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.
I do not know Wesley So, Tony Rich, or Varuzhan Akobian. I do know they were key participants in a controversial moment at this year’s U.S. Championship, where GM So was forfeited during his game with GM Akobian by Chief Arbiter Rich for writing notes on paper during play. This is forbidden by rule, if for no other reason than as a deterrence for distracting your opponent. There has been extensive commentary about So’s actions, defending his notes as innocuous, unrelated to the game in progress, and incapable of constituting cheating by any definition of the term. I believe all of these arguments to be true.
GM So was warned twice, with the admonition that a third incident would result in forfeiture. He repeated the behavior a third time, and received a forfeiture.
When I teach and educate about chess, particularly to youthful players, and their parents, I emphasize that chess teaches logic, causality, reasoning and analysis in complex scenarios, consequences, and most importantly, honor.
GM So appealed his forfeiture, accepting the loss, but requesting that he not lose FIDE rating points for the forfeiture. The appeal was extended by the committee to review both the forfeiture itself, and GM So’s request that he not lose rating points. On all grounds the committee ruled against GM So.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I do not know any of the principals. GM So appears to be a likeable young man; GM Akobian is an established force in American chess; Chief Arbiter Rich’s comments have been thoughtful reflections on the events. What I see is a progression of warnings with a clear definition of consequences. The continued offending behavior resulted in consequences. Perhaps the consequences were too severe. Perhaps Akobian could have seen something and said nothing.
I think this is a discussion of honor. GM So acted in a way that forced others to respond in undesirable fashion, and this is the crux of the matter. GM So is a young man, facing the learning curve of life, and seems to be viewing this event as a valuable life lesson, that actions have consequences, and that these consequences include embroiling bystanders, in this case CA Rich and GM Akobian, into unnecessary controversy. Recognizing this as an opportunity for personal growth and learning is clearly the best outcome for GM So. Perhaps soon we can view this event as a teachable moment, far more valuable than any single contest between grandmasters might have provided.
And now a game.
I participated in a thematic tournament at the Albany Chess club recently, celebrating the McCutcheon variation of the venerable French Defense. This was intended to be a three round event, game in 30, all games played that night. I, very foolishly, assumed it was one game per week, and left after my first game. I have apologized to all for my lack of manners, and mention this to show that sometimes even good intentions can lead to inadvertent dishonorable behavior.
The one game that I played was against a long time opponent who gets too little coverage in this blog, Timothy Wright. Tim has been champion of the Albany club, and is always a force contending for the prize during our annual tournament. His play is innovative, rich in tactical complexity, and is crowned by a tenacity to find hidden opportunities even in challenging positions. He is a good man, and a fine player, and this game shows his tenacity, provided the reader is willing to overlook the play of his opponent.
I’ve been meaning to post for a while, but have been distracted with the end of classes last semester and the holidays. After seeing Bill’s post yesterday, I decided to brush other things aside and provide an update on the Albany Area Chess Club Championship, and analyze a game featuring one of the leaders of the event.
After the annual AACC club meeting in October, it was decided that if there were 12 or more players (which did occur: there were 16 players), the tournament would be split into two round robin sections of roughly equal strength. The top Open and U1800 finishers in each section will play a two game final match for the championship(s). If two players finish tied for 1st or top U1800 in a section, the tie will be broken by a single game rematch with colors reversed from their previous meeting. The time control is game in 90 minutes with a 5 second delay.
The idea was simple: reduce the number of rounds, and therefore reduce the possibility of delays due to personal scheduling, weather, etc. However, the cost was that players were delegated to two sections, and thus we would not have the ‘all play all’ style that most people, including myself, look forward to. How often do you get to play against everyone in the club, despite the rating differences? And have the potential to gain rating points?
