My second (?) loss to a preteen

OK, I've lost so many tournament games in my life that I need to add more weasel words. In a 1999 Lake County tournament, I lost to Winston Huang, a young student of the late Dick Verber. Winston reacted well to my Ulvestad Variation and reached a drawn rook ending; I overpressed and lost. I don't know how old Winston was in 1999, so possibly this is my third tournament loss to a preteen. If there are still others I missed, I wouldn't be surprised: some of the 14-year-olds who've beaten me have been so mature that I'd assumed they were in college!

I couldn't have reviewed the results of the 747 games I've played since 1992 without consulting Wayne Zimmerle's MSA query tool: you can download it from the Greater Peoria Chess Foundation website. And hey, the game we're about to look at was played in Peoria!


In our last installment, I “helped” ten-year-old Jason Daniels break the 1800 barrier. Just a few weeks later, we were paired again in the Bradley Summer Open. Even though I was simultaneously revenge-minded and cautious, I was the player in trouble in the early middlegame. And then we had some wild adventures….

If you scroll down to the bottom of this very very long post, you'll find a PGN viewer so you can play through the game in your browser.

Jason Daniels (1847) - Bill Brock (2081)

Bradley Summer Open, Peoria

Round 2, August 16, 2014

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6

Another Slav Variation.

3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3

Now White doesn't have to worry about the Queen's Gambit becoming a real gambit:  The downside is that the scope of the bishop on c1 is reduced.


Chicagoland's newest Grandmaster, Boris Avrukh, recommends 4...Bg4 in his new book on the Slav Defense. I hadn’t had time to study that chapter yet! 4...dxc4?! no longer makes as much sense because White could then take the pawn in one go with the bishop on f1.

5.Nc3 e6 6.a3

Alternatively, 6.Nh4 is a very popular line for White.  While Black has solved the "bad bishop" problem of the Queen's Gambit, White belives that the two bishops are worth a little trouble.; If White wants to put a bishop on b2, then spending a move on a2–a3 makes sense.

Or White could play 6.b3 Bb4 and now 7.Bd2 is sensible: Dr. Martinovsky played this against me in a similar position (after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.b3 Bb4 and now 7.Bd2, Martinovsky-Brock, North Central Open, 1981).  But White did not play 6.b3 in order to play 7.Bd2!  White’s problem is that the move he wants to play, 7.Bb2?, runs into 7…Qa5 (7...Ne4 is good, too.) 8.Rc1 (8.Qc1?? Ne4) 8...Qxa2 (But 8...Ne4 is not as good because of 9.a3! Nxc3 10.Qd2! and White gets some play for the lost pawn after 10...Na2 11.axb4 Qxb4) 9.Ba1 Ne4 10.Nd2 Qxd2+ 11.Qxd2 Nxd2 12.Kxd2 a5, which leads by force to an almost-won ending for Black.

How much of this should a tournament player look at during play? I'm guessing that Jason decided he wanted to put his bishop on b2, looked at 6.b3 Bb4 7.Bb2? Qa5, and correctly decided that he wanted not part of a "bad Cambridge Springs".

6...Nbd7 7.b3 Be7 8.Bb2 h6

“What would Gata Kamsky do?” The U.S. Champion seems to think that once the "bad" bishop is outside the Slav triangle, it's generally worth saving.

9.Be2 0–0 10.0–0

Both of us could be justifiably satisfied with the opening. Now we needed to come up with middlegame plans.

Black to play

10...Qc7 11.Rc1

The rook on c1 lines up against the queen on c7.


So I decided to tuck my queen on b8 and got my rook out of the way. This setup is a bit passive. Maybe 11...Ne4 12.Bd3 Nxc3 13.Rxc3 Be4!? with the idea 14.Qe2 f5

12.cxd5 exd5

White to play


The minority attack is a good idea for White here. (Back on move 10, I made sure that 13.Nb5?! Qb8 was a waste of time for White.)

