Darren the Tiger against Philip the Heffalump

Irish Championships 2011, 7th July 2011.
Darren McCabe (1949) vs. Philip Short FM (2293)
Annotated by Darren McCabe

This game is interesting as its a good demonstration of what kind of game plan you should have when you are playing somebody who is much higher rated than you! Recently I read a book called Chess for Tigers in which the author gives a lot of good practical advice on how to deal with players who vastly out rate you. He compares these players to a mythical creature called a Heffalump. These creatures are stronger than you (the Tiger) in every conceivable way and to go toe to toe with them on equal terms is suicide. The author goes onto state that instead of fighting these players on open terrain or in the jungle where they are stronger than you, you should try an entice them into a swamp! The idea of which is that they may come unstuck in the muddy conditions! So what does this mean on a chessboard? My gameplan should be to entice him into a complicated positon where he has more chances to go wrong and this is what I tried to do.

French Winawer – Replay Game Here
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4
The Winawer, I was happy to see this move as the mainlines of this lead to complicated positions. My problem with going into the mainline is that Philip has played this position for the last 30 years with success. I needed to come up with something a little different.
4. e5 c5 5. Qg4

This was the move I had prepared. White attacks the pawn on g7, the capture of which complicates the game. Another idea is that white can play Nf3 without cutting the queen off from the Kingside and white can also play dxc5 which attacks the bishop on b4. This move has been criticised in alot of books and therefore is unpopular. I did manage to find some interesting analysis on this line which generally had an assessment of “Black can probably equalise with best play but the positions are extremely messy which can give white good practical chances”. According to my gameplan this opening was a perfect choice. It must also be said that the likelihood that my opponent had played these positions before was slim and that by studying these positions before the game gave me a huge advantage.
This move is best. Black gambits the pawns much like the main line of the Winawer. The idea of which is that while white is busy taking pawns on the Kingside with his queen, it may become misplaced allowing the Black queen to strike on the queenside. Kf8 misplaces the King and g6 weakens the dark squares around the black kingside.
6. dxc5
With this move, white attacks the bishop on b4 and opens lines for his pieces. The downside is that he’s weakening his centre and allowing a pawn majority in the centre. (6. Qxg7 Rg8 7. Qxh7 cxd4 8. a3 Qa5 9. axb4 Qxa1 10. Nce2 Nbc6 and black stands better)
6… Nbc6 Black wastes no time putting pressure on the vulnerable d4 and e5 squares. (6… Bxc3+ is an alternative. Black cripples the queenside pawns with this move. However, compared to a mainline Winawer, white hasnt had to play the move a3. This has won him a tempo and keeps open ideas of Ba3. I could give pages of analysis on this move but I’m supposed to be annotating a game not writing an opening book! The game can continue 7. bxc3 O-O 8. Bd3 Nd7 9. Nf3 Ng6 10. Bxg6 hxg6 11. Ng5 Nxe5 12. Qh4 and Black will not survive. Ok black can defend better but I gave this line as a taste of what can happen if black plays too routinely.)
7. Qxg7 Rg8 8. Qxh7

White takes the two pawns causing massive complications on the board. This puts pressure on Black to prove compensation for the pawns. I’m now 3 pawns up so Philip has to play accurately and not allow me to consolidate the position.
8…d4 this move is critical. Any other moves allow white an easy time. Black attacks the pinned knight.
9. a3 Ba5 This is a mistake. (9… Qa5 This move is clearly better. The bishop is immune to capture as the rook will hang. The queen also exerts more pressure on the c3 knight. I had looked at this position the night before and was confident that 10. Rb1 dxc3 11. Be3 gives white an edge. A sample line may continue Bxc5 12. b4 Bxb4 13. axb4 Nxb4 14. Nf3 Bd7 15. Be2 Rxg2 16. Bg5 Ng6 17. Kf1 Rg4 18. Qg8+ Nf8 19. h3 Re4 20. Bf6 with a good position for white.)
10. b4 dxc3 11. bxa5 Qxa5

Ok, time to take stock of the position. White for the moment is 2 pawns up. The pawns are however weak and the likelihood is that Black will be able to win them back. White has the two bishops, which in an open position can cause havoc and white also has a passed h-pawn. Black will endeavour to try win back his lost material by capturing on c5 and hopefully e5 with his queen. If he can achieve this, he will stand very well. So the battle will be contested around whites weak pawns. These pawns are most likely destined to be lost but Whites advantage lies in the fact that he can give them back on his own terms. While Black is trying to round them up, White will get counterplay by pushing his h-pawn down the board. This in turn ties the Black pieces down
12. Nf3 Qxc5 13. Qe4
The white queen returns to protect the e5-pawn and moves out of the way of the passed h-pawn.
13…Ng6 Black in turn gangs up on e5. 14. Be3 White develops the bishop with tempo.
14…Qa5 15. h4 This move is correct. White gives his e5-pawn to open the position further for his bishops. With the pawn on e5 gone, whites dark squared bishop can influence the important a1-h8 diagonal after a move like Bd4.
15… Bd7 black declines the offer for the moment but I don’t think it changes much.
16. h5 on it goes! Ngxe5 17. Nxe5 Qxe5 18. Qxe5 Nxe5 19. h6 Ng4 20. h7 Rh8

