Saturday, June 29, 2019

Every Move Matters

Hello everyone. July is just around the corner and those that have been following the blog since its inception in 2017 might remember what that means. What I like to call the "Summer Tour" is coming up, and so with that said, this will likely be the last post of mine prior to that Summer Tour, but once I get back in late July, analysis from those games is what will be covered.

For those unfamiliar with what I'm referring to, each year in July, I usually will travel long distance to play in a couple of tournaments outside both of the Carolinas. When you have played as many tournament games as I have (over 2900), it's hard to get opponents you haven't played before, and so in 2017, I went to New Hampshire (The New Hampshire Open) and Virginia (The Charlottesville Open) while in 2018 I went to Kansas (The Kansas Open) and Maryland (The Potomac Open), and both years I followed that up with coverage of those games in late July, August, and possibly into September, depending on how many of those games were worth covering. The only tournament of those four where not every round was covered was the Kansas Open, if that gives you an idea how bad that one was compared to the others. So in the coming weeks starting with the end of July, be on the lookout for that. This year's stops will be in Iowa and Michigan. For those of you that haven't seen the previous two years, you can go to the archives in the late Summer of 2017 and late Summer of 2018 and you can find them there.

So then the question became, what would I cover in the final article before then? Well, we are going to be looking at a game with many missed opportunities where those opportunities were literally available once and only once each, where literally every move mattered. This may be anything from a favorable trade to a raging attack, and chances were available for both sides in this game, and so without further ado, let's see what both players missed!

Tuesday Night Action 53, Round 4
W: Patrick McCartney (2051)
B: Jeff Prainito (1711)
King's Gambit Accepted

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 d6

This is a very passive move, and probably not a good one as we are going to see that White is the one with all the shots early on. Far more common are the tempting 3...Qh4+, although this move isn't very good as after 4.Kf1, White will gain time in development by attacking the Queen when he develops his Knight, making Black move the Queen again, and the stronger moves, 3...Nf6 and 3...d5. In the former, 3...Nf6, Black gets on with his development and intends to build a strong center via ...c6 and ...d5 while White is spending time getting his Pawn back on f4. With the latter idea, 3...d5, Black is willing to give the Pawn back immediately to free up his minor pieces and try to achieve easier development.

4.d4 Nf6 5.Nc3


Some might be wondering "Why not the fork trick with 5...Nxe4?". The answer is that the Black King on the open file is a problem here, and Black is not ready to take on e4. White is better after 5...Nxe4? 6.Qe2 f5 7.Bxf4 Qe7 8.Nd5 Qd7 9.Bd3 Nc6 10.Bxe4 fxe4 11.Qxe4+ Kd8 (11...Ne7 12.O-O-O Kd8 13.Nc3) 12.O-O-O Qf5 13.Qf3 g5 14.g4! Qg6 15.Bd2 Bg7 (15...Nxd4 16.Qc3! is even worse) 16.Ne2 Rf8 17.Qg2 Nxd4 18.Nxd4 Bxd4 19.Rhf1 Rxf1 20.Qxf1 Qg7 21.Kb1 Be5 (21...Bxb2?? is losing due to the extra tempo given to White to move the Rook to the e-file after 22.Bxg5+ Qxg5 23.Qf8+ Kd7 24.Qf7+ Kd8 25.Re1 Be5 26.Qxc7+ Ke8 27.Qxd6 and Black's busted.) 22.Qb5 (Now taking on g5 would only be enough for equality) 22...a6 23.Qb3 b6 24.Nb4 and the weaknesses induced around the Black King combined with the better development gives White a clear advantage.

6.Bxf4 O-O

And here the fork trick once again doesn't work as White wins a Pawn because the Rook is still on h8 with no threats of going to e8 on White. Therefore, after 6...Nxe4?!, White gets the advantage with 7.Nxe4 d5 8.Bxc7 Qxc7 9.Bxd5 Qa5+ 10.Nc3 and now 10...O-O 11.Ne2 or 10...Bb4 11.Qe2+ Be6 (Or 11...Kd8 12.Qf3!) 12.O-O-O Bxc3 13.Bxe6!.

7.Nf3 Nxe4

Now is the best time for this move, but as we will see, White will maintain an advantage due to Black's passive 3rd move. Already we are seeing a case of one move spoiling it for Black. This is not unusual in such a sharp opening like the King's Gambit.

8.Nxe4 d5 9.Bd3

This time, taking on c7 isn't as strong as with the Black King still on e8. Now 9.Bxc7 Qxc7 10.Bxd5 Qa5+ 11.Nc3 Bb4 12.Bb3 Bxc3+ 13.bxc3 Qxc3+ 14.Kf2 Bg4 is equal.

9...dxe4 10.Bxe4 Nd7 11.O-O Nf6 12.Bd3 Bg4 13.c3

The other option for White is to get off the slightly open diagonal by playing 13.Kh1 with maybe a slight pull after 13...Bd6 14.Qd2 Bxf4 15.Qxf4 Bh5 16.Rae1 Bg6 17.Ne5 Bxd3 18.Nxd3 Qd6 (other moves are worse for Black) 19.Qxd6 cxd6 with the better pawn structure in the endgame, but with careful play, Black should survive this.

13...Bd6 14.Qd2 Re8 15.Ne5 Be6 16.Bg5 Be7

Here we have a very critical position, and White has the opportunity to get a clear advantage immediately. Do you see how?


And just like that White's advantage is gone! There are two very strong moves here for White, of which I like the second one because the benefits are more concrete. White can get his last piece into the game with 17.Rae1 with a clear advantage on the basis of space and better development. The other move is 17.Qe2, and the pressure on Black's center and Kingside virtually forces him to jettison a Pawn for virtually no compensation after 17...Ng4 18.Bxe7 Qxe7 19.Nxg4 Bxg4 20.Bxh7+ (20.Qxg4 Qe3+ wins back the piece) 20...Kxh7 21.Qxg4 Qe3+ 22.Rf2 and Black has virtually nothing for the Pawn. White's got a clear advantage in this position.


Both players missed the consequences of this move. Pressuring the White center with the immediate 17...c5 leads to a balanced position.


White missed his only chance at a tactical shot on the Black King. After 18.Bxh6! gxh6 19.Qf2 c5 20.Qg3+ Kf8 (Or 20...Kh8 21.Ng6+ fxg6 22.Qxg6 Bf8 23.Rxf6 Qd7 24.Raf1 Qg7 25.Rxe6 Qxg6 26.Rxg6 cxd4 27.cxd4 Rad8 28.Rf7 Re7 29.Rxe7 Bxe7 30.Rxh6+ and White's up 3 Pawns) 21.Ng6+ fxg6 22.Qxg6 cxd4 23.Qxh6+ Kg8 24.Qg6+ Kf8 25.Rf4 dxc3 26.Raf1 and White's winning.

18...c5 19.dxc5?

And when it rains, it pours for White. Better is to fess up that you made a mistake and play out a roughly equal position with either 19.Bb5 or 19.Be3. Black might have a slight pull in the form of initiative, but nothing more. Now instead, Black's in the driver's seat.

19...Bxc5+ 20.Kh1 Qc7 21.Rae1 Bd6 22.Nf3 Bd5 23.Bc1 Ng4 24.Rxe8+ Rxe8 25.Qa4 Qc8

Once again, a very critical decision for White.


This allows Black the additional critical move to make a wild tactical shot work. White should play the immediate 26.Bf5! with only a slight disadvantage after 26...Be6 as here, 26...Nf2+ only leads to an equal position after 27.Kg1 Qb8 28.Kxf2 Bc5+ 29.Nd4 b5 30.Qd1 Qxh2 31.Qg4 Be7.

26...Bc5 27.Bf5 Be6?

Black is winning immediately after 27...Nf2+ 28.Rxf2 Bxf3. The Queen on c8 is poisoned due to make threats on the back rank. With the Black Bishop on c5, going to g1 would never be an option for White, unlike in the previous line where White plays 26.Bf5 immediately.

28.Bxe6 Qxe6

Once again, White has one move that keeps the balance, and all other moves should lose. Do you see the right move?


Once again, White fails to see the only defense, which was 29.Bg3!, but at the same time, we are going to see Black miss yet another golden opportunity via a sacrificial attack, similar to the opportunity White had on move 18.


Better is 29...Qe2, winning on the spot, but this gets even worse!


Again there was only one move for White, and this time, it was 30.Be5! with a roughly balanced position. Now Black has a beautiful sacrificial combination available that he just outright missed.


This move leads to a better endgame for White. Theoretically, it's equal, but with White having the majority that is away from the Kings, it's Black that has to be extremely careful, far more so than White.

Instead, Black wins after 30...Qxe1+!! 31.Nxe1 Rxe1+ 32.Kh2 Bg1+ 33.Kg3 and now the tricky part of the combination, and the only move that wins for Black, 33...g5!! wins the Bishop as abandoning the c1-h6 diagonal allows mate in 1 via 34...Re3, and going to d2 gives Black a Knight fork, and so the Bishop is lost, and so is the game for White!

31.Rxe8+ Qxe8 32.Qxe8+ Nxe8 33.b4 Bd6 34.Be3 a6 35.Bd4 Nc7 36.a3

White's last move wasn't very good, and Black should now play 36...b5, tying down the White Pawns onto the dark squares, which is the color square the Bishops are on. Instead, Black makes a few inferior moves here, and White will come out with a significant endgame advantage.

36...f6 37.c4 Ne6 38.Be3 Bc7 39.Kg1 Kf7 40.Kf2 b6 41.Ke2 Nf4+ 42.Bxf4 Bxf4 43.Nd4 Bc1 44.a4


This is probably the worst of Black's legitimate options, but none of them are very good. White is still better after 44...Ba3 45.b5 axb5 46.cxb5 or 44...Bf4 45.Kd3 Bd6 46.b5 axb5 47.axb5 Ke8 48.Ke4 Kd7 (Or 48...g6 49.Kd5) 49.Kf5 and White is clearly better in both cases. As we can see, not all cases is the Bishop better than the Knight when the position is open and there are Pawns on both sides. In this case, other factors outweigh the specific piece owned by each side. For White, his majority is on the side away from the Kings, his majority is farther advanced than Black's, and his Knight is centralized, all positive factors that outweigh Black having the piece that is traditionally better in open positions.

45.Kd3 Bxd4

This trade is horrible for Black. He must keep the final piece on the board to hope to survive.

46.Kxd4 Ke6 47.c5!

Now it's dead won for White, but hold on...

47...b5 48.axb5 axb5 49.h4 g5 50.hxg5 hxg5 51.g4! f5 52.gxf5 Kxf5

Now, with roughly a minute left on White's clock and about 30 seconds on Black's clock, each side getting 15 seconds per move, the unthinkable happens to both players.

There are two moves that win for White. 53.c6 and 53.Kd5, the latter working because promotion comes with check if Black goes for the Pawn race.


But this move throws the win away completely!. The position is now a draw, or at least it should be!

53...Ke5 54.Kf3 Kf5 55.Kf2

And now the simple opposition move, 55...Kf6, is completely drawn. After 56.Kg3 Ke6 57.Kg4 Kf6, White can't make progress as every time White goes to g4, Black goes to f6, and every time he moves away from g4, Black moves adjacent to f6, and going to h5 doesn't work as ...Kf5 keeps Black in the box of the White c-pawn. However, Black now does the unthinkable.


Black cannot advance the Pawn due to a zugzwang available to White.


And now Black realizes the problem. Going to g5 with the King puts the Black King out of the box of the White c-pawn and the c-pawn promotes. Therefore the g-pawn falls, and White then triagulates the Black King to force his way through and win with the protected passer.

56...Ke5 57.Kxg4 Ke6 58.Kg5 Ke5 59.Kg4 Ke6 60.Kf4 Kd5 61.Kf5 Kc6 62.Ke6 Kc7 63.Ke7 Kc8 64.Kd6 Kd8 65.c6 Kc8 66.c7 1-0

WOW! Talk about a game littered with errors! We saw a game where the assessment swung between winning for White, winning for Black, and drawn numerous times because of many opportunities that were literally only available once, where waiting even the slightest completely changed the assessment of the position. Playing lazy moves, such as Black's 3rd move, can immediately put you in a hole. But those opportunities, as we saw on White's 17th, White's 18th, White's 26th, Black's 27th, White's 29th, Black's 29th, White's 30th, Black's 30th, Black's 36th, White's 53rd, and Black's 55th, are opportunities that were all available literally once each, whether they be winning moves, or moves to simply survive.

Always be on the lookout, every single move, and don't let the opportunities pass you by.

I hope everyone got something useful out of this, and good luck to everyone in your games in the coming month, and be on the lookout for game analysis of the games played on the Summer Tour in Iowa and Michigan when I get back in late July.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Points Schmoints: The Concept of Compensation

The term "Points Schmoints" actually comes from a book written on Bridge Strategy. The old adage in Bridge is that hand evaluation is based on the number of high card points in your hand, where every Ace is worth 4, every King is worth 3, every Queen is worth 2, and every Jack is worth 1, and you add up the points in your hand and that was how good your hand was. If you have 12 or more points, your hand is strong enough to open the bidding.

However, bridge hands are not just about high card points. Because bridge is a game that features a trump suit (as do Spades and Pinochle), the concept of "Points Schmoints" is that the shape of your hand can often outweigh the point count, and that having a very long suit, such as 8 hearts, and a void in another suit, such as having no clubs in your hand, is often stronger than having 4 cards in one suit and 3 cards in each of the other 3 suits, despite the hand with 8 hearts and no clubs having fewer high card points, idea being that every time someone leads a club on a trick, you can win the trick by playing one of your hearts as the trump suit supercedes all other suits. Therefore, point count can often be deemed meaningless.

Well, it is no different in the game of chess. Many attacking players at the amateur level fall in love with playing a gambit in the opening, where they give up a Pawn (or maybe even a piece) for activity early on, but their mentality is often about getting the Pawn back and maintaining a strong center, but notice that they are still trying to equalize the point count. They still have that mentality that a Queen is 9, a Rook is 5, a Bishop or a Knight is 3, and a Pawn is 1, and that points decides who is better, which is a very common mistake. If there are no open files on the board, is a Rook really that good? A Knight or Bishop could be stronger than a Rook in many cases. If the position is blocked in the center, is a Bishop worth much? A Knight might be far stronger despite their "equal value". Is a Knight going to be able to join the party in time in a wild, open game while the long range Queens, Rooks, and Bishops join the show on the Kingside? But Knights are supposed to be the same as Bishops, right?

Another thing you will notice is that while these players are always talking about how great these opening gambits are due to the exciting play that follows, do you ever hear them talking about sacrificing a Pawn later on in the game, such as say, move 27, without there being a forcing line that follows? Probably not often. Often times, these sacrifices in the middlegame or endgame work out just as well, if not better, than in the opening. What the players gets in return for giving up the Pawn is something known as compensation. Yes, you might be one "point" down, but something else about your position is likely to be far superior than your Opponent's position. It could be a dominating Knight on an outpost, especially if the opponent lacks the Bishop of the color square the Knight resides on. It could be the Bishop pair. It could be well coordinated pieces of lesser point value, such as maybe three minor pieces for a Queen and a Pawn. If your total point count is lower than your Opponent's, but you have a redeeming feature that makes your position better than it would be if all you could say about it was that you were "a Pawn down" or "outright losing", then you have what is known as compensation.

The game we are going to be looking at is full of offerings of material imbalance. Some were rejected, but we will also see which ones really should have been rejected and which one should maybe have been accepted.

2019 Carolina's Classic, Round 4
W: Solomon Pointer (2002)
B: Patrick McCartney (2051)
King's Indian Defense, Saemisch Variation

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 O-O 6.Be3 e5 7.d5

This is the main response to the classical 6...e5 line. The only real alternative that holds any value at all is 7.Nge2, but White is going to have to play d5 eventually anyway if he expects to have any advantage at all. After 7.Nge2, Black can play typical waiting moves such as ...Nbd7 and ...a6, with the idea that once White plays d5, Black will play ...f5, transposing back to the main line, which is 7.d5 Nh5 8.Qd2 f5 and there the waiting game begins. Black doesn't want to push ...f4 unless White castles Kingside, and White doesn't want to take on f5 unless Black is forced to recapture with a piece as Black still dominates the e4-square if he is able to retake with the g-pawn.

However, since this article is on compensation, we won't be seeing the main line, but rather a somewhat speculative sacrifice offer by Black as early as move 8.

7...Nh5 8.Qd2 Qh4+

This is a sideline known as the Bronstein Gambit, named after the former GM David Bronstein. The idea is simple. Black is going to offer White his Queen for two Bishops and two Pawns (9 "Points" for 8), the idea being that Black's slight deficit in material is compensated for in the form of a solid position and better piece coordination as White's remaining pieces are scattered about the board. There is still some question as to it's soundness, but at the time of the writing of this article, it is thought to give White a slightly greater advantage with best play than would the main line with 8...f5, but that Black's position is "ok". The idea is that Black has "some compensation" for the material deficit, but probably not a full Pawn's worth of compensation.


This move, while not losing by any stretch, is not best. This is one of those times that the gambit should be accepted, and the way to do that is via 9.g3! Nxg3 10.Qf2 (10.Bf2 doesn't work as after 10...Nxf1, the Knight is attacking the Queen, and so Black simply wins a Pawn) 10...Nxf1 11.Qxh4 Nxe3 and then there is speculation as to whether a King move to the second rank or 12.Qf2 is best, but White must do something to stop the Knight fork on c2, and Black will follow with 12...Nxc4, getting two Bishops and two Pawns for the Queen with a solid position.

9...Qxf2+ 10.Bxf2

It probably would have been wiser to take with the King, not giving the Black Bishop control of the open diagonal.

10...Bh6 11.Nge2 Na6 12.a3 Nc5 13.Nc1


This move allows White to force the win of a pawn if he wants it. However, Black will get the compensation for it to keep the balance. The idea behind Black's move is that he feels it is more important to delay White's ability to kick the Knight away with b4 than it is to hold on to the pawn, but Black must calculate what he will get in return. By the way, now 14.b4 fails to 14...axb4 as recapturing will lose the Rook on a1. Therefore, to evaluate the validity of 13...a5, we must look at the one critical move. After 14.Bxc5 dxc5 15.Nd3, we see that White is going to win either the c-pawn or the e-pawn. It turns out that Black gets his compensation by giving away the e-pawn. After 15...b6 16.Nxe5, Black has the move 16...f5 and there are two critical lines:

A: After 17.g3 Bg7 18.f4 (all other moves are worse for White) fxe4, White can't try to hold on to the extra Pawn as 19.Nxe4 fails to 19...Nxf4! and Black is winning as after 20.gxf4 Rxf4, one of the White Knights will fall. Instead, after 19.Be2 Nf6, Black is fine. He has regained the pawn back and has the Bishop pair to compensate for White's center.

B: After 17.Nb5 fxe4 18.fxe4, Black can equalize immediately with 18...Re8 19.Nxc7 Rxe5 20.Nxa8 Rxe4+ 21.Kf2 Be3+ with a likely draw, or he can play on with 18...Bg7 19.Nf3 Bg4 20.Nxc7 Ra7 21.Nb5 (21.d6 Bxb2!) 21...Raf7 and despite being two pawns down, Black has obvious compensation. The b2-pawn is hanging. There are threats on f3. Black's position is way too active for White's extra material to be worth anything, and only after you physically make moves on the computer, such as 22.Ng5 or 22.Be2, does it actually recognize that Black is equal.

Therefore, 13...a5 is a sound pawn sacrifice if White accepts the offer, and if he does, Black should hold on to the c-pawn, and give up the e-pawn with the White King still in the center.


White instead goes for the c7-pawn, but again, we are going to see White be forced to give up the Bishop pair in return for it. This was the other line that had to be seen by Black when playing 13...a5, and yes, I had calculated this all the way to the threatened fork at the end of the line (see the note to White's 16th move), which lead to my knowing that I'd get the Bishop pair in return.


Once again, egging White on to grab the pawn.


And this time he does it, but nothing comes for free.

15...Rac8 16.Bxc5

An unfortunate necessity for White. If he didn't have to give up the Bishop pair, Black would lack compensation for the Pawn, but here, 16.Nb5?? loses to 16...Bxb5! as 17.Bxc5 Rxc5 leaves the c4-pawn pinned and 18.Nb3 Rxc4! 19.Bxc4 Bxc4 20.Nxa5 Ba6 is winning for Black while 17.cxb5 allows a fork after 17...Bxc1 18.Rxc1 Nd3+ and 19...Nxc1, which is also winning for Black.

16...dxc5 17.d6 Rfd8 18.Nd3 Bf8 19.Nd5

Possibly stronger may have been 19.Nxe5 Bc6 20.Nd5, but not 20.Nxc6? bxc6 as after 21.Na6 Bxd6, the Knight is trapped. After 20.Nd5 Bxd6 21.Ng4, White might be able to claim a very slight advantage, but again, Black has definite compensation for the missing Pawn.

19...Bxd6 20.O-O-O


Better is 20...Ba4, as this move would force White to play accurately to hold the balance after 21.Rd2 Bb3 and now White has to find 22.Be2 a4 (22...Bxc4 23.Nb6!) 23.g4 with equality. In the game, White has one last opportunity to get an advantage.


21.Nb6 should be played here, forcing Black to recapture on d7 with a Rook. Waiting a move and allowing Black to recapture with the Knight, as done in the game, is inferior.

21...Nf6 22.Nb6 Rc6 23.Nxd7 Nxd7 24.Bh3

With the threat of 25.Bxd7 followed by 26.Nxe5, but Black can easily answer the threat. The problem is what follows if White sees it.

24...Bc7 25.Bxd7 Rxd7 26.Rd2?

And just like that it goes from advantage White to advantage Black. White had to play one of two prophylactic moves, namely either 26.a4 or 26.b3, with the latter probably being the safer of the two. Now, after 26...Rd4 27.Nb2, the Black Rook may look good on d4, but it is doing nothing, and even after something like 27...Rcd6, White can ignore it, and in the long run, the Knight is going to be better than that bad Bishop Black has on c7, giving White the advantage. It will still take a lot of work to win the game, but we are only looking at two results at this point. Also note that if Black tries to play 26...a4 here, then White has time for 27.Nb2 and since a4 is being attacked, Black has to play 26...Rxd1 27.Rxd1 axb3, but now 28.Rd7 is far better than what happens in the game with White failing to play this prophylactic move.

After the game move, Black is in the Driver's seat.


The fact that this threatens c4 and White is now a move behind compared to before, he doesn't get the Rook on d7 and Black is simply better here.

27.b3 a4 28.Nb2 axb3

Now this is a case where compensation is lacking. Yes, the Bishop is still slightly bad, but not bad enough to make the Knight worth a full Pawn compared to the Bishop. This is a case where White lacks compensation for the Pawn.

29.Rhd1 Ra6 30.Rxd4 cxd4 31.a4 Ba5 32.f4 f6 33.Nd3 Bc3 34.Nc5 Ra5 35.Nxb3 Rxa4 36.c5 Ra2 37.h4

Which Pawn should Black be going after? Is the g-pawn the weakest one?


No! This can only be covered by the Knight blocking the Rook from going to the third Rank, and is therefore the Pawn that Black should be going after, despite that from initial appearance, it looks like the g-pawn should be the target.

38.Nd2 Bb4 39.fxe5 fxe5 40.Nc4 Rxe4 41.Nd6 Re3 42.Rf1 Bxc5 43.Ne8+ Kh6 44.g4

Or 44.Rf7, with the idea of 45.Nf6 and 46.Rxh7#, but this can be easily stopped by 44...Rxg3 45.Nf6 Ba3+ 46.Kc2 Rg2+ 47.Kb3 g4 48.Kxa3 g3 winning.

44.Be7 45.g5+ Bxg5 46.hxg5+ Kxg5 47.Kd2 h5

This is easily winning for Black.

48.Nd6 h4 49.Nc4 Re4 50.Kd3 Rf4 51.Rg1+ Kf6 52.Nd6 h3 53.Ne4+ Kg7 54.Rh1 Rf3+ 55.Kd2 Kh6 56.Nc5 g5 57.Nd3 e4 58.Ne1 Rf2+ 59.Kd1 g4 60.Nc2 Rxc2 61.Kxc2 Kh5 62.Kd2 Kh4 63.Ke2 g3 0-1

The final position deserves a diagram given the title of this article.

We see equal material count in the final position. 5 on 5! However, White is completely dead in the water. So much for material count, huh? Points Schmoints!

This article should be a very valuable lesson to those of you that are always honed in on material count. Material is only one of many factors that determine who is better in any given position.

Til next time, good luck in your games.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Breaking: CCCSA Combines Forces with Young Master Chess

Contact: Peter Giannatos                                                                                For Immediate Release
Phone: 980-265-1156

Charlotte Chess Center combines forces with Young Master Chess

Joint venture creates one of largest scholastic organizations in the country

Charlotte, NC, June 1, 2019 – The two largest chess teaching outfits in Charlotte have combined to create a joint organization. Charlotte Chess Center, founded in 2014, and Young Master Chess, founded in 2004, are now one. The Charlotte Chess Center name will be kept for the joint company.

The combining of the two scholastic organizations means more than 40 schools will now have chess education in the Charlotte area. Several thousand kids will also have more tournament opportunities, a freestanding chess center to attend, and even more quality instruction and instructors. The Charlotte Chess Center grows to more than a half-dozen masters amongst its teaching corps, with a combined experience of more than 100 years of instruction to children of all levels.

“We're thrilled to be working with all of the longstanding programs under the Young Master Chess umbrella,” Charlotte Chess Center owner Peter Giannatos said. “One thing that has made Charlotte Chess Center and Young Master Chess programs unique is the value they both put into ensuring a quality chess education for students. Both organizations have focused on teaching the life skills and educational benefits of chess, not just the game itself."

“What the Charlotte Chess Center has done in only a few short years is remarkable,” Young Master Chess owner Mike Klein said. “They've put Charlotte on the map nationally by hosting well-run and professional events, as well as offering great school chess clubs. We're excited that kids can now play chess every day of the week at the center. Peter has tremendous energy and a unique vision in the chess world.” Klein will still be involved in the new organization.

"I would like to ensure the parents and students of both our current programs and our newly-added programs that all will receive top-flight attention and coaching. Our goal is for all of our programs to meet the same standards: low student-teacher ratios, well-trained coaches, and student support at local, state and national tournaments. We look forward to this new beginning and further enhancing chess in the Charlotte area.”

Charlotte Chess Center is a scholastic teaching organization that also serves the adult chess community of Charlotte with a chess center at 10700 Kettering Dr, Suite E, Charlotte, NC 28226. The center runs in-school classes and after school chess clubs at more than 40 area schools, hosts nightly events, many weekend tournaments, including national events and elite summer camps. The center helped make Charlotte the current “Chess City of the Year” as announced by the US Chess Federation in 2018.

The French Connection - Volume 21

Hello everyone and welcome to the twenty-first edition of The French Connection. Today, we are going to cover an Exchange French where I played Black in a game that just ended this week in the Semi-Final round of the 2017 Electronic Knights Championship.

A word about the tournament. The Electronic Knights Championship is an email-based correspondence tournament with an elimination-type format. Entries are taken over the course of the year with multiple entries allowed (up to 10 for the year), and every 7 entries creates a preliminary round bracket where you play 3 of the other 6 players with White and the other 3 with Black. All players that score at least 4 1/2 points advance to the Semi-Final round, and they are grouped in sevens, and the same rules apply. All those that score at least 4 1/2 points will advance to the final. Typically the final will be two brackets. Once the final is completed, scores are tallied up, with latter rounds being weighted, using the following formula: (Preliminary Round Score) + 2.2*(Semi-Final Round Score) + 4.5*(Final Round Score), where a perfect score is 46.2. The top 10 are then paid. I had scored 5.5 in the Preliminary round, and I had 2 wins and 3 draws for a score of 3.5 in the current round with just this game remaining as the game reached the early-to-mid 40s in moves, and so I knew that if I win this game, I advance to the Final for the second time ever. Note that you can see one of those two wins in the Semi-Final in The French Connection - Volume 19.

2017 Electronic Knights Semi-Finals (Correspondence)
W: Jay Hall (1901)
B: Patrick McCartney (1958)

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Be3

Those of you that have read my article on the Exchange French when I published the repertoire in 2017 and those of you that have read Volume 8 of The French Connection will know that I am a big advocate of many symmetrical lines in the Exchange French, making White prove that he has something, where lower rated players either won't understand the position or else try to force the issue themselves and implode while I have no objection to drawing a 2400 player with Black. That said, there are exceptions to that rule, and this is clearly one of them as I really do not see a strong purpose for this move. Part of understanding the Exchange Variation is understanding what order to develop your pieces. There is the old adage to develop your Knights before your Bishops, but there is a reason behind that blanket statement. Most of the time, you know well in advance where the best square is for each Knight. For example, in the Najdorf Sicilian, Black's Knights will go to f6 and d7 with the Bishops usually going to e7 and b7. However, in the King's Indian Defense, it's not the two Knights that you know where you want them ahead of time. Depending on what White plays, the Queen's Knight may want to go to c6, d7, or even a6 in some cases. However, the King's Knight and the Dark-Squared Bishop have pre-defined locations of f6 and g7. When that adage came about of developing Knights before Bishops, it was when most people played 1.e4 e5, and the board would be open with it being easier to develop the pieces, and the Knights were known to go toward the center while the Bishops had multiple options, and so you wanted to wait before you committed.

