I've added my notes to the complete game against Yury Shulman to the GM games section. I also archived my four games against GMs at the World Open there.
I emerged at the top of a Grand Prix event for the first time this year last Saturday at the Rutherford Country Chess Club’s annual Battle of Murfreesboro. This year it was at its third location in as many years in the meeting room of a local health club. The site was a little smaller than the church sites they have had in the past, but still an acceptable venue.
I was much happier with my play compared to the previous weekend. I wasn’t in any difficulties in winning my first 4 games. Bill Melvin and I played a very dry variation of the Ponziani in the final round ending in a quick draw and a tie for first.
My most interesting game was probably in the fourth round with White against Charles Meidinger. We reached a dynamic position after 11...Nbd7 where White has the two bishops, more space and better development to compensate for his damaged pawn structure.
Black’s last move intended 11...Nb6 or 11...Ne5 attacking the lead c-pawn, so I had to play actively 12. Nb5 Nb6 I expected the alternative 12... Qb6 13. Rd1 d5 14. Rb1 dxc4 15. Ba3 when White’s big development edge should be more than enough compensation for the pawn 13. Qd4 e5 14. Qxd6 Qxd6 15. Nxd6 Rd8 16. Be3! Black’s pawn sacrifice would be justified if White grabbed the second bishop with 16. Nxc8 Raxc8 White would have difficulties defending his pawns. Instead, I completed development and pressured the key piece Nc5, while at the same time keeping Black's queenside bottled up. 16... Nba4 Moving the knight off of c5 would allow White to advance his pawn to that square with a big plus. The alternative was 16... Rxd6 17. Bxc5 and Black has problems with his lagging development and weak back rank. For example 17...Rd2 18. Rfd1 Rxd1+ 19. Rxd1 Be6 20. Bxb6 axb6 21. Bxb7 Rb8 22. Bd5 with a big advantage. 17. Rfd1 Nxc3? He underestimated the power of the White minor pieces although White still has a big plus after something like 17... Rb8 trying to unwind the queenside 18. Bxc5 Nxd1 19. Rxd1 Be6 20. Bxb7 Rab8 21. Rb1 Bc8 22. Nxc8 [1:0] White comes out with an extra piece after 22... Rdxc8 23. Bxa7
I played in the Southwest Virginia Open last weekend. It had moved both north and east from the last time I had played this event. This year it was in Salem, VA, outside of Roanoke. I was the highest rated player, but had a very unusual first round pairing: Black against the number two seed Russell Potter. Potter had gotten beat in the Friday night round by the other participant from the Knoxville Chess Club, 10-year-old Patrick Tae, and re-entered. Strangely, I was the only player in the open section that entered on the two-day schedule. If they hadn’t have had a re-entry policy, then I would have gotten a bye! There was one other re-entry, who got the bye, so Potter and I had a showdown in the very first round. We reached a position I was quite familiar with after 13...a5
I had this exact position in the Chicago Open against GM Ibragimov. I also had this position with the extra move b7-b6 against David Burris in the 2000 Knoxville City Championship. (Burris' bishop reached c2 via e2 and d1 whereas Potter and Ibragimov used a different move order to get there in two moves via d3.) 14. g4 As I commented in the Burris game, I really don't like this move because the White knights have difficulties participating in the attack. This game supported that comment, although White might still search for improvements. Instead, Ibragimov played 14. Bh6, while Burris (on what was move 15 in that game) tried h3 14... fxg4 15. fxg4 Bxg4 16. Rhg1 Bf5 17. Bxf5 Rxf5 18. Bh6 perhaps White should try 18. Be3 trying to secure e4 for his knight. 18... Kh8 19. Bxg7+ 19. Be3 is again possible, but it is certainly better for Black to have his king on h8. 19... Nxg7 20. Qh6 Qf7 Now it is fairly clear that White does not have sufficient compensation for his pawn and I converted the extra pawn for my first decisive result against Potter after 4 earlier draws.
The other master in the tournament, Steven Mayer, was held to a draw, so I should have been in the driver's seat already, but was unable to convert advantages the next two rounds. In Round 2, with White against Shawn McIntosh, I got nothing out of the opening, but started getting a small edge when he neglected to complete his development. After 19...Kg6
It looks promising to attack his pawn with 20. Raf1 since 20... Rd5 21. e4 or 20... Ne7 21. Nd4 both look very good for White, but it seems like Black can get counterplay with 20...Bb4 21. Rxf5 Bxc3 22. bxc3 Rd3. Instead, I chose 20. e4 fxe4 21. Rf4 h5 22. Rxe4 Be7 23. Nd4 Trying to undermine the defender of Be7 is the right idea, but this is the wrong execution. Better is 23. Na5 since the b7 pawn is also attacked. Now he managed to equalize by activating his rooks 23... Bf6 24. Nxc6 bxc6 25. Re6 Kf7 26. Rxc6 Bxc3 27. bxc3 Rd2+ 28. Kf3 Re8 29. Rc7+ Kg6 30. Rxa7 [½:½]
In round 3, I had White against Brian Solomon. Again it looked like I had a promising position after 25...Re8I just couldn’t seem to make Rxf5 work anywhere over the next few moves 26. Qb5 Bd7 27. Qd3 Bf5 28. Qb5 28. Rxf5 gxf5 29. Qxf5 Qe6 30. Qxe6 fxe6 31. Bxd4 Rxe7 White shouldn’t have any problems holding this ending, but it is certainly not what he is looking for. Bd7 29. Qa5 Bf5 30. Qd8 [30. Rxf5!? gxf5 31. Qa4 (31. Qd8 Qc6 seemed OK for Black because of White's weak back rank, but 32. Bxd4 looks possible with a slight edge to White) 31... Rxe7 (31... Qb8 32. Qxd4) 32. Bxe7 Qxe7 33. Qxd4 Qe1+ 34. Qg1 Qd2 35. Qxa7 Qxb2 and again White shouldn’t have enough to win. 30... Bd7 31. Qa5 Bf5 32. Qa4 Bd7 33. Qxd4 [33. Qxa7? Bb5 34. Rf2 Qb4] 33... Qxd4 34. Bxd4 Rxe7 35. Bxa7 Bb5 36. Bc5 Re2 37. Bg1 Rxb2 38. Rf2 Rb1 39. Rd2 Ra1 40. h3 Bc4 41. Kh2 Rxa2 [½:½]
I finally got knocked out of the race for first in round 4 with yet another draw, with Black against Mayer. This was a very careful maneuvering game and didn’t really have any points of major interest.
I managed to salvage a tie for 3rd in the final round by beating Michael Atkins with the White pieces. I got a small pull out of the opening, and he never managed to shake it. I won a pawn with 41. Rxh6 and got to finish with a geometrically pleasing combination.
At first glance at the diagram, one might not think that Ra6 is vulnerable to Rh6, but watch the intervening pieces disappear 41...Nf8 42. e5 fxe5 42... Ne8 43. Nc4 or 42... Nf7 43. Rxf6 are both very good for White 43. fxe5 Nf7 44. Nd5+ exd5 45. Rxa6 mission accomplished 45...Nxe5+ 46. Kf4 Nfg6+ 47. Kg5 Rc3 48. Bf5 [1:0] Potter managed to overcome his rocky start and won his final 4 games to finish tied for first with Tae. A great result for Patrick!