- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

Two decisive games from this month’s Virginia Closed State Championship provide a neat illustration that there is more than one way to earn a point in chess.

Newly crowned state champ Daniel Miller won a critical game by focusing almost from the first move on the endgame. By contrast, new Virginia amateur champ Nick Halgren clinched a perfect 6-0 score in the under-1800 section with a game that barely makes it out of the opening.

Miller defeated tournament co-leader Rusty Potter, a former multiple state champion himself, in the penultimate round on his way to a winning 5-1 score. As we reported last week, Miller took the state title over Northern Virginia master Macon Shibut on tie-breaks.

Non-players often wonder how many moves ahead a chess master can see. In the Ruy Lopez Exchange variation adopted by Miller, in which White trades off a bishop to double Black’s pawns on move 4, the players are essentially looking 30 or so moves ahead — constantly calculating who will have the superior ending when all the pieces come off.

Black’s two bishops are a real asset in the middle game, but his crippled queen-side pawn majority can be fatal in the ending. As in so many Ruy Exchange games, the Miller-Potter affair features some intricate mind games over the shape of the strategic battle.

The basic pattern endures, but the dynamics of the battle shift dramatically on 11. Nc4 0-0 12. Nfxe5!? Be2!? 13. Re3 (Rd2 Bxc4 14. Nxc4 Nxe4 15. Re2 Rae8 is solid for Black) Bxc4 14. Nxc4 Bxc4 (Ng4! is an attractive alternative, as 15. Rf3 Bxh2+ 16. Kf1 Rxf3 17. gxf3 Ne5 18. Nxe5 Bxe5 gives Black a nice trump in the passed h-pawn) 15. Re1 Ng4 16. Be3 Bxe3 17. Nxe3 Nxf2 18. Nc4.

White’s isolated e-pawn looks vulnerable but will prove remarkably hardy. Potter, meanwhile, still hasn’t resolved his queen-side structural problems. Black focuses on surrounding and winning the advanced e-pawn, but Miller takes advantage of a momentary lapse to shift his attack decisively.

Thus: 33. e7 Kf7 34. a4 Rd7? 35. Rf4+ Kg8 (the king has to retreat as 35…Kg6 36. Re6+ Kg5 37. Kg3 g6 38. Re5+ Kh6 39. Rf7, threatening 40. g5+, is lethal) 36. Rc4 Rd2 37. Rxd2 cxd2 38. Ke2 Rxe7+ 39. Kxd2. With the Black king sidelined, Potter’s weak queen-side pawns can’t be defended — a vindication for the White bishop trade way back on move 4.

A small tactical finesse seals the deal after 47. Rf5 c5 (Re2 46. a6 Re8 49. Rf7 Rg8 50. a7 h5 51. Rxg7!) 48. a6 Kc6 49. Rxc5+! Kxc5 (Kb6 50. a7 Kxa7 51. Rxc7+ Kb6 52. Rxg7 is an easy win) 50. a7, and the pawn queens. Black plays on a bit, but White’s overwhelming material edge tells in the end.

Halgren won his first five games in the amateur section and needed only a half-point to clinch clear first. But against Class B player William Carroll, Halgren needed just 17 moves to run the table for the weekend.

Halgren as White declines to play it safe against Carroll’s Nimzovich Defense (1…Nc3), inviting a sharp, early tactical clash with 7. h4 f4 8. h5!? fxg3 9. hxg6 gxf2+ 10. Kxf2, leaving both kings insecurely placed.

In his own notes to the game, the winner observed that “by giving up castling, White plants a pawn wedge on g6 that cannot be easily removed.” Dealing with the obnoxious pawn ties Black in knots for the (brief) remainder of the game.

Better for Black might have been the more modest 10…Nf6 11. gxh7 (Bb5+ c6! 12. dxc6 Qb6+ 13. bxc6 14. Bc4 e6 is solid) Bf5 (Rxh7?? 12. Rxh7 Nxh7 13. Qh5+ picks off the piece) 12. Qd4 Rxh7, as Carroll’s 10…e5?! opens up all kinds of hairy possibilities for the defender.

Halgren says he spent a half-hour on 11. Qh5!, finally rejecting 11. Rxh7. The pawn grab certainly looks iffy after 11…Bc5+ 12. Kg3 (and not 12. Ke1? Rxh7 13. gxh7 Qh4+ 14. g3 [Kd2 Qf4+ 15. Ke2 Qf2 mate] Qxg3+ 15. Ke2 Qf2 mate), and the White king is too exposed.

Once again, developing the knight with 11…Nf6 might have been the wiser choice; e.g. 12. Bb5+ (Qxe5+ Be7, and the threat of 13…Ng4+ is awkward for White) c6 13. Qxe5+ Be7 14. dxc6 Qb6+ 15. Ke1 bxc6 16. Nd5 Nxd5 17. Qxd5 Qxb5 18. Qf7+ 19. Kd8 Rd1+ 20. Qe6 Qb7 21. gxh7 Bf6 and Black holds.

White’s boldness is rewarded on 11…Qf6+ 12. Ke1 h6 13. Nxe4 Qf5 14. Bb5+ Kd8? (see diagram; 14…c6 was mandatory) 15. Ng5! Qxc2 (giving up; 15…Nf6 16. Nf7+ Ke7 17. Qh4! Rg8 18. Qb4+ c5 19. Qxc5 mate is out, but Black could have at least played on with 15…hxg5 16. Qxh8 Ne7 17. Bd3 e4) 16. Nf7+ Ke7 17. Qxe5+.

Since it is mate on 17…Be6 18. Qxe6 mate, Carroll resigned.

Thanks to Virginia Closed TD Mike Atkins for supplying some games from the event and also the list of winners.

68th Virginia Closed State Championship, Springfield, September 2004

MillerPotter

1. e4e528. b3Rd5

2. Nf3Nc629. Rbe1Rf8+

3. Bb5a630. Kg3Rd2

4. Bxc6dxc631. R1e2Re8

5. 0-0f632. Kf2Rd6

6. d4Bg433. e7Kf7

7. dxe5Qxd134. a4Rd7

8. Rxd1fxe535. Rf4+Kg8

9. Rd3Bd636. Rc4Rd2

10. Nbd2Nf637. Rxd2cxd2

11. Nc40-038. Ke2Rxe7+

12. Nfxe5Be239. Kxd2Re6

13. Re3Bxc440. Kc3a5

14. Nxc4Bc541. Rc5Re3+

15. Re1Ng442. Kb2Rg3

16. Be3Bxe343. g5Rxg2

17. Nxe3Nxf244. Rxa5Kf7

18. Nc4Rae845. Rc5Ke7

19. e5Ng446. a5Kd6

20. h3b547. Rf5c5

21. hxg4bxc448. a6Kc6

22. Re4Rb849. Rxc5+Kxc5

23. Rb1Rfe850. a7Rxg5

24. Kf2Rb551. a8=Qh6

25. e6Ra552. b4+Kxb4

26. Ra1Rb553. Qb7+Kc5

27. Rb1c354. Qxc7+and White won

68th Virginia Closed Championship, Springfield, September 2004

HalgrenCarroll

1. e4Nc610. Kxf2e5

2. d4d511. Qh5Qf6+

3. Nc3dxe412. Ke1h6

4. d5Ne513. Nxe4Qf5

5. Bf4Ng614. Bb5+Kd8

6. Bg3f515. Ng5Qxc2

7. h4f416. Nxf7+Ke7

8. h5fxg317. Qxe5+Black

9. hxg6gxf2+resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected] times.com.

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