Sunday, August 28, 2016

Valente Strikes Again!

Valente Strikes Again!
By Dr. Jason Morris

How do you play against an opponent that outrates you by 900 points? That was the question posed to our members who faced FIDE master Seth Homa in a simul on August 15. 

One of the best treatises on such advice can be found in IM Simon Webb's excellent "Chess for Tigers", Oxford University Press (1978). According to Webb, "tigers" are average club players and "heffalumps" are ... well.. like Seth... opponents who outrate you by 500 points or more. Webb writes, "...Heffalumps are mighty strong - stronger than Tigers. On open territory, a Tiger doesn't stand much chance against a Heffalump; he can't even dig a Very Deep Pit to trap it, because Tigers aren't much good at digging. What he can do, however, is to entice the Heffalump on to swampy ground and hope it falls into a bog and gets sucked underground by the quagmire."

Club regular Vince
Valente managed a draw against Seth two years ago. Could he strike twice? Let's see how he fared with his Heffalump this time!

[Event "2016 Seth Homa Simul"]
[Site "Livingston County Chess Club"]
[Date "2016.08.15"]
[White "Homa, Seth"]
[WhiteUSCF "2425"]]
[Black "Valente, Vince"]
[BlackUSCF "1562"]
[Opening "English opening"]
[ECO "A10"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]

1. c4        Nc6!?

Though unorthodox, this move is not a blunder. As a matter of principle, black should be concerned not to let white dominate the center in the next few moves, so challenging the center directly with 1. .. e5 (inviting a reverse Sicilian) or 1. .. c5 (a Symmetrical English) is more common. If black wants a queen pawn opening, he can even delay a bit by playing 1. .. Nf6 or 1. .. e6 until white shows more of his intentions. If black is intending to play the King's English, the normal route is by 1. c4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6, when the most common position is the Four Knights variation after 3. Nc3 Nf6. The move chosen has independent paths that get really crazy though. For example, black has the Black Knight's Tango after 1. c4 Nc6 2. d4 Nf6, popularized by Washington IM Georgi Orlov. 

An example:Spiller - Orlov, Los Angeles, 1991
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 4.d5 Ne7 5.e4 Ng6 6.Be3 Bb4 7.f3
Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 d6 9.c5 O-O 10.g3 Nd7 11.cxd6 cxd6 12.Bd3 Qa5
13.Ne2 Nc5 14.Bc2 f5 15.O-O fxe4 16.fxe4 Bh3 17.Rxf8+ Rxf8
18.Qd2? Qxa2! 19.Rb1? Qxb1+ 0-1

2. d4        e5
3. d5        Bb4+
4. Bd2       ..

The first big decision point. Perhaps white’s intuition was that his lead in development would be sufficient for an advantage. He could have kept his space and tried for the bishop pair with 4. Nd2. After the best 3. .. Nce7, play could have then continued:

(a)  The direct 5. a3 Bxd2+ 6. Bxd2 d6 looks dodgy after 7. Qc2 c6! 8. e4 f5 9. f3 Nf6 10. Bd3 O-O 11. Ne2 fxe4 12. fxe4 cxd5 13. exd5 b5! 14. b3 Qb6.
(b)  On the positional 5. Qa4 (mainly to interfere with d7-d6) a5 6. a3 Bxd2 7. Bxd2 Nf6 8. Qc2 d6 9. e4 Ng6 10. Bd3 0-0 11. Ne2 Nd7 12. 0-0 Nc5 13. f3 Bd7 and black is doing OK.
(c)  Best appears to be the developmental 5. Nf3 Ng6 when the game sharpens after 6. h4 (probing the Ng6) h5 7. g3 Nf6 (not 7. .. f5?! Ng5!) 8. Ng5 0-0 9. Bg2 Ba5 10. 0-0 d6 11. Qc2 Ne7 12. a3 Bb6 13. b4 Bd4 14. Rb1 a5 15. e3 Bb6 and white is getting a pull.

