The opponent I got was a very young kid who could not have been more than maybe a tween. As I have mentioned many times before, kids, tweens, and even teens, most (and I emphasize, most, and not all,) tend to be impatient, reliant on tactics, and rarely have a deep understanding of positional play as most of them don't study the old fashion way at a three-dimensional board, and instead tend to go for a lot of internet play and using computers to do their analysis, which often leads to passive learning. Passive learning can lead to sharp tactical play, but often results a massive weakness in positional understanding and overall strategy. For this reason, I was completely shocked by the opening selected, but then at the same time, I was not at all shocked by the positional errors that White made in this game early on. By the time tactics started kicking in, Black was already winning, but it lead to a very long series of complicated moves as Black had to stop a lot of White's threats and find the break through in the winning endgame. This did lead to time issues for myself (Black), but luckily, unlike the third round, they did not cost me as I wasn't literally down to my final minute in the first time control, and in the second time control, I was in an endgame when time was short, and so Black's moves were fairly simple at that point. It just turned out to be a long-winded process to convert the win, especially given that I had to go for the simplest way out instead of what was necessarily the fastest way out.
With all of that said, let's take a look at what happened in the game.
Atlanta Class Championship, Round 4
W: Vikram Rajmohan (1942)
B: Patrick McCartney (2018)
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.d4 g6 3.Bf4
Not exactly the opening I expected from a young kid. This is more the opening selection I would expect from a crotchety old man who is well past his prime, looking for simplicity, and wants to play the same position over and over again as rather than having to go through complicated tactics that would require a lot of calculation, which is an area that older people tend to be at a disadvantage, he or she would rather play based on known patterns. This type of play requires positional understanding, which if you study in the manner that people over 60 today studied back in the day, before artificial intelligence took over, this type of opening should be right up their alley.
Now I must also give a word of caution to those of you that incorporate the concept of chess psychology into your game. I did mention before that this concept of how older people study and understand the game versus how younger people study and understand the game at the amateur level is true for the majority of cases, but not all cases. Therefore, Black here has to play on the assumption that White knows precisely what he is doing, and it is only after the subsequent 10 to 12 moves that I was able to confirm that White did not have a strong background in understanding positional concepts, as we shall see shortly.
Lastly, for those of you looking for an answer to the London System that play the King's Indian Defense against 1.d4/2.c4, this double-fianchetto line is well worth looking into. I'm not claiming it's any kind of bust to the London System as there is no refutation to it, but if you want an active game with potential winning chances, this is not a bad line to go with.
3...Bg7 4.e3 d6
If Black wants to maintain the highest level of flexibility, with in some cases the possibility of playing ...d5 instead, then 4...O-O is appropriate here as White hasn't played e4.
To me, this move is a mistake. In some ways, it's White committing too early, and in others, it's White mixing openings. To me, if White is going to play the structure with c4, d4, and e3 against the King's Indian Defense, the Bishop should be on g5 rather than f4, and for those looking for an example of this, go back in this forum to August 2019 and go through the 5th round of The Des Moines Open, which featured that exact line. Black won, but in reality, it was White that should have won that game.
On the flip side, there may occasionally be cases in the London System where White does play c4 instead of c3, but he should not commit to that until Black has revealed his hand, like is he going to play for c5 or e5? Will he double-fianchetto and hold both pawns back? I think that White should continue with his Kingside development first and then figure out what to do with the c-pawn. White should probably play 5.h3 or 5.Be2 here.
And here we have another positional mistake by White. Against the King's Indian, it is extremely rare that d3 is the best place for the Bishop as it bites on granite with the strong g6-h7 pawn structure. Also, as we will see, White's Bishop will come under attack, and actually end up taken. This is White's better bishop, and a piece that he should be holding on to with his pawn structure. This piece is far better placed on e2.
6...Nbd7 7.Nc3 b6 8.O-O Bb7
So it is only now that Black exposes his hand as he went for a double-fianchetto setup with a delay in advancing ...c5. This keeps c5 from being a target for White, doesn't give White b4 as a lever, and still allows for ...e5 instead of ...c5 if the position calls for it. White's next move cannot be good.
