Anything but Slight

You probably expect that I’m moralizing and self-righteous in real life, judging from the amount I go to the “civilization depends upon us being nice to one another” motif. Sandy Koufax had his four-seamer and I guess have my go-to pitch as well. I wasn’t planning on broaching this subject again, until something odd happened to me in the fourth round of a club tournament. My opponent and I were undefeated and I congratulated the young man, “Nice job on winning three in a row.” ¬†Without missing a beat he deadpanned, “I’m about to make it four.” I haven’t been so taken aback by six simple words since, “Ahh, honey I’m late this month.”

So, now the game in front of us took on a different dimension. We play chess in a Jewish Temple, nice folks let out some space for us every Tueday. The divide that rose up was rawer and more expansive than old Moses’ Red Sea. Showdown in the Synagogue, The Beth Messiah Brouhaha, The Rabbi’s Rumble – I don’t know what you’d call it, but all I know is, shades of Rocky V, “My Yeshiva is in the street!”

I have been dismissed by few people as coldly as by that nine year old. Still, if he wanted to win he was going to have to go through me. You don’t talk back to Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, you don’t dance with the devil, and you don’t tug on Superman’s cape.That “S” on my chest may stand for “slow-mo” most of the time, but tonight his words left my ego a pus-filled wound. I became very motivated. I stood there in the brackishness of it all and I felt as Gaius Muzio Scaevola must have, his hand over the brazier.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. cxd5 {I’ve been messing up this move order for
as long as I remember. Making the exchange early denies white the b1-h7
diagonal. He should get a piece on it before black. If black wants to seize it
white ought to make him spend time on g6 first.} exd5 5. Bg5 c6 (5… Bf5 {
This is the reason why the other move order, with an early Qd2, is better.
Black doesn’t have any problems, except of course f-pawns that can become
isolated and doubled.}) 6. Qc2 g6 7. e3 Bf5 8. Bd3 Bxd3 9. Qxd3 Bg7 {The light
squared bishop wasn’t that important. The Indian Formation makes it less
useful. White must take care to keep black’s bishop looked up at all costs. C5
from black needs to be calculated out every time white moves.} 10. b4 {
Beginning the minority attack. It’s a relief to not even have to prepare the
move with a3 or Rb1!} Qd6 11. Rb1 O-O 12. Nf3 Nbd7 {Black needs to get that
knight to c4} 13. O-O Rfe8 14. Bf4 Qe7 {Black sometimes sacrifices a knight in
these positions to pry open the king. This is usually after white plays f3 for
central space.} 15. Rfc1 Ne4 16. b5 Qa3 17. bxc6 bxc6 18. Nd2 Nxc3 19. Rxc3 Qe7
(19… Qxa2 {I wish!}) 20. Rb7 Qe6 21. Ra3 a6 22. Rc7 Reb8 23. Rxa6 Rxa6 24.
Qxa6 Rb2 25. Nf1 Bf8 26. Qxc6 Qxc6 27. Rxc6 Rxa2 28. Bd6 Bg7 29. Rc8+ Nf8 30.
Bxf8 Bxf8 31. h3 Kg7 32. Ng3 Ra1+ 33. Kh2 Bd6 34. Rd8 Bxg3+ 35. Kxg3 Ra5 {I
admit that I should not have gone to this endgame. Everything’s on the same
side and I shouldn’t have won.} 36. h4 Kf6 37. Kf4 Ke7 38. Rh8 h5 39. Ke5 f6+
40. Kf4 Ke6 41. Rg8 Kf7 42. Rd8 Ke6 43. Rc8 Ra2 44. Kf3 Ra6 45. g4 hxg4+ 46.
Kxg4 Ra2 47. Rc6+ Kf7 48. f3 Ra3 49. Rc7+ Ke8 50. Rg7 Rxe3 51. Rxg6 Rd3 52.
Rxf6 Rxd4+ 53. Rf4 Rd1 {I think my chances have improved. What is the king’s
role? How about the rook? Is it enough to keep black’s king out? There needs
to be some sort of finesse in order for the extra pawn to be conclusive. I
benefit from black’s inability to exchange down to a single pawn. If black’s
pawn were on the e,f,g or h files the road to a draw would be simple. Rook
endgames can sometimes be about qualitative factors rather than quantitative
ones (material).} 54. Kh5 (54. h5 {?} d4 {Black’s rook can harass the king
until he abandons the h-pawn.} 55. Kf5 {Avoiding the perpetual but losing time}
d3 56. Rh4 d2 57. h6 Rb1 58. h7 {Black to move and draw. Try this puzzle, but
be careful. White has some mate threats on the radar.}) 54… d4 55. Kg5 {The
only move. After Kh6? …Rh1 black gains time since white’s pawn defense is
obligatory. Black also gets his rook out of the way of his charging pawn.} (55.
Kh6) 55… d3 56. Re4+ Kf8 57. Kf6 {I’m hinking of mate threats from the side.
At least black will have to make a king move; I’m running low on time and this
is simple a spite check so I can get my bearings. Rf1 ends my night of chess.
It’s a dead draw.} Rf1 58. Rd4 Rxf3+ 59. Kg5 d2 60. Rxd2 {1/2/ 1/2} *



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