Well, I was on board 5 in that group. It turned out that the top four boards were all decisive, and so all attention was on board 5. A win and you end up in a 5-way tie for first and collect $185. A draw and both of us were walking away, along with one other, with $33. A loss? You're going home with nothing.
Needless to say, this game is littered with missed opportunities, especially for White, but even Black had multiple chances in this game. Without further ado, let's take a look at the game. Be warned, you might need a sanity check after going through this one!
Des Moines Open, Round 5
W: Troy Curfman (1802)
B: Patrick McCartney (1996)
King's Indian Defense
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.Nf3 O-O 5.Bg5
This is a sideline available to White in the King's Indian Defense. The idea is simple. White wants a solid setup and not get into a theoretical battle where he constantly has to look out for sacrificial ideas by Black against his King, such as in the Mar Del Plata.
Like in many other lines of the King's Indian, Black's main idea is to attack d4 and force White to commit to his pawn structure.
White can also play 6.e3, when after 6...cxd4 7.exd4, Black tries to play against the d-pawn.
Black has two options here. The move played in the game is the more solid line. Black wants to grab control of the central dark squares and create a mobile Kingside Pawn majority. The other option is the more dynamic Pawn break with 6...b5, the idea being that the d-pawn is weakened after 7.cxb5, in similar fashion to the Benko Gambit. Of course, if the Knight takes, then the e4-Pawn hangs.
This move is not very good and a waste of time. It gives Black a hook more than anything else. White should proceed aggressively with 7.e4, to which Black would usually reply with 7...Bg4 8.Be2 Bxf3 to gain control of the dark squares, or else the more cautious 7.e3, against which Black can play 7...h6 8.Bh4 and then Black has two options. He can chase down the Bishop with 8...g5 9.Bg3 Nh5, where attempts to outright refute the line fail. For instance, 10.Nxg5 Nxg3 11.hxg3 hxg5 12.Qh5 Bf5! and Black has a winning position. Of course, White doesn't have to play the sacrificial lines and the position is unclear. The other option is to play 8...Qb6 9.Qc2 e5 with moves like ...Na6 and ...Bf5 coming. That is unless White plays en passant, after which Black will recapture with the Bishop and have the c6-square available to his Knight. Black is ok in both lines and you have a game.
This move is odd and probably not very good because in some ways it's too slow. Black was re-routing the Knight to e5 to trade off its counter-part on f3 since White didn't allow the Bishop to do it, but here, better is to play 7...h6 8.Bf4 g5 9.Bh2 Bf5 with a slight advantage for Black. He is getting very active very quickly, and always has that hook that White created on h3.
8.Qd2 Ne5 9.Nxe5 Bxe5 10.e4 Bg7
Black's play is very time consuming and he's lagging behind in development.
As is usual in these fianchetto defenses, the Bishop is better placed on e2, and this scenario is no different.
11...Nd7 12.O-O Ne5 13.Rae1?
This move is not good. White has a completely dominating position after 13.Be2! f5 14.exf5 Bxf5 15.Bh6 Bxh6 16.Qxh6 Nf7 17.Qd2. The move played in the game does not lose for White, but he's lost his advantage.
Black wins a Pawn, and in the given situation, this is Black's best move, but he is by no means out of the woods and White has compensation for the Pawn as this opens up the h-file for White to attack the Black King.
This move, however, hands the advantage to Black. White had to play 14.Be2 with full compensation for the Pawn.
14...Nxd3 15.Qxd3 Bd7
The more active 15...Bg4 is better. There is no way to trap the Bishop with moves like f5 as any attack on the Bishop, which can't be done with a Pawn, can be covered with an ...h5 push by Black.
The wrong Pawn break. White should be breaking with the other Pawn via 16.e5 with a roughly equal game.
16...h6 17.Bd2 Kh7
Black should proceed with 17...g5 immediately!
This move is just outright wrong. Black should play something like 18...a6 here. Black is trying to over-protect g5 and then play ...g5, but the problem now is h6, even with ...g5 pushed.
19.Rh3 g5 20.Qg3
Far stronger is 20.Kf2, going immediately for the doubling of Rooks on the h-file. This move gives Black time.
20...Kg7 21.Kf2 Rh8 22.Reh1
It is amazing what one move can do. Now, Black is actually better. White had to play 22.Ne2 with a roughly equal position. Take a look at the diagram and see if you can figure out Black's best move.
It was a bit of a trick question. There are lots of moves that are good for Black. 22...e6, 22...Be5, and 22...Bd4+, for instance, all give Black the advantage. The move played in the game has got to be about the worst move on the board aside from intentionally hanging stuff. I noticed the mistake about 30 second after my move, or at least I thought I did, but as we will see, Black doesn't fix it for a while.
White spent 10 minutes on this move and failed to find the instantly winning move, 23.Bxg5!, when after 23...Bxg5 24.Rxh6! Rxh6 25.Qxg5+ Rg6 (All other moves are forced mate) 26.fxg6 and now the only way to stop mate is to throw away a bunch of material and White will win as 26...fxg6 allows forced mate, the longest variation being 27.Qh6+ Kf7 28.Qh7+ Kf6 29.e5+ (admittedly, when I saw this line, I envisioned 29.Rf1, which is also completely winning, but not as forceful) 29...Kxe5 30.Qg7+ Kf5 31.Qf7+ Ke5 32.Rh4 and Black can't stop the Rook from giving mate on e4.
Black breathed a sigh of relief, thinking he was ok now, but he wasn't. He missed the equalizer with a move completely away from the action, namely 23...Qb6!! Now the sacrifice on g5 only leads to equality after 24.Bxg5 Bxg5 25.Rxh6 Qxb2+! 26.Ne2 Rxh6 27.Qxg5+ Rg6 28.fxg6 Qf6+!, eliminating the mating attack.
White misses it again! This time, it's 24.Bxg5 Bxg5 25.Rxh6 Rxh6 26.Qxg5+ Rg6 27.Rxh7 Rxg5 28.Rxa8 a6 29.Rb8 b5 30.Rb7, winning.
And once again Black misses the opportunity to go back on top. 24...Bd4+! answering 25.Be3 with 25...Be5 and any King move with 25...f6, all giving Black the advantage!
And yet again, White fails to cash in! 25.Bxg5!! again works here, this time with the sequence 25...hxg5 26.Rxh7+ Qxh7 27.Rxh7+ Kxh7 being Black's best of a bad situation. White has a Queen and Knight for Rook and Two Bishops with equal pawns, but White position is far superior here (computer gives it +3, if that gives you an idea).
Here Black equalizes by running. 25...Kf8 and an equal position arises. Back at the point after White's 22nd move, White had 45 minutes left to Black's 38, plus the 30 second increment per move. Now, White has 21 minutes left and Black has 18, and even after 44 minutes thought plus increment time, neither side has figured this situation out, and by now, all of the other relevant games were done, and all attention was on us two making a fool of ourselves. The top four boards had all been decisive, and so winning was even more critical here as a draw was about as good as a loss.
Once again, White can end it with 26.Bxg5!
And once again, Black fails to properly evaluate the situation. 26...Kf8! is now actually an advantage for Black, point being that the sacrifice no longer works. After 27.Bxg5? Bxg5, the best White has is 28.Qxg5 hxg5 29.Rxh7 Qd4 30.Rh8+ Kg7 31.R1h7+ Kf6 32.Rxd8 Qxc4+ with a winning advantage for Black. Of course, White doesn't have to take on g5, and the position is merely a slight advantage for Black.
Again 27.Bxg5 is best, but this time it's more complicated and drawn out. 27...Bxg5 28.Rxh6 Rxh6 29.Qxg5+ Rg6 30.Rxh8 Rxg5 31.Rxd8 b4 32.Rxd7 bxc3 33.bxc3 Rxg2+ 34.Kf3 Rc2 35.Rxe7 Rxc3+ 36.Kf4 Rxc4 37.a5 and White's winning.
Again, the correct move is 27...Kf8, this time with an equal position.
Again both sides missing their move, 28.Bxg5 for White and 28...Kf8 for Black.
One last chance for White. This time, a winning endgame results after 29.Bxg5 Bxg5 30.Rxh6 Bxb5+ 31.Kf2 (31.Nxb5 Rxh6 32.Qxg5+ Kf8 is equal) 31...Rxh6 32.Qxg5+ Rg6 33.Rxh8 Rxg5 34.Rxb8 Bd3 with a winning endgame for White. Now Black's totally winning.
29...exd6 30.Qxd6 Bxb5+ 31.Nxb5
Yes, this move does lead to a clear advantage for Black, but Black had a far superior move (-9 vs -1.3) with 31...Qe8!!. For example, after 32.Nc3 Rxb2+ 33.Kd3 c4+ 34.Ke3 Rb3 35.Rxg5+ Bxg5+ 36.Kd4 Rxc3 37.Kxc3 Qxe4 and Black is up a full piece with the safer King and zero counterplay for White.
32.e5 33.Kf3 Qa8??
Black jettisons the Bishop, but in the wrong manner. Advantage Black after 33...Qd8! 34.exf6+ Qxf6. It should be noted at this point that both sides have 8 minutes left.
34.exf6+ Kg8 35.Ra1! Qe8 36.Re1! g4+
Or 36...Qa8 37.Qe5 and White's winning.
White has 4 minutes at this point while Black has under a minute with 30 second increment, and White spends 3 of his precious minutes here. Can you find the win?
38.Rxe2 Rxe2 39.Kg3
The winning move is 39.Kh4! Black has no perpetual and no way to continue to harass the White King. He is forced to go back with 39...Qe8 and is basically helpless in this position. White should win easily.
Black had a stronger defense here. 39...Rh8!, getting the Rook active with a subsequent 40...Kh7. Note that this would have been impossible with the King on h4 as opposed to g3 because it would be mate in 3 after 39.Kh4 Rh8 40.Qb8+ Kh7 41.Rxh6+ Kxh6 42.Qxh8 mate. With the King on g3, Black has the g5-square as an escape for the King.
40.Qe7! is lights out.
41.d6 is more straight to the point.
41...Rh8 42.Rb1 Kh7 43.Rh1 Rg8+ 44.Kf3 Rh8 45.g4 Kg8 46.Rh5 Qa8
Both sides are literally working off the increment at this point. White to move and win. You've got 30 seconds, GO!
White is still winning, but this is not the dagger move. The real winner is in 47.Rg5+!! where 47...Kh7 48.Rg7 and 47...Kf8 48.Qd6+ Ke8 49.Qe7 are both mate while 47...hxg5 Qxg5+ 48.Kf8 Qg7+ 49.Ke8 Qxh8+ followed by 50.Qxa8 wins the Queen.
47...Qa3+ 48.Qe3 Qa8
Now White has the same opportunity again, the only difference being that 49.Rg5+ Kf8 is answered by mate a move quicker, 50.Qe7 mate.
He misses it again!
49...Kh7 50.g5 Rc8
Last chance for White. White to move and win, and this time, literally only one move works. Anything else is a draw or worse for White.
The win comes in the form of mate in 7 via 51.g6+ Kg8 52.gxf7+ Kh7 53.f8=N+ Kh8 54.Rxh6+ Kg8 55.Qg1+ Kxf8 56.Qg7+ Ke8 57.Qe7 mate.
Now the position is a draw, or at least it should be.
The only move is 52.Kg4 with a draw. If 52...Kg8, then 53.Rh3 with advantage. Black should respond with 52...Qa2 or 52...Qc1, both of which draw. Note that 52.Ke4?? is losing. 52...Kg8 53.Rxh6 Rc1 and Black wins. White has no way to avoid mate without losing the Queen.
Black can win with 52...Qc1+ in which White's only move is 53.Ke5, then after 53...Qe1+, White must go back to f4 with 54.Kf4. Now 54...Qc1+ merely repeats. If 54...Qf1+, then 55.Kg3 is again only move, and then Black has nothing better than 55...Qe1+ 56.Kf4, and so since 56...Qc1+ and 56...Qf1+ both lead to perpetuals, the last shot is 56...Qe2, which turns out is the winner. After 57.Rg6+ (all other moves lose quickly) fxg6 58.f7+ Kxf7 59.Qf6+ Ke8 60.Qxg6+ Kd7 61.Qe6+ Qxe6 62.dxe6+ Kd6 and White has no way to hold the position. One of many, numerous examples would be 63.Kg4 Rc5 64.g6 Rc1 65.Kg5 Ke7 66.f6+ Kxe6 67.f7 Ke7, winning for Black.
The move played in the game should actually lose for Black!
53.g6+! Kg8 54.Ke5??
Going from completely won to dead lost! After 54.gxf7+ Kf8 55.Rh3 Qc4 56.Qxc4 Rxc4+, there is one move that wins for White, and that's 57.Kd5! The pawns are ugly, but it's enough for White to win the Rook ending.
There is now no way out. Everything leads to either mate or loss of the Queen for White.
55.Ke4 Re8+ 0-1
After such a crazy game, Black finished on top and joined the other four that won on the top five board in a five-way tie for first place with 4 points.
WOW! That game was a hand full. A LOT of tactics missed in a very high pressure situation. While an extremely ugly game, it can be an excellent resource if you are looking to work on areas such as tactics, sacrifices and combinations, visualization, dynamic defense, and seeing many insane, sick-looking moves that actually work! Needless to say, this was by far the craziest of the ten games on the entire road trip.
That does it for the Des Moines Open. Beginning with the next article, we will be going through the games I played in Lansing, MI. Until then, good luck in your games.