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Home2014 ISCA State Champs Retrospective

The state championship is certainly the most important, most tensely competed and most strenuously combated event in Indiana. But it’s also the event where old friendships are rekindled and new ones are forged! A notable example of this is Michael Zabawa – the author of these lines (John Cole) remembers Mike from chess clubs and tournaments long ago. It was superb to see him again, but such pleasant reminiscing had to be interrupted by playing him in round one! Michael played extremely well and had a practically winning position from the opening (castling queenside on the Black side of an English is rarely a good idea!), but I managed to confuse the issue and outplay him. Almost all of the round one games in the Open section went “according to plan”…except Andy Porter’s game, where he dropped a queen in the opening and instantly resigned! However, he re-entered in the two day section and restored order to his round 1 result. Another exception was a very solid and tense game between Jim Mills and Craig Hines (our newly elected president, may his reign be prosperous and serene!)


Mills,James – Hines,Craig [D58]
2014 Indiana State Championships (1), 24.10.2014

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Be7 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Bg5 0-0 6.e3 h6 7.Bh4 b6 The good ol’ Tartakower, championed by countless world class players. 8.Be2 Bb7 9.0-0 Nbd7 10.Rc1 c5 11.Ne5 [11.cxd5 Nxd5 12.Bg3 Nxc3 13.Rxc3 looks plausible as well. The text looks to complicate rather than allow Black to clarify the central tension.] 11…Rc8 [11…cxd4 12.exd4 Nxe5 13.dxe5 Ne4 14.Nxe4 dxe4 15.Qxd8 Bxd8 16.Bxd8 Raxd8 would be a quick way to suck the vitality from the position, but both sides seem to want to keep tension in the center.]

12.cxd5?! [12.Nxd7 Qxd7 13.dxc5! is a good time to transition structures. One of the complexities of the Tartakower and of the Queen's Gambit Declined in general is deciding when to allow an isolated pawn/hanging pawns structure, what pieces to keep on the board in these structures, etc. Here White can transition to either a hanging pawn structure or one where Black's kingside structure is weakened. 13...Rxc5 (13...bxc5 14.Bxf6 Bxf6 15.cxd5 Bxd5 16.Nxd5 Qxd5 17.Qxd5 exd5 18.b3 and though White's edge is admittedly small, he is playing for two results only.; 13...g5 14.Bg3 Bxc5 15.Be5 Qe7 is probably Black's best - his kingside is a bit ventilated, but his pieces all make sense and, with a soon to be symmetrical pawn structure, should be headed towards a draw.) 14.Bxf6 Bxf6 15.Ne4 Rc7 16.Nxf6+ gxf6 17.Qd4 Kg7 18.cxd5 and White has a comfortable position based on his superior pawn structure.]

12…Nxe5 13.Bxf6 Bxf6 14.dxe5 Bxe5 15.dxe6 fxe6 16.Qxd8?! Compliantly trading down to an inferior ending. [16.f4 Bxc3 (16...Bf6?! 17.Bc4 Qe7 18.Qg4 gives White good pressure) 17.Rxc3 Qe7 18.Bc4 is headed towards a draw - the open d file will be a gateway to mass exchanges.] 16…Rcxd8 17.Rfd1 This might look quite drawish, but Black has excellent chances to win this! His queenside majority and pair of mighty bishops should make White’s defense quite difficult – notice that the “weak” e pawn will be easily defended by a future …Ke7 17…Bxc3?! Too forgiving – the bishop is a monster on e5! [17...Kf7 18.f4 Bf6 19.Kf2 g5 looks good - Black's bishops are both raking the long diagonals.] 18.bxc3 Kf7 19.a4 Ke7 20.a5 Good technique from Jim, immediately ridding himself of his weak a pawn 20…Rxd1+ 21.Bxd1? Ceding the d file for no good reason, but perhaps Jim was trying to keep pieces on the board in hopes of a win. [21.Rxd1 Bc6 22.axb6 axb6 23.Rb1 Rb8 is dead even.] 21…Rd8 22.axb6 axb6 23.Bg4 Bc6 24.Rb1 Rb8 [24...b5! gets the queenside assets moving! 25.Bf3 Bxf3 26.gxf3 Rb8 and Black has good chances in this rook ending - the outside passed pawn will paralyze White's rook.]

25.Bf3?! Transposing to the previous note. [25.Be2 b5 26.f3 b4 27.cxb4 Rxb4 28.Rc1 and retaining the bishop allows White more robust chances of defense - the extra light squared control makes a successful blockade on c4 or c2 more likely. Black is still pressing, but White has better chances than in the game.] 25…Bxf3 26.gxf3 b5 27.Kf1 Kd6 28.Ke2 Kd5 29.Kd3 c4+ 30.Kc2 Kc5 [30...e5 31.Rd1+ Kc6 32.Rg1 Rf8 33.Rxg7 Rxf3 is a stone cold win for Black. The text looks logical, but Black can improve his other pawns before going all in on a ...b4 break.] 31.Ra1 Kb6?! [31...Rf8 32.f4 e5! is a straightforward win for Black. In rook endings like this, it's often the case that you simply have to let your opponent penetrate to your seventh - as long as YOU get to do it too! ] 32.f4 Rf8 33.h4 e5 34.Rg1 Rf7 [34...exf4 35.Rxg7 fxe3 36.fxe3 Rf2+ 37.Kd1 Rh2 38.Rg6+ Ka5 39.Rxh6 Ka4 40.e4 Kb3 41.Rb6 is a draw by the hair of White's teeth - Black's king will never be able to activate while Rb6 is a resource.] 35.Rg2? [35.fxe5 Rxf2+ 36.Kd1 gives White counterplay and a dangerous e pawns.]35…exf4 36.e4 Kc5 37.f3 b4 38.cxb4+ Kxb4 39.Rg6 Kc5 40.Kc3 Rb7 41.Kd2 Rd7+ 42.Kc3 Rd3+ 43.Kc2 Rd7? Vastly overvaluing the g pawn. [43...Rxf3 44.Rxg7 Kd4 45.Rd7+ Kxe4 and Black is cleaning up.]44.Rg4 Rf7 [44...g5! 45.hxg5 hxg5 46.Rxg5+ Kd4 47.Kd2 c3+ 48.Kc2 Rb7 is a cute way to penetrate and win - Black will scoop up the f pawn and his two passed pawns will carry the day. ] 45.Kc3What used to be a very easy position is now a tough technical task for Black. 45…Kb5 [45...g6! would be a very difficult move to find - the essential point is that White is in zugzwang! 46.Rxg6 Rb7 47.Rxh6 Rb3+ 48.Kc2 Rxf3 and Black's edge in king/rook activity and pawn advancement is decisive.] 46.e5?! [46.h5 is a simple way to draw - it gives White's rook another square to shift to! Neither side would have anything better to play than Rg4-h4 and ...Kc5-b5] 46…Kc5 [46...Rd7 47.Rxf4 Rd3+ 48.Kc2 Re3 49.Rf7 Rxe5 50.Rxg7 will still be a draw (the White rook is in prime rear checking position), but Black can make White sweat a bit.] 47.e6 Re7 48.Rxf4 Rxe6 49.Rf5+ Kd6 50.Kxc4 Ke7 51.Kd4 g6 52.Rf4 Rf6 A hard fought game from both sides! ½-½


The Reserve section featured some early surprises, one notable one being John Roush’s draw:

Roush,John – Denby,Caleb [A22]
2014 Indiana State Chess Championships (1), 24.10.2014

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.e3 c6 4.Nf3 e4 5.Nd4 d5 6.cxd5 cxd5 A reversed Alapin Sicilian where White’s extra tempo should be quite useful 7.d3 Nbd7 8.dxe4 dxe4 9.Qa4 [9.Qc2 Nc5 10.b4! wins the e pawn] 9…a6 10.Bd2 b5? 11.Ncxb5 Bb7 12.Nc3 Bc5 13.Nb3 0-0 White is up a pawn, but his misplaced queen and deficit in development gives Black good compensation. 14.Nxc5 Nxc5 15.Qa3[15.Qd4 Rc8 16.Qxd8 Rfxd8 17.Be2 is a fascinating position - Black's pawn deficit is well balanced by his massive lead in development, activity and space.] 15…Nd3+ 16.Bxd3 Qxd3 17.Na4 Qxa3 18.bxa3 Bc6 19.Nc5 Bb5 20.Rc1 Rfc8 21.a4 Nd7 22.Nxe4 Rxc1+ 23.Bxc1 Bxa4 24.0-0 With a safe king and an extra pawn, White should have good winning chances – even the opposite coloured bishops shouldn’t be an issue. 24…Rc8 25.Ba3 g6 26.Rc1 Rxc1+ 27.Bxc1 f5 28.Nc3 Bc6 29.f3 Nf6 30.Kf2 Kf7 31.Ne2 Bb7 32.Bd2 Ke6 33.Nf4+ Kf7 34.Nd3 Nd7 35.a4 Ke6 36.Nf4+ Kf7 37.Bc3 Nb6 38.Bd4 Planning on trapping the Black knight, but giving up the pawn is too much. [38.a5 Nd5 39.Ne2 is still good winning chances for White] 38…Nxa4 39.h4 Ke7 40.Ke2 Kd6 41.Kd3 Nc5+ 42.Kc4 Ne6 43.Nd3 Nxd4 44.exd4 The chances have dried up from the game, leaving only a peace treaty to be forged. 44…Bc6 [44...a5 45.Nf4 Ba6+ 46.Kb3 Bb5 47.h5 g5 48.Nh3 h6 49.Nxg5 Be8 (49...hxg5?? 50.h6) 50.Nh3 Bxh5 51.Nf4 Be8 is a dead draw] 45.Nf4 Bb5+ 46.Kb4 Bf1 47.g4 fxg4 48.fxg4 Bb5 49.g5 Bf1 50.Ka5 Bb5 51.Kb6 Bf1 52.h5 gxh5 53.Nxh5 Kd5 54.Nf6+ Kxd4 55.Nxh7 Ke5 56.Nf8 Kf5 57.g6 Kf6 ½-½

Round two is when the action really began to hot up, however…


Lutes,Gary – Dimitrov,Drago [B43]
2014 Indiana State Chess Championships (2), 25.10.2014

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 a6 3.Nf3 e6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Qc7 6.Bd3 Nf6 7.0-0 d6 8.Bg5 Mixing Bd3 and Bg5 isn’t the best idea – the place for the bishop is e3 or d2. 8…Be7 9.a4 Nc6 10.Nxc6 Voluntarily strengthening Black’s center and opening the b file can’t be right. 10. Nb3 looks best, though Black stands quite well. 10…bxc6 11.Qd2 h6 12.Be3 Ng4 Either acquiring the bishop pair or rerouting the knight to a stronger post on e5 13.f4 c5 14.Bc4 0-0 15.Qe2 Nxe3 16.Qxe3 With two bishops, a stronger center and a potential bind of the dark squares, Black stands better. White’s only real threat is organizing an assault around f5. 16…Bf6 17.f5?? But not now! 17…Bd4 18.Qxd4 cxd4 19.Nd5 exd5 20.Bxd5 Bb7 21.Bxb7 Qxb7 22.b3 Qxe4 23.Rae1 Qxc2 24.f6 gxf6 25.Rxf6 Kg7 26.Ref1 d3 27.R6f3 d2 28.Rg3+ Kh7 0-1


Kluttz,Scott – Blaine,Roger [C00]
2014 Indiana State Championships (2), 25.10.2014

1.e4 e6 2.b3 Not a terrible choice against the French, actually! White will avoid closing the long diagonal and try to generate pressure with what is usually a poor piece in French structures. 2…d5 3.Bb2 Nf6 [3...dxe4 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Qe2 Be7 6.Nxe4 would certainly be a non standard position - White would probably castle queenside and start an attack!] 4.exd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Bd6 6.d4 [6.Be2 0-0 7.0-0 c5 8.d4 seems appropriate only when Black has committed himself to ...c5 - otherwise the White dark squared bishop might just be a lame piece for the entire game.] 6…0-0 7.Be2 c6 8.Nbd2 Bg4 9.0-0 Re8 10.Re1 Qc7 11.c4 [11.Ne5 Bxe2 12.Rxe2 Nbd7 13.Ndf3 looks close to even, though the Black bishop is better than its counterpart] 11…Nbd7 12.a4?! An unnecessary weakness that Roger immediately sits on! 12…Bb4 13.Ba3 Bc3?! [13...Bxa3 14.Rxa3 Ne4 15.Nxe4 dxe4 16.Nd2 Bxe2 17.Rxe2 Qd6 immediately highlights how badly the a3 rook is placed! The text has some tactical points in mind, but they simply don't work. Notice that the a3 bishop ends up being beautifully placed.]

