Monday, September 14, 2009

Week 3: Knights back to .500

The Knights got into the win column in 2009 with a convincing 3.5-0.5 victory over their cross-town rivals, the Queens Pioneers.

On board 1, Giorgi got a promising position against Alex Stripunsky's Trompowsky and was close to winning with either 34. ..Re1 or 34. ..Nf4, but played 34. ..Re2 which led to a draw by perpetual check after 35. Ne5! R7e5 36. de Qg4 37. Kf1 Rb2 38. e6 Nf4 39. Qd4 f6 40. gf Qh3.

On board 2, Pascal prepared a nasty surprise for roommate Dmitry Schneider in a sharp line of the Two Knights Defense. After 14. Qh5!, Pascal was winning and Dima resigned before making his 21st move.

On board 4, Yaacov looked poised to deploy his trademark Stonewall, but Elizabeth Vicary had prepared a tricky move order with an early exchange on d4 and Qc7. In what looked to be a pawn blunder (given the times spent on each move), Liz soon got great compensation for her missing d5 pawn. Yaacov consolidated and luckily got a takeback on Qh4-h5 in the position below (he did not intend to move at all, but his hands brushed the touchpad). Instead, after the more reasonable Bc6, he traded pieces and ground out the full point in a rook and pawn endgame.

On board 3, I was paired against the red-hot FM Andrei Zaremba (Pascal and Dima's other roommate). In the first two weeks, Andrei has garnered multiple GOTW nominations, including a second place for his victory against IM-elect Marc Esserman. Zaremba had his third white in a row and I was looking to score my first points of the season after starting with a difficult loss to NM Victor Shen in week 1.

Zaremba - Herman

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. cd?! ed 7. Bd3 Bd6 8. 0-0 0-0 9. Qc2 Re8 10. e4?! de 11. Ne4 Ne4 12. Be4 Nf6

12. ..h6 also warranted consideration, as the Bc1 has no natural home and Nd7-f6 and Bc8-g4 are coming.

13. Bf5?! Qa5N 14. Bc8 Rac8 15. Bg5 Ne4 16. Bh4 Qd5

Black's pieces have all found natural squares, with tempo. I briefly considered 16. ..Qf5 to prevent 17. Bg3, but white can simply play 17. Qb3.

17. Rfe1 Re6 18. Re3?

White's sense of danger is missing. 18. Bg3 was necessary, though black is for choice after 18. ..Bg3 19. hg Rce8.

18. ..f5!

Suddenly the Bh4 lacks for squares and the Re3 is in the path of the onrushing f-pawn.

19. Rae1 Rce8

Black threatens h6 and g5 so white tries to bail into an endgame.

20. Ng5 Ng5 21. Bg5 f4!

The bishop's troubles will live on.

22. Re6 Re6 23. Re6 Qe6 24. Qb3 Qb3 25. ab

Black wants to bring his king to d5 before white gets to d3. This was accomplished by combining threats to snare the g5 bishop with a timely f4-f3 push.

25. ..h6! 26. Bd8 Kf7 27. f3

If 27. Kf1, black has 27. ..f3!

27. ..Ke6 28. Ba5 Kd5 29. Kf1 Kd4!

If 29. ..g6 30. Bc3 b5 31. Ke2 b4 32. Be1! Kd4 33. Bf2 Kd5 34. Ba7 Be5 35. Kd3 Bb2, it will be nearly impossible to break white's blockade.

30. Bc3 Kd3 31. Bg7 h5 32. Kf2 Bc5! 33. Kf1 Ke3!

Eschewing the unclear pawn hunting after 33. ..Kc2 34. g4 fg 35. hg Kb3 36. g4 hg 37. fg Be7. Black should still be winning, but why allow counterplay?

34. Bh6

34. ..h4?!

Black must play concretely! In time pressure, I mistakenly saw and rejected the following as unclear. 34. ..Bd4! 35. g4!! Kf3 36. g5 Bb2 37. g6 c5 (only) 38. g7 Bg7 39. Bg7 b5 40. Bf8 c4 41. bc bc 42. Bb4.

It looks like white may have enough resources, but 42. ..a6! wins for black, as the pawns are one too many.

35. h3?

Andrei and I both saw the "obvious" h4-h3 idea, but white's best chance was to complicate with 35. Bg5! h3 36. Bh4! Kd3 37. Bf2 hg 38. Kg2 Be3!

and now either

A) 39. Kf1!? Bc2 40. Ba7 Bb2 41. h4

B) 39. h4 Ke2 40. Be3 fe 41. h5 Kd3 42. h6 e2 43. h7 e1Q 44. h8Q and black's advantage, if any, is minimal.

Now white can never create a passed pawn and he cannot abandon the kingside.

35. ..Be7!

Black's "bad" pawns restrain white's "good" pawns and restrict white's bishop activity.

36. Bg7 a6! 37 Be5 b5!

Slowly improving the position before deciding on a committal king move.

38. Bc3 Kd3 39. Be5 Kc2!

It's finally time to go after the queenside. White can only create harmless, disconnected kingside passers.

40. Ke2 Kb3 41. Kd2

Tantamount to resigning. 41. Kd3 c5 42. Ke4 c4 43. Kf4 b4 44. Kf5 still lost but demonstrated resistance.

41. ..Bg5
42. Kc1 a5

Time to roll.

43. Kb1 a5 44. Bc3 b4 45. Bd2 c4 46. Bc1

Allowing a cute finish.

46. ..c3 47. bc bc 48. Ka1 Bf6!

On any white move, c3-c2 is mate in two. Andrei resigned. 0:1

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