Peter Henner Memorial Service

Details for the memorial service for Peter Henner have been announced. We shall gather to celebrate his life, and to mourn his passing, on October 9th, 2016, at 2 P.M., at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 405 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY, 12206. Those wishing to speak, briefly, at the service, should contact Dr. Nancy Lawson, lawsonn AT strose.edu.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the Adirondack Mountain Club or to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Please remember to leave spaces near the building free for the family. Arrive early, and let’s turn out in numbers.

If any of you need to review Peter’s rich and full life, please visit his obituary published in the Altamont Enterprise.

Sad tidings

For those of us who have lived awhile, we know that our time is short, and that much must be packed in to our precious days. Our friend, and President of the Albany Chess Club, Peter Henner, filled his days with meaningful effort, both as a lawyer, and as an enthusiastic supporter of the local chess community. It is with great sadness that the news of his loss in his battle with cancer must be announced. He was a good man, with a big heart. We shall all miss him deeply.

No announcement on services has yet been made. I will post any news as it becomes available.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Instead of Driving to Niskayuna for the Albany Vs. Schenectady Chess match, I wanted to post a game. With some luck and effort, exciting results and commentary will be had as a result of the team match…

What we have below is just a curiosity for you to enjoy….

 

Thomas E. Clark is the Chess Tutor in Albany NY at The Albany Academies. He is the chess instructor in Schenectady NY at the Brown Private school. Tom is the chess teacher in Latham NY at the Albany Chinese School. He also tutors chess in albany NY at the summer LEAP program for kids.

Chess_Tutor_Albany_NY_Thomas_E_ClarkKraai v Shankland

Albany finishes, Almost

On Wednesday April 23, 2014 some critical games from this year’s AACC Championship were played including the decisive contest deciding the title. They were:

Wright 0-1 Berman. Although Mr. Wright made an effort to turn this into a slug fest it was not possible to do so. Mr. Berman kept thing under control, built a positional advantage in a Najdorf Sicilian and used his preponderance on the c-file to collect a couple of pawns. After that Tim Wright’s efforts at ginning up tactics on the K-side never quite got going. The game ended on move 42 when Black began a direct attack on the White King that would have forced simplification to an ending.

Henner 1-0 Howard. This was a not too unusual QGD. Black seemed to be on his way to some slight advantage when “chess blindness” struck Mr. Howard. A piece was lost, and in trying to salvage something out of the resulting bad position, Dean used up most of his clock. It added to his woes when Peter found a nasty sacrifice of a Knight to make Black’s King wander in the open of the center of the board. The game was over by move 32 or 33.

Lack ½-½ Perry. This was one more example of Mr. Lack’s closed treatment of the Sicilian Defense. There were a few moments when it looked like the balance could tip either way, in the end the Queens came off the board, and the game was drawn in 25 moves.

Eson 0-1 Denham. Once again Charles Eson held a strong player more or less even for more than 30 moves. Then the waters got deep for Chuck. Some weaknesses around his King opened the door to tactics and Mr. Denham saw farther and more accurately than did Mr. Eson. A Rook was lost and the game thereafter.

The standings in the Albany event now are:
1 Berman 11½-1½ finished
2 Wright 10½-2½ finished
3 Howard 9-4 finished
4 Magat 8½-3½ with Perry to play
5 Mockler 8½-4½ finished
6 Henner 7½-5½ finished
7 Denham 6½-5½ with Perry to play
8 Perry 5-6 with 2 to play
9 Lack 6½-6½ finished
10-11 Jones 5½-7½ finished
10-11 Northrup 5½-7½ finished
12 Alowitz 3½-9½ finished
13 Stephensen 1-12 finished
14 Eson 0-13 finished
The Albany tournament is just about all over. Still to be settled: Gordon Magat Jason Denham may move up a place or two depending on how well they do their games with Glen Perry. Even if he wins his last two games Mr. Perry can not overtake Peter Henner, but he may outrun Jason Denham. There will be tension right to the last pawn is pushed this year.

This was the last of the big club championships to finish, or nearly finish to be exact. The Albany Championship was a fight right down to the end. Our new Champion gave up only a point and one-half; a draw to Jason Denham and a loss to Gordon Magat. Mr. Berman appeared to have control of the event from the early days. He briefly held the Expert title for time last year. This result will no doubt push his rating back to Expert with some rating points to spare. Congratulations to Jeremy Berman on a fine victory!

No matter the outcome of his game with Glen Perry, Jason Denham had a good tournament with wins over Dean Howard and Tim Wright to go along with draws from the Champion and Joe Jones. That is a very good result for someone who has yet to reach 1600, the lower limit for a Class B player. What may we expect when Mr. Denham has a 1600+ rating? I am sure he will break 1600 when this event is rated.

For everyone else there were fairly small rating changes up or down but nothing spectacular. There is one exception to that statement: Tim Wright, although disappointed in the outcome of his last game, should see a his rating go up substantially after scoring 10½-2½ against field with eight players rated Class A or better. In the course of building that score Mr. Wright defeated: Lack, Henner, Jones, Magat and Mockler as well as drawing with Dean Howard. This was an excellent performance no doubt.

On Thursday April 24th a Capital District Chess League match between the Schenectady Geezers and Albany B took place. The Geezers won 3½-½. The result was quickly evident with the Old Fellows winning three short games on boards 2,3 and 4. All the drama for the evening was on Board 1. The results by board were:

Board 1: Mockler ½-½ Sterner. This was a very even match-up with both players in the mid-1900s. The game started hinting at a French Defense and morphed into an off-shoot of the Morra Gambit – Mockler’s favorite. By the 18th turn it was clear the opening advantage had gone to Black. He had more space and a lead in development. As the middle game unfolded Black built an impressive concentration of forces around the White King. Mr. Mockler bent but did not break, at one point all of his pieces except the Queen had to retire to the first rank. As threatening as the Black array appeared, Mockler was correct in his judgment; at no point did it appear that Black had a decisive breakthrough. White began to unwind his development problem and Black searched for a way to increase the pressure. On move 31 Black lost the Exchange. I am uncertain if it was an oversight or a deliberate sacrifice. In any case, the result was an endgame where White’s two Rooks and light squared Bishop battled Black’s two Bishops and Rook. Black had one extra pawn to sweeten the deal. This is one of the material imbalances where the final result depends on piece activity and the quality of the extra pawn. This time the pawn was passed and supported, just not far advanced. According to the computer White had a substantial advantage if he found the right path. Time was shortening foe both players. Michael missed the right move. The passed pawn advanced. The Exchange had to be returned and a drawn position reached on move 48. A most entertaining game.

David Sterner is new face on our local chess scene. He played for many years in the DC-Arlington, Virginia area. I did not have time to interview him to find out if this is just a visit, or if we have acquired a new talent.

Board 2: Alowitz 0-1 Little. A short game in time. Neither player lingered over his moves. It was the first to finish even though 39 moves were played. I rolled out my trusty Pirc against Arthur’s 1 e4. We both are creatures of habit. Mr. Alowitz likes to play off-beat lines against the Pirc where he does everything he can to preserve his d4/e4 duo. Black obtained some advantage out of the opening, nothing overwhelming but comfortable. I did not play the middle game as accurately as was possible, and White found some counter-play on the K-side. Operations shifted to the Q-side after I fended off Arthur’s K-side threats. In the tense struggle there Mr. Alowitz overlooked danger on his back rank costing a piece, and that led to loss of the game.

Board 3: Phillips 1-0 Axel-Lute. Paul Axel-Lute is another player only recently surfaced locally. Ten years ago he was active in the NYC area. In this game White played the 2 c3 line against the Sicilian. Things were fairly normal for the first dozen moves or so, then an error led to a sparkling assault on the Black King with a Queen sacrifice to top off the onslaught of the White minor pieces. The game was over by move 23. A very nice finishing combination by Mr. Phillips.

Board 4: Eson 0-1 Chu. This game opened with the English. By the time I got to look in on it Richard Chu was up a whole Rook. He did not falter trading off White’s last Rook to create an unstoppable passed pawn that brought about resignation on move 45.

Geezers – Albany B

1 Mockler ½ – ½ Sterner
2 Little 1-0 Alowitz
3 Phillips 1-0 Axel-Lute
4 Chu 1-0 Eson

The Geezers next match is with RPI at Schenectady. RPI is the home team. The match is scheduled at Schenectady by the agreement of the team captains. The tentative date is May 8th. I do not have much other information on the League yet. The line-up is I believe: Albany A, Albany B, Schenectady A, the Geezers, Capital Region, RPI, and Uncle Sam of Troy. With some help from my friends I hope to have an update of results so far in a future post.

Two weeks ago Henner and Perry played a very interesting game in the Albany Championship. It is the subject of today’s post.

Henner, Peter – Perry, Glen [D47]
AACC Championship 2013–14 Guilderland, NY, 16.04.2014

1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 e6

Henner Perry 1

An old perennial, the Semi-Slav, the Meran System. There thousands of games in the databases. In the 1920s, 30s and 40s it featured significantly in the two Alekhine-Bogolubov World Championship matches, 1948 World Championship Match Tournament, several USSR Championships and almost every Grandmaster tournament since. It remains very popular with the elite even now.

5.e3 Be7

Known to theory but not so favored as: 5…, Nbd7; and 5…, a6. I don’t why this is so. The game move is fine if a little passive. The move has been tried out in a fairly high level of competition:

6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 Nbd7 8.0–0 b5 9.Bd3 a6 10.Qc2!?

Speculating on finding some kind of trick I guess. Natural is 10.e4 c5 11.e5 Nd5 12 Nxd5 cxd5. The game is now down to the ragged edge of theory.

10…Bb7 11.Ne4!?,..

Henner Perry 2

White searched for and found something tricky. Unfortunately, the position calls for something more straight forward. The obvious choice is 11 e4, if then 11…, Rc8 12 e5 Nd5 13 Nxd5 cxd5 14 Qe2, White’s Bishops are at least pointed towards the future home of the Black King, while Black’s Bishops are not quite so usefully placed. White has a small edge, and Black has a natural plan to play against the White center pawns.

11…, Rc8 12.Nc5?!

When you are looking for tricks it is hard to rein yourself in to play the logical move; 12 Nxf6+, leading to equality after 12…, Bxf6 13 Be4. White’s idea underlying the text is to stifle the Bb7, but it should not be possible because of tactics.

12…, Qc7?

Henner Perry 3

Black misses his chance. With 12…Nxc5! 13.dxc5 Bxc5; and the Bd3 is hanging after 14 Qxc5. White would likely try 14 Bxh7, then 14…, Bd6; leaves Black in good shape: the Bh7 has to leave h7 allowing the Rh8 an open file upon which to work, the move c6-c5 can not be prevented opening the long diagonal for the Bb7, and in light of these two positional trumps forgoing castling will not hurt Black much at all.

Analysis Position

Henner Perry 4

13.b4,..

White now has some advantage, not enough to predict a win no matter what Black tries, but enough to say that Black is on the defensive for the foreseeable future.

13…, 0–0 14.Ng5!?,..

An aggressive move, but it is unclear that it is justified Here 14 a4, and 15 Bd2, securing the Q-side space advantage and connecting his Rooks is a reasonable continuation. White is aiming at e6 perhaps with the idea of giving up both Knights for a Rook and two pawns. In theory White has enough compensation for the Knight pair, but Black has all four of his minor pieces still on the board. GM Soltis says: “The pawns offer excellent winning chances if the Queens can be traded“, and “who controls the initiative is vitally important.” In this position there is no clear path to a Queen trade, however, White has what initiative there is because of his mass of center pawns. The fly-in-the-ointment is the number of Black minor pieces. Any carelessness in advancing the center pawns could open up lines for the minor pieces to swarm the White King. All-in-all, a very tough problem of evaluation and calculation.

14…, Ng4

The most aggressive answer by far.

15.Bxh7+ Kh8 16.Nf3,..

Tempting Black to try to collect the Bh7 for some pawns.

16…, Nxc5 17.dxc5?,..

Henner Perry 5

This looks to be normal and satisfactory. The move blocks in the Bb7 and gains space. What could be wrong with it? Working with Rybka, after some back and forth comparisons, it turns out that capturing with c-pawn lets White maintain control of e5. If Black is prevented from playing ..e6-e5; his light squared Bishop can’t get into the game easily. That seems to be the basis for the computer’s judgment that capturing with the b-pawn is the better choice.

17…, f5?!

The most direct try is 17…, g6!?; when White will give up his Bishop for a net three pawns with 18 Bxg6. If that was the end of it, we’d have an interesting situation where White wants to trade Queens and get to an endgame where the pawns can advance. As is frequent in chess, tactics rears its head. Take a look at this sequence: 17…g6 18 Bxg6 fxg6 19 Qxg6 Bf6!? 20 Qg4 Bxa1 21 Ng5 Rf6 22 Bd2 Be5 23 f4 Bd6 24 Bc3 Qg7 25 Qh4+ Kg8 26 Bxf6 Qxf6 27 Qh7+, winning. The line cited is not forced at every turn. It does illustrate that the Black King is in some serious danger, and that being ahead a whole Rook is of no great help when your pieces are inactive.

Black may have not calculated all these details or found all the alternatives after 17…, g6. He did however see enough to avoid that specific line and instead tries a related idea to exploit the Bh7. This does not work out to his advantage.

A possible improvement is 17…, Bf6 18 Rb1 g6 19 Bxg6 fxg6 20 Qxg6 Rg8 21 Qh5+ Qh7;

Analysis Position Henner Perry 6

and Black will occupy the d-file first. White gets the Queens off moving towards an endgame where the pawns have a better chance to advance. There is a long way to go for the pawns to become sufficient compensation for a minor piece, especially a Bishop.

18.Bg6 Rf6 19.h3 Rxg6!?

Henner Perry 7

I was not certain this was best for Black. The line that attracted me was: 19…, Nh6 20 Bh5 g6 21 Bb2 gxh5. I did not realize that now after 22 Be5 Qd8 23 Qb3 Kh7 24 Rad1 Qe8 25 Ng5+ Kg6 26 Bxf6 Bxf6 27 Nxe6, and White has two pawns and Rook for the two Bishops. If both Bishops were out and working Black would have chances, but such is not the case. It will take time to do something with the Bb7. In the meanwhile White can always double his Rooks on the d-file. Mr. Perry may well have grasped the essence of this and decided the text was the best course.

20.hxg4 Rxg4 21.Bb2 Bf6 22.Rad1 Rxb4?

Henner Perry 8

Up to this point Black had done pretty well with what was an unpromising position. Grabbing the b-pawn undoes the good work because the next simple sequence.

23.Bxf6 gxf6 24.Qc3 Rg4

This probably the best of the bad choices available. It at least gets another piece back near the Black King. Both 24…, Ra4; and 24…, Rc4; offer less hope.

25.Qxf6+ Qg7 26.Qxg7+,..

Equally good is 26 Rd8+ Rxd8 27 Qxd8+ Kh7 28 Rd1!, when the threat to pin and win the Black Queen makes taking the pawn on g2 a bad idea.

26…, Rxg7 27.Rd6 Rcg8 28.g3 Bc8?!

Henner Perry 9

Black pins his hopes on pressure on the g-file to generate some counter-play. That is certainly a reasonable idea. The problem is White has enough resources to defend successfully there. Black should have tried: 28…, Re7; offering White a chance to go wrong with: 29 Ne5 a5 30 Nxc6 Rc7 31 Nd4 Rxc5 32 Nxe6 Rc2 33 Rb6?! Be4 34 Rxb4? Rxg3+(Not so good is 34…, Be3 35 Rxa5 Bxf1 36 Kxf1, when the Knight and three pawns give White all the winning chances.) 35 fxg3 Rg2+; escaping with perpetual check.

Analysis Position

Henner Perry 10

Mr. Perry may have still had intentions of playing for the win. Giving up material to bailout to a draw might not even been in his ken.

29.Ne5 Rf8

Black consistently hammers away with vertical pressure. Here the threat is to push the f-pawn forward and to recapture on f4 with the Rook. Unfortunately for Black the d-file asset is more important than the vertical pressure.

30.Rfd1 Kh7

Henner Perry 11

Necessary because the back rank danger: 30…, f4? 31 Rd8 Kg8 32 Rxf8+ Kxf8 33 Rd8+ Ke7 34 Rxc8 fxe3 35 Rc7+, trading off the Rooks and leaving a hopeless endgame for Black to defend.

31.R1d4 a5 32.Nxc6?!,..

This is a less certain way to go than is: 32 Rxc6.

32…, Rc7 33.Nd8 Rxc5 34.Nxe6 Rc1+?

Tempting because the action of the Bishop and the Rc1 look dangerous.

35.Kg2 Bb7+ 36.f3 Rfc8 37.Rh4+?,..

Henner Perry 12

In mild time trouble Mr. Henner just does not calculate far enough. He had over 15 minutes remaining. Working out this line: 37 Rd7+ Kg6 ( 37…, Kh6; leads to mate.) 38 Nf4+ Kg5 (38…, Kf6; is mate shortly once again.) 39 Nh3+ Kf6 40 Rxb7 R1c2+ 41 Nf2 Rxa2 42 Rd6+ Ke5 43 Rbd7! Rcc2 44 f4, checkmate, is well within his capacity. With real time problems not far away, Peter may have opted for what looked on the surface to be simpler. Or, finding the moves 43 Rbd7, and 44 f4, mate just may have eluded him. Our calculation horizons shrink in time trouble.

37…, Kg8 38.Nd4 Rd1 39.Nxf5?,..

Henner Perry 13

A stubborn and creative defense is once more rewarded in our annals. Now the time pressure is real for both sides; less than 5 minutes on both clocks. In this situation it is understandable that things can be missed. The text looks natural but better is: 39 Rg6+ Kf7 40 Rg5, and Black will have to give up the Exchange on d4 to avoid more serious problems. Black now equalizes the game.

39…, Rc2+ 40.Kh3 Bxf3 41.Rxd1 Bxd1 42.Nd4 Rxa2 43.Nxb5 a4?

Henner Perry 14

Overlooking the family fork. If Black had played: 43…, Ra1; breaking up the unfortunate arrangement of his pieces, there was a good chance the speedy Black a-pawn would rescue a half-point.

44.Nc3,..

Alertly threatening all three of Black’s remaining assets.

44…, Ra1 45.Nxd1 Rxd1 46.Rxa4,..

Henner Perry 15

It is White’s good luck that he is left with the e&g-pawns. Had he ended up with the f&h-pawns it is a daunting task to win even if you have lots of time. With the split duo one file further away from the edge of the board some of the defenses available to Black in the f&h-pawn scenarios are not there.

47…, Re1 47.Ra3,..

A little quicker is 47 e4.

47…, Kf7 48.Kg4 Kf6 49.Kf4 Rf1+ 50.Kg4 Ke5?

Better 50…, Re1; but quibbling about better moves when time trouble is so bad is of no particular use. There is no thinking when the clocks are showing less than a minute each. It is all instinct and avoiding outright blunders.

51.Ra4 Re1 52.e4 Rf1 53.Kg5 Rf8 54.g4 Rf4?

Henner Perry 16

One of the blunders just mentioned. With 54…, Rg8+; the game could have gone on for several more moves.

55.Ra5+ 1–0

Black resigns because the Rook is lost after 55…, Kxe4; and 56 Ra4+. This win brought Mr. Henner to +2 for the tournament and probably minimized any damage to his rating. Mr. Perry is making a vigorous effort to get all his games that had been delayed by work and social commitments. One difficulty that comes up when you have to play twice weekly delayed games is a lack of time to get over a loss and to prepare for the next encounter. I think the crowded schedule did not help Glen’s results so far.

More soon.

A Game from Albany and News of the League

In the race for the Albany title two players only are in serious contention; Jeremy Berman and Tim Wright. Berman has played fewer of the other high rated contestants than has Wright. Wednesday April 2nd Jeremy played Cory Northrup. Cory did well in the recently completed Schenectady Championship coming equal 3rd, 4th and 5th with Peter Henner and Carl Adamec in a 13 player field. To achieve that result he had to defeat Peter Henner. The Albany Championship was not so successful for Mr. Northrup. In the 13 player field he is well back with 4½ out of 12 games so far. Regardless of how fortune similes on him, Cory come to the board to play chess. He did so Wednesday evening. In an up and down battle Northrup had good chances to make an upset. Berman’s steady and stubborn play avoided potential trouble and brought home the full point.

Only one other game from the tournament was played: Henner 1-0 Eson. Chuck made a fight of it, but experience won out and Henner won a piece and the game.

Scheduled to play was Jones 0-1 Perry. Mr. Jones did not appear for the game and Mr. Perry won by forfeit.

Recently Mr. Berman faced the strong Class A player Peter Henner. Competing in both the Albany and Schenectady Championships, Mr. Henner has had problems with results this year. They have not been up to his standards. He has told me he feels that he is not playing well, making too many errors, etc. Today’s game shows that Peter can hold up his end of a contest against a strong opponent. The ultimate outcome of the game was to a large extent determined by severe time trouble. I am not sure time trouble influenced decisions are at all the best way to judge how well you play. There is more than a degree of chance involved when time gets very short.

Berman, Jeremy – Henner, Peter [A10]
AACC Championship 2013–14 Guilderland, NY, 26.03.2014

1.c4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 g6 4.g3 c5

Berman Henner 1

This is not a position that comes up frequently in international competition, nor anywhere else either. Michael Mockler, a long time devotee of the Dutch, when he saw this move said: “That has to be wrong.” His point is 4…, Bg7; is much more common, and a pawn on c5 looks out of place. The c-pawn maybe more usefully employed on c6 to blunt the action of the Bg2.

Here is a game where this position occurred:

(Editor’s note: To activate this chessboard, please click on any move. This will generate a pop-up board showing the game.)

5.Bg2 Bg7 6.0–0 0–0 7.Qb3,..

So far, so good. White aims at pressure on b7 with the combined action of the Queen and the Bishop. Not a bad idea.

7…, Nc6 8.d4?,..

Berman Henner 2

A surprising error from Mr. Berman. In the first place White is playing through the center aiming a b7, c6 and d5. Sacrificing the d-pawn does not seem to smoothly fit with that plan. Secondly, getting more of the White forces into action before thinking about breaking open the center would be in tune with how Jeremy has conducted his other successful games in this event. Thirdly, recovery of the pawn will dramatically change the central terrain, and not necessarily to White’s advantage. Patient maneuvering follows 8 d3 d6 9 Bg5 Be6 10 Be6 Bd7 11 Rad1, when the fight is yet to be joined. I expected something like this from Berman and was surprised not to see it.

8…, cxd4 9.Nb5 Ne4 10.Rd1 e5 11.e3 a6 12.c5+ Kh8 13.Nd6 Nxd6 14.cxd6 Qf6 15.exd4 e4 16.Ne5 Nxd4 17.Rxd4 Qxe5

Berman Henner 3

It is my suspicion that Mr. Berman calculated all or much of this preceding sequence including recovery of the pawn.

18.Be3 b5 19.a4,..

White may have thought this move would bring him an advantage when looking at the position more than ten moves ago.

19…, Bb7!

Obvious tries for White: 20 axb5, and 20 Rad1, can be met adequately by Black according to the computer. The mighty Rybka says Black has some advantage here. While watching the game I did not think that was so. My human opinion was the game could go either way. Both sides have chances, and the fate of the far advanced White d-pawn could be the decider.

20.Rd2 Bc6

White cautiously makes a move to defend b2 and Black shores up b5. White is reluctant to open the a-file with a capture on b5. It seems that Black would then get control of the a-file.

21.a5?!,..

Berman Henner 4

White foregoes the opening of the a, or b-files. He must have concluded opening either helps Black. This is a point where White might have cranked up the tension in the position with profit. Worth consideration is: 21 Bd4. If then, 21…, bxa4 22 Qc3, is strong for White. The alternative: 21…, Qxd4!? 22 Rxd4 Bxd4; brings about a very interesting middle game with a fight between a Rook and a Bishop versus a Queen in this position:

Berman Henner 5

To quote GM Soltis: this circumstance “.. sets up a battle between two principles: cooperation versus double attack.” “In the most general terms, the pieces have the edge if they coordinate well and find targets. The Queen has the edge if it can use checks and forks – that is, to do what a Queen does best.” In this resulting position it is not clear to me that Black can bring his Rooks into play without allowing the Queen to do her thing. Continuing from the Analysis Diagram: 23 a5 f4? (The most direct plan.) 24 Qb4 Bg7 25 Bxe4 Bxe4 26 Qxe4 Bxb2 27 Rb1 Bc3; and the position has transformed into one where the Queen’s chances are very good. Black can be more circumspect with 23…, Be5 24 Rd1 Rf6 25 Qa3 Kg7; when the argument is unresolved. Note: Black has to take into consideration the tactic that came up in the game; Qc5/b6/a6, when deciding what to do with his Ra8.

At this point both sides had used up all but 25 minutes of the allotted 105 minutes for the game. Real time trouble is not yet present, but its shadow can be seen. There was a subtle shift in the thinking of both players as their decisions are examined from here forward. Mr. Henner settled on a concrete and active plan; an advance of the K-side pawns. Mr. Berman judged he could meet this pawn rush, and he angled for counter-punches on the Q-side.

21…, Qe8 22.Rc1 Qf7 23.Qb4?,..

Berman Henner 6

White makes a fundamental decision; he is to keep the Queens on the board. Trading the Ladies is probably the best chance for White here. I think Jeremy took stock of the tournament situation: Wright had defeated Henner earlier. To keep pace a win in this game was necessary, and it will be easier to do with Queens on.

23…, Rac8 24.Bf1 h6 25.Rdc2 g5 26.Bd4 Bxd4 27.Qxd4+ Qf6 28.Qb6,..

