Archive for the ‘Spencer Lower’ Category

The Fabulous 00s: The 2004 Arizona State Championship

December 20, 2007

The 2004 round robin invitational event, called the Colonel Webb Memorial, was held in Mesa, Arizona at Steve Kamp’s home. Steve is Danny Rensch’s grand-dad. I tied for first with Angelina Belapovskaya, and strangely enough, every game I played was interesting. Let’s see them.

Round 1.

WGM A. Belapovskaya – IM M. Ginsburg  Az. State Champ., May 2004.

1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 Bg7 3. g3 d6 4. d4 Nd7 5. Bg2 e5 6. Nf3 Ngf6 7. O-O O-O 8. b3 This move is a little slow.

8…exd4 9. Nxd4 c6 I’ve liked this standard formation in the g2-g3 King’s Indian since my early days – see the Danny King game from Eeklo, Belgium 1983.

10. Bb2 Re8 11. Qc2 Qe7 12. Rad1 h5! A useful space gaining idea. Black is OK.


Position after 12…h5! – Chances are Balanced

13. Bc1 h4 14. Bg5 hxg3 15. hxg3 Qf8 Directly 15…Nc5 is fine too. The chances are about even.

16. b4 a6?! This is a Lasker-like provocation. Black sees that a white knight getting to b6 doesn’t do much, but this isn’t entirely true. The immediate 16…Ne5 was fine.

Strangely, I applied this idea of …a6 and …h5 together to a game I played soon afterward in the National Open 2004, gaining a solid draw as black vs. GM Dmitry Gurevich. He, too, went for the slow treatment with 12. b3 and I just had to remember some motifs.

D. Gurevich – M. Ginsburg, National Open June 2004. 1. Nf3 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. c4 d6 4. g3 Nd7 5. Bg2 Ngf6 6. O-O O-O 7. Qc2 e5 8. Rd1 Re8 9. h3 exd4 10. Nxd4 c6 11. Nc3 Qe7 12. b3 a6 (12… Nc5 13. b4 Nce4 14. Nxe4 Nxe4 15. Bb2 is another way to play)13. Bb2 h5!? The same idea as the Belopovskaya game.  14. Nf3 (14. Qd2 h4 15. gxh4 Nc5 is OK) 14… Nc5 15. b4 (15. e3 Bf5 16. Qe2 a5 17. Rac1 Qd7 18. Kh2 Qe7 19. Nd4 Bd7 and it’s about equal)  15… Bf5 16. Qc1 Nce4 17. Nxe4 Bxe4 18. a4 d5  Agreed drawn.  1/2-1/2.  Play might continue 19. c5 h4! 20. gxh4 a5! with an equal game.

It’s funny how sometimes opening variations occur in clumps when tournaments occur back to back. It helps  the practical results because memory is fresh.

17. Na4 Ne5 18. Nb6 Rb8 19. Qd2 The only way to test black is 19. c5!? d5 and here white has a tiny edge.

19…Nfd7 20. Nxd7 Bxd7 21. Rc1 21. Qc1 Be6 22. Nxe6 Rxe6 is possible. Even so, 23. Bh3 f5 leads nowhere.

21… Be6 Here, the rather ugly 21…f6 is completely OK. For example, 22. Bf4 g5! 23. Bxe5 dxe5 24. Nb3 Bf5 and it’s equal.

22. Nxe6 Rxe6 23. Rfd1 Rbe8 24. b5 axb5 25. cxb5 d5 At the time, I thought I should simply be better here. But matters aren’t so simple.

26. bxc6 The immediate 26. e4 is fine too.

26…bxc6 27. e4


Position after 27. e4 – Nothing Concrete is Apparent 

27…Nc4 27….d4!? 28. f4 f6!? gets crazy but it’s still equal after 29. fxe5 or 29. f5. The text looks really nice for black but it all evaporates in short order.

28. Qc2 Na3 29. Qa4 Ra8 30. Qb3 dxe4 31. Qb7 Black’s terrible pawns mean he has no real winning chances.

31…Rb8 32. Qa6 Ra8 33. Qb7 Qe8 34. Bh3 Rb8 35. Qa6 Ra8 36. Qb7 Rb8 37. Qa6 Ra8 As the computer shows, this was an unusually accurate game by both players. It never deviated much from dead even. My lifetime score vs Angelina moves to two hard-fought draws. The next time I saw her, she was selling homes in my (Tucson AZ) area!


Round 2.

IM M. Ginsburg – NM P. Garrett (2266)


1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. cxd5 Nxd5 4. Nf3 g6 5. Qb3! Nb6 6. d4 Bg7 7. Bf4 Be6 8. Qc2 O-O 9. Rd1 c6 10. e3


Position after 10. e3 – White is solid

This is a really safe way of playing against the Gruenfeld that 1. c4 players can enjoy – it’s very hard to get this from 1. d4. I experimented with this line vs GM V. Mihalevski and got a great game in Las Vegas in this very same decade – I will post that later. It was sort of a tragedy because I lost control in time-trouble. But I still like this anti-Gruenfeld treatment!