14.Rc1 Ne4? [14...Qa5 is still perfectly good for Black] 15.Nxe4 Bxe1 16.Nd6? [16.Ng3! Ba5 17.b4 Bb6 18.c5 traps the bishop and nets two pieces for a rook, with a better game for White] 16…Bxf2+? [16...Re6 17.cxd5 Bxf2+ 18.Kxf2 Rxd6 19.Bxd6 Qxd6 is better for Black - White's king is unsafe and his pawn structure is a bit ragged] 17.Kxf2 Re6 18.c5 The dust has cleared and White has two pieces for a rook – and one of those pieces is Knightzilla, the unstoppable monster that rules d6! White is much better here. 18…Nf6 19.Ne5 Bxe2 20.Qxe2 Ne4+ 21.Kg1 f6 [21...Nxd6 22.cxd6 Rxd6 23.Bxd6 Qxd6 might be a better practical choice - at least Black has two pawns for the piece and there's no eternal knight choking his position.] 22.Qg4 Re7 23.Nf3 Qd7 24.Qf4 Nxd6 25.cxd6 Re4 26.Qg3 Rae8 27.Re1 Re3 28.Rxe3 Rxe3 29.Ne5 fxe5 30.Qxe3 e4 31.Qh3 Qd8 32.Qe6+And Rogeroslav gives up the ghost. 1-0


Hines,Craig – Gepiga ,Rheno [A47]
2014 Indiana State Championships (2), 25.10.2014

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 Be7 4.Nbd2 b6?! Complete surrender of the center, if White wishes to grasp it.
[4...c5 is a sounder idea - White must be prevented from creating an ideal center to go along with his smooth piece development] 
5.e3 [5.e4 Bb7 6.Bd3 looks like a dream position for White - Black has not a hint of counterplay here. But e3 is the Torre Attack "autopilot"] 5…Bb7 6.Bd3 d6 7.0-0[7.e4 is still lovely even a move late!] 7…Nbd7 8.c3 0-0 9.Qe2 h6 10.Bh4 a6 11.Rad1 Nh5 A typical device in Torre positions – Black trades off a set of minor pieces and stalls e4 with threats of …Nf412.Bg3 Nxg3 13.fxg3?! The f file isn’t yet an asset for White, but he’s seeking active play. [13.hxg3 c5 14.e4 cxd4 15.cxd4 b5 looks like a normal position, with Black's two bishops pitted against White's edge in central space.] 13…c5 14.e4 Qc7 15.Nc4?! But where’s this guy going? e3 is not an improved post for the knight – he provides good service on d2 by shoring up the e pawn. [15.a4 looks solid, holding up Black's counterplay with ...b5 15...Qc6?! 16.d5! Qxa4?? 17.Ra1 would be a misguided attempt to punish the a pawn] 15…Bf6?! [15...b5 16.Ne3 cxd4 17.cxd4 Nf6 is a dream position for Black - two bishops, solid position, sounder pawn structure.] 16.Ne3 cxd4 17.cxd4 Rfc8 18.Ng4 Qd8 19.Nxf6+ Nxf6 20.Nh4 b5? [20...Rc7 21.e5 dxe5 22.dxe5 Nd7 23.Rxf7 Kxf7 24.Qh5+ Kg8 and none of White's aggression works here - the rook provides excellent defense along the seventh rank, while the knight hops into f8] 21.e5 dxe5 22.dxe5 Qb6+ 23.Kh1 Ne8? Decisively misplacing the Black knight. For defensive purposes, Black is a piece down. [23...Nd7 24.Qh5 Rf8 25.Nf5 exf5 26.Qxf5 g6 27.Qxd7 Rad8 is perfectly solid and equal.] 24.Rxf7? Too frantic – White’s attacking potential doesn’t need to be rushed! [24.Bb1! is cool, calm and winning - Black has no good answer to White's attacking ideas with Qd3 and Qh5 now that his knight can't jump into f8 for defensive purposes. 24...Rc4 25.Qh5 Qc7 26.Rxf7! Qxf7 27.Bh7+ wins the queen and the game.] 24…Kxf7 25.Qh5+ Ke7 26.Ng6+ Kd8 27.Nf8 This has all been forced – Black’s king looks quite scary, but notice that there aren’t any advantageous discoveries! Black’s queen being on a dark square is a big deal. 27…Bd5? [27...Qf2 28.Be4+ Kc7 29.Qf3 Qxf3 30.Rd7+ Kb6 31.Rxb7+ Ka5 32.gxf3 looks approximately equal! But both parties were closing in on time pressure, and this is a ridiculous line to find at the board. But 27...Qf2 makes sense from a broad perspective - when defending, finding counterplay can be extremely important. Being a motionless punching bag is not a good role to occupy!] 28.Qf7? [28.Be4 Ra7 29.Nxe6+ Qxe6 30.Bxd5 Qe7 31.Be6+ Kc7 32.Rc1+ recoups the material investment with interest - White would be stone cold winning. The text allows Black to mobilize the rest of his pieces for defense.] 28…Ra7 29.Nxe6+ Bxe6? Way too greedy – it doesn’t take a whole loaf of bread to make a sandwich. [29...Qxe6 30.Qxa7 Rc7 31.Qe3 Re7 and Black is a piece up with a well constructed defense - he will hop his knight to c7 and his rook to d7 to offer more support to the pinned bishop.] 30.Bg6+? [30.Bxb5+ Nd6 31.Qxe6 Qd4 A last clever tactical trick! 32.Be2!! And a calm as you please riposte. White will pick up the knight with a decisive attack and material advantage.] 30…Rd7 Black has weathered the storm, and White has run out of material. 31.Qxe8+ Kc7 32.Rc1+ 0-1


Roberts,Gerald – Mills,James [A00]
2014 Indiana State Championships (2), 25.10.2014

1.g4 The Grob! Is the Grob sound? Probably not. But how many people with the Black pieces come to the board with its theory on board? And how many players with the Black pieces will start playing unsoundly in an effort to prove the Grob’s unsoundness? Most games are won and lost in the middlegame and endgame – within the bounds of reasonableness, any opening can prove successsful. I’m sure Gerry has gotten more than his fair share of points from Black players who simply self destruct when lured away from well known opening paths. 1…e5 2.Bg2 d5 3.d4 e4 4.c4 dxc4 I’m not sure I like this – the Grob bishop looks quite happy with this decision. [4...c6 5.g5 Be6 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.Nc3 Nc6 looks eminently reasonable - all of Black's pieces have clear roles, and the g pawn looks quite strange.] 5.g5 Bb4+ 6.Nc3 Bxc3+? Black’s first clear mistake – this guts Black’s dark squares and solidifies White’s center. [6...f5 7.Nh3 Ne7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Nf4 c6 looks much better - Black has kept control of the position and gotten mobilized. He holds a clear edge here] 7.bxc3 Qd5 8.Nh3 White most certainly has good compensation here – two bishops, a solid central structure and targets to attack on c4 and e4. It’s also entirely possible that a bishop lands on a3 and Black has great difficulty castling. 8…Ne7 9.Nf4 Qa5 10.e3 A very brave decision! It’s not completely necessary to sacrifice another pawn, but it looks very dangerous for Black to accept it.10…Qxc3+?! [10...Bg4! 11.Qc2 Bf3 neutralizes White's main asset - the Grob bishop! Black looks very solid here. The text is asking too much from his position - he cannot fall behind so far in development for material gains that will likely be given back anyhow.] 11.Bd2 Qa3 12.Qc2 Black is far behind in development and White has very clear attacking plans on both the queenside and in the center. Though White is two pawns down, he holds a clear advantage here. 12…Bf5 13.Rb1 Nbc6 14.Qxc4 0-0 15.Bc3 [15.0-0 b6 16.Rb5 looks quite strong - White has excellent pressure on all sides of the board. Even a quick kingside attack by barrelling the h pawn up the board isn't out of the question!] 15…a5? Just creating targets. [15...Rfd8 16.0-0 Rab8 completes Black's mobilization - though I still prefer White, at least this is a fight.] 16.0-0 Rfb8 17.Rb5 Na7 [17...Qd6 18.d5 Na7 19.Rbb1 is incredibly depressing - Black can hardly move! Notice that the Grob pawn stops Black from stopping up the long diagonal - Qd4 is a huge threat here!] 18.Rxa5 b5 19.Qxc7 And Black is completely lost. 19…Rc8 20.Rxa3 Rxc7 21.Bb4 Re8 22.Bc5 Nac8 23.Rb1 f6 24.gxf6 gxf6 25.Nh5 Kf7 26.h3 Rg8 27.Kh2 Rd7 28.Rxb5 And the scoresheet became indecipherable here. A lovely Grob win for Gerald! 1-0

This flurry of action left only two perfect scores standing in the Open section: John Cole and Andy Porter. The Reserve section was left with six unblemished scores in contention for the top spot. The duel between the two flawless scores in the Open was long and tense…


Porter,Andy – Cole,John [E50]
2014 Indiana State Championships (3), 25.10.2014

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 c5 5.e3 An odd move, but not necessarily bad. 5. dc is the mainline. The text is passive, but solid. 5…0-0 6.Nf3 b6 7.Be2 Bb7 8.0-0 cxd4 9.exd4 d5Transitioning to an IQP structure where White’s queen will be oddly placed on the c file – usually these structures feature White playing aggressive moves like Bg5, Ne5, Bd3, Qe2, etc. 10.cxd5 Nxd5 11.Nxd5 Bxd5 Trading pieces (especially minor pieces) is an excellent goal for the side facing the isolated pawn. Black is already slightly better, as White’s pieces aren’t aggressively placed to compensate for his structural weakness. 12.a3 Bd6 13.Be3 Nd7 [13...Nc6 14.Ng5 g6 is slightly more accurate from Black - the c6 knight is able to jump into the weakened queenside light squares.]14.Rac1 Qb8 A cleverish move, making way for the f rook, immobilizing White’s minor pieces, preparing …b5 and keeping an eye on the queenside light squares. 15.Rfd1 a6 16.h3 Qb7 17.Ng5 Nf6 18.Bf3 A trade I’m quite happy to see – White officially relinquishes his claim on aggressive plans by trading his light squared bishop! Black will now be playing “for two results only”, as the saying goes. 18…Bxf3 19.Nxf3 Rfc8 20.Qb3 Nd5 21.Ne5 Rxc1 22.Rxc1 Rc8 23.Rxc8+ Qxc8 24.Qc4 Qxc4 25.Nxc4 So, the first 25 moves have been pretty much variation free – a quiet position that has been based on ideas and strategic contours rather than any attempt at calculating moves. That cannot be said of endgames – endgames are the domain of pure calculation and concrete evaluations! But first, the basic stuff – get the kings up!

25…Bc7 26.Bd2 Kf8 27.Kf1 Ke7 28.Ke2 Kd7 [28...f6! is much more accurate, and based on a basic Steinitzian principle - restrict the knight with pawns! 29.Kd3 b5 30.Ne3 Nf4+ 31.Ke4 Kd7 32.Kf3 Kc6 And Black is making good progress - the light squares all represent inroads for his pieces, and the queenside pawns and the d4 pawn are stuck as targets for the Black bishop.] 29.Kd3 Kc6?Underestimating Ne5! I wasn’t sure if the bishop vs. knight endgame would be a draw, but I surely should prevent it as an option. [29...f6! with similar play to the previous variation.] 30.g3? Aside from not playing a direct move to draw, this move places a pawn on a dark square – thematically wrong for this endgame! [30.Ne5+ Bxe5 31.dxe5 Kc5 32.b3 h5 33.Ke4 is simply a dead dull draw - Black cannot force his way through with his king.] 30…b5? [30...f6 as you might have heard is the right idea. Wish I'd heard it at the time.] 31.Ne3? [31.Ne5+ Bxe5 32.dxe5 is not as clear as the previous opportunity, since g3 is a bit of a weakness. But this is still too locked up to make progress. But now Black returns to the program of squeezing] 31…Nf6 32.Nc2 Bd6 33.Ne3 Nd7Making way for the f pawn! …f5 will make …f4 a positional threat in some lines, and gives Black’s knight the e4 square as an outpost. 34.Bc3 g6 All of Black’s pawns are on light squares, and all but one of White’s pawns are on dark squares. This creates many bishop endings as a possibility for a win, where Black’s piece will be strong and White’s will be a very passive cleric. 35.Nc2 f5 36.Bd2 Nf6 37.Bg5 Ne4 38.Be3 a5 Aiming to fix White’s pawn structure with …a4. Do not hurry! Every advantage that can be accumulated should be accumulated. 39.Ne1 Kd5 40.Nf3 a4 41.Ng5 Nxg5 42.Bxg5 e5! Remember those bishop endgames I mentioned? It might look strange to trade off White’s most prominent weakness (and on a dark square, no less!) but Black’s bishop needs the long diagonal. 43.Be3 Bc7 Forcing White to trade on e5 44.dxe5 [44.h4 e4+ 45.Kc3 Ba5+ 46.Kc2 Kc4 is the point of ...Bc7 - Black will simply play ...Bb6, pick up the pawn and convert.] 44…Bxe5 The difference between the two bishops and the difference in king activity is enough to assign Black a winning position – White’s bishop, with all of Black’s pawns on light squares, has nothing to do.45.Kc2 Ke4 46.Bc5 g5 47.b3 Bd4 Forcing an easily winning king and pawn ending. 48.Bxd4 Kxd4 49.bxa4 bxa4 50.Kd2 Kc4 51.Kc2 g4 And White’s king must give way, letting Black’s king in for popcorn 0-1


Roberts,Gerald – Hollinberger,Drew [A00]
2014 Indiana State Championships (3), 25.10.2014

