We carry on our examination of my games from the recent 2017 Limburg Open with brief episodes from 2 crucial games: my win against the Dutch IM Koen Leenhouts in the 5th round which took me to shared first, and the crazy finale to the tournament against Ivan Sokolov which secured me a share of first place.
We start off with this position from my game against Leenhouts, in which White had to finish off from a clearly superior position.
As always, a playable version of this game is available at
and you can download a pgn at
Sadler,Matthew D – Leenhouts,Koen
BPB Limburg Open 2017
I had come out well of a theoretical battle and I was looking to finish off the game efficiently to get a reasonably early night for once! It never fails to surprise me how many variations you still need to calculate accurately, even when your opponent’s position seems quite hopeless. Never forget that when you’re in a difficult situation yourself! As the superior side in such situations, the most useful thing you can have is enough time to calculate calmly without stress. Under those circumstances, working out variations doesn’t seem that difficult any more.
I started licking my lips after this move, but it’s probably Black’s best. I’d spent most of my time looking at ways to avoid this weakening of the 7th rank:
i) 30…g5 31.h4 h6 32.hxg5 hxg5 33.Qh2 (33.Rd7 is also strong) 33…Ng6 34.Rd7 Re1+ 35.Rxe1 Qxe1+ 36.Kb2 Ne5 37.Rd8 is very strong for White
ii) 30…Kh6 avoiding f4 was the fun line!
Threatening Rh8 or just f4
32…Qc3 33.Qh3+ Kxg5 34.f4+
For me this tactic is indelibly associated with a crucial last-round game I won against Onischuk at Cuxhaven in 1994:
After 25 moves of fruitlessly trying to make progress, I set my final trap
and Black resigned before I could finish playing the devastating
Back to 31…Kxg5
Drawing the king forward
The queen on a5 plays an annoying role in this position, covering the e1 square. It took me a little while before I discovered how to coordinate my pieces against the Black king wherever he ran!
Important to establish control over the e1 square
33…Kg4 (33…Kf3 34.Rf1+ Kg2 35.Qf4 Threatening Rd2+) 34.Rg1+ Kh3 (34…Kf5 35.Qg5+ Ke4 36.Rg4+ was my line… There are mates too!) 35.Qh6#
Not the best defence, although it’s obviously very difficult to keep things together.
i) 31…g5 32.h4 gxh4 33.g5
is impossible to deal with. 33.f4 was my first thought but 33…Nf7 (33…Nxg4 34.R8d5 Qxd5 (34…Re1 35.Rxa5 Rxd1+ 36.Kc2 Ne3+ 37.Kc3 Nothing for Black!; 34…Qb4 35.Rg5+) 35.Rxd5 Re1+ 36.Kc2 Ne3+ (36…Re2+ 37.Rd2) 37.Kd2 also wins!) 34.R8d7 h3 felt irritating!
feels better and now White has my option… and the right option!
a) 32.h4 Qe3 33.Qc1 Qxc1+ 34.Rxc1 Re7 35.Rc3 was my basic idea, but Komodo has an absolutely gorgeous solution
32…fxg5 33.h4 h6
Wow! Completely missed that! …h6 has put the Black king into a trap! 34…Qe3 35.R1d7+ Kf6 36.Rf8#
stopping f4 is probably Black’s best but simply h4 (with g5 in the air) looks good for White
32.h4 Qf4 33.Qa3 Another “small” move from the White queen which Komodo claims is mate in 9!]
32.R1d7+ Kh6 33.Qc1+ Qg5 (33…g5 34.Rh8) 34.Rxh7+ Kxh7 35.Qxc7+ is Komodo’s preference. I’ll claim I wasn’t looking for anything else after I found 1 win!
A striking conclusion of the queen’s career in this game: it has spent its time on most of the squares on the c1–h6 diagonal with a quick sidestep to the a1–h8 diagonal! Black has no good defence to White’s multiple threats of Qh6, Qxc7 or Rxc7.
Sadler,Matthew D – Sokolov,Ivan BPB Limburg Open 2017
Up until here, it had been a reasonable quality fight in which White had gradually assumed the upper hand, but now things get very random. I guess I was more nervous than I realised, or maybe I was just flagging after the 3rd day of 2 long games a day! In any case, what happened in the next few moves isn’t something to be proud of. After 66…f5, I have a bewildering array of wins, starting with the simple 67.Qxg6 followed by 68.Bxf5 picking up all of the kingside pawns. However, despite having enough time on the clock, I barely looked at Black’s last move and played my intended move anyway.
67.d5 Qa1+ 68.Kh2 Qe5
I’d missed this was possible, and my heart rate increased again a couple of moves later…
69.Qxg6 Nxd5 70.Bxf5 (70.Qh7+ is much stronger) 70…e3 worried me: I feared I might end up with just 2 extra doubled g-pawns!
69…Kf8 70.Qd8+ Kf7
70…Kg7 71.d6 Ne8 72.d7 Nf6
That was the point of …f5!
73.Qa5 Ng4+ 74.Kg1 (74.Kh3 Nxf2+ 75.Kh2 is White’s best by now, settling for perpetual) 74…Qd4 was as far as I got and with mounting disbelief, I concluded that I was lost! I pulled myself together, and found a more convincing way: 71.Be6 was my intention after some feverish calculation. However, Ivan’s 70…Kf7 didn’t play along with that idea…
71.d6 Ne8 72.d7 Nf6 and now 73.Qb6
was the way to win, protecting f2. The glorious point is that with Black’s king on f7, White can queen his pawn to a knight…with check! 73…Qa1 74.f3 exf3 75.gxf3 Qa2+ 76.Kh3 Qa1 (76…Ng4 77.d8N+) 77.d8N+ Ke8 78.Kh4. I saw 73.Qb6 but I couldn’t bring myself to play it: so risky with little time left! I looked for a safe bail-out instead and found …a bad one!
A really bad move, but I decided I needed to get the queens off or things might go really bad!
72…Ne8 73.Qe6 Qxe6 74.dxe6 Ke7
I knew I’d made things difficult for myself, but with 2 passed pawns and a bishop to support them, I was expecting to still have an advantage. However, Komodo claims 0.00 in several ways so I really have messed things up royally. At least my panic was over, and I was focused again on making things as difficult as possible for Ivan to prove the draw.
75.Bc8 Nc7 76.f3 e3
76…Nxe6 77.Bxe6 Kxe6 78.fxe4 fxe4
was difficult to calculate with very little time, but it is drawn as Ivan pointed out to me after the game. 76…e3 doesn’t spoil anything though
79.Kg1 Kd5 80.Kf2 Kc4 81.Ke3 Kxb4 82.Kxe4 Kc3 83.Ke5 Kd3 84.Kf6 Ke3 85.Kg5 Kf2 86.Kxg6 Kxg3 87.Kxh5 Kxg2
77.Kg1 g5 78.f4
The best chance, stopping Black from shoring up his e-pawn with …f4. White will lose a kingside pawn, but he will gain some time and freedom to push his b-pawn
78…gxf4 79.gxf4 Nd5 80.b5
The decisive mistake I think
80…h4 (preventing g3) 81.Kf1 Kd6
was the drawing method as pointed out by Stefan Kuijpers in his vlog.
82.Ke2 Nxf4+ 83.Kxe3 Nxg2+ 84.Kf3 Ne1+ 85.Kf4 Nd3+ 86.Kxf5 Nc5 87.b6 Nxe6 88.Bxe6 Kc6
You can see here the difference between playing the king to d8 and d6. From d8, the Black king cannot approach the b-pawn. From d6, it’s easy!
81.Bd7 h4 82.Kf1 Nxf4 83.b6 Nd5
83…e2+ 84.Ke1 Nxg2+ 85.Kxe2
is suggested as drawing by the engines, but I’m not convinced. The key point is that White can bring the light-squared bishop to the h1–a8 diagonal from where it both supports White’s own b-pawn and holds back both of Black’s passed pawns. After
85…Nf4+ 86.Kf1 Nd5 87.b7 Kc7 88.Bc6 Ne7 89.Bh1
That’s why the king needed to go back to f1! If the king had gone to f3, the bishop would not have had a retreat square on the diagonal! As far as I can see, Black has to keep his knight on g6 to stop White from winning the kingside pawns (the knight on g6 covers the f4 and e5 entry points). However, White has a simple winning plan:
- Bring the king to a6, threatening Ka7 forcing …Kb8
- After …Kb8. Bring the king to b6. Black must play …Ne7 to stop Kc6
- Wait with the bishop until Black has exhausted his pawn tempi.
- When the knight has to move from e7, invade with the king and help the e-pawn home
89…Ng6 90.Kf2 Ne7 91.Ke3 Ng6 92.Kd4 Kb8 93.Kc5 Kc7 94.Kb5 Ne7 95.Ka6 Kb8 96.Kb6 h3 97.Bf3 h2 98.Bh1 f4 99.Kc5 Nf5 100.Kd5 Kc7 101.Ke5 Ng3 102.e7 wins
84.b7 Kc7 85.Bc6
Again the crucial idea
85…Ne7 86.Bf3 f4 87.Be4 Ng8 88.Ke2 Ne7 89.Kd3 Kb8 90.Bf3 Kc7 91.Kc3 Nf5 92.Kd3 Ne7 93.Kd4
A blunder which shortens the game
93…e2 94.Bxe2 Kxb7 95.Ke5 was crucial.
It is overwhelmingly likely that White will win both kingside pawns which should be an easy win, but White can tie himself into a little knot if he isn’t careful.
The best try
96.Kxf4 Kd5 97.Bg4 Kd6 98.Kg5 Ke5 99.Kxh4
99.Bh3 should still win 99…Ng8 100.Kg6 Ne7+ 101.Kf7 Kd6 102.Bg4 followed by transferring the bishop to b3 and picking up the h4 pawn
99…Kf6 is drawn! White can’t get his light-squared bishop out of the way to advance the g-pawn!
96…Kc5 97.Kxf4 Kd6 98.Bb3
With the bishop protecting the pawn from the queenside, there is nothing to stop the g-pawn powering through
98…h3 99.gxh3 Nc6 100.Kg5 Ke7 101.h4 Kf8 102.h5 Kg7 103.h6+ Kh8 104.Kf6 The knight cannot stop White from queening the e-pawn
99.Kg5 Nd4 100.Ba2 Ke7
100…Nf3+ I had high hopes for this defence until I realised that White has an easy refutation! 101.gxf3 h3 102.e7 Kxe7 103.Bd5 Kd6 104.Ba8 h2 105.f4
101.Kxh4 Kf6 102.g4
and here Ivan lost on time.
94.Ke4 e2 (94…Kxb7 95.Kf5+) 95.Bxe2 Kxb7 96.Kf5 Ne7+ 97.Kxf4
97.Kf6 Ng8+ 98.Kf7 Nh6+ 99.Kf8 Nf5 looks unnecessarily adventurous for White, and amazingly Black gets drawing chances here! 100.e7 Nd6 and now 101.e8Q Nxe8 102.Kxe8 Kc6 103.Ke7 Kd5 104.Kf6 Ke4 105.Kg5 Ke3 is a draw! The White bishop is terribly-placed! 106.Bg4 (106.Bd1 Kf2; 106.Bf3 h3) 106…Kf2 107.Bh3 f3
97…Kc6 98.Bc4 is at least the same as the line after 93…e2.