White’s counter-punching plan should fall short, but Black has to play very precisely to make it happen. Time was edging down to about ten minutes for each side. About the higher levels of chess, Masters and Grandmasters, I don’t have the experience to comment about how time pressure is handled. However, a lifetime of watching and playing with club level and Expert chess players in time trouble gives me some insight to what goes on with them. At the club level as time becomes an issue, the players tend to look more and more for clear, forcing lines. They want to see as far ahead as they can with the least expenditure of effort. Unless they have a touch of the “Riverboat Gambler” about them, lines with limited alternatives are preferred, again for the sake of clarity. This bias for simple and forcing in a constrained time frame can lead to the pursuit of losing lines. It may be the principle difference between an Expert and a Master, the Master sees more options, particularly when the pressure is on to make decisions.

28…, Qxd6?!

Berman Henner 7

White has been following his plan, making Q-side threats, but Black now takes a valuable moment to veer away from his plan, the K-side pawn storm. Using this tempo is a fateful choice. Correct is 28…, f4. Clipping “buttons” on the Q-side is less forcing than is the direct attack on the White King. Here is a sample line: 28…, f4 29 Qxa6 fxg3 30 hxg3 e3 31 Qb6 Qf3 32 Qd4+ Kg8 33 Rxc6 Rxc6 34 Rb1 exf7+ 35 Kh2 Qh5+ 36 Kg2 g4; is winning for Black. After the text Black is not worse, but he perhaps is beginning to not see everything clearly in the time trouble.

29.Qxa6 f4 30.Qb6 fxg3 31.hxg3 e3

Peter Henner had just under 10 minutes remaining on his clock. That was just enough time trouble to restrict his focus to forcing lines of play.

32.Qxe3 Qd5

Berman Henner 8

Henner has reached the position he wanted. The mate threat at h1 is the defining feature of his plan.

33.Rxc6!,..

This probably White’s best chance. In this particular position the passed a-pawn supported by the light squared Bishop appears to be enough to balance the material deficit.

33…, Rxc6 34.Re1?!,..

Berman Henner 9

Another move motivated by the need to win at all costs. Objectively, playing for a draw with: 34 Rxc6 dxc6 35 a6 Ra8 36 a7 Qf7 37 Qe5+ Kg8 38 Qb8+ (The point!) 38…, Qf8 39 Qb6, is correct. If the Black Queen leaves the 8th ,White checks on b8. If the Black King goes to the 7th , White checks on the 7th and takes on c8 if the King goes to the 6th. This is an unusual theme for this kind of ending. I have not seen anything quite like it before.

By this point in the game Mr. Berman’s clock had run down to fewer than 3 minutes. Working out something unusual and not well known is asking much even from a talented player.

34…, Rcf6 35.Re2 Rf3 36.Qb6 Qf7?

Berman Henner 10

The time problem is also getting worse for Mr. Henner. Here he just misses the loose pawn on h6 while worrying about a “ghost”; the Bishop going to g2 not a serious threat if for no other reason than the Black Queen can check on d1. With 36…, R8f6; Black would have held on to some advantage.

37.Qxh6+,..

Suddenly the situation reverses; Black is no longer threatening death and destruction upon the White King, now it the Black monarch who is in deadly danger. These final moves were played with less than a minute on the clocks for both parties.

37…, Kg8 38.Qxg5+ Qg7 39.Qd5+ Qf7 40.Qg5+ Qg7 41.Qxb5 R8f5 42.Qb8+ Rf8 43.Qd6 R3f6 44.Qd2 Qh6 45.Qd4 R6f7 46.Re5 Qf6 47.f4 Kh8 48.Bd3 Rh7 1–0

This game is an example of what time trouble can do to even a substantial material advantage. In this case the dynamic factors: White’s a light squared Bishop with much potential and an advanced passed pawn made a time shortage particularly trying.

This win for Mr. Berman keeps pace with Mr. Wright in the race for first. Mr. Henner can take heart even in the loss; he matched one of the tournament leaders successfully move for move until extreme time trouble made itself felt.

A quick update on the doings of Deepak Aaron. I found this on the Chess Café site: Deepak gave a Simul at Georgia Tech March 13th for charity. He played 16 boards, winning 15 and drawing one. Following this event Deepak played in the Eastern Class Championships. Scoring 4-1 Deepak tied for 2nd place behind Kamsky. Deepak was undefeated and drawing with GM Ivanov and GM Kamsky in the last two rounds. Along the way to this very fine result Deepak defeated GM Fishbein. Mr. Aaron has just about equaled the accomplishments of the Schenectady star of my generation, Mike Valvo. All that it will take to match Mike’s record is for Deepak to pick up the FIDE International Master title.

Play in the Capital District Chess League has begun. The first match I have heard about was a big win for the Albany A team over RPI; 3½-½. It took place Sunday March 30th . The Albany A team players are listed first, and the results by board were:

1 Dean Howard ½-½ Jeff LaComb
2 Jeremy Berman 1-0 Trian Gao
3 Gordon Magat 1-0 Brian Furtado
4 Tim Wright 1-0 Feist

Albany A is fielding a strong line-up this year. Although this was a heavy defeat for RPI, they have a strong 1st board and experience on board 2 and 3. I will not be surprised to see RPI pull off an upset of Schenectady or the Geezers.

On Thursday April 3rd the Schenectady Geezers hosted Uncle Sam of Troy at Schenectady. On boards 1 through 3 the games ended fairly quickly with Troy leading 2 to 1. Board 4, Phillips – Hill was another matter entirely. In a long game running into deep time trouble, John Phillips defeated Elihue Hill. It was a contest similar to their game in the recent Schenectady Championship. Mr. Hill did very well out of the opening and through the middle game. It was the time trouble in an unbalanced ending that cost him the point. The results by board were:

1 Mockler 0-1 Thomas. Michael came back to his favorite Bird’s Opening. In a sharp contest Phil Thomas confirmed his newly minted Expert’s rating by jumping on an error and winning in 25 moves.

2 Ogundipe 0-1 Little. White elected to play a restrained sideline against my Modern Defense. An error on move 13, Nf3-h4, permitted Black to win some material. The Exchange I pocketed was not a impressive as I had imagined in the face of the activity of White’s two Knights. After some sober thought it was evident returning the material for a possible direct attack was the most promising continuation. White had a choice of which Exchange to win back. He picked the wrong one, and I was able to execute a winning attack on his King. The game finished in 27 moves.

3 Phillips 1-0 Hill. This was by far the longest game of the night, but that is usual for Mr. Phillips. Good luck and iron nerves helped John to win and tie the match.

4 Canty 1-0 Chu. Pressure on Black’s King led to White’s winning the Exchange in a kind of Closed Sicilian. After getting that material plus, Mr. Canty did not falter, and he wrapped up the win in 37 moves.

Summary with the Geezers listed first:

1 Mockler 0-1 Thomas
2 Little 1-0 Ogundipe
3 Phillips 1-0 Hill
4 Chu 0-1 Canty

The Geezers got away with a drawn match. It easily could have been a 3-1 loss. With the Expert Thomas and Class A player Odunayo Ogundipe on the first two boards, and Canty on board 3 playing well this year along with the very experienced Elihue Hill on board 4, Uncle Sam is another team the contenders will have to take seriously. The Geezers are not as strong as last year. The terrible auto accident after last year’s final CDCL match that put Peter Michelman out of action for months, and the family obligations that has taken Jon Leisner off the roster for this season will make repeating as League Champions for the Geezers a huge challenge.

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 Game with an Interesting Ending

Wednesday February 5th saw no activity at the Albany Club – there was a snow storm. For this week, 9 to 15 February, the “weekly” snow storm is coming Thursday allowing the Albany Club to get a round of play. The downside is it is doubtful Schenectady will get in any games Thursday the 13th . These weekly snow events are getting to be a drag. One can only wish for Spring and keep shoveling in the Great Northeast this year. This Wednesday, February 12th four games were played at Albany. The results were:

Wright 1-0 Lark. With a transposition or two this game slid into an unusual line of the French. Mr. Lack is a guy who likes his routine, and he plays the French almost exclusively. Mr. Wright took a page from my book, put pawns on c4 and e4 and then traded the center pawns. That has been my formula against Jon’s French for a long while. The isolated d-pawn that White accepts playing this way is not easy for Black to pressure. These open center kind of positions puts a premium on getting the pieces out. In this game White did a better job of that than did Black. Laggard development by Black gave White the initiative. Just when it appeared the game was about to settle into a long effort by White to make something of his initiative, Black blundered the Exchange by not checking the details of his scheme to wrest back the initiative. White rapidly got his two Rooks doubled on a file near the Black King. It wasn’t long before there was a neat little sequence leading to mate. The game was over by move 25. A smooth and convincing performance by Mr. Wright.

Denham 1-0 Howard. Easily the upset of the week. Denham, somewhere around 1600, defeated the Expert Howard in 36 moves. More remarkable was it wasn’t some off-beat opening line where the Expert went wrong. It was the QGD, Exchange Variation, a tried and true tool for either side to stay out of early trouble. On move 9 Dean sent his Knight to h5 so to trade off the dark squared Bishops. In the first place there did not appear to be any greater rational for the .., Nf6-h5; move other than the trade. Secondly, with many Black pawns on light squares trading dark squared Bishops certainly is somewhat questionable just on general principles. White really did not come up with anything earth-shattering, he just had a small edge: a better pawn formation and his opponent had a Bishop restricted by its own pawns. Again, a long effort seemed to be what was coming, but at move 19 Black erred and the second Exchange of the evening was lost. Black did his best for 19 more moves to create counter-play, however, Mr. Denham kept his head, avoided getting into a tactical melee, and the extra material told in the end. The game ended on move 38 with mate in one threatened. A big win for Jason!

Eson 0-1 Berman. Charles kept things close through move 20. As someone said just before play began: “Chuck you play like a GM through the first 15 or 20 moves, then something bad happens.” Once more Mr. Eson had a not so bad position against a very strong opponent, then the young almost-Expert raised the ante. Tactics kicked-in, material was lost and the game ended soon after.

Magat 1-0 Northrup. Cory fell behind in development by move 12, and he was saddled with a light squared Bishop with few prospects for active use. Gordon offered a pawn on c5 just to keep the Bishop blocked in for awhile with a built-in trick letting him recover it by capturing on h7 with check. At some point not long after, Mr. Northrup, either by choice or error, moved his g-pawn forward one box. It did not take too many more moves for Mr. Magat to whip up a violent attack on Northrup’s King that worked. The game ended with the Black King under withering fire.

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

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

With just four of seven possible games played, those who did not play Wednesday dropped down the table in some cases. Wright and Berman are solidly in the lead with Glen Perry not far behind. However Mr. Perry has many games to make-up. Peter Henner follows only a point back and ready to make a try for the top if the leaders fail. Howard and Mockler are a half-point behind Henner and are not truly out of the running, although their form has been uncertain thus far. Tim Wright is setting a fast pace that Jeremy Berman must match over the next several weeks. The others are hoping for some slip ups by the two leaders. It will be interesting to see if Wright and Berman can keep up their pace to the end.

The first week in February saw a rather important game played in the Schenectady event. John Phillips, trying to salvage a good result after a poor start, met Peter Henner, who was trying to keep pace with Leisner and Mockler in this year’s tournament. Both are members in good standing of the mob of Class A players hovering just under 2000 – the 1950 to 1990 bunch. Both have some long time ago broken through to Expert, their rating floors are 1800. Since 1991 neither have quite gotten back to that level. So, what we see in today’s game are two good players needing a win. Neither of these guys are easily discouraged, they typically fight games out to the bitter end knowing at the club level of play almost anything can, and often does, happen.

Phillips, John – Henner, Peter [A83]
SCC Championship 2013–14 Schenectady, NY, 06.02.2014

1.d4 f5

To quote Shakespeare, Henry V: “Once more unto the breech, dear friends, once more;..” and it is an apt title for this game. Much as Harry before Harfleur was determined on a frontal assault, Mr. Henner has been determined to stick with 1.., f5; in answer to 1 d4. Several of his opponents have answered with the Staunton Gambit, as does Mr. Phillips here. The Staunton Gambit does not refute the Dutch, but it does take the game out of the usual Dutch lines and into less well known byways where the normal Dutch patterns do not apply.

Black has two possibilities if he wants to side-step the Staunton: 1) 1 d4 e6; “risking” the French if White plays 2 e4, and 2) 1d4 g6; when 2 e4, leads to the Pirc/Modern formations instead of the Dutch.

While Black is not by any means doomed against the Staunton, and he has a small plus when you look at the results when elite players are on both sides, it does not occur very often in the games of the best. Here are a couple of examples:

(413923) Lalic, Bogdan (2590) – Kovacevic, Vlatko (2520) [A83]
Croate Championship, Slavonski Brod, 1995
1.d4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 c6 5.f3 exf3 6.Nxf3 d5 7.Bd3 g6 8.Ne5 Qb6 9.Qe2 Qxb2 10.0–0 Qxc3 11.Bxf6 Rg8 [11…exf6] 12.Qf2 Nd7 [12…exf6 13.Qxf6 Bg7 (13…Qxd4+ 14.Kh1 Rg7 (14…Nd7 15.Nxd7 Qxf6 16.Nxf6+ Kf7 17.Rae1 Rh8 18.Ne8+ Kg8 19.Nc7 Rb8 20.Re8 Kg7 21.Ne6+ Bxe6 22.Rxb8) ) ] 13.Bxe7 Kxe7 14.Nxd7 Kxd7 15.Qf7+ Be7 16.Qxg8 Qxd4+ 17.Kh1 Qh4 18.Rae1 Kd6 19.g3 Qg5 20.Qe8 d4 21.h4 Qd5+ 22.Kh2 1–0

(298140) Cifuentes Parada, Roberto (2540) – Schmittdiel, Eckhard (2485) [A83]
8th Bad Woerishofen Open, (7), 1992
1.d4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nc6 5.f3 e5 6.d5 Nd4 7.Nxe4 Be7 8.d6 cxd6 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Ne2 d5 11.Nxd4 dxe4 12.Nf5 Qb6 13.Qd5 Qxb2 14.Bc4 Bb4+ 15.Kf2 Qxc2+ 16.Kg3 Kd8 17.Rhd1 exf3 18.Ne3 Qg6+ 19.Kxf3 Re8 20.Rab1 e4+ 21.Ke2 Re5 22.Qg8+ Qxg8 23.Bxg8 Bc5 24.Bxh7 b6 25.Ng4 Ba6+ 26.Ke1 Re7 27.Bf5 Bd3 28.Rbc1 Ba3 29.h4 Bxc1 30.Rxc1 Rg7 31.Kd2 Ke7 32.Ke3 Rh8 33.g3 b5 34.Rc7 Kd8 35.Rxa7 Rh5 36.Bxd7 Rc5 37.Nxf6 Rxg3+ 38.Kd4 Rc4+ 39.Ke5 e3 40.Ke6 e2 0–1

Our game continues:

2.e4 fxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nc6 5.Bb5 a6

The book move here is 5.., g6. Rybka says the text is at least as good as that move.

6.Bxc6 bxc6

Black could also play 6…, dxc6; and castle long. That idea takes the game into a different track. In it Black does not strive to hang on as long as possible to his booty aiming instead to get his pieces out.

7.Qe2 d5 8.f3 exf3?

Phillips Henner 1

Black has put his faith in Bishop pair he has gained, and he wants to hold on to the extra pawn as long as possible. To this end, he has willingly accepted a tattered pawn structure. Piling up pawn weaknesses typically means Black will play for a decision in the middle game. He will keep an eye peeled for chances to repair his pawn formation deficits while doing so.

The game is about equal here according to Rybka As you work forward in analysis it is hard to believe Black is not in trouble after the text. It seems a less-routine idea is the only safe way forward; holding back the development of the minor pieces and getting the major pieces into action may be Black’s best bet. For example: 8…, Rb8 9 0-0-0 Qd6 10 fxe4 Qb4; and the pressure on the White King’s abode is dangerously strong.

Masters are able to make the fine distinctions in judgment about sticking to routine development or switching to direct threats because development will not quite do the job. That skill is less often demonstrated by even the strong club players. Sometimes they have it and some times not. I sympathize with Mr. Henner’s problem here. Too, too many times I have missed the switch point. Faced with the choice of getting out a minor piece, or putting a Rook on an open file, it is easy to decided to move the minor piece. After all have we not proven to our selves again and again straight-up development is usually the best course? Only if the further moves: .., Qd6; and .., Qb4; are visualized and then compared to .., Bf5; and later .., Bg6; leading to Nxg6 and .., hxg6; will the .., Rb8; move begin to standout as a reasonable choice. A less obvious factor in this calculation is the Nc3 becomes vulnerable if b2-b3 is played at some point.

9.Nxf3 Bf5!?

Holding the extra pawn is not going to be possible, so part of the rational for allowing the damage to the Black pawn structure is flawed. If 9…, e6 10 Ne5, will get in back the pawn either on c6 or e6. The game move looks to be motivated by the recognition that things have not gone well for Black, and getting a piece out is perhaps the best that can be done.

10.0–0 Qd6

Both players took a very long think here. This makes some sense, the opening is near its end, and finding a useful plan in a position that is fairly non-standard can use up time.

