Game of the Month

March 2019 Game of the Month: Christopher Potts (W, 1944) v Christopher O'Connor (B, 1958)

[Event "Westchester Chess Club Winter Swiss"]

[Site "Scarsdale, NY"]

[Date "2019.02.21"]

[Round "3"]

[White "Potts, Christopher"]

[Black "O'Connor, Christopher"]

[Result "1-0"]

[WhiteElo "1949"]

[BlackElo "1958"]


1. d4

{In our previous encounters at WCC when I had White the openings have

been Grunfeld Exchange Variations: 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5

5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4. This opening tends to be very positional in

nature. White wants to make use of his big center, while Black tries to prove

that White's center is built on a foundation of sand. In addition Black wants

to use his pressure along the a1-h8 diagonal to pressure White's Queen-side and,

ideally, to get his Bishop to d4, where it can spearhead a King-side attack.

Chris O'Connor has scored 1-1-0 in our encounters, so I fully expected another

helping of Grunfeld.}

1...d5

{I was both surprised and relieved to see this. In our previous game he beat me

convincingly in spite of the hours I had invested preparing for the game. I spent

no time studying the Grunfeld for this contest, and it turned out not to matter.}

2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 c5

{The Tarrasch Variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined. This line almost always

leads to one of the players getting an isolated d-Pawn. The Pawn can give certain

middlegame advantages (better center control, more space, useful outposts), but

becomes a problem in the endgame. It was Tarrasch himself who remarked that if a

player is not comfortable playing with an isolated d-Pawn, he should give up

playing d-Pawn openings.}

5. cxd5 Nxd5

{Black does not want to play with the isolated d-Pawn, but this allows White to

make a quick thrust in the center.}

6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3

{And so White ends up with a Pawn structure similar to that found in the Grunfeld

Exchange (White Pawns on c3, d4 and e4), but Black's Bishop is not on g7.}

7...Nc6

{Allowing White to advance further along the d-file. It may have been more

prudent to play 7...cxd5 first.}

8. d5 exd5 9. exd5

{Now comes the question of where to put the Knight. There are three safe squares,

but each is somewhat problematic. 9...Nb8 is undeveloping and ceding White 3

tempi. 9...Ne7 blocks in the King-side Bishop, costing more time to finish

developing and get castled. That leaves 9...Na5 putting the Knight on the

rim, where it will be proverbially dim. On the bright side, it pressures the c4

square. White will need to play c3-c4 at some point if he wants to solidify his

d-Pawn.}

9... Na5 10. Bb5+

{Develops with a threat.}

10... Bd7 11. Qa4

{Threatens to win the Knight with 12. Bxd7+ Qxd7 13. Qxa5.}

11...Qe7+

{An intermezzo to prepare for Queen-side castling.}

12. Be3 b6 13. O-O

{White is now ready for the middlegame while Black is still developing.}

13...Bxb5

14. Qxb5+ Qd7

{And suddenly Black is on the verge of solving all his problems! If White

trades Queens, there is no longer any need for Black to castle. With his

superior Pawn structure, Black would have very good chances.}

15. Qe2

{White does not want to make it that easy for Black. 15...Qxd5 is tricky

due to 16. Bxc5 with discovered check.}

15...O-O-O

{Black has gotten his King to the side and gotten a Rook into play, but the

King's castle is a bit breezy.}

16. Ne5

{The first crucial moment of midgame tactics. I'm a bit hazy on what I was

thinking at this moment, but taking the d-Pawn can get hairy, e.g. 16...Qxd5

17. Qg4+ Qe6 18. Qxe6+ fxe6 19. Nf7 wins the Exchange. 17...Kb7 18 Rad1 is

winning, while 17...Kc7 (or 17...Kb8) 18. Rad1 Qxe5 19. Bf4 wins.}

16...Qb7

{Black felt discretion was the better part of valor here.}

17. c4

{Solidifying the d-Pawn, which is now a protected passed Pawn.}

17...f6

{To displace White's excellently-placed Knight. This will weaken c4, part of

Black's long-term plan.}

18. Qg4+

{Echoing Black's 11...Qe7.}

18...Kb8 19. Bd2

{Rather than retreat his Knight and weaken c4, White takes advantage of Black's

King and Queen being on the same file. If 19...fxe5 20. Bxa5 and Black cannot

play 20...axb5 due to 21. Rb1.}

19...Qc7

{Black removes the threat to his Queen. White now considers the minor piece

situation and concludes that he has the superior Bishop, while Black's Knight

is the only real threat to his Queen-side Pawns.}

20. Bxa5 Qxe5

{He can't play 20...bxa5 as 21. Nc6+ wins the exchange.}

21. Rab1

{White uses the Black King's somewhat exposed position to gain a tempo.}

21...Bd6

{Black finally gets the chance to play a real attacking move!}

22. g3

{White is forced to weaken the Pawns around his King. Black now plans to use his

Pawns as battering rams to shatter White's castle and expose the King. 22. f4

loses to 22...Qd4+ followed by 23...Qxc4 and White's d-Pawn will fall soon.}

22...f5 23. Qf3

{White's Queen stays near the King to help defend against the coming assault,

but also gains access to the Queen-side. 23. Qd1 was also possible. I was already

thinking about the likely position after White's 28th move when deciding where to

place the Queen.}

23...Rdf8

{Here comes Black's attack.}

24. Rfe1

{But first, White seizes the only open file on the board.}

24...Qf6 25. Bxb6!

{It is White who attacks first!}

25...axb6 26. Rxb6+ Kc7

{26...Ka7 is suicide in view of 27. Rfb1 and 28. Qa3#.}

27. Rc6+ Kd7 28. Re6

{This was the position I envisioned when playing 23. Qf3. In case of 28...Qxe6

29. dxe6+ and White's Queen protects his Rook. As it turns out, even 23. Qd1 is

okay as 28...Qxe6 29. dxe6+ Kxc6 30. Qa4+ Kb6 31. Qb5+ Kc7 32. Qd7+ wins the

Bishop, when White's Queen and advanced Pawns should prevail. The text is a

bit simpler, though I had not foreseen Black's next move, which saves his

Bishop.}

28...Qa1+ 29. Kg2 Bb8

{Black was hard-pressed to find a good spot for the Bishop. For example, 29...Be7

30. Qf4 Rc8 seems to keep White's Queen out, but 31. Rcd6+ Bxd6 32. Qxd6#, While

29...Be5 or 29...Bc7 30. Qa3 and White's Queen comes in at either c5 or a7. The

text prevents Black's Rooks from assisting on the Queen-side.}

30. Qb3 Rc8 31. Qb7+ Rc7 32. Rcd6#

{If 31... Bc7, 32. Rcd6 is still mate. This game took some imagination and was a

lot of fun for White to play.}

1-0


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