Jon Speelman's Agony Column #51

by Jonathan Speelman
5/8/2017 – Fresh from the World Senior Team Championship, where he once more sat alongside mates Nigel Short and John Nunn, Jon Speelman takes a look at the two games sent by Andrew Medworth. Andrew is a software engineer working for Google and splits his time between London and Hong Kong. He enjoys chess, and sent detailed notes on his impressions and feelings during the game, now complemented with the grandmaster's expert eye.

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To begin with, I'd like to thank again everybody who has sent in games since I requested them a couple of columns ago. They're much appreciated – and please keep them coming.

A number arrived while I was in Crete at the World Senior Team Championship. Refreshingly, this was a tournament at which I suffered no significant personal Agony at all – quite the contrary.

Jon Speelman at the recent World Senior Team Championship

But despite being top seeds, England I (Nigel Short, John Nunn, myself, Keith Arkell and Terry Chapman) came only third after losing both to the imperious winners from St. Petersburg led by Alexander Khalifman and the Armenians with Rafael Vaganian on top board.

In spite of an elite lineup with names such as Nunn, Short and Speelman himself, the Russians and Armenians were no less prestigious

Back home, after Crete, it's time for another round of soul searching and breast beating (metaphorically speaking – it's one of the joys of chess that most players are so well behaved, both in victory and defeat). For these conflicting emotions we turn this week to Andrew Medworth who is a British software engineer currently working for Google in London. He writes:

“I am 33 years old, married but with no children (yet!). I was born and raised in Bath in Somerset, studied Mathematics and Computer Science at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and my working years so far have been split between London and Hong Kong.

My wife is from mainland China, so besides chess and my profession of computing, learning Mandarin is one of my main interests, plus reading (mostly non-fiction, though I have recently been enjoying Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, a trilogy of historical novels covering the dawn of the Scientific Revolution, one of my favourite periods of history).”

At the time of the games, Andrew was living in Hong Kong. And both games he sent me “were played in the 2016 Caissa Spring Open organised by the very welcoming Caissa Chess Club. The tournament was a seven-round Swiss with a simple time control of 90 minutes per player for all moves with no increment."

Andrew sent me detailed notes with some variations, but also a lot of his impressions at the time. These were especially interesting since objectively “right or wrong” the best way you can steer your way through complicated positions is often through gut feeling. I have culled some of his notes, but not too many, and added my own comments as JS as usual.

