Monday, January 17, 2011

Route 20 RBO/Open

Open winner Will Engel selects his favorite game from this weekend's tournament:

Route 20 Open
Freeport, Ill., Jan. 15, 2011

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.d3 d6 4.f4 exf4 5.Bxf4 Ne5 6.Bb3 Qf6
6...Bg4 does more to keep Will in his place.

7.Ne2 Ne7?
Passive. 7...Bg4 is still strong, and it allows speedy queenside castling.

8.0-0 N7c6
At this point, there's nothing stopping Will from playing d4; the square is well covered. By playing ...N7c6, Gary prevents himself from suppressing the advance with ...c5.

9.Nbc3 Bg4 10.Bxe5
After 10.d4 Ng6 11.Be3, white has almost completed his development, while black is struggling to keep his balance.

10...Qxe5 11.Bxf7+ Kd7 12.Bd5 Be7 13.d4 Qh5

After 14...dxe5 15.Qd3 Kc8 16.Bxc6 bxc6, white's initiative has fizzled. With 14.Qd3 Kc8 15.Bxc6 bxc6 16.Qa6+ Kb8, the position is similar, but with one significant difference: white still has center control, with both his d- and e-pawns.

Gary hesitates to blow up the center, and Will gets a reprieve.

As opposed to the clumsy 15.Qxe2?! Qxe2 16.Nxe2 dxe5, after which white's attacking power has evaporated.

15...Raf8 16.e6+
Will also has the sly 16.Be6+!, after which 16...Kxe6 is impossible because 17.Nf4+ wins Gary's queen.

16...Kd8 17.Bf3 Qg5 18.Qc1

Despite being down a pawn, it's in Gary's interest to trade queens, for two reasons. First, his position is full of soft spots that Will's queen can target, and the game is closer without her. Second, if by some fluke Will answers 18...Qxc1 with 19.Nxc1 (as opposed to the sound reply 19.Raxc1) then 19...Nxd4 20.Nb3 Nxf3+ 21.Rxf3 Rxf3 22.gxf3 Rf8, and the tables are turned. A better move is 18.Qd3, with the same idea as at move 14.

18...Qh4 19.Bxc6 bxc6 20.Qe3 Rf6
A half-measure. Will is not going to be afraid of doubled black rooks. Better is 20...Rxf1+ 21.Rxf1 Rf8, threatening 22...Rxf1 23.Kxf1. Yes, Gary is still a pawn down. But clear the decks of rooks, and the position begins to look faintly drawish. If only the queens can be traded off as well . . .

21.d5 c5 22.g3
Will passes up a freebie in 22.Qa3 and 23.Qxa7.

22...Qc4 23.Qb3 Qxb3
Better to trade rooks first: 23...Rxf1+ 24.Kxf1 Rf8+ 25.Kg1 Qxb3 26.axb3.

24.axb3 Rhf8 25.Rxf6
A bit rash. 25.Nf4!? thumbs its nose at the doubled rooks and proceeds to run circles around black: 25...Kc8 26.Rxa7 g5 27.Ra8+ Kb7 28.Rxf8 Rxf8.

25...Bxf6 26.Rxa7 Bxb2 27.Ra8+ Kxf8

Similar to the end result of the variation above, except that all the rooks are gone, black's bishop look better, and white's knight looks worse.

29.c3 Ba3
29...Ke7 seems like a sensible precaution.

30.Kf2 Ke7 31.Ke3 c6 32.Ke4
32.dxc6!? isn't a silver bullet, but it does head off Gary's next move.

32...cxd5+ 33.Kxd5 g5 34.h3 h6 35.h4 Bb2 36.h3 Ba3 37.g4 Bb2 38.b4! cxb4 39.cxb4 Ba3 40.Nd4 Bxb4 1-0
It's over. After 41.Nc6+!! Kf6 42.Nxb4 Ke7 43.Nc6+, the e-pawn will inevitably promote.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

PWNED! II Youth Chess Tournament

"PWNED!" (ōnd, pōnd, pônd, pōōnd, pē-ōnd') interj. Used to indicate conquest or domination. [From owned, through typing error.]

The PWNED! free youth chess tournament returns to the Freeport Public Library, 100 E. Douglas St., Freeport, on Saturday, Jan. 29.

The four-round Swiss (non-elimination) tournament will have sections for grades K–3, 4–6, and 7–12. Trophies will be awarded for first, second, and third place in each section; all players will receive participation awards. In addition, the K–3 section will be sanctioned by the U.S. Chess Federation, and players will receive ratings based on their performance. Participants in this section who are not USCF members may request a free one-day junior tournament membership. Participants in the other two sections, which are unrated, do not need to be USCF members.

The event will begin at 10 AM and is expected to finish by 3:30 PM. On-site registration will be held from 9 to 9:45 AM; the event is limited to the first 48 entrants. Players who have chess clocks are asked to bring them. The site is wheelchair-accessible.

The Gallery Café at the library will be open during the Saturday tournament for players who want to buy food and drinks on-site.

For more information, e-mail us at

(Are you already a competitive chess player, or thinking about getting into tournament chess? Don't miss our Route 20 Rated Beginners' Open and Open Swiss tournaments this Saturday, Jan. 15! Details at right.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Games of the Week

The tactics give, and the tactics take away. That's the lesson of Will Engel's two games this week. I played one of my better games against him yet still fell in the end to a tactic that was just over my (admittedly short) visualization horizon. But then Shawn Prue stepped up and slipped Will a dagger in the same way.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Jan. 11, 2011

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.e3 0-0

8.Bb5 Bg4 9.h3 Bd7 10.Bd3 Nc6 11.Ne2

I'm worried about a d4 push and trying to make it less attractive. But actually, such a move wouldn't be bad for me: 11...d4?! 12.exd4 13.Nxd4 Bxd4 14.Bxh7+ (the part I didn't think of) Nxh7 15.Qxd4 ends with me a pawn up. 11.0-0 is fine for me.

11...Nb4 12.Ned4
A clever solution to what isn't really a problem. I should be more concerned that I'm about to lose my good bishop to an adventuresome knight.

12...Nxd3 13.Qxd3 Ne4 14.0-0 a6 15.Qb3 Bc6 16.Ne5
I should finish my development with 16.Bd2.

16...Rc8 17.f3 Ng3 18.Rf2 Re8

Resorting to my usual "If defending seems too difficult, attack somewhere else" plan. Here, it's inferior to the desperado 19.Nexc6!? bxc6 20.Qd3.

According to Will, at this point I'm forcing him to do what he wants to do anyway. 19...Rxe5?! 20.Rxc5 Nf5 21.Nxf5 Rxf5 22.Bd2 gives up black's edge.

20.exd4 f6
The moment is right for a strategic reset: 20...Nf5 21.Qd3 Qh4.

This is where the game begins to fall apart for me, as I fail to realize that once my knight is no longer blocking the e-file, my c2-rook can no longer stop Will's knight incursion without losing the exchange. This is where my "If defending seems too difficult, attack somewhere else" plan is the right one: 21.Bf4 fxe5 22.Bxg3 exd4 23.Rd1 gives me a respite. I consider it briefly but give it up because I'm worried about what Will's marauding pawn can do -- not realizing that, after 23.Rd1, it can't do anything more, while I enjoy the positional advantages of connected pawns and a superior bishop.

21...Ne2+ 22.Kh1??
A suicidal decision. I have to give up the exchange with 22.Rxe2 Rxe2 23.Qd1.

Owww. Even the best defense, after this point, isn't enough to save me.

23.Qc3 Nxc2 24.Qxc2 Bb5 25.Qb3 Bxd3 26.Qxd3?

This is where it ends.

26...Re1+! 0-1
The only way to parry the coup de grâce is 26.Bf4 Bc2 27.Qd1.

Avenge me, Shawn!

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Jan. 11, 2011

1.Nc3 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.e4 Bb4? 4.Nd5 Ba5?
Shawn's weird move order seems to have thrown Will off.

5.Bc4 Nf6 6.0-0 0-0 7.d4

7...Nxd5 8.exd5 Nxd4 9.Nxe5, as strange as it looks, is better for black.

Stronger than picking off the pawn with 8.Nxd4?! Nxe4 9.Nb3 d6.

8...d6 9.Qe2
Now, however, the pickoff 9.Nxd4 makes sense, because Will can no longer return the favor with 9...Nxe4.

9...Bg4 10.a3
A solution to a nonexistent problem. Will's threat is not 10...Nb4 but 10...Ne5, freeing his c-pawn to kick Shawn's knight. A farsighted solution is 10.Qd3!?, after which 10...Ne5? leads to 11.Nxe5 dxe5 12.Bxf6 gxf6 13.Qg3, radiating evil down the g-file. If black still plays 10...Nb4, then 11.Nxb4 Bxb4 12.Nxd4 takes care of things.

10...Ne5 11.b4 Bb6 12.Bxf6?
Shawn needs to think about putting a rook on the d-file.

12...gxf6 13.a4 Bxf3
Better is 13...f5!? 14.a5 c6 15.axb6 cxd5 (15...Nxc4?! 16.Nc7 Bxf3 17.gxf3 is slightly better for white) 16.Bxd5 Nxf3+ 17.gxf3 Bh3 -- advantage black.

14.gxf3 c5
An overreach. 14...c6!? 15.Nxb6 Qxb6 is more solid.

15.Kh1 Kh8
Will: "I agree with you!"

The piece to kick is Will's bishop: 16.a5 Bc7 17.c3 dxc3, regaining a slight edge. 17...Nxc4 is inadvisable: 18.Qxc4 f5 19.cxd4 (but 19.bxc5 dxc5 20.Qxc5 Be5).

16...Nxc4 17.Qxc4 Rg8
The obvious strategic move, but what's Shawn going to do about 17...cxb4!? ?

18.Rg1 Rg6
The glamor of that open file seems to be keeping both Shawn and Will from seeing the pivotal roles to be played by the pawn advances a5 and ...f5 between moves 13 and 19.

19.Rxg6 fxg6 20.Rg1 Rc8 21.f5 gxf5 22.a5

Not 22...fxe4 23.axb6 axb6 24.Qe2.


At this point, all Shawn is threatening to do is to pick up a piece for free -- and maybe promote a pawn, if Will isn't careful. But Will makes two fateful decisions that turn it into something much, much worse.

23...Qe8 casts the game into the repetition-draw vortex: 24.Qxd6 Qxe4+ 25.Rg2 Qe1+ 26.Rg1 Qe4+ 27.Rg2 Qe1+ 28.Rg1 Qe4+ ½-½.

24.axb6 a5 25.Qxd4 Qe8?? 26.Qxf6# 1-0
The moral of the story: Even strong players are well advised to look for the checks.