Amateur Team Games Potpourri
March 8, 2011
Our coverage from the US Amateur Team events included four reports by some of your favorite CLO reporters (Kostya Kavutskiy on the West , Al Lawrence on the East , Melinda J. Matthews on the South and Andrea Rosen on the North ) and a US Chess Scoop video, an Amateur Invades the World Amateur Team Championship. Here we  present some game highlights from the South and the East.

 Matt Helfst and Peter Dyson from the US Amateur South team, Armageddon Your Pieces annotated some games that led their team to victory.


1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.d4 Be7 5.Bg2 0–0 6.0–0 c6 7.Qc2 b5

I did not know any more theory at this point.
8.b3 bxc4 9.bxc4 Nbd7 10.Nbd2 a5 11.e4 Ba6

Larry has found a diagonal to put the often passive Queen Bishop to work, but I quickly remove my pieces in the line of fire.
12.Re1 Rc8
This may be one too many moves of preparation for ...c5, as now I clamp down.
13.e5 Ne8
This was a bit of a surprise. I expected ...Ng4 with the idea of re-routing the Knight to f5.
Now that Black has moved the Rook to c8, it seemed like the right time to close the c-file. My plan is to target the a5 pawn, and I did not see a way for Black to defend it.
14...g6 15.a4
Cementing my target in place.
15...Ng7 16.Nb3
Now I am ready to play Bd2 and win the a-pawn.
16...Bc4 17.Nbd2 Ba6
 Black is ready to repeat the position.
18.Bb2 f6 19.exf6
I did not like 19.Bc3 fxe5 20.Nxe5 Nxe5 21.Rxe5 Bf6 And Black will follow with ...Nf5 mounting pressure on my d4 pawn.
19...Bxf6 20.Bc3 Ra8
 Since the defense of the a-pawn is not possible, I think Black can improve with ...Re8. 
21.Nb3 Bc4 22.Nbd2 Ba6 23.Nb3 Bc4
Our second little dance with the Knight and Bishop. But now my Queen Bishop has moved from c1 to c3 and ready to take the a-pawn, as well as connecting my Rooks.
24.Nfd2 Bxb3 25.Nxb3 Re8 26.Qd2 e5?


Poor calculation on my part. I wanted to play 27.Nxa5! This capture would have given White a decisive advantage. 27...exd4 28.Nxc6 dxc3 but somehow I overlooked that the Queen's patch to d5 was clear, capturing with check and winning.
27...Qb8 28.Reb1
I was unsure about this move since I abandon the e-file. But the concrete variations looked promising and I wanted to keep the other Rook behind my now-passed pawn.
28...Qa7 29.Bc3 exd4 30.Bxd4 Ne6
Here I expected ...Nf5, which had been on my mind since I first played e4-e5. But Larry wanted to hit both my Bishop and the c5-pawn. [30...Bxd4? 31.Nxd4 Qxc5 32.Nxc6 looked good for me.]
31.Bxf6 Nxf6 32.Qc3
Now I have a significant advantage, but I used all but about 30 minutes of my time to achieve it, so I have to pick up the pace. Fortunately, Larry was in the same boat time-wise.
32...Qg7 33.Na5 Rac8 34.Rb7
Right after I played this, I thought it might be the wrong idea, as I chase the Queen to a much better square, attacking both my c5-pawn, and potentially the f2-pawn. However, the move is natural and strong.
34...Qf8 35.Nb3 Re7 36.Rxe7 Qxe7 37.Re1

Another move I was unsure of, as I move my Rook from its support of the a-pawn's advance. With only about 20 minutes to complete the game, I saw the opportunity for some exchanges on e6 to simpify the game and make it easier to play quickly.
37...Qf7 38.Bh3?! Re8 39.f3
I keep one Knight out of e4, but allow the other to go to g5. The immediate trades on e6 would have been better. [39.Bxe6 Rxe6 40.Rxe6 Qxe6 41.a5 Black has no checks and the pawn is on its way.]
39...Ng5 40.Rxe8+ Qxe8 41.Bf1
The Bishop keeps the Black Queen out of e2 and is ready to support the advance of the a-pawn to a6.
I spent several of my remaining precious minutes to check this. By giving back my extra pawn, the distant a-pawn becomes more than the Knights can handle.
42...Nxf3+ 43.Kg2 Nxe5 44.a5 Ne8 45.a6 Nc7 46.a7
I am threatening to play Ba6, Ba7 and Queen the pawn.
46...Kf7 47.Ba6 Ke7 48.Bb7 Kd7 49.a8Q Nxa8 50.Bxa8 Kc7 51.Nd4+- Larry pointed out this line after the game. My Bishop is trapped, but there is no way for Black to attack it. My King will advance to decide the game.
47.Nd4 Ne3+ 48.Kf2 Nxf1 49.Kxf1 Kf7 50.Nxc6 Ke6 51.Ke2 Kf5 52.Ke3 Kg4 53.Nb4 d4+ 54.Kd3! Kh3 55.Na6 Na8 56.c6 1–0

