Jon Speelman's Agony Column #42

2/28/2017 – This week's Agony (and a soupcon of lukewarm Ecstasy) is all mine, after two rather challenging weekends at the 4NCL in Northampton and then the Bunratty Open. The latter was my first weekend tournament since I played there over a decade ago, and quite a shock to the system given the old-fashioned schedule of a game on Friday evening, three on Saturday and two on Sunday.

Jon Speelman's Agony Column #42

In the old days, the 4NCL used almost invariably to boil down to a last round battle between my team Wood Green and Guildford. Since we downsized a couple of years ago, Guildford have had it almost all their own way, and when we – now a middling team with me on top board – met them on Saturday February 18th they slaughtered us 7-1.

Matthew Sadler at John Nunn's 60th birthday party in April 2015

Former World Championship candidate GM Jon Speelman at the same celebration

My own game against Matthew Sadler was very one-sided but also instructive as to how a game can go wrong.

[Event "4NCL"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.11"] [Round "?"] [White "Sadler, M."] [Black "Speelman, J."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A00"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "49"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 {Matthew had been playing 2.d3 recently and this, rather than my usual Nf6, was a spur of the moment decison, and not a good one - since afterwards Matthew told me that at some stage he had prepared this in conjunction with my next move to play as Black.} 4. e5 Qd7 5. a3 Bxc3+ (5... Bf8 {isn't unreasonable, claiming that White has committed himself in the centre and the loss of two tempi not too important given that a3 may not be terribly useful. However, White can if he likes try to use the extra a3 by playing} 6. Nf3 b6 7. b4 $5) 6. bxc3 b6 7. Qg4 f5 8. Qg3 Ba6 9. Bxa6 Nxa6 10. Ne2 {[#]} O-O-O ({Black would like to play} 10... Nb8 11. Nf4 Nc6 {but unfortunately} 12. Nxe6 Qxe6 13. Qxg7 {while it looks a bit messy is in fact winning for White, as Matthew confirmed to me after the game.} O-O-O (13... Qg6 14. Qxh8 Qxg2 15. Rf1 O-O-O 16. Qxh7 Qe4+ 17. Be3 Qxc2 18. Rc1 Qd3 19. Rg1 Nge7 20. Rg3 Qa6 21. h4 Qxa3 22. h5 {is a sample line I looked at later.}) 14. Qxh8 Qg6 15. O-O Re8 16. h4 Nd8 17. e6 Rxe6 18. h5 Qf7 19. Bg5 Re8 20. Bxd8 Rxd8 21. Qe5 Qxh5 22. Rfe1 Nh6 23. Qf4 Rd7 24. Re6 {1-0 (24) Psakhis,L (2565)-Krays,A (2375) Rishon LeZion ISR 1997}) (10... Kf7 {is sometimes played to defend the kingside. And the rule in this and other Winawers seems to be that when Viswanathan Anand is White Black gets crushed, but otherwise he often gets away with it. I found a nice blitz game in which Vishy downed Vassily Ivanchuk: } 11. h4 Ne7 (11... Qa4 12. h5 (12. Qd3 c5 13. Rb1 Ne7 14. h5 Rhc8 15. Rb2 Kg8 16. Nf4 Rc6 17. O-O Rac8 18. Qg3 Rf8 19. h6 g6 20. Nh5 cxd4 21. Qh4 Rf7 22. Nf6+ Kh8 23. Ne8 Ng8 24. Nd6 Rf8 {[#]} 25. Qd8 $1 Rc8 26. Qxc8 {1-0 (26) Anand, V (2788)-Ivanchuk,V (2739) Moscow RUS 2009}) 12... Qxc2 13. Nf4 Ne7 14. O-O Rag8 15. Be3 (15. h6 g5 16. Nh3 g4 17. Ng5+ Rxg5 18. Bxg5 