Battles on Both Sides of the Board

The following game was played in the Garden State Chess League match between Summit and Kenilworth on Thursday, January 7, 2010 at the Kenilworth Chess Club. Steve Stoyko adopts an interesting approach as Black against Simon Thomson's Tarrasch French, closing up the center and setting up a classic struggle on opposite sides of the board. Though the pawn structure gives White great potential for a kingside attack, Stoyko strikes first with a queenside attack, eventually sacrificing a piece in order to create dangerous passed pawns in that region. Thomson battles back with a dangerous kingside attack (despite the exchange of Queens) and should have been able to force a draw by perpetual check (though he may have been looking for mate). But time pressure mistakes gave Black the point. I told Steve I thought it was a fascinating game from start to finish and he agreed, saying that practically every move was "a study in choices," with fascinating possibilities for both players at every turn. In such a situation, it was inevitable that the clock should decide the game.

Simon Thomson - FM Steve Stoyko [C05]

Garden State Chess League/Kenilworth, NJ USA 2010

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ndf3

A thematic Knight reshuffling. The Ng1 will go to e2 and both Knights will defend the critical dark squares, especially d4.


7... cxd4

"In order to determine White's pawn structure" notes Viktor Moskalenko in The Flexible French. Of course, 7... Qb6 is also good as Moskalenko discusses.


8. cxd4

8. Nxd4 Nc5 "Black frees his passive Knight on d7" (Moskalenko), heading for e4 perhaps.


8... Nb6!?

An older move in this position, which clears the way for queenside development and and an attack on that wing.


9. Bd3 Bd7

9... a5!? 10. g4?! h5! 11. gxh5 (11. g5 g6 locks down the kingside completely) 11... Rxh5 0-1 Jansa,V-Nikolic,Z/Vrnjacka Banja 1983 (43).


10. Ne2 a5



The battle-lines are clearly drawn: Black will play on the queenside while White attacks on the kingside (even if his own King must castle there.) Stoyko refuses to waste time with moves on the kingside to try to slow White down, as is often done. One interesting game where Black tried to play on both sides at once continued:

10... h5 (trying to slow up White's attack with g4 and f5) 11. O-O a5 12. Nc3 g6 13. Be3 a4 14. Bf2 Be7 15. Rc1 Na5 16. b3 axb3 17. axb3 Nc6 18. h3 Nb4 19. Bb1 Nc8 20. g4! hxg4 21. hxg4 Na7 22. Kg2 Bc6 23. Rh1 Kd7!? 24. Qe2 Qa5 25. Ng5 Rxh1 26. Rxh1 Rf8 27. Qb2 Bb5 28. Qd2 Nbc6 29. Qe3 Qb4 30. Nxd5 exd5 31. Nxf7 Na5 32. Bxg6 Qxb3 33. Rh7 Qxe3 34. Bxe3 N7c6 35. Nd6 Nc4 36. Bf5+ Kd8 37. Bf2 Ba6 38. Nf7+ Ke8 39. g5 Nd8 40. g6 Nb2 41. Nd6+ 1-0 Bauer,C-Claesen,P/Mondariz ESP 2000 -- it's mate next move!


11. O-O a4 12. Kh1!?

White typically takes time out for 12. a3 Na5! but Black gains play on the light squares in that case.


12... a3! 13. b3 Nb4 14. Bb1 Bb5 15. f5! Be7 16. Qd2 Nc6

Not 16... O-O? 17. f6! striking at Black's King position and at the defender of his Knight.


17. Bd3 Bxd3 18. Qxd3 Nb4 19. Qb5+ Qd7!

The exchange of queens reduces the danger of White's kingside attack, but White still manages to conjure up dangerous threats in that sector.


20. Nc3!

The queen gets trapped after 20. Qxb6? Ra6.


20... Qxb5 21. Nxb5 Ra5 22. Nd6+!

The only good move but very strong. White now gets a dangerous passed pawn.

a) 22. Nxa3?! O-O! with the idea of Rfa8 is strong for Black.

b) 22. Nc3?! exf5 23. Ne1 O-O planning f6 or Rc8 also favors Black.


22... Bxd6 23. exd6 O-O!

Black has to play actively or he can easily get in trouble, for example after 23... Nc8?! 24. Bf4 or 23... exf5 24. Re1+ Kd7? 25. Ne5+ etc.


24. fxe6

Not 24. Ne5 exf5= and Black is in no danger.


24... fxe6 25. Bd2 Rb5 26. Ne5 Rxf1+!

Stoyko is prepared to sac a piece for White's d-pawn, so long as he gains a strong passer on the queenside in exchange.


