AACC Championship 2014-15 decided, and some thoughts

On Wednesday, February 4th 2015, the AACC Championship for the 2014-2015 season was decided: Jeremy Berman defeated Gordon Magat to reclaim the AACC Championship.

Unlike last year, the AACC Champion was decided from a 2-game match between the winners of two approximately-balanced sections. This year those two section winners were Gordon Magat and myself, Jeremy Berman. The first game of the Championship match had myself as White and Gordon as Black, and was played on Wednesday January 28th 2015. That game ended in mutually agreed draw.

As for the second game of the match, colors were reversed – myself with the Black pieces and Gordon with the White pieces. In a thrilling King’s Indian Defense, we went for complications in the middle-game: Black gave up a rook and two pawns in exchange for two of White’s minors. However, the imbalance had a unique caveat: White had a pawn securely planted on g6, that would sustain mate threats against my king. As for compensation, I had two terrific knights – one planted firmly on the outpost of the d5 square, and one defending it on f6. Eventually the game trickled down to mutual time pressure, and Gordon timed out before making his move.

Thus for the second year in a row, Jeremy Berman has won the Albany Area Chess Club Championship.

Here are the final results, from the regular season and the Championship (excluding the U1800 Championship, between Tom Clark and Cory Northrup, which still is TBD):

Regular Season Standings (with point total/games played to the right):

Round Robin #1:

1 = Jeremy Berman (7.0/7)
2 = Dean Howard (5.0/7)
3 = Peter Henner (4.5/7)
4 = Thomas Clark (4.0/7)
5 = Arthur Alowitz (4.0/7)
6 = Scott Boyce (2.5/7)
7 = Paul Axel-Lute (1.0/7)
8 = Charles Eson (0.0/7)

Round Robin #2:

1 = Gordon Magat (6.0/7)
2 = Tim Wright (5.5/7)
3 = Peter Michelman (5.0/7)
4 = John Lack (4.5/7)
5 = Cory Northrup (3.5/7)
6 = Paul Moore (1.5/7)
7 = Ryan Rogers (1.0/7)
8 = Stephen Kullas (1.0/7)

The Championship Match Result:

Jeremy Berman and Gordon Magat
Game 1: Draw
Game 2: Berman defeats Magat

Score:

1. Berman (1.5/2)
2. Magat (0.5/2)

AACC Champion: Jeremy Berman

Under 1800 championship:

Cory Northrup and Thomas Clark

Result: TBD

Some Thoughts:

Now that everything is mostly said and done, we can now reflect on the tournament. Overall the 2-section structure did what was intended: finish the tournament early! By mid-December nearly all the Regular Season games were complete, and after the winter holidays the final games were played and the championship was promptly determined. As compared to last year, the AACC Championship finished nearly two and a half months earlier, and there were relatively few make-up weeks required, which had dragged last year’s tournament into mid-Spring.

Additionally, there were no dropouts in the tournament. Last year there were two such instances, very early on, that messed up the schedule a bit.

Here are some other notes I have on the tournament, as compared to the last two years:

2013-14

Number of Players: 14
Total Net Participants (from the previous year): +2
New Faces (to the AACC Championship): (Will Stephenson, Jeremy Berman, Glen Perry)
Notable non-participants (from previous year): Finnerman

2014-15

Number of Players: 16
Total Net Participants (from the previous year): +2
New Faces (to the AACC Championship): (Paul Moore, Tom Clark, Ryan Rogers, Stephen Kullas, Paul Axel-Lute, Scott Boyce)
Notable non-participants (from previous year): Joe Jones, Jason Denham, Michael Mockler

While the total number of participants this year increased only by two, there were six new participants as compared to the previous year. And given that there were three notable non-participants who had played in the previous year, it is possible that this tournament could have been even larger had they played. One thing is certain: the number of interested players for the AACC Championship is steadily increasing, about two people each year. But most of these ‘new’ players have been around in the area for a while, so we can’t say that the club is growing. However it is noticeable that the Albany Area Chess Club has had a healthy number of interested players each of the past few years, so we can expect more full competitions for the club championship.

As for the new tournament format, I have this opinion: I think it is not the most worthwhile solution. While it may have contributed to a shorter club championship, I think it was perhaps too short. As I said, nearly all the regular season games were decided by mid-December, nearly two months after the championship began! What more could we look forward to until the CDCL starts in Spring?

But my main point is that we deprived ourselves of something unique to the club championship: the ability to play everyone in a rated game.

How often do we get that chance, during the year? How often do less-experienced players have the opportunity to test their wit against some of the most established players in the area? Or have those established players test their abilities against new up-and-coming players? In my opinion it would be more fun and worthwhile if the tournament format went back to the ‘all-play-all’ format. There would be more opportunities to gain rating points, to test out ideas against formidable opponents, and look forward to all the interesting match-ups available.

But now that the AACC Championship is complete, we have something more pressing to look forward to that just next year’s Championship: The Capital District Chess League. I imagine this year’s league will start earlier than last, which should provide the opportunity for people to join a team before it gets started.

Until next time.

Jeremy Berman

A Tale of Two Squares

Last Wednesday a long delayed CDCL match between the Albany A team and the Schenectady A team took place. The results by board were:

Albany A Schenectady A
1 Berman 1-0 Sells
2 Howard 0-1 Adamec
3 Magat ½-½ Calderon
5 Wright 1-0 Townsend

A summary by boards:

Board 1, Berman-Sells was a positional battle in the Symmetrical English. This was a game of much interest because the participants are two of the more successful active local players. The contest was about two squares, d4 and d5, and who could make the best use of these outposts for the their Knights early on. That debate ended in White’s favor, slight though it seemed. As is frequently the case, winning an outpost battle, in and of itself, may not gain a big edge, however, the use of the d6 square eventually made a difference in the combinative finish. This was a nice win for Mr. Berman

Board 2, Adamec-Howard was a clash between two opponents with a long history. Carl and Dean began playing each other back in the 1970s on opposing high school teams. This latest chapter in the saga was a win for Mr. Adamec, but it was a nip-and-tuck fight. Watching, I thought White was doing well out of the opening. It turns out my chess engine thought Black was slightly better. In the later middle game, when I thought Black was somewhat better because he had the two Bishops versus two Knights, the engine tilted the other way. The fight was mostly positional right up to the finale, then as Mr. Howard clock began to run down, and tactics came to the fore, Mr. Adamec obtained a definite advantage. Dean’s resignation came in a tough but not quite losing position as his time was running out.

Board 3, Magat-Calderon differed from the top boards where experienced Experts were on both sides of game. Here it was the Expert, Gordon Magat, battling a recently fledged Class A player who has the goal of becoming an Expert. The opening advantage clearly went to Zachary Calderon. In the long middle game tussle Gordon was unable to cancel out Calderon’s edge. As the game shifted to the ending the Expert’s experience began to tell, and Mr. Magat was able to work his way to a drawn ending although he was down a pawn. This time youth and talent was denied by experience. Who knows what the outcome will be the next time.

Board 4, Townsend-Wright was a struggle of two strong Class A players. Mr. Townsend has not been very active in these last several years other than in a handful of CDCL matches. Mr. Wright on the other hand did very well in this year’s Albany Championship ending up a very creditable second to Berman. Tim Wright unsoundly offered a pawn just as the middle game began and Townsend took it after some preparation. Just as he had a near winning advantage in hand Mr. Townsend got bitten by a “tactical bug.” That is when you go for complications when simple, risk-free, non-tactical options are available. The upshot, a piece was lost for a single pawn. Although it was not completely clear sailing for Wright, he eventually cashed in the piece for a two pawn edge in a Rook endgame that was won for him.

