The Gazette - February 2020

Sponsored by The Ulverscroft Foundation
Edited by Julie Leonard
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.

A Game from the BCA Geoff Patching Memorial British Championship 2019

Editor’s note:

As you’ve read in the previous article, Paul Benson’s win against Colin Chambers in round 2 of last year’s BCA Championship in Torquay was selected by Stan Lovell as the Best Game of 2019. The main annotations were written by Paul, who at the time was unaware that this game would be chosen by Stan. Stan’s comments have been added, preceded by his name.

C. Chambers - P. Benson.

Nimzowitsch Defence, Kennedy Variation, B00.

1. e4

A surprise, not the usual opening move. Has there been specific preparation against my usual defence?

If so then a little side-stepping seems advisable.

1. ... Nc6

This probably places us both on whatever general knowledge each of us has on the Nimzowitsch Defence.

Stan: Paul knows Colin has a sound knowledge of openings. He leads the game off the beaten track from move 1. This system, developed by Aron Nimzowitsch, sometimes known as 'Nimzos other defence' I was intrigued to see Malola Prasath also employed this defence during the year.

2. d4 e5 3. d5 Instead 3. Nf3 transposes into the Scotch Game.

3. ... Nce7 4. Nf3 d6

Much more popular here is 4. ... Ng6 but Black is in the process of inventing a system at the board.

5. c4 h6

Black is planning hybridising the King's Indian and Dutch Defences. The forthcoming black plan seems new to theory, follow it at your own risk.

6. Nc3 g5

The more regular black plan of pawn g6 with Bg7 leaves Black vulnerable to the white plan of Be3, Qd2, Bh6, trading bishops.

Stan: A provocative Pawn push. Paul seems determined to get Colin out of his comfort zone!

7. Be3 Bg7 8. g3 Preventing the manoeuvre Ng6 - Nf4.

8. ... f5 The black kingside plan is achieved, a fighting pawn f5 is levered in.

Stan: The challenge to White's centre begins.

9. exf5 Bxf5 10. Bd3 Qd7 11. Qc2 Nf6 12. Bxf5

Keeping the tension with 12. O-O-O or the less ambitious 12. O-O waiting for Black to commit were worthy of consideration.

12. ... Qxf5

Black is not afraid of reducing material, there is some pawn imbalance in the position, and when the time is right, the white centre can be challenged to make further imbalance.

13. Qxf5 Nxf5

Stan: These exchanges appear to be helpful to Black, as with the Queens and light squared Bishops back in the box Black can castle Kingside without the King being exposed.

14. Nd2

White is seeking to establish a knight on e4, such a piece would be difficult for Black to dislodge.

14. ... O-O

Black is not interested in 14. ... Nxe3, the symmetric pawn structure would offer very little to play against.

15. O-O Kh7

Black is already thinking in terms of an endgame, the king is a move closer to the centre.

16. Nde4 Nxe4 17. Nxe4 Nd4

Establishing control over a few light squares in the white defences, nothing particularly dangerous yet, but White must now be alert to forks.

18. Nd2

White covers the possible black threat of Nf3+, but in doing so takes pressure off the black d6 pawn. White could instead try 18. g4 intending, Kg2 followed by Rac1, to avoid any black, Nc2, forks, then pawn f3 to cement the white knight on e4, leaving Black with the problem of how to break up this formation.

18. ... c6 Trying to create imbalance across the width of the board.

Stan: Another challenge to the White centre!

19. dxc6

White gives Black 3 pawn islands, but pawns are only weak if they can be attacked, the white forces are a long way from coordinating against any particular point in the black position. In return Black will gain a mobile centre/queenside pawn majority, chances for both sides then.

19. ... bxc6 20. Rad1 Rab8

A prod at the white queenside, not a spite attack for the sake of it, Black is hoping for the natural response.

21. b3

And White obliges. When a unit moves it gains control of a new set of squares, but the set of squares previously controlled might become available to an opposing unit.

21. ... Ne2+ 22. Kg2 Nc3

Both a-pawns are en prise but they are protected by tactics. Whichever minor piece dares to take the opposing a-pawn will be chased away by a rook which can then capture and achieve a 7th rank invasion.

