In the game between GM Xiangzhi Bu (China) and FM Daniel Rensch (USA), the following position was reached after 21...Qe6. With an extra pawn and great pressure along the f-file, White is clearly pressing. But Bu found a tremendous knockout blow to win on the spot.
After the brilliant 22.Qd6!!, Black is powerless. The threat is simply 23.Nxc8+, winning a piece. 22...Qxd6?? wins a Queen but allows mate in 1 with 23.Rxf7#. 22...Bd7 23.Rxf7+ Qxf7, and now a discovered check by White's knight, say 24. Nd5+, wins material on f7 and d7 with an easy win.
Black tried 22...Rxe7, but again 23.Rxf7+ followed, with the point that 23...Qxf7 24.Rxf7+ Kxf7 25.Qd5+, spears the R/a8, so Black Resigned.
Note that in the original position, 22.Rxf7+ doesn't work, because 22...Qxf7 23.Rxf7+ Kxf7 24.Qd5+ can be met by 24...Be6! Only after luring Black's e8-rook to e7 does Qd5+ actually win material - very clever!
Something very strange happened in the game between GM's Howell and Mikhalevsky.
The position below was reached after 20.Rfd1, in a c3-Sicilian. The first dozen moves or so were known theory (to me), then Howell tried marching his a-pawn up the board to create some light-squared pressure on the Q-side. The main themes I had been discussion in the commentary room revolved around the usual IQP (isolated Queen's pawn) themes, and the pressure against Black's N/c6.
Black has more guys lined up on d4 than White defenders, but cannot capture at the moment due to the pin along the f3-b7 diagonal. This led to some discussion of moving Black's Queen elsewhere, and I was voting for 20...Qa8!?, with likely a small disadvantage at most. Other squares seemed to have problems - the c-file running into a rook on c1 and b6 running into the nasty advance d4-d5.
So you can imagine my surprise (and my loyal listeners) to see that the next few moves were 20...Qb6?? 21.d5! Nd4 (this must be played, but I didn't trust it) 22.Qe4 e5 23.f4! Splat.
White wins minimum of a piece, and likely much more in practice. Mikhalevsky played on for awhile, but was down the kitchen sink when he finally threw in the towel.
So what happened? I ran into Mikhalevsky for a few minutes while waiting for a new .pgn batch update, and he said that he simply overlooked 22.Qe4. Obviously he overlooked something, but I am still wondering why he would voluntarily put his Queen on such a dangerous looking square like b6? Well, I can only guess that he was deliberately seeking complications in the hopes of a full point. He was actually in remarkably good spirits considering the seriousness of his gaffe, and I have to admit that I found his outlook very refreshing, and wish him well in his remaining games. Hopefully he won't feel too badly about me showing this terrible blunder after his brilliant win yesterday. I guess I just wanted to let all the blog readers know that GM's are human too (and completely fallible). As a teacher, I would not be surprised to learn that Mikhalevsky will include this example for his own students in some way!
To wrap-up, two games that caught my eye:
GM Suat Atalik (Turkey) - GM Tomas Likavsky: Queen's Gambit
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 a6!?
Nearly anything is playable these days. With the popularity of the 4...a6 Slav, Black may be hoping for a useful transposition to something similar.
4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bf4 c6 6.e3 Bd6 7.Bg3 Ne7!?
Rather than wooden development with 7...Nf6, this gives Black the option of contesting a White bishop on the b1-h7 diagonal.
8.Qc2 Bf5 9.Qb3 Ra7!?
This got a chuckle out of today's specs, but actually this idea is quite common in those 4...a6 Slav lines I mentioned earlier. Black's idea is that if White's Queen has to stay on b3 to keep b7 occupied, Black doesn't mind using his rook for the job. It still looks pretty silly though, doesn't it?
10.Nf3 0–0 11.Be2 Re8 12.0–0 Bxg3
Otherwise, Black can't develop his Q-side properly.
13.hxg3 Nd7 14.Nh4 Be6 15.Qc2 Ra8
The dance continues.
16.Bd3 Nf8 17.b4 g5
White was planning a calm minority attack (18.a4, 19.b5 (or maybe Rab1 first)), but Black has violent intentions on the other flank.
18.Nf3 Neg6 19.a4 g4 20.Nd2 h5 21.b5 h4 22.gxh4 Qxh4 23.bxc6 bxc6 24.Ne2! Kg7 25.Rfb1 Nd7 26.Nf1! Rh8
All very consistent play for Black, but can he really break through White's solid position, with those knights ready to hold the fort?
27.Nfg3 Qh2+ 28.Kf1 Nh4?
"Go long!" works much better in football. Here, Black's forces have ventured too far into White territory, and the Black Queen in particular is soon in serious trouble.
29.Nf4 Rhc8 30.Ke2 Nxg2?? 31.Ngh5+ 1–0.
