Polimac vs. Scannell

Played on Saturday, February 19th, 2011.
Armstrong Cup, Kilkenny vs Rathmines (board 6).
Polimac, Darko (1989) vs Scannell, Tony (1822)

Replay Game Here
Reti Opening or Nimzovich-Larsen attack

1. b3 Nf6 2. Bb2 d5 3. Nf3 c5 4. e3 Nbd7 5. Bb5 a6 6. Bxd7+ Bxd7

Black has the two bishops, which turns out to be decisive. But there’s a long way to go yet.

7. O-O Bg4 8. d3 e6 9. Nbd2 Be7 10. Qe1 O-O 11. Ne5 Rc8 12. f4

White starts expanding on the kingside, black has to be careful.
12…d4 13. Ne4 Bf5 14. Nxf6+ Bxf6 15. e4 Bg6 16. Ng4 Bh4

This zwischenzug forces white to weaken the black squares around his king. Better would be to move the queen.
17. g3 Be7 18. Ne5 f6 19. Nf3 Qd6!

A funny-looking move, because the queen can be booted with e5, but d5 is the actual target.
20. e5?! Qd5! 21. Qf2 fxe5 22. Nxe5 Be8 23. Qf3?!
Swapping queens just increases the range of the bishops.

23…Qxf3 24. Nxf3 Bf6 25. Rae1 Bd7 26. Re2 b5 27. Nd2?

White makes a misstep. He wants to re-route the knight to e4, an admirably strong square, but black has a move in the meantime.

27… e5!! A pawn sacrifice to wake up the potential of the two bishops.
28. fxe5 Bg5 29. Rxf8+ Rxf8 30. Nf1
Already white must abandon thoughts of moving the knight to e4 because of the threat of Be3.

30… Bh3

Contrast this with blacks position just before 27…e5. Now the bishops dominate the board, hemming in the king and knight.31. Rf2 Re8 31…b4 is probably better. 32. b4! An excellent move that gives white’s own bishop freedom. 32… Rxe5 33. bxc5 Rxc5 34. Bxd4 Rd5 35. Bb6 b4 Eyeing Ra4 but also threatening Re5 with a re-routing of the rook to white’s first rank, when b4 blocks the bishop moving to a5 and protecting e1.
36. Be3 Bf6 37. Nd2 Ra5 38. Nb3?
Better is Ne4. The knight has no role on b3 and becomes a target of the a-pawn once white’s own pawn falls. 38…Rxa2 39.Re2 a5 40. Kf2 a4?!

Black is winning comfortably now. The pawns prove impossible to stop. Ironically, Bg4! was an even better move, winning the exchange after Rd2, Bc3.
41. Nd4 Bg4!
Black takes his opportunity the second time. 42. Rd2 b3? Neglecting white’s next. Better was a3! 43. Nxb3! Calm and correct, this throws blacks plan into question. 43…Bc3 Much better than 43…axb3, 44. cxb3 Ra3 45. b4 Rb3 46. Bc5 and black has work to do. 44. Nc1 Ra1 45. Ne2 Bxd2 46. Bxd2 Bxe2 47. Kxe2 a3 This pawn cannot be stopped now.

48. Bc3 Rh1 49. d4 Kf7?
What’s wrong with Rxh2+? Nothing! So this move is just overly cautious. 50. Kd3 Ke6 51. Kc4 a2 52. d5+ Kd7 53. Bxg7 a1=Q 54. Bxa1 Rxa1
I was very cautious in reaching this endgame, by moving the king to the centre. White, objectively, is losing, but with so many pawns, there is a fair chance black could mess up.
55. Kd4 Kd6 56. Ke4 Rc1 57. Kf5 Rxc2 58. h4 Kxd5 59. g4 Rf2+ 60. Kg5 Ke5 61. Kh6
Around about here I thought I might walk into a stalemate or another kind of draw situation. 61… Rf7 62. g5
I was down to 4 minutes here and sweating, have I walked into a draw?

62…Kf4? Much simpler is Kf5! 63. g6 hxg6 64. Kxg6 Rf5 65. h5 Rg5+ 66. Kh6 Kg4
0-1 White resigned. In the end, the threat of some swindle didn’t materialise.

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