Another Game From the Schenectady Match

The decisive Schenectady A – Schenectady Geezers CDCL match had more than one interesting contests. Today’s game tipped the scales in the favor of the “old guys”.

This win came about just as the match situation was at its most tense. The game on board 4 between Dilip Aaron and Richard Chu had resolved into a draw after some ups and downs. Patrick Chi appeared to be in trouble on board 1 against John Phillips. This fight was fairly level for much of the game, and in fact Black was slightly ahead at the end of the opening. Then tension cost Mr. Townsend dearly.

Mockler, Michael – Townsend, William [C00]
CDCL Match: Schenectady A v Schenectady Geezers, Schenectady, NY , 31.05.2012

1.e4 e6 2.f4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.c3 Bd7 6.Na3,..

Long ago this way of playing against the French was known. Here is a game where strong German international player is defeated by the strongest Russian of the day:

(101) Englisch, Berthold – Chigorin, Mikhail [C00]
London, 1883

1.e4 e6 2.f4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.g3 Qb6 6.Bg2 Nh6 7.Nc3 Bd7 8.b3 Rc8 9.Bb2 Nf5 10.0–0 h5 11.Bh3 Ncd4 12.Kh1 Bc6 13.Na4 Bxa4 14.Bxd4 Bb5 15.Bf2 Bxf1 16.Bxf1 Be7 17.Rb1 Qc6 18.h3 g6 19.Kh2 a6 20.Bg2 Qc7 21.c4 0–0 22.cxd5 exd5 23.Qc2 b5 24.Re1 Kg7 25.Kg1 c4 26.e6 Bc5 27.g4 Bxf2+ 28.Kxf2 Qb6+ 29.Ke2 Ng3+ 30.Kd1 Ne4 31.Ne5 cxb3 32.Qxb3 Qf2 33.Bxe4 Rc1+ 34.Kxc1 Qxe1+ 35.Kb2 Qxe4 36.Qc3 d4 37.Qc7 Qxf4 38.gxh5 gxh5 39.e7 Qxd2+ 40.Kb1 Re8 41.Nc6 Qe1+ 42.Kc2 Qc3+ 43.Kd1 d3 44.Qg3+ Kh7 45.Qg2 Qa1+ 0–1

Our game today follows a more recent outing between Grandmasters:

(1108158) Zvjaginsev, Vadim (2675) – Zhang Pengxiang (2622) [C00]
China-Russian Summit, Ergun (4), 13.08.2006

1.e4 e6 2.f4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.c3 Bd7 6.Na3 f6 7.g3 c4 8.b3 Qa5 9.b4 Qb6 10.d4 a5 11.b5 Na7 12.Rb1 f5 13.Nd2 Bxa3 14.Bxa3 Nxb5 15.Bb2 a4 16.Ba3 g6 17.g4 Qd8 18.Rxb5 Bxb5 19.h4 Nh6 20.gxf5 Nxf5 21.Nf3 Qd7 22.Kf2 0–0–0 23.Bh3 h6 24.Qb1 Rdf8 25.Qb4 Rf7 26.Qa5 Ba6 27.Rb1 Ne7 28.Bd6 Nc6 29.Qb6 g5 30.Rg1 Re8 31.hxg5 hxg5 32.Nxg5 Rxf4+ 33.Ke3 Rh4 34.Bxe6 Rxe6 35.Nxe6 Rh3+ 36.Ke2 Rh8 37.Rg7 Nxd4+ 38.Qxd4 1–0

6…, Qb6

Black delays action against the center with 6…, f6; as in the Zviaginsv – Zhang game. I don’t know if Bill has a better idea, or if he is just laying out his forces in the standard manner versus the Advanced French formation.

7.Nc2 d4?!

In the Advanced French White has a pawn on d4. Since the time of Nimzovitch, the most common plan for Black has been to put pressure on the White d-pawn. It has worked so well for Black that we still see it in top level games today. In the position before us White never put a pawn on d4, so how is Black to attack what is not there? Putting a Black pawn on d4 is not the best way forward. Deep Rybka suggests; 7…, Nh6 8 Ne3 f6; beginning operations to break the White center.

