Hope you're ready to see another ridiculous game. If you've followed my blog before, you may have seen some weird attacks, interesting endgames, or just overall crazy chess. I just played a tournament in which I managed to win 3 games and draw 6, not losing any games. This kind of result would indicate that I was playing very solid chess, but no matter how solid or "normal" I try to play, I always seem to end up with at least one ridiculous game that is a total mess. I find that these are the most fun to play and I wanted to share with you yet another one of my "crazy" games.
This game was played against Alexandre Kretchetov from the recent Metropolitan GM Norm Invitational tournament. I started the tournament with two draws and I was paired against FM Kretchetov in the next game. He is a very solid player with a classical repertoire so I decided to try the English against him to mix things up a little.
The game started off with an uncommon line in the English, and with an early queenside advance which resulted in clearly drawn battlegrounds for both sides. White was better on the queenside and had reasonable control of the center and Black was better on the opposite wing with a decent central presence as well. The lack of tension between our pawn structures allowed for more maneuvring before the game needed to open up.
I attempted to open up the game on move 14 with 14. c5 expecting him to play ...d5 after which I was prepared to sacrifice a pawn with 15. c6, opening lines and squares for my pieces to hop into. I generally liked my position at this point, but I thought when I'm attempting to open up the side of the board I'm stronger, he would surely try to keep it closed. He surprised me with his next move, 14... Ng6, ignoring my threat of opening the queenside. I continued along the pre-programmed path, opening up the queenside with 15. cxd6. I soon gained a pawn with a good position. At this point, once your pieces have worked together to achieve something such as a material advantage, it's worth it to stop and take in the position again. Your better pieces give you the chance in many cases to trade your dynamic advantages, such as your better development/piece placement for long-term advantages like material. Often in the time it takes to win the material your opponent will have improved his pieces and the nature of your advantage changes. I didn't recognize this as much as I should have. Once I won the extra pawn, my focus should have been on consolidating my position, making sure I didn't allow my opponent's slightly improved pieces to cause any havoc. With my 19th move Nc4 I allowed a good move that my opponent didn't miss. In still trying to play actively, I failed to sense the shift of momentum that had occurred and I would recommend anyone to try to use this thought process when the nature of your advantage converts into another form!
He played the strong move 19...e4! and after this, rather than admit my mistake of playing too actively, and retreating my knight that was under pressure, I decided to continue in the same way as my previous move, with the strange move 20. b6, sacrificing a knight. This sacrifice was almost totally sound but my opponent missed a strong defensive resource. Let's see if you can find it!
It looks like my a-pawn is going to promote for sure but if you can minimize the damage that it is going to do, that would be the best way to continue for Black. If you found 22...Rf6 you would be doing better than both my opponent and me during the game! It doesn't seem like the hardest move to find, but in the middle of a tense game your intuition sometimes can take over and that's not a common defensive thematic idea. It also shows the practical value of playing with the initiative and making your opponent find precise defensive moves.
Soon we reached a double Queen middlegame in which I had a Queen and pawn for two minor pieces but my Queen and Bishop were trapped in the corner. Not exactly your typical middlegame position, especially after being up a clear pawn earlier in the game. I would not recommend complicating the game further like I did once you reach a much better position!
Due to the poor placement of my pieces in the queenside corner, I tried to activate my remaining pieces as quickly as possible. In a few moves I had managed to clarify the situation with a sacrifice of my second queen.
After a wild and strange middlegame in which anything was possible, a nice calm endgame really appealed to me. The winning process wasn't so easy but eventually after reaching time control, my opponent slipped up a little and I was able to gain the full point.
So, not the easiest path to victory, but definitely one of the more crazy ones! It goes to show how much you can learn from analyzing your own games - even the wins!