Wednesday 11 September 2019

Game Changer: Best Game

Back in June we enjoyed the fabulous Game Changer event, presented by Grandmaster Matthew Sadler and Woman International Master Natasha Regan.

Now that the Game Changer book has made it to the shortlist of the English Chess Federation Book of the Year contest it seems a good time to look back at the best game from June's exciting event, which saw the dynamic duo of Natasha and Matthew stumble to their first-ever defeat on Teesside.

White: Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan
Black: David Baillie

1. e4 e6 

Natasha and Matthew were not to know, but David, a former county champion is a renowned expert on the French Defence...

2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 

...and in the Winawer Variation in particular. So much so that he once played the White side of it against me in a local league match, which meant he had to play a rare (for him) 1 e4.  The immediate point of 3 ...Bb4 is to pin the knight and threaten 4 dxe4. There are some lines in which White sacrifices the pawn for attacking chances, but 4 e5 is easily the most popular move for White.

4. e5 

A typical pawn structure for the French Defence. White hopes the e-pawn will give a space advantage for some time, enabling good attacking chances. From Black's point of view the centre is a target which can be attacked in various ways.

4 ...Ne7 5. Bd3 c5 6. a3 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3 Qa5 

Black is now hoping the weakened white pawns will be a liability. 

White is still looking to utilise attacking options, which often involve bringing the bishop pair to life...

8. Bd2 c4 

...which is why Black tries to keep the bishops quiet by locking the pawn structure in place. 

9. Be2 Nbc6 10. h4 

An ambitious plan by White, trying to clamp down on Black's space as much as possible. Note the king has yet to castle though and now that both flanks have weaknesses it may have to take its chance by staying in the centre.

10 ...Bd7 11. Nh3 O-O-O 12. a4 f6 

This standard French break is aimed at breaking up some of the centre. If it works, the uncastled White king will start to feel uncomfortable.

13. exf6 

White could have tried 13 Bg4, giving Black the option of blocking it up with 13 ...f5 or heading into the murky complications with 13 ...fxe5 14 Ng5.

13 ...gxf6 14. Nf4 Rhg8 

Black's moves seem easier to find than White's and David's tremendous experience in such positions helps him to find the correct plan in order to seize initiative.

15. g3 Nf5 16. Nh5 Rdf8 17. Bf3 e5 

Black is doing very well indeed after this central thrust.

18. Kf1 e4 19. Bg2 e3 

An excellent move which is highly consistent with previous play. White's position is in real danger of falling apart completely.

20. Bxe3 Nxe3+ 21. fxe3 Qxc3 22. Bxd5 Bg4 

Another very strong move, this time using the bishop that is often criticised in the French Defence, as it can often end up stuck behind the pawns for most of the game. White's best now would be to offer a swap of queens with 23 Qe1, to try and take some of the sting out of Black's considerable attack. After 23 ...Qxe1+ 24 Kxe1 Bxh5 25 Bxg8 Rxg8 Black still has the advantage but it would not be as large as in the game.

23. Bf3 

The natural move - especially when playing lots of games simultaneously and quickly - but it leaves the a1-rook to its terrible fate.

23 ...Bxf3 24. Qxf3 Qxa1+ 25. Kg2 Qc3 

Black's extra rook is clearly a winning advantage, but in simultaneous displays it is always worth playing on for a while as the unusual circumstances can lead to very strange things happening.

26. Nxf6 Nxd4 

Another smashing blow by Black. 27 exd4 Qxf3+ 28 Kxf3 Rxf6+ would simply be an excellent liquidation for Black, as White would have very little left with which to try and cause any problems.

27. Qd5 Qd2+ 28. Kh3 Rxg3+ 

Very nice; Black's extra material turns into useful ammunition.

29. Kxg3 Qxe3+ 30. Kg4 Qe2+ 31. Kg5 Ne6+ 32. Kf5 Qh5+

Another sacrifice, but 33 Kxe6 Rxf6+ 34 Kxf4 Qxd5 would win the queen. 

33. Ke4 Qg6+ 

At the very least, Black is going to capture the white knight for nothing and keep White's king in mortal danger, so it was time for White to resign. 0-1 

Notice how neither of the white rooks moved during this game.  A very powerful performance by David. 

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