Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Game of the Week: Championship Edition

According to the USCF December rating supplement, I'm rated an intimidating 937. Will Engel -- our club titan and now rated champ -- is rated 1760. I didn't hold out much hope going into this round, but I thought, "I've made enough noise about how much I hate playing against the Dutch . . . maybe he'll use the Dutch against me." And so I spent a couple of hours before last night's game studying up on the Dutch.

After I opened 1.d4, Will said, "I know what I could do, but I'm not going to do that to you." He played a Semi-Slav. Doh!

Route 20 Chess Club Championship (3)
Freeport, Ill., Dec. 21, 2010

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf6 e6!?
Will postpones ...Nf6, presumably for the extra tempo.

4.Nc3 dxc4!? 5.a4 Bb4 6.Bd2?
My first opening stumble. I was concerned about being unable to use the knight and/or my b-pawn to break down Will's pawn structure on the queenside. But the book line is 6.e3 b5 and only then 7.Be2 (if black plays anything else on move 6, white can then take on c4 right away).

6...Bxc3 7.Bxc3
Preserving freedom of movement and the ability to break down Will's queenside pawns with b3.

Will's first opening stumble. There's no good reason to play anything except 7...Nf6, especially with my queen's knight gone.

8.e4 b5 9.b3 cxb3

At this point, I need to remain calm and realize that the pawn on b3 has nowhere to go, not with my bishop on c3. The key square is b5: if I play 10.axb5, I win my pawn back and enjoy a significant positional advantage. Unfortunately, I go into a momentary fog and fail to realize the importance of the move order.

10...bxa4 11.Qxa4 0-0 12.Bc4 Nd7 13.0-0 Nb6 14.Qa2 Nxc4 15.Qxc4 a5

Remarkably, according to Fritz, my development is so good that, despite being a pawn down, I still have the advantage. Can't have that. I'd better do something about it.

I've overlooked the potential skewer along the a5–f1 diagonal, which 16.Qc5 sidesteps. Will hasn't -- in fact, it's probably why he played 15...a5 -- and wrests the advantage away from me.

At this point, having twice failed to spot tactical shots against me that I feel I should have been aware of, I force myself to slow down and look for a constructive way out of this mess. What I eventually discover is a nice bit of counterplay that keeps things from getting any worse than they already are.

17.Bxa5 Bxc4 18.Bxd8 Rxa1 19.Rxa1 Rxd8 20.Nxc4

Amazingly, I've even managed to win back the pawn I was down! But while before I was materially down but had an advantage owing to better position, the situation is reversed: We're materially equal, but Will has the better position and the advantage now.

The question in my mind is what to do about my d-pawn. Just as I realize that Will can't take it -- if he does, then 21.Ra8 leads to a back-rank mate -- he makes one quiet little move that says, "Yes, I can."

Now his king has an escape square, and the mate is mooted.

21.Rd1 c5 22.d5 exd5 23.exd5 Rxd5
Not 23...Nxd5? 24.Ne3, which turns the tables.

Being down a pawn again, I probably shouldn't be chasing trades. But at this point, I'm thinking about the endgame -- specifically, that if I can get the rooks off the board, it might be easier for me to obtain a draw. This is going to take some doing, since the passed pawn that Will now has gives him a decisive advantage.


25.g3 Kf7 26.f4 Ke6 27.Kf2 Nb4 28.Ne3 f5 29.Ke2 Nc6 30.Kd3 Na5

I'm not doing badly at all here, but I'm starting to get a little frustrated. Where is my break going to come from? I can't trade knights until our pawns are equal, and I shouldn't sacrifice my knight unless I can be certain that either his knight will go or his last pawn will. Meanwhile, Will's paired pawns on c5 and f5 prevent any sort of a breakthrough. Rather than continue to dance around, I take a gamble.

31.g4?! fxg4 32.Nxg4
I'm better off seizing the opening with 32.Ke4.

Ouch. Now I'm going to be two pawns down if I'm not careful. Looking at the arrangement of Will's pawns, I get a new idea: working my way around to e6 for a fork.

33.Ne5 Kxf4
With my f-pawn immobilized, Will can humiliate me with 33...g5!? 34.Nf3 Kxf4.

34.Nd7 Nb7 35.Nf8 Kg4 36.Nxh7 Nd6


New problem: I can't get to e6 anymore. If I play 37.Nf8, then 37...Kf5 guards the square. This is, in fact, my best course of action, despite the concomitant failure of my plan. Desperate, I try to pull Will's king away from where I want my knight to go.

37.h3+?? Kh4
Will should simply take the pawn.

My endgame-sense is failing me. Which pawn is Will going to try to promote, the one far from his king or the one near it? I should simply play 38.Nf8, now that Will can't cover e6 with his king anymore.

38...Kxh3 39.Ng5+ Kg4
39...Kh4!? makes hash of my fork plan by covering g5 so that Will's g-pawn can make a dash for it: 40.Ne6 g5 41.Nxc5 g4.

40.Ne6 g5 41.Nxc5 Kf3 42.Nd3 Ke3 43.Ne5 Ne4+ 44.Kc4 Nf2

Just one pawn to go. How to get in front of it?

Not like this. 45.Nf7!, despite looking completely ineffectual, achieves the draw because of 45...g4 46.Nh6 g3 47.Nf5+ Kf4 48.Nxg3.

45...g4 46.Nh4 Nd1 47.Ng2+?! Kf2
47...Ke4 48.Nh4 holds on.

48.Nf4 Kf3 49.Nh5 Ke4??

Immediately after making this move, Will sheepishly extends his hand and says, "You see it, don't you?" And I do: The fork 50.Nf6+ Kf4 51.Nxg4 wins the last pawn.


And so it was that I achieved my goal for the evening by fighting Will to a draw, and that Will won the well-deserved title of Route 20 Chess Club rated champion on the tiebreak. Congratulations also to Ryan Ekvall, our unrated champion. Complete crosstables are on our Tournament Results page.

No meeting Dec. 28 or Jan. 4 -- happy holidays, and see you next year!

Round 3 games in Chessbase format: Route 20 CC Ch 3.cbv

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Game of the Week: Championship Edition

Round 2, and a clean sweep: the players with white won every game. This week's games, for some reason, were short, the longest of them lasting only 36 moves. One was a TKO, two were alley brawls . . . but this one had a whiff of aikido about it. And I'm not just saying that because I won.

Route 20 Chess Club Championship (2)
Freeport, Ill., Dec. 14, 2010

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5?!
Ahh, the Albin Counter-Gambit. It always gives me a warm feeling, because despite having amassed more than enough grandpatzer norms to qualify for the title, I've never lost against this one.

3.dxe5 dxc4?
3...d4 is book, and necessary to avoid a premature dislocation of black's king.

