19 July 2013

Choose Your Poison

Chess is a hard game. Even an opponent who blunders away a pawn in the opening will find a way to set problems in the way of victory. In this game, White went into a tableau, fianchettoing both bishops and developing his pawns to the third rank. Black impatiently thrust a pawn to e4, and lost a pawn in the process. Nonetheless, this pawn sacrifice* produced some disharmony in White's arrangement.

By move fifteen, Black had compensation for the pawn in slightly better piece coordination and the weakness of White's central pawns. Five moves later, Black regained the pawn with check and presented White with a choice. Where should White move his king?

White to move

21.Kg1 requires courage due to the threatened discovery, but it may have been a better choice. An interesting subsequent line leaves the White king safe behind shattered kingside and central pawns, and with a material advantage. 21...Ng4 22.Bh3 h5 23.Rxh5! Rxh5 24.Bxg4 b5 25.Bxh5 bxc4. Black never gets time for the discovered check.

21.Kf2 Nf4+ 22.Kf3 is interesting, but appears to offer Black too much play.

White played 21.Ke1, a move which only appears safe. Black soon gained a clear advantage.

21...Bf4+ 22.Kd1?

Now, 22.Kf2 was the best choice.

22...Bc3 23.Rb1

Now, Black might consider the security of his own king.

Black to move

Black chose to keep the pressure on White, rather than attending to his own security.

23...Ng4! 24.Nd6+ Ke7 25.Nxc8+ Rxc8 26.Rf3

White might have done better with 26.Kc1 because now he must give up his one remaining active piece.

26...Ne3+ 27.Rxe3 dxe3

White to move

Black has checkmate threats, which gives him a clear goal. White can parry these threats, of course, but will be forced to make concessions. In the game, White gave up material to stop a pawn from queening. However, another pawn was then able to march down the board unopposed.

The ending may be instructive.

28.b4 Rc6 29.Rb3 b5 30.a3 Bd2 31.Bf3 Rg6

White to move

Black has fantasies about putting his rook on g1 with checkmate.


32.c3 is best, but still losing.

32...h5 33.c3?

Now, c3 is a mistake. White should have tried 33.g5.

33...hxg5-+ 34.Bg2 Rh6 35.Kc2 Rh2 36.Bf1

Black to move


36...g3! was stronger.

37.Rb1 g3 38.Bh3 Kf6?

Overlooking the simple win of a pawn that blocks one potential queen. 38...Rxe2-+

39.Kd3 +/- Kg5 40.Rg1 Kh4 41.Bd7 g2 42.e5 Kg3 43.Bc6 Kh2

White to move

White must lose a piece to stop the pawn on g2, but there is another g-pawn waiting to begin its march.

44.Rxg2+ Rxg2 45.Bxg2 Kxg2 46.c4 bxc4+ 47.Kxc4 Kf2 48.Kd3 g5 49.b5 g4 50.a4 g3 0-1

*Blunder is a more accurate term.

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