Saturday, January 26, 2008


The following game has little of interest, except for its minor historical context. It is a game between two rank beginners, but one of them went on to become a Grandmaster and World Junior Champion! This was the first round of only my third rated tournament, and I was still considered to be 'unrated', though I had an unofficial rating of 1509. Tal Shaked, my opponent, was also unrated, and I believe this was his second tournament (I saw him playing at the Memorial Day Open a couple weeks earlier). I learned a tremendous lesson at the end of this game that has stuck with me ever since.

[Event "Nimzowitsch Classic"]
[Site "Tucson, Arizona"]
[Date "1986.07.12"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Shaked, Tal"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C01"]
[WhiteElo "1509"]
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. exd5?!
You can see that I had little knowledge of openings back then. This is not the way to play against the French Defense! I won't comment much on most of the game, first because it was so long ago that I simply cannot recall my own thoughts during the game, and second because the moves are obviously those of beginners, so we cannot judge them too harshly.
4...exd5 5. Bd2 Nf6 6. Bd3 O-O 7. Nge2 Nc68. O-O Re8 9. a3 Ba5 10. Bb5 Bd7 11. Bg5 a6 12. Bxf6
I was ever eager to grab material back then, even if I couldn't see if the resulting position would be in my favor.
12...Qxf6 13. Nxd5 Qd6 14. Bxc6 Bxc6 15. Ndc3
I would retain a very slight advantage if I had played Ne3 here; now black gets the tiniest of edges.
Better would have been Rad8 to put more pressure on the isolated d pawn. Threatening a checkmate, such as with the Qg6 move, is something beginners love to do, but here it allows white to gain approximate equality by pushing the pawn to d5. Naturally I didn't see it.
16. g3?! Bxc3?!
Bf3 is better, increasing pressure on white's pieces.
17. Nxc3 Rad8 18. Qd2 Qg4
It is difficult to call this a mistake considering both players are beginners, but white now regains a slight advantage over the next few moves. Without any large errors, the game moves toward an endgame in which white is just up a pawn with a winning edge.
19. d5 Bd7 20. Rae1 Rxe1 21. Rxe1 Qf3 22. Qe2 Qxe2 23. Rxe2 Re8 24. Rxe8+ Bxe8 25. Ne4 b6 26. c4 f5 27. Nc3 Kf7 28. f4 g6 29. Kf2 Ke7 30. Ke3 Kd6 31. Kd4 Bd7 32. b4 c5+ 33. dxc6 Bxc6 34. c5+
I had played the endgame fairly well up until this point, but now I rushed a bit. It would have been better to play a4 here. I am still winning though.
34...bxc5+ 35. bxc5+ Ke6 36. Kc4 Kd7 37. Kb4 Kc7 38. Ka5 Kb7 39. Na2 Bb5 40. Nb4 h6 41. a4 Be2 42. c6+ Kc7 43. Nxa6+ Bxa6?
This was a real mistake and white it dead won now. Better was Kc6, though white should still win with correct play.
44. Kxa6 Kxc6 45. h3 g5
Right here black makes the one move that gives him his only chance. I was so confident of my victory at this point that I spent no time thinking here, I just reached out and instantly played the losing move. Just about anything else wins for me, including a5 or h4.
46. fxg5??
A terrible blunder that throws everything away. This moment drilled a lesson into my head and I don't think I ever lost in such a manner again.
46...hxg5 47. Ka5 f4 48. gxf4 gxf4 49. h4 f3 50. h5 f2 51. h6 f1=Q 52. h7 Qf5+ 53. Ka6 Qxh7 54. Ka5 Qb1 0-1

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