A tactical slugfest

August 25, 2009

I wouldn’t say that the game was perfect – far from it. But I played well in some critical moments and despite some ups and downs, was able to pull out the win. My third game against the same opponent (I had earlier played one black and one white against him) was with black:

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. f4 e5 7. Nf3 Nbd7 8. a4 Be7 9. Bd3 O-O 10. O-O b6
Having played against him before and knowing what to expect, I had looked into the theory of the Najdorf with 6. f4. Here, the main line went 10… Nc5, but considering he played this line quite regularly and would be more familiar with it, I chose a more offbeat variation that probably suited my style of play a bit better.

11. Qe1 Bb7 12. Qh4!?
This move caught me by surprise. I now had to figure out if the capture on e4 was flawed:

12… Nxe4!
I first considered 12… Nxe4 13. Ng5 Bxg5 14. fxg5 but that doesn’t work because now my knight on e4 is threatened thrice (and protected only once); moving the knight to f6 or capturing on g5 with it loses the knight; and moving it anywhere else results in mate on h7. But then I looked at the variation 12… Nxe4 13. Ng5 Nxg5! 14. fxg5 g6 and that seemed good for black.

13. Qh3! Ndc5 14. Nxe4 Bxe4 15. Bxe4 Nxe4
I had worked my way to this position when I played my 12th move. Here, I was expecting white to capture on e5, but he first played an intermezzo.

16. Qf5 d5! 17. fxe5 Bc5+ 18. Kh1 g6 19. Qh3
When I played d5, I calculated until this position and knew I could win the exchange with Nf2+. If I did play it, white would get serious attacking chances using the weak dark squares around my king. Unfortunately, I made the wrong choice and went for the material. I couldn’t see a forced win for white (and the computer still shows a slight edge for black), so I figured I could pick up the material – but I should have anticipated that my position wouldn’t be easy to play and that the slightest error on my part would be fatal. Instead what I should have focused on was that I had two very powerful minor pieces on the board and that I could play on normally with a distinct advantage.

19… Nf2+?
(19… Qe7 20. c3 a5)

20. Rxf2 Bxf2 21. Bg5 Qc7 22. Bf6 Be3?!
When I played Nf2+, I had intended to play 22… h5 in this position. But I couldn’t see a way forward after 23. g4 Qd7 24. Qg2. I thought that white was probably better in this position. In fact, the computer shows that the line leads to a draw by repetition.
(22… h5 23. g4 Qd7 (23… Qxc2 24. gxh5 Qf5 25. Qxf5 gxf5) 24. Qg2 hxg4 25. Qxf2 Qf5 26. Qh4 Qxf3+ 27. Kg1 Qe3+ 28. Kh1 Qf3+)

23. Nh4 Bd2?
A flawed idea – I will lose my bishop shortly. I should have realized that the knight now blocked the queen’s access to h6 and should have taken the opportunity to re-route my bishop to the f8-h6 diagonal instead where its much safer and better placed.
(23… Bc5 24. Nf5 h5 25. Qg3 Rfe8)

24. Nf5 h5
(24… Rfe8)

25. Qd3 Bf4
(25… Bg5 26. Ne7+ Qxe7 27. Bxe7 Bxe7)

26. Ne7+ Kh7 27. Nxd5 Qd7 28. Nxf4 Qxd3 29. Nxd3 Rac8 30. c3 Rc4 31. Kg1 a5 32. Kf2 Re8?! 33. Rc1? Rxa4 34. h3 Kh6 35. Ke3 g5 36. Rf1 Kg6 37. Rf2 Rc8 38. Bxg5?
(38. e6 fxe6 39. Be5)

38… Kxg5 39. Rxf7 Re8 40. g3 Re6 41. Rg7+ Kh6 42. Rf7 Kg6 43. Rb7 Kf5 44. Rf7+ Kg5 45. Rg7+ Kh6 46. Rf7
I took this repetition of position to be an implicit draw offer from my opponent. I realized I was worse here, but felt I should push for a win. This was round 3 of a 5 round Swiss tournament, and I had a 1.5/2 score. With 4 of us tied at 1.5 and 2 others having won both their games so far, I felt I needed to win this game to be in with a good chance at winning the tournament. In addition, my opponent was down to less than 5 minutes on his clock while I still had more than 10. Despite these factors, I probably made the wrong decision to go for it 😦

46… Ra1? 47. Ke4 Rg6 48. Nf4 Rxg3 49. Rf6+ Kh7 50. Rxb6 Re1+
50… Ra4+ 51. Kf5 Rf3 52. Rb7+ Kh6 53. b4 Rxc3 54. e6 Rxb4 55. Rxb4 axb4 56. e7 Rc8 57. Kf6 b3 58. Nd3 leads to a draw.

51. Kf5 Rge3 52. e6 Rf1 53. Kg5??
Game losing blunder, and my gamble pays off!
(53. Rb7+ Kh6 54. e7)

53… Re5+ 0-1


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