Schenectady Club Championship, Upset Alert

This year’s Schenectady Club Championship is a top-heavy event. Fourteen contestants, five former club champions. Today’s game features a major upset of one of the favorites by a rising player. The 368 point rating difference between the two players is likely to be the largest disparity of this year’s event.

A cool little effort in defense of the King’s field by young Northrup. We have grown accustomed to Mr. Sells ability to surf the rogue waves of time trouble over the years, but even for the best, occasionally, the wipeout. Cue the Surfaris.

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.

Some Casual Excitement at Albany

One of the things that has worked to the advantage of the Albany Club is enough folks show up on meeting nights making getting in a skittles game easy to do. A few weeks ago Denham and Northrup played a casual game with clocks and turned out this theoretical entertainment:

Denham, Jason – Northrup, Cory [A40]
Casual Game, AACC, Guilderland, NY, 26.03.2014

1.d4 e6 2.c4 b6 3.e4 Bb7 4.Bd3 f5

Denham North 1

The English Defense! It is not terribly well known, and some chess writers have labeled it not quite sound. IM John Watson has recently broadcast a several part series on this line on ICC. His thesis is it is playable against 1 c4. The opening is not too hard to learn, and has the extra added attraction of being more or less unknown to many of our local players. To the general chess public, I don’t know how unknown it is, but I tried the opening in this year’s Saratoga Championship against Jon Feinberg. I had a decent game out of the opening and held the draw without great difficulty against a solid Expert. Afterwards Jon said the English Defense was a line he never really looked at in his preparation or study.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Click on any move to see a chess board, and then the following illusrative game can be played through.

This was the first time I have tried the English Defense. I did not completely understand the positions we got to. There were moments when according to Watson and Deep Rybka Black had a sizable advantage, but I just did not realize that was the case. I did not make the most of my opportunity in this game. Compared to Denham – Northrup Feinberg and I played in a less blazing tactical way, nevertheless, there was considerable calculation to do.

5.exf5!?,..

This move leads to all kinds of excitement. I am sure Mr. Denham was not particularly well prepared for this particular line of play. Here is how one GM dealt successfully with it:

EDITORIAL NOTE: Click on any move to see a chess board, and then the following illustrative game can be played through.

Playing through the Browne – Miles game clearly shows how having one more piece that can join in the attack makes a difference.

5…, Bxg2 6.Qh5+ g6 7.fxg6 Bg7 8.gxh7+ Kf8 9.hxg8Q+,..

Denham North 2

The critical moment in this line. Black could have hardly undertaken the English Defense without looking into the preceding sequence beforehand. This obvious capture on g8 tells me that Jason was having to work things out at the board. GM Miles brought another piece into play with 9 Ne2. The computer suggests 9 Nf3. Counting up material in the midst of a forcing sequence can’t play a central role in decision making in such extremely tactical situations. White is betting the house on mating the stripped bare Black King. Black believes he can fend off the all out assault, collect some material and hit back with his own counter-attack. Brining up the Knight via e2 or f3 made the difference in the GM game. Soon Mr. Denham finds the lack of reinforcements means the end of his attack.

9…, Kxg8 10.Qg6 Bxh1 11.Bg5 Qf8 12.Nd2,..

Denham North 3

A good decision. One piece more is put into play, and the way cleared for castling. While watching the game I wondered if 12 h4, was worth a try?

Analysis Position
Denham North 4

The line: 12 h4 Nc6 13 Nd2 Nxd4 14 Ne4 Bxe4 15 Bxe4!? Qe8; forces the Queens off and Black is ahead an Exchange.

Analysis Position
Denham North 5

Trying to improve with 15 Qxe4, has its own problems after: 15…, Qb4+ 16 Bd2 Qxb2 17 Rb1 (Not 17 Qxa8+ Kf7 18 Bg6+ Ke7 19 Bf4+ Kc5 20 Rb1 Qxb1+; and Black is winning.)

