A Diamond in the Rough

I’ve been preparing for my next tournament, the National Chess Congress in Philadelphia, and with a little less than a week to go, I’ve been playing a lot of games on the Internet Chess Club (ICC) to prepare. I’ve had a bunch of bad games, but this game against a Women’s International Master is definitely promising.

Me – loafyyy (WIM) – Internet Chess Club (G/15)

1. c4 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. Nc3 d6 5. d3 O-O 6.e4 Nbd7 7. Nge2 e5 8. O-O c6 9. h3 a5 10. Be3 Qc7 11. Rc1 Nc5

12. b3 I didn’t see how Black could stop my d4 push or render it useless, so I just strengthened my position before opening up the position.

12…Nfd7 13. d4 exd4 14. Bxd4 Nf6 15. Qc2 Re8 16. Rfd1 Qe7

17. f3 I couldn’t find any other moves that I liked, trading the bishop on f6 is too committal, and with this move, now Black has to deal with the d6 weakness.

17…Bd7 18. Qd2 Rad8 19. Bxf6 Qxf6 20. Qxd6 Ne6 21. Qd2

21…Ng5!  I missed this move in my analysis, and now the position becomes interesting as I only have a pair of knights against a pair of bishops.

22. Qe3 Nxh3+ 23. Bxh3 Bxh3 24. Rxd8 Rxd8 25. Rd1 Be6

26. Kg2 Makes efforts like …Qa1+ useless and offers protection for f3. This was more of a prophylactic measure.

26…Rxd1 27. Nxd1 Qd8

28. Ndc3 I was tempted to look at Nf2 with the idea of trading queens one d3, but Ndc3 move stops any queenside counterplay with the b-pawn. I also want to point out that even with a queen trade on d3, the knights are awkwardly placed.

28…h5 Threatening h4. Black wants to weaken my pawn structure and make my king unprotected in a quickly opening position.

29. e5?! This is probably not the best move, but I thought locking down the g7 bishop was crucial for me to having any winning chances. I didn’t really have any other practical moves so I opted for this instead.

29…Kh7 30. f4 h4

31.Ne4 I might not be winning, but I definitely have some sort of initiative. The bishops in this position are obsolete, and my knights are very strong.

31…hxg3  32. Ng5+ Kg8 33. Nxe6 fxe6

34. Nxg3 My plan is to park my knight on e4 and control d6 and f6. My opponent’s remaining bishop is very poor, thanks to my e4-e5 push from earlier.

34…Bh6 35. Ne4 Qd1

36. Kg3 Both my opponent and I have about 3 minutes left, so I really liked this move because my opponent has no checks in this position. It also frees my queen a little bit, because now there is no fork on the 2nd rank. Black is going to have to be more creative to draw this game.

36…Bf8 Relocating the bishop to a better diagonal, this leaves the f6 square very weak.

37. Ng5 Not my original plan, but I needed the Black queen to be inactive to have a chance to win.

37…Qd7 38. Qe4 Kg7

39. Nf3 Relocating my Knight to h4, I want Black’s queen off the open file. Black’s position is becoming harder to defend as her pieces are becoming quite tangled.

39…b6 40. Nh4 Qe8 41. Qd3 Be7 42. Nf3 Bc5

43. Ng5  I only have 30 seconds left, but I want to maneuver my knight back to e4 to have a better position.

43…Qe7? Pressed for time, my opponent made this mistake, inviting ideas like Nf6 followed by an advantageous queen trade. I think even if my opponent had more time from this position, it wouldn’t change the outcome of the game.

44. Ne4 Bb4 45. Nf6 Be1+ 46. Kg4 Bb4

47. Qd7 This wins, but I missed the cruel 47. Kg5 Qf7 48. Qh3 Kf8 49. Qh8+ Ke7 50.Qc8 c5 making the Black bishop useless and Black defenseless. I only had 20 seconds left, so I didn’t see this idea until after the game.

47…Qxd7 48. Nxd7 Kf7

49. Nb8? I think I needed to be more careful here. 49… c5 and the position is no longer clear. I think in this case I have to play 50. Na6 with the idea of moving to c7 and b5 to not get trapped, even in that case, it isn’t clear how the knight is useful to me. Meanwhile 49. Nxb6 is clearly winning!

49…Ke7 50. Nxc6+ Kd7 51. Nxb4 axb4 52. Kg5 With 8 seconds left, my opponent resigns. I had 16 seconds left at the game’s conclusion 1-0

This is probably one of the best games I’ve played in a while. A key takeaway from this game is how to make a knight v. bishop ending a thematic good knight v. bad bishop position. In this game, I did that by locking the center and creating outposts. Once I traded minor pieces on e6, my opponent was lost because I could use e4 as a vantage point for my knight, and my opponent could never attack it with her bishop.

With the National Chess Congress starting on Friday, I think I can aim for another Candidate Master Norm with play like this.

 

Feel like I missed something? Feel free to comment below!

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