The April 1 FIDE rating list finally came out, over a week late. The extra time apparently wasn't enough for USCF to take care of title applications. I'm still untitled. I see Dimitry Schneider is still only an FM as well. I've asked my state association president who to contact at USCF and have gotten passed up the line a few times without an answer yet. I was told unofficially on one of the newsgroups that I need to request USCF to submit the title application, and that IM and GM applicants have to do this as well. That is news to me. No wonder there are 23 active players and 59 overall in the US who are rated over 2300 and do not have the FM title. Some of those players may not have played the required 24 games, but that is still a pretty significant number and doesn't count players who may have been qualified in the past but have subsequently dropped below 2300. It was probably a cost cutting move by the federation at some point: don't tell players they are qualified for a title so we can save a few dollars on the application fee. This isn't really a big surprise coming from a federation that has gutted the national magazine and the national grand prix. They can't even manage to stage the national championship anymore without outside support,
I do note that the Kings Island Open was submitted for rating. It seems that they managed to screw this up as well. I knew my draw with Wojo would not be rated because it happened at an accelerated time control. However, I'm still listed with only two games, and from the rating change (-21, down to 2312) it looks like my win over Jake Kleiman was, for some reason, not rated. This is very frustrating. The unofficial word I got on this one is that because USCF was so late in submitting the results for the Chicago Open and World Open (they weren't rated until the January 2002 list) that Jake's first rating did not appear on the October 2001 list like it should have. When FIDE got the tournament report for Kings Island they used the most recent list prior to the tournament. That list was the October 2001 list. So we have a case where a player had games rated that he played in July, but not in November because he was still "unrated" in November. More than one guy in the newsgroups even told me that that all makes perfect sense. Which explains why I don't read the newsgroups too much these days!
The bright side is that my rating still remains over 2300 so they'll have another chance to get things right by the time the July rating list comes out (unless they do something like not rate the last day of the US Masters, then I probably would drop below 2300).
The rating loss drops me to #143 among active US players. Thanks to some country changes, the US is now tied with Germany with the second most number of players (7) in the top 100. The new US players are Alexander Onischuk (#1 US, #44 World, 2641), Alexander Goldin (#4 US, #69 World, 2618), and Igor Novikov (#6 US, #92 World, 2603). They join Yasser Seirawan (#57, 2631), Alexander Shabalov(#66, 2622), Gregory Kaidanov(#72, 2616), and Joel Benjamin(#100, 2598). The US just missed having an 8th player in the top 100 as Boris Gulko (#108, 2597) fell one point short.
With several top caliber tournaments in this period, there was quite a bit of shakeup at the top. #1 Garry Kasparov(2838) kept his rating the same with his Linares victory, keeping a commanding lead over World Champion #2 Vladimir Kramnik(2809). I guess the Botvinnik Memorial match between the two Ks is not going to be rated by FIDE. I noticed that all the Russian players had an n flag, which means that their federation is behind in its FIDE dues. I thought this might mean that no games played in Russia would be rated, but that is not the case as the Ponomariov-Ivanchuk match was clearly rated. #3 Vishy Anand(2752) continued his fall. New #4 Veselin Topalov(2745) is right on his heels, as are #5 Mikey Adams(2744) and #6 FIDE champ Ruslan Ponomariov(2743), who is also up one notch as he continues his ascent. Evgeny Bareev's impressive start to the year upped him to the #7 spot at 2724, while Alexander Morozevich's terrible start has dropped him from 4th to 8th at 2718. Club 2700 maintained 13 members with youngster Alexander Grischuk(2702) bumping out Ilia Smirin(2685) for the last spot. There are now 98 players with ratings of 2600 or more.
