Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Missouri Musings (part 1): Ivy League

On my second visit to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis -or the CCSCSL, as it is sometimes referred to, I met a local club member named James Ivy and after a few moments of brief introductions and pleasantries we sat down and played a game . It was a casual affair with no clock but we moved fairly rapidly and the whole game concluded in about an hour. For most chess players, when you play an opponent for the first time -and especially one who you have no prior knowledge of, there is a certain excitement and adrenaline rush that permeates the game and this contest was no different. As the game wore on I soon realized that my opponent was fairly strong, well at least around my level or possibly even stronger. I had a real tough fight on my hands... and I relished every bit of it.

White: James Ivy (1590) USCF
Black:  D. Thomas Moniz (1402) USCF
The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis
St. Louis, MO
Time controls: None

Opening: A34 Symmetrical English
  • engine analysis by Houdini 3 and/or Komodo 9 at a minimum depth of 21 ply unless otherwise noted
  • the numbers in parenthesis on selected moves, i.e. (0.00), indicates the engines evaluation of that position -a positive integer being an advantage for White while a negative one being better for Black. 
  • click on all photos and diagrams to enlarge 

   1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.e3 (0.07)

Chessbase classifies this opening as a Symmetrical English (A34) and the line of play that is taken in the game and the resulting positions were quite unfamiliar to me and I was already swimming in uncharted waters.

White's move is logical as it opens up the diagonal for his King's Bishop and also hopes to establish a strong pawn center after d2-d4. The downside to this idea is that it takes extra time to develop and this slower build up allows Black more freedom to develop his own set up without undue hindrance or pressure. After the text Black has already achieved equality.

Other more popular ways of continuing are as follows:

   4...d5!? (0.28)

The sharpest continuation. Black sends a clear signal that he is playing for the win with this move. Objectively the Pawn immediately challenges White's central intentions and frees for development the Queen's Bishop. The downside is a looser more unstable structure for Black that could be exploited over time, i.e. say after the sequence 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Nxd5 Qxd5, etc. Black's Queen may become a target of harassment in some lines.

Other ways to play include:

   5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Bb5! (0.33)

This move gives Black the most problems to solve imo. The Bishop develops to a menacing square pinning the Knight while also threatening to capture it which would saddle Black with doubled isolated Pawns, a potential weakness in some lines. The engine however is somewhat optimistic about Black's resources here and calculates an adequate defense in it's usual calm and cool fashion. For a human however this predicament can be rather annoying, somewhat uncomfortable and not so easy to solve in practical play.

Besides the text there are other good ways that White could of played as well, i.e.
  • 6.d4 (0.00)
  • 6.Nxd5 (0.22)
  • 6.Bc4 (0.15)

So in the diagrammed position above it's Black to move, how would you handle this position?
Here's some photos to hide the answer while you consider your move...

Early morning at the C.C.S.C.S.L.

The calm before the storm. Soon the chess club will be teeming with activity both inside and out which is the norm during special events such as the U.S. Championships, the Sinquefield Cup and other big international affairs. Many great luminaries in the chess world can often be seen prowling around the club from time to time as in this next photo...

A typical midday crowd at the C.C.S.C.S.L.

Here iconic chess legend Nigel Short (suit and tie, standing) watches a game between the infamous Malcom Pein (light pink shirt, right) and a local club member Jacob Wilkins during the midday bustle.
Located at 4657 Maryland Ave in the posh and upscale Central West End of St. Louis, the club is surrounded by an eclectic array of restaurants, bars, specialty shops and million dollar brownstone homes.

So here I played
   6...Ndb4!? (0.50) 
Sharpening up the game further.

Objectively it's not the strongest continuation but in practical terms the move does give White some pause. The Knight can recapture on c6 should White decide to trade there and also eyes the sensitive d3 and c2-squares in White's camp.

Here are Komodo's top four choices in order of preference:
  • 6...g6!? (0.21)
  • 6...e6 (0.26)
  • 6...Nxc3 (0.40)
  • 6...Bf5 (0.46)
Did you settle on any one of these? Of course all of these moves -including the text, are playable as the differences in evaluation are most likely negligible in practical play.

   7.O-O (0.35) 
Ivy avoids immediate complications with this safe and solid move. Had he been feeling more intreped he might of ventured
  • 7.d4 (0.50) and steered for complications. Of course complications always go hand in hand with calculations -and sometimes faulty ones!, and this move is no exception. Upon considering a move like this one has to contemplate -and calculate, a myriad of responses from ones opponent. Here are three: 
          A) 7...e6 freeing the King's Bishop and securing the d5-square.
               Here White has several options:
                A1) 8.O-O a6 9.Ba4 (If 9.Be2 cxd4 10.Nxd4 Nxd4 11.exd4 
                       Bd6 where White's advantage is minimal but persistent;
                       On 9.Bxc6 simply ...Nxc6 is roughly equal) 9...cxd4
                       10.exd4 Be7 11.a3 with a nagging edge.
                A2) 8.dxc5 Qxd1+ 9.Kxd1! (not 9.Nxd1? Nc2+ winning the
                       exchange) 9...Bxc5 10.a3 Nd5 11.Nxd5 exd5 12.Bd2
                       with a sliver of an edge.
                A3) 8.a3 Nd5 9.O-O (=9.Nxd5 is roughly the same after
                       ...Qxd5 10.O-O cxd4 11.Qe2) ...cxd4 10.exd4 (=10.Qxd4
                       Bd7 is also good; However 10.Nxd4 Nxc3 11.bxc3 Bd7 is 
                       making it too easy for Black) ...Be7 11.Ne5 and White is
          B) 7...a6 and now after 8.Bxc6 bxc6 we reach another crossroads:
                B1) 9.a3 cxd4 (9...Nd5 10.O-O cxd4 11.exd4 f6!? takes balls
                       of steel but Komodo assures us that Black is no worse
                       than the text.) 10.exd4 Nd5 and White is to be
                       preferred here.
                B2) 9.dxc5?! is ill advised as after ...Nd3+ 10.Ke2 (=10.Kf1 e5)
                       ...a5! 11.Qa4 (but not 11.Qxd3?? as ...Ba6 is very 
                       annoying) 11...Qd7 it is Black who comes out on top.
                B3) 9.O-O!? cxd4 10.exd4 and Black is dangerously behind
                       in development. Because of this White is better despite
                       his isolated Pawn.
          C) 7...cxd4 8.exd4 and now there are a few ways to go, let's look
                at two:
                C1) 8...a6 9.Bxc6+ bxc6! (9...Nxc6? 10.d5! and Black is in a
                       world of pain.) 10.a3 Nd5 11.Ne5 with advantage. Note
                       that Black is hard pressed to find a good move here. The
                       c6-Pawn is under attack and if 11...Qb6 (=11...Qc7
                       12.Nxd5 cxd5 13.Bf4 with strong pressure) 12.O-O e6
                       13.Qf3 with an attack on f7 so ...Qc7 14.Nxd5 cxd5
                       15.Bf4 again with strong pressure.
                C2) 8...e6 9.a3 (=9.O-O is the game Yermolinsky-Agzamov,
                       Pavlodar 1982)...Nd5 10.O-O Be7 11.Ne5 Bd7 12.Qg4!
                       -White is swarming, ...Nxe5 (12...O-O? 13.Bh6 winning
                       at least an exchange) 13.dxe5 Nxc3 (=13...Bxb5 14.Nxb5
                       g6 15.Bh6 Qb6 16.Nc3 Nxc3 17.bxc3 O-O-O and Black is
                       holding.) 14.Bxd7+ Qxd7 15.bxc3 f5! (=15...O-O-O 
                       16.Qxg7 Bc5) 16.Qxg7 O-O-O and here too Black is

As you can see there are many things to consider and all stemming from one innocuous move (7.d4) which although objectively may have been better, in practical play perhaps not so much.

   7...a6 8.Be2 (0.18)

Ivy decides to preserve the Bishop but Houdini instead prefers a slightly sharper course with
  • 8.Bxc6+ (0.32) and now after Nxc6 9.d4 we reach a similar position to the one above (see notes on the variation 7.d4 above)

   8...e6N (0.46) 
A novelty in the position. Black prepares for an inevitable a2-a3 push kicking the Knight on b4 -which will find refuge on the d5-square. The move also frees the King's Bishop and prepares for castling. Houdini however opts for more activity with
  • 8...Bf5 (0.17) freeing the Bishop from entombment after the text. Although this move may be objectively better there are some practical risks involved and I was beginning to be concerned about the safety of my King.
Now both players complete their development and begin jockeying for position, readying themselves for the transitioning middle game phase of the struggle.

   9.a3 Nd5 (0.41)
Oddly enough this position has been reached before but on White's eighth move! Apparently Ivy and I had lost a whole tempo reaching it. With White's next move we once again move into unknown waters...

 10.Qc2 Be7 11.Rd1 O-O 12.d4 cxd4 13.Nxd4 ...Nxd4 14.Rxd4 Qc7 (0.22)

This move accomplishes two things, first it removes the Queen from the scope of the Rook on d4 and secondly it temporarily stops the capture of the Knight on d5 by tactical means, e.g. the white Knight is pinned to the Queen who for the moment is undefended.

Also possible in the position was the more complex
  • 14...Bf6 (0.17) and now after 15.Rd1 Bd7 (15...Qc7 16.Bd2! Nxc3 17.Bxc3 Bxc3 18.Qxc3 Qxc3 19.bxc3 Rb8 20.Rd6 and White's superior activity gives him the better game despite his fractured queenside pawn structure.) 16.Nxd5 exd5 17.Rxd5 Qe8 Black has full compensation for his Pawn deficit due to his greater piece activity and the vulnerability of White's heavy pieces -the Rook on d4 and the Queen on c2.

   15.Bd3 (0.00) 

Now the Queen is protected and White threatens to win a Pawn after 16.Nxd5 Qxc2 17.Bxc2 exd5 18.Rxd5 or even better, two Pawns after 16.Bxh7+ Kh8 17.Nxd5 Qxc2 18.Bxc2 exd5 19.Rxd5. So how does Black cope with both threats?

Another photo to hide the solution while you think...

Dusk action at the C.C.S.C.S.L.

As evening approaches, the club remains vibrant with great battles still being waged outside its doors! That's Ivy on the right playing blitz in the red hat.

   15...Nf6 (0.00) 
Simple and effective. The Knight removes itself from capture while also giving aid to the threatened Pawn on h7.
Also playable was the slightly more complicated
  • 15...Nxc3 (0.18) and now after 16.Rc4! Qd6 17.Rxc3 f5 the position is dynamically level with chances for both sides.

   16.b4 b5 17.Bb2 Bb7 18.Rc1 Rac8 (-0.14)

So let us pause here and take stock of the current position. A close examination reveals:
  • The material balance is equal, no advantage for either side. 
  • Activity of the pieces at first glance looks to go to White as all his minor and heavy pieces are in play while the black Rook on f8 is currently dormant. However there are other factors at play here which may make this assessment somewhat premature. First the white Rook on d4, although active, is oddly placed and may become a target which makes it a possible liability. Secondly the black Rooks are connected which increases their strength, a definite plus for Black. Further observation shows that White has both his Bishops and his Queen pointing menacingly at the black King while Black only has the Queen and one Bishop doing the same however this may be cancelled out by the fact that Black's King is heavily fortified while White's King has no forces surrounding it other than pawns. The conclusion then must be unclear with possibly a slight leaning towards Black.
  • Control of the diagonals looks to be a wash as although Black controls two diagonals outright -the b8-h2 with his Queen and the a8-h1 with his Bishop, the White diagonal under control -the b2-h7, is done so with a battery of Queen and Bishop making it a stronger threat. Note that the black Bishop on e7 and the white counterpart on b2 are both hemmed in at the moment and are not a factor -although the black Bishop would seem to have more potential in the future. The assessment then is unclear.
  • Control of the center goes to White as he currently controls 2.5/4 squares to Black's 1.5/4.
  • The advantage of space at the moment goes to White by a score of 30-26, that is he controls 30 squares outright to Black's 26 with 8 squares being neutral.
  • The pawn structure is identical and thus equal so again no advantage to either side.
In conclusion one would have to say that it is White who is slightly better here although Komodo's assessment gives a very minute plus to Black! This I think is because of it's assessment of the white Rook on d4 and in particular how it's vulnerability outweighs it's activity. Of course this is only a guess as the details of the engines evaluation is not given.

So with things roughly even and it being White to move, what would you play here?

Once again a photo to hide White's next move

The World Chess Hall of Fame

The World Chess Hall of Fame located directly across the street from the chess club boasts, on its exterior, the worlds largest wooden chess piece standing almost fifteen feet tall and a giant life-sized chess set for the public's playing pleasure. Inside are three stories of ever changing chess-themed exhibits, a wide array of permanent artifacts from chess lore's past and of course an area honoring all of the many hall of fame inductees thus far. There is also a gift store; Q Boutique, on the ground floor which also can be shopped online.

So here White ventured the bold but faulty
   19.Rh4?! (-0.73)

which along with the Bishop and Queen battery, targets the black Pawn on h7. The threat however is hollow as Black has adequate means to neutralize it after which the Rook will then be a tactical target of the Bishop on e7, so a faulty idea after all.
Instead Komodo prefers the plan of doubling Rook on the d-file beginning with
  • 19.Qd1 (-0.20) followed by 20.Bb1 and 21.Rcd1. Of course this sequence may be altered by whatever Black does but it's a plan than warrants consideration.
So it's Black to move. How would you defend against White's threats?

The Fischer Exhibit at the World Chess Hall of Fame

One of my most favorite exhibits ever shown at the World Chess Hall of Fame was the splendid Fischer Exhibit. Here in this collage of photos is the original board, pieces, clock and furniture that belonged to Jack Collins, a friend and early chess coach of Bobby's. Hundreds of hours were logged in on this set by Bobby and I have no doubt that it was an integral part of his chess education as a youth.
  • Left/Big photo: The original board, pieces and clock belonging to Jack Collins who was one of Bobby's first chess coaches and longtime friend.
  • Right/Top photo: A photo of Bobby and Jack playing on this actual set in Collin's home sometime around 1957.
  • Right/Middle photo: The same set and clock from the photo on the left along with the actual furniture in the top right photo which was purchased by chess philanthropist and owner of the CCSCSL and World Chess Hall of Fame, Rex Sinquefield. It wasn't allowed but I managed to reach over and touch the very chair that Bobby Fischer used to sit on when visiting and playing at the Collin's home. It was well worth the reprimand I received for doing so.
  • Right/Bottom photo: A close up of the description card partially shown in the photo on the left.

   19...g6 (-0.72)
The best way to defend despite the weakening the dark squares around the King. Less effective and riskier was
  • 19...h6 (-0.51) because of the strong shot 20.Nd5!! and now Black must tread carefully, i.e.
                A) 20...exd5? is impossible because of 21.Qxc7 which loses a
                     whole Rook after ...Rxc7 22.Rxc7
                B) 20...Qxc2?? is even worse as Black is getting mated after 
                     21.Nxe7+ Kh8 22.Rxh6+! gxh6 (=22.Nh7 23.Rxh7#)
                C) 20...Qd7 is correct and now after 21.Nxe7+ Qxe7 22.Qd2
                     ...Rxc1+ 23.Qxc1 e5! Black maintains a nagging edge.

   20.Qe2 (-0.88)

The Queen removes herself from the c-file exposing the black Queen to the threatened full force of the white Rook on c1 should the Knight on c3 move away. A new battery of Queen and Bishop now focuses on the b5-point and the a6 point behind it with the potential threat of a3-a4. Of course this is not feasible at the moment as then the white Pawn on b4 would be en prise (from French meaning "can be taken"). The white Queen may also at some point jump over to the kingside to assist an attack on that wing.

These threats are slow forming however and in the meantime Black has a very strong move here. Can you find it?

Congratulating the newly crowned champion

Ivy takes a break from his blitz game outside the chess club to congratulate the newly crowned 2016 U.S. Chess Champion, Fabiano Caruana. Not only was American/Italian the new U.S. champ but he also was ranked #2 in the world at that time! Across the street the World Chess Hall of Fame can be seen peeking through the foliage.

   20...Qc6 (-0.66)
A decent move but not the strongest. Here Black creates a crude threat of his own -the checkmate on g2, but this is easily thwarted and besides there was better...
  • 20...Nd5! (-1.07) A very strong move. Not only is the Knight centralized but its move reveals a discovered attack on the white Rook at h4. But what about White's discovered attack on the black Queen after 21.Nxd5? Would't that give White the needed time to move the Rook out of danger?... and besides isn't White just up a piece after Black moves his Queen away? Let's look at the possibilities and answer those questions...
                A) 21.Nxd5? in fact loses after ...Qxc1+! 22.Bxc1 (=22.Qf1) 
                     ...Rxc1+ 23.Qf1 Rxf1+ 24.Kxf1 Bxh4 and Black is up a
                     whole Rook.
                B) 21.Rh3?! looks to be adequate after ...Nxc3 22.Rxc3 but
                     then comes ...Qxc3!! and things just aren't so clear now, 
                     23.Bxc3 Rxc3 24.Qd2 and here Black has a choice:
                     B1) 24...Bf6, i.e. 25.e4 Rd8 with s big advantage.
                     B2) 24...Rxa3, i.e. 25.Bf1 Bf6 again with a big plus.
                C) 21.Rg4 and here Black has three good alternatives:
                     C1) 21...f5 22.Na2 Qd6 23.Rg3 Rxc1 24.Nxc1 (24.Bxc1? 
                            ...Nf6 and Black is much better, maybe even winning)
                            24...Rc8 with a substantial advantage for Black.
                     C2) 21...Bf6 22.Na2 Qe7 23.e4 (23.Bxf6?! is worse after
                            ...Nxf6 24.Rg3 Be4) 23...Bxb2 24.Qxb2 Nf6 25.Rg3
                            ...Nxe4 26.Bxe4 Bxe4 and Black is much better.
                     C3) 21...Nxc3 22.Rxc3 Qxc3! 23.Bxc3 Rxc3 24.h4 h5 is
                            a very dynamic but committal line however Komodo
                            assures us that Black is substantially better here so
                            probably worth a try.
                D) 21.Na2! is White's best try, i.e. ...Bxh4 (=21...Qxc1+ 
                     22.Nxc1 Bxh4 23.Nb3 Nc3) 22.Rxc7 Rxc7 and although
                     Black is still better it is by a much smaller margin than
                     any of the lines above.

   21.f4? (-1.52)
A serious mistake.

The advance of the f-pawn as a defense against the threat on g2 creates too many weaknesses in White's camp, e.g. the backwards e-Pawn, the weakened a7-g1 diagonal on which the white King sits, and the cutting off of the h4-Rook from the center. After this move Black may already be technically winning although there is much work to be done.
There were better ways to defend:
  • 21.Qf1 (-0.71) was best according to the engine after which Black's advantage is manageable. Here Komodo gives ...Qb6 as Black's best response since the white back rank is now adequately defended the Queen must vacate the dangerous c-file.
  • 21.e4 (-0.75) was a close second and gives Black's best response as ...Rfd8 finally completing his development.
  • 21.f3 (-0.81) looks to be the most structurally sound try and here Black's best response is the odd looking ...e5 according to the engine.
So in the diagram above it's Black to move here, how would you proceed in this position?

Getting ready to do battle with a legend!

You never know who you might run into at the chess club on any given day. On one of my many visits there I had the distinct honor of not only meeting but getting to sit down and play against the legendary Yasser Seirawan (left); A four time U.S. Chess Champion, a former World Junior Chess Champion and an author of a number of excellent chess books. The game we are about to play is a variant of chess called Seirawan Chess which for all practical purposes is the same as regular chess with the exception of two extra pieces -the Hawk and the Elephant, which come into play when a square on the back rank is vacated. Needless to say I was mercilessly trounced by this legendary player and inventor of this game... and I enjoyed every second of it!

   21...Qb6?! (-0.69)
Far from the best response. The Queen gets off the contested file and immediately puts pressure on the now weakened e3-Pawn, however much better was
  • 21...Rfd8 (-1.48) and here Komodo gives 22.Rd1 (22.Bb1 is worse after ...Qc4 23.Qxc4 Rxc4 but the removal of the Queens does ease the pressure somewhat) ...Rd7 and Black is much better, possibly winning in this position.
  • 21...Nd5 (-1.21) is also much better than the text but there are complications with this move, i.e. 22.Na2 and now Black has to consider:
                 A) 22...Qb6?! allows White some wriggle room after 23.Rxh7!
                      ...Bf6! (23...Kxh7?? loses immediately to 24.Qh5+ Kg8
                      25.Qh8#) 24.Bf6 Nxf6 25.Rh3 however after ...Rfd8 the
                      evaluation is that Black is slightly better than the text
                      but the win is problematic.
                B) 22...Qxc1?! gives up too much unnecessarily, i.e. 23.Nxc1
                     ...Bxh4 24.Nb3 Rfd8 and although Black is still better than
                     the text or variation (A) he will have a very hard time
                     realizing the win.
                C) 22...Bxh4! however is the golden egg. Here after 23.Rxc6
                     ...Rxc6 Black has the best winning chances of all three

   22.Kh1? (-1.89)

Understandably White wishes to free himself from the pin of the black Queen but there was no time for this at the moment as the Rook on h4 is in grave danger now that the black Queen is safe. Instead White has two better ways to defend:
  • 22.Rh3 (-0.75) getting off the Bishop's line and also helping with the defense of the sickly e3-pawn. This is the most straightforward approach to the position although things begin to get a little muddy after ...Rfd8. Here Komodo gives the sample line 23.Rf1! Rd7 24.Nd1 Qc6 25.Rhf3 Ne4 26.Nf2 where Black is pressing but White is holding for the moment.
  • 22.Rf1 (-0.81) Here White solves his tactical problems by just removing the Rook from any danger on the c-file. Now Black has to tread carefully, i.e.
                A) 22...Nd5?? would be a total disaster after 23.Nxd5 Bxd5
                     24.Rxh7! e5! (24...Kxh7? 25.Qh5+ Kg8 26.Qh8#) 25.Bxe5
                     ...Bf6 26.Bxf6 Qxf6 27.Rh3 and White is up two Pawns
                     free and clear.
                B) 22...Nh5?? also ends in ruin for Black after 23.Rxh5! gxh5?
                     (23...f5 is better but after 24.Rh3 White is just up a 
                     piece) 24.Bxh7! Kxh7 25.Qxh5+ Kg8 26.Nd5 with a
                     discovered mate in 1 and threatening to take the Queen
                     so 26...Qxe3+ 27.Nxe3 and Black is just busted.
                C) 22...Rfd8! is the only way to proceed and keep the advan-
                     tage, and now 23.Rh3 Ng4! a powerful psuedo-sacrifice
                     where White must take care, i.e.
                     C1) 24.Qxg4? is ill advised as after ...Rxd3 25.Nd1 Rd2
                            26.Rg3 Rcc2 White is living the nightmare.)
                     C2) 24.Nd1! however is one of two best tries for White,
                            i.e. after ...f5 25.Nf2 White is fighting back and may
                     C3) 24.Ne4! is the other good try for White and now after
                            ...Bxe4 25.Bxe4 Bf6 26.Qxg4 Bxb2 the move 27.Qh4
                            gives White excellent fighting chances.

So in the above diagram it's Black to move, how would you proceed here?

3rd Millennium Chess!

Another variant on the game of chess that I encountered on one of my visits to the chess club was 3rd Millennium Chess or 3MChess as it is sometimes called. An excerpt from their website explains it best: "3MChess simply put, is the same game of Chess played on two fronts, rather than one, on a cylindrical board..." 
Although it is for the most part chess there are some significant fundamental differences apart from the shape of the board. As mentioned the game is played on two fronts which means sixteen pawns per side instead of eight. There are some weird but cool things going on with the Knights as well and it's all explained on their website in the rules of 3MChess

I actually got to meet and play against the inventor of the game, Shannon Gardner -that's him in the bottom right photo, and brother let me tell you he's a really nice guy. By the way I won our game which earned me the privilege of adding my signature to the set! 
The attractive woman in the top right corner of the photo is Elizabeth Vicary Spiegel, the infamous chess teacher from I.S. 318 in Brooklyn New York who was featured in the motion picture Brooklyn Castle. Here's a link to her very excellent but neglected blog.

So here I played          
   22...Nd5?! (-0.96)
Exposing the white Rook to a discovered attack, however this allows a powerful intermezzo -an intermediate move, which evaporates much of Black's advantage.
Instead after
  • 22...Rfd8! (-1.99) White cannot fend off all of Black's threats, i.e. 
                A) 23.Rh3?! removing the rook from the scope of Black's
                     Bishop is not possible here because of the powerful
                     deflecting move ...Ng4! and now White must choose:
                     A1) 24.Qxg4 is the worse choice as after ...Rxd3 25.Qe2
                            Qd6 -with the threat of ...Rd2 and so 26.Rc2 Bf6 with
                            a new threat, this time the Knight on c3 which also
                            protects the back rank from invasion and so cannot
                            move and thus is lost after 27.Kg1 (27.Qe1 Bxc3 
                            28.Bxc3 Rcxc3 29.Rxc3 Rd1 30.Rc1 Qd2 with a 
                            mate#3) ...Bxc3 28.Bxc3 Rcxc3 29.Rxc3 Rxc3 with
                            an easy technical win from here.
                     A2) 24.Bb1 Qd6! with the threat of ...Qd2 so 25.Bxg6!
                            looks desperate but it's actually the best try
                            according to Komodo, (25.Qxg4 is worse because of 
                            ...Qd2 26.Qe2 Qxe2 27.Nxe2 Rxc1+ 28.Bxc1 Rd1+ 
                            29.Ng1 Rxc1 30.Bd3 Rc3 31.e4 Rxa3, etc. with an 
                            easy technical win from here) ...hxg6 26.Rh8+! Kxh8
                            27.Nxb5+ Nf6 28.Nxd6 Rxc1+ 29.Bxc1 Rxd6 and in
                            this dynamically unbalanced position Black has the
                            Bishop Pair plus Rook and Knight vs the white Queen
                            and Bishop plus two pawns. Black is much better
                B) 23.Bb1 fails to ...Ne4 24.Bxe4 (trying to save the rook 
                     with 24.Rh3  runs into ...Rd2 losing a whole piece) ...Bxh4
                     winning the exchange.
                C) 23.Rg1! is White's best try and after ...Ne4 there are
                     C1) 24.Bxe4 is the worst of the two as after Bxh4 White
                            has two choices that both lose:
                            C1a) 25.Bxb7? is ill-advised as after ...Qxb7 26.e4
                                     ...Rc4 27.Rf1 (27.Rc1 Qc6 28.Qe3 Qd7 with the
                                     threat of ...Qd2 and no good is 29.Rd1?? as
                                     after ...Qxd1+! 30.Nxd1 Rxd1+ 31.Qg1 Rxg1+
                                     32.Kxg1 Rc2 Black is up a whole rook as should
                                     convert this with no problems.) ...Qc6 28.Qe3
                                     ...Rcd4 29.Ba1 Rd3 30.Qc1 Bf6 and White
                                     being down the exchange plus soon to lose a
                                     piece could very well resign here.
                            C1b) 25.Qf3 too can hardly be advised as after ...Rd7
                                     26.Bxb7 Qxb7 27.Ne4 Be7 28.h3 Rc2 29.Rb1
                                     ...f5 30.Nf6+ Bxf6 31.Qxb7 Rxb7 32.Bxf6 Rbc7
                                     with an easy technical win from here.
                     C2) 24.Nxe4 is by far the best continuation here and now
                            ...Bxh4 25.Nf6+ Bxf6 26.Bxf6 Rd7 27.h3 Qd6 28.Bd4
                            and although Black is better White can make a fight
                            of it.

   23.Nxd5! (-1.03)

The aforementioned " powerful intermezzo". There is no time to capture the Rook on h4 now as the Knight attacks not only the Bishop on e7 but also Black's Queen.

So it's Black to move here, how would you deal with this problem?

Following the live action outside the club

A crowd gathers outside the CCSCSL to watch the live games going on inside on a display monitor which shows the current positions and results of each game in the tournament in real time. That's me, your author, in the plaid orange shirt and to my immediate left in the grey hoodie is Spencer Finegold, son of the infamous GM Ben Finegold. The fellow in the grey blazer, 2nd from the left, is Armen Sevian, a former candidate master from Armenia and father of newly crowned U.S. Grandmaster and chess prodigy, Sam Sevian.

   23...Bxd5? (-0.56)
The knee-jerk response but a mistake! Now most of Black's advantage evaporates and White it right back in the game. Correct was first
  • 23...Rxc1+! (-1.50) and only after 24.Bxc1 then ...Bxd5. The exchange of rooks first makes all the difference as the deflection of the bishop off the long diagonal is key.

   24.Rxc8! Rxc8 25.Rh3? (-1.72)

Removing the rook from immediate capture by the black bishop but this gives Black a critical tempo to regain his recently lost advantage. Instead White had to find the tactical shot,
  • 25.Rxh7! (-0.61) and the rook cannot be captured, i.e.
               A) 25...Kxh7?? 26.Qh5+! and it's game over after ...Kg8

          So instead Black must find the very difficult,

               B) 25...Bf6! and just like White's rook couldn't be captured so
                    too cannot this bishop be captured, i.e. 26.Bxf6? (Best is 
                    26.Rh3 Qd8 with a small plus for Black) ...Rc1+ and White
                    must interpose his queen 27.Qf1 Rxf1+ 28.Bxf1 Kxh7 with
                    an easily winning position for Black.

So in the above diagram it's Black to play. What would you do here?

Testing out a new custom set outside the club

On one of my many visits to the club I brought along a custom painted aqua blue set that I thought would look good on the outside tables there -and it did! Here I am in the midst of a tense battle with a former acquaintance, Thomas "Punchy" Brandt. In the photo White has just played 9.a3 and I am considering my next move.

 For your pleasure here is that game in its entirety:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.0-0 b5 7.Bb3 Be7 8.h3 0-0 9.a3 Be6 10.Bxe6 fxe6 11.d3 b4 12.Ne2 d5 13.c4 dxe4 14.Ng5 exd3 15.Ng3 Qd7 16.Qb3 h6 17.Nxe6 Qxe6 18.Qxd3 e4 19.Qc2 Nd4  0-1

Yes White could of played on here but being a piece down with less than zero compensation probably was a dismal proposition for Punchy.

   25...Bf6!! (-1.72)

A fantastic move! ...but of course somewhat anticlimactic as it was already mentioned in the above variation, but still... Black simply hijacks the diagonal in broad daylight putting the Bishop en prise and no doubt shaking Ivy out of any fanciful reveries he may of been having about the position. Again, as above, the Bishop is quite poisoned and I could only wait to see if my opponent would take the bait...

Partial credit for
  • 25...f5 (-1.57) with the idea of bringing the Queen back to the d8-square and then challenging the long diagonal with a timely ...Bf6, i.e. here is a sample line: 26.Kg1 Qd8 27.g4 Bf6, etc.

   26.Kg1! (-1.60)
Ivy doesn't fall for the trap but he is far from being out of danger and is probably already technically lost although Black has some work to do. Had he taken the Bishop things would be even worse for him, i.e.
  • 26.Bxf6?? (-3.51) ...Rc1+ 27.Qf1 Rxf1+ 28.Bxf1 and although the material count is even White has too many weaknesses in his position for the black Queen to exploit and his position will soon collapse.