[Event "Caissa Spring Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.04.29"] [Round "3"] [White "Medworth, Andrew"] [Black "Muniz, Alberto"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D85"] [BlackElo "2105"] [Annotator "andrew"] [PlyCount "131"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] {This game was played against the strongest player in the tournament. I was clear second with 1.5/2, so I was expecting this third-round pairing. Alberto has more games in Megabase 2016 than I have played competitive games in my life, so he was clear favourite!} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 {Alberto plays a lot of openings so is not easy to prepare for; however I knew he was not especially interested in opening theory, so I was not too concerned about going into the main line of the Grunfeld. I just wanted an interesting game, and that is certainly what I got!} 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bg5 { This move has much in common with the better-known 7. Be3 system. The basic idea is Rc1, to remove the rook from the line of the g7 bishop, and to defend c3 so ...c5 can be met by d4-d5.} O-O 8. Rc1 c5 9. Nf3 Bg4 10. d5 {Both of us were "out of book" by this point.} Qa5 (10... f5 {is the main line here, which is quite complex and theoretical.}) ({Actually} 10... Qd6 {(JS) is the most common move in my database.}) 11. Qd2 {[#]} e6 (11... Bxf3 12. gxf3 {concerned me more, as it will be harder for White's king to find safety, though White has compensation in the form of the two bishops. JS: White's centre has also been strengthened and ...Bxf3 doubling the pawns is often allowed in Grunfeld lines. In a game between Hungarian GM David Berkes and a then very young Benjamin Bok (now a strong Dutch GM), White got the advantage after} e6 (12... Re8 {looks better when the first move that comes to mind is} 13. h4) 13. dxe6 $5 fxe6 14. Bc4 {1-0 (28) Berczes,D (2513)-Bok,B (2277) Caleta ENG 2009}) 12. c4 {Now I was quite happy, as White's pawns can no longer be doubled, and I should get a passed d-pawn.} Qc7 {I was surprised to learn afterwards that this is actually the first new move of the game according to MegaBase 2016.} ( 12... Qa3 13. Be2 Na6 14. O-O Nb4 15. Be7 Qxa2 16. Qg5 Rfe8 17. Bxc5 Bxf3 18. Bxf3 Nd3 19. d6 b6 20. Be3 Rad8 21. c5 h6 22. Qxd8 Rxd8 23. c6 Ne5 24. c7 Rc8 25. Rfd1 Qa4 26. Be2 g5 27. Bd4 Nd7 28. Bxg7 Kxg7 29. Ra1 Qc2 30. Bb5 Ne5 31. Rac1 Qa2 32. d7 Rxc7 33. Rxc7 Nxd7 34. Rdxd7 Kf6 35. Rxf7+ Ke5 36. Rxa7 Qb2 37. Bf1 Kxe4 38. Ra6 b5 39. Rxe6+ Kd5 40. Rxh6 b4 41. Rf5+ {1-0 (41) Gyimesi,Z (2586)-Mikhalevski,V (2611) Austria 2010}) (12... Qxd2+) 13. Be2 exd5 14. exd5 Nd7 15. O-O $14 {I was very happy with the outcome of the opening. I have completed my development, and I have a protected passed d-pawn. The only problem piece is my light-squared bishop, which is somewhat constrained by my pawns. Black's g7 bishop looks powerful, but it does not really hit much at the moment.} Rfe8 16. Rfe1 (16. Bf4 {was something I considered. I didn't really think it was doing much after the queen moves away, but it would have prevented my opponent controlling the h2-b8 diagonal as he did in the game. JS: Bf4 was a good idea since the diagonal is important.} Rxe2 $2 17. Bxc7 Rxd2 18. Nxd2 $16 {was a variation I saw at the board, so this did not worry me.}) 16... Bxf3 {[#]} 17. Bxf3 ({JS:} 17. d6 {was an intermezzo that should at least have been considered. If the queen moves then White will get a big advantage after simply recapturing on f3, so Black has to try} Rxe2 (17... Qb6 18. Bxf3 $16) 18. Rxe2 Qc6 19. gxf3 Qxf3 {which would be a matter of judgement during a game. Although the kingside is breeched and Black has a pawn for the exchange, White has the e file and above all the d6 pawn is very strong.} (19... Bd4 20. Qf4 { is worse.}) 20. Bf4 {may well be best here but after} Nf8 {it's very messy. I wanted to play Rce1 now and if Ne6 take it but of course} 21. Bg3 (21. Rce1 $2 {fails to} Bc3) 21... Ne6 {Black has very decent practical chances here.}) 17... Bd4 18. Be3 {JS: In principle you don't want to exchange bishops here as White, but the d4 bishop is very well placed.} (18. Bf4 Ne5 19. Be2 Qd7 20. Bg3 b6 $11 {and Black's minor pieces have become powerfully posted.}) ({JS:} 18. Be7 {is well met by} Ne5 19. d6 Nxf3+ 20. gxf3 Qd7) 18... Be5 ({JS:} 18... Bxe3 19. Rxe3 Qd6 20. Rce1 Nf6 {and Black looks fine. If he can get the knight to d6 then he will be at least equal.}) 19. g3 Nb6 {I was considering Bf4 here to get rid of Black's powerful dark-squared bishop at the cost of doubled f-pawns, but then I saw another idea.} 20. Qa5 {After the game my opponent said he initially liked this move but later felt the resulting queenside pawn structure gave him chances. From a practical point of view, the move probably cost me too much time as well: 10 of my remaining 31 minutes. After his next move my opponent had 36 minutes left. (The game was played at a simple 90+0 time control.)} Bd6 (20... Nxd5 $6 {was a possibility I saw, but} 21. Qxc7 Nxc7 22. Bxb7 $16 {looked good for White} ({My computer's suggestion} 22. Bxc5 Bb2 23. Rxe8+ Rxe8 24. Rb1 b6 25. Rxb2 bxc5 26. Rb7 $16 {looks good as well})) 21. Qb5 Qd7 22. a4 Qxb5 23. axb5 {[#] Having locked down the queenside pawn structure, and won the two bishops, I thought I was now very seriously better. Of course the b6 knight is a great blockader, but I thought I could easily keep c4 under control. In fact matters proved not to be quite so simple! JS: Engines tend to like White because they value the two bishops, but actually this is very difficult since the knight is active and Black has good black squares.} f5 24. Bd2 ({JS: My initial thought was that White should try to keep two pairs of rooks on here so as to be able to double on the a-file. But that takes time and it's really not simple. For example if} 24. Be2 Nd7 25. Kg2 Kf7 26. Ra1 Be5 27. Ra2 {and maybe} a6) 24... Rxe1+ 25. Bxe1 Re8 26. Ba5 { Aiming to exchange the good blockader, even for the better of my two bishops. An exchange on b6 would make it impossible for Black to create a passed pawn on the queenside, so of course my opponent did not allow that, although Black would probably not lose in that case because of the opposite-coloured bishops. The conclusion of the game will show why Black was wise to retain his knight! JS: Yes Bxb6 isn't a big threat, but if Black wants to play for a win, he needs to retain the knight.} Nd7 27. Bc3 Be5 {I quite enjoy playing stronger players as a rule, because the psychological pressure is lower. The difficulty comes when you get a better position, and you start to entertain thoughts of an unexpected victory! As a result of this, I was starting to get quite seriously behind on the clock: I had just over 12 minutes at this point to my opponent's 22.} 28. Re1 Kf7 29. Bd2 Nb6 30. Be2 Nc8 31. Bd3 Nd6 32. Ba5 { Trying to get into c7 to exchange the knight.} b6 33. Bd2 Re7 ({After the game my opponent told me he almost fell for a trick here:} 33... Kf6 $2 34. Rxe5 $1 Rxe5 (34... Kxe5 35. Bc3# {is an amusing checkmate!}) 35. Bc3 {and there is no satisfactory defence to f2-f4:} Ne4 36. Bxe4 fxe4 37. d6 Ke6 38. Bxe5 $18 {I did not see this at the board, and I wonder whether I would have if 34... Kxe5 had been played! With so little time on the clock, I somewhat doubt it.}) 34. Kf1 {JS: With a massive black square blockade, Black is at least equal, whatever your pet engine(s) may tell you.} Ne8 35. Bg5 {My opponent criticised this move after the game, saying he thought my drawing chances were better with the rooks on. I still harboured some hopes of victory here, but thought a draw was more likely and that exchanging off should be fairly safe.