4ncl Games

4NCL Online – An Unlikely Victory

It is not always necessary to obtain a favourable position in order to win a game of chess: obdurate defence is sometimes equally effective.  Martin Walker demonstrates how in his 4th round game in the 4NCL Online.
[Event "4NCL online Season 2"] [Site "lichess.org"] [Date "2020.10.06"] [Round "4.3"] [White "Gray, Euan"] [Black "Walker, Martin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D85"] [WhiteElo "2098"] [BlackElo "2196"] [Annotator "(c) Martin Walker 2020"] [PlyCount "149"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] [WhiteTeam "Alba Bon Accord 1"] [BlackTeam "Anglia Avengers 1"] [TimeControl "2700+15"] {I was expecting either Michael Grove (2119) or Duncan Harwood(2034), both of whom play 1. e4 as white. Instead, I was playing Euan Gray(2098), who opened with} 1. d4 {Snarl! All that preparation of the Vienna Game and Ruy Lopez Open Variation came to nothing! but never mind - hopefully some of it will stick for future games. So, it will be a Grunfeld, if permitted.} Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Be3 c5 8. Qd2 cxd4 ({The computer prefers} 8... Nc6 9. d5 Qa5 10. Rc1 Ne5 {, but I can't see the sense in this. Black's knight is blocking his bishop and black's queen on a5 is out on a limb doing nothing, waiting to be attacked - the purpose, surely, of playing Qa5 is to exchange queens - hence the text move.}) 9. cxd4 Nc6 10. Rd1 Qa5 11. Qxa5 Nxa5 12. Bd3 ({After the computer's recommended move,} 12. Rc1 O-O 13. Rc7 Rd8 14. Ne2 (14. d5 e6 {is better for black.}) 14... e6 {is better for black - now that the white knight is on e2, black needn't worry about e6 blocking his bishop in, since he can play b5 and Bb7. White's lag in development is far more serious. Play might continue} 15. g3 b6 16. Bg2 Ba6 (16... Bb7 17. O-O { is not so good for black - the bishop is far more useful on a6, heading, for example, for c4.}) 17. e5 Rdc8 18. Rd7 Bb5 19. Bxa8 Bxd7 20. Be4 Bb5 {with a clear advantage to black.}) (12. d5 {is also nothing for black to fear. After} O-O 13. Nf3 ({The slight disruption to black's pawns after} 13. Bd2 b6 14. Bxa5 bxa5 {is not a problem for black - he will soon play f5, the position is open for his bishops, and if white's rook goes on a lone mission to c1 and c7, it is bound to fail.}) 13... Bg4 14. Be2 Rfc8 {is fine for black, who controls the c-file, and will get a rook to c2, whether white plays 15. Rc1 or not (in which case he plays 15.....Rxc1+ and 16.....Rc8). After the text move, the position is equal - the opening has been a success for black (what went wrong later?)}) 12... O-O 13. Ne2 f5 14. f3 ({Now white will be unable to castle in the near future. I briefly wondered about} 14. Nf4 {. After} fxe4 15. Bxe4 e5 16. Bd5+ Kh8 17. dxe5 Bxe5 18. g3 Re8 19. O-O Bf5 {, black is OK - but this is better for white than the text.}) 14... fxe4 15. fxe4 Bd7 16. Bf2 ({Played with the intention of castling, but such a passive move simply cannot be right. After} 16. Rb1 b6 17. Kd2 {! white maintains equality.}) 16... Rac8 {Now black is better.