With the Exchange French, it's a little different. After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5, we see an open e-file with both sides having a strong point on the d-file. For White it is d4 and for Black it is d5. The reason behind this the fact that in order to attack the opposing Pawn, you have to be willing to take an isolani. Now this is fully possible, and many openings specifically lead to an Isolated Queen Pawn (or IQP), but it's a commitment that must be made early on. Otherwise, the d4-pawn for White and the d5-pawn for Black will typically go undisrupted until later in the game. Therefore, I see no reason to "protect" the d-pawn with the Bishop here on move 4. In addition, the Dark-Squared Bishop in the Exchange French typically has multiple options, including going to f4 or g5 (after Black has played something like ...Nf6). In addition, this plugs up the open file, and if anybody wants to be doing the plugging up of the position, it should be the person looking to defend. In symmetrical positions, that's typically Black, not White. White should be looking to take advantage of the extra move in symmetrical positions.

So instead, White should be developing a minor piece with a more defined role and less flexibility. While 4.Nf3 is ok, if White doesn't want to go into the IQP positions with 4.c4, I think that the minor piece with the most defined role is the Light-Squared Bishop. Going to e2 is very passive for the player with the extra move while going to b5 only helps Black develop as he gets in ...c6 (a move he is likely to play anyway) with tempo, and it will never to go c4 with the strong point for Black on d5 unless White goes for the IQP lines. Therefore, if White doesn't want to venture into the IQP lines, the move that makes the most sense for White is 4.Bd3 because the Bishop has a pre-defined role. Then when Black plays 4...Bd6, he is forcing White to make the first decision, or the first commitment, and this is why I condone the mimic approach here as there is no real way for White to take advantage of the extra move like he can if you mimic too far in other openings, such as the Four Knights Game. For example, if White tries to play 5.c3 and 6.Qc2, Black can do the same with 5...c6 and 6...Qc7. Therefore, White has to decide first what to do, and that usually entails deciding what to do with the King's Knight. He can play the Knight to e2, which allows White to contest the Bishop on d6 with a subsequent Bf4, or he can play Nf3, and when Black plays ...Nf6, the Bishop can pin the Knight on g5.

Therefore, the Dark-Squared Bishop for White plays a volatile role, and is often dependent upon where White and Black develop their King's Knight, and so committing it early like White did in the game to me is not correct, and this is one case where we will not see Black taking the mimic approach. White should instead play 4.Bd3, 4.c4, or 4.Nf3 here, though the third may be microscopically weaker than the other two for move order reasons.

4...Nf6 5.Bd3 Bd6 6.Nc3 c6

So notice that Black started with developing first the items that are for the most part pre-defined. With White not developing his Kingside pieces and already plugging up the e-file, there is no reason for Black to fear disruptive checks on the e-file with his King still in the center, and so there is no reason for Black to develop the Bishop or the Knight to e7, and he places them on the active f6 and d6 squares, and the ...c6 push is totally normal in this line, and even more so with a White Knight on c3. Similar to the issues that Black has in the Spanish Four Knights (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Bb4 5.O-O O-O 6.d3 Bxc3 7.bxc3 d6 8.Bg5 Qe7 9.Re1), we see a Knight on c3 opposed by a pawn three squares forward from it, controlling the squares that the Knight would like to go to, and so the Knight ends up not well placed, and similar to that Spanish Four Knights position, where 9...Nb8 is fairly normal here, we are probably going to be seeing White move that Knight again from c3. So we now have two pieces for White that are likely to get moved again in short order while Black will continue to develop his other pieces that haven't moved already. While it is way too early to say either side is winning by any stretch of the imagination, I already prefer Black's position, and can't fathom how White can claim any advantage here.

7.Qd2 O-O 8.O-O-O

So now we see what White is doing, but I have to admit that I don't think his attack is well coordinated. Let's think about the various scenarios where we typically see this opposite side castling approach. One case where this is commonly seen is in the Sicilian Dragon, but a major difference between the Sicilian Dragon and the French Exchange is that Black has the ideal pawn structure in front of his King with no squares weakened. In the Dragon, the g-pawn is advanced, and a simple trade of the Dark-Squared Bishops can lead to some very weak dark squares around the Black King. Here, we see Black with no such issue, and even if the Bishop at some point goes to f4 and the Bishops do get traded, with the pawn on g7 instead of g6, the dark squares are not an issue around the Black King. The other thing that White has in the Dragon that he doesn't have here is what is called a hook. The g-pawn in the Dragon is a hook for the h-pawn to latch onto at h5. Here, it doesn't matter which Pawn or Pawns White advances on the Kingside, there is no hook to latch on to.

So what other openings do we see this type of play with opposite side castling and the Bishop and Queen lined up on the c1-h6 diagonal but Black's Bishop is not fianchettoed? How about the English Attack against the Najdorf Sicilian or the Taimanov Sicilian? There is a problem with comparing those as well, and that is the d-pawn. In the Najdorf Sicilian, the pawn is typically on d6, hemming in the Dark-Squared Bishop to the passive e7-square. Here, Black has already played ...d5, a move that Black often struggles to play in the Sicilian and when he does, it often has certain consequences attached to it. The d5-pawn is actually Black's strong point here, and the Bishop is free to roam. So you might say "Well, what about the Taimanov?", but even here, the Black pawn is usually on d7, limiting Black's amount of space, and there are again consequences with playing ...d5. Sure the Bishop may be open unlike the Najdorf, but what Black has here is still a far better version than what we typically see in the English Attack against the Taimanov Sicilian.

In addition, Black has not committed his Queenside pieces yet. Since the White King has already committed to the Queenside, Black will simply advance the Queenside Pawns, his a8-Rook will almost develop itself via the Pawn advancement, the c-pawn can stay back on c6 to protect d5 while we advance the a- and b-pawns, and so with c6 plugged up and the Light-Squared Bishop still pretty much our bad piece, though not quite as bad as in other lines of the French Defense, we pretty much know what we want to do. That is:
  • Advance the a- and b-pawns.
  • Use the Light-Squared Bishop to either defend the Kingside or trade it off for White's better Bishop or possibly a Knight, especially if it will wreck the pawn structure - notice that playing the Bishop to d3 and the Queen to d2 has weakened f3, and as we will see in the game, Black will get a favorable trade on f3, wrecking White's Pawns.
  • Wait on developing the b8-Knight until the position is more well defined. Black may want to develop it to a6, say if b4 becomes a weakness because White plays something like a4, or it may want to go to d7 and then either b6 or f6, or possibly promote an eventual ...c6-c5 push, and so just like what was mentioned about White's Dark-Squared Bishop at move 4, holding off on it's development due to the volatile nature of what it needs to be doing, Black will do just that here with the Knight on b8, which ends up staying on b8 until the 14th move of the game.
  • Other than whatever happens with the Light-Squared Bishop, avoid Kingside moves except when necessary, and especially avoid advancing the Kingside Pawns until it is necessary.

