July 2016 Game of the Month: Beating My First Titled Player

Back in April I was this close to beating my first ever titled player … and then I threw it all away in one move.  Opps.  I wrote about that devastation and heartbreak last month.  This month, I managed to make up for that, so to speak, as I beat my first ever titled player!  Woot!

On the downside, the game itself isn’t that interesting.  White basically falls for an opening trap, and that’s it.  GG.  That’s a shame, because this month I played some really interesting positions … but none of them were my first ever victory against a titled master.  Oh well, this game has historical value if nothing else.

Let’s take a look.

Marcocordeiro2013 – SmithyQ, 2016

(Note that you can click on the above link to see the chess.com dynamic board, or you can just scroll to the bottom at any time to see the WordPress board.)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Nxe4

 

Here we go, the Open Spanish.  This has become my main weapon against 1.e4 over the last year.  Honestly, the main reason is because I’ve never liked playing against it as White, so I thought I’d try it as Black.  So far, it’s been great.

Looking at this position makes me wonder why anyone plays the Closed Spanish.  Black is temporarily up a pawn, but more importantly, he has active pieces and the best Knight in the game.  White’s counterplay isn’t clear.  What’s not to like?

6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Bc5 

This diagram is even better.  Look at it!  Black is actually ahead in development, and not just that, but White’s future development isn’t clear.  The pawn on c3 robs his Knight of his best square, and if the Knight goes to d2 then it blocks in the Bishop.  Black, meanwhile, has simply placed all his pieces on the most obvious squares.

I’m not saying Black is better here, but White needs to play near perfectly to maintain any hopes of an edge, a task most players aren’t up to.  I’ve certainly never done very well as White, and here White makes a fairly obvious move that the computers instantly say throws away any advantage.

10.a4

At first glance this looks fine.  It’s simple and thematic: White is challenging Black’s Queenside structure, hoping to gain some space, weaken Black’s pawns and open up a line for the Queen’s Rook.  It looks attractive, but it’s badly mistimed.  Black simply castled, 10…0-0, and now White is fighting for equality.

Wait, you’re probably thinking.  Can’t White win a pawn?  Yes, he can:

11.axb5 axb5 12.Rxa8 Qxa8 13.Bxd5

What Would You Play as Black?

White has executed his main plan with 10.a4: he exchanged pawns and Rooks, which distracted the Queen away from the defence of the d5-pawn, allowing White to win it.  Did I blunder?

No, but even if I did, this position could easily be a gambit.  Black has all four minor pieces not only developed but well placed.  White only has two in the game.  Black’s Queen controls an open file, and his Rook is ready to jump to the d-file and harass White’s Queen.  That doesn’t work right now, as Rd8? Bxc6 ruins Black’s day, but it’s a future threat for sure.  On top of that, White’s e5-pawn is fairly weak, and if Black can win that, then he has material equality and a simply better position.

For all these reasons, White should have been cautious before accepting the pawn.  No doubt he thought I just overlooked this mini combination, but I had seen further … in the sense that I knew the theory of this position, and I knew that Black has a wonderful tactical shot.

13…Nxf2! 14.Rxf2 Rd8

The point here is that Bxc6 no longer frees White from the pin, as Rxd1 is now check (and in fact mate).  The pin on the Bishop is deadly, and in addition the Rook is pinned to the King.  White’s going to lose material, and he has no good defence anymore.  He tried a creative idea, give him credit, but his position was too far gone.

15.c4 bxc4 16.Nc3 Bxd5 17.Nxd5 Nb4

White sacrificed a pawn to bring the Knight into the game, but it’s merely stepped into the same pin as the Bishop.  Worse, it gave my Knight access to the b4-square, which hits White’s pinned Knight again.  White found another creative move, 18.Ne7+!?, which tries to deflect the pinning Bishop away from the g1-a7 diagonal.

For instance, 18.Ne7+ Bxe7 19.Qe2 Bc5 20.Be3 and White has saved the exchange and is holding on.  When I saw that I got worried for a tad bit, but then I realized I could just ignore his threat and he’s in trouble.

18… Kf8! 19.Qf1 Nd3!

Rather than take material right away, I play the most accurate move.  The Knight lands on a crushing square, hitting everything, and I’m still threatening to capture material on the next move.

20.Nf5 Bxf2+ 21.Kh1 Qa1 0-1

White’s back rank now shows itself weak, as the Bishop is pinned and can’t be defended.  That poor Bishop never got a chance to move this entire game, all because White tried to play a4 a touch too early.

Faced with losing even more material, White resigned, and with that, I’ve claimed my first ever victory against a titled player!

Conclusions

I’ll be honest: I did very little original thought in this game.  The first ten moves were pure theory, and I knew the little trap on move 13.  After that, I was basically winning.  Am I a better player than my opponent?  It’s hard to say.  Anyone can beat anyone when they fall into a trap.  He’s certainly a better blitz player than I am, as I’m quite poor at fast time controls.  We have another game ongoing, this one in my favour but not decisive, and maybe we’ll look at that one next month.

That said, this is the first time, according to my records, that I’ve beaten a titled player, and whether it happens because of crazy tactics, beautiful sacrifices or just falling for a trap, it all counts for the same in the end.

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