13...a6 14.Qb3! Qb8

I wanted to play the thematic 14...b5?! (the idea is to play Nb6–Nc4 and neutralize the minority attack) However, White has 15.Nxd5! Nxd5 16.Qxd5 Here, I missed a cute desperado tactic: 16...Qxh2+! 17.Nxh2 cxd5 Even here, White is better after 18.Rc6


15.Ra1 Qd6 16.Rfc1


Houdini says that 15...b5!? is playable: 16.Nc5 Nb6 17.Nxa6 Qa8 18.Nc5 Nc4 with positional compensation for the pawn. 15...Rfe8 is more sensible.

16.Nc5 Qa7

I was still dreaming of ...b7–b5, so I put my queen on the sidelines to protect a6.

White to play


Hmm, maybe a White rook is going to come back to a1.  If White gets all three majors pointed towards Black's queenside, life could get uncomfortable.

17...Nd6 18.Ra1 Nb6

Yes, Black is obsessed by the c4 square. Putting a knight on c4 is not the only line against the minority attack, however,

19.Nd2! Qb8

Black gives up.

20.Rac1 Rfe8


21.Bc3 Ne4?!

21...Nd7 and Black might follow by admitting his mistake with ...Qc7 and ...Rd8–a8.

22.Ndxe4! dxe4 23.b5! axb5

White to play


I was hoping for 24.Ba5? Nxa4! (Gardez la dame: not now, but a move from now...) 25.Nxa4 (25.Bxd8 Nxc5! (hits the queen again) 26.dxc5 Rxd8) 25...bxa4 26.Qxa4 b5 27.Qc2 Rd6 and Black is better.


Now White has some real pressure!

White to play


This is a break I did not deserve. Unless you see a clear followup, don't lock up the pawns on the side you're attacking on!

I was expecting the simple 25.bxc6. This creates a target on c6: White may not win, but White can play for a win with very little risk. If 25...Bxc5 Houdini points out the cute line 26.c7!? (26.dxc5 Nxc3 27.Qxc3 bxc6 is probably drawish once Black repositions his bishop to d5.) 26...Qxc7 27.Ba5 Qxa5 28.Rxc5 Qa8 29.Rxd5 Be6 30.Rxd8 Bxb3 31.Rxa8 Rxa8 and White has a microscopic edge because of pawn structure.

But it's even better for White to keep the tension: 25.Ba5! b6 26.Na6! Qa8 27.Bd2 cxb5 28.Bxb5 and Black is under serious pressure.

Now that the pressure is off my queenside, I turn my attention to White's kingside. Had I done this ten moves ago, I might not have gotten in trouble in the first place.

25...Bd6 26.g3

26.h3 Qc8 with dreams of sacrificing on h3. 27.g4? can be answered by 27...h5!

26...Qc8 27.Rfe1

Black to play


A "human" move: Black discourages an incursion on a7 and prepares a kingside attack.

28.Bf1 h5 29.h4 Rd6 30.Bg2 Rg6

Does White try to defend the kingside or make a run?

White to play


I’d been expecting 31.Qc2!? Bh3 32.Bxe4 after which I was inclined to sacrifice something on g3.

Black to play (analysis diagram)

A)   My likely choice, 32...Bxg3?!, would have only drawn: 33.Bxg6! Qg4 34.Bxf7+ Kxf7 35.fxg3 Qxg3+ 36.Kh1 Qf3+ 37.Kg1 (37.Kh2 is just an unnecessary adventure for both players: 37...Nxe3 38.Qa2+ Kg6 39.Rg1+ Ng4+ 40.Rxg4+ Bxg4 41.Qc2+ Kf6 42.d5+ Kf7 43.Re1! Qh3+ 44.Kg1 Qg3+=) 37...Qg3+ with perpetual.

B)   Instead, 32...Rxg3+! offers good winning chances  33.fxg3 Qg4! 34.Qf2 Bxg3 35.Qf3 Rxe4 and if I had had time to consider this during the game, and if I had been lucky enough to get this far in the analysis (two very big "if"s), I would have stopped here and said "looks promising."  But hey, I have a computer :-)

If any of the following lines are nonsense, please don’t be bashful to bash!

White to play (analysis diagram)


B1a)  36...Nf4?! 37.exf4 (37.Qe8+ Kh7 38.Qe4+ f5 and it's over) 37...Bxe1+ 38.Kh1 f5! 39.Qe8+ Kh7 40.Rc2 Qf3+ 41.Kg1 and you'd think there'd be a forced mate here, but Houdini doesn't see it. 41...Qf1+ 42.Kh2 Qxf4+! 43.Kh1 Qf3+ 44.Kg1

B1a1)    44...Bxc3?! 45.Kh2 Bxd4 46.Qe2 Qxe2+ 47.Rxe2 Bg4 48.Rc2 f4 49.Nxb7 Bxb6 50.Rxc6 Bf2 and my first thought (or rather, Houdini's first thought) was that Black could claw out a win, but maybe White can hold 51.Nd6 Bxh4 52.Ne4 Bf3 53.Rc5 Kg6 54.Nd2 Bg4 55.Kg2 Be7 56.Rc7 Kf6 57.Nf3 Bd6 58.Rc6 Ke6 59.Rc8 Bxf3+ (59...Kf5! preparing to take on f3, is stronger) 60.Kxf3 Kf5 61.Rh8! If Black gets the pawns running, it's over. 61...g6 62.Rh6 Be5 63.Rh7 Kg5 64.Re7 Kf6 65.Ra7 Kf5 66.Rh7! Kg5 67.Re7 etc.)

B1a2)   44…Qg4! seems to win, I think: 45.Kh1 Bxc3 46.Qe2 Qxh4 47.Qf2 Qxf2 48.Rxf2 Bxd4 49.Rc2 f4 50.Nxb7 f3 51.Nc5 f2 52.Rxf2 Bxf2 53.b7 Bg3 54.Ne4 Bb8 55.Ng5+ Kg6 56.Nxh3 c5.

B1b) 36...Bf4+! (It took Houdini a long time to find this!) 37.Kf2 Qg3! 38.Ke2 Bxe3! 39.Qe8+ Kh7 40.Ne4 Qg2+ 41.Kd3 Be6 seems to be Black's cleanest win (even though White is still up two rooks for a bishop!) 42.Rxe3?? Nf4#.

B2)   36. Qg4+? Rxg4 37.Re2 Bf4+ wins

Whew. Back to the game.


31...Bxg3! is already winning: 32.fxg3 Rxg3 33.Rc2 Bh3 34.Bxh3 Qxh3+ 35.Ke2 Rxe3+ 36.Kd1 Nxc3+


32.Re2! bolsters the second-rank defense (Black is still winning, but it's a better try for White).

32...Bh3 33.Bxh3 Qxh3+ 34.Ke2

Black to play


Even the lesser engine on my iPad found the subtle 34...Rf6! 35.Rf1 and now 35...Bxg3! is not a real sacrifice because of 36.fxg3 Qg2+

35.fxg3 Rxg3

There was no time to calculate exactly in time pressure, but the combination of two majors, a pawn on e4 supported by the rook on e7, and the monster knight on e5 looked sufficient to win. And it is, if one finds the right moves.

So what do you do in a losing position? Try to emulate Jason, and find moves that don't lose immediately!


The best practical move. 36.Kd1 Nxe3+ and yuck.

36...Rg2+ 37.Re2 Rxe2+ 38.Kxe2 Qf3+

For some reason, it took me a long time to see this back on move 36. I kept looking at the much weaker check on g2.

39.Ke1 Nxe3 40.Rc3 Qf1+ 41.Kd2 Nd5!

So far, so good for me.  With three pawns for the piece, Black is close to formal material equality. White's pieces are poorly placed for defense, and the e-pawn wants to roll.


Again, White's best practical chance. 42.Kc2 e3 43.Nd3 Qe2+ 44.Kb1 Nxc3+ 45.Qxc3 Re4


42...Nxe3 almost certainly wins, but one doesn't normally want to give up such a beautiful knight for such a passive rook.


White has nothing better.


43...Qxd4+! wins the house: I should have taken ten seconds (five seconds of which come for free on the delay) to look at all checks and captures!