Analysis Position
Denham North 6

The analysis continues: 17…, d5 18 Qg6 Qa3 19 h5 Rxh5! (Not a move a human being would find easily.) 20 Bb4 Qxa2 21 Qxh5 Nc2+ 22 Bxc2 Qxc2 23 Rd1 Qxc4; with four pawns for the minor piece Black is comfortably ahead.

Analysis Position
Denham North 7

Finding the lines quoted, much less calculating all the variations is a daunting task. It would be particularly so if you had never looked into English Defense to see the typical tactics. That is one attraction of this Defense for Black. If you are going to use it, the least to be done is to look over some book on the line, or review Watson’s videos. A few hours work and the various tactical themes can be understood and remembered. As can be seen in my game with Feinberg and this game between Denham and Northrup, when White is not familiar with the standard tactics it is a hard game to play. Returning to the actual game, here is the position:

Denham North 8

12…, Rxh2

The material is evened up. Judging who is ahead is not simple. Black’s pawn structure is more compact, but his King is not so comfortable as one would like. Black can threaten the weak White pawns to bring more forces into action giving him the initiative. Black has some advantage.

13.0–0–0 Nc6

Hitting d4.

14.Ne4?,..

White throws forward his cavalry. This a natural reaction, after all the Black King is not well protected by pawns. Maybe White just didn’t think about the Black Bishop in an unusual place, h1. Better is keeping things unclear with 14 Nf1, then 14…, Rh8 15 Be3, and the situation is complicated enough for the most bloodthirsty chess player. The computer still likes Black by a little bit, but the game is far from decided. After the text the initiative falls to Black. The initiative plus the Exchange makes a Black win very likely.

14…, Bxe4 15.Bxe4 Qxf2

Denham North 9

Black threatens mate at b2.

16.Bc2?

Better is 16 Bd2, then 16…, Rf8 17 Bxc6 dxc6 18 Qxe6+ Kh8 19 Qe7 Qf7 20 Qxf7 Rxf7; and Black has to be satisfied with a material superiority, the Exchange. The position actually favors Black by more than the 1½ pawns typically given as the value of an Exchange. It is going to take some great effort to get the Ng1 out and about, if it is at all possible. Play could continue: 21 Bc3 Bh6+ 22 Kb1 Rhf2 23 Nh3 Rf1; when the White Rook will come off the board and the White Knight is still in a bad situation.

16…Nxd4

Another mate threat.

17.Bd2 Rf8?!

Denham North 10

Motivated by the understandable desire to bring everything into action, but better is: 17…, Nxc2 18 Qxc2 Bh6!; and Black can force off the Queens, Bishops and a pair of Rooks leaving a simple win up the Exchange and two pawns.

18.Qe4 Nxc2 19.Qxc2 Rf6?!

Black misses the Bishop move again letting the game roll on for a few more move. Fortunately, for Cory his advantage is so great it does not make a difference to the outcome.

20.Qd3 Bh6 21.Qxd7 Bxd2+ 22.Rxd2 Qxg1+ 23.Kc2 Rxd2+ 24.Kxd2 Qg2+

Denham North 11

More accurate is: 24…, Rf2+; 25 Kc3 Qc1+; and mate comes soon.

25.Kc3 Qf3+ 26.Kb4 a5+ 27.Kb5 Rf5+ 28.Ka4,..

If 28 Ka6, Qa8; is mate.

28…, b5+ 29.cxb5 Rf4+ 0–1

Denham North 12

White resigned here because: 30 b4 Rxb4+ 31 Kxa5 Qa3 mate, or 30 Kxa5 Qa8 mate. Although it was a casual game, it was played with clocks – I am not certain of the time limits. It was not a speed game, not game in five or game in ten. I am guessing, but my impression was they had hour or forty-five minutes each. In any event, the play was interesting and educational. Both players plunged headlong into the complications and have to be commended entertaining us watchers very well.

