|Games versus GMs||
Welcome to my chess page. This is mostly random thoughts and analysis in the form of a chess diary with other sections of the site slowly developing. A lot of the content will come from my own experience. There are two reasons for this. One, so I can use this site as a self-improvement tool. Two, so you the readers will have content that is not found on other chess sites. Follow the link to the left to reach my annotated games against grandmasters. Send me comments and ideas.
|Corrections to Basic Chess Endings|
The latest FIDE rating list is out and there are plenty of changes at the top. Garry Kasparov(2817) +1 at Linares cost him a few points, and while he is still #1, he is perhaps coming back into sight of new number 2 Vishy Anand(2774). Anand scored a convincing win at Wijk aan Zee and after seeming to be in the third position for a very long time, finally passed World Champion Vladimir Kramnik(2764) whose victory in Linares was not enough to offset a poor showing at Wijk aan Zee. The man who is suppposed to challenge Kramnik for the title this fall, Peter Leko(2741) is back in the 4-spot. The rest of the top 10 had a little shuffling, but is mostly composed of the usual suspects. Club 2700 dropped a couple of members, back to 16, as #17 Vladimir Malakhov(2695) and #19 Ivan Sokolov(2690) lost a few points.
The statistics portion of the FIDE site seems much improved. You can get all sorts of interesting country statistics now. For the US, about half (693/1383) of the FIDE rated players are active. Among active players there are 36 GMs, 53 IMs, and 138 FMs. The average rating of all active US players is 2227. Seven US players are now 2600+, with Boris Gulko being the latest addition.
My own rating stayed the same at 2326. I had expected to have gained a couple of points from the Kings Island Open, but for some reason (likely a foul up by US Chess) this event did not get rated. The card on the FIDE site shows that I am ranked #139 in the US and #4418 in the world.
As a part of my series on tablebase discoveries in the R+BP+RP ending, I had wanted to make a post on the game Timman-Short, 1993 Candidates Final, game 11. This ending has been incorrectly analyzed in many sources. So far, it is the only error I am aware of in Muller’s Fundamental Chess Endings (this is position 6.86 and should have the evaluation +/=). Unfortunately, Dr. Nunn beat me to the punch! In Issue 2004/#1 of New In Chess magazine, he has a 6-page article entitled, “The Silicon Detective” devoted to tablebase analysis of this ending. However, since he used different sources than those I had been looking at I do have a little bit to add to his excellent article.
The second critical position occurs after Timman’s 75. Ra4
Here, Short blundered with 75... Rg2? Instead 75... Kf6 (or 75... Kf5) would lead to a draw. After 76. Ra6+ (76. Rf4+ Ke5! 77. Rf7 Ke6 78. Rf3 Rh8+! 79. Kg5 Rg8+! 80. Kh5 Rh8+ 81. Kg4 Rg8+! 82. Kh3 Rh8! =) Nunn notes that Timman and Speelman gave conflicting evaluations of the moves 76...Kf5 and 76...Kf7. Nunn notes that both moves draw and gives a correction of Speelman’s variation after 76...Kf5, which is repeated in FCE. I don’t have the issue of Informant with Timman’s misevaluation of 76...Kf7, but perhaps it is the same incorrect line as in FCE. After 76... Kf7 77. Ra3 Rg6+ draws, but is erroneously given an exclamation point by Muller indicating that it is the only drawing move. Instead, the 4th alternative 77... Rh8+ also draws after 78. Kg5 Rg8+! 79. Kf5
And now the very hard to find 79... Rf8! allows Black to draw because the discovered x-ray attack on the f-pawn gives Black the time he needs to get his king to the key defensive square g7.
In other tablebase news, I notice that there are a few more 6-piece endings with pawns posted on the Crafty FTP site. However, none of these looked to be of much practical interest to players. It is the nature of tablebase generation that endings such as KQNP vs. KB have to be generated before something of more interest like KNPP vs. KB can be made. Still, every additional ending is a step in the right direction. I would be very interested if anyone knows of a schedule for when we might expect further developments. Without knowing that, I’ll continue checking the Crafty site and pass along news of any notable additions.
The annual Linares supertournament finished up a couple of weeks ago. As usual, this tournament provides a view on where the upper eschelon of the chess world stand. Here is my take on this year's participants in order of finish.
1. Vladimir Kramnik - Many people were critical of the World Champion's play in this tournament, since he played many short draws. But you can't argue with results. His usual +2 was enough to win the tournament, and he was never in danger of losing a game. He also beat Peter Leko with Black, his first win ever over the man who he will be defending his title against later this year. I decided to keep my World Championship poll going with the results rolling over (I also enabled some comments to be viewed which Tripod never notified me were pending). Readers are still favoring Leko to topple Kramnik by a 2:1 margin. I doubt you'll be able to get those kind of odds at Betsson once the match starts.
2-3. Garry Kasparov - The question about the Boss after this tournament comes down to was he rusty or is he slipping? Undefeated and only a half a point behind Kramnik is a great tournament for anyone, unless your name is Garry Kasparov. The Boss certainly had opportunities for a higher score. He missed clear wins in at least 3 games. I don't remember him being in time pressure as much in the past as he was in this tournament. However, he only played 6 classical games since the last Linares tournament so rust could have been a factor. Still, after his amazing run of tournament success over the past couple of years it is now well over a year since he won a classical tournament.
2-3. Peter Leko - I think this tournament re-affirmed Leko as a legitimate contender for Kramnik's title. He led much of the tournament and still only finished a half point behind. On the down side, it didn't seem like he tried very hard after losing to Kramnik.
4-5. Teimour Radjabov - This kid will certainly get invited back to the next Linares tournament. He finished with two wins to reach an even score and for the second straight year his mini-match with Kasparov was critical in deciding the top place. This time he didn't score a win, but managed to reach two draws from lost positions which was enough to stop Kasparov from winning the tournament. If all that wasn't enough to make him attractive to organizers, he was also the biggest rating point winner for the tournament.
4-5. Veselin Topalov - For some reason we haven't been seeing Topalov in the big tournaments the past couple of years. Here, he played his usual brand of combative chess, but I was quite disappointed that he didn't try to push Kramnik with the White pieces in the final round. A win would have given him a tie for first and really boosted his stock. Instead, a quick draw left him with an even score.
6-7. Alexei Shirov - Another combative player who is a fan favorite. He had a share of the lead in the first half of the tournament, but got in trouble with the Black pieces in the second half. On the bright side, he looked like he had Kasparov in some difficulties in both games, but the Boss managed to draw both games, so Alexei is still looking for his first win against Kasparov.
6-7. Paco Vallejo Pons - He finished last, but this was still a respectable showing. Like Radjabov, he is somewhat over his head with this crowd and can expect every player to be targetting him for a win. Yet he only lost two games and gained a few rating points in the process.
Last weekend was the annual Land of the Sky tournament in Asheville, NC. The attendance seemed a bit down from previous years, but the open section still had strength at the top with 3 GMs (Novikov, Wojtkiewicz, and Kudrin). In a positive move, they rearranged the playing hall so that the open section was in the better lit half.
I had an uneventful route to 2-0. My first round opponent never showed up and Robert Cunningham dropped a pawn shortly out of the opening in the second round. That moved me up to the demo board for round 3 with the Black pieces against GM Sergey Kudrin. 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. Nbd2 Nc5 10. c3 Nxb3!?
