Wednesday, December 5, 2018

My Best Games: vs. GM Kamil Dragun

Hello again and welcome back! In my next few posts I want to share some of my best games against strong players and see what we can learn from them. I play fairly regularly in open tournaments around the east coast and get plenty of opportunities to play GMs and IMs. That experience is invaluable for me but also makes for some great instructive games to analyze. Although I would primarily say this post is designed for players rated 1000-2000, even experts and some masters would probably find it an interesting read.

The first one we'll look at is my game with white against the Polish grandmaster Kamil Dragun (FIDE 2578). This was played in the 2018 Atlantic Open in Virginia. The opening was relatively benign (there's no need to go through it in any detail), and after an early queen trade we reached the following endgame:

Paciorkowski-Dragun; 2018 Atlantic Open

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 b6 4.Bg2 Bb7 5.0-0 Be7 6.d4 0-0 7.Nc3 Ne4 8.Nxe4 Bxe4 9.Ne1 Bxg2 10.Nxg2 d5 11.Qa4 Qe8 12.Qxe8 Rxe8 13.cxd5 exd5 (D)

This is where I want to start the discussion. Theoretically, this endgame is supposed to be equal, right? Equal material, both sides have a pawn in the center, both sides don't have any glaring issues with their king, and so on. However, "equal" is not synonymous with "drawn". There are some important subtleties in this position that make the endgame rich with ideas; I explain them below.

1) We have an asymmetric pawn structure. White has an e-pawn vs. black's c-pawn. This simple enough fact by itself already gives the position some life and creates an imbalance.
2) Black's pawn is on b6, not on b7. Well, why on earth should this matter? It seems like such a tiny little detail that nobody would even bother to think of it. Yet, if you put this position in front of a grandmaster, I guarantee you that they will immediately highlight this factor as being one of the most significant talking points about the position.

Imagine that the pawn was back on b7 for a moment. Now, compare the position above to this position:

What's the difference? Well, in both cases, white's only open line for his rooks is the c-file. However in the second position, black's pawn on c6 is solidly defended by the pawn on b7; in fact, the entire b7-c6-d5 chain is quite resilient and it will take a large, organized effort for white in the form of a minority attack with b2-b4-b5 to put any pressure at all on black's structure.

Now look again at the first diagram. Because black's pawn is on b6, he can never set up this b7-c6-d5 chain. In fact, as soon as white puts a rook on c1 he will immediately be putting pressure on the backwards pawn on c7, which black can only ever solve by playing c7-c5. At that point, white would take d4xc5, and black either recaptures with a piece, in which case he is left with an isolated d-pawn, or he recaptures with the pawn, in which case he is left with this hanging pawn structure, which I show below.

Now, if black can get a position like this, he will have essentially fully equalized the game. Granted there is plenty of play left, but black's slightly inferior pawn structure (3 islands vs. 2 for white) is fully compensated for by his control of the center, potential targets on b2 and e2, and the potential for good piece activity.

So with all that in mind, let's go back again to the starting position for my endgame against Dragun:

We know that if black can achieve c7-c5 without any major concessions, he should be completely fine. But if white can stop him from doing that, then black will essentially be forever saddled with this backwards pawn on the c-file. So, from this position, we should know that white's objective is to not allow black to play c7-c5, and if white can succeed in this, then in theory, the position won't be equal, but white will be slightly better.

Now, let's finally start going through the game. It's white to move in the diagram, and I continued with 14.Rd1 (D)

To the untrained eye, unaware of white's strategy, this move looks more or less random. But hopefully now you can see that the point is to prevent 14. ... c5 because after 15.dxc5 bxc5 16.Rxd5 white simply snaps up the undefended d5 pawn. Dragun replied with 14. ... Bd6, which looks attractive because it attacks e2, but believe it or not I would argue that this move is already slightly inaccurate because it does nothing to help black play his c5 break.

In 1987, none other than Anatoly Karpov himself actually had this exact same position with black against the strong Swedish GM Ulf Andersson (who famously made a career out of playing these kinds of endgames with white for a win). Instead of 14. ... Bd6, Karpov continued with 14. ... Na6! 15.Be3 Rad8! defending his d-pawn. He soon followed up with c7-c5 and equalized the game, which ultimately ended in a quick draw.

Now, back to my game. After 14. ... Bd6, my e-pawn is hanging, so I shield the e-file and develop my last minor piece with 15.Be3 Notice how even this bishop has its eye on the c5 square. The game continued further with 15. ... f6 16.Rac1 g5 (D)

Now I am fully developed, and most of my pieces are directly fighting against the c5 break. With black's last move (g7-g5), he takes away the f4 square from my knight. At the same time, it opens up a hole on f5 and weakens his king a little, and moreover black still has to develop his queenside pieces.

So how to proceed with white? We've developed everything and for now black cannot play c5, but what to do next? Well, look at white's position and find the worst-placed piece: that's the Ng2, which is just sitting there doing nothing. Now ask yourself where that knight should go. The most obvious square to me was f5, which has just been weakened with black's latest g-pawn thrust. But you'll notice it's kind of tricky to maneuver it there; e3 is already occupied by my bishop, and if my bishop moves away I hang e2. So I came up with an interesting plan of f3, Kf2, Bd2, and then finally Ng2-e3-f5. In the meantime black decided to embark on quite an ambitious expedition with his a-pawn on the queenside.

From the diagram above, the game continued 17.f3 a5 18.Kf2 a4 19.Bd2 a3 20.b3 (D)

Notice how I just completely ignored black's demonstration on the queenside. I could have stopped him with a2-a4 or a2-a3 at some point, but both of those moves would have created holes in my position on either b4 or b3 which his knight could eventually maneuver to. Now the queenside remains semi-closed and black still cannot play 20. ... c5? since the simple reply 21.Ne3! just wins the d-pawn; after 21. ... cxd4 22.Nxd5 white has all of his pieces mobilized and threatens both Nxf6+ and Nxb6 with a winning position.

From the diagrammed position, it's black to move, and my opponent played 20. ... Kf7 (D)

The idea behind his last move is to meet 21.Ne3 with Ke6, defending both the d5 and f5 squares. So what should we do next? Black's kind of stopped our knight maneuver for now, so maybe we should look for another plan in the meantime. Later, we can always play Ne3 to hit d5 and threaten to jump into f5.

How do you find a plan in positions like this? If you've already more or less optimized your pieces, then you should move on to consider pawn breaks. This makes logical sense. If you are better mobilized and developed, then by simply opening up the position with a pawn break, you can often take advantage of your superior piece activity to win some material.

So what are white's pawn breaks here? I see three of them: e2-e4, f3-f4, and h2-h4. All of those moves are pawn breaks because they create pawn tension - if you play any three of them, you will be threatening pawn takes pawn to open the position. Go ahead and take a moment to see which one is the best for white, and then I'll talk about each one in detail.

The e4 break might seem attractive at first glance because it's in the center, but the strategic problem with it is that it would allow black to liquidate one of his big weaknesses - the pawn on d5. Suppose white got two moves and played Rd1-e1 and e2-e4. Then black would absolutely play d5xe4 and it doesn't matter how white recaptures; black's next two moves are Nb8-d7 and c7-c5, after which white's advantage is probably only minimal, if existent at all. Remember, black cannot play c7-c5 right now because then his d5 pawn would become exposed and vulnerable to capture. If we ever play e4, black could exchange pawns and his weak d5 would disappear. Taking all of that into consideration, e2-e4 is not the strongest plan, at least not right now.

The f4 break is interesting, and if black took, you could recapture with the knight and put some problematic pressure on d5. However, f3-f4 is positionally risky, because you create a hole on e4. Although black's knight can't get there now, it could later in the future and then you'll wish you still have a pawn on f3 to kick it out. In fact, after 21.f4, black could even immediately play Re4, attacking my d-pawn, and then follow up with h7-h6, reinforcing the pawn on g5. So f4 is not correct here either.

That leaves h2-h4! This is much stronger than the other two breaks simply because it doesn't create any weaknesses in my position. My plan is straightforward: I want to open a second front on the h-file and start invading there with my rooks.

So from the last diagram, it's white to move and I played 21.h4! to which Dragun replied 21. ... h6. After 22.Ne3 Ke6 23.hxg5 hxg5 24.Rh1 (D) we reached the following position:

What should black play here? Take a moment and think about it; we'll revisit this position at the end of the post.

The actual game continued 24. ... Nd7 25.Rh7 Rh8 Black contests the open file 26.Rch1 Rxh7 27.Rxh7 Nf8 28.Rg7 (D)

So thanks to my opening of the h-file I've managed to invade on the 7th rank, and you should notice now that black's king actually has no squares! Also, it's move 28 and black's rook on a8 still hasn't moved. In this position, black finally achieved his pawn break with 28. ... c5 but at this point white has enough of an advantage that this move doesn't equalize anymore. The focus of the game has shifted. Now, instead of c7-c5 being the most important factor, my active rook on the 7th cutting off his king on e6 has become the most important factor. I simply ignored my opponent and brought another piece closer to the attack with 29.g4! Rc8 30.Nf5 (D)

Now I have the dangerous threat of Rg7-b7, attacking b6 and threatening Ng7 mate! Objectively, black should play 30. ... Rc7 to trade the rooks off, but even then I can simply continue with 31.Rxc7 Bxc7 32.Bc1! and pick up the a3 pawn, giving white excellent winning chances.

Instead, Dragun played 30. ... cxd4 (D)

Now white can actually win material by force, and there are two different ways to do so (see if you can find both of them). I only saw the second-best way, but it is still good enough: 31.Nxd6 Kxd6 32.Bb4+ This is the point: if black plays 32. ... Ke6 he is mated in one with 33.Re7, but if he goes anywhere else then I play Rg7-g8 and there is no way for him to defend the pinned Nf8. Black is lost, and the game finished with 32. ... Ke5 33.Rg8 d3 34.Ke3 One last accurate move to stop black's counterplay. 34.exd3?? allows Rc2+ which unpins the Nf8 with advantage to black. 34. ... dxe2 35.Kxe2 Kd4 Or 35. ... Rc2+ 36.Kd3 with a double attack on rook and knight. 36.Kd2 (D)

Black resigned as there are no more tricks and the Nf8 is lost. Strangely enough black is actually up a pawn in the final position!

Now I want to revisit a couple key moments.

Position 1: After the move 24.Rh1

I would call this a critical moment. In the game black played 24. ... Nd7 so that after 25.Rh7 he could play 25. ... Rh8, challenging the h-file, which is logical and what I expected. However, in actual fact black could have ignored the h-file and gone for counterplay with 24. ... c5! My intention (and what black may have been worried about) was 25.Rh6 cxd4 26.Ng4, when I thought white would be doing well since I am threatening both Rxf6+ and Bxg5. However, in reality black can simply play 26. ... Nd7! defending f6 and after 27.Bxg5 Rh8! material is equal and the position is unclear.

Position 2: After 30. ... cxd4

I mentioned that white actually has two ways of winning material. The way that I played is good enough, but well done if you spotted the brilliant 31.f4!! when the threat is 32.Nxd4# and 31. ... gxf4 runs into 32.Bxf4! when black cannot take the bishop because of mate on e7! After 32. ... Bc5 the final blow is 33.b4! overloading the bishop, which cannot move without allowing either Nxd4# or Re7#. It should be no surprise that the strongest continuation involves getting white's last piece into the attack.

I hope you enjoyed that game, and I look forward to sharing a couple more like this!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

My Games from Seneca Lake 2018

The 2018 Seneca Lake Open was held on Saturday, November 10th in Geneva, NY. The Open Section of the four-round tournament finished with a two-way split for first place between myself and the #2 seed, FM Robert Sulman. The top five finishers are shown in the crosstable below.

Overall I cannot really say I played too well, but in any case let's look at the games and see what happened.

Round 1 - I play white vs. Chris Brown (1928)
In the first round I happened to be paired with a fellow Rochester player. Chris Brown is a regular on Mondays and Wednesdays and was on board 2 in the final round of the Club Championship earlier this year.

Round 2 - I play black vs. David Phelps (1973)
In round two I got paired with another regular Rochester player. This is my first game against Phelps in quite a while - I think it's been at least a year since we last played.

Round 3 - I play white vs. Robert Sulman (2200)
In round three I played the #2 seed FM Robert Sulman. I chose a relatively meek opening with white and my opponent skillfully achieved full equality early on. Because I got no advantage out of the opening I took some unnecessary risks to play for a win in the middlegame. That backfired and in the end I had to prove my defensive skills to avoid losing a much worse position.

Definitely not one of my best games, but this served as a good test of my defensive abilities, which luckily were just good enough to salvage a half point out of that mess.

Round 4 - I play black vs. Viktor Levine (2126)
My last game against the expert Viktor Levine was an interesting long struggle which ultimately was decided by a blunder in time pressure.

Sulman also won his last round game against Anna Levina to also reach 3.5/4, so we tied for first place. Not a wonderful tournament for me (I even lost a couple rating points), but at least I avoided a disaster by saving a half point in round 3.

Stay tuned for more posts and updates!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Nov. 14th - Lecture with Senior Master Lev Paciorkowski

 Special Event 

Lecture Series with Senior Master
Lev Paciorkowski

Topic: Caruana's Best Games 
Sponsored by the Community Chess Club of Rochester
November 14, 2018 

Time: 5:00pm-6:30pm at the Rochester Chess Center

For the Lecture: $3 for CCCR members; $5 for non-members & visitors.  
All are welcome!
Plan to check in and be seated for the lecture by 5:25pm. 

5:30-6:30pm: Lecture (Introduction, Presentation, Q&A, Closing notes)
The lecture will be video recorded.

Following the Lecture, we will have our regular weekly chess tournament.

2018 New York State Champion and Senior Master Lev Paciorkowski

The Community Chess Club of Rochester (CCCR) is proud to present a chess lecture series at the Rochester Chess Center with Senior Chess Master Lev Paciorkowski.

This will be Lev's third lecture in the CCCR Lecture Series. 

Lev is a very accomplished chess player with many prestigious tournament victories.  He is attending Rochester Institute of Technology, and continues to play competitive chess.  His USCF Rating is 2486 (as of November, 2018) and is the highest rated chess player in the Rochester area.  Lev also gives chess lessons and frequently teaches at the Rochester Chess Center's Chess Camp.  If you are interested in getting private chess lessons from Lev, please contact the Rochester Chess Center.  He is accepting new chess students at all skill levels.

The Community Chess Club invites all club members and visitors to attend Lev's chess lecture and play a game of chess afterwards.  For more information, please contact the Chess Center at 585-442-2430, or better yet, why not stop by and visit us on a Wednesday night? The club is ready to answer your questions beginning at 6:30pm any Wednesday night.  We'd really like to introduce you to our chess club.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

My Games from the 2018 CCCR Club Championship!

The 2018 CCCR Club Championship is underway with five rounds being held every Wednesday from 9/26 through 10/24. I will be continually updating this post after each round, adding my most recently played game.

Round 1 - I play white vs. Joshua Stevens (1400)
As chance would have it I ended up having white in the first round against Joshua Stevens, a regular to the chess center and one of the players who drew me in the simul I gave earlier this year (congratulations!); however, when I have only one game to focus on instead of about 30, I do tend to play a little better...let's see how the game went.

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Bd3 This is not the typical move here (3.Nc3 is more standard), but I was looking to play an easy system with a pawn on c3 when I can maneuver the queenside knight with Nb1-a3-c2-e3 in semi-Ruy Lopez style. 3. ... Nbd7 4.Nf3 e5 5.c3 As advertised. 5. ... c6 6.0-0 h6 Going for an ambitious kingside expansion with g7-g5, the point of which is to constantly have ...g4 looming to remove the defender of d4 and also to play maneuvers like Nf8-g6-f4 later. Such a policy is decidedly risky though while the king is staying in the center. 7.Na3 I just go about my business, intending a maneuver like Na3-c2-e3-f5. 7. ... b5 A typical queenside expansion, but such committal moves should not be played with the intention of also advancing on the kingside with g7-g5, since if you push your kingside pawns, then your king will probably have to castle queenside where ideally you want to keep your pawn structure closely-knit together. 8.Nc2 (D) Black is not making any threats so I just continue with my maneuver. I am not sure where I want my dark-squared bishop yet so I keep him back home - maybe I will play b3 and Ba3 at some point.
8. ... Qc7 9.Re1 Continuing to improve my position - the X-ray of rook against king may open up some tactical opportunities later on. 9. ... g5? Although I understand the ideas behind this move, I still consider it a serious positional mistake in this specific position - the entire concept of starting an attack without proper development is inherently flawed and furthermore the newly created hole on f5 is a serious problem. 9. ... g6 and 10. ... Bg7 was better and probably what I would have played instead. 10.Ne3 this and my next move are obvious and easy to play. 10. ... Be7 11.Nf5 Nf8 (D)

