The League and the Taylor-Sells Game

On the 26th Jeremy Berman posted an excellent piece of work on this blog. The Albany Champion gave us a slice of the real world for club level players: flawless games don’t happen for us often. His point about maintaining a positive attitude is well taken. Mistakes we will make. Keep fighting, those errors may be redeemed by our opponents for they are human also. If you have not read Jeremy’s article, do so. It is well worth the effort.

On Wednesday June 25th the Schenectady A team was hosted by Albany B at their meeting rooms in Guilderland. Some confusion about dates brought the Schenectady team to the match one player short, and they forfeited on board 4.That was a bad start for one of the traditionally strong League contenders, but it was only the beginning of their troubles. Diligent effort by Chuck Eson before the season began had added Peter Michelman and David Sterner to the Albany B roster. Chuck kept a weather-eye out for other resources. His effort was rewarded when Steve Taylor turned out to be available – no other team had signed Steve up. Thus the Schenectady team started out down a full point and had to face Taylor, Michelman and Sterner, a veritable “Murder’s Row” harking back to an old Yankee’s line-up.

The truncated Schenectady team: Sells, Adamec and Towensend made a determined effort but fell short, and Albany B won 3-1.

Albany B Schenectady A
1 Taylor 1-0 Sells
2 Michelman ½-½ Adamec
3 Sterner ½-½ Townsend
4 Axel-Lute 1-0 Forfeit

A summary of the games by board:

Board 1 – Taylor 1-0 Sells: The game began as an slippery English and transposed into a Sicilian Defense, Maroczy Bind. In modern practice Black usually either attacks the Bind with an advance of the b-pawn or his d-pawn. Mr. Sells tried a third alternative, the f-pawn. This did not work out well at all. The advance of the f-pawn led to a material loss amounting to a piece and a pawn. Resignation came on move 28. It is the game featured later in this post.

Board 2 Adamec ½-½ Michelman: In the Kalashnikov Variation of the Sicilian Defense Mr. Adamec took the game out of the book early with an innovation on move 6. Shortly thereafter he traded a Bishop for a Knight granting Black significant space on the K-side. White was concentrating his attention on the Q-side. Just as a middle game oddly similar to a King’s Indian was shaping up, Black in his own turn gave up his better light squared Bishop for a Knight. With that transaction a good part of the Black advantage disappeared. As the middle game unfolded Black’s K-side space grew. It looked threatening, so threatening that White offered a Queen trade. Unfortunately, Carl picked the wrong square for this and Peter was able to collect a pawn after the Queens came off. Mr. Adamec found some defensive possibilities on the light squares he controlled in the middle of the board. Mr. Michelman began to edge into time trouble, he had just over five minutes remaining on the clock when Mr. Adamec offered a draw and it was accepted. I think Michelman had an advantage when the draw was agreed. With the clock getting short and Peter feeling some fatigue after almost three hours of play, drawing was a reasonable decision.

Board 3 – Sterner ½-½ Townsend: A dozen moves into the opening, another English, and both sides had stayed in the book. Once more one of GM Ronen Har-Zvi’s teaching points was illustrated: club level players often err when deciding which minor pieces to trade. This time Mr. Sterrner gave up a good Knight for a Black Bishop with a small future. The transaction granted Black equality. White followed up with some unwarranted aggression on the K-side, and Black obtained the advantage leading to the win of a pawn. In the final half-dozen moves Black had a very strong attack on the White King. However, neither side quite found the handle on the position; there was a three move mating combination hidden there. After a couple of repetitions a draw was agreed.

Based on recent passed performance Albany B’s victory is at first quite a surprise, however considering their much reinforced lineup, it is less so. Winning from SCC A gives the B team a 4½-1½ score for the season.

On Thursday June 26th the Geezers faced Schenectady A. This time they had a full compliment of players. The Geezers were unable to hold back the A team. Maybe they were fired up after the defeat the night before. The A team won the match going away, 3½-½. The results were:

Schenectady A Geezers
1 Sells ½-½ Mockler
2 Adamec 1-0 Little
3 Calderon 1-0 Phillips
4 Townsend 1-0 Chu

A summary of the games by board:

Board 1 – Sells ½-½ Mockler: Once more my two friends explore the French. They played an interesting theoretical French Defense at the recent NYS Open in Lake George last month. It was also drawn. Here Mr. Mockler tries out his recent favorite, 3…, Nc3!? Routine tells us Black needs to push his c-pawn to the 5th rank before putting the Knight on c6, but is this strictly so? Mockler argues no. It is however a narrow path Black treads requiring an open minded willingness to explore the fantastic side of chess. Black missed, or passed, on a Knight sacrifice on move 7 that could have worked out well for him. The game then became very closed. Black had no weaknesses and no levers with which to break open the game. A draw was agreed on move 28. That was the only bright spot for the Geezers on the evening.

Board 2 – Little 0-1 Adamec: Carl surprised me with Alekhine’s Defense. He had been playing the Sicilian and the Hungarian Defenses in his recent games. I varied from normal with an early capture on d6, and Mr. Adamec found his own innovations at the board. By move 10 there was nothing to chose between sides – Black was fully equal. I then began to fumble: first a wasteful Knight move to chase a Black Bishop to a comfortable square, secondly another wasteful Knight maneuver on the other side of the board that brought my Queen away to a post where her influence was lessened, and thirdly a couple of moves lacking any threats allowed Black to attack my King with the time gifted to him. Carl made a pretty five move forcing sequence that wound matters up by move 25 because of a ruinous loss of material. The game was a nice example of how risky it is to present an Expert with a couple of moves more or less for free.

This was the first game I lost in the League this season. It would not have stung quite so much if I had made a better fight of it. An old habit of believing I will find some trickery without hard work came up once more. In my other League games I was working hard whether I was on the right track or not. This time not so much. That is disappointing.

Board 3 – Calderon, Z 1-0 Phillips: The opening was a Maroczy Bind in the Sicilian and followed the book to move 10. There Mr. Calderon found a forcing sequence that led to a complicated position where Black had a Bishop for a Knight and maybe a small advantage. After both sets of Rooks were traded White kept the better pawn formation. It was a nice edge but not quite enough for a win; the long reach of the Black Bishop made up for the less than great pawn structure to some degree. Both sides ended up with a set of double, isolated pawns on the K-side. Black retained one of his h-pawns to occupy the White King, while White sacrificed his doubled f-pawns to get freedom for his Knight. The effort took up a large number of Phillips’ dwindling clock minutes. The advantage swung strongly towards Phillips, he was clearly winning at that point. John’s clock by now fell to under two minutes, and Zachary laid traps. One slip and a piece was lost and resignation followed. Not perfect, but these guys did create a unique endgame position. It is one I have not encountered before.

Board 4 – Chu 0-1 Townsend: The opening was an King’s Indian Attack leading to a closed center with White attacking on the K-side and Black on the Q-side. White was unable to muster his forces more quickly that did Black. The Q-side breakthrough came first and won material. It was then as the chess writers are fond of saying; a matter of technique. Mr. Townsend kept cool, increased pressure and avoided involving himself in any violent tactics. Steady progress led to resignation on move 59 after a gallant and determined resistance.

This was the worst thrashing the Geezers took all season. There are several teams in the League that can pass the Geezers yet; Schenectady A, Albany A and Troy. With some luck the Geezers may hold on to a third place finish. As far as I know the League standings are:

1 Troy 1-1 with 3 or 4 to play I think
2 Albany B 4½-1½ finished
3 Geezers 3½-2½ finished
4 Albany A 3-2 with one to play
5 SCC A 2-2 with two to play
6 Cap Region 1-3 with two to play
7 RPI 1-3 (remaining matches forfeited I am told)

This has been a spotty year for the League. More than one match has had results influenced by a forfeited game, and there were forfeited matches by the RPI team. Here is hoping for better next year.

The only decisive game from the Schenectady A – Albany B match was the contest between Steve Taylor, long one of the strongest of local players, and Philip Sells, who over the last dozen years has made remarkable progress. He has gone from a high Class B to an Expert rated at 2037. This time the veteran defeated the up-and-comer. It will be interesting to see the next clash between these two. Mr. Sells has made a habit of taking lessons from his defeats and coming back stronger. On to the game:

This was an impressive performance by Steve Taylor. As he said after the game: “I guess I can still move the piece around a bit, not bad for an old guy.” Very true indeed, although for one of my advanced years, Mr. Taylor is still youthful.

Illustrative games:

Game 1 – In this game Black undertakes action against the Bind by advancing the b-pawn. This is one of the standard methods for Black versus the Maroczy. Ivanov holds back the youthful Kasparov and secures a split point.

Game 2 – In this game Black successfully uses the other standard approach; the advance of the d-pawn. Ljubojevic has to take many moves to get that counter-thrust in, but once it happens White’s game is lost.

Game 3 – In the following encounter neither of the recommended breaks happen. Black, using great care keeps the balance and manages to divide the point against a strong GM.

In general the Maroczy Bind gives White some advantage in space and a very solid position. It can be particularly useful to White in circumstances that require Black to try for a win. If Black has to strive for victory he is well advised to consider breaking with either b7-b5, or d6-d5. Other methods carry some fundamental dangers with them.

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.