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4
2...c5 (One of the lesser common choices although quite playable. The most testing choice is 3. c4 as seen in the databases but I was not prepared for this and chose a more solid way to continue as it was a team event)
3. e3 Nf6 4. Be2 Nc6 5. 0-0 Bg4

6. b3
A small inaccuracy due to Black's next move. Instead 6. c4 e6 and the game transposes to very common territory.
Only exchanging on d4 once White has committed to the b3 pawn advance. Now White's queenside can become potentially weak and may regret this pawn advance.
7. Nxd4
The only way to justify the b3 pawn advance is to make sure not to recapture on d4 with a pawn as the Bishop would like to be fianchettoed on the long diagonal on b2.
7...Bxe2  8. Nxe2
Again choosing to keep the a1-h8 diagonal open to develop the Bishop on b2.
8...Rc8 9. Bb2 Qd6
A very strange looking move which Black shows the point of on the next move. Instead 9...e6 followed by Be7 and 0-0 and Black should be at least equal.
10. Nd2
Preparing c2-c4 advance to fight back in the center.

Showing the point of Qd6 to protect the Knight on f6. But this elaborate plan of development was not necessary and slower than the more direct e6, Be7, and 0-0
11. c4
A logical move to chip away at the center. But I missed my chance with 11. Ne4! Nxe4 12. Bxh8 f6 13. f3 Nc5 14. c4 when White should be better just based on the fact of the respective King's safety. And if 11...dxe4 12. Qxd6 exd6 13. Bxf6 winning back the piece with a great position.
11...Bg7 12. cxd5 Qxd5 13. Nc4 Qxd1
An inaccuracy as this helps White to develop a piece for free. Better is 13...0-0 just completing the development.
14. Rfxd1 0-0 15. Rac1 Rfd8 16. Nd4

Also to be considered was the multi-purpose 16. f3 giving the King air and preventing the Black Knight from the e4 square.
16...Nxd4 17. Bxd4 b6 18. Ne5

Aiming for the c6 square.
18... Kf8
A strange looking move which I guess is meant to defend the e7 point when a Knight appears on c6.
19. Nc6
A great square for the Knight where it hits important points like e7, d8, and a7)
After this move there is an interesting tactical continuation I was getting excited about but it turns out after 20. Nxa7?! Rxc1 21. Rxc1 Rxa7 22. Rc8+ Ne8 23. Bxg7+ Kxg7 24. Rxe8 Rxa2 25. g3 Rb2 26. Rxe7 Rxb3 27. Rb7 that it just leads to a dead equal Rook and pawn endgame so I rejected this as I thought I had a slightly better position at this point.
20. b4
Intending to follow up with b4-b5 to cement the Knight in on the c6 square.
Preventing the immediate b4-b5 by White.
21. Ne5
At this point I was thinking I would be winning a pawn here but this is not the case with Black's clever defense. Therefore 21. a4 intending b4-b5 is the more principled continuation.
21...R7d8 22. Bxb6 Rxd1+ 23. Rxd1 Nd5!
Simultaneously attacking both White minor pieces and showing that Whit's back rank is vulnerable as well.
24. Bd4
Here I thought for a good 30 minutes plus on the clock trying to find a way to hold the extra pawn but I did not see a clear way. The only serious try is 24. Nd7+ Ke8 25. Ba5 Nc3 26. Rd2 Ne4 Black can repeat the moves for a draw if he chooses to.
24...Bxe5 25. Bxe5 f6 26. Bd4 Nxb4 27. a3 

