Sunday, November 18, 2012

Matt Herman Analyzes his GOTW

Thanks to the league for the nomination and the judges for voting my win against Vovsha GOTW.  I would trade it for a match victory over Manhattan in a heartbeat!  Our team fought to the end and we will be back next year!  Thanks to Tamaz, Giorgi, Alex L (who just beat Shirov!), Pascal, Michael, Justus, Alex K (great writeup!), Isaac and Nico for a great season, Elizabeth for being such an outstanding Captain and ChessNYC for their sponsorship and support.  Good luck and congratulations to Philadelphia, Manhattan, Arizona and Seattle.
IM Eli Vovsha had just defeated the league's highest rated player, GM Robert Hess, with the black pieces, so I had my work cut out for me.  We played a very interesting and, despite a single bout of mutual blindness on move 22, high quality game.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cd 4. Nd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e6 7. g4 b5!? Vovsha, perhaps fearing preparation, avoids the super-sharp Perenyi with 7. ..e5 8. Nf5 g6 or the more circumspect 7. ..h6 8. g5 Nfd7 9. f4 Bb7 10. Bd3 Nc5 11. Qf3 Nbd7 12. 0-0-0 Rc8 13. Kb1 g6 Sensible, covering f5 and preparing to develop the Bf8 to g7, but gives white a "hook". 14. h4 b4 15. Nce2 d5?! 16. e5! Ne4 17. h5 Rg8 18. hg hg 19. Rh7 Be7 This allowed an instant crusher, but black was already lost. White threatened 20. Ne6 fe 21. Qg4 Nec5 22. Bc5 Nc5 23. Bg6! Rg6 24. Qh5 and black can resign. Vovsha's plan seemed to be Nd7-f8, driving back white's Rh7, while protecting the sensitive e6 square. White would still be better, but it's hard to break through. If 19. ..Ndc5, white can already play 20. f5! ef 21. Nf5 gf 22. e6!!

22. ..Rg5 [22. ..Ne6 23. Be4! and white has a raging attack and will soon at least equalize the material balance] 23. Rf7 Nd3 24. Qh1!! Ndc5 25. Bg5 Qg5 26. Qh7 Ne6 27. Rb7 Ng7 [27. ..Be7 28. Rg1] 28. Qg8! Nd6 29. Ra7 and black is out of moves. White will continue Ne2-d4 and Rd1-e1 and win.

If 19. ..Rg7 20. Rh8! and black's rook will never leave g7. On 19. ..Qb6 20. f5! Ne5 21. Qf4 gf [or 21. ..Nd3 22. fe!! and wins] 22. Qe5 Bd6 23. g6!!

[incredibly echoing the alternative line] 23. ..Be5 [23. ..Rg6 24. Qh8 Ke7 25. Nf5! ef 26. Rf7! Kf7 27. Qh7 Rg7 28. Qf5 Ke7 29. Bb6 and wins] 24. gf Kf8 25. Bh6! Rg7 26. Bg7 Bg7 27. Rg1! Nf6 28. Rhg7 Ng4 29. Rg6 Kf7 30. Bf5 and black's position collapses. 30. ..Rc6 31. Re6 Re6 32. Be6 Kf6 33. Rg4 and white's rook and two minors overwhelm the queen.

Finally, 19. ..Nec5 20. f5!! gf 21. Bf5 Ne5 22. Qg3 Qd6 23. Bf4 ef 24. Be5 Qg6 25. Qh2!

 and black is just lost.  One line is 25. ..Ne4 26. Re1 with the idea Be5-f6 and Ne2-f4, winning the queen.
20. Rf7!?

Liu and IM Victor Shen both observe that 20. Ne6 wins. 20. Ne6! fe 21. Qh3! and the prettiest line is 21. ..Rc6 22. Be4 de 23. Rd6!  The key line I rejected was 21. ..Nec5 [otherwise white just gets the piece back with an extra pawn and an attack as 'compensation'] 22. Rh8! Rh8 23. Bg6! [I missed this intermezzo; if 23. Qh8 Nf8 24. Bg6 Kd7, white is certainly much better but it looked unclear] - 23. ..Kf8 24. Qh8#.  That said, Rf7 is not a mistake and the position is still winning for white.

20. ..Kf7 21. Ne6! Qa5!? Vovsha insisted "21. ..Qe8! (=)" and this seems to be what Bartholomew, Shen and Friedel alluded to in their comments and what indicated the "?!" assignation on the GOTW article diagram.

I cannot find a clear path to safety for black after 22. N6d4! (yes, black has the move and has a rook for 'only' two pawns)

If 22. ..Nf8 23. e6! Ne6 24. Ne6 Ke6 25. Be4 de 26. f5!

26. [26. ..Kf7 27. fg Kg6 28. Nf4 Kg7 29. Bd4 and mates] 27. Nd4 Kd7 28.28. Qf5 Kc7 29. Qe5 Bd6 30. Nb5 Kb8 31. Qd6 Ka8 32. Qb6! and mate on a7

On 22. ..Rh8 23. e6 Kg8 24. f5! Ne5 25. Qg2 and black will not survive.

If 22. ..Kg7 23. e6! Ndc5 24. f5! Ng5 25. Qg4 Nce4 26. Nf4!

 and there is simply no defense to the threat of Bxe4 and a capture on g6.

22. .. Ndc5 23. e6! forces 23. ..Kf8 or transposition to either 22. ..Nf8 or 22. .. Kg7. Then 24. f5! Bg5 25. fg Ke7 26. Nf5 Ke6 27. Bc5! Rc5 28. Be4 de 29. Rd6 Ke5 30. Qg3 Kf5 31. Nd4# is one win.

Of course the N could not be taken immediately: 21. ..Ke6 22. f5! gf [22. ..Kf7 23. fg! - double check - Kg6 24. Nf4 Kg7 25. Ne6 and it's a rout] 23. Nd4 Kf7 [23. ..Ke5 24. Qf4#] 24. Qf5 Ke8 25. Qh5! Rg6 26. e6 Kf8 26. Qg6 Ne5 27. Qh6 Kg8 28. Rh1 Bf6 29. Qh7 Kf8 30. Nf5 Qe8 31. Qh8 Bh8 32. Rh8#


Vovsha's choice reflects a modification of the Znosko-Borovsky maxim - to have active pieces that you should not retreat during a difficult defense, you must first activate them!
22. Bd4? This move, and black's response, are the only clear mistakes in the game.
I saw 22. f5!! Ne5 23. Qh3 Nd3 [23. ..Rh8 24. fg Kg8 25. Qf5 Bd6 26. Be4 and wins] 24. Qh7 Ke8 and rejected it due to 25. Qg8 Kd7 and now white must find 26. Nf8!? to maintain some advantage.  White has better!  25. f6!!

 - leaving the en prise rook on g8 to instead force open the seventh rank and highlight the power of white's Ne6. 25. ..Bf6 26. gf! Nf6 27. Qb7 and despite being down an exchange, white wins quickly as black's king is terribly exposed and all his pieces are loose.   One fun line is 27. ..Rc2 28. Rd3 Re2 29. Qc6 Ke7 30. Bc5 Kf7 31. Qb7 Ke6 32. Qe7 Kf5 33. Rf3 Kg4 34. Qe2 Qc5 35. Qg2 Kh4 36. Rh3#
There is also the more prosaic 22. N2d4!?, but I was concerned about 22. ..b3!? 23. ab Bb4 with idea Ne4-c3 and after bc Bc3, threats of mate on a1.  White still wins, though, with 24. Be4! de 25. Qg4! and black has no good defense against white's threats, despite his extra rook.  A spectacular line is 25. ..Ke7 26. Nf5! gf 27. Qf5

, a piece and a rook are not enough!] Bc6 [guarding d7] 28. g6! Rcf8 29. Nf8 Rf8 30. Qg5 Ke8 31. g7 Rg8 32. Qg6 Kd8 33. Qc6 Rg7 34. Bb6 and wins.  Black simply lacks a good defense to f4-f5.  For instance 22. ..Rh8 23. f5! Ne5 24. fg Ke8 25. Qf5! and wins, or 22. ..Qa4 23. f5 Ne5 24. Qh3 Nd3 25. Qh7 Ke8 26. Rd3! Rf8 27. Nf8 Bf8 28. Qg6 Kd8 29. Qb6 Ke8 30. Qb7 with two extra pawns and an attack.
22. ..Nf8? I am not sure if Vovsha missed that 22. ..b3! forces a draw, or if he considered his position to be better and wanted to prove it.  What I missed was that after 22. ..b3 23. ab Nd2 24. Rd2 Qd2 25. f5 Qe1, I cannot play Ne2-c1 as the Qe1 guards e5 for the black N and it is black who wins, and so 26. Ka2 Qa5 27. Kb1 Qe1 would be the finish.
All other black tries fail.  22. ..Rc6 23. f5! Ke8 24. fg Rg6 25. Qh5 Rce6 26. Nf4! and wins
The most tenacious is 22. ..Ke8! 23. Qh3 Rc6 [23. ..b3 24. ab Nd2 25. Rd2 Qd2 26. Qh7 wins] 24. Be3 Nf8 25. Nf8 Bc8 26. Nd7! Bd7 27. Qh7 Rf8 28. Nd4 Qb6 29. Be4 de 30. f5! Rf7 31. Qh2!

31. 32. Qh8! Rf8 [32. ..Bf8 33. Nc6 Qe3 34. e6! and wins or 33. ..Qc6 34. Rd6! and wins] 33. Qh5 Kd8 34. Ne6 Re6 35. Bb6 Rb6 36. g6 and the g-pawn will cost black at least a piece and the game.
23. f5! Ke8 One point of Bd4 is the line 23. ..Ne6 24. fe Ke6 25. Qh3! Kf7 26. Qh7 and black cannot play Rg7 due to 27. e6! and wins. If 26. ..Ke6 27. Be4! and black's king cannot make it to the queenside, given the discovery against his Q
24. Nf8 Rf8 25. f6!

White's pawns, coordinated pieces and safe king are too much for the rook
25. ..Rc6 The computer suggests the insane 25. ..b3!? 26. ab Qe1!!? 27. Re1 Nd2 28. Kc1 Nf3 29. Bg6 Kd7 30. Bf5 Kc7, but after 31. Bc8 Rc8 32. Rf1, the white pawns are irresistible

26. Nf4! Also possible was 26. Be4 de 27. Qe4, when none of black's discoveries work: e.g. 27. ..Rcf6 28. Qb7 Rf1 29. Qc6! and wins
26. ..b3 27. ab Nd2 Incidentally, 27. ..Qe1 28. Be3! is the strongest
28. Rd2 Qd2 29. Bg6 Kd7 30. Qd5 Kc7 31. Bb6 Kb6 32. Qd2 Bc5 33. b4 Bg1 34. Qe1 1-0 Amazingly, if 34. ..Bd4 35. c3 Bf2 36. Qf2 Kc7, white can just give back the queen for free with Qf2-b6 and is still winning.

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