The top Schenectady and Albany teams have often battled for the League title in past years. Not so this time. Some weeks ago the Albany B team locked up this year’s trophy. The struggle Wednesday was about who would finish in second place. Albany A won and take second place in the League with 4 match points. The overall standings are:

1 Albany B 4½-1½
2 Albany A 4-2
3 Schenectady Geezers 3½-2½
4 Capital Region 3-3
5 Schenectady A 2-3 with Troy to play
6 Troy 2-3 with SCC A to play
7 RPI 1-5

I am not certain that the SCC A – Troy match will take place. Dragging out League play is unfortunate. Individual ratings are skewed when the results are not submitted in a timely manner. The honor of taking the League title is lessened a bit when the contest is treated as an afterthought. All this contributes to a decline in chess activity in general. If we as the chess community want our clubs to continue as active centers for chess, then organized competitions should be run correctly, schedules met and the “grunt” work of reporting done on time. If that can not be done, we will see fall-off in club based activity. The team leaders for each club should take this year’s pattern of laggard matches into consideration when the next season’s League organizational meeting is held.

The game we will look at today is the board 1 contest from the recent Albany A – Schenectady A match.


If now 34…, Nd4 35 Kf1 Qe5 36 b6 fxg3 37 hxg3 h5 38 b7, and it is clear the Queen is the only piece that can stop the b-pawn. Then it is simple to see the Rook going to the a-file and down to a8 leaving White with a winning material advantage. A very nice win for Mr. Berman over the solid Schenectady Expert. Both players lean towards a positional style in their games. This time Jeremy won by a very careful collection of small pluses, and Philip wrongly chose to not start tactics on the K-side quickly enough to keep the balance.

Illustrative game:

Some more about Tromso: China’s win can’t be said to be a complete surprise. They have been threatening to win one of the big team events for a few years. At Tromso the Chinese team was very steady, kind of like the Soviet teams of old. This was a deserved victory. India, without the former World Champion, was a surprise. They lost one match, drew three and won seven. Very good tie-breaks put India ahead of Russia. Hungary was the only one of the traditional chess powers to take a medal, silver for second place.

We may be seeing a shift of chess success to the East. Both China and India have huge populations, and international chess seems to be seen as a pathway to gain a form of recognition for these two societies. China has a centrally controlled program that moves even the successful players from competition to coaching by age 30. That may put a damper on the best players going for the World Championship, but it does hint at a wave of well coached younger players, and a long term presence of China in the elite chess tournaments.

India has had the great benefit of their own World Champion most of the first decade of this century. From what I have read there is a large and growing body of scholastic chess activity there. This may well lead to a larger Indian presence on the international chess scene. Effectively we have an experiment going on right in front of us: a centrally controlled and directed program versus a de-centralized popular based upsurge of chess activity. Which one will produce the next star?

For the US the event was a mild disappointment. If the US had won against Azerbaijan in the last round we could have made the top five. A drawn match would have brought us to just about our pre-event seeded place, 6th. The loss dropped the US to 14th place on tie-breaks with eleven other teams with 15 match points. GM Sam Shankland took the gold medal for board five (Reserve) scoring 9 out 10. That was about a 2800 performance! His FIDE rating post tournament is over 2600. Quite an accomplishment for this young man. So, overall, not a disaster, just a disappointment brightened by the emergence of a potential star.

A Reversal of Fortunes

Last week’s upset win in the League by the Capital Region team over the strong Albany A team was full of ups and downs. One very interesting game was the first ever meeting of David Feinnerman, captain and founder of the Cap Region team and Jeremy Berman the newly crowned Champion of Albany. This was the played on board 1. The game appeared to be running in Berman’s favor in a fashion typical for him; a steady application of positional principles leading to an advantage. What added spice to the contest was Finnerman has a similar approach to chess. Although in David’s case, he tends to enter the tactical exploitation of the positional build-up earlier than does Jeremy. The clash of two players who prefer the positional side of the game may be not so flashy as are the more tactical match-ups, but it has great potential for teaching us, and, as always, tactics may breakout anywhere along the line.

A most remarkable reversal of fortunes. Both players showed, notwithstanding their preference for the positional side of chess, they are not afraid to explore the very concrete tactical aspects of the game. It was most entertaining.

Illustrative Game:

In broad terms the illustrative GM game and our contest under the microscope today are similar. In both White played on the Q-side and Black the K-side in the beginning. This was logical and dictated by the early moves of the opening. In the middle game is where our local guys veered away from the GM example. Leaving aside the outcomes, comparing the two games for consistency and logic is a useful exercise for the developing player. This should not be done to unduly praise the Grandmasters or to be critical of Finnerman and Berman. The lesson to be obtained is: GM’s pursue the logic of their opening layout of forces deep into the middle game, and club level players often will deviate from that tempted by the siren song of tactics. The titled players have the refined judgment to see when a tactical temptation is so good as to justify such excursions. We, the ordinary players, are not so able to make those calls with accuracy and consistency. If you dream of breaking 2200, this is something to think about.

More soon.

The Deciding Game From Albany

The long anticipated game between Tim Wright and Jeremy Berman took place on April 23rd . The raw score was published a couple of posts back. Now here are my comments on the contest that decided this season’s Champion of the Albany Area Chess Club.

Wright, Tim – Berman, Jeremy [B85]
AACC Championship 2013–14, Guilderland, NY, 23.04.2014

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6

Wright Berman 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before play began Mr. Wright anticipated some kind of Dragon. Mr. Berman instead elects the solid Scheveningen Variation.

6.Be3,..

Tempting Black with the chance to play 6…, Ng4!? After which White may have to live with doubled e-pawns, but he gains a tempo in development, the open f-file and added control over d4 and f4. The resulting position is very much to the taste of Tim Wright; messy and tactical.

6…, e6

Mr. Berman the week before against Perry created an uncommon sacrifice of the Exchange demonstrating he can do tactics without fear. This time, with all the marbles on the line, he pursues a positional approach.

7.Be2 Qc7 8.0–0 Be7 9.f4,..

Wright Berman 2

The primary alternative is: 9 a4, to restrain a Black Q-side expansion.

9…, 0–0 10.Kh1 b5

It has been all book including Black’s last. Long ago I learned by losing many games to Lee Battes and Matt Katrein in this Scheveningen line that White has to be ready to sacrifice here. The pressure Black is building against e4 is not easily met by trying to defend that point.

11.a3?,..

Tim undertakes the passive defense of e4. On the surface it does seem a reasonable idea. The problem is this tack demands perfection from White, and maybe even perfect moves will not be enough to do the job. Black now has the initiative firmly in hand.

Wright Berman 3

The obvious line is: 11 e5 dxe5 12 fxe5 Qxe5 13 Bf4 Qc5 14 Bf3 Ra7 15 Bxb8 Rd7 16 Nce2 Bb7 17 Bg3,

Analysis Position after 17. Bg3 Wright Berman 4

when Black may well recover his piece at the cost of a pawn because of the pin on the d-file. The continuation: 17…, Bxf3 18 Rxf3 e5 19 Rf5, is just the kind of complex tactical situation that suits Mr. Wright. Most of the time Black sidesteps that wildness by playing 11 e5 dxe5 12 fxe5 Nfd7; maintaining a small advantage.

11…, Bb7 12.Bf3 Nbd7

Heading for c4. A positional kind of fight is shaping up that suits Berman more than it does Wright.

13.Nb3 Rac8 14.Qe1 Nb6 15.Nd2 Rfd8 16.Qf2 Nc4!?

Wright Berman 5

This may be a little too straight forward. Perhaps an improvement is: 16…, Nfd7 17 Rad1 Bf6; with lots of tactics possible. That may be why Jeremy opts to lose a tempo to keep the play more positional in nature.

17.Nxc4 Qxc4 18.Bd4 Nd7 19.Rad1 Qc7

White has equalized; Black occupied c4, had the Knight traded off and returned his Queen to c7. The net result some of tension is out of the position.

20.Qg3 e5 21.fxe5?!,..

Wright Berman 6

White has his eye on a direct attack on the Black King. There are two positional problems with that notion: first Black has enough resources to fend off the attack, and second, the position will be transformed into one where the White Bishops are not well placed. Better 21 Be3, not sealing in the light squared Bishop, as long as the White pawn is on f4 something can happen to open the h1-a8 line.

21…, dxe5 22.Be3 Nf6

Once more Black returns to the idea of pressure on e4. The Bf3 now is filling the role of a pawn defending e4, and it stands in the way of the Rooks doing anything on the f-file.

23.Rxd8+?,..

