Round two report

Best game prize: Glenton1812
Best fight: forknskewer - Anglo
Da-Bomb prize: LeilaPeymani
Tip of the round: Get castled
Lichess study:

Firstly, and belatedly as we should have done this last round, we’d like to welcome Daniel Sheppard (szveltz on lichess) to the tournament organising team alongside Andrew Shingleton and Aidan Rawlinson. Daniel is helping with the games analysis each round, which is hugely appreciated!

Round 2 summary:

We enjoyed this round immensely and selecting prizes wasn’t easy given the hard fought and interesting games.

Best game prize could have gone to half a dozen players for some well-constructed games. We’re going with Glenton1812 for a nicely constructed Nimzo-India Defence, neutralising White’s edge, gaining the advantage, sacrificing the queen for two rooks, and then improving the activity of Black’s forces to a decisive level. WearyWilly and onlinek both also played instructive and impressive games.

Best fight goes to forknskewer – Anglo. We award this one for games that could have gone either way, and keep the spectators guessing. Some great play from both sides, and a very illustrative point at the end that just because your opponent plays something, doesn’t mean that you should assume it works for them!

This round’s special prize ‘Da-Bomb’ goes to LeilaPeymani for 32.Nf6+! I’ll not comment further and recommend that you take a look (in the Lichess study!). (Mark2_alias’ 24.Qxg4 was pretty impressive too.)

Tip of the round is get castled! One of the defining features of more experience chess players is that they see castling as a dynamic move that supports active play. Less experienced players see it as something that they’ll get around to, but probably only once they’ve done this interesting thing first… We won’t name and shame, but a few kings got caught in the centre, and when this happens bad things follow.

Game summaries:

  • WearyWilly - abeswick: An exciting duel in the Pirc. White played the aggressive 5.g4 aiming for kingside aggression from the start. At this point I suspect 5…d5!? Is best, and after 5…0-0 White seemed to pick up a large advantage with natural moves, opening up the Kingside and preparing to castle queenside. The move 18.b4!? left White with the advantage, but created long-term problems for White’s king, and following some exciting complications, including a nice queen sacrifice, Black theoretically could have forced a draw by perpetual check, but it was very difficult to find and was able to trade Black’s queen and queen a pawn.

  • ewaawoowaa - calcina: A tight struggle in an exchange Slav. The symmetrical pawn structure and piece placement makes the opening seem dull, but this never lasts forever and the game became a very interesting struggle. White gained the upper hand early on, but Black’s kingside activity proved more useful that White’s doubled rooks on the c-file. Black gained a large advantage and won a pawn, but White’s superior endgame technique was sufficient to hold the draw.

  • dikankan – julianclissold: A very interesting Semi-Slav. In this line the implications of Black’s …e5 break are one of the defining elements of the position, and subtle differences in the position can make the outcome good for White, Black, or leave the position balanced. After Black’s 9…e5, White plays the important intermediate move 10.cxd5. Black chooses to avoid the isolated pawn position arising after 10…exd5, when White would probably have had a small edge, and recaptures with the knight from f6. White has a second useful intermediate move with 11.Nc4 and in order to avoid going a pawn down, Black has to agree to mass exchanges on e5, and White comes away with the ‘bishop pair’. The position is extremely interesting, as while it looks as if White should have a small edge, the computer evaluates the advantage as winning. A key point is White’s choice of how to activate the bishop on e2. In the game White opted for Bf3, and while this seems to keep the advantage it is not obvious how to proceed. Instead 16.Bd3 seems easier to handle for White, who can then follow up with active moves such as f4, with threats in the centre and against h7. After Bf3 it isn’t easy to make progress for White, and while the position is objectively very strong if you believe the computers it isn’t obvious for humans. Black defended well and by successfully carrying out the …c5 break and bringing the Bishop on b7 into the game equalises. Mass trades lead to a pawn endgame in which Black’s worse pawn structure is offset by more active king and a draw is correctly agreed.

  • Aytacoglu - Glenton1812: A masterclass by Black demonstrating some strong ideas in the Nimzo-Indian. White’s setup was logical and sensible, but lacked aggression or bite, and Black’s more forceful play leaves White with an isolated d-pawn, and slightly passively placed pieces. The game is tense, but Black only has a small edge, but a small error by White playing Bxf6 and giving Black the bishop pair increases Black’s advantage. White tries to drive Black’s queen out of the centre of the board, but Black finds a lovely queen sacrifice gaining the two rooks for the queen. Black is much better, but there is a lot of work to do to grind White down, but slowly and surely Black’s pieces improve in scope and White is pushed back. There was one illustrative mistake by Black that could have proved fatal; 53…Rf6+?, while delivering a revealed check is always tempting, Black deliberately choosing to pin the rook against the Black king is a mistake, and the simple alternative 53…e5 would have surely crushed White in a couple of moves. The value of chess pieces is based on their relative mobility and as pins reduce mobility, they reduce the value of the pieces. After this error White almost got back in the game and 59.Qe1! instead of the (presumed) time trouble blunder 59.Qxe5?? would have left White in a strong position.

  • Tilbs_11 – Kobra666: An interesting KID, which after …c5 leads to a promising Benoni position for White. As a rule Black needs to achieve either the …e6 or the …b5 break and Black’s move 7…Nbd7 while natural supports neither. For the rest of the opening Black should have looked to engineer …b5, even at the cost of a pawn, and could have achieved a good Benko Gambit position at times. White should have looked to rule this out by playing a4 and clamp down on the b5 square. A complex position arose, and White missed a chance to break in the centre with e4>e5. Black sensibly stopped this idea by trading knights on e5, blockading the e4 pawn at the cost of doubled pawns. The game became complex and after 29…Qxg4 Black almost has sufficient counterplay, however with 31.f3 White drives Black’s queen back, and after White trades his bishop on h2 for Black’s knight on f4 the game position is defined by White’s strong knight vs Black’s bad bishop, and after a tough battle White breaks through to Black king.

  • Mark2alias – dmh6: A fascinating an illustrative London system. Black handles the opening incorrectly playing …e6, …Bd7, and …Nc6. This results in the bishop being inactive on d7, and the knight blocking Black’s c-pawn. Black’s 6…Nb8!? is in many ways an excellent move, accepting that it has gone wrong and doing something about it, Black is able to follow with 7…c5 and start engaging more strongly in the centre. However, the time lost on ineffective queenside moves (which could have been spent on …Nf6, …Be7 & …0-0 instead) leaves  White with a winning advantage. The early middlegame revolves around the White e3>e4 pawn break, which would have blown open the centre and fixed White’s advantage, instead White fails to exploit this, and Black edges back to a playable position. Further complications arise and White’s 24.Qxg4 is a spectacular move requiring calculation and bravery. Once the dust has settled an endgame emerges in which Black manages to just equalise, but can’t quite find the accurate moves required to hold it, and White’s h-pawn breaks free and eventually queens.

  • fredspassky - yolksac: Another interesting game. In the opening Black plays provocatively and White plays sensibly. This reaches it’s defining moment on move 11, where White is betrayed by lack of experience. Having gained good central control, developed and brought the White king to safety, White isn’t sure how to proceed and plays the horrible 11.h4?? seeking kingside activity. Sadly the truth is that this ‘attack’ damages White far more than Black, as it creates no threats, and removes a vital defender from White’s king. Furthermore later in the game the pawn is weak and undefended, and Black is able to pick it off. Instead 11.dxc6 bxc6 12.Rfd1 would win a central pawn, and leave White with a won position. Chess is cruel and having missed the chance, a couple of moves later Black wins a central pawn, and then dominates the rest of the game.

  • Riff-Art – Blackscorpion2020: A rare sideline of the Pirc where rather than fianchetto the bishop, Black plays …c6, …Qa5 and aims to pressure White’s centre with …e5/…Bg4. Statistics show that Black’s 5…Bg4 is less reliable than the immediate 5…e5. White’s reply 6.Qd2 is an excellent move, it looks wrong to block the bishop in on c1, but now the bishop on g4 becomes a liability for Black, which can be attacked. After Black’s 6…e5, this plan could have come into force with 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.f5! when the bishop is practically lost. Instead White took a very interesting route with 7.Nce2!? and we reach an endgame/queenless middlegame in which White has a powerful pawn centre. An interesting battle follows, and in the end White’s pawn centre is the difference between the two sides, giving White space and creating threats. White is able to post pieces on aggressive squares and handles the tactics confidently and successfully.

