Game of the Month – February 2012

While Sue’s been busy writing on our road trip I haven’t forgotten about my Game of the Month (actually I had but Sue emailed me to remind me!). I decided to choose one of my own games. Overall the tournament was a bit of a disaster from a rating point of view, losing to Chris Wallis, an Aussie FM already put me in a big rating hole. I can’t have many complaints about the game though –  my only serious mistake was declining to go into a drawn endgame instead choosing an unclear option, after which Chris played perfectly. The long time control certainly seemed to suit him. I also finished the tournament with a loss to the tournament victor Darryl Johansen. The Australian GM has had a good patch recently, also winning the Australian Championships. Again I got too ambitious, I miscalculated something when sacrificing a piece and should have simply repeated position for the draw (an option I had twice). Again after declining the draw my opponent played very well and didn’t give me any more chances.

However the tournament wasn’t all bad. From a social point of view it was great to meet up with our Kiwi friends and spending time in New Zealand again was very pleasant. I also played a couple of nice games – the one below won the Best Game prize, sponsored by Grant Kerr.



[Event “Queenstown Open”]
[Site “Sheffield ENG”]
[Date “2012.01.20”]
[Round “6”]
[White “Sukandar, Irine Kharisma”]
[Black “Jones, G.”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “B06”]
[WhiteElo “2325”]
[BlackElo “2653”]
[Annotator “GJ”]
[PlyCount “72”]
[EventDate “2011.07.25”]
[EventType “swiss”]
[EventRounds “11”]
[EventCountry “ENG”]

