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Cook, Michael P 2039 - Foley, John P 2005   0-1 4NCL Division 3s, Daventry Court Hotel ENG (6.59), 2013.02.

24 D04: Queen's Pawn game The Four Nations Chess League also known as the 4NCL is a national club competition played at five weekends between November and May at salubrious hotels in central England. The level of chess is very high and many of the nations’ top players grace the event with their presence. Even in the Third Division, the play is very competitive. The game described here took place in the Third Division (South) between Anglian Avengers 2 and the BCM Rhinos. The Anglian Avengers were leading the division and looking a good bet for promotion. They are a team with a geographical affiliation and therefore exhibit a strong fraternal bond. They are called “Avengers” for historical reasons - to avenge the Roman Invasion into the lands of the Iceni tribe led by Queen Boadicea a couple of thousand years ago. A thousand years later, Hereward the Wake resisted the Norman Conquest in the fens. The Anglians seem to be in denial that they can ever lose anything. I have a parallel experience with another Anglian, a famously persistent sales company, who come knocking on my door about twice a year trying to sell me double glazing and other “home improvements”. They never seem to accept defeat either. 1.d4 d5 2.f3 f6 3.e3 c5 4.c4 e6 5.c3 c6 This is a common position arising in Queen's Pawn openings. Black has sought equality through symmetry. White will need to break the symmetry in order to gain an advantage. The main decision is whether to accept an isolated queen's pawn or not.

6.d3!? This is not played so often because it loses a tempo after Black exchanges on c4. 6...dxc4 7.xc4 cxd4 8.exd4 White had ceased playing IQP lines, but having lost the previous game he was looking for something active. 8...e7 9.O-O O-O 10.Že1 a6

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Activating the queenside with the long fianchetto and gaining a tempo by hitting the bishop on c4. The short fianchetto with b6 is also good. 11.a3 The more committal 11.a4 creates a weakness at b4 but this did not bother the Georgian GM Baadur Jobava (2664) when he beat Vassily Ivanchuk (2786) at the 38th Olympiad in Dresden in 2008. 11...b5 12.a2 This invites Black to push forward because the bishop becomes a target again. More prudent would be to retreat the bishop to b3 as played by another Georgian GM Alexandre Dgebuadze (2544) against Gagliardi (2253) in the 2nd Biella Open 2011. The bishop could also be placed on d3 eyeing h7. Whilst humans prefer to hold on to their light-squared bishop, computers recommend the advance

12.d5 exd5 13.xd5 to gain space. After the pawn advance to d5 Black should not capture the bishop because if 12...bxc4 13. dxc6. The White pawn on c6 is awkward to eliminate whilst the Black pawn on c4 is going to drop. 12...b7 13.g5 b4 Black needs no encouragement to activate his 2

12...b7 13.g5 b4 Black needs no encouragement to activate his queenside.

14.axb4 Capturing is natural. The knight could have jumped to a4 as played by Yuri Vovk (2571) against Radoslaw Wojtaszek (2705) in the European Blitz in Warsaw, 2011 in spite of the fact that White lost because the pawn on a3 was vulnerable after the exchange and was subsequently snaffled. 14...xb4 15.b3 Placing the bishop on b3 is asking for trouble because it is unprotected. 15.b1 fd5 16.d2 c7 17.e5 Žac8 18.h5 g6 19.h3 f6 20.Ža3 Žfd8 21.xd5 xd5 22.a5 and White won the exchange and soon the game (Graeme Buckley (2398) - Neville Gill (2111) British Championship, Torquay 2009 15...fd5 16.c1?! Either supporting the bishop with Qd2 or exchanging it on e7 are more active. Black is encouraged to take action on the queenside. 16...c7 17.e4 Žad8 Black controls d5 and wants to capture the IQP eventually. 18.e5

18...c6 Black suppresses the desire to play f6 which drives away the knight but weakens the king's protection. Much better to retreat the 3

knight but weakens the king's protection. Much better to retreat the knight on b4 which was not doing very much. 19.xc6 xc6

The queen-bishop battery is inherently dangerous for White and will be recurring theme. 20.d2 Accepting that the previous retreat had been a step too far. 20...f6 Black is looking to reach the endgame and nab that IQP. 21.Žc1 b6 22.g5?!

The game is reaching its critical stage. White decides to jettison the IQP for an attack on the king. 22.c5 would have been more resilient even though it invites complications. 22...Žxd4 23.xe6! Žxd2 24.xd2 fxe6 25.Žxe6 xb3 26.Žxe7 d5 27.Že4 and White holds on. 22...xd4 Black takes up the challenge.

