Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chess Nemesis

Chess Nemesis

"Nemesis? That's what my game is missing a chess nemesis!"
Casey Richardson WPI 1998]

A Saturday several years ago, and the usual cast of characters are sitting in the skittles room waiting for round one, when in walks my nemesis: Mikhail Derazhne. Bernardo Iglesias as usual directing this tournament is sitting in the corner at the laptop with phone by his side entering registrants. I always have to call to Bernado when Mikhail arrives. I shout "Bernado pair me with Mikhail!" Up goes a laugh as people have heard this many times. And so it begins.


For about 10 years nothing gave me more pleasure than playing Mikhail. Mikhail learned the fundamentals from his father (his dad once won a class prize at one Herb Healy btw.) Mikhail never concerned himself with the opening but would direct the game past the middlegame and into the endgame where he was not only proficient, he created many upsets by turning losing games into winning, to the consternation of many BCF opponents.

"Nemesis is now often used as a term to describe one's worst enemy, normally someone or something that is the exact opposite of oneself but is also somehow similar. For example, Professor Moriarty is frequently described as the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes."* [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemesis_(mythology) ]

Mikhail always felt that he could find a way to bamboozle his way to win the game. And typically if losing he played down to the bare king, a maneuver that worked for him when facing me in a time scramble where my promoting of a second pawn into queen put Mikhail in stalemate, thus justifying this exercise. Mikhail became the guy you wanted to play and beat, for many others as well.

Always I was armed with special preparation for the next game with Mikhail. Our styles are very contrary. I would try and take Mikhail down early, knowing that it took about 20 moves for him to warm up to a game. I would work really hard to try and get him into an open tactical brawl where the endgame would be far far away. Ideally he would have white, I black. Then 95% of the time we would get into the MacCutcheon variation of the French Defense that had become our battleground of preference; got very nuanced over the years. Both of us would bring various ideas to this battlefield.


But on 09/23/1999 at the Harvard Open Mikhail played the advanced variation and I got to spring my highly non-theoretical Au Bon Pain Variation of the French Defense. Named because I first saw it while watching a blitz game one spring afternoon at the Au Bon Pain in Cambridge. The opening is pure simplicity for black in dealing with the problem white square bishop. Mikhail got the early advantage in a maneuvering game which is to his liking. Although I was a pawn down I turned the game around due to the fact his king was becoming more exposed and my queen got active. Around hour five Mikhail got this idea to take his fleeing king and use it to lead an attack at my king to try and mate?! I sacrificed a pawn to nudge his king to my queenside where I would have a knight with my queen against his lone king, and possibly help from a 2nd knight. That has to mate?! I'm almost out of time (analog clock). We are approaching the sixth hour, it's midnight, he has a few additional minutes. All that is left is adrenalin which is pounding in both of us. He offers a draw, I refuse. I have to have a mate here?! But my flag falls in the attempt.

Mikhail Derazhne 1768 - Mike Griffin 1546 [C02]
Harvard Open, 23.09.1999

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bd7 4.Nf3 a6 5.Bd3 Bb5 6.Nc3 Bxd3 7.Qxd3 c5 8.Be3 c4 9.Qe2 b5 10.0-0 Nc6 11.h3 Nge7 12.Nh4 Nc8 13.Qg4 Nb6 14.f4 g6 15.Nf3 b4 16.Ne2 h6 17.Nh2 a5 18.Qf3 h5 19.Qf2 a4 20.Nf3 Be7 21.Ng5 Na5 22.Bd2 Nc6 23.b3 axb3 24.axb3 Ra3 25.Rxa3 bxa3 26.Ra1 Qa8 27.Nc3 Nb4 28.Nb5 0-0 29.Nxa3 Qc6 30.Qe1 Na6 31.Nb1 Ra8 32.b4 Nc7 33.Rxa8+ Qxa8 34.c3 Qa2 35.Kf2 Nb5 36.Kf3 Na4 37.g4 hxg4+ 38.hxg4 Qc2 39.Kg3 Qd3+ 40.Nf3 Bh4+ 41.Kxh4 Qxf3 42.Kg5 Qd3 43.Qh1 Nc7 44.Kf6 Ne8+ 45.Ke7 Ng7 46.Qc1 g5 47.fxg5 Qg6 48.Qf1 f5 49.exf6 Qe8+ 50.Kd6 Qb8+ 51.Kc6 Qb6+ 52.Kd7 (score unintelligible black loses on time) 1 - 0

Picture (Metafile)

Subsequent Fritz analysis showed there were forcing mates:

A1. Qa7+ 53.Kc6 Ne8 54.f7+ Kf8 55.fxe8Q+ Kxe8 56.Be3 Qd7#
A2. 56.Kd6 Qb8+ 57.Kc6 Qb6#
A3. 56.Kb5 Qb6+ 57.Kxa4 Qa6#

This loss is one of my most memorable and still pains me. Should I have been practical and take the draw against my nemesis: doubtful.

Sad to say Mikhail is no longer active in the USCF, has met a Russian girlfriend, and I recently found out he currently is looking for work in the IT QA software testing field in the Boston area. Das vedanya comrade/Goodbye my friend. Until we meet again. I have something for you.

So now I have to find a new nemesis, so far Mark Kaprielian comes the closest, and our battlefield is the Classical Dutch.

Do you have a chess nemesis and have any funny or interesting stories?

Please Comment.

Thank You

Mike Griffin 03/26/2009

1 comment:

Mark McIntire said...

This shows the true aestheic grit of chess, Mike.

Happy is the soul that can relish the incongruity of checkmate.

--Mark McIntire