It was pretty obvious that this was going to be a crucial game in deciding the tournament. With one round left to play, Elezaj led by a half point over myself and Andrews. In the last round, I was to have Black against Andrews, while Elezaj would have White against Jordan, who was in last place. 1. d4 d5 I had no special opening preparation for this game as I could neither recall nor find a game where Elezaj had Black against 1.d4. When I saw the tournament pairings, I thought I might get a hint from the Round 2 game Andrews-Elezaj, but Todd unexpectedly played 1.e4 in that one. 2. c4 dxc4 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 Once again going for something sharp. Perhaps it is better in these must win situations to follow Kasparov's example in the famous 24th game against Karpov 1988 and play for a small but enduring initiative. 4... e6 5. e4 Bb4 6. Bg5 c5 7. Bxc4 Bxc3+!? The main line here is 7...cxd4 which has been debated at the very highest levels, for example, in the 1993 match between Karpov and Timman. 8. bxc3 Qa5 9. Bxf6 Qxc3+ 10. Nd2 gxf6 11. dxc5 ECO awards this move an exclamation point, but 11. d5 as played in the game Soldner-Pamperin Germany 1989 looks stronger to me looking to loosen up Black's central pawn structure. 11... Ke7 12. Rc1 ECO concludes here that White has a clear advantage based on the game Christoffel-Burghold Montreux 1939. I don't have that game in my database to see how it continued, but after Black's next move I think White's advantage is only minimal. 12... Qd4 13. O-O Immediately sacrificing the pawn with 13. Qe2 deserves attention since White's pieces will be a bit better placed than in the game. 13... Rd8 14. Rc2 Bd7 with a draw offer, which I declined more because of the tournament situation, rather than that I thought White had any great advantage here. 15. Qe2 Bc6 This is probably better than immediately taking the pawn, since White would prefer to keep his rook on f1 to help enforce the f4 pawn push. 16. Re1 Qxc5 17. Nb3 Qg5 18. g3 h5 This move surprised me. I thought it was time to get on with development by 18...Nd7 19. f4 Qh6 20. Qe3 Nd7 21. Nd4 Threatening 22. Nf5+ exf5 23. Qa3+ winning 21... Ke8 on 21... Kf8 he was afraid I would sacrifice with 22. Bxe6 fxe6 23. Nxe6+ Ke7 24. Nxd8 but I think Black has an edge here. I probably would have chosen 22. Rd2 as in the game with continuing pressure. 22. Rd2 Rdc8?! After this move White gains a pretty big edge. He should probably just gone 22... h4 looking to soften up the White kingside although White would still have full compensation for his pawn. Possibly 23. Nxc6 bxc6 24. Rd6 or put a piece on b5 on the 23rd move. 23. Nb5 Kf8 24. Nxa7 Rd8 24... Rc7 25. Qa3+ Ke8 26. Qd6 25. Nxc6 bxc6 26. Red1 Ke8 27. Qb3 Qf8 28. Kg2 sidestepping a check on c5 but 28. Kh1!? may have been a better way to do this as will become apparent. Also deserving serious consideration was 28. Rd6 trying to keep the Black queen out of play. I thought he could play 28... Nc5 but this fails to 29. Rxd8+ Rxd8 30. Rxd8+ Kxd8 31. Qb8+ Ke7 32. Qc7+ Nd7 33. Qxc6; A line that doesn't work is 28. Bxe6? fxe6 29. Qxe6+ Qe7 30. Qxc6 Qc5+ with clear advantage to black 28... Qc5 28... Ra3? 29. Rxd7 +-
