Jon Speelman's Agony Column #10

7/13/2016 – In this week's "Agony Column" Jon Speelman enters into an analytical dialogue with Aaron Demby Jones, an amateur player from the US. Jones sent in two attacking games, one in which he agonizingly failed to finish a strong attack in style, and one in which he unleashed a brilliant sacrificial to initiate an ecstatic and entertaining king hunt.

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Agony Column #10

This week's two violent games come from Aaron Demby Jones who, despite his quintessentially Welsh name, has no known Welsh connection and is a PhD student at the University of California Santa Barbara where he is studying the intersection between mathematics and music - as you can see on his fascinating website

Aaron Demby Jones

Aaron enjoys chess in his spare time and has been playing tournaments since the early 2000s. His USCF rating is in the 2100s.

In his "Agony" game, Aaron built up a very powerful attack and engines find an immediate win. It was far from obvious but he could in any case have retained the advantage in a number of ways.

Instead he tried to cash in by exchanging queens. But this was a bad misjudgement for while he was a pawn up, his opponent with his king now safe, had a number of advantages which at least counterbalanced this. The white position quickly went downhill and he lost just half a dozen moves later.

Aaron has interesting notes to both games and I've used a number of these marked "ADJ". Anything else is by me though I have marked some "JS" to be completely clear.

[Event "Agoura Hills, California"] [Site "Agoura Hills, California"] [Date "2015.03.21"] [Round "2"] [White "Demby Jones, Aaron"] [Black "Kudryavtsev, Vadim"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E12"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "78"] [EventDate "2015.03.21"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. a3 Bb7 5. Nc3 d5 6. cxd5 {ADJ Previously I had tried} (6. Bg5 {which JS is also a main line}) 6... Nxd5 7. e3 g6 8. Bb5+ { ADJ This is common just to interfere slightly with Black's coordination, as c7-c6 is the only sensible reply here.} c6 9. Bd3 Bg7 10. O-O O-O 11. Qe2 (11. e4 Nxc3 12. bxc3 c5 {then the knight can come out to c6 to pressurise d4}) 11... c5 12. Rd1 {[#]} Nd7 (12... Nc6 {was very playable and if} 13. Nxd5 exd5 {is a very acceptable hanging pawns position and} (13... Qxd5 14. e4 Qd7 15. dxc5 bxc5 {is also perfectly playable})) 13. e4 {ADJ Timed when Black has less pressure on d4, given that he has momentarily blocked his queen.} cxd4 (13... Nxc3 14. bxc3 {and Black has a comfortable Gruenfeld-style setup with Qd8-e7, Rf8-d8, Ra8-c8.}) 14. Nb5 Ne7 {ADJ This was Black's idea, but I think now White gets more than he deserved.} 15. Nbxd4 Nc5 16. Nb5 Bc6 ({Round about here I (JS) would be looking for a way to equalise. One line is} 16... Nxd3 17. Rxd3 Qb8 18. Bg5 Ba6 19. a4 Nc6 20. Rad1 h6 21. Be3 {but the obvious} Bxb5 22. axb5 Ne5 23. Bf4 Nxf3+ 24. Qxf3 {gives White some pressure and if Black controls f4 with ...g5 then he's always likely to run into something with h4.}) 17. Bc2 Qb8 (17... Bxb5 $1 18. Qxb5 Qc7 {was okay because although White's got the two bishops Black's pieces are good and e5 has been prevented} 19. e5 Nc6) 18. Bg5 Nc8 19. Nbd4 Bd7 $2 {[#] A very bad square for the bishop} (19... Bb7 20. e5 Bd5 {was better for White but less so than in the game}) 20. e5 $1 { ADJ Shutting the door on both black bishops. Now White definitely stands better and has good chances of a kingside attack. JS Yes this is already very nasty for Black.