This past Saturday, the Rutherford County Chess Club once again held the Battle of Murfreesboro grand prix tournament. This year a record setting 73 players showed up at their new site. This just goes to show that when you run good tournaments with decent prizes they will prosper. This had been a tournament that had eluded me the last couple of years when I was unable to get over the hump in the last round of this somewhat grueling 5 rounds in a day tournament. However, this year I came through unscathed with a perfect 5-0 to share top honors with Bill Melvin.
I won my first two games without a lot of trouble. In round 3, Bill Hoak tried an early piece sacrifice after 8. bxc3
8...Nxf2? 9. Kxf2 O-O 10. Kg3! White has an advantage in the endgame after 10. hxg4 Rxf4+ 11. Kg3 Qg5 (11... Qf6 12. Qxh7+ Kf7 13. Nh3) 12. Qxh7+ Kf7 (12... Kf8 13. Qh4 Qxh4+ 14. Rxh4 leaves Black in trouble because of Rh8+) 13. Qh5+ Qxh5 14. Rxh5 Rf6(14... Re4 15. Rh8 Nc6 16. Kf3 d5 17. e3 is good for White) 15. g5 Rf5 16. e4 Kg6 17. exf5+ Kxh5 18. fxe6 dxe6 19. Kf4 but the king move is a clean refutation. 10...Qf6 10... Rxf4 11. Kxf4 Qh4 12. Ke3 threatening to run to the queenside with an extra rook 12...Qg5+ 13. Kf2 again ready for a queenside sprint 13...Qh4+ 14. Qg3 leaves black a rook down. 11. Be3 covering all the squares on the f-file leaving Black with little to show for his piece. Most of Black's army is still asleep on the queenside while White has 5 pieces guarding his king and the rook on a1 is ready to come to the defense via f1 as soon as the bishop moves. I showed this game because it is not everyday that you get to play a move like 10. Kg3 +-. There are some modern opening ideas (and some ancient ones) where the king comes to the second rank early in the game, but usually a king floating up to the third rank early on is a sign of trouble. There are some famous exceptions such as the fantastic game Hamppe-Meitner as shown by Soltis in this months Chess Life ( 1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Bc5 3. Na4 Bxf2+ 4. Kxf2 Qh4+ 5. Ke3) which seems to be drawn after further adventures by the White King. There is also the game Smyslov-Pachman where both kings found themselves on the third rank after 15 moves. (1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. d4 d5 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bg5 c6 6. e3 h6 7. Bh4 Bf5 8. Qf3 Qb6 9. Qxf5 Qxb2 10. Qc8+ Ke7 11. Nxd5+ cxd5 12. Qc1 Qb4+ 13. Ke2 Qb5+ 14. Kf3 Qd7 15. Bxf6+ Kxf6 ). I think my own previous record came in the 4th edition of the Battle of Murfreesboro against this year's co-winner and that year's winner, Bill Melvin. There my king reached the 3rd rank after 11...Kf7-g6
and kept right on going after 12. g4 e3 13. gxf5+ Kxg5 when White was better, but Black was still fighting. I eventually lost that bizzare game by getting my queen trapped on a1 by my own pieces!
