My game in last weekend’s county match vs. Surrey featured a bizarre episode that only came to light later when I was entering the game into my database! The game itself was an interesting encounting, quite apart from the bizarre episode (of which more later), although unfortunately in the end I lost in a blizzard of blunders.
The game started with my opponent playing an unusual version of the Pribyl Variation, which is in itself unusual, although popular in some quarters. I managed to build up a good advantage by careful play. However, as I started to run short of time, I played a rash advance, which my opponent did not meet in the best way. I won the exchange for a pawn, but my opponent had some useful central pawns. I unwisely allowed them to advance, resulting in great complications.
With both players now very short of time, we now come to the bizarre episode. I had anticipated on move 39 that my opponent would play 39…Qe4; when he suddenly played 39…Qb3 instead, I was very surprised, as I hadn’t considered that move at all. I did manage to find a response and reach the time control, but what I didn’t realise at the time, or indeed until I got home, was that the move was a surprise not because I had overlooked it, but because it was illegal! The queen had been positioned on e7, from where it could not reach b3, only b4; however, should my opponent have played 39…Qb4, then the knight on d3 would have dropped. Actually, as it turned out, the illegal move actually helped me, because even though I allowed it to stand, my position was then balanced, while if I had challenged it, my opponent would most likely have substituted 39…Qe4, which also leads to a level position; on the other hand, should my opponent have played 39…Nf2, he would have been better.
However, there was to be no happy ending, as soon after the time control I made a serious mistake, and followed up with a couple more weak moves to allow an immediate mate.
I give the game below in full.
Mansson, James C – Sharpe, Ian, County Match (Open) Sussex – Surrey, Cheam 2017.10.14
1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 c6 4. f4 Qa5 5. Bd3 e5 6. Nf3 exd4
This is a slightly unusual way to play the position. Black gives up the centre but hopes
to get tactical chances on the dark squares.
6… Bg4 is the most popular continuation.
6… Nbd7 is also more frequently played.
7. Nxd4 g6 8. Nb3 Qc7 9. h3 Bg7 10. Be3 O-O 11. Qf3 Re8 12. O-O-O
This seems doubled-edged, but as it happens, Black is unable to generate any play on the queenside.
12…a5 13.a4 Nbd7 14. g4
White’s idea is not so much to attack yet, but to cramp Black.
14…b6 15. g5 Nh5 16. Bd4 Bf8
Naturally Black avoids the exchange of bishops that would not only weaken his kingside, but also the d-pawn.
White is angling for an attack down the f-file, although f5 is not yet a threat because
Black can answer …Ne5.
Black hopes to free his position and perhaps, by weakening White’s control of b5 and removing the protection of c2, to prepare …Rc8 and …b5, when taking on b5 opens the way for the Black attack on c2. However, that is all very slow.
18. Bxa6 Rxa6 19. Nd2
White now looks to improve the position of his pieces, as he is not yet ready to advance in
the centre. The move played prepares Nc4 at an appropriate moment; the knight
can also head for e4 or f3.
19…Raa8 20. Qf2
This removes the queen from a potential attack by …Ne5 and puts pressure on b6, making it harder for Black to move his knight on d7, for instance to e5 in response to f5.
Black covers b6 with another piece to free the knight on d7.
White adds support to the e5 thrust.
21…Ng7 22. h4
White covers g5, so it will not be unprotected should he play f5.
22…Nh5 23. e5?
This seems premature. White should continue improving his position.
For instance, 23. Kb1 and Black is struggling to find a good move, e.g.
- 23… Bg7 24. Bxg7 Nxg7 25. Rd1 intending Nc4.
- 23…Nc5 24. f5
23… d5 24. f5!? Nc5?
Black misses the best defence.
24… Nxe5! looks hazardous but seems to be best. 25. Bxe5 Rxe5 26. Rxe5 Qxe5 27. fxg6 fxg6 28. Qf7+ Kh8 and White’s attack comes to a halt, as he
can’t bring up any more pieces.
25. e6! fxe6 26. fxg6
26. Be5 allows 26…Bd6! because of 27. Bxd6 Qxd6 28. fxg6 Rf8! with murky complications after 29. gxh7+ Kxh7 30. g6+ Kg8.
26… hxg6 27. Be5 Qd7
Black has to give up the exchange for a pawn.
27… Bd6? is now bad after 28. Bxd6 Qxd6 29. Qf7+ Kh8 30. Qxg6.
28. Bxb8 Rxb8 29. Nf3 Bd6 30. Ne5 Bxe5 31. Rxe5 Qe7 32. Ree1 e5?
This allows a tactical blow…
(Note that 32… Re8 followed by …e5 is better, although I’d still prefer White.)
…which White misses.
Instead 33. Rxe5! Qxe5 34. Qf7+ Kh8 35. Qxg6 Nf4 (35… Ng7 36. Qh6+ Kg8 37. g6)
36. Qh6+ Kg8 37. g6 Nfd3+ 38. cxd3 Qg7 39. Qh5 Nxd3+ 40. Kb1 is strong
33… Re8 34. Kb1 e4 35. Qf2 e3 36. Qh2?
This allows Black to continue advancing his pawns. Here White has a suprising sacrifice that seems to give him sufficient play:
36. Rxe3! Qxe3 37. Qf7+ Kh8 38. Qxg6 Ng7 39.Qxc6 Qe6 40. Qxe6 Ngxe6 41. Nxd5 $11 when the pawns and piece seem to roughly balance each other.
36… d4 37. Ne2 d3 38. cxd3 Nxd3 39. Rd1 Qb3!?
At this point I expected 39…Qe4, when I intended 40 Nc3. Instead my oppponent played
39…Qb3, which is of course an illegal move. However, I didn’t realise
this either at the time or until I arrived home and entered the game into my
database! I have no reason to believe that my opponent was aware that the move
was illegal either. Both players were very short of time which provides some
explanation for this bizarre double oversight.
It should be noted that while 39… Qe4 40. Nc3 looks fine for White, 39… Nf2 looks good for Black.
40. Nd4 Qc4
The players had now reached the time control. The position was now very difficult to evaluate.
41. Qd6 Nf2 42. Qxg6+ Ng7 43. h5??
The first of a series of terrible moves that lead to a rapid loss.
43. Qc2 leads to a level endgame. 43…Qxc2+ 44. Kxc2 Nxd1 (44… e2? 45. Rxf2 exd1=Q+
46. Kxd1) 45. Rxd1 Re4.
Now Black is winning.
White did not overlook Black’s reply but did overlook what it threatened. He
believed that Black would have to worry about Qxe8+.
Still 44. Rxd1 e2 45. Nxe2 Qxe2 46. Rd4 Qxh5 is lost, although not so clearly.
44… Qxd4 45. hxg7??
White is clearly losing but overlooking mate in one is still embarassing.
45. Qf7+ apparent worried my opponent but Black should be fine. 45…Kh7 46. g6+ Kxh6 47. Rh1+ Kg5 48. Rg1+ Kh4 49. Rh1+ Kg3 50. Rg1+ Kh2 would have been a fun way to finish.
A suitably dramatic end to the game!