Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Game of the Week

W.Koester–K. Ammann
Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Illinois, Jan. 26, 2010

1.d4 d5 2.b3
Bill knew I'd been preparing against Bill's Opening, so he busted out something new. He likes his fianchetti.

With no better idea in mind, I decide to try a Queen's Gambit in reverse.

3.g3 cxd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6 5.Qd2 e5 6.Bg2 Nf6 7.Bb2 Bb4 8.c3 Bc5 9.Nf3??
Takes pressure off d4 and gives me the freedom to advance my f6-knight.

9...Ne4 10.Qc1 Bxf2+

I actually could have made this capture a move sooner, since 9...Bxf2+ 10.Kxf2?? is followed by 10...Ne4+.

11.Kf1 Bc5
The retreat was unnecessary; I could have played 11...Qb6.

12.e3? 0-0
12...Bg4 keeps the most pressure on white: 13.b4 Qf6 14.bxc5 Bxf3 15.Qe1 Nxc5 16.Na3.

13.Nfd2 f5
My moves are all right, but I'm missing some really strong ones, in this case 13...Qf6+ 14.Nf3 Ng5.

14.Ba3 Bxa3 15.Qxa3 Be6
With the rook behind it, 15...f4 is a great break, setting up the battering 16.Ke1 Qb6 17.Bxe4 Qxe3+ 18.Kd1 dxe4 19.Qa4 Bg4+ 20.Kc1.

16.Bh3 Nxd2
16...Qg5 17.Qc1 Qh6 was better.

17.Nxd2 d4 18.cxd4 exd4 19.e4 d3
I missed 19...fxe4+, a discovered check by my f-rook, followed by 20.Kg2 Bxh3+ 21.Kxh3, dragging white's poor king out from under his shelter.

20.Rd1 Nd4 (20...fxe4+ was still possible -- and nasty) 21.Qb2 fxe4+ (finally!) 22.Kg2 Bxh3+ 23.Kxh3 Rf2 24.Rhf1 Qd7+ 25.g4

I have a two-pawn advantage, a rook on the seventh rank and a knight on the fifth. Bill's king is out in the open, far from any protection, and the lone pawn running interference is pinned and vulnerable to attack -- say, by 25...h5. The situation has become very, very dangerous for white.

Buh thuh wha?

26.Nxf3 exf3??
Cubs fans, I know you can feel what I'm feeling now. Even 26...Nxf3 27.Rxf3 exf3 would have maintained a decisive advantage. 26...exf3?? just hands it over to white, gift-wrapped.

27.Rxd3 Rd8 28.Rfxf3
28.Rfd1 is even better. That pawn ain't going nowhere.

Now I think of it -- much too late. 28...Nxf3 29.Rxd7 Rxd7 at least keeps a rook and a knight against a queen.

29.Rf4 hxg4+ 30.Rxg4 Qf5
I was thinking "fork," but it's not a fork at all -- the g4-rook is protected. My brain has evidently turned to mashed potatoes. I lose my knight.

31.Rdxd4 Qf3+ 32.Kh4 Qf6+ 33.Kh3 Rxd4?? 34.Qxd4 Qh6+ 35.Rh4 Qe6+ 36.Qg4 Qe3+
My brain has come back on line. If I keep checking, I figure, I can get a draw by repetition.

37.Qg3 Qe6+ 38.Rg4 Qh6+

One . . .

39.Kg2 Qd2+ 40.Kh3 Qh6+
. . . two . . .

41.Rh4 Qe6+ 42.Rg4 Qh6+
. . . three!

Except I don't realize it's three. I still think it's only two. And the position never repeats again.

Let this sad story be a lesson to you all:

14C. Triple occurrence of position. The game is drawn upon a correct claim by the player on the move when the same position is about to appear for at least the third time or has just appeared for at least the third time, the same player being on move each time. [Italics mine.]

It doesn't matter what Fritz tells you after the fact, when you're entering the moves. I did not draw this game. Woe is me.

