Fall is upon us, and with it shorter days and less time spent outside. To reinvigorate myself after a lengthy absence from chess, I've decided to go back through my old tournament games, partly for nostalgia but mostly to learn some lessons. Those who do not learn history being doomed to repeat it, etc, etc. Fortunately, there's ~300 tournament games I analyzed over the last 5 years or so, which means no end to the fun. Let's start with #1, back in 2008, in a Westfield Quad against the venerable Leonid Fleysher. We had an odd history, where Black won most of the games we played, and usually only after being in a lost position. If I remember our lifetime record was something like 3-4-3, which means the decisive game is yet to be played....
Leonid Fleysher (1947) - Ian Mangion (1796), Sep 14 2008, Westfield, NJ
Black has offered to play a Queen's Indian, White prefers to play a Botvinnik system English opening. With his last moves White is preparing the thematic b2-b4, which to my ignorant mind is key to the system. With the center virtually locked, breaks on the flank are not only reasonable but necessary. If White delays, Black can prepare ....b7-b5 with the same ideas.
11. b4 O-O (a minor inaccuracy with dour consequences. Now 12. bxc5 dxc5 13. Bg5 Qc7 14. Bf4 leads to an awkward position, which incidentally is basically seen later in the game. 11....Nd7 is stronger, hitting the knight on c3 and allowing recapture on c5 with the knight on d7)
12. Bg5 Qc7
13. Qd2 Nd4
14.... Nxf3+ ?! (hard to imagine what compelled me to play this. these days I would play ...bxc5 almost without thinking. perhaps I was trying to simplify, but really Black's knight is better)
15. Bxf3 dxc5 (now ...bxc5 can be met by the vexing 16. Bxf6! Bxf6 17. e5!)
16. Bf4 e5
17. Be3 Nd7
Now Black's position is unpleasant, to say the least. His only active play can come from breaks on the b or f-file, but with White's dominance in the center, such play is likely to end poorly. My mind already drifted toward defeat at this point.
19. exd5 Qd6
20. Bh6 ?! Rab8
21. Bxg7 Kxg7
22. a4 Rb7
White made the curious decision to get rid of his bishop pair, exchanging his 'good' bishop for Black's lemon on g7. White's protected passed pawn on d5 promises an advantage, but now Black has latched on to a clear strategy of cracking open the b-file. ...f5 could follow as well
23. a5? Rfb8?
Favors for favors. 23. Rb2 was much stronger, preparing to oppose Black's doubled rooks with his own doubled rooks. But then Black misses the big chance - ....b5! For what else was he putting his rooks on this file? Surely not just to trade them off, endgames for Black promise passive defense.
24. axb6 Rxb6
25. Ra1?! Rb2
Why does White avoid the trade of rooks? Only Black can benefit from tactical continuations. Now Black dreams of doubling his rooks on the 7th rank. Remarkably, he even manages to achieve this, albeit with some help. White's position is still preferable, but he has opened up the possibility of all three results.
26. Qe3 f6 (...f5!?)
27. h4 h5
28. Kg2 Rc2? (dreaming of doubling the rooks, but White cleverly latches onto the chance to awaken his dead bishop)
29. Bd1! Rcb2
30. Ba4 Nf8
Ugh. ...Nf8 was forced, both tactically (the a-pawn) but also positionally - the position with queens and rooks only must be a win for White. As it is, with his bishop outside the pawn chain and terrorizing Black's back ranks, White has a decisive positional advantage.
31. Bc6 R8b6
I was in time trouble by this point, and this on the rickety old wind-up clocks once so prevalent at Westfield. However, by good fortune I had stayed awake to tactical possibilities - after all, this is all I could hope for. How could I get my knight back in the game?
32. .... Ne6!
Exposing the subtle fault in the bishop laced on c6 - it is defended only by the passed pawn on d5! That pawn can now take my knight, but....at the price of the bishop, and then its own life. White still has a reasonable position, but Black now has active threats, and the sudden change in the momentum provoked my opponent into further mistakes. A common phenomenon!
33. Rfa1 Nd4 (remarkably, a Black knight once again sits on d4, as part of its journey from g8-f6-d7-f8-e6-d4)
34. Ba4 ?? Re2! (even more remarkably, Black achieves his long held dream of doubling his rooks on the 7th rank. This is one bridge too far for White. Despite my time trouble, I smashed White's position with poise that was very rare for me at that time)
35. Qc1 Rbb2
36. Qf1 Nf5
37. ..... e4+!
38. dxe3 Re3+! (I had my Wheaties that morning, clearly)
39. fxe3?! Qxg3 mate
And so....a game played with indifferent skill by Black, saved only by a remote tactical opportunity in what should have been a lost position. Such is amateur chess! But we'll see many, many examples where I'm on the receiving end of bad fortune.
While playing a blitz game a few weeks ago, I ran into the following position as White. I had arrived here with the idea of sacrificing a knight on h7, and sure enough the opportunity presented itself. An an uncharacteristically reflective mood after the game, I asked the computer the question - is this sac (which I played, and duly won the game) correct?
While you contemplate, a musical interlude....
Well, without further ado, it turns out 1. Nxh7 is, in fact, a good move in the position, although as it transpires it is little better than the more prosaic Nxf7, and that both (according to my abacus) lead to the same evaluation - equal! Though not by perpetual check. No, Black has a defense against Nxh7 that leads to an interesting position all its own. Can you find the defense?!
I was looking through the standings of the Reykjavik Open (who knows why??), and who do I see sitting on 5.5/8 on board 18, above such luminaries as Yury Shulman and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but Kenilworth's own Yaacov Norowitz. I haven't been following Yaacov's results since he made the leap to the international circuit, but if my understanding is correct then he may be fighting for his third IM norm in the land made famous by Bobby Fischer. He has already had the opportunity to play a few foreign GM's so his odds are quite good. You can see some of his games here (scroll to the bottom of the list of games). Wish him luck!
Update: Yaacov won in round 9 over GM Danielsen, and is playing on board 8 with White against GM Kuzubov. A win would likely get him a share of one of the top ~5 places (!), and may even be worth a GM norm.
There are a few chess players so intensely creative that I check out their games from time to time just to see what they've been up to. Among my favorite loose cannons I would suggest looking into Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, Alexey Shirov, and Ivan Cheparinov. No slaves to fashion are they.
I was drawn to the story of Yacov Murey from the unconventional game Murey v Shirov 1993, in which Shirov praises Murey's creative thinking in chess. Murey was one of Korchnoi's seconds in his world championship match in 1978, and ultimately became a grandmaster in 1987. He might be best remembered for a shocking novelty that Murey unveiled on move 4 (!) of a well known line in the Petroff, after:
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6
3. d4 Nxe4
4. Bd3 Nc6!?
This 'natural' developing move looks ridiculous at first sight - a piece is hanging on e4, after all. However, after 5. Bxe4 d5 it becomes clear that White will have to return the piece in one form or another. In the stem game which introduced 4...Nc6, Timman v Murey 1993, Timman nevertheless chose 5. Bxe4, and after:
6. Bg5 (now the main line) Qd7 (Qd6!?)
7. Bd3 e4
8. O-O!? f6
White kept a small edge and nevertheless won the game.
White has three other choices after 4....Nc6, including 5. dxe5, 5. Nxe5, and d5. Amazingly, in all of these Black has good chances to equalize!
A few sample lines:
5. dxe5 d5 (to me the most principled, but ...Nc5 is also played)
6. O-O Bg4 (6. exd6 ep leads to an equal, virtually symmetrical position)
7. Nc3 Nxc3
8. bxc3 Be7 and Black scores reasonably from this position
5. Nxe5 Nxe5
6. Bxe4 d5 (6. dxe5 Nc5 keeps more asymmetry in the position)
7. dxe5 dxe4
8. QxQ+ KxQ
was the start of Shirov v Timman (!) 1998, going straight to an endgame which Shirov duly won in classic style. But it is interesting that Timman was impressed enough by Murey's novelty that 5 years after seeing it from the White side of the board he was willing to try it for Black.
5. d5!? Nc5 (has White nevertheless refuted Black's play?)
6. dxc6 e4
7. cxb7 Bxb7
8. Be2 exf3
9. Bxf3 Bxf3
With a slight advantage for White though with limited attacking prospects; Raetsky and Chetverik suggest this as equal in their rather drab manual 'Petroff Defense'.
That Murey could conceive of this move in a pre-computer era, independently evaluate all these plausible moves for White, and then play the move for the first time against a top class opponent rates him in the pantheon of the coolest customers on the board.
In recognition of our new (and returning) club president, here's a look back at an article that I published in the Atlantic Chess News annotating one of his best games, from our 2010 summer tournament. Please do not adjust your television set.
Year End Clearance Sale: All Queens Must Go
Pawlowski, David (1777)
Carrelli, Don (1794)
A well executed queen sacrifice is often conceived in the context of a mating attack, where the queen is the mortar shell laying waste to a carefully constructed bunker, or perhaps a part of deep opening theory where dynamic compensation has been found and well studied. More impressive are over the board improvisations where the sacrifice is less obvious. This inspirational game comes from last year’s open summer tournament at the Kenilworth Chess Club. With a brisk G/60 time control and a format that places a premium on wins, the tournament produced some uncompromising fighting chess, but none with quite the verve displayed here.
