The Gazette - August 2010

Sponsored by Sean O'Brien
Edited by Guy Whitehouse
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.

The 4 Nations Chess League 2009-2010

The BCA once again entered a team into the prestigious 4 Nations Chess League, the biggest and strongest national league in the UK. This very strong event certainly tests our members and we gain tremendous publicity by competing in such an illustrious tournament. This year was not as successful as previous years and we halted our trend of continually improving our previous year's accomplishments.

Several reasons can be given for this, but I do not wish to dwell on these. I wish to concentrate on celebrating a moderately successful year, where some good individual performances saw us achieve 11 match points, with 4 victories, 3 draws and four losses. This meant we finished 15th out of a possible 34 teams which is relatively disappointing, since we have breached the top 10 before. With our strength on the top three boards we should have been putting up more of a fighting performance. However, due to Tyson's unfortunate health difficulties, he was not able to play in many of the matches. His loss is naturally a heavy blow.

More important, though, is our outstanding anchor in centre midfield, Graham Lilley. Due to his very unlucky health problems he has sadly missed most of the season. Without his sparkling, scintillating personality bringing a refreshing element to the team, there is no such player better to build a foundation to a successful team performance. His loss was deeply missed. We truly hope that he is well on the road to recovery and can once again offer us the platform from which we can launch successful team results. Thanks also go to Peter Gibbs, Norman Andrews and my brother, David Ross, who have stepped in at the last minute for emergency replacements and who have played well in difficult circumstances.

We will continue to enter a team into this league, but we are reconsidering our objectives slightly. We may not necessarily focus on promotion, but will depend on submitting teams on a regular basis that can compete competitively in all regards. With a section of the division 3 teams being drawn away to play in the "northern" league next year, there will be fewer teams in the league.

Naturally, comprehensive details of the BCA's performance can be viewed at: http://www.braillechess.org.uk/4ncl/index.html where all this season’s games can be downloaded.

Individual Results:

IM Colin Crouch (2346) 6.5/11 = 59%

FM Tyson Mordue (2286) 5/7 = 71%

Chris Ross (2205) 8/11 = 72%

Peter Gibbs (2095) ½ = 50%

Graham Lilley (2087) 0.5/2 = 25%

Tristram Cole (1970) ½ = 50%

Bill Armstrong (1966) 2/8 = 25%

Stephen Burnell (1920) 2/4 = 50%

Stephen Hilton (1981) 4.5/9 = 50%

David J Ross (1802) 3/5 = 60%

Norman Andrews (1738) ½ = 50%

Alastair Irving (1498) 0/3

Team Results:

Round 1 - 24/10/2009 vs. Halesowen won 4-2

Round 2 - 25/10/2009 vs. Sussex Smart Ctls. drew 3-3

Round 3 - 16/1/2010 vs. Nottinghamshire 2 drew 3-3

Round 4 - 17/1/2010 vs. Glos. Gambits won 3.5-2.5

Round 5 - 20/2/2010 vs. Iceni lost 2-4

Round 6 - 21/2/2010 vs. Wessex 2 won 3.5-2.5

Round 7 - 27/3/2010 vs. Cambridge Univ. 2 lost 2-4

Round 8 - 28/3/2010 vs. Sambuca Black Sheep lost 2.5-3.5

Round 9 - 1/5/2010 vs. Nottinghamshire 1 lost 2.5-3.5

Round 10 - 2/5/2010 vs. Oxford 2 drew 3-3

Round 11 - 3/5/2010 vs. Bristol 3 won 5-1

Here's a game with a very interesting twist. I believe it was Capablanca who once said that one advantage in chess sometimes needs to be switched for another advantage. I'm paraphrasing, of course, but essentially, the point is well made.

In this round 8 game from the 4NCL, I adopt that very policy in the most remarkable of ways on move 7. Who would have thought that 15 moves later, my opponent would resign, materially equal and no attack visible. A simple accumulation of positional gains from a switch of strategic objectives. A very unusual opening and a very interesting 7th move by Black, which will require some explanation.

James Foster - Chris Ross

English

1 c4 e6 2 Nc3 d5 3 e4

I'm astounded to find this opening in the database, but there it is in all its glory. Needless to say Black scores very heavily with it! Black has several options here, pushing onto d4 being a perfectly acceptable choice. But why blockade and then have to waste yet another tempo by pushing -e6-e5? No, take the game to White and ask him to prove his obscure opening.

3 -dxe4 4 Nxe4 c5

Giving White a backward D-pawn, the whole focus of my game now. Black has immediately equalised and could even claim that he is better, due to the nature of the white backward central pawn.

5 Nf3 Nc6

White must not be allowed to play d4. If White gets this in, he could claim that he's better! He would have a queenside majority and the black e6-pawn lumbers Black with a problem of developing his queen's bishop.

6 d3

I started getting a sense of White playing a strange reversed Sicilian Najdorf setup. A bit creepy, but I started thinking at this point about my strategy. I had played all of my moves automatically so far and after my next, it was time to dig in and ponder.

6 -Nf6 7 Be3

OK, crunch time. Now I sat for over 20 minutes and thought deeply and long about Black's strategy and game plan.

Naturally tactics have to become involved as well, but the long-term game plan has to be established. So, have a good, long think. Take your time on this position and examine every element. It's important.

OK, my move coming up and the explanation for it thereafter.

7 -Nxe4!

