The Gazette - August 2016

Edited by Julie Leonard
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.

Colin Crouch Celebration Chess Congress 2016

Chris Ross reports:

The Colin Crouch Celebration Chess Congress took place from Saturday 2nd April to Sunday 10th April 2016 at Harrow High School. The choice of venue was fitting since Colin both lived in Harrow and was a very keen supporter of junior chess. There were events for all ages and abilities, including a senior tournament, blitz and training sessions for juniors. The two main tournaments were an international FIDE nine round “Masters” with a game a day at classical time control and a five round “Intermediate” for players rated below 2000.

Three BCA players participated in the congress. Bill Armstrong and I entered the Masters and Steve Hilton played in the Intermediate. The three of us stayed at the Premier Inn, which was ten minutes’ walk from the venue and proved extremely comfortable. Play started at 14.30, giving us plenty of time to prepare before our games. The playing venue itself was excellent. Overall controller, Stewart Reuben, ensured that we had plenty of room for our equipment and anything else we needed.

Before round one, Stewart announced that the congress had been organised to celebrate the life and chess accomplishments of International Master Colin Crouch, who sadly passed away in April 2015. Stewart spoke about the BCA, pointing out that Colin had competed in our events and represented us in international tournaments. Most notably, Colin had won a Board 1 Silver Medal in the IBCA Olympiad in Chennai, 2012. All three BCA representatives at the congress were former team mates of Colin and were proud to support this prestigious event.

Although the Masters started on Saturday 2nd April, the Opening Ceremony took place on Monday 4th April when the Intermediate tournament began. It was attended by the Mayor of Harrow, Krishna Suresh, whose hobbies include chess. He spoke about the excellent qualities of the game and the great opportunities it offers.

Top seed in the Masters was GM Ferenc Berkes (2644) from Hungary and there were 44 participants in all. I was seeded 21st and Bill 39th. The eventual winner was GM Jahongir Vakhidov from Uzbekistan with 7.5 points from 9. I was placed 11th with 5.5 and won a prize for the highest score by a player who is neither a GM nor an IM. My only losses were against titled players and even those were close battles. In the middle of the tournament, I was held to a couple of draws with lower ranked players, who skilfully clung on to their positions. Bill finished 40th with 2.5. Bill was participating in a strong tournament and some of his games were very keenly contested. I gained the impression that Bill was more than satisfied with some of his performances and he exceeded his projected tournament score.

In the Intermediate the top seed was Mathias Schmidt from Germany (1974) and Steve was seeded 5th. Timothy Spanton (London) finished first with 4.5 points from 5. Steve was in joint second place together with the top seed and George Ivanov (London) all on 3.5. Steve performed well, drawing comfortably with the tournament leader.

A game from each of the BCA participants follows below. Others can be downloaded from:

We begin with my Round 9 game. I’m delighted to have concluded the tournament with such a fine victory against Marcus Osborne, a strong English player who has raised his ECF grade to 210. In this game White adopts the quiet Queen's Indian fianchetto setup, but is forced to reanalyse his structure when the pawn formation transposes into a Queen’s Gambit Accepted style position. A central concentration of open files and diagonals, at the cost of a pawn, paralyses Black to such an extent, that he must return the material in order to ease his cramped position. The white bishops then work in tandem to exert significant pressure and White converts the advantage.

Chris Ross (2194) - Marcus Osborne (2213)

1. d4 e6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 b6 4. Bg2 Bb7 5. O-O Be7 6. c4 O-O 7. Nc3 Ne4 {This was all opening theory and preparation. Black wishes to block e4 and prevent White expanding through the centre. Since Black has played a restrained e7-e6 centre pawn formation, he does not desire White to get in e2-e4. Playing d7-d5 would commit Black and limit the scope of his light squared bishop. In an attempt to keep this bishop active, Black aims for dark square domination with his pawns via d7-d6 and an eventual e6-e5. This is possibly aiming to establish a King's Indian type structure, where the dark squared dragon bishop is outside the pawn chain and able to support a future g7-g5 kingside launch.}

8. Bd2 {White's dark squared bishop has little scope in a structure with the Black pawn formation described above. This bishop cannot be fianchettoed easily because the knight on c3 is loosely placed if b2-b3 is played. White is willing to exchange this bishop for the strong knight on e4, as liquidating the steed would make his goal of e2-e4 easier to achieve. The doubling of the C-pawns is also avoided, as Black may be able to blockade the pawn centre and focus on the doubled pawns, as with similar systems in the Nimzo- and Bogo-Indian defences. White retains the option of d4-d5 if Black forces matters with c7-c5, challenging the white pawn centre.}

8... Bf6 {Black posts his minor pieces as actively as possible. The pressure along the long diagonal is slightly annoying, as the white d4 pawn may become a tactical liability, or in many variations, fixed and vulnerable. Black also has the idea of playing c7-c5 and capturing on c3 twice, doubling the C-pawns and striving for that pawn formation of doubled weak pawns once again. Tactics with Nxc3, Bxf3 and Bxd4 are to be avoided.}

9. Rc1 {Preventing the damage to the pawn structure on the C-file as outlined above. The white rook may have possibilities along the C-file were things to become open through the centre with pawn exchanges. C7 may become a point of penetration were queens to be exchanged at an early stage. The rook development also discourages Black from playing d7-d5, as White could exchange on d5, half-opening the C-file for the rook.}

9... d6 {Black adopts the pawn centre as described earlier. The opening has gone to plan and White now needs to decide how to proceed with his intention of forcing an e2-e4 thrust. This is not easy to achieve. Experience and opening knowledge is essential. White cannot develop any further without compromising his structure and pawn formation. If permitted, Black will develop his queen's knight to d7, force through e6-e5 and then expand on the kingside as quickly as possible with ambitions of a kingside attack.}

10. Nxe4 {Played to loosen up Black’s light squared bishop, which will occupy the all-important e4 square but White intends to make it a tactical target. This is not obvious at first, for no other piece can threaten it easily. The natural attacker would be the knight on f3, but that is currently pinned against White's own light squared bishop.}

10... Bxe4 11. Bc3 {Fortifying the d4 pawn. White now intends to play d4-d5 if allowed, as it denies the bishop on e4 a natural retreat. If White could exchange the dark squared bishops, he may be able to attack the black pawns, which are going to be positioned on dark squares in the endgame. With the white pawn on d5, the exchange e6xd5 allows c4xd5 and the rook on c1 comes to life targeting the c7 backward pawn. If Black pushes past with e6-e5, White has the black pawn on a dark square, which is a desirable formation and White can expand very quickly with b2-b4 and c4-c5, with ideas similar to those in the king's Indian Defence. Black must now decide how to play the middle game. The opening has gone reasonably well for him, but he must resolve the loose nature of his light squared bishop and, with the endgame in mind, decide where his pawns should be.}

11... c6 {Black prevents White from playing d4-d5, effectively fixing the white d4 pawn in its place unless white can achieve e2-e4. However, a serious consequence of the text move is that it denies the light squared bishop a retreat along the h1-a8 diagonal. Black envisions that this light squared bishop can be exchanged for White's and that he can follow up by placing his pawns on light squares, easing the pawn formation difficulties he will face in the endgame. White though, has an interesting twist here, which gives Black a very tough decision to take.}

12. Bh3 {An awkward looking move, but one designed to push Black into making a huge positional choice. The light squared bishop has little future on h3, unless Black decides to play e6-e5, when the c8 square is controlled, allowing operations down the C-file to be more effective, and the c7 pawn will become very vulnerable indeed. The bishop move is simply intended to avoid the exchange of light squared bishops. Sometimes, this can be done by putting the bishop on f1, but here, there is not enough time for White to play Re1 and Bf1. The bishop on h3 is not a tactical liability and does indeed stop Black from retreating with Bf5, as the resulting damage to his pawn structure may cause him grave problems in the future. White's direct aim now is to play Nd2 and once the light squared bishop has vacated the e4 square, to play e2-e4.}

12... Bxf3?! {This will haunt Black for the next 10 moves or so. Black gives up the bishop pair not only to damage the white pawn structure, with the intention of occupying the light squares with his own pawns and permanently fixing the white d4 pawn in the process, but also to gain some material. White now has to play dynamically. 12... c5 was certainly an option for Black, although this admits an error in Black's 11th move. Other 12th moves are not so attractive for Black. The retreat to g6 with the light squared bishop appears to achieve little. White will gain the centre with e2-e4 eventually, either by Re1 or Nd2 and the white plan of expansion on the queenside can continue. Black needs to avoid a passive position, where he will simply to sit and wait for White.}

13. exf3 d5 {Black hopes to solve all his positional concerns with this move. The white d4 pawn is fixed and is a point of focus for the black pieces, since e2-e3 can no longer be played. White has a major decision of his own to make now, although knowledge of similar variations in the Queen's Gambit Accepted simplifies it. Black has constructed a solid wall of pawns on c6, d5 and e6, which will not be easy to break down.}

14. f4! {White shows no concern for the pawn attacked on c4, realising that its capture will only afford Black further developmental difficulties. White needs to capture on d5 to open up the C-file for his rook. If Black could then be enticed into playing c6xd5, White may have enough to start operations down the queenside. However, 14. cxd5 allows Qxd5, putting the black queen on a very dominant square and preventing the d4 pawn’s advance to d5, leaving it tactically vulnerable. White must quickly refocus his own light squared bishop back onto the d5 square and put the bishop back on its most effective square. The long h1-a8 diagonal is an attractive proposition for that bishop now, since Black has exchanged his own light squared bishop. Pawn breaks are also of vital importance. Black's potential pawn breaks are c6-c5 and e6-e5. With the text move, White prevents the e6-e5 break and has the chance to further break with f4-f5, an important feature, that will come back to haunt Black. Since White has a doubled F-pawn, f4-f5 is an advance that will not cause White any structural damage on the kingside. If permitted now, White will play Bg2 and then capture on d5 giving Black the undesirable choice of recapturing with the c6 pawn, opening up the C-file, or with the e6 pawn, opening up light squared diagonals along b1-h7 and h3-c8 and giving himself a backward c6 pawn.}

14... dxc4 {Black steals the c4 pawn in the hope of advancing his pawns to cling onto the material. The major consequences are that the long diagonal is reopened and d4-d5 is now a pawn-break for White, however unlikely this appears at present. The d4 pawn is no longer fixed and the bishop on c3 is no longer a pretend pawn.}

15. Bg2 {The light squared bishop relocates to the long diagonal, severely restricting black queenside

development. The c6 pawn is a thorn in Black's side.}

15... Qd6 {Black has stolen the pawn on c4, so he develops in a slightly awkward manner to retain the material gain. The queen's development allows the black rook to swing to d8, increasing the pressure on the d4 pawn. White needs to resolve this pressure and since the black queen is the first line attacker after a future Bxd4 capture, the defence of the d4 pawn is easier. To complete development, White draws on knowledge of similar structures encountered in the Queen's Gambit Accepted variation.}

16. b3! {White has no interest in recovering the pawn. Trying to regain it would only entangle his pieces. He must maintain the fluidity of his development and sustain the initiative. 16. Qa4 is the only other alternative, but this permits Black to push his queenside pawns with tempi. 16... b5 17. Qa5 with the idea of restricting the pawns is a consideration, since 18. Bb4 is a tactical threat. However, 17... Bd8 evicts the white queen and forces her back to an inferior position. Black will then be able to push his A-pawn and the queenside pawn mass gathers momentum. Following the text move, White will capture on c4 if allowed and then d4-d5 will blast open the centre, increasing the scope of the light squared bishop. Black could permit the capture on c4 but after d4-d5, he has no good way to blockade the centre, since e6-e5 has been prevented by the f4 pawn. Lines must now be opened at any cost. Black might as well continue with his materialistic approach.}

16... cxb3 17. Qxb3 {Developing the queen, pressurising the b6 pawn and restraining the black A-pawn. White is beginning to dominate all files and diagonals now. Black is struggling to develop and must deal with the tactical threat of 18. Bb4, winning an exchange.}

17... Rd8 18. Rfd1 {Defending against a capture on d4 which would leave the black dark squared bishop fatally pinned against the black major pieces. This completes White’s development.}

18... Be7 {Since the d4 pawn is no longer a target, Black regroups in an attempt to facilitate his development by exchanging pieces. Black wishes to invade with his queen on b4 or a3, offering a queen exchange. Now the final piece of White’s plan is implemented, paralysing the black position.}

