Thursday, 26 April 2012

Horvath-Ikeda, Doeberl Cup 2012

by Junta

Playing over Game 3 of the currently ongoing Kramnik-Aronian match from Tuesday night, where Aronian sacrificed his queen right after the opening, it reminded me of how I've played several games this year where I've been on 'his side' of things - playing against the queen with a platoon of lesser pieces.

Personally I'm a big fan of playing unbalanced games, especially with actual material imbalances, as it's usually all about who can take hold of the initiative and harmoniously bring their pieces into the thick of the battle, whilst dodging the opponent's deadly threats - in short, tactical skirmishes across the whole board.

The first of these games can be seen near the bottom of two posts ago - the game I achieved my first IM norm through, with RRBN vs. QR, in January.

Final position: 46...Bd6-e7 0-1

The second was in a local tournament game in March where I only had RRBN against my opponent's QRN, but weaved a mating net quickly thanks to a blunder.
The third was a dramatic game which I played in Round 3 of the recent Doeberl Cup, against Hungarian GM Adam Horvath.

Photo: Agus Setiabudi
The game began as a Sicilian Taimanov - we were both using lots of time and by move 20, had less than a minute/move to make it to the time control at move 40.

After 20...Kg8-h8 - the tension is building...
The first critial moment arose after White pushed 30.g5-g6 - solidifying the king's hideout with 30...h7-h6 seems natural enough, and is the obvious best (only) move - but somehow I saw ghosts of White crashing through on h6, so my hand impulsively grabbed the f8-rook and captured the knight.

After 30...h7-h6 Houdini says =+ (!), but after 30...Rxf4? it's clearly +-.
An exchange down, I thought White would slowly but surely convert, so after the above mistake I thought I might as well go for the more active option again. This time I gave up my queen for a rook and bishop, resulting in this outwardly depressing endgame - my only consolation was that my opponent was low on time.

After 44...Rb7xBg7 45.Qe8xPe6
It should be a fairly straightforward win for White, but I wanted to make it as difficult as possible - and perhaps my opponent relaxed a little too much, because as all the other games finished and a crowd converged around our board on the stage, my pieces co-ordinated well enough in attack to demand White to make the choice - take perpetual check, or give up the knight?

After 69...Nf4-h5+ - threefold repetition with 70.Kh3, or...
I was surprised he gave up the knight with 70.Kf3. Embarassingly, I was quite convinced that RNN vs. Q was a win, whereas it is actually a (fairly well known) dead draw! After the knight I rounded up the c-pawn, then the h-pawn - it was time to weave a mating net (or so I thought). Amusingly, there were several instances where I nearly made moves which won the queen for rook - each time, my (inner) smile disappeared when I realised I would only be left with the two knights.

So, the win was much more difficult than I thought, and I was feeling confused and frustrated. I could see no way to make progress - but as I had lost all objectivity, it did not even enter my mind that there was indeed no win. White kept one of the knights pinned with the queen, and was safe - so nearly 6.5 hours into the game, I cracked under the tension and lost on time. A good lesson it was - the game can be played through below.

Apologies for blog inactivity since February - this year I've already played 60 rated games through January-April, a new record for the first four months of one year. At the HD Bank Open in Vietnam at the start of March, I scored the worst performance of my life, scoring 3/9 and losing 59 rating points - there were several factors to my failure, but in general I seem to be scoring worse against lower rated players this year compared to the last couple of years.

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