Let me quote myself from move 4: "giving White a backward D-pawn, the whole focus of my game now.” What happened to that then?!

This is where my little friend Capablanca was muttering away in my subconscious and my unease of studying the position on move 6 came back to tickle my fancy. Was the backward D-pawn all that important after all? Was it indeed on a weak square on d3? White had plenty of defenders of the pawn, and with the bishop sitting on e2 White could defend and cling on and hope for the best.

Excogitate the other positional factors. The knight on e4 is standing on a very good square, and if the white pawn on d3 was to occupy that square, is it any stronger there than on d3? No, it's actually weaker as Black can attack it that much better and white can defend it no easier than if it were on d3. Indeed, Black is going to fianchetto his queen's bishop, which will be directly hitting the e4 square.

Now tactics. Black had to be wary of Nxc5 tactics. I wasn't so worried about this as I was convinced that -Qa5+ tactics must give me something. So, I dismissed that idea immediately.

However, White is threatening to play d3-d4 and release all the pressure. That can't be allowed. -Ng4 for Black snaffling the bishop is probably fine, but White can allow an fxe3 capture supporting his centre after 8 d4.

Back to positional considerations. Consider the central squares. Black has a clamp on d4 with his pawn on c5 and knight on c6. Yes, Nimzovich would turn in his grave with delight at the nature of the blockading square in front of the backward D-pawn. That's all fine, but where's the use in blockading the pawn if you are wanting to attack it?

And think about the pawns on c4 and e4. They have the Maroczy Bind, but with the black pawn being on e6, their effectiveness is limited. I have therefore, in many ways a slightly better version of the Exchange variation of the King's Indian Defence, where the black C- and E-pawns have been interchanged. In that regard, the black bishops can be brought to better use and put on better diagonals, and those two little pawns on c4 and e4 will become the whole target of my positional game.

The final move of the game is so, so, ever-so fitting to this remarkable switch in positional play!

8 dxe4 Qxd1+

Of course I want the queens off. The rook has no effective squares down the D-file and I'm going to exchange it off in any case. In the meantime, White has to contend with the threat of -Nb4/Nxa2/Nc2+/Nxe3 concepts.

9 Rxd1 b6 10 Be2 Bb7 11 a3

A PR3 move, which gives him yet more weaknesses in his pawn chain, but I was willing to play -Nb4 to force such a breech in the pawn barrier, even if this meant a loss of tempi by retreating immediately back to c6.

11 -Be7 12 0-0 Bf6

Demonstrating that tempi in the position are irrelevant and that strategic gains are the meal of the day. White doesn't want to push e4-e5, as this would weaken the E-pawn and ensure that the knight on f3 can't move easily, as it would be bound to defend the e5-pawn.

However, my control of that all-important d4 outpost has yet another piece on it. So, White may well do best to push the bishop away. However, I did even think about -Bd8/Bc7 ideas to hit the pawn on e5, which looked very tasty indeed.

13 Rd2 Rd8 14 Rfd1

Taking on d8 doesn't solve his problems. I would recapture with the king and then shuffle it to c8 and then continue with the plan.

14 -Ke7

Quietly going about my job. Rushing anything here isn't necessary. The rooks have to come off at some point.

15 Bf4

White gets a glimmer of hope, but it's soon snuffed out. White's desperately hoping for e4-e5 tactics, which would win the blocked up bishop on f6. No counter-play though, no counter-play, remember that...

15 Bd3 Rd7 16 Bf4 e5 put up more resistance.

15 -Bd4

And on to that outpost I now land. 15 -Nd4 16 Nxd4 Bxd4 17 Bc7 looked awkward, as White would then have Be5 tactics. I didn't want any of that rubbish and avoided it like the plague.

16 Nxd4

White had to get bold now and play for tactics, go for broke, as it were. 16 e5 would give him Bg5+ tactics, which Black would have to deal with by either -h6 or -f6. Either way, the question would remain as to whether -Rd7, -Rhd8 and either -Bxf2 or -Bxb2 tactics were on the cards as the knight on f3 would not be able to support e5 and the rook on d2; it would eventually become overloaded.

16 -Nxd4

Now look at that knight on the outpost. White thought he was ridding himself of it, but I soon disillusioned him of that dream.

17 Bf3 f6

And everything is now perfectly set. I can play -e6-e5 at any time, rendering that bishop on f3 and utterly useless piece of wood. The white pawns are now far, far too weak and the white position is hopeless. No wonder he resigned a few moves later.

18 Be3

18 b4 Ba6 doesn't help his cause.

18 -Nb3

The final insult. The b3 square is White's final undoing. How these PR3 moves come back to haunt folk.

19 Rd3 Na5

Demonstrating with minor piece manoeuvrability that the white pawns are simply too weak and the white back-rank is vulnerable. Not everything can be defended successfully.

20 Rxd8 Rxd8 21 Rc1 Nb3

Back we go to deliver the coup de grâce. Poor old White.

22 Re1 Nd2

Illustrating the defencelessness of the white pawns. Both c4 and e4 are hit and can't be defended. If White were to capture the knight on d2, then the black rook enters on to the 7th rank and mops up the queenside pawns. The bishop on f3 is useless and the white back-rank vulnerable to flash back-rankers. White had had enough and threw in the towel.

A beautifully fitting end to attack the two pawns that I deliberately strategically placed on move 7!.

Chris Ross.