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

My game against A.Butterworth was another disappointing loss. While my memory of the game was negative, having looked back at it, things are not quite so clear cut. While my choice of system against the Modern Benoni was far from the most critical or fashionable, even back in 1990, my opponent’s response to it was perhaps not the best. I was most likely better going into the middlegame, and only later mistakes there and especially in the endgame led me into danger. There is something of a mystery surrounding the final position where I resigned. While I can see how Black would have won should he had played 39…Be4!, it is not so clear to me that Black is winning after the actual game continuation. Certainly, I should have played on in the final position.

Mansson, James C. – Butterworth, A, BPCF Open Championship S??

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3

As in my game against J.Copley from the Preliminary Round, I choose to sidestep the Nimzo-Indian, rather than take it on after 3.Nc3 Bb4. The downside of this is that White is deprived of the sharpest lines should Black decide to transposes to the Queen’s Gambit or Modern Benoni.

3…c5

Black decides that the Modern Benoni is more appealing now that White is forced to play a system with Nf3. However, it has to be said that White still has some promising lines.

4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nc3 g6 7.e4 Bg7 8.Be2

This old-fashioned system against the Modern Benoni is not seen as terribly threatening. 8.h3 O-O 9.Bd3 is nowadays regarded as much more challenging.

8…O-O 9.O-O Re8 10.Nd2 Nbd7 11.Qc2

11.a4 is more common.

11…Ne5 12.a4 g5

This somewhat strange looking move is a standard idea in the Modern Benoni. It
is used where White has move his knight to d2 (otherwise it is not possible)
and Black wants to establish his knight on e5. Black believes that White is not
well-placed to exploit the weakened f5 and h5 squares; also, it is not easy for
White to play f4, perhaps his most effective attacking plan in the opening.

13.Ra3 g4 14.Nd1 Nh5 15.g3

This is a radical way to prevent …Nf4. The upside is that the knight on h5 is
now out of the gave. The downside is that now Black has the option of meeting
f4 with …exf3, when White can no longer recapture with a pawn; this means
that way of shifting the strong knight is no longer available. On the other
hand, White can manouevre his knights to swap one of them for the knight on e5;
in that case, White may claim that Black’s weaknesses are more significant that his.

15…Nf6

This makes sense; the knight is not doing much on h5 now, while on f6 the knight puts pressure on e4.

15…Qf6 was played in the one serious example I can find in the database. White was doing well after 16.Ne3 Bh6 17.Nec4 Nxc4 18.Nxc4 Bxc1 19.Rxc1. This represents White’s ideal scenario; he has swapped off Black’s best minor pieces, leaving him with a passive position riddled with weaknesses. 19…Qh6 20.Re3 Bd7 21.Re1 Ng7 22.Bd3 b5 23.axb5 Bxb5 24.Na3 Bxd3 25.Qxd3 Re5 26.Nc4 Rh5 27.h4 gxh3 28.Kh2 Rf8 29.f4 Qg6 30.Qe2 Rd8 31.Qf3 Ne8 32.g4 Rh4 33.g5 Qh5 34.Qxh5 Rxh5 35.Rxh3 Rxh3+ 36.Kxh3 Rb8 37.e5 Kf8 38.Kg4 dxe5 39.d6 exf4 40.d7 Ng7 41.Na5 Rd8 42.Rd1 f3 43.Nc6 Ne6 44.Kxf3 Nd4+ 45.Rxd4 cxd4 46.Nxd8 Ke7 47.Nxf7 1-0, Beliavsky Alexander G (SLO) 2617 – Skoberne Jure (SLO) 2533, Ljubljana (Slovenia) 2011.08.11.

16.Ne3 a6 17.b3

17.Ndc4 Nxc4 18.Nxc4? Rxe4 shows one advantage of moving the knight to f6.

17…h5 18.Bb2 Nh7

This releases the pressure on e4 and so allows White’s next. On the other hand, it is not clear what else Black can do.

19.Nec4 Ng5 20.Nxe5 Bxe5 21.Bxe5 Rxe5 22.f4?!

This move justifies Black’s play.

22.h4 looks a lot more promising, e.g.

  • 22…gxh3?! 23.f4 Re8 24.fxg5 Qxg5 25.Qc3
  • 22…Nh3+ 23.Kg2 f5 24.f4 Re8 ( 24…gxf3+?! 25.Nxf3 Rxe4 26.Kxh3 ) 25.Bd3 Qf6 26.Nc4 fxe4 27.Bxe4 Kg7 28.Nb6 Rb8 29.Raa1 Re7 30.Rae1 Bd7 31.Bd3

22…gxf3 23.Nxf3 Nxf3+ 24.Bxf3 Qg5 25.Be2?!

It is not a good idea to let Black’s queen into e3.

Better is 25.Qf2 f5 26.Bg2 Bd7 27.Raa1 Rae8 28.Rae1 Qg7 29.Qf4 b5 Black has gained counterplay with both …f5 and …b5, but White is better off than in the game, because his pieces are more active.

25…Qe3+ 26.Kg2 h4 27.Bd3 h3+ 28.Kh1 Bg4 29.Qf2 Qxf2 30.Rxf2 Rae8 31.Ra1 f5

This is a classic way for Black to break up the White centre in the Modern Benoni. Black now has definite pressure.

32.exf5 Re1+ 33.Rxe1 Rxe1+ 34.Rf1 Rxf1+ 35.Bxf1 Bxf5 36.Bc4?

The bishop is passively placed here and White cannot ultimately defend the d-pawn. White should maintain pressure on the Black h-pawn.

36.Kg1 is better, when 36…Be4 37.Bxh3 illustrates this point.

36…Kg7

Now Black can win the d-pawn, when White will struggle to hold the position.

37.Kg1 Kf6 38.Kf2 Ke5

38…Bg4 is more accurate, restricting White’s options by preventing Kf3.

39.Ke3

39.Kf3 looks a better try, as White can counter-attack the Black h-pawn. However, after 39…Be4+ 40.Kg4 b5 41.axb5 axb5 42.Bxb5 Bxd5 43.Kxh3 Bxb3 44.Kg2 Bg8 Black’s king is better placed to support the advance of his pawns.

39…b5?

39…Be4! looks a lot stronger, when Black seems to be winning easily.

40.axb5 axb5 41.Bxb5 Kxd5 42.Kf4 Bc2 0-1

Here White decided to resign, as he thought that he was going to lose the b-pawn. However, this involves blocking the White bishop out with …d5, when White can advance the g-pawn. It is not obvious to me that Black is winning at all.

For instance, 43.Bc4+ Kd4 44.Be6 d5 45.g4 Bxb3 46.g5 c4 47.g6 c3 48.g7 c2 49.g8=Q c1=Q+ 50.Kg4 and it doesn’t look to me like Black is winning.

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