Wednesday, September 23, 2009

MCC: Stanley Crowe Awards Ceremony

Since becoming a volunteer at the local chess club (Metrowest Chess Club), I've had the aspiration of bringing a little more history and tradition to the club's membership. As the "Awards/Tournament Director" I took it upon myself to research one of the club's annual tournaments called the Stanley Crowe Memorial which takes place every September.

Stanley Crowe loved the game of chess and faithfully attended the Framingham Chess Club (Metrowest Chess Club) since its inception up until the time of his passing. As a Class B player, he had collected a total of 14 club tournament wins over the course of approximately 10 years. What makes this even more extraordinary, was that this particular feat was done during a time when there was usually only one section to play in. With the likes of certain Masters, such as John Curdo always waiting in the wind to pick up another tournament victory, I'd say that's quite astonishing!

Moreover, what makes the 14 tournament wins even more uniquely special is this; over the 25+ years of the Metrowest Chess Club's history, only four(4) other club members have achieved 14 or more club tournament wins.

With accomplishments and numbers like this, I thought it appropriate to enrich the monthly event with an opening ceremony, honoring club members who have achieved the tournament milestone set by Stanley Crowe. With permission of the club's president and board of directors, I purchased a ceremonial perpetual plaque that will contain the names of those players reaching the 14 win milestone and the year they did it.

Last Tuesday night, that plaque was presented to the players of note and to the club membership with applause and gratitude. It made me feel good to do something worth while for others who love the game as much as I do; to see the smiles of those honored and the jovial appreciation offered by the membership during the presentation. Even more importantly, it feels good to etch into the club's history something a little more tangible and permanent for years to come. Congratulations to everyone who made this award possible and to the membership!

Stanley Crowe Achievement Award
In recognition of club players who have achieved 14 tournament wins.

Stanley Crowe

FM John Curdo

IM Igor Foygel

Neil Cousin

NM Denys Shmelov

Monday, September 14, 2009

2009 New England Open

This was my first regional tournament since March 2009, and my first chess rated event/game in over 35 days.

I contemplated for a week as to whether or not I'd play in the multiple day tournament or the 1-Day tournament. Usually, I prefer the multi-day tournament schedules and make a big-to-do about the event, but as I'm just recovering from a recent surgery and just now gaining my strength to play, I opted for the 1-Day event and played in the U1700 section.

When I arrived on Monday morning, the event was in full swing. The 2009 New England Open was directed by Alex Relyea assisted by his wife, Nita Patel and MACA officials. It was held at the Holiday Inn in Nashua New Hampshire -- a convenient location for most Massachusetts chess players. And, I must say that Alex did a fantastic job once again; the unfortunate understanding I have, however, is that Alex suffered a financial loss at this tournament, even though he collected over a 100 entry fees.

If these events are going to continue, a resolution needs to be found to ensure financial stability for the organizers of these tournaments. I know that people are screaming "Don't raise tournament fees!", but something needs to be done. The CCA has a very successful model with their events and their fees are tripled in comparison to the fees that local organizations charge for their events here in New England.

But I digress...congratulations Alex and team for a job well done! The 2009 New England Open had a vibrant appeal and you could feel the energy in the competition room as chess players sat quietly entwined with their thoughts...contemplating all sorts of combinations and various strategies to outwit their opponent!

As for me, well, I just wanted to get back to playing chess and aspired to having a good tournament; good as in playing .500 or better. I went into this event with one game at a time mentality, letting the chips fall as they may. Never did I imagine that I would go on to place 1st in this tournament; especially after going through the surgery I did and not playing any chess for over 30 days!

Now, naturally when the lowest tournament section is U1700, your field of players are going to include under 1300 rated players in your section. Being one of the higher rated players, I knew that my first round game would "probably" be an easy game. But, you never know with young kids; you know the ones...being coached by Gary Kasparov and are on their way to reaching class A status by end of year and you just happen to be in their way when they start out on such a trek.

This section had 26 participants for this one day event; rather impressive I'd say. In the first round I was Black and drew a young adolescent named Rohan Shankar with a rating of 1264. For a 1200 rated player, he played quite strong. The line played in this game was the Sicilian Najdorf and 48 moves later I had prevailed. Rohan did not have a very good tournament and went on to place 24th with a score: 0.5 - 3.0

In the second round I was due White and was paired against a young teen named Edward Li with a rating of 1524. Edward decided to play the French Defense...Damn! I can not stand this opening. I find it totally boring and uninspiring! As one who dislikes the French Defense, I naturally, of course, don't play into any of the French lines. Rather, I meet boring with boring and play the KIA against this lack-luster defense.

Black was behind this entire game and it was only a matter of time before I would overcome this useless defense. It did get down to an end game, but I had 3 pawns up and an active King. Black's King was MIA. 2-0

Edward went on to have a good tournament, placing 5th overall with a score of: 3.0 - 1.0

After the end of the second round, I was feeling pretty good about my play after taking a 30+ day hiatus from chess. My confidence was returning and the games I had played were solid wins. In round 3 I was due Black and got paired up against an older gentleman named David Raymond with a rating of 1535. David was having a strong tournament and had just knocked off the number one seed in our section in round 2.

For two strong players who had just played two great games in a row, I'd say that our game was a little careless. The line played in this game was the Closed Sicilian. Personally, I have not experienced a lot of games with this line, but enough to know what strategies to incorporate when playing out this particular version of the Sicilian.

Our game was pretty even up until move 22 where I decided to open it up a little with a pawn sacrifice. This is where the carelessness on my part begins; thinking that I had calculated correctly a knight pin, I over looked White's Queen playing a "check" move to escape the fork. Thus, I was down a Rook for a Bishop. But it did not stop there, I immediately followed up with a Knight move to an uprotected square and...whala...I was down a solid piece with no compensation.

At this point, I knew my game was lost, but I wanted to give David a run for his money. My pieces were active and better coordinated, so I just dug in and fought it out. Well, to my amazement, David entered the club of careless play and made a move where I was able to pin his rook and win the piece. Next thing I knew, our game was dead even again and, eventually, it played itself out to a draw. Whew...
2.5 - 0.5

In the final round, I was in the money and a shot to place 1st in our section. The only issue was, I would not be afforded the right to play the current one seed due to our color pairings. We were both due White and therefore, the pairings would work itself into way that I would not be able to control my own destiny.

In the final round I was White and drew Thomas Laaman with a rating of 1636. Thomas entered the tournament with a first round bye and he too, was in the money if he could knock me off this round.

This game was my best game of the tournament. I played the Evans Gambit against Thomas and after playing 6.Qb3, I knew I had the game in the bag. Just watching my opponent twist and turn with that uncomfortable feeling of being in uncharted waters was enough to satisfy my intuition, that my opponent was lost and unsure of his position.

The critical point in the game came at move 30. I had just played Qxh6 and my opponent played 30...Bg5? Can you see the winning tactic?

I played 31.Bg6+ where an eventual exchange led to winning a full piece and positional advantage. I went on to easliy win this game 8 moves later and finished the tournament at 3.5 - 0.5. As luck would have it, David Raymond, whom I played in round 3, forced a draw in his final round with the current one seed, Timothy Lung.

The Chess Gods had favored me greatly this day as I found myself sharing first place with Timothy and splitting the winnings at the tournament's conclusion.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

And now for something completely different...

For my readers, I will be away from blogging for the next few weeks as I undergo surgery this coming Tuesday to address a personal health issue.

I will return shortly upon my full recovery. Keep the chess board warm for me!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Taking The Steam Out Of The Najdorf

By far, the Najdorf is one of the most fierce defenses available to Black, catering to some of the sharpest lines ever to arise within the game of chess. It is a defense that allows Black to counter quickly and fight for a win.

Unlike the French and Caro-Kaan defenses, the Najdorf is an opening that rarely eludes to drawish play. However, there are lines that White can play to force a draw in the Najdorf quickly, as demonstrated by the newly minted 2009 US Champion Nakamura; but both sides must play accurately or suffer immediate reprisal from their opponent.

Nakamura, Hi (2710)
Ponomariov, R (2727)
[B96] Sicilian Najdorf
City of Culture GM(6), 2009.07.13
Result: 1/2-1/2

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Metrowest Chess Club Champions: Part II

IM Igor Foygel
2005 - 2006 Club Champion

Born in Kiev, USSR, Igor Foygel started playing chess at the age of 6. At the age of 10, his father bought him his first chess book to help broaden his appreciation of the game. Inspired by the book, Igor began to play serious chess at a local club. Five years later, at the age of 15, he became an Expert and went on to represent the Republic of Ukraine in national youth competitions and championships. 1

Eleven years later, Igor Foygel, with the help of the late GM Leonid Stein, would attain his first Master’s title in 1974. He soon, thereafter, immersed himself in the study of chess and began teaching the game as a professional; he had entered into the prime of his chess playing career. 1

During those years, his career had been highlighted by top placements in the Ukraine Championships, earning trips to the USSR Nationals Semifinals in 1979 and 1980. In the late eighties, he would finally get his chance to play in international tournaments throughout Eastern Europe with general success. 1

In 1991, Igor immigrated to the United States and continued playing chess, winning many open tournaments throughout New England. He earned his first Massachusetts Open Champion title in 1992 and would proceed to win four more Massachusetts Champion titles in years to follow, the most recent in 2005. In 2007, Igor had won his first New England Open Championship title. 1

By the end of 2003, Igor had competed in his second US Championship title match earning him his final norm for the title of International Master.

Igor has been a familiar face among fellow club players at the Metrowest Chess Club, routinely playing at the top boards in Open Section tournaments. His club attendance throughout the years has made him a faithful participant of club tournaments and activities. It is a quality that has earned him great respect by fellow club players due in part to the appreciation of his continued presence and availability.

In 2004, Igor had been granted an invitation to play in the club’s first Championship Event where he would go on to place second; his only loss came at the hands of the 1st place winner, GM Alexander Ivanov.

In 2005, Igor would again qualify for an invitation to the club’s Championship event. Playing within a strong field of candidates with the likes of the venerable FM John Curdo and the young rising star, NM Ilya Krasik, Igor would go on to finish 4.5/5 and win the Championship Title.

After earning his first Club Champion title, Igor would be invited to defend his title in 2006. Posting, once again, a score of 4.5/5, Igor admirably defended his title and remained Club Champion for 2006.

Today,IM Igor Foygel continues to faithfully attend the Metrowest Chess Club on Tuesday nights. Moreover, he continues to win a share of monthly events enabling him to qualify for the club's yearly Championship series. However, for personal reasons, he has simply declined to play in the club's most prestigious event, leaving it to others to battle it out for Club Champion.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Metrowest Chess Club Champions: Part I

GM Alexander Ivanov
2004 Club Champion

Born May 1st, 1956 in the city of Omsk in the former USSR, Alexander came to the United States in 1988 and, soon thereafter, set his roots in Newton Massachusetts with his wife WIM Esther Epstein.

Three years after his arrival to the US chess scene Alexander officially achieved his GM title as a representative of the United States and in 1995 he would obtain his first US Chess Championship title, although this title was jointly shared with GM Nick de Firmian and IM Patrick Wolff.

Alexander Ivanov is known for being a fantastic calculator and a loyal supporter of his favorite openings. He’s played the same sharp openings for his entire career, making him somewhat predictable but very dangerous. He knows his stuff so well that an opening error in his territory will be swiftly punished. 1

However, despite his opening knowledge, it is widely well known that he often gets into terrible time pressure. A fact I’ve recently witnessed in the third round of the 78th Massachusetts Open against FM Bill Kelleher. A leading cause to his time troubles lie within the personal eccentricities of this GM; Alex is obsessed with making the perfect move, even when his search doesn’t give him the best practical chance of winning. 1

When calculating many moves ahead, the actual board can be distracting to the Grand Master. Alex deals with this by staring up at the ceiling, as if in a trance. In between moves, he will get up from the board and pace about with hands folded, all while staring at the ceiling.

Alexander’s most recent accomplishment was awarded to him at the 78th Massachusetts Open, where he achieved his 9th Massachusetts Championship title.

During the mid-late 1990's and into the turn of the century, Alexander was a commonly-seen face at the Metrowest Chess Club during Tuesday night Swiss events. When the club entered into its new Club Championship format in 2004, Alexander was on the forefront of participating players to fight for the first Club Championship title.

Against fellow club players, like IM Igor Foygel and FM Charles Riordan, Alexander would go on to win the club’s first Championship event with a five game sweep. It is a feat that would not happen again until 2009.

Since winning the 2004 Club Championship title, Alexander would not be seen again at the club to defend his title. It is an oddity commensurate to the personality of Alexander Ivanov one would assume.

1. Source:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Resolutions Achieved: Doesn’t Stop Here

In my end of year blog for 2008, I had indicated as one of my New Year’s resolutions a desire to achieve a rating level that would classify me as a “Class B” player.

When I returned to chess last year, my rating hovered just above 1400 at 1405. Initially I wanted to gain 150 to 200 points within a year’s time, but as I continued to play and improve, I thought that 250 to 350 points by August of 2009 was a reasonable goal.

Well, as of the end of June, my resolution came to fruition. With a recent five game sweep to finish first place in the MCC Summer Solstice Swiss: U1600, I officially achieved a published rating of 1673.

I’m feeling good about my chess right now, and as a matter of confidence, I’m willing to say that I’ll be breaking through the 1700 barrier before end of summer. It’s time to set a higher bar, but without the idea of placing a finite rating as that bar. Rather, just continue to improve my game with due diligence and the rating points will come.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Most Interesting Satisfaction

A while back, when blogging about the 78th Massachusetts Open, I had mentioned that I submitted my last game of the tournament to MACA for their "Most Interesting Game" competition.

Well, last week the news came to me via the VP of MACA, Ken Ballou, that I had won the U1600 Section's "Most Interesting Game". You can read about the announcements posted June 23rd here.

Now, I have to admit, when Ken told me the news, I was filled with a certain joy immediately followed by a most interesting feeling of satisfaction. And why is that? Well, frankly, because I didn't have the great tournament I had hoped for; like most chess players when they don't accomplish a winning finish, feel cheated by their own means of preparation and play. In other words, I had let myself down.

So, in the final round of that tournament, I went into the game with a vengeance and determination to succeed at a level of play that I could be proud of. When the dust had settled, I came out victorious, and interestingly enough, I believed I had a game with a certain edge so to speak, worthy of submitting to MACA for their "Most Interesting Game" competition.

Thus, as you might understand, winning this particular prize under the scrutinous eyes of GM Bisguier, helped fill that void of personal "let down" with pride and satisfaction. It was an interesting satisfaction, knowing that my game was worthy of note in the eyes of a GM.

And so, I present to you here, the most interesting game in the U1600 section. It was round five of the tournament, but for all intents and purposes, it would be my final round of the tournament, as I had put in for a last round bye. I was due Black and paired against the highest rated player of our section, Eduardo Valadares, whom like myself, was not having a great tournament leading into this particular game.

Valadares,Eduardo (1580)
Smith,Warner (1579)
[B92] Sicilian Najdorf
78th Massachusetts Open
Boxborough MA (5), 25.05.2009

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2
My opponent opts for the non-confrontational line. Of all the lines to challenge the Najdorf, this one is the most conservative. 6.Be2 is a relaxed approach for White and is not doused with the complexities that other variations entail.

I believe that the best way to challenge a Najdorf player is with 6.Be3 or the notorious 6.Bg5. Of course, in order to do so, White has to know his theory pretty well going into these lines and all the complex nuances that arise from these variations.

e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Be3 Be6 9.Qd2 Nc6

9...Nbd7 or 9...0-0 are the more accurate moves to consider in lieu 9...Nc6, a move that is rarely played in this line; the only reason I played this move was to simply put a few ripples into the opening lines that my opponent may be familiar with.

10.0–0 0–0 11.a3
This is purely a prophylactic move by White to take away any intent of Black's Knight landing on g4.

11...Rc8 12.f3 Qc7

In the Najdorf, one of Black's goals is to play for d5! At this juncture in the game, I spent about 10 minutes deciding whether or not to push 12...d5. I saw the following line:

[12...d5 13.exd5 Nxd5 14.Nxd5 Bxd5 15.Rad1 Bxb3 16.cxb3]

The position opens up rather nicely and Black gains a superior pawn structure to White's doubled pawns along the c-file. But in an open game, I didn't like the prospect of granting White the bishop pair.