11.Ne5 Bg6 12.Nxg6 hxg6 13.Bf4 Qd7 14.Rae1 e6 15.Qxe6+?!,..

Phillips Henner 2

White proceeds too directly. This the moment for subtlety. Consider: 15 Bg5! And now the routine 15…, Kf7; is devastated by; 16 Bxf6! gxf6 17 Rxf6+ Kxf6 18 Qe5+, recovering the material and leaving Black to struggle with a very awkward King situation. Or, Black might rise to the occasion with 15…, Bd6!; then 16 Bxf6, is not so good because the Black Bishop capturing on h2 with check. So after 15…, Bd6; White should continue 16 g3 0-0 17 Qxe6+ Qxe6 18 Rxe6, and while the position is in balance, the onus is on Black to find the right moves. One little tactical detail in this position is after 18 Rxe6, Black should not try 18…, Ne5; because White can go for; 19 Rxf8+ Rxf8 20 Nxe4 Kf2 21 Rxd6! cxd6 22 Nxd6+ Ke6 23 Nb7 Rb8 24 Nc5+ Kf5 25 Bc1, and White has two minor pieces and a pawn for the Rook while Black has a host of pawn weaknesses the minor pieces can exploit. This line is a good example of the limitation broken pawns puts on a side with them.

15…,Qxe6 16.Rxe6+,..

White has recovered his pawn and Black has had to accept more pawn formation damage. Endgames are looking less and less promising for Black, but the middle game chances for Black may have improved.

16…, Kd7 17.Ree1,..

I didn’t like this when it was played. If White has no better way to save the Re6 from being surrounded, then he should have been less direct on move 15. That may have been a real error. However, White can try here: 17 Re5 Bd6 18 Rg5, leading to a rapid opening up of the position. Probably the coming furry of threats and counter-threats will result in equality and a draw. The text gets there also but without the excitement. Neither side was in difficulties with the clock here. Both players do have a tendency to use up time, and I believe 17 Re5, might have given Peter a great deal to think about. That could have caused him to use even more time subsequently.

17…, Bd6 18.Na4 Rae8 19.Nc5+ Bxc5 20.dxc5 Rxe1 21.Rxe1 Ne4 22.Be3 Rf8!?

Missing a chance to make John’s life more difficult with 22…, Rb8. Keeping the Rooks on has to help Black; he would have more resources with which to defend the pawn weaknesses.

23.Rf1 Rxf1+

Phillips Henner 3

Again Black is too agreeable. Going to b8 with the Rook is still possible; 23…, Rb8 24 Bd4 Ke7; and White’s advantage is not so great. After the trade on f1 White has good chances to win. He doesn’t yet have the point in the bag, but being on the side of the Bishop in a BvN ending with pawns on both sides of the board usually favors the side with the Bishop.

24.Kxf1 g5 25.Bd4 g6?

A mistake that could have spelled an early end to Black’s hopes. On g7 the pawn defends f6 so that the out-posted Ne5 has a path for retreat. Without a safe way out of the outpost, the Knight can be a problem instead of an invulnerable Gibraltar.

26.Ke2 Ke6 27.Kf3 Kf5 28.g4+ Ke6

White is very close to winning now.

29.Ke3 Kd7 30.b4 Ke6 31.c4?,..

Phillips Henner 4

Logic and experience tells us White has two possible winning plans: first some kind of hell-for-leather rush of his Q-side pawns, or second to take advantage of lack of moves in the Black camp and the not-so-strong e5 outpost in combination with the Q-side pawn advance. White has the right idea with the Q-side advance. However, timing is important. Getting in the c2-c4 thrust when the Black King is NOT on e6 when the Knight can fall back to f6 is an important point. White has many reserve pawn moves and Black has none: a2-a3, a3-a4, h2-h3, c2-c3 and c2-c4 for White, while Black has no pawn move that does not immediately drop a pawn. White likely does not want to move the h-pawn until he absolutely must – it covers g3 very nicely from h2. This brings up a second important point, if the Black King is not on e6, and the White King is on e3, d3, or even c2, the Knight has no safe move. The implication is; the Black King is very much restrained. Where he goes and when can be the deciding factor for White. Breaking open the Q-side appears to be unstoppable by Black. There is a third important point: the breakthrough of a White pawns on the Q-side may not win outright because of the particular pawn formations there. The “killer” for White may be the harvest of the Black g-pawns in that case. One final consideration White has to take into account that it may be necessary to sacrifice the Bishop for a potentially dangerous Black pawn at some point. White then would have to rely on the Black King being stuck holding back a passer on the Q-side, and White would then use his connected passed pawns on the K-side against the lone Knight.

Put succinctly, there is a great deal to think about, and time was beginning to become a concern for both players: White had 20 minutes on his clock and Black 14. After a fairly long consideration, three and one-half minutes, Mr. Phillips went for the all-out pawn advance. It is better to prepare the Q-side break with 31 a4, first. Then if: a) 31…, Nf6? 32 bxf6 Kxf6 33 Kd4 Ke6 34 c6 Kd7 35 Ke5, and White has two more reserve pawn moves with which he can force a further advance of his King. This line is clearly winning for White. Or b) 31…, Kd7 32 c4 Ke6 33 a5 Kd7 34 Bh8! Ke6 35 cxd5+, when if b1) 35…, Kxd5 36 Bb2!, and the Knight is lost, and b2) 35…, cxd5 36 b5! Nxc5 37 Bd4 Kd6 38 Bxc5+ Kxc5 39 bxa6, and Black will be run out of moves letting the leading a-pawn go on to make a Queen.

The text allows Black to make a precise defense as the next sequence shows. Both players went forward slowly over the next ten moves. Mr. Phillips clock went down from 25 minutes to just over 5 minutes on move 40, and Mr. Henner’s clock fell from 19 minutes to 3:24. The puzzle everyone faces under the modern Game-in-x-minutes time control is epitomized by this segment of the game: play carefully and check each move for tricks, traps and stratagems knowing that if your opponent does not falter you well go into the technical ending with little time in which to find your way, or play with attention to the clock husbanding time for the ending. It is a situation where your damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

31…, Nf6 32.Bxf6 Kxf6 33.cxd5 cxd5 34.Kd4 c6 35.a4 Ke6 36.h3 Kd7 37.b5 cxb5 38.axb5 axb5 39.Kxd5 Kc7 40.c6?,..

Phillips Henner 5

A natural looking move if there ever was one, but wrong. If there was time to think, I am sure Mr. Phillips would have found White’s best is: 40 Ke4!, then 40…, Kc6 41 Kd4 b4 42 Kc4 b3 43 Kxb3 Kxc5 44 Kc3, taking up the opposition leaving the position dead drawn.

Analysis Diagram after Kc3.

Phillips Henner 6

For a good portion of the game John has had some advantage. Now, in time trouble, his instinct pushes him towards trying to win. Unfortunately, this time the will-to-win should cost him the full point.

40…, b4 41.Kc4 Kxc6 42.Kxb4 Kb6?

Phillips Henner 6

It is Mr. Henner’s turn to react on instinct wrongly. With 42…, Kd5; he would be well ahead in the race to the K-side with great winning chances. A straight foreword chase-type line is: 42…, Kd5 43 Kc3 Ke4 44 Kd2 Kf3 45 Kd3 Kg3 46 Ke3 Kxh3 47 Kf3 Kh4; and casually one might say White could hold this position by keeping his King placed so it can go to g2 when Black takes the g4-pawn.

Analysis diagram after 47…, Kh4.

Phillps Henner 8

That would be true if Black did not have the second g-pawn. With no second g-pawn, a passed pawn on the 5th rank, Kings in front is a theoretical draw. The big but is Black will have a reserve pawn move to tempo the White King out of the way so that the leading g-pawn can go to the 2nd without checking thereby squeezing the White King from g1. Peter’s time problem was worse than John’s, he was down to 2 minutes remaining. The game should now be trivial draw, but Mr. Phillips wanted to test Mr. Henner’s nerves and determination.

43.Kc4 Kc6 44.Kd4 Kd6 45.Ke4 Ke6 1–0

The game went on for several more moves with the clocks running down on both sides. We will draw the veil over the mistakes by both parties, and show only this one last position where Black had a known drawing finesse but missed it with just seconds left on his clock.

Phillips Henner 10

As Philip Sells pointed out after the game ended: a pawn on the 5th , White King in front, the Black King at g7 and White to move is drawn. Move the whole formation forward one square and White wins no matter who has the move. With Black to move, 53…, g5+; secures the draw. If 54 Kxg5 Kg7; and White can not advance his King without bringing the pawn forward. Then all Black must remember is when the White pawn goes to the 7th it must be with check and Black draws. If White tries: 54 Kh5 Kf6 55 Kh6 Kf7 56 Kxg5 Kg7 57 Kf5 Kf7 58 g5 Kg7 59 g6 Kg8 60 Kf6 Kf8 61 g7+ Kg8; drawn. Black just did not see the pawn sacrifice at g5. There was little time left to either player. With just seconds on the clock one must trust instinct. Compared to the similar position Black could have had earlier, here White does not have a trailing g-pawn with which he can squeeze the opponent’s King out of the blockade.

