In which I get a stringent test in our middlegame topic against an ordinary master. To business, Kernighan-Mangion, G/45 (which had an unfortunate effect on the end of the game, the last five or so moves were blitz)
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. Nf3 c5 6. e3 b6 7. Be2 PxP 8. NxP Bb7 9. O-O Nc6
This is not the first time Mark and I have played a Nimzo-Indian, yet a different position arises every time. At a glance this positions looks equal to me.
10. Rd1 a6?! (a slight slip, I'm trying to stop pressure building on d6, but ...NxN was actually the best. I thought after 10...NxN 11. RxN Bc5 12. Rh4 I would just help White's attack, but simply ...h6 is sufficient to ask what the point of the rook is on the h-file) 11. Qb3 NxN 12. PxN BxN 13. QxB (I relieve some pressure through exchanges, but am left with a poorer position. Now I became overly concerned about 14. Bg5 pinning
the knight, which is in reality a non-issue)
13...Ne4?! 14. Qh3 d5 15. b3 Qf6? (already the position calls for creating and attacking a hanging pawn duo - 15...dxc! 16. bxc followed by ...Qc7, ...Rfc8 and ...b5 gives pressure on White's position) 16. Qe3 Qe7 17. Bb2 Rfd8 18. Rac1 Rac8 19. Bd3 Nf6 20. Qh3? (after quietly maneuvering to a better position, Mark misses his first chance with 20. c5! creating a wedge in the Black position) 20...dxc! 21. bxc
Finally the key position is reached: two pairs of minor pieces have been exchanged, but White maintains an edge with the bishop pair pointed at Black's kingside. Any move for Black should now try to address one of three factors: 1) Simplifying exchanges, 2) Control of e4 and f4, and 3) Pressure on the hanging pawns.
21...Be4 22. Be2 Qb4? (Well intentioned, but misguided. I was trying to create pressure on the pawns but was doing so from the wrong side where the queen is out of play. The computer cries for 22...b5!, a pawn sacrifice that leads to a drawn OCB ending, I won't bore with details. The alternative I was considering, 22...Qb7 isn't great either, 23. d5 becomes annoying. 22...h6 or ...Bg6 might have been acceptable 'human' moves).
23. Ba3 Qa5 24. Qb3 (Be7!) Rd7?? (Bc6 was waaay better. White to win, below)
25. Bb2? (missing d5!!, threatening to trap the queen) Bc6?? 26. Bc3? (d5!) Qg5
And by now rough balance has been restored with Black getting some compensating pressure on the kingside against his weak Q-side pawns. The game went on for roughly five moves but my score doesn't quite make sense, and I think I had only a minute or so. The short version is I dropped at least a pawn by an ill-timed ...b5 (at least I had the right idea), and ran out of time.
The conclusion from this round: Black had the opportunity to maintain rough equality by pressurizing White's hanging pawns, even with the bishop pair deficit. A lack of focus on this point gave White a free hand, and only mutual time trouble saved Black from an earlier defeat because of tactical possibilities. Coming up next, we'll look at a game where the roles are reversed.