A Surprisingly Good Game

My chess games aren’t usually very good.  I tend to win mainly by staying semi-relevant in slightly to clearly worse positions.  Well, I guess maybe I’m exaggerating…… a little bit.  But I can say for sure that I don’t specialize in one-sided victories in which I’m in control the whole game.  However, today I am happy to present my best game ever- a straightforward and crushing win.  In this “miniature”, I toasted an International Master with sharp and accurate moves.

I am playing white here, and my opponent is Zlatko Martic, rated 2321 at the time.

The game began:

1.e4 e6  2.Nf3 d5  3.Nc3 d4  4.Ne2 c5  5.c3 Nc6  6.cxd4 cxd4 7.Qa4 Bc5

Black’s play has already been questionable (in particular his 3rd move), and white can’t be worse here.  Black’s d4 pawn is overextended and vulnerable.  How can I take advantage of this?

DIAGRAM 1.  How do I chip away at black’s central control?

1.PNG

8. b4!

I will pry black’s bishop from it’s defense of d4, whilst gaining an important developmental tempo.  My c1 bishop is ready to burst free.

8.  …               Bb6?

That can’t be a good move.  Black probably should have taken the pawn with 8. …Bxb4, after which play could have proceeded: 9.Nexd4 Ne7, and black should be able to maintain material equality, albeit with a slightly awkward position. 

9. b5               Na5

DIAGRAM 2. Should I “cash out” and take the d4 pawn?

2.PNG

10. Ba3!  

Indeed.  That d4 pawn is not going anywhere, and there’s no reason to snag it.  It is best to add another piece to the attack, and this Bishop on a3 will be quite an asset, slicing through black’s position and making castling difficult.  If 10. … Ne7, I was intending 11.Qb4, after which black is quite uncomfortable.

10.  …               d3?  

Encouraging me to go where I wanted to go anyway.

11. Nf4             Bd7

DIAGRAM 3.  Should I “bail out” and capture the d3 pawn?  OR should I make a move that threatens checkmate on the next move and will shatter black’s kingside?

3.PNG

12. Nh5!      

Boom!  This Threatens Nxg7 (checkmate!) on the next move, and fascinatingly enough, black has no legitimate way to protect this pawn.  If you guessed 12.Qb4, that’s also a reasonable idea since this also threatens a checkmate- with Qf8 on the next move.  However, I thought this could be answered with 12. … Qe7, after which white’s attack seems to dry out (13.Qc3 Qf6), and he may indeed have to  settle for a pawn-up endgame.

12.  …               f6                                 

A sad defense.

DIAGRAM 4.  Should I “sell out” and take either the d3 or g7 pawn??

4.PNG

13. e5!

There will be no pawn-related cashing, bailing, or selling-out in this game.  I am not interested in black’s lousy pawns and that’s final!   The text move prepares to chip away at black’s kingside, while also giving my queen the freedom to swing over to the kingside and wreak havoc.

13.  …               g6

14. Qb4

Threatening checkmate in one move- for the second time in this brief game (I’m threatening Qf8++)!

14.  …               Kf7

Uh-oh, black saw my threat.  Is this the end of the attack?  Have I been led astray by my seeming addiction to eschewing the capture of free pawns and threatening Checkmate-in-One’s?

DIAGRAM 5. It’s time to finally bust open black’s position.

5.PNG

15. exf6!

Finally I’m taking a pawn- although it looks like I’m giving up a knight as a result.  But the reason is that if 15. … gxh5, I’ll continue with 16. Ne5+ Kxf6, 17.Qf4+ Kg7…… And now, the crucial point is that I have 18.Bf8+, after which black has to play 18. … Qxf8, and then 19.Qg5++ is checkmate.

16. …               Nxf6

17. Ne5+         Kg8

DIAGRAM 6.  Can you find the move I played which caused black to resign immediately?

6.PNG

18. Qf4!

Black resigned because NxN would allow Qf7++, while gxN would allow Qg5++.  And there’s no way for black to adequately protect his f6 knight.

How was I able to play such a game?  I think I did a few things right in this game:

  • Patience:  I was able to continually look for better options instead of settling for good ones.  “If you find a good move, look for a better one”.  Usually these “patient” moves involved improving my pieces or getting another piece into the game.
  • Timing: I sensed when the position called for more- for example I was able to play 13. e5 and 15. exf6 because I sensed that I was in a position to do something very strong on those moves.
  • Precise Calculation When Necessary: On move 13, I pretty much had to see until the end of the game (that’s the only way I could resist taking such a juicy g-pawn).  This involved seeing the moves Qb4 (not obvious), and exf6 (sacrificing a knight), and potential lines which required a Bf8+ sacrifice in order to work.  Precise calculation will often be necessary to reap rewards in a good position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “A Surprisingly Good Game

  1. Wow. I enjoyed the game and the question-answer format of this article. I think the most important lesson is the “don’t settle”: sometimes a position is really good and one can choose to either be lazy and release the pressure or instead, as in your game, press for the decisive win.

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