“Till memory shall be no more.”

Philidor played two blindfold games simultaneously in 1783. This feat of human memory was touted as one of the greatest skills of memory ever displayed. “…it is a phenomenon in the history of man, so should be hoarded among the best samples of human memory, till memory shall be no more.”

Who then could so easily forget March 26th of 2015 when our local chess community was struck by the news of “Passing of a Chess Warrior“?

IMG_0139
Bill Little looks over the flock.

So as to not forget, our collective memory of Bill Little is being retained at the Bill Little Memorial Chess Tournament taking place in less than two weeks. Many cultures, sub cultures, and individuals have their own unique ways of dealing with loss and preserving the memory of those who once lived among us. Chess players in this case seem to find a healthy way to engage their denial, anger, bargaining and yes, grief, in part, by playing chess.

IMG_0138
Bill Little watches over the Chess.

Parmenidies made the case that “nihil fit ex nihilo”, Latin for “Nothing comes of nothing.” But in the case of Bill Little, who lives with us no more, we do have something. A person we have joining in on April 2nd at the Bill Little Memorial is Patrick Chi. This young man has submitted a number of games and other worthy materials for soon to be published articles.

Open u2300 1-3 Chi
Patrick Chi smiles at the NYS Championship.

If you din’t ever get to play Bill Little, it is your loss. If you don’t try to get a game in with Patrick before he goes off to College, that too will be an unfortunate loss.

Big Bill Little Chess Fund

My friend Bill Little and I often found little ways to show our love for the game of chess, pooling some money to make a gesture of support for our local players. We rather enjoyed the feeling that our small acts of generosity made it easier for young players to participate, to evolve, and to mature, all as part of the joy of playing chess in our local clubs. We have been happy watching the growth of local players as they expand into distant venues, striving for glory and honor.

I had been planning to approach Bill about an ambitious project, giving away chess sets to young players at this year’s Albany Tulip Fest. Instead, I asked the local club members to match my donation, which we now need to name as an “Event.” I am proposing the name Big Bill Little Chess Set Giveaway. If you have an alternate suggestion, drop me a line at gro.a1501260291cyne@1501260291retla1501260291w1501260291 .

My thanks to the many members who stepped up to fill Bill’s shoes: Alan LeCours and Glen Gausewitz from Saratoga; Timothy Wright, David Finnerman, Paul Axel-Lute, Cory Northrup, Jeremy Berman, Charles Eson, Jonathon Lack, Thomas Clark, Arthur Alowitz, and Glen Perry from Albany. All made donations, or offered to donate gently used sets, and their thoughtfulness is greatly appreciated.

I believe that we have enough for 40 sets. I will see if any members that I missed will wish to add to the pool of monies, and to the memory of Big Bill Little.

Discussion has begun on a memorial tournament. I am still at the “too soon” stage, but will open the topic for debate in the near future.

A Game From My Last Farewell Tour

After some years of not playing in weekend tourneys because I tired in the second round on the day, the traditional NYS Open caught my fancy. I wanted to drop-in on the event to get games for the ENYCA blog in any case. Also, it was an opportunity to give my wife a couple of days away from home in Lake George, one of her favorite spots. I managed a 2-1 score over the first two days. The event had a three day schedule: one round Friday evening, two on Saturday, and two on Sunday. I lost to USCF Master Dale Sharp in the 3rd round. I did have chances to draw that game. Afterwards fatigue set-in hard. Too bushed to sleep well Saturday night the resulting fatigue led me to withdraw early Sunday morning.

Winning this game from a very young Expert, William Hu, in the second round was the high point for me. Click on any bold-faced move to see a diagram, or to play through the moves of the game.

And so ends my chess career: a win from a dangerous youngster and a loss to a grizzled Master, Dale Sharp. The results obtained in my final season: 3rd place in the Saratoga Championship, 5-1 in the Capital District Chess League, and 2-1 at the NYS Open epitomize my chess career. I was good enough to test and often defeat many players up to Master level. I was not consistent enough in single games, or in a series of games to hold my own when playing Master and near Masters.

Again the end.

Bits and Pieces From a Recent CDCL Match

A late piece of League news: The Capital Region team defeated Uncle Sam of Troy last Monday 2½-1½ with draws on boards 1-3 and a win on board 4. The Cap Region team has 2-3 record with the match versus RPI un-played. Although this is about the same result for them as last year, from what I observed they were more competitive in all their matches than they were previously. The revised standings for the League are:

1 Albany B 4½-1½ finished
2 Albany A 3-2 with one to play
3 SCC A 2-2 with two to play
4 Troy 1-2 with 3 play I think
5 Geezers 3½-2½ finished
6 Cap Region 2-3 with one to play
7 RPI 1-3 (remaining matches forfeited I am told)

The disposition of RPI’s matches is an open question. RPI did play three of the scheduled six matches. In round-robin tournaments when a participant completes at least 50% of their games and has to drop out, the un-played games are scored as forfeit wins for the opponents who did not get to play. Presupposing that RPI will not be able to field a team now that the school year is over, it seems a reasonable way to close out the RPI schedule. We must await the League Director’s decision however.

Now on to some chess:

Sometimes there are games that are not particularly interesting tactically over a good part of the play. Then at some point there is a moment when a flash of tactical excitement pops up. In the three games we will look at today there were good and bad strategic and positional decisions made. They are all from the CDCL match between Schenectady’s A team and the Geezers. Rather than labor over a raft of finer positional points, the tactical possibilities found or missed caught my attention.

In the first example Sells and Mockler played a line in the French that is not as well known to most of us; 3…, Nc6. This is a debut carrying with it a drop of poison or two.

Analysis of 7…, Nfxd4!?:

7…Nfxd4 8.Nxd4 Qh4+ 9.Ke2 Qxg4+ 10.Nf3 Bc5 11.Be3 Bxe3 12 Kxe3 g5;
ANALYSIS POSITION

and Black has more than enough compensation for the piece. Leading up to the above position there are several places where White may vary.

One such alternative is: 10 Ke3 Qh4 (not a move one would easily find without a familiarity with this position. Black needs the Queens on.) Then 11 Bb5 f6;
ANALYSIS POSITION

and with two pawns for the piece and the White King wandering shelter-less, Black has probable equality and an easier position to play than has White. The lines will be opened up on the K-side making the White King more vulnerable.

Get out your chessboards and engines to work out the complications. It is a good exercise.

The next position shows a pretty finish that Carl Adamec crafted in his game with me. The lesson to be learned is against strong Experts, if you drift for a moment they can find the tactical key to the position and unlock a sparkling attack.


The finish was:20 h3? Bh4 21 hxg4 Rxe2 22 Rd2 Bxf2+ 23 Kf1 Rxd2 24 Nxd2 Bxd4 25 Bxd4 Bd3+ 26 Resigns 0-1 because the coming capture on d4 will threaten make and a decisive loss of material.
FINAL POSITION

White had to try 20 Bd3 Bxd3 21 Rxd3, and then 21…, Bh4 22 g3 Re2 23 Rd2, is roughly equal although Black does have a persistent initiative.

We now come to the last game for the day: Calderon – Phillips from the SCC A-Geezers match. The position I have taken under consideration is that after Black’s 31st move. It is noteworthy for two points: first, it is pretty uncommon to have two sets of double pawns on the same side of the board and neither King can easily approach the doubled pawns directly, and second, this is one of the cases where a Knight with good outposts clearly has more winning chances than the Bishop. What specifically makes it exceptional is there are pawns on both sides of the board. That usually favors the Bishop. In fact, while watching the game play out, I kept beginning my own analysis from the premise that Black was better, or at least equal. It was only after working down various lines of play and reaching good positions for White several times that it became clear Black in some trouble.

After White’s 31st move this is the position:

It was a game with some questionable moves tactically and in the score I have at hand. What is posted is my best guess at some of the moves. From move 23 on the score is clear.

The position sets a challenge for both sides. Everyone who has played chess for some time would guess Black has chances; he has the Bishop after all, and there are pawns on both sides of the board. In the scales against that fact are that White has an unassailable post for the Knight on d5 that also guards the f-pawn duo, and the White King appears to threaten Black’s duo on the h-file. Additionally the Black d-pawn is weak and his a-pawn can be attacked by the Knight.

