Friday, February 29, 2008

Chess: A Caro Kann Win (Exchange - Gurgenidze Variation)

This is one of the better games I played in the recently concluded USCF Walter E. Muir 07WM41. I absolutely LOVE the Caro Kann! My opponent used the Exchange variation and I responded with a Gurgenidze (fianchettoed King Bishop) setup.

[Event "USCF/WS/07WM41"]
[Site "ICCF"]
[Date "2007.10.6"]
[Round "-"]
[White "Hoffmann, Joe"]
[Black "Owens, Steve"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1643"]
[BlackElo "1575"]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5


Oh, Goody! The Exchange Variation. White players of 1.e4 will often choose the Exchange as it appears to be easier to assimilate than the Panov, Classical, or Advance variations.

To a CK player like me, the Exchange is candy that achieves our goals of attaining equality with an equal share of the center.

3... cxd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. c3 g6 6. Nf3 Bg7 7. O-O Nf6 8. Re1 O-O


Let's look at the position:
Black's pieces are very actively placed. Black has an equal share of the center. The Black King is safely ensconced behind a fianchettoed Bishop and the best defender of any King's Position, the Knight on KB3 (f6). White is castled and his rook developed to e1. He also has a Knight on KB3 (f3). His King Bishop is nicely placed at d3.

Looking deeper, this position plays like a Queen Pawn opening. In such openings, the advance/exchange of the c pawns often determine the outcome of the game. Black has traded his for the White e pawn and has the complete use of the c file. The White c pawn, however, is retarded and may not advance without weakening White's position. In this variation, White has transposed to a QP opening and has solved Black's largest dilemma, that is, how and when to get in P-QB4 (c5).

9. h3 Qc7 10. Bg5 Re8 11. Nbd2

Na3 is an alternate. Bobotsov - Arlamowski (Miedzyzdroje - 1952) continued 11.Na3 a6 12.Qd2 Bd7 13.Re2 Rad8 14.Rae1 Qc8 15.Nc2 b5 16.Ne5 Nxe5 17.dxe5 Ne4 18.Bxe4 dxe4 19.Rxe4 Bxh3 20.Nd4 Be6 21.a3 Qb8 22.Qe2 Bd5 23.Re3 Bc4 24.Qg4 Qc8 25.Qh4 Qc7 26.g4 Rd5 27.f4 Rxd4 28.cxd4 Qd7 29.d5 Bxd5 30.Rh3 h6 31.Bxh6 Bxh6 32.Qxh6 Qxg4+ 33.Kf2 Qg2+ 34.Ke3 Qe4+ 35.Kd2 Qd4+ 36.Kc1 Qc4+ 37.Rc3 Qa2 38.Qh4 a5 39.f5 b4 40.fxg6 fxg6 41.axb4 Qa1+ 42.Kc2 Qa4+ 43.Kd2 Qxb4 44.Qxb4 axb4 45.Rc5 Rd8 46.Ke3 Kf7 47.Rb5 b3 48.Rd1 Ke6 49.Rxb3 Kxe5 50.Rb6 Rg8 51.b4 e6 52.b5 g5 53.Kf2 Rc8 54.Rb1 Rc2+ 55.Ke3 g4 56.Rb8 Rc4 57.b6 g3 58.Rg8 Re4+ 59.Kd2 Rd4+ 60.Ke1 Re4+ 61.Kf1 Rf4+ 62.Kg1 g2 63.Rh8 Rf7 64.Rh5+ Kd6 65.Rh8 Rb7 66.Rd8+ Kc6 67.Rc8+ Kd6 68.Rcc1 Rf7 1/2-1/2

11... a6 12. a4 Nh5

This little dance by the Knight is in response to the vulnerability on e8 and a small threat to take f4 as an outpost with the attendant pressure on the White squares and Queen Bishop.


13. Be2 Nf6

I thought hard about 13...Nf4 but decided I was not ready to attack at that moment.

14. Bd3 Nh5

Ok! I don't think he had a definitive plan with Be2.

15. Bh4 Bd7 16. Nf1 e5


It was now or never for an e5 break.

17. dxe5 Nxe5 18. Nxe5

18.Ne3 Nf4 might have been an alternate continuation.

18... Rxe5

Taking with the Queen is more flexible.

19. Rxe5 Qxe5 20. Bg3 Nxg3


This is the result of leaving the Bishop on g5-h4 instead of retreating to e3 around move 13 or 14. Black now has the two bishops and plenty of diagonals to open and exploit.

21. Nxg3

Another look at the position:
Black's pieces are very well placed and active. The Queen is centered and dominates the board. The Isolated Queen Pawn is not a liability and can advance readily. White's Rook needs to get to the e or d file but the Queen blocks him. White should remedy that now, but instead...

21... Bc6 22. Rc1? d4!

This helps further Black's pursuit of taking the center of the board. With White's Knight removed toward the rim as a result of the exchange on g3 and Black's possession of the two bishops, Black's Queen has an almost unbreakable hold on the central position. The Black Rook is poised to add his weight to that hold.