In the final analysis, I felt the evaluation was neutral and so, I played the less accurate move Qc7 to fend against White's push for f4 and threatening the stability of Black's pawn on e5.

13.Rac1 Na5 14.Nxa5 Qxa5 15.g4 h6 16.h4 Qc7 17.g5 hxg5 18.Bxg5 Qb6+

There is a lot happening here in the last six moves. First, at this stage of the game, I began to focus on a queen-side attack. So, in order to get things rolling, I needed to alleviate White of some of his defenses on that side of the board; provoke him and see where he decides to focus. I did this with 13...Na5, intending to penetrate White's defenses.

Naturally, White did not like the idea of Black's Knight coming to c4 or attacking his Knight on b3, forcing White to double up on his pawns. So, White decides to nip the threat immediately by taking the Knight on a5, bringing Black's Queen into play on this side of the board.

White follows up his play with 15.g4, which I found very interesting. It was a move that began sounding bells in my head. Both alarming, as White clearly makes his intent to attack swiftly on the King side, and opportunistic as I felt I could take advantage of the weakened squares around White's King and his backward pawn on f3.

My first priority was to address the oncoming attack and played h6 to prevent White from kicking my knight away from defending that part of the board and bring in some reinforcements with Qc7.

All this time, I knew that if White clearly intends on following up with a brute-force king-side attack, his dark colored bishop would have to come into play and leave the important g1-a7 diagonal. Something I was keeping my eye on as a spring board towards another attack on his queen-side, as is evident with the following: 17.g5 hxg5 18.Bxg5 Qb6+

White would have been better with 18.hxg5 versus taking the pawn with his Bishop. With 18.Bxh5, I took advantage of White's open diagonal to play out the check with the idea of seeking a positional advantage to use as leverage against White's ambitious plans. Initially, I intended to play for a slight material advantage, but as we'll soon see, I played for the positional advantage instead, and one that proved to overcome and defeat White's play!

19.Be3 Qxb2 20.Na4 Qa2 21.Bd3

When I played 19...Qxb2, I knew that my Queen had an out with an eventual follow up move of Bh3 and according to Rybka, that would be the most accurate play. However, I began to entertain the idea of having an extra minor piece on the board with open f/g files for my Rooks to use as I press for a passed pawn on the queen-side.

Hard to see right now I suppose, but I did take 15 minutes to consider the option and the positions on the board that would arise with a Queen sacrifice. I believed White's position on the king-side to be compromised and has a certain vulnerability on the queen-side, White would be stretched to fight on both sides of the board.

My King's defenses were strong enough to withstand an immediate attack and with White having a compromised king-side and a barren queen-side, I had this gut feeling that having more pieces on the board than White would play to Black's advantage, especially if I could gain a passed pawn on the queen-side of the board.

So, I played 21...b5?! with the intent of sacrificing my Queen. If White chooses to play 22.Nc3, well then Black is just winning on the material side of things with 22...Qxa3!

21...b5 22.Ra1 Qxa1 23.Rxa1 bxa4 24.Bxa6 Rb8 25.Bg5 Rb6 26.Bd3 Rb2 27.Qg2 Rfb8

This is the position I saw on the queen-side of the board when I was contemplating the Queen sacrifice. Moreover, as I had suspected in my analysis on the king-side of the board, White's attack does not have enough to penetrate Black's defenses and his King is vulnerable to Rook and Bishop attacks.

Also, White will have to bring his Rook into king-side play to seriously contend for a mating attack and/or guard against antagonistic back rank checks by Black's Rooks. This would leave White with an unattended a-pawn, thus granting Black the strong possibility of a passed pawn.

Black, doubling up his Rooks, intends to gain himself that passed pawn!

Personally, I think White would have done better to keep his Queen on the queen-side of the board. His move, 27.Qg2, was not a good move. White should have played his Queen to either 1)Eliminate Black's a-pawn and/or 2)Pressure Black's Rook on the 2nd rank to leave.

With this move White loses equality and just hands the passed pawn over to Black.

28...Ra2 29.h5 Bd8
With the oncoming attack, I'll need to neutralize it with a Knight move for defending purposes. In order to do so, I need to offer my Bishop some back up, otherwise I lose it!

30.h6 g6 31.Qh2 Nh5

White's stubbornness to continue with a blunt king-side attack will be his demise. His Queen really needs to help out the other side of the board. Better for White would be something like 31.Qd2. A little more finesse by White and the game wouldn't be such an easy task for Black. He's making Black's Queen sacrifice look like a brilliant play for the ages, when in fact the sacrifice was rather dubious and purely played for a slight positional advantage.

I did see 31...Bg6+, but I didn't like the feeling of having White's dark colored Bishop hanging out at the front door of my King, so I wanted the exchange and played Nh5 straight away.

32.Bxd8 Rxd8 33.Qh4 f6 34.Rd1 Rxa3 35.Rd2 Kh7

In this series of moves, I got the bishop exchange I wanted. Frankly, the less pieces White has on the board, the better off my King is. After the exchange, I wanted to grab White's a-pawn which would add pressure to his play. I also needed to get my King over to the key h7 square to help lock up my defenses against White's blunt attack.

At this stage of the game, I think White has lost his opportunity to equalize and is now fighting for survival.

White's concentration has been lost. This move allows Black to bring the fight to White's King while still pressing along the a-file with his passed pawn. Should Black queen his pawn, its lights out for White.

21...Rxf3 37.Bg2? Rg3!
Another bad move by White that enables Black to pin the bishop and keep White's Queen in a "box". It's just a matter of time now before White meets his fate with other fallen Kings.

38.Rf2 Rg4 39.Qh2 Rb8 40.Kf1 a3 41.Bf3?

This move loses by force. There is nothing that White can do now to prevent Black's a-pawn from reaching his destination. A few moves later and White resigns.

Bc4+ 42.Ke1 Rb1+ 43.Kd2 a2 44.Bxg4 a1Q 45.Qh3 Qd4+
A few checks to coordinate pieces and draw White's King out for a mating attack seals the win.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Taking On A New Look...

In the world of chess, things are going quite well. I'm winning prize money here and there and I'm moving up the rating ladder. After this month, I'll officially become a "Class B" player.

So, I thought that with an upward change in rating and status, I'd streamline the look and feel of my blog. I like the minima templates, but the color schemes are rather hum-drum and the one that I like, BLACK, is widely used by other chess bloggers.

So, I downloaded the white minima template, changed a few colors and switched certain fonts. I like the new look; the "Rounders" template was rather remedial for my taste.

What do you think of the new look?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

MCC Summer Solstice Swiss: Round 3

It's round three at the club and I'm leading the U1600 section with two straight wins.

In round 3, I'm paired up with Jenshiang Hong, a very strong U1600 player who just recently swept the U1700 section last month with four straight wins.

Jenshiang and I have played twice before and our series was even before this game; Jenshiang winning the last time we played. Here is the rubber match game...enjoy!

Hong,Jenshiang (1454)
Smith,Warner (1562)
[B26] Closed Sicilian
MCC Summer Solstice Swiss Natick MA (3), 16.06.2009

Going into this game as Black against Jenshiang Hong, I knew that I would face his favorite opening; the Closed Sicilian. With that knowledge, I planned to attack swiftly on his Queenside, play 5...e6 versus my usual ...e5, wait to develop my Queenside Knight until White plays f4 and play to eliminate his Knights quickly or at the very least, keep them contained.

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 e6
As a Najdorf player, I tend to play e5 in almost all forms of Sicilian openings I play. But this time, I ventured for e6. Why, well, I wanted to give my fianchetto bishop the ability to apply immediate pressure in the early stages of the game. Moreover, this pawn move helps to eliminate any prospective Knight from entertaining an outpost on d5.

6.Be3 d6 7.Qd2 Rb8 8.Nge2 b5

All book up to here. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to play quick and fast on the Queenside, keeping White pre-occupied and away from his main goal: a kingside pawn storm.

I was expecting 9. d4 and was ready to play out the following line:
[9...b4 10.Nd1 Qb6 11.dxc5 dxc5 12.Nc1 Ba6]

White castling on move 9 was not his best move. Ignoring Black's Queenside intent at this juncture only gives Black the tempo he's been looking for. By playing ...b4, I'm sticking to plan and keeping White's Knights off their "horse shoes" so to speak.

