Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Game Analysis: Bottom Half Class Championship, Round 2

Hello everyone and welcome once again. The first thing you might notice is that this article is unusually short. There is a reason for that. This game was so bad that there really is only one spot in the game worth analysis, and the only reason I included it is because it does point out a very important factor in chess that many amateurs completely ignore. Otherwise, this is by far the worst game of the road trip! Yes, worse than the final round in Des Moines that I showed previously with numerous errors!

We will see a Fianchetto King's Indian, like we did in Round 1 of the Des Moines Open, but this one will be reached via a different move order, which will also illustrate a portion of the main point of the article. Further detail on this can be seen in the note to Black's 12th move.

2019 Bottom Half Class Championship, Round 2
W: Ronald Williams (1858)
B: Patrick McCartney (1996)
King's Indian Defense, Fianchetto Variation

1.c4 g6 2.Nc3 Bg7 3.g3 d6 4.d4 Nf6 5.Bg2 c6 6.e4 O-O 7.Nf3 Qa5

A word of note about move order. In the "normal" King's Indian Defense, this line would typically arrive via the move order 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 O-O 5.Nf3 d6 6.O-O c6 7.Nc3 Qa5 8.e4 on the assumption that White were to castle here on move 8. Notice in the first game of the Des Moines Open, Black played 7...Bf5 rather than 7...Qa5. Both are lines in the Fianchetto King's Indian, but the move order played, with the early e4, does not allow Black to play that line, and so I decided to play the line I used to always play, the 7...Qa5 line. This illustrates one very critical factor when studying an opening. Do not simply select a single line at random, memorize the moves, and then think you are set! You have to look for preventable moves. The move ...c6 is not preventable by White barring doing something completely stupid, but the 7th move options by Black can be prevented, particularly via the English Opening move order, and so when you study an opening, you have to know all the odd move orders that can lead to it, and make sure you have those move orders covered. It is for this reason that I have studied all of the 6...c6 lines of the Fianchetto King's Indian, and not just the 7...Qa5 or 7...Bf5 line. This is why it's critical to understand the ideas behind the 6...c6 lines of the King's Indian (or whatever lines you decide to play) and not just memorize lines, as if all you did was memorize, you'd be clueless at this point if all you did was memorize the 7...Bf5 line.


White is better off playing 8.O-O, transposing to the main line, and with best play, White can get a slight advantage after 8...Bg4 9.h3 Bxf3 10.Bxf3 e5 (10...Nfd7 used to be more popular, but those lines have since been pretty bleak for Black after 11.Be3 Qb4 12.Qb3 a5 13.Be2 Na6 14.Qc2 Qb6 15.Rad1 c5 16.d5 Nc7 and now Nunn's idea, 17.a4!, has lead to very bad results for Black) 11.d5 cxd5 12.cxd5 Nbd7 13.Bd2 Rfc8 14.Qe2 a6 15.h4 h5 16.Bg2 Qd8 17.Bh3 with a slight advantage for White, though a fully manageable position for Black.

Keep this position in mind when you reach the diagram below after White's 12th move.

8...Bg4 9.h3 Bxf3 10.Bxf3 e5 11.d5 cxd5 12.cxd5

So the difference between the line given in the note to White's 8th move and this position is that here White has played the passive Qe2, and has not castled. He lags behind in development compared to the main line, and the Queen can't come to the active square b3. This often leads to a kind of temptation, and that's what happens to Black here in this game. It is very important to note that in closed, blocked positions, the loss of time is not nearly as critical as wide open positions. Instead, Black should adjust the order of his moves to make White pay for the mis-placement of the Queen. For example, playing 12...a6 here is probably best, preventing the Queen from coming to b5, and follow that up with the ...Nbd7 and ...Rfc8 idea. Black's upcoming 12th move isn't outright losing, but what Black does shortly after that is!

12...Rc8 13.Bd2 Qd8 14.O-O Nbd7 15.a3

White continues to play passively. It is here that Black starts getting into serious trouble.


Why not 15...a6? Again, the whole idea is to keep White passive. You are not going to successfully blast White simply because he has a passive position. The position is too closed for that.

16.Be3 Nb3

This move is artificial and yes, forces White to move the Rook, but the Knight is not ready to arrive at d4, and it forces White to play a move he wants to make anyway.

17.Rad1 Nd7?

Why? The Knight on f6 is restraining the Bishop from coming to g4 and expanding on the Kingside and along the h3-c8 diagonal. Why is Black moving it over to the Queenside. Again, it was all about temptation. Passive Queen on e2 and lack of activity on the Queenside and Black goes bonkers and tries to blast the Queenside when there is nothing there. Once again, 17...a6 is probably best.


Of course!


Really? What is Black trying to achieve here? He is not going to blast White on the Queenside simply because the Queen went to e2 rather than b3. White is now winning, and you will see that the moves for White were not hard to find at all. Simple chess wins the game for White.

19.bxc3 Ndc5 20.Qc2 Qa5 21.Rb1 Qxa3 22.Rb2 Na5 23.Rfb1 Na4 24.Ra2 Qxc3 25.Qxa4 b6 26.Rc2 Qd3 27.Be2 b5 28.Rxb5 1-0

A completely rotten game, and one that should never be repeated! The main thing to learn from this article is two-fold. The first is that it is critical to understand an opening and not just memorize a line or two, and move order tricks must be accounted for. I was successful from this aspect. The second thing to learn about this article, and this is where I completely failed, is that closed positions are not the same as open positions. In open positions, a couple of slow and/or passive moves can often lead to a successful blast by the opposing player, but in closed positions, such ideas rarely ever work, and the way to beat a player playing passive moves is to take the extra moves to prevent any possibilities for the opposing side, such as playing ...a6 in the game, which Black never did, and gradually expand as long as the opponent continues to play passive and do nothing. He likely won't see his King get mated in 25 moves, but slow and steady expansion by the opposing side will eventually paralyze and ultimately suffocate the side that is constantly playing passive moves. Do not be tempted into unsound garbage when faced with slow, passive play in blocked positions.

This concludes this article on the second round of the Bottom Half Class Championship. An absolutely rotten start for me, being 0 and 2 after two rounds, but yet I manage to turn things around and win the Under 2000 prize by winning the final three games of the tournament, the first of which is what will be seen next.

Until then, good luck in your games.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Game Analysis: Bottom Half Class Championship, Round 1

Hello everyone and welcome. Those that have followed the previous five posts will know that I am covering the games from my two week road trip. The first of the two tournaments was in Des Moines, IA, and the five games from the Des Moines Open have been analyzed in those five posts. We now move on to the second half of the road trip, which was the 2019 Bottom Half Class Championship in the state capital of Lansing, Michigan. The name of the tournament refers to the geographical bottom half of Michigan, as opposed to the upper peninsula (or "U.P.") of Michigan, not the level of players. Actually, this tournament featured a tougher field of competition. In Iowa, I was the 6th seed out of 39 players in the top section. Here I was the 9th seed out of 16 players in the top section. Overall attendance in Michigan was about double that of Iowa (120 vs 62), but there were also six sections as opposed to only two in Iowa, and so the sections themselves were smaller. So the competition was definitely more of an uphill climb than Iowa was. Turns out, I give my opponent a run for his money but come up short in the first round, and play absolutely horribly in round 2. Those of you that read the articles from the Des Moines Open, you think my play was sub-par in rounds 2 and 5? You haven't seen bad until you see round 2 of this tournament! Then I literally bring up the rear and win the final three games to end up with the Under 2000 prize. We will see rounds 2 thru 5 in the following four articles, but for now, let's take a look at round 1.

2019 Bottom Half Class Championship, Round 1
W: Patrick McCartney (1996)
B: Manis Davidovich (2255)
Scandinavian Defense, Portuguese Variation

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.d4 Bg4 4.Nf3

White can try 4.Be2, looking for the trade, or the adventurous 4.f3, which plays more into Black's hands where he is looking for White to weaken himself in order to pull off some tactical shot and looking to win in 25 moves or less, but this approach is simply a safe line, and after one more move by each player, reaches a position that can also arise from the 2...Qxd5 variation, specifically via 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Be2 Nf6 5.d4.

4...Qxd5 5.Be2 Nc6

This is the more dynamic option for Black, going for an immediate attack on the d-pawn. The more solid approach is 5...e6.


This move is not bad, and by no means what lost the game for White, but it can be viewed as being a tad over-committal, already telling Black where the King is going, and removing an option for White when Black strikes at the center. Better is to over-protect with 6.Be3, answering 6...O-O-O with 7.Nbd2 Qf5 8.c4 e5 with 9.dxe5 Nxe5 10.Qa4 with ideas of castling Queenside. Here we are going to see White not have that option, and have to deal with a Black pawn on e4 the entire game.

6...O-O-O 7.c4 Qf5 8.Be3 e5

So the main difference between the line given at White's 6th move and here is that White is castled rather than having his b1-Knight developed to d2, and this makes a major difference as White is now going to be forced to advance and play with each side having a pawn majority on the side of the opposing King rather than trade the dangerous Black e-pawn off and castling Queenside. That said, White is not by any means worse here, and is actually still better, but he is having to take a riskier approach than if he had played 6.Be3.

9.d5 e4 10.Nd4 Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Bxe2 12.Qxe2 Bd6


This move is a positional mistake. White had feared the Greek Gift sacrifice, but it doesn't work. After the far superior 13.Rd1, White has the advantage, and attempts at the sacrifice fail for Black. After 13...Bxh2+? 14.Kxh2 Ng4+ 15.Kg1 Qh5 16.Qxe4 Nxf2 17.Bxf2 Qxd1+ 18.Qe1 and White has a near winning advantage, whether Black trades Queens or not, the two pieces are far superior in this case to the Rook and extra Pawn. For example, after 18...Qxe1+ 19.Bxe1 Rhe8 20.Nc3 followed by 21.Bf2, all critical entry points are covered.

13...Qxf6 14.Nc3 Qe5 15.f4 Qd4+

Better is 15...exf3 and Black is then able to maintain equality and maybe even a small advantage after the forcing sequence 16.Qxe5 Bxe5 17.Rxf3 f6.

16.Kh1 f5 17.Nb5 Qb6


Just about any normal move except this one gives White a slight advantage. He could play 18.Rab1, 18.Rad1, or even a radical pawn sacrifice with 18.b4 Bxb4 19.Rab1 a5 20.a3 with compensation for the Pawn. But here, White is surrendering the b4-square and Black can plug it up instantly and cease White's attack.


Black should play 18...a5 followed by putting the Bishop on b4, sewing the Queenside shut and then attacking the White King. Now White has a clear advantage if he finds the right moves.

19.a5! Qc5 20.b4!! Qxb4

So far so good for White. Now the final hurdle. Only five moves make any sense at all here. Attacking the Queen with one of the Rooks, or one of three Knight moves. One leads to an advantage for White. One leads to an equal position. The rest lose. Which move do you play? 21.Rab1, 21.Rfb1, 21.Na7+, 21.Nd4, or 21.Nxd6+?


This is the move that leads to an equal position. The right move is 21.Nd4!. If Black tries to hold on to the f5-pawn via 21...g6, then White is clearly better after 22.Ne6 Rde8 23.Rfb1 Qc3 24.Rc1 Qf6 (24...Qb4? 25.Rab1 followed by 26.c5, winning) 25.Rab1 +/-.

Other moves lose. 21.Nxd6 Qxd6 puts Black up a Pawn for nothing, and both Rook moves allow 21...Qc5!


Of course not 21...Kb8?? 22.Nc6+ bxc6 23.Rfb1 with a winning advantage.


22.Rfb1? Qc3 and White can't grab the b-pawn.


22...Qa3 is equal.


White missed his shot with the tempo-gainer 23.Rfc1! Qa3 24.c5 and now both 24...Bxc5 25.Qc4 and 24...Bxf4 25.Qf1 Bxc1 26.Qxf5+ Ke8 27.d6 Qe3 28.Qe6+ Kf8 29.Qe7+ Kg8 30.Qxd8+ Kf7 31.Qe7+ Kg6 32.Qe6+ Kh5 33.Qd5+ Kh6 34.Qd1 are winning for White.

23...Rb8 24.Rxb8 Rxb8 25.Qh5 Qf6


In essence, the losing move for White. White can maintain equality after 26.Nc6 Rb2 27.Qxh7 Rf2 and here many moves draw (but not taking the Rook!). White can also try 26.g3, which should also be equal. The move 26.Qxh7 allows 26...Bxf4 and 26.Qh3 looks tempting, but Black has the advantage if he doesn't fall for 26...Bxf4?? 27.g3, winning for White, and instead plays 26...Rb2 27.Nc6 Rf2, the difference here being the Queen on h3 as opposed to h7 with the h-pawn removed.

26...Qg6 27.Nc6 Rf8 28.Qxg6 hxg6 29.Ne5+ Bxe5 30.fxe5 f4

This endgame is basically won for Black. His pawn phlanx on e4 and f4 is far stronger than White's on d5 and e5. Both sides for the most part play the best moves at this point, one exception being White's 46th move due to time issues, but play through the moves and observe the endgame play and think about the alternatives at each move for White, and you'll realize how helpless White really is in this position.

31.Kg2 g5 32.Re1 e3 33.Kf3 Rh8 34.Kg2 Rb8 35.Kf3 Rb2 36.Re2 Rb1 37.h4 Rf1+ 38.Kg2 Rc1 39.hxg5 Rxc4 40.Kf3 Rd4 41.Re1 c6 42.e6+ Kd6 43.e7 Kxe7 44.dxc6 Kd6 45.Rc1 Kc7 46.Rc3?

White has put up the best resistance until now, but even after the relatively best 46.g6, Black is in the driver's seat after 46...Rd6 47.Kxf4 e2 48.Re1 Re6 49.Kf3 Kxc6 and White can never take on e2 as any trade down and Black will win the foot race, despite White being up a Pawn. For example, 50.Rxe2 Rxe2 51.Kxe2 Kb5 53.Kd3 Kxa5 54.Kc4 and now 54...Kb6 wins, but not 54...Ka4?? 55.Kd5! when it's a draw.

After the game move, Black's task is pretty easy.

46...Rd1 47.Rc4 Rf1+ 48.Ke2 Rf2+ 49.Ke1 g6 50.Re4 Kxc6 51.Re6+ Kd5 52.Rxg6 Rg2 53.Rf6 Ke4 54.g6 Rg1+ 55.Ke2 f3+ 56.Rxf3 Rg2+ 57.Kf1 Kxf3 58.g7 Rxg4 0-1

In some ways, a heartbreaking loss for White after having the opportunity to beat the top seed on moves 21 and 23, but even after that, it was move 26 that killed him. The biggest thing to pick up from this game is that understanding compensation is more important than getting your sacrificed material back. In essence, that's what White in that sequence during which he missed two golden opportunities. He regained his Pawn that he correct sacrificed on move 20. Thorough self-analysis of the final 28 moves by each player along with the line noted at White's 46th move is also a great way to brush up on your Rook endings as every move except White's 46th is pretty much correct. Different engines may give certain other moves in a few cases an extra couple of hundredths of a point, but the difference between say, -1.35 and -1.38, is irrelevant. What's important is that until White's 46th move, Black kept the advantage he had, and White kept Black from widening it and made Black continue to make the best moves, which is all White could do.

So unlike Iowa, I started this tournament with a loss, and next time, we will be looking at what was probably my worst game in the entire road trip. As mentioned before, you think rounds 2 and 5 were bad from Iowa? You haven't seen bad until you've seen this one, and that's what we will be covering next time!

Til then, good luck in your tournament games!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Game Analysis: Des Moines Open, Round 5

Hello everyone and welcome. Here we will continue the road trip with the final round of the Des Moines Open, the first of the two weekend events I attended during this time. First a little on the situation. Oddly enough, in a section of 39 players, there was nobody with more than 3 points in the open section. What happened was the third round game of mine you saw in the 22nd edition of the French Connection, remember that one? French Exchange? Well, if you take the top four boards of round 3 and combine that with the top four boards of round 4, that was literally the only decisive result, and so that has lead to a 10-way tie for first place going into the last round with a score of 3, and then three more players with a score of 2.5. So the top seven boards in the final round were critical. Theoretically, a draw on each of the top five boards, which was very well possible at the rate things were going, combined with a decisive result on board 6 and the player with 2.5 beating the player with 2 on board 7 could have lead to a 12-way tie for first place. Obviously, the top 10 were all hoping for a decisive result in their favor and that the other four boards all draw.

Well, I was on board 5 in that group. It turned out that the top four boards were all decisive, and so all attention was on board 5. A win and you end up in a 5-way tie for first and collect $185. A draw and both of us were walking away, along with one other, with $33. A loss? You're going home with nothing.

Needless to say, this game is littered with missed opportunities, especially for White, but even Black had multiple chances in this game. Without further ado, let's take a look at the game. Be warned, you might need a sanity check after going through this one!

Des Moines Open, Round 5
W: Troy Curfman (1802)
B: Patrick McCartney (1996)
King's Indian Defense

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.Nf3 O-O 5.Bg5

This is a sideline available to White in the King's Indian Defense. The idea is simple. White wants a solid setup and not get into a theoretical battle where he constantly has to look out for sacrificial ideas by Black against his King, such as in the Mar Del Plata.


Like in many other lines of the King's Indian, Black's main idea is to attack d4 and force White to commit to his pawn structure.


White can also play 6.e3, when after 6...cxd4 7.exd4, Black tries to play against the d-pawn.


Black has two options here. The move played in the game is the more solid line. Black wants to grab control of the central dark squares and create a mobile Kingside Pawn majority. The other option is the more dynamic Pawn break with 6...b5, the idea being that the d-pawn is weakened after 7.cxb5, in similar fashion to the Benko Gambit. Of course, if the Knight takes, then the e4-Pawn hangs.


This move is not very good and a waste of time. It gives Black a hook more than anything else. White should proceed aggressively with 7.e4, to which Black would usually reply with 7...Bg4 8.Be2 Bxf3 to gain control of the dark squares, or else the more cautious 7.e3, against which Black can play 7...h6 8.Bh4 and then Black has two options. He can chase down the Bishop with 8...g5 9.Bg3 Nh5, where attempts to outright refute the line fail. For instance, 10.Nxg5 Nxg3 11.hxg3 hxg5 12.Qh5 Bf5! and Black has a winning position. Of course, White doesn't have to play the sacrificial lines and the position is unclear. The other option is to play 8...Qb6 9.Qc2 e5 with moves like ...Na6 and ...Bf5 coming. That is unless White plays en passant, after which Black will recapture with the Bishop and have the c6-square available to his Knight. Black is ok in both lines and you have a game.


