Swale Club Championship - Round Seven
Thursday 14 January 2016
White: K. Nevols - Black: D. Marsh (103)
With two wins, two draws and two losses, I was settled in mid-table in the Club Championship with four games to go. The top five (our of eleven) would go through to the final group and so a win here was important to keep me in contention.
1. e4 c5
My first encounter this season with the Sicilian Defence.
I once had a spell with the Grand Prix Attack (2. f4) but, after being influenced by some games by Boris Spassky, adopted 2. Nc3 with a closed Sicilian in mind. The advantage of this system is that the first few moves virtually choose themselves.
2. ... Nc6
3. f4 e6
4. Bb5 g6?!
This doesn't seem to go with the previous move and so perhaps Be7 is better.
5. Bxc6 bxc6
6. Nf3 Bg7
7. O-O Ne7
Playing to e7 rather than Nf6 has the advantage of not blocking the bishop, and d5 can be prepared.
I usually prefer to wait until Black has castled before thinking of the Qe1-g3 or -h4 manoeuvre but decided at this stage to prepare d3 without having to worry about doubled pawns. Although perhaps I should not worry about 8. d3 Bxc3 9. bxc3 d5.
8. ... Bd4+
A surprise. Usually the king has to go to h1 anyway if Black thinks of Qb6. Maybe Black ought to castle or play Ba6.
I considered 9. Nxd4 exd4 10. Ne2 Qb6 11. d3 d5 but didn't like it much. As there are some holes in Black's position I decided to keep the knights in case they become useful (as they do!).
9. Kh1 Ba6
10. d3 d6
10. .. d5 might have been more energetic or just castling.
Threatening Nxd4 cxd4; Qf6 winning a pawn. If Black castles here, White can whip up an attack with 12. Ng5.
An imaginative move. This connects the back rank and finds a comfortable spot for the king. So now I am thinking of how I can open some central lines.
12. Ne2 Bg7
Now 13. Ng5 is interesting. Black could meet it with Qf8 or Qg8. Is White then able to sacrifice a pawn with f5? Instead I decide to centralise the rook with a long term plan of d4.
(After 13. Ng5 the computer recommends 13. ... Ke8!? which would rather defeat the purpose of moving the king in the first place).
13. Rd1 h6
Defending the knight and continuing to prepare d4.
14. .... d5?!
Black decides to get rid of his doubled pawn problem ... by sacrificing one of them! I don't know if this was an oversight or a sacrifice to ensure the exchange of queens but I get a clear pawn up.
15. Qxc5 Qb6
16. Qxb6 axb6
For his pawn, Black has two well placed bishops and straightened out pawns with possibilities of a break on the queenside. White however can now close down the position to block the bishops and try to find good squares for the knights.
17. c3 f5
18. e5 Ke8
I want to put a knight on the d4 square and this is to deter c5
19. ... Rd8
20. Be3 b5?
A positional mistake which blocks in one bishop and weakens more squares. 20. ... Rb8 looks ugly but holds. My plan is now to get the knights onto the c5 and d4 squares and advance on the queenside to open the a-file and get the rook into play. His bishop on the kingside is out of the game.
(After 20. .. Rb8 the computer recommends 21. a4 and then a5).
21. Ned4 Kf7
22. Nb3 Bc8
23. a4! bxa4
24. Rxa4 Bd7
Knight number one is in position and the a-file is open. Going well so far.
25. ... Bc8
26. Ra7 Ke8
And now his friend joins him. The e-pawn cannot be defended. If 27. ... Kf7 then 28. Nxc6.
27. ... g5
Seeking counterplay to activate the kingside pieces who have not done anything yet.
An improvement might have been 28. Rxe7 Kxe7 29. Nxc6+ Ke8 30. Nxd8 Kxd8 31. Ra7. White is two pawns up, has a passed pawn to run with, and has ideas around Ra7 or Ra8.
28. Ncxe6 might also be more accurate so the other knight keeps an eye on c6 and f5.
28. ... Rg8
29. Nxd8 Kxd8
30. g3 might be better keeping the centre together and if the g-file opens there is the Rg1 possibility.
30. .. Bxe5
31. d4 Bd6
32. gxh6 f4
I had overlooked this move.
33. Bf2 Rh8
34. Bh4 Rxh6
35. Bxe7 Bxe7
I am the exchange and two pawns up. However I am rather worried about those two bishops. If they can take active positions in the direction of my king, things could get difficult. So my plan now is to exchange one of them.
36. Rf1 Bd6
37. Nb7+ Bxb7
38. Rxb7 f3
39. Rxf3 Rxh2+
40. Kg1 Rh6
Now I am happier. I am about to get rook activity and one more exchange should finish things off.
41. Rff7 Re6
42. Rh7 Re8+
43. Kf2 Re7
44. Rh8+ Re8
45. Rxe8 Kxe8
Preparing to advance the g-pawn.
46. ... Bf8
Picking up the c-pawn. Black now decided to call it a day and resigned.
I was very happy with this win and unusually don't think I made any mistakes. My championship record was now Played 7 Won 3 Drew 2 Lost 2 and I was in 5th place out of 11.