As promised, it's time to look at Mangion-Leverich, the game I played at the Hamilton Quads that I felt was one of the better games I've played in some time (though my recent hiding at the hands of our resident Lord of Darkness Mark Kernighan reminds me that one good game does not a good player make). Today's presentation is enhanced with multimedia add-ons, courtesy of Steve Ferrero (picture) and USCF (testament of glory).
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 PxP 4. NxP Nf6 5. Nc3 a6
Side note: Conventional as the Najdorf may seem given its popularity at the club level, I've never fully understood its appeal. For the counterattacking riverboat gambler, yes, but many other seem attracted to this move order. In the Sicilian so much hinges on the strength of White's kingside attack, so to play ...a6 so early is no less a provocation to White than a fork in the eye. In blitz games I usually play quietly against it, but in long games I have tended to favor 6. Bg5 and try to start raining perdition on the g- and h-files. In this case, I had played that against my opponent in an earlier game and wanted to change things up.
6. Be2 e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. Bg5 Probably better played on move 6
- I was mixing plans with vaguely remembered Sveshnikov moves
8. .... Nbd7 9. a4?! (commits against O-O-O)
9. .... O-O 10. Qd2 b6 11. O-O Bb7
White has a comfortable position, but the original plan of playing for Sveshnikov-like control of d5 doesn't fully work here because ...Nbd7 has supported the key knight at Nf6. Meanwhile the e4 pawn needs protection, and I need a strategy on how to improve the position. I thought for several minutes here and decided to try if possible to attack Black's b6 pawn which looked a little shaky.
The author contemplates playing 12. f3
12. f3 Rc8 13. Rfd1 Re8 14. Be3 Qc7 Black is still cramped but is piling pressure on the c-file and preparing exchanges.
15. Rac1 Nc5 16. Nxc5 dxc5 17. Bc4 Rcd8
With an open file and a somewhat symmetrical pawn structure, Black should be able to get a draw with good play. However, White's minor pieces are slightly better and they have access to an excellent outpost on d5. I wish I had remembered Nimzowitsch's concept of a strong outpost acting as a fulcrum around which all your pieces can pass through and gain strength by their contact with it. As it is, I made adequate use of this idea as the game progressed. Off topic, if you ever wonder why the initiative is so important in chess, look at the remainder of this game and try to visualize Black's problems over the board - he has weaknesses to defend and (slightly) poorer mobility. This defense requires modest precision, whereas for White to get a draw requires only offering it. This would be a dead draw for high-class players, but for us patzers when one side has most of the winning chances he will often convert.
18. Qe2 Qc8 19. RxR RxR
I decided to try to accentuate the superiority of my minor pieces through rook exchanges.
20. Rd1 RxR?! (Why help me out?) 21. Qxd1 h6
Now white can add the d-file to his short list of assets.
22. Kf2 Nh5?! (hands me the d5 square) 23. Nd5! Bd8 +=
Now the b6 pawn needs to be protected, as 23...Bxd5 24. Qxd5 looks grim
24. Qd2 (sac on h6? Move to c3? Much for Black to contemplate) Bh4+ 25. Kg1
I did not for a moment consider 25. g3? Qh3! 26. PxB Qxh2+
25. .... Bd8 26. Qc3 Bxd5?! 27. Bxd5 Bf6? +/- 28. Qc4
Forking a6 and f7, the White queen dominates through the d5 outpost
28. ... Qc7 29. Qxa6 Nf4 30. Kf2 Nxd5 31. Qa8+ !?!
A slight inaccuracy according to the computer - I rejected the chance for a passed pawn. Why? By 31. PxN I felt that I was setting up possible counterplay for black with an eventual ...e4 opening up my kingside. However, I think this was a good practical decision because (and only because) I was already a pawn up. If not, creating the passer might be my only chance for a win.
31. ... Kh7 32. Qxd5 Qa7 33. b3 g6 34. Bd2 Qc7 35. g3 Kg7 36. Bc3 g5?!
Bad as the situation may be it has to be better for Black to sit on his hands and make me prove I can win. This just gives me a new front by which to exploit my greater mobility.
37. g4 Kg6 38. Qd2?! (Ke2 is better) Be7 39. Bb2 h5 40. gxh5+ Kxh5 41. Qd5! (back to the right square) Bd6
42. Qa8! Now the holes that Black has created in the kingside come to haunt him. The threats are not easily calculated 4 hours into this game.
42. ... Kg6? 43. Qg8+ Kh6 44. h4! f6 45. Qh8+ Kg6 46. h5+ Kf7
Black could resign in good conscience now, but....
Many moves win here, I just missed that by moving the pawn I opened up the g6 square to his king. I will lose my extra pawn, but what follows is an instructive position showing the value of getting your pawns on squares oppositely colored to your bishop, something I had kept in mind since move 35 or so.
47. .... Kg6 48. Kg3 Qf7 49. Bc1 Bf8 50. h7 Qxh7 51. Qxh7+ Kxh7 52. Kg4 Kg6 53. Be3
And here Black resigned. Surprised? Black has absolutely no way of dealing with the combined threats of b4 leading to a passer on the a-file and the weakness of his pawns on the kingside - White's bishop will be able to attack both but Black's bishop will only be able to defend one. An example of the good bishop against the bad bishop. This is the game that finally got me above a 1900 rating (evidence below), hopefully better is yet to come.