Friday, September 21, 2018

Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 part 4

So after racing to a lead in the tournament after the first half, I began to falter and lost two in a row. I was still in first place, but I needed to turn things around quick. Now I was facing FM Carver Moncur, who had beaten me in round 4.
Critical match-up with trophy behind us

Cross,Ted (1995) - Moncur,FM Cecil (1876) [B23]
Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 Nassau (9), 12.03.2017

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 
Not sure why I chose the Sicilian Grand Prix attack, except that I'm sure I wanted to get out of any special preparation Carver had done.
3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bb5 Nd4 6.0-0 Nxb5 7.Nxb5 d5 8.exd5 a6 9.Nc3 Nf6 10.d4 Nxd5 11.dxc5 Nxc3 12.Qxd8+ Kxd8 13.bxc3 Bxc3 14.Rb1 Kc7 15.Rb3 Bg7 
There hasn't been much to say because this has all been theory, headed toward an interesting endgame that I had studied previously. The question was could I remember it all?
16.Bd2 Rb8? 
[16...Be6 17.Ba5+ Kc6 18.Rb6+ Kxc5 19.Nd2 Rhd8 (19...Rhc8? 20.Rd1 Bf5 21.c3 Bc2 22.Rc1 Bf5 23.h3 h5 24.c4+-) 20.Rd1 Rd4~~ 21.c4 Bxc4 22.Rxb7 Rc8 23.Rc1 Kc6 24.Rxe7 Bf8 25.Re3 Kb5 26.Nb3 Rd5=/+]
GM Renier Gonzalez was analyzing the game afterward and preferred [17.Rb6!?]
Me with GM Renier Gonzalez

17...Kc6 18.Rb6+ Kxc5 19.Rd1?? 
Here is where I mixed up my line. I knew about Nd2 but played too quickly, and the instant I played it I saw that Bg4 ruins it for me. I got truly lucky that my opponent had a moment of blindness next move. [19.Nd2 Bg4 20.Nb3+ Kd5 21.c4+ Ke4 22.Re1+ Kd3 23.Rxe7 Rhe8 24.Rxf7 Bc3 25.h3 Bf5 26.g4 Re1+ 27.Kf2 Re2+ 28.Kg3 Re3+ 29.Kh4 Be6 30.Nc5++-]
Wow, what a mistake to make just when could have grabbed the advantage. [19...Bg4 20.Rb3 b5-/+]
20.Bxc3 Kxb6 21.Bxh8 f6 22.Rd8 Kc7 23.Rg8 b5 24.Rg7 Kd6 25.Rxh7 Bf5 26.Nd4 Be4 27.Rh3 e5?? 
He overlooked the skewer of his king and rook. [27...Kd5 28.c3 b4 29.Ne2 Bf5 30.Rh7 a5 31.Kf2 Rc8 32.h3 bxc3 33.g4 Bd3 34.Nc1 Be4 35.Bg7 c2 36.g5 Ke6 37.gxf6 exf6 38.Rh8 Rc4 39.Rf8 Bf5 40.Ke3 Rc3+ 41.Kd2 Rxh3 42.Rxf6+ Ke7 43.Ra6 Rf3 44.Rxa5 Rxf4 45.Kc3 g5 46.Bh6 Rf3+ 47.Kb2 g4 48.Ne2+-]
28.Bxf6 exf4 29.Ra3 Rb6 30.Bg5 [30.Bd8] 30...Ke5 31.c3 Rd6 32.Ne2 Rd1+ 33.Kf2 f3 34.gxf3 Bb7 35.Rb3 Bd5 36.Ra3 Bb7 37.Be3 Rh1 38.Bf4+ Kf5 39.Ng3+ 1-0

It felt good not just to get back on track but to beat the toughest opponent. Now I just needed to finish off the tournament well. There was only one person who could catch me, if I lost.

Karelina,Polina (1681) - Cross,Ted (1995) [B25]
Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 Nassau (10), 12.03.2017

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 6.f4 e6 
The second Sicilian Grand Prix in a row! I knew Polina played it, so this is what I prepared for.
7.Nf3 Nge7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Be3 b6 10.Qd2 d5 
This was all preparation for me. Her next move was new, so I suddenly had to think.
11.Nd1 dxe4 
I have a tendency to simplify too often. [11...d4 12.Bf2 e5=/+]
12.dxe4 Qxd2 13.Bxd2 Bb7 
[13...Ba6 14.Re1 e5=]
14.e5 Rad8 15.a3?
You'll see over the next few moves that the same tactic was available over and over again, and both of us missed it each time. [15.Rf2=]
[15...Nxe5! 16.fxe5 Bxf3-+]
[16...Nxe5 17.Nxe5 Bxe5 18.fxe5 Bxg2 19.Rf2 Bc6-/+]
[17...Nxe5! 18.Nxe5 Bxe5 19.fxe5 Bxe4 20.Bxe4 Rxd2-/+]
18.Nxd4 Bxe4? 
[>=18...Rxd4 19.Nf6+ Bxf6 20.exf6 Rxd2 21.Bxb7 Nf5 22.Bxa6 Rxc2 23.Rf2 Rxf2 24.Kxf2 Nd6=/+]
Lucky for me that Polina didn't see how to keep me from winning the piece. [19.Bxe4 Rxd4 20.Bd3 Rd7+/=]
The computer likes Bg2 better, but I could see my line led to a fairly easy win. [19...Bxg2 20.Nxf8 Rxd2 21.Rad1 Rxd1 22.Rxd1 Bf3-+]
20.Bxe4 Rxd2 21.Bd3 b5 
[21...g5! 22.fxg5 Rxf1+ 23.Rxf1 Bxe5 24.Re1 Bd4+-+]
22.b3 Rc8 [22...g5] 23.a4 c4 24.bxc4 bxc4 25.Be4 Nd5 26.Rfd1 Rxd1+ 
27.Rxd1 Nc3 28.Re1 Nxe4 29.Rxe4 Bf8 30.Rd4? Bc5 0-1
It felt so good to win both games on the final day and take first place with 7/10.
With GM Gonzalez and the sponsor Mr. Lindroth

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 part 3

I finished the first half of the 2017 Nassau Cup Invitational with 4/5, but could I play well enough in the second half to win first place? Since it was a double round robin, I would be playing the same players over again but with colors reversed.

Joseph,Elton (1808) - Cross,Ted (1995) [D35]
Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 Nassau (6), 11.03.2017

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.Nxd5??
Lucky way to begin the second half of the event. My opponent falls for an ancient trap right in the opening. I dislike playing the Queen's Gambit as black, but I wasn't feeling confident about my Dutch at the time.
6...Nxd5 7.Bxd8 Bb4+ 8.Qd2 Bxd2+
Taking the bishop on d8 may be a touch better, but it's a winning position no matter what here.
9.Kxd2 Kxd8 10.e4 N5f6 11.e5 Nd5 12.Bc4 N7b6 13.Bb3 Be6 14.Ne2 Ke7 15.Rac1 c6 16.h3 Rhd8 17.f4 h5 18.Rhf1 g6 19.Ng3 Nc7 20.Bxe6 Nxe6 21.f5 Nxd4 22.Ke3 h4 23.fxg6 fxg6
My move is just fine, though the computer likes the following a shade more. [23...hxg3 24.Rxf7+ Ke6 25.Ke4 Nd7 26.Rcf1 c5-+]
24.Ne4 Nf5+ 25.Kf4 Rd4 26.Kf3 Rxe4 27.Kxe4 Ng3+ 28.Ke3 Nd5+ 29.Kd2 Nxf1+ 30.Rxf1 Rf8 31.Re1 Rf2+ 32.Kd3 Rxb2 33.Re4 Rxa2 34.Rxh4 Rxg2 35.Rh7+ Ke6 36.Rxb7 Kxe5 37.Rxa7 Rg3+ 38.Kd2 Rxh3 39.Ra6 Kd6 40.Ke2 Rh7 41.Ra8 Rg7 42.Kf3 g5 43.Rd8+ Kc7 44.Ra8 Kb7 45.Ra1 g4+ 46.Kg3 c5 47.Rc1 Kc6 48.Re1 c4 49.Rc1 Kc5 0-1

So that was a nice way to begin the second half.

