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Simpson-McCartney Big Enchilada II

The Big Enchilada II hosted some really strong candidate masters and experts. During round one I walked around the open section boards observing the competition. The positions on the boards didn’t indicate the usual advantages to the higher rated player. The tone was clear that the masters were not going to have an easy time. Round two proved to be a shocking revelation to my initial observation.  Eric Lindauer’s (1925) resourceful and determined play held me to a draw. About two boards down from me James Watson (1907) was holding has own against NM Rusty Potter (2224) with a draw. Also, Corry Marsh (1858) held Robert Fisher (2067) to a draw. I must confess I was hoping to be pared with Robert Fischer! I can only imagine the extra pressure of playing chess with a famous name.  But the explosive news came from board one when John Smithwick (2015, former master) defeated IM Jonathan Schroer (2431).  Wow, the unsettling feeling that no master was safe was now a tangible reality.

In round four I was paired with Patrick McCartney, a very strong candidate master who in our last encounter defeated me in Asheboro NC.  Patrick has a solid positional style which is supported by a strong theoretical understanding. But what makes him especially dangerous is his ability to become highly tactical, sacking pieces courageously to mate his opponent’s king. I knew in this encounter I needed to be precise in my calculations. Here is our game from round four:

R Simpson (2299) vs P McCartney (2053), round 4
1.e4 c6 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 e5 4. Ngf3

The King’s Indian Attack against the Caro-Cann defense may not provide white with anything special but the opening struggle isn’t without problems for black.

Bg4 5. h3 Bxf3 6. Qxf3 Ne7

Diagram-1 White to move (6….Ne7)

The position in diagram-1 confused me because once he exchanged his light squared bishop for my knight the rest of his pieces didn’t seem to have much scope. I had a hard time recognizing a good plan for black. So, it was difficult for me to determine how I should develop my pieces. I turned to the general rule of opening up the center and giving my Bishop pair more opportunities. I struggled with the following strategies:

A) Open the center with exd5 and fianchetto  my f1-Bishop.
B) Exploit the drawback of his last move with Qg3.
C) Develop my pieces in preparation to meet his Kingside castling.

I choose plan B with very little confidence.

7. Qg3 Nd7 8. Be2 Ng6 9. h4 Nf4 10. Bf3 Qa5 11. O-O O-O-O

Now I was really upset with how I developed my pieces. The features in the position that I thought were good for me (e.g.: Bishop Pair) didn’t seem go good. I had to focus better.

12. Nb3 Qc7 13. Re1 Bb4

The text moves were natural moves and I had calculated playing c3 sacking the d-pawn:
14.c3 Nxd3 15.Rd1 Nxc1 16.cxb4 Nxb3 17.axb4 dxe4 18.Bxe4 Kb8 19.Qxg7
But the triple b-pawns bothered me.

I settled for the text thinking my position would improve.

Charles: After Ron’s thoughts to 18. Bxe4, the position is interesting. I tried several programs and they all claim it is a draw after very deep analysis (over 41 ply). Computers will penalized doubled and tripled pawns, more so if they are isolated and even more so if they are on a semi-open file with opposing rooks on the board. After 18. Bxe4, the positional static analysis (no search) is enlightening.

Here is a detail static analysis of the position from the program Crafty by Dr. Robert Hyatt. Note that all scores (no matter the column) are from white’s perspective. So, a positive score is good for white and a negative score is good for black no matter the column.

Material -1.05 White Black
Pawns -0.94 -0.39 -0.55
Passed Pawns 0 0 0
Knights 0.04 0 0.04
Bishops 0.57 0.57 0
Rooks 0.33 0.67 -0.34
Queens 0.01 0.03 -0.02
Kings 0.56 -0.34 0.9
Total -0.48    

The scores are in percentages of a pawn. The total score says that black is up by 48% of a pawn and the details tell us why. The raw material score is better for black by 1.05. Black has one extra pawn and the black pawns are so much better placed that the pawn placement score gives black an extra 94% of a pawn with white’s triple isolated pawns contributing to a penalty of 39% of a pawn. The white Bishop is well placed (+57% of a pawn) while the black Knight is poorly placed (+4% of a pawn for white = -4% for black). The queens are nearly equally placed while white’s king is evaluated better than blacks due to the semi-open files in front of black’s king that rooks can attack on (a side benefit of the white’s tripled pawns).

This shows that Ron’s belief in black having the stronger position is correct. Combine this with computer dynamic analysis (search included) which indicates a draw and Ron shouldn’t play into it. Why should he give black a slight advantage and play for a draw?

14.Nd2 f6 15. a3 Bd6 16. b4 h5

Now I was getting very concerned. Black has the better position and he is about to attack my Kingside. I was completely focused on defense. I needed to make sure on how I was going to defend my king. With the center somewhat closed I focused on the h-file. I wanted to get my knight on f5 and control the h3-c8 diagonal.

17. Qh2 d4

He closed the center with d4 which allows my knight the c4 square. Ok I no longer needed to get my knight to f5. All I could think about was remaining focus on the reality of the board. What are the pieces doing now and what can do?

18. Nc4 g5 19. g3 Ne6 20. Bg2 Rdg8 21. Bh3 Nef8

Ok, the game is now developing with respect to how I envisioned. With every move I was feeling more confident that my defensive strategy was working.

22. Bf5 Kb8 23. Bd2 gxh4 24. Qxh4 Ng6 25. Qh3 h4

The moment of truth, black is sacking his knight. I calculated as deeply as I could. My first thought was he doesn’t have enough. His Queen and Bishop are out of play. He can only attack with two rooks and a knight. My King can run if needed. Ok forget the general stuff and find exact moves. What happens if I take the knight on d7?

Well since I couldn’t see anything wrong with taking the knight.

26. Bxd7 hxg3 27. Qe6 gxf2+

Charles: Better is 27… Bxe7 The text allows white to go from draw to +2.1 pawns.

28. Kxf2 Rh2+

This was the position I had seen. I had calculated that he had too many pieces under attack. I originally thought it was best to move my King to f1, but why? Kg1 and attack another piece, this means that he now has three pieces under attack. The discovery when the knight moves is harmless because the Rook on g8 is under attack.

29. Kg1 Rg2+ 30.Kf1

Yes this is the only trick which holds on to the pieces. Obviously I can’t take the rook due to the double check with Nf4 and winning my Queen.

30. … Nh4

Oh no did I miss calculate? If I take his Bishop I am lost. Examine the position and find the winning move.
Charles: Yes, Kh1 was best, but Kf1 doesn’t lose. 30.Kh1 Ne7 31.Rg1 Rxg1 32.Rxg1 Rh8+ 33.Kg2 Rd8 34.Qxd6 Qxd6 35. Nxd6 Rxd7 and white stays up a minor piece.

White to move

My original thought was to simply take the Bishop with my Queen. But after knight f3 I see that black is threatening mate with Nh2.

So let go through every possible move which holds the position.

a) 31.Re2  I get mated in two moves.
b) 31.Qxd6 (31…Nf3 32.Re2 Nxd2+ 33.Ke1 (33.Rxd2 Rg1+  34.Ke2 R8-g2 =) Nf3+  =/+)
c) 31.Nxd6 Nf3 32.Re2 Nxd2+ 33.Rxd2 Rg1+  34.Ke2 R8-g2 =
d) 31.Bc1 or h6 Nf3 32.Rd2 Rg1+ 33.Kf2 R8-g2+ 34.Kxf3 Rg3+ =

So I needed a move which changed the dynamic around my King. Could I protect against the knight coming to f3? Yes but at the cost of my Queen. Qh3 simply doesn’t work. My king needed space. Timing was everything. I was up material and I was threatening to win the Bishop.

What move buys me space and time (Space in terms of my king being able to move and time in that after Nf3 black isn’t threatening mate.)?

I think that all those hours of solving chess problems have helped me in this moment.

After the text move all is well.

31. Bg5

Black is forced to capture the Bishop with the Rook on g2.

31…R2xg5 32. Nxd6 Nf3 33. Ne8 Rg2

Now black can’t do everything at once. The text is forced and the game is technically over.

34. Qxg8 Rxg8 35. Nxc7 Kxc7 36. Bf5 Nxe1 37. Rxe1 Rh8

The remaining text demonstrates a winning plan.

38.Ke2 a5 39. Be6 axb4 40. axb4 Kd6 41. Bc4 b5 42. Bb3 c5 43. Rf1 Rh6 44. Kd2
cxb4 45. Kc1 Ke7 46. Kb2 Rh8

Now black can’t prevent the loss of his pawns.

47. Ra1 Rf8 48. Ra7+ 

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