The Fabulous 00s: USCL Week 4

USCL Week 4:  Meltdowns and Rip Roarers

Amidst spectacular failures in the US financial markets, the US Chess League week 4 took place and New York suffered a meltdown, losing 0-4 to Carolina.  NY then proceeded to post grainy, fuzzy pictures of the debacle. GM Larry C contrived to sacrifice/lose his queen in under 10 moves to GM Joel in the NJ vs Boston match as NJ triumphed 3-1 (Ippolito displaying good nerves to rebuff Shmelov’s scary looking play).

Tense Match:  ARZ vs Tenn

And I was in a rip-roarer in Mesa AZ as the Arizona Scorpions took on the Tennesse Tempo; the Tempo featured for the first time their fearsome mercenary GM Jaan Ehlvest on board 1.  Our fourth board Joel Johnson won quickly with the strange 1. f4 e5 2. e4 Bc5 3. Qh5?!!. I don’t recommend that line for the faint of heart; Rybka says negative 0.6 after Bick’s natural reply 3…Nc6.  Ex-World Championship Candidate Ehlvest struck back for the opposition winning on board 1 as Barcenilla’s clock ticked mercilessly down in a hugely complicated position (Rybka awards Barcenilla a draw near the end with a hard-to-find continuation).  Robby Adamson stood well in Board 3 against Todd Andrews but he was getting very low on time.  And during all this, with the match tied 1.5-1.5, here’s what happened in Board 2.

M. Ginsburg (ARZ) – R. Burnett (TEN), Round 4, Board 2, USCL.  Sicilian Rossolimo. 9/17/08.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. Bxc6 bxc6 5. O-O Bg7 6. Re1 f6! Much better than 6…Nf6.  White scores well in example games after 6…Nf6 with the simple-minded 7. e4-e5 Nd5 8. c4 Nc7 9. d4 cxd4 10. Qxd4 with the primitive queen transfer to h4.

7. c3 Nh6 8. d4 cxd4 9. cxd4 Nf7 10. Nc3 d6 11. Be3 O-O 12. h3 Rb8 13. Qd2 d5 14. exd5 cxd5 15. Bf4 Rb7 16. Na4 g5 Risky.  Black also is slightly uncomfortable after 16… Nd6 17. Nc5 Rb6 18. b3 but the best (least risky and also positionally solid) seems 16… Re8! 17. Nc5 Rb6.  If now 18. Qc3 g5! 19. Bg3 Nd6! 20. b4 Bf5 and if 21. Ne6? black has the crushing tactic 21…Nb5!. Black’s latent e7-e5 idea needs white’s attention.

17. Bg3 g4?! Better to hold off on this and play 17… Nd6 18. Nc5 Rb6 19. b3 Nf5! 20. Bh2 h5! 21. Qc3 g4 22. hxg4 hxg4 23. Nd2 Bh6 24. Rad1 a5 with an exciting game.  However this is entirely different from playing e7-e5 so it’s difficult to find.

18. hxg4 Bxg4 19. Nc5 Rb6

Position after 19…Rb6.

20. Qf4? The start of a bad idea.  As any Russian schoolboy would spot, two obvious knight moves are significantly better for white. 20. Nh2! Bf5 21. Nf1 Nd6 22. Ne3 and white is better.  Or, 20. Nh4! e5 21. f3 Bc8 22. Rad1 and again, white is better.  Black has weaknesses and the position is rather static.  The most important thing at this time limit is that it’s easy for white to play:  rooks to the center.

20… h5 21. Qc7?! Continuing the bad idea.  But if 21. Qe3 Re8 22. b3 e5 23. Nh4 f5! 24. f3 f4 25. Bxf4 Qxh4 and black is fine.

21… Bxf3 The ineffectiveness of white’s play is illustrated by the simple 21… Qxc7 22. Bxc7 Rxb2 23. Rxe7 Ng5 24. Nh4 Rf7 and it’s dead equal.

22. gxf3 22. Qxd8 Rxd8 23. Bc7? Rc8 is good for black.

22… e5! For some reason, I had mainly focused on 22… Ne5!? and this, too, is fine for black.  23. Qxd8 Nxf3+ 24. Kh1 Rxd8 25. Rxe7 Rc8 26. Rxa7 Nxd4 27. Nd3 Ne2 with equality.  The text is stronger because black has every reason to play for a win now.  White’s queenside majority is not compensation enough for his tattered kingside.

23. Qxd8 23. Qxa7 Ng5 24. Kg2 looked risky but the computer shows it’s playable.

23… Rxd8 24. b3 Rc6 25. Kg2 f5 26. b4 e4 27. Rad1 Rg6 28. Kf1 Ng5 Black’s pieces are menacing and white rushes to get the knight off the board.  However, difficulties remain.

29. Bh4 Rdd6 30. Bxg5 Rxg5 31. Ke2 Rb6 32. a3 Kf7 33. Rh1 Rh6 34. Nb3 Rc6? Here black missed a really nice chance. 34… h4! 35. Rh3 exf3+ 36. Kxf3 Rg4 37. Rc1 Ra6!! – a resource I did not see.

35. Nc5 It is not very helpful for white to trade a pair of rooks: 35. Rc1 Rxc1 36. Rxc1 h4 37. Rh1 exf3+ 38. Kxf3 Rg4 39. Ke3 Bh6+ 40. Ke2 Bg5 41. b5 Kg6 42. a4 Re4+ 43. Kd3 Rf4 44. Ke2 Bf6 45. Ke3 Re4+ 46. Kd3 Kh5 47. a5 Bd8 48. Rg1 Rg4 49. Re1 Rg7.

35… Kg6 36. b5 Rb6 37. a4 With white’s majority now advanced, black has no way to improve his game.  And there is now hidden danger for black that I failed to spot.

37…exf3+ 38. Kxf3 Rg4 39. Nd3 h4 40. Nf4+ Kg5

Position after 40…Kg5.  A Hidden Resource Exists for White.

41. Nh3+?! Well, the repetition is in hand.  I looked at Robby’s game and that looked good for us too (although he complicated things drastically by taking on h2 too soon) and almost did not win the rook ending).

If white grabs 41. Nxd5? Rd6 42. Ne3 Rf4+ 43. Ke2 black holds equality easily with 43…Bxd4.  Excited onlookers only saw 43…Rfxd4?? 44. Rhg1+ Kf6 45. Rxd4 Rxd4 46. Rxg7 and white wins.

But a move I never considered, mentioned to me later by endgame genius IM Levon Altounian, 41. Rhg1!! is an amazing shot. If  41…Rd6 protecting d5, 42. a5 Bf6 43. Rg2!  Bd8 (43… Rxg2 44. Nxg2 Kg6 45. Nf4+ Kf7 46. Rc1 Rd7 47. b6 axb6 48. axb6 Bxd4 49. Rc6 Ke8 50. Ne6 and at the cost of a mere pawn white is completely dominating the proceedings.  For example, 50… Be5 51. Nc5 Rd6 52. Rc8+ Ke7 53. Nd3 Bh2 54. Kg2 traps the bishop!) 44. Rdg1! Bxa5 45. Rxg4+ fxg4+ 46. Rxg4+ Kf6 47. Rxh4 and white should win this.

The game concluded 41… Kh6 42. Nf4 Kg5 43. Nh3+? Not too late for 43. Rhg1!!  But it just wasn’t on my radar.

43…Kh6 and draw.  1/2-1/2

So it was all up to Robby slogging in a double rook ending.  We left him alone in the second floor playing area and retreated to the first floor commentary room.  When he eventually scored the full point (with some ingenious maneuvering to put maximum pressure on the opponent in mutual time trouble) we couldn’t hear his “scream into the wilderness.”  Whew.

And Now for Something Unusual

A music ad for an upcoming concert in Chicago.

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