Friday, October 10, 2008

Playing the Stonewall Dutch All Wrong

Since I got back into chess recently, one of the openings that I gave up on is the Dutch Stonewall, an opening that I played for more than twenty years. My results were simply not good enough, so I decided it was time to try fresh openings against 1. d4. Part of my dismal results is due probably to my simply not playing the opening properly! Here is a good example, from one of the 1st Category round robins in which I played during the four years I lived in Moscow.

[Event "1st Category Round Robin#4"]
[Site "Moscow, Russia"]
[Date "1995.05.16"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Tarshilov"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A85"]

1. c4 f5
Well, what can I say? It is not good to play the Dutch immediately against 1. c4, but I didn't know that at the time. Back then I thought it was pretty clever to have the same opening against 1. c4, 1. d4, and 1. Nf3. Later on GM Aleksander Wojtkiewicz crushed me badly in this line and told me that I can't play the Dutch until white has played d4. He proceded to play the pawn to d3 and use it to support an early e4 thrust. Not what black is after...
2. d4
Until GM Wojtkiewicz's lesson I always got away with it, as every player invariably played d4 at some point and transposed into the Dutch proper.
2...Nf6 3. Nc3 e6 4. Bg5 h6 5. Bf4 d5
I always played the Stonewall Dutch, though I think it does not suit my style of play.
6. c5 c6 7. e3 Be7 8. Be2 O-O 9. Nf3 Bd7
I know this is not the usual move, but I was overly impressed once by a GM game in which black moved this bishop (usually locked away behind the wall of pawns) to h5 via d7 and e8 and then traded it for a knight. It seemed to me to be a logical way to get rid of this usually bothersome bishop, but I adhered to this idea far too faithfully for too many years.
10. Ne5 Be8 11. g4
Uh oh, I always dreaded when white delayed castling and threw the pawns at my king. I have never been great at defending against this and I usually overreact in my attempt at defense.
11...g5 12. Bg3 Nbd7 13. h4
He's coming at me with everything, so my thinking was that I needed to find a way to exploit the fact that his king was still stuck in the center of the board. It wouldn't matter how ugly his attack looked if I could corral his king.
13...Ne4 14. gxf5?
He makes a move that doesn't look so bad to my amateur eyes, but the computer takes white from a significant advantage down to nothing because of this move. The way I see it, this ruined white's potential attack, because black now gets to shut down all the attacking lines, and in fact appears to get more attacking lines himself out of the deal. Taking on d7 followed by Be5 was far better for white.
15. fxg3 Nxe5 16. dxe5
This was the first difficult choice, to take on f5 or c5? I decided I would do better with my bishop on the other side of the pawn chains, but I think taking on f5 is nearly as good.
16...Bxc5 17. f6
It looks slightly better to play 17. e4, though black still has a slight edge.
This move looks obvious but may be a mistake. Fritz likes Qc7 much better and gives black a large edge.
18. Qd3 d4
I thought I was much better here since I was locking his king in with my bishop.
19. Ne4?
Whoops! This gives black a winning advantage due to the check on a5. White needed to try Bg4.
19...Qa5+ 20. Kd1 Qxe5
This move is simple and good, but Bg6 may be even stronger. Black cannot be careless now. Having a winning game is not the same as actually winning the game! A few careless moves and black can easily blow it - something I have learned many times in the past.
21. hxg5 Bxg5
This move is not bad, but it overlooks the far better Bg6, which wins more easily despite giving white some counterplay.
22. Bh5 Bf7
I should have just taken the pawn on f6 - 22...Bxf6 23. Bxe8 Raxe8 24. Rxh6 Bg7 and black wins.
23. Bxf7+ Rxf7 24. Rh5 Qb5
It is also fine to sack the rook on f6 here, but I was happier just trying to trade down to a winning endgame.
25. Qxb5 cxb5 26. Nxg5 Rxf6!
It pays to be accurate. Taking immediately on g5 makes things harder than necessary. Taking on f6 works due to the threat to win the rook on a1.
27. Ke2 hxg5 28. Rxg5+
Rah1 immediately is a better try to save the game, though black is still winning of course.
28...Kf7 29. Rxb5 b6 30.Rh1 Ke7
I get a bit too conservative, but it all works out as black's passed central pawns are simply too strong.
31. Rg5 Rf7 32. Rh6 Raf8 33. Kd3 Rd8 34. Rh4 Kf6?!
The computer really dislikes this move and gives black only a slight edge now. It much prefers 34...Rf3+ and only then Kf6.
35. Rf4+?
White needed to keep both rooks to have any chances. 35. Rgh5 was the better try.
35...Kxg5 36. Rxf7 e5
It is fine to give up the a pawn in order to get the central pawns rolling.
37. Rxa7 e4+ 38. Kd2 e3+ 39. Kd3 Re8 40. Rg7+ Kf6 41. Rh7 e2 42. Rh6+ Kg5 43. Rh1 e1=Q 44. Rxe1 Rxe1 45. Kxd4 Re2 46. Kc3 Kf5 47. b4 Rxa2 48. Kc4 Rg2 49. Kb5 Rxg3 50. Kxb6 Ke6 51. b5 Kd7 52. Kb7 Rb3 53. b6 Ra3 54. Kb8 Kc6 55. b7 Rb3 56. Ka8
This is why white did not give up earlier - one last clever attempt at a stalemate.
56...Kc7 0-1

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Icelandic Team Championships

Anchoring my Haukar club's top boards are Lithuanian GM Aloyzas Kveinys (on the right) and Danish GM Henrik Danielsen.

The first four rounds of the Icelandic Team Championships took place this weekend. It was nice to see some strong GMs out playing for various teams. GM Loek Van Wely was the best known (though he has lost a lot of rating points and was only the fourth highest rated), playing alongside GMs Baklan and Kuzubov. My Haukar team is led by GMs Kveinys and Danielsen. I played for the Haukar B team, though I only got to play in rounds 2 and 3 due to my wife's birthday. They might have been better off without me as I played well up until time trouble (the time control is far too short!) and then blew both wins, actually losing one of them. I was happy with my level of play until I got under one minute left in each game. My blitzing skills are quite poor...

Our team won the first round 5-1, so we hoped to continue this good performance. This round we were paired against one of the strongest teams by rating, so we knew it would be difficult. I didn't know my opponent's rating when I played him, so I just assumed he was around my own playing level, though it turned out he is a master. That makes me feel pretty good since I feel I outplayed him with the black pieces, and only collapsed in time trouble where both sides were moving with under a minute on the clock.

[Event "Icelandic Team Championships"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2008.10.04"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Steindorsson, Sigurdur"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A23"]
[WhiteElo "2208"]
[BlackElo "2088"]
[WhiteTeam "KR-a"]
[BlackTeam "Haukar-b"]

