Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One Foot in Front of the Other

So I had my big "breaking out of the slump" tournament, and since then, haven't found much time to play, what with my annual September move. It's been fascinating watching the World Championship tournament in Mexico of course, and I have had a few games through the Boylston Chess Club Hauptturnier, but not much to write about. Here's a little something though, and hopefully there will be a lot more to say over the next few weeks as October rolls in.

White: Joshua Haunstrup (1889)
Black: David Glickman (2027)
Event: BCC Hauptturnier (3)
Date: 2007-09-25
(C12 French MacCutcheon)
1 e4 e6
2 d4 d5
3 Nc3 Nf6
4 Bg5 Bb4
5 e5 h6
6 Be3 Ne4
7 Qg4 g6
8 a3 Ba5!?An interesting and rather paradoxical choice. White offers black the chance to win a pawn in return for somewhat misplacing his pieces, and black eschews the opportunity, indicating that the aggressive placement of his pieces is mostly just bluff. My opponent seemingly did not want to absorb the kingside pressure that often ensues in the mainlines.
9 Ne2 c5
10 dxc5 Bxc3+My first instinct was that black really shouldn't be able to get away with the inconsistency of this move, retreating and then taking anyway. More logical would have been 10...Nc6 11.b4 Nxe5 12.Qh3 Bc7 13.Nb5 with an interesting and complex game. Now I think that I played out the position pretty logically, but there's not a whole lot there even so.
11 Nxc3 Nxc3
12 bxc3 Nc6
13 Bd4 Qa5
14 Bd3 Nxd4
15 Qxd4 Bd7
16 Qb4 Qc7
17 0-0I felt that 17...Qxe5 would be far too risky for black with his queenside collapsing, but I did wonder if perhaps I should avoid castling in anticipation of some kind of liquidation. Fritz thinks that the more flexible 17.Qd4 was probably best, but I wondered how I would then counter the simple 17...Rc8, as it become a little more difficult to gain counterplay once the c-pawns start falling.
17... Bc6
18 Rfe1 Rc8
19 Rab1 1/2
Now, feeling that there weren't a lot of options for either of us and that my extra pawn was not all that useful, I offered a draw, which he accepted. Not the most exciting game, but a reasonable little tussle, I thought, and a good sign for the future if I can somehow continue to put my game back together.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Catching the Rebound!!

On Saturday I came out of my funk in style, winning three and drawing one for a share of first in the BCF Davis Square Open, and that's not all - the games included a win over a master, and a draw with a 2400 IM! I guess things can snowball the other way too...

The tournament began a little clumsy, as many of my games against lower-rated players have been over the past few months:I was white here in a position that looks deceptively similar to a mainline Yugoslav Dragon. Unfortunately though, I treated the position as if it was a mainline when in fact, the inclusion of the moves a6 and g4 critically alters the evaluation. Normally here, white would play exd5, Nxc6, and then Bd4. In this position though, g4-g5 followed by Nxd5 is a major improvement based upon the extra move g4. If I had thought to look for this, I would have had a significant advantage. Of course, I didn't, and had to struggle through a tight and tense game for a lot of moves before reaching this ending:This position should be a draw so long as black keeps the e-pawn out of reach of my king. However, after:
White is suddenly winning nicely!
45.Kd3 e4+
46.Ke3 Ke5
47.c6 Kd6
48.Kxe4 Kxc649.Kf5 Kb5
50.Kg6 Kxb4
51.Kxh6 a5
52.Kxg5 a4
53.h6 1-0
My first win in fourteen tries!

In round 2 I geared up for my customary thrashing at the hands of National Master Lawyer Times. I have suffered plenty against his Colle, so I tried to be evasive and push play into something a little more off the beaten path, but I only succeeded in making my position worse than usual!
From here, I thought that Lawyer would simply play 18.d5, cementing his space advantage, perhaps to follow up with Na5-c6 with all kinds of ugliness. Instead, he blundered with 18.Rc7, allowing the shot 18...Bxe4, and the nature of the game changed radically. Play followed 19.Rxa7 Bxd3 20.Qxd3 and here I missed that 20...e4 would have secured me an advantage. Instead, I played 20...Qxa7 and we waded through many moves of rather dry play where I kept parrying threats until Lawyer finally broke through and won a pawn. However, he made a hasty move in my time trouble that turned out to be a horrible blunder, and he quickly succumbed in a piece-slamming time scramble. It was a little goofy beating a master for the first time in a game where he blundered instead of in a game that I played particularly well, but I'll take it!

Round 3 saw a raging Sicilian battle with opposite sides castling.Here, I was already well on top, but after 16.gxf7+ my opponent needed to play the cringe-inducing 16...Kxf7 in order to hold e6 (at least for the time being). Instead, he played 16...Rxf7, and quickly collapsed after 17.Nxe6 Qd7 18.Ng5 Rf8 19.Bh3

Finally, having won my first three games, I found myself on the black side of a battle with IM David Vigorito for first place. It was especially intimidating facing Vigorito seeing as some of my preparation comes from his excellent book "Challenging the Nimzo-Indian." Sure enough, the game proceeded right out of the pages of his analysis and I was quickly worse.Having been suffocated steadily for essentially all of the game to this point, I decided to shed a pawn to try to unravel and get some counterplay on the dark squares.
28.Bxa5 bxa5
29.Rxa5 Qf8
Vigorito later suggested that he should have varied here, perhaps with 30.Qc6 to try to force me to make a passive move, meeting 30...Rd1 with 31.Ra1.
In the game, I was able to generate counterplay with:
31.Qe3 Rd1
And now, instead of 32.Ra1, Vigorito played,
32.Rxd1 Rxd1
33.Ra8+ Kh7
This really stunned me, especially as the move seemed like it was sort of asking for trouble, and it came after a long think that brought him below 5 minutes while I still had 15+.Instead, I think that 34.Qe4 must have been stronger, as the text gives me some ferocious threats that might well have been decisive had I had the nerve and wherewithal to try to see it through.
35.hxg6+ fxg6
36.Qf3 Qxf1+
37.Kh2 Qg1+
38.Kh3And here, I just couldn't make anything work. Fritz suggests a materialist approach with 38...Rd5. Several BCC players suggested that I might try 38...h5 to limit the white king's retreat squares and continue my attack. I felt that 38...Qh1+ would lead to an endgame that was very unclear... so, I opted to try for a draw by repetition with
39.Kh2 Qg1+
Maybe I should have figured out how to win that one too, but there's no need to be greedy. It was quite a way to bounce back!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Another Loss

So, my streak is now up to 13 games without a win: 8 losses, 5 draws, and the funny thing is, I think my play during this span has gotten steadily stronger. Here is a game from my latest tournament.

BCC Wednesday Early Bird Rapid Quads
Joshua Haunstrup (1889)
Chris Chase (2331)
September 5, 2007

1.e4 g6
2.d4 Bg7
3.Nc3 d6
4.Be3 a6
5.Qd2 b5
6.Bd3 Bb7
7.a4 b4
8.Nce2 a5
9.Ng3 c5
10.Nf3 Nd7
11.Bb5Here, I think that white is very comfortable and probably reasonably better. My plan was to target the weakened white squares, and my instinct in the position was that the combination of a5 and c5 was rather too weak on the queenside. I had recently seen Ivanov-Ibragimov at the Continental, which contested a similar structure out of the same opening, and I had a sense of the patterns here. Evidently, Master Chase was disturbed by the prospects of the pin, so he sidestepped, making his position more flexible, but quite awkward. He told me afterward that he was hopeful that I would go after the c-pawn and miss the horribleness of Bxb2 followed by the skewer, Bc3.
12.c3 h5
13.h4 Nh6
14.Bxd7 Qxd7
15.dxc5 bxc3
16.bxc3 Rc8
17.Bd4!This was the only move to maintain my advantage, avoiding nastiness in the combinations between the Bg7 and c-file rook, but finding it, I think that the white position continues to be robust and comfortably superior.
18.cxd6 Qxd6
19.0-0 Ng4
20.Qb2 Ba8
21.Rab1?!I'm starting to drift here. Definitely better was 21.Qb5, and I continue to pressure him. It's tough to be so accurate under the grind of a G/30 time control.
22.Qb5 Bf4
Recognizing that the position has now deteriorated badly, I opted to bag a pawn.
24.fxg3 Bxe4
25.Rbd1? Qxg3
26.Bf2 Nxf2
27.Rxf2 Bxf3
28.Rxf3 Qxh4So, I've survived the worst of Chase's attack, but now it was serious crunch time on the clock, so I determined to push for an exchange of queens, hoping to accent the time loss he will have to go through to activate his k-rook while connecting my queenside pawns.
29.Qb4 Rc4?
30.Rxf6+!29...Rc4 was a terrible blunder, and now white should be winning. Either ...Qxb4 or Qg5 would have been far superior. Now, anything but ...Qxf6 and black gets mated.
31.Qxc4 Kg7
32.a5?I missed the key move, 32.Rf1 which would have secured the advantage and cut out any counterplay nonsense. Now, tormented by time trouble, I proceeded to misplay the position badly.
33.a6 Qe3+
34.Kh1 Ra8
35.Ra1 Kh6
36.Qc6 Rf8
I missed the threat entirely.
And now I felt crushed, and... missed that I am still winning easily by force!In the two minutes or so that I had to think, all I could come up with to hold was Qf3, which lost quickly after 38... Rf4+ 39.Qh3 Rxh3+ 40.gxh3 and now the check on the white squares secures a8 for the queen. Instead, 38.Qc7 would have won, enabling me to block the Rh4+ with Qh2, following up with the push a8Q with the comfortable resulting advantage of rook for two pawns.

So... I lost... again.