19 July 2019

A Positional Crush

My play in over the board events the past few years has been limited, even though I seem to play online most days. After recovering from a couple of poor results that sent my rating racing towards its floor, I climbed back into the middle of A class. That terrible result--the 2016 Collyer Memorial--included three consecutive losses after winning an easy game in round one. This summer, I lost three straight again. I lost the last round of the Inland Empire Open, then my first two games in the Spokane Contender's--an event that takes place over the course of two months to determine the challenger for the City Championship.

Last night I won a game, stopping the string of losses.

My opponent was a high school student who has been having good results at the Spokane Chess Club. This game was our first. I knew from a conversation at the Inland Empire Open in May about Tactics Trainer on Chess.com that he does a lot of tactics and is pretty good. I intended to be careful, avoiding unnecessary complications.

Stripes,James (1881) -- Sauder,Samuel W M (1758) [C02]
Spokane Contenders Spokane, 18.07.2019


In this game, my opponent ran his clock down to 21 minutes, spending lots of time each move, while I used about 31 minutes for the entire game. Of course, I used his time well. Rather than deep tactical calculation, I mainly proceeded on the base of relatively simple and straight-forward positional ideas with a little tactics at the moment of attack.

1...Nc6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e4 d5

I don't usually have to work this hard this early in the game.


Both player's knights seem somewhat misplaced for the French Advance, but it strikes me as a principled way to meet my opponent's odd move order.

Black to move

How should Black continue? During the game, of course, I want to show that Black's plans are all wrong. After the game, my focus shifts. I play the French, so improvements for Black must be found.


Black sets up a tactic if White is foolish (something I've been on the Black side of countless times).

4...Nge7 has fared better for Black than other options. 5.c3 Nf5 6.Bd3 Nh4 7.0-0 Nxf3+ 8.Qxf3 and Black won in 61 moves. Simonian,H (2405)--Shaposhnikov,E (2545), playchess.com INT 2007.

4...f6 must be played sooner or later. 5.Bd3 There are four games in 2016 PowerBook--all White wins, but Black gets some play in several of them. I believe this option offered better prospects for my opponent than the course he chose in the game.


5.Bb5? Nxe5 and Black has the upper hand.

5...Qe7 6.a3

I'm thinking of Dirty Harry's line, "go ahead and make my day." Castle queenside and see what happens.

6...0-0-0? 7.b4±

At this point in the game, I've used seven minutes to Sam's fifteen. I'm starting to feel comfortable that I have a long-term plan. Push the queenside pawns, set up a battery on the a6-f1 diagonal, and prepare to bring the other rook to the queenside. The a1 rook is perfectly developed. Where to put my queenside minor pieces and the optimal move order remain open questions.


Sam prepares a retreat for the knight.

7...f6 8.b5 Na5 9.Bd2 Nc4 10.a4 Nb2 11.Qc1 Nxd3+ 12.cxd3 is good for White, but probably better than accepting near immobility of Black's forces.


I had notions of playing Na4-c5, but the discovery gave me pause.

8...f6 9.b5 Nd8

White to move


10.Na4 b6 and I've lost some tempi, but perhaps a4-a5 will be useful after repositioning the knight. ;
10.a4 was probably fine, but I could see that my opponent had ideas of opening the e-file. I didn't see a way for him to do so, but got my king off it anyway before proceeding with my attack.

10...g5 11.a4!?

11.exf6 I planned to play this move, originally. 11...Nxf6 12.a4 (12.Bxg5 was my intent, but it does offer Black more play than he got in the game. 12...Rg8)


Black's pawn helps shield White against any possible counterattacks.

12.exf6 Nxf6 13.Ne5

A happy knight!

Black to move.

13...Rg8 14.a5 Qg7


(15.Bd2 was my intent 15...Qxd4 was something I overlooked, but maybe I would have looked more carefully if Black had opted to try this line. 16.Nxd7)

15.Ne2! Now Bd2 is a threat 15...Qe7 16.c4


15.Qe2 was the main alternative. I wasn't certain the best move order here, but thought that White was clearly winning in either case. Sam had used nearly an hour to my fifteen minutes.


15...a6 16.Qe2 (16.bxc7 Nf7 17.Qe2 Nxe5 18.dxe5 Ne4 19.Nxe4 dxe4 20.Bxa6) 16...cxb6 17.axb6;
15...c5 16.bxa7

16.axb6 a6 17.Qe2

I've known for a long time that I would be sacrificing a piece on a6, but when is less clear.

17...Bc6 18.Nb5!

I was happy with this move.

18.Bxa6 bxa6 19.Rxa6 Bb7 20.Bf4! was not something I examined. (20.Ra7 was in my calculations, but I played it a little safer. 20...Bd6 21.Nb5 Bxe5 22.Qxe5 seems fine for White, too.) 20...Bxa6 21.Qxa6+ Qb7 22.Qa4 Qxb6 23.Rb1 Qc7 24.Qa8+.

Black to move



18...Kb8 19.Bf4 (19.Na7 Bd6 20.Naxc6+ Nxc6 21.Nxc6+ bxc6 22.Bxa6) 19...Nh5 20.Nxc6+ Kc8 21.Nba7+ Kd7 22.Ne5+ Ke7 23.Nc8+ Kf6 24.Qe3+-.

18...axb5 19.Ra8#.

19.Bxb5 Re7?

19...Bd6 20.Ba3 Bxe5 21.Qxe5 Nh5 22.Qd6 Qe7 23.Bxe8 Qxd6 24.Bxd6 Rxe8 White is winning, but Black can play on a bit.


20.Bxa6 is the right time, according to the engine. I thought it was fine, but Black does have some seventh rank defenders. Besides, my dark-squared bishop is in the way of my plans. 20...bxa6 21.Rxa6 Rb7 22.Ra8+ Rb8 23.Qa6+ Qb7 24.Ra7 Bd6 (24...Qxa6 25.Rc7#) 25.Rxb7 Rxb7 26.c4.


White to move


21.Nxf7 did not seem the right course. This knight assists in maintaining checkmate threats.

21...Rfxf8 22.c4!?

Not Clint Eastwood, but some 1960s Western with a line, "roll 'em, keep those doggies rollin'" or something like that pops into my head.

And so I turned to Google.

My memory of the lyrics is a little off, and it seems that a young Clint Eastwood was in the television series Rawhide, the theme song of which sits vaguely in my memory with incorrect lyrics.

22.Bxa6 bxa6 23.Rxa6 was still possible, but until I see a clear checkmate and as long as my bishop is immune ...

22...Kb8 23.Bxa6

Now is the time, there is no more work for the bishop. Soon a rook battery on the a-file will end things (or I will will find something else.

23...bxa6 24.Rxa6 Qb7

White to move


Defends the rook and puts my pawns to use as insurance against Black organizing a defense.

25.Rfa1 Rg7 26.Qa2 the engine sees a mate in seven, but I was not looking that deep.


25...Kc8 26.Rfa1

26.Nxc6+ Qxc6 27.Qe5+ Kc8 28.Ra8+

Black to move


28...Qxa8 29.Qc7#;
28...Kb7 29.Ra7+ Kc8 30.Rc7+

29.Ra7+ Kd8 30.Qb8+ Qc8 31.Qd6+ 1-0

31...Nd7 32.c6 was my idea.

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