12.b3?! Although this doesn't spoil anything, I simply missed that 12.Ng7+ Kd8 13.dxe5 wins on the spot since 13. ... dxe5 allows 14.Bxb5+ with a discovered check and a decisive advantage for white. But why did I miss it? Because I actually wasn't even looking for any knockout blows here! My firmly ingrained positional instincts tell me to develop the rest of my pieces before looking to take decisive action, so I just banged out b3 and Ba3 without much thought. 12. ... Ng6 Now black has f8 for his king so Ng7+ is not as strong. 13.Ba3 (D)
13. ... Bxf5? It's admittedly a very difficult position for black - I'm not sure if white is actually threatening anything here (Nxe7 followed by Bxd6 and then dxe5 would be the kind of knockout blow I would look at in the diagrammed position for white), but likely there isn't a satisfactory defense - the weakness of d6, f5, along with the bad king for black makes this position nearly lost in my opinion. 14.exf5 Now my Re1 comes into play with tempo. 14. ... Nf4 15.dxe5 dxe5 16.Rxe5 Stronger than capturing with the knight, since I have an immediate threat. 16. ... N4d5 16. ... N6d5 loses instantly to 17.Bxe7 Nxe7 18.f6. 17.Bxe7 Nxe7 18.Qe2 (D) White has a winning position after any reasonable move, but this is the strongest, keeping black's king in the center by attacking the pinned Ne7.
18. ... 0-0-0 I was expecting 18. ... Kf8 19.Re1 Ned5 when black is still at least only down one pawn but the position is lost in any case. The text move simply drops a piece for no compensation. 19.Rxe7 Qd6 20.Bc2 Here I was actually looking for a way to end the game on the spot with Bxb5 or Nd4-xb5, but didn't see anything clear so just played a normal move to save my bishop. 20. ... Rhe8 21.Re1 I made sure that there was no counterplay with 21. ... Rxe7 22.Qxe7 Qxe7 23.Rxe7 g4 - I have 24.Ne1! Rd2 when my bishop on c2 is defended and black has nothing. 21. ... c5 22.Rxe8 Rxe8 23.Qxb5 Rxe1+ 24.Nxe1 Ng4 25.Qe8+ Kc7 26.Qxf7+ Kb6 (D)
Exercise 1: White is of course winning after any reasonable move, but I'll give you a chance to play like Stockfish here and find the strongest continuation - if you go by computer evaluations the engine actually announces mate after this move while the alternatives are "only" +10. I'll add the answers at the very end of the post when the tournament is over. In any case I ended up winning this game without any problems. 1-0

Round 2 - I play black vs. Hanan Dery (1690)
In round 2 I got black against Hanan Dery, also a regular player on Monday and Wednesday nights. The opening quickly started off on an unusual note.

1.e4 g6 It's not too common for me to play this opening but I employ it on some occasions just to mix things up a bit. 2.d4 Bg7 3.f4 "Wow, how aggressive!", I thought. The sharpest lines white can play against the Modern Defense (which is 1. ... g6) involve a fast f2-f4 and e4-e5 expansion, but it seems my opponent had a different idea in mind. 3. ... d6 4.d5?! (D)
This is 100% a move I would never play if I had white here, as it is inconsistent with f2-f4 and opens up the long diagonal for my bishop. Rather, Nf3, Bd3, 0-0 and a quick e4-e5 would be the most dangerous continuation for black to face. I can immediately start attacking white's center with my next move. 4. ... c6! Principled and strong; already I would say white has no advantage out of the opening. 5.Bc4 Nf6 6.Nc3 0-0 It is possible that I can already win material with ...b7-b5-b4 removing the guard of the e4 pawn but I saw no need to complicate things - my development plan was pretty much on autopilot. 7.Nf3 Nbd7 8.0-0 Qc7 9.Be3 (D)
