Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pertually drawish results

Here’s a belated wrap-up of USCL Week 2 action, in which:

·      San Francisco has one of the best results (of the five teams who didn’t win a game),
·      The western division somehow outscores the east, thanks to an impressive crush by St. Louis (who needed just one GM, not three, to make it happen), and inspired draws from underdogs Los Angeles and Carolina (again),
·      I forget that the Wednesday night games are on chess.com and spend about an hour trying to figure out why the clocks aren’t running on ICC,
·      And Daniel Naroditsky doesn’t get the memo about perpetual check week and accidentally draws by insufficient material.

It’s as if our instructions, after last week’s bloodbath on all four boards, were, “Don’t be afraid to make a draw.”  You usually feel pretty good about your chances to win a match when you salvage lost positions on the bottom two boards, but this was one that neither team could quite put away.

Our best chance to win a game came on board one, where Jesse Kraai wandered down the well-worn paths of the pawn sac line of the Queen’s Indian.  On move 19, black eschewed a chance to trade the light-squared bishops, and a few moves later, Jesse struck:

Your Generated Chess Board

White has just played 23 Be5!, and black is in a tight spot.  Neither 23… Qe7 24 Nf5! Qd8 25 Bd6 or 23… Bh8 24 Bd5 Rd8 25 Rb4 with the threat of Rh4 are much good, so he played 23… Bxe5.  White’s response, 24 Rxe5, creates the threat Rh5 to prevent black from taking the knight, but after 24… Bc2 25 Rae1 he had no choice: Nxf7 and Re7 are on the horizon.

A dozen or so moves later, Jesse was closing in on the win, but had to play one more precise move to finish off his opponent:

Your Generated Chess Board

Unfortunately, he did not find 40 Qe4!, after which black cannot effectively organize his rooks to hold off the passed pawns.  Instead, after 40 Kf3? Rfg8 41 Kf4 Rg4+ 42 Ke5 Rxg3, black’s rooks are just active enough to hold the draw.

Things were not going as well on board three, where Yian Liou burned all his bridges early, sacrificing a mess of queenside pawns for a slow kingside buildup:

Your Generated Chess Board

Here Yian needs just one more move to complete the attack: Nf3, and black’s king is stuck and checkmate will be inevitable.  But it’s black’s move in the diagram, and he took his last chance to evacuate the king, playing 29… Kf7! 30 Qh7+ Ke6 31 Qxg6+ Kd7.  Now the f-pawn is poisoned, and white can only hope to find some tactical tricks to extricate himself from his material disadvantage.

Fortunately for us, such a trick appeared on move 42:

Your Generated Chess Board

White is threatening Qc7+ and Qxc6, so black needs to find a few more defensive moves to win.  My computer favors giving back a piece to trade queens with 42… Qd7! 43 Qxd7 Bxd7 44 Rxd7 a4, since the white pieces cannot hold off the avalanche of pawns forever.  Human intelligence indicates either 42… b5 or 42… c5.  As it turns out, 42… b5 would have maintained black’s advantage, whereas 42… c5, as played, allowed white a miraculous perpetual: 43 Qc7+ Kc5 44 Qe7+ Kb6 (since 44… Kd4? 45 Qd6+ Kc3 46 Rh3 is perilous for black).

The same story, but with the colors reversed, was being played out on board four.  Kesav Viswanadha, another one of our young guns, had won a pawn on the black side of a Nimzo-Indian, but then began playing passively, allowing his opponent to gradually make inroads into his position.  By move 48, his position looked bleak indeed:

Your Generated Chess Board

Black’s pieces are badly tied down to his weak pawns, and white should be able to win Petrosian-style, slowing improving each piece until black’s position collapses.  One idea from the diagramed position is to play 48 Qb5, taking away a6 from the black queen and tying her majesty to the defense of the knight.  Instead, white played 48 Nc6, going after the black c-pawn right away.  After 48… Qa6 49 Qb8 it still looks bad: the knight is now trapped, but Kesav found a way out: 49… Qa1! 50 Qxe8 Qf1+ and white’s king cannot find refuge from the checks – match still all tied up!

Board two featured a wild battle between Eli Vovsha and Daniel Naroditsky in a Sicilian Najdorf.  Daniel got in the traditional exchange sacrifice on c3, and had an opportunity to hop on the bandwagon early with a clever perpetual check:

Your Generated Chess Board

White has just played 18 g5, and instead of moving the knight, black can play 18… Qxc3 19 gxf6 Bxf6 20 Qc1 Bxb3 (unfortunately there is nothing better) 21 cxb3 Qa1+ 22 Kc2 Qc3+ 23 Kb1.  Instead, Daniel bravely played on with 18… Nd7, and his choice was nearly rewarded a few moves later:

 Your Generated Chess Board

White’s pawns are all isolated and the e and h-pawns are particularly vulnerable.  With 27… Rxh4 28 Rxh4 Bxh4 29 Rxd6 Bb7, white is out of ways to defend his e-pawn, so 30 Ne2 Be7 31 Rd1 Nxe4 should be close to winning, as black threats of discovery of will net him two bishops and two pawns against knight and rook.  Instead, Daniel chose 31… Bxe4 32 Bxe4 Nxe4, and white was just able to hold the draw.

We play St. Louis this coming Monday night, and I’ll be the old man of the team on board four, as we roll out one of our more balanced lineups.  Hopefully we'll finally be able to win a match! 

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