Friday, March 10, 2017

2017 Paramount - Round 1

17th Annual Paramount - Round 1 Report

In what might be an overly ambitious project, I'm going to try to chronicle the progress of the annual Paramount.  For some background, the Paramount is a double round robin tournament, and players are split into sections of 6 players.  This grueling tournament lasts 10 weeks, and because the players are grouped by ratings, all of the games are competitive.  

One of the most interesting aspects of the tournament is the fact that adjournments are allowed.  Over the years, the time control has evolved.  At one point it started out as a three time control tournament (30/75, 24/60, SD/30) and it evolved into 40/120 SD/60 and finally into the current format of 40/90 SD/60.  Due to the fact that games can easily last 5 hours, adjournments become necessary (nobody wants to start the work week with a 5 hour chess game on Monday night!).  Adjournments really don't exist in tournament chess anymore.  The advent of chess engines and tablebases means that adjournments leave very little up to the skill of the players, other than the ability to remember a few key lines upon resumption.  That said, adjournments are very interesting for players that otherwise wouldn't have a chance to experience them, and personally they've been very generous as I've "stolen" a few extra half points via adjournment.  I wrote a fairly detailed guide to adjournments that is posted on this blog, but feel free to ask in the comments about edge cases and exceptions.

The first Monday night of the Paramount is always a little bit chaotic as we try to cajole players into joining the tournament in order to make a nice round number of players.  We were successful in rounding out the field to 18 (see the wallchart on the tournament website), but many of the nominal first round games had to be rescheduled or will be played out of order.  Now that the sections have been established, it's clear that this is going to be one of the strongest Paramounts in recent history - the average rating of the top section is 2053.  I'm in the unenviable top seed position, and by my rough calculations, my expected tournament score is approximately 7.8 points out of 10 games.  The good news is that I have the inside track to "earn" $60 if I do win the tournament.  Based on an average game length of 4 hours, that would be about $1.50/hr (not counting travel time!).  All joking aside, the Paramount is one of the few chances to have a guaranteed competitive game every week and even review a few technical endgames during adjournments.  On that note, let's look at some of the games from the first evening!

This is my first round game as black against Gabe Birzu.  My annotations will appear under the board.

Gabe Birzu - Andrew Hoy, Round 1

[Event "BCF Paramount 2017"] [Site "Boylston Chess Club"] [Date "2017.03.06"] [Round "1"] [White "Birzu, Gabe"] [Black "Hoy, Andrew"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B31"] [Annotator "Hoy,Andrew"] [PlyCount "124"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 {Gabe started playing 1.e4 relatively recently and I've seen him play Bb5+ against 2...d6, so I kind of assumed that he would play a Rossolimo if I played 2...Nc6.} g6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. d3 Bg7 6. O-O Nf6 7. h3 O-O 8. a4 {This was a new move for me, I'm only familiar with Nc3 first, and then a4.} Ne8 9. e5 (9. a5 Nc7 10. Nc3 Ne6 11. Be3 Nd4 $11 {should be fully equal}) 9... b6 10. Bf4 (10. a5 Ba6 11. axb6 axb6 {This should be much easier to play for black with the bishops.}) 10... Nc7 {I wasn't worried about Bh6 because c4 and my doubled pawns are resolved and I keep the light square bishop} 11. Qd2 Ba6 12. Bh6 (12. Nc3 c4 13. d4 Bb7 14. Rad1 Nd5 15. Bh6 Nxc3 16. bxc3 c5) 12... c4 13. Bxg7 (13. d4 c3 14. Nxc3 Bxf1 15. Rxf1 {An extra exchange is certainly nice...}) 13... Kxg7 14. dxc4 Bxc4 15. Re1 Ne6 {trying to keep the tension as long as possible} (15... Qxd2 16. Nbxd2 Bd5 17. c4 Be6 { I didn't see a clear plan for the endgame from here.}) 16. Nc3 a5 {Trying to ensure that a4 will always be a target for the light square bishop, this is one of the key plans for black in order to maintain winning chances in an endgame.} (16... Qxd2 17. Nxd2 Ba6 18. Nb3 c5 19. Red1 Rfd8 20. a5 {this looked like very little for black, the bishop on a6 is precarious}) 17. Rad1 Qc7 18. Qd7 $1 {This is a great idea for white in order to avoid losing a tempo to Rd8. Although white is now fighting for equality, white is very close to achieving just that.} Rfd8 19. Qxc7 Nxc7 20. Nd2 (20. Nd4 $1 {Nd4 would have allowed white to maintain at least equality}) 20... Ba6 21. Nf1 Ne6 22. Ne4 h6 23. Ne3 Rac8 {I did not see a clear way to make progress if I traded rooks on the d file or tried to lift my rook. After thinking about the endgame plans for about 10 minutes, I decided to basically "pass" and wait and see what white would do.} (23... Rd4 24. Rxd4 Nxd4 25. Rd1 Rd8 26. Kh2 {I didn't see Kh2 at first, but once I did I decided to keep all of the rooks on the board for the moment} Ne6 27. Rxd8 Nxd8 {white is the only one that can be better here}) 24. Rxd8 {White was starting to get into time pressure here, with approximately 20 minutes to make 17 moves. While that's not extreme time pressure, when coupled with the fact that black has a little bit of positional pressure it makes white's defensive job fairly difficult.} Rxd8 25. Rd1 Rxd1+ 26. Nxd1 Nd4 {black has some very nice pressure already} 27. Ne3 (27. c3 {This is the main alternative to the game continuation, and black can very quickly target the weak a4 pawn in two different ways.} Nb3 28. f3 Bd3 (28... f5 29. exf6+ exf6 30. Nd6 Nc5 31. Ne3 Nxa4 32. Nec4) 29. Ndf2 Bc2) 27... Nxc2 {An unhealthy obsession with endgame studies allowed me to see this idea almost instantly before playing Nd4. Although white can fight on, the position is very possibly losing for white already.} 28. Nc5 {After this move, black can enter a pawn up knight endgame. Knight endgames are very similar to king and pawn endgames, so objectively black should be winning, although as the course of the game will show, things are not so simple.} (28. Nxc2 Bd3 29. Ne3 Bxe4 30. Nc4 b5 31. axb5 cxb5 32. Nxa5 Bd5 {Material might be equal, but white's knight is under arrest and black has the very easy plan of g5 and Kg6 to start picking off the e5 pawn.}) 28... Nxe3 29. Nxa6 Nc4 30. b3 Nxe5 31. Nb8 g5 32. g3 Nf3+ 33. Kg2 Nd4 34. Nd7 b5 35. Nc5 Kf6 36. f4 gxf4 37. gxf4 Kf5 38. Kg3 Ne2+ 39. Kf3 Nxf4 40. Nb7 {After this move, white will get a passed a-pawn by force. Black will have a 2 or 3 pawn advantage (depending on whether or not black wants to capture on h3), but black still has to be a little bit careful because the knight is very clumsy when trying to stop a rook pawn.} bxa4 41. bxa4 Nd3 {I spent a fair bit of time trying to decide how best to continue. I ultimately decided to try and restrict the white knight and bring the black king to the queenside to stop the a pawn. In the meantime, I have a passed c pawn which can distract white, and if all else fails, the connected f and e pawns should carry the day.} 42. Nxa5 Ke6 {The c pawn is immune due to the threat of Ne5+} 43. Nb7 Kd7 44. a5 Kc7 45. a6 f6 46. Kg4 Kb6 47. h4 {In desperation, white tries to queen the h pawn.} Kxa6 48. Nd8 c5 49. Ne6 c4 50. Kh5 c3 51. Nd4 Ne5 52. Kxh6 Nf3 {Moves like this are always a little bit of fun to play, and in this case it gains a tempo so that my knight can comfortably stop the h pawn.} 53. Ne2 c2 54. h5 Nd4 55. Nc1 {At this point, it was time for adjournment and I sealed my next move. In this position there are a few moves that are outright blunders so black has to be a little bit careful. I spent ~6 minutes double checking my calculations before I sealed the move.} Ne6 {Gabe and I finished the game on Thursday night after we both won our respective Thursday Night Swiss games. Gabe mentioned afterwards that he had basically decided to resign if I played Ne6, so we made a few perfunctory moves and then called it a night.} 56. Kh7 f5 57. Kg6 f4 58. h6 f3 59. Kf7 f2 60. Kxe6 f1=Q 61. Kxe7 Qxc1 62. h7 Qh6 {Overall I'm fairly happy with my play. With black it's hard to force anything, and one of my worst chess habits is my tendency to overpress in otherwise equal positions. In this game I thought I was patient and took only what the position offered. Hopefully I can continue playing restrained chess (and not blunder!) over the rest of the 9 games.} 0-1

There were a few other interesting games on the first night as well.  Bob Sullivan and Ed Astrachan had a very interesting, back and forth game.  Ed won an exchange with black very early in the game, but Bob found some creative ways to generate serious counterplay, and Bob ultimately ended up regaining his exchange.  In a position that was close to equal, both players were in time pressure, and Ed unfortunately flagged on move 38.  There was a little bit of TD drama because the clock added the extra hour and it wasn't clear why the clock added the time, but it turned out that the type of clock the players were using simply rolls over and adds an hour after one player exhausts their first time control time, so Bob correctly claimed the time forfeit and had the complete scoresheet necessary to score the full point.

The other game that I followed fairly closely was the game between Atul Kannan and Natasha Christiansen.  The game started as an interesting King's Indian Defense, and Atul gradually improved his position until he reached a winning endgame.

Atul Kannan - Natasha Christiansen, Round 1

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.03.06"] [Round "?"] [White "Kannan, Atul"] [Black "Christiansen, Natasha"] [Result "*"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "5k2/R7/p2p2B1/7p/3n4/1r4P1/5P1P/5K2 w - - 0 39"] [PlyCount "12"] 39. Rf7+ (39. Rxa6 $1 {White should be very comfortably winning here, he will be up two pawns, and one of them is a passed pawn.}) 39... Kg8 40. Ra7 Rb6 41. Bxh5 Nb5 42. Ra8+ Kg7 43. Be2 d5 44. Bxb5 axb5 {Black now has excellent chances to hold the game!} *

This game has actually not been completed yet!  After a few more twists and turns, the game was adjourned in the following position:

In this position, black sealed her move.  Endgame tablebases will very quickly say that the position is objectively drawn, but there are a few interesting attempts for white to win, and black will have to defend accurately.  I won't go into too much detail because the game is still in progress.

That wraps up the first round report.  Keep an eye on the website in order to see updated standings and to find the results of adjourned games.