   26...Bxb2 27.Qxb2 Qc6 (-1.90)

A few moves have been played but nothing has changed as so far as White's dire situation, however with his next move things go from bad to worse and the game concludes very rapidly.

   28.Qf6? (-9.40)
Trying to drum up some counterplay on the kingside but this only brings about a swift end. If White wanted to put up the maximum resistance then it was essential to keep the Queen back for defense but of course a slow death might not of appealed to Ivy.

Here are some more resilient defenses that might of been tried:
  • 28.Qd2 (-2.18) i.e. ...Qc1+ 29.Qxc1 Rxc1 30.Kf2 f5 and the pawn weaknesses on White's queenside along with the limited activity of the rook on h3 tips the scales clearly in favor or Black.
  • 28.Bf1 (-2.29) ...Be4 29.g4 Qc3 and White's queenside pawns will begin to fall like ripe apples.
  • 28.Rg3 (-2.47) ...Qc1+ 29.Qxc1 Rxc1+ 30.Kf2 f5 and the limited activity of White's rook will be the deciding factor in this position.

   28...Qc1+ 29.Kf2 (-11.79)
Also losing was
  • 29.Bf1 (-10.15) ...Bc4 30.Rf3 Bxf1 31.Rxf1 Qxe3+ 32.Kh1 Rc1, etc.

   29...Qd2+ (-11.19)

final position

And here White resigned. The King is under attack and White will soon either lose heavy material and/or be mated.

Here are some sample lines:   
  • 30.Be2 Rc2 31.Kg3 (31.Qd8+ Kg7 and White is being mated soon.) ...Qxe2 and here too White is getting mated soon.
  • 30.Kg3 Qxg2+! (30...Qxd3 is also winning, i.e. 31.Kh4 Bxg2 32.Rg3 Qe2, etc.) 31.Kh4 h6! 32.Qe5 (No better is 32.Qf5 e5, etc.) ...Qf2+ 33.Kg4 f5+ 34.Bxf5 exf5, etc.
  • 30.Kg1 Qxg2#
  • 30.Kf1 Rc1#

So a good fight and very worthy of a first encounter between two dedicated warriors!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mousetrap Musings (part 2): A Stammering Victory

My current overall record in recorded games of chess at the Mousetrap since 2008 is a staggering 192/201 against 51 individual opponents. Most of these opponents are single games but there are a dozen or so that I've played multiple times. Richard Stamm is one such player and only one of three players to have ever beaten me there.

I met Richard through a free Texas Hold-Em poker game that the bar used to hold a couple times a week. On the nights that we got knocked out of the tournament early we would play a few games of chess . This didn't happen often as we both were pretty good poker players and would oftentimes reach the final table at the end of the night.

Over a two year period Richard and I played a total of seven games with the first three being unrecorded. After the first three games our score stood tied at 1.5 - 1.5 with one win a piece and a draw. This, the fourth game, was recorded and typical of all our games, it was a very hard-fought battle.

White: D. Thomas Moniz 
Black: Richard Stamm
The Mousetrap
Indianapolis, IN (1)
Time Controls: None

Opening: C60 Ruy Lopez

*engine analysis by Komodo 8 at a minimum depth of (21) unless otherwise noted.
*click all diagrams and photos to enlarge

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bb5 Nge7 (0.31) 

The Cozio Defence is the seventh most popular continuation in the Ruy Lopez. Some of the strongest players in the world have essayed this line, notably Aronian, Nakamura, Karjakin, Ivanchuk, ShortLarsen, Steinitz and Morphy.
Other popular continuations (in order of popularity) are as follows:
4.O-O a6 5.Ba4 b5 (0.52) 

The most natural continuation, gaining queenside space and a tempo on the bishop. Other considerations include:

6.Bb3 h6 7.c3 (0.61)

A cautious but solid approach to the position. I had been stung for a loss in our previous game after playing too recklessly in the opening and lost a pawn so had decided to play a bit more conservatively in this game... well in the opening phases anyway. The move prepares d2-d4 and also gives the bishop on b3 a place of refuge in case of ...Na5.

Komodo instead suggests that 7.d4 (0.74) is the more dynamic way to play for an advantage but not by much.

...Ng6 8.d4 exd4N (0.83)
A novelty in the position but not a very profound one. Black dissolves some of the central tension but this may work in White's favor, so perhaps instead:

  • 8...Bb7N (0.56) Komodo's top choice and a novelty as well! This would of been a much better continuation for Black, simply developing the bishop and keeping the central tension intact.
  • 8...Na5 (0.66) A more aggressive try although somewhat unprincipled. It does have some practical merits though as White will probably have to chew up some clock to figure out how to proceed with his bishop on b3.
  • 8...d6 (0.78) This looks solid but probably too passive. White gets too much liberty as in Panchanathan, M.C. - Varshavsky, E., Philadelphia 2006 (1-0)

9.cxd4 Bb7 10.Re1 (0.48) 

Still playing conservatively. White develops the rook on the e-line opposite the black king while bolstering the e4-pawn. 

Komodo instead prefers 10.Bd2!? (0.79) which temporarily takes away the b4-square from the black bishop on f8. A logical idea even though the bishop looks a bit funny on d2. However it's hard to argue with the engines evaluation here so I will definitely consider it next time should this position ever arise again.

Be7 11.Nbd2 (0.38) 
The downside of course to White's conventional play is that Black has an easy game with no worries. A concession I was willing to accept.

Komodo prefers a more dynamic 11.Nc3 (0.71) with a solid plus for White.

The Conservative Driver

The conservative driver eventually reaches his destination, albeit a little slower. Notice the protective measures; goggles, gloves and leather driving vest... also, both hands on the wheel.

...O-O 12.Nf1 (0.38)
Heading for e3 or possibly g3 in some lines. This redeployment of the knight is a common idea in the Ruy Lopez.

...d6 13.Ng3 Bf6 (0.62)

Although the bishop looks somewhat awkwardly placed here Black's position is quite tenable. White's central dominance however gives him an edge.

Still how does White proceed? What would you do here?

A picture to hide White's next move.

Mousetrap: the board game

14.Nf5!? (0.27)
"Knife to f5" as GM Ben Finegold often says. The knight is generally annoying sitting here on f5 and Black is oftentimes compelled to try and remove this intrusive guest at the cost of delaying his own laid plans.

