Kenilworth Kibitzer

A blog for members of the Kenilworth Chess Club.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day

As promised, it's time to look at Mangion-Leverich, the game I played at the Hamilton Quads that I felt was one of the better games I've played in some time (though my recent hiding at the hands of our resident Lord of Darkness Mark Kernighan reminds me that one good game does not a good player make).  Today's presentation is enhanced with multimedia add-ons, courtesy of Steve Ferrero (picture) and USCF (testament of glory).

1. e4 c5  2. Nf3 d6  3. d4 PxP  4. NxP Nf6  5. Nc3 a6
Side note: Conventional as the Najdorf may seem given its popularity at the club level, I've never fully understood its appeal.  For the counterattacking riverboat gambler, yes, but many other seem attracted to this move order.  In the Sicilian so much hinges on the strength of White's kingside attack, so to play ...a6 so early is no less a provocation to White than a fork in the eye.  In blitz games I usually play quietly against it, but in long games I have tended to favor 6. Bg5 and try to start raining perdition on the g- and h-files.  In this case, I had played that against my opponent in an earlier game and wanted to change things up.

6. Be2 e5  7. Nb3 Be7  8. Bg5  Probably better played on move 6
 - I was mixing plans with vaguely remembered Sveshnikov moves  
8. .... Nbd7  9. a4?! (commits against O-O-O) 
9. ....  O-O  10. Qd2 b6  11. O-O Bb7

White has a comfortable position, but the original plan of playing for Sveshnikov-like control of d5 doesn't fully work here because ...Nbd7 has supported the key knight at Nf6.  Meanwhile the e4 pawn needs protection, and I need a strategy on how to improve the position.  I thought for several minutes here and decided to try if possible to attack Black's b6 pawn which looked a little shaky.

The author contemplates playing 12. f3
12. f3 Rc8  13. Rfd1 Re8  14. Be3 Qc7  Black is still cramped but is piling pressure on the c-file and preparing exchanges.
15. Rac1 Nc5  16. Nxc5 dxc5  17. Bc4 Rcd8
With an open file and a somewhat symmetrical pawn structure, Black should be able to get a draw with good play.  However, White's minor pieces are slightly better and they have access to an excellent outpost on d5.  I wish I had remembered Nimzowitsch's concept of a strong outpost acting as a fulcrum around which all your pieces can pass through and gain strength by their contact with it.  As it is, I made adequate use of this idea as the game progressed.  Off topic, if you ever wonder why the initiative is so important in chess, look at the remainder of this game and try to visualize Black's problems over the board - he has weaknesses to defend and (slightly) poorer mobility.  This defense requires modest precision, whereas for White to get a draw requires only offering it.  This would be a dead draw for high-class players, but for us patzers when one side has most of the winning chances he will often convert.

18. Qe2 Qc8  19. RxR RxR
I decided to try to accentuate the superiority of my minor pieces through rook exchanges.
20. Rd1 RxR?! (Why help me out?)  21. Qxd1 h6
Now white can add the d-file to his short list of assets.
22. Kf2 Nh5?!  (hands me the d5 square)  23. Nd5! Bd8 +=
Now the b6 pawn needs to be protected, as 23...Bxd5 24. Qxd5 looks grim

24. Qd2 (sac on h6? Move to c3? Much for Black to contemplate) Bh4+ 25. Kg1
I did not for a  moment consider 25. g3? Qh3! 26. PxB Qxh2+
25. .... Bd8 26. Qc3 Bxd5?!  27. Bxd5 Bf6? +/-  28. Qc4  
Forking a6 and f7, the White queen dominates through the d5 outpost
28. ... Qc7  29. Qxa6 Nf4  30. Kf2 Nxd5  31. Qa8+ !?! 

A slight inaccuracy according to the computer - I rejected the chance for a passed pawn.  Why?  By 31. PxN I felt that I was setting up possible counterplay for black with an eventual ...e4 opening up my kingside.  However, I think this was a good practical decision because (and only because) I was already a pawn up.  If not, creating the passer might be my only chance for a win.

