Sunday, December 13, 2015

Do or die: Thomson Chess Fiesta 2015

Today, we will analyze another of my games from last month's tournament at Thomson CC. This game was memorable because it was an interesting display of attacking chess; unfortunately, it was spoiled by my own carelessness.

In this game, you will see how White brings in all his pieces and pawns for the attack, compromising his own pawn structure and king safety in the process. Certainly a "Do or Die" strategy: Should his attack fail, his weaknesses will prove fatal in the endgame!

"Hold on, did we leave anyone behind to guard the flag?"

Checkerboard 5 vs Opponent
Thomson Chess Fiesta 2015 Round 8

1. c4 c5
2. Nc3 b6
3. g3 Bb7
4. Nf3 Nf6

4... Bxf3 5. exf3 with Bg2/Bh3 to follow, giving White a solid kingside.

5. Bg2 g6
6. e3 Bg7 
7. d4 d6
8. O-O O-O
9. Qd2

9. Qc2 controlling e4 was better.

9... Nbd7 (D)

Position after 9... Nbd7

If we analyze the position now, White looks slightly better due to his extra space in the centre. However, he lags in development due to his c1 bishop. Thus, I decided on a simple plan: Expand on the queenside with a3-b4, which at the same time helps me activate my dark-squared bishop.

10. a3 a6
11. b4 Ne4
12. Nxe4 Bxe4
13. Bb2 Qc7

Now the first part of my plan is complete: I have activated my dark-squared bishop. Now how to increase control over the centre and queenside?

14. d5

I could try 14. dxc5 dxc5 15. bxc5 but after Nxc5! I have a weak, blockaded isolated pawn.

14... Bxb2
15. Qxb2 Bxf3
16. Bxf3 (D)

Position after 16. Bxf3

Now I am left with a bishop against my opponent's knight. Naturally, I want to open up the position where the bishop fares better than the knight.

16... Ne5
17. Be2 Rab8
18. f4 Nd7
19. Rac1 a5
20. e4

My opponent suggested 20. b5 locking up the queenside, creating what he felt was a drawish game. Later on, I looked at two of Black's possible responses: e5 (The other response is to try and keep the position closed: 20... Nf6 21. Bf3 Qd7 22. e4 Qh3 23. e5 dxe5 24. fxe5 White has managed to open the centre and gain extra space, giving him an advantage in the endgame.) 21. dxe6 (Letting Black capture is bad: 21. Rce1? exf4 22. exf4 Rbe8 23. Bg4 f5 and Black's knight is superior to White's bishop.) 21... fxe6 22. Bg4 Rbe8 23. e4 Nf6 24. Bf3 (D)

Position after 24. Bf3

Although White's bishop is on an awkward square his position is still solid and neither side can make much progress; for example if Black tries e5 25. f5 gxf5 26. exf5 Nd7 27. Bg2 followed by Bh3 supporting the passed pawn.

Returning to the position after 20. e4:

20... f6
21. h4

Since I had already pushed f4 and e4, I saw the irresistible opportunity to go for a kingside pawnstorm. Even with two minor pieces traded off, I felt that my remaining material should still be sufficient to generate a strong attack against the king. So here I go!

21... Kg7
22. g4

Reaching a "do or die" stage: If White's attack fails, his king will be helplessly exposed to any counterattack.

22... Qc8
23. g5 Rf7
24. Bg4 (D)

Position after 24. Bg4

Taking control of the light squares. If you flip the board around, you can see that Black's position is becoming very cramped.

24... Qc7
25. Be6

After the game I looked at 25. f5 cxb4 (25... gxf5? 26. Rxf5 cxb4 27. Bh5 Rff8 28. Qg2 Qc5+ 29. Kh1 with the very strong threat of 30. gxf6+ followed by 31. Qg7#) 26. fxg6 hxg6 27. axb4 axb4 28. h5 but Black has the strong resource 28... Ne5! and after 29. Be6 Rff8 Black's defense is more solid.

25... Rff8
26. Rf3 axb4!

Black seeks counterplay on the Queenside. Notice that he cannot relieve the kingside tension with fxg5 due to the pin along the long diagonal.

27. axb4 cxb4 (D)

Position after 27... cxb4

Now recapturing with the Queen allows Black to play fxg5. However, the alternative I chose turned out to be an inexplicable blunder:

28. Rb3?

The best move here would be to press on the attack: 28. h5! gxh5 (28... Nc5 29. h6+ Kh8 30. Qxb4 Nxe4 31. Re3 Qc5) 29. gxf6+ Nxf6 30. Rg3+ Kh8 31. Kh1with the threat of 32. Rbg1 putting pressure on the kingside via the g-file.

28... Nc5!

Black can now trade pieces and relieve tension.

29. Re3 Nxe6
30. dxe6 Qc5 (D)

Position after 30... Qc5

The attack has withered off, leaving me with a shattered pawn structure, exposed king and uncoordinated pieces. Not surprisingly Black went on to win the game.The lesson here is simple: In attacking chess, precise calculation is always needed!

Picture: French 4th Hussar at the Battle of Friedland, 14 June 1807. "Vive l'Empereur!" by Édouard Detaille, 1891

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