27...Nd5 (I thought 27...Nc2 was a more testing try as the a3 pawn is threatened and on 28. Rc1 Rc6 and Nxd4 is an idea. Therefore on 27...Nc2 I would play 28. Kf1 Nxa3 29. Ra1 holding the balance)
28. g3 (Finally giving the King air to free the Rook from defensive duty on the back rank)
28...Rc2 29. Rd3
Defending the a3 pawn and also with a hidden threat to trade off the more passive Rook for the more active Rook.
30. e4 forces the knight back to a worse square.
30...Nc7 31. Rc3
Attacking both the Rook and the Knight hoping to exchange the pair of Rooks as I had a significant disadvantage on the clock.
This is just a mistake due to the clock situation. More practical was 31...Rd2 32. Be3 Rd1+ 33. Kg2 Nb5 keeping the pieces on the board to keep things complicated for White with little time left on the clock)
32. Bxc3 Ke6 33. Bb4 Nb5  34. f4
A huge blunder as 34...Nd6 attacks and wins the e4 pawn due to the fact that if the minor pieces were traded Black would be simply winning with the more active King in the endgame.
Sometimes better to be lucky than good as they say!
35. Bxa5 Nxa3 36. Kf2 f5 37. Kf3 Nc4 38. Bb4 Kd7  39. exf5
Looking to trade as many pawns as possible to increase chances of holding a draw as I was down below 5 minutes left for the rest of the game)
39...gxf5 40. g4
Again with the idea of trading another pair of pawns to increase the drawing chances with very little time on the clock)
40...e6 41. h4 Ke8 42. Bc3 Kf7 43. Kg3 Ne3 44. g5 Kg6 45. Be5 Kh5 46. Bd4 Nc4 47. Kh3 1/2-1/2 (And the game was drawn after many more moves of piece shuffling)
This was a critical result for our team as board 3 already went against us but we had a significant rating advantage on board 1, and I saw that our Board 2 was in a better position when considering the draw. So I figured the draw should give us at least a draw in the match which it did against the #2 ranked team in the event.

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 d6
6. e4
Before the round one of my team mates told me that my opponent played the Sicilian as Black so I figured I would get a transposition to the Maroczy Bind Sicilian from my English opening which I was very happy about. The Maroczy Bind for White is just a very comfortable and easy position to play with virtually no risk. Ideal for a team situation.
6...g6 7. Be2 Bg7 8. Be3 0-0 9. 0-0 Bd7  10. Qd2
All very normal and standard moves so far.
A very logical idea, trading pieces in a position with less space.
11. Bxd4 Bc6 12. f3
Also to be considered is 12. Bf3 as the Bishop is passive on e2 anyways.
I was expecting 12...Nd7 looking to trade another pair of pieces and the Knight may later go to the c5 square. This move allows White to get some queenside initiative as seen in the game continuation.
13. Rfd1 Rfd8 14. a3
A quick b2-b4 advance is coming next when White not only has a space advantage in the center in the Maroczy Bind but now the queenside as well.
A blunder as this takes away the d7 square from the Bishop. At this point I was just thinking I would be winning a piece for a pawn and have an easy winning position. But Black finds a very nice defensive resource.
15. b4 Bxd4+ 16. Qxd4 Qb6 17. b5 Qxd4+ 18. Rxd4 Nc5 19. bxc6 Nb3

And the White Rooks are forked. A nice escape by Black to get a semi-playable position instead of losing a minor piece for a pawn.
20. cxb7 Rab8 21. R4d1

The wrong Rook move! Better was 21. Rad1 Nxd4 22. Rxd4 Rxb7 23. c5 exploiting the pin on the d-file.
21...Nxa1 22. Rxa1 Rxb7 23. Rc1 Rb2 24. Kf2
Timing is critical here. It is necessary to bring the King immediately to the center before Black has time to coordinate the Rooks on the 2nd rank.
24...Rdb8 25. Ke3 Kf8 26. Kd3 a6  27. Rc2
Looking to trade off the passive Rook for the active rook.
27...R2b3 28. Ra2 Rb2 29. Rxb2 1/2-1/2 
Before making my move I went and looked at our other match games with Board 3 already going against us but Board 2 looking pretty good for us and Board 1 us having a big rating advantage I figured a draw was reasonable on my board. So I made my move and offered a draw to my opponent in a slightly better position. He waited for 15 minutes until his time got kind of low watching the top two games in our match and then accepted the draw offer which in the end was a half point towards securing the match win against the #3 seeded team.

The winning team, West Orange Krush consisted of IM Mikhail Zlotnikov, Peter Radomskyj, Jose Fernandez and Victor Rosas. See one of Rosas's games below:


As usual, the US Amateur Team East featured some of America's top titled players- see some highlights below.






Look for more coverage of the US Amateur Team Championships, including a report by Al Lawrence on the East, in an upcoming issue of Chess Life Magazine.