Weekly chess column

The Seattle Sluggers have won their first US Chess League’s 2012 championship. The team defeated the Philadelphia Inventors in the final match by a score of 3-1. Their strength in this match turned out to be on the bottom boards. Seattle’s first board, Varuzhan Akobian, drew with Sergey Erenburg as did its second board, Georgi Orlov, with William Fisher. Joshua Sinanan and Roland Feng, who is in the sixth grade (!), turned in victories on the third and fourth boards.

 Here is the fine victory by Feng of the Sluggers against veteran Richard Costigan of the Inventors. It is a Slav defense in which Feng starts out with an early 3.cxd5. After this exchange, Costigan plays conservatively with 5… e6, shutting in his queen’s bishop. Thereafter, he runs into trouble as Feng builds a wall with minor pieces and pawns in the center. Feng’s position is not necessarily winning, but Costigan never finds a way to pull down that wall. He does, however, put up an obdurate defense. Nevertheless, Feng pursues his opponent like the “Hound of Heaven” and he gradually strips down the pieces and triumphs in a simple but very pretty bishop and pawn ending.

a) Playable, but passive. Alternatives include 6…Bf5 and 6…Ne4.


b) White now has a solid advantage thanks to his more active minor pieces.

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c) It is no good to play 15…c5? Here due to 16.Na4 c4 17.b3.

d) Of course 16…e5? allows 17.Nxd5, but 16…c5 may have been better. After 17.dxc5 Qxc5 (17…Bxc5 18.b4! gives Black no good place to move the bishop since the queen protects e3) 18.Ne4 Qb6 (18…dxe4 19.Rxc5 exd3 20.Qxd3 Bxc5 21.Qxd7 Bxe3+ 22.Kh1) 19.Nxd6 Nxd6 there is plenty of play in the position.

e) Now White has a clear advantage.

f) Understandably, Black tries to burst out of his cage, but now his pieces are so passive that the resulting complications only help White.


g) Forced due to the pin, but now White owns the dark squares while the d5 pawn is a juicy target.

h) And now the a-pawn is a target! As is so typical in these positions, the winning strategy for White is to shift his attack from side to side until something cracks.

i)  White has simplified down to an easily winning endgame. Note in particular that 35…Bxa2 lets White trap the bishop with 36.b3.

j) Or 39…Kg5 40.Ke5 etc.

k) It’s all over after 40…Kh3 (40…Kg5 41.Ke5) 41.d6 etc.

Feng (Seattle) vs. Costigan (Philadelphia)

US Chess League Final, 2012

Exchange Slav



Feng Costigan

Feng Costigan

White Black

White Black

1.d4 d5

21.fxe5 fxe5

2.c4 c6

22.Rxf8+ Kxf8

3.cxd5 cxd5

23.Bg3! Bxc5 (g)

4.Nf3 Nf6

24.Rxc5 e4

5.Nc3 Nc6

25.Bc2 Be6

6.Bf4 e6 (a)

26.Bb3 Rd8

7.e3 Bd6

27.Qf1+ Kg8

8.Bg3 0-0

28.Be5 Qf7

9.Bd3 a6

29.Qxf7+ Bxf7

10.Ne5!? Qc7?!

30.Ra5 (h) Rc8

11.f4! (b) g6

31.Kf2 Rc6

12.Bh4 Ne8

32.Rxd5! Rc2+

13.0-0 f6

33.Bxc2 Bxd5

14.Nxc6 bxc6

34.Bxg7! Kxg7

15.Rc1 Bd7 (c)

35.Ke3 (i) Kf6

16.Qe2 Qa7?! (d)

36.b3 Kf5

17.Na4! Ng7

37.Bxe4+! Bxe4

18.Nc5 Bc8

38.g4+ Kxg4

19.e4 (e) e5 (f)

39.Kxe4 h5 (j)

20.exd5 cxd5

40.d5 (k) 1-0