After two fairly simple wins on Saturday, I am headed into the final day of the tournament amongst the top six in the standings. Three players had a perfect score while three others, one of them myself, were a half point behind. For the fourth round, I am Black once again, this time against James Dill, another 2000 player. This is the fourth time that we have faced, and the fourth time that I have had Black against him, with myself having a perfect 3 and 0 record. All three of those games started with the line of the French that I recommend for Black against the Advance Variation in the Introduction article of the French Repertoire that I wrote over the course of Mid-August to Mid-November, namely 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Bd7 5.Nf3 a6. Given the fact that with this being board 3, the match up was figured out the night before, and having played the same variation of the same opening three times, I didn't want to risk potential preparation from the night before, despite having won all three times. Therefore, instead of executing a French Defense for the fourth straight time against him, despite how beautiful my Round 3 game was executing the French Defense, I decided to go in the direction of the Petroff. Needless to say, it turned out to work in my favor as White's Queenside, outside of the Knight, never gets into the game, and White ends up playing, for all intents and purposes, down a Rook!
NC Closed Championship, Round 4
W: James Dill (2011)
B: Patrick McCartney (2090)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.O-O Be7 8.Re1 Bg4 9.c3
The game move and 9.c4 are White's main options in this line. Note that trying to grab a pawn via 9.Bxe4? dxe4 10.Rxe4 Bxf3 11.gxf3 (or 11.Qxf3 Nxd4, giving the pawn back) is bad for White. The structural damage that White suffers is not worth the pawn.
Stronger and more normal are 10.Nbd2 or 10.Qb3. The move played in the game is actually weakening to White's position. It gives Black a hook, and it also weakens the h2-b8 diagonal. As we will see on Black's 19th move, advancing the g-pawn will often cause the h-pawn to hang. White should wait to advance any of the pawns in front of his King until he is forced to do so.
Black should instead play 10...Bh5. The pin on the Knight is the primary annoyance for White.
White gets a substantial advantage after 11.gxf3! Yes, White's pawn structure is shattered, but unlike the 9.Bxe4 line, Black's Knight is still on e4 and must move, gaining time for White, and there are no good places for the Knight to go. For example, 11...Nf6 12.Bxf5 is considered best, but White is still better and up a pawn, and he can use the open g-file for his heavy pieces. After 11...Nd6 12.Qb3!, Black again is in trouble. After the game move, Black has virtually no problems.
11...O-O 12.Nd2 Bd6 13.Nb3 Qh4 14.c4 Nb4 15.Rf1 Nxd3 16.Qxd3 dxc4 17.Qxc4+ Kh8
This move can't be good. White has two undeveloped pieces. The Bishop and the a1-Rook. The only undeveloped Black piece is the a8-Rook. On one side, it looks like White is trying to dethrone the Black Knight from the e4-square. However, all Black has to do is simply move the Knight, not trading it off, and then the c1-Bishop that is blocking in the a1-Rook is now being blocked in by the d2-Knight. This makes Black's decision fairly easy on what to do with the Knight.
This move not only avoids the Knight trade, but the Knight eyes the h3-pawn, which Black's next move will force the h3-pawn to hang.
19.Qd5 Qf4 20.g3
Unfortunately forced. Now the cover for the White King is about to be completely stripped.
20...Nxh3+ 21.Kg2 Qg4 22.Nf3
While this sacrifice works and Black is winning, mainly because White still has a Rook completely out of play, even stronger is 22...Bxg3! where after 23.fxg3 f4, White is dead!
23.Rxf2 Bxg3 24.Nh2 Bxh2+?
Much stronger is 24...Qh5!. The Bishop can't be taken because 25.Kxg3 is answered by 25...f4+, winning the White Queen.
Possibly stornger for Black here is 25...Rf6, which is also close to equal after 26.Bd2 Qh5+ 27.Kg1 Rg6+ 28.Rg2 c6 29.Qc4 Rxg2+ 30.Kxg2 Qg4+ (or 30...Re8 31.Re1 with equality) 31.Kf2 Qh4+ 32.Kg2 Re8 33.Rg1 Re4 and while the position is close to equal, White still has a very difficult task defending the position, starting with the move 34.Kf1, which isn't obvious.
White misses his chance, and at this point, Black doesn't look back. After 26.Qf3! Qxd4 27.Be3, Black has no advantage!
26...Rae8 27.Qf4 Qh5+ 28.Kg2 Re1 29.Rf1
The position is still better for Black after this move, but in some ways, Black is getting too cute. Of course White can't take the pawn as 30.Qxg5? Re2+ followed by 31...Rg8 winning the Queen, but a much cleaner attack by Black would be to play 29...Re2+ 30.Rf2 Rfe8 and Black is simply winning.
Correct is 30.Qf3! Re2+ 31.Rf2 Rxf2+ 32.Kxf2 Qh2+ 33.Qg2 Qh4+ 34.Qg3 Qxd4+ 35.Qe3 Qh4+ 36.Qg3 Qxg3+ 37.Kxg3 f4+ 38.Kg4 h6 39.Kh5 Kg7 and while Black is still better, winning this position will still require a lot of work and many accurate moves by Black in order for him to win the game.
The death ticket to the White King.
31.Qf3 Rg4+ 32.Kf2 Qh2+ 33.Ke1 Re8+ 0-1
White resigned as 34.Be3 is answered by 34...Qxb2 and there is no way for White to hold his position together at this point.
This game was clearly by no means as well played by me as were rounds 2 and 3. That said, winning a game of chess doesn't always require perfect play, and many times, keeping up the pressure is often enough to cause the opposing side to bend and eventually break. That said, there were still opportunities for White to get back into the game, and often times, players with a stripped King will have that sense of being distraught and will often times lose focus on the position, and make any move that makes even a remote amount of logical sense when in reality, a situation like that which White was in this game is the exact moment that focusing and playing the best move on every turn becomes the most critical.
On the flip side, for Black, it is a sign that just because the position looks assuring doesn't mean that you can suddenly relax and think that any move of an attacking piece to a square near the opposing King necessarily means that it is a good move. Every move, a list of candidates needs to be established, and each and every one of them must be researched in granular detail. Often times, two or more moves make appear to make little or not difference, and will often look like they will simply transpose to one another, but many times one move is significantly better than the other due to very minor, though critical, details.
This win put me at three-and-a-half out of four, and in a three-way tie for second place at that time, with one player having a perfect score of four. Stay tuned as the next article will show what happened in that final round.