Although I achieved a reasonable position against Burnett, I wasn't keen to try 10... Nd3 11. Qe2 Nf4 12. Qe3 g5 again, but was still in the mood for an alternative to the usual moves. 11. Nxb3 Be7 12. Nfd4 Qd7 12... Nxd4 is also playable. 13. Nxc6 Qxc6 14. Be3 O-O 15. Nd4 Qd7 16. b4 f6 It might be a bit better to try 16... c5 17. bxc5 Qc7 17. exf6 Bxf6 18. Re1 Bf7 18... Rae8 is another way to go, but I was looking at the idea a6-a5-a4 19. Qd2 a5 20. a3 a4 To take away the maneuver Nd4-b3-c5. This is consistent with Black’s previous move, but it would be better to first prevent the exchange of dark squared bishops with 20... h6 with an approximately equal game. 21. Bg5 Bxd4?! 21... Bxg5 22. Qxg5 Rae8 would still be about equal. I was worried that the bishop would be bad against the knight because of the pawn structure, but the opposite colored bishop position is worse since White's bishop has a great deal of scope. White now operates unobstructed on the dark squares and Black lacks play on the light squares. 22. cxd4 Rae8 23. Rec1 Re6 24. Bf4 c6 25. Rc3 Rg6 26. Rac1 Be8 27. Re1 Qf7 28. Bg3 Bd7 29. h3 Re8 30. Be5 Qf5 31. Kh2 Rf8 32. f3 I was quite impressed by the way Sergey used his kingside pawns on the light squares to further restrict my bishop. .. h5 33. g4 hxg4 34. hxg4 Kf7
I wanted to get my rooks to the h-file, but since the Rg6 is no longer well placed and Rf8 is already reasonably placed 34... Qf7 followed by 35...Rh6 deserved more consideration. 35. Kg2 Not 35. gxf5?? Rh8+ 36. Qh6 Rhxh6# or 35. Kg3? Rxg4+ 35... Rh8 36. Bg3 Qf6 37. Rce3 Re8 This abandoning of the h-file shows the flaw in the logic of Black's 35th move. 38. Rxe8 Bxe8 39. Qf2 Bd7 It may be slightly better to prevent Bh4 by 39... Rh6 40. Qe3 Qd8 40. Bh4 Qd6 41. Re7+ Kf8 42. Qg3 Qxg3+ 43. Kxg3 Be8?! Black's position has slowly drifted away. I thought the rook could become active via the h-file, but it is too slow. The last chance may have been to temporarily hold up f4 with 43... Be6 intending after 44. Rc7 Bf7 45. f4 to try to give the rook some prospects on the e-file with 45... Re6 44. f4 Rh6 45. f5 Rh8 45... Rxh4 46. Rxe8+ and White easily wins the pawn ending since his king can stop the d-pawn after the ...c5 break. 46. Rc7 Rh6 47. Be7+ Kg8 48. g5 Rh1 49. Rc8 Re1 50. Bd6 Kh7 51. Be5 Rg1+ 52. Kf4 Rf1+ 53. Kg4 Rg1+ 54. Bg3 Bf7 55. Rf8 55. g6+ Bxg6 56. fxg6+ Kxg6 57. Rxc6+ is also a straight forward win, but White doesn't even have to allow Black that much. 55... Bg8 56. g6+ Completing the domination of the black bishop by White’s pawns 56...Kh8 57. Rc8 c5 Unfortunately, Black's c-pawn prevents a stalemate trick with 57... Rxg3+ 58. Rxc5 Ra1 59. Be5 Rg1+ 60. Kh4 Rh1+ 61. Kg3 Rf1 62. Rc7 [1:0]
The next morning I had White against Chris Mabe. We reached an approximately equal position after 15. b4
This position should be one where Black plays on the kingside and White on the queenside. Instead, he decided to play on the queenside as well and things went rapidly downhill for him. 15... b5?! 15...f5 or 15...Ndf6 is called for 16. Nb3 Black’s idea might work if he was allowed to play ...a5 16...Ndf6 17. a4 Qd7 18. Ra2 18. Ra3 would allow formation of the battery of three major pieces with Qa2 and Rfa1, but I was still keeping my eye on the kingside and wanted to have the rook available to defend along the second rank. 18... Ra7 Another queenside move that doesn’t accomplish much. Better is 18... Ng5 19. Rfa1 with a slight advantage to White. The sacrifice 19...Nxh3+ 20. gxh3 Qxh3 is defended with 21. Qf1 19. axb5 axb5 20. Rxa7 Qxa7 21. Ra1 Qb7 On 21... Qd7 I intended 22. Kf1 getting my king out of the danger zone followed by Qa2-a7. 22. Qa2 Ng5 A variation that illustrates the trouble Black faces is 22... Rc8 23. Qa7 Qxa7 24. Rxa7 Bd8 25. Na2 Kf8 26. Na5 Ke8 (26... Bxa5 27. bxa5 followed by Nb4) 27. Nb7 23. Qa7 Qxa7 24. Rxa7 Bd8 25. Ra6 [1:0]
In the final round I had Black against Craig Jones. I made a typical Kings Indian sacrifice of the d-pawn for active pieces and we reached an interesting position after 16. Rxd6
Here or on the next move ...f5!? deserves attention trying to open the position to take advantage of some of the awkwardly placed White pieces. Instead, I went for a variation to regain my pawn, but the game petered out to a draw after 16... Ng3 17. Re1 Nxe2+ 18. Rxe2 Be6 19. Na3 Bf8 20. Rd1 Sacrificing the exchange with 20. c5 Bxd6 21. cxd6 doesn’t seem to give enough after 21...b5 20... Bxa3 21. bxa3 Bxc4 entering this line I thought the pawn structure might give me a slight edge, but White controls the d-file and has the idea of bringing his knight to f6, which I had to take measures against 22. Red2 b6 23. f4 Nc7 24. a4 Nd5 25. Nxd5 cxd5 [˝:˝]
The tournament ended with a bit of controversy. The final game to finish was played under protest. They were using a Chronos digital clock with seconds displayed and a 5-second delay. Apparently, at the end of the first time control, White was down to a few seconds, and after he made the final move of the time control and hit the clock it rolled over to the second time control with a reading of 1:00.00. Black claimed a win on time, and I think I agree with him although it is not entirely clear. It seems that since White has exactly one hour left, then he must have used his entire time in the first time control. But if that was the case, why didn’t the clock lock at 0:00.00? (I tried some experiments and that is the case with my Saitek). Some players argued that White had somewhere between 0 and 1 seconds left, but I don’t really buy that. The equivalent of a flag falling on a digital clock is when it reads zero, so it wouldn’t matter if a player has a fraction of a second. I guess the TD’s weren’t sure either and told the players to continue with Black playing under protest while they researched the question further. Of course this game went down to the very end, with White finally winning on the board. After Black resigned, TD Neal Harris stepped in with the ruling on the protest. He said he had talked to a “special referee” and that the Chronos has 2 settings: one where it freezes at zeros and one where it rolls over. So the idea was to turn the clock off, then back on to see what setting it had. When they did this, it looked to me like it was neither of the modes he had said, but he ruled it was the rolled over setting. Someone in the crowd said that turning the Chronos on then off displayed the blitz mode, not the mode for which it was set for a tournament game. Further discussion ensued in the hallway. I didn’t follow it all since I got involved in a discussion with some other players about other strange happenings we had seen take place at tournaments. Anyway, I know there was further dispute and I think what ended up happening is that both players got paid as if they had won. I think they took 4th/5th, the two U2300 prizes, and the two U2200 prizes and divided them equally, then gave Black this same amount too. This hurt some players and helped others (including myself). I think the TD’s handled this situation pretty well, the only real shortcoming I saw was that White seemed totally oblivious to the fact that the game was being played under protest and that he could still lose after the fact. However, one might argue that someone who cuts it down to a fraction of a second on a digital clock with a 5-second delay is not especially aware of his surroundings.
Last Saturday, I played a one-day G/60 Grand Prix event in Lexington, KY. This was a very well attended event with a crowd that overflowed the main playing room. In the first round, I had White against Hank Rothberger and had another opportunity to examine the complexities of the Botvinnik Variation. 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 e6 5. Bg5 dxc4 6. e4 b5 7. e5 h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Nxg5 hxg5 10. Bxg5 Nbd7 11. exf6 Bb7 12. g3 Qb6 13. Bg2 O-O-O 14. O-O Bh6
14... c5 would lead back to the main line. The text was played in the high level game Kramnik-Piket Tilburg 1998. In New In Chess Magazine #8 1998, GM Jereon Piket relates the tale of how a Dutch amateur sprung it on him in the last round of a weekend tournament. Piket studied the line and decided to add it to his repertoire. He played Kramnik about a month later achieving a very nice position, but let Kramnik escape with a draw during a time scramble. 15. Bxh6 Rxh6 16. Qd2 Kramnik chose 16. Qc1 which Piket considers dubious. That move sidesteps pins along the d-file and lines the White queen up along the same line as the Black king making queenside pawn breaks work. However, it takes away protection of the d4-pawn, which is why I didn't give it serious consideration. My decision came down between the text and 16. Ne4 16... Rh5 16... Rg6 was the move played in Piket-Okkes, Veenendaal 1998 when Piket thinks that Black is all right. The rook move to h5 looks a bit awkward, but the rook can provide defense to the queenside. For example if now 17. a4 b4 White does not have the move 18. a5. With these types of queenside pawn breaks not looking very favorable, I decided to centralize my rook. 17. Rad1 Nxf6 17... c5 18. dxc5 Rxc5 (worse seem to be 18... Qxc5 19. Bxb7+ Kxb7 20. Ne4 or 18... Nxc5 19. Qxd8+ Qxd8 20. Rxd8+ Kxd8 21. Nxb5 Bxg2 22. Kxg2 Nd3 23. Nd6) 19. Bxb7+ Qxb7 and White should have a slight edge since the pressure on his kingside is mostly gone. 18. Qf4 Rf5 19. Qh4 Rg8 19... b4 eventually led to a draw in the game Papenin-Yarmysty, 2001 Ukrainian Jr. Championship. 