Jon Speelman's Agony Column #3

5/25/2016 – In this week's column, two violent games are presented by a reader and analyzed by GM Speelman. One is a painful loss that went horribly wrong, but with a valuable lesson, while the second is a victory worth cheering about described as "my most satisfying attacking game in many years". The grandmaster also shares a missed resource from a game of his own, and challenges readers to do better.

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We continue this week with more tactics from two violent games by David Franklin, a law professor at DePaul University in Chicago who is a former law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr Franklin, who is 48, is currently rated just 1960 though he certainly played at a much higher standard in the beautiful attacking game he won. Both games are from the Chicago Industrial Chess League and since he's sent them without consulting his opponents he's asked me to anonymise them: though if either should see their games here and want their name in lights then we'd be delighted to oblige.

Before his two games, an excerpt from a recent one of mine. In order to calculate  reasonably accurately, you have to generate the moves to be examined. This is a task that can vary wildly in difficulty depending on the position. If there's a single forced line - two pawns careering down the board to promote for example - then it's easy to see miles ahead. But it's not at all uncommon for a resource to remain completely hidden during a game and be discovered only afterwards when you check with an engine.  This happened to me a week ago after a London League game and I'm setting the critical position as a puzzle with the solution at the end.

Speelman - Pateek

After 19...Bxb2 20.Nxb2, I went on to win pretty comfortably. I'd dismissed
19...Nxc4 due to 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Rxc4 but what had I missed?

[Event "London League"] [Site "London"] [Date "2016.05.16"] [Round "?"] [White "Speelman, J."] [Black "Pateek, M."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A00"] [Annotator "Jonathan Speelman"] [PlyCount "67"] [EventDate "2016.05.17"] [EventCountry "ENG"] 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. e3 a6 5. b3 g6 6. Be2 Bg7 7. O-O O-O 8. Nbd2 c5 9. Bb2 cxd4 10. exd4 Nc6 11. Ne5 Bf5 12. Bf3 Rc8 13. a3 dxc4 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. Nxc4 Be4 16. Bxe4 Nxe4 17. Rc1 c5 18. Re1 Nd6 19. dxc5 {[#]} Bxb2 (19... Nxc4 20. Bxg7 Qxd1 21. Rexd1 Rfd8 $3 {is a beautiful (and extremely annoying) back rank trick} 22. Rxd8+ Rxd8 23. Bc3 Nxa3 24. Ba5 Rc8 25. c6 Nb5 26. c7 Kf8 27. Rd1 Nd6 {not} (27... Nxc7 $2 28. Rc1) 28. f3 Ke8 {and Black looks okay}) 20. Nxb2 Nb5 21. Qe2 Nxa3 22. Qxa6 Ra8 23. Qe2 Qb8 24. Qe3 Rc8 25. Na4 Ra6 26. Nb6 Re8 27. Qd3 Rxb6 28. cxb6 Qxb6 29. Qd7 Rb8 30. Qxe7 Nb5 31. Red1 Nd4 32. Qe3 Nxb3 33. Rc8+ Kg7 34. Qe5+ 1-0

To business now with the first of Mr Franklin's two games - first: the Agony.

David Franklin v N.N.

