NJ Knockouts - Boston Blitz Preview

The New Jersey Knockouts and the Boston Blitz meet tonight (October 17, 2007) in critical US Chess League action with important playoff implications. If New Jersey can pull out a win or draw, they will have a very good chance of making the playoffs despite their ups and downs this season. If Boston wins, they are guaranteed a playoff berth. I thought it would be interesting to preview the action by looking at a couple of games from the past which suggest that this is going to be a very tight contest.

GMs Christiansen and Benjamin have met many times before, of course, including in a critical US Championship match in 1997 that had World Championship cycle implications. Benjamin won on that occasion, but it was a tough match. The most recent game I could find between these two was from 2002 (and I even checked to see if they have met on ICC). And they have had a number of interesting contests. But I think this game, from their 1997 match, suggests just how strongly both try to win.

Larry Christiansen (2550) - Joe Benjamin (2580) [B08]

ch-USA Final/Chandler USA (4) 1997


1. d4 d6 2. e4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Bf4!? O-O 6. Qd2 Bg4 7. O-O-O c6 8. Bh6 Qa5 9. Kb1 Nbd7 10. Be2 e5 11. Bxg7 Kxg7 12. h3 Bxf3 13. Bxf3 b5 14. g4

Preparing to "storm the barricades." A more positional approach would be to offer a trade of queens and claim an endgame edge: 14. Ne2 Qxd2 15. Rxd2

 

14... Nb6 15. h4 Nc4 16. Qc1 Rab8

A classic opposite-side castle position, with both sides throwing their pieces into direct attack.

 

17. dxe5 dxe5 18. h5 Ng8

18... b4! 19. hxg6!? (19. Ne2 Rfd8) 19... Na3+! 20. Ka1 Nxc2+ 21. Qxc2 bxc3 22. Qxc3! (22. bxc3 fxg6 (22... hxg6!?) 23. g5 Nd5! 24. exd5 Rxf3 25. dxc6 Rxf2! 26. Rd7+ Kg8 27. c7 Qxc7 28. Rxc7 Rxc2) 22... Qxc3 23. bxc3 hxg6! 24. g5 Nh7=

 

19. hxg6 hxg6 20. Be2 Rfd8

20... Na3+!? 21. bxa3 (21. Ka1 b4) 21... Qxc3 (21... b4!?) 22. Qg5!? b4 23. a4 b3 24. cxb3 Rxb3+ 25. axb3 Qxb3+ 26. Ka1 Qa3+ 27. Kb1 Rb8+ 28. Bb5 Qb3+=

 

21. Bxc4 bxc4 22. Rxd8 Qxd8 23. f4 Qd4 24. Ka1 exf4 25. Qxf4 Re8 26. a3 Qe5 27. Qe3 Re7 28. g5 a5

White seems to have a huge positional edge due mainly to his much safer King position. But Benjamin hangs tough. Likely the two were in time pressure at this point.

 

29. Ka2 Re6 30. Rh4 Re8 31. Rh1 Ne7!? 32. Rf1 Nf5! 33. Qf2 Nd6

Black has used White's delay to improve his position considerably, putting pressure on the isolated pawns at e4 and g5. His Knight is much more active and his Rook is ready to block on the h-file.

 

34. Qf6+!?

An interesti ng decision, going for an extremely sharp ending with passed pawns on opposite sides of the board.

34. Qh4 Nxe4!? (34... Rh8=) 35. Nxe4 Qxe4 36. Qh6+ Kg8 37. Rh1 Qe5 seems to hold for Black.

 

34... Qxf6 35. Rxf6 Nxe4 36. Nxe4 Rxe4 37. Rxc6 Re5! 38. Rxc4 Rxg5 39. b4 axb4 40. axb4 f5










41. b5 f4 42. Rc7+?

42. Rxf4 Rxb5= heading for a draw seems the saner choice.

 

42... Kf6 43. b6 Ra5+! 44. Kb3 Rb5+ 45. Kc4 Rxb6 46. Kd4 Kf5 47. Kd3 Re6 48. Rf7+ Kg4 49. c4 f3 50. c5 Kg3 0-1


I could find only one game in the databases between Sammour and Ippolito, who will face each other tonight on Board 2 with the same colors. Perhaps Ippolito will be a bit more prepared in the opening this time....

Jorge E Sammour Hasbun - Dean Ippolito [D37]

Bermuda (1) 1996


1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 d5 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nf3 Be7 5. Qc2

Both players have entered this territory before on numerous occasions:

a) 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 O-O 7. e3 b6 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. Nxd5 exd5 11. Rc1 Be6 12. Qc2 Rc8 13. Bd3 c5 14. dxc5 bxc5 15. b3 Nd7 16. O-O a5 17. Bb5 Nf6 18. Rfd1 Qb7 19. Qe2 Ne4 20. Ne5 Nd6 21. Ba4 Rc7 22. Nd3 Rac8 23. Nf4 Ne4 24. Qe1 Qa8 25. Rc2 Nf6 26. Bb5 Bf5 27. Rcc1 Rb8 28. a4 Rbc8 29. Qd2 Be6 30. f3 Qa7 31. Nxe6 fxe6 32. Qc3 Qb6 33. Kh1 d4 34. Qd2 e5 35. f4 Ng4 36. fxe5 Nxe3 37. Re1 Kh8 38. Rxe3 dxe3 39. Qxe3 Rf8 40. Re1 Re7 41. Bc4 Rf5 42. e6 Qd8 43. Qe4 Qd2 44. h3 g6 45. Qe3 Qxe3 46. Rxe3 Kg7 47. Rd3 h5 48. Rd8 Ra7 49. Kh2 h4 50. Rg8+ Kf6 51. Rf8+ Kg5 52. Rh8 Re5 53. Rf8 Rf5 1/2-1/2 Sammour Hasbun,J-Shabalov,A/Woburn 1999.

