A recent chess game


I played a chess tournament this past weekend. Here is one of my games; I found it to be quite interesting. There is one more game I’d like to analyze here; I hope to get to it in the next day or two.

 

Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo (1966) vs. Naresh Prabhu (2015), Round 2

 

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Be7 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Bd3 Nbd7

 

So far, all of this seems quite normal. But suddenly, I was inspired by the infamous last game of the 1997 match between Kasparov and Deep Blue. That game started with 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxd4 Nd7 5. Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 7. N1f3 h6? 8. Nxe6! Qe7 9. 0-0 fxe6 10. Bg6+, and white is much better, since black has a lot of trouble getting the queenside pieces out. Plus, the black king is not in a very safe spot stuck in the middle of the board. Hence, I decided to play

 

7. Neg5,

 

not knowing whether a potential sacrifice on e6 was prudent or not. I felt that it made sense to wait and see if he would provoke matters by playing 7…h6 or not; if he did, I could calculate the lines carefully and check if they work or not. If not, retreating either with 8. Ne4 or 8. Nh3 seems fine for white; I think I would have a small edge in either one of those lines.

 

7…h6

 

So, at this point I actually had to calculate the lines. 8. Nxf7 and 8. Nxe6 were both possibilities, but I couldn’t make either of them work. I looked at 8. Nxf7 Kxf7 9. Ne5+Nxe5 10. dxe5 Nd7 and thought I didn’t have sufficient compensation for the piece. But now, I suspect that white is doing fairly well after 11. Qh5+ Kg8 12. Be3. Black has done very little in the way of development, and it’s not clear how his rooks will ever get out. I also looked at 8. Nxe6 fxe6 9. Bg6+ Kf8, but after that, it’s not clear how to continue. I think the other line is better.

 

But, I was operating on another factor as well. I don’t like getting low on time, and I had already spent 10 minutes thinking without finding anything concrete. So, I decided to play the safest move.

 

8. Ne4 Nxe4 9. Bxe4 c5 10. c3 Nf6 11. Bc2 0-0 12. 0-0 b6 13. Be3 Bb7

 

This move really surprised me. With this move, he simply allowed me to damage his pawn structure without getting much obvious compensation. I was expecting 13…Qc7, planning to meet 14. dxc5 with 14…Bxc5 15. Bxc5 Qxc5.

 

14. dxc5 bxc5 15. Qe2 Qc7

 

Black threatens to play 16…Ng4, after which I would be essentially lost. It’s tough to deal with the further threat of 16…Bxf3 17. Qxf3 Qxh2#. Hence, I felt compelled to play

 

16. h3.

 

One of my eventual plans at this point had been to try to play for a4-a5-a6 if possible to dispel the queen and bishop from their optimal squares and to gain space on the queenside. Hence, I was slightly disappointed to see him play

 

16…a5!

 

This move has the further point of possibly threatening to play Ba6 at some point, skewering the queen and the rook. At the moment, it doesn’t do much, as I could easily play c4. Still, it was something to think about, and indeed, I played

 

17. c4

 

immediately, although I was more trying to prevent Nd5 than to discourage Ba6.

 

At this point, he confused me by playing

 

17…e5!,

 

a move whose purpose I did not understand at all. I thought at the time that he was just needlessly giving himself a further weak pawn (note that the ones on a5 and c5 could be eventual targets as well). But evidently he felt that gaining space in the center and increasing some piece activity was more than worth a weakness in the pawn structure.

 

18. Rfd1 e4 19. Nd2 Qe5 20. Rab1 Bd6

 

Now black is threatening to play 21…Qh2#. I saw two sensible ways of preventing this: one was to play 21. g3, with the idea of following up with 22. Bf4 if possible.That would be nice; it would allow me to trade off a set of bishops and would free my position a bit. However, there are some serious drawbacks. One was that after Bc8, I might find it hard to prevent him from getting his queen to h3 after something like Qe6. I could play Rh1, but that isn’t exactly where I want my pieces to be. Another drawback is that if my bishop does move away from e3 at some point, perhaps to f4 to exchange bishops on d6, then e3 could become a very serious threat: suddenly the bishop on b7 is an extremely powerful piece, and if he somehow manages to get his queen on that diagonal as well, I could find it very tough to avoid mate on h1 or g2. Hence, I played the other, much safer, option:

 

21. Nf1.

 

It’s hard to get checkmated with a knight on f1.

 

21…a4 22. Rd2 Bc6 23. Rbd1 Bc7 24.Bb1 a3 25. b3 Qe7 26. Ng3

 

Now, I was not too concerned about 26…Bxg3 27. fxg3. The white pawns aren’t too weak, and one of black’s threatening pieces would be gone.

 

26…Qe5 27. Nf1 h5

 

I guess he was expecting that I was starting to get paralyzed here. My rooks on the d-file have nowhere to go, and after he plays h4, my knight won’t have anywhere to go either. Fortunately, I figured out how to reorganize my pieces a bit.

 

28. Rc2! h4 29. Bd2 Nh5?

 

This move is a serious mistake, after which I am suddenly better.

 

30. Qg4!

 

Since I’m threatening to play 31. Bc3 winning the knight on h5, black has no time to save the pawn on h4. If he tries 30…Bd8, I win quickly with 31. Bc3 Qg5 32. Rd6, when after 32…Qxg4 33. hxg4, two pieces are threatened, and after 32…Be8, I have 33. Qxe4, and black’s position is in ruins. Hence he has to abandon the pawn, which he does with

 

30…Nf6 31. Qxh4 Rad8 32. Rcc1 Rfe8.

 

When up a pawn, it’s always tempting to try to trade off some pieces, especially queens, in order to remove the most dangerous threats. Another possibility, however, was to play 33. Bc3. One line I looked at was 33. Bc3 Rxd1 34. Bxe5 Rxc1 35. Bxf6 gxf6 36. Qxf6, but I think here I failed to notice that I was both attacking the bishop on c6 and a check on g5, forking the king and rook, so he needs to play 36…Rxb1 37. Qxc6, after which black loses the pawns on c5 and a3 due to poor piece coordination. I was a bit worried about entering an endgame with queen against two rooks, but this fear was completely unwarranted: the black pawns are so fragmented that the queen can easily win them.

 

Of course, he has opportunities to play better. Most notably, after 33. Bc3, he can play 33…Qxc3 34. Rxc3 Rxd1 35. Bc2 Ra1!, and it looks like black is winning. I have no way to prevent him from capturing on a2, and the a3 pawn becomes a deadly threat. So, perhaps the move I played was right after all. I hesitated for a long time on this move and the next because of his anticipated 35th move (which he actually ended up playing).

 

33. Qg5 Nh7 34. Qxe5 Bxe5 35. Be3 Bd4!

 

Taking the bishop on d4 would be very dangerous, since the advanced pawns on d4 and e4 would severely hamper my piece mobility and could quickly become very powerful passed pawns. I missed the right plan of 36. Ng3! with the idea of 37. Nf5 or 37. Ne2, trading this bishop. After that, white should be winning easily. Of course, he gets to play moves too, and he might play 36…Nf8 37. Nf5 Ne6. The computer suggests that I continue there with 38. h4 g6 39. Nxd4 cxd4 40. Bd2, the point being that my pawns on b3 and c4 are also dangerous passed pawns. I didn’t even consider such a possibility; I was too frightened by his pawns on d4 and e4, which could be further supported by moves such as f5 and f4 at some point in the future. I haven’t analyzed this out far enough to tell what should happen; this line seems completely antithetical to the way humans play chess.

 

36. Re1 f5 37. Rcd1 g5 38. Bc1 Bb2!?

 

Really? I thought he had to play 38…Ra8, but I was clearly wrong. He could also try 38…Bc3 39. Bxa3 Bxe1 40. Rxe1 f4 (or Re5) 41. Bxc5 Nf6. The position is then extremely complicated. I think white is better, but it’s far from clear. After the move played, I’m able to ambush a second pawn, the one stranded on b2 after the capture. I expected the game to be over quickly, but this expectation turned out not to be reasonable.

 

39. Bxb2 axb2 40. Ne3?

 

It’s better to take on d8 first then play Re2.

 

40…Rxd1?

 

Better is 40…f4! 41. Nd5 Bxd5 42. cxd5 Nf6 43. Rd2 Rxd5 44. Rxb2, which is roughly equal.

 

41. Rxd1?

 

I somehow hallucinated badly here. I was afraid of 41. Nxd1! because of some line involving Rd8, e3, and Rd2, which would fork the knight on b2 and the pawn on g2 were I to capture on e3 with the pawn. Of course, there’s no reason to capture with the pawn: after 41. Nxd1 Rd8 42. Nxb2 d3 43. Rxe3 Rd2 44. Nd3 Rd1+, I have 45. Re1, and black’s only legal move is to resign. Oops. The position is now only slightly better for white.

 

41…f4 42. Nd5 Kf7

 

One clever trick that he could have tried, and that I was attempting to understand during the game, was 42…e3!?, tempting me to play 43. Bxh7+ Kxh7 44. Nf6+ Kg6 45. Nxe8 e2, when despite being temporarily up a rook, I lose after 46. Re1 Be4. But, I can play better with 43. fxe3 fxe3 44. Bxh7+ Kxh7 45. Nf6+ Kh6! 46. Nxe8 e2 47. Re1 Bxe8 48. Kf2 Bg6 49. a4 b1Q 50. Rxb1 Bxb1 51. Kxe2. Then a draw is not far away.

 

43. Kf1

 

43. Nc3 is better.

 

43…Nf6 44. Nxf6 Kxf6

 

Now, black has set a cunning trap, which I managed to avoid. If 45. Rd6+ Re6, then the natural 46. Rxe6+ loses after 46…Kxe6 47. Ke2 Ke5 48. Kd2 Kd4 49. Kc2 e3 50. f3 Bd7 51. Kd1 Ke5, and I have no way to stop 52…Bf5, after which either the b-pawn or the e-pawn promotes. I saw enough of that line to realize that going into it would be a bad idea.

 

45. Re2 e3 46. fxe3

 

Not 46. Rxb2?? Bxg2+! winning.

 

46…fxe3 47. Rxb2 Ke5 48. a4?! Kd4 49. g3?

 

Now black is better.

 

49…Kc3 50. Rh2? Bf3!

 

Starting to run a bit low on time at this point and already in serious trouble, I soon found my situation to be very bad.

 

51. Re2 Bxe2+ 52. Kxe2 Kd4 53. Bf5 Rb8 54. Bc2 Rf8 55. Bg6 Rf2+ 56. Ke1 Kc3

 

56…Rf3 is a much easier win for black.

 

57. h4 gxh4 58. gxh4 Rh2 59. h5 Kxb3 60. a5 Kxc4 61. a6 Kd4

 

He didn’t fall for 61…Ra2?? 62. Bf7+, and white wins.

 

62. a7 Ra2 63. h6 Rxa7 64. h7 Ra8 65. Ke2 Ra2+ 66. Ke1 Rh2 67. Bf5 c4 68. Bc2 e2 69. Kd2 c3+ 70. Ke1 Ke3 71. h8Q

 

This was my last attempt at a cheapo.

 

71…Rxh8 72. Bh7 c2

 

Since he didn’t play 72…Rxh7 stalemate,

 

White resigns.

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About Simon

Hi. I'm Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo. I'm a mathematics postdoc at Dartmouth College. I'm also a musician; I play piano and cello, and I also sometimes compose music and study musicology. I also like to play chess and write calligraphy. This blog is a catalogue of some of my thoughts. I write them down so that I understand them better. But sometimes other people find them interesting as well, so I happily share them with my small corner of the world.
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