SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Yesterday was the first round of the 14th edition of Barcelona’s most prestigeous international tournament. As described here on this blog, the tournament is now a 9-player round robbin, given gm Iturrizaga’s unfortunate accident on the way to the Caracas airport to catch a flight to Barcelona. The good news is that the Iturrizaga was (relatively) unhurt… and that I was slated to be black against him (!)
Joking aside, the tournament organizers did the best they could to resolve the problem in the most fair method for the participants and in such a way so as to preserve the prestige of the event. They did not want to lower too much the average rating of the event (Iturrizaga’s elo is 2640) and so last minute substitutes were practically out of the question. And after consulting with the top arbiters of the Spanish Chess Federation it was decided not to re-do the drawing of lots and to simply let each player have a rest day when he would normally have been paired with Iturrizaga.
Readers can download all of the games from the first round right here
My game with the promising Catalan gm Alsina was a typical game for the first round of a very strong event: both players were a bit nervous and played below their normal level. I managed to get out of the opening with a clear edge when Alsina did not choose the most active way to sacrifice a pawn, only to later squander virtually everything playing for a mate that simply was not there! Time trouble did the rest…my opponent blundered in an inferior but probably tenable position and resigned 2 moves later on move 51.
Not wanting to bore you with the details, let me just show you one beautiful opportunity that I missed:
POSITION AFTER 45 MOVES:
Black threatens mate on h1 Here I thought a long time before finally retreating my Rook to b1. I really wanted to take the pawn on e7 but somehow could just not make it work. The line goes like this:
46. Rxe7! Bxe7 (46…Kg8 goes off to 47.Bh5! which also blocks the mate on h1) 47. Qf7 Kh8 48. Qe8 Kg7 49. Qxe7 Kh8 50. Qf8 Kh7
It is funny how the mind works. Here I very much wanted to get in the decisive Be4 check, but there is no line that magically lets this work. I thought that I had to give a perpetual check here, given the mate threat.
HOWEVER, because my mind was focused on delivering mate I completely overlooked that I can win brilliantly with a Queen sacrifice!
51. Qxh6!!! Kxh6 52. a6!
THE WHITE PAWNS CAN NOT BE STOPPED!
The pawns are too far apart for the Queen to stop both of them from promoting; and let us not forget that the Bishop on f3 is a real hero! A sample line goes:
52… g4 (52… Qxe6 53. a7 g4 54. Bb7! etc) 53. Bb7! c4 54. a7 c3 55. a8Q c2 56. Be4 and Black should throw in the towel…
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS