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MACA Chess Horizons Magazine Article
 BCC Championship 2015 The Road to Victory
 FM Mika Brattain
  May 2016

The Boylston Chess Club Championship is a nine-round Round Robin contested by ten of the club's strongest players. I really enjoyed the level of competition in the 2014 BCC Championship and was looking forward to playing in the 2015 edition. After drawing my opening round, I immediately faced several of my nearest rivals whom I needed to beat in order to make a run for the top of the standings. My first challenge was winning a narrow endgame against Lawyer Times:  

FM Mika Brattain (2435)
NM Lawyer Times (2303)
BCC Club Championship (3)
King’s Indian Defence (A48)
1. d4 Nf6 2. Bg5 g6
Not a very common response. 2... Ne4, 2... d5, 2... e6, and 2... c5 are the main lines.
3. Nd2
Usually White takes the opportunity to play 3. Bxf6 exf6 4. e3 with chances for a small advantage. I chose a more flexible option.
3... Bg7 4. Ngf3 h6 5. Bh4 g5
I think hunting down the bishop this early is a little premature, but there is no clear refutation.
6. Bg3 Nh5 7. e3
7. Be5!? f6 8. Bg3 is interesting. Black's lightsquare weaknesses on the kingside could be worth the two tempi spent provoking ... f6.

7... Nxg3 8. hxg3 d6 9. Bc4 e6 10. c3 a6 11. Qe2 Nd7 12. Bb3?!
This move is prophylactic but slightly inaccurate. 12. O-O-O² is superior.
12... b6 13. O-O-O Bb7 14. Ne1 Qe7
Black is ready to castle queenside with equality. If White had kept the bishop on c4, Black would need to play ...b5 before castling, which would be rather weakening.

15. Bc2!
Keeping the black king in the center as long as possible

15... c5
If 15... O-O-O, 16. Bd3 is a little uncomfortable for Black.
16. dxc5 bxc5 17. Nc4
17. e4 and 17. f4!? are other tries for the initiative.

17... d5 18. Na5 Bc8?!
Black doesn't need to preserve the bishop and 18... Nb6 and 18... Rb8 are better alternatives.
19. e4!
White has the initiative.
19... d4 20. cxd4
20. Kb1! is a very accurate continuation. If 20... dxc3? (20... e5 21. cxd4 cxd4 22. Nd3±) 21. Nc6 Qf6 (21... Qf8 22. e5) 22. Rxd7!! Bxd7 23. e5 traps the queen.

20... cxd4 21. Qc4 Qd6 22. Qc6 Qb8 23. Rd3 O-O 24. Rb3 Qa7 25. Nd3
White looks very active, but over the next few moves Black will be able to untangle with strong defensive play.
26... Rb8 26. Kb1 Rb6 27. Rxb6 Nxb6 28. Bb3!?
White is angling for an endgame. 28. Qc5 Bd7 29. Nc4 Rb8 and Black escapes the pressure.
28... Bd7 29. Qb7 Qxb7 30. Nxb7 Bb5
30... Bc6 31. Nbc5 a5 32. Rc1 Rc8 33. f3 and the computer thinks Black is doing well, but I prefer White’s queenside pressure and the blockade of the d4-pawn.
31. Nbc5 Rc8
My opponent offered a draw with this move. The position is relatively even, although I still saw some chance in a potential queenside passed pawn. The position of the kings is also in White's favor: White's is much closer to the action.
32. Rc1 Bf8?!
Now White can force favorable simplifications. 32... a5 33. a4 Be8 34. Bd1 33. a4! Bxd3+ 34. Nxd3 Rxc1+ 35. Kxc1 Nd7 35... a5 36. Ne5! and the pawn on a5 is very hard to save.

36. Bc4 a5
Black is one move away from playing ...Nc5 and completely locking down the queenside with a dark square blockade. I took my one chance at creating a passed pawn with a temporary sacrifice.
37. b4! axb4 38. a5 Nc5 39. a6 Nxd3+ 40. Bxd3 Bc5 41. Kb2 Kf8 42. Kb3 Ke7 43. Kc4 Ba7 44. e5!
This was absolutely the only way to keep the game alive. Black's f7 and e6 pawns are fixed on light squares, and the d4 pawn is artifically isolated. 44. Kxb4 e5 and there is no way to crack the Black position.

44... Kd7 45. Kxb4 Kc6 46. f4 Kd5??
Black makes a decisive mistake. Something like 46... Bc5+ 47. Kc4 Ba7 is drawn but White can play 48. Be2 with the annoying threat of Bh5. Black would still need to play very accurately.
47. Kb5‡
Black's entire army is in zugswang. The king is stalemated, and the bishop has no safe squares. Black can only move his kingside pawns.
47... h5 48. Bc2??
White naturally tries to force Black to expend all the kingside pawn moves. 48. fxg5 Kxe5 49. Kc6+- is completely winning, however, and this move is not.
48... h4??
48... d3! is the reason Bc2 is wrong. The computer gives 49. Bxd3 gxf4 50. gxf4 h4 51. Bc2 Kd4 52. Kc6 Ke3 53. f5 h3! 54. gxh3 exf5 55. Bxf5 Kf4 56. Kb7 Bf2 57. e6 fxe6 58. Bxe6 Kg5= and White will be left with a bishop and "wrong rook pawn."
49. gxh4 White is winning again.
49... gxf4
49... gxh4 50. Bd3 $1 and the same zugswang from move 47 appears again, only this time Black has no options at all.
50. h5 Kxe5 51. h6 Kf6 52. Bd3!
A very picturesque situation. Black is actually up a pawn, but is completely paralyzed and can only watch as White plays Kc6-b7 winning the game. 
52... e5 53. Kc6 e4 54. Bxe4 d3 55. Bxd3 Bd4 56. Kb7 Kg5 57. h7

After the encouraging win against Times, I had Black against Charles Riordan - my biggest threat this tournament. At the time this game was played, he had a perfect score and was leading me by a half point. I figured this was my chance to seize control of the event. As it turned out, we both would score 7/8 against the rest of the field, making this the game that decided the championship:
FM Charles Riordan (2342)
FM Mika Brattain (2435)
BCC Club Championship (4)
Catalan (E04)  
1. c4 e6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. Nf3 Nc6!? Black steers the game into a Catalan.
5. d4
5. O-O d4 is pretty comfortable for Black. 5... dxc4 6. Qa4 Bb4+ 7. Bd2 Bd6!?
I like this sideline 7... Nd5 is the solid main line, but it is not particularly exciting for Black.
8. Qxc4?!
The only try for an advantage is 8. Na3.
8... O-O 9. O-O e5=
Black is already very comfortable.
10. dxe5 Nxe5 11. Nxe5 Bxe5 12. Bc3 Qe7 13. Bxe5
13. Bb4 Qe6=
13... Qxe5 14. Nc3 c6 15. Rfd1 Qe7 16. Qh4 Be6 17. Rd2
Both sides have nothing better to do than contest the d-file. 17. Ne4 Rad8
17... Rad8 18. Rad1 Rxd2 19. Rxd2 Rd8 20. Rxd8+ Qxd8 21. Bh3 Bxh3 22. Qxh3 g6 23. Qh4 Kg7 24. Qf4
White offered a draw here. Even though the position is completely equal and very simplified, I decided there was still enough play left due to the asymmetrical pawn structure.
24... Qe7 25. g4
There is objectively nothing wrong with this move, but in the end White's kingside proved to be a decisive weakness, so g4 needs to be reconsidered.
25... h6 26. h3
26. h4 Nh7 leaves White a little overextended.
26... b6 27. Kg2 Qe6 28. a3 c5 29. Qa4?!
White's king is a little drafty and Black can look to create threats.
29... h5!?
White faces a difficult decision on the last move before time control.
30. f3?
30. gxh5 was the only move, but it is extremely counterintuitive to expose the White king and leave the h3-pawn isolated.
30... h4!µ
White's king is suddenly very unsafe. For the rest of the game, White needs to worry about a Black queen landing on g3 with decisive effect.
31. Qd1
31. Qxa7 Qd6-+ and after playing ...Qg3+ and ...Qxh3, the advanced pawn on h4 will decide the game.
31... Qe5 32. Qe1 g5 33. e3 Nd5 34. Nxd5 Qxd5 35. Qc3+ f6
The f6-g5-h4 pawn clamp is very menacing in an otherwise equal queen ending.
36. Kf2?
36. Qc1 might hold. 36... Qe5 37. f4 at least keeps the black queen away from g3.

