Sunday, December 30, 2012

Year End Wrap Up: 2002

I was on vacation last week, so I didn't play much chess. Looking back a decade though, I had a memorable  December tournament in 2002. I defeated my first three A-class rated players in the same event! The first of these wins was against BG Dennison, possibly the only person to ever play rated games in all 50 states.

Here is the game with my annotations from shortly after the event.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tonight's Lesson - A Story

This post is a story and a couple of puzzles. See how your solutions stack up to mine and those of my eight year old student.

I decided today to teach one my students a lesson on the bishop pair. For the first example I started with one of my tournament games, which had reached the following position with black to move. What would you play?

After considering many options, this student decided on 1... Rg8! This was the move I played in the game. I consider it the most logical choice in the position. (You could argue that 1... Qxh3+ 2. Kg1 Bxg2, is as good, but in that case you are probably a computer, because position looks much complicated to me than the game continuation.) The kid had worked out how 2. Bf6, maybe white's most natural looking move, loses spectacularly to 2... Qxh3+ 3.Kg1 Rxg2! 4. Nxg2 Bd4! and white gets mated on g2!

Instead of allowing mate, the game continued 2. Qf5+ Qxf5 3. Nxf5, leading to the next diagram with black to move. What would you play?

The student thought for a few minutes in this position. He nearly grabbed his c6 bishop to play Be4 or Bd7, both tempting moves that don't improve black's position (White has Nd6 and e6 respectively as responses). I figured that he would most likely follow my play in the game and choose 3... Rxg7. Black would have two bishops against a rook and pawn, which in this case can easily be converted into a win. My version of Fritz evaluates that position as nearly two pawns in black's favor.

Instead, my student played 3... Bxe5!? I hadn't remotely considered this possibility during the game, but it turns out to be just as good. Furthermore, it is much more spectacular than my decision! Our training game continued 4. Bxe5 Rxg2 5. Nd4 (5.Rf1 lets black carry out a classic windmill tactic - 5... Rxa2! 6. Kg1 Rg2! 7.Kh1 Re2+ and black will win easily.) 5...Rc2+ 6. Nxc6 Rxc1+ 7. Kg2 Rc2+ 8. Kf3 a5... Black will soon capture on a2 and promote one of his queen-side pawns.

You can follow this whole game fragment below:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

DC Chess League: December Edition

I was back at the board on Friday night, playing down 300 points in the DC Chess League. This presented a special challenge because I had a large rating gap and needed to win, both for my pride and to ensure a victory for the team. After looking at a couple of my opponent's games online I realized that he sometimes played a very drawish continuation against one of my main defenses against e4, so I turned to a line I knew well but hadn't played in a couple of years. Fortunately, a half hour of flipping through Mihail Marin's, "A Spanish Opening Repertoire for Black" gave me the needed confidence and even though he played a sideline, many of Marin's ideas were relevant in the game.

 My opponent played pretty well and I made a couple mistakes, so the game was roughly even until move 34 (pictured below) when he was overly hasty with the move a4. He didn't think long on this move because attacking my a6-c4 pawn chain is a normal idea, but he missed a couple tactical details that let me pick up a pawn. I think he became discouraged after losing the pawn and blundered twice more before resigning the game.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Titled Player's Can't Play Endgames (Part II)

I beat a 1900 in a long game last night, but I haven't processed it yet, so instead I'm sharing another win from a bad endgame on the Internet Chess Club. My opponent is a Russian IM, who was ranked fourth in the 3 minute pool on ICC.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Grandmasters Can't Play Endgames (Part 1)

I realized recently that I hadn't played anyone over age 12 in any form of chess for a couple of weeks. That's the excuse I made to myself for playing a couple hours on Internet chess club. I had some pretty good results by relying on my ICC specialty, getting into lost or difficult rook endgames and then winning them. A couple of these endgames were against strong players. Here's the first game, lightly annotated with another to follow soon.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Move First Think Later

I recently purchased a chess book by that title. Despite the name it's not a primer for how to play better blitz. It seems to be written as a challenge to the classic models of how to train at chess and how chess players think. Essentially, the author (IM Willy Hendriks) challenges the assumption that players evaluate the position and its imbalances before looking at candidate moves. Instead, he thinks that we simultaneously calculate and evaluate and you can't do one without the other. This part of the argument persuaded me, although I'm not convinced yet about some of his ideas about subconsciousness decision making.

The book isn't just a work of chess philosophy. My favorite chapter so far was a fantastic lesson on line-clearing sacrifices. The two diagrams below are a simple line clearing tactic and a much more difficult one. The first tactic is from one of my hundred or so games while entertaining kids at a tournament yesterday. The second tactic is from the book and much harder. I eventually stumbled on the answer, mostly through trial and error. Please leave solutions in the notes:

Question 1: Black to move and win:

Question 2: What is the best move for white?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Childhood Simul

Last week I posted about a simul I gave in Madison over Thanksgiving week. That time I scored 6.5/7, sparing the host of the event from having to make good on his promise of donuts to anyone for winning (or to me for getting a sweep).

I recently remembered a childhood game of mine from 2002, where I was on the other side of the simul tables. I played against Grandmaster Alexander Goldin, a multiple time winner of the World Open Chess Tournament. I played very badly in the opening, probably just not taking my opponent's threats into account. Somehow though, he let me stick around and then made a typical simul over-site  to actually give me an advantage. I think that another player also got a draw and GM Goldin won the rest of the games. Probably no one got donuts that time either. I think that there is still a lamented copy of this score-sheet somewhere in my parent's home in Madison.

Here is the game with my original annotations from shortly after playing the game. Calculation errors and spelling errors are reproduced as they were.

Friday, November 30, 2012

All Rook Endgames Are Drawn?

Siegbert Tarrasch (1862-1934) was a world title contender with strong opinions about much of the game. He once famously claimed that all rook endgames are drawn, an exaggeration that contains a lot of truth. However, you can only make so many imprecise moves before teetering over the edge. See if you can spot the white's brilliant 53rd move in Karjakin-Morozevich. Full coverage is here:

Monday, November 26, 2012

When Openings Matter

I try to focus on opening memorization as little as possible when teaching classes or private lessons. Instead, I like to focus on following opening principles. However, someone playing without a lot of memorized opening knowledge needs to start calculating early in the game. Here, a player (not one of my students) makes one early mistake and gets a horrible position. Silver Knight's coach (and soon to be master?) Justin Burgess doesn't let him escape.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Trip

I took a couple days off to head back home for Thanksgiving. The whole family gathers in Madison each year for a great time and way too much food. I wasn't planning on playing any chess on this trip, but my high school coach invited me to play a simul at my old chess club and I couldn't turn down the opportunity. In all, I ended up playing 7 opponent's simultaneously, ranging in strength from near beginner towards about 1850.

Two games went quickly, with opponent's dropping material early on.

One game followed my favorite simul formula: The opponent let me play Bg4, to pin his king-side knight. Eventually I was able to play Nd4 and take on f3 to destroy the pawn wall in front of his king. My opponent defended better than my normal elementary school opponents do, but eventually I was eventually able to mate on g2 in the whole that his pawns had created.

I played the Pirk in one game and immediately regretted it because white has a dozen paths to a safe position there. Fortunately, white sacrificed two pieces for a rook and eventually lost another exchange. Converting the extra piece was straightforward.

The game I was most concerned about was against the 1850 rated adult. The last time we had played in a tournament game I ground out a win in tough fight. Somehow, despite finding myself out of book by move 3 (1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. Nf3!?), this game went very smoothly and he resigned right before I was going to promote a pawn.

I failed to complete the sweep because my brother Daniel, also a graduate of West High, played the exchange variation against my French Defense. In the past Daniel never studied chess seriously, but still reached around 1800 when he was still playing 7 or 8 years ago. I never managed to get more than a slight advantage in the nearly symmetrical positions we had all game, and I was even lucky to hold a draw in the king and pawn endgame.