A rarity, in which White threatens to get a stranglehold on the center. Black must respond with vigor and trust in his better development.
.... e5! 9. e4 exd4 10. exf5?
Certainly a mistake, but can we not applaud White’s effort? In the style of the Danish Gambit he may hope to develop his bishop to b2 at the cost of the odd pawn or two. Then Black may find the open files of the queenside inhospitable for his King while the kingside will also come under pressure. The sedate 10. Ne2 is better but feels like a concession.
... dxc3 11. Bd3 cxb2 12. Qe2+
Black has accepted the challenge, but in a short game amongst amateurs, White’s dicey compensation might be enough for a tactical shot later in the game after the obvious 12. .... Be7 13. Bxb2 O-O 14. O-O Rfe8 15. Qc2 leaves White room to dream. Black rejects this in favor of a more shocking concept...
.... Qe5!! [Note: allegedly with the words "Chew on this!"]
Black puts an emphatic stamp on an already well played game. He cuts through the Gordian knot of White’s threats in a single move, and what a move! Black self-pins his queen, puts it en prise to a knight, and not least after 13. Nxe5 will be exposed to discovered check. Who without access to a computer would choose this idea? And yet it has a sound basis - temporarily blocking the e-file, White puts a punctuation mark on his threat to queen on a1. White’s best is likely to back out and capture the dangerous pawn on b2, but who can criticize White for refusing to believe that 12. Qe5 is possible, let alone a candidate for move of the year at Kenilworth?
Nxe5?! bxa1(Q) 14. Nxc6+ Ne5! 15. O-O
Even with the pinned knight on e5, White can take no decisive action because of the hanging bishop on c1. He comes up with the creative idea to trap Black’s new queen, but it transpires that this also is insufficient.
.... bxc6 16. Bb2 Bc5+ 17. Kh1 Qxb2!?
Chess humor - Qxf1+ was winning as well, but Black rightly calculates that a second queen-for-piece sacrifice together with his passed pawn will get the win. The rest was:
Though sadly I don't have much time to think about chess lately, I had the chance to play a 5 minute blitz game online, ironically one of the better games I've played. Perhaps I was inspired by my reading project, Alexey Shirov's 'Fire on Board'....
Mangion vs NN 5 min blitz
1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 cxd4
4. Nxd4 Nf6
5. Nc3 a6
6. Be2 g6 (I've looked at all the 6th moves for White against the Najdorf, I'm becoming attracted to 6. h3 as a delayed Keres attack, especially since in this game the ....g6 move pushes white toward a limp version of the Dragon. But then what is the purpose of ...a6? And if I had played 6.h3, is 6....g6 even better? Questions.)
7. O-O Bg7
8. Be3 O-O (A classical dragon, where Black has played ...a6. White has to play aggressively or Black's superior bishop will tell, at least in my experience)
9. f4 b5?!
Amazingly this is already a mistake. I was thinking of 10. Bf3, but after ...b4 11. Nd5 NxN Black is getting away with his indiscretions. Superior development, open the board, good things must happen. White's pieces are all on good squares, there must be an answer.
10. e5! dxe5
11. fxe5 Ne8?! (....Nfd7 gets treated with 11. e6!? trashing Black's position, but the real treat would have been ...Nd5 12. NxN QxN 13. Nf5! (the key, Bf3 is met by Qxe5) when Black is threatened with material and positional losses, including the forlorn rook on a8, despite an exchange of queens)
12. Bf3 (now simple and best) Nc7
13. Bxa8 Nxa8
14. Qf3 Bxe5
15. Rad1 Qc7 (the knight on a8 still lives, but hangs by a thread 16. QxN? Bb7 17. Qa7?? Bxh2+ etc)
16. Nd5 Qd7
17. Bh6 Bb7!? (The exchange hangs on f8, but so does the knight on d5, apparently...)
18. Nxb5 (oh, the sadism) Qxb5?
Now try to find the needlessly flashy win for White. Perhaps it's time for a video to break things up while you think....
19. Qxf7+ !!
With Black's pieces stuffed in la-la land I spent most of my precious time trying to find a quick kill. Fortunately it's there....
19. ...... Rxf7
20. Nxe7+ Rxe7 (....Kh8 drags it out a couple moves but the mating pattern is the same)
21. Rf8 #