Check Is In The Mail: November 2022

With Lines Wide Open

With a nod to Scott Stapp and Creed, this month’s games are all won (or lost) due to one player’s use of open lines for attack. Mobility is everything; immobile pieces are at best dead wood and at worst obstacles to defense. This month’s selection of games shows how open lines make all the difference.

"Every chess master was once a beginner."
Irving Chernev

Our first game is brought to you by a guest annotator – the winner, Alexander King, submitted this game with his comments, which give insights into his thoughts during the game. Thanks Alexander! Of course, I had to add a few comments of my own as well. Cory Lanker chooses to allow Alexander to open the d-file on move 13, and Black’s rook penetrates to restrict the White king’s movement. Black then gives up that rook to squelch White’s counterplay. A very exciting finish!

[pgn][Event "2022 Walter Muir E-Quad (22W16)"][White "Lanker, Cory (1271)"][Black "King, Alexander B (1617)"][Result "0-1"] 1. e4 e5 {This Walter Muir e-quad, started on July 10 2022, was my first correspondence tournament. I had read about correspondence in books like Stephan Gerzadowicz' Journal of a Chess Original and John Hilbert's Walter Penn Shipley, but until a few months ago my participation in it was limited to the occasional friendly game on or Lichess. I'm happy to report that I am now hooked and playing multiple events on the ICCF server, in both traditional and engine-assisted formats. (These notes are all Alexander's except for those in parentheses and ending with my initials -- RI)} 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. e5 {The main line of the Scotch. Despite scoring well here as Black over the years, I still find the positions somewhat uncomfortable and difficult to parse.} Qe7 7. Qe2 Nd5 8. c4 Nb6 9. Nc3 Bb7 {For some reason I have always played this, instead of the more common 8... Ba6 or 9...Qe6.} 10. Bd2 O-O-O 11. O-O-O Kb8 12. f4 ({One of my OTB Scotch games saw} 12. Kb1 {0-1 (44) Wagner,R (1859)-King,A (2284) New York NY 2020 - and I went on to win a complicated fight.}) 12... d6 ({I decided not to make use of any databases in the opening, and instead to choose all my moves unassisted. It turns out that here I misremembered my notes to the above game against Wagner, which indicate} 12... f6) 13. c5 $5 {This move, which took my opponent 10 days, came as a complete surprise to me. I was very impressed, and even worried that my opponent might be cheating (no offense, Cory!), or at least was much stronger than I anticipated. In retrospect, this was a bit of an overreaction (no offense, Cory!). (No question, 13. exd6 is stronger -- RI)} dxc5 {My longest think of the game - almost 48 hours. (I am skeptical regarding the value of particularly long thinks, even in correspondence.)} 14. f5 $2 {The point of White's previous move - or so we both wrongly thought.} ({White has perfectly good compensation for the pawn after a more solid move like} 14. g3) 14... g6 $2 {My first spoiled chance.} (14... Bc8 $1 {would leave White unable to defend both f5 and e5 in a satisfactory way, e.g.} 15. g4 h5 $1 16. Bg2 hxg4 {and White's center is collapsing, while his counterplay along the h1-a8 diagonal fails to amount to much.}) 15. f6 Qe6 16. g4 $2 {Another move we both mistakenly considered consistent and strong.} (16. g3 {was again preferable, when the position is unclear.}) 16... Re8 $2 {A time-waster which I am obliged to retract a few moves later.} (16... Rd4 $1 {was as consistent and strong as White's last move wasn't:} 17. g5 h6 18. h4 {Here I was terrified of White's impending Bh3, but} Nc4 $1 19. Bh3 Qxe5 {solves that problem handily.}) 17. Bf4 $6 {Not a stable square for the bishop.} ({Correct was} 17. Re1) 17... c4 $6 ({I should have played} 17... Nd5 $1 18. Nxd5 cxd5 {but saw ghosts around my exposed castled position.}) 18. h4 Nd5 {After the game Cory said he found this move unexpected and concerning, but my feeling was that I was still fighting for my life. The computer says we're both wrong - the position is equal! (For a developing analyst, this position is the stuff of nightmares! -- RI)} 19. Bg3 {After a 16-day think.} ({I assumed that he was calculating} 19. Qxc4 {when neither of the following options looked safe for me, but in fact they both are:} Nxf4 ({or} 19... Qxg4 20. Nxd5 cxd5 21. Rxd5 $5 {and here the computer finds} Qf3 $1 22. Rd7 Qc6 {with crazy complications that somehow remain balanced.}) 20. Qxf4 Bc8 $1 {Again I underestimated this move.} 21. g5 Qxe5 22. Qxe5 Rxe5 23. Rd8 Kb7 $1 {When I reached positions like this in my calculations I didn't fully trust them, but the computer maintains its typical zen 0.00.}) 19... Nxc3 $6 ({Of course} 19... Bc8 $1 {was again correct.}) 20. bxc3 Ba3+ 21. Kc2 Rd8 22. Bg2 $2 {Decisively turning the tables.} ({After} 22. Rxd8+ Rxd8 23. Qxc4 {I wasn't sure if my position was losing or just shaky, and indeed the computer comes down somewhere in between.}) 22... Rd3 $1 {Now I rightly felt that White had lost control of the position. (A rook outpost in enemy territory, supported by tactics - it's not looking good for the home team! -- RI)} 23. Bf2 ({After} 23. Rxd3 cxd3+ {Black will follow with a skewer on either a6 or a2.}) {(? 23. Bf4 hangs tougher -- RI)} 23... Rhd8 24. Bd4 {(? 24. Bf3 is better -- RI)} c5 {Exposing my Bb7 to a twofold attack, but everything is under control.} 25. Rb1 c6 {The tripled pawns actually come in handy! (Giving Black just the tempo he needs! -- RI)} 26. Qe4 {Here was my last deliberation of the game - I could simply step out of the pin with 26...Kc8, but my way is more forcing and efficient.} cxd4 27. Qxc6 Rxc3+ 28. Kd2 Qxc6 29. Bxc6 Rb3 {Returning material to extinguish White's attack. (!! After taking advantage of the open d-file, the rook now sacrifices himself to close the b-file. If 30. Rxb3 cxb3 the games ends soon. -- RI)} 30. axb3 c3+ 31. Kd3 Bxc6 {With two bishops and a pawn for White's rook, plus deadly connected passers, Black is completely winning.} 32. Rh2 Bb5+ 33. Kc2 Bb4 {Cory resigned this and our other game on the same day, ending my tournament with 6-0. An exciting and successful maiden voyage! (Exciting indeed! -- RI)} 0-1[/pgn]

In our second game, David Souza shows us how to open lines on the kingside when the center is closed, with the help of a “hook.” The pressure starts on move 12, and as it builds, Black has difficulty defending. The big guns are brought in on move 22, and it is all over by move 27.

[pgn][Event "2022 Walter Muir E-Quad (22W17)"][White "Souza, David (1438)"][Black "Acosta, Errol (1108)"][Result "1-0"]1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 a6 7. Ne2 Nc6 8. Be3 Be7 9. c3 h6 $6 {This move serves as a "hook" - a target for opening a line of attack to the Black king.} 10. Qc2 O-O 11. g4 c4 $2 {Removing the pressure from d4 allows White to have a free hand to attack.} (11... cxd4 12. Nexd4 Nxd4 13. Nxd4 Bh4+ 14. Kd2 b5) 12. g5 g6 13. gxh6 f5 $2 14. exf6 (14. h4 {is also good. The text begins the line-opening process necessary for targeting the king.}) 14... Rxf6 15. h4 Nf8 $6 (15... Bf8) 16. Bh3 Nh7 $6 17. Ne5 Nxe5 $6 18. fxe5 Rf5 19. Bxf5 Bxh4+ 20. Bf2 $2 (20. Kd2 $1 {Open the first rank and connect the rooks!}) 20... Bxf2+ 21. Kxf2 Qf8 22. Rag1 $1 {Opening yet another line!} exf5 23. Rxg6+ Kh8 24. Qd2 (24. Nf4 $1) 24... b5 25. Nf4 Ra7 26. Rd6 (26. Qe3) 26... a5 27. Ng6+ 1-0[/pgn]

"I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists."
Marcel Duchamp

In our third game, your editor shows that while the Queen’s Gambit Declined may not be as exciting as the King’s Indian or the Gruenfeld, it is not to be underestimated. Active piece play against the Carlsbad variation leads to a position where Black has a slight advantage in the form of an advanced outpost for a knight which, if traded off, will leave a protected passed pawn. Black begins queenside maneuvers to fight for the a-file, which White chooses to abandon. The black rooks penetrating White’s backfield is too much for the defense, and an error on move 30 seals the deal.

[pgn][Event "2022 Victor Palciauskas (22VP08)"][White "Civan, Ethan (1778)"] [Black "Irons, Robert (2008)"] [Result "0-1"]1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. cxd5 exd5 {The Carlsbad variation is very popular -- I enjoy playing it from both sides.} 5. Bg5 Be7 6. e3 c6 7. Bd3 h6 8. Bh4 O-O 9. Nf3 Re8 10. Qc2 Ne4 {A standard maneuver to trade pieces along the lines of Lasker's Defense; it is effective here due to the development of the knight to f3.} 11. Bxe7 Qxe7 12. O-O Bf5 13. a3 {White goes for the minority attack, but I prefer 13. Ne5. White has the typical first-move advantage here, but no more. Black is holding his own.} Nd7 14. b4 Nb6 15. Nd2 $2 {Chasing the Ne4 away is unnecessary. Once again I prefer Ne5.} Nxd2 16. Qxd2 Nc4 $5 {Capturing this knight would leave an easily defended passed pawn on c4.} 17. Qe2 Bxd3 18. Qxd3 b5 $1 {The knight is dug in like a tick! This becomes the spearhead for a queenside assault.} 19. Ne2 a5 20. Qc3 Ra7 {Preparing to double on the a-file. White decides to hand it over, which is the beginning of the end.} 21. Rab1 $2 axb4 22. axb4 Ra3 23. Qc2 Rea8 24. Rfe1 Ra2 25. Qc1 $2 {There is hardly enough room for all of White's pieces in that little area, thanks to the Nc4 and the Ra2. 25. Qf5 is better.} Rd2 26. Nc3 Ra3 {White prevents the doubling of rooks on the 2nd rank, but now the knight is under pressure as well. Black has all the cards now.} 27. Rd1 Rxd1+ 28. Nxd1 Qe4 29. h3 Rd3 {Threatening ...Rd2 to target the king. The threat is too much, and White misses a tactic.} 30. Nc3 $4 Rxc3 0-1[/pgn]

For our fourth and final game, Charles Jacobs shows Kele Perkins that even though your king may feel safe, a quick opening of lines can change everything. White begins a sacrificial attack on move 18 that leads to so many open lines that Black cannot cover them all. When he finally shots down the direct assault down the open c-file, the end comes from the flank. I have been on the receiving end of Charles Jacobs’ attacks, and it is not a fun feeling.

[pgn][Event "2022 Victor Palciauskas (22VP07)"][White "Jacobs Jr., Charles (2192)"][Black "Perkins, Kele (2285)"][Result "1-0"]1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 Nbd7 7. Nxc4 Qc7 8. g3 e5 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. Bf4 Nfd7 11. Bg2 {White plays a variation of the Slav Defense that was popular during the Alekhine - Euwe world championship matches back in the 1930's. Black responds with a very modern reply made popular by Morozevich.} g5 $1 12. Ne3 gxf4 13. Nxf5 O-O-O 14. Qc2 Nc5 15. O-O Ne6 16. Qe4 fxg3 17. hxg3 a5 $2 (17... Nc5) 18. Nb5 $1 {White has every piece and open line pointed at the queenside, ready to step up the attack.} cxb5 19. axb5 Nc5 20. Qe3 f6 21. b4 $1 Ncd7 $4 (21... Nc4) 22. Rac1 Nc4 23. Qa7 {Also good is 23. Rxc4!} Bxb4 24. Rxc4 Nc5 25. Rfc1 b6 26. Ne7+ 1-0[/pgn]

If you end up in this column as the victim of someone else’s brilliancy, fight back by submitting a win of your own! Annotations are welcome but not required. And stay tuned for our annual Miniatures column in December!

"Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do."
Savielly Tartakower

Recent Event Winners

John W. Collins Memorial Quad
21C04, Mark Bellnap, $25, 5-1

Walter Muir E-Quad
22W15, Oswaldo Olivo & Robert TevRucht, 4.5-1.5
22W16, Alexander King, 6-0
22W20, Raymond Grinsteinner & Robert TevRucht, 5-1

Victor Palciauskas
19V04, Chris Hudson, $130, 4.5-1.5