne8 25.Rc5 Kf8 26.Ra5 Nc7 27.Bd3 Rb7 28.Nb3 Ne8 29.f5 h6 30.Nc5 Rc7 31.Nxd7+ Rxd7 32.fxe6 fxe6 33.Bb5 Re7 34.Bxe8 Kxe8 35.f4 Rd7 36.Kf2 Ke7 37.Ra6 Kf6 38.g4 g6 39.Ke3 Rc7 40.Kd3 h5 41.h3 hxg4 42.hxg4 Rc4 43.Ke3 Rc3+ 1-0 S. Tarrasch – W. Fick, Gravenhage theme-A (3), 1922

Game 3
13…a6 14.Rac1 Rfd8 15.Rfd1 Rac8 16.Nb3 Qb6 17.Bb1 d4 18.Nxc6 Qxc6 19.f3 dxc3 20.Rxc3 Rxd1+ 21.Qxd1 Qb6+ 22.Kg2 Rxc3 23.bxc3 Nd5 24.Qd3 g6 25.Nd4 Qc5 26.Nc2 Ne3+ 27.Kf2 Ng4+ 28.Ke1 Nxh2 29.Nd4 b4 30.Bc2 bxc3 31.Bd1 c2 32.Nxc2 Qg1+ 33.Kd2 Qxg3 34.Qd8+ Kg7 35.Qd4+ Kh6 36.Qb4 Bxf3 37.Qf8+ Kh5 38.Qxf7 h6 39.Bxf3+ Nxf3+ 40.Kc1 Qg1+ 41.Kb2 Qb6+ 42.Kc1 Qc5 43.Qxe6 Qxc2+ 0-1 G. Zittersteyn – M. Euwe, Gravenhage theme-A (3), 1922

Game 4
13…b4 14.Rac1 Rac8 15.Nb3 Qb6 16.Nxc6 Rxc6 17.Nd4 Rcc8 18.f5 bxc3 19.bxc3 Rfe8 20.fxe6 fxe6 21.Rb1 Qc7 22.Nb5 Qc5 23.Qe5 Ba6 24.Rfc1 Qxf2+ 25.Kxf2 Ng4+ 26.Kf3 Nxe5+ 27.Ke3 Nxd3 28.Kxd3 Rc5 29.a4 Rb8 30.Kd4 Rc4+ 31.Ke5 Re4+ 32.Kd6 Rb6+ 33.Kd7 Rxa4 34.Nxa7 Rxb1 35.Rxb1 Bd3 36.Rb8+ Kf7 37.Nc6 Bf5 38.Rb6 h5 39.Kd6 Kf6 40.h4 Rg4 41.Ne5 Rxg3 42.Rb7 Bg6 43.Re7 Kf5 44.Rxg7 Rg4 45.Rxg6 Rxh4 46.Rxe6 Rh3 ½-½ G. Brakkee - Goedhart, Gravenhage theme-B (3), 1922

Game 5
13…a6 14.Ndf3 Rad8 15.g4 Ne7 16.Nd4 Ng6 17.Bxg6 hxg6 18.Nxg6 fxg6 19.Rfe1 Rfe8 20.Nxe6 Qe7 21.Nxd8 Qxe2 22.Rxe2 Rxe2 23.Nxb7 Nxg4 24.Nc5 Rxb2 25.Nxa6 Nxf2 26.a4 Nh3+ 27.Kh1 Nf2+ 28.Kg1 bxa4 29.Rxa4 Ne4 30.Ra3 Rc2 31.Nb4 Rc1+ 32.Kg2 Nxc3 33.Nc6 Nb5 34.Ra8+ Kf7 35.Ne5+ Ke6 36.Ra6+ Kf5 37.Nxg6 d4 38.Ra5 Rb1 39.Nf8 d3 40.Ra2 Nd4 41.Rd2 Ke4 0-1 G. Key – B. Van Trotsenburg, Gravenhage theme-B (3), 1922

Game 6
13…a6 14.g4 d4 15.Nb3 Qd5 16.c4 bxc4 17.Bxc4 Qd6 18.f3 Rfd8 19.Rad1 Rac8 20.Rfe1 Qc7 21.Nxf7 Kxf7 22.Bxe6+ Kf8 23.Bxc8 Qxc8 24.Nc5 Re8 25.Qc4 Re3 26.Ne6+ Ke7 27.Nxd4 Rxe1+ 28.Rxe1+ Kd7 29.Qf7+ Kd6 30.Nf5+ Kc5 31.Qb3 1-0 H. Van der Veen – G. Bosscha, Gravenhage theme-B (3), 1922

Monday, March 4, 2013

Game 34: Lowry Grand Prix Series, Columbia Rd. 3

Lowry Grand Prix Series
A04: King’s Indian Attack

White: Keith Eubanks (2079)
Black: Dan Quigley (1802)
Columbia, SC, Round 3, G/65, 5 sec. inc., Feb. 23, 2013

1.e4 c5 2.d3 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 Nc6 5.Nf3 b5

I have learned to appreciate the effect of playing along the b-file when my opponent Kingside fianchettoes. It was an earlier memorable game against Keith that I lost where he did so to me that taught me some of the principles.

6.0–0 Rb8 7.Nbd2 TN

This move is typical of the King’s Indian Attack, but surprisingly my database does not show other King’s Indian Attackers choosing it when they reach this position. Instead, 7.Re1 was chosen three times (a win, loss, and draw resulting), 7.c3 twice (White losing one and drawing the other), and 7.Nh4?! once (a draw). To me, 7.Re1 threatening a cramping e5 makes a good deal of sense, but Keith has other ideas.


7…b4?

Black invests some time to try to get a space advantage. Doing so is double-edged at best and should probably backfire. That’s a serious hole on c4 I just gave White for his Knight. Black stays comfortably equal with the normal looking 7...Nf6, though I wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to 8.a4.

8.Rb1

Keith said he made this move as a result of some form of illusion about the piece position. I had expected 8.Nc4, after which I intended 8…Ba6, but I don’t really believe in Black’s position. I won’t repeat this line.

8...Qa5?

Tempted, Black goes further behind in development in order to threaten to “win” White’s a-pawn. 8...Nf6 9.Nc4 0-0 and Black is almost equal.

9.Ra1??

White’s a-pawn was poisoned! White should play 9.Nc4 in the hope Black is dumb enough to play 9…Qxa2. After 10.Bf4, Black will be unable to extract his Queen. I hope after 9.Nc4 that I would have played 9...Qc7, and then looked for another way to equalize the game soon.

9...d6 10.Nc4 Qb5?

I needed to reassess the position and realize I was getting nowhere. Rather than doubling down on an increasingly dubious hand by keeping my Queen on the queenside, I am best off playing 10...Qc7 though White has an edge after 11.Re1.

11.h3

White covers g4, after which I think Black equalizes. If White wants to go on the offensive, he could try 11.Bf4 Be6 12.Qe2 Rd8 13.e5!? and White is generating a strong attack.

11...Be6 12.Ne3

As White I would make a bid to win the two Bishops by playing 12.Qe2 instead, though after 12…Nf6 Black is equal.

12...a5 13.Ng5 a4 14.Nd5 Bxd5 15.exd5

White has the pair of bishops now.

15...Nd4 16.Re1 c4?


16...Nf6!?= should be preferred. I have no justification for this attack and it ought to backfire since I am behind in development.

17.c3! bxc3 18.bxc3 Nf5 19.d4?

Better was 19.dxc4! Qxc4 20.Bf1 Qxc3 21.Qxa4+ Kf8 22.Rb1!! Tell me this isn’t an amazing position! White hangs everything, but gets a virtually winning position anyway due to the back rank threats. The pair of Bishops advantage needs open lines in order for it to come into effect.

19...Nf6 20.Ne4 0–0 21.Nxf6+ Bxf6 22.Ba3

Blocks the pawn on a4.

