CDCL 2015: a biased, partisan point of view

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

It looks like it’s time for me to explain the story of the Schenectady A team in this year’s Capital District League, as rumor has it that the league season has concluded. Our team’s progress through the season wasn’t fully documented here before, so being the team captain, I thought I’d present our story for your entertainment. Some of the below will be redundant with posts from previous weeks, but I decided I’d cover it anyway in context.

Continue reading “CDCL 2015: a biased, partisan point of view”

Assumptions and Compensation

Here is something to chew on for the long holiday weekend:

While the SCC A team had the League title firmly in their hands when the very last CDCL match was played, the long standing Albany – Schenectady rivalry gave the importance of pride to the contest. As reported earlier, SCC A won this year. This particular victory came as a result of Schenectady’s strength on the lower boards. We are going to look at a very interesting game played on the 3rd board; Rotter-Wright. Continue reading “Assumptions and Compensation”

Wrapping Up the Schenectady A – Albany CDCL Match

The games in today’s post were surprising. In the first one, the board four clash between Leisner and Rotter, two of the sharper players active locally made a careful draw that struck me as slightly out of character for these guys.
CDCL Match Schenectady A v Albany, Board 4
White: Jon Leisner
Black: Bobby Rotter
Date: 17 June, 2010
Over the past two or three years, Leisner and Rotter have made good progress in the ratings list because they court tension in sharp lines. Both have pet lines of play about which they are very knowledgeable. The Bird’s Opening is one of Jon’s favorites.
1…, d5 2.Nf3 g6 3.e3 Bg7 4.Be2 c5 5.0–0 Nf6 6.d3 0–0
It is not easy to find games between masters in this opening. I have yet to obtain one of Chessbase’s big databases. With four or five million games there may be more examples found. In the one million or so games in my databases, there are only a double handful of games in the Bird’s. Of those, three or four feature master players on both sides of the game. Absent a goodly number of games from the better players, I had to fall back on my electronic mentor. At this point Rybka sees Black as having a slight edge.
7.Nc3 d4!?
Bobby tries to sharpens the contest. The move lets go of some of his edge because it lacks preparation. More controlled is 7…, Nc6.
8.Ne4 Nxe4 9.dxe4 dxe3
Opening the d-file allows the trade of Queens taking much of the fight out of the game. With 9…, Qb6; tension could be maintained. Both players may have recognized they were facing mirror images and decided to stay away from tactical melees.
White had choices here. He could have tried 10 Bxe3, 10 e5, or 10 c3. None of these seem particularly better than the game move.
10…,Rxd8 11.c3 Nc6 12.Bxe3 b6 13.Rfd1 Bb7 14.e5 e6
This move sets up a rather inflexible pawn formation for Black, however it has the virtue of limiting possibilities for White. The game is entirely level now.
15.Rxd8+ Rxd8 16.Rd1 Rxd1+ 17.Bxd1 Bh6 18.Kf2 Ne7 19.g3 Bc6 20.Nd2 Bf8 21.Nc4 Nd5 22.Bd2 Bb5 23.Ne3..
Creating some tension with 23 Be2 Bd7 24 Na3 is met by 24… Nc7 leaving White with some initiative but it is hard to see just how significant progress is to be made. The text agrees to a trade of Knights. The resulting position with both sides having a pair of Bishops and no pawn weaknesses offers little incentive to keep the battle going.
23…, Nxe3 24.Bxe3 Be7 25.Bf3 Kf8
Black avoids advancing his f-pawn. That is the only resource available to introduce any kind of imbalance into the position.
26.b3 Ke8 27.c4 Bd7 28.Bd2 Kd8 Draw agreed.
The careful play by these two fighters indicated the importance of the match, the result was certainly going to be a major factor in deciding who was to be in first place at the finish. By the time the draw was agreed, Katrein had resigned his game against Aaron and Leisner, the Albany team captain, was measuring his team’s chances of holding a drawn match. Halving the match point would have kept alive Albany hopes for another League title.
The surprise in our second game was Katrein made an error in sharp position he deliberately brought about. The following week he and I had opportunity to talk about the game. Matt said he had noted the superior move, 22…, Nf3+, and just forgot to play it. Matt is a very strong player and has been so for many years. If my memory is accurate, he acquired the Life Master title before 1980. He, like almost all chess players, has lost games through mistakes, but Matt’s mistakes are not often made when he instigates the tension. This game was the first to finish. The result heartened the Schenectady team by the unexpected early win.
CDCL Match Schenectady A v Albany, Board 1
White: Deepak Aaron
Black: Matt Katrein
Date: 17 June, 2010
1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.exd6 cxd6 6.Nc3 g6 7.Be3 Bg7
Katrein has used Alekhine’s Defense for decades. It, and the Pirc are his main weapons against 1 e4.
8.Rc1 0–0 9.Be2 Nc6 10.b3 e5!?
This is risky as this game demonstrates. The move sets White a decision; open a central file with 11 dxe5, or grab a superior Q-side pawn structure while facing aggressive play by Black on the K-side. Mr. Aaron goes for the long term positional plus of a superior Q-side pawn formation. Black could have tried 10…, d5, then a possible line is; 11 c5 Nd7 12 Nxd5 Ndb8 13 Bc4 b5 14 cxb6 axb6 15 a4 e6 16 Nc3 Nxd4 17 Nge2 e4, and so on. Not too many humans would think this way. The computer likes it and calls the game equal. White can continue with 18 f4, and the position is full of tactics.
If the Black King is tied down on the K-side in some fashion in an bare King endgame, the White Q-side pawn mass has excellent chances of forcing a passed pawn. Mentioning this characteristic of this particular game does not imply the position is lost for Black. It does indicate Black will have to be accurate from here forward.
11…, Nd4 12.Nf3 Nxe2 13.Qxe2 Bg4 14.h3 Bxf3 15.Qxf3 f5
The logical continuation of the idea behind 10…, e5. Black wagers there is compensation to be found in a direct attack by pieces and pawns on the White King.
16.0–0 Nd7
Aiming at bringing the Knight around to f6 if allowed to do so, reinforcing the planned attack, or so I thought at the time. It seems Mr. Katrein had in mind a different plan.
Threatening a7 and d6 and thinking probably that Black will have to use some time to calculate 17…, Nf6 18 Bxa7 Qa5 19 Qe3 Nd7 20 Bd4 and the alternatives all of which are quite complicated
17…, e4
Mr. Katrein is not to be distracted. The a-pawn is bait to buy a tempo to be used to speed the K-side assault. Matt did not use a huge amount of time to decide on the e-pawn push. I expect he had been considering his options in this position for a couple of moves
18.Qe2 Ne5
So this where the Knight was heading.
Deepak gave some moments of thought perhaps considering 19 Bxa7 Nd3 20 Rcd1 Nf4 21 Qd2 Qg5 which looks near won for Black, and 19 Rcd1 Nd3 20 f3, with things becoming more complicated. Rybka liked the text move.
19…, f4!?
The computer prefers 19…, Nd3. After the game move it gives White an advantage, not a winning one, but a distinct edge. Matt’s move is the logical continuation of the intention of attacking the White King. With 19…, Nd3 20 Ne6 Nxc1 21 Rxc1 Qa5 22 Bf4 Qa3 23 Nxf8 Rxf8 24 Qd2 b6 25 c5 dxc5 26 d6 Bd4 27 Bg5 Rf7 28 Be7 Rxe7 29 dxe7 Kf7 30 Qh6 Kxe7 etc. the computer claims the game is equal. I think it would take the mechanical accuracy of a computer, or the skillful vision and confidence of a GM to go down the computer’s recommended path.
Not to be outdone Aaron goes boldly into great complications. Safe an sound is 20 Bd2 when White obtains good compensation after giving up the Exchange in the form of extra pawns and a powerful Ne6. The line goes; 20…, Nd3 21 Ne6 Nxc1 22 Rxc1 f3 23 Qe4 Qe7 24 g3 Rf5 25 Bf4. The pawn on f3 is likely doomed, although White must approach taking it off gingerly via ..Rd1/d3/xf3 to avoid problems . Even if Black returns the Exchange on e6 he will only get back one of the two pawns leaving White with a very favorable ending. After the text the tactics come quick and sharply.
20…, Qh4 21.Bxf4 Rxf4 22.g3 Qxh3?
Matt told me he had seen the correct move, 22…, Nf3+ and then forgot about it when it was time to play the move. As dangerous as the situation appears to be for White, really the game is even after 22…, Nf3+ 23 Qxf3 Rxf3 24 gxh4 Rxh3 25 Kg2 Rxh4 26 Rh1 Rxh1 27 Rxh1 Bf6 28 Re1 Rc8 29 Rxe4 h5 and the passed h-pawn balances the White pawn plus on the Q-side. Another path to equality is 22…Nf3+ 23.Kg2 Rg4 24.Rh1 Rg5 25.Nxg5 Qxg5 26.Qxe4 Rf8 and the two minor pieces are very well placed to fight against the two extra pawns White has in hand.
The forced sequence that follows gives White a solid advantage.
23.Nxf4 Nf3+ 24.Qxf3 Qxf1+ 25.Kxf1 exf3 26.Re1 Rf8?
Often it takes a couple of errors to lose a game. White has the clear edge before this move. After it is made the game is lost. Notwithstanding the theoretical plus Black has; a Bishop versus a Knight with pawns on both sides of the board, White is much better here. The Bishop lacks targets, the White pieces have an unassailable outpost at e6 and the White Rook threatens to go to the 7th rank wrecking havoc with the Black pawns. Black had to try the risky 26…, b5!?; to get his Rook into action and make fight of it. White will still be better, but Black has chances. The next moves are virtually forced and make the White win clear.
27.Ne6 Rf5 28.g4 Re5 29.Nxg7 Rxe1+ 30.Kxe1 Kxg7 31.g5 and Black Resigns.
If 31…, h5 32 gxh6+ Kxh6 33 c5! And the d-pawn rolls home to make a Queen. Other tries fail also on the rock of White making a passed pawn on the Q-side. Deepak Aaron got some edge early, defended calmly against a furious direct attack on his King and took advantage of his opponent’s errors to simplify into a won pawn ending. A masterly performance. A very nice win for the newest local master.

