Sunday, February 26, 2012

Robert Moskwa is an Expert Now

Congratulations to 1st Board Robert Moskwa who picked up the three rating points he needed to make expert yesterday at the North Shore Chess Center although Stevenson High School's Kent Cen did avenge his last round loss to Robert at the IHSA State Tournament. At 2001, Robert still trails me by three points at 2004 and I have every intention of lording it over him for as long as I can. He sure got there a lot faster than I did.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fighting Spirit on 2nd Board

One of the problems with playing 2nd Board behind one of the top high school players in Illinois is that you tend to get a lot of tough pairings at the state tournament.   Prospect senior Caleb Royse had more than his share this year.  However, the thing I have always liked about Caleb is that no matter how bad his position is, he is always looking for a way to make his opponent's life as difficult as possible.

In the fifth round at state, things were looking pretty bad for Prospect against Glenbard South.  We had already lost on the bottom four boards and Caleb was in serious trouble with the White pieces on 2nd Board against Jon Helck. Still, as long as Caleb is moving the pieces, there is hope.   After taking a look at some of the matches on the top table, I returned to find the following position on the board.

White is down two pieces, but I was encouraged to see his remaining pieces swarming around the Black king and my confidence increased when I saw Black play 27...Bxe4 and Caleb snap off 28.Raxc3.  As his opponent contemplated his response to that move, my mood darkened somewhat as I saw that Caleb only had seventeen seconds left on his clock.  After Black played 28...Rxc3?? (28...g6! would have left him with a material advantage), I figured that White probably had a mate here, but should he spend his few remaining seconds looking for it or just go for a material advantage that may take many more moves to convert?

As it turned out, Caleb missed the mate and needed at least another thirty moves to convert the full point, but he gave an impressive demonstration of his blitz skills.  I particularly enjoy moves 36-45 where White methodically seeks to penetrate the Black position with his queen.  Every time Black closes one route, the White queen finds another one.   After the White queen finally corners the Black king, Caleb turns his attention to adding his knight to the attack. 

In the sixth round, Caleb played his best game of the tournament against Wheaton-Warrenville South's Dan Zurawski.  Both sides played solidly for thirty-five moves until Dan allowed Caleb to pin   a Black rook with the White queen.  Caleb seized his chance and quickly piled pressure on the pinned piece.  It appeared for a moment that Black had wriggled out of the trap, but Caleb quickly put him in another one.


The Kamikaze Rook

Few things in chess are more frustrating than out playing an opponent for an entire game only to come away with a draw due to falling victim to a stalemate trick.  One of the nastiest such tricks is the "kamikaze rook."  A player whose other pieces have no legal moves can sometimes force a draw by checking his opponent until he is forced either to capture the last rook resulting in stalemate or allow a draw by repetition.  It is an easy trick to overlook, particularly if you have not seen it before.

On his last move, Prospect freshman Marc Graff overlooked 52...Rf1# and played 52...c2?!  Wheaton-Warrenville South's junior Robby Badgley alertly uncorked 53. Rxg5+.  If Black captures the rook, it is stalemate because the White king has no legal moves.

The first thought in such a position is for Black to maneuver the White rook onto a square where Black can capture it with one of the pieces that is confining the White king, thereby avoiding stalemate.  Unfortunately, four out of five of the squares are covered twice so moving one piece won't do the trick.  The only square that is only covered once is d1, the only way for the Black pawn on c2 to capture the White rook is for the Black king to go to c1 forcing White to play Rb1+.  Unfortunately, ...cxb1=Q will still be stalemate.

SOLUTION:  Since there is no way for Black to give the White king any breathing room, the only solution is to free one of the White pawns to move.  This is accomplished by forcing the White rook to deliver check from b5 whereupon Black plays ...axb5 and White's a-pawn has a legal move. 53... Kf5 54. Rg5+ Ke4 55. Re5+ Kd3 56.Rd5+ Kc3 57. Rd3+ Kb4 58. Rb3+ Kc5 59. Rb5+ axb5 60. a6 Rf1#.  Unfortunately, Marc could not find this maneuver and the game wound up as a draw.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

MSL at State: 1st Boards Shine

The Mid Suburban League acquitted itself well at the IHSA State Tournament this weekend led by a resurgent Barrington team.  After a disappointing 3-5, regular season, Barrington went 5-2 to finish 14th in the state led by 3rd Board Vyas Alwar who went 5.5-1.5 to earn the 10th place medal for that board.  Also finishing with five points were Prospect at 16th, Buffalo Grove at 18th, and Fremd at 23rd.  Close behind was Rolling Meadows at 29th with 4.5-2.5.  Hoffman Estates finished 45th with 4-3.  Conant and Palatine went 4-3 to finish 83rd and 85th and Schaumburg scored 2.5-4.5.

Placing five teams in the top thirty was the best that the MSL has ever achieved, but the real highlight was Prospect's Robert Moskwa and Buffalo Grove's Matt Wilber taking the 1st and 2nd medals on 1st Board with perfect 7-0 scores.  Robert got the nod on tie-breaks because his opponents scored a combined 27-22 in the tournament while Matt's went 24-25.   Robert also learned that he has been invited to the Denker Qualifying Tournament at the end of March where he will play in a round robin against Sam Schmakel, Adarsh Jayakumar, Aakash Meduri, and Kent Cen.