Black’s move was 31…, h4; and that is by far the best move in the position. It is only by making the most of the h-pawns can Black hold the balance. White replied 32 b4. This may not be the engine’s recommendation, but it is the right idea: while tension is maintained on the K-side about the mutual weakness of the sets of doubled pawns, expansion on the Q-side will test Black to the utmost. Black then advanced his trailing h-pawn, 32…, h5. Again a nearly only move. It makes the White King’s approach to the h-pawns as difficult as possible. White then began to go wrong with 33 b5. Better 33 a4, continuing to build pressure. It is not that White has a straight forward road to victory, rather it is an intricate set of maneuvers attempting to run Black out of safe moves to force some concession. By move 38 the following position was reached:

White has made some progress, he’s won a pawn. However with the remaining h-pawn secure for the moment and the f-pawn firmly blockaded, very probably the game is drawn. The match situation – SCC A had by now scored enough points to claim victory, and the clock situation – Zachary had the better part of one hour left while John was down to less than five minutes, combined to inspire Mr. Calderon to try for the whole point. His plan was to give up the f-pawns to gain time to send the Knight to collect something on the Q-side. The plan led to this position after move 45 for White:

The situation has changed utterly. The passed Black d-pawn is too fast a danger for White to meet successfully. That is if Black can see everything clearly with just seconds to think. He did not do so, and in a time trouble flurry Black dropped a piece and resigned when, had he a bit more time, there were still moves to be reasonably made. Errors there certainly were on both sides of the board, but the endgame was far enough out of the ordinary to make error understandable. Though flawed in actual play, the position singled out is worth some effort. Working over this position can aid the developing player to achieve a deeper understanding of Bishop versus Knight endings. The specific features of the ending can trump the usual adages about Bishops being better than Knights.
Here is the complete game score as I have it:


The End

Mistakes and Tension

An editorial note: We, the guys doing most of the work on the blog right now, Mockler (Admin and Technical) and Little (Content), are continuing to improve the looks and function of the posts. Today’s post is the latest and greatest. The goal for some long time was to get the most reader friendly presentation of content. I, Little, think this latest improvement gets us very nearly there.

Essentially what Mr. Mockler has accomplished is to allow us to publish the game in pgn format and to nest comments inside the pgn file. What makes this useful and good from my viewpoint is we retain the clean presentation that the WordPress publishing tool recently acquired.

Let us know if this new format works for you. At any point as you are going over the game, clicking on a move will display the automated board and you can see the position, or you may play through some or all the moves of the game.

I have heard that a couple of other people are interested in getting into posting. That is good news. The more voices the better this blog will do its job of promoting chess in Eastern NY. If you have the interest and something to say about chess, talk to Michael Mockler, our President and technical wizard, about what you must do to obtain access for posting on the blog. End of the editorial note.

Gordon Magat has been a difficult opponent for me. We haven’t met often, but up to this game I have not done well at all in our games. Gordon is a very tough fighter and especially so when he feels his position is worse. There are some players who play their best when in trouble; Gordon and Tim Wright are two that come to mind of that ilk. I seem to be intimidated by grim, determined defense. At the CDCL match where the Geezers faced Albany A in Guilderland, NY I wanted a different outcome.

Tension in a chess game is about as normal as anything can be. Chess is an ego driven contest. While from our earliest days on the playground we all recognize some are bigger, stronger, faster, and somehow in the process of growing up we come to terms with that fact. It is much harder to come to grips with the fact that some of our peers remember more, think faster and more clearly. People who pursue the mind-sport that is chess have a hard time accepting someone is going to out-fox them on the chess board. If it were otherwise few of us would play the game for decades. So, when we sit down to play all our attention and energy is bent to the task of defeating the opponent. That sort of heavy investment of energy and pride brings tension, and tension breeds mistakes. We see it in today’s game, and if you follow the big elite tournament going on now in Norway you have already seen it there among the World’s best chess players. Tension comes with chess. Tension leads to error. We chess players must learn to live with it, but it surely is painful sometimes.

This was a not so well played game by two guys who can do better. Some of the less than correct decisions came from the perception by both sides that a win was important for their respective teams. Nevertheless, it is a useful game for some teaching purposes . Developing players who review it can take heart from the observation of the errors made by these experienced players. It is one more piece of evidence supporting the notion of a need for tactical alertness. Both sides could have benefited had they been on their toes.

Illustrative Game:

(Editorial note: Click on any move in the above game to see an automated board and play through the moves.)

More soon.

A Tale of Two Pawns

My first two rounds at the recent New York Open at Lake George, NY might be captioned: A Tale of Two Pawns, or You Must Always Beware the Outside Passer.

In the first round one of our local scholastic talents, Sandeep Alampalli, gave me a tough fight.

Alampalli, Sandeep – Little, Bill [E90]
22nd NY Open, Lake George, NY, 16.05.2014

1.e4 d6 2.d4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.c4,..

One of the characteristics of the Modern move order is White can turn the opening into a KID as Sandeep does here. Those of us who are devoted to the Pirc-type games feel a little cheated out of our preferred lines when this happens.

4…, Nf6 5.Nc3 0–0 6.Be3 e5 7.d5,..

Lake G 1

The standard play for White for in the KID after pushing the d-pawn to d5 can be seen in this illustrative game From the French Team Championship, 2007:

(Editorial Note: Click on any move to see a chess board displayed with the position from the illustrative game.)

White is not required to close the center and go in for opposite side attacks – some folks are uncomfortable allowing Black to mass all that force against the White King. He can take on e5 and get a different kind of game as shown here from Hastings, 1990:

7…, Ng4 8.Bd2 f5 9.Bd3 f4 10.h3 Nh6 11.0–0 Nd7 12.Rc1 g5 13.Nh2?!,..

Lake G 2

A doubtful move in light of the standard plan for White in the KID: Q-side expansion and breakthrough as in the Fridman-Bicard game above. This is the plan that puts the maximum pressure on Black. He has to be exact and daring to get his K-side attack rolling before White comes crashing through on the c-file.

13…, Nf6 14.Be2 Qe8 15.Ng4 Nhxg4 16.Bxg4 h5 17.Bxc8 Qxc8 18.Be1?!,..

Lake G 3

The message White was broadcasting is now very clear. He was deferring any Q-side action until all danger of an assault on his King was passed. Absent the pressure of a Q-side advance Black can go about his business of arranging something unpleasant for White on the K-side.

18…, Qe8 19.g3?,..

A small mistake. More regular is 19 f3. The text slightly weakens the fortress of the White King.

19…, Qg6 20.Qe2 Rae8 21.Bd2 Kh8 22.Rce1 Rf7 23.Kh1 Bh6 24.Rg1 g4

Lake G 4

Over the last several moves Black had repeated opportunities to push this pawn forward, and he dawdled. White, in his turn had the possibility of forestalling the advance of the g-pawn by pushing up his own g-pawn, or starting the standard Q-side expansion. Neither side was willing to do something concrete, so we danced around the matter for a few moves looking for inspiration.

25.h4 Nd7 26.Rgf1 a6 27.Bc1 Ref8

Although with some inefficiencies Black has built a small advantage up. It rests on the threat to open the f-file requiring White to watch for that possibility with some care.

28.b4?,..

Lake G 5

The natural idea in the KID. Here it is too late.

28…, b6?!

The stage is set but Black fools around. Now is the moment for: 28…, fxg3 29 fxg3 Rf3; hitting the Nc3 and picking up the g-pawn. In all likelihood White’s h-pawn will fall also leaving nothing more than the technical exercise of driving the connected Black passed pawns forward. I now spend some moves rearranging my pieces confident White can’t really do much to upset the apple cart.

29.a4?,..

I had the suspicion White was going to push this pawn. That feeling motivated the less than principled 28…, b6. While examining the position after 29 a4, I noted that if the a-pawn takes one more step forward Black can simplify by force to a better endgame.

29…, Kh7 30.Ba3 Rf6 31.a5 Qf7 32.Kg1 bxa5 33.bxa5 fxg3 34.fxg3 Rxf1+ 35.Rxf1 Qxf1+ 36.Qxf1 Rxf1+ 37.Kxf1 Bd2

Lake G 6

Now either the a-pawn or the e-pawn falls. White’s best chance is 38 Bb2, leading to a technically difficult Bishop versus Knight endgame where Black’s extra pawn is no guarantee he is going to win.

38.Na4?,..

White picks the wrong endgame, one where Black will have a distant passed pawn, hence the title for this article. From move 31 onwards everything was clear and obvious to me. It was gratifying to be able to see the various pathways easily. I was just plain fortunate Mr. Alampalli did not play 38 Bb2, when there is not a anything like an easy win for Black. Had he done so I might have been mentally kicking myself for not playing 28…, fxg3; and collecting the pawn right away.

Now Black’s distant passed pawn is all the difference. It will either Queen as in the game, or act a magnet drawing the White King so far away that all the White K-side pawns fall leaving no hope to hold. In my next round game I was on the opposite side of the distant passed pawn equation, and the same fate befell me as it did Sandeep. Distant passed pawns are dreadful beasts to contend with. Let one come into being and a loss becomes very likely.

38…, Bxa5 39.c5 dxc5 40.Nxc5 Nxc5 41.Bxc5 Kg6 42.Ba3 Bb6 43.Ke2 Kf6 44.Bc1 Ke7 45.Bb2 Kd6 46.Ba3+ Bc5 47.Bb2 c6 48.dxc6 Bd4 49.c7 Kxc7 50.Bxd4 exd4 51.Kd3 Kd6 52.Kxd4 a5 0–1

Lake G 7

The game went on for several more moves with my a-pawn eventually Queening.

My second round game against Dale Sharp was a second loss to him for me. The first time we played was a several years ago in a tournament in Vermont, and Dale out played me there also.

Little, Bill – Sharp, Dale [C55]
22nd NY Open Lake George, NY, 17.05.2014

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3 Be7 5.Nc3 d6 6.h3?!,..

Lake G 8

Either 6 a3, or 6 a4, are the moves to which theory gives credence. White should take steps to preserve his light squared Bishop. I came up with an offbeat idea to take the game well out of the “book” on the theory USCF Master Sharp knows more than I do about the openings. Actually the move I played is not completely unknown; occasionally some very good players have tried it. John Van der Wiel tried it out against Glenn Flear at Wijk ann Zee in 1987:

Van der Wiel’s plan probably is more practical than is my idea.

6…, Na5 7.Qe2!?,..

An interesting notion; White is thinking of getting a grip on d5 and maybe opposite side castling. This is a playable idea and leads to difficult decisions for both sides. I guess that fits with my long standing prejudice in favor of making things as hard as possible in a game.

7…, Nxc4 8.dxc4 c6 9.Bd2?!,..

A very doubtful choice. Logical is 9 Be3 Qc7 10 g4, with similar ideas to Van der Wiel in the above game. The scheme may not have worked for the Dutchman, but there are more chances for White playing that way than with my plan.

9…, 0–0 10.0–0–0 Qc7 11.Nh2?,..

Lake G 9

Slow. Better to use the tempo by 11 Kb1, getting ready for the possible pawn storm on the Q-side, or trying to make something out of the development lead purchased with the minor Exchange with 11 Nh4. Black is now at least equal and seemingly on his way to some kind of advantage.

11…, a6 12.g4 b5 13.f4 bxc4 14.Qxc4 Be6 15.Qa4 d5 16.fxe5 Qxe5 17.Nf3 Qc7 18.e5 Nd7 19.Qf4 f6!?

Lake G 10

Black could have nailed down a firm plus with 19…, c5; taking over central space, keeping the Queens on for attacking purposes and setting the stage for an attack on my King.

20.exf6 Qxf4 21.Bxf4 Bxf6?!

Better is 21…, Rxf6. White now gets to equalize.

22.Bd6 Rf7 23.Nd4 Bxd4 24.Rxd4 c5 25.Rd2 d4 26.Na4 Rc8 27.Re1 Bc4 28.b3?,..

Lake G 11

An instructive oversight. More dynamic play can be had for White with 28 b4!?, continuing the idea of breaking Black’s center dominance. Play might then go: 28…, cxb4 29 Bxb4 Bb5 30 Nb2 Rf3 31 Rxd4 Rxh3; after which there are opportunities for both sides, and the engine sees the game as equal. I could see the possibilities, but correctly evaluating this alternative was beyond me.

28…, Bb5 29.Nb2 Rc6?

Better is 29…, Rf3; not permitting the simplifying sequence that comes next.

30.Re8+ Nf8 31.Rxf8+ Rxf8 32.Bxf8 Kxf8 33.Rf2+ Rf6 34.Rxf6+ gxf6 35.Nd3 c4 36.Nf4 Ke7 37.bxc4?,..

Lake G 12

I did not seriously examine the better move 37 a4. That move heads towards a reasonably clear draw after: 37…, Bc6 38 bxc4 Bxa4 39 c5 a5 40 Kb2 Kd7 41 c3 dxc3 42 Kxc3 Kc6 43 Nh5 f5 44 gxf5 Kxc5; and the distant passed a-pawn buys Black enough time to stop my K-side pawns with his Bishop and King.

37…, Bxc4 38.a3 Kd6 39.Kd2 Ke5 40.Nd3+ Ke4 41.Nc5+ Kf4

Lake G 13

Over the last few moves it became clear to me that the Bishop was so well placed no trickery of the Knight would preserve the balance on the K-side. The distant passer that will appear there would do to me something very similar to what happened to Sandeep in the preceding round.

42.Nd7 Kg5 43.h4+ Kxh4 44.Nxf6 h6 45.Ke1 Kg5 46.Ne4+ Kxg4 47.Kf2 Kf4 48.Nd2 Bd5 0–1

Lake G 14

There was nothing more to do except resign. My c-pawn is fatally weak and the h-pawn can advance as far as it needs to costing me the Knight at least. Taken together these two games hammer home the dangers of distant passed pawns. It is no great revelation to experienced players; we all have many such situations in our archives. The less-experienced among us must learn creating distant passers is one of the standard methods of winning endgames. The more experienced have to remember to calculate out far enough to make the delicate judgment about how dangerous a particular distant passer is in fact.

Mores soon.

The Promised Report on the 22nd NY Open

On Thursday May 15, 2014 the Schenectady Geezers faced the Capital Region team. The Cap Region side had a last minute problem with their second board, Joe Jones was ill. Once again the Geezers had the benefit of a forfeit win on board 4 because all the Cap Region players moved up a notch. This time the forfeit was not critical point in the match. Mockler and Little won their games, Phillips drew, and the final score was Geezers 3½-½ over the Capital Region team. The results by board were:

Board 1: Mockler 1-0 Finnerman. Another Pirc by Mr. Finnerman. It was the last game to finish, and it was a tight struggle for more than 60 moves. Mr. Mockler had the usual big space advantage in the center, and Mr. Finnerman never managed to shake the White hold on the middle of the board. There were tactics to entertain, but as is almost always true in the Pirc, if Black can’t break the White center, he has a long, unhappy defensive task to live with. That task used up much of David’s clock. Holding a cramped position with not enough time to find just the right moves fails often as it did here.

Board 2: Northrup 0-1 Little. This was a kind of Queen’s Indian Defense, and it was a botched game for both players. Long years ago the QID was one my often used weapons. I did not play the line correctly here and neglected development. As the middle game unfolded I had to resort to risky tactics to finally get my Q-side pieces to play a role. Deep into the middle game Cory missed chances on the Q-side, and bet everything on a K-side attack. In the heat of the fight Mr. Northrup overlooked a killer move on the K-side that would have more than justified his judgment After that Black had a clear path to the advantage. That is not to say Black did do his best to give Mr. Northrup too many chances to hold the draw. Cory and I both played our moves quickly so this was the first game to finish. We both would have benefited by taking a little more time for some moves. Neither of us had a lot to brag about in this encounter, I was plain lucky to win.

Board 3: Phillips ½-½ Denham. This was a mainline Slav Defense. Mr. Denham made a typical kind of error on move 11. He put his Queen on c7 rather than a5, or trying some other useful move. Some further strangeness in the middle game let White make a dangerous attack on the Black King. A suspicious Exchange offer on move 35 gave White no more than equality. Both sides overlooked a two move mate for White on move 41. The game then wound down to a draw by repetition on move 48. Mr. Phillips was in his usual time trouble by move 30. That probably accounts for his missing the mating idea as the time problem worsened.

It was not a sterling performance by either team, but luck was with the “Old Guys” this time.

The 22nd New York Open took place this passed weekend in Lake George, NY. My experience there confirmed once more that I am not able to play in so long a weekend tournament. My score was 2-1 against a Master, a young Expert and rising scholastic player, but Sunday morning I was just too tired to play the last two rounds. With the CDCL match on Thursday and three more games in two days, two more rounds were not possible. I had no chess left in me.

