Floating in Space

Space, as it rolls and tumbles away between him and his native soil, proves to have powers normally ascribed only to time; from hour to hour, space brings about changes very like those time produces, yet surpassing them in certain ways. Space, like time, gives birth to forgetfulness, but does so by removing an individual from all relationships…

– Thomas Mann from The Magic Mountain

After black’s 23rd move.

I am white in a Game 60. My opponent is Thomas Mundell.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 g6 4. e4 Bg7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 Nbd7 {A minor error.
Black must expand with c5 or e5 while he can.} 7. O-O a6 8. e5 dxe5 9. dxe5 Ng4
10. e6 Nde5 11. exf7+ Nxf7 {I’ve played well so far, but now comes a
middlegame that I don’t particularly like. I am going into it with an
advantage and hope it will be more sizeable than my opponent’s ability to
outplay me.} 12. Bf4 {After the queen trade white’s claim to an advantage is
gone. It’s important to examine why the first player is better and then to
expand upon that. In this case it’s the vulnerability of black’s queen and his
hanging knight.} e5 13. Bg3 Bf5 14. Nh4 {Qb3 is clearly better. I ended up
concluding that the weakness on b7 didn’t merit a response from black. What I
failed to reckon with is that it might gain me a move later. The reason why
black can neglect the defense revolves around the proximity of his pieces to
that square and the weakness of b2. I can fix those problems later, with
tactics, and then win the b-pawn. Or at least create a threat to do so –
Qb3 had more bite than I supposed.} Ngh6 {I thought that this move was forced.
My opponent had an intermezzo to avoid it. Exchanging queens was the ticket.}
15. Qd5 {The queen exchange continues to benefit black.} c6 16. Qc5 {I’m
trying to exploit the b6 weakness. My opponent wants to thrust his e-pawn I
presume. I’ll need to blockade that now.} Ng5 17. Rad1 Qc8 {Obviously the
e-pawn is hanging. I didn’t take it because I (incorrectly) imagined that a
timely Re8 would win the the e2 bishop. It doesn’t. 18. Na4 {Now you see the point of the quote.

Both pairs of horse and rider find themselves on the margins. A knight
on the rim is often dim; less euphonic, but more accurate, is a knight on the
rim is removed from relations. The connections that make existence valuable,
and also make chess pieces powerful, are more easily severed than
reestablished. As time passes the cost of rebuilding these ties increases
fatally.} Ne4 19. Qb4 Nxg3 20. hxg3 a5 21. Qb3 Qc7 22. c5+ {Trying to create a
weak square for black on d6} Kh8 23. Rd6 b6 24. Nxb6 Rab8 25. Rfd1 Rbd8 26.
Nxf5 Nxf5 {While white is winning here the dark square bishop looks like it’s
going to be monstrous soon.} 27. Rxd8 Rxd8 28. Rxd8+ Qxd8 {In this endgame I
know I’ll need to be accurate. Black will have some counterplay if I’m not
careful. Perhaps I should have just played to extend the middlegame.} 29. Qa4
h5 30. Qxa5 {I think I took this one, an inferior choice, because I thought
I’d win the other with check at some point.} Qd4 31. Qa8+ Kh7 32. Qxc6 {I was
right! I was right! Before dancing in the streets I ought to consider how
terrible my 2nd rank is.} Nxg3 33. Bf3 {? Thinking that I’ll be able to snap
the knight off after e4.} e4 {The pawn is pinned. Black is now up.} 34. Qd6
exf3 {The knight is still floating in space.} 35. Qxg3 Qxc5 36. Na4 {Saving
the knight…better is to accept that I am running out of time and entered
into an endgame where I am qualitatively down a minor piece.} Qc1+ 37. Kh2 fxg2
38. Kxg2 Qc6+ 39. Qf3 {In the end black has to pause to figure out if the
knight is worth capturing. As it turns out it’s blocking the way to the
more-valuable pawns and gets captured. I resign here. Check out this game of Judit Polgar’s to see the theme expanded upon at a high level.


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