Back to an even score

March 15, 2008

Playing white on board 3, I recorded my second win on Thursday night. After starting out my British chess career with two straight losses, its good to win two straight now. Interestingly enough, my opponent played a not-so-common variation of the Sicilian which I used to play for a while as black in online chess. Atleast this made me familiar with black’s ideas in the opening and I didn’t have to figure them out over the board – a big plus as I had arrived 10 minutes late and was already behind on the clock.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6
I used to play 4…Nf6 5.Nc3 Qb6.
White’s primary options here are Nb5 and Nb3. Nb3 is the more solid variation and leads to a slight plus for white. Nb5 is a bit more aggressive and is probably the more principled line.

5.Nb5 a6 6.Be3 Qa5+
The problem with facing a line you’ve played often is that while you are familiar with the move order you prefer, you never really bother to analyze alternate responses. Here, I always preferred playing my queen back to d8 – so I was in unfamiliar territory here – though having said that, it isn’t really hard finding moves here for white.

7.N5c3 Nf6 8.Bd3 d5 9.exd5
9.Nd2 might have been better, developing another piece. If 9…d4, then 10.Nb3 holds things together.

9…Nxd5 10.Bd2 Ndb4 11.Be4 Qe5 12.O-O
Here I had a long think about 12.a3, trapping the black knight. 12…Bf5 was not really a threat, as after 13.f3, I am just up a piece. But I was really worried about 12…f5, when after 13.axb4 fxe4, black’s position looks bad with doubled e-pawns, the lack of a f-pawn and being behind in development, but there seemed to be no clear way for me to take advantage of it.

12…Nd4 13.a3 Nbc6 14.Be3 Bf5 15.Bxf5 Nxf5 16.Bb6 e6 17.Re1 Qd6 18.Nd5! Rc8 19.Nbc3 Be7
Here again I had a long think, especially about 20.Qg4 but I couldn’t find a suitable continuation after 20…Ne5. But looking it up on the computer shows 21.Qa5+ Nd7 and I maintain my advantage. Sometimes, it really is hard to see lateral queen moves when trying to press the attack!

20.Nxe7 Ncxe7 21.Ba5 Nc6 22.Bb6 Ncd4 23.Bxd4 Qxd4 24.Qf3 =
After 24…O-O 25.Qxb7 Rb8 Qxa6 Rxb2, the game is petering out to a draw.

The game just became a winning position for white.

25.Qxf5 Qxb2 26.Rxe6+! fxe6 27.Qxe6+ Kf8 28.Qxc8+ Kf7 29.Qc7+ Kg6 30.Re1 Rf8 31.Qg3+ Kh6 32.h4 g6 33.Re7 Qc1+ 34.Kh2 Qd2 35.Ne4 Qc1 36.Ng5 Qb2 37.Rxh7#


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