Jon Speelman's Agony Column #50

by Jonathan Speelman
4/28/2017 – After his request he has been receiving a steady trickle of games, and this time in his half-century column Jon Speelman looks at an Agony and an Ecstasy by Mike Healey, a 2360 player and "a total hacker", which is a big compliment coming from Jon. In the first game Mike's brain was "evidently totally sizzled," while in the second he pulled off a "beautiful finish to a splendidly violent game." Enjoy and learn.

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Many thanks, firstly, for your contributions following my request in the previous column, which elicited, if not a torrent, a good steady trickle of games from readers

I’m always delighted to receive games and correspondence. They are the lifeblood of this column, and please keep them coming. Episodes of Jon’s Adventures in Blunderland may be amusing periodically, but I certainly don’t want either to provide the ammunition for such soul searching, or indeed to foist my losses upon the public too often, when they do occur.

This week we reach our half century, with two splendidly chaotic and violent games from Mike Healey, who is a strong player (220 ECF equates to 2360 FIDE) but, judging from these two efforts a total hacker – a big compliment from me. Mike writes:

“I was taught chess at Richmond Juniors by Richard James and IM Gavin Wall, and still play for Richmond and Twickenham Chess Club alongside both. I also produce dubious evening efforts for a number of other London teams. Thanks to discovering chess books in the last few years (your own included) I have improved a fair amount, and currently enjoy a peak rating of 220 ECF. Despite this my favourite move, with either side, is still pawn to g5, and it turns up in both these games. I currently work as a chess trainer in schools, mainly teaching queen sacrifices to the next generation. Aside from playing chess to cause my teammates pain, I enjoy reading, watching football and listening to music.”

Both games he sent me involve a g-pawn lunge. The annotations are wholly my own, though Mike kindly provided introductions to each.

We start with his Agony of which he writes:

“Swansea '06 was my first British Championship and first proper tournament for many years. Up until this game it had been going very well (winning one weekday tournament and coming third in another). I remember almost nothing about the other games, but this one scarred me for life. The complete shock after losing was overwhelming. In thousands of chess games before and since I've (thankfully) never experienced anything quite like it. I couldn't see a thing at the board after Rc4+?? I was just about able to recognise what was happening after Bg5+!, managed to resign, and then just wandered off aimlessly, walking into things...”