For those who play 1 c4, it would be no bad thing to take a look at the English Defense. Black has many dangerous tricks. For those of us who have problems meeting 1 c4, because we are not so comfortable with more positional answers such as: 1.., c5; 1…, e5; and others, the English Defense can change the game into a tactical melee to the dismay of an opponent who wants a positional kind of contest.

More soon

Berman wins Another at Albany

Today’s game might be titled “The Further Adventures of Cory.” In it Cory Northrup comes close to making nearly as big an impact on the Albany Championship as he did in this year’s Schenectady event. He was close, but Mr. Northrup could not quite bring home the point.

Berman, Jeremy – Northrup, Cory [D02]
AACC Championship 2013–14 Guilderland, NY, 02.04.2014

1.g3 d5 2.d4 Nc6!?

North Ber 1

This is not exactly what is considered standard in this kind of position. Black usually does something other than blocking his c-pawn with the Knight. Typically 2…, Nf6; 2…, c6; or 2…, c5; are Black’s choices here. But non-standard, or unusual does not always equal bad. Black is betting on a quick development of his Q-side forces to make the natural c2-c4 move unappealing to White.

3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Bg2 Qd7 5.Bf4 f6

North Ber 2

While I was watching the game I thought this move was not so good. It tends to make the development of the Black K-side pieces slow. After the game Berman expressed the much the same opinion. Bringing the game back to my laboratory and after some research, a different opinion comes to light. Here is an example of a very good player going down the same path but with an important twist:

(37630) Evans, Larry Melvyn – Bernstein, Sidney Norman [D02]
US Championship, New York (2), 1954
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.g3 Bg4 4.Bg2 Qd7 5.Bf4 0–0–0 6.0–0,..

North Ber 3

Bernstein’s continuation, the advance of his K-side pawns show there is another idea possible behind 6…, f6; besides the routine .., e7-e5. This idea worked so well that GM Evans had to use all his experience to escape with a draw.

6…, f6 7.c3 g5 8.Be3 h5 9.b4 h4 10.Nbd2 Bh3 11.Ne1 Bxg2 12.Nxg2 hxg3 13.fxg3 Qh3 14.Nf3 Nh6 15.b5 Na5 16.Qd3 e6 17.Bxg5 fxg5 18.Nxg5 Qg4 19.Qg6 Ba3 20.Rf3 Rdg8 21.Qxe6+ Qxe6 22.Nxe6 Ng4 23.h4 Nc4 24.Nef4 Nf6 25.Rd1 Bd6 26.Kh2 Na3 27.Ne3 Nxb5 28.Nexd5 Nxd5 29.Nxd5 Rxh4+ 30.Kg2 Rhg4 31.Rdd3 c6 32.Nf6 Rxg3+ 33.Rxg3 Rxg3+ 34.Rxg3 Bxg3 35.Kxg3 Nxc3 36.e4 Nxa2 37.Kf4 b5 38.e5 Nc3 39.e6 Kd8 40.Ke5 b4 41.Kd6 Nb5+ 42.Kxc6 b3 43.Kxb5 b2 44.e7+ Kxe7 45.Nd5+ Kd6 46.Nc3 b1Q+ 47.Nxb1 ½–½

6.Nbd2 0–0–0?!

As in Evans-Bernstein, 6…, g5; is very probably the superior choice.

7.c3 Re8?

Again 7…, g5; is better. I want to ask Cory if he gave any thought to the K-side pawn advance plan. Maybe I will get to do so this week.

8.Qa4?,..

