Jon Speelman's Agony Column #12

by ChessBase
7/27/2016 – Errors, mistakes, blunders - sometimes this seems to be all that chess is about. Particularly so if you regularly analyse your games with an engine. But sometimes you happen to play a seemingly magical game in which everything falls into place and all your pieces work together to create a wonderful harmony. Games that fuel and continue the passion and the love for chess.

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Agony Column #12

This week's pair of games are by Dave Shapland, a Yorkshireman originally from Sheffield, who now lives near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. Aged 41, he works as a Marketing and Communications Manager for the National Health Service, is married and has two cats („called Kasparov and Karpov of course!“)

Dave Shapland

Dave learnt chess at the age of 18 at Manchester University. "Since then I've sampled the competition in the Manchester, Sheffield, Edinburgh, London, Calderdale, Bradford and Leeds leagues as well as playing a bit of county chess and the (now very) occasional weekend congress. I also run the Hebden Bridge Chess Club website and write frequently for the Yorkshire Chess website which has included the development, promotion and organisation of our highly popular Fantasy Chess Olympiad competitions in 2012 and 2014." He's rated round about 1800 (150 in English currency).

His "Agony" is indeed agonising as he built up a winning advantage in an important game but then utterly spoilt it within a couple of moves.

"The year is 2011 and I have entered the U160 section of the British Chess Championship which is taking place in my home town of Sheffield (I now live in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire). Against all my expectations I have played one of the tournaments of my life and start the last round on 3½/4 along with two others. I’m drawn to play Black on board 1 in the final round knowing that a win will guarantee me at least a share of first place..."

Dave has provided excellent notes quite rightly using an engine - Fritz in this case - as a tool rather than a master. I've left most of them completely intact while adding the odd clarification which appears as JS - while others are marked as DS for clarity.

I have also tried to prune a bit since engines have a terrible tendency to produce thickets of analysis which have little to do with what the people were actually thinking at the time.

[Event "British Chess Championships"] [Site "Sheffield"] [Date "2011.07.04"] [Round "5"] [White "Greatorex, R."] [Black "Shapland, D."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D03"] [Annotator "Shapland,Dave"] [PlyCount "125"] [EventDate "2011.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. Bg5 h6 4. Bxf6 exf6 5. e3 Bg4 6. Bd3 Bd6 7. O-O c6 8. c4 dxc4 9. Bxc4 O-O 10. Nbd2 Nd7 11. Rc1 Nb6 12. Bd3 Rc8 13. Nb3 Qe7 14. Bb1 Bh5 15. Bf5 Rcd8 16. g4 {JS Playable but a bit weakening} Bg6 17. Bxg6 (17. Nh4 { JS made sense of the previous move.}) 17... fxg6 18. Nh4 Kh7 19. Ng2 Nd5 20. a3 f5 21. Nd2 Nf6 22. gxf5 gxf5 23. Qf3 Ng4 24. Nf4 g5 25. h3 gxf4 26. hxg4 {[#]} fxg4 {JS: The exchange of queens gives White some hope though of course Black should be winning. There were various winning lines but nothing absolutely obvious.} (26... Rg8 27. Rfe1 Rxg4+ 28. Kf1 Qg5 29. e4 Be5 $1 30. exf5 Rxd4 31. Rxe5 Rg1+ 32. Ke2 Rxc1 33. Qb3 Rd7 34. Qe6 Qh5+ 35. Nf3 Rc2+ (35... Re1+ $1) 36. Kf1 Qh1+ 37. Ng1 Rd1+ 38. Re1 Rxe1+ 39. Qxe1) (26... Qh4 27. Qg2 Rg8 28. Nf3 Qxg4 29. Qxg4 Rxg4+ 30. Kh1 fxe3 31. fxe3 Rg3 32. Rc2 Re8 33. Re2 Re4 { Should be pretty easy.}) 27. Qe4+ Qxe4 28. Nxe4 f3 29. Nxd6 Rxd6 30. Kh2 h5 31. Kg3 Rg8 (31... h4+ $2 32. Kxh4 Rh6+ 33. Kg3 $1 {DS}) 32. Rh1 Kg6 33. b4 b6 34. Kh4 Rf8 35. Rc3 Rf5 36. Rhc1 Rff6 37. R3c2 Kf5 38. Rc4 Rh6 39. R4c3 Ke4 40. Rg1 Rdg6 41. Rg3 Kd5 42. Rg1 Re6 43. Rgc1 Rh8 44. R3c2 Rg8 45. Rg1 Ke4 46. Rc3 g3 $1 47. Rxg3 Rxg3 48. Kxg3 Rg6+ 49. Kh3 Rg2 50. Rxc6 Rxf2 51. Re6+ Kd3 52. d5 Rd2 53. Kg3 Ke2 54. Rf6 {[#]} h4+ $1 {DS A critical intermezzo that I imagine my opponent must have missed. JS After some hard work, Dave has reached a completely winning position, But given that the pawn is going to queen I would have preferred} (54... Rxd5 {capturing the dangerous pawn first since if} 55. Rxf3 (55. e4 Rg5+ 56. Kf4 Rg1) 55... Rg5+ 56. Kf4 Rg4+) 55. Kxh4 f2 (55... Rxd5 {JS was also simple on this move.} 56. Kg3 Rg5+ 57. Kf4 Rg1) 56. e4 f1=Q 57. Rxf1 Kxf1 {DS A rook up against two connected passed pawns. Job done surely? Far from it.} 58. Kg4 Rf2 $4 {DS A tragic blunder. I'm using the wrong method. Instead of cutting off the enemy king my rook needs to stay behind the d-pawn to allow my king time to catch up. Instead of this the correct technique was... } (58... Ke2 59. Kf5 {JS There are lots of slightly different move orders here but the point is that if he is careful White will give up the rook for the two passed pawns and win with the remaining queenside pawn(s).} a5 ({or JS} 59... Ke3 {and for instance} 60. a4 Kd4 61. d6 Kc4 62. e5 Kxb4 63. e6 Rd5+ $1 { is a typical trick to control the pawns}) 60. bxa5 bxa5 61. Ke6 Ke3 62. e5 Ke4 63. d6 {DS The Black king has 'caught up' wth the runaway pawns. Now it's not so easy for White to progress because his king must maintain contact with the lagging e-pawn.} a4 64. Kf6 {Not...} (64. d7 Rd3 {and it's zugswang for White who must lose a pawn. Black can then sacrifice his rook for the d-pawn and will be in the right position to win with his a-pawn.} 65. Ke7 Kxe5 66. d8=Q Rxd8 67. Kxd8 Kd5 68. Kc7 Kc4 69. Kc6 Kb3 70. Kb5 Kxa3 71. Kc4 {White is a tempo too late to force a stalemate position.} Kb2 72. Kb4 a3 {Wins for Black.} ) 64... Rd3 65. Ke6 Rxa3 66. d7 Rd3 67. Ke7 Kxe5 68. d8=Q Rxd8 69. Kxd8) 59. d6 Ke2 60. e5 Ke3 61. d7 Rd2 62. e6 Ke4 63. e7 {DS A really traumatising defeat. JS Yes this was horrible. You have to be extremely careful against passed pawns, especially connected passed pawns and in this instance cutting the enemy king off was the wrong idea because the connected passers could take care of themselves.} 1-0

