Friday, November 6, 2009

Barrington Thumps Prospect

Prospect has been one of the few teams in the MSL that has found a way to beat Barrington in the last few years, but they had no such luck yesterday, losing 63-5. Nevertheless, Prospect had reason to be hopeful. Caleb Royse won on 8th Board in his first match and freshman Robert Moskwa playing in only his third match gave last year's top individual player at State, Zach Kasiurak, everything he could handle on first board.

Moskwa v. Kasiurak 1st Board,

After debuting two weeks ago on 5th Board against Elk Grove and playing 3rd Board against Conant last week, with Mike Zwolenik sidelined by the flu, Robert Moskwa moved up to 1st Board against Barrington's expert rated Zach Kasiurak.

Earlier in the week I had played a practice game against Robert in which I employed the Kan variation of the Sicilian because I knew that is what Zach had played against Prospect's Mike Pozsgay three years ago. However, I don't know the Kan system very well and I did not feel like I could give Robert much insight. So when Robert asked me to play a practice game before Barrington arrived on Thursday I played my usual Najdorf.

Our practice game went 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5.

At this point, Robert played 7.Nf3. This is a perfectly reasonable move and at one time it was thought by some strong players to be superior to the more popular 7.Nb3. However, in the Open Sicilian variations with 2.Nf3 and 3.d4, White obtains a lead in development and space against a Black position that is solid and flexible and I think that he has to be willing to undertake a king side attack in order to exploit those advantages. I wasn't sure I should tell Robert this because I did not want him to be second guessing his judgment before such a big game but I did and I am glad.

As luck would have it, Zach decided to play the Najdorf rather than the Kan system and Robert put him under intense pressure for the first fourteen moves of the game. On his fifteenth move, Robert allowed Zach some breathing room and Zach methodically built his initiative until Robert missed a tactic and dropped a piece on his twenty-ninth move. Robert did not let it rattle him though and he took advantage of a couple of inaccurate moves to get some dangerously advanced pawns that made Zach's job extremely difficult.

At this point, Zach put on one of the most impressive displays of blitz play I have ever witnessed. With just a few seconds left on his clock, Zach forced Robert to give up a rook for a bishop. Then with a single second left on his clock, Zach unrelentingly harassed Robert's king until the advanced pawns dropped and the win became a simple matter of exploiting the extra material.

Bakol v. Burke 4th Board

Last week I talked about the problems that sometimes occur when a player chooses an opening that doesn’t fit his particular temperament. Aggressive players should play openings that offer attacking chances. Players who like endgames should play openings that offer the opportunity for early exchanges. Cautious players should choose openings that the type of positions that will make them happy.

The openings that I find most annoying are the ones that are designed to specifically suck all the life out of a position such as the Exchange Variation in the French Defense or the Exchange Variation in the King’s Indian Defense. Such positions often involve symmetrical pawn structures and an early exchange of queens. The players who choose these positions must be willing to play patient defensive chess in the hopes that their opponent will become frustrated and overreach in an effort to generate winning chances.

On 4th Board, Prospect’s Alex Burke reached such a position as Black when he played 1.e4 d6 2.d4 e5 3.dxe5 dxe5 4.Qxd8+ Kxd8.

I am not sure whether this opening has a name or not, but I have come across it a number of times while playing blitz on the internet. Black has given up the right to castle without gaining any offsetting advantage. However, it is very difficult for White to take advantage of Black's passive play. With the queens gone, king safety is not that big a problem for Black. The symmetrical pawn structure leaves White without any obvious targets. Black will be hard pressed to find any active plans of his own, but his position is solid enough to parry White's threats.

It takes a certain temperament to play this type of position well. Black must be willing to play defensively with the sole purpose of denying White any targets. He must patiently wait for White's frustration to build the point where he will take unwise risks in order to create active play. Unfortunately, it seems that it was Alex who became frustrated. He initiated an unwise exchange that gave White the open lines and targets that he wanted.

Royse v. Katz, 8th Board

Prospect's only win came on 8th Board where Caleb Royse made his debut against Nate Katz. It was a solid if unspectacular win that was remarkably free of the kind of wildly illogical moves that one often encounters on the lower boards. Still, the forty-nine move game was over long before any of the other games indicating that Caleb may have been making the first move that popped into his head when better moves were available. The good news is that the first move that popped into his head was generally pretty reasonable holding out the promise the if he uses his time more wisely, he will recognize those better moves when he sees them.

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