|Games versus GMs||
Welcome to my chess page. This is mostly random thoughts and analysis in the form of a chess diary with other sections of the site slowly developing. A lot of the content will come from my own experience. There are two reasons for this. One, so I can use this site as a self-improvement tool. Two, so you the readers will have content that is not found on other chess sites. Follow the link to the left to reach my annotated games against grandmasters. Send me comments and ideas
|Corrections to Basic Chess Endings|
In round 3, I had Black versus Demetrios Bovopolous. This was his first time in the championship and his 2 points was good enough for a small rating gain. 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. d4 Bg4 10. Bd5 Bxf3 Alekhine's solution against the namesake of this variation was 10... Nxd5 11. exd5 Na5 12. dxe5 dxe5 13. Rxe5 Nc4 14. Re1 Nb6 with equality in Yates - Alekhine Sheveningen 1913; 10... Qd7!? is an interesting sacrifice 11. dxe5 dxe5 12. Bxc6 Qxc6 13. Nxe5 Qe6 14. Nxg4 Nxg4 and it appears Black has compensation because of the undeveloped White queenside. 11. Qxf3 Qd7 12. Be3 Nxd5 13. exd5 Na5 14. dxe5 dxe5 15. Nd2 f5 16. Nb3 Nxb3 17. axb3 Bd618. c4 e4 19. Qd1 f4 20. Bd4 Rae8 21. Rxa6?! White should try to hold up the black attack with 21. f3 instead of grabbing this meaningless pawn. 21... f3 22. Re3 Bf4 23. Rc3
23...b4 I was too focused on the g2 square when it is really f2 which should be the focal point of the attack 23... e3 should win fairly quickly. For example, 24. Bxe3 Bxe3 25. Rxe3 Rxe3 26. fxe3 Qg4 27. Qf1 f2+ 28. Kh1 Qd1 24. Rc2 fxg2 24... Qg4 25. g3 e3 should still be a fairly quick win 25. Qh5 Rf5 26. Qg4 Qf7 still playing for the attack, but 26... Rxd5 grabbing a pawn is better 27. h4 avoiding the trap 27. Bxg7? Qxg7 28. Qxf5 Bxh2+ 27... e3?! Finally, this move, but now it probably squanders Black's advantage. 27...Bd6 with the idea of 28...Rf4 would keep the initiative 28. Re2 dodging both 28. Bxe3 Bxe3 29. fxe3 Rg5! and 28. fxe3 Bd6, but challenging the e-file with 28. Re6 was likely best. 28... exf2+?! Again too impatient. 28...Bd6 would keep Black on top 29. Rxf2 Bh2+ 30. Kxg2 30. Kxh2 loses to 30...Rxf2 31. Bxf2 Qxf2 32. Qxg2 Qxh4+ 30... Rxf2+ 31. Bxf2 Bd6 32. Ra1?! This may even deserve a full question mark. White must maintain his queen's dominating position with 32. h5 with a slight advantage to White. Now the White king is just too exposed with heavy pieces on the board. 32... h5 33. Qf3 Qg6+ 34. Kh1 Rf8 35. Qg2 Qd3 36. Rg1 Be5 37. Rf1? The final blunder, 37. Bg3 puts up more resistence, but Black should win after 37...Bd4 38. Re1 Rf3 39. Kh2 Qf5 37... Rf4 38. Kg1? I had to scold my young opponent for offering a draw here, especially since he tried the old stick your hand out across the board trick 38...Rg4 [0:1]
In round 2 I had White against Sanchit Wadhawan. After getting shut out in his debut last year, he finished with a respectable even score to take clear third. He also had a big impact on the race for first with his 12 move win over Bob Hydzik in the final round, which allowed me to catch up.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Be3 O-O 8. Qd2 c5 9. Nf3 Nc6 10. d5 Qa5 11. Rc1 Rd8 12. c4 The previous time I reached this position, I was successful with 12. Bd3 which is probably the best move 12... Qxd2+ 13. Kxd2 13. Bxd2 Nd4 is immediately equal 13... b6 14. Bd3 14. Rb1 Nb4 15. Bb1 Bg4 Black can't go pawn hunting as 15... Bb2 16. Rcd1 Ba6 17. a3 Bxa3 18. Kc3 is quite good for White 16. Ke2 Rd6 He should probably try recycling the knight with 16... Na6, but it is understandable that he would like to keep it in place as it is dominating the White Bb1. White doesn't want to force the issue with a3 as then ...Bb2 is an annoying threat 17. h3 Bxf3+ 18. Kxf3 Rad8 19. Ke2 R6d7 20. f4 f6? A horrible positional move that essentially decides the game. If he is going to play ...f6 it must be preceded by 20... Bb2, but I thought it was better to fight back against the center after 21. Rcd1 e6 and perhaps ...f5 at some point. 21. g4 I briefly considered 21. f5 but realized there was no need for such extravagence, Bg7 is destined to be a pawn for the rest of the game 21... h6 22. f5 g5
Ending any dream of the bishop ever escaping. Black is just a piece down and can only await the White breakthrough. 23. a3 Na6 24. Bc2 Nb8 25. Ba4 Rc7 26. Bf2 Nd7 27. Bxd7 Rcxd7 28. Rb1 Kf7 29. a4 Rb7 30. Kd3 Rh8 31. Bxc5 Rd7 32. Bf2 h5 33. a5 hxg4 34. hxg4 Rxh1 35. Rxh1 bxa5 36. Rb1 [1:0]
In the opening round, I had White versus Kipp Bynum, who gained the most game points throughout the year without winning a tournament to qualify for the Championship for the third time.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 Bb4+ 4. Nc3 c5 5. Nf3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Qa5 7. Qd3 Nc6 8. Bd2 8. Bg2!? cxd4 9. Bd2 is an interesting sacrifice 8... O-O 9. Bg2 d6 10. O-O Qc7 I didn't really like this voluntary retreat. I think it is better to preserve the option of a later Qa4 with 10... e5 or 10...h6. 11. d5 Na5 12. Bg5 Ng4?! After this, White develops a strong initiative, better was 12... Ne8 intending to close the position with ...e5 giving him some time to complete his development 13. h3 Ne5 14. Nxe5 dxe5 15. d6 Qd7 16. Be7 Going for the attack is better than winning a meaningless pawn with 16. Be3 16... Re8 17. f4 exf4 18. Rxf4 Nc6 This meets with a powerful refutation, but White still has a strong initative after the alternatives 18... e5 19. Rxf7; 18... f5 19. g4 Nc6 20. Bxc6 Qxc6 21. Qe3 b6 22. gxf5 exf5 23. Qe5 Bb7 24. e4; 18... f6 19. Rh4 f5 20. e4 19. Bxc6 Qxc6 20. Rxf7!
20...Bd7? this loses without a fight, the White pieces swarm the undefended Black king. The main line was 20... Kxf7 21. Qxh7 Rxe7 22. Rf1+ Ke8 23. Qg8+ Kd7 24. dxe7 Kxe7 25. Qf8+ Kd7 26. Rf7#; Afterwards, we mainly focused on 20... e5 since it looked like Whte may have to waste a move with 21. g4 or 21. Kh2 to defend h3 (although White's attack is probably still too strong), but the cleanest solution is 21. Raf1 Bxh3 and the White rooks go on a rampage. 22. Rxg7+! Kxg7 23. Rf7+! Kxf7 24. Qxh7+ Ke6 25. Qxh3+ Kf7 26. Qh7+ Ke6 27. Qg6+ Kd7 28. Qf5# a diagonal mate with epaulets 21. Raf1 b6 22. Qe3 h6 [22... Kh8 intending ...Rg8 is no help 23. Rxg7 Kxg7 24. Qg5+ Kh8 25. Bf6#] 23. Qe5 [1:0]
When the clocks were finally stopped in the Knoxville City Championship earlier this month, I emerged at the top of the crosstable for the 13th time. However, for the first time, I had to share first place. As I mentioned in an earlier post, a dreadful blunder resulted in a loss to Robert Hydzik who ended up matching my 4-1 score to become co-Champion. He also picked up his 4th Knoxville Amateur Championship this year. I'll be giving full annotations of my games over the next few posts.
In the final round I had Black against Ananth Pappu. The critical moment came just after the time control 40...Rh5
He went into the tank here for over half and hour and finally came up with 41. Rd6? I was more worried about 41. Rd5 when it seems White can hold after 41... Re5 42. Rxe5 fxe5 43. Nc7 b4 44. Nd5+ Kd4 45. Nxb4 (not 45. Kf3 Bd2 46. h4 Be1 47. h5 Bd2 and White is in zugzwang) 47. Ke2 Kxe4 48. Nf6+ Kf5) 45... Kxe4; In the hallway afterwards he said that Black wins by a tempo after 41...Rxd5 I think his line was something like 42. exd5 Be3 43. d6 Bb6 44. d7 b4 45. d8=Q Bxd8 46. Nxd8 Kxc2 47. Nc6 (47... b3 48. Nd4+ Kc3 49. Nxb3 Kxb3-+ 50. Kg4 g6 51. h4 Kc3 52. h5 gxh5+ 53. Kxh5 Kd4 54. Kg6 Ke5 but it looks like White has a couple of improvements simplest is 44. Nc7 and the threat of Nd5 stops Black from making progress. He could also hold in the knight vs. pawn ending with 47. Nf7 (47. Nb7) 47... b3 48. Nd6 Kd3 49. Nb5 b2 50. Na3 =. After the text, Black gets excellent winning chances 41... Kxc2 42. Nd4+ perhaps still the best chance 42. Rd5 Re5 43. Nd4+ Kd3 44. Nxb5+ Kxe4 and all the pawns are on the same side of the board. 42... Kc3 43. Nf5 b4 44. h4 Bd2 I spent some time trying to get 44... Rxf5 to work, but it seems Black is a tempo short of winning after 45. exf5 for example 45... Bd2 46. Kf3 Kc2 47. Ke2 Bc3 48. Rd7 b3 49. Rxg7 b2 50. Rb7 b1=Q 51. Rxb1 Kxb1 52. h5 Bb4 53. h6 Bf8 54. h7 Bg7 55. Kd3 Bh8 56. Kd4 Kc2 57. Kd5 Kd3 58. Ke6 Ke4 59. Kf7 Kxf5 60. Kg8 Kg6 61. Kxh8 Kf7 45. Rc6+ 45. Nxg7 Rc5 and the b-pawn will be decisive 45... Kd3 46. Rd6+ Kxe4 47. Nxg7 Bf4+ 48. Kf2 Bxd6 49. Nxh5 Be5 50. Ke2 f5 [0:1]
In round 4, I had White against an old rival from my days in Indiana, Jim Mills. This was our 11th meeting, but the first since 1995. He was having a very good tournament up to this point beating GM Lein and drawing GM Perelstyn. I broke our 5-5 deadlock (all decisive games) with a nice attack after 26...Rfb8
27. f5 Afterwards, he mentioned 27. e6 fxe6 28. dxe6 Bxe6 29. f5 gxf5 30. Bxf5 with an edge for White 27... dxe5 28. fxg6 28. Nxe5 also looks good. For example, 28...Qd6 29. Nxf7 Kxf7 30. fxg6+ hxg6 31. Qh6 with a decisive attack 28... fxg6 29. Bxg6 Qg7 Going for a counterattack. Instead, 29... hxg6 30. d6 Qd8 31. dxc7 Qxc7 32. Qd5+ Kg7 33. Rxa6 and White is much better 30. Bd3 Bxh3 30... e4 is an attempt to penetrate the second rank, but White defuses the attack 31. Rxe4 Rb2 32. Rxb2 Rxb2 33. Qg5 31. Rxe5 h6 32. Qe2 Qg3 33. Qf2 Going for the queen swap to avoid any time pressure surprises, but White could still play 33. d6 Rb1+ 34. Bxb1 Rxb1+ 35. Ne1 Rxe1+ 36. Qxe1 and Ra2 covers the mate on g2. 33... Qxf2+ 34. Rxf2 Bg4 35. Re7 Ne8 36. Ne5 Bh5 meeting both 37. Nxg4 and 37.Bf7+ Kh8 38. Ng6#, but there was a third threat 37. Bh7+ Kh8 38. Rf8# [1:0]
