Mike Splane  vs Alex Levitan

Kolti Chess Club  January 20, 2011


1. e4 e5      2. Nf3 Nc6      3. Bb5 Bc5


I think this is the first time I have faced this.


4. 0-0 Nd4


Dana McKenzie wrote a series of articles on 3. … Nd4, check his blog for details. Dana thinks the bishop belongs on g7 and I agree with him so I was happy to see this move.


Transposing into the Four Knights after 4.Nf6   5. Nc3 0-0 is also very good for White. With e4 guarded he can safely take on c6 and win the e5 pawn.


5. Nxd4 Bxd4


A pleasant surprise, giving me a couple of tempos to take over the center. Black usually takes with a pawn and then tries to maintain control of the d4 square, for example 5. … ed  6. c3  c6  7. Ba4 Nf6   8. cd Bd4 9. d3 when Black is ok.


6. c3 Bb6      7. d4 c6


Pushing my bishop to a better diagonal but the e5 pawn was going to be hard to defend otherwise.


8. Bc4 d6      9. de5


I also gave some thought to 9. f4 but decided that the exchange was a safer way to play.


9 … de5      10. Qf3 Qf6


If 10.Nf6  11. Qg5 0-0   12. Bh6 Nh5   13. Qe5


11. Qg3 h6


Necessary if he wants to play … Ne7.


12. Be3 g5


He can’t take on e3 without losing the f pawn and I was threatening to play f4 and open the file, so this was forced.


13. a4


A useful move if he tries to castle queenside. I was also looking at 13. Bb6 ab 14. Qe3 b5  and saw that this would be a stronger idea if I first prevented … b5


13 … Ne7      14. Nd2 Ng6


I thought he should have played 14. … Bc7


15. Bxb6 ab6      16. Qe3 0-0      17. Qxb6 Nf4      18. Rfe1


I wanted to bring my knight to f1 and then either e3 or g3, looking at a great outpost on f5 if he ever swaps bishops, but I wasn’t sure where my rook belonged, e1 or d1. . I didn’t want to go to d1 immediately because of … Bg4. A rule of thumb when defending is to avoid pawn moves in front of your king so I didn’t want to be forced to play f3.


18 … Rd8      19. Nf1 Nxg2


Played after almost thirty minutes of thought. If he plays quietly I’ll play Red1 to contest the d file and trade off a few pieces. To stay alive he has to generate counterplay and this was probably the best idea. As a practical matter he could have tried 19. … h5 to prepare the sacrifice, hoping I would play a passive move like 20. b3.


20. Kxg2


I like Alex and if I lost it would be because he had created a brilliancy. I wanted to give him a chance to show what he had come up with. I didn’t see what he had in mind but decided to be brave and find out.


20 … Bh3+      21. Kxh3 Qf3+      22. Ng3 g4+


Before taking on move 20 I analyzed 22. … h5   23 Qe3 g4+  24. Kh4 Qf6+ thinking I could not interpose on g4. In my mental image the pawn was still on h6. I was intending to play 23. Bf7+ Kf7    24. Qb7+ Kh8  25. Qc6 when I thought I was safe.


22. … g4 is a stronger move than h5, with a couple of threats. The obvious one is to guard the g pawn and check on f6. The less obvious one is to play Qg2 and mate on h3. For either idea to work her needs to put a rook on g8.


23. Kh4 Kh7


If 23.Kh8  24. Qe3 Qg2  25. Qh6+


24. Qxb7


If 24. Qe3? Qg2 25. Kg4 Rg8+  26. Kf5 Rae8 and I don’t see how White can stop mate.  Luckily I decided to grab a pawn instead.


24 … Rf8


Obviously he can’t allow me to check and trade queens or the game is over. If 24. … Kg7 I intended to play 25. Qf7+ Qf7   26. Bf7 Kf7 with an extra piece and no problems.


25. Qd7 Qg2


To avoid a check on f5


26. Qxg4 Kh8

The idea now is to avoid 26. … Qh2+  27. Qh3 Qf2  28. Qf5+


27. Re2


Threatening 28. f3 to trap the queen


27 … Rg8    28. Qh3 Qf3    29. Qf5 Qf4


Alex hates to resign. My king has a few awkward moments but the game is no longer in doubt.


30 Qxf4 ef4      31.Nh5


I wasn’t sure what to do with the knight, but finally decided that I was safe if I could eliminate the f4 pawn.  


31 … f3      32. Rf3 Rg2      33. Rxf3


To guard the f and b pawns.


33 … Rxh2+      34. Rh3 Rxf2      35. b3


There is no need to hurry. He can’t stop Rf1 and Rf7.


35 … Rg8      36. Rf1 Rfg2      


With a mate threat.


37. Ng3 h5      38. Rxf7


Giving back a piece to simplify the game.


38. … Rg4+      39. Kxh5 R4xg3      40. Rxg3 Rxg3      41. a5 Rc3      42. a6 Rh3+


If 42.Rc1   43. a7 Ra1   44. a8=Q+  Ra8  45. Kh6 and 46. Rh7#


43. Kg6 Rg3+      44. Kf6 Rf3+


If 44.Rg8  45. Rh7+ Kh7 Bg8+ etc.


45. Ke6


He can’t stop me from queening so Black resigned.