A New "Best Game"

Over a year ago, I asked NM Mark Kernighan to contribute a "best game" to our website, which he did rather reluctantly, admitting that all of his games seem to have flaws. I think Mark plays chess less for aesthetic pleasure than the joy of the struggle and often seems reluctant to have his games end (which may be why so many of them continue well into the endgame and down to the last minutes on the clock). So even his better games can be overly long and difficult to follow. The current game, however, is a different story. Though Mark does make an inaccuracy in the opening, the rest of the game is flawless. And along the way he manages to find some very difficult moves. This is a gem, and I'm sure he'll agree that it is his new "best game."

James West (2200) - Mark Kernighan (2200) [B88]

Hamilton Chess Club Quads/Groveville, NJ USA (3) 2006

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6

Positions like those in this game often come about via a Najdorf move order: 5... a6 6. Bc4 e6 7. Bb3 Be7 8. O-O when if 8... Nbd7? 9. Bxe6! fxe6 10. Nxe6 Qa5 11. Nxg7+ Kf7 12. Nf5 yields White a winning attack, e.g.: 12... Ne5 13. f4 Neg4 14. Nxe7 Kxe7 15. e5 Qc5+ 16. Kh1 dxe5 17. fxe5 Qxe5 18. Bf4 Qc5 19. Qe2+ Kf7 20. Ne4 Qc6? (20... Nxe4 21. Be3+ Nef2+ 22. Bxf2 Nxf2+ 23. Rxf2+ Kg7 24. Raf1) 21. Nxf6! Nxf6 22. Be5 Be6 23. Qh5+ Ke7 24. Bxf6+ Kd7 25. Rad1+ Kc7 26. Qe5+ Kb6 27. Rd6 Rhe8 28. Rxc6+ bxc6 29. Qd4+ Kb7 30. Qb4+ Kc8 31. Be5 Rd8 32. Qb6 1-0 Simo,J-Csomor,B/HUN 1994 (32)


6. Bc4 Be7 7. Bb3 Nbd7?!

7... Na6! with the same plan of 8..Nc5 is much better, since it avoids the dangerous sacrifice at e6. The fact that the Knight has the a6 square available is one advantage of avoiding an early ...a6 as in the Najdorf.


8. f4?!

White misses the opportunity to immediately alter the character of the game with 8. Bxe6! fxe6 9. Nxe6 Qa5 10. Nxg7+ Kf7 11. Nf5 when White has at least sufficient compensation for the piece. Likely he rejected this possibility because the Bishop had just retreated to b3 and so the sacrifice would involve loss of time.


8... Nc5!= 9. Qf3 Qa5!?

With the idea , as in the game, of ...e5 followed by ...Nxb3 when White must recapture away from the center with cxb3 if the Rook at a1 is unguarded.

a) 9... e5! immediately is probably best when 10. Nf5 Bxf5 11. exf5 e4=


b) 9... O-O 10. Be3 a5!? is an interesting idea: 11. O-O-O (11. a4 e5!) 11... a4 12. Bc4 a3 13. b3 Nfxe4!? 14. Nxe4 Nxe4 15. Qxe4 d5 16. Bxd5?! (16. Qf3! dxc4 (16... Qa5? 17. Bd3! Qc3 18. Nb5 Qb2+ 19. Kd2) 17. Nxe6 Qa5 (17... Bxe6!?) 18. Bd2 Qb6 19. Nxf8 cxb3 (19... Bxf8 20. Bc3) 20. Qxb3 Qxb3 21. axb3! (21. cxb3?! Bg4!) ) 16... exd5 17. Qd3 Bf6 18. Kb1 Re8 19. Rhe1 Bg4 20. Rc1 Re4 21. h3 Qe7 22. hxg4 Bxd4 23. Bd2 Bf2 24. Rh1 h6 25. Rcd1 Rc8 26. Rh5 Rd4 27. Qf3 Qe4 0-1 Adla,D-Suba,M/Badalona 1993 (27)


c) 9... a6 10. Be3 Qc7 followed by ...O-O, ...b5, and ...Bb7 seems the standard approach to the position.