Schenectady: the Rotter – Mockler Game

We’ll open today’s post with a tidbit, just a short game that illustrates a number of points.

Consolation Swiss 09-10
Date: 4/8/2010
White: Stanley, M
Black: Capitummino, J

Mike Stanley and Jeff Capitummino are two of the contestants fighting not to end up as the “tail ender” in the Consolation Swiss event. Jeff had some problems Thursday as all home owners do from time to time; plugged toilets, etc., the domestic disasters the plague those of us who pursue chess as an avocation while our living comes from other endeavors. For the non-professional chess player the game should be a distraction that removes us from the worries of day-to-day aggravations. Chess did not do that successfully for Jeff Thursday evening.

1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 Bb4
4. Qc2 c5
5. dxc5 Bxc5
6. Bg5?! ….
An interesting mistake. I did the same thing against Philip Sells recently and lost the game.

6.… Be7?!
Best is 6…, Bxf2+; when White gets some initiative after 7 Kxf2, Ng4+; 8 Kg3, Qxg5; for the pawn lost, but it does not seem to be sufficient for the material given and positional problems associated with a weakened pawn structure. The loss of the castling privilege is not too critical if White is careful. I don’t know if 6 Bg5?!, is just a blunder, or is considered a dubious sacrifice. In my game with Sells it was an oversight. There are a few examples of players in the 2400-2450 range in my databases trying out the move. The best these good players could do was eke out a draw or two, most lost.

When I first looked at this game the text move struck me as just wrong. If Black doesn’t see, or for a lack of confidence, does not want to capture at f2, more useful is 6…, Nc6; developing a piece.

7. Nf3 b6?
Too slow. Again 7…, Nc6; working to stay close in development makes sense.

8. e3 …..
Tactically OK, but more forceful is 8. e4, taking space in the center.

8.… Nc6
9. a3 Ba6
10. b4 Bb7
11. Bd3 h6
12. Bh4 g5
13. Bg3 Nh5?
In a general sense we have a kind of Sicilian position where White has some advantages; rather than the c-pawn setting on c2 to be a target, it is standing on c4 where it contributes to the fight for d5, Black has embarked on a questionable expansion on the K-side with …., h6; and …., g5; leaving the natural short castling unappealing for Black. Jeff could have passed on the K-side expansion and tried to take up a Hedgehog kind of formation with …, d6; …, a6; and …, Qb8; if required. After doing so, Black crouches waiting the make a sharp counter-stroke should White become ambitious and overextend his formation. To play in that fashion requires confidence in one’s positional judgment and the willingness to undergo prolonged tension. Such is beyond Jeff’s state of chess skill at the moment. As a consequence, what might be suggested as an alternative? Within Jeff’s current skill level is 11…, h6; 12 Bh4, 0-0; 13 0-0, a6; 14 b5, axb5; 15 cxb5, Na5; and the possibility of …, d5; gives Black a reasonable middle game to play. That, a reasonable middle game, should be the goal of opening play for the club-level player. Seeking ultra-sharpness in the opening is dangerous to us club players; our sense of danger and calculating accuracy is not as good as it needs be for that approach.

14. O-O Nxg3
15. hxg3 Bf6
16. Rad1 Bg7?
Up to here Black had not played particularly well. He, however, avoided a serious deficit. The text move changes that. White has his pieces deployed to control the center squares. Black has a somewhat overextended his K-side pawns, which would make sense if the other Black forces were ready to support a pawn storming attack on the White King’s field, but they are not ready to do so. A judicious plan is to make a virtue of the advanced K-side pawns to coordinate his pieces with 16…, g4; 17 Nd2, d6; 18 Be4, Be4; and while White certainly is for choice, Black can keep the material balance and hope to see some exchanging of minor pieces to reduce the White control of the center squares.

The distractions off the board now seem to have really spoiled Jeff’s concentration. He is just not seeing anything on the board, and I suspect his heart is just not in the game anymore.

17. Be4 Bxc3?
Just 17…, Rc8; keeps the game going. The text opens the door for the White pieces to slip in to the holes in Black’s K-side.

18. Qxc3 Qc7??
Overlooking the hanging Rook. Jeff’s position was lost in any case. Even if Black saved Rook with 18…, Rf8; there is not much Black can do to oppose White doubling Rooks on the d-file. That will lead to the loss of material at the very least.

19. Qxh8+ Resigns.
There is a strong need for club players to fulfill our commitments to play our games as scheduled. Failing to do so can be inconvenience our club mates. There also a clear understanding within the membership that families and our lives outside of chess can prevent us sometimes from meeting those commitments. Each of us have to make a decision to play or not based on our own evaluation of our circumstances. If we believe we can not play well, it is not necessarily wrong to postpone a game.

The situation in the Finals was clarified a bit more in Thursday’s games. Mockler defeated Rotter in French Defense to bring Mockler’s score to 3-2. With Sells at 3 ½ – 1 ½ and Rotter now at 1 – 2, it seems Philip Sells has a lock on the Schenectady title to go along with his Saratoga Championship. I’m not certain, but this maybe the only time one player will have held both titles in the same year.

