Winning the 19th USA CC Championship
After three years of work in the semis and the final, I managed to secure 1st place of the 19th USA CC Championship on June 30th, 2013. Below are some selected games I played in the event with detailed annotations, including notes on opening theory and tricks in the move order:
Edit: Currently in the process of condensing annotations into the new diagram format chess.com updated to. It will take me a few days to finish.
The 19th USA CCC Final Round
Morrow, Wolff (2296) versus Holroyd, Kenneth (2320)
"The Professional Draw"
Morrow, Wolff (2296) versus Siefring, Dr. Carl L. (2476)
"Meat & Potatoes Chess"
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.Qf3!?
After reviewing Dr. Siefring's game history, I found that he was a strict Najdorf player and quite a solid one at that. However, I also noticed he hadn't faced 8.Qf3. I rolled the dice that he might not know the proper antidote.
8...Be7 9.h3 Nc6?!
Sure enough, Carl was already in serious trouble after just a few moves. From my own personal experience, black can effectively void the potency of 8.Qf3 by playing Nbd7 followed immediately by Rc8. The threat of the exchange sac on c3 forces white to castle kingside, thus ruining the thematic kingside pawnstorm white normally gets to try. At any rate, Carl's last chance to make a game of it would have been 9...0-0 and then start marching the queenside pawns.
10.O-O-O Rc8 11.g4
White's kingside expansion is faster and more effective.
11...b5 12.g5 Nd7 13.h4 Na5 14.Nd5 Nc4 15.Kb1 O-O 16.Bxc4 Rxc4 17.Qg2 f5
You can't blame black for trying the only pawn break he had available. It was either that or 17... Bxd5 18. Rxd5 Nb6 19. Rd3 Na4 20. h5 Qc7 21. f3 Rc8 22. Rc1 Qd7 23. Rd5 Qe6 24. c3 Bd8 25. Rcd1 Bc7, though white is still in a dominant position.
18.f3 Bxd5 19.Rxd5 fxe4 20.fxe4 Nb6 21.Rd3 Na4 22.h5 Qc8
Note how impressive the e3-bishop is compared to black's a4-knight. I've got virtually no weaknesses and all the chips.
23.Na5 Rc7 24.Rdd1 Qe6?
The final nail in the coffin. It was absolutely imperative to extract the stabled a4-knight with 24...Nc5. Now the knight will be stuck on the rim until it's far too late.
25.g6 h6 26.Rhf1 Rfc8 27.c3 Bf6 28.Qf2 Qg4 29.Qf5 Qxf5 30.Rxf5 Rd7 31.Nb3 Bh4 32.Rd3 Rcc7 33.a3!
One of those quiet little improving moves that add salt to the fatal wound.
33...Bd8 34.Kc2 Rb7 35.Rd1 1-0
Carl gave me a lot of respect by resigning so early in the game, though he was in fact going to lose by force. The knight finally escapes, but the endgame is hopeless after 35... Nb6 36. Rdf1 Be7 37. Bxb6 Rxb6 38. Rf7 Rbb7 39. Rd1, when white's knight is infinitely more powerful than black's bishop thanks to the pawn structure. A winning idea from there is 39...Rbc7 40.Na5 Rc8 41.a4! Rdc7 (41...bxa4 42.Ra1) 42.axb5 axb5 43.Rd5 b4 44.c4 Rf8 45.Rxf8+ Kxf8 46.Kb3.
It's ironic that the most critical win for me in this tournament came as one of the more smooth-sailing efforts. Normally I have to keep countless pages of notes and exhaustively analyze dozens of branching lines in order to dial up an ICCF win, but this one was all meat-and-potatoes chess once black mishandled the opening. It's also the first time Dr. Siefring has lost an ICCF game in something like 5 years!
Ingersol, Harry (2406) versus Morrow, Wolff (2296)
"Slipping the Vise"
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6
My review of Ingersol's game history showed he always played the Anti-Moscow Gambit (6.Bh4), which is considered one of the premier hotbeds of theory on ICCF. This was a case where my attempt to prepare for him ended up backfiring. Now I was left with a variation I had no experience in playing.
Qxf6 7.e3 Nd7 8.Bd3 Bd6?!
Pure inexperience on my part. Standard theory is to take on c5 and then fianchetto kingside, but not having played the line before, I didn't have faith in it. The decision to disregard established theory was a very bad one, and came very close to being a lost game!
9.O-O Qe7 10.Qc2 O-O 11.c5 Bc7 12.e4!
Ingersol's play is brutally direct. By beating me to the e-pawn break, my light bishop will become entombed behind my pawn chain since I cannot make a freeing e-pawn break of my own. I'm in a completely passive position with a worthless light bishop, meanwhile Ingersol can make use of every piece with plenty of breathing room.
12...dxe4 13.Nxe4 Rd8 14.Rfe1 b6
The only play I have to try and dig myself out of the grave is on the queenside.
15.b4 Bb7 16.Rab1 a5 17.cxb6 Nxb6 18.Nc5 Bc8 19.bxa5 Rxa5 20.a4 Nd5 21.g3
Preventing ideas of Nf4 in the near future. It's interesting to note that while I managed to pry open the queenside, my pieces are still quite passive. The only trump I have is the strong Nd5 outpost.
21...Bd6 22.Ne5 Bxe5 23.Rxe5 Qc7 24.Bh7+ Kh8 25.Be4 Ra8 26.Bxd5 cxd5
White removes my strong knight, leaving me with a bad bishop versus his stronger knight! Also notice how white's isolated d-pawn is effectively acting at the same power of a complete pawn chain. I'm in serious danger of getting crushed off the board at this point. I had to come up with a plan that Ingersol wouldn't see coming...
27.Re3 Kg8 28.Qe2 Rd6 29.Reb3 Rc6 30.f4 Ba6 31.Qe5? Rxc5!
Bam! Ingersol plays a short-sighted move that overlooks the concept. In one fell swoop, I'll have removed white's dominant knight and d-pawn while freeing my own pawn chain for advancement. Now my bishop will become the dominant minor piece, fully compensating for the rook. White's a-pawn isn't going anywhere. I take extra pride in finding this move as not only do strong computer engines like Houdini miss it, but so did a strong CC player as well! The correct move for Ingersol would have been 31.Qe3, preventing the exchange sac.
32.dxc5 Qxc5+ 33.Qe3 Qc7 34.Qd4 Rc8 35.Re1 Kh7 36.Rbb1 Bc4
That bishop is a thing of beauty!
37.Rb4 Ra8 38.Reb1 Qc6 39.Ra1 Qc7 40.Rab1 Qc6 41.Qd2 f6 42.Qc2+ f5 43.h4 Rc8 44.Kh2 d4 1/2-1/2
Here I offered the draw in view of white eventually returning the exchange sac to balance out the game into a dead draw. I figured Ingersol would accept seeing as how his dominant position swung in totally the opposite direction to now on the defensive. All this over an exchange sac... You gotta watch out for those!
White, David V. (2268) versus Morrow, Wolff (2296)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6
My preferred defense as black against 1.e4. It's not as risky or as well explored as the Najdorf is on ICCF, making it fertile ground for creative ideas and new discoveries. This game would make use of a very recent development in theory, so recent in fact that this is only the 2nd game played in the line!
3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Bxf6 gxf6
As I mentioned in my notes in the Holroyd game, I don't like 9.Bxf6 for white. In the vast majority of the resulting middlegame positions, black's stronger hold on the center allows the isolated f-pawn to be used as a weapon rather than it being a weakness. That just so happens to ring true in this game as well.
10.Nd5 f5 11.Bd3 Be6 12.O-O
In my opinion, this is where the theory starts to go south for white, and why I believe 12.0-0 will eventually become mothballed on ICCF. The last chance to make black sweat is 12.c3 Bg7 13.Nxb5!, but even here black is doing fine after 13...axb5 14.Bxb5 Rc8 15.Qa4 Bd7.
12...Bxd5 13.exd5 Ne7 14.Nxb5
Taking the pawn here has come under scrutiny as being quite favorable for black. An alternative is 14.c3 Bg7 15.Nc2 e4 16.Be2 0-0 17.a4 bxa4 18.Rxa4 Qb6 19.Ra2, but this is something unrealistic in OTB play as black has more space and more active pieces to work with. In cc, it's had a couple of successes along with several draws. A prepared and solid cc analyst on the black side should hold without much difficulty.
14...Bg7 15.Nc3 e4 16.Bc4
The other alternative is 16.Be2 0-0 17.Qd2 Ng6, but the position is rather dry with no real chance to create problems for black.
16.Bc4 O-O 17.Qd2
Another try is 17.Qh5, which computers initially like. Unfortunately the move has performed in abysmal fashion after 17...Qc7 18.Bb3 Bxc3! 19.bxc3 f4. For example: 20.c4 a5 21.a4 Ng6 22.Kh1 Rae8 23.Qh3 Re5 24.Rae1 Rfe8 25.Re2 R8e7 26.Rfe1 Qc5 27.g3 f3 28.Re3 h5 29.Rb1 Rg5 30.Ba2 h4 31.g4 f6 32.Rb8+ Kg7 33.Rb1 Qd4 34.c5 Qxc5 35.Rg1 Qxc2 0-1 Balshaw (2311) - Morrow (2301), ICCF WS/MN/083.
17...Ng6 18.Bb3?! f4! 19.Nxe4? f5 20.Nc3 f3
This hot new novel refutation of 18.Bb3 was first played in Krüger (2379) - Svácek (2525), ICCF WC31/ct06. Sacrificing the e-pawn (black's 2nd pawn sacrifice) allows the doubled and isolated f-pawns to come crashing down into white's castled position like a freight train! White played sub-par defensive move: 21.Qe3? Ne5 22.Qf4 Qe8 23.g3 (23.Rfe1 Qh5 24.Qg3 fxg2 25.Ne2 Kh8! 26.Nf4 Qh6 27.Ne6 Rg8 -+; 23.Qh4 Rf6 24.Rfe1 fxg2 25.Qh3 Rh6 26.Qxf5 Ra7 -+) 23...Qh5 24.Qh4 Qxh4 25.gxh4 Rf6 and Svácek won the endgame rather easily.
The strongest resistance white can muster. It also takes some deep analysis to arrive at this conclusion, so I knew I would need to cover all reasonable tries by white in my own notes.
White knows the rooks have no future down the open e-file after 22.Rfe1 Ne5 23.Re4 Qd7 24.Qe1 Qh3 25.Qf1 Qh5 26.Rae1 Kh8! and black's attack is flat-out winning.
22...Qd7 23.Rg1 fxg3 24.Rxg3 Be5 25.Rag1 Bf4 26.Rxg6+
The other option is 26.Qd4 Bxg3 27.Rxg3 Rae8 28.h3 Re1+ 29.Kh2 Qf5 30.Rg4 h5 31.Rg3 Kf7! and black will force the winning endgame after 32.Bc4 h4 33.Rg4 Qe5+ 34.Qxe5 Nxe5 35.Rf4 Ke7 36.Rxf8 Kxf8 37.Bxa6 Rc1 38.Bd3 Nxd3 39.cxd3 Rc2, where black's rook will mop up the point.
26...hxg6 27.Rxg6+ Kh7!
Houdini misses this move, and perhaps White did as well, though it doesn't matter.
28.Qd3 Qf5 29.Rg1 Qxd3 30.cxd3 Rg8 31.Rxg8 Kxg8
The real start of the endgame.
32.Bd1 Rb8 33.Na4 Be5 34.b3 Rc8 35.Bxf3
It's amazing to consider that white has a whopping 4 pawns for the exchange! Alas, my rook proves absolutely devastating by once again playing the role of mop. The rest is flawless endgame technique.
35...Rc2 36.Kg2 Bd4 37.Kg3 Rxa2 38.Kf4 Ra3 39.Bd1 Ra1 40.Bh5 Kf8 41.Ke4 Bxf2 42.Nb2 Re1+ 43.Kf3 Rb1 44.Nc4 Bc5 45.Ke2 Rxb3 46.Bg4 Bb4 47.Bf5 Ke7 48.Kd1 Rc3! 0-1
And White resigned. The king is cut off from defending against the advancing a-pawn without having to cough up game-losing material in the process.
This game is by far my best win on ICCF, even though I've scored wins against much higher rated opponents. David played literally the best possible moves after accepting the e-pawn gambit, yet still lost. Clearly the gambit must be declined with something like 19.Kh1, but then black just plays f5 and the position looks rather crummy for white. It's probably drawable, but certainly not what white had in mind. Scratch 18.Bb3 from decent theory and shelve it.
Morrow, Wolff (2296) versus Rizzo, Robert (2378)
Aside from my win against Siefring, this game would become the most critically important of the event for me. With Rizzo being my last remaining game after going +5, I was pretty happy with my performance thus far. However, I began to get more and more nervous as I saw Siefring make an amazing series of wins to pull within even of my score. There was simply no choice but to keep fighting to the bitter end in this game!
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3
The English Attack is by far the most popular variation in the Sicilian Najdorf. That being said, I recently had a game where I was very unhappy after black played 6...Ng4 and easily navigated to a drawn endgame after I tried 7.Bg5. My conclusion now is that 6.f3 is the more accurate way to reach the English Attack if white wants to force it.
Statistically more risky than 6...e5 on ICCF.
7.f3 b5 8.a3!
Just like learning the hard way about 6.Be3 Ng4, I had played 8.Qd2 in a prior game where my opponent instantly took my winning chances away from me after 8...b4! I then spent several days looking at all the games played after 9.Na4 Nbd7 and came to the conclusion that white has absolutely nothing potent in this line. I tried my best, but to no avail: 10. Bc4 Ne5 11. Bb3 Rb8 12. O-O Bd7 13. Rfd1 Be7 14. a3 a5 15.axb4 axb4 16. Ne2 O-O 17. Nf4 Bb5 18. Nd3 Nxd3 19. cxd3 d5 20. Qf2 Ra8 21. Nb6 1/2-1/2 Morrow - Zemlyanov, ICCF WS/MN/083. Since then, I vowed NEVER to fall for that cheapo again. This is why 8.a3 deserves an exclamation point.
8...Bb7 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.g4 Nb6 11.Nb3!?
My research in the game archives revealed Nb3 was gaining fantastic results. I decided to test Robert with it instead of playing the more predictable 0-0-0.
A dubious, if not bad move that computers seem to initially think is a good try. It's a "horizon" effect where the long-term positional prospects white gets are not understood, and so the computer evaluates the open lane down the b-file as being adequate compensation for the weakened pawn structure and never being able to play a break in the center.
12.Bxc4 bxc4 13.Nd4 Be7 14.g5 Nd7 15.O-O-O Rb8 16.h4 Ba8 17.h5
I'm thematically rolling pawns up the kingside, meanwhile black is building up piece-play on my queenside. Already this means I've got better endgame prospects if black's attack ends up ineffectual.
17...Nc5 18.Nde2 O-O 19.h6 g6 20.Kb1
With the pawn storm on the kingside locked down, I needed to hightail my king to a1 and safely away from black's attacks down the b-file.
20...e5 21.Ka1 Qc7 22.Rb1 Rfc8 23.Rhd1 Qd7
It's hard to find anything useful for black in this position, and this all goes back to the dubious and committal 11...Nc4. I've got his only means of attack stifled and his pawn structure is a mess. He's playing with a short chip stack at this point.
The point being if 24...exf4, then a series of discovered attacks gains white a material winning advantage after 25.Bxc5 Bxg5 26.Bxd6 Rb7 27.Qh2 Bf6 28.Bb4 Qe8 29.Qxf4.
Black accepts the temporary pawn sacrifice, but I'll regain the pawn and break through the center in the process.
25.Nfd5 Bd8 26.f4 Bxd5 27.Qxd5 Qe7 28.f5 Ba5 29.Qxd6 Qxd6 30.Rxd6 Bxc3 31.Bxc5 Bd2!
Well played on Rizzo's part. I was hoping for 31...Rxc5? when white will reach a much more favorable endgame after 32.bxc3 Rcc8 33.f6, which I had worked out several pages of branch analysis in order to secure a winning advantage. As it is, I was near devastated that I had somehow let a strong advantage slip into an easily drawn endgame. Rizzo also sensed this and made a draw offer. Had this been one of the earlier games to finish, I'd have accepted the offer without a 2nd thought. However, since this was my last game and my last hope to secure 1st place, I respectfully declined the draw offer and chose to play on. This by itself ended up being a championship decision!
32.Ba7 Rb7 33.Rxd2 c3 34.bxc3 Rxa7 35.Rb6 Rac7 36.Rbd6 Re8 37.Kb2 gxf5 38.exf5 e4 39.Re2 Kf8 40.Rxa6 e3 41.Rb6 Rc4 42.Rb3 Re5 43.f6 Re8 44.Rb4 Rc6 45.Rf4 Rb8+ 46.Ka2 Rxc3 47.a4 Rb6?
The game-losing mistake! Also not working is 47...Rc6? when 48.Rxe3 Rxc2+ 49.Ka3 Rcb2 50.Rff3 secures a winning endgame. 47...Re8 on the other hand, I felt was the best move as then Rc6 can be played while the e8 rook holds the e-pawn. For example: 47...Re8 48.a5 Rc6 49.Rf5 Rb8 50.Re5 Rxf6 51.R2xe3 Rxh6 and I honestly can't see white being able to win this with all four rooks still on the board.
48.a5 Re6 49.Rf5 Ke8 50.Rd5 Rc4
Going for the simplified endgame, but this also loses. It was at this point that I knew for 100% I had the game won.
51.Kb3 Rce4 52.Rd3 Rxf6 53.Rexe3 Rxe3 54.Rxe3+ Kd7 55.Kc4! 1-0
Now all tries lose for black:
55... Kc8 56. Kb5 [winning]
55... Kc7 56. Re7+ [winning]
55... Kc6 56. Rb3 Rf4+ 57. Kd3 Kc5 58. Ke3 Rf6 59. Rb6 Rf1 60. Ke4 [winning]
55... Rc6+ 56. Kb5 Rxc2 57. Rf3 Rb2+
58. Ka4 Ra2+ 59. Kb4 Ke6 60. Ra3 Rb2+ 61. Kc3 Rb8 62. a6 Kf5 63. a7 Ra8 64. Kd4
Kg5 65. Ke5 Kg6 66. Ra6+ Kg5 67. Kd5 Kh4 68. Ra4+ Kg3 69. Kc6 f5 70. Kb7 Re8
71. a8=Q Rxa8 72. Rxa8 [mate in 16]
55... Rxh6 56. Kb5 Rh1 57. a6 Kc7 58. Re7+ Kb8 59. Rb7+ Kc8 60. c4 Rb1+ 61. Kc6 Ra1
62. Rc7+ Kb8 63. c5 Rxa6+ 64. Kd7 Ra4 65. Rc8+ Ka7 66. c6 Rd4+ 67. Kc7 f5
68. Rd8 Rg4 69. Kd6 Rd4+ 70. Ke7 Rc4 71. Kd7 Kb6 72. Rb8+ Kc5 73. c7 Kd5
74. Rb5+ Ke4 75. Rb4 Rxb4 76. c8=Q [mate in 35]
After a couple weeks of contemplation, Rizzo graciously resigned and congratulated me on my 1st place finish. Thanks Robert!