UNDERESTIMATING THE OPPONENT
4NCL team championship. 23-01-2016 IM Trent,L (2460) —IM Ansell,S(2360) Position after White’s 26th move (26.Bd3). White stands somewhat better, mostly because of the Bishop-pair. Black should now play 26…Nf8, keeping a compact and resilient position. INSTEAD, probably thinking that White’s only threat was to double his pawns on g6, Black decided to counter attack with
WHITE TO PLAY AND WIN!
WALKING THE WALK
4NCL team championship. 23-01-2016 IM Adair, James (2461)–IM Roberson,Peter (2399) Position before Black’s 15th move. Black stands well, from a French Defence. His Knights on the Queenside are well entrenched, not easy to chase away, and threatening.
Probably the simple 15…o-o is the most logical course of play, and if anyone is better, it is Black. HOWEVER, Black saw an idea that captured his fancy…
15… Naxb2!? 16. Bxb2 Nxb2 17. Kxb2
The whole idea behind Black’s sacrificial attack! The White King will be forced to advance at great risk into Black’s camp. The King can not retreat as 18…Qc3 is immediately decisive, as is 18.Kb3(?) Qa5!
18. Kxa3 Qc3+ 19. Nb3
Now 19… Bd7 (threatening mate in one move) will be answered by 20. Qc5! and the attack comes to an immediate end. More interesting is 19…Rb8!? (threatening a mate starting with …b4+) Then White’s best is 20.Rd4!? (20.Qc5 is discussed in the next note) and after 20…b4+ 21.RxP! White gets the advantage in every line: 21…QxR+ 22.Kb2 Qxf4 23.Qd4! or 21…RxR 22.Qd2!. Finally, if instead 20…a5!? 21.Bxb5+! and 22.Qd2! repulses the attack.
19… b4+ 20. Ka4
Black must have considered this position before entering into the sacrifical continuation starting on move 15. It is almost impossible to calculate every variation here, and this is where intuition comes into play. Black felt that there MUST be a way to exploit the exposed position of the White monarch. As we shall see, it is NOT mate, but White in the meantime play precisely to avoid catastrophy…and several positions that can arise are so wild that it is worth the reader’s time to study carefully.
HOW SHOULD BLACK PROCEED?
The three principle continuations are 20…Bd7+, 20…Qb2 (the game continuation) and 20…Rb8). The first can be dismissed immediately: 20… Bd7+? 21. Ka5 Qc7+ 22. Qb6! and the attack comes to a screaching halt. Somewhat more testing is 21… Rb8!? but after 22. Qc5! Qb2 (threatening mate in one) White has the surprising defence 23. a4! bxa3 24. Bxa6 and the White King is completely safe. Therefore White wins easily…
The third option, 20…Rb8!?, turns out to be Black’s best chance and leads to remarkable play: (see diagram below)
The immediate threat is just …Bd7+ K-moves …Qc7+ and mate is not far off. So therefore play must continue 21.Qc5! (cutting off the retreat of the Black Queen). Now insufficient would be 21…Bd7+ 22.Ka5 Qb2 23.a4! and , as in the previous line, the White King (miraculously) finds a safe haven.
THEREFORE, after 21.Qc5! Black should continue with 21…Qb2! (see diagram below)
Black threatens mate in one move, and trying to save the day with the Queen sacrifice 22.QxP fails immediately to 22…Bd7+!. So how does White save himself?
An incredible resource! The first idea is that if Black now takes the Bishop with his pawn he is going to lose his Queen(!): 22…PxB+(?) 23.Kxb4:
White threatens to encircle the Queen starting with Rb1, and 23…d4 offers no relief: 24.RxP! Bd7 (what else?) 25.RxB! and it is Black who is going to get mated!
The second idea is that 22… Rxb5 (?) also fails after 23. Qxc8+ (23…Ke7 24. Qc7 Ke8 25. Qc6 Ke7 26. Qd6 Ke8 27. Qxa6etc). THAT MEANS that Black must play 22…Bd7! 23.BxB+ (see diagram below)
This last move seems to win the game immediately as 23… Kxd7(?) 24. Rxd5!+ exd5 25. Qxd5+ is soon going to be mate as White gets his Rook into play with check on d1.
Wow! An incredible resource! White is three pieces up, but it is Black who threatens mate! White gets nowhere after 24.Qa5+ Ke7!, so White must continue courageously:
24. Ka5! Qa3+ 25. Ba4!
The White King is not out of the woods yet!
26. Qxb5 axb5 27. Kxb5 Kc7!
The Black Rook threatens to come into play with decisive effect. Fortunately for White, he is able to slip away…
28. Kc5! Qxa4 29. Kd4! Qa7+ 30. Kd3! Ra8 31. Ke2!
And now, with the White monarch out of danger and having Rook and two Knights for Queen, only White has winning chances! An amazing variation, filled with tactical finesses and surprising moves…isn’t this WHY we play chess?
NOW BACK TO THE GAME:
Black chose the other option…
This move, threatening mate in one move, is much less dangerous to White. However, White must still defend with ‘sang froid’:
(Ofcourse not 21. Kxb4? Rb8 22. Kc5 Qc3 when Black wins!)
Now should Black continue 21… Rb8 (too late!) 22. a4! bxa3 (22… O-O 23. Qc5 Bd7 24. Bxa6) 23. Qc5! and White should have no problem winning given his King quite safe.
21… Qa3+ 22. Kb6!
Surprisingly, the Black pieces can not reorganize quickly enough to snare the White King. For example, if Black were to castle here, or give a check with the Rook on b8, then White could continue 23.Kc5!-d4! back into the comfort of own camp. Black tries something else…
Now 23.Kc5 would run into difficulties after 23…Qb2!, cutting the King’s retreat off and threatening a deadly check on c8.(Note that this idea would not work in the earlier note as the Black Bishop would still be on c8)
The best move, and a strong one! Black can not castle, and Black’s attack quickly runs out of steam.
23… Rc8+ 24. Qa5 Qb2!?
Now the simplest way to consolidate is with the forceful. 25.Bxa6! and after 25…Rc6+ 26.Kb7 and 27.Nc5. However, probably short of time, he plays less strongly, but never really losing his advantage.
25. Nc5!? Rb8+ (25…Qxc2 is a better try, but also insufficent to save the game after 26.Bd3!) 26. Ka7
The surprisingly safe position of the White King is amusing.
26… Ke7 27. Nxd7 Kxd7
Black is now threatening mate in 4 moves. However, it is White’s move and this makes all the difference, and it is infact White who gets the winning attack:
Black can now resign, but continued a few moves out of momentum…