10…a5 11. Be2 Na6 12. O-O h6 13. Be5! A thematic bit of annoyance confronts black.

13…f6?! And it produces this weakening reaction! The g6-pawn is now very sickly.

14. Bg3 Kh7 15. h4 Bf5 16. e4 Bg4 17. a3 Nc7 18. Ng5+! fxg5 19. Bxg4 Black will really miss his light-squared bishop.

19…gxh4 20. Bxh4 Rf4? A false trail. The rook’s position here helps white and in a few moves black is totally pushed back with nothing left to undertake.

21. f3 h5 22. Ne2 Rf8 23. Bh3 Nb5 24. Bf2 Nd6 25. Be6! This bishop completely paralyzes black.
25…Bh6 26. f4!

“Hanging f4” but crashing through to the black king. Everything happens now with gain of time.


Position after 26. f4! – White has a decisive attack

26…Bxf4 Hopeless, but black was lost anyway.

27. e5 Nb5 28. Nxf4 Rxf4 29. Be3! All very simple. Black’s formation collapses, white gets to the 7th with his rook, and the black king is mated.
29… Nc7 30. Bf7 Rg4 31. Bxg6+ Kh8 32. Rf7 1-0

After this win, I was in good shape heading into round 3. But pride goes before the fall, and I lost convincingly to FM Danny Rensch.

Round 3.

FM D. Rensch – IM M. Ginsburg Sicilian English Attack

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Be3 a6 7. Qd2 Nge7!? An interesting idea to get out of the main English Attack variations.

8. Nb3 Ng6 9. O-O-O Be7 10. f4 b5 11. g3 Bb7 12. Bg2 Na5! I’ve known how important it is to get this knight off since my drawn game with GM Becerra, Las Vegas 2001.

13. Nxa5 Qxa5 14. Kb1 Rc8 15. h4 h5 Yes, this all looks weird, but black has his chances.


Position after 15…h5 – A strange tableau

16. Rhf1 Rc4  Black has excellent activity.

17. Bd4 In a higher sense, this move simply loses material for insufficient compensation. Practically, it is a reasonable gambit.

17…b4 18. Ne2 e5 19. Bg1 Bxe4! It’s correct to accept the offered center pawn. However, as is often the case, “winning” a pawn leaves holes that the opponent can exploit. Here, the light squares become tender.

20. Bxe4 Rxe4 21. Qd3 f5 22. Qf3 The key moment.  Black should be doing well with the monster rook on e4 but care is required.


Position after 22. Qf3 – A Key Moment

22…Qb5?? Black was doing really well up to now, but makes a bad miscue in the sharp situation. Necessary was the fairly evident 22… Qc7! 23. fxe5 Nxe5 24. Qxf5? (24. Qg2 g6! is solid, supporting the important f5-pawn, e.g. 25. Nf4 Qb7 26. Nd5 O-O with a fine game) 24… Rxe2 and black will triumph with all the key squares guarded. It is often the case when white sharpens the situation in the Sicilian, he is rewarded with black’s failure to orient to strange surroundings, and that’s what happened here.

23. fxe5  This is, of course, strong.

23…Qxe2?? A further and even worse miscue. Black cannot grab this horse.

 24. Qxf5 Black could have resigned already! Such is life in sharp Sicilians. I can’t explain what I missed, but it must have been something simple.  “Total disorientation” must have been the order of the day.

24…Nxe5 25. Qc8+ Bd8 26. Bb6 Ke7 27. Qb8 d5 28. Bc5+ Ke8 29. Qd6 Qg4 30. Qxd5 1-0

And so I am relegated to an even score after 3 rounds and my prospects of winning this event do not look good. I have to win my final two, with the last one being against Arizona veteran Robert Rowley!


But first I had to overcome Spencer Lower and his “solid Slav” in Round 4.

IM M. Ginsburg – NM S. Lower, Round 4   Slav, 4. Qc2!?

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Qc2 g6(!) 5. Bf4 Bg7 6. Nbd2 This bizarre and sluggish treatment is unlikely to attract followers. Correct is 6. e3! as analyzed in detail in one of my chess theory posts.  White has a small edge there, so black is probably advised to try the crazy sideline 5…Na6!? to aim at b4, as analyzed in length in the article discussing Ginsburg-Filipovich, Midwest Masters 1994, 1/2.

6…O-O 7. e3 Bf5 8. Qb3 Qb6 9. c5 Qxb3 10. axb3 Nbd7 11. h3 Ne4 12. b4 f6 13.Nb3 e5 14. Bh2 I prefer white now simply because some constructive ideas suggest themselves.

14…a6 15. Be2 Rfe8 16. O-O Rac8 17. Rfd1 Re7 18. Na5 Rc7 Moving into the latent pin from h2 to c7 looks like something white can exploit.

19. Ne1? Very weak. White gets an edge with the obvious 19. g4 Be6 20. Kg2 Rf7 and only now 21. Ne1.

19… Ng5 20. h4 Nf7 21. Nb3 Rc8 22. Nd3 Black is fine.

22…Bxd3? Weak, surrendering the bishop pair for no reason.

23. Bxd3 e4 24. Bxa6!? Impossible for a human to resist, gaining a pawn phalanx, but frowned upon by the machine! At the time, I thought it was the decisive breakthrough.

24…bxa6 25. Rxa6 f5 26. Rda1 Bf6 27. Na5 Nd8 28. Bd6 Rf7 29. g3 Be7 30. Bf4 Kg7 31. Ra3 h6 32. b5 It sure looks very good for white, doesn’t it? But computers can offer some harsh truth.


32…Bxc5? A panicky counter-sacrifice that tosses the game away. The computer points out the difficult defense 32…cxb5 33. Rb3 g5 34. hxg5 hxg5 35. Bd6 Bxd6 36. Rxd6 Nf6 37.Rxb5 Ne8 (Still looks good for white!) 38. Rdb6 Nc7! 39. Rb8 Rxb8 40. Rxb8 Nde6!! establishing the all important blockade, and getting counterplay with the imminent …f5-f4. A triumph of a logical defensive scheme. The game might continue 41. b4 f4 42. gxf4 gxf4 43. Nc6! (the only move to draw!!) 43…fxe3 44. fxe3 Rf3 45. b5 Rxe3 46. b6 Na6 47. Ra8 Naxc5 48. dxc5 Nxc5 49. Ra5 Rb3! 50. Rxc5 Rxb6 and draws. An amazing variation. After the text, black loses horribly to the all controlling, all-seeing, and uncontestable white bishop that parks itself on d4 and the unstoppable passed pawns.

33. dxc5 Nxc5 34. Nxc6! Maybe black overlooked this simple in-between move. It’s all over.

34…Nxa6 35. Be5+ Kg8 36. Nxd8 Rxd8 37. bxa6 Ra8 38. Bd4 Rc7 39. a7



So it came time for the last round. I believe that Angelina in Round 4 narrowly escaped versus my opponent, veteran many-time Arizona champ Robert Rowley.

Round 5. IM M. Ginsburg – NM Robert Rowley. Irregular Opening, 1. g3. “Rat Reversed”.


1. g3 c5 2. Bg2 Nc6 3. d3 g6 4. h4!? Nf6 5. Nc3!? Bg7 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bd2 d5 8. Nh3 b6 9. h5!? All very avant-garde. Duncan Suttles and Raymond Keene, practitioners of the “Rat” as black (this looks like a Rat reversed) would have approved. In the game, white gains a center pawn for a wing pawn (a small accomplishment) but black isn’t much worse, if at all.

9…Nxh5 10. Nxd5 Bb7 11. Qc1 Qd7 12. e4 O-O-O 13. a4 e6 14. Ne3 a5 15. Nc4 Qc7 16. Nf4 Nf6 17. Ne2 Ng4 18. Bf4 Nge5 Black is defending solidly and it’s hard work to get anywhere.

19. Nc3 Nd4 20. Bxe5 Bxe5 21. f4 Bg7 22. Nb5!? Nxb5 23. axb5 White’s idea is to gain the c4 square for a ‘forever’ knight. In the game, this plan works, but only with black’s cooperation.

23…f5 24. Qe3 g5 If 24… Kb8 25. O-O-O Qd7 26. Nxb6 Bxb2+ 27. Kxb2 Qxb5+ 28. Ka2 Qxb6 29. exf5! white is on top.

25. c3 gxf4 26. gxf4 e5 This is OK, but black also had 26… fxe4 27. Bxe4 Bd5 or 26… Kb8 27. O-O-O e5 or 27…a4, in all cases with decent chances.

27. O-O-O fxe4? Black had to play 27…exf4! 28. Qh3 Kb8! 29. Qxf5 Rhf8 with a playable game.

28. Bxe4 exf4 29. Qf3!


Black must have missed this resource. White gets an enormous bind on the white squares that translates into a direct attack on the black king. Black now faces a very unpleasant defensive situation, and on top of everything else, he is low on time.

29…Bxe4 30. Qxe4 Kb8 31. Rhg1 Bf6 32. Rg6 Rdf8 33. Qe6 Bd8 34. Ne5 Ka7 35. Nc6+ Kb7 36. Qd5 Kc8 37. Nxa5 More direct was 37. Nxd8! Rxd8 38. Qa8+ Qb8 39. Qa6+ Kd7 40. Rxb6 and wins, but the text is good enough.

37… bxa5 38. Rc6 f3 39. Rf1 h5 40. b6 Qxc6 41. Qxc6+ Kb8 42. Qxc5 Kb7 43. Qxa5 Bxb6 44. Qd5+ Kc7 45. Rxf3 Rxf3 46. Qxf3 Rd8 47. d4 1-0



So the smoke cleared and WGM Belapovskaya and I won the event jointly with 3.5 out of 5.