Ng6 19. Rac1 Qe2 20. f3 gxf3 21. Rf2 Qe4 22. Rxf3) 15... Qxc3 16. Rac1 Qb3) 12. h5 h6 13. a4 c5 14. Nf4 Rhc8 15. O-O cxd4 16. cxd4 Rxc2 17. Ba3 Rc4 18. Rfc1 Rac8 19. Rcb1 Re8 20. Bxe7 Rxe7 21. a5 b5 22. Rd1 Nb4 23. Rac1 Nc2 24. Rd2 Qc8 25. Rcd1 b4 26. Rd3 Kg8 27. Kh2 Qe8 28. Qh4 Rb7 29. Qh3 Rb5 30. Qh4 a6 31. g4 b3 32. gxf5 b2 33. Nxe6 Nxd4 34. Rxd4 Rxd4 35. Nxd4 Qxe5+ 36. f4 Qxd4 37. Rxd4 b1=Q 38. Qf2 Qxf5 39. Qe2 Kf8 40. Qd3 Qxh5+ 41. Kg3 Kf7 42. f5 Rb2 43. Rh4 Qg5+ 44. Rg4 Rg2+ 45. Kxg2 Qxg4+ 46. Kf2 Qh4+ 47. Kg1 Qe1+ 48. Kh2 Qxa5 49. Qe2 Qc7+ 50. Kh3 Qd6 51. Qh5+ Kf8 52. Qf3 Qe5 53. Qd3 Kf7 54. Qf1 Kf6 55. Qxa6+ Kxf5 56. Qb7 d4 57. Qf3+ Kg6 58. Qg4+ {0-1 (58) DEEP JUNIOR-RYBKA Leiden NED 2010}) 11. a4 Kb7 (11... Nb8 12. a5 Nc6 {is also possible.}) 12. O-O $1 {[#] It looks as though this will allow Black to get active on the kingside, but the crucial point is that h6 can be met by Qg6!} Nb8 (12... h6 13. Qg6 $1 Ne7 14. Qxg7 Rdg8 15. Qf7 { and Black doesn't have enough for the pawn, but at least he can fight. I really ought to have tried this.}) 13. a5 Nc6 (13... h6 {is possible again but engines suggest that rather than playing Qg6 as Matthew presumably would have, White can already ignore it and attack, starting Ba3.} 14. axb6 (14. Qg6) (14. Ba3) 14... axb6 15. Qg6 Ne7 16. Qxg7 Rdg8 17. Qf7) 14. axb6 {[#]} axb6 $2 { I felt that cxb6 was pretty rotten, with the bishop landing on d6 at some stage, and decided to pretend that my position was still okay. Since it patently wasn't, it logically had to be refutable, and Matthew was more than up to the job!} (14... cxb6 15. Nf4 Nh6 (15... Ka8 16. Ba3 Nh6 17. Ra2 Rhg8 18. Rfa1 g5 19. Nh5 Qf7 20. Nf6 Rg7 21. Qd3 Ng8 22. Qb5 Qb7 23. Nxg8 Rdxg8 24. Bd6 Na5 25. Bb4 Nc6 26. Ra6 Kb8 27. Bd6+ Kc8 28. c4 Nxd4 29. Qa4 Ne2+ 30. Kf1 Nc3 31. Qa3 d4 32. c5 Nb5 33. Qb3 bxc5 34. Qxe6+ Qd7 35. Qd5 Nxd6 36. Qa8+ Kc7 37. exd6+ Qxd6 38. Qxa7+ {1-0 (38) Laurent,B (2339)-Van Mechelen,J (2269) Eupen BEL 2008})) 15. c4 $1 dxc4 (15... Nge7 16. c5 $16 {is dire, but Black could continue(ish) to play. Again I pretended that I was alright.}) 16. Qa3 Nb8 ({ The problem is that after} 16... Na5 17. Bd2 Ra8 18. Rfb1 Ne7 (18... Kc8 19. Bxa5 Rxa5 20. Qf8+ Qd8 21. Rxa5 $1) 19. Bxa5 Nc6 {White has myriad winning moves. I saw Qc5 and Matthew Qf3.} 20. Qf3) 17. Bg5 Re8 {[#]} 18. d5 ({I was expecting} 18. Rfd1 Kc8 19. d5 exd5 20. Nd4 {which does indeed blow Black away - as he thoroughly deserves.}) 18... Qxd5 (18... exd5 19. Nd4 Re6 20. Qa8+ Kc8 21. Ra7 {1-0 (21) Nyysti,S (2332)-Tolonen,L (2267) Porvoo FIN 2011}) 19. Rfd1 Qe4 $6 (19... Qc5 {was a bit tougher though after} 20. Qa8+ Kc8 21. Nc3 Ne7 22. Ra7 Qc6 23. Nb5 Nd5 24. Rxd5 exd5 25. Rxc7+ Qxc7 26. Nxc7 Kxc7 27. Qxd5 { wouldn't be too hard.}) 20. Nc3 Qc6 21. Qa8+ (21. Rdb1 Kc8 22. Nb5 Qd5 23. Nd6+ cxd6 24. Rxb6 {and as I write Houdini has changed from +99 to mate in 17.}) 21... Kc8 22. Qxc6 Nxc6 23. Ra8+ Nb8 24. Nb5 {[#] A very clean way to win.} Re7 ({Of course if} 24... Ne7 25. Ra7 Nd5 26. Rxd5 exd5 27. Rxc7#) 25. Rxb8+ { A very nice game by Matthew and, as losses go, not especially unpleasant for me.} 1-0

Bunratty was my first weekend tournament since I played there over a decade ago, and quite a shock to the system given the old-fashioned schedule of a game on Friday evening, three on Saturday and two on Sunday. Nigel Short won with a superb 6.0/6 and was followed by Alex Lopez and Richard Bates on 5.0 – the latter courtesy of a very interesting last round win against me.

I'm briefly going to show the soupcon of Ecstasy, a very pretty combination which I made the mistake of avoiding when my opponent hadn't actually spotted it; and that last round game.

[Event "Bunratty"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.17"] [Round "1"] [White "Schockenbaeumer, D."] [Black "Speelman, J."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A00"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "50"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Be3 a6 5. Qd2 Nd7 6. f3 b5 7. h4 h5 8. Nh3 Ngf6 9. Nf4 $5 (9. Ng5 {is normal.}) 9... c6 10. O-O-O Qc7 11. Kb1 Bb7 12. Qf2 Rc8 13. g3 e5 $2 {A really bad move, symptomatic of my form in Bunratty. I'd completely misassesed the position after 17.Bh3xd7 in the note below.} (13... c5 14. dxc5 Nxc5 15. Ncd5 (15. Bh3 e6 16. Qd2 Rd8 17. a3 O-O) 15... Nxd5 16. Nxd5 Bxd5 17. exd5 Nd7 18. c3 Rb8 19. Bd4 Nf6) (13... e6 14. Bh3 O-O 15. Bxe6 fxe6 16. Nxe6 Qb8 17. Bf4 Rce8 18. Nxf8 Nxf8 19. e5) 14. Nfe2 $2 (14. dxe5 $1 dxe5 (14... Nxe5 15. Bh3) 15. Nd3 c5 16. Bh3 O-O 17. Bxd7 $1 Nxd7 18. g4 $1 { Houdini already gives this as winning for White!} hxg4 (18... b4 19. Na4 c4 20. Nxb4) (18... Nf6 19. Nxc5) 19. h5 Rfd8 20. fxg4 b4 21. h6 Bf8 22. h7+ Kh8 23. Qxf7 Bg7 24. Nd5) 14... exd4 15. Nxd4 b4 16. Nce2 (16. Na4 c5 17. Nb3 c4 (17... Ne5 18. Naxc5 dxc5 19. Bxc5) (17... Bc6 18. Bf4 Bxa4 19. Bxd6) 18. Nd2 d5 $1) 16... c5 17. Nb3 O-O 18. Nf4 Ne5 19. Be2 a5 20. Nd2 c4 21. Bb6 Qc6 22. Nd5 $2 ( {He had to try to randomise though after} 22. Bxa5 Qa4 23. Qb6 Rc5 $1 (23... Ra8 24. Nxc4 $1) 24. Qxb4 Rxa5 {Black is winning.}) 22... Nxd5 23. exd5 Qa4 $19 24. f4 {[#]} Nd3 $1 25. cxd3 b3 {Here he resigned. I was still trying to decide which way to win after 26.a3 - probably 26...cxd3 is the cleanest:} ( 25... b3 26. a3 cxd3 (26... c3 27. Nc4 c2+ (27... cxb2 28. Bd4 Rxc4) 28. Kc1 cxd1=Q+ 29. Rxd1 Bxd5 30. Kb1 $19 Rxc4 31. dxc4 Be4+ 32. Kc1 Rc8 33. Rd4 Bf5) 27. Bxd3 Rc2 28. Nc4 $1 Rxf2 29. Bxf2 Ba6 $1 30. Rc1 Rc8 {and it's totally over.}) 0-1

[Event "Bunratty"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.18"] [Round "3"] [White "Gheorghiu, C."] [Black "Speelman, J."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A00"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "47"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. d4 d6 2. e4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. f4 Bg7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Bd3 Na6 7. O-O c5 8. d5 Rb8 (8... Bg4 9. Bc4 Nc7 {is most common.}) 9. Qe2 Nc7 10. a4 a6 (10... b6 11. Nb5 {looks scary but may well be okay for Black} a6 12. Na7 Bb7 13. c4 (13. Nc6 Bxc6 14. dxc6 b5 15. c3) 13... Ra8 14. Nc6 Qd7 {and} 15. e5 {fails to} Nfxd5) 11. a5 e6 {The move I wanted to play, but too optimistic.} (11... b5 12. axb6 Rxb6 13. Na4 Rb8 14. c4 {is a comfortable edge for White.}) 12. dxe6 Nxe6 13. f5 Nd4 14. Nxd4 cxd4 15. Nd5 {This is simple and strong.} ({I was actually more worried about a knight retreat such} 15. Nb1) 15... Nxd5 16. exd5 Re8 17. Qf3 Bxf5 18. Bxf5 gxf5 19. Qxf5 {Sacrificing a pretty bad pawn to try to seize the initiaitive. [#]} Qc8 ({But} 19... Qc7 20. Bf4 Re2 21. Bh6 (21. Qg4 Rbe8) 21... Re5 {was more sensible}) 20. Qxf7+ Kh8 21. Bf4 Qc5 22. b4 $1 {A very strong move} Qxb4 (22... Qc4 23. Bxd6 Rbc8 24. Be7 d3 25. Bf6) 23. Rab1 { Here I'd intended Qc5 Rxb7 Rg8, but then to my horror noticed his beautiful combination. I thought I'd try to play the exchange down, but it's absolutely hopeless and the only sensible course would have been to play the moves and cross my fingers.} Qxa5 $2 {The ? for stupidity. I had to play Qc5 and cross my fingers} (23... Qc5 24. Rxb7 d3+ 25. Kh1 Rg8 {[#]} 26. Qxg7+ $1 ({Perhaps he would have seen the idea here, but immediately afterwards he said that} 26. Rc7 {was his intention!} Qd4 {and I'm maybe worse but can fight}) 26... Rxg7 27. Rxb8+ Rg8 28. Rxg8+ Kxg8 29. Bh6 Qc8 30. cxd3) 24. Bxd6 1-0

