Hooray!  This is my first entry on our new blog site.  Many thanks and more to Phil Ferguson, our fearless leader for all the hard work, and I'm sure some frustration, in making the switch over.  Some of the new features will take getting used to for us writers on the blog, the look and feel so far is great.

I have a backup of posts to get out, so expect to see my byline often over the next few days or weeks.  To begin with, here's an upset from the Capital Region team match with Albany A.  This was one of the matches that had a profound effect on the results of the Albany A team.
Upsets are often interesting events.  On paper the higher rated participant, if the rating difference is large, say about 400 points, is expected to win most of the games.  In today’s game that is the situation; Henner is at 1899 and Northrup is 1538.  Chess players learn early and often that ratings mean something, but rating does not guarantee victory.  If you are not careful, what should be a routine win can be turned into a loss.

Cory plays a lot of chess.  He is active in both the Schenectady and Albany clubs as well as participating in weekend events.  I suspect his rating doesn’t quite represent his true strength, so this “upset”  is not as big of a surprise as it first appeared to be.

Northrup, Cory - Henner, Peter [B09]
CDCL Match Capital Region v Albany A, Guilderland, NY, 04.04.2012

1.e4 d6 2.d4 g6 3.f4 Bg7 4.Be3 Nf6 5.Nc3 0–0

This is the Pirc Defense, Austrian Attack.  White has chosen to put a Bishop on e3 preventing my favorite answer to the Austrian; .., c7-c5.  The c5 break is recommended by Grandmasters Alburt and Chernin as the way for Black to fight for the initiative.  The Bishop on e3 forecloses the break, but it grants Black time to find other ways to do so.

6.Nf3 Ng4!?

The obvious and simple approach is Black’s choice.  The idea uses up time by moving a developed piece twice.  White can reply in a number of ways.  He can develop, or save the Bishop by moving it.  I have my doubts that Black should chase the Be3.  In the Pirc, Black concedes central space for the chance to counter-attack the center from the flanks.  In such situations, lacking space, falling behind in development can lead to serious problems.

Theory says Black has many other choices including; 6..., b6; 6..., c6; and 6..., a6.  The latter is the beginning of the Byrne Variation, and is named for the American brothers who pioneered the line.  It is sort of a slow motion flank attack on the White center.


This is reasonable way to preserve the Bishop.  The retreat to g1 would continue the idea of preventing .., c7-c5.

7..., c5 8.d5?!,..

Better is 8 dxc5, even though Black gets some play with; 8..., dxc5 9 h3 Bxc3 10 Bxc3 Ne3 11 Qe2 Nxf1 12 Kxf1 Nc6 13 Kf2, and the position is full of fight.  The line cited can be described as White attempting to extend his small lead in development.  After the text, Black is keeping pace in development.

8..., f5!?

A doubtful decision to attack the center directly has good intensions but some problematic aspects; the Black King’s fortress is weakened.  Black can effectively proceed in a couple of ways: going against prejudice about  hanging on to the fianchettoed Bishop with 8..., Bd4; and then 9 Nxd4 cxd4 10 Nb5 Qb6 11 Qf3 Bd7 12 0-0-0 Na6; is full of tension, or 8..., e6 9 Bc4 exd5 10 Bxd5, transposing into a Benoni-like position where tactics on the e-file and the f-file and down the a1-h8 diagonal will be prominent.      


Too cautious.  The purpose of Austrian Attack is to use center dominance to engineer an attack on the Black King.  One idea underlying the Austraian is moves like .., f7-f5; weaken the King’s defenses, and White can shift from trying to support his big center to opening lines for direct action against the King.  Here; 9 e5 dxe5 10 h3 e4 11 hxg4 exf3 12 g5, does that at the cost of a pawn.  In this line the game is messy, but such is the theme of the Austrian Attack.  Black now destroys the big White center accomplishing the primary goal of the Pirc Defense.

9..., fxe4 10.Nxe4 Nf6?!

 A tiny but telling mistake.  Watch the Grandmasters, they seldom send a minor piece on a time consuming errand as Black did.  It is even rarer for a GM to voluntarily retreat from such a foray without waiting for his opponent to at least spend a tempo to force the retreat.  Black should have waited for White to play h2-h3 weakening the White King’s position a little bit.


Black is rewarded for his error.  White will be a bit ahead in development after 11 Nxf6+.  He will soon enough get in c2-c4 reinforcing the d-pawn.  White just has to be careful in timing that move because the Black light squared Bishop can go to f5 annoying the Rb1, and then perhaps Black can pick off a pawn.

12..., e6?!

Single mindedly focused on cracking the White center, Black misses a simpler idea; ganging up on the d5-pawn with; 12..., Nbd7 13 Bd3 Nb6; setting problems for White.  The text might be motivated by the wish to get at the White King before he has time to castle.  That desire seems to be more an unformed hope than the basis of a concrete and calculated plan because we don’t see anything solid in the follow-up.  

12.Bc4 exd5 13.Nxd5 Kh8

Of course 13..., Re8+; 14 Ne3+ d5; favors Black.  If White is just a little careful and creative by playing 14 Be3 Nxd5 15 Kf2, he is in decent shape.


Development is what Black needs.  If he does not attend to that need, his game can be difficult.  The shaky situation of the Black King makes finding the right moves to bring the Black forces into play hard to do.

14..., Be6 15.Bc3 Nc6 16.Ng5 Bxd5 17.Bxd5 Qd7

A big mistake would be 17..., Nxd5? 18 Bxg7+ Kxg7 19 Ne6+, hitting the entire Black “family”.


White is on top now.  Converting his positional aces; an active pair of Bishops and an opponent’s King with weakened defenses, requires some serious work.  More straight forward than the game move is; 18 Ne6 Rfc8 19 Nxg7 Kxg7 20 f5 g5 21 Qh5, when the imbalance becomes two Bishops with extra pawns versus two Knights and a dangerous attack on the Black King

18..., Qc7 19.Bd5,..

Renewing the threat of a fork at e6.

19..., Nd8

Repeating moves with 19..., Qd7; just allows White another chance to find the Ne6 move.  Black decides preventing that threat is what has to be done.  Very probably better is simplification with; 19..., Nxd5.  If then White tries a combination; 20 Bxg7+ Qxg7 21 Ne6 Ne3 22 Qd3 Qf6 23 Nxf8 Nxf1; is winning for Black.  The more reasoned approach; 20 Qxd5 Rae8 21 c3 h6; and 22 Ne6?!, is met by 22..., Qg8!; and then 23 Rbe1 Rf5; with a tricky struggle taking shape.  

I wrote about higher rated players feeling obligated to try for victory against lower rated opponents in my last post on the Finnerman - Howard game and in other posts in the past.  To extend those comments:  There is a pecking order in any group of players.  Why do we feel some opponents should be defeated?  Because we have won repeatedly in other games with them, or our rating is significantly higher, or we think we are better for no particular reason.  All these are things I have heard chess players give as to why they think they should or must defeat a particular opponent.

There are some specific player characteristics that lead us such feelings.  Among the many that can be cited, I think the two that are crucial are; skill and confidence.  Skill may well be a measurable element.  How so, you say?  GM Alburt made the case in a handy little book he wrote in 1991; the Chess Training Pocket Book, Chess Information and Research Center, NYC. In it he says the 300 positions included are the essential ones to know if you aim to be a strong tournament player.  Other writers on intellectual matters have held that it takes 10,000 hours of practice and study to master various skills.  Some chess writers have said chess Grandmasters have played and studied something like 100,000 positions to get to their titles.  The conclusion seems to be; knowledgeable people see various ways to measure skill aside from the results of competition.  Whether it is a specific set of positions, a number of hours used in study and practice, or a mass of positions played and studied, I don’t know which is the best measure, but it does seem skill can be objectively measured.  When we believe our level of skill is greater than an opponent’s we think we should win the game.

Confidence is another matter.  Firstly, the level of confidence may vary with the opponent across the board, and secondly, it will go up or down with the player’s general condition.  What have been the results against this opponent?  How critical is the current game to the outcome of the event?  Did he have enough sleep the night before?  Did some domestic crises interfere with the player’s concentration?  How well has the player performed in previous rounds or events?  All this is not so measurable and would seem to effect a player’s confidence.          

Skill and confidence appear to me to be equal, or nearly so, in importance for a player’s success.  Skill can be measured on some scale and compared.  Confidence is much more difficult to judge.  After the fact we often say; he played confidently.  That is a very subjective statement based a number of things; if you are watching the game live, it can be your reading of body language or the speed with which the moves were made.  If you following the game in some written work, it can be the impression the unfolding plan makes on you.  Truly knowing how confident the player is in his heart is not possible at any given moment in a game.  Over many games an impression can be formed about a player’s level of confidence.

To bring this long digression back to today’s game; Mr. Northrup’s play, in my opinion has as a hallmark; optimistic confidence.  The optimism is not so much a belief that he has the right ideas, rather it is that even in a bad position there exist resources with which a fight can be made.  The confidence is that hard work can uncover these resources.  I can see the influence of Cory’s mentor, John Phillips in this.  Mr. Phillips exhibits similar characteristics in his play, and he seems to have passed on this useful approach to Mr. Northrup.  It pays off in the game under examination.                    