The idea behind this move is very shallow. Yes, it blocks the Bishop that Black just put on b7. However, it costs White the dark squares, which Black control rapidly as White's poor development of his Light-Squared Bishop will gain Black a tempo.
Wh-wh-what????? No, this cannot be right at all. White has two options here, and everything else is just outright bad. The first, and the one that I expected White to do, was retreat the Bishop to c2 or e2. I am guessing that White expected to be able to play 11.Bb1 on the next move only after getting the Rook out, going on the assumption that I would play the standard 10...a5 to secure the outpost for the Knight on c5. If White had played something like 10.Be2 or 10.Bc2, that is precisely what I would have done. But here? Absolutely not!
Before going to the game and seeing Black's reaction to this, it should also be mentioned that White does not have to secure the Bishop. He could transform the pawn structure and play 10.e4, against white Black should play 10...Nfd7, not allowing White to advance e5. For the moment, he should have no fear in White advancing b4 as he can then take the Bishop on d3, despite it being the bad Bishop now, and disrupt White's Queenside activity with a timely ...a5 immediately after the trade on d3.
Black is not allowing White to have his cake and eat it too. The Bishop is now gone, and Black, with in unopposed light-squared Bishop, should not have the issues on the light squares that he often has in the King's Indian Defense with all his pawns sitting on dark squares. How White follows up in the next couple of moves is even more alarming.
Once again, to control the dark squares e5 and c5.
Probably played in fear of ...Nc5, but this doesn't solve any problems. It only creates more problems. Black isn't likely looking to play ...Nc5 just to get a cheap tempo unless he is going to play ...a5, but with the Knight for Bishop trade, Black can instead go for ...e5 and a Kingside attack without fearing weaknesses on the light squares resulting from the advancing of the pawns in front of his King. White had to play 12.e4 here, and after 12...e5 13.Bg5, it is still a game.
With b4 played pre-maturely, White now has to choose between giving Black an open a-file for his Rook, or else lose control of c5 again.
13.a3 was White's best move here with approximate equality.
13...Nc5 14.Qe2 e5
White is now between a rock and a hard place. He clearly cannot afford to take enpassant. It does nothing to weaken Black. It would open up Black's unopposed Bishop on b7. It would also heavily expose the weak pawn on c4. However, other moves simply give Black a ready-made attack. White's got two minor pieces on the Kingside that Black can gain tempos on via pawn moves, and everything for Black points to an attack on the White King. The Rook on a8 can be swung across to the Kingside, and the Bishop re-routed via c8 to a better diagonal. Meanwhile, the Queenside is virtually slammed shut, and there is absolutely nothing White can do there. So aside from having to watch out for cheap tactics by White, Black should feel very comfortable in this position, and doesn't even need to rush the attack as there is virtually nothing that White can do with the pawns the way they are.
Remember at White's third move when I said that you can't just "assume" the majority of cases matches your situation? Remember how I said at first, you have to assume that he knows what he's doing? Well, now it can be safely said that White did not understand London System strategy at all, and that White is positionally busted. Now keep in mind that positionally busted does not mean that Black will have this rapid fire attack that blows White off the board in a matter of a few moves. Oh, no way! In fact, it's 86 moves later when White resigns, despite the fact that he probably could have safely resigned sooner, as we shall see later on.
The least of the evils for White, but even according to artificial intelligence, Black's position is up a full pawn in value already, and we are only 15 moves into the game.
Another sad necessity that really shows how dire a situation White's position really is. Normally, the old adage is not to advance pawns on the side of the board in which you are weak, but in this case, if White doesn't advance that pawn now or soon, his Bishop is going to get trapped by the Black pawns.
Anybody that play the King's Indian Defense against 1.d4 would also probably recognize at this point that Black has an improved version of the typical attack that he gets in the Classical King's Indian. This illustrates why it is very important to understand ideas and strategies when studying an opening, not just memorizing moves. Those that memorize would see this position as probably good for Black, but would need to figure out for themselves how to go about it. With the blocked queenside, they will likely recognize that Black's attack is on the King, but might think a little over-cautiously, thinking that his King is exposed because White has not played f3. A King's Indian player who doesn't merely memorize but understands what is going on realizes that the main reason Black wants f3 played by White before he plays ...f4 in the normal King's Indian has to do with White's light-squared Bishop, not King exposure, and with White's Bishop gone, this is not an issue at all, and so as you will see in the game, Black is playing for ...f4 the moment White advances his e-pawn.
