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.


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