And so, Mr. Phillips won as he needed to do in an effort to salvage a result from this year’s Championship; while Mr. Henner slipped a bit in his effort to overhaul Leisner and Mockler. It was an intense contest with both players putting a great deal of work into the game.

More soon.

Albany and Saratoga Updates and a Game

The games last Sunday evening at Saratoga were games delayed in the regular schedule. Last week was the last regularly scheduled round. The results Sunday February 2nd were:

Feinberg 1-0 Gausewitz. This was an English Opening with KID flavor. Both players stayed true to their styles of careful positional preparation before getting to hand-to-hand fighting. After 16 moves some things were obvious: Black believed he could dominate the a-file doubling his Rooks there, and White was relying breaking in the center while covering entry points on the a-file with his minor pieces. I think Black’s plan was better than White’s counter. Finding no ready entry on the a-file, Black then switched to a K-side advance. All was going reasonably well for Black until the very tactical on move 23 when Black offered the Exchange for the privilege of sinking a pawn on f3. White ignored correctly the material temptation and carried out his central advance netting instead an advanced d-pawn on the 6th . A good lesson there for the developing player: When there is a choice, the dynamic – in this case a dangerous passed pawn – is often to be preferred to the static – winning a Rook for a Bishop. At this critical point Black was in difficulties no matter what. He decided on an all-out K-side offensive that had a dangerous look to it, but too much additional material had to thrown into the pot. The d-pawn advanced, more material was lost and the game ended on move 37.

Little 1-0 Kuperman. If I wanted to make any advance in rating, I had to win this game. Mr. Kuperman had taken full points from Finnerman and Gausewitz in earlier rounds meaning this contest could not be treated lightly. I did not play the Scotch Game in the best way possible, and by move 15 trickery was the best I could come up with. Fortunately for me Mr. Kuperman miscalculated the trick I tried allowing a transition into an ending where I was a pawn up. More important than the pawn was my more active Rook and King. While Mr. Kuperman demonstrated how well and creatively he can attack in his wins from Finnerman and Gausewitz, his tactical flair deserted him in this ending. A couple of further mistakes and I was able to force resignation on move 36.

After these make-up games, the standings in the Saratoga Championship are:

1 Farrell 9½-2½
2 Feinberg 8½-2½ with Finnerman to play
3 Little 7-5
4 Gausewitz 5½-5½ with Finnerman to play
5 Finnerman 5-5 with Feinberg and Gausewitz to play
6 Connors 2½-9½
7 Kuperman 2-10

Clearly the class of the field at Saratoga this year were Farrell and Feinberg. They ran away from the rest of us. Jonathan Feinberg can tie Gary Farrell for first with a win over Finnerman. If the title is decided on tie-breaks, Mr. Feinberg may have the edge with his 1½-½ head-to-head score against Mr. Farrell. My third place finish, alone or equal with Mr. Finnerman is not too bad for an old guy. David Connors did well again placing ahead of the strong Class B player Kuperman. As consolation for coming last, Joshua has the very pretty win from David Finnerman, a game anyone would be proud to have in their record. No doubt Finnerman and Gausewitz are disappointed they could not mount a greater challenge to the leaders.

Next week Finnerman and Gausewitz are to play. The week following Feinberg and Finnerman meet. I plan to make the long drive to Saratoga for both of these games if the nasty winter weather does not interfere.

On Thursday February 6th the next round of the Schenectady event was played. The results were:

Calderon ½ – ½ Adamec, Zachary decided on the Colle System to deal with his strong opponent. Not a bad choice, the Colle has a sound reputation even if it is not particularly good as a serious try for something substantial out of the opening. The first dozen moves in this game produced a kind of reversed French Defense with Black’s pawns on d5 and e4 to White’s pawns on e3 and d4. In addition Black owned the half-open h-file. White castled short, and I expected there might be some kind of direct attack on the White King in the offing. Then there was an odd little transaction where Black traded off White’s last Knight for a Bishop and the game became a struggle between White’s Bishop pair and the Black’s two Knights. Black castled long and White was quicker off the mark in getting his own attack on the King going. Black offered a Queen trade on move 23. White would have done better than to decline. By keeping the Queens on White would have maintained a substantial edge. With the Queens off it became an endgame B+R versus N+R with pawns on both sides. The game simplified further when White lost his a-pawn in the trade of minor pieces. Black’s extra pawn – a not very far advanced a-pawn was insufficient to win. White was able to get his King to the a-file ending any hopes of Black stealing the point. The draw was agreed on move 63. Carl has but one game to play, and is out of contention for first place after this draw. Zach, also with one game to play, will likely end up in the middle of the pack. His quest for a +2000 rating was not harmed by drawing with Phillips, Mockler and Adamec in this event. He may even have gained some rating points.

Phillips 1-0 Henner. “Once more into the breach my friends” is a good title for this game. Mr. Henner continues on his mission to explore 1…, f5; in answer to 1 d4, and he again was met by the Staunton Gambit. For his trouble Mr. Henner got a lousy pawn structure and a slow development this time. White recovered his pawn on move 16, and I thought Black did not have great chances to hold the game even though it might take many moves before White obtained anything substantial. On move 22, instead of occupying the half-open b-file to put a crimp in any White plan to use his mass of pawns there, Black took over the f-file. That choice allowed White to force off the Rooks reducing the game to an ending of Bishop versus Knight with pawns on both sides of the board. Black’s Knight had a strong post on e4 so the position was not lost for him, but it is often more comfortable to have the Bishop in such cases. Both players are from the very determined school of chess competitors. They battled down to a pawn ending, and then to a single pawn on each side position with only seconds on the clock. It was all instinctive reactions over the last dozen moves. Mr. Henner’s memory and intuition failed to see a fundamental drawing trick, and Mr. Phillips won.

Leisner 1-0 Miranti. The opening was a Queen’s Pawn Game. The position was more or less equal for 15 moves or so. Mr. Leisner began crafting a breakthrough on the K-side. Mr. Miranti did not see the coming storm. It broke, and Black’s game was fatally compromised by a rush of White pieces and pawns.

Hill 0-1 Clough. White let his King to become exposed in a King’s Gambit Declined. As it so often happens in the KGD, tactics came to the fore, and the White King had to pay the ultimate price of checkmate.

Canty ½ – ½ Mockler. This was a kind of French Gran Prix Attack which is a favorite of Mr. Canty. Mockler put his own spin on the opening early with the eccentric development of his Ng8 to h6. By move 14 Black was clearly better, and then, and then.. the fun began. In the French with closed centers; White pawns on d4 and e5 and Black pawns on e6 and d5, Black does not always have to castle on the K-side. There are many times he can leave his King in the center or castle Q-side avoiding White’s natural attack. There are even occasions when Black can put his g-pawn on g6 trying to just hold the light squares and not worrying over much about the dark squares. There are however very few times Black can try the advance of his own K-side pawns to the 5th rank. Mr. Mockler did that on his 15th turn. On the 18th move Black gave up his very useful dark squared Bishop for an oddly placed Knight on b4. A Bishops of opposite color middle game was reached with both sides’ Bishops restricted by their own pawns. The far advanced Black h-pawn looked vulnerable. Guarding it put a damper on the activity of Black major pieces. White repeated moves around moves 28 and 29 and a draw was agreed. At the end White might have had more freedom for his pieces than Black, but getting his Rooks into action absent any wide open files looked difficult. A draw was a reasonable decision. While there not a lot of fireworks in this game it had a significant effect on the battle for the title between Leisner and Mockler. Jon’s win from Miranti and this draw dropped Michael to two points behind Jon. Mr. Mockler with only one game to play versus Mr. Leisner’s four games to play, has much slimmer chances now to match scores for first place. It was a good result for Mr. Canty. He has been the “Giant Killer” of this year’s tournament; this draw and a win over John Phillips had a real effect on the places at the top.

