Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Here's one of those positions in blitz chess wherein one would find the right continuation if he had more time to think about it. I played 34... Qe4 holding the position together with a threat on e8. That's good enough for blitz. However, post-game analysis led me to 34...Rf2! So, if white took the rook with 35. Qf2, then 35...Qf2+ 36. Kf2 Bd4+ forks the king and rook on a1. The a pawn will promote. If white played 35. Qg6+ , then 35...Qg6 36. Bg6+ Kg6 37. Kf2 Bd4+ and again we have the double attack on the king and rook. Perhaps, the best continuation for white was 35. Qb7.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Liberty Bell Open, Philadelphia, Pa. January 2010. I had to be a wee bit creative here to convert my quality advantage into a win. Lo and behold, my opponent's bishop controls the queening square and my king just made it to e1 from g1 in time to help the rook. What to do? I decided to jettison my C pawn in exchange for black's A pawn, make my own A pawn into a threat, and get my rook behind black's passed pawn. I found that there is enough time to stop the pawn because D2, being a dark square, cannot be controlled by the bishop. So, 37. Rb1 was my move.

The game went 37...Kc3 38.Rb5 d4 39.Ra5 d3 40.Rd5 and this was the winning setup. The winning strategy is to advance the A pawn and move the rook up and down the D file until black will be forced to give up his bishop for the A pawn when it promotes. There was this wonderful rook check along the C file that would push the black king away from his D pawn after which white can play Kd2. This is a great illustration of the power of the rook over a bishop in pawn endings.

Now, what are the chances that the text book BxRP sac will occur in your games? They do come up, but I'd say rare. Many players will not allow it to happen, but my opponent in the penultimate round of the 2010 Liberty Bell tournament in Philadelphia did. There was an exchange right before this position came up : 9. e5 N(f3)d5 10. N(c3)d5 ed5. So, move eleven, I had to be sure this sac would work. I needed to win this and the next game to be in contention for a cash prize. It looked to me that all the prerequisites were all in place, and so after at least a 5-minute think I went for 11. Bh7+. My opponent refused the sac with 11...Kf8 and off we went into the game that I ultimately won. But, let's take a look at what could have been. After 11. Bh7+ Kh7, then 12. Ng5+ Kg8 13. Qh5 and here the variation tree forks a bit.

If, 13...Re7, then 14. Qh7+ Kf8 15. Qh8#. The same thing would occur if black played 13...Qe7 or 13...g6.

In my calculations, what concerned me the most was 13...f6 and I had to be sure that the move wouldn't work for Black. So, here is what I saw: 13....f6 14. Qh7+ Kf8 15. Qh8+ Ke7 16. Qg7#. Everything was forced.

There was also 13...Rf6 14. Qf7+ Kh8 15. Qh5+ Rh6 16. Nf7+ and white is having a field day. Black chose the right move, or the lesser evil, when he played 11...Kf8.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It has been approximately five years since my last big tournament, and that was held at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. I play regularly on Monday nights at the Bergen Chess Mates now based in Ridgewood, New Jersey, but our club tournaments cannot be compared to the ones run by Continental Chess in terms of size and prize money.

This past weekend, I played at the 2010 Liberty Bell in Philadelphia in the Under 1900 section. There were seventy-three players in that group and I shared third place with three other players. Out of seven rounds, a score of five points did not win any cash prize. We were tied at 5.5 points while first and second places were tied at six points. Of course, a lot of " what ifs " went through my mind but such is chess. Your winning chances hinge not on bad versus good moves, but between good and best moves. As usual, my drawn game was a won game compromised by an inaccurate move while my only loss was a won game lost in the time scramble at sudden death. My score was five wins, one draw, and one loss. That's pretty good, and my post-tournament rating jumped one hundred points. I choose not to be bitter about the half point, but to be positive about my performance and experience. I will be posting some of the more interesting positions I got myself into in my next posts.

One of the last games to finish on the last day of competition in the Master Section involved a local master from New Jersey who could not figure out a mate with a bishop and knight against a lone king, no pawns. That was textbook chess, and a basic knowledge for a master-rated player. Over the board is not the place to relearn this skill. A group of spectators circled his board, and it became quite apparent that the master didn't know how to mate with a knight and bishop. The game was finally and mercifully declared a draw due to the 50-move rule. The master blamed a long day of chess for his inability to win the position, but it was obvious to everyone that, judging from his moves, he just didn't know what to do!