Michael Goeller (2042) - Max Sherer (1824) [C00]
Kenilworth CC Championship/Kenilworth, NJ USA (4) 2011
The standard French Advance plan of Bb5 to exchange Bishops is easily defeated here by d3, blocking the diagonal, after which the Bishop will be misplaced.
I hesitated quite a bit before playing this, remembering my last game where this move led to trouble. But I could not resist trying to expoit the Black queen's position and reinforce my control fo the d4 square. Better simply 9. Be2
Black should play 18... a6!
Creating a gash in White's kingside, but it looks like the only way to get something going on that side of the board. As FM Steve Stoyko told me after the game, White's apparent "advantage" on the kingside is only "an optical illusion" (his words); White's best chances lie on the queenside with the natural break a5, though he correctly assessed that White still has no advantage here. This move is especially good once Black's queen moves off of the d8-a5 diagonal. 19. a5! bxa5 20. Rxa5 Bd8 21. Ra2 c4.
This helps White gain some traction along the b1-h7 diagonal, targetting Black's potential weakness at h7. Much better was to keep White from using the d3 square with 20... c4! but I think White has decent kingside attacking chances with 21. g5! Nf5 (21... Nf7 22. g6) 22. Rg1 a6! 23. Nxf5 (23. g6!? hxg6 24. Nxf5 Rxf5 25. Be3) 23... Rxf5 24. g6 (24. Be3? axb5 25. axb5 Nxe5! 26. Nxe5 Rxe5 27. dxe5 d4+) 24... h6 25. Bf1 Qf8 26. Rg3 axb5 27. Bh3.
I spent a tremendous amount of time searching for a breakthrough on the kingside, but I could't find anything there. At this point, though, I was down to a minute plus 5-second increment on the clock and so the remainder is reconstructed (I may have a few moves out of order, but I have all of the moves right). The mistake I made was always looking to the right and never looking left.
Instead, 24. a5! is still the right idea. White has to remember in the Advance and McDonnell French always to play on both sides! Black might then try 24... a6!? 25. g5! (playing on two sides at once!) 25... Nf5 26. Nxf5 gxf5 27. bxa6 Bxa6 28. axb6 Bxd3 29. Rxa8! Qxa8 30. Qxd3 c4 31. Qe3 Nxb6 32. g6
While the more natural move was 29. Nf6 , my goal was to keep pieces on the board and try to break through sacrificially on f5 or to get my other knight to h5 while blocking any attempts at h6 by Black. Probably Nf6 is better, but I think my idea was sound, and pretty good for someone with about 30 seconds plus increment on the clock!
I was still playing to set up the Nxf5+ breakthrough, but now was the best moment to pull the trigger: 36. Ngxf5+!! exf5 37. e6! Kh8 (37... Qxe6? 38. Rae1 Qg6 39. h5 traps the queen) 38. Qxf5 Bg7 39. Nf7+ Kg8 40. Nd6.
With Black threatening Bxh6, I have to pull the trigger on the f5 sac. I was down to under 20 seconds plus increment at this point.
38... Nb8? 39. Nh5!? ( That was my plan, but Fritz prefers 39. Nxf5! Qg6 40. Raf1) 39... Qg6 40. Be5+ Kg8 41. Nf6+ Kh8 and I knew White had at least a draw, but Fritz thinks there is a winning advantage after 42. Qh5!,
After this, White emerges with a pawn to the good and a winning endgame - if I can win it with just 15 seconds plus increment!
Black is losing in any event, but this move allows mass exchanges that make it possible for me to win even if I were to drop down to just the 5 second increment.
Max must have been hoping that this ending was a draw due to the Bishops of opposite colors. But I remembered a chapter of Botvinnik's wonderful little book on the endgame (maybe the only endgame book I ever read cover to cover) where he says that Bishop of opposite color endings can be won if the stronger side has "trousers": meaning passed pawns that are significantly separated, like the two legs of a pair of pants. During the game, I realized that Botvinnik's "trousers" metaphor made a very useful mnemonic that helped me instantly to recognize the win.
White's trousers create threats on both sides of the board, so that Black's King and Bishop cannot work together. Here, the win is trivial because the passed g-pawn makes it impossible for Black to defend against the White King's invasion on the dark squares: if 51... Ke6 52. g6 will force the King back.
The triumph of playing on both sides of the board.
Game in PGN
Copyright © 2011 by Michael Goeller