Festival International des Jeux – rounds 4 – 6.

The  tournament thus far has not been a particular success. I have played six lower rated opponents and only won two games. Worse than that I have had positions that were more or less winning in rounds 1,2 and 5 and scored two draws and a loss. On the other hand I did win a very nice game in round 6. Anyway here are the results from round 4,5 and 6.

Round 4 – Black vs Jean De Lagontrie (1760)

Although the early middle game was quite interesting, but the position quickly became completely blocked. With the knights exchanged and the heavy pieces about to be exchanged on the single open file I could see no reason to decline my opponent’s draw offer.

Round 5 – White vs Yves Roche (1806)

I played quite well for much of this game, gradually improving my position in a typical Maroczy bind, but just when I had a winning position the game degenerated into a blunderfest:

White to play
White to play

I’d been grinding away for a while, and here I decided it was time to break through on the queenside 29. a5 bxa5? (The only move that holds the position together for black is 29… Nc5) 30. Qxa5? Here I automatically recapture the pawn, missing the obvious 30. Nxa7 winning a whole exchange.  30… a6? (black needs to get his rooks out of the way, so something like 30… Rd8 is required). 31. Nbc3?  (31. Na7 still wins an exchange) 31… Rcb8 32. b4 Rb7? the rook on a8 is now undefended, so I can carry out a decisive pawn break on the queenside. Black needed to play something like 32… Be8.

White to play is still winning
White to play is still winning in spite of his earlier efforts.

33. b5 Bxd5 34. Nxd5 Nc5 35. Bxc5 dxc5 36. bxa6 (36.Nb6 is the simplest win here – 36…Rab8 37. bxa6 Rxb6 38. a7 Ra8 39. Qxb6 and white is an exchange up with a pawn on the seventh) 36… Rba7 37. Qxc5 Bf8 38. Qb5 Rxa6 39. Nc7 Ra5

White to play and win easily
White to play and win simply

40. Qb6? (This was the last simple win in the game 40. Nxa8!? Rxb5 41. cxb5 white has two rooks for the Queen, and stopping the b pawn from promoting will cost at least the bishop) 40… R8a7 41. Nb5 R7a6 42. Qb7 Ra2 43. Qd5? (I decided that I wanted to get the Queens off the board, but the bishop combined with the rook is a really powerful combination 43. c5 is still winning according to Houdini.) 43… Bh6 44. Rb1 Rc2 45. Nd4? Rxc4 46. Rb8+ Kg7? (46…Bf8 is equal) and here I played 47. Qxf7+ and offered a draw, aware that I had messed the position up. What I wasn’t aware of  what that black’s last move was a major blunder  so here is a puzzle – white to play and win – answer at the end of the article.

Black's last move was a blunder - white to play and win.
Black’s last move (Kg7) was a blunder – white to play and win.

Round 6 – Black vs Pascal Pasture (1764)

This game started about two hours after the previous one finished. I was feeling somewhat traumatised having messed up so badly and in my experience when this happens usually punishment follows. I was expecting the worst, and was rather surprised to play a fairly smooth positional win.

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd6 4. d4 Nf6 5. Be2  this seems like a slightly contrived way of developing in this position compared to the normal Nf3. 5…c6 6.Bf3 Bf5 7. Nge2 e6 8. O-O Be7 9. a3 {I guess that white wanted to prevent Bf4 being met by Qb4, but 9. Bf4 Qb4 doesn’t seem like a great idea – for example 10. a3 Qxb2 11. Rb1 Qxc2 12. Rxb7 Qxd1 13. Rxd1 Nfd7 is  better for white. I would have played 9…Qd7.) 9… O-O 10. Bf4 Qd7 11. Qd2 Na6 12. Rad1 Rfd8 13. Qc1 Rac8 14. Ng3 this was a move I didn’t particularly like because it allows me to force the exchange of a pair of minor pieces, which I thought was desirable for black as I have less space. I thought white should instead play something like Rfe1 or h3, or perhaps b4 is an interesting move here. 14…g6 15. Rfe1 Nd5 and now white has to decide what to do about the threat of Nxf4

White to play has to decide whether to capture the knight
White to play has to decide whether to capture the knight

16. Nxd5 I was quite surprised he took this, as the change of pawn structure benefits black – the minority attack is going to be pretty quick, and white isn’t ready so start things on the kingside yet. I was expecting 16. Bd2 Nxc3 17. Bxc3 Nc7 18. Bd2 Nd5 19. c4 Nf6 which I judged as slightly better for white – he has more space, but black has exchanged a pair of minor pieces (a good thing with less space), has a solid position and can aim for a c5 or e5 break. 16… cxd5 17. c3 b5 18. Be2 Nc7 This was part of a plan to improve my worst placed piece. The knight is going to be moved to e8, and can then come to f6 if it is needed to defend the kingside or to c4 via d6 if the queenside attack needs support. 19. Bd3 white doesn’t normally want to trade the light squared bishop on this sort of pawn structure, but it is hard to find good plan for white here. The problem with his position is that his knight is very badly placed. 20. Ne8 20. Bxg6 hxg6 I wanted white to capture on g6 so that the pawn would restrict the knight on g3. 21. Qb1 a5 22. Rd3 b4 23. axb4 axb4 24. Bd2 Qb5 round about here I probably play inaccurately. Houdini thinks I should capture here immediately but I wanted to keep the tension in the position for the moment. I thought it might be an advantage if white could be persuaded to capture on b4 as he would then have weak pawns on b2 and d4, instead of a single weak pawn on c3. 25. Nf1 Rc6 26. Rh3 Rdc8 27. Qd3 Qxd3 it might have been better not to exchange queens here, but the temptation of playing for two results was too great for me to resist. 28. Rxd3 bxc3 29. Rxc3 Nd6 30. Rxc6 Rxc6 31. Bb4 Bf6

White to play and defend
White to play and defend

32. Bc3? (32. Bc5 would have been a stronger defence, but black can continue to grind away against white’s weak pawns and awkwardly placed pieces. For example 32…Ra6 33. Ne3 Nb5 34. Rd1 Ra2 35. Rd2 Bg5 and black is a bit better) 32…Nb5 Now I am just winning a pawn. 33. Re3 Nxd4 34. Nd2 Nb5 35. Bxf6 gxf6

White is lost
White is lost

As well as being a pawn down, white’s pieces are very badly placed, and this enough to win a second pawn and consequently the game. 36. Rb3 Nd4 37. Rb8+ Kg7 38. g3 Rc2 39. Nf1 Nf3+ 40. Kg2 Ne1+ 41. Kg1 Nd3 42. b4 Rxf2 43. b5 Rb2 (43… d4 immediately is even stronger because the knight then can’t move.) 44. Ne3 Nc5

White resigned

white resigned because he has no useful moves.

The schedule for the rest of the tournament is one round per day. Round 7 is tomorrow and I have white against Andrei Lazo of Moldova – at 2185 the highest rated player in the tournament.


Answer to the puzzle

47. Ne6!+ wins because 47…Qxe6 48. Qd8! and black has to give up a bunch of material to avoid being checkmated. The most reasonable line seems to be 48…g5 49. Qh8+ Kg6 50. Rg8+ Kh5 51. g4+
Kh4 52.Rg6, so instead of this he has to play 47…Rxe6 but then 48.Qxc4 and white has won an exchange.

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