Schenectady Club Championship, Upset Alert

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

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

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”

Time Trouble – A High Wire Act

This is another Editor’s Choice selection. Rummaging through the archives I found this game. It had almost no comments made about it in my Blog Number 39 from 2010. About all I said then was to note the time remaining for each side after certain moves. The main story was the acute time trouble, first for Mr. Sells, and before the end for Mr. Mockler also. In fact time was so short that game scores suffered. It was only through the efforts of the players and Bill Townsend that what we have to look at today was reconstructed.

Part of the very truncated story told in 2010 was Mr. Sells” excellent results in time trouble. Prior to this game, it was the same year I believe, Philip won a game from Steve Taylor, and with the Championship of the Saratoga Club, in a similar time trouble situation. The Editor’s Choice category gives the opportunity to look at this interesting contest in greater detail than just as a discussion of time problems.

Mr. Mockler’s flag dropped before he could make his next move. The last 13 moves were played under extreme time pressure. It was one more good performance by Philip Sells in such a situation. This win was his margin of victory in the Schenectady Championship finals for 2010 ahead of: Chi, Mockler, Howard, Phillips and Rotter. The game came not long after another excellent performance in the Saratoga Championship ahead of Steve Taylor and Jon Feinberg. He defeated both of these strong players while in the same kind of difficult time pressure as he was against Mockler. Time trouble brings out some of Sells’ best chess.

Getting Philip Sells into time trouble was not hard around the years 2010 and 2011. Defeating him when he had almost no time on the clock was not so easy. In the last couple of years Sells has improved his handling of the clock. This is not to say he does not fall into time pressure from time to time. Lately I have not seen the extreme time shortages of 2010/2011. I am sure this is good for Philip and for his chess, but selfishly we spectators miss the dances along the high wire of time trouble he had treated us to previously.

Illustrative games:

A Tale of Two Squares

Last Wednesday a long delayed CDCL match between the Albany A team and the Schenectady A team took place. The results by board were:

Albany A Schenectady A
1 Berman 1-0 Sells
2 Howard 0-1 Adamec
3 Magat ½-½ Calderon
5 Wright 1-0 Townsend

A summary by boards:

Board 1, Berman-Sells was a positional battle in the Symmetrical English. This was a game of much interest because the participants are two of the more successful active local players. The contest was about two squares, d4 and d5, and who could make the best use of these outposts for the their Knights early on. That debate ended in White’s favor, slight though it seemed. As is frequently the case, winning an outpost battle, in and of itself, may not gain a big edge, however, the use of the d6 square eventually made a difference in the combinative finish. This was a nice win for Mr. Berman

Board 2, Adamec-Howard was a clash between two opponents with a long history. Carl and Dean began playing each other back in the 1970s on opposing high school teams. This latest chapter in the saga was a win for Mr. Adamec, but it was a nip-and-tuck fight. Watching, I thought White was doing well out of the opening. It turns out my chess engine thought Black was slightly better. In the later middle game, when I thought Black was somewhat better because he had the two Bishops versus two Knights, the engine tilted the other way. The fight was mostly positional right up to the finale, then as Mr. Howard clock began to run down, and tactics came to the fore, Mr. Adamec obtained a definite advantage. Dean’s resignation came in a tough but not quite losing position as his time was running out.

Board 3, Magat-Calderon differed from the top boards where experienced Experts were on both sides of game. Here it was the Expert, Gordon Magat, battling a recently fledged Class A player who has the goal of becoming an Expert. The opening advantage clearly went to Zachary Calderon. In the long middle game tussle Gordon was unable to cancel out Calderon’s edge. As the game shifted to the ending the Expert’s experience began to tell, and Mr. Magat was able to work his way to a drawn ending although he was down a pawn. This time youth and talent was denied by experience. Who knows what the outcome will be the next time.