In the most exciting game of the day I had white against a promising young player. This game is a good example of the challenges of simul-play. I got a great position out of the opening, but missed the tactic that could have given me a quick win. Instead, I entered tactical complications that didn't work out, and suddenly I was worse. Fortunately, my opponent went for an endgame instead of playing for mate and I ended up with the largest pawn phalanx I've ever had. A few days after the game was played I tried my best to recreate it from memory. I'm sure there are a few mistakes, but you can play through the game below.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

For Michael Corallo

I just taught the closed Sicilian, one of my childhood favorites, to a student. It's a fun system because you basically just have to develop, sacrifice either the f or e pawn and attack. Here's a recent example from the Internet Chess Club.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Puzzle of the Day

One of the most common mistakes I see among players of all levels is that they tend to cut off a calculation too soon, when there are still more tactics left in the position. In a recent online game I played as white in the position below. I had just played Be3-d4, allowing Nxd5 (Ra2 is also playable), leading to a forced series of captures and checks. See if you can calculate the moves to the end of the lines after Nxd5 and figure out what one of us missed. Please leave your evaluation of the position in the comments.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Brooklyn Castle

Last week I saw a documentary film on a New York City chess program, which makes great points about chess and education. It's highly recommended for chess players, teachers, parents and just about anyone else.

My personal connection is that I received some career advice when looking for chess jobs from one of the film's stars, Elizabeth Vicary (now Elizabeth Spiegel). Also, one of my co-workers at Silver Knights has a brief cameo in the background.

Here's a link with more info:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Calculation Practice

The following position occurred in one of my recent online blitz games against an IM. He had white and shook up the position with Rxb6!?. You can post analysis in the comments: what is the evaluation of the position? Is white winning losing or drawing?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Waking up from Hibernation

I put this blog on hiatus a few months ago because I wasn't playing or teaching much and was feeling sapped of inspiration. I'm not sure if I have the willpower to keep it going again this, but my DC Chess League game from last Friday was dramatic enough, that I needed somewhere to post it.

If you have any ideas for material to help keep Minor Pieces up and interesting please leave a comment.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

On Hiatus

The primary inspiration for this blog was my interaction with all sorts of young chess players. Relax, I still have my chess coaching job, but I've been doing more directing of summer camps, than actually coaching them lately. As a result, I haven't been particularly inspired to write much of anything. I'll hopefully return to coaching and writing at the end of summer. Here's a quick tactical puzzle from one of my recent blitz games that we can all think about for the next couple of months. I lucked into an opening knockout thanks to a blunder by my opponent leading black's move in the position below.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Congratulations to Vishy Anand has pretty good coverage of the rapid-game tiebreak stage of the match. Whether the World Champion's title should be decided in rapid chess to begin with is another question... Either way, Vishy Anand, who won the title in 2007 and has since defended it against Kramnik and Topolav, has now added Gelfand to the list of defeated challengers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

DC Chess League Final

The final week of the DC Chess League season, I thought I was going to get a shot at GM Larry Kaufman, my first rated game with a GM in over a year. When the other team's captain arrived though, he jokingly told me that Larry refused to play me out of solidarity over our past experiences on the same summer league team. I think he was just out of town. Instead I played with a 2190 rated high school freshman from the prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School. I like to think that I experimented in the opening, then slowly developed a good position and and converted into a winning endgame. You could also say that I played a boring game and then my opponent blundered a pawn so I won. I'll let you decide.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Finally, Someone Wants to be World Champion

Chessbase provides interesting analysis of the decisive game here: In other tournament news, it looks like two players badly wanted to win the US Championship. Hikaru Nakamura won by catching Gata Kamsky in the final two rounds. Kamsky's game vs. Seirwan, was my favorite game of the event. You can see analysis here: Based on the final game of the rapid playoff it looked like no one wanted to win the US Women's Championship. IM Krush pulled out a win there through no fault of her own. First the opponent missed an elementary tactic to win a rook, then hung a rook of her own to throw away the game.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Another Queen's Gambit Trap?

This line has always worked as a trap for me, as the following blitz game attests. Strangely enough, most white players don't go for the chance to win material. Do they not see it, or does the note to black's 7th move scare them off? What would you play in the position below?

Sunday, May 13, 2012


It's been a busy couple of weeks, but I'm back blogging again. I'm in preparation for the final match of the DC Chess League season, which will likely put me up against a GM. In a probably unwise strategy I spent way too long today trying to get my 3-minute ICC rating back from what I considered too low to be seen with. Eventually I got it back in the normal range, thanks in part to wins at the end against GMs Eugene Torre and Aleksa Strikovic. The final game against Strikovic looked lost for a long time, but eventually we reached the following position, where black made the wrong move and lost despite his extra rook. What would you play?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Oy Vey

Right after his visit to Chicago, the president of FIDE decided that Syria was the logical next stop.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pre-World Championship Contests

They both got knocked out of the World Championship cycle, but Kramnik and Aronian are playing a training match for the title of nothing in particular. I've been too busy to seriously cover this match, but you can get some great commentary online from The most exciting game so far is available here:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gelfand-Anand 2012

It's an exciting time to be a chess fan these days. Today is the first round of a 6 game exhibition match between Kramnik and Aronian, the first ever match I am aware of between two 2800+ players. In early May we will get both the US Championship and the World Championship. The latter features two brilliant players, defending champion Anand, and challenger Boris Gelfand. Gelfand has earned his way there by winning a World Cup, and a knock out tournament which included the likes of Aronian and Kramnik. In the run up to the US and World Championships, I will be posting some interesting games from the careers of the contenders. Below is a position from a blindfold game between Gelfand and Anand. See if you can find the best move for black before checking out the game here:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Puzzle Solutions, IE the Full Game

Here's the full game with Kevin from last Friday. For the second tournament game in a row I fell into a bad position, but after a couple of mistakes from white I was able to survive.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chess Xtreme

I mentioned in my last post that my opponent in that game was in the web show Chess Xtreme. I watched the first episode of that show yesterday, and you can find it here:

I think that it's an interesting concept, but the show lacks a target audience. Chess players won't want to sit through a discussion of the rules, while beginners won't be able to follow much of what's happening in the games. I suppose more opportunities to attract media coverage for chess is probably a good thing overall.

What do you think?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Something to Blog About

On Friday night I played in the DC Chess League against "Chess Xtreme" Star Kevin Wang. He's high school student rated 2331 and a pupil of GM Larry Kaufman, who may end up being my next opponent in the league. I equalized out of the opening, but gradually got into trouble during the middle game. My position was bad enough that the other team consulted and decided to take a draw on the next board, assuming that I would lose the game and the match. Things turned around in a bad knight ending, when he failed to take advantage of a better structure and let me eliminate his last remaining pawns. I haven't done an exhaustive analysis of this game yet, but I did pull out a few interesting positions, which can be used for training. These aren't necessarily tactics, just "What's the best move for white or black?" type puzzles. Please put answers in the comments. I will post solutions on Tuesday.

I had black in the position below. I played Qc8, eyeing h3 and protecting b7. This move is OK, but still leaves white better. There’s a more active try that I didn’t even consider. Can you find the best move for black?

Virtually everything about this position favors white. He has the safer king and better pawn structure. What’s the best move for black to get some saving chances?

White has a substantially better pawn structure in this endgame despite black’s more centralized king. This should be a close to decisive advantage, but my opponent’s next move might have thrown away the win. Can you do better for white?

At around one in the morning I reached the following position. What should black play?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Nasty Blitz Tactic

Black to move...

I feel kind of guilty, but I won the game on time later.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fun Blitz Game

After a tough week at a chess camp, I've spent too much time this weekend playing blitz on ICC. My last game was pretty fun, so here it is with some short annotations.

Monday, April 2, 2012

King's Gambit RIP

Bobby Fischer claimed to have busted the king's gambit 50 years ago. His analysis had some holes in it, but according to Rybka run with some ridiculous amount of computing power, he was mostly right. Is this the end of the King's Gambit? You can see the full article here:

I grew up playing the King's Gambit until around the start of high school. Here's my most fun tournament win with it including my brief annotations circa 2003.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Good Times With the Traxler

I've mostly given up this opening because half of the lines end in perpetual check with black down three pieces, but there have been some good times.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Meeting the ICC Stars

Yaacov Norowitz is a New York based Senior Master who has ridiculously high ratings on ICC and a bit of a cult following among East Coast chess fans. His website is here: . I've never met him, but we did play an interesting game on ICC recently. He outplayed me throughout, but I followed my typical ICC strategy of bailing out into a lost rook ending and looking for chances. Even against one of the top players on the net, this strategy worked out when he played (is there a rule that all chess websites have to use the word "uncorked") Re5?? in the position below, allowing a nice tactic.

Considering the time control, I still had to be somewhat careful to draw, even ahead in material.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Sicilian Exercise

Although I started my chess life playing sharp e4 openings, like the King's Gambit I never bothered to learn the main lines of the Sicilian. I played the closed Sicilian at most opportunities and occasionally tried out 2. c3. In high school I mostly switched over to closed openings and left the Sicilian behind except for an occasional experiment with black (I drew FM Andrew Karklins, but also drew a seven year old). Nowadays I'm usually afraid to venture into these waters in high stakes games, but I occasionally use the Sicilian to get some calculation practice in training games. This was the case today when I played a G/30 against a friend. As one might expect from someone without Sicilian experience, I got a good position out of the opening, but had no feel for how to play the attack and made an unsound sacrifice. With both players getting low on time, I reached the above position with white to move. Before scrolling down you may want to ask yourself, "What would you play and What's the evaluation of the position"

Did you try to figure out the answer?

No, seriously... Did you?

I figured that I was probably lost thanks to the extra material and some issues with the back rank. Fortunately, there weren't a lot of choices for this move so the decision wasn't too hard. I had to prevent Qf1+, which would trade into a winning endgame for black. This left the only playable move as Bxb5+! I was actually able to win after 1...axb5 2. Qd7+ Kxg6?? 3. Rg2+ and black resigned due to an upcoming checkmate. The most interesting variation occurs after 2... Kf8 (although Kf6 is even playable. I think black should be better with precise play, but it's a complicated position after 3. Qxd6+ Kg8 4. Qe7 (threatening Qh7+, g7) Rf1+ 5. Nd1 Bxe4! Black can combine attack and defense. 6. Qh7+ Kf8 7.g7+ Ke7 8. g8=Q+ Bxh7. The resulting position is better for black, but I'm not sure whether it's actually winning. Either way, I'm glad that my opening usually don't make me solve this sort of problems. Doing this every day would just be too much stress.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

White to Move and Win

World Championship candidate Gelfand missed a cool win here. Can you find it?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chess is Hard

I was going to post earlier this week about where my opponent missed a win in his pawn up endgame at the last DC Chess League match. I actually was not able to come up with any definitive conclusions, so I'm just posting the game with a few notes. I'd be interested to see any thoughts on where white may have gone wrong. Dig in:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Long Night at the Office

What is the best move for white?

Last night's DC Chess League match was a home game, so it was literally at the Office. I looked up my opponent, Andrew Samuelson, before the game and found some improvements on his previous games in the database. Unfortunately, his improvement came on move 5 and I started killing lots of clock time on mediocre moves. After I played 14... b6?, reaching the diagram above, the position became critical. Once the opponent fixed my weakness with 15. Ra6! I realized that I was going to lose the a-pawn by force because while can quickly get three pieces to the a-file.

Somewhat to my surprise, the game still had 57 moves left at this point, but I'm still in the early stages of figuring out just what was going on. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Should Make All My Classes Watch This

D'Angelo manages to teach the whole game in three minutes. I wish I could do that.

Picture's by Steve Leiber. What are citation guidelines for a blog?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Missed This in a Blitz Game

I managed to win this one anyway, but it was a shame to have missed a nice tactic for black here. You can post a solution in the comments.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Combining Work and Pleasure

Over the winter I worked on coming up with a lot of lessons for students who had been doing chess for at least a couple of semesters already. One of these lessons was inspired by the famous game Polugaevsky-Tal, where the great world champion was undone by an inspired performance ( ). Polugaevsky claimed afterwards that the position after move 25 of that game was on his analysis board the day before. When I turned this game into a lesson, I knew it was too long for one class period, so I found a game where black fell into the mating attack instead of almost managing to defend like Tal did.

While unwinding last night I played a blitz game on ICC against GM Suat Atalik, the number two player from Turkey. Previously my ICC record against him was +1, -7, =3, so my expectations weren't too high. He took the game into one of his tournament openings, the Semi-Tarrasch defense, the same line as my Polugaevsky-Tal lesson. I actually forgot to play one move from the opening, giving me a slightly worse version of Polugaevsky's attack. With what turned out to be one inconsequential rook move missing for each side, GM Atalik and I followed my lesson plan perfectly. He even made the same mistake that I had inserted into my lesson plan to allow a quick mate.

Next time I teach this lesson it will be my game, instead of a GM game, but otherwise it will be basically unchanged. Enjoy:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Guest Column

My Silver Knights coworker and the highest scoring member of our Amateur East team, Justin Burgess was kind enough to annotate one of his games from that event. Justin had black and his 17th move belongs in tactics books.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Troubles of a Chess Teacher

If you had to put away chess pieces into a bag how would you do it?

Based on my experience you would almost certainly decide that the best way to put the pieces away would be to pile all of them onto a chess board, wrap it up taco style, walk around with it for a while and then dump half the pieces into a bag and half on the floor.

I think I need to add a clean-up lesson to the curriculum I use.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Game of the Weekend

In round four I played against IM Marc Tyler Arnold. He is a 19 year old who already has one GM norm and a FIDE rating over 2500. I expect him to get the GM title sometime this year. I’m not sure how people like to see games, so I’ve included an annotated version here if you want to play out the game with a real chess board, and a PGN version below it where you can click through online. It’s hard to edit in Chessbase, so the text format is probably nicer.

Jeremy Kane (2253) - IM Marc Arnold (2556)

