Close calls dominate the start of the Lasker Open

    Chess Tournaments

    The first round of a Swiss tournament is always special. The upper half of the field plays the lower half and the resulting pairings can be quite lopsided. Be that as it may, the rating favorites still need to win their games. And so they did, but some of the matches could have gone easily the other way.

    On board one Arturo Armagnac with the black pieces completely outplayed yours truly. Arturo punished me for mishandling his Leningrad Dutch and was rewarded with the following position:

    White’s position is pretty hopeless here. After 22 … b5 white will perish. (Un-)Fortunately, Arturo took on d5 and allowed counterplay on the b1-h7 diagonal.

    On board two David Faulkner put up a good fight against John Wright. A Caro Kann yielded the following situation:

    The bishop on b2 looks pretty sad. David had the chance here to transfer the bishop to the g1-a7 diagonal. Once the bishop appears on e3 black needs to watch out for sacrifices on b6. 26. Bc1 would have given white the upper hand.

    On board three Russel Keating faced Randy Hough. Russel stayed faithful to his Jobova London and could have wiped the black pieces off the board:

    Randy just played 15. … e5 hoping for 16. dxe5 Nxe5 which would solve all of black’s problems and this is what happened in the game. Can you spot how white could have punished black for opening up the position while being far behind in development? (You find the solution at the end of the post.)

    When you saw this post you might have wondered why I picked a picture of an old Latin book. This book is actually a chess book from 1500 (give or take a couple of decades) and one of the openings it discusses features in our game of the week played on board four between Chris Stychinsky and Patric van Haeren, a truly epic battle.

    It’s not too late to join us for round 2 this Friday.

    Solution for the Russel-Randy game:

    1. John Wright

      Axel – Thank you for a great article! Your comments really show how slim the margin between winning and losing can be. When I did the analysis of my own game with David I never saw the suggestion you made (moving the B back to c1 and e3). Fortunately for me neither did my opponent!. Looking forward to more of your analysis.

      1. David Faulkner

        Yes, thank you Axel. There was one point where I had to make a decision where to place my bishop, either b2 or d2. Perhaps if I had moved to d2 instead I might have seen the e3 move later. But the backwards pawn had my full attention. I couldn’t let John break through… I had been trying to get rid of the pawn on a7 but I simply didn’t see that possibility.

    2. Chris Stychinsky

      I second John!

      Great in-depth analysis. At first read-through of my game I was embarrassed to have missed so many better moves. It was only during the re-reading that I started grasping some of the plans required of the positions. Thank you for letting us see the light and keep up the great analysis!

      1. Axel Müller

        Thank you, Chris! No need to be embarrassed. It’s normal to get quite a few moves wrong. Taking on f5 with the g-pawn and thus opening up the g-file makes a lot of sense and that is what we are trained to do. Learning that the b1-h7 diagonal is more important in this case is also quite clear (retrospectively). I’m afraid you will make use of this next time we face each other.
        And as far as missing moves is concerned: At least you didn’t miss a mate in one as I did.

      2. David Faulkner

        Chris, in every game I’ve ever played both sides made mistakes when I analyzed them afterwards. I’ve outplayed my opponents multiple times for hours at a time only for them to escape with a draw and sometimes a win… 🙁 Sometimes it comes down to a single mistake. I watched Axel’s games against Arturo and saw that he was behind an entire piece at one point, but Arturo gave him the piece right back. I think both of them were in time trouble though. I also saw the mate in one and I almost wanted to scream when Axel didn’t finish him off. He did win a couple of moves later though. Even National Masters make mistakes, we just have to recognize it when that time comes. So far, I have failed but I’ve come close to a draw several times… Maybe next time John…

    3. John Roger Wright

      I’m sure it is just a matter of time David, so just happy I don’t have to face you again this tournament!

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