Back in the Saddle

It’s good to be writing chess articles again. I own ChessBase now and a much-needed vacation seems to have left me thinking clearly. This is from a Game 35 at my local club.

Giofreda (1500) – Bland (1650) Norfolk, VA – 2012. 1-0

1. c3 Nf6 2. d4 d5 3. Qc2 {We are following Kamenetz-Ermolov, from the year
2000. The treatment by the expert who played this line is quite different than
the text here.} g6 4. Nd2 Bg7 {We are on our own. This is not in my database
of four million games. We do manage to transpose into familiar territory
however.} 5. e4 Nxe4 {exd is a stronger move. White’s queen is nicely
centralized after the knight capture in the text.} 6. Nxe4 dxe4 7. Qxe4 O-O 8. Nf3 {Every
game in my database contains Nd7 here. The plan in this game, c6 for black
followed by Bf5, is slow. The bishop is not terribly secure on that square either. Black can’t recapture with a pawn if I take the bishop since that leaves his king exposed.}

8… c6 9. h4 {Black’s kingside fortress can’t be assailed purely with pieces.} Bf5 10. Qf4 Nd7 11. Bc4 Nb6 12. Bb3 Nd5 13. Qh2 {While h4 is helpful in other respects, this is its main idea.} h5 14. O-O Nf6 15. Ng5 Ng4 16. Qf4 e5 {Black knows the important of the e5 square but this isn’t quite right.} 17. dxe5 Bxe5 18. Qc4 Qc7 {Black aims to eventually unpin his pawn, but he will need adequate defense for the f7 square}

19. Be3 Nxe3 20. fxe3 Rad8 21. e4 b5 22. Qe2 Bg4 23. Qf2 Bh2+ {This
drops an exchange or worse. The queen is overburdened with its defense of f7
and h2.} 24. Kh1 Bg3 25. Bxf7+ Rxf7 {This is forced. There’s a mating net on
the dark squares after Kg7.} 26. Qxf7+ Qxf7 27. Nxf7 {I am in time pressure.}
Rd2 28. Nh6+ Kg7 29. Nxg4 hxg4 30. Rfd1 {Wrong rook or right rook?} Rxb2 31.
Rd7+ Kh6 32. Rxa7 Bxh4 33. Kh2 Re2 34. Ra6 Rxe4 35. Rxc6 Re2 36. a4 bxa4 37.
Rxa4 {Black has traded off a few pawns and is close to drawing the game. My
opponent, also in time pressure, blundered his rook a few moves later.

Questions for examination:

Can black draw, despite the material imbalance?

Can black punish white for the opening’s timidity??

What are some of black’s strategic failures? White’s?


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