The Saratoga Title is Decided

The Saratoga Staunton Chess Club Championship finished Sunday February 16th . Jonathan Feinberg won the title once more. This victory was not as clear cut as his win last year. Both Feinberg and Gary Farrell ended up with 9½-2½ points in the double round-robin event this year. Tie breaks gave Feinberg the trophy primarily because he defeated Gary 1½-½ in their head-to-head encounters. Farrell and Feinberg outclassed the rest of the field finishing 2½ points ahead of third place. Below is the cross table of the final standings.

Fein Finn 1a


Mr. Feinberg crafted his victory by going undefeated. The only surprise blip in his performance was giving up a draw to David Connors. Jonathan turned in a strong 5-1 score for the second half to win the event on tie breaks. Mr. Farrell clearly took the lead in the first half of the tournament going 5-1. Had he been able to turn one of his second half draws into a win, first place would have been his. Your humble correspondent was fortunate to get third. Loses to Farrell, Finnerman and Gausewitz seemed, at the time, to indicate a lower finish. Second half wins by Feinberg over Finnerman and Gausewitz allowed me third place. Finnerman and Gausewitz were unable to overcome first half losses to Joshua Kuperman in the battle for third. David Connors finished in 6th , but he can take pride in double victories over Kuperman, a player at least one full rating class above him and a draw with the tournament winner. David should gain some ratings points from his efforts. Mr. Kuperman came last, but his sparkling win over David Finnerman, earlier reported on in this blog, ought to be some consolation. It was a brilliant attack that any one would be happy to have authored.

For those who want strong opponents, the Saratoga Club is recommended. They meet in a church just off Exit 14 of the Northway. The specific address can be found under Clubs on this site. It is about a 40 minute drive from the Albany-Schenectady area. They meet Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m. It is worth a drive up for some good chess. Gary Farrell advised the Saratoga Club plans to start another tournament now that the Championship is complete beginning next week.

Feinberg, Jonathan – Finnerman, David [E71]
Saratoga Championship 2013–14 Saratoga Springs, NY, 16.02.2014

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.e4 d6 4.d4 Bg7 5.h3 0–0 6.Bg5 c5 7.d5 Qa5

Fein Finn 1

I was not entirely sure that 5 h3, was theory while watching this game. It turns out the move has a good pedigree. Versus the 6…,c5; 7…, Qa5; line, 5 h3, may make that whole concept less appealing for Black. In the database White wins far more often than not from this position. If Black plays well he can get a draw, and that is hardly Black’s aim in taking up the King’s Indian Defense. Playing for two results; a draw or a loss, is not the rational for the KID. The design of the KID in modern times has been to play for three results; a win, a draw, or a loss. It is that devil-take-the- hindmost intention that makes the KID real weapon for the adventurous spirit.

Here are some Grandmaster games with 7…, Qa5:

This selection of illustrative games definitely shows there problems for both sides to solve, but to restate the earlier comment, database statistics are favorable for White after 5 h3, and 7…, Qa5.

Somewhat more controlled for Black is 7…, e6; immediately. Play likely continues: 8 Bd3 exd5 9 exd5 Re8+ 10 Nge2 h6 11 Be3 Nbd7; and it has been my experience that White is just OK here. Black, on the other hand, is very nearly equal, and he has good chances if White makes some mistakes.


Handing Black a tempo unnecessarily. The natural move is 8 Qd2, with equality. I suspect Mr. Feinberg thought to muddy up the position some with his 8th move.

8…, e6 9.Bd3 a6?

The effort to make things unclear pays off. The natural continuation is 9…, exd5 10 Nxd5 Qd8; and 11 Qc2, or 11 Nxf6, leaving Black fairly comfortable notwithstanding the backward d-pawn. Opening the e-file before White has the chance to castle is a typical idea for Black in this kind of position.

