I played in the Battle of Murfreesboro on Saturday. I was the top seed out of 43 players. Like last year, I won my first four and lost the final round. I think stamina may have come into play as this was my first one-day tournament since last year's Battle of Murfreesboro. My play in the last round was especially pitiful as is shown below.
In the first round I again got the chance to play the Botvinnik System from the White side against Shawn Whelan. He played an early deviation with 10...Be7 which is rarer than the main lines with 10...Nbd7, but still has a good pedigree having been played by Smyslov, Ivanchuk, and Dreev among others 11. exf6 Bxf6 12. Bxf6 White has scored well with 12.Be3 12... Qxf6 13. g3 Nd7? The knight is misplaced here. Smyslov played the better 13...Na6 against Kasparov in their Candidates match, with the idea that 14. Bg2 Bb7 15. Nxb5 can be met by 15... O-O-O with complicated play. Kasparov chose 15.Ne4 instead and the game ended in a draw. 14. Bg2 Now he doesn't have a good answer to the twin threats of Bxc6 and Nxb5 14... b4 15. Nb5 much better than 15. Bxc6 bxc3 16. Bxa8 cxb2 15...cxb5 16. Bxa8 e5 17. dxe5 Nxe5 18. O-O Bg4 19. f3 Qb6+ 20. Kh1 Bh3 [20... Nd3 21. fxg4 Nf2+ 22. Rxf2 Qxf2 23. Qe1+ +-] 21. Re1 [1:0]
In round two I equalized quickly as Black in a Trompowsky against Don Hoak 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 3.Bf4 c5 4.e3?! Qb6 Now 5.Qc1 leaves the d-pawn loose, as does 5.b3 Qb4+ 6.Nd2 So he went 5.Nc3 when Black is at least equal after 5...Nxc3 He later went badly astray getting a piece trapped.
I wasn't going to comment much on my third round game with White against Steven Dowd since I thought he just played a dubious piece sac in a position that was already looking pretty good for me. However, when I entered the game into the database, I was suprised to find that it was another case of nothing new under the sun. The position after his piece sacrifice with 12...Ra8-d8 had previously occurred in Kamp-Henrich Germany 1994.
I grabbed the bishop with 13.axb4 and only now did we deviate from the German game by 13...Nxb4 . Henrich lost with 13...Qxb4. Dowd's move wasn't much of an improvement since 14.Nd5 killed any hope he had of an attack. (Dowd withdrew after this game. I later found out that he had forgotten his blood pressure medication in Alabama, so this probably wasn't one of his better efforts).
In the 4th round, I played a complicated game with the number 2 seed, Joel Johnson. I got the better of it and got to land a real haymaker after his zwitschenzug 23.Rd1-d7, which was played to avoid 23.bxc3 Be2 when 24.Rd7 is most simply met by 24...Bxf3.
Here is where I unleashed my blow with 23...Rad8! with the idea 24.Rxe7 Rd1+ 25.Kf2 Be1+ 26.Kg1 Bh4+ 27.Rf1 Rxf1#. The exclamation point is not for this idea which is relatively easy to find; it's because this move knocked my opponent out of his seat, literally! Shortly after making my move, my opponent's chair collapsed sending him sprawling! He was uninjured and after dusting himself off and getting a new chair, he could find nothing better than 24.Rxd8 Rxd8 25.bxc3 Be2 and Black wins the exchange. I converted this without much trouble.
This left me a half point clear of the field. In the final round I played an absolutely horrible game against Bill Melvin. After 15...f7-f5 my brain decided to shut down for the day.
16.Qc4+? What do the kingside pieces have to say about this? Looking at this diagram and the one against Dowd, it looks like I was playing left handed or something. Better was the more natural 16. Bc4+ e6 17. Qc2 16... e6 17. h6 Bf6 18. Qxc5?? 18. Nc7 was the only move, but Black should still have an edge because of White's tangled kingside. 18... Bd7! And suddenly White is in a heap of trouble. Black is simply going to pile up on Nb5. I tried to squirm with 19. Qxb4 Na6 20. Qb3 Nc5 21. Qc2 [21. Qb4 Qb6] 21... Bxb5 22. b4 Ba4 23. Qc4 Bxd1 since 24.bxa5 Qxd6 guards both of the pieces, I tried the desperate 24.bxc5 but this was little compensation for an entire rook. Plus, the bulk of my army is still huddled on the kingside. I resigned a few moves later.
I sucessfully defended my title in the Music City Grand Prix last weekend at the Nashville Chess Center. The turnout was a bit disappointing with only 9 players in the open section, but TD Mark Ishee indicated that they came out OK financially. In the first round I played white against Walter Jordan. I got a fairly comfortable position out of the opening with the bishop pair and a space advantage. I think his last move 16...b7-b6? was a mistake because it opens the long diagonal and takes away the b6 square from his knights. On b6 a knight would block the b-file as well as compete for the c4 square. I think now White wins material by force.
