Saturday, August 27, 2011


I played a near brilliancy in the 8th round of the Metropolitan International in Los Angeles last week.

Alex Cherniack - Michael Brown [D29]
Metropolitan International (8), 21.08.2011

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 a6 6.0-0 c5 7.Bb3 Nbd7 8.Nc3 b5 9.Qe2 Bb7 10.Rd1 Qb8 11.d5 exd5 12.Nxd5 Nxd5 13.Bxd5 Bxd5 14.Rxd5 Qb7 15.e4 Be7 16.Bg5 Nb6 17.Rd3 0-0 18.e5 Bxg5 19.Nxg5 Qe7

Here 20. f4 f6 21. Nf3 fxe5 22. fxe5 looked boring, so I started calculating 20. Nxh7. My thought processes went like this.

The first thing I looked at was if Black moved the Rook away with 20...Rfe8. I would play 21. Re1 of course and attempts to trap the Knight wouldn't work: 21...f6 22. Nxf6+ gxf6 23.Rg3+ Kf8 24.Qh5 followed by 25.Qh6+, or 21...Qh4 22.Nf6+! (even better than 22.Rh3) 22...gxf6 23.Rg3+ Kf8 24.Rh3 Qg5 25.Rh8+ Kg7 (25...Ke7 26.exf6+) 26.Rxe8 Rxe8 27.exf6+.

Black has to take the Knight. I then proceeded to calculate the forcing sequence that began with 20...Kxh7 21.Qh5+ Kg8 22.Rh3 f6.

I needed to find an effective follow up. It was reassuring to know that I had at least a draw with 23.Qh7+ Kf7 24.Qh5+ Kg8 (24...Ke6 25.exf6 Qxf6 26.Qxc5 looked suicidal for Black: 26...Kd7 27.Rd1+ and during my calculations it seemed something had to give with three heavy pieces on the open files <27...Ke8 28.Qh5+ Rf7 29.Re3+ and Black has to surrender the Queen with 29...Qe7 because of 29...Re7 30.Qh8 mate>) 25.Qh7+.

Then I realized that Black could also create a luft with 22...f5, which would let Black play 24...Ke6 in the above variation. Advancing the pawn that far though meant that it could be picked off with 23.Qh7+ Kf7 24.Qf5+ Kg8, but I didn't see how the King could be flushed out of the pocket to my advantage. I looked a little further, and then saw it: 25.Qh7+ Kf7 26.Rf3+ Ke8 (or 26...Ke6) 27.Qg6+ and 28.Qxb6 wins back the piece with extra pawns.

Lastly I had to find a win after 22...f6, but 23.exf6 Rxf6 24.Qh8+ Kf7 25.Qh5+ Kg8 wasn't getting me anywhere. I really wanted to plug the f7 escape square pushing the pawn to e6. 23.Re1 was the only move I considered, and it didn't prove to be a fortuitous choice. I saw bringing my last piece into the attack with the threat 24.e6, and if 23...fxe5 24.Rxe5, and Black has no good square for the Queen. 24...Qf6 25.Qh7+ Kf7 26.Rf3 wins the Queen; 24..Qd6 25.Qh7+ Kf7 26.Rf3+ forces 26...Qf6 winning the Queen; and if 26...Qxe5 27.Qxe5 Rae8, then 28.Qc3 covers the back rank.

So as far as I could see 20.Nxh7 should win. I opened my eyes and saw that I had 10 minutes left on the clock, which wasn't so bad because the tournament time control had a 30 second increment per move. The game continued as follows:

20.Nxh7 Kxh7 21.Qh5+ Kg8 22.Rh3 f6 23.Re1 Qe6!

Ugh, the Queen can block the pawn (sometimes the hardest moves to foresee in a position are the least complicated). I looked hard at 24.Ree3, but then Black had 24...f5 - this time the pawn is defended by the Queen, and the e-file is blocked. During the game I thought that if I don't force a perpetual soon Black will be the only one playing for a win.

I can still play on here though with 25.f4, and if 25..Nd5? then 26.Reg3 gives White a winning attack after 27.Qh8+. Black would have to play 25...Qh6 26.Qxh6 gxh6 27.Rxh6 Nd5 28.Rg3+ Ke8 29.Rh7+ Ke8 30.Rgg7 c4, and while I do have compensation for the piece in the form of two pawns and both Rooks on the seventh rank, this is not the sort of position I've been known to play well with 5 minutes left on the clock.

Therefore I bailed out with my previously calculated perpetual check.

24.Qh7+ Kf7 25.Qh5+ Kg8

Not 25...Ke7? 26.exf6+ losing the Queen.

26.Qh7+ Kf7 27.Qh5+ ½-½

After the game my opponent told me that he also seriously considered playing 23...g5, which looks insanely dangerous, but neither of us could refute it at the board.

24.Qh8+ Kf7 25.Rh7+ Kg6 26.Rh6+ Kf5. All the good checks are gone and White's Queen is now under fire in the corner of the board: 27.Rxf6+ Rxf6 28.Qh3+ (or 28.Qh5 Rff8 29.g4+ Ke6 30.Qh6+ Kd7 31.Qxb6 Rfd8 32.e6+ Ke8 33.Qc6+ Kf8 34.Qf3+ Kg7 35.Re5 Rf8 36.Qc3 Kg8) Kg6 29.Qd3+ Kf7 30.Qh7+ Ke8 31.Qh5+ Kd7 32.Rd1+ Kc6 33.exf6 Qf6 – Black emerges unscathed with an extra piece.

As an epilogue, my opponent told me before the next round started that he ran the game through Rybka, and that I was totally winning.

Instead of 23.Re1, adding a centralized Rook to the attack on general principles, 23.Qh7+ Kf7 24.exf6! Qxf6 25.Rf3 would have won quickly. I was so fixated on using all my pieces (Qh5, Rh3, Re3, pawn on e6) that it never occurred to me two pieces on the edge of the board were enough in this position to put the game away.

And my opponent was right to play 23...Qe6. After 23...g5 24.Qh8+ Kf7, both of us overlooked 25.Qh7+! Ke8 26.Qg6+ Kd8 27.Rh7 Qe8 28.Rd1+ Kc8 29.Qg7, which cooks the King on the seventh rank.

What else can I say? Practice makes less imperfect.

1 comment:

Ken Ho said...

Thanks for the major piece tactics, Alex!

Any exposure to such ideas can help on that road to less imperfect. I will probably share it with my friend "The Captain" later.