Sunday, November 27, 2011

Put 1/21/12 on your calendar!!
Route 20 Chess Club is sponsoring a Rated Beginners Open/Open Swiss Tournament on Saturday, January 21, 2012.  It will be at Highland Community College, 2998 W. Pearl City Rd, Building R, Park in Lot B.

Two sections:
Open Swiss: 3/SS, G/65 (rounds at 10 AM, 1, 3:30 PM), prizes 80 percent of entry fees for the section.  May be divided into two sections at tournament director's discretion.
RBO: 5/SS, G/30 (rounds at 10 AM, 11:15, 1, 2:15, 3:30 PM), open to players rated under 1200 or unrated; trophy prizes for top three places.

Entry fee: $10 ($6 for Route 20 Chess Club members).
Registration: 9 - 9:45 AM on-site.

U.S Chess Federation membership required.  Full and trial memberships available on-site.  Chess sets  will be available, bring a clock if you have one.

Friday, September 16, 2011

PWNED! IV Youth Chess Tournament- National Chess Day

Saturday, October 8, Freeport Public Library, 100 E. Douglas St., Freeport, Ill. (map). 4/SS, G/30, FREE! In three sections: K–3 (USCF-rated), 4–6 (unrated), 7–12 (unrated). Prizes: first and second place trophies in each section. Registration: 9–9:45 AM or in advance at library Youth Services desk. Rounds: first round at 10 AM, later rounds ASAP. USCF membership not required in upper sections; one-day tournament memberships are free in K–3 section. Lunch break between rounds 2 and 3. Sets provided, bring clocks.

Our fourth totally free, all-scholastic tournament, presented in cooperation with the Freeport Public Library. If you're a young player who's been wondering how your skills measure up, this is your chance to find out.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Route 20 Chess Club Seeking Secretary; Regular Meeting Change

The Route 20 Chess Club's September 2011 regular meeting will be held the second Tuesday of the month, Sept. 13, rather than the usual first Tuesday. Also, with Keith Ammann's departure, the position of secretary is open. A vote will be held at the September meeting; nominations will be accepted from the floor before the vote.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Route 20 RBO/Open Swiss

One year ago, the Route 20 Chess Club ran its first rated event: a combination rated beginners' open and open Swiss tournament. Our first-anniversary edition of this recurring tournament format shows how we've grown in the past year: from 16 local players at our first (unrated) open tournament to 19 players at last year's RBO/open to 27 participants from Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa at this year's, a new high-water mark for rated tournament participation. Our third partially-rated PWNED! youth tournament on Memorial Day weekend set an even higher bar, with 42 players participating. Clearly, there's been pent-up demand for introductory-level chess in northwest Illinois and neighboring areas of other states, and we're happy to be meeting it.

At the same time, we're still reaching out to advanced players in the hope of providing satisfactory competition at the higher end. This weekend, we changed the format of the Route 20 Open Swiss from 4/SS, G/45 to 3/SS, G/65 after players at our Pecatonic Octads indicated that they preferred the longer time control. It was a modest field, but one that allowed a couple of young Class B players from our backyard, Caleb Larsen and Ben Spinello, to shine. Caleb won all three of his games; Ben won two before losing to Caleb and shared second place with Dane Bell and our own Will Engel.

In the RBO, the Pretzel Kings' Zach Kauffman -- free, as of July 1, of the low rating that kept attracting the blessings of the Bye Fairy -- finally had the opportunity to rise to the top of his section without being penalized on tiebreaks. He won the first-place trophy with four wins and a draw; past trophy winner Leo Ma of Madison placed second with the same score. Route 20 member Ken Conter came in third.

Complete results may be found on our tournament results page; click here for official crosstables and post-event ratings.

On to the highlight reel:

Ben Spinello and Caleb Larson

Route 20 Open Swiss (3)
Freeport, Ill., July 9, 2011

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.b6 Qxb6 6.Nc3 d6 7.e4 g6 8.Nf3 Nbd7 9.Be2 Bg7 10.0-0 0-0

11.Kh1 a5 12.Nd2 Ba6 13.a4 Bxe2 14.Qxe2 Ne8 15.Nb5 Nc7 16.Nc4
The knight sets off on a long walk.

16...Qb7 17.Nca3
Ben may be slightly better off initiating the trade on c7.

Meanwhile, Caleb's other knight looks strong on b6.

18.Bd2 is another possibility that looks good for Ben.

18...Nxb5 19.Nxb5 f5 20.Bd2 fxe4
Now is not the right time for 20...Bxb2?, which leads to a strong position for Ben: 21.Rab1 Bg7 22.Nxd6 Qxb1 23.Rxb1 exd6 24.Qa6.

21.Qxe4 Nb6 22.Bxa5 Qxd5
Not 22...Nxd5 23.Rad1 Ra8 24.Bc3, which strongly favors Ben. The alternative 24.Rxd5?! Rxa5 25.b3 Kh8 is slightly better for Caleb.

With the queen trade, things begin to go awry for Ben. Better is 23.Qe1 Qc6 24.Bxb6 Qxb6 25.Qe6+ Kh8 26.Rab1, which maintains an equal position.

23...Nxd5 24.Bd2?
Another stumble, as Caleb no longer has any reason not to pick off the weak b-pawn. 24.Bc3, challenging Caleb's fianchettoed bishop, is better. From here, it's all uphill for Ben.

24...Bxb2 25.Ra2 Bg7 26.g3 Ra8 27.a5
There's hope of rescue on the horizon after 27.Kg2 Rfb8 28.Rb1 Nb4 29.Bxb4. If black plays the dubious reply 29...cxb4?!, white can obtain an equal position with 30.Rxb4 e5 31.Rd2. But after 29...Rxb5 30.axb5 Rxa2+ 31.Kf3, black must play 31...cxb4; if he blunders with 31...Rxh2??, white will push his b-pawn in.

27...Rfb8 28.Rb1 Nc7
28...Nb4 29.Nc7 Nxa2 30.Rxb8+ Rxb8 clinches the victory.

29.Nc3 Rxb1+ 30.Nxb1 Na6 31.Na3 Nb4 32.bxb4 cxb4 33.Nb1 b3 34.Ra4 b2 35.a6 Kf7 36.Kg2 Ke8 37.Kf3 Kd7 38.Ke4

38...Kc6 is just as effective at keeping Ben's king from running the barricade and brings Caleb's king farther forward as well.

A blunder that permits 39...Rc8 40.Rb4 d5+! 41.Kd3 Rc3+ 42.Kd2 Rxa3.

39...Kc6 40.Kd3 d5 41.Kc2 Kb6 42.Rb4+ Kxa6 43.Nb5 Rc8+ 0-1

RBO winners (l-r): Leo Ma (2nd), Zach Kauffman (1st), Ken Conter (3rd)

In the RBO, after a slight stumble in the opening, Zach plays a safe and solid game to secure a draw against the higher-rated Leo:

Route 20 Rated Beginners' Open (2)
Freeport, Ill., July 9, 2011

1.d4 d5 2.e3? Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bd3 Be6 6.Bd2 Bd6 7.Nc3 Nbd7 8.Nge2 c5 9.Nb5 Be7 10.dxc5 Nxc5 11.Bc3 Nxd3+ 12.Qxd3 0-0 13.Nf4 a6

Zach should take a look at 14.Nd4!? Ne4 15.Ndxe6 fxe6 16.Nxe6 Nxf2 17.Qc2. Leo doesn't have time to take the rook in the corner with his own queen under attack, and Zach gets his draw after 17...Qb6 18.Nxf8 Qxe3+ 19.Qe2 Nd3+ 20.Kd1 Nf2+ 21.Ke1 Nd3+ 22.Kd1. (After anything else -- say, 17...Qd7 -- it's much worse for Leo: 18.Nxf8 Rxf8 19.0-0 Ne4 20.Rxf8+ Bxf8 21.Bd4, and Zach's material advantage is locked in.)