36... Qd6-+
The black queen infiltrates White's kingside and suddenly the game is all over.
37. Qb3 Qg3+ 38. Ke2 Qxh3 39. Qe6 Qh2+ 40. Kd3 Qc7 41. f4 Qf7
After stringing together several wins in a row, I was in the lead and feeling good. The only problem was that many of my games were extremely technical and I was getting home too late. The tactical flair of the next game was a nice change of pace:
FM Mika Brattain (2435)
Soren Pedersen (2036)
BCC Club Championship (4)
Caro-Kann (B10)
1. e4 c6 2. c4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. cxd5 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nxd5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Bb5 a6? 7... e6 is the best move. Black shouldn't encourage White to play Bxc6--White often plays it unprovoked in the main line. 8. Bxc6+ bxc6 9. O-O e6 10. d4 Be7 10... f6 is the computer's horrifying #1 suggestion; this already shows that Black is in a difficult situation.
11. Ne5! Qc7
11... Bb7 12. Qg4!± and Black is in trouble. 12... O-O 13. Bh6 Bf6 14. Ne4 is very dangerous.

12. Nxd5 cxd5 13. Bf4
White is making threats with every developing move.
13... Qb7 14. Rc1 Qxb2??
Black cannot get away with pawn grabbing so far behind in development. 14... O-O had to be played. Here I intended the dangerous rook-lift 15. Rc3! when Black still cannot play Qxb2? due to 16. Rg3 with decisive threats.
15. Rc7!+-
White is already +5 according to the computer. Black has no way to castle; the bishop is hanging on e7 and if it moves, the f7-pawn falls.
15... Bd6
Black has to try this, but it fails tactically. 16. Rxf7! Bxe5 17. Qh5!
And White has constructed a mating attack!
17... g6
17... Bxf4 and White actually has mate in four: 18. Rxg7+! (18. Rb7+?? g6) 18... Kd8 19. Qh4+ $1 Bg5 20. Qxg5+ Ke8 21. Qe7#
17... Qxd4 18. Rxg7+ Kd8 19. Qh4+ Bf6 20. Bc7+ Ke8 21. Qh5+ Kf8 22. Qf7# 18. Qxe5 Kxf7 19. Qxh8 h5 20. Rc1
White has three attackers surrounding Black's king who has zero defenders. After this victory I finished the tournament off scoring 8/9, which proved to be enough to win clear first by a full point. I am very grateful to the Boylston Chess Club for giving me the opportunity to play several good games against local experts and masters, and I am proud to be the 2015 BCC Champion!

About the Author

The young Mika Brattain has been a dominating force in Massachusetts chess for some years now. In addition to his second consecutive BCF championship (he shared the 2014 title with FM Chris Chase), he also took a stunning clear first at the 2014 Mass Open, upsetting several titled players.

In the scholastic ranks, he holds Spiegel Cup titles in 2006 (8 & Under), 2007 (8 & Under), 2009 (11 & Under), 2012 (14 & Under), High School Champion for the past four years running, and a 2 nd place at the National 8 th Grade Championship which earned him his first of two Chess Horizons covers to date.

Brattain now heads off to Ohio State University, where he plans to study engineering. 

Photo Credit: Tony Cortizas