The first of the big club championships in the Capital district ended last night. The Saratoga title was decided in a game between Jon Fineberg and Alan Le Cours. For a good while it seemed that the game might be drawn making a three way tie for first; Fineberg, Le Cours and Farrell all with 5 ½ points. The there would have been the usual debate about tie-breaks which is the appropriate system, etc. Mr. Fineberg saved us from that fate by taking advantage of a small positional error by Mr. Le Cours and bringing home the point and the title. Congratulations to the new Saratoga Champion! This is Jonathan Fineberg’s first title at Saratoga.
Fineberg, Jonathan - Le Cours, Alan [A25]
Saratoga Championship Saratoga Springs, NY, 08.01.2012
1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 Nc6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Nd5,..
Before the game began Alan Le Cours wondered out loud if he had wasted his time preparing for the English. Fineberg did not vary from his usual English and Le Cours equalized out of the opening. Preparation was not a waste of time at all.
This position has been popular for a long time. Way back in 1938 it showed up at a Hastings Christmas tournament:
(19795) Golombek, Harry - Klein, Ernst Ludwig [A25]
Hastings (1), 1938
1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e5 3.g3 Nc6 4.Bg2 Bb4 5.Nd5 Nxd5 6.cxd5 Nb8 7.Nf3 Qe7 8.0–0 0–0 9.d4 exd4 10.Nxd4 Bc5 11.e4 d6 12.Be3 Nd7 13.Nf5 Qf6 14.Qd2 Bxe3 15.Nxe3 a5 16.f4 Qd8 17.Rac1 b6 18.Qd4 f6 19.Rfd1 Re8 20.Nc4 Ba6 21.Nd2 Nc5 22.Nb3 Re7 23.Nxc5 bxc5 24.Qc3 a4 25.Re1 Rb8 26.e5 fxe5 27.fxe5 Rxe5 28.Rxe5 dxe5 29.Qxe5 Qd6 30.Qe6+ Kh8 31.Re1 Bb5 32.Qf7 Rf8 33.Qe7 Bd7 34.Re2 Kg8 35.Qe3 Re8 36.Qd2 Re5 37.Qe1 Rxe2 38.Qxe2 Qf6 39.h3 h6 40.Kh2 Bf5 41.Qf2 Kh7 42.Qf4 Bb1 43.Qxf6 gxf6 44.a3 f5 45.Bf3 Bc2 46.Kg2 Kg7 47.Kf2 Kf6 48.Ke3 Ke5 49.Kd2 Bb3 50.Ke3 Bc2 51.Kd2 Bb3 52.Ke3 Bxd5 53.Bd1 Bc6 54.Be2 Bd7 55.Bd3 Bc6 ½–½
The idea 6..., Nb8; let Golombek come out of the opening with an advantage, but it slipped away in the middle game.
5..., 0–0 6.a3,..
The capture 6 Nxb4, has not worked out for White. Here are couple of examples:
(941072) Rotstein, Arkadij (2528) - Zhang Pengxiang (2560) [A25]
Cannes Open (7), 24.02.2005
1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 Nc6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Nd5 0–0 6.Nxb4 Nxb4 7.d3 Nc6 8.e4 d6 9.Ne2 Bg4 10.f3 Be6 11.Be3 Nd7 12.0–0 f5 13.b3 Qe7 14.Qd2 a5 15.f4 fxe4 16.dxe4 exf4 17.gxf4 Nf6 18.h3 Qf7 19.Nd4 Nxd4 20.Bxd4 Qh5 21.Qe3 Rae8 22.Rae1 Bd7 23.e5 Qg6 24.Kh2 c6 25.Qc3 Nh5 26.Be4 Qh6 27.f5 dxe5 28.Bxe5 Nf6 29.Rg1 Rxe5 30.Qxe5 Re8 31.Qd4 Qf4+ 32.Kh1 Rxe4 33.Rxe4 Qxe4+ 34.Qxe4 Nxe4 35.Kh2 Kf7 36.Rd1 Nc5 37.a3 Bxf5 38.b4 axb4 39.axb4 Nd3 40.Ra1 Nxb4 41.Ra7 Bc8 42.Ra8 Be6 43.Ra7 Nd3 44.Rxb7+ Kf6 45.Rb6 Ne5 46.c5 Bd5 47.Rb2 Nd3 48.Rc2 Ke5 49.Kg3 Kd4 50.Re2 Nxc5 51.Re7 Ne6 0–1
Even though Black surrenders the Bishop pair, and he seemingly gains no time by the capture on b4, White has to handle the resulting play correctly.
(1172665) Larino Nieto, David (2404) - Roa Alonso, Santiago (2423) [A25]
Madrid FMA Masters Madrid (3), 21.04.2007
1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 Bb4 4.Bg2 Nc6 5.Nd5 a5 6.Nxb4 axb4 7.e3 d5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Ne2 Nde7 10.d4 exd4 11.exd4 Be6 12.Nf4 Bc4 13.d5 Ne5 14.Qd4 Qd6 15.b3 Bb5 16.Bb2 f6 17.0–0–0 0–0 18.Ne6 c5 19.dxc6 Qxe6 20.cxb7 Rab8 21.Rhe1 Bc6 22.Bf1 Bd5 23.Kb1 Qf5+ 24.Ka1 Rxb7 25.Qc5 Rc8 26.Qa5 Qxf2 27.Ba6 N5c6 28.Qa4 Ra7 29.Qb5 Rb8 30.Qd3 Rba8 31.Re2 Qb6 32.Bc4 Rxa2+ 33.Kb1 Bxc4 34.Qxc4+ Kh8 35.Rde1 Qa7 36.Kc1 Ra5 37.Kb1 Rc5 38.Bd4 Nxd4 39.Qxd4 Rc1+ 0–1
In the foregoing game GM Nieto responded to defending the Bb4 by .., a7-a5; by castling long right into a firestorm. Play in the game illustrates again that while the game unfolds slowly in these English Openings, it can get quite sharp.
6..., Bc5 7.e3 a5 8.Ne2 Re8 9.0–0 d6 10.h3 Bd7 11.b3 Nxd5
Capturing on d5 is a central question for Black in this line. Does he or don’t he? If he does so, White has a solidly defended pawn on d5 that can be “a bone in the throat” for Black. At first glance there does not seem to be any way to surround the pawn and win it. In the next game cited, Kuzubov challenges the d5-pawn early. GM Jan Timman shows how, if White is very confident, he can play to open the center relying on Black’s slower development to give an advantage to White.
(990473) Timman, Jan H (2625) - Kuzubov, Yuriy (2535) [A25]
15th EU-Team Ch, Gothenburg (2), 31.07.2005
1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 Nc6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Nd5 Bc5 6.e3 Nxd5 7.cxd5 Ne7 8.Ne2 0–0 9.0–0 c6 10.d4 exd4 11.exd4 Bb6 12.d6 Nf5 13.Bf4 Qf6 14.Be5 Qh6 15.Nc3 Nxd6 16.d5 Nf5 17.d6 Re8 18.Re1 Re6 19.Qd3 Qh5 20.Bf3 Qg6 21.Bf4 Nd4 22.Be4 Qh5 23.Bg2 Qg6 24.Be4 Qh5 25.Na4 f5 26.Nxb6 fxe4 27.Qxd4 axb6 28.Rxe4 Qc5 29.Qd3 Qf5 30.Rae1 Ra4 31.f3 h5 32.Qb3 Raxe4 33.fxe4 Qc5+ 34.Kg2 g5 35.Be3 Qxd6 36.Bxg5 Qc5 37.Bf6 d5 38.e5 Qd4 39.Qc2 1–0
In the next game cited, GM Maslak delays the natural challenge to the d5-pawn for a bit. That doesn’t improve results. Maslak escapes with a draw only because his opponent couldn’t resist a tempting but flawed mating combination.
(1206176) Adla,Diego Gustavo (2472) - Maslak, Konstantin (2548) [A25]
Pardubice Czech Open (7), 26.07.2007
1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 Nc6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Nd5 Bc5 6.e3 0–0 7.Ne2 Re8 8.0–0 a6 9.b3 d6 10.Bb2 Ba7 11.h3 Nxd5 12.cxd5 Ne7 13.Rc1 c6 14.dxc6 Nxc6 15.d4 Qa5 16.Bc3 Qb5 17.Qd2 Bf5 18.Rfd1 Rac8 19.Qb2 f6 20.Bf1 Qb6 21.Qa3 Bb8 22.d5 Ne7 23.Ba5 Qa7 24.Nc3 h6 25.Qb4 Qc5 26.Qxc5 Rxc5 27.b4 Rcc8 28.b5 axb5 29.Bxb5 Rf8 30.g4 Bg6 31.Bd7 Rc5 32.Bb4 Rc4 33.a3 Rd8 34.Be6+ Bf7 35.Ba5 Bc7 36.Bb4 Bb8 37.Rb1 Kf8 38.Kf1 h5 39.Ke2 Bxe6 40.dxe6 hxg4 41.hxg4 Rxg4 42.Ba5 Re8 43.Rxb7 Nc6 44.Bc7 Bxc7 45.Rxc7 Rc4 46.Rf7+ Kg8 47.Rg1 Rxc3 48.Rfxg7+ Kh8 49.R7g6 Re7 50.Rg8+ Kh7 51.R8g3 Kh8 52.Rg8+ Kh7 53.R8g3 Kh8 54.Rg8+ ½–½
Enough of the history and theory, back to our game.
12.cxd5 Ne7 13.d4 exd4 14.Nxd4 Nf5 15.Nxf5 Bxf5 16.Bb2 Qg5!?
The game has leveled out with the trades of the last Knight. While watching the game I expected here 16..., Qd7 17 g4 Be4 18 Re1. The trick of pushing the b-pawn to b4 is in the air; if Black captures the pawn offered, Qd4 threatens mate and the Bishop on b4 winning. Black of course is under no obligation to grab the pawn and can just retreat the Bishop to b6.
When Black made the text move I was puzzled. The first thought was; Black has three pieces targeting e3, are there some tactics that net him an advantage? I could not find anything decisive for Black, just some dangers that White will have to take into account.
17.Rc1 Be4 18.Rc4,..
The sequence 18 b4 axb4 19 axb4 Bxb4? 20 Rxc7, is tempting, but Black likely will not fall in with White’s wishes but can play 19..., Bb6; with an equal game. The game move makes threats along the 4th rank. If the White Rooks can get to g5 the g7-pawn is attacked twice and its defense problematical.
18..., Qg6 19.Bxe4,..
An interesting decision. I thought at the time White would avoid trading material given the critical sporting nature of the contest; a win by either side nets the title. My guess about how play would go was; 19 Kh2!?, (Preparing f2-f3, and if 19..., Bd3 20 Rg4.) 19..., f6 20 f3?! Bd3 21 Rg4 Bc2!, with complicated play that is not unfavorable for Black; if there is no crashing through attack based on the Rg4, what is White to do with his Rook out there among the pawns? White can opt for something else, say 19 Re1, but then a subsequent f2-f3 still has danger attached. Play might continue; 19 Re1 h6 20 f3 Bf5 21 Kh2 Bxe3 22 Rxc7 Bf2 23 Rxe8+ Rxe8 24 g4 Qg5 25 Bc3 Qd8; when Black has some edge because of the problems around the White King. Those problems are not offset by potential distant passed a-pawn. Getting it rolling is tough when the slightest inaccuracy may well lead to mate. My guess is, for the variations I mention and probably more that Mr. Fineberg examined, he concluded simplification is best.
19..., Rxe4 20.Rxe4 Qxe4 21.Qd2 f6 22.Rc1 b5 23.Rd1 Qf3 24.Re1 Kf7 25.Qd1 Qxd1
The game has been moving towards a drawn outcome. This move is one more step along that path. If Black wanted to keep tension in the game, he could have tried 25..., Qf5; but I don’t see much more he can do if White is careful.
A not particularly useful loosening of his pawn structure. Better 26..., Re8.
27.Kg2 Re8 28.Kf3 Kg6
During the postmortem I said this was maybe the move that cost Black the game. With Rybka’s help, I looked long and hard, but I was not completely correct in that judgment. Black can hold this position if he finds just the right move. A bigger problem for Black was the clock. The crises approaches and Black was down to sixteen minutes here. White was better off with twenty-three minutes remaining. Now this is not time trouble on the order we have seen with Philip Sells or in the past with Peter Michaelman,, but the ending is tricky and there is considerable play left in the position. It is certainly uncomfortable to know that taking as little as one minute for consideration is a serious matter.
29.Rc1 Re7 30.Rg1! h6?
