Mid-Sussex League Division 1 2018-19: Horsham 1 – Eastbourne 1

Last Friday, Horsham 1, fielding its strongest team, scored a 4.5-0.5 win over Eastbourne 1 down in Eastbourne. My game was in fact the only one that wasn’t decisive, although it was an interesting encounter against a strong opponent.

Froom, Oliver – Mansson, James C, Mid-Sussex League (Division 1) Eastbourne 1 – Horsham 1 2019.01.18

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. d3

After the game, my opponent admitted he played this move as he had seen that I had been playing the Open Variation recently and wanted to avoid that.

5. O-O Nxe4 is the Open Variation, when the main line (and White’s only try for a theoretical advantage) goes 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 with a situation which pits White’s superior pawn structure against Black’s active pieces.

5… b5 6. Bb3 Bc5!

I think this is the best defence to 5 d3. Black plays a line where d3 is premature; White’s most critical approach is to play c3 and d4 directly, so having played d3 first represents a loss of tempo. However, it has to be said that it is a sharp line, so Black will have to work to find acceptable moves.

7. O-O d6 8. c3 h6!

This is a good way to make use of the extra move. It is very handy to prevent Bg5 by White, as that move can prove awkward at various points.

9. a4

White attempts to play along the same lines as after 5 0-0 b5 6 Bb3 Bc5, but Black is likely to benefit from the extra move …h6.

9. h3 is most common. White prevents both …Bg4 and …Ng4, and looks to develop in standard Ruy Lopez fashion with Nbd2, Re1, Nf1 and Ng3.

9… Rb8 10. axb5!

Mikhalveski approves of this move, noting: “If White neglects to make this exchange then Black will more than likely be able to play …b4, with good chances to exploit the weakening of White’s queeside.”

10… axb5 11. d4 Bb6 12. Be3

12. Na3 is the most common move. 12… O-O 13. Nxb5 Bg4. Mikhalevski assesses this postion as follows: “Black obtains good compensation for the sacrificed pawn. The position is almost identical to the main line of the Arkhangelsk Variation, except for the extra move …h6 which is only likely to help Black.”

12… Bg4 13. Qd3 Bxf3 14. gxf3 O-O 15. Kh1 Qd7

15… Nh5 was worth considering. For instance, White is advised not to play 16. Qxb5? Bxd4! 17. Qc4 (17. Qxc6 Bxe3 18. fxe3 (18. Bxf7+? Rxf7 19. fxe3 Qh4 20. Ra8 Rxa8 21. Qxa8+ Kh7 shows one benefit of having played …h6!) 18… Rxb3 and Black will play …Rxb2 with a big advantage.) 17… Bxe3 18. fxe3 Qh4 with a strong attack.)

16. Rg1 Qh3 17. Rg3 Qh4 18. Nd2 Nh5 19. Rg4 Qf6 20. Rag1 Kh8

20… Ne7

21. Qxb5 Ne7 22. Qa4 Ra8 23. Qc4 Ng6 24. Qf1 exd4 25. cxd4 Bxd4 26. Bxf7 Bxe3

26… Qxf7 27. Bxd4 (27. Rxg6 Bxb2) 27… Ne5 28. Bxe5 dxe5 and the weakness of White’s pawns mean that his extra pawn is worthless.

27. Rxg6 Qxf7?

This leads to a position where White has an extra pawn.

27… Qxb2 looked too risky at the time but is definitely better. 28. fxe3 Rxf7 keeps material level with what looks like a roughly balanced position.

28. fxe3 Ra2?

This allows the following sequence that forces an endgame that is most likely winning for White.

28… Ra5 was a better try, although Black is still struggling after 29. f4

29. Qh3 Nf6 30. Rxg7

White sensibly heads for an endgame where he has a queen and two pawns against two rooks, and the additional advantage that Black finds it difficult to coordinate his pieces.

30… Qxg7 31. Rxg7 Kxg7 32. Qg2+?!

Missing a chance.

32. e5! at once was strong. 32… dxe5 33. Qg3+ Kh8 34. Qxe5 leaves Black’s pieces poorly coordinated.

32… Kh7 33. Nf1 Ra1 34. e5?

This should not work if Black replies accurately.

34. Qe2 avoids the tactical problems with the weakness on e3 that Black could of exploited. White intends h3 and Kh2, unravelling slowly

34… dxe5?

Black misses a chance to equalise.

34… Nd5! 35. Qe2 Nxe3! 36. Qxe3 Rxf1+ 37. Kg2 R1xf3 38. Qxf3 Rxf3 39. Kxf3 d5! =

35. Qc2+ Kh8 36. Kg2 Rg8+ 37. Kf2 Ng4+?!

This is ingenious but wrong, as the resulting position with a queen against two rooks favours the side with the queen. This is because the pawns obstruct the proper coordination of the rooks.

37… e4 had to be tried, although White is still doing very well, e.g. after 38. Qc3 (38. Qxc7 exf3 is perhaps a little messy) 38… Ra6 39. f4 Rg6 40. Ng3 and now Black can play 40… Rc6!? but after 41. Qd4 (41. Qxc6?? Ng4+ is the trick) 41… Rd6 42. Qe5 Rd5 (42… Rd2+? 43. Ke1 Rxh2 44. f5 and the rook can no longer defend the knight.) 43. Qxc7 Rd2+ 44. Kg1 and White’s b-pawn is very strong.

38. fxg4 Rf8+ 39. Kg3 Raxf1 40. Qxc7 R1f3+ 41. Kh4 Rxe3 42. Qd6?

42. b4! looks very strong. Black’s rooks will struggle to deal with the passed b-pawn.

42… Kg7 43. b4 Rff3 44. Qe7+ Kg6 45. Qe6+ Kg7 46. Qe7+ Kg6 47. Qe6+ Kg7 48. g5!?

White boldly looks to play on rather than repeat the position.

48… hxg5+?

Black should have gone into the pawn endgame, but felt unable to take such a commital step when short of time. However, the alternative gives White definite chances.

48… Rh3+! 49. Qxh3 (49. Kg4?? h5+ 50. Kf5 Rhf3#) 49… hxg5+ 50. Kg4 Rxh3 51. Kxh3 Kf7 52. Kg4 e4! 53. Kg3 (53. Kxg5?? e3 wins) 53… Ke6 54. Kf2 Kd5 55. Ke3 g4 56. Kf4 Kc4 57. Kxe4 Kxb4 and even though White can wins the g-pawn, the position with the rook’s pawn is drawn.

49. Kxg5 Re2 50. Qh6+

White could find no way to improve his position, so in the end just ended up repeating the position.

50. h4! was the way to play for a win. Black’s rooks would struggle to deal with both pawns.

50… Kg8 51. Qe6+ Kg7 52. Qh6+ Kg8 53. Qe6+ Kg7

Black offered a draw, which was declined.

54. Qg6+ Kf8 55. Qe6 Kg7 1/2-1/2

White offered a draw, which was accepted.

This entry was posted in Games, Mid-Sussex League, Opening Analysis, Reports, The Ruy Lopez. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Mid-Sussex League Division 1 2018-19: Horsham 1 – Eastbourne 1

  1. Oli Froom says:

    Great blog as always James. That was a tough battle. I’ve also since discovered that there was a threefold repetition of position (after black’s 53rd) thrown in amongst the flurry of moves at the end!

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