Wright Berman 7

Not a huge mistake but wrongheaded. Nothing is gained by initiating the trade except ceding control of the one completely open file. More usual would be: 23 Bh6 g6 24 Qf2, when Black retains some advantage, but things have not worsened dramatically for White.

23…, Rxd8 24.Bh6 g6 25.Bg5 Ne8 26.Nd5 Bxd5 27.exd5 f6

Wright Berman 8

My guess is this is the position White wanted. He may have believed the passed d-pawn is a big enough asset combined with his Bishop pair to offset the future endgame problems with Black having a 4 to 2 K-side pawn majority. The flaws are the d-pawn is easily blockaded and material is lost on the Q-side.

28.Bh6?,..

Fixated on the mirage of a K-side assault, White makes a large error. This move tips the evaluation to winning for Black. White had to shake off the direct assault notions and switch to finding the most active employment of his Bishops. That might be done with: 28 Bd2 Qxc2 29 Ba5 Rc8 30 Bg4. Note that 30…, f5?; is not possible because 31 Bxf5! Black is still better, but the Bishops are very active.

28…,Qxc2 29.Bd1 Qxb2 30.Bb3 Nd6

Wright Berman 9

This is the ideal blockading piece, and the Knight does its job very well. White’s light squared Bishop is stymied and his dark squared Bishop is not doing anything important.

31.Bc1 Qe2 32.Re1 Qh5 33.Bd1 Qf5 34.Bg4 Qc2 35.Be6+ Kh8

Wright Berman 10

White has gotten everything possible from his scheme. It is not enough to balance the two healthy pawns Black has collected along the way.

36.Bh6?,..

More useful would have been 36 Qe3, but White is unwilling to write-off his dream of an assault on the Black King.

36…, Nf5

Black is happy to trade the Knight for either White Bishop. Without the Bishop pair to worry about the two extra pawns become more important than ever.

37.Qh3 Nxh6 38.Qxh6 Bxa3 39.h3,..

Wright Berman 11

Done to eliminate back rank threats that limit White’s choices. Black replies with an inventive plan; give up a pawn to get his Bishop on the h2-b8 diagonal renewing back rank problems and creating mating threats along the diagonal. I like the way Mr. Berman/s mind works, no hidebound clinging to material when there is the chance to increase the opponent’s difficulties.

39…, e4 40.Qf4 Qc3 41.Qxe4 Bd6 42.Rf1 Qg3 0–1

Wright Berman 12

White must play 43 Kg1, to avoid mate coming on h2, then 43…, Qh2+ 44 Kf2 a5; setting White two unsolvable problems: stopping the connected passed pawns, and finding a haven for his wandering King. Mr. Wright was also in serious time trouble at this point. Altogether White’s troubles were too much, and he resigned here.

Tim Wright missed his opportunity early on to transform the game into unclear positions with tactics coming to the fore. Losing the game and the title at the very end of the tournament stung no doubt. Mr. Wright should not be too disappointed, he lost to a young man who was at the top of his form. And, Tim’s 10½-2½ score will do his rating no harm. A quick check using the USCF Rating Estimator gives a Performance Rating over 2100 and a New Rating in the 1990+ range. That is very close to outstanding for a second place finish.

Jeremy Berman stuck to his style of careful positional build-up. In the finish Mr. Berman showed, as he did against Perry, a fine tactical awareness, this time by giving up the e-pawn to improve the activity of his Bishop. Besides the title and a trophy, Mr. Berman pushed his rating up to around 2050. His Performance Rating was over 2220. Just two years ago Jeremy was a middle of the pack 1800 player in the Chicago area. Since then he’s graduated from college and moved to grad school at SUNY. Somehow in that maelstrom of life changing and location changing events, Jeremy must have put in some serious chess work. A +200 rating point jump is not easy to do even when one has a settled work and home life. This is truly a case of the vitality of youth not being wasted on the young. Kudos to the new Albany Champion, Jeremy Berman!

More soon.

 

FLASH – The AACC Championship is Decided

Tonight the Albany Area Chess Club title was decided for this year. Jeremy Berman, a graduate student at SUNY, defeated Tim Wright in a game that used up nearly all the allotted time. The game finished in a flurry of moves. Both parties were down to less than five minutes on the clock by move 34. A more detailed report will be posted in the near future.

White resigned here because 43 Kg1 (forced) 43…, Qh2+ 44 Kf7 b4; and the Q-side pawns will cost decisive material eventually. Well done Mr. Berman. More soon.

Quiet in Schenectady and Action in Albany

Thursday April 18th was a very quiet evening at the Schenectady Club. The Championship is finished with Jon Leisner taking the title and breaking the 2000 rating point barrier. Jon is now an Expert, a title he sought for a long time.

Mr. Leisner, Michael Mockler and I were the only members in attendance, Very little chess was played. Most of our time was used tinkering with some new features that are to be used on the ENYCA website, a discussion of ways to get better turnouts on club meeting nights when we have no formal matches or tournaments scheduled, and how we might attract the scholastic players from the Make the Right Move events to the Club. There was much discussion but no firm action plan for the club building ideas. If anyone has suggestions about how to increase off-nights attendance, we’d be happy to hear them.

A little over one week ago a most interesting game was played in the Albany Championship. Glen Perry was the last obstacle in Jeremy Berman’s path before facing Tim Wright in the deciding game of this year’s event. Anything other than a win by Berman would change the dynamic in that finale. Mr. Berman put in a solid performance and showed a tactical flare to take the point setting the stage for the dramatic finish coming next week.

Perry, Glen – Berman, Jeremy [E68]
AACC Championship 2013–14 Guilderland, NY, 09.04.2014

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.d4 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.Nc3 0–0 5.g3 d6 6.Bg2,..

Perry Berman 1

This is very much a mainline position from the White Fianchetto KID. There are many games by famous strong Grandmasters in this line. Botvinnik and Reshevsky are two of the many who liked this deployment for White. Here is how the World Champion handled the opening against one of his most persistent rivals:

(Editorial Note: Click on any move in the following illustrative games to see an automated board where the game can be played through.)

Even the redoubtable Bobby Fischer had a bad experience against Reshevsky in this line:

6…, Nbd7

Even though Smyslov played this way against Botvinnik with success, my computer and opening theory say 6…, Nc6; 6…, Na6; and 6…, c6; are better choices here.

7.0–0 e5

Black continues to follow Smyslov. It has to be remembered V. Smyslov was in the era post-WWII to the middle 1960s second only to Botvinnik in reputation and a World Champion in his own right. When such a strong player plays so in a World Championship match it is a powerful indication the idea has merit.

8.e4 Re8 9.h3 a6 10.Be3,..

Here is where White begins to drift into the less explored possibilities of this line. In a similar position GM Kotsur elected to post his dark squared Bishop on b2 to oppose the Black cleric on g7. This maybe a safer way to treat the position.

Returning to our game:

10…, exd4 11.Nxd4 Ne5 12.b3 c5!?

Perry Berman 2

The computer suggests 12…, Rb8; beginning to work towards the .., b7-b5; break. The text creates a backward pawn on an open file, something commonly thought of as a serious weakness. Over sixty years ago in the famous Zurich Interzonal tournament of 1953, the Yugoslav Champion Gligoric, as Black, demonstrated against the Russian GM Averbakh that if Black can find enough activity elsewhere, the weak d-pawn need not be feared. Gligoric did the job so well that he won the game. Mr. Berman may possibly know that game, if not he gains even more credit for discovering for himself a long known but not widely known idea: the tactical defense of the weak d6 pawn.

13.Nde2 Rb8 14.Nf4?!,..

Perry Berman 3

White might be better served by 14 f4, driving the Knight from e5. One problem for White with a Black Ne5 is the nascent tactic of the Bc8 capturing on h3 if the White Queen goes to d2. It is an established trick in the self-directed line of the Pirc. With the Queen on d2 the h-pawn falls because the Ne5 can fork the White Q&K from f3. This particular tactic hovers in the background in our game. I believe both players were aware of it, and the possibility played a role in their thinking.

14…, b5 15.cxb5 axb5 16.Qc2 Qa5 17.Rad1 Rb6!

Perry Berman 4

I don’t know if this is a case of dangling a “bright and shiny object” to tempt Mr. Perry, or if the subsequent play was the result of Mr. Berman just being tactically alert. Either way it showed me a new aspect of Berman’s game; he can lay devious traps for his opponent to trip over.

18.b4?,..

White spots a chance to win some material and bites. A safer choice is 18 Ncd5 Nxd5 19 Nxd5 Ra6 20 b4 cxb4 21 Qb1, when the threat of forking Black’s Rooks on c7 limit the options of the Black Queen. White will very likely recover his pawn, and there is much play left in a near equal position. Without a computer to help, I believe many of us club players would likewise be tempted to take the material.

18…, Qxb4 19.Nfd5 Nxd5 20.Nxd5 Qa5 21.Nxb6 Qxb6 22.Rb1?,..

Perry Berman 5

White has the Exchange for only a single pawn. That is usually not quite enough material to allow the inferior side claim full compensation. This time there is a not so evident factor in play: White’s Bishops are badly placed to hinder the advance of the Black passed pawns. This leaves White only major pieces at hand to blockade the pawn advance. Blocking pawns with Rooks and Queens is not the best use of these heavy pieces.

Given the less than ideal White deployment of forces, his chances to hold are dependant on very precise play. I have to confess that during the game it was not clear to me this move was wrong. My other candidate was 22 f4, to evict the Knight from e5. According to Rybka that is the better choice mostly because of this line: 22 f4 Nc4 23 Bf2 Be6 24 g4, with White defending his terribly weak a-pawn in the same fashion as Black used for the defense of the d-pawn earlier; tactical threats elsewhere.

22…, Be6

Black aims to pick-off a second pawn to balance the lost Exchange.

23.Rfd1 Ra8 24.a4?!,..

I believe White was counting on this thrust to make the a-pawn into counter-balance to the running Black b-pawn. Taking a less aggressive tack with: 24 a3 Ra8 25 Rb3, builds a great deal of tension into the game. Black has the advantage, but it is not so marked as in the game.

24…, b4 25.Bf1 b3!

Perry Berman 6

Not so hard to find now, but seeing this move’s potential a few moves back is not so easy. The White Queen has few safe squares left. The dark squares in the vicinity (b2, d2 and c3) are dangerous because of the Knight check on f3. 25 Qc1 b2 26 Rxb2, has the same problem. And if, 25 Qc1 b2 26 Qc2 Bb3 27 Qe2 Nc4; the Black pieces are swarming in on the Q-side; at the very least the a-pawn will fall. It was now I realized just how good the Exchange sac was.

26.Qe2 Bc4!

Once more the theme of the Knight check on f3 pops up. White must give up his Queen for two minor pieces. Because of the earlier Black sacrifice, this results in a position where a Rook and minor piece are fighting a Queen. Note that if 27 Qe1 Nf3+; is fatal.

Aspiring and developing players should take note of the f3 problem in such formations. If Black is allowed to keep a Knight standing on e5, White has to be aware that his light squared Bishop has a responsibility to keep a watch on f3. When this Bishop is sent off to other duties, Black has tactical opportunities. It is a pattern that comes up in some Pirc variations and the KID Fianchetto lines.

27.Qxc4 Nxc4 28.Bxc4 b2 29.Bb5 Qc7

White has his a-pawn well defended, but the bold Black b-pawn is just too much of a problem. The position is an example of the strength of the Bg7 with an unobstructed long diagonal and the qualitative difference of passed pawns. The White a-pawn is going nowhere soon. The Black c-pawn can and will go forward.

30.Bf4,..

White takes aim at d6. White has wanted to target d6 since the move 12…, c5. The problem is the critical theater of action has moved on, and as in the Averbakh- Gligoric game from Zurich 1953, taking this pawn so late in the game is meaningless.

30…, Rd8!?

Perry Berman 7

Certainly good enough, but thematic is; 30…, c4! 31 Bxd6 Qc8 32 e5 c3 33 Bd3 c2 34 Bxc2 Qxc2 35 f3 Rxa4.

31.Rd5?!,..

White could have prolonged resistance with 31 Rd2, planning to eliminate the b-pawn at the cost of a Rook for a Bishop. Even so Black is winning. It just may take a bit longer.

31…, c4 32.e5 dxe5 33.Rxd8+ Qxd8 34.Rxb2 exf4 0–1

Perry Berman 8

White resigns. There is not much else to do. If 35 Rc2 Qd1+; wins the Rook, and 35 Rb1 c3 36 Rc1 c2; wins cleanly also.

Mr. Berman, up to here in the Championship, has been quite positional in his play. In this game he showed his tactical skill is not to be discounted. Before seeing this performance I had anticipated the tournament deciding game with Wright to be a “boxer versus puncher” kind of a game. Now who knows? These two guys appear to be at the top of their forms, and we may have a spectacular contest to close out the Albany Area Chess Club Championship.

More soon.

Berman wins Another at Albany

Today’s game might be titled “The Further Adventures of Cory.” In it Cory Northrup comes close to making nearly as big an impact on the Albany Championship as he did in this year’s Schenectady event. He was close, but Mr. Northrup could not quite bring home the point.

Berman, Jeremy – Northrup, Cory [D02]
AACC Championship 2013–14 Guilderland, NY, 02.04.2014

1.g3 d5 2.d4 Nc6!?

North Ber 1

This is not exactly what is considered standard in this kind of position. Black usually does something other than blocking his c-pawn with the Knight. Typically 2…, Nf6; 2…, c6; or 2…, c5; are Black’s choices here. But non-standard, or unusual does not always equal bad. Black is betting on a quick development of his Q-side forces to make the natural c2-c4 move unappealing to White.

3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Bg2 Qd7 5.Bf4 f6

North Ber 2

While I was watching the game I thought this move was not so good. It tends to make the development of the Black K-side pieces slow. After the game Berman expressed the much the same opinion. Bringing the game back to my laboratory and after some research, a different opinion comes to light. Here is an example of a very good player going down the same path but with an important twist:

(37630) Evans, Larry Melvyn – Bernstein, Sidney Norman [D02]
US Championship, New York (2), 1954
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.g3 Bg4 4.Bg2 Qd7 5.Bf4 0–0–0 6.0–0,..

North Ber 3

Bernstein’s continuation, the advance of his K-side pawns show there is another idea possible behind 6…, f6; besides the routine .., e7-e5. This idea worked so well that GM Evans had to use all his experience to escape with a draw.

6…, f6 7.c3 g5 8.Be3 h5 9.b4 h4 10.Nbd2 Bh3 11.Ne1 Bxg2 12.Nxg2 hxg3 13.fxg3 Qh3 14.Nf3 Nh6 15.b5 Na5 16.Qd3 e6 17.Bxg5 fxg5 18.Nxg5 Qg4 19.Qg6 Ba3 20.Rf3 Rdg8 21.Qxe6+ Qxe6 22.Nxe6 Ng4 23.h4 Nc4 24.Nef4 Nf6 25.Rd1 Bd6 26.Kh2 Na3 27.Ne3 Nxb5 28.Nexd5 Nxd5 29.Nxd5 Rxh4+ 30.Kg2 Rhg4 31.Rdd3 c6 32.Nf6 Rxg3+ 33.Rxg3 Rxg3+ 34.Rxg3 Bxg3 35.Kxg3 Nxc3 36.e4 Nxa2 37.Kf4 b5 38.e5 Nc3 39.e6 Kd8 40.Ke5 b4 41.Kd6 Nb5+ 42.Kxc6 b3 43.Kxb5 b2 44.e7+ Kxe7 45.Nd5+ Kd6 46.Nc3 b1Q+ 47.Nxb1 ½–½

6.Nbd2 0–0–0?!

As in Evans-Bernstein, 6…, g5; is very probably the superior choice.

7.c3 Re8?

Again 7…, g5; is better. I want to ask Cory if he gave any thought to the K-side pawn advance plan. Maybe I will get to do so this week.

8.Qa4?,..

