Jon Speelman's Agony Column #39

by Jonathan Speelman
2/5/2017 – Manuel Infante, an American in his early sixties. He survived childhood cancer, grew up an Air Force brat, became a mathematics teacher and coach. At the Western Heights Public Schools in Oklahoma he was the chess club sponsor, and after early retirement from teaching he renewed his chess studies and began once again to participate in chess tournaments. Manny submitted two games, an feature “agonising” loss in which he played an inventive pawn sacrifice, and a crushing win. They are analysed by our columnist Jon Speelman.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Jon Speelman's Agony Column #39

This week's pair are games are by Manuel Infante, an American in his early sixties.

He writes: “ I was born on 18 March 1954 at Vance Air Force Base in Enid Oklahoma and grew up as an Air Force brat. I survived cancer when I was twelve years old – God gave me a second chance and I decided to dedicate myself to helping others. I became a mathematics school teacher and coach. I taught 26 years, the last 20 where at the school I graduated from, Western Heights Public Schools in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

While there, I was the chess club sponsor, and my kids won back to back state chess championships in 1996 and 1997. I took early retirement from teaching in 2002 and currently work at Tinker Air Force Base. I enjoy listening to classic rock music and reading books on military history. I started playing chess in high school and was so terrible my opponents would give me queen odds. I played over the board and postal chess in the 80s and started to show improvement but had to put my chess studies and tournaments temporarily on hold as being a parent was more important. After retirement from teaching and no young ones at home I was able to renew my chess studies and began once again to participate in chess tournaments.”

Manny's two games feature an “Agonising” loss in which he played an inventive pawn sacrifice, fought his way through to an advantageous position and then lost his way. The second game is a crushing win. We start with the former.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.10.16"] [Round "?"] [White "Anderson, M."] [Black "Infante, M."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D58"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "97"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e3 b6 6. Bh4 O-O 7. Nc3 h6 {By a strange move order (perhaps the score sheet was wrong) we've now got what is normally called the Tartakover Variation, though Russians sometimes dub it the Makagonov-Bondarevsky.} 8. Rc1 Bb7 {[#]} 9. Bxf6 {This is a common idea against the Tartakover. At the expense of the two bishops White weakens Black's defence of d5, preparing on the next move to exchange on that square and fix a pawn on d5, closing the b7 bishop's diagonal.} Bxf6 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Bd3 {However, White normally follows up by preventing or at least hindering ... c5 with} (11. b4 {and indeed this is usually played with Be2 instead of Rc1, since the rook may instead go to b1 to defend b4 and further discourage ...c5, while the bishop move is always useful.} c6) 11... Nd7 (11... c5 {was possible now and for the next two moves.}) 12. O-O Re8 13. a3 (13. b4) 13... c5 14. Bb5 cxd4 $6 {This gives White quite a nice IQP (Isoated Queen's Pawn) position. Black has to be careful to defend the centre and} (14... a6 $2 {would have been a mistake after} 15. Bxd7 Qxd7 16. Na4) (14... Re7 {unpinned} 15. Bxd7 Rxd7 16. dxc5 bxc5 17. Na4 c4 {is now fine for Black}) 15. Nxd4 a6 $2 {[#]} ( 15... Rc8 {defends c6}) 16. Ba4 $2 ({Black's b7 bishop is a crucial defender of the white squares and} 16. Bc6 $1 {would have exchanged it with a big advantage after} Bxd4 (16... Bxc6 17. Nxc6 {is utterly disastrous}) 17. Bxb7 Bxc3 18. Rxc3 Ra7 19. Bxd5 $16) 16... b5 17. Bc2 (17. Bb3 Nb6 {is a bit better for Black with the knight en route to c4.}) 17... Be5 (17... g6 {would block the bishop's diagonal. Black can then play the knight to c4 either via b6 or e5, possibly playing Rc8 first.}) 18. Bb3 Nf6 (18... Nb6 $1 {was better}) 19. Nf3 Bd6 20. Qd3 Qd7 21. Rfd1 Rad8 22. Rc2 (22. h3 {would more or less prevent the pawn sacrifice in the game}) 22... d4 $1 {With the pressure on d5 mounting, Manny played a nice intuitive pawn sacrifice to activate the b7 bishop.} 23. Nxd4 (23. exd4 {was safer, with d5 coming to block the bishop.}) 23... Qg4 $1 24. f3 ({Certainly not} 24. Qf1 $2 Bxh2+ $1 25. Kxh2 Qh4+ 26. Kg1 Ng4 27. Qd3 Qh2+ 28. Kf1 Bxg2+ {with a massive attack.}) 24... Qh4 25. g3 Qh3 (25... Bxg3 $2 {is refuted by} 26. hxg3 Qxg3+ 27. Rg2) ({but} 25... Qg5 26. Re2 Bc5 { was better with strong pressure.}) 26. Qe2 Re5 27. Rcd2 Rg5 {[#]The last two moves are very obviously intended to prepare Bxg3. It's too crude to work, with White well coordinated, but I wouldn't want to criticise such a clear if misguided plan too much.} 28. f4 {Daring Black to sacrifice. Instead} (28. Qf1 {was also excellent.}) 28... Rxg3+ {Having said A (Re5) and B (Rg5) you have to continue with C, even if it doesn't work.} 29. hxg3 Qxg3+ 30. Kf1 Qh3+ ({If } 30... Ng4 31. Nf5 $1 {attacks and defends} Qh3+ 32. Ke1 Re8 {and as long as White remains calm there are lots of wins including} 33. Rxd6 Nxe3 34. Kd2 Qxf5 35. Kc1 Qxf4 36. Qd2 {when Black doesn't have nearly enough for the rook.}) ( 30... Re8 31. Qh2 $1) 31. Ke1 Qh1+ 32. Qf1 Qh4+ 33. Ke2 (33. Rf2 {was also strong, avoiding the march via d3.}) 33... Re8 34. Qf2 Qg4+ 35. Kd3 Ne4 {[#]} 36. Qe2 $6 (36. Qg1 {kept more control}) 36... Qg3 (36... Qc8) 37. Kc2 { It's very understandable that White wanted to get the king off d3, but the best line of all was} (37. Qh5 $1 g6 38. Qh2 {The queen can't now retreat to g6, and White should win easily after} Bxf4 39. Qxg3 Bxg3 40. Nxe4 Bxe4+ 41. Ke2) 37... Nxd2 38. Kxd2 $2 {[#] Walking into a haymaker} (38. Qxd2) 38... Rxe3 $1 39. Qf1 $2 (39. Qh5 $1 g6 40. Qxh6 Bxf4 41. Bxf7+ Kxf7 42. Qh7+ Kf6 43. Qh8+ Kg5 44. Kc2 (44. Qd8+ Kh5 45. Qh8+ Bh6) 44... Qg4 {and while it's still extremely messy, Black does have an extra pawn which crucially shields his king, and the two bishops control lots of squares, most important of all h1, so that if Qd8+ Kh5 there is no Rh1+.}) 39... Bxf4 40. Kc2 {[#]} Be4+ $4 { A great shame after his earlier inventive play. After} (40... Bg2 41. Nf5 (41. Qg1 Qg6+) 41... Rxc3+ 42. bxc3 Qh2 {White is lost.}) 41. Nxe4 Qh2+ 42. Kb1 Rxe4 43. Nf3 Qg3 44. Rd8+ Kh7 45. Bc2 {and the remaining Agony was short lived.} f5 46. Bxe4 fxe4 47. Nd4 Qg5 48. Ne6 Qf6 49. Nf8+ 1-0


[Event "Oklahoma City Winter Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "1990.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Infante"] [Black "Fleming, Tom"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B13"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "47"] [EventDate "1990.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. c4 Nf6 5. c5 {This is sometimes played, but it releases the pressure on d5 very early on, allowing Black quietly to develop and then prepare counterplay, often involving ...Ne4.} e5 $5 {The most "principled response" reacting in the centre immediately} (5... Nc6 {seems to be common, but I don't really understand why you'd put the knight on this square now when you can just fianchetto ,...g6, ...Bg7, ...0-0 and then perhaps react with ...b6 or ...Ne4.} 6. Bb5 g6 7. Nc3 Bg7) (5... g6 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. Bb5+ Bd7 8. Bxd7+ Qxd7) 6. Nc3 $6 (6. dxe5 {was probably better but after} Ne4 {Black is extremely active.}) 6... exd4 7. Qxd4 {[#] In what is already a very sharp position, both the d5 and c5 pawns are potentially weak, and there will be a frantic race to complete development and seize the initiative.} Nc6 $6 (7... a6 {prevents the coming pin. After} 8. Be3 Nc6 9. Qa4 {Houdini also mentions} d4 (9... Nd7 10. O-O-O Nxc5 11. Bxc5 Bxc5 12. Rxd5 Qe7) 10. O-O-O Bxc5 11. Nf3 O-O 12. Nxd4 Nxd4 13. Bxd4 Bxd4 14. Qxd4 Qa5 {the white king is very vulnerable} 15. a3 Be6 16. Qb4 Qxb4 17. axb4 Rac8 18. Kb1 (18. Rd4 Nd5 19. Kd2) 18... Ng4 19. Rd2 Rfd8) (7... Be7 {is also strong, preparing to castle and then play Nc6.}) 8. Bb5 Bd7 $2 (8... Be7 {was much stronger, followed by castling next move.}) 9. Bxc6 Bxc6 (9... bxc6) 10. b4 $5 (10. Be3 Be7 11. Nge2 O-O 12. O-O) 10... a6 11. Nf3 {[#]} Qe7+ $2 {This doesn't disturb White and on the contrary hinders Black's development and leaves the queen exposed.} (11... Be7) 12. Be3 Rd8 (12... Qd8 {was probably least bad, but to lose two whole tempi in a position like this ought to be disastrous.}) 13. O-O-O Qd7 14. Ne5 Qf5 15. f3 $6 {Unnecessary.} (15. g4 $1 Qc8 16. g5 $1 Nh5 (16... Ne4 17. Nxe4 dxe4 18. Qxd8+ Qxd8 19. Rxd8+ Kxd8 20. Nxf7+) 17. Rhe1 Be7 18. Qh4 {was winning because if} g6 19. Bd4 O-O 20. Nxc6 ({or indeed} 20. Ng4 Rfe8 21. Rxe7 Rxe7 22. Nf6+ Kf8 23. Nxh7+ Kg8 24. Nf6+ Kf8 25. Nxh5)) 15... Be7 16. g4 Qe6 17. Rhe1 O-O 18. Bf4 {[#]} Ne4 $2 {Panic} (18... Rfe8 19. Ng6 Qd7 20. Nxe7+ Rxe7 21. Rxe7 Qxe7 22. Bg5 {is vile, but Black can still play}) 19. Nxc6 Bh4 $2 20. Nxd8 Rxd8 21. Rxe4 dxe4 22. Qxd8+ Bxd8 23. Rxd8+ Qe8 24. Rxe8# {A crushing game in which Black lost much too much time in the opening and then panicked in a bad but still not entirely hopeless middlegame..} 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.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register