When I departed the tournament site I thought I had played fairly well. After looking over the games with the help of Deep Rybka it was more a mixed bag:

Against a Capital District scholastic player, Sandeep Alampalli, in a standard KID that we sort of backed into, I rather slowly built up Black’s usual K-side pressure. Sandeep, a very nice youngster and another product of Brother John’s Make the Right Move program delayed too long White’s natural counter-plan: a Q-side expansion and breakthrough. When Mr. Alampalli’s Q-side play got rolling it went a step to far. That presented me the chance for longish but not hard to find forcing sequence leading to picking up a pawn resulting in a winning endgame. I was happy about seeing far when the win became possible, and not so happy about letting things happen too slowly to be impressive.

My next game was with USCF Master Dale Sharp. It was a loss as was our one previous game in Vermont some few years ago. During the postmortem Dale thought my opening play was not so bad, I was White and it was a double e-pawn debut – a slightly off-beat line in the Hungarian Defense. I gave up a Bishop for a Knight to get to a position with opposite side castling. Surviving some dicey middle game moments led to an ending that I just might have held. When we were down to a Bishop versus Knight ending with pawns all across the board, I was not able to find my way. Eventually Black made an outside passed pawn on the K-side that could not be stopped.

My last game was with William Hu, a ten year old Expert from Massachusetts. It is very hard to play such a little one with respect. First they hardly look old enough to be dangerous, but they are as witnessed by the rating. This time I was fortunate to find some holes in Mr. Hu’s rapidly developing chess skills. William ran out of his opening preparation in a fairly usual Slav Defense allowing me a risky but forceful pawn push in the center. This disturbed his pieces and I was able to keep his King in the center. The unhappy White King stuck on the d-file was such a problem eventually Hu gave up a piece to obtain two connected passed pawns on the Q-side. I found the tactics to devalue the “passers”, but I missed a couple of chances to quickly end the game. It was a matter of too much confidence in my material edge and relying on intuition instead of concrete calculation. In the end my advantage was too great, and White had to resign. The less-than efficient handling of the finish is a one more reminder relaxation is dangerous in a chess game. You can spoil hours of work with moments of carelessness.

Overall a reasonable result. Against the better players my endgame skill is not quite good enough. I can still be a problem to the youngsters who have not quite yet filled in all pieces of their chess culture – the standard ideas, concepts and tricks that make up much of an experienced player’s arsenal. Falling into casual intuitive play when I think I have the advantage is a flaw that has dogged me my whole career. At this late date it is doubtful that flaw can be eliminated. However, the hope to do so is probably why I keep coming back to serious chess time and again.

The event was won by GM Alexander Ivanov with a perfect 5-0 score wrapping things up with a win from Michael Mockler. Mockler was tied for 2nd through 5th places with Busygin Kwarlter, Philip Sells and Kotski all at 3 ½-1½. There were 88 players entered in three sections: Open, Seniors and Under 1610. Alan Le Cours of Saratoga tied for first in the Senior section with Antonio Lorenzo, both with 4½-½. This was a good result for Alan reversing the run of under-par results recent months and returning his rating to the mid-1900s where it belongs. The Under 1610 section was won by Peter Teodorescu, a rising scholastic player from Massachusetts scoring 4½-½. Tom Clark of the Albany Club tied for 2nd through 4th place with Salzman and Gonzalez at 4-1. This is a very nice result for Mr. Clark.

Martha Samadashvili played in the Open section finishing in the middle of the pack at 2½-2½. The young lady continues to demonstrate steady improvement. She managed a draw with USCF Master Dale Sharp, lost only one game to Jeremy Berman, the Albany Champion, and raised her rating some 15 points. It is now 1881. Considering her serious chess career is only two years old, Martha has done excellently.

I started off this chess adventure with a CDCL match Thursday evening. Schenectady hosted the Capital Region Area Players team. Cory Northrup, another improving chess player, tries to make a fight out of every game he contests. Our game was no exception:

Northrup, Cory – Little, Bill [E16]
CDCL Match Geezers – Cap Region Schenectady, NY, 15.05.2014

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Bb7 5.Bg2 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 a5

Cory Little 1

With Bogo-Indian idea: if 7 Bxb4 axb4; and the Knight can’t develop to his normal square, c3. Viktor “The Terrible” Kortschnoi defends the Black side often. Here is an example from Rome, 1982 of how a great player handles Black’s problems:
(Editorial Note: Click on any move in the following illustrative games to see a chessboard and position and to play through the game’s moves.}

The Bogo-Indian appeals to strong players of the younger generation also. Here is a game from the Under 16 section of the 17th EU Championship in 2007:

7.0–0 0–0 8.a3 Be7!?

Objectively better is trading on d2, and then playing, in typical QID fashion, the Bb7 to e4 eventually trading it off for the Bg2. I wanted to keep material on hoping for something more concrete to present itself.

9.Nc3 Ne4 10.Qc2 Nxd2 11.Qxd2 f5?!

Cory Little 2

Risky. Black’s Q-side pieces languish unemployed. Superficially Black’s position appears promising, but what is the plan for completing my development? Black has problems and his Bishop pair is small recompense for a lack of development and White’s better central situation.

12.Rfe1 g5?!

White is going about his business in a workman-like manner. Since Black didn’t do the usual QID business on e4 White will advance his e-pawn and obtain the better game. Because Cory revels in the attack, I thought to put him on the defensive early with this risky move. It is not a great idea. More principled is 12…, h6; preparing .., g7-g5; or 12…, Na6; at least making a gesture at getting the pieces out even if the formation is not promising.

13.e4 g4 14.Ne5 Bg5 15.Qc2?,..

The first small reward for my risk taking. The Queen would be better placed on e2 where she eyes the g-pawn.

15…, d6 16.Nd3 f4

Equality is now near for Black.

17.gxf4 Bxf4 18.Nxf4 Rxf4 19.Qd2 Qf8 20.Re3 Nd7?

Cory Little 3

Things were looking up for Black, but precision is required. Here I did not judge correctly. With 20…, Nc6; the Knight goes to its most aggressive post. If my memory is accurate, I thought White would then push the e-pawn, 21 e5, and I gave the possibility only a fleeting glance. The assumption was the pin on the Nc6 over the Bb7 would be very uncomfortable. A proper evaluation of the line: 20…, Nc6 21 e5 dxe5 22 dxe5 Rd8 23 Qe1 Ba8; would be the resulting position is favorable for Black; his pieces are becoming very active and White has a number of pawn weaknesses that can become targets.

Analysis Position
Cory Little 4

21.Rf1,..

I thought at the time this was slow. Going to g3 right away with the Rook seemed to me to be more promising. Truly it may not really make too much difference.

21…e5 22.d5?!,..

White is too quick to clear the tension in the center. I was more worried about 22 Rg3, immediately.

22…, Qg7 23.Rg3 h5 24.f3 h4?

This is too reckless. Mustering all forces with 24…, Raf8; to be followed by .., Nc5; and ..Bc8; is more reasoned. I thought I had to play this way but overlooked a crushing shot.

25.Rxg4 Rxg4 26.fxg4 Qxg4 27.h3?,..

Cory Little 5

White still has some advantage after this mistake, but 27 Rf5!, would have won the game in short order. Play could have gone this way: 27 Rf5 Kh7 28 h3 Qg6 29 Qe1 Kg7 30 Qxh4 Rh8 31 Qe7+ Kg6 32 Nb5, is probably best but 32 Qxd7 Bc8 33 Qxc7 Bxf5 34 exf5 Qxf5 35 Qxd6+, still favors White by a bunch. Going into this line I just did not see the Rf1-f5 possibility. After the text the Rook move popped up on my radar and I began to sweat. A few moments of real panic and a little work gave me some hope – my Knight was near enough to help cover up my King. It seemed uncertain to me this defense would hold against all tactics. But, as I have mentioned recently, we are not Masters and mistakes happen to us; the more moves you require your opponent make up go the chances of an error.

27…, Qg7 28.Rf5 Nf8 29.Rg5 Ng6 30.Bf3 Rf8 31.Qg2 Rf6 32.Bh5 Kh7 33.Nd1?,..

Cory Little 6

White’s vision of the battlefield is too narrow. The idea is: once the Black pieces are huddled around the Black King as a shield, a threat to some distant part of the board will be hard to meet. To that end 33 Nb5, attacking c7 stretches the Black forces to the maximum. Once the Knight is on b5, liquidation of all the major pieces on g6 can not be avoided by Black and White will emerge a solid pawn to the good. It is not a clearly winning outcome. Black, however, is left with two glaring weaknesses: b6 and d6. Defending them is hopeless in the long run thus the endgame prognoses is very poor for Black. Fortunately for me Mr. Northrup was utterly focused on the K-side tactical battle. With the text he hopes to add one more fighter to the fray there.

33…, Bc8

The last of my unused forces make an appearance, finally. I began to feel survival was possible.

34.Ne3?!.,,

Once more Cory takes the straight ahead route. With 34 Bg4!?, Black would have to calculate a number of sharp lines. My life would have been much more difficult than it was in the game.

34…, Qh6

The convoluted evacuation of the g-file is complete without immediate loss. The White Knight going to f5 or g4 is a bad idea now the Bishop is on c8 ready to clip him, so what to do? The White pieces had launched a determined assault that fell short. Now they are stuck and evacuation is not safe. Cory correctly decides on the simplification on g6 is the only course to take.

35.Bxg6+ Rxg6 36.Rxg6 Qxg6 37.Ng4 Qg5

Cory Little 7

Writing these blog posts has done one very good thing for my chess. I have an improved sense of favorable and unfavorable endgame positions. Here my King can improve his position under cover of the Bishop and the Queen so that when I decide to trade on g4 White will not want to see the Queens come off the board. I imagined a position with my Queen on f4, the King on g5, and then capturing on g4 with the Bishop when the g-pawn falls without fail. The outside passed h-pawn will allow Black to harvest the White center pawns at his leisure.

38.Qf3 Kg6?

So much for an unfailing sense of how to play the endgame. Trading on g4 now is necessary because White can draw with 39 Qf8, and Black will be perpetually checked. I may understand a bit more about endings, but I have retained to the ability to make careless, thoughtless moves. The “bright and shiny trinket” of a simply won position led me to not examine even obvious moves. Shame on me!

39.Kh1?,..

Passing on the draw. I don’t believe Mr. Northrup had illusions that he had a better position, or winning chances. He may have lost his belief in the position and the possibility of defending it. How once again I misread the position. The trade on g4 is the best way forward.

39…, Qc1+??

Running off to collect pawns allows the perpetual check. This is a pitiful mistake for someone of my experience. It was a case of overconfidence. I thought the solution was simple and clear. Along with my opponent the back rank perpetual check possibility was not found because I assumed there was a defense. I wish Aagaard’s dictum about assumptions would sink in for me. I’ve read and written about it and regularly forget about it in the midst of a game.

40.Kg2 Qxb2+ 41.Kh1?,..

Cory Little 8

With 41 Nf2, Black would have to accept a drawn outcome after: 41…, Qd2 42 Qf8 Qg5; and there is a “perp” from the back rank. Trying to avoid it could even lead to checkmate if Black gets silly.

41…, Qc1+ 42.Kg2 Qd2+ 43.Kh1 Qf4

Cory Little 9

Now all is right in Black’s world. I now can get to the imagined position. How far ahead can one see is often the subject of non-chess player’s questions. There are times when it is possible to look out some great distance. However the chess Gods have put some stones in our path. When you look forward and imagine something wonderful, the “stones” of immediate details are always there to trip you up. Sometimes your opponent will be determined and clear thinking enough to find your error, other times you get lucky as I did here. But don’t count on luck, she is a fickle mistress.

44.Qg2 Bxg4 45.hxg4 Kg5 46.a4 Qxg4 47.Qd2+ Qf4 48.Qg2+ Qg3 49.Qd2+ Kg4 50.c5 Qf3+ 51.Kg1 h3 0–1

Cory Little 10

Both sides made big mistakes no doubt. GM Aagaard’s lesson about checking your assumptions at every turn is well illustrated by our mutual fumbles. There is a lesson also about tactical alertness: At the non-Master, club level of play, staying on your toes tactically will bring more rewards than almost anything else you can do in chess. Tactical alertness cuts both ways by taking advantage of an opponent’s oversights and avoiding your own mistakes. Beside the reward of an improved score, tactical alertness can eliminate errors such as I made here spoiling the aesthetic enjoyment of crafting a win.

More soon.

The Albany Championship Rolls On

Wednesday April 9th should have seen four games in the Albany Championship played. Three actually were played, and one was a forfeit win for Peter Henner, Joe Jones did not show up for the scheduled game. The games played were interesting.

Perry 0-1 Berman. This was a KID with the White fianchetto line. White delayed deciding what to do with d4-pawn and allowed Black to capture on d4 with his e-pawn. The opening was for all intents complete by move 13. White decided to maneuver his Knights rather than to displace the Black Knight on e5. This was an error that became apparent only through an Exchange sacrifice by Black. The passed b and c-pawns Black soon had were more than sufficient compensation for the Exchange. White made things worse for himself by refusing to disturb Black’s dominant Ne5. The passed pawns proved their worth winning back the material and then some. After a transaction where Black obtained a Queen for two Bishops, his surviving passed c-pawn was more than enough to take the full point. Mr. Berman continues his dogged pursuit of Tim Wright. He has just Wright to play.

Denham 1-0 Alowitz. Arthur tried the Benko Counter Gambit against Mr. Denham, but without offering the a-pawn. It is a playable line. You do have to know some fairly esoteric stuff to get away with this idea. One of the Canadian Spraggett brothers played so against Peter Michelman in a Capital Invitational tournament back in 2002 and won a nice game. Mr. Alowitz did not know apparently that Black needs to play .., e7-e6; fairly early on. Without that move the counter-gambit turned into just a lost pawn with no compensation. Jason held on to his booty, advanced his a-pawn to help out. Eventually the extra material and space on the Q-side led to disaster for Black.

Magat 1-0 Eson. Mr. Magat tried the Polish Opening, 1 b4, and 2 Bb2, without any marked success. Mr. Eson kept the game more or less equal as pair by pair the minor pieces were traded off. All went well for Eson until move 30. There a miscalculation cost him a pawn in a small transaction. For the next few moves I expected Gordon to come up with a trick to gather in the point. Play went on and Eson’s Rooks proved to be active enough to keep the game close. When the game went on to a single Rook for each side and pawns on both sides of the board end game he had chances to draw the game. Mr. Eson was not able to work out all the tricky bits this kind of ending has. Rooks came off at Eson’s instigation and Mr. Magat had a won pawn endgame.

On Thursday April 10th another game in the Albany event was played at the Schenectady Chess Club. Glen Perry continued to make an extraordinary effort to catch up his schedule. The game Perry – Northrup at Schenectady shows once more the pleasant cooperation between local clubs. Mr. Perry had a really bad night. Unfortunately, he was feeling unwell and it showed in his play: a couple of uncharacteristic errors early in the opening leading to a lost piece and resignation on move 12.

A sidebar: Attendance at the Albany Club continues to be good. Along with the serious Championship games, three or four boards were occupied by skittles players. They come to play what was the mainstay of local club activity before the advent of the internet, casual fast chess. Among the visitors was the distinguished local player, Steve Taylor. He told me he hadn’t played at all since last year’s NYS Championship where he finished in the middle of the field in the Open section. For many years Steve maintained a +2200 Master rating. Demands of his career and family has kept him from regular competition and that has drifted his rating down to high Expert. His game is still sharp enough to defeat most of us in casual games.

By comparison, the Schenectady Chess Club, while well attended when its Championship event was going on, does not attract many casual drop-ins. Other than the Perry-Northrup game Thursday and a brief visit by Carl Adamec checking on the Schenectady A team’s CDCL schedule, the Club was empty. Schenectady is the oldest local club. Traditionally it has been well attended. The club officers are going to have to look for ways to turn attendance around or the Schenectady flame might die.

The standings in the Albany event now are:

1-2 Wright 10½-1½ with Berman to play
1-2 Berman 10½-1½ with Wright to play
3 Perry 4½-2½ with 5 to play
4 Howard 8-3 with Henner and Perry to play
5 Magat 8½-3½ with Perry to play
6 Mockler 8½-4½ finished
7 Denham 5½-5½ with Eson and Perry to play
8 Henner 4½-5½ with Howard, Jones and Perry to play
9 Lack 6-6 with Perry to play
10-11 Jones 5½-7½ finished
10-11 Northrup 5½-7½ finished
12 Alowitz 2½-9½ with Stephenson to play
13 Eson 0-11 with Henner and Denham to play
14 Stephensen 1-11 with Alowitz to play

Glen Perry’s losses to Berman and Northrup removes him from contention for the first spot.. Mathematically he still has a chance a high finish, but with (5) games to play on his schedule and all of them tough his final place is uncertain.. The clash between Wright and Berman will tell the tale for this year’s Championship. It will take place in two weeks I am told.

The Capital District Chess League has commenced play. Schenectady’s Geezers scraped by to a drawn result against the Uncle Sam Club through the determined efforts of John Phillips in the last game to finish by far. Earlier in the evening I was able to help the Geezer’s cause with a win with the Black pieces.

Every once in a while you play a game that just feels like a win from the early moves onwards. Playing second board for the Schenectady Geezers against the Uncle Sam Club of Troy I faced Ogundipe Odunayo. He has been around the area for some few years. Most of his serious chess has been played representing the Troy Club in the CDCL. I believe this is the first time we have played each other. Before the game I wondered if I had the energy to keep up with this young man.

Odunayo, Ogundipe – Little, Bill [B07]
CDCL Match, Geezers versus Uncle Sam of Troy at Schenectady, NY, 03.04.2014

1.e4 d6 2.f4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 c5

OO Little 1

White’s formation really does not challenge Black’s Modern scheme. This was when my confidence rose. There was no solid reason for the feeling, Black is equal, or a tad better, but my opponent is no one to be taken lightly and his position is entirely sound. Mr. Odunayo has a well-established middle-Class A rating, and I recalled his victory over Peter Henner in last year’s Uncle Sam – Albany A CDCL match. There is no denying I was feeling good about the game, so far. It is curious how emotion colors your judgment in a chess game.

6.g3 Nc6 7.Bg2 e5!?

The first result of unwarranted confidence; a move that is not quite correct. The motivation was sound, block the action of the Bg2 on the long diagonal, but Black should have been concerned about an eventual f4-f5.

Black could do better with 7…, 0-0 8 Qe2 Qb6; or 8…, Be6. Black is then a beat ahead of White in development. There is not much more the second player hope for out of the first seven moves of a game than that.

8.Na3 0–0 9.0–0 Qe7 10.Nc2 b6?!

OO Little 2

An idea that works out for me. Probably it should not have done so. Better is 10…, Be6; with the notion that even if the Be6 has to go off for a Knight, Black can make the break d3-d4 unappealing.

11.h3?,..

The best way forward for White is: 11 f5, and Black will regret weakening the defenses of the Nc6 as White may well get good play. The problem set for Black by 11 f5, is capturing with the g-pawn opens the diagonal for the Bg2, and leaving the f-pawn undisturbed provokes worries that the g and h-pawns may come forward to add weight to a pawn storming assault. Additionally, White may not recklessly advance his K-side pawns and he could just put a Bishop on g5 angling for tactics around f6.

Mr. Odunayo seems to have the pawn storming idea in mind with the text. I used the word reckless above about a quick K-side pawn advance for White. The next sequence demonstrates some of the dangers with that scheme.

11…, Nh5 12.Kh2 Bb7?

In a recent post about one of Richard Chu’s games I was critical of Richard’s wasting a move that did not advance his game thus giving his opponent time to start his own action. This is the same mistake. Correct is 12…, exf4, beginning to play against the White King. It is easy to make critical comments but hard to see these things in your own work.

13.Nh4?,..

OO Little 3

White misses the “gift”. Good is 13 f5. The text makes the coming capture on f4 really painful for White.

13…, exf4 14.Bxf4 Nxf4 15.Rxf4 Be5

Maybe White only saw that 15…, g5; is more than adequately answered by 16 Nf5. The game move picks up material, and I did not look farther that in my calculations.

16.Nf3 Bxf4 17.gxf4 f5 18.Ne3 fxe4!?

OO Little 4

While this is a reasonable candidate, good sense suggests completing development with 18…, Rae8; as a more certain pathway to consolidating Black’s advantage. It is good to feel confident and relaxed about your game, but there is a downside to good feelings and relaxation; precision suffers if you begin to believe “anything” will win.

19.Nd5,..

I’d been playing quickly and confidently up to here. So had my opponent. An Exchange is in the bag, and possibly a pawn also, but White’s two Knights are about to do a war dance near my King. I started to worry and my play slowed down. It occurred to me the Exchange might have to be given back.

19…, Qg7 20.Ng5 Ne7!?

OO Little 5

A tricky offer. I looked at 20…, Rae8 21 Nxe4 Ba8 22 Qb3 Kh8; and was not certain at all who was better. The computer says Black is probably winning, but it was not clear to me. I missed a trick in the above line: 21…, Nb4!?; is possible. Then, 22 Nxb4 Bxe4 23 Qb3+ Kh8 24 dxe4 cxb4 25 Qxb4 Rxf4; and the Black Rooks are on their way to great activity.

The move played offers White chances to recover the Exchange two ways: 21 Ne6, and 21 Nc7. I think 21 Ne6, offers more hope. Play could go: 21 Ne6 Qf7 22 Ng5, (Not 22 Nxf8, because 22…, Nxd5; and the Nf8 will not get out alive. Then the best this Knight can do is sell himself for a pawn with 23 Nxg6. Black would up a piece for a pawn with good attacking chances to boot.) 22…, Qe8 23 Nc7 Qc7 24 Nxa8 Bxa8 25 dxe4 Rxf4; and once more Black has the extra pawn while the White King is not entirely safe. White elects to go straight for the material.

21.Nc7!? Rxf4 22.Nxa8?,..

OO Little 6

The fatal error. Here White could have kept the situation murky with 22 Nge6, then 22…, Qf6 23 Nxf4 Qxf4+ 24 Kh1 Rc8 25 Nb5 a6 26 Na3, and I have, at least temporarily, an extra two pawns for my troubles. This is what I expected. While trying work out what was to happen, I could not be certain there was not trick that let White get back one of the pawns. My thought then was; this is not so bad, at least one pawn to the good and the Na3 is out of play for sometime, Black should have a solid advantage. Overconfidence paints everything with a rosy palette. The best that can be said is: I was not beating myself up uselessly for missing better moves.

22…, Qe5!

The Ng5 is trapped because of possible discovered checks on the White King. White is lost.

23.Kh1,..

OO Little 7

If it was not for the discovered check, then 23 Nxe4 would be a try, but; if 23 Nxe4 Rf1+ 24 Ng3 Rxd1 25 Rxd1 Nf5! 26 Bxb7 Qxg3+ 27 Kh1 Qxh3+ 28 Kg1 Qg4+; picks off the Rook on d1 winning for Black.

23…Qxg5 24.Nc7 Qg3

I had worked out this next sequence assuming White would try to get the Knight out of a8. It is all pretty well forced.

25.Qg1 Rf2 26.Rf1 e3

OO Little 8

I played this move and had a flash of momentary panic: What about 27 Bd5+, uncovering an attack on my Queen. It passed quickly when I remembered one of the resources identified in the calculation was 27…, Bxd5+! 28 Nxd5 Qxh3+; with mate to follow.

27.Rxf2 exf2 0-1

Resigns because 28 Qf1 Qxh3; is checkmate.

As was said in the introduction to this game, from the beginning I thought I was bound to win this game. That positive attitude made playing relatively easy, no agonizing over “might-have-beens”, “should-have-dones” and “could-have-beens.” This mental attitude made playing the game easy, however, the notes show the belief I was destined to win the game was not at all justified. Misplaced confidence led me to hand back the Exchange when cold-blooded calculation should have told me that made the game unnecessarily difficult. Nevertheless, the finish was, I thought, rather neat.

More soon.

What Has Been Happening During This Winter Weather?

The Capital District of New York has lived through a period of what some call an old-fashioned winter.  While bad weather has caused some delays and rescheduling of games, in the occasional breaks when the roads are clear quite a lot gets done.  Today’s post is lengthy, and there is more to come in the next day or two.

I missed the round played on January 22nd at the Albany Club. A summary of that round is; all the higher rated players won. No upsets the 22nd . Here are the results:

Mockler 1-0 Lack. Jonathan reported that after fighting from an inferior position for much of the game he was within one move of equalizing. He than found the only move that would lose. We all can sympathize, are there not such tales of woe in every chess player’s memory banks?

Howard 1-0 Eson. I don’t have details on this game.

Alowitz 0-1 Berman. Again no details.

Denham 0-1 Henner. No details.

Jones 1-0 Northrup. Reportedly an interesting game with the fairly rare material imbalance of a Queen versus pieces. I want to track down the score. Maybe Cory or Joe can provided it the next time I see them.

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

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

On the evening of Wednesday January 29th the next round of play in the Albany Championship took place. The games played and results were:

Mockler 1-0 Eson. This was a Closed Sicilian where not much could be done until one side or the other broke things open. Mr. Mockler began to do so around move 17 on the K-side. The breakthrough was successful and Mr. Eson lost material and the game shortly thereafter.

Alowitz 0-1 Magat, Another Sicilian, an open line this time. Arthur sacrificed or lost a pawn early on. For that investment he got some initiative and some of the makings of an attack on Gordon’s King on the Q-side. White’s attack was not quite enough to offset the strong passed d-pawn Black used to drive back the White pieces.

Howard ½ – ½ Wright. This was a hard-fought Two Knights Caro-Kann. An intriguing but unsound pawn sacrifice by Black on move 5 created a unique position that favored White significantly. Black did get some play for his “button”, and both sides used much clock time figuring things out. By move 30 a Rook and opposite colored Bishops ending with pawns on both sides of the board had come about. White still had his extra pawn. Such endings are notoriously prone to slipping away to a drawn result. This required a great deal of thinking time. While Mr. Howard’s clock was in much worse shape than Mr. Wright’s, both were feeling the pinch. The time scramble ended in mutual errors and a draw when all play was exhausted.

Berman ½ – ½ Denham. Jason Denham has made great strides as a chess player since beginning as a novice in 2010. He’s a very strong Class C now who on occasion plays at Class A level. Still Mr. Berman is on the cusp of moving into the +2000 Expert class, and their game, on paper, seemed to be a mismatch. It didn’t quite turn out that way. At the end of the opening Denham was entirely equal. After some tricky middle game maneuvering Black erred on move 27. The unexpectedly tough fight through to the middle game caused Jeremy to use up a great deal of his clock. Even though he had the better ending, there just wasn’t enough time to bring home the point, and a draw was agreed.

Lack ½ – ½ Henner. Once more Mr. Lack played his patented Closed Sicilian. It worked quite well for him here, and in fact he had a tactical win in hand by move 15. Then some hesitation in untangling the results of an inspired assault on the Black central formation led to just an extra pawn and a much superior pawn structure for White. The fly in the ointment was White’s only remaining minor piece, the light squared Bishop was rather badly constrained by its own pawns. White retain an advantage right down to the end. Time troubles for both sides led to an agreed draw.

The standings based on points lost are:

1-3 Wright 8½-1½
1-3 Berman 4½-1½
1-3 Perry 2½-1½
4 Howard 6-2
5-6 Henner 5½-2½
5-6 Mockler 5½-2½
7 Denham 3-3
8-9 Jones 4½-3½
8-9 Magat 4½-3½
10 Lack 6-4
11 Northrup 2½-4½
12 Eson 0-7
13 Alowitz ½-7½
14 Stephensen 1-7

The race for the under 1800 prize is definitely between Denham and Northrup. The battle for the title continuous to be between Wright and Berman. Mr. Perry is trailing in the total number of games played making it hard to say where he will stand overall at the finish. Howard, Henner and Mockler are staying close to the leaders. Some slip-ups by Wright and/or Berman, and one or more of these three could suddenly be at the top. There is plenty of excitement in store for the wind-up of the Albany tournament.

On Thursday evening January 30th a make-up round was played at Schenectady. There was a pretty good turnout; four tournament games played and some skittles besides. The results were:

Mockler 0-1 Henner. Once more Michael brought out the Morra Gambit against the Sicilian. Peter accepted the pawn and was more or less forced to take up what appeared to me to be an awkward position. I was convinced Mr. Henner was in deep trouble by move 8 or 9. Later, at home, that night the mighty Rybka disabused me of my error. As strange and offbeat as his position looked, according to the engine Henner was never worse. After the game Peter and I had a short discussion about the game. I must apologize to my friend Mr. Hennerfor for saying so adamantly he was busted after the opening. His position looked bad but apparently really wasn’t bad at all. By move 19 the game was level, but Mockler was still down the invested pawn. With his long term prospects unpromising, Mr. Mockler schemed tactically. Shortly thereafter Mr. Henner erred (21…, Nc6?), and Michael recovered the pawn with some advantage to boot. A few moves later Mockler found a trick that unfortunately had a hole in it.. The hole cost him a full Rook and the game. The Sicilian Defense was never something I played as Black, nor I have I ever tried the Morra Gambit as White. After getting the evaluation of the position around move 9 in this game so wrong, I think I’ll continue to stay away from it.

Phillips 0-1 Adamec. This was an Advanced French where Mr. Adamec took the game away from the usual with an inventive idea: ..,Nge7; .., Nec6!?; and .., Nbd7. This is not a typical way to handle the Black Knights in the French. It is however very much something that fits Carl’s style; get the game out of the books and test the opponent’s understanding not his memory of theory. The approach worked because between moves 9 and 12 Black began to obtain a small advantage. As the middle game went on White came up with his own ideas including an inventive opening of dangerous lines bearing on Black’s King castled on the Q-side by sacrificing a pawn. Just when White’s attack was about to become really serious, Mr. Phillips decided to simplify to an ending. The problem was he was still down the sacrificed pawn. That fact must have drove him to working hard to recover the pawn, which he did. Unfortunately for Phillips, the resulting position was winning for Black. He had a far advanced c-pawn supported by his King while White’s King was cut off. This part of the technical ending was handled in a masterly fashion by Mr. Adamec to secure the win.

Canty 0-1 Clough. Matthew took up the Hungarian Defense in this game. White either did not know or did not care to try the Max Lange Attack. The Max is one reason why the Hungarian not much seen in master practice. White did create some good attacking chances on the Black K-side, but he was overeager and cashed in the attack giving two Knights for a Rook. Without even one minor piece to help out, the slightly exposed Black King was not in danger from the White forces; the Knights were more than adequate to cover potential threats. Mr. Canty’s efforts to open the game up for his Rooks resulted in Black gaining strong posts for his Knights in the center. White then switched to driving forward his Q-side majority, and this looked quite promising if not for a victory, at least for dynamic equality. With the choice of pushing either the passed a-pawn or the b-pawn, White picked the b-pawn to push. That was the wrong pawn. Black then got his Knights swarming in the center and his lone Rook working on the open g-file. Objectively the game was dynamically balanced, but Mr. Canty must have believed the Black attack was too dangerous. He gave up a Rook for one Knight because I think he miscalculated a simplifying transaction. The result was the adventurous passed b-pawn was easily stopped by Black’s extra piece, and material won the day.

Hill 0-1 Leisner. Mr. Hill tried a page from the Mockler approach to chess and played the Morra Gambit in this game. For his pawn White reached a middle game position that the engines call equal; White has some lead in development and a possibly weak Black d-pawn on an open file as compensation for the material minus. It’s a game with chances for both sides. It can be said White got what he wanted and Black did too. After getting a playable position, White elected to go off into the very complex on move 12. He offered a piece for a pawn, a very advanced pawn it is true – on d6 – but it did not seem to be worth a full piece to me. Black very quickly put together a strong attack on the White King. Then, just at the point where it seem the game would end a flurry on the K-side, a casual move presented White with the chance to do a combination that changed the material imbalance from a minor piece for a pawn to a Rook for a Bishop and a pawn. White’s chances were distinctly improved. White was then the proud owner of two Bishops and the board was open. Just as the huge pawn on the 7th with a pair of Bishops to support it looked like it might obtain a draw, Mr. Hill erred and the pawn fell, more material was lost and the game ended on move 47. There were some scary moments for Mr. Leisner in this contest. In those moments I sure Jon could see his hold on first place being loosened. By keeping, not losing his head, Mr. Leisner held onto first place and even improved his tournament position.

