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The Gazette - May 2022

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Edited by Julie Leonard
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Ex-Champing at the Bit 06

P. Benson (Eng) - D. Baretic (IBCA Executive, 2295), 5th IBCA World Individual, Hastings 1982.

That curious "IBCA Executive" status occurred because there was an uneven number of entrants so a member of the IBCA Executive was invited to enter to avoid byes, Baretic is actually from Yugoslavia.

This time we have a personal "David versus Goliath" battle, White estimated Elo 1880, Black Elo 2295. This is Round 11, the final round. Is this of importance? It could be. No adjournments, play starts just after breakfast and continues unbroken until completion of the game.

1. d4 c5

Ouch! Black shows immediate fighting spirit. Any thoughts of a quick draw and set about preparing for departure on the following day are smashed, this is a battle to the death.

2. d5 Nf6 3. Nc3 d6 4. e4 g6

Recommendations on how “Mismatched Gladiators” should approach the early stages of the game were given in

the previous Ex-Champing article. White, some 400+ Elo points lower, should seek activity without fear of giving up material to grab the initiative.

5. f4 Bg7 6. Be2 a6 7. Nf3 O-O 8. O-O Qc7 9. e5

This might be active but most likely too early, perhaps more preparation is required for such a committal move?

However, factors other than the actual position are in play. Black has had a much tougher set of opponents and could be double the age of White, maybe tiredness might influence matters?

9. ... Ne8 10. e6

Having started the hand-to-hand fighting White must just keep punching until open lines are created for pieces to invade. Often easier said than done.

10. ... fxe6 11. dxe6 Bxe6 12. Ng5

White has cleared the central light squares, it is vital for the e2 bishop to find activity to justify the pawn sacrifice.

12. ... Qd7 13. Bf3

With the serious threat of 14. Nxe6 Qxe6 15. Bd5 pinning and winning the black queen, easily prevented, but it will consume a defensive tempo.

13. ... Bf7 14. Nxf7 Rxf7 15. Bg4 e6 16. Re1 Nc7

It seems that Black is holding onto the pawn while blocking out the white g4 light square bishop. Inspiration required here by White, test of "Tactical Event Horizons" now placed on both players.

17. Nd5 Qd8

Probably the best of the retreats, capturing is poor:

(A). 17. ... exd5 18. Bxd7 Rxd7 and Black only has a bishop, knight, pawn for the queen, this must strongly favour white.

(B). 17. ... Nxd5 18. Bxe6 Qc7 19. Qxd5 Nc6 20. Bxf7+ Qxf7 21. Qxd6 Black is an exchange plus pawn down for no compensation.

18. Nxc7 Rxc7

Clearly 18. ... Qxc7 19. Bxe6 regaining the pawn plus winning an exchange on f7 was not going to happen for White.

19. Bxe6+ Kh8 20. f5

White has regained the pawn with the bonus of a kingside light square initiative. Surely a success for the “Chess For Tigers” recommendations for “Mismatched Gladiators” as given in the previous Ex-Champing article?

20. ... gxf5 21. Qh5 Nc6 22. Bxf5 Qg8

Preventing mate on h7, White cannot increase the pressure without reinforcements.

23. c3 Be5 24. Bh6 Qf7 25. Qxf7 Rxf7 26. Rf1 Bg7 27. Bxg7+ Kxg7

Mutual desire that the middlegame should not continue is the reason for the recent liquidation. White has the slightest of plusses, a bishop versus a knight with a pawn structure imbalance across the board. Nowhere good enough to win by force, but as it stands presently Black needs to be a little more careful than White.

28. g4

At last, White in a position which needs good judgement makes a mistake. This advance of the g-pawn only helps to create a target, though this is not at all obvious at the moment. Instead 28. Rad1 was both good and easy to find. Lesson: Play simple positions simply. Now Black shows how an Elo 2295 player earns their rating points.

Observe how the forthcoming coordination of the remaining units maximises their potential. White in contrast just shuffles until a serious problem emerges.

28. ... Re8 29. Rad1 Rd8 30. Rf2 Ne7 31. Be6 Rxf2 32. Kxf2 d5 33. Kg3 Kf6 34. Re1 Rd6

Setting White a test, which arriving in self-imposed time-trouble, becomes a critical moment in the game.

35. Bf5

White must lose a pawn somewhere but perhaps this is the worse option? Instead 35. g5+ Kxg5 36. Bh3 keeps the minor pieces on which would give White better chances of salvaging something from the game.

35. ... Nxf5+ 36. gxf5 Kxf5 37. Kf3 d4 38. cxd4 cxd4 39. Rd1 Ke5 40. Ke2 Rh6

Time-control reached, no adjournment, 16 moves per hour to the end of the game without external expert advice on how to play. Black is a central passed pawn up which when combined with every piece being better than the white equivalent must surely mean Black is winning? If so then White can only drag matters out by making it difficult for Black to progress.

