Schenectady is finished, and a game

Wednesday March 26th 2014 saw the Albany Club complete more of the games in the Championship. The results were:

Berman 1-0 Henner. The opening was an offbeat cross of the English and the Dutch Defense. I don’t know exactly how the opening mavens would categorize this sort of play. Mr. Berman was a little too aggressive in the early going with a quick d2-d4 leading to a middle game favoring Black. A pawn trade of White’s advanced but blocked d-pawn for Black’s a-pawn brought the game close to a balance. I thought at the time White’s chances were improved over the long haul – the passed and distant a-pawn had to concern Black. Rybka didn’t agree saying Black was better by a big margin, he did have an extra pawn. Mr, Henner and Mr. Berman were both sinking into time trouble around move 31. Henner hit upon the expansion of his central pawns which resulted in the loss of the pawn. By move 40 it was a blitz game; Henner had a minute or two more than Berman but both were under five minutes. Jeremy was able to maintain the fast pace, and Peter began to feel the bite of the clock. First he lost his time advantage and then material bit by bit until White brought home the point in a final flurry of moves.

Before the game Mr. Henner was lamenting his spotty play this season. This game showed he can hold his own, I think. His management of the clock needs improvement. Other than that problem, which many of us have, Mr. Henner played well.

Jones 0-1 Mockler. The opening was similar to the Berman-Henner game, again an early .., f7-f5; versus 1 c4, giving the game a Dutch cast. The opening led the game into an oddly symmetrical position. Although Black held back in center pawns the minor pieces were deployed similarly: White Bishops on g2 and d2 and Black’s Bishops on g7 and d7, both Queens on c2 and c7 respectively. On move 15 Mr. Mockler began to provoking things. It should not and did not work out to his advantage objectively. Michael made a nice piece offer on move 20, and Joe correctly declined to have lines opened on his King. Mockler then incorrectly followed up with a pawn storm on the White King. White was moving smoothly towards a solid and almost winning advantage, when a momentary lapse led Mr. Jones to grab a loose Knight on h5. This was a fatal oversight. Black had a two move mate based on a discovered double check ending the game instantly.

Alowitz 1-0 Eson. A reasonably good fight until the material balance tipped towards Mr. Alowitz, and Mr. Eson was unable to find any successful counter-play.

There a number of casual games played along with the tournament contests. One, Denham 0-1 Northrup was played with clocks at a slow time control and with a score kept. It was a neat win for the English Defense versus the English Opening, one of my favorites. It was an exciting and tactical exploration of a line where White throws caution to the winds and Black matches his daring. By move 10 Black had the advantage. Cory understood well what was required and got all his pieces into the fray. He won in good style. Sometime along the way I will publish this game if for no other reason than to offer some insights gathered from John Watson’s excellent observations on this Defense from his ICC lectures.

Me. Denham complied an updated cross table for the Albany Championship. It is the best information I have at this moment. Jason checked results with many of the participants, and I have compared it to the records I have at hand. I appreciate very much the hard work Mr. Denham put in and his generous sharing of it with me and us. Any errors are all my responsibility. Here are the standings with Wednesday’s games included:

1-2 Wright 10½-1½ with Berman to play
1-2 Berman 8½-1½ with Wright, Perry, Northrup to play
3 Perry 3½-1½ with 8 to play
4 Howard 8-3 with Henner and Perry to play
5 Magat 7½-3½ with Eson and Perry to play
6 Mockler 8½-4½ finished
7 Denham 4½-5½ with Eson Alowitz and Perry to play
8 Lack 6-6 with Perry to play
9 Jones 5½-5½ with Henner and Perry to play
10 Henner 3½-5½ with Howard, Jones, Eson and Perry to play
11 Northrup 4½-6½ with Berman and Perry to play
12 Alowitz 2½-8½ with Stephenson and Denham to play
13 Eson 0-10 with Henner, Denham and Magat to play
14 Stephensen 1-11 with Alowitz to play

The Berman-Wright game continues to be the contest that will decide the title. A drawn result there would give Mr. Wright a piece of the title at the least. Mr. Perry would have to have an extraordinary run of good play to stay with the two leaders, and he has to play Berman yet. Dean Howard, our several times past Champion, is out of the running for first place as is the rest of the field.

The Schenectady Championship came to an end this passed week rather quietly. Sometime between last week’s games; Calderon – Miranti, won by Calderon, and Northrup – Clough, won for Northrup by forfeit, un-played because Mr. Clough was not able to attend, and this Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Leisner forfeited his last scheduled game to Mr. Henner. It was the finish to a long struggle. Mr. Leisner took first place a half point ahead of Mr. Mockler. The final standings are:

1 Leisner 10-2
2 Mockler 9½-2½
3-5 Henner 8-4
3-5 Adamec 8-4
3-5 Northrup 8-4
6 Calderon 7½-4½
7 Canty 6½-5½
8 Phillips 6-6
9 Clough 5½-6½
10 Chu 3-9
11 Varela 3-9
12 Miranti 2-10
13 Hill 1-11

The event was effected by the unfortunate withdrawal of Carlos Varela and a couple of other games that could not be played. Much like the Saratoga Championship this year, it was a two man race; Leisner and Mockler at Schenectady and Feinberg and Farrell at Saratoga. Jon Leisner was just enough steadier over the long haul than Michael Mockler. Jon has taken his first Schenectady title. Good work Jon Leisner!

Most of the games I have commented on in the blog this year have been upsets or battles between high ranking contenders in one of the championship tourneys. Today we will look at a game between folks from the middle of the pack. “Junior” Canty of Troy has finished all his games in the Schenectady event and scored +1, 6½-5½. He’ll probably see a nice little bump up in his rating. Richard Chu did not have so good a year scoring 3-9. This season Richard was not able to pull off any of his usual upsets of the higher rated contestants. In today’s game Mr. Chu had some good ideas. He did not knit them together correctly and then underestimated the counter-play Mr. Canty obtained.

(1245260) Canty, Sylvester – Chu, Richard [B07]
SCC Championship 2013–14 Schenectady, NY, 06.03.2014

1.e4 d6 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 g6 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.Nf3 0–0

Canty Chu 1

This is one of the miscellaneous lines White can use against the Pirc. It avoids the long and well analyzed lines of the Austrian Attack or the Classical and Hybrid lines. Playing this way also avoids the theoretical method of obtaining an advantage for White against the Pirc; seizing the center and pushing the e-pawn to e5.

Taking this approach is not at all popular with the internationally titled players, not even so with lesser lights. The one bit of past practice I found in the big database is a game with colors reversed:

I am not certain how well the foregoing illustrative game applies because of the difference of which side is on the move. It is offered to supply some hints of how the position might be handled.

6.0–0 a6!?

The normal course here for Black is; 6…, Bg4; planning to capture on f3 when pushed and to play ..,Nb8-c6; threatening .., Nc6-e5. The text is based on a method championed by the famous Brothers Byrne in Pirc-type formations and looks for compensation in an advance of the Q-side pawns.

7.a4 c6 8.h3 Nbd7?!

Canty Chu 2

This is very probably an error. Two moves: 8…, c5; and 8…, e5; fighting for some central control are normal here for Black.

9.Ne2?,..

Choosing to maneuver when there is a better positional choice. With 9 a5, White could lay up a positional plus: one pawn holding back two. Black then will have to be concerned about the weak b6 and damage to his pawn structure if ever ..b7-b5. It is not much, but on less wins have been built.

9…,Ne5?

Voluntarily damaging his own pawn formation.

10.Nxe5 dxe5 11.c3?,..

Canty Chu 3

Why does White want to prepare d3-d4? Such would allow Black to rid himself of the pawn obstructing his Bg7. And, if d3-d4 is not the intention, why weaken d3? Better 11 Be3 a5 12 Qe1, or 12 Qd2, with an entirely satisfactory game for White.

11…, Rb8 12.Be3 Bd7

If there was ever to be a moment for .., b7-b5; it is now: 12…, b5 13 axb5 cxb5 14 Bb3 Qc7 15 f4 exf4 16 Nxf4 Bb7; is not too bad for Black. He is edging close to equality although there lots of tricks left in the position.

13.f4 exf4 14.Nxf4,,,

Canty Chu 4

Also good is 14 Bxf4. White may have been leery of the Exchange offer; 14…, Qb6+; when things get complicated but appear to favor White in the long run. Mr. Canty plays his moves quickly. Settling down for a long calculation is not his style. He therefore takes the alternative path. Black should be reasonably happy. The obstructive e5-pawn is gone and the advance ..b7-b5; is now possible.

14…, e5

After being gifted with the clearance of the long diagonal, Black voluntarily blocks it again. Does it make sense from the positional prospective? Actually yes. While making something of his Bg7 is on the surface a good thing for Black, he has to balance that accomplishment against having a presence in the center to stop being overrun by White’s pawns. It is a delicate call. When Black has a pawn on e5 backed by a Bg7, White has to tread carefully. Expanding with a pawn push to d4 just may let loose the pent up power of the Bg7. Thus the apparently useless Bg7 serves to restrain White’s ambitions in the middle of the board. The delicate part of the calculus is knowing that need is passed and it time to redeploy the Bishop elsewhere.

15.Ne2 Qc8?

Making a transparent threat on h3. More useful is 15…, Re8; shoring up e5 and making a place for the Bg7 to go when its duty on the long diagonal is satisfied.

16.Rf3?,..

I query this move only because I don’t see a point other than potential defense for d3, a square weakened unnecessarily five move ago. 16 Bg5, would put a stick in the spokes of the .., Re8; .., Bf8; plan, or White could play 16 a5, at long last. Both options are superior to the text.

16…, b5

Black makes his long tardy break. It does not yield an immediate advantage, but Black is getting his house in order.

17.axb5 axb5 18.Bb3 c5 19.Bc2,..

At first sight of this move I questioned why Mr. Canty did not go for 19 Bg5. A fair amount of back and forth analysis with Rybka convinced me 19 Bg5 Rb6 20 Qf1 c4 21 Bxf6 cxb3 22 Bxg7 Kxg7 23 d4 b4; is not so simple for White. He has some kind of an advantage according to the computer, but it is no easy position for a human being to play.

19…, Qc6 20.Ng3?,..

This move I think is an error. The Knight later has a role in the final attack from this post, but we shouldn’t give credit to this move as a farsighted preparation. The attack comes about due to errors by Black.

20…, Ra8 21.Rb1 Rfd8 22.Qc1 Qc8?

Canty Chu 6

Black voluntarily weakens the defense of f6 for no good reason. Better 22…, Ne8; getting ready to play .., f7-f6; to blunt the pressure down the f-file.

23.Kh2 Be6?

Getting in the way of possible defenses of f6 along the 3rd rank.

24.Bg5!,..

Sylvester Canty has good tactical alertness. Positional maneuvering is not his strong suit, but give him something tactical to ferret out and he does much better than his rating predicts. The pin is annoying.

24…, Ba2?!

Canty Chu 7

I believe Mr. Chu just had overlooked the pin on f6 and the danger relating to it. The computer suggests Black’s best choice is to give up the Exchange with 24…, Ne8 25 Bxd8 Qxd8. The Bishop pair does not come close to offering enough compensation for the material deficit. White’s advantage is not yet quite a winning one, but growing it should not be too hard.

25.Ra1!?,..

I am not sure that better here is; 25 Bxf6, and if 25…, Bxf6 26 Rxf6 Bxb1 27 Bxb1 Ra1 28 Nf5!, when accepting the offered material is dead lost: 28…, gxf5? 29 Qg5+ Kf8 30 Rh6, with a winning attack. If Black avoids grabbing the Knight on move 28 playing instead 28…, Rd7; then 29 Ne3 Rxd3 30 Ng4 Rd7; then White will have to find the tricky pathway to getting his Bishop activated: 31 Rb6 Rb7 32 Rd6 Qf8 33 Qd2! If White could have found his way through these complications, he would have had the advantage; two minor pieces for a Rook and pawn. There are, however, some difficult moves to find. The text keeps the decision for a later date at least.

25…, Rd6 26.b3 c4 27.bxc4,..

The alternative line: 27 Qb2 cxb3 28 Bxb3 Bxb3 29 Rza8 Qxa8 30 Qxb3, is more forcing, but I don’t think it is markedly better than the text.

27…, bxc4 28.Qb2 Rda6?

Canty Chu 8

An error. Black, maybe unwittingly, has bet on defending both f6 and a2. Doing so with a single Rook is not reliable. Better to evacuate a2 with 28…, cxd3 29 Bxd3 Be6; when White’s passed c-pawn is offset by Black’s more compact pawn formation. Playing this way gets Black close to equality, or possibly some slight advantage. White could continue: 30 Rxf6 Rxf6 31 Rxa2 Rxa2 32 Qxa2 cxd3 33 Bxd3 Qxc3 34 Qd5, trying conclusions with two minor pieces versus a Rook and a pawn. The unfortunate position of the White Knight on g3 makes obtaining cooperation of the minor pieces difficult. If they can not get organized to attack some target in the Black position, the Rook has good chances to hold, or perhaps win the game.

29.Raf1?!,..

A threat that could be met adequately.

29…, cxd3 30.Bxd3 Bc4?

Canty Chu 9

But it is not. Black had to play 30…, Rd6; initiating a threat to the Bd3. If then White goes ahead with his action on f6: 31 Bxf6 Bxf6 32 Rxf6 Rxd3; and Black is slightly better than White. If White tries a different track, say a push of the c-pawn, Black can hold: 31 c4 Qd8 32 c5 Rxd3 33 Bxf6 Bxf6 34 Rxf6 Qc7 35 Ra1 Rda3; is equal according to Rybka.

The game move presents White with a chance to shine, and Mr. Canty does so with style. It is not so much picking off the piece that is attractive. Many of us have won minor pieces and then made our lives difficult by not finding the best way to finish. What makes the coming play interesting is how White makes good use of fortunate gain in material. Mr. Canty uses all of his pieces to create a devastating direct attack on the Black King.

31.Bxc4 Qxc4 32.Bxf6 Bxf6 33.Rxf6 Ra2 34.Qb7 Rf8

Canty Chu 10

The more stubborn defense offered by 34…, R2a7; avoids the coming attack but would not make much difference in the evaluation of the position, an extra piece is an extra piece after all.

35.R1f3 Ra1

Black hopes to get something started on the 1st rank, but it will just take too long to engineer.

36.h4 h5

Weakening the besieged Black King’s defenses. There is however way too much pressure on f7 for anything to help in the long run.

37.Qe7,..

Canty Chu 11

A reasonably good move, but 37 Nf5!, is pretty in its own right, and it brings the Knight into the final assault. If 37…, gxf5 38 Rg3+, and one of many ways to win is: 38…, Kh7 39 Rxf5 Kh6 40 Qb6+ Qe6 41 Qe3+ Kh7 42 Rxh5+, and mate shortly.

37…, Rc1 38.Rxg6+!,..

Not a hard move to find, but it is exactly correct. If 38…, fxg6; of course 39 Rxf8, is mate. Such are the wages of advancing the h-pawn.

38…,Kh7 39.Rg5 1–0

Canty Chu 12

Black resigned here. White could have finished the game with 39 Qxf8 fxg6 40 Nxh5 gxh5 41 Rg3, with mate coming in soon. The finish was energetic.

More soon.

Much News and an Upset

On Wednesday February 19th the next round of the Albany Championship was played. One of the problems of chronicling the title events at three clubs, and updating the standings of each weekly, is errors of omission can creep in. Comparing my standings record to some very good work that Jason Denham did for the Albany Club pointed out that Wednesday night. I am pretty sure Jason’s are correct, he checked with each player to verify their point totals. With all that was happening in Wednesday’s round, I did not have a chance to make a complete copy of Jason’s work. The standings below are according to my records with a couple of corrections from Jason’s. I will publish a completely corrected standings next week, if possible.

These games were played Wednesday:

Mockler 1-0 Stephenson. Will Stephenson had one more tough challenge in the long series of hurtles of his first rated tournament: Mockler. Michael just returned from the huge team tournament in New Jersey, the World Amateur Team Championship, where I believe he was been the highest scoring Capital District player. (More about the World Teams in the next post.) The vast gap in experience told in this game. Will essayed the Sicilian Defense against Mr. Mockler’s 1 e4, and went wrong early on. Michael gained control of the central squares and squeezed Black fearfully not allowing time for the Black King to escape the center. The game ended with a direct attack on the Black King. It was over on move 28.

Personally, I like these round robin tournaments. When I was first beginning to play the game, the Schenectady Championship tournament was always a single section all-play-all. And even though there were many defeats for me to absorb by the likes of the Valvos – father and son, Joe Weininger, Bob Goble and others, progress could be measured, even if it was only how long I lasted against these better players. It may be easier to accept losses in bunches when you are just a kid. The possibility of improvement is always out there in front of you. As an adult it is tougher. I hope Will does not lose heart. He has talent. With some work and more serious games under his belt, Mr. Stephenson can do well at chess.

Berman 1-0 Jones. This was an important game for Mr. Berman. He wanted to get back on the a winning track against a strong opponent. The English opening led into a known position that Botvinnik had against Alatortsev, in Moscow 1935. I had my doubts about Black’s scheme, but later research turned up games, where as Black, Grandmasters such as Kovacevic, Florian and Eingorn had all played so against other elite opponents. The overall score in the GM versus GM games was 50%! A pretty good result. By move 17, Black had equalized with some help from White it must be said. In an interlude around move 24, Black offered/sacrificed/blundered(?) a pawn and White snatched it. This was a classically “poisoned” button. Unfortunately, Mr. Jones missed the testing answer and White escaped with the material. The game then became a technical exercise for White; how to simplify into a favorable endgame. Black’s efforts to avoid that outcome allowed White to infiltrate down the c-file with his major pieces. Worsening time pressure resulted in an error on move 44, and Mr. Jones had to resign in the face of checkmate or a ruinous loss of material.

Northrup 1-0 Denham. Mr. Northrup was confident going into this game. I thought over-confident. It was a fairly standard Slav Defense by Black that should have given him equality at least. White’s early middle game play was not particularly inspiring, and Black had an advantage by move 18. There followed a sequence where White surrendered a pawn to avoid worse, and it appeared Black was going to cruise to victory. Mr. Denham had a favorable situation: Bishop versus Knight and an extra pawn with pawns on both sides of the board, but this is club level chess where the carrying out of a theoretical win is not automatic. A couple of misjudgments in the Rook and minor piece endgame came, and then the material advantage disappeared. Worse followed. White alertly found a way to create an outside passed pawn after the Rooks came off. Not too much later Black’s Bishop had be sacrificed to prevent Queening. A full Knight up in a simplified ending was too much. White had a won game by move 46. For another dozen or so moves Jason struggled to find some kind of defense, but it was hopeless.

Lack 0-1 Howard. This was a Caro-Kann Defense where Black equalized out of the opening. White brought about another Knight versus Bishop middle game with all the heavy pieces on the board. Black, with the Bishop, may have had a small edge, but there were few targets and not many forceful breaks available for either side. I thought this would be a long and difficult positional battle. A careless pawn advance on move 22 let Black steal a pawn. All White got for the pawn was the trade of the Knight for the Bishop. Still, it looked like a long slog for Black. There were very few targets in the White position. Mr. Lack was not of a mind to defend and launched a creative but flawed central advance. It cost a second pawn but did not yield the attack hoped for. Black very correctly forced a Queen trade. The ensuing double Rook ending was a case of Black not making an error in shortening time. By move 49 Black had two connected passed pawns on the K-side with his Rook supporting from the front; what I call “a Convoy”. With some pawns on the other side of the board for both sides, the Convoy is so dangerous that both the White King and his Rook are needed to stop their advance. That made this a won position for Black, and that was the outcome in about 60 moves.

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

1-2 Wright 9½-1½
1-2 Berman 6½-1½
3 Perry 2½-1½
4 Henner 5-2
5-6 Howard 6½-2½
5-6 Mockler 6½-2½
7 Denham 4-4
8-9 Jones 4½-4½
8-9 Magat 4½-3½
10 Lack 5½-5½
11 Northrup 3½-5½
12 Alowitz ½-6½
13 Stephensen 1-8
14 Eson 0-7

Thursday February 20th our weekly dose of winter weather arrived. This time we did not have feet, or even inches of snow, just rain and assorted frozen precipitation, and the Schenectady Club was able to get in some make-up games. The results were:

Henner 0-1 Canty. Could be a candidate for upset of the season. For those who like to know the out of fashion names of openings and variations, this the New York or Capablanca System of the Reti Opening. Because of the delayed engagement of forces, I always have difficulty in understanding just what to do in these kind of positions. With 9 Qe1, White began a slightly artificial development of his forces. Black immediately gave White a reward and erred. White failed to take this tactical opportunity, his best chance for advantage. While striving to make something happen, White weakened the defenses around his King. This was fatal. Black checkmated on move 34. The finishing sequence was rather nice with the Black Queen and Rook combining to bring the White King to bay. A good performance by Mr. Canty. The loss take Mr. Henner out of running for first place.

Hill 0-1 Northrup. Shades of yesteryear, the Falkbeer Counter Gambit is not often seen anywhere any more. It rips open the position leading to simplifications, at least at the elite level. For us lesser mortals, if you are not up on theory problems can occur. These two fellows negotiated the opening and middle games to what looked like equality. It was only an error in a Rook and two minor piece ending that cost Mr. Hill the point.

Leisner ½ – ½ Phillips. Me. Leisner was anticipating a tough game, and he got one. The opening was something of a combination of the Colle and the London Systems. White provoked a Black K-side pawn advance that I believed while watching the game favored White. According to the mighty Rybka this was not so. For the rest of the opening and the early middle game this spectator thought White was better while the computer says Black’s advantage was slowly increasing. It seemed to me White’s advancing Q-side pawns would threatened the Black King more quickly than Black’s pawns could do the same on the other side of the board. As the middle game went on Rybka had Black’s advantage near a winning level by move 25. Thereafter Black faltered. A couple of less than the best moves and White took over the lead. His Q-side pawn-led assault became very dangerous. Just as the White advantage was cresting, around move 30, Mr. Leisner had his own episode of picking not quite the right moves. Jon got dead lucky as the pawn assault went forward when tactics surprisingly presented him with a golden opportunity: there was a study-like under-promotion Knight-fork combination that could have given him an extra piece and a completely won ending. Alas, in practical games things like this bit of chess fantasy are often missed. The position began to unravel for White then. Black soon won a piece, and the resulting R&B versus lone Rook ending was lost for White. There is very often a “but” in our endings locally. In this case, Mr. Phillips habit of hard work at the board and the use of as much clock time as needed to calculate as much as possible filled the role of the “but”. With less than a minute on his clock, John was not able to find the winning moves. When Mr. Leisner offered the draw, and with his flag hanging so to speak, Mr. Phillips had to accept the draw. Flawed and interesting is a good caption for this contest.