10. O-O

Better 10. Bd2 e5 (10... Nxb3 11. Nxb3) 11. Nd5 Qd8 12. Nb5 (12. Nf5) 12... O-O 13. Nbc3


10... e5 11. Nf5?

Better was 11. Ndb5 a6 (11... Nxb3 12. axb3! Qxa1 13. Nc7+ Kf8 14. Nxa8 or 11... O-O 12. Be3 Ncxe4!? 13. Nxe4 Qxb5 14. Rad1) 12. Na3 Nxb3 13. axb3 O-O (13... b5? 14. Naxb5!) 14. f5 Bd7 (14... d5 15. exd5 Bb4 16. Bd2) 15. Bg5 and White is for choice.


11... Bxf5 12. exf5 e4! 13. Qh3

Not 13. Qg3?! Nxb3 14. cxb3 Qxf5 15. Qxg7?? Rg8 16. Qh6 Qg4 17. g3 Rg6


13... Nxb3! 14. cxb3 d5!

and suddenly Black has a killer pawn duo in the center, while White's majorities are completely disabled. Though material is equal, White is strategically lost.


Black is positionally winning.


15. Be3 Bc5 16. Bxc5?! Qxc5+ 17. Kh1 h5!

Denying White any counterplay on the kingside with g4.

17... O-O 18. g4! d4?! (18... Rfe8 19. g5 Nd7 20. f6 Rad8 21. b4!? is also complicated.) 19. g5 dxc3 20. gxf6 cxb2 21. Rab1 Qd4 22. fxg7 Rfe8 23. Qg2 Qxg7 24. Rxb2 presents Black with too many difficulties.


18. Rac1 Qb6 19. Qg3 O-O!

Black's king is perfectly safe here despite the ...h5 advance, though White finds some ingenious counterplay later on the kingside.


20. Na4 Qd6 21. Rfd1 Rac8

21... d4 is playable if complicated: 22. Rc4 Rac8! 23. Rcxd4 Qxd4 24. Qe1! (trapping Black's Queen in the center of the board) 24... Qxd1 25. Qxd1 Rfd8 26. Qe1 Ng4! 27. Kg1 Rc2! 28. h3 Rdd2 29. hxg4 Rxg2+ 30. Kf1 Rh2 31. Kg1 Rcg2+ 32. Kf1 h4!and White must give up the Queen with a lost ending.


22. Rxc8 Rxc8 23. h3 d4 24. Nc3 dxc3!?

The most forcing line, and the one preferred by computers. But Black can play more simply to retain a winning advantage due to the passed pawn duo in any number of ways.


25. Rxd6 c2!

25... cxb2?? 26. Rd1 Rc1 27. Qe1 b1=Q 28. Rxc1


26. Rxf6 c1=Q+ 27. Kh2 Qd1

a) 27... Rd8 28. Qg5 Rd1 29. Kg3 Rf1 30. Kh4 Rxf4+ 31. Kxh5 Qd1+ 32. g4 Rf3! also wins.

b) 27... e3? however allows White too much counterplay, as Kernighan demonstrated for us: 28. Rh6! Rc6 (28... e2?? 29. f6) 29. Rxc6 (29. f6 Rxf6! 30. Rxh5!) 29... bxc6 30. f6 g6 31. f5 e2 32. fxg6!


28. Rh6!?

An ingenious move that requires very precise play by Black due to the threat of f6! with a winning attack--and the fact that Black cannot play 28...Kf8? due to 29.Rh8+ of course--a tactic made possible by Black's earlier ...h5 advance.


28... Rc1! 29. Qg5

29... f6!!

Precisely played!

29... e3? 30. f6! and Black must force a draw to avoid mate with 30... Qg1+ 31. Kg3 Qf2+ 32. Kh2 Qg1+=


30. Rxf6 h4!! 31. Qxh4 Qg1+

and White resigned since 32.Kg3 Qe1+ 33.Kg4 Qxh4+ 34.Kxh4 gxf6 nets a Rook for Black.



[Michael Goeller]

Game in PGN