Friday, February 8, 2008

A Game from my days in Russia

I decided to present this game for a couple of reasons. The four years that I spent in Russia were a very interesting time for me chess-wise. Everything was different from my years in America. Rather than the Swiss-system events I always played in the U.S., most events in Russia were round-robins, meaning that I played a game against each of the other players in the event. Also, each player was approximately of the same playing strength, so this made every game very tough.

I liked this game because I tried something new in the opening that went very badly for me, then fought back hard for counterplay and found it with a rook sacrifice. It's not the prettiest game in the world, by any means, but it shows the trench-warfare of amateur chess very well.

[Event "1st Category Round Robin #4"]
[Site "Moscow, Russia"]
[Date "1995.04.17"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Cross, Ted"]
[Black "Laskatelev"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C55"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3
I normally play the straight Two-Knights Defense lines here with 4. Ng5, or at least that is what I normally played for most of my chess life; I have recently been experimenting with 4. d4 in online blitz, though I haven't gotten a chance to use it in a tournament yet. I believe I was feeling very down about my results, so I played 4. d3 in order to try to be more solid and safe.
4...Be7 5. Nc3 O-O 6. O-O d6 7. a4 Bg4 8. h3Bh5 9. Be3 a6 10. Ne2?
What an ugly move! All I can say is that I have always had trouble finding a plan in these types of positions, and that pin by the bishop on h5 was really annoying me. I didn't want to weaken my kingside by playing g4, though I suppose that might be the best move. At least something like 10. a5 would have been fine. Lashing out like I did just turned my position into junk. For some reason I think I felt I would get an attack after he took the knight on f3, by playing my king to h2 and swinging a rook over to the g-file. This wasn't a realistic plan here...
10...Bxf3 11. gxf3 d5
Excellent. Black immediately forces the issue, spotlighting the new weaknesses in my position. If I take on d4 with my pawn then my two f pawns are terribly weak and ineffective, while any other move allows black to play d4.
12. Ba2 d4 13. Bg5?!
I didn't want to put this bishop in a passive position on c1 or d2, but I didn't quite realize that this bishop is critical, since it is the only thing maintaining any grip on the dark squares. Once the bishop comes off the board my position is simply terrible.
Correct again. Get rid of my bishop so that my kingside becomes even more porous.
14. Bxe7 Qxe7 15. Kh2 Qh4 16. Rg1
Yes, I saw that I was giving up two pawns here, but I knew I was in serious trouble, and I felt that I had to strike out for desperation counterplay on the only open file available.
16...Qxf2+ 17. Rg2 Qxf3 18. Qg1 Qe3
Another good move. He disrupts my g-file attack before it even begins.
19. Rf2
I tried to move over to the f-file now, since that would allow my bishop to participate.
19...Nf4 20. Nxf4 exf4 21. Re1 Qg3+ 22. Qxg3 fxg3+ 23. Kxg3
Black's plan over the last few moves may not have been the best, but I think he believed he was winning easily, so he was willing to give me back one pawn in order to liquidate my queen.
23...Ne5 24. Ref1 Rae8 25. h4
This move is a sign that I have no idea what to do. Look at the position - there is basically nothing for me to do. I cannot dislodge his knight. I have no pawns to attack it, and my bishop is the wrong color. Therefore I can put no pressure on the f7 square. The h4 move is simply a 'hope move', thinking that maybe I could switch over to the g file with my rooks and use that one remaining pawn to stir something up. I didn't expect it to amount to anything, but you have to make a move, so...
25...Re7 26. h5 h6 27.b4 Kh7 28. Rf5 f6 29. Bd5 c6 30. Bb3 Rc8
All of these recent moves are basically my way of saying, "Ok, I have nothing I can do; I know you are technically winning, so prove it."
31. Rb1 c5 32. bxc5 Rxc5 33. Bd5 b5?!
This appears to be a slight mistake on his part. It would have been better to liquidate the queenside with 33...Rc2 34. Rb7 Rb7 35. Bb7 Ra2 36. Ba6 Ra4.
34. axb5 Rxb5 35. Ra1 a5 36. Ra4 Ra7
He knew I couldn't take the 'free' pawn on d4 without making his a pawn too powerful. Oddly enough, though, when I examine it with the computer it looks like it could have been my best try for saving the game - 37. Rd4 a4 38. Rf1 a3 39. Bb3 Nc6 40. Rc4 and things are not so simple for black. Best is probably 40...Rg5+ 41. Kh4 Ne5 in order to utilize his kingside pawns for attack.
37. Kf4 Rc5

38. Rxe5!
What I love so much about this move is that my computer doesn't even consider it, yet it is clearly my best chance now.
38...fxe5+ 39. Kxe5 Rxc2 40. Kxd4
Ok, what has been accomplished here? Black should still be winning, but he must play very accurately to do so. My bishop and rook work well with the connected, passed central pawns and can be very dangerous.
40...Rh2 41. Kc5!
Another good move! Note how the rook on the a file cannot defend the a pawn once my king arrives at b6.
41...Rxh5 42. Kb6 Re7 43. Rxa5
So, this is it, the point where black must find the right plan or get into trouble.
He doesn't find it. 43...g5 gets blacks pawns going. The move chosen just helps me to get my own pawns moving first.
44. d4 Rg5 45. e5 g6
I have no idea what this move was supposed to accomplish. If black wanted to try to do any more than draw the game he needed to play h5 or Rg4 here.
46. Kc6 Kg7?
This is normally a logical move in endgame positions like this, but here it actually turns the advantage over to me. Better was Rg4 or Rg3 with a hope for salvaging a draw.
47. Kd6 Kf8?!
Although this move ends things quickly in my favor, the game was really over anyhow - 47...Re8 48. Ra7+ Kh8 49. Bc6 Rd8+ 50. Rd7 and white is won.
48. Ra8+ Re8 49. Rxe8+ Kxe8 50. Bc6+ 1-0
Black has no way to stop my pawn from queening.

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