Oops. After 31...K moves, 32.Rh1 will cost Black the Queen.
I happened to witness this scrappy fight between two young talents in post-mortem analyis - Thomas was very unlucky to lose in the end, but also mentioned that his position was by far the more difficult to play (despite the material edge) with only a few minutes on his clock. (I'm guessing that even with the increment, he never managed to bank any time).
IM Thomas Roussel-Roozmon (Montreal) - GM Valery Aveskulov (Ukraine)
1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.g3 d6 6.Bg2 Bd7 7.Nc3 g6 8.0–0 Bg7 9.Nc2 Qc8 10.e4 Bh3 11.Qe2 h5 12.Bxh3 Qxh3 13.f3 Rc8 14.Bd2 Nd7 15.Qg2 Qe6 16.b3 h4 17.g4 h3 18.Qe2 Nc5 19.Rac1 g5 20.Nd5 Qg6 21.Be1 e6 22.Nde3 Be5 23.Bg3 Qf6 24.Rcd1 Rd8
I walked in around this point. Thomas didn't seem to be too happy with this position, chiefly because of his compromised K-side - he just felt that Black's pieces were always going to be better with strong dark-square control in the centre, and his f3-pawn and holey K-side would always require attention. While this assessment may be true, most of the variations they were trying out seemed to end in rather unclear chances....maybe White's position is optically worse than it actually is!?
25.Rd2 Bf4 26.Bxf4 Qxf4 27.Nd4 Ne5
Certainly natural-looking, but Aveskulov pointed out an interesting possibility here: 28.Nb5!? a6 29.Nc7+! (29.Nxd6+?! Ke7! 30.b4 Rxd6 31.Rxd6 Kxd6 32.bxc5+ Ke7!, and with ...Rd8 coming, Black has a very nice position). 29...Kf8 30.Ncd5!, trapping Black's Queen! Black will be forced to play ...Nxf3+ at some point to resuce the lady, but the resulting positions are very good for White. Black would probably have to sacrifice the a7-pawn after 28.Nb5, but Black should likely just prevent all of this with 27...a6!
As it turns out, Black allows White a N/d4-b5 in another position shortly, so Black still had to give up some material on the Q-side for nebulous play against White's King.
Thomas rightly pointed out (and his opp agreed) that the knight is very well placed on e5 (attacking f3) and should stay there. It may look nice if it arrives on f4, but will it really be perfoming a useful task there?
29.Qe3 Qf6 30.Nb5! Ke7 31.Nxa7
Black never did get around to playing ...a6, so a pawn for White anyways.
31...Ne5 32.Nb5 Rh4 33.Rxd6
It should be safe enough to take this second pawn...if only White was able to forbid tactics for the rest of the game!
Black has admitted lost the thread, but his position is still sufficiently active to cause some practical problems.
34.Rf2 Nxg4!? 35.fxg4 Rxg4+ 36.Kf1 Qe5 37.Qc3 Rxe4 38.Qxe5 Rxe5 39.Ndc3 Re3 40.Rfd2 f5 41.R6d4
Thomas missed a nice chance here with 41.Kf2! The only reason I spotted it was their discussion of the following line: 41.b4 Na6 42.Rd7+ Kf6 43.Nd6 Rh8!, planning ...Rh4-f4+. This looked worrisome to the 3 of us, while the dispassionate computers will undoubtedly hold up their love of the White position (with extra material) until their horizon effect lets them down.
The above variation may be better for White, but throwing in 41.Kf2 f4 makes it almost a certainty after 42.b4 Na6 43.Rd7+ Kf6 44.Nd6, and there is no longer a rook maneuver along the h-file to infiltrate White's position (and square e4 is a big problem for Black to boot). So this was one way to get a nice edge.
41...g4 42.b4 Na6 43.c5 g3 44.hxg3 Rxg3 45.Rh4 Rcg8 46.a3
Even here White is probably winning (or at least significantly better), but after a few second-rate moves, Black puts on the gas and even finds a nice combo to steal the whole point. Thomas was most critical of this move (46.a3) and 48.Rc2. He was clearly disappointed, but took the loss fairly well otherwise given his young age and relative inexperience. I think these qualities will stand him very well in the future.
46...Rg1+ 47.Ke2 R8g3 48.Rc2 f4
Black may be down a piece (and his knight not really participating), but his active forces are incredibly irritating to deal with. It must have been very frustrating to be so clearly on the defensive, when holding a material advantage.
49.Rh7+ Kf8 50.Nd1? f3+ 51.Kd2 Kg8! 52.Rh4 R3g2+ 53.Kc1 Rxd1+! 54.Kxd1 Rg1+ 55.Kd2 f2 0–1.
A tough loss for Thomas, but I am sure he will rebound....he has made good progress in the past few years, and still has a long road ahead of him.