1.g4 The Grob, again! 1…d5 2.Bg2 c6 3.g5 g6 [3...h6 4.h4 hxg5 5.hxg5 Rxh1 6.Bxh1 Qc7 looks much more incisive - there's no good answer to the queen hopping into h2 7.Nf3 e5 renews the threat after ...e4] 4.c4 Qa5? [4...dxc4 5.Na3 h6 6.h4 (6.gxh6 Be6 7.Qc2 Nxh6 8.Nxc4 Bg7 and Black has a weak h pawn to attack and harmoniously placed pieces) 6...hxg5 7.hxg5 Rxh1 8.Bxh1 Be6 9.Qc2 Qd4 looks practically winning for Black] 5.cxd5 cxd5 This reminds me of an Exchange Reti (say, 1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 c6 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 Bf5 5. cd cd 6. Qb3)…except there’s a pawn on g5! Here, the g pawn is in no way a weakness – it prevents Black from naturally developing his kingside. The Grob redeemed? 6.Qb3 [6.b4! Qxb4 7.Bxd5 ensures that the light squared bishop dominates the long diagonal 7...Bg7?! 8.Nc3 Bxc3? 9.dxc3 Qxc3+ 10.Bd2 would be far too dangerous - White has far more than enough compensation for a pawn here (two bishops, lead in development, weak kingside dark squares to attack)] 6…e6 7.Qc3 Qxc3 8.Nxc3 Bd7 9.d3 Nc6 10.Bf4 Rc8 11.Rc1 e5?!Black’s solid pawn barrier ensures that White’s bishops are held at bay! [11...Nge7 12.h4 Bg7 13.h5 0-0 looks equal with a strategically tense game to come.] 12.Bg3 d4 13.Ne4 Black’s center pawns are just targets now, and the Grob bishop breaths fire down the long diagonal 13…h6 14.h4 hxg5 15.hxg5 Rxh1 16.Bxh1 Bb4+ 17.Kf1 Ke7 18.f4?! [18.Nf3 Bd6 19.Nxd6 Kxd6 20.b4 a6 21.a4 and Black's central pawns will inevitably fall, with a decisive edge to White] 18…Bf5 [18...exf4 19.Bxf4 Ke6 20.a3 Bf8 21.Nf3 f5 22.Nc5+ Bxc5 23.Rxc5 Nge7 is still much better for White, but it doesn't yet drop material.] 19.fxe5 Bxe4 20.Bxe4 Bd2 21.Rc4 Bxg5 22.Nf3 Be3 23.Bf2 [23.b4! plans on chasing away the Black knight and picking up the d pawn for free - Black is helpless against this plan! ] 23…Nh6 24.Bxc6 bxc6 25.Nxd4? [25.Bxe3 dxe3 26.Nd4 Kd7 (26...c5 27.b4!) 27.Ra4 Rc7 28.b3 and White is decisively better, with pawn weaknesses everywhere to attack. Even after the text, though, White is slightly better and can press against Black's weaknesses indefinitely. But shouldn't we all give peace a chance?] ½-½


Jackson,Jeff – Pitchkites,Ben [B33]
2014 Indiana State Championships (3), 26.10.2014

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 Certainly not the best, but not unknown – 5. Nc3 is, of course, normal. 5…bxc6 6.Nc3 e5 7.a3 Be7 [7...Bc5 8.Bd3 0-0 9.0-0 h6 is a more aggressive post for the Black bishop - Black has a solid edge here] 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0 d5 10.exd5 [10.Bd3 looks weird, but it's better than abandoning White's only center pawn.] 10…cxd5 11.Re1 Bb7 12.Bf1 d4 13.Nb1It seems like Black has gotten ten free tempi! Still, it’s dangerous to be overconfident – all passive positions contain elastic energy. 13…Qd5 14.Nd2 Rfc8 [14...Rac8 15.b3 Rfd8 looks like the right positioning for the rooks - I really can't find a move for White, while Black is free to bulldoze forward.] 15.f3 Bc5 16.Bd3 Ng4? This looks cute, but there’s no reason to do anything drastic. [16...Bb6 17.b3 Re8 18.Qe2 Qd7 is still a solid edge for Black.] 17.Ne4 Ne3 18.Bxe3 dxe3 19.Nxc5 Qxc5 20.Qe2 White picks up a pawn, and the rest is technique. At least in this game! 20…f5 21.Qxe3 f4 22.Qxc5 Rxc5 23.b4 Rc3 24.Rxe5 h6 25.a4 Rac8 26.Rae1 Rf8 27.Re7 Bd5 28.Rxa7 Bc4 29.Rc7 1-0


Zabawa,Michael – Thieme,Steffen [A34]
2014 Indiana State Championships (3), 25.10.2014

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.cxd5 Nxd5 4.Nf3 c5 5.g3 Nc6 6.Bg2 Nb6?! [6...Nc7 7.0-0 e5 would be the Rubinstein English, an incredibly rich and complex variation that has attracted the attention of world champions from both sides of the board. The knight on b6, however, is not terribly flexible - it prevents a natural defense of the c pawn via ...b6 and is vulnerable to being kicked.] 7.0-0 e5 8.d3 Be7 9.a4! And here’s the boot! The a pawn simply threatens to trundle up to a6 with tempo, detonating the long diagonal with decisive impact. Black’s reply is virtually forced, but it weakens Black’s queenside badly. 9…a5 10.Nb5?! [10.Be3 immediately puts the weak Black c pawn under observation 10...0-0 11.Rc1 f5 12.Nb5 and White has an excellent initiative against Black's undeveloped and overextended position] 10…0-0 11.Bd2 Be6 12.Bc3 f6 Without pressure against Black’s position, Black simply has a space advantage and natural posts for his knights on d4 and b4. Black has a solid plus here. 13.e3 [13.Nd2 Nd5 14.Nc4 is more circumspect - White has no justification for any central breaks.] 13…Nd5 14.d4 cxd4 15.exd4 e4 16.Ne1 Nxc3? Gifting White a strengthened central presence. [16...f5 17.Nc2 Ncb4 is simple and good - White has numerous weaknesses and Black's pieces are active.] 17.bxc3 f5 [17...Bc4? 18.Bxe4 Bxf1 19.Kxf1 wins an exchange, but White has more than enough compensation - besides the passed d pawn, he has weaknesses to attack and he owns the light squares.]