The appearance of 18-year-olds Ponomariov and Grischuk in Club 2700 also reflects a trend of youth in the top 100. 8 players have yet to celebrate their 21st birthday, the youngest being 15-year-old #81 Teimour Radjabov(2610) and 16-year-old #96 Xiangzhi Bu(2601). 50 of the top 106 players (there is a big tie for 100th on the list are younger than 30. Quite a contrast to the US list where only 2 of the top 30 players (the newly Americanized Onischuk and US #19 Boris Kreiman) are under 30.
On a side note, I see that my diagram service seems to have gone down. I'm examining alternatives to get the diagrams back up.
Although it is getting rarer in these days of accelerated time controls, every so often you play a game that has the feel of an epic struggle. The battle rages from the opening to the ending with complexity at all stages. My final round game against IM-elect Dimitry Schneider was that type of game to me. I have invested many hours analyzing this game and still barely touched on some of the more interesting positions. I'm sure this is a game I will revisit over and over again.
There is also an associated story with this game that starts a few days earlier. When I play in Chicago, if I have time between rounds I often visit with a friend of mine from high school, Jeff Quasney. On Friday, he showed me an article in the Chicago Tribune about Dimitry Schneider. On Sunday, Quazz asked how he was doing, and I said that I thought that we had the same number of points. So, of course, the immediate response was maybe you'll play, and it turned out to be true. He also said that he was going to try to come and watch the final round after he put his boys to bed.
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c6 4. e4 I first looked at this move after Joel Lautier used it in the final round of the 1993 Biel interzonal to defeat Mikhail Gurevich and move on to the Candidates matches. I was very impressed with White's play in that game, so I decided to add the move to my repertoire. However, I had only gotten to try it out twice in the intervening years as most players do not enter the semi-Slav using this move order. Neither of my opponents in those two games went into the main gambit line either. Consequently, my knowledge of the nuances of the opening were a bit fuzzy. 4... dxe4 Mark Hecht tried the unusual 4...Bb4 against me in the 1999 World Open 5.Nxe4 Bb4+ The most testing move. Polina Kaganovska played 5...Nf6 against me in the 1996 Middle Tennessee Open 6. Bd2 Qxd4 7. Bxb4 Qxe4+ 8. Be2 On Board 3, Onischuk defeated Blatny with 8. Ne2 to claim a share of first place, but as my chair was facing away from the stage I didn't notice this until a bit later. 8... Na6 9. Bc3 Ne7 10. Bxg7 Rg8 11. Bf6 Rg6 11... Qf4 was Gurevich's choice against Lautier.
I thought I had fallen into an opening trap since I knew that much of White's compensation for his pawn is from the dark squared bishop. I looked at this line where White loses a piece after 12. Bc3 Qxg2 13. Bf3?? Qxg1+ (or 13... Qxh1) but instead, 13. Qd2 Qxh1 14. O-O-O gives White a strong attacking initiative. Still, it's probably not the type of position you want to be winging at the board. 12. Bxe7 Exchanging off the bishop is probably not a blunder, but it gave me a very pessimistic outlook on my position. I also started taking huge chunks of time since I thought my position might be teetering on the edge. However, I was also very determined to hold things together since I didn't want to tell my friend, "I got crushed by the kid from the newspaper" 12... Kxe7 13. Qd2 e5 14. Rd1 14. O-O-O? Bf5 -+ 14... Be6 15. Qd6+ My database actually has 6 games that went this far including some stronger players (Vaisser and Wells) on the White side. In all of those games White played 15. f3 I thought the line 15. f3 Qh4+ 16. g3 Rxg3 17. hxg3 Qxh1 18. Qd6+ Ke8 was going to leave my kingside too loose, but this approach was successful for White in the game Wells-Meyer Germany 1995. I decided to cut his Ra8 out of the game first, to see if that gave me other options, but as it is, it gives him a more powerful option. 15... Ke8 16. f3 16. Nf3 Bxc4 17. Qxe5+ Qxe5 18. Nxe5 Bxe2 19. Rd2 (19. Kxe2 Re6) 19... Bb5 20. Nxg6 hxg6 leaves Black with a winning endgame 16... Qe3 17. Rd3 Qc1+ It seems a bit better to combine defense of e5 with attack of g2 with17... Qg5 18. g3 Bxc4 19. Qd7+ Kf8 with a plus to Black.18. Kf2 Qxb2 19. Re3 19. Rb3? Qd4+ 20. Qxd4 exd4 21. Rxb7 Nc5 with a clear advantage to Black. My position seemed to be holding together better now, and Quazz finally arrived, so I had at least accomplished that goal, although I had fallen about an hour behind on the clock. The game now took a bizarre twist. 19... Qb6?! I didn't really understand this move. The "point" became clear a move later. An interesting possibility is 19... Rg5!? 20. h4 Rd8 21. Qxd8+!? Kxd8 22. hxg5 Bxc4 and I'll bail out by calling this unclear 20. Qxe5
Now, he grabbed his king lifted it up above the c8 square to castle and suddenly realized that the big fella had already moved! This is the first time I ever remember something like that happening in one of my games, especially against such a strong player. I guess he is fortunate that moving the king doesn't just lose. 20... Kf8 better is 20... Rd8 21. Nh3 with chances for both sides. 21. Bd3 I didn't really consider the pawn grab 21. Qh8+ Rg8 22. Qxh7, but it may be playable. For example 22... Qb2 23. a3 Bxc4?? 24. Qh6+ Rg7 25. Qh8+ Rg8 26. Qxb2 I decided to finally complete my development instead. 21... Rg7 22. Ne2 Qc5 23. Rb1 Re8 24. Nf4 I wasted too much of what little time I had left here trying to make 24. Rxb7 work 24... Rxg2+ 25. Ke1 (25. Kxg2 Bh3+ snares White's queen and 25. Kf1 Rg5 26. Qxc5+ (26. Qh8+ Rg8 with ...Bh3+ on tap) 26... Nxc5 27. Rxa7 (27. f4 Rh5 28. Rb2 Nxd3 29. Rxd3 Bxc4 30. Rc3 Bxe2+ 31. Rxe2 Rxe2 32. Kxe2 Rxh2+ is also good for Black ) 27... Bh3+ winning) 25... Rg7 White may be OK, but such an airy king position with little time didn't appeal to me. 24... Bd7 25. Qxc5+ Nxc5 26. Rxe8+ Kxe8 27. Re1+ Kf8 28. Bc2 f6 29. g4 Kf7 an awkward looking move, but Black's pieces aren't coordinating very well. 30. Nh5 Rg8 The computer offers the bizarre looking 30... Rg6 with the idea 31. Bxg6+?! hxg6 32. Nf4 g5 with Nd3+ to regain the exchange, but if White just ignores this with 31. Ke3 it is hard to see what Black is doing as 31...Rh6?! would land the Black rook on an even worse square than g7 was. 31. Bxh7 Rh8 32. Bc2 simpler was 32. Bb1to be able to guard the pawn with Rc1 32... Be6 33. Rc1? White would have a large advantage with 33. Ke3 Rd8 (33...Bxc4?? 34. Kd4) 34. Rd1 33... Bxc4 34. Bg6+ Kxg6 35. Rxc4 Ne6 36. Kg3 c5 37. Rc2 b5 38. Nf4+ Nxf4 39. Kxf4 c4 40. Ke4 Finally reaching the time control. An interesting possibility was 40. h4!? with the idea 40...Rxh4 41. a4 a6 42. axb5 axb5 43. Rb2 Rh8 44. Rxb5 Rc8 45. Rb2 c3 46. Rc2 Rc7 47. Kg3= But 40...Re8 cutting off White's king from the queenside probably gives Black a small advantage. 40... Re8+ 41. Kd4 Kg5 42. a4 a6 43. axb5 It is better to avoid this exchange so that both b5 and a6 would be targets for White's king 43. Kc5 Re3 44. axb5 axb5 45. Kxb5 Rxf3 (45... c3 46. Kb4 Rxf3 47. Rxc3 Kxg4 48. Rxf3 Kxf3 49. Kc3 f5 50. Kd2=) 46. Rxc4 (46. Kxc4? Kxg4 -/+) 46... Rh3 47. Kc6 Rxh2 48. Kd6 Re2= 43... axb5 44. Kc5 Re5+ 45. Kb4 Rd5 46. Rc3 I think 46. Ra2 in order to activate the rook is superior. I played this move trying to provoke his next move 46... Rd3 47. h3 When playing 46. Rc3 I had seen that the pawn ending 47. Rxd3?? cxd3 48. Kc3 Kf4 49. h4 Ke3 was lost, but 47. Ra3 looks to be superior to the text.
