Author: Axel Müller

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Steinitz Open Round 3: Friday 13th adventures

Disaster struck early on boards 1 and 4. Larry Stevens showed his deep understanding of the French. The subtle 8. Bd3 gave him a great position against John Hale, a lifetime French player. John erred a few moves later and the game was over. Chris Stychinsky got steamrolled by Gerald Ruiz Morra gambit:

Chris just played 6 … Nf6. How does Gerald punish him?

Hamlet Tovmasyan found himself in a difficult position against me. The opening clearly didn’t go his way. But he defended tenaciously and we reached the following position:

How should black proceed?

Artem Aleksenko and Arturo Armagnac fought a battle with many ups and downs. But it was Artem who made the last mistake

Black has a huge advantage, how can he finish the game?

Russel played a fantastic game against Lisa but stumbled just before forcing Lisa to resign.

Kyan Hsu mounted a ferocious attack against Manu Prasad weakened dark squares and delivered a picturesque checkmate.

David Faulkner and Patrick van Haeren chose the queen’s gambit accepted as their battle ground. David didn’t allow much counterplay by skillfully exploited black’s queenside weaknesses.

Randy Hough and John Wright had one of their ongoing discussions in the exchange Slav which ended in John’s favor this time.

Here are the games with some annotations. Feel free to comment.

Standings and pairings for round 4 can be found here:

https://caissachess.net/live/878

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Steinitz Open Round 2: Reversal of Fortunes

John Hale and Larry Stevens took the lead after winning their round two games. Gerald Ruiz unleashed a ferocious attack against John Hale’s king and chased him all across the board but with Gerald’s time running low John was able to get in a tactical shot that reversed the course of the game. Against Arturo Armagnac Larry opted for a romantic version of the King’s Gambit with 3. Bc4 and soon he got a dream position, total central control, the bishop pair and no queens to harass the misplaced white king. Arturo made good use of his two knights to launch a counter attack which Larry was able to fend off. Eventually, the players reached an equal knight ending that was a bit easier to play for white and eventually Larry reached a winning pawn ending.

Chris Stychinsky knew that my protected passed pawn was not enough for me to win the pawn ending with a couple of accurate moves he shut my king out and soon afterwards we had a threefold repetition.

Hamlet Tovmasyan sacrificed an exchange early in his game against Randy Hough. Eventually, his pair of bishops and an advanced passed d-pawn proofed to be sufficient compensation. Randy acknowledged this and returned the exchange for the d-pawn to reach a dead-drawn rook and minor piece ending. The evaluation didn’t change after the minor pieces came off. But after trading the rooks Randy was suddenly lost.

Feeling that he didn’t deserve the full point Hamlet played 67. Kf5 to draw the game.

Patrick van Haeren got a great position against Artem Aleksenko’s Alekhine Defense. But after winning the e4 pawn Artem was able to throw all his pieces against Patrick’s castled king and eventually broke through.

Stanley Zezotarski kindly agreed to play Manu Prasad as the house player. Stanley opted for a King’s Indian Attack setup against the Manu’s Pirc Defense. Manu eventually won the e4 pawn at the cost of piece coordination. In the ensuing struggle to reactivate his pieces Manu missed a tactical shot and resigned soon afterwards.

Kyan Hsu played the somewhate offbeat 2. b3 variation against David Faulkner’s Sicilian. But after a dozen moves we reached a relatively normal looking Sicilian position. Kyan was able to tempt David to weaken the d5 square. Kyan used this square as the launchpad for his irresistible attack.

Here are the games with some annotations:

As usual, the pairings for the next round can be found here:

https://caissachess.net/live/878

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Steinitz Open Round 1: Doom in the endgame

The first round of the Steinitz Open is in the books and the rating favorites prevailed. Russel and Kyan each came in striking distance of an upset. They outplayed their higher rated opponents but stumbled in their endgames. Gerald reminded everyone why his Lichess username is Gambit_Guy by winning a very nice Morra Gambit game.

Below are the games with some annotation.

The second round Hamlet Tovmasyan and John Hale will join us. The games start Friday, November 6th at 7.10pm.

Head over to https://caissachess.net/live/878 for pairings and standings.

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Steinitz Open Starts 10/30/2020

Our next 5 round Swiss starts this Friday. Time control for all games will be G60+10. On December 4th, the Friday after the last round we will be holding a 2h Blitz Arena on Lichess with a time control of G6+1. The final standings of the Blitz Arena will serve as tiebreakers for the main event.

The rounds start Fridays at 7.10 pm. All games will be played on Lichess and players are required to join our Lichess team. Prior to the start of the match all players must log on to lichess, visit our team site and make their presence known in the team chat.

