Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Dark art of games(wo)manship

This article was the fourth by the Duchess of Blunderboro for the Hebden Bridge Chess Club blog. It was published there in September, 2011.
Rudyard Kipling: Somewhat less deadly than his wife

“The female of the species is more deadly than the male.”
- Rudyard Kipling

“If cunning alone were needed to excel, women would be the best chess players.”
- Adolf Albin

A couple of weekends ago, as I watched live coverage of the FIDE World Cup Final in Khanty Mansiysk my wife took an interest (most unusual) and asked about the lady commentator, GM Anna Sharevich. We started to talk about women in the game and I explained that there was a women’s World Champion and that most top female players played in specific, women only tournaments. Quite rightly she asked me why there were separate women’s events and titles when the game of chess conferred no physical advantage to men as it does in most sports. “Surely men and women should compete together” she said and cited show jumping (horse riding is her favourite pastime) as an example of a sport where men and women compete on equal terms.

Of course my wife is right (she almost always is I find) to point out this strange state of affairs in chess. I must admit I struggled to justify why women competed separately from men although I did point out a very significant exception to the rule. Judit Polgar. When I provided my wife with Judit’s potted curriculum vitae and went on to add that she had performed very well at the same World Cup in reaching the quarter-finals and losing to the eventual winner she simply nodded and said “Well, there you go”.

That discussion caused me to reflect a little on the differences between women and men and how they think. I don’t want to get embroiled in a gender debate and I’m no scientist but, I reasoned that physiologically, there must be some attributes that are more prevalent in one gender or the other and that those attributes must have an impact on the workings of the mind even if it’s at a trivial level. I’m fairly sure that male and female GMs approach preparation and in-game-analysis in the same way but at an amateur level, perhaps different approaches are more apparent.

Of course there was only one course of action for me to take at this point and I immediately logged on to exchange instant messenger correspondence with this website’s most illustrious contributor, Lady Cynthia Blunderboro. Our chat progressed thusly:

Intermezzo: Do you think women approach chess in a different way to men or display any attributes more or less prominently then their male counterparts?

Blunderboro: Generally I’d say no because such a blend and balance of skills are required to excel and the best players, men and women, tend to demonstrate these universally. However, remembering the words of Rudyard Kipling, I’d suggest that maybe we ladies bare chess grudges longer than men do, and, baring in mind the words of Adolf Albin, perhaps we occasionally display greater levels of imagination in our deviousness.

Intermezzo: I assume that you have examples in mind?

Blunderboro: Of course. Shall I write you a blog post?

Intermezzo: Yes please!

So now, I’ll hand you over to Lady Cynthia who, as always, has an intriguing tale to tell.

"Hello again fellow chess-heads! The gender debate surrounding the royal game has long been a cause of heated discourse. Personally I find such chatter to be rather dull as generally speaking it is, like the game itself, dominated by male opinion! Questions such as “Why don’t more women play chess?” and “Why are women not as good at chess as men?” tend to be questions that men ask when they want to pontificate about the perceived masculine intellectual attributes they possess. The truth of the matter seems to be that, proportionally, we women are at least as good at chess as men. Should any of my undoubtedly overwhelmingly male readership be interested in a more balanced female perspective on such matters then I can hardly do better than to direct you to the excellent Goddess Chess website.

From a Lady’s perspective, I’m not convinced that our approach to chess or the attributes we display are really all that different to men’s. Certainly I’m unable to recall any examples that would support such a theory. What I certainly can provide evidence to support is that when it comes to clear thinking, cold-blooded ruthlessness and down-right craftiness at the chess board, we ladies can behave in a most ungentlemanly fashion!

