Sunday, July 29, 2007

Those Cheapo Openings

One thing that I have found increasingly vexing as I have climbed the rating charts is the prevalence of "cheap" lines in almost all defences. I won't deny that I am certainly someone who prefers positional imbalance in my chess games - I like semi-open positions more than clear open ones, and I like uneven structures that allow for a range of maneuvering ideas - but I am open to more closed structures, just anything that gives me the opportunity when playing with the black pieces to fight for a win. That said, I never cease to amazed that there simply are ways in almost every single opening for white to turn down the complexity and play a flat, relaxed, sometimes even thoughtless game and just coast.

For example, I would offer the following:

4 Knights Scotch/Lopez especially, or Ruy Lopez Exchange

French Exchange

Caro-Kann Exchange

Sicilian Alapin, or c3+d3 slow positions, or even 1.e4 c5 2.c4 with a Botvinnik positional grind

Alekhine Exchange

Pirc w/1.e4, 2.d3

London System

Colle System

KID Exchange

Slav Exchange

Grunfeld with e3 early and maybe Be2

e3 QID

Some QGD Exchange lines, usually without Ne2



I don't mind the drier lines that result in imbalance, like the Closed Sicilian, or the Burn French, or even the Bf4 Grunfeld, what really vexes me are all the positions where white just comes out and says, look, I don't want to lose. That's all there is to it. I don't really mind if I have virtually no winning chances, as long as you have no winning chances either. All of these systems have followings, and as a tournament player, I find that they arise in as much as perhaps 1/4 of games played. People seem remarkably content with the white pieces to just relax, play really slowly, and just shrug their way through the middlegame and on into a level endgame waiting for the opponent to make an error or bely a shortage of positional knowledge on their way to a lost pawn endgame or some such.

I wonder if it is simply a given in the nature of the game that if white really really wants a draw, it is virtually impossible for black to avoid allowing a flat, dry position.

I wonder, do other players find this to be a problem, do they find it to be true? How does a player in a must-win game with the black pieces find a way to mix it up, especially against someone of equal strength who is liable to punish dubious flailing? I have found this to be especially disconcerting in the e4 lines, and believe me, at one time or another, I have tried them all! It is very difficult to be patient when you are on the hotseat, and many is the time that my opponent played one of these lines and then simply didn't make a mistake, leaving me with little recourse to a grumbling 1/2-1/2...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Not much chess for me over the past few weeks. (I missed a game at the weekly club to be in NYC for the big explosion up in midtown...) But I think I'll be playing a tournament this next upcoming weekend, so there should be more grist for the posts soon enough. I have had one encounter though, but not a very inspiring one.

White: Neil Cousin (1924)
Black: Joshua Haunstrup (1880)
Event: MCC Independence Day Swiss (4)
Date: 2007-07-24
(C01 French, Exchange)
1 e4 e6
2 d4 d5
3 exd5 exd5
4 Nf3 Bg4
5 Be2 Nc6
6 c3 Bd6?
That's right, in my incredible urge to hurry up and get my pieces out aggressively and then force through opposite sides castling - for pity's sake, there's got to be better things in life to do than sit around and draw Exchange French positions - I went and dropped a pawn right out of the opening. The clear reply is 7.Qb3 and it's hasta la vista to my hopes of winning the tournament - maybe a long painful grind with some dim glimmer of a draw chance if he screws up. But, of course, as I sat there in agony, looking at my blunder, he didn't see it, and shot right out with 7.0-0. Yeah, enough said. It was long. It was painful. We were one of the last boards going. It was drawn... Arghhh!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Questionnaire Tag

Amazing how small the digital universe is. I was reading these questionnaire chain letters on the BCC site and wondering how long it would take to come around. Answer: not very long.

Alright, here goes:

1. How long have you been playing chess? Have you played it consistently since you started, or were there lulls in your play? How did these lulls affect your performance?

I have been playing since 1993 according to the uschess site, which would put me at 11 at my first tournament. I knew the rules and had been playing casually for some time before that, let's say since I was about 8, but I didn't take it very seriously until I was about 10. Before that, I had one of those cheesy plastic sets with the red pieces and red and black squared bored. Afterwards, I played at a scholastic club that my father ran. I was top dog there most of the time - there were only two other players who could scalp me occasionally, one of them a much older fellow of about 16 years who had me licked one time and was so doggone happy about it that he just kept on checking me in every which way he could think of without mating me until he finally blundered into doing it. Truth be told, I was a lousy scholastic player - I don't think I ever really had much raw ability for it, and though i did well at the local clubs on the Cape - games weren't rated - I never faired too well in tournament praxis.

My first big hiatus came at the advent of high school. I had been playing a lot of bughouse in middle school - it was sort of a social phenomenon there, with even some of the 'cool' kids playing - but chess was too much along with a high school course load, so I left off until college, at which point I moved to the city and started to play again seriously. In the summer between high school and college I geered up for a return to the game, reading Romanovsky's Chess Middlegame Planning cover to cover and playing out every single position on a board - a really arduous undertaking - and I credit this with pushing me over the hump from a lousy scholastic player to a serviceable competitor.

Since then, I have played steadily for intense periods with occasional lapses of many months when serious distractions have arisen in my life. Most recently, I took off about half a year while working on my book and traveling to do research, but I don't think I could ever let it go for a really long time. I love playing chess.

2. Aside from playing games, what is your primary mode of training?

Most enlightening I find is reading over and studying full games, usually in opening systems that I play. I like to study how the opening becomes the geography of the structure in the middlegame, and I try to comprehend the plans and use this as a basis to understand the openings, middlegames, and even the endings that result. I read over more complete games than anything else, though I also play an absurd amount of blitz chess online, though I have never been very good at it. My blitz rating jumps up and down hundreds and hundreds of points depending on the time of day and how tired I am. I do think that blitz play helps with pattern recognition though, and it definitely hones tactics.

3. What is the single most helpful method of improvement that you have ever used?

Very hard to say. Reading the Romanovsky book occasioned a big jump in rating strength for me, but that might have been more due to the immersion in GM games than to any great merit of the book. I think that playing a lot of rated chess has really helped me to get better. 2006 was my most active year to date - I played 135 games and gained about 240 points. I always go over my games in Fritz, and I tend to study them over time so that I remember what I have played and who I have played, and that helps me to anticipate openings and styles and to minimize the repetition of errors. It's really irritating to lose the same way twice!

4. What is your favorite opening to play as white? As black against e4? As black against d4?

This is a rather goofy question that I see everybody dodging. Favorite openings to play are not necessarily the same as openings frequently played, so I will take this question in the spirit of amusement.

My favorite white opening to play is probably the main line center counter. I have a wonderful score in it and was deep in the midst of a very rich and prolonged discussion in the lines with the two Wamala kids before they stopped playing chess. I find the positions both stimulating and very pleasing to play with the white pieces - the tactics are everywhere, the pieces fly, and somehow, I always have the impression that the black position is just a little bit rotten.

Against e4 I have had the most fun playing the Elephant Gambit. I even played it in a string of rated games at one point, but I think it makes for a better blitz weapon. The structures are reminiscent of the Scotch Gambit, and the piece activity is very dynamic.

Against d4, my first love was the Albin countergambit, an opening that I played exclusively in all formats until I reached the upper echelons of the 1600s, at which point it began to run short of gas. I think that the opening leads to really dynamic positions, and I love the attacking structures that result from the opposite sides castling variations. Its just not stable enough to have as a mainline weapon in a repertoire, and I also found that, as I have lamented in one of my posts, many players seem to go for this really dry liquidating line, and I don't like playing positions as black that have no winning chances. First loves die hard though, and I do look at my Albin games and at my study notes longingly sometimes...

5. Who is your favorite chess player and why?

Tal was a mindblowing talent. I love reading over his games, though I have to say that they are not the best from which to study structural ideas. They are the spirit of the art of the game though. I am also a big fan of Victor Korchnoi, both for his incredible longevity and for his wonderful defensive spirit. As I have gotten stronger, I have found that defending and counterattacking are increasingly important to success. Gaining points is as much about saving lost positions as it is about launching smashing attacks, and I have gained much inspiration from Korchnoi's games.

6. What is your favorite chess book?

I really like Larry Christiansen's books, especially for the collections of games that he includes. I also have a book called Chess Brilliancies that I love to read through. Reading over Beautiful games reminds me always of what I find so fascinating and enriching about the game.

7. What book would you recommend for a friend who knows only the rules of chess?

I think that a basic book on structures and planning is a good place to start. The Romanovsky book, Chess Middlegame Planning was a great basic starter for me. It is basically a collection of several hundred annotated games (sometimes games within games) that show repetitions of planning themes - invasion on the a file, besieging a backward pawn, etc. demonstrated with example after example after example after example. The tedium can be agonizing, but reading over these games gives you a sense of themes and ideas that you just can't get any other way. I was recently reading through Secrets of Positional Chess, which is kind of a lighter and more sophisticated version of the same, and I immediatley went out and found an idea in a game that was precisely like one from the book.

8. Do you play in in-person tournaments? What is your favorite tournament experience?

I think that "in-person" tournaments are really the only way to compete in a truly serious format. Chess is meant to be a battle between two people - it just isn't the same when you can't see the expressions on your opponent's face. I won The Northeast Chess Summer Getaway U1700 section in sole first place one time. It was a really big deal for me at the time. More recently, I had one very nice month where I won the BCC Thursday night monthly open and the MCC Tuesday monthly in my section all at once. Poor Timmy Lung had to suffer through my victories in both events!

9. Please give us a link to what you consider your best two blog posts (on your own blog).

10. What proportion of total chess time should be spent studying openings for someone at your level?

This is another very tricky question. Assuming that one has developed a stable repertoire of some sort, studying openings is really not that important for most improvement. One should continue to review and always seek to learn improvements after playing games, but constant study of openings is a waste of time - you forget. However, if you're trying to improve your repertoire or seeking to expand it in the interest of broadening your exposure to middlegame structures, etc. I think that opening study can be very important. In those instances, maybe 25 percent of the time is useful for someone of my strenght 1800s-1900s. Even then though, I think that it is best to study variations in the context of full games. Planning is more important usually than exactitude. Most of the time your opponents will go out of book before you do.

I tag Steve Eddins to continue the chain.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Endgames Phooey!

One of these days I'm going to have eat my words about endgames - I can feel it in the wind. A time will come when the playing strength of my opponents is such that we frequently wage balanced struggles that make it all the way to theoretical endgames. For now though, experiences like my latest USCF game remain very unusual.

White: Joshua Haunstrup (1880)
Black: Larry Pratt (1798)
Event: MCC Independence Day Swiss (2)
Date: 2007-07-10
(B42 Sicilian, Kan, 5.Bd3)
1 e4 c5
2 Nf3 e6
3 d4 cxd4
4 Nxd4 a6
5 Bd3 Nc6
This variation is surprisingly popular, and I'm not really sure why. Either players don't know the theory and just make this move because it seems obvious to attack the knight on d4 after Bd3, or else for some strange reason, everybody's really excited about a flat middlegame with a symmetrical pawn structure, and this out of a Sicilian opening...
6 Nxc6 dxc6
7 0-0 e5
Here we are, many dry moves await!
8 Be3 Nf6
9 h3 Be7
10 Nd2 Qc7
11 a4 Nd7
12 a5 0-0
Yeah, so the basic idea here for me was to center my whole game around taking advantage of those weak dark squares. It worked in the big picture, but what a vanilla way to win a chess game...
13 c3 Bc5
14 Qe2 Bxe3
15 Qxe3 b5
16 axb6 Qxb6
17 Qxb6 Nxb6
Some subtleties remained, but essentially, white will win a pawn here one way or the other, and then it'll be just a question of how to convert the endgame, grrr. 18 Nb3 Nd7
19 Ra5 Rb8
20 Bc4 Re8
21 Rfa1 Kf8
22 R1a2 f6
23 Nc5 Nxc5
24 Rxc5 Be6
25 Rxc6 Bxc4
26 Rxc4 Rb3
27 Rxa6 Rxb2
28 Ra7 Re7
29 Rcc7 Rxc7
30 Rxc7 Rc2
31 c4
In this position, I actually think that white should go for the h pawn and the simplification, but I really am not that certain. I do know that the way that I won in the game had more to do with my opponent playing it wrong in the time scramble than because I knew what I was doing. I shall have to put in some time with Fritz and figure it out... 31... g6
32 g3 Re2
33 f3 Rc2
34 Kf1 h5
35 h4 g5
36 hxg5 fxg5
37 Rc5 h4
38 Rxe5 h3
39 Kg1 Rg2+
40 Kh1 Rxg3
41 Rf5+ Kg7
42 Kh2 Rg2+
43 Kxh3 Rg1
44 Kh2 1-0

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Success Continues!

Yes, that's an image of me taking on the Dragon! Turning the tables on my previous post, I got the chance on Saturday to show that I am no wimp when it comes to wrestling the firebreather! More on that in a bit though.
Saturday was the BCC Quads, and my unbeaten streak continues: 2 wins and 1 draw. Since coming back to the game after my 1/2 year break, I have won 5 and drawn 3! And... I still haven't played anyone higher rated than I am, but I think it's really important to be able to show that you are what your rating says by continually asserting it against the lower rateds, and I have picked up enough points to be over 1900 for the first time ever.
With black in the first game, I won a fairly straightforward pawn-grabbing operation:

16... Nxa3
17.bxa3 Qxc3
And from there it's just a question of patience because white really wasn't coordinated enough to launch much of an attack. Some time aqo, I played the same combination in another game, but in that one it was a good deal more stressful:

Here, the advanced f-pawn and the reasonable attacking coordination that white has mean that after the combination, black's dislocated queen is actually the impetus for some violence from white, and the game continued:
15... Nxa3
16.bxa3 Qxc3
17.Bb2 Qc7
18.e5 Bxf3
19.Qxf3 Nd7
And I was in some trouble, though I eventually won that game too, but only after some adventures.
In my second game, I had white against the Sveshnikov, and got a very reasonable position out of the opening, a position that I have actually essentially had before, but I have always gone wrong with it:

I think I have finally learned, and hopefully will remember, that I must play f4 here. I cannot allow black to have that advance at the expense of my poor prelate. In this game, I played:
15.0-0 f4
16.Bb6 f3
And was in scalding hot water. I found a reasonable way to hold on:
17.gxf3 Bg5
18.Kh1 Qh3?!
I think that Bf4 had to be better.
And I can breath a big sigh of relief, though I am still in some trouble, if not a little worse. But I survived to draw. Anyhow, now I have a better feel for the position, and I'm not going to let it slide like that again.
Finally, for the last game of the day, I had white against an accelerated dragon - a slimy half-formed version of its big brother to be sure - so no Yugoslav violence, but I have other tricks up my sleeve for the Accelerated beast, and I gave the game both barrels, so to speak:

Here we are after black's move 14, Ne8-c7. White is playing loose and furious without much recourse if the attack doesn't work.
15. h4 b4
16. Na4
I had looked at other options, but it seemed best to me to cut out all of the nonsense by just using my knight as a shield on the queenside.
16... Nb5
17 fxg6 hxg6
Black can't take back fxg6 because of the queen check.
18 h5 Ne5
19 hxg6 Nxg6
20 Bc4
This was my key idea, bringing about pinning threats, but Fritz doesn't really agree that it's best. The silicon brain wants me to take, Qxb4 - doesn't Fritz have any aesthetic at all??!
20... Be5
21 Qe2 Kg7

My opponent played this cooly, evidently confident that it would turn the tables on my attack. Once the rook comes to h8, there's no longer any major mating threat down the h-file, so I had to act fast.
22 Rh7+
Moves like this are what chess is all about as far as I am concerned! I live for these moves! I just hardly ever get to play them...
22... Kxh7
23 Qh5+ Kg7
24 Qh6+ Kg8
25 Qxg6+ Bg7
This is the only reasonable defence, but I just castle queenside to swing over the second rook.
26 0-0-0 d5
Yeah, shucks. I hadn't really gotten this far in my original analysis - not calculating quite precisely enough.

27 Qh5 dxc4
Here, my opponent offered a draw, content with the notion that the two rooks for the queen would about level it, but I had no intention of putting down my sword.
28 Rh1 Re8?
Much more irritating for the attack is 28...f5. Then if I play 29.g6 to suffocate the king, black plays 29...Rf6, slipping away. Whereas 29.Qh7+ allows 29...Kf7. I think that best after 28... f5 probably is 29.g6 Rf6 30.Qh7+ Kf8 31.Bh6 where black has to let go of the bishop because of the threat of Qh8#. In that case, I'd have the piece for the rook and still have a fair amount of play, with multiple pawns to round up and many threats - I think I'd still be winning even, according to my analysis, but only by a little.
29 Qh7+ Kf8
30 g6 f6
31 Bh6

From here, it's all over.
Whew! Definitely something to write home about.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Trying to Breathe Fire Leaves you Sucking Smoke

