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.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Find the Best Move

I don't know about other players, but for me, this was a real week for tricky tactics -- a couple that I perpetrated myself, and one that clobbered me so elegantly I was momentarily dumbstruck. Thus, rather than a Game of the Week, I present a selection of "best move" challenges.

First, an easy one for the kids.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Sept. 21, 2010

White to move. (Highlight to reveal answer.)

1.Bb5 0-0 2.Bxc6 Nxc6

Now for something more challenging:

White to move. (Highlight to reveal answer.)

1.Nc6! Bxc6 2.Rxd8 Bd5 3.Qxb6

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Sept. 21, 2010

Black to move. (Highlight to reveal answer.)

1...Bxe5 2.dxe5 d4!
This sets off a complicated chain of variations. White's best response is 2.Rxd4 Nxd4, but caution is required, because if white doesn't play 3.exd4, then 3...Rc2# is immediate mate, while 3...Rg2 and 3...Nxc6+ merely prolong the inevitable.

3.exd4 Rxd4?!
A wise-fool play on my part. I'm thinking about material, but I need to be aware of Jason's passed g-pawn. 2...f4 scores a palpable hit, forcing back the g3-rook (3.Rgg1) and giving me a check (3...Rh3+) which in turn lets me advance my e-pawn as well (4...e3). However, even after 3...Rxd4, black has to walk a tightrope to come out ahead . . .

4.Rxd4 Nxd4 5.g6?? Ne2+ 6.Kc2 Nxg3+
. . . and 5.Kxd4 f4 6.Rg4 Rxb2 7.g6 Bxg6 8.Rxg6 is the only way to avoid falling.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Sept. 21, 2010

White to move. (Highlight to reveal answer.)

1.Nd6 Kf8 2.Rxa5 (≤2.Nxb7+ Bxb4+ 3.Kf1 Qb8 4.Rxa8 Qxa8) 2...Rxa5 (2...Qe7 3.Rxa8+ Bxa8) 3.Nxb7+
A check and a queen-rook fork simultaneously. How articulate would you be after that?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Game of the Week

K.Ammann–S. McWhirter
Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Sept. 14, 2010

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Nc6
Although 4...Nc6 looks like a book move, it actually works out poorly for black on average, no doubt because it inhibits the advance of black's c-pawn.

5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 0-0
A more critical response for black is 6...b6 7.cxd5 exd5. As played, a good plan for white is to play Bd3, a3 and 0-0, while black can consider h6, b6 and Bb7.

7.Bd3 h6 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Bxf6 Bxf6 10.Qc2

Not a particularly good idea for various reasons, the most salient of which is 10...Nb4. 10.a3 being unnecessary because of the bishop trade, better choices for me are 10.0-0, 10.Rc1 and 10.Qb3, in response to any of which Steve should pull his knight back to e7 and advance his c-pawn to support d5.

10...g6 11.0-0 Ne7 12.Rfe1 Re8 13.e4 dxe4 14.Rxe4 Bf5 15.Rf4 Bxd3
Steve can manhandle the rook with 15...Bg5, forcing a trade with 16.Nxg5 hxg5 and ending up with the initiative and a slight advantage after 17.Rf3.

16.Qxd3 Kg7 17.Re1 Nf5

A battle royal is shaping up around d4, and I have to be careful, because if I let Steve initiate it, ...Rxd1 will be the end of me. 18.Rxe8!? Qxe8 19.g4 defuses the attack and puts Steve on the defensive, but I opt for something more wu-wei.

Positionally, it's not much, but it puts Steve on tilt.

18...Qd6 19.Rfe4! Rxe4 20.Nxe4
Not the inferior 20.Rxe4 or 20.Qxe4, either of which lets the initiative slip away and gives Steve a chance to ratchet up the pressure on my d-pawn again with 20...Rd8.


Walks into a trap I wish I knew I was setting. It begins with 21.Nxf6!; 20...Qe7 defuses it.

Threatening to win the exchange with 22.Ne8+ Rxe8 23.Rxe8. But there's even more nastiness packed into this apparent trade offer that isn't really.

The obvious move, right? What could be wrong with it?

There's a surprising killer move here. Don't feel bad if it escapes you; I'd never have thought of it either. (Highlight to reveal answer.)

The unassuming 22.a3!! leaves black bereft of chances. His best reply is 22...Qxb2 23.Rb1 Qxb1+ 24.Qxb1, where white wins a queen for a rook and a pawn. Next-best is 22...Qxe1+ 23.Nxe1 -- white has only a queen for a rook, but black will fall apart after 23...Ke7 24.Qe4 or 23...Rc8/d8 24.Qc3+. If black's queen runs, abandoning the defense of c3 leads to a mating net -- e.g., 22...Qa5? 23.b4 Qa4?? 24.Qc3+ Nd4 25.Qxd4+ Kf5 26.g4# (23...Qb6? only prolongs the inevitable). If black's queen doesn't run, she dies. Ouch!

OK, back to what actually happens.

