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Simpson vs. Mabe – Big Enchilada II

The Big Enchilada II championship game was filled with drama and risk. Chris Mabe had just beaten FM Kassa Korley in round 4 and thus was leading the tournament with a perfect score of 4.0. I had a score of 3.5 points coming off of an exciting tactical duel with Patrick McCartney.

The stage was set for Chris and me to play for the championship. The winner would take clear first place and the $1000.00 dollar first place prize. –The Big Enchilada–

In many tournaments the final game is anticlimactic with regard to exciting and dynamic play because the top players don’t want to risk placing out of the money. The economics in chess is such that you really can’t blame players. Chris was in a relatively good place in that if he draws or wins, he takes clear first place. If he loses he would tie for second with possibly two other players. The economic impact ranged from taking the $1000.00 first place prize to possibly sharing the remaining prizes of $500, $300, etc… I on the other hand was faced with a dilemma in regards to the game results. If I loss I would place at the end of the prize chain ($100.00). But if I won I would be the Big Enchilada II champion. What would you do if you were in our place?

Chris and I have faced each other in tournament deciding games for many years. Our match record is about equal and our USCF ratings are only a few points from each other. We have played many openings against each other with hopes of gaining an advantage. Most of our games end in knockdown, drag out, fighting draws.

I received the white pieces and I knew that Chris was very confident in his ability to play anyone with the French Defense. My preparation was well spent as we entered the Kings Indian Attack vs the French defense. I think you will agree that this game had no indication of ending in draw.

Mabe: OK, so I have black in the last to win the whole thing. I had brief thoughts of offering a draw early in the game but Simpson never accepts early draw offers so I never even bother.

R Simpson vs Chris Mabe
1. e4 e6 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 c5

Mabe : [I could have played.. 3...Nf6 4.Ngf3 Bc5 5.e5 Nfd7 6.d4 Be7 7.Bd3 c5 8.c3 Nc6 9.0–0 g5 but this position is unclear at best.; 3...dxe4 4.dxe4 e5 Black's position is very solid but the chances for active play are minimal.]

4. Ngf3 Nc6 5. g3 g6 6. Bg2 Bg7 7. O-O Nge7

Mabe : This is a sharp line. I learned a long time ago that if I only need a draw in the last round then I should play a sharp line where my opponent will have to take some risk as well. That way if the position gets too messy they will be reluctant to continue the game because they may lose the game as well.

8.Re1 b6 9. Qe2 Bb7 10. e5 h6 11. h4 g5

The opening moves have followed the King’s Indian Attack (KIA) opening theme perfectly. The center is closed and white has divided the board right along the e-file with 10.e5. One of the ideas for white is to load up the pieces on the Kingside with Nf1-h2-g4 and Bf4. The e-pawn prevents black from expanding with his f-pawn because the e-pawn would become very weak as a result of the exchange e5xf6. White could counter black’s strategy by expanding on the Queenside pawns with b5 then c4, or d4 and Nd5.

Diagram-1 white to move (11…g5 Risky?)

Chris prepared 11…g5 with 10…h6 and holding back on Kingside castling. My first thought was that my preparation was poor. I couldn’t recall seeing this move or idea. I sank into deep thought, thinking that he was gaining a central pawn for a wing pawn. Did I miss something? I reflected on all of the developing moves in the opening. My pieces appeared to be on good squares and his pieces were also on good squares. But the text move forces me to liquidate the pawns. What was the drawback? His king was still in the center of the board, thus making his f-pawn and e-pawn ripe for a knight sack. Also, how was he going to regain the pawn? The drawback of exchanging pawns is that my pieces become very active about his King. Could he consolidate and castle queenside?

Mabe: The idea is to trade the g-pawn for the e-pawn. I played h6 to induce h4 so I could have the open h-file to work with.

12. hxg5 hxg5 13. Nxg5

Diagram-2 Black to move (13.Nxg5)

Capturing the e-pawn seems logical but what about the following alternatives:
a) 13…Ng6
b) 13…Nf5
My initial thought was he needed to capture my pawn or I will protect it with the solid looking 14.f4. But the drawback to my f4 is that my g-pawn looks very weak and my pieces are no longer looking very active. Not to mention a drafty kingside and lots of great squares for his knights.

