Game 10: Gavacho_Iberico-SmithyQ: My Luckiest Draw Ever

On my account, I currently have 8 losses out of just over 100 games.  I should have many more, but I have a few miracle draws and swindles to my name.  The one I show today, though, might take the cake.

I should have known this game would be a tragicomedy when, somehow, I ended up playing the French defence.  I play well and win a pawn … and then I start hallucinating and think White has major threats.  I overreact to these threats, and the next thing you know I’m in a losing endgame where White is up several pawns, one of which is two moves from Queening and mating.

And I escape.  Beware, I evidently possess dark mystical powers, because that’s the best explanation for what you are about to witness.


[Event “Let’s Play!”]
[Site “”]
[Date “2015.04.12”]
[Round “?”]
[White “gavacho_iberico”]
[Black “SmithyQ”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[ECO “B28”]
[WhiteElo “1599”]
[BlackElo “1711”]
[Annotator “Pettit”]
[PlyCount “132”]
[EventDate “2015.??.??”]
[TimeControl “1”]

{I get tricked into playing the French defence, which puts me in an unfamilar
middlegame that I steadily misplay. Also, this game is perhaps the best
example ever of why you should learn basic endgames.} 1. e4 c5 {I know what
you are thinking: this is the Sicilian, not the French. Just watch.} 2. c3 e6
$5 3. d4 d5 4. e5 {And we now have a French defence position … which is
unfortunate, because I don’t play the French. In fact, you could say I detest
the French.} Bd7 5. Nf3 a6 {My moves will make sense in a second.} 6. Bf4 Bb5 {
In the French, Black’s Bishop is the worst piece in the game, by far. I thus
try to exchange it as quickly as humanly possible. Yes, it worsens my pawn
structure, but that’s not a big worry.} 7. Bxb5+ axb5 8. O-O Nd7 ({The
computer suggests} 8… c4 {This blocks the Queenside and prepares b4 as early
as next move. Yes, I’m completely undeveloped, but the pawn chains makes it
hard for White to do anything with that.}) 9. Na3 Qb6 {Defending my b-pawn and
setting a trap of sorts.} 10. Bg5 {I thought this was a straight blunder,
missing my threat to win a pawn, but the computer thinks White’s position is
okay here.} cxd4 11. cxd4 Bxa3 12. bxa3 Rxa3 {After a series of exchanges I’ve
won a pawn, but the computer isn’t impressed. It’s actually easy to see why:
I’m behind in development, the position is opening up with my King in the
center, White has a powerful pawn centre and my doubled pawns on the b-file
are quite weak.} ({Best play is apparently} 12… h6 13. Bd2 Ne7 14. Bb4 Nc6
15. Bd6 Na5 {where White has installed his Bishop on a nice square but my
Knight will soon come to c4 on an equally nice one. Still, I’d rather be White
here.}) 13. Qc1 Ra8 {I need to retreat all the way back to defend my back rank,
giving White even more time.} 14. Qc3 Ne7 $6 {What a silly move. I’m not sure
why I allowed this. Most likely I missed White’s 16th move.} (14… h6 15. Be3
(15. Bh4 g5 16. Bg3 Ne7 {is even better for Black, as White’s Bishop is
pathetic and Black can think of a Kingside pawn storm if he wants.}) 15… Ne7
{is clearly better, letting Black castle in peace.}) 15. Bxe7 Kxe7 16. Qb4+ $1
{A good move, pushing my King back before I can slide my Rook into the game.}
Ke8 17. Rfc1 f6 {I need my h8-Rook, so I prepare a square for my King.} 18. Rc2
Kf7 {Look how much time I’ve lost moving my King around in the middlegame(!).
All because of my silly 14th move.} 19. Rac1 Ra4 20. Qd2 Rc4 $1 {Fortunately,
my opponent has not played very accurately, and I completely erase his
presence on the c-file.} 21. Qf4 Rhc8 22. Rxc4 {In chess, you often face
benign yet critical decisions. Here, do you take back with the Rook or with a
pawn? This decision will completely change the pace of the game.} Rxc4 $6 {
And I make the wrong one. I’ll be honest, I did it because I assumed White had
