October 2009

Mon 5th: Anyone for County Chess
Wed 7th: Bashed by Bates' b-pawn
Wed 14th: Bishop takes Knight
Mon 19th: Another fine mess
Fri 23rd: The slow bishop
Sat 24th: Slowly does it
Sun 25th: Resigns??
Mon 26th: Missed puzzle

Mon 5th: Anyone for County Chess
Staffordshire's first county match of the season took place on Saturday against Lincolnshire at a neutral venue in the U140 section. Neither side had a full complement of 16 players, and it was noticeable that five Newcastle players featured in the Staffordshire team, captain John Day (Newcastle), including three who are eligible for the next section down. Is this favouratism in the captain's selection policy? No, it is a common feature of county teams whereby insufficient interest gives rise to captains turning to those who will support them for personal/club reasons rather than county ones.

Sadly there are many who wish to play chess, but only when it most suits them, and others who think nothing of pulling out at the last minute. It is highly likely that John would have found it possible to field a full and stronger team had the match been at home. But without people willing to travel to away matches there will in due course be no team and so no home matches either.

Many county teams endure a rapid turnover of captains, and this is almost certainly due to the enthusiasm-sapping lack of support from players. There comes a time when one has to ask "Should the team exist at all?"

For the record the team won 9 - 7. Perhaps success will breed interest.
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Wed 7th: Bashed by Bates' b-pawn
We all fear loss of tempo in the opening, so try to avoid consecutive moves such as Be2 followed by Bxc4. However we can take this allergy too far, as RR showed in his first division match against Holmes Chapel Kings' Ian Bates. Declining to play Be2 (or cxd5 followed by Be2) whilst playing the space-grabbing b4 and the dialatory Qb3 and d3 all in the same opening is asking for trouble, and Ian obliged. We join the game after RR's seventh move.
RR v Ian Bates after 7 d3
7 ... a5 Ian lashes straight out to neutralise white's queenside expansion. Now nothing looks attractive. b5 is possibly best even though it can lead to a very open position with white's king still in the centre. a3 is an admission of being on the back foot - though sometimes we have to accept the truth. So hoping that a subsequent Bc3 will gain a tempo, RR plays
8 bxa5 Qxa5+, 9 Bc3 dxc4 - so much for the gain in tempo. 10 Bxa5 is now possible as 10 ... cxb3, 11 axb3 and the bishop is defended, but there could still be some unpleasantness on the long dark diagonal. dxc4 seems unnecessarily weakening to the pawn structure, so
10 Qxc4 Qd8, 11 a4 Can white allow his a-pawn to fall to Be6? Already black's b-pawn is looking menacing.
11 ... Be6, 12 Qb4 - offering the queen exchange on d4 or trying for counterplay by swooping across to h4 are surely better choices. Now Nd5 and Nxc3 will leave black with a huge bishop. Electing first to get the pawns rolling black continues
12 ... b5, 13 axb5 Nd5. The position is getting ugly, with black's bishops poised to support the c-cum-b-pawn to victory. RR limped on for nearly 40 more moves, but the result was never in doubt.
This defeat can clearly trace it's roots to prevarication in the opening. Interestingly the game is reminiscent of some shown to me by players of an even more modest standard, who say "I know where I went wrong", pointing to some blunder on say move 27, oblivious to the fact that the seeds of their defeat were sown much earlier; the blunder merely serving to hasten their demise.
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Wed 14th: Bishop takes Knight
RR can resist anything except temptation, which comes early in his game against Steve Hill:
RR v Steve Hill after 6 ... c5

7 Bd3 - This placing of the bishop in front of the d-pawn RR thinks of as the 'Hack Attack'. However it cannot be claimed to be objectively the best way of handling the position.
7 ... Nc6, 8 a3 (already forced to make a non-attacking move)
8 ... h6, 9 0-0 A full-blooded hack attack would have continued h4 and Ng5. Nc3 (before black gets in d4) is probably the most sensible ninth move.
9 ... b6, 10 cxd5 exd5, 11 Nc3 Bb7, 12 Ne2 Bd6 13 Ng3 We'll never know whether this bringing of the knight across to the kingside was a phantom menace as it appears that the opportunity to double some pawns was a temptation that Steve couldn't resist:
13 ... Bxg3, 14 fxg3 Qe7 (see diagram)
RR v Steve Hill after 14 ... Qe7

15 Nh4 threatening to arrive on f5
15 ... Bc8, 16 Bxf6 my turn for bishop takes knight, and I confess to preferring my version!
16 ... gxf6, 17 Bf5 Bxf5, 18 Qxf5 Knight takes stronger, but I like my queen near his king.
18 ... Qe5, 19 Qxf6 Too materialistic. Qh3 with the threat of Nf5 (or Rf5 after Qh5) must be better. It was even considered at the time. Fortunately RR has a big lead which this and later inaccuracies fail to destroy completely. The game ended 15 moves later when overkeen to reduce his 2 pawn deficit Steve walked into a knight fork which cost a rook.
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Mon 19th: Another fine mess
Next a trip to Macclesfield, where RR faced another old foe in Phil Cattermole. For once RR is happy with his position out of the opening, having given up a pawn for ease of development and a backward pawn to target. However his subsequent play failed to take advantage of this:
Phil Cattermole v RR after 7 d3

7 ... 0-0, 8 Be2 Bf5, 9 Bg5 h6, 10 Bh4 Be7
11 0-0 a6, 12 a3 Qc7, 13 Qb3 Rad8 Placing it on the b-file and shoving the pawn in attempt to embarrass the queen is better. Already black has frittered away most of the compensation for the pawn with too many 'nothing' moves.
14 Bxf6 Bxf6, 15 Nd5 Qb8, 16 Nxf6+ gxf6, 17 Rad1 Nd4 A hole, but should I really be filling it?
18 Nxd4 Rxd4, 19 Bf3 b6, 20 Rfe1 Kh8, 21 Be4 Be6
22 g3 (diagram)
Phil Cattermole v RR after 22 g3

22 ... Bg4 Too clever, hoping for
23 Rd2 f5 and 24 ... e4. Much better an immediate f5, Rfd8 or b5. White's sensible 23rd leaves RR nowhere to go, though he does hasten his own downfall further.

23 Rc1 h5, 24 Qc3 Qd8, 25 Qd2 Kg7, 26 Rc3 h4
27 Qe3 Rh8, 28 f4 f5 (deathwish?)
29 Bd5 hxg3, 30 Qxe5+, and the remaining dozen moves merely served to determine exactly how black loses.
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Fri 23rd: The slow bishop
Off to Scarborough, with transport generously provided by Traci's taxi service.
Round one, black against Chris Tipper. Last time I faced the Bird we ended up with a reverse Fron - not for the faint-hearted. I was happy to accept a draw when my higher graded opponent made the offer. A quiter line this time:
1 f4 f5, 2 Nf3 Nf6, 3 c4 e6, 4 Nc3 b6
5 g3 Bb7, 6 Bg2 Be7, 7 0-0 0-0, 8 b3 Qe8, 9 Nb5 (see diagram)
Chris Tipper v RR after 9 Nb5

Time for a blunder: 9 ... Bd8 presumably believing the obvious Na6, which also connects the rooks constitutes 'knight on the rim is dim. Now
10 Ba3 d6 (Rf7 loses exchange to Ng5)
11 Bxd6 cxd6, 12 Nxd6 Qe7, 13 Nxb7 Qxb7, 14 Ne5 and the skewer on the long diagonal assures white of a material gain.

Fortunately it was too early in the weekend for my opponent to spot this, and the game continued:
10 Bb2 a6, 11 Nc3 c5, 12 e3 d6, 13 Qe2 Ng4 wishing to encourage a weakening of the kingside with h3, but in truth a little premature.
14 d4 Nd7, 15 Rad1 Bc7, 16 h3 Ngf6, 17 e5 exd5
18 cxd5 b5, 19 Ng5 Bb6 placing the bishop on the same diagonal as the white king as well as pre-empting the potential knight fork.
20 Ne6 Rf7, 21 Qd3 Rc8, 22 Kh2 (Qxf5 Nxd5 is not recommended for white)
22 ... c4 see diagram
Chris Tipper v RR after 22 ... c4

bxc4 Rxc4 is called for, but white elected to retreat his queen instead. Big mistake:
23 Qd2 b4 (ouch), 24 bxc4 cxb3, 25 Qxc3 Nc5 (Nxd5 is entertaining)
26 Qb4 Ba7 (the fifth one square move by this piece - must be suffering from a groin strain or somesuch)
27 Nd4 Rb8, 28 Qa3 Nfe4, 29 Ba1 Ba8 - some really entertaining bishop play in this game. 'Twas downhill for white from here despite attempts to create threats against g7, with his resignation arriving at the time control on move 40.
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Sat 24th: Slowly does it
Having the sort of edge that allows one to play with the draw in hand is many people's ideal, and I found myself so placed in both my games on the second day of the congress. In round 2 with white the edge was gained from total control of the b-file in an otherwise closed position. However I mistimed my play in the latter part of the game and had to settle for a draw.
Back to black against John Dobson in round 3. We reached the diagrammed position after an exchange of knights on d6. With whites scattered pawns difficult to defend RR was able to take his time and still maintain his advantage, this time seeing the game through to a successful conclusion. for the record the remaining moves were
John Dobson v RR after 22 ... Bxd6

23 Rcd1 Re8, 24 Bf4 Bb4, 25 Bg3 Re2, 26 Bh4 Be7
27 b3 Kd7, 28 Be1 Re4, 29 h3 a6 (so that there is no skewer by the white bishop should I remove the d4 pawn)
30 hxg4 hxg4, 31 g3 c5, 32 Rf4 Rxf4, 33 gxf4 Rxd4 34 Rxd4+ cxd4, 35 Kg2 Kd6, 36 Bb4+ Kd7, 37 Bd2 Kc6 If he's not going to helpful and remove the bishops I'll just have to overpower him with my king.
38 Kg3 Kd5, 39 Kxg4 Ke4, 40 Be1 Ke3 0-1
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Sun 25th: Resigns??
RR v Raymond Stonehouse after 32 ...Qg3
Sunday featured two different resignation styles. White against Raymond Stonehouse RR was comfortable into the middlegame where poor moves allowed his opponent to achieve the desirable position left.
Despite there being no real prospect of surviving the attack RR played on for another ten moves. Definitely a late resigner.
Owen Robson v RR after 20 Qxe4=
To the final round, with presumably all those who didn't wish to play having withdrawn. Owen Robson with white had taken five minutes to RR's fifty to reach the position shown right, merrily opposing and exchanging pieces at every opportunity. He then made his second draw offer of the game. RR declined by playing 20 Rfd8, and white resigned.
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Mon 26th: Missed puzzle
John Amison v RR after 14 ... Bxe4
It is easy to believe that "Puzzle Positions" never appear in our real games, However in the latest John Amison v RR game, the best move test was failed. As usual in games between the two, RR had the black pieces. The even position shown was reached after an exchange of minor pieces on e4.

John now found 15 Bb5. Double attack on the knight.
15 ... Nf6. Saves the knight and protects the bishop. What do you think of it so far?
The game continued, and RR carelessly allowed a simplification to the endgame in which John was able to immediately win a pawn. However with the help of a pesky knight and a certain despondency on John's part as he learnt of the demise of three of his teammates, RR was able first to equalise and then press on to victory with the aid of mate threats and an unstoppable g-pawn.

Back to the question, the correct answer to which is "Not a lot". Consider the effect of 15 ... Nxe5

A) 16 dxe5 Rc2 Queen moves allow a very unpleasant Rxg2+, Bd2 calls for Qd4+ with the loss of the bishop and/or blacks other bishop arriving on c5 to join in the fun
B) 16 fxe5 Rc2 as above, with white's d-pawn thrown in for good measure.
C) 16 Bf2 Bxg2. Now taking the knight leads to loss of the exchange (as well as the g-pawn), whilst taking the bishop leads to Qd5+ and the necessity to advance the king further to avoid immediate mate.
D) 16 other allows black to play on a piece up.
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