14...fxe6 15.Nd4 Qd7 16.0-0 Ne4 17.Rac1 Nxc3 18.Rxc3 Bf6 19.f4 g6 20.h3 Bg7 21.Rcc1 Rac8 22.g4 Bxd4
22...Rxc1!? is Leo's last chance to hold on to the slight advantage he's got: 23.Rxc1 e5 24.fxe5 Qe7.

23.Qxd4 Rxc1 24.Rxc1

A mistake that allows Zach to gain the upper hand with 25.Qb6 Qf6 26.Qxb7.

Zach opts for an equal endgame instead.

25...Kxg7 26.Rc7+ Rf7 27.Rxf7+ Kxf7 28.Kf2 Kf6 29.Ke2 e5 30.Kd3 b5 31.b4 h6 32.a3 Ke6 33.Kc3 h5 34.Kd3 Kf6
After some dancing back and forth, with time running out on both clocks, Zach and Leo shake on it.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Games of the Week

I've been slacking off on my reportage lately, so to make up for it, here are two games, in which Zach Kauffman and I have a rematch and a tenacious Steve McWhirter puts up a stiff fight against Will Engel.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., June 28, 2011

1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5
That accursed Dutch Defense again. Well, it worked for him before, so I shouldn't be surprised, should I?

3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 b6 6.Bd3 Ne4 7.Bxe7 Qxe7 8.Nbd2
Develops an inactive piece -- but since my deployment is aiming toward the queenside, it might have been better to play 8.Nfd2 Nxd2 9.Nxd2.

8...Bb7 9.Qc2 Nxd2 10.Qxd2 Bxf3 11.gxf3 0-0

I need to quit doing things like this. It never works. 12.Rg1!?, which I consider later but not here, is better.

12...c5 13.Qxc3
I should consider 13.dxc5!? bxc5 14.f4.

13...cxd4 14.Qxd4 Nc6 15.Qc3 Qb4
15...f4, threatening gruesome damage to my pawn structure, is advantageous to Zach.

16.Qxb4 Nxb4 17.Rhd1 Rac8 18.a3 Nxd3 19.Rxd3 Rxc4 20.Rxd7 Rc2+ 21.Rd2 Rxd2+ 22.Kxd2 Rc8

This time it's I who should be looking at f4. The rook trade is good for Zach, my pawns being backward relative to his.

23...Rxc1 24.Kxc1 g5 25.Kc2 b5??
The pawns on b6 and e6 work together to keep my king from penetrating black's territory; advancing to b5 dismantles the barrier. Besides, Zach needs to begin centralizing his king.

26.Kc3!? is better, as it threatens the bold b-pawn and forces the queenside into stasis: after 26...a5 27.b4 a4, the black pawns are sitting ducks.

26...e5 27.Kc3 a5 28.a4
An inaccuracy on my part. 28.b4!? a4 locks up the pawn structure as before; my king is shut out again, but 29.f4 breaks the door down.

28...bxa4 29.Kc4 Kf7
Finally, Zach begins to centralize.

Risky. 30.Kb5 is a sure thing. I'm not sure why I don't consider it. Probably because I'm thinking that the queenside is an even fight, and I want to try to tip the scales on the kingside.

30...Kf6 31.Kd6
31.Kc6 is more flexible.

Allows me to lock up the pawn structure in a formation unfavorable to Zach. Leading with the e-pawn, 31...e4, keeps things more fair.

32.e4 h5 33.Kd7 g4 34.fxg4 hxg4 35.Kd6 f3 36.Kd5 a3 37.bxa3
I'm running Zach out of options. He has to abandon the e-pawn.

37...Kg5 38.Kxe5 Kh4 39.Kf4 Kh3 40.e5
Run, Forrest, run!

40...Kg2 41.Ke3 Kxh2 42.e6 Kg2 43.e7

A straight-up won endgame for white. Or is it?

The smart thing to do is to promote, right? In fact, mate is practically assured -- for example, 44.e8Q Kg1 (44...gxf2 45.Qg6+ Kh3 46.Kxf2 Kh4 47.Kxf3 a4 48.Qg4#) 45.Kxf3 Kh2 46.Qh5+ Kg1 47.Kxg3 a4 48.Qd1#.

Alas, I allow myself to be momentarily distracted, and my winning advantage melts away.

44.fxg3 f2 45.e8Q f1Q 46.Qe4+ Kxg3 47.Qe5+ Kg4 48.Qd4+ Kf5
Draw city. My only hope for a win is to trade queens, kill Zach's a-pawn and run mine in.

49.Qd3+ Qxd3+ 50.Kd3 Ke5 51.Kc4 Kd6 52.Kb5 Kc7 53.Kxa5 Kb7 54.Kb5 Ka7 55.Ka5 Kb7
Arrgh . . . it's no good. My pawn is on the a-file, and too far back. I wriggle around a bit more, but it's drawn.

56.a4 Ka7 57.Kb5 Kb7 ½-½

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., June 28, 2011

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 c5
An unusual reply to an unusual opening, the Danish Gambit. 3...d5 or 3...dxc3 is book. We're in weird territory from the get-go.

4.cxd4 cxd4 5.Qxd4?!
5.Bc4 or 5.Nf3 seems better. That d-pawn's not going anywhere.

5...Nc6 6.Qa4 Nf6 7.Bg5 Bb4+ 8.Nd2
Really? Inviting the piece trade where either the bishop recaptures and unpins black's king's knight, or the king recaptures on a half-open file? Is that better than having isolated pawns after 8.Nc3 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 ?

Black has the opportunity to make some mischief with 8...Qe7!?, pretty much forcing 9.f3.

9.Bxd2 0-0 10.Bd3
The pawn is not in urgent need of overprotection, at least not as badly as the white king is in need of cover; white might consider seizing the opportunity to castle queenside.

10...Re8 11.Ne2 a6
11...d5!? 12.Be3 dxe4 will put uncomfortable pressure on white.

12.Bg5 b5 13.Bxb5!

Tricky, but it fails to 14.Qxe4! (threatening 15.Bxf6 gxf6 16.Bd3) Qa5+ 15.Bd2 Qxb5 16.Qf4, where white is up the exchange. Better is 13...Bb7, allowing Will's bishop to retreat with 14.Bd3. After 14...d5, it's looking pretty even.

Will unfortunately passes up the chance to win material.

Steve should prefer to avoid trading queens; 14...Qe8 prevents Will from winning material as described above.

15.Bxd8 axb5 16.Nc3 Rg4
A sound material decision, but positionally detrimental. Steve looks great after 16...Nxd8! 17.Nxa4 Rxa4 -- he may be down a rook for two minors, but Will's position looks downright catatonic, and his king has no protection whatsoever.

17.Bc7 Rxg2 18.Bg3 Nd4 19.0-0-0 Nf5 20.Rhe1

Will's pieces have snapped awake and launched a counterattack. Meanwhile, Steve's poor rook is trapped on g2.

20...Ba6 21.Rxd7 h6 22.Nd5 Rc8+ 23.Kd2
23.Kd1 is better, since after 24...Rxf2 isn't a check after 23...Nxg3 24.hxg3.

23...Nxg3 24.hxg3 Rxf2+ 25.Ke3 Rcc2 26.Nb4
26.Ra7 dares black to take a pawn and lose his bishop.

26...Rxb2 27.Nxa6 Rxa2??
The pawn is poisoned, as becomes apparent immediately.

28.Nb4 Rab2 29.Nd3 Rbd2!
A shrewd pin gives a reprieve: 30.Nxf2?! Rxd7 31.Rb1 Rd5.

30.Rb7 Rg2 31.Rxb5 Ra2 32.Kf3 Rgd2 33.Nf4 Ra3+ 34.Kg4
Will should welcome the rook trade: 34.Re3 Rxe3+ Kxe3, and Steve's rook looks sad and lonely.

Steve's king really needs more air. 34...g6 gives it to him.

35.Re8+ Kh7 36.Rbb8 g6 37.Rh8+ Kg7 38.Rbg8+ Kf6 39.Rxh6 Ke5 40.Re8+ Kd6

The demolition job isn't yet complete. 41.Rh7 f5+ 42.Kh4 g5+ 43.Kxg5 Rxg3+ 44.Kxf5 Rf3 finishes the job (right). Will can handle the threat to his knight with 45.Re6+, 45.Rd8+ or 45.Rh4.

41...Ke5 42.Rxd4
The rook trade takes much of the oomph out of Will's attack.

42...Kxd4 43.Rh7??
Without its partner, Will's remaining rook needs to be reassigned to pawn protection duty, because in a moment, his king won't be available to handle it.

43...f5+! 44.Kh4 g5+ 45.Kxg5 Rxg3+ 46.Kxf5+ Rf3

The same pattern as in the move 41 variation, with one big difference: each player is missing a rook. It's the difference between a white win and a draw.

47.Rd7+ Ke3 48.Rd3+ Kf2 49.Rd2+ Ke3 50.Re2+ Kd4 51.Kg4 Re3 52.Ne6+ Kd3 53.Nf4+ Ke4 54.Rd2 Ra3 ½-½
Will retains an infinitesimal edge, but it's worth nothing as long as Steve continues to play accurately. He concedes the draw.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Game of the Week

It's always a joy -- no, really -- when the student begins to outpace what the master can teach him. (Or, in this case, what the Class E coach can teach him.) Zach Kauffman, a rising star on the Freeport Pretzel Kings, came to this week's meeting and busted out a Dutch Defense on me. Dutch Defense?! I know I didn't teach him that.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., June 14, 2011

1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.c4 d5 7.cxd5 Qxd5
Zach is a very strong beginner, but a beginner nonetheless. A more experienced player would automatically choose 7...exd5, holding white to a slim advantage.

8.Nc3 Bb4 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.0-0 Bxc3 11.bxc3 Qd6 12.Qd2

12...Bd7 13.Qh6 Qf8 14.Qxf8+ Rxf8+ 15.Rfe1 0-0-0 16.Rad1 e5 17.e4
Well, I never claimed I was infallible. With 17.e3!?, I hold my edge. Now the game is equal.

17...fxe4 18.Rxe4 exd4 19.cxd4
Alternatively, I can recapture with the knight: 19.Nxd4 Bf5 20.Rf4 Nxd4 21.Rdxd4 Rxd4 22.Rxd4 Re8.

Zach can play 19...Bf5 to move his bishop to a better location with tempo.

Or I can play 20.Rf4!? and take aim at the newly unprotected pawn.

Recapturing with the bishop is much nicer for Zach: 20...Bxe8 21.Bh3+ Kb8 22.Bf5 is mostly bark.

Thinking to keep Zach's rook from entering on e2. But 21.a3 accomplishes the same goal of pawn safety and keeps his knight off b4 as well.

21...Bg4 22.h3 Bxf3
Zach does not benefit from this trade. The pin can be held momentarily with 22...Bh5!?, after which I'm obviously going to play 23.g4, but the bishop is perfectly content to relocate to f7.

23.Bxf3 Kd7 24.d5 Ne5 25.Be2
Erp, not so good. If I want to keep my newly regained advantage, 25.Be4 is the correct move, forcing 25...h6.

25...Kd6 26.f4
26.Rd4 is called for.

26...Nd7 27.Kf2 Nc5 28.Kf3 f5
28...Re4 is aggressive. White has to reply 29.Rd2 in anticipation of 29...Ra4.

A nothingburger. I should play 29.g4 immediately.

29...a6 30.g4 b5
How about some forcing moves: 30...Re4 31.Bd3 Ra4 32.Bxf5 Ra3+ 33.Ke2 Rxa2+ 34.Kf3 Ra3+ 35.Kg2.

The counterintuitive 31.Bd3! is better, because it forces a favorable trade (31...Nxd3 32.Rxd3). Black can't take the hanging pawn because of a discovered check: 31...Kxd5?? 32.Bxb5+! Ke6 33.Bxe8.

This move doesn't make much sense, and Zach seems to realize it right away. What else can he do? 31...Ne4 is strong, because 32.gxf5? doesn't work: 32...Nc3 33.f6 Nxd1 (not the much weaker 33...Nxe2?! 34.f7 Rf8 35.Kxe2) 34.Bxd1 Kxd5 is superb for black. White must therefore reply 32.Bd3 Nc3 33.Rd2 fxg4+ 34.hxg4, with a slight advantage for black.

Too soon.

32...Ne4 33.Rd3 Re8 34.Ra3
Not as clever as it looks. 34.Bd1!? is worth looking at.

34...Kxd5 35.Rxa6 Nd6
35...Nd2!? 36.Kf2 b4 37.Bf3+ Kd4 is a little better.

36.Ra5 Kc6 37.h4 Kb6 38.Ra3 c5 39.h5
39.Re3!? bears a closer look. Zach can't afford to accept the trade, thus 39...Ra8 40.Re6 Ra3+ 41.Kf2, with a slight advantage for white.

Zach seizes the moment.

40.Re3 Ne4 41.Kg2?
Wrong answer. 41.Bd1 Kc5 42.Ra3 Re7 is necessary.

Hold up on that moment, Zach. 41...Ra8 42.a3 Kc5 makes things way easier for you.

42.Bd3 b4 43.Kf1
I'm making a hash of this endgame. Better is 43.Kf3!? Kc5 44.g6 hxg6 45.hxg6.

43...Kc5 44.Bc2 Kc4
44...Rd8 45.g6 hxg6 46.hxg6 is big for black.

No. 45.Ke1.

Or 45...Ra8 46.Bb1.

No. I have to play 46.Kf3 if I want to live.

46...hxg6 47.hxg6 Re6??
47...Rg7 48.Rxe4+ fxe4 49.Bxe4 Re7 does a number on me. In contrast, 47...Re6 allows the exchange sacrifice 48.Rxe4+!! fxe4 49.f5. Which is a necessary precursor for . . .


See, if there's a pawn on f5, this move doesn't merit the double what. Since there isn't, it does, and Zach now has the opportunity to take me apart. Which he proceeds to do. I'm so proud of him.

