Jon Speelman's Agony Column #45

by Jonathan Speelman
3/15/2017 – This week's column features two games submitted by Kanwal Bhatia, an academic in her thirties who has played a number of times in the England women's team. She explains that she learned chess on a container ship, where she first grew up. She now works in London as a researcher in machine learning for medical imaging.

Jon Speelman's Agony Column #45

This week's games are by Kanwal Bhatia an academic in her thirties who has played a number of times in the England women's team and indeed was there when I captained them at the European team championship in Reykjavik and the Baku Olympiad.

The photo is from the European Team Championships, in Greece, 2011 and was taken by Maria Yurenok's camera. It features from left to right, Sarah Heggarty (who is now Sarah Longson), Kanwal herself, Maria Yurenok and Jovanka Houska.

Kanwal writes: "I learned to play chess somewhere in South East Asian waters while my family and I were living on a container ship. The crew of the ship organized tournaments while sailing between ports and I played my first one when I was about four years old. I don't remember if I managed to win any games but was nevertheless awarded a prize of a small torch (luxuries are limited on a container ship...). Prizes have proved more difficult to come by since then, and real life has replaced the tournaments. I now work in London as a researcher in machine learning for medical imaging, but who knows, one day I may return to my travelling chess player roots!"

After I asked Kanwal at the 4NCL if she'd like to send some games, she kindly sent me these two in which the Agony is extreme and the Ecstasy somewhat lukewarm.


[Event "The Four Nations Chess League/Div1/BAR1"] [Site "?"] [Date "2005.11.20"] [Round "?"] [White "Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan"] [Black "Bhatia, Kanwal K"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C77"] [WhiteElo "2426"] [BlackElo "2091"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "105"] [EventDate "2005.??.??"] {In this very fierce, but ultimately rather tragic game, Kanwal was playing for her team Barbican in the 4NCL against my team Wood Green. Her opponent, my erstwhile team mate Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant, is originally a Georgian grandmaster, who has represented Scotland many times in the Open team at the Olympiad, and played several times in the Women's World Championship tournaments.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. d3 b5 6. Bb3 Bc5 7. c3 d6 8. h3 O-O 9. O-O Bb6 10. Be3 Ne7 {I think I might have played Bxa3 rather than allow my pawn structure to be damaged.} (10... Bxe3 11. fxe3) 11. Nbd2 ({Though} 11. Bxb6 cxb6 {certainly isn't especially wonderful for White.}) 11... Ng6 12. a4 Rb8 13. d4 Qe7 $6 {[#] This allows White's next move, after which Black has to exchange on d4, surrendering some control of the centre.} 14. a5 exd4 ({Of course if} 14... Ba7 $4 15. dxe5 {wins a piece}) 15. cxd4 Ba7 16. e5 Ne8 {Rather passive.} ({Engines prefer} 16... Nh5) 17. Bg5 Qd7 18. Re1 d5 {Not at all a happy move. Now White gets close to a free hand on the kingside.} 19. Nf1 c6 20. Ng3 Nc7 (20... f6 21. exf6 Nxf6 22. Bc2 {is very nasty because Black can't get developed. For instance if} Qf7 23. Qd2 Bd7 $2 24. Bxg6 Qxg6 25. Ne5 {is winning.}) 21. Bc2 Ne6 22. Nf5 (22. Be3 {kept good control, but it would be extremely easy to convince yourself as white that the time had come to go for the the kill. Indeed, it looks as though she was correct, though it required very accurate attacking play afterwards.}) 22... c5 23. h4 cxd4 24. h5 Ngf4 (24... Nxg5 25. Nxg5 d3 26. Qxd3 Qxf5 27. Qxf5 Bxf5 28. Bxf5 Nf4 {is an attempt to bail out, but is pretty nasty for Black.}) 25. h6 ( 25. Bxf4 Nxf4 26. N3xd4 g6 (26... Kh8 27. Ra3)) 25... Nxg5 26. hxg7 Re8 $6 ( 26... d3 27. gxf8=Q+ Kxf8 28. e6 $1 fxe6 (28... Ngxe6 29. Bxd3) 29. Nxg5 exf5 30. Qd2 Qd6 31. Bxd3 Bd7 {is pretty awful for Black so it was better to tough it out even though Re8 should lose.}) 27. Nxg5 d3 $1 {[#] Black has to act immediately so this move, destabilizing the f5 knight. is completely forced even if it shouldn't work.} 28. Bxd3 Nxd3 (28... Bxf2+ 29. Kf1 $1 Nxd3 30. e6 $1) 29. Nh6+ $2 (29. e6 $1 {was totally winning after} Rxe6 (29... fxe6 30. Qh5 ) 30. Rxe6 h6 31. Qh5) 29... Kxg7 30. Qxd3 Kxh6 31. Qxh7+ Kxg5 32. Qg7+ Kh5 33. Qh7+ Kg5 34. Qg7+ Kh5 {[#]} 35. Ra3 $2 {Trying to win, though objectively it should lose.} Bxf2+ $1 36. Kxf2 Qf5+ 37. Rf3 Qc2+ 38. Re2 Qg6 39. Rxf7 Qxg7 40. Rxg7 Kh6 {A mistake on the last move before the time control.} (40... Rb7 $1 { leaves White with little hope.}) 41. Rg3 Kh7 $6 (41... Rb7 $1 {was best preparing ...Rg7 and crucially meeting} 42. Re1 {with} Rf7+ 43. Kg1 Rg7 ({ or indeed} 43... Bf5 {The king escapes from the h file and Black should win.})) 42. Re1 Re6 43. Rh1+ Rh6 44. Rxh6+ Kxh6 45. Rg8 Ra8 46. Rd8 Bb7 47. Rd7 Rb8 ( 47... Rf8+ 48. Ke3 Bc8 {activated the rook though with the white king coming in this is already very messy in practice.}) 48. e6 Bc6 $2 (48... Rf8+ 49. Ke3 Bc8 50. e7 Re8 51. Rc7 Kg6 52. Kd4 {was still or rather should still be fine for Black.}) 49. Rd6 Rc8 50. e7+ Kg7 51. Rxc6 Ra8 52. Rxa6 Re8 53. Re6 { And Kanwal resigned. A truly miserable end to a terrific fighting game.} 1-0

