Saturday, December 19, 2009

Game of the Year

From all the tournament games I observed this year, the one below is the one that left the biggest impression on me. White's 18th move introduced a tactical thunderstorm. Both players negotiated their way through it wonderfully well, before Black eventually slipped up.

Gareth Annesley - John Cairns
Ulster Championship (Round 4), 30 August 2009

Download the annotated game

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5 7.c3 Qe7 8.d4 Bb6 9.Bg5 d6 10.a4 Rb8 11.axb5 axb5 12.h3 h6 13.Bh4 g5 14.Bg3 g4 15.hxg4 Bxg4 16.Bh4 exd4 17.Bd5 Ne5


18.cxd4 runs into 18...Nxf3+ 19.gxf3 Bh3 20.Bc6+ Kf8 21.Re1 Rg8+ 22.Kh2 Bc8 (22...Ng4+ 23.Kxh3 Nxf2+ 24.Bxf2 Qe6+ 25.Kh4 (but not 25.Kh2 Qg6 and it's mate in two) 25...Qf6+ 26.Kh3 Qe6+ is only a perpetual check) 23.Rg1 Qe6 (threatening mate on h3) 24.Rg3 Nh5 25.Rg4 Rxg4 26.fxg4 Qxg4 27.Qxg4 Bxg4 28.d5 Bd4 and Black is a clear pawn up. 

(After 18.cxd4) 18...Bxd4 19.Qxd4 Bxf3 also looks dangerous but after 20.Qa7 (20.gxf3 Nxf3+ wins the White Queen) 20...Rc8 21.Qb7 0-0 22.Nd2 (22.gxf3? Nxf3+ 23.Kh1 Nxh4) 22...Bg4 23.Rfc1 White's queenside pressure provides reasonable compensation for the pawn.


18...dxe5 19.Bxf6 Qxf6 20.Qxg4 and Black loses a piece.


The obvious follow-up 19.Bxf7+ seems to leave Black slightly better after 19...Qxf7 20.Nxf7 Kxf7 21.Rxd1 (21.Bxf6 Kxf6 22.Rxd1 Ke5 23.Nd2 dxc3 24.bxc3 with some advantage for Black) 21...Nxe4 22.cxd4.

Two other possibilities after 19.Bxf7 are:

a) 19...Kf8 20.Ng6+ Kxf7 21.Nxe7 Be2 22.Bxf6 (22.Re1 d3 23.Bxf6 Kxf6 24.Nd5+ Ke5 25.Nd2 Rhf8 26.Nxb6 Rxb6 looks fine for Black) 22...Kxf6 (22...Bxf1 23.Bxh8 Rxh8 24.Nd5 Bd3 25.Nxb6 cxb6 26.cxd4 Bxe4 27.Nc3 is a bit better for White) 23.Nd5+ Ke5 24.Nxb6 Rxb6 25.cxd4+ Kxd4 26.Re1 with an equal position;

b) 19...Kd8 20.Nc6+ Kd7 21.Nxe7 Kxe7 22.Rxd1 Kxf7 23.Bxf6 Kxf6 24.cxd4 and White emerges a pawn up;

Although 19.Nc6 allows Black to save his Queen by 19...Qd7 20.Nxb8 Qg4 this might give White the best chance of a win after 21.Bxf6 0-0 (the only move not to lose) (21...Rg8 22.Bc6+ Kf8 23.Nd7+ Ke8 24.Ra8#; 21...Rh7 22.Bc6+ Kf8 23.Nd7+ Kg8 24.Ra8#; 21...dxc3 22.Bc6+ Kf8 23.Nd7+ Kg8 24.Ra8+ Kh7 25.Rxh8+ Kg6 26.Bxc3) 22.Nd2 (22.Nc6 would however be a big blunder as then Black mates after 22...Bf3 23.g3 Qh3) 22...dxc3 23.Raxd1 cxd2 24.Nc6 Qe2 25.Bd4 Bc5 26.Bxc5 dxc5 27.Ne5 and White will get the d-pawn after Nf3.

Instead of 22…dxc3 in the 19.Nc6 line, Black could try:

a) 22...Be2 (perhaps the best move here) 23.Nc6 Qf4 (if Black takes the Rook with 23...Bxf1 24.Rxf1 dxc3 White has 25.Ne7+ Kh7 26.bxc3 Qf4 27.e5 and the threat of Be4+ wins back the exchange) 24.Ne7+ Kh7 25.e5 Bd3 26.Nf3 Bxf1 27.Rxf1 dxc3 28.bxc3 dxe5 29.Bxe5 Qa4 30.Re1 f6 31.Be4+ Kg7 32.Bd4 with an unbalanced position;

b) 22...Bc2 23.Nc6 Qf4 24.Bxd4 Qxd2 25.Bxb6 cxb6 and White is probably a little better here.


Worse for Black would be 19...Kf8 20.Bxf6 Qe6 (20...Qxf6 21.Nd7+ Kg7 22.Nxf6) 21.Nd7+ Kg8 22.Rxd1 dxc3 (22...Rh7 23.Rd3) 23.Nxc3 Rc8 24.Bxh8 Kxh8 25.Nxb5 (25.Bxb5 Bxf2+ 26.Kxf2 c6 27.Bxc6 Rxc6 28.Ra7 is also good for White) 25...Qb3 26.Nxb6 cxb6 27.Nd4 Qxb2 28.Rab1 Qc3 29.Rxb6. 

20.Nd7 Nxd7 

20...Bg4 leads to a White win after 21.Nxb8 (but not 21.Bxf6 Bxd7 22.Bxe7+ Kxe7 23.Bxd7 Kxd7) 21...Qe5 22.Bb7 Bd7 (22...Qf4 23.g3 Qf3 24.Nd2 Qd3 25.Bxf6+ Ke8 26.Ra8 and mate is inevitable) 23.Ra8 Ke7 24.Nxd7 Kxd7 25.Rxh8.

20...dxc3 fails to 21.Nxb8 (also possible was 21.Bxf6 Qxf6 22.Nxf6 cxb2 23.Ra2 Be2 24.Nd7 Bxf1 25.Nxb8 Bc4 26.Rxb2) 21...Ba4 22.Nxc3 and Black will not be able to untangle himself, e.g. 22...Ba7 23.Nxa4 bxa4 24.Rxa4 Bxb8 25.Ra8 and the threat of mate forces a large material advantage.

Alternatives to 21…Bxa4 also do not work:
a) 21...c2 22.Nd7 Qe6 23.Bxf6+ Qxf6 24.Nxf6 c1Q 25.Ra8+ Ke7 26.Nd5+ Ke6 27.Rxh8 Qxc6 (27...Qxb1 28.Re8#) 28.Rxd1;

b) 21...cxb2 22.Ra8. 

21.Bxe7+ Kxe7 22.Rxd1


Better is 22...Ne5 23.Bxb5 dxc3 24.Nxc3 c6 25.Be2 Bc5 when Black's pieces are more active and the b-pawn is weak.

Another good possibility for Black, with the advantage of a couple of little traps, was 22...d3 23.Bxd7 23...Kxd7 24.Rxd3 Ra8 25.Rxa8 Rxa8.

Here are the ways White could go wrong after 22...d3:
a) 23.Bxb5? Bxf2+ 24.Kxf2 Rxb5 25.b4 f5 26.exf5 Rxf5+ 27.Ke3 Ne5;
b) 23.Rxd3? Ne5 24.Bxb5 Nxd3 (24...Bc5 might be even better) 25.Bxd3. 

23.Nxc3 b4 24.Nd5+

White's greater activity compensates for the pawn minus.

24...Kd8 25.Nxb6 Rxb6 26.Bd5 Ke7 27.Ra7 Rc8 28.Rc1 c6?!

And Black finally cracks under the sustained pressure. 28...Nc5 was the correct move.

29.Bxf7 Kxf7 30.Rxd7+

White has regained his pawn and will now pick up either the e- or h-pawn as well. 

30...Ke6 31.Rh7 c5 32.f4 Rf8 33.Rxh6+

33...Rf6 34.Rh4 Ra6 35.e5 dxe5 36.fxe5 Kxe5 37.Rxc5+ Kd6 38.Rb5 

Not surprisingly the players were very short of time now and were no longer recording moves. Annesley succeeded in converting his advantage into a win. 1-0

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