In Round 4, I had Black against Matthew Marsh. This turned out to be the final game of the tournament. The following week, Crigger didnít show up and Knight withdrew. I didnít take my young opponent in this game lightly. In January, I had barely managed to beat him when he wasnít able to defend the endgame R+B vs. R correctly. Since that time his rating had shot up about 400 points and looks to still be rising. 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f4 O-O 6. Nf3 a6 I decided to try this move which had been played against me by GMs Yermolinsky and Wojtkiewicz.
7. Bd3 c5 With the white bishop on d3, d4 has less protection, so an alternative plan is to attack the center with pieces with 7... Bg4 followed by ...Nc6 8. d5 Vaisser likes 8. dxc5 claiming that ...a6 has weakened the b6 square, but with queens on the board, I don't think that is a very significant weakness. 8... b5 9. cxb5 White has scored very well (+5 =4 -0) in my database with 9. e5 9... axb5 10. Nxb5 Taking the pawn the other way is much worse 10. Bxb5?! Nxe4 11. Nxe4 Qa5+ 12. Nc3 Bxc3+ 13. bxc3 Qxb5 with clear advantage to Black 10... Ba6 11. Nc3 Qb6 12. Bxa6 Nxa6 13. a3 The creates unnecessary weaknesses on his queenside. Better is 13. Qe2 He was worried about a knight landing on d3 after ...c4 and ...Nb4, but the knight could also arrive via c5. Also, for the time being, the a-pawn is pinned, so ...Nb4 really isn't prevented. 13... Rfb8 14. Rb1 Nd7 15. Qc2 Nc7 16. b3?! Better is 16. Bd2 or 16. O-O. The latter move invites 16... Bxc3 17. Qxc3 Nb5 18. Qb3 Nxa3? 19. Qxb6 Rxb6 20. Ra1 and White wins, but in either case, Black has classical Benko Gambit compensation after 16...Qb3. 16... Qa5 17. Bb2 better is 17. Bd2 Qxa3 18. O-O although Black is still much better. After the text he loses both queenside pawns. 17... Nb5 18. Rc1 Nxc3 19. Bxc3 Qxc3+ 20. Qxc3 Bxc3+ 21. Rxc3 Rxa3 22. Ke2 Rbxb3 23. Rxb3 Rxb3 24. Nd2 Rb4 25. Rb1 f5 A typical break in this pawn structure. I didn't like letting his knight get to c3 after 25... Rxb1 26. Nxb1 f5 27. Nc3 fxe4 28. Nxe4 Nf6 29. Nc3 but 29... Kf7 with the idea of Ö e6 creating two connected passed pawns should be pretty simple. 26. Rxb4 cxb4 27. exf5 gxf5 28. Kd3 Nb6 29. Kd4 Kf7 30. Nc4
30... Nxc4? Either 30... b3 or 30... Na4 leaves Black with a clear advantage 31. Kxc4 e6 32. Kxb4 exd5 32... e5!? 33. fxe5 dxe5 is another try, but White can also hold here. It is sort of a corresponding squares problem. The only position he needs to avoid is being on move with W: h4 g3 d5 Kd4 vs. B h5 f5 e4 Kd6 33. Kc3 h5
34. h4? This move is wrong just on general principles since White should reserve the option of advancing one or two squares. It also throws away the draw that was there by walking a very fine line with 34. g3 Ke7 35. Kd4 Ke6 36. h3 Ke7 37. Kxd5 Kd7 38. Kc4 Kc6 39. Kd4 d5 40. Ke5 Kc5 41. g4! (41. Kxf5? d4 42. Ke4 Kc4 43. f5 d3 44. f6 d2 45. f7 d1=Q 46. f8=Q Qe2+ 47. Kf5 Qf3+) 41... hxg4 42. hxg4 fxg4 43. f5 g3 44. f6 g2 45. f7 g1=Q 46. f8=Q+ and White draws since this promotion is with check. 34... Ke7 35. Kd3 Kd7 36. Kc3 Kc7 37. Kd3 Kb6 38. Kd4 Kc6 39. g3 Kc7 40. Kxd5 Kd7 41. Kd4 More resistance is offered with 41. Kc4 but it falls short after 41... Kc6 42. Kd4 d5 43. Ke5 Kc5 44. Kxf5 (Now 44. g4 doesn't create a passed f-pawn. 44... hxg4 45. h5 g3 46. h6 g2 47. h7 g1=Q 48. h8=Q Qa1+ -+) 44... d4 45. Kg6 (45. Ke4 gets skewered as in the note to White's 34th move.) 45... d3 46. f5 d2 47. f6 d1=Q 48. f7 Qd6+ 49. Kg7 Qxg3+ 50. Kh7 Qf4 51. Kg7 Kd5 -+] 41... Kc6 42. Kc4 d5+ 43. Kd4 Kd6 44. Kd3 Kc5 45. Kc3 d4+ 46. Kd3 Kd5 47. g4 fxg4 48. f5 g3 49. f6 g2 50. f7 g1=Q 51. f8=Q Qd1# [0:1]
In the third round I had White against Nick Barber. It looked like this game would be very important in deciding the Championship since we were the two highest rated players and were the only two players at this point who had not conceded at least a draw. 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e6 4. Nc3 exd5 5. cxd5 g6 6. e4 d6 7. h3 Nick had scored a win and 2 draws against my 4 Pawns Attack, so I decided to throw something different at him. I think this is the most accurate move order for White to reach the Modern Main Line since it avoids the sidelines 6. h3 Qe7 and 7. Nf3 a6 8. a4 Bg4 7... Bg7 8. Nf3 O-O 9. Bd3 b5 10. Bxb5 More popular is the sharper 10. Nxb5, but due to my relative inexperience in this variation, I was happy with only a slight pull from the opening. 10... Nxe4 11. Nxe4 Qa5+ 12. Nfd2 Qxb5 13. Nxd6 Qa6 14. N2c4 Nd7 15. O-O Ne5 15... Nb6 has received much more extensive testing than the text. 16. Nxc8 Raxc8 17. Nxe5 Bxe5
18. Bh6 White has scored well with 18. Re1 Rfe8 19. Bg5 as in the game Bareev-Vera 1990 Novi Sad Olympiad. However, some more recent games with Velimirovic as Black indicate that Black is doing OK with 18...Qf6. Since ...Qf6 seems to be an important defensive resource for Black in this line, perhaps White should consider the immediate 18. Bg5!? 18... Rfd8 19. Re1 Bxb2 20. Rb1 Bd4 21. Qf3
21... Qxa2? Based on a miscalculation. Better was 21... Qf6 leading to a roughly level ending. 22. Rb7 f5 An unfortunate move, opening the 7th rank up to White's rooks. He only now realized that his intended 22... Qxd5 drops the queen to 23. Re8+ 23. Ree7 c4 also losing were 23... Qxd5 24. Re8+ and 23... Rxd5 24. Bg7. It looks like the only way to keep the game going is with 23... Rb8 but White maintains a big edge with 24. Rxa7 (24. Rg7+? Bxg7 25. Rxg7+ Kh8 26. Qc3 Qb2 is the point of Rb8)
24. Rg7+ Bxg7 25. Rxg7+ Kh8 26. Qc3 A discovered check by Rg6 or Rg8 will soon be mate. [1:0]
My first game of this yearís tournament was with the White pieces against Eric Vaughan. This was actually round 2 of the tournament, after my first round opponent, Jason Knight, asked that our game be delayed. Unfortunately, Jason later withdrew before we could make the game up. Eric also withdrew after this game, leaving him with two losses, but his tournament could have been better. He let an overwhelming position slip against Nick Barber in the first round, and missed an opportunity to pose me problems at one point in this game. 1. Nf3 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. c4 d6 4. Nc3 e6 Signaling his intention to play the Hippopotamus formation, which is solid but quite passive. Eric seems to favor systems that allow him to play a bunch of moves in the opening without having to really worry about what his opponent is doing. 5. e4 Nd7 6. Bd3 When Petrosian was confronted with the Hippo in 12th game of the 1966 World Championship against Spassky, he opted for the setup with Be2 and Qc2. 6... Ne7 7. Be3 b6 8. Qd2 h6 9. O-O Bb7 10. Rad1 a6
