As previously mentioned, the summer of 1987 was the high point of my tactical performance in chess. The game recounted in that post qualified me for the Kentucky Closed State Championship.
The championship itself was a bit of a mess.
The state’s only active master had won the title five years running, I believe. But he wasn’t really so active any more – to the best of my knowledge he didn’t play rated chess between his ’86 title and this ’87 tourney, which was a round-robin with the master, four experts and a B player from the high school ranks. I wasn’t scheduled to play the master until the final round.
Rust kills: the master lost on time against Larry Foushee in the first round. Meanwhile I played badly and was fortunate to score two draws and a win (against the B player) on the first day. Larry’s family generously put me up for the night and after we got to his house, the phone rang and Larry was informed that the master had lost on time again (to Walter Alexander this time) in round three – and dropped out! That made a hash of the round robin pairings but there wasn’t any truly fair solution.
So with a full-point bye on the docket for the final round, I played my only good game of the tournament in round four on Sunday morning:
Foushee (2150) – Slater (2080)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.d5 b5 5.dxe6 fxe6 6.cxb5 d5 7.e3 Bd6 8.Nc3 Nbd7 9.Qb3 Qe7 10.Be2 0-0 11.0-0 Bb7 12.Rd1 Rae8 13.a4 Bb8 14.h3 Ne4 15.Bd2 Ng5 16.Be1 d4 [diagram]
Some day before I die I’d like to have a pair of bishops like these again.
White plays a passive defensive concept here that seems doomed. Fritz would know better but I always thought 17.Nxd4 was worth a try. Black’s big center would be destroyed and the White rook could lift via d4 to help protect the kingside. Then again, maybe 17.Nxd4 Nxh3+ wins immediately.
17.Nxg5 Qxg5 18.Bf1 Ne5 19.f4 Nf3+ 20.Kh1 Rxf4!
Now 21.exf4 Qxf4 22.g3 Nxe1+ is death, but the same concept is going to resurface in a few moments. 21.Ne2 Rf6 21…Nd2 was faster, since after taking on f2 Black will threaten to chop off the Bf1 which is guarding the g2 mating square.
22.Bf2 Rh6 23.Nf4 [diagram]
23…Bxf4 24.exf4 Rxh3+ 25.gxh3 Qxf4 26.Bg1 Ne1+
With no final-round game to play and my ride present, I went home. Later I got the news that Larry and Walter drew in the fifth round, which gave me the title at 4-1. I suppose there should be an asterisk in the books, but as my friend Jeff Hellmann advised, I’m not giving the trophy back…