Raging Tactics and Geometric Beauty
IMPORTANT: [At the end of the puzzles, you should click MOVE LIST so you can see my instructive notes and variations. If you are having trouble solving a problem, just click SOLUTION, and then MOVE LIST. Even if you solve everything, DO click MOVE LIST or you might miss an important bit of prose.]
I’m giving this whole game for the simple reason that it’s GREAT FUN! At first White looks to be a rather weak player, but after the oddities of the opening and an overzealous leaping about with a Knight, White suddenly turns into a killer robot that not only sees some cool tactics, but also has a keen eye for geometric beauty.
I’ve added plenty of boards and puzzles so you can get personally involved, and (of course) gave the full game in the final board for those that prefer such things. I hope you enjoy this game as much as I did.
Epoqueepique (1591) – kaspa (1723), 2ème CHAMPIONNAT DE FRANCE chess.com 2012
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6
Playable if one knows what he’s doing, but in general in queen-pawn openings, neither side wants to block their c-pawn. Thus, Black will usually play the pawn to c6 or c5, and White will play it to c3 or, most commonly, c4. For Black, the pawn on c6 gives d5 a firm defense while the Knight can eventually develop on d7. For White, the pawn on c4 followed by Nc3 adds serious pressure to black’s d-pawn, and also prepares to open the c-file (which White can use by Rc1) by an eventual cxd5.
3.Bf4 Nf6 4.e3 Ne4 5.Qe2
A very poor move that blocks the f1-Bishop. What’s its point? Why does the Queen need to be on e2 when so many other white pieces have to be developed? As it turns out, White is trying to get all the queenside pieces off the back rank as quickly as possible so she can castle queenside. Typical female chess: no subtlety, just raw, animalistic aggression. Really ladies, you need to cut back on those testosterone injections!
Anyway, castling queenside shouldn’t be a priority here. The simple 5.Bb5 followed by 0-0 is fine, as is 5.Nbd2, challenging black’s advanced Knight. However, the usual 5.c4 runs into a problem:
5...e6 6.Nbd2 Bd6 7.g3 Bxf4 8.gxf4 Bd7 9.Rg1 g6 10.0-0-0 Qe7 11.Nb3
More natural was 11.Nxe4:
There is simply no excuse to ever play such a move unless it’s a blitz game, you drank too much between moves, you’re in desperate time pressure, you were giving a blindfold simultaneous exhibition, or your eyesight has gone to seed: intending to push white’s Knight around with 11...a5 followed by ...a4, you somehow grabbed the Knight by mistake.
DOH! White is now a full piece ahead with a good, solid position. The game should be over, but holding onto one’s stuff proves to be harder to do than to say. Anyway, thank goodness it isn’t over, otherwise we would miss all the cool stuff that occurs.
I can imagine black’s thinking here: “Please, please, please... leave your Knight there. Please!”
More Imaginary Black thinking: “!DamnX!*%!”
It’s hard to understand this move, since d3 will prove to be no more active than f3. One should always try and have all their pieces participate. With that in mind, the b3-Knight stands out like a sore thumb. What does it do? It can’t move to a5 or c5, and d4 is also impossible. Thus, I would play 14.Nbd2 bringing it into the fight:
14...Nd6 15.Nd3 Bb5 16.h4 a5 17.a3 a4 18.Nd2 c5
Not very good since it opens up queenside lines, makes black’s pawns mobile, and (in effect) swaps the central d-pawn for black’s far less important b6-pawn. 19.c3 is a sane move, stopping any and all enemy counterplay based on …c5-c4-c3 ideas.
If you’re up a piece for nothing and easily winning the game, don’t give your opponent even the slightest bit of play if it can be avoided.
19...bxc5 20.Qg4 c4
Wow! This has nothing to do with tightening white's position. Instead, White tosses her Knight into the wilderness where it’s all by itself with nothing protecting it. Why risk so much for a one-move threat against e6 (easily defended) when the extra piece will lock in the full point if White just avoids enemy counterplay? 21.Nb4 c3 22.bxc3 is still easily winning for White, even though white's King position has been disrupted. The Knight on b4 is a defensive powerhouse.
Avoiding 22.Qxe6 Rxc5.
White hung the piece back, but retains a clear advantage since Nf3-e5 or Nf3-d4 leaves White with pressure against d5, an extra pawn, and a kingside attack based on h4-f5. 22...Bd7 was also possible:
23.Qg5 Qxe6 24.c3!
At last! White stops the pawn shattering …c4-c3.
24…Nf7 25.Qg3 Nh6
Black has no plan (getting to play ...Ng4 isn’t a plan!), he’s just moving his stuff about in a fog.
White stops the ...Ng4 nonsense. Now White has a simple way to dominate the position (other than the obvious h4-h5): Nd2-f3-e5, followed by Bf3, Rd4, Rgd1, and even Qg2 with a full-on attack against d5.
Black fantasy comment: “Hurt me! I deserve it. Hurt me!”
White fantasy comment: “If you insist on pain, I’ll dole it out. But only because you remind me of my first husband.”
Black fantasy comment: “I’ve changed my mind! Don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me!”
Wonderful! After her poor opening and misguided 21.Nc5, White has pulled things together and is playing very well. She now brings up the reinforcements, insisting that all her pieces participate in the upcoming execution.
28...Ng4 29.hxg6 Bxg6 30.Ng5 Qd7 31.Rh1?
Much too tame for such a drool-inducing position. However, it still gets the job done. Nevertheless, our puzzle asks the question: "What's better than 31.Rh1?"
31...h5 32.Bf3 Rc5 and black’s holding on like grim death (though he’s still completely lost).
Missing the move she missed on move 31.
Black slits his own throat. Better was 32...Rc5 followed by a prayer.
A strong, logical move that, unfortunately, isn’t best.
Giving White another chance at glory.
Missing the same idea she missed on move 33.
Poor Black has no idea what’s going on. Like it or hate it, he had to try 34...Kh8, though that still falls short:
She misses the instant kill again, but her move is actually geometrically beautiful: it doubles on the h-file and continues the pressure against d5. However, in chess “pretty” has to take a back seat to clubbing the enemy over the head and eating his brains:
Strangely, White plays this sacrifice in its most complicated form!
37.Rxg6+ Kf7 38.Qg2 Ke6 39.Rd4?
Sigh. Black’s side of the board is on fire, and White decides to pose by putting the Rook on d4. It wins of course - everything does. But why not finish with style?
Yay! She finds this too! In both cases, it’s better late than never.
41.e5 Qc7 42.Bxd5
This wins, but White has better.
42...Nxd5 43.Rxd5 also wins easily for White, but at least Black wouldn’t go through the total hell that his 42...Rxd5 brings.
43.exf6+ is so obvious and delicious and sadistic that I can only guess our dear Epoqueepique decided to be merciful.
43...Nxd5 44.Qxd5 Kf8 45.Qa8+ Ke7 46.Rg8 Qd7 47.Rb8 Qd3 48.Re8+ Kd7 49.Qc8 mate.
Lessons From This Game
* There is absolutely no reason to hang pieces in midair. Be aware of where every one of your guys is, and be aware if they are vulnerable to attack.
* Do this same “safety laundry list” when you’re about to move something in enemy territory. The closer a piece of yours gets to the enemy camp, the more chances there is of it being snapped off!
* If you’re up a piece for nothing and easily winning the game, don’t give your opponent even the slightest bit of play if it can be avoided.
* If you have an overwhelming position ripe with juicy tactical possibilities, take extra time to try and find the most brutal way to end the game.
* If you are able to end the game, do so since allowing things to linger often results in a painful turnaround.
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