Praveen Kumar – Pavel Genkin, All Nations Chess League, October 30th, 2010
It may be immodest to publish my won game, but today I simply could not help it. It was played in the first round of a new season of the All Nations Chess League (anclchess.net), an online team competition. During my preparation I looked up my opponent’s profile at Playchess.com, only to find out that I would be playing a 14-year old Indian kid with an exorbitant blitz rating of 2660. Sitting against a young hotshot, you sometimes cannot get rid of the thought that this may be your last chance to beat him.
1.Nf3 e6 Judging by the games published at the ANCL website, Praveen always plays 1.Nf3 with White. The opening choice might be a bit unusual for his age, but he has been consistently outplaying most his opponents in the Catalan-Reti schemes. So I decided to go for a flexible setup which would allow me to play the French or the Sicilian after 2.e4 or the Dutch schemes after any other move.
2. c4 f5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Nc6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Nc3 0-0 Now after 7.d4 I intended to play the Classical Dutch (7…d6). However, White steered the game towards the English Opening.
7.d3 d6 8.e4 e5
Up to this moment white pieces were moving on the screen in a rapid succession, but here Praveen slowed down. He was pondering his next move for almost eight minutes. Maybe the position was unfamiliar to him, but I think after his next couple of moves Black has no problems at all.
9.exf5 Bxf5 10.d4 Bg4 11.h3
Now Black destroys the White center. The downside is a permanent weakness of white squares, but having played …f5, what else can you expect?
11…Bxf3 12.Bxf3 Nxd4 13.Bxb7 Rb8 14.Bg2 Qd7
Black’s immediate concern is to wrestle the control of the d5 square. However, after this his d-pawn becomes a potential weakness.
15.b3 c6 16.Be3 Nf5 17.Qd3 White is willing to part with his bishop pair, but keep pushing on d6. After 15.b3 I expected Ba3, a more Dutch-like maneuver.
17…Nxe3 18.Qxe3 Qc7 (to avoid a potential pin after Rad1) 19.Rad1
White may be slightly better because of his powerful bishop piercing the queenside, and a simple waiting move like …a5 or …a6 would be good here. Instead followed
19…Nd7? I don’t know what I was thinking. Black voluntarily relieves his knight from defensive duties, and now White has a clear plan of exploiting the weakness on d6.
20.Ne4! (of course!) h6 This weakens the white squares even more, but Black clearly doesn’t want the white knight on g5.
21. Qd3 Kh8
Here a sensible (and safe) plan for White is to simply double his rooks on the d-file, building up further pressure on d6 (22.Rd2, then 23.Rfd1). I was pinning my hopes, however, on my teenage opponent’s impatience. And this little gamble paid off!
22.Nxd6?! Nc5! All of a sudden, things have come back to normal. While Black is a pawn down, it is now White who has to worry. His queen is attacked, and he cannot retreat it to d2 in view of 23…Rbd8.
23.Qg6 (the only move) Rf6!
Nice. Now 24.Nf7+ is bad because of 24…Kg8 25.Nxh6+ Kf8, and Black wins the knight. To Praveen’s credit, he quickly found the best move.
24.Ne8! Rxg6 25.Nxc7 a5!
The dust has settled, and Black seems to be having a good game. Sure, he is still a pawn down and his pawn structure is a mess, but he could not care less since the white knight is trapped and can be captured anytime. I am glad I was able to find 25…a5 because the blunt attempt to win the knight simply wouldn’t work. After 25…Bd6 White has 26.b4! Rxb4 27.Ne8 Bf8 28.Rfe1 Rxc4 29.Rxe5 Re6 30.Rxe6 Nxe6 Nd6, and the knight is set free with a likely draw. After the move in the game the b4 thrust is no longer possible, and the only available option is to extract the troubled knight to e6. This, in turn, means that White will part with his material gains.
26.f4 (here he spent another eight minutes) Rxg3 27.f5 e4!
‘Say hello to my little friend.’ It is unlikely that this pawn will go very far, but its advance helps protect the weak pawn on c6 and set foot for the knight on d3. The notion of a possible fork on e2 must have also been quite unnerving.
28.Kh2 This is probably better than immediate 28.Ne6, on which could follow 28…Nxf6 29.fxe6 Rg6. At that point White pawn on e6 will become extremely vulnerable while the black pawn advances to e3. Black would stand somewhat better, leaving the opponent in a passive position – definitely not something Praveen was looking forward to.
28…Rc3 Now Black intends to plant his rook on the second rank, pinning the bishop and attacking white queenside pawns. The a2 pawn looks particularly weak.
Let’s look at available options for White here. 30.Nxc5 is bad in view of 30…Bxc5 and a combination of threats Rxa2 and e4-e3. The passive 30.Ra1 would be met with 30…Nd3, and White would have to concede material in order to stop the e-pawn. The active plan, 30.Nd4, would probably be best: after 30…Rxa2 31.Nxc6 Re8 32.Nxe7 Rxe7 33.Rfe1 Nxb3 Black emerges a pawn up, with two potentially dangerous passers on a5 and e4, yet still there is nothing decisive in sight.
The game was played over the Internet, and I couldn’t see Praveen’s facial expression, but he must have been clearly frustrated. Frustration led to a blunder.
Here 31.Re3 loses after 31…Rxa2 32.Kg1 a4 with endless possibilities for Black. For example, 33.Rxe4 loses in view of 33…Nf2, and 33.bxa4 is met by Nf4 with further Bc5. After 31.Rf1 Black simply takes the pawn on a2, preserving all the threats.
31.Rxe4 Nf2 32.Nd4 Bd6+ 33.Kg1 Rxa2! White rooks are still forked, and Black is just savoring the moment.
34.Nxc6 Nxd1 35.Nxb8
White has just destroyed the dangerous pawn and gained some material. 35…Bxb8 would be met with 36.Re8+, but I had something else in mind.
35…Bc5+! White might have missed that. Now he has to give up the exchange or part with his bishop.
36.Kh2 There was nothing better: 36.Kf1 Ne3+ or 36.Kh1 Nf2+.
36…Ne3 37.Rxe3 Bxe3 38.Nc6 Bb6 39.Kg3 Ra3 40.Bd5 Rxb3+ 41.Kg4 a4
White must have initially pinned his hopes on 42.c5, otherwise it is hard to explain why he has been playing on. However, this attempt is refuted by a simple 42…Bxc5, and after 43.Bxb3 axb3 White cannot stop the pawn. He makes another attempt, which is also easily thwarted.
42.Ne7 (with the idea of perpetual check on g6 and f8) Bc5 0:1