Weak in Chess Redux

by John Rummel

(Originally appeared in Compuserve Chess Forum's CHAT newsletter in September 1995)

Warning: Mature audiences only! The following game is not intended for small children, or those easily upset by ugly errors and missed opportunities.

"Weak in Chess" is a column designed to showcase some of the best of the worst in chess. As with my first venture in this column last year, this month I have an example of my own play that epitomizes the need for corrective chess lenses.

I was lucky enough to win the game presented here, though only because I survived, and managed to turn more experience into a better endgame.

Ryan Bernard was one of our new young members in the Chess Forum, and he asked me if I'd like to play a correspondence game. I agreed, fearing that he might be one of those developing child prodigies, but what the heck. Subsequent discussion revealed that Ryan was a middle school student in Washington state, and a participant in the school chess club, coached by a Master. He'd been playing chess for about a year and a half, and this was his first ever game online. Being only a muddling Class C player myself, I figured it would be a good game.

Bernard,Ryan-Rummel,John Corr Casual CompuServe 1995

1.d4 Nf6 2.e3 d5 3.Bd3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.f4

Ryan's 5th move completes the characteristic formation of the Stonewall Attack, a flexible formation that White can use against most Black setups. This is a system taught by Ryan's coach for this very reason - it's versatile and has a clear plan. White plans to prevent Black from playing e5, post knights on f3 and e5, play queen to e1 and then h4, push the g-pawn and blast away at the black kingside. White would like the pawn structure to stay closed in the center while he concentrates on his kingside attack.

Bg4 6.Nf3 e6 7.Nbd2 Bd6 8.Qa4 0-0 9.Ne5 Ne7

Ryan is playing aggressively, though not consistent with the general aim of the Stonewall. Black would also be fine after 9...c4 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Bc2 c5 12.O-O Qb6.

10.0-0 a6 11.Nxg4 Nxg4 12.Qd1

And White loses a pawn and an exchange. Better was 12.Nf3 c4 13.Bb1 Nf5 14.e4 Nfe3 15.Bxe3 Nxe3 and White is doing fine.

...Nxe3 13.Qh5 g6 14.Qf3 Nxf1 15.Nxf1 cxd4 16.cxd4 Nf5 17.Bd2 Nxd4 18.Qe3 Bc5 19.Qh3

White needed to move either the king or queen, but this was probably not the best. Rather 19.Kh1 Nb3 20.Qe1 Nxa1 21.Qxa1 Qb6 22.b3 Bd4 23.Qe1 and at least White has recovered the knight. However, it's all moot since Black failed to see the chance to win the Rook anyway.

19...Nf3+?

The first of two key errors I was to make in the game and one of the clearest examples of chess blindness in recent memory. My problem is that since going up the exchange on move 12, I was intent on eliminating White's dark square bishop, fearing a chance for counterplay on the weak dark squares surrounding my king. I should have played 19...Nc2+ 20.Ne3 Nxa1 21.Kh1 Rc8 22.Qh6 Bd4. In this line, Black just has to clean up. He may even be able save the knight on a1. The text move simply exchanges a piece and gives White unnecessary chances for counterplay.

20.Kh1 Nxd2 21.Nxd2 Qb6 22.Nb3 Be3 23.Qg4 Rac8 24.f5 exf5 25.Bxf5 Rc4

With 25...h5, I could win the bishop. E.g., 26.Qg3 h4 27.Qxh4 {27.Qg4 Rc4 and Black has to let the bishop go} gxf5 28.Qg3+ Kh7 29.Qh3+ Kg6 30.Qg3+ Kf6 31.Qh4+ Bg5. Better, but still losing for White, is 26.Qf3 gxf5 27.Qxd5 where White will get another pawn, but Black is still firmly in control.

26.Qg3 Rfc8??

Error number 2. Unfortunately for me, blunders come too easy when I think I'm comfortably ahead. This horrible move just hangs a Rook giving White back the Exchange and eventually loses the passed pawn on d5 too. After 26...Bf4 27.Qf3 gxf5 28.Qxd5 Qh6 29.h3 Rc2 30.Rb1 and White could resign. My 26th move puts Ryan right back into the game.

27.Bxc8 Rxc8 28.Rf1 d4 29.Qf3 Rc7 30.Qd5 Qc6 31.Qd8+ Kg7 32.Nxd4 Bxd4 33.Qxd4+ f6

Ryan has played well. Taking advantage of my blunders, he has reduced the material difference to a mere pawn. With one rook and queen still on the board for both sides, chances are about equal. Given my mistake/move ratio, Ryan probably has a slight edge. This is where I finally buckled down and decided that there was no way I was going to blow this ending. Never mind the fact that you can put everything I know about endgames on a postage stamp and still have room left over for a portrait of Mt. Rushmore.

34.Qd8 Rd7 35.Qe8 Qd5 36.Re1 Qf7 37.h3

Allows White to trade queens. Probably not a good idea. Black does still have an extra pawn, and every exchange helps to magnify the importance of that advantage

Qxe8 38.Rxe8 Kf7 39.Re2 Rd5 40.b4 a5 41.a3 axb4 42.axb4 Rd4 43.Rb2 Ke6 44.g4 f5 45.gxf5+ Kxf5 46.Kg2 g5 47.Kg3 h5 48.b5 b6 49.Rf2+ Rf4 50.Rxf4+

Trading rooks is the final blow for White. Better to keep them on the board with 50.Rd2 Ke5 51.Rd8 Rb4 52.Rg8 Kf6 53.Rf8+ Kg6 54.Rg8+ Kf5 and White still has some chances.

gxf4+ 51.Kf3 Ke5 52.Ke2

Now Black can choose which way to win: playing for two passed pawns on the kingside, or capturing White's b5 pawn and queening on b1. Either way will work. White's 52nd move is as good as anything. No better is 52.h4 Kf5 53.Kf2 Kg4 54.Kg2 Kxh4 55.Kf3 Kg5 56.Kg2 Kg4 57.Kf2 and Black will get a queen soon.

Ke4 53.Kf2 Kd4 54.Kf3 Kc5 55.Kxf4 Kxb5 56.Ke4

Or 56.Ke3, but it makes no difference since Black can control b1 either way. Going after white's h-pawn fails as well but gives White a better chance since Black has to be careful to avoid stalemate: 56.Kg5 Kc5 57.Kxh5 b5 58.h4 b4 59.Kg6 (not Kg5. This ensures that the king will be able to stay in front of the pawn after Black gets a queen) b3 60.h5 b2 61.h6 b1Q+ 62.Kg7 Qb7+ 63.Kg6 Qe4+ 64.Kg7 Qg4+ 65.Kf6 Qg8 and White can't protect the pawn.

56...Kc4 57.Ke3 Kc3 58.Kf4 b5 59.Kg5 b4 60.Kxh5 b3 61.Kg5 b2 62.h4 b1Q 63.h5 Qh7 64.h6 Kd4 65.Kh5 Ke5 66.Kg5 Qg8+ 67.Kh5 Kf5 and Ryan resigned.

0-1

Though it was a win, it exhausted me, and scared me. If I can miss this type of thing in postal games, what's going to happen to me next OTB tournament??

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