Objectively speaking the knight exerts pressure on the black kingside and may redeploy to the e3-square in some instances. The move isn't even in Komodo's top three but from a practical standpoint it's an excellent try and besides I have ulterior motives...

Komodo's top three:
  • 14.Qd2 (0.64)
  • 14.Bd5 (0.54)
  • 14.d5 (0.44)

...Re8 (0.69)

Developing the rook to the half-opened e-file, exerting pressure on the white pawn there. A natural looking move but perhaps a bit too sluggish. Black could play more dynamically here with either
  • 14...Nce7 (0.29) Challenging the knife on f5 or
  • 14...Na5 (0.30) Trying to remove the powerful bishop on b3 or at least challenging it's control of the a2-h7 diagonal.

So it's White to move here. What would you do?

The Vox F5 folding knife

Just a humorous coincidence. It would probably make a very clever birthday gift for the aforementioned Ben Finegold however.

15.Bxh6!! (0.00)

A fantastic practical sacrifice! Don't let Komodo's (0.00) evaluation fool you. This is a very powerful move, a psychological juggernaut for Black.

During the game I couldn't calculate whether or not the sac would be fully sound but knew that the resulting attack would be very strong and so just went with it. This shift away from my previous conservative play must of shocked my opponent, a value which can never be underestimated in a move. Another facet of the sacrifice is that there is only one way to refute which is not so obvious. I certainly had no awareness of it during the game but did my opponent?

It's Black to move. What would you do here?

A calculated risk

...gxh6? (1.93)
The bishop cannot be taken without first eliminating or deflecting the bishop on b3 with 15...Na5! (0.00). Well done if you found this not so obvious key move.

After this misstep White is definitely winning but converting this advantage to victory will take a bit of work and as the old saying goes, "...there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.."

16.Nxh6 Kg7 17.Nxf7 Qe7 18.Qd2 (1.97)

White's attack is in full swing. The black king has been stripped off all pawn cover and the white knight sits with impunity in the heart of the black position.

What's Black's best defense here?

Mouse'n Impossible

...Rh8! (2.05)
White threatened the devastating Qh6+. Stamm finds the best defense giving up the exchange to blunt this deadly attack. No credit for anything else as all other options leave Black much much worse. i.e.

  • 18...Na5 (11.41) runs into 19.Qh6+ Kg8 20.Qxg6+ which is simply a mauling.
  • 18...Nd8 (#11) trying to remove the white knight fails to 19.Qh6+ Kg8 and now the discovered check 20.Nxd8+! will lead to mate.
To give you an idea of how bad Black really stands Komodo gives
  • 18...Qxf7 (2.91) sacrificing the queen as the second best defense! i.e. 19.Bxf7 Kxf7 with three pieces for the queen + three pawns. The king is out of danger for the moment but it's still a technical win for White.

19.Nxh8 Nxh8? (4.61)
This makes little sense and the knight will lose a tempo getting back into play. Best was the natural recapture, 19...Rxh8 (2.04) which brings the rook into play at the same time.

20.Bd5 Ng6 21.Rac1 Nd8 22.Bxb7 Nxb7 (5.71)

So it seems that Black has weathered the attack for the time being or has he?

23.Rc6?! (2.07)

The idea was to double rooks on the file while stopping the advance of Black's c-pawn but this wasn't too well thought out as now the rook will have to lose time evading a threat after Black's next move.

The best try was 23.e5! (5.73). Here White wins a piece after 23...dxe5 24.dxe5 Nxe5 25.Qf4 Nxf3+ 26.Qxf3 Qf7 27.Qxb7.

...Nd8 24.Rc2 Ne6 (2.63)

Black has used his gifted tempi wisely and brings the knight to a more active square adding further pressure to the d4-pawn.

White has many good options at his disposal but what is the best way to proceed here?

A less than purrrrfect ending

25.Rec1?! (1.17)

On the surface a principled idea, doubling rooks on the half-opened file but a closer inspection reveals a faulty plan. The text yields Black a way to somewhat stabilize his position.

Instead Komodo finds much better continuations with:
  • 25.e5 (2.63)
  • 25.d5 (2.59)
  • 25.Qe3 (2.26)
  • 25.Rc3 (1.95)

So how does Black capitalize on White's inaccuracy? What would you play here?

Chess, good beer and the warm late afternoon sunshine of a lazy summer day at the Mousetrap. A very satisfying combination!

...Rc8?! (2.34) 

White is granted a temporary reprieve as Black fails to find the best reply. The text is much too passive and relegates the rook to a less than optimum role.

The best try was 25...c5! (1.09). The point being that after

  • 26.e5 dxe5 27.dxe5 Nxe5 28.Nxe5 Bxe5 (1.22) Black may well be able to hold the game.
  • 26.dxc5 dxc5 27.Qe3 (27.e5 transposes to the line above after Nxe5 28.Nxe5 Bxe5) ...Ne5 (27...c4? would be a mistake as after 28.b3 cxb3 29.axb3 (1.79) the position is most likely winning for White) 28.Nxe5 Bxe5 (0.77) with good drawing chances for Black.

26.Qa5 (1.26)

Another inaccuracy on my part. The idea is simple; attack both the a6 and c7 pawns but this weakens the support of the d4-pawn. There were better alternatives namely:
  • 26.Qe3 (2.46)
  • 26.d5 (1.74)
  • 26.Rc6 (1.55)

...Qd7? (3.42) 

Apparently this is a mistake according to Komodo. On the surface it is an odd looking move whose purpose is hard to discern. Is Black clearing the e7-square for his knight or bishop? Is the queen trying to maneuver to the queenside? Regardless, Black misses the best defensive chance with the aforementioned 26...c5 (1.26)

So how does White capitalize on Black's error?

A late afternoon Autumn game at the Mousetrap. This is my fall set. Notice the pumpkin orange and mash potato white pieces along with the gravy brown and tan board. Sorry no turkey but more beer is on the way!