I was all the way up to Board 1 for round 3, with the Black pieces against Ben Finegold. After many years, Ben has finally achieved his final GM norm, and will officially receive the title at the next FIDE congress. 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. d5 g6 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O Na6 8. Re1 Nc7 9. a4 b6 10. Bf4 Bb7 Since White has omitted h3, Black can consider Bg4 here or on the previous moves 11. Qd2 Re8 Perhaps unnecessary. The thought is to preserve the bishop with Bh8 after a possible Bh6, but sometimes Nf6 wants to retreat here. 11... a6 or 11... Qd7 is likely a slight improvement. 12. Rad1 a6 13. Bc4 Qd7 14. Bh6 14. e5 Nh5 15. e6 fxe6 16. dxe6 Qc6 17. Bh6 Rf8 leads to a double-edge position. 14... b5 more consistent is 14... Bh8 15. e5 b5 15. Bxg7 Kxg7 16. e5 bxc4 17. exf6+ exf6 18. Rxe8 Nxe8 better is 18... Rxe8 keeping the d-pawn under fire so as not to allow the easy transfer of the knight from f3 to c4] 19. Qf4 f5 20. Nd2 Nf6 21. Nxc4 Rd8 22. h3 Qe7 23. Kf1 Nh5 24. Qd2 Qh4 25. b3 Bc8 again I failed to realize the weakness of the White d-pawn. 25... Nf6 forces White to keep two pieces defending it and he will have to come up with a way to make progress; Instead, I was too enamored with pushing forward on the kingside. I saw 25... f4 26. Ne4 f3 27. Qc3+ didn't work, so I decided to reposition my bishop 26. Re1
26... f4? A horrible positional move, which I thought had tactical justification. Better was 26...Nf6 with approximate equality 27. Ne4 g5?! after this there is no fight left, Only now did I realize my intended 27... Bxh3 loses for the same reason as 27...f3 28. Qc3+ Black could still try to complicate with 27... Kg8 28. Ncxd6 (28. Nexd6 Bxh3 29. gxh3 f3) 28... f3 28. Qc3+ Kg6 29. Nexd6 f6 30. Qd3+ f5 31. Nxc8 Rxc8 32. Ne5+ [1:0]
I moved into the high board section in round 2, with White against my Tempo teammate Gerald Larson, who had upset IM Bryan Smith in the first round. After a maneuvering middlegame, the game turned more tactical after 21...Ka8
He was aiming to play 21...Ne4 which could not be played because of 21... Ne4 22. Bxe4 dxe4 (22... fxe4 23. Qxf6) 23. Ndc6+ . I didn't really like the move because I thought it put the king on a bad square, he was more critical of his previous move Bg7-f8 which took the protection off of f6. 22. Nb3 Rb5 22... R5c7 23. Nxd5 R7c6 ( 23...Qe6 24. Nxc7+ is check now because of Ka8, 24...Rxc7 25. c4 ) 24. c4 doesn't offer much, so he went for an exchange sac to try to preserve the d5 pawn. 23. Bxb5 Qxb5 24. Rxd5 I thought this was more vigorous than 24. Nd4 Qc4 when White will have to figure out how to unwind his pieces. 24... Qc4 trying to bump the knight to a worse square before taking on d5 25. Nd2 I tried to make 25. Na5 Qc7 26. Na6 work, but after 26... Qb6 it looks like the knight has to retreat with 27. Nb4 25... Bxd5 26. Qxd5 Surprisingly, the engines like the pawn up rook ending with a damaged pawn structure after 26. Nxc4 Bxf3 27. Nxd6 Bxd6 28. gxf3 Bxb4 29. axb4. I preferred to play for the attack. 26... Qe2 27. c4 Ne4 He doesn't really have time to take the pawn since 27... Qxf2 28. c5 Nb5 29. c6 gives White a strong attack. 28. Nxe4 fxe4 29. c5 Qb5 29... Kb8 30. c6 Bxb4 31. c7+ Ka8 32. Qe6 (32. Qd8 Qd3+) wins 30. Qe6 Qe8 This leads to a lost ending, but avoided a couple of the traps I had set. 30... Rxc5? 31. Qc8+ Rxc8 32. Rxc8# was rather obvious, but more insidious was 30... Re8 31. c6! Rxe6 32. c7 a5 33. c8=Q+ Ka7 34. Qxe6 +- I thought the relatively best move was 30... Kb8 but White still retains a strong initiative with 31. c6 since 31...Bxb4 32. c7+ Rxc7 33. Qg8+ leads to mate] 31. Qxe8 Rxe8 32. Nd5 Re5 33. Nxf6 and I won the ending with 2 extra pawns.
In the first round, I had Black vs. Yun Fan. Instead of analysis, I think the story of this game is best told with diagrams, which illustrate Nimzowitsch's famous quote, “A passed pawn is a criminal, who should be kept under lock and key.” My opponent sacrificed an exchange to obtain a protected passed pawn on d5, which I immediately blockaded with 28...Qd6
Watch how the Black pieces take turns guarding the prisoner 29. Bc4 Rc8 30. a4 Rgd8 31. Qg4 Qd7 32. Qxd7 Rxd7 33. f3 Rd6
34. a5 f6 35. Bf2 Ne7 36. Rb2 Rc7 37. g4 Nc8 38. Bb5 Rd8 39. Be2 Nd6
40. c4 h5 41. Kg2 hxg4 42. hxg4 Rh8 43. Bg3 Rd8 44. Bf2 Nc8 45. Rb5 b6 46. a6 Nd6 47. Rb1 Rb8 48. Be3 Rh8 49. Bf2 Kf8 50. Bg3 Rch7 51. Bd3 Ke7 52. Be2 Kd7 53. Bd3 Kc7 54. Rc1 Nc8 55. Rd1 Ne7 56. Bc2 Kd6
The final blockader has arrived. Now everything is ready for the kingside invasion 57. Ba4 Ng6 58. Kf2 Rh1 59. Rd2 Ra1 60. Bb5 Rhh1 61. Ke3 Nh4 62. Rf2 Ra3+ 63. Ke2 Ra2+ 64. Ke3 Ng2+ 65. Kd3 Rd1+ 66. Kc3 Rxf2 67. Bxf2 Rf1 [0:1] I think this game also is a great example of the endgame principle “Do Not Rush!”
Caissa can be very fickle. Last Thursday, I lost a game in the Knoxville City Championship for the first time since 1997 with a silly blunder that left a piece hanging. That did not bode well heading into the annual Kings Island Open that started Friday. So what happened? I scored 4/5 to tie for first, my biggest win ever! I'll have some analysis in the coming days.
In yet another change, FIDE has gone to bi-monthly lists, so they released lists in September and November instead of the normal October. Their new progress page gives a good view of what has changed in the Top 100. Of course the big news for this period was Magnus Carlsen crossing the 2800 barrier to move into the number 2 spot. Not sure how the World Championship cycle is set up now beyond Topalov challenging World Champion Anand next year, but Carlsen will clearly be a big favorite in the next round.
US chess has finally seen a shakeup since I last reported. US Champ Hikaru Nakamura (2713) has finally succeeded Gata Kamsky (2696) in the top spot. Kamsky even slipped to third behind Alexander Onischuk (2681) on the September list, but recovered this month with a big 7.5/9 in the Baku Open while Onischuk only manged 5/11 in the Montreal International. Varuzhan Akobian (2624) has slowly climbed his way up the US list, he's now 5th behind veteran Yasser Seirawan (2649). Yuri Shulman (2623) holds the 6th spot while the Tempo's Baltic Bash Brothers Shabalov and Ehlvest are equal 7th at 2606. Kaidanov and Christiansen round out the top 10.
I continue to hover just outside the top 100 at #114 at 2307. I had an unfortunate result at the US Open from a FIDE rating perspective. I lost 21 points from a 2.5/5 result against FIDE rated opponents. I scored 2.5/3 against other opponents who had very similar USCF ratings to those 5 players, but who did not have FIDE ratings.
Last night, the Tempo faced off with the Miami Sharks in week 4 of the USCL (sponsored by Poker Stars). Unlike past years, this was one of several Monday night matches. I think I liked it better when there was just one showcase Monday match each week, but I understand the strain it puts on league officials to then have to deal with 6 matches on Wednesday. While the Tempo were off to our best start ever with 1.5/3, we thought this was a critical match as this was the first time we faced one of last seasons playoff teams, the defending Western Division champion Miami Sharks.
The eventual 2-2 draw was a typical back and forth USCL battle. John Bick got us on the scoreboard first with a big win on Board 3 with Black over IM Alejandro Moreno Moran. From the Tennessee perspective, our best chance to win the match was on Board 2 in the battle of IMs, Burnett vs. Lugo. Ron had seemed to have a small pull the entire game, but seemed to have missed 27... Nc5-e4 when two pieces are attacked.
He spent almost all of his time up before going for a desperate queen sacrifice with 28. Rxe4? Also bad is 28. Nc4? Nxc3 29. Qxc3 b5; However, the paradoxical 28. Bb4! keeps the balance. The same two pieces are now attacked, and now neither of them has a defender, but the Bd6 is the key to Black's defensive position. The main point is 28... Bxb4? 29. Ng6+ hxg6 30. Qh3+ Kg8 31. d6+ and it is White who ends up with the extra queen. Taking the knight is also bad for Black 28... Bxe5 29. Bxf8 Bxh2+ 30. Kh1 and Black has insufficient compensation, so he likely has to be content with the roughly equal ending after something like 28... Qb6 29. Bxd6 Qxd6 30. Nd3 (30. Nf7+!? Rxf7 31. Rxe4)) 28... fxe4 29. Qxf8+ Bxf8 30. d6 Bxd6 31. Nf7+ Kg8 32. Nxd6+ Kf8 33. Nxe4 and the presence of the b-pawn prevents White from any chance of a freak fortress.
Of course Miami can point to Boards 1 and 4 for their missed opportunities where they were up one and two pawns respectively. However, Tempo fans rejoiced when GM Ehlvest and David Justice navigated opposite colored bishop endings to draws. The Tempo will be back in action on the 30th versus the Seattle Sluggers
After all the complaints at tournaments and via email, I've decided to end my blogging sabbatical! I think I was entitled to a year off after about 9 years of consistent posting. It will probably take me awhile to get back in the swing of things, so it may be more fragments than full games for awhile.
I'm not quite sure how I'll cover the blank period. For the next couple of months the focus will be on the US Chess League. Todd gave me the managerial duties this year, but not before assembling a powerhouse lineup with the return of former world #5 Jaan Ehlvest and 4-time US Champion Alex Shabalov. After missing the playoffs by half a point last year, we are daring to openly speak the p-word this year!
There were big shakeups at the top of the FIDE rating list for October 2008. Two big tournaments, the Bilbao Grand Prix and the Tal Memorial saw all of the top players in action this period. When the dust finally settled Veselin Topalov (2791) had won Bilbao with room to spare and had reclaimed the world #1 spot. With a second place in Moscow, Alexander Morozevich (2787) kept the #2 spot. This kept him just ahead of the winner Vassily Ivanchuk (2786), who played a remarkable 50 games in the period! The number of games played by Ivanchuk was the tiebreaker that made him #3 ahead of #4 Magnus Carlson (2786) with the same rating. Vishy Anand (2783) had a surprising last place finish in Bilbao, so the World Championship match will be a matchup between the #5 and #6 Vladimir Kramnik (2772). Levon Aronian (2757) and Teimor Radjabov (2751) make it 8 players above 2750. The number of 2700+ players increased to 32.
One of the new members of Club 2700 is the USA's Hikaru Nakamura (2704), but the pecking order at the top remains 1. Kamsky (2729) 2. Nakamura 3. Onischuk (2644) 4. Seirawan (2634) and 5. Shulman (2616)
My result in the Colias Memorial gained me 16 points up to 2330. This puts me at #109 in the US, the highest I have ever been.
After 11 unsuccessful tries, I finally cracked the win column in the US Chess League (once again this year sponsored by Poker Stars) on Wednesday night. I really experienced the highs and lows of chess this week. On Sunday night I was in a funk after letting the Tennessee state championship slip through my fingers. On Wednesday it was pure joy winning to give the Tempo an upset draw against the Seattle Sluggers, who had dominated our previous meetings. Today, it was a bit back down to earth as I got totally jobbed out of 2nd place in the Game of Week voting.
