Tactics, tactics, tactics: Jon Speelman's Agony Column #16

8/24/2016 – Tactics dominate chessgames from beginning to end. Spotting hidden tactics in time and being able to calculate lines accurately often decides about win, draw or loss. Which Jon Speelman illustrates through the two interesting attacking games he presents in his Agony Column #16. He also gives advice how to deal with sacrifices and how to handle an attack.

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Agony Column #16

This week's games are by Daniel King-Wai Lam, a private banker from Hong Kong. Daniel who is 40 has been married to Alice Song for nearly two years – though no children yet. He lives in Hong Kong but went to school in New Zealand and has degrees both from the LSE (London School of Economics) and Cambridge. He likes boxing (only shadow boxing nowadays), Shaolin Qigong and other martial arts.

Daniel's chess hero was the late great Viktor Kortschnoi and he sent me a nice photo with Viktor from the 2012 Gibraltar Open.

Daniel King-Wai Lam (left) with chess legend Viktor Kortschnoi (right)

But he's well aware that even heroes can have flaws and says: A true fan will embrace their hero fully --- not just the good points, but also the bad ones. Personally, I think the dark side of this true fighter is what makes him so intriguing, and makes him stand out amongst other elite players. I would like to wish him "rest in peace"... But now that I think about it, I think he is fighting hard right now, in heaven, against the likes of Fischer, Petrosian, Smyslov, etc.  

Daniel competed a few months ago in the World Amateurs U-2300 Championship in Greece and sent me three games – two Ecstatic ones which he couldn't choose between and an agonising let down when he failed to win a winning position in round 8 which would have given him good chances of finishing in the top three.

As usual we start with the agony and then move on to happier times. Daniel has provided plenty of notes which I've mostly kept, and he demonstrated an excellent understanding of the use of computers when checking games by noting the variations but not beating himself up for "missing" lines which much stronger players might have struggled with. I've also added plenty of comments of course and since the main framework is his they are marked JS. 

[Event "World Amateurs U-2300"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.04.26"] [Round "8"] [White "Lam, Daniel King-Wai"] [Black "Tserendorj, Batsaikhan"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C92"] [WhiteElo "2164"] [BlackElo "2084"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "136"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] {A real heartbreaker... But my opponent was very tough in this defending... He was more than 1 hour ahead on the clock all the time, and when I was in time trouble at the end that's when the blunder came.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 Bb7 { I was really not sure about the setup here. Anyway, it looked passive, but not easy to exploit JS It's very unusual to commit the bishop here since it can often be better on d7 and 10...c5 is played first in the vast majority of games.} 11. d4 Nc4 12. b3 Nb6 13. Nbd2 Nfd7 14. Nf1 c5 15. Ng3 g6 16. Bh6 Re8 17. d5 c4 18. b4 Bf8 {[#]} 19. Qd2 (19. Bxf8 Rxf8 20. a4 $14 {I kept thinking about playing this move, but I did not think it was worth it? I really should have played on both sides of the board JS a4 is a very good idea because it takes the initiative on the queenside giving White the choice of when and how to resolve the tension. After Black gets in ...a5 it is he who can dictate this.}) 19... Bg7 20. Nh2 Nf6 21. Qe3 Bc8 22. Qg5 $6 {I seemed to be a bit clueless in my approach here} (22. a4 $1 $14) 22... Bxh6 23. Qxh6 Kh8 {JS Round about here it's really difficult because Black wants to take control of the queenside while avoding a kingside attack. In priciple he should play ... a5 as soon as possible and here it was good because White's threats aren't serious yet - White will normally have to play Rf1 to prepare f4.} (23... a5 $1 24. a3 Re7 $11) 24. Rf1 a5 25. a3 Bd7 26. Rae1 axb4 {JS Exchanging at the precise moment when White has at least temporarily abandoned the a file.} 27. axb4 {[#]} Ra3 (27... Ra2 {JS looks more accurate because if} 28. Rc1 {it will be harder for White to challenge the a file.} (28. Qd2 Qe7) 28... Ng8 (28... Qe7) 29. Qe3 Kg7) 28. Qd2 Ng8 29. Ra1 $1 {The right approach --- I want to push f2-f4, but I need to get rid of a pair of rooks} Qa8 30. Rxa3 Qxa3 31. f4 $1 f6 32. fxe5 dxe5 (32... fxe5 {JS Keeps the pawn structure intact but invites } 33. Rf7 {JS This looks scary though simply} Re7 (33... Ra8 {is also okay since after} 34. Nf5 Qa1+ 35. Nf1 {Black has} Be8 $1 36. Nxd6 Bxf7 37. Nxf7+ Kg7 38. Nxe5 Ra3 {JS with a mess which might well be okay for Black - you'd have to be either incredibly strong or very weak to play Ra8 though}) 34. Rf8 Kg7 {is okay.}) 33. Bd1 Nc8 ({I (JS) wondered about} 33... Na4 34. Bxa4 {Now} Qxa4 {continues the battle.} (34... bxa4 {leads to an interesting line after} 35. Rb1 {trapping the queen} Ra8 36. Ng4 $2 (36. Ne2 $1 {prevents the queen sacrifice and should win}) 36... Qb3 $1 37. Rxb3 cxb3 38. Ne2 a3 39. Nc1 b2 40. Qc2 Rc8 41. Na2 Ba4 42. Qb1 Bb3 {[#] and I suppose it doesn't work for Black since White has passed pawns too but I liked the idea.} 43. Kh2 Bxa2 44. Qxa2 Rxc3 45. d6 Rd3 46. d7 Rxd7 47. Ne3)) 34. Bg4 (34. Ng4 Qa7+ 35. Kh2 Bxg4 36. Bxg4 Nd6 $11 {JS A line which DL gave and which does look playable for Black though White's bishop will be very big on e6.