County Match (Open) 2017-18: Sussex – Essex

Sussex secured a narrow win by 8.5-7.5 over Essex in their SCCU Open County Match last Saturday. I was please to be able to contribute to the victory with a win as Black on board 6. My opponent played an innocuous opening and I was able to build up a promising position in the middlegame. After he allowed a neat tactical blow, I should have won easily, but instead allowed him to complicate things. I allowed the win to slip, but fortunately he soon blundered himself and resigned at once.

I give the game below with notes.

White, Kevin – Mansson, James C, County Match (Open) Essex – Sussex, Hassocks 2017.12.09

1. d4 Nf6 2. g3 d5!

As White is committed to both d4 and g3, Black can aim for the Slav formation with …d5, …Nf6, …c6 and …Bf5/Bg4, with a comfortable game.

3. Bg2 c6 4. Nf3 Bf5

4… Bg4 is the other way to develop the bishop.

5. O-O e6 6. c4 h6 7. Bf4

This is a slightly odd square for the bishop in conjunction with g3, although contesting e5 makes sense.

7. Nc3 is a more normal-looking move.

7… Be7 8. Nc3 O-O 9. Ne5 Nbd7 10. cxd5 exd5

This is an unpromising version of the Carlsbad structure for White as he is not well placed to advance either on the queenside or in the centre.

10…cxd5 is solid, with a balanced pawn structure.

11. Nxd7?!

This and White’s next allow Black to exchange light-squared bishops, weakening the
White kingside.

11…Qxd7 12. Qb3?! Bh3! 13. Rac1

13. Bxh3 Qxh3 14. Qxb7?? Ng4 forces mate.

13… Bxg2 14. Kxg2 Rfe8 15. Qc2 Bd6 16. Bxd6 Qxd6 17. e3

White offered a draw. Black declined, believing that his chances were better due to White’s weakened kingside.

17…Qd7

Black aims his queen at the weakened light squares.

18. Rce1 Re7

Black prepares to double his rooks on the e-file. This will make it difficult for White to move his f-pawn safely because of the pressure on e3.

19. Re2 Rae8 20. Na4 Qg4

Black prepares …Qh5 and …Ng4, or …Nh7-g5 and …Qf3+/Qh3+.

21. Nc5 Nh7 22. h3 Qh5 23. Nd3 Ng5 24. Nf4 Qf3+ 25. Kh2?

White allows a neat tactical blow.

25. Kg1 was better, but Black has the initiative after 25…h5 26. h4 Ne6 27. Nxe6 Rxe6.

25… Rxe3! 26. Rxe3 Rxe3 27. h4 Nh7!?

This allows White to mix things up a bit.

27…Ne4 was simpler, preventing Qf5. Black is just winning.

28. Qf5 Re8

This is not bad, but again is trickier that Black would like.

28… Re4!? is an interesting idea. Black gives up the exchange after 29. Qc8+ Nf8 30.
Qxb7 Rxf4! but then following 31. gxf4 Qxf4+ 32. Kh3 Qf3+ 33. Kh2 Qe2 he picks up White’s weak pawns then brings his knight into the game.

29. Qd7 Nf6 30. Qxb7 Ng4+?

This lets much of Black’s advantage slip.

30… g5! wins, e.g. 31. Qxc6 gxh4 32. Qxf6 hxg3+ 33. fxg3 (33. Kg1 gxf2+ 34. Kh2 (34.
Rxf2 Re1+ 35. Rf1 Rxf1+ 36. Kh2 Rh1#) 34… Re1) 33… Qxf1).

31. Kg1 Nxf2 32. Qd7?

This allows Black the chance to establish a winning position again.

White cannot take the knight because the rook check on e1 wins.

However, White can take on c6.

32. Qxc6 Nh3+ 33. Kh2 (33. Nxh3?? Qxg3+ 34. Kh1 Qxh3+ 35. Kg1 Qg4+ 36. Kh1 Re2 wins) 33… Re2+ 34. Nxe2 Qxe2+ 35. Kxh3 Qxf1+ 36. Kh2 Qe2+ is equal.

32… Qxg3+?

Black does not seize the opportunity. Admittedly, the move is not easy to find if you are not a computer!

32… Re6!! Amazingly, White cannot take either piece, while Black now threatens …Qxg3+ without his rook being en prise to the queen on e8.

  • 33. Rxf2 Re1+ 34. Rf1 Rxf1+ 35.Kh2 Rh1#
  • 33. Nxe6 Qxg3#

33. Ng2 Nh3+ 34. Kh1 Rf8!?

This allows White to trap the knight on h3, although Black does get several pawns.

34… Re2 was safest, when White can force a draw. 35. Qxf7+ Kh7 36. Qf5+ Kg8 37. Qf7+ =

35. Qf5 Qb8 36. Qxh3 Qxb2 37. Qg4 f5!?

When considering this move, I saw at once that White could not capture the pawn, and so was looking at what might happen after various queen moves. It all seemed murky enough to give me practical chances, so I gave it a go.

38. Rxf5??

To my amazement, my opponent played this blunder quickly.

38. Qf4 was clearly much more sensible. The position is rather unclear, but White’s chances are still reasonable.

38… Qb1+ 0-1

My opponent realised his mistake and promptly resigned. The rook on f5 is lost.

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