09 March 2012

King Safety

A nice win by Judit Polgar in last year's European Individual Championship highlights the importance of king safety. The game Pantsulaia -- Polgar,J, Aix-les-Bains 2011 was published as Chess Informant 111/3 and was voted the best game of that edition of Informant. It scored a remarkable three first place and three second place votes from the seven judges. The lone skeptic, Zoltán Ribli scored it in tenth place. The tournament bulletin also published an annotated version of the game.

Pantsulaia,L (2595) - Polgar,Ju (2686) [A13]
Aix-les-Bains 111/3, 2011

1.c4 e6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.Qc2 c5 5.d4 cxd4 6.Nxd4 e5 7.Nb3 Nc6 8.Bg2 Nb4 9.Qd1 dxc4 10.N3d2 Bf5 11.Na3 b5 12.Bxa8 Qxa8 13.Nf3 

Black to move

13...Nd3+ 14.exd3 Bxd3

Polgar sacrificed a knight to trap the White king in the center. But she was already down an exchange, and so, as the tournament bulletin notes, "Judit is a rook down at this moment!"

15.Nxb5 Bb4+ 16.Nc3 0–0 17.Rg1 

In Polgar's Informant annotations, this move is given a box (only move). She offers a line where White castles, but with a king far less secure than in the game. Black gets a bishop on f3 and a queen on c8 with intent to move c8-h3-g2.

17...Ne4 18.Bd2 Rd8 19.Rc1 Nxc3 20.bxc3 Ba3

White to move
Still down a rook, here Polgar wins back the exchange.

21.Be3 Bxc1 22.Bxc1 Rb8 23.Nd2 Qd5 24.Qa4 a5 25.Qd1 h6 

White to move

Polgar gives White's next move a question mark, but it is no easy matter to suggest something useful here. The White rook is neither helping defend the vulnerable king, nor contributing anything to a counterattack. Although down material, Black is ahead where it matters: the field of battle.

26.Qf3 Rb1 27.Kd1 e4 28.Qf4 Ra1 29.Qb8+ Kh7 30.g4 Qd7 31.Qe5 e3 

See tomorrow's post for a comment of the importance of this move, or see the tournament bulletin.

White to move
32.fxe3 Qa4+ 33.Ke1 Rxc1+ 34.Kf2 Rxg1 0–1


For many years, I have started my work where a Grandmaster game ends. Grandmaster resignations and Grandmaster annotations reveal their perceptions of a clear and decisive advantage in a position where I might yet falter. One such position in this game occurs in Polgar's annotations. Instead of 27.Kd1, as in the game, White might have returned the queen to d1.

Judit Polgar gives 27.Qd1 Ra1 28.a3 e4-+.

White to move
6k1/5pp1/7p/p2q4/2p1p3/P1Pb2P1/3N1P1P/r1BQK1R1 w - -

I played from this position with Black against Rybka 4. After more than an hour, and several take-backs, I saw the welcome words on the screen that the Silicon Monster gave up.

My best line, stripped of all the dead ends and detours:

Rybka 4 x64 - Stripes,James
Blitz 25m Spokane, 08.03.2012

29.Nf1 Ra2 30.Ne3 Qe5 31.Bd2 Qb5 32.Bc1 Qb1 33.a4 Ra1 34.Kd2 Ra2+ 35.Ke1 Be2 36.Qxe2 Qxc1+ 37.Qd1 Qb2 38.Qc2 Qa1+ 39.Qd1 Qxc3+ 40.Kf1 Ra1 41.Kg2 Rxd1 42.Rxd1 Qb3 43.h4 Qxa4 44.Rd4 Qb3 45.Nxc4 f5 46.Nd2 Qc3 47.Rd8+ Kh7 48.Nf1 a4 49.Ne3 a3 0–1

Perhaps you could do better.

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