County Match (Open) 2018-19: Sussex – Kent

Sussex scored a creditable draw away against Kent on Saturday 19th January. My game in the match was also a draw, against Alan Hanreck with the Black pieces. I obtained a comfortable position out of the opening and may have been able to achieve more, but in the end the position was blocked and the two players split the point.

I give the game below with some notes.

Hanreck, Alan E – Mansson, James C, County Match (Open) Kent – Sussex 2019.01.19

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Bb4 3. g3

This is not the most challenging line. White should not allow Black to take on c3, especially when he has to take back with a pawn.

3. Nd5 is the main variation.

3… Bxc3 4. dxc3 d6 5. Bg2 f5

Although Black is a tempo down compared to the Rossolimo Variation (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5), the fact that he has not yet moved his king’s knight allows him to advance his f-pawn directly. This means that he can in effect end up a temp ahead of the regular Rossolimo, where White has to waste time moving the knight in order to move the f-pawn.

6. Nh3?!

This cannot be a good square for the knight.

6. Nf3 is more natural and more common.

6… Nf6 7. O-O O-O 8. f4?!

With this move, White was trying to justify playing Nh3, but it only ends up restricting both his bishops following Black’s natural reply.

8… e4 9. Be3 Nc6 10. Qd2 Kh8 11. Nf2 Be6 12. b3 a5 13. a4 Qe7 14. Bd4 Rae8

Up to this point, Black’s moves have been obvious, but here he had a decision to make. The move played is not terrible, but looks a somewhat artificial arrangement of the rooks.

14… Nxd4! is a surprising possibility that actually seems to be pretty effective. 15. cxd4 (15. Qxd4?! Rfd8 followed by …b6 and …d5 is strong.) 15… c5! 16. d5 (16. e3 d5!; 16. dxc5 d5!) 16… Bxd5! 17. cxd5 e3 and Black regains the piece, with a position where he knight is stronger than White’s bishop, and White has a number of weaknesses in his position.

14… Rfd8 preparing …d5 looks good too.

15. Nd1 Nb8 16. Ne3 Nbd7 17. Rab1

White offered a draw. Black rejected the offer, partially because he considered that his position was better, partially because he sensed that his opponent was uncomfortable with the current situation on the board.

17… c5 18. Bxf6 Nxf6 19. Rbd1 Rd8 20. Nd5 Bxd5 21. cxd5 Qf7

Black looks to attack on the kingside with his pieces. However, White is able to set up a secure defensive position.

21… c4!? I considered this during the game and my opponent mentioned it as something that concerned him afterwards.} 22. bxc4 (22. b4?! I was concerned about this move during the game. However, after 22… axb4 23. cxb4 Rc8 Black has two basic threats: the first is to advance his c-pawn, the second is to attack White’s d-pawn with …Qf7. White will struggle to deal with both. 22… Rc8 23. Qa2 Rc5 followed by …Rfc8 and …Qc7 should at the very least regain the pawn.

22. c4 b6 23. e3 Qh5 24. Qc3 Ng4 25. h3 Nf6 26. Qe1 Qg6

26… g5 looks natural but it not clear what Black will achieve, as …g4 can be met with h4, while …gxf4 can met met by recapturing on f4 with a piece.

27. Kh2 h6 28. Rd2 Rde8 29. Rg1 Qh7 30. Qd1 h5

Black though that White would not be able to block this with h4, while he would have the chance to play …h4 himself. As it turns out, …h4 is not that easy to achieve under favourable circumstance, while White can eventually play h4.

30… g5 looks natural but there is no follow up.

31. Bf1

31. h4? Ng4+ wins a pawn.

31… Kg8

31… h4!? can be met by 32. g4 fxg4 33. hxg4 g5 34. Rf2

32. Be2

32. h4? Ng4+ wins a pawn.

32… Kf7

32… h4? is no good because of 33. g4

33. h4 g6 1/2-1/2

Black offered a draw, which White was happy to accept. The position is now completely blocked.

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