Time is of the essence

May 29, 2008

After last week’s game, it is now seven straight games since I’ve lost. White, I think, was slightly better through most of the game. Near the end of the game, even when I went up a pawn, he had plenty of chances to force a draw. Instead he failed to find the right moves in time trouble. I normally have a very strong instinct to play quickly in my opponent’s time pressure, not giving him a chance to think on my time. This time, I took efforts not to make that mistake – instead, I tried to choose continuations which would force him to calculate multiple variations at critical junctions. End result? I won on time. The game, as always, can be replayed here.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bd6 9. Qc2 Bb7

I have now acquired a copy of Fritz 11 and this position has occurred twice in its database. After 10.O-O O-O (which was played in the above games), it transposes into more common variations.

10. Ne4 Bc7 [10…Nxe4 11.Bxe4 Rc8] 11. Bd2 O-O 12. O-O Rc8 13. Nc5

I was fully expecting Bb4 at this point. I didn’t like Nc5 as after I capture the white knight, both recaptures help Black’s position. If Qxc5, Bb6 and I can start thinking of moves like c5, when I challenge white’s control of the center and my pieces start coming to life. If dxc5, as in the game, white loses his pressure on the c-file, he has no direct threats and I can start repositioning my pieces to more active squares.

13…Nxc5 14. dxc5 e5

The computer prefers Qd5 or a5. In fact I considered both of these moves but couldn’t come up with a clear plan. With e5, my idea was this. First of all, if white made some random move, I was hoping to play Re8, followed by e4, and I am clearly better. On the other hand, if white played e4 himself, he closes the light-squared diagonal, which is where he exerts the most pressure. By the same token, my dark-squared bishop is now useless as well, but with a closed position, I would have enough time to relocate my useless c8 rook and b7 bishop to more useful squares.

15. e4 a5 16. a3 Qe7 17. b4 Ra8 18. Bg5 Bc8 19. Qc3 Re8 20. h3 h6 21. Bc1

My opponent spent a very long time before playing Bc1. I was actually quite surprised; I felt he would play Bh4.

21…Nd7 22. Bc2

Getting out of potential traps like f5, exf5, followed by e4, forking the knight and bishop.

22…Nf8 23. a4 axb4 24. Qxb4 Nd7 25.Be3 Bb6 26. axb5 Rxa1 27. Rxa1 cxb5 28. Qxb5 Bxc5 29. Bxc5 Nxc5 30. Ra5 Nd7+-

Somewhere in my calculations, I had assumed that I would be up a queenside pawn at the end of these tactics. The realization hit home only after White’s 26th move.

31.Ba4 Qa3

By this time, my opponent was in serious time pressure. Being in a worse position, I wanted to make sure I didn’t make too many moves where his response was forced.

32. Qb3 Qc1+ 33. Kh2 Qf4+ 34. g3 Qxe4 35. Qd1 Qf5

With this, we both made the time-control – my opponent with just a few seconds left. With the time-control for the game only adding another 15 minutes for the rest of the game, he wasn’t quite out of the woods yet!

36. Qd5?

As so often happens, he blunders right after making the time-control. Both Ra7 and Ra8 probably lead to forced draws.

36…Nf6 37. Qd1 Qxh3+ 38. Kg1 Rf8?

I gave a good, long think about 38…e4, giving up the exchange but probably winning. But I was unable to calculate all the variations and decided to play it safe.

39. Rxe5 Bb7 40. Qd3 Rc8 41. Re1 Ne4 42. Bd7! Rd8 43. Bxh3 Rxd3 44. Bg2 Nf6 45. Ne5 Rb3 46. Bxb7 Rxb7 0-1

The position is probably quite drawish at this point, but my opponent, having burnt most of his remaining time on his 37th move finally ran out of time and I won my second game of the year on a time forfeit!


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