20. Bh3 Rh5? After this, White gets a clear edge. Interesting is 20... Rf3!? intending to meet 21. Kg2 with 21... c5 22. d5 Nxd5 23. Nxd5 Rd3! so White probably has to settle for a small advantage after 21. Ne4 Nxe4 22. Qxe4 Rf6 21. Bxe6+ fxe6 22. Qxf6 c5 23. d5 I wanted to close the long diagonal, 23. Rfe1 also deserves attention 23... Bxd5 Black has to capture the pawn otherwise d5-d6 is going to be very powerful. The alternative is to capture with the pawn 23... exd5 giving White a choice between 24. Qxb6 axb6 25. Nxb5 and 24. Qf7 24. Nxd5 exd5 24... Rxd5 25. Rxd5 exd5 26. Qf5+ should also win for White. 25. Qf7 As my game with Burghart showed, a major piece ending in the Botvinnik can be very unpleasant for Black because of the exposed nature of his king. 25... Rgh8 26. Rfe1 Qc6 27. Re6 Qd7 28. Re7 Qc6 28... Qh3 29. Rc7+ leads to mate 29. Rde1 Kd8 30. R1e6 R5h7 31. Rxc6 Rxf7 32. Rxf7 d4 33. Rxc5 d3 34. Rxb5 Rh6 35. Rb8# [1:0]
In the second round I had Black against Gabriel Popkin. I played the opening poorly and my position was already in bad shape after 18. f4-f5
18... Bd7 When envisioning this position a few moves before, I had intended the pawn sacrifice 18... d4 19. cxd4 Bxb3 20. axb3 cxd4 21. Qxd4 Rfd8 when I thought I might have a little compensation. When I got to this point, I realized there are many problems with this variation starting with (19. Qg3 and White wins on the spot because of the threat f5-f6 19. Rae1 This doesn’t really spoil much, but 19. f6 anyway, is still completely winning for White after 19... Qe6 (19... gxf6 20. Qg3+ Kh8 21. exf6) 20. Nxc5 Even after the text, Black's position is still completely miserable, but at least he is still alive. 19... Rfe8 20. Qf4 Qf8 21. Re3 Ra8 Although I have been given a slight repreive, my position is still critical. I was trying to find some way to generate activity. 21...f6 22. e6 would slow the attack on the king for awhile, but is clearly better for White. On 21... b4 22. cxb4 cxb4 White's knight gets the beautiful d4 square. I didn’t like 21... a5 22. Nxa5 Ra8 because of 23. b4 although then 23... d4 might introduce some complications. I decided to try to prepare a5-a4 without sacrifices, but the text leaves the c-pawn with one less defender. 22. Qh4 a5? Consistent, but this move should drop a piece. 23. e6 fxe6 I saw I was losing a piece, but since there are no reasonable alternatives I moved quickly here hoping my opponent would make the automatic recapture and let me escape with only the loss of a pawn. Trying the same idea without the exchange does not work 23... Qe7 24. f6 +- 24. fxe6?! 24. Rh3 threatening mate, guarding his queen and getting his rook out of the potential pin is immediately decisive. 24... Qe7 25. Qxe7 Rxe7 26. Nxc5 Be8 27. Re5 Bc6 28. Nd3 Rae8 29. Nf4 b4 30. cxb4 axb4 31. Rc1 Bb7 32. Rc5 h6 33. Nxd5 Bxd5 34. Rcxd5 Rxe6 35. Rxe6 Rxe6 36. Rb5 Ra6 37. Rxb4 Rxa2 Somehow Black has reached a position with serious practical drawing chances. Both players were under 5 minutes on the clock now. I even managed to win when he blundered his rook to a tactic in a drawn position.
I had White in the third round against John Burgess, a master visiting from England. I had a very small edge out of the opening after 17...Ne6
The game continuation is somewhat reminiscent of the game Bereolos-Atkins, but along the e-file instead of the sixth rank. In the diagram, there doesn’t seem to be much danger to the Re8 from the Re1. 18. exf5 gxf5 19. Nh4 f4 19...Nd4? 20. Bxd4 with a pin, so he chases the bishop away first. 20. Bc1 Nd4? 21. Rxd4 exd4 22. Rxe8+ Kf7 23. Rxc8 Rxc8 24. Ne4 Be5 25. Nf3 Re8 26. Nxe5+ Rxe5 and White won without much trouble with the simple plan of bringing the king to f3, capturing the f-pawn and rolling the kingside pawns.