I love the Dragon. Who doesn't? What Chess player in his/her right mind could look you in the eye and say that the Dragon is anything shy of the most incredible rush of a chess opening in the whole game? Yeah, I heard you, the Evan's Gambit is pretty nifty too, but there is something viscerally overwhelming about the firebreathing opening, like Caissa spat it up herself in a fit of rage over a 10 move draw and saw fit to declare that if we were to be privileged enough to play this game, we had better play it for keeps.
The Dragon is all about attacking chess - lines drawn, bloodlust ready, and good, violent fun.
At least, that is what it ought to be. Games like the following have gripped me since I first became aware of the existence of the opening:
Lloyds Bank, 1983
1.e4 c5
2.Nf3 d6
3.d4 cxd4
4.Nxd4 Nf6
5.Nc3 g6
6.Be3 Bg7
7.f3 0-0
8.Qd2 Nc6
9.Bc4 Bd7
10.Bb3 Qa5
11.h4 Rfc8The battle lines are drawn as both sides ready for an epic showdown.
12.h5 Nxh5
13.0-0-0 Ne5
14.Nde2 Be6
15.Kb1 Nc4
16.Bxc4 Rxc4
17.g4 Ng3!Fun all the way! If only all of our games could look like this.
18.Nxg3 Rxc4
19.b3 Rac8
21.cxb3 Rxb3+
Inspired by such games, I have endeavored to employ the Dragon in my own games at several points, always hopeful that my latest rating strength and experience would enable me to produce flights of fancy. Alas, I have discovered, much to my chagrin, that a Dragon battle takes two.
First, there is an endless array of anti-sicilians, as those of us who struggle with the opening know, and then there are lots and lots of positional attempts to steer the game into quiet waters. The g3 lines, the Be2 variations, etc. Then, when you finally get someone who sits down and plays it violently, would you know it but he actually knows the theory and knocks you flat, or, worse still, he suddenly disappoints you by slipping into a quiet sideline. Check out this game from my own praxis for example:
1.e4 c5
2.Nf3 d6
3.d4 cxd4
4.Nxd4 Nf6
5.Nc3 g6
6.Be3 Bg7
7.Bc4 Nc6
8.f3 0-0
9.Qd2 Bd7
10.0-0-0 Qa5
11.h4 Ne5
12.Bb3 Rfc8
All right, time for some Dragon magic, I was thinking.
Uh oh, what's that sound? Excitement deflating I think. How positively wet!
13... Qxd2+
14.Rxd2 Nxd5
15.Bxd5 Nc6
Yecchh! There goes my fun - right out the window. Now it's Capablanca time. Yeah, so I went on to win the game, but it was thoroughly unmemorable, and should have been a short draw.
The point is, sad to say it, as amazing as the Dragon is, it seems somewhat unpractical to have high expectations for its sanguinary character. The unfortunate reality is that, as with almost any opening, the nature of the struggle is definied by the decisions of both players. White can certainly opt to dive into the pyrotechnics, and it'll be a hoot then for sure, but he doesn't have to, and most people don't...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Picking Up Steam

So, five games back into the swing of things, and still not a loss! Feels good, very good. Of course, I haven't played anyone higher rated than I am, but hey, gotta put one foot in front of the other one, right?

Tuesday night at the club I put together what I thought was a pretty nice effort:

White: Tim Bromley (1735)
Black: Joshua Haunstrup (1880)
Event: MCC Independence Day Swiss (1)
Date: 2007-07-04
(E04 Catalan)

1 d4 Nf6
2 Nf3 e6
3 c4
Knowing Tim, I was expecting a London System, but it seems that the big London splash at the MetroWest Chess Club has ended. Everybody's getting bored of the opening, amen!
3... Nc6
I think this is a terribly interesting move order for black. I actually came up with it on the fly a while back, maybe a year and a half ago, and then of course I found that I wasn't the only one who had thought of it. The idea is to get a flexible position and wait and see what white does with chances to transpose into a glut of openings. It can become a Nimzo-Indian, a Bogo-Indian, a Catalan, something like a KID, a KID directly, etc. It's a great practice move if you're trying to learn d4 openings and feel them out.
4 g3 d5
Alright, a Catalan. I haven't seen too many of those in my games - the opening is just a bit subtle for us mortals - but I was ready to have some fun with it.
5 Bg2 dxc4
6 0-0 Rb8
7 e3 a6?!

