Last night I played my final game in the 2017 Port Huron Chess Club Championship. I’ll give a quick rundown of the event:
A. Gregg 1940
T. West 1896
M Morabito 1860
L Rutkofske 1859
F. Lahr 1803
A. Jones 1649
B. Wingrove 1611
The format was a round robin (everyone plays everyone), with each player getting one zero-point bye. Time control was G/90; d/5 and started at 7pm each Thursday.
Rutkofske – BYE
In round 1, I played B player G. Avery Jones. Coming into this game, I had a total score of 0.5/2 against him. I played with the black pieces and he opened with 1.d4. We played a Dutch in which white didn’t play his pawn to c4. White played an early Bg5 and when I forced him to choose between trading bishop for knight or a minor piece for only 2 pawns, he chose the latter. I ended up winning in 30 moves, but the game was already decided by move 24. Overall, a very well played game by me, helped out by the early mistake by my opponent. Game score can be found here.
In other games, Gregg was very fortunate to win from a drawn ending when his opponent blundered in a Rook and pawn ending. Lahr-Morabito was a back and forth affair until Matt grabbed a poisoned pawn in the ending and ended up losing.
So after the first round the standing were:
1-3 – Gregg, West, Lahr 1.0
4-7 – Morabito, Rutkofske, Jones, Wingrove 0.0
Wingrove – BYE
In round 2, I played fellow Grosse Pointe native, Fred Lahr. I had the white pieces and we started off playing a Gruenfeld Defense. My opponent played an inferior (but not quite losing) move on move 7 and I rolled to victory relatively easily. Once again I won on move 30. So far through 2 games, I’m playing very well and my confidence is increasing.
In the other games, Gregg crushed Jones, and Morabito beat Rutkofske in just 26 moves. A short round for sure!
Standings after 2 rounds:
1-2 – Gregg, West 2.0
3-4 – Lahr, Morabito 1.0
5-7 – Rutkofske, Avery, Wingrove 0.0
Morabito – BYE
In round 3, I played club president Lonnie Rutkofske, who I believe tied for 1st place last year. I had the black pieces and Lon opened the game with 1.Nf3. No big deal. But then I lost my mind and played 1…Nc6 in reply. Not a bad move necessarily. However, I allowed my opponent to take me into an opening that I wasn’t familiar with. For the 1st time since I was a teenager, I played the black side of a Ruy Lopez (after 2.e4 e5 3.Bb5). We eventually transposed to a Four Knights, which was no better as I had never played the black side of this opening.
Needless to say, I spent a TON of time with the first 10-15 moves. The good thing was I was making GOOD moves. By move 21, I was a clear pawn up with a better position and attacking chances. By move 30, I was in severe time trouble, but was clearly winning on the board. My opponent helped me out on move 31 by walking into a checkmate, ending the game immediately. I’ll take it!
In the other games, Gregg was up a piece for two pawns and clearly winning, when he stumbled a bit and could only draw. Talking to Alan a couple of weeks later and it was clear he was still upset with himself for not finishing the game.
Avery beat Wingrove in a long game, while Matt’s opponent was the deadly BYE, in which he came out without a point 🙂
Standings after round 3:
- West 3.0
- Gregg 2.5
- Lahr 1.5
- Morabito, Avery 1.0
- Rutkofske, Wingrove 0.0
In round 4, I played Matt Morabito, the only other player in the field who I had yet to earn a victory against. In last year’s tournament, he crushed me. I had revenge on my mind!
I had the white pieces and we played a Kings Indians Defense where black played an early pawn to e5. I was able to get a small advantage out of the opening and began operations on the queenside. Normally in the KID, black starts an attack on white’s king relatively early in the game. In our game, my opponent didn’t begin his kingside play until move 17. Not surprisingly, I was ready for him. I played a nice knight maneuver to bring my kingside knight over to the queenside. After a slight inaccuracy from black, I was able to get my Rook onto the 7th rank and I could smell victory! My opponent sacrificed the Exchange to get counterplay. The move really surprised me, but lucky for me, white was just winning at that point. The game ended when I was able to sacrifice some of my kingside pawns in order to build a mating net around the black king. Very pretty, if you ask me!
The other two games in this round ended in upsets. Gregg blundered a piece in an even ending and Lahr blundered his queen in a better, maybe even winning position.
Standing after round 4:
- West 4.0
- Gregg 2.5
- Lahr 1.5
- Everyone one else 1.0
At this point, I only needed a half point out of my last 2 rounds to win the tournament.
Rutkofske-Wingrove postponed due to Bill’s illness
Not much to say about this round as it was my turn to play against the dreaded BYE. Gregg got back on track by beating Morabito in a strange game. Matt was unrecognizable in this game and lost without much of a fight. Alan should be given full credit though. His style works very well against Matt’s and he played a nice game to win relatively easily. The Rutkofske-Wingrove game was postponed when Bill got the flu. They will make up the game on Tuesday, March 7th.
Standings after round 5
- West 4.0
- Gregg 3.5
- Lahr 2.5
- everyone else with 1.0 (with 2 players short 1 game)
Up to this round, I was playing inspiring, fighting chess. I was fighting to win each and every game. So, why did I make the decision to play for a draw in this round? Chicken maybe? The standings could be partially to blame as a draw would give me first place with a round to spare. Whatever the reason, it was not a smart decision. We started out in a Dutch that was going across normal channels. Alan made a slightly unusual move by allowing me to double his pawns with a dark square bishop exchange. Then I made a series of amateur moves (none necessarily blunders) that traded the minor pieces and locked up the position. At the time, I was confident that I could hold. My opponent showed me that I was wrong! He played very well, playing on both sides of the board and eventually broke through on the queenside.
Lesson for anyone trying to improve their game. Do NOT play for a draw! There were plenty of opportunities for me to fight prior to the minor pieces being traded off. Worse yet, I was now half point BEHIND Gregg for the 1st time all tournament. Good thing is I had one more game left, while he had the BYE in the final round. So all I had to do was draw in the last round to tie for first, while a win would give me clear 1st place.
Standings after round 6:
- Gregg 4.5
- West 4.0
- Lahr 2.5
- Morabito, Avery 2.0
- Rutkofske, Wingrove 1.0 (but both were still short 1 game)
Rutkofske-Lahr – ppt
One game for all the marbles. I’ll start with the other games first as they really do not affect the race for 1st place. Morabito was able to beat Jones in the last round. Rutkofske summoned his best Bobby Fischer impersonation and his 2nd opponent has now fallen ill! Now Lon is 2 games behind and can move up a couple of rungs in the standings if he wins both games next week.
As for my game, we played another Gruenfeld (I had white) where Bill captured a pawn on c4 instead of playing his pawn to c5 first. I gained a sizable advantage and by move 10 was up a pawn and attacking. Then my opponent played a move that I completely missed (Qf6!), stopping my attack and starting one of his own. I made the correct decision to scale back the attack and consolidate my position. After all, I was up a clear pawn.
During this time, I played a couple moves that gave my opponent tempos for attacking. And at one point, even gave him an opportunity to regain his pawn, with an attack. Luckily, we were both in mild time trouble and I was able to make threats against his king, while my own king was safe. Eventually I was able to win the Exchange for a pawn and then played against his weakened king, especially his dark squared bishop which was pinned to the king. My attack was irresistible and just before his time expired, I forced a mate in two, which he then resigned as his time was expiring.
A strange game where I went from clearly winning, to even, to him even having the advantage, to completely winning again. And the game only went 45 moves or so!
So, I was able to win clear 1st place for the 2nd time in 3 tries. My play was very good MOST of the time. I did slip up during the last 2 rounds a little. One, I need to make better decisions about when to play for a draw. Two, I need to be able to find the best moves for my opponents ALL THE TIME (like Qf6! in the last game).
Going 5 out of 6 will net me about 30 rating points and push me back above 1900. I should be happy, but the reality is that loss in round 6 cost me either 20 rating points had I held the draw or 50(!) points had I beaten him and went 6-0.
For now, I’ll enjoy the win and try to determine when the next tournament will be for me.