Perhaps my most interesting game was the long struggle against 3C’s Adam Ashton on the second day of the last weekend. During and after the game, I had a number of thoughts about the practical side of converting a slight advantage, and after writing them down, I thought it was worth sharing them with you! As always a playable version of this game is available at http://cloudserver.chessbase.com/MTIyMTYx/replay.html
Ashton,Adam G – Sadler,Matthew D
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Be7 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 cxd4 7.cxd4 dxe4 8.Nxe4 Nc6 9.0–0 0–0 10.Be3 Nd5 11.a3 b6 12.Rc1 Bb7 13.Bb1 Rc8 14.Qd3 f5 15.Nc3 Bf6 16.Rfd1 Nce7 17.Bd2 Ng6 18.Ne2 Qd6 19.Ba2 h6 20.Re1 Kh8 21.Bxd5 Qxd5 22.Rxc8 Rxc8 23.Nf4 Nxf4 24.Bxf4 Kg8
I spent about half of my time advantage pondering this concept (starting with the preparatory move 24…Kg8). As I did, it occurred to me that there are 3 stages to space-gaining pawn advances.
STAGE 1 occurs before the pawns move. In that scenario, Black’s pieces can act in front of the pawns and put pressure directly against the opponent’s position. For example, I could play 24…Bg5, or try somehow bring a rook to g6, attacking g2
This suddenly made me think of the game Larsen-Balashov, Bugojno 1978. I think I’d once seen it as an example of the power of opposite-coloured bishops / giving up one bishop of your pair of bishops but it also struck me as an excellent example of PHASE 1!
Larsen,Bent – Balashov,Yuri S
White has room for his pieces in front of his kingside pawns, and he makes powerful use of it in this situation. If you compare with the course of my game later, Black cannot hide his king safely away with …h6 and …Kh7 (Bf5+ will follow for example) and so Black feels the need to bring his king towards the centre. But just as with my game, the king runs into the crossfire of White’s queen and 2 bishops.
32…Kf7 33.Qa5 Ke7 34.Bf5
34…g6 35.Qb4+ Kf7 36.Bxe4 dxe4 37.a4 Bc6 38.Qd6
38…Bxa4 39.Qxf6+ Ke8 40.Qh8+ Kd7 41.Qxh7+
STAGE 2 occurs when the pawns start to advance. Strangely enough, at that moment Black’s pieces decrease in possibilities: the advanced pawns block files and diagonals that might form paths of attack against White’s position. For example, a pawn on g5 takes away g5 from the Black bishop and also blocks the path of a rook on g6 against g2.
STAGE 3 is the apotheosis where everything falls into place. The pawns advance still further, driving away the opponent’s pieces, causing weaknesses and opening lines which Black’s pieces can then exploit.
Pretty obviously, you don’t want to get stuck at PHASE 2! Slightly less obviously, you need to understand what piece activity you are giving up when you move from PHASE 1 to PHASE 2. Here I felt that I wasn’t losing too much. …Bg5 didn’t wow me too much while I couldn’t see my rook getting to g6 any time soon!
26.Be5 Be7 27.Qe3
I spent more of my precious time advantage on my next move. White’s most obvious idea was to exchange off rooks with 28.Rc1. At first, I assumed that I could meet that with 28…Rxc1 29.Qxc1 Bc6, blocking the c-file and preventing White from invading on c7 with his queen. However, I suddenly became worried by the idea of 30.Bb8 a6 31.Bc7 b5 32.Bb6 when White establishes a second dark-square outpost (c5) around his d-pawn. It felt like a concession to me.
I did think of a move like 27…Qc4 to prevent Rc1, but I was not happy at disrupting my battery along the a8–h1 diagonal which kept the knight pinned to f3.
For that reason, I came up with the plan in the game which aimed to exchange rooks on my terms: I played …a5 (which avoids Bb8 gaining a tempo in the future) and then offered the exchange of rooks on c6. After 29.Rxc6, I replied 29…Qxc6, covering the c7 square (and thus preventing Bc7 attacking b6) while also taking control of the c-file.
