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Defeating Your First Grandmaster Print E-mail
By Benjamin Katz   
November 24, 2010
Benjamin Katz, climbing the rating ladder.
How does a 28-year-old amateur rated 2129 topple one of the best players in the country? I've been trying to answer that question for the last few days. In an age when it's not uncommon for a 13 year old to be a Grandmaster, I'm starting to feel old as a chess player. One of the only explanations that I can come up with for my performance is that for that one game I was completely on fire, like an NFL QB who throughout the course of a game always hits his receivers in stride and doesn't miss his reads, kind of like what Michael Vick did the other night against Washington.

I haven't been able to devote as much time to my personal chess development recently as I work full-time as a Financial Analyst for a brokerage in midtown Manhattan and run a chess teaching company that I recently started (http://www.tachess.com, e-mail: [email protected]). I also spend a fair amount of time with several private students, two of whom are brothers that are 6 and 9 years old who are rated around 1400(!) and 1300 respectively. I am predicting great things from both of them as they have a level of understanding at such a young age that I sometimes cannot fathom!

While I haven't spent time as much time working on improving my own skills as I would like, I have tried to attribute my incredible game to several factors.

1)      Having roommates that are great chess players. I am fortunate to live with some very talented chess players, IM Dmitry Schneider and FM Andrei Zaremba. I try and ask them questions about games that I have played and all of the advice that they offer me is not only very candid, but extremely helpful. I feel like all of the general tips I have received definitely helped my understanding of certain positions (I mean it can't hurt right?).

2)      Andrei recommended an iPhone app called Chess Quest. It was developed by GM Yudasin and has several hundred very difficult puzzles. I have been solving these puzzles on my daily commute on the 6 train, and I feel that my calculation skills have improved exponentially. Frankly it's the only time that I have for chess!

3)      Not worrying about losing rating points. Sadly, one of the habits I haven't been able to kick is that I usually worry about losing rating points when playing games. While playing GM's, I don't have to worry about that because I won't lose any points if I lose the game.

4)      Rohan and Neev, two of my private students, have made me improve my overall chess game. The better that they've gotten, the more that I have had to prepare for each lesson. I review fairly advanced concepts with them every lesson, specifically endgames, and that has definitely improved my game.

Without further ado, here is the best game that I have ever played, held at the Eastern Chess Congress on 11/13/2010. GMs Alexander Stripunsky and Michael Rohde won the tournament.  I'm going to apologize in advance if my analysis isn't top notch because I didn't use Rybka. I feel that it's more beneficial to provide readers with my thoughts during the game instead of some dry computer lines.


1. e4 e6
I played the French exclusively before dropping it from my repertoire several years back. I played it for so long that I got sick of it. After losing to Kudrin several months ago in a Sicilian, I decided to try out the French this time around and see what he had prepared to face it. Frankly, he's probably more knowledgeable than me in both openings, but I feel much more comfortable in positions arising from the French defense.
2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 Be7!?
It's not the most common move in the position, but seemed fine to me at the time. I'm still a little rusty with these lines and probably should've played something like Qb6 which is most likely the correct move.
8.Nf3 cxd4 9.cxd4 f6
One of my former coaches constantly drilled the importance of playing f6 in the French. It's essential to undermine white's strong center at all costs.
10.Nf4 Ndxe5!
I can't believe that I had the stones to play this against a very strong GM. After this move, the game will go into virtually uncharted waters. Kudrin spend the next 25 minutes coming up with a response. I was semi afraid of Nxe5 fxe5 Qh5+ Kd7 dxe5 but then I saw g5! To be followed by Nxe5 and Bb4 at some point which would keep the position unbalanced enough to give me some chances.
IM Justin Sarkar approached me the morning after the game and asked me if I prepared this move! He was mildly surprised when I told him that it was inspired over the board. This the only playable move in the position. I wasn't about to play 10. Nb6 and let Kudrin grind me down.
11.dxe5 fxe5
This is probably the safest way for White to continue.
12... Nxe5 13.Qh5+ Nf7 14.Bxh7 Bb4+ 15.Kf1 Qf6!
This was my favorite move of the whole game. It looks like I have no defense to Ng6, but if he were to play Ng6 here I would follow it up with Bc5, where he would be in serious danger of getting mated. 
16.Qg6 Bd7 17.Qxf6 gxf6 18.Bd3 Ne5 19.Be2 Rc8
A strong GM once told me to always make threats. This is a fairly simple threat of getting two pieces for a rook, and it also gets the rook on an open file, which is usually a good thing.
I was pretty happy when this move was played. His knight on f4 was deceptively strong and I was very happy to trade it off.
20...Nxd3 21.Bxd3 e5
I need to use the advantage of my pawn mass in the center.
22.f3 f5 23.Be3 Bc5
I can't let his bishop start to wreak havoc.
24.Bxc5 Rxc5 25.Re1 e4 26.Bb1 0-0!
I guess it's never too late to castle, although it's amusing that I'm doing so while not having any pawns in front of my king! It is the best move in the position because it breaks the pin, and the rook indirectly pressures the enemy king. I had to check my score sheet to make sure that I hadn't moved my king or rook!
I was looking at Kd2 as well, but I think that it loses due to d4, and on fxe4 fxe4 bxe4 I get Rf2 in and it's pretty close to mate.      
I played 28...f4!
I saw that his king would go on a little walk in this line and figured that at worst I would have a perpetual somewhere if he managed to not get mated.
29.Kd4 Rc4+ 30.Kxd5 e3 31.Be4 b6    
I'm closing in on his king.
I feel like this is his first blunder in the game and it allows me to close in on his king. I thought that he should've played b4, sacrificing a pawn to prevent my rook from getting to c5.
32...Rc5+ 33.Kd6  
This proves to be his decisive mistake. At this point of the game, I had 10 minutes left on my clock. I saw a perpetual check with Rd8+, Re8+, Rf8+ where if his king were to ever run all the way to g6, I would have Be8+ winning the game. I started to look for something more and 5 minutes later I found the stunning 33...Kf7!! which decides the game on the spot. White has no way to escape mate.
34.Bd5+ Kf6
and White resigned here because they're going to get mated next move unless they choose to play Bc6 which delays the inevitable by a few moves.