9. ... a6 A standard move in this kind of position - I may further consider c6-c5 and then b7-b5 expansion. 10.dxc6 bxc6 Opening up the b-file for my rook. I didn't even consider 10. ... Qxc6 as that can open fork tactics like Nd5-e7 later down the road, although there is no immediate issue with it - on 11.Bd5 I don't have to take and can simply retreat with 11. ... Qc7. 11.a4 Rb8 I'm still on autopilot - putting a rook on an open file is as natural as breathing for me. I took maybe about a minute to carefully calculate the ramifications of the 12.e5 pawn sacrifice but didn't see anything for white after 12. ... dxe5 13.fxe5 Nxe5 14.Nxe5 Qxe5 15.Bf4 Qc5+ when the loose bishop drops on c4, while after 14.Bf4 I have 14. ... Qb6+ when 15.Qd4?? loses to 15. ... Nxf3+ and 16. ... Qxd4. 12.Bd4 (D)
12. ... e5 Played with no hesitation - I certainly do not want to allow white the opportunity to advance e4-e5. 13.fxe5 dxe5 14.Be3 Ng4! White cannot both save his dark-squared bishop and cover the exposed g1-a7 diagonal. 15.Qe2 The alternative 15.Bg5 Qb6+ 16.Kh1 Nf2+ would lose the exchange for white. 15. ... Nxe3 16.Qxe3 Qb6 Also played with little hesitation. The endgame will be pleasant for black with my bishop pair and white's isolated pawn on e4. I did not seriously consider 16. ... Rxb2 since 17.Bb3 traps my rook. 17.Qxb6 Rxb6 18.Ng5 (D)
Looks a little scary! White is attacking f7 a lot, but black has a strong defensive move at his disposal, repelling white's attack with tempo. 18. ... Bf6! Much better than 18. ... Nf6?? which actually loses on the spot to 19.Nxf7! Rxf7 20.Rad1!! when black has no answer to the deadly Rd8+. I didn't actually see this during the game but I didn't have to! I played Bf6 rather than Nf6 on principle - I stop my opponent's threat while making a threat of my own. 19.Rxf6?! It is unnecessary to sacrifice the exchange, although otherwise both b2 and g5 are hanging. 19. ... Nxf6 20.Rf1 Kg7 (D)
21.Rxf6 A fancy sequence that wins a pawn but unfortunately it results in further exchanges which makes black's winning task easier - 21.b3 was the best way to try to hold with white. 21. ... Kxf6 22.Nxh7+ Ke7 23.Nxf8 Kxf8 24.b3 Now we reach my favorite part - the technical endgame phase! Although I played through the rest of the game relatively quickly there are a lot of nuances behind the scenes that are instructive to point out. 24. ... Ke7 I debated a little on whether to play ...a6-a5 but was concerned with providing an easy target for a future knight on c4 - my biggest weakness is my split pawn structure on the queenside - the only hope white has is to somehow win either a6 or c6 and create a passed pawn, so I don't want to make that easy to do. Of course, if I don't play a6-a5, then white can, and I think white should! Then at least Nc3-a4-c5 is possible and there may be some annoying pressure on a6, although it shouldn't slow black down too much. 25.Kf2 Be6 (D)
26.Bxe6 Too complicit. The only practical chances of holding for white involve 26.a5, but even so after 26. ... Rb8 27.Bxa6?! (27.Be2! is more resilient, just keeping pieces on the board) 27. ... Ra8 28.Bb7 Rxa5 I win the pawn back and 29.Bxc6? runs into 29. ... Rc5 30.Nd5+ Bxd5 followed by 31. ... Rxc2+ when black has a won endgame. 26. ... Kxe6 27.Ke3 f5 Simple and strong - I advance in the center and encourage white to exchange on f5 which gives me a passed pawn on the e-file. 28.g3 Rb4 Adding even more pressure to e4 to encourage exf5. 29.exf5+ Success! There really was nothing better for white since otherwise the Nc3 has to sit there to guard e4. 29. ... gxf5 30.h3 (D)
Exercise 2: Black has a winning endgame, but it still needs to be converted! See if you can play like I did and find the best plan to crack white's position. The answer will be posted at the end of the tournament. I went on to win this game - after a few more moves we reached the following position:
After 39. ... Rd4 white resigned as he is losing the knight after Rd4-a4. The only line I calculated was 40.h5 Ra4 41.h6 Rxa2 42.h7 Kc3+ and after 43. ... Rh2 black safely stops the h-pawn and wins. 0-1