1. c4 e5
This is a new try for me against the English. Few people have played the English against me, so I rarely get to learn anything about it. I decided to try to get a reversed Sicilian down a tempo and see what happens.
2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 c6
I was happy to see his 3. g3 move, since it made me feel that I was catching up a bit on the lost tempo, so it made sense for me here to play a reversed Alapin setup.
4. Nf3 e4 5. Nd4 d5 6. cxd5 cxd5 7. Bg2 Bc5 8. Nb3 Bb6 9. O-O Bf5
This is apparently a novelty, though I don't think it is anything bad.
10. d3 exd3 11. exd3 O-O?!
Castling looked fine, except that I overlooked a weakness in my position, which my opponent duly exploits. I should have played 11...Be6 12. Bg5 Nc6 though white retains a slight edge.
12. Bg5! Nbd7
This was the first move I looked at, knowing it lost at least a pawn. I examined some alternatives, but they all just looked even worse than this, which at least develops.
13. Nxd5 h6 14. Bxf6
It's not so easy to see, but there was a stronger line with 14. Qf3 hxg5 15. Qxf5 Nxd5 16. Qxd5 Rb8 and white has a strong advantage.
14...Nxf6 15. Qf3?
This move throws away the advantage, which could have been retained with 15. Nxb6 Qxb6 16. Qf3 Bg6.
15...Qxd5 16. Qxd5 Nxd5 17.Bxd5 Bxd3 18. Rfe1 Ba6 19. Re7 Rab8?!
I actually looked at the correct move, but not deeply enough. Much better is 19...Rac8! and black suddenly has the initiative.
20. Rae1
Slightly more accurate is 20. Rc1
The time control is simply too quick at game in 90 plus a 30 second increment. We can't spend enough time analyzing, and both of us make some sloppy moves. I couldn't see a better plan for me here than my bishop move, but much better is 20...Rbc8!
21. Rxf7! Rxf7 22. Re8+ Kh7 23. Bxf7 Bc7 24.Re7 Bb6 25. Kg2 Rc8 26. Bd5
More accurate is 26. Be6.
Excellent! Cuts off the danger to that diagonal and now my rook threatens to take over the second rank.
27. Nd2 Rc2 28. Ne4 Rxb2 29. Nf6+?!
Better is 29. Kf3.
29...Kg6 30. Ng4 Bd4 31. Rd7 Kf5 32. Bf3 Rb1?!
I thought that Rb4 looked to dull here and I wanted to force a perpetual check if he took the bishop. Better, though, is 32...Rb4 33. Ne3+ Bxe3 34. Rxd3 Bd4.
33. h4?!
White has a nice shot here with 33. Nxh6+! gxh6 34. g4+ Ke5 35. Rd5+ Ke6 36. Rxd4 Bf1+ 37. Kg3 Rb2 with a large advantage.
33...Rb4 34. a3 Ra4 35. Ne3+ Bxe3 36. Rxd3 Bc1 37. Bxb7 Rxa3
White was in time trouble by now, but my clock was catching up rapidly as I spent a considerable amount of time just trying to keep my king from becoming fatally entangled over the next several moves.
38. Rd7 Bb2 39. f4? a5?
For some reason, probably time pressure, I overlook the rather obvious 39...Kg4 which simply wins for black.
40. Bd5 Bc3 41. Rf7+ Kg6?
I needed to play 41...Bf6, which retains an edge for black.
42. h5+?
White also misses the winning 42. f5+! Kh7 43. h5.
42...Kxh5 43. Be4!?
White spurns any drawing lines, hoping to make me blunder in our mutual time trouble. He could have forced a cute draw here with 43. Rxg7 Bxg7 44. Bf7+ Kg4 45. Be6+.
43...Bf6 44. Kh3 Re3 45. Bf5 a4 46.Ra7?
White misses the winning idea of 46. Rd7!
46...a3 47. Ra6 Rc3?
Since neither side is seeing the winning idea of white moving the rook to d7 it is hard to call this a blunder, but it is wiser here to head for a draw with 47...a2 48. Rxa2 g5 49. Bg4+ Kg6 50. f5+ Kg7 51. Re2 Ra3 52. Bh5.
48. Rc6
Again 48. Rd6! wins for white. Obviously I cannot take the rook on c6 as it will be checkmate.
48...Re3 49. Re6 Rc3 50. Re2?
White gives the advantage to black when he still could have had a big edge with 50. Rd6.
In the crazy seconds with little time left on the clock I blow everything. I simply forgot that his bishop could come back and check me. Without that move my idea works. Anyhow, I could have won here with 50...g5 51. Bg4+ Kg6 52. f5+ Kg7 53. Bh5 Rb3.
51. Bg4+ Kg6 52. Kxh4 Rb3 53. f5+ Kf7
I was so upset at the turn of events that I decided to just 'fall on my sword'.
54. Bh5+ Kf6 55. Re6+ Kxf5 56. Bg4# 1-0

I was shattered by the way this game ended, so much so that despite not having eaten breakfast, I now didn't go to lunch either but simply waited around for the next round. Again I didn't know my opponent's rating, but most of all I was irritated that I again had to play black. I am much better with white. After losing 2.5-3.5 in the second round (thanks to my blown game) we needed to get back on track.

[Event "Icelandic Team Championships"]
[Site "Reykjavik, Iceland"]
[Date "2008.10.04"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Vigfusson, Vigfus"]
[Black "Cross, Ted"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B22"]
[WhiteElo "2001"]
[BlackElo "2088"]
[WhiteTeam "Hellir-c"]
[BlackTeam "Haukar-b"]

