Jon Speelman: Agony Column #17

8/31/2016 – Mating your opponent with a scintillating queen sacrifice at the end of a fine attack is deeply satisfying. Being a queen up after strong play is also nice. And being a queen down while attacking your opponent ferociously is a fine though rather rare experience that helps to forget many agonising losses. Which Jon Speelman shows in his Agony Column #17.

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Agony Column #17

This week's pair of games are by Richard Myers who is in his mid fifties and started playing chess again after  a fallow period, after moving to Newark in Nottinghamshire at the turn of the century.

Richard Myers

Richard works for the Barcode Warehouse doing technical support amongst other things, is married with two now grown up girls, likes pub quizzes and supports Middlesbrough Football club.

Richard sent me three games of which I've discarded one for the usual Agony/Ecstasy dichotomy. And we start with the latter: a very creditable battle against a stronger opponent, who, had Richard beaten him, would have been one of the highest rated players Richard had ever defeated.

Though as he says " Of course agony would be too strong a word for my loss although I did put a bit of preparatory work in."

All of the notes to this game and most if those to Richard's "Ecstasy" are by me but in the latter I have included the odd comment by Richard marked RM.

[Event "Notts league 1"] [Site "?"] [Date "2010.11.10"] [Round "?"] [White "Myers, Richard"] [Black "Coates, David H"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C00"] [WhiteElo "160"] [BlackElo "189"] [Annotator "Jonathan Speelman"] [PlyCount "76"] [EventDate "2009.01.05"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. e4 e6 2. e5 {This is very unusual but intended beforehand by Richard who writes: "The defeat was made worse as I knew I would be white and was tipped off that he played the French Defence so I was able to prepare beforehand."} d5 3. Nf3 c5 4. b4 {An interesting gambit akin to the Wing gambit 1 e4 c5 2 b4 against the Sicilian} cxb4 5. a3 Nc6 6. axb4 Bxb4 7. c3 Ba5 8. d4 {[#] For his pawn White has a very secure centre, which gives him attacking chances, and a nice diagonal for the black-squared bishop.} f6 9. exf6 (9. Bd3 fxe5 10. Nxe5 Nf6 $6 (10... Nxe5 11. dxe5 Ne7 12. Qh5+ g6 13. Qh6 {is unclear}) 11. O-O O-O 12. Ba3 Re8 13. f4 Bc7 14. Nd2 {gave White a massive grip in a game in an Egyptian Open at the start of the century though Black jumped out and should probably have won at some stage.} Bd6 15. g4 Bxa3 16. Rxa3 Nxe5 17. dxe5 Nd7 18. c4 Rf8 19. Qc2 Qh4 20. cxd5 exd5 21. Bf5 Nb6 22. e6 g6 23. Nf3 Qe7 24. Ng5 Qxa3 25. Bxg6 Qe3+ 26. Kg2 Bxe6 27. Bh5 Bf5 28. gxf5 Nc4 29. Qb1 Qe7 30. Re1 Qf6 31. Kh1 Qxf5 32. Qxb7 Rab8 33. Qxa7 Rb1 34. Bd1 Nb2 35. Ne6 Qf7 36. Qg1+ Qg6 37. Nxf8 Qxg1+ 38. Rxg1+ Kxf8 39. Bc2 Rxg1+ 40. Kxg1 h6 {1/2-1/2 (40) Salmensuu,O (2418) -Abdel Razik,K (2318) Tanta City EGY 2000}) 9... Nxf6 10. Bd3 O-O 11. O-O Bc7 12. Re1 Bd6 13. Na3 Re8 14. c4 Bd7 15. Nb5 Bb8 16. Ba3 {[#] } Bc8 {Keeping the tension though} (16... Na5 17. cxd5 exd5 18. Nd6 Bxd6 19. Bxd6 Nc4 20. Be5 {was also playable}) 17. Ne5 a6 18. cxd5 exd5 19. Nxc6 bxc6 20. Nc3 Rxe1+ 21. Qxe1 {[#]} Bd6 $6 {This makes it very easy for White to get a queenside bind.} (21... Qc7 22. g3 Ba7 {was much more challenging}) 22. Na4 Rb8 23. Bxd6 Qxd6 24. Nc5 Bd7 $2 {[#] a blunder} 25. h3 $2 (25. Qe5 $1 { would have exploited it} Qf8 26. Nxd7 Nxd7 27. Qe6+ Qf7 28. Bxh7+ Kf8 29. Qd6+ Qe7 30. Qxc6 {and Black's position is ruined}) 25... Re8 26. Qb1 (26. Qc3 { was a nice square defending d4 and e1}) 26... Bc8 27. Nxa6 $6 {The knight was excellent on c5 partly because it counters ...Ne4. Now White's pieces are far from home and Black gets an attack.} (27. Bxa6 Bxa6 28. Rxa6 Qf4 29. Qd1 { was at least equal for White and safe.}) 27... Qf4 28. Qd1 Kh8 {[#]} 29. Be2 $2 {This allows the knight in.} (29. Ra4 {looks awkward but apparently defends sufficiently for instance if} Bxa6 30. Rxa6 Qxd4 31. Rxc6 Ne4 32. Qe2) 29... Ne4 30. Bf3 Ng5 (30... Nd2 $1 31. Bg4 Rf8 $1 {was extremely nasty}) 31. Bg4 Rf8 32. Bxc8 Qxf2+ 33. Kh1 Ne4 34. Bg4 Ng3+ 35. Kh2 Qf4 {[#]} 36. Qf3 $4 (36. Bf3 { would have obliged Black to take perpetual check} Ne4+ 37. Kg1 Qe3+ 38. Kh2 Qf4+) 36... Nf1+ 37. Kg1 Qxd4+ 38. Kxf1 Rxf3+ 0-1