27.Qxa6 (1.97)

Not the best but probably still winning. Much stronger was 27.d5! (3.42) and now after ...Nc5 28.b4 Black has many ways to make his situation much worse. i.e.
  • 28...Nxe4? (6.27) runs into 29.Rxc7 (29...Rxc7 is even worse for Black after 30.Rxc7, etc.) 29...Kh6 30.Rxc8 (30.Rxd7?? Rxc1+) ...Nf4 31.Qa3 Qg4 32.g3 Nxd5 33.Qd3 and White is up two exchanges plus two pawns.
  • 28...Nb7? (7.15) could possibly even be worse after 29.Rxc7 Ne7 30.Qb6 Rxc7 31.Rxc7 Qg4 32.Rxb7 Qxe4 33.Qe3, etc.
  • 28...Bb2 (3.61) is the best try but White stays on top after 29.Rxb2 (29.bxc5 is another way to go and now ...Bxc1 30.Rxc1 Nf4 31.Nd4 Qg4 32.Ne6+ Nxe6 33.dxe6 Qxe6 34.Qxa6 , etc.) 29...Nd3 30.Qa3 Nxc1 31.Qc3+ Kg8 32.Qxc1, etc.

So how should Black take advantage of this lapse by White?

Pool room @ the Mousetrap

The Mousetrap offers free pool from 11am-7pm everyday!

...Nxd4?! (4.09)
This pawn grab only makes matters worse for Black. Stamm might of rationed that the position after 28.Qxc8 Nxf3 29.gxf3 Qxc8 30.Rxc7+ Qxc7 31.Rxc7+ Kh6 would be OK for him as he has two minor pieces against a lone rook but White's 6-2 pawn majority will tell here.

Instead, Black's best try was 27...Ngf4 (1.55) with fighting chances although objectively White is still technically winning.

28.Nxd4 Bxd4 (4.11)

So Black has won back a pawn but still sits in a very bad way despite the material balance being almost equal (rook + 3 pawns vs 2 minor pieces). His king is wide open and White's three connected passed pawns will be too much for Black to cope with.

So what's the best way for White to continue here?

Thursday nights at the Mousetrap is "Altered Thurzdaze". A mix of DJ's from around the country mixing up a healthy dose of electronic, dubsteb, broken beats, etc., for you listening and dancing pleasure.

29.Rc6? (0.00)

A careless mistake that throws everything away. It's true that the rook blocks the black queen from its protection of the b5-pawn and stops the advance of the black b-pawn but it's also quite vulnerable here to say a knight landing on e7. With this oversight the slate is wiped clean and Black is right back in the game.

Instead White should play 29.Qxc8! (3.81) and the simplifications after ...Qxc8 30.Rxc7+ Qxc7 31.Rxc7+ Kf6 will be much easier to navigate. Essentially White's rook and pawn mass will dominate Black's two minor pieces in the ensuing endgame. During the actual game I may have wrongfully concluded that it was too dangerous to go into this endgame with such an imbalance.

...Ne7 30.Qxb5!? (-0.35)

Wrongfully assessing that giving back the exchange here for another pawn and the further liquidation of forces would be enough to maintain a winning edge. Now the best White can hope for is a draw and he may even have to fight for it!

...Nxc6 31.Qxc6 (-0.45)
The other main alternative of course is
  • 31.Rxc6 (0.34) which Komodo evaluates as about the same but I didn't see a good reason to put myself in a self-pin.
There was another move that I hadn't even considered during the game but Komodo entertains the tactical
  • 31.Qg5+!? (-0.50) and gives ...Kf8 32.Rxc6! with the point being that if ...Qxc6?! (32...Ra8! 33.Rc1 keeps a small edge for Black) then 33.Qf5+ Ke7 34.Qh7+ (0.00) is a forced perpetual.

...Qxc6 32.Rxc6 Bb6 (0.00)

Komodo evaluates the position as dead even. White has four pawns for the piece but the black king is in perfect position to help defend against the pawn mass. Instead of the text Black might of tried

  • 32...Kf6 (-0.42) but after 33.Kf1 Ke5 34.f3 Bxb2 35.a4 the game will most likely fizzle out into a draw.
  • 32...Bxb2 (-0.28) straight away gives White more options but after 33.g3 Kf6 34.f4 Bd4+ 35.Kg2 the result should still be a draw with proper play.

33.Kf1 Kf6 34.h4 Ke5 35.f3 Rf8 36.Ke2 Kf4 37.b4 (-0.11) 

The game has progresses along a logical and predictable path; White trying to mobilize his kingside pawn mass and bring his king into play while Black has been moving his king and rook into action against it.

Whites last move is aimed at dislodging the bishop on b6 after a4-a5 to weaken the c7-pawn but this looks a bit slow and what of the pawn on h4, how is White to defend it?

Black to play here. What would you do?

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...Rh8? ( 1.07)

It was a mistake to go after the h-pawn as White's queenside play is quite dangerous. There were two better ways to deal with the position:
  • 37...Ra8 (-0.11) is the straightforward approach. Now after 38.Rc2 there follows ...Ra4 39.Rb2 Bd4 40.Rc2 c5 41.bxc5 Bxc5 and Black is holding comfortably. 
  • 37...Rg8 (0.00) is a little trickier but manageable. After 38.a4 Rxg2+ 39.Kd3 Kxf3 40.a5 Be3 41.Rxc7 Rd2+ 42.Kc3 Kxe4 the position is dynamically even.

So how does White continue here?

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38.a4! (1.07)

The obvious reply and the only way to play for the win. The threat of course is a4-a5 and after the bishop moves then Rxc7.

...Rh7 (1.23)
To deal with the aforementioned threat. Also good was 38...Rb8 (1.06) with the idea of 39.a5 Bd4 40.Rxc7 Rxb4 and things are probably heading for a draw.

39.a5 Ba7 40.Ra6 (1.02)

The bishop is under attack so how should Black deal with this crude threat?

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...Bb8?? (6.10)

A horrible miscalculation which loses on the spot! Instead either:

  • 40...Bg1 (1.04) or
  • 40...Bd4 (1.27) keeps Black drawing chances alive.

So how does White capitalize on this blunder?

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41.Ra8! (6.10)

Of course. Now Black will lose the bishop (or rook) and soon after the game. It's not clear whether Black was already lost before his 40th move but my feeling is that he could of possibly held the draw with accurate play. An unfortunate turn however eliminates his chances and the punishment is swift.

The rest of the game sees Black in his death throws, giving up the rook (instead of the bishop) to grab another pawn, but this proves to be futile as White mops up quite easily.

...Rh8 42.a6 c5 43.bxc5 dxc5 44.a7 Bxa7 (18.75)

45.Rxh8 c4 46.h5 Kg5 47.h6 Bd4 (25.66)

48.Rd8 Bf6 49.h7 Kg6 50.h8=Q Bxh8 51.Rxh8 (mate #12) 

Final position