More forceful is 20 f5, continuing in a principled fashion to emphasize the weakness of the Black King’s position.  The likely continuation is; 20..., Nxd5 21 Qxd5 Bxc3 22 bxc3 Rxf5 23 Rxf5 gxf5 24 Qxf5 Qe7 25 Rf1 Qe3+ 26 Kh1 Qe7 27 Qf8+ Qxf8 28 Rxf8+ Kg7 29 Rxd8, winning a piece because of the fork on e6.  The move played in the game hangs on to some advantage.

20..., Nxd5 21.Bxg7+ Kxg7 22.Qxd5 Rf5 23.Qd2 h6 24.Qc3+ Kg8 25.Ne4 Ne6

White has kept the advantage while both sides maneuvered.  White now has a chance to extend this advantage.  Black has been angling to bring pressure on the pawn at f4, and trying to prepare an advance of the d-pawn.


A routine move in a position that requires a more active response.  Here White should play; 26 g4, intending to continue working on the weakened position of the Black King.  With 26 g4 Nd4 27 Qd3 Rf7 28 c3 Nc6 29 Nxd6 Rxf4 30 Nf6+, and White is well ahead.

26..., Nd4??

A double query because this error does two bad things; most obviously it drops a piece, and it also fails to continue what seemed to be Black’s plan - attacking f4.  Finding a reason for this error is hard to do.  Time was not yet critical although Northrup did have an edge on the clock.  I have made similar mistakes.  Sometimes you have a logical continuation, in this case attacking f4 with 26..., Raf8 27 Nxd6 Rxf4 28 Qe5 Rxf1+; when the game is about equal.  The bugaboo of the higher rated player striving for victory at all costs may have played a part leading to the mistake.  The logical line cited moves the game towards a drawn outcome.  Searching for alternatives seems to have led Black to look for anything other than simplification, and insufficient checking for obvious counters caused the oversight.  Often you spend much energy first analyzing things don’t work.  Then, more analysis using more energy is used chasing fantasies followed by a look at the clock and the realization that some decision has to be made.  At that moment, your attention can be caught by a move looks active, and with a sense of relief, the move is played.  Almost at the moment your hand leaves the moved piece on its new squared you know it was the wrong move.

When you play such a blunder it is extraordinarily difficult to regain composure.  Even if you do so, the harm done may not be repairable.  That is the case here.          

27.Rxd4 Qe7 28.Qc4+ d5 29.Rxd5 Rxd5 30.Qxd5+ Kh8 31.Qe5+ Qxe5 32.fxe5 Re8 33.Nd6 Re7

Of course not 33..., Rxe5 34 Nf7+, wins immediately.

34.Re1 Kg7 35.Nc8 Re6 36.a3 a6 37.c4 Kf8 38.Nd6 b6 39.Rf1+ Kg8 40.Re1 Kf8 41.b4 Ke7 42.bxc5 bxc5 43.Kf2 Kd7 44.Kf3 Kc6 45.Ke4,..

White has proceeded logically centralizing his King.  In an endgame with no pawns on the board, a Rook and Knight versus a lone Rook is drawn in most cases.  With many pawns in the mix, this is not true, particularly when the stronger side has an extra pawn.  Even the big difference in experience between these players can not balance the material deficit.

45...Re7 46.Rb1,..

White embarks on a long winded maneuver on the Q-side to close out the game.  It is an interesting way to win the game, but the straight forward 46 Rf1, threatening to execute the Black K-side pawns will force off the Rooks and allow the White King access to d5 spelling the end to effective resistance.  Simple and clear is superior to complicated and pretty especially when you are hunting the scalp of a higher rated opponent.

46..., Rd7 47.a4 a5 48.Rb5 Ra7 49.Rb7 Ra8 50.Re7 Rf8 51.Rf7 Rb8 52.Nb7 Ra8 53.e6 Ra6 54.Ke5,..

White has been creative by offering material to eliminate the Black Rook, and Black, correctly did not accept the material.  Now it is easy to see the pawn will get through to the 8th making a Queen in short order.

54..., Ra8 55.Nd6 Rb8 56.e7 1–0

Now 56..., Kd7 58 e8 (Q), is mate by discovered double check.  Mr. Northrup did a very creditable job after Black gave him a piece.  That is not always the case when a lower rated player is so blessed.  He recognized the advantage and found the right plan allowing Black no chance to complicate matters.  My quibble about the choice of finishing lines notwithstanding, it was a very good performance indeed.

Sadly for Peter Henner, the position after the error did not offer much opportunity to complicate play, and his opponent struck on a correct plan right away.  It is a lesson for higher rated players; a rating bulge may mean you have some edge in experience and skill, but checking for counter-strokes can not be neglected.  Very probably, the higher rated player has to force himself to do this checking with intensity when facing a lower rated opponent.  Playing a peer there is a naturally heightened alertness to tactics.  They are expected to lay traps.  Facing someone 400 points below you in rating, it is easy to forget that very simple tactics decide a surprisingly large number of games in the world of club chess.    

More soon.  


An Upset

David Finnerman is the first board and captain of the Capital Region team in the CDCL.  He has been the moving force behind this team.  Last year, while they were just getting organized, their results were not outstanding.  This year improvement was seen.  In every match this year the Capital Region guys were in the fight, and they held last year’s League Champion to a draw!  While they may finish League play ahead of only the Uncle Sam Club, it would not surprise to see them improve on that finish next year.  There is talent there.

Contributing much to achieving the draw with Albany A was Finnerman’s win from the Albany Champion, Dean Howard.  The Queens came off early.  The Queen-less middle game was quite complex, and Mr. Howard fell into time trouble, not for the last time this season.  After allowing the Queen trade a pawn was lost, and Dean used many vital minutes seeking to find a way to hold the position.  Mr. Finnerman played the resulting R+N with pawns ending very well taking the full point and halving the match.
Finnerman, David - Howard, Dean [A14]
CDCL Match Capital Region v Albany A,  Guilderland, NY, 04.04.2012

1.c4 e6 2.g3 d5

While this looks very much like a Hyper-modern opening, don’t be misled.  Way back in the early days of the 20th Century Blackburn as White played so against; Marco, Showalter, Leonhardt and Teichmann, all strong masters of the day.  In more recent times elite players such as; Korchnoi, Vanganian and Salov have taken the White side against; Petrosian, Spassky and Short in Candidates and World Championship contests.    

3.Bg2 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.0–0 0–0 6.b3 c5

The game is in the mainstream of theory here.  The choices for White are:
a) 7 Bb2, and b) 7 cxd5, with a very slight pull for White.  Miles wins with excellent endgame play in the 7 Bb2, line against Geller in this game:

(108308) Miles, Anthony J (2555) - Geller Efim P (2590) [A14]
Hoogovens, Wijk aan Zee (4), 01.1977

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Be7 5.0–0 0–0 6.b3 c5 7.Bb2 d4 8.b4 a5 9.bxc5 Nc6 10.d3 e5 11.Nbd2 Bxc5 12.Qa4 Bd7 13.Rfb1 Qe7 14.Ng5 Bb4 15.Qd1 h6 16.Nge4 Nxe4 17.Bxe4 a4 18.a3 Bc5 19.Bc1 Ra7 20.Bd5 Na5 21.Ra2 Kh7 22.Ne4 b6 23.Bd2 Nb3 24.Bb4 f5 25.Bxc5 bxc5 26.Nd2 Nxd2 27.Rxd2 e4 28.Rdb2 exd3 29.exd3 f4 30.Rb7 Rxb7 31.Rxb7 fxg3 32.hxg3 Qf6 33.Be4+ Bf5 34.Qg4 Bxe4 35.Qxe4+ Qf5 36.Qxf5+ Rxf5 37.Kf1 h5 38.Ra7 Kh6 39.Rxa4 g5 40.Ra6+ Kg7 41.Rc6 h4 42.Kg2 hxg3 43.Kxg3 g4 44.Kxg4 Rxf2 45.Rxc5 Rd2 46.Rg5+ Kf6 47.Rf5+ Ke6 48.Rf3 Ke5 49.Rh3 Rd1 50.a4 Kd6 51.Kf4 Kc5 52.a5 Rf1+ 53.Rf3 Ra1 54.Rf2 Kb4 55.Ke4 Kc3 56.Rf5 Re1+ 57.Kd5 Re8 58.Rf3 Re3 59.Rf1 Re8 60.a6 Kxd3 61.a7 Ra8 62.Ra1 Kc3 63.c5 Kb2 64.Ra4 d3 65.Kc6 d2 1–0

Here is a game where Black exploits his chances if White captures on d5 first:

(569595) Krasenkow, Michal (2661) - Beliavsky, Alexander G (2640) [A14]
Leonid Stein Memorial, Lvov (5), 16.05.2000
1.c4 e6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.0–0 0–0 6.b3 c5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Bb2 b6 9.Nc3 Bb7 10.Nxd5 Bxd5 11.Qb1 Nd7 12.Bc3 Re8 13.Rd1 Rc8 14.Qb2 Bf8 15.d4 Qc7 16.Rac1 Qb7 17.Ne1 Bxg2 18.Nxg2 c4 19.Ne3 cxb3 20.Qxb3 Qa6 21.Rc2 Rc6 22.Rdc1 Rec8 23.Be1 Rxc2 24.Rxc2 Rxc2 25.Qxc2 Nf6 26.Nc4 Qc8 27.Qd3 b5 28.Ne5 a6 29.f3 h6 30.Qb3 Qc1 31.Kf2 Nd5 32.e4 Qa1 33.Nc6 Nb6 34.Ke2 h5 35.Nb8 Qxd4 36.Nxa6 Nc4 37.Nc7 Qg1 38.Bf2 Qg2 39.Qxb5 Nd2 40.Qxh5 Bb4 41.Nxe6 Qf1+ 42.Ke3 Nc4+ 43.Kf4 Qxf2 44.Qb5 Bd6+ 45.Kg5 Qxf3 0–1

Even this limited sampling shows why the “big guys” like these lines; tense positions and complicated play lets them show off their talent on either side of the board.


