As rain decended over New England incessantly, Robert Hungaski and I embarked on our first joint journey to the Boylston Chess Club. As I, the chauffeur of the night, soon learned on our two-hour drive into Boston, this petty fact was especially appreciated by my passenger. On his previous USCL travels things had not gone so smoothly. As an example, on one occasion he had managed to sandwich driving around Boston for an hour looking for the Masspike, with a $30 parking ticket and a $200 speeding ticket, prompting the Officer of Peace to ask him, “What do you think you were doing!?”.
None of this in Week 7 of the USCL. With a little delay we joined our teammates to take on the Philadelphia Inventors for the second time in three weeks. Not to keep the reader in too much tension, we beat them again, this time by 3-1, and are thus the first team in the league to qualify for the Quarterfinals.
The wide margin doesn’t do justice to the tension of the match, as for a long time it seemed like it could go either way. I will present the match in the form of a series of multiple-choice questions.
Van de Mortel-Dehmelt, position after 7…Bf8.
White now played 8.Bg5 in an attempt to frustrate Black’s plan of carrying out the central push c7-c6 and d6-d5. How much time did White spend on this move?
A) He pre-moved.
B) Less than a minute.
C) 7 minutes and 7 seconds.
D) 27 minutes and 37 seconds.
Costigan-Riordan, position after 10.Nf1.
White is about to play 11.Ng3 and demand the black bishop to declare his hand.How did Black respond?
A) Before it was too late, he quickly traded the bishop with 10…Bxf3.
B) He channeled Petrosian and played the prophylactic 10…Bg6.
C) He channeled Tal and sacrificed a pawn with 10…c4.
D) He wasn’t concerned at all about his bishop and castled kingside.
Bonin-Hungaski, position after 14.Nfxd4.
White just captured Black’s key central pawn. How did Black react?
A) He looked very concerned.
B) He whispered “I’m such an idiot” under his breath.
C) He wished he had played 13…Re8.
D) All of the above.
Cherniack-Wilson, position after 25…Nxe4.
The first critical moment of the match. White has a lot of loose pieces and has to deal with some pressure on the h1-a8 diagonal. How did the game continue?
A) White moved away the bishop under attack with 26.Be3.
B) White disrupted Black’s coordination with 26.b5.
C) White guarded the bishop and opposed the black king with 26.Qg4.
D) White got rid of the pesky knight with 26.Rxe4.
Bonin-Hungaski, position after 38…Rxa2.
The second critical moment of the match. What should White do?
A) Even material, so offer a draw.
B) Even material and let’s keep it that way, play 39.h4.
C) White is much more active and should chase the defender of the g-pawn with 39.Re7.
D) White is much more active and should chase the defender of the g-pawn with 39.f5.
Van de Mortel-Dehmelt, position after 26.e3.
The final critical moment of the match. White’s knights look menacing, but Black’s knight has its say too. What should Black play?
A) Reroute the bishop to another diagional with 26…Bc8.
B) Prepare f7-f5 with 26…Kh7.
C) Check because it’s check with 26…Ne2+.
D) Force White to occupy c6 with a pawn or knight and play 26…c5.
Before revealing the answers to these questions, I should mention that the ride back was uneventful. The repetitive sighting of Massachusetts’ Finest did prompt Mr. Shotgun to a little truth or dare: “Pedal to the metal!”. As the potential repercussions for my pedal to the metal are a bit more harsh than a $200 ticket, I chickened out.
- D – don’t ask.
- C – strong and equalizing (White declined).
- B – after 26.b5! not White’s, but Black’s pieces became loose and the game did not last much longer.
- C – White played 39.f5 and was still clearly better, but 39.Re7! would have won, as after for example 39…Ra3 40.Ke2 Ra2 41.Kd1 Nc5 42.Rxg7 the bishop on e5 is guarded and Black cannot prevent a deadly discovery with the white rook.
- D – Black played 26…Bc8?, allowing White to take the initiative with 27.Nac6 Rb6 28.Rd1!, and Black was soon overwhelmed on the queenside. After 26…c5!! 27.Nbc6 (27.bxc6ep Ba8 and White’s knights lose square c6, the key to their harmony, for example 28.Qc2 Qd8! 29.Nb7 Qb6 with an advantage for Black) 27…Bxc6 28.Nxc6 Rb7 29.Qa3 Rd7! 30.Nxa7 (30.Qxc5?? Bf8) 30…Ra8 31.b6 Qd6 and White is struggling to stay alive.