41. Rh1 Ke4

There must be several ways for Black to handle this position. A different approach is to squeeze White with 41. ... Rh3 which keeps the h1 rook inactive, a much easier game to play. Black then places a pawn on h4 followed by marching the king towards g2 dislodging the white h1 rook. After the white h2 pawn falls the black h4 pawn will quickly cost White a rook. White can stop all this by immediately marching the king to g2, but Black then has Rd3 with Rd2+ to be neutralised.

42. Kd2 d3 43. h4 Rc6

With the chance to squeeze the kingside gone, Black instead tries for activity with the rook. Fine, but in turn the white rook now gets activity as well, threats at both ends of the board must be calculated by each player, hard work ahead now.

44. Re1+ Kd4 45. Re7 Rc2+ 46. Kd1 Rxb2 47. Rxh7 b5 48. a3 Rh2

Significant changes have occurred. White has an active 7th rank rook plus an outside passed h-pawn, fine, but this has virtually zero chance of promotion. Black can walk the king to capture the white a-pawn at the cost of the d-pawn creating connected passed pawns, very favourable. How should each player proceed? White needs to get the h-pawn as far as possible up the board, this is to tie down the black rook to defensive duties. Black should get the king in front of the queenside pawns to find shelter from persistent checks by the white 7th rank rook. Conclusion: Fritz and friends could casually crunch this to either a draw or a black win. Humans can analyse so far and then must rely on judgement based on knowledge plus experience to reach a decision. Your annotator classifies this as an “Optimists’ Draw/Black Win”, which translates to: If I am White there might be a grovel-out line, it just requires perspiration plus inspiration to find it. If I am Black the same work ethos will bring in the full point. Both “Optimists” opinions cannot be correct, someone is going to be disappointed.

49. h5 a5 50. h6 Kc3

Creating a back-rank mate threat, white has no choice but to concede material.

51. Rc7+

Defensive shuffling fails as after 51. Ke1 d2+ 52. Kd1 Rh1+ 53. Ke2 d1=Q+ Black wins.

51. ... Kb3 52. h7 Kxa3 53. Rc3+ Kb4 54. Rxd3 Rxh7

Black is now winning by force, it just requires the correct technique, not easy to invent at the board and remember this game must be about 6.5 hours old. White can only make it awkward for Black to advance the queenside pawns and hope Black makes a mistake.

55. Kc1 a4

Right idea. It is the edge pawn that should be advanced first, this gives a square of shelter for the king on the edge file to the side of the inner pawn.

56. Kb1 Rh1+ 57. Ka2 Rh2+ 58. Ka1 Kc4 59. Rg3 Rd2

Strongly hinting Black knows how to force the win. The attack plan is to place pawns on a3 and b3 which threatens a back rank mate. Having the rook on the d-file means any defensive rook checks along the ranks can be blocked by the attacking rook. There needs to be some dancing around with the attacking king and rook to win, the overall aim is to force a trade of rooks on the defensive back rank. This requires some precise knowledge, it is extremely unlikely to be invented at the board. Sometimes you need to call on home study to achieve the aim. Same old story: "Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail."

60. Rh3 b4 61. Rg3 a3 62. Rg8

Not the best way to defend, but as previously stated, this is a forced win for the attack, all the defence can do is be annoying. And since the attacking king is to be hit from the rear, it needs to block the annoyances with the rook, fairly easy. Next play pawn b3 setting up a back rank mate threat which forces the white rook back into a passive posture.

62. ... Kb3 63. Rg3+ Kc2 64. Ka2 Rd3 65. Rg2+ Kc3 66. Rg8 Rd2+ 67. Ka1 b3 68. Rc8+ Kd3 69. Rd8+ Kc2

70. Rc8+ Kd1 71. Rc3 1/2-1/2

After about 7.5 hours unbroken play it seems tiredness might have come to the rescue of White. Both players believe White has snatched a draw, the analysis runs:

(A). 71. ... Rb2 if White had no rook this would be stalemate 72. Rc1+ Kxc1 stalemate should not happen, the black king must not capture under any circumstances.

(B). 71. ... Rb2 72. Rc1+ Kd2 the black king runs away but 73. Rd1+ Kc3 74. Rd3+ Kc4 75. Rd4+ Kc5 76. Rc4+ and White just keeps giving checks across the width of the 4th rank.

(C). 71. ... Rb2 72. Rc1+ Ke2 73. Re1+ Kf3 74. Re3+ Kg2 75. Rg3+ Kh1 76. Rg1+ Kh2 77. Rh1+ and so on.

A different approach from Black is clearly required.

(D). 71. ... b2+ 72. Kb1 and Black is losing the a-pawn which clearly both tired players assessed as drawn.

Incorrect judgement, Black has 72. ... a2+ 73. Kxa2 Rc2 and White dare not trade rooks, so 74. Rb3 Kc1 which crushes White. If now 75. Rb8 keeping a double-control on the b1 promotion square, there comes 75. ... b1=Q+ which is a double check so 76. Ka3 Ra2+ mate is the shock line both tired players missed.