Board 4, Townsend-Wright was a struggle of two strong Class A players. Mr. Townsend has not been very active in these last several years other than in a handful of CDCL matches. Mr. Wright on the other hand did very well in this year’s Albany Championship ending up a very creditable second to Berman. Tim Wright unsoundly offered a pawn just as the middle game began and Townsend took it after some preparation. Just as he had a near winning advantage in hand Mr. Townsend got bitten by a “tactical bug.” That is when you go for complications when simple, risk-free, non-tactical options are available. The upshot, a piece was lost for a single pawn. Although it was not completely clear sailing for Wright, he eventually cashed in the piece for a two pawn edge in a Rook endgame that was won for him.

The top Schenectady and Albany teams have often battled for the League title in past years. Not so this time. Some weeks ago the Albany B team locked up this year’s trophy. The struggle Wednesday was about who would finish in second place. Albany A won and take second place in the League with 4 match points. The overall standings are:

1 Albany B 4½-1½
2 Albany A 4-2
3 Schenectady Geezers 3½-2½
4 Capital Region 3-3
5 Schenectady A 2-3 with Troy to play
6 Troy 2-3 with SCC A to play
7 RPI 1-5

I am not certain that the SCC A – Troy match will take place. Dragging out League play is unfortunate. Individual ratings are skewed when the results are not submitted in a timely manner. The honor of taking the League title is lessened a bit when the contest is treated as an afterthought. All this contributes to a decline in chess activity in general. If we as the chess community want our clubs to continue as active centers for chess, then organized competitions should be run correctly, schedules met and the “grunt” work of reporting done on time. If that can not be done, we will see fall-off in club based activity. The team leaders for each club should take this year’s pattern of laggard matches into consideration when the next season’s League organizational meeting is held.

The game we will look at today is the board 1 contest from the recent Albany A – Schenectady A match.

If now 34…, Nd4 35 Kf1 Qe5 36 b6 fxg3 37 hxg3 h5 38 b7, and it is clear the Queen is the only piece that can stop the b-pawn. Then it is simple to see the Rook going to the a-file and down to a8 leaving White with a winning material advantage. A very nice win for Mr. Berman over the solid Schenectady Expert. Both players lean towards a positional style in their games. This time Jeremy won by a very careful collection of small pluses, and Philip wrongly chose to not start tactics on the K-side quickly enough to keep the balance.

Illustrative game:

Some more about Tromso: China’s win can’t be said to be a complete surprise. They have been threatening to win one of the big team events for a few years. At Tromso the Chinese team was very steady, kind of like the Soviet teams of old. This was a deserved victory. India, without the former World Champion, was a surprise. They lost one match, drew three and won seven. Very good tie-breaks put India ahead of Russia. Hungary was the only one of the traditional chess powers to take a medal, silver for second place.

We may be seeing a shift of chess success to the East. Both China and India have huge populations, and international chess seems to be seen as a pathway to gain a form of recognition for these two societies. China has a centrally controlled program that moves even the successful players from competition to coaching by age 30. That may put a damper on the best players going for the World Championship, but it does hint at a wave of well coached younger players, and a long term presence of China in the elite chess tournaments.

India has had the great benefit of their own World Champion most of the first decade of this century. From what I have read there is a large and growing body of scholastic chess activity there. This may well lead to a larger Indian presence on the international chess scene. Effectively we have an experiment going on right in front of us: a centrally controlled and directed program versus a de-centralized popular based upsurge of chess activity. Which one will produce the next star?

For the US the event was a mild disappointment. If the US had won against Azerbaijan in the last round we could have made the top five. A drawn match would have brought us to just about our pre-event seeded place, 6th. The loss dropped the US to 14th place on tie-breaks with eleven other teams with 15 match points. GM Sam Shankland took the gold medal for board five (Reserve) scoring 9 out 10. That was about a 2800 performance! His FIDE rating post tournament is over 2600. Quite an accomplishment for this young man. So, overall, not a disaster, just a disappointment brightened by the emergence of a potential star.

More on Taylor – Sells

With the recent reports of CDCL matches between SCC A and the Geezers, as well as Cap Region and the Troy Club, it is certain that Albany B will take the League title this year. Their score 4½-1½ can not be equaled by any other team, all of whom have dropped at least two match points. So it is congratulations to Albany B!

The captain and organizer of the B team for Albany is Chuck Eson. By dint of his efforts Chuck put together a rather strong lineup particularly as the season rolled on. In the early going the Geezers were able to defeat the B team. Towards the end of the schedule with the additions of Steve Taylor, Peter Michelman and Dave Sterner on the top three boards for Albany B, they presented a difficult problem for their opponents.

One usually thinks of the B team for any club to be less tough than the A team. Oddly enough the Albany B team has been, at times in the past, the strongest side for the AACC. In 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2008 the Albany B team won the League trophy. In each case there were a variety of reasons why the B team was able to recruit strong players; late joins, individual preferences about team make-up and so forth. This year it was a case of sharp thinking by Eson and the late availability of Taylor, Michelman and Sterner coming together. Mr. Eson took advantage of the opportunities as they came up and steered the team to success. Good job, Chuck.

For Steve Taylor chess has been a long term passion. But like many of us, passion has to be tempered by obligations. The demands of career and family conspire to make Mr. Taylor’s participation locally intermittent. He has regularly played in the annual NYS Championship held in Albany, but other events have had to be fitted in to available time.

Recently, a post or two ago, we looked at game from a CDCL match between Taylor and Sells. It was one of the very interesting and well-played contests from this season’s League matches. Since beginning to write these articles for the ENYCA in 2009, one of my interests has been how various of our local talents think about the game. Going over his game with Sells highlighted a characteristic of strong players: their games most often exhibit a theme or plan followed to its logical conclusion. Strong players and the weaker among us frequently hit on good logical plans. The strong ones follow the idea rigorously and efficiently to its conclusion, the rest of us too often are less efficient in execution, or change focus unnecessarily along the way.

Steve Taylor dropped in the Albany Club once again on Wednesday July 2nd. Besides playing some skittles Mr. Taylor had looked closely at my recent post about his game with Philip Sells and he had some further insights to share.

Here is the game:

The rest of the actual game can be found in an earlier post on the blog. Here is the critical position:

My recommendation was 16…, Bxc4 17 bxc4 Rxc4 18 Rf3 Rac8 19 Rc1 Qc5+ 20 Kf1?(Too casual and a move without guile.) 20…, b5; and Black is better, not quite winning but better. The line leads to:

Mr. Taylor’s improvement is: 20 Re3 b5 21 Kf2, and then if 21…, b4? 22 Na4, hits the Black Queen and breaks the pin on the Rc1. After this White has the piece for two pawns in the following position:

Blocking the Queen’s check with 20 Re3 which makes possible the follow-up clearance of the back rank with 21 Kf2, are two tough moves to find, and together they make the Knight’s jump to a4 workable. The Rook block allows the King to get off the dangerous back rank, and clearing the back rank defuses what looked like a wonderful “bomb” for Black.

There is a “however” however: Taking a leaf from Mark Dvoretsky’s play-book, I am not quite willing to agree this one improvement completely wrecks the idea. Black can improve with 21…, Qc6.

White now has to reckon with Black executing the b-pawn push. Then, after a direct sort of defense; 22 a3 a5 23 Qb2 f6 24 g3 b4 25 axb4 axb4 26 Na2 Rxc1 27 Nxc1 Qxc1 28 Qxc1 Rxc1 29 Rb3 Rc4;

White is left with an inferior ending that is not easy to hold. For example: if the White King goes to the 3rd rank, Black will check on c3 surrendering a pawn to get the Rooks off and convert to a pawn up pure pawn ending that appears to be won for Black. The most obvious alternative is then: 30 e5, trying to use the e-pawn to do damage to the Black pawns, is met with 30…, fxe5 31 fxe5 dxe5 32 Kg2 e4;

and Black’s King can not be held out. This looks won for Black also.

If this is all true, White has to look elsewhere for a workable plan. The attempt 22 Qb2, hoping for tactical relief does not seem to work after: 22…, f6 23 e5 Rxf4+ 24 Ke1 dxe5 25 Ne2 Rc4; and Black has four pawns for the piece. Even though 26 Rxc4 bxc4 27 Kf1 Qd5;

leaves Black plenty of problems of how he can advance the pawns, White has difficulties finding a way through the pawn screen. The material plus Black enjoys give him some winning chances for sure.

All this is pretty deep stuff. Of the players now on the local scene, Taylor and Sells are two of the few with the attitude and calculating ability to work through these complications. As I said in my original comments on the game, Mr. Sells may not have trusted the move 16…, Bxc5; enough to plunge into great complications quite so early in the game. Adding to any doubts had to be sporting considerations. Schenectady A began the match down a point by forfeit of the 4th board. Starting out at -1 the need to make the most of every chance and the avoidance of any further losses certainly influenced decisions across all the boards for Schenectady.

I am grateful to Steve Taylor for his suggested improvement. It open my eyes to some pretty play that might have been. Once more a creative notion leads to uncovering some of the hidden truth in a chess position. I don’t believe the last word has been said about the possibilities after 16…, Bxc4. If anyone out there has something to add, contact Mr. Mockler, get access to posting on this blog and let’s hear from you. This conversation is what the World Champion Botvinnik meant when he recommended publishing your own analysis. Getting the ideas out to the broader chess community provokes, hopefully, many minds to put their creativity to work. That effort, first improves the understanding of a specific position, and second, leads to all involved to looking deeper in general.

Again, the end.

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;

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;

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.

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

The League and the Taylor-Sells Game

On the 26th Jeremy Berman posted an excellent piece of work on this blog. The Albany Champion gave us a slice of the real world for club level players: flawless games don’t happen for us often. His point about maintaining a positive attitude is well taken. Mistakes we will make. Keep fighting, those errors may be redeemed by our opponents for they are human also. If you have not read Jeremy’s article, do so. It is well worth the effort.

On Wednesday June 25th the Schenectady A team was hosted by Albany B at their meeting rooms in Guilderland. Some confusion about dates brought the Schenectady team to the match one player short, and they forfeited on board 4.That was a bad start for one of the traditionally strong League contenders, but it was only the beginning of their troubles. Diligent effort by Chuck Eson before the season began had added Peter Michelman and David Sterner to the Albany B roster. Chuck kept a weather-eye out for other resources. His effort was rewarded when Steve Taylor turned out to be available – no other team had signed Steve up. Thus the Schenectady team started out down a full point and had to face Taylor, Michelman and Sterner, a veritable “Murder’s Row” harking back to an old Yankee’s line-up.

The truncated Schenectady team: Sells, Adamec and Towensend made a determined effort but fell short, and Albany B won 3-1.

Albany B Schenectady A
1 Taylor 1-0 Sells
2 Michelman ½-½ Adamec
3 Sterner ½-½ Townsend
4 Axel-Lute 1-0 Forfeit

A summary of the games by board:

Board 1 – Taylor 1-0 Sells: The game began as an slippery English and transposed into a Sicilian Defense, Maroczy Bind. In modern practice Black usually either attacks the Bind with an advance of the b-pawn or his d-pawn. Mr. Sells tried a third alternative, the f-pawn. This did not work out well at all. The advance of the f-pawn led to a material loss amounting to a piece and a pawn. Resignation came on move 28. It is the game featured later in this post.

Board 2 Adamec ½-½ Michelman: In the Kalashnikov Variation of the Sicilian Defense Mr. Adamec took the game out of the book early with an innovation on move 6. Shortly thereafter he traded a Bishop for a Knight granting Black significant space on the K-side. White was concentrating his attention on the Q-side. Just as a middle game oddly similar to a King’s Indian was shaping up, Black in his own turn gave up his better light squared Bishop for a Knight. With that transaction a good part of the Black advantage disappeared. As the middle game unfolded Black’s K-side space grew. It looked threatening, so threatening that White offered a Queen trade. Unfortunately, Carl picked the wrong square for this and Peter was able to collect a pawn after the Queens came off. Mr. Adamec found some defensive possibilities on the light squares he controlled in the middle of the board. Mr. Michelman began to edge into time trouble, he had just over five minutes remaining on the clock when Mr. Adamec offered a draw and it was accepted. I think Michelman had an advantage when the draw was agreed. With the clock getting short and Peter feeling some fatigue after almost three hours of play, drawing was a reasonable decision.

Board 3 – Sterner ½-½ Townsend: A dozen moves into the opening, another English, and both sides had stayed in the book. Once more one of GM Ronen Har-Zvi’s teaching points was illustrated: club level players often err when deciding which minor pieces to trade. This time Mr. Sterrner gave up a good Knight for a Black Bishop with a small future. The transaction granted Black equality. White followed up with some unwarranted aggression on the K-side, and Black obtained the advantage leading to the win of a pawn. In the final half-dozen moves Black had a very strong attack on the White King. However, neither side quite found the handle on the position; there was a three move mating combination hidden there. After a couple of repetitions a draw was agreed.

Based on recent passed performance Albany B’s victory is at first quite a surprise, however considering their much reinforced lineup, it is less so. Winning from SCC A gives the B team a 4½-1½ score for the season.

On Thursday June 26th the Geezers faced Schenectady A. This time they had a full compliment of players. The Geezers were unable to hold back the A team. Maybe they were fired up after the defeat the night before. The A team won the match going away, 3½-½. The results were:

Schenectady A Geezers
1 Sells ½-½ Mockler
2 Adamec 1-0 Little
3 Calderon 1-0 Phillips
4 Townsend 1-0 Chu

A summary of the games by board:

Board 1 – Sells ½-½ Mockler: Once more my two friends explore the French. They played an interesting theoretical French Defense at the recent NYS Open in Lake George last month. It was also drawn. Here Mr. Mockler tries out his recent favorite, 3…, Nc3!? Routine tells us Black needs to push his c-pawn to the 5th rank before putting the Knight on c6, but is this strictly so? Mockler argues no. It is however a narrow path Black treads requiring an open minded willingness to explore the fantastic side of chess. Black missed, or passed, on a Knight sacrifice on move 7 that could have worked out well for him. The game then became very closed. Black had no weaknesses and no levers with which to break open the game. A draw was agreed on move 28. That was the only bright spot for the Geezers on the evening.

Board 2 – Little 0-1 Adamec: Carl surprised me with Alekhine’s Defense. He had been playing the Sicilian and the Hungarian Defenses in his recent games. I varied from normal with an early capture on d6, and Mr. Adamec found his own innovations at the board. By move 10 there was nothing to chose between sides – Black was fully equal. I then began to fumble: first a wasteful Knight move to chase a Black Bishop to a comfortable square, secondly another wasteful Knight maneuver on the other side of the board that brought my Queen away to a post where her influence was lessened, and thirdly a couple of moves lacking any threats allowed Black to attack my King with the time gifted to him. Carl made a pretty five move forcing sequence that wound matters up by move 25 because of a ruinous loss of material. The game was a nice example of how risky it is to present an Expert with a couple of moves more or less for free.

This was the first game I lost in the League this season. It would not have stung quite so much if I had made a better fight of it. An old habit of believing I will find some trickery without hard work came up once more. In my other League games I was working hard whether I was on the right track or not. This time not so much. That is disappointing.

Board 3 – Calderon, Z 1-0 Phillips: The opening was a Maroczy Bind in the Sicilian and followed the book to move 10. There Mr. Calderon found a forcing sequence that led to a complicated position where Black had a Bishop for a Knight and maybe a small advantage. After both sets of Rooks were traded White kept the better pawn formation. It was a nice edge but not quite enough for a win; the long reach of the Black Bishop made up for the less than great pawn structure to some degree. Both sides ended up with a set of double, isolated pawns on the K-side. Black retained one of his h-pawns to occupy the White King, while White sacrificed his doubled f-pawns to get freedom for his Knight. The effort took up a large number of Phillips’ dwindling clock minutes. The advantage swung strongly towards Phillips, he was clearly winning at that point. John’s clock by now fell to under two minutes, and Zachary laid traps. One slip and a piece was lost and resignation followed. Not perfect, but these guys did create a unique endgame position. It is one I have not encountered before.

Board 4 – Chu 0-1 Townsend: The opening was an King’s Indian Attack leading to a closed center with White attacking on the K-side and Black on the Q-side. White was unable to muster his forces more quickly that did Black. The Q-side breakthrough came first and won material. It was then as the chess writers are fond of saying; a matter of technique. Mr. Townsend kept cool, increased pressure and avoided involving himself in any violent tactics. Steady progress led to resignation on move 59 after a gallant and determined resistance.

This was the worst thrashing the Geezers took all season. There are several teams in the League that can pass the Geezers yet; Schenectady A, Albany A and Troy. With some luck the Geezers may hold on to a third place finish. As far as I know the League standings are:

1 Troy 1-1 with 3 or 4 to play I think
2 Albany B 4½-1½ finished
3 Geezers 3½-2½ finished
4 Albany A 3-2 with one to play
5 SCC A 2-2 with two to play
6 Cap Region 1-3 with two to play
7 RPI 1-3 (remaining matches forfeited I am told)

This has been a spotty year for the League. More than one match has had results influenced by a forfeited game, and there were forfeited matches by the RPI team. Here is hoping for better next year.

The only decisive game from the Schenectady A – Albany B match was the contest between Steve Taylor, long one of the strongest of local players, and Philip Sells, who over the last dozen years has made remarkable progress. He has gone from a high Class B to an Expert rated at 2037. This time the veteran defeated the up-and-comer. It will be interesting to see the next clash between these two. Mr. Sells has made a habit of taking lessons from his defeats and coming back stronger. On to the game:

This was an impressive performance by Steve Taylor. As he said after the game: “I guess I can still move the piece around a bit, not bad for an old guy.” Very true indeed, although for one of my advanced years, Mr. Taylor is still youthful.

Illustrative games:

Game 1 – In this game Black undertakes action against the Bind by advancing the b-pawn. This is one of the standard methods for Black versus the Maroczy. Ivanov holds back the youthful Kasparov and secures a split point.

Game 2 – In this game Black successfully uses the other standard approach; the advance of the d-pawn. Ljubojevic has to take many moves to get that counter-thrust in, but once it happens White’s game is lost.

Game 3 – In the following encounter neither of the recommended breaks happen. Black, using great care keeps the balance and manages to divide the point against a strong GM.

In general the Maroczy Bind gives White some advantage in space and a very solid position. It can be particularly useful to White in circumstances that require Black to try for a win. If Black has to strive for victory he is well advised to consider breaking with either b7-b5, or d6-d5. Other methods carry some fundamental dangers with them.

More soon.

The Austrian Attack in the Pirc

The board 1 game from last Thursday’s Schenectady A – Capital Region CDCL match was a Pirc Defense. For the last thirty years I have used the Pirc as my primary answer to 1 e4. At the Wednesday Albany Club meeting a young man asked me what I thought about the Pirc during some skittles play, and David Finnerman asked a similar question of me after his game ended. Not needing too much persuasion to write about the Pirc, it seemed the Sells – Finnerman game would a convenient platform where what little I have learned about this opening could be presented.

Let me first say I am far from an expert on this opening. There excellent books on the market about the Pirc where you can find true expert opinions about this opening. The one work that made the subject most clear for me is Alburt’s and Chernin’s Pirc Alert! It is still in print I believe. If you want to use the Pirc this is a valuable resource for players up 2200.

There is one caveat that is true for Pirc Alert!, and it applies to every other opening book I have read: The conclusions and recommendations are on many points only opinions of the authors. In this case true they are GM’s, but you will see in the illustrative games some very good players may not always agree with the ideas. In today’s article we will touch on the different opinions about the 5th move for Black. These differences are not mine, rather it is in large part what other Grandmasters seem to believe based on their games. I tend to give greater weight to what a GM plays as opposed to what he writes.

Most of the illustrative games are the work of World Champions before, during or shortly after their reigns. There is not enough space even on a blog to exhaust the supply of interesting Pirc Defense games. My goal will be achieved if this article inspires some to dig into the databases and discover more of the possibilities of this opening.

The game trundled on for some more moves in Finnerman’s effort to win the game and tie the match. The extra effort was not rewarded and the draw agreed. White understood exactly what was required to hold the position. This was the last game to finish in the match. Both players gave their all in a game of significance for both teams.}

The Illustrative games below set out some of the critical issues in the Pirc Defense, Austrian Attack. Which choice to prefer: 5…, c5; or 5…, 0-0? If 5…, c5; what to do about 6 Bb5+, and 7 e5? When using the Pirc, players of the Black pieces should be aware of Seirawan’s innovation in the 5…, c5; line. For the players of the White pieces avoidance of Yasser’s forced draw requires a willingness explore really tough chess.

Game 1 – The future World Champion demonstrates 5…, 0-0; can give Black chances to win.

Game 2 – A couple of years before things did not work out quite so well for him.

Game 3 – Using 5…, 0-0; was not confined to just Anand.

Game 4 – Seirawan shook up things in the Pirc when he sprung his innovation on the world. After Yasser demonstrated it, all was obvious. Beforehand that was not so.

Game 5 – Now we are getting into an area where theory gets deep. Playing here without familiarity with theory is very difficult’

Game 6 – A little history. Fischer’s Pirc was a big surprise to us onlookers in the 1972 match with Spassky

Game 7 – Spassky’s subsequent use of the Pirc against a tough opponent, along with the Fischer game started me thinking about this opening. I thought my then usual French Defense to 1. e4, was too predictable. My classical bias was strong, and it took another six or seven years before I switched.

Game 8 – The Pirc continues to appear in the games of the best players. Here is an example from not so long ago:

After that lengthy trip through the above collection of Pirc Defenses, Austrian Attacks how can it be summed up? Both 5…, 0-0; and 5…, c5; have their adherents at the highest levels of chess. With 5…, c5; Black aims for a transposition into a decent position from the Dragon Sicilian. If you mean to use 5…, c5; booking up on the Dragon-type middle games is time well spent. If you want to use 5…, 0-0; required is a certain amount of steely determination to wait for your chance to strike back in the center as David did in this game.

In the 5…, c5; line there are critical variations involving 6 Bb5+, and 7 e5. These are most difficult to workout over the board as I found in my own games. The difficulty seems to be because of a need to calculate precisely in positions that are rather different from what is seen in other more classical openings. Very accurate calculation in unusual positions is demanding.

To illustrate this point: A researcher, a Russian I believe, did an experiment with titled chess players. They were given a very brief look at two sets of chess positions; one set was of positions culled from actual games, the other were constructed positions with the pieces randomly placed. The subjects were then tested to see how accurate was their recall of the test positions. The positions from actual games were recalled in far greater accuracy than were the random positions. This experiment confirms that one of skills good players have is pattern recognition. The researcher further concluded that good players compare the position before them to the stock of positions from their experience and likely reach decisions, in part at least, through the comparison: this move worked elsewhere before, let’s see if it will work here?

When a Pirc game goes off into the rather un-classical situations of the 5…, c5 6 Bb5+ Bd7 7 e5 Ng4 8 e6, line, the room for error expands. With the Pirc not being a first choice opening for most, and the Austrian Attack positions rarer since it is not White’s only option, many, if not most players, do not have an extensive store of previous positions to draw upon. Right from the beginning of the game, Black, if he is well prepared, welcomes the incisive response of the Austrian. Black can play for a win. That is not something the more classical openings offer.

When 5…, 0-0; is Black’s choice the positions are not quite so strange. At a casual glance it often appears White is very dominant in the center. Black then needs to be very alert to find the right moment to hit back in the center. Iron nerve and self-confidence are essential for Black not to lose heart

As theory has advanced over the years White has developed and improved many alternatives to the Austrian: 4 Nf3, 4 f3, 4 Bg5, and so on. By not taking up so wide a center with 4 f4, White can keep the game more usual looking and avoid the fantasy Black seeks. If Black means to use the Pirc, he has to be ready to face these options also.

The Pirc, Austrian Attack Examined Locally

As reported in my last post Schenectady A defeated the Capital Region team 3½-½. The bright spot for the Capital Region guys was David Finnerman’s draw versus the redoubtable Philip Sells on board 1. The game answered a question I have been mulling for sometime: How would Mr. Finnerman play his usual Pirc when confronted with the Austrian Attack? Continue reading “The Pirc, Austrian Attack Examined Locally”