Posts Tagged ‘Altounian’

The Fabulous 10’s: When Scorpions Attack (Each Other)

November 13, 2010

Intra-Scorpion Matchups at the 2010 Arizona State Championship

When two Arizona Scorpions play OTB, it’s always a hard-fought encounter.

In Danny Rensch’s tournament the Copper State International (Mesa 2010) I sacked an exchange to reach what I thought was a promising attack with a well-cooperating queen and knight duo.  However, my opponent Robby Adamson had more resources than I thought, and went on to score a victory and a final IM norm!

Does somebody have that game score? I want to post it here.

More recently, the 2010 Arizona State closed championship is underway.  We’ve already had many Scorp/Scorp matchups.

Here’s an interesting encounter from Round 1.

AZ State Championship  Tucson, AZ  11/12/10  Round 1

David Adelberg (2277) – Mark Ginsburg (2446)  Modern Defense

1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nf3 d6 4. Nc3 Bg4 Not a scare system, but Timman did use it to draw the solid Lajos Portisch in Wijk aan Zee, 1975 (an excellent tournament book by RHM Press covering that event!).

5. e3 c5 6. Be2 The plan for better or worse is 6. dxc5 Bxc3+!? 7. bxc3 dxc5.   I think Leonid Bass played Adelberg’s way against me in the 1980s.

6…cd 7. ed Nc6 8. d5 Bxf3 9. Bxf3 Ne5 10. Be2 White could castle and leave the B on f3 for the moment.

10…Nh6

White deviates from Portisch's Recipe

11. f4!? Deviating from Portisch-Timman where white put a bishop rather passively on d2.  In that game, Timman’s queen got to d4 via b6 and black was very active, holding a draw comfortably.

11…Nd7 12. Be3 Nf5 13. Bf2 h5 Black cements his knight on f5 but is left with not that much to do.  White has to be a bit better.

14. O-O Bxc3 Not very inspiring.  15. bxc3 Nf6 16. Bd3 Qd7 I really didn’t like my game and offered a draw.  White thought for some time and declined; however his next few moves don’t meet the requirements of the position as Soviet chess analysts used to like to say.

17. Qc2 Now, or soon, I would as white play a rook to the b-file and then advance with a2-a4-a5.  White is better.

17…O-O 18. Rae1 Again, I would play a rook to the b-file.

18…Rfe8 19. Re2?! This is the most serious gaffe so far. The mechanical doubling on the e-file allows black’s next which gives black much needed breathing space.  White should have simply prevented the b5 break.

19….b5!  20. Rfe1 bxc4 21. Bxc4 Rec8! 22. Ba6? A big lemon.  Black is just better after the obvious sac in reply.

22…Nxd5 Of course.  23. Bxc8 Rxc8 And now it’s very hard for white to defend.  Black just stays compact and uses the Q & Knights combination to effectively attack, whereas white’s rooks completely lack coordination.

Very hard for white to hold on in practical play

24. Rc1 Nxf4 25. Re4 e5! This is strong because the black queen gains access to g5 (see 27th move for black).

26. Bg3 Ne6 It’s easy for black to play. The Bishop on g3 isn’t doing anything so black just grabs space and goes back on the attack in a few moves.

27. Qa4 Qe7! Going to g5.  A false trail would be to occupy the a8-g2 diagonal (although tempting) as the g5 square is much more productive.

28. Rc4 Rd8 Just staying out of the way in order to resume the attack momentarily.  29. Qa3 Qg5 The end is near now.  30. Qb2 h4 31. Be1 Nf4 And now it’s resignable; white loses back material with a two-pawn deficit.

The Two Knights Attack

I credit GM Yermolinsky with my coherent middle-game play.   Out of the many times I played him, in one specific game (I think in Las Vegas), he instructively time and again put his pieces where they coordinated and stayed compact.  He explained his thinking process as just that, staying compact.    My 25th through 28th moves were all exactly that – a compact formation that can uncoil and grab more space.

32. Qd2 Nothing else to do.   32…Nd3 and 32….Ne2+ were both threatened and white can’t stop both.  32…Ne2+ 33. Qxe2 Qxc1 34. Rc7 Rb8 It’s over.

35. Qd2 Rb1 36. Qxc1 Rxc1 37. Kf1 Rc2 38. Rxa7 Ne3+ 39. Kg1 Rxg2+ 40. Kh1 h3 Completing white’s king’s entombment.  41. a4 Ng4 42. a5 Rxh2+ 43. Kg1 Rg2+ 44. Kh1 Ra2 45 Kg1 h2+ and white finally resigned.

0-1

To Adelberg’s credit, he bounced back in Round 2 and in a sharp Sozin Najdorf as black, defeated fellow Scorp IM Aldama.

In other Scorp action, Levon Altounian won with a 2. c3 Sicilian vs NM Nick Thompson and when I left the playing hall tonight after drawing IM Altounian, NM Thompson was battling NM Adelberg.

After 4 rounds I was in the lead with 3.5 out of 4.  My nearest competitors were Altounian and Adelberg with 3 out of 4.  They were due to play in the last round and I had black against fellow Scorp, IM Dionysio Aldama.    I had just come off a very long game, eventually winning in a Sicilian Kan vs NM Nick Thompson.  Altounian wound up making a draw with white vs Adelberg’s solid Slav, so it turned out all I needed was a draw for clear first.  The problem, though, was that I achieved the most unpleasant of situations: a winning position in the opening!

Round 5 (final round)

IM Aldama – Ginsburg  Tricky Eugene Meyer Sicilian

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 3. f4 d5 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. Bb5 Nf6 6. Ne5 I think 6. e5 is much more common, but black will try the same trickery as the game (early disrupting c5-c4).

6….Qc7 7. Qe2 (7. Qf3!? is a move that occurred to me at the moment, pressuring d5, not sure if it’s anything real) 7….Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Bxc6 bxc6 10. d3 c4!

Eugene Meyer move

As shown and played by Eugene Meyer.  Black achieves excellent dynamic play.

11. dxc4 Ba6 12. Bd2? A weak move.  White needs b2-b3.  12…Nd7 13. exd5 cxd5 14. Rfe1

After the game my opponent asked me what I would play on 14. Nxd7.  Can I take on c4, I inquired?  No!  14. Nxd7 Bxc4 15. Nxd5!! wins for white!  If I stopped to think here, I would find 14. Nxd7 Qxd7! and black has a great game.

14…Nxe5 15. dxe5 Qxc4?! Although black of course stands well now, there was no reason to pass up 15…Qb6+! 16. Kh1 Qxb2 17. Rac1 Bxc4.  I was worried that my pieces could not easily aid my king after, e.g, 18. Qg4, but of course that’s not a real attack.

16. Qxc4 Bxc4  17. Nd1 White needs to regroup his terribly placed pieces. 17…Rfc8 18. Be3 f6 An interesting moment. I also have 18…f5!? and I also have 18…Ba6!? just leaving the f-pawn alone for the moment. 

19. Bd4

Position after 19. Bd4

Here, I could play the “Dzindzihashvili bypass maneuver” with 19…f5!? with the idea of further space gains on the kingside, g7-g5, and so on.  White can do little. I am calling it this because I saw GM Roman do it once – offer a pawn exchange then craftily bypass the next move, ruling out en passant!  My chosen move is not bad either.

19…fxe5 20. Bxe5 Bc5+ 21. Ne3 White is barely holding on.  I started wondering about Rc8-f8-f1+ but that leads nowhere.

21…Ba6 22. c3 Bd3 At this point Adelberg looked solid (he in fact did hold the draw) so I offered a draw; I still thought black was better.  Aldama refused and played:

23. Rad1 Be4 24. b4 Well, white has to do something! 24…Bb6 25. a4

Position after 25. a4

25…a6? I played this inaccurate move quickly.  After the game Altounian pointed out the very strong and fairly obvious 25….a5! with the idea 26. b5 Rc4!.  Clearly my brain was not working too well after the prior rounds (some of them very long).    To make matters worse, Aldama was going off for quick rejuvenating smoke breaks quite often.  He was gaining energy!

26. a5 Ba7 27. h3 Rc4 At least I found this safety move -coupled with black’s next it *should* remove all danger!

28. Kh2 Bxe3 Of course this plan handing over the bishop pair was not required and perhaps even suspect, I was just afraid of any specter of N vs B endings.  But why give up the bishop pair like this?

29. Rxe3 Rf8 30. Rd4 Rf2! This rook never should have left the seventh rank!

31. Rg3 g6 How can black lose?   The problem was I started thinking about using both rooks to attack white’s king and win!