to trade here, reaching the same position but without any Rooks. I guess this
is a type of chess blindness.} (22… bxc4 {This move is so much better. First,
it fixes my weak pawns, and now my extra pawn actually means something. Second,
it gives me a clear and lasting advantage with a protected passed pawn. White
must guard it, and that gives Black time to play Qa5 and b5-b4. Black’s
probably winning here, in all honesty, which makes my decision so much worse.})
23. Rb1 {I almost want to give this move a !!, as it completely changes the
character of the position and, frankly, makes me start playing terrible moves.
Observe.} f5 $6 {I make a weakening pawn move near my King for no reason. Well,
not no reason, just a bad reason.} ({I was worried about the following
position.} 23… Qc6 24. exf6 gxf6 25. Ng5+ {[%cal Gg5h7,Gg5e6] where White is
coming at my King and seemingly winning a pawn … except he isn’t, because my
Queen protects it. Again, chess blindness, and I overreact. Also, 23…Qc7
instead of Qc6 would stop the idea as well, because it would pin the e-pawn to
the Queen.}) 24. Qh4 Qc6 {I’m only after one thing, exchanging Rooks. If I can
do that, I think, then I should win easily… which might be true if there
were no Queens. White’s Queen and Knight are about to coordinate beautifully
against my rather lonesome King.} (24… h6 {is the best move, stopping the
Knight from coming in. I thought about this, but I didn’t like} 25. Qh5+ Kg8
26. Nh4 {Where the Knight is coming to the weakened g6-square. Black can’t
take the pawn.} Rxd4 (26… Nf8 $1 {is the defensive move I missed. Now if} 27.
Qe8 Qc6 {Threatens both mate with Rc1 and exchanging Queens, with a huge
advantage.}) 27. Qe8+ Kh7 28. Ng6 Rg4 29. Ne7 {and White is threatening mate
on g8. Black is forced to play} Nf6 30. exf6 {which of course is resignable.})
25. Qh5+ Kf8 {Why not Kg8? In all honestly, I was hoping White would take on
h7 and fall for mate on c1. Around here, I felt how uncomfortable my position
really was, even while up a pawn, and so I began playing for tricks.} 26. h3 {
White stops any back rank ideas, but I was okay with this, because it allowed
me to exchange Rooks.} (26. Qxh7 $4 Rc1+ 27. Rxc1 Qxc1+ 28. Ne1 Qxe1#) 26…
Rc1+ {… and right here, as soon as I played this move, my heart skipped a
beat and my face went pale.} 27. Rxc1 {I was so relieved to see this, because
White had a much more interesting move.} (27. Kh2 $3 {Boom! White sacrifices
his Rook to gain time for his Knight to attack my King.} Rxb1 ({Instead} 27…
h6 28. Rxc1 Qxc1 {should transpose into the main game.}) 28. Ng5 {White
threatens mate and there’s literally nothing I can do to stop it. I would need
to resort to perpetual check, which, in all honesty, I did not see at the time.
} Rh1+ $1 29. Kxh1 Qc1+ 30. Kh2 Qf4+ 31. Kg1 (31. g3 Qxf2+ 32. Kh1 Qf1+ 33. Kh2
Qf2+ $11 {is also drawn.}) 31… Qc1+ 32. Kh2 Qf4+ $11 {This secures the draw,
but again, I didn’t see it during the game. I would have just resigned.}) 27…
Qxc1+ 28. Kh2 h6 29. Qg6 {White plays very well from here on out. Notice how
he is worming his Queen into my position, and the Knight is likely to follow.}
Qc6 30. g4 $1 {and this is another good idea, inducing more weaknesses. It’s
surprisingly hard for my Knight and Queen to come to good squares.} fxg4 31.
hxg4 Kg8 {I would have saved a tempo had my King been on g8 from the beginning,
but that’s the price for hoping for tricks back on move 25.} 32. g5 $1 {
Excellent. White keeps making progress, and I’m further thrust onto the back
foot.} Nf8 33. Qh5 hxg5 $2 {I can’t explain this move in any strategical way,
but I can psychologically: I’ve been defending for 15 moves now, and I’m
getting worried. I saw White’s potential 27th move, Kh2!, and that put me on
edge. My position isn’t as good as I thought, and that got me tilted, and now
I make perhaps the worst move on the board, letting White’s Knight reach a
