Friday, September 26, 2014


"83rd Massachusetts State Championship 2014"
Round 4
 NM Mika Brattain (BCC Blitz Chess Champion 2014)
GM Alexander Ivanov, Massachusetts State
Chess Champion: 1989, 1990, 2002, 2004, 2006, 
2009, 2011, 2012, 2013
In reviewing this game, I always have in mind the psychological dynamics
which prevail in the mind of a seasoned champion like Alexander Ivanov.
The goal of Alexander Ivanov is to win the game. This time his opponent was
the very talented 16 yr old, Mika Brattain. Alex tested this young master in
every possible way: in the opening, middle game and endgame.  For example,
Mika played 6. . . . Bg6!? ECO gives this line in a footnote to B12 Caro Kann
citing the game Matthias Wahls (2555) vs Ian Rogers (2580) Bundesliga, 1996
where Rogers won the game in 30 moves! Moreover, Brattain followed the line
7. . . . Nh6!? though Caro Kann players rarely use this move because of the
response: "Bxh6 gxh6" leaving a rent in Black's pawn formation around Black's
King which might be used as a target for an attack. In the Ivanov - Brattain 2014
game, however, analysis shows that Black can find a way to hold the position.
For example, in Viktor Bologan (2661) vs Alexy Dreev (2697)
7th Karpov Cup, Poikovsky, Russia, R=7 2006, Dreev went on to win the game
in 36 moves! OK, but would Mika have found such a strong retort to "Bxh6 . . . " ?
 As far as the opening goes, in the Ivanov - Brattain game, things seem to be
"equal" through move 31. [In Alexi Fedorov (2599) vs Vasily Korchmar (2214) 
St. Petersburg (ChigorinMemorial, R=2) 2010, which essayed similar moves,
to Ivanov - Brattain, 2014,  the position seemed to be equal after move 40
but Vasily could not find the "key" to holding the position (perhaps he was
in time-pressure) and was forced to resign by move 48. In Christopher Lutz (2590)
 vs Rustem Dautov (2595) Germany (Bundesliga R=9) 1998 the text also followed
a similar sequence of moves. Chris was equal through move 34, but made some
inaccurate moves, yet through move 38 was just a bit worse; after the dust settled,
Rustem was only a bit better after the 43rd move. Move 44 was a dubious move which
might have brought serious problem for White. Yet, by move 50, Chris was hanging on.
 From move 51, Rustem steadily squeezed out a winning position and by move 65,
White was lost. {The problem is, we don't know if time-pressure was the cause of
 this disintegration of Lutz' position!} And this is my point:  these lines which follow
 Ivanov-Brattain create great challenges in the endgame and Alex Ivanov was right to
complicate things, testing Mika at every turn, hoping for a mistake, especially in
time-pressure. Yet, Brattain was up to the task and as Ivanov's position weakened,
Mika was given a forced win, with zugzwang playing a major role.  Hard to make a
mistake in this kind of position. So Mika passed the test and won this game and the
State Championship to boot. Finally, in Joseph Gallagher (2545) vs Philipp 
Schlosser (2560) Germany (Bundesliga) 1997, also essaying similar themes to
those in Brattain's Caro Kann, the game stopped at move 37 with the players agreeing
to a draw, White being a bit better on the board. Was there fight left in the position: (?)
Well, the position looked equal on the board but if time-pressure was hovering over the
players, mistakes might have been made in hast. This is the nature of chess: both
an intellectual (problem-solving) activity and a sport (making the right move on
the fly.)  Time is the element which takes equal games and gives the win to one
or the other player if there is an inclination to fight to the death!]
 Did Ivanov miss [32.b5 Qd3 33.Qf4 etc.?] But the "advantage" seems quite
minimal. And if Ivanov is playing the game as a battle, rather than a 
problem-solving competition, constantly testing his young opponent, offering up 
many chances for Black to go wrong, then sometimes being a bit "worse" is a good 
strategy to seduce your opponent into making bad moves (like riding the wave in surfing, 
you have to be so very balanced as not to fall into the turbulent swirl and perish!)
This is chess as psychological warfare. This chess game is not just an objective 
evaluation of the position, but a battle of nerves and mind under pressure. After all, 
knight-pawn and king endgames are very tricky.  The movement of those 
hippity-hops are hard to visualize, especially distracted by the fear of losing on time! 
It seems that by move 44 Brattain was holding his own. In this case, was Ivanov 
ready to share the point? He might have played [44.Na5 Nf4; 45.Nb3 . . .] to head 
for a solid equalizing line. My question is: was Ivanov ready to make peace? Or did
he need to fight on, hoping for a slip up on the part of his young opponent? Or was
Alex in one of his characteristic time-pressure situations, where he himself had
to calculate as accurately as might be expected under the pressure of losing
the game on time-forfeit?
 It seems that by move move 52, Ivanov was in trouble on the board. I don't
know what the "times" were for each player, but objectively, Brattain had an
easier position to play.  Alex might have played [52. Na5 . . . etc.] and last 71
moves or as he played: 52.Ne5 . . . etc. by 57. Nh1? his position was lost.
He might have tried 57. Ke2 and last to move 82 (rather than 64) hoping for a
"final" slip-up on the part of Brattain (which never came) but again
I am not sure what the time-pressure issue was on each clock. Regardless,
objectively, Mika played this game very well, both chessically and sportingly!
He played competitively against a seasoned veteran and deserves all the
accolades that he received for winning this game and the 83rd Mass Open,
becoming the Massachusetts State Champion 2014.  Bravo, Mika!
Chess: more than theory!
It takes time to play out a "gem" like Ivanov-Brattain, R=4, 2014.
3(SS) Rounds of serious contemplation and
psychological warfare!
Good chess takes time!
Take the time; and play out your ideas!
See you tomorrow!

No comments: