Sunday, July 30, 2017

Game Analysis: The Charlottesville Open

This is part two of the game analysis from the tournaments I played in during my 10-day road trip. Last week, I published the four games from The New Hampshire Open that took place July 8th and 9th. This time, we are going to look at the five games from The Charlottesville Open, which took place the following weekend, July 15th and 16th.

There were a few major differences between The New Hampshire Open and The Charlottesville Open. First off, the attendance at the Charlottesville Open was roughly half that of The New Hampshire Open (53 versus 104) and had two sections, Open and Under 1700, versus six sections in New Hampshire where the next section below the open section was Under 2000. Another major difference was the time control. While The New Hampshire Open saw a time control of 40 moves in 100 minutes followed by the rest of the game in 60 minutes with a five second delay per move, The Charlottesville Open saw a more rapid time control of game in 90 minutes with a five second delay. So with a larger disparity in rating between players combined with the significantly shorter time control, the games you will see below will feature more errors than that of The New Hampshire Open. While there were mistakes made in the games in New Hampshire - see White's play in Game 1 or Black's play in Games 3 and 4 - there was never really big swings in position assessment, and that article became a good source of seeing how to win the won game, and all games were decisive.

Here, on the other hand, you will see errors that completely change the assessment of the position. Probably the most significant one is in the final round, seeing Black play a very strong game including a pawn sacrifice just to botch the won endgame, and the clock did play a factor in that game. To go along with four draws, of which I'd say the two games that I had White were legitimate, but wins were missed in the other games. That said, the one decisive game, Round 3, was by far the best game I played in the entire road trip, and is also visually appealing, and that says a lot after seeing a strong positional performance by Black in the second round of New Hampshire and two very strong attacks by White in rounds three and four, the former of which was also executed by me while I was the victim in the case of the latter.

So without further ado, let's start with the first round of The Charlottesville Open.

Round 1
W: Sudars Sriniayer (1824)
B: Patrick McCartney (2054)
King's Indian Defense, Fianchetto Variation

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.g3 d6 5.Bg2 O-O 6.O-O c6 7.d4 Qa5

So through transposition from the English Opening, we now have what is known as the Kavalek Variation of the Fianchetto King's Indian. Black's idea is simple. He wants to move the Queen to h5 and then play ...Bh3 and trade light-squared bishops. White has two ways to avoid it and pretty much any other move poses no challenge to Blaack. One of the two is the move played below. The other is to play 8.h3, with the idea that if Black plays 8...Qh5, then 9.g4 and Black is nowhere near ready to sacrifice a piece. With the move played in the game, White goes for complete control of the center as his way of countering any ...Bh3 ideas.

8.e4 Bg4

Black's idea is very crude. He is out to dominate the dark squares, and particularly d4. Black figures to give up the one piece that can't control d4 directly, and take one of the White Knights off the board, giving Black a one-piece advantage when it comes to controlling the dark squares. After trading on f3, the idea is to play ...e5, which does multiple things for Black. From the attacking perspective, it takes over control of the d4-square. From the defensive perspective, it will keep the e-pawn locked on e4, blocking the Bishop from dominating the entire long diagonal (h1-a8).


This move is quite unusual. More common is 9.h3, forcing Black to make a decision of what to do with the Bishop. As mentioned prior, Black would take and play ...e5.

9...Bxf3 10.Bxf3 Qc7 11.Be3 e5 12.d5 Na6 13.Rac1 Nd7 14.Qa3 c5 15.Nb5

Now Black has a critical decision to make. He can keep the Queen active at the cost of a pawn, or he can place the Queen very passively on b8. After 15...Qb8 16.Bg5, White's advantage would be significant, and so Black goes for the pawn sacrifice.

15...Qb6 16.Bd2

With the major threat of trapping the Queen. 16...Nc7 drops a piece and 16...Nb8 gives the Rook no escape after 17.Ba5 and 18.Nc7, and so Black's next move is totally forced.

16...Nb4 17.Bxb4 cxb4 18.Qxb4

This works and doesn't fail to a pin because the d6-pawn is loose.

18...Nc5 19.Qd2 a6 20.Nc3 f5 21.Bg2 Rf6 22.Kh1 f4 23.Qe2 Raf8 24.Bf3 g5 25.g4 R8f7 26.Kg2 h5 27.h3 h4 28.Qc2 Kh7 29.Rb1 Qb4 30.Qe2 Bf8 31.Rfc1 Be7 32.b3 Bd8 33.Rc2

We now have a critical position. With the correct move by Black, the position remains for the most part balanced with White maybe having a miniscule advantage, but not enough to win the game with correct play by Black. Do you see the correct move?


This move should cost Black the game. The only move is 33...Ba5, but that move is enough to balance the position. White, however, fails to see the idea, which I actually saw but failed to realize that 33...Ba5 actually stops it. Time was not severe at this point, but it was getting low, and rushing analysis leads to mistakes and missed opportunities.

34.Rcc1 1/2-1/2

White offered the draw while returning the Rook to where it came from. However, White was winning and this idea was a total mistake by White and it cost him half the point. After 34.a3!! Qxa3 35.b4!, Black's Queen gets trapped. Therefore, Black would be forced to retreat, and White can just continue to expand and roll the pawns on the Queenside where he has the majority. Had Black played 33...Ba5, this idea wouldn't work as 34.a3 Qxa3! 35.b4 would simply be answered by 35...Bxb4.

In round 2, we see the first of two games that were legitimately drawn, and admittedly, neither of the games that I had White in this tournament featured much in the means of fireworks. Some ideas can be learned from them, but they won't be quite as exciting as the three games where I had Black, especially rounds 3 and 5.

Round 2
W: Patrick McCartney (2054)
B: Nathan Lohr (1966)
Modern Defense

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.c4 d6 4.Nc3 Nc6

20 years ago, this move was extremely popular amongst those that played the Averbakh (or Modern Defense with c4, or the "d4-Modern"). However, shortly after the turn of the century, it was determined that this line is very dubious for Black because of 5.d5!. That said, White's follow-up must be very exact and precise if he wants to take advantage of Black's theoretical error, and because I hadn't played this line as White or Black in over 15 years, I wasn't prepared to play that line, and played the other main line. These days, in order to avoid the issues with 4...Nc6 5.d5 Nd4, those that don't want to transpose to the King's Indian Defense will typically play 4...e5, the idea being to answer 5.Be3 with 5...Nc6 transposing to the line played in the game.

5.Be3 e5 6.Nge2 Nxd4 7.Nxd4 exd4 8.Bxd4 Bxd4 9.Qxd4 Qf6

So White has a lead in development, and under normal circumstances, letting your opponent initiate trades is a good thing because, in theory, the person that initiates the trade loses a tempo, which in essence is true, but the problem here is with how much that has been traded already, trading Queens leads to very few problems for Black because the space advantage and lead in development are typically less relevant when many of the pieces have been traded off and the player with less space ends up being no longer at risk of suffocation. Therefore, the right idea here for White is to play 10.Qe3, keeping the Queens on the board. That said, White allows the trade of Queens.

10.Rd1 Qxd4 11.Rxd4 Bd7 12.Be2 Ne7 13.O-O Nc6 14.Rd2 O-O-O

The position is completely equal, and a couple more trades will make the draw inevitable.

15.Rfd1 Rhe8 16.f3 f5 17.Kf2 a6 18.Bf1 Rf8 19.Kg3 f4+ 20.Kf2 g5 21.h3 Be6 22.Nd5 h5 23.Be2 Ne5 24.b3 g4 25.hxg4 hxg4 26.Rh1 Bxd5 27.cxd5 g3+

With the total blockade of the dark squares and White having a light-squared Bishop, he realizes that a win is not going to happen, and makes sure that Black can't invade via the h-file. With correct play, neither side has a breakthrough, and both players realize and acknowledge this just a few moves later.

28.Kg1 Rh8 29.Rxh8 Rxh8 30.Rc2 Rh7 31.Rc3 Kb8 1/2-1/2

The next game was by far my best game of the entire road trip.

Round 3
W: David Hulvey (1900)
B: Patrick McCartney (2054)
French Steinitz

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 a6 8.Qd2 b5 9.Qf2

While this move has been played before, it is slightly unusual, and far more common is to trade twice on c5 before doing this: 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.Bxc5 Nxc5 11.Qf2 and White retains the slight advantage that he gets for going first.

9...Qa5 10.Bd2 b4 11.Ne2 cxd4 12.Nexd4 Nxd4 13.Qxd4?

13.Nxd4 would have retained a level position. Instead, via taking with the Queen, White has gone from an early attempt at dominating the g1-a7 diagonal to losing complete control of it in a mere matter of 5 moves! Black is already better.