This is somewhat inconsistent. The right move has to be: 7 ... b5! My move seems sensible enough, but the trouble is that the open a-file helps white and takes away the a5 square from my c6 knight. I just wasn't familiar enough with the themes of the opening to have a good feeling for this question.
8 a4 b5
9 axb5 axb5
10 b3 cxb3
11 Qxb3 Be7
Instead, 11... Bd6 came into consideration, but I didn't like the Ne5 options that this would bring about given that my pieces would now face a potential pawn spike.
12 Bb2 0-0
13 Rc1 Bb7

We're at a fairly critical position. Technically, I think that Tim's activity is sputtering, and he doesn't really have enough compensation for the pawn, but in a practical sense, the position is fairly uncomfortable for me to play, and that means a lot over the board. I played 13...Bb7 hoping that I could goad him into snatching on b5, and that really helped to relieve the pressure. If he had played 14.Nc3 here, after the forced 14....b4, I think that Tim could have kept up the pressure and retained some compensation for the pawn. Probably not quite enough, but it would have been tougher for me.
14 Qxb5 Nxd4
15 Bxd4 Bxf3
16 Qe5 Bxg2
17 Kxg2
Now it was time for a solid think.

I had actually anticipated that the position would be easier to play than it seemed to be. There are a lot of ways for me to go wrong and just equalize. The key really is to find a way to sufficiently contest the dark squares and gain enough time to get that pawn moving.
17... Bd6
18 Qg5 h6
Now, 19.Bxf6 hxg5 would have been pretty good for me, I thought - with ideas like g5-g4 to clamp down on white's kingside structure, etc.
19 Qa5 Qe7
20 Qc3 Nd5
21 Qa5 Rfc8
22 Nc3?

Another critical moment. I think that Tim would have retained reasonable chances of holding me up if he had played 22.Bc5. If he had succeeded in getting the dark square forces off the board, ie. the bishops and queens, I think that it would have been very hard for me to make real progress with the passer. Probably I'm still winning, but it would have just been very taxing, and I would have had to work for it steadily in a long game. His move, instead, enables me to improve my structure, and then I'm doing much better.
22... c5
23 Nxd5 exd5
24 Bc3 Qe4+?
Argh! My turn to make a mistake.

Here, the immediate d4 was right, because after 25.exd4 cxd4, 26.Bxd4 runs into 26...Qe4+ The way that I inverted it, it has a big flaw. If 24...Qe4+ 25.Kg1 d4 26.exd4 cxd4 27.Re1! Qg4 28.Ra4 and I'm losing my pawn. Thankfully, I saw all this before going into it and mucking up the game! So, having played inaccurately, I had to just ease up the pressure a bit and relax with better structure for a few moves and try to consolidate.
25 Kg1 Rd8
26 Ra4 Qe6
Tim thought I had better here, but I wanted to prevent him from bringing the rook over to the kingside while still supporting my pawn at the same time.
27 Qa6 Bf8
Fritz doesn't like this move, asserting that 27...Qf5 retains a much clearer advantage, but 27...Bf8 seems to me to be a good, lazy human move. It just cuts out a lot of nonsense giving me less to have to worry about in my calculations on each turn. Clearly, it can't be good for white to take off the queens and improve my structure even further.
28 Qe2?

This really seems to have been the losing move. It allows a clinching blow. Instead, 28.Qd3 would have been much more pugnacious. And, while I'm pretty certain that I'm still winning there, it would have taken a lot of effort wherein of course there would have been room for error.
28... d4
29 Ra6 Qe4
30 Ba5 d3
31 Qa2 Rd7
32 Rc4 Rb1+
33 Qxb1 Qxc4
34 Ra8 d2
35 Rxf8+ Kxf8
36 Qb8+ Ke7
37 Qe5+ Qe6
38 Qxc5+ Qd6 0-1

Monday, July 02, 2007

Some Strange Finishes Monday at the World Open

Watching the games online has been fascinating for this year's World Open, and there were some hefty slugfests on Monday night. These were accompanied by some very odd moves at the end though.

The board one duel between Akobian and Stripunsky ended abruptly after the time control when Stripunsky played:

Then came
41.Bf3 1-0.
Of course, the position was lost anyway, but ouch!

Bryan Smith-Alex Shabalov was a wild game in the Latvian's pet anti-4-pawns' Alekhine line with the quick c5.

This position seems awful hard to play for white, but I didn't think it was over just yet.
30.d6 Ndxb2+
Yeah, and white's losing a piece. Wasn't it possible to play Nd2? I haven't sat down with my thinking cap, but there's got to be something better than what happened:
into the pin??!!
A beautiful rejoinder by Shabalov - what a headspinner. It's this next move though that really weirded me out:
32.Qxf5 0-1
What in the world is that? Very odd.