Game 13: Rustlavi-SmithyQ, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

I remember playing this game, and my thoughts were all over the place.  I went from super confident to super worried and back again.  Truly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for it’s hard to imagine the same person played all my moves.

If you go by the computer, my first nine moves are perfect.  I then start turning into Mr. Hyde, where my moves become worse and worse, until finally I make five tactically flawed moves in a row.  Fortunately, Dr. Jekyll starts to reassert himself, and I finish the game off in an endgame without incident.

The game is short but the analysis long, mostly due to the mistakes.  Dig in and get ready to calculate with me.

[Event “Let’s Play!”]
[Site “”]
[Date “2015.04.20”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Rustavi”]
[Black “SmithyQ”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “B41”]
[WhiteElo “1558”]
[BlackElo “1706”]
[Annotator “Pettit”]
[PlyCount “66”]
[EventDate “2015.??.??”]
[TimeControl “1”]

{A strange game, where I play the first ten moves perfect, the next ten like
I’ve contracted amnesia and have forgotten how to play chess, the next ten
like I’m getting my memory back and then, fortuitously, win shortly thereafter.
} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 {I don’t always play the Sicilian, but when I do, I
almost always go for the e6 lines. They seem more intuitive, and they can
punish passive White play better I find.} 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 {This
variation is both risky, in that I’m completely not developed, and yet not
risky, in that it’s probably the safest of all the mainline Sicilian
variations. I find that amusing.} 5. c4 {Now, I’m a huge fan of the Maroczy
Bind structure, and I play it every chance I get, but I think it’s premature
in this position. Black is perfectly positioned to fight against it, and it’s
not using White’s main advantage, his easy development.} Nf6 {First, the
counter-attack against the e4-pawn.} 6. Nc3 ({Every once in awhile White falls
for} 6. e5 $2 Qa5+ 7. Nc3 Qxe5+ {, and it’s another reason to play the e6
lines, in that White players would never fall for this against 2…d6, but
they do against e6 every now and then.}) 6… Bb4 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Gb4e1,Gf6e4]
The threat is Nxe4, and it’s surprisingly hard to defend this, at least in a
way that White wants to.} 7. Bg5 $2 {This natural move is a mistake. First,
the Bishop doesn’t want to be traded for the Knight, as White’s pawns are all
on light-squares, and he needs this Bishop to defend the dark squares. The pin
then is completely useless after h6, then. Second, it fails tactically.} (7.
Bd3 {This is the theory move, which is of course best, though White would
rather have the Bishop on e2 in most Maroczy Bind positions.}) 7… Qa5 {
[%cal Gb4c3,Ga5g5,Gf6e4] There are three threats: taking on e4 with the Knight,
taking on c3 with the Bishop and taking the Bishop with the Queen. White can
defend against all three with Bd2, but he’s in a weak position and Black is
already slightly better. White tries a different idea, but it also fails
tactically.} 8. Bxf6 Bxc3+ $1 {An important intermezzo, winning at least a
pawn.} 9. Ke2 {White must move his King, either now or next move, and he’s
clearly in trouble.} (9. bxc3 Qxc3+ {The natural Qd2 just loses the Rook on a1,
so Black is forced to move his King anyway.} 10. Ke2 gxf6 11. Rc1 Qa5 {The
position is similar to the game, maybe even better then the game for White.})
9… gxf6 {I’ve regained my piece and will soon have an extra pawn and a
misplaced White King to attack. My opening has been a complete success.} (9…
Bxb2 $5 {It’s true that I could win more material with this move, but it seems
to give White some more play.} 10. Bxg7 Rg8 11. Bf6 Bxa1 12. Qxa1 {Black is up
an exchange, but White has a monster Bishop that’s hard to kick out,
especially if White gets e5 in. The computer thinks Black is much better here,
