Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Frank the Lion

Below is the result of my tournament game versus T. Titov- a master level player from Russia. Titov is undoubtedly a soulless automaton- and since he was clearly over 40, probably educated by the Soviet system. I am representing the Chessperadoes of Manhattan on Board Four. As a master level player, Titov is also better than me- a lot better. He even gets up a piece. But much like, oh say Cyrano de Bergerac, or Herbie the LoveBug, I don’t give up.

White: Titov 2105
Black: McGrath 1503
Date: May 23, 2005

Non-standard opening

1. e2-e4 e7-e5
2. d1-h5 b8-c6
3. f1-c4 d8-e7
4. d2-d3 d7-d6
5. c1-g5 g8-f6
6. g5xf6 g7xf6
7. c2-c3 c8-e6
8. c4-b5 a7-a6
9. b5xc6+ b7xc6
10. h5-d1 a8-b8
11. d1-a4 .....

After 11. d1-a4, the initial development phase is over. Titov only has one white piece, the Queen on a4, truly developed. His exchanged his bishops for my knights to open the files on either side of my position, while protecting his king side pawns for later castling. In return, I am ahead in development, rooks well positioned to hurt him and Black possesses a strong pawn center- but my defense is a little shaky with the King trapped in the center. I have the better of the development; he has the better position.

11. ­­---- d6-d5
12. a4xc6+ e6-d7
13. c6xc7 b8xb2
14. b1-d2 f8-h6
15. g1-f3 d5xe4
16. d3xe4 f6-f5
17. o-o h8-g8
18. a1-b1 b2xb1
19. f1xb1 .....

I am in some trouble after this rook exchange. White obviously threatens b1-b8, and endless resulting pinned Black pieces for one thing. Worse, Black King is exposed to all sorts of pressure from the Queen side that I can no longer castle away from. Meanwhile, White King is safe behind a wall of pawns. Black King must move aggressively out of immediate danger- and I then choose to exchange some pieces to quiet down the endless “noise” in the defense.

19. --- e8-f8
20. b1-b8+ f8-g7
21. b8xg8+ g7xg8
22. e4xf5 h6xd2
23. f3xd2 g8-f8
24. d2-e4 e7-a3
25. h2-h3 a3-c1+
26. g1-h2 d7xf5
27. c7-c5+ f8-g7 ??

I think I make a mistake at f8-g7? Perhaps the loss of my remaining bishop is inevitable, and maybe that was true at an earlier point- but this move doesn’t help matters any. White now has a variety of options to force the Black King to move- while positioning the White Queen to make the capture.

28. c5xe5+ f7-f6
29. e5xf6+ g7-g8

The deed is done- now Black is down a piece and multiple pawns entering the end game. Looks hopeless, but checkmate with a Knight is difficult even for a master player. So Black plays on! And watch! Black’s aggressive 30. --- c1-h6 gives me one last hope to survive.

30. f6xf5 c1-h6!

I am positive Titov did not see c1-h6!
Black’s Queen returns to the near fight, but this is no defensive move. It means attack- that McGrath is still swinging. I am playing for my country, in a way, after all.

31. e4-f6+ g8-g7
32. f6-e8+ g7-g8
33. f5-d5+ g8-f8
34. d5-d8 ?

Mistake! At first blush this looks like the winning move- threatening the discovered check when the Knight moves off e8. But the power of c1-h6 now comes to hand- and salvages this “lost game” for Black.

34. --- h6-f4+
35. h2-g1 f4-c1+
36. g1-h2 c1-f4+
37. g2-g3 f4xf2+ !

Game saved! While Black Queen cannot mate, White King cannot escape h1, h2.

38. h2-h1 f2-f1+
39. h1-h2 f1-f2+
40. h2-h1 f2-f1+
41. h1-h2 f1-f2+

Drawn by repetition of position. A fighting heart saves half a point against a Russian master player.