[Event "CICL ROGUE-CITGR"] [Site "Citadel"] [Date "2016.04.12"] [Round "7.1"] [White "Franklin, David"] [Black "N.N."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B12"] [WhiteElo "2184"] [BlackElo "2070"] [Annotator "Jonathan Speelman"] [PlyCount "102"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] { } 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 Nd7 6. O-O Be7 {Although this takes e7 away from the knight, nowadays they quite often play ...Nh6 allowing Bxh6.} 7. Nbd2 Qc7 8. Re1 h5 9. c4 g5 10. Nf1 g4 11. N3d2 Bg6 12. Nb3 {[#]} Nf8 $2 {This is passive. It was best to leave the knight so that after a timely ...dxc4, it could relocate to d5 via Nb6-d5.} (12... dxc4 13. Bxc4 O-O-O {looks normal. With the d5 and f5 squares for the knights Black is quite active and the king looks reasonably safe.}) 13. Bf4 Bb4 {The idea of this is to lure the f1 knight to d2 so that Black can play Bf5 without running into Ne3, but it's very artificial.} 14. Nfd2 Bf5 15. a3 (15. c5 {would have snared the bishop, but taken the pressure off Black's centre. Furthermore,} f6 16. a3 Bxd2 17. Bxd2 Ng6 {is unclear}) 15... Be7 16. Rc1 Ng6 17. Be3 Qd8 {Another passive move, but Black has already taken too long to get organised.} ({If} 17... O-O-O 18. cxd5 exd5 19. Nc5 Bxc5 20. Rxc5 Kb8 {then} 21. b4 {is very unpleasant}) 18. cxd5 exd5 19. Nc5 Bxc5 20. Rxc5 Nf8 21. b4 Ne6 22. Rc3 Ne7 23. Nb3 b6 $6 {This prevents Nc5 but weakens the queenside giving White an obvious break.} 24. b5 cxb5 25. Bxb5+ Kf8 26. Qd2 Kg8 27. Rec1 Kh7 28. Bg5 Rg8 29. Bf6 Rg6 {Mr Franklin says that his team had won the match by then and his opponent was short of time: "I began to relax and lose focus." This is something that can easily happen to anybody during the stress of a game of chess but it's crucial to try to avoid.} 30. Bd3 $6 (30. f3 $1 gxf3 31. Rxf3 Be4 32. Rf2 { would have been winning. White has to take minimal care to avoid an accident on g2 but apart from that the Black position is falling apart. For example I wondered for a moment about} Qg8 33. Bxe7 Nf4 {but White can simply take it.} 34. Qxf4 (34. Bf1 {was my first thought which is merely completely winning}) 34... Rxg2+ 35. Kf1) 30... Bxd3 31. Qxd3 Qd7 32. Nd2 Ng8 33. Bh4 Qa4 {Mr Franklin had missed this and now went horribly wrong} 34. Qf5 $2 (34. Nb3 { keeps control since} Qxa3 $2 {is disastrous after} 35. Nc5 Qa5 36. Nxe6 fxe6 37. Rc7+ {and White wins. Given that Black would refuse the pawn, White would still need to find a way to improve his position, but the game would continue. }) 34... Nh6 $1 35. Qxh5 $4 {Horrible.} ({While} 35. Qb1 Qxd4 36. Nf1 Qxe5 { is clearly better for Black, it would still have been very much a fight considering his time trouble.}) 35... Nf4 {trapping the queen.} 36. Qxg6+ Nxg6 37. Bf6 Qxd4 38. Nf1 b5 39. Ng3 a5 40. Nh5 Qd2 41. e6 $1 {Quite rightly randomising but Black remained calm.} Qe2 42. exf7 Rf8 43. Rc6 Rxf7 44. Bd4 Qd2 45. Nf6+ Rxf6 46. Bxf6 Nf4 47. Rb1 b4 48. axb4 axb4 49. Ra1 Nf7 50. Rb6 Nd3 51. Bd4 Nc1 0-1


The main lesson of this game is not technical but psychological. You have to remain as focused and as calm as humanly possible while the battle is in progress. The terrible - but also wonderful - thing about a game of chess (between humans) is that until the clocks have been stopped, and hands shaken, anything is still possible, and you must remain at a state of high alertness.

Incidentally, while I have asked for pairs of games including Agony, I must salute Mr Franklin for very bravely submitting such a painful game.

Now for the Ecstasy:

