[Scotch Game, C45]
Illinois Open, Round 6
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.Bd3 d5 7.e5!
Objectively toothless: practically, the perfect choice! I knew that Gopal's preparation in main lines was deep: I was about to find out how deep it was in sidelines. And as Albert Chow observed, why should White fix Black's pawn structure?
I "knew" this move was considered best, but that's all I knew!
7...Nd7!? Chow strongly advocated this positional alternative. 8.0–0 Nc5! Kicks the bishop and controls e6. 9.Be2 Be7 Black has defended his weak squares: develop now, attack later. This may not be the theoretically best continuation, but it would have been the best practical choice!
8.0–0 Bc5 9.Qe2!
9.Bf4 f6!? (9...g5! was Lasker's choice) 10.exf6? (10.h3 fxe5 11.Bg3 Nf6 12.Bxe5 0–0=) 10...0–0 is a line suggested by Keres.
Black to move
How are certain chess positions like singles bars? Intoxicated with dreams of mating quickly, I make a aggressive move against my better judgment.
White's score after Black's "aggressive" move in tournament play is over 80%!
Much better is 9...Qe7! I "knew" this was the right move (Black scores 63% of the points in tournament play!), but I saw the possibility of ...Qg3 in the "attacking" line and got carried away. After 10.Bf4, I didn't know what to do in the post mortem until Michael Auger came up with 10...g5! (which is indeed the book move) 11.Bd2 (11.Bg3 h5 is a big mess) 11...Nxe5 12.Re1 Nxd3 13.Qxd3 Be6. Black has a pawn and two bishops: White has a heathy pawn structure. But it doesn't seem to me that White should be too afraid after 14.Qc3 Kd7 (this much has been played before by humans) and now the laptop suggests 15.Bxg5 Bxf2+ 16.Kxf2 Qxg5 17.Nd2 and it's a game. So even Black's "best" continuation is perfectly playable for White.
The losing move?
10...Qg3 Under the influence of von Scheve - Teichmann, Berlin 1907, I'd planned 11.hxg4 Bxg4 but now I realized...
Variation after 10...Qg3 11.hxg4 Bxg4
White to play and win
....that 12.Qd2!! Bf3 13.Qg5! refutes the attack.
10...Nxf2 11.Rxf2 is forced (strangely, I don't see this move in MegaBase 2010) 11...Qg3 12.Nd2 (or 12.Qf3 Qxf3 13.gxf3 Bxh3) 12...Bxh3 13.Qf3 Bxf2+ 14.Qxf2 Qxf2+ 15.Kxf2 Bg4 nominally, Black is up material, but the minor pieces are very good here because the d5-c6-c7 complex is so weak (c5 and d4 are ideal squares for minor pieces). 16.b4! a5? (16...h5 is much better) 17.bxa5 Rxa5 18.a4 and uh-oh.
Gee, it looks nice! But chess is not checkers: the Ng4 doesn't have to be taken. Bishops cannot hop over knights, and rooks need open files.
13.hxg4? would be terrible defense, but White's position is so good that it probably draws: 13...hxg4 14.Qe3! Bxe3 15.Bxe3! the queen is trapped! 15...Qxf3 16.gxf3 gxf3 17.Bf4.
13...Bxf2+ 14.Rxf2 Qxf2+ 15.Qxf2 Nxf2 16.Kxf2 and this endgame is not even close to tenable. It's unspeakably miserable for Black, point-count notwithstanding. There are great squares for all White's pieces, while Black's rooks are pathetic.
14...Nxf2 15.Rxf2 Bxh3 (threatens mate!) 16.Be3 (kills attack!);
14...a5 15.bxa5 Rxa5 (15...Ba7 (Menon) is a better practical try, but there's nothing there) 16.Bd2 (yuck);
14...Nh6 15.Be3 Bxe3 16.Qxe3 and the queen is trapped!
14...Resigns was a viable alternative.
15.Nxh2 Bg4 16.Nxg4
16.hxg4 hxg4 17.Nxg4 Qh4 18.Nh6 is another win: I saw the game refutation, but missed that one.
16...hxg4 17.Qxg4 Qxg4 18.hxg4 and I'm embarrassed to say I made another two or three moves before resigning....
Brilliant preparation and nice execution by Gopal Menon! 1–0