North Ber 4

White has lined up his forces on the Black King. I suspect Mr. Berman was anticipating a quick finish to the game since Black appears to have a slow-motion scheme in mind. The flaw in the text is tactics. After 8…, e5!; and White has problems. A sample line is: 9 dxe5 fxe5 10 Nxe5 Nxe5 11 Qxa7+ Ne3+ 12 Kf1 Bxe2+ 13 Kg1 Qf5 14 Qa8+ Kd7 15 Qxb7 Nxf4 16 gxf4 Nf6; and Black is very close to winning. The stifled Rh1 and the coming rapid deployment of the rest of Black’s forces make the couple of pawns garnered for the lost piece inadequate compensation.

8…, Kb8?

Black misses his chance.

9.b4?,..

White hands it back.

9…, e5!

This time Cory takes the opportunity presented.

10.Be3?,..

Once more we see a decision not made objectively about the position on the board, rather it is motivated by the sporting situation. Mr. Berman is in a tight battle with Tim Wright for the Albany title. Wright defeated Northrup. Berman must have felt he has to give it every try to do so as well. Accepting slightly inferior position with 10 dxe5, fxe5 11 b5, is a better choice, but then there is a good chance the Queens go off reducing the likelihood of a quick tactical end to the game.

10…, Nxd4!

North Ber 5

A surprise that must have shaken White.

11.Qd1?,..

Again a decision driven by the tournament situation and not the position before us. Although in this instance playing the better move, 11 Qxd7, does not promise an easy time of it for White. If 11 Qxd7 Nc2+! 12 Kd1 Nxe3+ 13 fxe3 Bxd7; leaves Black with an all but won game. In this line Black’s extra pawn, better pawn structure, control of the center and possession of the Bishop pair give White small hope of holding on.

11…, Nf5!?

This move is not quite as good as 11…, Nb5 12 Nb1 d4; when Black will finish the complications up a couple of pawns.

12.Bc5 b6?!

North Ber 6

Passing on the chance of doing more damage to the White pawns with 12…, Bxc5. Black must have been concerned about handing White an open file bearing on his King. This is a moment when calculation has to be carried out precisely. The line: 12…, Bxc5 13 bxc5 e4! 14 Nd4 e3; and all its ramifications has to be visualized very clearly to see that Black’s attack on the White King is the more immediate threat. White must deal with it before he can do much on the b-file. The game move gives White the opportunity to avoid worse.

13.Bxf8 Rxf8 14.h3 Bxf3 15.Bxf3,..

It is better to recapture with the Knight so as to bring it to d4 if .., e5-e4.

15…, e4?

Black could have recovered much of the advantage he squandered with 15…, Rd8; returning the Rook to active duty. After achieving a sizable edge through tactical alertness, Cory shifted to a very cautious mode of thinking. Here he wants to clog the h1-a8 diagonal. The problem is once more tactics.

16.Nxe4!,..

North Ber 7

Of course, the d-pawn is pinned. Curious it is that Mr. Northrup spotted 10…, Nxd4; easily but overlooks this shot.

16…, Qc6?

Failing to use this tempo to improve his position with 16…, Nge7; completing his development is the cause of Black’s. defeat. White now begins to get a grip on the position.

17.Qd3 Nge7 18.Nd2 Rd8 19.a4 Qe6 20.a5 Rhe8 21.0–0 Nc6 22.Qb5,..

North Ber 8

White has had the initiative over these last few moves mostly because he has an active idea: break open some lines on the Q-side to be used with the Bishop on the long diagonal to go after the Black King. Now the second reason why Black loses this game shows up: Cory opts for passive defense instead of something more dynamic.

22…, Rd7?

This is a case in point. Better 22…, Ne5; threatening to trade off the Bf3. One of the principles of defensive play is trading off dangerous attacking pieces can draw the sting from an opponent’s aggressive plan. The game just supposes a defense to a7 after a pawn trade on b6.

23.Nb3,..

White uses the donated tempo to bring up reinforcements for the assault on the Black King. If trading attacking pieces is a key defensive idea, even more central to good chess is the understanding each side gets a turn to move. In real life things can be happening simultaneously. In chess that is not so. When it is your turn to move, ideally, not only do you want to do something positive for your position, you also want to give your opponent a threat he has to think about. When you fail to, or can not, do that the opponent can do just what Mr. Berman does here; strengthen his own attack.

23…, Kc8?

North Ber 9

In his mind Black gives up the ghost with this move. He announces his only chance is the forlorn hope of running away with his King. The better choice is to offer material to rid himself of a dangerous Knight: 23…, Ne5 24 Nc5 c6!? 25 Nxd7+ Qxd7 26 Qa4 b5. White still retains a solid advantage, but Black has blunted the main thrust of the attack. That is maybe the best that can be done here.

24.Rfd1 Nfe7 25.Rab1!?,..

It is not only Cory Northrup who has problems of accurate evaluation in this game. Jeremy Berman dithers a bit himself. Thematic is: 25 Qa6+, and whether the Black King goes to b8 or d8 26 b5, and the White attack will come crashing through. The text is just not as forcing as the suggested line, but White keeps a substantial advantage.

25…, g5?

Continuing the flight of the King with 25…, Kd8; is better, although as bad as things have become for Black talking about “better” is very much relative.

26.e3 h5 27.c4,..

White is single-minded in his approach. The cluster of awkwardly placed Black pieces on light squares is a tempting target.

27…, dxc4 28.Nc5!?,..

North Ber 10

This move is a trifle to fancy for my taste. Simpler is: 28 Qa6+, and a) 28…, Kd8 29 Rxd7+, to be followed by 30 Rd1, winning decisive material, or b) 28…, Kb8 29 Nc5 bxc5 bxc5+; and mate in a move of two.

28…, Rxd1+ 29.Rxd1 bxc5 30.a6 Nd8 31.Bb7+ Kb8 32.Bc6+ Kc8 33.Bd7+ 1–0

The final position illustrates how well White has exploited the light squares

North Ber 11

 

I was reading an article at the Chess Cafe web site where the writer pointed out how “small tactics” decide many if not most games.  He illustrated his point with GM games. The thesis has some truth at the highest level.  It has far greater application at the club level.  Today’s contest is evidence of that.  If you are an aspiring player, improving your tactical alertness is the quickest way to improved results.  I define tactical alertness as the ability to spot the tricks, traps and pitfalls that crop up chess positions almost by chance.

Mr. Northrup has shown in some games this year a good understanding of opening play. The beginning of this game and his win from Henner in the Schenectady Championship are the examples I have in mind when writing that. If Cory is to challenge in next year’s title tournaments he has to improve his middle game play and obtain a better grasp of defensive techniques.

Mr. Berman may have taken his opponent too lightly. When he is playing with care Jeremy shows great patience. This has paid off with wins over Lack, Howard, Henner, Jones and Mockler in the Albany Championship this year. I believe in two weeks the Wright-Berman game is scheduled to be played. I expect to see the careful, patient positional Berman in that game. It will be a most interesting contest pitting Wright’s stubborn fighting style against the cool positional approach of Berman. It should be a humdinger of a game.

More soon.

A Game from Albany and News of the League

In the race for the Albany title two players only are in serious contention; Jeremy Berman and Tim Wright. Berman has played fewer of the other high rated contestants than has Wright. Wednesday April 2nd Jeremy played Cory Northrup. Cory did well in the recently completed Schenectady Championship coming equal 3rd, 4th and 5th with Peter Henner and Carl Adamec in a 13 player field. To achieve that result he had to defeat Peter Henner. The Albany Championship was not so successful for Mr. Northrup. In the 13 player field he is well back with 4½ out of 12 games so far. Regardless of how fortune similes on him, Cory come to the board to play chess. He did so Wednesday evening. In an up and down battle Northrup had good chances to make an upset. Berman’s steady and stubborn play avoided potential trouble and brought home the full point.

Only one other game from the tournament was played: Henner 1-0 Eson. Chuck made a fight of it, but experience won out and Henner won a piece and the game.

Scheduled to play was Jones 0-1 Perry. Mr. Jones did not appear for the game and Mr. Perry won by forfeit.