Before the final round, the guest of honor, GM Alexander Goldin, gave a lecture. I believe he was also analyzing participants games and played in the speed chess tournament after the main event. I missed the first part of the lecture, but did get to see him present the beautiful attacking game Goldin-Efimov 1982 USSR Team Cup.
In the final round I had Black against Dennis Gogol. Like the week before, I got a dynamic position with Black, but ended up losing. The position after 26. Ne3
is about even, but I was already down to my final 5 minutes on the clock. 26...d4?! This only drives the knight to a better square. The immediate 26... Be7 should be about equal, although White's position might be easier to play. 27. Ng4 Be7 28. Rfe1 Bxa3 29. bxa3 Kd7?? This terrible blunder loses on the spot. 30. Rxc6 Kxc6 30... bxc6 31. Nxe5+ Ke7 32. Ng6+ +- 31. Nxe5+ Kb6 32. Nxf7 and White won. There was bad weather in the forecast, so I skipped the blitz tournament and headed home, but it seems like this tournament was a success. The organizers spoke about perhaps staging a similar event later this year with the other Lexington-based GM, Gregory Kaidanov.
I've played tournaments the past two weekends, so I am a little bit behind in my posts. Two weekends ago was the annual NTWO in Clarksville, TN. This was once again a very well attended event, with over 100 players despite no listing in Chess Life. I was seeded third in the open section behind IM Burnett and Andrews. Since I haven't posted much material lately, I'm going to give the full game scores. The notes will be a bit lighter than usual since I'm still working on some of these games.
Round 1 was a rematch of round 1 of the TN Open with Matan Prilleltensky, but this time he had White. 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. O-O f6 6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 c5 8. Nb3 Qxd1 9. Rxd1 Bg4 10. f3 Be6 11. Be3 b6 12. Nc3 Bd6 13. Nd5 I don't think this move is very good. After Black captures, White either loses time or must give up his kingside pawn majority. 13... Bxd5 14. exd5 14. Rxd5 Ne7 14... Ne7 15. c4 Kf7 16. g3 h5 17. f4 Nf5 18. Bd2 I thought 18. Bf2 was better, keeping the Black knight under watch. 18... Rhe8 19. Re1 Bf8 Clearing d6 for the knight to pressure c4. 20. Bc3 Ne3 since he gave me that square instead 21. Nd2 b5
22. a3? After 22. b3 I intended 22... b4 23. Bb2 Nc2 24. Rxe8 Rxe8 25. Rc1 Ne1 when I thought Black has a pull. Instead, the computer suggests 25. Rf1 with the point 25... Ne1 26. Be5!, so instead 25... Re2 26. Rf2 with equality. 22... b4 23. axb4 cxb4 White loses material after 24. Bd4 Nc2 [0:1]
In round 2, I had White vs. Jerry Spinrad 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. cxd5 cxd4 5. Qa4+ The purpose of this in-between move is to deprive Black of the option 5. Qxd4 Nc6 6. Qd1 exd5 7. Qxd5 Be6 although that variation shouldn't bother White too much. (7... Bd7 transposes back into the game.) 5... Bd7 6. Qxd4 exd5 7. Qxd5 Nf6!? 8. Qd1 grabbing a second pawn with 8. Qxb7 has scored very well in my database, but it looked very risky to me. 8... Bc5 9. Nf3 Nc6 10. e3 Qe7 11. Be2 O-O-O 12. O-O g5 13. a3 13. b4 is the principle theoretical move here giving back the pawn in order to speed development and divert Black's pieces. However, that is not the most obvious move to find over the board, so I took a slower approach. 13... h5 This move seems to be new. Normal is 13... g4 With the text and it's follow-up, Black tries to keep g4 available for his pieces, but eventually finds it necessary to push the pawn to that square. 14. Qc2 Kb8 15. b4 Bd6 16. Bb2 I had a long thought here, mostly looking at 16. b5 Ne5 17. Nd4 but decided to complete development and take aim at the loose pieces on the long diagonal. In some lines the b5 square can be useful for a knight. 16... h4 17. b5 17. Nb5 also came into consideration 17... Ne5 18. Nd4 g4 18... Neg4 would be consistent with his previous play, but 19. Bxg4 Nxg4 20. h3 looks OK for White. 19. Ne4 g3 perhaps 19... Bc7 20. Nxd6 despite the pawns bearing down on my king, I felt very little danger after getting rid of this piece. Now all my pieces are ready to spring to life. 20... Qxd6 21. Rad1 Qe7 22. Nf5 Qe6 23. Rd6