} Bf6 {[#]} 36. Bxf6 ({The computer would rather I kept the bishops on with} 36. Rxe7+ Kxe7 37. Bd2 $14 {JS: Exchanging bishops is definitely a mistake because the knight is wonderful and White's remaining bishop tied to to c4.}) 36... Kxf6 (36... Rxe1+ 37. Kxe1 Kxf6 {was what I expected as Black's king gets to the centre faster.}) 37. Rxe7 Kxe7 38. Ke2 Nc7 39. Ke3 {[#] I thought this ending should really be at worst a very easy draw. I reasoned that with pawns on both sides of the board, the bishop should be better than the knight, even though its queenside mobility is limited. Again, matters proved not to be quite as simple as I thought! In fact, with hindsight, I think this is where the game really starts to get interesting. JS: If they have to fight againt passed pawns, knights are much worse than bishops. But for infighting they're usually better. } a5 40. bxa6 Nxa6 41. f4 {By now I was getting low on time and had more or less given up on victory, so I offered a draw here, thinking I was just blocking Black out. However, my opponent had judged this ending better than I had. After the game he said "probably the computer will just say 0.00 here" but that he felt Black's chances of victory were much higher than White's. How right he was! JS: Once White blocks the kingside he can try to attack f5 but can't (immediately) create any problems with his king. It made some sense therefore to play Kf4. But Black should be able to stabilise matters anyway and then White will have to block at some stage.} (41. Kf4 {was another possibility, retaining hopes of penetrating with the king, but I wasn't sure it led anywhere after} Kf6 42. f3 g5+ $6 ({JS:} 42... Nc7 43. Ke3 Ne8 {looks normal. You stabilise matters with the knight on d6 and then start improving.}) 43. Ke3 Nb4 (43... Nc7 44. f4 {fixes f5}) 44. f4 (44. Bb1 b5 45. cxb5 Nxd5+ 46. Kd3 Ke5 (46... Nb6 47. f4) 47. Kc4 Kd6 {[#] If Black has time to play ...h6, Nb6+ and Ke5 then he will have control though even then it may not be enough.} 48. Kb3 $1 {seems to thwart this. If then} (48. Kd3 h6 49. Kc4 Nb6+ 50. Kd3 Ke5 51. Ke3 f4+ 52. gxf4+ gxf4+ 53. Kd3 Kd5 {c4+ is now threatened, but} 54. Kc3 $1 {which is the only move, prepares c4 Kb4 and should hold.}) 48... h6 49. Bxf5 c4+ 50. Kb2 Kc5 51. Be6 Ne3 52. f4 gxf4 53. gxf4 Kxb5 54. f5)) 41... Kd6 42. Be2 Nc7 43. Bd3 $6 {[#] It was probably better to keep the bishop back and retain the possibility of Kd3.} (43. h4 b5 44. cxb5 Nxd5+ 45. Kd3 Nf6 46. Kc4 Ne4 (46... Nh5 $4 47. Bxh5 gxh5 48. b6 $1 Kc6 49. b7 Kxb7 50. Kxc5 $18) 47. g4 fxg4 48. Bxg4 Kc7 49. h5 Kb6 50. hxg6 hxg6 51. Be6 $11 {Neither side can make real progress on either side of the board.}) 43... b5 $1 {This move came as a total shock to me, but it was an excellent practical choice. Black is basically "playing for two results", and White's path to a draw is far from clear.} 44. cxb5 {At this point I dropped below five minutes and stopped writing down moves. My opponent had around ten minutes. This needs to be kept in mind when looking at computer evaluations of the remaining moves! In fact, even computers do not find it so easy to work out what is going. Mine shows a clear advantage for Black here, but digging deeper it seems possible to find drawing lines for White. The ending is fun to analyse, and I spent a long time on it with a computer afterwards. What is noteworthy to me, however, is how the evaluation in the following play keeps flipping between drawn and winning for Black. My opponent's judgement in going for this position was really excellent.} Nxd5+ 45. Kd2 $6 {Not spoiling anything yet, but showing a slightly myopic focus on the queenside.} (45. Kf3 $1 {was an easier draw, seeking kingside counterplay.} Nb6 46. g4 $1 c4 47. Bc2 fxg4+ 48. Kxg4 c3 ( 48... Nd5 49. Kg5 Ne3 50. Bb1 c3 51. b6 Kc6 52. Kh6 Kxb6 (52... c2 53. Bxc2 Nxc2 54. Kxh7 Nd4 55. Kxg6 $11 {and the tablebases say this is drawn.