1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nf6
I had a poor experience against the Alapin Sicilian last year, so this year I played a bit more soundly with 4...Nf6.
5. Nf3 Bg4 6. Be2 e6 7. O-O Be7 8. Na3 cxd4
I shouldn't have traded here, because it leads to my having to place a knight out of the way on a6.
9. Nb5 Na6 10. Nfxd4 Bxe2 11. Qxe2 O-O 12. Rd1 Rfd8 13. Be3 Qh5?!
Not a good idea, but I couldn't see anything better. Funny, but I actually looked for a second at the correct move - 13...Qe4 - but I thought it looked too strange to actually play!
14. Nf3?
He needed to take it! 14. Qxh5 Nxh5 15. Nb3 Nf6 16. Bxa7. I recall looking at the position and wondering how I could possibly drum up any activity. It didn't look likely any time soon, yet I marvelled a few moves later as I actually did get that activity.
14...Nd5 15. Bd4
Taking the pawn leads to a slight black edge after 15. Bxa7 Nf4 16. Rxd8+ Rxd8 17. Qc4 Qg4 18. Qf1 Bc5 19. Kh1 Bxa7 20. Nxa7 Nc5.
Here comes the activity!
16. Qe5 Qg4 17. g3 Nh3+ 18. Kg2 Rd5
I thought I was winning now.
19. Qe3 Rxb5 20. Ne5 Qf5 21. c4 Rxe5?!
I looked at 21...Bg5 but didn't see how it could help me. I looked at moving the rook but it always got trapped. I failed to see that by playing 21...Bg5 I could move the queen away from covering the c5 square, thus allowing my rook to escape with 21...Bg5 22. Qe2 Ra5 23. Bc3 Rc5 and black wins.
22. Bxe5 Ng5?!
With such a short time control it is hard to take the time to see tactics properly. I looked at 22...Nxf2 briefly but just dismissed it because of 23. Rf1. I missed the fact that I had a way out with 23...Ng4!
23. Rd7 Bc5 24. Rad1 f6 25. Bd4 b6 26. f4 Nf7 27. Qf3 Rf8 28. Rxa7 Nb4?!
I looked at the right move but did not see the correct follow-up - 28...Qc2+ 29.Kh1 Bxd4 (the move that I overlooked; I was looking at Qxc4) 30. Rxd4 Qxb2 31. Rd1 Nc5 and black has the edge.
29. Bxc5 Qxc5 30. Rdd7 Qxc4
I was rightly concerned about white taking over the 7th rank and how I could defend against it. I felt I had the edge and didn't want to proceed to lose now. To make matters worse, both of us were now drifting into time trouble.
31. Rac7 Qxa2 32. Qb7 e5
This was my plan for defending. I looked briefly at taking on b2 with check but didn't see that I could still come back and defend the knight on f7. 32...Qxb2+ 33. Kf1 (33. Kh3 Qe2 34. Rxf7 Rxf7 35. Rxf7 Qh5+ 36. Kg2 Qxf7 and wins) 33...Qb1+ 34. Kg2 Qa2+ 35. Kg1 Nd3 36. Qxb6 Qe2 and black wins.
33. Qxb6? Nd5
This looked obvious, but even better is 33...Qxb2+ 34. Kh3 g5 35. Qe6 Qa2.
34. Rxf7 Nxf4+ 35. gxf4 Rxf7?
I miss the required intermediate check - 35...Qd5+ 36. Kf2 Rxf7 37. Rc8+ Rf8.
36. Qb8+ Rf8 37. Qb7 Kh8 38.Rc8?!
He should have gone ahead and taken on g7 - 38. Rxg7 Rg8 39. Rxg8+ Qxg8+ 40. Kf3 and it is hard to see how black can win.
38...Qg8 39.Rxf8 Qxf8 40. fxe5 fxe5 41. Qe4 Qb8 42. b4 g6 43. Kf3 Kg7 44. Ke3 Qd6
A little more accurate is 44...Qa7+ 45. Kf3 Qa3+ 46. Kf2 Qb2+ 47. Kg1 Qc3.
45. h4 Kf6 46. Qc4 h6 47. Qc5?? Ke7?
In time trouble I worried that taking the queen would let the white king gobble up all the pawns on the kingside. I simply didn't have time to calculate or it would have been obvious that I win here with 47...Qxc5+ 48. bxc5 g5 49. c6 Ke6 50. c7 Kd7 51. Ke4 g4.
48. Qa7+ Qd7 49. Qc5+ Ke6 50. b5 Qd5 51. Qc8+ Kd6 52. Qd8+ Kc5 53. Qxd5+ Kxd5 54. b6 Kc6 55. Ke4 1/2-1/2

Although our team won this round 4.5-1.5 we should have done better by me winning. I feel like a liability to the team when I have results like these. An interesting note that I found out later, though I was playing on board 4 this round, my opponent was their team's highest rated player.

On the left are GMs Van Wely, Baklan, and Kuzubov while on the right is Icelandic GM Hannes Stefansson.
Grandmaster Loek Van Wely of the Netherlands played first board for the Bolungarvikur-a team.