Wednesday February 5th saw no activity at the Albany Club – there was a snow storm. For this week, 9 to 15 February, the “weekly” snow storm is coming Thursday allowing the Albany Club to get a round of play. The downside is it is doubtful Schenectady will get in any games Thursday the 13th . These weekly snow events are getting to be a drag. One can only wish for Spring and keep shoveling in the Great Northeast this year. This Wednesday, February 12th four games were played at Albany. The results were:
Wright 1-0 Lark. With a transposition or two this game slid into an unusual line of the French. Mr. Lack is a guy who likes his routine, and he plays the French almost exclusively. Mr. Wright took a page from my book, put pawns on c4 and e4 and then traded the center pawns. That has been my formula against Jon’s French for a long while. The isolated d-pawn that White accepts playing this way is not easy for Black to pressure. These open center kind of positions puts a premium on getting the pieces out. In this game White did a better job of that than did Black. Laggard development by Black gave White the initiative. Just when it appeared the game was about to settle into a long effort by White to make something of his initiative, Black blundered the Exchange by not checking the details of his scheme to wrest back the initiative. White rapidly got his two Rooks doubled on a file near the Black King. It wasn’t long before there was a neat little sequence leading to mate. The game was over by move 25. A smooth and convincing performance by Mr. Wright.
Denham 1-0 Howard. Easily the upset of the week. Denham, somewhere around 1600, defeated the Expert Howard in 36 moves. More remarkable was it wasn’t some off-beat opening line where the Expert went wrong. It was the QGD, Exchange Variation, a tried and true tool for either side to stay out of early trouble. On move 9 Dean sent his Knight to h5 so to trade off the dark squared Bishops. In the first place there did not appear to be any greater rational for the .., Nf6-h5; move other than the trade. Secondly, with many Black pawns on light squares trading dark squared Bishops certainly is somewhat questionable just on general principles. White really did not come up with anything earth-shattering, he just had a small edge: a better pawn formation and his opponent had a Bishop restricted by its own pawns. Again, a long effort seemed to be what was coming, but at move 19 Black erred and the second Exchange of the evening was lost. Black did his best for 19 more moves to create counter-play, however, Mr. Denham kept his head, avoided getting into a tactical melee, and the extra material told in the end. The game ended on move 38 with mate in one threatened. A big win for Jason!
Eson 0-1 Berman. Charles kept things close through move 20. As someone said just before play began: “Chuck you play like a GM through the first 15 or 20 moves, then something bad happens.” Once more Mr. Eson had a not so bad position against a very strong opponent, then the young almost-Expert raised the ante. Tactics kicked-in, material was lost and the game ended soon after.
Magat 1-0 Northrup. Cory fell behind in development by move 12, and he was saddled with a light squared Bishop with few prospects for active use. Gordon offered a pawn on c5 just to keep the Bishop blocked in for awhile with a built-in trick letting him recover it by capturing on h7 with check. At some point not long after, Mr. Northrup, either by choice or error, moved his g-pawn forward one box. It did not take too many more moves for Mr. Magat to whip up a violent attack on Northrup’s King that worked. The game ended with the Black King under withering fire.
After this round’s play, based on points lost, the standings are:
1-2 Wright 9-1
1-2 Berman 5-1
3 Perry 2½-1½
4 Henner 5-2
5-6 Howard 5½-2½
5-6 Mockler 4½-2½
7 Denham 4-3
8-9 Jones 4½-3½
8-9 Magat 4½-3½
10 Lack 5½-4½
11 Northrup 2½-5½
12 Alowitz ½-6½
13 Stephensen 1-7
14 Eson 0-7
With just four of seven possible games played, those who did not play Wednesday dropped down the table in some cases. Wright and Berman are solidly in the lead with Glen Perry not far behind. However Mr. Perry has many games to make-up. Peter Henner follows only a point back and ready to make a try for the top if the leaders fail. Howard and Mockler are a half-point behind Henner and are not truly out of the running, although their form has been uncertain thus far. Tim Wright is setting a fast pace that Jeremy Berman must match over the next several weeks. The others are hoping for some slip ups by the two leaders. It will be interesting to see if Wright and Berman can keep up their pace to the end.