This is what ecstasy should feel like!


[Site "?"] [Date "2011.08.13"] [Round "?"] [White "Bhatia, Kanwal K"] [Black "Poobalasingam, Peter S"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C05"] [WhiteElo "2108"] [BlackElo "2299"] [Annotator "Speelman, Jonathan"] [PlyCount "108"] [EventDate "2011.??.??"] {In this wonderfully bloodcurdling game, Kanwal got a huge attack on her opponent's king but sadly muffed it at the end and had to be content with a draw.} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ndf3 Qb6 8. a3 a5 9. b3 {This avoids Black taking control of the qeenside light squares with ...a4 and is the main line move.} Be7 10. h4 f5 {By nicking the kingside, Black avoids an immediate attack but White will prepare g4.} ({Instead} 10... f6 11. Bd3 cxd4 12. cxd4 O-O 13. Ne2 {has been played a few times. Unless Black can now sacrifice on e5 - and it seems that he or she can't really - I don't like this at all for Black.}) 11. h5 h6 12. Ne2 Nf8 13. Kf2 Bd7 14. Be3 a4 {[#]} 15. bxa4 {Rather surprising.} (15. b4 {looks much more normal. If Black blocks the queenside with} c4 {then} (15... cxb4 16. cxb4 Na7 17. Rg1 { is also very good for White.}) 16. Rg1 g5 17. hxg6 Nxg6 18. g4 {must be clearly better for White.}) 15... c4 16. Rg1 Na5 17. g4 fxg4 18. Rxg4 Rg8 19. Bh3 Qb2 (19... Nb3) 20. Qg1 Bxa4 {If} (20... Nb3 21. Re1 Kf7 22. Qg2 Rxa4 23. Rg1 {then White is first}) 21. Rb1 Qc2 22. Rb6 $1 {This excellent move gets the rook into the attack before Black can block with ...Nb3.} Qf5 23. Ng3 (23. Rg3 Qf7 (23... Qxh5 24. f5 $1) 24. f5 exf5 25. Rxh6 Bd7 26. Nf4 Nc6 27. Rhg6 Nxg6 28. Rxg6 Nd8 29. h6 {was another very strong continuation.}) 23... Qf7 24. Rg6 Nc6 25. f5 Nxg6 $6 {This allows White to bury the queen after which it ought to be hopeless for Black.} ({However,} 25... O-O-O 26. Qb1 {is also pretty terrible.}) 26. fxg6 Qf8 27. Bxe6 Nd8 {[#]} 28. Bh3 {Understandably, Kanwal didn't want to give her opponent counterplay on the white squares by taking the rook.} ({Even so it was better to play} 28. Bxd5 Bc6 29. Bxc6+ bxc6 {And now as long as White keeps a measure of control ift must be winning for example.} 30. Qb1 {when Black has no real counterplay for example if} Bh4 31. Qe4 Bxg3+ 32. Kxg3 Qxa3 33. Rxc6 Rf8 34. Rxc4 Qa2 35. Rc7 Ra7 36. Rxa7 Qxa7 37. d5 {With the knight on f3, White's king is completely safe and the pawns will power through.}) 28... Bc2 29. Kg2 Rxa3 {[#]} 30. Qc1 $6 {In this incredibly messy position, it's all too easy to get confused.} ({The engines like} 30. Rb2 Rxc3 31. Ne1 $1 {so that move Black's wish to play} Bb3 {loses to} 32. Rf2) 30... Ra2 $2 (30... Rxc3 $1 {was much better and after} 31. Bg4 Bb4 {with a total mess.}) 31. Rb2 $1 Ba3 {Winning the queen but leaving Black's king almost naked.} 32. Rxa2 Bxc1 33. Bxc1 {[#]} b5 {Desperation!} (33... Be4 { exchanges off one of the knights but after} 34. Nxe4 dxe4 35. Nh4 Qe7 (35... Rh8 36. Ra8 e3 37. Bxe3 Qg8 38. e6) 36. Nf5 Qc7 37. Nd6+ Ke7 38. Ba3 {the king is caught in deadly crossfire.}) (33... Bd3 34. Ra8) (33... Qe7 34. Rxc2 Rf8 35. Ra2 b5 36. Nf5) 34. Rxc2 Qe7 35. Nf5 Qa7 36. Nd6+ Kf8 37. Rf2 Qa1 38. Ng5+ {This wins - indeed Komodo tells me that it's mate in 10.} ({However,} 38. Nh4+ Ke7 39. Rf7+ $1 Nxf7 40. gxf7 {would have left Black utterly helpless in a simple position.}) 38... Ke7 39. Nc8+ Ke8 40. Nf7 (40. Rf7 Qa2+ 41. Kh1 Nxf7 42. gxf7+ Kf8 43. e6 hxg5 44. Ne7 $1 {was another nice win.}) 40... Ne6 41. Bb2 Nf4+ 42. Rxf4 Qxb2+ 43. Rf2 Qxc3 44. Nfd6+ Kd8 {[#]} 45. Rf7 $2 {Panic or perhaps fatigue after this exhausting battle.} ({If White kept her nerve and organized the cavalry then Black would be helpless:} 45. Nxb5 Qe3 46. Nca7 Qg5+ 47. Kh2 Ke8 48. Nc6) 45... Qd2+ 46. Kg1 Qxd4+ 47. Kg2 Qd2+ 48. Kg3 Qe3+ 49. Kg2 Qe2+ 50. Kg3 Qxe5+ 51. Kg2 Qe2+ 52. Kg3 Qe1+ 53. Kg2 Qd2+ 54. Kg3 Qe3+ { And they agreed the draw.} 1/2-1/2

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Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.
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treetown treetown 3/16/2017 09:12
Dear GM Speelman, I realize that this is first and foremost a chess column, but how could you let that interesting story go out without a follow up question. How did the family end up living on a container ship? To paraphrase and alter Lasker - if you hear a good story, sit on your hands and let the speaker expound. Follow up questions please!
Thank you again for an interesting column; this is among the best for the lower level players like me.
J Wan