1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e4 The Marshall gambit is very much in Steadman's style. Of course at the Wellington Chess Club Ross has developed a reputation as a dedicated pawn grabber, so he's happy too. An intriguing clash of styles...
4...dxe4 5.Nxe4 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Qxd4 7.Bxb4 Qxe4+ 8.Be2 The main posi tion of the Marshall Gambit, White's development advantage, bishop pair and Black's weakened dark squares amount to fair compensation in a devilishly complicated and unbalanced situation. A fascinating article in a recent "Chess" magazine about British Chess in the fifties discusses this position at length. This position was a favourite battleground for an amusing cast of Machievellian characters who apparently didn't like each other very much. Baruch H. Wood, the prickly founding editor of Chess, was very much annoyed at the praise Taimonov received in 1953 for introducing the innovation 9.Bd6! (after 8...Na6) at elite level. Wood liked to point out that he had discovered and deeply analysed this move himself before revealing it in domestic competition against a certain Mr Swinnerton-Dyer in 1949!
8...Nd7 [Taking another pawn with 8...Qxg2 is not for the faint hearted and is generally frowned upon but may be better than it's reputation; 8...Na6 is still the main move]
9.Qd6 Qh4 10.Bc3 Qe7 11.Qg3 f6 12.Nf3 Nh6 13.0-0-0 0-0 14.Rhe1 Nc5! Threatening ...Ne4, a rather annoying move
15.Bf1 Na4 16.Bd2 Nf5 17.Qh3 e5 Now Bc8 is making the white queen uncomfortable. Black is pushing White around a little, not really something a gambiteer could be happy about
18.g4 Nd6 19.b3 Nc5 [The computer immediately suggests the brilliancy 19...Ne4! offering a e two different ways, but actually leading to a material and positional advantage for black after 20.bxa4 Nxf2 21.Qg3 Nxd1 22.Rxd1 Qa3+ ]
20.Qg2 Nde4 21.Kc2 Clearly things have gone wrong for white. As well as a healthy extra pawn, black now has the initiative which is so important after opposite sides castling
21...Nxd2 22.Rxd2 Qf7 [22...a5 targetting the "hook" on b3 is natural and strong]
23.g5 Qg6+ 24.Kb2 e4 25.Nd4 f5 26.h4 Ne6 27.Qg3 f4 28.Qc3 Nc5 29.Nc2 Bf5 30.Nd4 Bg4 31.Nc2 Rad8 32.Kc1 Rxd2 [The computer can calculate that 32...e3! is a winning breakthrough, but it's a deep calculation. Ross prefers to keep his powerful phalanx intact for now.]
33.Qxd2 Qe6 34.b4 Nd7 35.Qd4 Bf3 36.Qxa7 Qe5 Black has lost control of the position in the complications. Ross tried to bail out here with a draw offer but Mike understandably declined. Neutral observers probably expected the rest of the game to complete a familiar scenario; The plucky weaker player gets a good position, but subsequently succumbs in the face of time trouble, critical complications and prolonged resourceful resistance from a skilful and more confident competitor. Will this game follow that familiar path? (Hint: no it won't)
37.Qxb7 Qd6 38.Qa7 c5! Cutting off White's queen from the centre and opening lines. Black starts to take over again, permanently this time
39.Qa3 cxb4 40.Qxb4 Nc5! For the fourth time the knight returns to this square. Each time it has been a good move. Material has rarely been level in this game. Now White has an extra pawn, but throughout the game Black's initiative has been a more important factor than the material balance. In fact the pawns White has recently won have also created open lines leading directly towards the already shaky White king.
41.Qc3 Ra8 [Again the computer suggests a deep tactical solution 41...Rd8! is decisive. Black threatens a queen sac on d1 followed by a knight fork on a4]
42.a3 Rb8 43.Nb4 Na4 44.Qd2 Qb6 45.Bh3 Nc5! A fifth time, and again, the right move!
46.Kc2 Nd3 47.Rb1 Nxf2! It's not just a pawn, the pawn duo on e4 and f4 are now unrestrained monsters
48.Qd5+ Kh8 49.c5 Qb5 50.Bf1 Qa4+ 51.Qb3 Qe8 52.Qc3 e3!! Finally Ross unleashes the hounds, with decisive effect. The rest of the game is slaughter.
53.Re1 Qa4+ 54.Kc1 Ne4 55.Qb2 Nxc5 A sixth time!
56.Bc4 Bd5! The computer actually disapproves of this move because it allows white to prolong things pointlessly by Bxd5 giving up the queen to Nd3+. I am giving it an exclam for the same reason (i.e. if that's the best White can do it's a good simplifying combination).
57.Bf1 Nb3+ 58.Kb1 Nd2+ The only slightly inaccurate move in an otherwise brutal finishing sequence. Throwing in a harmless repitition to gain clock time and taunt the opponent with illusory hopes of a draw was pioneered by the Soviet school. Perhaps Ross was just torturing his opponent old school Russian style.
59.Ka1 Nb3+ 60.Kb1 Rxb4! A simple but very attractive final blow. [60...Rxb4 61.axb4 Be4+ 62.Qc2 Qa1# ] 0-1