David Vigorito’s New England Nor’easters, formed for the first time this year, set a new US Chess League regular season record with nine match wins and one draw vs. its older sibling, the Boston Blitz.
Here is a typical game from the league, a fourth board complex Sicilian: Carey Theil of New England v. James Black of the Manhattan Applesauce. The Applesauce had received a serious time penalty for changing its team lineup after submission, which I am sure caused the young James Black (all of 12 years old) some practical problems. In this game, Black, indeed as Black, hobbles himself by exchanging a bishop for a knight, thus allowing a formidable blockade for White in the center. White eventually owns the d5 center square. Thereafter, Black finds himself completely on the defensive most of the game, but builds a powerful wall on the dark squares. Theil breaks prematurely but keeps a decisive edge as his opponent falters in time trouble.
a) I would prefer keeping more flexibility in Black’s pawn structure because neither d3-d4 nor e4-e5 is a threat right now, but pushing the e-pawn to e5 weakens the d5 and f5 squares appreciably.
b) This is a critical and instructive positional mistake, turning a slightly worse position into one that is extremely bad. After the exchange, Black lacks any useful pawn break, his d-pawn is permanently backward, and his light squares are very weak.
c) White’s 18th 20th moves show he has exactly the right plan: expand on the kingside with f2-f4.
d) It is hideous to abandon the center like this, but White was threatening 23.Nxh6! gxh6 24.fxe5.
e) And this is another hideous concession, weakening the light squares further, but the pressure against f7 had to be dealt with.
f) It is a measure of how bad Black’s position is that this move, which wins a pawn by force, is a mistake! White should continue to increase the pressure with 31.Rdf2, with the plan of eliminating all counterplay while building a kingside attack. As so often is the case, trying to “cash in’’ his positional advantage too soon to win material turns out to give too much counterplay.
g) Not 34. . .Nc6? 35.Bf5+! g6 36.Qd6! and Black cannot withstand the pressure (36gxf5 37.Rxf5!), but 34Qe7 would give Black good chances to hold the endgame. However, the text move looks correct if Black had followed up in the best way.
h) A time trouble blunder. Correct is 36. . .Qe7! with an unclear position.
i) Black lost on time but his position is busted anyway, since 39. . .Qxg6 loses the queen to 40.Bf5.
Annotations by grandmaster Patrick Wolff, a two-time US champion who offers chess exercises and more at www.wolffchess.com.