Round one report

Best game prize: kobra666
Best fight: Xerxes51 - Tilbs_11
Pole position prize: tottydpogi22 & hsk4u
Tip of the round: Don’t move your queen out too early!
Lichess study: https://lichess.org/study/DTQWSKRV

Round summary:

And we’re off! The first round was full of exciting and interesting chess. Thank you to everyone for being organised and playing our games. Thanks to the couple of players who showed great kindness when their opponents were late.

One theme from the round is about how to best use the Queen, the most powerful piece. One player played 2…Qa5 and was checkmated on move 12, another played 3…Qa5 and was checkmated on move 24. These were not coincidences! While Queens are powerful attacking pieces, they have no special defensive powers other than the ability to run. In the opening and early middlegame, when there are lots of pieces on the board, exposed Queens will be the hunted, not the hunters. Time lost moving the Queen around will give the opponent the chance to build an advantage even if the Queen isn’t lost.

Pole position prize goes to tottydpogi22 and hsk4u for the first game of the tournament, with a Sunday start.

Best game prize goes to kobra666. The game Kobra666 vs Anglo was a fascinating battle, with excellent play from both sides. Kobra666 wins the prize for both excellent and creative opening play, and the sheer will to win displayed. Anglo deserves credit for fighting back from the brink, and contributing towards a great game.

Best fight goes to Xerxes51 & Tilbs_11 a game which swung from side-to-side and either could have come away with the win.

Game summaries:

  • tottydpogi22 - hsk4u: A really instructive game. After five moves we reach a symmetrical position in which both side have castled kingside and played their queen’s pawn forward two squares. White’s sixth move 6.Nc3 has a major drawback, it prevents the c2 pawn from engaging in the central battle, and risks White’s entire pawn structure becoming immobile. White therefore needed to instead achieve the e4 break to free up the White pieces, but misses the opportunity and Black is able to break with …e5, leaving Black with a very large advantage. The game however remains complex, and another point of interest is the potential sacrifice 23.f5! which would have brought both of White’s knights from passive positions to strong outposts at the cost of a pawn. White’s cramped position resulted in the White pieces becoming inactive and Black was able to dominate in the centre and win a pawn. Finding a way to progress however wasn’t easy, and Black enabled White to draw with a three move repetition.

  • TommyFischer99 - WearyWilly: A French Winower with 5…Ba5. The French Winower is a complex and dangerous opening. White plays well, and reaches a technically very strong position with 8…Nd6+ embedding a knight in the Black position and misplacing the Black King. White however then needed to stabilise the position at the cost of a pawn, but instead tried for tactics with 10.Qh5, this immediately backfired as the simple move …g6 left both the Queen attacked and the d4 pawn as well. White loses the d4 pawn, and with it Black gains complete control of the centre, and quickly wins the e5 pawn. Queens come off and Black’s central domination makes the rest of the game easy.

  • lip_27 - Damo770: A …d6 Sicilian with 3…Qa5?! White found the best move 4.Bd2 after which White gains a large lead in development and sizeable advantage. The Benoni structure leaves Black cramped and the attempt to break out with …f5 drops a piece and the game. White finished with a nice checkmating combination.

  • calcina - LeilaPeymani: The opening was quiet with white choosing a Nf3/b3 set up and sticking to the first three ranks. Black’s approach was slightly passive and the position transposed into a semi-slav structure in which White has the advantage as Black’s bishop on c8 is hard to activate. It is often difficult to know when to advance knights passed the half-way line and while White’s 10.Ne5 was strong, Black’s 11…Ne4 was a mistake enabling White to isolate a Black pawn on e4 and eventually win it. Black tried hitting back aggressively, but the tactical operations backfired and Black resigned.

  • Mags2020 - dikankan: Black chooses an ambitious plan in the Scotch Gambit initiating active piece play with 6…Ne5. White should have hit back with 7.f4 when the bishop on e3 can retreat to g1 after 7…Ng4 – this would leave White dominant in the centre and with a very strong position. Instead White castled and then played 9.f4? and after 9…Ng4 10.Bxg4 11…Nxg4! Black would have seized the initiative as the bishop on e3 has no retreat and Black’s bishop on c5 becomes a monster. Instead Black decided on development with 11…Bxg4 leaving the game balanced. White enjoyed a good pawn centre, but Black is able to apply pressure and White loses a critical tempo playing 11.Qd2 and 12.Qd3 (rather than 11.Qd3) and this loss of tempo enables Black to break through White’s centre winning material and the game.

  • Glenton1812 - jonmill: A Bishop’s opening with 3.d4. Black responds is a principled way with 3…d5, which while being a strong idea, does not quite work tactically and White wins a pawn. White’s development is beautifully simple and strong. Black also develops well, and the game reaches a crucial point after 11…Be6 – Black’s missing c-pawn wouldn’t be much of a problem if pieces can be kept on and a Rook brought to c8, then Black would have great attacking chances. White’s 12.Qe4! is an immensely important move, forcing the trade of the bishop on e6 and creating further problems in Black’s structure. Black allowed White to trade queens and the endgame is straightforward for White to win.

  • Aytacoglu - forknskewer64: A Nimzo Indian defence. Black misses the opportunity to play the most energetic moves, and enables White to advance the e-pawn to e4 building a strong pawn centre. White’s control of the centre enables White to develop pieces actively, while Black can’t develop smoothly. Pawn centres not only gain space, but can act as battering rams and when Black tries to release pressure with 16…Bd6, White wins a piece by advancing the pawns, swaps off pieces and wins the endgame.

  • Kobra666 - Anglo: My favourite game of the round. White plays in the spirit of the Pirc/Modern defences with the colours reversed, allowing the opponent to build a strong pawn centre with the idea of then undermining it. This plan is hugely successful and White picks up a big advantage and after 16.e3! Black’s pawn centre is gone and the remaining pawn is under huge pressure. White then makes the mistake of releasing the tension through exchanges and Black seizes the chance to equalise with a powerful knight outpost on d4 being the match for White’s bishop pair. White shows great intent with the speculative 23.h4 and 24.h5 – but the game remains in the balance and trades down to a king and pawn ending. The position is technically equal, but King and pawn endgames are very sharp and White’s pressure draws an error and White is able to Queen a pawn.

  • clhchess - Mark2_alias: A Sicilian Dragon, an exciting opening in which frequently both sides castle on opposite sides of the board and launch massive attacks. The game follows this path, with White sacrificing a piece to break open the Black King’s position. The problem is sacrifices need to open up new options for attack, and after the sacrifice White still doesn’t have any direct ways to trouble Black’s King, the King looks exposed, but White can’t do anything. Black’s counterattack was immediate and effective.

  • Xerxes51 - Tilbs_11: A mainline Caro-Kann with 4…Nf6. White plays energetically, and reaches a dominant position, gaining more active pieces and a ‘queenside pawn majority’ capable of generating a dangerous passed pawn in the endgame. Black battles back punishing White’s passive 21.Qf1 and brining the Black pieces to active squares. The game swings again and at move 31 White trades down into a winning, but sharp knight and pawn endgame. The endgame is an excellent illustration of how when moving diagonally King’s can be deceptively quick, it looks as if Black’s King is too far away from the queenside, but it powers through to reach c5 and immobilise the White queenside. The move 33.Nd5! would therefore have been very strong as it both starts an attack against Black’s isolated pawn, but temporarily holds back the Black King by preventing …Ke7. White carries on pressing for a win, but in a knight pawn endgame this comes at a high risk, and Black ends up with a dangerous passed pawn that proves decisive.

  • dmh6 - Irenge: A fascinating Vienna Gambit. White’s ambitious play shouldn’t work, and Black could have achieved the advantage with 5…Nxc3! Instead Black opts for the dangerous looking 5…Qh4+ which looks dangerous and does do damage, but Black’s choice leaves White with 8.Nxd5! a powerful counterstrike. The game is in the balance, but only like a trapeze artist over a chasm. Black needs to keep on fighting fire with fire and play 8…Nxh1, but instead plays the natural looking defensive and developing 8…Na6. However, centralised knights are dangerous knights and while Black’s c7 pawn is now covered the move 9.Nf4 hits the Black queen and wins a piece. In the resulting position White also has two central pawns vs none, and dominating the centre and the game is straightforward.

  • Yolksac - Alex_Escacs: Sometimes it’s great fun that players have different styles, both players choose options that I don’t entirely agree with, but yielded great fun. White’s 3.d3 seems passive to me, while Black’s 4…h5 feels borderline crazy. Black remains committed to this chosen style, and 8…g5!? and 11.g3!? display great energy and intent. 18…Nxf3 would have held the balance, but Black selected 18…Bxf3 when Black’s pieces get tangled in a knot and Black can’t escape without fatal material loss.

  • hydefc1 - Riff-Art: A nice battle in the Torre attack. Both sides play solidly and well, the exchange of c-pawns leaves a symmetrical pawn structure, but as the pawns aren’t locked then there is lots of options and complexity. White plays a slightly odd queen move, and Black initiates powerful pieces play on the queenside, followed by doubling rooks on the c-file. Which wins the game. Having said that White actually had (and very unsurprisingly missed) a miracle turnaround with 30.d5! driving the Black queen away from the defence of the rook on c8.

  • onlinek – anitamehta: A perfect demonstration that in the opening there are few undefended targets for a queen to attack, but that a surprising number of squares are covered by each sides pawns and minor piece making the open board a dangerous place for queens. Black opts for the rare 2…Qa5 in the Caro-Kann and after 5.b3 the queen appears to have lots of empty squares to go to, but careful examination shows that they are all covered by White’s bishops, knights or pawns. The play after the loss of the queen is quite extraordinary, the seeming inconsequential move 6…a6 creates a weakness along the a5-d8 diagonal, and White uses this to generate a mating attacking seemingly out of nowhere.

  • fredspassky – jack43lin: White’s opening choice of 3.d3 in the Petroff is a little passive, and Black plays well seizing the initiative. Unfortunately having dragged White’s queen onto e2 Black misses a check on b4, which wins a piece and the game.

  • abeswick - BFS127: An interesting Sicilian Kann. Black makes a strategic error in trading pieces in the centre, leaving the White queen centralised and secure. This central dominance squeezes black’s position, and black sacrifices a pawn to try to free up the position, however the pawn ends up as a well defended passed pawn that also cramps Black’s position. Black sacrifices a knight to get rid of the pawn, but despite some creative efforts cannot generate sufficient counterplay. Both White and Black queen a pawn, but White queens first and with the extra piece this is fatal for the Black king.

  • Ewaawoowaa - LamoLam: A brutal King’s Gambit. In the opening the main priorities are piece development, control of the centre and King safety. The move …f6 is rarely strong in the opening as it blocks the most natural square for the g8 knight and exposes the Black king. Black solves the problem of developing the knight by playing …Nh6. Unfortunately White is able to play Bxh6, which rips the Black Kingside open completely and the White Queen can just stroll in and deliver mate.

  • Blackscorpion2020 - nokiokid: Another exciting Vienna Gambit, which quickly descended into a tactical maelstrom. Both sides played dynamically and aggressively, and when the dust settled White was a Rook up in an uncomplicated position.

  • JulianClissold - pranavmehta06: A rare Baltic Defence (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Bf5). This defence is not viewed as entirely reliable as Black gives up the bishop pair and White has two central pawns vs only one for Black. Black then gambits a pawn, but giving up the pawn doesn’t provide Black with any tangible advantages in return (such as quick development of pieces). White sacrifices a piece for additional pawns and threats and is quickly able to win the piece back after which the material advaAntage is decisive.

  • Mulumm - smthdeedog778: Smith-Morra Gambit turns into an unusual Open Sicilian. White succeeds in throwing an annoying knight check into the tactics, which displaces Black’s king. White then smartly focuses on completing development knowing that the displaced king will provide a long-term advantage. Black then drops a piece and White closes the game out quickly.

  • Jruz4 – swissdave1066: An exchange Caro-Kann resulted in a level position. White’s Nc3 is slightly problematic as it leaves White’s pawn structure immobile. The game was just getting started when White played b4 leaving the knight on c3 undefended and Black simply captures it. A nice check bags Black a second pieces and its game over.