48...Rg6 49.Kf3?! Rxg7 50.Bxe4 fxe4+ 51.Rxe4+ Kd3 52.Re3+ Kc2 53.Ke2 Rg2+ 54.Ke1 (54.Kf3 Kd2 55.Re4 offers some faint hope) 54...Kb2 55.f5 c2 0-1
It's over. Good job, Zach.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

PWNED! III Youth Chess Tournament

We had a hunch that turnout was going to be robust when we received 17 advance registrations (our first PWNED! tournament, in contrast, had only 15 participants). But there was still something incredible about the crush of signups this morning, toward the end of which it was beginning to look as if we were going to pack the house. In the end, we'd drawn 42 players -- a huge increase over our previous high of 27 -- with all three age groups well represented.

The Freeport/Carl Sandburg Middle School Pretzel Kings were there, of course, dominating the grade 4–6 section (Milo Collier, Austin Rucker, Noah Watson and Garrett McDonald grabbed first through fourth place, while Marius Dornhagen-Schradermeier finished eighth), but there were also large first-time contingents from Empire Elementary School in Freeport and North Boone and Dakota high schools, as well as two competitors from Freeport High School, also represented for the first time.

Even more amazing, three players came all the way from Naperville to participate! One of them, Nicholas Schwebe, won the grade K–3 section; Farah Tolu-Honary (Empire) placed second, while Jaxon Shuey (Forreston Elementary -- another first!) took third. Nadine Didier and Zach Kauffman (Freeport MS) reprised their recent Rockford Chess Challenge triumphs with perfect 4.0 scores in the grade 7–12 section; John Werkheiser of Pearl City, our most frequent flier (he's participated in every Route 20 Chess Club event since National Chess Day last October -- 10 in a row!), finished third. (Complete results may be found on our tournament results page.)

We're now faced with an awkward question: Are we about to outgrow our space? One Freeport Public Library meeting room (we need the other for skittles space) can accommodate 48 players. Will we need to change format, or registration procedures, or something else, to ensure that nobody is turned away at PWNED! IV? Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Game of the Week

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., May 27, 2011

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5!?
A Modern Benoni. Reminding me that sooner or later I need to get around to reading about Benonis.

4.d5 d6 5.e4

5...Be7 6.Qa4+ Bd7 7.Qb3 b6 8.f4 0-0 9.Nf3
I'm feeling pretty good about my development, even though both my bishops are still sitting on their starting squares. Gary's are both more or less incapacitated at the moment, so I figure my knights are stronger. Of course, he's not going to let them stay incapacitated.

Gary might also free his better bishop by opening the center up a bit with 9...exd5 10.cxd5 Re8.

Not wanting to allow a sacrifice invasion on f2 to dislodge my king. Is this something I should be worried about? Probably not.

10...Bh4+ 11.g3 Bf6

Not bad for me.

12.e5 is a little better. Still, it's nice to be sending Gary's active knight into exile on the rim.

12...Nh6 13.Be3 e5?
Allows me to blow up half the kingside with 14.fxe5 Bxe5 15.Nxe5 dxe5 16.Bxh6 gxh6 before castling queenside. If, you know, I should happen to think of it.

14.0-0-0 exf4 15.Bxf4 g5
Apparently missing the threat against his rook after 16.Bxd6. 15...Re8 makes the invasion less desirable, as white has to be content with positional compensation after 16.Bxd6?! Bxc3 17.Qxc3 Ba4 18.Bxb8 Bxd1.

16.Bxd6 g4??
16...Ba4 17.Qxa4 Qxd6 removes the invader with the least collateral damage.

17.Bxd8 Kxf8

It's not horrible, but I'm going to regret putting this knight here.

18...Bg5 19.Be2
Wanting to develop my last undeveloped piece and connect my rooks. But 19.e5 is very big here.

19...gxh3 20.Nb5
20.Rdf1 is pretty sweet here, as is breaking the pin with 20.Kb1. Really, I have no excuse for putting off the king move as long as I do.

20...Bg4 21.Bxg4 Nxg4 22.Rxh3 h6 23.Qc3
I already see that the knight is going to be a threat, and I'm trying to maneuver into position to stop it, but my pieces are tripping over each other. Stupid pinned knight.

23...f6 24.Kb1
I have waited to make this king move until the moment is . . . totally wrong.

Dagnabbit! I saw this coming, and I flaked on it. (24.Rf1!? would have immunized me.)

It's like I'm just not paying attention now. The rook I should be trying to save is the one on h3. Of course, I clearly can't let Gary play ...Nxd1, because then he gains a tempo off my queen. The conclusion I should come to is 25.Rdh1 Nxh3 26.Rxh3.


I'm thinking I'm being clever here: distract the queen away from d8 with a threat against the rook, then sacrifice my rook for a breakthrough on f6: 26...Qxc7 27.Rxf6+ Bxf6 28.Qxf6+. But there's no follow-through, so eventually the attack is going to fizzle, and I'll be down a rook for a pawn (I can even up the minor-piece score by choosing the continuation 28...Kg8 29.Qe6+ Kg7 Qxh3). Luckily for me, Gary tries to get clever too.

It so happens that I now have a forced mate in 11: 27.Rxf6+ Ke7 28.Qe5+ Kd7 29.Rf7+ Kc8 30.Ne6 Bf4 31.gxf4 Nd7 32.Qd6 h5 33.Nxd8 Nxf4 34.Qxd7+ Kb8 35.Nc6#. Yeah, like I'm going to notice mate in 11.

27.Qxd2 Ng5 28.Nxa8 Nd7 29.Nxb6?! axb6 30.a4
30.Qh2 Kg7 31.Rh1 is a line I should be investigating. Instead, I'm marching steadfastly toward a likely draw.

30...Kg7 31.Qf4 Qe7

The pawn on e4 is getting a lot of attention. I hope it's not shy.

I'm thinking that if we end up trading queens, a rook and a passed pawn against two knights may be salvageable, but what I don't want is the exchange on e4 to be initiated by the knight and end with a queen check against me. So I decide to pin the knight. And what's my plan in case of 32...h5 ? Ermmm . . .

32...Ne5 33.Qe2 Qa7
32...Qd7!?, threatening 33...Qh3, is quite good for Gary.

34.b3 Qa5 35.Kc2 Qb4
It's better to break up my pawn chain first with 35...b5 36.cxb5.

When Fritz told me this was a blunder, I was surprised. The problem with it is that it allows 36...Ne6!!, threatening a royal fork on d4. I have to blow two moves, one to save the queen, the other to get out of check, thereby allowing Gary to terminate my backward b-pawn (one potential line: 37.Qd1 Nd4+ 38.Kb1 Nxb3). After that, all I can do is desperately push my d-pawn, in which case Gary cuts off its protection with discovered check (39.d7 Nd4+), then snuffs it out (40.Kb1 Nxd7). Damn.

So what's the alternative? 36.Kb2 keeps the white king and queen out of forkable position, while also ensuring that the black queen has no way into white's territory, and maintains winning chances for white. Anything else favors black.

