The Gazette - February 2021

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.

Champing at the Bit 01

Paul Benson writes:

How this idea is not a BCA custom is a mystery. Surely the BCA Champion should be regularly offering words of wisdom as best they know it? So, for as long as the title resides here expect an assortment of articles to appear in the Gazette. We shall start off with a pair of recent personal Skype encounters. Note the source of the ratings is given within the brackets. In TS28 any FIDE rating overrules any TS (Tournoi Skype) rating.

F. Calderon (TS 1604) - P. Benson (FIDE 1839), Tournoi Skype 028A 2020.

(Firstly, there is some previous of about 6 months earlier to examine with conclusions to be drawn.

F. Calderon (TS 1683) - P. Benson (TS 2080), Tournoi Skype 027A 2020.

This earlier clash began with a mutual non-interaction pact which exploded into action once Black completed development on move 19:

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bc4 Bg7 4. c3 Nc6 5. a3 e6 6. d3 Nge7 7. Bg5 h6 8. Be3 b6 9. Nbd2 O-O 10. Nf1 d5 11. exd5 exd5 12. Bb5 d4 13. cxd4 cxd4 14. Bd2 a6 15. Bc4 Nf5 16. Ng3 Re8+ 17. Kf1 Nd6 18. Bd5 Bb7 19. Qc1 Rc8 20. Bxh6 Ne5 21. Bxf7+ Nexf7 22. Qf4 Nxh6 23. h4 Qf6 24. Qd2 Bxf3 25. gxf3 Qxf3 26. Rg1 Ng4 27. Ne2 Qxf2+ mate 0-1

So who will deviate from play in this brevity? Clearly not Black, it is White in need of an improvement. How much can each player learn about the style of the other and make changes for their next battle? Perhaps the key points to consider are:

(A). The white king got caught in the centre.

(B). The white rooks did not contribute at all.

(C). When the punches started being thrown White definitely came off the worse.

Available information sifted, time to examine the more recent encounter.)

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. c3 (White changes the move order but the previous theme continues, a pawn chain is slowly being constructed on the a1 - h8 diagonal, attempting to limit the power of a black g7 bishop. Fine, but sometimes such pawn chains simply present a target to be attacked.)

3. ... Bg7 4. d3 (Deviating. Previously White developed the f1 bishop outside a central light-square pawn chain, it did not find much joy out there. So, is this a prepared improvement or simply an attempt to avoid a general repetition of the themes which gave Black a comfortable game?)

4. ... Nc6 5. Be3 b6 (Defending c5 in this way rules out the usual queenside plan of launching the b-pawn up the board. It also reduces the choices of the black queen, Qb6 or Qa5 are no longer available. So why choose such an inflexible plan when 5. ... d6 keeps more options open? The answer is that Black plans a central pawn d5 break.)

6. Be2 e6 7. Nbd2 (A different approach is 7. d4 cxd4 8. cxd4 when c3 is now vacant for the b1 knight. However, in the previous game White had chances to break with pawn d4 but declined. It seems the present pawn structure is a favourite with White, central restraint rather than central activity.)

7. ... Nge7 8. Bf4 (Difficult to explain. Perhaps White hopes to get in Bd6 with pawn e5 immobilising the black centre? Easily avoided.)

8. ... d5 9. O-O (King safety with development of the king's rook, lesson learned from the previous game.)

9. ... O-O 10. Re1 f5 (Black wishes to create a position in which tactics can occur, in the hope White will again find problems when the punching begins. White is also set a four-way decision, sit tight, push on with pawn e5, or capture in either direction, this should chew up time on the clock.)

11. exd5 Nxd5 (Pawn structure imbalance is required if tactics are to be found, the backward black e6 pawn is not easy to target.)

12. Bg5 Qc7 13. Nf1 h6 (With ideas of further expansion with the kingside pawns, though careful preparation is required before such advances can occur.)

14. Bd2 Kh7 15. h3 Qe7 (Drifting kingside, hoping to catch the white defences disorganised when the position eventually opens up.)

16. N3h2 (A doubler. Firstly, the f3 square is vacated for someone else. Secondly, the g4 square, a point of contact should the black kingside pawns get rolling, is with a single move given 3 more defences! Or could it be the dynamic break of pawn g4 is being prepared? Unlikely. White is adopting a defensive stance, such lashing out with a pawn in front of the king is completely out of character.)

16. ... Qf6 17. Bf3 (Remember the previous game? White developed the light square bishop outside the pawn chain, fine as it went, but when the tactics started it did not perform well. So, with the game thus far being devoid of tactics perhaps it will fare better in this mutual strategic squeeze?)

17. ... Bd7 (Much safer than 17. ... Bb7, when it is the black bishop which must be wary over the mutual x-ray glaring through the black knights.)

18. Rb1 (Defending the white b2 pawn, White plans some central pawn play.)

18. ... Rad8 (History repeats, Black is again ahead in development, in particular the rooks have much greater prospects than the white rooks.)

19. c4 (Win something, lose something. When a unit moves it vacates a square for someone else, Bc3 will activate the white d2 bishop. However, the previously guarded d4 square is now available to a black knight.)

19. ... Nde7 20. Qe2 (Mistimed, instead 20. Bc3, justifies the pawn c4 push.)

20. ... Nd4 21. Qd1 Nec6 22. Bc3 Rfe8 (Black has been slowly accumulating small gains while White has made little progress. Moreover, the white bishops are sitting on the squares where white knights would feel most comfortable.)

23. Ng3 e5 (This might appear to be aggressive but there is no real threat yet. White to play however suddenly feels a compulsion to do something rather than wait for a serious black threat to arise and then defend accordingly.)

24. Bxc6 (We are instructed to relieve pressure on a defensive position by trading off attacking units. Good advice as far as it goes. Here White decides the tandem black knights need eliminating. Fine, but the method to relieve the pressure should be trading like for like. So, some white knight shuffling is required to set up Nxd4, then manoeuvre the other knight for a repeat capture on d4.)

24. ... Bxc6 (Black has been handed a significant positional gain. The previously inactive d7 bishop now has the freedom of the light squares in a position where dynamic pawn breaks are available.)

25. Bxd4 (The white strategic mini-plan is complete, both black knights liquidated at the cost of the bishop pair. However, while the material traded could be regarded as roughly equal, the change in the position is definitely not. The black bishops have great potential if the position can be opened up. In contrast the white knights are not influencing the game and will struggle to find good outposts.)

25. ... Rxd4 (Keeping the d-file semi-open, pressure on the white d3 pawn is maintained. Instead 25. ... cxd4, planning pawn e4 with central play was a dynamic way to handle the position.)

26. Ne2 (Planning Nc1 trying to hold the d3 pawn, fine if it works. If not, then such a passive stance will leave White confronted by a very active black army in a position about to open up. Instead 26. Qb3 Red8 27. Qa3 R8d7 28. Rbd1 Qd6 Black wins the white d3 pawn.)

26. ... Rd7 27. Qc2 (Vacating d1 for a rook, right idea, wrong execution. On c2 the white queen is in danger of becoming a target to tactics. Instead 27. Qb3 Red8 28. Rbd1 sets Black the task of working out whether 28. ... e4 is good or just gives away a comfortable positional plus.)

27. ... e4 (Remember the previous game and how both players coped when the tactics began to flow? Black has been patiently shuffling, seeking an opportunity to find a dynamic move, and at move 27 patience is finally rewarded.)

28. Nc1

(Tactics show why the white queen should have avoided the c2 square:

(A). 28. Red1 exd3 29. Rxd3 Rxd3 30. Qxd3 Be4 31. Qd1 Bxb1 32. Qxb1 Rxe2 White loses a rook in the trading.

(B). 28. dxe4 Bxe4 skewering and winning an exchange.

White voluntarily traded off both bishops for both black knights to relieve pressure, material roughly equal, but what are the positional consequences? The white knights are now lurking on the edge of the board, the black bishops are lurking with intent of invasion into the white position, something somewhere should be available to Black.)

28. ... exd3 (Appropriate Fischerism: "Tactics flow from a positionally superior game.", and here comes some supportive evidence.)

29. Nxd3 (Running away unsurprisingly fails. Instead, 29. Qd1 Rxe1+ 30. Qxe1 d2 White loses the c1 knight.)

29. ... Rxe1+ (Black trade rooks to remove a potential defender of the white d3 knight. This is not strictly necessary. It is just a case of taking the simplest approach with the least complications.)

30. Nxe1 (Attempting to relieve problems on the h7 - b1 diagonal do not help. Instead, 30. Rxe1 Be4 gives White the unpleasant choice of 31. Rxe4 immediately giving up the exchange, or struggling on in a pin with 31. Re3 Qd8 32. Nf3 Rxd3 and White loses a piece.)

30. ... Be4 0-1

(White must lose material, Black will have a decisive material advantage, some ideas run:

(A). 31. Qc1 Bxb1 32. Qxb1 Qxb2, Black wins an exchange plus pawn.

(B). 31. Qa4 Qd6 32. Rc1 Bxb2 the white rook has nowhere safe to run, so after 33. Rc2 Bxc2 34. Qxc2, Black is again an exchange plus pawn up.

(C). 31. Nc2 Qd2, White must choose between allowing Bxc2 losing much material or try 32. Na3 Bxb1 33. Nxb1 Qd1+ 34. Qxd1 Rxd1+ 35. Nf1 Rxb1 36. f3 Bd3, Black will emerge a rook plus bishop pair ahead.)