1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. O-O f6 6. d4 Bg4 one of the most solid lines for Black against the exchange variation. 7. dxe5 The only other time I had reached this position (against Richard Bradley in the 1993 Bloomington August Tornado) I went for the gambit 7.c3!?, but on this night decided I wanted to play the endgame. 7... Qxd1 8. Rxd1 fxe5 9. Rd3 Bd6 10. Nbd2 Nf6 11. b3 Fischer played 11. Nc4 against Spassky in their 1972 World Championship match, but Black had little problems equalizing. 11... O-O 12. Bb2 Rae8 13. Re1 I'm not too satisfied with this move, he found a good response. 13. Nc4 may be more to the point. 13... Nd7 14. h3 One problem is that now in variations like 14. Nc4 Nc5 15. Nxd6 Nxd3 The White Re1 is hanging. 14... Bh5 15. g4!?
This ugly-looking move weakens the f4 square and makes the White majority much less mobile, but gains White some time and space. A black knight might eventually arrive on f4, but it isn't clear how Black would progress from there. 15... Bg6 16. Nh4 Nc5 17. Rf3 Rxf3 18. Nhxf3 b5 19. Nh4 Bf7 20. Nf5 Bf8 21. Nf3 g6 22. Ng3 Bd6 23. Ng5 Rf8 24. Kg2 Ne6 25. Nxe6 Bxe6 26. Ne2 preparing to go to d3 or f3 to continue the pressure on e5. Now, he uncorked an absolutely horrible move. 26... Kg7?
I only refrain from giving this two question marks in that it doesn't lose on the spot. Still, even if it didn't just drop material, allowing White to get rid of his backwards f-pawn transforms the position into what White wants from the exchange Ruy, an endgame with the healthy kingside pawn majority. 27. f4 Kg8 avoiding 27... Kf6? 28. fxe5+ Bxe5 29. g5+. He managed to resist for a long time, but the final result always seemed inevitable. 28. fxe5 28. Bxe5 immediately eliminating the bishop pair was stronger. 28... Bc5 29. Bd4 Be7 30. Be3 c5 31. Nf4 Bc8 32. Nd5 Bh4 33. Re2 Re8 34. Bf4 c6 35. Ne3 Rf8 36. Bh2 Rf7 37. Nf1 Kf8 38. Nd2 Bg5 39. Nf3 Bh6 40. Bg1 c4 41. b4 Ke8 42. Bc5 Bf8 43. Bxf8 Rxf8 44. Nd4 Kd7 [44... Bb7 45. Ne6 and 46.Nc5] 45. Rf2 Rxf2+ 46. Kxf2 Kc7 47. Ke3 Kb6 48. Nf3 c5 49. a3 a5 50. c3 cxb4 51. cxb4 axb4 52. axb4 h5 [52... h6 53. Nh4 g5 54. Nf5 Bxf5 55. exf5 Kc6 56. f6 Kd7 57. f7 Ke7 58. e6 Kf8 59. Kd4 Ke7 60. Ke4 Kf8 61. Kf5 Kg7 (61... Ke7 62. Kg6) 62. Ke5 c3 63. Kd6 c2 64. Ke7 c1=Q 65. f8=Q+ Kh7 66. Qf7+ Kh8 67. Kf6] 53. gxh5 gxh5 54. h4 Bd7 55. Kd4 Kc6 56. Ng5 Be8 57. Nh3 Bd7 58. Nf4 Be8 59. Nd5 Bf7 60. Nf6 White wins with 60.Nc3 followed by invading on the kingside with the king, but we were in the under 5-minute stage, so I wanted to set a small trap first, which he fell right into.
60... Kc7 better is 60... Bg6 when I planned to return with 61. Nd5 and win as in the previous note. After the text White trades one of his e-pawns for the black h-pawn and the split passers are too much. 61. e6 Bxe6 62. Nxh5 Kd7 63. Nf6+ Ke7 64. e5 Bf7 65. h5 Ke6 66. h6 Bg6 67. h7 Bxh7 68. Nxh7 c3 69. Ng5+ Kf5 70. Ne4 c2 71. Ng3+ [1:0]
5... c4! With the dual threats Qxf2+ and Qa5+ 6. e3 Qa5+ 7. c3 Afterwards, we looked at 7. Nc3 with perhaps some compensation after 7... Nxc3 8. Qd2 Qxd5 9. Qxc3 but eventually we found the strong move 8...e5! threatening both Bb4 and h6 or f6 7... Qxd5 8. Nf3 f6 9. Bf4 e5 10. Bh2 Nc5 11. Nbd2 Nd3+ 12. Bxd3 Qxd3 13. Qb1 Qxb1+ 14. Rxb1 d5 15. b3 Bf5 16. Rd1 cxb3 probably stronger is the bind with 16... Bc2 17. Rc1 Bd3 which I rejected because I thought he might be able to attack the c-pawn at some point, but looking at this position now, it looks pretty overwhelming. 17. axb3 Nc6 18. Ke2? This creates an unfortunate line up on the d1-h5 diagonal.
18... Bg4 19. e4 dxe4 20. Nxe4 f5 21. Nd6+ [21. Neg5 e4 22. Ne6 Ke7] 21... Bxd6 22. Rxd6 e4 23. Bf4 on 23. Re1 I was just going to play 23... O-O avoiding any complications associated with 23... exf3+ 24. Kf1+ 23... O-O 24. h5 exf3+ 25. gxf3 Rfe8+ 26. Be3 f4 27. fxg4 fxe3 28. f4 Rad8 29. Rxd8 Nxd8 30. Rh3 Re4 31. Rxe3 Rxe3+ 32. Kxe3 Kf7 33. Ke4 Ke6 34. g5 g6 35. h6 Nf7 36. c4 Nd6+ 37. Kd4 Kf5 38. Kd5 Ne4 39. c5 Kxf4 40. b4 a6 41. Ke6 Kxg5 42. Kd7 Nc3 43. Kc7 Nd5+ 44. Kxb7 Nxb4 45. Kb6 Kf5 46. Ka5 Ke5 47. Kxb4 Kd5 48. Ka5 Kxc5 49. Kxa6 g5 [0:1]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 Jon always seems to throw something new at me. The other 3 times I opened 1.d4 against him saw a QGA, a Chigorin's Defense, and a Grunfeld. 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 e6 5. Bg5 Nbd7 6. cxd5 exd5 7. e3 Bd6 This move is much rarer than the usual 7...Be7, but hasn't scored much worse. My impression was that the Black minor pieces have a hard time getting to good squares in this line. 8. Bd3 h6 9. Bh4 O-O 10. O-O Qc7 11. Rb1 Looking at things now it is probably more direct to play for the setup with rooks on c1 and e1 immediately. However, the threat of the minority attack with b2-b4-b5 induced him into making some queenside weaknesses. 11... a5 12. Qc2 Re8 13. Rfc1 Qb8 14. a3 b6 15. e4 switching back to the central plan. I didn't really like 15. b4 axb4 16. axb4 When 17. b5 will be met by 17...c5, but in the meantime it is not clear where Black should move. Perhaps 16... Bb7 15... Bf4 This only seems to drive the White rook to a better square and leaves the bishop somewhat loose in space. 16. Re1 Ba6? I didn?t think Black could allow e5 but 16... dxe4 17. Nxe4 Nxe4 18. Bxe4 Bb7 19. Bxc6 (19. Bh7+ Kh8 20. Rxe8+ Qxe8 21. Re1) 19... Rc8 20. d5 doesn?t look so great for him either 17. e5 Bxd3 18. Qxd3 Nh7 19. Qf5 g5 20. Qxd7
20...gxh4 He had a much more dangerous try with 20... Re6!? threatening either ...Nf8 or ...Ra7 trapping White's queen. White then has to find a couple of good moves 21. Nxd5! Ra7 (21... cxd5 22. Bg3 (22. g3); 21... Nf8 22. Ne7+ Kg7 23. Nxc6 Nxd7 24. Nxb8 Rxb8 25. Bg3) 22. Ne7+! Rxe7 (22... Kf8 23. Qc8+) 23. Qg4 After the game continuation Black's center is obliviated and his kingside in ruins. White just has to be patient to bring home the full point. 21. Qxc6 Qd8 22. Qxd5 Qe7 23. Qe4 Bg5 24. Nd5 Qd8 25. Ne3 [25. h3?! f5] 25... Qd7 26. Qf5 Qb7 27. Nxg5 hxg5 28. Ng4 Qe7 29. Re3 Rad8 30. Nf6+ Nxf6 31. Qxg5+ [1:0]
Although this was the first game I played in the tournament, it was already a critical encounter in deciding first place. Because of the schedules of a couple of players, some games had been played ahead of time, while others were delayed. This resulted in Jon already having a perfect 3-0 score at the time of this game. 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5!? I haven't seen the Ruy Lopez very much the past couple of years, but this was the second tournament game in a row that I faced it. 3... a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. d3 This is a somewhat passive setup. Usually, in the exchange variation White seeks to establish a healthy 4 vs. 3 pawn majority on the kingside versus the crippled Black majority on the queenside. The direct approach to this is 5.d4, But this has generally been replaced by 5.0-0 (as I myself played against Schulze later in the tournament) or 5. Nc3. In these latter two cases, Black cannot prevent d4 by 5...c5 or 5...Bc5 since the e-pawn is actually under attack (Before, on 5.Nxe5, Black recovers the pawn with 5...Qd4 and White does not get a pawn majority to compensate for the 2 bishops.). 5... f6 6. Be3 Be6 The immediate 6...c5 is probably a bit more accurate. On the next couple of moves White could try d4!? when the tempo lost on d2-d3-d4 will be regained by the attack on the Be6 if Black recaptures. 7. Nc3 Qd7 8. Qe2 c5 Returning the game to a somewhat normal setup. 9. Nd2 Bd6 10. Nd5 Ne7 11. Nxe7 Qxe7 12. Nc4 O-O 13. Nxd6 I don't really like making this capture voluntarily. There was no fear of Black playing ...Bxc4 anytime soon. 13... cxd6 A very strange position. Black has 4 extra tempi in an otherwise symmetrical position, yet still has no claim to an advantage. 14. f4 f5!?
A double-edged pawn sacrifice. I was looking for a way to open the position to try and take advantage of his king's uncastled position. He was also moving at his usual slow pace and only had 15 minutes left versus my 75 (time control was G/110 with a 5-second per move delay), so I didn't think complications would hurt me. 15. fxe5 fxe4 16. exd6 Qxd6 17. dxe4 17. O-O-O Qe5 could transpose to the game 17... Qe5 18. Bf2 I think the immediate 18. O-O-O Qxe4 with equality was better. 18... b5 Now I should have taken 18... Qxb2 19. O-O Qe5 when Black can probably claim a small advantage with only 2 pawn islands versus 4 for White. 19. O-O-O Bxa2 20. Bg3 Qe6 20... Qg5+ 21. Qd2 is equal 21. Rd6 I was much more concerned about 21. Qe3 when White is actually threatening b3 to trap the bishop, then 21... a5 leads to complicated play. 21... Qf7 22. Rhd1 Be6 23. Qe3 Bg4 24. R1d5 Qf1+ 25. Be1 Rae8 25... Qxg2 also deserves consideration 26. Rd2 Here I like 26. Rg5 trying to counterattack on g7 or 26. Rxc5 26... Qc4
27. Qb3? A clear blunder, but he was literally down to 5 seconds per move here. There were still some theoretical chances to hold the opposite colored bishop ending after 27. b3 Rxe4 28. bxc4 Rxe3 29. Bf2 Rc3 but it would have been very difficult given the time situation. 27... Qxb3 28. cxb3 Rf1 29. Rd1 Bxd1 30. Rxd1 Rxe4 31. Kd2 Rd4+ 32. Ke2 Rxd1 33. Kxd1 Rg1 Here he finally used 6 seconds and lost on time. [0:1]
The Knoxville City Championship finished last night. I closed out with a long win over Tim Schulze to finish with a perfect score. This was the first time I've won with a perfect score, although the field was much lower rated than in past years. I guess a number of factors contributed to this. Our club introduced a year-long competition for qualification, that awarded 4 spots in the championship to players with the most points through the whole year. This was intended to reward participation and it did as 3 of the qualifiers by this method (Alexander, Murray, and Schulze) played in all 5 of the qualifying tournaments. The final tournament, in September, also served to qualify the last two places, but some of the higher rated players in the club, like Dickerson and Hyatt, did not play in that tournament. Nick Barber actually qualified for this year's championship, but was back at college by November, thus unable to play in the finals. Finally, David Burris passed away last winter and the tournament was dedicated to his memory.
I was a pretty heavy favorite with more than a 500 point rating advantage against everyone (although my lifetime score against these 5 opponents coming into the tournament was "only" 22.5/25(90%), which is quite a bit lower than what the rating tables would say). Still, the games were generally hard fought. I was quite happy that for the first time in 6 years, the draw gave me 3 whites and 2 blacks instead of the other way around. Of course it was denstiny that one of my Whites disappeared when Mirani withdrew before our game.
Jon Alexander finished 2nd with 3.5, losing only to me. Jon is one of the more under rated players in our club because he doesn't play many tournaments. He battled the clock as much as his opponents in this tournament, but came through the time woes generally unscathed except for blundering against me. Eric Vaughan was 3rd with 3 points. Jon Murray had a respectable even score in his first time in the Championship. Haresh Mirani was unfortunately only able to play 3 of his games when he was called away by travel. Tim Shulze lost all of his games, but some of this was due to tournament inexperience. Instead of trading all the pawns against Alexander in a 2 vs. 1 pawn ending, he let Alexander have a protected passer thinking that with 13 seconds left Alexander would lose on time. However, with the 5-second delay in effect, Alexander had no problems winning and keeping the 13 seconds in reserve. Schulze probably should have also beaten Mirani, who played an unsound, but dangerous piece sacrifice in the opening.