27. Rxf1 Nxa2 28. d7 Nxd7 29. Nxd7 h6 30. Nc5!?

The Knight cannot really hold the b-pawn, but White cannot passively defend it in any case:


a) 30. Rf3 Nb4 31. Rf8+ Kh7 32. Ra8 Na6 33. Nf8+ Kg8 34. Nxe6+ Kf7 35. Nd8+ Ke7 36. Nxb7 Rxb3 37. Kg1 (37. Rxa6?? Rb1+ 38. Be1 Rxe1#) 37... Nc7 38. Rxa3 Rxb7 (38... Rxa3 39. Bb4+) 39. Bf4=.


b) 30. Rb1?! Nb4 31. Bxb4 (31. Ra1? Nc2 32. Ra2 Rxb3!) 31... Rxb4 32. Kg1 b5 33. Nc5 Rxd4 34. Ra1 b4


30... b6 31. Nxe6 Rxb3

Black's connected passed pawns offer at least sufficient compensation for the piece. White must now continue his attack on the kingside, which should gain him a draw.


32. h4!

Creating luft for his own King while threatening to hem in Black's King with h5. White's kingside attack appears to force a draw. Thomson's mistake seems to have been in trying for more. Not as good is 32. Kg1 b5 (32... Rb2 33. Rd1 b5) 33. Rf8+ Kh7 34. Ra8 Rd3


32... Rb2

Though forces are much reduced, the complications of the position are incredible and very difficult to calculate in time pressure. Stoyko moved quickly here and turned a forced draw into a win.


No better is 32... b5!? 33. h5! Nc3 (33... b4?? 34. Kh2!! Nc3 35. Rf8+ Kh7 36. Nf4!! g5 37. hxg6+ Kg7 38. Rf7+ Kg8 39. Ne6 a2 40. Rf8#) 34. Bxh6! (34. Rf8+ Kh7 35. Ra8 Na4 36. Nf8+ Kg8 37. Ng6+ Kf7) 34... gxh6 (34... Rb1 35. Rxb1 Nxb1 36. Bc1 b4 37. Nc5) 35. Rf8+ Kh7 36. Rf7+ Kg8 37. Rf8+= with a draw by perpetual check.


33. Rf8+?

Best 33. Bxh6! gxh6 (33... Nc3!? 34. Rf8+ Kh7 35. Bxg7 appears to favor White who now has another dangerous passer) 34. h5= and White draws with the Rf8+ and Rf7+ perpetual we saw above.


33... Kh7 34. Bf4?

Better 34. Ra8 Rxd2 35. Rxa3 Re2, but White seems to be playing for mate!


34... Nc3 35. Ra8 a2 36. Kh2 Rb1?!

An error in time pressure. Black can win by force by marching his King out of the danger zone, where White tactics can force a draw or even mate if he is not careful:


a) 36... Kg6! is most precise, when 37. Be5 Kf5! (37... Rb5 38. Nxg7 Ra5? 39. Rf8!) 38. Nxg7+ Ke4 and Black escapes any mating nets or perpetual threats and wins with his passed pawns.


b) 36... b5?! 37. Be5 Rb1? (37... Rf2 38. Ra7 Kg6 39. Nxg7 h5 (39... Na4?? 40. h5+ Kh7 41. Ne6+ Kg8 42. Rg7+ Kh8 43. Rf7+ Kg8 44. Rxf2 and forces mate) 40. Ra6+ Kh7 41. Ra7 and White appears to force a draw, e.g.: 41... Na4 42. Nf5+ Kg6 43. Ne7+ Kf7 44. Nf5+ Ke8 45. Ng7+ Kd8 46. Ne6+ Ke8 47. Ng7+ etc.) 38. Ra7 Re1 39. Nf8+ Kg8 40. Ng6 Rxe5 41. dxe5 Na4 42. e6 a1=Q 43. Ra8+ Kh7 44. h5

37. Ra7?

In time pressure, both players missed the possibility of attacking the Knight at c6 with Bd2, gaining two pieces for Rook and pawn, when White should be able to draw. Best, though, seems to bring the Knight to a better square by a series of checks before playing Bd2, thus: 37. Nf8+!? (this seems more precise than the immediate Bd2) 37... Kg8 38. Ng6+ Kf7 39. Ne5+ Ke6 40. Bd2 a1=Q 41. Rxa1 Rxa1 42. Bxc3 Ra3 43. Bb4 Ra4 44. Bc3 (44. Bf8? Rxd4) 44... Ra3=


37... a1=Q 38. Rxg7+? Kh8 39. Be5 Rh1+ 40. Kg3 Qe1+

A fascinating game, which allowed Kenilworth to draw the match with Summit.



[Michael Goeller]

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Copyright © 2010 by Michael Goeller