44.Kd1 Qf1+ 45.Be1 f5?

Objectively winning, but bad technique: king safety is paramount in a time scramble!

Black's knight, e3 pawn, and queen have White's pieces tied up in knots, so Black does not need to rush anything. 45...Qf3! 46.Nd3 Re4 47.Qb2 Qg4! 48.Kc1 Rxd4 and White gets no counterplay. It's hard to play methodically with less than a minute on the clock, and my Zeitnot is the direct result of Jason's excellent play in the transition from the opening to the middle game.

46.Nd3 f4

White to play


White cuts off the rook from the e3 pawn, brings the knight close to Black's king, and hmm, the knight on d5 is now pinned!


I had 45 seconds plus delay, which might have been enough to win had I not exposed my king.  I now took 39 of them to make this pretty good move.

But the best move is to ignore White's threat: 47...f3! 48.Rxe3 The Nd5 is pinned. 48...f2! ...but so is the Be1. 49.Re2 fxe1Q+ 50.Rxe1 Qf2 Black has a winning position, but old folks need a bit more than mere delay to win this routinely.

48.Qd3! f3

48...Rf6 would have been a good practical choice.


If you continuously find the best move in an otherwise hopeless position, as Jason does here, you may force your opponent to calculate a win. And perhaps your opponent's calculations will be wrong!

Black to play


(Aha, knight protects queen, I said to myself.)  But this is the move that tosses away the win.

Amazingly, Black still has a win with the beautiful 49...f2!! 50.Qxf1 Nxe3+ 51.Ke2 Nxf1 52.Kxf2 (52.Kxf1 fxe1Q+ 53.Kxe1 c5) 52...Nh2


My scoresheet becomes understandably illegible after this move :-) and the game is roughly equal. I am not absolutely sure that the remaining moves are the ones that were actually played, so some of my criticism may be misplaced.


I think Jason had at least five minutes here, perhaps as many as eight minutes. If your position is sound, I think it's best to make good use of the extra time! (Yes, you’re giving your opponent time to think, but only you know the move you’re going to play, so you can analyze the position more deeply.) The game now devolves into a comedy of errors. Next time, we'll both do better!

50...c5! 51.Qxf3 Qxf3+ 52.Nxf3 cxd4 53.Nxd4 (Given Jason's time advantage 53.Ba5! would have been a practical winning try for White.) 53...Rxb6: Black has an edge, but this smells drawish.


51.Qxf3 is a good move, but Black might survive the time scramble. 51...Qxf3+ 52.Nxf3; 51.Bf2 is a good practical try. 51...Qf1+ 52.Kd2 Qe2+ (52...Qb5 53.Qxf3 and White should win because of the clock) 53.Qxe2 fxe2 54.Kxe2 and this seems like a hard ending for Black to hold with delay time only.


51...Qe2+ wins immediately, but Black was already thinking defensively. 52.Kc1 Qxe1+ and now Black just has to figure out how to protect e6. 53.Kb2 Qe2+ 54.Kc1 (54.Ka3 Qa6+ 55.Kb2 Qb5!) 54...Qf1+ 55.Kd2 Qh3 is good enough.


And White has equality!

52… Qg4 53.Kc2 Kh8

Thinking, "I never should have moved that f-pawn."

54.Bd2 Re2?

White is winning! 54...Rf6! (Keep your pieces protected in time scrambles! Make direct threats!)


Equal! 55.Qf7! is crushing, as White will check on the 8th followed by Ng5+ For example, 55...Qe4+ 56.Kd1 Rg2 57.Qf8+ Kh7 58.Ng5+ Rxg5 59.hxg5


White is winning! 55...Rf2 56.Ng5 Qf5! and White should win because of the clock, but this is probably drawn.


Equal! 56.Ng5! forces mate.


I bashed this out and realized that I had just hung the Exchange to Ng6+. But White may have a stronger move....

56...Qe6 gives Black reasonable chances to hold, but White has all the play.


Well, that was fun.


Jason went on to win his first adult event (at the age of ten!) and break 1900. Not a bad day.

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