Speelman's Agony #53: Agony, Ecstasy and "Irony"

by Jonathan Speelman
5/31/2017 – This week's games are by Romain Bernard, a Belgian in his late twenties. Born in Liège in 1990 (the same year as Magnus, but a month earlier), he began playing chess while in the second year at university, studying physics and engineering. and since February of this year has worked for Prevor as a junior material engineer. Breaking somewhat from tradition, Romain sent three games instead of two, with the third being described as 'Irony'.

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Apart from chess, he enjoys playing guitar and singing, as well as sport (“I try to run 2-3 times a week, I'm part of a tennis league team with friends”).

Romain specifically mentioned the great job which the staff of the Liège chess club (CRELEL) do especially in the youth department . “We now have nearly a hundred (99 exactly) players born in 97 or later after a mere 10 or so U20 when the new staff arrived.”

Doing a great job, the Lliège chess club, CRELEL, has undergone a serious effort to renew the ranks with young players, and with the new staff, the number of under-20 players has grown from ten players to 99.

Young players of all ages can now be seen enjoying chess

Currently rated 1880, Romain put a lot of effort into analysis and as usual, I've added my own thoughts as JS. We start with the Agpony in which he got a tremendous position out of the opening but then self-destructed.

Agony (Spiros Alexopolous vs Romain Bernard)

[Event "Lalevitch 2016"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.09.23"] [Round "?"] [White "Alexopoulos Spiros Orestis, Dr."] [Black "Romain Bernard"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C15"] [WhiteElo "1922"] [BlackElo "1880"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "47"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 {The French Winawer is quite a complicated opening, and the line we played here is certainly not the easiest.} 4. Bd2 dxe4 5. Qg4 {thematic of this opening is the Qg4 move.} Nf6 6. Qxg7 Rg8 7. Qh6 { This continuation is kind of forced.} Qxd4 8. O-O-O Rg6 9. Qh4 Rg4 10. Qh3 {[#] } Qxf2 {My opponent said after the game that grabbing this pawn could be a wrong move but I don't see any trouble with it (immediately at least). JS: Capturing on f2 prepares Rh4, forcing the exchange of queens, and is the only move that's been tried in the four games I found in a database of recent(ish) games.} 11. Be3 Qf5 12. Nb5 Na6 {these moves are all logical and even forced on my end. JS: Yes Na6 is a very ergonomic way to defend c7.} (12... Ba5 13. b4 a6) (12... Bd6 13. Be2 Rg8 14. Rxd6 Qxh3 15. Nxc7+ Ke7 16. Nxh3 Kxd6 17. Nxa8 b6 18. Bf4+ e5 19. Rd1+ Nd5 20. c4 exf4 21. Rxd5+ Ke7 22. Nxf4) 13. Be2 Rg6 14. Qh4 {avoiding the exchange of the queens.} Bc5 ({JS:} 14... Nd5 {is another strong move when if} 15. Nh3 Be7 16. Qxh7 Nxe3 17. Rhf1 Nxf1 18. Rxf1 Qxf1+ 19. Bxf1 Bd7 {gives Black a very nice advantage.}) 15. Bh6 Bf2 (15... Nd5 16. Kb1 Be7 17. Nd4 Bxh4 18. Nxf5 exf5 {I thought about Nd5 for a long time, with the idea of Rxh6 Qxh6 Be3+ forking the king and the queen, for quite a long time, but I didn't see this continuation on Kb1...} 19. Bc1 Be6 {JS: is completely winning.}) (15... Be7 16. Nd4 Qa5 17. Kb1 Ng4 18. Bd2 Qxa2+ ({JS} 18... Bxh4 19. Bxa5 Nf2 {is simplest.}) 19. Kxa2 Bxh4 20. Bxg4 Rxg4 21. g3 Be7) 16. Qf4 Qxf4+ 17. Bxf4 Rxg2 {Here again, Nd5 should be a solid move. JS: Yes I agree.} (17... Nd5 18. Bg3 Bxg3 19. hxg3 Rg7 {JS: With the black squares secure, Black is completely comfortable and the two extra pawns should win.}) 18. Bxc7 {[#]} Bxg1 {JS: This may well be good "in theory" in the sense that engines give it as winning but giving up all the black squares to take a piece and mis[place your rook is risky in practice or at least demanded exact calculation and play. } 19. Rhxg1 Rxe2 20. Bd8 {[#] And now comes the blunder. This loses on the spot.} (20. Be5 {was also annoying though both Nd5 and Rf2 should win.}) 20... Nd7 $4 {JS: A gross blunder which loses the game. There were still two winning mvoes, Nd5 and Rf2 but in playing Bxg1, Romain had put [pressure onm himself and when you do so, it's not entirely unexpected wehn things go wrong.} (20... Rf2 {was good.} 21. Bxf6 (21. Nxa7 Rxa7 22. Bb6 Rxc2+ 23. Kxc2 Ra8 24. Rdf1 Nb4+ 25. Kb1 Nbd5 26. Bd4 Ke7 27. Bc5+ Ke8 28. Bd4 e5 29. Bxe5 Ng4 { Complicated position.}) 21... Rxf6 22. Rg8+ Ke7 23. Nd6 Rf4 24. Rxc8 Rxc8 25. Nxc8+ Kf6) (20... Nd5 {Also fine was} 21. Rg8+ Kd7 22. c4 Nab4 23. cxd5 exd5 24. Kb1 Nd3 25. b4 b6 26. Rf1 Re1+ 27. Rxe1 Nxe1 28. Nc7 Rb8 29. Bh4 Kxc7 30. Bxe1 Ra8 31. Bg3+ Kd7 32. Bf2 Bb7 33. Rxa8 Bxa8 {This should be winning. JS Obviously, this is the end of an engine line. Yes, with three extra pawns it must presumably be winning though it would be hugely better if the pawn were on e5 rather than e4.}) 21. Rg8+ Nf8 22. Bf6 Rxc2+ {[#]} 23. Kb1 $1 ({JS: Avoiding} 23. Kxc2 Nb4+ 24. Kb1 Nd5 {though this is also totally lost for Black.}) 23... Bd7 24. Nd6# {JS: Romain rather sardonically comments" Normal". It perhaps isn't normal to blunder so catastrophically in a winning position but it's best, if possible, not to give yourself the chance to do so.} 1-0

