Why USATE is the perfect tournament

There exist a variety of tournaments that chess players can participate in, ranging from heavily monetized events, such as the Millionaire Chess event, which had three iterations before quiescence, or the long-running World Open, to the completely non-monetized local events, such as those run for scholastics by the Right Move. Within that broad spectrum of money versus not money chess lives a unique event, an annual affair that has been hosted in Parsippany, NJ for ages, featuring an affordable chess weekend of team play that draws players of all levels to participate for trophy, status, and joyful competition. This year’s event boasted 1167 participants inundating the two hotel complex of the Parsippany Hilton. Wandering the festival atmosphere leads players to stumble into games and analysis happening on any surface that will hold a chess board, with discussion ranging from the most basic to the most arcane. It is a huge festival of chess, where opportunities abound to compete against every level of player. It is the most cheerful event that I have had the opportunity to attend. Everyone should find a way to make this journey sometime in their career.

The Capitol District sent multiple teams this year, including two teams from the Schenectady club. Today’s game features the efforts of my teammate on the chess league team Geezers, playing here for the Schenectady B team. John Phillips is a previous champion of the club, and is capable of turning out a game that most of us only dream of playing, filled with unusual stratagems and tactical ripostes that overwhelm an uninspired opponent. In this particular game John features an opening that I have been playing for decades. While I have moved on to other passions, John raises the flag in support of the Leningrad Dutch, showing in exemplary fashion the attacking possibilities that this line offers the aggressive player. Enjoy!

A Game From Last Year

It has been some long time since I posted on this blog. My eyesight has gotten poorer as the years have accumulated, and hours staring at a computer screen is unappealing now.

The local club title contests have begun or are about to. At this moment I am uncertain about attending these contests this year, but my archives have many games laid up. To wet your appetite for this year’s battles, and to maybe encourage some would-be writers out there to take up the task of filling the ENYCA Blog with local games, here is a game that I never got to publish.

M. Walter Mockler and John Phillips are two of my favorite players: Mockler because he is not fearful of venturing into the less popular openings and brings a creative flair to the battle, and Phillips because he is “bonny fighter” willing to defend his ideas no matter how much effort is required.

Today’s game was from an early round of the Schenectady Championship last year. When it was played both contestants were solidly in the mid-1900s, Phillips had won the SCC title a year or so before, and Mockler had several strong finishes in both the Albany and SCC Championships.

(Editorial Note: By clicking on the bold faced moves in the main game and the illustrative games a diagram of the position will be displayed.)

Black resigned here. There was no time left and if Black does not hurry his Rook or Queen back to help defend the 7th rank, White will capture on g7 and mate with his two Rooks on the f-file. If say 56…, Qa7 57 Qe6+ Kh7 58 Rf6 Ra2+ 59 Kh1, and the threat of the Rook capturing and checking on h6 wins for White.

This game illustrates a characteristic pattern of contests between the better local players; clock time is used up finding the way through middle game complications leading to a time scramble finish. The wrap-up is marred by serious errors after the majority of the game being played at a high standard. Suggesting a cure for this is not so easy. Apparently the time used early on is needed to keep the standard of play up. It may be that adopting the FIDE/ Continental Chess time control – a 30 second per move increment as opposed to the five second per move delay – would be a step towards reducing errors in time trouble at the end of a game.

Illustrative Games:

A game with 4 h3.

A game from the Ruy Lopez type position.

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

Harking Back to the Beginning of the Season

Once more this unending winter weather struck Wednesday afternoon. Rain turning to freezing rain to sleet to snow. Out Altamont way the snowfall was not much. Other parts of the Capital District I heard got more than our inch or two of ice. In any case the sour predictions led to the Albany meeting being cancelled. No chess Wednesday evening.

With no Albany news at hand, I looked back at some games I wanted to publish that for one reason or another had not yet made it to the blog. Here is one between two Schenectady stalwarts who have very often contended for the title. This year they were outstripped by Jon Leisner, but back in October it was early days. They could not then know what fate had in store for their chances. They played hard knowing well their encounter might be the difference giving one of them the title.

Mockler, Michael – Phillips, John [B07]
SCC Championship 2013–14, Schenectady, NY, 10.10.2013

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 c6 4.h3 Nbd7 5.Bc4,..

Conventionally White plays either 5 Nf3, to shore up his center, or 5 a4, to prepare a place for the Bishop on c4 at this point. Michael really does like to find his own way even in the opening where, today, all seems to have been done before. At the higher levels of competition that might be dangerous. On our local level it is not without benefits. A move not in the books, or one that is very much a footnote to a main line, can often be an unsettling surprise to the opponent.

5…, b5

I expect Mr. Phillips was not surprised. He plays the Black pieces this way often and has seen many of the possible answers. The text, or 5…, e5; appear to be about equal in value. Black is doing fine here. Mixing things up early with 5…, Nxe4!?; may be taking unnecessary risks: 5…, Nxe4 6 Nxe4 d5 7 Qe2 dxe4 8 Qxe4 Nf6 9 Qe5, when White is comfortable, and Black has to come up with a plan to catch up on development.

6.Bd3 a6

Continuing the theme on the Q-side with 6…, b4; is another possible path for Black. It may over-extend Black’s Q-side.

