Game of the Month

First, the definitive "Game of the Month" from Joe's Guads. Misha, Daniel and Nathan each provided some notes.

Westchester Chess Club, Scarsdale, NY
Joe's Guads Round 3
January 17, 2019
W: Mikhail Roshal (1789)
B: Nathan Goldberg (1819)

N: This game was the deciding game for this Guad. I had 1-1 and Mikhail had 2-0, going into it. If I won, we’d have tied for first, pending the outcome of the make-up game between the other 2 players in our group. **
1. e4 Nf6
2. Nc3 (M: Hoping to transpose to the Vienna.)
2. ... d5 (D: The standard response in this line.)
3. exd5 Nxd5
4. Bc4 Nxc3
5. Bxf7+??
(M: White has not started playing; could simply resign here. 5. Qf3 d6, 6. Qc3 with equality. N: We both had the same chess blindness, the momentary illusion that White wins a pawn when in fact he just loses a piece.)
5. ... Kxf7
6. Qf3+ Kg8
7. Qxc3 (M: 7.dxc3 is more active.)
7. ... Nc6
(N: White is down a piece for a pawn, but Black’s development is awkward. Considering his blunder, Misha’s game could be worse. I was nervous, but expected I could consolidate and win. Nevertheless, there were big challenges ahead.)
8. Nf3 Be6
9. 0-0 Qd5
(N: Strengthening the weak white squares, my first priority. Meanwhile, Black develops quickly.)
10. Re1 (D: Our friendly Stockfish says White is 3.50 down here.)
10. ... Bf7 (M: A bit passive. D: I agree.)
11. d4 (D: Just providing a target for Black. M: Ne5 immediately is "objectively better.")
11. ... Rd8
(D: A good idea, but e6 immediately is probably better, to justify the last move and to set up the pin on b4. N: I was satisfied with my progress. My king is safe, my development is nearly complete, and my center is solid. But I’m still playing without my h8 rook!)
12. Bf4 e6
(N: Setting up the threat (Bb4), which it appeared he must have missed.)
13. Bxc7?!
(M: Objectively better is Qb3; White knows what's coming [14. … Bb4], but exchanging queens makes Black's job easier. D: But what about Qe3 immediately? N: Against most queen moves, I was planning on playing Bd6. Every trade helped me, as I saw it.)
13. ... Rd7
14. Be5 Bb4
15. Qe3 Bxe1
16. Rxe1 Nxe5?!
(M: This just lets White back into a game that was otherwise over. D: I disagree slightly. White has to worry about d4 and queen trades. If the bishop on f7 stays where it is, is protected, and the king can get out of the way, Black getting the h8 rook into the game will decide. In principle, I find no fault with Black's move, as it removes a near-equally menacing bishop from the center of the board too.
N: I was focused on simplifying, not looking to attack. My computer engine likes 16. … Bh5 or Qxa2, but these moves wouldn’t have occurred to me.)
17. Nxe5 Rd8
18. c4? (M: Poor, but white must play aggressively if unsound.)
18. ... Qxd4
19. Qf3 (M: The point of c4.)
19. … Rf8
20. Qxb7 h5
(N: Here again, 20. … Bh5 is recommended by the computer. But I was still anxious about my weaknesses, and I could not conceive of attacking until my extra rook was activated.)
21. Qe7 Rh6
22. c5 Rf6?
(M: 22. … Be8! wins on the spot. 23. Nf3 Rxf3, 24. gxf3 Rg6+, 25. Kh1 Bc6 wins. N: I was eyeing f2, but now my anxiety turned to his passed pawn. In the heat of the moment, I couldn’t calculate beyond the exchange sac, to see the win after 22. … Be8, 23. Nf3 Rxf3)
23. Nf3 Qd5
24. Qxa7 Be8 (M: Rg6 is faster. D: I'm not so sure after Kh1.)
25. Re5 Qd1+
26. Re1 Qd3
27. Qe7 Qd7
(D: Seeking a queen trade, of course; but why make 3 moves with the queen just to trade off? This seems like an awful waste. N: I thought Qe7 was a mistake, allowing me to force a trade of queens. If I had been calm enough to know my king was safe, 27. … Bc6! would have been my preferred reply.)
28. Qxd7 Bxd7
29. Ne5 Bb5
(D: The bright side for white is that he has potential compensation for being a rook down with three connected passed pawns. But he's still down a rook!)
30. f3
(N: Computer says White has moved closer to equality here, that Black’s advantage is less than 1.5. But I felt like the win was still solid, I just needed to blockade his trio of passed pawns. Easier said than done!)
30. … Rc8
31. b4 Kf8
32. Ra1 Ke8?! (D: Ba4! N: Agreed.)
33. a4 (N: I give a4 a ? because of my reply, creating the blockade I wanted.)
33. … Ra8!
34. a5 Rf4
35. Rb1 Rf5
36. Re1 Rf4
37. Rb1 Kd8
38. Kf2 Rd4?!
(D: This just provokes a tempo for the white king. N: 38. … Rf5 was my alternative, and I regretted not playing it. I had more confidence in my rook gaining the d-file than was warranted, since it also gave his knight the d6 outpost. Kicking the knight immediately was better.)
39. Ke3 Rd5
40. Nf7+?! (D: It's important to acknowledge just how well white is holding on here. The position is otherwise stable and the extra black rook has little room to make good on the advantage. So why provoke the black king getting to a good defensive post on the queenside? f4 might have been better; followed by Kc7 Rb2 Rf8 then Rf2.)
40. ... Kc7
41. Nd6 Kc6 (D: Now White's position is borderline hopeless. N: I had blockaded the pawns, and now I had to start picking them off. But how?)
42. Rb2 Rb8
43. g3 Bf1
44. Ne4
(N: Protecting the c5 pawn, otherwise Rxc5 would win it because of the pin. No cheapos allowed! 😉)
44. … Rd1
45. Kf4?? (M: A time pressure blunder makes things easier.)
45. ... Rd4
(N: Now the key b-pawn falls, and I felt I could relax. I was sure White could not save the game now.)
46. Rf2 Ba6
47. Ke5 Rdxb4
48. Kxe6 Bd3
49. Rd2?!? Bxe4
50. fxe4 Rxe4+
51. Kf5 Re7
52. Kg5 Kxc5?!
(D: This is where Black starts to go wrong, I think. Re5+ followed by Rxc5 nets a pawn without issue. N: I didn’t see any problem. Pawns are trading off, and my extra rook should decide the game. My plan was working fine.)
53. Rc2+ Kd4
54. h4? (D: And a counter-blunder right back! Just take the pawn! The a pawn is lost anyway. Better yet, how about Ra2! Then while one rook is tied down grabbing the a-pawn, White might be able to snag a pawn or two on the kingside and get drawing chances!)
54. ... Rb5+
55. Kg6 Rxa5
56. Rd2+ Kc3
57. Rf2 Kd3
58. Rf3+ Ke2
59. Rf4 Ra3
60. Kxh5!
(D: Now, probably in time pressure, Black plays a natural move.... N: Mr. Cooper is wrong, I wasn’t in time pressure. I was simply too satisfied with my position – complacent after all y previous fretting. I didn’t suspect a drawing tactic based on stalemate, and an extra 20 minutes wouldn’t have helped.)
60. ... Rxg3??
(N: Simply 60. … Re5+ would bring home the win.)
61. Rf2+!!
(N: I suddenly saw his drawing tactic, to my dismay. I decided to invest a few minutes, to consider whether I could either get my king somewhere safe to end the checks or give up the extra rook and fight it out.)
61. … Kd3
62. Rd2+
(N: I now concluded neither of those options would work to my satisfaction, so the game rightly ended in a draw with this move. What is impressive is that Misha didn’t give up, and shifted his focus several times to keep me feeling pressure. I’m proud that I was up to the task, and carefully worked it into a winning endgame. But I didn’t keep up with his final shift, and he pulled off a magnificent draw. What an exciting game!)
½ - ½
D: A great game played by both sides! Kudos to Misha for finding the resource at the end.

** Epilogue: Lenny won his makeup game the following week, so if Mikhail lost this game the Guad would have ended in a 3-way tie for first place at 2:1. Instead, he finished as the clear winner.

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Selected game(s) will appear the following month.

Alan Kuras,
Feb 12, 2019, 5:46 PM