Archive for the ‘Nick DeFirmian’ Category

The Fabulous 70s Part 10: US Junior Open

July 21, 2007

In August of 1976 I ventured up to rural Storrs, Connectictut to the U Conn campus for the US Junior Open along with fellow IM-to-be Steve Odendahl. This event had New England juniors Jim Rizzitano, Charlie Hertan, and NY hopeful Eric Moskow. A hurricane swept through Storrs during the event with high winds and blackouts. We also had the joy of random acts of participant “playfulness” damaged the Dean’s car, resulting in the event getting banned from Storrs in the future for life. Readers who participated are welcome to comment further! C’est la vie.

James Rizzitano [1868] – Mark Ginsburg (2095)

US Junior Open Storrs, CT 1976. Round 6. 40/90.

Sicilian Smith-Morra Declined, transposing to 2. c3.

Of course Jim Rizzitano, a famous New England IM, is well known to the chess world. He entered the work-force after making IM (as did I) and recently he made a Caissic comeback and authored some books, Understanding Your Chess and How to Beat 1. d4, as well. Watch this space for another game I played against a New England player, Charlie Hertan, in this event.

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 Nf6?! One should be brave and accept this gambit.

4. e5 Nd5 5. cxd4 d6 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Bc4 e6 It doesn’t make too much sense to shut in the bishop on c8. 7…Nb6 is stronger theoretically. Then, 8. Bb5 Bd7 (or 8…dxe5 9. Nxe5 Bd7) leads to positions where black should be able to equalize with careful play. One recent example is 8…dxe5 9. Nxe5 Bd7 10. Qb3 e6 11. Be3 Bb4+ 12. Nc3 Bxc3+ 13. bxc3 Nxe5 14. dxe5 Bxb5 15. Qxb5+ Qd7 16. Rb1 Qxb5 17. Rxb5 Kd7! 18. O-O (18. Ke2!?) 18…Kc8! (A very creative defensive resource, this sudden king run!) 19. Rfb1 Rd8 20. Bxb6 axb6 21. Rxb6 Rd7 22. R6b2 1/2-1/2, E. Sevillano – N. DeFirmian, World Open Philadelphia 2004. Black alertly uses his rook on the original square of a8 to gain play. A sample continuation would be 22…Rc7 23. Rc2 Ra5! 24. f4 g5! 25. g3 gxf4 26. gxf4 Rac5 27. Rb3 Rc4 with a level game. IM Sevillano is dangerous with this opening and can bite as well as bark, as GM Erenburg found out in the National Open 2007.

8. Qe2 Be7 9. Nc3 dxe5 10. dxe5 Nxc3 11. bxc3 At the time, I thought splitting white’s queenside pawns means I have a good game. Of course, theory tells us white’s activity gives him a plus here. The only thing working in black’s favor is that a white misstep and inappropriate trades land him in a bad and possibly losing ending.

11…O-O 12. O-O b6 13. Qe4 Bb7 14. Bd3 g6 15. Bh6 Re8


16. Rfe1 Theoretical Novelty! White is better. 16. Rad1 Qc7 17. Qf4 is also good although 17…Rad8 18. Rfe1 Rd5 19. Be4 Rxd1 20. Rxd1 Rd8 21. Rxd8+ Nxd8 22. Nxb7 Nxb7 23. Qa4! Bf8 Barle-Jansa, Sombor 1976, and black salvaged a draw.

In a strange coincidence, fellow New Englander Patrick Wolff had this position as black in a very important game in the US Championship 1992. Boris Men was white. Patrick played into this risky with 16.Rad1 Qc7 17. Qf4 Rad8 and Men played 18.Be4 (transposing to Barle-Jansa game with fewer moves) 18…Rxd1 19. Rxd1 Rd8 20. Rxd8+ Nxd8 21. Bxb7 Nxb7 22. Qa4! (the critical move as in the Barle game). Now black is in a very bad way after Wolff’s miscue of 22…Qd8? indirectly protecting the a-pawn for the moment by eyeing white’s back rank. He should have played 22…Bf8! witih good chances to hold as Jansa played in the Barle game. Let’s look at this position.


Position after 22…Qd8, Men-Wolff US Champ. 1992 (Analysis)

Men immediately went quite wrong with the inexplicable and very weak 23. Nd4? Na5!, Wolff equalized, and went on to win the game and the event! In any successful tournament, the winner can always look back and point to some combination of good moves and good fortune making up for not-so-good moves. The natural move 23. h4!, leaving the knight on f3, gives white a big plus. For example, 23…Na5 (23…a5 24. Be3 Nc5 25. Qb5 with an obvious edge) 24. Ng5! (24. Bg5! is also good, for example 24…Bxg5 25. Nxg5 and white has a large advantage) 24…Qb8 25. g3!? preparing Ng5-e4. 25. Qf4!? f6 26. Nf3 is also very good. White is clearly better in all lines. This is important theory for 2. c3 fans.

In addition the mysterious 16. Qe3!? was successful for white in two outings, 16…Bc5 17. Qe2 Qc7 18. Rfe1, Nunn-Pritchett, Decin 1975, and 16…Qd5 17. Rad1 Qc5 18. Qf4, Markun-Sale, Bled 1995.

16… Na5 17. Qe2 Possible is 17. Qe3 Qc7 18.Bg5 Qxc3 19. Bxe7 Rxe7 20. Qg5 Rd7 21. Bb5 Rdd8 holding (not 21…Rd5 ?? 22. Qh6 mating). But there is room to explore in this gambit line: white has compensation after, e.g., 20. Rac1!? Qb2 21. Qf4 where black should hurry with 21…Bxf3!

17… Rc8 18. Bb5! Bc6 18…Nc6 19. a4 is not fun for black.


19. c4? Much stronger is 19. Nd4! Bxb5 20. Nxb5 Rc5 21. Rad1 Qb8 22. Nd6! Bxd6 23. exd6 Nc4 24. d7 Rd8 25. Rd4 with a clear edge to white.

19… Qc7 20. Rad1 Qb7 21. Nd4 Red8 22. Nxc6 Nxc6 23. Rxd8+ Black survives the tactical blow 23. c5 Nd4 24. Rxd4 Rxd4 25. Ba6 Qc6 26. Bxc8 Qxc8 27. cxb6 axb6. He is also OK after 23. Qf3 Na5 24. Qxb7 Nxb7 25. Ba6 Rxd1 26. Rxd1 Rc7.

23…Rxd8 24. Qe4 Na5 25. Qg4 No better is 25. Qf4 a6 26. Ba4 Qc7 27. Rc1 Qc5 and black is slightly better.

25… a6 26. Ba4 Qc7 27. Re4 Rc8 28. Bb3 b5! Now black is starting to assert himself and gains a powerful passed pawn thanks to white’s back rank problems. White rapidly goes downhill.


29. Bd2 29. Qe2 bxc4 30. Bc2 Qc5 is also good for black.

29… bxc4 30. Ba4 c3 31. Bc1 Qb6 32. Bc2 Qb5 33. Qf3 Qd5 34. a4 Nb3 35. Bxb3 Qxb3 36. Qd3 Rd8 37. Rd4 Rxd4 38. Qxd4 Qc2 39. Qe3 Qd1+


Emulating “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, I would lose in the next round to Sweeney (2186), ruining my tournament.

Here is my previous round debacle versus FM-to-be Charlie Hertan, aka Mister Donkey, aka Eeh-Yaw. I believe for a certain time, the US Chess Federation actually accepted his alias “Mister Donkey” as an official tournament name so New England pairing sheets would have pairings like “Curdo vs Kelleher, Donkey vs Ivanov.”

Mark Ginsburg (2095) – Charlie Hertan (2120) US Junior Open

Round 5. 40/90.

Larsen’s Opening 1. b3

1. b3 d5 2. Bb2 e6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nf3 c5 5. Bb5+ Bd7 6. Bxd7+ Nbxd7 7. O-O Be7 8.c4 dxc4 9. bxc4 O-O 10. Nc3 Ne8 11. Rc1 Nd6 12. d3 Bf6 13. Qe2 Rc8 14. Nb5?! 14. a4 or 14. Rfd1 are normal.

14…Nxb5 15. cxb5 Qa5 16. Bxf6 Nxf6 17. Qb2 Nd5 18. Ne5 18. Rc4 is better.

18…Rfd8 19. Rfd1 Qb4 20. Qxb4? A terrible move. 20. Nc4 was about equal.

20…cxb4 21. Rc4 Nc3 22. Rd2 f6 23. Rxc8 Rxc8 24. Nc4 Nxb5 Now black should be easily winning. Somehow he bungles it and I get a chance to draw later…

25. g3 Na3 26. Nd6 Rc7 27. d4 a5 28. e4 b6 29. d5 exd5 30. exd5 Rd7 31. Nf5 Nc4 [88] Mr. Donkey is in big time trouble!

32. Rd4 b5 33. d6 g6?! 33…Kf7 wraps the game up soon.

34. Ne7+ Kf7 35. Nc8 a4 36. Rd5 Na3 [89] A very easy line is 36…b3 37. axb3 axb3 38. Rxb5 b2 winning but Mr. Donkey had no time to think anymore. Black is winning after the text move too.

37. Rd4 [88] b3 37…Nc2 wins easily. The text, if coupled with Nc2, also wins.

38. axb3 axb3?? With only seconds left, black doesn’t see the crushing intermediate move 38…Nc2! 39. Rd3 a3! and wins, or 39. Rd2 axb3 40. Rd3 Rd8 41. d7 b2 42. Rb3 Rxd7 44. Rxb2 Nd4 and black wins.

39. Rb4 Shockingly, white is fine now. The clock is the last hurdle.

39…Rd8 40. Rxb3?? And white throws the game away. Even though white only had less than a minute left, there is no excuse for this terrible move. 40. Na7! liquidates the pawns and makes a safe draw.

40…Rxc8 41. Rxa3 Ke6 Black, with his active king and passed pawn, wins easily. The Donkey gets the last eee-yah.

42. Ra7 Kxd6 43. Rb7 43. Rxh7 Rb8! wins.

43…Kc5 44. Kf1 h5 45. Ke2 Rc6 46. Kd3 Kb4 47. f4 Ka4 48. Ra7+ Kb3 49. f5 g5 50. Re7 Rc3+ 51. Kd4 b4 52. Re6 Kc2 53. Rxf6 b3 54. Re6 b2 55. Re2+ Kb3 56. Rxb2+ Kxb2 57. Ke5 g4 58. Kf4 Rc2 59. f6 Rxh2 60. Kg5 Kc3 61. f7 Rf2 62. Kxh5 Rxf7 63. Kxg4

White finally throws in the towel in this exceptionally poorly played game.


I would have to wait until the Fabulous 80s to gain revenge against Mr. Donkey in a Bar Point Chess Club encounter on West 14th Street and 6th Avenue in New York City.