[Event "CICL Playoffs ROGUE-KINGS"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.05.10"] [Round "3"] [White "Franklin, David"] [Black "N.N."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B50"] [WhiteElo "2191"] [BlackElo "2230"] [Annotator "Jonathan Speelman"] [PlyCount "109"] [EventDate "2014.??.??"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. b3 {Unusual, but far from bad, and tried by numerous top players including Garry Kasparov, Viswanathan Anand, Michael Adams, Nigel Short and many more.} d6 4. Bb2 Nf6 5. e5 dxe5 6. Nxe5 Bd6 $6 (6... Be7 { is more normal, keeping more defence on the kingside.}) 7. Na3 $1 a6 8. Nac4 Bc7 9. a4 O-O 10. Bd3 $1 {[#] If a black knight could get to b4 then this would lose time, but here it makes excellent sense, aiming at h7.} b6 {Trying to get developed but encouraging the white queen to take up a powerful post on the kingside.} ({Instead if} 10... Nbd7 11. f4 Re8 {was my first thought but after} (11... b6 {was Houdini's suggestion.} 12. Qf3 Nd5 {and the idea is to play} 13. O-O ({White can already play the standard double bishop sacrifice} 13. Nc6 Qe8 14. Bxh7+ Kxh7 15. Qh5+ Kg8 16. Bxg7 Kxg7 17. Qg4+ Kh7 {but without a rook to include in the attack it's merely a draw.}) 13... f5 { As ugly as it is, at least it stops the attack.}) 12. O-O Nf8 13. a5 $1 { White has the advantage on both sides of the board.}) 11. O-O $6 {He should have taken the opportunity to get the queen out:} (11. Qf3 Ra7 12. Qh3 { is already extremely menacing}) 11... Bb7 12. f4 Nc6 13. Nxc6 Bxc6 14. Ne5 Bb7 15. Qe1 {Aiming for h4.} g6 {The position remains defensible after this but Black has to be extremely careful after encouraging the b2 bishop.} ({Instead} 15... Nd7 {looks right when there's no knockout blow even if it remains uncomfortable.}) 16. Qh4 {[#]} Nh5 $6 {Walking into a big tactic} (16... Nd7 $1 {still kept matters well within bounds.}) 17. Ng4 $1 {Very pretty.} f6 $2 { Losing since White can now blast through.} ({Of course if} 17... Qxh4 $4 18. Nh6#) (17... Re8 {was forced though after} 18. Nf6+ Nxf6 19. Bxf6 Qd6 20. Rae1 Qf8 21. Bc3 Bd8 22. Qg3 Bc7 23. Re3 {the engines, which have until now been quite upbeat about Black's chances, finally see the true danger within their horizons and start to veer heavily towards White - as any decent human player could have told you without any analysis whatsoever.}) 18. f5 $1 exf5 19. Rxf5 $1 {All six of White's pieces will be attacking after the rook on a1 enters the fray via f1 or e1 and Black simply can't defend.} gxf5 20. Qxh5 Be4 ({If} 20... Qe7 21. Qxf5 Qg7 {tries to set up an ambush on g2 but White has any number of wins of which the most forcing is} 22. Nxf6+ Rxf6 23. Bc4+ $1 Kf8 24. Qxf6+ Qxf6 25. Bxf6 {when he is not only two pawns up but retains a fierce attack.}) 21. Qg5+ $1 {Another very pretty move.} (21. Bxe4 fxe4 22. Qg5+ Kf7 23. Rf1 Ke7 24. Rxf6 {was also utter murder}) 21... Kf7 22. Bxf6 Qd6 {[#]} 23. Qg7+ {More than good enough.} (23. Ne5+ Ke6 24. Bc4+ Bd5 25. Re1 Rxf6 26. Ng4+ Kd7 27. Nxf6+ {was even cleaner though.}) 23... Ke8 ({Not} 23... Ke6 24. Bc4+ Bd5 25. Re1+) 24. Bxe4 fxe4 25. Re1 Rxf6 26. Nxf6+ Kd8 27. Rxe4 $6 {Giving Black a chance to fight a little.} (27. Qh8+ Ke7 28. Rxe4+ Kf7 {was best and now simply} 29. Qxa8 $1 {is pretty trivial.} (29. Qxh7+ Kxf6 {should in fact lead to a win after checks but unless the winning line hits you in the face there is no need whatsoever to play something complicated when simply taking the exchange would end the game.})) 27... Qxh2+ 28. Kf1 Kc8 29. Nd5 Bd8 30. Qg4+ Kb8 31. Re8 (31. Qd7 $1 Qh1+ {should lead to a win after} 32. Kf2 Bh4+ 33. Ke3 $1 Qg1+ 34. Kd3 Qf1+ 35. Kc3 Qa1+ 36. Kc4 $1 Qf1+ 37. d3 {but as Mr Franklin says: "I didn't have the energy to calculate my way through the maze of checks." and he was quite right to keep it simple.}) 31... Qd6 32. Qh4 Kb7 33. Qxh7+ Kb8 34. Qg8 ({Missing} 34. Nxb6 $1 Qxb6 35. Qd7 $1) 34... Kb7 {[#]} 35. g4 $2 {However, this looks terribly unnecessary. I guess he wanted to advance the pawn and then force victory in a pawn endgame.} ({Nevertheless, the straightforward} 35. Qf7+ Kc8 36. c4 {would have left Black completely helpless. For instance} Rb8 37. Re6 Qd7 38. Ne7+ Bxe7 39. Rxe7 {wins the queen. }) 35... Rb8 36. c4 Bc7 37. Nxc7 {Black now gets lots of checks and can fight in practice if not in theory} Qf4+ 38. Ke1 Rxe8+ 39. Nxe8 $1 {Keeping his nerve.} ({Mr Franklin writes: "Here, I became paranoid about perpetual check and came pretty close to playing the brainless} 39. Qxe8 $4 Qg3+ 40. Ke2 Qxg4+ 41. Kd3 Qd4+ 42. Kc2 Kxc7 {and I doubt White can convert this queen ending."}) 39... Qe4+ 40. Kf2 Qf4+ 41. Kg2 Qxd2+ {[#]} 42. Kf3 $1 {The only way to avoid the perpetual.} (42. Kg3 {would have allowed one after} Qe3+ 43. Kh4 Qh6+) 42... Qd3+ 43. Kf4 $1 Qd2+ 44. Kf5 Qd3+ 45. Kg5 Qe3+ 46. Kg6 Qd3+ 47. Kf7 { The checks are over and it's now trivial again.} Qxb3 48. Nd6+ Kc7 49. Ke7 Qe3+ 50. Qe6 Qg5+ 51. Kf8 Qd8+ 52. Ne8+ Kb7 53. Qe7+ Qxe7+ 54. Kxe7 b5 55. cxb5 1-0


A splendid attacking game in which White showed considerable inventiveness and tactical nous. It's shame he let off a bit about move 35 but he kept his nerve admirably and Mr Franklin himself  writes: "My most satisfying attacking game in many years."

Many thanks for your continuing emails, which are the life blood of this column. Please do send games – preferably a pair of "Agony" and "Ecstasy" but a single good game is also fine. The best format is either ChessBase .cbv or  .pgn as an attachment. I can also lift games in text format from the body of an email and paste them into the growing database.

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 lambast Jon or otherwise he can be contacted via his email

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Resistance Resistance 5/27/2016 10:01
Nice game; the second one.