Recently Mr. Berman faced the strong Class A player Peter Henner. Competing in both the Albany and Schenectady Championships, Mr. Henner has had problems with results this year. They have not been up to his standards. He has told me he feels that he is not playing well, making too many errors, etc. Today’s game shows that Peter can hold up his end of a contest against a strong opponent. The ultimate outcome of the game was to a large extent determined by severe time trouble. I am not sure time trouble influenced decisions are at all the best way to judge how well you play. There is more than a degree of chance involved when time gets very short.

Berman, Jeremy – Henner, Peter [A10]
AACC Championship 2013–14 Guilderland, NY, 26.03.2014

1.c4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 g6 4.g3 c5

Berman Henner 1

This is not a position that comes up frequently in international competition, nor anywhere else either. Michael Mockler, a long time devotee of the Dutch, when he saw this move said: “That has to be wrong.” His point is 4…, Bg7; is much more common, and a pawn on c5 looks out of place. The c-pawn maybe more usefully employed on c6 to blunt the action of the Bg2.

Here is a game where this position occurred:

(Editor’s note: To activate this chessboard, please click on any move. This will generate a pop-up board showing the game.)

5.Bg2 Bg7 6.0–0 0–0 7.Qb3,..

So far, so good. White aims at pressure on b7 with the combined action of the Queen and the Bishop. Not a bad idea.

7…, Nc6 8.d4?,..

Berman Henner 2

A surprising error from Mr. Berman. In the first place White is playing through the center aiming a b7, c6 and d5. Sacrificing the d-pawn does not seem to smoothly fit with that plan. Secondly, getting more of the White forces into action before thinking about breaking open the center would be in tune with how Jeremy has conducted his other successful games in this event. Thirdly, recovery of the pawn will dramatically change the central terrain, and not necessarily to White’s advantage. Patient maneuvering follows 8 d3 d6 9 Bg5 Be6 10 Be6 Bd7 11 Rad1, when the fight is yet to be joined. I expected something like this from Berman and was surprised not to see it.

8…, cxd4 9.Nb5 Ne4 10.Rd1 e5 11.e3 a6 12.c5+ Kh8 13.Nd6 Nxd6 14.cxd6 Qf6 15.exd4 e4 16.Ne5 Nxd4 17.Rxd4 Qxe5

Berman Henner 3

It is my suspicion that Mr. Berman calculated all or much of this preceding sequence including recovery of the pawn.

18.Be3 b5 19.a4,..

White may have thought this move would bring him an advantage when looking at the position more than ten moves ago.

19…, Bb7!

Obvious tries for White: 20 axb5, and 20 Rad1, can be met adequately by Black according to the computer. The mighty Rybka says Black has some advantage here. While watching the game I did not think that was so. My human opinion was the game could go either way. Both sides have chances, and the fate of the far advanced White d-pawn could be the decider.

20.Rd2 Bc6

White cautiously makes a move to defend b2 and Black shores up b5. White is reluctant to open the a-file with a capture on b5. It seems that Black would then get control of the a-file.

21.a5?!,..

Berman Henner 4

White foregoes the opening of the a, or b-files. He must have concluded opening either helps Black. This is a point where White might have cranked up the tension in the position with profit. Worth consideration is: 21 Bd4. If then, 21…, bxa4 22 Qc3, is strong for White. The alternative: 21…, Qxd4!? 22 Rxd4 Bxd4; brings about a very interesting middle game with a fight between a Rook and a Bishop versus a Queen in this position:

Berman Henner 5

To quote GM Soltis: this circumstance “.. sets up a battle between two principles: cooperation versus double attack.” “In the most general terms, the pieces have the edge if they coordinate well and find targets. The Queen has the edge if it can use checks and forks – that is, to do what a Queen does best.” In this resulting position it is not clear to me that Black can bring his Rooks into play without allowing the Queen to do her thing. Continuing from the Analysis Diagram: 23 a5 f4? (The most direct plan.) 24 Qb4 Bg7 25 Bxe4 Bxe4 26 Qxe4 Bxb2 27 Rb1 Bc3; and the position has transformed into one where the Queen’s chances are very good. Black can be more circumspect with 23…, Be5 24 Rd1 Rf6 25 Qa3 Kg7; when the argument is unresolved. Note: Black has to take into consideration the tactic that came up in the game; Qc5/b6/a6, when deciding what to do with his Ra8.

At this point both sides had used up all but 25 minutes of the allotted 105 minutes for the game. Real time trouble is not yet present, but its shadow can be seen. There was a subtle shift in the thinking of both players as their decisions are examined from here forward. Mr. Henner settled on a concrete and active plan; an advance of the K-side pawns. Mr. Berman judged he could meet this pawn rush, and he angled for counter-punches on the Q-side.

21…, Qe8 22.Rc1 Qf7 23.Qb4?,..

Berman Henner 6

White makes a fundamental decision; he is to keep the Queens on the board. Trading the Ladies is probably the best chance for White here. I think Jeremy took stock of the tournament situation: Wright had defeated Henner earlier. To keep pace a win in this game was necessary, and it will be easier to do with Queens on.

23…, Rac8 24.Bf1 h6 25.Rdc2 g5 26.Bd4 Bxd4 27.Qxd4+ Qf6 28.Qb6,..

White’s counter-punching plan should fall short, but Black has to play very precisely to make it happen. Time was edging down to about ten minutes for each side. About the higher levels of chess, Masters and Grandmasters, I don’t have the experience to comment about how time pressure is handled. However, a lifetime of watching and playing with club level and Expert chess players in time trouble gives me some insight to what goes on with them. At the club level as time becomes an issue, the players tend to look more and more for clear, forcing lines. They want to see as far ahead as they can with the least expenditure of effort. Unless they have a touch of the “Riverboat Gambler” about them, lines with limited alternatives are preferred, again for the sake of clarity. This bias for simple and forcing in a constrained time frame can lead to the pursuit of losing lines. It may be the principle difference between an Expert and a Master, the Master sees more options, particularly when the pressure is on to make decisions.

28…, Qxd6?!

Berman Henner 7

White has been following his plan, making Q-side threats, but Black now takes a valuable moment to veer away from his plan, the K-side pawn storm. Using this tempo is a fateful choice. Correct is 28…, f4. Clipping “buttons” on the Q-side is less forcing than is the direct attack on the White King. Here is a sample line: 28…, f4 29 Qxa6 fxg3 30 hxg3 e3 31 Qb6 Qf3 32 Qd4+ Kg8 33 Rxc6 Rxc6 34 Rb1 exf7+ 35 Kh2 Qh5+ 36 Kg2 g4; is winning for Black. After the text Black is not worse, but he perhaps is beginning to not see everything clearly in the time trouble.

29.Qxa6 f4 30.Qb6 fxg3 31.hxg3 e3

Peter Henner had just under 10 minutes remaining on his clock. That was just enough time trouble to restrict his focus to forcing lines of play.

32.Qxe3 Qd5

Berman Henner 8

Henner has reached the position he wanted. The mate threat at h1 is the defining feature of his plan.

33.Rxc6!,..

This probably White’s best chance. In this particular position the passed a-pawn supported by the light squared Bishop appears to be enough to balance the material deficit.

33…, Rxc6 34.Re1?!,..

Berman Henner 9

Another move motivated by the need to win at all costs. Objectively, playing for a draw with: 34 Rxc6 dxc6 35 a6 Ra8 36 a7 Qf7 37 Qe5+ Kg8 38 Qb8+ (The point!) 38…, Qf8 39 Qb6, is correct. If the Black Queen leaves the 8th ,White checks on b8. If the Black King goes to the 7th , White checks on the 7th and takes on c8 if the King goes to the 6th. This is an unusual theme for this kind of ending. I have not seen anything quite like it before.

By this point in the game Mr. Berman’s clock had run down to fewer than 3 minutes. Working out something unusual and not well known is asking much even from a talented player.

34…, Rcf6 35.Re2 Rf3 36.Qb6 Qf7?

Berman Henner 10

The time problem is also getting worse for Mr. Henner. Here he just misses the loose pawn on h6 while worrying about a “ghost”; the Bishop going to g2 not a serious threat if for no other reason than the Black Queen can check on d1. With 36…, R8f6; Black would have held on to some advantage.

37.Qxh6+,..

Suddenly the situation reverses; Black is no longer threatening death and destruction upon the White King, now it the Black monarch who is in deadly danger. These final moves were played with less than a minute on the clocks for both parties.

37…, Kg8 38.Qxg5+ Qg7 39.Qd5+ Qf7 40.Qg5+ Qg7 41.Qxb5 R8f5 42.Qb8+ Rf8 43.Qd6 R3f6 44.Qd2 Qh6 45.Qd4 R6f7 46.Re5 Qf6 47.f4 Kh8 48.Bd3 Rh7 1–0

This game is an example of what time trouble can do to even a substantial material advantage. In this case the dynamic factors: White’s a light squared Bishop with much potential and an advanced passed pawn made a time shortage particularly trying.

This win for Mr. Berman keeps pace with Mr. Wright in the race for first. Mr. Henner can take heart even in the loss; he matched one of the tournament leaders successfully move for move until extreme time trouble made itself felt.

A quick update on the doings of Deepak Aaron. I found this on the Chess Café site: Deepak gave a Simul at Georgia Tech March 13th for charity. He played 16 boards, winning 15 and drawing one. Following this event Deepak played in the Eastern Class Championships. Scoring 4-1 Deepak tied for 2nd place behind Kamsky. Deepak was undefeated and drawing with GM Ivanov and GM Kamsky in the last two rounds. Along the way to this very fine result Deepak defeated GM Fishbein. Mr. Aaron has just about equaled the accomplishments of the Schenectady star of my generation, Mike Valvo. All that it will take to match Mike’s record is for Deepak to pick up the FIDE International Master title.

Play in the Capital District Chess League has begun. The first match I have heard about was a big win for the Albany A team over RPI; 3½-½. It took place Sunday March 30th . The Albany A team players are listed first, and the results by board were:

1 Dean Howard ½-½ Jeff LaComb
2 Jeremy Berman 1-0 Trian Gao
3 Gordon Magat 1-0 Brian Furtado
4 Tim Wright 1-0 Feist

Albany A is fielding a strong line-up this year. Although this was a heavy defeat for RPI, they have a strong 1st board and experience on board 2 and 3. I will not be surprised to see RPI pull off an upset of Schenectady or the Geezers.

On Thursday April 3rd the Schenectady Geezers hosted Uncle Sam of Troy at Schenectady. On boards 1 through 3 the games ended fairly quickly with Troy leading 2 to 1. Board 4, Phillips – Hill was another matter entirely. In a long game running into deep time trouble, John Phillips defeated Elihue Hill. It was a contest similar to their game in the recent Schenectady Championship. Mr. Hill did very well out of the opening and through the middle game. It was the time trouble in an unbalanced ending that cost him the point. The results by board were:

1 Mockler 0-1 Thomas. Michael came back to his favorite Bird’s Opening. In a sharp contest Phil Thomas confirmed his newly minted Expert’s rating by jumping on an error and winning in 25 moves.

2 Ogundipe 0-1 Little. White elected to play a restrained sideline against my Modern Defense. An error on move 13, Nf3-h4, permitted Black to win some material. The Exchange I pocketed was not a impressive as I had imagined in the face of the activity of White’s two Knights. After some sober thought it was evident returning the material for a possible direct attack was the most promising continuation. White had a choice of which Exchange to win back. He picked the wrong one, and I was able to execute a winning attack on his King. The game finished in 27 moves.

3 Phillips 1-0 Hill. This was by far the longest game of the night, but that is usual for Mr. Phillips. Good luck and iron nerves helped John to win and tie the match.

4 Canty 1-0 Chu. Pressure on Black’s King led to White’s winning the Exchange in a kind of Closed Sicilian. After getting that material plus, Mr. Canty did not falter, and he wrapped up the win in 37 moves.

Summary with the Geezers listed first:

1 Mockler 0-1 Thomas
2 Little 1-0 Ogundipe
3 Phillips 1-0 Hill
4 Chu 0-1 Canty

The Geezers got away with a drawn match. It easily could have been a 3-1 loss. With the Expert Thomas and Class A player Odunayo Ogundipe on the first two boards, and Canty on board 3 playing well this year along with the very experienced Elihue Hill on board 4, Uncle Sam is another team the contenders will have to take seriously. The Geezers are not as strong as last year. The terrible auto accident after last year’s final CDCL match that put Peter Michelman out of action for months, and the family obligations that has taken Jon Leisner off the roster for this season will make repeating as League Champions for the Geezers a huge challenge.

More soon.

An Important Game From Albany and a Saratoga Update

Sunday January 26th at Saratoga two make-up games were played:

Gausewitz 0-1 Little. It was a Pirc with an early f2-f3. As is frequent with the Pirc things became complicated quickly. There was not much to choose between the sides into the endgame. Glen was pushing hard in the ending and went a step too far allowing a neat trick that gave me a Bishops of the same color ending a pawn up. A single pawn plus can be problematical in such. Fortunately, I had the additional positional advantages of a much better placed King and the right colored Bishop if things got down to only a h-pawn remaining. The good King position allowed me to shoulder the White King away from the critical squares and my f-pawn was unstoppable.

Kuperman 0-1 Finnerman. This was an offbeat looking opening; it began as a Pirc and morphed into some kind of KID. Oddly at the finish it was Black with the big center. Somehow White was unable to hold together his e4-d5-c5 central formation. Pawns fell and Black took over the center and the mass of passed pawns that came about brought resignation soon.

The standings at Saratoga are:

1 Farrell 9½-2½
2 Feinberg 7½-2½
3 Little 6-5
4 Gausewitz 5½-4½
5 Finnerman 5-5
6 Kuperman 2-9
7 Connors 2½-9½

Joshua and I plan to skip the Super Bowl next week and finish up with chess instead. If my notes are correct: Feinberg has Finnerman and Gausewitz to play, while Gausewitz has Feinberg and Finnerman. The outcomes of this three-way contest will have a big influence on where all of us in the middle of the standings end up.

Two weeks ago an important game was played in the Albany Championship. In it Gordon Magat a former title holder faced the new club member and tournament leader, Jeremy Berman. The outcome shook up the standings.

Magat, Gordon – Berman, Jeremy [E81]
AACC Championship 2013–14 Guilderland, NY, 15.01.2014

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.e4 d6 4.d4 Bg7 5.f3 0–0 6.Bd3?!,..

In the Samisch Variation of the KID this move is not a favored continuation.
The move is not refuted immediately by some tactical scheme, rather it allows Black to go ahead in a positional fashion, that just may yield tactics later on.

Magat Berman 1

These un-refuted but questionable tries show up from time to time in even the games of the very good players. Here Granda Zuniga tries to surprize Barlov, and does so.

(186556) Granda Zuniga, Julio E (2525) – Barlov, Dragan (2555) [E81]
Zagreb Interzonal (5), 1987
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0–0 6.Bd3 c5 7.d5 e6 8.Nge2 a6 9.a4 Qc7 10.0–0 exd5 11.cxd5 Nbd7 12.a5 Ne5 13.Bb1 Bd7 14.Qb3 Rab8 15.f4 c4 16.Qd1 Neg4 17.Kh1 b5 18.axb6 Qxb6 19.Qe1 Ne8 20.h3 Ngf6 21.e5 Nh5 22.g4 dxe5 23.gxh5 Bxh3 24.Rg1 exf4 25.Nxf4 Bc8 26.hxg6 hxg6 27.Ne4 Nf6 28.Ra3 Bf5 29.Nxf6+ Qxf6 30.Nh5 gxh5 31.Rf3 Rfe8 32.Qg3 Rb3 33.Bxf5 Rxf3 34.Qxf3 Re5 35.Rf1 Qh4+ 36.Kg2 Qd4 37.d6 1–0

6…, c5

Just so. The problem with 6 Bd3, is it neglects the safety of d4, and Black accurately begins operations against that point. More usual for White is 6 Be3, for just that reason.

7.Nge2,..

The foregoing illustrative game is really a transposition into a kind of Benoni where White certainly has good chances. The text grants Black equality and then some.

7…, cxd4 8.Nxd4 Nc6 9.Be3 Ng4

This move and 9…, Qb3; both are tries at exploiting the weakness of White’s coverage of d4. Both also will give Black certain equality with chances for an advantage. A guess is Gordon just did not expect the text.

10.Nxc6?,..

Magat Berman 2

Keeping the balance closer is 10 fxg4 Bxd4 11 Bxd4 Nxd4 12 0-0 Nc6. Of course after taking the Ng4 White has weakened pawns and has a Bishop that inspires little enthusiasm, but the powerful Black dark squared Bishop is gone. The path selected leads to a clear plus for Black.

10…, Nxe3 11.Nxd8 Nxd1 12.Nxd1 Rxd8

The game has become a Queen-less middle game where Black retains the very strong dark squared Bishop. Black has the advantage, but turning it into something concrete absent the Queens requires great patience and much maneuvering.

13.Rb1 Bd7 14.Ne3 e6 15.Ke2 Bc6 16.Rhd1 Re8

Magat Berman 3

Mr. Berman thought for sometime before making this move. He may have decided ginning up some tactics based on the White King residing on the e-file was more appealing than a quieter positional approach such as 16…, a5; to hold back a White Q-side expansion, or 16…, Rac8; just developing apace. I suspect the correct course is positional approach.

17.Bc2 Rad8 18.b4 b6 19.Bb3,..

White has for the moment stopped the .., d6-d5; break that could embarrass the White King.

19…, h5 20.Rd3,..

This is an interesting decision. The alternative; 20 Kf2, looks safer, but if White can keep his King on the e-file without falling into some tactical problem as a result of Black breaking with .., d6-d5; he just may get an advantage. Mr. Magat is most times willing to undertake risks in hopes of improving his position, as he does here.

20…, b5 21.Rbd1 bxc4 22.Bxc4 Ba4 23.R1d2!?

Magat Berman 4

Objectively this is not quite as good as 23 Bb3, when White has to accept a draw after 23…, Bb5 24 Bc4 Ba4; etc., or 23 Bb3 Bxb3 24 Rxb3 d5 25 exd5 exd5 26 Kd3, bringing about a tricky position where he has realized the goal of obtaining an active role for his King. I believe Gordon saw the drawing sequence. He wanted a chance to win the game and so passed on the draw.

23…, d5 24.exd5 exd5 25.Rxd5 Rc8

Also possible is 25…, Rb8. This move as well as the text can keep the game balanced.

26.Ba6?,..

Magat Berman 5

An error that could well have cost the game. Better is 26 Bb3, then 26…, Bxb3 27 axb3 Bf8 28 b5 Bh6 29 R5d3 Rb8 30 g3 Rxb5; recovers the pawn. In this line of play, Black has whatever winning chances there are; he has the Bishop with pawns on both sides of the board. In the hands of a GM this may be enough to win. For more ordinary mortals winning is far less easy, especially with all of the Rooks on the board. Magat must have still wanted to fight for a win and plunged ahead into complications willingly.

26…, Rc3?!

White gets rewarded for taking a risk. Mr. Berman was drifting towards time trouble with just 13 minutes remaining on the clock. That pressure may well have kept him from finding and accurately evaluating: 26…, Rc6 27 Bd3 Bh6 28 Be4 f5 29 Rd8 Bb5+!; which gives Black a big edge.

27.R5d3 Rc6 28.b5 Rce6?!

Magat Berman 6

Missing or passing on an opportunity to bailout to equality with 28…, Rxa6! 29 bxa6 Bb5; recovering the Exchange, and eventually the pawn a6 will fall. The activity of the White King and Knight offsets the theoretical superiority of the Bishop.

29.Ra3 Bh6 30.Rdd3 Bc2 31.Rdc3 Bf8 32.Bc8 Rxe3+

Both players have diced with danger and found good moves over this last little bit of the game. Mr. Magat had 26 minutes on his clock and Mr. Berman was under 10 minutes. Even in time trouble Jeremy is unafraid to gamble. He now wants to try conclusions with two Bishops versus a Rook; not a bad call at all; a Bishop pair can be extraordinarily effective on an open board.

33.Rxe3 Rxc8 34.Rxa7 Bc5 35.Rc3 Re8+ 36.Kd2 Bxa7 37.Rxc2 Re3 38.Rc3?!,..

Magat Berman 7

This is very probably wrong. With the Rooks off before the White Q-side has advanced some steps further makes Black’s task easier. When the opponent is in time trouble why do anything to make his life less difficult?

38…, Re5?

The easy life does not appeal to Mr. Berman. 38 Rxc3 Kxc3 39 Kf8, seems to me to be best. Black has to get his King over to aid in the stopping of the passed pawns. Black must be afraid the Rook trade may only give him a draw, and he wants to win to keep his streak alive. Such an unwavering drive to win the game may not be the best formula for results, however it surely does make for good entertainment for the watchers.

39.a4 Bb6 40.Rc6 Ba5+ 41.Kd3,..

The result of Black’s ambitions is White has had to hope an active King and a pair of passed pawns can be adequate compensation for the Bishop. Even the mighty Deep Rybka is uncertain about Black’s chances. First the computer favors one side and then the other depending on how long you let a particular position percolate.

Two things incline me towards White; first Black’s time trouble has worsened, Black has less than five minutes remaining, and second, the Black King is far away from the scene of the action. Calculating even in positions with few pieces on the board where single tempos are critical is nerve wracking and prone to error. Doing such in time trouble is doubly difficult.

41…, Re1 42.Ra6 Bd8 43.Ra8 Kg7?

Correct is 43 Rd1+. Both sides were feeling the pinch of the clock now. Black’s time problem was much the worse; he had under 4 minutes left, while White had had just over 10 minutes remaining. Mr. Berman lays his wager on tactical trick that should not work. In time trouble often finding some forcing line that gets us forward through several moves without a devastating loss is all that can be done. You then trust the time saved by being able to play those moves with little thought may be used to find the next resource. Sometimes that works and sometimes it does not. Black dangles the Bishop for just that reason.

44.Rxd8 Rd1+ 45.Kc4 Rxd8 46.b6 Kf6 47.a5?,..

Magat Berman 8

White falters. Much more challenging is 47 Kc5. Black then must be very accurate lest the two passed pawns are not to become so threatening as to win the game. It appears that best play for both sides is: 47 Kc5 Rd2 48 a5 Ke7 49 b7 Kb2 50 Kc6 Kd8 51 a6 Rc2+ 52 Kb6 Rb2+; when 53 Ka7?,.. Lets Black wins after; 53…, Kc7; and White will run out of moves losing his Q-side passers. Drawing is; 53 Kc6, when Black’s Rook can not do other than keep checking the King, otherwise the a-pawn will go to the 7th winning the game.

47…, Ke6 48.Kc5 Ra8?

Magat Berman 9

In his turn Black makes the fatal error. Jeremy was now under one minute on the clock. Instant moving is demanded and his intuition lets him down. Black would win after; 48…, Kd7!; getting the King in front of the pawns is the key. After 48…, Kd7 49 a6 Kc8; with a bit of patience Black will run White out of moves, improve his blockade of the Q-side pawns and then harvest the K-side. Of course the unanswered question is: Could Black find the patience and icy control to make the several moves required to carry this idea out with now only seconds, not minutes, on the clock?

Failing to get his King one vital step closer is the end of meaningful resistance.

49.Kb5 Kd7 50.b7 Re8 51.Kb6 Re1 52.b8Q Rb1+ 53.Ka7 Rc1

Taking off the Queen leaves the a-pawn just out of reach of the Black King. The game went on for a few more move because of momentum.

54.Qb5+ Kc8 55.Qe8+ Kc7 56.Qxf7+ Kc8 57.Qf8+ Kd7 58.Qf7+ Kc8 59.Qxg6 Rc7+ 60.Ka6 Re7 1–0

And so Mr. Berman’s glittering start was checked. It was a tough battle between two strong locals, not perfect chess but very much like the chess played at our clubs; plenty of good ideas with little willingness to compromise for a draw. This fighting to the last for a win certainly entertains.

More soon.