Blast from the Past: Mansson – Ali, BPCF Open Championship Semi-Final Round

It was interesting to go back and have a serious look at my game against M.Ali from my first BPCF Open Semi-Final. My memory of it was rather negative, but actually looking at it again, things do not seem quite so clear-cut until late on. Having said that, I did make some questionable decisions at several points.

The classic lines of the King’s Indian Defence see the two sides attacking on opposite flanks. White’s queenside attack seems to have a sounder positional basis, but Black’s kingside attack has the advantage that he is gunning for White’s king! Over the years, I have played a fair number of games in the Mar del Plata variation as White; this is the clearest and best known of this classic King’s Indian scenario. One interesting strategy for White is to attempt to pre-empt Black’s kingside attack with the strange-looking move g4. This game (and my game against G.Green in this section) are examples of one way to do this, before Black plays …f4. There is another line where White does it after …f4. Overall, I achieved mixed results with this approach; although I might gain an advantage, on a number of occasions I subsequently fell victim to a tactical shot. This illustrates the practicalities of such a line; Black always has a “puncher’s chance”.

In my game against M.Ali, I made a questionable move fairly early on, which allowed my opponent to make a favourable exchange of bishops. However, although Black’s position looked very promising because of my dark-squared weaknesses, there was nothing immediately clear cut, and I was making some progress on the queenside. My opponent then offered a knight sacrifice; I decide to decline it, but this left me in an inferior position. Although the actual decisive mistake occurred later, I was under pressure after my cautious decision. Looking at the acceptance of the knight sacrifice, I can see one line where Black has compensation, but I can’t see any more for him. Possibly an eagled-eyed reader may be able to find more.

Mansson, James C. – Ali, M, BPCF Open Championship S??

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1 Nd7 10.f3 f5 11.g4!?

There are two possible ideas behind this risky-looking move. One idea is to pre-emptively block the kingside in order to put a stop to Black’s attack there; should Black play …f4, White intends to play h4, when …g5 can be met by h5, and …h5 by g5. The other idea is for White to actually attack on the kingside.

11…Kh8

11…Nf6 is Black’s main alternative.

12.Kg2

12.h4 Ng8 13.g5 f4 14.Kg2 is the more usual move order.

12…Ng8 13.Be3

This does not seem an effective idea, in light of Black’s next.

13.g5 is the usual move. An example of how play might continue is 13…f4 14.h4 h6 15.Rh1 Rf7 16.Nd3 Bf8 17.Qg1! Rh7 18.Kf1 Be7! 19.Nxf4 exf4 20.Bxf4 Rf7! 21.Be3 h5 22.Ke1 Ne5 23.Qg3 Bf8 24.Nb5 (P.Van Hoolandt – J.Cabrera Trujillo, Cannes 2007) 24…c6!

“Here Black should play [this move] to open the position when the extra piece
should count for more than White’s two pawns.” (Vigorito)

13…Bh6

The exchange of dark-squared bishops is strategically desirable for Black in
such positions. The bishop is bad, while White has weakened his dark squares.

14.Qd2 Bxe3 15.Qxe3 Ndf6 16.h3 Rf7

This move has both defensive and attacking value; it covers the potential entry
point for White’s pieces on c7, while being in a good position to move over to the h-file to support an attack.

17.Nd3

We now have a standard scenario for the King’s Indian. White will attack on the
queenside, while Black attacks on the kingside.

17…Rg7 18.c5 f4 19.Qd2 g5

Note that there is no risk of the kingside being blocked now. Black will be able to open the h-file in due course with …h5.

20.cxd6 cxd6 21.a4 Ne7

Black’s knight heads for the h4 square via g6.

22.Nb5 Ng6

22…a6 would weaken b6, and after 23.Na3 White would be well placed to focus on this weakness, and the weakness of d6, with Nc4 and Qb4.

23.Qb4 Rd7

This shows another value of the flexible move …Rf7.

24.Rac1 h5 25.Rc2 hxg4 26.hxg4 Nh4+ 27.Kg1 a6 28.Na3 Nh5!?

Black evidently believed that White could not take the knight, and so it was
able to penetrate to the g3 square. At the time, White believed him, but it is not immediately clear that this is true.

29.Bd1

It seems that Black can reach a playable position after White takes the knight, but certainly not an advantage. White may have been better advised to take the piece, given that if he does not, Black has a stable advantage. However, it would be difficult to take this decision as the analysis is complex and the possibility – and price – of a mistake is high.

29.gxh5 g4

This must have been Black’s intended follow-up; other moves look too slow.

30.fxg4 Rg7

30…f3 doesn’t seem to achieve anything after 31.Bxf3 as the White pieces are well placed to cover the king.

30…Qg5 31.Nxe5! is a neat, computer-suggested idea, although White seems to have other good ways to continue:

  • 31…dxe5 32.Qf8+ Kh7 ( 32…Qg8 33.Qf6+ Kh7 34.Qxh4 ) 33.Rxc8 Rxc8 34.Qxc8 and the rook on d7 is hanging so 34…f3 is met by 35.Qxd7+
  • 31…Qxe5 32.Qe1 intending Qxh4 Qg5 33.Qc1 intending Rxc8 or Qxf4.

31.Nc4

31.h6 Rg8 doesn’t alter things fundamentally.

31…Bxg4 32.Bxg4 Rxg4+ 33.Kh1 Nf3!

This is the key move. White has to take, but then his rook is deflected away from the defence of g1, which gives Black a crucial tempo.

34.Rxf3 Qh4+ 35.Rh2 Rag8! 36.Qb6

36.Rxh4? Rxh4+ 37.Rh3 Rxh3#

36…Qg5 37.Rf1 Rg2 38.Qf2 Rxf2 39.Nxf2 Qg3

This position seems rather unclear. White nominally has a substantial material
advantage (rook plus two knights vs. a queen), but Black’s pieces are much more active.

29…Ng3 30.Rff2 b5 31.a5?!

It seems illogical for White to block the queenside, as that is where he wants to generate play.

31.axb5 axb5 32.Nxb5?! is well met by 32…Ra1 33.Nc1 ( 33.Rc1? Rxc1 34.Nxc1 Qb6 35.Nd3
Ng6 36.Qc3 Ba6 37.Na3 Rh7 38.Kg2 Rh1 with the idea of …Nh4# and White has no defence. ) 33…Ba6 34.Na3 Rb7 etc.

However 31.axb5 axb5 32.Rc3 is worth considering.

31…Bb7 32.Ne1?!

32.Rh2 anticipates …Qb8-a7, e.g. 32…Qb8 33.Qd2 Qa7+ 34.Qf2.

32…Kg7?!

32…Qb8! at once is stronger, as White doesn’t have the time to get in Rh2 to allow Qf2 in response to …Qa7+: 33.Rh2 Qa7+ 34.Rcf2 Kg7.

33.Rh2 Qb8

Intending …Qa7+.

34.Rh3?

This loses by force.

34.Qd2! is the move to keep White in the game, e.g. 34…Qa7+ 35.Qf2.

34…Qa7+

Black wins via the following steps:

  1. Eliminate the light-squared defender of f3.
  2. Penetrate with …Qf2.
  3. Set up deadly threats with …Qf1+ and …Rh8.

White lacks a defence.

35.Kh2 Nf1+ 36.Kh1 Ne3 37.Rd2 Nxd1 38.Rxd1 Qf2 39.Qd2 Qf1+ 40.Kh2
Rh8 0-1

White resigned as he could find no answer to …Nxf3+ and …Rxh3#.

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