22.Qxc3+? Qxc3 23.bxc3 Rd8 24.c4 b6 25.a4 a5 26.g4 Nd6 27.Nd2 g5

Steve can easily force a rook trade with 28...Re8. It's probably time for me to bring my king into the action with 28.Kg2. Otherwise, if it comes down to KNP vs. KNP endgame, Steve will invade my backfield with little difficulty. I may have more space, but his pawn chains are intact. Also, my momentary blockage of the e-file gives him the chance to slip across to the queenside -- a chance I should not give him.

28...Ke5 29.Nxd6+ Kxd6 30.Re4
Better is 30.f4!?, daring Steve to double his pawns.

A time-waster. 30...c6 is potent and timely.

Fine a moment ago; stupid now. It leaves me vulnerable to 31...Re7! 32.Rd4 Re8 33.fxg5 hxg5, where Steve controls the open file and my rook just looks sad.

Still nasty in its own right.

32.fxg5 hxg5 33.Kg2?
33.Kf2 is better. There's trouble a-brewin' on the queenside.

33...f6 34.Kg3? Kb4! 35.h4 gxh4+ 36.Kxh4 Rh7+ 37.Kg3 Rg7??
This stumble returns us to positional equality, but Steve regains his footing quickly.

38.Kf4 Kxa4

In this position, the second-best move turns out to be a costly mistake. My only advantageous choice is 39.Kf5 Kb4 40.Kxf6.

39...Kb5 40.cxb6 cxb6 41.d6
Second-best again. This is no time for second-best! 41.Kf5 Kc5 42.Kxf6 Kxd5 43.Re5+ Kd4 44.g5 retains an edge.

41...Rd7 42.Rd4??
After the game, Steve points to this as my fatal error, telling me that 42.Re6 would have held me together. It's vastly better than 42.Rd4, that's for sure, but the best choice, counterintuitively, is 42.g5 fxg5+ 43.Ke5.

42...Kc5 43.Rd1 Rxd6 44.Rxd6 Kxd6 45.Kf5

45...Ke7 46.Ke4 a4 47.Kd4 a3 48.Kc3 b5!
Aw, daaang.

49.Kb3 b4 50.Ka2
It's either this sad little two-step or watch the a-pawn queen.

50...Kd6 51.Kb3 Kc5 52.Ka2 Kc4 0-1

Friday, September 10, 2010

Route 20 Celebrating USCF's National Chess Day With Two Events

Mark your calendars: 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). Then, on Saturday, Oct. 23, we will continue the celebration with our second rated beginners' open and open Swiss tournament at Highland Community College in Freeport.

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 RBO 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.

The RBO and open tournament will be held in the Community Services Center (Building R) at Highland Community College, 2998 W. Pearl City Road, Freeport, Ill. (park in Lot B -- map). The open Swiss will be in four rounds with a 45-minute time control and a cash prize fund equal to 75 percent of entries. The RBO, open to players with USCF ratings under 1200 or unrated, will be a five-round Swiss with a 30-minute time control; first-, second- and third-place finishers will receive trophies. Both events will begin at 10 AM. Players may register for either section between 9 and 9:45 AM on the day of the event or on this site (choose your section and click "Register" button at right). USCF membership is required; single-day tournament memberships are available. Entry fees are $20 for the open Swiss ($12 for Route 20 Chess Club members), $10 for the RBO ($6 for members).

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

Thursday, September 9, 2010

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, Oct. 5. 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 V. Meetings
Section 2. (Amended) Annual Meetings. The regular meeting on the first Tuesday in August April shall be known as the annual meeting and shall be for the purpose of electing officers, along with any other business that may arise.

Article IV. Officers
Section 2. (Amended) Nomination Procedure, Time of Elections. At the first regular meeting held in July March, members of the society may nominate candidates for the offices to be filled at the first regular meeting held in August April. If an officer resigns his or her position before his or her term expires, replacement candidates shall be nominated at the next regular meeting, and a special election to fill the office shall be held at the first regular meeting of the following month. At the meeting during which an election is held, additional nominations from the floor shall be permitted before the election is conducted.

Section 3. (Amended) Ballot Election, Term of Office. The officers shall be elected by ballot to serve for one year or until the next annual meeting, whichever comes first, and their term of office shall begin at the close of the meeting at which they are elected. If there are three or more candidates for a single office, the election to that office shall be decided by preferential ballot.

Section 4. (Amended) Limitations. No member shall hold more than one office at a time, and no member shall be eligible to serve more than two consecutive full (12-month) terms in the same office. Two full terms separated by a shorter term shall be considered consecutive, provided the member remains in office through the shorter term.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Game of the Week

Last week I wished for a Petrov. This week I got my wish!

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Illinois, Aug. 31, 2010

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3!? Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3 5.dxc3 0-0?
Misses an opportunity to swing the balance. If Gary plays 5...d6, Steve can't take the e5-pawn, but Gary still has a shot at the e4-pawn.


A moment too late, and not as forceful as 6...Re8!, which has the added effect of pinning the d4-pawn before capturing it.