Today’s story begins in 1932 when I was 10 years old and attending St. Ethel’s boarding school for girls. Of course I was a member of the school chess team and we regularly played matches in the local chess league as well as against other schools around the country. At this early stage in my career I was not by any means an expert but the fire of competitive spirit was certainly stoked during my school days. This was never more evident than when St Ethel’s played our annual match against our great rivals, St Agnes’ Catholic School for Girls. By the time I represented St Ethel’s for the first time in this fixture it had already taken place 35 times previously and our school held an 18-17 lead. In 1932 then I had, for the first time, been offered the opportunity to defend the honour of St Ethel’s in this unfolding legend of inter-school rivalry. I was selected to play on the bottom board, board 10.

If further incentive to succeed were needed that day it was provided when I arrived for the match (which we played on a Saturday afternoon in our school library that year) and discovered that my opponent was to be Prunella DeLauncy. I knew this girl and we already detested each other. Prunella was the daughter of Sir Stephen and Lady Margaret DeLauncy who owned DeLauncy Castle, the nearest estate to my own family’s holdings. Although our families were not especially friendly we did operate in each others ambit on numerous social occasions and so I had already had numerous run-ins with this odious little girl. Prunella was three years older than me and took every possible opportunity to belittle, bully and taunt me for being smaller, weaker and younger than her. I reasoned that, on this occasion at least, her physical advantages would be of no use to her and resolved to take full advantage of the fact that the controlled conditions of the competition would prevent her from cheating. An deep irony baring in mind what was to take place that day.

When we took our seats at the board she looked at me as if I were something unpleasant and smelly that she had stepped in on the street and could barely bring herself to shake hands with me. When the handshake did come it was half-hearted and limp. At this point, as I looked along the two lines of players on my right, I noticed to my amusement that she was stationed beneath several girls who looked to be about my age whereas I was clearly the youngest in our team. This gave me a fresh injection of confidence for now I felt that my playing abilities would be a match for hers.

Sadly, on that wet autumnal afternoon I was to be disappointed and even devastated by my own naivety. The game started off well enough. She responded to my king’s pawn advance with the Sicilian Defence. I chose an anti-Sicilian line I’d been studying and elected to play it safe by swapping the queens off very early in the game. I felt confident of securing at least a draw from my enemy until we reached the diagram position below where Prunella was to play.

By now Prunella had begun to openly express some dissatisfaction with her position. Perhaps she felt that she ought to have already secured a decisive advantage against a player three years her junior, perhaps she had simply staged these emotions in order to prepare the way for what now came next. After a relatively short think of only a couple of minute she aggressively bashed out the move 18…Bc6, whacked her clock and then sat back smugly with a sneer on her face and her arms folded across her chest.

As I considered my response I noticed that her facial expression was slowly changing from smugness to concern. After a couple of minutes her face reddened, she muttered something to herself under her breath and then suddenly stood up, her chair scrapping noisily on the wooden floor as she did so, and stormed out of the room in disgust. The eyes of all the players followed her as she left. Amazed and excited at what had just occurred I studied the board again looking for the error that she obviously felt she had committed. It didn’t take long to for me to realise that she had left her pawn on f5 unprotected.

“A free pawn!” I thought. “Is there a trap?”

It took only the briefest of moments to check that after I captured with 19.Rxf5 there was nothing unpleasant that was going to happen to my king and saw that if she played 19…Rd1+ 20.Kh2 Bb8+ then 21.g3?? would be a dire error on account of 21…Rh1 mate! However, I soon saw that instead of this I could play 21. f4, or even better 21.Bf4 and would have simply gained a two pawn advantage.

“She must have missed 21.Bf4”, I reasoned and then wrote down the move 19.Rxf5, played it and pressed my clock confident that I had secured a decisive advantage.

Five minutes passed by and then another five. There was no sign of Prunella, where was she? I began to get restless, had she given up in dismay or been rendered physically unwell by her error? I was about to go and speak to the match referee when the door of the library creaked open and Prunella slowly crept back in. She looked like she had composed herself and she returned to our game tight lipped and serious. She sat down at the board, looked at my move and sighed meaningfully and then with a depressed air about her she responded as I had anticipated with 19…Rd1+. I played my only move 20.Kh2 and then she rocked back in her chair her expression completely transformed once again. Suddenly she was leering at me with a malignant twinkle in her eye. She paused only long enough to let me register that something was a miss before reaching forward and playing not 20…Bb8+ but the move 20…Be4!

I stared at the board in disbelief. My rook and knight forked by the bishop. How had I missed it? It was clear I had been duped by an acting performance of consummate skill. She had wanted me to think that she had made an error and so all I had done was look for one. It was a brilliant diversion. Looking only for a mistake I had found one and completely missed the best rejoinder! I couldn’t even escape with 21.Ne3 as Bxe3 simply reinstated the threat.

At that point, I confess that my world fell apart. I have never again since felt so abject at the board. Playing on in a mist of demoralised inertia I continued on auto-pilot until Prunella finally ground me down with her extra piece in the end game. To make matters even worse St Ethel’s lost the match by a score of 4½-5½! My naivety had lost us the match and it took me months and months to recover from the trauma of losing that game to Prunella DeLauncy who I should add, I never played again in the annual encounter as my game improved rapidly enough to stay above her in the board order in subsequent years. Never the less, in each year that I took part I had to endure her hard, sneering gazing on me every time I caught her eye.

I thought I would never have the chance to avenge that painful defeat. But then, over twenty years later, in 1953, fate dropped an opportunity into my lap. I received a letter from the St Ethels’ Head Mistress of that time informing me that the annual chess match against St Agnes’ had reached it’s 50th edition (the fixture was not held between 1940-45 on account of World War II) and, to commemorate this, a special anniversary match between chess-playing alumni from each school was to take place alongside the traditional match for the pupils. Of course I accepted the invitation to take part as, by this point in my life, I was an accomplished player and wanted to repay in some way the chess education I had received from my old school.

The day of the match arrived. Once more the venue was St Ethel’s School Library. I had arrived early and was enjoying chatting to several old friends who I hadn’t seen for years when suddenly on of them drew my attention to the library doorway. Prunella DeLauncy had just arrived. I hadn’t expected her to attend but I would guess that she wouldn’t have wanted to miss another opportunity to flaunt her success of 21 years previously. There she was, as tight faced and smugly superior as ever. She glared at me as she made her way over to her team mates and I found myself yearning for a re-match even though I imagined that she would not be their top board player.

When we saw our Captain’s match card I couldn’t believe what I saw, for Prunella was indeed playing on board 1 for the St. Agnes Alumni team. Her game must have improved somewhat over the last twenty odd years for I was sure there were others in the St.Agnes line up who had previously been her betters. As we sat across from one another I could sense her disdain but forced myself to be polite and looked up smiling at her.

“Good luck”, I said as I shook that limp, cold hand.

For this return game I was fortunate once again to have the White pieces. My improved skills as a player in the intervening years between our encounters had given me the confidence I needed to play for a small but enduring advantage out of the opening. I played solidly, possibly too solidly and Prunella, to her credit defended staunchly, and at times, resourcefully. As the game meandered on my advantage dwindled and I began to realise that Prunella, whilst having no winning chances herself, had succeeded in neutralising my attacking potential completely.

Stubbornly, for in all other circumstances I would have offered a draw, I played on, politely declining her curt offer of a draw when the queens came off the board as the end game began. We were now the last board playing and the match was tied at 4½-4½. Vainly I scoured the position for any opportunity to create complications and managed to find a clever way of sacrificing a pawn to reactivate my pieces. I conjured up some significant problems for my opponent and she began to spend more and more time trying to solve them. Finally though, she dug herself out of trouble yet again and, with both our clocks down to their last two minutes, we reached the position below.

I had just checked the Black king and Prunella moved it with 61…Kh6. I sat staring intently at the board. The position, with equal material and opposite coloured bishop was drawn I had to accept it and offer to share the honours. My clock was almost spent. But then, a glimmer of an idea came into my mind, perhaps there was a way and I could try to win it without any risk of losing. Quickly I checked it again and glanced at my clock. One minute left. Prunella had a little more but not much. To make this work I had to blitz her and rely on her disdain of me and need to belittle me. I could use that to my advantage.