4. ..         Bxd2+ 
5. Qxd2    Nb8
(5. .. Nce7 is more active) 
6. d6        cxd6

As GM Igor Smirnov says in this video (, "To take is a mistake!". Here, black breaks that principle, and in so doing makes his position much more vulnerable to white's pieces. Just 6. .. Nf6 was better.

7. Nc3      d5

Again, 7. .. Nh6 or Nf6 were better. With the self-inflicted wounds on d5 and d6, white is absolutely no hurry to recover his material, and he can calmly build on d-file.
8. Qxd5     ..

Pragmatic. White could have chosen the sharper 8. Nb5! d4 9. Nd6+ Kf8 10. Nf3 Nc6 11. b4! Qf6 12. c5 Nge7 13. Ng5 Nd8 14. Nge4 Qg6 15. e3 when white has a bind (0.51 according to Houdini).

8. ..         Qe7 

8. .. Nc6 is better. This just invites 9. Nb5. White’s move is OK too. Note that 9. Nb5 Qb4+ 10. Qd2 Qxd2 (not 10. .. Qxc4?? 11. Nd6+) 11. Kxd2 Na6 is just a long-term positional bind for black with the weaknesses on d6 and d5.

9. Nf3       Nf6?

This just drops a pawn for nothing. Why not 9. .. Nc6?
10. Qxe5    Nc6 
11. Qxe7+  Kxe7

Position after move 11. .. Kxe7.

In addition to being a pawn down, black has a weak d-pawn on an open file and little counter-play. Ahead a healthy pawn with no structural weaknesses, white should have a winning advantage. The practical question is how best to prosecute that advantage? Since black would like to at least engineer a trade of his weak d-pawn for say the white c-pawn, it makes sense to nip that in the bud with 12. Rd1 or 12. e4 immediately. However, the move played is not bad.

12. e3      d6 
13. Be2    Be6 
14. O-O    ..

A small slip allowing black to unload his weak d-pawn. White was better off nailing d5 down with 14. Rd1 Rhd8 15. e4.

14. ..        Rhd8
15. Rfd1    Ne5

Consistent was 15. .. d5.
16. b3        Rc8 
17. Nxe5    ..

Again, "takes is a mistake!" Why repair the black structure when white has a plethora of good temporizing moves? For example:
17. Rac1 to discourage d7-d5 further;
17. h3 to limit the scope of black’s pieces; or
17. e4 to clamp on d5.

18. Bf3      b6
19. h3       Bf5

The bishop is exposed to a g4-g5 thrust here, driving the Nf6 from the center. Better was 19. .. h5 fighting for space.

20. Bb7     ..

Another inaccuracy from white. 20. g4 Bc2 21. Rxd8 Rxd8 22. g5 Nd7 23. Nd5+ Kf8 (not 23. .. Ke8? 24. Nb4 Bf5 25. Nc6 wins another pawn, nor 23. .. Kd6? 24. Nb4 Bf5 25. Rd1+ Kc7 26. Nd5+ Kd6 (26. .. Kb8; Kc8; Kb7; and Kc6 all lose immediately to 27. Ne7+)) would have been better.

20. ..        Rxd1+ 
21. Rxd1   Rc7
22. Ba6     ..

The idea is to blockade the a-pawn and win it with Nb5 at some point. Simple and better was 22. Bd5.

22. ..        Rd7
23. Rxd7+ Kxd7  (To be considered was 23. .. Nxd7 and 24. .. Nc5)
24. Kf1?! ..

Hastening slowly with 24. f3 gets the position under control again. The game now bounces around until a final mistake throws away the win.

24. ..        Nd8
(24. .. Ne4 would have caused white more problems.)
25. Bb5+   Kd8 
26. Bxe8   Bd3+

White misses an opportunity to effect the minor piece trade under better circumstances by interpolating 26. g4 first; and black, for his part, makes his drawing chances worse. Relatively better was 26. .. Kxe8.
27. Ke1    Kxe8 
28. Kd2?   ..

