Final Results on the Schenectady and Saratoga Chess Championships

Greetings,

Here are the results and final standings from the Schenectady and Saratoga Chess Club Championships for 2014-15 based on email correspondence from the club presidents.

For the Schenectady Club, they played a single round robin with 8 players (7 rounds), and finished on February 12, 2015. The tournament was run by Carl Ademac.

This year’s winner for the club was Zachary Calderon, a high school senior, who also played in the annual Albany-Schenectady Club Match in October 2014. Congrats to Zachary.

Here are the final standings for the Schenectady Club:

Standings:

1. Zachary T. Calderon 6.5
2. Philip Sells 6
3. John Phillips 5
4. Carlos A. Varela 4
5. Richard C Chu 3
6. Joel R. Miranti 2
7. Matthew Clough 1.5
8. Balaji Mahadecan 0

As for the Saratoga Club, they ran a double-round robin with 6 participants (originally 7 but Alan Lecours had to dropout after 3 games). After the 10 rounds (not including Alan’s three games), this year’s winner is Peter Michelman. Congrats to Peter.

Here are the final standings for the Saratoga Club:

Standings:

1. Peter Michelman 7.5
2. Gary Farrell 7.0
3. Glen Gausewitz 5.0
4. Jonathan Feinberg 4.5
5. Joshua Kuperman 3.5
6. David Connors 2.5

Thus for the three major clubs in the area (Albany, Schenectady, and Saratoga), by mid-February of 2015 we have had the club championships finished, and the champions crowned (Albany: Jeremy Berman, Schenectady: Zachary Calderon, Saratoga: Peter Michelman).

One goal I have is to create a tournament for the champions of the three major clubs, to determine “the best in the capital district.” Hopefully that can happen sometime during late Spring, or after the CDCL. We shall see how that goes.

Soon the Capital District Chess League will begin again. Hopefully we will see the return of last year’s teams, as well as any new participants that are interested in joining. If teams haven’t done so already, they should get their teams together and contact the tournament director so we can get the league started.

Till next time,
Jeremy

Bits and Pieces From a Recent CDCL Match

A late piece of League news: The Capital Region team defeated Uncle Sam of Troy last Monday 2½-1½ with draws on boards 1-3 and a win on board 4. The Cap Region team has 2-3 record with the match versus RPI un-played. Although this is about the same result for them as last year, from what I observed they were more competitive in all their matches than they were previously. The revised standings for the League are:

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

The disposition of RPI’s matches is an open question. RPI did play three of the scheduled six matches. In round-robin tournaments when a participant completes at least 50% of their games and has to drop out, the un-played games are scored as forfeit wins for the opponents who did not get to play. Presupposing that RPI will not be able to field a team now that the school year is over, it seems a reasonable way to close out the RPI schedule. We must await the League Director’s decision however.

Now on to some chess:

Sometimes there are games that are not particularly interesting tactically over a good part of the play. Then at some point there is a moment when a flash of tactical excitement pops up. In the three games we will look at today there were good and bad strategic and positional decisions made. They are all from the CDCL match between Schenectady’s A team and the Geezers. Rather than labor over a raft of finer positional points, the tactical possibilities found or missed caught my attention.

In the first example Sells and Mockler played a line in the French that is not as well known to most of us; 3…, Nc6. This is a debut carrying with it a drop of poison or two.

Analysis of 7…, Nfxd4!?:

7…Nfxd4 8.Nxd4 Qh4+ 9.Ke2 Qxg4+ 10.Nf3 Bc5 11.Be3 Bxe3 12 Kxe3 g5;
ANALYSIS POSITION

and Black has more than enough compensation for the piece. Leading up to the above position there are several places where White may vary.

One such alternative is: 10 Ke3 Qh4 (not a move one would easily find without a familiarity with this position. Black needs the Queens on.) Then 11 Bb5 f6;
ANALYSIS POSITION

and with two pawns for the piece and the White King wandering shelter-less, Black has probable equality and an easier position to play than has White. The lines will be opened up on the K-side making the White King more vulnerable.

Get out your chessboards and engines to work out the complications. It is a good exercise.

The next position shows a pretty finish that Carl Adamec crafted in his game with me. The lesson to be learned is against strong Experts, if you drift for a moment they can find the tactical key to the position and unlock a sparkling attack.


The finish was:20 h3? Bh4 21 hxg4 Rxe2 22 Rd2 Bxf2+ 23 Kf1 Rxd2 24 Nxd2 Bxd4 25 Bxd4 Bd3+ 26 Resigns 0-1 because the coming capture on d4 will threaten make and a decisive loss of material.
FINAL POSITION

White had to try 20 Bd3 Bxd3 21 Rxd3, and then 21…, Bh4 22 g3 Re2 23 Rd2, is roughly equal although Black does have a persistent initiative.

We now come to the last game for the day: Calderon – Phillips from the SCC A-Geezers match. The position I have taken under consideration is that after Black’s 31st move. It is noteworthy for two points: first, it is pretty uncommon to have two sets of double pawns on the same side of the board and neither King can easily approach the doubled pawns directly, and second, this is one of the cases where a Knight with good outposts clearly has more winning chances than the Bishop. What specifically makes it exceptional is there are pawns on both sides of the board. That usually favors the Bishop. In fact, while watching the game play out, I kept beginning my own analysis from the premise that Black was better, or at least equal. It was only after working down various lines of play and reaching good positions for White several times that it became clear Black in some trouble.

After White’s 31st move this is the position:

It was a game with some questionable moves tactically and in the score I have at hand. What is posted is my best guess at some of the moves. From move 23 on the score is clear.

The position sets a challenge for both sides. Everyone who has played chess for some time would guess Black has chances; he has the Bishop after all, and there are pawns on both sides of the board. In the scales against that fact are that White has an unassailable post for the Knight on d5 that also guards the f-pawn duo, and the White King appears to threaten Black’s duo on the h-file. Additionally the Black d-pawn is weak and his a-pawn can be attacked by the Knight.

Black’s move was 31…, h4; and that is by far the best move in the position. It is only by making the most of the h-pawns can Black hold the balance. White replied 32 b4. This may not be the engine’s recommendation, but it is the right idea: while tension is maintained on the K-side about the mutual weakness of the sets of doubled pawns, expansion on the Q-side will test Black to the utmost. Black then advanced his trailing h-pawn, 32…, h5. Again a nearly only move. It makes the White King’s approach to the h-pawns as difficult as possible. White then began to go wrong with 33 b5. Better 33 a4, continuing to build pressure. It is not that White has a straight forward road to victory, rather it is an intricate set of maneuvers attempting to run Black out of safe moves to force some concession. By move 38 the following position was reached:

White has made some progress, he’s won a pawn. However with the remaining h-pawn secure for the moment and the f-pawn firmly blockaded, very probably the game is drawn. The match situation – SCC A had by now scored enough points to claim victory, and the clock situation – Zachary had the better part of one hour left while John was down to less than five minutes, combined to inspire Mr. Calderon to try for the whole point. His plan was to give up the f-pawns to gain time to send the Knight to collect something on the Q-side. The plan led to this position after move 45 for White:

The situation has changed utterly. The passed Black d-pawn is too fast a danger for White to meet successfully. That is if Black can see everything clearly with just seconds to think. He did not do so, and in a time trouble flurry Black dropped a piece and resigned when, had he a bit more time, there were still moves to be reasonably made. Errors there certainly were on both sides of the board, but the endgame was far enough out of the ordinary to make error understandable. Though flawed in actual play, the position singled out is worth some effort. Working over this position can aid the developing player to achieve a deeper understanding of Bishop versus Knight endings. The specific features of the ending can trump the usual adages about Bishops being better than Knights.
Here is the complete game score as I have it:


The End

Recent Results and a Game

The Thursday meeting at the Schenectady Club produced some unfortunate news; Carlos Varela has had to withdraw from the event. The cause seems to be the demands of family. Withdrawals distort the standings. Mr. Varela’s is particularly vexing. Carlos has been playing well this year, and I had hopes we’d see another new face fighting for a high place. But life is what it is, and in the final analysis family has to take precedence over chess. Because Mr. Varela played less than one-half of his schedule his score will not be counted in the final standings. Of course the games will be rated by USCF.

The games played Thursday January 16th were:

Calderon 0-1 Henner. Peter once more visited the Dutch with 1…, f5. This time, although the game became very tactical very quickly, Mr. Henner won with nice mating attack. Mr. Calderon did not try the Marshall Gambit. Quite probably he reasoned Mr. Henner would have improved his understanding of that tricky line after two successive losses. The conservative 2 g3, approach did not work well for Zack primarily because he pushed his e-pawn too early (5 e4). I have said previously Mr. Calderon revels in difficult tactics. This time I think he focused too much on his own attack on the Black King and missed the dangers Mr. Henner was creating for the White King.

Northrup 0-1 Adamec. Mr. Adamec rolled out the venerable Hungarian Defense versus Mr. Northrup’s Giuoco Piano. Cory did a creditable job in the opening and won a pawn as a result. Black’s compensation was a lead in development, a very fleeting compensation if White had been accurate subsequently. Unfortunately Mr. Northrup began speculating allowing Mr. Adamec to maintain the activity of his pieces. It was clear to me Mr. Adamec recognized his opening scheme had not been a success, and he was aiming for an endgame where he’d have the more active piece placement. His bet was Cory might not have the endgame skills to hold off an Expert with his back against the wall. Such was the case. By move 32, though down a pawn, Black had by far the most aggressive Rook. This led to recovering the pawn in a pure Rook and pawn endgame. Mr. Northrup was just short on endgame expertise allowing a conversion to a pawn endgame favoring Black. Carl carried out a textbook exploitation of his advantage to win on move 57. Prior to this game Cory had performed in this event at a 1900+ level, a quite impressive result. A loss to the only Expert in the contest should not damage that performance much.

Mockler 1-0 Chu. Michael notched another win. Mr. Chu played much too quickly I thought while watching the game. He did not show his best against his strong opponent and the game ended quickly.

Phillips 1-0 Miranti. This was not a game finished quickly. Mr. Miranti tried the Albin Counter-Gambit. The opening was one of which I am not all that familiar. While it was going on I did not realize both sides were playing the theoretically recommended moves up to move 9. There Mr. Miranti inadvertently put his hand on the wrong piece, the Knight at g6 and had to move it. Mr. Phillips then failed to take full advantage of his chance here, and the game became a bit strange with the advantage shifting move by move. When the Queens came off, Black had arguably some advantage. The major pieces were traded off, and Black erred by agreeing to the exchange of the last Rook pair allowing White to equalize. Had he kept the Rooks on White was in significant trouble. After this final piece trade White had decent chances in the pure pawn ending. The game rumbled on with the clocks, Mr. Phillips’ in particular, winding down. Mr. Miranti may have had chances to claim a draw if the position repeated three times. The score I have in hand is unclear on this point, and Joel is new to serious chess and didn’t completely understand the rules for claiming the draw and failed to make the claim before actually making the move. In the end John won.

The standings based on points lost are now:

1 Leisner 5½-½
2 Mockler 5-1
3-4 Northrup 4-2
3-4 Henner 4-2
5 Canty 2-3
6 Adamec 4½-3½
7-8 Phillips 4½-3½
7-8 Clough 2½-3½
9 Calderon 4-4
10 Hill 1-4
11 Miranti 1-6
12 Chu 2-7
Withdrew – Varela 3-3

As I expected Leisner and Mockler have gone to the front. Henner has climbed up to a tie with Cory Northrup with his win from Calderone in the Dutch. Most of the rest of the participants are in the pack following the first four guys. Adamec and Phillips made it to +1 for the tournament with their wins Thursday. Hill, Miranti and Chu trail the field. Lots of questions remain: Will Henner stick with his Dutch now that he scored a win with it? And, can he mount a charge to challenge the leaders? Will Adamec, Phillips and Calderon recover their form and reach the higher places their ratings predict? Can one or more of the tail enders reach into their “upset mode” and surprise a leader or two? We have seen all three of them take the scalps of Experts and Class A players in previous tournaments. Stay tuned for the answers, the pace will pick up these next few weeks.

Sunday January 19th was the last regularly scheduled round of the Saratoga Championship. Some games were played ahead of schedule while several were postponed. There were only two games on Sunday evening. The results were:

Little 0-1 Finnerman. The Pirc of course. I tried out something different for me; 4 Bg5. Alburt says this is perhaps the most dangerous line against the Pirc. In the past I have preferred the self-directed line for White: fianchetto the KB and play d3, h3, Be3 and Qd2 with g3-g4, and/or f2-f4 coming. The self-directed line served me well for years collecting a number of scalps; Michelman, Troyan, and other Experts. It is not supposed to be that good, so I gave some thought to expanding my choices. Some study convinced me 4 Bg5, was worth a try. Bringing it out against Finnerman without any practice trials may be was over-reaching. I came out of the opening in good shape although both David and I made a couple of simple mistakes in the early going. The middle game went fine for me and I thought I had some advantage. Mr. Finnerman was just a bit more inspired than I was. I missed some chances to make a better fight and David won. The game ended on move 42.

Kuperman 0-1 Feinberg. This was a Sicilian Defense where White went off-track early on. First an Exchange was lost and then more material. Resignation came soon after. Joshua Kuperman is a bit of a puzzle to me. For example in one game versus David Finnerman, Mr. Kuperman grabbed the bit in his teeth and nearly blew his strong opponent off the board with very pretty combination ending in a King hunt. Another night and there is a very different result versus Mr. Feinberg. When Kuperman is inspired and on ground with which he is familiar the man is dangerous. Other times he is just a middling Class B player. Curious.

The standings at Saratoga, ranked by points lost, now are:

1 Farrell 9½-2½
2 Feinberg 7½-2½
3&4 Little 5-5
3&4 Gausewitz 4½-3½
5 Finnerman 4-5
6 Kuperman 2-8
7 Connors 2½-9½

Farrell and Connors have completed their schedules. Feinberg has two to play; Gausewitz and Finnerman. If he wins both Jonathan ties Farrell for first. It is unknown weather the title will be decided by tie-breaks or a playoff. I have Guasewitz and Kuperman to play. Glen and I are on for next week with no date scheduled yet with Joshua – it is the Super Bowl the week following. Gausewitz and Finnerman have the most games to make-up including their own battle. How well one of these two do will have a good deal to say about where I finish in the standings.

On Wednesday January 22 I was unable to attend the Albany Club’s next round of play. Results and standings will be updated next week.

On Thursday evening January 23rd the next round of the Schenectady Championship was played. The games contested were:

Adamec 1-0 Canty. White took the closed approach to this opening. It was not long before Mr. Canty was in trouble. “Junior” Canty has grown as a chess player over the years I’ve known him. Recognizing he was beaten in a positional sense, rather than giving up Canty found a piece sacrifice that offered hope. Adamec had a winning advantage, but he had to navigate some tricky moments to bring home the point. In sum, the Expert Adamec logically carried out the technical winning procedure, and his Class B opponent made a lively try for counter-play that fell just short.

Mockler 1-0 Northrup. The opening of this game was where the Scotch Game and the Ponziani intersect. Through 12 moves Northrup hewed to lines of play found in the books. On his 13th turn Cory put his Queen on the e-file where Michael’s Rook had taken up residence. That decision loaded the game with tactical potential for White. Mr. Northrup did not quite sense the danger. It took only six more moves for White to garner a full piece as well as retaining a dangerous initiative. The game was over by move 21.

Clough 0-1 Calderon. A short, sharp encounter where Zachary won material and the game in short order.

Henner 1-0 Hill. Mr. Hill tried out a sort of Modern defense in this game. He held the game pretty much equal through the middle game. M It was not until around move 24 when Elihue began to play somewhat conservatively did Peter emerge with some advantage. In the long run, the game was by far the last to finish, Mr. Henner found just enough to win the point.

After this round the standings based on points lost are:

1 Leisner 4½-½
2 Mockler 6-1
3 Henner 4-2
4 Phillips 4½-2½
5 Northrup 4-3
6 Adamec 4½-3½
7 Canty 2-4
8 Calderon 5-4
9 Clough 2½-4½
10 Hill 1-4
11 Miranti 1-5
12 Chu 2-7

Withdrew – Varela 3-3. These scores will not be counted in the standings of the event. The games will be submitted for rating. The above table of results has been adjusted by the deletion of Mr. Varela’s results.

Leisner and Mockler continue to lead. Henner and Phillips are clawing their way back to the top. Adamec and Calderon remain further back than anticipated at the beginning of the event.

Here is recent game from the Schenectady tournament. Zack Calderon has been on a campaign to break the 2000 barrier. He began this quest two years ago with the hope it would take a year or eighteen months. After two years he has established a solid Class A rating. What I found to be true in my day on the same quest is that is it is twice as hard to get over 2000 as it is to break 1800. Required is the defeat of many of the mob of sometime Experts hanging around between 1950 to 1990. In this game Zack tries his luck against Jon Leisner:

Leisner, Jon – Calderon, Zachary [B50]
SCC Championship 2013–14 Schenectady, NY, 09.01.2014

1.e4 e6 2.d3 c5 3.Nf3 d6 4.g3 Nf6 [5.Bg2 Be7 6.0–0 Nc6 7.Re1 0–0 8.Nbd2 Bd7 9.c3 b5?!

Up to here it is one of the miscellaneous lines in the Closed Sicilian. This sort of treatment by White saw a burst of popularity in the 1960s, but it has become far less fashionable in recent decades. The text move is not unknown in theory, but it is not recommended. More common is 9…, Qc7. Also, possibly Black’s best is 9…, e5; giving up on dreams of an eventual .., d6-d5; and making the game into a kind of KID with .., Re8; .., Be7-f8; .., g7-g6; and .., Bf8-g7. White can certainly cross-up that plan in a variety of ways, but the possibility is a way to fight for the initiative The text, 9…, b5; was played by the soon-to-be 2700+ GM Bologan in Germany in 1995. Bolgan was then a rising star on his way to the heights. The move gave him a draw but no more against Hracek, Z.

(393170) Hracek, Zbynek (2595) – Bologan, Viktor (2540) [B50]
Bundesliga 9495 Germany, 1995
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d3 Nc6 4.g3 d6 5.Bg2 Nf6 6.0–0 Be7 7.Re1 0–0 8.c3 Bd7 9.Nbd2 b5 10.a4 bxa4 11.e5 dxe5 12.Nc4 e4 13.dxe4 Na5 14.Nxa5 Qxa5 15.e5 Nd5 16.Bg5 Rae8 17.Bxe7 Rxe7 18.Ng5 h6 19.Ne4 Qb6 20.c4 f5 21.cxd5 fxe4 22.Bxe4 Qxb2 23.Re2 Qb6 24.Rb1 Bb5 25.Reb2 a6 26.d6 Ref7 27.Qg4 Rf5 28.Bxf5 Rxf5 29.Qh4 Rxe5 30.Rd2 Bc6 31.Rdd1 Rd5 32.Re1 Bb5 [32…Rxd6] 33.Rxe6 Rxd6 34.Ree1 Qc6 35.Qh5 Rf6 36.Rbc1 c4 37.Re3 Kh7 38.h4 Qd7 39.Rd1 Qc8 40.Qe2 Bc6 [40…c3] 41.Qc2+ Qf5 42.Qxf5+ Rxf5 43.Rc3 Rc5 44.f3 Rb5 45.Rxc4 Bxf3 46.Rd2 Rb3 47.Rxa4 Bc6 48.Rg4 a5 49.Rd6 Be8 50.Kf2 Rb2+ 51.Ke3 a4 52.Rd8 Rb3+ 53.Kf2 Rb2+ 54.Ke3 Rb3+ 55.Rd3 Rxd3+ 56.Kxd3 a3 57.Kc3 a2 58.Kb2 Bf7 59.Ra4 Kg6 60.g4 Be6 61.Ra6 Kf6 62.g5+ ½–½

One of the things this illustrative game and our game today shows is in these debuts where hand-to-hand fighting is delayed for awhile, when joined the battle can become very tough indeed.

10.e5?!,..

While this move seems very natural, it should yield White no real good.

10…, dxe5 11.Nxe5 Qc7?

Leisner Calderon 2

But not this way. Correct is 11…, Nxe5 12 Rxe5 Qc7 13 Nf3 Bd6 14 Re1 Bc6; when the possibility of: 15 Bg5 Ng4 16 h3? Nxf7! 17 Kxf2 Bxg3+ 18 Kg1 Bxe1 19 Qxe1 e5!?; offers excitement and unbalances the material in Black’s favor. White now increases the tension in the position.

12.Ndf3 Rfd8 13.Bf4 Nd5?

This is an error for specific tactical reasons. The move is tempting because White harbors wishes to make something happen on the h1-a8 diagonal, and the text seems to clutter up that line and hits the annoying Bf4. Safer is 13…, Bd6; or 13…, Qc8; stepping out of the line of fire.

14.Nxf7!,..

Leisner Calderon 3

This is what Zack did not see, or he undervalued it.

14…, Nxf4 15.Nxd8 Nxg2 16.Nxc6 Bxc6 17.Rxe6 Qb7

I suspect Mr. Calderon saw this position in his calculations and judged the pressure he has on the long diagonal was going to give him an initiative at least.

18.Rxc6!,..

Leisner Calderon 4

Ruthlessly cold blooded breaking up the mechanism Black wanted; a B+Q battery on the diagonal and a Rook operating on the f-file. White is now winning.

18…, Qxc6 19.Kxg2 Rf8 20.Qe2 g5 21.Qe4,..

Leisner Calderon 5

Mr. Leisner was quite precise in calculating that the pin could be broken before the g-pawn can add its weight to the attack. The White pieces now take up very active posts making the two pawns a lost investment for Black. Soon a third pawn goes and the game ends shortly thereafter.

21…, Qf6 22.Re1 Rf7 23.Re2 Bf8 24.Qd5 Kh8 25.Nxg5 Rg7 26.f4 h6 27.Ne6 Re7 28.Qe5 Bg7 29.Qxf6 Bxf6 30.Kf3 b4 31.d4 1–0

There is little to be suggested over the last ten moves to help Black defend or to speed White’s eventual victory. The game shows us Zachary is not quite able to take on the better local players yet. The operative word is yet. Mr. Calderon’s progress has been exceptional over two years. If he keeps working diligently for the next year or two, there is no reason he can not break through to the Expert title. How much he may go beyond that is to be determined by talent and dedication. With college looming in the not far distant future and the rest of life coming fast after that, his dedication to chess goals will be tested. It is the perennial question about developing players; how much effort can they, or will they be able to put in?

