Sunday, 20 November 2011


The position after 21...b6 with the appropriate visual reference!
I want to reach out and grab ya."
- Steve Miller

Today's game is a very recent one. I played it last week. It hadn't been my original plan to publish recent games on this blog. The reason for this was that I felt the passage of time and the accompanying opportunity for assessment and reassessment would enable me to step back from the games a little and view them in a slightly more objective fashion than is possible in the immediate aftermath of combat. Often I find it hard to detach myself from the emotions I felt during and immediately after a game and that can cloud one's judgement when it comes to assessing the merits of a game and distilling the lessons that can be learned from it.

In this case however I felt I should make an exception to my rules purely on aesthetic grounds. There is a visual motif in this game that I found very striking indeed. Oddly, as I played the game it didn't make that much of an impact on me. In the heat of battle I just noticed a tactical opportunity and tried to exploit it. Only the following day as I replayed the moves did I notice the appeal of the skewer/pin that emerged on the h1-a8 diagonal.

"In fact," I thought, "it's more like a kebab than a skewer!"

That was when my internal jukebox gave me a jolt and in my head I heard the Steve Miller Band's "Abracadabra". Why? Well it's a bit perverse but once, years ago on a trip to Ireland, I noticed a chain of fastfood stores that was ingeniously named "Abrakebabra". Ever since that day whenever I think of a kebab my brain chimes in with the Steve Miller lyric only it's been changed to the fastfood store name! Funny thing the human brain. Ok, maybe it's just my brain that's funny, no need to rub it in!

I.Lewyk vs. D.Shapland
(D13) Queen's Gambit Declined: Semi-Slav, Exchange Variation
Leeds League Division 1
16th of November, 2011

8 8
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
Lewyk, I. 178 - Shapland, D. 159
0-1 (Leeds League 1) 16/11/2011
[#] 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 c6 3.Nf3 d5 4.cxd5 Oh dear! I hadn't really wanted to play an exchange Semi-Slav. Looks like it'll be a long evening of dour defence for me then. 4...cxd5 5.d4 e6 6.e3!? This was a surprise. I'd expected either 6.Bf4 or Bg5 which would have led to a more orthodox position. Surely blocking in the queen's bishop like this can't be all that sensible? 6...Be7 7.Bd3 Nc6 8.O-O O-O 9.Ne5 Bd7 I remember having quite a long think about this move. I was searching for an active way to play to begin with but I found myself struggling to weigh up the pros and cons of exchanging on e5 or playing 9...Nfd7 intending 10...f6. In the end I decided that I had time to be a little more patient and just develop. It may sound odd but I'm not all that experienced at playing these slow burning positional games because, even against 1.c4 and 1.d4, I have generally found interesting ways of getting an active position. 10.f4 Ne8 My idea here was to play f5 not f6. I then have the possibility of Ne8-f6-e4 if left unmolested. 11.Bd2 f5 Maybe this is a little impetuous. There was no need to play this move immediately, and it is quite committal. Perhaps 11...Rc8 first and then even 12...Nd6 and waiting for White to deploy is pieces further would have been more circumspect. 12.g4 I'd sort of expected this. It makes sense for White to re-open the b1-h7 diagonal if he can because he is better positioned to exploit the opening up of the king's side. 12...fxg4 Again a committal move selection from me. I could see I'd be able to get a tempo to re-deploy my knight on f6 and also began to see ways of getting my queen into the key area of the battlefield. 13.Qxg4 Nf6 14.Qh3 Qe8 With the idea of Qh5 at some point in the future. 15.Rf3 Rd8! It may look very odd indeed to place this rook here but the move is both tactically and strategically motivated. Tactically, I wanted to be able to play
[15...Qh5?? but right now this loses to 16.Qxh5 Nxh5 17.Nxd7 Therefore the bizarre rook manouevre allows me to play Qh5 because it protects the bishop and also allows for its retreat to the c8 square. From a strategic perspective I had hatched a plan to liberate my pieces. I figured it would require some cooperation from my opponent but I couldn't see a good way for him to prevent me implementing it.]
16.a3?! I think this might be a bit too slow. White must have been concerned that I might play Nb4 when his king's bishop must vacate the b1-h7 diagonal or block the queen's rook in by retreating to b1. However, the best way to side-step this threat seems to me to be
[16.Rc1 making way for the bishop to go to b1 if the Black knight does advance to b4 and now White looks to have much the better position unless Black can break out. I think I would have continued with 16...Bc8 here and tried to play as I did in the game.]
16...Bc8 I felt that White's last quiet move justified me taking one more tempo to prepare my escape plan. I had a good idea for this 'bad' bishop. 17.Kh1 It looks like White is preparing for a colossal attack down the g-file with his brigade of heavy pieces. I must confess that I had to persuade myself to hold my nerve here. I wanted to reach out and play 17...g6 but that would have been a poor move. Finally, I persuaded myself to stick to the plan. 17...Qh5 The break out begins. White can scarcely accept and exchange of queens when he has laboured so hard to set up his attack. Therefore he retreats but only to begin his occupation of the g-file. 18.Qg2
[18.Qxh5 If White had chosen to exchange queens then he would have been able to enjoy a smaller, but long lasting advantage. Fritz gives the line 18...Nxh5 19.Nxc6 bxc6 20.Na4 and White's pieces seem better coordinated for the end game.]
18...Nxe5!? This move is well timed. The breakout is gathering pace. 19.dxe5
[19.fxe5 Ne4 (19...Ng4? was my original intention at the board as now 20... Rxf3 is threatened. However, this move is well met by 20.Be2 and White is winning a piece.) 20.Rxf8+ Rxf8 21.Nxe4 dxe4 22.Bxe4 b6 and White's central pawn majority combined with the weakness of Black's e-pawn should be enough to win the game but there is much work to do and Black has at least succeeded in activating his pieces.]
19...Ne4 The second stage of my plan to get activated. I wanted to sacrifice my d-pawn. 20.Bxe4? Reflecting on the game now I can see that this was an important inaccuracy which enabled me to get into the game. At the board (calculating this line before my 17th move) I had thought that it was not possible for White to play the alternative capture
[20.Nxe4 because 20...dxe4 21.Bxe4 and here I had envisaged playing 21...Rxd2 thinking that if the queen recaptured I would be able to play 22... Qxf3. Of course I hadn't pictured the position correctly at that stage because in this sequence the bishop is now defending the rook on f3.]
20...dxe4 21.Nxe4 b6 "Abrakebabra!" If you want to see a good casestudy of a pin/skewer then this is it. It's more like a kebab really! Look at all that juicy meat on the h1-a8 diagonal. This weakness is critical to my counterplay along with the open d-file. Ok, you can admit that you thought I was crazy putting my rook on d8 at the time! Suddenly all of my dreams have come true. This move is the real point behind all my previous efforts from move 15 onwards. It changes the nature of the game completely. White is now under a bit of pressure. How well will he cope with it? As we've seen along the way there were numerous tactical flaws in my strategic plan but, fortunately for me, my opponent has overlooked them. For the first time in the game I felt like I might be able to play for more than a draw. 22.Rg1 White goes for the jugular. His play down the g-file is still a potential game winner and I don't have time to execute my big skewer threat just yet. The alternative way to play was
[22.Rh3 Qf7 23.Rg1 The direct route. (23.Bb4 also looks sensible.) 23...Bb7 24.Bb4 Bxb4 (24...Rc8 Fritz 11 likes this line best for Black. 25.Bxe7 Qxe7 26.Rg3 g6 ) 25.Nf6+!? An interesting method for breaking the pin! 25...Qxf6 26.Qxb7 Qe7 27.Qe4 g6 28.axb4 and both my kibitzing engines assess this position as being pretty much equal.]
22...Rf7 23.Rg3 I was planning to meet the alternative
[23.Rh3! with 23...Qg6 when my combined engines think something like this might happen 24.Qf3 Qf5 25.Rh5 Bb7 26.Rxf5 exf5 27.Qe2 Bxe4+ 28.Rg2 Bc5 and the end result is a position that is very hard to assess. Crafty gives White a big advantage and Fritz 11 says it's almost equal!]
23...Qh6 Even though my g-pawn is pinned I really didn't feel like I wanted to advance it to g6 and give White even more encouragement to play 24.Nf6+. 24.Bc3 I suspect that White felt there was no rush here. He would also like to liberate his knight and queen from the protection of the bishop so this move does make sense. I think it might be a bit too slow though. Once again the best move was probably
[24.Rh3 and after 24...Qg6 25.Qf3 Qf5 26.Rh5 Bb7 we have the same variation mentioned in the previous note.]
24...Bb7 Natural and best! Is this a skewer or a pin? Strictly speaking it's a sort of super-pin because the pieces of lower value are infront of the higher value piece - knight, queen and then king. Whether it's a pin or a skewer White now has a big headache on the h1-a8 diagonal because of it. 25.Qf3 Rd3! Suddenly the mysterious rook move has paid huge dividends. How often in one of my games can such a thing have happened? Probably never before! With this move Black threatens to win back his pawn with 26...Bxa3 27.bxa3 Rxc3 and Black is doing rather well. 26.Rh3?? For the last two moves this would have been a great move. Now it is a blunder. Chess is a hard game! Instead of this White had to try something like
[26.Bb4 This is Crafty's recommendation. However after 26...Bxb4 27.axb4 Rc7 I think Black is doing really well. The superb bishop completely paralyses the White position. Or;
26.Rc1 Bc5 27.Re1 Kh8 Black can take his time. White isn't really going anywhere. 28.Kg1 Qh4! It's torture! The White king escapes one pin and walks into another. The threat is 26...Rxf4!! 29.Nxc5 That both my kibitzing engines think this to be White's best try speaks volumes for the desperate nature of the situation. It's all over bar the shouting after. 29...Bxf3 30.Nxd3 Bb7 but not;
26.Nf6+? This does White no good as 26...Bxf6 27.Qxb7 Rxb7 28.exf6 Rxc3 29.bxc3 Qxf6 gives Black a winning advantage and total control.]
26...Qxh3 My opponent resigned in dismay here. This deflection finishes the game at a stroke. The White queen can't recapture on account of 27.Qxh3 Bxe4+ 28.Qg2
[28.Rg2?? Is even worse as 28...Rd1+ is mate.]
28...Bxg2+ 29.Kxg2 Bxa3 30.Kf3 and as the dust settles White will realise he is missing a rook. [0-1]

Points to remember from this game:
  1. To paraphrase an old chess proverb - "If your opponent starts a flank attack, counter attack in the centre". Even if your plan of attack is tactically flawed (as mine was in this game) it is still, strategically, the right thing to do. In this game I managed to get a strong grip on the White squares in the centre of the board and this was the catalyst for all my opponent's problems.
  2. It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes a single piece can vastly out-weigh its theoretical value because the squares it controls and the threats it exerts are so strong. In this game my 'bad' bishop suddenly repented of his sins and became a very good boy indeed! Be alert to the possibilities of a position and look for ways to improve the status of all your pieces.
  3. The stronger the player the less likely they are to make a blunder. When they make one against you make sure you take full advantage!

1 comment:

  1. I've found that analyzing recent games helps a great deal in better understanding flaws in my thinking process and (perhaps) how to remedy them, although I still enjoy it and find it useful to look at older games in depth. I suppose it depends on how objective one can feel about the game, as you mention.