10.Nd1 Nd4
I'm going after his Knights. In the Closed Sicilian, Knights tend to have stronger prospects than Bishops due to the locked pawn centers that naturally arise in this sort of opening. If White decides to exchange my Knight for his Bishop, I'm OK with that too. Such an exchange makes the ever wanting move of f4 weaker; exposing White's King to a weak g1–a7 diagonal.

11.Nc1 a5 12.c3 Nc6
White may see the Knight reatreat as a moral victory, but I had planned for its retreat the moment I played Nd4. My plans are still in place and succeeding, I'm pushing Queenside and White has been removed from focusing on a king side attack.


I've been waiting for this move; the plan? Develop my Queen Knight to e7 and if White decides to follow up with g4 in the near future, I'll respond with ...f5!

13...Nge7 14.Ne2 0–0
Now that my fianchetto bishop is safe from the prospect of White playing Bh6, I can finally castle.

I expected this move earlier, but certainly not now. This move gives Black exactly what he's been striving for; active Queenside play and as we'll soon see, White's fortunes on the King side never come to fruition after this move.

15...bxc3 16.bxc3 cxd4 17.cxd4 Ba6

This is beautiful! I've got open files for my Rooks and I've corralled one of White's Knights with a pin while the other sits on the back rank grazing. I'll of course exchange an inferior Bishop for a stronger Knight anytime.

18.Re1 Bxe2 19.Rxe2 Rb4
A natural Rook lift to add pressure on White's weakened d5 pawn.

20.e5 dxe5 21.dxe5 Nd4 22.Bxd4 Rxd4

My Knight on d4 was strong enough to force White into an exchange, thus giving up the g1–a7 diagonal. Black will make immediate use of this diagonal as he begins an antagonistic crusade against White's vulnerable Queen.

23.Qc2 Qb6 24.Nf2
This move sends White's Knight into permanent sleep for the remainder of the game.

Black has domination along all open files and the important g1–a7 diagonal. It's only a matter of time now.

25.Qb3 Rb4 26.Qd3 Rd8 27.Qc2
White's Queen is under continuous bombardment and is forced into constant retreat and protective modes. With this move, Black is able to keep tempo while improving his position and exerting more pressure in the center of the board with 27...Nf5!

28.Qc6? Qa7?!

Naturally, White wants to exchange Queens at this point in the game, but the move 28.Qc6 is just plain bad for White. I immediately saw the following line:

[28...Nd4 29.Qxb6 Nxe2+ 30.Kf1 Rxb6 31.Kxe2 Rb2+ 32.Ke3 Rdd2]

In retrospect, I should have probably played this line out, after all, it is the most accurate play and Black gains a material advantage as well as having a stronger position.

So why did I play 28...Qa7? Basically I liked my Queen; she's quite active and applying a lot of pressure, whereas White's Queen is purely in defensive mode. Secondly, I liked keeping the Knight pinned and I don't believe that White can spare the tempo moving his King from the pin at this juncture. Finally, I truly believed that if I gave my opponent enough rope, he would eventually find a way to trip over it, granting me an opportunity to gain a larger material advantage than what was readily available to me at the time.

That's what makes this game so endearing, it's not always about the most accurate or computer generated lines the creates the "art of chess"; sometimes it's about gut feelings and playing out those emotions.

29.Qc3 Rbd4
Rooks are locked and loaded to continue antagonizing White's Queen, but more importantly, it makes White's attempt to unpin his Knight a little more tricky.

30.Qb3 Bf8
Perfect time to get Black's Bishop active and into the game. The plan is to play for Bc5 and free up the Queen from "Pin" duty.


Ooops, my opponent just tripped over that rope. By playing 31...Rb4! White pretty much loses his Queen. His best play is to take the Rook on b4. Should White try and save his Queen with something like 32.Qc2, then Black would follow with:

32...Nd4 33.Rxb4 Bxb4 34.Rd2 Nxc2 35.Rxd8+ Kg7 36.Rc8 Bc5!

After move 31, my opponent gracefully resigned. 0 -1

Friday, June 12, 2009

To Honor And Reflect

The Metrowest Chess Club has been around for 25+ years now, and during its early years the club had its obligatory club champions. But the process was quite informal and in some cases the legitimacy of a club champion was questioned by the membership. There were no formal processes in place to govern an undisputed club championship event and eventually the club dropped the idea of having a club champion.

Move the clock ahead to 2003. The club had reinvented itself, designating various program positions within the organization. It was at this time, when the club’s Tournament Director, Jim Krycka, took it upon himself to put into motion a solid format to govern a Club Championship and thus bring legitimacy to the “crowning” of a Club Champion.

Since that time, the club has crowned three distinct Club Champions: GM Alexander Ivanov, IM Igor Foygel and NM Denys Shmelov.

I believe the club does a fantastic job of organizing and putting to affect a great championship event. They work hard to make the invitational event special and prestigious with little things like special name tags with the player's photo, money and a dedicated write up to the club's newsletter.

One idea that I would like to put forward on the table would be to provide some sort of means to help solidify the recognition that is due to a newly minted Club Champion. Something that is permanent and seals the recognition in a historical sense.

By providing something permanent, we enable our future club champions the ability to reflect upon and recall the glory of such an achievement. There could be the possibility of plaques or wall hangings at the club to honor our club champions. With a permenant designation on display, we bring about a little more vitality, a credible history and an ability to reflect. Both for the club and for the club champion.

For my part, I am still in the process of retrieving records of those games played from our most recent club championship event. I believe that the preservation and recording of these games into the club's archive directory is one of many key elements necessary in maintaining a historical perspective of club championships and adding an enduring legacy vital to the club's perseverance.

Going forward, I would like to persuade the membership in providing a “Certificate of Excellence” or achievement for our current and future club champions to be.

All just ideas right now; but in any case, for my part, in recognition of MCC Club Champions, past and present, I plan to present a 3 part series in honor of our champions in future blogs to come, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Blog's Worth

Why do we blog? Of course, there are several answers to this question, but one common theme; our passion to speak publicly about the things we love or concern us.

Now, obviously I love chess and am very passionate about the game. I believe I have the necessary skills to communicate this passion publicly and through a medium such as this. So here I am blogging about the game I love.

But, what good is a blog if you can’t trigger new readership and build up a following of faithful readers? There is no good at all, you need to have the ability to at least maintain some sort of faithful readership, otherwise your blog is just lost out there in a multitude of e-clouds.

So, how do we trigger readership to initiate a following? Blog…blog and blog! You have to blog consistently and to some sort of time mechanism. Moreover, your blog should carry on common themes of discussions and/or interests. A mixed bag of interests and personal observations do well as long as the reader can identify in you, the blogger, a common trait, principle or interest. Otherwise, your readers will eventually jump ship.

You say consistency eh? Yea…it has to be that way; or the effort (or lack of) you put into blogging fails. A good consistency rate for blogging successfully varies, but you should at least maintain a monthly post minimally to assure readers of your blog that fresh material is on the way witihn a dependable time frame.

Personally, I shoot for two posts a month; anything more is just pure bonus material for my readers. If there comes a time where I begin to fail by providing fresh material on a monthly basis, then it will be time to retire the blog or at the very least notify my readers that I will be entering a state of inactivity and to watch for a return at such and such a time.

Yes, I know, we get busy; we have work, travel, friends, family etc. But truth be told, engaging in your passions is necessary in keeping a healthy, successful and happy life. It is those passions that peak interest in us from others that makes their world colorful and inviting. If you decide to blog about your passion, finding a few minutes over the course of a month to write about it shouldn’t be an inconvenience, it should be satisfying.

Supporting Local Chess: WCC

Waltham Chess Club Wants You!

The Waltham Chess Club is looking for chess players to come join them on Friday Nights. The club is located at 404 Wyman St. in Waltham Massachusetts and their doors are open to the public at 7:00pm. Rounds usually begin around 7:30pm.

So, if you're a chess enthusiast, pro or beginner, come on down and support your local chess club. You can visit them here at Tell them Smitty sent you.

And per the request of organizers at the Waltham Chess Club, this blog will now support a link to their site.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


No one rejoices more in revenge than a chess player vexed by the over confident King sitting opposite him.
~ Warner Smith

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What looks like an hourglass? Alex.

With a new month comes a new tourney at the local club (Metrowest Chess Club), and for the month of June it is appropriately named the “MCC Summer Solstice Swiss”. Because the club generally attracts 80+ players in a given month, we cater to a standard of 4 section breaks: Open, U2000, U1600 and U1400.

Our third tier section (U1600) fluctuates from month to month between a U1600 break to a U1700 break. Those months where the section break is set to U1700, player participation in this section goes up versus when the section is set to U1600, but at the cost of player participation in the U2000 section, albeit not too much.

Lately our sections look like an hourglass, our top and bottom sections have been “heavy”, whereas our middle two sections fluctuate between medium to light player participation dependent on the 3rd tier’s break.

As for our bottom tier, the reason for such heavy participation is due to a continuous growth of new players to the club on a monthly basis and the lack of player turnaround, i.e. loss of players. Our new players are sticking around and that is good, but not enough of our U1400 players are improving in a timely fashion or getting up the courage to move up a section to offset this particular section’s growth rate.

And, to illustrate recent section breakdowns, here are some numbers:

MCC Swiss w/ U1600 Section

Open Section: 22 players
U200 Section: 17 players
U1600 Section: 8 players
U1400 Section: 26 players

MCC Swiss w/ U1700 Section

Open Section: 22 players
U2000 Section: 15 players
U1700 Section: 15 players
U1400 Section: 25 players

This trend has been somewhat consistent of late and would appear that when our section break for our third tier is set to U1700, player participation among the sections are more evenly dispersed versus when the tier break is set to U1600.

My current thoughts to remedy this trend would be to either keep the section breaks static right now with the third tier break staying at U1700 or if we are to stay with a flux tier model then that flux should apply to both bottom tiers. When we have a U1700 break, our lowest tier will break at U1400, but when we have a U1600 tier; our bottom tier should break at U1300.

I like the flux model and I think that if we impose a flux break for our lowest tier, it will actually help some of our lower rated players improve at a faster rate, exposing them to the better play of higher rated players.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reviewing the 78th Massachusetts Open

This traditional MACA event was held at the Holiday Inn in Boxborough MA over Memorial weekend. And I must say, with great success! Over the last several years, I have noticed a severe decrease of participants playing in the Massachusetts Open; not this year. There was success written all over the place, from the playing hall to the main corridor just outside the hall, chess players, young and old, mingled about talking of their games, playing bug-house on the floor and just buzzing around with jargon only understood by fellow chess players. It was just good to see, but good for MACA too. They needed a successful tournament beyond the bread and butter of pure scholastic medicine.

But what makes me most thrilled about the success of this tournament was the evidence that chess still lives among the adult population despite recent indicators of a decline in adult chess players over the age of 25. MACA provided the full gambit; a three day six round event, a one day 4 round event, blitz tournament, scholastics tournament and prize money for submitted games that had the most interesting and convincing win. I offer my congratulations and sincere gratitude to the folks of MACA, who made this tournament possible and successful; especially to the TD’s, who got their hands dirty and provided a smooth tournament.

As for the hosting site, you can’t ask for a better location and setting for the money. Hopefully, the Holiday Inn was able to benefit from such a wonderful turn out, as this would only favor the chess community and MACA for future events.

Now, let’s get to the over the board results. I enrolled in the 3-day event U1600 Section and finished 3.0/6. Meh…I know I am better than what the results provided and I am not going to take anything away from my opponents by providing excuses. I do have my reasons for not playing at the level I’m capable of, but the same could be said for a lot of players. But to provide some evidence, I will say that my wins came at the hands of one whom placed 2nd in our section and one whom was the top rated player in our section.

Round One:
I draw Black and am paired up against Ramasay Subramani, a young man from the state of Washington. His play is much stronger than his advanced class D rating would suggest and made evident from his final results 4-2 in the U1600 section. This particular game I played the Sicilian Najdorf variation where White plays the non-confrontational 7.Be2.

This game was the longest game I’ve ever played during my chess career at over 5 hours and 12 minutes to complete. The end game came down to a Rook-Bishop for Black vs. Bishop-Pawn for White on move ...60. White made me play out the mate, so I did…nineteen moves later.

It was a good win, but it came at a cost. It was mentally and physically exhausting and would haunt me the rest of the tournament. Subramani went on to place second at this tournament.

Round Two:
Playing White this round, I am paired up against a lower 1400 rated player named Jeffery Wright. I’ve seen Jeff at the local club from time to time mingling about watching the masters play, but I’ve never seen him actually play at the club.

In this game I go into the KIA against a reverse French Defense, which is usually the case with players wanting to play the Alekhine Defense against 1.e4 only to realize that I won’t even entertain it with 2.d3. Anyway, the opening was well played out, but my concentration was just not there going into the later stages of the game; I only had a half-hour break since playing my last marathon game and that game was still pressing on the mind.

Jeffery was able to open up my c-file and load up the cannon against an un-coordinated defense, and eventually ripped open my center pawn structure. I was in no mood for another long played out game, especially being down material, so I resigned early. Jeffery, like my first opponent, went on to place 2nd in this tournament.

Round Three:
The following morning I am paired against Pierre Fleurant, a fellow club player who has just recently broke out of the U1400 section and is gradually increasing in playing strength. Pierre is a methodical and deliberate player, using his time wisely. All good qualities that will serve him well as he moves up to greener pastures with stronger players.

Once again, I go into the Sicilian Najdorf against White’s English Attack, but I’m playing the opening on auto- pilot and am more interested in my IPOD than the game itself. My ignorance and lack of concentration on the game drops a piece immediately to my opponent on move 10.

At this point, I’m cursing my opponent from round one…blaming him for my own failures; its becoming a mental game with me. Well, anyway, after I lost my Bishop, I was determined to give my opponent a better game and rolled up the sleeves. Eventually, I did regain some material, but not enough to equalize the game and to my opponents credit he finished off the game with a nice mating combination.

Round Four:
By now, I’m frustrated with my game play. I just can’t seem to let go of round one, and even though I won that round it just destroyed my psyche for some unknown reason. I just didn’t have the mo-jo going and was dreading playing another game; I was considering withdrawing at this point.

But, I stuck it out and drew Robert Ernest King who ended up playing the Sicilian against me with an accelerated move of 5…e5. During this game I was up material and liked my position over Black’s, but somewhere down the road, I just didn’t follow my instincts and played a rather off-tempo move allowing my opponent to sneak in the back door and earn a perpetual check against my King. This game ended in a draw.

I left the day down and out and upset with my play. I was fighting a psychological war with my own mental state of well being and questioning my own potential as a chess player. Later in the evening, my wife encouraged me with positive feedback, reminding me that I had been down this road once before and pulled out of it like a champ; then went on to blast me for not getting a good breakfast in me before the games.

The next morning, I awoke in a good mood and in a fresh mental state. I had finally let go of the last two days of miserable chess and sat down for breakfast.

Round Five:
This would be my final round as I had put in for a bye on round six. I went into this game reinvigorated and was hoping to draw a strong opponent. My wish came true as I drew the top rated player in our section, a man from central Massachusetts by the name of Eduardo Valadares.

For the third time, I played the Sicilian Najdorf, and boy did I ever play this defense to its very name; cunning, edgy and with some risk. But, I like the Najdorf because it always allows you to play for a win! I don’t like stodgy games and openings that enter easily into drawn positions.

In this game my opponent, after castling king-side, immediately decides to go forward with a king side attack, pushing his g and h pawns and weakening his dark squares around his King. My plan was simple, I would exchange for his dark colored bishop and then play for those squares.

After I sacrificed my Queen for two minor pieces; Rook and Knight, I got the bishop exchange I wanted. My intention with the sacrifice and exchange was to gain position and eventually spawn a passed pawn on the queen-side of the board for compensation. Moreover, I liked the proposition of having more pieces to exert pressure on White's weakened dark squares around his King. My calculations worked out precisely as planned. I put the pigs on the 7th rank, exposed his weak squares as outposts for my knights and with a passed pawn it was just too much for my opponent to handle.

