Larry Evans Memorial — Highlights and Lowlights

by admin on April 8, 2015

For your viewing pleasure today, I give you four interesting positions from the 2015 Larry Evans Memorial. Two of them are from my games, and two are from other people.

First, let’s look at the finish of the game that won the tournament. This was Andrew Karklins versus Alexander Ivanov in round four. Both players entered the round with 3-0 scores, and they were playing on board one. Here is the position when Ivanov played his winning combination.

karklins ivanovBlack to move.

FEN: 8/4ppk1/5b2/2RR2pp/4B2P/2P2KP1/1r2r3/8 b – – 0 1

Obviously Karklins is in trouble, but how does Ivanov finish him off?

I’ll give you a hint. The first move is pretty obvious. The second move, however, is the cool one.

Are you ready? Ivanov started with 1. … g4+, when 2. Kf4 is forced. After that, however, further checks don’t lead anywhere. But Ivanov played the elegant little sidestep 2. … Re1!, which lets the second rook get into the attack. After 3. Rxh5 Rf2+ 4. Kxg4, Black wins a piece with 4. … Rxe4+. Karklins played only one more move, 5. Kh3 Rf3, and then resigned. Black is winning the g-pawn too, and the endgame is obviously beyond hopeless for White.

Although there were two more rounds to go after this game, Ivanov was in clear first place and nobody caught up with him as he drew his last two games.

Next, let’s see the finish of Uyanga Byambaa versus Anjelina Belakovskaia, the de facto women’s championship of the Larry Evans Memorial. They both scored 3½ points, but Uyanga won their head-to-head battle. (There was no actual prize for the top woman. It’s been eons since I’ve played in a tournament with a women’s prize.)

byambaa belakovskaia Position after 19. … Bf6. White to move.

FEN: r1bk3r/pppp1Bpp/5b2/qN6/5P2/1Q6/P5PP/4RR1K w – – 0 20

This was a game straight out of the nineteenth century. Uyanga played the Evans Gambit, and her Women’s Grandmaster opponent surprisingly played just like all those stooge-of-the-day players from the 1800s, gobbling up all the material and not developing any of her queenside pieces. The punishment was drastic. Do you see Uyanga’s winning move?

Again it’s a quiet move. If you need a hint, try to think about how White can take control over the back rank.

Got it? Uyanga played 20. Bg8!, and after this Black has no defense to the queen coming to f7. Maybe the best try is 20. … d6, but then 21. Qf7 Be5 22. fe Qxb5 23. ed cd 24. Qf8+ winning massive amounts of material. Or if 20. … d5 21. Qxd5+ Bd7 White wins in the same way as in the game.

Belakovskaia played 20. … Qxb5 instead, hoping to tempt Uyanga into taking the queen. Black would then have two bishops and two pawns for the queen — White is still almost surely winning, but at least Black might have a glimmer of hope. But Uyanga wasn’t having any of it. She sacrificed a rook with 21. Re8+!! and Belakovskaia resigned, because 21. … Kxe8 22. Qf7+ Kd8 23. Qf8 is mate.

Next! This is a position from my round four game with Chinguun Bayaraa. I’m playing the Black pieces.

bayaraa mackenziePosition after 15. Nf3. Black to move.

FEN: r2q1rk1/1p3ppp/p2b1n2/5b2/2Pp4/5N2/PP2BPPP/R1BQ1RK1 b – – 0 15

I was expecting a long battle in this game. The opening went pretty well for me; I have a nice cramping pawn on d4 and I’m temporarily a tempo ahead. On the other hand, White doesn’t have any weaknesses, and it’s unclear whether my isolated pawn on d4 will be an asset or a liability in the long run.

However, I suddenly realized as I was looking at the position that White’s last move (15. Ne5-f3??) was an outright blunder. Do you see what the nine-year-old prodigy overlooked?

The answer is a really standard type of trap: 15. … d3! White is forced to lose a piece. He played 16. Bxd3 Bxd3, and now if he plays 17. Qxd3 he loses his queen after 17. … Bxh2+. Instead he soldiered on with 18. Re1 Bxc4, but he is a full piece down and he resigned sixteen moves later.

I was kind of surprised by this turn of events, because this trick of … Bxh2+ unveiling a discovered attack on the queen is something that usually appears only in the notes. Both players see it, and so it doesn’t actually get played on the board. But in this case, the trick was hidden just well enough to catch my opponent off guard.

I’ve shown you the highlights of the tournament… but I also promised you a lowlight. We can call this one the Final-Round Follies. I’ve noticed that the last round of a long tournament is often when the craziest things occur, at least if you’re an amateur. (The grandmasters never even bother playing the last round, they just agree to a draw.) You’re tired, your opponent’s tired, and you miss stuff.

So I’m playing Abhishek Handigol, an expert, in the last round, and we get to this position. Once again I’m Black.

handigol 1 Position after 40. f5. Black to move.

FEN: 8/p3bkp1/4p3/2pp1P2/2p3P1/r7/5B2/4R1K1 b – – 0 40

Let’s go to a question-and-answer format here.

Q: Where did all of White’s queenside pawns go?

A: It’s a long story, but the short version is simply that he moved all of his pieces to the kingside, so there was nobody left on the queenside to defend them.

Q: Why on Earth is White still playing?

A: That’s something I was wondering too. After I took his fourth pawn, I started wondering what it took to get this guy to resign. One possibility is that he was just waiting to finish the time control. I’ve done that sometimes, too — I just don’t want to make an impulsive decision to resign while my flag is hanging. Also, if Black were in time trouble, there would have been some reason for White to play on.

Q: So were you in time trouble?

A: No! For a change I was ahead of my opponent. He had 1 minute left when he made his 40th move. I still had 12 minutes left.

Q: What happened next?

A: With 12 minutes available to me, I thought for about ten seconds at most, and played 40. … ef??????

Sorry about all the Brian Wall-style punctuation, but really this move deserves the Boner of the Year award. The instant after I took the pawn I saw what was wrong with it, but of course by then it was too late.

My opponent, who had been looking totally disgusted with his position, suddenly became animated. He asked for my scoresheet, so he could copy down the last five moves, which he hadn’t recorded because he was in time trouble. Then he played the painfully obvious 41. Rxe7+! Kxe7 42. Bxc5+ Kf6 43. Bxa6 fg (diagram).

handigol 2 Position after 43. … fg. White to move.

FEN: 8/p5p1/5k2/3p4/2p3p1/B7/8/6K1 w – – 0 44

Here the chess gods took pity on me. Even though I have just played the sort of blunder that would ordinarily be fatal, I still have a winning position because of all those pawns I won earlier. (Also, my active king helps.) I’m sure glad that I was four pawns ahead before I made my mistake!

In my somewhat shell-shocked state, I was also glad to see that White has only a king and bishop left, so no matter how badly I screw up, at least I won’t lose. (For picky readers: Yes, I’m aware that a helpmate is possible here. But let’s be serious.)

In fact, after 44. Bb2+ (for what it’s worth I think that 44. Bc5 a5 45. Kf2 is a better try, but it’s still only a matter of time) 44. … Kf5 45. Bxg7 Ke4 I won pretty easily.

You might even say that my 40th move wasn’t such an awful blunder, it was just a way to liquidate material and get to another kind of winning endgame. That would be true if I had played my 40th move with that intention. But in reality, it was just a complete oversight. A Final-Round Folly. I should have just played 40. … Ra6, remaining four pawns ahead.

Hope you enjoyed these positions, both the sublime and the ridiculous!

A final taking stock: Although I was disappointed to once again fall slightly short of a 2200 rating in this tournament, I have to admit that my play just wasn’t master-class. Besides the near-death experience against Handigol, I had a bad loss against a 2400 player (meaning a game where I played like an idiot and he didn’t have to do anything great to win) and a competitive loss against a 2200 player. True, I won a prize. But when you compare my tournament to the people I tied with, it’s really not even close. Uyanga Byambaa, Gabriel Bick, and Jason Cigan all got to 3½ points with impressive wins over higher-rated players. By contrast, the only people I beat were people I was supposed to beat. I lost both of my games against higher-rated players.

