Saturday, October 24, 2009

Game of the Week

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Illinois, Oct. 20, 2009

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 Nf6 4.Nc3?
Playing the Queen's Gambit all the time as I do, I should have remembered that the book move was 4.e5.

4...e5 would have been more forceful.

Too late now, as 4...e6 gave black's knight an outpost.

5...Nd5 6.a3
I was trying to forestall ...Bb4, but 6.Bxc4!? Bb4 7.Nge2 would have been more assertive.

6...Nxc3 7.bxc3 Bd7 8.Bxc4 c5 9.f4 b5 10.Be2 Bc6 11.Nf3 Nd7 12.0-0 c4

In my lust for space on the kingside, I'm missing a golden opportunity: 13.a4! would have been a timely ram. 13...Qa5 14.axb5, and black has to capture the pawn (14...Qxb5) to prevent a cascade failure.

13...Nb6 14.f5 Qd5 15.fxe6 fxe6
Now I realize I've gotten myself into a pickle. My plan was to create a weak pawn on e6 and attack it with 16.Ng5. But after 14...Qd5, I've left myself vulnerable to 16...Qg2#. How to wriggle free?

Not this way. Now I've just changed the threat, from ...Qg2# to Qh1#.

16...h6 17.Bf1 Qe4

I wracked my brain to figure out what Jim was aiming at. "If you can't see it," he said, "then I must be one step ahead of you!" Well, I couldn't, and he was.

18.Bg2 Qxg4!

19.Kh1? Be7! 20.h3 Qg3 21.Be3?
I was worried about my rook, but I could have rescued it with the deft discovered attack 21.Ng1 Bxg2+ 22.Rxg2.

21...Nd5 22.Qd2 Nxc3??
A stroke of luck that put me back in the game.

23.Qxc3 0-0 24.Raf1 g5? 25.Nd2??
Oops. Too soon. 25.Bd2 might have allowed me to keep the upper hand.

25...Rxf2 26.Rxf2 Bxg2+ 27.Rxg2 Qxh3+
26...Qxh3+! 27.Kg1 Bxg2 would have been even better for black.

28.Rh2 Qg3 29.Ne4??
Argh. Stepping right into a fork. If there was nothing good to do on the kingside, there was always 29.a4.

29...Qf3+ 30.Kg1 Qxe4

My pawns are no match for Jim's. From here, it's all downhill for me.

31.Rxh6 Rf8 32.Bf2 Qg4+
The cheeky attack 32.Rf3! would have been tough to fight off.

33.Kf1 Qd1+ 34.Kg2 Qe2 35.Qg3 Rf4 36.Rg6+??
Given my already suffering position, it's striking just how bad this move turns out to be.

36...Kf7 37.Rxg5 Bxg5 38.Qxg5 Rxf2+ 0-1

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Game of the Week

Turnout tonight was scant, but I can't complain: I swept the field tonight and took the top spot on the Route 20 Chess Club ladder from Steve McWhirter. I played the French Defense, he chose the Advance Variation, and I played an unusually error-free game with a lot of initiative. I traded off light-square bishops early, took space on the queenside and established a knight on a fifth-rank outpost which was a thorn in Steve's side for the rest of the game.

This position occurred late in the middlegame, when Steve decided he'd had enough of the knight:

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Illinois, Sept. 29, 2009

White has just played 1.Bf2. Black to move.

Highlight to reveal answer:

Black's best move is 1...Rd8. If 2.Rxc5??, then 2...Nxf3+ 3.Qxf3 Rxf3 4.gxf3, and black has a queen against a rook and a bishop, better pawn structure and dominance over the d-file. White's best shot at even chances is 2.f4.

In the actual game, I played the second-best 1...Rxb2. Steve initiated the exchange on d4 with 2.Bxd4 cxd4 3.Rxc8 Qxc8 4.Qxd4, and I launched a mating attack with 4...Qc2 (threatening 5...Qxg2#). Steve could have obtained a draw by repetition with 5.Qxa7+, but instead he played 5.Qd6+?? and resigned after 5...Ke8.