On Wednesday April 23, 2014 some critical games from this year’s AACC Championship were played including the decisive contest deciding the title. They were:
Wright 0-1 Berman. Although Mr. Wright made an effort to turn this into a slug fest it was not possible to do so. Mr. Berman kept thing under control, built a positional advantage in a Najdorf Sicilian and used his preponderance on the c-file to collect a couple of pawns. After that Tim Wright’s efforts at ginning up tactics on the K-side never quite got going. The game ended on move 42 when Black began a direct attack on the White King that would have forced simplification to an ending.
Henner 1-0 Howard. This was a not too unusual QGD. Black seemed to be on his way to some slight advantage when “chess blindness” struck Mr. Howard. A piece was lost, and in trying to salvage something out of the resulting bad position, Dean used up most of his clock. It added to his woes when Peter found a nasty sacrifice of a Knight to make Black’s King wander in the open of the center of the board. The game was over by move 32 or 33.
Lack ½-½ Perry. This was one more example of Mr. Lack’s closed treatment of the Sicilian Defense. There were a few moments when it looked like the balance could tip either way, in the end the Queens came off the board, and the game was drawn in 25 moves.
Eson 0-1 Denham. Once again Charles Eson held a strong player more or less even for more than 30 moves. Then the waters got deep for Chuck. Some weaknesses around his King opened the door to tactics and Mr. Denham saw farther and more accurately than did Mr. Eson. A Rook was lost and the game thereafter.
The standings in the Albany event now are:
1 Berman 11½-1½ finished
2 Wright 10½-2½ finished
3 Howard 9-4 finished
4 Magat 8½-3½ with Perry to play
5 Mockler 8½-4½ finished
6 Henner 7½-5½ finished
7 Denham 6½-5½ with Perry to play
8 Perry 5-6 with 2 to play
9 Lack 6½-6½ finished
10-11 Jones 5½-7½ finished
10-11 Northrup 5½-7½ finished
12 Alowitz 3½-9½ finished
13 Stephensen 1-12 finished
14 Eson 0-13 finished
The Albany tournament is just about all over. Still to be settled: Gordon Magat Jason Denham may move up a place or two depending on how well they do their games with Glen Perry. Even if he wins his last two games Mr. Perry can not overtake Peter Henner, but he may outrun Jason Denham. There will be tension right to the last pawn is pushed this year.
This was the last of the big club championships to finish, or nearly finish to be exact. The Albany Championship was a fight right down to the end. Our new Champion gave up only a point and one-half; a draw to Jason Denham and a loss to Gordon Magat. Mr. Berman appeared to have control of the event from the early days. He briefly held the Expert title for time last year. This result will no doubt push his rating back to Expert with some rating points to spare. Congratulations to Jeremy Berman on a fine victory!
No matter the outcome of his game with Glen Perry, Jason Denham had a good tournament with wins over Dean Howard and Tim Wright to go along with draws from the Champion and Joe Jones. That is a very good result for someone who has yet to reach 1600, the lower limit for a Class B player. What may we expect when Mr. Denham has a 1600+ rating? I am sure he will break 1600 when this event is rated.
For everyone else there were fairly small rating changes up or down but nothing spectacular. There is one exception to that statement: Tim Wright, although disappointed in the outcome of his last game, should see a his rating go up substantially after scoring 10½-2½ against field with eight players rated Class A or better. In the course of building that score Mr. Wright defeated: Lack, Henner, Jones, Magat and Mockler as well as drawing with Dean Howard. This was an excellent performance no doubt.
On Thursday April 24th a Capital District Chess League match between the Schenectady Geezers and Albany B took place. The Geezers won 3½-½. The result was quickly evident with the Old Fellows winning three short games on boards 2,3 and 4. All the drama for the evening was on Board 1. The results by board were:
Board 1: Mockler ½-½ Sterner. This was a very even match-up with both players in the mid-1900s. The game started hinting at a French Defense and morphed into an off-shoot of the Morra Gambit – Mockler’s favorite. By the 18th turn it was clear the opening advantage had gone to Black. He had more space and a lead in development. As the middle game unfolded Black built an impressive concentration of forces around the White King. Mr. Mockler bent but did not break, at one point all of his pieces except the Queen had to retire to the first rank. As threatening as the Black array appeared, Mockler was correct in his judgment; at no point did it appear that Black had a decisive breakthrough. White began to unwind his development problem and Black searched for a way to increase the pressure. On move 31 Black lost the Exchange. I am uncertain if it was an oversight or a deliberate sacrifice. In any case, the result was an endgame where White’s two Rooks and light squared Bishop battled Black’s two Bishops and Rook. Black had one extra pawn to sweeten the deal. This is one of the material imbalances where the final result depends on piece activity and the quality of the extra pawn. This time the pawn was passed and supported, just not far advanced. According to the computer White had a substantial advantage if he found the right path. Time was shortening foe both players. Michael missed the right move. The passed pawn advanced. The Exchange had to be returned and a drawn position reached on move 48. A most entertaining game.
David Sterner is new face on our local chess scene. He played for many years in the DC-Arlington, Virginia area. I did not have time to interview him to find out if this is just a visit, or if we have acquired a new talent.
Board 2: Alowitz 0-1 Little. A short game in time. Neither player lingered over his moves. It was the first to finish even though 39 moves were played. I rolled out my trusty Pirc against Arthur’s 1 e4. We both are creatures of habit. Mr. Alowitz likes to play off-beat lines against the Pirc where he does everything he can to preserve his d4/e4 duo. Black obtained some advantage out of the opening, nothing overwhelming but comfortable. I did not play the middle game as accurately as was possible, and White found some counter-play on the K-side. Operations shifted to the Q-side after I fended off Arthur’s K-side threats. In the tense struggle there Mr. Alowitz overlooked danger on his back rank costing a piece, and that led to loss of the game.
Board 3: Phillips 1-0 Axel-Lute. Paul Axel-Lute is another player only recently surfaced locally. Ten years ago he was active in the NYC area. In this game White played the 2 c3 line against the Sicilian. Things were fairly normal for the first dozen moves or so, then an error led to a sparkling assault on the Black King with a Queen sacrifice to top off the onslaught of the White minor pieces. The game was over by move 23. A very nice finishing combination by Mr. Phillips.
Board 4: Eson 0-1 Chu. This game opened with the English. By the time I got to look in on it Richard Chu was up a whole Rook. He did not falter trading off White’s last Rook to create an unstoppable passed pawn that brought about resignation on move 45.
Geezers – Albany B
1 Mockler ½ – ½ Sterner
2 Little 1-0 Alowitz
3 Phillips 1-0 Axel-Lute
4 Chu 1-0 Eson
The Geezers next match is with RPI at Schenectady. RPI is the home team. The match is scheduled at Schenectady by the agreement of the team captains. The tentative date is May 8th. I do not have much other information on the League yet. The line-up is I believe: Albany A, Albany B, Schenectady A, the Geezers, Capital Region, RPI, and Uncle Sam of Troy. With some help from my friends I hope to have an update of results so far in a future post.
Two weeks ago Henner and Perry played a very interesting game in the Albany Championship. It is the subject of today’s post.
Henner, Peter – Perry, Glen [D47]
AACC Championship 2013–14 Guilderland, NY, 16.04.2014
1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 e6
An old perennial, the Semi-Slav, the Meran System. There thousands of games in the databases. In the 1920s, 30s and 40s it featured significantly in the two Alekhine-Bogolubov World Championship matches, 1948 World Championship Match Tournament, several USSR Championships and almost every Grandmaster tournament since. It remains very popular with the elite even now.
Known to theory but not so favored as: 5…, Nbd7; and 5…, a6. I don’t why this is so. The game move is fine if a little passive. The move has been tried out in a fairly high level of competition:
6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 Nbd7 8.0–0 b5 9.Bd3 a6 10.Qc2!?
Speculating on finding some kind of trick I guess. Natural is 10.e4 c5 11.e5 Nd5 12 Nxd5 cxd5. The game is now down to the ragged edge of theory.
White searched for and found something tricky. Unfortunately, the position calls for something more straight forward. The obvious choice is 11 e4, if then 11…, Rc8 12 e5 Nd5 13 Nxd5 cxd5 14 Qe2, White’s Bishops are at least pointed towards the future home of the Black King, while Black’s Bishops are not quite so usefully placed. White has a small edge, and Black has a natural plan to play against the White center pawns.
11…, Rc8 12.Nc5?!
When you are looking for tricks it is hard to rein yourself in to play the logical move; 12 Nxf6+, leading to equality after 12…, Bxf6 13 Be4. White’s idea underlying the text is to stifle the Bb7, but it should not be possible because of tactics.