1. e4 g6 {I have a few main defences to 1.e4: The Dragon – in its many
different forms, a couple of Spanishes and occasional Caro Kanns but Irene
seemed well booked up on all those lines. Having lost the previous game I
really wanted to bounce back and so the Modern seemed a decent choice;
definitely risky but with good winning chances too.} 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Bg5
$5 {I’d never seen this move before and so I was on my own. It looked strange
to me as the bishop is firing into open space but I now sunk into thought
attempting to find a plan.} h6 (4… Nf6 {would transpose to a more
theoretical position and one where I thought the bishop achieved more. I’ve
actually played this way myself as White and think it’s quite a dangerous line.
}) 5. Bh4 ({On the final night Anthony Ker, who has won the New Zealand
Championships more than anyone else, suggested} 5. Be3 {as an interesting
alternative. White argues that the pawn on h6 could be a weakness and
certainly following Qd2 it might be tricky to castle.}) 5… c5 $5 {Possibly
too ambitious. I tried to exploit the bishop on h4 being a little offside and
transpose the position to a Dragon setup where I have a lot of experience.} 6.
dxc5 $1 {The critical response.} (6. Nf3 cxd4 7. Nxd4 Nc6 {looks like a
comfortable Dragon as the bishop is misplaced on h4. As it cannot come to d4
White will lose further time moving the attacked knight on d4.}) (6. d5 $5 {is
the other possible structure but here I hoped to exploit White’s vulnerability
along the a1-h8 diagonal.}) 6… Qa5 (6… dxc5 7. Qxd8+ Kxd8 {looked pretty
unpleasant. Not only will White gain a development advantage thanks to my
vulnerable king but he also has a positional advantage thanks to his light
square control, in particular d5. Were Black’s pawn back on c6 he would have
fewer holes and thus fewer problems.}) 7. Bb5+ {Actually when I decided to go
into this line I had forgotten that this check gives the White king the f1
square. Another long think and a feeling of dread, I didn’t want to have to
defend another passive position against a player rated over 300 points below,
these Open tournaments can be very cruel!} Nc6 (7… Bd7 {was the other
sensible way to defend against the check but} 8. Bxd7+ Nxd7 9. cxd6 Bxc3+ ({
Actually I had sort of looked at this line before …c5 and then I hoped that}
9… Qb4 $6 {might be tricky to defend against. Black threatens both the b2
pawn and …Bxc3+ followed by taking on e4 when th bishop on h4 hangs. However}
10. Nge2 Qxb2 11. O-O {keeps everything under control. Sure I can temporarily
pick up a piece with} Bxc3 {but} 12. Rb1 Qa3 13. Rb3 {regains the piece and
leaves White with a strong initiative.}) 10. bxc3 Qxc3+ 11. Kf1 {felt a little
unpleasant to me, even if the computer tells me Black’s more or less ok with}
Rc8 {It seems unlikely that Black will have many winning chances though.}) 8.
Nge2 {Sensibly giving back the pawn.} (8. Bxc6+ bxc6 9. cxd6 Bxc3+ 10. bxc3
Qxc3+ 11. Kf1 Ba6+ 12. Ne2 Rd8 {will likely regain the pawn with advantage.})
8… dxc5 9. Qd5 {This might be the start of White’s problems. Irene is
playing aggressively and hoping to completely refute my opening play, a
strategy that almost paid off but is of course risky.} (9. O-O {was safer when
I thought White had a small advantage but Black’s position isn’t bad either.})
(9. Bxc6+ bxc6 {is of course also possible and important to assess to work out
who it favours. Doubled isolated pawns are of course generally very weak and
White can hope to exploit them in the long term, perhaps by rerouting a knight
round to c4. However that it’s at all easy to achieve and Black has his trumps
too. For starters the pawns aren’t as weak as they look; they would be much
more vulnerable if they were on an open file. They also protect the important
central squares of d4 and d5 – a typical weak spot in the Dragon. The exchange
has also given Black counterplay down the b file and along the a8-f1 diagonal.
A typical fight between static and dynamic play, I prefer the dynamism of
Black’s position.}) 9… Qb6 ({I couldn’t see a direct refutation of} 9… Bd7
{but I felt uneasy about it. I really didn’t want to lose quickly and thought
the game continuation was safer. The pawn on c5 is defended indirectly as} 10.
Qxc5 a6 {wins back material. However it’s not totally clear even here as White
has} 11. b4 {when} Qxb4 12. Qxb4 Nxb4 13. Bxd7+ Kxd7 14. Rb1 {looks better for
White.}) 10. a4 {I have to confess that I missed this move – a sign that my
form wasn’t there for much of Queenstown. Irene threatens a4-a5 forcing the
queen away and thus winning the c5 pawn. 10…a5 is possible to defend but
then White must be better thanks to her eternal control of the b5 square.
Luckily I found the following strong idea.} a6 11. a5 $2 {It’s harsh to give
this move a question mark but in fact White seems to be in a lot of trouble
once she has won the queen.} axb5 $1 {The whole point. In return for the queen
I’ll pick up rook and bishop and an initiative.} ({There was no time for cold
feet} 11… Qc7 12. Ba4 $1 {and there’s no way to defend c5. The pins keep
Black completely bound up.}) 12. axb6 Rxa1+ 13. Nd1 g5 $1 {It’s important to
play as actively as possible. Should White get time to castle then she’ll have
a clear advantage.} 14. Bg3 Nf6 15. Qxc5 Nxe4 16. Qxb5 $6 {During the game I
was really surprised by this move.} ({I felt} 16. Qe3 {was much safer but
still I quite liked my dynamic potential. I was planning something like} Bf5
