Monday, July 26, 2010

Tactics from the Bradley Open

Last weekend we played in the Bradley Open in Windsor Locks, CT. I played in the U1600 section and Richie played in the U1200 section. This tournament was a great opportunity to play long time controls (2 hours for 40 moves + 1 hour for the rest). But after Richie played too fast again in several games, I've basically given up trying to convince him to slow down. I think it's just something he needs to realize on his own after he loses more games to players he feels he could otherwise beat. Still, he managed to win 3.0/5.0 which wasn't too shabby. I only won 2.0 of my games. I had really been looking forward to playing some slow endgames to work on my calculation since I rarely get to think online during endgames (either the result is decided already or there's not enough time to play carefully). Ironically, I blew both close endgames that I managed to reach.

On the bright side, Richie really impressed me with his tactical alertness. Here are two interesting moments that featured themes we had recently practiced.

Position #1.
This first one is pretty elementary once you look around at the whole board. Richie is up material but his opponent has the simple threat of c2 followed by c1=Q. What's the most easiest way for Richie to wrap up the victory?

Highlight below to reveal answer:
Richie played Ba5! Black cannot defend against the double threat to win the pawn and mate on the backrow. Note that Bxf6 is worse because it opens an escape square after gxf.

Position #2
Richie's opponent dropped a pawn early in this game but turned things around by making use of the open lines/diagonals vacated by the lost pawn to launch a severe attack. Richie attempts to hold his position together with duct-tape and string but he senses his imminent demise. The position calls for a major swindle so Richie responds with the mysterious Bc8?!, inviting his opponent to increase the pressure with f6. After all if the position is a win now, it's definitely a win with the pawn on f6 right?

Highlight below to reveal the missed win, and Richie's devastating counter-attack. Had his opponent followed Richie's camp coach's advice to always analyze the forcing moves in the position, he could have found the winning attack or at the very least, discovered uncovered Richie's trap before it was too late:
His opponent misses the forcing line: Bxg7+, BxBg7, Rh3+, Nh2, RxNh2+, f6+, Bf5, Qg7#. Instead the attack on the f-pawn provoked the seemingly strong f6??. How can opening up the diagonal for the bishop bringing the pawn closer to the enemy king be a bad move? No doubt, his opponent counted on something like gxh??, Qg7# or gxf?? Qg7#, or maybe just Bxf6, where he thought Rxf6 would be good enough in view of gxf6? Qg7#.

Instead, after f6??, Richie surprised his opponent with Qxf3!!, after gxQf3 (forced) comes the cute Bh3#.

What impressed me the most about this was the "trapiness" of the move. Richie realizes he's lost but plans this tricky mate with his move Bc8. From the diagrammed position he had to visualize the removal of the pawn on f5, the distraction of the pawn on g2 via queen sac, and the two bishop's mating motif.

Of course we'd prefer to not get into losing positions in the first place, but having the resourcefulness to turn things around by inducing non-obvious blunders is a valuable skill to have as well.

Monday, July 19, 2010

NSCF Westchester Chess Camp

Last week Richie participated in the Westchester Chess Camp which is run by the National Scholastic Chess Foundation. The NSCF actually runs two summer camps, one which is targeted at stronger players (over 1200) and one which is for any level. Although we had gotten permission to put Richie into the advanced camp, after finding out that there probably weren't going to be many kids near his age and that there would be some significantly stronger players we thought it probably wouldn't be too fun for him. Instead we opted for the general camp after getting some assurances from Sunil (Weeramantry) that the instruction and play would be at an appropriate level for him. Most chess players are familiar with Sunil since he is Hikaru Nakamura's step-father and coach (as well as being a FIDE master).

The camp began at 10:00 am each day and went to 3:00 pm with a lunch break and free play period. At the beginning of the day campers were paired with each other (or an instructor) for a slow, tournament style game which was recorded. I believe that this game was reviewed afterwards. Later in the day there were two lecture periods which seemed mainly to consist of going over annotated games or solving tactics.

Richie enjoyed the camp, especially after a couple of days when he had gotten to know some of the other kids. Personally I was a little disappointed with the turnout(around 10-12 kids) since I think it would be nicer to have a more boisterous atmosphere, but Richie didn't seem to mind at all. And of course, the upside to those numbers are that the student to instructor ratio was a very healthy 5 or 6 which insures an appropriate level of supervision.

One thing to note is that Sunil himself doesn't give the lessons and generally is only present for part of the day. But the master level instructor he selected seemed to be quite good from what I could tell and there were always one or two other strong players helping out as well.

Overall I was quite pleased with this camp as well. Having now seen several camps with different pros and cons I would probably say that for anyone living near Scarsdale, this camp probably offers the best bang-for-the-buck and convenience for somewhat serious players compared to other summer offerings I've seen.
Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide