Madison City Chess Championships Show Exciting Glimpse into the Future of Alabama Chess
It wasn't half-a-dozen years ago when Alabama scholastic chess was as weak and ill-attended as any other state. I remember back to my days as a scholastic not wanting to participate in any scholastic chess tournaments (except the state championships) because my rating was over 1200. That was the apparent ceiling to Alabama scholastic chess. There were so few players over that rating mark that attending one as a 1400+ would be only risking points for a small trophy.
The Madison City Chess League (MCCL) has changed all that. Don't dream about winning the open section at a scholastic tournament in Huntsville without being rating at least 1800. Under the leadership of Ranae Bartlett and many dedicated volunteers, the organization, which is made up of many partner school programs and a core chess club, has grown significantly over the past few years. It has grown strong enough to have some school teams finishing in the top 10 at national tournaments.
For the first time in their history, MCCL attempted a grade championships. The issues facing them were as straight-forward as any other attemptor of this feat: get enough players to have 12-13 decent-sized sections. They almost pulled off the "Alabama-impossible." They finished with ten, well-populated sections consisting of 94 total people. The only area they fell short was they had a combined high school (9th-12th grade) section consisting of only seven players. However, their accomplishments with the younger groups were impressive. Madison had their first ever kindergarten section, 1st-grade section, 2nd-grade section...etc!
Such a successful tournament makes you wonder if there a chance that in the near future we could see a state-wide grade chess championships? It would be an exciting thought! Combining the size of the MCCL program, ChessKidsNation, Knight School, and the various other schools and individuals that would participate, a grade chess championships could happen!
Coming Soon: Alabama All Girls' Championships
The MCCL doesn't want to stop at almost making history with their last tournament; their next one on April 28th, the Alabama State All Girl's Chess Championships, will be the first of its kind in Alabama. Already over 45 girls (now larger than Tennesee's turnout!) have signed up and are readying to compete! Do you or your daughter want to join? Winner becomes the Alabama representative to the all girls's national tournament! Sign up here: madisonchess.com
Flash Report: Jonathan Rasberry and Tim Bond Co-Champion Tony Edmondson Classic in Dothan
(More games to come. Check back by Tuesday)
It was a crazy day of chess down in Dothan at the Headland Chess Club last Saturday! Some of the interesting happenings were: one round saw every game decided in black's favor, an 1100 (tournament host Randall Tew!) topple a 1700, and a grand total of ONE draw the entire event. Jonathan Rasberry (your's truly!) and Tim Bond finished tied for first with 3.5/4 with Rasberry taking home the trophy on tie-breaks.
In round one, all games were won by the black pieces! Of course, that means that half of the favorites in the tournament also went down. As noted earlier, Randall Tew (1100) defeated Randall Wolfe (1700), Terrance Edinburgh (1901) went down to Joseph Jacob Hayes (1405), and the (unofficial) champion from the Alabama State Scholastic Chess Championships, Benjamin Chen (1998), lost to a young up-and-comer from Turkey, Faruk Esat Ergin (1500). The next round saw things stabilize with the three remaining top seeds, (1. Rasberry, 3. Tobin, 5. Bond) winning and becoming the three tied at the top. Things remained fairly benign in the third round as Rasberry defeated Tobin in a crazy exchange (see the game below!) featuring piece sacrifices(!), and Bond defeating Randall Tew who was fresh off a bye. In the final round after gaining a sizeable advantage including a pawn with sloppy opening play from Rasberry, Bond blundered back the pawn and the game was decided on a draw soon after.
On a personal note, I conclude with a big thanks to Caesar Lawrence for driving down all the way from Birmingham (3-hour drive!) and Headland Chess Club owner Randall Tew for putting on a great tournament! I look forward to coming back next year for a stellar tournament!
Game of the Day:
Tobin, Jeff (1986) vs. Rasberry, Jonathan (2038)
Though I hesitate to slide my own game in under the "game of the day" category, this was a game that was played in the penultimate round between two of the favorites and concluded with an exciting ending nobody saw coming. I'll let you be the judge!
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 I was already quite happy to see my opponent opt for the advanced Caro. I hadn't played Bf5 before in an over the board game, but I had prepared some lines a few days earlier. 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 (the Short) Nd7 6.Nbd2 Bg6 Bg6 is a popular move in this set-up for the main purpose of opening up the f5-square for the knight later on. 7.0-0 Nh6 (better than 7...Ne7!? 8.Nh4!) 8.a4!? White first deviates from theory with this mysterious move. The main idea is to take some queenside space and deprive me of counter-play when I try to open up the center/queenside with c6-c5. I feel like, however, this isn't the most effective plan as white's goal must be to either squash any idea of c6-c5 before it happens. Nb3 is the main move.
8...Nf5 9.c3 Be7 10.Re1 0-0 11.Nf1 Qc7 12.Ne3 f6!? So there are two basic ideas as black in this set-up: play c6-c5 or f7-f6. The general rule is to play f6 if you can 1.) get in Bxf6 and e5 after he takes, and 2.) c5 isn't very effective. I figured I could play Bxf6 and e6-e5 in the near future, but doing so requires wading through immense complications which probably aren't working well for black. I basically underestimated the strength of 13.Ng4! 12...c5 is more natural and effective. 13.Bd3 Nxe3 14.Nxe3 Bxd3 15.Qxd3 c4!? 16.Qc2 h6 17.Reb1 Rac8 where white might regret playing a2-a4 and I have some queenside space for little compensation.
13.Ng4! Rae8 14.Bd3!? Somehow I feel like this move is incorrect. There is a lot of tension in the air, and giving black a moment to catch up is dangerous. I thought during the game about 14.Bf4!? But after some post-game analysis, I see 14...h5!! 15.exf6 Qxf4 16.fxe7 Rxe7 and white can't play 17.Ne5 with a great position because of the pressure against f2 and after 17...Nxe5 18.dxe5 will be forced. I also, more correctly, thought the simple 14.exf6 Bxf6 15.Nxf6 winning the two bishops was good.
14...Bh5! 15.h3! fxe5 16.dxe5? Now black is just better with the pressure off e6 and all on the e5 pawn. 16.Nfxe5! was most accurate. 16...Nxe5 17.Rxe5 Bd6 18.Re1 Qf7 and black has pressure, but a weak e6 pawn. 16...Bxg4!? I was afraid of Nh6!?, but I should have just played Bg6 since e5 is still weak. h5!? might be coming with pressure against e5. 17.hxg4 Nh4 18.Nd4! Bc5!? 19.f4!? After 19.b4! black is just much worse. 19...Bxd4 20.cxd4 and black has no good pieces and no space. White is playing for all the marbles. 19...g5! 20.g3
20...gxf4!! The point to g5! The excellently placed pieces, the pressure against the center, and the nasty f4 pawn make accepting the sacrifice dubious. 21.gxh4!? Probably not best. After the simple 21.gxf4! Ng6 22.Bxg6 hxg6 23.Kg2 Bxd4 24.cxd4 Kg7, chances are even. 21...Nxe5 22.b4?? The game loosing blunder. Best was to sacrifice the material right back with 22.Rxe5 Qxe5 because of the impending threats. Can you figure out what to play after 22.b4?
22...Nxd3!! (or f3) 23.Qxf3 f3!! And suddenly, it is all over! Threats of f2+ and Qg3+ force huge material concessions. 24.Ra2 If 24.Kf2 Qh2+ 25.Ke3 e5!! (which I saw in the game...) 26.bxc5 exd4+ 27.Kxd4 Rxa1 with an apparent mate in six! 24...Qg3+ 25.Kf1 Qh3+ 26.Kg1 f2+ 27.Rxf2 Qxd3 0-1.
Strong Players Can't Make Mistakes...Can They??
Edinburgh, Terrance (1901) vs. Hayes, Joseph Jacob (1405)
Big thanks to Jacob for his submission and detailed analysis! My further analysis is in brackets and (italics).
“Ratings fear” is a condition for which several remedies have been proposed. Probably the most famous is to avoid looking at your opponent’s rating before the game; however, this is a worthless approach if you already have a good idea of their strength. I suggest that the remedy is not avoiding the fear, but acknowledging it and then conquering it through force of will. The most important subprinciple here is that, if you notice some apparent mistake on your opponent’s part, you should make a serious attempt to take advantage of this mistake rather than allowing yourself to be cowed by thoughts to the effect of, “He is better than me and therefore wouldn’t have made a mistake like that.” Of course, this approach is unlikely to be a perfect remedy for everyone, but it ought to be a workable suggestion for most.
In the below game, I took this suggestion to heart: I conquered my instinctual fear of my opponent’s infallibility, and, after careful reflection and calculation, won with a simple combination that I would almost certainly have played without the slightest hesitation in a serious match against a player much weaker than myself.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Bb4+ 4.Nc3 b6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6 Qxf6 7.e3 Bb7 I will never object to having an effectively unopposed and unblocked light-square Bishop fianchettoed in an Indian defense! 8.Be2 c5 9.0-0 cxd4 10.exd4 0-0 11.Rc1 Bxc3!? (Definitely not necessary, but fine. I might go for 12.Rd8 with the idea of ...d5. This opens up Black's position very nicely!)
12.bxc3!? I am curious as to why White recaptured with the pawn, thereby weakening his pawn structure and further blocking his otherwise high-potential c1-Rook (agreed!) 12...Rc8 13.Qa4 d5? In retrospect, this was too hasty and aggressive, and possibly even counterproductive since it allows White to trade his awful c4-pawn for one of my center pawns. After 14. cxd5 Bxd5 15. c4 Bb7, White’s pawn structure and queenside position have massively improved. 14.Ne5!? (cxd5! as previously mentioned!) 14...dxc4 15.Bxc4 Nc6 16.Rfe1 Nxe5 17.Rxe5 a6 18.Bf1 Rc6 19.g3!? (While not losing, the position gets much worse for white because of pressure against the white pawns as you will see shortly) 19...Qf3! 20.Bg2?? (20.Be2 saves the day as white cannot win material by force, but after the nice 20...Qh1+! 21.Kxh1 Rc4+ 22.Kg1 Rxa4 23.Ra1 Bd5 24.a3 Rc8 25.c4 and Bxc4!? needs to be avoided to keep an advantage because of 26.Bd1! Ra5 27.Rxa5 with good drawing chances)
20...Qxg2!! Naturally, I was quite nervous at the prospect of exploiting an apparent combination that a much stronger opponent had walked into. It is easier, at least for me, to overcome this sort of fear in simpler positions, where the chance of having missed some important possibility is much lower than in more complex positions. To my great benefit, I defeated my fear and continued with my bishop-winning strike. 21.Kxg2 Rc4+ 22.Kg1 Rxa4. 1-0
(Great job Jacob! That was a really solid game played fearlessly against a strong opponent! Keep up the good work, and congratulations on the U-1600 price!)
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