7.Nf3 Nxe4 8.Bd3 Nf6 9.0-0 Bg4 10.Re1 Nbd7 11.Be2

Gary should not be dilly-dallying about getting his rook on the e-file. Besides, there's no downside to 12.Nxe5 Bxe2 13.Qxe2.

12.Bg5 h6 13.Bh4
13.Bxf6!? Qxf6 14.Nxe5 Bxe2 15.Qxe2 dxe5 16.Qxe5 Qxe5 17.Rxe5 leaves Steve a pawn ahead when the smoke clears.

13...Ng6 14.Qd4 Nxh4 15.Nxh4 Bxe2 16.Rxe2 c5 17.Qd3

Leaves Gary vulnerable to 18.Nf5, attacking the pinned, backward d-pawn. After 17...Nh5, the same move by white fails because of the knight fork threat on f4.

18.h3 Nh3?
This move, which was dandy just a moment ago, is bad now because of the relocation of Gary's queen: 19.Qf5 Qxf5 20.Nxf5. There's still that open e-file . . .

19.Qf3 Nf6 20.Rd1 Rae8
At last!

Huh? A strangely meek move. There's nothing wrong with trading rooks, then attacking that pinned pawn: 21.Rxe8 Rxe8 22.Nf5 Re6.

If Steve isn't going to attack down the e-file, how about having the black knight run interference: 21...Ne4!? 22.Rd3 g6, preparing ...f5? Another plan that Gary should be considering is ...Qa4, attacking the c2-pawn and pressuring the undefended knight on h4.

Now it's getting real.

Removes coverage of g4, which allows the hit-and-run 23.Qg4!? g6 24.Nxh6+ Kg7 25.Nf5+ Kh8 26.Nxd6.

23.Nxd6 Ng5 24.Qxb7 Qxb7 25.Nxb7
Steve has slickly managed to pick up two pawns without being punished for it. Instead of 23...Ng5, Gary is better off either evacuating (23...b6) or defending (23...Rb8) his vulnerable b-pawn. Otherwise, Steve is liable to hopscotch his way through Gary's material.

25...Rb6 is necessary to gain tempo against Steve's knight, then snag his b-pawn so that things don't get any worse.

26.Rd8 Rxd8 27.Rxd8+ Kh7 28.Nxc5 Re2

Unnecessary: the king has an escape square, the f-pawn is safe, and there's mischief to be made. For instance, 29.Rd7!, about which no positional player would have to think twice, answering 29...Rxc2 with 30.h4 (with the rook off the e-file, the knight is trapped!) Ne6 31.Nxe6 fxe6.

29...Rxc2 30.Na4
Why put a knight on the rim? He'd much rather be on d3.

30...Ne4 31.f3
...Rxf2+ is not as grave a threat as it might appear. Gary can afford to play 31.Ra8.

31...Nd2+ 32.Kf2
Why step into harm's way? 32.Kg1 Nc4 33.Rd7 will mop things up in short order, as pawns get picked off one by one.

32...Nc4+ 33.Kg3 Nxb2 34.Nxb2 Rxb2 35.Rd7 Rb3 36.Rxa7 Rxc3 37.a4 Ra3

If not for two things, this would be looking disappointingly drawish: Steve's extra pawn and his king's head start toward the center.

38.Kf4 Kg6 39.Ke5 Ra2 40.g4 f6+ 41.Ke4 Rh2 42.Rb7 Rxh3
Might want to pay more attention to that a-pawn . . .

43.a5 h5 44.Kf4
Just sprint, brother.

44...hxg4 45.fxg4
The king capture is better, gaining a tempo off Gary's rook.

An uncharacteristic endgame miscalculation from Gary, who knows well that the rook needs to be behind the passed pawn. But both Gary and Steve are in time trouble, so the moves are coming fast and sloppy.

46.Rb3 Re8? 47.a6 Kf7? 48.g5?? (48.a7 g5+ 49.Kf3) fxg5+ 49.Kxg5 g6? 50.a7?? (50.Rf3+ Kg7 51.Ra3) Re5+ 51.Kf4 Re8?? (51...Ra5 52.Rb7+ Ke6 Rg7) 52.a8Q

52...g5+ 53.Kf5 (53.Kxg5 Rxa8 is a certain draw) g4?? (ditto 53...Rxa8 54.Kxg5 Ra1) 54.Qd5+ Kf8 55.Qd6+ 1-0
And Gary runs out of time. Steve has only 5 seconds left, three moves from checkmating him, and breathes out his gratitude for move delay.


Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Illinois, Aug. 31, 2010

White to move. (Highlight to reveal answer.)

1.Nxc6! Bc5+ (1...bxc6 2.Bxc6+ Kf7 3.Bxa4+−) 2.Kh1 (better is 2.Be3+−) g5 (2...Kf7 3.b4 Bd6 4.Rd1 Bc7+−) 3.Rxe6+ (3.b4 Kd7 4.bxc5 bxc6 5.cxb6+−) Kf7 4.Bd5 (4.Rxf6+ Kxf6+−) bxc6 5.Re4+ (5.Rxc6!?+−) cxd5 6.Rxa4+−