31. ... Kh7  32. Qxd5 Qa7  33. b3 g6  34. Bd2 Qc7  35. g3 Kg7  36. Bc3 g5?!
Bad as the situation may be it has to be better for Black to sit on his hands and make me prove I can win.  This just gives me a new front by which to exploit my greater mobility.
37. g4 Kg6  38. Qd2?! (Ke2 is better) Be7  39. Bb2 h5  40. gxh5+ Kxh5  41. Qd5! (back to the right square) Bd6 

42. Qa8!  Now the holes that Black has created in the kingside come to haunt him.  The threats are not easily calculated 4 hours into this game.  
42. ... Kg6? 43. Qg8+ Kh6  44. h4! f6  45. Qh8+ Kg6 46. h5+ Kf7
Black could resign in good conscience now, but....
47. h6?  
Many moves win here, I just missed that by moving the pawn I opened up the g6 square to his king.  I will lose my extra pawn, but what follows is an instructive position showing the value of getting your pawns on squares oppositely colored to your bishop, something I had kept in mind since move 35 or so.
47. .... Kg6 48. Kg3 Qf7  49. Bc1 Bf8  50. h7 Qxh7  51. Qxh7+ Kxh7  52. Kg4 Kg6  53. Be3
And here Black resigned.  Surprised?  Black has absolutely no way of dealing with the combined threats of b4 leading to a passer on the a-file and the weakness of his pawns on the kingside - White's bishop will be able to attack both but Black's bishop will only be able to defend one.  An example of the good bishop against the bad bishop.  This is the game that finally got me above a 1900 rating (evidence below), hopefully better is yet to come.


Monday, September 28, 2009


Carlsen-Leko 2009

Hot off the presses, a new game from the ongoing Pearl Spring tournament featuring Topalov, Radjabov, Jakovenko, Carlsen, Leko and Yue.  This is Carlsen's first appearance since his work with Kasparov has become public, and it was a good one...

The moves are available free online from, so I'll go very light on the pictures to save some time.  

1. e4 e5  2. Nf3 Nc6  3. d4!?  (Starting a Scotch Game, Kasparov's influence already?) exd4  4. Nxd4 Bc5  5. Be3 Qf6  6. c3 Nge7  7. Bc4 Ne5  (Mainline Scotch, White tries to prevent ...d5 and Black is trying to force it, thus Ne7)   8. Be2 Qg6
 (hits e4 and g2) 
 9. O-O d6
A very common position in which Black is already threatening ...Bh3.  So a typical move from white would be 10. f3, allowing defense of g2 along the second rank.  Carlsen, however, goes in for more dynamic play.

10. f4!? Qxe4     Carlsen goes in for an enterprising gambit, an interesting psychological choice given his opponent.  Leko is known for his incredible solidity and he was undoubtedly looking forward to a quiet game after 10. f3.  As he is unlikely to have prepared for 10. f4!? it must have been an unwelcome surprise, since the best move on the board is to accept the gambit with 10 ... Qxe4.  Otherwise White's pawn center would quickly dominate.  But now play takes on a different character, with White's pawn deficit being compensated by open lines and a lead in development, a classic imbalance.

11. Bf2  Bxd4  12. cxd4 N5g6  13. g3 O-O  14. Nc3 Qf5   White's light-squared weaknesses do not make a positive impression, yet his next move points out his trump, the weak nature of Black's Queenside.
15. d5 a6 (prevents Nb5) 16. Re1 Kh8  17. Rc1 Bd7  18. Bf3 Rac8  19. Qb3 b5?!  This seems overly committal...with b6 Black stays more compact and has better defensive opportunities.  Now a6 is also a target.

