Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I do well in a tournament

Hello, everyone! I’ve been meaning to post some games/positions from the training I’ve been doing, and will be ready to do that soon; but I placed second in a G/45 tournament this past weekend and got quite a nice response on FaceBook to my posting about it; so I thought I’d put up a game from that tournament first, since this can be done more quickly.

This game was played in the third round, when we were both 2-0.

Leon Shernoff - Chris Girardo
North Shore Chess Center G/45

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Nf3 Bg4

One of the main lines of the Panov-Botvinnik Attack in the Caro-Kann. I have had two utterly wretched games in this opening before with 7.Be3 here, and luckily one of them took place online just a couple of weeks before this game and it embarrassed me into actually looking up a few further moves in my Caro book. My opponent was also clearly booked up, playing his moves almost instantly.

7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Qb3 Bxf3 9. gxf3 e6 10. Qxb7 Nxd4

You have to admit this is an entertaining position to reach in the opening. Sadly, it should simplify into a tremendously boring endgame.

11. Bb5+ Nxb5 12. Qc6+

White gives this check before recapturing on b5 to (as we say in the technical language of chess) force the Black king onto a dorky square. The Black queen can’t interpose because then the rook on a8 would be hanging. I almost made a colossal blunder here – I had a recollection of White taking on d5 somewhere around here, giving Black an isolated pawn and exposing his king more. The idea is that Black still can’t take back with the queen for the same reason. But actually the queen can take back because it does defend the Ra8 from d5; and it also defends the Nb5, so White would have just been down a piece.

It’s good to check even when you think you know the book moves!

12...Ke7 13. Qxb5 Nxc3 14. bxc3

So Black didn’t let me take on d5. Still, I was pretty happy, as my c-pawn – though isolated – is passed, and my bishop gains another diagonal upon which it might check the Black king. In his notes to the stem game, Fischer-Euwe, Leipzig Olympiad 1960, Karsten Mueller attaches a ?! to 13...Nxc3, saying that the standard move now is 13...Qd7.

14...Rb8 15. Qa4

Now the White queen also gains new possibilities of troubling checks from the other side.

At this point, Black still had 44 of his 45 minutes left, and I had 19:24. After the game, Chris expressed surprise at my success, saying that Black is “just supposed to get a bad game after Qa4.” I looked the position up in my Caro book when I got home, and it didn’t mention 14...Rb8 at all – only Qd7 or Qd5. Furthermore, in my database where 724 games follow this line, 604 of those had Black playing an immediate 13...Qd7, and of the 86 that exchanged the knight on c3 first, 53 then played 14...Qd7 or 14...Qd5. Basically, with his exposed king, Black has to get the queens off quickly, or... stuff like this game will happen to him.


I wasn’t expecting this move, either – only Qd7. I’m not sure what I should do then – if I exchange queens, then Black is just up a useful tempo on playing Qd7 on the previous move. Maybe this is what Chris was thinking of in his remark above.

Now it wasn’t clear how I should attack, and the potential fork on c3 is troubling, so I decided to castle and adjust my attack accordingly.

16. O-O f6

Now what I really want to do is (as they say in the chess literature) rip the pawns away from in front of his king. However, advancing my front f-pawn to f5 to provoke ...e5 is slow, and then when I play f2-f4 to rip it away, my own king is also exposed. So, I decide to provoke the e-pawn’s advance with my bishop, and then bring my front f-pawn against it.

17. Bf4 e5 18. Be3

Rybka likes my plan, which is especially encouraging as otherwise it keeps getting distracted by grabbing various pawns: my c- or h-pawn, or Black’s a-pawn.

18... Kf7

Rybka also endorses Black’s move, pointing out that if 18...Rb7 19. Rab1 Rxb1 20. Rxb1 Kf7 21. Qe4 Be7 22. Rb7 Qd6 23. Rxa7 and White is totally dominant.

Now... hmmm... I can grab a pawn or develop a rook to an open file while threatening to win the queen. What a difficult choice. NOT!

19. Rfd1 Rb7

So the rook ends up on b7 anyway...

20. f4

Up comes the f-pawn.

Rybka prefers a bunch of other lines where White just doubles rooks and Black grabs the c-pawn. But if you’re not a computer that never hangs material, it’s probably more productive to play to expose black’s king. Rybka calls the game about equal from about move 14 until Black’s 23rd, but (except for my Bf4-e3 maneuver) never seems particularly interested in playing it the way a human would.

And since it prefers its own lines by less than a tenth of a pawn, why bother paying attention to it?

20... Bd6 21. fxe5 Bxe5 22. Rd5 Re8

Rybka prefers 22... Bxh2+ (grabbing a pawn again!) 23. Kg2 Bd6 24. Rad1 Be7, giving black the whopping advantage of 0.16. However, it’s hard to believe that so passive – and yet so open – a black position can be good, and it’s hard to see what he can do against the advance of the c-pawn, which is bound to cause a lot of disruption when it arrives on c6.

What is perfectly clear, though, is that opposing rooks with 22...Rd8 loses. Tactical control!

After exchanging on d8, White has 24.Qc4+, and wherever the king goes, he will lose material: 24...Kg6 25.Qe4+, 24...Ke8 25.Qg8+, and if the king moves to a black square instead, Bc5+ forces him onto a white one.

