Playing for a win!
Canadian youngster Raja Panjwani is one of Canada’s most under-rated IM’s. With a recent GM-norm under his belt, Raja was a bit unfortunate not to have been chosen to play on Canada’s National Team in Norway. He would have been a worthy addition.
Raja has a very unique and uncompromising style of play, blending a refined sense of position with a sharp eye for tactical opportunities. As a result, many of his games –win,lose or draw–are fascinating struggles of the genre that die-hard fans love. Often his games seem to explode into tactical chaos. I confess to being one of Raja’s fans!
Below is Raja’s game from the Canadian Open /Quebec Open against the veteran master V.Plotkin, who is also Captain of the National Team. The game features two very sharp tactical skirmishes, giving rise to very original positions. At one point his opponent had an extra Queen but was struggling to survive…ENJOY!
Panjwani,R — Plotkin,V
1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 e6 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.O-O O-O 6.d4 dxc4 7.Ne5 Nc6 8.Nxc6 bxc6 9.Na3 Bxa3 10.bxa3 Nd5 11.Qa4 Nb6 12.Qxc6 Rb8 13.Qc5 Qd7 14.e4 Ba6 15.Bf4 Rbc8 16.Rab1 Rfd8 17.Rfd1 Qa4 18.Rdc1 Rd7 19.Bf3 Bb7 20.Rb5 a6 21.Ra5 Qc6
Many modern players today show little respect for pawn-structure and instead put emphasis on the initiative. In return for his doubled a-pawns in the position above, White is very active and dominates in the centre. And don’t forget the Bishop-pair.
And what about Black? Something has gone wrong earlier. Especially, Black’s Knight and Rooks are defensively posted, trying to avoid losing a pawn.
Here White can now consider playing 22.a4!? tightening his grip on the Queenside. Wrong would then be 22…Nxa4?! as 23.Qxc6! Bxc6 24.Rxc4 Bb5 25.Rcxa4 and White should win the game. Better, but not without difficulties, is 22…f5!? 23.Qxc6 Bxc6 24.Rxa6 Bxe4 25.Bxe4 fxe4 26.a5 Nd5 27.Rxc4 with a superior ending.
However, Panjwani has another idea…
White decides to switch his sphere of influence over to the Kingside. Perhaps not the most effective way of treating his advantage, but one filled with interesting and complex challenges for both sides. Black should avoid …g6 as this will just weaken things and give White’s Queen-Bishop new opportunities.
22…Rxd4!? 23.Rg5 Nd7!?
Black defends well. Wrong would be 23…f6(?) as after 24.Rxg7+! KxR 25.Bh6+! Kh8 26.Qf7 it is all over. Equally wrong is 23…g6(?) 24.Be5!
Consistent. While this is hardly decisive, the opening of the King position is always fraught with dangers for Black. The next moves are all forced…
24…Kxg7 25.Be5+ Nxe5 26.Qxe5+ f6 27.Qxd4 e5
No doubt Panjwani had forseen this position before playing his 22nd move. The position is very dynamic but must give White reasonable winning chances. However, Black is not without defensive resources.
The question is how White should continue? Taking the pawn on c4 will lead to an ending where Black will have a strong passed c-pawn and hence counterplay. Raja prefers to maintain the Queens on the board in the hope of later exploiting opportunities linked with Black’s exposed King.
28.Qc3!? Rd8 29.Qb4 Rd4! 30.Rb1?! (30.h4!) 30…c3! 31.Qe7+ Kg6
White’s imprecise 30th move has allowed Black to get serious counterplay and now the game could end in a forced draw: 32.Bh5+ Kh6 ( 32…Kxh5?? 33.Qxh7+ Kg5 34.h4+ Kg4 35.Qf5# ) 33.Qf8+ Kxh5 34.Qf7+ Kh6 35.Qf8+ with a perpetual. INSTEAD, needing to win, Panjwani finds a remarkable idea that seems to keep the draw in hand while creating several practical opportunities for his opponent to go wrong…this part of the game is fascinating:
A surprise, but well calculated. Black can not take the Rook as he gets mated: 32…Qxb7? 33.h4!! c2 ( 33…Qc6 34.h5+ Kh6 35.Qf8+ Kg5 36.Qg7# ) 34.h5+ Kg5 ( 34…Kh6 35.Qxf6# ) 35.Qg7#
The best move. Now White must avoid 33.Rxc7? c1=Q+ 34.Kg2 Qxc7 etc
The Rook is set to attack the Black King from the rear, while Black can now get a 2nd Queen (!!), promoting with check.
It is not often that one sees a position with 3 Queens on the board! White has only a Bishop for the Queen, but the exposed position of the Black King means that, for the time being atleast, the material imbalance is unimportant. White is threatening mate and Black needs to find the only defence inorder to make a draw…The coming Rook check on g8 is decisive, so Black must move one of his Queens to c4 to stop it, BUT WHICH?
It was established after the game that the ONLY correct Queen move is 34…Q1-c4!! 35.Rh8! ( 35.Bh5+? Kh6 36.Qf8+ Kxh5 and Black wins ) 35…Rd7! holding :