19. Ba1 {Removing the bishop from any tactical possibilities and securing it out of the way. Moreover, the rook on c1 now targets the c6 pawn directly. This pressure prevents Black completing his development. Black's position is becoming untenable and he seeks exchanges.}

19... Qa3 20. Qb1 {Exchanges would only ease Black’s development. White maintains pressure on the b6 pawn and in the periphery, keeps an eye on the black kingside, with Be4 as a possibility.}

20... Qb4 {Black seeks further exchanges but this only drives the white queen to her ultimate outpost. It is hard to suggest a better approach for Black at this stage.}

21. Qe4 {The queen keeps pressure on the light squares and introduces another element to the position, that being the f4-f5 break. The e6 pawn is usefully pinned against the bishop on e7, or at least, it may become so. It is essential not to rush into regaining the material. 21. Bxc6 Qxb1 22. Rxb1 Nxc6 is not a clever continuation.}

21... Rd6 {A desperate attempt to save the pawn on c6. Note though, how the pawn on e6 has now actually become pinned against the bishop on e7! Black now hopes to develop his queen's knight and outpost it somewhere to neutralise White’s advantage. The pawn breaks for White are still valid, especially d4-d5 and f4-f5. Although the latter is useful, it does not open up the dark squared bishop on a1, increasing its range. The more desirable push is d4-d5 but this is not possible, since it is "pinned" against the white queen on e4. The white queen is defended, but an exchange of queens is not on White's radar. An amusing continuation was 21... Qa5 22. f5 Qxf5 23. Qxf5 exf5 24. d5 when the white D-pawn becomes very potent.}

22. Qe2 {White finds further paralysing moves. The text move prevents the black knight developing to a6 and unpins the d4 pawn as well as keeping the pin on the e6 pawn. On e2, the white queen cannot be harassed by her counterpart. White’s pieces are dominant. Despite being a pawn to the good, Black has no effective way forward. 22. f5 Na6 23. Rxc6 would be one way to cash in on the position, but may give Black an easier route. The text move puts the big question to Black, who cannot tolerate the position anymore and returns the pawn.}

22... Nd7 23. Bxc6 {White regains his pawn and has a superior position. The bishop pair will soon cut through the long diagonals. White does not capture on c6 with the rook, as he does not wish for exchanges. The black pieces are uncoordinated.}

23... Rd8? {Black's losing move. He crumbles immediately after returning the material. 23... Rc8 24. d5 Nc5 is the only viable continuation for Black.}

24. d5 {White relentlessly continues with his strategy. The dark squared bishop is opened up, the pin on the e6-pawn is exploited and the immediate tactics all favour White.}

24... Nf6 {Played with a draw offer which was duly ignored. White has two ways to win material. Should White win an exchange or the black queen?}

25. Be5 {Choosing the least path of resistance and one that requires the minimal amount of technical ability. Winning the exchange is the simple route and does not require much calculation. 25. Rd4 Qa5 26. Bc3 Qa3 27. Bb2 Qa5 28. Ra4 would ensnare the black queen, but she can be given up for a rook and bishop, which may prove challenging to convert. The text move offers Black no hope.}

25... exd5 {No better is 25... Rxd5 26. Bxd5 Nxd5 27. f5 when the secondary pawn break creates fatal weaknesses for Black.}

26. Bxd6 Qxd6 27. Bb5 {Rerouting the light squared bishop back around to the kingside. Holes on the kingside may need to be plugged and the white rooks are offered a point of penetration down the C-file.}

27... Ne4 28. Rc6 Qb4 {Black is seeking last gasp tactical possibilities, but as long as White keeps cool, there is little hope. 28... Qa3 29. Bd3 Nf6 30. Qc2 will permit further penetration down the C-file.}

29. Bd3 {Pressurising the knight on e4. The bishop is removed from any tactical liability on the side lines. White is seeking exchanges now as the material gained will provide an easy endgame.}

29... Qa4 {Black seeks tactical refuge. 29... Nc3 30. Rxc3 Qxc3 31. Qxe7 drops the loose dark squared bishop.}

