Time Trouble – A High Wire Act

This is another Editor’s Choice selection. Rummaging through the archives I found this game. It had almost no comments made about it in my Blog Number 39 from 2010. About all I said then was to note the time remaining for each side after certain moves. The main story was the acute time trouble, first for Mr. Sells, and before the end for Mr. Mockler also. In fact time was so short that game scores suffered. It was only through the efforts of the players and Bill Townsend that what we have to look at today was reconstructed.

Part of the very truncated story told in 2010 was Mr. Sells” excellent results in time trouble. Prior to this game, it was the same year I believe, Philip won a game from Steve Taylor, and with the Championship of the Saratoga Club, in a similar time trouble situation. The Editor’s Choice category gives the opportunity to look at this interesting contest in greater detail than just as a discussion of time problems.

Mr. Mockler’s flag dropped before he could make his next move. The last 13 moves were played under extreme time pressure. It was one more good performance by Philip Sells in such a situation. This win was his margin of victory in the Schenectady Championship finals for 2010 ahead of: Chi, Mockler, Howard, Phillips and Rotter. The game came not long after another excellent performance in the Saratoga Championship ahead of Steve Taylor and Jon Feinberg. He defeated both of these strong players while in the same kind of difficult time pressure as he was against Mockler. Time trouble brings out some of Sells’ best chess.

Getting Philip Sells into time trouble was not hard around the years 2010 and 2011. Defeating him when he had almost no time on the clock was not so easy. In the last couple of years Sells has improved his handling of the clock. This is not to say he does not fall into time pressure from time to time. Lately I have not seen the extreme time shortages of 2010/2011. I am sure this is good for Philip and for his chess, but selfishly we spectators miss the dances along the high wire of time trouble he had treated us to previously.

Illustrative games:

An Editor’s Choice Game

For the past couple of weeks, I have been looking through the roughly 500 blog articles to which I have access. Most of them I wrote and those are easier for me to get to, they’re on my hard drive. All this is in anticipation of a second look at interesting games in the new category of the Editor’s Choice.

Today’s game between Deepak Aaron and Patrick Chi took place nearly three years ago at the 133rd NYS Championship. It seems appropriate to bring it up now, a little more than a month before this year’s edition of the long-running State Championship tournament. I don’t know how many other chess tournaments have had such a long run. It seems to me that there can not be too many closing in on a 140 year record. If you have not participated in the NYS Championship before, consider doing so this year. It is a chance to be a part of chess history, and the playing conditions are good.

Deepak and Patrick at the time this game was played were the Schenectady Club’s two youthful stars. Deepak Aaron had won the Club title in’09 and 10, and Patrick Chi took the trophy in 2011. For us on the local scene the question was would Patrick show he was catching up with Deepak in this game?

Originally the annotated game was posted on this blog in 2011. Most of the notes are the same as they were in that post, with additions, deletions and corrections as noted.

If 43…, Re8 44 Qxe8 Bxe8 45 c8(Q), and further resistance is futile. Or, 43…, Rf8 44 Qe7; and finally, 43…, Rc8 44 Qe7 Qh6 45 Qxd7 Qxg5 46 Qxc8+ Kh7 47 Qxh3+. A neat win showing Mr. Chi still has some distance to go to meet Mr. Aaron on equal ground. We still have a couple of years before the demands of college begin the end of this rivalry. It will be interesting to watch how It develops.

Added comment, 2014: Although White’s Bishop does not play a direct role in the final sequence, its potential was always more dynamic than was the Black Bishop which was assigned a strictly defensive job as a blockader.

Illustrative games:

The Austrian Attack in the Pirc

The board 1 game from last Thursday’s Schenectady A – Capital Region CDCL match was a Pirc Defense. For the last thirty years I have used the Pirc as my primary answer to 1 e4. At the Wednesday Albany Club meeting a young man asked me what I thought about the Pirc during some skittles play, and David Finnerman asked a similar question of me after his game ended. Not needing too much persuasion to write about the Pirc, it seemed the Sells – Finnerman game would a convenient platform where what little I have learned about this opening could be presented.

Let me first say I am far from an expert on this opening. There excellent books on the market about the Pirc where you can find true expert opinions about this opening. The one work that made the subject most clear for me is Alburt’s and Chernin’s Pirc Alert! It is still in print I believe. If you want to use the Pirc this is a valuable resource for players up 2200.

There is one caveat that is true for Pirc Alert!, and it applies to every other opening book I have read: The conclusions and recommendations are on many points only opinions of the authors. In this case true they are GM’s, but you will see in the illustrative games some very good players may not always agree with the ideas. In today’s article we will touch on the different opinions about the 5th move for Black. These differences are not mine, rather it is in large part what other Grandmasters seem to believe based on their games. I tend to give greater weight to what a GM plays as opposed to what he writes.

Most of the illustrative games are the work of World Champions before, during or shortly after their reigns. There is not enough space even on a blog to exhaust the supply of interesting Pirc Defense games. My goal will be achieved if this article inspires some to dig into the databases and discover more of the possibilities of this opening.

The game trundled on for some more moves in Finnerman’s effort to win the game and tie the match. The extra effort was not rewarded and the draw agreed. White understood exactly what was required to hold the position. This was the last game to finish in the match. Both players gave their all in a game of significance for both teams.}

The Illustrative games below set out some of the critical issues in the Pirc Defense, Austrian Attack. Which choice to prefer: 5…, c5; or 5…, 0-0? If 5…, c5; what to do about 6 Bb5+, and 7 e5? When using the Pirc, players of the Black pieces should be aware of Seirawan’s innovation in the 5…, c5; line. For the players of the White pieces avoidance of Yasser’s forced draw requires a willingness explore really tough chess.

Game 1 – The future World Champion demonstrates 5…, 0-0; can give Black chances to win.

Game 2 – A couple of years before things did not work out quite so well for him.

Game 3 – Using 5…, 0-0; was not confined to just Anand.

Game 4 – Seirawan shook up things in the Pirc when he sprung his innovation on the world. After Yasser demonstrated it, all was obvious. Beforehand that was not so.

Game 5 – Now we are getting into an area where theory gets deep. Playing here without familiarity with theory is very difficult’

Game 6 – A little history. Fischer’s Pirc was a big surprise to us onlookers in the 1972 match with Spassky

Game 7 – Spassky’s subsequent use of the Pirc against a tough opponent, along with the Fischer game started me thinking about this opening. I thought my then usual French Defense to 1. e4, was too predictable. My classical bias was strong, and it took another six or seven years before I switched.

Game 8 – The Pirc continues to appear in the games of the best players. Here is an example from not so long ago:

After that lengthy trip through the above collection of Pirc Defenses, Austrian Attacks how can it be summed up? Both 5…, 0-0; and 5…, c5; have their adherents at the highest levels of chess. With 5…, c5; Black aims for a transposition into a decent position from the Dragon Sicilian. If you mean to use 5…, c5; booking up on the Dragon-type middle games is time well spent. If you want to use 5…, 0-0; required is a certain amount of steely determination to wait for your chance to strike back in the center as David did in this game.

In the 5…, c5; line there are critical variations involving 6 Bb5+, and 7 e5. These are most difficult to workout over the board as I found in my own games. The difficulty seems to be because of a need to calculate precisely in positions that are rather different from what is seen in other more classical openings. Very accurate calculation in unusual positions is demanding.

To illustrate this point: A researcher, a Russian I believe, did an experiment with titled chess players. They were given a very brief look at two sets of chess positions; one set was of positions culled from actual games, the other were constructed positions with the pieces randomly placed. The subjects were then tested to see how accurate was their recall of the test positions. The positions from actual games were recalled in far greater accuracy than were the random positions. This experiment confirms that one of skills good players have is pattern recognition. The researcher further concluded that good players compare the position before them to the stock of positions from their experience and likely reach decisions, in part at least, through the comparison: this move worked elsewhere before, let’s see if it will work here?

When a Pirc game goes off into the rather un-classical situations of the 5…, c5 6 Bb5+ Bd7 7 e5 Ng4 8 e6, line, the room for error expands. With the Pirc not being a first choice opening for most, and the Austrian Attack positions rarer since it is not White’s only option, many, if not most players, do not have an extensive store of previous positions to draw upon. Right from the beginning of the game, Black, if he is well prepared, welcomes the incisive response of the Austrian. Black can play for a win. That is not something the more classical openings offer.

When 5…, 0-0; is Black’s choice the positions are not quite so strange. At a casual glance it often appears White is very dominant in the center. Black then needs to be very alert to find the right moment to hit back in the center. Iron nerve and self-confidence are essential for Black not to lose heart

As theory has advanced over the years White has developed and improved many alternatives to the Austrian: 4 Nf3, 4 f3, 4 Bg5, and so on. By not taking up so wide a center with 4 f4, White can keep the game more usual looking and avoid the fantasy Black seeks. If Black means to use the Pirc, he has to be ready to face these options also.