The first week in February saw a rather important game played in the Schenectady event. John Phillips, trying to salvage a good result after a poor start, met Peter Henner, who was trying to keep pace with Leisner and Mockler in this year’s tournament. Both are members in good standing of the mob of Class A players hovering just under 2000 – the 1950 to 1990 bunch. Both have some long time ago broken through to Expert, their rating floors are 1800. Since 1991 neither have quite gotten back to that level. So, what we see in today’s game are two good players needing a win. Neither of these guys are easily discouraged, they typically fight games out to the bitter end knowing at the club level of play almost anything can, and often does, happen.
Phillips, John – Henner, Peter [A83]
SCC Championship 2013–14 Schenectady, NY, 06.02.2014
To quote Shakespeare, Henry V: “Once more unto the breech, dear friends, once more;..” and it is an apt title for this game. Much as Harry before Harfleur was determined on a frontal assault, Mr. Henner has been determined to stick with 1.., f5; in answer to 1 d4. Several of his opponents have answered with the Staunton Gambit, as does Mr. Phillips here. The Staunton Gambit does not refute the Dutch, but it does take the game out of the usual Dutch lines and into less well known byways where the normal Dutch patterns do not apply.
Black has two possibilities if he wants to side-step the Staunton: 1) 1 d4 e6; “risking” the French if White plays 2 e4, and 2) 1d4 g6; when 2 e4, leads to the Pirc/Modern formations instead of the Dutch.
While Black is not by any means doomed against the Staunton, and he has a small plus when you look at the results when elite players are on both sides, it does not occur very often in the games of the best. Here are a couple of examples:
(413923) Lalic, Bogdan (2590) – Kovacevic, Vlatko (2520) [A83]
Croate Championship, Slavonski Brod, 1995
1.d4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 c6 5.f3 exf3 6.Nxf3 d5 7.Bd3 g6 8.Ne5 Qb6 9.Qe2 Qxb2 10.0–0 Qxc3 11.Bxf6 Rg8 [11…exf6] 12.Qf2 Nd7 [12…exf6 13.Qxf6 Bg7 (13…Qxd4+ 14.Kh1 Rg7 (14…Nd7 15.Nxd7 Qxf6 16.Nxf6+ Kf7 17.Rae1 Rh8 18.Ne8+ Kg8 19.Nc7 Rb8 20.Re8 Kg7 21.Ne6+ Bxe6 22.Rxb8) ) ] 13.Bxe7 Kxe7 14.Nxd7 Kxd7 15.Qf7+ Be7 16.Qxg8 Qxd4+ 17.Kh1 Qh4 18.Rae1 Kd6 19.g3 Qg5 20.Qe8 d4 21.h4 Qd5+ 22.Kh2 1–0
(298140) Cifuentes Parada, Roberto (2540) – Schmittdiel, Eckhard (2485) [A83]
8th Bad Woerishofen Open, (7), 1992
1.d4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nc6 5.f3 e5 6.d5 Nd4 7.Nxe4 Be7 8.d6 cxd6 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Ne2 d5 11.Nxd4 dxe4 12.Nf5 Qb6 13.Qd5 Qxb2 14.Bc4 Bb4+ 15.Kf2 Qxc2+ 16.Kg3 Kd8 17.Rhd1 exf3 18.Ne3 Qg6+ 19.Kxf3 Re8 20.Rab1 e4+ 21.Ke2 Re5 22.Qg8+ Qxg8 23.Bxg8 Bc5 24.Bxh7 b6 25.Ng4 Ba6+ 26.Ke1 Re7 27.Bf5 Bd3 28.Rbc1 Ba3 29.h4 Bxc1 30.Rxc1 Rg7 31.Kd2 Ke7 32.Ke3 Rh8 33.g3 b5 34.Rc7 Kd8 35.Rxa7 Rh5 36.Bxd7 Rc5 37.Nxf6 Rxg3+ 38.Kd4 Rc4+ 39.Ke5 e3 40.Ke6 e2 0–1
Our game continues:
2.e4 fxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nc6 5.Bb5 a6
The book move here is 5.., g6. Rybka says the text is at least as good as that move.
