Game of the Month

[Event "WCC v. FCCC 2019"]

[Date "3/31/19"]

[White "Larry Price (1948)"]

[Black "Daniel Messplay (1803)"]

This is the one and only win of our expedition to Norwalk to challenge the Chess Club of Fairfield County. Dan's first game was a draw.

Notes by Daniel Messplay, DC annotation by Daniel Cooper, GOTM editor

1. e4 d6

This is somewhat of a running joke between Alan and I. I've tried making the Pirc work over the last few months and routinely get crushed. Alan has told me to abandon it altogether. This game he was sitting right next to me, so of course I had to play it!

2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 g6

White chooses to play it safe and not grab a big center. The downside of this is that Black equalizes fairly easily.

4. Nc3 Bg7 5. h3 c6 6. Nf3 O-O 7. O-O Qc7 8. Bf4 e5 9. Bg5 Be6 10. Bb3 Nbd7 11. d4 Bxb3 12. axb3 exd4 13. Nxd4 Nc5 14. f3 Ne6 15. Be3 a6

White was threatening Nxe6 fxe6 and Rxa7.

DC: No! 16.Nxe6 fxe6 17. Rxa7 loses a piece to 17…Rxa7 18. Bxa7 b6. 15…a6 tilts at windmills, but ultimately is ok because it supports a queenside or center pawn expansion.

16. Qd2 Rad8 17. f4?!

DC: White’s move does not follow from Qd2 on the last move and thus makes his queen misplaced. Bh6 seems more obvious in the position after Qd2. The corollary to this is that Rad8 is an example of wrong rook. Though White does not follow through on his plan of getting the fianchettoed bishop off the board, Black still may have needed to prevent it by playing Rfd8, and then followed probably by the expansion on the queenside, using the a8 rook and a6 pawn as supports. In this position, b5 would create an immediate threat on the e4 pawn with b4, if now the a6 pawn weren’t hanging.

17…d5?! 18. e5 Ne4

This was tough to play. But, 18...Nh5 19. g4 Ng3 20. Rf3 Ne4 seems to play right into White's plan of a kingside pawn storm.

DC: 17…d5 might have been a bit overeager here, which is why Ne4, though best, is tough to play. After 17…Nc5, White has problems holding on to the e4 pawn—another reason Qd2 and f4 were bad moves for White. 18.e5 dxe5 19.dxe5 Ne4 and Black wins a pawn and his pieces come alive.

19. Qe1

I'm not sure White had anything to fear about the uncovered pin after 19. Nxe4 dxe4. The text move is too passive.

DC: I agree completely. White is better after Nxe4.

19...Nxc3 20. bxc3 c5 21. Nf3 d4

Black is in the driver's seat now.

22. Bc1?

Keeping an eye on f4, and maybe re-routing to a3? I think Bd2 or Bf2 is fine for White.

22…d3 23. cxd3 Rxd3 24. Bd2 Rfd8 25. Qc1 c4

25...Qb6 hitting b3 and threatening c4 picks up another pawn and is stronger than the text move.

26. b4 Qc6

The point of this move is actually to load up on f4. It prevents white from supporting f4 with g3 because of Rxf3. Black is also eyeing a centralized post for his Queen.

27. Kh2?! Bh6 28. Ra2 Qe4 29. Ne1?

White is pinched, but this loses immediately. The f4 pawn is toast. Rf2 is actually a move that holds. After ...Bxf4 Bxf4 Qxf4 Qxf4 Nxf4 White has Ne1! hitting the d3 Rook and uncovering an attack on the f4 knight. This would be tough to spot OTB.

DC: This analysis is correct. I would only add that Black doesn’t have to take with his Queen on f4 but can simply take with the knight immediately. Then after Ne1, Black has Rd1 which will eventually end up in a series of trades where Black ends a pawn up but in a double rook endgame which is likely a draw. But White’s 29th move helpfully prevents all this by losing on the spot.

29...Rxd2 30. Rxd2 Bxf4+ 31. Rxf4 Qxf4+ * 32. White Resigns

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