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.

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”