25 May 2013

Training quote of the day #4

Proclus (410-485) tells us that Ptolemy Soter, the first King of Egypt and the founder of the Alexandrian Museum, patronized the Museum by studying geometry there under Euclid. He found the subject difficult and one day asked his teacher if there weren't some easier way to learn the material. To this Euclid replied, "Oh King, in the real world there are two kinds of roads, roads for the common people to travel upon and roads reserved for the King to travel upon. In geometry there is no royal road."

(Source: library.thinkquest.org)

18 May 2013

Commentary - 2013 U.S. Championships, Round 9

In the last round (round 9) of the U.S. Championships, a number of games were worth examining closely for my training purposes.  The news link above includes the Robson-Kamsky game, which I don't look at here but which was fascinating to see during the live commentary. Kamsky again drew an unbalanced endgame after some complications, eventually winning the later playoff against Ramirez.

Game 1: GM Alejandro Ramirez - GM Larry Christiansen
This was an exciting contest in a Symmetrical English that Christiansen decided to unbalance with an early ...e5.  It was White's move 23 pawn sacrifice that really unbalanced the game, however, an excellent example of a sacrifice invigorating a position.  White breaks into Black's position starting on move 34 and some complex tactics ensue.  Winning this game put Ramirez into the playoff with Kamsky.

Game 2: GM Timur Gareev - GM Conrad Holt
The opening phase saw Holt reject a possible early draw in an Exchange Slav and eventually end up in a closed position, but with some chances for both sides to try and make progress.  Choices made about where to play were worth studying, with Houdini for example suggesting White could have pursued a queenside strategy.  A long endgame struggle ends after a slip by Holt allows White to force a queen exchange that would give him a winning K+P endgame.

Game 3: FM John Bryant - Yaacov Norowitz
The Caro-Kann Bronstein-Larsen variation finally chalks up a win in this event, as Norowitz masterfully uses Black's positional characteristics to his advantage, instead of having White take over the initiative as occurred in previous games.  It is both fitting and ironic that Black's doubled f-pawns are the key to final victory.

Game 4: GM Melik Khachiyan - GM Marc Arnold
For Slav devotees, this game is an excellent illustration of why almost no one plays a fianchetto against it.

Game 5: GM Ben Finegold - GM Alex Shabalov
I include this for the final move, which is an inspired combination from Shabalov.  The knight cannot be taken without losing, nor can it be ignored.

12 May 2013

Commentary - 2013 U.S. Championships, Round 8

The most interesting games of round 8 for me were on the two top boards, where Kamsky-Gareev saw some wild swings and an eventual forced repetition by Black, while Abrahamyan-Krush was a full-on clash in a Taimanov Sicilian.  The games and comments can be found at the above link.

The most relevant game again for my studies was a Caro-Kann, the third (!) time the Bronstein-Larsen variation has appeared at the championships.  This time it was Alexander Stripunsky who essayed it as Black against Robert Hess, however, not Yaacov Norowitz.  Alas, Black again went down to defeat after failing to generate any kingside attack or meaningful counterplay.  In none of the games has Black seemed to want to be as aggressive as the opening demands; in this game, for example, he could have played the early 6...h5!? which in fact scores quite well.

Live coverage of round 9 is ongoing and it looks like Gata Kamsky may be trying to bait Ray Robson into a premature attack against his unusual, somewhat passive-looking Sicilian Kan variation.  A Kamsky win would give him clear first place. Meanwhile, Irina Krush as White only needs to draw against Camilla Baginskaite in order to ensure her title victory in the women's championship.

11 May 2013

Commentary - 2013 U.S. Championships, Round 7

In round 7, I found two games to be of particular interest for study purposes.  In the first, Irina Krush resumes her winning ways, this time in a war of maneuver with Viktorija Ni in a Nimzo-English.  Irina does not have an easy way to the win, however, missing an interesting tactic on move 29 and allowing Black for a while to have a small advantage.  In the second, I give props to Yaacov Norowitz for bringing out the aggressive, unbalanced Bronstein-Larsen variation of the Caro-Kann again after losing to Larry Christiansen in round 1.  Facing Sam Shankland, Norowitz varies from his previous effort on move 8 with an improvement, but after exchanging bishop for knight on f3, Black's initiative peters out on the kingside.  In this variation of the Caro-Kann, if Black has no counterplay on the kingside, White normally enjoys the advantage of a free attacking hand on the queenside, which is exactly what happens here.

At the time of posting, live coverage of round 8 (the penultimate one) is underway.  The leader on the women's side, Krush playing Black in a Taimanov Sicilian, looks like she has a significant advantage over Tatev Abrahamyan.  Meanwhile, open championship leader Gata Kamsky is having some difficulty as White against Timur Gareev.

Commentary - 2013 U.S. Championships, Round 6

In round 6 the last perfect score in the championships dropped, as the women's leader Irina Krush was held to a draw as Black by Sabina Foisor.  For me the most relevant game was Baginskaite-Zatonskih, another Modern Stonewall reached via the Slav move-order along the lines of Zatonskih's round 2 game.

In this game, Baginskaite seems better prepared in general against the Stonewall and must have had some expectation that Zatonskih would go into this line again.  Black nevertheless equalizes easily and holds at least some initiative throughout the game, although White manages to cleverly avoid some lurking Black threats in the early middlegame.  The inflection point of the game occurs on move 26 after a lengthy tactical sequence, where Black reveals a back-rank mate threat that prevents a White pawn recapture and gives her a lasting material advantage.  Black's road to the victory is still quite difficult, however, and White for a long time succeeds in placing various obstacles in her opponent's way.

10 May 2013

Training quote of the day #3

Old age and cunning will overcome youth and skill.
-- Old English proverb

Commentary - 2013 U.S. Championships, Round 5

As quoted in the Round 5 news report, GM Alejandro Ramirez had this to say about the following game.
"Shankland is known as a very booked-up player,” Ramirez said. “So I wanted to get him out of theory as soon as possible.” Ramirez said he knew the plan was working when they were both spending five minutes on every move.
I found the opening to be very interesting, a Nimzo-Larsen Attack against a Sicilian-style setup, which is not the most challenging way to oppose White's ideas.  Ramirez, who is blazing his way through the tournament so far, shows he is capable of analyzing unusual positions and thinking for himself while playing aggressively.

The other major news in Round 5 was that Gata Kamsky was (finally) held to a draw by Joel Benjamin, while Irina Krush continued her winning streak and was 5-0.

08 May 2013

Commentary - 2013 U.S. Championships, Round 4

Round 4 of the championships featured both Gata Kamsky and Irina Krush winning again to keep their perfect (4-0) start.  For me the most relevant game was Krush-Belakovskaia, with both players coming off victories in the earlier round.  Black employs a somewhat strange hybrid of English variations, an experiment which backfires as Krush appears comfortable in the novel position, while Black's pieces become progressively more uncoordinated and her counterplay on the kingside is neutralized by White.  Krush then plays the endgame masterfully, having inflicted multiple weaknesses on Black during the middlegame, and brilliantly calculates ahead to the winning K+P endgame position.