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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 9, 2012

Henner beats Northrup, takes first place, next up is Howard for championship

The Albany Club Championship concluded last week with my defeating Cory Northrup, to finish first with a score of 6-2.

I will play second-place finisher Dean Howard in a two-game match to determine the championship, while Chris Caravaty and Arthur Alowitz will play a similar two-round match to determine the under-1800 champion. Despite the high number of upsets, the higher rated players nevertheless dominated the top of the standings, capturing the top four places.

However, the lower rated players achieved significant rating gains: Jason Denham, who finished last with 2-6 nevertheless gained 35 rating points, Cory Northrup who finished eighth with 2? gained 23 rating points. In contrast, Dean Howard lost 10 points and Gordon Magat lost 15, because their 5-3 scores were lower than expected.

Phillips leads in Schenectady

John Phillips, who is leading in the final of the Schenectady Championship, gave up a draw to a rapidly improving but still lower rated Zach Calderon. Phillips still leads with 3? - ? , and can win the championship if he wins his last-round game against Alan LeCours, who is 1-1 with three games left to play. Phil Sells is at 3-1.

Sells’s game against LeCours was an exciting encounter and, while not an error-free game, is representative of the best levels of club play in local championship tournaments. Until LeCours’s unfortunate blunder on move 23, neither side had a decisive advantage.

A. LeCours - P. Sells

Schenectady Finals 2012

1.Nf3 Nf6, 2.c4 e6, 3.Nc3 c5, 4.g3 Nc6, 5.Bg2 Be7, 6.0–0 0–0, 7.d4 cd

(This is a well-known variation of the English opening. 7... d5 is more common.)

8.N:d4 Qb6, 9.Nc2 Rd8

(White could have kept an edge with 9 Ndb5.)

10.b3 d5, 11.c:d5 exd5, 12.Na4 Qa6, 13.Re1 Be6

(After two or three weak moves, White is now decidedly worse. He should have developed his Bishop with Bb2 or Be3 and should not have placed his Knight on the a-file.)

14.Nd4 N:d4, 15.Q:d4 Rac8

(Now Black has a solid edge with control of an open file. White’s pieces are undeveloped and uncoordinated.)

16.Be3 b5, 17.Qd3 Ba3
(This is a blunder. Had Black played 17…d4, he would have been winning.)

18.Bd4 Ne4, 19.f3 Qa5
(Again, Black could have played 19…Nd6, with a winning game. Now, after the following exchanges, Black only has a slight edge, probably not enough to win.)

20.f:e4 dxe4, 21.B:e4 b:a4, 22.B:h7+ Kh8, 23. Be4 R:d4

(This is a blunder. 23.e3 would have held the game. White resigned because 24.Q:d4 loses the Queen after Bc5.)

Benko Gambit thematic tournament

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, the Albany Chess Club will host a thematic tournament involving the Benko Gambit. The tournament will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church on Route 20 in Guilderland, and all are invited.

All players will play four games, two games with White and two games with Black, at a time limit of game in 15.

All games will begin with the defining moves of the Benko Gambit: 1.d4 Nf6, 2.c4 c5, 3.d5 b5. If the gambit is accepted, play continues 4.cb a6, 5. ba.

Although White is a pawn ahead, Black has obtained significant compensation in the form of two open files, major pressure on the Queen side, and superior development, while White will find it difficult to get his king to castle to get his King to safety and to escape from a passive position.

Many leading Grandmasters recommend that players not accept the gambit pawn because of the disadvantages of the White position.

Pal Benk

The Benko Gambit was popularized by the Hungarian-American Grandmaster Pal Benko.

Benko, a Hungarian National Champion, defected to the United States at an international chess tournament in Iceland in 1958. Benko and Bobby Fischer represented the United States at the 1962 candidates tournament to determine a challenger to then-world champion Mikhail Botvinnik.

The tournament was won by Tigran Petrosian, followed by Paul Keres and Efim Geller, with Fischer finishing fourth. The tournament was a quadruple round-robin and all of the games between the top three Russians — Petrosian (who won the tournament and went on to defeat Botvinnik for the championship), Keres, and Geller — were drawn.

Fischer accused the Russians of cheating by colluding by agreeing to draws and throwing games to each other.

The five Russians in the tournament (the other two were Korchnoi and former world champion Tal) had more than sufficient resources for the tournament. In contrast, the two Americans had only one second (a Grandmaster assistant who helps with the analysis of adjourned games and opening preparation).

The second, Arthur Bisguier, was supposed to primarily assist Fischer since Fischer was considered the best American prospect, but also tried to help Benko. In one famous incident, Fischer refused to “permit” Bisguier to assist Benko, and Benko ultimately “slapped” Fischer.

Nevertheless, Benko and Fischer later became friends. In 1970, Fischer, who had refused to play in the qualifying tournament, was able to compete for the world championship only because Benko voluntarily gave up his position.

Fischer went on to win the inter-zonal tournament, sailed through the candidates’ matches, and defeated Boris Spatsky for the world championship in 1972.

—By Peter Henner

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