} a5 21. h4 a4 22. h5 Re8 23. Qe3 {ADJ Another slow but effective plan might be g2-g3, Kg1-g2, Rd1-h1 with pressure down the h-file. Yet another alternative is to play for light-square pressure with Rde1 (securing the e5 point), Rad1, Nf3-h4, with sacrifices on g6 looming. JS The final idea is a bit vague. Apart from the game continuation I also like} (23. Bf6 Ne7 24. Qd2 Nd5 25. Bxg7 Kxg7 26. g3 Qb7 27. Kg2 Rh8 28. Rh1 {and White can play h6+ to isolate the h8 rook and then play in the centre.}) 23... Ne7 24. Qf4 gxh5 $2 {[#] ADJ A strange defensive resource, but not without logic. Black prepares to put the knight on g6. JS However it does lose by force if White calculates well.} (24... Nd5 25. Qh2 {was clearly better for White but not losing immediately} ({not} 25. Qh4 Bxe5)) 25. Bxe7 $2 {ADJ A bit of a controversial decision, as giving up the bishop pair can't normally be done lightly without an immediate breakthrough on the opposite colour complex in such a position. JS Yes this is a mistake. Even if White doesn't see the win he should certainly not give up this wonderful bishop.} (25. Bxh7+ $1 Kxh7 26. Qxf7 Ng6 {JS Here my first instinct would be Bf6 but given a little time it's not too hard to see that Be3! is crushing} 27. Be3 $1 (27. Bf6 $6 Rg8 28. Ng5+ Kh6 29. Ndf3 Qe8 30. Rd6 h4 31. g4 hxg3 32. fxg3 Qxf7 33. Nxf7+ Kh5 34. g4+ Kxg4 35. Kf2 {is a long way down the road and very hard to assess from a distance.}) 27... Ne4 28. Nf5 $1 exf5 29. Rxd7 Rg8 30. Qxf5 {and Black is blown away.}) (25. Bh6 Ng6 26. Qg5 Qd8 27. Qxh5 Bxh6 28. Qxh6 f5 29. exf6 Qxf6 30. Ng5 Re7 31. Nxh7 $1 Rxh7 32. Qxg6+ Qxg6 33. Bxg6 {and White is a good pawn up}) 25... Rxe7 26. Qg5 Qf8 27. Qxh5 f5 $1 28. exf6 $5 {JS Aaron didn't like this move in retrospect since the black squared bishop becomes strong. That's certainly true but if you don't capture en passant then you'd really like to play} (28. g4 {when} Ne4 {is rather unclear.}) 28... Qxf6 $2 (28... Bxf6 { holds the h7 pawn.though after} 29. Ng5 {White looks better}) 29. Qxh7+ $2 (29. Bxh7+ $1 Kf8 30. Bg6 Kg8 31. Ng5 {was still extremely good for White - the queen is better on h5 than h7}) 29... Kf8 {[#]} 30. Qg6 $2 {ADJ Trading queens is positionally very poor, as the bishop pair advantage increases in the endgame, the weakened king disadvantage dissipates (and even becomes a strength since it is more centralized), and White's queenside pawn weaknesses become amplified in significance! JS Yes he's put it very well. My only question is how many question marks the move deserves - about one and a half I think even though White still should be okay afterwards.} (30. Re1 {kept a nice edge.}) 30... Be8 31. Qxf6+ Bxf6 {ADJ White's advantage may not even exist anymore, since the g-pawn is very far from having any impact on the position. Meanwhile, the bishop pair is powerful and the b2-pawn is a constant concern. JS Yes Black is absolutely fine here.} 32. Re1 Rd8 33. Rad1 Bh5 34. Nc6 $6 (34. Rd2 {ADJ was adequate.}) 34... Rxd1 35. Bxd1 $2 (35. Rxd1 Rc7 {or} (35... Bxf3 36. gxf3 Rc7) 36. Ncd4 {is perfectly acceptable but no more.}) 35... Rd7 $1 36. Bc2 $4 {ADJ Really incomprehensible.} (36. Be2 Bxf3 37. Bxf3 Rd2 38. Re3 Rxb2 {ADJ and Black is probably better but at least White is hanging in there! JS Black is certainly better with very active pieces and a3 to attack but as he says, White could still fight.}) 36... Bxf3 37. gxf3 Rd2 { ADJ Now White has the worst possible setup for any chance of defence - it's over.} 38. Nb4 (38. Be4) 38... Bxb2 39. Re3 Bd4 {[#] ADJ A shocking turnaround and an unbelievably precipitous collapse on my part. JS Yes it went bad very quickly after the exchange of queens. This is always a big step in any game and if you get it wrong then it can lead to serious trouble.} 0-1

Aaron's "Ecstasy" game is a lovely attacking effort against a higher rated opponent who positively bounded towards his doom.

[Event "Rochester Round Robin"] [Site "Rochester, NY"] [Date "2010.05.20"] [Round "5"] [White "Ben Dean-Kawamura"] [Black "Aaron Demby Jones"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C36"] [WhiteElo "2413"] [BlackElo "2104"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "2010.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 exf4 {ADJ A simple line that attempts to neutralize White’s gambit rather than refute it.} 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Be2 $6 {JS There are several better and more common moves notably} (5. Bc4 Nxd5 6. O-O Be7 7. d4 O-O 8. Bxd5 Qxd5 9. Bxf4 c6 10. Nc3 Qd8 11. Qd3 Be6) (5. Bb5+ c6 6. dxc6 Nxc6 7. d4 Bd6 8. O-O) {JS But White had an idea which unfortunately for him was not a good one.} 5... Nxd5 6. c4 $6 {JS This is it. But given that it's ineffective then 5.Be2 is far from challenging. Instead} (6. O-O Bd6 7. c4 Ne7 8. d4 Ng6 { is at the very least comfortable for Black.}) 6... Nb4 7. d4 Bf5 8. Na3 Bd6 $6 {ADJ I spent some time choosing between 8. … Be7 and 8. … Bd6 and eventually decided that provoking 9. c5 was advantageous to Black because of the weakening of the d5 square. However, sharper and stronger was} (8... g5 9. h4 {JS Otherwise Black is very comfortable indeed.} g4 10. Ne5 f3 11. gxf3 (11. Bxf3 gxf3 12. Qxf3 Be6 13. d5 {JS is what White wants to play but fails to} Nd7 14. Nxd7 Qxd7 15. dxe6 Qxe6+ 16. Qe2 Nd3+ 17. Kf1 Nxc1 18. Rxc1 O-O-O {with a clear advantage}) 11... g3 $1 {and Black has a great position.}) 9. c5 { ADJ White must capture f4, otherwise he risks standing worse.} Be7 {[#]} 10. Qb3 $2 {ADJ The beginning of a tactical excursion that ultimately ends up favouring Black. White tries to take advantage of the fact that his pawn on c5 has cut the line of communication between the bishop on e7 and the knight on b4. JS If you're going to play like this as White you have to make very sure that the attack doesn't work. Here it's obviously extremely dangerous without any analysis and White's contention turns out to be palpably untrue.} (10. Bxf4 {JS was reasonable for White}) 10... N8c6 {ADJ After a lengthy think. Certainly 10. … N8c6 is the most natural move, but I feared the continuation 11. Bc4, with the dual threats of 12. Bxf7+ and 12. d5. However, I eventually foresaw a satisfactory counterattack.} 11. Bc4 $2 (11. Bxf4 {was still alright. }) 11... Nxd4 $1 {ADJ Black strikes immediately in the center. The first minor piece is sacrificed!} 12. Qxb4 (12. Nxd4 Qxd4 13. Qxb4 Bh4+ {ADJ is even worse for White than the game continuation.}) (12. Bxf7+ Kf8 {ADJ fails to help White, since Black's king is safe and White needs his light-squared bishop to defend the area around his king.}) 12... Nxf3+ 13. gxf3 Bh4+ {ADJ The point of Black’s play. Now White’s king finds himself stuck in the center with lots of open lines… JS You really don't need an engine here to know that White should be annihilated} 14. Kf1 {[#]} (14. Ke2 Qg5 {JS and White is completely lost but at least avoids a doomed king march.}) 14... Qd1+ $2 {ADJ This leads to the flashiest mate, but simpler was} (14... Bd3+ {JS when they would have got exactly the same position but without the c4 bishop} 15. Bxd3 Qxd3+ 16. Kg1 Qd1+ 17. Kg2 Qe2+ 18. Kh3 Qxf3+ 19. Kxh4 g5+ 20. Kxg5 Rg8+ 21. Kf5 Qg4+ 22. Ke4 O-O-O {and mate follows}) 15. Kg2 Bh3+ {ADJ The bishops now insist that the White king makes a journey to greet his Black counterpart.} 16. Kxh3 Qxf3+ 17. Kxh4 {ADJ Black has lost all his minor pieces, but his rooks are itching to leap into action.} g5+ $1 18. Kxg5 Rg8+ 19. Kf5 (19. Kf6 Rg6+ 20. Kf5 O-O-O { is very similar}) 19... O-O-O $1 {[#] ADJ A momentary lull in the attack. (I had to foresee this fantastic resource on move 14!) By tucking the king away from nuisance checks and activating the final piece, Black shuts the door on the White king’s escape plan. Even with a free move and three extra minor pieces, White is helpless to prevent mate. JS With the king on such an awful square and such a lot of fire power it would be very bad luck if Black wasn't winning.} (19... Qg4+ 20. Ke4 O-O-O {is about the same}) 20. Qc3 $6 {ADJ All moves are bad in a lost position, but White could have resisted more stubbornly with} (20. Bxf7 {. However, after} Qg4+ 21. Ke4 Qg2+ 22. Kf5 Qg5+ 23. Ke4 Qe7+ {ADJ , Black is crashing through. The prettiest finish goes} 24. Kf3 {JS But simply 24...Qxf7 wins easily as well and} Rd3+ 25. Kf2 Rg2+ $1 26. Kxg2 Qe2+ 27. Kg1 Rd1+) 20... Qg4+ 21. Ke4 Rge8+ 22. Qe5 {ADJ Hoping for 22. … Rxe5+?!, which is by no means clear since Black remains down in material. However…} f5# {[#] ADJ …this move is a reasonably strong alternative! A nerve-wracking game, but well worth it. JS A very nice attacking game by Aaron. It would have been easier to play without the c4 bishop - after 14... Bd3+! - but nevertheless a travesty if White had had a defence with his king so far from home and three major pieces attacking.} 0-1

Many thanks for your games which are the life blood of this column and please keep them coming!

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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jo-henry jo-henry 7/14/2016 07:22
@Derek McGill
Clicking the symbol with the little computer disc at the bottom of the replayer allows you to download the pgn-file.
Derek McGill Derek McGill 7/14/2016 07:17
Where have the PGN file download links gone ???