[Event "British Champs Atkins"] [Site "Swansea"] [Date "2006.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Eccles, Anthony"] [Black "Healey, Mike"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B00"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2006.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 Nc6 (2... d5 3. Bg5 {The Richter is what White presumably wanted and fairly dry - I actually faced this yesterday, as I write in the first round of the World Seniors in Crete and got a perfectly good game after} Nbd7 4. Nf3 g6 5. e3 Bg7 6. Bd3 O-O 7. O-O c5 8. Re1 b6 9. e4 dxe4 10. Nxe4 cxd4 11. Nxd4 Bb7 12. c3 Nc5 $5 {However, Mike clearly wanted something more chaotic.}) 3. e4 e5 4. d5 (4. dxe5 Nxe5 5. f4 {is what White is being provoked to play and ought to be pretty good.} Bb4 (5... Nc6 6. e5 Ng8) 6. fxe5 Nxe4 7. Qg4 {really is nonsense, so presumably Mike would have played Nc6}) 4... Ne7 5. Bd3 Ng6 6. Nge2 a6 {Preparing a retreat for the bishop if it goes to c5 and preventing Bb5 at some unspecified annoying moment.} 7. Ng3 Nh4 (7... Bc5 { was normal and perfectly playable.}) 8. O-O h6 9. Be3 g5 {[#] This is not the move I would play nowadays but I nevertherless applaud it.} 10. Nh5 g4 11. Nxf6+ Qxf6 12. Be2 (12. Qxg4 d6 13. Qg3 Rh7 $1 {gives Black a dangerous attack, though} 14. f4 Rg7 15. fxe5 {is pretty unclear since} Rxg3 {leads to a long computer line which is good for White:} (15... Qe7 16. exd6 cxd6 17. e5 { is another mess}) (15... Qd8 $2 16. e6 $1 Rxg3 17. hxg3 fxe6 18. Be2 {with a raging attack.}) 16. Rxf6 Rxe3 17. e6 fxe6 18. dxe6 Bg7 19. Nd5 Bxf6 20. Nxf6+ Kd8 21. e7+ Kxe7 22. Nd5+) 12... Rg8 13. f4 Nxg2 $6 {The move you want to play but it shouldn't really work.} (13... gxf3 14. Bxf3 d6 15. Kh1 (15. Bh5 $2 Rxg2+ 16. Kh1 Qg7 17. Rxf7 Rxh2+) 15... Qg6 {was perfectly playable.}) 14. Kxg2 Qh4 15. fxe5 (15. Qd2 $1 {would refute the attack since the e3 bishop is defended} Qh3+ 16. Kh1 g3 17. Bf3 {[#] and Black has nothing real.}) 15... Qh3+ 16. Kf2 g3+ (16... Qh4+ 17. Kg2 (17. Kg1 $2 g3 {is winning}) 17... Qh3+ { was a draw but of course after playing this opening Mike wasn't aiming for that.}) 17. Ke1 gxh2 $6 {Too optimistic.} (17... g2 18. Kd2 gxf1=Q 19. Qxf1 { and White has very decent play for the exchange. But Black's position is perfectly playable too.}) 18. Kd2 Rg2 19. Rh1 d6 20. e6 {it makes sense to keep the f8-c5 diagonal closed but} (20. Kd3 Rg3 21. Qd2 dxe5 22. Bf1 {was also very strong.}) 20... fxe6 21. Kd3 Rg3 22. Bh5+ $6 (22. Qd2 Bg7 (22... h5 23. Bf1 Qg4 24. Qxh2 Bh6 25. Re1) 23. Bf1 {would basically have refuted the attack.}) 22... Ke7 23. Qe1 ({Engines want to play} 23. Qe2 {when if} Bg7 24. Raf1 Rxe3+ 25. Qxe3 Qxh5 26. Qf2 {White is too quick.}) 23... Bg7 24. Qf2 c5 $6 {[#]} (24... Rxe3+ $1 25. Qxe3 Qxh5 {was reasonable - here Black is an invaluable tempo up on the previous note.}) 25. Qf7+ (25. Rxh2 {should win after} Rxe3+ 26. Kd2 Qg3 27. Rg1 Qxf2+ 28. Rxf2 Bf6 29. Rxf6 Kxf6 30. Kxe3) 25... Kd8 26. Rae1 Bd4 27. Nd1 exd5 28. exd5 $6 {Letting the c8 bishop into the game with tempo.} (28. Kd2 {was still winning since if} Bxe3+ 29. Nxe3 Rxe3 30. Rxe3 Qg2+ 31. Be2 Qxh1 32. exd5 Bd7 33. Re7 {Black has nothing better than} Qxd5+ 34. Qxd5 Kxe7 35. Qg2) 28... Bf5+ 29. Kd2 Rg2+ {[#]} 30. Kc1 $4 ({ Blocking with} 30. Re2 {was still apparently good enough.} Bg4 31. Bxg4 Qxg4 32. Rxg2 Qxg2+ 33. Nf2 Be5 34. b4 Rc8 35. bxc5 Rxc5 36. Bxc5 dxc5 37. Qf8+) 30... Rxc2+ 31. Kb1 $22 {[#]} Rc4+ $4 {After utter mayhem which a chess engine can cut through easily but which would be very difficult for a human, however strong, it was Mike who made the last fatal error. With his brain evidently totally sozzled, he failed to play} (31... Rxb2+ 32. Kc1 Rc2+ 33. Kb1 Rc4+ 34. Qxf5 Qxf5# {checkmate!}) 32. Ka1 Rc2 33. Bg5+ {and with mate coming next move, MIke resigned. Chess can truly be cruel on occasion.} 1-0

Of the Ecstasy game Mike writes:

“Kidlington '17 was a great tournament (its 40th year as an important institution of Oxfordshire chess) with three strong FMs, one IM and one most venerable GM. This was my last round victory to take joint second with GM Nunn and FM Martins, Oxford University's top board, behind the homegrown conqueror FM Harvey. The final combination was so pretty I spent infinitely more time not trusting than calculating it!”

