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Al Nichols - Bill Forster Summer Cup 2015
So far my tournament has been about par. A scratchy win against Nathan Rose in round 1 (See Ian's site for Nathan's notes). A nice win against Andrew Brockway in round 2, with some nice strategy and tactics and only one smallish (and unpunished) flaw. Then a reasonable, although ultimately losing effort against Nic Croad in round 3. My round 4 draw is reasonable, but Al is an aggressive attacking player and he will be out to tear my head off with the White pieces. How should I avoid a grisly fate?. 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6 The O'Kelly version. This move has a few things going for it. Firstly it cuts out all the annoying Bb5 systems. Secondly, the normal Open Sicilian move 3.d4 is not as effective as usual. Thirdly, it is rather unfamiliar to many players, and consequently 3.d4 is the favourite move in the database! 3.c4! Played instantly, Al shows good knowledge. In truth I don't know much about this Maroczy option (I am lazy and was counting on points 2 and 3). I decided to avoid g6 with an attempt to transpose to an accelerated dragon Maroczy as I haven't had much success with that. Maybe I'll just play some chess and see how I do... (this happens to me a lot. Why did I buy all those opening books again?) 3...Nc6 4.Nc3 e6 5.d4 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Nf6 7.Be2 Bb4 8.f3
Moves are clickable
It seemed to me that White's play has been a little slow and passive and that there should be a way to exploit that. 8...d5! The classic Sicilian equaliser, a little unusual here since Black hasn't castled yet, but White has no way to exploit the omission. In Maroczys in particular it is important to grab the chance to play ...d5 (or ...b5) when it arises. The position before 8...d5 is a rare position in my database, it's only been reached 9 times, with good results for Black - although ironically 8...d5 has not been a successful option. Houdini approves though and that'll do me. 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.cxd5 For the next couple of moves it was interesting to think about the mutual assured destruction variations in which both sides eat there way down the long dark diagonal. White starts first but Black overtakes him because one of his captures comes with check. ( If you play down the variation 10.e5 d4 11.exf6 dxc3 12.Qxd8+ Kxd8 13.fxg7 cxb2+ 14.Kf2 bxa1=Q 15.gxh8=Q+ Qxh8 though you'll see there are a lot of mistakes in this fantasy sequence ) 10...exd5 ( I certainly considered the natural move 10...cxd5?? before noticing it dropped a piece to 11.Qa4+ could this little blindness wobble presage my future blunder? ) 11.exd5 This is the first new move in the game ( Palacios de la Prida(2250) - Andreu(2455) Palma de Mallorca 1992 instead continued 11.O-O d4 12.Na4 O-O 13.Qc2 Bb7 14.a3 Be7 15.b4 a5 16.Nc5 axb4! 17.Bg5 Qb6 18.axb4 Qxb4 19.Nxb7 Qxb7 20.Rab1 Qd7 21.Bd3 Ra5 22.f4 Rfa8 23.Bxf6 Bxf6 24.e5 Ra2 25.Bxh7+ Kh8 26.Qf5 Qxf5 27.Bxf5 Be7 28.Rb7 Bc5 29.Rfb1 g6 30.Be4 d3+ 31.Kh1 d2 32.Bf3 Rc2 33.Rd1 Rc1 34.Rb1 Be3 35.g3 Ra2 36.Kg2 Rxb1 0-1 an impressive game from Black ) 11...Nxd5 Black's active pieces mean he has a shade the better of equality perhaps 12.Qd3? This ugly move is a blunder. 12...O-O? I played this quickly and didn't take full advantage - in fact I could have won significant material by capturing the c3 pawn with the knight first, since the White queen gets exchanged off and so isn't defending, eg ( eg 12...Nxc3 13.Qe3+ Qe7 14.Qxe7+ Kxe7 15.bxc3 Bxc3+ 16.Kf2 Bxa1 17.Ba3+ Kf6 18.Rxa1 with a winning position for Black ) 13.O-O Re8 14.Nxd5 cxd5 15.Bd2?