Very swiftly we now both banged out the moves…
62. Bf4+ Kg7
63. Be5+ Kh6
64. Bf4+ Kg7

I’d made a point of calling out “Check” throughout this sequence. First of all because I knew it would annoy her and secondly because it was integral to my plan. I paused here for a couple of seconds with my hand hovering over the bishop. Prunella, flushed with adrenaline looked at me intently expecting that the repetition of moves would follow and enable her to thwart me again and draw the match. However, I now played 65.Bd6 and called out “Check” again. Immediatley Prunella’s hand darted out to her king and moved it back to h6. She pressed her clock again and then said, mockingly, “That wasn’t check.”

“Sorry! Yes, you’re right. My mistake” I replied as I paused again for a few seconds. I must have had about twenty seconds left. I used ten of those to allow Prunella to realise the full horror of her mistake before playing 66.Bf8!

“But that,” I said “is checkmate. If I’m not mistaken.”

And so it was that on this occasion it was Prunella who was left devastated. My vengeance felt very, very sweet and my team mates crowded round to congratulate me on my play. Later on, at the local pub they also congratulated me on my gameswomanship. The ultimate compliment.

As a post script to this story I should add that recently I was most surprised to find this last little set piece (listed as being played by NN and NN) in Christian Hesse’s new book “The Joys of Chess:Heroes, Battles and Brilliancies”. The position features in a chapter named “Gamesmanship” and I will end this article with a quote that features at the beginning of that chapter which seems very appropriate to the subject and an object lesson for all chess players regardless of their gender."

“As a medium for demonstrating one’s mastery of the game the board and pieces are, in fact, most unreliable.”
- William Hartston

Addendum: 01/10/2011
Since I published this post (by a bizarre coincidence) Chessbase have put up a very interesting related article on their website which I would commend to all readers interested in the gender discussion. It turns out that some research now suggests that there are differences between men and women when it comes to how they approach their chess playing. Or, rather, there are differences to their approach when men play against attractive women! Evidently a man playing a game against an attractive woman is much more likely to essay an aggressive opening system and take more risks to try and win the game. On the other hand, women are unlikely to change their approach when playing against men, regardless of whether or not they think they are attractive! So, there you go, some kind of answer to the original question I posed in the introduction to this post.

Friday, 30 December 2011

An Early Christmas Present

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Photo from
Rennings' photo stream on Flickr
What does every chess player want for Christmas? Well, I can't speak on behalf of every woodpusher, but for me it's really simple. I just want to play a really interesting and exciting game! There are three key ingredients that make an enjoyable encounter in my book although I do recognise these won't be everyone's cup of tea:
  1. Monstrous complexity: a game that is so impossibly hard to assess at the board that it leaves you feeling physically exhausted and your head reeling for 24 hours afterwards!
  2. Imbalance: an encounter where the three core elements of chess: space, time and force (material) are dynamic and imbalanced but roughly equal.
  3. Aesthetic appeal: a pretty or unusual combination, manouevre or concept. Or a checkmate, preferably involving a king hunt.
How fortunate for me then that I had a game of just this sort last week? All the more so because it ended with me winning! Here is a game that is spawned out of a favorite opening variation of mine which brings mind-bending complexity, an imbalance of material, plenty of excitement and, in this case at least, an interesting tactical motif that is repeated throughout the game and in the sub-variations. So, for a bit of festive fun lets count the number of times in this game that a piece is attacked by a piece of lower value than itself and simply refuses to move itself.

