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