27…a5 28.Rc1 Rc6 29.Rxc6 Qxc6
What was my evaluation of this position? Strangely enough, I don’t think I ever got around to an objective analysis of the position’s features: my evaluation was shaped by a series of practical / emotional factors:
- I was more than 300 elo points higher rated than my opponent.
- I had a significant time advantage.
- White had taken on an IQP from the opening, offering a structural weakness in return for activity which normally manifests itself in an attack against the Black king. This attack had not materialised and White had needed to exchange a large number of pieces (thus eliminating remaining hopes of a kingside attack) and to concede the bishop pair to Black to keep himself standing.
The rating difference, the time factor and the flow of the game imbued me with the feeling that I would be extremely disappointed if I did not convert the position.
It was an understandable feeling, but I’m not convinced it was the perfect mood for patiently growing Black’s small advantage into a more serious one. I don’t think it affected the moves I played too negatively, but this “background noise” of impatience and expectation cost me unnecessary energy as I calculated and reasoned my way to the gradual constriction of my opponent’s position.
It is important to understand what you expect from a position, as the belief that you should be winning a position is often an enabler to finding hidden resources. However, if that belief masks an objective appraisal of the position it can make you vulnerable to over-pressing or overreaction when the nature of the position suddenly changes (for example if you lose control slightly, or if the task appears more complicated than you thought).
Looking back, I would have preferred simply to have acknowledged my feeling and its motivation to myself, and then put it aside and focussed on the position. I think that would have enabled me to play with more fluency than I did in the remaining part of the game. Although I’m reasonably satisfied with my strategy, I should have played much quicker. It wasn’t important in this game, but in another game it might be.
Back to the position itself, what was my plan? While thinking about my 24th move, I came up with the following general approach / reasoning:
Due to Black’s 14th move 14…f5, White can entrench himself in the centre by placing a minor piece on the outpost on e5. I decided that I would rather White placed his bishop rather than his knight on e5. In fact, I would encourage White to play Be5 by hitting his bishop on f4 with …g5 as quickly as possible. It sounds a little strange – after all, the bishop looks good on e5, supporting the pawn on d4 and supported by it, while assisting the White queen in an attack either against the kingside or the queenside – but I was envisaging the following scenario:
- White exchanges off rooks to neutralise Black’s control of the c-file
- Black brings his king to the queenside (most likely d7 which covers c7 and helps to prevent both Qc7 and Bc7)
- Black exchanges off queens
- Black’s king invades through the queenside light squares (c6–d5–c4 / c6–b5–a4)
The bishop on e5 only covers dark-squares so the Black king can easily dance his way around it into White’s weak queenside light-squares. However, put a White knight on e5, and the Black king’s access to d7 and c6 is blocked. So, the general plan was to
- Force the White bishop to e5 / prevent the White knight from coming to e5, taking care that White doesn’t get to neutralise my bishop pair by exchanging my dark-squared bishop (the point of 24…Kg8)
This meant that my queen and bishop battery on the a8–h1 diagonal was holy for me. I would not contemplate breaking it up until White had made f3 inaccessible for his knight (as happened in the game after Ne1 and f3)
- Avoid getting my king mated on the kingside by a White queen / Be5 combi by bringing the Black king to the queenside
- Improve Black’s position to the maximum for the future exchange of queens by gaining space on the kingside (maybe fixing White’s kingside pawns on g2 and h3 with …h4)
- Either free the queenside light-squares for entry by Black’s king by exchanging off queens, or gain piece territory if White refuses.
- Constrict White’s position further by advancing pawns on queenside to gain space there.
I had a wonderful Alekhine 30–move plan feeling as I constructed this grand scheme, and that feeling is strengthened when you consider that it all pretty much came to pass! However, during the game I encountered a lot of technical hobbles, and those multiplied when testing my ideas against the engine! My opponent deserves a lot of credit as he found an excellent defensive setup: just a little more persistence in his scheme and he would have had good chances for a successful defence.