Black could also play 6…, dxc6; and castle long. That idea takes the game into a different track. In it Black does not strive to hang on as long as possible to his booty aiming instead to get his pieces out.
7.Qe2 d5 8.f3 exf3?
Black has put his faith in Bishop pair he has gained, and he wants to hold on to the extra pawn as long as possible. To this end, he has willingly accepted a tattered pawn structure. Piling up pawn weaknesses typically means Black will play for a decision in the middle game. He will keep an eye peeled for chances to repair his pawn formation deficits while doing so.
The game is about equal here according to Rybka As you work forward in analysis it is hard to believe Black is not in trouble after the text. It seems a less-routine idea is the only safe way forward; holding back the development of the minor pieces and getting the major pieces into action may be Black’s best bet. For example: 8…, Rb8 9 0-0-0 Qd6 10 fxe4 Qb4; and the pressure on the White King’s abode is dangerously strong.
Masters are able to make the fine distinctions in judgment about sticking to routine development or switching to direct threats because development will not quite do the job. That skill is less often demonstrated by even the strong club players. Sometimes they have it and some times not. I sympathize with Mr. Henner’s problem here. Too, too many times I have missed the switch point. Faced with the choice of getting out a minor piece, or putting a Rook on an open file, it is easy to decided to move the minor piece. After all have we not proven to our selves again and again straight-up development is usually the best course? Only if the further moves: .., Qd6; and .., Qb4; are visualized and then compared to .., Bf5; and later .., Bg6; leading to Nxg6 and .., hxg6; will the .., Rb8; move begin to standout as a reasonable choice. A less obvious factor in this calculation is the Nc3 becomes vulnerable if b2-b3 is played at some point.
Holding the extra pawn is not going to be possible, so part of the rational for allowing the damage to the Black pawn structure is flawed. If 9…, e6 10 Ne5, will get in back the pawn either on c6 or e6. The game move looks to be motivated by the recognition that things have not gone well for Black, and getting a piece out is perhaps the best that can be done.
Both players took a very long think here. This makes some sense, the opening is near its end, and finding a useful plan in a position that is fairly non-standard can use up time.
11.Ne5 Bg6 12.Nxg6 hxg6 13.Bf4 Qd7 14.Rae1 e6 15.Qxe6+?!,..
White proceeds too directly. This the moment for subtlety. Consider: 15 Bg5! And now the routine 15…, Kf7; is devastated by; 16 Bxf6! gxf6 17 Rxf6+ Kxf6 18 Qe5+, recovering the material and leaving Black to struggle with a very awkward King situation. Or, Black might rise to the occasion with 15…, Bd6!; then 16 Bxf6, is not so good because the Black Bishop capturing on h2 with check. So after 15…, Bd6; White should continue 16 g3 0-0 17 Qxe6+ Qxe6 18 Rxe6, and while the position is in balance, the onus is on Black to find the right moves. One little tactical detail in this position is after 18 Rxe6, Black should not try 18…, Ne5; because White can go for; 19 Rxf8+ Rxf8 20 Nxe4 Kf2 21 Rxd6! cxd6 22 Nxd6+ Ke6 23 Nb7 Rb8 24 Nc5+ Kf5 25 Bc1, and White has two minor pieces and a pawn for the Rook while Black has a host of pawn weaknesses the minor pieces can exploit. This line is a good example of the limitation broken pawns puts on a side with them.
White has recovered his pawn and Black has had to accept more pawn formation damage. Endgames are looking less and less promising for Black, but the middle game chances for Black may have improved.
16…, Kd7 17.Ree1,..
I didn’t like this when it was played. If White has no better way to save the Re6 from being surrounded, then he should have been less direct on move 15. That may have been a real error. However, White can try here: 17 Re5 Bd6 18 Rg5, leading to a rapid opening up of the position. Probably the coming furry of threats and counter-threats will result in equality and a draw. The text gets there also but without the excitement. Neither side was in difficulties with the clock here. Both players do have a tendency to use up time, and I believe 17 Re5, might have given Peter a great deal to think about. That could have caused him to use even more time subsequently.
17…, Bd6 18.Na4 Rae8 19.Nc5+ Bxc5 20.dxc5 Rxe1 21.Rxe1 Ne4 22.Be3 Rf8!?
Missing a chance to make John’s life more difficult with 22…, Rb8. Keeping the Rooks on has to help Black; he would have more resources with which to defend the pawn weaknesses.
Again Black is too agreeable. Going to b8 with the Rook is still possible; 23…, Rb8 24 Bd4 Ke7; and White’s advantage is not so great. After the trade on f1 White has good chances to win. He doesn’t yet have the point in the bag, but being on the side of the Bishop in a BvN ending with pawns on both sides of the board usually favors the side with the Bishop.
24.Kxf1 g5 25.Bd4 g6?
A mistake that could have spelled an early end to Black’s hopes. On g7 the pawn defends f6 so that the out-posted Ne5 has a path for retreat. Without a safe way out of the outpost, the Knight can be a problem instead of an invulnerable Gibraltar.
26.Ke2 Ke6 27.Kf3 Kf5 28.g4+ Ke6
White is very close to winning now.
29.Ke3 Kd7 30.b4 Ke6 31.c4?,..
Logic and experience tells us White has two possible winning plans: first some kind of hell-for-leather rush of his Q-side pawns, or second to take advantage of lack of moves in the Black camp and the not-so-strong e5 outpost in combination with the Q-side pawn advance. White has the right idea with the Q-side advance. However, timing is important. Getting in the c2-c4 thrust when the Black King is NOT on e6 when the Knight can fall back to f6 is an important point. White has many reserve pawn moves and Black has none: a2-a3, a3-a4, h2-h3, c2-c3 and c2-c4 for White, while Black has no pawn move that does not immediately drop a pawn. White likely does not want to move the h-pawn until he absolutely must – it covers g3 very nicely from h2. This brings up a second important point, if the Black King is not on e6, and the White King is on e3, d3, or even c2, the Knight has no safe move. The implication is; the Black King is very much restrained. Where he goes and when can be the deciding factor for White. Breaking open the Q-side appears to be unstoppable by Black. There is a third important point: the breakthrough of a White pawns on the Q-side may not win outright because of the particular pawn formations there. The “killer” for White may be the harvest of the Black g-pawns in that case. One final consideration White has to take into account that it may be necessary to sacrifice the Bishop for a potentially dangerous Black pawn at some point. White then would have to rely on the Black King being stuck holding back a passer on the Q-side, and White would then use his connected passed pawns on the K-side against the lone Knight.
Put succinctly, there is a great deal to think about, and time was beginning to become a concern for both players: White had 20 minutes on his clock and Black 14. After a fairly long consideration, three and one-half minutes, Mr. Phillips went for the all-out pawn advance. It is better to prepare the Q-side break with 31 a4, first. Then if: a) 31…, Nf6? 32 bxf6 Kxf6 33 Kd4 Ke6 34 c6 Kd7 35 Ke5, and White has two more reserve pawn moves with which he can force a further advance of his King. This line is clearly winning for White. Or b) 31…, Kd7 32 c4 Ke6 33 a5 Kd7 34 Bh8! Ke6 35 cxd5+, when if b1) 35…, Kxd5 36 Bb2!, and the Knight is lost, and b2) 35…, cxd5 36 b5! Nxc5 37 Bd4 Kd6 38 Bxc5+ Kxc5 39 bxa6, and Black will be run out of moves letting the leading a-pawn go on to make a Queen.
The text allows Black to make a precise defense as the next sequence shows. Both players went forward slowly over the next ten moves. Mr. Phillips clock went down from 25 minutes to just over 5 minutes on move 40, and Mr. Henner’s clock fell from 19 minutes to 3:24. The puzzle everyone faces under the modern Game-in-x-minutes time control is epitomized by this segment of the game: play carefully and check each move for tricks, traps and stratagems knowing that if your opponent does not falter you well go into the technical ending with little time in which to find your way, or play with attention to the clock husbanding time for the ending. It is a situation where your damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
31…, Nf6 32.Bxf6 Kxf6 33.cxd5 cxd5 34.Kd4 c6 35.a4 Ke6 36.h3 Kd7 37.b5 cxb5 38.axb5 axb5 39.Kxd5 Kc7 40.c6?,..
A natural looking move if there ever was one, but wrong. If there was time to think, I am sure Mr. Phillips would have found White’s best is: 40 Ke4!, then 40…, Kc6 41 Kd4 b4 42 Kc4 b3 43 Kxb3 Kxc5 44 Kc3, taking up the opposition leaving the position dead drawn.
Analysis Diagram after Kc3.
For a good portion of the game John has had some advantage. Now, in time trouble, his instinct pushes him towards trying to win. Unfortunately, this time the will-to-win should cost him the full point.
40…, b4 41.Kc4 Kxc6 42.Kxb4 Kb6?
It is Mr. Henner’s turn to react on instinct wrongly. With 42…, Kd5; he would be well ahead in the race to the K-side with great winning chances. A straight foreword chase-type line is: 42…, Kd5 43 Kc3 Ke4 44 Kd2 Kf3 45 Kd3 Kg3 46 Ke3 Kxh3 47 Kf3 Kh4; and casually one might say White could hold this position by keeping his King placed so it can go to g2 when Black takes the g4-pawn.
Analysis diagram after 47…, Kh4.
That would be true if Black did not have the second g-pawn. With no second g-pawn, a passed pawn on the 5th rank, Kings in front is a theoretical draw. The big but is Black will have a reserve pawn move to tempo the White King out of the way so that the leading g-pawn can go to the 2nd without checking thereby squeezing the White King from g1. Peter’s time problem was worse than John’s, he was down to 2 minutes remaining. The game should now be trivial draw, but Mr. Phillips wanted to test Mr. Henner’s nerves and determination.
43.Kc4 Kc6 44.Kd4 Kd6 45.Ke4 Ke6 1–0
The game went on for several more moves with the clocks running down on both sides. We will draw the veil over the mistakes by both parties, and show only this one last position where Black had a known drawing finesse but missed it with just seconds left on his clock.
As Philip Sells pointed out after the game ended: a pawn on the 5th , White King in front, the Black King at g7 and White to move is drawn. Move the whole formation forward one square and White wins no matter who has the move. With Black to move, 53…, g5+; secures the draw. If 54 Kxg5 Kg7; and White can not advance his King without bringing the pawn forward. Then all Black must remember is when the White pawn goes to the 7th it must be with check and Black draws. If White tries: 54 Kh5 Kf6 55 Kh6 Kf7 56 Kxg5 Kg7 57 Kf5 Kf7 58 g5 Kg7 59 g6 Kg8 60 Kf6 Kf8 61 g7+ Kg8; drawn. Black just did not see the pawn sacrifice at g5. There was little time left to either player. With just seconds on the clock one must trust instinct. Compared to the similar position Black could have had earlier, here White does not have a trailing g-pawn with which he can squeeze the opponent’s King out of the blockade.
And so, Mr. Phillips won as he needed to do in an effort to salvage a result from this year’s Championship; while Mr. Henner slipped a bit in his effort to overhaul Leisner and Mockler. It was an intense contest with both players putting a great deal of work into the game.