22...Rfc8

Or 22...Qa5 23.Qc2 and White retains an edge.

23.Qd2 Qe8 24.Bh1 Rb6

24...Qd7 intending …Re8 and …e6 is the other plan in the position. White keeps an edge in either case.

25.Re2

White decided to leave Black a completely open b-file in exchange for taking a half-open e-file. I think 25.Rab1 Rxb1 26.Rxb1 Rb8 27.Qc2 gives White an advantage because then White’s two Bishops advantage can come into play.

25...Rcb8 26.Be4 Qf8?

After making this move, I realized to my horror that I could lose a pawn. Best was 26...Qc8 27.Rae1 Ng7 28.g4 and White keeps a small edge, but Black should be able to weather the storm.

27.Rd1?

White considered trying to win the pawn with 27.g4 Nh4 28.g5 Bg7 29.Qf4 Nf5 30.Nxf5 gxf5 31.Qxf5, but felt that Black would be able to win the pawn on d5 back somehow, maybe with 31…Rb5 and 32…e6. It still seems the line worth trying to me. After the text move by White, I found some accurate liquidating moves, and managed to bring the game level.

27...Qh6 28.Qxh6 Nxh6 29.g4 Bh4 30.Bc1 Kg7 31.Kg2 Ng8 32.g5 h6 33.gxh6+ Nxh6 ½-½

A fair result for the last round in a mistake-filled game which was no doubt a result of a grueling day for both players. Nevertheless, I need to reassess my approach to defending against the King’s Indian Attack. I also need restrain myself in order to make less extravagant looking moves in middlegames (like 16…c4?) in favor of more standard plans.

Personal note. To my chagrin, I missed the second round of the Columbia Chess Club Championship last Thursday. I spent last week down hard for five days with bronchitis or a flu. I finally went to visit a doctor Saturday when I began to think I might have pnemonia. I didn't. The meds she gave me cleared up the problem right away. I am so grateful to have my health back! Why did I wait so long? Anyway, I am looking forward to a very competetive game this Thursday as I get back into action.

Follow-Up: On what to do about the King's Indian Attack. I made a database of KIA games starting from 1909 through the present day. I quickly played through a random selection of about 50 games, starting with the 1909 game, the Nimzowitsch game, and saw how modern GMs like Ivanchuk and Gelfand handle the system. My observation/conclusion: chances are 50/50 for either side - the statistics back that up - and there is no real approach that works most of the time that Black should consider. Uhlmann's Queenside expansion approach from the 1960s has no real reason to work because White's chances are just as good on the Kingside. There was one approach I saw that I sort of liked by Black and that was the Bishop to h3 backed by a Queen on d7 idea, trading off that g2-Bishop. Still, the games all seem like hand to hand fighting in any board sector, and few if any generalizations truly apply. I recommend just making logical moves as Black and keeping an open mind move by move for when the fighting begins.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Game 33: Lowry Grand Prix Series, Columbia Rd. 2

Lowry Grand Prix Series
C04: French Tarrasch: 3...Nc6
White: Dan Quigley (1802)
Black: Tim Rankin (2000)
Columbia, SC, Round 2, G/65, 5 sec. inc., Feb. 23, 2013

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nc6 4.e5? Nxd4

How could I blunder a pawn this way? Most of my chess playing days I have played 3.Nc3 verus the French. Recently, I decided that move leaves White too open to having to play Black’s pet system, be it the Winawer, Classical, McCutcheon, or Rubinstein, and that I have more control over where the game is headed if I opt for 3.Nd2 lines. One major difference between the two lines that I had not learned an appreciation for until this game was that 3.Nd2 reduces White’s protection of d4. The other reason for the blunder is that I have not begun thinking tactically yet. All my thought was on strategy. 3…Nc6 slows down Black’s being able to play …c5. In order to play it, Black will have to move the Knight to a square not much better than the b8 square it started out on. What formation is …c5 most desired for? The pawn chain formation of the Advanced French. So, without checking tactics, I simply played 4.e5. After making this sort of mistake against an expert, little of my heart is left in this game, but I decided to see what I could do.

5.c3 Nc6 6.Ngf3 f6 7.Bb5 Bd7 8.exf6?

Not very enterprising of White. I should keep the central tension instead because it is in complications my best future prospects might lay for material recovery. Perhaps best was 8.Bxc6 bxc6 9.0–0 Nh6 10.Qe2 though Black clearly has the preferable game.

8...Nxf6 9.0–0 Bd6 10.Re1 0–0 11.c4?!

Instead of looking for pawn levers, I should play to restrain Black from getting in …e5 and taking over the center. 11.Nb3 was best, though Black has plenty of good moves, starting with 11…Ne4 and a strong attack.

11...Nb4 12.Nd4

Desperately trying to complicate matters, but White has no better than accepting the simplification with 12.Bxd7 Qxd7 13.Qb3 a5 and Black is in command still. White’s game in the next few moves went from very disadvantageous to lost.

12...c6 13.Ba4 e5 14.N4f3 e4 15.Nxe4

My sacrifice here is unsound, but 15.cxd5 exf3 16.Nxf3 Nbxd5 17.Bb3 loses as well.

15...dxe4?

The less accurate move from Black I had been hoping for. A surer path to victory was 15...Nxe4 16.Be3 Bg4 17.cxd5 Rxf3 18.dxc6 Qh4 19.Qxd6 Nxd6 20.cxb7 Nxb7–+

16.Qxd6 Qa5!?

I had been expecting for 16…exf3 when after 17.Qxb4 I had hopes of finding good play in the complications. This better move threw me off.

17.Bb3?

Pure capitulation. Best was 17.Bd1!? exf3 18.Bd2 c5 19.Bxf3 and even though a piece down for a pawn, White having the two Bishops would be justified in playing on. The rest of the game needs no comment.

17...exf3 18.Bd2 c5 19.a3 Qa6 20.Qxc5 Nd3 21.Qe7 Rae8 22.c5+ Kh8 23.Qd6 Qxd6 0-1

Monday, February 25, 2013

Game 32: Lowry Grand Prix Series, Columbia Rd. 1

Lowry Grand Prix Series
E47: Nimzo-Indian: Rubinstein: 5.Bd3 without ...d5
White: Philipp Lamby (2222)
Black: Dan Quigley (1802)
Columbia, SC, Round 1, G/65, 5 sec. inc., Feb. 23, 2013

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4

Against 1.d4 I have spent the most time studying kingside fianchetto defenses, both the King’s Indian and Gruenfeld. For some reason I became worried that I may not know these defenses well enough to acquit myself theoretically at the master level against a long-time 1.d4 player. Some variations of the King’s Indian can become horribly cramped if Black misses just one opportunity to free himself. It wasn’t too late to play 3…c5, entering a Blumenfeld versus 3.Nf3 or a Benoni versus 3.Nc3, two defenses I know more about than the Nimzo-Indian. Why I thought I could slug it out in a Nimzo-Indian, the 1.d4 defense I know least well, is still a mystery to me.

4.e3 0–0 5.Bd3 c5 6.d5

To my disgust, I am out of my book knowledge with this move already. Looking this line up, I see why. White has played 6.Nf3 just over 2000 times, but the text move only slightly more than 20 times. I began calculating the forced line that Philipp and I now do indeed proceed to play, only I calculated 9.Qh5+ and 10.Qxd5 instead of the slightly more accurate move order Philipp actually played. I am embarassed to have miscounted the result, thinking I would have 7 pawns to his 6.

6…exd5

Later in the game I was wishing I had counted the result right. If so, I would have played 6…b5 now. The text is okay; it’s just not my style.

7.cxd5 Nxd5?! TN

Apparently, no one has ever played this move before, at least not according to my database. Probably best is 7…d6. Black has won that position twice, drawn once, and never lost it. 7…h6 is the other move that has been played here, which is dead equal, though Black has lost one of these and drawn the other. As I stated previously, my playing of this move was based on a material miscalculation. While it is not as good 7…d6 or 7…h6, it is by no means losing either.

