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

Last Saturday, Sussex were up against Lancashire in the semi-final of the County Championship. The match was played in Tyseley, to the south of Birmingham. Sussex put up a good fight, but Lancashire prevailed 9-7.

In my game I was Black against Sheila Jackson. We had played a number of years earlier in the 4NCL, when the game had been rather one-sided in her favour, but this time it was a closer contest. We went into a line of the Two Knights’ Defence where Black sacrifices a pawn for long-term pressure. For a long time I had good compensation; indeed, early on I probably had a chance to gain the advantage, but failed to take it. However, I gradually let my compensation slip. After some mistakes by both players, I ended up in a lost position after the time control, and soon after resigned.

I give the game below with some notes.

Jackson, Sheila – Mansson, James C, County Match (Open) Lancashire – Sussex 2018.06.09

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 Na5 6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Be2 h6 9. Nf3 e4 10. Ne5 Bc5

The aim of this move is to provoke c3 by White, then drop the bishop back to d6. This allows White to “gain” an extra move over the most common lines, but this move actually
helps Black, as White having played c3 means that Nc3 is not possible.

10… Bd6 is the traditional main line.

11. c3 Qc7 12. d4 exd3 13. Nxd3 Bd6 14. h3 O-O 15. Nd2

White should possibly castle first before deciding how to develop the queenside.

15… Re8 16. O-O Bf5 17. Nf3 Rad8

This is reasonable for Black, but perhaps he could instead look to stop White playing Nd4, which would cramp White’s position even further.

17… c5! 18. b4 This seems necessary as otherwise Black just continues to build up pressure with …Rad8, but Black has a strong reply. 18… Ne4!! and now:

  • 19. bxa5? Nxc3 20. Qd2 Nxe2+ 21. Kh1 c4 22. Nb4 c3 wins.
  • 19. bxc5? Nxc3 20. cxd6 Qxd6 21. Qd2 Nxe2+ 22. Kh1 Nc4 wins.
  • 19. Bb2? Nc4 wins.
  • 19. Qe1? cxb4 20. cxb4 Ng3 21. fxg3 Bxd3 22. bxa5 Bxe2 wins.
  • 19. Bd2 Nc4 20. bxc5 Ncxd2 21. cxd6 Qxd6 22. Re1 (22. Nxd2? Nxc3) 22… Nxf3+ 23. Bxf3 Rad8 24. Bxe4 Bxe4 25. Qa4 (25. Nb4) 25… Qxd3 26. f3 Qxc3 27. fxe4 Re7 White’s weak e-pawn and exposed king give Black a clear advantage.

18. Nd4 Bh7 19. b4 Nb7?!

This is not Black’s most incisive move. As in the line after 17…c5, Black can respond to b4 by ignoring the threat to the knight on a5, and counter-attacking c3.

19… Ne4! and now:

  • 20. bxa5? Nxc3 21. Qe1 Nxe2+ 22. Nxe2 Bxd3 wins.
  • 20. Bb2? Nc4 is very strong, e.g. 21. Rc1 Bh2+ 22. Kh1 Bg3!! 23. Ba1 (23. fxg3 Nxg3+ 24. Kg1 Nxe2+ 25. Nxe2 Bxd3) 23… Ncd2 24. Re1 Bxf2 wins.
  • 20. Qc2?! Nc4 with a clear advantage.
  • 20. Qe1?! Nc4 with a clear advantage.
  • 20. Bd2 Nc4 is better for Black.

20. Bf3!?

This perhaps over-ambitious given White’s lag in development.

20. Be3 is more solid.

20… c5!?

20… Ne4 is worth considering.

21. bxc5

  • 21. Nb5? Bh2+ 22. Kh1 Qb8 and White cannot meet all Black’s threats.
  • 21. Nxc5 Nxc5 22. bxc5 transposes to the game.

21… Nxc5 22. Nxc5 Bxc5

22… Qxc5 aiming to play …Qe5-h2# is also possible.

23. Be3 Ne4 24. Bxe4 Bxe4 25. Re1 Bb6 26. Rc1 Qb7 27. f3 Bg6 28. Bf2 Rxe1+ 29. Qxe1 Qd5?!

Black has maintained compensation for the pawn sacrificed up to this point, but now starts to let things slip. The problem with the move played is that it allows White to force through c4.

29… Qa6 maintains pressure on the White position.

30. c4 Qg5 31. Nb3

31. c5!? Bxc5 (31… Ba5 32. Qe3) 32. Rxc5! Qxc5 33. Ne6 Qc8 34. Nxd8 Qxd8 35. Bxa7 gives White an edge because of the extra pawn, although possibly the opposite-coloured bishops will come to Black’s rescue.

31… Bxf2+?

Again, this loosens Black’s grip on the position.

31… Qf4 maintains better compensation.

32. Kxf2 Qf6 33. Qc3 Qd6 34. c5

The White c-pawn is now very strong.


This looks tempting but should not work.

34… Qc6 was objectively better, although Black’s postion is still grim.

35. Re1?

White hoped that Black would allow Qe5, but the rook is better where it is.

35. c6 should be winning. The c-pawn is too strong.

35… f6?

This stops Qe5 but is too passive and weakening.

35… Rd5 intending …Rg5 gives Black counterplay.

36. c6

White is now back on the right track.

36… Bf5 37. Qc4+?!

37. Qa5 is clearly winning.

37… Kh7 38. Qh4 Qc7 39. Qc4 Qb6+?

Black should have offered a repetition. White would then have to find a better continuation.

39… Qh2 40. c7 Rc8 41. f4 Bxh3 42. Qd3+ Kh8 43. Qxh3 Qxf4+ 44. Qf3 Qxc7 is rather murky.

40. Kg3 Bg6

Time control

40… Qc7+ 41. Qf4! is what Black missed.

41. Re7

Now White is clearly winning and mops up.

41… Rc8 42. Nd4 Be8 43. Nf5 Bxc6 44. Rxg7+ Kh8 45. Qh4

45. Rh7+! was even quicker. 45…Kxh7 46. Qf7+ Kh8 47. Qg7#

45… Qb8+ 46. f4 1-0

Black resigned as he cannot prevent mate.

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