36...Nef3 37.Rxf3! 1-0
If the knight retakes, it's curtains for black (38.Qxf3 Qa3 39.Kb1 Qb4 40.Qd1 b5 41.d7 bxa4 42.d8Q Qxb3+ 43.Qxb3). If black attempts the ...Ne6 trick now, the sixth-rank passed pawn takes all the joy out of it (38.d7 Nd4+ 39.Kb2 Nxf3/Nxe2 40.d8Q). If black tries to slip his queen into white's territory with 38...Qa3, 39.Kb1 puts the kibosh on that plan (the f3-rook prevents ...Qxb3). White can effectively ignore black's best reply, 37...b5, by shifting his rook over to the d-file, opening up a diagonal through which his queen can fork king and knight (39.Rd3 bxc4 40.Qg4+ Kh7 41.Qxe6). Go ahead -- try and stop that pawn from promoting now.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pecatonic Octads

Perhaps it should have been called "Pecatonic Octad," since we fell just one player short of creating a second group of eight. Still, this experimental format proved a success in other ways: the longer time control drew our strongest field of players to date, including Expert Glen Gratz (who won the octad), and the event was our first truly tri-state tournament, with representation from both Iowa and Wisconsin.

The octad pitted eight players ranging from Class C to Expert against one another in a three-round, G/65 Swiss. Glen fought off Joe Willett from the Quad Cities' Illowa Chess Club, Phil Jarrette of Elgin and a player from our own backyard, Ben Spinello, who was around for the first few meetings of the Route 20 Chess Club, then disappeared on us, only to reappear Saturday having become scary strong. (McHenry Area Chess Club members will have been aware of his ascent over the past two years; we were caught by surprise.)

Thirteen other players faced off in a four-round, G/45 Swiss, in which Cliff Adams and Gary Sargent, who complain that they always end up paired against each other, forced it to happen yet again by both winning their first three games. Bill Feldman of the DeKalb Chess Club, a frequent backdrop against which this drama plays out, suggests that there should be a traveling trophy for the two to pass back and forth. On Saturday, it was Cliff who won the as-yet-notional Adams-Sargent Cup, along with the reserve section's $20 first prize.

Complete results may be found on our tournament results page; click here for official crosstables and post-event ratings.

Pecatonic Octads (2)
Freeport, Ill., May 21, 2011

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 c5 3.g3 Nc6 4.Bg2 d6 5.Nf3 Be7 6.0-0 Bg4 7.d3 Qd7 8.Nd5 h5 9.h3 Bxh3

Premature, and much more risky than the riskier-looking bishop trade 10.Bxh3 Qxh3 11.Nc7+ Kd8 12.Nxa8. If black immediately takes the forward knight, he can crack open the cover around white's king like an oyster: 10...Qxc7 11.Bxh3 h4.

Glen lets Phil have his way, putting himself at a disadvantage.

11.Nxa8 h4 12.Bg5
Significantly better is 12.b4!? Nxb4 13.Bd2, threatening to take the black knight out of the picture. White needs to let the h-pawn be for now: 13.Nxh4 Rxh4 14.Bh1 (14.gxh4?? Qg4, mate follows on g2) 14...Rh8 is quite satisfactory for black, while 13.gxh4?? is simply careless; after 13...Bxg2 14.Ng5 Bxg5 15.Bxg5+ f6, white is doomed to lose another piece.

12...f6 13.Be3 hxg3 14.fxg3 Nh6?
Glen shouldn't be giving Phil opportunities to trade. 14...Kc8 is something to consider.

15.Bxh6 Rxh6 16.Kf2 Bxg2 17.Kxg2 Qh3+ 18.Kf2 Rg6 19.Rg1 f5 20.Qf1 Qg4 21.Ke1 e4

22.dxe4!? fxe4 23.Nh2 holds on to the edge that Phil has enjoyed. The passive 22.Nd2 gives Glen the chance to even things up again.

22...Nd4 23.e3??
Another flub! Perhaps Phil was feeling time pressure -- for much of the latter part of the game, Glen had roughly twice as much time left on his clock as Phil had on his. Here, Phil's best chance is 23.Nb3 exd3 24.Nxd4 Qxd4 25.Rh1 Qxb2 26.Kf2.

Glen is in command now.

24.Kf2 Nxa1 25.Qxa1? (25.dxe4 fxe4 26.Qb1) 25...exd3
Yet, just two moves later, his command wavers. 25...Bh4 26.Nf1 Qf3+ 27.Ke1 f4 keeps the pressure on.

26.Qf1 f4
26...Bh4 no longer heralds the arrival of a demolition crew, but rather a request for a repetition draw: 27.gxh4 Qxh4+ 28.Kf3 Qh5+ 29.Kf2 Qh4+ 30.Kf3 Qh5+ 31.Kf2 Qh4+ ½-½. But 26...f4 is reckless, giving Phil a chance to seize back the advantage.

27.exf4 (not 27.Qxd3 fxe3+ 28.Qxe3 Bg5) 27...Bf6 28.Nf3 Qf5 29.Qd1
29.Qe1!? Kc8 30.Rh1, dominating the open files, is much better.


Glen is about to come roaring back.

30.Re1?? Bd4+ 31.Nxd4 Qxd4+ 32.Kf3??
32.Kg2 Qxb2+ 33.Kh3 is the only escape.

Something of a thank-you move for white. In contrast, 32...d2! 33.Rg1 Re6 (or 33...Qd3+ followed by 34...Re6) is devastating.

33.Re3 Qd5+ 34.Kf2 d2 35.Re8+
Trying to set a trap -- a little transparently. 35.Ke2 is safer, despite 35...Qg2+ 36.Kd3 Rxg3, since 37.Rxg3 Qxg3+ 38.Kc2 Qe1 39.Qxd2 Qxd2+ 40.Kxd2 defuses a lot of the tension in the neighborhood. Even so, black holds a decisive advantage.

35...Kd7 36.Qa4+ Qc6 37.Qc2

Rescues the g6-rook by distracting white's queen. (37...d1Q! works also.) In contrast, 37...Kxe8 38.Qxg6+ Kf8 39.Ke2 concedes a draw.

38.Qxd1 Kxe8 39.Qh5 Qe4 40.f5 Qc2+ 41.Kg1 Qc1+ 42.Kh2 Qh6 43.Nc7+ Kd7 0-1
There's nothing left for white.

Thanks again to all who attended. Our next rated event will be at Highland Community College on Saturday, July 9, format to be determined; if you have a request or a suggestion, please leave a comment or e-mail us at (And yes, we know that air conditioning is at the top of everyone's list!)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Positions of the Week

Usually I like to present a reasonably close game, but this was a week of drubbings. Therefore, rather than an entire game transcript, here are some interesting positions (anonymized to protect my sources):

Game No. 1
Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., May 17, 2011

White to move. White has just played 1.Bb5+, which black has answered with 1...c6. Has white played a clumsy, thoughtless check that dooms him to lose a tempo -- and his d-pawn, and another tempo after that -- or does he have an ace up his sleeve? (Highlight to reveal answer.)

Black's queen is a goner after 2.Nd5!! White already has an almost insurmountable winning advantage, but black can salvage some dignity with 2...Qxb5 3.Nc7+ Kd7 4.Nxb5 cxb5, taking two white pieces for the doomed queen.

Black, hopelessly outgunned, is after a stalemate. Can he get one? (Highlight to reveal answer.)

Sadly, no: 1.Qf4! (1.Qf6+ g5 2.Qc3 g3+ 3.Qxg3#) 1...g5 46.Qg3#. The actual game went 1.h3!? gxh3? (1...Kg5 2.h4+ Kxh4 3.Qd8+ g5 4.Qd6 g3+ 5.Qxg3#) 2.gxh3?! (2.Qf4#) 2...Kxh3 (2...Kg5 3.h4! Kxh4 4.Qf4+ Kh3 5.Qg3#) 3.Qf3+ Kh4 4.Qg3#.