[Event "Calderdale Individual Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.03.10"] [Round "5"] [White "Shapland, D."] [Black "Leatherbarrow, A."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B01"] [Annotator "Shapland,Dave"] [PlyCount "63"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. e4 {Even though I was a few minutes late I took some time to consider what my first move should be. The fact is that Andy was about the last person I'd expected to play that evening, but as two other players on the same score as us decided to miss the last round, we had been thrown together. "At least", I thought "I have White". Then came the quandary. I'd prepared extensively for Andy's Scandinavian for a club tournament we'd played in over the previous summer but I couldn't remember much (if any!) of that prep and hadn't had the chance to use it anyway as he had played 1...e5 and I ended up winning from a Philidor's Defence. Once I'd cleared my head I decided that 1.d4, the only other opening move I'd ever seriously consider playing, would be of no use to me as I hadn't the vaguest idea how to meet any of the lines I can remember Andy playing. So, it had to be 1.e4 and then have a serious think about what to do against his Scandinavian if he played it.} d5 {In the same boat as I was, but probably having had a little bit longer before the game started to consider how he'd proceed in the opening, Andy made the best decision. Stick to what you know best when preparation isn't possible. Afterall, Andy is very familiar with the Scandinavian and has a decent record with it. Why shouldn't he play it?} 2. exd5 Qxd5 {I was happy enough to see this move. I hadn't given much thought to what I'd play against 2...Nf6} 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. Bc4 {I think this is the trendy move of the moment although, according to my Chessbase app, the traditional 3.d4 is still by far the most popular move here. I used to automatically play 4.d4 in this position but I've become more aware of the plans involving White developing pieces rapidly and reserving the right to delay the d-pawn advance until he can decide whether or not it belongs on d3 or d4. I admit it though, I was making this up as I went along. It's relevant to mention here too that I also spent a few minutes considering 4.b4! But more of that later.} Nf6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. h3 {6.d4 is also playable of course. There are opportunities to transpose back to d4 lines at almost every point in the opening here. I was reserving judgement still as to whether or not I'd play d4 or go for d3. For the moment I decided that I wanted to resolve the pin on my king's knight so...} Bh5 7. g4 {This is fairly committal but I decided to go for it. My intention at this point was to castle queen's side and possibly advance my pawn to g5. JS It's not hugely important but if you're going to play Qe2 next then there's no great hurry to play g4 first since Black certainly can't prevent it next move unless he captures with Bxf3.} Bg6 8. Qe2 $5 {Offering a pawn sacrifice. We're now down to just 13 games on my Chessbase app so I guess you could say we are venturing into fairly obscure territory.} Nc6 $6 {Again Andy choses the most active line aiming to get his own pieces develop quickly too. Other moves that could have been considered would be 8... c6 and 8...e6. Both of these are thematic Scandinavian moves which aim to keep White's pieces at bay and prepare for Black to complete his development. Of course there was also the matter of the hanging c-pawn. Can Black afford to grab this? JS Allowing Bb5xc6 is very dubious given that Black hasn't got time to get castled short and so must go long} (8... Bxc2 {JS is pretty obviously suicidal after} 9. d3 Ba4 {DS and now the silicone mind recommends going after the Black queen with a line like} 10. g5 $1 Nfd7 11. Bd2 {and her Royal Highness is beginning to look very exposed.