In Zurich, 1953 Averbach – Gligorich famously showed how Black can defend a d-pawn on an open file in the KID by indirect tactical means. It is a game worth studying if the KID is one of your openings as Black. It is possible in this game Black was not familiar with the Averbach – Gligorich game and its important ideas, so he looked elsewhere for a plan. At the club level your opponents will very often jump at the chance to pressure a backward d-pawn. Winning that “button” can be made costly for White if you know Gligorich’s ideas.

There is one additional problem with advancing the a-pawn; it weakens b6 if the b-pawn can not be pushed to b5 before White positively prevents such a move. This idea becomes Mr. Feinberg’s organizing thought for the middle game.

10.Nf3 Qc7 11.0–0 exd5 12.exd5,..

White has been able to put his Knight on f3 and a Bishop on d3. Had the e-file been opened sooner it is not easy for White to place those minor pieces this way.

12…, Nbd7 13.a4,..

There are a number of reasonable moves for White here. Two of the more popular are: a) 13 Re1, what might be called the development approach in which White may even think about giving up his prized center wedge for a passer on the b-file, and b) 13 Qa4, where White wants to clamp down on the Q-side, and he is willing to enter into complications if Black is in the mood to sacrifice. These are not by any means the only options.

With the text White expands on the Q-side with less risk than putting his Queen out there. Given the opportunity, White will push the a-pawn to a5 to take control of b6.

13…, Ne5?!

I have some doubts about the usefulness of this move. By making it here Black agrees to letting White have a protected passed pawn on d5. That is not necessarily the end of the world for Black if he can successfully reposition his other Knight to d6 and everything else is equal. However, everything else is not equal; White is prepared to push the a-pawn to a5, there isn’t a readily available attacking sequence for Black on the K-side. Very possibly the best for Black is 13…, b6; halting for the time being White’s Q-side advance.

14.Nxe5 dxe5 15.a5!,..

Fein Finn 2

This precise and principled move fits Feinberg’s style. This move grabs vital space on the Q-side. This is the normal order of things in the KID. The guiding notion for Black in the KID is to accept that sort of deficit and to seek compensation by attacking the White King on the opposite side of the board.

I was impressed with Jonathan’s positional play throughout the tournament. In every game he strived to maneuver for a positional advantage. The rest of us attempted the same but often became distracted from positional goals by tactical temptations. Mr. Feinberg tried, and most often succeeded, in carrying out his positional scheme that led directly a very favorable situation. His games had a connecting logic that make them very useful if you are teaching someone positional play. As National Master Van Riper said of Jonathan: “His style can put you to sleep” if tactics are your cup of tea. It has to be admitted Feinberg’s approach to chess has served him well. He has maintained a solid Expert rating for these many years while many of the rest of us have not done so. Solid positional play leads to more victories than does seeking to solve every problem with tactical play.

15…, Ne8 16.Na4 Bd7

This is an interesting decision. Black wants to bring his Rook on a8 to the center, a laudable goal. Very, very often Black leaves the Bc8 and the Ra8 sitting while he presses forward on the K-side.

17.Nb6 Rd8 18.Rb1 Nd6?

Fein Finn 3

This was Black’s last chance to start something on the K-side with 18…, f5?! I don’t believe this activity would amount to much for Black. It does, however, conform to the received wisdom that Black has to seek space and action on the K-side to offset the natural advantages White enjoys on the other side of the board. By deciding to take up the d-pawn blockade with the Knight, Black, maybe unwittingly, makes the game about piece play, and not about completing strategic struggles on opposite sides of the board. The general problem with that is his pieces are not well coordinated. This situation gives White chance to tactically exploit his careful positional buildup on the Q-side.


This is the point of 15 a5. Black’s c-pawn will be a problem to defend, and either way taking on b4, or letting White capture on c5, the White Bishop can end up on an annoying diagonal.

19…, Rfe8 20.bxc5 Qxc5 21.Bb4 Qc7 22.c5 Nf5

Black has three squares from which to chose for this Knight. There is not much real difference between f5 or b5 as a post for the Knight. White d-pawn will still push forward.