I don't really have a problem with the decision to make Bhat-Tate the first place game, but the Becerra-Charbonneau game was totally overrated in my opinion. Both Greg Shahade and Jonathan Hilton had my game second and that one 3rd, but Arun Sharma placed it second while relegating mine all the way to 5th!! While Julio played a fine game, which could be a textbook example of exploiting a weak square, it was mostly due to the fact that Pascal put up no resistance whatsoever. Becerra didn't have to find any difficult moves the whole game and as the judges pointed out even Black's resignation was too early, especially in a team event. Arun's assessment of my game was basically that I was worse the whole way and got lucky when he blundered in time pressure. I hope my notes will show that to be a very superficial assessment.
I wasn't expecting to play this week, but was pressed into emergency service on Board 2 as neither Ehlvest or Burnett was available to play. I had Black against FM Slava Mikhailuk. 1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 Bg7 3. g3 e5 4. Bg2 d6 5. d3 Nc6 6. Rb1 a5 7. a3 Nf6 8. b4 axb4 9. axb4 O-O 10. b5 Ne7 11. Nf3 h6 12. O-O Be6 13. Bb2 Qd7 14. Ra1 Bh3 15. e4 Bxg2 The first move outside of book, but he had played very slowly and I already had a huge time advantage. Vaganian-Volke continued along similar lines, but Black first surrendered the a-file with 15... Rxa1 16. Qxa1 I think if Black is going to cede the a-file a better method is 15... Rab8 hoping that the rook can later participate in kingside operations 16. Kxg2 Nh5 17. Rxa8 I got a bit frustrated here. The official score will show that my opponent spent 2:20 here, but it was more like 10 minutes, as he disconnected twice. I was awarded 1 minute for each disconnection, but it is still a very sore spot with the Tempo that in our very first match in the USCL we were forced to go to the phones after our connection was lost twice. There was at least one other time when his clock wasn't running. It makes it very distracting to play when those sorts of things are happening. Also, I would have preferred to have time deducted from his clock as he got to study the position the entire time while I still had more than the starting time on my clock. 17... Rxa8 18. Ne1 f5 19. f3 c6 20. Nc2 d5 21. Nb4 d4 22. Na4 Nc8 23. Qb3 Bf8 24. Ra1 fxe4 25. dxe4 This seems a bit double-edged since Black gets a protected passer. However, White gets a great blockading square on d3 for a knight. The alternative capture 25. fxe4 allows Black to probably draw at once with 25... Nf4+ since 26. gxf4 Qg4+ 27. Kf2 Qxf4+ 28. Ke1 Qe3+ 29. Kd1 Bxb4 30. Qxb4 Qxd3+ 31. Kc1 Qxe4 looks quite dangerous for White. Or Black could try for more with the immediate 25... Qg4 25... Qe8 Not 25... c5?? 26. Nxc5 +/- 26. Rc1 Since White will probably need more than one open line on the queenside, he probably should have taken his last chance to play 26. c5+ followed by 27. bxc6 26... c5 It looks a bit antipositional to allow the knight into d5 (and this probably helped hypnotize the judges as Becerra won effortlessly with his Nd5) but Black easily plays around this knight which hits on air. The other White pieces are now extremely limited in scope so Black has plenty of time to reorganize his pieces. 27. Nd5 Qd8 28. b6 otherwise Black will play b6 himself, but now the b6-pawn becomes a target itself 28... Nf6 29. Ba3 Nd7 The attempt to free the position tactically fails 29... Nxd5 30. cxd5 (30. exd5 Qg5 31. Rc2 Qe3) 30... c4 31. Rxc4 Bxa3 32. d6! Kh8 33. Qxa3 Nxb6 34. Nxb6 Rxa3 35. Rc8 and White wins. 30. Qb5 Kh8 sidestepping the threatened Qxd7. I was trying to win the b-pawn without giving up the c-pawn, but perhaps I could have grabbed the b-pawn here since 30... Ncxb6 31. Naxb6 Nxb6 32. Bxc5 (32. Ra1 is better) runs into 32... Ra2+ 33. Kg1 Nxd5 34. cxd5 Qg5 with a winning attack 31. Rb1 Nd6 32. Qb3 Rc8 33. Nb2 Rc6 34. Nd3 Nc8 35. Qb5 Ncxb6 Around here it was obvious that the score in the match was going to be 2-1 in Seattle's favor, so I knew it was all up to me. 36. Qa5 Be7 37. Nxe7 The first step in the wrong direction 37. Rb5 Nxc4 38. Qxd8+ Bxd8 39. Rxb7 Rd6 40. Bxc5 Nxc5 41. Nxc5 Ne3+ 42. Nxe3 dxe3 looks about equal 37... Qxe7 38. Nxc5? Another equal ending arises after 38. Bxc5 Nxc5 39. Nxc5 Qxc5 40. Qxc5 Rxc5 41. Rxb6 Rxc4 but he was probably lured by the opposition of Ba3 on the diagonal with the black queen 38... Nxc4 39. Qa8+ Qf8 40. Qxb7 This loses, but in pretty bad time pressure he obviously didn't want to play 40. Qxf8+ Nxf8 and Black should prevail with his extra pawn. I took some time here as Black has a lot of choices and pieces are hanging all over the place. Finally I found the idea with ...Rd2+ at the end and played 40... Ne3+ My original intention when playing Nxc4 had been 40... Nxa3 hitting Rb1 and Nc5, but he has a couple of ways to escape 41. Qxc6 Nxc5 (41... Qxc5?? 42. Rb8+) 42. Rb8 (42. Ra1 or 42. Rc1 is met by 42...Nb3) 42...Qxb8 43. Qf6+ with perpetual check or 41. Nxd7 Rc2+ 42. Kh3 Qxf3 43. Qb8+ and again White gives perpetual check 41. Kf2 Rf6 White seems to escape again after 41... Rxc5 42. Qxd7 (42. Bxc5 Qxc5 is a much better version of the previous Q+2N vs. Q+R ending for Black since White has no perpetual) 42... Rc2+ 43. Ke1 Qg8 threatening Re2+ 44. Qb5 and now it looks like Black has nothing better than a repetition with 44...Ng2+ 45. Kd1 (45. Kf1 Qc4+) 45...Ne3+ 42. Nxd7 Allowing a beautiful finish, but there is no defense 42... Rxf3+ 43. Ke2 Rf2+ 44. Kd3 Rd2+!
White resigns as 45. Kxd2 Qf2+ and 46...Qc2#. [0:1]
I had a fairly exciting game in Round 1, as the Tempo went down 1-3 versus the Carolina Cobras. I had Black on Board 3 against FM Ron Simpson, and after a tactical middle game, we reached a fairly level position, but all the major pieces still remained on the board. In the time scramble I got my queen caught offsides and was totally busted. Somehow, I managed to escape into a drawn ending the exchange down, but there were still some pitfalls and a stepped right onto a landmine after 76. Rb3
76...Bd4? I thought it would be best to give my bishop maximal options on the diagonal, but this is a loser because it allows the White rook time to reach the 4th rank with tempo. Instead, the only way to draw is the paradoxical 76... Ba1! then on 77. Rb4 Black has time for 77...Kg7 77. g4? Returning the favor, White wins with 77. Rb4! Bf2 (77...Ba1 78. g4 or 77...Bc3 78. Rc4 Bb2 79. g4 are similar) 78. g4 hxg4 79. Rxg4 Kh7 80. Kf6 Kh6 81. Rxg6+ Kh5 82. Rg2 Bxh4+ 83. Kf5 Be7 84. Rh2+ Bh4 85. Rh1 and Black is in zugzwang. 77... hxg4 78. Rb4 Bc3 79. Rxg4 79. Rc4!? is a winning attempt hoping for 79... Bb2? 80. Rxg4+- but 79... Be1 80. Rxg4 (80. Kf6 Bxh4+ 81. Kxg6 Kf8=) 80... Kh7 81. Kf7 (81. Kf6 Kh6 82. Rxg6+ Kh5 83. Rg1 Bc3+ =) 81... Kh6 82. Rxg6+ Kh5 holds the draw 79... Kh7 80. Kf7 Kh6 81. Rxg6+ Kh5 82. Rc6 Be1 83. Kf6 Kxh4 84. Kf5 Kg3 85. Ke4 Kg2 86. Rg6+ Kf2 87. Kd3 Bb4 88. Rf6+ Kg2 89. Rb6 Bc5 90. Rb5 [½:½]
I had a great result last weekend, posting a clean 5-0 in one of the master/expert sections of the 4th Billy Colias Memorial. I also played 3 tournaments at the end of May and beginning of June. I tied with Ron Burnett and Jerry Spinrad in the Rutherford County Open. I followed that up with a solid tie for 3rd in a strong Kentucky Open. Unfortunately, the third weekend was a disaster when I withdrew after 2 rounds of miserable conditions at the Castlechess Grand Prix. I'm expecting the games from the Colias event to arrive soon, I'm going to give my usual full coverage of that one. I don't know if I'll have time to write up the others with the USCL season right around the corner.
The FIDE rating list for July once again created controversy. Vishy Anand (2798) kept the top spot, but the loss of a few points in the Bundesliga dropped him below 2800. It looked like #6 Magnus Carlsen (2775) would be moving into the second spot after his big win at the Aerosvit tournament in Foros. However, this time FIDE decided to follow its rules and wait to rate this tournament until the next period. You'll recall last year that FIDE rated Linares early, in conflict with its rules, when Anand moved to the top of the list for the first time. Alexander Morozevich (2788) reached both his highest rating and his highest position in the list with a big win in Sarajevo. Vladimir Kramnik (2788) was inactive, so falls in behind Morozevich based on number of games played. Vassily Ivanchuk (2781) was superb in Sofia winnning the M-Tel Masters, and also scored +4 in the Russian team championship. #5 Veselin Topalov (2777) couldn't keep pace with Ivanchuk in Sofia, but still picked up 10 points. That completes the current club 2750, but the rest of the top 10 #7 Radjabov (2744), #8 Mamedyarov (2742), #9 Shirov (2741) and #10 Leko (2741) are all just outside the gates.
Most of the US players were quite active in this period, but 3 of the top 4, did not participate in the US Championship. Gata Kamsky (2723) keeps the top spot, while Hikaru Nakamura (2697) continues to chip away. Alexander Onischuk (2670) was runner up in the US Championship and stay comfortably in third. Yasser Seirawan (2634) played a couple of Dutch League games to stay active and just inside the world top 100. The big gainer for the US was the new US Champion Yuri Shulman (2623). The newest member of the Tennessee Tempo, GM Jaan Ehlvest (2603) is 9th.
My own rating was unchanged at 2314 with no games in the rating period. Standing still cost me 9 positions to #122 on the US list. The rest of the 2008 Tempo lineup check in as follows: #84 Burnett (2369), #120 Andrews (2315), #227 McCarthy (2234), #246 Bick (2225), #401 Wheeler (2137), and #406 Larson (2135)
The schedule for the 4th season of the US Chess League was released in late May. The season kicks off with Monday Night Chess on August 25th with the now traditional matchup of the two new expansion teams. This year the Chicago Blaze and Arizona Scorpions join the Tempo in the Western Division, while the itinerant Carolina Cobra move back to the East after their second 1-year stint in the West.
I'm hoping I can play more for the Tempo this season. We open with the rest of the league on August 29th against the Cobras. Some of the season highlights are: back to back meetings with the expansion teams in weeks 3 and 4; a return to Monday night chess against the Miami Sharks on September 22; a week 6 meeting with the League Champion Dallas Destiny; and the regular season conclusion on October 29th against the Baltimore Kingfishers.
A couple of weeks after Land of the Sky, Cajun Chess organized their first tournament in Nashville. I really enjoyed this tournament despite not having a great result. One thing in particular that I liked was that there was plenty of spacing between the rounds. Even though the time control was G/2, the organizers provided 5.5-6 hours between rounds, which allowed everyone to get decent meals and rest instead of potentially 8-12 hours of constant playing.
