Lessons From a Tournament Chess Game

By Jonathan Whitcomb, a chess tutor in Utah

UCER Ratings in Utah

Certain chess clubs in the Salt Lake Valley have their games rated using the UCER system (Utah Chess Estimated Rating), which is similar to the national rating program used by the United States Chess Federation. UCER does not require membership in anything and is free, and it’s based mostly upon informal games played in chess clubs.

Senior Center Tournament Game in Utah

The following game I played on June 14th against Grant Hodson, the tournament leader in the Harman Chess Club Championship (2017) in West Valley, Utah. If Grant and I both do well in the remaining few games of this double round robin, I’ll win second place, but may get as close as half a point below him when the tournament is over.

White: Jonathan D. Whitcomb (previous UCER rating=1808)

Black: Grant Hodson (previous UCER rating=1944), expected first-place winner

1) d4      Nf6

2) Nf3    c5

3) d5      e6

4) Nc3   . . .  White moving c4 instead—that would be a standard Benoni opening

4) . . .      exd5

5) Nxd5  b6?  The first mistake of the game, allowing White to get a solid advantage

chess game Whitcomb versus Hodson in Utah in June of 2017

White should now play Bf4, aiming at Black’s vulnerable c7 square

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6) Bg5    . . .

Bf4 would have been more to the point, for Black has weak squares, c7 and d6, which can be exploited by White.

6) . . .     Be7

7) Nxe7   . . .   I chose to gain a slight advantage with two bishops

7) . . .     Qxe7

8) e3       h6

9) Bf4     d5

10) Be2   O-O

11) O-O   Bb2

12) C4(?)   . . .  Better would have been c3 or h3

Black should now move Rd8

Black’s best move here is probably Rd8

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12) . . . Re8

13) h3    d4

This is part of the point of Black’s previous move Re8, for the white pawn at e3 is now pinned, for the bishop at e2 would be lost if White now moved 14) exd4.

In my chess lessons I give to students in central Utah, I often mention tactical situations on the chess board. In this position, at this stage of this game, Black was probably thinking of the potential influence his doubled queen and rook may on the half-open e-file.

14) Re1     dxe3

15) Bxe3   Nc6

16) a3       Rad8

17) Qc2   . . . .    probably not best, as it allows Black to move Nd4

17) . . . .   Ne5  better was Nd4, but now Black’s slight advantage evaporates

18) Nxe5   Qxe5

19) Bd3     Ne4

20) f3        Nf6

21) Bf2   . . . .   now White has a slight advantage because of the two bishops

21) . . . .     Qf4

22) Rxe8+  Rxe8

23) Re1       Rxe1+

24) Bxe1      Qe5

25) Qe2    . . . .

I saw the possibility of winning after the exchange of queens, for my two bishops might win one of Blacks queen-side pawns.

25) . . . .     Qd6

26) Bc3      Kf8   White could otherwise break up Black’s king-side pawns with Bxf6

27) Bc2   . . . .      preparing for Qe5

27) . . . .      Nh5?

This mistake allows White to force the exchange of queens and to possibly win a pawn on the queen-side. That knight became obviously misplaced on the edge of the board, and my opponent and I afterwards agreed that this may have been a big factor in the outcome of this game.

28) Qe5!     Qxe5

Actually, Black does not have to capture the queen, for the bishop on c2 is undefended. Black may play Qe6, and if White captures the knight then Black moves Qe3+, getting a perpetual-move-draw or winning that bishop. My opponent may not have seen that.

29) Bxe5      Ke7

White to move

An instructive chess end game — White to move: either Bb8 or Kf2 are good

30) Kf2       . . . .

This was a difficult choice. Winning a pawn with Bb8 looks good for White, on the surface, but Black has two ways to trap that bishop, at least temporarily, and the white king needs to move towards the center of the board without too much delay.

30) . . . .      a6    trying to prevent the loss of a pawn

31) b4         f6?   Black is corralling in his own horse, trapping his knight

32) Bc7      cxb4

33) axb4    b5?  White may now simply win the knight with Bg6

34) c5 (?)   . . . .

This appears to win the game, in the long run, but Bg6 would have been quicker.

34) . . . .     g5   my opponent noticed that his knight was in a corral

35) Ke3      Ng7

36) Be4     . . . .

I wanted to bring my king into the center. The exchange of light-squared bishops appeared to me to be the best way forward.

36) . . . .     Bc8

37) Bd6+  . . . .

My bishop will eventually need to make way for the pawn advance. I thought it might as well do that now, giving a check that delays allowing his knight to move to e6.

37) . . . .    Ke6  the e6 square is probably best reserved for the knight

38) g4       f5

39) Bd3  . . . .  probably a mistake, allowing the black king to get to d5

39) . . . .    f4+ probably a mistake by my opponent (Kd5 would have been better)

40) Kd4  . . . .   now the white king has the center

40) . . . .    Bb7  apparently the best move under the circumstances, but it’s too late

41) Be4      Bc8?  Black could have survived longer after Bxe4

42) Bf8    . . . .   not the best but a simple road to victory

42) . . . .    Kf7?  Black should have moved Ne8 but now White wins easily

43) Bxg7    Kxg7  the black king is now too far away for White’s passed pawn

44) Ke5    . . . .    quicker would have been c6 and then Bf5

44) . . . .   Kf7

45) Kd6    Be6

46) c6    . . . .   now nothing can stop c7 and Bf5

46) . . . .    h5

47) c7       hxg4

48) hxg4   . . . .

I had plenty of time on my clock and more than my opponent had, so I chose the easy way.

48) . . . .     Bc8

49) Bf5      Bb7

50) c8(Q)  Bxc8

51) Bxc8    Black resigns

With one game left in the tournament, for Grant Hodson, it looks like he’ll probably finish with only one loss, the above game. The best that I can reasonably hope for is to finish in second place, half a point behind him.

I missed a number of best-moves in this chess end game, but so did my opponent.

Chess Instruction in Central Utah

I teach chess lessons in the Salt Lake Valley. The first getting-acquainted session is free. If you choose to continue with regular lessons, the cost is only $25 per hour-long lesson.

Jonathan Whitcomb (author of Beat That Kid in Chess)

5347 South New Hampton Drive

(Chestnut Place condominiums, 925 west)

Murray, Utah 84123

801-590-9692

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Chess lessons in Utah

My own philosophy for chess education includes the tutor giving the student opportunities to come up with his or her own ideas. With that said, when you have a chess lesson with me, you’ll most likely find that most of the ideas about how you can improve will come from me, at least in the early stages.

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Chess Tutor in Utah

Why can private chess lessons help improve playing skill faster than other ways of progressing in chess abilities? At least in the instructional sessions you will have with me, each lesson will be tailor-made for the student.

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Chess teacher in Salt Lake area

The chess-book author Jonathan Whitcomb, of Murray, Utah, now offers his expertise in chess instruction to residents of the Salt Lake Valley, especially the central communities closer to Murray.

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Learn chess in Utah

Face-to-face chess instruction from an experienced chess tutor—that’s the fastest way to learn the royal game and learn to win chess games. For more information, please call me at 801-590-9692. I live in Murray, Utah.

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