[Event "Kidlington Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.05"] [Round "5.3"] [White "Healey, M."] [Black "Moore, G."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C00"] [Annotator "Speelman,Jonathan"] [PlyCount "59"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. e4 e6 2. b3 {Not at all a bad punt for an aggressive player like Mike} d5 3. Bb2 dxe4 ({I love this magnificent concoction by Richard Rapport, who is quite crazy enough in the opening all by himself without his opponents encouraging him:} 3... Nc6 4. Bb5 dxe4 5. Nc3 Qg5 6. g3 Nf6 7. Qe2 Bd7 8. f3 Nd4 9. Bxd7+ Kxd7 10. Qd1 Qe5 11. f4 Qf5 12. Nce2 Nc6 13. h3 Rd8 14. g4 Qa5 15. Ng3 Kc8 16. Qe2 e3 17. Qxe3 Bc5 18. Qe2 Nd5 19. Nf3 Ncb4 20. Qc4 Nxc2+ 21. Qxc2 Nb4 22. Qb1 Nd3+ 23. Kf1 Qa6 24. Kg2 h5 25. gxh5 Nxf4+ 26. Kh2 Rxh5 {0-1 (26) Tsydypov,Z (2460)-Rapport,R (2717) Danzhou CHN 2016}) 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Qe2 Bb4 {Obviously all sensible moves are playable around here, but I think I slightly prefer Be7. } (5... Be7 6. O-O-O O-O 7. g4 Nc6 8. Nxe4 Nd4 (8... Nxe4 9. Qxe4 Bf6 10. d4 { is what White wants even if it isn't anything much.}) 9. Qe3 e5 10. Nxf6+ Bxf6 {was played in a game in America a decade ago. It really can't be bad for Black } 11. f3 Re8 12. Bd3 (12. h4 {is surely what you ought to try.}) 12... Bg5 13. Qf2 Bh4 14. Qg2 c5 15. Be4 Rb8 16. c3 Nb5 17. Ne2 Nd6 18. Bc2 Qg5 19. Ng3 f5 20. f4 exf4 21. Qd5+ Be6 22. Qxd6 Rbd8 23. Qxc5 fxg3 24. hxg3 Bxg3 25. gxf5 Bd5 26. f6 h6 27. Rhg1 b6 28. Qb4 Bf3 29. Qc4+ Rd5 30. Rdf1 Qxd2+ 31. Kb1 Re2 32. f7+ Kf8 33. Ba3+ Bd6 34. Qc8+ Kxf7 35. Rxf3+ {1-0 (35) Goldstein,B (2103) -Weser,A (2061) Parsippany USA 2008}) 6. O-O-O Qe7 7. Kb1 a5 8. a4 O-O 9. g4 b6 10. g5 Bxc3 $2 {This gives White a huge unopposed bishop and must be a mistake. } ({Though} 10... Nd5 11. Nxe4 Bb7 12. Nh3 Nd7 13. Rg1 Ba3 14. Ba1 {also looks very pleasant partly because if} e5 15. f4 $1 Nxf4 $2 16. Nxf4 exf4 17. Nf6+ { wins} Nxf6 18. Qxe7 Bxe7 19. gxf6 {Splat!}) 11. dxc3 Nd5 12. c4 Nb4 13. Qxe4 Ra7 14. Nf3 Bb7 15. Qe2 (15. Qg4 Qc5 16. Bg2 Qf5 {is merely a nice advantage.}) (15. Qe5 $1 {was even stronger for instance if} f6 16. gxf6 Qxf6 $6 (16... Rxf6 17. Bg2 N8c6 18. Qe3) 17. Rg1 $1 Qxe5 18. Nxe5 g6 19. Bh3 Bc8 20. Nxg6 hxg6 21. Rxg6+ Kf7 22. Rf6+ Ke7 23. Rxf8 Kxf8 24. Rd8+) 15... Nd7 16. Rg1 Rd8 17. Bh3 Raa8 18. Rde1 {[#] Teeing up to play g6.} (18. Nh4 {seems to be better but in a game you'd have to analyse as much as you could and then just take a view.} Nc5 19. Rxd8+ Rxd8 20. Bf6 (20. Nf5 Qd7 21. Nh6+ Kf8 22. Bxg7+ Kxg7 23. Qe5+ Kf8 24. Qh8+ Ke7 25. Qf6+ {is a draw.}) 20... Qe8 (20... Ne4 $5 21. Bxe7 Nc3+ 22. Kb2 Nxe2 23. Bxd8 Nxg1 24. Bf1 $1 {setting up c5} Na6 25. f4 Kf8 26. c5 bxc5 27. Bxa6 Bxa6 28. Bxc7 {with a better endgame.})) 18... Qf8 $2 {Running into a beautiful finish.} (18... Nc5 $1 {was much better aiming for his own attack. The obvious} 19. Bf6 (19. Qe5 Qf8 20. g6 hxg6 21. Ng5 Rd2 22. Bc3 Rad8) 19... Qf8 20. Bxd8 {then runs into} Be4 $1 21. Bxc7 Bxc2+ 22. Kb2 Bxb3 { which is obviously incredibly dangerous. For what it matters, Fritz and his brethren give} 23. Nd4 Nbd3+ 24. Kb1 Bxc4 {as about equal.}) 19. g6 $1 hxg6 20. Ng5 Qd6 $2 (20... Nc5 21. Qg4 f6 22. Nxe6 {is also murder}) 21. Nxf7 $1 Kxf7 22. Bxe6+ Kf8 {[#]} 23. Bxg7+ $1 Kxg7 24. Rxg6+ $1 Kf8 (24... Kxg6 25. Qg4+ Kh6 (25... Kf6 26. Qf5+ Ke7 27. Qf7#) 26. Qh4+ Kg7 27. Rg1+ Kf8 28. Rg8#) 25. Rg8+ Ke7 26. Rg7+ Kf8 27. Rf7+ Ke8 28. Bd5+ Ne5 29. Qxe5+ Qxe5 30. Rxe5# {A beautiful finish to a splendidly violent game.} 1-0