23.Bc4 e4

I like 23…, Nd4; a little bit more than the text. It makes a more stubborn defense hoping to use the Knight and light squared Bishop to hold b5 and c6. Of course, White will likely engineer a breakthrough somewhere. The motivation behind the game move is to bring the Bg7 into action. The problem is the Black Queen is going to be shunted back to b8, a very dismal square for a Queen, and Black will have difficulties finding meaningful activity with his Queen shut away.

24.d6 Qb8

White has realized a reward for his steady positional play: The d-pawn takes away c7 and e7 from the Black pieces, f7 is not well defended, and Black’s available forces for active play are just his dark squared Bishop and the Knight.

25.Qb3 Be6 26.Bxe6!?,..

Fein Finn 4

With this move White passes on a nice shot; 26 d7 Re7 27 c6. This is very strong for White. The alternative line; 26 d7 Rf8 27 c6 bxc6 28 Qxc6, is also very good for White. Instead White proceeds more carefully maintaining his positional advantage and confident some more booty will fall into his hands.

26…, Rxe6 27.Rfe1 Nd4 28.Qc4 Nb5!?

The constant positional pressure yields material. This may well be the best course for Black; giving up the e-pawn to gain some freedom for his pieces. The White pawn on d6 is an unpleasant problem. Black wants to “play behind it” in the open spaces if he can keep the pawn from rushing to the 8th . That is not an unreasonable wish, but his Queen is in Coventry on b8, and he has keep one Rook on the back rank to be sure the d-pawn does not make a dash to Queen. This leaves Black with insufficient force to do any real damage.

29.Rxe4 Rxe4 30.Qxe4 Re8 31.Qd3 Qd8

Progress of a sort; The Queen now is doing the distant blockade of the d-pawn and a Black Rook controls the e-file. There is, however, the lust of the d-pawn to expand that is going to decide the game.


Fein Finn 5

I can relate to Mr. Feinberg’s decision here. Once long ago in game with Lee Battes that decided the Schenectady Championship, I passed on similarly tempting opportunity to finish things off neatly and thematically. In my case being over cautious meant drawing and sharing the title with Phil Lichtenwalner. Here 32 d7, leads to a nice tactical win that is every bit as sparkling as Kuperman’s victory over Finnerman. The line goes: 32 d7 Re6 33 Qd5 Rc6 34 Re1 Nc7 35 Re7! Nxd5 36 Re8+ Bf8 37 Rxd8 Nxb4 38 Rxf8+, and the pawn makes a Queen on d8 checking. When the Black King moves to g7, the Nb4 is lost to the Queen check on d4. Mr. Feinberg’s positional advantage is so large that caution carries no big price tag.

32…, Qf6 33.Be3 Qc3 34.Qxc3,..

Opting for simplicity. With 34 Qe4, White could craft another combination involving the pawn going to d7 and a heavy piece check on e8.

34…, Bxc3 35.Nd5 Bg7 36.Nc7 Rd8

There are many ways for Black to lose here.

37.Nxb5 axb5 38.Rxb5 Rd7 39.a6 1–0

Fein Finn 6

There is no defense. It will be mate or White will have a new Queen. This was a very nice game by Jonathan Feinberg. He never was in trouble, and he played careful chess as befit’s a game needed to take a title.

Last year David Finnerman won the Schenectady title. This year he did not do so well at Saratoga. This is not a surprise. Almost all players have their ups and downs. It would have difficult to match his excellent performance last year at Schenectady.

In this area we have a fairly large number of players capable of taking a club title, the group I call the 1950-1990 mob. David has proven he belongs in this group. A step ahead of these guys are a small number of players: Steve Taylor and Feinberg are the names that come immediately to mind. They are not easy to beat. Their accomplishment of holding the Expert title for a very long time while others rise and fall speaks to determination and maybe just a bit more talent than the rest. Congratulations to Jonathan Feinberg for winning the Saratoga Championship once again!

More soon.

This Week’s Update

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.
10…, Re8
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
25…, Nf4+
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.
28…, Nge6!?
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.
29.f3 Rad8
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.
30…, Qg5
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.
33…, Kg7?
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.
35…, Ncxd3+
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.
More soon.