23. cxd4 Qxd4 24. b3 Rd8 25. Be2 Qh4


Why exchange Queens when an attack on the King can be glimpsed, the Rook can take control of the d file, and the King Bishop can seize d4 and put more pressure on f2?

26. Qf1 Bd4 27. Rd1 Rd6

f6 is the Rook's destination.

28. Rd3 Rf6 29. Nh1


Once again taking stock of the position. White does have his Rook on a central file, but it is totally defensive. His Queen and Knight have retreated all the way back to defend f2. His Bishop can only look on while the action is on the opposite color.

29... h5

To remove the Bishop's one useful outpost to combine with Bb6.

30. Bg4 Bb6

The Bishop must vacate immediately.

31. Bd7 Be4

No Trades.

32. Rd2 Qf4 33. Re2 Rd6 34. Qe1

Perhaps 34.a5 could have been tried to disrupt the b6 Bishop.

34... f5 35. Be8 Bd4 36. a5 h4


White Resigns. The Black pieces have complete control of the board. Of the four center squares, Black pieces sit on two and the other two pieces control and influence all four. White's pieces are relegated to the board rims, with only White's Rook off of the edge, and only by one file. The Knight is banished to the corner on h1.

The two bishops, pinning pawns and pieces around the King, have visions of mating nets swimming in Black's dreams while causing horrific nightmares for White's King.

The continuation will be 37.Ba4 Be5 38.g3 Qf3 39.Rxe4 fxe4.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Redskins: Fassel Blames YOU! Yeah, YOU!

Jim Fassel knows why Daniel Snyder didn't hire him (this time). See, last time, back in 2004, The Danny jilted JimmyPooh for The Legend, Joe Jackson Gibbs. I mean, who wouldn't? Why date Plain Jane (er, Jim) when The Belle of the Ball can be had? So, Jane Jim was left to be a wallflower failing working as the Ravens' offensive coordinator.

Four years later... The Danny promises to take JimmyPooh to the Prom. Except, the Clique decides JimmyPooh is so uncool. The Danny must be cool. The Clique forces The Danny to choose another, more popular date. At least that's what JimmyPooh and his tender fender feelings want us to believe. Dan Steinberg tells us what happened according to JimmyPooh and lists the Clique for us:

I believe Jim Fassel to be a great guy, and I think he probably got treated poorly over the past month, and I would have been fine with him as head coach, but just today the real culprits behind his non-hiring emerged. Their names? Mister Irrelevant, Unsilent Majority, Hogs Haven, and the Curly R. From Fassel's interview with the John Thompson Show this afternoon:

When I got the New York Giants job I remember telling my family that, 'You know, you cannot hold the lead in these jobs in major markets.' Because you've got bloggers, and they're saying, 'No, this isn't the right guy, and that ain't the right guy,' and you can't hold the lead, because you are going to take the hit. I mean, when you're the lead dog, you're going to take the hit. And I think the longer it went, the longer it went, the longer it went....

Man, you guys in the Clique are so mean. I bet you were texting each other and saying mean things about JimmyPooh that never made it to your blogs.


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Redskins: ZORN AGAIN!

Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato may have just hired the next Joe Gibbs for the Washington Redskins. Something about this hire/promotion simply smells right. The options after Spagnuolo rejected the job looked fairly bleak... Mooch, Fassel, Meeks. None of them had that "it" factor one looks for in a head coach. Spags had it but stayed away.

Zorn has it. He was an over achiever as the first QB of the expansion SeaHawks. He is, as is Joe Gibbs, a 'character' guy that looks for character in his players. Zorn is a leader that, after 19 years of coaching, knows how to follow. The guy knows offense, and his results with QBs speaks volumes as to his ability to coach and communicate his ideas.

I tell ya, I gotta feeling, a real good feeling about this coaching decision. Snyder may have made the best decision as an owner he has or ever will make.

From the Press Release:
Zorn began his NFL coaching career following nine years as a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator at Boise State, Utah State and the University of Minnesota. He joined the Seahawks in 1997 as an offensive assistant.

The next season he moved to the Detroit Lions as quarterbacks coach, where he was instrumental in the development of rookie quarterback Charlie Batch. In his rookie season, Batch's 88.3 passer rating ranks as the fourth-highest rookie mark in NFL history.

Holmgren brought Zorn to the Seahawks as quarterbacks coach in 2001, where he coached current Seahawk quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, Trent Dilfer and Brock Huard.

In 2002, Dilfer began the season as the starter, with Hasselbeck stepping in to complete the season. That year, Seattle's passing attack ranked third in the NFL and Hasselbeck finished the season ranked first in the NFC with a 63.7 completion percentage and second in the NFC with a 87.8 passer rating.

With Hasselbeck entrenched as Seattle's starter, Zorn has worked with Holmgren in implementing the team's offense while also continuing the development of the quarterback.

Hasselbeck, now a perennial Pro Bowler, continues to rank among the NFL's best quarterbacks. Similarly, the Seahawk's offense regular ranks among the NFL elite.