Friday, December 11, 2009

Prospect Upsets Buffalo Grove's by Virtue of Correct Priorities

Prospect dealt Buffalo Grove its second defeat of the season yesterday after several BG players including top board Matt Wilber inexplicably decided to compete for the school's math team in Libertyville rather than its chess team in Mount Prospect. Prospect's mathletes were not forced to make such a choice as its math competition was just a couple of miles away at Hersey, although I am confident that they would have made the right choice had they been forced to do so.

1st Board: The Sicilian Dragon

As I pointed out last week, players usually have to balance the need to thwart their opponent's plans with their desire to pursue their own. Sometimes, however, when the players castle on opposite sides of the board and race to attack their opponent's king, neither side can afford the time for defensive moves. Such games often end with one of the players being checkmated in spectacular fashion. Few openings lead to such games as frequently as the Sicilian Dragon that BG's Andrey Puzanov played against Prospect's Robert Moskwa on 1st Board.

I have always loved the Dragon, and though I no longer play it in tournaments, I still resort to it regularly when playing on the internet. When White plays the Yugoslav Attack, as Robert did, Black needs to remember a couple points: (1) If both sides advance their pawns, White has the advantage so Black needs to attack with his pieces, and (2) Black must be prepared to sacrifice the exchange with ...Rxc3 in order to create weaknesses that his pieces can exploit. Unfortunately, Andrey's pawn storm proved too slow.

2nd Board: When to Agree to a Draw

Most high school players never resign no matter how hopeless their position. On one hand, I can appreciate the logic. Even if there is no rational expectation of winning, there is nothing to lose by playing the game out on the outside chance that an opponent will blunder and allow a stalemate.

On the other hand, there are situations in which playing a game out is a mistake. Sometimes, a position is so evenly balanced that neither player can reasonably expect to create winning chances without taking unnecessary risks. In such cases, the reasonable course is to agree a draw rather than giving one’s opponent the opportunity to win. On 2nd Board, Prospect’s Mike Zwolenik blundered a pawn in the opening but got it back when BG’s Ryan McGonagle missed a tactic in the middle game. In the resulting ending, both players had very solid positions that were evenly balanced. An agreed draw would have been a very reasonable outcome. Instead, Ryan tried to create imbalances which gave Mike the chance to win.

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