8.Bxh7+ Kxh7 9.Qxd5 Nc6 10.Nf3

What is losing is my psychological state right now. I have the feeling that I have fallen into an opening trap and been completely outplayed. White is ahead in development, appears to own the center, and has exposed Black’s King at no charge. Much to my surprise, I now discover that my more objective chess program considers this position almost equal. White has at most two tenths of a pawn’s advantage! Black has some trumps I failed to consider, much less appreciate at this point in the game. I have the two Bishops, and I’ve given up the less valuable h-pawn in exchange for White’s more central c-pawn. I am only one move behind in development. Black just needs to keep his cool and play some chess.

10...f5?

I made this positionally weakening move believing my King to be in more danger than it was. The best plan for Black here is to fight for the center with 10…d6, and 11…Qf6. If a White Knight on f3 ever chases Black’s King back to g8 with a check on g5, then Black plays …Qe5 and takes over the center or forces a beneficial trade.

11.0–0

White castles and improves king safety.

11...Qf6 12.e4!?

An aggressive and enterprising move, one that takes into account the opponent’s current psychological state. However, objectively speaking, one does not normally want a more open position when one’s opponent has the two Bishops. Chess programs prefer 12.Bd2, followed by 13.h4 and 14.Ng5, building up a position based on Black’s square weaknesses around his King. However, after 12.e4, if Black continues to play in fear he will soon be blown off the board.

12…Nd4!

I dug deep, did a gut check, and am proud of finding this resource. One way of finding candidate moves is to consider what the opponent’s last move just gave up. White’s 12.e4 gave up partial control of d4. What if I take advantage of that by occupying the square now, since that is possible? My calculations showed me no ill consequences. And the move has plusses. I not only increase my control of the center (positional advantage), I am beginning to threaten to trap White’s Queen in the center of the board.

13.Ng5+ Kh8

This is a nerve-wracking position to be in. Black's King now can't move.

14.e5?

My chess program suggests 14.Kh1 for White. This indicates there really is not much White can do to improve his position.

14...Qe7?

This seemingly inconsequential retreat becomes the source of much trouble later. I now think it is most likely the losing move. Instead, Black must take the opportunity to play 14...Qc6!?, after which Black would be completely equal. It amazes me how much of a difference there is between these two moves. The reason I did not play 14…Qc6 was because I wanted to keep an eye on my f7-square and did not want to allow Nf7+, but this was not really a threat. If 15.Nf7+ Kh7 and White has no follow up available. If White tries to keep Queens on the board by retreating with 15.Qc4, Black can play 15…b5 16.Qd3 Kg8! 17.Be3 (17.Qh3 Qh6=) 17…Bb7 18.f3 Rae8=. Black gets his pieces untangled just in time!

15.f4

White threatens to bring a Rook up to f3 and then over to h3.

15…g6

I considered 15...Bxc3 16.bxc3 Ne6, though after 17.Be3 White’s attack is still strong. So I kept the two Bishops instead.

16.Be3 Ne6 17.Ne2

An alternative for White is 17.Na4!? Nxg5 18.a3± But perhaps the position is already complicated enough.

17...Nxg5 18.fxg5 Qe6

I did not yet appreciate how weak White’s e-pawn was. Best was 18...Re8 19.Nf4 Kg7 20.Nd3, but White is comfortable here too.

19.Qxe6?

After the game, Philipp said he felt it was a mistake to make this exchange. I agree, but it only prolongs the game. White is best off to build pressure instead and allow Black to initiate the exchange if he wants it: 19.Rad1!? Qxd5 20.Rxd5 Kg7 21.a3 followed by 22.Bxc5 and White has a winning position.

19...dxe6 20.Nf4 Kg7 21.a3 Ba5 22.Bxc5 Rf7 23.Rfd1 Bc7 24.Re1 a5 25.Rac1 Ra6 26.Bd6! Rc6

Even after the best move 26…Bb6+, Black is still quite lost, e.g. 27.Kh1 Bd7 28.Bc5 Bd8 29.h4 Rc6 30.Red1 Bc7 31.Bd6 Rxc1 32.Rxc1 Bb6 33.Rc3 winning. Having the two Bishops counts for nothing in positions such as these.

27.Rxc6 bxc6 28.Rc1

Quicker is 28.Bxc7 Rxc7 29.Rc1 Rb7 30.Rxc6.

28...Bb6+ 29.Bc5 Bd8 30.h4 Rb7 31.b4 Kf7 32.Kf2 axb4 33.axb4 Rb5 34.Ra1 Bb6 35.Bxb6 Rxb6 36.Ra7+ Rb7 37.Rxb7+ Bxb7 38.Ke3 1-0

Friday, February 22, 2013

Game 31: Columbia Club Championship Rd. 1

Columbia Chess Club Championship
B06: Modern Defense
White: Dan Quigley (1802)
Black: Philipp Lamby (2222)
Columbia, SC, Round 1, G/75, 30 sec. bonus, Feb. 21, 2013

1.e4 g6

This move was a slight disappointment for me. Philipp has a reputation for being an Evans Gambit slayer. I hoped to put that reputation to the test with a line I had prepared for him.

2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3

I have always been somewhat confused as to why players of the Black pieces who play the Modern Defense (1.e4 g6) prefer it to the Pirc Defense (1.e4 d6). White can practically force Modern Defense players into Pirc lines with the move I just selected. By playing ...g6 and putting no pressure on e4 by ...Nf6, Black also allows White to play 3.c4 in case White has some line against the King’s Indian Defense he really likes to play, but does not get to because White dislikes playing 1.d4, let’s say, for fear of the Nimzo/Queen’s Indian complex. In other words, Black by choosing the Modern move order instead of the Pirc just gives White more options to play the opening he is most comfortable with. Okay then, I am most comfortable with openings that do not involve playing pawns to c4 or f4 because I like open channels for my Bishops, and a Saemisch-type pawn structure (pawns on d4, e4, and f3) when attacking Kingside fianchettoed positions. I think Black is being kind to let me choose the setup I most favor.

3…d6 4.Be3 a6

This move is the most fashionable for Black currently. I have never seen it since I seldom face the Modern. I must not be the only one who seldom sees it because my database shows that Black is doing slightly better than White after playing this move - 1 percentage point better. Amazing! The move seems slow to me. There might be some hidden resources for Black in it that are beyond my understanding.

5.Qd2 b5

Again, the most popular move for both sides, and my database now shows Black’s advantage from here grown to 4%. Go figure!

6.a4!

This move looks like the obvious choice to me, but I give it an exclam because it’s White’s second most often played. More favored is 6.f3. I considered it; however 6.a4 has more plusses because it defines the Queenside, which lets me know how to proceed in my development. Black has to either acquiesce to axb5 and a possible Rook swap and pawn loss (not advisable), play …bxa4 which isolates the a-pawn and provides White an obvious method of play, or push the pawn past (practically forced) as he does here. The defining of the Queenside lets White know where to put his pieces.

6…b4 7.Nd5

There are five possible Knight moves here that have all been played in the history of this position. 7.Nd1 is the most popular and has been chosen over 100 times. I chose the fourth most popular move by playing my Knight to d5. Only 7.Nb1 gets fewer votes than 7.Nd5. How odd! 7.Nd5 is the move my software program likes best and it seems the obvious choice to me. I only briefly considered one alternative, 7.Na2, but dismissed it fairly quickly. Knights do best near the center forward deployed, even if they have to move a bit to stay there. Six games have been played previously with 7.Nd5, favoring Black 4 to 2. My software program gives me a tenth of a pawn’s advantage though.

7…a5 8.h4!? TN

Theoretical novelty. Previously played in this position are 8.Nf3, 8.f3, 8.c4, 8.Bc4, and 8.c3 (twice). My move is very aggressive and less developmental than the alternatives. I played it in part for psychological reasons. Black is on notice that despite the 400 points rating difference, I want a scalp. After all, my own hair is disappearing so fast! Moreover, h4, threatening h5, is the type of move that makes me nervous when I as Black fianchetto kingside. The 8.h4 move has some real bite too. Where is Black going to castle now? Can he really afford to keep his King in the center? My program isn’t a big fan of 8.h4 on its meritsa ndi ndicates the extravagance cost me my tenth of a pawn’s advantage. We now have an objectively level game. Nevertheless, that's a tenth of a pawn I don't mind investing.

8…e6 9.Nf4

And now we see another benefit of 8.h4. Black can never really consider playing …g5 at some point. Thus f4 has become a somewhat unconventional Knight outpost for White.

9…Nf6 10.f3

Black was threatening 10…Nxe4 as well as 10…Ng4.

10...h5

Black parries White’s h5 threat, but creates a weakness on g5. Exploiting g5-weaknesses is a theme in many of my games, as you can see from previously posted games to this blog.

11.Ngh3 Nbd7 12.Ng5 Qe7

12...0–0 allows 13.Nfxe6 fxe6 14.Nxe6 when White has a slight advantage. Nevertheless, this is probably best for Black.

13.Bc4

My chess program prefers 13.Ngxe6 fxe6 14.Nxg6 Qd8 15.e5 and claims White is a little more than a pawn better. Nevertheless, during the game I was uncertain of White’s long-term prospects and remain so now. It seems to me that I am trading off two great attacking Knights for an undeveloped Rook and a couple pawnsa, and that doing so allows Black exchanges (something a cramped player always likes) for some rather transitory advantages for White. I still think the text move is okay. 13.Bc4 adds another piece to the attack and keeps my Knights in position awaiting future developments.

13...Nb6 14.Bb3

White can still play 14.Bb5+ Bd7 15.Ngxe6 fxe6 16.Nxg6 for a small yet concrete advantage. I have not changed my mind about the two Knights swap for Rook and 2 pawns being insufficent; I want more.

14…d5 15.Nd3

Here, I took my first long think of the game. I have an advantage, but I can’t figure out how to make anything of it. My chess program likes 15.e5 Ng8 16.0-0-0, keeping a slight edge, a decision not unlike one I eventually reach anyway. However, rather than lock up pawns, I decided to maneuver a bit and try to find a way to convert my advantage. 15.Nd3 helps with the control of c5 and e5.

15...Nfd7 16.0–0–0

Tucking my King to relative safety now that Black can not easily target a4 with…Bd7 and a Knight on b6. I also bring another player (the Rook on a1) into the game.

16...Nc4 17.Qf2

Black must have been expecting 17.Bxc4 because he now takes his longest think of the game. If I have to give up a Bishop, I would rather it be my dark-squared one since after e5 that will be my bad Bishop. Also, as a matter of personal style I feel most comfortable when keeping material on the board.

17…Bb7 18.e5?!

Philipp shared after the game that he believed I made a mistake in closing the center this way. I am still not prepared to call this move a mistake. My original intention had been to continue to build the pressure with 18.Rhe1 or 18.Bf4. However, Black’s pieces are now fairly well positioned. After Black castles, his Bishops are on the long diagonals, his Knights as close to the center and as advanced as mine, his Rooks linked, and he has the pawn break …dxe4 every bit as much as I have one with exd5. After considering all that, I decided to convert advantages and go for a space grab. However, I do acquiesce to a locking of the center, which increases Black’s safety.

18...Nxe3 19.Qxe3

Black has the pair of bishops, but in a closed position like this Knights are better.

19...Ba6 20.Nf4 Bh6?

Black gives me my chance to win the game. As Philipp stated after the game, all he had to do was play 20...Bb7! in order to maintain equality. To play 20…Bb7 however, Black has to 1) see the danger himself, 2) estimate me to be a better player than my rating in order to find the upcoming sacrifice, and 3) resist the temptation to put the Bishop on the juicy h6-b1 diagonal all in the face of building time pressure. Philipp expects a lot of himself if he really hopes to find 20…Bb7! in this situation.

21.Bxd5!

I am proud of finding this move. As can be seen from games earlier in this blog I have been missing opportunities like this. This sacrifice initiates a double attack on c7 and e7.

21...exd5

Black’s best resource was 21...0–0–0!?, but then White has 22.Bxe6! taking the lead, 22...fxe6 23.Nxg6 Qg7 24.Nxh8 with a strong attack. Nevertheless, Black has some chances of saving the position.

22.Nxd5 Bxg5 23.hxg5 Qd8 24.e6!

The point. Seeing the strength of this move is what lead me to play the sacrifice back on move 21. I couldn’t exactly figure out the win from here, but I knew there had to be something in this position for White. The Queen and Knight are coordinating against a Black King stuck in the center, and both center files are opening and available for Rooks. Positional judgement says this has to be enough for the piece sacrificed.

24…Nb6 25.exf7+?

I now take my longest think of the game. This is the critical position. I examined three candidates, 25.Qf4, 25.exf7+, and 25.Nf6+. I spent the longest time on the first two, but could not find anything conclusive. For example, A) 25.Qf4 Qxd5 26.Qxf7+ Kd8 27.Qf6+ (27.e7+ Kc8 28.e8(Q)+ Rxe8 29.Qxe8+ Kb7=) 27…Kc8 28.Qxh8+ Kb7= After B) 25.Nf6+, Black can play 25…Kf8 and then 26.e7+ just loses a pawn. If I prepare the pawn thrust by playing a Rook to e1, Black can play the Queen to e7 to block. It felt like a Knight on f6 was getting in the way of my other pieces. So, I finally settled on the text figuring that flushing the King out in to the open was the best option. Unfortunately, the winning path is indeed 25.Nf6+! I missed this excellent chance. After 25...Kf8 White has to find the quiet move 26.d5!, and then it’s curtains for Black. White’s position holds and can’t be broken. From this controlled center, huge space advantage, and with Black’s King interfering with his own pieces' coordination, White can build up the pressure and soon win somewhere. There’s a big lesson here for me. This position will never make the middlegame books with a "find White's 25th move and win", because it's not clear enough to serve as an example, but it's important to know what to do from a position like this if I ever want to beat a master. My lesson is, when unable to find a clear tactical win, find the move that preserves everything even when a piece down so that the pressure can be built until something in the opponent’s position cracks. Don’t simplify as I did with 25.exf7+. As a sample continuation of best play from 26.d5! the computer program generates 26…Nc4 27.Qe4 Nd6 28.Nd7+ Kg8 29.Qe5 Nc4 30.Nf6+ Kf8 31.e7+ Qxe7 32.Nd7+ Ke8 33.Qxh8+ Kxd7 34.Qxa8 Qxg5+ 35.Kb1 winning. My problem was that I was looking for a shorter, more decisive win than this, like the one pictured in middlegame books, but none is available.

25...Kxf7 26.Qf4+ Kg8 27.Nf6+

After the game, Philipp stated that the move he was really worried about was 27.Nxc7, but there was nothing there. In fact, Black can then force a trade of Knights by playing 27…Nd5! There would be plenty of chess left to be played, but I feel Black’s extra piece would eventually tell, much as it did in the text continuation.

27...Kg7 28.Qe5?

Flashy, but no substance. The threat of my double attack is more easily parried than I anticipated. White does better to develop his remaining piece with 28.Rhe1 Qd6 29.Re5 Raf8 30.Qe4 and there is lots more chess to be played, but I remain skeptical of White’s long-term chances here.

28...Kf7 29.Qf4?

Fruitlessly hoping to repeat moves. Better was 29.d5 Qd6 30.Qd4 Rad8 31.Rhe1, but I still don’t like White’s long term prospects.

29...Qd6 30.Nxh5+ Qxf4+ 31.Nxf4 Bc4 32.b3 Nd5 33.Nxd5 Bxd5 34.Kd2

34.Rh6 Rxh6 35.gxh6 g5 is good for Black as well.

34...Rae8 35.Rxh8 Rxh8 36.Re1 Rh2 37.Re2 Bb7 38.Ke3 Ba6 39.Rd2 Bf1?

We both sensed Black’s upcoming win here and fell asleep. With this move, Black threatens to win material on g2, but this is not material Black wants to win. Black should play 39…Ke6 instead, winning easily.

40.g3?

Not a good decision, because now the opponent has an easy course. The move that poses problems for Black is 40.Rd1! If Black were then to play the intended 40…Bxg2? White saves the game with 41.Rd2 Ke6 42.Kf4 Kd5 43.Kg3 Rh5 44.Kxg2 Rxg5+ 45.Kf2 with the extra pawn for White not being enough to win given Black’s superior position and a draw the likeliest result. Black can save himself with the retraction  40…Ba6 however, and still win.

40...Rxd2 41.Kxd2 Ke6 42.c4 Kf5 43.f4 Ke4 44.d5 Bh3 45.Ke2 Bg4+ 46.Kf2 Kd4 0-1

Friday, February 1, 2013

On the Value of Study

I am happy to report that my modest blog now has two regular followers. I have many more viewers than that, but not regular followers. Since I have not figured out yet how to post diagrams of chess positions to this blog, or how to make games available in PGN notation, two followers is probably more than I deserve. Welcome!

One of my new followers poses the following (no pun intended) question: "Other than annotating the games how do you study or prepare for upcoming matches or events? I saw an old interview from Chris Mabe and he said he thinks more time should be spent on studying. Do you agree with that?"

I do agree with former South Carolina Chess Champion and Master Chris Mabe on the value of chess study.

To annotate the games, I have to really analyze where I went wrong and right. That often takes a very long time. For example, in the Evans Gambit game of Post 28, once I achieved my objectives in the opening and got the position I was striving for I had no idea what to do. So, I looked over about 100 games from that position. Instead of Bb2, I now tend to see Kaidanov's point in recommending Nc3, and I plan to play that next time I get that position. Since that position can get reached by transposition fairly often, I think I will be getting that position again this year. I also discovered the point in d5, which blocks the Bishop. It also knocks Black's Knight to the edge of the board where it often sits utterly useless until the end of the game. If I did not study, I would not know how to handle the middlegame position that ensues from the opening I like to play.

Unfortunately, I am not particularly wise in how I study chess. Openings really don't matter that much. Magnus Carlsen and chess computers have proven that. Nevertheless, I find studying them enjoyable, however unproductive it is to do so. Much more useful is middlegame study, tactics more than positional themes, and endgame study. If I were more deeply versed in endgame theory I would have known better what to do in the Rook and Pawn endgame I reached in Game 30. I was just lucky my opponent had an aversion at a couple key points to sacrificing material for positional gain, and had no better idea of what to do in the endgame than me.

That all said, I do despair that chess study does very little to help one's chess strength past the 1800 level. Chess strength over the 1800 level is mostly a matter of native ability. If I may make an analogy, the ability to play chess well is a lot like having the ability to solve math problems in your head well. Let's take the problem 77 times 66. Pose that problem to people and I estimate only perhaps 10 percent would even attempt to solve it in their head. There are several strategies to solve the problem. Brute force, the way we would solve the problem if we had pen and paper, is difficult, perhaps impossible for most. I wouldn't attempt it that way in my head, although I probably could if I had no better alternative, but not 765 times 543. It's harder to do it by brute force than it is to use another way. Instead, I realize 6 x 7 is 42. I add that to 420 in my head to get 462, the first addend. The second addend will be the same number with a zero on the end, 4620. I know the final digit will be a 2, then working left we have 8, a 0, carry the one, and a 5 for a final answer of 5,082. I check it by realizing 4600 and 400 are 5,000. Then add on the 62 and 20 for 5,082.

Chess is like this in the respect that much of the game has to be done in the head in a very similar place of the brain we use for solving math problems. Shortcut strategy alternatives to brute calculation like the one I used to solve the math problem are also needed in chess. Masters have those shortcut strategies. It's what is meant when studies show masters to have "superior pattern recognition". Nevertheless, masters also have the ability to brute force calculate. Every last one of them, I promise you. Some of those shortcut strategies or pattern recognition techniques can be taught if the person teaching them is clever enough to break them down and express them in a way that can be grasped to someone who hasn't figured it out intuitively on their own. But you still can not get away from that absolutely essential ability to calculate in your head. It's native, has something to do with synapses and brain hard wiring, can't be taught, and is necessary for chess strength. Chess ability, or visualization and calculation, is like a muscle; it's present in the brain and beefy, or it's not. The ability to build that chess muscle as opposed to normal muscles is much more limited than building physical muscle because of the greater number of factors needed to build the ability to calculate, most of which are out of the personal control of the calculator. In other words, the ability to calculate in one's head, which is the ability to visualize what a board will look like after a series of if/then moves and properly assess the outcome, is what makes the difference in chess strengths, and much of this can not be taught, or studied for. It is at least in part inherent.

Nevertheless, chess study helps, especially in getting to A class, for the part of playing good chess that is not inherent, the part that involves calculation less. The other reason I believe chess study has value is that it increases one's ability to appreciate the game. As humans we can recognize a correct fact far more easily than we can synthesize information and then produce a correct fact from data. That is why multiple choice tests are easier for us than fill in the blank, or short answer question tests. In the former, we have only to recognize the right answer. We don't have to manufacture or produce it. Studying chess allows one to better recognize chess beauty when seeing it even if we can't quite produce it ourselves.

Study may have an even more practical application. Had I not studied chess a great deal, and I have, I doubt I could have found the Rook sacrifice that saved my recent Evans Gambit game (#28), even though the sacrifice shouldn't have worked. I also think that without study I would have lacked the imagination to have sacrificed my Bishop in desperation as I did in my last game (#30), for a chance to save a draw later. Studying chess increases our ability to see wider as to what may be possible in this deep and rich game. That is one reason studying Nimzowitsch games can be such a joy, for example. So many of his moves are just outrageous, like moving Knights to a corner, parking Queens on h2 in a castled position, or placing a Rook behind a pawn that hasn't moved and looks like it has no business ever being considered for moving. But Nimzowitsch had concrete and justified reasons for all his moves. Had you not seen him try it by studying his games, I don't think that when playing your own game you would consider a similar possibility when it arises, even when it was the best move available.

Besides annotating my games, I study by playing over master games, preferably well annotated games, and checking those annotations for accuracy against what strong programs reveal about chess positions. Of the modern masters, I especially enjoy looking over Carlsen's and Nakamura's games. I should try to solve tactical puzzles and read endgame theory more often. I have heard and believe that doing so is enormously helpful. But so far I have lacked the self discipline to make myself do that very often. Also, please do not think I under rate the value of playing. I am really enjoying getting out weekly for a serious tournament game these days and can feel the rust beginning to crack off, even if I suffer a setback in my chess thinking as I did in Game 30. I don't play very often on the internet though. Anonymous chess quickly bores me. I am sure that when I was in my 20s and earlier I would have found it less boring and played a lot more games. If I could bring myself to play online more often, even just speed games, I would certainly benefit.

I hope that begins to answer your question!

Game 30: Columbia Round 5

This game is a real disappointment for me, not because of the result – a draw I was lucky to get – but because of the lack of chess sight I exhibited throughout this game.

Ashland XXXI
B28: Sicilian 2 Nf3 a6 (O'Kelly Variation)
White: Gilbert Holmes (1832)
Black: Dan Quigley (1807)
Columbia, SC, Round 5, G/75, 30 sec. bonus, Jan. 31, 2013

 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6

The O’Kelly is not my favorite variation, but I like to vary things by trotting it out every once in a while. Statistically speaking, my database shows Black does better with this move than with the four more popular moves: 2…d6, 2…Nc6, 2…e6, and 2…g6.

3.c3

I consider this White’s best move against the O’Kelly. I like seeing the slightly more popular 3.d4 here because I can play the Black side as a Kalashnikov or Sveshnikov wherein White is deprived of his best answer to …e5, namely Nb5, e.g. 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 and 4…e5 right away, or 4…Nf6 5.Nc3 and 5…e5. I have had great success with both of these and statistics in general greatly favor Black after 3.d4. The psychological point of the O’Kelly is that White might prefer to play open Sicilians and thus not really be prepared for the closed variations the O’Kelly steers White towards.

3…d5

Black can never go wrong with making this move whenever White plays c3 in a Kingpawn game. If the Center Counter Defense is okay when White has the immediate option of Nc3, and I think it is, it is actually better for Black when White does not have this option.

4.exd5 Qxd5 5.d4

At this point, I am very close to transposing into Sicilian Alapin lines that start with 2.c3. Against those, I like to develop my Knights to their natural square and then my Bishop to g4 before playing …e6. I like these lines better where Black develops the Queen Bishop outside the pawn chain. So I decided to try to go for that setup here, but I am one move behind due to having played 2…a6. Perhaps that makes this plan for Black inadvisable from the O’Kelly move order. I sure found it difficult to put into effect this game! Incidentally, Black is not doing that well statistically speaking from this position. White is at 60%, which is significantly higher than the normal 53% he gets with 1.e4, the 51% White gets if Black plays 1...c5, or the 50% he is at after Black plays 2...a6, a figure that is skewed because of the popular 3.d4?! response which gives White a 42% winning chances ratio. I suspect the 60% figure from this position for White may be because players of Black are not as fully prepared to play this position as they should be.

5...Nc6

I still consider this move the right approach. The problem with 5…Bg4 immediately is that it lets White know to develop his Bishop to e2. I want White to commit the development of that Bishop first. If he plays Be2 early, I may go ahead and leave my c8-Bishop behind the pawn chain. The text stops White from considering drawish Queen trade ideas once Black plays the inevitable …cxd4 by preventing the White response Qxd4.

6.Be3

6.Be2 is the main line. However, 6.Be3 is a normal developing move in the Alapin, and there is nothing wrong with it here. Surprisingly, my database contains 12 games played from this position in which Black wins 9, draws twice, and loses only once in a game where a class C player was playing a class D player. How did that game get in my database?

6…cxd4?!

No doubt, 6…Nf6 is the most accurate move here. I chose not to play it because I did not want to allow 7.dxc5 when a Queen trade is virtually forced. However, the Queen trade is not a problem for Black who can then play …e5 and soon recover the pawn with what I believe is complete equality. My difficulty stemmed from the desire to disallow the potential Queen trade.

7.cxd4 Nf6?!

I don’t think I would repeat this move either. I am still playing for …Bg4 and …e6 here, but it is probably time to give up on such lofty ambitions and settle for 7…e6 8.Nc3 Bb4 with only near equality because Black will be conceding White the two Bishops.

8.Nc3 Qa5 TN

The decision of where to retreat this Queen, d6 or a5, is a perennial question in the Center Counter Defense as well as the Alapin Variation. I normally prefer a5, though I can see that the …Qd6 retreat helps Black keep more force in the center. The drawback to …Qd6 is that the f8-Bishop has a narrower range of choice for which squares to develop to. That is why I normally prefer a5 for the Queen. However, here Black already has …a6 in, and therefore never has to concern himself with a possible Nb5 from White. For this reason, I am now thinking d6 might have been the slightly preferable square for my Queen. That is what happened in the only other game to reach the position after 8.Nc3: 8…Qd6 9.Bc4 e6 10.a3 Be7 11.0-0 0-0 12.Qe2 b5 13.Ba2 Bb7 14.Rfd1 Rac8 15.d5 exd5 16.Nxd5 Nxd5 17.Rxd5 Qb8 18.Rf5 g6 19.Bf4 Qa8 20.Ng5 Bxg5 21.Rxg5 Rcd8 22.h4 Rfe8 23.Qg4 Ne7 24.Be5 Bc8 25.Qf4 Nf5 26.Bf6 Re4 27.Qc7 Rd7 28.Qc5 Ne7 29.h5 Bb7 30.hxg6 Nxg6 31.Qf5 Rd3 32.Rxg6+ hxg6 33.Qxg6+ 1-0 Petrushin (2415) - Polovodin (2435), URS-FL Tallinn, 1983

9.Bc4

After 9.d5! Nb4 10.Bc4 Bf5 11.0-0 Rc8 12.Ne5 White has center domination, a secure King, and thus a strong initiative, all as a result of small inaccuracies by Black the past two or three moves. 12…e6 is no answer either because White can sacrifice the Knight on e5 with 13.dxe6! Qxe5 14.exf7+ Ke7 15.Bd4 Qd6 16.Re1+ Kd7 17.Bxf6! and Black is running out of moves. Probably best for Black in the above line is to decline White’s Knight sacrifice with 13…fxe6, and a very difficult game to follow.

9...Bg4?!

Consistently overambitious. White developed the Bishop to c4, so I decided to pin the Knight on f3. Due to White’s response, it is now clear to me that 9...e6 was best though White will play 10.0–0 with initiative.

10.Qb3 Nd8

A computer program found an interesting move which I never considered: 10...0–0–0! The point is that if White takes on f7, Black will capture on f3 and win the d4-pawn in exchange for the f7-pawn, a disadvantageous trade for White. Instead, White could play 11.d5 Nb4 12.Ne5 Bh5 13.0-0 with an even stronger attack than that of the game continuation because Black’s King is not safe.

11.Ne5!

At the board I was worried about 11.d5, threatening 12.Bb6. However, Black has an answer in 11…b5 and 12…b4, actually allowing the win of the d5-pawn. This is a very sharp, tactical position.

11…e6 12.0–0 Bb4 13.d5 b5?

This move should have lost the game for me. Best was going down a pawn with 13…0-0 14.dxe6 Bxe6 15.Bxe6 Qxe6 16.Bxf7+ Rxf7 17.Qxb4, but there would be plenty of chess left to play.

14.Nxg4?

I was fortunate White missed 14.dxe6!? when I had planned 14…bxc4 15.exf7 Nxf7 and I thought I would be okay, but White has 16.Nxc4 with a very good game. There are no real alternatives to 14…bxc4 either. For example, 14…Bxe6 15.Bxe6 fxe6 16.Nc6 Nxc6 17.Qxe6+ Kf8 18.Qxc6

14...Nxg4

White has the pair of bishops.

15.Be2

And now he doesn’t. Cute is the line 15.Bb6 bxc4 16.Bxa5 cxb3 17.Bxb4 a5 with a slight advantage to White.

15...Nxe3

For the first time this game, Black is now equal, but in opposite colored Bishop middlegames advantages can sway to one side or another quickly.

16.fxe3 0–0?

Best was 16...Bxc3 17.bxc3 0–0 18.a4 bxa4 19.Qb4 Qxb4 20.cxb4 exd5 21.Rxa4=. The text should have cost Black a pawn.

17.dxe6?

White misses the win of a pawn starting with 17.a4!? Bc5 18.axb5

17...Nxe6

Equality is again the result.

18.Nd5 Bc5 19.Qd3 f5?

I spent a lot of time considering this position. I am concerned that White will soon be developing Kingside threats, some perhaps based on a Nf6+ sacrifice threat, and I want to get my Queen Kingside in order to protect that flank. I thus considered three candidate moves a) 19…Qd8, intending …Qh4 or …Qg5, b) 19…Qa4, intending …Qh4, or c) 19…f5, which stops Nf6+ threats and cements White’s pawn to e3. I finally decided on the third choice, and to then figure out how to get the Queen to the Kingside later. Programs give Black a very slight edge if he makes the much more sensible move 19…Rad8.

20.Rxf5

Oops.

20…Rxf5?

Black does best to play 20...Qd8, but even then things are grim.

21.Qxf5 Re8 22.Bh5!

This move was completely unseen by me, not that I was looking all that hard. I was making what I felt were forced moves. Black is clearly dead lost as a result of his 19th and 20th move errors.

22…Bxe3+!?

Desperation.

23.Nxe3??

White allows me to distract him from his attack for the sake of mere material gain. After 23.Kh1!! instead, it’s all over for Black and White has reached his goal: 23...Qd8 24.Qf7+ Kh8 25.Qxe8+ Qxe8 26.Bxe8 and Black can resign.

23...g6

The point. White no longer has Nf6+ as an answer.

24.Bxg6! hxg6 25.Qxg6+ Ng7 26.Qg3 Qd2 27.Nf5

Good enough, but even crisper was 27.Ng4!? Qd4+ 28.Kh1 Rf8 29.Qb3+ Qc4 30.Qxc4+ bxc4 31.Ne3 clearly winning for White.

27...Qxb2 28.Qxg7+

White is trying to reach the endgame in a hurry where he figures he is winning, and so trades off the pieces. However, White’s pieces are better positioned than Black’s right now. Trades are therefore not necessarily in White’s interest. Building pressure in order to win material is. Therefore, best was 28.Rf1!? Qf6 29.h3 and Black is in for a really hard struggle to draw.

28...Qxg7 29.Nxg7 Kxg7

White is up a pawn in the Rook endgame that has resulted, but has to play accurately to get the point.

30.Kf2 Kf6 31.Rb1 Re4 32.Rb2 Kf5 33.a3 Rc4 34.Rb3 Rc2+ 35.Kf3 Ra2 36.g4+ Kg5 37.Kg3 Ra1 38.h4+ Kg6 39.Kf4

If there were a way to save this position, Black failed to find it. I can’t find it even now either. Computer programs declare White to be winning again from this position.

39…Kh6 40.Rd3 Rf1+ 41.Kg3 Rg1+ 42.Kf3 Rh1 43.Rd6+ Kg7 44.Kg3

44.h5 makes it even easier for White. If 44…Rh3+ 45.Kf4 Rxa3 46.g5, and its curtains for Black. White’s King can eventually make it to f8 where it will be shielded from checks from the back rank.

44...Rg1+ 45.Kf4 Rf1+ 46.Kg5 a5 47.Rd7+?

47.h5 and White has it in the bag: 47...Rc1 48.h6+ Kf7 49.Rd7+ Ke6 50.h7 Kxd7 51.h8(Q)

47...Rf7

Relieved, I offered a draw here. For the first time, I think I can see how to force one. I also hoped the timing of my draw offer might induce 48.Rxf7+ Kxf7 49.Kf5 b4 50.axb4 a4! and after we both Queen our Queenside pawns, I play 54...Qf6+ 55.Ke4 Qxh4 and a draw ensues because my King cannot be forced off the g-file.

48.Rd5 Rb7 49.h5 b4 50.axb4

White’s last chance to win was 50.h6+ and then if Black plays the natural 50…Kh7?? White can win with 51.Kh5 bxa3 52.g5 Kg8 53.Rd8+ Kf7 54.h7. Fortunately, Black has 50…Kh8 51.Kh5 Rb8 52.g5 b3 and White has to concede the draw by playing 53.Rd1 to stop Black’s pawn from Queening.

50...axb4 51.Rd2 b3 52.Rb2 Rb5+ 53.Kf4 Kh6 54.Kf3 Rb4 55.Kg3 Kg5 56.Kf3 Rf4+ 57.Ke2 Rxg4 ½-½

Friday, January 25, 2013

Game 29: Columbia Round 4

Ashland XXXI
A08: King's Indian Attack

White: Lendel Robinson (1756)
Black: Dan Quigley (1807)
Columbia, SC, Round 4, G/75, 30 sec. bonus, Jan. 24, 2013

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.d3 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0–0 5.Nbd2 d5 6.c3

White refrains from playing Re1 throughout the opening of this game, which is a bit unusual. Normal King’s Indian Attack strategy is to attack down the e-file, and a Rook on e1 certainly helps White do that, but I could not find a concrete way to take advantage of White’s omission, either at the board or now at home having studied this game.

6…c5 7.0–0 Nc6 8.e4 e5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Ne4?!

I didn’t and still don’t think very highly of this move. White is playing a variation of the King’s Indian Defense, only with an extra tempo for being White. That variation goes 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.g3 O-O 5.Bg2 d6 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.O-O e5 8.e4 exd4 9.Nxd4 and now if Black does not want to play 9…Re8, then 9…Nc5 is the move, usually with …Re8, …a5, and pressure on the e4 pawn to follow. I’ve played this line as Black and done fine with it. Fischer played it in his early days too. The Knight deployment to e4 just looks wrong somehow because White is giving up any notion of pressuring the e5-pawn.

10…b6

Covers c5.

11.a3! TN

Previously in this position White has played 11.Bg5, losing both, and 11.Re1 drawing. However, I really like Lendel’s theoretical novelty here. This move makes a lot of sense to me. It looks like White wants to play the Byrne Variation of the King’s Indian Defense as White. Usually, the Byrne Variation is played against the Samisch Attack. However, with a move in hand it seems to work quite nicely here (for White) too. I have had a lot of fun playing the Byrne Variation myself as Black and could understand how this enterprising variation might attract Lendel. I therefore fully expected 12.b4 was coming next move, leading to an interesting game for White, and was very surprised when Lendel failed to play it.

11...Bb7 12.c4?

Even my computer program indicates 12.b4 is the only move in this position that favors White, although only by .04 pawns! Play may then continue 12...f5 13.Qb3! Qd7 (If 13...fxe4 14.dxe4 and the Knight on d5 is pinned!) 14.Bh3 and the game is very complicated.

12...Nc7

Heading for e6, a really good square for this Knight.

13.Qb3?

White is playing for a cheap tactical trick, namely 14.Nxc5 winning a pawn. However, this is very easily countered, and after it is White finds his Queen offside, a positional mistake. Better for White is simply the normal move 13.Re1, after which I play 13…Qd7 with equality. For the first time this game I now start to feel I have an advantage and start to take some serious time to look for ways to exploit it.

13...Ne6?

This stops White’s Nxc5 threat and brings the Knight back into the game, but apparently I didn’t take enough time to consider everything I should have. I missed a great opportunity to set a trap for White. His Nxc5 threat is a chimera! I should not only allow him to do it, I should encourage him with 13…f5! If 14.Nxc5 bxc5 15.Qxb7, then 15…Na5 wins White’s Queen! If White sees the trap in time and retreats the Knight to c3, Black is still dominating every sector of the board, e.g.: 13...f5 14.Bg5 Qd7 15.Nc3 h6. After the text, the game now drifts into equality. I could not find a real chance to take advantage of White’s slightly awkward piece placement, nor do chess programs suggest one.

14.Be3 Ncd4 15.Nxd4 exd4 16.Bd2 Qc7 17.Ng5 Bxg2 18.Kxg2 Qc6+ 19.f3 Rae8 20.Rae1 Bh6 21.Ne4

Trying to maintain the Knight on g5 with 21.h4 is also playable for White.

21...Bxd2 22.Nxd2 Ng5?!

Black could try to play more ambitiously with 22…a6 and not acquiesce to Rook trades, but I really don’t believe a win for either side can be obtained from this position.

