NJ Knockouts vs Seattle

US Chess League 2008, Round 3

By Michael Goeller

The New Jersey Knockouts let the Seattle Sluggers slip a headlock and escape with a draw in Round 3 of US Chess League action on Wednesday night, September 10, 2008. I think it can be argued that New Jersey had an edge on every board at some point and likely a decisive one on bottom board, where Jayson Lian walked into a three-fold repetition that sealed the match.

On Board One, GM Joel Benjamin appeared to have a solid game out of the opening -- an odd sort of Benko from GM Nakamura, which could also be described as a Vienna by transposition. Perhaps there were better ways for Black to pursue an edge early on, but a series of small inaccuracies by Benjamin let White gain a decisive space and then material advantage. On Board Two, Boris Gulko put on a truly superb seminar on how to pursue a positional advantage and squeeze your opponent off the board. This was the best game for New Jersey. NJ Champ Mackenzie Molner, meanwhile, gained a pawn advantage out of the opening but decided to surrender material to pursue an elusive kingside initiative which only neeted a draw. Likley there was a better way for him to pursue the full point by just hanging onto the material edge. But the real heartbreaker had to be Lian's draw on Board 4, where he had a decisive material advantage and a pawn on the 7th. Likely he just needed a little more time on the clock to get the point -- which is why he walked into the draw by repetition.

New Jersey showed that it has the power to hold its own with even a tough team. They have to do more to get the full points. We return to even, however, and are 1.5-1.5 over the three rounds of play. We can still pull into the lead, where we belong, with some wins.

Nakamura-SEA (2742) - Benjamin-NJ (2644) [A00]

ICC 60 30 u/Internet Chess Club 2008

1. g3 d5 2. Bg2 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nc3!? e5


5. e4

The position now could have derived from a Vienna Game move order. Canadian GM Spraggett once used this line as an anti-computer strategy, continuing 5. Bg5 Be6 6. Nf3 Nbd7 7. O-O h6 8. Bxf6 Qxf6 9. e4 d4 10. Ne2 Bd6 11. Nd2 g5 12. c3 dxc3 13. bxc3 O-O-O 14. d4 Qg6 15. Qa4 Kb8 16. Rab1 Nb6 17. Qa5 Bc7 18. Qb4 Bxa2 19. Rb2 Be6 20. Ra1 Qh5 21. Nb3 Bc4 22. Nc5 Bb5 23. Bf1 exd4 24. cxd4 Rhe8 25. Nc3 Bxf1 26. Rxf1 Qg4 27. Ra1 Qf3 28. Qa5 a6 29. Rxb6 Kc8 30. Rxc6 Qf4 31. gxf4 Rd7 32. Nd5 Re6 33. Rxc7+ Kb8 34. Nxd7+ Ka8 35. Qc5 Rc6 36. Qf8+ Ka7 37. Qb8# 1-0 Spraggett-Deep Thought.


5... Bg4

5... Bb4! seems more to the point, indirectly fighting for control of light squares, and leading to positions that resemble the Two Knights Variation of the Caro Kann: 6. Bd2 d4 7. Nce2 Qb6 8. Rb1 Bxd2+ 9. Qxd2 Be6 10. Nc1 h6 11. Nf3 Nbd7 12. O-O O-O-O 13. c4?! dxc3 14. bxc3? Qxb1! 15. Nb3 Nxe4!! (The shot White missed -- now Black's Queen is not trapped after all) 16. dxe4 Qxe4 0-1 Vulevic,V-Solomunovic,I/Sozina 2004 (33).


6. f3

6. Nge2 dxe4 7. Nxe4 Nxe4 8. Bxe4 Bc5 9. Bg2 f5!? 10. f3?! Bh5 11. Nc3 a5 12. Qe2 O-O 13. Be3= 0-1 Blackburne,J-Von Bardeleben,C/London 1895 (60).


6... Be6 7. Nh3!?