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23.Žxe6?!

This was unexpected and came after a long think. It was no surprise that there was to be sacrifice on e6; the only question was which piece would it be. Sometimes there are too many options to consider. The rook sacrifice only makes sense if Black accepts. The move I had half-expected was 23.xe6 xd2 24.xd8 xd8 25.xd8 xd8 and Black obtains two pieces for a rook. White's best option is the unspectacular 23.Žc7 c5 24.Že2 d5 25.xd5 xd5 but Black is a pawn up with a solid position. 23...b4??

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This was played on the principle that any sacrifice that has been thought about for a long time should not be accepted. The move has the right feel to it - the bishop was en prise and now attacks its opposite number with the intention of simplifying the position through exchanges - all the time reserving the option of capturing the errant rook on e6. However, Black fails to find the best move.

23... e4!! A tableful of chess tutors failed to find this move which was identified thanks to a chess engine. Black now threatens to capture the f2 pawn followed by checkmate on b2. Meanwhile it cuts off the retreat of the errant rook. 24.Žxe4 Not the tempting

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24. e3

24...xe3! 25.fxe3 Žxd1+ 26.Žxd1 xg5 27.Že5 xe3+ 28.Œf1 and black is comfortably ahead with two pieces and a pawn for a rook whilst giving White's king the runaround. 24...xe4 25.xe4 xe4 Black is the exchange up with all the chances. Suppose Black had captured the rook 23...fxe6 24.xe6

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White gains an effective bishop-knight battery against the king. 24...xd2?? would be a blunder - see below for why. Black is saved by the remarkable

24... xf2+!!

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25.Œxf2 Žxd2+

Wow! 26.xd2 e4+

Bingo! 27.Œe3 xd2 and White has to choose between three plausible continuations: Kxd2, Rc7 and Ba2. 9

25.xd8+ d5 The answer to the earlier question is that White wins a queen. 24.xb4?? This natural capture eliminates the annoying bishop and attacks the black rook on f8. However it was not the best move. The beautiful and extraordinary

24. xf7!! tears the Black house down. The mind-boggling complexity of the tactics can hardly be exaggerated. 24...Žxf7 24...g4 25.Že2 the rook retreat holds everything together and keeps the material advantage. 25.xb4 xd1+ 26.Žxd1 Žxd1+ 27.xd1 Žc7 28.c3 leaves White a pawn ahead with the two bishops.

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24...xb4 Black has threats against the bishop on b3 and the rook on e6 which cannot both be parried. 25.e2 A prelude to the final tactical flourish. 25...xb3

Black allows himself a sigh of relief but this is only temporary. 26.Žxf6!

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Of course, the rook is on a suicide mission. Black had already decided to ignore it again. 26...d5 According to White, this was a classy way to defend - keeping cool to the end irrespect of the hornets buzzing around Black's king. Although perpetual check can be avoided, capturing the knight is a rather inelegant way to win. 26...gxf6? 27.xh7 e6 28.xe6 fxe6 29.xf8 Œxf8-+ 27.e4 xe4?! Black was so eager to get rid of the pesky knight that he missed the best move. 27...Žfe8 developing the final piece. 28.f3 d4+ 29.f2 forced because of the fork on the f6 rook. 29...d1+ 30.e1 xe1+ 31.Žxe1 Žxe4 32.Žxe4 gxf6 Black is a piece up. 28.xe4 xe4 29.Žxa6

It is not often that a rook has captured three times on the sixth rank. 29...Žb8 The rest consists in demonstrating that White's passed pawn is going nowhere. 30.f3 g6 31.Ža2 Žfd8 32.Žc3?! White's best chance lies in setting up a fortress with the rooks protecting the back 12

chance lies in setting up a fortress with the rooks protecting the back two ranks. Bear in mind that in pawnless endings a rook and bishop find it difficult to beat a rook. A possible continuation is 32.b3 Žxb3 33.Œf2 Žbb8 34.Œg3 h6 35.Že1 Žbc8 36.Žee2 Že8 37.Žed2 Žcd8 38.Žf2 Ža8 39.Žad2

Come and get me! 32...Žd2 33.Žb3 Že8 Not 33...Žxb3 34.Ža8+ checkmating. 34.Že3 Žed8

Black will exchange a pair of rooks and then go after the passed pawn. A delightful defensive game in which the greatest credit must be given to the imaginative Mike Cook. 0-1

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