NH Chess Tournament 2010 Round 2 Recap
August 13, 2010 • General
Howdy to all the chess fans on there from Amsterdam on a very boisterous Friday night here!
Coming off my successful first round, I had Black against GM Loek van Wely in round 2. Oddly, despite seeing Loek at many tournaments, the only time we’ve actually played against each other at classical chess was here last year when we drew both
encounters. Over the years Loek has been an up and down player, but there is no disputing that with his deep theoretical knowledge, he can be a dangerous player against anyone. As such, I chose to avoid anything too complicated by choosing to play
into the Nimzo Indian in an attempt to keep the position relatively calm and simple. However, I did a 360 almost as soon as the game began when I tried to take advantage of what I thought was a miscue by Loek. Unfortunately, my judgement was simply
off and this led to me reaching a very unpleasant middlegame position where I was significantly worse. My problems were only exacerbated when I got into time trouble as well. It was at this point that I decided to make a practical decision and sacrifice two pawns and go into a rook and pawn endgame which gave me a chance to bail out. (Diagram 1)
Here in bad time pressure, I chose to play 34…Rb4. At this point, the position is probably losing, but (34..f4 35.Rd8 Kf7 36.Rd7 Kf6 37.h4!) should be winning but it gives me better chances. Loek continued with 35.Rd8 which despite picking up an extra pawn is actually less precise than 35.c6 Rc4 36. Rd8 Kf7 37. Rd7 Kf6 38.c7 when White is almost certainly winning the rook and pawn endgame. 35…Kf7 36.Rd7 Kf6 37.Rd6 Ke5 38.Rxa6 Rc4 39.Ra7 Kf6 40.Ra5 h5 (Diagram 2)
At this point, having reached time control, I was pretty miserable and assumed I was simply lost here, but I willed myself to keep on playing on the off chance that I could find a miraculous draw. 41.Ra6? This was the start of a plan which is probably winning, but gives me a lot of tricky options to complicate matters. 41…Ke5 42.Rg6 Rxc5 43.Rxg7 (Diagram 3)
During my very brief and shallow analysis of the position before time control, I thought that in this position I was very close to drawing if not in fact drawing after (43…h4, however after 44.Re7 Kf4 45.Re1 followed by Ra1, I am simply lost.) Therefore, I chose to play 43…Rc4 44.a5 Ra4 (Diagram 4)
Already, this position has become very tricky. Mainly due to the fact that White’s king is very badly placed. 45.h4?? In our post mortem after the game, we concluded that (45.h3 is probably the only definitive move which wins after 45…Kf4 46.h4! Rxa5 47.Kh2 followed by Rh7 is winning.) Another line which might win but is tricky is (45.Rh7 45…Kf4 46. h3 [46.Rxh5 Ra1 47.Kf2 Ra2 48.Kf1 Ra1 49.Ke2 Ra2 and the endgame is probably a draw.] 46…Kg3 47. Rg7 Kf4 48.Kh2.) 45…Rxh4 46.a6 Ra4 47.a7 Kf4 48.Kh2 Ra2 49.Rb7 Ra6 50.Kh3 h4! (Diagram 5)
51.Rh7 not (51.Kxh4?? Rh6 mate) 51…Kg5 52. g3 (52.Kh2 doesn’t work as I play 52…Ra1 and keep the king boxed.) 52…hxg3 53.Kxg3 Ra2 54.Rg7 Kf6 55.Rb7 Kg5 56.f4 Kh5 57.Rg7 Kh6! 58.Rf7 Kg6 59.Re7 Kh5 = (Diagram 6)
At this point the position is equal as White cannot prevent Ra3 and Kg4 giving up the f4 pawn. If White trades the a7 pawn for the f5 this leads to the well known Philidor position and a draw. The rest of the game was fairly uneventful and drawn 10 moves later.
So what to say about this game? It is quite clear that I got incredibly lucky, but it just goes to show that if you keep fighting and trying to make your opponents ojective of winning harder, sometimes they will in fact crack and blow it. In many ways the difference between being good and great is the ability to salvage every half point and make the most of your opportunities. Hopefully, having gotten some luck, I can now put together a string of some solid games and avoid reaching such precarious positions in the remaining 8 games. Enough drama for 1 day!
Way to go, Hikaru! I must admit I had given up and stopped watching the game. In fact, until now, I assumed you had lost. Best of luck the rest of the way.