mia analisi: Il
La lezione del GM Schwartzman: Dmitry Gurevich, or Dima as he is known is a very strong player, so I was happy
with having played a really good game up to the position you see above. With nice
positional play I managed to win a pawn, and then Dima sacrificed the second pawn on h5 to
break up my king's defense. Still, if you look at the position , it seems like black is
continuing to do very well. My last move, f5-f4 was intended to break up the white's
king defense, so that I can finally get some checks with my queen and find a way to force
the queen trade - the one easy way of winning this position.
The fact is that as long as the queens are on the board, winning this game is very hard - my king is simply too weak and the danger of perpetual check looms permanently. Right now I am in a position to defend the check on h8 with Bg8, but my queen still can't move out of range, because it has to defend the many weak dark squares. What I was also hoping with my last move was to transfer my knight from c4 to e3 and f5, where it too can help defend the king, while dislocating the white queen from her cushy position, and putting some pressure on the white king as well.
In other words, all these threats make white's position hard to defend, and many players might have despaired at this point, especially after as bad a tournament as Dima had had. But not my opponent. He came up with the only move that can save this game, the fantastic 1.Nb8!!
The idea in itself is not very difficult: the knight on c6 has outlived
its usefulness. From there it couldn't check the black king, it didn't threaten any
pawn, it couldn't really move anywhere, and it prevented the bishop on b5 from moving too.
So, this is why relocating the knight is a good idea. The hard thing about
this move is the fact that the b8 square is not exactly the safest one - after all,
my queen is on d6. But what Dima saw nicely, was the if I take the knight, his queen
can come to h8 and check, and after Bg8, he can force the draw with Qf6 and then back to
h8. My king can't run away without losing my queen, ergo it's a draw.
So, if I want to continue playing (which incidentally I shouldn't have done) I can't take the knight. But what this means, is that his knight will get to d7, since I can't play 1...Ne5 because of 2.Qe5!. The white knight's arrival to d7 can only mean bad things. From there it becomes a huge threat for my king, and for my b6 pawn. The significance? Well, it means that even trading queens might not work anymore, since losing the b6 pawn in the endgame could be very painful.
As my knight was now also threatened on c4, I decided to pursue my original plan: 1...Ne3 2.Kf2 Nf5 3.Qh8 Bg8 (3...Ke7 doesn't work because white can still go back with his knight to c6) 5.Nd7 Kf7. And after an almost forced line we reached this interesting position.
At this point, trying to force a draw with white would be a mistake.
For instance after 6.Ne5 I can avoid it with 6...Ke7 and then both 7.Qg8 Qe5 or
7.Nc6 Kf8 give black good chances.
The good move is the one made by white: 6.gf4! This takes advantage of the fact that my pieces are tied up and I have absolutely no checks. Also, my queen can't leave as it is forced to cover the vital f6 square. This poses serious problems, and suddenly, one can start wondering whether black is still better. After all, even a simple move such as Qe5 is becoming an effective threat. This meant that it was time to wrap things up, and force the draw. The easiest way to do that was to trap white's queen: 6...Ng7!
The game continued with : 7.Ne5 Kf8 8.Nd7 Kf7 9.Ne5 Kf8 10.Bd3. White decided, and rightfully so, that he doesn't need to draw immediately and that he can make an attempt for victory. The repetitions were simply an attempt to make more moves, as the time pressure was quickly approaching. Fortunately, this was not unforeseen, and I knew I still had the draw: 10...Qb4 11.Nd7 Kf7 12.Ne5 Kf8 13.Bh7 Qd2 14.Kf1 Qd1 15.Kf2 Qd2 16.Kf1 Qd1 17.Kg2 Qe2
And this is where Dima played 18.Kg1
and the draw was finally agreed upon. He thought for a long time trying to decide
whether 18.Kf3 brings any chances. He was right, it doesn't: after 18...Qf1 19.Kh4
Qf2! 20.Kg5 Qg3 white has to interpose the knight with 21.Ng4 in order to avoid Qf4, and
then all black has to do is play 21...Ne6 22.Kg6 hg4 and after 23.Qg8 Ke7 it is clear that
black is very close to winning.
So, the game ended in a draw, but a very feisty one. As Dmitry told me after the game: "I had to work even for last place..." Nonethless, I was pleased with my play, and as seen in later analysis, Nb8 was not an easy move to prevent...