This move is odd and probably not very good because in some ways it's too slow. Black was re-routing the Knight to e5 to trade off its counter-part on f3 since White didn't allow the Bishop to do it, but here, better is to play 7...h6 8.Bf4 g5 9.Bh2 Bf5 with a slight advantage for Black. He is getting very active very quickly, and always has that hook that White created on h3.

8.Qd2 Ne5 9.Nxe5 Bxe5 10.e4 Bg7

Black's play is very time consuming and he's lagging behind in development.


As is usual in these fianchetto defenses, the Bishop is better placed on e2, and this scenario is no different.

11...Nd7 12.O-O Ne5 13.Rae1?

This move is not good. White has a completely dominating position after 13.Be2! f5 14.exf5 Bxf5 15.Bh6 Bxh6 16.Qxh6 Nf7 17.Qd2. The move played in the game does not lose for White, but he's lost his advantage.


Black wins a Pawn, and in the given situation, this is Black's best move, but he is by no means out of the woods and White has compensation for the Pawn as this opens up the h-file for White to attack the Black King.


This move, however, hands the advantage to Black. White had to play 14.Be2 with full compensation for the Pawn.

14...Nxd3 15.Qxd3 Bd7

The more active 15...Bg4 is better. There is no way to trap the Bishop with moves like f5 as any attack on the Bishop, which can't be done with a Pawn, can be covered with an ...h5 push by Black.


The wrong Pawn break. White should be breaking with the other Pawn via 16.e5 with a roughly equal game.

16...h6 17.Bd2 Kh7

Black should proceed with 17...g5 immediately!

18.Rf3 Bf6?

This move is just outright wrong. Black should play something like 18...a6 here. Black is trying to over-protect g5 and then play ...g5, but the problem now is h6, even with ...g5 pushed.

19.Rh3 g5 20.Qg3

Far stronger is 20.Kf2, going immediately for the doubling of Rooks on the h-file. This move gives Black time.

20...Kg7 21.Kf2 Rh8 22.Reh1

It is amazing what one move can do. Now, Black is actually better. White had to play 22.Ne2 with a roughly equal position. Take a look at the diagram and see if you can figure out Black's best move.


It was a bit of a trick question. There are lots of moves that are good for Black. 22...e6, 22...Be5, and 22...Bd4+, for instance, all give Black the advantage. The move played in the game has got to be about the worst move on the board aside from intentionally hanging stuff. I noticed the mistake about 30 second after my move, or at least I thought I did, but as we will see, Black doesn't fix it for a while.


White spent 10 minutes on this move and failed to find the instantly winning move, 23.Bxg5!, when after 23...Bxg5 24.Rxh6! Rxh6 25.Qxg5+ Rg6 (All other moves are forced mate) 26.fxg6 and now the only way to stop mate is to throw away a bunch of material and White will win as 26...fxg6 allows forced mate, the longest variation being 27.Qh6+ Kf7 28.Qh7+ Kf6 29.e5+ (admittedly, when I saw this line, I envisioned 29.Rf1, which is also completely winning, but not as forceful) 29...Kxe5 30.Qg7+ Kf5 31.Qf7+ Ke5 32.Rh4 and Black can't stop the Rook from giving mate on e4.


Black breathed a sigh of relief, thinking he was ok now, but he wasn't. He missed the equalizer with a move completely away from the action, namely 23...Qb6!! Now the sacrifice on g5 only leads to equality after 24.Bxg5 Bxg5 25.Rxh6 Qxb2+! 26.Ne2 Rxh6 27.Qxg5+ Rg6 28.fxg6 Qf6+!, eliminating the mating attack.


White misses it again! This time, it's 24.Bxg5 Bxg5 25.Rxh6 Rxh6 26.Qxg5+ Rg6 27.Rxh7 Rxg5 28.Rxa8 a6 29.Rb8 b5 30.Rb7, winning.


And once again Black misses the opportunity to go back on top. 24...Bd4+! answering 25.Be3 with 25...Be5 and any King move with 25...f6, all giving Black the advantage!


And yet again, White fails to cash in! 25.Bxg5!! again works here, this time with the sequence 25...hxg5 26.Rxh7+ Qxh7 27.Rxh7+ Kxh7 being Black's best of a bad situation. White has a Queen and Knight for Rook and Two Bishops with equal pawns, but White position is far superior here (computer gives it +3, if that gives you an idea).


Here Black equalizes by running. 25...Kf8 and an equal position arises. Back at the point after White's 22nd move, White had 45 minutes left to Black's 38, plus the 30 second increment per move. Now, White has 21 minutes left and Black has 18, and even after 44 minutes thought plus increment time, neither side has figured this situation out, and by now, all of the other relevant games were done, and all attention was on us two making a fool of ourselves. The top four boards had all been decisive, and so winning was even more critical here as a draw was about as good as a loss.


Once again, White can end it with 26.Bxg5!


And once again, Black fails to properly evaluate the situation. 26...Kf8! is now actually an advantage for Black, point being that the sacrifice no longer works. After 27.Bxg5? Bxg5, the best White has is 28.Qxg5 hxg5 29.Rxh7 Qd4 30.Rh8+ Kg7 31.R1h7+ Kf6 32.Rxd8 Qxc4+ with a winning advantage for Black. Of course, White doesn't have to take on g5, and the position is merely a slight advantage for Black.


Again 27.Bxg5 is best, but this time it's more complicated and drawn out. 27...Bxg5 28.Rxh6 Rxh6 29.Qxg5+ Rg6 30.Rxh8 Rxg5 31.Rxd8 b4 32.Rxd7 bxc3 33.bxc3 Rxg2+ 34.Kf3 Rc2 35.Rxe7 Rxc3+ 36.Kf4 Rxc4 37.a5 and White's winning.


Again, the correct move is 27...Kf8, this time with an equal position.

28.cxb5 Rb8

Again both sides missing their move, 28.Bxg5 for White and 28...Kf8 for Black.


One last chance for White. This time, a winning endgame results after 29.Bxg5 Bxg5 30.Rxh6 Bxb5+ 31.Kf2 (31.Nxb5 Rxh6 32.Qxg5+ Kf8 is equal) 31...Rxh6 32.Qxg5+ Rg6 33.Rxh8 Rxg5 34.Rxb8 Bd3 with a winning endgame for White. Now Black's totally winning.

29...exd6 30.Qxd6 Bxb5+ 31.Nxb5

Black to Move and Win


Yes, this move does lead to a clear advantage for Black, but Black had a far superior move (-9 vs -1.3) with 31...Qe8!!. For example, after 32.Nc3 Rxb2+ 33.Kd3 c4+ 34.Ke3 Rb3 35.Rxg5+ Bxg5+ 36.Kd4 Rxc3 37.Kxc3 Qxe4 and Black is up a full piece with the safer King and zero counterplay for White.

32.e5 33.Kf3 Qa8??

Black jettisons the Bishop, but in the wrong manner. Advantage Black after 33...Qd8! 34.exf6+ Qxf6. It should be noted at this point that both sides have 8 minutes left.

34.exf6+ Kg8 35.Ra1! Qe8 36.Re1! g4+

Or 36...Qa8 37.Qe5 and White's winning.

37.Kxg4 Re2

White has 4 minutes at this point while Black has under a minute with 30 second increment, and White spends 3 of his precious minutes here. Can you find the win?

White to Move and Win

38.Rxe2 Rxe2 39.Kg3

The winning move is 39.Kh4! Black has no perpetual and no way to continue to harass the White King. He is forced to go back with 39...Qe8 and is basically helpless in this position. White should win easily.


Black had a stronger defense here. 39...Rh8!, getting the Rook active with a subsequent 40...Kh7. Note that this would have been impossible with the King on h4 as opposed to g3 because it would be mate in 3 after 39.Kh4 Rh8 40.Qb8+ Kh7 41.Rxh6+ Kxh6 42.Qxh8 mate. With the King on g3, Black has the g5-square as an escape for the King.


40.Qe7! is lights out.

40...Qf8 41.Rh1

41.d6 is more straight to the point.

41...Rh8 42.Rb1 Kh7 43.Rh1 Rg8+ 44.Kf3 Rh8 45.g4 Kg8 46.Rh5 Qa8

Both sides are literally working off the increment at this point. White to move and win. You've got 30 seconds, GO!


White is still winning, but this is not the dagger move. The real winner is in 47.Rg5+!! where 47...Kh7 48.Rg7 and 47...Kf8 48.Qd6+ Ke8 49.Qe7 are both mate while 47...hxg5 Qxg5+ 48.Kf8 Qg7+ 49.Ke8 Qxh8+ followed by 50.Qxa8 wins the Queen.

47...Qa3+ 48.Qe3 Qa8

Now White has the same opportunity again, the only difference being that 49.Rg5+ Kf8 is answered by mate a move quicker, 50.Qe7 mate.


He misses it again!

49...Kh7 50.g5 Rc8

Last chance for White. White to move and win, and this time, literally only one move works. Anything else is a draw or worse for White.


The win comes in the form of mate in 7 via 51.g6+ Kg8 52.gxf7+ Kh7 53.f8=N+ Kh8 54.Rxh6+ Kg8 55.Qg1+ Kxf8 56.Qg7+ Ke8 57.Qe7 mate.