but it’s far easier for Black to make a mistake in the resulting middlegame.
My choice was safer and easier … or at least, it should have been.}) 10. Nb3
{What happens next is a near comedy of errors, where both my opponent and
myself make tactical mistake after tactical mistake. Well, mostly me. This
move, 10.Nb3, loses a piece. Do you see how?} Qe5 $6 {I didn’t see it, so I
played this, which wins a pawn and leads to a good position, but I had a much
better move.} ({The obvious check wins.} 10… Qh5+ 11. f3 (11. g4 {This
interesting move is the reason I didn’t play Qh5. I’m completely serious. After
} Qxg4+ (11… Qg6 $1 {The computer points out this move, which I completely
missed. White doesn’t have time to take the Bishop, as} 12. bxc3 Qxe4+ 13. Kd2
Qxh1 {drops the Rook, and Black is absolutely winning.}) 12. f3 Qh5 13. bxc3 {
We have a position similar to the game, but White now has the g-file, and the
f3-pawn seems useful. And it’s true. Too bad I missed the above variation that
refutes it!}) 11… Bxb2 {and Black is up a solid piece. White can resign.})
11. bxc3 Qxe4+ {I’m not up a piece, but I’m up a pawn and with my opponent’s
King stuck in the centre. That must still be good … and it is. Black is
probably winning here.} 12. Kd2 Qf4+ {Forcing White to go to e1, to cover the
f2-pawn, and stopping and ideas of Bd3, attacking the Queen with tempo.} 13.
Ke1 Nc6 {If there’s a problem with my position, it’s that I’ve exchanged all
my developed pieces, and it’s not easy to bring my Bishop (and by extension,
the Queenside Rook) into the game. Of course, White’s position is far more
problematic, so I need not worry.} 14. Qd2 {White now offers the exchange of
Queens, and I face an important decision: do I trade or no? On the one hand,
I’m up a pawn and my opponent has clear weakness on the c-file, which means an
endgame should be winning. On the other hand, White’s King is stuck in the
centre, it’s wide open and he can’t castle. Those are all the recipes for a
winning middlegame attack. Which should I choose? Do I trade or do I not?} Qe5+
{If you picked not to trade Queens, you’re right, in that’s what I did do, and
you’re wrong, in that it’s not the right answer.} (14… Qxd2+ 15. Kxd2 {
White has no winning chances here. None. He has to wait for Black to slowly
finish development, double Rooks on the c-file, win all the c-pawns and then
the game. Will it take 40 moves? Probably, but they aren’t hard moves to find.
It’s an easy position and, more to the point, it’s exactly the type of
position I tend to play well.}) 15. Be2 {To truly undestand why my decision
was a mistake, watch what happens to White’s position over the next five moves.
As mentioned, it will take time for my pieces to develop and become active. If
I don’t have active pieces, how can I attack the White centralized King? Hmm.}
b6 16. f4 $1 {In all honestly, this is a brilliant move, one that completely
changes the position. I thought it would just be a weakness, but it does three
important things: it chases my Queen away, in controls e5 so my Knight can’t
land there, and it opens f2 so his King can get out of the centre and a Rook
can come to e1.} Qc7 17. Bf3 {White’s Bishop now finds a great diagonal,
though this was not the strongest option.} (17. Rd1 {This makes perfect sense,
developing the Rook to the open file and pressuring the Black position. If
Black continues with the natural Bishop development, then} Bb7 18. c5 $1 bxc5
19. Nxc5 {[%cal Gc5d7,Gd2d7] White’s Knight is now active and Black’s position
is getting very uncomfortable. As a bonus, White managed to trade one of his
weak pawns, and I’m not even sure Black is better here anymore.}) 17… Bb7 18.
Rd1 {My opponent brings his Rook here anyway, and now I can’t castle lest I
lose my d-pawn. Castling Queenside is an option, but it seems risky, what with
all the White pieces and open lines on that side of the board.} Rd8 $6 {
That said, keeping my King in the centre seems even worse. 0-0-0 and at least
all my pieces are near my King to defend.} (18… Ne7 $1 {was the best move.
My Queen attacks c4, the Bishops will likely get traded, reducing White’s
activity, and the Knight both blocks the e-file and also wants to get to f5, a
great square.}) 19. Kf2 {White gets his King out of the centre and prepares to
develop his last piece, the Rook in the corner.} e5 $2 {I don’t know how to
explain this move. It defies logic: I’m advancing a central pawn, opening the
position … with my King still in the centre? All the enemy heavy pieces
aiming down at me? It looks suicidal. The only thing I can say is that I
looked at this position for over 20min, calculating numerous variations … as
as GM Smirnov says, that’s often when you make silly decisions, trying to
calculate too much.} ({First, let’s look at best play from the computer} 19…
d6 20. Rhe1 (20. f5 $5 {This move stops Black’s own f5 and looks very
interesting. The computer isn’t impressed, but it’s evaluation jumps all
around, and if nothing else it would be a good practical chance for White.})
20… f5 {The centre is now mostly blocked and White has no obvious
breakthroughs. Black can castle or play Rg8 as he sees fit and based on what
White does. The position is still difficult, and White has compensation for
his pawn, but Black’s not terrible.}) ({Next, let’s look at some variations I
was looking at. I wanted to castle, to get my King out of the centre, but that
seemed risky.} 19… O-O 20. f5 {Opening a line for the Queen.} e5 {Trying to
keep lines closed.} 21. Qh6 {The Queen lands in, and amazing, I can’t defend
f6, and more amazingly, even though White is currently attacking with only a
Queen, it’s very dangerous, as none of my pieces can come close.} e4 {This is
the only move that doesn’t lose instantly. Black must return the pawn.} ({
If Black tries to be greedy and keep his pawn, he gets roasted.} 21… Rfe8 22.
Rhe1 Ne7 23. Qxf6 {He loses this pawn anyway, and now the threat is Bishop
moves anywhere and then Re3-g3 and mate. Very hard to stop this without giving
up massive amounts of material.}) 22. Bxe4 Ne5 {This brings the Knight into
the defence and forces White to lose some time attending to his Bishop.} 23.
Bf3 d5 {Again, the only move.} (23… Nxf3 {A normally desireous exchange just
loses.} 24. gxf3 Qc6 25. Rhg1+ Kh8 26. Qg7#) 24. Qxf6 {Even here White has
dangerous threats. These variations aren’t perfect; they are what I saw if I
caslted, and they all favoured White. I then reasoned I couldn’t castle, so I
had to play something else … and what I played was e5.}) 20. Rhe1 {Ten moves
ago, White had a terrible position. Five moves ago, a regular position. Now he
has a dominating one, with all his pieces active strong. His Knight isn’t
doing much right now, but he can press with c5 and then find a square after a
pawn exchange. Compare this with Black, who still isn’t fully developed and
has no active pieces. How did I manage this?} ({The computer thinks the
following is even better for White.} 20. Qd6 Qxd6 21. Rxd6 Ke7 22. Rhd1 Rhg8
23. c5 {The Knight will soon jump into either c5 or a5. That said, while White
is certainly for choice, down a pawn or no, I can’t see how this is better
than White’s Re1 in the game, finishing development and keeping Queens on
against my weak King.}) 20… d6 21. Nd4 {This highly tactical move leads to a
series where we both miscalculate everything for the bext half-dozen moves.
This might be a good test. Can you calculate variations better than I? What
would you play here, or on every other move to follow?} Nxd4 {I exchange
Knights, getting rid of a potential attacker and trying to exchange Bishops.
It also stops the Knight from jumping to f5, which would have been devastating.
Good idea … but remember how I just said that White’s Knight was the only
piece not optimally placed?} (21… Ne7 {was the correct defence. After the
exchanges} 22. Bxb7 Qxb7 {The e-file is no longer pinned, so the Knight has to
move, and it doesn’t have a good forward square.} 23. Nc2 Qc6 {The position is
similar, but my Knight is a better defender than White’s is an attacker. I’m
also attacking the c-pawn, and I should have time to castle and/or attack with
Rg8 in the future.}) 22. Bxb7 {White exchanges Bishops, preventing any Nxf3
intermezzos, and prepares to capture my Knight with the pawn and open the
position … but it’s not the best.} (22. cxd4 Bxf3 23. gxf3 {If you don’t
understand why the computer prefers this, don’t worry, you are not alone. It
took me a while, but the idea isn’t that White is better right now, it’s that
White has consistent, long-term pressure against Black. What can Black do? How
will Black untangle? How will he ever use his extra pawn? Black actually has
no real winning chances here, funnily enough. Here are some sample lines.} Rg8
(23… Qxc4 {Black might get greedy and try to win another pawn.} 24. dxe5 fxe5
25. Rxe5+ {Utilizing the pin on the d-file. This Rook ‘sacrifice’ on e5 is
common throughout the rest of the game.} Kf8 26. Rd5 {White will soon win back
his pawn and have the better position.}) 24. dxe5 dxe5 25. Qxd8+ Qxd8 26. Rxd8+
Kxd8 27. fxe5 fxe5 28. Rxe5 $11 {After all the exchanges we have equal
material in a Rook endgame. Both sides have pawn weaknesses, neither side has
potential passed pawns, so this should be drawn.}) 22… Nc2 $5 {I thought
this move was brilliant at the time, as it distracts the White Queen away from
the d-file, stopping threats of sacrifices on e5. Unfortunately, it puts the
White Queen on a much better diagonal, where it will take advantage of my weak
light squares.} (22… Ne6 {The computer far prefers this move. I rejected it,
because White seems to get a great position while winning back his pawn.} 23.
Bxa6 Rg8 24. f5 {White drives my Knight away and prepares to come in with Qh6.}
Qc5+ {An important intermediate check.} 25. Kf1 Rg5 $1 {And this is the move I
missed. Black is attacking now. The Knight is immune, for example:} 26. fxe6
Rf5+ 27. Ke2 Rf2+ $19 {and White loses his Queen.}) 23. Qxc2 Qxb7 24. Qf5 {
This highlights the downside to Nc2, as now the Queen is deep inside my
position, and it’s near impossible to kick it out, let alone defend my weak
pawns.} Rg8 {Counter-attacking against g2.} 25. g4 $6 {White pushes his pawn
rather aggressively, and with no real reason. Are you really going to play g5
in this position?} (25. g3 {Makes the most sense, as it stops any play along
the g-file.} Rg6 {Trying to defend the weak pawn, but…} 26. fxe5 fxe5 27.
Rxe5+ Kf8 ({The Rook is filled with mating poison.} 27… dxe5 28. Qxe5+ Re6 (
28… Kf8 29. Rxd8#) (28… Qe7 29. Qh8+ Qf8 30. Rxd8+ Kxd8 31. Qxf8+ {and
Black is donezo.}) 29. Qh8+ Ke7 30. Qxd8#) 28. Re4 $11 {White has won back his
pawn and enjoys a nice position.}) 25… Qd7 {This move offers to exchange the
Queens, a good thing for me with my King in the centre, and it has an X-ray
attack on g4 if the Queen moves. It looks okay … but it has a huge flaw,
because of course it does.} (25… Qe7 {was the correct move, keeping my extra
pawn, if only slightly, and it highlights the weakening of g4 in a better way.}
26. h3 (26. Qxh7 Rxg4 {and the computer thinks White only has one move that
doesn’t lead to a losing position instantly.} 27. Rd4 {Using the pin, though
Black could take it and get two Rooks for the Queen.} Kd7 28. Qf5+ Qe6 29.
Qxe6+ fxe6 30. fxe5 Rxd4 31. cxd4 fxe5 32. dxe5 d5 $11 {and the computer
declares this Rook endgame completely even, which makes sense, as it’s equal
material and both sides have potential passed pawns.}) 26… Rg6 27. fxe5 dxe5
{White’s threats have slowed down and Black has chances to use his extra pawn
in the endgame still.}) 26. Qxd7+ {My opponent completely overreacts to the
threats against g4. As it turns out, they were a phantom. If you followed the
above variations, you might realize why.} (26. Qxf6 $1 {White needs to be
brave and move forward.} Qxg4 {This move looks strong, with an attack against
the exposed White King (that’s why I kept the Queens on the board in the first
place, right?). Unfortuntaely, White has a faster, deadlier attack, starting
with a thematic sacrifice.} ({Note that best defence keeps Black in the game,
but White is now in control.} 26… Rg6 27. Qh8+ Ke7 28. Rxe5+ $1 {That
sacrifice again!} dxe5 29. Rxd7+ Rxd7 30. Qxe5+ Re6 {Material is close, with
two Rooks against the Queen and two weak pawns, but White has the winning
chances here.}) 27. Rxe5+ $3 {Boom! This leads to forced mate, and it’s the
perfect culmination of White’s play so far and, honestly, of my mistake to
leave my King in the centre all game.} Kf8 (27… dxe5 28. Rxd8#) 28. Qxd8+ Kg7
29. Rg5+ Qxg5 30. Qxg5+ Kf8 31. Qd8+ Kg7 32. Rg1+ Kh6 33. Qh4# {is just one
fitting line.}) 26… Rxd7 {and just like that, instead of facing a
devastating attack, I fall into a near winning endgame. Rooks always give
drawing chances, but I’ve got the sunny side of the draw.} 27. Kf3 Ke7 28. a4
Rc8 {It took 30 moves, but my Rooks finally target those weak c-pawns.} 29. Re4
d5 $6 {I try to be a little too clever for my own good here. I’m going to
regain the sacrificed pawn, so it’s not really a sacrifice, but I had no need
to do this.} (29… Rdc7 {Seriously, why sacrifice a pawn when I can just win
one? The c-pawns are defenceless; they should be attacked, not exchanged.}) 30.
Rxd5 Rxd5 31. cxd5 Rxc3+ 32. Re3 $2 {This move is basically resignation. The
King and Pawn endgame is clearly losing for White.} (32. Ke2 Kd6 33. Rb4 {
This is why Rook endgames are so tough: no matter how good your position, they
can almost always find targets for counter-attack.} Kxd5 34. Rxb6 exf4 {
I might still be winning, but it’s nowhere near as easy, what with five (!)
weak pawns.}) 32… Rxe3+ 33. Kxe3 Kd6 {One move after exchanging White
realizes that he’s lost and resigned. This endgame is trivial, but the game
itself was not. It was back and forth, featuring numerous tactics and
sacrifices, and it’s a minor miracle I pulled out with the full point.} (33…
Kd6 {When looking at this endgame, for completion sake, the pawn cannot be
defended.} 34. Ke4 (34. fxe5+ Kxe5 {and the pawn again falls.}) 34… exf4 35.
Kxf4 Kxd5 {Here White has two choices, either try to Queen his own pawns or
try to stop Black’s pawns. Both lose without much calculation.} 36. Kf5 {
Option A, White goes for Black’s pawns.} (36. Ke3 {Option B, White tries to
stop Black’s pawns … which is a terrible option as Black could just win the
a-pawn with his King, but the following is the thematic victory.} b5 37. axb5
axb5 38. Kd3 Ke5 39. Kc3 ({Trying to keep the opposition fails of course.} 39.
Ke3 b4 40. Kd3 Kf4 41. Kc4 Kxg4 42. Kxb4 Kh3 43. Kc4 Kxh2 {and again Black has
three pawns to Queen.}) 39… Kf4 40. h3 Kg3 41. Kb4 Kxh3 42. Kxb5 Kxg4 {
White stopped the pawn! But at the cost of giving Black three more.}) 36… b5
37. axb5 axb5 38. Kxf6 b4 39. Kxf7 b3 40. Kg7 b2 41. Kxh7 b1=Q+ {and the pawns
are too far away. Black will easily win them.}) 0-1


Let me state my now near ubiquitous claim that openings don’t matter at amateur level.  White had a terrible position after ten moves … and by move 20 he was completely equal, maybe even better.  He outplayed me hard here, and it’s a small miracle I emerged with the full point.

Indeed, it’s a good question: why did I win this game?  It wasn’t positional outplay, it wasn’t a crushing attack, it wasn’t my opening, so what was it?  In all honestly, it was mostly luck.  During the tactical flurry in the late middlegame, my opponent did not see the Rxe5 idea.  He didn’t see the tactical culmination of his position, and it let me escape into an endgame he played poorly.  If you want to say I didn’t deserve to win this game, I’d be perfectly fine with that.

Not every game is a masterpiece.  I try, but it doesn’t work that way.  Sometimes it’s simply a struggle, a street-fight, and whoever hits a haymaker wins.  In this game, my opponent missed his knockout blow, and while he was off-balanced I got the TKO.

This game also shows me, personally, that I need to watch my calculation, because I do it quite poorly in hard, imbalanced positions.  That’s my main takeaway.

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