My analysis of this position at the board was pretty superficial. I thought 47... Kh4 48. f4 = and 47... Kf4 48. h4 = since if his king comes forward then I run with my pawns. In this second line, however, Black has a very good try with 48...Ke3 (48... Kxf3 49. g5=) and now White must decide which pawn to push
Running the g-pawn loses in straight-forward fashion 49. g5? Kd4 50. Ra3 (50. Rxd3+ cxd3 51. Kb3 (51. gxf6 d2 52. f7 d1=Q 53. f8=Q with what would be an even queen ending if not for 53...Qa4#) 51... fxg5 52. hxg5 Ke3 53. g6 d2 54. Kc2 Ke2 -+) 50... fxg5 51. hxg5 (51. h5 Rxa3 52. Kxa3 Ke5 catches the h-pawn) 51... Rxa3 52. Kxa3 c3 53. g6 Kd3 54. g7 c2 55. g8=Q c1=Q+ again with a materially equal queen ending that is lost for White since Black can force an exchange of queens and then get a new queen faster after 56. Ka2 Qc4+ 57. Qxc4+ bxc4 58. Kb2 Kd2-+)
So it looks like White has to push the h-pawn instead 49. h5 Kd4 50. Ra3 (50. Rxd3+ loses as above with Qa4# at the end) 50... Rd1 (50... Rxa3 51. Kxa3 c3 52. h6 Kd3 53. h7 c2 54. h8=Q c1=Q+ and Black only has a slight edge in this queen ending) 51. Kxb5 (There are certainly other tries for White 51. Ra7 Rb1+ 52. Ka5 c3 53. Rd7+ (53. Rc7 Kd3 54. h6 c2 55. h7 Rh1 56. Kxb5 Rxh7) 53... Kc4 54. Rc7+ Kb3 55. Kxb5 c2 56. Rxc2 Kxc2+ 57. Kc4 Kd2 58. Kd5 Ke3 59. Ke6 Kxf3 60. Kxf6 Kxg4-+; I thought 51. h6 Rb1+ 52. Ka5 c3 53. h7 Rh1 54. Kb4 c2 55. h8=Q Rxh8 56. Rc3 Rh2 might work as a blockading attempt, but Black can avoid trading his f-pawn 57. f4 Rg2 58. g5 f5! 59. g6 Rxg6 60. Rxc2 Rg4 61. Kxb5 Rxf4-+
As an exercise to see if computers have improved at all in the ending, I gave this position to Crafty and let it analyze for 24 hours. It liked Black by about 2.5 pawns, but the line it was producing is actually drawn at the end. 51... c3 52. Ra2 (52. Rxc3 Kxc3 53. Kc5 Kd3 54. Kd5 Ke3+ 55. Ke6 Kxf3 56. Kxf6 Kxg4-+; 52. Ra4+ Kd5 (I think this is better than 52...Kd3 which will lead to Crafty's line below) 53. Ra2 Rb1+ 54. Ka6 Kc4; 52. h6 c2 53. Ra4+ Kd5 54. h7 Rb1+ 55. Rb4 c1=Q 56. h8=Q Qc6+ 57. Ka5 Ra1+ 58. Ra4 Rxa4#) 52... Rd2 this seems to be a key move. There are many variations where the king and 3 