7. h3?! Bc5 8. f4 exf4 9. Bxf4 Qb6 10. Na4 Qa5+ 11. c3 Bxg1 12. Rxg1 dxe4 13. dxe4 O-O 14. Kf2 Na6 15. Re1 b5 16. b4 Qxa4 0-1 Narva,A-Rysbayeva,K/Kemer TUR 2007.


7... Bc5 8. Qe2 dxe4 9. dxe4 Qd4

Black is at least equal if not better here.


10. Nd1!

Black is developing some initiative, but Naka gets ready for counterplay.

10. Bd2?! Bc4!


10... Bc4

Safer was 10... O-O 11. Be3 Qb4+ 12. c3 Qb6 13. Bxc5 Qxc5 14. Ne3=


11. c3! Qd3 12. Bf1 Qxe2+ 13. Bxe2 Be6?!

Black probably is fine after simply 13... Bxe2 14. Kxe2 Nbd7. Now Black's Bishops become targets to White pawn pushes gaining space.


14. Nhf2 Nbd7 15. f4 exf4 16. gxf4 Nb6 17. b4! Bxf2+?!

17... Be7 18. Nb2 O-O-O 19. f5 Black is pushed back and White's space advantage comes to the fore, but it is still a game.


18. Nxf2 Bc4 19. Rg1 O-O-O 20. Rxg7 Rhe8?

GM Benjamin points out the incisive 20...Bxe2 21.Kxe2 Nxe4!! 22.Nxe4 Rhe8 when "Black recoups the piece with an unclear position." This was probably his last chance to save the game.


21. e5 Nfd5

Black need not move the Knight yet due to the pin on the e-file, but there is no productive way for Black to use the tempo.


22. Rxf7 Nxc3 23. Bg4+ Kb8 24. Rxh7

White's material edge is simply winning.


24... Nbd5 25. a3 Nf6 26. Rh3 Nxg4 27. Rxc3 Nxf2 28. Rxc4 Nd3+ 29. Kf1 Rf8 30. e6 Rde8 31. Re4 Rf6 32. Ke2 Rfxe6 33. Rxe6 Nxc1+ 34. Rxc1 Rxe6+ 35. Kf3 Rh6 36. Rh1 Kc7 37. h4 Kd7 38. Kg4 Ke6 39. h5 Kf6 40. Rd1 Rh8 41. Rd6+ Ke7 42. Rg6 Kf7 43. Kg5

Black resigns


Gulko-NJ (2618) - Tangborn-SEA (2455) [E11]

ICC 60 30 u/Internet Chess Club 2008

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 Qe7 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. Nc3 Bxc3 7. Bxc3 Ne4 8. Rc1 Nxc3 9. Rxc3 O-O 10. d5 Nd8 11. Bg2 d6 12. Qc2 Bd7 13. O-O

13... e5

This seems a slight inaccuracy, releasing the tension in the center too soon and allowing White immediately to expand on the queenside. An improvement might be: 13... f5!? 14. Rd1 e5 15. c5 f4 16. cxd6 cxd6 17. Rc1 e4 18. Nd4 e3


14. c5! c6?!

This just doesn't look right, since it allows lines to open where White is strong. Black more typically seeks counterplay on the kingside in these positions.


15. cxd6 Qxd6 16. Rd1 Qe7

Black might do best to enter the forcing sequence 16... cxd5!? 17. Ng5 Qh6! 18. Rxd5 Bc6 19. Rxe5 f6 20. Qb3+ Kh8 21. Ne6 fxe5 22. Nxf8 e4 after which White's Knight is oddly stranded at f8 and would likely have to be sacrificed for unclear compensation. For example: 23. Rc4 Qf6 24. Nxh7 Kxh7 25. Bxe4+ Bxe4 (25... g6 26. Bxc6 bxc6 27. Re4) 26. Rxe4 Qf7 27. Qd3 Kg8 28. Rh4


17. Rc5!

White masterfully increases the tension in the position while getting his pieces to very active squares.


17... f6 18. Nh4 g6 19. b4 a6 20. a4 Qe8 21. Qd2 cxd5 22. Bxd5+ Be6 23. a5 Rf7 24. Ng2 Kg7 25. Ne3 Bxd5 26. Rxd5 Ne6

White's pieces remain completely superior to their counterparts and slowly push their way forward using the open c- and d-files.


