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.