Tony Scannell (1786) vs. Ciaran Mahon (1742)
Armstrong Cup Round 11
I’m playing for a board prize, and since I needed a win, I had to play for complications. I made extremely hard work of it in the opening, not building any advantage at all, but I got some lucky breaks in the middle game and managed to squeeze the win I needed.
Sicilian, Nimzovitch defense
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. d4 d5
For the rest of the game, click here.
This is the Nimozvitch Sicilian. I have never met this before so was taken by surprise. I figured that pushing the pawn was best, to gain some space and a tempo against the knight, but taking on d5 is better.
5. e5?! (5. exd5 Nxd5 6. Nxd5 Qxd5 7. Be3) 5… cxd4 6. Nb5 Ne4 7. Nbxd4 Bg4 8. Bb5 Qc7 9. O-O Now I thought black was slightly behind in castling his king and I have an annoying pin on the knight. But it is fairly even. I missed a little tactic: 9. Nxc6! bxc6 10. Qxd5! Qa5+ 11. Nd2 Qxb5 12. Qxe4 See diagram. This is the kind of combination Fritz saw after the game. Naturally enough, white is completely winning here, but I wasn’t tactically aware at all. Instead the game continues more calmly.
Possible position after Qxe4, if I had been alert to tactics.
9… e6 10. c3 Be7 11. Qa4 O-O (11… Rc8? 12. Qxa7 Bxf3 13. gxf3 Nc5 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. Qxc7 Rxc7 16. Be2 O-O) 12. Nxc6?!
(12. Bxc6! bxc6 13. Qxc6
Should be a clean pawn up. But black can double the f-pawns and it is not a huge advantage. Because I was looking for the win, I avoided simplifying endgames. See diagram:)
12… bxc6 13. Be2 (13. Bxc6? Rab8 14. Nd4 Nc5 (14… Qxe5) 15. Qc2 Qxe5)
Taking the pawn promises white nothing, because black picks up the e5 pawn.
13… Rab8 14. Qc2 Nc5 15. Nd4 Bxe2 16. Qxe2 Ne4 17. Qg4
Position after 17. Qg4
I felt this gave me attacking ideas against the black king and would force complications. I wasn’t disappointed. Clearly, if black takes on e5, then he loses the exchange to Nxc6!
17…Rfe8 18. h4 Bc5?! The critical point of the game. White wins the knight, which now has no flight square, but loses three pawns, so material is almost even. But this is a good move for me because it creates complications and winning chances. I was almost tempted to not take the knight, but something urged me on. I knew the chances of winning the game were bigger, but also the chances of losing it.
Position after 18…Bc5?!
The following moves are forced for both sides.
19. f3 Qxe5 20. fxe4 Bxd4+ 21. cxd4 Qxd4+ 22. Kh1 f5! 23. Qg3 fxe4 24. Bg5!
Hunting after tactics on f6 and hoping to develop. The b2 pawn is immune because of Bf6. Look at the mass of pawns that black has. If he can withstand the mating threats, and advance the pawns, then he should win. Time is of the essense. I felt that my chances of winning were hanging by a thread.
24…Qd3 25. Qg4 e3 26. h5 (26. Rf3 is even better, winning the e3 pawn.) 26… c5 Black loses his way with a series of slow moves. He needs to whip in e2 asap, creating back rank and promotion threats. Instead, I get time to generate mating threats against his king.
27. Bf6 g6 28. Qg5 Eyeing a possible Qh6 or Qf6 28…c4?? (28… e2 29. Rfe1 e5 30. Bxe5 Rb6! Stops Qf6. 29. Be5!
I saw all the moves from here almost to the end and felt confident I was winning now. Black’s c4 was a disaster for him. My plan is brutally simple: to put either a queen or rook on f6 and mate the black king sooner or later. Black’s threats in the middle just come too slowly now. Prior to this move, things had been very dynamically equal.
29…Rf8 The only move to prevent Qf6. 30. Rf6! Hard to see, but very natural and powerful. It attacks g6 too, as well as maybe introducing Raf1, hxg6, and other moves. Black cannot take on f6 without letting the queen in.
30…Rb7 31. hxg6
31… Rxf6 32. Qxf6 Qxg6 33. Qh8+ Kf7 34. Rf1+ Ke7 35. Qf8+ Kd7 36. Qd6+ 1-0 Mate follows in two moves.