Game No. 2
Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., May 17, 2011

This time it's black's turn to be tricky. In this otherwise equal-looking position, what can black do to give white a real headache? (Highlight to reveal answer.)

1...Nd2! threatens a royal fork on f3. 2.Nd4 stops the threat; 2...Nxb3 3.Nxe6, and black has the advantage.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Game of the Week

Wow! Major churn this week in our usually placid ladder. Eighth-grade up-and-comer John Werkheiser scored a point against the encyclopedic Gary Sargent, then got his own bell rung by our resident park hustler, Steve Black, who in turn let one go to Monica Kearney; while Ken Conter caught me zoning out in an endgame and beat me with a king-rook fork. At least one thing remains constant: It's very, very difficult to beat Will Engel.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., May 10, 2011

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3
I know this is a perfectly legit book move and all, but I always mean to play 4.Bg5, and I always forget. Grrr.

An odd moment, and an odd way, to go out of book. And kind of an odd choice in general -- I know so little book, there's no real advantage in going out of it against me.

5.Bg5 c5 6.e3 Bb7?
The fianchetto seems natural, but if I were playing more aggressively, 7.cxd5 Be7 (≤7...exd5 8.Bb5+ Bc6 9.Qa4 Bxb5 10.Nxb5+−) 8.Bb5+ Kf8 9.dxe6 would set me up pretty nicely.

7.Bd3 Be7 8.0-0 0-0

I'd call this my first real miscue of the game. It's not even that serious an error, more like a missed opportunity to do the most right thing: 9.cxd5 Nxd5 10.Bxe7 Qxe7 11.Nxd5 Bxd5 12.dxc5 Nd7. I guess I just don't feel ready to set off the fireworks yet.

Incidentally, by not setting off the fireworks, I leave Will a chance to grab a slight advantage with 9...dxc4!? 10.Bxc4 Bxf3 11.gxf3 cxd4.

10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.cxd5 exd5 12.e4 cxd4 13.Nxd5 Nc6 14.Rac1 Rc8 15.Qa4 Ne5 16.Nxe5 Bxe5
Will should preempt 17.Rxc8 Bxc8 18.Qxa7 with 16...Rxc1 17.Nxf6+ Qxf6 18.Rxc1 Qxe5 19.Qxa7 Bxe4.

I've been playing a competent game so far. Time to do something about that.

Seeking to trade my bad bishop for Will's sniper. Alas, not only does a rook trade give him the tempo he needs to dodge my attack . . .

17...Rxc1 18.Rxc1 Bxd5
. . . but, in fact, if he calls my bluff with 18...Bxa6!? 19.Qxa6, then 19...Qh4! wins my e-pawn.

19.exd5 Qxd5 20.Bc4
20.Bd3 is slightly better.

I see the battery, and I see the easy way to thwart it (21.g3). But now, reasoning spuriously that I'm unlikely to win against Will anyway and so may as well try something and see what I learn from it, I play my next bonehead move:

21.Qxa7? Bxh2 22.Kh1 Bf4 23.Bxf7?? Rxf7
It's good to remember that kings can in fact defend other pieces.

24.Rc8+ Rf8 25.Rc7
A piece down, but clinging to a bad idea like a terrier.

25...Qf6 26.g3

What's the move that wins the game for Will? (Highlight to reveal answer.)

26...Bxg3! 27.fxg3 (27.Rxg7+ merely postpones the inevitable: 27...Qxg7 28.Qxg7+ Kxg7 29.Kg2 d3 30.f4 Bxf4 31.b4 d2 32.a3 d1Q 33.Kf2 Bd6+ 34.Ke3 Rf3+ 35.Ke4 Qd3#) 27...Qf1+ 28.Kh2 Rf2# 0-1

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Northwest Illinois $5 Open

With 26 entrants in two sections, the Northwest Illinois $5 Open was our most successful rated tournament to date. For the first time, I'm pleased to say, we drew players from Iowa, a milestone we've been hoping to pass for some time. In addition, many of our participants were new to rated chess: 11 out of the 18 players in the U1000 section were unrated, including Juan Meraz of Rockford, who won the section. Congratulations, Juan! (His daughter Yesenia, a veteran of the Rockford Chess Challenge, finished eighth.)

Our eight-player open section was won by Luis Peralta of Moline. Both Luis and Juan finished the day with perfect 4.0 scores. (Complete standings may be found on our tournament results page; click here for official crosstables and post-event ratings.)

Also, there were doughnuts. Lots and lots of doughnuts. And snow. What was up with that?

W.Engel (1684)–L.Peralta (1922)
Northwest Illinois $5 Open (3)
Freeport, Ill., April 16, 2011

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 h6 4.f4 d6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.fxe5 Bxf3 7.Qxf3 dxe5 8.Qg3 Qd6 9.Nc3 Nbd7 10.0-0 0-0-0 11.Be3 a6

12.Bxf7 Qb4 13.Bb3 Kb8 14.Rf3
Will is clearly trying to double his rooks on the f-file, but 14.Rf2 is the better move for this. 14.Rf3 cuts the bishop off from the queen, leaving it defenseless. Even better than 14.Rf2 is 14.a3, chasing away Luis's bold queen before centralizing Will's queen's rook.

Passing up the opportunity to challenge Will's momentarily defenseless dark-square bishop, thereby forcing him to trade that good piece away.

15.Qg6 Nhf6
15...Nf4!? 16.Bxf4 exf4 17.Rxf4 Ne5 blunts Will's advantage by forcing him to trade away some kingside cover, leaving open the diagonal his king is sitting on.

16.Raf1 Nc5 17.Nd5
It's not too late to chase that queen away with 17.a3.

17...Nxd5 18.exd5
Why weaken an active bishop by dropping a pawn in its path? Better to retake with the bishop, even though it means giving up the pawn on b2.

18...Nxb3 19.axb3 Qb5 20.Qe6 Bd6 21.Rf7 g5
21...Rhe8 drives Will's impertinent queen back to the kingside: 22.Qg4 Bc5 23.Bf2 Rxd5 Qxg7.

As an alternative, 22.c4!? gains queenside space while patching the gap in Will's pawn structure.

22...Rde8 23.Qh3 Qxd5 24.c4 Qa5

Not the piece-losing 25.Rxh6?? Rxh6 26.Qxh6 Qe1+ 27.Rf1 Qxe3+ 28.Kh1 Qe2.

25...Bc5 26.Bxc5 Qxc5+ 27.Qe3 Qb4 28.h4?
Will gained a significant advantage early on, but it's been dwindling away. This miscue allows Luis to turn the tables on him. 28.Qe1 Qxb3 29.Qc3 is Will's best chance to keep the game close.

28...Qxb3 29.hxg5 hxg5 30.Qd2 e4 31.dxe4 Qxc4

Oof. Will isn't normally one to miss something like the two attackers trained on his e-pawn. He can defend it directly with 32.Qe3 Qc2+ 33.Qe2, or take a subtler damage-control approach with 32.Qc3 Rxe4 33.Qxc4 Rxc4 34.Kg3.

With Will's queen out of the way, 32...Qxe4! is the superior capture. The continuation 33.Qd2 Qh4+ 34.Kf3 Rhg8 reminds me of Spider-Man whipping around, wrapping up a bad guy in webbing. Ain't no getting out of that.

33.Rf8+ Rxf8 34.Rxf8+ Ka7 35.Qh5
Another dangerous misstep: 35...Qd4+ 36.Kg3 Qd6+ 37.Kh3 Qxf8 wins Will's rook.

35...Qc2+ 36.Kg1 Qxb2 37.Rd8
37.Qc5+ Qb6 38.Qxb6+ Kxb6 39.Rf6+ c6 40.Kf2 is the best of a lot of bad choices.

37...Qc1+ 38.Rd1 Qe3+ 39.Kh1 Re5
The slick 39...Qf2 40.Qg5 Rh4+ 41.Qxh4 Qxh4+ 42.Kg1 wins Will's queen for a rook.

40.Qf7 Qe2 41.Rf1 c5 0-1
There's still some fight left in the position, but none in Will -- he resigns.

K.Conter (589)–J.Meraz (unr.)
Northwest Illinois $5 Open (4)
Freeport, Ill., April 16, 2011

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Bg4 3.h3 Bxf3 4.exf3 a6 5.g4 Nc6 6.c3 e6 7.Bd3 h6 8.Bf4 g5 9.Be3 Bd6

Ken's kingside pawn structure is too badly damaged for castling to seem like a good idea, especially with that bishop on d6 staring right down an open diagonal into the king's corner. Qb3, Nd2 and castling queenside seem like a better plan, perhaps accompanied by a pawn push on the h-file.

10...h5 11.Bd2?
Missing the danger. Ken has the option of gumming up Juan's pawn attack with 11.h4 gxh4 12.g5.

Better to precede this with 11...hxg4 12.hxg4, bringing the king's rook into the attack.

Moving the pawn from relative safety to a thrice-attacked square. Eep.

12...gxf4 13.gxh5 Qg5+

Ken has only three possible replies. The worst is 14.Kh2?? f3+ 15.Kh1 Qg2#. The best is to block with his queen, daring Juan to trade. Juan will take the dare, but not without exacting a price first: 14.Qg4 Qxh5 15.Qxh5 Rxh5 16.Be2.

14.Kh1 (That's the third.) Rxh5 15.Kh2
A bitter error, placing the king directly in the sights of a discovered attack. Better to blockade the f-pawn with 15.Qf3.

15...f3+ 16.Bf4 Bxf4+ 17.Kh1 Qg2# 0-1
...Qg2# is also possible on move 16.

Thanks to all our players and other guests, and special thanks to Carl Woll, who generously agreed to take notation for a player with a motor disability.

See you in May at the Pecatonic Octads!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Game of the Week

In honor of our newly elected president (Will Engel) and treasurer (Steve McWhirter) . . .

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., April 12, 2011

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 e6 4.Bxc4 a6 5.a4
Steve might play ...b5, but that's nothing to worry about; it's easy enough for Will to step away with Bd3. 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Nc3 takes a commanding lead in development.

5...Bb4+ 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.f3
7.e5 deals with the threat of ...Nxe4 just as well, and gives Will a slight advantage.

7...0-0 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 g5
That bishop is not going to get trapped. If Steve picks a fight with 9...c5!? 10.dxc5 Nbd7, then even though he's a pawn down, e5 is no longer a threat, while ...Qa5 is.

10.Bg3 Nc6 11.Nge2 Na5 12.Bd3
Deactivates Will's light-square bishop by tucking it back behind the pawn chain. 12.Ba2 keeps it powered up.

12...c5 now possesses added menace, as after 13.dxc5, Will's light-square bishop is pinned.


Except for that bishop on d3, it's looking good for Will so far. Not so much for Steve: his pawn structure and piece placement are haphazard, and he's behind in development.

13...b5 14.Bb1 Nc4?
It should be a good move, but it treads perilously close to a hidden bomb: 15.e5 Bxc3 16.exf6 Bxd4+ 17.Qxd4 Qxd4 18.Nxd4 Bd7, and Steve's surviving bishop is looking forlorn, consigned to pawn protection duty.

15.b3 Na5??
Tragically missing 15...Ne3, forking rook and queen -- Steve's last chance to keep a lid on Will's game.

Good, but 16.e5 is still better.

16...Nd7 17.e5 (at last!) f5 18.exf6

It's got to be 18...Rxf6, because of what happens next.

19.Qg6+! Kh8 20.Qxh6+ Kg8 21.Qxg5+
21.Qg6+ Kh8 22.Ne4 Ra7 23.Nxf6 Qxf6 24.Be5!! Qxe5 25.dxe5 is even better.

21...Kf7 22.axb5
22.Bg6+ is even more powerful.

22...Rg8, driving back the queen, gives Steve a little more room to breathe.

Even better is 23.Qg6+ Ke7 24.Bh4.

23...Nxe4 24.Qh5+ Ke7 25.Bxe4
25.Bh4+! demolishes what's left of Steve's defenses: 25...Nf6 26.Qh7+ Rf7 27.Bxf6+! Kxf6 28.Qh4+ Kg7 29.Qxd8.

25...Kd7 26.Bh4 Be7 27.Qh7 Bb7 28.b4 Nb3 29.Rxa8 Rxa8 30.Nc3 Nd2 31.Re1 Nc4

A crafty tactic, but in fact, Will has a quiet move that's downright devastating. Can you find it? (Highlight to reveal answer.)

After 32.Ra1!! Bb7 33.Ra7 (threatening 34.Bxe7!) Kc8 34.Qxe7 Qxe7 35.Bxe7 Rf7 36.Bc5 Rg8 37.Bxc6 Rxg2+ 38.Kxg2 Bxc6, white is up a rook and two pawns, and black is bereft of options.

32...cxb5 33.Bxa8 Nd6
If 33...Re8 then 34.Bc6+! Kxc6 35.Rxe6+ Kc7 36.Bg3+ Nd6 37.Bxd6+ Qxd6+ 38.Rxd6 Kxd6 39.Qg6+ Kd7 40.Qf5+ Kd8 41.Qd5+ Kc8 42.Qa8+ Kd7 43.Qb7+ Kd8 44.Qb8+ Kd7 45.Qxb5+. Where did all black's cover go?

Will has one more unpleasant surprise for Steve. Think you know what it is? (Highlight to reveal answer.)

34.Bd5! Rf7 (34...exd5 35.Rxe7+) 35.Bxe6+ 1-0
Checkmate is just over the horizon after 35...Kc6 36.Bd5+ Kxd5 37.Qc2.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Three Spring Events! THREE!

Northwest Illinois $5 Open

Saturday, April 16, Community Services Center (Building R), Highland Community College, 2998 W. Pearl City Road, Freeport, Ill. (park in Lot B -- map). 4/SS, G/45. Entry fee: $5. Prizes: Every entrant will receive a free doughnut. Registration: 9–9:45 AM or online (select "$5 Open" and click "Register" button at right). Rounds: 10 AM, 12:15, 2, 3:45 PM. U.S. Chess Federation membership required; one-day tournament memberships available. In two sections if 24 or more entrants. Nonsmoking, wheelchair-accessible, sets provided, bring clocks.

Whether you’re interested in a low-cost, low-risk introduction to chess or just a wallet-friendly way to get your game on, you won’t find a better bargain in the region than this four-round fracas. Bring a friend!

