The first of what we hope will be a multi-part series on the best games from the Leinsters. First up – efforts from myself and Seán.
To start us off so, here’s my round 5 win. I came into the game on 3/4 against lower-rated opponents, and this match would really decide if I was going to have a poor tournament or not. I had a 250-point rating advantage, but my opponent had already beaten the top two seeds. In addition, preparation wasn’t really possible as it turns out my opponent shared his name with a 14-year-old FM who was world U-12 champion in 2013!
Kevin Burke (1681) v Aram Hakobyan (1448); Malahide Millennium Intermediate round 5; 02/05/16
1. e4 d6 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. f4 c6 5. Nf3 Bg4
A slightly strange line of the Pirc in that black hasn’t developed his g8 knight yet, and so d4 is more vulnerable than usual, especially after a future Qb6. I can (and probably should) play 6. Be3 here, to defend d4, and if black does take on b2 (6. Be3 Qb6 7. Qd2 Qxb2 8. Rb1 Qa3), I’ll get b7 and be grand. But not really knowing what was going on in the line, I decided to play conservatively.
6. Be2 Qb6 7. e5 Nd7 8. h3?!
This is a common move for white in the Pirc – generally forcing black to exchange bishop for knight to try undermine d4 and open the long diagonal. But Fritz really doesn’t like it here, probably because after 8. … BxN 9. BxB de 10. de 0-0-0, my position is really quite open; I generally castle queenside in the Pirc, but that’s a while off here. Fritz suggests an interesting alternative, 8. a4, with the idea of expelling the queen.
8. … Bf5?!
This lets white off the hook compared to the line above. And now, I couldn’t resist…
10. … Bd5?
This is a mistake. Black can ignore the threat on his bishop, but he can’t repel the knight immediately, which he has to allow on an aggressive square. So for example, 10. … h6?? 11. NxB PxN 12. Qd3 and g6 is very weak – 12. … Nf8 is the only way to hold the pawn. But if black just castles, then white gains nothing from the swap – 10. … 0-0-0 11. NxB?! PxN and the pawn formation actually gives black’s king good shelter, while again, my king is quite exposed and even queenside castling is a bit awkward with the pressure on b2.
However, moving the bishop to d5 frees up the e6 square.
11. NxB PxN 12. e6!
Now black’s in big trouble.
12. … fe 13. NxP Bf8
Fritz wants 13. … Kf7 14. f5 Nf8 (gf?? 15. gf and the threat of Bh5+ is immediately decisive) 15. Ng5+ Ke8. It’s not a pretty alternative for black.
14. … h6?! 15. Bf3
15. Qd3 is stronger, hitting g6. But the text is just a different way to win.
This is actually black’s best move, says Fritz. It’s reminiscent of a famous knight sac by a young Boris Spassky against Yuri Averbakh in the 1956 USSR Championships – Spassky got a draw out of that one, but he wasn’t playing me!
17. PxN NxP 18. NxB
Fritz doesn’t want to give up the nice knight so easily, but I was happy to simplify now – the two bishops against a sole knight on the open board will cause chaos. The rest is fairly straightforward.
18. … RxB 19. c3 0-0-0 20. Qb3 Qc7 21. Bh6
Developing with tempo.
21. … Rf7 22. 0-0-0
I had to be careful of 22. … Ng8, when both my bishops are hanging, but I have 23. BxP NxB 24. BxR NxB 25. QxN and I’m a full rook up.
22. … e5 23. BxP NxB 24. QxN e4 25. QxP Rf2 26. Qe6+
Just to stop the queen linking up with the rook on the f-file
26. … Kb8 27. Rd2 Qc6 (D)
The game is lost anyway, but this brings the curtain down. How to refute this move?
28. d5 Qb6 29. Be3 1-0
Adam Murphy (1374) v Seán Devilly (1385); Malahide Millennium Intermediate round 6; 02/05/16
Notes by Seán Devilly
1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Bg5 c6
I wasn’t sure about this. I was trying to get a Dutch Stonewall, but according to the database on 365chess.com, this has only been played 6 times as opposed to 4… Be7 which has been played 108 times.
5.Nc3 d5 6.e3 Bd6 7.Ne5 Nbd7 8.Nxd7
I was not expecting this at all; I was expecting 8. f4 and then something like 9. c5 and 10. b4
8…Bxd7 9.Bd3 O-O 10.Qe2 h6 11.Bxf6 Qxf6 12.O-O-O?
This simply castles into a pawn attack.
12…dxc4 13.Bxc4 b5 14.Bb3 a5 15.d5 (D)
15…cxd5 16.Nxd5 Rac8+ 17.Nc3
Stockfish shows a weird line after 17. Kb1 exd5 18. Rxd5 Kh7 19. Rhd1 (wins the bishop) 19… Bc6 20. Rxd6 Be4+ which wins back the exchange with 21. Rd3 – if 21. Ka1 then Qxd6 and white can’t recapture because of 22… Rc1#… but neither of us saw that…
(It should be noted that the plan behind white’s 15th move doesn’t quite work, although it’s a sharp line – 15. … cxd5 16. Nxd5 PxN 17. BxP+ Kh7 18. BxR RxB and the two bishops are good for black, while a similar back-rank issue to above means the bishops are immune from capture – 19. Qd3 Rc8+ 20. Kb1 Bc6 21. QxB?? Bc4+ 22. Ka1 Rc1+ 23. RxR QxQ and black has a queen and bishop for two rooks and a pawn – Kevin)
Here I’m mounting pressure on a3, trying to get a push in, but Stockfish says that 17… Rc6 is better because of the later drawing chances which you will see below
Preventing the b4 push.
19. Qd2 is a lot better here, and white would have the drawing chances I was talking about earlier if he were to play this move.
19…a3 20.Nxb5 (D)
20…Bxb5 21.Qxb5 Rb8 22.Qa6
22.Qc6 was better as it stopped the later mate threat of Qc7, but black would still wind up a piece down after the a pawn was taken and white would have to give up his bishop stopping the promotion of the pawn on a3.
22…Rxb2+ 23.Kc1 Qc7 24.Rd2 Rxa2 25.Kb1
After 25. Kd1, white is still losing completely after 25… Ra1+ 26.Ke2 Rxh1 27.Qxd6 Qxd6 28.Rxd6 a2 29.Ra6 a1=Q 30.Rxa1
26.Kxa1 Qc3+ 0-1