18.Qe2 Bf6 19.Nc2 Rc8 20.Ne3 Bd7? Simply allowing White’s knight to destroy Black’s hard earned central barricade! [20...Bg5 21.f4 exf3 22.Qxf3 Na7 is a cute tactic - Black undermines the support of the c pawn with tactics! This is balanced. 23.Nxa7? Rxc3 24.Qxb7 Bxe3+ 25.Kh1 f4 and Black is much better] 21.Nd6 Ne7 22.Nxc8 Qxc8 23.Rfc1 White is an exchange up for little compensation.23…Bg5 24.f4 Not yet bad, but why expose the White king for no gain? [24.Qb2 f4 25.gxf4 Bxf4 26.Re1 holds no terrors for White - he is simply winning.] 24…exf3 25.Bxf3 f4 26.Nd5?! A bit closer to the precipice. [26.gxf4 Bxf4 27.Re1 is still fine] 26…Nxd5 27.Bxd5+ Kh8 28.Qd2?! [28.Qc4 fxg3 29.Qxc8 gxh2+ 30.Kxh2 Rxc8 31.Rf1 is still fine for White, despite shedding a pawn.] 28…Bh6 29.Rf1 fxg3 30.Rxf8+ Qxf8 31.Rf1?? Chess can be a horribly cruel game. [31.Qg2 gxh2+ 32.Kh1 is still winning.] 31…Qxf1+ Michael is someone I haven’t seen in quite awhile (I think I was 14 years younger and 120 lbs. heavier?) and it was fantastic to see him back in the tournament arena. And I can personally attest that his tournament score should have been much higher than it was – he had me in extremely dire circumstances in our first round game. Add in what should have been a win in this game, and that would have been a superb tournament for Mike! I hope to see him back in action quite soon. 0-1

But the jewel of this round, and I would say the tournament, was the following game. I’m not sure commentary is important for a game like this, so I’ll just add sparse notes. My suggestion – open a good bottle of red wine, turn off your engines, and enjoy this game aesthetically.


Bjorklund,Mark – Roush,John [A04]
2014 Indiana State Championships (3), 25.10.2014

1.d4 g6 2.Nf3 Bg7 3.g3 c5 4.Bg2 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Nb3 d6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.N1d2 0-0 9.c3 Qc7 10.Re1 Rb8 11.Rb1 b5 12.Nd4 Bd7 Black has a very comfy position here, with a natural minority attack on the queenside. 13.b3 e5 14.Nxc6 Bxc6 15.c4 Bxg2 16.Kxg2 Rfd8 17.cxb5 Rxb5 18.a4 Qb7+ 19.f3 Rb4 20.e3 d5 21.Ba3 Rb6 22.Bc5 Rc6 23.b4 Now it’s White with the queenside initiative! But Black has an excellent central presence and a weakened kingside to attack. 23…Rd7 24.Nb3 Re6 25.Bxa7 Ra6 26.Nc5 Qxa7 27.Nxa6 Qxa6 28.b5 Qb7 The game’s fate is cast – either Black will break the kingside into a million pieces, or the passed pawns will hit home! Of course, I didn’t mention that both might happen… 29.a5 d4 30.a6 Qb6 31.e4 Bh6 32.Qd3 Rc7 33.Re2 Rc3 34.Qd1 Ne8 35.Ra2 Nc7 36.a7 Qb7 37.b6 Na8 38.Qa4 Bf8 39.Qa6 Qc6 40.b7 Rc2+ 41.Kh3 Qd7+ 42.g4 Rc3 43.Kg3 [43.bxa8Q Rxf3+ 44.Kg2 Qxg4+ 45.Kh1 is safe, as the newly spawned queen defends the e pawn!] 43…h5 44.bxa8Q [44.Kg2 steps out of any nonsense, with a win for White] 44…Qxg4+ 45.Kf2 Rxf3+ 46.Ke1 Qg1+ 47.Kd2 Qe3+ 48.Kd1 Qg1+ 49.Kd2 Qe3+ 50.Kd1 Qg1+ ½-½

Was this game a flawless piece of accurately played chess? I would say that question misses the point of such games. We crazy folk play chess for many reasons, but one of the reasons I play is the deep sense of aesthetic enjoyment I sometimes get from it – finding that one paradoxical move that makes everything work, the logically played endgame that seems to follow deep and beautiful laws of the universe, and those moments when mind transcends matter and will becomes everything. Will anyone remember the boring technical games I played from this tournament? Not a chance. Will people remember this crazy brawl that ended in a beautiful and paradoxical position (just look at White’s major pieces on the side of the board!)? Absolutely. Congratulations to both players for creating a piece of interesting art rather than just another result to be scrawled on the wall.


The fourth round found a clear leader for the Open section – John Cole, who would be playing against Dr. Arthur Galstian:

Cole,John – Galstian,Arthur [D94]
2014 Indiana State Chess Championship (4), 26.10.2014

1.c4 c6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.d4 d5 The super solid Schlechter Slav, an approved drawing weapon among masters. Black hopes to create a light square barricade against which White will prove impotent. White, for his part, just has to stay patient. 5.e3 Bg7 6.Be2 0-0 7.0-0 a6 [7...dxc4 8.Bxc4 Bg4 9.h3 Bxf3 10.Qxf3 Nbd7 11.Rd1 e5 is a mainline of sorts for this opening with lots of games played (including a drawn Cole-Monokroussos game from earlier this year!). The text, however, is also a typical idea from this line - Black often places all of his pawns on light squares after trading or moving his light squared bishop.] 8.a4 Bf5 9.b4?! Too lackadaisical. [9.Qb3 Ra7 (9...Qc7 10.cxd5 Rd8 11.dxc6 Nxc6 and Black doesn't have enough compensation for the pawn.) 10.h3 looks like an easy plus for White. The text allows Black to naturally develop the usual light squared blockade.]

9…dxc4 10.Bxc4 Nd5 11.Qb3 Nxc3 12.Qxc3 Nd7 13.Bb2?! Far too routine – it allows Black’s knight to activate quite handily. [13.a5 Nf6 14.Bb2 Ne4 15.Qc1 is a smidge of a plus for White - he still has a space advantage, and can perhaps dream of placing a knight on c5 to massage Black's backward b pawn.] 13…Nb6 14.Be2 Nd5 15.Qb3 Qd6 [15...Be6! is most exact, granting Black instant equality.]16.Ba3 b5 17.Rac1 [17.a5 Rfd8 18.Rac1 Rac8 19.Rc5 is a smidge of an edge for White - at least here Black's knight has not jumped into the c4 or a4 squares. He can hope to squeeze Black's backward c pawn while pushing a space edge in the center.] 17…Nb6 18.a5 Be6 19.Qc3 Nc4 20.Rfd1 Nxa3?Simply can’t be right – Black has spent many moves to improve the placing of this knight, and now trades it for White’s dreadful bishop! [20...f5 21.Bb2 Rad8 22.Ba1 and White still has a space edge to push, but Black is extremely solid on the light squares.] 21.Qxa3 Bd5 22.Qc3 Rac8 23.Ne5 Bxe5?!Very cooperative – Black’s dark squares are simply emaciated after this move. The fact that White’s pawns are doubled will not be a factor in the equation – White can still create a candidate for promotion from this kingside structure, while the e5 pawn horribly cramps Black’s position. [23...Rfd8 24.Nd3 Bc4 25.f4 clamps down on Black's only pawn break (...e5) and retains a good edge.] 24.dxe5 Qe6 25.Qd4 f5 26.f4 [26.exf6 Qxf6 27.f3 Qxd4 28.Rxd4 is more accurate - this is a very pleasant ending for White, as the Black queenside structure is weak and stuck on light squares.] 26…Qf7 27.Qb6 Ra8 28.Rd2 e6?! Unnecessarily weakening vital squares in the Black camp (d6, the seventh rank) and wasting a move that could have been spent on mobilizing his rooks. And…about that seventh rank!

29.Rxd5 ?!! A question mark for the move’s true strength, double exclam for the psychological impact and the outcome!

A book that I think every chess player should own is Invisible Chess Moves by Neiman and Afek. In it, the authors discuss an important and sadly overlooked aspect of chess – psychology! I think psychology and the way our brains operate when faced with certain problems are the root cause of many inexplicable blunders.

Here, I think the game and tournament situation explain why this move works so well. Dr. Galstian has been playing an extremely solid game against a senior master and would be quite happy with a draw – but, having been pushed back into his trenches and feeling positionally squeezed, he faces the “expected” tactical blow that sends his position into chaos. We calculate 29…cd 30. Rc7 (the thematic and “expected” refutation of 28…e6 which weakened the seventh rank) Qe8 31. Qb7 and Black is helpless! So Dr. Galstian plays…

29…exd5? But what if… [29…cxd5 30.Rc7 Rfb8! 31.Qd6 Rd8 32.Qc6 Qe8 33.Qb7 Rdb8 34.Rg7+ Kf8 35.Qc7 Rc8 36.Qb7 Rc1+ 37.Kf2 Rb8 38.Qa7 Ra8 and the White queen cannot rest from the rook’s repeated entreatments, with a draw.

Is 30…Rfb8 objectively a difficult move to see? I don’t think so, but I think it’s a psychologically difficult move to see. It ignores the attack of Black’s queen and the invasion of the seventh rank, and it requires Black to deeply calculate a line when a semi-plausible alternative (29…exd5) allows him to continue the game. Consider that I didn’t notice 30…Rfb8 during the game, and an observing expert (Steffen Thieme) didn’t notice it either! Perhaps finding this move is like finding your optical blind spot?]

30.Rxc6 The game resumes its “expected” course – White has far more than enough compensation for the exchange – he already has a pawn, Black’s d pawn will soon fall, the entire queenside is menaced and all of White’s pieces are more active than their counterparts. 30…Qa7 31.Bf3 Qxb6[31...Rfd8 32.Rc7 Qxb6 33.axb6 Rac8 34.Bxd5+ Kh8 35.e6 and White's pawns will push through with ease.] 32.Bxd5+ Kh8 33.axb6 Rac8 34.Rc5 Kg7 35.b7 Rb8 36.Rc7+ and Dr. Galstian tipped his king. 1-0

John and Arthur


John Cole and Dr. Arthur Galstian doing battle, Andy Porter in background

Meanwhile, on board two, Lester Van Meter was making a charge to challenge for the title in the last round…


Van Meter,Lester – Leach,Mathew [E06]
2014 Indiana State Championships (4), 26.10.2014

1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 e6 3.Bg2 Be7 [3...d5 4.Nf3 dxc4 would be the major theoretical path of this variation, with White having two major options (5. Qa4+ and 5. Na3)] 4.Nf3 c5 5.0-0 0-0 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 d5 8.Qc2?! It seems strange to commit the queen so early to a potentially opening file. [8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Nc3 Nxc3 10.bxc3 is one possible treatment from White - his slight lead in development and potential pressure on the b pawn makes up for his slight structural deficit.] 8…Nc6 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.Rd1 Bb7 The bishop looks quite passive, but it fulfills useful prophylactic roles (defending the long diagonal against its counterpart, for instance). Black has handily equalized. 11.e4 Probably too early – White is not sufficiently mobilized for this pawn break. [11.Nd2 Qb6 12.b3 Rfd8 13.Bb2 looks like an equal and tense fight.] 11…Qb6 12.Nc3 Rac8 [12...dxc4 13.Bf1 Rad8 14.Bxc4 Ng4 looks more direct - Black's active pieces and lead in development compensate for his slight structural defect.] 13.Be3 Qa5 14.a3?! Unnecessarily weakening White’s queenside and practically forcing Black to take on c4. [14.Qa4! Qxa4 15.Nxa4 Rfe8 (15...Nxe4?? 16.Bxe4 dxe4 17.Rd7 wins a piece) 16.Bc5 Bd8 17.b3 leaves White with a deathlock on the position - Black's light squared bishop is a very displeased spectator.]

14…dxc4 The time White spends in regaining this pawn will allow Black to mobilize his pieces.15.h3 e5?! White is not yet threatening to play e5 – Black has time to mobilize his rooks! [15...Rfd8 16.Qa4 (16.Na4? Ba6 17.Rxd8+ Rxd8 18.Bxa7 Bb5 embarasses White's minor pieces) 16...Qxa4 17.Nxa4 Rxd1+ 18.Rxd1 c5 looks solidly equal for Black - his weak c pawns are not yet a liability, and his pieces are well coordinated.] 16.Rac1 Rfd8 17.Bf1 Rxd1 18.Nxd1 c5 19.Bg2? An odd step backwards! [19.f3! makes two of Black's minor pieces look quite silly - White has an excellent grip on the light squares and weaknesses to attack.] 19…Ba6 20.Bd2 Qb6 21.Bc3 Nd7 [21...Qe6 keeps Black's knight staring at the important d5 square.] 22.Ne3 Qe6 23.Rd1 [23.Qa4! immobilizes Black's pieces - he can follow up with Rd1, Nd5 and even something slow like Bf1xc4 or h4, Kh2 and Bh3]23…Nb6 24.Nd5 Kf8? [24...Bb5 25.Qe2 Ba4 activates Black's bishop and gives him a small edge - notice that the "weak" c4 pawn is becoming more of a strength!] 25.Bf1 [25.Bf3! threatens to win the exchange and plans to activate White's bishop. 25...Rd8 (25...Qxh3 26.Nxe7 Kxe7 27.Bxe5 sets White's bishop pair after Black's exposed king) 26.Bg4 either wins the e pawn or forces Black's queen into an unpleasant discovery - White is just winning here.] 25…Bb5 26.Qe2 Bc6?! [26...Ba4 27.Re1 Bd6 28.Qh5 Qg6 is solidly equal for Black] 27.Qh5 f6? [27...Qg6 28.Qxg6 hxg6 29.Nxe7 Kxe7 30.Bxe5 is certainly better for White (two bishops, targets to attack), but Black still has chances to defend.] 28.Qxh7 Be8? [28...Rd8 29.Qh8+ Kf7 30.Qh5+ Kg8 31.Ba5 is grim for Black, but there's still work for White. The text simply sheds major material.] 29.Qh8+ Kf7 30.Be2 g6 31.Qh7+ Kf8 32.Bd2 Bf7 33.Nxb6 axb6 34.Bg4 f5 35.exf5 Qf6 36.fxg6 Bxg6 37.Qh6+ Ke8 38.Bxc8 b5 39.h4 Kf7 40.Bg5 Qf3 41.Be6+ Kxe6 42.Qxg6+ Bf6 43.Qxf6+ 1-0

Mat and Lester

Mat Leach and Lester Van Meter dueling


With these two results, another Van Meter-Cole showdown was scheduled for the last round. Meanwhile, in the Reserve section, Jason Wycoff and Matt Kubisch played each other to a tense draw, while Jeff Jackson continued his clean sweep to take a clear 4-0 lead into the last round!