Update with these make-up games, and with Varela’s games all scored, the standings are:

1 Leisner 8-1
2 Mockler 7½-2½
3 Northrup 6-3
4 Adamec 6½-3½
5 Henner 6-4
6 Phillips 6-5
7 Canty 5½-6½
8 Calderon 5-3
9 Clough 4½-4½
10 Chu 3-7
11 Varela 3-9 Withdrew, un-played games scored as forfeit losses.
12 Miranti 2-8
13 Hill 1-8

Jon Leisner hangs onto his lead even though he missed a win against Phillips. Michael Mockler is within striking distance and Carl Adamec is not quite out of the race a point behind Mr. Mockler. Cory Northrup continues to stay up near the top of the standings, but he has some tough opponents yet to play. Henner’s defeat at Junior Canty’s hands probably ends his chances for the title. The rest of the field is out of the contest for first.

On Wednesday February 26th the next round of the Albany Championship took place. The results were:

Henner 0-1 Mockler. The From’s Gambit in the Bird’s Opening creates complications immediately. If you mean to play the Bird’s, you had better have prepared for the From’s. White tried to improvise early on, and by move 8 Black had recovered his pawn. I will not say White was worse at this point manly because my chess engine says the game is roughly equal, but the disorganized state of the White K-side and his difficulties of finding a safe haven for his King left White with an uncomfortable game. White elected a challenging course of action that cost a piece for two pawns. Mr. Henner then did what he does well; fight back from a theoretical disadvantage. By move 36 White clipped one more pawn to balance the missing minor piece. This process reduced the game to six pawns versus a Bishop and three pawns, materially even. Chances for the side with the pawns in this kind of endgame usually boil down to two plans: 1) trading off all the pawns on the side of the minor piece, or 2) building a fortress on squares of an opposite color from the Bishop. With a 5 to 2 majority for White on the Q-side it did seem possible White might just be able to get rid of all the pawns on the Q-side. Fortress building did not seem to be feasible. Black had the right colored Bishop to make a Queen out of his h-pawn. The tense finale with Mr. Henner in serious time trouble ended win a win for Mr. Mockler.

Denham 0-1 Magat. This was a Semi-Slav with 4…, dxc4. Mr. Denham was just too aggressive with an early e2-e4. It is a playable move, but one must be backed up with solid knowledge or very accurate calculation. What the move accomplished was to let Black come out of the opening with a very good game. Black for his part promptly misjudged the transaction eliminating the Queens and ended up with a ruinous loss of material by move by move 17. He was down a whole Rook for two pawns. Most of us onlookers thought Gordon was toast. Mr. Magat is always a fighter when there is any hope, and here two paws are some compensation while the White pieces were somewhat uncoordinated. The lack of coordination required the return of some material. White gave up a piece when he could have opted for just an Exchange. That was the beginning of a downward spiral. Then Jason ignored more than one chance to trade off Black’s last Rook. Absent that piece White’s ensuing problems would be lessened. Eventually, The Black Rook administered checkmate when the White King wandered forth on the K-side. A almost miraculous escape for Gordon gained by determination.

Stephenson 1-0 Berman. Jeremy showed great patience building his position carefully until Will had to lose material in bunches. The opening was the Sicilian Defense.

Eson 0-1 Northrup. This was a QPG/Catalan where Cory won a piece and he then simplified into a won endgame.

Jones 1-0 Alowitz. This was an English morphing into some line of the KID. Another Bishop was won here by Mr. Jones. The game remained interesting because the difficult R+B versus R ending can get out of control easily. Not so this time. Mr. Jones pocket the full point with good technique.

The standings after this round are:

1-2 Wright 9½-1½
1-2 Berman 7½-1½
3 Perry 2½-1½
4-5 Howard 6½-2½
4-5 Mockler 7½-2½
6 Henner 5-3
7 Magat 5½-3½
8 Jones 5½-4½
9 Denham 4-5
10 Lack 5½-5½
11 Northrup 4½-5½
12 Alowitz ½-7½
13 Stephensen 1-9
14 Eson 0-8

Henner has slipped back and Magat and Jones are creeping back towards the top half of the table. Jason Denham has fallen below a 50% score for the first time this year. Most players have reached the three quarter mark of their schedules and the broad outlines of the final standings are shaping up. Its Wright and Berman in the lead with Howard and Mockler a point back. This year’s champion will in probability be one of those four.

Reporters about anything are always looking for that which is unusual. For reporters about chess this means upsets. Our rating system gives us some semi-accurate guidance to quantify the definition of an upset. Definitely a 400 rating point difference and a win by the more lowly rated player qualifies as an upset. What about a 300 point difference, or 250 points? There formulas to calculate the number of games the higher rated player is expected to win in a 10 game match. Sylvester Canty of Troy qualifies as the upset king for this season. In successive games he drew with Michael Mockler and defeated Peter Henner, two strong Class A/Experts. Either result is not statistically improbable, but putting two such accomplishments back-to-back makes one think Mr. Canty is under rated. Here is his win from Mr. Henner:

Henner, Peter – Canty, Sylvester [A07]
SCC Championship 2013–14, 19.02.2014

1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 c6 4.0–0 Bg4 5.d3,..

White has taken up the Capablanca or New York System of the Reti Opening, so named because of its early use in the Grandmaster tournament New York 1924.

5…, Nbd7 6.Nbd2 e5

An interesting aspect of the play so far is this position has come up with the colors reversed often. When White has the formation Black has here e2-e4 is a recommended move. When Black has what he has, you see 6…, e6; frequently. The move played sets the challenge for White to prove his restrained treatment of the center is good. The Reti is a very slippery kind of opening in which serious mistakes are always possible in the early going.

7.e4 Bc5!?

Henner Canty 1

More usual are: a) 7…, dxe4; to fix a White pawn on e4 blocking the Bg2, or b) 7…, Bd6; defending e5, or even c) 7…, Be7; hurrying to get the King away to safety. The text could cause Black some problems if White takes immediate action in the center, which he does.

8.exd5 cxd5 9.Qe1?,..