So here we have the situation we just talked about. A player that memorizes might think about leaving the tension here, or possibly trading twice on e4 and then going ...Bc8, trying to gain a tempo on f5 with the Bishop. This idea though is not best. Black should instead recognize two things. The first, once again, is that White's Light-Squared Bishop is gone. There is no issue with exposing the g4-square, and so Black does not need f3 to be played to advance his pawn. However, another thing to recognize is that advancing the pawn creates another major headache for White. What does he do with that Bishop on g3? He only has two choices, and both lead to bad situations for White, and so therefore, Black should not even contemplate another move, and instead, proceeds to advance the pawn.
This shuts out any play by White that might result from opening up the b1-h7 diagonal by trading on e4 or f5, and the Bishop now has to move in a way that benefits Black. Normally, Black doesn't gain this tempo, and normally, White's Bishop is on either d2 (in the 10.Nd3 variation of the Mar Del Plata) or f2 (in the 10.Be3 line of the Mar Del Plata). Here, it either has to go to h2, which will virtually put White down a piece. The Bishop is completely useless, and by the time White is able to get it out with something like Kh1, Bg1, N-somewhere, and f3, Black's pawns and pieces have already swarmed around the White King. Not to mention, the moment White moves the Knight, he must watch out for tactical shots by Black of playing ...f3, even if it's a pawn sacrifice, it could fatally open routes to the White King.
So therefore, White goes the other route with his Bishop, but we shall soon see that it is not roses for White either.
What is the one really bad piece for Black in lines of the King's Indian where the center is completely blocked? The Dark-Squared Bishop! What has Black just done here? Forced the trade of Dark-Squared Bishops! With Black's attack, he absolutely does not want an endgame, but if there is literally one piece that Black should be more than thrilled to trade off, it's the dark-squared Bishop. Again, we are seeing many ideas in the King's Indian Defense in an improved version here. This is why ideas and understanding are so much more important than memorizing reams of lines. You can end up in a completely different opening - Remember, this game was a London System, not a King's Indian Defense - and yet wind up in a position just like something else that you play, or in this case, like that but with interest!
19.Bxf6 Qxf6 20.Nd2 Bc8
Re-routing the Bishop as once again, White has virtually nothing, and Black can take his sweet time to arrange everything.
This is a horrible move. The Queen is not a good blocking piece. Yes 21.f3 does weaken dark squares, and advances another pawn on the side White's weak, but this was by far the lesser evil. All White can do is sit back and make Black prove that he can bust through, but sometimes you have to admit that you are playing for 2 results, and do whatever you can to try to draw the position. The move played does not achieve that.
Possibly trying to give a little extra breathing room to the White King, but don't think that the White King can just run away to the Queenside. Let's not forget that Knight on c5. Just because he's not on the Kingside doesn't mean he isn't taking part in the attack.
22...Rg7 23.Nf1 Bd7 24.g4
Possibly trying to take advantage of the fact that en passant would hang the Black Queen, but rather, all this does is give Black another hook that is even easier to latch on to, and does nothing but weaken the White King even further.
24...Qh4 25.Nh2 h5!
White's position is coming apart at the seems.
26.Qg2 hxg4 27.Nxg4 Rf8 28.f3 Rh7 29.Kh2 Kg7 30.Rh1
Black's pieces can hardly be improved. That usually means it's time for the kill shot. How should Black proceed?
Removing a key defender, and forcing White to give Black a protected passer on f4.
This move is forced as 31.Qxg4?? results in mate in 4 after 31...Qf2+ 32.Qg2 Rxh3+!! 33.Kxh3 Rh8+ 34.Kg4 Qxg2 mate.
And now in comes the Knight, which will win material due to tactics.
Anything else allows ...Nf2 and ...f3, leading to a making attack.
This move is cute, and still winning, but unnecessary. Black had 28 minutes to make 9 moves, and probably should have looked a little longer at the direct attack, and maybe he would have seen that significantly stronger is 32...f3! 33.Rxf3 Rxf3 34.Qxf3 Nf4 and White is busted.
Of course not 33.Qxb2?? Qg3 mate!
Playing this move requires Black to see a tactic, otherwise White would have an winning invasion on the Queenside.
This doesn't work for tactical reasons, but the White Queen was already being overworked as it was.
Do you see the move for Black here?
The main point is not that the pawn was hanging. If that's all it was, White could take the Knight and threaten to invade on c7. The point is that the Knight can't be taken because of a double capture on h3 with mate.
So instead of taking the Knight, the Queen is stuck guarding the weak h3-pawn.
Attack and defense at the same time. Black continues to eye h3, but also guards the c6 and c7 squares so that he can move his Knight once White gets rid of the mate threat. Note that White still can't take the Knight on c4 as 37.Qxc4 Rxh3+ 38.Rxh3 Qxh3+ 39.Kg1 Qxh1+ 40.Kf2 Rh2 is mate.
That said, Black did have a tactical shot that would have put White away quicker. After 36...Rxh3+!! 37.Rxh3 f3!!, White has to part with his Queen and after 38.Qxf3 Qxf3, due to the pin on the Rook, Black's winning easily.
37.Nf2 Ne3 38.Rc1 Kg8
A clever way to add defense to the c7-pawn, and also gets Black out of the pin, preventing any Rxf4 tricks.
39.Rg1 Rh6 40.Rc1 R8h7
Shuffling the Rooks so that both are doing a task.
There goes a second pawn!
42.Re1 g5 43.Rexe3
White goes for desperation by sacrificing yet another exchange to try to open up lines to the Black King. With proper defense, this shouldn't work.
43.fxe3 44.Qxe3 Rg6 45.Ng4
Two other move worth noting:
A) 46.Nh6+ fails to 46...Rxh6 47.Qxg5+ Rg7 and now if 48.Qxh6, then 48...Qe2+ is mate in 3.
B) 46.Rxf7 Kxf7 47.Qf2+ Kg7 48.Qc2 Qd7 and Black is safe.
The point behind Black's previous move.
Winning yet another pawn.
48.Rg2 Qxe4 49.Nh6+ Kh7
Black could also take the Knight, but why risk it and why give White any satisfaction at all?
50.Ng4 Rf3 51.Nf2 Qf4+ 52.Kh1 Rh6 53.Qb1+ Qf5 54.Qc1
One can hardly criticize what Black did. It does eliminate the White Queen after all, and wins easily, and with only 7 minutes left for the game, it might be the best way to go if you don't immediately see that taking the Knight was possible, and of course wins faster. After 54...Rxf2 55.Qxc7+ Kg6 56.Qxd6+ Kh5, there are no more checks.
55.Nxh3 Rf1+ 56.Qxf1 Qxf1+ 57.Kh2
So Black will have three pawns and a Queen for Rook and Knight (the pawn on g5 is dead for those of you that think I can't count). The main thing now for Black is not to allow any knight forks of the King and Queen, and allowing a discovered check is fine as long as the piece moving out of the way of the discovering piece isn't able to attack the Black Queen in doing so.
And so I went here, anticipating a capture on g5, and if it's with the Knight with check, I'll be able to cross the g-file and not be stuck on the h-file.
Of course, taking with the Rook does keep the Black King on the h-file, but then I can scoop up both remaining White pawns as I can take the first one on a2 with check.
58...Kg6 59.Ne6+ Kh6
59...Kf6 was also possible.
Black should simply grab the d5-pawn here.
Now we see what Black is after. Rather than simply cleaning house and getting rid of the White pawns, Black tries to promote one of his own.
Do note that for the moment, like if White were to move the a-pawn or the King, the d5-pawn is poisoned and it is therefore not a threat to be taken. If the Black Queen were on d5 right now, 63.Rh2+ followed by 64.Nf4+ would win the game for White.
White proceeds with the check anyway instead of maybe waiting and seeing if Black falls for the trap. There is nothing else White can do except weasel out with a cheap trap, so why not try it? Turns out I was fully aware of the situation.