30. Rc2 {Best. The rook retreats to a light square and blocks the a4-d1 diagonal. All of the white pieces are defending each other. The black knight on e4 can no longer move, as it is now truly pinned against the loose dark squared bishop on e7 with the black queen wandering away from its protection.}

30... Re8 {The final mistake. 30... Kf8 is the only move at Black's disposal. White can then take on e4, exchange rooks and the endgame is very trivial to convert.}

31. Bb5 Qa3 32. Bxe8 Bc5 33. Qd3 Qb4 34. Bc6 Bxf2+ 35. Rxf2 Qc5 36. Qd4 Qf8 37. Qxd5 Nxf2 38. Kxf2 1-0

Now for Bill’s hard fought last round encounter! Bill describes his only win as lucky and the three draws, where he believes he had slightly better chances if play had continued, as his best performances. However, this loss was the game that he found the most interesting to examine after the tournament and he has commented on it for us.

Chris Rice (2038) - Bill Armstrong (1868)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. h3 {Before the game Chris warned me that my opponent would embark on a king hunt with a pawn onslaught and this prepares for that.}

6... Nbd7 7. Be3 e5 8. d5 Nc5 9. Nd2 a5 10. g4 Kh8 11. Be2 Ng8 12. Qc2 f5 13. gxf5 gxf5 14. O-O-O b6

{To ensure some open lines on the Queenside.}

15. Rdg1 f4 16. Bxc5 bxc5 17. Bg4 Qe7 18. Qd3 Nf6 19. Rg2 h5 20. Bxc8 Raxc8 21. Nf3 Nh7 22. h4 Bh6

{Seeing what is coming and preparing a defence.}

23. Ng5 f3 {Pinning the knight so that its capture by Bishop or Queen will be check.}

24. Rg3 Rf4 25. Kc2 Nxg5 26. hxg5 h4 27. Rxf3 Rxf3 28. Qxf3 Qxg5 29. Kb3

{This surprised me and I spent too much time considering a4, Qd2 and Rb8 before playing...}

29... Rf8 30. Qh3 Qd2 31. a3 Rxf2 32. Rb1 {Now Black should be able to secure a draw and possibly had winning chances but instead of Rh2 or the safe Rf4 I chose...}

32... Qc2+ 33. Ka2 Rf4 {now too late and the time scramble did me no favours.}

34. Qc8+ Bf8 35. Qe6 Rf3 36. Rg1 Rg3 37. Qf6+ Kg8 38. Rf1 Bg7 39. Qf7+ Kh7 40. Qh5+ Kg8 41. Qxh4 Qd3 42. Qd8+ Kh7 43. Rh1+ Bh6 44. Qd7+ Rg7 45. Qf5+ Rg6 46. Rg1 1-0

{“If you enjoy a tactical fight you have to accept tactical defeats will occur.”}

Finally, here is Steve’s Round 4 game against the eventual winner of the Intermediate. Despite having a cramped position, Steve unravels well and snatches the c4 pawn. The good knight vs. bad bishop gives Black a big plus, but Steve settles for a draw against a strong opponent.

Tim Spanton (1919) – Steve Hilton (1890)

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bf4 g6 4. Qd2 h6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. Ne5 c6 7. f3 Qa5 8. e4 Nbd7 9. Be2 g5 10. Nxd7 Bxd7

11. Be3 dxe4 12. fxe4 O-O-O 13. O-O-O Be6 14. a3 Ng4 15. h3 Ne5 16. d5 Ng6 17. Bd4 Bxd4 18. Qxd4 cxd5

19. Nxd5 Bxd5 20. exd5 Nf4 21. Bf3 Kb8 22. g3 Ng6 23. Qe4 Qc7 24. Rhg1 Ne5 25. Bh1 f6 26. Rge1 Rd6

27. Bf3 h5 28. Re3 Qd7 29. c4 Nxc4 30. Rc3 Ne5 31. Be2 Rc8 32. Rxc8+ Qxc8+ 33. Kb1 Qxh3 34. Rh1 Qd7

35. Rxh5 Rxd5 36. Rh8+ Kc7 37. Qc2+ Qc6 38. Qf5 Qd7 39. Qc2+ 1/2-1/2