After round 1 I will post the pairings on Tuesdays. It is strongly encouraged that all games are played at the scheduled time. For rounds 2, 3, and 4 players can arrange an alternative date and time. The games must be played before Tuesday so that there won’t be a delay in announcing the next round payments. For the last round rescheduling your game is not permitted. Half point bye requests also need to be made before Tuesday. Bye requests for the last round have to be made no later than Monday before the Round 4 game.

Missing a game without notifying your opponent and the TD in advance will result in disqualification without refund.

If you haven’t already done so, join the team here here:

https://lichess.org/team/san-gabriel-valley-chess-club

The registration fee for this tournament is $20 before Wednesday and $25 from Thursday onwards. Families can contact us for a reduced entrance fee. 50% of the collected registration fees will be paid out in prize money.

The tournament will not be USCF rated. Online registration still requires an USCF Membership ID. It is ok if your membership lapsed. The main reason for registering with your USCF membership ID is for identification purposes. It also allows us to use your over the board ratings rather than online ratings for the pairings. If you have never been a member of the USCF and don’t plan to join either, please, contact us, you are still welcome to join this tournament.

To register head over to:

https://caissachess.net/online-registration/index/878

Contact us if you are experiencing any problems with the registration.

To start the games white players have to challenge their opponents. Lichess makes this process easy, but detailed instructions will be send out together with the pairings for round 1.

The deadline for registration is Friday, October 30th at 5 pm.

First round pairings will be announced by 6.30 pm.

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Lasker Open concludes with decisive battles for the prize money spots.

Round 5 featured a tough fight for the top spots. Hamlet had the chance to catch me in the final round to win the tournament but an opening surprise in game one and a relentless clock in game two thwarted his efforts.
Randy also employed an opening surprise in his match. Facing John’s Slav he played 4. Nbd2. A tricky move, if black doesn’t play energetically this knight will get access to powerful squares. John reacted well and soon his queenside pawns were storming ahead. In game two Randy was under some pressure and used a positional exchange sacrifice to stop John in his tracks. In the end John was down to 6 minutes against Randy’s 18 minutes and decided not to tempt fate and acquiesced to a draw by repetition.
Chris needed a strong showing against Arturo to secure a top-3 spot. In game 1 Chris got a fantastic position out of the opening. Arturo chose a very passive d6 in the classical Ruy Lopez that gave Chris a free hand to build up a dominant position across the board. Arturo put up a creative resistance and managed to trick Chris into repeating moves. To avoid the draw Chris’ King had to leave safety, pick up a pawn in the middle of the board and return to safety. All this with black’s potential mating combo of queen and knight in the vicinity. With a minute left this is a tough call. In game two Arturo stayed true to his opening convictions and started with 1 f4. On the one hand a narrow opening repertoire allows the opponent to prepare for the match and Chris picked the combative Fromm’s Gambit (1. … e5) to counter Arturo’s Bird opening. On the other hand people that play the same openings all the time tend to know their lines and it’s difficult to really surprise them. Arturo declined the Fromm’s Gambit with 2. e4. In the resulting King’s Gambit Chris mixed up two lines and Arturo got a King’s Gambit dream position which he easily converted to a full point. After their match Chris and Arturo were clearly not done with each other and started an epic blitz match, not a bad way to spend a Friday night.
As a result of these three matches we have clear first, second, and third places.
Congratulations and many thanks to all the players that helped to make this tournament a success.

Below you find all the games of round 5 with some comments.

On Friday the 23rd of October at 7pm we will be hosting a 2h blitz arena. The name of the tournament is Soltis Arena and the password to join is: Lasker
On the 30th of October we start our next tournament, the Steinitz Open, a 5 round Swiss tournament with a time control of G60+10. Please note, this will be a classical Swiss tournament with only 1 game per round. Also note the change of time control.

Take advantage of the early bird sign up and register here:
https://caissachess.net/online-registration/edit/878
Let me know if you have any issues signing up.

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Lasker Open: The race stays tight

In round 4 we were treated to some exciting chess. On board 1 Chris had the chance to take over the lead. True to his style he went for the combative King’s Indian defence in his first game against me and faced yet another 6. h3 as we did in our last encounter. As it happens so often in the King’s Indian, white gets a fantastic position but black doesn’t seem to mind too much and just attacks. The fact that my king remained in the center added to the complications. 

Black is ready to play f5. How should white continue? I decided to play Nb3 and to get ready to take everything on c5. I can’t say that I was overly confident as this leaves my dark squares pretty vulnerable. 

Luckily the queen on c5 is not only a good attacking piece but is also well positioned to take over some defensive tasks. 

In game 2 Chris surprised me with a 5. Qe2 Ruy Lopez. The opening was dominated by mutual inaccuracies and yielded a position in which Chris was a pawn up and I had some compensation. An unusual position for Chris. If you look at his past games you will see that he is the person that is a pawn down and looks for the initiative to justify his play. 

Hamlet and Arturo liked the opening of their first game so much that they went on to play it again with reversed colors. 

The center is blocked, what should black do?

Reagan and John both won their black games. In game 1 Reagan played the rare 2 Bf4 against John’s Slav. John reacted very well and soon got a dominant position. In game 2 Reagan was fighting back with a Benoni and got a Benoni-dream position after white commited a couple of inaccuracies.

Patrick gave Randy a good fight. But it’s difficult to overcome someone with Randy’s experience. 

Patrick just played 3. … Nd7. In the Slav or Semi-Slav the queen’s knight is often developed to d7. Often, but not always. In contrast to other games chess is a game where both players have access to all information. That doesn’t mean that we have to give our opponent even more information. By playing 3. … Nf6 black keeps his cards close to the chest and retains a maximum to flexibility to react to white’s plans. The text move commits the black queen’s knight too early. Randy didn’t have to be asked twice and played 4 cxd5. Now we have an exchange Slav and black wishes the knight could go to c6. 

Robbie and Russel reached the following position after a wild game.

Black just played Kc5-b6. Are white’s split pawns a match for black’s connected passers? How can white save the game? 

You can replay all games of round 4 below.

This Friday, round 5, is the last round of the Lasker Open. The prize money for the winner is $55, second place $33, and third place $22. Next week Friday we will host a 2h blitz arena on Lichess. This blitz tournament will serve as a tiebreaker for the Lasker Open. There won’t be any split prizes.

Here are the pairings for round 5:

Pairings Round 5

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Lasker Open Round 3: Painful oversights and lucky escapes

The third round of the Lasker Open concluded Monday night with John and me fighting our match.
The first game started with an opening blunder can you spot how John could have punished me on move 9?


The position after 9. e4??
Hamlet faced Russel in his first game here and he was lucky to escape in game 1. In the diagram position below Russel threatened mate with 38. … Rg1 and after 39. Rc2 exd5 it was Hamlet who had the mating attack. Do you see how Russel could have built a deadly mating net with his 38th move?


David and Reagan reached the following position after a tough fight:


Reagan just played Kc3xc4. Kc2 didn’t offer much hope either. How should white continue?
Friday we meet for round 4 you can find pairings and standings here.

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Knight moves haunt the top boards – Part I

Chris Stychinsky and John Wright faced each other in the second round. I talked about their game one encounter already. In this post we are taking a closer look at their second game.

Chris seems to have moved on from his swashbuckling opening repertoire and played the Ruy Lopez against John’s 1 … e5. I can only recommend to follow in Chris’ footsteps. Playing complex openings such as the Ruy Lopez exposes us to a variety of pawn structures and strategic ideas. In the long run this will make us better chess players.

John countered Chris’ Ruy with the Zaitsev variation—the battle ground of Karpov and Kasparov in the 80s. The positions arising from this opening are often wild, black players seek their fortune of the queenside and white players try to deliver a quick checkmate. However, before launching queenside operations black puts pressure on e4 to slow down white’s queen’s knight attempt to join kingside operation.

The knight manoeuvre I’m referring to was introduced by Steinitz and is commonly used in Ruy Lopez and Gioucco Piano positions.

The best square for the knight on b1 would be f5. It gets there via d2, f1, and g3 and there is very little black can do in this particular situation. Also note, white only advanced the d-pawn to d3 and e4 is under firm control here.

We are now ready to have a look at the game:

Now would be a good time for a black strategy reset. The accidental pawn sacrifice offered white some hope to seize the initiative. Black’s main priority should be to thwart all of white’s active attempts. White enjoys some open diagonals and lines thanks to dropping a pawn. The white bishops are in good positions and both knights are already on the kingside and ready to move to more active squares. Thanks to white’s unfortunate pawn loss black already won the battle on the queenside. There is not much left to fight for.

Stay tuned for part two of the knight move series. I will talk about my game with Randy. Here is a little preview:

Why didn’t Randy take the rook on h2?

Randspringer
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Lasker Open: Striking Gold with Quirky Lines

Mikhael Tal quipped “You must take your opponent into a deep dark forest where 2+2=5, and the path leading out is only wide enough for one.”

This round we saw a number of games in which white invited black into the deep dark forest by choosing a provocative opening. We were treated to the Trompowski, the Jobova and the “regular” London, as well as the Bird Opening.

David decided to go for a no-nonsense approach when confronted with the Trompowski

and went for 2. … e6 and didn’t face any problems.

Russel went for his trusted Jobava London again and was rewarded with a quick victory.

Arturo got a fantastic attacking position by starting with 1. f4. The Bird is generally considered to be somewhat dubious, Stockfish NNUE actually prefers the moves a3, a4, or h3 to 1. f4. But if things go white’s way it’s easy to see why people like this opening.

John and Chris picked established openings to fight their battles. Here is their King’s Indian/Benoni game.

Randy showed again his versatility in positions arising from 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6. This time he picked the Bogo-Indian Defense and equalized without too much trouble.

The other games played in round two can be found here.