I returned to the tournament scene last weekend in Huntsville, Alabama. I havenít had much success in this tournament in the past, and unfortunately this trip wasnít too great either. The tournament was much stronger than previous editions with 3 GMs (Wojtkiewicz, Blatny, and Palatnik) attracted by the $1000 guaranteed first prize.
I got off to a good start with the Black pieces against Walter Smith, also from the Knoxville Chess Club. One problem with this tournament is that it hasnít reached a large enough size that you avoid playing people from your own club. Walter must have thought he was playing in the Greater Knoxville April open as he also faced Nick Barber and Leonard Dickerson from our club. 1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c5 4.e3 Nf6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Bd3 6.Be2 is probably better so as not to interfere with the Queen's control of d4. 6...d5 This Grunfeld position with the bishop on d3 holds no particular problems for Black 7.b3 He wanted to avoid an isolated d-pawn, but this move weakens the long diagonal 7...cd 8.ed Nc6 9.Be2?! White should keep developing with Be3 or 0-0 9...Bg4 If you compare this position to the one after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Nf3 Nf6 6.g3 Nc6 7. Bg2 Be7 8. 0-0 0-0 9.Bg5 you'll find that in the present game it is White who is playing the Tarrasch Defense except that he has substituted the weakening b3 for 0-0. In the Tarrasch Black usually continues 9... cxd4 10.Nxd4 h6. In this game, if White plays 10.cxd5 Nxd5 he finds that his knight on c3 is loose. 10.h3 This leads to a difficult game for White, but Black still has a nice plus after 10.Be3 dxc4 10...Bxf3 11.Bxf3 dc 12.Bxc6 bc 13.bc c5 with a clear advantage to Black, Whiteís center is collapsing and his king is still in the center 14.d5 [14.Be3 cd 15.Bxd4 Qa5 with the idea of ...e5 ...Rd8 is also in the air ]14....Nxd5 [14...Ne4!? ] winning the exchange. I was able to finish him off without much trouble. To his credit Walter bounced back from this disaster to finish with 3.5 points and share the U2200 prize. The first round went according to ratings except for Board 1, where Wojtkiewicz was held to a draw by Dickerson. Way to go Leonard!
In Round 2, I had White against Charles Meidinger 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.g3 c5 5.Nf3 cd 6.Nxd4 Ne4 7.Qd3 Nxc3 [7...Bxc3 is more widely seen as in the game Bereolos-Serper Kings Island 1997]8.bc Be7 9.Nb5 a6 kicking the knight where it wants to go and introducing further dark squared weaknesses, but if he doesn't play this he will also have to concern himself with Bf4 10.Nd6 Bxd6 11.Qxd6 Qe7 12.Ba3 Qxd6 13.Bxd6 with a nice bind for White that I managed to convert to a win
My perfect start allowed me to play GM Palatnik with the Black pieces in Round 3, the opening was again of some interest 1.d4 g6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nge2 O-O 6.f3 c5 7.d5 e6 8.Ng3 ed 9.cd a6 10.a4 Nbd7 11.Be2 h5!? A double edged move trying to take advantage of the position of Ng3. I've played this idea before, but only through the normal Saemisch move order where white has played Be3 12.Bg5 taking advantage of the move order 12...Qe8?! The start of a bad plan. The queen should go to a5 or c7. 13.Qd2 Nh7 14.Bh6 Bxh6?! continuing down the wrong track. Better is 14...h4 15.Bxg7 Kxg7 as in the game Renet-Sorin Buenos Airies 1994, but White still has the advantage after 16.Nf1 since he has avoided the dislocation of his knight to h1 as commonly happens in these lines 15.Qxh6 Qe5 16.Nf1 White's edge is considerably larger here with the queen deep in the heart of Black's position. A Queen exchange with ...Qg7 wonít bring much relief since the White knight will establish itself on c4. Sam finished me off in classic fashion of how to play against the Benoni. Iím going to post the full game to the GM games section after Iíve had a little more time to analyze it.
In Round 4, I had White against Jerry Wheeler. We continued our debate of the 4 Pawns Attack/Benko Gambit. Jerry thinks White is overextended in these lines, whereas I think Black is walking a tightrope. I got the better of him in Murfreesboro last fall, so the ball was in his court.1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f4 c5 6.d5 b5 7.cb a6 8.a4 O-O 9.Nf3 Qa5 last time he tried 9...axb5 10.Bd2 I've also tried 10.Nd2 here, which gives White more control over the c4 square and keeps the b2 pawn guarded 10...Qb4 11.Qc2 c4 Making potential escape squares for the queen at c5 or b3. This seems to improve on some earlier games of mine. Bereolos-Moore 1994 Indiana State Championship went 11...axb5 12. Bxb5 Ba6 13. e5 with a big advantage to White. Bereolos-Newsom 1997 Tennessee State Championship saw 11...Bd7 12. Ra3 again with an edge to White. I went into a long think here looking at the line 11. e5 dxe5 12. fxe5 Ng4 13. Ne4 Qb3 14. Qxb3 cxb3 15. Bc3 Nd7 but after awhile noticed that he can just play 11...Bf5. I then turned my attention to 12. a5 with the idea of 12...axb5 13. Na4 Qb3 14. Qxb3 axb3 15. Nb6 Ra7, but decided that White didn't have a whole lot here. At this point I had used up over half of my time to reach move 40 and still hadn't come up with a good plan, so I decided to force a draw 12.Nd1 Qc5 [12...Qb3 13.Qxb3 cb should be favorable to White since the b3 pawn will eventually fall ]13.Be3 [13.Bxc4 ab 14.Bd3 was a way to extend the game but I think Black has his usual Benko gambit compensation]13....Qb4 [not 13...Qc7 14.b6 ]14.Bd2 Qc5 15.Be3 [Ĺ:Ĺ] I guess the ball is back in my court.In the final round I had White against Jake Kleiman. In a maneuvering middlegame I gave up the c-file to launch an attack against his king. The crucial position came after Blackís 28th move.
29.Kh2 Not really a mistake, but I didn't realize how good White's position is. I was concerned about exchanges of the major pieces, but the endings with the N vs. B are great for White despite all the pawns on dark squares. It seems that White should push on with the attack with [29.Qe2 Rc3 (29...Rc1 30.Rxc1 Qxc1 31.Kh2 Qxa3 32.Qc2 Qxb4 33.Qc8 followed by Nc6-e7) 30.Qh5 h6 31.Kh2!? (31.Nf3 Rc1 and Black is OK ) 31....Rxe3 32.Nf3 Rc3! and Black seems to be holding ] perhaps 29.Rf2!? keeping options open is the best choice 29....Rc3 30.Re1 I began to panic here when I realized my intended 30.Qe2 Qc4 stopping Qh5 because of Qxf1 looked real good for Black 30.Rf2 with the idea of Rc2 should still be fine for White 30....Qc4 31.Qf2 threatening Nxe6, but this is easily parried 31...h6 32.Ra1 Qd3 33.g4 The rest of the game represents a complete meltdown as the clock ticked away and tide had turned in the position. 33...Qe4! Much better than 33...Rxa3 34.Rxa3 Qxa3 35.Qc2 which is similar to the first note 34.Nf3 Rxe3 35.Rc1 Qf4 36.Kh1 Rxf3 37.Qc2 Rf1 [0:1]
In the end, the 3 GMs emerged on top with 4 points by vastly different routes. Palatnik played 2 very short draws after beating me including in the final round with Wojtkiewicz, who had bounced back from his opening draw with 3 wins. Blatny had to work harder after losing in the 3rd round to Stephen Muhammad (The Master Formerly Known As Senior Master Booth, that win probably will be enough to again make him The Senior Master Formerly Known As Booth 8-), but he managed two wins on Sunday to join the winnerís circle. Todd Andrews also finished with 4 points after beating Muhammad in the final round.
FIDE has issued the latest update of their rating list. They seem to have switched over now from a 6-month schedule to a 3-month schedule. Of course, as with almost any action by FIDE these days, there was an immediate controversy. You'll recall that on the previous list, the match Kramnik-Kasparov was not rated. FIDE restored the integrity of their list by rating this match. However, they rated it chronologically after the Corus Wijk aan Zee tournament. The net effect of this is that Kramnik's rating is a few points higher (and Kasparov's a few lower) than it would have been had the events been rated in the proper sequence. Normally, this would not be too big of a deal since the ELO system really doesn't measure ratings that accurately (in the old days they used to always round to the nearest 0 or 5 to account for that). However, in this case it is somewhat of an issue since now Kramnik(2801) becomes only the second member ever of Club 2800. Kasparov(2829) still sits comfortably atop the rating list. FIDE champ Anand(2794) dropped to the third spot despite picking up 4 points at Wijk aan Zee. There is a considerable gap after the Big 3, with Adams(2750) still holding on to the #4 spot barely ahead of Morozevich(2749). The rest of top 10 is about the same with a bit of shuffling: Ivanchuk(2731), Leko(2731), Shirov(2723), and Gelfand(2712) are joined by Bareev(2709) who replaces new #11 Topalov(2707). This rounds out Club 2700. The other member on the previous list Loek van Wely(2670) was one of the big losers on the list, dropping 30 points and 15 places to 27th.
The big winner was Polish GM Bartlomeij Macieja(2608), who is the highest new entry into the top 100 at position #78. At first I thought #38 Alexander Graf(2649) of Germany was the highest placed newcomer, but later learned that this is the former Alexander Nenashev with a new name and a new country. This makes 6(Graf, Jussupow, Dautov, Huebner, Lutz, and Khenkin) Germans in the top 100. This is higher than any other country except Russia(25), just ahead of Ukraine, Israel, and France(all with 5). The high placing of Germany in the last Olympiad is less suprising in this light.
While GM Graf did not add to the total number of Alexes in the top 100, there was a new Alex, #96 Alexander Motylev(2601) of Russia. However, two Alexes left the list, Shabalov and Baburin, to drop the total to 13.
With Shabalov dropping out, the US is down to 3 players in the top 100, #46 Seirawan (2640) continues to lead the pack, by a wider margin now that #82 Gulko(2606) and #92 Kaidanov(2602) have dropped back a bit. Shabalov(2595) remains the #4 US player, just outside the top 100. Joel Benjamin(2581), who was the top rated US player on the PCA list is 7th; while Michael Rhode(2530), whose high place on the PCA list puzzled me, is 17th. I dropped 3 places to #153 with the same 2313 rating with no FIDE rated games played in the current period. It's looking like the US Open will not be rated by FIDE after all.
My last round game in the Knoxville March tournament with White against Alla Steinschneider added a new experience to my tournament history. For the first time ever, I allowed the ultracomplex Botvinnik System vs. the Queen's Gambit. This is one of the deepest labyrinths in all of opening theory with multiple options for each player at every move in a highly unbalanced position. It has been debated at the very highest levels. Kasparov has been a long-time champion of the White side. One of the first peeks into what he would become came in the 1981 Soviet Championship when he won back-to-back games against the Botvinnik, both of which were identical for the first 30 moves! That shows how deeply this variation has been analyzed without finding the truth. In the early to mid 90's the Botvinnik saw alot of action thanks to ideas for Black found by such players as Kramnik. Then, there is the set of players who are comfortable on either side like Kamsky, Ivanchuk, and Shirov. In his wonderful book Fire on Board, Shirov devotes an entire chapter to coverage of every game he has ever played in this opening. I finally decided that I needed to become a "real" chessplayer and finally took the plunge. This game may look like a fairly straight forward victory by White, but there were many possibilities between moves 15 and 17 that I have only briefly touched on here 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Since I was a half-point ahead in the tournament and a full 2 points clear of everyone in the City Championship qualification race, perhaps the quieter exchange variation could have been considered, but quiet chess hasn't really been my style lately. 3...Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.Bg5 allowing the Botvinnik for the first time in my tournament experience. The previous 10 times I had reached this position I had tried a hodgepodge including the normal 5.e3, the gambit 5.g3, the sideline 5.Qb3 and the rather innocuous 5.cxd5 5...dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 11.exf6 Bb7 12.g3 c5 13.d5
This is the main position of the Botvinnik, although earlier deviations are certainly possible. Now, 13...Qb6 is still considered the main line, but 13...Ne5, 13...Nxf6, and the move played in the game all have their followers 13...Bh6 14.Bxh6 Rxh6 15.Bg2 This is the older move in this position. These days 15. Qd2 is more popular as in the game Kamsky-Shirov World Team Championship 1993 (and also Shirov-Kamsky USSR Junior Championship 1987). We were both aware of this marvelous victory by Shirov, but my memory wasn't too fresh. I recalled that Gata played 15. Qd2 Qxf6 16. 0-0-0 and got crushed, so I decided to reinforce the f3 square. 15....Qxf6 15... b4 was what I mostly considered during the game, and it later turned out to be the most common move, but 15... Qxf6 has also been tried a couple of times with success. 16.O-O I wanted to get the king out of the center before trying something like 16.Ne4 Qe5 with complicated play. 16. Nxb5 has also been tried here 16....Ne5 I didn't really like this move since it takes away e5 from the queen and removes a defender of the c5 pawn. 16...O-O-O!? 17.Nxb5 Ne5 with some initiative, so perhaps White should just play 17.Ne4 17.Ne4 Qh8? sacrificing a piece, but the attack is much too slow. She chose this after long thought because of the variation 17...Qd8 18.Nxc5 Bxd5 19.Bxd5 Qxd5 20.Qxd5 ed 21.Rfe1 but in the postmortem we found the resource Ke7 still White should have some winning chances in the double rook ending after 22.Rxe5 Kd6 23.Nd3 18.Nd6 Ke7 19.Nxb7 Rg8 20.d6 Dealin' with Delroy! 20...Kd7 21.Nxc5 Kd8 22.d7 Kc7 23.Na6 Kd8 23...Kb6 24.Qd6 Ka5 25.b4 and mate will soon follow 24.Qd6 1:0
I've talked about chess and music here before, and since it's Friday, I thought I'd take a lighthearted look at some recent developments in that thread. First, an Australian band has put out a song about Bobby Fischer. You'll need the Real Player to check it out. While I think it's better than that Kasparov Dutch opera, you'll need to listen carefully to confirm that it's really a chess song. The lead singer seems heavily under the grunge influence and proves once again that it's hard to bargle nawdle zouss with all those marbles in your mouth.