More soon.

A Lesson in Fighting Back

The games played at the AACC on January 15th answered some of my recent questions. Here is a summary of what took place:

Denham ½-½ Mockler. Mr. Mockler was unable to generate his desired complications in the Exchange Slav. He and I discussed this line once not long ago. Our conclusion was it is a decent try for a lower rated player when faced with a stronger opponent. The trade of the White c-pawn for the Black d-pawn yields a rather balanced pawn structure where White does not have many winning chances, but Black is hard pressed to generate complications. Mockler strove to do so, but in the end White was fine and the game drew on move 21.

Magat 1-0 Berman. This was a KID, Samisch. Mr. Berman found a trick that surprised Gordon early on. However Mr. Magat did what he is good at doing; fighting back. Although he was significantly worse out of the opening (move 15) at move 20 Mr. Berman indulged in some questionable play on the Q-side instead of using his Bishop pair immediately. By move 24 the game was level. In the two Rooks + minor pieces ending that came about both sides missed chances. It resolved into an ending featuring a Rook and two pawns for White against a Rook and Bishop for Black. The problem for Black was the two pawns were the a and b-pawns and far away from his King, and White’s King and Rook supported the pawns well. Although Berman had a couple of chances to make things difficult for Magat, he missed these opportunities. The b-pawn Queened and the game was over for all intents and purposes. At the end Mr. Berman was down to only seconds on his clock which made finding just the right move impossible. A good win for Gordon. The loss for Jeremy drops him back and allowed Tim Wright to overhaul him in the standings. The win brings Gordon back up to fifty percent for the event so far.

Wright 1-0 Perry. The opening was a Semi-Slav and neither player quite had a handle on the opening tricks. Around moves 9 and 10 both overlooked chances to cross the opponent’s plans. Mr. Wright capped this interlude with an oversight that cost a Bishop. Mr. Perry proceeded to logically improve his game and to increase his clearly winning advantage until.. On move 28 he returned Wright’s favor only with much, much interest attached. This mistake left Black down the Exchange and with problems on the back rank. That was enough to bring home the full point for Wright. Mr. Wright now has a score of 8-1 and the most games completed of any of the participants. It is true he has not gotten by all the high rated opponents, but he has been lucky a time or two up to here. If Wright’s luck holds, there is a chance for him to capture the Club Championship once more.

Northrup 1-0 Alowitz. This win comes at a good time for Cory. He has been doing well in the Schenectady event and not nearly as well in Albany. While he is trailing Denham for the under 1800 prize in the Albany tourney, it is now only by one-half point, and anything can happen. So far this year Art Alowitz, out distinguished President, has not had good fortune. This is a bit of a surprise because he often upsets one or more of the contenders. There is still many games to be played, and I expect Art’s “Giant Killer” will emerge again to shake things up.

Stephenson 0-1 Lack. Will continues to fight hard against players with decades of experience. Jonathan did not conduct a flawless game by any means. He just collected bits of material until he had so large of a material plus there was no defense possible. Mr. Stephenson’s tournament experience contains a lesson for all new and improving players: These stronger, more experienced guys don’t always put out a great creative effort against opponents they expect to defeat. Rather they just wait and take the low hanging fruit of pawns and pieces not well guarded. Gather in enough material and the win plays itself. This observation suggests for the new and improving player two things; checking carefully at every move if there are pieces hanging, forks, pins, skewers, etc. on the board after the planned move is made, and it is good technique to try at all time to have all you pieces defended by pawns or other pieces. As one of the British Grandmasters is fond of saying; LPDO – loose pieces drop off. Follow those two suggestions and even the very strong guys will have to work to beat you.

After this round’s play, based on points lost, the standings are:

1-2 Wright 8-1
1-2 Berman 3-1
3-4 Howard 4½-1½
3-4 Perry 2½-1½
5-6 Denham 3-2
5-6 Henner 4-2
7-8 Lack 5½-2½
7-8 Mockler 3½-2½
9-11 Jones 3½-3½
9-11 Magat 3½-3½
9-11 Northrup 2½-3½
12 Eson 0-5
13 Alowitz ½-5½
14 Stephensen 1-7

Wright surged to the front and Berman dropped back. Perry was checked and Denham continues to do well. Mockler, Jones and Magat remain stalled in the middle of the pack. That is plenty of action for a single round of play. Bit by bit as the early leaders play more games, Mr. Howard, our highest rated contestant climbs towards the top of the table. Notwithstanding his shaky start, Dean will likely be in the hunt at the finish. The Albany Championship is maybe the tightest race of the “Big Three” clubs.

Just before the holiday break there was an interesting game at Schenectady. Former club champion John Phillips had gotten off to poor start, and was lingering in the middle of the pack at -1 for the event. On December 19th he played Zachary Calderon. Zack has done very well thus far, excepting a forfeit loss to Northrup, he is staying in close contact with the leaders at +2. Mr. Phillips no doubt saw this game as a chance to get back to even for the event, and he was willing to take risks to make that happen. With that background to help understand some of the decisions taken, here is the game.

Calderon, Zachary – Phillips, John [D35]
SCC Championship 2013–14, Schenectady, NY, 19.12.2013

1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.Qc2 Bg4!?

Zack Phillips 1

Although the position does not appear all that strange, after Black’s last, I can find nothing in the databases. Just what the Bishop at g4 does for Black is unclear to me.

7.e3 c6!?

Is this a subtle error? Better perhaps is 7…, 0-0.

8.Bd3,..

Black must now use a move if he wants to castle short. If 8…, 0-0 9 Bxf6, and the pawn at h7 falls. Logical is 8…, h6; but White can make some progress with 9 h3. The retreat .., Bh4; .., Bg6; costs a pawn once the Black h-pawn is advanced so the Bishop must go to e6. That is not a particularly active place for a Bishop. All this fairly minor positional jockeying really does not tip the balance one way or the other by any great margin.

8…, Na6?!

Black challenges White’s confidence. He offers to accept a wrecked Q-side pawn formation in trade for White’s best Bishop. A bold decision, but questionable. More conservative is 8…, Bh5; intending 9…, Bg6; to eliminate the light colored Bishops. Black should not be worried about: 8…, Bh5 9 Bxf6 Bxf6 10 Bxh7? g6 11 g4 Rxh7; when Black has a small but comfortable edge.

9.Bxa6,..

White does not shrink from the challenge. Black takes on two glaring weaknesses; the doubled a-pawns and c6. He has however a pair of Bishops, the half-open b-file and some possibility of controlling the light squares. Objectively, this is not enough to upon which to build a win. In a game where winning is important, I can see accepting such an imbalance would be tempting.

9…, bxa6 10.Nge2 Nd7?

Zack Phillips 2

This has to be wrong. In the first place, why trade off the better of his two Bishops? Secondly, there is an immediate tactical danger on the Q-side after 11 Bxe7 Qxe7 12 Qa4, hitting a6 and c6 at the same time. Black is left with choices that will likely concede a pawn in short order, in which case White will have increased his advantage.

11.Bxe7 Qxe7 12.h3,..

As mentioned above 12 Qa4, probably better. The text is slower, but moving the Queen to a4 remains an available threat..

12…, Be6

Possibly better is 12…, Bxe2; trading a not-so-great Bishop for a potentially strong Knight.

13.0–0 Qb4

Zack Phillips 3

Understandably motivated by concerns about Qc2-a4, Black takes steps to meet that move. While I am not certain it is a better path to follow, I am inclined to write-off one of the Q-side pawns about here. This looked good to me: 13…, 0-0 14 Qa4 Nb6 15 Qxa6 (Not 15 Qxc6?? Rac8; wins the Queen for a Rook.) 15…, Bc8 16 Qd3 a5. White certainly has the advantage, but Black may be able to get full value for his Bishop by putting it on a6, and it is not easy for White to drop a Knight into c5.

14.Qa4 Qxa4 15.Nxa4 Ke7 16.Rfc1 Rhc8 17.Nc5 Nxc5 18.Rxc5;

Deep Rybka says White’s edge is somewhat less than in my suggested line above. While watching the game I was sure my suggestion was the best course. Sober reflection tells me Mr. Phillips and Rybka were likely more correct than my choice. Black is defending in a passive way, but it is effective. White’s best chances lie in getting his Knight to c5 and using his Rook on the K-side. Instead White tries to attack a6 with his Rook and Knight. Black can meet the threat to a6 even though his pieces get tied up to do so.

18…, Rab8 19.b3 Rb5 20.Rac1 Kd7 21.Nf4 Bf5 22.Kf1 Kd6 23.Ke2 Rxc5 24.Rxc5 Rb8 25.Ra5 Rb6 26.Kd2 Kc7 27.Ne2,..

So far so good, the Knight is headed for c5 via c3 and a4.

27…, Bc8

Very probably the best move even though the Bc8 hinders the Black Rook going to the K-side if threats develop there.

28.Nc3 Rb8 29.Ke2?!,..