I'll be posting all of my games with complete annotations beginning tomorrow.
In other chess news, the FIDE KO rolls on. The field is down to 8, with only one of my Final 4 picks (the long shot Ponomariov) still alive. I guess I should make my predictions for the rest of the way. Since, Vishy Anand won the first game against Alexei Shirov, the smart money has to be on Anand (but I'll be rooting for Shirov). I like Peter Svidler to upset Boris Gelfand for the right to face Anand. On the other side of the draw I picked Rulan Ponomariov at the beginning and I'm not backing down now. I think he'll eliminate Evgeny Bareev. Finally, I like Vassily Ivanchuk to get past Joel Lautier to set up the all-Ukrainian semi.
In the semis, look for Anand's greater experience to end the run of Svidler, and Ivanchuk's nerves to hold together for a change against Ponomariov. Finally, in the big upset, I predict Vassily Ivanchuk to become the next FIDE champion. Chukky has been one of the most enigmatic players among the elite, but I think it is finally his time to break through. Since the early 90's I have declared him to be the strongest player never to be World Champion. Of course, at various points up until last year, Anand and Kramnik could have also laid claim to that distinction (as well as the usual suspects from the past such as Korchnoi, Keres, Tarrasch). I think this is the time for Vassily to take his name out of that discussion (and probably makes the unfortunate Shirov the new claimant).
The other big event right now, the Kramnik-Kasparov exhibition, had the day off. If you think they've had too many days off, you're not alone. 3 dull draws (including the final one that didn't leave theory) has left the chess world really let down. Of course, the players, who collected nearly $1000 per move both had their usual spin. Overall, I think this result kills Kasparov's arguement about a rematch. You don't get the right if you will not fight! Maybe Kasparov can finally get around to arranging that match with Shirov, and we'll call it the People's Championship.
POSTSCRIPT ADDED 12/7/01 4 for 4 on the quarters, but I noticed my brackets were wrong for the semis. The correct pairings are Anand-Ivanchuk and Svidler-Ponomariov. I'll go with Ivanchuk and Svidler in the finals with Ivanchuk prevailing.
I've annotated my game against Wojtkiewicz from Kings Island and added it to the GM games section. I got an interesting email a few days ago from firstname.lastname@example.org saying this page had been updated! That is what is supposed to happen if you have ever clicked the link at the top that says "Tell me when this page is updated". When I started this page over two years ago, some people told me that didn't work, and when I tried it myself, I found they were correct. Why it started working now is a mystery, but I'd like to hear the experience of others with that notifier. Maybe this will bring more traffic to my site!
In other chess news, Moscow continues to be the center of the chess universe this month. The FIDE KO event is down to the sweet 16, the rounds pass very quickly since they are playing the tie breakers the same day as the second game of the matches. There haven't been an extreme number of upsets and no Cinderellas remain. The lowest seeded player in the remaining 32 is #43 Jaan Ehlvest(2627), who is certainly no pushover. Three of my four, final 4 picks made it through, only 1999 champion Alexander Khalifman got bumped, losing to Lautier. I thought the country distribution among the 16 players was interesting. As expected, Russia had the most players, but only 4. The remaining 12 players represent 11 different countries (2 from Ukraine, and 1 each from India, Spain, Bulgaria, Ukraine, England, China, Israel, Georgia, Estonia, France, and Bosnia!). However, this doesn't really imply that the rest of the world is catching up to the Russian school of chess. Many of those countries are former Soviet republics, and even some of the "western" players, like Shirov, are products of the Soviet system. The Alexes have managed to increase their percentage from the initial 19/128 to 3/16 with Morozevich, Shirov, and Dreev remaining in the field.
The other big event in Moscow is the exhibition match between Kramnik and Kasparov. The four games at classical time control are of very much interest. There may be no title on the line, but the players are probably taking this match as seriously as one for the World Championship. I think this is a very important match for Kasparov. He really needs a strong showing to back up his call for a rematch with Kramnik. That rematch is, of course, not going to take place since Kasparov has declined to take part in the Brain Games qualification tournament, but at least Kasparov could claim a moral victory. The first game turned out to be a rather dull affair, but today's was a real barn burner. In an endgame where he had a small advantage, Kasparov blundered a piece! Only through some fancy footwork was he still able to hold the draw.