20. Ne2 Qh3?!  Looking for an attack when defense is more appropriate, Black has no claim to an advantage.
21. Nd4 Bg4  22. Bg2 Qh5  23. h4!? Sealing off the kingside in an unconventional way ...Ng8?
This is just a blunder, there was no time for this maneuvering.  Now the queenside is a wreck.
24. Rc6 +/- Nf6
White now recovers his pawn with interest as the Black pawns will start to drop.  The rest of the game is desperation from Black trying to create threats on the kingside.  Note, however, the security of the White king despite the advanced pawns - his bishops are in ideal position to defend and yet attack the queenside, while his centralized knight observes the whole board.  Also, open lines on the 3rd and 2nd ranks allow for lateral defense.  The rest is offered for completeness.

25. Rxa6 Bd7  26. Nxb5 Rb8  27. a4 Ng4  28. Bf3 Qh6  29. Qc4 Nxh4 (an easily refuted piece sacrifice) 30. Bxg4 Bxg4  31. gxh4 Bf3  32. f5 Qh5  33. Qf4 Bxd5  34. Nxc7 Bb7  35. Rb6 f6  36. Bd4 Qf7  37. Ne6 Rg8  38. Kf2 Rbc8  39. Bc3 Bd5  40. a5 Rc4  41. Nd4 Ba8  42. Qxd6 Qh5  43. Qf4 Rcc8  44. Rbe6  Black resigns, 1-0

An opening disaster for Leko, who appeared to overestimate his chances with the pawn advantage.  Tomorrow is Carlsen-Topalov, should be a firecracker.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


White to play

Take a look at this endgame and see if you can find a way for White to survive.  The solution is in the comments.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Hamilton Fight Club

      I made my twice yearly pilgrimage to the mecca of long time control, low stakes chess - the Hamilton quads.  It's an interesting place...nowhere else can you really find people who are so purely into the game.  The entry fee is $10 and the most you can win is $25 (minus entry fee and gas and a lollipop and you can count on being in the hole).  Meanwhile, 40/80, 15/30, 15/30 etc etc time controls means that the higher rated quads are battling from morning until, well, midnight sometimes.  There are even adjournments, a strange anachronism in a time when cell phones can be practically master strength on their own.  

Typically I do much better with the slow time controls, so I decided it was worth another visit.  And as occasionally happens, it paid off handsomely - I finished +2 -0 =1 to win my quad, and more importantly should raise my rating above 1900 for the first time ever.  This was my big goal for 2009, and until recently it seemed a bit out of reach.  After reaching nearly 1850 while on a hot streak almost a year ago I regressed to the mean a little bit, and then found improvement hard to come by.  But when it rains it pours, and in the last two months I went on my best run going +6 -0 =5 against an average 1820-rated opponent.  That means that I'm back on track to win my bet with Don to become an expert, the prize for which is $1000 and dinner at Peter Luger's steakhouse in Brooklyn (right, Don?).  
Sometime later I will post bits of my best game from this weekend's quad, but before I do that I'll spend some time focusing on things I've neglected recently, like my garden and my actual job (sigh).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


For $400, can you solve this puzzle?

In the last round of the U1900 section of the NJ State Championship, there was one person with 4.5 points/5 (who I ended up playing at 4/5) and two others with 4/5, as well as a passel of people at 3.5/5.  Consequently, people were 
playing for wins up and down the board
s, since 4.5 points could be expected to be worth anywhere from $50-120 while 5 points might be enough for first place.  My game ended in a draw after a few hours of tough fighting, leaving the 4 vs 4 matchup the lone remaining game in the section, playing for all the marbles (well, $400).
Earlier in this game, White had offered a draw from a better position and Black declined....true battle!  I left the board, came back and saw the following position...

Here Black played  1. .... d4!    Clearly, taking the pawn on f4 is suicidal because the a-pawn can march while the White king covers the passed pawns.  Nevertheless, at first lazy glance I thought White was winning - after all, he has a passed pawn that can't be caught.  On noticing White's discomfort, I looked more closely and saw that the opposite was true... the straightforward line is 2. a6  c3!  3. Kd3  f2  4. Ke2 d3+!  5. Kxf2 dxc2

...and Black queens first, probably decisively.  All White can do is hold out a slim hope for a perpetual check.

Seeing this, White opted for another method:

1. ....    d4
2. Ke1         

For $400 and the trophy can you find the winning move for Black?  


The winning move is still 2.....c3!   The point is to freeze White's c-pawn and then play ...d3! on the next move.  With too many pawns to cover White is even worse than in the line shown above.  Afterwards I asked White why he played Ke1 which seemed so perilous.  His answer was that he knew ...c3 was the winning move in either case, so he wanted to discourage Black from thinking about it by making it not a check (!?).  Say what you will, this paid off handsomely in the actual game:

1. ....    d4
2. Ke1  d3??

Expecting 3. cxd3?? c3!   winning.  Instead, imagine Black's shock at seeing...

1. ....    d4
2. Ke1  d3??
3. c3!
And White wins.   Sic transit gloria New Jersey.

Odd fact:  White, rated about 1680, got steamrolled by yours truly in the first round and responded by winning his next 5 in a row in a tournament-of-a-lifetime performance to get a share of 1st.  Crazy stuff, hats off to him.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


NJ State Championship

I just came back from the NJ state championship (for pictures see Mike Goeller or Jim West's sites), and there was a fearsome Kenilworth presence there.  Ziggy, Mike Wojcio, Greg Tomkovich, Lou Sturniolo, and Steve Stoyko were some of the participants, along with several spectators from the club.  Meanwhile, Joe Renna, myself, and Yaacov Norowitz all went into the last round sitting on 4.0/5 and with 1st place up for grabs in our sections.
Massive kudos to Joe Renna who cooly converted his last game to get to 5/6 and 1st place in the U1300 section (which I expect will be his last U1300 event ever).  

A lukewarm handshake for me, when needing a win the best I could come up with was a draw for 4.5/6 and 3rd place in the U1900 section (hopefully my last U1900 event ever) and some cold cash for gas money.  On the plus side I finished undefeated, on the minus side I did my Peter Leko thing with +3 -0 =3.  

Scorn shall be heaped upon Yaacov, who had the NJ title in his hands with a soft last round matchup against IM Dean Ippolito but walked away emptyhanded, having experienced the passed pawn's lust to expand firsthand.  

One more highlight you can only get from this reporter - a wild freaky pawn endgame that took place on board 3 in the U1900 section in the last round, with $400 sitting on the line.  To be continued....

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Endgame Solutions

Whip out your boards, I'm skipping pictures for this one (except for Mark Kernighan who will visualize this in the corridors of his infinite mind).

For the first puzzle (rook mate), it's an exercise in opposition and outflanking.  The key is that White has to maintain the opposition on the b-file and outflank on the c-file (temporarily giving up the opposition).  This is often the case in these positions - the opposition is useful only insofar as it can be converted to something more tangible, in this case better king position.  Black can only choose whether to be mated on the a-file or 8th rank...

1. Ka2! Kb8 2. Kb2 (maintaining opposition) Ka8 3. Kc3! Kb7 4. Kb3 Ka7 5. Kc4 Kb8 6. Kb4 Ka8 7. Kc5 Kb78. Kb5 Ka7 9. Kc6 Kb8 10. Kb6 Ka8 11. Rc8#

If Black sits on the a-file instead then White calmly advances up the c-file and mates on the a-file.

Second position:  White must maneuver to win the c-pawn but first keep Black's king as far from his a-pawn as possible.  Meanwhile, the d4 square is untouchable for White in the key line, what Dvoretsky calls a 'mined square'.  Let's look....

1...Kb7/Ka7 2. Kb3! Ka6 3. Kb4! (triangulation) Kb7 4. Kc4 Ka6 5. Kd3!! (5. Kd4? Ke6 is zugzwang) Ka5 6. Ke4 Kb5 7. Kd4 Ka4 8. Ke5 Kxa3 9. Kd6 and it's curtains.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Endgame Treats

A couple of puzzles to warm up the useless organ between your ears...

From this position (White to move), mate Black....with only one move from your rook (as many was you want with the king of course)

Too easy?  Try to win here as White, Black to move.  Be careful not to walk into a trap.



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