Last Thursday saw the beginning of the Schenectady Championship. Turnout was thinner than in recent years. Bill Townsend, the TD, expected some more than 18 competitors but only 15 were registered by 8:00pm. Most notable among the missing were Michael Mockler, Bobby Rotter and Dillip Aaron. Bill decided to nonetheless organize the event in two sections to make accommodating any late joiners somewhat easier. The top of the rating list so far is Patrick Chi at 2051 with Alan Le Cours, John Phillips, John Barnes and Bill Little following. I was not able to play my round Thursday and was paired with Patrick Chi, also unavailable. I left the club before the parings were completed and can not report how things went.
Wednesday evening there was an informal meeting of the Albany Area Chess Club to discuss proposals by the Competition Committee for this year’s activities. There were about ten members present including two or three members of the Competition Committee. Feedback from the group was recorded and passed on to Jon Leisner, Club Secretary. It seems likely formal activities will begin in early November. A straw poll indicated about eight participants in a club championship event.
Today’s look at local chess features David Connors falling short in his attempt to make another step forward in his growth as a chess player against Jonathan Fineberg a long time strong Expert. Connors has been one of the few adult players who have shown measurable improvement after several years at a plateau in rating. We often see youngsters making a breakout in rating after being stuck for sometime at a lower level. For reasons I do not understand, this happens far less frequently for adults.
Connors, David – Fineberg, Jonathan [A07]
Saratoga Championship Saratoga Springs, NY, 10.10.2010
1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 Bg4
This move is not so usual at this point. The big names, Anand, van der Viel and Karpov, who have defended the Black side against other big names, Shirov, Tal and Korchnoi, preferred 3.., c6; before deciding to put the dark squared Bishop on g4.
4.d3 Nbd7 5.Nbd2 e5
Rybka identifies the line of play as the New York and Capablanca Systems of the Reti Opening. The names for the system hark back to the 1924 New York International Tournament where Reti used his opening to defeat Jose Raul Capablance, World Champion at that moment.
The game is now well away from the play of the modern super-Grandmasters. The few top flight games I found in my databases with Oll, Conquest and Csom as White against 2400-2500 IM’s, the GM’s scored only two draws and a loss. That is not a great recommendation for the White opening scheme.
I dislike this move. It blocks the action of the Bg2. Better may be 6 c4, keeping the long diagonal open, or deferring a decision about whether to advance the e or c-pawn, just 6 0-0.
6…, c6 7.0–0 Bd6 8.Qe1 0–0 9.h3 Bh5 10.Nh4..,
Being able to play this move was the rational for 8 Qe1. A similar maneuver is found in some of the games of the Grandmasters in this line in the database.
Black prepares to react strongly if White plans to sacrifice a pawn in the center with say d3-d4 to open the line of the Bg2, or if White wants to play f2-f4.
11.Nf5 Bc7 12.Ne3?!..,
Provoking Black to advance the d-pawn and accepting a very slow kind of development for his forces. Perhaps better would be 12 Nb3.
12…, d4 13.Nf5 Bg6 14.Nh4 Nh5 15.Nxg6 hxg6
The result of the last sequence is White will have difficulties carrying out the break f2-f4. If that push is impossible, the future of the Bg2 is unpromising.
16.Nb3 Nf8 17.h4..,
Mr. Connors has been playing for the f2-f4 break. He recognizes that it is not possible now. If 17 f4, then follows 17.., exf4 18 gxf4 g5 19 fxg5 Qd6 20 Rf3 Ng6 21 Qf2 Qh2+ 22 Kf1 Ng3 23 Ke1 Nh4 24 Bf1 Nxf3+; or 24 Rxf7 Rf8. The text has some flaws. It weakens a sector under pressure, but it appears to be playable. Another try is 17 a4, if Black then replies 17…, a5; White can maneuver for bit with 18 Qe2 Ne6 19 Nd2 when nothing is clear yet, although Black looks to have an edge. This last sequence of play shows David has improved his sense of danger and does not panic in tense situations. That is an improvement in his play over just a few years ago.
17…, Ne6 18.Qe2 Bd6 19.Bf3..,
Logical if not very deep.
19…, Nf6 20.Kg2!?
Simply 20 Bg2, waiting to see how Black will proceed may be a better choice. My guess White intends to put his other Bishop on d2, bring his Rooks to the h-file and at some moment push the h-pawn forward to open the h-file. A reasonable plan, which no doubt Mr. Fineberg saw.
20…, Be7 21.Bd2 Nh7
Black prepares for the advance of the White h-pawn. Very likely he will not cooperatively allow that file to open.
The first real error by White. Connors should have carried out some of the plan mentioned above. It is what the logic of the position calls for. The move played is not an error on any tactical level, rather it shows a strong opponent such as Fineberg that White has doubts about how to proceed. When the opponent is doubting, strong players often start some action that shakes up the position.
22…, g5 23.hxg5 Bxg5 24.Bxg5 Qxg5
Black has truly shook the position and there are glimmerings of a dangerous attack showing. White must be very, very accurate lest the sky falls in on him.
A natural looking move that begins the slide for White into a lost position. Keeping the fight going with the hard to see alternative 25 Bg4, is the best try for White. Black would be faced with a difficult decision. An immediate attempt to win with the sacrificial line 25…, f5 26 exf5 Nf4+ 27 gxf4 exf4; appears to do more than draw by perpetual check at best, and otherwise, White gets to trade the poor light squared Bishop for a Knight. Avoiding the trade by retreating the Ne6 to f8 allows f2-f4 and White has the compensation of open lines for his Rooks to balance the airy situation of his King
This move is what Connors did not see perhaps.
26.Kg1 Qg6 27.Bg2 Ng5!
Or, maybe it was this very neat resource that got by Mr. Connors. Jonathan has shown how to exploit a weak square complex getting his Knights into dominating posts. Of course: 28 gxf4 Ng3+ wins the White Queen for a pair of Knights.
This move writes off the dark squares for White and the chance to fight on. With 28 Qd1, White coolly eliminates K&Q forking from f3 as a tactical motif, and while Black enjoys the initiative, White can certainly hold.
It is Black’s turn to falter. The text lets slip some of his advantage. Better are 28…, Qh6; and 28…, Qh7. Fineberg was concerned about a capture on d4 by the Nb3 undermining the support of his Nf4 and moved directly to eliminate the threat. By putting his Queen on the h-file he would have set up the checks at h3 by his Knights making the capture Nxd4 impossible.
With a clear advantage in hand, Black makes a housekeeping move. The principles of good technique tells us this is the way forward. In this specific case, the housekeeping allows White time to make a better defense.
However White does not take advantage of the opportunity. A more reasonable try is 30 Kf2, hoping to run the King to some kind of safety away from the h-file. After the reply 30…, Qf6 31 Rh1 g6; there does not appear to be safe haven for the White King. The move played by White is only a gesture. The pawn on b7 has no bearing on the outcome of the game and the threat by the Knight meaningless. I believe it was hereabouts that David lost faith in his position. His play in the concluding few moves is not up to the standard he set in the earlier part of the game.
Indirect defense of the b-pawn; 31 Nxb3 Nh3+; wins the White Queen.
31.Qf2 Rd7 32.Rfe1 g6 33.Qg3?..,
The unrelenting pressure of defending a position having few chances for counter-play takes its toll on David. Black is presented with the following shot; 33…Ne2+ 34.Rxe2 Qxc1+ pocketing the Exchange and maintaining a firm grip on the position.
Which for some reason unknown Black ignores.
34.Kf2 Nc5 35.Bh1??
The only move is 35 Bf1, reinforcing d3. White is still lost but Black has to play some more moves, and where there is life there is hope. Now all hope is gone.
Connors resigned here because the material deficit was going to be too great. Up to a point David Connors played well. He seems to have missed the tactics around move 25 and became discouraged leading to a weaker resistance in final phase of the game. Stronger players fight off the discouragement that naturally comes over us after making an error. In bad positions they make determined fights and those stubborn struggles let them salvage many half and full points. If he can learn how to recover his balance after a mistake, David still has the opportunity to improve.