8...b5 9.Nf3 a5 10.Bg5

So already we see that Dark-Squared Bishop moving again, and had it actually done a task on e3, mission was accomplished from there, and now relocated to g5, that would be one thing. That happens often in chess where a piece does a temporary job from one place and then goes to another square after the first job is complete, but here, there was no purpose on e3, and so, in essence, White has already lost a move. He could just as easily have played an early Bd3 and Nf3, waiting for ...Nf6 from Black, place this Bishop on g5 from the get go, and virtually achieve the same position that we have here with now White to move instead of Black.

10...a4 11.Rhe1

This is possibly the only plus for White. His Rooks are connected, Black's are far from it. However, with the pawn on f7, Rook and Queen on f8 and d8, and the Dark-Squared Bishop ideally placed on d6 for now, all the entry points on the e-file are under control, and White has no breakthru down the e-file at this point in time, and so there is little for Black to worry about in terms of his Rooks not being connected. Black's Queen's Rook is busy on the Queenside anyway, and doesn't even want the lone job of backing up his mate on f8.

11...a3 12.b3 Bg4 13.h3 Bxf3 14.gxf3 Nbd7 15.Ne2 Re8 =/+

Black has a slight advantage due to the pawn structure and further accomplishments against the White King than White has achieved against Black's. However, we now have a critical position where both sides error. White needs to create a weakness for Black. The best way to do that is to force Black to weaken himself by making him advance a Pawn on the Kingside. How does White do that?


This is not it! Sure White has the Semi-Open g-file, but does that make the g-file the line of attack? A lot depends on which Pawn you can make Black advance. It turns out, that's the g-pawn, and the way to do it is with 16.Ng3. Black can ill-afford to let that Knight get in on f5. After 16.Ng3 Rxe1 17.Rxe1 g6 18.h4 (There's that hook that White was looking for, and could it now be the h-file that's opening up instead of the g-file?) 18...Qc7 19.h5 Bxg3 20.fxg3 Nxh5 21.g4 Ng7, Black still has a slight advantage with the extra Pawn, but White is showing signs of progress and has at least some compensation for the Pawn.

Instead, the game move gave Black the opportunity to increase his advantage.


And Black came back with a slight error. Better was 16...Kh8, and if now 17.Ng3, then 17...Qc7 where 18.Nf5 can be answered by 18...Nh5 with advantage. Here, it's not an issue if Black trades on d6, and there are no problems on g7. The difference between this and the position after 16.Ng3 Qc7 17.Nf5 is that the e-file is contested, and after 17...Rxe1 18.Rxe1 Nh5, it's White that owns the e-file, and after 17...Nh5, White can trade the Rooks off with 18.Rxe8+ Rxe8 19.Re1 and Black's advantage has been minimized. In the line with 16...Kh8 17.Ng3 Qc7 18.Nf5 Nh5, sure White can come back and contest the e-file again, but once again, it's another tempo lost, similar to the initial development of White's Dark-Squared Bishop.

Often times, the small details that make the difference in two similar looking lines is something that is away from the action. Here we see the battle over whether the Knight should be allowed into f5, and attacks on the g7-pawn, and trading Knight for the strong Bishop on d6, and yet the difference is the control of the e-file.


In this particular case, this is the wrong pawn to advance. White is positioned in such a way that he is ready to break with the f-pawn now without further preparation. After 17.f4 Qa5 18.Qxa5 Rxa5 19.f5 Ne4 20.Bxe4 Rxe4 21.Rde1 Ra8 22.f3 Ree8 23.h4 Kg7 24.Kd2, White has minimized Black's advantage to being something that is microscopic. Black still can't take the f-pawn because of a discovered check, winning the Bishop on d6 for White.


This move is possible, abandoning the over-protection of f6 due to a tactical shot.

18.Bxf6 Nxf6 19.Qg5

White was probably banking on Black playing something like 19...Qd8 or else moving the Knight away with something like 19...Nd7, both of which allowing White to follow up with 20.h5 and create massive pressure on the g6-square with a potential sacrifice of the Bishop at some point on g6 after a trade of pawns occurs. However, Black has one tactical shot, and it's the only move on the board that maintains the advantage.


Black recognized that if White takes the Knight with the Pawn, the Bishop is trapped. In addition, this removes one of the attackers of g6, and probably the most important one as it's the piece that would likely have sacrificed itself to pry open the Black King.

20.fxe4 dxe4 21.Bxb5 Be7 22.Qf5 Qxb5 23.Qxb5 cxb5 24.h5 Bh4

Threatening the f-pawn. With reduced material after the trade of minor pieces and Queens, the cost of dropping a pawn is far greater, and these little nuances can slow down an Opponent's attack.

25.hxg6 fxg6

Another rule people always hear about is capturing towards the center. While this is still true for most middle game positions, as the game gets closer and closer to an endgame, the more attractive outside pawns are, and especially passed ones as they can be harder to reach and defend. Black is looking at the passed h-pawn and doesn't want to give it up, and with the reduced material, he is not exposing his King or severely weakening what is now an isolated e-pawn for Black. As we will see later on, this h-pawn is actually what wins the game for Black.

26.Rg2 b4

The purpose of this move is to virtually isolate the White d-pawn. If Black waits until White has played c3 to advance ...b4, then White can by-pass and have a mobile pawn duo on c4 and d4 with both of them also being passed pawns. By playing this prophylactic move, Black is assuring that the d-pawn will never get the help of it's mate on the c-file. The moment White advances the Pawn, Black will capture on c3, either naturally or en passant.

