Saturday, December 11, 2010

Game of the Week: Championship Edition

The Route 20 Chess Club end-of-year championship is under way, and the first round has offered up a number of potential games of the week, such as Demetrio Velazco's doomed outing against Will Engel -- rated 825 points higher -- in which, despite an opening error that put him permanently behind, he fought on gamely and accurately for another 22 moves; and Gary Sargent and Steve McWhirter's slow and delicately balanced game, which ended in a sudden tactical knockout. But perhaps the most interesting game came from the unrated side:

Route 20 Chess Club Championship (1)
Freeport, Ill., Dec. 7, 2010

1.Nc3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.Bf4?
If you asked that bishop, it would tell you it really wanted to be on g5.

3...Nc6 4.Nb5 e5?!
Strangely enough, this move is not the novelty . . .

5.dxe5 Ne4 6.e6 Bd6 7.Nh3
. . . this one is. Aside from the fundamental peculiarity of that knight move, Shawn misses a magnificent opportunity to win two more pawns by not playing 7.exf7+ Kf8 8.Nxd6 Nxd6 9.Qxd5.

Why not 7...fxe6, restoring material equality? Oh, and preventing 8.exf7+?

8.exf7+!? still dangles there, temptingly.

Whoops, not anymore.

9.e3 a6 10.Nc3

It's getting hot around d5.

Misses the point. Playing 10...Nxc3 11.bxc3 first before 11...Qf6 is necessary to keep Shawn from jumping in and seizing d5 . . .

. . . unless Shawn decides not to do that. Too bad, because 11.Ncxd5 Qe5 12.c4 Bxd5 13.Qxd5 is an intriguing possibility. But now it's going to be Ryan's game for a while.

11...Nxc3 12.Qd3 Nb4
12...Ne4 is much better: 13.0-0-0 (threatening 14.Qxb2) Bxh3 14.gxh3 Nxf2 15.Qd2 and black has nothing to complain about.

13.Qd2 0-0 14.a3??
Instead of threatening to take a knight with a pawn, why doesn't Shawn just take a knight with a pawn (14.bxc3 Bxh3 15.gxh3)?

14...Qe7 15.Qxc3 Nc6 16.Bd3?
16.0-0-0 is the best option Shawn has. There's no better place for that rook, and no safer place for his king.

What's Ryan's best move now? (Highlight to reveal answer.)

16...d4! The implicit threat is 17.exd4 Bxh3+! with a discovered check. Therefore, this is not how white should respond; the best answer is 17.Qd2 Bxh3 18.gxh3 Rae8. This can be played in another order too: 16...Bxh3 17.gxh3 d4 18.Qd2 Rae8.

17.Qd2 Rad8 18.0-0
The development idea is all right, but activating that wallflower knight -- and getting it out from under the bishop's eye -- with 18.Nf4!? is something that should be done sooner rather than later.


19.gxh3 Qg5+ 20.Kh1 Ne5??
An awful square for that knight, because of the unpleasant pawn fork 21.f4.

21.Qe2?? Rg1?? 22.Ng4??
We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please stand by.

It seems kind of pointless to level all that firepower at e3, then not do anything with it. 23...dxe3 24.fxe3 Rxe3 25.Qf2 is authoritative.

24.Rae1 c5 25.c4??
If there's an exchange on the e-file, that queen is going to be in an uncomfortable spot. 25.Qf3 is a useful preventive measure. After 25.c4, Ryan has the en passant capture 25...dxc3, followed by 26...c4, forcing Shawn's bishop to face some existential questions.

Ryan makes the last blunder of this series, and Shawn has emerged with the advantage.

26.cxb5 Rde8 27.Qf3 dxe3 28.bxa6 exf2 29.Qxf2 Qd5+ 30.Be4
30.Qg2 is a surprise killer: if black plays 30...Qxd3??, white replies 31.Rxe7!! (31...Rxe7?? 32.Qa8+ Qd8 33.Qxd8+ Re8 34.Qxe8#). Black's best option is to trade queens and rooks for leverage: 30...Qxg2+ 31.Kxg2 Rxe1 32.Rxe1 Rxe1 33.a7.

30...Rxe4 31.Rxe4 Rxe4 32.Qf3 c4 33.Rd1??

Disaster! 33.Rf1 is just fine -- white's position holds plenty of promise. But 33.Rd1 is a blunder that black can exploit. What does Ryan play? (Highlight to reveal answer.)

33...Re1+!! wins a piece by forcing Shawn to answer the check: 34.Kg2 (34.Rxe1 Qxf3+) 34...Rxd1

35.Qxd5 Rxd5 seems awful, but what else is there?

35...Rd3 36.Kf2
36.Qxd3 only postpones the inevitable: 36...cxd3 37.b4 d2 38.a7 d1Q 39.a8Q+ Qxa8 40.Kh4 Qe1+ 41.Kh5 Qd5+ 42.g5 Qdd1#.

37.Ke1 Qe4+ 38.Kd1 Rf2 39.Kc1 Qc2# 0-1

Round 1 games in Chessbase format: Route 20 CC ch.cbv*

* Does not include K.Conter–M.Kearney, which was not recorded.


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