}) 34... Nd6 35. Bxd7 Qa7+ 36. Qf2 Qxd7 37. Ng4 Qd8 38. Qe3 Kg7 {[#]} 39. Qc5 $6 ({Maybe} 39. Ra1 $1 Re7 40. Ra6 { was better? JS Given that Black can reinforce the magnificent horseman on d6 with ...h5 and ...Ng8-h6-f7 it will be very hard for White to achieve much in this line.} h5 41. Nh2 Nh6 42. Nf3 Nhf7 43. Nh4 Rb7 {Unless White can sacrifice - and Black's knights are staunch defenders - Black should be fine.}) 39... h5 40. Ne3 Ne7 41. h4 {I did not like this move, but could not see other ways JS I can quite see why Daniel didn't want to allow ...h4 though} (41. Ra1 Nec8 42. Ra6 h4 43. Ne2 (43. Rxd6 {doesn't work.} Nxd6 44. Qxd6 Qxd6 45. Ngf5+ gxf5 46. Nxf5+ Kf8 47. Nxd6 Ra8 48. Kf2 Ke7 49. Nxb5 Ra2+ 50. Kf3 Rd2 {is very good for Black}) 43... Nxe4 44. Qxb5 Ncd6 {JS I'd be getting rather nervous here as White since if Black's queen gets anywhere near the white king it could easily spell serious trouble.}) 41... Nec8 42. Nc2 Qb6 $6 (42... Rf8 $142 {DL White's pieces lack co-ordination JS Once Black is set up then he should be okay in a position like this. The knight is huge on d6.}) 43. Ra1 Re7 44. Ra5 {[#]} (44. Ra8 Rc7 45. Qxb6 {and JS White has to be careful since if} Nxb6 46. Rd8 $2 (46. Ra6 Rb7 47. Kf2 {JS is okay for both sides}) 46... Nb7 47. Rb8 Na4) 44... Rc7 $6 {JS This allows White to exchange and attack b5 very quickly. after which he will be on slightly the happier side of a draw. Still it wasn't necessarily a bad idea to bail out, since the position becomes hugely easier to play.} (44... Qd8 $11 {DL}) 45. Qxb6 Nxb6 46. Na3 $1 {White is trying to make in-roads here} Na4 47. Nxb5 Nxb5 48. Rxb5 Nxc3 49. Rc5 {[#]} Ra7 $6 (49... Rb7 50. Rxc4 Nb5 $1 {JS Despite the pawn deficit, Black is very compact and his king is close to the d-pawn. Black also has targets to harrass on b4 and e4 - Black looks okay.}) 50. Rxc4 Ra1+ 51. Kf2 {I did not want my King to be imprisoned in the corner} (51. Kh2 Nd1 52. Nf1 Nf2 53. Ne3) 51... Ra2+ 52. Ke1 Nb5 53. Rc5 Nd4 54. Rc7+ Kf8 55. d6 Rxg2 56. Rc8+ Kf7 57. d7 Ne6 58. Nf5 $1 { I thought this move wins... It actually does not!} Rb2 $4 {Now I should have won!} (58... gxf5 59. exf5 Nd8 $3 {An idea I had missed.}) 59. Re8 $1 $18 gxf5 {[#]} 60. exf5 $4 {I saw that I would win if the knight retreats to c7, g7, and f8, I would win. But I just did not see that it could go back to d8!} (60. Rxe6 $1 $18 Kxe6 61. d8=Q fxe4 62. b5 $18) 60... Nd8 $3 $11 {JS A nice study motif but heartbreaking for Daniel.} (60... Ng7 61. Rh8 $18) (60... Nc7 61. Rh8 $18) (60... Nf8 61. Rxf8+ $18 {was of course what I saw... But I missed ...Nd8! }) 61. Rxd8 Ke7 62. Rf8 Kxd7 63. Rxf6 Rxb4 64. Re6 Re4+ 65. Kd2 Rxh4 66. Rxe5 Rf4 67. Ke3 Rf1 68. Ke2 Rf4 $11 {Well, after checking this I was not so sad... After all, there was actually no win with Nf5, if he played correctly... but there was a win in the game --- I saw it, and I blew it. However, it was all due to the opponent's persistent defence that kept frustrating my efforts, contributed to my time trouble and ultimate blunder that tossed away the win JS A very hard battle. It was sad for Daniel that he didn't win when the opportunity presented itself but as he said his opponent did defend very well.} 1/2-1/2

Both of the wins Daniels sent in featured nice attacks but I thought that this one shaded it.

[Event "World Amateurs U-2300"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.04.25"] [Round "7"] [White "Al-Hajiri, Bader (CM)"] [Black "Lam, Daniel King-Wai"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C54"] [WhiteElo "2194"] [BlackElo "2164"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "62"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] {This was definitely one of my very best games} 1. e4 e5 $5 {And there it is! I finally whipped out my 1...e5 defence. I saw that the variation he plays against the French is solid enough, but not leaving enough tension there for him to make errors. And to try to play the Sicilian Najdorf is not wise because he knows the 4.Qxd4 line well.} 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 {I was quite surprised he played quickly here. He should have smelled something was not right --- at that time there was no game from me in the databases in which I answered 1.e4 with 1...e5!} Bc5 (3... Nf6 4. d4 exd4 5. e5 d5 6. Bb5 Ne4 7. Nxd4 {JS is one of the main lines of the Two Knights. In contrast to the game White's pawn is on c2 which makes the e5 pawn more vulnerable. But White is relatively better developed than in Daniel's game in which the d4 pawn comes quickly under pressure.}) 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. e5 {He was really not switched on and repeats the line he had played two rounds before. If I had not found an improvement, why would I go for this line? (given I do not usually play 1...e5)} d5 7. Bb5 Ne4 8. cxd4 {[#]} Bb6 $1 {JS Daniel gave this a !? but I think it deserves an exclamation mark. As he says, the weakness is on d4.} ( 8... Bb4+ {was the move my opponent had faced two rounds before. But I did not like that move --- the weakness is on d4.}) 9. Nc3 O-O 10. O-O Bg4 11. Be3 f6 $11 {A typical motif that is often seen in the Open Spanish} 12. Ne2 $2 { I was quite amazed --- the computer gave this as the second best move here --- and it needed twenty seconds to figure out it was a bad move! It was not logical to move the knight away from the centre.} (12. Be2 {JS seems to keep the balance but it's already White who is having to be careful.}) 12... fxe5 13. Bxc6 {[#]} Rxf3 $1 {I really liked this intuitive sacrifice JS It screams out to be played. One way to evaluate a position is to look at the move you want to play - normally the first one that comes into your head - and see if it works. If it does you've probably got a good position: but if it fails dismally you may be in trouble. Here Daniel quite rightly went for the White squares and gets a huge advantage.} ({After} 13... bxc6 14. Nxe5 $11 {White is doing OK}) 14. gxf3 (14. Bxb7 {JS was my first thought - when the opponent plays a sacrifice I often try not to take it. However, after} Rxe3 15. fxe3 Rb8 16. Bc6 Qd6 17. Rc1 (17. Qc2 Bxe2 18. dxe5 Bxe3+ 19. Kh1 Ng3+) 17... exd4 { JS Black has a massive position for the exchange}) 14... Bxf3 15. Bxb7 Qd7 $1 { After 22 mins of thinking... I finally realised I was down a rook! JS Of course that's almost irrelevant here since the White king is in a disaster zone.} 16. Bxd5+ (16. Ng3 Bxd1 17. Rfxd1 Rb8 18. Nxe4 Rxb7 $19 {JS and not only is White worse off materially but his king is still extremely exposed.}) 16... Qxd5 17. Re1 $2 {[#] JS This should have made it easy for Black.} (17. dxe5 $8 Qxe5 18. Qd3 Qe6 (18... Rf8 $1 {computer line} 19. Rad1 Bxe3 20. fxe3 Ng5 $19) 19. Qb3 Qxb3 20. axb3 Bxe3 21. fxe3 Bxe2 $17) 17... exd4 $5 $19 (17... Qd7 $1 $19 {would have been an instant win.... It is tough to spot retreats! JS But when the retreat takes aim at a complete juicy white square complex you really ought to see it.} 18. dxe5 Qg4+ 19. Ng3 Bxd1 20. Bxb6 Bf3 $19) 18. Qd3 Qh5 $5 (18... Qd7 $142 $1 {Again, I did not see this motif}) 19. Bc1 Rf8 $1 { But this is good enough to win... I spotted the idea to take the pawn on f2 (but I needed to protect my bishop first)} 20. Ng3 Nxf2 $1 ({After} 20... Nxg3 21. fxg3 Bd5 22. Rf1 {JS Daniel in deference to the software gives ...Re8 but the position is utterly disastrous for White and simply} Rxf1+ (22... Re8 $19) 23. Kxf1 Qxh2 {would be the normal and devastating human reaction.}) 21. Qb3+ { [#]} (21. Kxf2 Qxh2+ 22. Kf1 Qg2#) 21... Qd5 ({JS At first I thought} 21... Bd5 $4 {would be winning but then saw to my embarrassment that the queen covers h3 after} 22. Nxh5) 22. h4 Qxb3 $5 {JS Good enough to win but as Daniel pointed out} (22... Ng4 $1 23. Qxd5+ Bxd5 $19 {is completely over.}) 23. axb3 Nd3 24. Rf1 Nxc1 25. Raxc1 d3+ 26. Kh2 d2 27. Ra1 Bd4 28. Rab1 {[#]} Bg4 $1 {I saw this possibility because I did not want to play a R+N vs. R+B ending --- I wanted to create as many threats as I can JS When you're attacking, it's often right to defer cashing in until it's completely decisive. Here this excellent move overloads the white rooks and leads to an immediate win.} 29. Rfd1 { White is forced to abandon the f-file} ({After} 29. Rxf8+ Kxf8 $19 {The d-pawn promotes}) 29... Rf2+ 30. Kg1 Bf3 $1 31. Nf5 Bb6 {JS A very nice white square attacking game.} (31... Rg2+ $142 32. Kh1 Re2#) 0-1 0-1

Did you play agonising/ecstatic games that you would like to share? Send them in to jonathan@speelman.demon.co.uk! For his games and efforts Daniel receives a free copy of Nick Pert's  DVD Typical Mistakes by 1800-2000 players. Next week's winner will receive a free three-month ChessBase Premium Account.

Nicholas Pert:
Typical mistakes by 1800-2000 players

GM Nicholas Pert about his DVD: “After the success of my previous DVD Typical mistakes by 1600-1900 players I decided to produce a follow up DVD aimed at players of a slightly higher level. The examples all come from games played by players with a rating between 1800 and 2100. This DVD offers slightly more complex material than the previous DVD, and will hopefully provide an insight into what I believe are the main errors which stop players of this level to be more successful. I divided the material into categories such as “when to exchange pieces”, “how to convert an advantage”, “passive pieces”, “anticipating your opponents plan”, “openings and pawn structure”. Each section contains several examples which illustrate the theme and practical examples which allow the viewer to test his skills. This DVD provides a useful training tool for ambitious players and may highlight mistakes that the viewer should be aware of.”

  • Video running time: 3 hours 50 min. (English)
  • With interactive training including video feedback
  • Extra: 50 additional examplesIncluding CB 12 Reader
  • ISBN: 978-3-86681-513-1
  • Delivery: download, post
  • Price: €29.90; €25.13 without VAT (for customers outside the EU); $28.41

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 jonathan@speelman.demon.co.uk

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