There's also musical news involving the "other Bobby". Knoxville Chess Club member Bobby Clark (a/k/a Mr. OmegaChess) has released 2000 B.C., available at MP3.com. If you're into Electronica, check this out. Six of the eight tracks are available for preview and proceeds go to help Bobby and his fiancee in New Zealand to get married. The only downside is that there are no chess titled tracks.
There have been a few big events in the chess world since I last wrote about them, so I'll take some time out to catch up.
US vs. China - I think my predictions came out sort of mixed. The US top boards came out on top 13.5-10.5 thanks to their greater depth and experience. On the two women's boards, China won, but only by a point, 4.5-3.5. I had expected the Chinese women to score a much more convincing victory here, but the US women held their own. The big shock came on the two junior boards, where the Chinese dominated 6-2. 15-year-old Xiangzhi Bu is already a GM with a 2553 rating. It looks like 17-year-old Hua Ni could be joining him soon even though he doesn't even have the IM title yet depite his 2534 rating. These two combined for 5.5/7 to carry the day for China who took the first edition of this match 21-19. Not a good start in this series for the US on their home turf.
FIDE world rapid cup - I guess this might be considered the world championship of rapid chess. The suprising winner was none other than Garry Kasparov. Of course, it is never a suprise when Kasparov wins a tournament. The shock here was that Kasparov was even participating in a FIDE event. Sightings of the Boss have been few and far between since Kasparov and Nigel Short fractured the chess world in 1993 by playing their world championship outside of FIDE's jurisdiction and forming the PCA. Does this mean a thaw in the Kasparov vs. FIDE cold war? Will Kasparov play in the next FIDE KO championship? Don't count on it. Kasparov made a point of indicating that he had made a commitment to the French sponsors long before FIDE became involved in this tournament.
Melody Amber - I find it harder and harder to get excited about this annual event where a bunch of super GMs play rapid and blindfold for a huge pot of cash and no rating points at stake. Nice work if you can get it. This year Kramnik and Gelfand won the rapid portion, Topalov took the blindfold title, and Kramnik and Topalov split the combined. I'll make the annual comment to follow Mig's suggestion to dump the rapid and replace it with Fischer random.
World Professional Rating List - About the only thing remaining from the PCA is this alternative to the FIDE rating list. It still seems to come out pretty regularly every couple of months. They use a slightly different formula than FIDE and rate much fewer players (only 249 on the latest list) the differences are sometimes striking. However, since FIDE did not rate Kasparov-Kramnik, this list potentially gives us a better view of where things stand at the top. I think most observers feel Kasparov(2796), Kramnik(2785), and Anand(2563) stand atop the chess world right now and the rating gap to #4 Morozevich(2720) seem to bear this out. The rest of the top 10 don't seem too suprising either with Ivanchuk, Leko, Gelfand, Adams, Shirov, and Topalov. With some shuffling, this is the same top 10 as on the FIDE list although none of these players is in Club 2700. I noticed a few suprises as I scanned further down the list. China's Zhang Zong is tied for 19th with Anatoly Karpov at 2630. The order of US players looks a bit goofy with Joel Benjamin(2591) heading the pack just above Michael Rhode(2588), further back are Seirawan(2573), Kaidanov(2557), Christiansen(2548), Shabalov(2546), and Gulko(2542) down in the number 118 spot. Obviously, the events rated plays a big factor here and I don't have any details on what events may or may not have been rated. Michael Rhode as the #2 US player just baffles me. He's not even in the top 10 on the FIDE list, and is #25 on the USCF list. I'm not even sure how active he even is anymore, but when he was active I don't recall any super results that would place him atop the heap of US players. Quite a mystery. The most shocking entry on the list, however, is in the #177 spot. Jan Timman at 2520. That's plain crazy. Maybe they got Timman and Rhode switched. Obviously, something strange is going on in this rating system. As a final sanity check, we have the Alex criteria. I count only 12, off 2 from the FIDE list, offering more proof that this system may be breaking down
I've added #293 to the BCE section. In this one two disconnected passed pawns battle a rook. Fine gives a line in the notes where the pawns actually win, but Black could still draw after the move Fine indicates as a mistake.
Sorry for the long delay between posts. The Knoxville Chess Club has instituted a new qualification system for this year's city championship that makes it advantageous to try to play in more of the club's tournaments. As a result, in January and March, I played in the club tournament. It seems that when I'm playing in these month-long tournaments, the time I spend on chess is more often devoted to analyzing just completed games or thinking about the upcoming game leaving me less time to post things here. There also seems to be a lack of events to report on at this time of the year. In any case, I'm going to try to be more active in my postings this month to make up for the small output in March.
I've dug back into my archives for the following game. I was White against Paul Fields in the 4th round of the 1984 Indiana State Championship. We reached one of the main positions of Tchigorin's Defense 1.Nf3 Nc6 2.d4 d5 3.c4 Bg4 4.cxd5 Bxf3 5.gxf3 Qxd5 6.e3 e5 7.Nc3 Bb4 I was recently looking at some old games by Morozevich, when I came across the game Mosakalenko-Morozevich, 7th match game, Moscow 1994 (ten years after the present game). This game is annotated by Morozevich in Informant 60/351, which awards the move 8.a3 as a novelty. This move tripped something in my memory, and sure enough a quick visit to the database unearthed the present game. Alas, this move probably won't go down in history as the Bereolos Variation since I found an even earlier game, Bielicki-Marcussi Argentina 1962. In comparison to the normal move 8.Bd2, the text aims for a better future for the dark squared bishop which finds itself hemmed in by its own pawns after 8.Bd2 Bxc3 9.bxc3. However, spending a tempo with a3 (which also is not to the liking of the dark squared bishop) to accomplish this hasn't attracted many followers and probably doesn't give Black too many sleepless nights. Still, it is a bit off the beaten track.
8...Bxc3+ Not 8...exd4?? 9.axb4 winning a piece 9.bxc3 exd4 Morozevich maintained the central tension here with 9...Nge7. That move is probably slightly superior to the text since the c3-pawn still hems in the Bc1 and keeps the c-file closed. Still, after 10.Rb1 Morozevich indicates a slight advantage to White. 10.cxd4 Nge7 11.Rg1 11.Rb1 or 11.Bb2 are probably more flexible since White could still consider castling kingside. Also, a retreat by the Black queen to d6 will attack the h-pawn now. 11...g6 12.Bb2 f5 13.Rc1 0-0-0 14.f4 Developing with 14.Bc4 also comes into consideration, but after 14...Qd6 the flaw with White's 11th move is revealed. After the text, White has some light-squared weaknesses and his central pawn mass is much less mobile. 14...Rhe8 15.Bg2 Possibly the wrong diagonal for the bishop. Again 15.Bc4 or 15.Be2 need to be considered. Again we can see the problems with White's 11th move as the Rg1 is out of play. 15...Qb5 16.Qc2 Nd5 Here, I accepted my opponents offer of a draw based on the variation 17.Bxd5 Qxd5 and Black doesn't have any problems because of White's weak light squares. However, White probably can still claim a small edge with 17.a4 with the idea of 17...Qa6 (17...Qa5+ 18.Kf1) 18.Qc4 Qxc4 19.Rxc4 Nxf4 20.Bxc6 when Black will end up with the worse pawn structure and the inferior minor piece 1/2:1/2I probably would have continued on if I had found 17.a4 since a draw ended any outside shot I had for the title. I had given my customary point to Dennis Gogel in Round 3 (I lost to him in the Indiana State Championship in 1982, 1983, and 1984), but was still on board 2 for the present game. As it turned out, 4 points was good enough for a first place tie since Gogel lost to Colias in the last round leaving Gogel, van Meter, Colias, and Mills in a 4-way tie. However, Gogel still took the title on tiebreaks to end an amazing streak where he won the title or shared it for the 6th time in 7 years.