Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Giant Slaying (part 3): "Schine" On You Crazy Diamond

My next big giant slaying came about at the now defunct Chess Emporium in Denver, CO. A chess club just off the 16th St. Mall in LoDo, the Emporium was not far from the outdoor chess tables where I was first infected with the infamous "chess bug".
As many chess clubs do the Emporium had a four or five round monthly tournament that would feature one round each week (four or five rounds depending on the month). This particular tournament was played at the time control of G/90 (translated as game ninety, meaning that each player has 90 minutes to make all his or her moves). My fourth and last round game was against Randolph (Randy) Schine, a much stronger player who was rated about 500 points more than me! Randy was a perfect 3-0 thus far in the tournament (I was a dismal 1-2) and was looking for a clean sweep and a unblemished finish that night, but it was never to be...

White: Randolph Schine (1620)
Black: D. Thomas Moniz (1130)
The Chess Emporium, Denver, CO (4)
Time Controls: G/90

Opening: D37 Queens Gambit Declined 5.Bf4

(click all diagrams and photos to enlarge)
1.d4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.Nc3 Be7

The Alatortsev Variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD) I believe. Named after Vladimir Alatortsev, "a Russian chess grandmaster, organizer, teacher, author, and administrator. During his career, he became champion of both Leningrad and Moscow, and played in the Soviet Chess Championship finals nine times, with his best competitive results in the 1930s. He placed clear second in the 1933 Soviet final. He retired from most competitive play in the early 1950s, moving into roles as a chess organizer, teacher, and coach" -Wikipedia.

The move 3...Be7 is a way to avoid the QGD Exchange Variation and usually moves towards either an exchange with Bf4 or a regular QGD. I began playing this variation after reading an Edmar Mednis article on it in Chess Life some time ago.

4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Qc2  Certainly not the most common continuation in the line but quite playable. Kramnik is fond of this continuation and the move has been essayed by the likes of Kasparov, Aronian and Ivanchuk to name a few. Other more common continuations are: 5.Bg5; 5.Bf4; 5.e3; 5.cxd5 and 5.g3.

5...0-0 6.e4!?

Naked aggression! A rare continuation in the line and not seen at the top levels of play. I did however find one top player who essayed it years ago; the late, great David Bronstein who played it in 1990 against the computer "Comp Chesscard" in Rotterdam. Bronstein won that game, so at least Mr. Schine is in good company. More common moves include 6.Bg5 and 6.cxd5.

6...dxe4 7.Nxe4 Nbd7 A somewhat passive but solid approach. I already was in unfamiliar waters and wanted to proceed with caution against such a strong player. Instead, either 7...Nxe4 or 7...Nc6 gives Black a slight edge.

8.Bd3 Nxe4 9.Bxe4

Black to move here and there are a few good ways to continue. I came up with a most interesting continuation which turned out to be -and still is!, a novelty in the position. Can you guess what moved I played?

Here is a picture of the chess tables on the 16th St. Mall in LoDo, Denver to hide the answer while you think. When I started playing there in 1996 there were only two tables but now I hear there are four! I had many great battles here and many fond memories of those times. The bunny is a nice touch.

After some deliberation I uncorked the move 9...f5!N A theoretical novelty according to the Chessbase Online Database and an interesting Stockfish-approved one at that. Black forces the bishop back and blocks this thematic diagonal that White often uses as a line of attack.  Somewhat anti-positional but I remember it just felt right at the time. The norm in the position is instead 9...Nf6 but also possible is 9...Bb4+ or the hum-drum 9...h6.

10.Bd3 b6 11.h4!?

And off come the gloves! With this move Schine throws caution to the wind and announces that he's ready for a fight. For those less inclined the move 11.0-0 should be considered.

11...Bb7 12.Qe2?!

A natural enough looking move. White attacks the weakness on e6 while also protecting the knight on f3 however this move is somewhat frowned upon by Stockfish who sees tactical problems with it and instead prefers 12.Be3 and assesses that after the sequence: 12...Bxf3 13.gxf3 and an eventual queenside castle, the position is dynamically level and ripe with possibilities for both sides.

Black to play here for advantage. Can you guess what's the best move in the position?

Another picture to hide the answer while you think. It's Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett and the lyrics to "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" off the critically acclaimed, and one of my favorite albums, 'Wish You Were Here".

Here is a link if you would like to listen to a digital remaster of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" (parts 1-9) by the Floyd

I played the second best 12...Bb4+ which although kept an advantage for me, did not optimize my chances in the position. Instead, 12...e5! was to be considered with the serious threat of ...e4. White has to watch his step already as the center is highly fluid and his king still sits uncastled. Here are some possible continuations:
A) 13.Ng5 (best) Bb4+ 14.Kf1! (14.Bd2? Bxd2+ 15.Qxd2 exd4 with a near winning advantage) 14...Qe8 and White is in the drivers seat. The other serious consideration is
B) 13.dxe5 and now ...Bxf3 14.gxf3! (14.Qxf3? Nxe5 winning a piece) 14...Nxe5! and here either
  B1) 15.Qxe5 Qxd3 16.Qe2 (16.Qxc7?? Bb4+ 17.Bd2 Rae8+ and White is getting mated) 16...Rad8 with a healthy advantage for Black. Or
  B2) 15.Bc2 but after ...Qd4 Black is much better.

13.Bd2 Bxd2+ 14.Kxd2 Qf6

With better piece activity, a safer king and threats in the air, Black already has the better game.

15.Rae1 Rae8 Also good was 15...Bxf3 16.gxf3 (16.Qxf3 Qxd4) ...Rae8 which may transpose still.

So it's White to move and the choices are less than inspiring. What would you play here?

And yet another picture to hide the answer while you think.

This beautiful steel chess table and pieces was handmade by local Denver chess player and welder, J.C. MacNeil. The set is one of a kind and I believe still for sale! You can check out an interview with J.C. along with various videos of this set and its construction here

White attacked the weak e6-pawn with 16.Ng5? but this was a mistake.

At first glance it seems like a pretty strong move as the pawn is now attacked three times and can only be defended twice, however there is a very simple solution to the problem which will no doubt come as no surprise to many of you. Can you guess what I played here?

This cool little diagram shows in candy colors how many moves it takes a knight to reach the surrounding squares. It's quite a handy little guide to memorize in aiding your over-the-board calculations.

In the game I played the very simple 16...e5 just moving the attacked pawn out of danger. However Stockfish finds the better but more complex solution in 16...Qxd4! Let's look at some lines to support this claim:

A) 17.Nxe6? is a move that looks good on the surface as the knight forks the queen and rook but this is at once refuted by ...Qxb2+ 18.Kd1 Qa1+ 19.Kd2 Qxa2+ 20.Kd1 Qa1+! an important point as Black needs a tempo on the king with a check from the a6-square as he doesn't want White to intervene with his queen. 21.Kd2 Qa5+ 22. Kc2 (if 22.Kd1 then ...Nc5 wins the knight on e6 because of the pin) 22...Qa4+ (Here an immediate ...Nc5 gives White a little play after 23.Ra1 Nxe6! 24.Rxa5 Nd4+ 25.Kd2 Rxe2+ 26.Bxe2 bxa5 but Black is still winning) 23.Kb1 Nc5 winning the knight on e6.

B) 17.Kc1 is White's best defense but after ...Nc5 18.Bc2 Bxg2 19.Rhg1 Bc6 Black is up two healthy pawns and not much to worry about.

17.Qh5? A hollow threat but White may also be just trying to get the queen out of x-ray attack of Black's rook on e8. Regardless, the move is bad if not losing. A better try was instead 17.Kc1 however after ...e4 (but not ...hxg5?? as after 18.hxg5 Qd6 19.g6 it's curtains for Black) 18.Be2 f4 the duo-pawn roller is a lethal hunk of shrapnel in White's torso.

17...h6 18.Nf3? If White's previous move wasn't losing this one sure is. The knight needn't of moved as capturing loses on the spot (see below), and now on f3 it is subject to a real threat in ...e5-e4 forking both pieces. So what instead? Stockfish suggests 18.Kc1 as White's best try but it's probably still losing after ...e4 (as mentioned above, not 18...hxg5?? 19.hxg5 and Black is either losing the queen or being checkmated.) 19.Be2 f4 where White's attack has stalled and the black pawns on e4 and f4 are a lethal duo.

18...e4 19.Rh3?! Not objectively the best but a good practical try in my opinion. White reasons that since he is losing material he must attack as the alternative is a slow painful death. Note that Black cannot immediately take either knight or bishop on his next move as this would expose an attack on his rook at e1. Shine may have been aware of this.

after 19.Rh3

19...Qd6 Eying both the b4 and f4 squares but probably more accurate was 19...Rd8 getting out of the pin but back has quite a bit of latitude in the position to make these small inaccuracies.

20.Rg3 Qf4+ Again a small inaccuracy as ...Qb4+ was a stronger infiltration. My thinking at the time was that I wasn't 100% on the strength of my attack and wanted to keep the queen in position to possibly defend the pawn on h6 should things get a bit hairy in that area later on. Also good was 20...Nf6 according to Stockfish and gives 21.Qg6 Re7 22.d5 exd3 23.Kxd3 f4 -+ as a possible continuation.

21.Kc3 Nf6 22.Qg6 Ng4 23.c5? Understandably White would like to extricate himself from his predicament by delivering a check on c4 with his bishop thus giving himself time to move the knight out of danger but this is easily thwarted. Still a good practical try as I might of missed this point and besides his alternatives were not very inspiring.

after 23.c5

So it's Black to play here. What would you do?

This is Coors Field in Denver, home of the Major League Baseball team the Colorado Rockies. The beautiful park is located just a few blocks from the 16th St. Mall and the chess tables in LoDo. When I lived in Denver I went to many great ball games here including the very first inaugural game there on April 26th, 1995 where the Rockies defeated the New York Mets 11-9 in 14 innings.

So I played the simple 23...Bd5 stopping the aforementioned threat but there was better in the outrageous 23...exd3! allowing White to snag the rook with 24.Rxe8. However Black has a stinger with ...Qc1+ and White is getting crushed in all lines. Here is one possibility: 25.Kb3 (note that 25.Kxd3 runs into the very annoying ...Ba6#) ...Qc2+ 26.Ka3 b5 27.Qe6+ (on 27.b3 there follows ...a5 28.Re1 d2 29.Nxd2 Qxd2, etc.) 27...Kh7 28.Qb3 Rxe8, etc.

24.Bc4 Trying to mix it up with 24.Rxg4 falls short after ...Qxg4 25.Qxg4 fxg4 26.Bb5 gxf3! (better than trying to save the exchange with 26...Re7 as after 27.Ne5 Rxf2 28.Nxg4 Rxg2 29.Ne3 White has more leeway in counterplay. Black still should be winning after 29...Rg3 though) 27.Bxe8 fxg2, etc.

after 24.Bc4

So it's Black to move here and there are exactly three moves that maintains his advantage; one best try and two mediocre -but still winning tries and everything else loses.

So what would you play in this position?

How to Play Chess Like an Animal is an introductory level chess book co authored by my longtime friend, Life Master Brian Wall of Colorado. I've played dozens of casual blitz games with Brian and shared many fun times with him and some of the local chess players in Denver back during my brief stay there. 

Here is an excerpt from the books website: "How to Play Chess Like an Animal is a fun and imaginative way to get kids interested and playing chess in no time! The brightly colored illustrations, done by ex-Hanna-Barbera artist, Linn Trochim, and the easy-to-read stories by chess pros Anthea Carson and Life Master Brian Wall turns a chess lesson into an delightful fairy tale..."

Here is a link to that website 

So in the game I played the colossal blunder, 24...Rd8?? which although protects the bishop on d5 and gets off the dangerous e8-square, it suffers one critical tactical flaw which you will shortly see -if not already! Instead the best continuation would of been the straightforward and simple 24...Bxc4. The other two moves are: 24...Bf7 and 24...c6, less accurate but still winning.

25.Bxd5+ Rxd5 26.Qe6+ The move I missed in my calculations. After Shine played this and the sobering realization of my error sank in I was quite deflated. This dejection however was short lived and in a few moves I find my resolve again and get right back up on the horse.

Here is the position with Black to move. Can you spot my problem?

More chess on the 16th St. Mall. Five minute "blitz" is my guess due to the time on the clock and the position on the board. A few spectators can be seen watching the action but I've seen times during the lunch hour on weekdays and at various times on the weekends where the spectators were three or four deep circling the entire table. Let me tell you it is quite a thrill to be playing blitz with that many eyes glued to your game.
So if you deduced that I'm losing my rook on d5 after I deal with the check then you must also certainly feel my pain at the time. I thought my 24th move was clever but it was just a classic case of trying to be too cute. K.I.S.S. is the lesson that I learned that day; Keep It Simple Stupid!

26...Kh8 More accurate was 26...Kh7 but my calculations were somewhat impeded by a bitter pill I was trying to swallow at the time... 

27.Qxd5 Nxf2 Not the best move objectively but probably the best practical chance in the position.