63...Kg6 64.Nf8+ Kf7 65.Rf2+ Ke8 66.Ne6 e3 67.Re2
Black, of course, still can't take the pawn on d5 due to a Knight fork on c7. Therefore ...
Any other move allows mate in 9.
68...Qe1+ 69.Kh2 Qh4+
Due to the increment time control, I played this just to gain an extra minute on the clock. The real move comes at move 71.
70.Kg1 Qe1+ 71.Kh2 Qc3
Covering all bases, including c7 and e3.
The best square for the King as there is no way to give a Knight fork with a King on f7 and a Queen on d5.
73.Nf5 Qe5+ 74.Ng3 Qxd5
The pawn is now safe to take, and with connected passers, White position is hopeless. With d5 gone, White can safely resign here. The rest of the moves are simply given for completeness.
75.Ne2 Qf3 76.Kg1 d5 77.a4 d4 78.Kh2 d3 79.Ng3 Qxg2+ 80.Kxg2 d2 81.Kf3 d1=Q+ 82.Kxe3 Qxa4 83.Ne4 Qxe4+ 84.Kxe4 Ke6 85.Kd4 c6 86.Kc4 Ke5 87.Kc3 Kd5 88.Kb3 Kd4 89.Ka3 Kd3 90.Ka2 c5 91.Kb2 Kd2 92.Kb3 b5 93.Ka3 c4 94.Ka2 c3 95.Ka3 c2 96.Kb3 c1=Q 97.Ka2 Qc2+ 98.Ka1 Qc3+ 99.Ka2 Qb4 100.Ka1 Kc2 0-1
Literally one move before mate, after 100 moves, White Resigned.
So we just witnessed a 100-move game with a ton of tactics from about move 30-onward. Can you name what the opening was? While many will recall it was a London System, the main point being made is that one cannot use a linear one-to-one relationship between opening and type of game. If all you did was memorize openings, you would think this game was baloney for a London System, but after White failed in many ways to play sound, positional moves in an opening not known for being wild and tactical, the game steered more in the direction of a King's Indian Defense, and what Black got was a souped up, more favorable version of it. It still required general knowledge of the King's Indian Defense for Black to weave his way through. Trying to memorize lines and compartmenalize openings like they are rats in separated mazes where they never meet together is a major flaw often made by amateurs. Many amateurs might be aware of certain well-known direct opening transpositions, like someone that plays the Scandinavian Gambit is probably well aware of the transposition to the Panov-Botvinnik Attack, a line against the Caro-Kann, and an Accelerated Dragon player might transpose directly to the Regular Dragon, or a Modern player might transpose to the Pirc, but the necessity to actually understand the ideas behind the openings you play goes far beyond direct transpositions. This game was not a direct transposition to the King's Indian Defense, but with tons of similarities to the King's Indian, knowing the ideas behind the opening is what was critical, and Black executed it beautifully. He may not have found every opportunity at playing the really flashy move every time, but simply being able to continue to play sound moves that maintain the winning advantage is all that is necessary. The difference between -4 and -8 is not important. What you don't want to do is get into the massive time issues that Black got into back in the third round (see the previous article).
So now an interesting twist occurred in the fourth round. The 4-seed was able to draw against the leader, Doruk Emir, giving the leader now 3.5. The other game between the players with two ended up in a draw, and the top seed, Alexander Rutten, won his game. The 4-seed, for some reason, withdrew after this. This gave Doruk Emir the lead at 3.5, myself alone in second at 3, Alexander Rutten, Frank Johnson (the 5-seed) and two others all had 2.5. I could not play Doruk in the final round as we had already faced. That meant that Doruk was going to have to play the top 2.5 player, which was the top seed in the tournament, and I was going to have to play Frank Johnson in the final round. All other games were irrelevant at this point. I am still in must-win mode, and with a win, I end up in clear second if Doruk wins, a tie for first if he draws, and clear first to myself if he loses.
The result of that game, along with coverage of my game in the final round against Frank Johnson, will be the topic of my next post, which may not come until after Christmas. I will try, but can't promise. Until then, good luck in your games.