SCC Ch Finals 09-10
Date: 4.15.2010
White: Rotter, B
Black: Mockler, M

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 Bb4
4. e5 b6
A somewhat rare sideline of the French Winawer, instead of the usual 4…, c5; variations. This is an interesting change of pace. Ivanchuk used it against Kasparov and won in 1995. Many from the 2600 to 2700 range of players have played so; Petrosian, Vaganian, Chernin and Beliavski to name a few.

5. Qg4 ….
Topalov, Shirov and Spassky have met Black’s plan with the early Queen sortie.

5.… Bf8
This move, that looks so opposite to what we have all been taught, was also the choice of many of the GM’s versus 5 Qg4.

6. Bg5 ….
This move looks to be a bit wasteful of time. Black’s program calls for his Queen to go to d7 soon in any event. White could have saved a move and developed the Knight to f3 here. In defense of the text stands the fact both Topalov and Shirov have used the text often. Such players do not play time wasting moves repeatedly, there must be something to this move.

6.… Qd7
7. Nge2 ….
The normal move here is 7 Nf3. It may be that Rotter did not like 7 Nf3, h5; 8 Qg3, but I believe that White has a small edge after 8…, Nh6; 9 Bb5, c6; 10 Bd3, and so does my computer. The text move takes us out of the “book” and away from the paths trod by the super-GM’s.

7.… Nc6
After 7…, c5; the game would have a more familiar pattern and not be too dissimilar from standard Winawer variations of the French. Another curious aspect of this game is both sides elect to develop their light squared Bishops unusually. Most often Black puts this cleric on a6 intending to exchange it for its counterpart on f1.

8. a3 Bb7
9. g3 h6
10. Be3 Na5
11. Bg2 Ne7
12. Nf4 Nf5
13. Nd3 c5
This is the natural, standard, normal break for Black in the Winawer. What is unusual is Black seemed to be doing something else entirely. My thought Black intended 13…, Nc4; hitting the Be3 twice and threatening, if 14 Bc1, h5; when the White Queen will either take the awkward post at f4, or retreat to d1 leaving the d-pawn hanging.

14. Ne2 Nxe3
In a position where Knights are more valuable than Bishops for the moment, Black decides to take off the less-than-exciting Be3. In doing so he opens the f-file for White to use. Still available is the sequence beginning 14…, Nc4; where White just may have to give up the d-pawn, at least temporarily, or get his Queen misplaced. I don’t understand this decision. The dark squared Bishop was White’s worst minor piece. Is the damage done to the White pawn formation enough to make the trade a good choice?

15. fxe3 Nc4
16. Qf4 Be7
17. h4 g5
18. Qf2 O-O-O
Here maybe we can see Black’s intentions more clearly. He has marked out a very active role for the Be7. If White captures on g5, the Bishop takes back bringing pressure to bear on e3, and if White tries to dispossess the Nc4, there is the neat tactic as in the game.

19. b3 Nxa3
20. Rxa3 c4
21. Nc5 bxc5
22. Rxa7 Kb8
23. Ra1 cxb3
24. cxb3 gxh4
Creating a target on h4 to worry White in the ending, a nice finesse.

25. gxh4 Rhg8
26. O-O Rg4
White has been too busy dealing with immediate problems to have time to clip the pawn on f7. Bobby could have taken it here. Either the next text move, or capturing on f7, keeps the balance. Taking on f7 to be followed by Ne2-f4 fights for the initiative by making threats on e6. Sending the Knight to f4 immediately clears the way for a quick build-up on the a-file. Both Kings lack real security and open lines are beginning show up, a one pawn plus or minus is not significant. The initiative is all important now. That, and the Bishop pair in Black’s hands, must have certainly been worries for Bobby Rotter. Those concerns were prods to look for ways to offset the future activity of the Bishops. Rotter decides going directly at the Black King is the best course.

27. Nf4 Rdg8
28. Qa2 Qb5
29. Qa7+!? …..
The game has been dynamically balanced, that is both sides have serious threats and it is not clear which side’s threats are stronger up to this point. It turns out the White position is somewhat less forgiving than is Black’s; the pin on the Bg2 is annoyingly restrictive, the h-pawn is fatally weak, danger looms around d4 and e3 threatening the Nf4 outpost. On the other hand, White can get three “heavies” on open files if he so wishes, while Black has more difficulty increasing the pressure down the g-file. Concentrating the heavy pieces on the open files is probably sounder than this rush to get behind enemy lines.

The alternatives that come to mind are; 29 Rc1, and 29 Qc2. If a) 29 Rc1, Rxh4; 30 Rc2, Qb6, 31 Qa3, when for the pawn given the White heavy pieces are very active, while the Black Rooks on the opposite side of the board are less immediately dangerous. White might claim a small advantage. If 29 Qc2, and then b1) 29…, Rxh4; 30 Qh7, favors White. However, b2) 29…, Rg3, sets a difficult problem for White; if b2.1) 30 Re1, cxd4; 31 exd4, Qxb3; and because White is on the way to dropping another pawn, Black is for choice. If b2.2) 30 Rfc1, Rxe3; 31 Qh7, Qe8; 32 dxc5, Rg4; 33 c6, Bxc6; 34 Rxc6, Qxc6; 35 Qh8+, Kc7; 36 Ra7+, Kb6; 37 Qb8+, Kc4; 38 Rxe7, and White is ahead significantly, maybe even winning. Note in this line, if 38 Ra4, Black has some chances with 38…, Re1+; 39 Kh2, (if 39 Kf2, Bxh4+; leads to mate.) 39…, Qxa4; eliminating mating threats, and then 40…, Rxf4. If White gets frisky trying to advance the a-pawn Black takes on h4 with the Rook and later the e-pawn falls giving Black a bunch of material, maybe enough to win. Of course White likely has perpetual check chances with his Queen because Black has to watch for some dangerous double attacks.

A position with more complications than a few. Such a position illustrates what is meant by “dynamically balanced.” I am sure all of the possibilities in this position have not been set out in my note above and would not be surprised to find a shot that overturns my opinion.

29.… Kc7
30. Ra5? ….
As they duel along the edge of a precipice, Rotter makes an error. Better is 30 Qa2, admitting the mistake.

30.… Qb6?
Black reciprocates with a mistake of his own. Leading to an advantage is 30…, Qxb3; pocketing a pawn, and the continuing threat of …, Rga8; limits White’s choices. White will likely have to keep the Queens on the board giving Black time to maybe clip the h-pawn. If Black gets the edge on material, he will have all the winning chances, while White will face a difficult defensive task.

31. dxc5 Qxa7
32. Rxa7 Bxc5
33. Rc1 Kb6
34. Rxb7+ Kxb7
35. Rxc5 Kb6
36. b4 d4
Rotter in all likelihood had calculated the foregoing sequence as did Mockler. Michael may have been convinced the text gives him an advantage. According to my trusty computer the game is even. That is also true of the alternative 36.…, Rxh4. I am inclined to like the game move because it gives White more opportunities to go wrong.

37. Kf2 dxe3+
38. Kxe3 Rxf4
39. Rc6+ ….
The reader may ask why is Bobby making things complicated when simpler methods safely maintain equality? The answer is in the tournament situation. Rotter, before this game had dropped only a single point, he still had the mathematical chance to tie, or even out score Philip Sells. A loss would rule out any chance for the title clear.

39.… Kb5
40. Kxf4 Rxg2
41. Rc7 Rf2+
42. Ke3 Rf5
43. Rb7+ Kc6
44. Rb8 ….
The game continued to about move 72 with Rotter getting in some time trouble as they played out a classic Rook and pawn ending. Bobby continued to try to win. Bit by bit the game slipped out of control and Mr. Mockler obtained the full point.

For some reason I have trouble every time I try to record games with Michael Mockler participating. Each time there is a move pair dropped in my score. This is another example of that happening. I put it down to Michael getting into interesting positions when my attention goes more to trying to understand what is going on than to making certain the record is accurate.

More to come soon.