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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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drcloak drcloak 5/9/2017 06:30
@benedictralph Chess will always have elitism, just look at how FIDE runs things. Also, observe the arrogance and ego of the players over 2700 who tend to scoff at playing a mere 2500 GM. This is why chess is stagnate.
benedictralph benedictralph 5/1/2017 12:35
@psamant: I tend to agree. Everything in chess these days seems to be only about the best of the best of the best or you're not worth anything (like even a "typical" GM, for example). No wonder the sport isn't taking off as fast as it should. Too much elitism.
psamant psamant 5/1/2017 11:30
Paying or not, his analysis is interesting, humorous and does not put down people for silly mistakes. He is polite to a fault and I enjoy looking at games of people no in the "absolute chess elite". They make more human moves and Jon points out politely why these move fail against strong opponents. This is a very nice series, please continue!
benedictralph benedictralph 4/30/2017 09:05
@Bertman: Publicity, perhaps? Maybe because he likes the site? Any number of reasons. The question is, if ChessBase is indeed paying for this... why him of all people?
Bertman Bertman 4/30/2017 08:31
Why would you think he was doing them for free?
Isledoc Isledoc 4/29/2017 04:36
I hear he is making as much as Wayne Rooney per game.
benedictralph benedictralph 4/29/2017 02:32
I wonder how much ChessBase is paying Speelman for each of these articles... or is he doing them for free?