In top level play this move is thought to be not the best.  Finding examples of this move from top level players was nearly impossible.  Here is the one game found:

(18842) Bogoljubow, Efim - Saemisch, Fritz [E06]
Bad Harzburg (8), 1938
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 Be7 5.0–0 0–0 6.d4 c5 7.b3 Nc6 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.e4 Nf6 10.e5 Nd7 11.Bb2 cxd4 12.Bxd4 Nxd4 13.Qxd4 Nxe5 14.Qe4 Nxf3+ 15.Qxf3 Bf6 16.Nc3 Qa5 17.Rac1 Bd4 18.Rfd1 e5 19.Rc2 Be6 20.Ne2 Rad8 21.Nxd4 Rxd4 22.Rxd4 exd4 23.Qf4 b5 24.Rd2 Rd8 25.Rxd4 Rxd4 26.Qxd4 h6 27.Be4 g6 28.a4 bxa4 29.bxa4 Bb3 30.Bc6 Be6 31.h4 h5 32.Kg2 Qc7 33.Be4 a5 34.Bf3 Qd7 35.Qe4 Qc7 36.Qc6 Qxc6 37.Bxc6 Kf8 38.Kf3 Ke7 39.Kf4 Kd6 40.Be8 Bb3 41.f3 Kc5 42.g4 Kb4 43.Kg5 Bxa4 44.Bxf7 Bc2 45.gxh5 gxh5 46.f4 a4 47.f5 Bb3 48.Bxb3 Kxb3 49.f6 a3 50.f7 a2 51.f8Q a1Q 52.Qf7+ Kb4 53.Kxh5 Qh1 54.Qe7+ Kb3 55.Kh6 Ka4 56.Qd7+ Ka3 57.Qd6+ Kb2 58.h5 Kc1 59.Qf4+ Kd1 60.Qd4+ Kc2 61.Qf2+ Kd1 62.Kg5 Qd5+ 63.Qf5 Qg8+ 64.Kf4 Kc1 65.h6 Qg2 66.Qg5 Qf2+ 67.Ke5+ Kd1 68.Qg4+ 1–0

Even though Bogoljubov picked up the full point in the end, Black obtained a more than decent game out of the opening.  White had to take great risks to keep from being squeezed to death.  The game illustrates why White avoids the text.

7..., Nc6!?

Normal for Black is 7..., cxd4; creating a vulnerability for the Ra1, and the possibility of the Black e-pawn advancing getting a greater say in the center than Black enjoys in most openings.


 The correct positional response is 8 cxd5, pretty much ensuring an isolated QP for Black because the alternative recaptures are less good for Black.

8..., dxc4 9.bxc4 Qb6 10.Qb3 Rd8

According to Rybka Black is equal now.  The initial skirmish has worked out well for Black.  Getting to equality by move ten is a good thing.

11.e3 Qa6!?

Experts like Dean Howard expect to defeat high Class B/low Class A players such as Dave Finnerman.  An equal game with the Queens off would not be a venue in which that can be done easily.  He avoids the possible trade and crafts a simple tactic; 12..., Na5; trying to win a pawn.  I doubt Dean really thought the trick would net a pawn, rather he was looking to raise the tension in the position; the more tension the greater the chances are for the opponent to go wrong

12.Nbd2 Rb8

Preparing to play against the White center with a push of the pawn to b5.  Black might be better served if he inserts ..,cxd4; before hand.

13.Rfd1 b5 14.Rab1!?,..

This move seems less good than 14 dxc5 bxc4 15 Qc2 Bxc5 16 Nxc4.  If Black then greedily snags a pawn with; 16..., Rxd1+ 17 Rxd1 Qxa2; and superficially Black looks to be threatening to win.  There is a but however.  With 18 Nfe5 Nxe5 19 Rd8+! Bf8 20 Nxe5 Qxb2 21 Qc7, White is winning.  A sample line; 21..., Qb1+ 22 Bf1 Ba6 23 Qxf7+, with mate soon.  Black can play better but White has a sizable advantage.  This dancing along the cliff’s edge explains a big part of the coming time trouble for Mr. Howard.  He starts early and, willy-nilly, has to keep the dance up for many moves.  Checking and rechecking the tactics is a time consuming process.

14..., Na5 15.cxb5 Nxb3 16.bxa6 Nxd2 17.Nxd2 Bxa6 18.Ba3 Rxb1 19.Rxb1 Kf8 20.Nb3,..

The clash of tactics grows quieter.  Mr. Finnerman has steered his game through to an endgame battle where he has a small edge.  This is just the kind of situation Mr. Howard did not want to see; no Queens on and balanced material.  The only tension remaining revolves around the Black c-pawn.  Howard is loath to clear that problem up by trading on d5, then the draw is looming.    

20..., Bd3 21.Rc1 c4 22.Bxe7+ Kxe7 23.Na5,..

Black managed to keep the c-pawn on, but defending it is less than easy.  The White pieces are well placed to threaten its existence.

23..., Rc8 24.Nc6+ Kd6 25.Nxa7,..

Retaining the c-pawn led to the loss of the a-pawn.  The Knight now gallops in and out around the uncomfortably placed Black pieces.  Fork tricks are the essence of Knights.  David uses them to make Deans defense in growing time trouble difficult.

There is a strong general feeling among chess players that Bishops are better than Knights.  Such is true in general but not always true in a specific case.  Today’s game is an example of a case where a single Knight with some decent outposts can defeat a single Bishop.  The key is having outposts that are difficult or impossible for the opponent to attack.

25..., Rb8 26.a4 Nd5 27.Nb5+ Kd7 28.Bf1,..

Renewing threats to the c-pawn.

28..., Nb4 29.Bxd3,..

A bit better is 29 Na3.  The game move is pretty good also.

29..., cxd3 30.Kf1 Ra8

Mr. Howard had only a minute and a half left on his clock now.  The game was played with a five second delay per move.  When you have much time on the clock five seconds delay per move seems like a lot.  When your are down to less than two minutes it is often just not enough of a cushion, especially if your opponent does not make things easy for you.

31.Nc3 d2 32.Rd1 Rc8 33.Ne4 Ra8 34.Rxd2 f5

I suspect Mr. Howard let go the c-pawn hoping to get the a-pawn.  The fork on c5 protects the White a-pawn.  The two pawn advantage makes the time pressure even more intolerable than it was already.


Securing the a-pawn, and now all has become clear.  White has twenty minuets plus on the clock.  Holding off two pawns in a Rook and Knight ending with just seconds left is an impossible task.  White plays simply soon winning a minor piece and then the game with a final fork of the Black Rook and King.

35...,  Kd6 36.Rb2 Nc6 37.Rb7 Kd5 38.Ke2 Kc4 39.Rxg7 e5 40.Rc7 Kd5 41.e4+ Kxd4 42.Rxc6 fxe4 43.Ne6+ Kd5 44.Nc7+ 1–0

A very nicely played game by Daivd Finnerman.  I looked recently at his rating information on the USCF site.  He is just over 1800 and continuing a steady climb begun back in the early 1990s when he was still in grade school.  Beginning with a rating of 1100 or 1200, a steady, but not heavy schedule of tournaments and events brought Finnermann progress.  The eight to ten years it took to get to a Class A rating is probably typical for someone starting out to learn the game.  His next intermediate goal is reaching an Expert rating I’d guess.  In an email conversation with me, David said he wants to play in one of the club championship events next season.  That is a sound first step towards Expert. It is in those events he’ll get to face most of the leading local players.  You have to play the best opposition you can find to improve your skill level and your rating.

Dean Howard, in this game, had to face one of the difficulties of having a high rating; there are games you are expected to win.  Sometimes the game develops in such a way that the opportunity for complications isn’t there.  The higher rated player has then to make a choice; take risks or let the game take its natural course to a balanced endgame where a win may not be possible.  The downside to opting for risks is your opponent just may see his way through the “smoke and mirrors” and the game is lost.  As team captain for Albany A, I can not fault Dean for trying to win.  We needed a victory as a team, and Dean, correctly put aside any personal rating considerations to go for what the team needed.  He paid a price in some rating points, and the Albany A team dropped a vital one-half match point in the League.  The saving grace is; In chess there is always the next match or the next season where results can be reversed and disappointment turned into success.

An added note:  While the bulk of the League matches have been played, we are in a hiatus.  Scheduling problems and playing site availability have worked together to delay the final few matches.  A key contest; Schenectady A versus the Geezers will not be played until sometime in June, and Albany A versus Uncle Sam will be at least two weeks into the future.  This circumstance gives me opportunity to catch up with several annotations of League games I have delayed while trying to keep up with the overall progress.  From my prospective the break in the action is not all bad.
More soon.          


A Game and Some News From the League

Lo, how the mighty have fallen!  Last night, Wednesday, May 2nd , Albany A had a bad result against the RPI team.  We, Albany A, lost 1 ½ - 2 ½.  The Engineers played well.  Their team, strengthened by the new first board, Jeffery La Comb, performed up to their full potential and then some.  The Albany team suffered from time trouble on a couple of boards.  That unfortunate habit has been a problem for us this year.  Time trouble is tough on the players, and it is doubly so for this old non-playing captain.  The players have the adrenalin-rush of time pressure and the focused energy of just moving the pieces to help with the tension.  Me, on the other hand, I have to sit or stand or pace, unable to even make a sound to cheer on the battlers.  When I was a player the few times I fell into time trouble it was nerve wracking.  Captaining a team when some are in time trouble is much worse.

Today’s game is a nice victory by Jeffery La Comb over the Albany Club Champion, and crucial to the result.  In a tactically difficult middle game position, Mr. Howard’s clock wound down.  When the crisis occurred he had under five minutes remaining.  It was just not enough time in which to see what had to be seen.  Mr. La Comb, with significantly more time available, saw more, played sharply keeping the pressure on, and was rewarded with a win when Dean misplayed a couple of crucial moves.  Mate followed in short order.    

Howard, Dean - La Comb, Jeffery [C02]
CDCL Match Albany A v RPI Guilderland, NY, 02.05.2012

1.e4 c5 2.c3 e6 3.d4 d5 4.e5 Nc6 5.Nf3 Nge7 6.Bd3 cxd4 7.cxd4,..

Transposing from the Sicilian to a variation of the Advanced French is not unusual in the line with 2 c3.  The natural plan for Black is creating pressure on the not quite secure White pawn on d4.  Here are a couple of games illustrating that idea:

(1176643) Chadaev, Nikolay (2486) - Chebotarev, Oleg (2514) [C02]
Russian Championship, Sochi (8), 10.05.2007
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Nge7 6.Bd3 cxd4 7.cxd4 Nf5 8.Bxf5 exf5 9.Nc3 Be6 10.0–0 Be7 11.Ne1 Qb6 12.Nc2 0–0 13.b3 Rac8 14.Na4 Qc7 15.Ba3 b5 16.Bxe7 Qxe7 17.Nb2 f4 18.Nd3 Qg5 19.a4 a6 20.axb5 axb5 21.Qd2 Bf5 22.Ra2 f6 23.e6 f3 24.Qxg5 fxg5 25.Ndb4 fxg2 26.Kxg2 Nxb4 27.Nxb4 Be4+ 28.f3 Rxf3 29.Rxf3 g4 30.Kg3 gxf3 31.Ra7 Re8 32.Nc6 h5 33.e7 h4+ 34.Kf2 Kf7 35.Rb7 ½–½

(521743) Minasian, Ara (2450) - Gaprindashvili, Valerian (2405) [C02]
6th Anibal Open, 6th Linares (7), 14.01.1999
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Nge7 6.Bd3 cxd4 7.cxd4 Nf5 8.Bxf5 exf5 9.Nc3 Be6 10.h4 h6 11.Ne2 g6 12.Be3 Qb6 13.0–0 Be7 14.Qd2 Na5 15.b3 Bb4 16.Qd3 Nc6 17.a3 Be7 18.b4 Qd8 19.Qd2 Bxh4 20.Bxh6 Be7 21.Bg5 Bxg5 22.Nxg5 Kd7 23.f4 Qb6 24.Rab1 a6 25.Nf3 Qa7 26.Nc1 Ne7 27.Nd3 b6 28.a4 Rhc8 29.a5 Rc4 30.axb6 Qxb6 31.Nc5+ Ke8 32.Qe1 Kf8 33.Qh4 Ng8 34.Ng5 Ra7 35.Qh8 Qb8 36.Ncxe6+ fxe6 37.Nxe6+ Ke7 38.Ng5 [38.Nc5] 38...Kf8 39.Ne6+ Ke7 40.Ng5 Kf8 41.Nh7+ Kf7 42.e6+ Kxe6 43.Rfe1+ Kd7 44.Qg7+ Kc6 45.b5+ Kb6 46.bxa6+ Ka5 47.Rxb8 Rxg7 48.Ra1+ Ra4 49.Rxa4+ Kxa4 50.Rb7 1–0

7..., Bd7!?

Finding an example of this move is not so easy.  Here is the only one I could find with reasonably strong players involved:

(411368) Salmensuu, Olli (2230) - Dos Santos, Emmanuel [C02]
World Championship, U18, Guarapuava (3), 1995
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 e6 4.d4 d5 5.e5 cxd4 6.cxd4 Nge7 7.Bd3 Bd7 8.Nc3 a6 9.Be3 g6 10.h4 h5 11.a3 Nf5 12.Bg5 Be7 13.Bxf5 gxf5 14.b4 f6 15.exf6 Bxf6 16.0–0 Bxg5 17.Nxg5 Qf6 18.Ne2 f4 19.Qd2 0–0 20.Rac1 Kh8 21.Rfe1 Rae8 22.Qd3 Re7 23.Qf3 Be8 24.Rcd1 Rg7 25.g3 e5 26.dxe5 Nxe5 27.Qxf4 Qd6 28.Rxd5 Rxf4 29.Rxd6 Nf3+ 30.Nxf3 Rxf3 31.Nd4 Rf8 32.Rd8 Rgg8 33.Re7 Bg6 34.Rd6 1–0

So, is Black’s last move terrible?  No, the more committal 7..., Nf5; allows White to trade off a Bishop for a Knight, and in the typical closed center French this not thought as a bad thing for White.  Of course, White is left with the less good of his two Bishops and Black has the Bishop pair.  Many games in the Advanced French are battles about Black trying to open up lines for the Bishops and White maintaining his center bind and space advantage.  The text move defers that decision while advancing Q-side development.


White goes his own way also.  The theme here is the security of the d4-pawn, if master-play guides us.  To that end, the natural move is 8 Nc3, preparing Nc3-e2 as an alternative if and when Black puts a Knight on f5.

8..., Nb4!?

More improvisation.


And answered by improvisation.  A logical approach is; 9 Be2 Rc8 10 Nc3 Nf5 11 a3 Nc6 13 Be3, and both sides have developed reasonably, and White has no appreciable advantage, but he is not worse either.  Giving up the light squared Bishop does no immediate harm to White’s chances, but it is a longer term concern.  Earlier I said trading this Bishop for a Knight on f5 was possible.  In that case the Black pawn structure is to some extent weakened.  Agreeing to this trade on e3 does not have that added benefit.

An idea GM Har-Zvi brought up often in his lessons was about decisions regarding Bishops; which color to retain, which color to trade off and when to do so.  If I remember correctly, his thesis was how this decision was handled told the observer much about the eventual outcome of a game.  This contest now has the outlines of a typical Advanced French; if the game opens up the Black Bishops may carry the day, and if White maintains the blocked center, his Knights can be a match for the Bishops.

9..., Nxd3 10.Qxd3 a6 11.Ng5!?,..

This move is strategically risky.  White’s plan is to advance the f-pawn per the standard canon: in the French, f2-f4-f5 goes with e3-e4-e5.  White, no doubt is already considering the advance of the g-pawn to oust the Black Knight from f5 when it gets there.  All this is very much normal play in the French; White must attack on the K-side and Black on the other side..  Mr. La Comb however has early in his career learned that most valuable lesson about defending with the French; K-side castling can usefully be delayed or foregone for Black.  Why put your King in the obvious target area?  Without a Black King to threaten, the natural White K-side attack begins to look questionable.  If it breaks through, lines open for the Black Rooks on the White King, and maybe the Bishop pair will find things to do.

11..., Nf5 12.f4 Be7 13.g4 Bxg5!?

Things now get interesting quickly.  The White attack is becoming dangerous, and the Black decision not to castle short, while strategically sound has tactical risks attached; there is pressure on f7 and the Black King is some moves away from being ready to castle long.  Alternatives here for Black are; a) 13..., Nh4; which may be best.  Then 14 Qg3 Bxg5 15 fxg5 Ng6 16 h4 Qb6 17 Qf2 Rf8 18 b3, with a tough fight looming in a Bishops of opposite color middle game.  Don’t mistake that situation as having a high likelihood of a drawn outcome.  Sacrificial attacks in such situations are particularly potent for either side.  The opponent has a hard time defending squares attacked by the other Bishop.  And b) 13..., Nh6; when a murky tactically loaded position comes about after; 14 h3 Rc8 15 Nxh7 Bb4; threatening to capture on c3 followed by .., Bb4.  This way Black has compensation.  If White tries 16 Rf3, to defuse the .., Bb4; threat, Black can play; 16..., Qh4! 17 Ng5 Nxg4; when Black has made a lot of progress.  White is facing serious danger to his King.

With the complications outlined above, it is understandable decision to capture the White Knight on g5.  The text offers White chances to go wrong.          


Which he promptly does so.  Deciding which piece to capture is by no means an easy choice.  Taking off the Nf5 reduces potential pressure on d4, a laudable accomplishment, but it is primarily defensive in intent.  Instead, capturing the Bg5 opens the f-file.  That would be an asset for continuing the thematic K-side attack by White.  Play could go; 14 fxg5 Nh4 15 Qg3 Ng6 16 h4, when the pressure on the Black K-side continues.  Unanswered is the question; does Black have the resources to fend off the problems?  Neither Deep Rybka nor I can find a decisive breakthrough for White here.  It would have been a brave decision for White to play as recommended if he reached the same conclusion.  Sometimes chess players have operate by the principle of exclusion; if one line calculated does not lead to some measurable  advantage, the choice then becomes one of a positional nature.  Doing a useful thing, reducing pressure on d4 makes sense; continuing the attack lacking a breakthrough idea is a gamble.    

14..., Be7 15.Qg3 Qb6

Black is unafraid of allowing White to take as many of the Black K-side pawns as he wants.  Open files bearing on the White King are serious compensation.


Turnabout is fair play.  White offers the b-pawn, and willingly more if Black wants them, to open Q-side files anticipating the Black King will castle long.  Black declines for many of the same reasons that motivated White to do so earlier.

17..., 0–0–0 17.fxe6 fxe6 18.f5 Rdf8 19.Rac1 Kb8

Black sees clearly that 20 f6?, is no real threat because; 20..., gxf6 21 exf6+, is met by 21..., Bd6 22 Qxd6+ Qxd6 23 Bf4 Rhg8+ 24 Kh1 Qxf4 25 Rxf4 Rg6 26 Rcf1 Kc7; and Black is slightly ahead.  Principally, this is ture because it’s hard to find anyway to improve the position of the Nc3, and the Black King will be much more active than White’s for some time to come.  Both players have been performing at a pretty sophisticated level.  


Subtly wrong perhaps.  Rybka suggests; 20 a3, offering up the b-pawn to make f5-f6 a workable threat.  The game has arrived at a critical point.  We chess players often think of critical moments in a game as when some ferocious attack is about break over a position.  Sometimes the critical moment is when both sides have mobilized, strong and weak points have been established, but the tension is not overwhelming.  Now decisions have to be made about the long term direction to pursue.  In some ways it is easier to decide things in the face of immediate threat.  Here threats there are for sure, however, nothing that needs immediate attention.  The choices are about the general direction the game will take for the next several moves.

My guess is Mr. Howard chose the text reasoning that having a protected passed pawn on e5 can not be a bad thing for White.  Protected passed pawns are certainly an important asset, if they can advance.  If that advance is not possible they become “a pebble in your shoe”, annoying but not decisive.

Dean had once more arrived at a critical moment fully armed with ideas and chances lacking only that vital resource; time on the clock to work out the details.  His clock showed a bit more than ten minutes at this point.

20..., Qxe6 21.Qg2 Bc6 22.Ne2?,..

Now with less than five minutes remaining, Mr. Howard thinks about transferring the Knight to g3 to shore up defenses on the g-file. This move however relieves pressure on d5 and opens b5 for the Black Bishop.

Trying to eliminate the Black dark squared Bishop makes more sense.  Better 22 Bg5, if then 22..., Bb4 23 a3 Bxc3 24 Rxf3 Bb5 25 Rff3, and while enough material remains on the board that opposite color Bishop based attacks can’t be ruled out, White has held the balance so far.  The problem is lacking time to double check for tactical surprises means you have to go on instinct and intuition.  Sometimes that is enough and sometimes not.

22..., g5 23.Rxf8+ Bxf8 24.Rf1 Bg7?!

Mr. La Comb was doing well up to here.  Concerned about the possibility of the White Rook landing on f6, he prevents that and offers the g-pawn.  This is an interesting idea.  It is probably not quite correct.  If 25 Qxg5 Rg8 26 Ng3, the relocation of the Knight shores up the defenses of the White King just in time.  The activity of the White Queen may force a trade of the Ladies after which the extra protected passed pawn swings the balance to White.  Better for Black is; 24..., Be7 25 Ng3 Bb5 26 Rf2 Bd3; activating his worse Bishop and keeping the tension high in the position.


Not quite so good as capturing with the Queen.  The Bg5 is not as anchored as the Ng3 would have been, and it is more easily attacked if pinned than a Ng3 by the h-pawn.  White has a pawn, and now is playing “Blitz” chess.  Black, by way of contrast, has about 40 minutes on his clock, time enough to think about finding good moves that are tough to meet.  That is the formula for exploiting an opponent’s time problem.  A key ingredient is maintaining your own cool while doing so.  Mr. La Comb does an admirable job not getting reckless as Mr. Howard struggles to stay ahead of the clock.

25..., Bb5 26.Rc1 Bxe2 27.Qxe2 Rg8!?

Not quite winning is; 27..., Qg3 28 Qg2 Rg8 29 h4 Bf8 30 Rf1 Be7 31 Rf2 Qe6 32 Qf3 h6 33 Qf7, when the activity of the White Rook that eventually lands on the 7th gives him chances in the ending.  The line would have been very testing for Howard to meet in his time pressure.  The text does ratchet up the level of difficulty for White.  How should he react to the threat to the Bg5?  White is ahead in this position, the extra pawn can’t be forgotten, but he has only about one minute left to finish the game.

28.Kh1 Qf5 29.Bh4?,..

Unrelenting pressure pays off, and White makes an almost inevitable error.  Here he would have done well to play 29 Rg1, then if 29..., h6? 30 Bf6!, and the potential pinner becomes the pinned and White is winning.  Black’s best seems to be; 29..., Bh6 30 Bxh6 Rxg1+ 31 Kxg1 Qg6+ 32 Qg2 Qb1+; looking for refuge in the end game with Queens.  That is a very hard end game to play even with lots of time on the clock.

29..., Bh6?

A sign perhaps that Dean’s time problems have had a bad effect on Jeffery’s judgment.  The best move is; 29..., Qf4; hitting the Bishop and the Rook.  It is just what Queens do very well; attacking two or more things at the same time.  It could be he worried about 29..., Qf4 30 Bg3,.. but 30..., Qxc1+ 31 Kg2 Rc8 32 e6+ Ka7 33 e7 Re8; is winning for Black.


Theoretically White was still better before this move was played.  However it allows a quick end to the game by way of a pretty combination.  White retains the advantage with 30 Rg1, but time is needed to make the moves regardless of the position.  Lacking time, now or soon, White appears doomed to falter; he had about 48 seconds now.

30..., Be3!

Neatly done!  If the Rook takes the Queen, it is mate at g1, and if the Queen takes the Bishop, the Black Queen captures on f1 with mate to follow.

31.Bg3 Rxg3 32.hxg3 Qh3+ 0–1

Quite a nice finish.  La Comb kept his wits about himself during most of Howard’s time pressure.  When he slipped up it was only after the time trouble had progressed to an absolutely critical stage.  I have watched the four local time pressure “stars”; Taylor, Michelman, Sells and Howard do amazing things with virtually no time remaining on their clocks.  But, we shouldn’t forget there are times the clock beats even the guys that are really good at handling blitz play.  Taking all things into account, the “stars” I am sure would have liked a few more minutes on the clock many times.

More news from last week:

Thursday the Albany team continued a flurry of activity playing the always crucial match with the Schenectady A team at Schenectady.  After falling behind 1 - 2, the Albany board 3, Peter Henner rescued a result by defeating John Barnes in a time influenced ending.  As with the Illinois - Ohio State football rivalry, a CDCL season can be saved for Albany, or Schenectady, by a good outing against the historic rival.  So it was Thursday.  While we will not challenge for the title this year, we did hold our major rival to a draw.  That is something, not a lot, but something to cheer the team until next year.

In the early going Glen Perry obtained a promising position against Dilip Aaron on board 4.  Mr. Perry maintained his advantage and won the game.  Thereafter the situation for Albany got worse on boards 1 and 2.  Playing quickly Patrick Chi obtained a good position against Dean Howard, but had to carry the game into a Knight versus Bishop and pawns ending.  This time the Bishop just could not hold, and Patrick with the Knight won.  In a complicated affair on board 2, Gordon Magat seemed to have a reasonable position at first sight.  In an ordinary looking position, however, his Queen just could not find a comfortable post.  Mr. Magat tried mightily to repair that defect but was unable to do so.  The Queen problem led to tactics that Philip Sells exploited in excellent style scoring a vital point.

The defeats on boards 1 and 2 were recorded in quick succession, the ol’ Cap’n turned his hopes to board 4.  A little earlier, before everything went bad on the top two boards, Mr. Henner had asked me if a draw was acceptable in his game.  He thought he could get that result fairly easily.  At the time, with a possible win on board 4 and things unclear on the top boards, I agreed a draw would be good for our team.  Now I had to tell Peter a win was needed.  It was said with a  sinking feeling.  On board 3 both players were now into time difficulties, Peter had been angling for a point split, and a change of direction from holding a draw to going for a win is always difficult.  Making that sort of change with little time to weigh up the possibilities is very risky.  Sharp play ensued and Mr. Henner found a way to win in a tricky ending with several pieces on the board. and I for one, am grateful for Peter Henner’s terrific effort.

