A Battle of Local Chess Columnists

One of the attractions of the Albany – Schenectady matches is the opportunity to play chess friends you may not meet over the board often. Today’s game from board 5 of the match has the two local chess columnists; Bill Townsend of the Schenectady Gazette and Peter Henner of the Altamont Enterprise facing each other. I don’t recall their playing each other in recent years, and a search of the five hundred or so local games I have in the database did not find such an occasion.

Henner, Peter – Townsend, Bill [A05]
Albany – Schenectady Match, Guilderland, NY, 22.08.2012

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 b6

More usual are 2…, d5; and 2…, g6; leading to different types of play with multiple transpositions to other openings possible.

3.Bg2 Bb7 4.0–0 e6 5.d3 d5

Black is first to take a center square with a pawn. The former World Champion Petronsian, in his early days, demonstrates some of the ideas for White against a strong opponent:

(37573) Petrosian, Tigran V – Sokolsky, Alexey [A05]
USSR Under 21 Championship, Kiev, 1954
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 b6 3.d3 d5 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.0–0 e6 6.Nbd2 Be7 7.e4 dxe4 8.dxe4 0–0 9.e5 Nfd7 10.Qe2 Nc6 11.Rd1 Qc8 12.a3 a5 13.Re1 Rd8 14.Qc4 Nc5 15.b3 Bf8 16.Qf4 Rd7 17.Nf1 Qd8 18.Be3 Ne7 19.Qg4 Nf5 20.Bf4 Nd4 21.Nxd4 Rxd4 22.Bxb7 Nxb7 23.h4 Nc5 24.Nh2 Qd7 25.Nf3 Rd5 26.h5 Kh8 27.h6 gxh6 28.Kg2 Bg7 29.b4 Nb7 30.Qh4 Rg8 31.Bxh6 Bxh6 32.Qxh6 Rg6 33.Qh4 Kg7 34.Re4 Qd8 35.c4 Rd3 36.Qxd8 Nxd8 37.bxa5 bxa5 38.Rd4 Rxd4 39.Nxd4 Nb7 40.Rb1 Nc5 41.Rb5 Nd3 42.Rxa5 Rg5 43.Ra7 Rxe5 44.Rxc7 h5 45.Rd7 Nc5 46.Ra7 Nd3 47.a4 Re4 48.Nb5 Re2 49.Kf3 Rc2 50.Rc7 Ne5+ 51.Ke4 Re2+ 52.Kd4 Nf3+ 53.Kd3 Rxf2 54.Ke3 Rf1 55.Ke2 Nh2 56.c5 Kg6 57.c6 Rc1 58.Rc8 Kf5 59.c7 Ke4 60.Rd8 1–0

6.Nbd2 Be7 7.e4 dxe4 8.Ng5?!,..

A natural looking move, but it is not necessarily the best. White could play 8 dxe4, and if 8…, Nxe4 9 Ne5, and the pawn the pawn Black gained will be costly. Play might continue; 9…, Nd6? 10 Bxb7 Nxb7 11 Qf3, threatening mate at f7 and the Nb7. Black can play more rigorously with 9…, Nd7 10 Nxd7 Nxf2 11 Kxf2 Bxg2 12 Kxg2 Qxd7 13 Ne4, and the two pawns Black collected for the piece are not nearly full compensation. A little study reveals why; there is the likelihood of the Queens being exchanged, but White does not have to do so. Black on the other hand can just about be forced to trade Queens. In a basic endgame, a Knight often draws against two pawns. In the position under study, an endgame is far off, and the Queen exchange is not forced on White. Further, the extra Black pawns are not particularly aggressively placed at the moment on f7 and e6. Taken together these circumstances allow White wide latitude to maneuver with his extra piece to 1) hold back the pawns, and 2) probe for a weakness where a pawn elsewhere can be captured, 3) create a direct attack on the Black King and 4) chose when to trade down towards and ending.

The conclusion therefore seems to be; White can recapture with the pawn on e4, and Black should not try to win the newly minted e-pawn. The game move lets Black obtain equality at least, and maybe a bit more.

8…, Nbd7 9.Ndxe4 Nxe4 10.Nxe4 Qc8 11.Re1 0–0

The last sequence clarifies matters somewhat. Black has made progress on developing his forces, but the Qc8 makes getting his Rooks connected and into play more difficult than usual. White has not decided just what to do with the Bc1. Once he does so, the White Rooks naturally can come to the e and d-files, presupposing that is, White puts the Queen somewhere.


Ambitious, but the moves gives Black an easy way to resolve his remaining development problems; hit the White Queen and trade some material.

12…, Nf6 13.Qe5 Nxe4 14.Bxe4 Bxe4 15.Rxe4 Bf6 16.Qh5?!,..

The White Queen and Rook are well stopped by the Bf6 from combining to make an assault on the Black King. The material traded in the foregoing sequence defused most of the direct attacking potential for White. Mr. Henner single mindedly returns the Lady to the K-side. Better is 16 Qb5, covering b2 to free the Bc1 for deployment.

16…, Qd8?!

In a way labeling 10…, Qc8; a waste of time. Worthwhile considering is; 16…, Rd8 17 Rb1 Rd5 18 Qe2 Qd7 19 Bf4 Rd8; when Black has the White Q-side under pressure with some slight edge.


This has to be called a mistake. Without solving the developmental problems of his Rook and Bishop on the Q-side, attacking the Black King is wishful thinking.

17…, g6 18.Qh6 Qd5


This move blocks White’s Bishop from participating in a possible attack and has to be incorrect. If White is imagining somehow he will get his Queen out of the way so as to advance the h-pawn, then trade it on g6 and then get the Queen and Rook to cooperate on the h-file, imagination has outstripped reality. The scheme outlined takes several moves. Black has resources that can prevent its completion, and the undermanned forces White can bring to bear are inadequate for the work.

19…, Bg7 20.Qh3 Qf5!?

Black must have worried the above idea had some merit. He offers a trade of Queens. More reasonable is; 20…, c5 21 Rh4 Rac8 22 Rxh7?! c4 23 Rh4 Rfd8; and the h-file is a “dry hole” from which little can be accomplished. Even the pawn gained seems to be useless while the Black pieces are becoming more and more active.


Better is 21 Qxf5, devaluing a little the Black pawn formation. The b2 point is still a worry for White, but there are chances to hold the game. White perhaps turned his attention to an operation of surrounding the Black Queen.

21…, c5

This renounces the struggle for the victory. The theme of activating pieces should guide Black, and to that end, 21…, Rad8; serves better. Play could then go; 22 Bf4 Bxb2 23 Rb1 Bg7 24 Bxc7 Rd4 25 Rxd4 Bxd4; leaving Black the better pawn formation; two islands versus three islands, and the far advanced g-pawn will be a worry for White for some time. The move played clamps down on the dark central squares. White will be hard pressed to find a break, but how will Black launch some significant operation?


Impatience or desperation motivated this move, or could it be White did not take into account the eventual .., f7-f6; releasing the Queen? I had looked in on this game right around here and was taken with the same idea that the Queen could be trapped. My cursory look at the game also did not see the f-pawn move. The offer of the pawn at b2 is incorrect and should it be taken, Black will have a solid advantage.

21…, Rad8?

Excessively cautious. Capturing on b2 collects a pawn after which White has a long, tough defense to conduct to hold the draw. The move played takes the game to equality once more.

23.Be5 Rd5 24.Rae1 f6!

Anything else is fooling around with dangerous things. The Black Queen needs an outlet.

25.Bxf6 Bxf6 26.gxf6 Rxf6 27.Qe3 Kf7 28.Re2 Qg5+ 29.Qxg5 Rxg5+ 30.Kf1 Rgf5

Which set of Rooks are more active? The equal piece activity focused on a weak point in the opponent’s position balances the game.

31.Ra4 a5 32.Rh4 h5 33.Rhe4 Rf4 34.Rxf4 Rxf4 35.Re4 Rf5 36.Kg2 Kf6 37.f4 e5 ½–½

The players agreed the draw here. Time was shortening for both, and the match was virtually decided by Mr. Sells victory on board 2. Thursday following the match Bill Townsend and I had a brief discussion of his game. He thought there are winning chances for Black in the final position. I agree; if Black can trade Rooks, he may use the threat of an outside passed pawn on the K-side to hold the White King there creating the possibility of penetrating with his King in amongst the White Q-side is a chance. Getting the Rooks off without compromise is not a given however. White can make difficulties by avoiding exchanging his last piece. As long as White can keep the Rooks on, winning is difficult for Black. There is more truth than fiction in the proverb all Rook endings are drawn. Splitting the point was appropriate here.

For those who like to study, here is a sample continuation: 38 fxe5+ Rxe5 39 Rf4+ Ke6 40 Re2 a4; may be Black’s best chance. By pushing the pawn forward he hopes to temporarily offer it on a3 to be recovered later by his Rook going to the a-file. After a reasonable but flawed approach; 41 Rd2 Kf5 42 Kf3 g5 43 d4 Rd5 44 c3 Rd6 45 Ke3 g4 46 Rf2+ Kg5 47 Ke4, “the worm has turned” and Black has to worry about a passed d-pawn supported by the White King. This illustrates there are many lines of play and much hard calculation left to do. Black does not have a “canned” solution in this very technical endgame. The Sudden-Death time control has all but eliminated this kind of technical squeeze situation from the local chess scene.

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.