How not to win a won game

Last Tuesday, Ian Wallis (White) faced Mike Cook in an all-Ipswich fixture in Division 1 of the Suffolk League.

Ian’s detailed analysis is shown below, and you can play through the game using the diagram.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.Qe2 or 4.d3 are designed to prevent the Berlin Wall, on reflection an odd choice against Michael as he always follows up with 4…Bc5 5.c3 d6 6.d3 h6 7.Nbd2 0–0 8.h3 Bb6  A surprise, I was expecting …a6 gaining a tempo to give the bishop a retreat square on a7.  On seeing Black’s last move I decided on a slow manoeuvring plan 9.Nf1?!  Better was 9. O-O to keep pace with Black’s development 9…Ne7!  Now Black’s plan is perfectly clear.  He intends Ng6 (eyeing up Nf4), c6 and Bc7 preserving the bishop on a different diagonal. Realising the strength of this plan I decided to abort the intended knight manoeuvre in a belated attempt to develop quickly 10.Be3 Ng6 11.g3?!  A horrible move to have to play – what does his neighbour on h3 think? …c6 12.Ba4 d5 13.Bxb6 Qxb6 14.exd5 cxd5 15. O-O-O.  Castling at last and getting time to reflect on my wretched position.  It is safe to say that picking a dubious (some would say ambitious) plan and then changing it has resulted in a difficult position.  Black has a clear advantage here.  It is at times like this in a game that strange forces come into play.  Rather than worrying about my position, I felt a calmness about it, knowing that if Black executed his game plan accurately there would be precious little I could do about it.  And yet here sprang eternal hope!  How many of us mere mortals have failed to convert advantages they thought they had during a game?  The pressure is all on Black to prove the evidence of the position. 15…Qc7?!  At the time I thought this to be inaccurate, fearing more Be6 followed by d4.  However on checking with the electronic monster back home it found nothing wrong with the idea which is obviously to make way for the pawn storm on the newly castled king. 16.Kb1 Be6 17.d4  I thought this was forced as I couldn’t contemplate allowing Black to advance himself.  The machine was unimpressed with my move and assessed the position after Black’s next as circa -0.90, i.e. significantly inferior! 17…e4  Good enough for Hr Fritz but Mike said after the game this is where he thought he took a wrong turn and preferred to keep the position open with Bf5+ which is fine if White co-operates with Bc2 swapping bishops, but is less significant after Ka1. 18.N3d2 a6 19.Ne3 b5 20.Bc2 Rfc8  Over the last few moves Fritz has assessed the position as between -0.50 to -1.00 depending on whose turn it is to move.  I now took the opportunity to create my first threat in the game: 21.f4!? Ne7 which Black easily parried. 22.Nb3 Bd7 23.Nc5 a5  Now the assessment of the position is only marginally better for Black, although I can’t see that Black has been making any inferior moves which brings me to ask the question as to why Hr Fritz thought so highly of Black’s position only three moves ago?  He has gone strangely quiet on this question and I am still waiting for his answer…  Anyway back to the game 24.Ng4!  The exclamation is not because the move is surprising or particularly brilliant, more so that it is a shot that dramatically changes the assessment of the position and having found it I felt comfortable for the first time in the game. 24…Nf5?  Black does not react well to the change of events.  After the game he said that he couldn’t allow the knight to land on e5 as he didn’t like his position after that.  However the cure is worse than the complaint.  I was expecting a capture on g4 and then a classical pawn storm on each side of the board.  I was quietly confident at this point.  Fritz now recommends Ne8, eventually redeploying the knight to d6 which it assesses as favourable (about -0.50) to Black.  Appearances can be deceptive some times! 25.Nxf6+ gxf6 26.Rhg1  It is now White who has a significant advantage (around +1.00). …Kf8  Another step in the wrong direction according to Fritz (now around +1.50) although its suggestions do not inspire confidence in Black’s position. 27.Qh5! (+1.82) …Ke7?!  What is Black thinking? (now over 3.00)  Or was it a psychological move knowing that I would not be able to resist such provocation? 28.Nxe4?!  Fritz preferred Rde1 preparing the sac after Be6 then gives Bxe4 to preserve the knight to attack f6.  I was looking at the bishop hitting the rook on a8. 28…dxe4 29.Bxe4 Ne3?  Missing Ng7= (understandably so in my opinion!) 30.Rde1  Now all is well with the world (+5.50)  Happy days!! …Be6 31.Bxa8  Rxe3 was simpler, however I didn’t think that the counter-play was going to be a serious problem. …Qc4 32.Rxe3 Qxa2+ 33.Kc2 b4  All according to plan, now how to nullify Black’s activity and wait for him to run out of pieces? f5, d5, Bd5, Rxe6+ and the move played were all candidate moves and thereby lay the problem, choice means indecision.  Just when hand and brain co-ordination is required to bring the game to its ultimate conclusion, after a long day and energy-sapping game, brain goes AWOL thinking it has done its job and all that is needed is to mop up, over to you hand… 34.Rge1  OK not bad (approx +6.70) just behind d5 at around (+7.40) 34…bxc3 35.Rxc3 Qb3+  Now one last precise move and it’s all over… 36.Kc1??  Unfortunately this is not it!  Suddenly =(0.00).  Even now I cannot comprehend why I made this move 36…Rxc3+ 37.bxc3 Qxc3+ 38.Kd1 Qd3+ ½–½.  If 36. Kd3 (+11.29) and Black can start putting the pieces back in the box.

If any other reader has played an interesting game recently, please send it to me!

One thought on “How not to win a won game
  1. Ian it's called taking your eye off the ball – The same night I played Mr Jones, having seen his game winning with the Smith-Morra in the county game and knowing I was black I decided he would try this one again. I prepared the first 10 moves using Silman – Winning with the Scillian. This would calm him down and leave me with the extra pawn. Hr Fritz gave 12 ..Qa5, not my Ng4 as winning. Anyhow we both went on to mistakes mine being fatal when a stupid move on move 26 gifted what I thought was a won game to Mr Jones. Perhaps Bob might post the game I don't know who will be most embaraced !!

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