Chess in Staunton, Part One
Your humble blogger had a successful weekend at the chessboard. I finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Staunton Open Chess Tournament. Pocketed $125 for my trouble. Went home, turned on the television, saw two guys playing poker for a stack of cash that represents more money than I will make in my entire life. Hmmmm. Maybe I'm playing the wrong game.
Thirty-seven players showed up, which was quite a good turnout for this area. Everyone played in the same section, meaning there were some serious rating mismatches in the early rounds.
In the first round I gave my lower-rated opponent a lesson in what happens when black dilly-dallies about starting his queenside counterplay in the Dragon variation of the Sicilian:
JR (1932) - Kevin Tapp (1190)
Position After 17. ... Kg8-f8
I met my opponent's Dragon with ye olde Yugoslav Attack, and since my opponent did not put any roadblocks in my way I was able to crash through with the standard kingside attack. I finished the game with an amusing rook maneuver: 18. Rh6!. Black is so tied up in knots that he is strangely helpless against the slow-motion threat of 19. Rg6 and 20. Rg8 mate. The most amusing line is 18. ... Bxd4 19. Rg6 Bxe3+ 20. Kb1, when black is up two pieces but defenseless against the threat of mate. The only possible defense is 18. ... Qc8 19. Rg6 Be6, but then 20. Bxg5 quickly takes care of business. My opponent played 18. ... e5, and resigned after 19. Rg6.
Round two saw me move up the rating ladder a bit. The position below came out of the Geller Gambit in the Slav Defense:
Donald Means (1472) - JR
Postion After 23. Nf3-d2
The Geller Gambit arises after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 and now instead of the usual 5. a4, after which white will round up the c-pawn, restore material equality, and enter a long period of slow maneuvering, white plays 5. e4, gambtiting the pawn. Black generally replies with 5. ... b5, which secures the extra pawn. White is counting on his strong center and superior development to compensate for this fact.
The grandmasterly consensus is that white does not get enough for the pawn, and that black should be able to weather the storm and eventually make use of his extra pawn. But I am not a grandmaster, and I was nonplussed about being placed on the defensive right out of the opening, especially at a time control of game in 60 (meaning that both players had one hour for the whole game, regardless of how many moves the game took.)
Happily, my opponent was not a grandmaster either. He played as if he weren't down a pawn, took too long to put any pressure on me, and allowed me to create a position where my extra pawn actually counts for something.
The black pawns on c4 and b4 make a pleasing impression. After 23. ... b3! black's position is crushing. My opponent played 24. Qb2 c3 25. Qxb3 cxd2 26. Nxd2 and here I set a personal record for latest castling in a game by playing 26. ... 0-0. I duly converted the extra material. Another amusing line is 24. Qd1 c3 25. Nxb3 c2!. The only way for white to prevent the immediate loss of material is with 24. Qc1, but his position is hopeless in this case as well.
I'll cover the last two rounds in a later blog entry. Stay tuned!