Saturday, January 25, 2014

Game 39: Ashland XXXVI, Round 2

Ashland XXXVI
C45: Scotch Game
White: Paul Potylicki (1588)
Black: Dan Quigley (1800)
Columbia, SC, Round 2, G/75, 30 sec. bonus, Jan. 23, 2014

It has been a long time since I have posted. This is because I did not play the last half of 2013. The reasons for that are several. I was very discouraged by a 13-move loss to Dan Caiello in June 2013. I felt like I had barely showed up for the game and moved impatiently, without adequate thought. My life was getting busier as I began to pursue my M.A. as well. Time for a break.

I continue to bounce hard against my 1800 rating floor. I wrote an email to USCF asking them to reset this. I went over 2000 briefly in the early 1990s, but those were different times. I am clearly not playing at even 1800 over the board level by modern day standards.

I am back and playing again now, trying to recapture what little form I have. I am no longer going to post every game. I have not found that maintaining this blog has done much for my chess. I will from time to time post my most educational games, to share with what little audience I may have. This one against long time chess nemesis Paul Potylicki was extremely interesting in my opinion because of the problem posed to Black regarding what to do at move 16. Any comments you may have regarding how to approach that middlegame position, how to find a worthwhile plan for it, would be very much appreciated. I still don't have a grasp on how I can improve my thinking process there, but believe it's important in terms of my improvement to find the way. Thank you.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Qh4 5.Be3

White stated after the game that his idea to gambit the pawn was intentional, that he would get enough play with his pieces to compensate for the loss. I was dubious. Central pawns are worth more than the flank pawns that are normally gambitted in the opening because they help control the center. Sure, Black is behind in development now. But my feeling was that I could catch up and consolidate the pawn advantage. Once I do, White would have nothing to show for the pawn minus. Besides, 4…Qh4 is not that great a move. White has better moves available to him, one of which is 5.Nb5 or 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Nb5, neither of which I am completely convinced Black can equalize against. I gambled White would not know of the Nb5 counterplay idea and that it would not occur to him over the board.

5…Qxe4 6.Nd2 Qe7 7.Be2 Nxd4 8.Bxd4

Black is behind in development, as predicted. Neither of Black's Bishops can move, an odd circumstance to happen after eight opening moves. Now comes Black’s plan to remedy this development lag, and it is with forcing moves; otherwise, the plan would not work.

8...c5 9.Bc3 d5 10.b3?

An inaccuracy. White was afraid of …d4, winning the Bishop. However, the Bishop can be defended tactically to advantage with 10.0–0 Bd7 preparing to castle long, after which White can still claim adequate counterplay for the gambitted pawn. If 10…d4?! (instead of 10…Bd7) 11.Re1 Be6 (not 11…dxc3? 12.Bb5+ winning) 12.Bb5+ Kd8 13.Nc4+/= It is subtle points such as these that have to be noticed if one is to derive an advantage from the opening.


Black passed up the opportunity to play 10...Bg4!? 11.Kf1 (or 11.f3 Bd7 with advantage to Black) 11…Bxe2+ 12.Qxe2 Qxe2+ 13.Kxe2 with advantage to Black]. But the text is advantageous too.

11.0–0 Bd7 12.Re1 0–0–0 13.Bf3 Be6 14.Qe2

After the game, White felt this move was not aggressive enough, but I think there is little White can do now to stop Black from consolidating his pawn advantage. Even if with hindsight White were to play the objectively stronger 14.Be5 to foil Black’s intention, Black still has 14…Rg8! with a general Kingside attack in the offing.

14...Qc7! 15.Rad1 Bd6 16.g3

To this point, I am very happy with my play. I am a pawn to the good and White has no counterplay worth considering. I now run into a great deal of difficulty, however, and for the first time in the game begin to take a long time to think. How is Black to proceed? What possible plans are there in this position? White has no weaknesses on either flank since White’s fianchettoed Bishops cover the squares of their color, and he has no targets in the center to lever against. What am I supposed to do here? I considered 16…h5, intending …h4, etc., but 17.Bxf6 gxf6 18.Bxh5 just gives back the pawn and makes White’s h-pawn a passer. I failed to find an adequate answer at the board, even after 20 minutes of thought, and even now sitting at home and looking at this position with and without a computer program, I still can’t figure out a good course of action for Black, despite being up a little over half a pawn (according to the programs). At the board, I finally just decided to grab space in the center and see if a plan would come to me later.

16…Rhe8 17.Qf1 d4 18.Bb2 Nd5

I considered 18…Bf5, but trying to grab the c2-pawn when my King and Queen were on the c-file seemed a bit foolhardy, e.g. 19.Rxe8 Rxe8 20.Nc4 Bxc2 21.Rc1 Bg6 22.Bxd4+/=

19.Nc4 Nb4

My computer program thinks I should keep the Bishop by retreating it to e7. However, my thinking was that I now had on d6 a bad Bishop that was biting on g3 granite. I didn’t mind exchanging it off for White’s Knight. Besides, I thought I saw a way to win another pawn.

20.c3! Nxa2?

Black takes the bait and grabs a poisoned pawn. Best was 20...Nc2!? anyway. After 21.Rxe6 Rxe6 (or 21…fxe6 22.Be4=) 22.Bg4 the position would be equal, but White would have to find this resource.

21.cxd4 a6?

When it rains it pours. Coming from a superior position, I have not psychologically dealt with the fact that I am now in serious trouble. I believed I had time for moves like this. Black’s only chance to save the game is in liquidation: 21...Bxc4 22.bxc4 f5 (So that Qh3+ does not garner the h7-pawn for Black. If 22…Kb8?! 23.dxc5 Qxc5 [and not 23…Bxc5? 24.Be5 Bd6 25.Bxd6 winning] 24.Rd5, and Black’s position is teetering.) 23.Ra1 Nb4 24.Rxa7 and Black’s position may be beyond salvation here too, but I can struggle on for a while. The text loses quickly.


Also strong is 22.dxc5!? Bxc5 23.Be5 Qe7+- However, White calculated a different advantageous line that was more forceful.


White wondered after the game why I did not play 22…Qxd6. The answer is simple. 23.dxc5 is devastating since Black dare not capture on c5 with the Queen. With the text, I hoped to perhaps double Rooks on the d-file, or have a protector for the c-file.

23.d5 Bd7 24.Rxe8+ Bxe8 25.Be5 h6?

The last mistake. 25...Bd7 was relatively best, after which the game would last more moves, but White should win eventually. Given, White’s time trouble (3 minutes left with 30 seconds per move added) it was sure worth a try.

26.Qe2 1-0

Black has no answer to the double attack on a2 and e8. Paul played this middlegame beautifully.


  1. What book or books are you working through at the present moment? Also, what books can you recommend to someone who's rated around 1,000? What did you use when you were below 1400 or just getting started?

    Also, how many people would you say are attending the Columbia Chess Club and playing rated games?

    1. I think at the 1000 rating almost any book will do that covers the basics of each of the three phases of the game in general: opening, middlegame, and endgame. I would not spend money on books at this point. The internet has excellent out of copyright books available for download. I recommend pdf versions of the files so that you can see how the original author wrote his book. A well stocked public library will have a good selection for getting you on your way. Look for books by Chernev and Reinfeld especially. Avoid some slightly more modern works by the following American writers: Schiller, Benjamin, Seirawan, and Alburt. Their books have glossy covers, but little substance and lots of white space. Their thinking is pre-computer age and shows unwarranted biases against creative thought we now know are invalid. Time passed these writers by, but their books sold a lot of copies and proliferate in libraries. Good American writers exist (i.e Soltis, Silman, Mednis, and Watson, especially) who write at a higher level. Their books are highly recommended.

      My first chess book was The Art of Chess by James Mason. First published in 1895, I see it's available for free here: I still think this book an excellent choice for today's player. The specific opening moves are not exactly the way modern players open these days, but the general way they play the opening still applies. The book is worth a close reading for its ideas even today.

  2. Dan, I appreciate you posting this game. Scotch is my preferred opening for white and I can certainly understand missing the best continuation after 4. ... Qh4 as I have done it. This game prompted me to load up one of my own on my old blog. I purposely placed it without annotations as there are a lot of fun puzzle positions in the game to consider. You can find it at:

    As for your question regarding what after 16. g3 ...:

    I agree with your assessment, black is clearly at the advantage here. How big it is, I have no idea but I would prefer black for sure.

    Regarding plans, I think you have two options to consider: press the kingside for an attack centered around the h5-h4 theme or consolidate the center and hold on to your 1-pawn advantage for the endgame. That being said, I think only the former of the two plans is truly functional. The reason is that you are castled on opposite sides and white's best idea looks like pushing the pawn minority on the queenside to try and get some open files against your king.

    So the question is how launch the attack. I would start with d5...I up the light squares, but what do you expect in opposite- corner castling. So that temporarily eliminates one of whites players on the king-side and buys you the time to play h4. What active responses does he have? Nc4/Ne4? Neither of those are really good because both trades work in your favor. h4 looks like white's most reasonable response and just gives you more pawns to bite on I think. The question is, does black break white before white is able to break up blacks c and d pawns I would guess. I can't tell but black always has that pawn to give back if he needs to buy time to hide the king further back.

    So that's my two-cents, take it for what it is, weak class-a/b advice from a guy who's played just over a dozen and a half rated games in the last year and is more or less blind to positional type chess, or in other words, likely incorrect.