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

The last game from my first BPFC Open Preliminary Round section that I’d like to look at is my Black win against R.Scruton. This was a rather gritty struggle in which neither side’s play was especially distinguished; I eventually prevailed in the endgame.

The most interesting aspect of the game was the way that opposite-coloured bishops did not prove to be a drawish factor. I am not sure that my decision to swap to a pure opposite-coloured bishop endgame in the endgame was correct; certainly, it was not the easier way to attempt to win.

Scruton, R – Mansson, James C., BPCF Open Championship P???

1.c4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.b3 Nf6 4.g3 Be7 5.Bb2 O-O 6.Bg2 c6

This is rather passive.

6…c5 is more active, leading to a standard position after 7.O-O Nc6 8.e3 b6 9.Nc3. Here White can claim that his bishops are a bit more active, although Black is solid enough.

7.O-O Nbd7 8.d4

White transposes to a Closed Catalan.

8.d3 keeps the game in Reti terratory. I would think that the passive position of the Black bishop on c8 would give White the edge.

8…Bd6

Black aims to free his position with …e5. This is not a common approach in the Closed Catalan. Firstly, Black may actually help White by opening the way for his bishop on g2. Secondly, White may be able to stop the move.

8…b6 is the most common approach, putting his bishop on b7 or a6.

9.Nc3

9.Nbd2 Re8 10.Ne5 is one way to cross Black’s plans. I would prefer to be White here.

9…Re8 10.Qd3

This is not the most natural square for the queen, as it is vulnerable to attack.

10.Qc2 is a more common location, intending e4. Now attempts to break with …e5 by Black don’t seem that great, e.g.

  • 10…e5 11.cxd5 cxd5 12.dxe5 Nxe5 13.Nd4
  • 10…dxc4 11.bxc4 e5 12.e3

10…dxc4 11.bxc4 e5 12.e4?!

This only serves to weaken White’s position further.

12.e3? is not possible with the queen on d3 rather than c2 because of 12…e4.

12.Qc2 exd4 13.Nxd4 Nc5 is White’s best, although Black is still doing well with his knight established on c5.

12…exd4 13.Nxd4 Ne5 14.Qe2 Bc5

14…Bg4! causes considerable disruption. White seems to lack a good response, e.g.

  • 15.Qc2 Nxc4 wins a pawn.
  • 15.f3 Bc5 wins material.
  • 15.Bf3 Nxf3+ 16.Nxf3 Qa5 17.Qe3 Bc5 18.Qf4 Ba3 19.Bxa3 Qxc3 and Black wins material because too many White units are under simultaneous attack.
  • 15.Nf3 Qa5 and there is no simple way to escape the pin.

15.Nb3 Bb6

15…Bg4! 16.Qc2 Bf8 leaves White forced to employ artificial measure to protect the c-pawn.

16.c5 Bc7 17.Rad1 Qe7 18.Qc2 Be6 19.Ne2 Bxb3?!

Black gives up the bishop with the idea of undermining the c-pawn. However, White has a good response available.

19…Rad8 is more solid.

20.axb3 Ned7 21.Bxf6?!

This not only gives up the bishop pair but also weakens the defence of the c-pawn.

21.Ba3 covers the pawn while retaining the bishop pair. White should be better.

21…Nxf6 22.Nd4 g6 23.Rfe1 Ba5 24.Re2 Nd7 25.Qc4 Ne5 26.Qc1 Bb4

White now has serious problems with the c-pawn.

27.Nf3?!

This seems rather passive. Possibly White was banking on the opposite-coloured
bishops giving him better drawing chances, but with the major pieces on the
board, they can be of help to the side on the attack.

27.f4!? Nd7 28.e5 is a better attempt to develop counterplay.

27…Nxf3+

27…Rad8 seems most accurate. Black should contest the d-file before going after the c-pawn to avoid White counterplay with Rd7.

28.Bxf3 Bxc5?!

28…Red8 first is the right way. Black should prevent Rd7 before taking the pawn.

29.Red2 Qf6 30.Bg2?!

This exposes f2, so that White now has to worry about covering against Black threats to that square.

30.Kg2 avoids that problem.

Note that 30.Qxc5?! Qxf3 31.e5 Qxb3 clearly does not help White, not least because the bishops of opposite colour have been exchanged.

30…Bb6 31.Qc2

This illustrates the problem mentioned above; White has to cover f2 before he can play Rd7.

31…Rad8 32.Rd7 Rxd7 33.Rxd7 Re7 34.Rd2

Again this illustrates the problem; White cannot support the rook with the queen, so that on the exchange of rooks his queen would penetrate to d7, since then f2 would fall.

34…Ba5 35.Rd3 Qa1+ 36.Rd1 Qc3!?

Black thought that the best way to make progress was to swap queens. Of course,
this increased the chances of ending up in a pure bishops of opposite colour
endgame, which could be drawn despite the extra pawn.

37.Qxc3 Bxc3 38.f4 Bb4 39.h4 f6 40.g4 Kf7?!

This allows White’s next, which should hold back the Black king.

40…h6 is better, to prevent g5.

41.g5 fxg5 42.fxg5?

This is clearly a bad idea, as the Black king can now move to e5.

42.hxg5 is better. Black will not find it so easy to make progress if his king cannot get into the game.

42…Ke6 43.Kf2 Ke5 44.Bf3 b5 45.Rc1 Re6 46.Rd1 Rd6!?

Black thought that the pure bishops of opposite colour endgame was now won, as
he could combine creating and advancing a passed a-pawn with attacks against
the White kingside pawns. This seems to me now an unnecessarily risky decision,
as there is no danger to retaining the rooks on the board.

46…Bc5+ was a more cautious approach. Black could then put his bishop on d4, then
advance his queenside pawns. It seems to me that White would struggle to cover
this advance and also defend his e-, g- and h-pawns. Note that the Black rook is the more active of the two.

47.Rxd6 Bxd6 48.Ke3 a5 49.Bg4 a4 50.bxa4 bxa4 51.Bd1 Bc5+ 52.Kd3
a3 0-1

It looks to me as if Black is winning here. In any case, White was convinced
and resigned at once. I give some variations illustrating Black’s possibilities.

53.Bb3 Kf4 54.Bg8 Kg4 55.Kc3 Kxh4 56.Bxh7 Kxg5 57.e5
Bb4+! 58.Kc2

  • 58.Kxb4? a2
  • 58.Kb3 Kf5 59.Bg8 (59.e6 Kf6) g5! 60.Kxb4 g4 61.Kxa3 g3 62.e6 Kf6 63.Bf7
    g2

58…c5 59.e6

  • 59.Kb1 Kf5 60.e6 c4 is the same.

59…c4 60.e7

  • 60.Kb1 Be7 61.Ka2 Kf6 62.Kb1 g5

60…Bxe7 61.Bg8 Kf4 62.Bxc4 g5

White is lost as he cannot cope with both pawns. Note that the bishop is on the right colour square for our rook’s pawn.

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