This victory tied the match 2 -2, taking the first match points against the thus far undefeated Schenectady team.  This was a good result for the Albany team that has struggled this year.  The League standings are:

Team Match Points Game Points
1 Schenectady A                     3 ½ 11 with 1 to play
2 RPI                                   2 ½ 12 done
3 Albany A                           2 8 ½ with 1 to play
4 The Geezers                       2 7 ½ with 2 to play
5 Capital Region                    1 ½ 6 done
6 Uncle Sam                           ½               5 with 2 to play

The Schenectady Geezers with two matches to play have the possibility of overhauling Schenectady A.  Their head-to-head meeting is still to be played.  That contest could well decide the final standings at the top of the table.  A win for the Geezers leaves them in reach of their first League title.  A drawn result, or a win for Schenectady A makes Schenectady A Champion this year.  The competitive situation will make that match even more tense than it is usually.  I am not certain of the date of the Geezers - Schenectady match.  I believe it will take place in the next couple of weeks.

More soon.    


Tulip Fest CHESS!

For our third time, ENYCA will host a chess tent as part of both days of the Tulip Fest in Albany's Washington Park.  This coming weekend, May 12 & 13, enjoy playing some fun games of chess from 11 am to 6pm on either Sat or Sun.  Located up the hill from the food vendors next to the family area.  Special events:  Sat 1-4pm current and 3 time NY State High School Champion Deepak Aaron will play 20 opponents at once.  Deepak represented the US at the World Junior Chess Championship in India last year.  So come over, have a seat, and bring your A game.  Sun 1-4pm learn some fun variations of the game of chess.  Like Kriegspiel, where you play without knowing what your opponent is doing.  Great fun for the audience too!  We provide the boards and chess sets.  See you there!


The Henner v Le Cours Game Decides the Match

The last game to finish in the Albany A - Geezers CDCL match was on board 3.  There two solid Class A and sometime Expert players had the fate of both teams in their hands.  Alan Le Cours by this point understood only a win would salvage a result for the Geezers.  A drawn match would have solidified the Geezers lead in the League competition.  Such was not to be, and Albany A’s victory has to be credited to Mr. Henner’s good effort.

Henner, Peter - Le Cours, Alan [A05]
CDCL Match; Albany A versus Geezers, Guilderland, NY, 25.04.2012

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.d3 d6 5.e4 c5

In my youth this was very popular.  It is classified as the Reti Opening, but the formation, with a Black pawn on c5, is also related to the Closed Variation of the Sicilian Defense.

Some classically oriented writers back in the 1950s said playing this way was a sort of rearrangement of the pieces before getting on with the game. It may be called a kind of Fischer-Random chess long before Bobby floated his idea about refreshing chess.

The position can be reached by various move orders:

(67532) Botvinnik, Mikhail - Van den Berg, Carel Benjamin [A05]
Noordwijk (6), 1965
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d3 g6 4.g3 Bg7 5.Bg2 Nf6 6.0–0 0–0 7.c3 Nc6 8.Nbd2 Rb8 9.Re1 b5 10.d4 b4 11.d5 bxc3 12.bxc3 Na5 13.Bf1 Nd7 14.Qc2 Nb6 15.Nb3 Nac4 16.a4 a5 17.Nfd2 Nxd2 18.Bxd2 Bd7 19.Nxa5 Nxd5 20.exd5 Qxa5 21.Rxe7 Rb7 22.Ree1 Rfb8 23.Ra2 h5 24.h4 Be5 25.c4 Qd8 26.Bc3 Bxc3 27.Qxc3 Rb3 28.Qa1 Bf5 29.Rae2 Rb1 30.Qc3 Rxe1 31.Rxe1 Rb4 32.a5 Ra4 33.Ra1 Rxa1 34.Qxa1 Qa8 35.Qa4 Kg7 36.a6 Qa7 37.Qc6 Bd7 38.Qb7 1–0

In the above game, the Sicilian move order led to the same position as in our game.  The former World Champion Botvinnik elected to proceed thematically by preparing the center expansion with 7 c3.  Black countered with a standard plan; an attempted Q-side space grab via 9..., b5.

The following game tracks more closely to today’s game.  Black obtains a better central position out of the opening and converts that to a win.

(229485) Averbakh, Yuri L (2470) - Gruenfeld, Yehuda (2530) [A05]
GMA Baleares Open, Palma de Mallorca (4), 1989
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.g3 Nf6 4.d3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.0–0 0–0 7.e5 dxe5 8.Nxe5 Nfd7 9.Nc4 Nb6 10.Ne3 Nc6 11.Nc3 f5 12.f4 Be6 13.Bd2 Qd7 14.b3 Bf7 15.Rb1 Rad8 16.Kh1 h5 17.Ne2 Bf6 18.Ng1 Kg7 19.Nf3 Rh8 20.Be1 Nd5 21.Qe2 Qc7 22.Nxd5 Bxd5 23.Bf2 Nd4 24.Bxd4 cxd4 25.Rfe1 Rc8 26.Rbc1 Qa5 27.a4 Rc7 28.Rcd1 Rhc8 29.Rd2 Rc3 30.Ne5 Rxc2 31.Nc4 Rxd2 32.Qxd2 Qxd2 33.Nxd2 Bxg2+ 34.Kxg2 Rc3 35.Kf2 Rxd3 36.Ke2 Rc3 37.b4 h4 38.gxh4 Bxh4 39.Rh1 g5 40.fxg5 Re3+ 41.Kf1 Bxg5 0–1

In the following game, Black tries fortifying the center with a stonewall-like pawn formation.  White attacks it head-on and destroys it.  The wreckage of the Black center left weak pawns.  This allowed White to find a transaction leading to the material imbalance of two Rooks plus a pawn versus a Queen.  Sometimes a Queen can do very well in such situations.  This time the Queen had too many weaknesses to defend and the Rooks were well coordinated.

(668262) Sutovsky, Emil (2656) - Dominguez, Lenier (2594) [A05]
10th Valle d'Aosta Open, Saint Vincent (7), 15.02.2002
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.g3 Nf6 4.d3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.0–0 Nc6 7.Re1 0–0 8.c3 e5 9.Nbd2 h6 10.a3 Be6 11.b4 a6 12.Nb3 c4 13.dxc4 Bxc4 14.Nfd2 Be6 15.c4 Nd7 16.Bb2 Rc8 17.Rc1 Nb6 18.Bf1 Nd4 19.Na5 Qd7 20.Bxd4 exd4 21.Ndb3 Na4 22.Nxd4 b6 23.Nxe6 fxe6 24.Nb3 Qf7 25.Rc2 Nb2 26.Qxd6 Nxc4 27.Bxc4 Rxc4 28.Qxf8+ Qxf8 29.Rxc4 Qf3 30.Re3 Qd1+ 31.Kg2 Qd7 32.Nc1 b5 33.Rc2 Qd1 34.Rc8+ Kh7 35.Rd3 Qe1 36.Rd7 1–0

So what does all this history mean?  Very strong players have taken both sides of the debut, and there are several different reasonable plans for both Black and White.  There are some Grandmasters that hold the early placement of a Knight on f3 is fundamentally flawed for White in openings that are Q-side oriented.  The Knight move foregoes too soon the possibility of using the f-pawn to support an eventual advance of the White e-pawn.  And, there are others that have a very different view; see the above games.  Which view is correct is very probably determined by the style of the player making the choice.  Some, those viewing an early Nf3 as a bad idea, prefer laying out their games on broad strategic lines.  The others see chess as so full of possibilities that many roads lead to rich positions.  They count on their creativity to see them through to success.

Returning to the game:    


As in Averbakh - Gruenfeld.

6..., dxe5 7.Nxe5 0–0

Both sides have opened the lines of their fianchettoed Bishops.  Effectively dealing with mutual threats to the b-pawns will be a concern for both players.

8.0–0 Nbd7 9.Nc4 Nb6 10.Nxb6 Qxb6 11.Nc3 Be6 12.Qf3 Rab8 13.Bf4!?,..

White plows straight ahead.  At this point things can become tactical after; 13..., Qxb2 14 Bxb8 Rxb8 15 Qf4 Rd8 16 Qd2 Nd7; and Black has several threats for the Exchange.  One line is; 17 Nd5 Bxd5 18 Bxd5 Ne5 19 Bg2 b6; when Black has only a pawn for the Exchange, but the activity of his pieces offers hope for equality.  The line offers temptation for White.  He could easily go wrong if he is greedy with say; 19 Rfb1?  This error is answered by 19..., Rxd5!, and then 20 Rxb2 Nf6+; wins for neatly for Black.

A more careful approach for White is 13 a4, aiming to kick the Qb6, relieving some pressure on b2.    

13..., Bg4 14.Qe3 Rbd8

Black does not take the b-pawn.  Maybe he was worried about how poisonous it might be, or he was not willing to invest material for nebulous positional benefits and potential tactical tricks.


Sending the Knight to the “rim” is a risk.  White wants the c-pawn and he hopes for benefit if Black takes the b-pawn in return.  A direct defense of b2 with Rab1, is better.  The net result of the transaction carried out is the Knight is parked on b3 where it is not very effective for a long time.