Now the position is a draw, or at least it should be.

51...Qa3+ 52.Kf4?

The only move is 52.Kg4 with a draw. If 52...Kg8, then 53.Rh3 with advantage. Black should respond with 52...Qa2 or 52...Qc1, both of which draw. Note that 52.Ke4?? is losing. 52...Kg8 53.Rxh6 Rc1 and Black wins. White has no way to avoid mate without losing the Queen.


Black can win with 52...Qc1+ in which White's only move is 53.Ke5, then after 53...Qe1+, White must go back to f4 with 54.Kf4. Now 54...Qc1+ merely repeats. If 54...Qf1+, then 55.Kg3 is again only move, and then Black has nothing better than 55...Qe1+ 56.Kf4, and so since 56...Qc1+ and 56...Qf1+ both lead to perpetuals, the last shot is 56...Qe2, which turns out is the winner. After 57.Rg6+ (all other moves lose quickly) fxg6 58.f7+ Kxf7 59.Qf6+ Ke8 60.Qxg6+ Kd7 61.Qe6+ Qxe6 62.dxe6+ Kd6 and White has no way to hold the position. One of many, numerous examples would be 63.Kg4 Rc5 64.g6 Rc1 65.Kg5 Ke7 66.f6+ Kxe6 67.f7 Ke7, winning for Black.

The move played in the game should actually lose for Black!

53.g6+! Kg8 54.Ke5??

Going from completely won to dead lost! After 54.gxf7+ Kf8 55.Rh3 Qc4 56.Qxc4 Rxc4+, there is one move that wins for White, and that's 57.Kd5! The pawns are ugly, but it's enough for White to win the Rook ending.


There is now no way out. Everything leads to either mate or loss of the Queen for White.

55.Ke4 Re8+ 0-1

After such a crazy game, Black finished on top and joined the other four that won on the top five board in a five-way tie for first place with 4 points.

WOW! That game was a hand full. A LOT of tactics missed in a very high pressure situation. While an extremely ugly game, it can be an excellent resource if you are looking to work on areas such as tactics, sacrifices and combinations, visualization, dynamic defense, and seeing many insane, sick-looking moves that actually work! Needless to say, this was by far the craziest of the ten games on the entire road trip.

That does it for the Des Moines Open. Beginning with the next article, we will be going through the games I played in Lansing, MI. Until then, good luck in your games.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Game Analysis: Des Moines Open, Round 4

Hello everyone and welcome again as we continue going through the games from the summer road trip. We are up to round 4 of the Des Moines Open. After two straight games with symmetrical pawn structures, here we will see just the opposite. Rather than a static position, we will see a more dynamic situation where we will see White fail to take advantage of his better position in the early middle game, and attempts to sacrifice a pawn to free his remaining pieces, but in turn, it changes the position from clearly better for White to slightly better for Black, but White's dynamic features are enough to put a slight scare to Black, and when he offers a draw, White correctly realizes the situation, and walks out with half the point. The game itself is fairly short, but we'll also look at what could have happened if Black hadn't offered the draw and continued to play on.

Des Moines Open, Round 4
W: Patrick McCartney (1996)
B: Steven Cusumano (1906)
King's Indian Attack

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d3

The KIA vs Sicilian. When playing the King's Indian Attack, one must react to their opponent's moves. For instance, if Black ever plays ...d5, then White needs to put the Knight on d2 to avoid the Queen trade after a swap by Black on e4. Of course, if Black plays ...d5 right now, we directly transpose to the KIA vs French after 4.Nbd2. Otherwise, if Black doesn't play an early ...d5, then what White does again depends on Black. His first goal against these ...d6 lines is to expand in the center once his King is safe via c3 and d4, and if this is prevented by an ...e5 response by Black, then White will usually expand on the Queenside as the long diagonal will by blocked by Black's pawn, especially if Black fianchettos the Bishop. Often times, if Black does not play ...d5, White will want to delay a Nbd2 development of the Knight as the Knight blocks the Queen's view of d4, protecting the pawn and making it easier for White to get d4 in. In the game, we will end up not seeing Nbd2 at all, and actually, the Knight will end up being developed to the more active c3-square.

3...d6 4.g3 Nf6 5.Bg2 Be7 6.O-O O-O 7.Re1 Nc6 8.c3

White's position is extremely common and flexible. Black's position comes in different garden varieties. He could have fianchettoed the Dark-Squared Bishop and developed the King's Knight to e7. This puts more pressure on d4, but also can lead to some very weak dark squares around the Black King, especially if the Bishops get traded off. Here, instead, we see Black employing the small center (d6-e6) and developing the minor pieces classically, with the Bishop on e7 instead of g7. This leads to a more solid position with fewer weaknesses, but it does nothing to stop White's d4 push. If Black were to play 8...e5 here, then White's play would shift to the Queenside given that the center is blocked, and White doesn't have to worry about a Black Bishop hitting his Rook on a1, and so moves like b4 and a4 are not an issue for White.

8...Qc7 9.d4 cxd4 10.cxd4 e5

This is the wrong pawn to advance. Black should play 10...d5, which puts immediate pressure on d4, and after 11.e5 Ne4, White still has to prove something as his advantage is only slight.

11.d5 Nb8 12.Nc3 Nbd7 13.Nd2 a6 14.Nb3

This move has little point to it. The c5- and d4-squares are controlled by Black, and a5 is not much of an entry point here. Stronger is 14.a4 when 14...Nc5 15.Re3 Ng4 16.Rf3 leads to an advantage for White. If Black tries to alleviate his problems with 16...f5, he will drop a pawn after 17.h3 Nf6 18.exf5 e4 19.Re3 Bxf5 20.Ndxe4 with no compensation.


This move is pointless. What is Black preventing that wasn't already prevented? Black's best move is 14...b5. This goes against general strategy, which says that when the center is completely blocked by pawn chains, you should attack the side of the board in which your pawns point. Black's blocked pawns point toward the Kingside, but none of his pieces are ready to go there. Playing ...f5 will just open up his King. Therefore, Black should play 14...b5, when 15.Bd2 Nc5 16.Qb1 Bd7 17.Nd1 Rfc8 18.Ne3 is roughly equal.

15.Be3 Nc5 16.h3 Bd7 17.Rc1 Qb7 18.Kh2 Rac8 19.f4 Na4


This move is stronger than 20.Nxa4 Bxa4 21.Nc5 Bxd1 22.Nxb7 Rxc1 23.Bxc1, which is merely equal. Instead, the move played leads to a protected passed pawn for White.

20...dxe5 21.Qe2

Now was the time to play 21.Nxa4 Bxa4 22.Qf3 with advantage. 21.d6 looks tempting, but with correct defense, it only leads to an equal position after 21...Nxc3 22.bxc3 Bd8 23.c4 Rc6 24.c5 Be6 25.Qd2 Bxb3 26.axb3 bxc5 27.Bxc5 Bb6 28.Bxb6 Rxc1 29.Rxc1 Qxb6 30.d7 Rd8 31.Rc8 Kf8 32.Rxd8+ Qxd8 33.Qd6+ Kg8 as the d-pawn can't be held and White has to take either the a-pawn or e-pawn in return for the d-pawn.

The move played in the game also gave Black a chance to equalize.


Black equalizes after 21...Bb4 22.Nxa4 Bb5 23.Rxc8 Rxc8 24.Qd1 Bxa4.

22.bxc3 a5 23.c4 a4 24.Nd2 Be8


White's idea was simple. He sacrifices a pawn to open up the e4-square to launch his pieces, whether it be the Knight on d2 or the Bishop on g2. That said, White has the space advantage with the better coordinated minor pieces. Black's Rooks aren't even connected. Instead of trying to rush the issue via a Pawn sacrifice, White should instead play 25.c5 Bxc5 26.Bxc5 Rxc5 27.Rxc5 bxc5 28.Rb1 Qe7 29.Nc4 with a clear advantage to White. All of Black's pawns are blocked and his pieces are poorly coordinated.

25...Nxd5 26.exd5 Bxg5 27.Rc2 Qc7 28.Ne4 Be7 1/2-1/2

Black offered a draw here, which White was fairly quick to accept. He mentioned afterwards that he feared the passed d-pawn. White has some compensation for the missing pawn, but probably not a full Pawn's value. Black should probably have played on in this position. However, maintaining any advantage is extremely difficult here, and so maybe you can't blame Black for offering the draw, but it is White that has to find the right move. After something like 29.Rd1 Rd8 30.d6! Bxd6 31.Nxd6 Rxd6 32.Qxe5 Rd7 33.Qxc7 Rxc7 34.Rb1 b5 35.c5, the position is equal.

Probably the biggest thing to pick up from this game is that when you have a clear advantage, like White did going into his 25th move, it is best not to rush the attack and milk it for what it's worth. Giving up the pawn to open up the e4-square to try to conduct a quick attack on the King is not the way to go. Take the slower approach and take advantage of the positional factors in the position that are in your favor rather than trying to rush the attack on the opponent's King. That should only be done when the opponent has counterplay as well and it becomes more of a race.

This concludes the analysis of the fourth round of the Des Moines Open. Next time, we will probably see what was the most exciting game of the road trip where both sides had the opportunity to win in an extremely wild game, but only one of them actually did win. Check in next time to see whether that was my opponent or myself.