23... gxh2+ Black gets splattered here or on the next move after 23... Qxf5 24. Qxf5 Bxf5 25. Rxd8+ Rxd8 26. Bxe5+, but there isn’t much else. 24. Kh1 h3 25. Rxe6 hxg2+ 26. Kxg2 [1:0]
In round 3, I had Black against Alex King 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. O-O f6 I briefly considered deviating from the first round game since Alex and Matan know each other and I suspected they had looked at that game. I decided to play the same way, since I don’t think there is much trouble for Black in these lines 6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 c5 8. Nb3 Qxd1 9. Rxd1 Bg4 10. f3 Be6 11. Nc3 Bd6 12. Be3 b6 13. a4 Kf7 13... 0-0-0 led to a debacle for Spassky in his return match against Fischer in 1992. 14. a5 c4 15. Nd4 b5 16. Nxe6 Kxe6 17. Ne2 Ne7 18. Kf2 Rhd8 19. Bf4 Be5 20. Bxe5 fxe5 21. Rxd8 Rxd8 22. Ke3 Nc6 23. f4 Nb4 24. Rc1 Perhaps 24. f5+ should be considered. I didn’t capture on f4 on the previous move since I wanted d5 covered to stop his knight from going there, but now Black gets a very nice position. 24... exf4+ 25. Nxf4+ Ke5 26. Ne2
I thought my position was very close to winning here. His rook is tied to defending c2 while his knight has to prevent ...Rd4. So it seemed that I just needed to run him out of moves. The only real idea for him that I saw was b3, trying to activate the rook along the c-file. I avoided moves like ...c5 because of this, but that was a poor decision as the Black pieces would become much more active if White tried this. 26... g6 So that f5 is protected in some lines, but 26... c5 or 26... g5 restraining White's knight were better choices. 27. g3 Rd6 28. Ng1 so his knight can move after all!. 28... Rd7 29. Ne2 g5 30. h3 preventing g4. I was starting to get a bit frustrated here and made a poor move 30... Nc6?! with the idea of Nd4, but this should have been preceded by 30... c5 31. Rf1! Taking the opportunity to activate his rook 31... h6 32. Rf8 Nb4 33. Rf5+ Kd6 34. c3 Nc2+ 35. Kd2 Na1 another example of the cornered knight 36. Rd5+ Ke7 37. Rxd7+ Kxd7 38. Nd4
38... c5 I didn’t have a whole lot of time left, so I rejected the move 38... Nb3+!? since the pawn ending 39. Nxb3 cxb3 40. c4 bxc4 or 40... b4 is very difficult to evaluate. Even now, having looked at it a bit, I am still not sure what the result should be. 39. Nf5 Another move that deserves a good look is 39. Nxb5!? Nb3+ 40. Ke3 axb5 (during the game I was considering 40... Nxa5 41. Na3 Ke6 with a slight advantage to White) 41. a6 Kc7 42. e5 Na5 43. Ke4 39... Nb3+ 40. Kc2 40. Ke3 is the only way to try and win, but it is a bit double edged since Black’s knight can attack the b-pawn via c6-e5-d3. Instead, my opponent was quite content with a draw. 40... h5 41. h4 gxh4 42. gxh4 Ke6 43. Ng7+ Ke5 44. Nxh5 Kxe4 45. Nf6+ Kf5 46. Nd7 Kg4 47. Nb8 Nxa5 48. Nxa6 Nb7 49. Nc7 Nd6 50. Ne6 Ne4 51. b4 cxb4 52. cxb4 Kxh4 53. Nc7 Nd6 54. Kc3 Kg4 55. Nxb5 Nxb5+ 56. Kxc4 [˝:˝]
The next morning I had White against Todd Andrews, who had beaten me in the fourth round last year to knock me out of contention. 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. cxb5 a6 After losing badly when I repeated the Zaitsev variation (5.Nc3) for the third time in a row against Todd in 2000, I've been varying my approach to the Benko against him. 2 years ago in Clarksville, I went for the fianchetto variation. It was back to the Zaitsev in Murfreesboro later that year. Todd didn’t try the Benko in the Tennessee Open a few weeks later, but now put the challenge to me again. I decided to keep changing things up. 5. b6!? a5 6. Nc3 Ba6 7. f4 d6 8. Nf3 Nbd7 9. e4 Bxf1 10. b7 This in between move helps disrupt Blacks normal flow of development. 10... Rb8 11. Rxf1 White is ready to smash through the center with e4-e5-e6, Black needs to hold this up. 11... Qb6 11... Nb6 was Zsuzsa Polgar's choice against Seirawan in the only high level game to reach this position, but Yaz won that game. Todd's choice looks like it stops White's plan by covering the e6 square, but White has a sequence typically seen in the 4 Pawns Attack. 12. e5 dxe5 13. fxe5 Ng4 14. e6 fxe6 15. Ng5!