15..., Qb5 16.Nxc5 b6 17.Nb3 Nd5

The cost of winning the c-pawn is now paid.  White has to surrender the Bishop pair.

18.Bxd5 Qxd5 19.f3 Bh3 20.Rf2 Rfe8

Not 20..., Bxb2? Because 21 c4, gives White a sizable advantage.


This is doubtful.  Getting the Ra1 into play with 21 Re1, has to be a better choice.

21..., h5!?

Why not right away 21..., g5; driving back the Bf4, or 21..., Qf5; making real the threat to capture on b2?  Both alternatives are more forceful than the text.

22.Re1 g5 23.Be5 f6 24.Bc3 e5

Black is betting on some kind of pawn rush to compensate him for the pawn minus.  Three things are wrong with this idea; the Bg7 is not an active participant in the plan, carrying out the preliminaries has allowed White’s Bishop to take up a much more active post; c3 versus f4, and there is a lingering danger that the Bh3 may be surrounded if White can safely play g3-g4.  This latter nagging concern appears to be behind next sequence for Black.    

25.Qe4 Qf7

Also, 25..., Qd7; could be tried.  The text keeps the White Queen out of g6.

26.g4 f5?

This turns a level struggle into a mopping-up operation.  Keeping the fight going with 26..., Qd7; probably requires White to play; 27 gxh5, then; 27..., Bf5 28 Qc4+ Be6 29 Qa6 Bf8; and Black has not let White obtain a clear advantage.  It is true White has two extra pawns, but the Bishops are beginning to show signs of life and the White K-side will take some careful tending lest some of these scattered pawns fall.

I believe Black had decided a few moves earlier to mix things up with the f-pawn charge, probably around the time he played; 23..., f6.  Down a pawn and not liking how the game was unfolding, Mr. Le Cours may have been discouraged about his long term chances and decided going down swinging was a better option than long struggle promising only a draw with best play by both sides.  He was also aware the Geezers were trailing by a point, and a draw was not good enough to split the match point.  Playing as part of a team in chess can often put you in such circumstances; risks have to be taken to achieve a team result that might be avoided in an individual contest.  

27.Qxf5 Qxf5 28.gxf5 Bxf5 29.Rfe2!,..

Exactly!  The e-pawn is very difficult to defend.

29..., Rc8

Making a threat on the c2-pawn that is not really a threat.  If 30 Bxe5 Bxe5 31 Rxe5, there is no time available for Black to capture on c2; too many threats by White.


White believes the threat, or he is just be extra careful.  I don’t know which, but the move lets slip some of the advantage.

30..., g4 31.fxg4 Bxg4

The Black Bishop pair now have room in which to work.  Fortunately for White and the Albany A team, Peter has enough time remaining to see his way through the dangers.

32.Re3 Bf6 33.dxe5 Bg5 34.Rd3 Bh4  35.Re4,..

If 35..., Bf5? 36 Rxh4 Bxd3 37 cxd3, and the h-pawn is doomed after 37..., Rcd8 38 Nc1, making the material advantage a full three pawns.

35...,  Rf8

I had a momentary hallucination that this move threatened mate, but no, everything is covered.


A slip at the final moment nearly spoiling a good effort.  The move 36 Nd2, preserves the win.

36..., Bg5?

And here is a an error in return.  A reward for risk taking could be had with 36..., Bh3.  That is a mate threat now.  White would then have to play 37 Rg2+, I think.  After 37..., Bxg2 38 Kxg2, Black is just slightly better than  White.  Not much reward for all those risks taken you say?  Well, pulling up equal or a tad better is no mean feat.  The position after 38 Kxg2, offers Black some winning chances, and that was the justification for the pawn charge on the K-side I supposed.  In defense of Mr. Le Cours, it must be said he used considerable time searching for these ideas in a tough position.  His clock was now down to less than two minutes remaining.  Time for the required accuracy was no longer to be had, and White finds a tactical solution.

37.Rg2 Rf3 38.Rexg4 hxg4 39.Rxg4 Rf5 40.h4 1–0

The Bg5 is lost, and clock for Black is hanging by a thread while White has enough time left to bring the game to a finish.  This was a sparkling fight where both sides gave their best efforts for their teams.  It was an entertaining game to watch, and I am sure, a tough game to play.  We, the chess fans, appreciate such endeavors.    

More soon.


Albany A versus the Geezers

Wednesday evening saw a meeting of two of the stronger teams in the Capital District Chess League; Albany A and the Schenectady Geezers.  Albany A won the match 3 - 1, but it was by no means an easy victory.  The first game to finish was Board 2 where Jon Leisner and Gordon Magat made a quick draw.  Mr. Magat proposed the peaceful splitting of the point and Mr. Leisner felt he had to accept because his position was not promising.

Leisner, Jon - Magat, Gordon [A03]
CDCL Match Alb A v Geezers Guilderland, NY, 25.04.2012

1.f4 d5 2.Nf3 g6 3.e3 Bg7 4.Be2 c5 5.d3!?

This move is not the main idea here for White.  Jon Leisner, however, likes to prepare a push of his e-pawn in this his favorite line with White, the Bird’s Opening.  Usually here White castles before committing to the d2-d3 and eventually the e3-e4 idea.  We have to go way back to a strong international tourney in the 1950s to find top flight players investigating this line:

(38389) Rossetto, Hector - Pilnik, Herman [A03]
Buenos Aires (2), 1955
1.f4 d5 2.Nf3 g6 3.e3 Bg7 4.Be2 c5 5.0–0 Nc6 6.d4 Nf6 7.c3 Bg4 8.Nbd2 0–0 9.Qe1 e6 10.Kh1 Ne7 11.Ne5 Bxe2 12.Qxe2 Ne8 13.b3 Rc8 14.Bb2 Nd6 15.dxc5 Rxc5 16.c4 dxc4 17.Ndxc4 Ne4 18.Rad1 Rd5 19.Kg1 b5 20.Rxd5 Nxd5 21.Nc6 Ndc3 22.Qc2 Qc7 23.Bxc3 Nxc3 24.N4e5 Nd5 25.Rc1 Nxe3 26.Qc5 Nd5 27.Nxa7 Qxc5+ 28.Rxc5 b4 29.g3 g5 30.Rc4 Ra8 31.Nac6 gxf4 32.gxf4 Bf8 33.Nd3 Rxa2 34.Ndxb4 Nxb4 35.Nxb4 Rb2 36.f5 Rxb3 37.Rg4+ Kh8 38.fxe6 f5 39.Rf4 Bxb4 40.Rxf5 Re3 41.Kg2 Rxe6 42.h4 Re4 43.h5 0–1

5..., Nc6 6.0–0 e5?!



The mighty Rybka suggests White gets some advantage here with 7 fxe5 Nxe5 8 Nxe5 Bxe5 9 d4.  That does not seem all that clear to me.  If Black does not capture with the c-pawn on d4 and plays 9..., Bg7 10 dxc5 Ne7; the game arrives at a messy position where White has an extra pawn, but holding it may not be so easy.  

7..., exf4 8.exf4 Nge7 9.Na3 0–0 10.Bd2 Nf5 ½–½

According to Deep Rybka Black has some small edge.  I think Gordon offered the draw here as a ploy to test Jon’s resolve.  Their previous two meetings had ended in Mr. Leisner’s favor.  Now he has a marginally worse position; would Leisner go all out for the third victory in a row?  Practical considerations and the needs of the team won out over Jon’s aggressive instincts.  To Gordon’s surprise Mr. Leisner accepted the draw.

I was worried.  In our first match, Albany A had drawn with the Capital Region team.  They are not thought of as contenders while Albany A is always in the battle for the League title.  The Geezers began this year with two match wins.  If this contest was drawn, the Geezers would have excellent chances to finish ahead of us in the standings.  Across the remaining boards the match-ups were close based on ratings and recent performances.  More draws were likely.  It appeared the decision could come down to a single critical game.  At this early point in the match the other games had not really developed enough to judge which of the remaining games would be it.

The next game to finish was on the fourth board; Michael Mockler - Glen Perry.  After some doubtful improvisation by both sides in the opening and early middle game, a massive trade off of material led to a Rook and pawn ending.  It was not a completely balanced position, but what was there was insufficient for either side to try for the win, and a second draw was recorded.

On the top board John Phillips self-destructed when he misjudged the transition from opening to middle game.  He had an exceptionally good run this year cumulating in his win of the Schenectady title.  After that much good chess and good luck, who could begrudge him a lapse and a bit of bad luck?    

Howard, Dean - Phillips, John [B07]
CDCL Match Albany A versus The Geezers, Guilderland, NY, 25.04.2012

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.Be2 e6

Mr. Phillips likes to play this different plan for the Pirc where Black does not necessarily put his Bishop on g7.  Locally we have come to expect that fianchetto development, but it is not the only way to go.  The position now becomes something out of the Old Indian Defense.  The idea behind the Old Indian is to hold off on deciding to fianchetto the Bishop looking for subtle transposition possibilities.