28.Qe5 (best) ...Qxe5 29.Nxe5 Re8

Here many players would resign in this position, a piece down and soon to lose more material, but I have always been a fighter when it comes to meeting adversity in life and this resolve can already be seen translating into my early chess experiences. One of my favorite quotes from the movie Cyrano de Bergerac goes:  "..a man does not fight to win.. better it is when the fight is in vain!" There is a certain nobility and resolve in fighting on when all hope is lost.

The sole purpose of the move 29...Re8 is a far away dream; to perhaps one day support my only hope in the position, my passed e-pawn.

30.Rf1 f4 31.Ng6+ Kh7 32.Nxf4 e3 Here White has many ways to win but he manages to find one that loses! Now we both were getting short on time (White: c. 12 min. - Black: c. 5 min.) so that may of played a factor in his oversight.

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

after 32...e3

"King and Queen" is the name of these steel alloy sculptures/visual works. It is a "found object" piece(s) and was designed  for the Regional Transportation District (RTD) of Denver by artist Brian Swanson, originally from Rockford IL but now residing in Southern Utah. The RTD selection committee indicated a desire for seating for the lunch crowds. Further criteria were functionality, visibility, and durability. It was suggested that the artwork might emulate the popular chess table (there was only one table at the time) at 16th and Curtis. The artist selected materials that were transparent, hoping a later budget could be secured to light the pieces from within. However this never came to be as the sculptures, originally set up at the 16th and Stout street rail stop, were moved shortly thereafter to a more neutral location at the Market Street Station on 17th and Market. At this time the pieces were re-coated to a color not of the artists choosing (and liking from what I gather).

So here White played the shocking blunder, 33.Rxf2?? throwing away the win in glorious fashion! With all the simple ways to proceed (33.Rf3 and 33.Ne2 for example) White chooses, what he must of thought was, a 'flashy' way to end the game. An incredible stroke of luck for me! Of course I still needed to find the refutation and with under five minutes on my clock I had to kick my calculations into hyper drive.

33...exf2 34.Rf3 Played with bored confidence. "I'll round up the pawn on the next move and my extra piece will tell... and why isn't Black resigning?"  might of been what Schine was mulling over in his mind at the time... right before an earth shaking thunder clap woke him from his reverie.

Black to play. What would you do?

Lightning strike at Red Rocks Amphitheater. The amphitheater is a rock structure near Morrison, Colorado, 10 miles west of Denver, where concerts are given in the open-air amphitheater. There is a large, tilted, disc-shaped rock behind the stage, a huge vertical rock angled outwards from stage right, several large outcrops angled outwards from stage left and a seating area for up to 9,450 people in between. The amphitheater is owned and operated by the City and County of Denver, Colorado and is located in Red Rocks Park, part of the Denver Mountain Parks system.
More pics of the amphitheater and surrounding area:
View of the Denver skyline from Red Rocks

Dusk at Red Rocks with Denver city lights on horizon
Concert under the stars

So here I played 34...Re3+!! (only move) and Schine nearly fell out of his chair. Now Black is much better but converting this advantage is not so easy with under three minutes on the clock! White went into the tank now for what seemed like an eternity.

35.Rxe3 f1=Q 36.Rf3?

A logical looking move but objectively not so good. Now Black is definitely winning. The best try was 36.Nf3 where although Black still maintains a near winning game the conversion is problematic considering the time factor. Here play might continue with; 36...bxc5 37.dxc5 Qf6+ 38.Kd2 Qxh4 39.g3 and White is putting up good resistance. 

Schine actually offered me a draw here which I almost accepted being so short on time (under three minutes!). However after a short think I decided to play on and go for the glory.

36...Qe1+ (36...Qc1+ is more accurate) 37.Kc4 Qxh4 38.cxb6 cxb6 Taking back with the a-pawn was better (38...axb6) as now with the text White has a passer (d-pawn).

after 38...cxb6

Here I had under two minutes on my clock while Shine had just under five and the next twenty moves were blitzed out...

39.d5 Qg5  40.d6 Qc5+  41.Kb3 Qxd6  42.a3 a5  43.Rd3 Qxf4 

44.a4 Qf1  45.Rd6 Qxg2  46.Rxb6 h5  47.Rb5 Qf3+  48.Ka2 Qf7+  

49.b3 h4  50.Rxa5 h3  51.Rc5 h2  52.Rc1 Qf2+  53.Ka3 Qg2  

54.a5 h1=Q  55.Rxh1+ Qxh1  56.Ka4 Qc6+  57.Ka3 g5  58.b4 Qb5 And here White resigned. 

final position

Another monumental achievement for me back then and one that I believe helped solidify my fighting spirit in losing positions til this day.

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