Black's pressure draws another weak move. I took my time here sensing there was an immediate win in the position. After 10 or 15 minutes, I finally saw it 15...Bc5+ 16.Kh1 a5! The awkwardly placed Queen and bishops should cost White material here, there's no good answer to the threat of ...Ba6 17.Qb5! Resourceful, this is the best of a bad bunch. ( I was counting on the fact that if White tries to tempo on the c5 bishop by say 17.Qc2 Rxe2 18.Qxc5 Black picks up the other loose piece 18...Rxd2 However White avoids this by keeping the Be2 protected and additionally prepares the manoeuvre Bd3 and Qb3 to stay alive ) 17...Qd6??
I spent even longer on 17...Qd6, unable to believe there was no win. In the end I selected a line that I thought won an important pawn, and decided that would have to do. (Naturally the computer quickly finds 17...Bb4! renewing a double threat that persists even after 18.Bxb4 Ba6! Zwichenzug 19.Qa4 Bxe2 since effectively a pair of bishops has been exchanged and now Black has simultaneous threats to the Rf1 and the Bb4 ) 18.Bd3?? The game continued in exactly the way I planned as I played 17...Qd6. 18...Ba6 19.Qb3 Rab8 20.Qc2 Bxd3 21.Qxd3 Rxb2 Looking ahead to this point I thought my booty would be secure as Bxa5 is unwise since it would let the other rook penetrate as well. That's true although I hope I would have noticed that e3 was the right penetration square , not e2 22.Rfe1 ( 22.Bxa5 Re3! 23.Qf5 Qa6 24.Bc7 Qe2 with an overwhelming position ) 22...Reb8?
Another mistake, allowing White to win the exchange with Bc3 followed by the skewer Be5. BUT, I CAN'T KEEP A STRAIGHT FACE ANY MORE. DID YOU NOTICE THE ?? ANNOTATIONS FOR 17...Qd6?? AND 18.Bd3?? ? In the game both players were so concerned with White's attempt to unravel that we both missed the fact that I had simply left my rook on e8 en-prise. Of course I noticed immediately I let go of the Queen on d6. (It's funny how often that happens). I considered resigning immediately, but decided it was more sensible to keep a poker face and hope for a miracle. Fortunately I only had to keep this up for a minute or so. An embarrassing detail is that Nic Croad wandered by and caught me red handed trying to instantly reply 18...Ba6 in nonchalant fashion like a man who knew that 18.Bd3 was an obvious forced move. It might be a good time to talk a little about the psychology of a situation like this. I think a really mentally tough competitor would actually enjoy a let-off like this and would relish the opportunity to ruthlessly make the transgressor pay. Think some flinty Australian batsman (a Steve Waugh type) after a dropped catch. Or a Magnus Carlsen after Vishy Anand missed the opportunity to punish his recent World Championship blunder. But I am not cut from this cloth. Instead I couldn't resist the feeling that the game was now rendered slightly pointless, and a relaxed approach was therefore appropriate. 23.Reb1? Missing Bd2-c3-e5 23...Qa6?? ( I so nearly played the obvious and sensible 23...Rxb1+ 24.Rxb1 Rxb1+ 25.Qxb1 Bb4 and Black should win without too much trouble since in Queen endings passed pawns and king safety are all important. Instead I suddenly spotted what I thought was an opportunity to win quickly by deflecting the White queen from the weak back rank. In my casual mood I played it without really thinking it through. ) 24.Rxb2! Naturally I realised there were several flaws (including this big one) in my idea as soon as I released the Queen, and this time Al doesn't let me off. 24...Qxd3 25.Rxb8+ Bf8 Black is dead lost because this Bishop is condemned to death on this square. 26.Bxa5 g6 27.Bb4 Qd4 28.Rxf8+ Kg7 29.Rb1 Al plays the final phase confidently and effectively. No more miracles for me. 29...Qd3 30.Re1 Qc4 31.a3 d4 32.h3 d3 33.Rd8 Qc2 34.g4 h5 35.g5 Qf2 36.Bc3+ f6 37.Re7# 1-0
