The next instalment in our examination of my games from the ROC Nova College Open in July is my 4th round game, the 3rd game of a rather tiring Saturday! I was desperate to finish promptly and have an early night but as always in such cases, the exact opposite happened! As always, a playable version of this game is available at http://cloudserver.chessbase.com/MTIyMTYx/replay.html
Sadler,Matthew D – Klapwijk,Bram
15th ROC Nova College 2017
Black’s position is already very difficult and I had built up a huge time advantage while Black struggled to find a reasonable way to mobilise his pieces. After Black’s next move, I mentally wrote up 1–0 and looked forward to an early night for once.
Hitting the queen and also uncovering the attack of the bishop on g2 on the d5 pawn. White is winning at least a pawn.
Played quickly (well, Black didn’t have much time left anyway!) Right I thought, time to settle down and win something juicy. 40 minutes later I was still going and getting immensely irritated with myself!
What went wrong? Essentially of course I lost concentration. I was so unimpressed with 18…Nd8, I assumed that a clear refutation should be available, and – crucially – that it could not be too difficult. When I struggled to find more than a small advantage by normal means, switching to accurate calculation was a substantial effort which cost me much more time than it should have done. Moreover, possibly through tiredness during the 3rd game of the day, I got incredibly confused by the defensive capabilities of the knights on c8 and d8. I kept on putting pieces en prise (particularly on d6) and I kept on forgetting that Black’s light-squared bishop was protected on b7 by the knight on d8. Even worse, at some stage I cottoned on that the knight on d8 had a very nice square on e6 to move to after which the bishop on f4 – and by extension the knight on e5 – suddenly look a little fragile.
Take a look at the lines that I calculated within the first 10 minutes of my reflection (20.Nc7, 20.Bxd5 and 20.Qxd5). They are not meant to be 100% correct – I have left out the engine’s corrections! – but they give an idea of the unusual challenge of this position!
a) 20.Qxd5 Ne6
Bizarrely enough, the knights on the back rank are also mobile! In particular the knight on d8 is annoying, hitting the bishop on f4. 20…Bb7 was actually the first bizarre thing I noticed: the bishop is defended on b7 by the knight on d8. To be honest, I kept on thinking that Nc7 would win a piece and forgetting that the bishop had a safe retreat square on b7!
I wanted this to work: it felt like the right refutation. And yet, due to the knight on c8, I didn’t have access to the squares I needed!
21…Nxf4 22.Nxh6+ Kh7 23.Nxf5 Nxd5 24.Nxg7 wins
22.Bxd5 Nxf4 23.gxf4 Rxf7
the knight on c8 covers e7 (no Re7) and d6 (no Nd6) and the bishop on a6 covers the knight on c8!
24.Nc7 doesn’t win the trapped bishop on a6 because of 24…Bb7
Black is still hanging in there!
b) 20.Bxd5 g5 21.Be4 Qe6 22.Qxe6 Nxe6 And again the knight emerges, this time with an advantage to Black! I must have spent a couple of minutes checking and rechecking this: it didn’t fit my view of the position at all for Black to be able to defeat an obvious, active move like 20.Bxd5 in such an easy way!
c) 20.Nc7 Bb7 21.Nxd5
Here I was discomfited by the fact that the knight on c8 prevents Ne7+!
21…g5 Which I thought was awkward here just like against 20.Bxd5
22.hxg5 hxg5 23.Ne3 Qe6 24.Qxe6 fxe6
Winning a piece I thought (not 24…Nxe6 25.Bxb7 gxf4 26.N3c4 with a clear advantage for White)
My slow realisation that the knight on d8 also can play an active role on e6 is a good example of the effects of my loss of concentration. If I had dedicated a little thought to understanding the move 18…Nd8 when it appeared on the board, I would have seen that …Ne6 was the intention and taken it into account at once in my calculations. Having dismissed 18…Nd8 as a terrible move, I started to feel aggrieved that Black was still alive and regard …Ne6 as a “lucky shot”. In the end, I came up with a sequence of moves that up to move 27 matches the engine’s #1 line, but it had cost me much unnecessary time, energy and calm. And to be honest, it was a very fraught line! That makes you less secure and sets up the conditions for an unexpected blunder.
In the end I went for this line, which I saw as a souped-up Kh2! The bishop is aiming for the h3–c8 diagonal but without putting the king on the h-file which should make counterplay with …g5 less effective than against 20.Kh2. The engine likes it too. Let’s take a look at the variations I saw during the game again, but this time with computer corrections!
a) 20.Qxd5 Ne6 21.Nxf7 Qxd5 22.Bxd5 Nxf4 23.gxf4 Rxf7 24.Re8+ Bf8
doesn’t win immediately but it does give White a clear advantage:
25.Be6 Bxb5 26.axb5 Nd6 27.Rb8 Nxb5 28.Rb7 Nd6 29.Bxf7+ Kg7 30.Rxb6 Kxf7 31.h5
or Black plays …h5 and then wins the h-pawn anyway
31…gxh5 32.Kg2 Nf5 33.Kf3 followed by Ra6 is not easy at all for Black to defend!
b) 20.Bxd5 g5 21.hxg5 hxg5
doesn’t win for Black either
22.Nxf7 Nxf7 23.Nd6 Ncxd6 24.Bxd6 Rd8 25.Be6 Qf3 26.Re3 Qb7 27.Bd5 Rxd6 28.Re8+ Bf8 29.Bxb7 Bxb7
is better for White according to Komodo, which is definitely true but it’s not exactly easy and smooth!
c) 20.Nc7 Bb7 21.Nxd5 g5 22.hxg5 hxg5 23.Ne3 Qe6 24.Qxe6 fxe6
is refuted by
25.Bxg5 Bxe5 26.Bxd8 Bxg2 27.Nxg2 opening up the attack on the bishop on e5 and thus saving the piece! White remains 2 pawns up
This was something I spent some time on when I got dissatisfied with the normal options: I was looking for prophylactic ideas against both …Ne6 and …g5.
20…g5 21.Bh3 Qh7 22.hxg5 hxg5 23.Bxg5 Ne6
Again the knight emerges with a tempo against White’s dark-squared bishop.
I didn’t like the fact that any move of the light-squared bishop would be met by …Bf6 and I didn’t really want to part with my light-squared bishop. In fact, White should still be better according to Komodo but I can understand that I didn’t want to enter his #1 line
25.Qd1 Nxh3 26.Kxh3 f6 27.Ng4 Qf5 28.Qe2 Bb7
followed by Qe6+ should be very good for White. However, I played the equally good 20.Bf3
20…g5 21.hxg5 hxg5 22.Bg4 Qh7 23.Bxg5 wins easily 23…Ne6 24.Nxf7
20…Ne6 21.Bg4 Qf6 22.Nd7
21…Qxg4 22.Nxg4 Rxe1+ 23.Kh2 Bb7 24.d4 looked pretty clear to me
22.Rxe5 Qxg4 23.Re8+ Kh7 24.Rxd8 Ne7
24…Bb7 25.d4 was the other line I had calculated. After the text, I was very happy with
25…Qd7 26.Rb8 was the idea, going after the b6 pawn only after having knocked the queen away from the kingside.
25…Qe2 was something I hadn’t calculated and that might well have given me a shock!
Played with very little time on the clock. After 25…Nf5, I had said to myself that I had “at least” 27.Qxf7 Qd1+ 28.Kh2 Nf3+ 29.Kg2 Ne1+ 30.Rxe1 Qxe1 but when thinking about move 27, I suddenly got bizarrely ambitious. That led to the following howler:
27.Qxf7 Qd1+ 28.Kh2 Nf3+ 29.Kg2 Ne1+ 30.Rxe1 Qxe1 31.Qd7 keeping Black’s light-squared bishop under wraps is very strong
27.f3 Nxf3+ 28.Kf2 Ng5 29.Bxg5 hxg5 30.Nc7 Bc8 31.Qxf7 is Komodo’s #1 way… and there’s nothing much to say about that!
27…Qd1+ 28.Kh2 Qf1 is bad news! White has no more than a draw
Allowing …Qd1+–f1 again!
28…Be6 29.Qe4 Nf5
Missing his last chance! 29…Qd1+ 30.Kh2 Qf1 would still work.
30.Nxf5 Bxf5 31.Qf3 Qh3 32.Qh1 Qg4 33.f3 Qh3 34.Qxh3 Bxh3 35.g4 1–0
Some awful finishing there! It just goes to show how important maintaining concentration is to good practical play. Re-establishing lost concentration is extremely difficult as I proved here!
I was curious after the game whether there had been any other previous examples where knights on c8 and d8 had proved to be strong defensive pieces. There is one line of the Botvinnik English where Black plays his knights there (as a prelude to playing …c6 to drive a White knight away from d5) but normally knights on c8 and d8 are just a sign that things are going horribly wrong! From about 2600 games with Black’s knights on c8 and d8, I found these examples I liked!
Kasparian,Genrikh Moiseevich – Khalilbeili,Sultan
URS-ch sf Yerevan, 1954
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 Bd7 6.0–0 g6 7.d4 Bg7 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Bg5 f6 10.Be3 Qe7 11.b4 Rd8 12.Qc1 Qf7 13.Rd1 Nge7 14.Na3 b5 15.Bb3 Be6 16.Rxd8+ Nxd8 17.c4 c6 18.Qc3 0–0 19.Rd1 Nc8
The knights cover both the c6 pawn and the entry squares on d6 and b6]
20.Rd3 Re8 21.cxb5 axb5 22.h3 Bf8 23.Nd2 Nd6 24.Bxe6 Qxe6 25.Bc5 N6b7 26.Bxf8 Rxf8 27.Nb3 Nf7 28.Nc2 Nfd6 29.f3 Nc4 30.a3 Ra8 31.Nd2 Nbd6 32.Nb3 Nb7 33.Nd2 Nbd6 34.Kh2 Qe7 35.Qb3 Kg7 36.Nb1 h5 37.Nc3 Qa7 38.Nd1 Qf7 39.Qc3 Ra7 40.Nde3 Qe8 41.Rd1
Reshevsky,Samuel Herman – Botvinnik,Mikhail
URS-USA Moscow (3), 1955
1.e4 e6 2.d3 c5 3.g3 Nc6 4.Bg2 g6 5.Nd2 Bg7 6.Ngf3 Nge7 7.0–0 0–0 8.Re1 d6 9.c3 h6 10.Nb3 e5 11.d4 b6 12.Be3 Ba6 13.Nh4 Rc8 14.Bh3 Rc7 15.dxc5 dxc5 16.Qxd8 Rxd8 17.Rad1 Rxd1 18.Rxd1 Bc8 19.Bxc8 Rxc8 20.Kf1 Kf8 21.Ke2 Ke8 22.f4 exf4 23.gxf4 f5 24.e5 Nd8 25.Nd2 Rc6 26.Nc4 Nc8
A classic example with a starring role for the knight on c8, though to be honest Reshevsky might have played on here! He stands clearly better.
27.Rg1 Kf7 28.Rd1 Ke8 29.Rg1 Kf7 30.Rd1
Jansa,Vlastimil – Taimanov,Mark E
CSR-ch int Brno 1975
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 6.g3 Nge7 7.Nb3 d6 8.a4 b6 9.Bg2 Bb7 10.0–0 Nc8 11.f4 Be7 12.f5 0–0 13.fxe6 fxe6 14.Qg4 Qd7 15.Bh3 Rxf1+ 16.Kxf1 Nd8
Moving the knight to c8 was one of Taimanov’s favourite ideas for developing behind his Hedgehog structure.
17.Nd4 Bf6 18.Nxe6 h5 19.Qxh5 Nxe6 20.Qg4 Bxc3 21.Qxe6+ Qf7+ 22.Qxf7+ Kxf7 23.bxc3 Bxe4 24.Bg2 Bxg2+ 25.Kxg2 Ra7 26.Be3 Rc7 27.Bd4 Ne7 28.Rf1+ Kg6 29.Re1 Kf7 30.Rf1+ Kg6 31.Rb1 Nd5 32.Kf1
Jimenez Rojas,Hector – Godoy Bugueno,David A
1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 g6 4.g3 Bg7 5.Bg2 e6 6.0–0 Nge7 7.e3 0–0 8.d4 cxd4 9.Nxd4 a6 10.Nde2 b6 11.Rb1 Rb8 12.b3 Bb7 13.Ba3 f5 14.Bd6 Ra8 15.Qd2 Rf7 16.Rfd1 Nc8 17.Ba3 Qc7 18.f4 Na5 19.Nd4 Bxg2 20.Qxg2 Rb8 21.Rbc1 Qb7 22.Na4 Qxg2+ 23.Kxg2 Nb7 24.Nf3 h6 25.Rd2 d6 26.Nd4 Nd8
A game between 2 unknown players, but a nice exposition of our theme, especially as the knights later move to a7 and b7!
27.Nb2 Rc7 28.Nd3 Kf7 29.Nb4 Ra8 30.Nd3 Nb7 31.Nf3 Bf8 32.Rcd1 Na7
33.Bb2 Nc5 34.Nf2 b5 35.Rc2 Nc6 36.Ba3 b4 37.Bb2 a5 38.Nd4 a4 39.Nb5 axb3 40.axb3 Rd7 41.Nd4 Na5 42.Nd3 Rdd8 43.Nxb4 Naxb3 44.Nxb3 Nxb3 45.Nd3 Rdc8 46.Kf3 Ra6 47.Rc3
Hickl,Joerg – Van der Sterren,Paul
1.g3 d5 2.Bg2 e5 3.d3 Nc6 4.c3 Be6 5.Nf3 f6 6.b4 Qd7 7.Nbd2 Nh6 8.Qc2 Nf7 9.Bb2 a5 10.a3 Be7 11.0–0 0–0 12.e4 dxe4 13.dxe4 axb4 14.cxb4 Rfd8 15.Rfd1 Na7 16.Nf1 Qc6 17.Qxc6 Nxc6 18.Ne3 Rxd1+ 19.Rxd1 Na7 20.Bf1 Nc8 21.Nd5 Bd6 22.Bc4 Nd8
The knights cover every tactical trick that White can throw at the Black position!
23.Nh4 c6 24.Ne3 g6 25.f4 exf4 26.gxf4 Kf7 27.f5 Bxc4 28.Nxc4 Be7 29.e5 b5 30.exf6 bxc4 31.fxg6+ hxg6 32.fxe7 Nxe7 33.Rc1 Ne6 34.Rxc4 c5 35.Nf3 cxb4 36.Ne5+ Ke8 37.Rxb4 Kd8 38.Rb6 Nf4 39.Rf6 Ra4 40.Nc6+ Nxc6 41.Rxc6 Kd7 42.Rc2 Ke6 43.Rd2 Kf5 44.Kf2 Ke4