17. O-O b4 $5 {to keep the White knights from using c3 and therefore she would
still have problems coordinating her pieces.}) 16… O-O {Now it was Irene’s
turn for a long think. She has a material advantage, queen and pawn for the
rook and bishop, but …Rd8 is a big threat. After the game I was very happy
as my calculation around here was all sound.} 17. Bc7 $5 {Taking control of d8
but allowing a different tactic.} (17. O-O {was of course the most logical and
the move I needed something against when I sacrificed my queen. Here I was
planning} Nd2 $1 ({The immediate} 17… Rd8 {is also possible but} 18. Ndc3 Ra5
19. Qxa5 Nxa5 20. Nxe4 {allows White to play on.}) 18. Re1 Rd8 {White is
completely tied up. There’s the threat of moving the knight when there’s no
defence of the d1 knight and it can’t get out of the way as e1 is undefended –
one of the points behind …Nd2. The other threat is somehow more hidden as it
requires a retreating move: …Ra5 actually traps the queen! During the game I
thought the only defence to both threats was} 19. Bc7 Rd7 {For a moment
Black’s pieces look uncoordinated but the two threats still stand.} (19… Ra5
$2 {does still trap the queen but he gets two rooks for it with} 20. Qxa5 Nxa5
21. Bxd8) 20. Ng3 {The knight gets out of the way leaving e2 for the queen and
defending against back rank ideas as the knight can drop back to f1.} ({Trying
to run the queen with} 20. Qf5 {loses to} Nf3+ 21. gxf3 (21. Qxf3 Rdxd1 {wins
everything.}) 21… Raxd1 {The other rook this time, and White loses at least
a rook.}) 20… Nd4 $1 {Followed by …N4f3+ winning at least the exchange and
a pawn.}) 17… Rxd1+ $1 {Now f2 isn’t defended this tactic works.} 18. Kxd1
Nxf2+ 19. Ke1 ({During the game I thought} 19. Kd2 {was her last chance, so
that there wouldn’t be any back rank problems for White and so she could
actually pick up the trapped knight. However} Nxh1 20. Qc5 Bxb2 21. Qg1 Bf5 22.
Qxh1 Ra8 {is still much better for Black. Material is roughly balanced: queen
versus rook, bishop and pawn but the bishop pair are very strong and the White
king rather exposed.}) 19… Nxh1 20. c3 {Irene plays sensibly and controls
the d4 square.} ({Playing the same way as in the previous variation with} 20.
Qc5 {no longer wins the knight as} Bg4 21. Qg1 Ra8 {threatens …Ra1+} 22. Kd2
Bxb2 {and the knight still can’t be taken as} 23. Qxh1 Ra1 {traps the queen.})
(20. Kf1 {Slowly plodding the king into the corner doesn’t manage to pick up
the piece either as the rook quickly activates on the a file., i.e.} Bg4 21.
Kg1 Ra8 {and Black’s in time.}) 20… Bd7 {With rook, bishop and knight
against queen Black should be winning but there are a couple of things Black
has to be aware of. First of all, while White can’t actually win the cornered
knight it’s not easy to bring it back into the game. Secondly White has some
tricks utilising the advanced b6 pawn.} 21. Qd5 Be6 22. Qe4 (22. Qf3 {was
Sue’s suggestion and looks more accurate. White threatens Qf1 but again} Ra8 {
defends more than adequately.}) 22… Ra8 23. Nc1 Ra5 $5 {I was very happy at
finding this move. Black has ideas of …Rf5 and …Nf2 to bring the knight
out. The rook also controls the d5 square and can now react to the Qxc6 ideas
with …Rb5.} (23… Ra1 {felt rather risky to me but the computer has no fear}
24. Kd2 (24. Qxc6 {only loses a pawn here after} bxc6 25. b7 Rxc1+ 26. Kd2 Rg1
27. b8=Q+ Kh7) 24… Na5 {would actually be very similar to the game.}) 24. Nd3
Bd5 25. Qg4 Ra1+ 26. Kd2 Be6 27. Qf3 Bc8 {Cutting out Qxc6 tricks once and for
all.} ({Initially I had planned} 27… Na5 {but} 28. Nc5 {didn’t seem so clear.
}) 28. Nc1 Na5 {But now her knight has gone passive I can activate mine.} 29.
b3 ({White still doesn’t have enough time to win the entrapped knight:} 29. g3
Nc4+ {and White lacks a good square for his king as I have lots of interesting
forks available.} 30. Kc2 (30. Kd1 Bg4 $1) 30… Bf5+ $1 31. Qxf5 Ne3+) ({
Objectively} 29. g4 {was best although here I would have the tricky} Rb1 (29…
Nc4+ 30. Kd3 Nxb2+ 31. Kc2 Ra3 32. Ne2 Na4 33. Qxh1 Ra2+ {would also be
decisive.}) 30. Kc2 Nc4 $1 31. Nd3 Bxg4 $1 {continuing to use the knight forks}
) {Both rook and knight are actually trapped in corners but I was pleased I
managed to calculate the final course of the game.} 29… Bd7 30. Kc2 Bc6 31.
Qe3 (31. Qd3 Nf2 {would allow the knight to escape.}) (31. Qf1 Be4+ 32. Kb2 (
32. Kd2 Nxb3+) 32… Rb1+ 33. Ka3 Bxc3 {is also hopeless.}) 31… Nf2 $1 {It
seems strange to put the knight en-prise but the tactics work for me.} 32. Qxf2
(32. Kb2 Nd1+ {was the point and so Irene had no time to capture the rook.})
32… Be4+ 33. Kd2 (33. Kb2 Rb1+ 34. Ka3 Bxc3 {is completely winning; a nice
point is that} 35. Qe3 Rxb3+ $1 36. Nxb3 Nc4+ {again picks up the queen.})
33… Nxb3+ 34. Ke3 (34. Nxb3 Ra2+ 35. Ke3 Rxf2 36. Kxf2 Bxc3 {leaves Black in
a trivially winning endgame with his extra two pawns.}) 34… Rxc1 35. Kxe4
Rxc3 {On the surface it looks like White has made progress. He has regained
some material and is nominally only slightly down – rook, knight and two pawns
for the queen. However the big issue is that the king on e4 is actually in
very real danger.} 36. Qa2 ({In the post-mortem we had a quick look at} 36. Kd5
{but Black has at least} Rc6 {followed by …e7-e6+ and …Rc6-c3 creating the
same mating net.}) (36. Be5 Nc5+ 37. Kd5 Bxe5 {is no good either as} 38. Kxe5
Nd3+ {wins the queen.}) 36… e6 $1 {And Irene resigned as there’s no way to
prevent either …f7-f5mate or …Nb3-c5mate. A picturesque final position.}


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