I haven’t played regularly on ICC in years, but earlier today, I decided to play a couple blitz games. I joined the 5-minute pool and found myself with the white pieces against IM Garun Nureev. His 5-minute rating was about 100 points higher than mine at about 2540.
It began as a Classical King’s Indian, with Nureev choosing the old …Nbd7 line.
r1b2rk1/pppnqpbp/3p1np1/4p3/2PPP3/2N1BN2/PP2BPPP/R2Q1RK1 w - - 0 9)
Black surprised me with 8…Qe7 and after a little bit of thought, I played 9.Re1. Not apparently the most popular move (that’d be 9.Qc2, while 9.Re1 seems to have only been played once in the last 15 years according to my database), but it seems kind of obvious to me.
After 9…c6 10.d5 Ng4 11.Bg5 f6 12.Bh4, Black messed up with 12…h5?. This is a normal move, but only after the center is closed with …c5. The point of …c6 is to make a somewhat useful move while retaining the central tension. The hope is that when White plays d5, Black can block the center (and queenside to some extent) with …c5 and then focus on his traditional kingside play. So something like 12…c5 13.Nd2 Nh6 would be more normal, although maybe I would have just played 13.h3 as well.
After that mistake, I could keep the center open with 13.h3 Nh6 14.dxc6. The d6-pawn is a target, and White has the natural plan of b4-b5 to open up the d5-square for his knight. White is clearly better.
I lost a bit of time with Qd1-d2-c2, but I still had a solid plus in the following position:
I played 20.Bg3!? here, setting up an attacking idea based on Black’s weak kingside and the b1-h7 diagonal. The computer prefers the more prosaic 20.bxc6 Bxc6 21.Nd5 with a clear plus. My opponent played the very strange 20…Nd8 here, but FireBird seems to like that best at short depth. Black is nearly lost after this though, although the engine doesn’t see the light until it’s a bit too late.
I played 21.Nh4! now, and Black’s reply of 21…Kh7 is virtually forced. He can’t go to g7 because of Bxh5 (and a fork on f5), and the queen is tied to the d6-pawn. With the king on the b1-h7 diagonal though, it’s only natural to try and free the e4-pawn, so I played 22.f4!. Black would like to keep the e5-blockade, but playing 22…Ne6 allows 23.f5. Meanwhile, 22…exf4 23.e5 f5 sees the Nh4 still protected, so White can simply take on d6 and carry on. So instead, Nureev played 22…Bxf4. After exchanging on f4, the following position was reached:
r2n1r2/1b2q2k/2pp1pp1/pPn4p/2P1Pp1N/2N4P/P1Q1B1P1/3RR1K1 w - - 0 24)
Now 24.e5 f5 is a bit less clear because the Nh4 is hanging. But there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and it wasn’t too hard to find 24.Bxh5!. Black has no choice but to accept the gift, and after 25.e5+, he retreated to g8 (going to h8 or g7 fails miserably, while …f5 no longer holds after Nxf5 and further checks, discovered or otherwise). This is where things got tricky for me and I started to burn too much time.
26.Ng6 Qh7 27.Rxd6 was what I went with, although there were a number of interesting alternatives. The computer prefers 26.exd6 Qh7 27.Qg6+!, leading to a much better endgame, but that’s a bit much to find in a blitz game I think.
Nureev played 27…Kg7? (27…Re8 is the only way to survive, but after 28.Qf5 it’s still no picnic), reaching the position in the diagram below:
r2n1r2/1b4kq/2pR1pN1/pPn1P2p/2P2p2/2N4P/P1Q3P1/4R1K1 w - - 0 28)
I spent too much time trying to make 28.exf6+ work here, but I failed to find the right continuation: 28.exf6+ Rxf6 28.Re7+ Nf7 29.Rxf6+ Kxf6 30.Ne4+ (I saw this, but I forgot that Black can’t play Kxe7 here – the Ng6 is unguarded, but it still guards other pieces!) Nxe4 31.Qxe4 and Black can’t stave off the attack.
Instead, I played 28.bxc6?. Now Black can consolidate his material advantage to some extent with 28…Qxg6 29.exf6+ Kh6!, but instead, Nureev played 29…Rxf6?!. After 30.Re7+, he compounded his mistake with 30…Kh6??.
r2n4/1b2R3/2PR1rqk/p1n4p/2P2p2/2N4P/P1Q3P1/6K1 w - - 0 31)
Thanks to some mutual errors, White can finish with a flourish: 31.Rxf6 Qxf6 32.Qh7+ Kg5 33.Rg7+ Kh4 34.Rg4 checkmate!
r2n4/1b5Q/2P2q2/p1n4p/2P2pRk/2N4P/P5P1/6K1 b - - 0 34)
Haha, looking at the diagram, this position looks incredibly random.
Also, Magnus Carlsen on 60 Minutes later tonight!