USATE (4), 19.02.2012


Throughout the round it looked like my team was winning the match, but eventually we lost on boards two and three with a draw on board 4. The positive looking match situation affected the course of the game, making me overly eager to draw and Marc overly reluctant. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 b6 Last month I faced c5, which is the other main move. That game is annotated elsewhere on the blog. 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 Bb7 Now I had to think for a bit. I have a book that recommends Nd2 here, but I don't have much experience there, so I transposed to what would have happened if black had played g5 before Bb7 anyway. 7.e3 g5 8.Bg3 d6 In my experience black usually prefers Ne4, so I wanted to check if there was a refutation. I spent 10 minutes trying to decide if Qa4+ wins a piece (it doesn't). Then I continued with normal developing moves. 9.Qc2 Nbd7 10.Bd3 Qe7 11.0–0N Marc said that this was the first new move of the game for him. I was attracted to it because I concerned about allowing black to grab the g2 pawn with g4 and Bxg2. Now my king is somewhat vulnerable, but harder to attack than it may appear. 11...Bxc3 otherwise the bishop will be trapped after Nb5. 12.bxc3 0–0–0 [12...Bxf3 This looks scary for white, but eventually the bishop pair and big center should matter more than the exposed king. 13.gxf3 h5 14.h4 gxh4 15.Bxh4 Rg8+ 16.Kh1 Black can't really get any attackers at the open white king.] 13.e4 Nh5 14.a4 It's useful to push this pawn as part of an attack, but also simply to try to trade off my isolated pawn. 14...a5 15.Nd2 e5 16.Rab1 Nf4 I'm not sure if I really need to eliminate the knight right away, but it seems like a better pieces right now than my bishop. 17.Bxf4 gxf4 18.f3 So far the position is double edged but roughly even. After the game my opponent suggested c5 as a way to completely block up the queenside. As long as a night protects b6 then it's hard to see how white can break through on the queenside. Instead, he came up with the positional plan of Bc6 and Qf6 which would force white to play d5 and block up the position. Fortunately for me, white can strike first. 18...Bc6? [18...Rhg8] 19.c5! At the cost of a pawn I let my bishop and knight use the c4 square and black's king comes under fire. 19...dxc5 20.Ba6+ Bb7 [20...Kb8 21.d5 Ba8 22.Nc4 Ka7 23.Bb5 Nb8 looks horribly passive for black.] 21.Bxb7+ Kxb7 22.d5 Ra8 This is ugly, but needed to defend the a5 pawn. 23.Nc4 Rhg8 He finds a good multi-purpose move to eye the white kind and defend along the 6th rank. 24.Qd3?! [24.Qb3 was suggested by black after the game. The plan is simply to play Qb5 and either capture with the knight on a5 or to bring the queen to c6. I would probably have played this way if I had remotely considered it as a candidate move. 24...Ra6 25.Qb5 Ka7 26.d6 cxd6 27.Rfd1 Rg6 28.Qc6 Nb8 29.Qd5± The two pawn deficit is not nearly as important as all of black's pieces being essentially paralyzed.] 24...Rg6 25.d6 I was overly hasty to cash in on my initiative. This move and the previous one allow black back into the game. [25.Rfd1 continuing to simply improve my position is better.] 25...Qe6 26.Rf2 cxd6 27.Nxb6?! This essentially forces a draw, but white could still have played for more. [27.Rfb2 Ra6 28.Rd1 Kc7 (28...Ra8 29.Nxd6+) 29.Nxe5] 27...Nxb6 28.Rfb2 Kc7 Based on the match situation black tried to keep the game going. [28...Ra6 29.Qxa6+ Kxa6 30.Rxb6+= would have probably been the end of the game if it were not a team event.] 29.Rxb6 Kd7 Black tries to get some winning chances by bringing the king to shelter on the kingside. 30.Rb7+ [30.Qb5+ Ke7 31.Rxd6 Qxd6 32.Qb7+ Qd7 33.Qxa8 Rd6 34.Rb7 Rd1+ would be a draw] 30...Ke8 31.Rb8+ [31.Qd5 I seriously considered offering a queen trade to try to take advantage of my active rooks. Even after some analysis, I'm not sure who's better in this position. Do any of you have thoughts on this?] 31...Rxb8 32.Rxb8+ Ke7 33.Qb5 Kf6 34.Qxa5 Kg5 35.Qd8+ Kh5 36.Qc8 Qa2 Neither side can keep their king safe long enough to make progress, so black offered a draw which I accepted. ½–½

Unfortunately, by this point my result was irrelevant from a team perspective as we scored only .5/3 on the remaining boards. I took a bye in round 5 and then we left for the 5 hour drive back before round 6. Overall I was quite happy with my 3.5/4 performance for the weekend, but with long drawn out games playing down and a missed opportunity playing up, I got a good performance review showing what to work on. For instance in just this game I made three mistakes common among lower rated players:

1. I was overly eager to make a draw when playing up.

2. I was uncomfortable being down material and hence too quick to simplify to a drawn position.

3. Doing post-game analysis with Marc, I could tell that he just saw a lot more than me during the game, including the key move Qb3, that might well have won. Speed and depth of calculation is probably still the main thing separating me from GM strength players like him.

Oh, well. It was a fun weekend. Now back to work.