pawns are able to draw against the rook and 1 pawn so every tempo counts. The computer's line was 52... Kd3 53. Ra3 (53. Kc5 c2 54. Rxc2 Kxc2 55. h6 Rh1 56. Kd5 Kd3 57. Ke6 Rxh6 -+) 53... Kd2 54. Kc4 c2 55. Ra2 Rf1 56. Kd5 Rxf3 57. Ke6 but the h-pawn will decoy the Black rook away from f6 and then the Black king is going to be too far away to win) 53. Ra1 (53. Ra4+ Kd5) 53... c2 54. Rc1 Kc3 (54... Ke3 55. Kc4) 55. Kc5 (55. h6 Rh2 56. Kc5 Kb2 57. Rg1 c1=Q+ 58. Rxc1 Kxc1 59. Kd5 Rxh6 60. Ke4-+; 55. Rxc2+ Rxc2 56. Kc5 Kd3+ -+) 55... Rd1 56. Rxc2+ Kxc2 57. f4 (57. h6 Rh1 (57... Rd8) 58. Kd4 Rxh6 59. Ke4 Kd2 60. f4 Rh4; 57. Kc4 Rd8 58. f4 Kd2 59. g5 fxg5 60. fxg5 Rh8 61. h6 Ke3-+ ) 57... Kd3 (57... Rg1 58. Kd5 Rxg4 59. f5=) 58. Kd5 (58. g5 fxg5 59. fxg5 Ke4-+; 58. f5 Ke4-+) 58... Ke3+ -+. I hope there were enough words in all that analysis and that the use of italics for the sub-variations helps. I've tried to give a flavor here. I basically dumped all the lines I looked at into the database and tried to distill it to something valuable for this posting. I'm not yet totally convinced that White is lost, but I haven't found a way to hold it yet. Anyway, back to the game, after very long thought he backed up with 47... Rd5 48. Ra3 Re5 49. Rc3 f5 50. gxf5 White exchanges so that Black can't push f4 50...Rxf5 51. Ra3 Kf4 51... Kh4 52. f4= 52. Ra1 Kxf3 52... Kg3 53. Rg1+ Kxh3 54. f4 with equality since the Black king will be trapped on the h-file 53. Rf1+ Ke4 54. Rh1 Rh5 54... Rf3 55. Kxb5 Kd3 56. h4 c3 57. Kb4 holds the draw (dangerous is 57. h5 c2 58. h6 Rf5+ 59. Kb4 Rh5 60. Rg1 Kd2 (60... Rxh6 61. Kb3! =) 61. Rg2+ Kc1 62. Kb3) 55. h4 Ke3 55... Kf3 56. Rg1 56. Rg1! As discussed in my last post 56. Rh3+? Kf4 (56... Kf2 57. Rc3 and the Black King is cut off along the third rank.) 57. Rh1 Kg3 58. Ka5 Rxh4 59. Rg1+ Kf2 60. Rg5 (60. Rc1 Rh5 61. Rc3 Re5 62. Kb4 Re3) 60... c3-+; 56... Rxh4 56... Kf4 57. Rg2 57. Rg5 Rh1 57... Kd2!? 58. Rg2+! (58. Rxb5? c3+ -+; 58. Kxb5? c3 -+) 58. Rxb5 Kd4 59. Rg5 Rb1+ 60. Ka3 Rb3+ 61. Ka2 Re3 62. Kb2 Re2+ 63. Kc1 Kd3 64. Rg3+ Kd4 65. Rh3 Rg2 66. Rf3 Rh2 67. Rg3 Ke4 68. Rc3 Rh1+ 69. Kc2 Kd4 70. Rg3 Rh2+ 71. Kc1 c3 72. Rg8 [½:½]