Pecatonic Octads

Saturday, May 21, Room H201D, Student/Conference Center, Highland Community College, 2998 W. Pearl City Road, Freeport, Ill. (park in Lot A East -- map). 3/SS, G/65 (bottom section 4/SS, G/45). Eight players per section; bottom section may include 6 to 13 players, depending on entries. Entry fee: $10 ($6 for club members). Prizes: $40 first place, $20 second place in each octad; $20 first place in bottom section. Registration: 9–9:45 AM or online (select "Octads (nonmember)" or "Octads (member)" and click "Register" button at right). Rounds: 10 AM, 12:45, 3 PM (bottom section 10 AM, 12:15, 2, 3:45 PM). USCF membership required; one-day tournament memberships available. Nonsmoking, wheelchair-accessible, sets provided, bring clocks.

Octads combine the leisurely time control and close competition of quads with the variety of a Swiss. Come on out and try it!

PWNED! III Youth Chess Tournament

Saturday, May 28, Freeport Public Library, 100 E. Douglas St., Freeport, Ill. (map). 4/SS, G/30, FREE! In three sections: K–3 (USCF-rated), 4–6 (unrated), 7–12 (unrated). Prizes: first-, second- and third-place trophies in each section. Registration: 9–9:45 AM or in advance at library Youth Services desk. Rounds: first round at 10 AM, later rounds ASAP. USCF membership not required in upper sections; one-day tournament memberships are free in K–3 section. Lunch break between rounds 2 and 3. Sets provided, bring clocks.

Our third totally free, all-scholastic tournament, presented in cooperation with the Freeport Public Library. If you're a young player who's been wondering how your skills measure up, this is your chance to find out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Game of the Week

Gary's tenure at the top of the ladder didn't last long -- I knocked him off it at the beginning of last night's meeting. After which I was challenged by Will, and the rightful order of the cosmos was restored.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., March 15, 2011

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.e3 b6?! 7.Bd3?! Bb7 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Bxf6 Bxf6 10.Qc2 h6

11.Nb5 Na6 12.a3 c6 13.Nc3 Nc7 14.b4 Ne6
So far, I've been able to preserve my dignity, but now paranoia gets the better of me. For some reason, I'm apprehensive about castling short, afraid that a kingside attack will come flooding in and I'll end up helpless in the face of it. Castling queenside, of course, makes little sense in this position. So I get creative. Wrongly.

Castling kingside maintains equality, and is in fact the best course of action as far as my dignity is concerned.

In fact, this preparatory move is unnecessary -- Will can, if he chooses, play 15...c5 right away.

16.Rab1 Qc7
16...Qe7 is slightly better: it still adds fuel to the fire on c5, but in addition, it maintains the implied threat of rook against queen down the c-file.

This is the move that I suspected of being my big failure; it's actually not as bad as 15.Kd2. But after 16...Qc7, I have some hope of trimming Will's lead with 17.Ke1!? c5 18.Ne2 Qe7.

Fritz prefers 17...Qe7, and yet I have a hard time finding fault with Will's choice. His bad bishop has suddenly become very, very active, and my threat detection system does not recognize the severity of the danger. Can it really be said that Will is significantly better off continuing to batter his way down the c-file instead?

18.Rhc1 Bc4

Again, Fritz prefers 18...Qe7 19.Ne2 c5 20.dxc5. The only drawback I see to 18...bc4 is that it practically commands me to trade the bishop off. Yet, for some incomprehensible reason, I don't. Instead, I get the idea of bringing my c3-knight to c5 (via Ne2-f4-c3) in order to park it in the hole that will be created after an exchange of pawns. I didn't say it was a good idea.

Instead of 19.Bh7!? Kg8 20.Bd3.

19...c5 20.bxc5
20.dxc5 bxc5 Ke1 is better.

20...bxc5 21.Nf4 Nxf4
I thought Will wouldn't capture, because of 22.Bxc8. But as it turns out, taking out a rook doesn't do much to blunt his attack.

22.Bxc8 Nd3
Will doesn't need to get fancy like this; 22...Rxc8 is plenty solid (23.exf4 Qxf4+ 24.Kd1 Qg4).

Evacuating the bishop with 23.Bf5 Nxc1 24.Kxc1 cxd4 25.exd4 Qf4+ 26.Kd1 lets me maintain material parity, though I'm still coming under heavy fire.

23...Rxc8 24.Ne1 Nxe1 25.Rfxe1 cxd4 26.e4??

26...Bg5+! 0-1
I have nowhere to run from the bishop pair. It's over.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Game of the Week

As protesters for democracy topple dictators across the Arab world, so too do we experience a revolution this week -- one difference being that, in all likelihood, Will Engel will take back the top spot on the club ladder fairly soon. Another being that, to the best of our knowledge, Will does not command a secret police force.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., March 8, 2011

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5!? 4.d5 d6
4...exd5 is the normal move.

5.Bg5 Be7 6.h4 Nh5
A move of uncertain purpose. Why not castle?

7.Bxe7 Qxe7 8.Nf3
8.dxe6 fxe6 9.Ne4 threatens either to dislodge black's king from castling position or to win a pawn. The best reply is 9...Kd7, leaving white with the advantage.

8...0-0 9.e4 e5 10.g3 Bg4 11.Bg2
11.Be2 works as well.

11...Nd7 12.0-0 Nb6 13.b3 f5

Allowing the f-pawn charge cedes too much ground. White is well advised to take the attacking pawn: 14.exf5!? Nf6 15.Qd2.

14...f4 15.Kh2 Nd7 16.Ne2 Rf7 17.Ng5 fxg3+ 18.fxg3 Rxf1 19.Rxf1 Rf8 20.Rxf8+ Nxf8 21.Ng1 Ng6 22.Bh3
Gary's advantage has drained away. The position is roughly equal again.

22...Bxh3 23.N5xh3 Qf6??

A careless move that affords white the chance to trap black's h5-knight for a winning advantage: 24.Qe2 Nxg3 25.Kxg3 Qxh4+ 26.Kg2.

Will misses the opportunity. Now Gary only needs to move his g6-knight, clearing the square for his queen, to prevent the trap.

24...Ne7 25.Qf2
25.Ne2 or 25.Nf2 is better. Will's knights are badly placed and in need of activation.

25...h6 26.Qxf6 gxf6
Recapturing with 26...Nxf6 is significantly better.

Still not activating a knight.

27...f5 28.exf5 Nxf5

That g-pawn is feeling the pressure. The best way to defend it is 29.Ne2.

The move doesn't accomplish anything: 29...Nhxg3!? and what looked like a clever counterattack is revealed to fizzle, since the knights reinforce each other.

29...Nhg7?! 30.Nf2 Nd4 31.Ne4 Ngf5
Precarious. 32.Kh3 threatens to kick the knight off f5 with 33.g4, at which point black's backward d-pawn falls.


An uncharacteristic lapse. Obviously, Gary can't take the e2-knight right away (32...Nxe2? 33.Kxf5 b6 34.Nxd6 Nxg3+ is big for white), but he has an in-between move that drives Will into a losing endgame.

32...Ne3+ 33.Kh5 Nxe2 34.Nxd6 Nxg3+ 35.Kxh6? Ngf5+! 36.Nxf5 Nxf5+ 37.Kg5 e4 38.Kxf5
38.Kf4 is Will's last chance for counterplay.

38...e3 39.Ke4 e2 40.d6 Kf7 41.d7 Ke7 0-1
Both races are lost. Will resigns.