} 17. O-O Nc4 18. Bxc4+ Rxc4 19. Rc1 Bb5 {Now black is much better. Where, oh where, did it all go wrong?} 20. Rfd1 Rxc1 21. Nxc1 Rc8 22. Nb3 Bh6 ( {The answer to my earlier question, "Where did I go wrong?" seems to be, "Around here". This move is 2nd best. After} 22... b6 23. d5 Rc4 24. Rc1 ({ , white can no longer play} 24. Nd4 {because of} Ba4) 24... Rxc1+ ({White sets the trap} 24... Rxe4 25. Rc8+ Kf7 26. Rc7 Ra4 27. d6 Bf6 28. d7 {. After} Bxd7 29. Rxd7 Rxa2 {, black is still better with 3 pawns for the piece and 2 queenside passed pawns - but it was not necessary to go in for complications like this.}) {The minor piece ending with two bishops against bishop and knight is even better for Black than with the rooks on. He wins a pawn after} 25. Nxc1 Bh6 26. Nb3 Bd3 27. Nd4 Bxe4 28. Nc6 Kf7 29. Nxa7 Bxd5 30. Bxb6 Bxa2 { , although whether or not he will actually be able to win the ensuing endgame is not completely clear.}) 23. d5 b6 24. Nd4 Ba4 25. Rf1 Rc4 26. e5 Rc5 ({ The question in such endings is always, are advanced pawns a strength or a weakness? The answer is, if they have a significant chance of queening, and the other side has to become very passive or bogged down in order to stop them, then they are a strength; if they can easily be stopped, surrounded, and captured, then they are a (soon to disappear!) weakness. In this endgame, it is difficult to say which - but, certainly, black is in no danger from the pawns at the moment. Crucially, black can always force a rook exchange with Rc1. Therefore he can carry on looking for play on other parts of the board without having to worry about the pawns too much. The text move was a panicky move - I was over-concerned about how far advanced the pawns were - and I completely overlooked white's strong reply as a result - I went from seriously better to slightly (but not seriously) worse in one move! Better is} 26... Bd7 {, when after} 27. Re1 ({The position after} 27. e6 {is nowhere near as scary as it looks. After} Ba4 {, white's pawns are static, his knight cannot move, and he will play Bg7 followed by Rc2 with a clear advantage. I overestimated my position, and didn't realise I needed to take risks like this - black is clearly better, but will need to calculate tactics carefully.}) 27... Kf8 28. d6 exd6 29. exd6 Rc1 {, the white passed d-pawn is firmly blockaded and will probably soon be won. White's a-pawn is also vulnerable - and black is clearly much better.}) 27. Nc6 ({I saw that} 27. Nf5 {was OK for me after} gxf5 28. Bxc5 bxc5 29. Rxf5 {- more than OK, it is clearly winning after} c4 30. Rf3 ({ Or} 30. d6 c3 31. dxe7 c2 {and black wins easily.}) 30... Bd2 {. However, I completely overlooked the text move, after which white is in the ascendancy.}) 27... Rc1 ({Now black is in serious trouble after his third mistake in a row. After} 27... Rxc6 28. dxc6 Bxc6 29. Rd1 Kf7 {, black's position is solid, and he has every chance of drawing, thanks to the power of the two bishops. I urgently had to adjust from thinking in terms of winning to holding out for a draw - and that isn't easy. Black is also OK after}) (27... Rc4 28. Nxe7+ Kf7 29. Be3+ ({Not} 29. d6 {? when after} Ke6 {, black will soon win the e- and d-pawns and be better again.}) 29... Kxe7 30. Bxh6 Rd4 ({This is absolutely crucial. After} 30... Re4 31. Bf8+ Kd8 32. Bg7 Ke7 33. h3 Bb5 34. Rf8 Rxe5 35. d6+ Kxd6 36. Bxe5+ Kxe5 37. Rf7 {, black's long term chances of holding the game, even allowing for my opponent's time shortage, are realistically almost nil.}) 31. Bg5+ Ke8 32. d6 Rd5 33. Bf6 Kd7 {. The pawns are blockaded and the opposite-coloured bishop ending is almost certainly drawn.}) 28. Rxc1 Bxc1 29. Nxe7+ Kf8 30. d6 ({This grants black a breathing space. After} 30. Nc8 Bb5 31. Nxa7 Bc4 32. d6 Ke8 33. Bxb6 Bxa2 34. Nc6 {, black's prospects are grim.}) 30... Bd7 ({Black misses a chance to equalise with} 30... Kf7 31. Bd4 Ke6 32. Ng8 ({After} 32. Nc8 {??} Bd7 33. Nxa7 b5 34. g3 Kd5 {, the white knight is trapped, black will soon win the white e- and d-pawns, and is actually better!} ) 32... h5 33. g3 Bg5 {, when it will be virtually impossible for white to make progress.}) 31. Nd5 Be6 ({Another mistake. It is absolutely essential for black to keep the two bishops. After} 31... Bb2 32. Bg3 Bd4+ 33. Kf1 Kf7 { , black's drawing chances are good. I have completely lost my way over the past half dozen moves or so.}) 32. Nc7 Kf7 ({I considered} 32... Bxa2 {, but after} 33. Bh4 g5 34. e6 Bxe6 35. Nxe6+ Ke8 36. Nxg5 Bxg5 (36... Kd7 37. Nxh7 Kxd6 38. Kf1 {and the king will arrive easily in time to stop the pawns;}) ( 36... h5 37. Kf2 Kd7 38. Ne4 {doesn't help black much either. If he is to have any chance of holding this, he must use the extra tempo.}) 37. Bxg5 Kd7 38. Bf4 a5 39. Kf2 a4 40. Ke3 a3 ({is far too slow after} 40... b5 41. Kd4) 41. Be5 Ke6 42. g4 {!} a2 ({White cleverly uses the trap} 42... Kxe5 43. d7 a2 44. d8=Q a1=Q 45. Qh8+) 43. Ke4 b5 44. g5 {and white wins easily.}) 33. Nxe6 Kxe6 34. Bd4 Bf4 35. g3 {If black is to hold this ending, he must prevent incursions by the white king - at g5 and b5-c6. In order to achieve the latter, he must play the ugly-looking Bd8 followed by b6 and hope to get his king active in time to relieve the pressure on b6. Hence my next move.} Bg5 36. Kf2 Kd5 ({The computer points out the surprising and counter-intuitive alternative} 36... b5 {, when after} 37. Kf3 ({If} 37. Bxa7 Kxe5 38. Bc5 Bd8 39. Bb4 Bb6+ 40. Ke2 Ke6 41. Kf3 ({Or} 41. Kd3 Bg1 42. h3 Bh2 {, and black will regain the pawn and draw easily.}) 41... Bd4 42. Kf4 Bg1 ({Black must be careful.} 42... Be5+ 43. Kg5 Bxd6 44. Bxd6 Kxd6 45. Kh6 {loses.}) 43. h3 Bd4 44. Kg5 Be3+ 45. Kg4 Bc1 { and black parks his bishop on the c1-h6 diagonal and draws easily. And if the white king goes to e4, black plays Bb2 heading for e5 and Bxe.}) 37... Kd5 38. a3 Bd8 39. Kf4 h6 {Black plays this in order to free his bishop, without having to worry about Kg5, and if} 40. Bxa7 Bg5+ {followed by Kxe and black draws.}) 37. Bb2 a6 38. h4 Bd8 39. Kf3 b5 40. Kg4 Ke6 (40... h5+ {is a reasonable alternative. Black must keep an eye on g5 and (after the black king retreats)c5 and c6. As a general principle, black also should avoid putting pawns on black squares, where they will become targets. But there are exceptions to this!}) 41. h5 Kd5 42. Kf4 Ke6 43. hxg6 hxg6 44. Ke4 Bb6 45. Bd4 Ba5 46. g4 Bd2 ({A serious mistake. Black should play} 46... Be1 47. Kd3 a5 { (the excpetion to the above principle!)} 48. Bb2 a4 {when black can covr all the entry points and prevent the white king from ever going to c5, winning the black queenside pawns.}) 47. Bb2 Ba5 48. Bc1 Bb6 49. Bg5 Bc5 50. Bf6 Ba3 51. Bh8 ({The winning move was} 51. Kd4 {. After} Bb4 52. Bg5 Ba3 53. Bf4 a5 ({If} 53... Bb4 54. Bc1 {, black will have to play either 54.....Ba5, allowing 55. Kc5, or 54.....Kd7, allowing 55. Kd5 and e6+, winning easily.}) 54. Bd2 a4 55. Bc3 {and black is in zugzwang:} b4 56. Ba1 b3 57. axb3 axb3 58. Kc3 {and white wins the black b-pawn and the game.}) 51... Bb4 52. Kf4 Bd2+ 53. Ke4 Be1 54. Bf6 Ba5 ({Again, black should be playing} 54... a5 {and a4. By now, my opponent was seriously short of time.}) 55. Kd3 Bb6 56. Kc3 Bc5 57. Bh8 ({ Better winning chances are given by} 57. Kb3 {, but even here after} Kd7 58. a4 Ke6 59. axb5 axb5 60. Bh4 Bd4 61. Bg3 Bc5 62. Bf4 Kd5 63. Kc3 ({Black's last move sets a trap - if} 63. d7 Be7 {(coming round the other way!) followed by Ke6 and Kxd draws!}) 63... Bd4+ 64. Kd3 ({Not so good is} 64. Kb4 Kc6 65. Ka5 Bc3+ 66. Ka6 g5 67. Bxg5 ({But not} 67. Bg3 b4 68. e6 Bf6 69. d7 ({But not} 69. e7 Kd7 70. Kb7 b3 71. e8=Q+ Kxe8 72. Kc8 b2 73. Be5 b1=Q 74. d7+ Kf7 75. Bxf6 Qc2+ 76. Kb8 Qb3+ 77. Kc8 Qc4+ 78. Kb7 Qb4+ 79. Kc6 Qa4+ 80. Kc7 Qf4+ 81. Kc8 Qxg4 {, when suddenly black is winning!}) 69... Kd5 70. Be1 b3 71. Bc3 Bd8 72. e7 Bxe7 73. Kb5 {and the game is drawn.}) 67... b4 68. Bf6 b3 69. d7 Kxd7 70. e6+ Kxe6 71. Bxc3 Kf7 72. Kb5 Kg6 {and white cannot prevent Kg5 and Kxg with a draw.}) 64... Bb6 65. Be3 Bd8 66. Bd4 Ke6 67. Kc2 Ba5 68. Kb3 Kd7 69. Bc3 Bb6 70. Kb4 Kc6 {, it is not clear how white should continue.}) 57... Kd7 58. Kb3 Kc6 59. a4 Be3 60. Bf6 Bf2 61. axb5+ axb5 62. Be7 Bg3 63. Bf6 Bf2 {Unashamedly playing for a draw - by now, my opponent was down to his last few seconds, with an increment of 15 seconds per move.} 64. Be7 Bg3 65. Bf6 Bh2 ({A mistake. After} 65... Bf2 {, the computer would automatically have declared a draw by threefold repetition of position.}) 66. Kb4 Bg3 67. Kc3 (67. Ka5 Be1+ 68. Ka6 b4 {followed by Bc3 is better for black, as in a previous note.}) 67... Bf2 68. Kb3 Bc5 69. Kc3 Bf2 70. Kb3 Be3 71. Kc3 Bc5 72. Be7 Ba3 73. Bf8 Kd7 74. Kd4 Ke6 ({Perhaps White was banking on the tactic:} 74... Kc6 $2 75. e6 $1 Bxd6 76. e7 Kd7 77. e8=Q+ $18) 75. Z0 {Astonishingly White now lost on time! A triumph of nerve over technique! Summary: I was much better out of the opening, then lost my way badly, and ended up with an almost certainly losing position. But I fought on tenaciously and achieved a hard-earned if very lucky win on time!} ({What caused my opponent to lose on time? He suddenly realized that his intended:} 75. d7 $5 {does not win the bishop, but is instead met by:} Bb2+ $11 {with a drawn position.}) 0-1
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