But the tournament structure did succeed in significantly shortening the tournament; after starting in October, we have nearly completed the 7-round tournament by the end of December. Here are the standings, as reported by the club treasurer (with point total/games played to the right):
Round Robin #1:
1 = Jeremy Berman (6.0/6) (still to play Arthur)
2 = Peter Henner (4.5/7)
3 = Dean Howard (4.0/6) (still to play Charles)
4 = Thomas Clark (4.0/7)
5 = Arthur Alowitz (4.0/6) (still to play Jeremy)
6 = Scott Boyce (2.5/7)
7 = Paul Axel-Lute (1.0/7)
8 = Charles Eson (0.0/6) (still to play Dean)
Round Robin #2:
1 = Gordon Magat (6.0/7)
2 = Tim Wright (5.5/7)
3 = Peter Michelman (5.0/7)
4 = John Lack (4.5/7)
5 = Cory Northrup (3.5/7)
6 = Paul Moore (1.5/7)
7 = Ryan Rogers (1.0/7)
8 = Stephen Kullas (1.0/7)
There are two games yet to play in Round Robin #1:
Charles Eson vs. Dean Howard
Arthur Alowitz vs. Jeremy Berman
Based on the standings the championship match will be:
Jeremy Berman against Gordon Magat
In the Under 1800 championship, we will have:
Cory Northrup against (TBD, Arthur Alowitz/Thomas Clark)
Round Robin #2 featured a tight race for the top spot, mainly between Gordon, Tim, and Peter Michelman. The games between these three were fierce, and featured interesting battles. Gordon beat Peter, Peter beat Tim, and Tim beat Gordon (got all that?). In the end, Gordon was able to survive with just that one loss, and avoid any playoff to secure a spot in the championship game.
But while all three games were intense, the game between Tim and Gordon featured some of the most exciting, swashbuckling, action of the tournament. Both Tim and Gordon are known for their uncompromising play – Tim for his sharp tactics, and Gordon for his inventive, fighting style.
Today’s game highlights these qualities. In particular, we see them negotiate a game of opposite side castling. Of all the types of positions in chess, these are notorious for their high risk – high reward potential. From countless games, and analyses, it is well known that certain criteria are necessary for success in these positions: open lines against the enemy king, get your pieces into play (whether in attack or defense), and watch out for tactics! One wrong move, and it may be your last. As we shall see, it is this last point that decides this game.
Michael Mockler’s preceding post to this blog was most interesting. It is a concise presentation of what goes on in the mind of a top local player as he practices this avocation of ours, and it offers insights that can improve your play. A long term goal of mine with all the writing I have done on the ENYCA Blog is to encourage other voices on the site. I’d like to see a half-dozen or more regular contributors to the conversations. For those readers seeking to improve your chess skill, remember Botvinnik’s recommendation: “Analyze, annotate and publish your games, it is the best way to improve.” We, the chess players of Eastern NY and surrounding areas, have this wonderful facility, the blog, where getting your annotations out to the chess public is relatively easy. Make use of it!
The Schenectady Geezers played an away match versus the Albany A team Wednesday, May 28, 2014. The “Old Guys” paid the price for not having Michelman and Liesner on the squad this year. Albany A won 3-1. The results by board were:
Board 1: Howard 1-0 Mockler. Michael played his usual French and Dean answered with the Advanced Variation. The opening was generally equal as is often the case in the Advanced, then just as it appeared Black would secure an advantage, Mr. Mockler sought to force matters by tossing an Exchange into the pot. A bit of very clear calculation, including retuning the Exchange, let White emerge a piece up for a pawn. Minus a Knight, and with only a Queen and a Rook, Black was not able to obtain any significant counter-play even though White’s King was a trifle exposed. The game ended on move 45. Material told in the end.
Board 2: Little 1-0 Magat. This was a complicated version of the Kan Variation in the Sicilian Defense. If anyone had an advantage it was Black through the first thirty moves of the game. Black made a pawn sacrifice that should have brought about a draw fairly quickly. An unfortunate follow-up gave White an extra pawn and that proved to be too much.