 

b) 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 c5! 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. Qc2 Nc6 9. a3 Bd7 10. O-O-O Rc8 11. Kb1 Be7 12. g4 Na5 13. g5 Nh5 14. cxd5 Nxf4 15. exf4 exd5 16. Ne5!? (16. Rxd5 Qc7 17. Bd3) 16... d4! 17. Bd3 g6 (17... dxc3 18. Bxh7+ Kh8 19. Rxd7) 18. f5!? dxc3 19. fxg6 hxg6 20. Bxg6 fxg6?? (There may have been mutual time pressure, and perhaps Ippolito assumed White was trying simply for a perpetual. In any case, he misses a likely win with 20... cxb2! 21. Bh7+ Kh8 22. Qxb2 Nc4!! 23. Nxc4+ Kxh7 24. Rd4 Rxc4 25. Rxc4 Bf5+ 26. Ka1 Bxg5) 21. Qxg6+ Kh8 22. Qh5+ (22. Rxd7 Qb6) 22... Kg8 23. Qg6+ Kh8 24. Qh6+ Kg8 25. Qg6+ Kh8 26. Rxd7! Qxd7 (26... Qb6 27. Qxb6 c2+ 28. Ka2 axb6 29. Ng6+) 27. Nxd7 Rxf2 28. Qh6+ Kg8 29. Qe6+ Kh8 30. bxc3 Bxa3 31. Qe5+ Kh7 32. g6+ Kxg6 33. Rg1+ 1-0 Zamora,J-Ippolito,D/Mermaid Beach 1997.

5... O-O 6. Bg5 b6

The Tartakower System, though Black usually plays ...h6 first. I prefer the Lasker-like approach with 6... Ne4!? 7. Bxe7 Qxe7 8. Nxe4 dxe4 9. Qxe4 Qb4+=

 

7. cxd5 Nxd5!?

7... exd5 is much more frequently played.

 

8. Bxe7 Qxe7 9. Nxd5 exd5 10. Rc1!

10. e3 c5! 11. Be2 Nc6 12. O-O c4 13. Rfe1 Qf6 14. Qd1 Bf5 15. a3 b5 16. Nd2 b4 17. Bg4 a5 18. Bxf5 Qxf5 19. Nf3 Rfb8 20. Rb1 Rb6 21. Qc1 Rab8 22. a4 b3 23. Re2 Nb4 24. Ne1 Na2 25. Qd1 c3 26. Ra1 c2 27. Nxc2 bxc2 28. Rxc2 Rxb2 29. Rxb2 Rxb2 30. h3 0-1 Prochnow,S-Brener,I/Hamburg 1999.

 

10... Qb4+?!

Black probably must play 10... Na6! 11. e3 (11. Qc6? Nb4!!) 11... c5! and I don't think White wants the pawn after 12. Bxa6?! Bxa6 13. dxc5 bxc5 14. Qxc5 Qb7

 

11. Qd2 c5?

Ippolito seems totally out of his opening preparation at this point and it is possible he mixed up his lines.

11... Qd6!

 

12. Qxb4 cxb4 13. e3 Be6

Black's pawns are permanently disfigured, White has control of the c-file, and Black's pieces struggle to find good squares. White is probably winning, but Ippolito puts up good resistance.

 

14. Kd2 Nd7 15. Ba6! Nf6 16. Ne5 Ne4+ 17. Ke2 Rae8 18. Nd3 f5 19. f3!

19. Nxb4 f4

 

19... Nd6 20. Rc6 Nc4 21. Bxc4 dxc4 22. Nxb4 Rf7 23. Kf2 Rfe7 24. Re1 Rd7 25. d5 Bxd5 26. Nxd5 Rxd5 27. Rxc4 Re7 28. Re2 Kf7

White has a pawn advantage, but double rook endings are notoriously difficult. White manages the rest of the game very nicely, playing actively for attacking chances.

 

29. Rec2 Rd3 30. Rf4 Rdxe3 31. Rxf5+ Kg6 32. g4 h6 33. h4 Re1 34. h5+ Kh7 35. Rf8 g6 36. hxg6+ Kxg6 37. Rc6+ Kg7 38. Rff6 R7e2+ 39. Kg3 Rxb2 40. Rg6+ Kf7 41. Rxh6 Rxa2

 

 

42. Rh7+ Kg8

Black has managed to equalize material, but he is positionally lost.

 

43. Rb7 Re8 44. Rcc7 Ra8 45. f4 a5

White's control of the 7th rank and his advancing kingside pawns now lead to a mating attack.

 

46. f5 Ra1

Fritz announces a forced mate in 8!

 

47. Rg7+ Kf8 48. Rh7! Rg1+ 49. Kf4 Kg8 50. Rbg7+ Kf8 51. f6 Rf1+ 52. Kg5 1-0

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