Checkerboard 5 vs Opponent
Children's Day Chess Challenge, Round 5
1. c4 e5
2. Nc3 Nf6
3. g3 Nc6
4. Bg2 g6
5. b3 Bg7
6. Bb2 O-O
7. e3 d6
8. Nge2 Bg4
9. O-O Rb8 (D)
|Position after 9. Rb8|
The idea behind the e3 variation of the English is to prepare for a d4 break and keep the long diagonal open for the light-squared bishop. The main weaknesses are: Well, that annoying pin on the d1-h5 diagonal, and the possibility of the d2 pawn becoming backward if not advanced at the right time.
An alternative was the immediate break 10. d4 Bxe2 (10... exd4 11. exd4 Re8 12. Re1 Qd7 13. Qd2 is similar to the mainline) 11. Nxe2 exd4 12. exd4 and after the game, I looked at the risky variation 12... Ng4!? (the safer route was 12... Nh5 13. Qd2) 13. Nf4 Qd7 14. Bh3 (D)
|Position after 14. Bh3|
With a position rich in tactics (just look at those pins!). But going further with 14... f5 15. Qd2 Rbe8 16. d5 Bxb2 17. Qxb2 Nce5 18. Ne6 Rf7 19. f4 Nd3 20. Qd4 the position looks better for White, because his knight's outpost gives a strong advantage.
Returning to the mainline after 10. Be1:
11. d4 exd4
12. exd4 Re8
The simplest plan is to improve the position of your pieces.
14. Nd5 Nxd5
After 14... Ne4 15. Bxe4 Bxe4 16. Nef4 g5 17. Nh5 Bxd5 18. cxd5 Rxe1+ 19. Rxe1 Na7 20. a4 Nc8 White has managed to temporarily deactivate Black's knight in exchange for his awkward pawn structure; I would perhaps be able to try something like 21. Re4 eyeing Black's weakened kingside.
15. Bxd5 Ne7
16. Bg2 b5!? (D)
|Position after 16... b5!?|
Or 17. Rac1 bxc4 18. Rxc4 d5 19. Rc5 Rb5 20. Rec1 Rxc5 21. Rxc5 Qd6 where Black's c7 pawn might be a weakness, but his pieces are slightly better placed.
18. bxc4 c5
Better not to create any potential hanging pieces.
Or 19... Bg4 20. Qg5 where White is still ok.
20. Nxd4 Bd7
21. Nf3 Bxa1
22. Rxa1 (D)
|Position after 22. Rxa1|
Hold on tight, because from here onwards you're going to see lots of question marks on both sides! (:
Dropping a pawn, better would have been 22... Qc7 23. Rac1
23. Qxd6 Rxe1+
24. Rxe1 Na5
Throwing away a winning position! The idea of the seventh-rank rook was too tempting over the board, and I did not realize that 25. Rd1! Rb7 26. Ne5 would have been totally winning for me.
I had been hoping for 25... Rb7? 26. Nd2 (stopping 26... Rb1+) where I would have picked up my opponent's bishop. Another way for Black to save the game would have been 25... Rb1+ 26. Re1 (not 26. Bf1? Rxf1+ 27. Kxf1 Bh3+ which wins the Queen).
26. Qxd8+ Rxd8
27. Ne5?? (D)
|Black to move and mate in 5|
27. c5 was Fritz's preferred choice. Now spot the mate in 5!
27... Rd1+ 28. Bf1 Bh3 29. Re8+ Kg7 30. Rg8+ Kxg8 31. f4 Rxf1#. The pin on my back rank would have been crushing.
But funny things always happen in rapid chess, and here my opponent also threw away his win:
I guess he was too desperate to win back his pawn.
Another blunder on my behalf! 28. Rxe6 fxe6 29. Nxc4 would have been winning for me (two minor pieces vs rook). Now, all my opponent needs to do is to exploit my back rank weakness again: 28... Rd1+ 29. Bf1 Bxc4 and although this time there is no checkmate, I would be a piece down.
But once again, mutual blindness starts to set in:
28... Bxc4?? (D)
|Position after 28... Bxc4|
Well I told you there would be a lot of question marks! After 29. Bb7 my king has an escape square, and there would be no hope of either side winning.
So here's yet another example of how important tactics are in actual gameplay! Fortunately this time I was let off the hook, simply because my opponent was as blind as I was. Till date I have yet to contact him over this game, but I would love to see the expression on his face once I show him my analysis! (: