Missed Opportunities

My next match involved a trip to Uxbridge, where I was expecting to play their top board, Charlie Nettleton, a young player with a grade of 187 (now 197). I found quite a lot of Charlie’s games on MegaBase, but discovered that he’s one of these players who chooses a different opening every time, which at least meant I didn’t have to waste any more time on preparation.

I had the black pieces and soon found myself in a Vienna/Bishop’s Opening hybrid, another post-theory opening.

1. e4 e5
2. Nc3 Nf6
3. Bc4 Nc6
4. d3 Bb4
5. Bg5 d6
6. Nge2 Na5
7. Bb5+ c6
8. Ba4 b5
9. Bb3 Nxb3
10. axb3 h6
11. Bh4 Be6
12. O-O O-O
13. Kh1 g5
14. Bg3 Nh5
15. d4

Fairly equal so far, but my next move is a blunder. Instead, Qc7 would have been about equal.

15… Qf6
16. d5

Missing an opportunity. White could win a pawn here with the natural move 16. Ra6. This creates two threats. The obvious one is Rxc6, but there’s also a threat of Na2, when the bishop on b4 has nowhere to go. A problem-like theme: White creates this threat by moving his rook beyond the a2 square. Now I could deal with this threat by playing 16… Bxc3, but after 17. Nxc3 White has another threat. The knight recapture has uncovered the possibility of Qxh5. I could meet that threat with 17… Nxg3, but after 18. fxg3 White reveals another discovered attack, and this time there’s no way out. I can’t move the queen to defend c6 so the c-pawn finally falls.

16… cxd5
17. exd5

Taking with a piece seems more natural, and probably stronger.

17… Bd7
18. Qd3 a6
19. f3 Qe7
20. Bf2 f5
21. Na2 e4
22. fxe4 fxe4
23. Qd1 Bc5
24. Bxc5 Rxf1+
25. Qxf1 dxc5
26. Nac3 b4
27. Nd1 Rf8
28. Qg1

I’ve outplayed my opponent over the last few moves, but at the cost of precious time on the clock. I now have the chance to gain a decisive advantage.

28… Qd6

The sort of safe move you play in time trouble, defending the pawn on a6 and blockading the d-pawn. But I could have done much better: passed pawns should be pushed! The first point of 28… e3 is that the pawn can’t be taken. 29. Nxe3 runs into Re8, skewering the white knights, while 29. Qxe3 is even worse after Rf1+. White has nothing better than 29. Rxa6 when Black continues 29… Bg4 (but not 29… Bb5 30. Re6) and White has no defence. For instance, 30. Ng3 Nxg3+ 31. hxg3 Rf1 32. Qxf1 e2 and wins, or 30. Qe1 Qe4 (more accurate than 30… Bxe2 31. Rg6+ Kh7 32. Re6) followed by Bxe2 and Nf4. The best try is 30. Qxe3 Bxe2 when White clearly can’t capture the black queen, so has nothing better than 31. Ra8 Qxe3 32. Rxf8+ Kxf8+ 33. Nxe3 and Black, with a piece against two pawns, should win.

I should add that e3 was also very strong, as well as being rather more obvious, the previous move. Nimzowitsch was right about passed pawns!

29. Ne3

Now it’s equal, or would have been after the more active 29… Bb5.

29… Bc8
30. Rd1 Nf4
31. Ng3 Qg6
32. Nc4

White misses the chance to push his passed pawn: 32. d6 was strong.

32… Re8

Now I should have given up my e-pawn for activity: 32… e3 33. Nxe3 h5 with enough compensation for the pawn according to the engines.

Instead, with little time remaining, I overlooked the discovered attack after which my position collapsed.

33. Qxc5 Bg4
34. Re1 h5
35. Ne3 Bc8
36. d6 Qf6
37. Qc6 Rd8
38. Nxe4 Qe5
39. Nc4 Qd4
40. Nxg5 Bd7
41. Qc7 Qf6
42. Ne4 Qf8
43. Ne5 Nd5
44. Nxd7 Nxc7
45. Nxf8 Kxf8
46. dxc7 Rc8
47. Ng5 1-0

An interesting game with some missed opportunities on both sides. My main problem, as usual, was poor time handling. With much less time on the clock against a much younger opponent it’s highly likely that things will go wrong.

Richard James

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About Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy (www.chesskids.org.uk or www.chesskids.me.uk) and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard is currently the Curriculum Consultant for Chess in Schools and Communities (www.chessinschools.co.uk) as well as teaching chess in local schools and doing private tuition. He has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966 and currently has an ECF grade of 177.