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.

7...b5
Black's usual reply, however, 7...Nbd7 has become quite popular where Black has been able to obtain some promising positions.

8.Qf3!














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.

8...Qc7
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.

9.a3
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 fuzzies...an 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.

12.Qg3
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 +-

12...Nc6
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.

15.e5!














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!

19...Qf8?
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.

RATING WATCH: 1567