7.Nf3 e5 8.0–0 Be7 9.Re1 0–0 10.Ne2 c5 11.c3 Bb7 12.Ng3 Re8 13.Nf5,..

Mockler Phillips 1

The game has taken on the shape of a Ruy Lopez! The position is not quite one from a main line in the Spanish, but all of elements are there; piece placement and pawn formation. Here is something to note; the Pirc, the 3 Bb5 – Rossolimo/Moscow Sicilian, and Ruy Lopez all can lead to this kind of position. These openings start from very different points of view and all can end up in the same place! The insight is, I think, even if the Ruy is not part of your usual opening preparation, it is not waste of time to study it.

The text move is a standard idea from the Ruy Lopez. While the position is in general a Spanish-type, there is a difference; most of the time in the Ruy the White light squared Bishop is consigned to b1-h7 diagonal. Usually it is on c2 without much chance of going elsewhere. Here there is a choice. White could play 13 d5, and if 13…, c4 14 Bf1 Nc5 15 b3, going to work on the Black Q-side pawns while waiting for a more propitious moment to drop the Knight into f5.

13…, Bf8 14.d5 c4 15.Bc2,..

White sticks with the standard Ruy-type development. Possible is 15 Bf1, and planning to break up the Black Q-side with a timely b2-b3 as mentioned already.

15…, h6 16.Nh2 Kh7 17.g4!?,..

Mockler Phillips 2

An interesting idea, but it is not at all clear this is better than taking the strategic pathway and working on devaluing the Black Q-side.

17…, g6 18.Ng3 Ng8 19.Qf3,..

White continues to build-up force on the K-side, but Black has sufficient material at hand to meet the danger.

19…, Qf6 20.Qg2 Be7

I am uncertain of just what this move does to improve the Black position. My thought was 20…, Bg7; was a more likely continuation. The position is continues in the Ruy Lopez mode. The Lopez calls for much delicate maneuvering. That is one large reason I have never had the urge to play the Ruy from either side; I am not good at this kind of careful juggling of small advantages and lack the patience to lay and spring subtle positional traps. That is not true of Mr. Phillips; it is very much his style.

21.Be3 Bf8 22.Nf3 Be7 23.Nd2 Bd8 24.Rf1?!,..

Mockler Phillips 3

Grandmaster practice shows White doing better when he takes action against the Black Q-side with something like 24 b3. Mr. Mockler had made up his mind that direct action against the Black King was what he wanted to do. Styles make fights in boxing and in chess. Mockler likes the all-in cut and thrust of direct tactical action, and Phillips does very well at the slow build-up of small advantages and so we have the analogy of the Boxer versus the Puncher.

24…, Bb6 25.Bxb6 Nxb6 26.f4 exf4 27.Nh5,..

Mockler Phillips 4

And it was this neat little trick that most probably persuaded Michael to make the try. If 28…, gxh5? 29 d5+!, wins.

28…, Qe7 28.Nxf4 Nd7 29.Nf3 Ne5?!

Making life too easy for White. It is better to bring the Ng8 to f6 and not to risk giving White a permanent positional plus.

30.Nxe5 dxe5

Recapturing with the Queen gives White the f-file upon which to work. The text concedes a protected passed d-pawn to White. Neither White’s access to the f-file nor a protected passed White pawn are good things for Black.

31.Ne2 f6 32.Rf2 Qc5 33.Kh2 Rf8 34.Raf1 Kg7 35.Ng3 Kh7

Black has run out of ideas maybe. More useful is 35…, Ne7; improving the Knight’s position while the King and Rook guard f6.

36.h4 a5

Mockler Phillips 5

White has both pluses he wanted; a protected passed pawn and pressure on the f-file. Black is faced with a choice; stand pat, or try something active. Going over to passivity is not often a good option when playing someone like Mockler, who is nothing if not persistent and creative. I’d very probably do something similar to Mr. Phillips’ choice here. The computer suggests waiting with a move like 36…, Bc8.

37.h5 g5 38.Qf3 Bc8 39.Nf5,..

Has White increased his advantage? The Nf5 looks threatening and the passed pawn is still present. However, the d-pawn does not appear at all ready to go forward, and I don’t see anything immediate the Nf5 can do tactically. It has to be admitted that sitting on the Black side of this position would a worrying experience.

39…, Ne7 40.Ne3 b4?

Mockler Phillips 6

A better result could have been obtained with 40…, a4; putting the onus on White to instigate the opening of the Q-side. Play might go: 40…, a4 41 b3? cxb3 42 axb3 a3; when the far advanced Black a-pawn most certainly balances the passed d-pawn. White should leave the Q-side pawns alone. He might try 41 Qe2, threatening the f6 point. The answer 41…, Ra6; makes the small edge White has more theoretical than concrete, and a drawn outcome is nearer. The biggest problem brought on by moving the b-pawn is the c-pawn becomes vulnerable.

41.Qe2 Ng8

Black has to decide what weakness to protect; f6, or c4.

42.Nxc4 Bxg4 43.Qxg4 Qxc4 44.Bb3,..

And now the rather unimpressive White Bishop is transforming into a piece with prospects of making a serious contribution to White’s game. Black’s chances of holding are dimming.

44…, Qc5 45.Qf5+ Kh8 46.Qg6?!,..

Mockler Phillips 7

Time troubles have come about for both sides. White was down to about 2 minutes and Black had just over 3 minutes on the clock. Without time for thoughtful consideration White missed, or passed on, the better move 46 d6! The intention is then to take the Ng8 setting up real dangers to the Black pawns on f6 and h6. Worse still, the constrained situation of the Black King could have cost a decisive loss of material. Play might continue: 46 d6 Qxd6? 47 Rd1 Qc5 48 Bxg8; and Black is in trouble. If Black tries to improve with 46…, Ra7; then 47 Bxg8, and Black can not safely recapture on g8 without the f6 and h6-pawns falling. After the text White is only marginally better than Black.

46…Qd6?

Driving back the Bishop with 46…, a4; is probably a better choice. The shortness of time dictates moves that can be found quickly be played to avoid immediate loss. The text fills that bill.

47.Bd1 Ra7 48.c4 a4 49.Bg4 Rg7 50.Qf5 Qc5 51.b3 axb3 52.axb3 Ra8 53.Qf3 Ra3

Given neither side had the leisure to dig in to find the most exact move because of the clock. White has now two protected passed pawns, and Black has staved off a debacle on the weak light squares. That is a very decent performance in time trouble.

54.Be6?,..

Mockler Phillips 8

White needed to consolidate, instead he plunges onwards into an attempt to finish things off tactically. 54 Qd3, threatens to push the d-pawn and excludes the Black Queen from d4, leaving White with a very comfortable and probably winning advantage. Reaching such a conclusion when under the obligation to move almost instantaneously is no easy matter.

54…, Qd4 55.Bxg8,..

So close yet so far. With both sides having to play almost instantly, I hesitate to append a query to this move or any move at this stage of the game. The computer suggests: 55 Qg4 Rxb3? 56 Bxg8 Kxg8 57 Rxf6 Rb2+ 58 Kh1, and the threat of check on f8 is very strong indeed. The best Deep Rybka can come up with is for Black to ignore the Bishop after it captures on Ng8, and that is hopeless as well.

55…, Kxg8

Mockler Phillips 10

The only chance is 55…, g4!; according to the computer. Then if 56 Qg3, the Bishop can be taken on g8. Play could go: 55…, g4 56 Qg3 Kxg8 57 Rxf6!? Ra2+ 58 R1f2 Rg5! 59 Rxa2 Rxh5+ 60 Kg2 Qxe4+ 61 Rf3 Rg5!; and White has to take a perpetual check with his Rook on the a-file to avoid a worse outcome. Calculating such a long line with almost not time on the clock is asking more than some full-fledged Masters can do.

Time ran out for Black just as the position fell apart for Black. White’s next, 56 Qxf6, will end the game quickly.  This game set the pattern for the two participants. Mr. Mockler was to go on making every effort to make each game as interesting as possible. The result was some nice wins and a couple of losses that let Jon Leisner get a nose in front from the early going. Mr. Phillips continued to have a problem with his form ending up at 50% for the event. His careful accumulation of small advantages can use up the clock. Solving problems in time pressure can be risky business. This year Mr. Phillips could not pull it off and paid the price.

When this particular post was beginning to be written there was no Albany news because of one more of the endless storms of this year. Thursday evening the 13th I traveled over to the Schenectady Club and found there Michael Mockler and Tim Wright playing their game from the Albany event. The local clubs are accommodating to each other regards completing tournament schedules, and it not unheard of to get a game in at another venue. Neither Mockler nor Wright wanted to drive Wednesday night in freezing rain and sleet and who could blame them. Thursday was cold and windy but nothing was falling from the skies and the streets were clear, and so they met to play out one of the crucial games of the Albany Championship. The result was:

Mockler 0-1 Wright. It was the Sicilian Defense, Morra Gambit once again for Mr. Mockler. He used what I am coming to believe is an improvement Michael worked for himself; 6 a3, in place of the book moves; 6 Nc3, or 6 Nf3. White sacrificed a pawn to prevent Black’s castling. Whether this was absolutely correct or not it is hard to say. The least that can be said is Black has some problems along with the extra pawn. When you undertake a very sharp opening, the Morra in this case, justification is very often only possible through some kind of sacrifice. Mr. Mockler almost never shrinks from such aggression. After sacrificing a pawn and accepting some damage to his Q-side pawn formation, White refused the chance to trade off the last set of minor pieces. Doing so was the best chance to bring the game to a situation where White could hope to draw the pawn-down ending. Mockler had given up material to strive for a win. He must have reasoned retaining the dark squared Bishops offered better hopes for victory. As the middle game went onwards Black’s Bishop proved to be a much better piece than its White counter-part. Mr. Wright did not play flawlessly. He gave White chances to mix things up by a self-pin of his most active Rook. All White was able to do was to recover one of two pawns he was down, but in doing so the White King was exposed to dangers. Eventually a plain Rook and pawn ending came about where Black had a protected and passed a-pawn, and the remaining White pawns were all weak. This was enough for Wright to win the game.