White has completed his development, but it is not clear what he should do next. I decided that the f-pawn needed to be freed in order to either support the center with f3 or try to attack with f4-f5. Moving the queen and playing Nd2 would allow Black to castle and while that isn't necessarily bad for White, I didn't want to let him do that after arranging my pieces to prevent castling. Playing 11. h3 to drop the knight to h2 with a future eye on g4 was somewhat appealing, but Black could play something like 11...g5 and try to show that h3 is a weakness. After all, the Black king can still go queenside. Instead I just dropped the knight back to e1. 11. Ne1 My database had 3 other games that had gotten this far. White went 0-3 with 11. h3 11. a3 and 11. Bb1 11...Kf8 I didn't really like this move, intending to take 3 moves to castle by hand by running the king to h7. More active is 11... f5 12. f4 With the king on f8, what to do with my f-pawn became much clearer. 12... f5 13. d5 exd5 14. exd5 While White would love to unbalance the pawn structure with 14. exf5?, it simply costs a piece after 14... d4. However, after the text, White's position is very much preferable. Besides a large space disadvantage, Black still hasn't completed development, there is a big hole on e6 and his minor pieces on b7 and e7 don't make good impressions. 14... Kg8 15. Nf3 Bc8 16. Nd4 Nf6 17. h3 Kh7 18. Rde1 Re8 19. Bf2 Bd7 20. Qc2 a5?! A unnecessary weakening of the b5 square. If he was going to do this he should have played the knight from d7 to c5 instead of to f6. 21. Re2?! A bit careless on my part. Instead 21. Kh2 would maintain a large advantage to White.
21... Neg8?! Missing his opportunity to counter attack with 21... Nh5 when White doesn't have a good way of meeting both ...Nxf4 and ...Bxd4 followed by ...Ng3. However, White's position is so good that he probably has some compensation for the exchange after 22. Qd2 Bxd4 23. Bxd4 Ng3 24. Bf6 Nxe2+ 25. Qxe2 22. Rfe1 Rxe2 23. Rxe2 Qf8 24. Ncb5 Rc8 25. Ne6 Bxe6 26. Rxe6 Qf7 It was better to move the Nf6, but his position would remain difficult.
27. Bxb6 I also considered 27. Bxf5 gxf5 28. Qxf5+ Kh8 29. Rxf6 Qxf6 30. Qxc8 which also promises a big edge for White, but I prefered the text which immediately creates a powerful passed d-pawn. 27... cxb6 28. Nxd6 Qc7 29. Nxc8 Qxc8 30. Rc6 A couple of ways to spoil things were 30. Bxf5? gxf5 31. Qxf5+ Kh8 32. Rxf6 Qc5+ -+ and ; 30. Rxb6?! Nxd5 eliminating the d-pawn because of tactics on the a7-g1 diagonal. 30... Qe8 31. Qe2 Ne4 32. Bxe4 Bd4+ 33. Kh2 Qxe4 33... fxe4 34. Re6 Qf7 35. Qxe4 is also hopeless for Black. 34. Qxe4 fxe4 35. d6 Nf6 36. d7 Nxd7 37. Rc7 Bc5 38. Rxd7+ Kg8 39. Rd2 Kf7 40. Re2 e3 41. g3 Kf6 42. Kg2 g5 43. Kf3 gxf4 44. gxf4 Kf7 45. Rxe3 Kf6 46. b3 Kf7 47. Re5 Bg1 48. Ke4 Kf6 49. Rd5 Kg6 50. h4 h5 51. Rg5+ [1:0]
The annual Knoxville City Championship ended this week. Two players withdrew and only 9 of the 15 scheduled games were completed. I won my 6th straight title by winning the 3 games I played and receiving two forfeit wins. The tournament was held under awful conditions on the top floor of the Candy Factory. A combination of religious services on the floor below and a play being practiced in the adjacent room created an unacceptable noise level during the first couple of hours of each round. It's very disappointing that the club's premier event can't be played under minimal conditions.
This year's field was much younger than in past years. For the first time, I was the oldest player in the championship. Nick Barber finished 2nd, losing only to me. Andrew Crigger was 3rd with 2.5. Jason Knight drew the two games he played before withdrawing, to finish 4th. The youngest player, 10-year-old Matthew Marsh, was 5th with 1.5 and Eric Vaughan lost the only two games he played before withdrawing. I'll start posting my annotations sometime this weekend.