IM Alex Lenderman on the Pioneers
By IM Alex Lenderman   
September 18, 2008
lendermanslide.jpgThis week of U.S. Chess League action included a shocking 4-0 Carolina sweep over the New York Knights. San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas and New Jersey also won this week. In a Monday night featured match, the Queens' Pioneers catapulted to 4-0, 1.5 points ahead of any other team in the Eastern Division. In a special feature, IM Alex Lenderman of the Queens' Pioneers writes about his team's success and his own 4-0 score. He also offers in-depth annotations to his week three win over Ginsburg. Be sure to try your hand at Alex's six-question USCL Quiz at the end of this article, where you can win up to $30 worth of merchandise from the U.S. Chess League store!

Dear readers,

I am very honored to be writing for CLO, but I'm even more honored of being part of an excellent U.S. Chess League team, the Queens' Pioneers. The only reason personal stats matter to me is to help my team, and I'm so happy to be a part of the Queens' great start.  This is my first blog for, but you can see more blogs by me at When, you see a headline with Alex Lenderman, just read it :)
I felt that the real star for all four matches wasn't me. In the first two matches, IM Eli Vovsha stepped up in a big way for Queens', playing two great games against two very solid players, both above 2400. Being on board three for my first two games, I almost had the mentality that these were must-win games. However, I didn't see them that way. I saw them as to do the best I can, to prepare the best I can, and help a few of my teammates, and get the right psychological tips on how to go about my games from my smart manager, Alex Stripunsky.     

 Luckily, my preparation was good enough in the first two games, and I ended up winning both, by setting challenges, getting up 10-30 minutes on time, and most importantly being patient in all my games not trying to do too much.

I still feel that I did nothing special in my games. As for my teammates, I can't say enough good things about them. I helped Ben Katz prepare a little bit and he really played his heart out in all of his three games against higher rated opponents, winning a very big game for us against Victor Shen, with a great opening preparation in 19 moves.


In team matches, the first person who wins or gets a great position deserves extra credit, because those games set the tone, and in a team match, it is extremely important because that helps everyone else play well.

Dmitri Schneider's started with 0.5/2, but I felt that his games were good, and I'm confident that with a few adjustments and a few more games under his belt, he will come through big for us.
For games 3 and 4, Alex shuffled the lineups a little bit. Dmitry was unavailable and instead, Alex Stripunsky made his debut against Arizona, playing a pretty good game after what was a confusing an opening line for him. He could've played for a win, but since I already beat Ginsburg, and we were doing well on other boards, he took a draw with White.


Alex's student, the young phenom, Parker Zhao has been playing very well lately. He scored two great wins for the Pioneers against two 2300+ experienced players. One with white and one with black! He positionally outplayed both in a very nice fashion, and that was impressive, since young players aren't usually the strongest positional players, and are more tactical.


 I was fortunate enough to keep the momentum going with my own games, like the following game that I won this week against Mark Ginsburg. 


I knew ahead of time that Mark is a player who is very solid with White and likes slightly better positions with a clear plan. Knowing that, I wanted to play some variation to mix a few things up. I had a sense Mark would play 1. c4 but I really also considered that Mark might play 1. d4 or prepare against one of my lines against 1.e4. Luckily my instinct was right and he did play c4, where I had most prepared. I looked at one game Mark played against Nick DeFirmian a while ago in a variation in the English Opening/Botvinnik System and I knew that that kind of position fits me well and seems like the right way to play against someone like Mark. 
1.c4 c5

Nice surprise for Mark. Mark probably expected me to play 1...e5 or 1...c6, trying to transpose into my common opening, the Slav. In this kind of event, you expect preparation and you want to play the openings you don't play as often, but something you still feel relatively comfortable with. I was practicing this opening in quite a few games, and lately I've been also studying and playing the Accelerated Dragon, so I figured it would be a fit for this game. I wanted to keep the pressure, try to get Mark in time trouble and hopefully induce an impatient move or even a blunder.
2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5
Controlling the center, opening up the square e7 for the g8 knight, and limiting his activity a little bit, mainly his d4 plan.
4.g3 d6 5.Bg2 g6 6.d3 Bg7 7.a3 Nge7 8.Rb1 a5

Position after 8...a5

So far, a theoretical position. The idea of a5 is to prevent b4. I'm trying to not let Mark breakthrough. In this kind of position all the play goes around the d5 square. Can White control that outpost for good or can Black try to breakthrough d5 first? That's the main question. Sometimes the move e4 is an answer, but that move has some big drawbacks as well, such as giving up the d4 outpost to Black, as well as making the play with f5-f4 easier, and blocking the g2 bishop. So Mark tries a nice plan here.
9.Nd2 Be6 10.Nf1
 Now, it looks somewhat obvious what Mark's plan is. He is trying to get the knight to e3 and control d5 forever. So if I can prevent that from happening that would be great.  
Nothing else, otherwise White is going to be better.
11.cxd5 Nxd5 12.Ne3 Nde7!?
Probably the best move here. If Nc7?!, I thought bxc6!? gives me an unpleasant game and creates some holes for me on the queenside, whereas he can defend the kingside. Nxc3 opens the b-file and Nxe3 helps him develop. Considering all options carefully, and realizing that everything is well defended well after moves like b6 and h6, I decided I wasn't afraid to lose a tempo. Now I keep a solid knight on e7 against his slightly misplaced one on e3.
13.0–0 0–0 14.Ne4
I thought that that same move before might've been more deserving attention as then after b6, Ng5!? Mark can put some more pressure on me, given that my king isn't castled, like with Qb3 and Nc4. Here it looks like Mark just loses a tempo and later the knight does nothing much on e4.
 14...b6 15.Nc4 Rb8 16.Bg5?!

I just don't get this move. I don't see why white would want to make me play f6, because that's a move that solidifies my center and only helps my position. I'd consider a move like a4 and then nc3. 
16...f6 17.Bd2
Position after 17.Bd2

I was proud of this move. a4 stops any ideas of trying to get any play with b4. Also, I'm trying to get an outpost forever on b3, from d4, where I also can't get kicked out(e3 creates a huge weakness on d3), and I'm limiting his play. If nc3, I simply have b5. I have to be a little bit careful of the c5 pawn but I saw that in most lines I didn't have that issue, because if ever nc3, he loses the attack on c5.
18.Kh1 Bd5 19.f3 Nd4 20.Bc3 Nec6
 I thought about this move a while. I first thought of immediately playing f5 and after nf2(ned2 b5 –+) b5 ne3 but then I thought. Why? I don't have anything specific here and I'm creating weaknesses. True, I make his position a little more awkward, but it already is. I see no reason to create weaknesses to give him extra chances. I can always play a move like b5 or f5, when the time really comes. Just like you don't take an apple when it's not quite ripe, same thing here. Patience is very important in this game, especially against someone like Mark Ginsburg, who according to Alex Stripunsky struggles sometimes when he's under too much pressure/tension. It doesn't mean attacking like crazy but means make it very hard for your opponent to play.
21.e3 Nb3 22.Ncd2 Qd7 23.Qe2 Rbd8 24.Nxb3 Bxb3 25.f4!?
Fine display by Mark. In an almost hopeless and strategically very tough position, Mark now tries to get some counterplay and set some challenges. Now qxd3?! qxd3 rxd3 nxc5! bxc5 bxc6 rxe3 fxe5, and an endgame up a pawn which is by far not so easily winning, and simplifies Mark's game by a plenty, in which he probably has a good chance to hold a draw. I told myself then, be patient, he still has no play :)
 25...f5 26.Nf2 Rfe8 27.Qf3 Re6

 The only move that keeps pressure. I don't want to take on f4 too quickly to release tension, and I still put pressure on d3. I am using the only piece that was just two moves not in the game.
28.Rbc1 exf4 29.gxf4 Rde8 30.Rfe1 Na7!

Position after 30...Ra7


 Probably the best move in the game, which was even headlined in quiz 3 for uschessleague. That was the whole reason behind exf4.   At this point I had about 10 minutes, he had about 6. I knew now I can play actively, set some challenges, and go for specific ideas. The main idea of the move was to make him trade his c3 bishop and make him totally surrender the d4 square, unless he wanted to lose the a3 pawn. Now white is in a tough position with some hard moves ahead of him to figure out in time pressure.
 31.Bxg7 Qxg7 32.Re2 Nb5 33.Qg3?
 Finally in a tough position, Mark breaks under pressure. The only try was to play Rce1 defending the rook on e2, and after Qe7!, Bf1! only way to try to hold on. The position seems very bad for white but at least white is still alive.
33...Nd4–+ 34.Ree1 Nc2 35.Rxc2 Bxc2 36.Bd5
 Only chance.
36...Qxb2 37.Qg5 Bb3

 The game is over. Seeing that I will have bb3 in all lines, I knew I can safely take the b2 pawn. Now, his whole position is falling apart. Not only is Mark down a pawn, but all of his other pawns are very weak and he's losing his bishop, defender of the king.
38.Bxe6+ Bxe6 39.Qh4 Qd2

Final Position, Ginsburg-Lenderman

 White resigned here because he is losing another pawn, and he's defenseless against the mate threats on the dark squares. I think this was definitely the best and cleanest game I played in the USCL so far. 0–1

Now here's the fun part! The Quiz questions. Please email CLO editor Jennifer Shahade at [email protected] with your answers by Monday, Sept 21, NOON EST. The winner will get up to $30 of merchandise at the USCF store. Sorry, USCL players and managers are not eligible.

Week 4 Quiz by IM Alex Lenderman

1) In the game against Tegshsuren Enkhbat, Alex played 14.g4!? to mix things up.

Position after 14.g4, Black to Move

If Tegshsuren played 14...Be4 in the above position, what variation would Alex have in mind? Explain until the end. Show at least two lines.
2) Alex just played the move 23.Nd2!? with an interesting idea.
Position after 23...Ra7, White to Move

What strong idea did Alex play against Tegshuren's response, 23...Ra7? 
Position after 25.f3, Black to Move

In the position above, Tegshsuren played Be6. Did he have a better try?

Position after 37.Qh3

 In the final position above when Tegshsuren resigned, what did Alex have in mind had he played Rxd4?
5) In the game Michael Thaler against Ian Harris, On move 16, Harris played Qc5+?? in the position below. What was Thaler's strong response?

Position after 16.Kxf2

What does Alex Lenderman want to be when he grows up?
A) Financial advisor
C) Math Teacher
D) Actuary
E)The next Bobby Fischer!!!