23. Rad1 Re7?

After pushing the rook up a square, Black is lost. He had to try 23... Qc8 24. Rd7+ Re7 25. Rxb7 Rxb7

and now 26. Qe4 when White can play against the Black kingside or just push the c-pawn.

Rybka calls this equal again, but it’s hard for me to imagine Black surviving.
But not 26.c4?, when Black has 26...Qh3

Okay, back to the game: White now has two wins – one very, very simple and one complicated. And the move I played, which only wins if Black is not 2400 or above.

24. f4?!

This was my move. The simple win is 24. Bc5, when the Re7 can’t move off the second rank because of Rd7+. My only explanation is that I had looked at so many lines in which I play Rc5 or the pawn to c4-c5-c6, that moving the bishop there somehow fell outside my area of attention. It had somehow become a piece that supported those other ideas.

The complicated win is 24. Qg4, coming around the other side again. At first glance, the threat is merely to check at h5 and take Black’s h-pawn. But actually there’s also a threat of 25. Rc5 and Black’s queen is getting trapped: 25...Qb6 26.Rxe5, or 25...Qb8 26.Rc8 (supported by the Qg4).

24... Bxc3?

Black committed two important miscalculations in entering this position. After the game, he said that he should have just taken on e3 here, since he has some compensation for the queen. He had overlooked that I play (24...Rxe3) 25.Qc4+ and his queen goes for just the bishop.

But we were both so concerned with rescuing the bishop that we missed 24... Qxc3! (Rybka) here. After 25. R5d3 Rb4 26. Qa5 Qc4 27. Qc5 (27.fxe5 Qg4+) 27... Qxc5 28. Bxc5 Rxf4 29. Bxe7 Kxe7 30. Rd7+ Ke6 31. Rxg7 h5 32.Kg2 a5 it’s going to be very hard for White to make anything out of his nominal material advantage.

25. Rc5 Qb6?!

And again, correct is keeping the queens on with 25... Rb4 26. Qa3 Qb7 27. Rxc3 (Rybka) when White’s own exposed king and Black’s themes like Qf3, Rb2 again make White’s advantage merely nominal.

26. Qc4+

Chris’ crucial oversight was that after he interposes the queen here, I can exchange on e6 first and then take his bishop. He had only looked at me taking on c3 immediately, when he can play Qxe3+.

26...Qe6 27. Qxe6+ Rxe6 28. Rxc3 Rb2 29. Rd7+ Kg6 30. Rxa7

Here Chris had 32 minutes left, and I had 2:50. But with an increment (even a five-second one) this is a comfortable amount of time for such a position. The rest is included just because a few cute things happen.


Black can use the power of his two rooks in creating mating threats to win the a-pawn, which puts up more stubborn resistance: 30... Rd6 31. Bf2 Rd1+ 32. Kg2 Rdd2 33. Rf3 Rxa2. Black should still be lost here, I suppose; but it’s very technically difficult.

31. Bf2 R6e4 32. Rf3

Played with the express intention of supporting f4-f5+, although this isn’t very productive at the moment because White’s bishop doesn’t have access to e3. However, he gets distracted by the a-pawn...

32...Rc2 33. a4 Rcc4 34. a5 Ra4

35. f5+ Kh6 36. Be3+ Kh5 37. Rxg7

Ow. Black is almost mated. Luckily for him, he can exchange a pair of rooks.

37...Rg4+ 38. Rxg4 Kxg4

39. Rg3+

This is the sort of position where a GM would get embarrassed about missing the insta-win with 39. Rf4+ !

Rybka also points out 39. Kg2! with the idea of 39...Rxa5? 40. Rf4+ Kh5 41. Kg3 and White is making mating threats again. Me, I’m just happy that with one minute left on my clock I am about to achieve a position...

39... Kxf5 40.Bb6

where all my pieces are protected naturally, I can give a bunch of rook checks to pump my time up at will... this is how an ordinary person wins a won ending with just a minute left.

40...h5 41. Kf2 Kf4 42. Rf3+ Ke5 43. Re3+ Kd5 44. Kf3 Ra2 45. h4 Ra4 46. Rd3+ Kc6 47. Rd4 Ra3+ 48. Kf4 Ra1 49. Rc4+ Kb7 50. Rc7+ Kb8?!

This was really funny to me – in placing his king on the back rank, Black has come very close to achieving a thematic position from my game with Matt Bluestone; move the bishop and a-pawn one file to the right, and put my king at b6 and you have the exact “Bluestone position” (see the last diagram at the bottom of this page). So you know where my king was headed now.

After my next move, Black can snag my h-pawn with Ra4+xh4, but then after a5-a6 it’s hard to stop the mate on the back rank.

51. Rh7 Rf1+ 52. Ke4 Re1+ 53. Kd5 Re5+

Of course, after 54.Kd6 Black has no safe checks and a5-a6 (setting up a mate on the back rank) can’t be stopped, but I had a feelin’...

54. Kc6 Re6+ 55. Kd7 Re5 56. Bc7+ 1-0

So, I entered the last round on first board as the only 3-0, playing the only 2.5-.5 I think I actually had the toughest schedule -- Girardo and another guy I beat were playing on board two for third place. I lost on board one, but they drew on board 2, so I ended up in clear second with 3-1.

It's not just my first prize in a tournament since... 1986; it's actually the first time I haven't really embarrassed myself in a tournament in a long, long time. It feels good. :-)