The standings after the make-up round and adjusted for Mr. Varela’s withdrawal are:

1 Leisner 5½-½
2-3 Mockler 7-2
2-3 Henner 4-2
4 Northrup 4-3
5-7 Adamec 5½-3½
5-7 Phillips 4½-3½
5-7 Clough 3½-3½
8 Calderon 5-4
9-10 Canty 3-5
9-10 Hill 1-5
11 Chu 2-6
12 Miranti 1-7

Jon Leisner has opened up his lead over Michael Mockler. As Jon said after play was complete: “This is a result I wanted.” Peter Henner is working his way into contention, and Cory Northrup has fallen off the leader’s pace. Some participants have only two games remaining, others such as Mr. Leisner have as many five games to play. Those with several games to make-up are where they are through no fault of their own. Cancellations because of weather and schedule conflicts are usual in these long club events. The fond hope of the local club tournament directors is to get the tournament games done before the Capital District League play begins. If that does not come about, everything gets very complicated indeed.

Here is a game from the rapidly winding-up Saratoga Championship. There are four other Experts/Class A players in the event. I did not do well against these guys; winning only one game, drawing four and losing three.

My friend Michael Mockler takes a jaundiced view of annotating one’s own games. There is certainly valid concern such notes will be skewed and not objective. The opposing argument is; by analyzing your games in writing and publishing them you undertake a stern test of your chess thinking. This is according to Botvinnik, the founder of the Soviet School. He believed it the essential work a chess player must do to improve. So, once more I will try to explain what I was thinking about in this game. Here is my lone win:

Gausewitz, Glen – Little, Bill [B07]
Saratoga Championship 2013–14 Saratoga Springs, NY, 26.01.2014

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Be3 Bg7 5.f3,..

The Pirc Defense again. The last few years locally the Pirc has become very common. Both Finnerman ad Mockler use it regularly against 1 e4, and Phillips, Michelman, Feinberg and Henner have tried out the Pirc as a secondary defense. Over the last thirty years the Pirc almost exclusively has been my defense to 1 e4.. Mr. Gausewitz decides on a Samisch sort of treatment. It is not the most popular path for White but it is well regarded by theory.

5…, a6?!

Gausewitz Little 1

More common and sounder is 5…, c6. I have been puttering around looking for unique lines in my openings. The .., a7-a6; idea was mentioned in passing by Alburt and characterized as perhaps too sharp to be quite sound. Duncan Suttles the Canadian GM and the brothers Byrne, Robert and Donald, moved the a-pawn up one square in similar positions very often in the 1960s. Recalling that got me thinking why not?

Researching the specific move in my database gave me mixed results: thirty or so games but very few between titled players. Where titled contestants were found, the game scores were weird with some apparent score keeping errors. Therefore I relied on my engine to guide me. Using Deep Rybka in what is called the Human mode, I could not find a refutation to 5…, a6. I decided to give move a try against any of non-Austrian Attack lines in the Pirc except Bc1-g5. Maybe 5…, a6; is just too dangerous for Black to be experimenting in the Bc1-g5 line.

6.Qd2 b5

Black has to be ready for “interesting” chess if White plays 7 Bh6, immediately. After 7…, Bxh6 8 Qxh6 b4 9 Nd1, and 9…, e5; or 9…, c5; it is a messy position with chances for both sides.

7.a4,..

Glen reacts in a more staid fashion going for a standard prophylactic positional move.

7…, b4 8.Na2 a5 9.c3 Bd7?

Gausewitz Little 2

A bad choice. Black could have equalized with 9…, bxc3 10 Nxc3 0-0 11 Bc4 Ba6; planning to get play on the b-file and to place his Knights on d7 and a6. The square b4 may become a useful outpost, while the Bg7 can do good work on the long diagonal.

10.cxb4 axb4 11.Nxb4 Rxa4 12.Rxa4 Bxa4

I believed White’s lagging development might give opportunity for Black to improve from equality to something more. How to get at the opportunity was not so clear.

13.Nh3!?,..

Gausewitz Little 3

A more principled approach is 13 Bc4 0-0 14 Ne2, when the White pieces are on pretty normal squares, and Black has yet to demonstrate a clear equality. This was another opening experiment that I did not adequately prepare. Too casual opening prep has been my bane for my whole career. I must unconsciously believe it is impossible to remember enough detail to justify the effort to dig deep in preparation. That leads me to trust I will find sufficient resources over the board. The lessons are piling up for me, particularly after the last four years of writing out my analysis of my games, I don’t always find the best move during the game. Winning games happens most often because my opponent errs in some way greater than I did. Knowing preparation – memorizing critical positions, lines and plans – is important to my doing well in actual games.

13…, c5?!

More sensible is to castle first. I saw a little tactical sequence that eliminates the b-pawn, and not believing my position was particularly good, thought such was my best hope was for equality.

14.dxc5 dxc5 15.Qxd8+ Kxd8 16.Bxc5 Nfd7 17.Be3 Bxb2

This was the position I saw in my mind, and I have what I want, but when we arrived here all was not as rosy as anticipated. White can develop with threats making his laggard K-side pieces very active.

18.Ng5 Ke8 19.f4?!,..

Gausewitz Little 4

Mr. Gausewitz is a strong Class A player (1990+) and a sometime Expert, however he has a tendency to take a too slow approach on occasion. He does so here. He did the much same thing against Farrell in a earlier round. This quirk maybe the reason why he is not knocking on the 2200 door. Preferred here is 19 Kf2, h6 20 Nh3 g5 21 Bd3, and the White Rook will be out and about definitely putting Black on the defensive. My notion was my Rook would get out of “Coventry” at the same time as White deployed his Rook or maybe a move earlier. The suggested line demonstrates that was not a correct evaluation.

19…, h6 20.Nf3 Nc6 21.Nxc6 Bxc6 22.Bd3 e5?!

Gausewitz Little 5

Taking unnecessary chances. The straight forward 22…, Nf6; hitting e4 is better, it gets the position very close to equality.

23.Kd2 Ke7 24.Rb1 exf4 25.Bxf4 Bg7

Now I have h6 and the Rh8 guarded leaving only some worries about the unstable position of my two minor pieces on the Q-side to bedevil me in the ending. With so many pieces on the board, and the only significant difference in positions is the slight weakness of the White pawn on e4, I was beginning to think a draw was not far distant.

26.Ke3 Nc5 27.Ne5 Ba8

This move is probably OK, but if a draw was what I wanted, then 27…, Bxe5 28 Bxe5 Ra8; is a more certain path to follow.

28.Ra1 Bxe5 29.Bxe5 Rd8?

Gausewitz Little 6

Not the best Black has. If 29…, f6 30 Ra7+ Ke6 (An only move I think.) 31 Bb2 Nxd3 32 Ra6+ Kd7 33 Kxd3 Re8; looks equal. The text makes a simple threat on the Bd3. The simple answer 30 Bc2, avoids unnecessary complications, and White can make Black work hard for the draw.

30.Bd4?,..

It is hard to say what comes over us chess players at the end of a difficult game. After more than three hours of striving to see his way through murky positions with many pieces on the board, Mr. Gausewitz, with only three pieces and three pawns per side remaining, misses a basic tactic. When something similar has happened to me it seems to be a letdown of attention because of relief at having passed the tough part of the game. Maybe that is what happened here.

30…, Rxd4!

Glen may have just glanced at this possibility, saw the Knight fork and that the Knight can not get out alive from a1, and went no further.

31.Kxd4 Nb3+ 32.Kc3 Nxa1 33.Kb2 Kd6

Gausewitz Little 7

The point of the combination: Black’s King is immediately on the scene and White’s King is far away. This means the e-pawn falls, which in itself is not the end of resistance. The important follow-on fact is Black will be able to shoulder the White King away from the best defensive post for him on the K-side.

34.Kxa1 Ke5 35.Bc4 f6 36.Kb2 Bxe4 37.g3 Kd4 38.Be6 f5 39.Kc1 Ke3 40.g4,..

Gausewitz Little 8

Desperation. White sees 40 Kd1, is met by 40…, Bd3; cutting off the White King from a place in front of the f-pawn. There is a second factor making the situation hopeless for White, Black has the right color Bishop even if White wins a pawn and gives up his Bishop for the g-pawn, the h-pawn will Queen.

40…, f4 41.h4 f3 42.Kd1 f2 0–1

Now 43 Bc4 Bd3; and the f-pawn becomes a Queen. The story of this game is: My speculative opening innovation was not properly followed up. Then I had to be very careful not to fall into an inferior position. Treading the narrow path to equality was testing. Mr. Gausewitz had an unlucky moment of “chess Blindness” just as the game was headed to a drawn result.

More soon.