17. e4 Ne7 18. Nb4 Qa5 19. e5 Rb8 19... Nd5 20. Nc6 Qa6 21. Ne7 Kh8 22. Nxd5 exd5 23. Bxd5 20. Bd2 20. Rd3 also looked interesting, but I couldn't find a good continuation after 20...b5 20... Qa3 21. Rb3 Qa4 22. Nc6 Nxc6 23. Bxc6 b5 23... Qxd4 24. Bb4 picks up the Nd7; 23... Qa6 24. Bb4 threatens both Bxf8 and Ra3 24. Bb4 Rd8 25. Bd6 a6? a mistake in a lost position 26. Bxb8?26. Bxd7 Bxd7 27. Bxb8 Rxb8 28. Qc7 would have put him a full rook down but I still won without much trouble after 26... Nxb8 27. Bxb5 axb5 28. Qc7 Rf8 29. Qxb8 Ba6 30. Qa7 Qxa2 31. Rbb1 [1:0]
In the second round I played "creatively" in the opening as Black against David Capley 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 perhaps a Ruy Lopez? 3. Nc3 doesn't look like it 3...Nf6 4. Bb5 d6 or maybe it is. This position could easily arise from the Steinitz variation of the Ruy Lopez 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.Nc3 Nf6. Alas, Chess Assistant still classifies this as a 4 Knights game 5. d4 exd4 5...Bd7 is the way they play it in the Lopez 6. Qxd4 This position could also have arisen from Philidor's Defense 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Qxd4 Nc6 5.Bb5 Nf6 6.Nc3 6...Be7 6...Bd7 was probably called for here. Now, I think he could have claimed an edge after 7.e5 dxe5 8.Qxd8+ Bxd8 9.Nxe5 Bd7 10.Nxd7, but after much consideration he decided he wanted to play a middlegame. After 7. b3 O-O 8. Bxc6 bxc6 I got the unbalanced position I was looking for from 4...d6 with the two bishops as compensation for the weakened pawn structure. He played a bit too optimistically for an attack and I was able to win the exchange which I converted into the full point. Because of quite a few draws in the small section, this put me into clear first place.
The next morning I faced Leonard Dickerson with the White pieces. I managed to squeeze out a win in a very interesting ending after 32...Nd6xb5
He had played some inaccurate moves in the ending which let me win a pawn, but there are still many technical difficulties to overcome because of all the pawns being on the same side of the board. If it was only a single knight vs. a bishop, White might have better practical chances as Beliavsky and Mikhalchishin show in their book Winning Endgame Technique. However, I think the additional pair of knights gives Black great drawing chances since he can cover some of the light squares with the knight. 33. Nd7 I wanted to keep his king boxed in, but the immediate 33. g4 should also come into consideration since his king won't really be getting anywhere after 33...Kf8 34.Nd5 33...Bc3 Black should strongly consider 33...h5 a typical defensive structure in the 4 vs. 3 ending with the idea of making White trade as many pawns as possible to create a passed pawn. If Black can trade two sets of pawns then he can consider sacrificing his two pieces for Whites two remaining pawns to leave White with only 2 knights. Black would have to take care to avoid the esoteric 2N vs. P ending in that case. Still, White does have ideas after 33...h5. He can play for f3 and g4. Then, if Black exchanges White can create an outside passed pawn with h5. If Black doesn't exchange, then White could consider gxh5 when Blacks h-pawn might become weak since the Bishop can't defend it. Another plan for White against h5 is to aim for the f4-f5 push. If White can play fxg6 fxg6 then he will have a passed e-pawn and if Black plays gxf5 again the h-pawn might be a weakness. Of course none of these plans is necessarily winning for White, I just give them to show that White still has plenty of ideas in the position. I also don't think that Black is lost because he didn't play ...h5, I think his mistake comes later 34. Kf3 Kg7 35. g4 Finally hitting on a plan. I want to bring my knight to g3 and play h4-h5, then if Black exchanges, he will have 2 isolated pawns and the f5 square will be weak. If he pushes past with ...g5 then the f5 square and the h6 pawn will both be weak and if he leaves things alone then hxg6 will either give White a passed e-pawn or leave Black with 2 isolated pawns 35...Nd6 A nice square for his knight, stopping me from playing Ke4 36. Nbc5 Bb2 37. Nd3 Heading for f4 instead which would make Black have to recapture with his pawn in the event of h5xg6. 37.Ne4 is also an interesting move, trying to exchange knights and prove the superiority of knight over bishop with pawns all on the same side of the board 37...Bc3 38. Nf4 Bb2 39. h4 Nc4 The start of a bad plan. A humorous variation is 39...g5 40.Nh5+ Kg6?? 41.Nf8#, but if Black just marks time with the bishop I don't know if White can win. 40. h5 Ne5? The notorious move 40. I think that this is where Black made his fatal mistake. Trading knights allows the White king to penetrate on the light squares and takes away Black's chances to leave White with only 2 knights. 41. Nxe5 Bxe5 42. Ke4 Bb2 43. hxg6 fxg6 44. Kd5 Kf6 45. Nh3 I liked this move very much, the Black king cannot invade White's position and White is prepared to get his pawns rolling with e4 f4 e5 f5, which is how I won in the game. The knight is already in place to blockade if Black makes a passed pawn with ...h5. It seems that the only way to stop White's plan is to play ...g5, but then Black's pawn structure is miserable with both pawns on the same color as his bishop, and White should be able to win with something like Ng1-f3, e4-e5, and Nf3-d4-f5
In the last round I had White against Kent Meadows, who was the only player on 2.5. He decided that he didn't want to fight for first and offered me on draw on move 1! I thought that was a bit early and wanted to see how the opening went. When it didn't look like anything special, I offered a draw on move 8, which was accepted. This gave me clear first and an early trip home.