29 June 2015

Commentary: 2015 U.S. Championship, Round 4 (Wang-Foisor)

By coincidence, this game from the fourth round of the 2015 U.S. Championship (women's section), like the previous commentary game from round 2, features an Exchange Slav.  Also like the previous game, it is anything but boring.  Black follows a symmetry-breaking sideline starting on move 6 and introduces some positional imbalances with the pawn structure and central control.  White fails to challenge Black effectively, missing an interesting tactical idea involving a temporary sacrifice followed by a pawn fork, then Black's space advantage eventually makes itself felt.  It is instructive to see Sabrina Foisor as Black effectively use her advantage to increase her positional edge before winning material, as well as calmly sort her pieces in the final phase before making a decisive penetration of her opponent's territory.

25 June 2015

GM Walter Browne, 1949-2015

The full ChessBase news article is here.

I had the privilege of playing in a simul at a National Open tournament with GM Browne; the game has pride of place as Annotated Game #1 on this blog.  He was an exciting part of the U.S. chess scene for a long time, including the Fischer era.  He continued playing at a high level and with great energy through this year's National Open, being both combative and dedicated to the game while remaining a gentleman at the board.  His games, at least, will live on.

23 June 2015

Ratings can go up as you get older

I haven't included Dana Mackenzie's blog until now on my "chess improver" link list, since he's a Life Master rather than a struggling Class player, but I think it's well worth looking at "Dana 1, Father Time 0" for inspiration.  He's also one of the more entertaining bloggers out there, so well worth following.

Edit: his detailed follow-up post "How I Got Here, and What Comes Next" also offers a lot of useful practical observations and performance tips.

22 June 2015

Commentary: 2015 U.S. Championship, Round 2 (Gareev-Holt)

After a bit of a break from chess, I'm back and working on a collection of master games of interest that I've accumulated from this year.  The first one features a strong and flamboyant player, Timur Gareev, who is originally from Tatarstan in Russia but now plays in the USA.  Gareev's playing style recalls to some extent some of the more famous contrarian players of the past, such as Miles or Basman, as he likes to play provocative-looking moves and find risky-looking plans.

In this game Gareev (as White) is certainly aggressive, although on move 19 he makes a major strategic decision to opt for piece play on the kingside, rather than advance the pawns.  His pressure eventually peters out, with Black successfully focusing on defense with a quasi-Stonewall formation.  The next turning point occurs after Black sacrifices a pawn for piece play, including penetrating on the second rank.  White apparently misses a tactical trick that forces him to lose the exchange, which Black then converts with excellent form.

My personal interest in this game resulted from the opening choice (an Exchange Slav, which in this case is by no means boring), some parallel ideas with similar Caro-Kann formations earlier on and the Stonewall later in the game, and observing how Black (Conrad Holt) converted the material and positional advantage.  Well worth the study.