Sunday, January 27, 2008

My best move

I have played several hundred rated games in my life, and this game may still be the only one in which I played a legitimate double-exclamation point move. The game itself is not remarkable. I played the Ruy Lopez for some reason; I never play the Ruy Lopez. I must have been frustrated with poor results with my normal Bc4 opening and decided to shake things up. I won a pawn in the opening due to my opponent's mistakes, but then I played poorly to allow most of my advantage to slip away. When my opponent threatened an immediate forced draw, I thought for a long time looking for a way out….and I found it!!

[Event "Memorial Day Open"]
[Site "Tucson, Arizona"]
[Date "1990.05.27"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Yergin, April"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C70"]
[WhiteElo "1903"]
[BlackElo "1632"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5
As mentioned above, I always play Bc4 in this position. During this time in my life I played a bare handful of Ruy Lopez openings out of frustration with my poor results with Bc4.
3…a6 4. Ba4 Bc5 5. c3 b5 6. Bb3 d6 7. d4 Ba7?
This mistake gives white a clear advantage. Better was exd4.
8.dxe5 dxe5 9. Qxd8+ Kxd8 10. Bxf7
I have won a clear pawn, but I begin to meander without a plan through the next phase of the game, allowing my edge to dwindle.
10…Nf6 11. Bd5 Nxd5 12.exd5 e4 13. Ng5 Ne5 14. O-O
Being greedy with Ne4 is actually better here.
14…Bb7 15. Nxe4 Bxd5 16. Rd1 c6 17. Bg5+ Kd7
By this point black has enough counter play that the game is essentially equal even though white is still up a pawn.
18. Kh1 Ke6 19. Nbd2?
This is a mistake, overlooking that black could invade with Nd3. Better is f3 instead. Lucky for me she doesn’t see the tactic.
19…Kf5?! 20. f4 Bxe4?
Another mistake; Nd3 is still the right move.
21. Nxe4 Ng4 22. Ng3+ Kg6 23. Rd6+ Kf7 24.h3
At the amateur level it is difficult to see it, but this move apparently lets most of white’s advantage slip away, while Rd7+ retains the edge. The difference is that after Rd7+ the black king comes to g6 and blocks the g7 pawn, which stops black from playing the seemingly drawing variation that follows…
24…h6 25. Bh4 Nf2+ 26. Kh2 g5
Ok, here it is, the key moment of the game. It looks as if I have blown it. If I play the moves that save my bishop then black gets a perpetual check with the knight. I was devastated, having felt that I was winning for so long only to give up a draw. I recall this moment well, because April’s husband, Chandler, was playing on the board next to ours and I remember seeing the expression on his face as he studied the position, as well as after I found my remarkable reply. Since it is pointed out to you, it is probably obvious, but over the board when you don’t know it works, it is not so simple.

27. Re1!!
I was so proud of myself when I played this. There were a good number of variations that needed to be calculated quite deeply in order to be sure I was ok here, so just seeing the move itself was not enough; I needed to spend a lot of time calculating everything.
27…gxh4 28. Rd7+ Kf8
The main alternative was Kg8, which leads shortly to mate after 29. Nh5 Bc5 30. Re6 a5 31. Rg6+ Kf8 32. Rf6+ Ke8 (32…Kg8 33. Rg7 mate) 33. Rff7 and checkmate is impossible to stop. Obviously 28...Kg6 allows 29. Re6 mate, but it took me a bit more time before playing my 27th move to make sure that 28...Kf6 would win for me - 28...Kf6 29. Nh5+ Kf5 (29...Kg6 30. Rg7+ and mates next) 30. Re5+ Kg6 31. Rg7 mate.
29. Nh5 Bc5 30. b4 Re8
Bb6 might be slightly trickier as I would have to correctly see that I can trap the bishop after 31. Nf6 Rd8 32. Rb7
31. Rxe8+ Kxe8 32. Nf6+ Kf8 33. bxc5 h5 34. Kg1
I played to simplify here, since the knight is trapped. I saw that I could swap everything off to an easily winning endgame.
34…Rh6 35. Rd6 Kf7 36. Kxf2 Rxf6 37. Rxf6+ Kxf6 38. Ke3 Kf5 39. a3 a5 40. Kf3 a4 41. Ke3 Ke6 42. Ke4 Ke7 43. Ke5 Kd7 44. Kf6 Ke8 45. Kg7 1-0

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