}) ({JS} 8... c6 {was normal}) ({or } 8... e6 {when if} 9. d3 Nc6 {is now perfectly reasonable since if} 10. Bb5 Nd5) 9. Bb5 O-O-O {DS The Chessbase app only has one game where this position was reached so maybe Andy had his ideas mixed up. I wonder if usually White has played 8.d3 instead of 8.Qe2 when Black castles long. It turns out to be an important difference. All I know is that I was very happy to swap off the bishop for knight and damage the pawn structure in front of the Black king.} 10. Bxc6 bxc6 11. b4 $5 {This idea was probably inspired by the earlier thought I'd had right at the beginning of the game when I mentioned I had considered playing the gambit line 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.b4!? JS b4 was extremely tempting and Black would have to be crazed (or an engine) to take it. But it doesn't greatly further the attack unless White has time to play b5 as well.Instead} (11. Ne5 Qb6 12. a4 (12. d3 e6 13. Bd2 $1 Nd7 ({ Of course Black wants to play} 13... Qxb2 {to disrupt White but} 14. Rb1 Qxc2 15. d4 $1 {is murder}) 14. Nc4 Qb7 15. O-O-O {JS looks very normal to me. Because of the excellent pawn on d3 the g6 bishop isn't in the game which is one important reason why White's structural advantage is the predominant factor and he has a very pleasant advantage.}) 12... a6 13. Ra3 $1 {DS is a very unusual and interesting rook lift. A typical computer move I suppose. This does look dangerous for Black but it's a very quirky position. JS a4 and Ra3 is indeed interesting but White can get a clear advantage with quiet sensible play}) 11... Qb6 {Once again Andy declines to accept the pawn offering. Once again he was almost certainly correct to do so. After...} (11... Qxb4 {Fritz gives a long forcing sequence starting Ne5 but} 12. Rb1 {was (of course JS) the move I had planned to play. It also seems to give White an edge. One possible line might be} Qa5 13. Ne5 Be4 14. Nc4 Qc5 15. Nxe4 (15. O-O { JS is stronger} Bd5 (15... Bf3 {JS given as best by engines but this merely confirms that Black is in trouble}) 16. Ne5 Qa5 17. Nxd5 Rxd5 18. Nxc6) 15... Nxe4 16. Rb3 {Preparing Ba3.}) 12. Ne5 e6 13. b5 $6 {I was filled with the lust for battle by this stage of the game and thought this move would keep Andy on the back foot. It turned out alright but it's not sound.} cxb5 { This time Andy takes the pawn and even though White can win this one back Black can now also grab the c2 pawn so it's a genuine pawn offer. Once more he made the correct decision.} 14. Rb1 {This isn't sound. I had a particular idea and was fortunate that Andy fell in with it. However if} (14. Nxb5 Bxc2 $1 { which JS crucially activates the previously dormant bishop} 15. a4 a6 16. Nc3 Bg6 17. O-O {DS And Black is a pawn up. JS This doesn't work for White at all mainly because the bishop covers b1}) 14... a6 {DS This is fine but even better was...} (14... b4 $1 {The best way to refute White's play. I suppose it's not the most natural move considering the position of the Black King and Queen.} 15. Rb2 {This is the kind of position computers love and humans are poor at. The game is very concrete and rather obscure. Often the best move is not the natural one. It makes for interesting but not necessarily high quality chess.} Nd7 16. Nxg6 hxg6 17. a3 a5 {DS and White is really struggling to complete his development. This factor now trumps the optical weakness of the Black king.}) 15. Nxb5 $5 {DS Thus begins the phase of the game in which the White knights take the starring role. First of all the queen's knight offers himself up to open the b-file. This was the main idea behind my last two moves. If Black can take the piece then the concept is unsound. I assumed that the computer would find the correct path to defend but I felt I was going to get a strong attack if Andy took the piece. JS Quite rightly beginning to hack.} Bxc2 {Andy chooses to grab a pawn rather than the knight. This is an understandable decision as taking the knight and opening the b-file looks very scary indeed. However, Fritz of course finds that Black can have his cake and eat it after... } (15... axb5 16. Rxb5 Qd6 (16... Bd3 17. Qxd3 Rxd3 18. Rxb6 Rd5 19. Nxf7 cxb6 20. Nxh8 Rd7 {JS is also conceivable but you won't be able to trap the knight since White has g5-6 if necessary}) 17. Ra5 {This was as far as I'd analysed the sacrifice line and I felt I had good chances here. Just look at some of the lines Black will have to navigate in order to secure his booty.} Nd7 18. Ra8+ Nb8 19. Qb5 (19. Ba3 Qb6 20. O-O Bxa3 21. Rxa3 Nc6 {and White's initiative is over}) 19... Qb6 20. Qa4 Kb7 (20... Bd6 {JS} 21. Nc6 Kb7 22. Ra7+ Kc8 23. Ra8 $11) 21. Nc4 Qb4 22. Qa7+ Kc8 {DS isn't enough for the piece but it still looks pretty frightening for Black. JS No by now it's clear that White has shot his bolt but along the way it was truly harrowing.}) 16. Rb2 Bd3 {This was Andy's idea. He's won a pawn and will now be able to exchange off a piece to try and reduce the pressure on his king. Perhaps he underestimated the strength and influence my remaining knight will have or thought that this was the only line he had for salvation. In any case it appears that he could still have gone for...} (16... axb5 {This doesn't win a piece any more but after} 17. Rxc2 Rd4 18. d3 Bb4+ 19. Kf1 {DS Black has an edge and is getting some momentum. White is a pawn down and doesn't have enough compensation. In particular he'll have real problems getting his king's bishop into the game.}) 17. Nxd3 axb5 18. Ne5 {The knight simply returns to e5 from where it will be able to wreak havoc from an increasingly powerful set of outposts. First and foremost it will create weaknesses in Black's centre and open another line of attack on the Black king.} Rd5 {The only way to meet the dual threat of 19. Rxb5 and19.Nxf7 forking the rooks.} 19. Nxf7 Rg8 20. O-O $1 {Finally, on move 20, time to castle. The point is that White can't hope to put Black under any more pressure without completing his development. The knight, queen and rook can't do all the work on their own.} g5 $2 {[#] I noticed Andy played this move in slightly exasperated fashion. Black's task is certainly complicated and his game is rather less easy to play than White's. There was a good deal of calculation for me to do but the plan seemed simple enough - attack before Black has time to re-group! Looking back at the game now I think that this move was an important mistake. Andy's right to try and seek some counterplay by opening up the king's side but perhaps he should complete his development first with, for example,} (20... Bc5 $1 {A very nice trick. White can't capture on b5 because of the response Bxf2+. We now get another tricky and complex forcing line} 21. Rb3 {Preparing Ba3} (21. Rc2 Bd4 (21... Nd7) 22. Ba3) 21... Rf8 22. Ng5 $1 {Now it's White's turn to run the gauntlet. The knight is taboo because 22... Rxg5 runs into 23.d4!} h5 23. Qxe6+ {DS and I suppose you could call the game balanced though it's in chaos!}) 21. d4 $1 {DS Development seems to be all that matters. I also considered playing d3 but then my queen's line of site to the Black b-pawn is obscured and I didn't want to release either of the two defenders Andy had tied to it's defence. On d4 this pawn is not as vulnerable as it looks because the Black rook protects b5 and the queen protects e6 so neither can move to capture on d4 without concession. Black's weak pawns are a problem and they seem to lead to the king. JS Yes you have to get your pieces out in a position like this and it definitely makes sense to leave the e2-b5 diagonal open.} h5 {DS Consistent at least. Black is taking a can opener to the king's side. Now the final phase of the game has arrived with a foot race to see who can reach the enemy king first.} 22. Bd2 {My idea was to try and overwork the queen. E3 didn't feel like the right square to develop the bishop to because I wanted to keep the e-file open for my queen. Fritz suggests that this move, and the idea behind it, is a mistake. However, once again, the refutation is pretty difficult to find and so from a practical perspective at least, the game move has to be a reasonable selection.} hxg4 23. Ba5 $1 {[#]} Qa6 {Once again Andy declines my generous offer! He could very well have accepted it but would probably have ended up at least giving back the piece. We'll see why in a moment. JS Given that you're going to have to take the bishop the question is whether it might be better to do so after White puts a rook on the c file. White has two different ways to do so Rc2 and Rc1 and given the complexity of the variations it made sense to take the bishop immediately if it turned out to be playable. In fact after} (23... Qxa5 24. Qxe6+ Kb8 $1 (24... Kb7 25. Qxf6 Qb6 26. Nd8+) 25. Qxf6 Qb6 {White has to exchange queens} 26. Qxb6+ cxb6 {JS when Black should be in no danger with sensible play and could even hope to get the advantage if White faltered.}) 24. Rc1 {More accurate would have been the other rook move I considered} (24. Rc2 $1 {Pretty much compelling Black to take the bishop as c7 is just too vulnerable.} Qxa5 25. Qxe6+ Kb8 $1 26. Qxf6 Qb6 27. Qxb6+ cxb6 28. Re1 { DS What a strange position! JS It's similar to one considered above - Black should be fine.}) 24... Qxa5 {Andy couldn't be expected to resist temptation for ever. Perhaps he felt he had no alternative. Certainly with still 12 moves left before time control both of us were down to a couple of minutes on the clock and the position was still monstrously complicated. Perhaps Andy's best bet was to keep it that way and hope I overstepped the time limit or blundered before getting to it. JS In fact Qxa5 was simply forced} 25. Qxe6+ Rd7 {[#]} ( 25... Kb8 {was in fact better} 26. Qxf6 (26. Ne5 Qb6 27. Nc6+ (27. Rc6 $2 Qxd4) 27... Kb7 28. Qxf6 Ba3 29. Qf7 Bxb2 30. Qxd5 Bxc1 31. Nd8+ Ka6 32. Qa8+ (32. Qxg8) 32... Qa7 33. Qc6+ Ka5 34. Qc3+ $1 Ka6 (34... b4 $2 35. Nc6+ Kb6 36. Qc5+ ) 35. Qc6+) 26... Ba3 27. Ne5 Qb6 (27... Rd6 $1 {JS} 28. Qxd6 {JS was the first line I saw before asking an engine} (28. Qf7 Bxb2 $1 (28... Rc8 $2 29. Nc4) 29. Qxg8+ Kb7 30. Rb1 {And it's clear that Black should be fine as long as he avoids Nc4} Qd2 (30... Qc3 31. Qe8 Qxd4 32. Nxg4) 31. Qb3 Bxd4 32. Qxb5+ Bb6 33. Nxg4) 28... cxd6 29. Nc6+ Ka8 30. Nxa5 Bxb2 {the first thought is whether Rc7 is a problem for Black with Nc6 coming but the bishop will prevent mate and it's Black who has chances of getting the advantage} 31. Rc2 (31. Rb1 Bc3 $1 32. Rxb5 gxh3 {and this pawn will be scary in conjunction with the bishop on f4}) 31... Bxd4 32. Nb3 Be5 33. hxg4 {JS Black is better though presumably White should be alright with good play.}) 28. Qf7 {and all four rooks are under attack!}) 26. Ne5 $5 {Electing not to take the piece back in favour of playing for mate. Sound? Barely. Fun? Most definitely! I was proposing to land my superhero knight on c6 from which outpost it completely dominates the position. The natural (and easy move) would have been} (26. Qxf6 {winning back the material. White still maintains a strong attack after this JS My instinct was to play Ne5 but in fact Qxf6 should win} Ba3 27. Qe6 $1 { This huge blow hits everything and makes all the difference. If you found it then you'd lean towards Qxf6} Bxb2 (27... gxh3 {JS is a computer move which it would be incredibly hard to find.} 28. Nd6+ {There are pins and skewers everywhere.} (28. Ne5 Rgd8 29. Nxd7 Rxd7 30. Rc6 $1 Bxb2 31. Ra6 {JS winning the queen with decent winning chances though the game certainly continues}) 28... Bxd6 29. Qxg8+ {should be winning but it's still terribly complicated due to that passed h-pawn of Black's}) 28. Nd6+ Kb8 29. Qxg8+ Ka7 30. Qc8 Qb6 31. Qxd7 Bxc1 32. Nxb5+ {with a nice advantage}) 26... Rgg7 {Trying to untangle the thicket of king's side pieces. I'd also spent some of my precious remaining minutes analyzing what I considered to be the most direct effort to refute my idea...} (26... Ba3 {This move leads to incredible complications but the line is actually fairly forcing} 27. Nc6 Qb6 28. Rxb5 $1 Qxb5 {the least bad option} 29. Na7+ Kb7 30. Rxc7+ $1 {The rook is lost anyway so White sets up one more forking formation on c7 and a3.} Rxc7 31. Nxb5 Rc1+ 32. Kg2 { White will win back the knight or the bishop.} Rc6 33. Qf7+ Ka6 34. Nxa3 { DS and it's all over bar the shouting. Black's king and pieces are too exposed in this position and the White queen is all powerful. She has so many targets to go for.}) (26... Bd6 27. Nxd7 Re8) 27. Nc6 {[#]} Qa3 $2 {Time pressure was beginning to tell for Andy as well by now and neither of us had sufficient time to calculate the spiralling vortex of variations. I was instinctively most concerned about... JS Dave was completely right to be worried about Rge7. After Qa3? Rcb1 White is completely coordinated and since Black is two moves away from creating real threats against the white king his attack is first.} ( 27... Rge7 {which is the computer's recommendation as it happens and might just save the day. Now White is compelled to restore material parity and we go off on another odyssian forcing line which I should emphasise I did not analyse during the game. This one is all Fritz.} 28. Qxf6 Re1+ 29. Kg2 $1 { White can afford to step away. Remember the Black queen is en prise! Now so is the White rook on c1.} gxh3+ $1 30. Kxh3 Qa3+ {Black scrambles to get all his pieces to safe squares and keep the White king on the ropes.} 31. Rb3 Rh7+ 32. Kg2 Rh2+ $1 {That queen was en prise again and so too the Black rook on e1. Black manages to deflect the White king to another square where it can be checked by his queen. Beautiful!} 33. Kxh2 Qd6+ {The point. Phew! Black gets the queens off the board.} 34. Qxd6 Bxd6+ {and with this check he wins back his missing rook.} 35. Kg2 Rxc1 {Now Black is going to be "just" a pawn down.} 36. Na7+ Kd7 37. Nxb5 {A very pretty line full of twists and turns. The likely outcome after all of that? Probably a draw. Well, it would have been a fitting result if both players had found all those moves!}) 28. Rcb1 b4 29. Nxb4 $1 { DS Perhaps it's worth documenting the journey taken by this workaholic knight during the course of the last 29 moves. Nf3-e5-d3-e5-f7-e5-c6-b4 and he's heading back to c6 again if he doesn't get captured.} gxh3 {A last throw of the dice to try and cause confusion. I'm glad Andy took the aesthete's path and didn't take the knight as it would have robbed it of seeing out the game and taking it's well-deserved standing ovation. Grabbing the knight doesn't change the outcome in any case...} (29... Bxb4 30. Rxb4 Qxb4 31. Rxb4 {and even I could have made 5 sensible moves to get to time-control with a winning advantage from this position.}) 30. Nc6 {He's back! Having made almost one third of all the White moves so far in the game.} h2+ 31. Kxh2 {[#]} Bd6+ { Let's just be clear that none of the multiple checks Black has at his disposal are of any salvation to him. I think the eager kibitzers tried all of them afterwards! Here we go then, one at a time... JS Actually it's totally obvious that Black has no chance of landing a significant blow but I can well imagine how in the aftermath of this tempestuous game the kibbitzers attempted to throw the kitchen sink at the victor.} (31... Qd6+ 32. Kg1 $1 {White can give up the queen and it's still mate on b8.}) (31... Rh7+ 32. Kg1 Rh1+ 33. Kxh1 { and h3 is covered by the White queen.}) (31... Ng4+ 32. Kg1 {and once more the g1 square is the White king's refuge.}) 32. Kg2 {It's forced mate now and so Andy resigned. This was a real monster of a game with neither player backing down from the melee. I guess that games like this are the reason I both love and play chess. The year or so one has between contests of this nature are just practice! JS A mind bogglingly complicated battle. White stuck to his guns in a melee he couldn't possibly calculate at the board and reaped his reward when his attack crashed through.] .} 1-0


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

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