23.Qd1 Rxe1 24.Rxe1 Re8 25.h4 Rxe1 26.Qxe1 Qe6 27.Qxe6 Nxe6 ½ - ½

Drawn on my offer. The position is dead equal and of no interest to either of us apparently since Lendel quickly agreed. To sum up my take on this game, I feel I had a real opportunity to gain a sizable advantage on move 13 with 13…f5!, but failed to find the trap. That’s understandable, I suppose, but I learned a real lesson. If my opponent is trying something tactical, don’t trust his judgment that it will work. Check it, and if it doesn’t work, encourage the tactic. The psychological effect of seeing a carefully planned tactical shot backfire can be devastating! I am reasonably happy with my solid play in this game. I never gave White a chance to gain an advantage at any time. Congrats to Lendel though for also playing solidly enough to draw.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Game 28: Columbia Round 3

Ashland XXXI
C51: Evans Gambit: Declined and Accepted without 5...Ba5
White: Dan Quigley (1807)
Black: Paul Potylicki (1494)
Columbia, SC, Round 3, G/75, 30 sec. bonus, Jan. 17, 2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Bc5 6.0–0 d6 7.d4 exd4 8.cxd4 Bb6

For a discussion of the moves up to this position and what to do then from this position I recommend GM Kaidanov’s Youtube video on the Evans Gambit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TdgWM8qcok

9.Bb2

I had a long, frustrating think before deciding on this ninth move for White. My idea was to get the move e5 in with some added kick, and I wanted to play Nbd2 without reducing the number of protectors on d4. The drawback to this move is that the possibility of Bg5 is now gone forever.

Up to this point both sides have played well and we are in a main line. White has achieved his objectives, Black his. I have read and played through the scores of over 100 Evans Gambit games in my life and know I have seen this position several times before. Nevertheless, I could not remember what to do here. When I got home I researched this position and found out why. Despite the fact this position has been played from frequently since 1830 there is no established consensus on what to play for White’s ninth move. Here is a chart of the possibilities:

Move/# games/% score
9.d5 - 141 - 65%
9.Nc3 - 132 - 67%
9.Bb2 - 40 - 60%
9.h3 - 30 - 59%
9.Bg5 - 10 - 25%
9.Re1 - 8 - 25%
9.Qb3 - 6 - 58%

In addition, dubious moves 9.a4, 9.Be3, 9.Ba3, and 9.Bb5 (the best of this lot) have been tried once or twice and found wanting. After I had decided on 9.Bb2 I was thinking next move that I should have played 9.Nc3 instead, which happens to be Kaidanov’s choice here. I admit 9.d5 never entered my mind as a possibility. I still can not figure out why White would put a pawn on his Bishop’s diagonal. I need to play over some 9.d5 games and see if I can make sense of the move.

9...Bg4

Now that White has taken Bg5 off the table I expected 9…Nf6 and 10…0-0, which still looks right to me. As Lasker observed, “Knights before Bishops”. The current position is no exception.

10.Qb3?!

I selected the most aggressive move for this position, but it is not sound. Better was 10.d5 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Ne5 12.Bxe5 dxe5= I also find the pawn sacrifice 10.Nbd2!? intriguing, e.g. 10…Bxd4 (10…Nxd4? 11.Bxd4 Bxd4 12.Qa4+ Bd7 13.Bxf7+ Kxf7 14.Qxd4+/=) 11.Bxd4 Nxd4 12.Qa4+ with a complicated position. I think White has plenty of play for the two-pawn investment. 10.Bb5 and 10.Na3 have also been played here, with some success.

10...Na5 11.Bxf7+?

Consistent with my aggressive intentions as shown last move, but this is clearly a mistake. After admitting I was wrong by playing 11.Qa4+!? I can hope to survive after 11...Bd7 12.Bb5=

11...Kf8 12.Qd5?

No doubt better was 12.Qd3!? Kxf7 13.Nbd2, but Black would still have the much better game.

12...Nf6 13.Qg5 Kxf7 14.Nh4

My intended 14.e5 does not work either, e.g.: 14…Bxf3 15.gxf3 Nc4 16.exf6 Qxf6 17.Qd5+ Qe6 18.Qxe6+ Kxe6 and White is lost. So I chose an option I hoped would keep material on the board.

14...Bd7 15.Nd2 Ng4 16.Qf4+ Qf6 17.Nf5 Bxf5 18.exf5 Nh6 19.g4 g5

Black was proud of this move after the game, but even better is 19...Qh4!? 20.h3 Qxh3 21.f3 winning easily.

20.fxg6+

Slightly better might have been 20.Qf3 Rhe8 21.Ne4 Qg7, but Black’s game is still much the better.

20...hxg6 21.Qg3?

White can and probably should win back an exchange here with 21.Qxf6+ Kxf6 22.d5+ Ke7 23.Bxh8 Rxh8 24.Rae1+ Kd7 though Black still has a winning game. I simply did not see this opportunity.

21...Bxd4

This move should also win for Black, but even stronger was 21...Qg5!? 22.d5 Qxd2 23.Qf3+ Nf5 24.Bxh8 Rxh8 25.gxf5 Qg5+ 26.Kh1 Qxf5 27.Qxf5+ gxf5 and Black is winning.

22.Ne4 Qe5 23.Qf3+

23.Bxd4 Qxd4 24.Qf4+ Kg7 25.Rad1 was also hopeless for White.

23...Kg7 24.Bxd4 Qxd4 25.Rad1 Qe5 26.Rd5

Desperation. Without this sacrifice I knew my position was hopelessly lost. For example, 26.Rfe1, a last effort to resist the inevitable, is met by 26...Raf8 27.Qg2 Qf4–+ and all White can do is await his doom. The problem with the sacrifice is that it should not work.

26...Qxd5 27.Qf6+ Kh7??

The mistake I had been forced into counting on. If 27...Kg8 instead, Black wins: 28.Qxg6+ Kf8 and White simply has no continuation that gains him a thing. Computer programs evaluate Black as about 8 points ahead here.

28.Qe7+

And just like that the tables have turned. White now has all the winning chances.

28…Qf7

Forced. 28…Nf7 gives the Queen up for nothing. And 28…Kg8 actually allows mate in one.

29.Ng5+ Kg7 30.Nxf7 Nxf7 31.Qxc7 b6

A better try for Black was 31...Nc6! 32.Qxb7 Nce5 33.h3 g5 with a drawish looking game. White has no way of using the pawns to pressure Black’s position and Black’s pieces are protecting each other well.

32.Qc3+ Kh7?!

Best was 32...Kf8 33.Rc1 Rh4 34.Qf3 Re8=

33.f4?!

Stronger for White was 33.Qf6 Raf8 34.Rc1 Rhg8 with an initiative.

33...Rhf8 34.Qf6 Ne5??

Under pressure, Black makes a miscalculation that costs him the game. After 34...Nh6 Black would have air to breathe 35.Qxd6 Nb7= However, I planned to probe at Black’s position for a long time. It is hard for Black not to make a mistake at some point.

35.Qh4+ Kg7 36.fxe5 Rxf1+ 37.Kxf1 dxe5? 38.Qe7+ Kh6 39.Qxe5 Rf8+ 40.Kg2 Rf7 41.Kg3?

41.Qh8+ secures victory fastest: 41...Rh7 42.g5+ Kxg5 43.Qxh7+

41...Kh7 42.h4 Nc6?

Black falls apart. Best was 42...Nb7, but White still has a winning game, e.g. 43.h5 gxh5 44.Qe4+ Kg8 45.Qe8+ Kg7 46.gxh5 Ng6 47.Qe5+ Rf6 48.Qe7+ Nf7 49.Qxa7 winning.

43.Qd5 Rc7 44.Qd6 Rf7 45.Qxc6 Rg7 46.g5 Kg8 47.Qf6 Kh7 48.Kg4 Kg8 49.h5 gxh5+ 50.Kxh5 Kh7 51.g6+ Kg8 52.Qd8# 1–0

While I can not argue with the result I am unhappy with this game. My tenth and eleventh moves were mistakes that should have caused me a loss. My form is very poor right now. At least I did look up more Evans Gambit lines as a result of this game and now have a better idea of how to achieve good games with it.