13...Bc5 14.Qd3 Qb6 15.O-O-O Bf2

WHAT? Some drunk must have thought up this crazy move! No, actually, it serves a purpose. Black is attempting to paralyze White's development and at the same time, open up the c5-square for the Knight where it is headed for e4.


The point behind Black's last move is that 16.Be1 doesn't make things any easier for White. After 16...Nc5 17.Qe2 Ne4 18.Nd2 Be3 19.Kb1 Nc3+ 20.bxc3 Bxd2 21.c4 Bc3 and White's position is a total mess. After something like 22.cxd5, Black could even consider ignoring the pawn and playing 22...O-O. For example, after 23.d6 Bb7 24.Bh4 Bd5 25.Rxd5 exd5 26.Be7 Qa5 27.Qe3 Rfb8 28.d7 Qa3 29.Qc1 Qa4 30.d8=Q+ Rxd8 31.Bxd8 Rxd8, the material count may be equal after all of this, but the position surely is not. Black has a big advantage.

Another thing to note is that 16.Be2, connecting the Rooks, is also unplayable as 16...Nc5 then traps the Queen.


If there was ever a bad time to castle, it would be now! 16...O-O?? 17.Qxh7 mate!

17.Qh3 Nc5 18.Be2 O-O

Putting the question to the White Knight.


White should have considered 19.Rhf1 first, making Black put the Knight on a4 rather than e4 while White could still force a Knight trade if Black went to the most desirable square.

19...Bd7 20.g4

Too little, too late. Black's attack is way faster here.


If there was any piece of little use for Black's attack, it was the light-squared Bishop, and if there was any soft spot around Black's King, it would be the light squares, and so Black decides this is the one piece to eliminate before proceeding on with the mission to kill the White King.


If White has to make backwards moves in what is a race at the opposite side's King, then he is immediately admitting defeat. Since he doesn't want to open the a-file for Black, a move like 21.Bf1 was necessary, keeping the Queen out there to try to get at the Black King.

21...Bxe2 22.Qxe2 Rfc8 23.Kb1

The Bishop is poisoned. 23.Qxf2?? Nd3+ nets Black the Queen.

23...Ne4 24.Rhf1


A rare tactic known as Alekhine's Block. Black places a piece on the third rank that can't be taken for tactical reasons, and it prevents White from ever advancing the c-pawn. With its advancement, White can guard b2 and a2 with his heavy pieces along the second rank. With the c2-pawn in White's way, it becomes very difficult to defend Black's attack down the b- and a-files.


Relatively best was 25.Ne1 Be3 26.Nd3 Bxd2 27.Rxd2 Nxd2+ 28.Qxd2 Rac8 29.Rc1 R3c4, but Black is still in the driver's seat.

25...Nxf2 26.Rf1 Ne4 27.Ne1 Rac8 28.Bc1


The Rook is still poisoned as 29.bxa3 bxa3+ followed by Rb8 and mate can't be stopped. Also note that while this now allows advancement of the c-pawn, it doesn't help White. For example, 29.c3 b3! and the Rook still can't be taken as 30.bxa3 bxa2+ 31.Kc2 Rxc3+ 32.Kd1 Rxc1+ 33.Kxc1 Qb1 is mate while 29.c4 is no improvement as after 29...b3 30.bxa3 bxa2+ 31.Kc2 Rxc4+, White can prolong it by 6 moves if he plays 32.Qxc4, but it's still mate all the same. The move also comes with another major threat, namely Nc3+.


White saw half of the threat. The fork on the King and Queen. However, he overlooked the mate on a2. The only way to prolong the game was 29.Rf3, but Black will win all the same. Now it's mate in four.

29...Nc3+ 30.bxc3

Or 30.Ka1 Rxa2 mate.

30...bxc3+ 31.Ka1 Rb8 0-1

There is no way to stop mate on the b-file.

And now we go from what was the best game of the entire road trip to what is by far the dullest. The position was equal or close to equal for the entire game with the slight advantages fluctuating between both sides.

Round 4
W: Patrick McCartney (2054)
B: Andrew Rea (2074)
Torre Attack

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bg5 g6 4.Nbd2 Bg7 5.c3 c6 6.e4 Bg4 7.Qc2 Qc7 8.e5

Primarily played to prevent ...e5 by Black.

8...dxe5 9.Nxe5 Be6 10.Be2 Nbd7 11.Nd3 Bf5 12.Qb3 O-O 13.O-O e5

Now the center liquidates and we get a symmetrical pawn structure with equal material.

14.Nxe5 Nxe5 15.dxe5 Qxe5 16.Bxf6

Due to tactical threats, I surrendered the Bishop pair. That said, Black's advantage will be so miniscule that the result is still not in doubt.

16...Bxf6 17.Bf3 Rad8 18.Rfe1 Qc7 19.Nf1 Rd7 20.Rad1 Bd3 1/2-1/2

The draw was agreed upon at this point.

The final round sees a pawn sacrifice by Black followed by brilliant play that leads to a completely winning position from what looked like an inferior position, just to blunder away the win in time trouble and having to resort to a draw.

Round 5
W: Patrick Spain (1907)
B: Patrick McCartney (2054)
French Chigorin

1.e4 e6 2.Qe2

This is known as the Chigorin Variation. The idea behind it is that White wants to disrupt Black's normal flow of development, intending to answer 2...d5 with 3.exd5 where Black can't take back with the pawn due to the pin on the King. It does, however, impede White's light-squared Bishop, virtually forcing the Bishop to fianchetto. What usually arises out of this opening is a strange sort of King's Indian Attack where White plays f4 before developing the Knight.


This is the best response to 2.Qe2. It prevents d4 by White, trying to get the big center with Black unable to contest it immediately with the normal d5 push. Black will develop his Knight to c6, his Bishop to e7, and only then play d5, followed by Nf6 and castling, leading to the same structure that French players typically play against the King's Indian Attack.

3.f4 Nc6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.g3 d5 6.d3 Nf6 7.e5 Nd7 8.Bg2 b5

Following the same script as in the normal KIA versus French. White is looking to attack the Black King while Black gains space on the Queenside, trying to force weaknesses.

9.O-O a5 Bh3 Qc7 11.c3 b4 12.c4 dxc4 13.dxc4 Nd4 14.Nxd4 cxd4 15.Bg2

So let's assess what we have here. Black has an isolated pawn on d4, though it is passed, and he has the c5-square as a lauching pad for his minor pieces. In return, he has a lead in development. In the current position, it was probably best to play 15...Bb7, looking to eliminate the light-squared Bishops, but instead, Black played a different move with the idea of getting the Rook active, and to cover e6 in case Black ever does want to break in the center with and f6 push, the e6-pawn would be covered.

15...Ra6 16.Nd2 Bc5 17.Qd3 a4 18.Ne4 f5?

This move is an error. White misses the opportunity here to win a pawn for basically nothing. Instead, after 18...O-O 19.Nxc5 Nxc5 20.Qd4 Rd8 21.Qf2, White is up a pawn, but Black has definite compensation for it. In the game, both sides miss the idea of taking the Bishop on c5.

19.exf6 Nxf6 20.Nxf6+ gxf6 21.Bd2 O-O 22.Rae1 Rd6 23.h3 Qg7 24.Kh2 Kh8 25.Re2 Rg8 26.Rfe1 Ba6 27.b3 axb3 28.axb3 Bc8 29.Ra1 e5 30.Bd5 Be6 31.Bxe6 Rxe6 32.fxe5 fxe5 33.g4

So let's assess the situation. The material is equal. Both Kings are fairly open. Black's biggest problem is that his pawns sit on the same color complex as the Bishops. If Black just sits around and allows White to place a piece on e4, he will have nothing to do but sit back and defend, allowing White to set up his pieces optimally before executing while all Black does is watch. Therefore, a sacrifice is called for here to open up Black's pieces.

33...e4! 34.Rxe4

Ok, before we go any further, let's assess the situation. Black is down a pawn. White has a protected passed pawn on c4. Black has an isolated passer on d4. Let's apply general knowledge of pawn-up endgames to figure out what Black wants to do here.

With maybe a few rare exceptions, any King and Pawn endgame is going to be winning for the player that is a pawn up, and so a King and Pawn ending will win for White pretty easily.

Same color Bishop endings also tend to heavily favor the player with the extra material, and so that is not what Black wants either.

Double Rook endings, like Pawn endings or same color Bishop endings, also tend to favor the player with the extra pawn, and so we don't want this either as Black.

Single Rook endings are often viewed as the best shot at a draw for the player down the pawn, but with the d4-pawn being isolated and advanced, the White King can easily get to it faster than the Black King can assist the pawn, and if the d4-pawn falls, so does Black's position, and so we don't want a Rook ending either.

That leaves the Queen ending. Queen endings, unlike any other endgame, do not favor the player with the extra material, but rather, the player with the farthest advanced passed pawn. Black has a passed pawn that is 3 squares from promotion while White's passed pawn is 4 squares away. In many cases, being down material but having the farthest advanced passed pawn may lead to nothing more than a draw, and both sides have to constantly watch out for perpetual check in Queen endings, but it is 100 percent clear that a Queen ending is specifically what Black is looking for, and White pretty much wants anything in the world but that!

34...Bd6+ 35.Bf4

I think White should prefer moving his King, if nothing else, on the sheer basis that this move allows Black to remove two of the three pieces he wants gone immediately!

35...Rxe4 36.Qxe4 Bxf4+ 37.Qxf4 Rf8!

I spent a long time on the move 33...e4, and while this line was not forced, it was what I anticipated by White, and the move 37...Rf8 is what made me decide to give the pawn sacrifice a shot. I should note that Black does not care to give the discovery with 37...d3 as all it does is weaken the pawn and invite the Rook to come into the game on a more active open file.


In my opinion, not the best square for the Queen. 38.Qd6 was probably stronger as it keeps the Queen active and at the same time, covers the diagonal his King is on, and Black can't start harassing the King with checks.

38...Qe5+ 39.Kh1 Rf3 40.Qh6

White now threatens 41.Ra8+, winning, but Black's next move both defends a8 and keeps the Queen on an active square and continues to harass the White King. In fact, Black is actually winning here.

40...Qe4 41.Kh2 Qe2+ 42.Kh1 Rf1+!

Mission Accomplished! Black has gotten his desired Queen endgame.

43.Rxf1 Qxf1+ 44.Kh2 Qf2+ 45.Kh1 d3!

The fact that White has no checks makes this idea possible.



Having spent so much time on moves 33 and 34, I was low on time here, and started to hallucinate things that weren't there. For some reason, I thought that the White Queen had three prongs to work off of, namely d5, f5, and h5, failing to realize that White does not have f5 from where my Queen already was on f2. I played this move to cover d5 and f5, but if I had more time, I'd have figured out that the Black King can wiggle out of check. The winning move is 46...d2!!. The White Queen can't prevent my King from getting into g3. For example, after 47.Qd8+ Kg7 48.Qg5+ Kf7 49.Qd5+ Kg6 50.Qg8+ Kh6 (This also played into my move. Black can't allow White to skewer the Black King to the Queen on the f-file, and so this move is forced, but it works.) White has two options, but neither work. A) 51.g5+ Kh5 52.Qxh7+ Kxg5 53.Qe7+ (53.Qg7+ amounts to the same thing) Kf4 54.Qf8+ Ke3 55.Qc5+ Ke2 56.Qe5+ Qe3 57.Qh2+ Ke1 -+ or B) 51.Qd5 Qe1+ 52.Kh2 d1=Q 53.Qh5+ Kg7 54.Qg5+ Kf7 55.Qh5+ Ke6 56.Qe8+ Kd6 57.Qf8+ Ke5 58.Qg7+ Kf4 59.Qh6+ Kf3 60.Qf6+ Ke2 61.Qe5+ Kf1 -+. The other hallucination was that with the pawn currently on d3 and not d2, and scrambling for time, I had the idea that White has time for one free move, and he doesn't. All moves must be check.

47.Kg1 Kg7 48.Qd4+ Kg6 49.h4!

And here inlies the difference between the pawn being on d3 versus d2. White has time to play a non-checking move that slams the door on the Black King from getting in. Black has nothing better than a perpetual that is available to him.

49...Qg3+ 50.Kh1

White could also go 50.Kf1, but after 50...Qf3+, White has nothing other than going back to g1 as both 51.Ke1?? Qe2# and 51.Qf2?? Qh1+ 52.Qg1 Qxg1+ win for Black.

50...Qh3+ 51.Kg1 Qg3+ 52.Kh1 Qh3+ 53.Kg1 Qg3+ 1/2-1/2

Such a sad ending to what was previously brilliant play by Black given the situation of the position, and he even converted it to a won position just to throw it away on a single move.

So all told, I finished the road trip with 3 wins, 2 losses, and 4 draws, including almost perfect results with the French Defense, an opening you are likely to see in future articles when I cover opening analysis!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

RA 74, PG 26

Author: Grant OenCCCSA Assistant Director

On Saturday, July 22, CCCSA held the 74th Reverse Angle tournament, coincidentally on Peter "overlord" Giannatos' 26th birthday.

Reverse Angle has a very rich history, and it has become an incredibly strong and well-attended tournament.

The tournament and its guaranteed $850 prize fund is divided into three sections: Top, Under 1800, and Under 1400.  A grand total of 65 players entered the mental jousting arena.

In the top section, Tianqi "Stephen" Wang (2381) and South Carolina's Klaus Pohl (2200) were the two masters in the field, thus earning free entry.  They were closely followed by many Experts such as Mark "the Englishman" Biernacki (2136) and RA73 champion Dominique "property of Eric Hansen" Myers (2128) in a section with 18 players.

In the end, Wang and Myers were joined by Jay Goss (2139) at 2.5/3, earning $84 each.  Adharsh Rajagopal (1883) scored a solid 2/3 and the $50 U2000 prize - he also crossed 1900 for the first time.

RA 74

Final Standings: RA 74: TOP Section

#NameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3TotPrize
1Tianqi Wang2381W10D5W683.33
2Jay Goss2139W13D9W1283.33
3Dominique Myers2128D12W15W983.33
4Klaus Pohl2200W16L6W14 2 
5Mark Biernacki2136W11D1D7 2 
6Neo Zhu2034W17W4L1 2 
7Adharsh Rajagopal1883D8W18D5 250.00
8Alex Chen2044D7L12W15 
9Sulia Mason2023W14D2L3 
10Benjamin Yan1954L1D11W17 
11James Dill1931L5D10W16 
12Jeremy Chen1903D3W8L2 
13Ziyang Qiu1947L2L14W18 1 
14Rohan Iyer1733L9W13L4 1 
15Austin Chuang1718W18L3L8 1 
16Vishnu Vanapalli1948L4D17L11 ½ 
17Aditya Shivapooja1782L6D16L10 ½ 
18Ernest Nix Jr1959L15L7L13 0 

Under 1800
The 22-player U1800 section featured those rated 1300-1800, including top seed Chacha "Chessstream" Nugroho (1788) and defending U1800 champion Carson Cook (1716).  2.5/3 was enough for a tie for first place this time - Chacha Nugroho, Carson Cook, Terry Maskin (1652) and Ritvik Bodducherla (1674) each earned $57 for their scores, while Andrew Jiang (1521) and Nishanth Gaddam (1370) split the U1600 class prize (2/3, $25 each).

RA 74

Final Standings: RA 74: Under 1800

#NameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3TotPrize
1Chacha Nugroho1788W11W15D456.25
2Carson Cook1716W17D8W1056.25
3Ritvik Bodducherla1674D13W18W1256.25
4Terry Maskin1652W9W6D156.25
5Kevin Xi1779L16W21W15 2 
6Luke Harris1746W22L4W16 2 
7Connor Liu1701D19W16D8 2 
8Andrew Jiang1521W14D2D7 225.00
9Nishanth Gaddam1370L4W22W14 225.00
10Spencer Singleton1646D21W19L2 
11Danny Cropper1642L1D20W19 
12Debs Pedigo1488H---W13L3 
13Aarush Chugh1383D3L12W22 
14Dwayne Tutt1766L8W17L9 1 
15David Richards1686W20L1L5 1 
16Harsha Srijay1625W5L7L6 1 
17Advaith Karthik1426L2L14B--- 1 
18Hassan Hashemloo1468H---L3 --- ½ 
19Robert Liu1409D7L10L11 ½ 
20Arav Goldstein1391L15D11 --- ½ 
21Grisham Paimagam1328D10L5 --- ½ 
22Mahesh Padhi1449L6L9L13 0 

Under 1400
The largest section of the day was the U1400 section, with 25 players.  Jacob Grinberg (1332) and Donald "check!" Johnson (1312) earned perfect scores and $113 each.  Brian Miller (1196) and Jay Sundar (845) earned $25 each as the top players U1200.

