Killing Me Softly

by admin on January 5, 2014

Well, I knew going into this tournament that there would be good moments and bad moments. Today had both of them. In the morning round I finally won my first game, a thrilling if imperfect battle against Bela Evans. I was really pumped about that (you’ll see why below).

But in the evening round several annoying things happened. First, I got my second Black in a row. Okay, well, that happens sometimes. Second, I lost to Steven Breckenridge  in one of the least threatening opening variations known to man (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3.) And finally, that’s the second time I have lost in this variation in this tournament!

When you’re a Two Knights player, as I am, you expect lots of wild and crazy stuff after either 4. Ng5 or 4. d4.You don’t expect to lose to 4. d3. It is like being bludgeoned to death by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. (My wife just made me watch Ghostbusters last week, so that image is fresh in my mind.) Or it’s like the old Roberta Flack song, “Killing Me Softly.”

Well, it’s always possible that those two opponents were just better than me. Anyway, next time my opponent plays 4. d3, I’m going to be ready.

Well, let me show you my one highlight of the tournament so far, my orgy of sacrifices against Bela Evans. I’m Black in this position, and a pawn down. What would you do?

Position after 50. Rg1. Black to move.

FEN: r7/7r/P1p1knq1/N1Pp1p1n/3PpPp1/2Q1P1P1/5K2/R4BR1 b – – 0 50

I’ve been trying to set up a sacrifice on the kingside for literally the last 30 moves. At this point, I figured, there will never be a better time. All of my pieces are just where I want them, and if I don’t try it now then I’m just going to get steamrollered on the queenside.

One thing that made the decision really easy was the time situation. I had 19 minutes left for the rest of the game and Evans had much less — I don’t remember exactly, but it was something like 7 minutes. Of course you have to keep in mind that we were playing with a 30-second time increment, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. But still, it’s going to be hard as hell for White to defend this position at a rate of 30 seconds per move.

So I played 50. … Nxg3!, and I’m giving this an exclamation point even though I don’t know if it’s objectively sound.

He replied 51. Rxg3 Rh2+ 52. Rg2 g3+ (we’ll see just how strong this pawn is in a second) 53. Ke1, leading to the second diagram.

Position after 53. Ke1. Black to move.

FEN: r7/8/P1p1knq1/N1Pp1p2/3PpP2/2Q1P1p1/6Rr/R3KB2 b – – 0 53

Here I played the move 53. … Rxa6! Again I don’t know if it’s objectively winning (I haven’t analyzed any of this game yet, so I’m leaving it as a project for my readers), but this move has to be played. First of all, the time situation is now 7 minutes to 2 minutes in my favor, and facing a rook sacrifice when you have only 2 minutes left has to be a real psychological blow. Of course, it’s not really a sacrifice, because if he accepts the rook with 54. Rxh7 gh 55. Bxa6 then I promote my pawn. And finally, if he doesn’t accept the sac, then … Rxa6 is a useful move, defending c6 and eliminating his biggest threat.

He played 54. Bxa6 Rxg2 55. Nxc6 (Maybe too greedy? Who knows?) Qh5 (My main job is to keep his king from running away.) 56. Bf1 Rf2 57. Ra7.

Again, I have no idea whether this is best for White, but he’s down to 1 minute now, and threatening checkmate looks pretty attractive. My initial intention was to play 57. … Nd7 to block the mate, but then I thought, why bother with defense? All my king needs is a flight square, and I’m better off using my knight for attack. So I literally changed my mind while the knight was in midair. It started moving toward d7, then sat in my hand for a minute, and finally moved to g4. With, I admit it, a little bit of emphasis. I don’t usually bang my moves, ever, but I banged this one.

57. … Ng4! 58. Qa5 …

This threatens mate in a couple moves if Black should falter, but I had no intention of giving him a chance.

Position after 58. Qa5. Black to move.

FEN: 8/R7/2N1k3/Q1Pp1p1q/3PpPn1/4P1p1/5r2/4KB2 b – – 0 58

The last sacrifice shouldn’t be too hard to find.

58. … Rxf1+! 59. Kxf1 (It’s easy to see that running away with the king won’t help.) 59. … Nxe3+ White resigned.

It’s mate next move after either 60. Kg1 Qh2 mate or 60. Ke1 Qd1 mate. Whew, what an escape!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashish January 5, 2014 at 11:24 pm

Positively orgiastic. Love how the knight redirected in mid-air – clearly a guided knight, not ballistic. Finally, do you find banging the killer move is more effective than screwing it in? I’m torn.

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admin January 6, 2014 at 8:43 am

I think sliding it into place with your pinky is the best way to go. That was not an option here, as the knight was already airborne.

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Matt January 6, 2014 at 9:01 am

I sometimes get up and walk around after playing a strong move. It’s a well known but still effective psychological trick that tells your opponent he’s in big trouble. 🙂

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Dan Schmidt January 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm

The Two Knights with 4.d3 is no joke (as you know)! Well, maybe it is if White follows up with Nc3, but if he plays c3 his attack can be slow but deadly.

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