Houdini provides some analysis:

a) 13…Ng6
14. f4 Nd4 15.Qd1 Nf5 17.Bh3 .Rxh3 18.Nxh3 Nxg3 19.Qg4 Nf5 20.Nf1 Qd7 21.Ng3 Nd4 22.Qd1 Nh4 23.Ng5 O-O-O 24.Nh5 Bh8 25.Be3 Ndf5 26.Bf2 Kb8 27.Qg4 Ng6 (-0.04)


14.Nb3 a5 15.a4 Bxe5 16.Qg4 Qf6 17.c3 Nge718.Nf3 Bd6 19.Qg5 Qxg5 20.Bxg5 Kf8 21.d4 c4 22.Nbd2 Rd8 23.Nh4 Kg7 24.Be3 Rc8 25.Ndf3(+0.02)

b) 13…Nf5
14.Ndf3 Nfd4 15.Nxd4 Nxd4 16.Qg4 Kf8 17.Qd1 Qc7 18.Bf4 Nf5 19.a4 Re8 20.a5 b5 21.a6 Bc6 22.Qd2 Nd4 23.b4 Qb6 24.Nf3 Nxf3+ 25.Bxf3 d4 26.Be4 Bxe4 27.Rxe4 Qc7

The text move seemed like the most logical.


Now this is the position I had foreseen from 11…g5. My thoughts continued to focus on smashing the center but I couldn’t find a solid plan. I couldn’t determine with any tangible moves why I felt I was better. So, I decided to add another piece to the action.

Mabe : The engines evaluate this position as roughly = but it certainly seems easier for white to play in my opinion.

14.Ndf3 N7g6 15. Nxe5 Bxe5

Now I had to fight back my feelings. I must be winning cried that little man standing on my shoulder! But how, why, what is the plan? But the little man said nothing.

Diagram -3 White to move (15…Bxe5)

My time was ticking down, I could feel the strain of performing calculations, and yet victory felt like it was just a few moves away.

My concern focused on the placement of his pieces. Could he exploit my kingside? I concluded that his pieces looked misplaced for any aggressive action. However his position could improve within a short period of time. I considered the following:

a) 16.Qf3 with the idea of pressuring the f-pawn.
b) 16.Qg5 with the idea of playing Nxe6.
c) 16.f4 with the idea of playing f5 after 16….Bd4+ 17.Kf1
d) 16.d4 with the idea mentioned in c and also considerations of Qb5+

Houdini provides some analysis:

a) 16.Qf3 Qe7 17.Qe7 Qe2 18.Bf6 Nf3 19.O-O-O 20.a4 a5 21.d4 cxd4 22.Qd3 Rh5 23.Nxd4 Kb8 24.Nb5 Qc5 25.c3 Rdh8 26.Qf3 Rf5 27.Be3 Qc4
b) 16.Qg4 Qd6 17.c3 Bc8 18.d4 cxd4 19.cxd4 Bf6 20.Bd2 Bd7 21.Rac1 a5 22.Bf1 e5 23.dxe5 Nxe5 24.Qd4 Kf8 25.Bf4 Re8 26.Bg2 Rh5 27.Ne4
c) 16.f4 Bd4+ 17.Kf1 Ne7 and I have nothing to show for being overly aggressive.
d) 16.d4 Bf6 17.Qg4 Nf8 18.dxc5 Rc8 19.c4 Rxc5 20.cxd5 Rxd5 21.Qa4+ Qd7 22.Qxa7 Rd1 23.Be3 Rxa1 24.Rxa1 Bxg2 25.Qxd7+ Nxd7 26.Kxg2 Rh5 27.Ne4 Bxb2 28.Rb1 Bg7 29.Bxb6 Ke7 30.f3 Rd5 31.Be3 f5 32.Bg5+ Kf7 (+0.39)

16. c3

I played this move because it allowed me to retain my options. All of my previous candidate moves were still playable.


Mabe : This move gives white an initiative after the game continuation but I felt that I needed to get some kind of coordination in my position. [16...Bf6 17.Nxe6 fxe6 18.Qxe6+ Kf8 The computer evaluates this position as slightly better for black, but computers are stupid and no one in their right mind would choose to go into this position for black.]

17. Qg4

Did I make a mistake?
Houdini has the following line:

17…d4 18.cxd4 Bxg2 19.Kxg2 Qb7+ 20.Qf3 Qxf3+ 21.Nxf3 Bxd4 22.Nxd4 cxd4 23.Bg5 Rc8 Bf6 Rh5 24.Re4 Ne7 25.Rxd4 Nd5 26.g4 Rh7 27.Rxd5 exd5 28.Re1+ Kd7 29.Re7+ Kd6 30.Rxa7 Rc1 31.Bd4 Rd1 32.Ra3 Rhh1 33.Rb3 Rhg1+ 34.Kf3 b5 35.Ra3 Rc1 36.Ra7 (-0.32)

I think my move was Ok. But maybe Chris needed to play 17….d4 with line provided by Houdini.

The text makes Chris’ game difficult to play.

Mabe : This is a strong move which I completely overlooked.

17…O-O-O 18. d4

Diagram 4 black to move (18.d4)

The natural looking moves for Chris have tactical consequences. For example:
a) Bf6 is met with Nxe6!
b) Bc7 is met with Nxf7!

Chris played:


Houdini indicated white is up by +1.73 with 19.Qf3. The game continued:

Mabe: I had a long think before playing this move. My idea was the game continuation and I thought it was my best chance to complicate the game. All other continuations seem too easy for white. [18...Bf6 19.Nxe6 fxe6 20.Rxe6 Qd7 21.Bf3; 18...Bc7 19.Nxf7 Qxf7 20.Rxe6 Ne5 21.Rxe5+]

19.Qe2 f4 20. Qg4 fxg3

I couldn’t resist taking the Bishop because all of my analysis indicated he wasn’t losing.
My main line started with 21.fxg3 cxd4 22.cxd4 Bf6 23.Rxe6 Qd7. However Houdini provided 21.fxg3 cxd4 22.cxd4 Bf6 23.Nxe6!! (+10.0)

21. dxe5

In our post game analysis Chris thought I played this move too quickly. He was correct.

Mabe: [21.fxg3 cxd4 22.cxd4 Bxd4+ 23.Qxd4 e5 24.Qg4+ Kb8 This is probably the strongest continuation.]

21…gxf2+ 22. Kxf2

Mabe: This position is the one I was thinking about when I played f5. It is very unclear. While black is down a piece he will have an initiative for a while against the naked white king.


I was now very concerned. Chris is doing it again. He is finding resources in the position!!

I am up a piece but it doesn’t feel like I am winning. He has the initiative.

23. Kg1 Rf5 24. Bd2

Mabe: [A typical computer line runs... 24.Qg3 Nh4 25.Bh3 d4 26.Bxf5 Nxf5 27.Qf4 Rh1+ 28.Kf2 Rh4 29.Qd2 Rh2+ 30.Kg1 Ne3 31.Qxh2 Qxg5+ 32.Kf2 Qf5+ 33.Kg1 Qg6+ 34.Kf2 Ng4+ 35.Ke2 Qc2+ 36.Bd2 d3+ 37.Kf1 Nxh2+ 38.Kg1 Qxd2 39.Re2 Qxe2 40.Re1 Qg2#]

Rg8 25. Nf3 Qf8 26.Ng5 1/2-1/2

I offered the draw at this point because he simply had too much pressure and was exhausted.

Chris had no reason to risk playing on because the draw offer provided him with clear first place. The natural move 26…Nxd5 27.Qh3 is messy. I think the game could have continued as follows:

27…e5 27. Qh3 Qe7 28. Bf4 Rfxg5 29. Bxg5 Rxg5 30. Rxe5 Rxe5 31. Qh8+ Kd7 32. Qxe5


27. Qh3 Qe7 28. Bf4 Rxf4 29. Rxe5 Rxg5 30. Rxg5 Qxg5 31. Qxe6+ Kc7 32. Re1 =/+

Chris played courageously and solid throughout the tournament congratulation in winning the Big Enchilada II. I certainly look forward to our next encounter in the NC Invitational championship.

Mabe: And here Ron offered me a draw. The position is still highly unclear so I accepted without much hesitation.

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