Here is a game from the old days when Russian chess was the best in the world.  Simagin became a favorite of mine when I read an appreciation of his play by Mark Dvoretsky in an essay about attacking with opposite colored Bishops.  In his career Simagin won several games in that situation.  He clearly had an exceptional feel for that particular imbalance.  This game does not feature the opposite color Bishop imbalance.  It does show Simagin’s ability to defend a difficult position.  Averbakh, then one of the perennial contestants in the world title events, launches what should have been a winning sacrificial attack.  Simagin finds the resources to fight on even at a disadvantage.  He eventually turns the tables and takes the full point.  For our discussion here, the opening play in this game illustrates some ideas central to this line for Black.    

(34367) Averbakh, Yuri L - Simagin, Vladimir [B07]
Moscow Championship (13), 1952

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.Be2 e6 6.Bg5 Be7 7.Nd2 Bxe2 8.Qxe2 Nxe4 9.Bxe7 Nxc3 10.Qg4 Kxe7 11.bxc3 Kf8 12.Rb1 Qc7 13.Qg3 Na6 14.0–0 Rd8 15.f4 d5 16.Qh3 g6 17.g4 Kg7 18.f5 exf5 19.gxf5 f6 20.Nf3 b6 21.Ng5 Rde8 22.Ne6+ Rxe6 23.fxe6 Re8 24.Rxf6 Kxf6 25.Rf1+ Ke7 26.Rf7+ Kd8 27.Qxh7 Rxe6 28.Rxc7 Nxc7 29.Qf7 Kc8 30.Kf2 Kb7 31.Kf3 a5 32.Kg4 a4 33.a3 Re2 34.Kg3 Rxc2 35.Qxg6 Rxc3+ 36.Kf2 Rxa3 37.h4 Ra1 38.Qc2 a3 39.Kg3 Nb5 40.Qd2 a2 41.Kh2 Rh1+ 42.Kxh1 a1Q+ 43.Kg2 Qxd4 0–1

Returning to our game:

6.0–0 d5

Black has taken on a difficult task.  He grants White center dominance and must find ways to fight against it.  The text may well be the best way to do this.


Not the only way to play this position.  Possibly better is 7 h3, if then 7..., dxe4?! 8 hxg4 exf3 9 Bxf3, secures the Bishop pair for a slight dislocation of the White pawn formation.  An alternative is; 7..., Bxf3 8 Bxf3 Be7 9 Bf4, leaving White comfortably placed.  The text allows the position to slide towards equality.

7..., cxd5 8.Re1 Nc6 9.h3 Bh5 10.Bg5 Be7

The game has evolved to resemble Queen’s Pawn Game where White does not have the natural move c2-c4 available.  Without c2-c4 it is hard for White find an active way to treat the position.  That may be what provokes the next move.


Risky.  More controlled is; 11 Ne5 Bxe2 12 Nxe2 0-0; and so forth, leading to equality.  If you are trying to win a chess game, there are times when risks must be taken to unbalance the game.  That seems to be the motivation here.

11..., Bg6 12.Bb5 Rc8 13.Ne5 a6?!

Black decides to take his owns risks.  Just castling is a reasonable continuation.  If 13..., 0-0 14 Bxc6 bxc6; is entirely satisfactory for Black.  It turns out that the a-pawn is more exposed on a6 than it would have been if it had stayed at home.

14.Bxc6+ bxc6 15.Qe2 Qb6 16.Na4 Qb5 17.b3 Ne4?!

Once again castling is a normal move.  Black must have concluded the game was nearly ripe for some large scale simplification, and then having his King centralized is no bad thing.  It is logical reasoning, but the position on the board is fairly complex in that there are ideas that are connected.  A prominent one is; if the Black King will be at e7, then trading Queens is probably a good thing for Black.  It is not particularly appealing to have an un-castled King with the Queens on.

Trading Queens on this move is probably best.  After; 17..., Qxe2 18 Rxe2 Nd7 19 Bxe7 Nxe5 20 Rxe5 Kxe7 c3, and the Rooks plus minor piece ending will be nerve-wracking to play, but White’s Knight does have a secure outpost waiting on c5 that permits considerable pressure on e6.  A solid active outpost for the Knight offsets the slight theoretical advantage the Bishop has.    

18.Bxe7 Kxe7?!

This is the final moment for the trade of Queens.  Making that decision now requires a very difficult judgment call.  Black would have to conclude his position was so compromised that this risky line is his best choice; 18..., Qxe2 19 Rxe2 Kxe7 20 f3 Ng4 21 Kg2 f6 22 Nc5 fxe5 23 Rxe5 Nf7 24 Rze6+ Kf8.  White will double on the e-file and eventually on the 7th rank.  Regardless of the extra piece Black has in hand, the situation looks bad for him.  The White pieces are hugely active while Black’s pieces are poorly placed.  Even with unlimited time, calculating all the ins and outs of this line of play is a daunting task.  Under the constraints of a ticking clock, the practical decision is to defer the Queen trade and simply recapture on e7.


It is not so easy to trade Queens after this move.  The Queen and Rook battery on the e-file limit choices for Black; he can’t casually evict the Knight from e5 with .., f7-f6; because of the attack on e6 uncovered when the Knight moves.

19..., Qa5

Black recognizes the situation is becoming critical.  If 19..., dxc4; White obtains the better game after; 20 Nxg6+ hxg6 21 Qxe4 cxb3 22 Nc5, when the threatened sacrifice of the Knight on e6 leads to mate or a loss of material.  


Missing a chance to solidify the advantage, White seems to play by general principle instead of concrete calculation.  For some reason he wants to prevent 20..., Nc3?, a not particularly good move for Black because 21 Qd2, pins and wins the Knight.  Solid is; 20 f3 Nd6 21 c5 Nb5 22 Qe3, and the pawns at a6 and c6 are potential targets if White can figure out a way to attack them.

20..., Qd2?

An instructive error.  Earlier it was mentioned that the White Queen and Rook battery on the e-file make the move .., f7-f6; a doubtful try for Black.  Assuming that judgment holds true forever and always is what GM Jacob Aagaard labeled Forced Thinking.  By forcing our previous assumptions onto a position we often miss opportunities.  Chess positions grow out of the opening moves as more pieces come into play.  They then mature during maneuvers, and at some point, modify and transition with exchanges and further maneuvers.  At each step in the process from opening to middle game to ending, human players use a mix of calculation, intuition and assumptions to gauge what is worth precise calculation and what can be dismissed from consideration.  This probably the only way human beings can play chess for there is not unlimited time available.  Aagaard’s prescription is to routinely check and double check your assumptions as the position matures.  What was rightly put aside for good reason a move or two ago may now be just the shot that wins at this point.

Here Black can play; 20..., f6; and the threats on the e-file are adequately met after 21 Nxg6+ hxg6 22 f3 Ng5; and 23 f4? Nxh6+; wins for Black.  White can proceed more cautiously with 22 Kg2, and then 22..., Qd8 23 f3 Ng5 24 f4 Nxh3 25 Qxe6+ Kf8; brings about a tough position where Black is under some pressure, but he does have counter-chances.  After the game move, White has several paths to a solid advantage.  


Arguably, 21 Qxd2, then 22 Re2, followed by 23 Nb6, is better than the text.

21..., Rcf8

Mr. Phillips works very hard at the chess board.  It is not often he gets into positions such as this one where everything is bad, and it is a matter of choosing the least bad move.  Here, tossing the Exchange over the side might have offered some hope; 21..., Qxd4!? 22 Nxc8+ Rxc8; but then 23 Nxg6+ hxg6 24 Red1 Qe5 25 cxd5 exd5 26 Qxa6, and White’s material advantage along with the very active placement of his pieces should win.  Black can however justifiably play some more moves to make White demonstrate the win.

22.cxd5 Qxe2 23.Rxe2 cxd5

Different but no better is 23..., exd5 24 Rxc6 Rd8 25 f3, and the discovered double check threat nets a piece.


At this point I think John realized things had gone very badly indeed.  This one of the few times this year I saw him totally discouraged.

24..., Ke8

Giving up the Exchange with 24..., Kf6 25 Ned7+ Kg5 26 Nxf8, would have strung out the game for a few more moves without changing the outcome.

25.Nc6 Rfg8 26.Rc8# 1–0

The finish was a pretty mating sequence.  And so, this year’s Albany Champion defeated this year’s Champion of the Schenectady Club.

My worries were not over by any means.  The game Henner - Le Cours on board three had not reached a point where either side was clearly much worse.  Any result was possible.  Peter Henner had a very slight edge on the clock, five minutes more than his opponent.  Fortunately for the Albany team, Mr. Henner created enough difficulties over the next half-dozen moves to extend his time bulge.  As the game moved towards the 40th move, Mr. Le Cours had fewer and fewer minutes to use.  At the end he was under two minutes on the clock and could not hold his position together against Henner and the clock.

Not long before the witching hour of midnight, Alan resigned and the Albany A team recorded their first match win of the season.  It tightened up the battle for the League title setting the stage for a flurry of activity next week.  Albany A plays RPI next Wednesday and Schenectady A next Thursday, certainly the most critical of our remaining matches.  My next post will be about the Henner - Le Cours game I think.

More soon.      


To my readers:

The Blogger folks have redesigned their dashboard and the tools available to people posting.  It came as a surprise to me, and I did not pay enough attention to the details.  As a result my last post had the formatting lost and we got a virtually unreadable block of text.  I am working on figuring out how to fix this as quickly as I can.   I am sorry for missing this wrinkle and hope to have things back to normal soon.

Bill Little