Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

My last couple posts didn’t have any chess positions in them, but the Candidates Cycle debate has pretty much ended on its own, so back to some actual games.

A couple days ago, I was talking to somebody who brought up a game I played against a then-untitled David Pruess at an IM-norm event in 2000. Like a number of our games, this one is probably not suitable for young children (cover your eyes!), as we reached a totally irrational position where David put piece after piece en prise.

(FEN: r2q1k1r/pb2bpp1/1pn1p3/2pnP2p/2N2P2/2P4Q/PP2B1PP/RNB1K2R b KQ - 0 13)

It’s already funky, as what could have been a normal King’s Indian Attack (KIA) against a Sicilian with 2…e6 left the reservation on move 6. Black should get his queenside going with 13…b5 here, as he’d have some plus after 14.Nca3 (14.Ne3 drops the f4-pawn) b4 15.Nc2 bxc3. Black’s given up the right to castle, but the rest of his pieces make some sense, which is more than you can say about their White counterparts.

Instead, David played 13…Bh4+ first with some specific tactics in mind. After 14.g3, he then played 14…b5? (14…Be7 is required, but then 15.0-0 and Black’s loss of time has given White a plus) 15.Nd6.

Black has both bishops hanging, and I didn’t see the point of his idea at the moment. Then he played 15…Ndb4. Black has three pieces hanging, but actually White can take any of them and come out on top. However, I was completely confused at this point and so I played the simpler 16.Na3, covering the c2-square and asking what Black was going to do to save all his pieces.

David played the aesthetically pleasing, and also completely forced, 16…Nd4! here:

(FEN: r2q1k1r/pb3pp1/3Np3/1pp1P2p/1n1n1P1b/N1P3PQ/PP2B2P/R1B1K2R w KQ - 0 17)

All four of Black’s minor pieces are hanging! This was too much entropy to inject into the game, so I had to start taking material. After 17.cxd4 Bxh1 18.Qxh4, White is already winning, although it took me a little longer to reel in the full point.

Anyways, that game was an interesting one to play, but the tournament was notable for a couple other reasons: (1) I ended up making my last IM norm at this tournament, and (2) I won a game completely off preparation!

The all-preparation game came against IM Zoran Ilic (2381 FIDE), author of a book or two on the Sicilian. I was a 1.e4 player then (as I was until my break from chess at UC Berkeley), and my anti-Sicilian repertoire consisted of Bb5 Sicilians and the KIA.

I no longer remember if I prepared this line just for this game, or whether I had seen it before. The stem game is not in MegaBase, TWIC, or ChessMix, but it does exist in Informant. At the time, I still was getting the paper version of Chess Informant (a shock, I’m sure, to many of you) and had seen a game fragment between Andreev (2365) and Popov (2520), mentioned in Informant 74. In most databases, then, my game will appear as the first in this line, but Andreev played it before me at least (since it was a game fragment, I don’t have the entire Andreev game).

The game was a 3.Bb5+ Sicilian, starting out: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.d4 Ngf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Qe2 Nf6 7.dxc5 e6 8.Rd1! Qc7 (8…dxc5 9.Bg5 a6 10.Bxd7 Bxd7 11.Ne5 wins material) 9.Nc3 Qxc5? 10.Bg5 Be7 11.Bxf6 gxf6, reaching the position in the diagram below.

(FEN: r1b1k2r/pp1nbp1p/3ppp2/1Bq5/8/2N2N2/PPP1QPPP/R2R2K1 w kq - 0 12)

Black’s kingside structure is no longer so nice, but as his central pawns look compact and well-protected, White needs to do something relatively soon. Trying to prepare an assault on …d6 is unlikely to work, as Black can play either …d5 or …f5 at some point. There are other tactical ideas based on Black’s relatively undeveloped state though.

I played 12.Nd5! here, threatening 13.b2-b4, trapping the Black queen. If Black plays 12…exd5, then 13.Re1 0-0 14.Bxd7 Bxd7 15.Qxe7 Be6 16.c3 is clearly better for White. Black’s pawns are in ruins and his kingside is horribly exposed.

Black needs to create luft for the queen, so 12…a6 is forced. I played 13.b4 then, forcing 13…Qa7 (the Bb5 is off limits because of Nc7+). Now the obvious 14.Nc7+ doesn’t lead anywhere after 14…Kd8 15.Bxd7 (15.Nxa8 axb5 leaves the Na8 trapped) Kxc7!.

Instead, I played 14.Nd4!, further increasing the central pressure. The knight on d5 is still taboo, this time because of 15.Nf5, when mate is soon to follow. Ilic played the only other reasonable move, 14…axb5, reaching the position in the diagram below:

(FEN: r1b1k2r/qp1nbp1p/3ppp2/1p1N4/1P1N4/8/P1P1QPPP/R2R2K1 w kq - 0 15)

A few years later, this same position was reached in a game between WGM Djingarova and IM Darko Feletar (who happens to have been one of many opening analysis helpers for Kasparov). Djingarova didn’t find the correct continuation here, choosing 15.Nxb5 Qb8 16.Nec7+.

As it turns out, I also didn’t find the correct continuation here, although I was partially led astray by the Informant analysis I had memorized! I only realized the correct continuation today, 11 years after the game! Maybe you can find it, but I’ll give the game continuation and only return to this position later.

I played 15.Nxe6, giving myself a pat on the back in my notes. White’s knights are running rampant across the center, and given one more move, the queen on e2 will have a clear line to Black’s king. Thus, Black needs to plug the e-file with 15…Ne5. Then 16.Qxb5+ forces 16…Nc6 (16…Bd7 17.Ndc7 is checkmate), after which I played 17.Nec7+.

(FEN: r1b1k2r/qpN1bp1p/2np1p2/1Q1N4/1P6/8/P1P2PPP/R2R2K1 b kq - 0 17)

Black has to try 17…Kf8 here, although it’s a rather unpleasant position. After 18.Nxe7 Kxe7 19.Qd3, Popov in his Informant notes gave White a clear plus. That’s probably about right, as White is going to get a few pawns before taking the rook on a8. Still, the game continues in that line.

Instead, Ilic went wrong by going right – 17…Kd8 18.Nxa8 Qxa8 19.Qb6+ leaves Black toast. The king would like to go to e8 here, but then 20.Nc7+ follows, so Ilic had to play 19…Kd7 20.Qc7+ Ke8, when White has a wide variety of winning options.

The most crushing is 21.Nxe7, as after 21…Nxe7 22.Rxd6 Nc6 23.Rad1, Black isn’t going to keep White out of d8 forever. Instead, I played the prosaic 21.Nb6, forking queen and bishop, and leaving me with an extra exchange and pawns. Ilic resigned after a few more moves: 21…Bd8 22.Qxc8 Qxc8 23.Nxc8.

A nice game, and an important win for me in the tournament, but it was made much easier by having the position on move 17 (after 17.Nec7+) on my board at home!

However, 11 years later, I found an improvement on move 15:

(FEN: r1b1k2r/qp1nbp1p/3ppp2/1p1N4/1P1N4/8/P1P1QPPP/R2R2K1 w kq - 0 15)

In my original notes (none of this was in the Informant fragment), I gave 15.Nc7+ a question mark, as after 15…Kf8 (not 15…Kd8, as then 16.Ndxe6+! fxe6 17.Nxe6+ Ke8 18.Qh5 is mate) 16.Ndxe6+ fxe6 17.Nxe6+ Kf7 18.Qh5+ Kg8!, I didn’t see a way to win (18…Kxe6 runs into 19.Qd5#).

(FEN: r1b3kr/qp1nb2p/3pNp2/1p5Q/1P6/8/P1P2PPP/R2R2K1 w - - 0 19)

But there’s actually a pretty simple solution here – after 19.Qe8+! Nf8, White simply plays 20.Rd3!. Black’s king is boxed in, and so there’s no need to move the knight on e6. A rook landing on g3 will deliver the final blow. Not even the desperate 20…Qa3 avoids checkmate because of 21.c3.

Ah well, had I found 15.Nc7+, I could really have taken some credit for this game. As it was, I merely followed the existing template to a T and won a game purely on preparation for the first, and now only, time in my life.


One response to “Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

  1. Remember watching this game live at the Mechanics!
    I was feeling totally confused about what Pruess was trying to do when I noticed that you were shaking your head in disbelief too!
    Pruess has a very interesting style – dont see him playing much these days though.

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