Jon Speelman's Agony Column #48

by Jonathan Speelman
4/9/2017 – This week’s pair of games are by Simon Knight, an Englishman who was born and brought up in England, but then married a Mexican and has lived there since 1994. Simon sent in two games from Gibraltar and the Mexican Open. His Agony game contains "one of my all-time worst nightmares turning a completely won position into a horrible loss and sending me out of contention for any possible prize." Jonathan Speelman dissects the submitted games.

Simon, who recently hit fifty, says:

I’m still occasionally active but more as a coach and chess promoter than as a player. I have run a secondary school for the last ten years where I introduced chess as part of the curriculum with very satisfactory results.

I suppose I'm most proud of the events I've helped promote here. The local junior tournament played at my school is now 11 years old. And one of my protégés (Tokis) will be representing Mexico in the Panamerican Championship in July, so I'm hoping to add to this list.

I helped organise a giant simul with 64 top local juniors (including my two eldest) playing against 1300 schoolkids, I wrote a weekly article in the local paper called "El Mundo de Caissa" for about a year (my youngest is called Caissa), helped bring Lawrence Trent over as a coach for local youngsters for three months and was influential in the visit of Kasparov shown in the following photo.

The two games Simon sent are from Gibraltar and the Mexican Open. We start with the Agony which was actually a couple of years after the Ecstasy. The annotations are all mine but Simon did introduce the games and of this he says:

I think it was the second round and I was up against the top seed (if I remember correctly) and playing what I thought was a pretty good game (I shall probably be unpleasantly surprised). My 38th and 39th moves gave him hope, but the 41st move was one of my all-time worst nightmares turning a completely won position into a horrible loss and sending me out of contention for any possible prize.

[Event "Gibraltar"] [Site "?"] [Date "2010.01.30"] [Round "?"] [White "Knight, Simon"] [Black "Ivanov, Stojan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B46"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "84"] [EventDate "2010.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] {In this tough battle, Simon got nothing much from the opening,ended up seriously worse before turning the tables, but then suffered a disaster in time trouble as he stumbled into a mating net.} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e6 5. Be2 Nf6 6. Nc3 Be7 (6... Bb4 {is much more common and more challenging for White when if} 7. O-O Bxc3 8. bxc3 Nxe4 {White has decent compensation for the pawn but Black should be alright.}) 7. O-O O-O 8. Be3 a6 { [#]} 9. Nxc6 $5 {Not bad, but it does reinforce Black's centre.} (9. f4 d6 { is a Sceveningen while} (9... d5 10. e5 Nd7 {is akin to a Classical French and a bit more comfortable for White.})) 9... bxc6 10. f4 (10. e5 Nd5 11. Nxd5 cxd5 12. c4 {looks fairly equal}) 10... d5 11. exd5 {This leaves Black with a very nice centre.} (11. e5 Nd7 12. Na4 c5 13. c4 {looks normal.}) 11... cxd5 12. Bd4 Qc7 13. Kh1 Bb7 14. Bd3 Rac8 15. Rf3 {[#]} Ne4 {Perhaps slightly mistimed.} ( 15... Rfd8 {was possible when Black has enough defenders and the white rook is temporarily tied to the f pawn} 16. Qe2 (16. Rh3 $2 Qxf4) 16... Ne4 {is that much stronger now.}) 16. Bxe4 dxe4 17. Rg3 f6 (17... g6 18. Be5 Qc5 19. b4 $1 { so that Qh5 can't be answered with Bf6} (19. Qh5 Bf6 20. Qh6 Bxe5 21. Rh3 Rfd8 22. Qxh7+ Kf8 23. fxe5 Qxe5 24. Rf1 Qg7 {is at least a bit better for Black..}) 19... Qc4 (19... Qxb4 20. Rb1) 20. Qh5 f6 (20... Rfd8 $4 21. Qxh7+) 21. Rxg6+ hxg6 22. Qxg6+ {with a draw}) 18. Qg4 Rf7 19. Qxe6 Qd6 20. Qb3 Qb4 21. Re3 Qxb3 22. cxb3 (22. axb3 {was more natural since the knight doesn't need to move from c3.}) 22... Bd6 {[#]} 23. g3 $6 {This makes the b7 bishop very happy, but it was already uncomfortable for White.} ({If} 23. Rf1 Rd7 24. Re2 Bxf4 25. Bxf6 $2 gxf6 26. Rxf4 Rxc3 $1) (23. Re2 Bxf4 24. Nxe4 Rd7 25. Bc3 {and Black has two excelent bishops, but White is a pawn up and the bishop is stable and strong on c3.} (25. Bxf6 $6 Rc1+ 26. Rxc1 Bxc1 27. Re1 Bd2 28. Nxd2 Rxd2 29. Bc3 Rxg2)) 23... Rd7 24. Rd1 Bb8 25. Ree1 e3+ 26. Kg1 e2 (26... Bf3 $1 27. Rd3 (27. Bxe3 Bxd1) 27... Bg4 {and the pin on the d-file proves fatal.} (27... Rxd4 $2 28. Rxd4 Ba7 29. Rd7) 28. Kg2 (28. h3 Bxh3) 28... Rcd8) 27. Nxe2 Rc2 28. Rc1 Rd2 29. Rcd1 ({Engines like} 29. Kf1 {but it does look quite scary especially in time trouble.}) 29... R2xd4 $6 30. Nxd4 ({The attempt to liquidate with} 30. Rxd4 $2 Ba7 31. Red1 {fails to} Bf3) 30... Ba7 31. Kf1 Bxd4 {[#]} 32. Rd2 a5 $2 (32... Bf3 33. Rc1 Bg4 34. Kg2 Bb6 35. Rxd7 Bxd7 {is a difficult ending where in defererence to the two bishops I'd rather be Black but White's queenside pawns are certainly not to be ignored.}) 33. Red1 Ba6+ 34. Kg2 Bb7+ 35. Kh3 Bc8 {[#]The only hope but it shouldn't work.} 36. g4 (36. Kh4 $1 {would have left Black without any real hope.} h6 37. Rxd4 g5+ 38. Kh5) 36... Re7 37. Rxd4 Re3+ 38. Kh4 (38. Kg2 {was a safe move when White should win easily enough with those queenside pawns}) 38... Be6 39. f5 $2 {But this is the first mistake.} ( 39. R1d3 Re2 40. Rd2 Re3 41. R4d3 {kept control}) 39... g5+ 40. fxg6 hxg6 41. R1d3 $4 (41. Rd7 {would still have kept an edge and more important avoided the disaster in the game.}) 41... g5+ 42. Kh5 Rxd3 {[#]} (42... Rxd3 43. Rxd3 Kg7 { forces a mate which must have looked very pretty to Black but not to Simon.}) 0-1

[Event "Mexican Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2008.01.30"] [Round "?"] [White "Knight, Simon"] [Black "Georgiev, Vladimir"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D04"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "2008.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. e3 c6 4. Bd3 Bg4 5. Nbd2 Nbd7 6. O-O (6. h3 Bh5 7. O-O e5 8. dxe5 Nxe5 9. Be2 {leads to a note below}) 6... e5 {This equalises} 7. e4 (7. dxe5 Nxe5 8. h3 Bh5 (8... Nxd3 $5 {is also very possible}) 9. Be2 Nxf3+ 10. Bxf3 Bxf3 11. Qxf3 (11. Nxf3 {is like some lines of the French Defence reversed and perfectly pleasant for Black.}) 11... Bd6 12. e4 {This must be about equal.}) 7... dxe4 8. Bxe4 Nxe4 {It wasn't at all necessary to play this sharp move.} ({Simply} 8... exd4 {would have led to a very pleasant position after for example.} 9. Re1 Be7 10. h3 Bh5 11. Bd3 (11. Qe2 Nxe4 12. Nxe4 Bxf3 13. Qxf3 O-O) (11. g4 Bg6 12. Nxd4 Nxe4 13. Nxe4 O-O) 11... O-O 12. g4 Bg6 13. Bxg6 hxg6 14. Nxd4) 9. Nxe4 f5 $2 {[#] And this attempt to punish White's opening play backfires.} 10. Neg5 e4 11. Re1 Be7 $6 {Playing with fire.} (11... Nf6 12. c3 h6 13. Ne6 Qd7 14. Qb3 Bxf3 15. gxf3 Nd5 {is a little messy but within bounds for Black.} 16. Nxf8 Rxf8 17. c4 (17. fxe4 fxe4 18. Rxe4+ Kf7 { leaves White's king pretty exposed.}) 17... Nf6 18. Bf4 O-O-O 19. d5) 12. Ne6 Qb6 13. h3 Bxf3 14. gxf3 Kf7 15. fxe4 $1 (15. Ng5+ Bxg5 16. Bxg5 h6 17. Bf4 Rae8 {and Black has got developed. Of course, Simon preferred to attack.}) 15... Kxe6 16. exf5+ ({Engines much prefer} 16. Qh5 $1 Nf6 17. Qxf5+ Kf7 18. e5 Qxd4 19. exf6 Bxf6 (19... Qxf6 $2 20. Rxe7+) 20. Qe6+ Kg6 21. Be3 {and despite White's damaged kingside, it is the Black king which comes under heavy fire.} Qd5 22. Qg4+ Kf7 23. Rad1) 16... Kf7 17. Qh5+ {[#]} (17. Qe2 Rhe8 {would lead nowhere.}) 17... g6 $4 (17... Kf8 $1 {should defend and if an engine were playing Black it would surely win though if White plays something like} 18. c3 (18. Re6 Qxd4 19. Bg5 Bxg5 20. Qxg5 Nf6) 18... Nf6 19. Qf3 Nd5 20. Re6 Re8 21. c4 Nc7 22. Re4 {then he can certainly fight.}) 18. Qe2 {But now White has the additional threat of Bh6 and this proves decisive.} Rhe8 19. Bh6 Bb4 20. Qc4+ Kf6 21. Re6+ Kxf5 {[#]} 22. d5 $1 Rxe6 23. Qf4# {A very pretty finish.} 1-0

Submit your games

Did you enjoy the column and instructive analysis by GM Jonathan Speelman? Do you wish you could have a world-renowned grandmaster analyzing your play? You can! Just send in two of your games: one success story (Ecstasy) and one loss (Agony). Tell why you chose them, where or when they were played, and if they are selected, not only will you get free detailed commentary of your games by one of chess’s great authors and instructors, and former world no. 4 player, but you also win a free one-month Premium subscription to ChessBase Account.

A one-month Premium subscription to ChessBase Account, means that for one month you get:

  • Premium access to the Playchess server with ratings, simuls, lectures, and live commentary of top games.
  • Access to all Web apps with no restrictions, such as the Cloud database (, and more!
  • Full access to the Video archive, which not only includes all the past lectures by Daniel King, Simon Williams and others, but also a large number of full ChessBase products you would normally need to buy in the ChessBase Shop, but that you can view for free as a Premium subscriber.

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.
Feedback and mail to our news service Please use this account if you want to contribute to or comment on our news page service


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register