Eric Steger (1879) - Mike Splane (2205)
Kolty Chess Club July 17, 2008
1 e4 e6 2. d4 c5
I like this move order to get into the Sicilian. It avoids the closed Sicilian, and a couple of sidelines: 3. Bb5 and 4. Qd4
3. c3 Nf6 4. Bd3
Serge Bierhuizen played 4. e5 against me. www.cob.sjsu.edu/splane_m/chess/bierhuizen.htm That’s a better move.
4. … cd 5. cd Nc6 6. Nf3 Nb4
This wins the bishop pair at the cost of time and space, but Black’s position is so rock solid that those disadvantages won’t matter. I’ve been in this position three times counting this game, and won them all. When I looked up this position in Chesslab.com’s database I only found two games, a draw and a win for Black. Pretty cool to have 90% winning chances as Black on move six!
7. 0-0 Nd3 8. Qd3 d6
In the two games in chesslab.com Black played 8. … d5. This move is better. Black gets a typical Scheveningen-style small center, with a few key differences. The absence of the d3 bishop cripples White’s usual kingside attacking plans. The b8 knight just gets in the way in most Sicilians, so getting rid of it helps Black. The c2 pawn has shifted to d4, so the c file is open. The open lines running through the through the d4 square that White usually enjoys are blocked. Almost all pawn exchanges favor Black because of his two bishops. White has no active plan; he has to sit back and try to hold the center. Eric comes up with a good plan in this game, trying to give me a bad bishop.
9. Nc3 Be7 10. b3 0-0
I was briefly worried that he might have an idea based on Ba3, then saw that I could attack the bishop with … Qa5.
11. Bb2 a6 12. Rac1 b5 13. a3 Bb7 14. Nd2
I like this move. Eric sees that his e4 pawn will be attacked, so he overprotects it ahead of time. He also gives himself the option of playing f3 or f4.
14. … Qb6
Not just to threaten 15. … b4, but also to put pressure on the a7-g1 diagonal if he pushes the f pawn.
15. b4 Rac8 16. Rfe1 Qa7!
The key in winning the battle for the c file will be knight outposts on c4 and c5. He has to get rid of my d6 pawn before he can use the c5 square, so his position is already slightly worse. The queen move makes way for the knight to travel c4 via d7 and b6. I also was thinking about the possibility of Be7-d8-b6 if he pushed the f pawn. And lastly, the queen can go to a8 to put more pressure on the e pawn.
I was intending to sac my queen after 17. Nb3 Rc4 18. Nd2 Rc7 19. Nb5 Rc1 20. Na7 Re1+ 21. Nf1 Ne4
17. … Qa8 18. f3 Nd7 19. Nb3 Bg5
Instead of this I looked at 19. … f5 trying to weaken his center. I like my game after 20. ef Rf5 but didn’t like the position if he played 20. Rc8 when I can’t recapture with my rook.
20. Rc8 Rc8 21. Bc1
A very good move. He gets his bishop back into action and takes back control of the c1 square so he can oppose rooks.
21. … Be7?
21. … Bh4 is the right move. If 22. g3 Be7 the a8-h1 diagonal is weakened. If he moves the rook 22. R-any Nb6 23. Bf4 Be7 24. Be3 Nc4 and I’m a tempo ahead of the game. I played the bishop to e7 so he couldn’t play Bf4, gaining a tempo to play Rc1. I didn’t see that his bishop belongs on e3 to prevent … Nb6.
22. Be3 Nb6
The critical moment. He has to take advantage of the opportunity to get counterplay with 23. d5 Nc4 24. de fe 25. Nbd4. During the game I thought I could meet this easily with 25. … e5 and 26. … d5, missing that he can play 26. Nf5 attacking my bishop. After 26. … Bf8 27. Nc3 he has a nice home for his pieces on d5.
I can also try 25. … d5, avoiding the backward pawn and immediately opening the position for the bishops. I was a bit worried about that because the e6 pawn will be a lasting weakness after 26. ed Bd5.
23. Na5 Nc4
I wanted to play 23. … d5 24. e5 Nc4 but after 25. Nb3! I’ve killed my bishop and given away the c5 square. White would have a free hand to attack the kingside and would be completely winning.
I wouldn’t have minded if he captured the bishop, it is my only bad piece. After the knight trade his queenside pawns are fatally weak.
24. … Rc4 25. Rc1 d5! 26. e5
Consistent, trying to kill my bishop. Of course I was more than happy to play 26. Rc4 bc 27. Qc3 de 28. fe Be4 29. Qc4 Bg2.
26. … a5 27. Rc4 ?
After 27. Nc3 Bc6 he has no counterplay, but he has to keep all of his pieces on the board to have any chances of holding this position.
27. … dc 28. Qc3 ab 29. ab Qa4
This is stronger than 29. … Qa2 30. Bd2 Qb1+ Be1 because he has a hidden weakness, the h2 pawn
30. Bd2 Qd1+ 31. Kf2 Bh4+
While he is tied up I was tempted to make a flight square for my king, but decided on this active line.
If 32 Ke3 Qf1 is crushing.
If 32. g3 Be7 when he is tired up. I will play … h6 and … Bd5 before trying anything active.
32. … Qh1! 33. Bg5 Qh2
Not 33. … Bg5? 34. Nh1
34. Bh4 Qh4
With a winning bind. The knight is pinned and can’t move. The king can’t move without losing the knight. The queen is tied to the defense of the d4 pawn. I’ll improve the position of my king and bishop before proceeding with the plan to break up the g2-f3 pawn chain by pushing my pawn to g4.
35. Qa1 g5
Incidentally, this threatens to win a pawn by 36. … Bf3 followed by a queen check to win the knight.
If 36 Qh1 to get rid of the pin, then 36. … Qd4+ 37. Kf1 Qe5 threatens the knight, and if the knight moves 38. … Qa1+ wins the queen.
36. … Bd5 37. Qb8+ Kg7 38. Qb6
If 38. Qb5 Qd4+ 39. Kf1 c3 49. Qc5 Bc4+
38 … g4
Stops the possibility of a perpetual check on f6 and d8 but, more to the point, breaks down his defensive fortress. If 39. f4 Qh2 40. Ne2 Qg2+ 41. Ke3 Bf3 42. Nc3 Qc2 wins.
39.Qc5 gf 40. Qd5
This stunned me. Is he going for a stalemate defense? What’s the idea?
Now he said, “Oh, I forgot my knight was pinned.” Then he stopped the clock and we shook hands.