It is a delicate judgment to decide on bringing on a close engagement before having your entire force developed and the King safely tucked away. Here Mr. Townsend must have concluded the awkwardness of the deployment of the White pieces permits Black to do so. I am not so sure he is correct.


This odd move justifies Black’s decision. What was awkward in appearance is moving towards quite strange; K-side development for White is going to be extra slow, the Q-side the same, and since White may be reluctant to play d2-d4, the coming positions will be far from ordinary. Mr. Mockler has made it a trait of his style in his latter years to play this way. If he can create a unique and non-standard position on the board, he is happy. Michael believes making things hard for both players results in interesting chess and lets him use his refined tactical alertness to its best advantage.

The mighty Rybka prefers 8 Na3, retuning the way just come to use c4 to harass the Black Queen, or 8 Bc4, getting on with development.

8…, Nge7

The Knight eyeballs both d5 and f5. The d5 square is particularly appealing after something like; 9 cxd4 Nxd4 10 Ncxd4 cxd4 11 Qd3 Nd5; when Black’s game appears reasonable while White’s continues to be awkward.

9.Qe4 dxc3?!

One more example of too early resolution of tension. Black must have thought routinely the build up of pressure on his d4-pawn had to be directly answered. Treating that threat dynamically by playing; 9…, Nd5!; is correct. If then, 10 cxd4 Nxd4 11 Ncxd4 cxd4 12 Nxd4, when Black has the pleasant choice between 12…, Bc5; and 12…, Nb4; either of which gives him a substantial edge. The text move takes the game to equality.

10.bxc3 Na5 11.Ne3 Bc6 12.Qc2 Nd5 13.Nxd5 Bxd5 14.Rb1 Qc7 15.Bd3!?,..

White continues to make life difficult for both himself and his opponent. More straight forward is; 15 Bb5+ Nc6 16 0-0, and the game is balanced. The sporting situation can not be overlooked here. The Geezers hopes for taking the League title required winning this match. Any other result and Schenectady A was home and dry. Mr. Mockler always keeps the sporting requirements in mind in these matches, and willingly, I’d say almost gleefully sometimes, takes risks for the team goals. The move played seems to be intended to make Black think twice about castling unless he takes steps blunt the fire to the Q&B battery.

15…, g6?!

And Black believes the threat. A more dynamic treatment of the position is; 15…, c4 16 Be4 Bxe4 17 Qxe4 Bc5 18 Nd4 Rd8; and Black is slightly better.

16.Be4 Bxe4 17.Qxe4 Be7

This is too routine. Better is; 17…, c4 18 Nd4 Bc5; etc.

18.0–0 0–0 19.d4!?,..

White continues to take risks chasing a win. Another try is 19 d3!?, then 19…, Rad8; and Black will lay siege to the weakened White d-pawn, and White may have to sacrifice a pawn to activate his Bishop with; 20 Qe2 Rd7 21 f5 gxf5 22 Bh6, when Black continues to be just a bit better than White.

19…, Rad8 20.Be3!?,..

White now begins to think in terms of mobilization and maneuver. Extending the risk-taking may be the most incisive way forward. With 20 g4!?, and then 20…, Qd7 21 Kh1!? b6 22 f5 exf5 23 gxf5 gxf5 24 Bh6!?, a neat little offer of the Queen may give White some kind of advantage. The move 20 g4, is thematic here. Taking the decision to launch into such a committal line of play would be difficult in a must-win situation. Add to that the need for great accuracy in the suggested line, and it is easy to understand the decision.

20…, b6 21.Rfd1 Nc4 22.Bf2 Na5?!

Up to this point in the game, Black has reacted quite well to Mr. Mockler’s provocations. Now he seems to have had second thoughts. A logical continuation is; 22…, cxd4 23 cxd4 Qd7; retaining a slight advantage. Mr. Townsend may have been influenced himself by the sporting situation. He was aware of the not great outlook for Patrick Chi on board 1, and the building attack by Mr. Sells on board 2, and the likely draw between Dilip Aaron and Richard Chu. Keeping alive drawing chances makes sense. The text may have been inspired by the notion: “Let’s keep material on and not disturb the balance”.

23.Rbc1 Qb7

A “sub-tile” ploy recognizing White has to play for a win. Black was pretty sure White would decline.

24.Qe1 c4?

An error that is not fatal. It does, however, give White opportunity to directly attack the Black King. Black is worried about White taking on c5. That is unnecessary. If, say, 24…, h6; to keep the Knight out of g5 then; 25 dxc5 bxc5 26 Nd2 Rd5; is OK for Black.

25.Bh4 Rd5?!

Black is not adverse to taking his own risks. Here he is thinking of making active use of this Rook against the White Q-side pawns. The problem is the dark squares around the Black King. When the Bishops are traded the dark squares may become pathways to get at the King. Black calculates allowing the trade on e7 and recapturing with the Queen will let the Lady take over the defense of the dark squares.

26.Bxe7 Qxe7 27.Ng5!,..

Perhaps Mr. Townsend just didn’t consider all the ramifications of this move.

27…, Rb5?

Another error, and this time it should be fatal.


Missing the chance to crash through with 28 Qh4. The forced move 28…, h5; is met with, 29 g4, and then; 29…, Rb2 30 gxh5 Rxa2 31 hxg6 fxg6 32 Qh6 Rf7 33 d5 exd5 34 Rxd5 Nb7(to keep the Rook out of d6 and to cover d8.) 35 Rcd1, with a winning attack growing. White keeps some advantage after the game move.

28…, Rb2 29.Nf6+ Kg7 30.Qh4 1–0
Bill and I had opportunity to talk about this decision Thursday at the Schenectady Club. He thought the Black Queen was lost to an uncovering check for a moment, and therefore, gave up the ghost. Sober reflection after the game revealed the discovered attack is not so good for White: 30…, Rh8 31 Nh5+? Kf8; when the game is about even if White can’t do anything else. However, he does have better: 30…, Rh8 31 d5!, and if a) 31…, exd6 32 Rxd5 Qe6 33 Rcd1 h5 34 Ne4 Nb7 35 Rd7 Rb1 36 Qf6+, is winning for White. And if, b) 31…, h5 32 d6 Qb7 33 Qg5 Qc6 (If 33…, Rxa7 34 d7, and if the Rh8 is ever called away, the Nf6 captures on h5 with bad things following for the Black Queen.) 34 d7 Nb7; and either 35 Rd4, or 35 a4 followed soon by Rd4 leaves White close to winning. So it was a correct decision to resign, but perhaps a move or two earlier than was strictly necessary. Just about all chess players have similar incidents in their practice.

The weak dark squares cost Black the game. Bill recognized they were a problem, and maybe let this positional defect in his position color his appreciation of the possibilities.

One of my themes in these many blogs has been the effect of the players’ confidence on over the board decisions. If, for whatever reason, you begin to doubt your position, odd things transpire. Reality on the chessboard is not always what is possible; it is what the players think is possible. As a Master told me long ago; if you don’t or can’t see it, it doesn’t exist for you. For this reason when I work with developing players the subject of “seeing” comes up again and again. What is meant by the term “seeing” is actually approaching each position with an open mind, challenging your own assumptions from proceeding positions carrying over to this new position, and working hard even in bad situations. It is possible to “see” better. To do so is not so much about technical chess knowledge, calculation or creative insights. It is about being ready to do hard work when you believe all is lost. One way to bring this truth home to yourself is to think of all the times you have been clearly winning and your opponent just won’t quit. And, think of the occasions when those stubborn opponents came away with a draw or a win because you faltered.

More soon.


Author: Bill Little

I began playing chess at the Schenectady Chess Club in 1950. I was just a little guy, and the warm welcome there and then won my devotion to the game and to the Club. Over the many years with the Club I have won the Championship four or five times. My rating peak was just under 2100. Today I am lucky to hang in in middle 1900s.