Cross,Ted (1995) - Cox,Valentine (1846) [B96]
Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 Nassau (7), 11.03.2017

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7
I know the nuances of the standard Nbd7 far better, so this was a good choice to force me to have to think and try to be accurate.
8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0-0-0 Bd7 10.Bd3 Nc6 11.Nxc6 Bxc6 12.Rhe1 b5 13.Ne2?!
I wanted to reposition my knight to the better d4 square, but the computer prefers [13.Kb1 Bb7 14.a3+/=]
13...Rc8 14.Nd4 Bb7 15.Qe2?!
15...0-0 16.Kb1 d5? 17.Bxf6 dxe4 
[17...Bxf6 18.e5 Be7 19.Bxh7+ Kxh7 20.Qh5+ Kg8 21.Rd3 f6 22.Rg3+-]
18.Be5 exd3 19.Rxd3 Qa5?! 
[19...Qc5 20.Nb3 Qb6 21.f5 f6 22.Bd4 Qc6 23.Na5 Qxg2 24.Nxb7 Qxb7 25.fxe6 Rc7+/-]
Can't blame me for missing the tactical shot here. It isn't easy to see. [20.Bxg7!! Kxg7 21.Qe5+ f6 22.Qxe6 Kh8 (22...Rce8 23.Nf5+ Kh8 24.Nxe7 Bc8 25.Qe2+-) 23.Qxe7 Rf7 24.Qe3+-]
20...Qb6 21.Rg3? 
I was struggling to understand the position and find a good plan. [21.f5 f6 22.Bd4 Qc6 23.Na5 Qxg2 24.Nxb7 Qxb7 25.fxe6 Rc7 26.Qg4 g6 27.Rg1+/-]
21...g6= 22.Rd3? 
[22.Bd4 Qc7 23.f5 Bd5 24.Qd2 Rfd8 25.fxg6 fxg6 26.Qd3 Bf8 27.Be5 Qd7 28.Nd4=]
22...Bd5 23.Nd2?! Qc6 24.c3? 
[24.Rc3 Qb7 25.Ne4 f5 26.Rxc8 Rxc8 27.Nf6+ Bxf6 28.Bxf6 Be4 29.Rc1 b4 30.b3 a5 31.Bb2=]
24...b4! 25.Ka1?! 
[25.c4 Bxc4 26.Nxc4 Qxc4 27.b3 Qb5 28.Bb2-/+]
25...bxc3 26.Bxc3 Rfe8 27.Rg3?? 
Just horrible, missing an obvious skewer [27.g3 Qb5 28.Qe3-/+]
27...Bh4 28.Rh1? Qa4 29.b3 Bxb3 30.Nxb3 Bxg3 31.Qe5 Rxc3 32.Qxc3 Bxf4 33.Rf1 Bh6 34.Qf3 Bg7+ 35.Kb1 Qd7 36.Rd1 Qb5 37.Rf1 Qf5+ 38.Qxf5 gxf5 39.h3 Rd8 40.g4 fxg4 41.hxg4 Rd5 42.Rf4 a5 43.Ra4 Bc3 44.Kc2 Be1 45.a3 Kg7 46.Re4 Bh4 47.a4 Be7 48.Rc4 Bb4 49.Re4 h5 50.gxh5 Rxh5 51.Nd4 Rh2+ 52.Kb3 Rh3+ 53.Kc2 Ra3 54.Nxe6+ fxe6 55.Rxe6 Rxa4 
This is what I was playing on for, a chance to sacrifice the knight for enough material to give me a chance to do something, anything in the endgame to cheapo my way to a draw.
56.Rc6 Kf7 57.Ra6 Ra3 58.Kb2 Rh3 59.Rb6 Ke7 60.Ra6 Kd7 61.Rb6 Kc7 62.Ra6 Kb7 63.Rg6 Rc3 64.Rg5 Kb6 65.Rg6+ Kb5 66.Rg5+ Ka4 67.Rh5 Rg3 68.Rh2 Rb3+ 69.Ka2 Rd3 70.Kb1 Ba3 71.Ka2 Bb4 72.Kb1 Rd1+ 73.Kc2 Ra1 74.Kb2 Ra3 75.Rh4 Rc3 76.Rg4 Rc5 77.Rh4 Kb5 78.Rh3 a4 79.Rf3 Rd5 80.Rh3 Rd2+ 81.Kc1 a3? 
And this was the type of mistake I was after.
82.Rxa3 Kc4 
Unfortunately, even though I got my cheapo and reached a bishop and rook versus rook endgame, the particular positioning of the pieces here makes it fairly easy for my opponent to still win.
83.Rh3 Bc3 84.Rh7 Rf2 85.Rc7+ Kd3 86.Rd7+ Bd4 87.Kb1 Rb2+ 88.Kc1 Ra2 89.Rb7 Ra1+ 90.Rb1 Ra2 91.Rb7 
[91.Rb5] would have given me more of a chance to slip out of the noose my opponent played wrong.
91...Rf2 92.Rb3+ Bc3 93.Kb1 Rf1+ 0-1

Okay, so another loss. You always want to right the ship after such a loss and not start spiraling downward. Would I be able to do it?

Knowles,Kendrick (1891) - Cross,Ted (1995) [E61]
Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 Nassau (8), 11.03.2017

1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.e3 Nf6 
I have never studied the English deeply enough to develop a standard set of lines to use. I pretty much make it up as I go along, which can get me into trouble, of course. [5...e6; 5...e5]
6.Nge2 0-0 7.d4 cxd4 8.exd4 d6 9.0-0 e6?! 
See, it's not so easy to find the best lines when you don't have them memorized. [9...Bf5 10.h3 h5 11.Be3 Qd7=]
10.b3 a6 11.Bb2 Qa5?! 12.d5 exd5 13.Nxd5 Nxd5 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Bxd5 Qc7?! 
Here you can see that I'm in for a long, hard struggle to save the game. Material is even, but white is fully developed and has an obvious target on d6 to aim at. [>=15...Bh3 16.Re1 Rfe8 17.Qc1+/=]
16.Qd2 Be6 17.Rac1 Rad8 18.Rfe1 Rfe8 19.Nf4 Bc8 20.Qc3+ Kg8 21.Qf6 Ne5 22.Qg5?! 
A slight inaccuracy on white's part allows me to alleviate some of the pressure. [22.Bg2 Be6 23.h3+/-]
22...Qe7 23.Qxe7 Rxe7 24.Rcd1?! 
White made a small error on his move, but I failed to see how to take advantage of it. [>=24...Bg4 25.Ra1 Nf3+ 26.Bxf3 Rxe1+ 27.Rxe1 Bxf3 28.Re3 Bc6=]
25.Kg2 Kf8 26.Re3 Ng4 27.Rxe7 Kxe7 28.Re1+ Kf8 29.h3 Nf6 30.Bc6 Bd7 31.Bb7 a5 
[31...Rb8! 32.Bf3 g5 33.Nd5 Nxd5 34.Bxd5 b5 35.g4+/=]
32.Rd1 Be6?!
33.Bd5?! Bxd5+ 34.Nxd5 Nxd5 35.Rxd5 Ke7 36.Rb5 Rb8= 
Now the endgame is equal, however it is far easier for white to play. Black has to keep his rook active enough to hold the draw, as well as not make any more mistakes.
37.Kf3 Kd7 38.g4 h6 39.h4 Kc6 40.g5 hxg5 41.hxg5 Re8 42.a3 Re1 43.a4 Re6 44.Kg4 f5+? 45.gxf6 Rxf6 46.f4 Re6?! 
I miss several paths to the draw over the remaining moves. [46...Kc7 47.Kg5 Rf8 48.Rd5 Kd7 49.Rd4 Ke6 50.Kxg6 Rg8+ 51.Kh5 Rg3=]
47.Kg5 Kc7 48.Rd5 Kc6 49.Rd3 Kc5 50.Rh3 Kb4 51.Rh6 Kxb3 
[51...Re1 52.Rxg6 Kxb3 53.Rxd6 Kxc4=]
52.Rxg6 Rxg6+?? 
53.Kxg6 Kxa4 54.f5 Kb3 55.f6 a4 56.f7 a3 57.f8Q Kxc4 58.Qxd6 Kb3 59.Qxb6+ Kc2 60.Qc5+ Kb3 61.Qc1 Ka2 62.Kf5 1-0

Depressing to be in first place and then lose two games in a row. Other players were closing in on my first place standing, and if I couldn't find a way to stop the bleeding, the ending of the event would be a painful one for me.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 part 2

After starting day one 3-0, I hoped to continue my good fortune into day two, but it wan't to be. Playing FM Cecil 'Carver' Moncur with black is never fun. He had beaten me thus in the national championships a couple months earlier, so I knew going in it would be tough.I prepared hard and it seemed like it was working out for me at first.