Seemingly White can’t quite find the handle on this position. The correct idea is to return the Rook to c5, then play Nc3-a4, and if .., Rb5; retreat the Rc5 to c1. White will then threaten to open a file on the K-side or in the center with a possible incursion of his Rook. The Knight goes to c5 to worry Black about a6. The structural pawn weaknesses can be defended by Black. White’s advantage is the greater freedom his pieces may obtain: good Knight versus bad Bishop, active Rook versus passive Rook. These are not quite permanent pluses in this position and accuracy is needed to get the most out of this activity.

29…, h5?

Pawn moves on the K-side just will help White open files.

30.f4?,..

Zack Phillips 4

But not this way. Best is 30 e4!, then if 30…, dxe4 31 Rxh5, and at least one more pawn will fall. Add the coming material deficit to the activity of the White Rook and White’s advantage is winning.

30…, Kd6?

Black does not see the threat along the 5th rank. Better 30…, g6; to guard h5.

31.Kf3?,..

Zack Phillips 5

Rook, minor piece and pawn endgames are seldom easy to calculate, but accurate and sometimes long calculations are just what they require. Here White should play: 31 e4! Bb7 (To meet the threat d5.) 32 Ke3 g6 33 e5+ Ke6 34 Na4 Bc8 35 Nc5+ Kf5 36 Nxa6, collecting the pawn with a winning edge.

31…, Rb4!

Now White will have a hard time keeping the Rooks on the board.

32.g4,..

A good idea but too late to make a difference; without Rooks open files have far less significance.

32…, hxg4+ 33.hxg4 g6 34.Na4 Rb5 35.Rxb5 axb5

Almost all of the potential winning chances for White in this endgame disappeared with the Rook trade. Someone recently wrote: Even “bad” Bishops defend good pawns. As bad as is Black’s Bishop right now, it is hard to see how White will stop a gradual freeing of the cleric.

36.Nc5 a5!

Another good move. It threatens .., b5-b4; freezing the White a-pawn on a light square where the Bishop can get at it. Mr. Phillips took maybe too many risks early in the game and found himself in a bad situation. With a stubborn defense he has held things together posing his young opponent subtle problems to solve.

37.e4?,..

Wrong on two counts: first 37 a3, is necessary to prevent .., b5-b4; and secondly the following pawn trade is just wrong.

37…, dxe4+ 38.Kxe4?,..

White could have recaptured with 38 Nxe4+, and the game is level. White has his eye on a pawn that might be won on the Q-side. Giving up his g-pawn more than offsets material won on the other side of the board. Another benefit of taking on e4 with the Knight is that some of the King and pawn endings that may come about if the minor pieces are traded favor White because of the slight space advantage he has.

38…, Bxg4 39.Nb7+ Kc7 40.Nxa5 Kd6!?

Zack Phillips 6

John’s clock showed just six minutes remaining here. With little time to consider alternatives, it is no surprise Black elects to keep the White King at bay rather than chase the Knight. Going after the Knight: 40…, Kb6 41 b4 Be6 42 a3 f6; would allow Black to eventually make a passed pawn on the K-side. Whether or not that is enough to win the game is an open question. Playing that way would have put some pressure on White. Equally good is the idea of keeping the Knight stuck on the rim; 40…, Be6 41 a3 Kb6 42 b4 f6; preventing any entry of the White King. Either way Black has some advantage, but converting that edge to a win is no easy thing. If the Black King goes away from guarding b7, the White Knight can transfer from a5 to c5, a much more attractive post. I like Black better but have doubts his advantage is enough to win particularly in a time pressure situation.

41.Nb7+ Kc7 42.Nc5 f6 43.a4,..

Black is set to create a passed K-side pawn at any opportune moment. The White King will have to measure carefully how far away he can go lest this potential passer becomes a game winner. This break on the Q-side brings the game to a drawn position quickly. The Black King is at hand and the passed a-pawn is easily controlled. The concluding moves were accurately played by both sides and the draw was agreed.

43…, bxa4 44.bxa4 Bf5+ 45.Ke3 Kb6 46.Kf3 Ka5 47.Kg3 g5 48.fxg5 fxg5 49.Kf3 Bc2 50.Kg4 Bxa4 ½–½

Mr. Calderon still has some distance to go before he begins winning from the top local guys. His improvement over the passed two years has been impressive. Of the new generation of players coming up at Schenectady; Dilip Aaron, Calderon, Clough and Northrup, I think Zack has made the most progress.

More soon.

Another Case of Youth and Ambition Not Being Quite Enough

In my previous post I mentioned Dilip Aaron and Zachary Calderon as youthful players of promise who could join the list of Masters who began their climb to that title at the Schenectady Chess Club. That post gave an example of one obstacle the youngsters face and don’t always overcome – a talented veteran not willing to step aside. Continue reading “Another Case of Youth and Ambition Not Being Quite Enough”