23. Rde1 e4

A move designed to put White under a little pressure. Instead after 23. ... Nxa2 24. Ra1 Nc3 25. Rxa7, White is given the luxury of a 7th rank rook for zero compensation to Black. However, now that the h8 - a1 diagonal has been opened for the g7 bishop it is possible for Black to snatch with Nxa2 as the a1 square is controlled by the black g7 bishop.

24. a4 White moves the target a-pawn to safety but now the only defence to the b3 pawn is the white d2 knight.

24. ... a5

And in return the Black targeted a7 pawn moves with the gain that the white b3 pawn is now immobilised by a black pawn, expect the black b8 rook to seek new duties soon.

25. f3 White is going to fully-open the f-file, intending to trade both pair of rooks if Black permits.

25. ... Rfe8

No simplifications yet, Black will avoid exchanges providing that backing off does not hand White a significant plus. Every black piece is slightly better than every white piece but it is nowhere near enough to be a decisive advantage, more shuffling is required by Black and then try to exploit the white responses.

26. Bf2 d5 27. fxe4

Perhaps White should first flick in 27. cxd5 cxd5 before capturing with fxe4. Yes, the game continuation is going to inflict 4 pawn islands on Black, not a particularly pleasing outcome in itself, but if the 3 black isolated pawns do not come under combined white attacks they will be fine. So why the suggested elimination of a pair of c-pawns? The answer will come much later, it will be nothing to do with the pawns themselves, but everything to do with the restrictions encountered by a completely closed c-file.

27. ... dxe4 Stan: Although Black's Pawns are scattered, he is in control of the situation.

28. Be3

Having retro-shuffled to f2 to isolate the black e-pawn, the f2 bishop again shuffles, this time to open up the f-file for the f1 rook.

28. ... Kg6 White must not be permitted to invade with Rf7.

29. Bg1

The only piece White can sensibly move is the e3 bishop, in contrast all the black units have some flexibility. Every black piece now seems considerably better than every white piece, but as before, this is not yet a decisive advantage. It does however now force White to be careful on every move. This will chew up time on the clock, not to mention the psychological impact of having to find moves which do not upset a difficult position.

29. ... Rbd8

A useful tempo-attack on the unprotected white d2 knight, White will not have time for Bb6 which would force Black into a humiliating strategic retreat of Ra8.

30. Be3 c5

Increasing the clamp on the white b3 pawn. If White ever wishes to make something with the queenside pawn majority, then the b-pawn must be sacrificed, but this will give Black a protected passed b4 pawn, surely not a good trade? The black c5 pawn will be safe as long as the white e3 bishop needs to defend the d2 knight, which indicates what White is going to play next.

Stan: Can it be that this innocuous looking move is actually the winning move? The c Pawn cannot be captured as the Bishop is protecting the Knight, the d4 square is now inviting occupation by the g7 Bishop.

31. Nb1

The worst white piece challenges the best black piece and due to the hanging black c5 pawn, the black reply is forced.

31. ... Nxb1 32. Rxb1 Bd4

Since the black g7 bishop has no real attacking prospects, it comes to the defence of the c5 pawn.

Stan: Black now has control of the centre.

33. Rbe1

Instead 33. Bd2 Ra8 and only then 34. Rbe1 would force Black to think hard on how to make progress. If Black goes for Rab8 White should ignore opening lines on the queenside and reply Rb1, leaving Black having to yet again retreat, Ra8 after which White returns with, Re1, Black has got nowhere fast.

33. ... Bxe3 If Black is to make progress then a rook entry up the d-file is the only sensible route.

34. Rxe3 Rd2+

Black must resist 34. ... Rd3 35. Rxd3 exd3 36. Rd1, when the black d3 pawn is very weak.

35. Rf2

Perhaps the counter-intuitive 35. Kg1 would have been easier to play, how can Black increase the pressure on White? The black king cannot cross the f-file and the e8 rook is tied down to defending the important passed e4 pawn.

35. ... Rxf2+ And the black king is now free to enter the centre.

36. Kxf2 Kf5 37. h3 h5

Keeping options of either pawn h4 or pawn g4 as appropriate. Black has found a plan of entry which demands a certain square be doubly-covered, White cannot easily prevent this invasion without making a serious concession elsewhere.

38. Re2

The white rook vacates the e3 square for the white king but now the black rook can take either the d-file or the f-file.

38. ... Rd8 39. Re3

Defending simply allows the black king a decisive entry, the general idea is 39. Rb2 Rd3 40. Kg2 Ke5 41. Kf2 Kd4 42. Kg2 Kc3 43. Rb1 Kc2, and the white queenside falls apart.

39. ... Rd2+ 40. Re2

Instead 40. Ke1 Rb2 and the black king shuffles to d4 when White has too many 3rd rank pawn weaknesses to think about an activation plan of Rc3 - Rc1 - Rd1 - Rd5.

40. ... Rd3

With only minutes remaining Black is wary of entering into a king and pawn ending. They have an annoying habit of being definitive, misjudge the outcome at the point of entry and there is no reversal. As it happens a rook trade would assist White, that black e4 pawn might appear to be "Passed", but it is in reality "Isolated", the best Black has by trading rooks on e2 is a draw.

41. Re3

Again, White challenges the invading black rook which can either trade into a pawn ending or back off. On the previous move a rook trade would leave the white king on e2, here it could end up on e3, is there any difference? Instead, going passive permits the black king to enter the queenside, a couple of ideas run:

(A). If 41. Rb2 Ke5 42. Kg2 Kd4 43. Rb1 Kc3 44. Re1 e3 45. Kf3 Kxb3 46. Rxe3 Rxe3+ 47. Kxe3 Kxc4, an easy black win.

(B). Or if 41. Rb2 Ke5 42. Kg2 Kd4 43. Rb1 Kc3 44. Rf1 Kxb3 45. Rf5 Kxc4 46. Rxg5 Kd4 47. Rxh5 c4 48. Rh8 c3 49. Rc8 Rd2+ 50. Kf1 c2 51. Ke1 Rd1+ 52. Ke2 c1=Q, costs White the rook, the white passed kingside pawns will be too slow, Black wins.

41. ... Rd7

Black, still suspicious of pawn endings and worrying whether the time-control has been made, makes a hasty retreat, aiming for a different and more secure point of entry. Fine, but this gives White some chances to flail around. Instead, trading rooks is a simple win, some winning ideas run:

(A). If 41. ... Rxe3 42. Kxe3 Ke5 43. Ke2 Kd4 44. Kd2 e3+ 45. Ke2 Ke4 46. Ke1 Kd3 47. Kd1 e2+ 48. Ke1 Ke3 49. g4 h4 50. b4 axb4 51. a5 b3 52. a6 b2 53. a7 b1=Q+ mate.

(B). Or if 41. ... Rxe3 42. Kxe3 Ke5 43. Ke2 Kd4 44. Kd2 e3+ 45. Ke2 Ke4 46. b4 cxb4 47. c5 b3 48. c6 b2 49. c7 b1=Q 50. c8=Q Qb2+ 51. Ke1 Qd2+ 52. Kf1 Qf2+ mate.

42. Ke2 Ke5 43. Rc3

Back on move 27 White chose fxe4 and Black replied dxe4, giving Black 4 pawn islands. There was however a white option of first 27. cxd5 cxd5 and only then 28. fxe4 dxe4 resulting in a fully-open c-file. If those c-pawns had been traded off White would now inflict considerable annoyance with Rc8 preparing flicking sideways to hit any of the black pawns from the rear.

43. ... g4

Black is fighting for total control of the f3 square, all part of a plan envisaged when declining to trade rooks on e3.

44. h4

Opening up the kingside does not help White. If 44. hxg4 hxg4 Black will quickly achieve Rh2+, a white king retreat allows the black king to advance, a white king advance allows black Rg2 to win the g3 pawn.

44. ... Rf7 Black plans Rf3 with Kd4 kicking the white rook off the white 3rd rank, the g3 and b3 pawns will probably both fall.

45. Re3

White can activate the rook and make Black work harder. The mainline begins 45. Rc1 Rf3 46. Rd1 Rxg3 47. Rd5+ Kf4 48. Rxh5, when the analytical-tree starts expanding dramatically. Should White wipe out the black queenside pawns or play Rh8 and attack the black king from the rear? Both white plans seem slow but at least there is a chance of Black going wrong.

45. ... Kd4 Denying the white rook access to the c3 square.

46. Kd2 Rf3 White resigns, 0-1

Stan: I hope you will have enjoyed playing through this game as much as I did!