Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mona Lisa with One Mole

In 2008, I blogged about playing a Mona Lisa game, a work of art. Back then, I had found three ugly moves that had marred my creation. My most recent game got closer to perfection.

Before the game began, another club member came to ask my opponent about a game he had won this year involving a quick opening crush. He had prepared the line many years ago and had finally gotten to use it. It wasn't my intent to unsettle him before our game, but my opponent brought up the ending of the last game. So I told him that he had resigned in a drawn position. Perhaps that played a factor in our game; perhaps not.

It began as a Caro-Kann Panov-Botvinnik Attack as had our previous six encounters with me playing White.

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3

Caro-Kann Panov-Botvinnik Attack

I expected 5...g6 because my opponent had gotten a good game from game 1 of this match. But I was also prepared for 5...Nc6 which had shown up in three previous encounters.

5...Nc6 6.Bg5 dxc4?!

Moderate surprise. This was the first time he played this. Funny enough, a club member had sent me an email about this variation in the previous week. I hadn't let on to anyone that I had booked up on this variation. It was only logical that if I was going to play 6.Bg5, I had to know how to refute an attempt to grab the pawn at d4.

7.Bxc4 Qxd4 8.Qxd4 Nxd4 9.0-0-0 e5 10.f4 Bg4 11.Nf3 Nxf3 12.gxf3 Bxf3 13.fxe5 Bxh1 14.exf6 Rc8

Believe it or not, I was still in my opening preparation up to this point. Black has captured the h1 rook in an effort to distract the d-rook to an inactive square at h1. White is down a pawn and the exchange but the fleeting compensation is that Black's King is uncastled. So White makes sure that the Black King stays uncastled.

15.Re1+ Kd7 16.Rd1+ Ke8 with an almost identical position to the diagram above except Black can't castle any more. The fine point of this maneuver is that if 15.Bd3 immediately, Black can give back the exchange 15...Rxc3+ 16.bxc3 Bc6 with few endgame problems and a pawn in the bank. I had actually studied this position earlier that day and booked the next move as the last one in my preparation. 17.Bd3!

Two previous games I found at were Grischuk-Bareev 2004 1-0 and Jakovenko-L'Ami 2007 0-1. I dare say 17.Bd3! might be a theoretical novelty. Black has a bishop hanging. If he preserves it, White's second threat is 18.Re1+ Kd7 19.Bf5+ skewering the Rc8. 17...Bd5?.

This seems to preserve the bishop and prevent the Bf5+ idea. Unfortunately, White still has great initiative. In some lines, the pin on the Nc3 and a rook sac followed by Ba3+ figure into the calculations, so White reopens the threat on the bishop with a useful move. Best was probably 17...Bf3 18.Re1+ Kd7 18.Bf5+ Kc7 20.Bf4+ Bd6 21.Re7+ Kc6 with complicated play.

The game continued 18.Kb1! Bf3 19.Re1+! Kd7 20.Bf5+! Kc7 21.Bf4+! Bd6?. I had been trying to win the Rc8 for free without giving up a minor piece. I expected 21...Kd8 {fxg7 is no longer a discovery} 22.Rd3 Rxc3+ retaining substantial initiative for the pawn.


My opponent winced. 22...Kb6 23.Nxd6 Rc6 24.fxg7 Rg8 25.Rg1

This seemed quite logical and simple. Just hammer away at g8 until more pieces fall. However, in postgame analysis, the computer showed me a fantastic idea beginning with 25.Re8!?

and if 25...Rxg7 26.Be3+ initiates mate in 12.

The actual game continued 25...Bh5 26.Bxh7 Bg6+

Here is the mole, the blemish on my Mona Lisa. I spent a long time checking that 27.Bxg6 Rxg7 is okay because 28.Be3+ stabilizes my rook from the pin and also Black's King will have difficulty finding safety from the minor pieces. I only noticed that 27.Rxg6 was probably stronger as I was capturing 27.Bxg6?! fxg6 28.Rxg6

Most of the smoke has cleared. The knight and bishop dominate the center of the board. The rook and the pawn are well placed. I just have to make sure no swindles happen.

28...Kc5 29.h4! Kd4 30.h5 Rc5 31.h6 Rh5 32.Kc2 To stop any mischief like Kd3 and Rh1#. At this point, I really admired how my minor pieces prevented moves like Rc8+ and Rh2+. 32...a6 33.Rf6

Black resigned. The win with Rf8 is easy. White might even come out with a queen that lives; Black would likely have no pieces left.

I was euphoric for a week following this powerful win. Plus it didn't hurt that my rating climbed to its peak at 2133. The only downer was when a fellow friend questioned whether winning with this much preparation wasn't stifling creativity with being too results oriented. My retort involved an implication that laziness about learning openings could cause long-term stagnation.

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