Albany beats Schenectady in annual match, 6-5

The match between the Albany and Schenectady chess club is one of the highlights of the Capital District chess calendar, and a good cross section of the Capital District chess community participates.  Since several strong players are members of both clubs, and it is common for “ringers” from Rensselaer County or Saratoga to play for one club or the other, winning the match does not confer significant bragging rights, and the match is usually a very friendly affair.

This year, the match was contested on Oct. 3 on 11 boards at a time limit of 90 minutes per player for the game. Albany ended a two-year drought by winning the match, 6-5.   

Last year, Schenectady was propelled to victory by sweeping the top four boards, 4-0. This year, Albany, scored 4-1 on the top five boards to secure the match win. Five of the six players who competed in the finals of the Schenectady championship participated in the match: two played for Albany (Mike Mockler and myself) while three played for Schenectady (Dave Finnerman, Carl Adamec, and Carlos Varela). Mockler, Finnerman and myself, as well as Cory Northrup, Bill Little, and Jon Leisner are members of both clubs.

The Board One match-up between Albany’s Dean Howard and Schenectady’s Peter Michelman was very even for 15 moves when Michelman made a very weak move, which permitted a winning attack.

The games on Board Two (Jeremy Berman – Carl Adamec) and Board Three (Gordon Magat – Jon Leisner) were described by Eastern New York Chess Association blogger Bill Little: “Careful play by both sides [led] to logical draws.”

On Board Four, Mockler and Schenectady Champion  played a complicated game, typical of their usual match-ups; this time won by Mockler.

I won an interesting game against John Phillips on Board Five (see below). On Board Six, Bill Little, playing Black, established equality fairly quickly, and the game was drawn.

On Board Seven, Bill Townsend (who also directed the match)  won a Rook for a Bishop, and held on to win against Glen Perry. On Board Eight, Zachary Calderon defeated Cory Northrup.

On Board Nine, Mike Laccetti, rated 1625, almost upset Carlos Varela, rated 1839; Laccetti was up a piece when his clock ran out and he forfeited. On Board Ten, a rapidly improving Tom Clark drew Schenectady President Richard Chu.

Finally, on Board 11, Albany President Arthur Alowitz defeated Joel Miranti, rated 500 points lower.  Last year, Schenectady’s large rating advantage on the lowest board gave the club a relatively easy point: This year,  Albany had the edge.  

Phillips – Henner

(Dutch Defense) 

1. d4 f5, 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 4. c4 d5 5. Nf3 Nbd7 (c6 is more common)  6. cd (0-0 is probably better)  ed 7. 0-0 Bd6 8.Nc3 c6 9. Qc2 Ne4 10. Nd2 Ndf6 11. f4? (The position had been pretty even — now Houdini says Black is up 0.3  because the Knight on e4 can not be dislodged) 0-0 12. Nf3 N:c3 13. bc Ne4 14. Ne5 Qc7 15. c4 Be6 16. c5 Be7. 

According to Houdini, White is now slightly better.  17. a4 I had been expecting Bd2, and considered offering a draw soon thereafter.  The advanced knights cancel each other, and I thought it would be difficult for either side to make any progress.  a4 may be OK, but I thought I had some play now.

Qa5 18. Rb1 Rab8 19. Rd1 Houdini says White still is up .2, but the fireworks are about to begin. I had been threatening to play Qd2 or Qc3, and try to infiltrate White’s position. Both John and I thought Black had an initiative, and John thought a long time before playing Rd1.

After the game, he wondered if there were any good moves for White here.  While he was thinking, I analyzed my reply, and concluded that Rd1 loses for White – as it turns out I was wrong. I thought for about ten minutes and played Nc3, and after 20. Bd2, I immediately responded with N:e2+. 

Now Houdini says that White is up 1.7! After 21. Kf2 N:d4 White is down two pawns, but both John and I had missed  22. Qa2 Q:c5 23 Bb4,where White regains material and keeps the advantage. But after 22. B:a5 N:c2 23. Nd3 (I had expected Bc7, which may be a little stronger) Bd8 (23..Na3 was significantly better, because 23 ..Bd8 permits White to minimize the damage with 24. B:d8).  24. Bc3 d4  Black is up two pawns and has a positional advantage – Houdini says Black is up 2.1).

25. Bd2 Bf6 26 Ba5? Ne3 27. Re1 Bd5 (Bc4 was stronger) 28. B:d5 N:d5 29. Re6 Kf7 30. Rd6 Rfe8 31. Nb4? (this is a very bad move – but it creates a lot of complications and we both had less than ten minutes to play. The correct response, which puts the game away is Nc3. I suspected as much during the game, but didn’t have the time to calculate everything, so I played the safe Be7 32. Rd7 Ke6, and after one last desperate try:  33. N:c6 K:d7 34. N:b8 R:b8 35. Rb5 Kc6, White resigned. 

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