The standings in the Albany event are now:

1-2 Wright 10½-1½
1-2 Berman 6½-1½
3 Henner 5-2
4-6 Howard 7½-2½
4-6 Mockler 6½-3½
4-6 Perry 2½-2½
7 Denham 4-4
8-9 Jones 4½-4½
8-9 Magat 4½-3½
10 Lack 5½-5½
11 Northrup 3½-5½
12 Alowitz ½-6½
13 Stephensen 1-8
14 Eson 0-7

With only a single game to play, Tim Wright has staked out a strong bid for the Albany title this year. Other than Jeremy Berman, it will be very difficult for anyone mount a challenge.

In the Schenectady event one game was played:

Chu 0-1 Northrup. Cory Northrup scored his 7th point in this event with his win from our Club President, Richard Chu. Mr. Chu launched a speculative attack with a Bishop sacrifice. Had he followed up vigorously there were chances for success. One overly cautious move in the midst of the sequence and all hope was gone. Mr. Northrup brought home the victory with not too much trouble.

I reviewed the up-to-date cross-table for Schenectady while watching the games Thursday. The following was taken directly from the cross-table including Northrup’s win:

1 Leisner 10-1 with Henner to play
2 Mockler 9½-2½ Schedule complete
3-5 Adamec 7-4 with Hill to play
3-5 Northrup 7-4 with Clough to play
3-5 Henner 7-4 with Leisner to play
6 Calderon 6½-4½ with Miranti to play
7 Phillips 6-6 Schedule complete
8 Canty 6½-5½ Schedule complete
9 Clough 5½-5½ with Northrup to play
10 Chu 3-9 Schedule complete
11 Varela 3-9 Withdrew, un-played games scored as forfeit losses.
12 Miranti 2-9 with Calderon to play
13 Hill 1-10 with Adamec to play

Jon Leisner has won the Schenectady title for 2013-14. His remaining game will only determine how close the final standings are. He played confidently and resourcefully throughout the tourney. There were moments when Jon got himself in trouble, most recently against Elihue Hill. In those few instances where things went wrong for him, Mr. Liesner dug in and fought hard and is undefeated so far. This is his first Schenectady Championship. It is well earned. Congratulations to Jon on an excellent performance.

Michael Mockler made a determined effort to keep pace with Liesner. His desire to play interesting chess gave Michael several wins and a couple of losses that made the difference between 1st and 2nd place.

The rest of the field was not able to close the gap to these top two top finishers. Most notable of the other contestants were: Cory Northrup and Matthew Clough. Cory has the chance to finish well up in the top group if he can defeat Clough, and Matthew had a number of excellent results against leading club players. If he can defeat Cory, Matt will move up significantly in the standings.

While young if compared to say the Team Geezers line-up (Mockler, Leisner, Little and Chu) Northrup and Clough are adults. A great deal of the time we are watching school kids and teenagers make a mark in chess. Not so often do we see adults battle their way into the higher levels of club play. If Cory and Matt continue their progress from this year, next season they could be in the mix for the top spot. It would not be unprecedented. In years passed Philips Sells and David Finnerman joined local clubs and eventually won titles after beginning with lesser ratings. Today, when players who did not begin their rated play in grade school are felt to be hopelessly late in the race for some chess glory, it is good to see progress by adult players.

More soon.

An Upset at Schenectady

Thursday March 7th the following make-up games were played:

Canty 1-0 Chu. Mr. Chu played the Pirc and Mr. Canty went his own way going into one of the miscellaneous lines for White. Much of what is published about the Black side in the Pirc focuses on how to react to White grabbing big space in the center. In these less played lines White delays expansion in the center right away. Black is then on his own to a large degree. He has to come up with an active plan all the while keeping a wary eye out a sudden expansion by White. In this game Black engineered his own break with 16…, b5. It initially worked well for him, and Richard reached a position where he had a small edge with chances for more. Around move 30 he went astray, overlooked potential dangers White was creating on the f-file, and lost a piece as a result. Mr. Canty found a tactical way to exploit his material advantage with a sacrificial attack on the Black King to take the point.

Leisner 1-0 Northrup. I wrote my last post that Jon Leisner had two games to play. I had left out the Northrup pairing somehow. Anyway, Cory was pretty confident his Schliemann Defense to the Ruy would surprise Jon. It didn’t quite work out that way. Mr. Leisner knew enough of the Schliemann to have a winning advantage by about move 20. It consisted of a solid pawn plus. What turned a single pawn plus into a win was it was a passed a-pawn solidly supported. The game continued for several moves, but the relentless advance of the a-pawn was decisive.

Hill 0-1 Mockler. Mr. Hill gave Michael a dose of his own medicine; the Morra Gambit in the Sicilian. Although Mr. Mockler managed to once again to create a very odd looking position – his Q-side pieces looked as if they might never get out – the extra pawn was in the center. Eventually Black’s center mass advanced, the Q-side pieces came to life, and Michael Mockler finished his schedule with a victory.

