Blast from the Past: Mansson – Fletcher, BPCF Open Championship Preliminary Round

My other White game in the section was against Fletcher. The was a more successful effort than my game against N.Fallowfield. My opponent followed a line where Petrosian had achieved a quick draw against Szabo as Black, but in fact the position was better for White; Szabo had most likely agreed to the draw because he was playing Petrosian. Black’s position was rather passive; I was able to gradually build up pressure before breaking through.

My 18th move was inaccurate as it allowed a Black rook into my position, but my next move, although ugly looking, did seem to neutralise his threats, albeit at the cost of an apparent weaknening of my pawn structure. However, even this proved to have a silver lining, as the resulting doubled f-pawns proved to be handy in opening Black up. I have to say that it was not the simplest solution, and possibly Black could have defended better.

Looking at the final position, it is not immediately apparent that it is definitely winning. Having done a little analysis, I think White does win, and I have given a few sample lines, but possibly Black should have played on, as there are chances to go wrong.

Mansson, James C. – Fletcher, BPCF Open Championship P???

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6

Although the game starts out as an Old Indian, Black soon transposes into the King’s Indian.

3.Nc3

White need to choose this move if his preferred system against the King’s
Indian involves Nc3 but not Nf3, as otherwise he could end up outside his repertoire.

3…g6

3…e5 is Black’s attempt to exploit this move order. 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Nf3 is the line I would most likely have played, as it is the one suggested by Keene.

4.e4 Bg7 5.Nge2

Keene recommended this unusual line in “An Opening Repertoire for White”.

5…O-O 6.Ng3 c5 7.d5 e6 8.Be2 exd5 9.exd5 a6 10.a4 Re8 11.Bf4 Qc7
12.Qd2 Nbd7 13.O-O b6 14.Bh6 Bh8 15.h3

Here Keene wrote:

At this moment Szabo – Petrosian, Sarajevo 1972, ended as a draw, but I believe this had more to do with the relative status of the players than with the position (good GM happy to draw with ex-world champion). Black is still cramped and has no obvious counterplay, while White has dangerous plans such as Bd1-c2 plus f4-f5 at his disposal. There is obviously no need to agree to a draw if you reach this position yourself as White.

I agree with this assessment. The position is promising for White as he has obvious ways to improve his position, while Black has none.

15…Bb7 16.Bd1 Re7 17.Bc2 Rae8 18.f4?!

This allows Black some counterplay.

18.Rae1 Rxe1 19.Rxe1 Rxe1+ 20.Qxe1 is more sensible. White maintains his bind on the Black position.

18…Re3! 19.Rf3!?

White concluded that there was no straightforward way to meet Black’s threats,
and so resorted to more radical measures. His idea was that the doubled f-pawns
would actual be useful for softening up the Black position. Also, prior to
that, the f-pawns will control useful squares on the e-file.

Instead 19.Kh2 Qd8 20.Rae1? Ng4+! 21.hxg4 Qh4+ 22.Kg1 Bd4! is an example of what to avoid.

19…Rxf3 20.gxf3 Bc8 21.Kg2 Qd8 22.Re1

Before advancing his f-pawns, it is sensible for White to seek to exchange
rooks in order to reduce Black’s possibilities of counterplay.

22…Bg7

Black also seeks exchanges as he is struggling to find moves.

23.Rxe8+ Qxe8 24.Bxg7 Kxg7 25.Qe2 Bb7 26.Qxe8 Nxe8 27.f5 Ne5
28.b3 Bc8 29.f4

This shows the advantage of the doubled f-pawns. With a single f-pawn, the knight could now sit safely on e5.

29…Nd7 30.h4 Ndf6 31.Kf3 h5 32.fxg6 Bg4+ 33.Ke3 fxg6 34.f5 gxf5?

This is a mistake as it allows White to break through more easily into the Black position.

34…Nd7 looks more solid, although White has chances to make progress:

  • 35.fxg6 Ne5 36.Kf4 Nxg6+ 37.Kg5 Ne5 38.Nxh5+ Bxh5 39.Kxh5
    Nf6+ 40.Kg5 Nf3+ 41.Kf4 Nxh4 is equal.
  • 35.Kf4 Ne5 36.Nce4 Nf3 37.Bd1 Nxh4 38.Bxg4 hxg4 39.fxg6 Nxg6+ 40.Kf5 Kf7 41.Ng5+ Kg7 42.Ke6 looks very promising for White to me.

35.Bxf5 Kh6 36.Kf4 Ng7 37.Bxg4 hxg4 38.Nce4 Ngh5+ 39.Kf5!

White needed to have seen his 41th to justify this, as otherwise the passed g-pawn would turn things round for Black. The alternatives seem to lead nowhere:

  • 39.Nxh5 Nxe4
  • 39.Ke3 Kg6

39…Nxe4 40.Nxe4 g3 41.Nxg3! 1-0

Black now resigned, apparently concluding that White would now win easily by winning the queenside pawns with his king.

41…Nxg3+ 42.Ke6 Ne4 43.Kd7 looks bad for Black but needs detailed analysis to show whether White can win. It looks to me like he can; here are some sample lines:

  • 43…Nd2 44.Kxd6 Nxb3 45.Kc7 b5 46.d6 Nd4 47.d7 Ne6+ 48.Kd6
    Nd8 49.cxb5 c4 50.bxa6 c3 51.a7 c2 52.a8=Q c1=Q 53.Qxd8
  • 43…Kh5 44.Kc6 Kxh4 45.Kxb6 Nd2 46.a5 Nxb3 47.Kxa6
  • 43…a5 44.Kc6 Nd2 45.Kxd6 Nxb3 46.Kc6 Nd2 47.Kxb6 Nxc4+ 48.Kxc5 Ne5 49.Kb6
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