I elected to play the Friday night round and got White against Varadaraj, Srikar I thought I had a nice edge with my space advantage after 22...Rad8
I had a decision on how to step up pressure on f7. I chose 23. Qb3 hitting b7 and allowing the queen to swing to the kingside along the third rank. The other possibility was 23. Qc4, which would prevent his next move. 23... Nxd4!? I didn’t think this was possible at all. 24. Nxd4 Rxd4 25. Rxf7 Qe6 26. Qg3 After 30 minutes of thought the best I could come up with was to try the double rook ending. When playing Qb3 I had counted on the variation 26. Rf8+ Kh7 27. Qg8+!!? Kg6 28. Rxe8 which of course is not possible. The engine likes 26. Qxb7 Qxf7 27. Rxf7 Kxf7 28. Qxc7+ Re7 29. Qb6 which was difficult to assess over the board. On general principles I didn’t like giving up two rooks for the queen, but here Black’s king is a bit exposed and White may pick up the a6 pawn or retain his passed e-pawn. 26... Qe5 27. Qxe5 27. Qg6 Rxe4 didn't seem to lead to anything. 27. Rxc7 Qxg3 28. hxg3 Rexe4 29. Rxb7 is another possibility, but Black should still hold with accurate play. 27... Rxe5 28. Rxc7 Rdxe4?! 28... Rexe4 29. Rff7 Rg4 30. h3 Rg5 31. Rxb7 Rd2 32. Rf2 transposes into the game, but Black should just ignore the e-pawn for the time being. 28... Rd2 29. Rff7 Rg5 30. g3 Rxb2 31. Rxb7 Ra2 is equal. 29. Rxb7 Re2 30. h3 Rg5 31. Rf2 Re1+ 32. Kh2 and I ground out the win with the extra pawn.
The next morning I was really surprised at my pairing, White on Board 1 versus Todd Andrews. It seemed way too early in the tournament for us to be playing, but an extraordinary number of players had taken half-point byes for round 2. I got a slight initiative out of the opening, but he played accurately to neutralize it and we reached an approximately equal position after 18...fxg6
from which I completely self-destructed. 19. Ne6? A couple of weeks later, I talked with Todd on ICC and he suggested 19. Nf7 as equal. I think 19. Ne4 is a simpler way of implementing that idea. 20. Bd4? Re8 21. Nxg7? on either of the last two moves, I could have retreated the knight surrendering the h-pawn with a lost position, but I was too disgusted with Ne6 to try and grovel. 21...Rxe1 22. Kxe1 Ng8 and I resigned shortly as he collected the trapped knight.
In the evening round, I had a complicated fight with Black versus James McLaughlin. After 29...N6h5
He thought for a while, but couldn't find a defense to Nxg2 and resigned [0:1]. I didn’t see a defense at the time, but of course the engine suggests the slippery 30. Ra1 making a flight square at e1 Now, 30... Nxg2 31. Kxg2 Nf4+ 32. Kf1 and it isn’t clear how Black pursues the attack (although how White can consolidate his extra piece isn’t clear either. ,Instead, 30... Ne2+ 31. Bxe2 Rxe2 maintains pressure.
The next morning I got another tough pairing, Black against Miles Ardaman. We reached a very unusual looking position after 24. Ng4
24...Qe7 Black could try to take advantage of the odd configuration of White pieces on the queenside with 24... Nd4!? 25. exd4 exd4 26. Kf1 Qe7 27. Qd1 Qxg5 with two pawns and pressure for the piece. Instead, the game ended in a nervous repetition after 25. Kd2 Bc8 26. Bf3 Bb7 27. Be2 Bc8 28. Bf3 Bb7 29. Be2 [½:½]
Miles withdrew after that round, which ended up giving me another tough opponent in the last round, Carl Boor. I got a great position out of the opening, which forced him to try to complicate by giving up two pieces for a rook. I totally butchered the ending, but still had chances late after 47...b5
48. Bxb5? Instead, 48. Kg4 b4 49. Kh5 maintaining a pawn would still give White some winning chances. 48... Rxh7 49. Bc4 Ke7 50. Kg4 Trying to draw immediately with 50. Ng5 runs into 50...Rxh6! (50...fxg5 51. Kg5 is a draw) 51. Nxe6 Rh4+ winning 50...Rxh6 51. Nd4 Rg6+ 52. Kf3 e5 53. Nf5+ blockading the pawns. While he thought this ending should be winning for Black, he didn't manage to come up with a plan and I was able to sacrifice a piece for 2 pawns as soon as they advanced. I didn't find any practical examples of this type of position. I found several with the right material, but done with the pawns blockaded. Check out game 13 of the Zukertort-Steinitz world championship match for an example of the winning method without the pawns blockaded.
With his victory in this year's Morelia/Linares supertournament, Vishy Anand (2803) once again crossed the 2800 barrier and took over the top spot on the FIDE rating list. Meanwhile, former co-#1 Vladimir Kramnik (2788) struggled at Wijk aan Zee, but kept the #2 position. Alexander Morozevich (2774) scored an outstanding 8/11 to win the Russian Championship and move into 3rd. Veselin Topalov (2767) also had a poor Wijk aan Zee despite winning a brilliant game over Kramnik. He didn't recover any points in Linares and slips to 4th. The Norwegian wonderboy Magnus Carlsen (2765) was the big gainer, equal first at Wijk aan Zee and just half a point off Anand's pace in Linares. The other co-winner at Wijk aan Zee, Levon Aronian (2763) is hot on his heels at #6, while the two Azerbaijanis, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2752) and Teimour Radjabov (2751) complete this period's Club 2750. There are now 24 players above 2700 with #22 Bu (2708) and #24 Ni (2703) becoming the first Chinese players to cross that mark.
The US list continues to see the idle Gata Kamsky (2726) leading the way. Hikaru Nakamura (2686) tied with Bu in Gibraltar and also shared first in the North American Open to inch closer to 2700. The rest of the US list is relatively unchanged, more movement should be seen next period when the US Championship is rated. The rest of the top 10 are the usual names: Onischuk, Shabalov, Seirawan, Shulman, Ehlvest, Akobian, Ibragimov, and Kaidanov.
I stayed about even at Land of the Sky, but dropped 6 at the Nashville Open, to 2314. Unexpectedly, I moved up a bunch of spots to #113 on the US list. That was certainly a surprise, but I checked it a couple of times. Possibly a large number of US players became inactive on this list? Further investigation is needed.
The week after the North Tennessee Winter Open, I played the annual Land of the Sky tournament in Asheville, NC. Attendance was way up this year, cracking the 200 mark.
On Friday night, I faced Ryan Moon with the White pieces. I got a good position out of the opening, but had a decision to make after 16... Qd7
17. Bxf6 After considerable thought, I decided to win material, but keeping a positional advantage with 17. e5 may be stronger. 17... Bxf6 18. exd5 exd5 19. Nf4 Ne6 20. Ncxd5 Nxf4 21. Nxf4 b5 22. d5 Afterwards, he suggested 22. Kh1 to avoid the check in the next note, but Black has full compensation after 22..Rac8. White's pawn majority on the kingside is not significant, the d-pawn needs constant attention, Black's queenside majority is mobile, and the Black bishop is superior to the White knight. 22... Re5 23. Kh1 My intention had been to plant the knight on e6, but this fails after 23. Ne6 Rxd5 24. Rxd5 Qxd5 25. Nc7 Qc5+ 23... Rc8 24. d6 Rc6 25. Nd5 Qxd6 26. Nxf6+ Qxf6 regaining the pawn with a completely equal position. We eventually drew after a few time pressure adventures.
In round 2, I had Black against Gary Newsom. He declined an early pawn sacrifice, but had already landed in a difficult position after 17. N2g3
17...Nxe4 17... Bxe4 was probably cleaner, when it looks like White must try for 18. Nxe4 Qg6 19. Be7 Qxe4 20. Bxf8 Rxf8 and Black is winning 18. Nxf5 18. Nxe4 completely fails to 18...Qg6 19. Be7 Bxe4 18... Rxf5 18... Nxg5 19. Rhg1 Rxf5 20. Qxf5 h6 21. h4 Qf7 is also good for Black, but a bit more unbalanced. 19. Be3 White regains the piece because of the pin, but he had no compensation for the pawn after the desperado 19... Nxf2
I had dinner before the evening round with Miles Ardaman and Klaus Pohl. When it became known that Klaus and I had the same number of points, I predicted we would play since it seems that happens whenever I eat with someone I'm not traveling with. Sure enough, the round 3 pairing was Pohl-Bereolos. I finally prevailed in a difficult struggle. A search of my database shows that this is the first double knight ending I've ever played. After 46. Ke4
White seemed close to holding despite his material deficit, but I found a winning idea with a pawn sacrifice 46...d3 47. Nxd3 47. h4 Nc5+ 48. Kd4 b6 doesn't appear to help. 47... Nxd3 48. Kxd3 Ng5 49. Nd4 Nxh3 50. Nxb5 Ke6 51. Kd4 Ng5 52. Nc7+ Kf5 53. Nb5 Kg4 54. Nc3 Kf3! It was not too late to throw everything away with the hasty 54... Kxg3?? 55. Ne4+ Kf4 56. Nxg5 Kxg5 57. Kd5 h5 58. e6 Kf6 59. Kd6 and White wins 55. Kd5 h5 56. e6 Nxe6 57. Kxe6 Kxg3 and White is helpless against the Black pawns. 58. Ke5 h4 59. Ne2+ Kf3 60. Nf4 g5 61. Ne6 g4 62. Nd4+ Kg2 63. Kf4 h3 64. Nf5 h2 65. Ng3 b5 [0:1]
Before Round 4, organizer Wilder Wadford spoke on the recent passing of Bobby Fischer. I think a lot of players, myself included, echoed his view that we have to be able to separate the genius of his game and contributions to chess in America from his political views and antics.
In Round 4, I got a rematch with GM Alexander Ivanov, who defeated me on Board 1 in the final round last year. We were on Board 2 this year, but it was a similar disappointing result as he again outplayed me in an ending. I had a very promising position after 21...Nf6
I decided to improve my worst piece with 22. Bh4 but I should have gone for the thematic 22. e5 dxe5 23. fxe5 Nh5 24. e6 Nxg3 25. Kxg3 and White has a comfortable advantage 22... Nxe4 23. Bxe4 fxe4 This surprised me, I thought he would go 23... Bxc3 24. bxc3 fxe4 25. Rxe4 Rxe4 26. Rxe4= 24. Nxe4 Bd7 25. a5 This isn't a bad move, but may not be necessary. I was nervous about his bishop pair in a line like 25. Nxd6 Rxe2 26. Rxe2 Bxa4, but this is probably still equal. Perhaps the most accurate way to equalize is 25. b3 Rf8 26. g3 Rf5 27. Nxd6 Rxd5 Ne8 and Black will have to surrender one of his bishops. 25... bxa5 26. Nf6+?! more accurate is 26. Nxd6 Rxe2 27. Rxe2 after the text, Black has a slight advantage in the ending after 26... Bxf6 27. Bxf6 Rxe2 28. Rxe2 Kf7 29. Re7+ Kxf6 30. Rxd7 Kf5 31. Rxd6 Ke4 which he eventually converted into a win.
In the final round, I had White against Rusty Potter. There was a bit of color controversy on this pairing. Originally, I had Black, but before we started, TD Alan Kantor approached us and said that he had manually changed the computer pairing, which had me as White. Then, he had consulted the rule book and had now concluded that the computer pairing was correct. This turned out to be the same pairing rule that came up in my game with John Bick in last year's Space City Open. My colors had gone WBBW, while Potter had BWBW. The way the rule reads in this situation is that you go back to the latest round where we did not have the same color (Round 2) and then give the players their alternating color. Since I had Black in Round 2, while he had White, now I got White and he got Black. He wasn't too upset about this as now he could insist that we play on his wooden set instead of my plastic one. I built up a very nice position after 26...Ra2
Black should be close to lost here, since his queenside is completely paralyzed and his king without pawn cover, but I let him off the hook with 27. Bxd7? I saw the winning 27. Qg4+ but thought he could defend with 27...Qg7 missing the simple 28. Be6+ Kh8 29. Rxc6. The computer's suggestion of 27. Rf1 Kg7 (27...Rxe2 28. Qg4+) 28. Rbe1 also looks pretty overwhelming. Black is stuck with no counterplay whatsoever. 27... Bxd7 28. Rb8+ Kf7 29. Rb7 The pin along the 7th doesn't cause Black any problems, and he found the tactical shot 29...Qxf4 30. Nxf4 Raxh2 31. Nd3?! I saw the correct equalizer right after I moved, but he quickly returned the favor. 31... Ke7?! 31... Rh1+ 32. Kf2 Rxc1 still gives Black some chances, although the bad bishop and minimal # of pawns should give White good chances to hold. 32. Rxc6 What I should have played on the previous move, now Black has nothing better than perpetual check 32... Rh1+ 33. Kg2 R1h2+ 34. Kg1 Rh1+ 35. Kg2 R1h2+ [½:½]