Position after 31....g6

32. Rg4 I had no idea what white was up to besides the Rgxe4 trick. I considered the safe 32…Rxd4 with a complete draw but decided just to bring the c-rook around to the f-file.  A bad practical decision!

32…Rc8 Not a bad move, but white now plays the shocking:

33. Rgxe4! The only chance to get out of the bind!  I completely fail to reorient.

33…dxe4 34. Rxe4 A transformation!  Black should now be paying attention to the majority and find the obvious 34…Rc2! defending and keeping the pawns at bay.  Needless to say, black is fine there.  Altounian’s computer said black is practially winning!  Instead I unfurled

34…Rf5?? An example of not thinking anymore.  I was luring white to play the incomprehensible 35. g4? then I play 35…Rf3!.  See the note to black’s 30th move!

He quickly played instead the unpleasant: 35. c4! and now white’s pawns are a huge headache.  I saw nothing better than the lame game continuation:

35…Kf7 36. b5 Ke7 37. b6 Rxe5 38. Rxe5 (38. b7? Rec5) 38…Rxc4 39. Rb5! Yes, I saw that one coming.  Not a nice turn of events with white very low on time but with moves like this available.  It now appears that white wins, barely, in the upcoming rook ending by one tempo.  Brutal!

Position after 39. Rb5!

39….Rc8 40. b7 Rb8 41 Rb6 Kd7 42. Kg3 e5 43. Kf3 Kc7 44. Ke4 Rxb7 Fortunately white loses by one tempo if he plays 45. Rxb7 here, at least that is what I calculated. I guess Aldama thought the same thing so he played 45. Rxa6 and now I found 45…Rb3! creating problems by going for the g3 square!   Drama continues!

Position after 45...Rb3!

A very interesting rook ending.  I think white played the right way now:  46. Rf6 (!) Rg3 47. Rf2 Kb7 48. Kxe5.

At this point black can go for the 48…g5 move to keep the rook on g3, but it appears he gets broken down by zugzwang:  white puts the rook on the a-file and keeps the white king close to the g5 pawn; black runs out of moves.  Similarly, 48…h5 and 49…h4 also lose to a zugzwang.  Black tried another option which also lost (barely).

48…Rg5+ 49. Kf6 Rxa5 50. Kg7 Rh5 This position is a little tricky!  51. Rf3! White aims for g2-g4 trapping the rook.

Position after 51. Rf3!

51…g5 Trying for a g5-g4 trick.

52. Rf6!   White has it all worked out. 52…g4 Last try!  53. hxg4 Rg5+ 54. Kxh7 Rxg4 55. Rg6 With a book win. G-pawns are surprisingly easy to win.

55…Rh4+ 56. Kg7 Kc7 57. g4 Kd7 58. g5 Ke7 59. Ra6 Rh1 60. Re1! and white won shortly.

1-0.

Amazingly after I resigned I learned that I had won the tournament on tie-break (because in round 1 I defeated one of the co-winners).  Never before has this happened to me.

Wow.  Even so, it was a bitter pill to lose this game considering the opening!

Postscript

I found a PDF file documenting prior Arizona State Championships. I don’t know who the author of that document is (the person that contributed the updates up to 2009). Curiously they omitted Angelina Belapovskaia who tied with me in 2004, I believe.   That tournament was played in Mesa, Arizona at one of Danny Rensch’s chess-house sites.    I was surprised to see I had tied for first apparently three times before (I thought it was twice before).  So now, apparently, I have tied for first four times!

In other personal State Championship historical news, in 1982, I won the Maryland version by defeating Richard Delaune in the last round.   This was actually a really good game that you can find on chessgames.com.  In 1989, I tried to win the NY State in Albany NY (defeating IM Shirazi in a nice game that featured a highly unusual queen sac) but I believe some Grandmaster luminary took top honors that year.  All I can remember about Albany 1989 is visiting a jazz club where Grandmaster Larry C drummed on the table to express solidarity with the musicians.  I haven’t been that active, clearly, in trying to win state honors here and there.  I lived in New Jersey for a while but never tried that one.

Timeline Photos

1960

Baby Mark in 1960 had not yet conceived of “state championships”.

Manhattan Chess Club, 1988

I won the Manhattan CC Championship (a now defunct club, located at the glamorous Carnegie Hall, 57th and 7th, NYC) twice in 1988 and 1990.  Sandwiched between these was my unsuccessful run at the NY State Championship in Albany 1989.

The Fabulous 10s: The Fine Art of Chess Nihilism

April 13, 2010

The Fine Art of Trying for Nothing At All

IM Levon Altounian recently qualified for the 2010 US Championship by winning an online State Champions qualifier on the ICC.  I have had experience in this event, winning a West qualifier (a bunch of 3 0 games) a few years ago only to stumble in a playoff vs. Connecticut master Ted McHugh.  Indeed, online ICC games of any importance are very nervy affairs.

Altounian’s toughest match was the semi-final vs the Northern California champion, IM Sam Shankland.  Two games were contested at the time control of Game in 25 minutes with a 3 second increment.

In this two-game mini-match, Altounian showed how “doing nothing” (chess nihilism) is actually a dangerous weapon, especially in faster time controls. If the opponent doesn’t react well to “nothing”, then technique takes over.

I think the times on ICC are accurate so I will use them in this story.

Game 1.

L. Altounian (Arizona)  –  S Shankland ( NoCal )   G/25 + 3 sec increment

1. e4!?

A surprise!   Levon doesn’t play his usual Catalan!  I can imagine that before this game Altounian worked out riskless sidelines to respond to any black move.

1…e5!?

A surprise from Shankland!  I would have expected 1…c5 then some riskless move from white such as 2. c3 and a probable draw.   Black’s surprise move results in a good game for him!

2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. Nc3 This knight does not look happy here!

What a strange move!  An excellent example of nihilism.  White simply says “I’m trying for nothing, let’s just make some more moves.”

5…f6 This move is perfectly good.

Also fine is the active 5… Bc5!? 6. Nxe5 (6. d3 Qe7 7. Be3 Bxe3 8. fxe3 Nf6 9. O-O O-O =) 6… Qg5 7. d4 Qxg2 8. Qf3 (8. Rf1? Bh3 wins)  Qxf3 9. Nxf3 Bb4 =.

6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 c5! Why not?  White gets a very awkward formation.

8. Nde2 Qxd1+ 9. Nxd1

This is playing for a win?! No.. it’s playing for a non-loss!

Playing for a non-loss!

However I will be bold here and say white could, in fact, lose this!  This just means chess is not an easy game and white can’t force a draw so easily.

9…Bd7 I would definitely prefer 9…Be6 to keep the d-file open after castles long.  Then, if as in the game 10. Bf4 O-O-O 11. Ne3 Ne7 12. f3 g5! 13. Bg3 Bg7!  and black is very happy with the latent power of the bishop pair.  All of black’s pieces are very active.  If we were to talk about “winning chances for black” in an exchange Ruy Lopez, this would be it.  In the game, transferring the bishop from d7 to c6 is also good and gives black nice tactical motifs shortly.

10. Bf4 O-O-O 11. Ne3 Bc6 12. f3

To ...g7-g5 or not to ...g7-g5?

I can imagine black was very confident here.  He also had, as in the previous note, the immediate 12… g5! 13. Bg3 Ne7 14. h4 (on other moves, black is doing well) 14…g4! 15. Nxg4 f5! with fantastic compensation.   14…Bg7 was also fine for black in this line.

12…Ne7 13. Kf2 g6 Black may have been reluctant to weaken squares, but the space grabbing 13… g5 was still good.    At this point, black had 18 minutes left and white had 22 minutes left.  This means that white may have been better off playing 13. h4! before Kf2.

14. Rad1 Bg7 15. h4 h6 Black could play nihilistically here with 15…Rxd1 16. Rxd1 Re8 (doing nothing) and be all right.  The problem for white is if the game opens, the bishop pair comes into their own.

16. g4 f5 Sharpening the play.  Black has 15 minutes left and white has 20 minutes left.  Objectively, black is still fine but it’s not easy in a fast game.

17. gxf5

Key Moment

17…Bxb2? The position is tricky. Correct is simply 17…gxf5. If 18. exf5? Rdf8! is very good for black due to 19. Ng3 Bxb2 with a black edge.   If 18.  Rxd8+ Rxd8 19. exf5 Rf8! again is correct. Black is OK in this line after, for example, 20. Rg1 Bf6! hitting h4.  Since the position has just become unexpectedly sharp, this miscue has severe consequences.

18. Rxd8+ Rxd8 Essentially forced. 18…Kxd8 runs into 19. Nc4 Bf6 20. Be5! with a big edge.

19. c3? Winning is the brute force 19. fxg6 Nxg6 20. Bxh6, for example 20…Rh8 21. Bg5 and the pawns roll.  It is natural for a human in a fast time control to go for the “piece trap” but this should have squandered much of the edge.

19… gxf5 20. Rb1 fxe4 21. fxe4 Ba3?! Here it’s important to get rid of white’s h-pawn.  Thus 21… Ng6! 22. Rxb2 (22. h5?? Nxf4 wins for black due to Rd2+ next) 22… Nxh4 23. Bxh6 Bxe4 and black can fight on and with reduced pawns retain decent chances of the draw.

22. Rb3 Bxe4 22….Ng6 again with the aim of eliminating white’s dangerous h-pawn.

23. Rxa3 Ng6 24. h5 Since white’s h-pawn lives, the battle is concluded.  A very tough loss for black after such a nice opening.

24…Nxf4 25. Nxf4 Rf8 26. Kg3 Rg8+ 27. Kh4 Rf8 28. Ng6 Rf6 29. Ng4  Rb6 30. Ne7+ Kd8 31. Ng8 Bf3 32. N8xh6 Kc8 33. Ra5 Rb2 34. Rxc5 Rxa2 35. Rf5 Bd1 36. Rf1 Be2 37. Rf2 Rc2 38. Nf5 Bd3 39. Rxc2 Bxc2 40. Kg5 1-0

The next game was conducted shortly after this one, and it’s very tough to reorient and bounce back at full strength.  In the second game, playing black, Altounian showed, well, an ingenious opening preparation for these conditions.

Game 2

S. Shankland – L. Altounian  QGA Strange Sideline

1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e3 Be6 This had to be a surprise.  An unusual sideline!

This?!?!

4. Nf3 In an action game my first thought would be to get the c-pawn rounded up with 4. Na3!? for example 4… Nc6 5. Nxc4 Qd5 6. Nf3. Not sure how much it offers, but it’s safe and no time spent on the clock.   The knight on c4 participates usefully.

4… Nf6 5. Nbd2 c5 6. Ng5 Bd5 7. e4 h6 I would hazard a guess that this was “main preparation” for Levon within this rare QGA sideline. As it turns out, the R/h8 finds useful work on its original file!

8. exd5 hxg5 9. Bxc4 cxd4 10. Nf3 g4 11. Ne5 Previously seen was 11. Nxd4 Rh5 12. Qb3 and it was about equal (but white went on to win in   1-0 Hansen,C-Zagema,W/Hinnerup 1979.

11… Nbd7 12. Qxd4 Nxe5 13. Qxe5 a6 14. O-O e6! The fact that this move is possible means black solved his problems effectively.

15. Bf4 Rh5! 16. Qe2 Bd6 It all goes like clockwork.

17. Bg3 Bxg3 18. fxg3 18. hxg3 Qe7 19. dxe6 O-O-O 20. exf7 Rdh8 is a typical mating pattern that white, of course, avoids.

18… Qb6+ 19. Rf2 e5 20. Re1 O-O-O 21. Qe3  Qxe3 22. Rxe3 e4 23. Bb3 Rdh8 24. Rc2+ Kd7 25. Rec3 Kd6? The most accurate here is 25… Ne8.
26. Rc7 e3 27. Rxb7 Nxd5 28. h4?
Last chance for white (remember he has to win to level the match) is 28. Rxf7! Rxh2 29. Kf1! averting mate.  Then for example, 29…g6 30. Bxd5 Kxd5 31. Rd7+ Ke5 32. Re7+ Kd4 33. Rc3 and white can fight on perhaps gaining a full point if black miscues.

28… gxh3 Now black wins with no problems. 29. Ra7 (29. Rxf7 hxg2 30. Kxg2 Rh2+ 31. Kf1 Rxc2 32. Bxc2 Rh1+ 33. Ke2 Rh2+ 34. Kd1 Rd2+ 35. Kc1 Nb4 36. Bb1 Rxb2 wins) 29… hxg2 30. Rxa6+ Ke5 31. Kxg2 (31. Ra5 Rh1+ 32. Kxg2 R8h2+ 33. Kf3 Rf1+ 34. Kg4 Rxc2 wins) 31… Rh2+ 32. Kf3 Rxc2 33. Bxc2 Rh2 0-1

The rare sideline worked out very well for black!  In the finals, Levon faced NM Damir Studen from Georgia (no, not Soviet Georgia) and won fairly easily, so this Western battle was definitely his toughest test.

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