Yes, I’m into chess these days.
Another game, another opponent supposedly stronger than me. Unlike last time, I had only seen a couple of his previous games, so the only thing I had to go by was that he seemed to be quite happy to get pieces off the board. It’s not that he was playing for draws. I saw the exchanges more as a way to avoid complications.
In other words: I was playing against myself. I tend to do that too: either close the centre, or get rid of some Queens and Knights, or both. Keep the options limited for both players, and hope for a mistake to punish, or a brilliant idea. Admittedly, it’s a passive strategy. Call me a chicken, but sometimes, a whole board filled with unpredictable pieces and moves can bee too much to keep track of. I hate surprises, especially when they involve unexpected knight storms.
Kjeldgård, Lennart — Østrem, Eyolf
Faxe EMT (4) Faxe
2011.04.27 0-1 B20
I went for a Sicilian, not because I’m particularly good at it, but at least I know some of the main lines well enough to avoid some of the pitfalls. Again, this is passive thinking. I should have said: “I know it well enough to be able to develop nicely and presumably present the opponent with some problems.
This seems to be his specialty: he had played the same in one of the earlier games I had seen too. In that case it all transformed into a plain ol’ Fischer/Scheveningen kind of Sicilian eventually, so I didn’t put too much effort into the preparations of this particular line.
2…e6 3.Nf3 d6 (D)
I’m not sure if this is the “correct” way to deal with the early Bishop version, but since I expected d4 cxd, Nxd4 Nf6, Nc3 anyway, I saw no reason not to play the standard moves.
4.d4 cxd4 (D)
5…Nc6 6.Bb5 (D)
6…Bd7 7.Bxc6 (D)
Suspicion confirmed: he was keen on exchanges.
… and since this is a good spot for the Bishop anyway, I didn’t mind.
8.Nc3 Nf6 9.Bg5 (D)
9…Be7 10.O-O-O (D)
I thought for a while here. First of all, I went through the line 11.BxN BxB, 12.Qxd6 QxQ, 13.RxQ, which might seem to win a pawn, but after 13…BxN, 14.bxB, Bxe4, black would be much better off, so that line was nothing to fear.
When I chose
over the presumably better 0-0 I did so in order to see if his willingness to exchange would go so far as to give me the advantage of two bishops vs. two knights.
Which it did! I wasn’t at all unhappy.
And after this move, I reckoned I had practically won the game already. The line I had calculated seemed inevitable, so apparently he hadn’t seen the BxN two moves ahead. Or did he have something up his sleeve that I hadn’t seen?
12…Qxd6 13.Rxd6 (D)
Apparently not. He spent a very long time on this move, even though it seems simple enough. After the numerous exchanges already, there simply isn’t enough material left on the board to create complications; capturing the Bishop is the only option.
14.bxc3 Bxe4 (D)
Not only has he come out of this with an isolated double pawn ready to attack, he will also have to move his knight to avoid getting another one of the same kind. And behind the knight is an unprotected pawn…
I decided not to take the “poisoned” g-pawn and invite the other white Rook in after Rg1 and Rxg7. Fair enough, the position would probably be even more promising for me, but I decided to focus on the queen’s side.
I must admit that when I made this move, I didn’t primarily think of the consequences it had for the advanced white Rook; I was aiming for the a-pawn and for a blockade of the c pawns.
Seems to deal with both threats, and proving my previous move to be wrong. But wait…:
The Rook is trapped. I had plenty of time on the clock, so I decided to let him sweat over the decision while I had a cup of coffee in the lounge.
I was a bit surprised to see him give up the exchange so easily, but again: I didn’t complain.
19.Rg1 Bd5 20.Rxg7 Rhg8 21.Rg3 Rxg3 22.hxg3 b6 23.Kd2 Rxc5 24.Nxc5 Kxd6 25.Nb3 Bxb3 26.cxb3 (D)
seems fairly winnable
17…exd5 18.cxd5 (D)
Those pawns ought to be pickable. Rooks on c8 and d8, the King to d6, etc.