8 8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
Shapland, D. Unrated - Bagley, A. Unrated
1-0 (Leeds League Division 1) 21/12/2011
[#] 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Introducing the Tarrasch Variation of the French Defence. 3...Nf6 And this is the closed system which has already featured once before on these pages - "The French Fried" 17/11/11. The alternative for Black is to play 3...c5, a move which leads to positions of a very different character. Grandmasters appear to favour the c5 move but at club level I find myself almost exclusively meeting the closed system. 4.e5 Nfd7 5.c3 c5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Ne2 cxd4 8.cxd4 f6 9.Nf4!? I've played this move several times before. Many of the textbooks state that this is dubious and that Black can gain the advantage from it. That may be true theoretically, but the path to that advantage is hugely complex and requires fantastic map reading skills and a great deal of familiarity with the terrain in order to gain it. Most of my opponents don't face this line often enough to have been forced to learn the all the ideas in the position and as a result I've done pretty well with it. The mainline here goes 9.exf6 Nxf6 10.Nf3 and the game goes on from there. 9...Nxd4 10.Qh5+ Ke7 11.exf6+ Nxf6 12.Ng6+ hxg6 13.Qxh8 Kf7 14.Qh4 I ventured this line in a recent outing with Black (the first time I've ever played the French Defence!) and my opponent played the alternative move to this one which is
[14.O-O and play now continued with 14...e5 15.Nb3 Nxb3 16.axb3 Bf5 17.Bxf5 gxf5 18.Qh3 g6 I went on to win the game with the passed d-pawn proving to be decisive although White missed a couple of chances to improve on his play.]
14...e5 15.Nf3 Bb4+!? This was a new move to me. Previous games I've played in this line have all continued 15...Nxf3+ 16.gxf3 Bf5 17.Bxf5 gxf5 18.Bg5 and then the game really begins! In fact, as I studied this game afterwards I realised that Black has improved on the move order used in the game below where Black played
[15...e4 This is considered to be a decent alternative to 15...Nxf3 16.Nxd4 Bb4+ 17.Bd2 With this move order White can block the check. As played in the actual game that option isn't possible as we'll see in a moment. The move order played in the game is a distinct improvement on this variation then, as now 17...Bxd2+ 18.Kxd2 Qa5+ 19.Kd1 exd3 20.Nb3 Qc7 21.Rc1 Qe5 22.Re1 Qxb2 23.Qd4 Qxa2 24.Rc7+ Bd7 25.Qxd3 Rc8 26.Rxb7 with advantage to White in Agnos-Emms, British Championship, Southampton 1986.]
16.Kf1 This move is forced because as mentioned in the note above, blocking the check loses a piece after
[16.Bd2? Nxf3+ 17.gxf3 Bxd2+ and if the king recaptures the knight will check on e4 and White will lose his queen.]
16...e4 Only now this move! 17.Nxd4 exd3 18.Nb3? This is a mistake. I felt the need to try and drive the bishop from b4 but it won't be so easy to do and in the final analysis my knight was better placed on d4 than here on b3. It would have been much more sensible to develop my pieces as quickly as possible. One approach would be to play
[18.Bg5 Bd7 19.g3 Kg8 20.Kg2 Qb6 21.Bxf6 gxf6 as happened in Luther-Matamoros Franco, Capablanca B1 1997. The position is unclear and rather obscure.;
18.Be3!? is a move that my engines both llike and when I checked against the Chessbase app on my iPhone it seemed that this was the best choice of response statistically if not by volume. White prepares to meet 18...Bg4 with 19.f3 and intends Kf2 to liberate his king's rook.]
18...Qe7 With the simple but effective threat of 19...Qe2+ and mate on e1 next move. Now I had to block the e-file immediately. 19.Be3 Both engines (Crafty and Fritz) assess this position as being much better for Black and it is all down to one inaccurate move on my part - Nb3. This one mistake could have cost me the game. If you're going to play this kind of opening however, you have to accept the risks. 19...Bg4! I must admit that I hadn't seen this coming quite so soon. Black is putting my centre under great pressure. By depriving my rook of the d1 square Black is indirectly preserving his passed pawn on d3 and now threatens to force it home at once. In addition, I can't play f3 to remove the bishop from its outpost and give my king the chance to get to f2. At this stage of proceedings I realised that I was in trouble. I felt I had to try and relieve the pressure some how so I opted for 20.a3 Fritz thinks that a better line was