The next game was also a French Defense. A tense battle led to a mind bending climax in which Richard's attack carried the day, even though his opponent had by then got two queens.

[Event "Notts League Div 1"] [Site "?"] [Date "2009.12.10"] [Round "?"] [White "Morgan, Philip"] [Black "Myers, Richard"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C02"] [WhiteElo "145"] [BlackElo "153"] [Annotator "Jonathan Speelman"] [PlyCount "124"] [EventDate "2009.01.05"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Qb6 6. a3 {This is one of the main lines but the weakening of b3 does encourage Black to close the queenside intending to use the b3 square.} c4 7. Nbd2 Bd7 {This is a line that I (JS) only know vaguely but it seems that 7...Na5 is more accurate immediately since now White can now profitably play b3} (7... Na5 8. g3 (8. Be2 Bd7 9. O-O Ne7 10. Rb1 Nb3 $5 (10... Qc7) 11. Nxb3 Ba4 12. Nfd2 Nc6 13. Qe1 cxb3 14. Bd3) (8. b4 {or b3} cxb3 9. Bb2 {is an attempt to get active immediately though it isn't really supposed to work} Bd7 (9... Qc7 10. Rc1 Nc4 11. Qxb3 b5 12. a4 a6 13. axb5 axb5 14. Bd3 Ne7 15. O-O Bd7 16. Ra1 Rb8 17. Qc2) 10. c4 Ne7 11. c5 Qc7 12. a4 b6) 8... Bd7 9. Bg2 {This is a really difficult line to play so I looked for a top player who has repeated it. Alexander Grischuk has tried 6.a3 several times and when a strong opponent played ...c4 he won this interesting game though obviously it doesn't mean much at all by itself.} O-O-O 10. O-O f5 11. exf6 gxf6 12. Re1 Bd6 13. Bh3 Bc7 14. Rb1 Kb8 15. b4 cxb3 16. Nxb3 Ne7 17. Nfd2 Qc6 18. Nc5 Nf5 19. Ndb3 Nxb3 20. Qxb3 b6 21. a4 Bc8 22. a5 e5 23. axb6 axb6 24. Ba3 Nh4 25. Bg2 Nxg2 26. Kxg2 Rde8 27. Na4 exd4 28. Rxe8 Rxe8 29. cxd4 Re6 30. Bc5 b5 31. Nc3 Ba6 32. Nxb5 Bxb5 33. Qxb5+ Qxb5 34. Rxb5+ Kc8 35. Bf8 Bb6 36. Rxd5 {1-0 (36) Grischuk,A (2771)-Vitiugov,N (2709) Moscow RUS 2010}) 8. g3 (8. b3 cxb3 9. Nxb3 Na5 10. Nxa5 Qxa5 11. Bd2 Qa4 12. Qb1 {when the natural} O-O-O {allows} 13. Ng5 Nh6 14. Nxh7) 8... Be7 9. Bh3 (9. h4 {makes some sense to prevent Black's expansion with ...g5}) 9... Na5 10. O-O O-O-O {[#] This is the generic position though of course there are many subtleties of move order to reach it. The bishop could also be on g2 (where Grischuk placed it) and that would allow White to play h4} 11. Re1 {This gets in the way of the knight. Probably White should play} (11. Rb1 {for instance if} Kb8 12. Bg2 g5 13. b3 cxb3 14. Nxb3 h6 {looks better than what White got in the game}) 11... h5 12. Rb1 g5 13. Bg2 g4 14. Nh4 Nb3 {RM Having managed to get a good position I lose the thread by playing "standard moves" when I should have continued Knight to h6 followed by Bishop takes knight JS Given that b3 isn't great for White then it would have been better to play preparatory moves first since the d2 knight is in the way.} (14... Nh6 {looks very good but engines point out that White can counter with} 15. b3 cxb3 16. Nxb3 Ba4 17. Bxh6 Bxb3 18. Qd2 Rdg8 {though this is nice for Black too, given that c4 ideas won't work.}) (14... Kb8 { for example when White can't play b4 since} 15. b4 cxb3 16. Nxb3 Ba4 17. Nxa5 Bxd1 18. Rxb6 axb6 19. Nc4 {is much better for Black.}) 15. Nxb3 Ba4 16. Be3 Bxb3 17. Qd2 Bf8 (17... Bxh4 18. gxh4 Ne7 19. Bg5 Qc7) 18. Bg5 Bh6 19. Bf1 Re8 20. Be2 Bxg5 21. Qxg5 {[#] The exchange of black squared bishops has taken any pressure off the h4 knight. Black now gets the bishop into c2 but it doesn't have a stable square on the c2-h7 diagonal.} Bc2 ({Instead} 21... Ba2 22. Rbc1 Qxb2 23. Bd1 Bb3 24. Bxb3 Qxb3 {and here engines point out that White even has} 25. Nf5 $5 (25. Qf4 Nh6 26. Qd2 Qa4 27. Ra1) 25... exf5 26. Qxf5+ Re6 27. Qxf7 Qb6 28. Rb1 Re7 29. Qxd5) 22. Rbc1 Be4 23. Qf4 (23. Bxc4 Qxb2 24. Qe3 Kb8 25. Re2 Qb6 26. Ba2) 23... Nh6 24. Bxc4 {RM I missed this but it all seems to work out ok somehow} Qxb2 25. Bf1 (25. Re2 Qb6 (25... Qxa3 26. Ra2 Qe7 27. Rxa7) 26. Rxe4 $1 dxe4 27. Qxe4 Rd8 28. d5 {gives White good play for the exchange} (28. Bf1)) 25... Nf5 26. Nxf5 Bxf5 27. c4 Kb8 28. cxd5 h4 29. Re2 Qxa3 30. d6 hxg3 31. fxg3 Rc8 32. Rxc8+ Rxc8 33. Re1 Qa4 34. Kh1 Rc2 35. Bg2 Qa2 {[#]} 36. Qg5 $2 {This forces the pawn home but Black's attack is too strong. Instead} (36. Qh6 a6 37. Qh8+ $2 (37. d7 Kc7 $1 {is now necessary since the queen defends h2 from h6.} 38. Qf8 Kxd7 39. Qd6+ {with perpetual check (in a game you'd think "perpetual check at least" but it also turns to be the maximum)} (39. Qxf7+ Kd8 )) 37... Rc8 38. Qh6 Qf2 39. Rc1 Rc2 $1) 36... a6 37. d7 {RM After this move my opponent went looking for a Queen rather than turn his rook upside down. JS Apparently this is now essential in blitz and in the famous incident between Nakamura and Topalov at the Paris blitz, Topalov was defaulted for pushing his pawn to the eighth rank without replacing it with a queen!} Rxg2 38. d8=Q+ Ka7 39. Qh8 Qf2 $1 40. Qf4 {Originally he had planned Qe3 but then saw that it lost to Rook g1.} Qxe1+ 41. Kxg2 Be4+ 42. Qxe4 Qxe4+ 43. Kf1 Qxd4 44. Qf6 Qd3+ 45. Kg2 {[#] Of course this ending is completely winning though I guess Black will have to allow the odd check.} Qf5 46. Qe7 Qxe5 47. Qxf7 Qe2+ 48. Kg1 e5 49. Qd5 Qe3+ 50. Kg2 e4 (50... Qf3+ 51. Qxf3 gxf3+ 52. Kxf3 a5 53. g4 $1 { is still a battle, but of course not h4 when ... e4+ at the end will win the queen.}) (50... Qd4 {kept even more control}) 51. Qd7 Qf3+ 52. Kg1 Qe3+ 53. Kg2 Qf3+ 54. Kg1 e3 55. Qd4+ b6 56. Qd7+ Qb7 {[#]} 57. Qxg4 (57. Qe6 $1 {would have made Black work harder, e.g.} b5 58. Qxg4 (58. Qxe3+ $2 Qb6) 58... a5 { and while Black is surely winning it's still not trivial.}) 57... Qe7 58. Qe2 b5 59. Kf1 Qe4 60. Qg2 Qb1+ 61. Ke2 Qc2+ 62. Kf3 Qc6+ 0-1