}) 53. Kxh7 Nd5 54. Kxg6 Nxf4+ $11 {JS: White is already trying to win here, but Black should be in time.} 55. Kf5 Ng2 56. Kg4 Kc7 57. Kg3 Kd8 {simply}) 49. f5 gxf5+ 50. Bxf5 h6 51. Kh5 Nc4 52. h4 Ne3 53. Be4 c2 54. Bxc2 Nxc2 55. Kxh6 $11 {and with the fall of Black's last pawn it is White who is "playing for two results", though this is not too difficult to draw.}) 45... Nb6 46. Kc3 $2 (46. Be2 {was a clearer draw, again preparing kingside counterplay. JS: It's essential to try to get the bishop active before Black gets total control. Andrew has done a very good job of analysing with computer assistance but even if White can still hold after 46.Kc3 he's already far too close to the ropes.} Kd5 (46... c4 {JS} 47. g4 (47. Bf3 Kc5 48. Bc6 Nc8) 47... fxg4 48. Bxg4 Kc5 49. Be6 Kxb5 50. Bg8 h6 51. Bf7 g5 52. fxg5 hxg5 53. Bxc4+) 47. Bf3+ Kc4 48. Bc6 Kb4 (48... Nd5 49. Bxd5+ Kxd5 50. Kc3 {is a pawn ending where Black must take considerable care to hold the draw:} h6 $1 (50... c4 $2 51. b6 Kc6 52. Kxc4 Kxb6 53. Kd5 $18) (50... h5 $2 51. h3 Kd6 52. Kc4 $22) (50... Kd6 $2 51. Kc4 h6 52. h3 $1 g5 53. h4 gxh4 54. gxh4 h5 55. b6 Kc6 56. b7 Kxb7 57. Kxc5 $18) 51. h3 h5 52. h4 Ke6 $1 (52... Kd6 $2 53. Kc4 $18) 53. Kc4 Kd6 54. b6 Kc6 55. b7 Kxb7 56. Kxc5 Kc7 $11) 49. Be8 Nc8 50. Bf7 Kxb5 51. Bg8 h6 52. Bf7 Ne7 53. Kc3 g5 54. Be8+ Ka5 55. Kc4 Kb6 56. h4 gxh4 57. gxh4 Nc6 58. Bd7 Nd4 59. Kd5 h5 60. Ke5 Nf3+ 61. Kxf5 Nxh4+ 62. Kg5 Kc7 63. Bh3 Nf3+ 64. Kxh5 c4 65. Bf5 Nd4 66. Be4 $11) 46... Kd5 $1 {[#] My opponent continues to find the best way to maximise my discomfort.} 47. Bc2 $2 {As far as I can tell, this is the first real error of the game!} (47. g4 $1 fxg4 48. f5 $1 {is a computer line which I *think* leads to a draw, but I'm not completely sure.} gxf5 49. Bxf5 h5 50. Bg6 $1 h4 51. Bh5 $1 (51. Bf5 $2 g3 52. hxg3 hxg3 53. Kd3 Ke5 54. Be4 c4+ 55. Ke3 Nd5+ 56. Kf3 g2 $19) 51... g3 52. hxg3 h3 (52... hxg3 53. Bf3+ {JS: This has now become a seven-piece endgame and I confirmed with the Moscow University Lomonosov tablebases that this is a draw.} Kd6 54. Kd3 Nd5 55. Ke4 $1 Nc3+ 56. Kf4 Ne2+ (56... Nxb5 57. Kxg3 $11) 57. Ke3 Nd4 58. Be4 Nxb5 59. Kf3 c4 60. Kxg3 Kc5 61. Bb1 Kb4 62. Kf4 Kb3 63. Ke3 c3 64. Be4 (64. Kd3 $4 Na3 $19) 64... Nd6 65. Bb1 Kb2 66. Bh7 Nc4+ 67. Ke2 Nb6 68. Bf5 Nd7 69. Bd3 Nc5 70. Bg6 Nb3 71. Be4 Nd4+ 72. Kd1 $11) 53. Bf3+ Ke5 54. Kd3 h2 55. Bh1 Nd7 56. Kd2 Kd4 57. g4 Ke5 58. Ke3 c4 59. g5 Kf5 60. Kd4 Nb6 61. Bc6 Kxg5 62. Bg2 Kf4 63. Bc6 Kg3 64. Ke3 c3 65. Kd3 Na4 66. Bh1 Kf2 67. Bc6 Kg1 68. Bf3 h1=Q 69. Bxh1 Kxh1 70. b6 Nxb6 71. Kxc3 $11) 47... c4 $1 48. Kb4 {Otherwise Black just plays ...Kc5xb5.} Kd4 $1 49. Bb1 Nd5+ $1 50. Ka5 Kc5 $1 (50... c3 $2 {would be premature:} 51. b6 Nxb6 52. Kxb6 Ke3 53. Kc5 Kf2 54. Kd4 Kg2 55. Ke3 Kxh2 56. Kf3 h5 57. Bd3 Kh3 58. Bc2 h4 59. gxh4 Kxh4 60. Bb1 g5 61. Bxf5 gxf4 62. Kxf4 $11) 51. Ba2 (51. h3 h5 52. h4 Nc3 $1 53. b6 Kc6 $1 {JS: Forced, but it still looks as if White might round up the c-pawn after Ba4+ at first glance.} 54. Bc2 Nd5 55. Bb1 (55. Ba4+ Kb7 56. Kb5 c3 57. Kc5 Ne3 58. Bb3 c2 59. Bxc2 Nxc2 60. Kd6 Ne3 61. Ke6 Nf1 62. Kf6 Nxg3) 55... Nxb6 56. Kb4 Kd5 $1 57. Kc3 Nc8 58. Kd2 Nd6 59. Ke3 Ne4 60. Bc2 Nc3 61. Kf2 Kd4 62. Kf3 Ne4 $19 {Zugzwang! White cannot retain control of both d3 and g3.}) 51... Nb6 (51... c3 $1 {now wins as even the position of White's king counts against him:} 52. Bb3 ({Racing to promotion does not help as Black can sideline White's king:} 52. Bxd5 Kxd5 53. b6 c2 54. b7 c1=Q 55. b8=Q Qa3+ 56. Kb6 Qb4+ 57. Kc7 Qxb8+ 58. Kxb8 Ke4 $19) 52... Ne3 ({But not} 52... Kd4 $4 53. b6 Nxb6 54. Kxb6 Kd3 55. Kc5 c2 56. Bxc2+ Kxc2 57. Kd5 Kd3 58. Ke5 Ke3 59. Kf6 Kf3 60. Kg7 Kg2 61. Kxh7 Kxh2 62. Kxg6 Kxg3 63. Kxf5 $18) 53. b6 c2 54. Bxc2 Nxc2 55. b7 Nb4 56. Ka4 (56. b8=Q Nc6+ $19) 56... Nc6 $19) 52. Bb1 {[#] The best chance. Being very low on time, I saw none of these computer lines, and was just floundering around hoping for a draw. I could see that the position of the kings and the queenside pawns meant that if both queen, the queens would be immediately exchanged (...Qa1+ Kb6 Qb1+ and ...Qxb8) leaving the Black king much closer to the kingside, as illustrated in the line above. Even if the Black knight had to be sacrificed for the b-pawn, there are still difficulties, as the White bishop cannot defend the kingside pawns which are all on dark squares, so an ending of bishop versus three pawns is possible, though the tablebases seem to suggest these are often drawn.} (52. Ka6 Nd5 $1 ( 52... Nd7 53. Ka5 Kd4 54. b6 Nxb6 55. Kxb6 c3 56. Bb3 Ke3 57. Kc5 Kf3 58. Kd4 Kg2 59. Kxc3 Kxh2 60. Kd4 Kxg3 61. Ke5 $11 {is a draw as Black can force the exchange of White's last pawn but cannot securely promote his own.}) 53. Ka5 c3 54. Bb3 Ne3 55. Ka6 c2 56. Bxc2 Nxc2 57. b6 Nb4+ 58. Ka7 Kb5 59. b7 Nc6+ $19) 52... c3 $2 {My opponent also did not play this ending perfectly, but again, note that for him the position is oscillating between a win and a draw!} (52... Nd5 53. h3 (53. Ba2 {repeats the earlier position when} c3 $1 $19 {wins as previously discussed}) 53... h5 54. h4 Nc3 55. b6 Kc6 56. Bc2 Nd5 57. Ba4+ Kb7 58. Bd1 Kb8 (58... Nxb6 $2 59. Kb5 $11) 59. Ba4 c3 60. Bb3 Ne3 61. Kb4 c2 62. Bxc2 Nxc2+ 63. Kc5 Ne3 $19) 53. Bc2 h5 54. h3 Nc4+ 55. Ka4 $1 (55. Ka6 $2 Na3 $19) 55... Kd4 56. Kb4 Nb6 57. Ka5 $6 (57. h4 Nc4 58. Bb1 Ne3 59. Kb3 Nd5 60. Bc2 Ne3 61. Bb1 $11 {Black can make no progress as at least one of the knight or the king needs to keep an eye on the b-pawn.} (61. b6 $2 Nc4)) 57... Kc5 58. Bb3 $2 {After this White is lost again. The b3 square is needed for the king.} (58. Bb1 $1 Nc4+ 59. Ka4 Ne3 60. Kb3 c2 61. Bxc2 h4 62. gxh4 Kxb5 63. h5 gxh5 64. Bd3+ Kc5 65. Kc3 Nd5+ 66. Kd2 Nxf4 67. Bxf5 $11) 58... Nc4+ 59. Ka4 (59. Bxc4 c2 $19) 59... Nd6 $2 {[#] This looks attractive, winning the b-pawn, but in fact it is another error.} (59... Ne3 $1 60. Ka5 c2 61. Bxc2 Nxc2 62. b6 Kc6 63. Ka6 Nb4+ 64. Ka7 Kb5 65. b7 Nc6+ $19) 60. Ka3 $2 {The last real mistake of the game.} (60. b6 $1 Kxb6 61. Kb4 Ne4 62. Bd1 Kc6 (62... Nxg3 63. Kxc3 Kc5 64. Kd3 Kd6 65. Bb3 $11) 63. Kc4 $1 Kd6 64. h4 $1 Ke6 65. Kd4 $1 Nxg3 66. Kxc3 Ne4+ 67. Kd4 Nf6 68. Be2 Kd6 (68... Nd5 $4 69. Bc4 $18) 69. Bf3 $11 {Black can never win White's weakened pawns as the knight can only attack from light squares which can be well-controlled by White's pieces} Ng4 (69... Ne8 70. Bd1 Ng7 71. Bb3 Ne6+ 72. Bxe6 Kxe6 73. Kc5 Ke7 74. Kd5 Kd7 $11) 70. Bd1 Nf2 71. Bf3 Nh3 $2 72. Ke3 $18 {and White will trap the knight by Bg2 and Kf2.}) 60... Kxb5 $6 $19 (60... Nxb5+ {is even easier} 61. Ka2 Kd4 62. Kb1 Kd3 63. Kc1 Nd4 64. Ba4 c2 $19) 61. Be6 Kc5 62. Kb3 Kd4 63. Kc2 Ne4 64. Bf7 Nxg3 65. Bxg6 h4 66. Bh5 {An extreme time-trouble blunder, leaving a piece en prise, but the position was completely lost in any case. This was an annoying game to lose, because I thought I had an excellent position at one point and did not think I had really done anything terribly wrong. However my opponent was a deserving winner, managing the endgame transition very well, maintaining a useful lead on the clock, and judging that he was at little risk of losing in the time scramble melee. JS: A very tough endgame battle. Andrew misjudged his chances especially when exchanging the black squared bishops, but fought very hard thereafter. As you'd expect (also in a game between grandmasters) there were a number of inaccuracies, but eventually the knight was able to overcome the bishop since in the final phase he was eventually able to improve his position. It was crucial, at the end, that in many lines White's passed b-pawn could be controlled with tactics, notably Nc2-b4+-c6 after winning the bishop on c2.} (66. Bh7 Nf1 {and ...Ne3 comes next move, forcing the c-pawn through.}) (66. Be8 Ne2 67. Bg6 Ke4 {and f4 drops.}) 0-1

In the next game, the 'Ecstasy', Andrew explains, "This game was played in the seventh and final round of the same tournament. After some adventures I was on 3.0/6 before this game, so was keen to win and finish on a positive score. My opponent was a talented young player whom I had drawn with as White in a previous tournament. I missed a couple of good winning chances in that game, so was keen to see if I could make amends for that here."

[Event "Caissa Spring Open"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.05.27"] [Round "7"] [White "Zheng, Kenneth"] [Black "Medworth, Andrew"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C03"] [Annotator "andrew"] [PlyCount "62"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.13"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 a6 {A small move-order subtlety, aiming for the main lines of the 3...c5 Tarrasch French while cutting out the lines where White plays Bb5+. These lines are not such a problem for Black, but sometimes these little tricks can throw people off.} 4. Ngf3 c5 {Normally White now handles the position in one of two ways: taking on d5 then c5 giving Black an isolated queen's pawn, or taking on c5 only, perhaps eventually pushing e4-e5 to give a more "normal" French pawn structure. There are also lines where White takes on an IQP himself. In the end my opponent chose none of these options, and I felt I equalised fairly easily.} 5. c3 Nc6 6. Be2 { This is a rare move, with a bad practical score in the database (and played by no-one over Elo 2100). Normally the bishop wants to be on the b1-h7 diagonal here, though the text move surely can't be all that bad?} (6. Bd3 {is the more common choice here. Richard Rapport has played this position a couple of times (albeit via a Sicilian move order).} cxd4 7. cxd4 dxe4 8. Nxe4 Bb4+ 9. Nc3 (9. Bd2 {JS: I had a game in Bunratty recently where my young opponent played 9. Bd2 and evntually won:} Be7 10. O-O Nf6 11. Bg5 O-O 12. Bxf6 Bxf6 13. Nxf6+ Qxf6 14. Be4 Bd7 15. Ne5 Rfd8 16. Qh5 g6 17. Qf3 Qxf3 18. Bxf3 Be8 19. Bxc6 Bxc6 20. Rfd1 Rac8 21. Rac1 Bb5 22. g3 Kg7 23. Rc3 f6 24. Nd3 Kf7 25. Nc5 Bc6 26. Nb3 e5 27. Rd2 exd4 28. Rxd4 Re8 29. Re3 Re5 30. Rxe5 fxe5 31. Rd2 Ke6 32. Kf1 Bf3 33. Rd3 Bd5 34. Rc3 Rxc3 35. bxc3 Bxb3 36. axb3 Kd5 37. Ke2 a5 38. Kd3 b5 39. Kc2 Ke4 40. Kd2 g5 41. Ke2 g4 42. Kd2 Kf3 43. c4 bxc4 44. bxc4 Ke4 45. Kc3 h6 {0-1 (45) Byrne,A-Speelman,J Bunratty 2017}) 9... Nf6 10. O-O O-O 11. Bg5 Be7 12. Rc1 Nd5 13. Bxe7 Ncxe7 14. Ne5 Bd7 15. Be4 Bc6 16. Nxc6 bxc6 17. Na4 Qd6 18. Nc5 Rfb8 19. b3 a5 20. g3 Nf6 21. Rc4 Rb4 22. Qd3 Rab8 23. Rfc1 Rxc4 24. Rxc4 Rb4 25. Rxb4 axb4 26. Qc4 g5 27. Kf1 h6 28. Bg2 Ned5 29. Nd3 Kg7 30. Ne5 c5 31. Bxd5 Nxd5 32. Nd3 cxd4 33. Qxd4+ f6 34. Kg1 h5 35. h4 e5 36. Qa7+ Kg6 37. hxg5 fxg5 38. Qa4 Kf5 39. Qe8 Nf6 40. Qc8+ Kg6 41. Qc2 e4 42. Nb2 Qd4 43. Nc4 h4 44. gxh4 gxh4 45. Qc1 Nd5 46. a3 bxa3 47. Qxa3 Qd1+ 48. Kh2 Nf6 49. Qd6 Qxb3 50. Qe6 Qc3 51. Nd6 Qe5+ {1/2-1/2 (51) Naroditsky,D (2587) -Rapport,R (2704) Riga 2014}) 6... Nf6 (6... cxd4 {was the choice of the strongest player to have this position in MegaBase 2016:} 7. cxd4 dxe4 8. Nxe4 Be7 (8... Bb4+ {JS also makes sense here}) 9. O-O Nf6 10. Nc3 O-O 11. Bg5 b5 12. a3 Bb7 13. b4 h6 14. Bh4 Qb6 15. Qd2 Rfd8 16. Rfd1 Nxd4 17. Nxd4 e5 18. Qe3 exd4 19. Qxe7 Re8 20. Qc5 Qxc5 21. bxc5 dxc3 22. Bxf6 gxf6 23. Bf3 Bxf3 24. gxf3 Rac8 25. Rd3 Rxc5 26. Rc1 Rec8 27. Rc2 a5 28. Rd4 Rc4 {0-1 (28) Laurent,D (2032)-Legky,N (2453) Montigny le Bretonneux 2005}) 7. e5 Nd7 8. a3 {[#]} f6 { I was quite happy here as White cannot reinforce e5, so he loses his central strong point. The e6 pawn will be backward, but I wasn't worried about this, as White's control over e5 is not too strong, so I was hoping to be able to play ...e5 quickly.} 9. exf6 Nxf6 10. b4 b6 {I wanted to try to maintain a pawn on c5 if possible.} (10... cxd4 {is the preference of one of my engines.} 11. cxd4 Bd6 12. O-O O-O) (10... c4 {is preferred by another engine} 11. Ne5 a5 12. Rb1 Bd6 13. f4 axb4 14. axb4 O-O 15. O-O Ra2 $11) 11. Nb3 (11. Qa4 { hitting both a6 and c6 was a move I only noticed after playing my previous move; however while awaiting my opponent's reply I noticed I could play} Bd7 { as} 12. Bxa6 $2 {fails to} Nxd4 $19) 11... Ne4 $6 {I couldn't resist this attack on c3 (also reinforcing c5) but it doesn't really achieve much, and in fact it almost backfired.} (11... c4 {immediately was better.} 12. Nbd2 Bd6 13. Nf1 O-O 14. Ng3 Qc7 15. O-O {JS: Black has a lot of space here and has gained time reaching the position to boot. He is at least equal.}) 12. Qc2 {Now Black has to watch out, as White's queen is opposite an undefended knight on c6...} Bd6 13. Be3 {Cranking up pressure on c5. Unfortunately I now missed a tactic.} c4 $2 {Neither of us spotted the problem with this in the game, and I was irritated to find this flaw in my play when I got home!} (13... cxb4 14. cxb4 Bd7 $11) 14. Nbd2 $2 {[#] Now I am fine again. I felt I was a little better due to the open f-file and my extra space, though Black has problems here too, such as e5/ e6 and the traditional French problem of developing the Bc8.} (14. Bxc4 $1 {is something I really ought to have seen, as I was looking at similar ideas elsewhere in my calculations.} Nxf2 15. Bxf2 dxc4 16. Nbd2 b5 {and I have avoided losing material, but my structure is shot and White can provoke further weaknesses on the kingside.} 17. Ne4 O-O 18. Neg5 g6 19. Qe4 {Black can now avoid the worst with some tricky computer tactics, but White is still doing well after} Bf4 20. Qxc6 Bd7 21. Qe4 Bxg5 22. O-O $16 {JS: This is a pretty unpleasant position for Black who has a weak e-pawn. If the bishop could get to d5 then might be okay, but it doesn't look as if he'll have time to achieve this without sustaining major damage.}) 14... Nf6 $1 {I liked this move as I felt my opponent was quite congested and so wanted to avoid exchanges. JS: I agree entirely.} 15. h3 {White's delay in castling made me suspect he wanted to try a pawn storm, but I wasn't too worried about any kingside pressure, as I can easily open up the centre.} O-O 16. Nh2 $6 { I wasn't really sure what the point of this was, but I was concerned about f2-f4 blocking up the centre and targeting my e6 pawn longer-term. I spent a long time here - 16 minutes of my remaining 54, which is too long really. Had I known my opponent would respond as he did, I would have played it much more quickly!} (16. O-O {was what I expected, with something like} Bd7 17. a4 Qc7 18. Rfe1 b5 19. a5 Rae8 $11 {JS: The space gives Black an edge, but White should be fairly okay too.}) 16... e5 {-> A double-edged move, giving White the d4 square for his pieces and making d5 the potential problem pawn. But I wanted to activate my bishops and open the centre before my opponent had castled. JS: Quite right after White has lost time with Nh2.} 17. Ndf3 $2 { I was very surprised by this. I can only surmise that perhaps my long think had broken my opponent's concentration. JS: Again I agree entirely with Andrew. Allowing e4 is crazy.} (17. dxe5 {was the only move I considered.} Nxe5 18. O-O Ng6 $15 {I like Black's development and slight space advantage, but it's still a game.}) 17... e4 $1 {Now the knight has to beat an embarrassing retreat, and I get a stranglehold from which White never recovers.} 18. Nd2 (18. Ng5 $2 h6 { traps the poor horse!}) (18. Ne5 {giving up an important pawn is seriously considered by my computer, which tells you all you need to know really!} Nxe5 19. dxe5 Bxe5 $17) 18... Ne7 {[#]} 19. g4 $2 {Stopping ... Nf5, but giving the knight two other attractive posts on f4 and h4. JS: Andrew gave this a ?! but I'm somewhere between ? and ??. It's suicidal.} Qc7 {Both pressurising the h2-b8 diagonal and adding protection to c4, reducing the danger of cheapos based on the king still being on g8.} 20. Nhf1 Ng6 21. g5 {There is no chance of a kingside attack here for White, as he does not have the space to bring enough pieces across. This further pawn push simply causes further weakening of the kingside. However it is already difficult to offer White any constructive suggestions.} Ne8 $1 {To bring the knight into the game via d6 or c7. Maybe this piece will come to f5, since that square has now been weakened again? Moving to d7 seemed to set the knight on the wrong circuit.} 22. h4 Nf4 23. f3 $2 {This was another surprise for me, as I assumed White had to take on f4. JS: This hastens the end, but White has essentially been lost since he played g4.} (23. Bxf4 Bxf4 {and it is hard for White to untangle, e.g.} 24. Ne3 $2 Bxe3 25. fxe3 Qg3+ $19 26. Kd1 Nd6 27. Re1 Rf2 28. Nf1 Qg2 29. Ra2 Bg4) 23... Nxe2 $1 {There were a lot of attractive possibilities here, but eventually I settled for trading off White's good bishop and robbing my opponent of his castling rights.} 24. Kxe2 exf3+ $1 {Stuck in the centre, White's king is brutally exposed.} 25. Nxf3 Bf5 $1 {I was really enjoying myself here! My pieces flood in and White has no counterplay whatsoever.} 26. Qd1 Bd3+ (26... Bg4 {is preferred by the computer, but the text is more than good enough.}) 27. Kd2 (27. Kf2 {running to the kingside is no salvation:} Bf4 28. Bxf4 Qxf4 29. Rh3 Nd6 30. Kg1 Ne4 {and Black has overwhelming threats including ...Nxc3 and ...Qg4+.}) 27... Bf4 28. a4 $6 (28. Qe1 {puts up a bit more resistance, but} a5 29. Ne5 Bxe5 30. dxe5 axb4 31. axb4 Rxa1 32. Qxa1 Qxe5 $19 {and Black just needs to bring up the reserves.}) 28... Nd6 29. Bxf4 Ne4+ $1 {With this in-between move the queen enters the attack!} 30. Ke1 Qxf4 31. Rh3 Rae8 {[#] I chose this move for aesthetic reasons - material is level, but just compare the pieces of the two sides - Ecstasy indeed (if you are Black)! After pondering his situation for a couple of minutes, my opponent resigned. I was surprised by just how bad the coordination of White's pieces was after his error on move 17; the game almost played itself after that point. My opponent is very early in his chess career, and I'm glad to have been able to beat him here, while I am still capable of it! I have no doubt he is capable of great things in the future. This win put me on 4/7 which was sufficient for outright third place in the tournament, behind my "agony" opponent Alberto, and the Hong Kong Champion Andrew Leung, who also beat me in a game which could also have qualified for the Agony section!} (31... Nxc3 {immediately is also completely winning, as indeed is almost any other move. JS: A nice game by Andrew, in which he remained admirably calm and exploited his opponent's errors.}) 0-1

The state of mind after a victory

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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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