Far West Open — Round 5 update

by admin on April 12, 2009

We have one round left to play in the Far West Open, and here are the standings:

1-2. Sergei Kudrin, Enrico Sevillano 4.5

3-4. (?) Antal (sorry, I don’t know his first name), Ricardo de Guzman 4

Kudrin and Sevillano got there by beating Melikset Khachiyan and Jesse Kraai, respectively. They are familiar names to see on top of the leader board; if memory serves correctly, they tied for first place in the Western States Open here a couple years ago. I would expect a quick draw between them in round six, leaving Antal and de Guzman to battle to join them in first. De Guzman is 3-0 in games actually played, because he took half-point byes in rounds one and two. Now that’s a Swiss Gambit!

My tournament took a turn for the worse after my upset over Mezetsev in round 2. I played against Jesse in round 3 and put up a decent showing, but he beat me in the end. In round 4 I lost to a national master, Michael Langer, in a seesaw battle where first he was totally winning and then I was a little bit better and then I blundered and lost. In round 5 I was had Black against a class-A player named Solomon Beilin, and saved a rather miraculous draw, sacrificing a piece in order to set up a perpetual check. However, Fritz showed me that I could have had an even more miraculous win if I had sacrificed the piece a different way. Darn it! I was low on time (about 2 minutes left for 3 moves) and had no chance of finding it. I doubt that I would have found it even with plenty of time on my clock. 

Here are a couple positions from my game with Jesse. I went back and forth several times between thinking Jesse was better and thinking I had nothing to worry about. Jesse had no such confusion; he thought he had a better game from the opening on. Fritz agrees with him. He gave me perhaps one chance to get in the game.

White to move.

Here Jesse has just played 19. … Bg4-f5, which was probably not the best move. My original idea was to play 20. Nxc6 Bxb1, but I didn’t like it because I thought I would be forced to push my pawn to a3, giving myself a very passive bishop on c1. What I missed was 21. Bh6! Black pretty much has to play 21. … gh 22. Rxg1, and now because of Black’s really messed-up pawn formation I think White has pretty good drawing chances. Another possibility, which Jesse suggested after the game, was to play the straightforward 20. Rb4, with the simple idea of winning the pawn back. (See my comments below. Throughout this game I underestimated the importance of winning back one of the a-pawns.)

Instead I impulsively played 20. Rb8+? Kxb8 21. Nxc6+ Kb7 22. Nd4. (diagram)

The check on b8 was a cute trick, but all it really did was lose a tempo. Now I belatedly saw that 22. … Bb1? would be met by 23. Bh6!, and so I was hoping that Jesse would play that move. (Too bad I didn’t notice that idea a couple moves earlier.) But instead he calmly played 22. … Bg6. According to Jesse, this position is just won for Black. I would like to play 23. Re1, but Jesse would just play 23. … Re8 and trade rooks. After that, he will be able to play … Bb1 and now my pawn will be forced to a3. Then he will maneuver his knight to c4 and dominate my bishop.

Earlier in the game, as I mentioned before, I was in no rush to try to win one of Black’s doubled a-pawns, because I figured that his extra pawn at a4 (or a6) was almost worthless. But the closer you get to the endgame, the more important that extra pawn becomes. As Jesse says, at the very least it will cost you a tempo at some point to take it. And if you don’t ever take it, then there are a million ways that an extra doubled pawn can be useful in the endgame.

Instead of 23. Re1 I played 23. Ba3?!,  because I wanted to keep the rooks on the board, but I knew this was a huge concession. He played 23. … Re8 and now he controls the e-file in addition to all of his other advantages. I soon went down in flames.

MORAL: Doubled pawns really do count as two pawns, even though you may be tempted sometimes to think that they don’t!

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