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.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nominations Being Accepted for Club Officers

The Route 20 Chess Club will hold elections for our three officer positions at our annual meeting on April 5. The following members have been nominated so far:

President: Will Engel
Secretary: Keith Ammann
Treasurer: Steve McWhirter

Additional nominations will be accepted at the April 5 meeting before the vote is held. Nominees must be members in good standing.

Game of the Week

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., March 1, 2011

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.Bd3
The first deviation from the main line Orthodox Queen's Gambit Declined. Black's most common reply to this variation is 7...dxc4 8.Bxc4, and his sharpest continuation is 8...c5; if white replies 9.dxc5, his chances after 9...Nxc5 aren't good. But after 9.0-0 a6 10.a4, as this game plays out, the odds are favorable to white.

7...dxc4 8.Bxc4 c5 9.0-0 a6 10.a4 Nb6?!

Threatening ...Nxc4, either before or after ...cxd4. But that knight is probably better off staying on d7, with other moves (10...b6, 10...cxd4, 10...Qc7, 10...h6) presenting themselves as just as valid.

11.Bd3 c4 12.Bc2 Bd7 13.b3
This is where Fritz begins nagging me to play Ne5. Depending on Will's response, I may be able to play 14.a5, kicking the defender off c4, then take with the centralized knight.

13...cxb3 14.Bxb3 Rc8 15.Qd3 Bb4
The alternative 15...Nbd5!? 16.Nxd5 Nxd5 17.Bxe7 Qxe7 takes command of the c-file.

16.Rfc1 Bc6 17.Bc2
Another missed opportunity to play Ne5, when the threat is now a minor piece trade on c6. 17.Bc2 is a good-looking but ineffectual move: the mate threat is easily stopped, either with the blunt 17...g6 (which Will chooses) or the agile 17...Nbd7!, which provides a backup defender for the pawn on h7 and discourages Ne5 as well.


Time to go looking for a new plan. Immediate concern: A trade on f3 will double my pawns and leave my king exposed. My solution: think about what I'd rather have on that square besides a weak pawn.

Fritz's solution: "Play 18.Ne5, stupid! You still gain by trading on c6, though you might want to consider first chasing black's knight off b6 with a5."

Both Will and I seem to be missing the strategic importance of the e5-square -- of getting my knight onto it (Ne5), or of keeping my knight from getting onto it (...Nbd7).

Fritz nags me one last time to play 19.Ne5 first, then, after due preparation, to trade on c6. In a moment, though, it's going to become moot.

Not a terrible move by any means, but the quieter 19...Nbd7! maintains a dead heat. The trade on d5, on the other hand, works out slightly to my advantage.

20.Nxd5 Qxd5

Considering I'm both playing against an opponent who's 800 points my superior and coming off a weeklong head cold, I flatter myself to think I've been doing a respectable job so far. Now, however, inexperience and fatigue catch up with me, and I don't think through my next move.

Giving back the slight advantage I've just earned. It's not a blunder, it just fails to consider the true degree of risk of an exchange on f3 (why would Will lead with his queen?) or the potential merits of chasing his queen around a little. The best move is 21.Bb3!; if Will tries to keep up the attack on the f3-knight, which happens to be his best bet, 21...Qf5 22.Qxf5 gxf5 accomplishes the same goal as Qc4 (trading queens), messes up Will's kingside pawn structure and still allows a subsequent 23.Ne5. Another thing to consider -- which I do realize, but only after the fact -- is that the f6-knight is no longer pinned, and trading it off with 21.Bxf6 Kxf6 right now, before it can advance and become a nuisance, is a good idea.

21...Qxc4 22.Rxc4 Bxf3??
Will gives me a gift. 22...Bxa5 23.Rxa5 Bxf3 24.Rxc8 Rxc8 25.gxf3 Rc1! swings the game in his favor.

23.Rxb4 Bd5
Will doesn't follow up with the obvious 23...Bxd1 24.Rxd1 because, as I am, he's keeping an eye on his backward b-pawn. But suppose he plays 24...Rfd8 and I follow with 25.Rxb7. It turns out that this gets me nowhere: 25...Rd5! forks my bishop and my a-pawn, and material equality will be restored -- with a black rook behind my lines.

24.Bb3 Be4 25.f3! Bc6 26.Rc1
Meh . . . better to play 26.e4, continuing to throw caltrops in the path of Will's light-square bishop. (As a bonus, it also obstructs his knight and allows my bishop to protect the rook on c1.)

This would not have been possible with 26.e4.

27.Bxd5 Bxd5 28.Rc5?!
All hat, no cattle. 28.e4 is still excellent, 28.Rxc8 Rxc8 is not bad, and even the passive-looking 28.Rbb1 has merit (for example, 28...f6 29.e4 Rxc1+ 30.Bxc1 Bc6 keeps material even and makes my spatial advantage stand out). In contrast, there's no good reason why Will shouldn't trade: 28...Rxc5 29.dxc5 f6 splits the lead pawn off the kingside chain, leaving me no particular advantage anywhere.


It's not the objectively best move. But it's the right move. Because it's the one that tricks me.

I should play 29.e4, then allow the rook trade 29...Rxc5 dxc5, leaving me with a smidgen of extra space. But all my virus-addled patzer-brain can see is, "Hey! Hanging b-pawn!"

29.Rxb7?? Rxc5 30.dxc5 Bxb7

From here, I play a losing endgame about as well as it can be played.

31.Be7 Rc8 32.Kf2 f5 33.h3 e5 34.g4 e4 35.f4 Kf7 36.Bd6 Rc6 37.Kg3 Rxd6 38.cxd6 Bc8 39.Kh4 h6 (Will needs only play 39...Ke6 here to shut me down entirely) 40.g5 h5 41.Kg3 Ke6 42.Kf2 Kxd6 43.Ke2 Kc5 44.Kd2 Kb4 45.Kc2

Watch what Will does with his bishop and king now . . .

45...Be6 46.h4 Bc4 47.Kb2 Bb3
Dang, that's cold.

48.Kb1 Kxa5 49.Kb2 Kb4 (I can't even get out!) 50.Kb1 Kc3 51.Ka1 Bc2 52.Ka2 Kd2 53.Kb2 a5 (He does it again!) 54.Ka2 Kxe3 55.Kb2 Kd2 56.Ka3 e3 0-1
I resign here, knowing that I'm lost but not realizing that mate is only four moves away: 57.Kb2 e2 58.Ka2 e1Q 59.Kb2 Qb1+ 60.Ka3 Qb3#.

Two question marks may not be enough for 29.Rxb7??. There's no doubt about it: That is the move that loses this game.