Here’s the Hook

The following is a Game 60 I played on September 29th against a gentleman named Wu. The event was held at a junior high school that featured an adult tournament in the bowels of its gymnasium. The gym teacher surfaced at one point in a deep sweat wearing a shirt that read, “Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard.” Wait a minute…that’s pretty depressing.

The article title references the imaginary basketball shots a few players were taking in between games. I actually like to make an imaginary clang sound to help keep it real, or to impersonate a bigger more athletic defender against whom they are completely hopeless. Just as you laze into your uncontested three I come out of nowhere to destroy your rec-league level dream. Is this not basketball reality? As a lifelong basketball scrub I’m a little bit more modest when I shoot; I’ll sit at the the foul line and do my business from there. They call it the charity stripe for a reason. Now back to chess.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Nbd7 5. cxd5 exd5 6. e3 Be7 7. Bd3 Nb6 {
White is hard-pressed to take advantage of this unambitious move. He should
play normally and resist the temptation to strike out right away.} (7… c5 {
This is a pretty promising continuation for black. Most QG Exchange
practicioners overlook these sidelines since they’re not deemed critical. This
one leads to a level game where white will concede the advantage as soon as he
runs out of ideas.} 8. Nf3 c4 9. Bc2 O-O 10. O-O) 8. Qc2 h6 9. Bh4 Ng4 {This
knight launch is interesting but flawed. It looks more like a clearing
maneuever rather than an attack.} 10. Bxe7 Qxe7 11. Nf3 Be6 12. O-O Nc4 {Black
has made a few weak moves and white has correctly stuck to his script. The
first player is much better, but wherein lies his advantage?} 13. Bxc4 dxc4 14.
d5 Bd7 15. e4 {Not seeing Ne4, a clearance move, white’s advantage diminishes.
I decide white’s “weak” pawn is defensible with the b5 pawn push and focus on
the center. This is an error in judgment.} O-O-O {The king is less safe on
this side. How should white play against the vulnerable king? Note that it is
hard to defend with pieces due to white’s control of d5.} 16. b3 cxb3 17. axb3
a6 18. Rfd1 Qd6 19. h3 Ne5 20. Nxe5 Qxe5 21. d6 {It looks better than it
really is. The prudent move is to ignore the pawn. Rook opposition is not what
white wants.} Bc6 22. dxc7 Kxc7 23. f3 Kb8 24. Kh1 {The position is equal now.
White has missed several opportunities to play b4.} g5 {This is a slow plan
but it challenges white to play actively. It’s a good psychological choice
because it reduces the time I have to find initiative. Black will surely get
his if I allow it.} 25. b4 h5 26. Ra5 Rxd1+ 27. Nxd1 Qg3 28. Qd2 g4 29. Nf2 {
These moves are seldom good. Rg5 is better. The move does not make it past the
candidate process.} gxf3 30. gxf3 {? White should be mindful about what he’s
giving up here.} Qxf3+ 31. Kh2 Rg8 32. Nd3 {This allows a mate in two. I
vaguely felt that the black queen could win on the dark squares. There’s no
excuse for missing this. Black throws the game away.} Bxe4 33. Qf4+ Qxf4+ 34.
Nxf4 f5 35. b5 {As abiding as my passion is for windmills I don’t really think
it’s intelligent to move the knight. I’m temporizing here since I’m low on the
clock.} axb5 36. Rxb5 h4 37. Rb2 Rc8 {I think my best chance is to go into the
knight/bishop endgame. It’s still losing for white but the endgame is pretty
primitive and I’ll be able to play it well despite my time deficit.} 38. Ng6
Rc2+ {Sometimes you get the benefit of an automatic move from your opponent.}
39. Rxc2 Bxc2 40. Nxh4 b5 41. Nf3 Be4 {This shifts the momentum. Avoid helping
your opponent move a piece hes about to move without prompting.} 42. Nd4 b4 43.
Kg3 Kc7 44. Kf4 Kd6 {What a terrible plan for black – and this is coming from
a guy who missed a mate in two not many moves earlier. It kind of looks like a
book ending. Black’s bishop is awful and the h-pawn is deceptively dangerous.}
45. h4 Kd5 46. Nb3 {This is a set-up from white. I’m hoping I get Bc2 here.
The king prevents the bishop from getting to the gleeful h-pawn in time.} Bc2 (
46… Kc4) (46… Ke6 47. Nd4+ Kf6 48. h5 Kg7 49. Kg5 Bd3 50. h6+ Kh7 51. Nb3
f4 52. Kxf4 Kxh6 53. Ke5 Bc4 54. Nd2) 47. h5 {! Eh, not even.} Ke6 48. Nd4+ {
My opponent offers me a draw here. He insists he knows it’s a draw. I think he
fails to look past the falling bishop.} Kf6 49. Nxc2 b3 50. Na3 b2 51. Nb1 {
The only move.} Ke6 52. Kg5 Ke5 {He fails to see the check in his calculation.}
53. Kg6 f4 54. h6 f3 55. h7 f2 56. h8=Q+ {My opponent gamely keeps playing.
You have to admire his pluck even if further play belies his winning chances.
Sometimes crappy half-court shots do go in but just don’t adjust your expectations to want a swish every time.


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