This is almost 3 weeks old now, but while I meant to write something at the time, it slipped my mind and I only got around to it now. An unfortunate side effect of not being the Unemployed Fellow any more …
There was a great article in the NY Times about one of the chess fixture’s in the Bay Area: Michael Aigner. Take a look here for the full article.
I’ve managed to win some interesting games in our last couple encounters, but almost a decade ago, he beat me rather easily with 1.f4. At the time, I think this was his first win over an IM, but luckily for me, his win over GM Yermolinsky is the one that made the NY Times. =)
The first interesting moment in the game was after he had played 8.Qd1-e2, reaching the position below:
I played 8…a5 here, which seems to be an inaccuracy to me now. When facing the Stonewall setup, it’s normally a good idea to try and exchange the bishop not hampered by his own pawns, but there are a few points against …a5 here.
One, it costs Black extra time while Qe2 is a perfectly normal move for White. Maybe more importantly, with a setup involving …g6 instead of …e6, it’s not like White is going to checkmate Black using that Bd3 anytime soon. A more simple approach involving …Bb7 (and potentially …Ne4) would have been called for.
Finally, if Black really wanted to exchange bishops, 8…Bf5 was available, when Black really clamps down on the e4-square. Meanwhile, he has …f6 in reserve later on to kick a White knight out of e5, a luxury that White does not have with regards to e4.
rnq2rk1/4ppbp/bp4p1/p1p5/P2PQP2/2PB1N2/1P4PP/R1B2RK1 b - - 0 13)
Ok, the plan with …Ba6 isn’t the end of the world – Black is still doing just fine, but here I made a horrendous decision. I played 13…Bb7?, allowing 14.Qxe7. I don’t remember anymore whether I thought the position after the subsequent 14…Nc6 15.Qh4 Qd8 was better for me, but it most certainly isn’t. Instead, 13…Bxd3 would have maintained the balance (and maybe even favors Black slightly).
r2q1rk1/1b3pbp/1pn3p1/p1p5/P2P1P1Q/2PB1N2/1P4PP/R1B2RK1 w - - 0 16)
After 15…Qd8 (diagram is above), White has a great opportunity to launch an attack.
During the game, I don’t think I quite understood the danger, but with 16.Ng5! h6 (16…h5 17.f5 is even worse) 17.f5!, White comes crashing through. It’s really quite simple – taking on g5 allows Bxg5, and then fxg6 will be rip Black’s kingside open. Meanwhile, the g6-pawn is still an issue and Black doesn’t have any good way to defend. This is rather obvious to me now, so I guess I’ve gotten better since this game at least!
Instead, Michael played 16.f5? first, which gave me an opportunity to get back on track. I didn’t seize it however, continuing with 16…Qxh4 17.Nxh4 Bf6?, when 17…cxd4! was called for. I was worried about 18.f6, burying the bishop on h8, but it’s actually difficult for White to maintain the pawn on f6. The knight on h4, for example, can’t retreat because it’ll drop the pawn, Black can think about …Rd8-d6 to hit the pawn again.
After 17…Bf6?, though (diagram below), Aigner didn’t let up:
He played 18.fxg6! and I blundered with 18…fxg6?. After 19.Bh6, there’s no way to save an exchange (19…Bxh4 20.Bc4+ wins the rook on f8). But even after 18…Bxh4, it’s not good for Black – 19.gxh7+ Kg7 20.Rf4!, and Rg4+ and Bh6 will give White a rook and two pawns for the minor pieces, with one of those pawns being an unassailable force on h7. Not my best effort, but a solid effort from Aigner to put a point on the board.