Round 3 - I play white vs. Donald Stubblebine (1802)
In round three the top six with 2 points were all paired up against one another. On board one I had white against Don Stubblebine; David Phelps had white against Clif Kharroubi on board two; and Toby Rizzo had white against Ken McBride on board three.

1.d4 I played 1.e4 in round one so decided to play something different this time. 1. ... d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Bf5 Usually black plays 3. ... Nf6 instead; the early development of the bishop leaves the b7 pawn vulnerable although I did not exploit that in this game. 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Objectively better is 5.Qb3 Qb6 6.c5 Qc7 (6. ... Qxb3 7.axb3 is a pleasant endgame for white, with b3-b4-b5 coming fast) 7.Bf4! Qc8 8.Nh4 when white is considered to be somewhat better. For whatever reason I just didn't feel like playing this kind of position, so I just opted for a simple game instead. 5. ... h6 6.Bd3 Bxd3 7.Qxd3 Nf6 8.0-0 Be7 (D)
9.e4 A typical way for white to get some central space in this type of structure. 9. ... dxe4 It is almost always correct for black to capture, as otherwise e4-e5 allows white to gain some tangible advantage with his kingside space. 10.Nxe4 Nbd7 If I were black I would immediately exchange on e4 - black is slightly cramped and so should prefer piece exchanges. 11.Nc3 Since black didn't exchange last move, I don't allow him another opportunity to do so. 11. ... 0-0 12.Re1 Qc7 13.b3 Rad8 14.Qc2 Prophylaxis - I was not at all concerned about Nd7-c5 but e6-e5 was more worrisome. 14. ... Nb6 Not really a great square for the knight, but it controls the d5 square so after c6-c5 at least white cannot advance d4-d5. 15.Bb2 a6 (D) Covering b5 so that c6-c5 may be played without allowing Nc3-b5.
16.Ne4!? Apparently I was having a case of restless knight syndrome? I was somehow overly concerned with allowing the c6-c5 break but 16.Rad1 is more in the spirit of the position. After 16. ... c5!? 17.dxc5 Rxd1 18.Rxd1 Bxc5 white has a small but enduring advantage thanks to better placed pieces and the queenside pawn majority. 16. ... Nxe4 17.Qxe4 Bf6 This is now a great square for the bishop. The position is about equal. 18.Rad1 Rfe8 19.Bc3 Threatening a dangerous pin with Ba5. 19. ... Nc8 20.Bd2 Just some casual maneuvering - the bishop evades the pin while keeping an eye on both sides of the board. 20. ... Ne7 21.Ne5 Nf5 22.Bf4?! (D) A little slip. 22.Bb4 was preferable to maintain control of a5.
22. ... Qb6!? Instead 22. ... Qa5! would actually give white some difficult problems to solve, since a2 is hanging and there is a lot of pressure on d4 and e5. 23.Be3? Objectively white actually has to go for complications with 23.d5 to avoid a worse position but I just did not feel like calculating. 23. ... Nxe3!? Again 23. ... Qa5! would put serious pressure on white's position. For example, the natural 24.Qc2 allows 24. ... Nxd4! 25.Bxd4 Rxd4 when I cannot recapture since my Re1 is hanging. Even after the text move though I still prefer black's position. 24.Qxe3 Qc7 25.Nf3 Re7 26.Qe4 Red7 Black's moves are easy and natural to make - d4 is a serious weakness. 27.Re3?! (D) 27.Re2 should be preferred but black is better in any case.
27. ... e5?! I was relieved to see this move. Instead, I thought black would be clearly better after 27. ... c5! 28.d5 (28.Red3? cxd4 29.Nxd4?? Qe5! is a nasty shot I saw during the game - black wins a piece) 28. ... cxd5 29.Rxd5 (29.cxd5 Bd4! 30.Nxd4 Rxd5! wins a clean pawn for black) 29. ... Rxd5 30.cxd5 b5! The bishop is superior to the knight and black's queenside majority is much more dangerous than my likely weak d-pawn. 28.d5 cxd5 29.cxd5 Now black's bishop is blocked and there is no queenside majority. White plays for an advantage from here. 29. ... Re8 30.Red3 Qc2 31.a4 Rc7 32.Ne1 (D)
Repelling the invasion. Now I can start making slow improvements to my position. 32. ... Qc5 33.g3 Rd7 34.h4 Rc8 34. ... Bd8! is a nice maneuver pointed out by the engine. Next up is ...Bb6. 35.Ng2 b5 36.axb5 axb5 37.Ne3 The dream square. Over the last several moves I have greatly improved my position and now white is clearly better. 37. ... Qb6 38.Kg2 Ra8 39.Rc1 Rc7? The position was difficult, especially under time pressure, but 39. ... Qd8 would have held better. After the text move I can start driving my d-pawn forward. 40.Rxc7 Qxc7 41.d6 Qd8 42.Ng4 Black is lost now since my d-pawn is too strong and the e5 and b5 weaknesses will drop in short order. 42. ... Ra7 43.Nxe5 43.d7 is also good. 43. ... Rxd7?? 44.Nxf6+ gxf6 45.Qg4+ and white wins a rook. 43. ... Ra6 44.Nc6 (D)
Winning on the spot. 44. ... Qd7 44. ... Qc8 45.d7! Qxc6 46.d8=Q+ with back rank mate, or 44. ... Qa8 45.d7 Rxc6 46.Qe8+ winning. 45.Nb8 1-0

A very well played game by Don! He outplayed me through the first half of the middlegame but the critical moment was his decision to play 27. ... e5?! instead of the correct break 27. ... c5! Clif and Ken also both won their games, leaving the three of us in the lead with perfect scores. Next round I will have black against Clif.

Round 4 - I play black vs. Clifton Kharroubi (2105)
As promised, in round four I am playing black against 2015 Club Champion Clif Kharroubi. On board two, Ken (3) had white against Motroni (2.5).

In summary, Clif played strongly in the opening and middlegame to build an initiative, but was unable to ever land a decisive blow. In the endgame the critical blunder was 33.Kh2 simply hanging a pawn for no compensation. Ken won his game too, which means he will get to play me as black in the final round; we are the only two people with perfect 4/4 scores.

Round 5 - I play white vs. Ken McBride (2023)
In the final round me and Ken are the only people with 4/4. On board two Chris Brown (1928) played up against Clif Kharroubi. Other exciting match-ups within the 3/4 group were MacKenzie-Stubblebine and Phelps-Rizzo.

With that win I am the sole person with 5/5 and thus the 2018 CCCR Club Champion! Many thanks to Ron Lohrman, the tournament director and arbiter, as well as to Mike Lionti for organizing this event.

A notable upset from the last round was Toby Rizzo's (1853) win against David Phelps (2005) with black. Chris Brown blundered a piece early on against Kharroubi but nevertheless was able to thrash around quite a bit in the endgame before finally succumbing to a defeat. Finally, MacKenzie won on board three against Stubblebine, creating a four-way split at 4/5 for second place. After the smoke cleared, Ken McBride won 2nd place on tiebreaks and Clif Kharroubi took 3rd. All in all it was a great tournament and I look forward to doing another simul next summer!

Exercise 1 Solution

Exercise 2 Solution

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Lev Paciorkowski wins 2018 Community Chess Club Championship!

In the Final round, Senior Master Lev Paciorkowski (left) won his game against Candidate Master Ken McBride.

Senior Master Lev Paciorkowski 
Wins 2018 Community Chess Club Championship!

Ken McBride (left in 2nd place), Lev Paciorkowski (middle in 1st place), and Clif Kharroubi (right in 3rd place)

2018 Community Chess Club of Rochester Championship Group Photo.  Photo courtesy of Dan Burnside.

Tournament News... ROUND #5: The 5th and Final round of the 22nd Annual 2018 Community Chess Club (CCCR) Championship took place, October 24th, 2018 at the Rochester Chess Center, in Rochester, NY. Going into this final round, we had only two players with perfect 4/4 scores: current club champion and Senior Master Lev Paciorkowski and Candidate Master Ken McBride.  The chess battle ended with Senior Master Lev Paciorkowski winning his game with Ken McBride, and securing both a perfect 5/5 score and the 2018 club championship!  

Celebrate Awards Night with us on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at 7:30pm at the Rochester Chess Center.  Cake will be served.

Also coming up on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 between 5:30pm-6:30pm at the Rochester Chess Center: A Lecture with Senior Master Lev Paciorkowski: Caruana's Best Games.  Note the starting time is 5:30pm, not 7:30pm.  Register at Chess Center.  More info coming soon about this lecture.

Final Championship Standings:

1st Place:
Senior Master Lev Paciorkowski

Tie-breaks were used to declare our second thru fifth place winners: 
2nd Place: Candidate Master Ken McBride
3rd Place: Candidate Master Clif Kharroubi
4th Place: Toby Rizzo
5th Place: National Master Randy MacKenzie

Class Prize Winners, some with tie-breaks:
U2000: Richard Motroni
U1620: Blaze Veljovski
U1540: Jim Attaya
U1350: Henry Swing
U1200: Joe Sarratori

Congratulations to all winners and thanks to all the players for participating in the
 Community Chess Club's annual championship!

More Photos and updates will be coming shortly.  (Last update 10/25/18)!AoRMVo7Vc-2rqFgc6M3tDykYVnWa
Click here for photos and Game score sheets.

Final Club Championship Cross Table

Tournament News... ROUND #4: The annual Community Chess Club of Rochester championship comes to a conclusion this coming Wednesday, Oct. 24th.  Senior Master Lev Paciorkowski and Candidate Master Ken McBride enter the final round with 4 points each. The final round begins at 7:30pm, following the door prize drawings.  Pizza will be provided for the players at 6:30pm.  This is one of the area's largest chess events with a small entry fee, great prizes and a great opportunity to compete.  For those that could not take part in this year's event, please join our club and participate next year after getting the required 10 games over 10 Wednesday nights! Regular chess games that are not part of the championship will also be available this Wednesday night at the Rochester Chess Center.

Preliminary Pairings

Round 4 Results

Cross Table after 4 Rounds:

Round 3 Results
Two more rounds left: Oct 17th & 24th, 2018.

Round #4 of the Community Chess Club Championship

October 17th, at 7:30 pm

Preliminary Pairings

Tournament News... ROUND #1: The first round of the 22nd Annual Championship started on Sept. 26th, 2018 at the Rochester Chess Center, NY.  The club took time to remember previous CCCR champions that passed away in the last year: Jim Clague and Doug Spencer.  Door prizes were handed out for several lucky winners, and then the first round started.  Chess books from Doug's personal chess library were included in the door prizes, and continues with more door prizes for coming rounds.  The defending champion, Senior Master Lev Paciorkowski, won his first game of the tournament, by winning his game against Joshua Stevens.  Lev will be making a separate blog  post here covering his games, so keep on the lookout for that and updates as the tournament progresses through all five rounds.

Visitors and Spectators are welcome.  
Senior Master Lev Paciorkowski is the defending club champion.
Scroll down for the tournament flyer.
Players not participating in the Club Championship can still play USCF-rated Games!