The Fourth Missed Fork

For my next match I was back at Surbiton, and facing Steve Kearney, my opponent in the first Missed Fork game, again with the white pieces.

I went for the Queens Gambit again, but this time chose a slightly different set-up.

1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 e6
3. Nf3 d5
4. Nc3 Be7
5. Bf4 c6
6. e3 Nbd7
7. h3 O-O
8. cxd5 exd5
9. Bd3 Re8
10. O-O Nf8
11. Ne5 Ng6
12. Nxg6 hxg6
13. Qc2 Nh5
14. Bh2 Bd6
15. Bxd6 Qxd6
16. Rab1 Bd7
17. b4 b6
18. a4 Nf6

So far so orthodox. I might have waited and tried to prevent c5 before playing b5.

19. b5 c5
20. dxc5 Qxc5

Black chooses an IQP formation. He might also have played bxc5, with hanging pawns.

21. Rbc1

21. Ne2, controlling the key d4 square, was more to the point. Now, and also over the next few moves, Black could play d4, trading off the isolated pawn.

21… Rac8
22. Rfd1 Qb4
23. Qb1 Qh4

Instead Black goes for a king-side attack.

24. Qb3 Be6
25. Qa3 g5
26. Ne2 Nd7

Vacillating. There were better alternatives, such as Rcd8, keeping more pieces on the board. I was expecting, and rather concerned about, the consistent 26… g4, but the engines aren’t too bothered, continuing with 27. Rxc8 Rxc8 28. g3 Qxh3 29. Qd6 with more than enough for the pawn. I rather suspect that 28. g3 wouldn’t have occurred to me.

27. Rxc8 Rxc8
28. Nd4 Nc5
29. Nf5 Bxf5
30. Bxf5 Rd8
31. Rd4

Looks natural, but the engines prefer Bg4 or Qa2.

31… Qh6
32. Bg4 Qg6
33. Bf3

Careless. I should have played Qa2 first to prevent Qb1+ or Qc2.

33… Qb1+
34. Rd1 Qc2
35. a5

Not 35. Rxd5 Rxd5 36. Bxd5 Qd1+. Now Black should try 35… Ne4, with equality, but instead makes what should have been a fatal blunder.

35… Qc4
36. axb6 axb6

And here’s the Fourth Missed Fork. I just hadn’t thought about the significance of opening the a-file. Of course, if you know it’s there it’s easy: 37. Bxd5 just wins everything. A sacrifice to set up a check which is also a fork. Time and time again I miss simple tactics by failing to do what I’ve been trying to teach my pupils to do for decades: look for every check, capture and threat.

37. Rd4 Qxb5
38. Bxd5 Rf8
39. Qa7 Ne6
40. Bxe6 fxe6
41. Rd7

Natural, I suppose, when you’re running low on time, but I failed to spot that the black queen can reach b2 to defend g7, when White will have problems defending f2. Instead Qe7 would have offered some chances. Now the game lurches towards the inevitable draw.

41… Qb1+
42. Kh2 Qb2
43. Re7 Rxf2
44. Qb7 Qe5+
45. Kg1 Rb2
46. Qc8+ Kh7
47. Qxe6 Rb1+
48. Kf2 Rb2+
49. Kg1 1/2-1/2

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 ( or 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 ( 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.