27.d5 Rad8 28.c4 bxc3

As prescribed on move 26. White still has two passers, but they are not connected, and instead come in the form of b- and d-pawns.


Or 29.Nxc3 Bf6, which is also an advantage for Black.

Up until now, Black has virtually dominated the game, but now he makes a move that could very well have cost him everything.


In a single move, we go from almost winning for Black to better for White, and again for the same reasons that White's position has become wretched. Surrendering a tempo to White! Instead, 29...Bf6 keeps Black in the driver's seat.


White immediately fails to take advantage. Both 30.Nd4 Rxd5 31.Ne6+ Rxe6 32.Rxd4 Rf6 33.Rd7+ and 30.Nf4 Kf7 31.Rg4 Bf6 32.Ne6 give White the advantage because they both gain time on Black due to the threat of the fork on move 30 that Black literally walked right into the previous move.

After the move played in the game, simply trying to advance the passer, Black has his advantage back.

30...Bf6 31.Nd4

Too late! In addition, the advancement of the d-pawn has relinquished any threats on e6 anyway as White no longer controls that square.

31...Bxd4 32.Rxd4 Re6

White's main trump card, the passed d-pawn, is now toast. Now the problem becomes the h-pawn, and that's a problem for White.

33.Kxc3 Rdxd6 34.b4

Possibly 34.Rg4 is a slightly better try, but Black is still clearly better after 34...h5 35.Rgxe4 Rxe4 and now 36.Rxe4 Rf6 37.f4 h4 is better for Black, but even worse is 36.Rxd6 h4, winning for Black.

After the move in the game, Black emerges up a Pawn for tactical reasons.

34...Rxd4 35.Kxd4 Rd6+

Once White takes the Pawn, there is no way to save the b-pawn and it comes with check.

36.Kxe4 Rb6 37.Rg3 Rxb4+

And now the tactical trick is visible. If White goes to the third rank, the King blocks the Rook from taking the a-pawn. If the King goes to the fifth rank, Black can check again and go to f5, attacking the f2-pawn. The latter is what happens in the game.

38.Ke5 Rb5+ 39.Kd4 Rf5 40.Rxa3 Rxf2 41.Ra5

If White plays 41.Ra7+, Black can actually get away with interposing with 41...Rf7 as White has no way to keep the Black King off of c8 and Black is in the box of the a-pawn after 42.Rxf7 Kxf7. If White tries to race the pawn, then the King gets there in time. If he immediately tries to cut the Black King off with 43.Kc5, then 43...h5 does the trick. Even if the White King returns to the Kingside, the two pawns guard each other, and White can never take the pawn in the back as the other pawn then promotes. Black only has to stop one Pawn, and can immediately capture it once White goes after the Kingside Pawns.

Therefore, White has to keep the Rooks on the board and try to draw that way, but Black has the ideal scenario for a Pawn-up Rook ending. The pawns are on opposite wings, and the White King is cut off from the Black Pawns, and Black keeps it that way until White advances the a-pawn, at which point, he will get behind the passed pawn, which is where the Rook belongs. Behind, not in front.

41...h5 42.Ke3 Rf1 43.Ke2 Rf7 44.a4 h4 45.Rd5 Rf4

An important move, getting behind the a-pawn or else forcing White to block himself with the Rook by returning to a5 and putting the Rook in front of the passed Pawn. Instead, White advances.

46.a5 Kh6

No need to get behind the Pawn yet. White is guarding it laterally and so can't get behind it first, and the King can't get to b3, stopping Ra4, so no need to play it immediately. Might as well keep the White King cut off as long as physically possible.

47.a6 Ra4

Now it was necessary as White threatened 48.Ra5.

48.Rd6 Kh5 49.Kf3 g5 50.Kf2 Ra2+ 51.Kf3 g4+ 52.Kf4 h3

52...Ra4+, forcing the King to either f5 or else to the e-file, getting the King even further away from the passed pawn, may have been slightly better, but 52...h3 also wins fairly easily. White tries to get behind the Black Pawns, but must surrender his a-pawn to do it.

53.Rd8 Rxa6 0-1

You might be wondering why White resigned here. In correspondence chess, there are these things called Tablebases. They are databases of every legal position with 3, 4, 5, or 6 pieces, and whether they are a win or a draw based on each side being on the move. They are not computers, and are perfectly legal in correspondence chess, even tournaments where computers are forbidden like most USCF Correspondence tournaments are. Therefore, a tablebase was accessed here, Black has forced mate in 25 moves from this point, and since White recognized and acknowledged the same thing, he resigned.

There are a few items that can and should be picked up from this game:
  • In the Exchange French, or in any opening, it's not so much the old adage of "Develop Knights before Bishops", but more accurate in modern day chess would be "Develop the minor pieces with the least number of sensible options first". If there is only one place that makes sense for one piece, and multiple places that make sense for another piece, and it doesn't fail tactically to anything by your opponent, develop those minor pieces first. In the French Exchange, it's the King's Bishop followed by the King's Knight.
  • Black did not mimic White like what is recommended in the Repertoire from 2017 because White made a committal move and that, in and of itself, is information to Black. When Black plays the mimic game, it's because White has made non-committal moves that he is going to make anyway, and so Black responds with non-committal moves, forcing White to show his hand first. In this case, with 4.Be3, White, in a sense, has already showed his hand, and Black no longer needs to, nor should he, copy White.
  • The tempo is one of the most critical things in an opening like the Exchange French. We saw that White moving his Bishop twice in the opening, on moves 4 and 10, cost him any chances at an advantage. The comparison of lines at moves 16 and 17 also illustrate the differences one tempo can make, and in the cases where Black controlled the e-file, White could regain the contesting of the e-file, but again, would cost White an extra valuable tempo. Lastly, Black's error on move 29, in essence offering White a free tempo in the form of two different Knight productive Knight moves on move 30, could have easily swung the game from borderline winning for Black to at minimum a slight advantage for White and likely more than that!

Well, that concludes this edition of The French Connection. Good luck in all of your future French games, whether playing Black or White.