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.
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?,..
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?,..
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
It is necessary to oppose .., Re8-e4.
23…, Rce7 24.Rxe7 Rxe7 25.Bxd4 Bd6
Much of Black’s advantage has disappeared.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.