4.Qxd8+ Kxd8 5.Nc3 Bb4

I thought about this one for a while. 6.Nf3 is a straightforward developing move, but it doesn't accomplish anything else, and if there's one thing I learned playing go that has an application to chess, it's to look for moves that serve more than one purpose. 6.Bg5+ is easily dodged, so I skipped past it in favor of 6.Bd2, which not only breaks the pin on my queen's knight but also gives me a chance to set up 7.Rd1, with the potential follow-up 8.Bg5+! Ke8 9.Rd8#. And even if Demetrio doesn't give me that gift, breaking the pin allows me to play e4 without having to fear ...Nf6.

But it turns out, 6.Bg5+ is like the guy next door who always seemed real quiet and never bothered anyone: 6...Be7 7.Rd1+ Ke8 8.Bxe7 Nxe7, and black's development is found dismembered in the backyard. What to do next? How about picking off that loose pawn (9.e4 a6 10.Bxc4), then trading down (10...Be6 11.Bxe6 fxe6) and finally taking aim at black's newly weakened pawn (12.f4)?

6...Be6 7.e4 Kc8 8.f4 keeps me from running amok.

I considered castling queenside but decided I didn't like the placement of my king on c1. Fritz, however, strongly prefers 7.0-0-0 -- no doubt because of the importance of getting my king off the b4–e1 diagonal.

7...Bd7 8.Nf3 Nge7 9.e4 Na5?
Demetrio wants to keep me from picking up his c-pawn, but his knight will remain literally marginalized for the rest of the game. An alternative that maintains equality is 9...Ng6 10.a3 Bc5 11.Na4.

Thinking that if I can entice Demetrio to trade knights, I can undouble my center pawns. But I'm better off just kicking the bishop: 10.a3 Bc5 11.e6 fxe6 12.Ne5. Black is a pawn up, but white has all kinds of tactical shots, such as 12...Nec6 13.Bg5+ Kc8 14.Nxd7.

Bad call -- the b4-bishop is lost. Better is 10...Bxd2+ 11.Nxd2 Ng6 12.Bxc4 Nxe5. But even after that, my formation is way prettier, and I can slip out of the almost-but-not-quite-deadly counterattack with 13.Be2.

With the center wide open, 11.Nxb4 is the better capture.

11...Nxb4 12.Nxb4 c6 13.Ng5
A good move, but 13.e6!, which wins a piece, is better: 13...fxe6 14.Ne5 Ke8 15.Rxd7.

13...Ke7 14.Be2
14.Nxf7 tempts black into a trap: 14...Kxf7?? 15.Rxd7+ Kg6 f4, and black's king is wandering alone through a dangerous no-man's land. Black must therefore call white's bluff with 14...Bg4 15.Nxh8 Bxd1 Kxd1 Rxh8, but even after that, white has an active piece and can easily bring in two more, while black's are all passive.

14...Rhd8 15.0-0
Perfectly adequate -- but 15.Nxh7 is a freebie. However, I'm thinking that I need to activate my last piece and get my king into his bunker -- I've put it off long enough.

15...h6 16.e6
16.Nf3 is more solid, but I'm trying to put Demetrio on tilt. Plus, if he plays 16...fxe6, I no longer have doubled pawns, while he's got an isolated one; while if he plays 16...Bxe6, I reply 17.Nxe6 fxe6 18.Nc2, and I've still improved the pawn situation.

16...fxe6 17.Nh3
Yeah, yeah, a knight on the rim. But I'm seeing some potential on the f-file, and I don't want to plug it up.


This is my lucky break, although it looks like all I've done is leave my knight in the line of fire of Demetrio's bishop. But Demetrio had a tactic in 17...c5!? 18.Nc2 Ba4.

18.f4 exf4?!
18...Bxh3 19.gxh3 Rxd1 20.Bxd1 Rd8 21.fxe5 Rd2 hurts me a little. Not much, but a little. 18...exf4, on the other hand, is a thank-you move.

No more doubled pawn problem, and my knight is off the rim and out of danger. I'm feeling good.


At this point, Demetrio spots some kind of tactic that he believes will take me apart -- perhaps some form of the one he had two moves ago. But the death blow arrives so fast, he doesn't even see it coming. (If he had, he'd have parried it with 19...Be8.)

20.Ng6+ Ke6 21.Bg4# 1-0
Demetrio stares at the board for a moment, unable to believe it's over already. Then, a good sport, he smiles and shakes on it.

Round 2 games in Chessbase format: Route 20 CC Ch 2.cbv

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Game of the Week: Championship Edition

The Route 20 Chess Club end-of-year championship is under way, and the first round has offered up a number of potential games of the week, such as Demetrio Velazco's doomed outing against Will Engel -- rated 825 points higher -- in which, despite an opening error that put him permanently behind, he fought on gamely and accurately for another 22 moves; and Gary Sargent and Steve McWhirter's slow and delicately balanced game, which ended in a sudden tactical knockout. But perhaps the most interesting game came from the unrated side:

Route 20 Chess Club Championship (1)
Freeport, Ill., Dec. 7, 2010

1.Nc3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.Bf4?
If you asked that bishop, it would tell you it really wanted to be on g5.

3...Nc6 4.Nb5 e5?!
Strangely enough, this move is not the novelty . . .

5.dxe5 Ne4 6.e6 Bd6 7.Nh3
. . . this one is. Aside from the fundamental peculiarity of that knight move, Shawn misses a magnificent opportunity to win two more pawns by not playing 7.exf7+ Kf8 8.Nxd6 Nxd6 9.Qxd5.

Why not 7...fxe6, restoring material equality? Oh, and preventing 8.exf7+?

8.exf7+!? still dangles there, temptingly.

Whoops, not anymore.

9.e3 a6 10.Nc3

It's getting hot around d5.

Misses the point. Playing 10...Nxc3 11.bxc3 first before 11...Qf6 is necessary to keep Shawn from jumping in and seizing d5 . . .

. . . unless Shawn decides not to do that. Too bad, because 11.Ncxd5 Qe5 12.c4 Bxd5 13.Qxd5 is an intriguing possibility. But now it's going to be Ryan's game for a while.

11...Nxc3 12.Qd3 Nb4
12...Ne4 is much better: 13.0-0-0 (threatening 14.Qxb2) Bxh3 14.gxh3 Nxf2 15.Qd2 and black has nothing to complain about.

13.Qd2 0-0 14.a3??
Instead of threatening to take a knight with a pawn, why doesn't Shawn just take a knight with a pawn (14.bxc3 Bxh3 15.gxh3)?

14...Qe7 15.Qxc3 Nc6 16.Bd3?
16.0-0-0 is the best option Shawn has. There's no better place for that rook, and no safer place for his king.

What's Ryan's best move now? (Highlight to reveal answer.)

16...d4! The implicit threat is 17.exd4 Bxh3+! with a discovered check. Therefore, this is not how white should respond; the best answer is 17.Qd2 Bxh3 18.gxh3 Rae8. This can be played in another order too: 16...Bxh3 17.gxh3 d4 18.Qd2 Rae8.

17.Qd2 Rad8 18.0-0
The development idea is all right, but activating that wallflower knight -- and getting it out from under the bishop's eye -- with 18.Nf4!? is something that should be done sooner rather than later.


19.gxh3 Qg5+ 20.Kh1 Ne5??
An awful square for that knight, because of the unpleasant pawn fork 21.f4.

21.Qe2?? Rg1?? 22.Ng4??
We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please stand by.

It seems kind of pointless to level all that firepower at e3, then not do anything with it. 23...dxe3 24.fxe3 Rxe3 25.Qf2 is authoritative.

24.Rae1 c5 25.c4??
If there's an exchange on the e-file, that queen is going to be in an uncomfortable spot. 25.Qf3 is a useful preventive measure. After 25.c4, Ryan has the en passant capture 25...dxc3, followed by 26...c4, forcing Shawn's bishop to face some existential questions.

Ryan makes the last blunder of this series, and Shawn has emerged with the advantage.

26.cxb5 Rde8 27.Qf3 dxe3 28.bxa6 exf2 29.Qxf2 Qd5+ 30.Be4
30.Qg2 is a surprise killer: if black plays 30...Qxd3??, white replies 31.Rxe7!! (31...Rxe7?? 32.Qa8+ Qd8 33.Qxd8+ Re8 34.Qxe8#). Black's best option is to trade queens and rooks for leverage: 30...Qxg2+ 31.Kxg2 Rxe1 32.Rxe1 Rxe1 33.a7.

30...Rxe4 31.Rxe4 Rxe4 32.Qf3 c4 33.Rd1??

Disaster! 33.Rf1 is just fine -- white's position holds plenty of promise. But 33.Rd1 is a blunder that black can exploit. What does Ryan play? (Highlight to reveal answer.)

33...Re1+!! wins a piece by forcing Shawn to answer the check: 34.Kg2 (34.Rxe1 Qxf3+) 34...Rxd1

35.Qxd5 Rxd5 seems awful, but what else is there?

35...Rd3 36.Kf2
36.Qxd3 only postpones the inevitable: 36...cxd3 37.b4 d2 38.a7 d1Q 39.a8Q+ Qxa8 40.Kh4 Qe1+ 41.Kh5 Qd5+ 42.g5 Qdd1#.

37.Ke1 Qe4+ 38.Kd1 Rf2 39.Kc1 Qc2# 0-1

Round 1 games in Chessbase format: Route 20 CC ch.cbv*

* Does not include K.Conter–M.Kearney, which was not recorded.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Game of the Week

In which Steve McWhirter comes tantalizingly close to ending Will Engel's reign of terror.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Nov. 23, 2010

1.d4 f5
I hate playing against the Dutch. Glad it's Steve and not me.

2.c4 Nf6 3.Bg5?!
More typical white third moves are Nc3, Nf3 and g3. This move promptly launches the game out of book, although not into completely unexplored territory: according to ChessBase, Vladimir Raičević used it to beat GM Slobodan Martinović in Valjevo, Yugoslavia, in 1984. So there.

3...d6 4.Bxf6 gxf6
May 4...exf6 be slightly better?

5.Nc3 e5 6.e3 Qe7 7.Qh5+ Kd8 8.Nd5
Steve can solidify his advantage by castling queenside instead.

8...Qg7 9.g3 Na6
By playing 9...c6, Will can kick out Steve's knight and obtain equality.

The arrangement of Steve's pawns suggests queenside activity, not kingside. What about 10.b4!?, taking a big bite of space? If 10...c6, Steve can counterattack with with 11.b5.

10...c6 11.Nc3 Qg6 12.Qe2

Will is setting up to push his f-pawn. An interesting alternative is to play 12...exd4!? first, trading pawns, then play ...Bh6.

13.Nf3 f4
This alarming-looking move is actually not bad for Steve at all, because his misplaced kingside bishop gets to go out in a blaze of glory, taking out its counterpart on c8. Does Will have an alternative? Well, there's 13...exd4 14.Nxd4 (14.exd4?? is terrible because of 14...Re8) 14...f4 15.Bxc8 Kxc8 16.gxf4 (again, not 16.exf4? because of 16...Re8 17.Ne6 Nc5) 16...Bxf4 17.0-0-0 (17.exf4 is not as good because of -- you guessed it! -- 17...Re8).

14.Bxc8 Rxc8
Surprisingly, 14...Kxc8 really is better. Will can't castle anymore anyway, and 14...Kxc8 pulls his king just a little farther out of harm's way.

What? This is mystifying. Why put the king on the g-file when Will's queen is staring straight down it? In this case, castling does not provide king safety. Why not play 15.gxf4, threatening dxe5, 0-0-0 (with potential check) and Rhg1, instead?

15...fxe3 16.fxe3 Re8
It's as if both players are trying their darnedest not to allow any path to open up through the center, even if they can do it in an advantageous way.


Finally some movement in the center. Steve is looking good. Will, perhaps feeling the pressure, makes a couple of eyebrow-raising moves in reply.

There's a pin combo in 17...Qg4 and 18...e4. Perhaps the point of Will's 17th move is to prepare 18...Qd3 or 18...Qc2, but both are easily thwarted by Steve's playing 18.e4.

18.Nh4 Qg5?
The welcome mat is out, but Will doesn't accept the invitation. Now the door slams.

19.Nf5 Kc7 20.Rad1
The e4-square is huge huge huge, yet neither Steve nor Will has moved to occupy it since move 15. Why the blind spot? 20.Ne4! Qg6 21.Nexd6 Bf8 22.Nxc8 Kxc8 is devastating for Steve.

Why? Why? 20...e4. Come on, please?

21.a3 Na6 22.Ne4

22...Qg6 23.dxc6 bxc6 24.Nexd6 Re6

Steve is only a pawn up in material, but positionally, he's dominating the board. Now he has an incredible (but complicated) tactical opportunity: 25.c5!! dares Will to take the pawn, and Will cannot but accept the dare with 25...Nxc5, whereupon 26.Qc4 forks rook and knight. The line proceeds 26...Rdxd6 27.Qxc5 Qxf5 28.Qxa7+ Kc8 29.Rxd6 Qxf1+ (29...Rxd6?? 30.Rxf5) 30.Kxf1 Rxd6, and Steve finishes with a queen and a pawn against a rook and a bishop (diagram).

In reality, it doesn't happen quite that way.

25.Nxh6 Rexd6 26.Rxd6 Rxd6 27.Nf5 Rd8

The position is still significantly better for Steve -- in particular, Will's knight is awfully placed -- but the path to victory is murky.

28.e4 Qg5 29.Ne3
Oh, no. Steve's knight is spooked off a secure outpost square, and the pressure begins to bleed off. Compare this submissive move with the iron-fisted 29.Rd1 Nc5 30.Rxd8 Kxd8 31.Qd1+ Nd7. The pawns can take it from there.

29...Rd4 30.Rf5 Qh6 31.Rh5
Not bad per se . . . but if I had a rook, I don't think that's the part of the board I'd want it on.