A rather serious miscalculation that tosses the lion share of white’s advantage. A pawn is temporarily lost, and in recovering it, white's forces lose coordination. Rather than the white king assisting the knight to produce a queenside passed pawn, the white king must stay on the kingside to stop black's passed pawns.

28. ..        Bf1 
29. Nb5    Bxg2
30. h4       a5          (30. .. Kd7)
31. Nd6+   Ke7 
32. Nc8+   Kd7 
33. Nxb6+ Kc6 
34. Na4     Bf3

And now white has one last chance to play for a win with 35. Kd3. The h5 trick doesn’t work. After 35. Kd3 h5 36. e4 g5 37. Ke3 we have:

(a) 37. .. Bd1 38. Nc3 Bg4 39. f3 gxh4 40. fxg4 hxg4 41. Kf2 and black is stymied while white’s queenside will promote by force.
(b) 37. .. Bg2 38. hxg5 h4 39. f3 h3 40. Kf2 and white is in time.
(c) 37. .. Bh1 38. hxg5 h4 39. f3 h3 40. Kf2 h2 41. Kg3 Bxf3 42. Kxh2 Bxe4 43. Kg3 and white should win.

35. a3?!     h5!

But now, it’s a strong threat.
36. b4?    g5!

And poof! .. just like that, the winning chances are gone. In fact, white has to be careful that he doesn’t actually lose this position!
37. b5+    Kb7 
38. Ke1    gxh4 
39. Kf1     h3 
40. Kg1    Be2 
41. Nc5+  Kc7 
42. b6+?   Kxb6

A miscalculation by white and the tables have completely turned. Black now has serious winning chances. Holding the draw was 42. a4 or 42. Kh2. 

43. Nd7+   Kc7! 
44. Nxe5   ..

A critical position. Can you spot the best move for black?

 Position after 44. Nxe5.

With the heffalump in his cross-hairs, black needed to find 44. .. f6! 45. Ng6 Kb6! 46. e4 Bxc4 47. e5 fxe5 48. Nxe5 Be6. 

 Position after 48. .. Be6 (analysis).

This instructive position is worth studying:

  1. Black can eventually force the win of the white knight and a-pawn for his own a-pawn. 
  2. Black’s remaining bishop will be able to stop the white f-pawn while guarding the vital h5 pawn at a distance. 
  3. White cannot advance his f-pawn to win the bishop because if he ever moves his king to the 6th rank, he won’t be able to catch the h5 pawn. 
  4. Once he wins the white f-pawn, black still has the "right rook pawn", supported by his bishop to make a queen.

One illustrative variation might be:

49. Kh2 Kb5 50. f4 Ka4 51. Nc6 Bd7 52. Ne5 Be8 53. Kxh2 Kxa3 54. Nc4+ Kb4 55. Nxa5 Kxa5 reaching the key winning position.

 Position after move 55. Kxa5 (analysis).

 Unfortunately, black played...

45. ..       Kb6?

Saving the f-pawn was critical. Now, after the ensuing carnage, there is nothing left.
45. Nxf7   Bxc4 
46. Ne5    Bd5 
47. f3       Kb5 
48. e4      Be6 
49. Kh2    Ka4 
50. Nc6    Bd7 
51. Ne5    Be6 
52. f4       Kxa3 
53. f5       Bg8 
54. f6       Kb3 
55. f7       Bxf7 
56. Nxf7   Kc4 
57. Ne5+   Kd4 
58. Nc6+   Kxe4 
59. Nxa5   1/2-1/2

Congratulations to Vince on hanging tough and thanks to Seth for visiting our club!


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Fun Seth Homa Simil .....and Casual Chess on 082216 Monday

Seth Homa in his LCCC shirt ant cap before the simil!
Sorry for the lack of articles lately. Sometimes life gets in the way of chess. But the lack of posting does not mean a lack of activity at LCCC.

On August 15th the members of LCCC were treated to a fun night of chess as FIDE Master Seth Homa stopped by to give a similtaneous chess exhibition. As always, Seth was a gracious player and even allowed 3 passes per player to allow them to think a little longer. Later in the simil he allowed the players take as long as they wanted to move. Everyone tried to move in a reasonable amount of time, but it is difficult to do when you are trying to hold on against one of the very best players in Michigan!

Seth disposed of eight of his nine opponents - with only Vince Valente holding Seth to a draw! This was no fluke as Seth was held to a draw by Vince about two years ago when Seth did his first simil here at LCCC!

According to Vince the game was eerily similar with Seth getting an opening advantage, then Vince sacrificing a pawn to at least giving himself some play. Seth admitted to a blunder a short time after that - and the game ended fairly in a draw.

Now that I tempted you with this game - IT WILL BE annotated and posted here! Just as soon as LCCC's resident Expert - Jason Morris gets back from vacation, he will post it here. Your humble scribe will let the Expert handle this game for our readers.

On August 22, we had a casual chess night and eight players showed up for that. We even got a new member to our club as Sam G. stopped by for the first time! Welcome Sam!

We will have another casual chess night on August 29th. Some of us will use that night to do some final preparations for the Michigan Open chess tournament being played over the Labor Day weekend.

It will be held at the Detroit Marriott Livonia - 17100 Laurel Park Drive. You have your choice of a 4 day event, a 3 day event or just a 2-day event. Either way, state titles are on the line as well has chess club honors!

LCCC has finished no worse than 4th in Club points in this event and would love to finish 1st this year!  

Black to move and win!
Be sure to register for this tournament by clicking on the Michigan Chess links on the right side of this blog. Or at least stop by to see the great chess action and check out the latest in chess books and equipment at the local sellers that will be at the event.

Here is your puzzle to help you prep for the upcoming State tournament!

Black to move and win!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The 2016 Fischer 960 Tournament Finishes With an Upset!

Ken Tack wins the LCCC 2016 960 Tournament!

He won it with a last round victory against Jason Morris, who is the highest rated player in the club right now.

Your humble scribe does not have the game yet, but hopes to have it for you soon.

White - Jason Morris - Black - Mike Nikitin
To give you an idea of what a great game Ken had to play, here is an earlier 960 effort by Jason Morris. This will give you an idea of what Ken was up against.

But as mentioned in previous columns, 960 chess can almost force 'blindness' because your mind will picture pieces in their regular start places, instead of where they really are. This phenomenon bites Jason here, but he plays solid positional chess to turn the tables on his opponent with a material advantage.

1. c4       Ng6
2. Nb3      c6
3. e3?        Bxh2
4. d5         e6
5. Bd3       d5
6. Bd2        Qe7
7. O-O-O     O-O
8. f4       f5
9. g4       Bxg1
10. Qxg1     ......
Position after 10. Qxg1
Lets review here. White may have allowed the rook and pawn for the bishop exchange in order to "handicap" the game - since Jason is at least 500 rating points better than his opponent. Or - he fell for the 960 blindness that made his mind assume a rook was on h1.
Either way, White has improved his lot in life positionally and is less than a pawn down at this juncture - says Igor3000 - the chess computer.

10. .......         a6
11.  gf?         ef
12.  cd?         Qd6?
Black is seeing ghosts while facing this stronger opponent -fearing both a possible skewer he could maybe fall into along the c4-g8 diagonal if he played the correct Qxd5 or that cxd5 will open up the c-file for White (-3). Neither concern is real and Black's advantage stays minimal instead of growing in light of White's less than optimal last few moves (-.8).

13. Ng3      Ne7
14. e4       cd
15. e5       Qg6
16. Qf2     Nc6?!
Getting the other knight into the game with Nb6 was a better option (-.6).

