Thanksgiving Sendoff – One Last Victory Before Philly

Before I start to analyze my game, I’d like to apologize for not getting a blog post at my usual 9 AM time. With the craze that is college exams before Thanksgiving and preparing to take off to Philadelphia for the National Chess Congress, I’ve been extremely busy.

That being said, this will be my only post or video this week on chess^summit since most of my Thanksgiving holiday will be consumed by the National Chess Congress, my first GoFundMe sponsored tournament appearance. After a month, my GoFundMe Campaign has raised over $500, and will go a long ways towards preparing me for the US Junior Open this summer. I’m really thankful to everyone who’s donated, and I look forward to sharing more quality games with all of you for the next few months to come.

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After having lived here for a few months, I’m finally starting to get in the habit of calling Pittsburgh home! My friends are just one of the few things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.

My match-up tonight at the Pittsburgh Chess Club lasted only an hour, but I thought that there were some instructive points about dynamic play that were worth sharing.

Prokhov – Steincamp (19th Robert Smith Memorial, 2015)

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.Bd2

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 21.07.12
Just like last week, another seemingly unambitious bishop move, but in this position, White plans on playing Bd2-c3 to contest the long diagonal.

6…Bg7 7.Nc3?

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 21.08.45
Not a blunder by any means but this move doesn’t make sense given the pretense of White’s last move. Without the option of Bd2-c3, the queen’s bishop is now misplaced on d2. If White had tried 7. Bc3, I had prepared 7… Nf6 8. e5 Nd4 and it’s Black who has a comfortable position – White’s e-pawn is hyperextended and his development is rather poor.

7…Rb8

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 21.12.01
I made this move rather quickly for the obvious reason to attack b2 and seize the half-open file. While this move is strong, I wish I had considered the more choice precise 7…d5! taking the center and taking away the c4 square for White’s bishop.

8.Bc4 d6 9.Qf3

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I was taken aback when I saw this move, and I was reminded of a game I played back in 2014 against Ilya Kremenchugskiy in the Virginia Closed Chess Championships. When I see a move like this, I’m not really phased by White’s aggression as all of my moves have been very principled. Though there may have been some improvements for Black, I haven’t made a “wrong” move either. If I continue to play solidly, then my opponent won’t be better in the long run. While this logical deduction doesn’t include lines like it should, it’s a good technique to have in much shorter time controls (G/15, etc). Knowing that my opponent’s play was unimpressive, I focused on how to punish him rather than how to defend.

9…Nf6 10.e5 dxe5 11.Qxc6+ Bd7

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 21.20.42
This is not a position I had studied prior to the game, so this did initially discomfort me. So what can I take away from my position? 1) My pieces are better coordinated. While the pawn on e5 blocks in my bishop, my d7 bishop, queen, and rook are all ready to attack the queenside. 2) Though my pawn structure is worse than White’s this would only be a bigger factor if I play passively or reach an endgame where my opponent has a 3 v 1 position on the queenside. In other words, while I have an uncomfortable position, if I can coordinate my pieces now I still have an opportunity to seize the initiative. In my estimation, this game is still equal right now.

12.Qc5 Rc8 13.Qb4 Qc7 14.Bb5 O-O 15.Bxd7 Qxd7 16.Rd1

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 21.26.06
Perhaps this is the first real sign that something’s gone wrong. White didn’t want to castle queenside because of the b-file, but rather than moving the d2 bishop to a more active square (thus allowing White to castle kingside), this move offers a passive threat of a discovered attack. With the ball in my court, I took note of a few things. 1) I really want to attack the kingside with my queen, but the white queen takes away both b7 and g4. 2) I have potential targets on b2 and g2. 3) White hasn’t castled. With this in mind, I played the next two moves to highlight all three of these weaknesses.

16…Rb8 17.Qa3 Qb7

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 21.30.24
Mission Accomplished! When you see a weakness, you have to believe that there is a solution to exploit it – a concept highlighted wonderfully by GM Daniel Naroditsky. I had to take advantage of this single opportunity, or in all likelihood I’m fighting for a draw. Not to say I’m worse, but by trading the bishops on d7 earlier, I’m one step closer to an endgame, which is the one thing I don’t want.

18.O-O Qxb2 19.Qxa7 Qxc2 20.Qe3

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 21.34.17
If White had taken on e7, he runs into some tactical problems after …Rf8-e8 and then …Rb8-d8, as the knight, the bishop, and the rook, could all be vulnerable to different tactics.

20…Rfd8!

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 21.36.04
Again, pushing the advantage with another dynamic move! With …Rb8-b2 coming, or perhaps …Rd8-d3 coming, White is extremely tied down, and it becomes extremely difficult to find moves. If White tries 21. Qxe5, then 21… Ng4 and 21… Nh5 are both nice options (not 21… Rxd2?? 22. Qxb8+ +-).

21.Nb1?

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 21.38.54
After a 10 minute think my opponent played this move and resigned before I could even assess the position. Black has 21…Rxb1 and the two minor pieces are better than the rook. I consider this a premature resignation, but White cannot play for a win.

0-1

An interesting game where my opponent took unorthodox measures to try to get an advantage. While he caused some structural weaknesses, moving the queen around the board and not completing development effectively ultimately lead to my opponent’s demise. This was not a “pretty” win by any means, but it’s definitely another reason to be confident heading into the National Chess Congress’ Open section on Friday.

I’m not exactly sure what to expect, but it would be nice if for my next post I could be an official Candidate Master by earning my last norm!

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