My first game of the last 4NCL weekend was a fraught draw against Matthew Turner which fitted in well with the pattern of the match in which we scraped past the Barbican amateurs with a 4,5-3,5 win.
The game ended quickly, but after a quick swim to get rid of the frustration and tension, I spent some time trying to understand the reason for my mistakes. They might have been related to a lack of sharpness (I hadn’t played since the previous 4NCL weekend a month and half earlier) but I was keen to sort them out before the crucial last-round match against our closest challengers Cheddleton. As always, a playable version of this game is available at http://cloudserver.chessbase.com/MTIyMTYx/replay.html and you can download a pgn at http://cloudserver.chessbase.com/MTIyMTYx/replay.pgn
Sadler,Matthew D – Turner,Matthew
4NCL May 2017
In this position, I was worried that Black was about to organise his position by playing his queen to f6, withdrawing his knight to g7 and then doubling on the e-file. As I began to ponder, this turned from a thought into something of an obsession and narrowed the scope of my thinking enormously.
The only way I could see to dissuade …Ng7 was to attack the Black bishop on f5 with 20.Be4. The idea is that Black isn’t ready to support his knight on f5 after 20…Ng7 21.Bxf5 Nxf5 22.Qd3 and the knight is very uncomfortable on f5 as 22…Qf6 23.Ng4 Qg6 24.Qxf5 wins a piece.
As soon as I had this idea, I noticed Black’s possibility of 20…Nxf4, not backing down but sacrificing a piece. Intuitively, I felt that Black should find enough counterplay in this way and the thought popped into my head “That must be it, that must be how Black has to play”.
I started to calculate 20…Nxf4 21.Bxf5 and after a little time spent trying things out in my head, I stumbled on 21…Ne2+ 22.Kh2 Re3. Black’s idea is simply to triple on the e-line with …Qe7 and …Rae8 and then use his dark-squared threats such as …Qe5+ and ..Ng3+ to force perpetual, or regain material. Komodo awards me 0.00 for the idea so I guess that I was right! However, it was complicated and unclear enough to be worth the gamble and I felt anyway that White should be fighting to wrest control of the position from Black. The fact that I’d found a decent way for Black to continue (which I’d expected in this position) convinced me that this must be the ONLY way that Black could play. After spending 30 minutes on 20…Nxf4, I must have spent all of 30 seconds checking other ideas before whipping out 20.Be4.
Played after a couple of minutes’ thought. I think it was that fact that confused me. I was still in the train of thought of my 30–minute think about 20.Be4 and instead of blinking, stepping back and assessing the situation afresh, I simply added 20…Qf6 to my train of thought: “Oh he hasn’t seen / hasn’t dared to play 20…Nxf4. He’s played so quickly, he’s obviously missed that I can play 21.Qxd6 and meet 21…Rad8 with 22.Qe5! Great, gamble succeeded! Play”
20…Nxf4 21.Bxf5 Ne2+ 22.Kh2 Re3 (22…Qh4+ 23.Nh3 Qg3+ 24.Kh1 Qe5 25.Bd3 Ng3+ 26.Kg1 is a bit better for White 26…Nxf1 27.Qg4+) 23.Nh3 Qe7 Threatening perpetual with …Qe5+ followed by …Ng3–e2+ 24.Bd3 To get the bishop safe (24.Rf2 Qe5+ 25.Kh1 Ng3+ 26.Kg1 Nxf5) 24…Qe5+ 25.Kh1 Ng3+ 26.Kg1 Nxf1 27.Qg4+ Qg7 28.Qxg7+ Kxg7 29.Bxf1 Rxc3 The difference. Black should be fine as the White minor pieces have little scope and Black already has 2 pawns.
This was the idea I didn’t want to allow. Black intends to mobilise his rooks with …Re6 and …Rae8 and stabilise the kingside with …Qg6 and …h5. I looked at a couple of ideas and felt I was on the wrong side of the tactics and I would be unable to make much impact on Black’s position. The general conclusion is correct, although as I discovered later in the train, the tactics are much closer than I’d realised!
22.g4 (22.Rae1 Qg6 is just solid for Black 23.g4 Bxe4 24.Nxe4 f5) 22…Bxe4 (22…Qg6 is also good, threatening …Bxe4 and …f5 23.Bxf5 Nxf5 24.Rae1 h5 25.g5 Re6 is fine for Black) 23.Nxe4 Qg6 24.f5 Nxf5 25.Rae1 (25.Qxf5 Rxe4) 25…Re5 (25…d5 is also strong) 26.Kh2 Nh4 27.Nf6+ Kg7 28.Qg3 (28.Qf2 Rxe1 29.Qxe1 Qc2+ 30.Qf2 Nf3+) 28…Nf5 Took me a while to spot this! 29.Rxf5 (29.Nh5+ Qxh5+) 29…Rxf5 30.gxf5 Qxg3+ 31.Kxg3 Kxf6
Back to 21.Qxd6
Thump. A stunning resource. It took me about 30 seconds to realise what was happening. Rather embarrassingly, I think I even looked in a very confused way at Jonathan Parker (the Barbican 2nd board) who was following the game with some interest (in all fairness, he looked confused too!)
22.Bxf5 Rad8 23.Qe5 Nd4
Aaagh, it’s coming THERE! 24.Qa5 (24.Qf6 Ne2+) 24…b6 25.Qxa7 I weighed this up quickly during the game, but I couldn’t believe I’d get any more than perpetual, with the big risk that I wouldn’t! 25…Nxf5 26.Qxb6 Ng3
looks so scary for White. Komodo starts off at 0.00 but play a few aggressive moves and he zooms right down! I decided it was time to take the edge off the position and settle in for a grim hold.
22…Qg3 23.Qd3 Qxd3
and my opponent offered me a draw which I was happy to accept.
23…Qxd3 24.Bxd3 Bxd3 25.Nxd3 Rad8 is a very pleasant advantage for Black. White will need to play very accurately in the next few moves to stop Black’s pieces invading on the 2nd rank (with …Nd4 as a constant irritation).
Funnily enough, I played through the game again slowly a week ago after having bought the latest version of the Komodo engine, and I suddenly saw that he was screaming for 21.Qf3 after 20.Be4 Nxf4.
21.Qf3 Qg5 (21…Bxe4 22.Nxe4) 22.Bxf5 Ne2+ (22…Qxf5 23.Ng4) 23.Kh2 Re3 24.Qg4 Ng3 25.Bc8
25…Nxf1+ 26.Rxf1 is the magic idea, keeping Black bottled up via this amazing pressure against the queenside pawns!
So I didn’t calculate 20…Nxf4 well at all either. If I’d spotted 21.Qf3, I’m sure I would have spotted 20…Qf6 and 21…Qxc3 too: I would have been on the alert for better moves for Black!
What can I learn from this? At the very least, that after a long think, you must have the discipline to reset your thoughts if the opponent plays an unexpected move quickly. Otherwise, you risk following an erroneous reasoning to a very unfortunate conclusion as I did!