Monday, February 23, 2009

Lasker-Napier, Cambridge Springs 1904

It is not often that a player will name one of his losses as the best game he ever played, but such was the case with William Napier’s celebrated game against Emanuel Lasker. In many ways this game is archetypical of Lasker’s play; it mattered little to him whether he stood better or worse, as long as he could maintain the tension.

Lasker - Napier
Cambridge Springs, 1904

B34 SICILIAN DEFENSE, Dragon Variation

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 g6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Bg7 6. Be3 d6 7. h3

The usual plans for White in thsi “Dragon” variation are Be2 followed by f2-f4, or f2-f3 along with 0-0-0 and a pawn attack on the Kingside. White chooses instead to advance his Kingside pawns before castling, and Black correctly responds by opening the center.

7. ... Nf6 8. g4 0-0 9. g5 Ne8 10. h4 Nc7 11. f4 e5 12. Nde2 d5

Logical, but safer was the preparatory 12. ... Bg4. The text leads to unfathomable complications, which at first glance—and even second or third—seem to favor Black.

13. exd5 Nd4 14. Nxd4 Nxd5

A strong intermediate move; after 15. Nxd5 exd4 Black recovers all of his material with advantage.

15. Nf5 Nxc3 16. Qxd8 Rxd8 17. Ne7+ Kh8

Note how long the Black Knight remains untouched at c3. Now neither 18. Nxc8 Nd5 nor 18. bxc3 exf4 19. Bd4 Bxd4 20. cxd4 Re8 are satisfactory for White.

18. h5

With the sudden threat of 19. hxg6 fxg6 20. Nxg6+ Kg8 21. Bc4+ Nd5 22. Bxd5+ Rxd5 23. Ne7+.

18. ... Re8 19. Bc5 gxh5

Preventing the threat described above. White still does not wish to take the Nc3, for after 20. bxc3 Bf8 21. Bb5 Rxe7 22. Bxe7 Bxe7 Black would have more than enough for the Exchange.

20. Bc4 exf4 21. Bxf7 Ne4

A very fine conception, which might well have succeeded against a lesser opponent.

22. Bxe8 Bxb2 23. Rb1 Bc3+ 24. Kf1 Bg4

Despite his extra Rook, White’s position is none too happy – Black threatens ... Rxe8, ... Nxc5, ... Nd2+ and ... Ng3+. But now Lasker returns all the material to retake the initiative, and soon proves that the Black King is less safe than the White.


25. Bxh5! Bxh5 26. Rxh5 Ng3+ 27. Kg2 Nxh5 28. Rxb7 a5 29. Rb3 Bg7 30. Rh3 Ng3 31. Kf3

The once exposed White King becomes a strong attacking pieces, and the Black pawn on f4 cannot be held, as 31. ... Be5 is met by 32. Ng6+.

31. ... Ra6 32. Kxf4 Ne2+ 33. Kf5 Nc3 34. a3 Na4 35. Be3 1-0

For there is no good defense to the threat of g5-g6.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Amateur Team West final

Four teams tied with 5-1 in the 26th Annual U.S. Amateur Team West. First on tiebreak were the "ACA Beasts!," with John Daniel Bryant, Michael Yee, Vincent Huang and Santy Wong. Second went to "Yellow is Mellow" (Joel Banawa, Cau Duong Le, Takashi Kurosaki, Jonathan Soo Hoo and Stewart Yanez), and third to "OC Chess Club" (Alexandre Kretchetov, Takashi Iwamoto, Krishna Kaliannan and Michael Brown). "ACA Chess Club" (Enrico Sevillano, Andranik Matikozyan, Robert Feldstein and Michael Ambartsoumian) had to be content with the honor, though both Sevillano and Matikozyan (6-0!) took home board prizes. American Chess Academy deserves special mention, as in addition to first their teams won top Junior ("ACA -- The Dark Knights") and top U1800 ("ACA Youth"). Class prize winners are listed below, and you can click here for final standings.

U2100: Temple City High Rams (Tianye He, Roberet Xue, Terence Subn, Jim Chen Lee)
U2000: The Thompson Guide (Lawrence Stevens, Francisco Alonso, Tim Thompson, Ron Morris)
U1800: ACA Youth (Samuel Sevian, Paul Richter, David Minasyn, Daniel Mousseri)
U1600: Knights of Barook Opawma (Jay Stallings, Cheston Gunawan, Jackson Stallings, Thomas Emery Hart)
U1400: Voyage to the Bottom of the Pairings (Alan Karman, Daniel Giordani, Patrick Dailey, Debra Rothman)
College: Unrated Trojan Horse Surprise/USC (Riddhi Shah, Martin Diekhoff, Mohul Oswal, Junda Chen, Morgan Jones)
Junior: ACA -- The Dark Knights (Daniel Naroditsky, Christian Tanaka, Jared Tan, Eric Zhang)
Industrial: Northrop Grumman Advantage in Space (Phillip Jacobson, Robert Potts, Larry Miller, Sepehr Ebrahimi, David Anthopoulos)

Board Prizes
Board 1: IM Enrico Sevillano
Board 2: IM Andranik Matikozyan
Board 3: John Williams
Board 4: Jonathan Soo Hoo
Alternate: John Anderson

Team Name
1st: Voyage to the Bottom of the Pairings
2nd: Houston, We Have a Mate in Two Problem

Two and a half Beasts: Above, non-playing captain Jerry Yee receives the first-place trophy along with Michael Yee and Santy Wong, as John Daniel Bryant and Vincent Huang had already left for home.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Scholastic Team final

First place in the 12th Annual Scholastic Amateur Team went to "BEYOND challenge" with 4-0. on tiebreak over "Troy High." Click here for complete standings. Photo: Harrison Chen, Justin Tay, Adrian Chang, "BEYOND chess" coach IM Ben Deng, and Albert Lu.

U.S. Amateur Team West, day 2

Sunday at the Amateur Team means the Scholastic tournament. This year saw a good turnout of 33 teams and 133 players. First round results are now posted, along with the first two rounds of the main event. Above: The Scholastic at the start of round 2; the Warner Center Marriott; and two of the cuter hotel guests. (We're sharing the Ballroom with a dog show, and today seems to be cocker spaniel day).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

26th Annual U.S. Amateur Team West

The 2009 edition of Southern California's premier team event moved to a fine new site at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills. The main event saw a good turnout of 46 teams and 202 players, with the one-day Scholastic still to come. Round-by-round standings will be available throughout the weekend. Here are a couple of photos, of the main playing room and the round two top-board encounter between IM Jack Peters and Joel Banawa.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pillsbury - Marco, Paris 1900

Harry Nelson Pillsbury’s career is less well known than it ought to be. His lifetime score against Lasker was +4=4-4, and his failure to secure a match before his premature death in 1906 was a great loss to the game. Here he scores another fine victory with the Queen’s Gambit, as Marco thinks to improve on Tarrasch’s play at Hastings.

I hope it doesn't look like I'm being too hard on poor Georg Marco. He was a strong player and a fine writer, who had the misfortune to lose a number of memorable games to the world's best.

Pillsbury - Marco
Paris, 1900


1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e3 0-0 6. Nf3 b6 7. Bd3 Bb7 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Ne5 Nbd7 10. f4 c5 11. 0-0 c4

A faulty strategy, though this was not yet obvious in 1900. Pillsbury was instrumental in demonstarting that White’s attack is just too strong.

12. Bc2 a6 13. Qf3

Threatening 15. Nxd7 Qxd7 16. Bf5 and 17. Bxf6.

13. ... b5 14. Qh3 g6 15. f5 b4 16. fxg6 hxg6


Not 16. ... bxc3? 17. Bxf6 Nxf6 18. Rxf6 fxg6 119. Bxg6 hxg6 20. Rxg6 mate.

17. Qh4 bxc3 18. Nxd7 Qxd7 19. Rxf6 a5 20. Raf1 Ra6 21. Bxg6 fxg6 22. Rxf8+, Black resigns

For Black will soon be mated after 22. ... Bxf8 23. Rxf8+ Kxf8 24. Qh8+ Kf7 25. Qh7+ Kf8 26. Qxd7.