Henner Canty 2

White starts to go off the rails here. His idea is laid out over the next few moves; pressure on e5 from the Qe1 and a Bishop on b2. It is not particularly effective. Taking advantage of the Black King tarrying in the center with; 9 h3,.. Then if 9…, Bh5 10 d4, when 10…, exd4; is met by 11 Re1+, and White will no doubt recover the pawn with a better game, or 9…, Bxd4 10 g4, and Black has to choose between giving up a minor piece for three pawns, or have the Bd4 exchanged, the e-file opened and the loss of the castling privilege. If Black goes for the Minor piece for pawns route, the game is a long way from the ending where the pawns will be most important. He’d have navigate the dangerous waters of the middle game where the extra piece just may be enough to win for White.

9…, Bd6 10.b3 0–0 11.Bb2 Re8

And the tables have been turned. White, not Black, now has to worry about when and how the e-file opens up.

12.h3 Bh5 13.g4?,..

Henner Canty 3

This move is not immediately a problem for White. Over the longer term the holes created around the White King may present Black with tactical opportunities. Somewhat safer is 13 Rc1, guarding c2. The White formation is not looking all that secure after the text.

13…, Bg6 14.Nh4 Rc8

Delicately tapping the weak c2 square. Since advancing the c-pawn, to say c4, is not an option because d3 falls, White has to begin to dance to the tune Black is playing.

Tempting complications are offered by 14…Nxg4?! Then if play continues: 15.Nxg6 Nh6 16 Nxe5? Nxe5; and Black will have the advantage. White can do better with: 16 Bxd5 hxg6 17 Bb7 Rb8 18 Nc4, when it is hard to say if the pawn won is worth the possible problems of safety for the White King.
Comparatively evaluating the game move and the alternative 14…, Ncg4; is not an easy task. When playing “up”, as Mr. Canty is doing in this game, we all tend to avoid the murky, unclear positions out of concern the higher rated opponent will see just a bit farther. Usually it is a good policy, although opportunities are sometimes missed.

15.Rc1?,..

In some online GM lectures I have watched the subject of prophylaxis in chess was discussed. Prophylaxis: figuring out what your opponent wants to do and preventing it. It is one of Mark Dvoretsky’s hobbyhorses, he mentions it in almost everyone of his many excellent works. Here White probably should have considered prophylaxis. What is Black planning? To make use of threats of opening the e-file discovering an attack on the White Queen. The pawn on c2 could be adequately defended by 15 Qd1, and the Queen slips away from uncomfortable problems on the e-file. That idea would not achieve equality instantly. It would, however, allow White reasonable chances in the middle game.

15…, Rc7?

Henner Canty 4

Mysterious? Maybe. Black has played to make threats to open the e-file. Now all is ready: 15…, e4! 16 dxe4 Bf4! 17 f3 Qa5 18 c3 Ne5 19 c3 Ne5 20 Qb1 Qc5+ 21 Kh1 Nf2+; and White has to hand over the Exchange with 22 Rxf2, because there is a smothered mate since the Black Bishop covers h2. Of course, there are several alternatives in this line for White. All seem to lead to something similar. Mr. Canty did not use much time for his moves. I expect he relied on intuition not calculation and missed this opportunity.

16.Nxg6 hxg6 17.g5?,..

Here White could have sidestepped his Queen to d1 defusing potential problems on the e-file. I believe it is that bugaboo that troubles the higher rated club players; this a game that “should” be a win based on the ratings, so chances will taken. With this one move White changes the evaluation of the position from one with a slight edge for Black, to a situation where Black is close to winning.

17…, Nh5

White may have only expected 17…, Nh7. Now the holes in the White castle are beginning to let in the winds of Winter.

18.h4 Nf4 19.Qe3?,..

Another opportunity to get the Queen off the e-file is disregarded.

19…, Bc5 20.d4 Nxg2

Possibly White did not take into account this in between move.

21.Kxg2 exd4 22.Qf4 Nb6?

Henner Canty 5

Not at all the best choice. Better 22…, Nf8; aiming for e6 to make recovering the pawn on d4 as hard as possible. The slightly hidden resource Black has is his Rook going to e4 in the midst of a sequence attempting capture the pawn on d4, as in: 22…, Nf8 23 Nf3? Re4; and Black is clearly winning.

23.Rfe1,..

It is necessary to oppose .., Re8-e4.

23…, Rce7 24.Rxe7 Rxe7 25.Bxd4 Bd6

Much of Black’s advantage has disappeared.

26.Qf3 Bc7!?

Undertaking a time consuming construction of a Bishop and Queen battery. Such formations are very dangerous. Taking timely steps to oppose them is always a concern. White probably worked out putting his Rook on h1 does two things; keeps the Black Queen out of h2, and it prepares a push of the h-pawn to open a line of attack on the Black King.

27.Qc3?!,..

White is dreaming of attacking on the long diagonal and the h-file simultaneously.

27…, Qd6 28.Rh1,..

White does not have time for 28 Bc5, skewering the Black Queen and Rook, there is mate after 28…, Qh2+; on f1 or f3. While his aggression is not going to sweep Black away, White is in reality not too badly off here.

28…, Nd7

I don’t see the point to this move. It could be motivated by a wish to defend by playing .., f7-f6; perhaps. Best may be 28…, Qf4; with complications

29.Nf3?,..

Henner Canty 6

White has been taking a slower approach throughout the game. This time it bites him. Executing the idea mentioned above, attacking on the long diagonal and the h-file, could be put into action with 29 Bxg7. The try to trap the Bishop now on g7 with 29…, f6; is met by 30 gxf6, but Black can improve with 29…, Qf4; and if 30 Bh8, or 30 Bd4, a perpetual check from first g4 and then d1 by the Black Queen is available.

29…, f6?