This game was a clean, well played and satisfying win for me, especially for my chess ego; it desperately needed a slight boost. Moreover, I submitted this game to MACA as a contender for the most interesting and decisive win competition.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Black has preference; better have a damn good chess board!

Last week at the local club I overheard a conversation where one of our players asked a TD about proper etiquette and rules regarding players who draw Black; concerning preference of chess sets and game clocks.

As most of us know, Black does have the preference of using a certain chess set over another set, as long as Black is at the board before playing time and White has not set up an acceptable regulation set. Black also has the preference to determine which side of the chess board the game clock is to be placed. However, concerning clocks; if one clock is digital with a delay versus a non-delay clock, then the clock with the proper delay is used. If both clocks are digital with a delay, then Black has preference of choice.

All pretty much standard stuff as most of us know, but I have to admit; if I’m playing White and Black insists on using his old crumpled up vinyl board where pieces have to do a balancing act from move to move, or if the chess board comes with blue or red colored squares that act painfully upon my eyes, I will put up a stink and I will demand a better setting or traditional board!

Bobby Fischer was quite the anal person when it came to the conditions of his playing environment. I guess you could say the same thing about me when comes down to the conditions of a chess board.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Venting about Chess in Massachusetts

I wish the Greater Boston area or the Metrowest had a chess club like this one in St. Louis!

Damn...I'm tired of church basements or basements in general, college centers, senior centers, poor parking, Burger King joints and every other second rate spot to host a chess club! Massachusetts is considered one of the strongest regions in the country for chess, yet we play chess at 3rd rate locations. Oh well, I guess at least we have these places to play at, which is better than no place at all.

Why can't the BBC find a better location than at the Social Security Center with no parking or parking with the probability of being ticketed? A club with so much tradition and players that are conceivably the best that Massachusetts has to offer deserve a better location. With a better location, I would guess that club membership would rise.

Metrowest doesn't want to publicly promote its club due to the possibility of player overflow, i.e., not enough room at that club to expand.

Sven Brask Club is rather small and last I knew plays in some least they have decent parking.

The Greater Worcester Chess Club can't seem to get more than a dozen or two participants to play at their club at any one time, and they are operating in the second largest city in New England; having at least eight college campuses to egage or recruit from. There has to be more than 12 to 20, O.K., maybe 30 people in the area that have a love for chess.

If only chess players were not so damn cheap!! Is there anyone out there that would be so kind as to donate a few hundred thousand dollars or million to develop a really nice chess center for Massachusetts Chess? We would name the building after you and donate to your favorite charities.

By the way...where is MACA? I just joined MACA for a very small fee of 12 dollars for a year membership. Hey, I want to do my part for Chess in Massachusetts. But the question is, how the hell do they make any money to promote chess? I mean c'mon...the twelve bucks I just gave them isn't even enough to support their quarterly publication.

I'd like to see the MACA board tackling fresh ideas to bring the organization into the black. Don't tell me they operate on the plus side, cause that's a bunch of crap and status quo just isn't going to do it very much longer!

Friday, April 3, 2009

2009 Nashua Open

This last weekend I played in the 1st Nashua Open up in New Hampshire. The event was held at the Holiday Inn located at 9 Northeastern Blvd and hosted by a newly organized group called, RELYEA CHESS.

For a small organization, I’d say that their first Nashua Open was a success story. The event was made up of two sections; Open and U1750 and both sections had a field of at least 22 participants. The only shortcoming I noticed at this particular event was the absence of adolescent chess players. If this event is to successfully continue for years to come, then the organization will have to come up with a strategy to promote chess to the youth of southern New Hampshire and get the word out through better communication channels regionally.

Fortunately for me, I had checked the MACA site earlier for local tournaments being played in the month of March and just happened to notice a small announcement for the Nashua Open. I, of course, enrolled in the U1750 section for this particular event, and had quite a successful tournament finishing at 3.5/5; taking the third round as a bye. I even won a little prize money for finishing as top player with a published rating under 1500. I will definitely return to Nashua N.H. to play in the tournament again.

The competition, for the most part, was solid. I had faced off with two opponents holding Class B ratings, and a player with a 1591 rating. My only loss of the tourney came at the hands of Thomas Provost Sr. with a rating of 1707, and I must say, I had him on the ropes for most of the game, but as we shall soon see, gambits aren’t designed for endgames.

Smith,Warner (1553) - Provost,Thomas (1706)
[C52] Evans Gambit Accepted
2009 Nashua Open Nashua N.H.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4
You would think that a much lower rated player would stay away from playing gambits against their stronger opponents. But I love the Evans Gambit and what better way to test your mettle in chess than to do so with the mighty gambit against a stronger opponent!

4...Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 exd4 7.0–0 d6 8.cxd4

Before making this move, I had taken a few minutes to decide between my favorite move 8.Qb3 or the wanting move of 8.cxd4. I wanted to try something different for a change and see what waters I could tread with the obvious and more accurate cxd4.

8...Nf6 9.Qa4
The timing for this move is slightly off and if I may say, a bit awkard. The thinking here is to pin the Knight and then follow up with 10.d5. I've been here before and have played d5 first to move the Knight off of c6 and then follow up with Qa4+. The correct move, however, is 9.e5! If Black follows up with 9...dxe5, then White plays 10.Ba3 and prevents Black from castling.

A solid move by Black that now forces White to follow up with 10.Bb5 or lose tempo and play 10.Qa3.

10.Bb5 Bb6!
Another good move by Black; the threat of losing his dark squared bishop is no longer and now sits comfortably along the strong a7-g1 diagonal targeting White's weak d4 pawn.


The Evans Gambit gives White a lot of play early on, but you have to maintain tempo and keep attacking! Should White let the fire die, so does his chances of getting a win with this opening.

Black continues to fight fire with's his only way to survive in the early going.

12.exf6 axb5 13.fxg7!

Why do I give this just move an exclamation point? Because it accomplishes one of the major themes I play for when playing this opening, and that is to prevent Black from a Kingside castle. A Kingside castle by Black in this opening can be devastating for White because all positional compensation for the gambit is lost.

Black's only move, anything else just loses.

14.Re1+ Ne7 15.Qc2
The alternative 15.Qb3 was considered, but I believed that I could get more play with 15.Qb2 and focus on a back-door attack to Black's king after a pin with 16.Bg5.

15...Rxg7 16.Bg5 f5 17.d5?

And...the steam runs dry with this less than whiff of a move. White needed to either continue to apply pressure, attack or develop his Queen Knight to keep the wrecking train moving. But, alas, White plays d5. The thought at the time was to open up the a1–h8 diagonal for White's Queen or Bishop and follow up with the idea of applying pressure on King's back rank...ya know, a cozy little spot for White's Queen to visit perhaps. In the end, this move allows Black to gain tempo, clear out White's steam and equalize.

This move is rather dubious and when Black played it, I felt like it was a mistake; an opportunity for White to regain steam and the game's tempo. And I could have done that with 18.Nc3! Its a move I tentatively considered but did not reach deep enough in my analysis to see what opportunities could arise for White. Regardless, I should have, at the very least, considered the simple means of development that this move would give me. Now my Rooks would be connected along the back rank and the Knight is out to wreak havoc.

So, I play the safe move against my stronger opponent. Isn't that always the case when you sit opposite a higher rated player? Well, all is not lost with this move and I still like my position.

18...Rxg5 19.Qc3
Still time to play Nc3, but I'm convinced that a1–h8 diagonal is the key to this game! Such infatuation leads to inaccurate play against Black. Moves that grant Black time and resolve to get to an end game.

19...Kf7 20.Ne6 Bxe6 21.dxe6+ Kg8 22.Qf6
Finally making use of this diagonal, but there isn't much light to see here. I'll be honest, I'm just continuing to push an attack whenever I can in hopes of finding some exploitation in Black's play before the end game arrives!

22...Rg6 23.Qb2?
I have no idea what I was thinking here. I just got done explaining White's strategy in his previous move and I had every intention to play 23.Qf7+; continuing to push the envelope whenever I can. I guess I just didn't want to hop off the diagonal...pretty lame huh?


Black solidifies his Queen side pawn structure and bides time now that his King is no longer under any legitimate attacks and tucked under the safety of his loyal subjects. Who would you rather be, White or Black? I like Black, I mean...c'mon look at White's pieces tucked away in the lower corner of the board smoking the peace pipe rather than doing the war dance.

Just can't seem to play Nc3 for the life of me! Must be high from that peace pipe.

Black takes advantage of White's sluggish play with his best available move.

25.Nf3 Rxe6 26.Rxe6
I should have tried harder to find a better move. 26.Nd4 offers some interesting play for White, but I'm feeling the engine losing its steam and I'm beginning to feel lazy. The fact still remains, that when you're down material, you don't willingly exchange pieces off the board without compensation!

26...Qxe6 27.Re1 Qd7 28.Qf6

Been here before; now to take advantage of the open g-file and available space around Black's king.

28...Ng6 29.Ng5
The Knight move really doesn't accomplish much here for White and time is running out to make something happen. If anything, this move allows Black to fight for the e-file and force more exchanges. Something White does not want to happen. Better would have been 29.h4 towards moving the Black Knight off of g6. 29...Rf8 30.Qg5 Qg7 31.Re6 Ne5 is a slightly better line for White to undertake.

29...Rf8 30.Qc3 Re8 31.Rd1
Avoiding exchanges...

31...Qe7 32.Nf3 d5 33.Re1 Qf7 34.Ne5?

When I made this move, I had resigned myself to accepting an exchange in hopes of finding some holes in Black's defense to go pawn grabbing. However, this move loses outright, but Black did not see the proper course to take to win this position. Black too, was mentally exhausted by this time in the game. 34...Qg7! pinning the Knight temporarily. 35.f4 Nxf4 36.Qg3 Qxg3 37.hxg3 Ng6 38.Nf6 Rxe1 39.Nxe1 c5!

34...Nxe5 35.Rxe5 Rxe5 36.Qxe5
Funny enough, I got the exchange on my terms thanks to Black's temporary lapse of tactical analysis.


When Black made this move, I was sure I had a draw...and I initially analyzed the moves correctly to do so; but then I saw a hanging pawn and got greedy...thinking that I could still pull off the draw. Why I did what I did? Who knows...mental wear down perhaps. The correct move to play is 37.Qe6+! Black is then unable to stop White from a bombardment of constant checks.

Its the greedy side of me...

37...Qf8 38.Qxb7 Qe8 39.Kf1
And this move only helps Black's cause. Better is 39.h4, a move that could still, perhaps, get us a draw.

39...d4 40.Qb6?
This is the losing move for White. 40.h4 was still a viable move for White to consider.

40...d3 41.Qe3 Qxe3 42.fxe3 c5 43.Ke1 c4
White resigns. 0–1

Monday, March 23, 2009

Foxwoods Open? Not This Year

It was the 4th Annual Foxwoods Open back in 2002 and I had finished that event with a score of 3.5/7 in the U1400 section. It was an electrifying and satisfying event; one that I had promised myself to revisit in the near future.

However, I soon lost the chess bug and went into hiatus for about five years shortly after this event. When I returned to the board mid-last year, the one thing I wanted to plan for was the 2009 Foxwoods Open.

This last year, I have invested myself 100% to chess as far as extracurricular activities/hobbies are concerned. I continue to study opening and endgame theory as well as take weekly lessons from a extremely talented chess instructor. My games have improved dramatically and am quite happy with my recent progress and chess prowess.

I wanted to be ready to play the Foxwoods Open at a competitive level and generally speaking I think I have what it takes to play in the U1700 section of this event. Lodging and travel reservations had been made over a month ago and all I needed to do was pay the advanced entry fee to make this event a reality. I was ready for this and excited to be a part of it...but something was gnawing on my subconscious.

Well, today I decided to cancel my reservations and NOT enter into the 2009 Foxwoods Open. Overall savings: $600.00+ dollars! I went to CCA's website to enter today and just couldn't get past the entry fee ($227.00) to play in 7 rated games of chess. For me, its not about the money or cash payouts, but rather the experience of playing competitive chess in an energized environment. But more importantly, I wasn't ready to spend four days away from my family, especially when I have a 6 month old son and a fantastic wife who are not quite ready for me to be away from them for such an extended period of time. My wife is fully supportive of my chess addiction and my desire to play in these sort of events; this was solely my own decision.

It's just how I feel about it at this time, but I do know that I will be going to this event in the near future. Probably when things settle down a little bit more on the home front and when money is a little more plentiful.

So, in lieu of participating in this event, I have decided to invest in some chess software -- Chessbase 10! Yea baby....psyched!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What's With That Double Vision?

Lately, I feel like a foreigner at the chess board; I am having Double Vision. My last three rated games have gone into the loss column and I must admit, in each of those games even a player rated a few hundred rating points lower than myself could spot the missed opportunities that were available in each of these losses.

My last three losses shared the following common themes:
*Exhaustion or “not well rested”
*Dismissing positional analysis in lieu of exercising supposed common chess strategies or an “easy out”.

In the end, I’m just plain seeing double vision; the result of a dull mind set.

Each of the following positions occurred in my last three losses, and each of these positions, if played correctly would have dramatically changed the game’s outcome.

Example 1:

In this game, I’m playing for the money in the final round of the Eastern Class Championships. In addition to those common themes listed above, I entered into this game with 2 hours downtime of complete boredom and a lack of respect for my opponent’s playing ability.

I’m Black and playing against the Smith-Mora Gambit. I always play the following against this gambit with 4…Nc6 5.Bc4 a6 6.Nf3 d6, but my head is locked into “forcing” a Sicilian Najdorf for some reason and I out right neglect White's early developement, thus suffering the positional consequences of not playing accurately to White’s gambit. Here is the critical position that led to Black’s demise, but if played correctly would have maintained an equal position and require White to seek out other moves or accept a draw.

In this position White is dogging after Black’s Queen and has just played 14.Bd4. Can you see the correct move for Black that would keep the positions equal? Black could just play 14…Qc7 and if White wishes to continue chasing Black’s Queen, Black would just return to …Qb6. Thus, White would need to come up with another move sequence or accept a draw. Now, here is the move that Black played; 14…Bc5? At the time, Black was thinking about inducing a bishop exchange and follow up with developing his queen-side pieces without ever giving White’s Knight on c3 any thought. White plays 15.Na4! Doh!!

Example 2:

This game was played at my local club in Natick MA. It is round 2 of a 5 round Swiss tournament. To emphasize the common themes above, I enter into this game with about 5 hours of sleep the night before and had a large latte earlier in the afternoon around 3:30pm. By the time the game starts, I’m crashing hard! All the ingredients are in place to play the game with double vision.

In this position, I’m Black and playing the Sicilian Najdorf against White’s Sozin Attack with 7.Bg5. White is up a minor piece for a pawn and is desperately trying to exchange pieces off the board whenever possible. Here, White has just played 29.Qg5, wanting to induce a Queen exchange.

This position if played correctly is a draw. Can you see the right move? Black’s Bishop holds a strong diagonal and has both Rooks beautifully lined up along the g-file to exert pressure, when the proper moment arises, along the 2nd rank. Black can at least draw with 29…Qxg5! Follow up line would be 30.Nxg5 Rf2!

If White wants to at least maintain a draw, his only move would be 31.Rg3 Rxc2 32.Nxe6 Rff2 33.Rxg7+ Kh8 34.Rxb7 Rxg2+ =

Unfortunately, Black wasn’t analyzing any of this because the first rule of thumb in chess; never exchange your big guns when you’re down material. That’s where my mind was, instead of analyzing this position properly, I was thinking, “What is the best move to avoid the Queen exchange?” So, exchanging Queens never entered into my thought process and therefore, the position analysis after such an exchange was never entertained. Black played 29…Qe8 and thus remained behind White in material and at a positional disadvantage until Black finally loses on TIME! My double vision got the best of me.

Example 3:

Here is another game played at the local club. It is round 3 of a 5 round Swiss tournament. All the common themes are in place and I just had a nice refreshing large afternoon latte! Its game time and you know what? My mind is racing but my body’s in lead; I fill my eyes with that double vision.

In this position, I’m White and playing the Yugoslav Attack against Black’s nasty Sicilian Dragon. Black has just played 13…Nxf3? Our positions prior to this move were equal, but now White is just better and with one move can gain a winning position and come out a full piece up in material. Can you see the move? Easy right; not when you have double vision. White is thinking simple exchange and wants to open up his g-file to exert pressure along Black’s king file. Besides, my Queen is under attack, so why not simply remove the attacking piece?