Moncur,FM Cecil (1876) - Cross,Ted (1995) [D36]
Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 Nassau (4), 05.03.2017

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.Qc2 c6 7.Nc3 g6 8.e3 Bf5 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 Nbd7 11.Bh6 Ng4 12.Bg7 Rg8 13.Be5 Ngxe5 14.Nxe5 Nxe5 15.dxe5 Qc7
Believe it or not, I had had this position on my board during my preparation, but after Carver played his next move, I couldn't remember the line. I'm not a fan of the Queen's Gambit, but this line had felt like my best shot at trying to beat Carver, so I had worked hard at it in my prep.
16.f4 0-0-0
Castling isn't bad, but the better way to play it was [16...f6 17.e4 fxe5 18.exd5 0-0-0 19.0-0-0 exf4 20.Qc4 Bd6 21.dxc6 Qxc6 22.Qxc6+ bxc6-/+]
17.0-0-0 h6?
Here is where I went astray and lose my advantage. This pawn move haunts me the rest of the game. Better was still [17...f6-/+]
18.g3 Kb8 19.Kb1 f6 20.exf6 Bxf6 21.Rhe1?!
The computer doesn't like this move, preferring e4, leading to equality.
21... Qg7?!
Leads only to equality. Playing g5 leaves black with a slight edge.
22.Qc2 Rge8 
Again g5 was the better move. [>=22...g5 23.f5 Rge8 24.e4 Qe7 25.a4 a6=]
23.e4 Bxc3 24.Qxc3 Qxc3 25.bxc3 dxe4 26.Rxd8+ Rxd8 27.Rxe4 Rd7?
Reaching this endgame, I needed to assess it better. It is equal, but it's easier for white to play. I had a choice between active rook play or passive, and I chose the latter...wrongly. [27...Rd2 28.Re6 Rxh2 29.Rxg6 h5 30.f5 Kc7 31.Rg7+ Kb6 32.Rh7 Rg2 33.Rxh5 Rxg3 34.Kc2 a5=]
28.Kc2 Rg7?! 
Here is where I strayed down the path of passivity. Kc7 still offered equality. [>=28...Kc7]
29.Re8+ Kc7 30.Rh8 h5 31.Re8 Kd6 
My move isn't a mistake, per se, but there was an easier route to a draw. [>=31...g5=]
32.Re5 b6 
Again my move is okay but there was a simpler drawing route. [32...Re7 33.Rg5 (33.Rxe7?! Kxe7 34.h3 Ke6 35.g4 hxg4 36.hxg4 Kd5 37.Kd3 b5=) 33...Re2+ 34.Kb3 Rxh2 35.Rxg6+ Kc5 36.Rg5+ Kd6=]
33.Kd3 c5?? 
And then I blow it. It may be hard to see, but this was my last moment to activate my rook enough to be able to draw. [33...Rf7 34.Rg5 Rf6=]
34.Rg5 Ke6 35.f5+ Kf6 36.Rxg6+ Rxg6 37.fxg6 Kxg6 38.Kc4 Kg5 39.h3 a6 40.Kd5 Kf5 41.Kc6 Ke4 42.g4 hxg4 43.hxg4 Kd3 44.Kxb6 c4 45.g5 Kxc3 46.g6 Kb2 47.g7 c3 48.g8Q c2 49.Qb3+ 1-0

Well, that was a distressing way to start day two of the tournament, especially after my preparation had worked so well to earn me an edge with the black pieces. I could still finish the first half of the tournament with four out of five if I could win the second game of the day.

Cross,Ted (1995) - Karelina,Polina (1681) [B07]
Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 Nassau (5), 05.03.2017

1.e4 d6 
Paulina always plays the Pirc, so it's easy to look at these lines, but she always varies it a little, so it's hard to nail down any particular strategy.
2.d4 Nf6 3.f3 e5 4.d5 Be7 5.c4 a5 6.Nc3 Na6 7.Nge2 0-0 8.Be3 Nd7 9.Qd2 Ndc5 10.g4 c6 11.Ng3 cxd5 12.cxd5 Bd7 13.Bxa6?! 
I had a comfortable edge here, so this plan of trading the bishop and castling was just wrong. [13.Nf5+/=]
13...Nxa6 14.0-0?! 
[14.Nf5 b5 15.h4 b4 16.Nd1 Bxf5 17.gxf5 Rc8 (17...Bxh4+? 18.Kf1 g5 19.Bf2 Bxf2 20.Nxf2 Nc5 21.Ng4 f6 22.Kf2+/=) ]
15.Nf5 Bxf5?! 
I was happy to get the open g file. [15...b5 16.Kh1 Re8 17.Rac1+/=]
16.gxf5 Nc5 17.Kh1 Qd7 18.Rg1 
My move is fine and more human. The computer shows a tactic leading to a larger edge. [18.Bh6! f6 (18...gxh6 19.Qxh6 Kh8 20.Rg1 Rg8 21.f6 Nd3 22.Rg7+-) 19.Rg1 Rf7 20.Qe2 Na4 21.Nb5 Bd8 22.Be3 Bb6 23.Bxb6 Nxb6 24.a4+/-]
18...Kh8 19.Rg2!? 
The computer likes my move, but I think I prefer the rook to go to g3. [>=19.Rg3]
19...b5 20.Rag1 Rg8 21.Rg3 b4 
[21...g6 22.Nd1 a4 23.R3g2 Bf6 24.Bh6+/=]
22.Nd1 Bf6 23.Qg2 
[23.Nf2 Qe7 24.Ng4 Bh4 25.Rh3+-]
23...Nd3 24.Rh3 g6?? 
[24...Rgd8 25.Qg4 Qe8 26.Nf2 Nf4 27.Bxf4 exf4 28.e5 Bxe5 29.Ne4 Qg8 30.Ng5 Bf6 (30...h6?? 31.Rxh6+ gxh6 32.Qh5 Qf8 33.Nxf7+ Qxf7 34.Qxf7+-) 31.Nxh7 Qxh7 32.Rxh7+ Kxh7 33.Qh3+ Kg8 34.Qh6 Kf8 35.Qh8+ Ke7 36.Re1+ Kd7 37.Qh5 Rf8 38.Qg4 Rh8 39.Qg1 Rc5 40.Rc1 Rhc8 41.Rxc5 Rxc5 42.Qf2 Be5 43.Kg2 Ke7 44.Kh3 Rxd5 45.a4 bxa3 46.bxa3 Rc5 47.a4+/-]
25.Rxh7+ Kxh7 26.Qh3+ Kg7 27.Qh6# 1-0

So, while I wasn't happy dropping a game to Carver,  I had to be fairly happy going four out of five through the first half of the tournament. I was in first place and just hoped to continue playing well through the second weekend.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 part 1

A new sponsor suddenly appeared in The Bahamas -- the real estate developer Orjan Lindroth. This is a terrific development for Bahamas chess and I hope it continues for a long time. This invitation came out of the blue, and I was happy to accept. The best six players in The Bahamas were invited to play a double round robin with a first prize of $1000. With so many good players, I was nervous since I had showed my rust in both of my first tournaments here and had lost a lot of rating points. Getting off to a good start was a must.
Playing Elton Joseph in round 1. Photo by Andre White

Cross,Ted (1995) - Joseph,Elton (1808) [B57]
Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 Nassau (1), 04.03.2017

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bc4 e5 7.Nf3 Be6 8.Qe2 Be7 9.Bg5 0-0 10.0-0-0 a6 11.Kb1 Qc7 12.Bxf6 Bxf6 13.Nd5 Qd8 14.Nxf6+
This Sicilian opening felt pretty standard until now. I had thought I was winning a pawn and played Nf6 almost immediately, only to realize it didn't work. So better was [14.Qd2+/=]
14...Qxf6 15.Bxe6 Qxe6 16.Nd2?!
This move gives black equality. Better was [16.Rd2 Rfd8 17.Rhd1 Rac8 18.Qe3+/=]
Black misses the equalizing move [16...Rac8=]
17.exd5 Qxd5 18.Ne4 Nd4 19.c3 Qxa2+?
Black doesn't realize how dangerous this line is for his knight. Better was [19...f5 20.Ng5 Qxg2 21.cxd4 Qxg5 22.dxe5+/=]
20.Kxa2 Nxe2 21.g3 Rfd8 22.Rxd8+ Rxd8 23.Re1 f5 24.Nc5 Rd2 25.Kb1?
I overlooked the tactics available to black here. Correct was [25.Ka1 Rc2 26.Kb1 Rd2 27.Nb3 Nxc3+ 28.bxc3 Rxf2 29.Rxe5+/-]
Luckily black didn't see the tactic either. [25...e4! 26.Nxb7 (26.Nb3? Nxc3+ 27.bxc3 Rxf2 28.c4 Kf7 29.c5 Ke6 30.Na5 Kd5 31.Nxb7 Kc6 32.Nd8+ Kxc5 33.Ne6+ Kd5 34.Nxg7 Ke5 35.Kc1=) ] Now the rest of the game was simply a matter of not messing up.
26.Nb3 Rb5 27.Kc2 Nxc3 28.bxc3 e4 29.Rd1 Kf7 30.c4 Rb6 31.c5 Rb5 32.Rd7+ Kf6 33.Rd6+ Ke7 34.Rb6 Kd7 35.Rxb5 axb5 36.Kc3 g5 37.Nd4 f4 38.Nxb5 e3 39.fxe3 fxg3 40.hxg3 h5 41.Nd4 h4 42.Nf3 hxg3 43.Nxg5 g2 44.Nf3 Ke7 45.e4 Kd7 46.Kd3 Kc6 47.Kd4 Kc7 48.Ke5 Kc6 49.Kf6 Kxc5 50.e5 Kd5 51.e6 1-0

It felt great to start off the tournament with a win.

Cox,Valentine (1846) - Cross,Ted (1995) [B92]
Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 Nassau (2), 04.03.2017

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Be3 Be6 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 0-0 11.f3 b5 12.g4 Nb6 13.g5 Nh5 14.Nd5 Nxd5 15.exd5 Bf5 16.Na5 Bd7?!
Gives white a little edge, when it could have remained equal with [16...f6 17.Nc6 Qd7 18.gxf6 Nxf6=]
17.Rhg1 g6 18.Bd3 Ng7?
I allow white a strong attack. Still equal was [18...Qc7=]
19.Be4 f5 20.gxf6 Bxf6 21.Nc6 Qc7 22.Bg5?!
White gives up some of his edge. [22.Kb1+/-]
And I make things worse instead of better! [22...Bf5 23.Bh6+/=]
Each of us keeps missing the best moves, but to be fair, in positions with lots of options it isn't always easy to understand the very best move. [23.h4!+-]
23...Rxf6 24.Qg5?
Now black may be even a tiny bit better. White was still nearly winning after [24.h4 Raf8 25.h5 Be8 26.hxg6 Bxg6+/-]
24...Raf8 25.h4 R8f7 
More accurate was [25...Kg7 26.h5 h6 27.Qd2 g5=/+]
This allows me to seal up the kingside. [26.f4=]
26...h6 27.Qd2 g5 28.f4 exf4 29.Qxf4 Nd4!?
Not a terrible idea, but it leads only to equality, while I could have retained a slight advantage with [29...Qb6! 30.Rde1 Kg7=/+]
30.Qe3 Nxc6 31.dxc6 Bxc6 32.Bg6 Rf8 33.Qb3+ d5 34.Kb1 Qf4?! 
I develop a bad plan. Two other moves were better: [34...Rf3 35.c3 R3f6 36.Rge1 Qd6 37.Be4 Kg7 38.Bxd5 Be8-/+; 34...Qd6=/+]
35.Rge1 Qc4??
And here is where my bad plan goes completely astray, giving white a bid advantage. [35...Qd6=/+]
36.Qe3 Qg4 37.Qe7?
White fails to spot the winning idea. [37.Qc5! a5 38.Rc1 d4 39.Re7 Rf1 40.Bh7+ Kh8 41.Qe5+ R1f6 42.Bg6+-]
37...Qd7 38.Qa3 [38.Qxd7? Bxd7 39.Rxd5 Rf1 40.Rdd1 Rxe1 41.Rxe1 Bf5-/+] 38...Qd6?! 
I failed to see the equalizing idea of [38...d4! 39.Qc5 Qd5=]
39.Qxa6 Qc5 40.Qa5 Ra8 41.Qc7 Qa7 42.Qxa7? 
I was so relieved to see this! [42.Qe5 Raf8 43.a3+/-]
42...Rxa7 43.Rd4 Kf8 44.a3 Re7 45.Rxe7? 
Black's advantage builds. [45.Rg1=/+]
45...Kxe7 46.Rb4 Rf4?
Not such a good idea, allowing drawing chances. [46...Rf1+ 47.Ka2 Bd7 48.Bd3 Rf2 49.Bxb5 Be6! 50.Bd3 g4 51.Rb7+ Kf6 52.Rh7 d4+ 53.b3 Kg5 54.Re7 Bf5 55.Bxf5 Rxf5-+]
Luckily white didn't see the right path. [47.Rxf4 gxf4 48.Kc1 Kd6 49.Kd2 Ke5 50.Kd3=]
47...Rxb4 48.axb4 Be8 
More accurate was [48...Kf6]
49.Bd3 Kd6 
Again, more accurate was [49...Kf6 50.Be2 Kf5 51.Kd2 g4 52.Ke3 d4+-+]
50.Kd2 Ke5 
I could also have played [50...Bxh5]
51.Ke3 d4+ 52.Kf2 Kf4? 
Trying hard to throw away the win. [52...Bxh5-+]
53.Bg6 Bc6 54.c3 Ke5 55.Bd3 Be8 56.Kg3? 
White goes astray. [56.Bg6 dxc3 57.bxc3 Bxg6 58.hxg6 Kf6 59.c4 bxc4 60.b5 c3 61.Ke2 g4 62.b6=]
56...Bxh5 57.Bxb5 Bg6 58.cxd4+ Kxd4 59.Be2??
White had a path to a draw still with [59.Kg4! Bf7 60.Be2 Ke5 61.b5 Kd6 62.Bf3 Kc5 63.Kf5 Kxb5 64.Kf6 Be8 65.Kg7 h5 66.Kf8=]
It's an ugly game! We trade mistakes. [59...h5-+]
And the final big mistake. [60.b5 Kc5 61.b4+ Kb6 62.Kf2=]
60...h5 61.Be2 h4+ 62.Kf3 g4+? 
More accurate was [62...Ke5!-+]
White makes it easier on me. [63.Kf4 g3 64.Bf1 Bd7-+]
63...g3+ 64.Kg1 h3 65.Bf1 h2+ 66.Kh1 Be4+ 67.Bg2 Bxg2+ 68.Kxg2 Kc4 69.b5 Kxb5 70.b4 Kxb4 71.Kh1 Kc4 72.Kg2 Kd3 73.Kh1 Ke3 74.Kg2 h1Q+ 75.Kxh1 Kf3 0-1

What a relief to survive that and even pull out a victory! I had to thank my lucky stars.

Now, being white against Kendrick Knowles is no picnic, as anyone would know if they had seen my last two events, where he played the center counter against me and won both games. So having just been very shaky in round 2, I was extra nervous going into this one.

Cross,Ted (1995) - Knowles,Kendrick (1891) [B01]
Nassau Cup Invitational 2017 Nassau (3), 04.03.2017

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Be2
So, this was my change from the last time we played, hoping that I could be in preparation more so than him.
4... Nxd5 5.d4 c6?! 
He goes a little astray right away. The main line here goes [5...Bf5 6.Nf3 e6 7.0-0 Be7]
6.c4 Nf6 7.Nc3 g6 8.Nf3 Bg7 9.0-0 0-0 10.Re1 Na6 11.Ne5 Be6 12.Be3 
White would have a large edge after [12.Bf4+/-]
12...Qc8 13.a3
The right path was [13.d5! Bf5 14.dxc6 Ne4 15.Nd5 Re8 16.cxb7 Qxb7 17.Nd3+/-]
13...Nc7 14.Qc2?!
14...Rd8 15.Rad1 Nce8?! 
Black could have minimized white's edge with [15...Ng4 16.Bxg4 Bxg4 17.Nxg4 Qxg4 18.h3 Qd7 19.a4+/=]
A little better was [16.h3+/=]
16...Nd6 17.d5! Bd7?
[17...cxd5 18.cxd5 Bg4 19.f3 Bd7+/=]
I looked at the right move but missed all the nuances. [18.c5! Nf5 19.dxc6 Bxc6 (19...Be6 20.Rxd8+ Qxd8 21.Bc4 Bxc4 22.Qxc4+-) 20.Nxf7+-]
18...bxc6 19.c5 Be6 20.Qa4 Nf5 21.Nxc6 
My move isn't bad, but even better was [21.Rxd8+ Qxd8 22.Nxc6 Bd7 23.Nxd8 Bxa4 24.Nxf7+-]
21...Rxd1 22.Rxd1 Qc7? 
Now white's advantage becomes huge. [22...Bd7 23.Bb5 Bxc6 24.Bxc6 Nxe3 25.fxe3 Rb8 26.Qxa7 Bh6 (26...Rxb2 27.Qxe7 Rb8 28.Bf3+-) 27.Kh1 Bxe3 28.h3+/-]
23.Bf4! Qb7 24.b4! Rc8 25.Bf3?! 
I missed his Nh4 idea. Better was [25.Na5! Ne4 (25...Qa8 26.Bf3+-) 26.Nxb7 Nxc3 27.Qa6+-]
25...Nh4 26.Ne5 
Better was [26.b5! Nxf3+ 27.gxf3+-]
26...Nxf3+ 27.Nxf3 Nd5? 
[27...Bd7 28.Qa5+/-]
28.c6! Rxc6 29.Nxd5 Bxd5 30.Rxd5 Rc1+ 31.Rd1 Qd7 32.Qxd7 1-0

Three games in one day was tough, but I couldn't have started better, winning all three!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Bahamas National Championship 2016 - part 2

The second half of the 2016 Bahamas National Championship started well with a win as black against WCM Polina Karelina. I decided against showing the game because it was full of small mistakes without having good educational moments. So, after four of six rounds, I was in clear first place with 3.5 out of four. In fact, I could win the national title with a single draw out of the last two rounds!

That's a terribly stressful position to be in, even if it's a good one. I was happy and figured that I would win it. I started poorly, though, blundering badly against FM Cecil Moncur, another game so ugly as not to be worth examining. So that left the final round against Kendrick Knowles, a half point behind me in second place. I was white and a draw was all I needed.
CM Kendrick Knowles, photo by Andre White

Cross,Ted (2031) - Knowles,Kendrick (1846) [B01]
2016 Bahamas National Championship Nassau (6), 27.11.2016

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.Bb5+
In the Fall Classic I had lost with white against Kendrick, so I decided to prepare a sideline of the center counter to see if it could help me.
3... Bd7 4.Bc4 Bg4 5.f3 Bc8 6.Nc3 Nbd7 7.Ne4 Nb6 8.Nxf6+ exf6 9.Bb3 Nxd5 10.Ne2 Bb4 11.c3 Ba5 12.d4 0-0 13.0-0 Re8 14.Qd3 Ne7 15.Bf4
All of this was pretty normal and I could be happy with how it went. Nothing terribly wrong with my move, though the computer prefers [15.Ng3]
15...Ng6 16.Bg3 c5 17.Rfe1 Bb6 18.Rad1
Again not a mistake, but slightly better was [18.Kh1]
18...Ne5 19.Qd2 cxd4 20.Nxd4 Bf5 21.Kh1 Bg6 22.Bc2?!
Now this was an inaccuracy, turning the position from a slight edge for white to a minuscule edge to black. Better was [22.Nb5 Qxd2 23.Rxd2 Rad8 24.Nd6 Bc5 25.Red1 Bxd6 26.Rxd6 Rxd6 27.Rxd6 h5 28.Ba4 Re7 29.Bb5+/=]
22...Nc4 23.Rxe8+ Qxe8 24.Qc1 Bxd4?!
This gives the edge back to me. Black could have retained a slight edge with [24...Qe3 25.Qb1 Rd8 26.Re1=/+]
25.Rxd4 Qe2 26.Bxg6 hxg6
I thought the block of four pawns on black's kingside was interesting. And I couldn't imagine losing this, so I was feeling confident that I was going to win the national championship.

27.b3 Ne3 28.Rd2 Qb5?!
Black could have kept it to a slight white edge with [28...Qf1+ 29.Qxf1 Nxf1 30.Rd7 Nxg3+ 31.hxg3 b5 32.Rc7 f5 33.Kg1 a6 34.Kf2+/=]
29.c4 Qh5?
[29...Qa5 30.Bf2 Nf5 31.a4+/=]
The computer's suggested improvement isn't an easy one to play over the board. [30.Bf4! Nf5 31.g4 Qh3 32.gxf5 Qxf3+ 33.Kg1 gxf5 34.Bg3 Qe3+ 35.Bf2 Qg5+ 36.Kh1 Re8 37.Qd1 f4 38.Rd7 Qg6 39.h3 b6 40.Kh2+-]
The computer's suggestion is a strange one that I don't think many humans would play. [30...Qg5 31.g4 Qf4 32.Bxe3 Qxf3+ 33.Rg2 Re8 34.Bf2+/-]
I knew full well that winning the piece here wasn't going to make the finish easy with that wall of pawns ready to roll down the board, but I figured I could manage it.
31... Qh3 32.gxf5 Qxf3+ 33.Kg1 Re8 34.Qd1
I did know that trading the pawn was probably more accurate, but I wanted to trade off the rooks badly. [34.fxg6 Qg4+ 35.Bg3+-]
34...Qxf5 35.Rd8
Same as before, there's a more accurate move but I wanted to trade the rooks. [35.Bxa7 Qg5+ 36.Kh1+-]
35...Rxd8 36.Qxd8+ Kh7 37.Qd2
My move isn't terrible, but Qd1 would have kept black's queen out of the first rank. [37.Qd1+-]
37...Qb1+ 38.Be1 g5 39.Kf1 Kg6 40.Kf2 f5 41.Qe2 f4 42.Kf3 Kf5 43.h3 b6 44.Kf2
Okay, so here I missed a clear way to force the win, but in my defense, I had a plan in mind here and was intent on carrying it out. [44.b4! a6 45.c5 bxc5 46.bxc5 Qb7+ 47.Kf2 Qc6 48.Bb4+-]
44...f6 45.Kf3 g6 46.Kf2

This is the same as before, where I could have played b4 for a clearly winning game. My last few moves look like I'm just wasting time, but actually I had noticed that I could get black into zugzwang, and that is why I was doing this. I thought that forcing his queen to have to come to e4 would make it easy for me. Notice now how his king and pawns can no longer move, so my plan worked. [46.b4!+- a6 47.c5 bxc5 48.bxc5 Qb7+ 49.Kf2 Qc6 50.Qg4+ Ke5 51.Bc3+ Kd5 52.Qg2+ Kxc5 53.Qxc6+ Kxc6 54.Bxf6+-]
46...Qe4 47.Qxe4+?
I call this a mistake because it made my work harder, though I'm still winning. I did look at the correct line with Qg4+, but I couldn't see deeply enough over the board. I saw up to 49. Qe3+ and was worried it gave black too much counterplay. [47.Qg4+ Ke5 48.Bc3+ Kd6 49.Bxf6 Qe3+ 50.Kg2 Qd2+ 51.Kg1 Qxa2 52.Qd1+ Ke6 53.Bxg5+-]
47...Kxe4 48.Bc3?
I kept making my life harder than it needed to be. Here is a good example of when one should take the time to just ask, 'Where is the best spot on the board to place my piece?' The clear answer to that is the bishop should go to b8 to threaten the pawns and at the same time help hold off the kingside steamrollers. The easy answer then was [48.Bb4! f5 49.Bd6 g4 50.hxg4 fxg4 51.Bb8 g3+ 52.Kg2 a6 53.Bc7 b5 54.c5+-]
48...f5 49.b4?
This bad move makes the win much harder to see. [49.Bb4 g4 50.hxg4 fxg4 51.Bd6+-]
49...g4 50.hxg4??
And I failed to see it. The only way to still win was [50.h4! f3 51.Kf1 f4 52.Bb2 g3 53.c5 bxc5 54.bxc5 Kd5 55.Bc1+-]
50...fxg4 51.a4 g3+ 52.Kg2 Ke3 53.Bd2+??
Remember, I would have won the Bahamas national championship even with a draw and I had that until this hallucination. I thought I was blockading his pawns and would win with my passed pawn. I completely missed the simple idea of him playing g2 followed by Ke2. [53.Kf1 f3 54.Be1 Kd4 55.Bxg3 Kxc4 56.Be1 g5 57.a5 g4 58.Kf2 bxa5 59.bxa5 a6 60.Kg3 Kd3 61.Bf2 Ke2 62.Bb6 Ke1=]
53...Kxd2 54.Kf3 g2 55.Kxg2 Ke2 56.c5 f3+ 57.Kg3 f2 58.c6 f1Q 59.b5 g5 60.Kg4 Qf4+ 61.Kh5 Kf3 0-1

Now that was a depressing way to finish a national championship tournament! I clearly led the event to the point where I needed but one draw in the final two rounds, then proceeded to lose both games and end up in second place.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Bahamas National Championship 2016 - part 1

Of course this was the first time I ever got to play in a national championship, given that in most countries a player of my level couldn't get anywhere close to it, not to mention that usually a country only allows one of their own citizens to win the title. The Bahamas has a small enough chess community that they allow outsiders the chance to win. I thought it would be a fascinating footnote to add to my chess 'career'.

Strangely, most of those who qualified for the championships didn't show up to play in them, so there were only four of us playing and thus a double-round robin of six games.

One always wants to start well, and in the last tournament I had messed up the first time I had played white against WCM Polina Karelina and only drew, so this first round was a chance to rectify that result.
Photo by Andre White. Playing against Polina Karlina.

Cross,Ted (2031) - Karelina,Polina (1650) [B07]
2016 Bahamas National Championship Nassau (1), 19.11.2016

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.f3 e5 4.d5 Be7 5.c4 c6 6.Be3 0-0 7.Nc3 a5 8.Nge2 Bd7 9.g4 Na6 10.Ng3 cxd5
Polina is young and talented and shooting up the rating list (just a year after this tournament she is already threatening to hit 1900), but thus far she sticks to her same opening lines, making it easier for me to prepare. She will mix up the lines, so I always end up on my own fairly soon, and this was the point where I was out of my preparation in this game.
11.cxd5 Ne8 12.Qd2 Nec7 13.Be2?!
This move gives away most of white's advantage. Far better was 13.Nf5 with a strong edge for white.
Not a bad move, but slightly better was 13...g6 14.f4 exf4 15.Bxf4 b5 16.0-0 b4 17.Nd1+/=
A little more accurate was 14.Nf5 b4 15.Nd1+/=
14...b4 15.Nd1 Bb5?
15... g6 would have been equal.
16.Nf5 Bd7 17.Nf2 Bxf5 18.gxf5 Nc5 19.Kh1 Kh8 20.Rg1
Nothing wrong with my move, though the computer slightly prefers 20.Ng4 Nd7 21.a3 bxa3 22.Rxa3+/-
20...Ne8 21.Nd3 Rc8 22.Rac1 Nxd3 23.Bxd3 Rxc1 24.Qxc1 Nf6 25.Qc6 Qa8?
Now I am winning, as it's impossible for black to hold all the weak pawns. Even without this mistake I had felt during the game that I was winning by this point. The computer thinks that with long, hard defense black could have held white to a small edge [25...g6 26.Bb6 Qb8 27.fxg6 fxg6 28.Bc7 Qc8 29.Kg2 Rg8 30.Bxa5 Qf8 31.Qc2 g5 32.Bxb4 g4 33.Kh1 gxf3 34.Rxg8+ Qxg8 35.Qf2 Qg4 36.Qg3 Qh5 37.Be1+/=]
26.Rc1 h6 27.Kg2 Nh5 28.Qxa8 Rxa8 29.Rc7 Bg5 30.Bxg5 hxg5 31.Bc4 Nf6 32.Rxf7 g4 33.Rc7 gxf3+ 34.Kxf3 Kg8 35.Rc6 Ne8 36.Bb5 Rb8 37.Ba4 Kf7 38.Ra6 Rc8 39.Rxa5 g6 40.Ra7+
40...Kf6 41.Bxe8 Rxe8 42.fxg6 Kxg6 43.Ra6 Rf8+ 44.Kg3 Rf6
[44...Rf4 45.Rxd6+ Kf7 46.h4 Rxe4 47.h5+-]
45.Rb6 Kh5 46.Rxb4 1-0

So, it was a good way to begin the championships. The next round made me nervous, as I had to face the top Bahamian player, FIDE Master Cecil 'Carver' Moncur. I hadn't met him before and wondered just how underrated he might be given his title (gained in the Olympiads).

Cross,Ted (2031) - Moncur,FM Cecil (1894) [B45]
2016 Bahamas National Championship Nassau (2), 19.11.2016

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Ndb5 Bb4 7.a3 Bxc3+ 8.Nxc3 d5 9.exd5 exd5 10.Bd3 0-0 11.0-0 d4 12.Ne2 Qd6?!
I was able to relax a bit since he played a line I knew somewhat well. Qd6 was the first new move for me. [12...Bg4 13.Bg5 Qd6 14.Qd2 Bxe2 15.Bf4 Qd5 16.Bxe2+/=]
My move is the most common, but the computer prefers 13.c3!+/=
13...Qd5 14.Re1
This move allows black equality, so better was 14.Ng3 Ne5 15.Bxe5 Qxe5 16.h3+/=
Luckily black didn't see the path to equality and allowed me to regain my slight edge. [14...Bf5 15.Bg3 Bxd3 16.Qxd3=]
15.f3 Be6 16.Bg3 Nh5 17.Be4 Qc5 18.Bf2 Qb5?!
I had a strong edge here no matter what, but this move grants me a nearly winning position. [18...Rad8 19.Bxc6+/-]
19.Nxd4 Nxd4 20.Qxd4 Nf6 21.Bd3 Qg5?
This blunder allows me to trap his queen and thus force the win of the exchange as well as damaging black's pawn structure.
22.Re5 Qh6 23.Be3 Rfd8 24.Qxd8+ Rxd8 25.Bxh6 gxh6 26.Rd1 Kh8 27.Kf2 h5 28.Ke1
My move was about trying to trade off the rooks, while more accurate was 28.Ra5 a6 29.Rc5+-
28...Rg8 29.Rd2 h4 30.h3 a6 31.Be4 Nxe4 32.Rxe4 Bf5 33.Rxh4
I went after the less important pawn, so better was 33.Re7+-
33...Re8+ 34.Kd1 Rc8 35.Rhd4 Kg7 36.c3 Be6 37.Rf2 b5 38.g4 a5 39.f4 a4 40.f5 Bb3+ 41.Kd2 Bc4 42.Rf3
Knowing that I was winning made me play very cautiously, so I had lots of better ways to proceed throughout this endgame. [42.Ke3 h6 43.Rfd2+-]
42...Rc5 43.h4 h5 44.g5 Re5 45.f6+
45...Kg6 46.Rxc4!?
I sacced the exchange back because I felt the endgame should be fairly straightforward to win. And it wasn't so bad, but perhaps it was better to hold on to the rook. [46.Rd8! Re2+ 47.Kd1 Re5 (47...Rxb2 48.Rg8+ Kh7 49.Rg7+ Kh8 50.Re3 Be6 51.Kc1 Rf2 52.Rd3+-) 48.Rg8+ Kh7 49.Rg7+ Kh8 50.Rf4+-]
46...bxc4 47.Rf4 Rd5+ 48.Rd4 Rc5 49.Ke3 Re5+ 50.Re4 Rc5 51.Kd4 Rb5 52.Re2 Rf5 53.Rh2
A bit passive, forcing me to be more accurate to finish things off, while easier would have been 53.Ke4
53...Rf4+ 54.Kc5 Kf5 55.Kd6 Re4 56.Kc5 Rf4 57.Kb4 Kg4 58.Rg2+ Kh3 59.Rg1 Kxh4 60.g6 fxg6 61.Rxg6 Kh3 62.Kc5 h4 63.Kd6 Kh2 64.Ke7 Re4+ 65.Kf8 h3 66.f7 Kh1 67.Kg8 Rf4 68.f8Q h2 69.Qa8+ 1-0

It felt so great to get a first victory against the best Bahamian player and start the championships 2-0. But now in round three I had to play Kendrick Knowles, and I knew from experience how difficult he would be.