27. Nc4 Re7

27... Nd4 28. Nd6 Qe6 29. Rxd4 exd4 30. Nxf7 Kxf7 31. Qb2!


28. Nb6 Rb8 29. e3 Qf7

29... e4 30. h4! prevents possible counterplay with Ng5.


30. h4 Rbe8 31. Rd6 Nc7 32. Qc2 Nb5

Black defends well, but White still pushes forward with his slow squeeze play.


33. Rd7! Rxd7 34. Rxd7 Re7 35. Qc8 Rxd7 36. Nxd7 Nd6 37. Qd8! h5?

Squeezed throughout the game, Black finally weakens in defense and coughs up a decisive pawn.



38. Nxe5! Qe6 39. Qc7+ Kg8 40. Nxg6

Black resigns. As a friend of mine likes to say of such games: "Black got GM-ed to death!" Gulko's play demonstrates a remarkable patience in pushing home his positional advantage.


Readey-SEA (2296) - Molner-NJ (2397) [A34]

ICC 60 30 u/Internet Chess Club 2008

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. Nc3 e6 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O Nc6 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Qa5 9. Bf4?!

9... e5 10. Nb3 Qb4 11. Bg5 Qxc4 12. Rc1 Qg4 13. Bxf6 Bxf6 14. Nd5 Bd8 15. Nc5 Qg6 16. e3 d6

White appears to have insufficient compensation for the pawn.


17. Ne4 f5 18. Nec3 Kh8 19. Qb3 e4 20. Nb5 Ne5 21. Rfd1 Nd3 22. Nf4 Nxf4 23. gxf4 Be6 24. Qa3 Bb6 25. Nxd6 Qh5 26. Nxb7 Rf6

Black has given back the pawn, and another one as well, to pursue a kingside attack. But White finds counterchances of his own.


27. Nc5! Bf7 28. Nd7 Rd8

28... Rh6 29. h3 Rd8


29. Rd6

29. Qa4


29... Rxd6 30. Qxd6 Bxa2

30... Qe2


31. Qe7 Bg8 32. Nxb6 Rd1+ 33. Rxd1 Qxd1+ 34. Bf1= Qg4+ 35. Bg2 Qd1+ 36. Bf1 Qg4+ 37. Bg2 Qd1+ 38. Bf1

Game drawn by repetition. A missed opportunity for New Jersey.


Lian-NJ (2142) - Sinanan-SEA (2180) [A61]

ICC 60 30 u/Internet Chess Club 2008

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nf3 g6 7. Qa4+ Bd7 8. Qb3 Qc7 9. e4 Bg7 10. h3 O-O 11. Bd3 Na6 12. O-O Rfc8 13. Bc4 Rab8 14. a4 Nb4 15. Re1 Re8 16. Bf4 Nh5 17. Bh2 a6 18. e5 b5 19. exd6 Qb7 20. axb5 axb5 21. Bf1 Nf6

22. Ne5! Bf5 23. Ra5 Nc2 24. Rd1 Nd4 25. Qa2 Ra8 26. Ra1 Rxa5 27. Qxa5 Nxd5 28. Nxd5 Qxd5 29. Bxb5 Nxb5 30. Qxb5 Rf8 31. Nc6 Qe6

32. Ne7+

32. Qxc5


32... Kh8 33. Nxf5 Qxf5 34. d7 Bf6 35. Re1 Rd8 36. Re8+ Kg7 37. Rxd8

37. Bd6!


37... Bxd8 38. Bd6!? Kf6 39. Bxc5 Qe6 40. Bd4+?! Ke7 41. Bc5+ Kf6 42. Be3

42. b4!


42... Ke7 43. Bc5+ Kf6

Game drawn by repetition. No doubt Lian was too short of time to pursue the win directly and fell into the three-fold by accident (it is not an obvious repetition). A very lucky break for Seattle and another missed opportunity for New Jersey.


Games in PGN


See also: GM Joel Annotates from the NJ-Seattle Match