The winning move here is so blatant that I’m ashamed to even post this particular example, but I want to emphasize my mind and body’s state to the reader. Under normal circumstances, I would have hopped on this move and frankly, subliminally, this is what I was playing for. However, I decide to play for an “easy-out” and lazily play 14.gxf3. I’m not even going to tell you what the right move is, because you saw it before you even started reading my follow up for the diagram.

So, what do I do from here? Hmmm…hey, here is an idea! No more afternoon lattes! And, get this, how about getting some sleep the night before and…and…uhm...get back to my afternoon work-outs at the local gym where I’m a member! It’s the only way to void my eyes with this double vision.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

2009 Eastern Class Championships

This event was held at the Host Hotel in Sturbridge, MA and was my first major chess event of the year. If you recall from an earlier post last year, I did not have many good things to say about the Host Hotel's accommodations. Needless to say, I spent my nights at the Hampden Hotel down the street for less money and much cleaner rooms! But, I must admit, there is something to be said about having a room on the premises that hosts the event. The first thing that comes to mind; a place to immediately retire to and rest. Perhaps go over your game in private and if you own Chessbase, enter your game for immediate analysis. Having a room a few minutes down the road does not easily translate to such niceties, something for me to think about when the Continental Open comes to town.

The Eastern Class Championships, put on by the CCA, is a popular event here in the Northeast with a relatively strong turnout. What is attractive about this specific event is how the sections are categorized per class. Most of your opponents sitting across the board are of comparative chess skill and strength. I entered the "Class C" section with a current published rating of 1472, which had about 30 entrants.

Playing the 3 day cycle versus two days is my preferred choice. Playing in a tournament where you begin with shortened move/time controls only to be assimilated into longer time controls in later rounds is hard to adjust too and, quite frankly, puts you at a mental disadvantage.

This tournament drew in a lot of players from my club which always adds a little social flare to the event. Personally, I had a good tournament. I finished 3.0/5, but my play was better than my score. Here is how it went down:

Round 1: I am Black and draw Walter Chesnut(1583) as my opponent. Walter is a strong player and probably more of a chess fiend than me. Why do I say this? Well, I arrived at our board first and had pretty much everything set up when he finally arrives and says, "I have these," as he opens up a box to reveal a beautifully hand carved wooden set produced by the House of Staunton; total cost, $1500.00 plus. Hey, who am I to argue with that? I said sure and got the opportunity to play with a very nice set indeed. As for the game, the line was a classical King's Indian Defense and it was a good solid game played well by both sides that ended in a draw after White's 28th move. Walter offered the draw after realizing the position to be equal, but moreover, knowing that if he was to forfeit a tempo move my way, I could come crashing down his King side with a violent attack. Of course the same could be said of me, if I were to allow White to get in one additional move on the Queen side without proper defensive measures on my part, he could have torn up that side of the board. Walter goes on to finish in a tie for second place with a score of 4.0/5.

Round 2: I'm due White and draw William Phelps(1488) from Maine, an older gentleman with a friendly demeanor. William decides to play the French Defense...I strongly dislike this defense. I find it rather boring and stodgy and rarely play into any of the "French" variations. I decided to play against this lack luster defense with something rather conservative as well; the KIA. I've always had good results against French players with the KIA. I finish this game with a strong victory which is rather reminiscent of a game I played against a fellow club player a few months ago. William finishes with a respectable 3.0/5.

Round 3: I am paired up against Greg Gelsomino(1483) from New York. Greg opens with 1.e4 that leads to a Closed Sicilian opening. Of all my games at this event, this game was perhaps the most un-interesting. I felt that my opponent was playing for a draw, exchanging pieces whenever opportunity presented itself. Of course, perhaps he just didn't see any better moves, in any case, I couldn't find any thing interesting myself to complicate the position to prevent these sort of exchanges. In the end, this game ends up in a draw, nothing much else to say about this one. Greg goes on to finish 3.0/5.

Round 4: This game was my most exciting game of the tournament and wraps up a strong win. For your viewing pleasure, I offer annotations of this particular game. Enjoy!

Smith,Warner (1553) - Sifter,Thomas (1528)
[B87] Sicilian Najorf/Fischer Attack
Eastern Class Championships Sturbridge, MA

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Bb3
The Fischer Attack is my choice of weapon when facing the Sicilian Najdorf. White focuses on attacking the center; specifically targeting Black's pawn on e6. If Black does not play accurately, White may sacrifice his light colored Bishop on e6 to open up a strong attack with his Knight on d4 leading the way.

Black's usual reply, however, 7...Nbd7 has become quite popular where Black has been able to obtain some promising positions.


Usually, White castles here, but I like to mix it up once in a while and play the strong Qf3! as soon as I can. The plan is two-fold; first if Black fails to play either 8...Bb7 or 8...Qc7, then White has the strong 9.e5! The follow up for White's Queen is to eventually play Qg3 after Black decides to castle King side.

I like this move for Black as he safeguards against White's play for an immediate 9. e5 push where Black would then just play 9...Be7. By playing Qc7, Black leaves his Bishop to protect the weak pawn on e6.

To prevent Black from "kicking" my Knight off of c3 and to provide an escape route for the light colored Bishop.

9...Be7 10.Be3 0–0 11.0–0 Re8

After this move, I got the warm and internal mechanism that soothes the chess soul with dreams of winning combinations. Not that this move by Black is bad, but it was just one of those moves where I felt the tide was about to change in my favor. The one draw back with this move is that it does take away an important escape route for Black's Knight on f6.

Putting a heavy emphasis on Black's ability to play very accurate. Should Black make a move to remove the Bishop guard to e6, white comes in fast with a Bishop sacrifice. For example, 12...Nbd7? 13.Bxe6! If Black plays 13...fxe6?? 14.Nxe6 Nh5 15.Nxc7 Nxg3 16.fxg3 Bb7 17.Nxa8 Bxa8 +-

Now that White's Queen has moved to g3, Black can now play Nc6.

13.f4 Nxd4
Black plays to remove some tension in the center.

14.Bxd4 Bd7?!
I found this move quite interesting and in White's favor. The problem with this move is Black has taken away the last viable retreat square for his Knight on f6. And as we will soon see, Black is left scrapping to maintain some sort of equalized position with White. Personally, I like the very Najdorf like move 14...Bb7 for Black.


There is no other move to consider here. Black will have to move his Knight off of the important f6 square and give way to White's play for this very important square. White's desire for f6 involves placing his own Knight on f6 for a very strong King attack.

15...dxe5 16.fxe5 Bc5
Black is reaching; hoping that White will play 17.exf6? Unfortunately, White has time and position, so he is not concerned with the up-coming lack-luster check on his King. If White did play 17.exf6? then 17...Bxd4+ 18.Kh1 Qxg3 19.hxg3 Bxf6 =+

17.Bxc5 Qxc5+
I couldn't have planned it any better; this move order by Black plays directly into Whites desire to bring his Knight into play and eventually to f6!

18.Kh1 Nd5 19.Ne4!

Maintaining tempo over Black and forcing his Queen to move, White will play to rid Black's guard to f6 and then follow up with Nf6!

This move just loses for Black and as we shall see, two moves later Black resigns.

20.Bxd5! exd5 21.Nf6+! 1–0

Thomas goes on to finish at 3.0/5.

As for Round 5: I'm due Black and I'm paired up against a young adolescent, Joshua Abady(1393). Now I lost this game and I'm giving Joshua his due, he played a well thought out game and pretty much won his game against me hands down. But one thing I've learned about myself in these tournaments: Always put in for a bye on the final round! Fact of the matter is, after playing in these weekend long tournaments, by the time the final round rolls around in the late part of a Sunday afternoon, my mental state is just less than sharp. And, of course, having more than an few hours of down time before the last round leads to boredom and dull senses.

Needless to say, I wasn't mentally in this game from the start. I rushed my analysis short of critical lines and didn't take my opponent seriously. Thus, I deserved what I got. Joshua, with this win, ties for second place in our section with a 4.0/5 score. This game did leave me with some exciting analysis to review and will be the subject of my next blog.