  • Swissdave1066 - onlinek: A London system game in which Black beautifully punishes a couple of small mistakes by White. Firstly, White’s plan of Nh4 and Nx(B)g6 seems natural, but opening up the h-file for the Black rook gives Black sufficient compensation. Secondly, White plays Ne5 without having sufficient central control. Black is able to force White to capture with dxe5 and then is able to pressurise the e5 pawn. The move 14…g5! is a classic way to undermine White’s centre and resulted in shattering of White’s kingside pawns. At this point Black has two ways of playing, in the game Black just went on a pawn killing spree, but 17…0-0-0 aiming to focus first on securing king safety and reducing counterplay would be another strong approach. The point is seen after White’s 26.Qb8 where Black’s play is justified by the defensive move 26…Rc7, but the position is sharp enough that a small oversight could easily tip the game in White’s favour. Black’s king is stranded in the centre, but proves safe enough, and once Queens come off the game ends quickly.

  • hsk4u – Mulummm: A classic KID with several thematic greatest hits, with the game hanging in the balance to the end. The opening featured stereotypical KID play, with White gaining a big space advantage and Black securing c5 for a knight. White’s Bg5 forces …g5, and while Black is able to achieve the …f5 break is unable to meet exf5 with a pawn recapture. The position then revolves around control of the e4 square if Black can push the pawn then Black will be better, if White can control it, then White will dominate the centre. Black misses the chance for 22…e4, and White slams the door shut with 23.Ne4. After this White dominates the centre, advances the queenside pawns and reaches a won position. However Black achieves the basis for a kingside attack, and could have won the game with a lovely forcing tactic starting with …Bxf4. Having missed this opportunity White forces queens off and under tremendous pressure Black drops the exchange and calls it a day.

  • P1nFork - NotJudit: An offbeat opening, in which both sides initially play creatively, but successfully switch to focusing on central control, with White gaining a strong fianchettoed bishop on g2, and Black breaking with …e5. White brings out the queen a little early and Black gains tempos and a small advantage chasing the queen around and improving the black pieces. Black could have picked up a good advantage by focusing on …Be7 and …0-0, getting the king to safety, and as this even happens White is able to eventually play Qxg7 leaving the Black king trapped in the centre. The position is complex, and after the tactics have played out a level endgame emerges, both sides play well until Black’s knights drift too far away from the queenside and White is able to get a passed pawn running. On the brink of victory White forfeits on time.

  • LeilaPeymani - tottydpogi22: The Exchange French is not everyone’s idea of an exciting opening, with symmetrical pawn structures and subtle manoeuvring. This game followed the typical pattern of development, a few pieces being traded and slow manoeuvring. White managed to eek out a small advantage and push forward with the White knights aiming for strong central squares. Faced with this pressure, Black miscalculated captured an advanced knight on e5, this both dropped a pawn (giving White a long-term endgame advantage), and also gave White the basis for a kingside initiative by dragging a pawn from d4 to e5, when the e5 and f4 pawn become a mobile pawn centre. These two problems make life difficult for Black, and White’s remaining knight is soon centralised on the e4 square. The comes the bomb. 32.Nf6 explodes Black’s kingside and even though White only has the queen and pawns left, checkmate is pretty much forced.

  • Smthdeedog778 - verybadchess: A London system in which Black can play a dynamic system only available to 1…d6/1…g6 players in which Black can force through the …e5 break early. The resulting position is unusual, and it is easy for White to drift into a worse position and this happens in the game. Black should have played 13…Qxe6 instead of 13…Nxe6 which would have given black an active position. White decided to initiate aggressive play with 15.g4, but didn’t really have a solid foundation from which to attack with the white King trapped in the centre. Black is able to double rooks on the d-file and generate winning pressure. White plays actively and Black makes a horrible oversight and allows White to play Nb7 forking Queen and Rook. Black is lucky to have sufficient activity at this point to generate counter threats and compensation, and is able to ride out the loss of the rook, and win White’s queen. The two rooks vs queen position that arises is far better for Black whose pieces start on more active squares, and further material loss for White is forced, after which the game snowballs.

  • forknskewer64 – Anglo: A drawn game in which both sides played well, but missed their chances. The opening was a Slav in which Black reached an optimal position, and then was able to grab a pawn with 9…Bxf3 10.Bxf3 dxc4 (having deflected the pawn’s defender). Things could have been even worse for White if Black had found the temporarily piece sacrifice 12…Bxh2+! bagging a second pawn. Black declined to defend the c4-pawn securely with …b5, and White regained the pawn and equalised. White then pulled a nice tactic to win a pawn, but like Black before was unable to find the way to hold it and an equal endgame arose. Both player might wish to look at the end of the game and brush up on their endgame study. White kept on offering an exchange of bishops, which was completely losing for White, as it would have left White with an isolated unprotected pawn, which couldn’t be defended. Black kept on turning this winning chance down.

  • Alex_Escacs - Xerxes51: A really interesting game in the Queen’s Indian defence. The first 10 moves are high quality grandmaster chess in one of the most important openings in modern chess. Essentially the game hinges on the position at move 11 when White has completed initial development and needs to find a plan. In the game White runs the h-pawn up the board, seeking a kingside attack, and every move the h-pawn makes gives Black time to optimise and counter in the centre. The game illustrates beautifully why central chess is more powerful than play on the wings and Black’s victory is the natural conclusion of the two sides strategies. Instead 11.c5! would have looked to open lines for Black’s rooks and queen in the centre while Black lagged in development, and given White every chance to gain a significant advantage.

  • Irenge - clhchess: An excellent battle in the Scotch game. The opening battle is tense and interesting, with Black accepting doubled pawns for active piece placement. With 14.g4 White overpresses before casting. (Remember everyone castling is fantastic, brilliant, and not to be delayed). Black hits back tactically making use of the uncastled king’s position, in thematic style. The resulting positions are really interesting and not simple. Black gained two clear pawns advantage, but in return White’s pieces were more active leaving the game well balanced. The game trades down to a rook pawn endgame in which White gains a winning position, but is unable to break down Black’s strong defence.

  • Jack43lin – hydefc1: A really interesting tussle in the French. Black makes a classic positional misjudgement by playing 4…c4. White chooses to close the centre fully with 5.e5, and both sides develop naturally on the side of the board where they have more space. After White castles kingside and black queenside, White opens the queenside with the b3 break, but interesting chooses to swap queens rather than focus on generating a queenside attack. The game is balanced, and both sides are able to start creating threats. White doubles on the a-file and Black decides to give up the exchange to relieve the pressure, but in the long-term rooks are worth more than minor pieces and the material advantage proves decisive.

  • nokiokid – anikamehta: At the start of the chess game all the pieces start on dreadful squares. The process of bringing them to better squares is called development and it is a race. Time is of the essence and each turn is a precious ‘tempo’ to be invested in the position. Moving the same piece several times spends these ‘tempos’, but doesn’t contribute towards activity the whole army. In this game Black’s bishop went on a grand tour to b4, d6, e7 and g5 – four bishop moves in the first seven moves! During this time White builds a fortified position in the centre and castles. White then has a very strong foundation for active play, and is able to launch a decisive attack.

  • BFS127 – TommyFischer99: An exciting Scotch game. Both sides develop naturally and aggressively. The position becomes very sharp and unfortunately White drops a rook with check handing Black a decisive attack.

  • Damo770 – LamoLam: A tactical battle in the Slav. Both sides play aggressively, but it is White who is achieves castling and centralising rooks. This results in an imbalance of power in which White can generate more dangerous tactics, pick up a couple of pawns and create threats against the Black king. White wins decisive material and swaps down to an easy endgame.

  • Pranavmehta06 – Mags2020: A great battle. White starts strongly in the centre, but the move 4.Nh3 puts the knight slightly offside. 9…0-0!? is a brave and clever move by Black, sacrificing a bishop on h4 for activity and an attack on the Black king. It might have been safest not to capture the bishop, and instead play 10.Nc3 or 10.Bg2 developing a piece and threatening to capture the bishop under more favourable circumstances. Having captured the bishop White’s defensive task is extremely difficult and Black plays superbly to drag the White king into the centre and force checkmate.