Monday, 3 March 2014

Chess: Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation

Some games are classics.  Some are so disastrously filled with blunders that the only way you're going to win is by committing fewer blunders and, ideally, not be the last person to commit one.

This is one of those games.  It started off well enough, with the Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation (I knew a few moves, which got me started), but then the game descended into a number of unusual moves.  Or blunders.  And I missed at least one key opportunity to secure a big win... again.

Here goes.

Dave Johnson vs David Leese, Kidsgrove Chess Club, Roy Bennett Cup. 25 Feb 2014

1. e4  e5
2. Nf3  Nc6
3.  Bb4 a6
4. Bxc6 dxc6 

So far, soo good.  All by-the-book.  I've had to recapture with my d-pawn (away from the centre) to ensure I don't lose the e-pawn (I can meet Nxe5 with Qd4, forking pawn and knight and subsequently regaining the pawn).

5. d3 Bd6    (White plays to protect his e-pawn, so the threat of Nxe5 is back on.  I protect my e-pawn with my bishop, which seems okay to me.)
6. O-O Bg4 
7. d4 exd4 (White's move surprised me.  What's he doing, moving a pawn twice during development?  I've pinned his knight on f3, so I am eyeing up the possibility of doubling his f- and g-pawns with an exchange).
8. Qxd4 Bxf3 (... so far, so good, it seems, all going according to my plan).
9. Qxg7 Qh4 (I missed Qxg7.  But I've decided I'm not playing cautiously, and if I can't save my rook, I'm going to get some counterplay out of it.  Here, I'm threatening Qxh2#, and I've decided that this game is not going to be a draw).

At this stage, I'm thinking of various threats, apart from Qxh2#.  I'm anticipating various defences, including 10. h3, where I'll then play Bxg2 and possibly Qxe4.  I really need to think ahead (I was playing on adrenaline, which is never a good idea) and I didn't see White's defence (which was also a mistake). 

10. e5? Be2? 

An error from White, followed by a massive, massive mistake by me.  After 10. e5, the best answer was Bf8, threatening all kinds of nastiness.  Here's the position after 10. ... Bf8, the best move for Black.

Note that Black is currently a piece up (White has not recaptured on f3, as he hasn't had time and opted to capture on g7 instead).  And his Queen is attacked, so he can't recapture on f3 just yet either.  I wish I'd seen this move at the time - I was too busy working out how to save my pieces, and this was the obvious answer:  if I can't threaten the King, then chase the Queen.  Here, White can't capture the rook, because Qxg8 falls to ... Qg4, and after g3, Qh3 has no reply.  White's only answer here is Qg5, and after an exchange of queens and Black's Bd5 or Be4, Black is a piece up for a pawn (although his pawn structure is a mess).

But no, I played Be2.  I moved my bishop away from its prime location in front of White's king, and attacked the rook instead... it's become a desperado.  In fact, both bishops have ... what am I thinking?
11. exd6 Bxf1 
 12. Qxh8 O-O-O

I have a plan here, working around Kxf1, Qc4+, and then either Re8+ or Qxc2 with various threats.  However, White isn't bothered with the Bishop at the moment.  I should probably have played Qg4 to press the issue (threatening Qxg2#) and force the capture.  Did I see this?  No.
13. Qe5 Rxd6  (here comes the rook...)
14. Nc3 Rf6?  (White plays Nc3, developing the knight and denying my rook the d1 square.  I decide, after some thought, to threaten checkmate - the threat is Qxf2 and the Qxg2#).
15. Qe8#

If there's only one thing quicker than 'checkmate next move', it's 'checkmate this move'.  I have got my king into trouble, and then disconnected the queen and the rook from the back rank.

All in all, I would have to categorise this as a series of missed opportunities, finished off with a disastrous mistake, and all because I got rattled by the Qxg7 move (which could have paved the way for me to win).  If I think clearly, and avoid panicking, I can probably be a much better player.

Until next time...

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