29. Rxd7 Now capturing on e6 works much better 29. Bxe6 fxe6 30. Rxd7! Rxd7 31. Qxe6+ Qe7 32. Qg8+ Qf8 33. Qxf8+ Kxf8 34. Rxd7 Rxa2+ with the king on h1 this would not be check. Even so, White still retains excellent winning chances in this ending. Another idea is 29. Be2!? Nb6 30. Rxd8+ Rxd8 31. Rxd8+ Kxd8 32. Bxh5 Qxh5 33. Qxb6+ with a more favorable queen ending than occurs in the game. 29... Rxd7 30. Rxd7 Kxd7 31. Qb7+ Kd6 32. Qxa8 Qxc4 33. Qf8+ Kc7 34. Qxf7+ Kb6 35. Qxh5 Qxa2+ 36. Kh3 Qc2 37. Qg6 c5 38. Qxf6 Qxe4 39. f5?! This leads to a draw. I thought there were some pitfalls for Black in the pawn ending, but the material is just too reduced. I was terribly short of time here and the only other move I considered was 39. Qd8+ followed by another check in order to make the time control, but this just seemed to activate his king and put my queen on a worse square. However, White could have tried to keep the game alive with 39. Kg4!? c4 40. h4 39... Qxf5+ 40. Qxf5 exf5 41. Kg2 Kc6 42. Kf3 Kd6 43. Ke2 Ke5 44. Ke3 Kf6 45. Kd3 Ke5 46. Ke3 [½:½]
I spent the last two weekends playing in an invitational round robin at the Nashville Chess Center. It was a relatively strong event with all 7 players rated over 2000. I was the highest rated by a couple of points over Todd Andrews. Esad Elezaj was the well deserved winner finishing as the only undefeated player with 4 wins and 2 draws. Unlike everyone else, he managed to hold all of his difficult positions together. I finished 2nd with 4.5. I drew with Elezaj and lost to Brian Smith in a game where I was a pawn up, but let my pieces get on some awkward squares, then got hit by a series of tactical shots. Smith and Chuck Lovingood tied for 3rd with 3.5. Andrews was 5th with 3 including a last round forfeit to me. I guess the Andrews Rule was not in effect. I only wish he had let someone know so I didn't need to spend an extra night at the hotel. Jeff Pennig and Wally Jordan rounded out the field. I'm going to try to annotate my game with Elezaj in full since it turned out to be the critical encounter in the battle for first place. I'll probably also get to some of the other interesting positions that arose. The event was very well run and it seems that they are committed to continuing to hold this event and to try to make it stronger in the future.
In Round 6, I had Black against 12-year-old wunderkind Zhe Quan, who already sports a FIDE rating of 2172! After 13...Re8
14. Qf3 would lead to a position I have played several times with the White pieces. Theory regards it as equal, but that is true of many lines in the 4 Pawns Attack. In practice, it can be a complicated struggle. A few days after this game, in a tournament in Bulgaria, White was successful with 14. Qf3 in the game Topel-Papadopoulou. Instead, my opponent moved his queen in the other direction 14. Qd3 This move seems to make sense since it keeps an eye on the b5 break, but I think I was able to find a refutation. 14...Ng4 threatening 15...Bd4+ 15. Nf3 c4 16. Qc2 16. Qxc4 Qb6+ 17. Kh1 Nf2+ -/+ 16...Nc5 17. h3 Nf6 17...Qb6 was also successful for Black in the game P. Szabo-Lendvai, Hungary 1993 18. Re1 looks natural, but 18. Nd2 probably had to be played, although Black is still very comfortable. He can pick off White's dark squared bishop at any time with ...Nd3 18...Nd3 19. Re2 Nh5 20. f5 Ng3 and White's position is in ruins since 21. Re3 is met by 21...Nxc1 followed by various pins with ...Bh6 and ...Qb6. Even ...Nf5 is in the air.
In the final round I had White against William Wright. I had an edge in a major piece ending because of his backwards c-pawn and my control of the only open file. Still, I wasn't sure if it was a win since I had some sensitive points in my position at b4 and f2. However, his king was a little loose, so I thought I had good chances. I decided to swap one set of rooks since mine was passively guarding f2.