RA 74

Final Standings: RA 74: Under 1400

#NameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3TotPrize
1Jacob Grinberg1332W19W18W6 3112.50
2Donald Johnson1312W24W8W11 3112.50
3Supradeep Madduri1343W17D4W15 
4Eric Shi1287W25D3W12 
5Paige Cook1228D22W21W16 
6Gautam Kapur1347W13W7L1 2 
7Sampson Piermattei1270W20L6W17 2 
8Julian Grinberg1200W10L2W18 2 
9Brian Miller1196L15W24W19 225.00
10Jay Sundar845L8B---W21 225.00
11Bradley Juopperi1366D21W22L2 
12Dan Boisvert1294W14D15L4 
13Antara Durbha1136L6D14W22 
14Henry Chen1074L12D13W23 
15Connor McElroyunr.W9D12L3 
16Jordan Williams1342L18W23L5 1 
17Pranav Swarna1093L3W25L7 1 
18Caton Tsao1090W16L1L8 1 
19Sushma Dasari1090L1W20L9 1 
20Ellen Rosenfeld945L7L19W24 1 
21Vikas Sarvasya1188D11L5L10 ½ 
22Henry Nguyen871D5L11L13 ½ 
23Ankit Durbha640H---L16L14 ½ 
24Akshay Rajagopal1075L2L9L20 0 
25Richard Trela1063L4L17 --- 0 

UPSETS - 150 points or more
U1800, Round 3 - Nishanth Gaddam (1370) def. Dwayne Tutt (1766) - 396 points
U1400, Round 3 - Jay Sundar (845) def. Vikas Sarvasya (1188) - 343 points
U1400, Round 1 - Caton Tsao (1090) def. Jordan Williams (1342) - 252 points
U1800, Round 1 - Andrew Jiang (1521) def. Dwayne Tutt (1766) - 245 points
Top, Round 1 - Austin Chuang (1718) def. Ernest Nix (1959) - 241 points
Top, Round 2 - Rohan Iyer (1733) def. Ziyang Qiu (1947) - 214 points
Top, Round 2 - Neo Zhu (2034) def. Klaus Pohl (2200) - 166 points
U1800, Round 1 - Harsha Srijay (1625) def. Kevin Xi (1779) - 154 points

USCF Rated Results

Reverse Angle 75 is Saturday, August 12.

Until next time,

Friday, July 21, 2017

Game Analysis: The New Hampshire Open

I took a 10-day road trip in early to mid-July involving three stops in New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Virginia, the first and third of which involving taking part in two chess tournaments, The New Hampshire Open the first weekend and The Charlottesville Open the second weekend. This article will be analysis of the four games in New Hampshire while the following article, which should come about a week later, will cover the five games played in Virginia.

So the New Hampshire Open was a four round event, time control of 40 moves in 100 minutes followed by sudden death in 60 minutes with a five second delay, and so time trouble was rarely an issue. The four games analyzed below feature a very diverse set of ideas that can be learned from them, and the same can be said about the five games that will be covered next week. We'll be doing some opening analysis, going through positional and tactical ideas in the middle game, and we'll also see how to win the won game, as all four games featured a decisive result. Let's get started with the first round.

Round 1
W: Patrick McCartney (2054)
B: Joseph Fang(IM) (2368)
Italian Game

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3 Be7 5.c3 O-O 6.O-O d6 7.Nbd2 Na5 8.Bb5 c5 9.Re1 Qc7 10.Nf1 Nc6 11.Qe2 Rc8 12.Bg5 Be6

So thus far, play has been fairly tranquil. There is not a lot that stands out. The primary features in the position are that Black can, pretty much at any point, decide to expand on the queenside by advancing the a- and b-pawns. The other major feature is the hole on d5. If Black can advance the d-pawn without cost, the advantage is probably his. The other potential square for White to target is f5. If a Knight gets to f5 and Black is forced to eliminate it with his Bishop, then d5 is weakened. On the flip side, if White can trade light-squared Bishops, f5 can become weak. Lastly, if White can break with d4 at the right time, he could gain the advantage that way. So all things point to Black playing on the queenside and center, trying to play ...d5. For White, it's kingside and central play, specifically looking to prevent ...d5 by Black.


Based on what was just discussed, the Bishop was not well placed on b5. You might ask why let Black double White's pawns? Closer inspection shows that the doubled c-pawns would control many central squares, including the critical d5 square. It would also open up the d-file and give White the opportunity to attack down the d-file at what would then be a weak backwards d-pawn. Without the c3-pawn, Black could block it by plopping a Knight on the d4 outpost. However, with it, Black has no such luxury. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with this move, and Black should be highly discouraged from taking on c4. Instead, allow White to take on e6 and accept the doubled e-pawns, which has similar effects of controlling central squares that White would get out of doubled c-pawns.

13...Rad8 14.Bxf6

Continuing to follow the anti-d5 plan.

14...Bxf6 15.Ne3 Ne7 16.Bxe6

With 16...d5 threatened, White gives in at initiating the Bishop trade.

16...fxe6 17.Ng4

Preventing 17...d5 by attacking e5.


White continues to hold a very tiny advantage, and should continue to remain mellow and make some kind of space-gaining move like 18.a4. Instead, White decides to try to break in the center, and this is just one of many subtle positional errors made by White followed by a tactical blunder that will ultimately do him in.

18.d4?! exd4 19.Nxf6+ Rxf6 20.cxd4 Rdf8 21.dxc5 dxc5 22.e5?!

And yet another dubious move, opening up the light squares for the Black Knight. Something like 22.Rc1 would have been better.

22...Rf5 23.Qc4 Nd5 24.Rac1 b6

Black is already better here, but White now decides to end the game abruptly.


White's idea was that 25...cxd4 would be answered by 26.Qxd5, giving Black doubled passed pawns as his extra pawn, and creating a dangerous passer on e5 to offset Black's slight edge. However, Black's next move simply wins a piece for a pawn and the rest requires no analysis.

25...Rf4! 26.Nxe6 Rxc4 27.Nxc7 Rxc1 28.Rxc1 Nxc7 29.b4 Ne6 30.bxc5 Nxc5 31.Re1 Rf5 32.Re3 Kf7 33.g3 g5 34.Kh1 Rxf2 0-1

What have we learned about in this game? When you have a slight edge, don't rush or force the issue when it's not called for. It will simply backfire on you. Sometimes patience is required, letting the other side implode, and if neither side implodes, sometimes you just have to admit that the position might be a draw.

Round 2
W: Russell Gouvela (1931)
B: Patrick McCartney (2054)
French Tarrasch

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Ngf3 Nf6 6.Be2

This move by White is very unusual. Before we go any further, I am going to divert and explain many of the ideas behind the open variation of the French Tarrasch. Only through analysis of these two lines can we understand what we need to do in the game and figure out how Black should proceed. This is precisely why openings need to be studied in such a way that the ideas behind them are understood, and not just memorized. For someone who just memorizes lines, you would already be lost here. Not from a theoretical standpoint, but from a practical standpoint as you'd have no idea what to do now. Also note that White is over 1900. This idea of not following book early on doesn't only apply to lower rated players. So let's start with the main moves of the Open Tarrasch where Black recaptures with the pawn.

After the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Ngf3, Black has two ways to handle the position. Back in the days of Viktor Korchnoi and Wolfgang Uhlmann, the main line of the Tarrasch ran 5...Nc6 6.Bb5 Bd6 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.O-O Nge7 9.Nb3 Bd6 was often played, leading to the position below.

And now let's look at the more modern approach. After the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 exd5 5.Ngf3 Nf6 6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.Bxd7+ Nxd7 8.O-O Be7 9.dxc5 Nxc5 10.Nb3 Nce4, we get the following position.

So let's compare the two positions and assess what we have. In both cases, Black is looking at an Isolated Queeen Pawn (IQP), and in today's generation, this is enough to lower the popularity of this variation in favor of the Closed Tarrasch (3...Nf6) or the Queen recapture in the Open Tarrasch (4...Qxd5). That said, this IQP in some ways is a strength for Black. Neither White Knight is anywhere near attacking it. White can block it all he wants by moving one of the Knights to d4. However, this doesn't prevent Black from having outposts on e4 and c4. This is one case for the argument in favor of the more modern approach (which happens to be the line I play when White does play the main line). In the lines with 5...Nc6, both Knights are very far away from these outposts on c4 and e4. There is no quick way for the c6-Knight to get to c4 as their paths are guarded, and the Knight on e7 is busy covering d5 since the Bishop on d6, while active, is blocking the Queen from guarding the isolated pawn. So Black is succeeding in not trading off pieces as in the case of IQP positions, the last thing Black wants to do is trade down to an endgame unless something has changed in the position, like a trade occurs that makes the d-pawn no longer isolated, or Black wins material. In the lines with 5...Nf6, one of the Knights is already on the outpost on e4 and can easily be transferred to c4 via d6, and the other Knight is more active on f6 than in the old main line on e7. The Bishop is slightly more passive on e7 than d6 in the older line, but the Bishop is easier to make active. Just move the Bishop again. Lastly, notice how the only difference in White's position is in the former line, he has his Bishop on b5. In the latter line, this Bishop and the one on c8 are gone. This makes getting the Rook onto the open c-file easier for Black than in the old main line. Now there is one downside to the more modern approach compared to the old approach. With the Bishop on c8, which may get moved to a square like e6, along with the Knight on e7, the square f5 is well covered. This square can be another soft spot in Black's position to go along with the IQP and the weak d4 square in front of it. With the Knight on f6 instead of e7 and the Light-Squared Bishops traded off, f5 can be weak, and the Knight on d4 blocking the pawn can easily see itself on f5, a very annoying square with which to deal with a White Knight if you are Black. The automatic thought is that Black can easily play ...g6 and cover the weak f5-square. This may be possible in some cases, but Black must also be on the lookout for his dark squares around his King, especially if the Dark-Squared Bishops and Queens are still on the board.