Another curious thing that has been going on this year is that I’m doing very well with Black and poorly with White. In two tournaments this year, my record as Black is now 5½-½ and my record as White is 1½-3½. A semi-rational explanation is that I’ve mostly been getting White against higher-rated players and Black against lower-rated players. But that’s all the more reason why it’s disappointing that I have lost all these games to higher-rateds. I really had the opportunity to do better.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt April 8, 2015 at 10:24 am

I played Abhishek Handigol in a tournament last year and he played on until I mated him, despite him being down a rook and queen. He was rated well over 2000 but I suppose young players these days are told to never resign. I didn’t mind too much, after we’ve all won “lost” games and vice versa so I suppose he figured he might as well play on.


admin April 8, 2015 at 10:46 am

I kind of suspected as much. He finally resigned when I promoted a pawn.
After this game, I think he will continue to keep playing when some other players might resign!


Dominic April 10, 2015 at 10:59 am

Abhishek was one of the ten players on Norcal team 1 at this tournament. (I’m the dad of one of the Norcal players and I organized the team.) Norcal team was competing against Mechanics team for team first place. Before the final round, the Norcal players got together and made sure they understood the situation, Norcal was leading at the time but Mechanics players had more favorable pairings, so needed points and any draw or win would help. Let’s cut Abhishek some slack, he was being a team player, no disrespect intended.


Mary Kuhner April 8, 2015 at 7:29 pm

My young opponent in the last round of a local tournament had a winning position and then let it slip on an impulsive move. We ended up with king and bishop versus king and knight in the kind of position where neither king can ever cross the pawn wall. He could try to sack his bishop but he couldn’t force me to take it. It could hardly have been more drawn.

We then went another 23 moves. I was keeping score very carefully because I thought I’d have to claim the 50-move draw, which I have never done in all my years playing. Finally he went off and talked with his parent–I didn’t hear what they said–came back and offered me a draw.

I can’t really blame him as he’d had a win earlier, and there was $135 riding on the game, which is a lot for a nine-year-old. But it was a LONG 23 moves.


admin April 8, 2015 at 8:32 pm

This brings up an interesting question. How many readers have ever claimed a draw on the 50-move rule in a tournament game? I think I have done it once. It was K+2B vs. K+B+P (where I had the B+P). Sudden-death time control, so I think my opponent was trying to win on time, but it was just too easy for me to make my moves in one or two seconds. Later the TD told me I could have claimed a draw on insufficient losing chances and he would have upheld it. This was the era before time delay, when the infamous “if-a-C-player-could-hold-the-position-against-a-grandmaster” rule reigned.
More interestingly, I once almost saved a K vs. K+B+N endgame, which of course is a book loss but a tricky one. We got to move 47 before my opponent checkmated me.


Matt April 9, 2015 at 7:56 am

I’ve only had K vs B+N once, many years ago in England when I hadn’t long been back in chess. I wasn’t able to do it (I had the B+N) and the game was drawn. Never had it since and, statistically, it may never come up again for me. I feel like I’ve read somewhere that it only happens in one out of every 10,000 games. Although I know the method (well, one of the methods) for mating with B+N, I’d hate to try to do it in time pressure.

Speaking of B+N and time pressure, curiously this DID happen on board 2 at my local club on Monday. Unfortunately, it also coincided with a dispute about the clock, with the player who had the B+N suddenly realizing that delay wasn’t set when he literally had one second left. Fortunately, it was easy to rule this game a draw because he wasn’t making any progress (the king was still in the wrong corner) and I’m not sure he could have mated his opponent within 50 moves anymore (given that they’d already made around 25 moves since the last capture) even if delay had been added to the clock.


Abhishek April 12, 2015 at 11:01 pm

Thanks for the game and nice blog! Like you, I was gonna take back the pawn instantly but since it was already move 40 I thought I may as well catch up on notation, and then I saw Rxe7 🙂 If I just had one extra pawn…. It was funny when people who originally just walked away came back and started scrutinizing our game!

Sometimes I play on when I reflect about what went wrong or I’m annoyed because I blundered away a draw with a hasty move or something.


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