17. Rg1       Qe6
18. Na5       Na7?
19. Kb1      b6
20. Bb4       Rfe8?

Position after Black's 20. .........Rfe8
Now Black is actually losing in spite of his material advantage. Just a simple check of real estate shows White has every piece in active squares and Black has only his queen in a good spot.
The best move for Black was actually to trading one of his sleeping rooks for two of White's well posted minor pieces with 20. ....bxa5  21. Bxf1, Rxf1 with a nice advantage for Black (-2).
Instead, Jason uses his positional advantage now!

21. Nb7!!      Bxb7? (Nc6)
22. Nxf5       Rd7
23. Qh2!       g6
24. Nh6+      Kg7
25. Bxg6       Kh8
26. Bxe8       Qxe8
27. Qh4        Rd6
28. e6          Rxe6
29. Qd8       Rg6
30. Qxe8+        Rg8
31. Qxg8 mate

Beautiful chess games come out of 960 games too! Great ending Jason!

And again, congratulations to Ken Tack on his fine tournament win!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Final 960 Round Monday - Casual Chess on 080116

A small, well organized chess library is important to a chess player.
We had ten players for casual chess night! In addition to some fun chess played, Jason went over some grandmaster games giving insight into how the top players think and evaluate positions.

Great stuff! This is why LCCC is the place to be to not only play chess, but to get better at it.

The final round of the 2016 LCCC 960 tournament will happen this Monday. But if you want to play chess, there will be several players milling about who are not playing in the tournament. So stop on by. Or come in and watch some great chess played from some really weird starting positions.

Here is the line up for the last round of the 960 tournament (white listed first):

Board 1:  Ken T - Jason M
Board 2:  Vince V - Gene M
Board 3:  Mike N - Paul M    (game drawn by agreement)
Board 4:  Don J - Sam T
Board 5:  Luigi M - Americo M
Board 6:  Luca M - Marcello M
Board 7:  Roy M - Larry W

Here is an on-line game for your enjoyment:

1. e4      e6
2. f4      d5
3. e5      c5
4. Nf3      Ne7
5. b3      Nbc6
6. Bb2      Nf5
7. Bb5      Bd7
8. Qe2      Nb4
Black plays for a silly fork instead of developing and getting ready to castle with Be7. Now the slight advantage Black had (-.6) due to his well posted knights is gone. (-.1)

9. Bxd7+   Qxd7
10. d3       Be7
11. c3       Nc6
12. Nbd2?    h6
For White, the ugly looking 12. Na3 would have given White help on his weak d4 square. (-.6)

13. g4      Nh4
14. O-O-O      Nxf3
15. Qxf3       Qc7
16. Kb1      b5
17. h4       a5
18. c4      bxc4
19. dxc4      d4

Black finally gets around to taking the d4 square and gains space. Too bad he traded off his active pieces first. (-.3)

20. g5?       Kd7?
Both players miss the best move for both ......a4!
For White this move better secures White's king, and for Black - it opens up the a-file to the White king. The same square for different objectives.

Black instead plays a move to connect his rooks so they can go to either side of the board quickly. With the center blocked, his king is fine there. Now White will try to open the center. The game is even.

21. Ne4      Qb6?!
This move allows 22. Nf3! as the knight cannot be taken due to the skewered Black king, and White has no defensive worries at that point (+.2).

22. Ba3?     .........
White does not use the tactic available to him and instead makes a poor attempt to keep Black's knight from b4. Black finally seizes his opportunity.

22. ........        a4!
23.  Bc1       axb3
Black plays the 5th best move here (-1.3) with the superior 23. .....Na5 available (-1.7). But either way Black has all the play now. White blunders under the new pressure on his king that he failed to  see, but even the better 24. axb4 would not have saved the game. This blunder was really costly (-7).

24. Qxb3??       Qa6
25. Kc2        Rhb8
26. Qa3        Qxc4+