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An Adult's Last Stand in Utah Print E-mail
By Damian Nash   
January 10, 2011
Damian Nash with

Utah Chess Association President Grant Hodson

The week before the Utah Closed I was not planning to attend.  But then Kayden Troff earned a silver medal at the World Youth Championship in Greece, and I didn't want to miss the celebration for his fantastic achievement, scheduled just before the final round of the Closed.

I had done no preparation for this tournament, aside from playing weekly games with the Moab Chess Club's resident master, Harold Stevens.   So I approached my favorite Utah tournament with no expectations, despite finishing second in three prior events.
My stated goal was to "get interesting positions and avoid making significant mistakes."  I pre-registered for a third-round bye to help prepare the party for Kayden.  The bye also gave me time for a pleasant nap and an invigorating session of yoga, which probably became the deciding factor in the tough tournament.

In the first round I faced Davis Unruh, one of Utah's most gifted young players.   Knowing he is a rapidly rising star would normally have caused a nervous reaction, but I reminded myself to just have fun, and avoid blunders. 


Nash,Damian (2021) - Unruh,Davis (1844) [B09]
Utah Closed (Round 1), 05.11.2010

Pirc Defence: Austrian Attack
1.Nc3 Nf6 2.e4 d6 3.d4 g6 4.f4
The white side of this position has given me a winning record of nearly 80%. An unlucky choice for my opponent!
4...Bg7 5.Nf3 c5 6.dxc5?! Qa5 7.Bd2 Qxc5 8.Bd3 0-0 9.Qe2 a6 10.Be3 Qc7 11.0-0 e6 12.Rac1!
Correctly anticipating the upcoming sequence of moves.  Seven moves later, when white plays 19. c4, the rook is already on its best square.
12...b5 13.e5 Ng4 14.exd6 Qxd6 15.Ne4 Qc7 16.Bc5 Rd8 17.b4

17.c4! is sharper and leads to an advantage because of tactics against the exposed Ra8.  The quieter b4 push removes a target at b2 and protects the Bc5 to prepare the c4 pawn push.

Eliminates tactics that favor White.
18.Nfg5 Nf6 19.c4 Nxe4 20.Nxe4 bxc4 21.Bxc4 Qc6 22.Ng5
The knight threatens sacrifices on f7 and e6.  All of whites pieces have sharp and active roles, while blacks queenside is not fully developed and his king is under-protected.

Fritz strongly prefers 22...h6 23.Nxf7 Kxf7 24.f5 gxf5 25.Rxf5+ Kg8 26.Bxe6+ Kh8 27.Qg4.

Played too quickly, and overlooking the quiet winning move 23.Be3! Qd6 24.f5 Bd5 25.Nxf7 Kxf7 26.fxe6+ Kxe6 27.Bc5+ Qe5 28.Bxd5+ Kxd5 29.Qf3+ Qe4 30.Rcd1+ Kc6 31.Qxe4+ Kc7 32.Bb6+ Kxb6 (32...Nxb6 33.Rc1+ Kb8 34.Qf4+)]
23...Re8 24.Bxe6?! Bd4+?

Fritz points out 24...Qb6+ 25.Bc5 Rxe6 26.Nxe6 Qxe6 27.Qxe6 fxe6 gives a slight advantage to Black.
25.Kh1 Qxg2+ 26.Qxg2 Bxg2+ 27.Kxg2 Rxe7 28.Bxf7+ Rxf7?
Black's final mistake overlooks that the Bd4 is on the same file as the Nd7.  He should have accepted the pawn-down endgame instead.
29.Nxf7 Kxf7 30.Rcd1 Nf6 31.Rxd4 Ng4 32.Rc1 Re8 33.Rd7+ Kf6 34.h3 Ne3+ 35.Kf3 Nf5 36.Rc6+ Re6 37.Rxe6+ Kxe6 38.Rxh7 Nd4+ 39.Ke4 Nc2 40.Rb7 Kf6 41.Rb6+ Kg7 42.Kd3 Ne1+ 43.Kc4 Ng2 44.Rxa6 Nxf4 45.b5
and Black resigns because the b-pawn queens first.  1-0

After a good night's sleep and a great cup of coffee I found myself paired with Will Barefield, formerly of New Mexico.  I met him when he posted an astonishing result at the NM Memorial tournament in 2005.  His reputation in Utah is as a deadly tactician, and I looked forward to our first game.


Barefield,William (1949) - Nash,Damian (2021) [B00]
Utah Closed (Round 2), 07.11.2010
Nimzowitsch Defence
1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.g3 d6 5.Bg2 e5 6.d3 f5 

A favorite system with Black, the Averbakh/Modern Defense, it often leads to a fun kingside attack later in the middlegame.  In this case it led to my prettiest game of the tournament.
 7.Be3 Nf6 8.Qd2 Be6 9.Ng5 Bg8 10.h3 
Fritz prefers 10.0-0-0 h6 11.Nf3 fxe4 12.dxe4 Ng4=
10...h6 11.Nf3 Qd7 12.Nh4 Ne7
12...Bf7 may have been better.
White bravely castles into Black's kingside pawn storm.  A better line might be 13.exf5!? gxf5 14.Bxb7 Rb8 15.Bg2 Rxb2 16.Qc1 Rb8 17.Bxa7 Rc8 18.a4.
Instead of the immediate, sharper 13...f4.  Black decides to shut down the white bishops attack on b7 in preparation for it. 

The best way to fight a wing attack to fight for the center.  But Black's dynamic kingside position is about to make a big shift in the game.
This was a difficult move to make, sacrificing my kingside pawn shield for a bishop.  There are many complex variations, and blacks king is still in the middle of the board, which could quickly turn fatal without careful calculation.
15.gxf4 exf4 16.Bxf4 g5 17.Bxg5?
Both of us overlooked White's clever resource 17.Bxd6!, applying the same fork trick that Black just used. 17...Qxd6 18.e5 Qc7 19.exf6 Bxf6 20.Nf3 0-0-0 and Black has a slight advantage because of his safer king position.
17...hxg5 18.Qxg5 Nh5 19.Bf3 Bf7
Fritz prefers 0-0-0 which temporarily sacrifices a piece to get the king to safety, but Black's pressure of the Q and K on the g-file will reclaim the piece shortly.
20.Bg4 Qc7 21.Nf5
White goes for a last-ditch attack while Black's king is still in the middle, but every trade brings Black closer to a winning endgame
21...Nxf5 22.Qxf5 Bxd4
Taking the time to gain an important center pawn.
Clearing the e4 square for White's knight. 
 24.Ne4 Kf8  25.Ng5 Ng7 26.Nh7+ Kg8 27.Nf6+ Bxf6 28.Qxf6 Qd8
White cannot afford to trade queens and move into the endgame, so Black exploits this to improve his position.

29.Qf4 Nh5 30.Qf5 Qf6 31.Qxf6 Nxf6 32.Rfe1 Kf8 33.Re3 Re8 34.Rae1 Rxe3 35.Rxe3 Rg8 36.f3 Bxa2
Black goes for one last tactical shot, in time pressure, as a complicated way to win the f-pawn. 
37.Ra3 Bd5 38.Rxa7 Bxf3 39.Ra8+
This move caused a moment of panic as I realized that 39...Kf7 40. Rxg8 Kxg8 41.Bxf3 is a drawn endgame.
But there is luck in chess!  The only piece uninvolved in the tactic happens to be on the perfect square to shield the king.  From here the win is straightforward.
40.Ra4 Bxg4 41.hxg4 Nf6 42.Kf2 Rxg4 43.Ra7 Rg7 44.Ke3 b6 45.Ra8+ Kf7 46.Rc8 c5 47.Kd3 Ke6 48.b3 d5? 49.Rc6+ Ke5 50.Rxb6 Rg3+ 51.Kd2 Ne4+ 52.Kc1 Kd4 53.Rh6 Kc3 54.Kb1 Rg1+ 55.Ka2 Kxc2 56.Rh2+ Nd2 
Facing checkmate threats on the a-file and an unstoppable d-pawn, White resigns.  0-1

In the third round I took the pre-arranged bye, helped order pizza and prepare a gift for Kayden's victory party, and then took a peaceful nap.  After waking up I took a walk around the beautiful UU campus, then did some power yoga "sun salutations" to wake up and feel vigorous for the state championship game.

My opponent, Scott Treiman, was Utah's newest expert at age 16.   Like Troff and Unruh, he has one of Utah's most gifted young minds, and I knew him to be seriously under-rated on a good day, and he was having a great tournament.   With a draw I would add another red, second-place trophy to my dusty collection at home.  Even with a loss I could still be proud of my tournament.  So, facing the young genius, I reminded myself to create an interesting position and avoid making serious mistakes. 
Fortunately for me, Treiman was tired after posting two victories earlier in the day.  In the second round, he had defeated the pre-tournament favorite, his close friend Kayden Troff, who was still jet-lagged from Greece. Then Scott stopped Sharam Nazarinia, who was also having a spectacular tournament, with the longest game in the third round. In addition to a rested mind, I also had the advantage of the white pieces.


Nash, Damian (2021)-Treiman, Scott (2011) [B19]

Utah Closed  (4), 07.11.2010
Classical Caro-Kann

1.Nc3 d5 2.e4 c6!
Black needed only a draw to win the tournament.  So the Caro-Kann is an excellent choice for a rock-solid position. I'm not sure if my opponent knew, however, that I had been playing the Caro-Kann regularly for over 30 years. 
3.d4 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.Nf3 Nd7 7.h4 h6 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bd2 Ngf6 12.0-0-0 Be7 13.Kb1 0-0
The last book move.  Now that Black has castled kingside, the battle lines are clearly drawn.  White will storm the king position with pawns trying to expose the monarch, whereas black will try to trade down to a drawing endgame and exploit any mistakes by White along the way.  So what is the quickest way to start the pawns rolling?
This retreating move repositions the White knight to the stronger square e3 where it supports the g4 pawn push. This idea is a theoretical novelty, and one that worked well, even with solid play from Black.
Now that his king is safe for the moment, Black works the center and opens the c-file for a rook.
15.Ne3 cxd4 16.Qxd4
Not Nxd4? Which loses to 16...Ne5!

This forces the exchange of queens, because Black's queen is a powerful attacker on the b-file and if White's queen retreats it becomes a target to aid Black's further development.
17.Qxb6 Nxb6 18.Ne5 Rad8?! 
A minor positional error.  Black's rooks are better posted at c8 and d8, and the Rf8 is not really necessary to protect the f7 pawn.  Instead, it cramps his king's position, which will eventually face an attack on the g-file. 
Prevents the dangerous Ng4.
19...Bd6 20.Nd3
Now both of White's knights have migrated two squares to the left, from f3 and g3 and to d3 and e3.  From here they hold the center and threaten to fling the f and g pawns down the board. 
20...Nbd5 21.Nc4 
Avoiding an unnecessary trade.
21...Be7 22.g4 Nh7 23.f4
Now Black has a cramped position, as the Rf8 blocks the Nh7.
23...Ndf6 24.Rdg1 Ne4 25.Bc1 Rd5 26.Nce5 Bf6
Finally Black appears ready to force exchanges toward a drawish endgame.   How can White maintain an initiative against such a solid defense?
This move challenges one of Black's best-posted pieces, the rook that indirectly stops whites g5 pawn advance.  It also mobilizes the queenside, looking toward an alternate endgame.  If White's kingside attack fails, a passed pawn on the queenside could become an important asset.
27...Rdd8 28.Re1 Bxe5 29.Nxe5 Nf2!
A nice tactic forcing the trade of yet another piece.
30.Rhg1 Nd3 31.Nxd3 Rxd3 32.g5
The pawn storm finally arrives, but with only two rooks and a bishop behind it, will it be enough to topple Black's monarch?  At this point all the other games had ended, so an audience gathered around the state title game. 
32...hxg5 33.fxg5 Rh3!
A sharp way to defend the h6 square and threaten the h-pawn at the same time
Here Fritz strongly prefers 34.h6 for the win, suggesting that 34. g6 only draws.
34...Nf6 35.h6 gxh6 36.Ref1
Shifting the attack to the weak Nf6 and potentially weak f7 squares. 
Better is 36...Kg7, which eliminates White's dangerous advanced pawn.  There are some lines where the pinned Nf6 falls, and facing too many defensive calculations, combined with the fatigue of a very long day of chess, Black finally stumbles.  After 37.gxf7+ Kxf7 38.b3 e5 39.Rf2 (or 39.Bb2 Rh5 40.Rf2 Rd8) Black would have no trouble drawing and might even play for a win.
37.gxf7++ Kh7 38.b3!
Giving the Bc1 a much more useful diagonal from which to attack Black's kingside. 

This natural looking check ends the game for Black.  His last chance to draw was 38...Rg3 39.Rxg3 Nxg3 40.Rf6 Nf5 41.Kc2 h5 42.Kd3 Kg7 43.Bb2 Kh7 44.Ke4 h4.
39.Kc2 Ne2 40.Ba3 Nxg1 41.Bxf8 Rh2+ 42.Kb1 Ne2! 
Setting one last devilishly beautiful trap. 
Now a careless move like 43. Be7?? Would lead to a forced draw by repetition after 43...Nc3+ 44.Kc1 Nxa2+  45.Kd1 Nc3+.  The king can never move to a1 or e1 because the rook will checkmate.
43.Bb4 a5  44.Bxa5 
Not the shortest path to victory, but white enjoys the inevitability of a win with careful play.
44...b6 45.f8(Q) bxa5  46.Qe7+ Kg6 47.Qxe6+ Kg5 48.Qe5+ and Black resigns.  0-1

A reporter for The Moab Times Independent asked me, "Did you feel excited when you knew you were going to win the tournament?"  The honest answer was, "No... I just felt amused."  Amused about winning a title in a tournament I didn't expect to play. Amused that all of my games had gone according to the pre-tournament plan:  Creating interesting positions and avoiding serious mistakes.  Amused about winning the blue trophy without facing the pre-tournament favorites, USCF masters Kayden Troff and Harold Stevens, who finished tied for second with fellow experts Treiman and Randy Zumbrunnen.

But mostly I was amused by the recognition that fate and good fortune play an important part in short tournaments like this one, along with third-round naps and yoga.  Apparently it was "just my time" to enjoy the title for a year, before players like Troff, Treiman and Unruh make it forever out of reach of an older generation of players.

January - Chess Life Online 2011

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