Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Game of the Week

A quick-and-dirty recap of a quick-and-dirty game:

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Illinois, July 20, 2010

1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5?
Standard lines include 4.Nf3, 4.e3 and 4.cxd5 . . .

. . . and black's soundest response is 4...e6.

5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Qa4 e6 7.Nf3 Bd6 8.Ne5 0-0 9.Bxf6 Nxf6 10.e3 Bxe5 11.dxe5 Ne4 12.Nxe4 dxe4
Better is 12...Bd7!?, which allows black to trade his lost knight down to a pawn with 13.Qb4 dxe4 14.Qxe4 Bc6.

13.Qxe4 Qb6 14.b3 Bd7 15.Bd3 g6 16.0-0 Rac8 17.Rad1 f5
A fat nothingburger. 17...Bb5!? is better.

18.exf6 Rxf6 19.Qh4 Qd8??
How about getting that rook out of the way with 19...Rf7 -- not that it would have changed the outcome, which is starting to look predestined.

20.Bc4 Qe7
Sadly, my best option here is to give up the exchange in order to blunt Steve's attack: 20...Rxc4 21.bxc4 Rf8 22.Qxd8 Rxd8.

White to move. (Highlight to reveal answer.)

21.Rxd7! Qxd7 22.Qxf6 Re8

23.a4 a6 24.Qd4 Qxd4 25.exd4 Kg7 26.Re1 Kf7 27.f4 h6 28.Re5 Re7 29.d5 Rd7 30.dxe6+ 1-0
My rook is lost, and I can only wriggle.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Friday Night Speed Chess Survey

Our second Friday Night Speed Chess tournament is coming up on Aug. 13. We're interested in your input into how to make this recurring event a success. Please take a few moments to fill out our brief online survey.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Game of the Week

Steve McWhirter, a player who prefers a slower pace, was still smarting over the time trouble he'd repeatedly gotten into in our open Swiss tournament on Saturday. I wanted to train up for this weekend's Chicago Class Championships. And so we set the clock to G/70 and settled in.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., July 13, 2010

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 b5
"I always feel like it's a good idea to get out of book," Steve says, "even though I'm not sure what book is." In this case, the main line is 3...Nf6, with 3...a6, 3...c5 and 3...e6 as frequently attempted sidelines.

Seizing the center but missing the retort that refutes 3...b5, which is 4.a4 c6 5.e3 e6 6.axb5 cxb5 7.b3, bloodily regaining the pawn and blowing black's queenside wide open. Not taking on the b-pawn -- and thus remaining a pawn down -- plants the seed of disadvantage that will grow to entangle me.

4...Bb7 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e6

Here I'm worrying about ...Bb4 coming in and taking out my vital queen's knight, without which my e-pawn falls. In actuality, though, my fear is exaggerated: 7.0-0 Bb4 8.a4 Bxc3 9.bxc3 Bxe4 10.Ne5 leaves me two pawns down but with the bishop pair, an advanced knight and the makings of a strong attack, whereas if Steve simply plays for development, e.g., 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Qc2 c5 9.dxc5 Bxc5, his position is the stronger one.

7...Nf6 8.e5 Nd5 9.Bg5 Be7 10.Qd2 0-0 11.Bxe7
Despite being down a pawn, I decide it's worth my while to trade my bad bishop for Steve's good one.

11...Qxe7 12.0-0 Nd7

This, however, is not a good trade for me. Once again, I'm worrying excessively about the safety of my queen's knight. But the greater threat from Steve is that he's going to hit my center pawns with ...f6 or ...c5. My best choice here is 13.a4.

Not 13...exd5, which gives me chances on the e-file.

Another foolish throwaway trade. 14.a4 is still an option, but not for much longer.

14...Qxb4 15.axb4 f6 16.Rfd1
I should be considering 16.Ra3, preparing to double my rooks on the a-file.

16...fxe5 17.dxe5 Nb8
17...c5!? begins to present itself as particularly powerful: 18.bxc5 Nxc5 19.Nd4 is strong for black.

18.Nd4 Nc6
Allows a trade that opens up the d-file for my rook . . .

19.Nxc6 Bxc6 20.Bg4 Bd5
. . . which I promptly squander.

21.f3 g6
I see the Noah's Ark trap coming and take measures to prevent it. Actually, I don't mind this so much, since my idea behind 21.f3 is to march my king over to the opposite side and start taking out vulnerable pawns. But to do that, I have to get Steve's bishop off the long diagonal somehow.

22.Kf2 h5 23.Bh3 Rf4 24.Ke3 g5 25.Rd4!?

Steve is taken aback by this in-your-face move. Rather than trade rooks, he backs off.

25...Rf7 26.Rd2
Not sure what else to do, I pull back too. A beautiful opportunity missed: As Gary Sargent points out after the game, 26.Rxd5! exd5 27.Be6 Kf8 (27...c6 28.Kd4 Kf8 29.Bxf7 Kxf7) 28.Bxf7 Kxf7 clears the path for my king to invade on the queenside, just as I'd hoped to do.

Cocking for another shot.

A significant stumble. The counterintuitive move 27.Bf5!, aiming at 28.Be4, challenges black's control of the long diagonal; if 27...exf5? 28.Rxd5 with a cleared diagonal and a passed pawn.

27...h4 28.Bg2 Rf7 29.h3 Bb7 30.Rd4 Raf8 31.Rf1 Rc8 32.Rd2?
And here's the mistake that's going to cost me the game once and for all. 32.Rfd1, doubling rooks for a direct attack, is my only shot at counterplay.

32...c5 33.f4
33.bxc5 Rxc5 34.f4 Bxg2 35.Rxg2 Rxe5+ 36.fxe5 Rxf1 is better, but not enough.

33...Bxg2 34.Rxg2 Rxf4 35.Rxf4 gxf4+ 36.Kxf4 cxb4 37.Rd2
Hastens the inevitable.

37...c3 38.Rc2 b3 0-1
Seeing how I'm about to get pwned, I resign.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Route 20 RBO/Open Swiss

Our first fully rated event! And with an impressively diverse turnout -- allowing us finally to live up to our mission of promoting and facilitating chess in northwest Illinois and southwest Wisconsin. Check out all the red pins on the map! We're encouraged by the success of our outreach and hope to continue to be able to attract players from beyond the immediate area.

All told, we had 19 registrants: 11 in our rated beginners' section and eight in our open section, enough to demonstrate the feasibility of running cash-prize tournaments in the region.

Fortunately for our long-distance travelers, it was sunny when players arrived and sunny when they left -- but the second-to-last round was punctuated by a surprise downpour, visible and audible through the windows of the classroom that served as our tournament floor.

First place in the RBO went to Mihir Parag Kansara of Madison, Wis., in a 5-point clean sweep. Out of a crowd of finishers with 3 game points apiece, Leo Ma of Madison and Taylor Soddy of Monroe, Wis., won second and third place on modified-median tiebreaks. In the open section, Bob Gallenberg of Madison defeated third-round leader Donald J. Reyes of Sycamore, Ill., in the final round to split the $85 first prize and $55 second prize with James Freestrom of Sycamore, each finishing with 3 points. Reyes, with a score of 2.5, claimed the $35 third prize.

Route 20 Rated Beginners' Open
Freeport, Ill., July 10, 2010

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ Bd7
6...c6 challenges white more directly.

7.Qe2 a6 8.Qxe5+
Daring! Is Mihir bringing his queen out too soon?

8...Be7 9.Bxd7+ Qxd7 10.d6
It's too soon for an attack. Mihir can defend his d-pawn and catch up on development with 10.Nc3.

10...Nc6 11.Qe3 Qxd6 12.Nc3??
It's good that Mihir is thinking about development now, because his only active piece is his queen! But after 12.Nc3 Nb4!? (threatening the fork on c2) 13.Kd1 0-0, black is fully developed and ready to go on the attack. In contrast, after 12.Nf3!?, both sides can castle, then white can hope to free himself up with d4.

12...0-0 13.0-0 Ng4 14.Qh3

Nathanael has a fine strategic move here. What is it? (Highlight to reveal answer.)

14...Qxh2+ 15.Qxh2 Nxh2 16.Kxh2 Bxg5 punches a hole in white's pawn structure and pulls his king out into the open.

17.Nd5 Rac8 18.d3 Bxc1 19.Raxc1 Rfe8 20.Rfe1 Rxe1 21.Rxe1
Initiating the rook trade wasn't the best idea for Nathanael. It leaves Mihir with control of the open file, a more advanced knight and a slight advantage.

21...f6 22.Re3 Kf7 23.b4
Yikes! With Nathanael's king on f7, the options are narrowed for Mihir's rook. He needs to play 23.Re4 and gain in horizontal mobility what he's just lost in vertical.

Nathanael elects not to punish Mihir for his error. (23...Rd8!? 24.c4 Ne5 weakens white's d-pawn, then lays siege to it.)

24.f3 c6
24...Rd8 is still good, and now sets a trap: White is all right if he replies 25.Nf4, but 25.Nxc7? Rc8 26.Nd5 Rxc2 allows black's rook deep into white's territory.

25.Nf4 Re8 26.Kg3 g5 27.Nh5 Re7 28.d4

There's a sweet opportunity in 28...Nc4!?, forcing white's rook off its square. Does white abandon the e-file and allow ...Ne3 or ...Re2, or does he acquiesce to a rook trade that's not in his best interest?

Not moving the knight turns out to be the error that shifts the momentum in Mihir's favor.

29.dxe5 Rxe5??
It had to be 29...Kxh5 to rescue Nathanael from his oversight. Then 30.exf6 is followed by 30...Rf7 (not the greedy 30...Rxe3??, which allows 31.f7 and promotion).

A piece ahead, Mihir brings it home with authoritative endgame play:

30.Rxe5 fxe5 31.Kg4 h6 32.Ng3 b6 33.c4 c5 34.bxc5 bxc5 35.a3 a5 36.a4 Kf7 37.Kf5 g4 38.fxg4 e4 39.Kxe4 1-0

By the way, what in the world kind of chess clock are those guys packing there? It looks like it was designed by the Department of Defense.

Route 20 Open Swiss
Freeport, Ill., July 10, 2010

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.h3 Bxf3 6.Qxf3 Bg7 7.e5 dxe5 8.Qxb7 Nbd7 9.dxe5 Nxe5 10.Bb5+

10...Nfd7 11.Bxd7+ Nxd7 12.Nd5
Perhaps aiming for an exchange-winning fork with 13.Nxc7+ Kf8 14.Qxa8 Qxa8 15.Nxa8, but seemingly passing up a golden moment to castle.

12...0-0 13.0-0
Now 13.Nxc7 Rb8 14.Qxa7 Ne5 and white is worse.

13...e6 neutralizes white's slim edge.

14.Bh6 Re8 15.Rae1 Bd6 16.Qb3 e6 17.Qc3 Bf8 18.Bxf8 Rxf8 19.Nb4 Nb8?!
It's hard to see what the idea of this move is. Black can gain some space with tempo with either 19...a5 or 19...c5.

20.Rd1 Qe7 21.Rd2 a5 22.Nd3 Rd8 23.Rfd1 a4 24.Nb4 Rxd2
Don fights back aggressively while Bob looks for a plan.

25.Qxd2 Na6 26.Nc6 Qe8
An unfortunate retreat. 26...Qc5 is more forceful.

27.Qd7 Kg7 28.a3 Qxd7 29.Rxd7 Kf6

A present for black, swinging the game in Don's favor. He doesn't miss the occasion.

30...Nxb4 31.axb4 Ra7
31...Rb8!? 32.c3 c5 helps clear a path for black's a-pawn.

32.Kf1 h5 33.Ke2 Rb7 34.c3 e5
The e-pawn isn't likely to get very far with its neighbor blockaded by its own king.

35.Ke3 Ke6 36.Rd8 c5 37.bxc5 Rxb2??

This sequence, so promising before, is now fraught with danger. 37...Ra7 is necessary to keep the c-pawn from promoting.

38.c6 Rb6 39.c7 Rc6 40.c8Q+ 1-0

There's no question about the outcome.

Thanks and congratulations to all our players, and extra-super-special mega-thanks to Angie Torre, who ably and indispensably fielded a barrage of lunch orders. Also thanks to Mike Nietman of the Wisconsin Chess Association for posting our tournament announcement on the WCA website. Nietman is running for the USCF executive board and asks us to remind everyone to cast your vote for the board and return your ballot as soon as possible, if you haven't done so already.

See event pictures on our photo page and complete standings on our tournament results page; click here for official crosstables and post-event ratings.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Game of the Week

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Illinois, July 6, 2010

1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nc6 3.Bg2
Gary writes "Reverse Sicilian" on his scoresheet, but we know this, of course, as Bill's Opening.

3...Nf6 4.Nf3 h6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Nc3 0-0

A questionable move. White needs to play 7.d4 exd4 8.Nxd4 to gain an edge.

7...d6 8.e3 Nh7
Gary has his eye on Bill's wayward knight. Bill's best answer is to put it back on f3 where it belongs.

9.Nd5 Bxh4 10.gxh4 Ne7 11.d4?! Nxd5 12.cxd5 Qxh4 13.dxe5 dxe5 14.Qc2?! Bh3

Bill's minor stumbles are beginning to accumulate, giving Gary a significant advantage. Of course, Bill can't just allow Gary to play 15...Bxg2, but what's the alternative? 15.f4 discovers a defender for the bishop in the form of white's queen, while threatening e4 and fxe5. 15.f3 also makes e4 possible while defending the g2-bishop.

15...Qxh3 16.Qxc7??
Grabbing a pawn when his king is about to come under attack!

16...Qg4+ 17.Kh1 Qf3+ 18.Kg1

Missing 18...Ng5!!, which threatens mate in one and drives white inexorably toward his doom: 19.Qc8 Raxc8 20.h3 Qxh3 21.f4 Rc2 22.Bd2 Rxd2 23.Rf2 Nf3+ 24.Rxf3 Qg2#.

Not as good as 19.f4.

No longer packs the same wallop as it did a move ago. Better is 19...Rac8 20.Qe7 Rc2.

20.e4 Qd4+ 21.Kh1 Nh3
Black should consider the opportunistic 21...Nxe4!?, since the recapture 22.fxe4 is undesirable because of 22...Qxe4+.

22.Qc2 Rac8 23.Qg2 Nf4 24.Bxf4 exf4 25.Rfd1 Qb6 26.Rg1 g5 27.h4 f6 28.e5 Rc7 29.exf6 Qxf6
White needs to recapture with 29...Rxf6 because of the initiative gained from 30.hxg5 hxg5 31.Qxg5+. If black follows 29...Rxf6 with 30.hxg5, black blockades and pins the g-pawn with 30...Rg6.

30.hxg5 hxg5 31.Qxg5+ Qxg5 32.Rxg5+ Kh8

An even-looking endgame position with even material. But Gary's advanced f-pawn is a latent advantage just waiting to be activated.

33.Rh5+ Rh7 34.Rxh7+ Kxh7 35.Rd1 Kg6 36.Rd7 Rf7 37.Rd6+ Kf5 38.Kg2 Ke5 39.Rg6 Kd4 40.Rg4 Ke3 41.Rg5 Re7 42.Ra5 a6 43.Ra3+ Ke2 44.Kh3?
Better is 44.Rb3, tying black's rook down to the defense of his b-pawn while covering white's own f-pawn so that his king can outflank black's.

Setting up a rook trade that will allow Gary to pass his f-pawn.

45.Rxe3+ Kxe3??
Black wins the game with 45...fxe3, and I'd have sworn that was what Gary had in mind when he played 44...Re3. "Would you believe I didn't see it?" he says.

46.Kg4 b6 47.a4 1-0
And Gary resigns, since 47...b5 48.axb5 axb5 49.b4 forces him to abandon the defense of his f-pawn. But actually, it's not a lost cause in light of the continuation 49...Kd4 50.Kxf4 Kc3 51.Kg5 Kxb4 52.f4 Kc4 53.f5 b4 54.f6 b3 55.f7 b2 56.f8Q b1Q; in fact, it looks drawish. In contrast, white slams the door on black's hopes with 47.b4 Kd4 48.Kxf4.