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