dominating square.} (33… Qc2 {was the best move, counter-attacking on f2 and
preparing to retreat with Qg6. Had I been thinking straight, asking what can I
attack, I would have found this easily, but I was so preoccupied with
defending that I never even considered it.}) 34. Nxg5 Qd7 35. Kg3 g6 36. Qh4
Qe7 37. f3 {White isn’t doing anything, but I’m tied down as well. I think, as
the higher-rated player and up a pawn, that I should win this game. I try to
force things, but that’s not what should happen.} Nh7 {I correctly trade
White’s much superior Knight.} 38. Nxh7 Qxh7 $2 {But then I make a terrible,
terrible decision!} (38… Qxh4+ 39. Kxh4 Kxh7 $11 {is a completely drawn
endgame, and how the game should have ended. I wanted to win, though, so I
rejected this. My oh my.}) 39. Qd8+ $1 {Opps. Completely missed this.} ({
I only looked at} 39. Qxh7+ Kxh7 40. Kg4 Kh6 41. f4 {I thought I had a chance
to win this position, but it’s also drawn.} b4 42. Kh4 b6 43. Kg4 b5 44. Kh4
Kh7 45. Kg5 Kg7 $11 {and drawn.}) 39… Kg7 40. Qe7+ ({More accurate} 40. Qf6+
Kg8 41. Qxe6+ Kg7 42. Qe7+ Kg8 43. Qxh7+ Kxh7 44. Kf4 {and White wins
trivially. He has a protected central passed pawn … like I should have had
back on move 22.}) 40… Kh8 41. Qxe6 Qh6 {The computer doesn’t like this move
(or any of my moves from here on out), but I need to play for tricks. Even
best moves will lose, so go for tricks.} 42. Qc8+ (42. Qh3 {White is still
winning, but trading Queens makes it so much easier.}) 42… Kh7 43. Qxb7+ Kh8
44. Qc8+ Kg7 45. Qd7+ Kf8 46. Qd8+ Kg7 47. Qf6+ {White has spent a lot of time
checking my King and not getting anywhere. He’s still winning, obviously, but
he needs a plan.} Kg8 48. e6 {He now sees the way forward: advance his pawn,
which I cannot stop. My only hope is perpetual check.} Qh1 {Not the best move,
but the best practical chance. It gets my Queen deep into the position, where
I have lots of potential checks.} 49. Qxg6+ Kh8 {Now, if I can lose my b-pawn,
I’m almost in stalemate. Some faint drawing hopes emerge.} 50. Qf6+ Kg8 51.
Qg5+ $2 {White was perhaps too cogniscant of that stalemate idea, because he
now is moving backwards.} (51. e7 {is the correct idea. Sure, I have some
checks, but they can’t last forever.}) 51… Kf8 52. Qf6+ Kg8 53. Qf7+ Kh8 54.
Qf6+ {I’m getting increasingly more hope as I begin to realize that White
doesn’t know what he is doing.} Kg8 55. Qg5+ Kf8 56. Kf4 {White finally stops
checking me, which gives me a chance to annoy him with checks.} Qh2+ 57. Qg3
Qxa2 {and now I get greedy again. I know two things: I have no perpetual check
here, but my opponent doesn’t know how to win this position. If he keeps
wasting time, maybe my b-pawn can steadily advance. A dream, maybe, but at
least it’s something else for him to worry about.} 58. Qg6 Qd2+ 59. Ke5 Qe3+
60. Kd6 Qa3+ 61. Kxd5 Qxf3+ {Just keep checking. Losing pawns is fine by me.}
62. Qe4 Qb3+ 63. Ke5 {My only check now is Qg3+, which White answers with Qf4+
and finally exchanges Queens. Instead, time for my plan B.} b4 {Push the pawn,
give him something to worry about.} 64. Qf5+ ({This would be the easiest way
for White to win, just for the record} 64. Kf6 {threatening mate with Qa8.} Qa2
(64… Qc4 65. Qa8+ Qc8 66. Qxc8#) 65. e7+ Ke8 66. Qc6# {Again, I’ve been
losing for nearly 30 moves, and White has missed many similar ideas. I’m not
trying to pretend I have played some defensive masterpiece here.}) 64… Kg7
65. Qf4 Qc3 66. Qf7+ Kh6 {and, amazingly, here my opponent offered a draw. I
accepted immediately. He is of course winning completely, with a pawn two
squares away from Queening, but he evidently felt so unsure of this whole
endgame stage that he offered a draw instead… in a position the computer
says is +12.} ({For completeness sake} 66… Kh6 67. Qf6+ Kh7 68. e7 Qc7+ 69.
Qd6 Qc8 (69… Qa5+ 70. Kf6 {and there are no more checks.}) 70. Qd8 {and
Black has no good checks.} Qh3 71. e8=Q {is how the game could have ended.})


