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