Board 3: Wright 1-0 Phillips. Mr. Phillips tried the Budapest Gambit against Mr. Wright’s 1 d4 debut. The first seven moves by each side were all normal book lines. Black had even gotten in .., a7-a5; and I had hopes of seeing Drimer’s Rook Attack (.., Ra8-a6; ..,Ra6-g6/h6; etc.). This innovative line leads to positions of great tension where Black may well win in spectacular style. Alas, it was not to be. Somewhere around move eight both sides began to improvise, and the game became very concrete as the Grandmaster commentators are fond of saying, meaning exact calculation of tactics is required. In a promising position John made a wrong choice or two and White ended up the Exchange. Making things more difficult for Black, besides the immediate material deficit, was the very active employment of White’s Rooks on the center files. The game was over on move 29 with mate or ruinous loss of material coming.
Board 4: Chu 0-1 Henner. This was an odd-ball Reti Opening where a couple of errors by White brought about a position where he had a chance to actually take the advantage. The sequence leading to this point was not logical, but that is the way things sometimes happen in chess. Black had played loosely. Mr. Chu did not grab the chance that was only fleetingly presented. From there his game went downhill in just a few moves. A piece was lost, and then Black broke-in near the White King and the game ended soon thereafter.
While on board 4 there was only a very brief moment when the Geezers’ side had a chance, elsewhere the “Old Guys” could have done better. On both boards 1 and 3 the outcomes could well have been different, and the Geezers might have drawn the match, or even won it.
Wright, Tim – Phillips, John [A52]
CDCL Match Albany A – Schenectady Geezers, Guilderland, NY, 28.05.2014
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4
As GM Viktor Moskalenko likes to call it: The Fabulous Budapest Gambit. Black takes the game out of the well-worn paths of the QGD/KID/QID/Gruenfeld/Dutch/Benoni lines and tries to create a very different kind of game. The Budapest is just about 100 years old and came on the elite chess playing scene in the 1918 Berlin tournament where Vidmar defeated Rubinstein in 24 moves. That was a sensation: The good, but not great, Vidmar crushed one of the top three players in the World at that moment. Had it been a stand-alone success the Budapest might have been forgotten, but in that four-player tournament Mieses (well-passed his prime) and Schechter (nearing the end of his stint as a world class player) garnered another 1½ points with the Budapest! It was clearly an invention with bite.
Defending the pawn on e5 with 4 Bf4, is labeled the Rubinstein Variation, and is the most popular response for White. Defending it with the Knight is the Maroczy Attack, also popular but in second place to Rubinstein’s move.
4…, Bc5 5.e3 Nc6 6.a3 a5
Setting the stage for a most surprising idea: Romanian IM Dolfi Drimer’s invention of the .., Ra8-a6-h6; maneuver that has won many games. Either Mr. Phillips didn’t know the idea, or if he had it in mind, there was no point in the game where he felt confident enough to use it. Here is an example of Drimer’s idea executed in the 85th British Championship in 1998:
This time Black did not crash through. The illustrative game does showcase the current state of theory in this line. The game that gave the Drimer plan great popularity was this one from the EU Junior Championship, Groningen, 1984:
If the Budapest proper wrenches the game away from the common patterns of 1 d4, openings, Drimer’s idea shakes up the normal Budapest positions nearly as much. It is most unusual to see a Rook from the far corner of the board suddenly make its weight felt on the h-file early in the game.
Not quite accurate, or perhaps Black has other ideas in mind.
The usual place for this Bishop is e2. When it is so placed Black has to decide which Knight captures the pawn on e5. On d3 the Bishop prevents Qd1-d5, a move that often fits into White’s scheme. On the plus side, the Bishop at d3 creates a tactical possibility.
Here we begin to see one of the nuances of the Maroczy line: Timing the recapture of the pawn on e5 has to be exact. After Black castles he needs more protection on e5 before it can safely recaptured there. Here 8…, Re8; is normal.
This move lets Black equalize. The tactical approach is: 9 Bxh7+ Kxh7 10 Nxe5 Nxe5 11 Qh5+, recovering the piece and netting a pawn. Black certainly has some compensation; two Bishops pointing at the likely future home of the White King. However, it seems unlikely the half-open h-file will be of any use to Black in the short run. After the game move Black could have had a very satisfactory game with 9…, d6; and the position is taking on a configuration common to the Budapest.
Black neglects his development with this move. He must believe his Queen roaming the White K-side will force some concession that will be useful. If general principles are correct, the lone Queen sortie should fall short of that goal.
10.Nxe5 Qxe5 11.f4,..
This is an important resource for White in this Knight variation. It is useful when Black makes a serious effort to bring out the Ra8 via a6. Vasily Smyslov used the f2-f4 attack several times with success back in the days of my youth. A few years later Boris Spassky improved on Smyslov’s attacking idea behind f2-f4.
11…, Qe7 12.Nd5 Qh4+!?
Fully committing to the idea the Queen will make the difference. Safer is 12…, Qd6 13 Qd3 f5; and while Black still has to get his Q-side pieces into action, the position is playable for him.
13.g3 Qh3 14.Qd3 d6 15.Bd2 Bg4 16.Bc3?!,..
Simple, safe and sane is 16 Kf2, because, with the Bishop guarding d3, sacrificing the Exchange there to allow the remaining Black Rook to occupy the e-file does not work very well at all. Black then must take a move to guard c7, and White can chase off the intruding Queen with Qd3-f1 when he wants to do so. If Black made clear his intention to go all out for a win with his questionable Queen sortie, putting the Bishop on c3 at this point says White is just as serious about trying for a win.
An example of an interesting phenomenon: At the critical moment in a sequence where concrete tactical play is ongoing, a player makes an ordinary move when cold logic tells us it is time for chess fantasy. It has happened to me more than once, and I can attest that I have found this kind of slip fairly often in our local games. Here blocking out the White Q+B battery freeing the Black Queen from guarding h7 is not as important as is putting more pressure on e3 with 16…, Rae1! A logical line of play then is: 17 Kf2 Ne7! 18 Nxc7 Nf5 19 Bd4 Rxe3 20 Bxe3 Bxe3+ 21 Ke1 Qg2 22 Rf1 Qxh2; and Black is winning by a bunch in the resulting position:
I am pretty sure few if any of us of only local talents could or would calculate all of the above and the potential sidelines. But if you are familiar with the Budapest and the Maroczy Varaition, the ideas and these tactics in this particular line are not that unusual. Intuition could very well guide one of our sharper attacking players through this combination.
17.Nxc7 Bf3 18.Rf1 Be4 19.Qd2 Bxc2 20.Nxa8?,..
Once more Mr. Wright foregoes a safe and simple move, 20 Qxc2, then if, 20…, Rac8 21 Nd5 Rfe8 22 0-0-0, and if Black tries to snatch back the pawn with: 22…, Bxe3+ 23 Nxe3 Rxe3 24 Qb3!, and White a strong attack, maybe even a winning one.
Another ordinary move when fantasy is called for. Better 20…, Re8 21 Rf3 Be4 Nc7; Black is no worse than equal in a very unbalanced sort of position. Now White takes control.
21.Qxc2 Bxe3 22.Qe2 Nd4 23.Bxd4 Bxd4 24.0–0–0,..
Black may have forgotten White still has the right to castle. White’s domination of the center files is too great of a positional plus when added to the extra material for Black to last long.
As Tim Wright said after the game was over: “That was fun!” It was fun also to watch what little of the game I got to see. It was a cut and thrust battle with no quarter given or asked. And, the game is not a bad example of some of the finesses of the Maroczy Attack in the Budapest Defense, albeit the illustrations were in the misses.
The general lesson to be found in this game is about recognizing when ordinary moves will not do and only fantastic moves will fill the bill. It is easy to search for chess fantasy in the calm of ones study with a 2900+ engine purring away at your elbow. In the midst of battle with the clock marking the passing minutes, driving yourself to seek out unordinary moves that ignore relative piece values is difficult. If you take up dramatic openings like the Budapest, then the adventurous mind set has to be part of your preparation. There is an old Middle Eastern curse: “May you live in interesting times.” It can be re-worked here: If you play the Budapest, you will have interesting chess games.
This game finished up just before my game ended. By the time I saw John tip over his King signaling resignation, I was finding the final maneuvers to bring my game to a close. I knew by that point the match was beyond reach. Scoring the point against Gordon only salvaged a little pride; the Geezers avoided a whitewash.
