US Open, Round 1: Triage

by admin on August 4, 2010

It’s still too early to say much about how the tournament is going — one one round finished out of nine! But Cailen, Thadeus and I were all disappointed in different ways by our first games.

I was paired against a class B player named Ken Ivens. Once again — for the fifth time this year! — I found myself on the White side of Cailen’s variation of the Slav (1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. cd cd 5. Qb3 –which I actually did a ChessLecture on). As usual, I got a very comfortable advantage, but I was not able to push it through to a victory. I thought Ivens played a good, patient game, but nevertheless I missed one really good winning chance.

White to move.

How many times have I said it — if only there were someone to tap you on your shoulder during the game and say, “White to move and win”? Here it’s not quite that clear, but I very clearly overlooked the best move. I had about twelve minutes left for fourteen moves, so I was in a bit of time pressure, and I just played the “automatic” move here, 27. Ba2. He played 27. … Kd7 28. b4 Nc6. I think that White still has winning chances here, but I committed another inaccuracy or two in the time scramble and was left with a blocked position where I was unable to make progress.

The move White has to play here is 27. Nc7!  I thought about this move during the game, and I clearly remember thinking, “Oh, that can’t be any good,” and I did not analyze it any further. I think that my reaction was based on two facts: I’m walking into a pin (after 27. … Rc8) and I’m also leaving a piece on prise (27. … Nxb3 or 27. … Nxc7 28. Rxc7+ Kd8). With three serious objections to the move, I think I figured it was not worth the time to figure them all out.

But every one of these lines has a problem for Black! If 27. … Nxb3 28. Nxa8 Nxd4 29. Rd2 and White’s knight escapes via b6. If 27. … Nxc7 28. Rxc7+ Kd8 29. Rxf7! Nxb3 30. Rf8+. And finally, if 27. … Rc8 28. Nxd5+! cd 29. Rxc8 Nxb3 30. Rb8! Nxd4 31. Rxb7+ Ke6 (diagram)

This is the trickiest line to evaluate. Black has two knights for a rook and a pawn, but White’s passed pawns will be dangerous. Here the computer finds a key twist that I almost certainly would not have found in time pressure:

32. a4! …

This makes the position a complete win for White. The point is that Black can’t take on e5 because his wretched knight on e8 is lost after Re7+. The second point is that this gains a tempo over the more obvious line, 32. Rxb6+ Kxe5 33. a4 Nd6!, when Black’s knights are able to organize a defense in time. By playing 32. a4 first, White does not allow the … Nd6 defense.

There are a couple of good morals here. First, you can’t ever play a good move if you let your initial reaction “Oh, that can’t be good” stop you from looking at it. Sometime, it’s true, when you’re in time trouble you have to do some triage and avoid complex lines that you can’t get to the bottom of. Which brings up the second point: don’t get into time trouble! I really had no excuse for it in this game. With a 40/2 (40 moves in 2 hours) time control, I spent 1 hour on just 5 moves, from move 14 to move 18, and that is just ridiculous.

Cailen and Thadeus were both paired up. Thadeus (who is an A player) was paired against Max Cornejo, a 2400-plus player. He got a pretty decent position but made a seemingly innocent transposition of moves, and Cornejo punished it beautifully. I’ll have to show that game in my next post. I think that it shows one of Thadeus’s weaknesses. He has great strategic understanding for a class A player, but he barely looks at tactics. He is always thinking, “I’m going to do this and this and this,” and it scarcely enters his mind to check for tactical tricks that might disrupt his deeply planned machinations. He even disdains them.

Cailen is the exact opposite — he never met a tactic he didn’t like. Unfortunately, in his game he got out-tacticked by his opponent and lost a pawn, and then later he hung a piece and resigned. Not a great game for him, but he was paired against someone 300 rating points higher. I told him, “It’s all right, because you were going to lose a game in this tournament sometime.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jim Krooskos August 4, 2010 at 11:52 am

I know what it’s like to miss moves in the Slav…I missed a good move last week…after (1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 Bf5 (I remember my teacher saying this move was not so hot.. 5. cxd cxd 6. Qb3 b6 (wasn’t quite sure how to continue, but I felt I was better 7. Bg5 e6 8. Here is where I missed a good move e4! I ended up drawing my game after Bxf6, Qxf6, Qb5+, but better to draw than lose I guess.

I found this game after the tourney on

[Event “Dubai Open”]
[Site “Dubai UAE”]
[Date “2010.04.05”]
[EventDate “2010.04.05”]
[Round “1”]
[Result “1-0”]
[White “Nana Dzagnidze”]
[Black “K Al Housa”]
[ECO “D15”]
[WhiteElo “2479”]
[BlackElo “2019”]
[PlyCount “35”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 Bf5 5. cxd5 cxd5 6. Qb3 b6
7. Bg5 e6 8. e4 dxe4 9. Bb5+ Ke7 10. Ne5 a6 11. Bc6 Ra7 12. d5
h6 13. Qb4+ Qd6 14. Qxb6 Qc7 15. d6+ Kxd6 16. Qb4+ Kxe5
17. f4+ exf3 18. Qf4+ 1-0

Oh well…maybe next time…

I’m off to Irvine for the 4 day section.

Take care,

– Jim


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: