17 July 2012

City Championship, Game One

In my first game of the 2012 Spokane City Championship, a best of four game match with the reigning City Champion, I made some positional errors in the opening but then defended well tactically.

Julian,John (2053) - Stripes,James (1982) [D03]
Spokane City Championship Spokane (1), 14.07.2012

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Bg5

It would have been difficult to anticipate the Torre Attack during match preparation. John told me after the game that he had never played it before. Even so, I was prepared for him to play something unexpected.


3...e6 is the main line, while my move is second most popular.


Black to move


Perhaps 4...e6 is not dubious, but 4...c5 is a much better try for equality. By immediately putting pressure upon White's center, Black's pieces can develop harmoniously. Murshed -- Kaidanov, Kolkata 1988 continued 4...c5 5.e3 Qb6 6.Qc1 cxd4 7.exd4 Nc6 8.c3 Bf5 9.Be2 Rc8 10.Nbd2 e6 11.O-O Be7 and is given in a note in Encyclopedia of Chess Openings with the evaluation that Black has equality.

5.e3 c5 6.c3 Bd6

White to move

Via a different move order, a position much like this one, but with White's dark-square bishop on g3, was reached in the Tata Steel B Group in Wijk aan Zee in 2012. That game, Harikrishan -- Reinderman continued 7.Bxd6 Qxd6, which I was aiming at. John refused to cooperate with my plans, providing me opportunities to err.

7.Bd3 Bxf4 8.exf4 Nf6?

This loss of time and refusal to stake a claim in the center led to a difficult game. Soon, the immobility of Black's queenside made the game unpleasant for me. 8...f5 and Black is fine. Fritz 11 gives the position 0.00, a rare evaluation when there is no draw by repetition or other clear resource.

9.0–0 0–0 10.Nbd2 Qb6 11.dxc5

Black to move


11...Qxc5 was more sensible. Having rejected easy equality at move eight because I did not care for the resulting pawn structure, I sought to create disharmony in White's pawn structure. I stepped willingly into a forcing line that brought another pawn beside the doubled c-pawns. John chose this line. As a result, his more active pieces and mobile pawns came down upon me before I could get my forces into the battle.

12.Qb3 Qxb3 13.axb3 Rd8

13...Nc6 was more accurate.

14.Nd4+/- Nbd7 15.c6 Nc5 16.Bc2 Rd6 17.b4 Na6

White to move


18.b5 Nc5 19.Rfb1 improves White's advantage

18...Nb8 19.Nb5?

19.cxb7 Bxb7 20.N2b3+/-


White has some sharp tactics to press for the advantage, but with reasonably accurate play, Black should survive.

20.Nb3 Bd7

John told me after the game that he underestimated this move.

21.N3d4 Rc8 22.Rfc1 Bxb5

I was happy to trade my bad bishop for a troublesome horse.

White to move

23.Nxb5 Nc6 24.Nd6 Rc7 25.b5 Ne7 26.b6

Black to move


Fritz 11 prefers 26...Rd7 slightly. I chose the forcing line, as that makes calculation easier.

27.Rxa7 Rb8 28.Rxb7 Rxb7 29.Nxb7 Rxb6 30.Ra1 g6 31.Na5

Black to move


I might have tried 31...Rb2, when White must defend lest Black gain an advantage. However, I was comfortable in my sense that I was no longer in danger of losing. I had won the coin toss for colors and opted for Black in games one and three, so that I could have White in games two and four. Alas, my opening disaster in game two, and my failure to draw game three meant there would be no game four.

32.Nxc6 Rxc6 33.Ra3 Nd7 34.Kf1 Nc5 35.Bc2 Nb7 36.Bd3 ½–½

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