43.Qh4 Qe3+ 44.Rg3 Qe6+ 45.Qg4 Qh6+ 46.Kg2 Qd2+ 47.Kh1 Qd5+ 48.Qf3 Qd7 49.Rg1 Qe7 50.b4 b5 51.Qb3+ Kh8 52.Qh3+ Kg8 53.Qc8+ Kh7 54.Qf5+ Kg8 55.Qg6 Qb7+ 56.Rg2 Kh8 57.Qe8+ Kh7 58.Qf8 Qd7 59.Rxg7+ Qxg7 60.Qxg7+ Kxg7 61.Kg2 Kg6 62.h3 Kg5 63.Kg3 Kh5 64.h4 Kh6 65.Kg4 Kg6 66.h5+ Kh6 67.a3 a6 68.Kf5 1-0

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Game of the Week

The bull's eye was on my forehead this week as Bill Koester sought to regain a few lost rungs on the ladder and Steve Black tried to take back the top spot. To make a long story short, both succeeded -- Steve in a 21-move mutual debacle that I won't reproduce here, and Bill in a game that began in an utterly ordinary way but developed into a game rich in drama and suspense.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Illinois, Jan. 19, 2010

1.c4 c5 2.g3!? g6 3.Bg2 Bg7
Yep, it's Bill's Opening. Months ago, I worked out what seemed like a fairly effective 1...e5 reply, but it had been so long, I'd forgotten it, so I opted for the symmetrical response instead.

4.Qb3 Qb6 5.Qxb6 axb6 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Nf3 0-0 8.d4 d6 9.dxc5
Cedes a slight advantage to black. White is better off castling.

9...bxc5 10.0-0 Be6 11.Nd2 Ra7
I missed the better defensive move 11...Nc6, which dares black to trade off his fianchettoed bishop (black is unlikely to take the dare).

12.Nb5 Ra6

After searching desperately for anything better, I finally concede that the pawn is lost.

And Bill doesn't take it! After the game, I asked him why; he said that his target was the bishop on e6. The advantage gained by 13.Bxb7 is slight, but according to Fritz, there's no advantage at all in going after the bishop.

13...Rb6 14.Nxe6 fxe6 15.a4 d5
15...Nc6 16.a5 Ra6 17.Nb3 would keep the tension with an even position. My move overlooks the troublesome potential of 16.a5.

16.Bh3 Na6
16...Ra6 is still better.

17.a5 Rd6 18.cxd5
According to Fritz, white's best move by far is the counterintuitive 18.Nf3!?, leading into the sequence 18...Ne4 19.Bf4 Rc6 20.Ne5 Bxe5 21.Bxe5. I'm not sure either one of us ever considered that sequence, even briefly.

18...exd5 19.Nb3 Nd7 20.Bf4

This position put me on tilt, and looking back on it now, I can't figure out why. The blocking move 20...e5 is simple, unimpeachable and ostensibly obvious, yet I don't recall ever considering it seriously. Was I afraid of losing my knight? But the knight is easily avenged by the rook. I was responding to some dire threat that wasn't there, which explains my next move, a bizarre (in retrospect) attempt at counterplay.

21.Bxd6 Bxa1 22.Rxa1 exd6 23.Bxd7 would cost me a knight. But Bill is as tilted by my "counterplay" as I was by the position that inspired it.

21.Rab1 Be5 22.Bxd7 Bxf4 23.Bb5

Wins space, blocks in the bishop and counterattacks the knight. But this move, at best, maintains an even position. Significantly more advantageous is the simple retreat 23...Be5, followed by 24.Bxa6 bxa6 (not 24...Rxa6 25.Nxc5 Ra7 26.Nd7) 25.Nxc5 Bd4.

Spooked by the threat, Bill's knight springs out of the way, allowing me to do what I should have done a moment ago -- and claim a decisive advantage.

24...Be5 25.e3 Nc5 26.Rfd1 Nd3
Takes a defender away from a6, facilitating the pawn advance and giving up some of that newly acquired advantage. Fritz recommends just the opposite: 26...Ra8.

27.f4 Bxd4 28.exd4 b6
Fritz still prefers 28...Ra8. Now Bill has a chance to get tricky.

29.a6! Ra8
That woke me up.