I reported earlier about Mr. Varlela’s withdrawal from the Schenectady event. When I received the information from the TD it was said his games would not count for the tournament standings. It turns out that was incorrect. There 13 rounds of play in this tourney but only 12 games are to played, everyone has at least one Bye. Since Varela played 6 games, and that is 50% of the games, his games will be counted in standings. The standings reported below includeing Varela’s score and the February 6th results, based on points lost are now:

1 Leisner 7½-½
2 Mockler 8½-2½
3-4 Henner 6-3
3-4 Northrup 5-3
5 Adamec 7-4
6-8 Phillips 5½-4½
6-8 Calderon 6½-4½
6-8 Clough 4½-4½
9 Canty 4½-6½
10 Chu 3-7
11 Varela 3-9 Withdrew, un-played games scored as forfeit losses.
13 Miranti 2-8
12 Hill 1-8

With most of the confusion behind us now, the standings are becoming clear. Mr. Leisner is in fine shape to take his first Schenectady title. Jon has a 2 point lead over Mockler, 2 ½ over Henner, and Northrup and 3 ½ on Adamec. Although Leisner has four games to play it is hard to imagine him not scoring two points out of these four games. Anything more than two points and Jon has the title locked up.

Michael Mockler has strong views of how the opening of a chess game should be conducted. Recently he has been playing the Morra Gambit against the Sicilian Defense regularly. It is a line full of tricks and positions that are not well known. Very often the Morra can lead to pretty wins, and sometimes White ends up suffering, just down a pawn for no compensation. Perhaps the most frequent result is the game becomes difficult for both sides. For those of us unfamiliar with the Morra, it is not so easy to evaluate the resulting positions.

Mockler, Michael – Henner, Peter [B21]
SCC Championship 2013–14 Schenectady, NY, 30.01.2014

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 g6 4.Bc4!?,..

Book is 4 cxd4. Mockler has been working on the Morra this season. The move played is maybe something he has worked out for himself. The move is not utterly unknown. It has been tried a few times but with very poor results for White according to the games in my database. Could it be Michael has found an improvement?

4…, dxc3?!

Mockler Henner 1

This move seems not to be the way to go. It helps White’s development. More usual is 4…, Nf6; getting on with development, or 4…, e6; looking to forestall White’s potential Queen and Bishop battery on the a1-g8 diagonal.

5.Qb3!?,..

White bets on the battery. The straight forward 5 Nxc3, is equal.

5…, e6 6.Qxc3?!,..

A tempting move that is probably wrong. White likely wanted to preserve his light squared Bishop. Leaving his Queen on b3 gives Black the Knight tour .., Nc6/..Na5; hitting the Queen and Bishop. The text avoids that.

6…, f6!?

Mockler Henner 2

Better 6…, Nf6; (development) and then if 7 Bg5 Be7 8 Nd2 0-0 9 e5 Nd5 10 Bxe7 Qxe7 11 Qb3 Nb6 12 Ngf3, when 12…, f6; is a kind of standard reaction against the not-so-strong pawn on e5. Black will then retain his extra material, have the open f-file on which he may put his Rooks to work, and when the e5-pawn disappears, Black has two good center pawns to none. The probable answer to the earlier question is: I don’t see the makings of some significant improvement for White by playing this way.

7.Nf3 Nc6 8.0–0 Qc7 9.Bb3 Bd6?!

Mockler Henner 3
It was here I had the chance to look in on this game long enough to make my own evaluation. The Black position looks suspect. Just its strangeness led me to conclude Black was worse. In fact, if Black had played 9…, b6; he would have been on his way to some small advantage. The text, according to the engine is approximately equal.

It is possible this the sort of position that tempted White to pursue his scheme. There is little doubt the Black position appears disorganized. The finest flowering of chess theory and practice before the age of computers was the ascendancy of the Russian School after WWII. Now in the time of strong chess engines, the Russian preference for the dynamic and concrete calculation in conducting the game has become ever more the watchwords of modern chess. Forming an opinion about a position on how well it conforms to some general rules is less relevant than the very specific possibilities that can be calculated. The present position is an example to prove the point.

10.Qe1?,..

This retrograde maneuver hands Black the advantage. White may have been worried about simplification after: the natural 10 Rd1 Ne5 11 Nxe5 Bxe5; when unless White is willing to put his Queen on h3, there will likely be a trade on c7. Very often, if a pawn is sacrificed in the opening, the player who gave the pawn is reluctant to see the Queens off. That is likely Mr. Mockler’s motivation for this move.

10…, b6

A pretty good move threatening .., Ba6; attacking the landlocked Rf1. I rather like the alternative 10…, Ne5; and beginning to direct Black pieces to the K-side anticipating a possible piece sacrifice on f2 if White disturbs a future Ne5-g4 with h2-h3.

11.Qe2 Ne5 12.Nd4 a6 13.Nc3 Ne7!?

It might be better to play 13…, h5; but it is not clear Black’s K-side pawn roller is really dangerous.

14.Bh6,..

When this move was played my intuition was White was doing well. Rybka says the game is equal.

14…, Nf7

The alternative: 14…, N7c6; is worth a look also. It could conceivably lead to exchanges of some minor pieces and maybe Queens in the center when the game equalizes.

15.Bg7 Bxh2+ 16.Kh1 Rg8 17.Bxf6 Be5 18.Bxe5 Qxe5 19.Rfd1!?,..

I suspect this is the wrong Rook. Keeping this Rook on f1 to support f2-f4 looks better to me.

19…, Bb7 20.Rac1 Ng5 21.Ba4?!,..

Mockler Henner 4

True to his style, Mr. Mockler seeks complications. Safer is 21 f3, and the game is tending towards equality, although there plenty of fight left in the position. The threat Mr. Mockler makes is to capture on d7 with the Bishop and win the Black Queen with a discovered check by the Nd4.

21…,Nc6?

There is nothing wrong with 21…, b5. It pushes back the Ba4 and gives Black some advantage. Now the obvious trades on c6 result in a marked edge for White.

Once more we see an example of the uneven quality often apparent in our games locally; good and accurate play mostly with intervals of blindness to sometimes simpler and sounder methods. I have experienced the same phenomenon in my own play. GM Aagaard’s well known comment about similar mental flaws in his play is: “What was I thinking here?, The answer is I wasn’t!”. This is an area where we all can seek improvement, and improvement is possible. Mostly this is true because we are not talking about chess skill, rather at issue is how closely we are paying attention to what is happening in front of us, the willingness to test the assumptions we make regarding chess positions encountered and the willingness to put out your best effort on every move.

My conclusion is this: Many of the players in the sub-2000 bunch (1950-1990) have all the specific technical chess knowledge to stay over 2000 if they consistently apply the knowledge. In one game they will play technically sound and sometimes inspired chess, in another game there comes moments of lassitude where they, as Aagaard puts it; just don’t think. No amount of GM coaching, DVD and book studying or analysis of Master games will deal with this problem. It is a matter of competitive character. Paying close and systematic attention to every move is just plain hard work. The discipline to do such work is the difference between a good strong 1950 player and a 2050 player who someday may break 2200.

22.Nxc6 Bxc6 23.Bxc6 dxc6 24.Qd2 Nf7 25.Qd7+ Kf8 26.Qxc6,..

Mockler Henner 5

White has recovered his pawn and has control of the d-file. Not yet quite enough to claim victory is near, but certainly something to build upon.

26…, Rb8 27.Rd7 Kg7 28.Rcd1 Rgc8 29.Qa4 a5?

Mockler Henner 6

Black has been fighting a holding action. Here he could have considered active defense with 29…, b5. Then, if 30 Qxa6 b4 31 Ne2 Kg8 32 f3 Ra8 33 Qb7 Rab8; with a possible repetition, or better for White is: 30 Qxa6 b4 31 Ne2 Kg8 32 Kg1! (getting out of a possible double attack by the Queen from h5.) 32…, Qxe4 33 R1d4, and Black has two weak pawns to defend; e6 and b4. In this case the initiative is firmly in White’s hands, but Black has chances. White now comes up with a flawed idea.

30.Nb5 Rd8 31.Nd6?,..

Mockler Henner 7

Losing the game in a single stroke. 31 Nc7, puts pressure on e6, a glaring weak point in the Black setup. A logical line of play is: 31 Nc7 Rxd7 32 Qxd7 Rb7 (Not 32…, Rd8? 33 Nxe6+ Qxe6 34 Qxd8, and the White Queen has the many targets needed for a Queen to fight a Rook and a minor piece.) 33 Nxe6+ Kf6 34 Qd5, and not 34 Qxb7? Qh5+; when Black wins using the double attack as in the game.

31…, Rxd7 32.Qxd7 Qh5+ 0–1

Because 33 Kg1 Qxd1+ 34 Kh2 Qxd6+; and all resistance is over. For whatever reason; my own weakness as a chess player, or too much confidence in Mr. Mockler’s opening experiments, once again I misjudged his opponent’s resources and overvalued Mockler’s ideas while watching the game. Michael’s drive to find “interesting” chess positions often outstrips his opponent’s ability to find the right path through complications. Sometimes the search boomerangs as it does here. It can not be denied this search make for interesting games and plenty for a commentator to talk about.

More soon.