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Morris Dancing With Delight After Matson Win

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Ron Morris (left) taking on Dave Matson in the first round.
Ron Morris (left) taking on Dave Matson in the first round.
A new two section tournament (Open and Under 1500), the Spring Challenge, started Monday, April 14 at Arcadia Chess Club. After the usual late start that seems customary for our first rounds, the games got under way and, while most of the pre-tournament favorites avoided any upsets, a few were not so lucky.

Our new Club Champion, David Bassett (2209), was on top board and he took on Bill Kiplinger (1775) with the black pieces. By transposition, the opening was the Moscow Variation of the Sicilian, with black opting to recapture on d7 with his knight rather than queen. White got a good position out of the opening and was surely better, with his knight on c4, pawn on d5 and rook on e1 eyeing black's center and uncastled king. Although it might have been double edged, white allowed black to swap off his dark squared bishop for the knight on c3 which then won a pawn a move later. True, this removed a defender of black's kingside and, at first glance, after white recaptured on c3 with his bishop it looked like black might have trouble on the a1-h8 diagonal. However, white may have missed that black could push a pawn to e5, thus blunting white's bishop, and this pawn was to prove a thorn in white's side until the end of the game. White lifted his rook by playing a4, Ra3 and Rg3 but then dropped another pawn when black captured the c2 pawn with his bishop. Although the bishop was attacked move times than it was defended, white could not take it because he had back rank problems. In the end, Kiplinger tried a desperate rook sacrifice with Rxg7+?? which simply did not work. He probably had better moves but was in dire time trouble and had to move quickly. White resigned when, after the tactics had died down, he was simply down a rook and bishop.

On board 2, Matthew Hayes (2108) had white against Craig Loop (1768) and played the less common 2. f4!? against Loop's French Defense. White obtained good play out of the opening but should not have initiated a mass exchange of pieces on d4. Although the resulting position was still slightly better for white, it made black's task considerably easier and he came close to consolidating by forcing off the light squared bishops. Unfortunately, black was still at least one tempo away from getting his king to safety, so white's main trump was an advantage in time which he exploited by threatening to rip open the center with a pawn thrust to g4, threatening to then play f5 the next move. Black overreacted after white did get f5 in and, not liking the idea of the center being ripped open when his king was still on d8, he castled kingside but this led to a forced loss. White stuck a pawn on f6, hitting black's bishop on e7, and then swung his queen over to h3 where it threatened to go to h6 leading to unstoppable mate on g7. With his time starting to run low, Loop moved too quickly and played d4?? and, immediately realizing his mistake, resigned before Hayes played Qh6. Subsequently analysis showed that even if black had covered the g7 square by playing Kh8 and Rg8, white would have sacrificed his queen on h7 and followed it up with Rh3 mate.

Henry Castro (2069) was black on board 3 against Cory Chen (1764). Chen had just picked up a share of the "B" prize in the Mel Clark Club Championship and so was in good form going into the game. The opening was a Sicilian Rossolimo that white seemed to get a good position out of. He lifted his rook to b5 and had dangerous looking threats against black's kingside. Both bishops, a knight and his queen were all lurking with intent and white "won" a pawn with the cute Bxe6, uncovering an attack on black's bishop on b4. However, black won the pawn back quickly and from there it was all downhill for white. Black ripped open the f file by capturing the bishop on e6 and black then invaded with Re2! Supported by the other rook on f8 and queen, black's pieces were swarming all over white's kingside. Chen was able to hold things together for a while by making "only" moves but, when he unwisely pushed his h pawn forward, black was able to attack g2 more times than white could defend it. Chen resigned after black played Rxg2+ and seeing the writing on the wall.

The evening's first shock result came on board 4 as Ron Morris (1764) beat Dave Matson (2036) with the black pieces. The opening was a Philidor Defense that was quite double edged. Black won the exchange but his kingside pawn structure was suspect and his king uncastled for some time. However, objectively white did not have sufficient compensation, a situation made even worse a few moves later when he lost a rook for just two pawns. White did have a passed h pawn but it was nowhere near enough and it was surely just a matter of time before black rounded it up. To Matson's credit, he played on in a position that was lost for many moves and kept creating annoying threats. Morris wisely traded as many pieces as could until it was queen and rook vs queen. White kept trying to find ways to land a perpetual check but it never looked likely to happen with both black's queen and rook able to defend. Black also had a passed c pawn and it was this pawn that was to prove decisive as Morris' king, rook and queen guided it up the board. With 10:30pm almost upon us, Matson resigned one move before the pawn was going to queen.

The game on board 4 does bring up one point that needs to be made. A few minutes before 10:30pm, the Tournament Director intervened and asked the players to stop the clocks, write down the times and position, and for white to record a sealed move. This was not well received by some and the TD allowed the game to continue for another two minutes (in which time black won) but, in the future, this will not be up for debate. The chess club has to be out of the building by 10:30pm. It is not an option to continue later, even by a few minutes. This has been made very clear to us by the City and must take precedence over any unfinished games. If time is called on a game still in progress, players have three possibilities:

1. Continue the game that evening at another location (typically Denny's across the street);
2. Continue the game on another day/time as long as it is before the following Monday (i.e. Sunday night at the latest);
3. Agree on the result that night.

Getting back to the chess, aside from board 4 there were several other shock results. Johan Akesson (1712) had an excellent draw against Daniel Manahan (1979), a result matched by newcomer Malik Coleman (1708) who drew with Oscar Ortiz (1977). David Martin (1697), another newcomer to the club, also had a superb draw against Ryan Chen (1932). Finally, Bertram Buggs (1613) won in under 20 minutes against Phil Chase (1839) who had a horrible mishap in the opening.

The Spring Challenge continues Monday, April 21.