Sunday, June 26, 2016

Keep calm and carry on: Correspondence 2016

Recently, I played a very interesting correspondence game that I would like to share with everybody. In this game, my opponent was fighting at a material disadvantage, but he defended well and nearly turned the tables.

Through this game, I hope you can see why you should not resign so early even when you are down in material. So long as you keep calm, carry on, and defend accurately, your opponent still has chances to slip and turn the tide back in your favour!

Opponent vs Checkerboard 5
Correspondence Chess 2016

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. e5 c5
4. c3 Nc6
5. Bb5

5. Nf3 Qb6 is the most common continuation; White controls the centre with a pawn chain which Black prepares to undermine.

5... Qb6
6. Qe2?

Losing a pawn. Better was 6. Bxc6+ bxc6

6... cxd4
7. c4!?

A good attempt to complicate the position; If Black captures the pawn it will bring White's queen to c4 creating potential threats.

7... a6
8. Bxc6+ bxc6

Capturing towards the centre.

9. b3 Bc5
10. Nf3 d3
11. Qd2? (D)

Position after 11. Qd2

This only loses more material. The most straightforward line was 11. Qxd3 Bxf2+ 12. Kf1 Ne7 but even here Black has the better position as White's king is stuck in the open.

11... Bb4
12. Nc3 d4!
13. Bb2 dxc3
14. Bxc3 Bxc3
15. Qxc3

Black is up in material but he must catch up in development.

15... Bb7
16. O-O Ne7
17. Rfd1 O-O

A better line was to check the c5 push with 17... c5 18. Rxd3 Bxf3 19. Rxf3 O-O where Black has caught up in development and simplified his position. Now if White tries to contest the d-file: 20. Rd1 Rad8 21. Rdd3 Rxd3 22. Rxd3 Rd8 Black simplifies the position even further, and the endgame should not be much of a problem for him.

18. c5

Taking control over d6 but weakening d5.

18... Qc7
19. Rxd3 Nd5!

A perfect outpost for the knight, which also cuts off White's rooks from the d-file.

20. Qb2 (D)

Position after 20. Qb2

Let's do a short analysis. Black has closed up the centre, depriving White of the d-file and the potential outpost on d6. Now, he needs to find a way to get his light-squared bishop into the game and convert his material advantage. Thus, he prepares to put his bishop on a6, controlling the f1-a6 diagonal and subsequently try to exploit the semi-open b-file for a breakthrough.

20... a5
21. Rd2 Ba6

Another way to attempt an invasion is 21... a4 22. b4 a3 23. Qb3 Rfb8 24. Rad1 Ba6 attacking the backward b-pawn.

22. Qc2 h6
23. Rad1 Rab8
24. a3!

White defends accurately, slowing down Black's queenside operations.

24... Rb7
25. h3 Rfb8
26. Nd4! Bb5
27. Nf3 Nf4

Black's plan is to return some material with ... Be2, in exchange for opening the b-file for an attack on b3.

28. Nd4 (D)

Position after 28. Nd4

28... Kf8?

Weakening the h7 square. Black was probably worried that after 28... Qxe5 29. Nxb5 he cannot recapture on b5 due to mating threats on h8 (see variation). However, he missed the saving threat 29... Qg5! (29... cxb5 $2 30. Rd8+ Rxd8 31. Rxd8#) 30. g3 Rxb5 where Black regains material, continues to defend d8, and has strong threats against White's kingside.

29. a4 Bxa4?!

Giving up his extra material to open up the file.

30. bxa4 Ng6??

Allowing White to unleash a strong tactic.

Black was trying to prevent 30... Nd5 31. Qh7 followed by Qh8+ winning the kingside pawns. However, 30... g6 was the only defense: 31. Qe4 Nd5 followed by ... Rb2

31. Nxe6+! fxe6
32. Qxg6 Qf7

Once again the power of the d-file and White's central pawns ensures Black cannot regain the pawn: 32... Qxe5? 33. Rd8+ Rxd8 34. Rxd8+ Ke7 35. Re8+ Kd7 36. Qf7#

33. Rd8+ Rxd8
34. Rxd8+ Ke7
35. Qd3 Rb1+

Forced, otherwise 36. Qe6+ is crushing.

36. Qxb1 Kxd8
37. Qb8+ Kd7
38. Qd6+

Now White is totally winning.

38... Ke8
39. Qxc6+ Kf8
40. Qd6+ Kg8
41. c6 Qf4 (D)

Position after 41... Qf4

Last gasp attempt to save the game...

42. c7??

Which works! White's blunder opens the way to a perpetual. Instead, if after 42. Qxe6+ Kh7 43. g4 Black can resign.

42... Qc1+!
43. Kh2 Qf4+
44. g3

44. Kg1 Qc1+ is still perpetual.

44... Qxf2+
45. Kh1 Qf1+
46. Kh2 Qf2+
47. Kh1 Qf1+
48. Kh2 Qf2+ (D)

Position after 48... Qf2+

What can we learn from this game?

  1. Even when at a disadvantage, you should not resign so early! Continue fighting and complicate the position as much as possible, so that your opponent has chances to make mistakes.
  2. Tactics, tactics, tactics! Once again lack of calculation is what led to the various mistakes in this game.
  3. Placing pieces on an outpost on the open file is a good way to deny enemy rooks access to the file.

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