Worried about troubles on the long diagonal, Black plays a routine move. The game has arrived at a moment when serious digging can bring a big reward. The perpetual question is: How do I know when it is time to buckle down and search for the win? Real chess game are not like chess puzzle books where the user is told; White to move and win. One cue that it is time to look hard is the White King’s shelter is shattered, and it is possible to drive him into the open. For example, if Black had seem just this much; 29…, Re4 30 Bxg7 Rg4+ 31 Kf1 (Not 31 Kh3 Rg3+! 32 fxg3 Qxg3 mate.) 31…, Qa6+; he could go forward even if he did not see that neither of White’s possible moves: 32 Qd3 Qxd3+; winning the Bg7, or 32 Kf1 Ba5 winning decisive material, hold any hope.

30.Re1 Re4 31.Qd2 Qe6

While watching I was wondering if Mr. Canty had in mind just how badly off the White King is now.

32.Qc3?,..

Henner Canty 7

The fatal slip. White had to trade Rooks on e4 to avoid the worst. Now there is a forced mate in three using the weak light squares. After the Rook trade on e4, Black will very likely force a draw: 32 Rxe4 dxe4 33 Nd2 f5 34 Bxg7 Qf4; with the perpetual threaten from g4 and d1 again. It is just a guess, but I think Mr. Henner was alive to this possibility. Driven by the perceived need to win a game he “should” win, Peter took too many chances. He now pays the price.

32…, Qg4+ 33.Kf1 Qh3+ 34.Kg1 Rg4# 0–1

Sylvester Canty obviously did see the weaknesses around the White King. This was a good win for Canty, and a game Henner would like to put behind him.

More soon.

A Mild Upset From Schenectady

Last Sunday was quiet at Saratoga with only one game played in the Championship; Connors-Little. It was not a really good game. Mr. Connors erred early and resigned shortly thereafter. Neither side showed particular skill: I improvised in a Queen’s Indian Defense poorly, and David misread the position. I was just happy to get the win. Finnerman, Feinberg and Kuperman did not play. Farrell and Gausewitz played a practice game that Gary won, and they skittled for the rest evening. It was an early finish on a night that threatened snow.

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

1 Farrell 7½-1½
2 Feinberg 5-2
3&4 Little 4-3
3&4 Gausewitz 3-3
5 Finnerman 2-4
6 Kuperman 2-5
7 Connors 1½-6½

Other than a draw and loss to Jonathan Feinberg, Gary Farrell has won all of his games. Now that we are well into the second half of the event every game is critical for us that are chasing him. Next week Mr. Feinberg and I are scheduled to play. For me this is probably a “make or break” contest. A win will bring me up to tie Jonathan for second place, a loss will put the top two places effectively out of reach for me. The same is almost as true for Mr. Feinberg.

Upsets are the very stuff of news. Here is one from a recent round of the Schenectady Championship. John Phillips has been a solid high Class A player for many years who occasionally breaks through to the 2000+ level. Sylvester Canty of Troy is an established middle of the range Class B player. The difference between their ratings is on average about 300 points. That is not to say Mr. Phillips is expected to win every encounter, but while a draw here or there is no great surprise, a loss qualifies as an upset. Here is how it happened:

Phillips, John – Sylvester, Canty [D31]
SCC Championship 2013–14 Schenectady, NY, 05.12.2013

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 Nd7 5.Qb3,..

Phillips Canty 1

Back in 1982 two of the best playing then explored the Semi-Slav setup:

(139805) Portisch, Lajos (2630) – Ljubojevic, Ljubomir (2600) [D43]
Turin (5), 1982
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Qb3 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Bg5 Qa5 7.Bd2 Qb6 8.e3 Qxb3 9.axb3 a6 10.Bd3 Bd6 11.e4 dxe4 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Bxe4 e5 14.Bc3 exd4 15.Nxd4 Nf6 16.Bf3 0–0 17.0–0 Ng4 18.g3 Ne5 19.Bg2 Re8 20.h3 Bd7 21.Rfd1 Bc5 22.b4 Bf8 23.Nb3 Bf5 24.Na5 Bc2 25.Rd2 Bg6 26.c5 Rab8 27.Rad1 f6 28.Bxe5 Rxe5 29.Rd7 Be4 30.R1d4 Bxg2 31.Kxg2 Re7 32.Rxe7 Bxe7 33.Rd7 Kf8 34.Nxb7 Ke8 35.Rc7 Bf8 36.Kf3 h5 37.Ke4 g6 38.Kd3 Be7 39.Kc4 f5 40.b3 h4 41.Na5 1–0

In the above illustrative game Black had some typical problems coming out of this defense; slightly less space, trouble finding effective posts for his minor pieces, and constant pressure against his Q-side pawns. That may not seem like much, but at a high level of skill it is enough for White to win many games.

5…, h6 6.Bf4 Ngf6 7.e3 Be7 8.Rc1 0–0 9.Bd3 dxc4 10.Bxc4 Nb6 11.Bd3 Nbd5 12.Bg3 Nh5

Phillips Canty 2

The game has gone in a straight forward fashion to a normal looking kind of position. White did not make provision for a safe retreat for his Bf4 by playing h2-h3 at some point, and Black plays to eliminate that Bishop. Nothing unusual so far.

13.Be5!?,..

White’s counter idea seems to be the provoking a loosening of the Black K-side pawns with this move. The hope is 13…, f6 14 Bg3 Nxg3 15 hxg3, with ideas of using the h-file. The problem is Black can simply play .., Qd8-b6; with a Queen trade very likely. If, after the Black Queen goes to b6, White initiates the exchange on b6, the position is a familiar one from the Exchange Slav where Black’s two Bishops and open a-file entirely offset his doubled b-pawns. I played so against Mr. Phillips some years ago and got equality as Black but nothing more.

13…, Qa5?!

More solid is 13…, f6 14 Bg3 Nxg3 15 hxg3 Qb6; and Black has the two Bishops. White can claim no advantage. Perhaps Black is looking for more. There is nothing in the position on the board to encourage such wishes; he trails in development and his Nh5 is not impressively posted.

14.0–0?!,..

The simple move 14 h3, opens up a safe retreat for the Be5 giving White some advantage.

14…, a6?

I can’t find a purpose for this move. Logic dictates 14…, f6; 14…, Qb6; or Nxc3; as the candidates for Black here. Both players seem want to avoid anything that leads to a balanced position with a draw following in a reasonable number of moves. Usually there is some enemy weakness to justify this kind of aggression, or a decisive point has been reached in the tournament were all has to be wagered for a result. Neither condition is present here.

15.Ne4,..

White now forms a plan to take advantage of the undeveloped state of the Black Q-side. “Junior” Canty does not pick up on the scheme and White gets the better game.

16…, Qd8 16.h3 f5 17.Nc5 Ra7 18.Bb8 Bxc5?

Phillips Canty 3

A misreading of what is going on must underlie this choice. There is nothing wrong with repeating moves with 18…, Ra8. If White then tries for the b-pawn with 19 Nxb7?!, he is roughly handles after; 19…, Bxb7! 20 Qxb7 Rxb8 21 Qxc6 Bd6 22 b3 Nb4 23 Qc4 Qe8 24 Bb1 Rc8; and White’s two pawns are not adequate compensation for the piece invested. After 18…, Ra8; White would best be served by 19 Bh2, maintaining a comfortable edge.

19.dxc5 Ra8 20.Bd6 Re8

White has a substantial advantage now. It is close to winning; the basis is his control of d6 and e5. They are excellent posts for his Bishop and one of his Knights. With two minor pieces dominating such central squares Black is choked in the middle of the board and has to keep watch for some sort of sudden decent on his King.

21.Ne5 Qg5

This move is reasonable even though it is unlikely to solve the fundamental problem of the White outposts in the heart of the Black position. A Queen and two Knights lurking around the White King just may generate some complications to worry Mr. Phillips.

22.Nf3?,..

And it does so! White rethinks the placing of his minor pieces. Although the computer thinks Black is equal, playing out the position indicates White still has a considerable advantage, at least for as long as he can keep the Bishop on d6. Very probably the best choice here is; 22 Qc4, intending Qc4-d4.

22…, Qf6 23.Be5,..

Putting the Bishop and the Knight in a less active formation than when they were on d6 and e5 seems wrong. White still has a big edge, but it is not so great as it was.

23…, Qf7 24.Qc4 Nhf6 25.Qh4?!,..

White misreads both the positional and the tactical possibilities here. Black needs to advance his e-pawn to have any hope. Moving it forward is the only way I can see for him to fight for equality. Keeping a lid on Black’s counter-play with 25 Bd6, to be followed by 26 Ne5 maintains the advantage.

25…, Nd7 26.Bd6 e5

The first step towards some freedom for the Black pieces. The fork threat on e4 forces the reply.

27.e4 fxe4 28.Qxe4?,..

Phillips Canty 4

The move 28 Bxe4, keeps the upper hand for White. Now the tactical threat bites.

28…, N7f6 29.Qg6 e4 30.Qxf7+ Kxf7 31.Ne5+ Rxe5 32.Bxe5 exd3

Black has two minor pieces for the Rook, and importantly the d-pawn is remarkably robust. Black now has the advantage firmly in hand. A casual glance might lead one to think White can, at the very least blockade it. Closer examination tells us this is not done efficiently by Rooks. In fact, the d-pawn will cost decisive material.

33.g4 Be6 34.a3?!,..

Phillips Canty 5

White does not quite get his evaluation of the position right here. The text prevents the d-pawn being supported from b4 by the Knight, a reasonable thought, but it is more important to eliminate the d-pawn quickly. To that end, a better move seems to be: 34 Rfd1, and then if 34…, Nb4!? 35 a3 Na2 36 Ra1 Rd8 37 Bd6 Bc4 38 b2 Bxb2 39 Rxd6, and while Black is still better, the struggle is far from over.

The game move wastes a tempo that White sorely needed to keep some chances alive. The delay of just a single move lets Black hold the d-pawn, and it will cost significant material.

34…, Ne4

Also good is 34…, Re8; threatening a discovered attack on the Be5. The text focuses on keeping the d-pawn.

35.Rfd1?,..

Still lost for White is: 35 Rcd1 d2 36 f3 Ng5 37 Kf2 Nxh3+; but Black would have been challenged to find a difficult move or two to nailed down the win. The path followed permits Black to emerge into the sunlit uplands of an ending a full piece to the good with only patience required to win the game.

35…, d2 36.Rc2 Ne7 37.f3 Bb3 38.Rcxd2 Bxd1 39.Rxd1 Nxc5 40.b4 0–1

Phillips Canty 6

The game went on for many more moves in increasing time trouble, however Mr. Canty showed good technique trading down to a Rook, one pawn and a Knight versus a lone Rook ending. He demonstrated the understanding of how to win such endgames; the Knight and pawn provide a convoy to shield the King from annoying checks from the White Rook while the Black Rook restricts the opposing King. A very nice performance by Sylvester Canty and a disappointment for John Phillips.

More soon.

Uncle Sam Sweeps Albany A

There are upsets and there big upsets. Last Wednesday evening a big upset took place; Albany A went down 0-4 to the Uncle Sam team from Troy. Elihue Hill, the perennial captain of the Uncle Sam team, had found a new and strong board four for this match; Chibuzo Ilonze. Also returning to the Troy line up was Odunayo Ogundipe, who they sorely missed last season. The combined effect was a sweep of a strong Albany A team, a most unexpected outcome. Continue reading “Uncle Sam Sweeps Albany A”

News of the Schenectady Consolation Tourney

On Thursday, the last day of February, all of the action at Schenectady was in the Consolation tournament. Dilip Aaron from the Finals showed up to play, but his opponent, Peter Henner did not. In the Consolation a full slate of games were played; Canty – Northrup and Clough – Hill. Sylvester Canty won his contest from Cory Northrup mostly because Cory sacrificed the Exchange for reasons unclear. Continue reading “News of the Schenectady Consolation Tourney”