[20.h3 Be2+ 21.Kg1 Rc8 but that still looks jolly unpleasant for White to me.]
20...d2! 1: Here we are then. For the first time in the game an attacked piece refuses to retreat. Quite right too on this occasion. Again, I must admit to having not considered the possibility that Black would just advance the pawn but it makes complete sense. As a minimum Black will win back the exchange and he will maintain the initiative. 21.axb4 d1=Q+ Nothing wrong with this but Black overlooked his best opportunity to drive home his advantage in the form of
[21...Qxb4! After the game I told Andy that I had been really worried about this reply, more so than the game continuation. He said he hadn't considered it and it's the first time in the game that I think he selected a suboptimal choice. The post mortem analysis demonstrated the power of this continuation to both players' satisfaction. Black threatens both the White knight and also the discovered attack on the White queen revealed after Be2+. This double threat should prove decisive after 22.f3 Qxb3 23.Kf2 Kg8 24.Bxd2 Qb6+ 25.Kf1 Qxb2 26.Qe1 and Black is clearly much, much better here.]
22.Rxd1 Compared to the variation above (which I hadn't seen all the way through of course but could see was dangerous) I was more than happy to give back the exchange for Black's passed pawn and balance up the material again. 22...Bxd1 23.Nc5 Bg4 It would be easy, given the benefit of hindsight, to say that this move was inaccurate. I had expected 23...b6 to drive the knight back to d3. Certainly if Black had been able to forsee the critical role this knight will play in his demise on this outpost then he would have driven it off as soon as possible. However, at the time there didn't seem to be an immediate threat and Black wanted to remove his bishop to this square. If nhe had chosen to kick the knight immediately I had considered something like
[23...b6 24.Nd3 Bc2 25.Ke2 Rc8 although Black stands rather better here to my mind and the engines concur.]
24.h3 d4!? 2: Here is the second instance of a piece being threatened but not retreating. Aesthetically, it is the mirror idea of the previous example. The bishop is threatened by the flank pawn but does not retreat in order to allow the d-pawn to advance with a threat! On this occasion it seems likely that Black did not select the very best continuation although d4 is by no means a critical error, it simply gives White a chance to get back on terms a little. Fritz 11 recommends instead playing
[24...Bf5 25.Qf4 White lines up his queen on the f-file ready to play g4 and g5 if given the chance. This move also gets the queen back towards the centre of the board as well. 25...Kg8 Black side steps the threat and puts his king onto a safer square. 26.Kg1 White prepares to put his king on h2 in order to finally get his rook into the game. 26...b6 27.Nb3 Rc8 28.Nd4 and Black is likely to pick up the two White b-pawns whilst White will exchange on f5 and win one of Black's king's side pawns leaving the game finely balanced but slightly in Black's favour.]
25.hxg4 3: Not to be out done I now also refused to move my attacked piece. Of course this just results in an exchange but from my point of view I was happy to open the h-file in order to try and develop my rook on that file. The draw back was that I could see I was going to have my pawn structure damaged even further. 25...dxe3 26.g5! According to both engines, White has now equalised again with this move. The key point is that White now gains a tempo against the Black knight threatens to win another by coming to c4 with his queen. Now I felt I was putting pressure on my opponent rather than the other way round! 