Did you play agonising/ecstatic games that you would like to share? Send them in to! For his games and efforts Richard receives a free three-month ChessBase Premium Account - which is also the prize for next week's winner.

Do you want to avoid agony in games? Let Nicholas Pert help you.

Nicholas Pert:
Typical mistakes by 1800-2000 players

GM Nicholas Pert about his DVD: “After the success of my previous DVD Typical mistakes by 1600-1900 players I decided to produce a follow up DVD aimed at players of a slightly higher level. The examples all come from games played by players with a rating between 1800 and 2100. This DVD offers slightly more complex material than the previous DVD, and will hopefully provide an insight into what I believe are the main errors which stop players of this level to be more successful. I divided the material into categories such as “when to exchange pieces”, “how to convert an advantage”, “passive pieces”, “anticipating your opponents plan”, “openings and pawn structure”. Each section contains several examples which illustrate the theme and practical examples which allow the viewer to test his skills. This DVD provides a useful training tool for ambitious players and may highlight mistakes that the viewer should be aware of.”

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About the author

Jon was born in 1956 and became a professional player in 1977 after graduating from Worcester College Oxford where he read mathematics. He became an IM in 1977 a GM in 1980 and was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980-2006. Three times British Champion he played twice in the Candidates reaching the semi-final (of what was then a knockout series of matches) in 1989 when he lost 4.5 - 3.5 to Jan Timman. He's twice been a second at the world championship for Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995. He's written for the Observer (weekly) since 1993 and The Independent since 1998. With its closure (going online, but without Jon on board) he's expanding online activity and is also now offering online tuition. He likes puzzles especially (cryptic) crosswords and killer sudokus. If you'd like to contact Jon, then please write to

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