31...Qg6 32.Nf5
Back where it belongs.

32...Rxe4 33.Qxe4 Qh5

Steve's pawn advantage is gone now. Positionally, the main thing he has going for him is Will's passively placed knight.

This second-best move is the crack that Will needs to claw his way back into the game.

34.Qd3 would have suppressed this move. Now, suddenly, Steve is on the defensive.

35.Kg2 Qb3 36.b5
Only 36.Qe3 Qxe3 37.Nxe3 maintains a meaningful advantage.

36...cxb5 37.Qd5??
What will it profit him to save a pawn and forfeit a knight? By taking protection off c2, Steve permits the king-knight fork 37...Qc2+.

This is nearly as bad, since Will has now gone from being one pawn down to two pawns up.
38.Qd6+ Kb7 39.Qd7+ Kb6

40.Qd8+ Nc7 41.Qxf6+ Qe6 42.Qf8 might hold on for a while. As it is, it's going to go downhill rapidly from here.

40...Qc6+ 41.Qxc6+ Kxc6+ 42.Kf3 b4 43.axb4 Nxb4 44.Ke4 Kc5 45.h4 a5 46.Ne3 a4 47.Nd1 Nd5 48.Kd3

48...e4+! 49.Kxe4 a3 0-1

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Game of the Week

I haven't posted one of my own games in a while.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Nov. 16, 2010

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3
It's funny: I coach a team of middle school players, and one of them was confronted with exactly this unusual line at the Illinois Chess Association All-Grade Championship this past weekend. He replied by mirroring his opponent. I decided to take a different approach: turning it into a sort of Grünfeldy thing.

3...g6 4.e4 Bg7
Hewing a little too closely to my plan. I should have examined 4...dxe4!? before fianchettoing the bishop.

5.e5 Ne4 6.Ng5
There's also 6.Nxe4 dxe4 7.Ng5.

For some reason, I perseverate on the "threat" of Nxf7 (not really a threat yet, since without backup it throws away a knight for a pawn) and fail to notice that my knight is under attack. 6...Nxc3!? 7.bxc3 c5 is my best option.

7.Ngxe4 dxe4 8.Nxe4
Now I'm a pawn down. A cunning plan is required.

8...Bf5 9.Nc5
9.Ng3 forces the bishop back.

9...b6 10.Nb7??

This is a stroke of luck for me. My queen can easily sidestep the attack, after which the knight has nowhere to go.

10...Qd7 (10...Qd5 may be more direct) 11.Bf4 Be4 12.f3
The knight is toast. Ken may as well force me to double my pawns on the a-file on the way out: 12.Na5 bxa5 13.f3 Bb7. By itself, 12.f3 is a thank-you move, "forcing" me to do what I intend to do anyway.

12...Bxb7 13.Qd2 c5 14.0-0-0 Nc6
I'm eager to catch up on development, but I can win back my pawn with 14...Qa4 15.Kb1 Rd8 16.Bd3 cxd4.

15.dxc5 Qxd2 16.Rxd2 bxc5
This move isn't obviously bad unless you read a few more moves down the line: 17.e6 fxe6 18.Be3 and the c-pawn is vulnerable.

17.Bc4 Nxe5 18.Bd5 Bxd5 19.Rxd5 f6 20.b3
I guess this is to prevent ...Nc4, but the pawn pickup 20.Rxc5 is a freebie. Following up with 20...Rfc8 21.Rxc8+ Rxc8 22.Bxe5 fxe5 brings us quickly into the endgame. In this variation I'm up a piece for a pawn, but my doubled e-pawns look awful.

20...c4 21.b4 e6 22.Rd6

There's something to be said for 22...Rfb8!? -- "Here, go ahead, have my e-pawn." If the bait is taken, 23.Rxe6 Rxb4 24.Bd2 c3 25.Bxc3 Bh6+ 26.Bd2 Rab8 27.Bxh6 Rb1+ 28.Kd2 Rxh1 is decisive, winning the exchange.

23.g4 Nxf3 24.Rf1 Ne5
24...e5 is better. "Sure, take my knight. And I'll have your bishop, thanks." After 25.Rxf3 exf4, the pawn capture 26.Rxf4?? steps into a pin, 26...Bh6.

25.g5 f5 26.h3 Nf7 27.Re1 Nxd6
Obvious, right? But 27...e5 is even more brutal: if white doesn't move off with 28.Rd7, he loses the rook anyway, and if he does, he loses the bishop after 28...exf4.

28.Bxd6 Rad8 29.Bc7 Rd7 30.Bf4

I should get the bishop out first: 30...Bc3!? 31.Rd1 e5 32.Bg3 (32.Rxd7 exf4 33.Rd3 cxd3) 32...Rxd1+ 33.Kxd1 Rd8+ 34.Ke2 Rd2+ 35.Kf3 Rxc2 and white has no hope left.

31.Bh2 c3 32.Re2 Rd2
This powerful-looking move is actually a setback. Better is 32...a5 33.b5 (33.bxa5 allows 33...Rb8 34.Rd2 Rxd2 35.Bf4 exf4 36.a4 [36.a6 Rb1+ 37.Kxb1 Rd1#; 36.a3 Bf8 37.h4 Bxa3#] Rh2 37.Kd1 [37.a4 Rh1#] 37...Rb1#) 33...Bf8 34.a4 Red8. You saw that, I'm sure.

33.Rxd2 cxd2+ 34.Kxd2 Rd8+ 35.Kc1
Is it wise to run back into the corner? Now I'm going to use my rook to keep Ken's king away from my advancing pawn.

35...f4 36.a4 f3 37.Bg1 Rf8
A player with a more wicked imagination might see 37...e4 38.Bxa7 Bd4!, forcing the exchange of bishops -- 39.Bxd4 Rxd4 -- and sacrificing the rook in favor of a brutal two-queen finale, 40.c3 f2 41.cxd4 f1Q+ 42.Kc2 Qd3+ 43.Kb2 e3 44.Ka2 e2 45.d5 e1Q 46.d6 Qeb1#.

38.b5 f2 39.Bxf2 Rxf2 40.a5 Rf4 41.b6 axb6 42.axb6 Rb4 43.c3 Rxb6 44.Kc2 Rd6 45.c4 e4 46.c5 Rd5 47.c6 Be5 48.Kb3 e3 49.Kb4 e2 50.Kc4 Rd1 51.Kc5 e1Q 52.c7 Bxc7 53.Kc6 Qc3+ 54.Kb7 Bh2
You're not hiding behind me!

55.Ka8 Rb1 56.Ka7 Qa3# 0-1

Friday, November 12, 2010

Game of the Week

I've heard it said that chess games are won by whoever makes the second-to-last mistake. It was true of a lot of our games this week, including this one.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Nov. 9, 2010

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6?!
A passive alternative to 3...a6. If you're going to open up a pin on yourself, you should have a good reason.

4.d4 Bd7 5.0-0 Nf6 6.Nc3 exd4 7.Nxd4 Nxd4 8.Bxd7+ Qxd7 9.Qxd4 c5 10.Qe3 g6

This has to be seen as bad, if only because it takes a decisive positional and development advantage and undermines its certainty. With a little advance preparation (11.Re1; 11.Qf3, 12.Rd1), the move e5 greatly increases in power.

Steve gains a tempo, and now there's nothing backing up that e-pawn.

Answering a threat with a counter-threat . . . and throwing away the advantage. Black, not white, will control the center now. Gary can avoid that sort of trouble by sidestepping the attacking knight with 12.Qg3 (or the slightly inferior 12.Qe2 or 12.Qf3). Regardless of which of those moves Gary chooses, Steve's best follow-up is to castle queenside.

12...fxe6 is slightly better. Why not 12...Nxe3, threatening to win the exchange? Because 13.exd7+ Kxd7 14.fxe3 wins a knight for a pawn, ruins black's chances of castling, reestablishes white in the center and opens up a file for white's king's rook. Danger: high voltage!

Trading queens leaves a muddled position in which Steve, with his block of center pawns and his advanced knight, now has the advantage.

13...fxe6 14.Re1 Ne5 15.Ne4 Be7

Gary, as white, has a move that holds the line against Steve. What is it? (Highlight to reveal answer.)

16.Nxc5 Nf3+
Slightly better is 16...Kf7 17.Ne4. Steve can't play 16...dxc5 because of 17.Rxe5.

17.gxf3 dxc5 18.Rxe6

18...Kd7 19.Re4 Rhf8 20.Kg2 Rae8 21.Bh6 Rf5
The momentum begins to shift Gary's way again.

22.Rd1+ Kc6 23.Rg4
And the fish is let off the hook. The rook lift 23.Rd3 is significantly stronger. Now the game is starting to look drawish.

23...Bf6 24.c3 Re2

What's that about? This move overlooks the major positional threat of Steve's seventh-rank rook -- and the straightforward solution 25.Rd2 Rxd2 26.Bxd2. 25.Rb1 works also.

Returns the favor. 25...Rxb2 wins, period.

26.Rxd5 Kxd5 27.c4+ Kc6 28.Re4 Rxe4 29.fxe4 Bxb2
Heading back into Drawishland, with one point in Steve's favor: His pawns are all joined. Gary's are mostly isolated. But Gary repeatedly passes up the ramming shot a4 -- maybe because he's not sure he can stop Steve from promoting a passed pawn?

30.Bh6 Be5 31.f4 Bd4 32.Kf3 b5 33.cxb5+ Kxb5 34.f5
34.e5 offers better chances . . .

. . . as does ignoring the f-pawn. In this lineup (diagram), both sides are in "pawn zugzwang." Capturing either of the middle pawns gives the opponent a passed pawn he didn't have before, while the bishops stand guard to pick off any would-be escapee who makes a break for the fence.

35.exf5 c4?
In this instance, following the dictum "Passed pawns must be pushed" is a mistake. Gary's bishop covers the c-pawn's promotion square, and without 35...Kc6 to block his king, he can try to slip into Steve's territory with 36.Ke4 and 37.Kd5 and alter the balance of power on the kingside.

36.Ke4 Bf6 37.a3??
A beautiful victory plan left lying in the gutter. 37.Kd5 c3 38.Ke6 almost guarantees that the f-pawn will promote -- for instance, 38...Bd4 39.f6 c2 40.f7 Bc5 41.Kd7 Kc4 42.Ke8 Kc3 43.Bc1 h5 44.f8Q.

37...Bb2 is enough. That a-pawn has nowhere to go.

A game-ending blunder if Steve plays it right. The c-pawn's promotion square is no longer covered.

38...Ka4!? is better. Even though Gary is defending the a-pawn with his bishop, this king move means that bishop can never leave its post. Gary will quickly find himself trying to fend off too many threats at once.

Still passing up the chance to invade with 39.Kd5. If Steve makes a break for it with 39...c3, then 40.Bh6 Ka4 41.Ke6 Bd4 42.Bc1 adroitly takes care of the problem.

39...Ka4 is still the better move, because Gary is running out of options. If he plays 40.Kd5 now, 40...c3 works: 41.Bf4 Kxa3 42.Kc4 c2 43.Bc1+ Bb2, and Gary can stop either the a-pawn or the c-pawn but not both; 41.h3 Bg5 42.f6 Bxf6 43.Bf4 Kxa3; and pretty much anything else Gary tries will be answered by 41...c2 42.Bf4 Kxa3.


40.Bf4, getting back on the c1-h6 diagonal, is Gary's only chance to hold the draw. Anything else gives Steve a crack he can eventually pry open, but 40.Be5 is practically a capitulation, as the endgame makes clear.

40...Bxe5! 41.Kxe5 c3 42.f6 Kd7 43.f7 Ke7 44.Kd4 c2 45.Kd3 c1Q 46.f8Q+ Kxf8 47.a4 Qa3+ 48.Ke2 Qxa4 49.Kf3 Qb3+ 50.Kg2 a4 51.Kf1 a3 52.Kg1 a2 53.Kg2 a1Q 54.h3 Qba2+ 0-1

Sunday, October 24, 2010

National Chess Day Delayed Blast

Whether because of the early morning rain, the simultaneous scheduling of the North American Chess Association's G/60 Championship in Skokie or both, turnout for our National Chess Day Delayed Blast Open Swiss was paltry, and as a result it was shortened to three rounds. However, we made up for it in our rated beginners' open, which drew 16 participants. Ten players in the RBO and two in the open Swiss were previously unrated. (Several membership checks have to be mailed in and processed, so the tournament will be rated around midweek. Patience, grasshoppers!)

Will Engel is no longer the Route 20 Chess Club's newest member -- several players joined at the tournament -- but he's still our toughest. Here's his game against second-place open finisher Kelsen Alexander of Madison, his only draw alongside two wins.

National Chess Day Delayed Blast
Freeport, Ill., Oct. 23, 2010

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4
Strong grandmasters have played 3...B4, including Lautier, Ehlvest and Korchnoi. However, none of them has a winning record with it. In most cases, white simply ignores the bishop and continues developing with 4.Nf3.

4.Bd2 Nf6 5.Nf3 c5 6.e3 Nc6 7.Qa4

7...Bd7 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.cxd5 exd5 10.Bb5
Black, about to castle, is looking a little better here. White can subtly refocus his line of fire by way of 10.Qb3 d4 11.exd4 Nxd4 12.Nxd4 Bxd4, maintaining equality.

10...0-0 11.0-0 Rc8 12.Rac1 Re8
Now's a good moment to kick the bishop with 12...a6.

Clever. Although it's probable that black will recapture with the king's knight, if for some reason he doesn't, 14.Ba5! traps the queen.

The obvious play, but there's also 13...Ne4!?, simultaneously attacking the d2-bishop and defending the c5-bishop.

It's looking good for Kelsen.

14...Nb6 15.Qc2 a6 16.Bxc6 Bxc6
Better to recapture with the rook, 16...Rxc6 17.Rc1 Qe7.

This move leaves Kelsen vulnerable to a slick king-exposing attack by which black can restore equality: 17...Bxg2 18.Kxg2 Rxe5 (the white rook on c5 is pinned) 19.Rxc8 Nxc8 (not 19...Qxc8 20.Qxc8 Nxc8 21.Rc1, which is still better for white). It also passes up a chance to take advantage of his pieces' activity, 17.Ng5 g6 18.Ba5.

The idea behind Will's move is unclear.

Kelsen still isn't seizing the moment. Having brought his knight to e5, and being a pawn ahead, it makes sense for him to trade down with 18.Nxc6 Rexc6 19.Rxc6 Rxc6.

Better for Will is an exchange sacrifice that pulls Kelsen's rook off the c-file, 18...Rxe5! 19.Rxe5, followed up by 19...Ba4!, a double attack on Kelsen's queen. The only answer that keeps Kelsen in the game is to trade queens with a discovered attack of his own: 20.Ba5 Bxc2 21.Rxd8+ Rxd8. No matter what, he loses a rook, and Will remains at least a piece ahead.

19.Bc3 Na4??
Overlooking a potential discovered attack on his queen: 20.Nxc6! Nxc5 21.Bxf6 Rexc6 22.Bc3.

Also overlooking the discovered attack! Nevertheless, it's looking bad for Will right now. Even his best move, 20...Qe7 (diagram), allows Kelsen a remarkable tactic. Can you spot it? (Highlight to reveal answer.)

21.Qxa4! can't be retaken -- at least, not immediately. If black tries, he loses his own queen as well: 21...Bxa4?? 22.Rxc8+ Qe8 23.Rxe8+ Rxe8. The necessary reply is 21...Qxc5 22.Nxc5 Bxa4 23.Nxa4, after which black has a rook against a bishop and a knight -- far from ideal, but better than being down a whole piece.

Not significantly worse than 20...Qe7.

It may not look it, but this is a gift to Will. 21.Rxc6! Rexc6 22.Qxa4, threatening the fork 23.Ne5, keeps a tight grip on the initiative; if 22...Qe6, then 23.Qd4 uses the threat of mate to win other concessions -- for example, 23...Rxc3 24.bxc3. Black's best hope is 23...f6 24.Qd5 Kf7 25.e4 Qxd5 26.Rxd5 (not 26.exd5?? Rd6, trapping white's knight). The problem is that even after the queens are traded, Will's rook can still punch a hole in Kelsen's king defense, seizing back the initiative and potentially picking up the loose rook on c5.

21...Rxg6 22.Rc4?
Kelsen clings to his rook at the expense of his king's safety. 22.g3!? Nxc5 23.Nxc5 is unfortunately necessary.

22...Rxg2 23.Kf1 Nxc3
Lets Kelsen off the hook somewhat. 23...Rxh2 is a freebie, and can be followed by 24.Nf6+ Kh8 25.Ne4 Rh1+ 26.Ke2 Bb5 27.Kf3 Bxc4 28.Rxh1. After 28...Bd5 29.Rd1 Nxc3 30.bxc3 Bxa2, there's not much hope remaining for white.

24.Rxc3 Rxh2 25.Ke2 h5 26.Ne5 Bb5+ 27.Kf3 Rxc3 28.bxc3 Rh4 29.Rd8+

Kelsen hangs on tenaciously.

29...Kh7 30.Nxf7 Bc6+ 31.Ke2 g6 32.Ne5 Bb5+ 33.Kf3 Ra4 34.Rd6
Pressuring the backward pawn on g6 . . .

34...Rxa2 35.Nxg6
. . . but just because the pressure is there doesn't mean it has to be used right away. Kelsen can keep it even with 35.c4!? Bc6+ 36.Nxc6 bxc6 37.Rxc6.

Chipping away at Kelsen's foundation.

36.Nf4 a5 37.Rb6?
A stumble on the tightrope. Kelsen is best off giving his king more freedom of movement with 37.Ke4.

37...Bc6+ 38.Kg3 h4+
Unnecessary when 38...a4!? 39.Nxh5 Rxc3 is available.


The last window of opportunity closes on that poor passed pawn.

40.Nd3 Re2 41.Ne5 Be4 42.Nc4 a4
Too late for that.

43.Nd6 Rxe3 44.Nxe4 Rxe4+ 45.Kg3 Re3+ 46.Kf4 Rxc3 47.Rxb7+ Kg6 48.Ke4 a3 49.Ra7 Kf6 50.Kd4 Rb3 51.Kc4 ½-½

Congratulations to Will and to second-place finishers Kelsen and Gary Sargent, and to RBO winners R.J. Swedlow, Zach Woll and Taylor Soddy, who won third place on a modified-median tiebreak -- he was one of seven players who finished with a 3.0 score. Congratulations also to the dozen participants playing USCF-rated chess for the first time, and thanks to Monica Kearney for handling the lunch orders. See event pictures on our Photos page and complete crosstables on our Tournament Results page.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

No Meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 26

The Conference Center at Highland Community College is fully booked on Tuesday, Oct. 26. Rather than relocate, we're taking the week off.

Enjoy the breather. Spend time with your family. Watch NCIS.

And don't forget to join us at our National Chess Day Delayed Blast tournament, this Saturday at HCC!

Game of the Week

A hearty welcome to Roger Stanfield of Sterling, who first joined us at our Route 20 Rated Beginners' Open in July and swung by again for a visit this Tuesday night.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Oct. 19, 2010

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Qa5+
3...Nf6 is the standard response in the Slav Defense. Not getting his king's knight out in a timely manner is going to be a liability for Roger.

4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e3 e6
5...b5!? should be considered.


6...c5 7.0-0 Qb4
7...a6 prevents my next move.

8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.Bxd7
Over the next few moves, I decide I shouldn't have been quite so eager to trade bishops, especially a good, active bishop for a bad one, and especially since Roger can develop a knight while recapturing. An alternative path is 9.a3!? Qa5 10.Qb3 Bxb5 11.Qxb5+ Qxb5 12.Nxb5.

9...Nxd7 10.Bd2 cxd4 11.exd4 Qa5
Trying to switch to the kingside. But Roger is behind in development; an attack is premature. 11...Be7 is about right for this situation.

12.d5!? conceals an Uzi under its trenchcoat. If black replies 12...exd5, the following mayhem ensues: 13.Qb3 Nc5 14.Rae1+ Be7 15.Qxd5 (or 15.Nxd5 Nxb3 16.Bxa5 Nxa5 17.Nc7+ Kd7 18.Nxa8) 15...Rd8 16.Qh5 g6 17.Rxe7+ Nxe7 18.Ne4 Nc6 (18...gxh5 19.Nf6+ Kf8 20.Bh6#) 19.Nf6+ Ke7 20.Nd5+ Kd6 21.Qg5 (diagram), down the exchange but all set to unleash a ferocious attack with the bishop and two knights.

Passing up a quiet moment to play 12...Ngf6.


I'm prouder of this double attack than it merits: Black is in no trouble after 13...Qd5, although I do get to trade off one of his developed pieces with 14.Nxd6 Qxd6. A better way to obstruct Roger's crosstown traffic is 13.a4, threatening 14.Nb5.

The double attack shouldn't work as intended, but it does.

14.Nxd6+ Ke7 15.Nxb7
A cheap pickup, and nothing to sneeze at, but there's no reason why I shouldn't bring the attack immediately with 15.Qc7 Ngf6 16.Ne5.


I see the threat of a mating attack on h2. But I've been ahead in development this whole time; can I generate an attack of my own before Roger can initiate his, or do I need to block before I punch, playing 16.h3 first? I read out my plan and conclude: The time is now.

16.Bb4+ Ke8 17.Rac1
The one tempo-costing move I'm allowed.

17...Nb6 18.Qc6+ Nfd7 19.Nd6+ Ke7 20.Ne4+
Victory through retreat!

20...Ke8 21.Qd6
I balk at 21.Qxa8+! because of the guarding knight, but in fact it still works: 21...Nb8 (21...Nxa8 22.Rc8#) Qxb8+ Nc8 Qxc8#.

Only 21...Nc5 can do anything more than postpone black's fate.

22.Qe7# 1-0

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Game of the Week

Another battle for the top of the ladder!

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Oct. 12, 2010

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 g6?!
An unusual way to continue a Sicilian, though not unprecedented: Veselin Topalov has used it successfully. (Though, of course, he's Topalov.)

3.d3 Bg7 4.Be3 d6 5.Qd2 Nc6 6.a3

6...Be6 7.Nge2 a6 8.Nf4
Gary has set himself up well for a d4 push; it's a shame to discard that opportunity.

That's one way to try to discourage a trade on e6, but 8...Bd7, retreating the bishop, might be better. Because as it turns out, Gary isn't discouraged after all.

9.Nxe6 Qxe6 10.Rb1
With Will's queen blocking his e-pawn, d5 is a nice outpost for Gary's other knight, and 10.Nd5 also packs the threat of a fork on c7. Does Gary perhaps mean 10.Rb1 to defend his b-pawn in anticipation of moving the knight?

Bye-bye outpost. Gary's plan is too slow.

11.Be2 Nd4 12.Nd5
Or Gary could just castle. Because that knight's not going to get to stay there.

12...Nxd5 13.exd5 Qxd5 14.0-0 0-0

Up a pawn, Will can increase his advantage by trading minor pieces on e2 before castling: 14...Nxe2+ 15.Qxe2 0-0.

15.Bxd4 Qxd4
Down a pawn, Gary should not be trading. Instead, he should evacuate his e2-bishop to g4. Will, meanwhile, is right to retake with his queen -- 15...Bxd4?! 16.Bf3 Qe6 17.b4 is lame for black.

16.c3 Qa4 17.Rfe1 e6 18.Qd1
The queen is more active on e3, and anyway, Gary should not be inviting trades.

It's odd that Will passes up a trade when one is offered. Is he hoping to avoid a grinding endgame?

19.c4 b5 20.b4 cxb4 21.axb4 Rfb8 22.Qc2 Ra7 23.Red1 Qc8

In an otherwise blunder-free game, this move begins Gary's unraveling.

24...bxc4 25.Qxc4 d5 26.Qxc8+ Rxc8 27.g3 Rc6 28.b5 axb5 29.Bxb5 Rb6 30.Bd3 Rxb1 31.Bxb1 Ra1 32.Bc2 Rxd1+ 33.Bxd1 Bxd4 0-1

Gary: "Despite the opposite-color bishops, Will's pawns can't be stopped." Fritz bears this assessment out: 34.Kf1 Kf8 35.Ba4 Ke7 36.Bc6 f5 37.h3 h5 38.f3 g5 39.Bb5 Bb6 40.Ba4 Kf6 41.Kg2 e5 42.Bc6 Ke6 43.Bb7 e4 44.Bc6 Ke5 45.h4 (45.fxe4 fxe4 46.h4 gxh4 47.gxh4 d4 48.Kf1 d3 49.Be8) 45...gxh4 46.gxh4 d4 47.Be8 d3 48.fxe4 fxe4 49.Kf1 Bd8 and white resigns.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Celebration of Chess

The Route 20 Chess Club in Freeport, Ill., teamed up with the Freeport Public Library, City Coffee Co. and Freeport Golden K Kiwanis Club to put on a morning-till-night National Chess Day celebration that drew more than two dozen tournament participants, plus family and friends, from as far away as Princeton, Ill., and Cambridge, Wis.

While Gallery Café owner Sandi Schubert provided coffee, refreshments and lunch and artist Jennifer Marshall was on hand to paint young celebrants' faces, players faced off in a free four-round, G/30 community tournament comprising three sections: a USCF-rated sections for grades K–3, an unrated section for grades 4–8 and an unrated open section that included one high schooler and five adults. USCF member Finn Buck of Cambridge won first place in the primary section, followed by Sam Knaup of Belvidere and Finn's sister, Pria. The intermediate section was swept by Demetrio Velazco and brothers Bill and John Werkheiser, all of Pearl City. Matthew Coomber of Freeport won the open section; Roger Wedekind of Princeton took second place, and William Wedekind of Sterling and 11th-grader Zach Woll of Belvidere tied for third.

Thanks to a donation from Golden K, the Route 20 Chess Club was able to purchase an inventory of chess equipment for sale at the event. Tournament carry-all bags were the hottest item -- they were sold out before lunchtime.

Route 20 club member Gary Sargent of Rockford provided absolute-beginner chess instruction, and the library put on display more than two dozen chess books acquired for the occasion. After the tournament, library visitors were treated to a free showing of the movie
Searching for Bobby Fischer.

In the evening, we relocated to City Coffee Co. for an evening G/5 speed chess tournament. Seven players, including yours truly, competed in a single round-robin . . . which I swept. As the tournament director, I considered it unseemly of me to have earned the day's only cash prize of $20 -- besides which, I had defeated second-place finisher Gary on a technicality when, having failed to notice that his king and queen were misplaced, he played Kd1xd4 -- and so I offered him a two-minute honor match for the prize. He defeated me on time with just 9 seconds remaining on his own clock, in what would have been an exciting game even at a regular time control (thanks to photographer Jennifer Marshall for making it possible to reconstruct the moves!):

National Chess Day Speed Chess at City Coffee Co.
Freeport, Ill., Oct. 9, 2010

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 dxc4 5.Bxc4 Bb4 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 Nbd7 8.Nf3 0-0 9.0-0 Nd5 10.Bxd5 exd5 11.Bb2 Nf6 12.Rc1 b5 13.a4 Ba6 14.Re1 bxa4 15.Qxa4 Bc4 16.Qc8 Qb8 17.Ba3 Re8 18.Nd2 Ne4 19.Nxe4 dxe4? 20.d5? Bxd5? 21.Qxd5 Qd8 22.c4 Rb8 23.Rb1 Rb6 24.Red1 Rd6? 25.Qb5? Qc8? 26.Kf1? Rxd1+ 27.Rxd1 a6 28.Qc6 Rd8 29.Rxd8+ Qxd8 30.Ke2? Qd3+ 31.Ke1 Qb1+ 32.Kd2 Qd3+ 33.Kc1 Qf1+? time 0-1

Club member Ryan Ekvall of Freeport took third. (Click the Tournament Results tab above for crosstables of the day's events.)

The Route 20 Chess Club is just over one year old, and this is the largest event we've hosted to date. To capture the momentum, we're following it up in two weeks with our National Chess Day "Delayed Blast" rated beginners' open and open Swiss tournament, a concurrently run pair of USCF-sanctioned and rated events. Winners of trophies in the community tournament are entitled to free entry into the RBO section.

Pictures of the speed chess tournament are up on our Photos page; check back for more photos of the day's festivities.

Proposed Amendment to Bylaws

We are hereby providing notice of a proposed motion to amend the bylaws, to be voted on at our next regular meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 2. To be adopted, the motion to amend must pass by a vote of two-thirds of members present.

Motion to amend the following sections of the Route 20 Chess Club bylaws:

Article III. Membership
Section 2. (Amended) Dues. Dues are payment for society membership for a period lasting until the end of the April annual meeting of the following calendar year. Members may choose to enroll as Regular or Supporting members. For Regular members, the annual dues shall be $5 for an Individual, $3.50 for a Senior, $3 for a Student, and $6 for a Family, payable upon joining and to be renewed on or before the anniversary of membership the date of the annual meeting of the next calendar year. For Supporting members, the annual dues shall be $10 for an Individual, $7 for a Senior, $6 for a Student, and $12.50 for a Family, payable upon joining and to be renewed on or before the anniversary of membership the date of the annual meeting of the next calendar year. A member may choose to change his status from Regular to Supporting or vice versa by paying dues at the alternative level when the dues become due, the change becoming effective as of the anniversary of membership the start of the membership period. The Treasurer shall notify members who are two months in arrears, and those whose dues are not paid within one month thereafter shall be automatically dropped from membership in the society.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

National Chess Day Is THIS SATURDAY!

The Route 20 Chess Club and the Freeport Public Library, along with Freeport Golden K and City Coffee Co., will celebrate National Chess Day, Saturday, Oct. 9, with an all-day community event featuring an open tournament, a speed chess tournament and exhibition, free chess lessons for beginners, and a screening of the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer (rated PG).

The community celebration will be held at the library, 100 E. Douglas St., Freeport, Ill. (map). All activities will be free and open to the general public. Players may register for the tournament between 9 and 9:45 AM on the day of the event or sign up in advance at the library’s Youth Services desk (limit 48 players). The first round will begin at 10 AM. The tournament will be a four-round Swiss with a 30-minute time control and will be divided into three youth-only sections (grades K–3, 4–8 and 9–12) and one open section for all ages. The K–3 section will be rated by the USCF. Winners will receive trophies and free entry to the National Chess Day Delayed Blast Rated Beginners' Open on Oct. 23. Beginners’ lessons will be held in two sessions, starting at 10:15 AM and 12:45 PM, and the movie will start at 3 PM. The celebration will then move to City Coffee Co., 15 N. Chicago Ave., Freeport (map), for a six-round Swiss blitz tournament (bring clocks). Registration will be open until 7:15 PM, and the first round will begin at 7:30. The first-place winner will receive a $20 prize; runners-up will receive coupons for coffee drinks.

We look forward to your celebrating the game of chess with us this Saturday!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Game of the Week

In which our newest member, Will Engel, seizes the top spot on the ladder with his fifth consecutive win. It's going to be tough to take it away from him!

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Sept. 28, 2010

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 0-0 6.Nc3 b6?
The first slip in a slightly offbeat but otherwise accurate Queen's Gambit Declined. Better is 6...h6 or 6...Nbd7, since Will has raised the issue of a minor piece trade on f6.

7.Qc2 Bb7 8.Ne5

8...dxc4 9.Nxc4 Nc6 10.f4 Nd5
Thanks to his decision to fianchetto the queen's bishop, Steve has an interesting and potentially powerful rushing play in 10...Nb4!? 11.Qe2 Ne4, with the likely continuation 12.Bxe7 Qxe7 13.Nxe4 Bxe4.

11.Bxe7 Qxe7 12.0-0-0
A risky choice: Will castles his king onto a half-open file on the side of the board where all the action is. Steve seizes the moment.

12...Ncb4 13.Qd2 Nxc3 14.bxc3 Nd5 15.Bd3?!

Danger! All Steve has to do is kick Will's knight off c4 with 15...b5!, then come barreling in with 16...Qa3+, and at a minimum he wins a pawn, possibly two, and Will's king is out in the great open spaces where cats are cats.

Steve misses his moment, and Will has a chance to rebound.

16.e4 Nf6 17.Rhe1 Ba6
Steve's rooks are not looking especially active. 17...Rfd8 is one solution to that.

18.f5 Bxc4 19.Bxc4 exf5 20.exf5 21.Ne4

Now it's Will's turn to miss an opportunity: Without careful replies, 21.Bd5!? wins material. Black can avoid the worst with 21...Qa3+ 22.Qb2 Qxc3+ 23.Kb1 (23.Qxc3 Nxc3 24.Bxa8 Nxd1 25.Bc6 Nf2) 23...gxf5 24.Bxa8 Rxa8 25.Rc1, where black loses the exchange but wins two pawns. With 21...gxf5, black gets only one pawn in compensation.

21...Qg5+ 22.Kb1 Nd6
Steve can't play 22...Qxf5? because of 23.Bd3 Rae8 24.Qc2, which can only be resolved by 24...Nxc3+ 25.Qxc3. This leaves him down a bishop for two pawns, and Will has the initiative.

23.Bd3 Nxf5 24.Qb5 Qxg2??
This move leaves Steve's knight underdefended. Will wins a pawn, and Steve's king loses its cover. Much better is to slam the door in the queen's face with 24...c5, then answer 25.Re5 with 25...Qg4, threatening to seize Will's other rook (25...cxd4 is inferior, because the threat against the knight is renewed: 26.Bxf5 gxf5 27.Rxf5).

25.Bxf5 gxf5??

Steve is in fact better off letting the bishop live and grabbing a free pawn with 25...Qxh2 instead; if 26.Be4 then 26...Rae8. Will's pieces are more active by far, but at least material is equal. Here Steve seems to be two pawns up, but the removal of his king's cover leaves him tragically vulnerable . . .

26.Rg1 1-0
Even after 26...Qg6 27.Qxf5 Rae8, Steve's queen is on life support. 28.h4 Kh8 29.Rxg6 pulls the plug.