Ectsasy (Romain Bernard vs Allan)

Romain actually sent me three games instead of two. The first two were the expected: Agony and Ecstasy, while the third came with the label “Irony” - this being one in which he drew quite quickly though. He explained its inclusion “I remember all those times when I made fun of people drawing quickly or by playing some 'dull' games before.”

"Irony" (Romain Bernard vs Romain Monticelli)

[Event "Soultan"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.04.07"] [Round "7"] [White "Romain Bernard"] [Black "Romain Monticelli"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B15"] [WhiteElo "1880"] [BlackElo "1949"] [Annotator "Speelman, Jonathan"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 {Still in the sole lead before the seventh round, and playing against the 1st seed of the tournament ratingwise. We know each other quite well, and on my fetish 1.d4 he usually has a comfortable position. On 1.e4 he normally plays either the Scandinavian with Qd6 or the Sicilian with g6, Bg7 at some point. I didn't study too much his Sicilian but was planning to go for an Alapin as I know he doesn't like to play against it that much. I had looked at some plans against his Scandinavian.} c6 {And here comes the surprise: the Caro-Kanm. Since I don't play 1.e4 often I had never met this in a classical OTB game. I know some things about it but not much. My opponent had never played the Caro-Kann either though, and I don't even know if he'd played it in blitz before.} 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 (4... Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. Nf3 Nf6 8. h5 Bh7 9. Bd3 {is the line I know after 4.Nxe4}) 5. Nxf6+ exf6 6. Bc4 {B15 Caro-Kann Defence: Forgacs Variation I'm not sure about this move retrospectively. c4 is a good square for the bishop usually, but here it might be better placed on d3. Since it might still be good to play it on c4 instead of d3, the best is certainly just to wait before developing it and to play other pieces in the meantime. See the variations.} (6. c3 Bd6 (6... Bf5 7. Bc4 {And here after Bf5, playing Bc4 makes more sense because if Black wants to challenge White's light-squared bishop by playing Be6 he'll have wasted a tempo (and White can still come back to d3 if he wants.}) 7. Qc2 O-O 8. Bd3 Re8+ 9. Ne2) 6... Bd6 7. Qe2+ Qe7 8. Qxe7+ Kxe7 {Wanted to make a statement here. My opponent's strong suit is the endings, and this was a way of telling him that I wasn't afraid of duking it out with him in an ending.} 9. Ne2 Be6 10. Bd3 {[#]} c5 {This one's weird. Well, not that much ... it's natural, but you have to see 11.Be4 Nc6! 12.d5 f5 13.Bf3 Nb4 14.dxe6 Nxc2+ 15.Kd1 Nxa1 16. exf7 and evaluate properly that position when you play c5. My opponent told me afterwards he hadn't calculated that but his instinct was that Nc6 was playable. His instincts are usually good (and when Be4 occurred he calculated the line to make sure. I think he'd have gone for Nd7 if Nc6 wasn't tactically correct)} 11. Be4 ({JS:} 11. Be3 $1 {is a strong move because if} c4 (11... cxd4 12. Nxd4 {is clearly better for White}) 12. Be4 Nc6 (12... Nd7 13. O-O-O) 13. d5 f5 14. Bf3 {is now winning for White with the bishop already developed on e3.}) 11... Nc6 12. d5 f5 13. dxe6 (13. Bf3 Nb4 14. dxe6 ({JS:} 14. Bg5+ f6 15. dxe6 fxg5 16. O-O-O {is nothing at all for White.}) 14... Nxc2+ 15. Kd1 Nxa1 16. exf7 Be5 17. Bg5+ Bf6 18. Bxf6+ Kxf6 19. Kc1 Rhd8 20. Nc3 Rd7 21. Bd5 Rad8 22. Re1 Re7 23. Rxe7 Kxe7) 13... fxe4 14. exf7 {Playing for the better structure. It's not much (and since the isolated pawn is on a light square, it kind of blocks my own pawns on the dark squares, which isn't the best thing in the world given that the remaining bishops are the dark-squared ones)} Nd4 { It was nearly the only move I considered. Nd4 has to be played and not} (14... Nb4 15. Bg5+ Kxf7 16. O-O-O {with a solid advantage for White.}) 15. Bg5+ Kxf7 {[#]} 16. Kd2 {I hesitated a little to play} (16. Nxd4 cxd4 17. O-O-O {because at first glance, Black's central pawns look a little weak, but after} Bc5 { I couldn't see how to proceed. JS: Since the pawns can't be successfully attacked, Black is at least equal.}) 16... Ke6 17. Rae1 {Eying the e4 pawn. Nc3 will be coming next if Bblack does nothing.} Nxe2 18. Rxe2 Kf5 19. Be3 Be5 {[#] Instead of this I also liked} (19... Rad8 {for Black, but maybe it actually just helps me to play the right continuation since Kc1 seems almost forced here (though I was also considering c3?!} 20. c3 Bf4+ (20... Bxh2+ 21. Kc2 Bd6 22. Rh5+ Kg6 23. Rg5+ Kf6 24. Rd5 Be7 {And here I thought I would just lose a pawn for nothing, so I would probably have played Kc1.}) 21. Kc2 Bxe3 22. Rxe3) 20. Bxc5 {This is the only move I don't like much in my game, because it eventually liquidates into a drawn endgame, while had I played} (20. c3 {followed by Kc2, Rhe1 and such, I could have built up some pressure against the e4 pawn. It might have not be enough, but it would have certainly been a better try than the game. JS: I agree entirely. Exchanging the very healthy b2 pawn for the weakness on e4 is quite wrong.}) 20... Bxb2 21. c3 Rac8 22. g4+ $5 Kg6 {My opponent actually played this quite fast, because he trusted my calculations. I think Kxg4 also liquidates into a drawn endgame but the path leading to it wasn't as clear to me as it was in the game.} (22... Kxg4 23. Bb4 a5 24. Bxa5 Ra8 25. Ke3 Ba3 26. Rg1+ Kf5 27. Bb6) 23. Bxa7 Bxc3+ 24. Ke3 Ra8 25. Bd4 {akin to a draw proposition.} Bxd4+ 26. Kxd4 Rhd8+ { I'm not sure about this one. It seems like he accepts the draw without fighting until the end.} (26... Ra4+ 27. Ke3 Rd8 28. Rb1 Rd3+ 29. Kf4 {seemed more challenging for example. JS: I agree. White's king looks ropey here.}) 27. Kxe4 {[#] After this it's a clear draw though.} Re8+ ({JS:} 27... Ra3 {is more challenging though White should also be okay.}) 28. Kf3 Ra3+ 29. Re3 Rexe3+ 30. fxe3 Rxa2 31. Rb1 (31. h4 {but then} Rb2 32. Rd1 {and I wasn't sure where it was going. Probably to a draw anyway. After Rb1, my opponent proposed a draw, which I accepted. JS: You could pretend to play with the extra centre pawn though certainly Black should be okay.}) 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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