Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Games of the Week

The tactics give, and the tactics take away. That's the lesson of Will Engel's two games this week. I played one of my better games against him yet still fell in the end to a tactic that was just over my (admittedly short) visualization horizon. But then Shawn Prue stepped up and slipped Will a dagger in the same way.

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Jan. 11, 2011

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.e3 0-0

8.Bb5 Bg4 9.h3 Bd7 10.Bd3 Nc6 11.Ne2

I'm worried about a d4 push and trying to make it less attractive. But actually, such a move wouldn't be bad for me: 11...d4?! 12.exd4 13.Nxd4 Bxd4 14.Bxh7+ (the part I didn't think of) Nxh7 15.Qxd4 ends with me a pawn up. 11.0-0 is fine for me.

11...Nb4 12.Ned4
A clever solution to what isn't really a problem. I should be more concerned that I'm about to lose my good bishop to an adventuresome knight.

12...Nxd3 13.Qxd3 Ne4 14.0-0 a6 15.Qb3 Bc6 16.Ne5
I should finish my development with 16.Bd2.

16...Rc8 17.f3 Ng3 18.Rf2 Re8

Resorting to my usual "If defending seems too difficult, attack somewhere else" plan. Here, it's inferior to the desperado 19.Nexc6!? bxc6 20.Qd3.

According to Will, at this point I'm forcing him to do what he wants to do anyway. 19...Rxe5?! 20.Rxc5 Nf5 21.Nxf5 Rxf5 22.Bd2 gives up black's edge.

20.exd4 f6
The moment is right for a strategic reset: 20...Nf5 21.Qd3 Qh4.

This is where the game begins to fall apart for me, as I fail to realize that once my knight is no longer blocking the e-file, my c2-rook can no longer stop Will's knight incursion without losing the exchange. This is where my "If defending seems too difficult, attack somewhere else" plan is the right one: 21.Bf4 fxe5 22.Bxg3 exd4 23.Rd1 gives me a respite. I consider it briefly but give it up because I'm worried about what Will's marauding pawn can do -- not realizing that, after 23.Rd1, it can't do anything more, while I enjoy the positional advantages of connected pawns and a superior bishop.

21...Ne2+ 22.Kh1??
A suicidal decision. I have to give up the exchange with 22.Rxe2 Rxe2 23.Qd1.

Owww. Even the best defense, after this point, isn't enough to save me.

23.Qc3 Nxc2 24.Qxc2 Bb5 25.Qb3 Bxd3 26.Qxd3?

This is where it ends.

26...Re1+! 0-1
The only way to parry the coup de grĂ¢ce is 26.Bf4 Bc2 27.Qd1.

Avenge me, Shawn!

Route 20 Chess Club
Freeport, Ill., Jan. 11, 2011

1.Nc3 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.e4 Bb4? 4.Nd5 Ba5?
Shawn's weird move order seems to have thrown Will off.

5.Bc4 Nf6 6.0-0 0-0 7.d4

7...Nxd5 8.exd5 Nxd4 9.Nxe5, as strange as it looks, is better for black.

Stronger than picking off the pawn with 8.Nxd4?! Nxe4 9.Nb3 d6.

8...d6 9.Qe2
Now, however, the pickoff 9.Nxd4 makes sense, because Will can no longer return the favor with 9...Nxe4.

9...Bg4 10.a3
A solution to a nonexistent problem. Will's threat is not 10...Nb4 but 10...Ne5, freeing his c-pawn to kick Shawn's knight. A farsighted solution is 10.Qd3!?, after which 10...Ne5? leads to 11.Nxe5 dxe5 12.Bxf6 gxf6 13.Qg3, radiating evil down the g-file. If black still plays 10...Nb4, then 11.Nxb4 Bxb4 12.Nxd4 takes care of things.

10...Ne5 11.b4 Bb6 12.Bxf6?
Shawn needs to think about putting a rook on the d-file.

12...gxf6 13.a4 Bxf3
Better is 13...f5!? 14.a5 c6 15.axb6 cxd5 (15...Nxc4?! 16.Nc7 Bxf3 17.gxf3 is slightly better for white) 16.Bxd5 Nxf3+ 17.gxf3 Bh3 -- advantage black.

14.gxf3 c5
An overreach. 14...c6!? 15.Nxb6 Qxb6 is more solid.

15.Kh1 Kh8
Will: "I agree with you!"

The piece to kick is Will's bishop: 16.a5 Bc7 17.c3 dxc3, regaining a slight edge. 17...Nxc4 is inadvisable: 18.Qxc4 f5 19.cxd4 (but 19.bxc5 dxc5 20.Qxc5 Be5).

16...Nxc4 17.Qxc4 Rg8
The obvious strategic move, but what's Shawn going to do about 17...cxb4!? ?

18.Rg1 Rg6
The glamor of that open file seems to be keeping both Shawn and Will from seeing the pivotal roles to be played by the pawn advances a5 and ...f5 between moves 13 and 19.

19.Rxg6 fxg6 20.Rg1 Rc8 21.f5 gxf5 22.a5

Not 22...fxe4 23.axb6 axb6 24.Qe2.


At this point, all Shawn is threatening to do is to pick up a piece for free -- and maybe promote a pawn, if Will isn't careful. But Will makes two fateful decisions that turn it into something much, much worse.

23...Qe8 casts the game into the repetition-draw vortex: 24.Qxd6 Qxe4+ 25.Rg2 Qe1+ 26.Rg1 Qe4+ 27.Rg2 Qe1+ 28.Rg1 Qe4+ ½-½.

24.axb6 a5 25.Qxd4 Qe8?? 26.Qxf6# 1-0
The moral of the story: Even strong players are well advised to look for the checks.


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