2011 Kenilworth Chess Club Championship

Round One

By Michael Goeller

I have been looking forward to getting back into playing chess, since I feel a new attitude toward over the board competition. Usually I find the most relaxing time I spend with the game is at home, alone, sitting in front of the board, or with a book, or (more often these days) in front of the computer doing analysis. Competition makes me nervous, and I don't like the time pressure and all of the other little factors that can turn chess more into a physical struggle than a form of mental exercise and pleasurable relaxation. But lately I seem to have found a way to relax at the board and not worry about the result. The fact that this year's Kenilworth Chess Club Championship is unrated certainly helps. And the fact that the players are all very friendly makes for a nice atmosphere. I have played Dr. Geoff McAuliffe before -- drawing him in the first championship I played back in 2005 and winning in a Summer Tournament game back in 2008. He's a wonderful fellow and has even helped me get some paying work teaching writing at the Medical School, where he is on the faculty. I also like that he is an e-pawn player, which is where I feel most at home as Black these days.

Geoffrey McAuliffe (1700) - Michael Goeller (2043) [C50]

21st Kenilworth CC Championship/Kenilworth, NJ USA (1) 2011

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 g6

I was amused to see that John Moldovan (The Chess Cornoner) awarded this move a dubious "?!" mark in his annotations. Of course, I have written on this line and think it is fully viable, despite what traditional theory might think. Last time Geoff and I played, I tried 3...Bc5 4.c3 Bb6!? headed for a closed position (with Qe7 and d6 to follow) but ended up playing it open with a quick d5 when he did not follow up with the aggressive d4. It's interesting that I had the same sort of choice in this game and chose the more restrained path of d6. A sign of maturity, perhaps?


4. c3 Qe7 5. d3 Bg7 6. Bb3 h6 7. Nbd2 Nf6 8. Qe2

The Queen seems somewhat misplaced here and is later exposed to attack by Nf4. A published game continued instead 8. O-O d6 9. Re1 O-O= with mutual chances.


8... O-O 9. Nf1 Nd8

Black could break in the center with 9... Na5!? 10. Bc2 d5 11. Ne3= (11. Ng3) but I was looking for a more positional game; alternately, 9... a5 10. a4 might be slightly better than the game continuation, as it discourages White from castling queenside and strengthens a possible Nd8-e6-c5.


10. Ng3 d6

Still possible was 10... a5!? White should at least consider queenside castling and pushing some pawns on the kingside.


11. O-O Ne6 12. d4?!

Much better was the restrained 12. Re1 Nf4 (12... Nh7!?) 13. Bxf4 exf4 14. Nf1 etc. Now Black gets an annoying shot.


12... Nf4! 13. Qe1

Now White cannot play 13. Bxf4? exf4 14. Nh1 Qxe4, but probably better is 13. Qd1 since the Queen looks totally misplaced on e1.


13... Bg4

I also considered 13... Nh7 and 13... Nd3 14. Qe2 Nxc1 15. Raxc1 Re8 but threatening to break up White's kingside pawns looks like the natural response to 13.Qe1.


14. Nd2?!


Avoiding the exchange and over-protecting e4. But better was probably 14. Qe3 Nh7 15. h3 Bd7 16. Ne2 Bb5 17. c4 Nxe2+ 18. Qxe2 Bc6 19. d5 Bd7 followed by f5 and we have a standard King's Indian type position with only slightly better chances for Black.


In this position (see diagram above), I sensed that Black has some chance at a clear advantage and I decided to take some time on the clock. I think I found the right idea.


14... exd4!

This move took a long time for me to find because it is so anti-thematic. But it is the best move in the position, enabling Black to pressure the d-pawn with the Bishop at g7 once it is exposed by moving the Nf6.


15. cxd4 N6h5! 16. Nxh5

Black wins at least a pawn, e.g.: 16. Bd1 Bxd1 17. Qxd1 Bxd4 etc. The only way to save the pawn would expose Black to more danger: 16. d5? Nxg3 17. hxg3 (17. fxg3 Bd4+ 18. Kh1 Nd3 traps the queen!) 17... Ne2+ 18. Kh2 Qe5 and the threat of Qh5# will cost White dearly.


16... Bxh5 17. Qe3 Ne2+

I considered, and should have played, 17... Qg5! 18. g3 Ne2+ 19. Kg2 Nxd4 and the exchange of queens makes Black's task much easier, especially as I started to feel some time pressure.


18. Kh1 Nxd4 19. Re1

Black is also better on 19. f3 g5


19... a5!

Fritz likes 19... Qh4 20. g3 Qh3 but I did not consider it. This a-pawn turns out to be very useful for helping to exploit the long diagonal!


20. f3 a4 21. Bd1 g5

Fritz likes 21... f5 22. exf5 Qxe3 23. Rxe3 Rfe8 with back rank issues for White.


22. g4 Bg6 23. Nf1 h5?!

This was actually a sort of blunder during the game, since I overlooked that he can now snatch the g-pawn. But it turns out that Black retains complete control of the game despite handing back the pawn. Black did have better, however, with a different light-square break:

a) 23... d5! 24. exd5 Qd6

b) 23... Rfe8 first might be even stronger, e.g.: 24. Ng3 d5 25. Nf5 Bxf5 26. gxf5 dxe4 27. fxe4 Nxf5! 28. exf5? Qd7 29. Qd2 Rxe1+ 30. Qxe1 Qd5+ 31. Kg1 Bd4+ 32. Kf1 Qh1+ 33. Ke2 Re8+


24. Qxg5?!

24. gxh5 Bxh5 25. Ng3 Bg6 26. Qxg5 Qxg5 27. Bxg5 a3


24... Qxg5 25. Bxg5 hxg4 26. fxg4 Rfe8 27. Ng3 a3!

This move is very difficult to meet.


28. b3??

This speeds the end, but White is losing anyway after 28. Bc1 d5 etc.


28... Ne6

and White resigned, since he has the choice between losing a Rook or a Bishop. I took a lot of time on the clock, but I managed to play a very solid game and practically the best move at every turn. I take note of my irrational reluctance to exchange Queens by 17...Qg5 (which I did consider) and my error with 23... h5, which was played in some time pressure as just "the natural move." Next round, I have to avoid getting in time pressure. But I made no errors that would have cost the win, and that's what's most important.



[Michael Goeller]

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Game in PGN

Copyright © 2011 by Michael Goeller