This is the culprit. With little time to consider deeply what is going on, Black plays to keep things together and to conserve the clock. White has hit upon a methodical approach; open the g-file so as to put maximum pressure on g7, and then, activate his center pawns. A counter-plan is not at all obvious, but it is there. Black should play to liquidate the target with 30..., Kh6!; if then 31 g4 Rf7 32 Ke2 g5 33 gxf5 Rxf5 34 Rg4 Kg6; and while Black is not out of the woods entirely, he has made some progress. Note that “winning” the d-pawn with .., Rxd4?; is answered by e3-e4, trapping the Rd4.
31.g4 fxg4+ 32.hxg4!?,..
I did not have a chance to ask Fineberg why this move when 32 Rxg4, seems so natural. The decision may have turned on nothing more than instinct. Jonathan’s time remaining was now about eleven minutes to Alan’s nine. The situation is anything except clear as yet, and the text keeps the White pawns together anticipating an ending played in a time scramble.
32..., Rf7+ 33.Ke2 Re7 34.Kd3,..
White begins to use a second idea in his plan. From d3 the White King can support the advance of the center pawns. He is also prepared to march on the Black Q-side via c4/b5/c6 if the opportunity is given.
The sustained pressure White has exerted makes a crack. More stubborn is 34..., Rf7.
White is determined not to rush matters, however here he could have played 35 g5 hxg5 36 Rxg5 Kf8 37 a4, forcing open the c4/b5 pathway for the White King. The dual threats of advancing the pawns in the center and a raid by the White King on the Q-side strains the Black defense to the breaking point.
35..., g5 36.f4?,..
An error that presents Black with a chance to hold the draw. White decides not to preserve the central pawn mass. He elects to go with a passed pawn on the K-side as his trump. I do not think that is the correct way to proceed.
36..., gxf4 37.exf4 Re1 38.g5 hxg5 39.fxg5 Kg6 40.Bc3 Rd1+ 41.Ke4 b4 42.axb4 axb4 43.Bf6 Re1+ 44.Kd3 Rh1 45.Kc4 Rh4+ 46.Kb5 Bf2?
The game has been about equal for the last ten or so moves. Here Black begins to slip. It is understandable. His clock was now down to 28 seconds! The last move does not let the balance tip too much. Black likely was worried about the loss of the pawn on c7 and wanted to distract White. Better is 46..., Rh2; looking for activity for the Rook.
The repositioning of the Bishop has left both the c and d-pawn in the lurch.
48.Kc6 Rh7 49.Re2 Bc3 50.Re6 Kf5 51.Bd8 Rg7 1–0
Here the flag fell for Mr. Le Cours. I have to admire the clear creative thought behind Mr. Fineberg’s idea of advancing the g-pawn on move 31. It was the only way to keep up the effort to win. I had written the game off at as a draw and did not consider the move at all. The follow up was not without flaws, but also admirable was the way White maintained the initiative. In building time pressure it is extraordinarily difficult to find just the right move. The defender is stretched between conserving precious time and making positional concessions. In this game, Le Cours made a stubborn defense, it just took too much clock time to do so.
The final standings in the Saratoga Championship were:
1 Jonathan Fineberg 6 - 2
2 Gary Farrell 5 ½ - 2 ½
3 Alan Le Cours 5 - 3
4 Josh Kuperman 2 ½ - 5 ½
5 David Connors 1 - 7
6 Jeff Hrebenach DNF - Games rated but not counted in the standings, less than 50% played.
To sum up the event: Jon Fineberg had a shaky start. In the first cycle he lost to both Le Cours and Farrell while winning as expected against Connors and Kuperman. In the second half of the contest he swept all before him scoring 4 - 0 to take the title.
Mr. Farrell had a spotty performance. He lost to Kuperman in the first half and drew with Connors in the second half. By winning both games against Mr. Le Cours, Gary pulled himself into contention for first place, but his fate was in the hands of others at the end.
Alan Le Cours came close. He nearly had a draw in his last round game that would made a three way tie for first. The clock got him this time.
All things considered, a most interesting event. The down side has to be the low turnout. Only a few years ago we were lamenting the time required to finish the Saratoga Championship because we had 15 or more entrants. I don’t know what can be done to bring attendance up. If anyone has an idea I’d be more than glad to publish it to the chess community here.