It's always amusing when you can trap your opponent's knight with pawns in the opening. One example is 1.d4 e5? 2.Nf3? e4 3.Ne5? d6 4.Nc4 d5 4.Ne5?? f6. Here's another, similar trap:
I was surprised to see that even though 4...Ne4?? was played thrice in BigBase's 3.5 million games, White only found 5.f3! in one of those games. Perhaps White feared 5...e6, threatening 6...Qh4+, but Black's queen can't mate by herself, and it takes too long to call up the reserves. Simply 6.fxe4 Qh4+ 7.Kd2! wins easily after (a) 7...Qxe4 8.Nf3 Bb4+ 9.Nc3 Nc6 10.Qe2! or (b) 7...g6 8.Nc3 Bh6+ 9.Kc2 Qf2+ 10.Qe2.
Objectively toothless: practically, the perfect choice! I knew that Gopal's preparation in main lines was deep: I was about to find out how deep it was in sidelines. And as Albert Chow observed, why should White fix Black's pawn structure?
I "knew" this move was considered best, but that's all I knew!
7...Nd7!? Chow strongly advocated this positional alternative. 8.0–0 Nc5! Kicks the bishop and controls e6. 9.Be2 Be7 Black has defended his weak squares: develop now, attack later. This may not be the theoretically best continuation, but it would have been the best practical choice!
8.0–0 Bc5 9.Qe2!
9.Bf4 f6!? (9...g5! was Lasker's choice) 10.exf6? (10.h3 fxe5 11.Bg3 Nf6 12.Bxe5 0–0=) 10...0–0 is a line suggested by Keres.
Black to move
How are certain chess positions like singles bars? Intoxicated with dreams of mating quickly, I make a aggressive move against my better judgment.
White's score after Black's "aggressive" move in tournament play is over 80%!
Much better is 9...Qe7! I "knew" this was the right move (Black scores 63% of the points in tournament play!), but I saw the possibility of ...Qg3 in the "attacking" line and got carried away. After 10.Bf4, I didn't know what to do in the post mortem until Michael Auger came up with 10...g5! (which is indeed the book move) 11.Bd2 (11.Bg3 h5 is a big mess) 11...Nxe5 12.Re1 Nxd3 13.Qxd3 Be6. Black has a pawn and two bishops: White has a heathy pawn structure. But it doesn't seem to me that White should be too afraid after 14.Qc3 Kd7 (this much has been played before by humans) and now the laptop suggests 15.Bxg5 Bxf2+ 16.Kxf2 Qxg5 17.Nd2 and it's a game. So even Black's "best" continuation is perfectly playable for White.
10...Nxf2 11.Rxf2 is forced (strangely, I don't see this move in MegaBase 2010) 11...Qg3 12.Nd2 (or 12.Qf3 Qxf3 13.gxf3 Bxh3) 12...Bxh3 13.Qf3 Bxf2+ 14.Qxf2 Qxf2+ 15.Kxf2 Bg4 nominally, Black is up material, but the minor pieces are very good here because the d5-c6-c7 complex is so weak (c5 and d4 are ideal squares for minor pieces). 16.b4! a5? (16...h5 is much better) 17.bxa5 Rxa5 18.a4 and uh-oh.
11.Nd2 Be6 12.Nf3 Qg3
White to play
Gee, it looks nice! But chess is not checkers: the Ng4 doesn't have to be taken. Bishops cannot hop over knights, and rooks need open files.
13.hxg4? would be terrible defense, but White's position is so good that it probably draws: 13...hxg4 14.Qe3! Bxe3 15.Bxe3! the queen is trapped! 15...Qxf3 16.gxf3 gxf3 17.Bf4.
13...Bxf2+ 14.Rxf2 Qxf2+ 15.Qxf2 Nxf2 16.Kxf2 and this endgame is not even close to tenable. It's unspeakably miserable for Black, point-count notwithstanding. There are great squares for all White's pieces, while Black's rooks are pathetic.
Congratulations to Dmitry, the 2010 Illinois state champion! After downing two experts, Dmitry beat GM Nikola Mitkov and Wisconsin state champion NM Jeremy Kane, drew 2008 U.S. Champion Yury Shulman, and beat IM Angelo Young in the final round.
Alan Lee Davenport won the Booster section with 5.5 out of 6.
Thanks to Tim Just and Wayne Clark of Chess for Life LLC for organizing another smoothly-run event. Sevan Muradian and the North American Chess Association lent sets, boards, and the absolutely essential 30-second increment clocks. Special thanks to Carl Dolson and the Illinois Chess Association for making the appearance of so many titled players possible!
Two state champions bit the dust in round 2: Michael Auger beat defending co-champ IM Florin Felecan and Aakaash Meduri beat FM Albert Chow. 5-1 won the tournament last year, so who knows....
On a personal note: it was a pleasure to see NM Mariano Acosta back at the board after a period of ill health. It was not a pleasure to be defending an endgame against him! (I drew, but only with a little luck.)