Thursday, March 05, 2009
Garden State Chess League, Round One
On Tuesday, March 3, 2009 I played for one of the Kenilworth teams in the Garden State Chess League. I have annotated and posted the games of the top two boards online. Matches are held once per month at the West Orange Chess Club (unless arranged otherwise by the teams involved). We met Staten Island for the first match with team members Steve Stoyko, myself, Max Sherer, and Mike Wojcio (who was surprised to find that young Max had surpassed his 1600+ rating). Teams are restricted to an average rating of 1900 on the four boards, but our average rating of 1872 actually was higher than the rating of their first board. That's not to say it was a walk in the park...
Steve's game was a marvelous exhibition of the power of "simple chess," as he slowly exploited small advantages to win material. In the diagram above, Steve has exploited the weakening b6 advance to gain control of the c-file and now wins material by 22. Nxb6! Nxb4 23. Qxc8+ Qxc8 24. Nxc8 Nxa2 25. Nxe7+ Kf8 26. Nc6! Now White is up a pawn and wins the weak a6 pawn -- after which he will target the isolated d-pawn with a very simple win. Steve made it all look like a simple counting exercise, which I guess it basically was for him.
In my own game, I played a bit too recklessly (as usual) and my opponent missed a chance to gain an edge (see diagram below).
In the position depicted above, we both missed the idea of sacrificing the Exchange after 18. Qe7! Ne5? (better is 18...Bf5 +=) 19. Rxe5! dxe5 20. d6 cxd6 21. Bd5 which would be deadly. Instead, he played the overly defensive 18.Be4?! Ne5 19.f3 (see diagram below).
Now Black is on top. I was expecting to be able to play 19... Nxc4?! but it turns out White's ok after 20. Bxf4! gxf4 21. Qxc4 and Black has nothing since 21... Bxh3? just does not work. But I found a way to make it work by first playing 19...Qg3! (with the threat of 20...Bxh3) when Black is winning after the natural 20. Kh1? Nxc4! because 21. Bxf4? Rxf4 22. Qxc4 Bxh3!! now works, e.g.: 23. gxh3? Rh4! etc. Instead he played 20.Kf1 but was still worse and eventually lost after 20...b6 (20...Qh2 is also good, of course) followed by Ba6, Rae8, and doubling Rooks on the e-file behind my Knight with just an overwhelming position that eventually led to forced mate.
Afterwards, I asked Steve what he thought of my game, but he was not impressed. He had recognized White's strong counterplay ideas, of course, and seemed to suggest I would not get away with stuff like that against stronger opposition. I had to agree. I will try to play more "simple chess" from here on out.