This game is incredible.  I spent the first 40 moves or so thinking I was winning since I’m up a pawn, but the computer says I only have a moderate advantage.  My opponent then thought the position was drawn when in fact he was completely winning.  We both completely mis-evaluated this game in opposite ways!

I discussed the concept of equality in a recent post, and I used graphic aids to help explain it.  Borrowing from that post, here is how the game looked after move 12, when I had won a pawn.

I had won a pawn, gaining an advantage in Force in the above diagram, and so I assumed I was winning.  Looking deeper, though, we see that White’s e5-pawn gives him a nice central wedge, restricting Black’s Space.  White can easily bring his Rooks to good squares, whereas Black needs Time to finish development.  Black’s Knights have no good squares and are passively placed, whereas White has a nicely posted Bishop: White’s piece Quality is better.  Finally, Black’s pawn structure is worse, as he has doubled pawns on a half-open file.

I am up a pawn, yes, but White has every other advantage in the position.  This is why the position is near equal, as one pawn does not offset all the other small advantages White has.  This explains why, when I kept pushing for a win later, it actually backfired.  I created weaknesses for White to exploit, and it took divine intervention for me not to lose.

2 thoughts on “Game 10: Gavacho_Iberico-SmithyQ: My Luckiest Draw Ever

  1. Gringo

    1. On move 22 for black was taking with a pawn better because of
    a) Getting a passed pawn
    b) Connecting the pawn chain (seucring solid structure)
    c) Removing doubled pawns (weaknesses)
    d) Or was it some combination of these?

    2. Since there was a pawn chain, shouldn’t black’s plan be to focus on the queenside? Like push pawns forward and open that side to take advantage of more space there? Was lack of development the cause that prevented that? Or that what happened and I just didn’t understand it?


  2. JP Post author

    1. Yes to all the above, though I think of it now in terms of plans. By taking with the pawn, Black has a clear plan: push the c-pawn and threaten to Queen. Prolly play b5 first, get the pieces organized, but that’s the plan. By taking with the Rook, I don’t have any plan to improve my position, as the game continuation shows.

    2. Yes, I should have played on the Queenside, and I mostly did. I have to get my King to f7 first, though, so my Rook could come into the game (no sense in opening lines if your Rook is stuck in the corner, unable to use them). When all the Rooks were traded, White’s pieces were much more active, which forced me to defend; I can’t attack on the Queenside if White is threatening mate.

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