Knowles,Kendrick (1846) - Cross,Ted (2031) [A05]
2016 Bahamas National Championship Nassau (3), 20.11.2016

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d3 d6 4.g3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.Nbd2 Nf6 7.0-0 0-0 8.h3 h6 9.c3 e5 10.Re1 Be6 11.Nf1 Qd7 12.Kh2 Rfe8?!=
I had played the opening on instinct rather than any real knowledge of how it should go, and I gained a tiny edge by this point, but my move messes it up and allows equality. Better was [12...d5 13.exd5 Nxd5 14.Ne3 g5 15.a3 Rad8 16.Nxd5 Bxd5 17.b4 f5-/+]
Fortunately for me he didn't find the move for equality [13.Ne3=]
These types of positions are tough if you don't happen to know the opening lines well, so it's no surprise that we keep making small inaccuracies. Slightly better here was 13... b6.
14.Qd2 Kh7 15.g4 g5?
This was a real mistake, going from a significant edge for black to a small edge for white. [15...d5 16.Qc2 d4 17.Bd2 a5-/+]
16.Ng3 Rad8 17.Qc2 Rh8?
17...Kg8 would have brought me equality here.
White missed his shot with [18.d4! cxd4 19.cxd4 Nb4 20.Qc3 a5 21.d5+/-]
18...Kg8 19.Nf5 Bxf5 20.gxf5 d5?!
I'm still trying to play for a win. Safer was to play for equality with 20...Nh5
21.exd5 Nxd5 22.Nd2 Nxe3?
This is a very complex position, so not so surprising that I would make this mistake. [22...Qc7=]
And white returns the favor. [23.fxe3+/-]
And back and forth we go with our slight inaccuracies. [23...Qd7 24.Qa4 Ne7 25.Qxd7 Rxd7 26.f6 Bxf6 27.Ne4=]
24.Qb3+ Kh7 25.Bxc6 bxc6 26.Nc4?
26.Ne4 gives white a strong edge.
26...Qd7 27.Rd2?!
White could have had equality with [27.Rf3 h5 28.Rh1 Qd5 29.Nd2=]. Now black gets a big edge.
27...Qxf5 28.Qa3 Rd7
My move is logical and not bad, but even better was [28...h5! 29.Qxa7 g4 30.Rg3 Rd7 31.Qxc5 Bh6 32.hxg4 hxg4 33.Ne3 Qe6 34.Kg1 f5 35.Rg2 Bf4-/+]
29.Qxc5 Rhd8?!
During the game I felt this was the way to a nearly winning advantage. Turns out it was better to play [29...Qe6=/+]
A better winning try was [30...g4]
31.Kg2 g4 32.Qxc6 gxh3+ 33.Kxh3 Rd5 34.Rg3!
I had still felt I was winning until this strong defensive move.
34... exd4 35.Rxd4 Rxd4
Other tries don't work any better [35...Rh5+ 36.Kg2 Rxd4 37.cxd4 Qh4 38.Kg1 (38.Kf3 Qh1+ 39.Rg2 Qd1+ 40.Ke3 Rh3+ 41.Rg3 Qe1+ 42.Kd3 Rxg3+ 43.fxg3 Qxg3+ 44.Ne3 f5=; 38.Kf1 Qxd4 39.Ne3=) 38...Qxd4 39.Ne3 Qxb2=]
36.cxd4 Rxd4 37.Qb7 Qf5+ 38.Kg2 Rd7?!
I underestimated the danger of white's two queenside pawns in the coming endgame and didn't play accurately enough for a simple draw. [38...Qe4+ 39.Qxe4+ Rxe4 40.b3 Re2 41.a3 h5=]
39.Qf3 Qxf3+ 40.Kxf3 Rd3+?!
41.Ke4 Rxg3?! 42.fxg3 Kg6 43.b4 Bf8?
I'm really trying hard to find a way to lose this. [43...f5+ 44.Kf4 Kf6 45.b5 Ke6 46.a4 Bd4=]
[44.b5 Bc5 45.a4 f5+ 46.Kd5 Bf2 47.a5 Kf6 48.a6+-]
44...Kg5 45.Ne3 Bd6 46.Nf5 Bf8 47.Ne3 Bd6 48.Kf3 f5 49.Nc4 Bc7 50.a4 h5 51.a5 a6 52.Nb6 f4??
Just when I had finally ensured I could get a draw I played this howler of a move. [52...Bd6 53.b5 axb5 54.Nd7 b4 55.a6 b3 56.a7 b2 57.a8Q b1Q 58.Qg8+ Kh6 59.Qe6+ Kg7 60.Qxd6 Qf1+ 61.Ke3 Qe1+ 62.Kd4 Qd2+ 63.Ke5 Qxd6+ 64.Kxd6 Kg6 65.Ke5 Kg5=]
Thank goodness he didn't see the easiest way to win! [53.Nd7! fxg3 54.b5+-]
53...Bxf4 54.Nd5??
And then here he threw the win away for good. [54.Nd7!+-]
54...Bd6 55.b5 axb5 56.a6 Bc5 57.Nf4 Bb6 58.Ne6+ Kf5 59.Nc7 1/2-1/2

So, I got lucky in this last game, and what a relief. I finished the first half of the tournament in first place with 2.5/3.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

First Tournament in Bahamas - The Fall Classic

After two years of not being able to play chess while in Baku, Azerbaijan, we moved to Nassau, Bahamas in August 2016. The Bahamas has a small but passionate chess community, small enough that I essentially have to play the same few players again and again each tournament. They are underrated here due to the incestuous nature of only beating up on each other and not being able to pull in outside rating points--at least until an outsider like me shows up.

My rust showed in the first couple tournaments I played here, though I definitely improved by the third and fourth. Here I'll go through a couple moments from my first tournament in the Bahamas, called The Fall Classic. I played in it because it was a qualifier for the Bahamas National Championships.

There were only four players, so it was a double-round robin quad of six games. I swept the two games against the lowest-rated player easily enough, so it was the encounters with the other two players--some of the strongest Bahamian players--that told the tale of this tournament.

In round two I played for the first time against the talented Kendrick Knowles, and I lost with white after one simple mistake. Like I said, these players are underrated. A good example of this is the Bahamian player Carver Moncur, who has an 1800-range rating but has a legitimate FM title, earned in the Olympiads.

Having lost the first game to Kendrick, when I encountered him again, I really wanted to make up for the loss and beat him, though given the way the first game had gone, I was really nervous.

Knowles,Kendrick (1846) - Cross,Ted (2031) [D11]
Fall Classic 2016 Nassau (5), 29.10.2016

1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 c6 3.c4 Nf6 4.g3 Bg4 5.Bg2 e6 6.0-0 Bxf3 
I played this unusual variation on purpose, to try to unbalance things. I knew that meant giving white an edge, but it also meant it could give me more chances to win in the long run.
7.Bxf3 Be7 8.Qb3 Qb6 9.Nd2 Nbd7 10.c5 Qa6?!
Again I choose to play to win. Equal would have been 10...Qxb3 11.axb3 0-0 12.b4 Bd8= but that didn't suit my aims.
White would retain a small edge after 11.Qc3 b6 12.b4 0-0 13.Bb2+/=.
11...e5 12.dxe5 Nxe5 13.e3?
And white finally makes a mistake, losing a pawn. Equal was 13.b4 Nxf3+ 14.Nxf3 0-0=.
13...Nxf3+ 14.Nxf3 Qb5 15.Bd2?!
Slightly better was 15.b4 Qxb4 16.Rb1 Qxc5 17.Qxc5 Bxc5 18.Rxb7 0-0 though black retains a small edge.
15...Qxc5 16.Qf5 0-0 17.Rfc1 Qd6 18.Bc3 Ne4 19.Be5 Qe6 20.Qh5 g6 21.Qh6 f6 22.Bc7 Rac8 23.Nd4 Qf7 24.Ba5 f5 25.f3??
Black had a nearly winning advantage at this point, but this mistake ends the game quickly.
25...Bg5 26.Qh3 Bxe3+ 27.Kg2 Bxd4 28.fxe4 Bxb2 29.Rab1 Bxc1 30.Rxc1 fxe4 31.Kg1 Qf2+ 32.Kh1 Qf3+ 33.Kg1 Qe3+ 0-1

I had but one game left to play after that gratifying win, and if I won it I would have tied with Kendrick for first place in this event. I played against WCM Polina Karelina, whom I had beaten with the black pieces in round 3. This one went all my way until I played too quickly and threw the win away with one bad mistake.
Playing Polina in the Fall Classic. Photo by Andre White.

Cross,Ted (2031) - Karolina,Polina (1650) [B07]
Fall Classic 2016 Nassau (6), 30.10.2016

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.f3 Nbd7 4.Nc3 e5 5.Nge2 Be7 6.Be3 0-0 7.Qd2 c6 8.0-0-0
It was better to get Ng3 in straightaway rather than castle. [8.Ng3 exd4 (8...b5 9.Nf5 b4 10.Ne2 d5 11.Neg3 dxe4 12.fxe4 Re8 13.0-0-0 a5 14.Kb1 Bf8 15.dxe5 Rxe5 16.Bd4 Re8 17.Qg5 Kh8 18.Bc4 h6 19.Qf4+-) 9.Bxd4 b5 10.Nf5 Ne5 11.Nxe7+ Qxe7 12.a3+/=]
8...b5 9.Ng3 b4 10.Nce2 a5 11.Nf5 Nb6?
While black normally likes to make this move, it wasn't right at this moment when too much was loose in the black position. [11...d5 12.Bf2 dxe4 13.Qg5 g6 14.dxe5 Nd5 15.Nxe7+ Qxe7 16.Qxe7 Nxe7 17.fxe4 Nxe5 18.h3 Re8 19.Nd4+/-]
I didn't punish it as quickly as I could have with [12.Nxe7+! Qxe7 13.dxe5 Nfd7 14.Qxd6 Qxd6 15.exd6+-]
Things are already dire for black, but this just made it worse. [>=12...Bxf5 13.Nxf5 Nfd7 14.dxe5 dxe5 15.Nxe7+ Qxe7 16.Qd6 Qxd6 17.Rxd6 Rfc8 18.g3 Rc7 19.b3 a4 20.Kb1 Kf8 21.Bh3 Ke8 22.Rhd1+-]
13.dxe5 gxf5?!
[13...Nfd7 14.Nxe7+ Qxe7 15.Qxd6+-]
White is still winning here, but there was a stronger combination with [14.Bxb6! Qxb6 15.Qg5+ Kh8 16.exf6 Rg8 17.fxe7 Rxg5 18.e8Q+ Rg8 19.Qxf7+-; or even 14.exd6 Na4 15.dxe7 Qxe7 16.exf5 Nd5 17.Bd4 Qh4 18.Re1+-]
14...Bxf6 15.Qxd6
It's not so bad to seek simplification like this, but it was much better to play [15.Nh5 Na4 16.Nxf6+ Qxf6 17.Bd4 Qe7 18.Qh6 f6 19.Bc4+ Kh8 20.Rhe1 Qg7 21.Qxg7+ Kxg7 22.Bf2+-]
15...Na4 16.Qxd8 Rxd8 17.Rxd8+ Bxd8 18.Nxf5?!
Nothing is so wrong with the move chosen, except that it was my beginning of a bad plan, not looking deeply enough into black's potential counterplay against my king. I felt the game was essentially over, so didn't take my time. Better was [18.exf5 Bf6 19.c3 Be5 (19...bxc3?! 20.b3 Nb2 21.Ne4 Be5 22.g4 a4 23.b4 a3 24.f4 Bg7 25.Kc2 Bb7 26.Bc5 Rd8 27.Kb3+-) 20.Bd4 Bf4+ 21.Kc2 bxc3 22.b3 c5 23.Bf6 Nb6 24.Bb5+-]
18...Bf6 19.Bd4??
And here is where I blew it. Badly enough that I even wondered if I might lose at first, though I settled down and looked deeply at the resulting position and found that I should survive. Truth be told, I instantly felt I had screwed up and failed to even examine the most obvious way to retain a large advantage. [19.b3 Nc3 20.g4 a4 21.bxa4 Rxa4 22.Bc4 Be6 23.e5 Bd8 (23...Bxe5 24.Ne7+ Kf8 25.Nxc6 Bf6 26.Bxe6 fxe6 27.Bc5+ Kf7 28.Kd2 Nd5 29.Rb1 Bc3+ 30.Kd3 Nf4+ 31.Kc4 Rxa2 32.Bxb4 Bf6 33.Kb3 Ra6 34.Na5+-) 24.Nd6 Bxc4 25.Nxc4 b3 26.a3 Rxc4 27.cxb3 Nd5+ 28.bxc4 Nxe3 29.f4 Nxc4 30.a4 Kg7 31.Rd1+-]
19...Bg5+ 20.Kb1
Here is where I failed to see the right way to keep my big edge, with 20.Be3! My move gives away almost all advantage.
20...Bxf5 21.exf5 Rd8 22.c3 bxc3?!
[22...c5 23.Bb5 cxd4 24.Bxa4 bxc3 25.h4 Bf6 26.Bb5 Rb8 27.a4 Rc8=]
Now I could have gotten back a large advantage by taking with the pawn, but it wasn't so easy to understand the nuances of this position during the live game. [23.bxc3 Rb8+ (23...c5 24.Be5 Rd1+ (24...f6? 25.h4 Bd2 26.Bxf6 Rb8+ 27.Kc2 Rb2+ 28.Kd3+-) 25.Kc2 Rc1+ 26.Kb3 Nb6 27.f4 Be7 28.f6 Bf8 29.g3 a4+ 30.Kb2 Re1 31.Kc2 a3 32.Rg1 Nd5 33.Kd2 Ra1 34.Ke2 Rxa2+ 35.Kf3 Rb2 36.Ba6 Nxc3 37.Ra1 c4 38.Bxc4 Rxh2 39.Rc1 Na4 40.Bd4+-) 24.Kc2 Rb2+ 25.Kd3 Rxa2 26.g3 Be7 27.f6 Bf8 28.f4 Nb2+ 29.Ke4 Ra1 30.c4 Re1+ 31.Kf5 Nxc4 32.Bg2 Rxh1 33.Bxh1 c5 34.Bc3 a4 35.Ke4 Nb6 36.Kd3+/=]
23...Rd1+ 24.Kc2 Rc1+ 25.Kd3 Nxc3 26.bxc3 Kg7 27.g4 Ra1 28.h4 Bf4 29.Ke4 Bd6 30.g5 f6 31.c4?
I threw away all remaining chances to win with this move. The computer says white retains good winning chances with 31.f4!, though it would be a tough grind to actually find the right way through all the variations.
31...Rxa2 32.Bd3 Rh2 33.Rxh2 Bxh2 34.f4 h5 35.Bc2 Bg3 36.Ba4 Bxh4 37.g6 c5 38.Bd1 Bf2 39.Bxh5 a4 40.Bd1 a3 41.Bb3 Be1 42.Kd5 Bf2 43.Ba2 Bd4 44.Ke4 1/2-1/2

You can see by these two example games that I was clearly rusty and not at my best. My games in the Bahamas get progressively stronger as I shake the rust off over the next few tournaments.