36.R8a7 Rdd7 37.Rxd7 Rxd7 38.Qc8 Qd6 39.Ra6 Rc7 40.Qf5 Qe7? A blunder on the last move of time control although we both had plenty of time. Still, his position was getting pretty difficult. 40...Qxb4? 41.Qf6+ Kh5 42.h3 +-; 40...Rg7 41.Qh3+ Kg6 42.g4 +/-; 40...Qg6 41.Qf8+ (41.Qe5 also looks good) 41...Kh5 (41...Rg7 42.Ra7 will soon be zugzwang; 41...Qg7 42.Qd6+ Kh5 43.h3 +/-) 42.h3 +/- Black really suffers because of his king position in all of these lines. It would be much more difficult for White if the Black kingside pawns were on g7 and h6. 41.Qxd5 Qxb4 42.Qe6+ Kg7 43.Qe5+ Kh6 44.Qf6+ Kh5 45.h3 1-0
I had another US Masters rematch in Round 4. This time I had Black against Keaton Kiewra. This was probably the most interesting game I played in the tournament. I thought he had the better position after 14...fxe5 if he had moved his knight
Instead, he played the zwischenzug 15. Qf3 allowing me an exchange sacrifice 15...bxc4! 16. Qxa8 c6 17. dxc4 Qh4 Trying to trap the queen with 17... Qb6 seems to lead to an edge for White after 18. a4 a5 (trying for repetition doesn't work 18... Nd7 19. a5 Qc7 20. Qxa6 Nb8 21. Qb6) 19. Bd2 Na6 20. Bxa5 Qxa5 21. Qxc6 and even though Black has 2 pieces for the rook, White has Qb5 coming 18. Rf2 18. Rd1 e4 anyway 18...e4 19. g3 Bxg3 20. hxg3 Qxg3+ 21. Kf1 Qh3+ 21...e3 22. Bxe3 Qxe3 23. Re1 Qh3+ is again no more than a perpetual 22. Kg1 Qg3+ 23. Kf1 Qh3+ 24. Kg1 [½:½]
In the evening round, I had White against Andrew Rea. This was a choppy game. I thought I had an edge out of the opening, but he seemed to come close to equality during the middlegame, exchanging into a slightly worse ending. I managed to win a pawn, but he was able to loosen my king position. Still, I think I had a significant advantage after 35...Qh5
I started looking at 36. Kg2 followed by Rxg7+ when the queen ending is very complicated. Another idea is 36. h3 when the White king should be comfortable on h2. Instead, with about 5 minutes left on my clock, I mixed the moves up with the rushed 36. Rxg7+ and Black had an easy perpetual after 36... Kxg7 37. Qd7+ Kg6 38. Qxc8 Qd1+
I got off to a quick start in Round 1 with White against Paul Nemeth when he blundered with 8... 0-0?
Now, White wins a piece with 9. d6 since 9...Qxd6 10. Qxd6 Bxd6 11. e5 is a fork as is 9...Bxd6 10. e5 and he didn't last much longer. Strangely, I found a game Uusi-Oukari vs. Sietio Finland 2000 which reached the diagramed position, but White played 9. 0-0? letting Black off the hook, but there was a further exchange of blunders with 9...b6? 10. Qe2? Just goes to show that you have to be alert in the opening.
In round 2, I had Black against GM Yermolinsky. Yet another game with Black against a GM. I don't think he got much of an edge out of the opening. The critical point occurred after 18. e5!?
After 18... dxe5 19. fxe5 I selected 19... Nd7?! I really overestimated the knight's outpost on e5. As Yermo pointed out afterwards, better was 19...fxe5 when White's edge is kept to a minimum. 20. exf6 exf6 21. Rad1 Simple chess. I overlooked this powerful move. Suddenly Black has all kinds of weak points on his 3rd rank. 21... Ne5 22. Rd6 Nxf3+ 23. Rxf3 Rbe8 24. Rb6 Re7 25. Re3 Rfe8 26. Ne4 winning a pawn and soon the game.
In round 3, I had a rematch with John Bartholomew, who I had played in the US Masters. I built up a great position with White after 34...Qf8
He had been short of time for quite some time, but I was getting short now as well, since I had been trying to find a knockout blow. While White has all the trumps, it is still not easy to put Black away. I think my sequence was a bit hasty. Since Black has no plan, White should calmly build his position. Moves like 35. Bd3, eyeing the f5 pawn or even 35. Kh1 should be considered. From a practical point of view, I should have just looked to keep the position intact until the time conrol was reached. My choice 35. Nc7 was not that bad, but I followed up with the double-edged 35...Rc8 36. Ne6!? the intermediate capture on d6 preserves White's edge. I became overly enamored with keeping his bishop locked in with my e5 pawn. 36... Bxe6 37. dxe6 dxe5 38. fxe5 Bg7 39. Bd3 Rd8 40. Rf2 Kh8 Reaching the time control. White is still better, but I started fishing around for a plan 41. Rxf5 Qg8 42. Rh5 More obvious is 42. Rf7, but after 42...Bxe5+ 43. Kh1 Qg3 I did not see the move 44. Rf3 when White should still claim a plus. Instead, I decided to combine defense of e5 with an attack on h6, but the rook lands on an awkward square. 42...Rd4 a nice move stopping Qe4 and introducing Qa8+ in some lines. 43. Bf5?! holding the pawns, but now both the bishop and rook are on poor squares and Black can invade with his major pieces. 43...Qd8 44. Bc2?? losing. 44. Qe3 or 44. Bg4 were more or less balanced. 44...Rd2 45. Qe4 Rd1+! and wins
Search this sitepowered by FreeFind|