The Sean Marsh Chess Column
Well, here we are in December once again. The Panto Season! Men dressed as women, women dressed as men, and the ever-increasing cries of ‘he’s behind you, he’s behind you!’ (*Thinks*.....actually, I might give Mike’s party a miss this year....)
The local chess scene takes a bit of a break for a couple of weeks as men everywhere are forced to shop till they drop, wrap things up rather than play chess on the net and meet relatives that one wouldn’t usually kiss under anaesthetic, never mind the misteltoe...Yes, it’s all good fun, isn’t it? Isn’t it...? Oh well, please yourselves........
Anyway, here’s a few odds and ends from the first third of a busy season
The Tom Wise K.O. Cup
There were several intriguing pairings in the first round of the cup and for the first time in years there was a guarantee of some strong teams being eliminated. I must admit I’ve not enjoyed the first rounds of recent years,with most of the top teams receiving byes. The fun of the cup starts when all the teams are mixed up right from the start. Strange things can happen in knockout events and frequently do.
Elmwood faced there permanent cup rivals Middlesbrough Knights somewhat earlier than usual and despite a few anxious moments on a couple of boards the defending champs steered a careful path to the second round.
Redcar never seem to be at full strength in the cup for some reason. Often they divide their strength between two cup teams but this time they only had onebut they were far short of maximum strength. However, they held Peterlee to a2.5-2.5 draw, only to be eliminated on the board count rule. Consolation for Redcar came in the beauty of a win by Steve Place, which should find its way onto the KOTH list.
Middlesbrough Rooks, despite their recent dominance of the league, rarely stamp their authority on the cup. They were missing their top two boards fortheir clash with Guisborough, which should have been fatal if the East Clevelanders had turned up with all of their top players, but instead they were very under strength themselves. This gave rise to a curious match in which The Rooks seemed to be in control right until the end. Yet when Stuart Morgan continued his great form and won what was the very last game to finish, The Rooks were suddenly out of the competition as the victims of another board-count tiebreaker. Giving extra weight to wins scored higher up the boards is a bizarre way to decide a tied match but something has to be done and I’ve never heard of a completely fair tiebreaker.
The reward for Guisborough is a second round clash with powerful Peterlee -the tie of the round. The full draw is:
The league has already developed into a two-horse race between Middlesbrough Rooks and Elmwood. Both teams have won all of their matches and don’t meet head to head until January. It appears that Darlington have defaulted their away match to TheRooks, just as they did last year. This is deplorable. The league title could well come down to ‘goal difference’ and every half-point won or lost could be vital. I know that last year Rooks captain Tony Kiddle tried very hard to rearrange their match without success. Just lying down and dying is a terrible attitude to take and I don’t think such things do the image of chess any good at all. Hopefully this matter will be sorted out a high level, with suitable penalties introduced for such needless offences.
Synthonia A are so far dominating the B division and look confident champions-elect. Athenaeum will be their biggest rivals as they aim for a speedy return to the top flight.
TROTSKY GOES K.O.T.H.
Earlier in the season, when I was mercilessly crushed by Collin Smith (and that was just the handshake!), the Cleveland Chess website managers decided to introduce King of the Hill, in which surprise victories over higher graded opposition were released into the public domain. Alan Trotter immediately rattled off three such KOTH contenders, and here they are for the first time.
In the first one, Alan wins quickly against Whitby’s top player. He obtained a comfortable game early on and then exploited Vidal’s slip on move 19 to win a piece.
(158) Madria,V - Trotter,A (121)
Elmwood v Whitby, 21.11.2002
1.d4 g6 2.e4 d6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Be3 Bg7 5.Qd2 Nd7 6.Be2 e5 7.Nf3Ngf6 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Bh6 0–0 10.Bxg7 Kxg7 11.0–0–0 Qe7 12.h4 Ng4 13.Rdf1Ndf6 14.Ng5 Rd8 15.Bd3 Qc5 16.Qe2 Nh5 17.Kb1 Nf4 18.Qf3 f619.g3 Nxd3 20.cxd3 0–1
Here, Alan continues his County Championship campaign where he left off last season....by beating Steve Dauber! From a position with balanced chances, Alan went on to eliminate the key White-squared Bishop and inflict structural damage at the same time. Steve resigned rather than play a second session.
(121) Trotter,A - Dauber,S (173)
County Ch. 2002-3 (1), 17.10.2002
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 Nf6 6.0–0 0–07.Nbd2 Nc6 8.c3 Bg4 9.h3 Bd7 10.Re1 Rb8 11.d4 cxd4 12.cxd4 Qc8 13.Kh2 b5 14.e5dxe5 15.dxe5 Nd5 16.Nb3 Nb6 17.Bf4 Be6 18.Rc1 Qe8 19.a3 Rd8 20.Qc2 Rc8 21.Qd3Bc4 22.Qc2
Be6 23.Nc5 Bf5 24.Qe2 b4 25.g4 Be6 26.Nxe6 fxe6 27.Bg3 Nd528.Qe4 bxa3 29.bxa3 Qd7 30.Bf1 Na5 31.Nd4 Rxc1 32.Rxc1 Rb8 33.Bb5 Qb7 34.Bd3 Qd735.h4 Rb6 36.h5 Nb3 37.Rc2 1–0
The very next round saw one of the greatest ever shocks of the tournament. Norman Stepehnson, the defending champion, built up a crushing position but it all slipped away in serious time-trouble. It’s a miracle that Alan survived the middlegame.
(184)Stephenson,N - Trotter,A (121)
County Ch. 2002-3 (2), 11.2002
1.e4 g6 2.d4 d6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Be3 Bg7 5.Qd2 Nd7 6.Nf3 b5 7.Bd3e5 8.dxe5 Nxe5 9.Nxe5 dxe5 10.Rd1 Nf6 11.Bc5 Nd7 12.Be2 Qf6 13.Bd6 h514.Bxb5 (Strong, but 14 Nxb5 looks even better. The fork on c7 is threatened and 14 ... cxb5 15 Qd5! Would give White an even bigger advantage.) 14 ... Bb7 15.Bc4 Nb6 16.Bc5 Bh6 17.Qd3 Rb8 18.Bxb6 axb6 19.Qd7+ Kf8 20.Rd6 Qe7 21.0–0 Bg5 22.Rfd1 Kg7 23.Qh3 Bc8 24.Qd3 b5 25.Bb3 Qc7 26.Qe2 Be727.R6d3 b4 28.Na4 Ba6
29.Qf3 Bxd3 30.Qxf7+ Kh6 31.Rxd3 Rhf8 32.Qe6 Rbd8 33.Rxd8Qxd8 34.Qc4 Qd1+ 35.Qf1 Qd4 36.Qe2 Rf4 37.g3 Rxe4 38.Qf3 Re1+ 39.Kg2 e4 40.Qf4+g5 41.Qf7 Qf6 42.c3 g4 43.Qxf6+ Bxf6 44.cxb4 Bd4 45.Nc3 e3 46.fxe3 Bxe3 47.h4Bc1 48.Kf2 Re3 49.Bd1 Rd3 50.Be2 Rd4 51.b5 cxb5 52.Nxb5 Rd2 53.Kf1 Rxb2 54.Bc4Rb4 55.Nd6 Bb2 56.Bb3 Rb8 57.Kg2 Rf8 58.Nf7+ Kg7 59.Ng5 Kh6
This was the adjourned position. It still looks difficult to win, but Big Al finds the way...60.Nf7+ Kg6 61.Ng5 Rf6 62.Bc2+ Kg7 63.Bb3 Bc1 64.Ne4 Rb665.Kf2 Rb4 66.Nc3 Bd2 67.Nb1 Bc1 68.Nc3 Bb2 69.Nd5 Re4 70.Nf4 Bd4+ 71.Kf1 Be572.Bd5 Re3 73.Nxh5+ Kh6 74.Nf4 Rxg3 75.Ng2 Rd3 76.Bc6 Rc3 77.Bd5 Rc1+ 78.Ke2 Rc579.Bb3 Bg3 80.Ne3 Kh5 81.Be6 Kxh4 82.Bxg4 Bf4 0–1
I think Alan must have sold his soul to the devil in return for this game! Having beaten Steve and Norman in the first two rounds, he now moves on to play David Wise in round three. Nobody dare predict the result!
Here’s a great game from the KO Cup, showing the creative powers produced in the battle of the Steves.
Steve Place (99) - Steve Carter (129)
KO Cup, Redcar v Peterlee 11.2002
1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bc4 Nf6 6.0–0 0–07.e5 Ng4 8.h3 Nh6 9.exd6 exd6 10.Bg5 Qb6 11.Bb3White could move in and grab the pawn now because b2 doesn't fall in return: 11.Be7 Re8 12.Bxd6 Qxb2 13.Na4 and the Queen dies. 11...Nf5 12.Ne2 d5 13.g4 f614.Bf4 Ne7 15.Bd6 Re8 16.c4
Smashing open the a2-g8 diagonal to get at the King. Steve P.is nothing if not direct! 16...dxc4 17.Bxc4+ Nd5 18.Nf4 Qd8 19.Bxb8 Understandably reluctant to lose a tempo on saving the Bishop, but White could have crashed through on d5 with 19 Nxd5 cxd5 20 Bxd5+ Kh8 21 Bf7! 19...Rxb8 20.Qb3 b5 21.Bxd5+ cxd5 22.Rfe1 Kh8 23.Rxe8+ Qxe8 24.Re1 Qd7 25.Nxd5 Lots of threats are in the air now..the back row is weak for Black... 25...Bb7 26.Ne7!
A fabulous move, demonstrating White’s clear advantage. 26...Bxf3 27.Qf7 Creative stuff! White has sacrificed the Knight on f3 and now threatens Nxg6+, winning the Queen. What can Black do? 27...Qxd4 This fails to a brilliant rejoinder. Black's best seems to be 27 ...Qd8 when Steve suggests 28 d5, with great complications. However, Black seems to have the edge in most of them...can anyone find anything convincing for White in that line? 28.Nf5!!
With far too many threats to handle with just one move! 28...gxf529.Re8+ 1–0 Unfortunately, Redcar were KO’d on the board-count rule.
Finally, here’s a recent league game with an interesting Queen sacrifice
Sean Marsh - Paul WelfordElmwood v M'bro Wasps, 31.10.2002
1.d4d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Bf5 If this equalised as easily as Black hopes it will, then everyone would be playing it.The normal Slav move is 4 ...dxc4, ruling out an early Qb3 for White, and only then should Black develop the Bc8. 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Qb3 This is the big problem with Black's move order. Saving the pawn with 6...b6 allows a big initiative after 7 e4! 6...Qb6 7.Nxd5 Nxd5 8.Qxd5 e6 9.Qc4 last book move9...Nc6 10.a3 10...Be4 11.e3 a6 12.Nd2 Bg6 13.Bd3 Be7 14.0–0 0–0
15.Bxg6 hxg6 16.b4
Black's attempts to complicate have not achieved much and White still has the extra pawn. 16...Rac8 17.Qe2 Rfd8 18.Bb2 Rd5 Rather than lose technically, Black goes hunting for more complications. Randomising the position could well be his best bet. 19.Rac1 Rh5 20.Nf3 Rd8 21.Rfd1 Bd6 22.g3 f6 23.e4 White intends d5 Heading for the big break on d5 which not only create a passed pawn, but also aim to exploit Black's weakened King and strange piece co-ordination. 23...Kf7 24.d5 exd5 25.exd5 Re8
26.Qxe8+ I was excited at the prospect of playing this over the board and took a little time to analyse objectively. Meanwhile, I was starting to get some funny looks from my teammates. 26...Kxe8 27.dxc6 An examination of the White threats should convince the reader that there is more than enough for the Queen. 27...bxc6 28.Rxd6 Qb5 My lack of time on the clock prompted a couple of draw offers from my opponent around here 29.Re1+ Kf7 30.Rd7+ Kf8 31.Ree7 Rd5 32.Rf7+32...Ke8 33.Rde7+ Kd8 34.Nd4
A complete triumph for the White forces. 34...Rxd4 35.Bxd4 Qd3 36.Bb6+ Kc8 Here we wound the clocks back, but just for one more move.... 37.Rf8+ 1–0
Enjoy your festive break and
I’ll see you all in 2003!