So now that we know Black's main trumps (easy development of his pieces and the e4 and c4 outposts) and weaknesses (the d-pawn if an endgame is reached and the d4- and f5-squares), let's now take a look at the game position and see what we can make out of White's decision to play 6.Be2.

So here is what we have after White's passive 6th move. First off, in both of the two main lines, Black has to worry about the open e-file and checks with the Rook. So in both lines, Black has to place a piece on e7 to block the checks. The Knight in the 5...Nc6 line and the Bishop in the 5...Nf6 line. Here, Black doesn't need to make such a move. This will allow Black to put the Bishop on d6 directly. Second, when it comes to the Queenside pieces, while Black doesn't get the luxury of trading off Light-Squared Bishops, he doesn't have to commit what to do with his Queenside pieces because of the lack of a check by the White Bishop, and so Black can get castled long before deciding what to do with the rest of his pieces. So the passive 6th move by White allows Black to get the best of both worlds by getting the better Bishop development from the 5...Nc6 line and the better Knight placement from the 5...Nf6 line. So Black holds off on the Queenside and gets his King developed as soon as possible.

6...Bd6 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.Nb3 Bd6 9.O-O O-O 10.Bg5 Be6 11.c3 Nbd7 12.Bh4 Rc8 13.Nbd4 Nc5 14.Nb5 Bb8 15.Bg3

I don't think White's last move was a very good one. Let's have another look at the position. White is now two moves away again from getting a Knight to f5 and has a Bishop on e6 to eliminate first, so compared to the main line of the 5...Nf6 variation, this is no threat. Also, if the Dark-Squared Bishops are eliminated, it's easier to play ...g6 if the f5-square ever does become an issue. Also, if Black initiates the trade on g3, it enhances the strength of the e4 outpost for the Black Knight. If White recaptures with the f-pawn, then no pawn can harass e4. If White recaptures with the h-pawn, then he needs to first protect the g3 pawn before he can advance f-pawn. Otherwise, the g3-pawn will hang. This buys Black extra time with the Knight on e4. Therefore, trading Bishops is Black's best idea!

15...Bxg3 16.hxg3 Qb6 17.Qc2 Nce4 18.Nbd4 a6 19.a4 Bg4

Black has the immediate threat of 20...Bxf3 where 21.Nxf3 Nxg3 nets a pawn for Black while 21.Bxf3 Qxd4! drops a piece and 21.gxf3 Qxd4 22.Qxe4 Qxe4 23.fxe4 dxe4 with advantage. Therefore, White's next move is close to forced.

20.Bd3 Rfe8 21.Rfe1 g6

Stopping all Nf5 ideas.

22.Nh2 Bd7 23.Nhf3 Kg7 24.Re2 Nc5 25.Rxe8 Rxe8 26.Bf1?

White underestimates Black's idea of giving up two pieces for the Rook and two Pawns. 26.a5 is to be preferred here.


The correct way to take. 26...Nxa4 is inferior due to 27.b4. The advantage would still be Black's, but that advantage is far greater with the Bishop capture first as it hits the Queen.

27.Rxa4 Nxa4 28.Qxa4

28.b4 is no better. 28...Rc8 29.Qxa4 Rxc3 is also dismal for White.

28...Qxb2 29.Qb4 Qxb4 30.cxb4

So now we have reached the endgame. Black has a Rook and two Pawns for a Bishop and Knight. The problem for White is the while the isolated d-pawn is still blocked and we are now in an endgame, Black is still for preference because he has gained material, and also while every square on White's side of the board is covered on the e-file, the same can't be said on the c-file, and so Black relocates his worst-placed piece, which is his Rook on e8.


And White has no way to stop infiltration.

31.Ne5 Ne4 32.Bd3??

White is already lost, but he can make Black prove it with a move like 32.Ne2. The move played simply drops a full piece.

32...Rc1+ 0-1

White Resigned because 33.Bf1 Nd2 wins the Bishop while 33.Kh2 Nxf2 (Threatening 34...Rh1#) 34.g4 Nxd3 35.Nxd3 Rd1 skewers the Knights and one of them must fall.

What have we learned from this game? The way to learn and study an opening is not by memorizing reams of lines. Doing so would cause major problems in a game like this one where White deviated as early as move 6. By understanding the positions that arise from the two main lines and the understanding of Black's main weaknesses, namely the d4- and f5-squares, and the d5-pawn if the position is traded down to an endgame with nothing gained for Black, along with understanding that the reason for the passive development of the Knight to e7 or the Bishop to e7 in the main lines are to avoid problems down the e-file, Black was able to take advantage of the passive development of the Light-Squared Bishop, combining the trumps of the 5...Nf6 line with the trumps of the 5...Nc6 line since White applied no pressure on Black and even plugged up his own e-file. All of this combined lead to a very active game for Black, which is what the side with an Isolated Queen Pawn is looking for. Piece activity. Specifically the f5-weakness triggering the g6 idea by Black combined with the Ne4 idea caused Black to realize that while too many trades is bad for him with the IQP, the trade of the Dark-Squared Bishops was highly desirable for Black, but that other trades were held off until something was gained for Black, in this case material, getting the Rook and two Pawns for the two Minor Pieces with the rest of his army except for the Rook already ideally placed, and relocating the Rook to a better file to put the nail in White's coffin. An all-around instructive game where understanding ideas was more important than knowing theory.

Round 3
W: Patrick McCartney (2054)
B: Christopher Wood (2141)
Sicilian Taimanov

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nb5

There are only two moves here that White can play. The move played is the less popular of the two. The main line is 5.Nc3. A word about a third move that I have seen played on the board next to me a few weeks ago at the club and that I also faced a time or two back in the day when I played the Taimanov as Black. 5.c4? This is a horrible move. White is trying to play a Maroczy Bind type of position. To do so, however, Black must not be able to play ...Bb4, pinning the Knight on c3. In the Accelerated Dragon, 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6, the move 5.c4 is playable because now 5...e6 and 6...Bb4 is just bad because the dark squares are too weak. Another line that I play as White is 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.f3. This move is playable because the d6-push makes ...Bb4 impossible. This now explains one of the two possible ideas in the 5.Nb5 line. White is inducing the move ...d6 by Black, at which point he has two choices. The first is to play 6.Bf4 to entice ...e5 and weaken d5, but this takes a lot of time and White is moving the same pieces multiple times. The other option is to only now play a Maroczy Bind setup as Black has now blocked the diagonal of the Dark-Squared Bishop, and the latter is exactly what White does here.

5...d6 6.c4 Nf6 7.N1c3 Be7 8.Be3 a6 9.Na3 O-O 10.Nc2 b6 11.Be2 Bb7 12.O-O Qc7 13.f3 Ne5 14.Qd4 Rac8 15.Qxb6 Qxb6 16.Bxb6 Nxc4 17.Bxc4 Rxc4 18.Bf2

So now let's make an objective assessment of the position. One can argue that White may have a very slight space advantage. He has the better majority in that a 2-on-1 is stronger than a 5-on-4 and his majority is the one away from the Kings. Lastly, White has a fixed target. The d6-pawn, which can be viewed as slightly weak as the e-pawn has been moved, so it no longer protects d6, and the move ...d5 may be hard to get in. On the flip side, Black has a lead in development and he's got the Bishop pair. The position should be considered dynamically equal with three results still possible here.


Black tries to eliminate his weakness on d6 by executing a sacrifice. The problem is it simply doesn't work. This move isn't Black's downfall though, the next move of his is! That said, I would probably hold off on this move as Black will have to deal with an IQP.

19.Ne3 Rxc3?

Better is 19...Rc7 20.exd5 Nxd5 21.Nexd5 Bxd5 22.Nxd5 exd5 with a roughly equal position.

20.bxc3 dxe4 21.Rab1 Bc6 22.f4!

Not giving Black the open diagonal he was expecting after a trade of pawns, whether White trades on e4 or Black trades on f3.

22...Nd5 23.Nxd5 Bxd5 24.Rb2 Bf6 25.Bd4 Bxd4+ 26.cxd4 g6?

