Friday, July 9, 2010

Giant Slaying (part 2): "Strand" and Deliver

My fourth major tournament in chess was the Elk Club Tournament in Denver Colorado. I had been playing chess seriously for a little over a year now and my absorption in the game was in full swing. Very little else interested me at this time and I was quite happy to be infected with this new viral addiction. This particular event was a small four round, two day tournament with three sections: The Open (any rating), The Premier (1800 or less) and the Reserve (1400 or less). Although my rating was only in the low 1100's I decided to play up in the Premier section for the experience of better players while still maintaining a shot at first prize.

The first day of the tournament was a disaster. I lost both games! and with it almost no chance at the top prizes or any prize for that matter! I was a little down but not out and on the second day I was out for blood and determined to have a better showing. My first opponent that day was a B-class player who held a rating over 500 points above me! Like I said, I was out for blood...

White: D. Thomas Moniz (1187)
Black: Gene Strandberg (1717)

Elk Club Tournament
Denver, CO
Time Controls: 2 hours/40 moves; 1 hour SD

Opening: D10 Slav Defense

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5!? A rare continuation in this line and for good reason. Modern theory suggests that Black gets a nice game after 4...dxc4. More common here is both 4.Nf3 and 4.e3. Black is already equal if not slightly better. 

4...Nbd7= Strandberg opts too for a quiet continuation rarely seen. Black equalizes easily with 4...dxc4 but perhaps he was already feeling somewhat confident in outclassing me by over 500 points. Now things are level once again. 

5.Nf3 h6 Again Strandberg deviates from the norm. 5...e6 brings us back to well trodden waters in this line while 5...dxc4 seems to give Black a comfortable game. 

6.Bh4 g5!?

Now it's clear that Black is playing for the win. The obvious downside is that he is loosening up the kingside should he opt to castle there. Strandberg was probably feeling that he could just muscle this lower rated player into submission. He soon finds out this will not be so easy. 

7.Bg3 Bg7 8.e3 dxc4 Usually Black waits for White to develop the Bishop before he captures here to make White spend an extra tempo on the recapture but Strandberg seemed to be in a generous if not reckless mood that day. i.e. 8...O-O 9.Bd3 cxd4 10.Bxd4, etc. 

9.Bxc4 b5 10.Bb3 I wanted to put pressure on the f7 square but Black can easily parry this with ...e6 where White will usually jump to c2 so perhaps 10.Bd3 is more accurate. From the d3 square White also attacks all the weak light squares on Black's kingside. 


Trying to shore up his hold on the center. The Knight can now come to c4 or d5 if needed but the timing on this maneuver is bad as White can now win a pawn with 11.Ne5 i.e. 11...O-O 12.Nxc6; or 11...Nc4 12.Nxc4 bxc4 13.Bxc4, etc. 

11.Rc1 Putting indirect pressure on the backward c6 pawn. As mentioned above White has better in 11.Ne5 but the text is strong as well. 


Strandberg's aggressiveness and total disregard for development and King safety will now come at a price. 11...O-O is probably best.
So it's White to move. What would you play here?

Here's a picture of one of my favorite beaches (Sandy Beach) in Hawaii to hide the answer while you think. "Sandy's" as it is usually called is about a ten minute drive from where I grew up. That's Koko Head Crater in the background by the way. A dormant cinder cone of the last active volcano on Oahu about 10,000 years ago! You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

Sandy Beach

Here I played the lackluster but still decent 12.Ne5 but if you found 12.Nxb5! you're on your way to becoming a Grandmaster. Let's look at some variations. If Black plays either 12...O-O (best), 12...Nbd5 or 12...Nfd5 White plays 13.Rxc6 with a big advantage. If Black takes the Knight with 12...cxb5? then 13.Bc7 follows and play may continue with 13...Qd7 14.Ne5! Qf5 15.Bxb6 (On 15.Bxf7+ Kf8 16.Bg6! (less accurate is 16.Rc5 Qe4) Qe6 17.Rc6 Qd5 18.e4! Nxe4 19.Rxb6 with a big advantage)

12...Nc4? going from bad to worse. His threat of course if ...Nxb2 attacking the Queen but this is just a phantom as White has a few ways to deal with it. I in consistent fashion choose second best again with

13.Nxc4 Missing the tactical 13.Nxc6 Qb6 14.Nxb5!! Qxb5 (14...Qxc6 15.Nc7+, etc.) 15.Rxc4 with a big advantage. 

13...bxc4 14.Bxc4 Qb6 15.Qc2 Ba6 16.Be2 I thought I needed to play this in order to castle because after 16.Bxa6 Qxa6 the Black Queen eyes the f1-square. However White can castle immediately if he wants to! i.e. 16.O-O! Bxc4 17.Na4 Qb7 18.Qxc4, etc. 

16...O-O 17.O-O Rac8 18.Na4 Qa7 19.Nc5 White is up a pawn with the superior position.

19...Bb5! 20.Rfe1 Rfd8 21.Be5 Nd5?! Perhaps heading to b4 for a hollow threat against my Queen or maybe just a centralizing move. Better was 21...Nd7 to challenge my Knight. 

22.Bxg7 Removing the only piece protecting the Black King at the moment. Interesting was 22.Bg4! Ra8 23.Be6!! Nf6 (23...fxe6?? 24.Qg6, etc.) 24.a4 Ba6 25.Nxa6 Qxa6 26.Bxf6 exf6 (26...Bxf6? 27.Qg6+!) 27.Bf5 and it's just a technical win from here. 

22...Kxg7 23.a3 Nc7?

A seemingly innocuous move other than the fact that the Black King is virtually unprotected save a few pawns at the moment. Better for Black is 23...Bxe2 24.Rxe2 Nf6 but things still are not well for him. 
So what would you play here as White?

Here's another picture to hide the answer: (click on it to enlarge)

It's an aerial view of Hawaii Kai and Kokohead Crater on the island of Oahu. The white arrow is Sandy Beach and the yellow arrow is where I grew up. Pretty cool huh?! That big bay area to the left of Sandy's is Hanauma Bay, an awesome place for snorkeling as a protective reef keeps out the really big sea creatures. There is no fishing or poaching allowed so ocean life withing the bay are very tame -some will eat right from your hand!

OK if you found 24.Bh5! give yourself full credit. The Bishop here will play a powerful roll in the attack against the Black King. At the time I hadn't yet calculated much of anything other than the play against the f7 square and that this Bishop was worth keeping because most of my pawns were on dark squares. 

24...a4 It's hard to find useful moves for Black already. He wants to keep me from playing a4 but no doubt doesn't see the danger lurking ahead on the kingside (I hadn't yet even seen the full potential of the position!) or he would of played something like 24...Rf8 and meet 25.Qf5 with ...e6 where it's not so clear how to proceed... maybe 26.Qe5+ but then comes ...f6 so it's not clear. 

25.Qe4 Attacking the e-pawn and moving my Queen closer to the prize but I still hadn't come up with anything concrete. My instincts told me that there had to be something here as all of Black's forces are on the other wing with no quick way back. In the post game analysis some master pointed out 25.Qf5! which I rejected during the game because after ...Rf8 I thought Black was holding but then the master points out 25...Rf8 26.Bxf7! Rxf7 27.Qxc8. I guess when you're 1200 rated you don't see stuff like that... 


Protecting the e-pawn with aspirations of landing on f6 attacking both my Queen and Bishop. Black can also hope to play ...e6 and then ...Qe2 at some point to bring in some help for his King under siege. The silicon beast Firebird finds 25...Ne8 as preferable for some reason. 

So it's White to move. What would you play?

Spain's football (soccer) logo for their national team in both home and away jersey colors with the brand new gold star for their fine win of this years World Cup over Holland (the Netherlands) in the finals. It was the first time Spain has ever gotten to the finals in a World Cup!

OK full credit for 26.Ne6+! I was very proud to of found this move. I calculated getting at least three pawns for the piece and a strong attack. I couldn't calculate a mate but decided to go for it anyway as the attack looked strong enough. Firebird finds the even stronger 26.Bxf7! and gives 26...Rd6 (26...Kxf7? 27.Qh7+ Kf8 28.Qxh6+, etc.) 27.Qe5+ Kxf7 (27...Nf6 28.Qf5 Kxf7 29.Qxc8, etc) and (27...Rf6 28.Bxd5! Re8 (28...cxd5 29.Ne6+) 29.Ne6+ Kh8 30.Bxc6, etc.) 28.Qf5+ Rf6 29.Qxc8 Yes maybe stronger but I like my move better. Black finds the best move now with 

26...Kg8! On 26...fxe6? comes 27.Qg6+ Kh8 28.Qxh6+ Kg8 29.Qxg5+ Kh8 30.Qh6+ Kg8 31.Qg5+ Kh8 32.Bf7 Bd3 with a forced mate in 5 according to Firebird.
Here's the position in the above variation after 32.Bd3.

*position in the above variation after 32.Bd3

White to play with a mate in 5. Try and find it.

More World Cup action from yesterdays finals to hide the answer.

In the 28th minute of the game, running to the ball Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso is stopped in his tracks by a high kung-fu kick to the chest from Holland midfielder Nigel de Jong. Yes they have studs on those shoes! The blow not only stopped the Spaniard's forward progress but put him straight down to the pitch writhing in agony. de Jong was given a yellow card for the blow but should of been given the red right there.

OK here's the solution: 33.e4! Nf6 (
33...Bxe4 is mate in 3; and 33...Kh7 is mate in 2) 34.Qh6+ Nh7 35.Bg6 Kg8 36.Qxh7+ Kf8 37.Qf7#

Now back to the actual game:

27.Nxd8 Rxd8 28.Qf3 Rf8

Now it looks like Black is consolidating his position and I remember thinking I had to keep up the attack and get at his King so here I played 29.h4! prying open the kingside further. 

29...f5 30.hxg5 hxg5 31.Rc5! Threatening Rxd5! cxd5 Qxd5+ winning the Bishop. This was not an easy decision for me as I had to calculate what to do on 31...g4 but in the end saw that I would be OK after 32.Qg3. Firebird finds 32.Bxg4! fxg4 33.Qxg4+ Kf7 34.Qh5+ Ke6 35.Rxb5! cxb5 36.Qe5+ Kf7 37.Qxd5+, etc. but of course this is almost impossible to find OTB when you're a 1200 rated player!

31...e6?! Giving extra support to his Knight and f-pawn and opening up a lane for his Queen to come over to the kingside but this only makes matters worse for him. Better was 31...Qa5 32.Rec1 e6.

32.e4! forcing the Knight off this post and opening up lanes for my Rooks. I'm also opening up the Black kingside further. 

32...fxe4 33.Qxe4 Nf4? But what else? 33...Rf6 runs into 34.Bg4 Qf7 35.Bxe6 Rxe6 36.Qxe6 Qxe6 37.Rxe6 and Black will not be able to hold the position. 

34.Rxg5+ And here Black resigned in lieu of 34...Kh8 35.Qe5+ Kh7 36.Re4, etc.
final position

This by far was my biggest victory in chess up to this point and needless to say I was pretty elated with the win!

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