SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Canada’s top GM participates in Sants Open
In the 8th round I was paired against my friend–Catalan grandmaster Josep Oms–and we both played to win! The game was quite exciting and –inevitably–decided by slight inaccuracies. The position after White’s 22nd move is particularly spicy…
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 22nd MOVE (22.Qd3):
A typical position of the French Defence (Tarrasch Variation). Black has an isolated pawn but his pieces are very active. The chances are relatively balanced, though White’s practical chances are not be underestimated because of the potential downside of the d-pawn.
I am not certain what is Black’s best move, though 22…Bh2-ch and 23…Bf4 or 22…Bxc3!? stand out in my mind’s eye.
My opponent thought a while and played a brilliant but somewhat risky gambit, daring me to accept it:
After some thought (I describe the process below) I played the practical 23.Nxe4 pxN 24.Qb3 with a reasonable position in a very dynamic game, one that I later won when my opponent did not find the most accurate move (28…Qf4!).
HOWEVER, I should have accepted the gambit:
23…Bh2-ch! 24.Kh1! (24.Kf1?? Ng3! mate!) 24…Rxf2!?
A truly fascinating position! Here I spent some time (6 minutes approximately) thinking that maybe I could find a refutation to Black’s bold play, but I came up short. Everything seemed good for Black!
The position is very dangerous for White as he can not take the Rook because it is mate; and Black has many threats, including sometimes …Rxg2 or …Bg1.
For example, 25. a4 (a waiting move)25…Rxg2! 26. Kxg2 Qg3 27. Kh1 Qxh3 and Black must win
Here are some other lines that I considered:
1) 25. Rxc6 bxc6 26. Nc3 Bg1!! 27. Kxg1 Rxg2!! 28. Kxg2 Qg3 29. Kf1 Rf8 30. Ke2 Qf3#;
2) 25. Rf1? Rxf1 26. Rxf1 Bb5 winning material;
3) 25. Bb6? Rd2! 26. Qxe4 Rxe4 27. Bxe4 Bxd5 and Black wins;
4) 25. Rc2 Rff8 with advantage;
So the readers can fully understand why I made the practical decision to take the Knight on e4 on my 23rd move…I had a limited amount of time to reach time control. Chess is not just a fight against one’s opponent, but also against the clock!
HOWEVER, later that evening when analyzing this complex position back in my hotel (with the help of Houdini, which I customarily use to review my games, looking for tactical tricks that I had overlooked) I found a truly amazing resource that did not even enter my mind:
This move actually wins a piece (and the game!) and refutes the otherwise brilliant idea of my opponent!
Should Black take the Bishop then 26.Rxe4 Ref8 27.Rf4!! mates Black in atmost 5 moves. Or if instead 25…Ng3-ch then White escapes with 26. Kxh2 Nf1-ch 27. Kg1 Qh2-ch 28. Kxf2 Rf8-ch 29. Qf5 and the rest is easy.
Relatively best for Black is 25…Qg3, but after the exchange of Queens and taking on e4 White is a clear piece up.
Moral of the story: chess is inexhaustible!