Another McDonnell - La Bourdonnais Attack

Michael Goeller (2042) - Max Sherer (1824) [C00]

Kenilworth CC Championship/Kenilworth, NJ USA (4) 2011

1. e4 e6 2. f4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. Nf3 Bd7 5. c3 Qb6

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.


6. Na3 Nh6 7. Nc2 Bb5?! 8. d3 Be7

9. Be3?!

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 O-O 10. O-O etc.


9... Qd8?!

Black should fight for the d4 square by 9... Nf5! 10. Bf2 Bc6 (10... d4!?) 11. Rb1 (11. b4 d4!) 11... d4! 12. Be2.


10. Be2 O-O 11. O-O Nd7

11... Nc6 12. Qd2 Ng4=


12. a4! Ba6?!

12... Bc6! 13. Kh1 (13. b4? d4! 14. cxd4 cxb4) 13... Nf5 14. Bf2


13. b4! b6

13... d4?! 14. b5 Bxb5 15. axb5 dxe3 16. Nxe3


14. b5 Bb7 15. d4 f6

15... c4!? 16. Kh1 a6


16. Kh1

16. exf6 Nxf6 xe4


16... Nf5 17. Bf2 fxe5 18. fxe5 Qe8

Black should play 18... a6!


19. g4!?

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.


19... Nh6 20. Ne3 Qg6?!

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.


21. Bd3 Qf7?!

The queen is too vulnerable here. Better 21... Qe8 22. g5! Qh5! (22... Nf5?! 23. Bxf5 exf5 24. e6 Nb8 25. dxc5 xd5) 23. gxh6 Qxf3+ 24. Qxf3 Rxf3 25. Be2 Rf7 26. Bg4 Nf8 27. a5.


22. Bg3 Qe8 23. Qb1!? g6 24. h4

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


24... Kg7 25. Kg2 Rh8 26. g5 Nf5 27. Ng4 Qd8 28. Bxf5! gxf5 29. Nh6!?

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!


29... Qe8 30. Rh1

30. Nxf5+! exf5 31. e6 Nf8 32. Be5+ Kg8 33. Bxh8 Kxh8 34. Qxf5.


30... a6 31. Qd3 Qh5 32. Nd2 Rhf8 33. Bf4 Rfc8 34. Nf1! Qe8

34... axb5 35. Ng3


35. Ng3 Bf8



36. Qe2

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.


36... Kh8

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.


37. Nhxf5! exf5 38. e6 Bg7!

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!,


39. exd7

39. h5!?


39... Qxe2+?

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!

Necessary was 39... Qxd7 40. h5! (40. Nh5 Re8 41. Qf2) 40... Re8 41. Qd3


40. Nxe2 Rd8 41. Bc7 Rxd7 42. Bxb6 cxd4 43. Nxd4!? Rf7 44. Rhe1 axb5 45. axb5 Bxd4??

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.

45... Rxa1 46. Rxa1 h6!? gave good chances of winning on time for Black!


46. Bxd4+ Kg8 47. Rxa8+ Bxa8 48. Re8+ Rf8 49. Rxf8+ Kxf8 50. Kf3 Kf7


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.


51. h5! Bb7

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.


52. Kf4 Bc8 53. Ke5 Bd7 54. b6 Bc8 55. Kxd5 h6 56. g6+ Kg8 57. Kc6 f4 58. b7 Bxb7+ 59. Kxb7

The triumph of playing on both sides of the board.



[Michael Goeller]

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Copyright © 2011 by Michael Goeller