White has too many threats. Ng4 is loose and White also threatens dxe6 followed by Qa4+ 15... Ndf6 16. Qa4+ the utility of Pb7 makes itself felt after 16... Kd8 17. Nxe6+ [1:0]
That win set me up for a last round showdown with IM Ron Burnett. Strangely enough, even though we are roughly the same age and have both been active tournament players, it was only our 3rd meeting, and the first since the 1986 US Junior Open 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5The Ruy Lopez 3 times in one tournament! I'm not sure the last time that happened. The final stats last year were 4 times out of the 9 games I answered 1.e4 with 1...e5 3... a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. Nbd2 Nc5 10. c3 Nd3!? I had seen some games with this sharp idea and decided it was worth trying as a winning attempt for Black. 11. Qe2 Nf4 12. Qe3 g5 this agressive move is the point. White's Nd2 doesn't have much scope. His next move prepares Nb3 eyeing the dark squares d4 and c5. 13. Bc2 Bh6 with the idea of g4 followed by Nh3+ 14. Qe1 I thought this move looked awkward. Afterwards, Ron suggested 14. Kh1!? 14... Bg4 15. h3 Qd7 16. e6 This pawn sac looks forced 16. hxg4? Qxg4 17. g3 Qh3 18. gxf4 gxf4 with a quick mate. 16... Bxe6 17. Nb3
17... O-O-O?! I wanted to break the pin to resestablish the threat to sacrifice on h3, but paradoxically, the Black king is much safer on the kingside despite having pushed g5. 17... O-O 18. Bxf4 gxf4 with an unclear position. 18. Bxf4 gxf4 19. Nc5 Qd6Another problem with castling queenside is that the Black queen lacks the c8 retreat and now finds it very difficult to rejoin the kingside attack. 20. b4! better than grabbing the a-pawn. White establishes a dark square bind and his attack comes much faster than Black’s. 20... Rde8 A waste of time. It is better to immediately bring a rook to the g-file with 20... Rdg8 20... Rhg8 21. a4 Bxh3 22. Qb1 Rhg8 23. Bf5+ Bxf5 24. Qxf5+ Kb8 25. Nxa6+ Kb7 26. Nc5+ Kb8 27. axb5 Ne7 28. Qh3 Nc8 29. Nd4 [1:0]
The FIDE rating list for January 2004 is out. As usual, there is no change at the top with the big 3, Kasparov(2831), Kramnik(2777), and Anand(2766) leading the way. There have been several number 4's in recent times and the latest is 4-time Russian champion Peter Svidler(2747). The usual suspects round out the top 10, with #7 Morozevich(2732) as the biggest gainer and former number 4 (now #14) Bareev(2714) having the biggest drop.
Club 2700 is no longer very exclusive. Now 18 players can claim membership. #19 Akopian(2693) dropped out, but was replaced by #16 Ivan Sokolov(2706) and #18 Vladimir Malakhov(2700). Half of the worlds 2700 players are currently in action at Wijk aan Zee, so the next list could see further shake-up.
The USA now has 6 players in the top 100. #41 Alexander Onischuk(2652) continues to lead the way, but now #69 Alexander Shabalov(2623) who won just about every big US event last year is tied for second with Gregory Kaidanov(2623). #74 Yasser Seirawan(2621) is close behind, but has announced his retirement from playing professionally. #83 Alexander Goldin(2616) and #100 Igor Novikov(2604) round out the US top 100 membership. I notice that Julio Becerra Rivero(2569) is #11 on the US list with 12 games played during the rating period, so it looks like they fixed the problem with his name/country switch.
My rating was unchanged at 2326 with no games in the period. This was enough to move me up a few places to #137 on the US list.
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