North Ber 4

White has lined up his forces on the Black King. I suspect Mr. Berman was anticipating a quick finish to the game since Black appears to have a slow-motion scheme in mind. The flaw in the text is tactics. After 8…, e5!; and White has problems. A sample line is: 9 dxe5 fxe5 10 Nxe5 Nxe5 11 Qxa7+ Ne3+ 12 Kf1 Bxe2+ 13 Kg1 Qf5 14 Qa8+ Kd7 15 Qxb7 Nxf4 16 gxf4 Nf6; and Black is very close to winning. The stifled Rh1 and the coming rapid deployment of the rest of Black’s forces make the couple of pawns garnered for the lost piece inadequate compensation.

8…, Kb8?

Black misses his chance.

9.b4?,..

White hands it back.

9…, e5!

This time Cory takes the opportunity presented.

10.Be3?,..

Once more we see a decision not made objectively about the position on the board, rather it is motivated by the sporting situation. Mr. Berman is in a tight battle with Tim Wright for the Albany title. Wright defeated Northrup. Berman must have felt he has to give it every try to do so as well. Accepting slightly inferior position with 10 dxe5, fxe5 11 b5, is a better choice, but then there is a good chance the Queens go off reducing the likelihood of a quick tactical end to the game.

10…, Nxd4!

North Ber 5

A surprise that must have shaken White.

11.Qd1?,..

Again a decision driven by the tournament situation and not the position before us. Although in this instance playing the better move, 11 Qxd7, does not promise an easy time of it for White. If 11 Qxd7 Nc2+! 12 Kd1 Nxe3+ 13 fxe3 Bxd7; leaves Black with an all but won game. In this line Black’s extra pawn, better pawn structure, control of the center and possession of the Bishop pair give White small hope of holding on.

11…, Nf5!?

This move is not quite as good as 11…, Nb5 12 Nb1 d4; when Black will finish the complications up a couple of pawns.

12.Bc5 b6?!

North Ber 6

Passing on the chance of doing more damage to the White pawns with 12…, Bxc5. Black must have been concerned about handing White an open file bearing on his King. This is a moment when calculation has to be carried out precisely. The line: 12…, Bxc5 13 bxc5 e4! 14 Nd4 e3; and all its ramifications has to be visualized very clearly to see that Black’s attack on the White King is the more immediate threat. White must deal with it before he can do much on the b-file. The game move gives White the opportunity to avoid worse.

13.Bxf8 Rxf8 14.h3 Bxf3 15.Bxf3,..

It is better to recapture with the Knight so as to bring it to d4 if .., e5-e4.

15…, e4?

Black could have recovered much of the advantage he squandered with 15…, Rd8; returning the Rook to active duty. After achieving a sizable edge through tactical alertness, Cory shifted to a very cautious mode of thinking. Here he wants to clog the h1-a8 diagonal. The problem is once more tactics.

16.Nxe4!,..

North Ber 7

Of course, the d-pawn is pinned. Curious it is that Mr. Northrup spotted 10…, Nxd4; easily but overlooks this shot.

16…, Qc6?

Failing to use this tempo to improve his position with 16…, Nge7; completing his development is the cause of Black’s. defeat. White now begins to get a grip on the position.

17.Qd3 Nge7 18.Nd2 Rd8 19.a4 Qe6 20.a5 Rhe8 21.0–0 Nc6 22.Qb5,..

North Ber 8

White has had the initiative over these last few moves mostly because he has an active idea: break open some lines on the Q-side to be used with the Bishop on the long diagonal to go after the Black King. Now the second reason why Black loses this game shows up: Cory opts for passive defense instead of something more dynamic.

22…, Rd7?

This is a case in point. Better 22…, Ne5; threatening to trade off the Bf3. One of the principles of defensive play is trading off dangerous attacking pieces can draw the sting from an opponent’s aggressive plan. The game just supposes a defense to a7 after a pawn trade on b6.

23.Nb3,..

White uses the donated tempo to bring up reinforcements for the assault on the Black King. If trading attacking pieces is a key defensive idea, even more central to good chess is the understanding each side gets a turn to move. In real life things can be happening simultaneously. In chess that is not so. When it is your turn to move, ideally, not only do you want to do something positive for your position, you also want to give your opponent a threat he has to think about. When you fail to, or can not, do that the opponent can do just what Mr. Berman does here; strengthen his own attack.

23…, Kc8?

North Ber 9

In his mind Black gives up the ghost with this move. He announces his only chance is the forlorn hope of running away with his King. The better choice is to offer material to rid himself of a dangerous Knight: 23…, Ne5 24 Nc5 c6!? 25 Nxd7+ Qxd7 26 Qa4 b5. White still retains a solid advantage, but Black has blunted the main thrust of the attack. That is maybe the best that can be done here.

24.Rfd1 Nfe7 25.Rab1!?,..

It is not only Cory Northrup who has problems of accurate evaluation in this game. Jeremy Berman dithers a bit himself. Thematic is: 25 Qa6+, and whether the Black King goes to b8 or d8 26 b5, and the White attack will come crashing through. The text is just not as forcing as the suggested line, but White keeps a substantial advantage.

25…, g5?

Continuing the flight of the King with 25…, Kd8; is better, although as bad as things have become for Black talking about “better” is very much relative.

26.e3 h5 27.c4,..

White is single-minded in his approach. The cluster of awkwardly placed Black pieces on light squares is a tempting target.

27…, dxc4 28.Nc5!?,..

North Ber 10

This move is a trifle to fancy for my taste. Simpler is: 28 Qa6+, and a) 28…, Kd8 29 Rxd7+, to be followed by 30 Rd1, winning decisive material, or b) 28…, Kb8 29 Nc5 bxc5 bxc5+; and mate in a move of two.

28…, Rxd1+ 29.Rxd1 bxc5 30.a6 Nd8 31.Bb7+ Kb8 32.Bc6+ Kc8 33.Bd7+ 1–0

The final position illustrates how well White has exploited the light squares

North Ber 11

 

I was reading an article at the Chess Cafe web site where the writer pointed out how “small tactics” decide many if not most games.  He illustrated his point with GM games. The thesis has some truth at the highest level.  It has far greater application at the club level.  Today’s contest is evidence of that.  If you are an aspiring player, improving your tactical alertness is the quickest way to improved results.  I define tactical alertness as the ability to spot the tricks, traps and pitfalls that crop up chess positions almost by chance.

Mr. Northrup has shown in some games this year a good understanding of opening play. The beginning of this game and his win from Henner in the Schenectady Championship are the examples I have in mind when writing that. If Cory is to challenge in next year’s title tournaments he has to improve his middle game play and obtain a better grasp of defensive techniques.

Mr. Berman may have taken his opponent too lightly. When he is playing with care Jeremy shows great patience. This has paid off with wins over Lack, Howard, Henner, Jones and Mockler in the Albany Championship this year. I believe in two weeks the Wright-Berman game is scheduled to be played. I expect to see the careful, patient positional Berman in that game. It will be a most interesting contest pitting Wright’s stubborn fighting style against the cool positional approach of Berman. It should be a humdinger of a game.

More soon.

News of the Schenectady Consolation Tourney

On Thursday, the last day of February, all of the action at Schenectady was in the Consolation tournament. Dilip Aaron from the Finals showed up to play, but his opponent, Peter Henner did not. In the Consolation a full slate of games were played; Canty – Northrup and Clough – Hill. Sylvester Canty won his contest from Cory Northrup mostly because Cory sacrificed the Exchange for reasons unclear. Continue reading “News of the Schenectady Consolation Tourney”

An Update on the Club Title Races and a Game

On Wednesday February 20th the Albany Area Chess Club Championship for 2012-13 finished with a draw in the game between Jon Lack and Peter Henner. As I drove to the Club, I wonder if the game would be a pro forma draw. It was not. While the club rooms were chilly, the heating system was not working much at all, these two gentlemen did their very best to create some heat on the chessboard. Continue reading “An Update on the Club Title Races and a Game”