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

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