Tim McGrew's 2006 Michigan Open Games
Annotated by Tim McGrew
Editor's note: We are very pleased to present you with Tim McGrew's games from the 2006 Michigan Open with his own annotations. Tim finished in a tie for first place, sharing the title of Michigan Champion.
Andy Catlin (1870) - Tim McGrew (2122) [A03]
Michigan Open/Kalamazoo, MI (1.42) 2006
My first round game, against my lowest rated opponent, was also by far my worst.
I played this move, which I have never played before, on the spur of the moment. It definitely isn't an experiment I'm eager to repeat!
Aiming to reinforce the c5 point to force through ...c5. Optically there's nothing wrong with this move, but in the sequel Black's knights get awfully tangled up.
I confess that this move and the 9th simply struck me as positional madness on the part of my opponent. I had no idea what an avalanche of White's kingside pawns might really do to my position.
Pursuing the plan consistently. Better may be 7... Bb4, but I was reluctant to give up the minor exchange twice.
Again, this move looks okay in isolation but it does nothing to avert the impending kingside disaster.
Much too slow. It is strange to play over this game after the fact and to realize that at the time I thought Black's queenside play was unfolding nicely. What a reality check! Better 9... cxd4.
The final inaccuracy. Now a mountain falls on Black's position.
Played in an instant. I'm getting a nice square at f5 for my knight right in front of the backward, doubled f-pawns, right?
In hindsight, it would have been preferable to play 12... gxh6 13. dxc5 (13. gxh6 Qf6) 13... Bxc5 14. Bd4 Bxd4 15. Qxd4 f6 with a messy position that is probably not as bad for Black as what happens in the game.
Only at this point did the awful truth dawn on me that the kingside isn't really blockaded and that the rook is trapped on the long diagonal.
Black's position is bad, probably lost, but this move should have lost fairly abruptly.
16... Qb6 makes sense, trying to get the queen off of the hot diagonal. But after 17. Qxb6 Nxb6 18. Bh3 Kf7 19. Nxd5! Black is more or less obliged to enter a strange endgame with 19... exd5 20. Bxc8 Nxc8 21. Rxd5 Nge7 22. Rd7 and Black's clumsy knights don't look like a match for White's rook and extra pawns.
This is a little slow and gives Black a chance to catch his breath.
The right move is 17. Bh3! Kf7 (17... Nf5 18. Bxf5 gxf5 19. Rhe1 Kf7 20. Nxd5 and Black cannot recapture because of 20... exd5 21. g6+! hxg6 22. Qxd5+ Kf8 23. Qd6+ Kg8 24. Qe6+ Kf8 25. Rxd7! and it's all over.) 18. Nxd5! Nxd5 19. Bxe6+!
Here White loses the thread because he has too many tempting alternatives! Andy told me afterward that he wanted to close off the possibility of ...Kg6. But there isn't really anything attractive about that move, and by this pawn sacrifice White reduces his control of f6 just enough to give Black an unusual defensive tactic.
Better 20. Nxd5! (This sacrifice works right away.) 20... Nc5! (The only defense. Black sets up a check on d3 after a queen exchange down on f6. White has enough control of f6 to meet 20... Nf8? with 21. Qxf6+) 21. b4 Nd3+ (Luring the queen away from the f6 square.) 22. Qxd3 Qxd5 23. Qxd5 exd5 24. Rh2 The rook ending is much better for White, who is a pawn up and has only two pawn islands and more active rooks.
White understands that the position calls for a sacrifice, but he doesn't know which one to play. He chooses the one that invests the least material, but there is a tactical problem with this move.
This clumsy-looking retreat is the refutation of White's sacrifice. When we judge the strength of a move, it isn't enough to look at the piece moved -- we must also look at the other pieces to see how they are affected. Here, the pin up the d-file exploits White's undefended Queen.
Finally, the tactics work out in Black's favor.
Once queens come off, Black's extra material wins easily. A harrowing game!
Tim McGrew (2122) - James Canty III (2016) [B23]
Sicilian Defense, Grand Prix Attack
Michigan Open/Kalamazoo, MI (2.41) 2006
What to play against a fast-rising junior with tremendous tactical talent? I decided to adopt a quiet continuation that would not provide many opportunities for quick fireworks.
The positional continuation; 5. Bc4 leads to a sharper battle.
The position now resembles one that might arise from 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7, except that White has a bit more kingside space with f4 played already. Objectively White has little or no advantage, but that's okay; I felt comfortable with the pawn structure, and there is still a full game of chess waiting to be played.
This is a new move. The idea is quite simple: White wants to shift this knight to e3 where it is slightly more useful. Again, the idea was to let things unfold slowly.
A positionally suspect decision. White can exchange here immediately, leaving Black's bishop blocked in. Little details like this matter; the resulting pawn structure favors White slightly but clearly.
White's knight on e3 stifles Black's play. But the plan Black develops now -- working toward ...Bh6xe3 to eliminate the strong knight -- actually does more damage to his position than simply sitting tight.
The knight is withdrawn as part of the plan to make ...Bh6 possible.
Without any tactical shots being fired, White's position is gradually improving.
Realizing that the situation on the kingside is spinning out of control, Black tries to swap off queens.
White, consistently, refuses the swap.
The knight is only nominally defended here. If you look through the two knights on the f-file, White's battery of queen and rook is targeting the pawn at f7.
I showed this position to a number of A-players, and without exception they chose 19.Nxe5, which is probably good enough to win the game. But taking the knight is actually stronger because of a point that becomes apparent at White's 21st move.
The point. With Black's queen and knight both under fire and 22.Bxe5+ threatened, there is no time to consolidate.
A practical decision. White is clearly winning this ending on the strength of his extra pawns alone. There is no need to give Black any counterplay on the dark squares.
Best is 24. Qxg6 from a Fritz's-eye point of view: 24... Qh4 25. Rf3 Rg8 26. Rxf4! Qxf4 27. Qxh5+ Kg7 28. Rf1; but 24. g3?! Qg5! gives Black the sort of chances that might enable him to turn the tables in a time scramble. No thank you!
I considered 25. Qxg6 as well, but I decided to keep the finish "clean."
James hangs tough through the technical phase, but it is a thankless task. The remainder of the game was played in time pressure, rather intense on James's part.
Mobilizing the pawns.
Luring the rook away from the attack on d4. 33. e6! is still good here.
Hitting g6, which ties down Black's queen. At this point I stopped keeping score, so the remaining moves are filled in from memory.
Still another practical decision: there are fewer things that can go wrong once Queens come off.
36. Rf7! is again faster ... if you're a computer.
Might as well keep the connected passed pawns.
There are lots of ways to win here. 41.e7 is probably the quickest, but I formed the plan of putting my king on d6, and this was easy to carry out.
Manis Davidovich (2077) - Tim McGrew (2122) [C31]
King's Gambit Declined, Falkbeer Counter-Gambit
Michigan Open/Kalamazoo, MI (3.41) 2006
Though neither Manis nor I knew it, his choice of opening here violated Brattin's Law: "Never play either side of a King's Gambit against someone who is older than you are!"
Once again I chose a move on the spur of the moment. But this time it worked out much better than it had against Andy Catlin in round one!
This is the "old" Falkbeer Counter-Gambit, by contrast with 3...c6, which is much more fashionable now. If you look it up in the books you'll find that the Old Falkbeer is completely busted because of a game from the 1960's. Well, maybe. Or maybe the few people who actually play the Falkbeer know something the rest of the world doesn't ... ?
Manis gives the opening a Vienna-like twist.
I was surprised by this move, but after a moment I decided that White is running more risks than Black is.
But this is a serious error, clogging White's development at a time when he can ill afford it.
A better try is 7. Qd4 since it at least hits the bishop on b4. During the game I was thinking about 7... Qe7 (7... Bxc3+ 8. bxc3
At this point Manis realized that something awful had happened, and he sank into deep thought -- necessary, as it turns out, for White to avoid being on the short end of a brilliancy.
It is imperative that White do two things: get the queen off of the e-file, and defend c3. Therefore either this or 8.Qd3 was pretty much forced. But of the 30 minutes allotted for this game, Manis had used all but 8:45, most of it on his last move. His time pressure now becomes a major issue.
Black exploits the pin to regain the pawn.
Black has cashed in his superior development for a pawn. But beyond that simple bit of arithmetic, there is an additional problem: White's king is caught in the center, and Black's pieces give him a good deal of grief there.
Black forks the bishop on c1 and the f2-square, forcing White to give up his bishop pair.
Now the threat is 19...Bb3+. White's reply is nearly forced.
With time pressure approaching for me (and already upon Manis), I decided not to be brilliant but just to grab that pawn. Unfortunately, this makes the win much more difficult. Instead, 21... Na5! is nearly winning on the spot, with threats like 22...Bb3+ or 22...Rad8.
Black is still better here, of course, but the presence of bishops of opposite colors gives White something to hope for. On the other hand, White is down to 51 seconds on his clock at this point. The 5 second delay helps, but not as much as you might think.
Correctly trying to exchange knights, after which it would be extremely difficult for Black to make his extra pawn count.
Equally correctly avoiding that trade.
If I had been White, I think I would have gone for 29. Bxb6 here. But how easy it is to second-guess someone when you aren't the one trying to hold the game in desperate time pressure!
Immediately removing the offending knight.
30. Bd4 looks more active.
This is a wretched post for the bishop, babysitting the c-pawn.
and a time scramble ensued in which Black's king arrived in the center, White was pushed back still further, and White eventually lost on time.
Eric Torman (2454) - Tim McGrew (2122) [D08]
Michigan Open/Kalamazoo, MI (4.41) 2006
A brazen attempt to lure the higher-rated player into murky waters.
Eric politely declines. This move doesn't promise White any serious advantage, but it also doesn't expose him to much risk -- great strategy for the higher-rated player.
Offering him a chance to enter a Chigorin and have a theoretical discussion.
Again White declines to enter the hot lines by capturing either of the pawns.
One last chance to get back into theory that Black may know better than White.
Black swaps pawns, reaching a position that can also arise from the Exchange Variation of the French Defense.
5... Bb4+!? is also worth a look.
6... dxc4 gives White an isolated d-pawn. I wasn't sure during the game whether that would be favorable to him or to me, so I passed the ball back to him instead.
Standard procedure: White takes the extra space on the queenside.
In hindsight, I wish I had retreated down the other diagonal.
This is Black's standard procedure against the c5 clamp, threatening to isolate the c-pawns. Positionally this is a great idea. Tactically, it gets a little difficult because Black's knight is undefended.
I would have liked to play ...Bd7 here, but of course the bishop is on the wrong diagonal for that now.
Spooked by White's knight, Black plays one of the worst of the plausible moves.
I thought long and hard about 15... c6 But not long and hard enough! After 16. Nxc6 Nxc6 17. Qxc6 Rc8 18. Qa4 bxc5 19. Qxa7 White has an extra passed pawn on the a-file. But that pawn will not become a queen any time soon, and meanwhile White's kingside pawns leave a lot to be desired from a defensive point of view. If I had a time machine, I'd be very tempted to go back and give this a whirl.
Eric immediately abandons the queenside and targets the weakness at g6.
This is more or less Black's only chance. If he cannot get some counterplay against White's king, he will be ground down.
Here I really burn my bridges, essentially tossing the front g-pawn to the wolves in order to gain a tempo and set up the threat of wedging White's kingside with ...f3.
As Eric pointed out after the game, 18... Qd7! is a better way for Black to fight for the initiative on the kingside. The position is then quite tense and unclear.
It would have been better to play 21... f3! right away, when White may actually be worse.
Black conceives a mad plan.
Better 27. dxc5!
Down to a few seconds now -- no time to calculate. Yet just here, Black overlooks a remarkable resource.
27... Bf4! forces White' s queen to dance in order to maintain defense of h3. But since White failed to exchange pawns on c5 earlier, Black can meet 28. Qd3 with 28... c4! Then White's best is probably something like 29. Qe2 Qxh3 30. f3 Rf6 when it's still anybody's game -- except that Black is losing on time, of course.
The rest bears no resemblance to chess whatsoever.
Black was down to mere seconds here, so the score is incomplete, but eventually the checks ran out.
Tim McGrew (2122) - Kevin Czuhai (2229) [B23]
Sicilian Defense, Grand Prix Attack
Michigan Open/Kalamazoo, MI (6.3) 2006
Switching back to ordinary Sicilian lines.
Suddenly Black has a serious threat of ...d4 and White has to figure out what to do about it. I used a great deal of time here looking for the best way to avoid getting burned.
This move is critical. Black cannot castle, which means that White can sacrifice a piece and still be in with a chance.
But this isn't so great.
The right move is 14. Qe2+ Kd7 (14... Be6 15. f5! b6! 16. Be4!! and even with two pieces hanging, White is winning, e.g. 16... bxc5 (16... dxc3?? 17. Bxc6+)
17. Bxc6+ Kf8 18. fxe6 dxc3 19.
The only good move. Black gives back material to get his sidelined Bishop back into the game.
During the game I felt sure that White had a large advantage here, with a rook and two pawns for Black's two undeveloped minor pieces. But things aren't so simple. White does have an advantage, but his pawns are loose, his king is rather exposed, and his development is not all that much better than Black's.
This move lets Black back into the game. While it was tempting to put the rook opposite Black's queen, it turns out that there is no good way to take advantage of this. Of course, 18.
Right idea, wrong timing -- 19. Bc4 Qc7 20. Bxe6 fxe6 (20... Qxf4+ 21. Kb1 fxe6 22. Rhf1 Qh6 23. Qg8) 21. g3 still leaves White with a small edge, though it will be difficult to wring a win out of this position.
20. Rhe1 was preferable both on general principles and in concrete tactical terms. After 20... Qa2 21. Qc3 White is threatening Bc4, so a probable continuation is 21... Ne7 22. Bxh7 Rc8 23. Qb2 Qxb2+ 24. Kxb2 Bg7+ 25. Kc1 when the Rook and three pawns look like they should eventually overpower the two minor pieces, though it's still a fight.
The pin on the bishop gives Black a great deal of counterplay. Here the clock becomes a factor in the game. White has over an hour left to reach the time control at move 40; Black is down to 8 minutes and 46 seconds. If the position were simple, this might not matter much. But the position is still very tense, and there is no easy way to play it. Both players need a lot of time.
White wants to get in f5 without being hit by a check on f6.
Black puts his queen on a good square anyway.
This ridiculous move was the product of a hallucination. I simply couldn't find any way forward, and as I felt sure that I had some advantage I reasoned (incorrectly) that there must be some way to prove it here.
Black blunders back, perhaps convinced by the same hallucination. 23... Qxh3 24. f5 Bxf5 25. Rh1 Qg4! Of course: Black stands by his bishop.(25... Qxg3?? 26. Bxf5 Nxf5 27. Rhg1 Qc7 28. Rg8 is crushing) 26. Bxf5 Qxf5 27. Rhf1 Qe6 and it is very difficult for White to claim any advantage, though perhaps 28. Rf6 offers him a nominal edge.
This exchange sacrifice is forced, but now White untangles all of his pieces and Black's king is caught in a furious crossfire.
Good, but not best.
27. Rxd8! Kxd8 28. fxe6 Qxh7 (28... Qxe6 29. Qxe6 fxe6 30. Be4 is probably a win for White because of the connected passed pawns on the kingside. But with the opposite color bishops, it would still mean a lot of work.) 29. exf7 Qxf7 30. Qb8+! Ke7 31. Qxb7+ Ke8 32. Qxa6 and with five pawns for the bishop White has every reasonable hope of winning.
Black loses most of his queenside here, but White has to be careful not to let too many pawns go while Black still has an extra piece.
Black is down to 6 seconds at this point, and he needs to make 10 moves to reach the time control.
It is objectively better to take the a-pawn, but I wanted to put my queen on the back rank and keep Black's king away from the pawn on f6.
Back to safety!
As Kevin played this move, the clock beeped indicating that his flag had fallen.
Tom Mazuchowski (2000) - Tim McGrew (2122) [C26]
Michigan Open/Kalamazoo, MI (7.3) 2006
This variation of the Vienna is quiet but not exactly tame.
I decided to avoid the sharp lines with ...d5 and stick to very solid development along the lines of the Giuoco Piano.
Given a free tempo, Black will play ...a6 here to prevent the exchange of his bishop.
Tom has no intention of giving me that free tempo.
So White has picked up the minor exchange, while Black has gained a little time and has an open file. On balance, things are ... balanced.
White is delaying castling so that Black will not launch a lightning attack with ...h5-h4.
Now it's safe.
Given White's very quite play, I decided that it would be acceptable to open the center after all.
During the game I discarded 17... Nb3 because of 18. Ra2 Bxe4 19. Be3 when the knight has no retreat squares. Was this a good practical decision or a failure of nerve? You decide, dearreader! 19... Rfd8 20. Nc1 Nxc1 21. Bxc1 Bxg2 22. Kxg2 Rd3
White's only hope for counterplay is to make something happen somewhere other than the queenside.
This may be overly refined. I reasoned that I could pick up a pawn on h6 almost at will, and that meanwhile it would be nice to activate my knight.
Despite his strange looking kingside pawns, White has overcome the positional bind and may even stand better here.
Bringing the knight back to life.
This isn't a bad move, but perhaps White should have kept the tension a bit longer.
Tom was understandably eager to get this piece off the back rank, but the f4 square would have been an even better landing spot for his nimble knight.
29... Nf4 was probably better right away.
Now Black has once again assumed the initiative.
Avoiding trades. Here I was slipping into time pressure -- a bad place to be, as I should have known from my opponent's fate in the previous round!
The pawns are coming! Or are they? At the time, I thought I was in real trouble. Looking at it now in hindsight, I'm not sure why I thought that.
This dubious move was the product of too much analysis crammed into too little time. I kept hallucinating fantastic lines where White cleaned up my pawns while I wove a mating net around his king.
This move, ayed quickly in my time pressure, squanders White's queenside pressure.
And this ends the game.
Now it's just a matter of making the time control and cleaning up.
Games in PGNCopyright © 2007 Tim McGrew