Perhaps over-complicating things. Rhd8 or Kd6 right away are probably better moves, but as long as the King is left on the c-file, the d pawn is not offered any real protection because of the pin. I figured that the lonesome pawn wouldn’t go anywhere, so I concentrated on activating my Rooks and passivating white’s Knight first. Hence the following few moves.
I wanted to keep the c pawn back, and avoid having the white Knight entering the play in interesting ways.
Not interesting enough, though, since I figured that:
would force it back to d2, which would be excellent since I could now do Kd6 without having to consider any Knight threats, or to c3, where it would bury the c pawn if not forever, then at least for as long as it would take me to capture the d pawn.
21.Nc3 Rc5 (D)
Now, all I needed was to double rooks in the c file, and the Knight would have to go to some far-away place, and the d pawn woud finally fall.
22.Re1+ Kd7 (D)
The King has been headed for d6 for a while, so I almost auto-piloted there, but then realized that after Re6+, the King would have to go to d7 anyway, so why lose that tempo?
Today’s lesson: Don’t ever, ever switch on the auto-pilot!
23.Re6 Rhc8 (D)
Only one thing for white to do:
25.dxc6+ Kxc6 (D)
26.Kb3 a5 (D)
27.Ne2 Rc4 (D)
This does almost the same as Re5 would have done anyway
another square taken away from the Knight.
30…bxa4+ 31.Kxa4 Kc4 32.f3 Re1 33.Kxa5 Kxc3 34.Nc6 Re2 35.g3 f4 36.Nb4 Kc4 37.Nc6 etc.; the white pawns will fall
To avoid the possibility of losing the f pawn through a Knight fork on d4 if the Rook leaves the fourth rank
Looks very much like a waiting move.
30…b4 31.cxb4 Rxb4+ (D)
32.Ka3 Rc4 (D)
Maybe Rh4 or Rb1 were better moves, but I wasn’t in a hurry, and as long as the Knight is locked up, I would basically be more or less the whole Rook ahead, materially. Threatens Rc2 as well, so:
33.Kb2 Kc5 (D)
The most exhausting thing about this kind of endgame vs. a Knight, is that one has to bee watching for possible forks all the time. My plan was to move my King to the pawns on the king’s side, but the direct route Kd5 would have allowed N3 with check. It would not have been dangerous after all, and the King could have walked safely down the board, but I was being cautious. Again.
34.g3 g5 (D)
The best response, and also the reason why I went to b4: now, the white King is locked up forever.
39…Rxb3 40.axb3 a2 41.Kd1 a1=Q+ 42.Ke2
Since this gives my King e4, it is probably a mistake. I was a bit concerned that white might move the King back and forth in is jail, thus keeping d4 and e4 protected and the king’s passage blocked. However, I would quite easily have managed to break through on the king’s side, e.g.:
This time, it would have been quicker to avoid the knight check on c3. On the other hand, the knight is hardly dangerous anymore.
38.Nc3+ Kd4 39.Nb5+ Ke3 40.Nd6 Rc5 (D)
41.fxg5 hxg5 42.Nf7 f4 (D)
43…gxf4 44.Nh6 (D)
Again, the Rook blocks the (possibly) most useful fields for the Knight, and the pawn will inevitably queen, unless the Knight sacrifices himself (if he can find a way to do it, that is. Mwahaha).
I’m doing anything to avoid knight checks… I may be overdoing it here, but I consider it a good exercise.
45.Ng4 f3 46.Nh2 f2 47.h4 Rh5 (D)
And he finally resigned.
The downside is that my next opponent will be one of the big shots, against whom I will have very slim chances… When I told my friend Jens who I was facing, he sat silent for a while, then grunted concernedly (“Hm….”), then said — I’m sure as an encouragement — “Well, you mustn’t give up in advance. Anyone can have a bad day.”