And Blacks rook is tied down! I must admit here I over estimated my position. I thought that after Bd4 I was completely winning. Black has a few hidden resources in the position and Philip does well to find them.
21. Bd4
Played fairly quickly and without much thought. I put the Bishop on its ideal diagonal and attacked the c3-pawn. This seems the most natural move in the position but its inaccurate. It occurred to me after the game that the manoeuvre Bc5-Bd6 may be stronger. Fritz gives this line: 21. Bc5 b6 22. Bd6 Rc8 23. Rh4 f5 24. Be2 Rc6 25. Rd1 with the idea of Bxg4 and Be5, when Black can pretty much resign.)
21… e5 22. Bxc3 White snatches the pawn. This gives Black counterplay. White could have have still played the Bc5-Bd6 manoeuvre with similar ideas to the last note.
22… Rc8 23. Kd2 Not best, white leaves the f2-pawn en-prise. I thought that the pawn was immune due to the weakness of the e5-pawn. (23. Rh3 is better. Nxf2 24. Bxe5)
23… Nxf2 I thought my opponent had blundered! Here i got really excited at the prospect of beating a Fide Master and instantly played
24. Bxe5 as so happens in chess, you see tactics after you make the move. Philip instantly replied 24…f6

My heart sank! I felt sick to my stomach. I realised straight away that the f6-pawn was immune and with the rook and the bishop both attacked, I knew i was losing one of them.
25. Re1 Not the best continuation I could have chosen. It can be very hard to regain composure after the disappointment of allowing a winning positon to turn into a losing one. (25. Bd4 is the best, when black can struggle to convert the point. Nxh1 26. Bd3 Ng3 27. Bxf6 Kf7 28. Bxh8 Rxh8 29. Rb1)
25… fxe5 26. Rxe5+ Kf7 Here is a very important moment. I knew I was lost. So what can I do? Do I resign? Do I cheekily offer a draw? Or do I say to myself, “Okay I know im probably going to lose but I’m going to make it as hard for him as possible. In that Chess for Tigers book I mentioned earlier, the book has a chapter on the Art of Swindling. The book says that most swindles occur when the weaker side captures the iniative and creates problems for the stronger side to solve. With this in mind I played my next move quickly and confidently.
27. Rh4 this move threatens Rf4 forking King and knight. 27…Ng4 28. Rg5 I played this move with the thought of giving up a rook for two pieces and maybe being able to set up a fortress with the Rook, Bishop and Pawns. 28… Nf6 29. Bd3 Be6 30. Bg6+ Ke7 31. Bd3 threatening Rg7.
31…Rcf8 stopping any g7 ideas. I was playing these moves almost instantly. Philip was short of time in this position as he had used alot of time earlier in the game. By playing quickly, I’m exerting more pressure on him.
32. Re5 threatening Bf5 ideas 32…Kd6 33. Rb5 threatening the b7 pawn. Over the last few moves I have been creating as many problems as possible for Philip to solve. If he solves them correctly I will lose but if he makes a slip especially in time trouble, I might be able to save myself.

33… Bd5 (b6 or Rf7 might be better.) 34. Rd4 pinning the bishop and threatening c4. 34…Ke5 Philip makes a mistake, allowing me to save the game with the following tactic: 35. Rdxd5+ Nxd5 36. c4 Rf2+ 37. Ke1 Rxg2 38. Rxd5+ Ke6 this position is drawn. Black’s h8-rook is tied down to stopping the h7-pawn. Black cannot make any progress without that rook. White on the other hand will play a4-a5 to set up a fortress in which all of whites pieces are defended.
39. a4 Rg7 40. Kd2 Rc7 41. Kc3 and the game was drawn.


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3 Responses to Darren the Tiger against Philip the Heffalump

  1. leon fagan says:

    nice recovery Darren a pity about blunder as you seemed to have a strong position.Looks like you will be an fm or im before long

  2. John burns says:

    Ah Leon, lay off the gear, man
    No, seriously, good recovering tactic Darren. Well played

  3. leon fagan says:

    john are you refering to jamaica blue?good coffee

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