Friday, December 21, 2007

One Of My Most Difficult Games To Date

I've been meaning to get around to annotating this game that's been sitting inside my database for 2 weeks now.

And I'm still not sure if I made the right moves. I'll need to arrange a time for Fritz to give it a look through.

This game was hard.... very hard. Because it took me a long time to get the position I am now. I am Black and it is my turn. This game arose from the Closed Sicilian without g3 (B23). See 1st picture on left.

Both my opponent (rated 1500) and I were trying hard not to make mistakes and we had consumed copious amounts of time and we were now in a bit of time trouble having played 24 moves each.

My pieces are slightly better coordinated than my opponent's. My king is relatively safe in the center and my pieces protect one another (in harmony - which is very rare for me).

The position looks quiet but threatens to explode at any moment and I felt the next few moves are critical and would determine the outcome of the game.

I took a long time over my next move. First I scanned my opponent's threats.

The Queenside is all locked up.

My first inclination was to play 24...Kc7 or 24... Kc8 and move my King inwards away from any stray threats.

My worry here was that White can play d4! And after either cxd4 or exd4, suddenly White's pieces are free, the light square bishop can go to Bb5+, his Rook can shift to the Queenside and suddenly I've got holes everywhere on the Queenside (see the red arrows in the 2nd picture on the left)

Not good.

But while thinking of the King move, I suddenly realised that White also has the release mechanism c3! at his disposal which threatens to shatter my Queenside and Qc2 and Rc1 is going to be problematic.

I feel I need to strive and take over the initiative now.

White has weakness on the light squares. If I can engineer a break through on the light squares, I just might be able to take over the initiative. So I relook again at the board (see 3rd diagram)

My Bishop stands marvelously on b7 and it has its trained eye on the weak e4 pawn. This is the square I plan to break. If need be, I can quickly shift my Queen to a8 and double on the diagonal to give the Bishop more power.

I decided to go for broke and play 24... d5!

In case you haven't noticed, I've also laid a little trap for my opponent. Can you spot it? :)

If you did, good for you. Because my opponent didn't. He fell headlong into it and missed the following forced combination.

25. Bxh6?? White thinks it's winning a pawn and threatening Bxf8 but in reality, White is losing as now the following forced sequence reveals itself.

White missed my immediate reply 25... Nxg4+! The Bishop on h6 is threatened so White is forced to take my Knight.

26. hxg4 Rxf3
27. Rxf3 (see 4th picture on left) and now the moment reveals itself....

27.... Bg5!

Now I gain back my piece. More importantly, I've traded off White's important dark-square Bishop, I have a nice open h-file for my Rook and I forced the White Queen to retreat. Sweet.

28. Qe1 Rxh6+ 29. Kg2 Bf4 (blocking the f-file from the White's Rook and threatening Qh4 with Qh2+ and White will get mated soon once I take the Knight (removing the guard on the square h1) with my Bishop.
30. Qg1 (protecting h2 and attacking c5 pawn) Qe7 (I saw this of course, no way I'm letting his Queen break the Queenside. I'm not worried about White playing the d5 pawn since it's poisoned)
31. Nf1? (hmm.. my opponent is panicking. He just opened up the diagonal for my Bishop) dxe4
32. dxe4 Bxe4
33. Bb5+ Kc7
(see last diagram on left)

White's pieces are all tied up. The Rook is dead, the Knight cannot move anywhere, the Bishop is free but aims at nothing, the Queen cannot move and White has weaknesses on the d and h files.

White has run out of tricks and I won the game shortly after a few more moves.

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