Saturday, November 13, 2010
IM Marc Esserman Guest Annotates Again
Greetings once again,
As we have come up empty handed yet again and stare into the off season abyss, it is high time for some careful, calm, cathartic reflection on what might have been. Without wasting any time, let us first jump to the action in the Quarterfinals, when the outcome could have been even worse!
IM Marc Esserman (2492) vs IM Tegshsuren Enkhbat (2425) [B12] 11/1/2010
Normally I would opt for the quiet systems involving 1. g3, b3, or Nf3, but it's the Playoffs, and I needed to surprise my opponent with an unusually active move.
1... c6 2. d4 d5
My few games in the database featuring this rare position in my practice saw 3. Nc3 or the exchange Caro Kann, so I continued with the shock and awe strategy.
3. e5 Bf5 4. g4??
I cannot honestly explain what led me to make this lemon. In my defense, having just returned from a bullet match in New York that morning, I was impatient and hazy. Secondly, I thought it was a French Defense, and wanted to push the Bishop back inside the Pawn chain like I have been taught. But only upon making this rash, permanently weakening advance, did I see the immediate flaw.
[4... Be4!] Of course Black should play 4... Be4!! (-4.667 repeating according to Deep Rybka 4), winning the Rook, after which I am crushed, and the team's Championship hopes in peril. Yes, I can make a game of it after 5. f4!? Bh1 6. f5 with a clear advantage in space in exchange for the Rook, but Black should be able to hold objectively. Only later that night during a solitary moment with my computer did I realize that 4. Nc3!! first stops 4... Be4!!, and then I can play 5. g4!, when Black must abandon the opening.
But Caissa smiled down upon the Boston Blitz, and IM Enkhbat overlooked the free Rook. Yet I continued to move in a daze, forgetting to develop and making it five for five Pawn moves in the opening.
Enkhbat returns the favor, with another Pawn move! Not a bad plan per se, but it allows me to transpose into the side lines of the advanced French. Later I learned that Senior Master Yaacov Norowitz claimed that he has won many games in this position, and he prefers it to grabbing the free Rook on h1 after 4... Be4!!, but I am sure that this was a fake Yaacov Norowitz spouting these lies. The real Yaacov would have grabbed the Rook on h1, from my experiences battling him.
At last, I am beginning to recover from the trauma of 4. g4?? and develop my first piece.
And Enkhbat follows my lead.
Enkhbat is beginning to feel somewhat cramped, and at this point may have realized that he should have grabbed the Rook on h1.
Desiring to complete development by the logical means of Be7, however I have finally settled down and am ready for the dry maneuvering phase.
[8...h7-h5] preventing h5 meets a quicker end. 9. gxh5 Rxh5 10. Ng5 Rxh4 11. Rxh4 Nxh4 12. Qh5 Ng6 13. Nxf7 Kxf7 14. Bd3+- in true Catalan style.
[9. g5±] would allow Bb4 or Bf8 where the Knight is better located on e7.
After this extremely passive move, which startled the spectators, Black concedes defeat in the opening struggle. Enkhbat did not wish to continue with the logical Nh4, his original intention, for mysterious reasons.
[9... Nh4] and the strategical gaps in 4. g4?? have been highlighted. 10. Nxh4 (10. Rxh4!? but wait, why can't White simply sacrifice his Rook on h1! After all, he hung it on the fourth move after g4 anyway, why not donate it under much more favorable circumstances! 10... Bxh4 11. g5 h6 12. Nxh4 hxg5 13. Ng2± with a large advantage, or 13. Qd1–g4! ending all resistance after 13... gxh4 14. Qxg7 Rf8 (14... Rxh5 15. Be2 Rf5 16. Bh6+-) 15. Bg5 Qa5 (15... f6 16.exf6 Rf7 17. Qg8+ Rf8 18. f7#) 16. Qf6) 10... Bxh4]
So I guess the Knight had to go back to f8 after all, and g5 now prevents it from hopping to h7 via Pawn to h6. But it is true, that if he had grabbed the Rook on h1, he would have been better off.
10... Na6 11. c5
After finally developing pieces on moves six and seven, I got lazy and made more Pawn moves. That's nine out of eleven pawn moves in fact. Shameful.
11... Nc7 12. Be3
Don't worry, more Pawn moves are coming soon.
12... b6 13. b4 bxc5 14. bxc5
11/14 "shots from the field", I mean Pawn moves.
14... Rb8 15. Rc1
Preventing Nb5, as 15... Nb5 16. Nxb5 cxb5 17. c6 Bc8 18. c7+- Qd7 19. cxb8=N
15... Rb2 16. Bd3 Qb8 17. Nd2
A flexible move, with ideas of Nb3 or Ke2 and Rb1 for starters, but its drawback is the weakening of the e5 pawn ...
The computer screams in horror! What a gross oversight which just hands away the point! Perhaps better would have been [17... Kd8!? with the idea of Ne8; 17... Qa8!? with a rerouting of the troops along thin supply lines, for example Rb8, Bc8 and Bd8; 17... Rg8!?; 17... Bc8 18. Qa4 Bd7 19. Qd1 Bc8 where White would have to decide between pressing on in hopes of an advantage or taking the draw and getting fined for a premature end to the hostilities.]
White obviously gives up his space advantage, since he gets a Rook in compensation! Ironically, White wins the h8 Rook, whereas his h1 counterpart could have been grabbed as early as move five after 4... Be4!!
18... gxf6 19. Qg4! Kf7 20. Rg1 Ne8
Black has done all he could to prevent the Rook's capture, but his position now collapses due to an obvious shot, because after all we IMs miss obvious shots on a regular basis.
Threatening the robotic 22. Qg8 Rxg8 23. Bxg8#
Black flees, but White insists on giving the Queen for the fans.
But Enkhbat resigned before allowing 22... Ke7 23. Qg7+ Nxg7 24. Rxg7+ Ke8 25. Bf7+ Ke7 26. Bg6#
Yet 23. Qg7+?? would be a lemon, as 23. exf6+ mates one move faster. 1–0
Before moving to our fateful drawn loss in the Semifinals, I would first like to analyze another related opening debacle of mine.
IM Marc Esserman (2391) vs IM Mark Ginsburg (2380) [B07] 2009
1. e4 d6!!
Two exclamations, one for creativity, the other for objectivity. IM Ginsburg realizes that his highly promoted refutation of the Smith-Morra Gambit, (http://nezhmet.wordpress.com/2009/09/26/the-fabulous-00s-the-smith-morra-again and
http://nezhmet.wordpress.com/2008/10/18/the-fabulous-00s-chessfm-and-handling-the-smith-morra), is flawed, and decides not to lose in twenty moves, instead playing things safely.
2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 c6 4. f4 b5 5. e5 b4!
Forcing matters. The resulting play leads to a position where Black sacrifices a Pawn for dynamic play.
6. exf6 bxc3 7. fxg7 Bxg7
[7... cxb2 8. gxf8=R ++--]
8. bxc3÷ Nd7 9. Bd3 Qa5 10. Bd2
In exchange for his Pawn minus, Black has excellent compensation, far more than any line in the Morra Gambit, which has been refuted.
10... Nb6 11.Nf3 Be6 12. 0–0 Nc4 13. Re1 Nxd2 14. Qxd2 Rb8!?
Black seizes the open b-file, but obtains slightly less activity on this line than in our first game discussed.
With the decisive threat of Qg5
15... Bxf5 16. Qg5 Kf8 17. Bxf5 e6 18. Qf4
Hanging the Bishop but winning the Rook.
18... Ke7 19. Bxe6 fxe6 20. Ng5
Next, we observe another g4 gaff, where I do not heed the lessons from the Enkhbat disaster.
IM Marc Esserman (2345) vs GM Alex Shabalov (2578) [A50] 2009
As Shabalov, a four time U.S Champion whose hyper-aggressive winning style made him one of my chess idols for years, had refuted the Morra Gambit in our previous encounter and therefore 1. e4 entirely, I had to switch to something far more tame
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1488833 -- however, Ron Simpson and the Cobras later improved on this refutation, refuting the gambit even more in the 2008 Semifinals -- http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1529066
Maintaining the material equality for now.
1... Nf6 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 e6 5. e3!?
In an attempt to avoid my opponent's deep knowledge of the super-sharp Botvinnik and Moscow systems, the quiet Meran appears.
5... Nd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. g4??
Without the experience of my game with Enkhbat under my belt, I understandably had no idea that this lemon pitches a piece. I simply felt the need to get my illustrious opponent immediately off the trodden path, and felt this was far and away my best chance to do so.
Strangely, like Enkhbat, Shabalov does not grab the material. Winning would have been [7... Nxg4! 8. Rg1 Nh6! 9.Bd2 1–0 in Kuljasevic-Sammour-Hasbun USCL 2008 Championship, or (9. Rxg7™ Qf6 10. Rxh7 Rxh7 11. Qxh7 Nf8 0–1 in Rohonyan-Galofre USCL 2010, or Vigorito-Avalos 2009).]
Making up for lost time.
Shabalov returns the favor, unleashing a reversed Morra Gambit, with raging pressure on the c-file
9. cxb5 c5!
10. Bg2 Bb7 11. O-O
Castling into the storm...
11... Rc8 12. dxc5 Nxc5 13. Nd4
White is a Pawn up, but with his backward Queenside development and weakened Kingside, Black's compensation is painfully clear.
13... Bb8 14. Rd1 Qd6!
Another forcing, hyperactive move! At this point, after being under considerable pressure for the last eight moves with the White pieces, I began to suspect something suspicious in the air. While my eyes were fixated on my lonely King, I noticed in the corner of my eye that my opponent was clutching his inner left cochlea -- he seemed to be listening to someone, and not thinking!
I cautiously proceeded.
15... O-O 16. Be1 Rfd8
Although the device was invisible to the untrained eye, I assure you, dear reader, that it was not a figment of my imagination. From here on out, I became convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, as I stared ahead at beautifully coordinated rooks, Bishops, Knights and Queen all pointed at my marooned king, that I was not only facing Shabalov, but the mermaid know as Deep Rybka 3 herself!
And I wouldn't have minded had he just told me so first, because Rybka has fatal flaws, but in this sea of chaos she swims freely.
At the most critical of critical moments (6:46 PM EST), the sky opened from above. Hail pelted the convention center, thunder crackled, and lightning lit. All electrical transmission ceased, and my opponent uncorked the 26th best move according to Rybka. The elements had saved me, for now.
White has a large advantage, but the mermaid is a slippery fish.
18... Qe6 19. Ne2 e4 20. Ned4 Qe5 21. f4 exf3 22. Nxf3 Qe8 23. Bb4 Na6 24. Bc3
White weathers the storm, but the second wave begins afresh as the thunderstorm and hail dissipates. All of Black's remaining moves match Deep Rybka 3, except for move thirty, which is the second best move according to the oracle enchantress.
24... d4 25. N3xd4 Nb4 26. Qe2 Bxg2 27. Qxg2 Nxa2 28. Nc6!
As Nimzovitch preaches, when in doubt, humanize!
28... Nxc1 29. Rxc1 Nd5 30. Bd4!
30... g6 31. Nxh6+ Kh7 32. Qf2 f6 33. g5 Be5 34. Bxe5 fxe5 35. Nf7 Nf4!
The last splash. White must keep his head above water.
36. Qh4+ Kg7 37. Nfxd8 Ne2+ 38. Kf2 Nxc1 39. Qh6+ Kg8
40. Ne7+! Qxe7 41. Qxg6+
Black played flawlessly after the 18th move, but after the thunderstorm, his position was awash. Following the game I wanted to analyze with my famous opponent to discuss the ideas of the battle, and determine if my paranoia was real, or in fact, just paranoia, but he was gone. 1–0
At last, we move to the epic encounter, the Semifinal "Death Match", "Rumble in Somerville", pick a name. I had the unpleasant task of being in a must win situation from move one, facing off against many time Boylston Club champion Chris Chase, a long time senior master and crafty veteran.
IM Marc Esserman (2492) vs FM Christopher Chase (2382) 11/10/2010
1. e4 g6
Chris is an independent thinker and doesn't care what others think about his systems. Here again he plays his Modern Defense, through thick and thin.
2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 c6!?
A surprise, which I surprisingly, expected. Chris normally steers the Modern towards other channels but c6 occasionally appears in his practice. Another member of the team predicted that Chase would play this exact system against a technical player such as myself, and he/she shall remain nameless, unless he/she wishes to come forward.
4. Nf3 d5 5. Bd3!?
The conventional path is 5. h3, preventing 5... Bg4 but containing other drawbacks. It was my goal to create original problems immediately.
5... Bg4 6. O-O!?
White sacrifices the pawn for cloudy compensation.
The less principled move, but certainly playable, as Chase clearly proves this game. [6... Bxd4!?]
I will leave it up to the readers to determine what, if any compensation White has in this mayhem. Chris did not want to find out!
7. e5 Nd7 8. Bg5!
Preventing Black from stabilizing his position with the standard e6.
[8... Qb6!? 9. Na4 Qb4 10. c3 Bxf3 11. cxb4 Bxd1 12. Rxd1±]
Only now is White ready to play h3
9... Bxf3 10. Qxf3
Chris now has difficulty completing his development and must make a concession.
10... Na6 11. Bxa6 bxa6
12. Qd3 f6 13. exf6 exf6 14. Bf4 Qb6 15. a4 f5 16. Rfd1
And I retained a slight advantage and went onto win in a losing team effort. The rest of the game is rather slow and technical, so I am not qualified to speak on these matters. 1–0
-Friday 11:30 PM, Harvard Square
"Wait, what's this? Did I get that right? You're telling me I didn't win Game of the Week for the long dry technical ground and pound endgame against Chase?"
"Yea man, just go to http://www.uschessleague.com check it out."
Well judges, I must say I am shocked and appalled! Caissa is offended, yet again. I therefore have decided, through great pain and soul searching, to announce my unconditional retirement from the US Chess League!
Best of luck to our cross-town rivals the New England Nor’easters and my hometown Miami Sharks in the Championship. Until next year!