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Beating Little Girls

April 17, 2012

Well, I had planned to start out the FIDE Mondays tournament at the Marshall Club last night, but documents had to be produced. Money and time are the obstacles to adult amateur chess aspirations.

So, in lieu of a post about last night’s nonexistent games, let’s go back about a month to the NYChessKids PS 77 Tournament on Mar. 25, where I got to direct the Classic section (K-12 rated 1000-1300, though in practice K-8 U1300). I really like directing this section–the kids are still young enough that they’re respectful to adults, and still weak enough that I can play coach a little.

The March 25 tournament was a lot less eventful than the March 18 tournament, where 2 kids broke down in tears (one after losing on a touch move violation, and one bizarrely after merely dropping a pawn in the opening. If these kids could reliably win from a pawn advantage, they wouldn’t be in this section!) But, thanks to a late entry and a first round half-point bye, I got to be a house player in round 1 against top rated Juliana A., the late show who wanted to get in a game:

Juliana A. (1315 USCF) vs. Brian Beck (1785 USCF)

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Be2?! [Unusually passive move in the Sicilian–most kids at this level seem happy to jump into a main line] Nf6 4. Nc3 g6 5. d3 Bg7 6. Be3 [Typical lines in the Dragon feature h3 to stop this] Ng4 7. Ng5 Nxe3 8. fxe3 e6 9. Nf3 d5 10. exd5 exd5 11. d4 cxd4 12. exd4 O-O 13. Qd2 Nc6

Black is slightly better due to his excellent bishop on g7 and bishop pair. White currently has a vulnerable d-pawn, and the best way to defend it is to find a better place for the c3 knight and puch c3. With no dark square bishop, White has no significant kingside attack, and will have to create opportunities by playing for the center, particularly on the e and f files. Black will play down the c and b files in this scenario, trying to undermine the d-pawn and turn it, or a future backwards c-pawn, into a long term weakness.

14. O-O-O?!

A curious choice with the f-file already open for White’s rook, but Miss A. seems to be remembering her usual Dragon lines featuring a White kingside pawn storm. The problem is that in those lines the center is closed; here, black has an active bishop and an open e-file to play with along with the usual half-open c-file. A kingside pawn attack is just too slow.

14. … Bf5 15. Kb1 Rc8 16. Rdg1?

Removes a defender of the d pawn, boxes in the h-rook, and threatens nothing. The answer is 16. … Be4!, after which White can’t do anything to dislodge the nasty bishop because of the undefended d4 pawn. White can keep the game in play by acknowledging the error, returning to d1, and slowly extricating himself, because the d5 pawn falls as well if Black simply captures the f3 knight. But instead White effectively gives up:

17. Nxe4? dxe4 18. Ne1 [It’s worth noting that computers recommend c3 over this, as White’s knight has been reduced to something worse than a pawn–a rock] Bxd4 19. Rf1 Ne5? [allows c3, letting White trade reduce pressure and trade queens into a losing, but not dead lost ending] 20. Rf4?? 21. Qb6 c3 22. Be3 Qd5 23. Qxe4 Qe3 24. Qxb7 [more dignified than resigning?] Qc1#

The key idea out of this game is to not confuse open and closed positions just because they come from similar openings. Put extra pawns on the e-file closing the position, and the classical Dragon “throw everything at each other’s kings” strategy makes sense. Here, though, White readied for a kingside pawn attack while Black’s pieces gripped the center, and was dead before she could push a pawn.

Anyways, after that game, the section evened out and I went back to just directing. Little Juliana proceeded to get a few warnings on sportsmanship (saying “Yes!” excitedly when her opponent picked up a queen–but the punishment fit the crime here, as she had miscalculated her trap and simply had hung a piece), and made serious early errors from sloppiness in her last 2 games. However, once she realized she was lost, she buckled down and tried to find creative swindles, one of which worked impressively in her last game.

The winner, a young boy named Akira N., won through simple, solid chess–get a small material advantage through tactical proficiency, hold on to the edge, win in the endgame. He went 4/4 in the section simply by winning won games. At this level, that’s really how the game works.


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