The final round of a tournament is always filled with tension, especially when titles are on the line. A point behind and playing White, I knew that Lester would be playing all out for a win. The course of the game certainly justified this expectation:


Van Meter,Lester – Cole,John [A39]
2014 Indiana State Championships (5), 26.10.2014

1.c4 c5 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.Nc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.0-0 0-0 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 So far, so theory! This Pure Symmetrical position of the English has seen thousands upon thousands of efforts, including the contributions of world champions from both sides of the board. Though I prefer playing White, I’ve had this position many times from both sides of the board. 8…Ng4 [8...Nxd4 9.Qxd4 d6 10.Qd3 is the super mainline, with numerous methods of defense from Black. The text is a bit more obscure sideline that poses some immediate problems for White.] 9.Nc2 [9.e3 d6 10.b3 Nxd4 11.exd4 Nh6 is the mainline, and probably White's best course of action - Black has active pieces and possibilities of ...b5 and ...e5 pawn breaks, but White has an edge in space. White has a decent edge with an interesting strategic struggle ahead.] 9…Bxc3 Immediately destabilizing the position and starkly casting the die – White absolutely must put his two bishops to work quickly before Black gets a grip on White’s shattered pawn structure! [9...d6 10.Bd2 Bd7 is a much calmer interpretation of the position, and probably better - Black has well posted pieces and chances to achieve ...b5 before White can reorganize his pieces (his c2 knight especially looks quite strange)]

10.bxc3 Qa5 [10...d6 11.Rb1 Qc7 12.Bf4 Rd8 is better, and much more to the point - developing your pieces is a good thing. Perhaps a certain annotator needs to reread some Reinfeld books on these matters?] 11.Nb4! A great move that I completely overlooked. Taking the offered sacrifice is very dangerous. 11…Nge5 [11...Nxb4 12.cxb4 Qxb4 13.Qd4 d6 14.h3 Nf6 15.Be3 is incredibly dangerous for Black - I'm desperately behind in development and White has perfectly good plans on both sides of the board. This looks like far more than enough for a mere pawn.] 12.Qd5 Qc7?! I need to admit that I’m worse here and focus on getting my pieces out as quickly as possible. [12...d6 13.Qb5 a6 14.Qxa5 Nxa5 15.Nd5 and White is going to regain his pawn with a good edge due to his ferocious pair of bishops. Still, at least Black has developed here.] 13.Qe4? [13.c5! puts White's weakness to work cramping Black's position! Black is on the edge here. 13...d6 14.cxd6 exd6 15.Rd1 and with two bishops, more active pieces and a weak d pawn to lean on, White is simply much better. The text allows Black to consolidate.]

13…d6 14.Bh6 Re8 15.Nd5 Qd8 This looks scary for Black, but he can slowly untangle by playing moves like …f6 and …e6. Ugly, but effective! White needs to generate pressure for Black consolidates and goes after his weak c pawns. 16.Qh4 Too crude – Black’s kingside, even while missing the fianchettoed bishop, is too solid for this approach. [16.c5 highlights Black's dearth of development by cracking open the position. 16...e6 17.Nb4 d5 18.Nxc6 Nxc6 19.Qf4 gives both sides something to crow about - Black has a solid pawn structure and targets, White has the two bishops, superior dark squared presence and an edge in mobilization. This feels balanced.] 16…f6Looks odd, but Black’s defensive plan is something like …Nf7, …Kg7 and …e6! An impromptu Hedgehog on the kingside, so to speak. 17.c5? This is either a misguided sacrifice or an error – White does not get enough compensation. 17…g5 Sealing up the bishop! 18.Bxg5 fxg5 19.Qxg5+ Kh8 20.Be4 Rg8 Forming a bucket brigade for the kingside conflagration!

21.Qh5 Rg7 22.Nf4 Bg4 And finally completing development with tempo! 23.Qh4 Qf8 24.cxd6 exd6 25.Qh6? A blunder in a difficult position. There’s still work to be done on the Black side – Black’s pieces look nice, but it’s hard to move them without loosening my defensive posture. [25.Rad1 Ne7 26.Rd4 Rc8 27.f3 Bf5 is most certainly winning for Black, but there's still work to be done.] 25…Bxe2! An annoying tactical point for White – the g file suddenly becomes not full of stuff! 26.Kh1[26.Nxe2 Rxg3+ 27.Nxg3 Qxh6 is the annoying point] 26…Bxf1 27.Ne6 Bd3 An important intermezzo [27...Qe7 28.Nxg7 Qxg7 29.Qxg7+ Kxg7 30.Rxf1 and in a practical sense, there's still a lot of work to be done here - White has a very clear plan of pushing pawns on the kingside, whereas Black's plan isn't as clear cut. The text cuts down resistance immediately.] 28.Nxf8 Bxe4+ 29.Kg1 Nf3+ 30.Kf1 Rxf8 A material imbalance I’ve never had before (three minors and a rook for a queen) – it was gratifying that all of it happened to be pointed at White’s king! 31.Qxd6 Rgf7 32.Ke2 Rd8 33.Qh6 Bd3+ 34.Ke3 Nce5 35.Qh5 Nc4# An aesthetic finish to a very hard fought game. 0-1

This game wrapped up a 5-0 score and three titles in a row for John Cole – but it’s his first year taking the title unshared or without tiebreaks! Hopefully next year the younger crowd (Sean Vibbert, Steven Cooklev, Sameer Manchanda, etc) shows up to wrest it from his superannuated grasp!

The Reserve section featured a tense last round showdown as well – Jeff Jackson, leading the section with a clean 4-0 score, was defeated on board one by Jason Wycoff! Meanwhile, Matt Kubisch (Wycoff’s 4th round opponent) defeated Mark Bjorklund to keep pace with Wycoff and claim a share of the Reserve title. I would love to share some of these undoubtedly fine efforts with the readers of these pages – but no scoresheets were provided! Hopefully they can send in these scribblings so I can belatedly share them with you all (nudge nudge, wink wink, hint hint).

I think I speak for everyone who played when I say how gorgeous the playing site was. I have fond memories of the Rose Hulman campus from numerous childhood chess camps – the site was just as enjoyable at thirty, luckily! No matter where next year’s event is held, I hope to see everyone (and even more of everyone!) there with bows on!


John W Cole