Friday, 22 September 2017

King versus King

About two weeks ago, I did mention that if I was in the right mood, I might wish to revisit one or two of the games that I had played in the Malaysia Chess Festival. So there I was, on 1 Sept, freshly recovered from a one-day break in the Seniors tournament where I had experienced three losses in consecutive games. In the sixth round, I found myself seated across from Fide Master Brian Jones of Australia whom I had last played in 2010. We are now seven years older. Would I be heading for another loss or would I be able to break the chain? I had hoped that it would not be the former.

I had vaguely remembered that he had opened with 1.d4 against me seven years ago. I had sprung a little surprise on him then but I wasn't very confident that I could spring the same surprise on him again. Or could I? In the end, when he did open with the same 1.d4 again, I decided to opt for something slightly less risky. The only question was, what? What could I do? You know, sometimes, when you are faced with such a dilemma, it is best to just let your fingers do the talking, or walking, and to hell with the consequences.

So it turned out that after a moment's hesitation, my mind being an undecided semi-blank, my fingers suddenly flew out to push 3...b5. Yes, the Benko Gambit, which even caught me by surprise. Why on earth would I play this? The only other time that I had essayed this move was....lemme December 1974 at the first Asian team chess championship. Between then and now, nothing! Ziltch! In no other game had I ever played with the Benko. Really, I was going to have to play this game almost by intuition alone.

Before I continue, I have a request. If there's anyone who can pick holes in my analysis or train of thought below, please let me know.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. a4 bxc4 5. Nc3 d6 6. e4 g6 7. f4 Bg7 8. Nf3 Nbd7 9. Bxc4 O-O 10. a5 Ne8 11. O-O Nc7 12. Qe2 Rb8 13. e5 f5 14. Ng5 I can safely say that by this time, I had left all my old memories behind. All my moves until the ninth move were automatic but progressively from the 10th move, I had felt that my position was slowly going downhill. But a little voice kept asking me to play 14... Rb4. (See the first diagram) In hindsight, it was probably the only active move I had.

15. Re1 h6 16. Ne6 Nxe6 17. dxe6 Nb8 18. Nd5 Rxc4 Gosh, suddenly this turned out to the only resource in this position or otherwise, I would be slowly strangled in the centre. 19. Qxc4 Bxe6 20. exd6 Qxd6 21. Rxe6 Qxe6 22. Nxe7+ Kf7 23. Qxe6+ Kxe6 24. Nxg6 Bd4+ I'm down by one pawn but I believe that I have a pretty good game. My bishop is active and the white b2-pawn doesn't look too comfortable there. 25. Kf1 Rg8 26. Nh4 Nc6 27. Nf3 Bf6 28. g3 Rb8 29. Be3 Kd5 30. Rd1+ Ke4 31. Ke2 Rxb2+ There, you see? I've got my pawn back and now I have a very d a n g e r o u s c-pawn that's just waiting to advance! 32. Nd2+ Kd5 33. Kf3 Nd4+ 34. Bxd4 Bxd4 35. g4 c4 During the game, I felt that I should resist capturing the white g4 pawn. The white king on the f3 square takes away a very important square for his knight. 36. gxf5 c3 37. Nf1 Kc4 38. Ne3+ Bxe3 39. Kxe3 c2 40. Rc1 Kc3 41. Ke4 Rb4+ Here, I was debating whether to play this check or to move my rook to the b1 square immediately and eliminate the white rook. I think the ensuing endgame would still be drawn, eg 41... Rb1 42. Rxc2+ Kxc2 43. f6 Rb7 44. Kf5 Kd3 45. Kg6 Ke4 46. f7 (or 46. f5 Ke5 47. f7 Rxf7 48. Kxf7 Kxf5, etc) 46... Rxf7 47. Kxf7 Kxf4 48. Kg6 h5 49. Kxh5 Kf5 50. Kh6 Kf6 51. h4 a6 52. h5 Kf7 53. Kh7 Kf8 54. Kg6 Kg8 55. h6 Kh8 56. h7

Back to the game. 42. Ke5 Rb5+ 43. Ke6 Rxa5 44. f6 Ra4 45. f5 Re4+ 46. Kf7 Kd2 47. Rxc2+ Kxc2 48. Kg6 Re8 (See the second diagram) Should White play 49. f7 or 49. Kxh6? It's so inviting to capture the pawn because the king could still move to the g7 square on the next move. But it is a losing move because I would then gain a tempo to push my last pawn forward. For example, 49. Kxh6 a5 50. f7 Ra8 51. Kg7 a4 52. f8=Q Rxf8 53. Kxf8 a3 54. Kg8 a2 55. f6 a1=Q 56. f7 Qa2 and now starts the long process of pushing the white king in front of his pawn before my king plods back towards it. 57. Kg7 Qb2+ 58. Kg8 (or 58. Kh7 Qf6 59. Kg8 Qg6+ 60. Kf8 Kd3 etc) 58... Qb3 59. Kg7 Qc3+ 60. Kg8 Qc4 61. Kg7 Qd4+ 62. Kg8 Qd5 63. Kg7 Qe5+ 64. Kg8 Qe6 65. Kg7 Qe7 66. Kg8 Qg5+ 67. Kf8 Kd3 68. Ke8 Qg6 69. Ke7 Qg7 70. Ke8 Qe5+ 71. Kd7 Qf6 72. Ke8 Qe6+ 73. Kf8 Kd4 74. Kg7 Qe7 75. Kg8 Qg5+ 76. Kf8 Ke5 77. Ke8 Qg6 78. Ke7 Qe6+ 79. Kf8 Kf6)

Back to the game again. 49. f7 Ra8 50. Kg7 a5 51. f8=Q Rxf8 52. Kxf8 a4 53. f6 a3 54. f7 a2 55. Kg8 a1=Q 56. f8=Q Qg1+ The quickest path to a draw, which Jones and I recognised. However, the problem with not agreeing to a draw earlier was because right until this point, we had believed that both sides still had some slight mathematical chances to win should either player faltered. Momentum simply pushed us forward. 57. Kh7 Qxh2 58. Qxh6 Qxh6+ 59. Kxh6 ½-½ Okay, the queens are off the board and the kings are the only pieces left. Still chances to win? Nahh....

You know, playing till reaching a King versus King endgame is not that uncommon. Why, even as I was completing this story, I've just learnt that in the FIDE World Cup that's taking place in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, two top grandmasters - Ding Liren of China and Wesley So of the Philippines - had drawn a game that was reduced to a similar King versus King ending. Really, it's not that uncommon.

Ding Liren - Wesley So, FIDE World Cup, Tbilisi, 20 Sep 2017
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6  3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 Be7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. b3 b6 7. O-O Bb7 8. Nc3 Nbd7 9. Bb2 c5 10. Ne1 cxd4 11. Qxd4 Bc5 12. Qf4 Bb4 13. Nd3 Bxc3 14. Bxc3 Qc8 15. Rfc1 dxc4 16. Bxf6 Nxf6 17. Rxc4 Qb8 18. Qxb8 Rfxb8 19. Ne5 Bxg2 20. Kxg2 Ne8 21. Nc6 Rb7 22. Rd1 Kf8 23. e4 Nf6 24. f4 b5 25. Rcd4 g6 26. Ne5 h6 27. Rc1 Ke8 28. Kf3 Nd7 29. Nd3 a5 30. Rc6 Ke7 31. a3 Raa7 32. Ke3 Nb8 33. Rc8 Nd7 34. Rc6 Nb8 35. Rc8 Nd7 36. Nc5 Nb6 37. Rc6 Rc7 38. Rxb6 Rxc5 39. e5 g5 40. Rd3 gxf4+ 41. gxf4 Rc2 42. h3 Ra2 43. b4 axb4 44. axb4 Rh2 45. Ke4 Rc7 46. Rxb5 Rc4+ 47. Rd4 Rc7 48. Rc5 Rxc5 49. bxc5 Rc2 50. f5 exf5+ 51. Kxf5 Rxc5 52. Rd6 Rc1 53. Rxh6 Rf1+ 54. Ke4 f6 55. exf6+ Rxf6 56. Rxf6 Kxf6 57. h4 Kg6 58. h5+ Kxh5 ½-½

No comments: