World Junior Championship; Pune 2014.10.6 Yesterday. Position after White’s 23rd move (23.Be7). White is desperate, ofcourse. Now the roof is about to collapse on him…something that often happens when things rapidly go from bad to worse!
BLACK TO PLAY AND CRUSH!
WEAK BACK-RANK THEMES
Hansen, Victor (2113)
Dahl, Baard (2110)
PokerStars IoM Masters; Douglas 2014.10.6 Position after 27 moves. Believe it or not, Black had once castled kingside! Here White can win by force with precise play: 28.Rxc6!! Qe2 ( What else? 28…Kxc6 29.d7! Qe2 30.dxc8=Q+ Rxc8 31.Rc1+ Kb7 32.Bc3 keeping the extra piece ) 29.Rcc1! Qxe5 30.Rc7+! emerging with an extra Rook
INSTEAD, possibly short of time, White quickly went down hill:
28.Rd2?! Qa5! 29.Bf4?
BLACK TO PLAY AND WIN!
Smith, Graham (2100)
wim Shvayger, Yuliya (2306)
PokerStars IoM Masters; Douglas 2014.10.5 Position after 31 moves. White has an obvious positional advantage (strong Knight and active pieces; and take a look at Black’s Bishops!) Here with the help of Black’s weak back-rank (his King has no luft) White has several cute ways to win. Perhaps the most precise way is 32.Rxf8+ Rxf8 33.Bf2! Qc6 34.Bd4 when there is simply no defence to the coming Qg5 or Bxg7+.
HOWEVER, no one can blame White for playing the PRETTIEST move:
I confess to be a sucker for such pretty moves! If now 32..Kg8 33.QxR+! and 34.Ne7+; if instead 32…Rg8 then 33.RxR RxR 34.Qf8+!.
Now White won easily enough with 33.QxR+ RxQ 34.RxR+ Kh7 35.Ne7 winning a Bishop. The game did not last long after that. Probably even stronger is 33.RxR RxR 34.Qf7! when 34…Qc6 is met by 35.Nf6! and 34…Rg8 35.Ne7!; Moral of the story: don’t forget to throw in luft early on!
In my own games, the weak back-rank theme often comes up. One pleasant memory is the following, against a strong Israeli grandmaster…
This is from one of my very last tournament appearances in Canada (Canadian Open, Kapaskasing, 2004) Position after 23 moves. White had earlier sacrificed a pawn for the initiative. White has a strong passed pawn, but the critical factor is Black’s lack of luft. The game continued:
The pawn sacrifices its life to lure the Black Rook off of the first rank. The idea is that if now
The identical theme to the previous example! It is forced mate, as the reader can easily verify. (In the game continuation Mikhalevsky avoided this with 24…Rf6, but after 25.Qc5! the game ended quickly enough…the backrank is still weak!)
gm Gupta, Abhijeet (2660)
gm Popilski, Gil (2500)
PokerStars IoM Masters; Douglas 2014.10.5 Position after 26 moves. White had played a little too freely, sacrificing a pawn for dubious compensation. However, probably over confident, Gupta then let his guard down and gave the tricky Israeli grandmaster a clever chance to save the game:
This seems to overlook the loss of a piece!
(28.Rf1 would have been equivalent. The important thing is to put the Rook on a square that is defended) White now threatens to recapture the Bishop as well as 29.Rxe7 with attack. The next moves are more or less forced:
The open position of the Black King, as well as the threat of h5 guarantee a draw, but not more. Infact, in the game Gupta tried to avoid a repetition of position and even lost! Fortune favours the brave!
World Junior Pune 2014.10.6 Sammed Jaykumar, Shete–Bajarani, Ulvi: 23…Nxg3+! 0-1
PokerStars IoM Masters Douglas 2014.10.6 Dahl, Baard–Hansen,Victor: 29…Be4! Weak back-rank tactic! 30.Rxc8 Rxc8 0-1 It is mate or losing the Queen.