30.Rd2 Kf7
Everything else is nice and locked up . . . time to take my king for a stroll!

31.Re2 Kf6 32.Kg2 e6 33.Kf3 h5 34.h4 Ra7 35.Ke3 Kf5 36.Kf3 Re7 37.Ra1 Ra7

Bill inexplicably hangs his pawn and pins his bishop in one stroke.

38...Rxa6 39.Rea2 Nb4 40.Rb2 Nd3
40...b5, attacking the pinned bishop, was better, but I hesitated because I didn't want to hang my knight. If I'd been able to read it through, I'd have seen that 41.Rxb4 Rxa4 42.Raxa4 bxa4 leaves me in a perfectly fine position, up two passed pawns.


I'm wheeling out the JumboTron, because this was the position on which the entire game hinged: a repetition of the position at move 39. Ahead by two pawns, one of them passed, I was hungry for the win and afraid that if I returned my knight to b4, Bill would go for the draw.

But when we discussed it after the game, Bill revealed that he had no such intention. If I'd played 41...Nb4, his plan was 42.Rg2 b5 43.g4+ hxg4 44.Rxg4. Assuming that I'd play 44...bxa4, he anticipated the continuation 45.Rg5+ Kf6 46.Rg1 (diagram). In short, he was going for the kill.

But he'd made a faulty assumption: I'd thought about it, and I'd decided that my pawn superiority made it highly desirable for me to knock off one of his rooks if I could. Therefore, if I had the chance, I intended to take the pinned bishop not with my b-pawn but with my rook. 44...Rxa4 45.Rg5+ Kf6 46.Rxa4 bxa4 47.Rg1 maintains an advantage for black.

Plus, the more we looked at it, Bill's plan was far from a sure thing. If I disregarded the threat of Rxg6+ and played 46...a3, Bill would find it hard to finish me off after 47.Rxg6+ Kf7 48.Rg7+ Kf8 49.Rg8+ Kf7 50.R1g7+ Kf6. It's still possible that I might screw up, but unless he puts the mating attack on hold and shifts his seventh-rank rook to c7 (good) or h7 (best), it's looking decidedly drawish.

Meanwhile, neither one of us had considered 41...Kf6, a Zen-like move that gives white all sorts of chances to weaken his own position.

So what move did I actually choose?

It's not a horrible move -- well, not unless black thinks of 42.Bc2! Rxa2 43.Bxd3+ Kf6 44.Rxa2, which will leave me down a minor piece. But it's significantly worse than 41...Kf6 or 41...Nb4.

42.Bb5 Rxa2??
Like the Democratic Party, I must have something in my brain that's averse to winning in a won position. I could have kept my advantage with 42...Ne1+! 43.Ke2 Rxa2+ 44.Rxa2 Ke4 45.Kxe1 Kxd4.

43.Bxd3+ Kf6 44.Rxa2 Rc6 45.Bc2
A slight stumble. Bishops aren't good blockaders of pawns, and that pawn isn't going anywhere anyway, not with a white rook on a2. Better is 45.Ke2, bringing the king over to help out against white's passed pawns.

45...b5 46.Ke3 b4 47.Kd3 Kf5
47...Rb6 is better, putting the rook behind the charging pawn.

Practically inviting me to pin him again! However, it's not so clear-cut this time: White is in no hurry to go anywhere on the queenside, I have no other unit handy to attack the pinned bishop with, and I'd be a fool to sacrifice a sixth-rank pawn for a bishop (counting on Bxc2 instead of Rxc2 is just hope chess). White can sit tight and play 49.Ke3, thwarting my invasion Kg4xg3. Best is the common-sense 48...Rb6, transferring my rook from one bodyguard duty to another. The move I choose is no prizewinner -- but neither is Bill's response to it.

48...Rc7? 49.Bc2??
49.Bd1 also would have stopped my kingside invasion.

49...Kg4 50.Ra6 Kxg3?
I needed to play 50...Re7 first.

51.Rxe6 Kxh4
Abandoning another pawn unnecessarily.

