Todd Andrews. Photo Jessie Sims
What is it going to take to make chess a as much of a southern fixture as chicken and biscuits, "Sweet Home Alabama" or the phrase "Git'-er-dun?" Well, the events taking place from August 26th until September 3rd didn't hurt! There was a pre-Senior Open tournament, the Senior Open national event, the inaugural match of the Tennessee Tempo, The 60th Tennessee Open and even a one-day scholastic event! In all 22 rounds of chess! All of these chess opportunities in Music City are due in a large part to the recent move of the U.S.C.F to Tennessee and a lot of hard work by the local chess community.
After hundreds of emails and phone calls and hours and hours of preparation - Tennessee was ready to welcome their first professional chess team: The Tennessee Tempo. Monday, August 28th was the opening night of the 2006 US Chess League season and our inaugural match against the Seattle squad had excitements high. Everything seemed to be running perfect. All the team members made it to the Nashville Chess Center (the host of our matches), everyone was online and we even had Andy MacFarland, an ICC administrator helping with technical duties and even running live, streaming audio and video.
The games kicked off in a timely manner, everyone played ten-or-so moves and then the lightning started crashing...our cable-modem connection! It was a rather distressful scene for a few minutes as the cable-modem came for a few minutes and then went for a minutes. League commissioner Greg Shahade decided he was going to takes the reigns and play all four of our boards while the moves and times were transmitted to us via our TD, Chris Prosser over cell phone.
We managed to finally get on track and the storm overheard quickly passed by. There was a positive vibe in the playing room still, as none of our games seemed too unreasonable. It was like we had reconnected to the buzz that we began the match with. Burnett and Wheeler got the openings they wanted, Bereolos seemed to be virtually winning and despite some poor opening play on my part - I had a position I could defend where anything could happen. Well, the anything that could happen was the worst we could imagine! My kingside collapsed, Bereolos was some how down 10 passed pawns, Wheeler missed mate-in-two and Serper turned on the technique to finish us off 4-0! Here are some of the painful moments. ([DOCUMENT:27]Click here to download a pgn file with Todd's annotated games from this article.)[/DOCUMENT]
My game looked ugly from the start. This was the first game that I had played seriously since March and it showed! It is important for a player to stay sharp especially when going up against such strong opposition.
Once again my opening preparation fails! This has been the story of my chess career. The only two players to ever walk into my preparation were FM Bereolos, my teammate and San Fran's David Preuss in the 2001 US Jr. Besides that, I have probably prepared for hundreds of opponents and they never bite! Tangborn avoids his Torre Attack or other QP Openings wisely. I remember like yesterday reading his book on the Torre and making it my opening until reaching expert level.
1...e5 2.g3 d6 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.Nc3 g6 5.d3 Bg7 6.e4 0-0 7.Nge2 Nc6 8.0-0 Nd7
This move can be found in the book, but I still like ...a5 better.
9. Be3 Nc5 10.f4 Bg4
At first, I didn't like this move and began to think it might be the beginning of my tough position I end up with. However, there are some complications I can start. In the end though, the team concluded that ...f7-f5 is the best idea.
Now my position will be tremendously difficult. Note that my last two moves were played quickly, because on the Tennessee end we were trying (in a rather chaotic fashion due to this being our first match ever!) to reestablish our connection to the internet. It seems that it is not only hurricanes keeping the match from running smooth, but thunder and lightning storms in middle Tennessee are doing it too! 11...Nb4 was Ron Burnett's suggestion. 12.h3 Bxe2 13.Qxe2 Nbxd3 (13...Ncxd3 14.a4) 14. Rad1 and I have to pitch the two knights for a rook; 11...gxf5 12.exf5 Nd4 was better though.
12. Bf3 gxf5 13.exf5 Bxf3 14.Rxf3
Alright, so white is better...probably much better thanks to my bishop on g7 and the seemingly easy plans white can execute to setup his pieces well (e.g. g2-g4, maybe Rf3-h3, Ne2-g3-e4, perhaps Queenside expansion as well with b2-b4-b5). However, Tangborn starts playing some moves that immediately looked strange to me and in fact they are quite slow and passive. I was not extremely uncomfortable in this situation either, thanks to my honed ability to grovel!
14...Kh8 15.Rf1?! Rg8 16.Qd2 Qe8?!
This was a mistake. I was planning on guarding c7 from f7, but it fails tactically.
17.Nd5 Rc8 18.g4 Ne7 19.Nxe7 Qxe7 20. Ng3 c6 21.d4 Nd7 22. Rac1
Rael fits in better with the position.
22... Rcd8 23.h3 d5?!
After this move, a computer finds an immediate way to gain a big edge with White, but in real time competition between two humans I believe this to be the right idea. The center is clearly the only place I am going to get any counterplay and I couldn't just sit there and suffer any longer.
Better was 24.cxd5 Nb6 25.dxc6 exd4 26.Bxd4 Qd6 27.Ne2 with a big edge for White.
24. Rde8 25.b4 a6 26.Rce1 Qf7 27.Kh1 Bf8
The start of a long plan moving my bishop to c7 where it may actually become active.
28. Nh5 Be7 29. Bh6 Bd8
29...Bf8 was my other consideration, but I did not see how Tangborn could break through.
30.dxe5 fxe5 31.f6 Rg6 32. Bg7+ Kg8 33.Rf5 Bc7 34.Ref1 Nf8 35.Rg5?
Letting Black back in the game! Although there is no clear-cut variation where White wins. This means if I just get my strength, the passers rolling, I could be in it again!
35...e4! 36. Rxg6 (36.Rgf5 might be the only saving idea! Ne6 37.Qe3 a5 because the White kingside pieces are now out of play unless they can break through to my king.) 36...e3!! 37.Qd3 hxg6 38.Bxf8 Kxf8 29.Ng7 Re4 and now it is Black who is winning!
36.Rxg6 hxg6 37.Qh6 Nxg7 38. Nxg7 Rf8 39.Ne6 Rc8 40.Ng5.
With Black to move here...Wheeler misses his chance to put Tennessee on the board for the first time ever! (Don't read further if you want to figure it out on your own.)
Wheeler played 35....Nf2? and Black went on to lose.
Just as the lighting crashed all around us in Nashville, Wheeler could have made Koons see sparks with 35...Qxh2! 36.Bh2 Nf2#
The pain sets in.
Another chance at glory- the TN State Champs
Needless to say, all four of us were eager to get back on the board and our opportunity rose where our team would be four of the top five rated players in the tournament. The 60th Annual Tennessee Open was taking place at the luxurious Gaylord Opryland Hotel. We were quite fortunate to have this playing hall. The Tennessee Chess Association was able to ride the coat tails of the Senior Open and get the playing hall absolutely free!
Everyone was so pleased with the location that you could even overhear TDs trying to get USCF Executive Director Bill Hall to grease the wheels and get Opryland to let us have it there next year. Sounds like a good idea to me. Boards one two and three looked just like our Tempo squad from Monday but after three rounds of play, I was the only one able to emerge 3-0 after this victory from scholastic champ Evan Mah. Evan has been one of the top rated players in his age group in the country since the young man was around eight years old. We played what was definitely my wildest game of the event. An opposite-sides castling battle where I break through first primarily thanks to my space advantage.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 d6
Not as popular as ...b7-b6, but I figured it could also transpose.
7. Bg5 Nc6 8. f3 e5 9. d5 Ne7
9... Nxd5 (These tactical ideas never seem to work for black.) 10. Bxd8 Nxc3 11. Bxc7 Na4 12. b3 Nc5 13. b4 and Bxd6.
I saw no advantage in doubling the f-pawns and giving up my bishop pair.
10...Ne8 11. g4!? g6 12. O-O-O f6 13. Bh4?!
13. Be3 makes a lot more sense and my bishop does not end up getting in the way of operations on the kingside. I was hooked on tactical ideas where I play f3-f4 and for some reason I felt my bishop wanted to remain on the h4-d8 diagonal with the Black queen.
13... c5 14.Bd3 Bd7 15. Ne2 a6 16. Rdf1
Here ye! Here ye! Announcing my plan of f2-f4. The only way for Black to prevent it is to play ...g6-g5 and I felt like the kingside breakthrough was only a matter of time after that with plans such as h2-h4, Rf2-h2 and Ng3-f5 or h5.
16...b5 17. g5 f5 18. f4!?
Whether or not this is the best way for white to play in the search for truth in chess is questionable, but it is definitely the best way to play to mix it up on and confuse the up-and-coming teenager.
18...fxe4 19.Bxe4 Bg4 20.Qe3 Ng7 puts up tougher resistance.
19.19. Bxc4 fxe4 20. fxe5 Nf5 21. e6 Bb5 22. Bxb5
22.Ng3! The idea is even stronger here than the next move. Bxc4 (22.Nxh4?? 23. Rxf8+ Kxf8 24.Qh8+ Ke7 25.Qxh7+ 23.Nxf5 gxf5 24.Qxc4)
22...axb5 23.Ng3! Ra4
23...b4! is of course the best move creating complications for me to deal with 24. Nxf5 Rxf5 (24...bxc3 25. Nh6+ Kg7 26.Rxf8 and white does not escape the mating net without losing material.) 25.Qe3 is unclear.
24...gf5 25.Qg3 or h3 is very dangerous for Black.
25. Rxf5 Rc4 26.Qxc4 bxc4 27. Rf7 c3 28.Rhf1
and Black resigned
The next morning would prove to be my biggest challenge though. You see, when one plays in a tournament in Tennessee or anywhere around the South for that matter, one must "walk through the gate." The gate is none other than International Master Ron Burnett and I was slated to play black against him a half point up. This means he has to be gunnin' for me. It was really an uneventful game, where Ronald reached a little too hard in a hedgehog and after 30 moves black held a slight advantage and with that came his draw offer. I accepted after a couple minutes thought and decided that being white against an expert in the last round was my best chance to win the tournament. Not trying to tear down "the gate!"
So for the championship it would be myself with the white pieces against none other than Bill Hall of Crossville and now the USCF It is a big deal to a lot of the southern chess fans to see important chess personalities actually get in the ring and throw some punches! Here is our game to determine the state champ.
FM Todd Andrews plays Executive Director of the USCF, Bill Hall for the Tennessee State Championship title.
When the smoke cleared, I came out with 4.5 out of 5.0 and just had to wait and see if the only other player that could reach 4.5, Joshua Suich, could himself take on "the gate." Ronald took him down clean and with that I took my second state title in a row.
TN State Championship Final Standings
1. Todd Andrews-4.5/5
2-5- Ronald Burnett, Peter Bereolos,Nicholas Schoonmaker and Patrick John Tae
Click here for complete standings.
Winning the Tennessee title should mean a trip to the Champion of Champions event that has taken place the past two years for a trip to the elusive US Championship for myself. So perhaps us Vols can keep this up and make the labor day weekend a week long chess festival year after year!