The Heidenfeld won big again in Inchicore on Thursday night, and even though there’s only one other round 3 match played as yet, we will be top of the table going into round 4.
Inchicore set out their stall at the start, sandbagging board 1 and looking to pick up points in the middle and on the lower boards, where we were fairly evenly-matched – although we had a ratings advantage on every board, itr was down to 37 points on board 7, where Dylan was playing, making it the closest we’d come to being outranked so far this season.
Things weren’t looking all that promising in the early stages – both myself and John were having trouble getting castled, while Constantin was facing a passed pawn on f5 which was restricting his position, while nothing at all seemed to have happened in Tim’s game, where he had six pawns all on their starting squares.
We did pick up a couple of early wins though – John got another pawn and weathered his opponent’s attack, which left him just two pawns up and his own game gathered pace from there, while Tim was suddenly sat twiddling his thumbs at a re-set board – his opponent had lost a rook through a skewer.
But it still wasn’t entirely clear where the points would come from to lift us to our expected score of 5½-2½. Dylan looked to have an edge and won a pawn, but in a double-rook ending, he had to give it back and settle for a draw. Ross had a decent position early on, but his attack faded, he went three pawns down and decided to try his luck in an opposite-colour bishop ending. Myself and Constantin were slowly improving our positions, but no more, although Ciaran M and Mariusz were at least material up.
But in the last half hour, the games started to turn in our favour. Ciarán won an exchange and then a piece for pawn to be just a rook for pawn up. Mariusz picked up a pinned knight, and although his opponent tried for a few traps, the game was over. Constantin picked up a win as well, while Ross finally went down to defeat, leaving it 5½-1½ and just me playing. The game – a French exchange – finally got interesting in the below position, where white has just played 25. b5? How to continue for black?
Here, I had prepared 25. … NcxP!, when the knight on c5 and also white’s king are a bit shaky. However, after 26. PxN NxP 27. NxN (D), I missed the best continuation in this position –
27. … Qf4+! is the only way to go here; wherever white moves his king, 28. … QxN follows and either white is losing either the knight or the bishop as well. I probably had a blind spot to this move as I’d been looking at it in lines on previous moves, when it and a bishop on g6 looked quite dangerous pointing down on the king, but actually white could easily defend.
But I’d been happy – particularly given how the game had been going earlier! – to go in for an ending with three pawns for a piece and a much better king, so the game continued 27. … QxN+? 28. Nc2 Be8 (winning b5) 29. RxB+?? (this is unnecessary) RxR 30. ba Rd8 (getting ready to push the pawn – but Fritz prefers activity with Re4) 31. ab+ KxP 32. Qb5+ QxQ 33. BxQ c5 (D)
Fritz scores this as dead level, though I felt the two connected passed pawns, and the fact that white doesn’t really have any threats and so will have to sit and defend for a while, gave me good practical chances. Play continued –
34. a4 Kb6 35. Kd2 f5 36. Ne1 c4 37. Kc3 Kc5 38. Nf3 d4+ 39. Kc2 Kb4 40. Ne5 d3+ 41. Ke1 Rd5 42. NxP Kc3 43. Ne3 Re5 (D)
White is under a bit of pressure here – the more so as we were down to about 3 minutes plus increments at this stage. The threat is 44. … f4 and the rook infiltrates. But the computer finds a nice way to get around this.
44. Bc6! f5 45. Nd5+ and white more or less has a fortress draw. The pawn on a4 means I can never swap off the rook for two pieces; the game might continue 45. … Kd4 46. a5 Re2 47. a6 Ra2 48. Bb7 and a draw.
But after 44. Nf1 d2?? (I saw a ghost after 44. … Rf2 45. BxP!! (or ??, actually) KxB and for some reason, I thought the knight had check, which would move the king away from defence of the rook), white again has a fortress with 45. Ne3 f4 46. Nc2 and there’s no way in.
But the game concluded 45. Be2 f4 46. f3? (Fritz says white can try hold on with 46. NxP Rd5 47. BxP RxN+ 48. Kf1, which looks particularly hard to break down, although it might be possible) Rd5 47. Bb5 Rd4? (see below) 48. Bc6 Rb4 49. Be4 RxP (D) 50. NxP?? Rd4 1-0 However, callous Fritz says that the position at move 49 was a fortress –
Here, white plays 50. Bb1!, and there’s no way in. 50. … Ra1 51. NxP doesn’t work. Probing with 50. … Rb4 51. Bc2 Rb2 52. Be4 Ra2 53. Bb1 again goes nowhere. Black needs to open the kingside, but white can close this in amusing fashion – 50. … Ra8 51. g4! hg 52. hg Rh8 54. Bc2 Rh1 (D) – and how does white hold the draw now?
55. Bd3! draws. Taking the bishop is stalemate, and otherwise white just stays on the a6-f1 diagonal while the rook is on the first rank, covers b1 where black threatens to come to a1 and protects f3 if black plays Rh3. Black can make no progress, and it’s a draw.
Ghost aside, Fritz says I went wrong with 47. … Rd4? in the position below. So what should I have played instead?
47. … Rd6! is the only way to progress, simply cutting off a6 and c6 from the white bishop and putting white in zugzwang. In particular, if the bishop can’t get to c6, it can’t get to e4 and then to b1, where it was so effective in the previous line.
So if white now tries 48. g4, black plays 48. … hg 49. hg Rb6, and white has no moves. 50. NxP Rd6 loses the knight, while 50. Nh2 Re6 51. Be2 (to stop mate) RxB 52. KxR Kc2 and black queens. The bishop is pinned to Rb1+, when black queens and mates, and the a-pawn is defending the bishop.
Otherwise, 48. Be2 and now my plan from the game does work – 48. … Rd4 49. Bb5 Rb4 50. Ke2 Rb1 51. NxP Rb2 and the knight is lost. Other tries for white are worse – 48. Be8 Re6 picks up the bishop, while after 48. a5 Rd5 49. Bc6 RxP, the fortress requires 50. Bb1, which white is just one move too slow to achieve. 48. g3 is an interesting try, but black still prevails after 48. … Re6 49. Be2 g4! and either the bishop is lost or black infiltrates on e1.
And now for something completely different and much easier to digest – a really nice league table!