I can't begin to explain the state of elation that I was in after this game. I couldn't believe that it had happened! A lot of fellow tournament participants came up to me and congratulated me on my effort which was an incredible feeling. I'd been playing chess since I was very young and never thought that I would defeat a Grandmaster!

As for what's next, I have always had the goal of becoming a master. I'm fairly close now, and this win will make me try and make time to play in more tournaments. I know that I still have a long away to get there, and will definitely need to improve my endgame and tactics if I want to make the jump.

Stay tuned!

Ben Katz


April - Chess Life Online 2010

FIDE Trainers Seminar for Women Instant Replay: Topalov-Anand Game 5 Drawn Anand on Top so Far in Sofia Kasparov, Karpov and Carlsen to Appear at New York City BenefitInstant Replay: Anand Wins Game Four Chess Without Borders Join Millions of Volunteers Worldwide on Global Youth Service Day Nakamura to Relocate to Saint LouisA Couch Potato's Guide to the World Championship - Part II Aleksandr Lenderman: Officially a Grandmaster Expert Meets Grandmaster: A Personal Perspective on Playing Maurice Ashley Anand Evens Score in Sofia Topalov Begins Match with Big Win A Volunteer's Perspective on Columbus: A Blue Apron & Female Fire A Couch Potato's Guide to Topalov-Anand Santarius Wins Hales Corners Challenge XIField finalized for 2010 U.S. Championship All-Girls Nationals: Ballantyne Ties with Chen and Wins UTD Scholarship High School Nationals: The Biggest Tie Ever and Hunter on Top $10,000 Up for Grabs at the US Championship Blitz Open Kudrin and Ivanov Win Hartford Open Meekins and Ong Lead High School; Matlin Leads All GirlsThe National High School and All Girls Begin in ColumbusIn Columbus, Ryba Wins Blitz, Low and Uesgui Take Bug Abby on Columbus, College and her Last Scholastic Game Final Four: UMBC beats Brownsville to retain titleThe Quest to Qualify by IM Altounian GM Jesse Kraai Takes Clear First in Reno Vela, IS 318, Adelberg and Lee on Top at the Junior High Nationals Four GMs Tie in Saint Louis Open College Final Four Update: Brownsville vs. Maryland Baltimore County Four Lead the Saint Louis Open Adelberg and IS 318 in Clear Lead at Junior High NationalsJunior High School Nationals: Day 1 ReportFinal Four Kicks Off in BrownsvilleTournament of Champions Final: Altounian vs. StudenNakagawa Takes First in K-9 BlitzThe Grandmaster ApartmentRecord field set for Saint Louis OpenGM Pascal Charbonneau on Blitzing the Donald Benge Memorial 2010 Grand Prix Sponsors: ChessLecture.com and ChessMagnetSchool.com The Final Scoop on the Philadelphia Open GM Robert Hess is the 2010 Samford Fellow The Story of IS 318: Interview with the Director of Chess Movie Kamsky Tops Philadelphia Open New USCF Rating Floors Implemented Far West Open BeginsThe Scoop Begins at the Philadelphia Open The April Check is in the Mail