Black misses his chance. With 12…Nxc5! 13.dxc5 Bxc5; and the Bd3 is hanging after 14 Qxc5. White would likely try 14 Bxh7, then 14…, Bd6; leaves Black in good shape: the Bh7 has to leave h7 allowing the Rh8 an open file upon which to work, the move c6-c5 can not be prevented opening the long diagonal for the Bb7, and in light of these two positional trumps forgoing castling will not hurt Black much at all.
White now has some advantage, not enough to predict a win no matter what Black tries, but enough to say that Black is on the defensive for the foreseeable future.
13…, 0–0 14.Ng5!?,..
An aggressive move, but it is unclear that it is justified Here 14 a4, and 15 Bd2, securing the Q-side space advantage and connecting his Rooks is a reasonable continuation. White is aiming at e6 perhaps with the idea of giving up both Knights for a Rook and two pawns. In theory White has enough compensation for the Knight pair, but Black has all four of his minor pieces still on the board. GM Soltis says: “The pawns offer excellent winning chances if the Queens can be traded“, and “who controls the initiative is vitally important.” In this position there is no clear path to a Queen trade, however, White has what initiative there is because of his mass of center pawns. The fly-in-the-ointment is the number of Black minor pieces. Any carelessness in advancing the center pawns could open up lines for the minor pieces to swarm the White King. All-in-all, a very tough problem of evaluation and calculation.
The most aggressive answer by far.
15.Bxh7+ Kh8 16.Nf3,..
Tempting Black to try to collect the Bh7 for some pawns.
16…, Nxc5 17.dxc5?,..
This looks to be normal and satisfactory. The move blocks in the Bb7 and gains space. What could be wrong with it? Working with Rybka, after some back and forth comparisons, it turns out that capturing with c-pawn lets White maintain control of e5. If Black is prevented from playing ..e6-e5; his light squared Bishop can’t get into the game easily. That seems to be the basis for the computer’s judgment that capturing with the b-pawn is the better choice.
The most direct try is 17…, g6!?; when White will give up his Bishop for a net three pawns with 18 Bxg6. If that was the end of it, we’d have an interesting situation where White wants to trade Queens and get to an endgame where the pawns can advance. As is frequent in chess, tactics rears its head. Take a look at this sequence: 17…g6 18 Bxg6 fxg6 19 Qxg6 Bf6!? 20 Qg4 Bxa1 21 Ng5 Rf6 22 Bd2 Be5 23 f4 Bd6 24 Bc3 Qg7 25 Qh4+ Kg8 26 Bxf6 Qxf6 27 Qh7+, winning. The line cited is not forced at every turn. It does illustrate that the Black King is in some serious danger, and that being ahead a whole Rook is of no great help when your pieces are inactive.
Black may have not calculated all these details or found all the alternatives after 17…, g6. He did however see enough to avoid that specific line and instead tries a related idea to exploit the Bh7. This does not work out to his advantage.
A possible improvement is 17…, Bf6 18 Rb1 g6 19 Bxg6 fxg6 20 Qxg6 Rg8 21 Qh5+ Qh7;
and Black will occupy the d-file first. White gets the Queens off moving towards an endgame where the pawns have a better chance to advance. There is a long way to go for the pawns to become sufficient compensation for a minor piece, especially a Bishop.
18.Bg6 Rf6 19.h3 Rxg6!?
I was not certain this was best for Black. The line that attracted me was: 19…, Nh6 20 Bh5 g6 21 Bb2 gxh5. I did not realize that now after 22 Be5 Qd8 23 Qb3 Kh7 24 Rad1 Qe8 25 Ng5+ Kg6 26 Bxf6 Bxf6 27 Nxe6, and White has two pawns and Rook for the two Bishops. If both Bishops were out and working Black would have chances, but such is not the case. It will take time to do something with the Bb7. In the meanwhile White can always double his Rooks on the d-file. Mr. Perry may well have grasped the essence of this and decided the text was the best course.
20.hxg4 Rxg4 21.Bb2 Bf6 22.Rad1 Rxb4?
Up to this point Black had done pretty well with what was an unpromising position. Grabbing the b-pawn undoes the good work because the next simple sequence.
23.Bxf6 gxf6 24.Qc3 Rg4
This probably the best of the bad choices available. It at least gets another piece back near the Black King. Both 24…, Ra4; and 24…, Rc4; offer less hope.
25.Qxf6+ Qg7 26.Qxg7+,..
Equally good is 26 Rd8+ Rxd8 27 Qxd8+ Kh7 28 Rd1!, when the threat to pin and win the Black Queen makes taking the pawn on g2 a bad idea.
26…, Rxg7 27.Rd6 Rcg8 28.g3 Bc8?!
Black pins his hopes on pressure on the g-file to generate some counter-play. That is certainly a reasonable idea. The problem is White has enough resources to defend successfully there. Black should have tried: 28…, Re7; offering White a chance to go wrong with: 29 Ne5 a5 30 Nxc6 Rc7 31 Nd4 Rxc5 32 Nxe6 Rc2 33 Rb6?! Be4 34 Rxb4? Rxg3+(Not so good is 34…, Be3 35 Rxa5 Bxf1 36 Kxf1, when the Knight and three pawns give White all the winning chances.) 35 fxg3 Rg2+; escaping with perpetual check.
Mr. Perry may have still had intentions of playing for the win. Giving up material to bailout to a draw might not even been in his ken.
Black consistently hammers away with vertical pressure. Here the threat is to push the f-pawn forward and to recapture on f4 with the Rook. Unfortunately for Black the d-file asset is more important than the vertical pressure.
Necessary because the back rank danger: 30…, f4? 31 Rd8 Kg8 32 Rxf8+ Kxf8 33 Rd8+ Ke7 34 Rxc8 fxe3 35 Rc7+, trading off the Rooks and leaving a hopeless endgame for Black to defend.
31.R1d4 a5 32.Nxc6?!,..
This is a less certain way to go than is: 32 Rxc6.
32…, Rc7 33.Nd8 Rxc5 34.Nxe6 Rc1+?
Tempting because the action of the Bishop and the Rc1 look dangerous.
35.Kg2 Bb7+ 36.f3 Rfc8 37.Rh4+?,..
In mild time trouble Mr. Henner just does not calculate far enough. He had over 15 minutes remaining. Working out this line: 37 Rd7+ Kg6 ( 37…, Kh6; leads to mate.) 38 Nf4+ Kg5 (38…, Kf6; is mate shortly once again.) 39 Nh3+ Kf6 40 Rxb7 R1c2+ 41 Nf2 Rxa2 42 Rd6+ Ke5 43 Rbd7! Rcc2 44 f4, checkmate, is well within his capacity. With real time problems not far away, Peter may have opted for what looked on the surface to be simpler. Or, finding the moves 43 Rbd7, and 44 f4, mate just may have eluded him. Our calculation horizons shrink in time trouble.
37…, Kg8 38.Nd4 Rd1 39.Nxf5?,..
A stubborn and creative defense is once more rewarded in our annals. Now the time pressure is real for both sides; less than 5 minutes on both clocks. In this situation it is understandable that things can be missed. The text looks natural but better is: 39 Rg6+ Kf7 40 Rg5, and Black will have to give up the Exchange on d4 to avoid more serious problems. Black now equalizes the game.
39…, Rc2+ 40.Kh3 Bxf3 41.Rxd1 Bxd1 42.Nd4 Rxa2 43.Nxb5 a4?
Overlooking the family fork. If Black had played: 43…, Ra1; breaking up the unfortunate arrangement of his pieces, there was a good chance the speedy Black a-pawn would rescue a half-point.
Alertly threatening all three of Black’s remaining assets.
44…, Ra1 45.Nxd1 Rxd1 46.Rxa4,..
It is White’s good luck that he is left with the e&g-pawns. Had he ended up with the f&h-pawns it is a daunting task to win even if you have lots of time. With the split duo one file further away from the edge of the board some of the defenses available to Black in the f&h-pawn scenarios are not there.
47…, Re1 47.Ra3,..
A little quicker is 47 e4.
47…, Kf7 48.Kg4 Kf6 49.Kf4 Rf1+ 50.Kg4 Ke5?
Better 50…, Re1; but quibbling about better moves when time trouble is so bad is of no particular use. There is no thinking when the clocks are showing less than a minute each. It is all instinct and avoiding outright blunders.
51.Ra4 Re1 52.e4 Rf1 53.Kg5 Rf8 54.g4 Rf4?
One of the blunders just mentioned. With 54…, Rg8+; the game could have gone on for several more moves.
Black resigns because the Rook is lost after 55…, Kxe4; and 56 Ra4+. This win brought Mr. Henner to +2 for the tournament and probably minimized any damage to his rating. Mr. Perry is making a vigorous effort to get all his games that had been delayed by work and social commitments. One difficulty that comes up when you have to play twice weekly delayed games is a lack of time to get over a loss and to prepare for the next encounter. I think the crowded schedule did not help Glen’s results so far.