What a crazy day at the Western States Open! First, I should update the leaders. After three rounds we had a nine-way tie for first place at 2½-½! The nine leaders were also the nine highest-rated players in the tournament. I’m afraid that I don’t remember all nine of them, but seven of them are Sergei Kudrin, Alexander Ivanov, Enrico Sevillano, Melikset Khachiyan, Roman Yankovsky, Walter Browne, and John Daniel Bryant. My apologies to the two I’ve forgotten.
As for me, I had one unforgettable game and one game I would like to forget as soon as possible. The unforgettable game took place in the morning. I was Black against Colin Chow, a young expert who is very close to a master rating. He played a beautiful piece sacrifice against me and had me crushed in probably twenty possible ways. But I just kept on hanging on and hanging on, getting more and more counterplay, and he just never quite found a way to put out the fire. After the time control on move 40, we got to this position:
FEN: 7r/1b6/1k2PP2/p1p2Qp1/Pp6/4q1P1/1P1p1R1P/3R2K1 w – - 0 41
- The move White played in this position (with all the time in the world to analyze it) was 41. f7. Can you see what he missed?
- What should White have played, and can he save the game?
While you’re thinking, let me set up some back story. I actually saw the winning idea when White moved his rook to f2. At that point I moved my queen from d4 (where it had been) to e3. This obviously threatens a back-rank check (41. … Qe8+), but it’s not really clear that is a big deal because White can just play 42. R2f1 instead of taking the queen. There is a much more lethal queen sacrifice in this position. Do you see it?
The answer is 41. … Qxg3+!! Of course 42. hg Rh1+ is mate, because the rook on f2 takes away the flight square from White’s king. Chow played 42. Kf1 instead, but had to resign after 42. … Ba6+ 43. Re2 Bxe2+.
I was higher than a kite after playing this combination! It’s my first successful queen sacrifice, I believe, since my game with David Pruess in 2006. And what I’m really proud of is the way I set it up.
As for question 2, I believe that White can still save a draw with 41. Kf1 Ba6+ 42. Kg2 Bb7+. I wasn’t able to find a win for Black, anyway. I haven’t put it on the computer yet. If anyone finds a win for Black after 41. Kf1, please let me know!
This game will absolutely, for sure, be a Chess Lecture, which is one reason I’m not showing you the rest of the game. (I try to keep something in reserve for the subscribers of Chess Lecture.) But you can be assured that the rest of the game was almost as remarkable as the final combination.
After this sensational swindle, I came down to earth in round four against Tatev Abrahamyan, a women’s international master who was recently profiled in Chess Life. I had a perfectly fine position after move 32, probably even a little bit better (although I won’t say I was winning) but then I fell into the only tactical trick in the position. To make it worse, it was an idea that I had seen a couple moves before, but it didn’t work then. But then the position changed and I forgot to re-check the tactical trick.
Sorry to be a little bit vague — I would show you that position, too, but I really need to go to bed. Maybe another time…
Anyway, I was pretty pissed at myself after that game, but I figure that I’m still half a point ahead on “karma points.” That is, against Chow I won a game I should have lost, and against Abrahamyan I lost a game I should have drawn (probably). So I can’t be too upset. I just have to get some sleep and get ready for two more tough battles.