Lessons from the ROC Nova College Open 2017 – Part I

August 24, 2017 Matthew Sadler No comments exist

In this column, we start to take a look at some interesting moments from the recent Nova College tournament in Haarlem which I managed to win for the 4th time, and for the 3rd time outright. I wasn’t at my best for most of the tournament, but that led at least to plenty of excitement! As always, a playable version of this game is available at http://cloudserver.chessbase.com/MTIyMTYx/replay.html


Sadler,Matthew D – Stolwijk,Colin

Haarlem Open 2017





I started the Haarlem tournament rather sluggishly. In this game, played in the second round, I had built up a pleasant time advantage in the early opening but had then lost track of my thoughts and had slowed to a crawl while my opponent had played a series of good simple moves at blitz pace. My next move was influenced by my mounting frustration with myself: I saw a complicated attempt to cross Black’s obvious plan of …exd4 followed by …Ne6 and …Bf6 attacking the fixed White d-pawn on d4 and decided to go for it, irrespective of the loose and vulnerable impression I had of my position after 19.e4. It’s a typical practical decision, and it had the merit of slowing my opponent down to my pace. Objectively however, the plan carries considerably more risk for White – who loosens and exposes many central and queenside dark-squares – than for Black whose structure remains solid while his pieces gain in activity.


17.dxe5 Nxe5 18.Qg3 Bf6


18…Nc4 was also worth considering, but the text is obvious and was played quickly.





Here it is. The opposition of the Black queen to the White rook on the d-file and the exposure of Black’s central pieces to attack either by Bf4 or f4 gave me hope of causing Black some problems before he mobilised fully.





Played quickly again which surprised me somewhat. I decided not to examine options any further and played my planned idea quickly too. As you can see, at this stage of the game, I was – maybe a little too desperately – trying to change the course of the game and to make my opponent feel pressure again. My next move began to make an impression as my opponent became uncertain in a complex situation. I felt in the next few moves that I was pushing again, even though my position was tactically extremely vulnerable, and certainly not better objectively.




There were a few choices here.




is obvious, but to be honest, I couldn’t even get excited about


20…dxe3 21.Rxd8 exf2+ 22.Kxf2 Rfxd8 23.Kf1 Ne6



Black’s pieces are so well-entrenched, and White’s weaknesses are so obvious, White stands a big risk of emerging with a series of pawns he can’t defend. That wasn’t what I was looking for! I was however very intrigued by 20.f4



which kept me busy in the train for a number of days after the tournament!


a) 20…dxc3 21.Bxc3 Nd7 22.Rxd7 Qxd7 23.Bxf6 is the simple point;


b) 20…Bh4 21.Qh2 dxc3


21…Nc4 is even stronger according to Komodo. I hadn’t realised during the game how strong this was for Black. 22.Bxc4 bxc4 23.Be3 Ne6 24.Ne2 d3 threatening …de 25.g3 Be7 with …Rb8 and …a5 to follow. White’s whole position is going to unravel





These were the positions that attracted me, but with a quick decision required, I preferred the less commital 20.Bf4




b1) 23.Bg4 f5


spoils the fun. 23…Ne6 24.g3

24.f5 Nexc5 (24…Ng5 25.Qf4 is tricky for Black (Bxg7 followed by Rxd7 is a threat) as well as g3 in some lines) 25.bxc5 Qg5 is the typical resource: the g5 square is very useful! 26.Bd4 (26.Rxd7 Qe3+; 26.Bd2 Qe7 leaves White with many weak pawns) 26…h5


24…Be7 25.Bxe6 fxe6 26.Qa2



Amazing! Who would have thought the queen would emerge there!


26…Rf7 27.Qxe6 Qc7 28.axb5 cxb5 29.Rxa6 is a pleasant edge for White according to Komodo


24.Bxf5 Rxf5 25.exf5 Nd5 is pleasant for Black;


b2) 23.axb5 Nxb5


23…cxb5 24.c6

23…axb5 24.Rxa8 Qxa8 25.Rxd7 Qa3 26.Rd3 Qc1+ 27.Bf1


I thought that the threat of g3 would give me an advantage. Komodo finds


27…Be1 28.Bxe1 Qxe1 29.f5 Na6 when Black starts to get at White’s weaknesses 30.Qe5 Qxb4 31.Rd6 Nxc5 32.Rxc6 Nxe4 33.Bxb5 f6 34.Qe6+ Kh8 35.Rc8 Qe1+ 36.Kh2 Qg3+ is the logical draw by perpetual according to Komodo


24.Bxb5 axb5


24…cxb5 is also good 25.c6 Qb6+


25.Rxa8 Qxa8 26.Rxd7 Qa3 wins for Black


c2) 23.g3 Bf6 24.e5


24.Bxf6 Qxf6 when the a1 rook hangs rather unfortunately after 25.Rxd7




Thwarting White’s ambitions.


25.Rxd5 cxd5 26.exf6 Nxf6 I didn’t believe in White’s compensation here and Komodo agrees;


20…Bh4 is strong enough, but I actually ended up preferring another move even more: 20…Ng6.



This move gives Black a simple route to a big advantage.




21.Be1 Bh4 22.Qf3 Bxe1 23.Rxe1 dxc3


21.e5 Bh4 22.Qf3 dxc3 23.Bxc3 Nd5 24.g3 Bxg3 25.Qxg3 Nxc3 I’d only seen …Ngxf4 which looked good enough! 26.Qxc3 Nxf4 and White’s position is destroyed!


21…Qe7 22.Bxd4 Bxd4+ 23.Rxd4 Ne6 is the key idea when the fork of d4 and f4 is very upsetting


23…a5 is even stronger according to Komodo


24.Rd2 Nexf4



gives Black a beautiful hold on the dark-squares with …Rad8 or …a5 to follow.


Back to the game, my move 20.Bf4 aims for a middle road between putting pressure on Black’s position and weakening White’s own!





Simple and best. 20…Bh4 21.Qh2 f6 (21…Qf6 22.Bxe5 Qxf2+ 23.Kh1 dxc3 24.g3 is unpleasant for Black) 22.Bg3 Bxg3 23.Qxg3 followed by f4 should be an edge for White





My opponent caught up with me on time here as he had missed a tactical detail.




21…Nf3+ 22.Bxf3 Bxd4 23.Bd6


was my intention


23…Qe6 (23…Qd7 24.Rd1 Bxc3 25.Bxf8) 24.Rc1 when White wins the exchange back, remaining a pawn up. Black’s pieces are also slightly uncoordinated 24…Ne8 25.Bxf8 Kxf8 26.axb5 axb5 27.Ne2


In the game, my opponent played the best move


22.Rdd1 Nxf4 23.Qxf4



By exchanging the dark-squared bishop, Black has secured (temporary) hegemony over the central and queenside dark squares. Now, with a loose knight on c3 and 2 of White’s major pieces (Qf4 and Ra1) on dark squares, was the moment for Black to find a powerful active continuation as the tactical portents were definitely favourable.




a) 23…Nc4 was what worried me greatly during the game. In fact, it seems as if White can defend sort of adequately, though very uncomfortably.


24.Qc1 Qe5


24…a5 is wrongly timed 25.axb5 axb4 26.Rxa8 Rxa8 27.Na4 Komodo, which I hadn’t spotted (27.Bxc4 bxc3 28.bxc6 Qxc5 29.Bb3 looked about equal to me, and Komodo finds an accurate method. 29…Bg5 Komodo 30.Qc2 Qxc6 31.Bd5 Qa4) 27…Rxa4 28.Qxc4


25.Rd3 a5


With White’s rook on d3, the knight on c4 is not attacked by the bishop on e2. However, Black’s queen is more exposed on e5 than on e7 which gives White the possibility to fight back on the central dark squares.


26.f4 Qc7 27.e5


and now 27…Nxe5 28.fxe5 Qxe5


is Komodo’s line which is very fraught for White! He’ll be lucky if he can give back the piece for an equal position


29.Qa3 Rfd8 30.Rad1 Rxd3 31.Rxd3 Rd8 32.Rxd8+ Bxd8 33.axb5 Qd4+ 34.Kh1 axb4 35.Qa4 Qxc3 36.Qa8 Qc1+ 37.Kh2 Qf4+ 38.Kh1 Qc1+


was one sample drawing line from Komodo


b) 23…a5



is Komodo’s suggestion when he thinks Black is clearly better! The variations are distressingly simple


24.axb5 axb4 25.Rxa8 Rxa8 26.Nb1 Bg5 Best for a subtle tactical reason (26…Qxc5 27.Rc1 Qe7 28.bxc6 seems to lose to 28…Bg5 but 29.c7 Bxf4 30.c8Q+ Rxc8 31.Rxc8+ Qf8 32.Rxf8+ Kxf8 might end up OK for White) 27.Qg3 Qxc5 28.bxc6 (28.Qxg5 Nf3+) 28…Nxc6 29.Rd5 Qc1+ 30.Rd1 Qc2


Black is pressing.


All in all, it seems that White’s sequence of moves from move 17 to move 20 ripped out the heart of his own control of the dark squares and that Black could have exploited this directly in a couple of ways. The rest of the game was not exactly easy however, even after the too cautious 23…Ng6. Black is well-entrenched on the dark squares, has active pieces and targets to aim at on White’s queenside and is generally difficult to push back. It’s a reasonable situation for Black as he gets short of time because the onus is on White to find something. As you see between move 28 and 32 Black simply moves his queen from e6 to e5 a number of times in response to White’s attempts to make play.


24.Qe3 Qe5 25.Ra3 Rad8 26.axb5 axb5 27.g3 Rfe8 28.Kg2 Qe6 29.Ra6 Qe5 30.Rxd8 Rxd8 31.Ra3



31.Nd1 Rd4 32.f4 Qxe4+ 33.Qxe4 Rxe4 +1.48 according to Komodo! I just wasn’t sure… I’m still not!


31…Qe6 32.Ra6 Qe5 33.Nd1 Rd4 34.Bf3 Rxb4 35.Rxc6 Rc4 36.Rc8+ Nf8 37.c6 b4 38.Qd3 Rc1 39.Ne3 Rc3 40.Qb1 Qc5 41.Rb8 Bd4 42.c7 Qxc7





43.Rxf8+ would have finished cleanly. Bizarrely I spotted the tactic, but got flustered and ended up snapping the queens of. It was the prelude to an end to a very nervy and error-filled end of the game played largely on 15 second increments. 43…Kxf8 44.Qxb4+ Qc5 45.Qb8+ Ke7 (45…Qc8 46.Qd6+) 46.Nd5+ Kd7 47.Bg4+ Kc6 48.Nb4+ wins the queen


43…Qc5 44.Nd5 Qxb4 45.Rxb4 Bc5 46.Rb2 Rc1 47.Bg4 g6 48.h4 Kg7 49.f4 Rc4 50.e5 Rd4 51.Nf6 Rd8 52.Rb7 Rd2+ 53.Kf1 h5 54.Be2 Rd4 55.Bf3 Rb4 56.Ne8+ Kg8 57.Nf6+ Kg7 58.Rc7 Bb6 59.Ne8+ Kg8 60.Rc8 Rb1+ 61.Ke2 Rb2+ 62.Kd1 Ba5 63.Bd5 Rd2+ 64.Kc1 Rd3 65.Ra8 Bb6 66.Rb8 Bf2 67.Rb7 Rxd5 68.Nf6+ Kg7 69.Nxd5 Bxg3 70.Kd2 Bxh4 71.Ke3 Ne6 72.Kf3 Bd8 73.Ra7 Bh4 74.Ne3 Bd8 75.Rd7 Bb6 76.Nc4 Bc5 77.Rb7 Kf8 78.Ke4 Be7 79.Ra7 Nc5+ 80.Kf3 Ne6 81.Ra8+ Kg7 82.Nd6 Nd4+ 83.Ke4 Ne6 84.Re8 Bf8 85.Rc8 Be7 86.Ra8 h4 87.f5 Nc5+ 88.Kd4 Nd7 89.f6+ Nxf6 90.exf6+ Kxf6 91.Ra6 Bxd6 92.Rxd6+ Kf5 93.Ke3 g5 94.Kf2 Ke5 95.Rh6 Kf5 96.Kf3 g4+ 97.Ke3 Kg5 98.Rh8 f6 99.Rg8+ Kf5 100.Rg7 h3 101.Rg8 h2 102.Rh8 Kg5 103.Rxh2 g3 104.Rh8




Phew! And as befits a weekend tournament with 3 rounds in a day, the next round started 15 minutes later!

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