26 February 2018


This past weekend was the 26th annual Collyer Memorial chess tournament. I have played most years, and have had my best and worst tournament results in this event. Twenty years ago, after my first date with my wife on the eve of the tournament, I lost every game and finished in last place. Round five in 1998 remains my only standard rated tournament loss to a player rated below 1200. In 2012, I won all four games--I have been taking a third round bye in every weekend tournament for the past ten years or so--and finished in second place.

Many years, the Collyer has been the tournament that gives me my greatest rating increase, but my terrible performance two years ago gave me my largest ever single event rating drop--70 points. This year, I won three and lost one, but all of my opponents were rated lower then me. My rating change was -1. I tied with four others for second place in A Class. The A Class winner is a former student who has surpassed me in the past two years.

On Saturday, I played well in the first game but was unfocused in round two and failed to thoroughly assess the consequences of my opponent's plan. He ended up with a clearly winning ending, which he played successfully. I played better on Sunday. The most complex position tactically occurred in round five against Loyd Willaford, who nearly always gives me a tough game, but now stands at seven losses and a draw against me in standard rated play. You might say that I've been lucky.

The critical position arose after Willaford's 17.Bf4

Black to move

Willaford,Loyd (1658) - Stripes,James (1833) [D05]
Collyer Memorial Spokane Valley (5), 25.02.2018

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 d5 5.Bd3 Bd6

Perhaps the bishop does not belong on this square. The combination of this move and 8...b6 gave my opponent chances that I should not have facilitated.

6.0–0 0–0 7.Re1 Nbd7 8.Nbd2 b6

This move brought me some difficulties.

9.e4 dxe4 10.Nxe4 Be7

I considered and rejected 10...Nxe4 11.Bxe4 Rb8, but my database tells me the line has been played in three master games with an even score.

11.dxc5 Nxc5 12.Nxc5 Bxc5 13.Bg5 

Black to move


13...Bb7 appears in the database. My move does not.

14.Be3 Qc7 15.Nd4 Bb7 16.Qd2 

I started trying to calculate the tactical and positional possibilities thoroughly during the five minutes I spent on this position and the twelve minutes spent on the next.

16...Ng4 17.Bf4

see diagram above the game score


I think my move is best.

17...e5 is a nice fork, but after 18.Bg3, Black must see that the knight is safe due to the pin. With the knight on g4 without protection, is it wise to offer White an unprotected pawn to gang up on?


During my thinking, I considered the main line to be 18.Nb5 Bxf4 19.Nxc7 Bxd2 20.Re2 Rac8 21.Nb5 and then my bishop must retreat to f4 or g5. I was not sure I liked my position, and only during the post-mortum discovered that I would have been ahead a piece in this line.

18.Bxd6 Qxd6 19.g3 gave me some concern because of the threatened discovery on my queen.

I also looked at the moves that followed in the game all the way to the end, as well as some unplayed variations.

18...fxe6 19.Bxd6 Rxf2

White to move


I was satisfied that 20.Bxc7 Rxd2 was better for me because I overlooked 21.Bf1. My engine says the position is equal.

After the game, Loyd and I examined 20.Re2 and White came out better in the lines we considered. This was a line I did not foresee during the game.


This zwischenzug was the key to making 18...fxe6 work.

White to move

21.Qg3 Qc5+ 22.Kh1

22.Kf1 looks bad, but was better. 22...Rf8+ 23.Ke2. I did not calculate further because it appeared that the lines would be forcing enough and I should not be worse due to the vulnerability of White's king.

22...Nf2+ 23.Kg1 Nxd3+ 24.Kh1

I thought 24.Re3 was better, where I thought I would play 24...Nxb2.

24...Nxe1 25.Rxe1 Rf8 0–1

Loyd Willaford's graceful resignation a piece down ended this game within the limits of a miniature.