[Event "Bunratty"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.19"] [Round "6"] [White "Speelman, J."] [Black "Bates, R."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A00"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "64"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 a5 5. g3 d6 6. Bg2 Nbd7 7. O-O e5 8. e3 ( 8. Nc3 {is much safer, but I wanted to hack.}) 8... c6 9. Bc1 (9. a3 Bxd2 10. Nbxd2) 9... e4 10. Nh4 (10. Ng5 d5 11. c5 h6 12. Nh3 a4 13. a3 Ba5 14. Qxa4 { is very scary for White}) 10... d5 11. a3 Be7 12. cxd5 {maybe wrong} (12. f3 Nb6 {was suggested by Richard in the post mortem} (12... exf3 13. Qxf3 O-O 14. Nc3 dxc4 15. Nf5 $1 {and White has very good compensation for the pawn} (15. e4 c5 16. e5 cxd4 17. exf6 Nxf6 {which I saw during the game})) 13. c5 (13. fxe4 dxe4 14. Qc2 g6 15. Nd2 (15. a4 {is Houdini's icily calm suggestion})) 13... g5 14. fxe4 gxh4 15. e5 Ne4 {and Black is better}) 12... cxd5 13. f3 O-O 14. Nc3 exf3 15. Qxf3 Nb6 16. Nf5 Be6 {It's essential that Black keeps his white squared bishop here, but the black squared one can be exchanged if necessary.} 17. g4 Re8 {Here I had quite a long think and didn't like it much since it's hard to get devloped with Bd2 being met by Nc4. I decided I really had to go for it.} 18. g5 Ne4 19. h4 (19. Nxe4 dxe4 20. Nxe7+ Rxe7 21. Qg3 {isn't too bad.}) 19... Bf8 20. Nxe4 dxe4 21. Qf2 $2 (21. Qg3 {is a much better square, when if} Qd5 22. Qf2 {the bishop's route to c4 is blocked.}) 21... Bc4 22. Bd2 {22.Rd1 was disgusting, so this was an easy decision.} Nc8 (22... Bxf1 23. Rxf1 Qd5) 23. d5 {White has to get his pieces working.} Qxd5 24. Bc3 Bxf1 $2 { At exactly the wrong moment.} (24... Qe6 {would keep control.}) 25. Nh6+ Kh8 26. Nxf7+ Kg8 27. Rxf1 $5 {Of course I could have taken a draw, but it would have felt very cowardly and in any case a draw and a loss were more or less the same in an unrated game.} (27. Nh6+ $11) 27... Nd6 28. Nh6+ Kh8 {[#]} 29. a4 $2 {missing that Nb5 can be met by Be5. This loses a crucial tempo, allowing Black safely to get in Be7. By the time we went to the bar after the clsoing ceremony I'd realised that Nb5 can be met by Be5 and when we (myself, Richard, Peter Wells and Mark Hebden) applied our beer and wine sozzled brains we did find b3, which seems to be much the best move. In any case, here are some lines with software enhancement:} (29. Ng4 Qe6 30. Bh3 Be7 31. Qg3 Nb5 32. Ne5 Nxc3 33. Bxe6 Ne2+ 34. Kg2 Nxg3 35. Nf7+ $11) (29. b3 Qxb3 30. Bd4 (30. Be5 ) 30... Be7 (30... a4 31. Qg3 Qd5 32. Bh3 Rad8 33. Bg4 b5 34. Bh5) (30... Rad8 31. Qf4 Qe6 32. Qg3 b5 33. Bh3 Qg6 34. Bg4 Be7 35. Bh5 $1) 31. Qd2 $1) (29. Bd4 Nb5 (29... Be7 $2 30. Qd2) 30. Be5 Nd6 31. Bd4) 29... Be7 30. Ng4 ({During the closing ceremony I thought of} 30. Qf6 {which of course loses to Bxf6 but} Bxf6 $1 (30... gxf6 $4 31. Rxf6 $1 $18 {is very pretty.}) 31. gxf6 Rg8) 30... Rf8 31. Nf6 Qe6 32. Kh2 Ne8 {Black doesn't even have to play gxf6 now, but can simply capture with the knight, and then put the bishop on f6. So I resigned.} 0-1

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