Friday, January 11, 2008

The Swindle That Got Away

First, here’s a position from last night’s game. It’s Black to move. What is the best line and what is your evaluation?

I’d had a lot of free time to prepare this past week, but instead of trying to shore up my dilapidated opening repertoire, I mostly piddled my free time away at trying to figure out how to get back my mojo and push my rating back into the 1700s.

My game last night game in the Expert Championship against Club Champion Bill Case was pretty close to a disaster. On move 10, I blundered into at least losing a minor piece for a pawn. I felt like resigning, but in a weirdly reckless stroke of stubbornness, I decided to turn it into more of an imbalanced a queen sac for two minor pieces and a pawn. I chose to defend until my opponent showed me my heart roasting on a stick.

If I may be so presumptuous, the sacrifice could be compared with Dana Mackenzie’s Immortal Game against IM David Pruess in the 2006 Western States Open. In the game, starting from move 6, Dana sacced a queen for two minor pieces and a pawn. Unlike his sacrifice, I didn’t get the bishop pair, a dominating mobile pawn center, or an enemy king on the run. I listened to Dana’s lecture on the game at and I wrote down his five principles:

1. Active pieces
2. Restrain the queen
3. Closed files
4. Don’t cash in too early
5. Trade for the bishop pair

Of these, I could only remember #1, #3, and #4 and practically, all I had to do was remember that opening of the files was likely to be my doom. I had to weather a kingside attack that eventually let to a queenside breach, but just when White was about to pounce, he made some inaccurate moves that allowed me to stir up a distraction. On one move, the distraction became a winning chance, but I failed to see it, made a few more weak endgame moves, and finally lost, as I should have 45 moves ago.

The answer to the pop quiz at the beginning, is 46…Nxc5! 47.dxc5 Bd3! 48.Rh1 f2! 49.c6 f1Q 50.Rxf1 Bxf1 51.c7 Bh3 and Black is totally winning!

I think the reason why it was so hard for me to like Nxc5! is that my bishop has been stuck in the advanced position for most of the game. And creeping backward moves are psychologically hard to see. My analysis was very superficial and I rejected Nxc5 at the second ply after dxc5, thinking that my bishop was never going to stop the fast passed pawn. What I failed to realize was that my pawn was faster and that once I netted the rook with my f-pawn, my bishop could stop his queening threat in all lines.

On the one hand, I feel really disappointed that I let the winning opportunity get away. I waited for Opportunity for thirty moves and when it knocked, I was on the toilet, unable to hear it. However, I believe there’s a certain amount of justice in the Kingdom of Chess and getting away with such a big swindle would make me feel like a fugitive felon. In the end, it was an interesting game.


chessboozer said...

If I were black in this position my next move would be to resign

ChargingKing said...

Wow I like the queen sac!

frenez said...

hi ernie, i think your problems started with b6 and worrying about the isolated d pawn. seems that white's backward c pawn and hole on c4 would compensate for your isolani. better to develop with nd7 or something. unless you're really booked up or really good, developing blunts those tactical tricks that are easily missed.

you would have seen nxc5 if you had read the caption that said black to move and win. but that's a good clue to everyone to follow threads out a little further.