Clough 1-0 Phillips. This game is the upset of the week. Mr. Clough is a solid middling Class B player just beginning to reach for 1700. Mr. Phillips was the Schenectady Champion two years ago and is one of the group of 1950-1990 rated Class A players who in the past held an Expert title. On paper it should have been a tough game where, if John didn’t blunder, he would do no worse than draw. Our ratings may be reasonably accurate for a long series of games, however, betting on the outcome of an individual game based on ratings alone is not at all certain. This game proves the point. It was another Pirc miscellaneous line. White emerged from the opening with a better than average advantage. Black tried a pawn led Q-side attack against where the White King had taken refuge. The question became would the attack shake Matt? White’s judgment was more correct. He conducted his own direct attack on Mr. Phillips’ King. This attack wasn’t perfect, but the one slip Mr. Clough made was not picked up by Phillips. Matthew finished off the game with a very pretty sacrificial combination. This was a very nice win for Mr. Clough, and I am sure a big disappointment for Mr. Phillips.

The standings after these make-up games are:

1 Leisner 10-1
2 Mockler 8½-2½
3 Calderon 5-3
4 Adamec 6½-3½
5 Northrup 6-4
6 Henner 7-4
7 Phillips 6-6
8 Clough 5½-5½
9 Canty 6½-6½
10 Chu 3-8
11 Hill 1-9
12 Varela 3-9 Withdrew, un-played games scored as forfeit losses.
13 Miranti 2-9

Jon Leisner has locked up the title although there a few games yet to be played. Michael Mockler will finish second it seems. Carl Adamec has a chance to tie with Mockler. And, Zachary Calderon has a mathematical chance to even finish ahead of Mockler, but it will take a much steadier performance than he has achieved so far. Maybe the biggest surprises so far are the good results for Cory Northrup and Matt Clough. They have labored away these last several years trying to move up from the lower half of the cross table. Northrup will certainly finish with a 50% score, and Clough has the same opportunity. A little more progress by either or both and we will see some new faces contending for the title.

John Phillips has had a difficult tourney. With one title under his belt and a determined style of play, I thought Mr. Phillips would be in the mix for one of the top spots at this point in the event. His form was definitely off.

I have watched Matt Clough defeat class A players before, most notably John Barnes three years back. Mr. Clough is dangerous, but has a tendency to become very discouraged when surprised. Knowing Mr. Phillips careful and grinding style, I did not think Clough could win this game. I was very, very wrong.

Clough, Matthew – Phillips, John [B07]
SCC Championship 2013–14 Schenectady, NY, 06.03.2014

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Bd3 e5

Clough Phillips 1

This is not a big surprise. Mr. Phillips has been using with success the Pirc?Phillidor’s, and Mr. Clough has typically avoided things like the Austrian Attack and the Classical Defense when up against the Pirc. The game is now really a Phillidor’s Defense.

4.Ne2 Bg4?!

This excursion by the Bishop is questionable because it is easily met by a good move. More in line with theory are 4…, Be7; 4…, exd5; or even 4…, Nc6; and if 5 d5 Nb4; harassing the Bd3.

5.f3,..

And here it is. White gets to reinforce his center and gain time.

5…, Bh5?

The Bishop will not have an easy time of contributing to Black’s game from the K-side. Better is 5…, Bd7.

6.Be3 Nbd7 7.Nbc3 a6

Clough Phillips 2

Mysterious at first sight, this move does have a point: Black does not want to allow White to trade off his light squared Bishop for the Knight on d7 after .., c7-c5. The computer take a jaundiced view of the move. It suggests 7…, Be7; and completing development as a better way to go. Black is planning a quick assault against the White King. I believe his eye was on the rather constrained Bd3 and thought to make headway by threatening it.

8.Qd2 c5 9.dxc5 dxc5 10.0–0–0 b5 11.Ng3 Qa5?

Black is trying a bull-rush on the White King. The problem is Black’s development is lagging. White on the other hand has completed deployment and is ready for action. The major flaw in Black’s idea is there is an overworked piece in his position; the Knight on d7!

Clough Phillips 3

12.Kb1?!,..

A move that is OK letting White retain a pleasant edge, but 12 Nxh5!, he wins a piece. That is a much better choice: 12 Nxh5! Nxh5? 13 Bxb5!, and Black is lost. Facing this position over the board, White had to evaluate the possibility of the attack crashing through. So, what if: 12 Nxh5 b4?! 13 Nxf6+ Nxf6 14 Nb1 Qxa2 15 f4 exf4 16 Bxf4 c4 17 Bxc4! Qxc4 18 e5, and White is winning. This line of play is a fairly difficult piece of visualization. The play is wide ranging, and both Kings at least appear to be in danger. The truth of the matter is only the Black King is in real trouble.

12…, Be7?

It is obvious Black has not seen the trick involving the Bishop on h5.

13.Nf5?,..

Clough Phillips 4

And White misses it also. Here 13 Nxh5 Nxh5 14 Bxb5 axb5 15 Qxd7+ Kf8 16 Qc6 b4 17 Nd5 Qxa2+ 18 Kc1 c4 19 Bc5, when the direct 19…, c3; is answered by 20 Bxe7+ Kg8 21 bxc3, ending any hopes the under-supported attack by Black will work. If Black tries: 19…, Bxc5 20 Qxc5+ Kg8 21 Ne7+ Kf8 22 Ng6+, with the standard smothered mate after 23 Qf8+. This is another tough calculation requiring clear and accurate visualization. Mr. Clough played this game at a very fast pace. At the finish he had used only 42 of the 1 hour and 45 minutes allocated for his moves. That is an average of 1 minute and 13 seconds per move. At that speed it is no wonder tactics are missed. The other surprising thing is he saw and played a very neat finish to the game at the speed at which he palyed.

13…, Bf8

Not a very happy kind of move to make, but it is the best Black has here.

14.g4 Bg6 15.h4?!,..

White misses again the thematic idea. Here 15 g5, puts the question to Black. If the Nf6 moves to say h5, then 16 Bxb5, is decisive. If 15…, Bxf5 16 exf5 b4 17 Ne2, is similar, a piece is lost. And if: 15…, b4 16 Ne2 Ng8 17 Bc4 Rd8 18 h4, is very good for White.

15…, Rd8 16.Qh2?,..

Clough Phillips 5

Once more fast play misses a neat chance. Black’s problems with development are difficult to solve. Getting his cluster of pieces on the K-side into action will likely cost a pawn somewhere. If he’d used a few more minutes to think, Mr. Clough could have found 16 Nxb5, winning a pawn because 16…, Qxd2 17 Nc7, is mate. Then the developmental problems remain. Black’s best after 16 Nxb5, is 16.., Qb6 17 Nc3, and if 17…, Rb8 18 b3, when no breakthrough will be possible, the Queen and Rook alone just isn’t enough force to prosecute the attack.

16…, b4 17.Nd5 Nxd5 18.exd5 f6 19.Be4 c4 20.h5 Bf7

Taking off the Nf5 is a better use of the Bishop. Mr. Phillips had been working hard trying to create some counter-play. He used all but 33 of his allotted time by this point in the game.

21.g5!?,..

This move is not quite as accurate as 21 h6, then a) 21…, g6 22 Ng7+ Bxg7 hxg7; or b) 21…, gxh6 22 Bxh6, are good for White.

21…, Nb6 22.gxf6 gxf6 23.d6,..

This is a pretty good move emphasizing the undeveloped state of the Black forces.

23…, Nd5 24.Bxd5,..

White has his own ideas and pursues them. I like 24 Qh4, piling on the tension.

24…, Bxd5 25.Qd2?,..

Clough Phillips 6

This is a better move than I thought it to be during the game. It does have a serious flaw however. My choice was 25 Qf2!?,.. then after 25…, b3 26 cxb3 cxb3 27 a3 Be6 28 Bb6 Bxf5+; and White is still better, but it is not as clear as one might hope for. The offer of allowing a double attack on the White Rooks is inspired, if not quite correct.

25…Bxf3 26.d7+ Kf7 27.Nd6+ Bxd6?

Clough Phillips 7

The move 27…, Ke6; which looks like something from a study, may be Black’s last real chance to keep the fight going. The situation becomes very complex after 27…, Ke6. The many lines possible followed out with the computer all seem to lead to White winning, but I shudder to imagine trying to make sense of them in a game. The text presents White with the opportunity for a brilliancy.

28.Qxd6 b3 29.cxb3 Be4+ 30.Ka1 cxb3 31.a3 Bxh1 32.Bg5!,..

Clough Phillips 8

What a neat point. If Black captures; 32…, fxg5 33 Rf1+, mates quickly.

32…,Rhf8 33.Qxf6+ Kg8 34.Qe6+ Rf7 35.Bxd8 1–0

Clough Phillips 9

The attack on the Black Queen demonstrates the sorry position of the Black King. If 35…, Qxd8 36 Rg1+ Kh8 37 Qxf7, threatening mate at g7 and 38 Qe8+, with mate shortly. Or, if 36…, Kf8 37 Qd6+ Re7 38 Qf6+, and mate the next.

White came out of the opening with a very substantial advantage. Black was not able to mount any coordinated scheme after he let his light squared Bishop be driven back to g6. Matters were made worse by John betting the house on a direct and brutal assault on the White King. The effort was insufficiently supported because of Black’s lack of development. This game was the epitome of Mr. Phillips’ season; some ideas pushed too far costing points. For Mr. Clough this was an up and down season. He had wins from John Phillips and Carl Adamec, and a draw with Peter Henner. Those all were upsets based on ratings. On the other side of the ledger Matt lost to tail-ender Joel Miranti. After play was over in today’s game I asked Mr. Clough why he played so quickly. His reply tells much: impatience. He said he just wants to get to the finish as quickly as possible. Apparently Matthew is blessed with good intuition and a quick sight of the board. If he can master his desire to wrap up the game fast, there is no reason Mr. Clough can not advance to the ranks of the Class A players.

More soon.

A Game with an Interesting Ending

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

1.d4 f5

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.

6.Bxc6 bxc6

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?

Phillips Henner 1

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.

9.Nxf3 Bf5!?

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.

10.0–0 Qd6

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+?!,..

Phillips Henner 2

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.

15…,Qxe6 16.Rxe6+,..

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.

23.Rf1 Rxf1+

Phillips Henner 3

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?,..

Phillips Henner 4

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?,..

Phillips Henner 5

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.

Phillips Henner 6

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?

Phillips Henner 6

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.

Phillps Henner 8

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.

Phillips Henner 10

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.

More soon.

A Mild Upset From Schenectady

Last Sunday was quiet at Saratoga with only one game played in the Championship; Connors-Little. It was not a really good game. Mr. Connors erred early and resigned shortly thereafter. Neither side showed particular skill: I improvised in a Queen’s Indian Defense poorly, and David misread the position. I was just happy to get the win. Finnerman, Feinberg and Kuperman did not play. Farrell and Gausewitz played a practice game that Gary won, and they skittled for the rest evening. It was an early finish on a night that threatened snow.

The standings at Saratoga, ranked by points lost, now are:

1 Farrell 7½-1½
2 Feinberg 5-2
3&4 Little 4-3
3&4 Gausewitz 3-3
5 Finnerman 2-4
6 Kuperman 2-5
7 Connors 1½-6½

Other than a draw and loss to Jonathan Feinberg, Gary Farrell has won all of his games. Now that we are well into the second half of the event every game is critical for us that are chasing him. Next week Mr. Feinberg and I are scheduled to play. For me this is probably a “make or break” contest. A win will bring me up to tie Jonathan for second place, a loss will put the top two places effectively out of reach for me. The same is almost as true for Mr. Feinberg.

Upsets are the very stuff of news. Here is one from a recent round of the Schenectady Championship. John Phillips has been a solid high Class A player for many years who occasionally breaks through to the 2000+ level. Sylvester Canty of Troy is an established middle of the range Class B player. The difference between their ratings is on average about 300 points. That is not to say Mr. Phillips is expected to win every encounter, but while a draw here or there is no great surprise, a loss qualifies as an upset. Here is how it happened:

Phillips, John – Sylvester, Canty [D31]
SCC Championship 2013–14 Schenectady, NY, 05.12.2013

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 Nd7 5.Qb3,..

Phillips Canty 1

Back in 1982 two of the best playing then explored the Semi-Slav setup:

(139805) Portisch, Lajos (2630) – Ljubojevic, Ljubomir (2600) [D43]
Turin (5), 1982
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Qb3 Nd7 5.Nf3 Ngf6 6.Bg5 Qa5 7.Bd2 Qb6 8.e3 Qxb3 9.axb3 a6 10.Bd3 Bd6 11.e4 dxe4 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Bxe4 e5 14.Bc3 exd4 15.Nxd4 Nf6 16.Bf3 0–0 17.0–0 Ng4 18.g3 Ne5 19.Bg2 Re8 20.h3 Bd7 21.Rfd1 Bc5 22.b4 Bf8 23.Nb3 Bf5 24.Na5 Bc2 25.Rd2 Bg6 26.c5 Rab8 27.Rad1 f6 28.Bxe5 Rxe5 29.Rd7 Be4 30.R1d4 Bxg2 31.Kxg2 Re7 32.Rxe7 Bxe7 33.Rd7 Kf8 34.Nxb7 Ke8 35.Rc7 Bf8 36.Kf3 h5 37.Ke4 g6 38.Kd3 Be7 39.Kc4 f5 40.b3 h4 41.Na5 1–0

In the above illustrative game Black had some typical problems coming out of this defense; slightly less space, trouble finding effective posts for his minor pieces, and constant pressure against his Q-side pawns. That may not seem like much, but at a high level of skill it is enough for White to win many games.

5…, h6 6.Bf4 Ngf6 7.e3 Be7 8.Rc1 0–0 9.Bd3 dxc4 10.Bxc4 Nb6 11.Bd3 Nbd5 12.Bg3 Nh5

Phillips Canty 2

The game has gone in a straight forward fashion to a normal looking kind of position. White did not make provision for a safe retreat for his Bf4 by playing h2-h3 at some point, and Black plays to eliminate that Bishop. Nothing unusual so far.

13.Be5!?,..

White’s counter idea seems to be the provoking a loosening of the Black K-side pawns with this move. The hope is 13…, f6 14 Bg3 Nxg3 15 hxg3, with ideas of using the h-file. The problem is Black can simply play .., Qd8-b6; with a Queen trade very likely. If, after the Black Queen goes to b6, White initiates the exchange on b6, the position is a familiar one from the Exchange Slav where Black’s two Bishops and open a-file entirely offset his doubled b-pawns. I played so against Mr. Phillips some years ago and got equality as Black but nothing more.

13…, Qa5?!

More solid is 13…, f6 14 Bg3 Nxg3 15 hxg3 Qb6; and Black has the two Bishops. White can claim no advantage. Perhaps Black is looking for more. There is nothing in the position on the board to encourage such wishes; he trails in development and his Nh5 is not impressively posted.

14.0–0?!,..

The simple move 14 h3, opens up a safe retreat for the Be5 giving White some advantage.

14…, a6?

I can’t find a purpose for this move. Logic dictates 14…, f6; 14…, Qb6; or Nxc3; as the candidates for Black here. Both players seem want to avoid anything that leads to a balanced position with a draw following in a reasonable number of moves. Usually there is some enemy weakness to justify this kind of aggression, or a decisive point has been reached in the tournament were all has to be wagered for a result. Neither condition is present here.

15.Ne4,..

White now forms a plan to take advantage of the undeveloped state of the Black Q-side. “Junior” Canty does not pick up on the scheme and White gets the better game.

16…, Qd8 16.h3 f5 17.Nc5 Ra7 18.Bb8 Bxc5?

Phillips Canty 3

A misreading of what is going on must underlie this choice. There is nothing wrong with repeating moves with 18…, Ra8. If White then tries for the b-pawn with 19 Nxb7?!, he is roughly handles after; 19…, Bxb7! 20 Qxb7 Rxb8 21 Qxc6 Bd6 22 b3 Nb4 23 Qc4 Qe8 24 Bb1 Rc8; and White’s two pawns are not adequate compensation for the piece invested. After 18…, Ra8; White would best be served by 19 Bh2, maintaining a comfortable edge.

19.dxc5 Ra8 20.Bd6 Re8

White has a substantial advantage now. It is close to winning; the basis is his control of d6 and e5. They are excellent posts for his Bishop and one of his Knights. With two minor pieces dominating such central squares Black is choked in the middle of the board and has to keep watch for some sort of sudden decent on his King.

21.Ne5 Qg5

This move is reasonable even though it is unlikely to solve the fundamental problem of the White outposts in the heart of the Black position. A Queen and two Knights lurking around the White King just may generate some complications to worry Mr. Phillips.

22.Nf3?,..

And it does so! White rethinks the placing of his minor pieces. Although the computer thinks Black is equal, playing out the position indicates White still has a considerable advantage, at least for as long as he can keep the Bishop on d6. Very probably the best choice here is; 22 Qc4, intending Qc4-d4.

22…, Qf6 23.Be5,..

Putting the Bishop and the Knight in a less active formation than when they were on d6 and e5 seems wrong. White still has a big edge, but it is not so great as it was.

23…, Qf7 24.Qc4 Nhf6 25.Qh4?!,..

White misreads both the positional and the tactical possibilities here. Black needs to advance his e-pawn to have any hope. Moving it forward is the only way I can see for him to fight for equality. Keeping a lid on Black’s counter-play with 25 Bd6, to be followed by 26 Ne5 maintains the advantage.

25…, Nd7 26.Bd6 e5

The first step towards some freedom for the Black pieces. The fork threat on e4 forces the reply.

27.e4 fxe4 28.Qxe4?,..

Phillips Canty 4

The move 28 Bxe4, keeps the upper hand for White. Now the tactical threat bites.

28…, N7f6 29.Qg6 e4 30.Qxf7+ Kxf7 31.Ne5+ Rxe5 32.Bxe5 exd3

Black has two minor pieces for the Rook, and importantly the d-pawn is remarkably robust. Black now has the advantage firmly in hand. A casual glance might lead one to think White can, at the very least blockade it. Closer examination tells us this is not done efficiently by Rooks. In fact, the d-pawn will cost decisive material.

33.g4 Be6 34.a3?!,..

Phillips Canty 5

White does not quite get his evaluation of the position right here. The text prevents the d-pawn being supported from b4 by the Knight, a reasonable thought, but it is more important to eliminate the d-pawn quickly. To that end, a better move seems to be: 34 Rfd1, and then if 34…, Nb4!? 35 a3 Na2 36 Ra1 Rd8 37 Bd6 Bc4 38 b2 Bxb2 39 Rxd6, and while Black is still better, the struggle is far from over.

The game move wastes a tempo that White sorely needed to keep some chances alive. The delay of just a single move lets Black hold the d-pawn, and it will cost significant material.

34…, Ne4

Also good is 34…, Re8; threatening a discovered attack on the Be5. The text focuses on keeping the d-pawn.

35.Rfd1?,..

Still lost for White is: 35 Rcd1 d2 36 f3 Ng5 37 Kf2 Nxh3+; but Black would have been challenged to find a difficult move or two to nailed down the win. The path followed permits Black to emerge into the sunlit uplands of an ending a full piece to the good with only patience required to win the game.

35…, d2 36.Rc2 Ne7 37.f3 Bb3 38.Rcxd2 Bxd1 39.Rxd1 Nxc5 40.b4 0–1

Phillips Canty 6

The game went on for many more moves in increasing time trouble, however Mr. Canty showed good technique trading down to a Rook, one pawn and a Knight versus a lone Rook ending. He demonstrated the understanding of how to win such endgames; the Knight and pawn provide a convoy to shield the King from annoying checks from the White Rook while the Black Rook restricts the opposing King. A very nice performance by Sylvester Canty and a disappointment for John Phillips.

More soon.

Holding an Endgame Makes a Difference

In the deciding match of this year’s CDCL season, the Geezers had their chances. Today’s game is the 4th board clash between the youthful Dilip Aaron and the veteran John Phillips. Mr. Phillips damaged White’s pawn formation out of the opening. It wasn’t until the game simplified to a Rook and minor piece ending that his advantage blossomed into a significant edge. Mr. Aaron then demonstrated his increasing chess skill by holding the ensuing Rook end game. Continue reading “Holding an Endgame Makes a Difference”

An Update on the League

My chess friends:  I have tried to follow a rule not to post anything the same day some else puts material on the blog.  Today I have to break that rule.  Last night I promised several people I’d get the results of the Geezers – Uncle Sam match up today, and so this post.  Immediately following this material is a post by Dean Howard on his game with Peter Michelman from the Geezers- Albany A match from last week.  It is a great bit of work well worth the time to read and study if you want to have an insight into how very good players think about their positions.  My apologies to Dean for posting ahead of his good work. Continue reading “An Update on the League”