Friday, July 21, 2017

Game Analysis: The New Hampshire Open

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

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

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

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

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


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

13...Rad8 14.Bxf6

Continuing to follow the anti-d5 plan.

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

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

16...fxe6 17.Ng4

Preventing 17...d5 by attacking e5.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20.Bd3 Rfe8 21.Rfe1 g6

Stopping all Nf5 ideas.

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

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


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

27.Rxa4 Nxa4 28.Qxa4

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

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

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


And White has no way to stop infiltration.

31.Ne5 Ne4 32.Bd3??

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

32...Rc1+ 0-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

19.Ne3 Rxc3?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

30...gxf4+ 31.Rxf4+ Kg6

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


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

32...Kh5 33.Kf4 f6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

With gaping light-squared holes everywhere!

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

Weakening yet another light square.

17.Nf3 Qe7 18.fxg5 fxg5 19.c5

The only move that maintains the advantage.

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

Ripping the entire position open!

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

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


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

26...Rxd1+ 27.Rxd1 Bf5

27...Bxa2 would prolong the game.

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

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

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

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