My first game of 2016 was for Richmond B against Hounslow A. While my team tends to vary a lot, Hounslow had fielded the same three players in the same order on their top boards all season. I knew I was on board 3 so I was expecting to play an old friend, the Thames Valley League President, David White, who is rated slightly below me.
David’s openings are predictable. He meets 1. e4 with the Sicilian Dragon and 1. d4 with the Benko Gambit. With his name-matching colour he opens 1. e4, playing 2. c3 against the Silician and the King’s Gambit against 1. e4. As he occasionally plays in rated tournaments I was able to find several of his games on my database.
In the past I’ve always met the King’s Gambit with 2… Bc5 (four games between 1988 and 1992) but I’ve tried various things online, most often the little-known 1. e4 e5 2. f4 Nc6 3. Nf3 f5.
I’d read John Shaw’s monumental work on the opening fairly recently, though, so had some knowledge of 3… g5. The line David preferred seemed to lead to Black’s advantage so, when I was awarded the black pieces I decided to give it a try.
1. e4 e5
2. f4 exf4
3. Nf3 g5
The usual move, of course, but, according to Shaw, Black can obtain easy equality. Instead he recommends the much less popular 4. Nc3 as White’s only serious try for an advantage.
The Kieseritzky Gambit. 5. Ng5, the Allgaier Gambit, is not to be recommended against a well-prepared opponent.
Nf6 is a more complicated alternative. My choice returns the pawn for an active position.
6. Nxg4 Nf6
7. Nxf6+ Qxf6
8. Nc3 Nc6
9. Nd5 is met by 9… Qg6 10. d3 (Qf3 runs into Nd4) 10… Qg3+ 11. Kd2 Nb4 and if White goes after the rook Black has a perpetual.
9… a6 was the old move, when, for example, Short-Shirov (Las Vegas 1999) was drawn. Black’s king is going to live in the centre anyway, and d8 has some advantages over e8, so this looks like a slight improvement.
10. Bxc6 bxc6
11. Qf3 Rg8
12. d3 Bh6
This is virtually a losing move. According to Shaw, White’s only sensible move is 13. Qf2 when he analyses 13… Rb8, when an exchange sacrifice on b2 is looming, although he tells us that Bg4 is also possible. An example featuring an up-and-coming teenager: 13. Qf2 Rb8 14. Rxb2 15. Bxb2 Qxb2 16. O-O Qxc2 17. Nxf4 Qxf2+ 1/2-1/2 (A Fedorov – M Carlsen Dubai 2004) as after 18. Rxf2 Bg7 Black is winning back the exchange. I also note with interest: 13. Qf2 Rb8 14. Nd1 (preventing the exchange sac) 14… Rg3 15. O-O Qg6 16. Bxf4 Bxf4 17. Qxf4 Rxg2+ 18. Kh1 Rg4 19. Qf6+ Qxf6 20. Rxf6 Rxh4+ 21. Kg2 Ke7 22. Rf3 Bg4 23. Rf4 Rg8 24. Kf2 Rh1 0-1 (G Bucher – M Goodger British Championship Canterbury 2010)
14. Qf2 Bxe2
15. Kxe2 Kd7
Here I finally deviate from one of the games I’d come across that afternoon when preparing for this encounter. D White – G Bucher (Sunningdale 2013) concluded 15… Rg4 16. c3 Qg6 17. Rh2 f5 18. h5 Qe6 19. Qd4 fxe4 20. Qh8+ Rg8 21. Qxh7 f3+ 22. Kf2 e3+ 23. Kf1 e2+ 24. Ke1 f2+ 0-1 Grant Bucher had clearly learnt something from his loss against Martyn Goodger three years earlier and had wisely switched to the black pieces. Either move leaves White (name or colour) with a difficult position.
16. Rh3 Rg4 17. c3 Rag8 18. Rh2 Qe5 19. Kf1 f3 20. gxf3 Rg1+ 21. Qxg1 Rxg1+ 22. Kxg1 Qg3+ 0-1 (G Ricca – P Van Hoolandt Imperia 2007) was no improvement.
Good, but Rh3 might have been even better.
17. Bd2 Rag8
18. Rag1 c5
At this point I noticed that my a-pawn was en prise and played this just to be on the safe side. 18… Qe6 was better, though.
19. Kf1 Rg3
20. Rh3 R8g4
Throwing away most of my advantage. Instead: 20… Qe6 21. Rxg3 fxg3 22. Qe1 Bxd2 23. Qxd2 f5 and White’s king will be fatally exposed.
21. Rxg3 Rxg3 22. d4 keeps White in the game.
Releasing the pressure again. As always I was getting too nervous in a winning position. 21… Qg6 should have been preferred: for instance 22. dxc5 Qxe4 23. cxd6 f3 24. Rxg3 Qd3+ 25. Ke1 Qb1+ with mate to follow.
22. Rxg3 Rxg3 23. Qxd4 Qxd4 24. cxd4 gives Black an endgame advantage, but David’s choice in the game just loses.
23. Qe2 f3
This felt right at the time, and my instincts were correct.
24. Qb5+ Ke7
25. Rxg3 Rxg3
26. Kf2 is the last chance, when I’d have to find 26… Qg4 27. Bg5+ (27. Bxh6 Qxh4 28. Kf1 Qxh6) 27… f6 28. Qc4 Rxg2+ (careful not to allow White a perpetual) 29. Rxg2 Qxg2+ 30. Ke3 Qe2+ 31. Qxe2 fxe2 32. Kxe2 fxg5 33. hxg5 Bxg5 with an extra piece in the ending.
27. Qc4 Qf4
Covering d6 as well as threatening a deadly discovered check.
28. Qxc7+ Kf8
29. e5 fxg2+
30. Ke1 Qe3+
31. Kd1 Qxg1+
32. Kc2 Qf2+
and White resigned