The long anticipated game between Tim Wright and Jeremy Berman took place on April 23rd . The raw score was published a couple of posts back. Now here are my comments on the contest that decided this season’s Champion of the Albany Area Chess Club.
Wright, Tim – Berman, Jeremy [B85]
AACC Championship 2013–14, Guilderland, NY, 23.04.2014
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6
Before play began Mr. Wright anticipated some kind of Dragon. Mr. Berman instead elects the solid Scheveningen Variation.
Tempting Black with the chance to play 6…, Ng4!? After which White may have to live with doubled e-pawns, but he gains a tempo in development, the open f-file and added control over d4 and f4. The resulting position is very much to the taste of Tim Wright; messy and tactical.
Mr. Berman the week before against Perry created an uncommon sacrifice of the Exchange demonstrating he can do tactics without fear. This time, with all the marbles on the line, he pursues a positional approach.
7.Be2 Qc7 8.0–0 Be7 9.f4,..
The primary alternative is: 9 a4, to restrain a Black Q-side expansion.
9…, 0–0 10.Kh1 b5
It has been all book including Black’s last. Long ago I learned by losing many games to Lee Battes and Matt Katrein in this Scheveningen line that White has to be ready to sacrifice here. The pressure Black is building against e4 is not easily met by trying to defend that point.
Tim undertakes the passive defense of e4. On the surface it does seem a reasonable idea. The problem is this tack demands perfection from White, and maybe even perfect moves will not be enough to do the job. Black now has the initiative firmly in hand.
The obvious line is: 11 e5 dxe5 12 fxe5 Qxe5 13 Bf4 Qc5 14 Bf3 Ra7 15 Bxb8 Rd7 16 Nce2 Bb7 17 Bg3,
Analysis Position after 17. Bg3
when Black may well recover his piece at the cost of a pawn because of the pin on the d-file. The continuation: 17…, Bxf3 18 Rxf3 e5 19 Rf5, is just the kind of complex tactical situation that suits Mr. Wright. Most of the time Black sidesteps that wildness by playing 11 e5 dxe5 12 fxe5 Nfd7; maintaining a small advantage.
11…, Bb7 12.Bf3 Nbd7
Heading for c4. A positional kind of fight is shaping up that suits Berman more than it does Wright.
13.Nb3 Rac8 14.Qe1 Nb6 15.Nd2 Rfd8 16.Qf2 Nc4!?
This may be a little too straight forward. Perhaps an improvement is: 16…, Nfd7 17 Rad1 Bf6; with lots of tactics possible. That may be why Jeremy opts to lose a tempo to keep the play more positional in nature.
17.Nxc4 Qxc4 18.Bd4 Nd7 19.Rad1 Qc7
White has equalized; Black occupied c4, had the Knight traded off and returned his Queen to c7. The net result some of tension is out of the position.
20.Qg3 e5 21.fxe5?!,..
White has his eye on a direct attack on the Black King. There are two positional problems with that notion: first Black has enough resources to fend off the attack, and second, the position will be transformed into one where the White Bishops are not well placed. Better 21 Be3, not sealing in the light squared Bishop, as long as the White pawn is on f4 something can happen to open the h1-a8 line.
21…, dxe5 22.Be3 Nf6
Once more Black returns to the idea of pressure on e4. The Bf3 now is filling the role of a pawn defending e4, and it stands in the way of the Rooks doing anything on the f-file.
Not a huge mistake but wrongheaded. Nothing is gained by initiating the trade except ceding control of the one completely open file. More usual would be: 23 Bh6 g6 24 Qf2, when Black retains some advantage, but things have not worsened dramatically for White.
My guess is this is the position White wanted. He may have believed the passed d-pawn is a big enough asset combined with his Bishop pair to offset the future endgame problems with Black having a 4 to 2 K-side pawn majority. The flaws are the d-pawn is easily blockaded and material is lost on the Q-side.
Fixated on the mirage of a K-side assault, White makes a large error. This move tips the evaluation to winning for Black. White had to shake off the direct assault notions and switch to finding the most active employment of his Bishops. That might be done with: 28 Bd2 Qxc2 29 Ba5 Rc8 30 Bg4. Note that 30…, f5?; is not possible because 31 Bxf5! Black is still better, but the Bishops are very active.
28…,Qxc2 29.Bd1 Qxb2 30.Bb3 Nd6
This is the ideal blockading piece, and the Knight does its job very well. White’s light squared Bishop is stymied and his dark squared Bishop is not doing anything important.
White has gotten everything possible from his scheme. It is not enough to balance the two healthy pawns Black has collected along the way.
More useful would have been 36 Qe3, but White is unwilling to write-off his dream of an assault on the Black King.
Black is happy to trade the Knight for either White Bishop. Without the Bishop pair to worry about the two extra pawns become more important than ever.
37.Qh3 Nxh6 38.Qxh6 Bxa3 39.h3,..
Done to eliminate back rank threats that limit White’s choices. Black replies with an inventive plan; give up a pawn to get his Bishop on the h2-b8 diagonal renewing back rank problems and creating mating threats along the diagonal. I like the way Mr. Berman/s mind works, no hidebound clinging to material when there is the chance to increase the opponent’s difficulties.
39…, e4 40.Qf4 Qc3 41.Qxe4 Bd6 42.Rf1 Qg3 0–1
White must play 43 Kg1, to avoid mate coming on h2, then 43…, Qh2+ 44 Kf2 a5; setting White two unsolvable problems: stopping the connected passed pawns, and finding a haven for his wandering King. Mr. Wright was also in serious time trouble at this point. Altogether White’s troubles were too much, and he resigned here.
Tim Wright missed his opportunity early on to transform the game into unclear positions with tactics coming to the fore. Losing the game and the title at the very end of the tournament stung no doubt. Mr. Wright should not be too disappointed, he lost to a young man who was at the top of his form. And, Tim’s 10½-2½ score will do his rating no harm. A quick check using the USCF Rating Estimator gives a Performance Rating over 2100 and a New Rating in the 1990+ range. That is very close to outstanding for a second place finish.
Jeremy Berman stuck to his style of careful positional build-up. In the finish Mr. Berman showed, as he did against Perry, a fine tactical awareness, this time by giving up the e-pawn to improve the activity of his Bishop. Besides the title and a trophy, Mr. Berman pushed his rating up to around 2050. His Performance Rating was over 2220. Just two years ago Jeremy was a middle of the pack 1800 player in the Chicago area. Since then he’s graduated from college and moved to grad school at SUNY. Somehow in that maelstrom of life changing and location changing events, Jeremy must have put in some serious chess work. A +200 rating point jump is not easy to do even when one has a settled work and home life. This is truly a case of the vitality of youth not being wasted on the young. Kudos to the new Albany Champion, Jeremy Berman!
Tonight the Albany Area Chess Club title was decided for this year. Jeremy Berman, a graduate student at SUNY, defeated Tim Wright in a game that used up nearly all the allotted time. The game finished in a flurry of moves. Both parties were down to less than five minutes on the clock by move 34. A more detailed report will be posted in the near future.
White resigned here because 43 Kg1 (forced) 43…, Qh2+ 44 Kf7 b4; and the Q-side pawns will cost decisive material eventually. Well done Mr. Berman. More soon.
My apologies to the followers of this blog. There has been no posts for several days beyond my usual pattern. I have to plead illness; a nasty cold and its aftermath kept me abed for this passed week. Even that mildest of effort, typing this stuff, was not possible.
Here is a recent game from the August Quad at the AACC. Due to a number of schedule conflicts this August Quad will not be finished until the second Wednesday in September. Even though this event has stretched out longer than anticipated, the Albany Club must be commended for maintaining its activity through the summer doldrums. There has been some kind of chess played there just about every Wednesday. Continue reading “World Cup News and a Local Game”
In the recent unrated Swiss at the Albany Club there were a number of upsets. Here is one where Tim Wright went “a little crazy”, his words, just as he was obtaining a solid edge. With no rating points at stake maybe several of us were too relaxed about outcomes than we should have been. Continue reading “A “Crazy” Choice Leads to an Upset”
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”