A sneaky little move, prefacing the redeployment of the knight with Ne1 by bringing the queen into contact with the d1–h5 diagonal. After Ne1, White will be threatening a counter-attack against the Black king with Qh5–g6+!
White also had a more radical possibility which I underestimated during the game:
I assumed that 30…Qxd5 (30…exd5 31.Bd4 looked plain wrong: even if I manage to exchange the dark-squared bishops, then White will have great compensation due to his blockade on d4 and Black’s vulnerable kingside pawns.) 31.Qxb6 was too risky for White as the bishop on e5 is now very loose without the support of the d4 pawn. However, the engine holds things together:
31…Kf7 (31…g4 32.hxg4 fxg4 33.Qc7 gxf3 (33…Kf7 34.Ne1) 34.Qxe7 Qxe5 35.Qxb7 Qe1+ 36.Kh2 Qxf2 37.Qc8+ with perpetual) 32.Bc3 Bd8 keeps a little edge for Black due to his 2 bishops – and his battery along the a8–h1 diagonal in particular. Black will tie down the White queenside with …a4 and try and activate his king and centre.
The logical continuation of my plan, and it wasn’t difficult to see that it worked. However, I was tickled pink when I noticed one tactical detail.
31.Ne1 Ke8 32.f3
32.Qh5+ Kd8 33.Qf7
was the main line I needed to check 33…Qc1 34.Bf6 Qxe1+ 35.Kh2 White gives up a piece for the chance of perpetual check 35…Bxf6 36.Qxf6+ Kc7 37.Qe7+
If Black’s pawn was still on a7, then this position would actually be drawn: Black could not avoid the perpetual after 37…Kb8 38.Qd6+ or 37…Kc6 38.Qe8+. However, due to the excellent move 27…a5, the Black king now has a hiding place on a7 after 37…Kb8! I really would have been Alekhine if I’d spotted this tactic when playing 27…a5!
32.f3 is best to continue the regrouping of the White knight, but I was also happy to see it from a practical point of view. I no longer needed to worry about counterplay against my airy kingside by the White queen, which meant one parameter less to keep in my thoughts!
Around this point, the game has an interesting psychological undercurrent. The question is: should White exchange queens or not? That may seem an odd question as part 4 of my grand design is to offer the exchange of queens in order to invade with my king on the queenside. However, note that part 3 of my plan is to improve my position to the maximum degree before doing so. For example, looking at the current position, I might want my h-pawn on h4 – fixing White’s kingside pawns on g2 and h3 as prey for my light-squared bishop if White’s king were to move to the queenside – and my king on d7 – ready to invade the queenside as quickly as possible after the exchange of queens. If White exchanges queens immediately, he will most likely get the best version of this ending he can ever get, perhaps gaining chances to inhibit Black’s plans. For example, after the exchange of queens, White might be able to play a quick g4 and fix Black’s h6 pawn as a weakness to be attacked with Bg7.
So many doubts run through your mind as the defender: it’s the best version I can get of this ending… but is it good enough? Psychologically also, it’s a little easier to play positions with queens on. There is always the hope of sudden, unexpected counterplay in which – for example – White sacrifices his knight to draw Black’s queen out of position allowing White to give perpetual with his queen (see the variation after 32.Qh5 instead of 32.f3 for such an attempt). In some ways, you feel that playing the position without queens requires a higher and more constant level of accuracy in defence whereas one clever manoeuvre with your queen could compensate for earlier suboptimal play.
Objectively, I feel that keeping the queens on is a good defensive decision as long as your own king is safe. If your king is exposed to rapid attack, any attempts to break out for a perpetual are doomed to failure. As soon as your queen moves away from your king, you’ll be mated before you give your first check! If your own king is safe, that can give you a crucial extra couple of moves to get your play going. In this position, White has a cosy hideout on h2 for his king so I think that White is justified in keeping the queens on. Moreover, his bishop on e5 is invulnerable on e5: the only piece that White really has to worry about when Black starts to squeeze, is his knight.
Would I have been annoyed though if White had exchanged off queens in the next couple of moves? To be honest, no. I saw it as something I couldn’t avoid, and moreover I had done some excellent preparation for the eventuality by bringing my king to the queenside. I couldn’t do any more so I was ready to let it happen. My efforts in the next few moves were therefore concentrated against a possibility I found much more worrying: the possibility that White might transfer his knight to e5 via d3.
33.Nd3 Ba6 was my idea. The reason for 32…Qa4 was that I wanted to avoid committing my king to d7 until I had averted the threat of Nd3 to eliminate any chance of getting hit by Nc5+ or Ne5+ ideas. The other idea of course was to drop my queen onto that nice soft square on b3
33…f4 to stop Ne3 did occur to me but then 34.Qd3 is awkward, demonstrating the value of keeping the queens on. A small hole, and the queen is ready to wriggle its way towards the Black king!
Safe I thought, as White no longer has Nd3–e5…
White has found an excellent defensive structure, I appreciated the value of 35.Kh2 but the strength of White’s knight manoeuvre Ne1–c2–e3 eluded me. I wrongly – though understandably – merely saw the post on e3 as a poor second alternative once the desired Nd3 had been thwarted. What is so good about e3?
As I mentioned earlier, White’s greatest desire would be to place his knight on e5 – a central dark square – from where the knight exerts influence over central, kingside and queenside light-squares (c6,d7,f7,g6). Well, from e3, the knight is also in contact with some important light squares and performs both attacking and defensive duties:
- The knight supports the break d4–d5 and also dissuades the reply …exd5 as the f5 pawn is hanging
- The knight protects against the Black kingside break …g5–g4
- The knight eyes the square c4 from where it attacks the Black queenside pawns (a5,b6) and comes within reach of the e5 outpost again. During the game, I dismissed this last scenario as pretty unrealistic though: as soon as the knight came to c4, I would chase it away (or even win it) by attacking it with my light-squared bishop. For example, 35.Nc4 Bd5 (35…Ba6 36.Nxa5) 36.Ne3 Bc6 wins a tempo for Black as 37.Nc4 Bb5 38.Nxb6+ Kc6 wins a piece.
In general, the knight seems to combine excellently with the bishop on e5 (which covers and protects dark squares on all areas of the board). What I hadn’t realised, is that White has a window of opportunity in which he can also throw his queen into the mix and generate serious threats against Black’s position.
A creeping move, preparing …Bb5 and …Qd3 and ready to meet Nc4 with …Bb5 winning the knight as above. I just had to calculate one variation and that was another of White’s attempts to get perpetual by sacrificing his knight: 36.Qa6 Qxe3 37.Qa7+ Ke8 38.Qb8+ Bd8 covers adequately (38…Kf7 39.Qc7 gives good chances to draw due to the dual threat of Qxc6 and Bd6) 39.Bf6 (39.Bc7 Qxd4) 39…Qf4+
When I played this move, I wondered a little about 37.h4
which was a move that Adam also mentioned during our chat after the game. With this move, White opens an invasion channel for his queen cia the c1–h6 diagonal which gives White another way to attempt a knight sacrifice leading to a saving perpetual. It does weaken the White king slightly, but not dramatically. I was planning 37…gxh4 but Komodo is completely unimpressed claiming equality after 38.Nd1 followed by Nc3 and Qh6–g7 to follow whenever Black moves his queen from b3.
37.Qc1 however barely registered in my consciousness.
It is however a very good move! First of all, what is White’s threat if I play a typical move like 37…h4?
a) 37 ..h4 38.d5 Bxd5 (38…exd5 39.Nxf5) 39.Qc7+ Ke8 40.Qc8+ Kf7 41.Qh8 Qxe3 42.Qh5+ Kf8 43.Qh8+ with perpetual check, and White has sacrificed his knight successfully this time!
b) 37…f4 38.Nc4 is again fine for White: 38…Bd5 39.Nd2 followed by Qc7+;
c) 37..Bd8 was my standard assumption against any White queen pressure on the c-file. However, it’s not that good!
38.Nc4 with the very unpleasant idea of withdrawing White’s bishop to make way for the knight on e5.
A careless move like 38…Bd5 39.Nd6 Bc6 40.Nf7 Be7 41.Bf4 leads to a completely winning position for White!
I couldn’t find anything good for Black so I wondered after the game whether I should have played 36…h5 and whether the prophylactic 36…Bd8 would have been stronger.
36…Bd8 37.Qc1 Bb5 is the idea, covering c7 and preventing Nc4. However, White also resources here: 38.d5 f4 (too risky but the critical line) 39.Ng4
The key resource! If only Black had played …h5, oh wait… 39…Qxd5 (39…exd5 40.Bd4 is very awkward for Black. Ne5+ is coming and after 40…Bc7 41.Qe1 Black’s king is not happy) 40.Nf6+ Bxf6 41.Qc7+ Ke8 42.Bxf6 is better for White
As you can see, White has serious chances to create counterplay with the queens on. Even if the line with 37.Qc1 didn’t work directly, White would have other ideas such as 37.h4 to wear away fresh entry paths into Black’s position. While I was playing the game, I was aware as I pushed my pawns to gain space that I was giving myself a huge area of territory to defend with Q, 2Bs and K and I was constantly on the lookout for invasion possibilities for the White queen. Looks like I didn’t manage to cover them all! My opponent however started to play a little passively from now on.
This is White’s first poor move in this phase: it gives Black the opportunity to organise his pieces to prevent White’s plan of Nc4. After that has happened, White’s defensive task is considerably less joyful.
37…Bb5 38.Qd2 Bc6 39.Qe2 Bb5 40.Qd2 Qd3
I felt that 41.Qxd3 was perhaps the most sensible as Black’s queen is monstrously strong on d3. However, Black’s pieces and pawns are better-placed than a few moves ago so it would definitely feel as a slight defeat for White.
A typical idea when you have 2 bishops: one of your bishops stays on the back rank covering squares on both sides of the board. See the game Averbach-Botvinnik later in this chapter where Botvinnik ends up putting BOTH his bishops on the back rank to great effect!
This felt good from a practical point of view: now White could no longer open kingside lines for his queen with h4. However, Komodo hates it suggesting returning with 43.Ne3, the point being that …f4 is no longer a Black possibility as …h4 has abandoned control of the g4 square. I understood this but I wasn’t too worried – well I hadn’t realised how good the defensive structure with Ne3 was! – but Komodo thinks I won’t find a way through without this resource!
42…Qf1 43.Qd2 Qe2 forcing the exchange of queens was something I seriously considered, but I felt that I could extract a few more concessions by keeping the queens on for a few more moves.
This felt wrong as the knight blocks the c-file while it will eventually be a target for Black’s pawn advance …b5–b4. I’m not quite sure why I didn’t immediately play 43…Bc4 now. Possibly I saw a few ghosts, probably I also got a bit interested in possibilities of …g4. In any case, I fiddled around for a little while here before starting off again on the correct plan.
43…Bc6 44.Qe1 Be7 45.Qf2 Bd8
d4–d5 was threatened exploiting the now unprotected pawn on b6 so I simply retrace my steps. My bishop is slightly more active on e7 than on d8 so I would prefer to have it there, but safety is everything!
46.Kg1 Bb7 47.Kh2 Ba6
Heading for c4 now
48.Kg1 Bc4 49.Kh2 Kc6
It was a little nerve-wracking playing this move when White’s queen was on c1, but now it feels very safe with White’s queen on the kingside. I decided that I needed the king on b7 if I wanted to advance …b6–b5. With the king on d7, White might answer …b6–b5 with d4–d5 followed by Qa7+! I had the funniest feeling during the ending that the core of the battle was between the White queen and the Black king. If felt almost like the technique of distant opposition that you see in King and Pawn endings. I was constantly reshuffling my king, either to get out of range of the White queen, or to restrict the White queen’s range. With every pawn move, a new evaluation of this opposition had to be made!
50.Qe1 Kb7 51.Qc1 b5
I was playing pretty quickly and fluently by now. The engine still claims just –0.49, but the strain on a human of defending such a position is pretty high. Worried of finding himself without a square for his knight, Adam now made an error of judgement.
52.Kg1 Bb3 53.Kf2
The engines’ evaluation of White’s position drops enormously after this move from –0.7 (slight to clear edge for Black) to -2.29 (completely winning for Black) and to be honest, that was exactly my feeling at the board. If you think back to my comments to move 32, I said that White can consider keeping the queens on because his king is safe. With 53.Kf2, White brings his king closer into the firing line, and the firepower of queen and 2 bishops is not to be underestimated, just as in game Larsen-Balashov earlier in this article. As well as restricting White’s pieces, Black now gains tactical opportunities against the White king to boot.
53…b4 54.axb4 axb4 55.Ne2 Bc4 56.Qe3 Qc2
Black will just pick up the b-pawn and then push his own. It took a while, but that completed Guildford’s 8–0 victory against the 3C’s!
After the game, Glenn Flear told me that this game reminded him of a game that Botvinnik had played with the same material balance. Glenn knew that Botvinnik had annotated the game in his Best Games collection, but couldn’t remember the name of his opponent. Back home, I couldn’t find my copy of Botvinnik’s Best Games so I messaged my friend Steve Giddins for help which of course was forthcoming! The game Glenn remembered was played against Kortchnoi, while Steve also mentioned that in the same tournament, Botvinnik had played another ending with Q+2Bs vs Q+N&B against Averbach!
Without analysing these games deeply, I just like to point out a couple of themes in those games that also occurred in Botvinnik’s games!
Averbakh,Yuri L – Botvinnik,Mikhail
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Bd3 dxe4 5.Bxe4 Nf6 6.Bd3 c5 7.dxc5 Nbd7 8.Bd2 Nxc5 9.Bb5+ Ncd7 10.Nf3 a6 11.Bd3 0–0 12.0–0 b6 13.Ne4 Be7 14.Qe2 Bb7 15.Rad1 Qc7 16.Bg5 Rfe8 17.c4 Rad8 18.Rfe1 h6 19.Nxf6+ Nxf6 20.Bh4 Bb4 21.Rf1 Qc6 22.Bc2 Be7 23.Bxf6 Bxf6 24.b3 g6 25.Rxd8 Rxd8 26.Rd1 Rxd1+ 27.Bxd1
Here we are!
27…e5 28.Ne1 e4 29.Nc2 Qd6 30.Ne3 Qd4
Centralisation of the Black queen.
31.Nd5 Bg5 32.g3 f5 33.h4 Bd8
A bishop on the back rank covers squares on both sides of the board
Bringing the king closer to the centre, ready to invade after the exchange of queens.
35.Qd1 Qxd1+ 36.Bxd1 Ke6 37.Nf4+ Kf6 38.Kf1 g5
Expansion on the kingside gaining space
39.hxg5+ hxg5 40.Nd5+ Ke5 41.a4 Kd4 42.Be2 Bc8
BOTH bishops on the back rank!
43.Kg2 Bd7 44.Kf1 Be8
45.Kg1 Bf7 46.Kg2 a5 47.Kf1 f4 48.gxf4 gxf4 49.Nxf4 Kc3 50.Bd1 Kd2 51.Bg4 Kc2 52.Be6 Bxe6 53.Nxe6 Be7 54.Nd4+ Kc3 55.Nf5 Bf8 56.Ng3 Kxb3 57.Ke2 Kxa4 58.Nxe4 Kb3 59.Kd3 a4 60.Nd2+ Kb2 61.c5 b5 62.c6 Bd6 63.Ne4 Bb8 64.Nc3 a3 65.f4 Bxf4
Kortchnoi,Viktor – Botvinnik,Mikhail
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.0–0 0–0 5.d3 c5 6.e4 Nc6 7.Nbd2 d6 8.c3 Ne8 9.Qe2 Nc7 10.Nb3 b6 11.Rd1 Ba6 12.Bg5 h6 13.Be3 Kh7 14.Qc2 e5 15.d4 Qe7 16.d5 Nb8 17.a4 Nd7 18.a5 b5 19.Nxc5 Nxc5 20.Bxc5 dxc5 21.d6 Qd7 22.dxc7 Qxc7 23.c4 b4 24.Nd2 Rad8 25.Nb3 Bf6 26.Bf1 Bb7 27.f3 Bg5 28.Qf2 Be7 29.Be2 Kg7 30.Rxd8 Rxd8 31.Rd1 Rxd1+ 32.Bxd1
Here we are again!
32…Bc8 33.Qd2 Be6 34.Be2 Bg5 35.Qd3 f5 36.Kf2 f4 37.g4 h5 38.h3 Be7 39.Ke1 Bh4+ 40.Kf1 Qe7 41.Qd1 Qc7 42.Qd2 Be7 43.Kg2 Qc6 44.Nc1 Qc7 45.Nb3 Bf7 46.Bf1 Kf8 47.Be2 Qc6 48.Nc1 Qc7 49.Nb3 Ke8 50.Qd1 Be6 51.Kf1 Bd8 52.Kg2 Be7 53.Kf1 Kf7 54.Kg2 Kf6 55.Qe1 Qd7 56.Qf2 Qd6 57.Bf1 Qc7 58.Qd2 Qc6 59.Qf2 Bf7 60.Qh4+ Ke6 61.Qf2 Kd6
Note the transfer of the king to the queenside where it assists in the covering squares that the rest of Black’s forces cannot
62.Be2 Kc7 63.Bf1 Kb8 64.Qd2 Kc8 65.Qf2 Qa4 66.Nxc5 Qxa5 67.Nd3 Bxc4 68.Qc2 Qc7 69.Qa4 hxg4 70.hxg4 a5 71.Qe8+ Kb7 72.Qxg6 Bd6 73.Nc5+ Qxc5 74.Bxc4 Qxc4 75.Qxd6 Qe2+ 76.Kg1 Qe1+
Just as a last bit of research, I got curious whether there were any previous (strong) examples of the type of IQP + material balance I’d had against Ashton. Unexpectedly, I didn’t find very much. If anyone finds anything better, let me know! One thing you do notice is how quickly draws are agreed once a White knight gets to e5! It really does make all the difference!
Sebag,Marie – Haba,Petr
1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Be2 Be7 7.0–0 cxd4 8.cxd4 Nc6 9.Nc3 Qd6 10.Nb5 Qd8 11.Bf4 Nd5 12.Bg3 0–0 13.Bc4 a6 14.Bxd5 axb5 15.Be4 Nb4 16.Qb3 f5 17.Bb1 Nd5 18.Be5 Bd7 19.Bd3 b4 20.Qd1 Bc6 21.Re1 Qe8 22.Bc4 Bf6 23.Qd2 Kh8 24.Bb3 Qe7 25.Bg3 Rfd8 26.Ne5 Ba4 27.Bc4 Rac8 28.Rac1 Be8 29.Nf3 h6 30.Bxd5 Rxc1 31.Rxc1 Rxd5 32.Rc7 Rd7 33.Rxd7 Bxd7
And here White achieved something I carefully avoided with 24…Kg8 before 25…g5: the exchange of bishops!
34.Be5 Bg5 35.Bf4 Bf6 36.Be5 Kh7 37.Qf4 b3 38.axb3