My biggest scalp to date

September 9, 2008

Playing black against the highest-rated player I’ve played since I moved to the UK and winning was definitely sweet. He was likely suffering from rust, not having played in about 3 months, but I’m not complaining. He held an advantage well into the middle-game, with a lasting initiative and a lack of queen-side development on my part but a couple of inaccuracies followed by a blunder left me up a piece and I was able to duly convert the win. My record in the UK now stands at +7-3=1.

1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 e6 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Be3 Ng4 7. Nbd2!?

I didn’t expect him to give up his dark squared bishop so easily. As we will see in the game, he now uses the open f-file to create pressure on my kingside. But I also use it to find a safe haven for my queen.

7…Nxe3 8. fxe3 Be7 9. Bd3 O-O 10. O-O Qh5

For any number of moves now, it was quite possible to kick my queen from its central post with a gain of tempo. Until he gave up his dark squared bishop, I had been intending to retreat the queen back to d8. But in its absence, I decided to move it to h5, intending it to become the dragon bishop if needed to defend my kingside (after playing Qh6, g6 and Qg7).

11. Qc2 Nd7?!

I had a long think here. I was in real danger of allowing white to build up a kingside attack with no counter-attacking chances for myself. The only plan I could come up with was to challenge in the centre. One option was to play f5 at some point to block the b1-h7 diagonal but I was worried about the backwards pawn on e6. The other option was to play e5 and carry out a series of exchanges and also activate my c8 bishop. To this end, I needed to play Nc6 or Nd7 to support the e5-push. With Nc6, I was worried about d5, when my knight has no good retreat squares. Therefore Nd7, even further restricting the scope of my light-squared bishop.

12. a4 e5 13. Rae1 g6 14. Nc4 Bf6 15. Nd6 exd4 16. exd4 cxd4 17. Bc4?

In my opinion, he should have just played cxd4. This gives up a pawn without adequate compensation. With this move and the next, white goes from having a distinct advantage to losing.

17…dxc3! 18. Nxf7??

Here, my opponent had a long think before playing this move. This allows me to go up a piece. For the rest of the game, I was more interested in shutting down any possible counter-play and bringing the rest of my pieces into play.

The main continuation that I was looking at over the board was probably better than his eventual choice: [18.Bxf7 Kg7 Nxc8 Rac8 Bb3 cxb2 Qb1 -/+ (diagram)]

The rest of the game requires no commentary – I managed to reel in the full point!

18…Qc5+! 19. Kh1 Qxc4 20. Nd6 Qb4 21. Qd3 Nb6 22. Ne5 Be7 23. Ndc4 Bf5 24.Qf3 Nxc4 25. Qd5+ Kg7 26. Nxc4 cxb2 27. Nxb2 Rad8 28. Qa2 Rd2 0-1


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