Ben Thomas - Philip Rossiter Summer Cup 2015
1.e4 d5 This game was played on my anniversary, and given that my partner is Danish, and that I couldn't play the Danish Gambit, I thought the Scandinavian Defence would be appropriate. 2.e5 But my opponent doesn't want any of that. 2...c5 3.d4 e6 Yes, I know. I should play cxd4 then Bf5 at the right moment, but I decided to go in to a French, since I knew it. 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.Bd3 Oh bugger, the trappy Milner-Barry. 6...Bd7 ( 6...cxd4 is the main line. ) 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.O-O a5 9.Nbd2 I found out later that this is actually theory! 9...Qc7 But this isn't. ( 9...f6 has been played here. 10.exf6 Nxf6 11.Nb3 e5 is unclear. ) 10.Nb3 Ba7 I thought this was better than either ( 10...b6 or ( 10...Be7 The software thinks they are all about the same. ) ) 11.Bf4 Nge7 12.Nbd4 Nxd4 13.cxd4 Ng6?! White has a significant edge here. ( 13...Nc6 or ( 13...Qb6 were better I think. ) ) 14.Bg5 Maybe ( 14.Rc1 was a bit better. ) 14...O-O Again, maybe ( 14...Qb6 ) 15.h4
Moves are clickable
Oh dear, I really was starting to not like this. 15...Bc6 16.Qc2?! It is here I think, that White really missed his chance. I was expecting 15.h5, and was busy calculating things like ( 16.h5 Ne7 17.h6 g6 18.Rc1 Nf5 19.Bxf5 exf5 20.Qd2 and had a sinking feeling about all of it. ) 16...h6 At the time I just thought that this move was both provocative and the best move I had. The software agrees. 17.Bxg6?! White had to retreat the Bishop, after which he may still have a slight edge. 17...fxg6 18.Be3 I breathed a huge sigh of relief here. White perhaps realised too late that ( 18.Qxg6 runs in to 18...Rxf3! 19.gxf3 hxg5 20.Qxe6+ Qf7 21.Qxf7+ Kxf7 which is very good for Black. Now I was feeling OK, as Black now has no problems. ) 18...Qf7 19.Rfc1 I found this a bit curious, as the game went, the Rooks end up playing no further part in the game. 19...Qf5 20.Qd2?! I thought White had to swap Queens, after which I was confident Black could not lose in the endgame with two Bishops. 20...Qg4
Whereas now I started to think about winning. How quickly the game has turned, as it is now Black who has the edge. 21.Qd1 Rf7 I thought about other moves, but really, from now on there was only one thought ...attack! Notice how the Bishops, that have appeared to be spectators, start putting pressure on White's position. 22.Nd2?! I didn't get to ask Ben whether this was an intended pawn sac or not. In any case after ( 22.Rc3 Raf8 23.Bc1 Rf5 followed by Bb6-d8 I rather prefer Black. ) 22...Qxh4 23.Nb3 Raf8 Now the threats become tangible, eg ...Rxf2 immediately. 24.Qe1 Rf5 25.g3 I thought White might play 24.f3 here, but Black just exchanges Queens and gets himself organised for a favourable endgame. After the move played Black's attack gains momentum. 25...Qg4 26.Qd1 Oh, so White wants to exchange Queens now. 26...Rf3 No! 27.Qe1 ( 27.Rc3 was an alternative, but really it's all hopeless now. I was running short of time, but really there was only one more move to find ) 27...h5
The rest is easy. Black's attack is so strong that he can surrender the exchange. 28.Nd2 h4 29.Nxf3 Rxf3 30.Kg2 Qe4 31.Kg1 hxg3 32.Rxc6 A help to Black's attack had been that if the King tried to run, then there was a nasty check on b5 ...not that it makes any difference to eliminate this bishop now. 32...bxc6 33.Qd2 gxf2+ 34.Bxf2 Qg4+ 35.Kf1 Bxd4 And before I had even pressed the clock Ben extended his hand and was very gracious. 0-1