52.Rxg6 Rb7
I'm just getting sloppy here. Why not 52...Rf7, pulling white's king back from the queenside?


53.Bb3 Rf7 54.Bxd5 Rxf4 55.Rb6, and my chances of promotion would have been bleak: the queenside pawns are sitting ducks, and the bishop guards the h-pawn's promotion square. Bill's move gives me one last-ditch opportunity.

53...b3 54.Kxc3 bxc2 55.Kxc2 Rb4
The correct move was 55...Rf7, but I'm not done for yet.

56.Kc3 Rb5 57.Re5 Kg4 58.f5??
58.Rg5+ would have put my king back in his place. Suddenly, I have the advantage again!

58...h4 59.f6 h3??
And just as suddenly, it's gone! For this to work, I have to get my rook over to the kingside, and the best way to do that is 59...Rb6 (nudging the pawn forward) 60.f7 Rf6, and preventing the promotion of my h-pawn will cost white his rook. I'm not going to win the promotion race in a straight sprint.

60.f7 Rb8 61.Re8 h2 62.Rg8+ Kh3 (62...Kh5 was better, in the sense that being stranded on a desert island is better than being eaten by sharks) 63.Rxb8 h1Q 64.Rh8+! Kg2 65.Rxh1 Kxh1 66.f8Q 1-0

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Game of the Week

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Illinois, Jan. 12, 2010

1.d4 d5 2.c4 Be6?
An out-of-book move that makes the whole game an uphill battle for Tim.

3.cxd5 Bxd5 4.Nc3 e6 5.e4
Exchanging on d5 with 5.Nxd5?! Qxd5 6.Nf3 Nf6 would have resulted in an even position. With 5.e4, white has an advantage.

Causing more problems for Tim. Not only is this not sufficient threat to deter exd5, it's not a threat at all. The offer to trade on c3 is a thank-you move, giving white the chance to support d4 with another pawn and costing black a bishop. Tim should have retreated with 5...Bb6.

6.exd5 exd5 7.Bd3 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Qe7+ 9.Ne2 Nf6 10.Qa4+ Nc6 11.f3
Starting with this move, Fritz repeatedly chides me for not playing Rb1.

11...a6 12.Ba3 Qd7 13.0-0 b5

White to move. (Highlight to reveal answer.)

14.Bxb5! exploits the pin on a6. Sadly for black, his best option is to eat the loss with 14...axb5 15.Qxa8+. Instead, Tim dodges the threatened fork on c6 but gets mated in short order:

14...0-0-0 15.Bxc6 (15.Bxa6 Kb8 16.Qb5+ Ka7 17.Qb7# is a surer path to checkmate -- black can struggle on for a while with 15...Qxc6 16.Qxc6) Qe6 16.Qxa6+ Kb8 17.Qb7# 1-0

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Game of the Week

If I may be permitted to toot my own horn a bit, this week I played some pretty good chess, by my own patzerful standards -- good enough, at least, to jump from sixth on the club ladder to first with two consecutive wins over defending ladder-champ Steve Black. I felt especially proud of the first game, in which I made one of my trademark blunders -- but only one -- and recovered almost immediately.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Illinois, Jan. 5, 2010

1.d3 e5 2.Nc3 d5 3.f3 d4 4.Ne4 Nf6
It didn't occur to me simply to grab space with 4...f5.

5.Ng5? Qd7
I could have played 5...Bb4!?, but trading bishops (6.Bd2 Bxd2+ 7.Qxd2) seemed premature.

6.Bd2 h6 7.N5h3 Be7 8.f4 exf4 9.Bxf4 Bb4+
There. If I'm going to check him, may as well screw with his development, right?

10.Bd2 Qb5
I still wasn't ready to initiate the trade.

A paper tiger. Better is 11.c3!? Ba5 12.Qc1, threatening 13.cxd4.


Fritz prefers 11...Bxd2!? 12.Qxd2 Qxb2 13.Rc1, but I had my eye on the possibility of a clash over c3, ending with a king-rook queen fork. Steve threw a wrench in that plan, though, with his next move.

If Steve gets to the d4-pawn first, my chances in the fight for c3 are bollixed -- I can't bring my c-pawn forward to protect it, and if I recapture on d4 with a piece, c3 is a pawn fork. I have to come up with some ingenious counterplay, and fast.

12...Nd5 preserves the balance of power on c3 more effectively. Actually, Fritz's analysis points out the hole in my battle plan over that square: 13.c3 dxc3 14.bxc3 Bxc3 15.Rc1! Bxd2+ 16.Qxd2 leaves black a pawn up but white with the initiative. But as it happened, I lucked out.

13.Nf2? Ne3 14.Qb1 Nxc2+ 15.Kd1 Nxa1 16.Qxa1 Bxd2
Now it's time to trade bishops!

Steve is still determined to get that pawn.

17...Qb6 18.Nexd2 c5 19.Nc4 Qc7
Steve is frustrating my development, but on the upside, that's about as far forward as his knight can get with support. I figure I have a little time to catch up, but it's hard to decide what order to do things in.

20.Qa3 Na6 21.g3 0-0 22.Bg2

I see the threat along the diagonal and decide -- not entirely correctly -- that I have one free move before I have to do anything about it.

22...b6 23.Nfe5
Steve could have regained the initiative with 23.Nxd4 Bb7 24.Nb5.

23...Bb7 24.Rg1 Bxg2 25.Rxg2 Nb4
Beginning the trek to a handsome outpost square, which I know Steve won't let me keep . . . but I'm up the exchange plus a pawn, so I'm cheerfully trading away whatever I can.

26.b3 Nd5 27.Ke1 Ne3 28.Nxe3 Qxe5
I think I surprised Steve here by not retaking on e3. My pawn chain was doing such a nice job penning in his queen, I didn't want to mess with it.

29.Ng4 Qg5 30.h3 Rfe8

And I've finally finished my development. Time to relax . . . and make that trademark blunder!

31.a5 Re7
Frankly, I was surprised that Fritz didn't give this even a single question mark. On my scoresheet, I gave it four. I played ...Re7 immediately after noting to myself that I couldn't play ...Re7, because the pawn swap would leave my a8-rook unprotected on the open file with white to play.

Note to self: Never relax.

Steve, meanwhile, was rejoicing that I'd finally made the mistake he'd been waiting for me to make. The joy was short-lived, though.

32.axb6 Qd5
An initiative move that also defends my a8-rook. I won't try to claim undue credit: I lucked out.

33.Rh2 axb6 34.Qb2 Rea7
I was so happy to get my rooks doubled on an open file, I missed the power of 34...Qf3!, safe because of the pin on the e-pawn.

35.e4 Qg5
I didn't think of the en passant capture 35...dxe3 until the last minute, and I dismissed it instantly because I didn't like the idea of opening the diagonal for Steve's queen. But I guess there wasn't a whole lot he could have done with it, and I would have gotten another pawn out of the deal.

36.Rd2 h5 37.h4
A crafty bit of psychology, this move tilted me enough that I didn't immediately recognize that Steve's knight is now hanging. 37...Qxg4 is mate in eight (38.Qc2 Qxg3+ 39.Kf1 Ra1+ 40.Rd1 Rxd1+ 41.Qxd1 Ra2 42.Qe2 Ra1+ 43.Qd1 Rxd1+ 44.Ke2 Re1+ 45. Kd2 Qf2#).

37...Ra1+ 38.Kf2 Qxg4
Now I see it! But now it's mate in 11, too far over the horizon for me to spot. I know the end is near, but I don't know exactly how I'm going to get there. So I start hurling pawns at Steve until something gives.

39.b4 g5 40.hxg5 Qxg5 41.bxc5 bxc5 42.Rc2 h4 (42...Qe3+ 43.Kg2 Rg1+ 44.Kh2 Qxg3# was the shortest path to mate) 43.gxh4 Qxh4+

The final breakthrough. And now the dénouement:

44.Kg2 Qh1+ 45.Kg3 Qe1+ 46.Kf4 Qe3+ 47.Ke5 Qg5+ 48.Kd6 R1a6+ 49.Kc7 Qe7# 0-1