Giving White control of both open files. 26...Rc8 first was better, which only works because White's King is on the back rank. If it weren't, White could answer 27.Rc1 due to the back rank issues, but in this case, taking on c1 would be with check and Black would win, making the move unplayable for White and Black gets the c-file. White would still be better, but Black's position would offer more resistance than the game move.

27.Rc1 Kg7 28.Kf2 Kf6 29.Ke3 g5

One could call this a critical position. White is better, and can probably retain the advantage with any pawn move. However, if Black wishes to take back on f4 with a Rook rather than the King when Black captures, he needs to move the correct Rook. Either Rook move keeps the advantage as well, but one is better than the other as it prevents Black from being able to do anything.


The choice of which Rook is based on Black not being able to annoy the King on the third rank. If White moves the other Rook, it leaves the c-file open and the c3-square is loose, forcing the King away from blocking the passed pawn. By leaving the b-file open, the a-pawn stops Black from entering the third rank, hence the basis for which Rook was moved.

30...gxf4+ 31.Rxf4+ Kg6

31...Kg5 is probably slightly more resistant as it doesn't allow White's next move.


This leads to a problem for Black. 32...Kf5 33.Rg3 and White already threatens mate. 32...Kf6 33.Rc2 Re7 34.Rh4 wins another pawn as 34...Rh8 35.Rc7+ Kf6 36.Rf4+ wins the f-pawn. Going to the h-file, as in the game, leads to mate threats via trapping the King to the side of the board with the two Rooks. This lead to White eliminating a pair of Rooks, and then the win becomes easy.

32...Kh5 33.Kf4 f6

33...f5 loses instantly to 34.Rc3. The move played would allow Black to respond to 34.Rc3 with 34...e5+, forcing the White King to g3, blocking the Rook from the mate square on h3. So White takes advantage of the opened seventh rank instead.

34.Rc7 e5+ 35.Kg3 Rf7 36.Rxf7 Bxf7 37.dxe5 f5 38.Rh4+ Kg5 39.a3

Sealing Black's fate. It makes no sense to take on h7 and allow Black to take on a2. Sure, it probably wins, but why allow Black any counterplay? Once Black goes to preserve the h-pawn, White will move the Rook away from h4 and then slam the door on Black by playing h4+ himself and White will infiltrate with the Rook on the dark squares and the loose pawns on the Kingside will fall.

39...h5 40.Rf4 Bc4 41.h4+ Kg6 42.Kf2 a5 43.Ke3 a4 44.Rf2 Bb3 45.Rd2 Kf7 46.Rd6 Ke7 47.g3 Bc2 48.Rf6 1-0

What have we learned form this game? Don't jump off the deep end because of a single weakness. That is exactly what Black did with his weakness on d6 in the middle game. There have been multiple sources out there that explain the theory of two weaknesses, preferably far apart from each other so that both are hard to protect. A single weakness is often not enough to win, and White also had issues with his position during that time, namely the lack of development.

Round 4
W: Michael Ellenbogan (2194)
B: Patrick McCartney (2054)
English Opening

1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.Nc3 d6 5.d3 O-O 6.Bg5 c6 7.Qd2 Nbd7 8.Bh6

This idea of the early Bishop trade is too hasty. With correct defense, Black is already equal here.


Moving White's Queen away from the action of the position is best. However, Black's follow-up is not good.



Black's whole idea is wrong. He ends up driving the Queen out with an upcoming ...Ng8 and then tries to avoid the opening of the h-file via parking everything on dark squares once the pawn advances to h5. Instead, Black should counter White's hasty attack with active defense in the center, and the minor pieces can prevent h5 in a far more active manner. Here Black should have played either 9...Ne5 or 9...Ng4.

10.Nf3 Ng8 11.Qd2 f6 12.h4 e5 13.h5 g5

With gaping light-squared holes everywhere!

14.O-O-O Nb6 15.Ne1 Be6 16.f4 h6

Weakening yet another light square.

17.Nf3 Qe7 18.fxg5 fxg5 19.c5

The only move that maintains the advantage.

19...Nd5 20.cxd6 Qxd6 21.Ne4 Qc7 22.d4

Ripping the entire position open!

22...exd4 23.Qxd4+ Qg7 24.Ne5 Rfd8 25.Nc5 Ndf6

All moves lose for Black, but this move in particular allows what would have been a very cute tactic, but White missed it. What he played didn't ruin the win. It just wasn't as spectacular.


White wins a Rook with 26.Nxe6!!. After 26...Rxd4 27.Rxd4, the Black Queen is trapped. The only two squares that are not attacked that it can go to are e7 and h7. Both Queen moves are followed by 28.Ng6+. In the case of 27...Qe7, it's a royal fork while in the case of 27...Qh7, 28.Ng6+ and the only way to get out of check is to capture the Knight, surrendering the Queen and White is up a Rook.

26...Rxd1+ 27.Rxd1 Bf5

27...Bxa2 would prolong the game.

28.e4 Bh7 29.Rd7 Ne7 30.Ne6 Nxe4 31.Ng6+ 1-0

What can be learned from this game? Haste is not the way to attack, but when faced with a hasty attack by the opponent, sitting back and trying to blockade on the color complex that the King resides on is insufficient. Active play in the center is necessary, and a Queen on h6 should not be feared as long as the h-file is not open. Sometimes counter-attack is the best defense.

So we have seen four vastly different games, each of which taught a different lesson. Next week, I will be covering the games from the following weekend in Charlottesville, so if you enjoyed these four games, you'll really enjoy the other five games of the road trip. While we saw some exciting attacks here, the best game of the road trip actually came in Charlottesville, so stay tuned!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

July G/60 Action - Cremisi, Cropper, McElroy, Chen victorious!

Author: Grant OenCCCSA Assistant Director

The Charlotte Chess Center's July 8 G/60 Action Tournament was well-attended by 54 players.  The monthly G/60 is always a strong tournament, as the last two events were both won by NMs Daniel Cremisi and Elias "gone but not forgotten" Oussedik.  Participants competed for an increased prize fund of $875 spread across three sections: Top, Under 1700, and Under 1200.

Top Section
The Top section featured 16 players, including four National Masters rated above 2200: Daniel "Joseph" Cremisi (2312), Emmanuel Carter (2259), Shawn Pealer (2253), and Klaus "I drew Bisguier twice" Pohl (2200).  There were six Experts and seven Class A and B players to round out the field.  They were competing for a $350 prize fund in their section, including $200 for first place.

Cremisi defended his G/60 title, scoring 3.5/4 and clear first place ($200).  Tying for second place with three points were Emmanuel Carter, Shawn Pealer, and Mark "Copenhagen" Biernacki, good for $34 each.  Austin "Jaiden's brother" Chuang (1718) scored two upsets on his way to the $50 top U1900 class prize.

Under 1700
The highly competitive U1700 section had 17 players with ratings from 1100 to 1700.  Danny Cropper (1642) scored the only clean sweep of the day, collecting $175 for his 4/4 result.

William Odom (1657) and Andrew Jiang (1521) both scored 3/4 and $25, while Aarush "who am I playing?" Chugh (1294) received $50 for the under 1500 class prize with 2.5/4.

Under 1200
The largest section of the day was the U1200 section, with 21 players.  Henry Chen (1074) and Connor McElroy (unrated) shared first place, each earning $100.  Connor earned a first rating of 1428.  Tied for third place were Akhil Sompuram (1063), Dhyey Shah (821), Sahana Raghavan (767), Ankit Durbha (640), and Matthew Odom (unrated), with 3 points.

USCF Rated Results here!

Until next time,
G Money

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Art of the Miracle Draw

I have been a tournament chess player in the city of Charlotte for over twenty years now. Over the course of the years, I have had a lot of games that have resulted in what many would refer to as a "miracle draw". Even as recent as last year, I've heard comments from various members of the club wondering how on earth I've pulled off as many draws as I have from either vastly inferior or even completely lost positions. In the vast majority of cases, it's merely a blunder by the opponent, whether it be due to a tactical oversight or severe time trouble. I have also been on the wrong side of this numerous times, where I go from a completely won position to a draw or even a loss.

However, not all draws from an inferior or lost position are total luck. There is actually an art to surviving lost positions. There are a number of ways to do this, three of which you will see here in this article. These include perpetual check, stalemate tricks, or creating chaos on the board to try to confuse matters, and in many cases, combining more than one may be necessary to pull it off.

However, above all other factors, one thing is critical above and beyond anything else if you plan to succeed in snatching those half points away from your opponents, and that is being in the right frame of mind to create these draws. In order to succeed, the player must be able to do each and every one of the following:
  • First and foremost, recognize that your position is clearly inferior to that of your opponent's, and acknowledge that any playing for a win is a complete pipe dream and that it just isn't happening. It is also critical that this is recognized as early as possible. More on that in a moment.
  • Once it is recognized that you aren't winning and are now in the frame of mind of playing for the draw, you need to familiarize yourself with many of the well-known drawing patterns. It's easier to figure out where your remaining pieces need to go in order to possibly achieve the goal.
  • Make sure that the position is still complex enough such that there is room for your opponent to error.
  • The best move according to a computer, resulting in the smallest "numerical" disadvantage, is not always the best move for the situation at hand given the human aspects of over the board play.
  • Understand that, given the fact that you already recognized that you are either inferior or outright lost, you will not always succeed in drawing. The best you can do is disguise and complicate the matter.

So now let's look at some of the various techniques to snatch the half point.

Perpetual Check

This is probably the most basic way to achieve a draw in a lost position. That said, because of its simplicity, it is also the easiest threat for your opponent to recognize. Therefore, in addition to creating threats to repeatedly check the opponent's king, there needs to be a certain level of disguise in the threat. A combination that is complicated and deep enough for the opponent to overlook. If the threat is a one move threat, you might as well resign and not waste your time. Take the following hypothetical position:

A hypothetical position

Black can safely resign this position. He is down an exchange and two pawns, and he has nothing here to play for. Sure, Black could say "Uh, I could play 1...Qd6 or 1...Qg5 and maybe White won't see my threat to draw with 2...Qxg3+!". Remember in the first bullet that it was said that it is critical that you recognize the fact that your position is inferior as quickly as possible. Here, it is too late. The threat is a one move threat, and there are many ways for White to avoid the draw, whether that be 2.Kh2, 2.Kg2, 2.Qd3, 2.Qf3, 2.Qg4, etc. This is what is meant by the fact that it needs to be complicated enough to disguise your intention.

Now let's look at a more realistic opportunity.

Klaus Pohl - Patrick McCartney, Columbia Open, 2013

White is down a pawn, but the position is actually completely winning for White. That said, Black also has a nasty trap, and it was complicated enough for White to walk right into it. Do you see it?

White here played 29.Rxb7! Rxb7 30.Rxb7??. It looks like Black is dead. Mate is threatened via 31.Qg7#. It appears as though Black's pieces are overworked. The rook and queen are guarding the knight. So a move like 30...Re7 would drop the knight and lose instantly. That said, what White overlooked is that lifting the rook off the back rank has allowed a rook sacrifice followed by perpetual check. 30...Re1+ 31.Kh2 (31.Kf2?? Qe2+ 32.Kg3 Qg4+ 33.Kf2 Re2+ followed by 34...Qxg2 is mate) 31...Rh1+!! and a draw was agreed because after 32.Kxh1, Black has a perpetual with 32...Qe1+ 33.Kh2 Qxh4+ 34.Kg1 Qe1+ etc. Because the threat was well disguised, White missed it.

Instead of 30.Rxb7, White can win if he inserts the move 30.Qg5+ before capturing on b7 for two reasons. The first is that by moving the Queen to g5, the h4-square is guarded and Black has no perpetual check. The second is that capturing on b7 the following move will now come with check and so White gains an extra tempo, and with the b-pawn being a critical pawn that was holding the position intact, Black's position rapidly falls apart and Black could safely resign at that point.

Stalemating Tricks

The next example will illustrate a second method of pulling off the half point. Once again, we are going to look at a position that is, for all intents and purposes, lost. Take a look at the following position:

Patrick McCartney - Samuel Xin, SC Championships 2008

Black's last move was 32...g5, where the pawn was originally on g7. White is down a pawn, and even then, White's pawns are not healthy. For starters, he has crippled pawns on the Kingside via doubled g-pawns. While doubled pawns may be strong in many middle games, they tend to be a liability in the endgame. That said, Black's last move wasn't very good. He still has a significant advantage, and according to the bots, taking en passant is White's best move, giving Black roughly a point advantage, implying that White has little to no compensation for the pawn. This brings up another point when having a vastly inferior or lost position. The best move is not always the "best move"! What is meant by that is often times the move that is theoretically best according to computers may lead to the smallest advantage for the opponent from a theoretical standpoint, but in human play, there is the practical factor, and rather than sit there, suffer, and just wait for Black to defeat White, White sees a potential drawing pattern after Black's last move, this time in the form of stalemate. If White can entice the Black rooks off of the second rank, he can advance the g-pawn to g3, park the king on h3, advance or exchange the a-pawn and f-pawn such that they are locked, eliminate one pair of rooks, and sacrifice the other rook on the second rank. White manages to pull this off, pretty much exactly as planned. Let's see how it was done.


Not accepting the en passant offer and instead working on setting up a stalemate cage.

33...b5 34.axb5 axb5 35.Rd7 Re3+ 36.Kh2

White is not ready yet to advance the g-pawn as 36.g3 Ree2 forces the White Rook into a passive position on h1 to avoid mate.

36...Re4 37.Kh3 Rb3+

Of course, if 37...Re3+, White will again just retreat the king to h2. Our goal is to draw, and so White has no objection if Black just wants to agree to it now via a repetition of moves.


Now that both rooks are off the second rank, White has time and can now advance the g-pawn.

38...Rb2 39.f6!

Locking his last pawn.


The point behind waiting for both rooks to exit the second rank and gaining the necessary time to advance the f-pawn is seen if Black plays 39...Ree2 here, which White will respond with 40.Rg2!, forcing one set of rooks off the board, and if Black takes the rook with 40...Rxg2??, White will draw with the "Eternal Rook" with 41.Rd8+ and then continuing to check the Black King to eternity. If the King ever takes the Rook, White is stalemated!


White now threatens to use the eternal rook trick with both his rooks! Throw one away and then throw the other one away, and because of the rook on b2, White would once again be stalemated!


So Black retreats to avoid the draw, at least for now.

41.Re7 Rf8

Taking the rook on e7 would actually lose for Black after 41...Rxe7?? 42.fxe7 Re2 43.Rc8+ followed by 44.e8=Q and White wins the rook.


Black has got to have a splitting headache by now. White is attempting to sacrifice both Rooks for yet another stalemate. The c8-Rook is poisoned as 42...Rxc8?? 43.Re8+ Kh7 44.Rh8+ Kg6 45.Rxh6+ Kxh6 is again stalemate. Therefore, Black does a tricky rook trade, eliminating his own rook on the second rank to rid himself of the stalemate threats that White is executing.

42...Rh2+ 43.Kxh2 Rxc8 44.Rb7

Even when attempting drawing tricks, many basic principles still apply, and one of them is that rooks belong behind passed pawns.

44...Rc4 45.Kh3 Rd4 46.Rc7 Rd1 47.Rb7 Rb1 48.Ra7 b3 49.Rb7

White is just biding his time, waiting for Black to advance the b-pawn to the second rank, at the same time staying on the 7th rank to keep the Black king out of the picture. Black next tries to bring the king in the other way, but White will have none of that!

49...Kh7 50.Rb5 Kg6 51.Rb6

What does Black do now? If he moves the king back to h7 he makes no progress. If he moves the rook to the second rank he has to watch again for stalemates and blocks his b-pawn from advancing. If he moves the Rook laterally, White takes the b-pawn, except in the case of 51...Rh1+ 52.Kg2, but then Black has to move back to the b-file and White just moves the king back to h3. So that leaves only one possibility, but it doesn't work either.

51...b2 52.Rxb2!

Once again, if Black takes the rook, it's stalemate.

52...Rh1+ 53.Kg2 Re1 54.Kh3 Kxf6 55.Rf2+ Ke6??

Now Black finally buckles and walks into the draw. He had to endure the complicated ending by moving his King to the g-file. If he advances the f- or h-pawn, looking to eliminate the stalemate cage, many 2-on-1 positions with a rook each are drawn, and so Black would have to be very careful if he wants any chance to win.

56.Re2+!! Rxe2 STALEMATE!

Creating Chaos

Sometimes simple methods like perpetual check or stalemate isn't immediately available, and one or the other can only be created through creating chaos in the position. Similar to the stalemate scenario above, this often may entail surrendering the best move for the more complicated one that features a better shot at human error. I should mention that those of you that are Diamond members on, Ivan Sokolov has 3 excellent videos on this exact topic, and I recommend observing all of them. For now, let's take a look at the following position:

Patrick McCartney - Karthik Rangarajan, 2005

Here we have a case of recognizing White's problems. The obvious issue is that he is down a piece for two pawns, but sometimes those extra pawns can mean something. However, in this case, Black has a major threat. He is looking to check the White king on b1 followed by capturing the b-pawn with the queen. After that, all squares will be protected for the black c-pawn to walk down and promote itself. The critical thing to observe is that White's pieces are being somewhat overworked. If White plays 29.Qe2?!, the queen no longer guards the bishop, and after 29...Bd6, Black would be threatening to win a piece by removing the guard on f4 with the bishop and capturing the then hanging bishop on h3. If White guards the bishop with a move like 30.Kg2, then after 30...Bxf4 31.exf4 Qg6+ 32.Kf1 Bd7, White hasn't lost any additional material, but just look at the pawns. They are a complete wreck and White is positionally busted. It also doesn't help that Black was able to eliminate another set of pieces. White needs to come up with something more chaotic, leaving room for error by Black. What other plan might White try for if he can't do anything about the b-pawn without train-wrecking the rest of his position? Well, the first thing to do is look at the geometry of the White pawns. When Black checks the White king, it will move up to the second rank, which is important. The capture of the b-pawn results in the Black queen landing on a dark square. The promotion square for the pawn is also dark. White has all the dark squared diagonals blocked by his own pawns, and with the king not on the back rank, the promotion will not be with check. So if White can maybe eliminate the minor pieces around the Black king, White can maybe draw via perpetual check down an entire queen because both queens will be on dark squares if Black takes the most rapid approach to promoting the c-pawn. Therefore, White abandons the b-pawn and tries to clean house around the Black king. Once again, what happens is not totally forced, but it goes to show that even a 2400 player can be tricked.

29.Nxd5 Qb1+ 30.Kg2 exd5

Believe it or not, this move is actually a mistake and the game is probably already drawn for White. Instead, Black should play 30...Qg6+ 31.Kf1 Bb7!, winning. There may be other lines with winning chances, like the immediate 30...Bb7 or 30...Bd7, but the queen check and pin is the simplest. Sometimes it's just amazing how much of a difference a move can make, and what appears to be the most obvious turns out to be the ultimate error!

31.Bxc8 Qxb2

So now if Black goes for the second queen, it will take him 3 moves to execute it. Therefore, White has 3 free moves, and then all subsequent moves will need to be with check or else White is lost. Keep in mind that moves that gain a tempo on Black, like checks, don't count. He can make 3 non-forcing moves before he is confined to checking the Black king. In the game, Black does go for the queen, but even if he tries to spend time moving his queen to a light square before trying to advance the pawn, it's too late.


Free move number one.

32...c3 33.Bxd5+

Check, gaining a tempo. This move doesn't count towards White's allotted free moves.

33...Kf8 34.Be6!

Free move number two. 34.Qf4 also draws, but all other moves lose.

34...c2 35.Qa8+ Kg7 36.Qb7

Now it's Black that has to be careful!


The only move that draws! 36...c1=Q?? leads to mate in ten starting with 37.Qxe7+.

37.Bxg8 c1=Q 38.Qxe7+ Kxg8 39.Qe8+

And with neither of the Black queens able to come to the rescue as both are blocked by White pawns, there is no way for Black to get out of check and a draw was agreed here.

An Example Where the Winning Side Wins

In this example, I am going to display the entire game because, to this date, this is the highest rated opponent I have ever beaten. I have drawn a couple of players higher than this, but as of right now, this game is what I would consider "McCartney's Immortal", similar to Kasparov's game against Topalov in 1999.

Alexander Matros (2447) - Patrick McCartney (1999), Columbia Open, 2010, Larsen's Opening


It is not unusual for IM's to play an opening like this against a player over 400 points down. The idea is to avoid theory, and simply trusting your skill to outplay your opponent through a simple game of chess. The only problem here is that he ran into a buzz saw in the form of my actually knowing Larsen theory.

1...e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 d5 4.Bb5 Bd6 5.f4 Qh4 6.g3 Qe7 7.Nf3 f6 8.fxe5 fxe5 9.Bxc6 bxc6 10.Nxe5 Nf6 11.Nd3?!

This move is dubious. The main line is 11.Nxc6 Qe4 12.O-O Bh3 13.Rf2 Ng4, which is theoretically equal.

11...Qe4 12.Nf2 Qg2!

White is already lost here. He still had to castle on move 12 and Black would follow up the same way as in the main line, but with one more pawn than if White had taken on c6.

13.Qe2 Ng4 14.Qf1 Qxf1+ 15.Rxf1

15.Kxf1?? loses even faster to 15...O-O -+.

15...Nxh2 16.Rh1 Bxg3 17.Kd1 O-O 18.Nd3 Bg4 19.Kc1

So after White's fatal error on move 12, both sides have since made the best move every time. The critical thing for Black here, when playing up almost 450 points, is not to relinquish the advantage. Not every move will feature "only moves", and you don't always have to play the best move, but you can't afford to slip back into an equal position because unlike facing an 1800 player, you aren't going to get a second chance if you slip up.


According to artificial intelligence, 19...h5 is a tish better, but the move played is fine and doesn't destroy Black's winning advantage.

20.Rxf1 Nxf1 21.Ne5 Be6

Once again the computers prefer 21...h5.

22.Nxc6 h5

Now Black gets the ball rolling, and through careful analysis, one can realize that there is no way to stop the h-pawn from promoting.

23.Nc3 h4 24.Ne2 h3 25.Nxg3 Nxg3 26.Be5 h2

So now that we have the position that goes along with our topic, let's have a look at a diagram.

Here is another case where computer numerical assessment and human aspect don't match. Even after the best moves according to a computer, the position is, at best for White, minus 3. At this point, what is the difference between minus 3 and minus 5? Nothing really. Therefore, White is going to play the move that creates the most chaos on the board, and makes matters the most complicated for Black, rather than a move that the computer deems best but results in a cake walk win for Black.


Of course computers are going to say that White should play 27.Kb2 h1=Q 28.Rxh1 Nxh1. But all this does is lead to a position where Black has a rook for a pawn. There is no other imbalance in the position. By taking the Knight instead, Black does get to keep his queen, but White then has a piece that can function in a way that no Black piece can. The knight. White will try to use that, the extra pawns, and the opposite colored bishops against Black in return for his queen. This may be a bigger advantage for Black, but it's one that still requires some level of accuracy.

27...h1=Q 28.Kb2 Qg2 29.Be5 Rf8 30.Nxa7 Rf1 31.Rxf1 Qxf1 32.Nc6 Bd7 33.Nb8 Qb5 34.Bxc7

So now we have a very odd endgame. White has a knight and three pawns for the queen and the bishops are of opposite color. If Black can ever break up the White pawn chain, Black should win. White does all he can to try to force Black into making an error.

34...Bf5 35.Be5 g5 36.a4 Qc5 37.c3 Qb6 38.d4 g4 39.a5 Qh6 40.Bf4 Qh1

Thus far, Black has succeeded in not relinquishing the advantage, but he has paid a major toll for it in the form of time.


41.a6 should be answered by 41...Qe1 42.a7 Qd2 43.Ka3 Qxc3 and the a-pawn will fall. The square the knight would need to go to in order to cover the pawn is guarded by the queen, which when the square the queen sits on would cover the promotion square and the pawn can be rounded up. Otherwise, Black will get a skewer or a fork, depending on what White does, and round up the a-pawn. So White holds off on advancing it.

41...g3 42.Bxg3 Qg2 43.Ka3 Qxg3 44.Nc5 Qxe3 45.Kb4 Qe7 46.a6 Bc8 47.Kb5 Qa7 48.Kc6 Bxa6 49.Kxd5

I remember at this juncture I was down around (possibly below) ten minutes for the rest of the game. While it is still winning for Black, it is not easy with no Black pawns left.

49...Qf7 50.Kc6 Qg6 51.Kc7 Be2 52.c4 Qg3 53.Kc6 Bd1 54.b4

Mission accomplished! Black forced White to advance the b-pawn, forming a lateral pattern and making the center pawn weak. Break up the pawn chain and Black wins.

54...Qc3 55.d5 Qxc4 56.d6 Bf3 57.Kc7 Qxb4 58.Nd7 Kg7 59.Kd8 Qxd6 and White threw in the towel.

Well, this concludes this article on The Art of the Miracle Draw. We talked about various concepts such as switching gears towards playing what leads to the most complications for the winning side, not necessarily the theoretically best moves, and some of the various ways to pull off such a draw, whether that be perpetual check, stalemate, or simply confusing the opponent to no end until he hopefully buckles, something that we saw in three of the four examples in this article.

Until next time, good luck in your games.

ADDENDUM - You may have noticed that both articles thus far have used static diagrams with moves listed out rather than boards with the moves embedded within. This is intentional, and likely to be the format of the vast majority of my articles. The reason is two-fold. 1) Many of the games I analyze will be analyzed deeper than a mere sentence per move. Scrolling through annotations in the small, tiny window can be very annoying for the reader to have to deal with, and 2) I am of the firm belief that physically making the moves yourself forces the mind to absorb more than merely clicking a button to go through moves. Analysis on an actual board is closer to actually playing a game than clicking through a 2-dimensional board at a rapid rate.