26...Rd8 4: Here we go again! Once more Black refuses to move his attacked piece. Of course White can't take the knight because 27.gxf6?? e2+ 28.Kg1 Rd1+ 29.Kh2 Rxh1+ 30.Kxh1 e1=Q+ and Black wins. 27.Qc4+ White inserts an intermezzo of his own and now the Black knight really is under threat and must move itself into a position where it is pinned and also blocks the d-file. 27...Nd5 28.fxe3!? Voluntarily breaking up the last vestages of a pawn shield around my own king. I had a fairly long think before taking this decision and didn't take it lightly. In the end I decided to go for it for two reasons. First of all I couldn't see how Black could immediatley take advantage of my king's exposure and second of all I felt that he would try and refute my play directly and that would enable my rook o develop with a tempo. In the end the benefits appeared to outweigh the risks. Of course the engines don't agree with my "human" decision. That's because, as we'll see in a moment, they can see the tactical flaw in my concept. Instead of this move, Fritz thinks White's best continuation involves developng the rook directly via h4.
[28.Rh4 b5! Black hurries to try and break the pin. 29.Qe4 ( If White tries to avoid simplification then it will not go well for him after 29.Qb3 Qxg5 30.Re4 exf2 31.Ne6 Qc1+ 32.Kxf2 Rd6 and in a crazy position, Black has the edge.) 29...exf2 30.Kxf2 Qxe4 31.Rxe4 and the endgame appears to be dead even.]
28...Qxe3 29.Rh3 We've reached the critical moment of a nerve shredding game. Black has captured on e3 and allowed my rook to come alive and join the fray. I was very confident that my position was close to winning here and was very surprised when I analysed the game on my computer later on to find that, in fact, it is Black who should be winning here. How can this be? 29...Qxg5? It seems harsh to award this move a question mark and yet I must because it is the crucial inaccuracy of the game. Black captures the g-pawn but in doing so gives White the time he needs to drive the Black king into the open and onto the rocks. There was a refutation to my idea but, and maybe this would be some consolation to the losing party, I doubt many players would have found it. Neither of us saw it over the board or afterwards in our post mortem.
[29...Ke7!! 4: "We shall not, we shall not be moved!" A fourth and most unexpected refusal to retreat and a wonderful moment! The Black queen doesn't run. Instead with this quiet intermezzo Black breaks the pin and liberates the knight to recapture on e3 with check and a fork to boot. It's such a pretty move I almost wish Andy had found and played it because it deserves to see the light of day shine more brightly on it than in the footnotes of this commentary. Having said that, if he had seen it, it would have robbed me of the entertaining king hunt that now follows. After this stunning side-step White is left with nothing better than 30.Qe4+ Qxe4 31.Nxe4 Nxb4 and Black should have enough to win the endgame.]
30.Rf3+ Suddenly the White rook has sprung to life with deadly effect. 30...Ke8 This allows White a clean kill. Black could have limped on after
[30...Kg8 but White's material advantage ought to be decisive after 31.Ne6 Nb6 32.Qc3 Qb5+ 33.Ke1 Qd7 34.Nxd8 Qxd8 35.Qe5 ]
31.Qb5+! An important check. I needed the king on e7 in order to deprive Black of the chance to bring his queen to the aid of his majesty via that square. For the record, Fritz 11 tells me that White now has forced mate in 15 moves. 31...Ke7 32.Qe2+ This seemed cleanest to me and I'd calculated to the end of the game prior to playing my last move. The forced mate Fritz spotted continues with
[32.Qxb7+ Kd6 33.Ne4+ Ke5 34.Nxg5 ]
32...Kd6 Now, with the king forced out to d6, the hunt is on and the weak light squares in the Black camp will prove to be his undoing. Black could have prolonged his agony by giving up the knight but that's not the kind of decision a human being would make as it is so obviously losing.
[32...Ne3+ 33.Rxe3+ Kf7 34.Rf3+ Kg8 35.Qe6+ Kh7 36.Rh3+ Qh5 ]
33.Qe6+ Kc7 34.Rf7+ Kb8 35.Rxb7+ Ka8 36.Rxa7+! And now Black realised that the end is nigh. It's mate in 2. [1-0]

Things to remember from this game:
  1. Attacked pieces aren't alwasy forced to retreat! In very open, tactical positions it's important to consider whether you or your opponent can leave a piece en prise in order to install a more potent threat.
  2. In positions were both sides have exposed kings the initiative is vitally important and will likely as not decide the game. If you have the initiative do whatever you can to preserve it, if you don't have it do everything in your power to steal it from your opponent.
  3. If you are a good little boy or girl then maybe, just maybe, Santa will bring you what you want most for Christmas!