I had my most difficult game in Round 4 with Black against Charles Meidinger. He sacrificed a pawn for a bind and I thought he had full compensation. I decided to close lines with 20...g5
It isn't obvious how White can further improve his position, while Black is ready to regroup with Nb8 (with a further Nc6-d4 possible), Rfe8, and Bf8, so he decided on a sacrifice. 21. Bxg5!? fxg5 22. Nxg5 Qf6 23. Ne6 Rde8 24. Nxf8 Qxf8 I think this is the best recapture, immediately clearing f6 for the knight. I thought my king might get a little loose after 24... Kxf8 25. Qe4 Qd6 26. f6 Nxf6 27. Qxh7 25. d6 e4 26. Rg3?! I think he started to lose the thread here. Better was 26. Re3 trying to hold up the e-pawn. 26...Kh8 27. Ra3 Bd4+ 27... Bxb2 28. Rxa6 Bd4+ 29. Kh1 Qxd6 also deserves consideration, but I thought it was more important to get the e-pawn rolling. 28. Kh1 Qxd6 29. Rxa6 e3 30. Ra7 e2 31. Re1 Bf6 32. Qa4? 32. Qh5 is also going to be very good for black, but the text move loses on the spot. 32...Qd2 [0:1] Black gets to the king first after 33. Rxe2 Qxe2 34. Qxd7 Qe1+ 35. Kh2 Be5+ 36. g3 Qxg3+ 37. Kh1 Qh2#
In Round 5, I had my second final round showdown with Todd Andrews this month. This time I had White and got to launch an attack right out of the opening after 10...g6
11. e5! dxe5 Perhaps 11... Nxe5 12. Nxe5 dxe5 13. d6 exd6 14. Nxd6+ Bxd6 15. Qxd6 Qd8 has to be tried, but the two bishops give White the edge 12. d6 exd6 13. Nxd6+ Bxd6 14. Qxd6 Qb6 15. Bxf7+! This was the stroke I had forseen when playing 11. e5. I took a little time to try and double check things here. I couldn't see everything quite until the end, but it all looked pretty grim for Black. Instead, 15. Qxb6 Nxb6 16. Nxe5 Nxc4 17. Nxc4 is roughly equal 15...Kd8 accepting a pawn down ending where White's initiative continues, but 15... Kxf7 16. Nxe5+ Ke8 (16... Kg8 17. Qe7 Nxe5 18. Bh6 wins) 17. Nc6 Ng8 18. Bh6 Kf7 19. Qd5+ Kf6 20. Qf3+ Ke6 21. O-O-O and the Black king won't live much longer.16. Qxb6+ Nxb6 17. Nxe5 Ke7 18. Bb2 Rf8 19. O-O-O I also considered 19. Bxg6 Rg8 20. Bc2, but I think the text is stronger bringing another piece out and preparing Rhe1 with continued harassment of the Black king. This was enough to make him resign [1:0] perhaps a bit prematurely, but the ending after 19... Rxf7 20. Nxf7 Kxf7 21. Bxf6 Kxf6 22. Rd6+ Kg5 23. Rxb6 Rxa2 24. Rd1 Rxf2 25. Rd2 is lost. This was certainly no worse than Board 2, where Ben Harris resigned to Melvin in a position something like
I may not have the rooks placed exactly right, but this should give you the gist of it. I was shocked when someone told me Melvin had won, since I had seen the position about one move earlier. Maybe someone else can shed more light on this. Oh well, at least it gave me a somewhat earlier start on the road home.
I returned to the Nashville Chess Center last weekend for the Music City Grand Prix. This tournament once again was very successful for me and I took clear first for the third straight year. I won fairly easily in Round 1 against Scott Eddins when he overlooked a retreating move that cost him a piece. In round 2, I had Black against Wally Jordan. I got some nice play on the dark-squares that cost him the exchange. It looked like he might be getting some compensation after 34. Ng3-f5
34...Qf6 The immediate 34...Qg5 also deserves attention 35. e5 35. d6 Re8 36. Ne7+ Rxe7 37. dxe7 Qxe7 38. Rd2 hxg4 39. Qd8+ Qxd8 40. Rxd8+ Kh7 and Black should win 35...Qg5 36. d6 Re8 37. Qe4 37. Ne7+ Rxe7 38. dxe7 Qxe7 39. Qe4 hxg4 40. fxg4 Qh4 -+ the White king is too loose, 37... Rge6 38. f4 Qxg4+ 39. Kh2 It looks like White might be generating some threats with the idea of Rg2, but after Black's next everything is clear 39...Rxe5! 40. Ne7+ R8xe7 41. d7 Rxe4 42. d8=Q+ Re8 [0:1]
In round 3, I had White against Doug Hyatt. I got a nice space advantage and played very patiently to increase my advantage after 32...Ra8-e8
33. Rd1 33. Rd2!? may be slightly better. This would give White some additional opportunities such as Nxc5 followed by Re2 in certain positions. 33... Re6 34. g5 hxg5 35. hxg5 Kf8 36. Rh1 Kg8 If 36... Ke8 then 37. Rh8+ Bf8 38. Rh4 is similar to the game and is very pleasant for White. He can also play concretely with 37. Nxc5 bxc5 38. Rh8+ Kd7 39. Rf8 Re3+ 40. Kf4 Ke6 (40... Re1 41. Rxf7+ Kc6 42. Rg7 d3 43. Rxg6 d2 44. f7+ Kc7 45. f8=Q Rf1+ 46. Ke3 Rxf8 47. Kxd2 is also very good for White) 41. Rd8 with the idea of Rd5xc5 and White has a clear advantage. In this last line White has to avoid 41. Re8+ Kd6 42. Rxe3? (better is 42. Rd8+ Kc6 43. Rf8 Re1 but then Black has counterplay from the d-pawn.) 42... dxe3 43. Kxe3 Ke5 and it is Black who wins 37. Rh4 With the idea of transferring the King to d3. Now, he lost patience with 37...Ba3?! The idea is to target the white g-pawn, but the bishop was also key in holding up White's queenside advance. Better was 37...a5 38. Ke2 Bc1 39. Kd3 Be3 40. b4 Re5 41. c5 With the time control reached I was able to take a long think to double check that this was winning.41...bxc5 42. bxc5 Bxg5 43. Nxg5 Even better is 43. Kxd4 gaining a tempo. I didn't play this because of the zwitchenzug 43...Rxc5 but then 44. Rg4 costs Black a piece 43... Rxg5 44. Kxd4 Rf5 45. c6 Rxf6 46. Kd5 Rf5+ 47. Kd6 Rf2 48. c7 Rc2 49. Rd4 f5 50. Rd5 [1:0] I was very happy with my play in this ending. I really followed the "don't rush" rule quite well, but calculated well when I had to. While entering this game into the computer, I noticed that it kept suggesting moves like a3 or b4 in order to swap off Black's passed d-pawn. This may be a good idea, but it is an example of how computers don't play real chess. Since Black can't stop such an idea, White can maneuver as he did in the game to improve the position of his pieces while holding the queenside pawn advance in reserve.
This put me a half-point clear and in the final round I finally got to play my game with Todd Andrews from the NCC's Master/Expert invitational. In this position from the Scotch Game, he played a new move.
11. Rb1?! Apparently aimed at avoiding an exchange of rooks, but b1 proves to be a vulnerable square 11...axb3 12. axb3 d5 I also considered 12...d6 pressuring the e-pawn, but decided that it would be better to keep the f8-a3 diagonal open in case he didn't capture on d6. 13. exd6 13. Bb2 Bf5 14. Ra1 Rxa1+ 15. Bxa1 Qa3 16. Qd1 Bc2 with advantage to Black 13...Qxe2+ 14. Bxe2 Bf5 15. Bf3 trying to fight for control of the e4 square, but I was happy to play Kd7 which will speed the entry of my h8 rook into the game. Interesting is 15. c5 with the idea 15... Bxb1 16. cxb6, but instead 15...Nd5 puts the knight on a much better square than the game 15...Kd7 16. Rb2 Now, 16. c5 Bxb1 17. cxb6 is just good for Black since his king is in position to deal with the White pawns. 16... Bxd6! much better than undoubling the c-pawns. Black develops a piece, connects his rooks and introduces the threat 17...Be5 17. Ne4 Bb4+ 17... Rhe8 18. Re2 Bb4+ 19. Kd1 also deserves attention 18. Kd1 Rhd8 19. g4 at first I didn't understand this move at all, but the point is to guard the rook on h1 enabling White to develop his Bishop on c1 19...Bg6 20. Be3 Kc8+ I considered the king charge 20... Ke6+!? 21. Ke2 Ke5?! but couldn't find a good response to 22. Bg2! and suddenly the Black king is in some danger. 21. Bd2? The only chance was 21. Ke2 but Black still has a comfortable edge with 21...Re8 22. Ng3 Bc3 23. Bxc6 Rxe3+ 24. fxe3 Bxb2 21...Rd4 22. Ng3 Bc3 finally collecting the wayward rook [0:1] This was a very satisfying win for me, especially in light of the disaster last time I played Todd at the Nashville Chess Center.
The directing of Mark Ishee was very good as usual. The only complaint that I (and just about everyone else) had was the heat. This had to be one of the most difficult conditions I have ever played in. It's not every day you work up a sweat while playing chess. While the chess center is air conditioned, there seemed to be very poor circulation upstairs. The second day was a bit better after they left the AC running at 60 degrees through the night (although it still felt more like 60 Celsius 8-). Hopefully, they will find a solution to this problem in the future.