August 20, 2008

After quite a long break, I finally played an OTB game. Naturally, I expected to be out of form and as I was black against a higher rated player, I didn’t go in with too much pressure. Surprisingly, I played reasonably well and gained an advantage out of the opening. Sadly, I couldn’t hold on to my advantage and went down after the time-control (35 moves).

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. f4 e5 7. Nf3 Nc6

I have started playing the Najdorf only recently (I used to play the Dragon but have given it up for the most part after a string of poor results). Online, I have primarily faced Be3, f3, Bg5, Be2 or Bc4. 6.f4 was new to me. After my 7th move, I was prepared for 8.fxe5 Nxe5 9.Nxe5 dxe5 10.Qxd8 Kxd8 where white has an advantage but with the queens off the board, I felt I had the time to manually castle queen-side. It turns out that my opponent had never faced 7…Nc6 himself and we were both in virgin territory.

8. h3 Be7 9. a4 Nh5!

White has been ignoring his piece development so far (his only developed piece is his knight on f3), so it is essential to target the dark-squared weaknesses on his king-side.

10. Be3 exf4 11. Bf2 Be6 12.Bd3 Qa5 13. O-O O-O 14. Nd5 Bxd5 15. exd5 Nb8 (Nb4) 16. c4 Bf6 17. Qe2 (Qc2) Nd7 18. Qc2 g6 19. Rab1 Rac8 20. b4 Qc7 21. Rfc1 Ng3? (Ne5!) 22. c5 Ne5 23. Nxe5 Bxe5 24. c6 Qe7? (Rf7!) 25.
b5 axb5 26. axb5 Qh4??

Until this point, we have both made minor inaccuracies but the game is still evenly poised. I have the extra pawn but my opponent has the initiative with his queen-side pawns storming up the board. At this point I debated between the text move and 26…f3, when I return the extra pawn but open up his kingside for attack. Alas, I went for the “safe” option but this would be my last chance in the game.

27. Qd1 Qe7 28. b6 f5 29. Bb5??

White is still winning after this move, but after 29.Ba6 (which is what I was expecting), it would have been time to resign.

29…Ne4 30. cxb7 Qxb7 31. Bc6 Qb8??

My last big blunder. I didn’t realise that with my rook on c8, I was trapping my own queen. 31…Qa6 was needed for any semblance of a chance. The rest of the game goes quickly.

32. Bd4 Bxd4+? (Rf7!) 33. Qxd4 Nc5 34. Qxf4 Nd3 35. Qd4 Nxc1 36. Rxc1 Rfe8 37. Rb1 (Ra1) Re5 (Re4) 38. Ra1 Re4 39. Qb2 Rxc6 40. dxc6 Re8 41. Ra7 Re1+ 42. Kf2 Re5 43. c7 1-0


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