Instructive annotated game by IM Richard Palliser

As visitors of Yorkshirechess.org will know, Yorkshire-based International Master Richard Palliser recently acquired an 11-round GM norm as a result of his superb 2600 performance over the 2011/12 4NCL season playing for White Rose 1.

Richard has kindly sent us his annotated game against the young Ameet Ghasi taken from Round 10 of this year’s 4NCL. Ameet is a talented chess player and won the British Rapidplay Championships before giving up the game for several years. He scored 4.5/9 in this season’s 4NCL for a 2417 performance.

The following annotations are all provided by Richard Palliser. Richard annotates many more games at Chess Publishing, where he writes a regular column.

3.Bg2 – The King’s Indian Attack

1. Nf3 c5 2. g3 As expected, although I wasn’t too sure how Ameet would follow up, as he hadn’t faced 1…c5 since making his comeback around about a year ago. A rare move which I neglected to cover in BUCO is 2. e3 and after Nc6 3. Bb5 (3. d4 d5 would lead to a Colle or Tarrasch) 3… d6!? 4.c4 (4. d4!? cxd4 5. exd4 a6 6. Ba4 b5 7. Bb3 Nf6 would quickly lead to original play) 4… e5 5. b3 (5. d4! must be the way to challenge Black’s ambitious decision to aim for a Botvinnik set-up; after …e4 6. d5 a6 7. Ba4 b5!? the position is messy, but likely in White’s favour) 5… Nge7 6. Bb2 g6 7. O-O Bg7 8. Nc3 O-O White’s bishop was a little misplaced. 9.Bxc6 bxc6! gives Black control of the key d5-square, and Black enjoyed a comfortable position in, S.Jones-R.Palliser Huddersfield (rapid) 2012, played just a week before our main game.

2… Nc6 3. Bg2 e5 4. c4 This can, of course, be delayed until after 4. O-O g6 5. d3 Bg7, but taking play into a line of the English is the invariable choice of strong players when countering Black’s Botvinnik formation.

4… g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. O-O Nge7 7. d3 O-O Both sides develop along standard lines and now White thematically turns his attention to the queenside. 8. Rb1 d6 9. a3 a5 10. Bd2 Back in his ‘first life’, Ghasi had initially preferred 10. Ne1 and after Be6 11. Nc2 (11. Bg5 f6 12. Be3!? was the recommendation of a certain rather popular work on the English Opening) 11… d5! 12. b3 (rare, but 12. cxd5 Nxd5 13. Ne3 Nde7! has long been known to give Black a decent version of the Maroczy Bind) 12… f5!? (12… b6 followed by …Qd7 and if 13.Bg5 f6 would be a calmer, logical approach) 13. Bg5 Qd6 (trying to keep White’s knight from the pivotal d5-square, but this is rather ambitious) 14. Ne3 (strong and so too might be the unstereotyped 14. e4!?) 14… d4 15. Nb5 Qd7 16. Nd5! White had seized the initiative in Ghasi-Ianocichin, Heraklion 2002.

10.Bd2 – Strong players always try to find the most accurate moves, even in seemingly calm positions.

10… Rb8! An important prophylactic move; Black wants to meet Nd5 with …b5. Quite a common reaction at all levels is 10… h6 11. Ne1 Be6, but this is slow and White has definite chances to seize the initiative here, such as with 12. Nc2 (or 12. Nd5 Rb8!? – Black hits on the right idea, just two moves too late – 13. Nc2 b5 14. b4 axb4 15. axb4 with a pull for White in Ghasi-Ganguly, British Championship, Edinburgh 2003, as it isn’t so easy for Black to ease the tension here) 12… d5 13. cxd5 Nxd5 14. Ne3 Nde7 15. Na4!

11. Ne1 White has nothing better than to send his knight on its favourite journey to the d5-square, but in comparison with Ghasi-Ganguly, above, Black is clearly better off, having not spent a tempo on …h6. 11…Be6 12. Nd5 White has no advantage here and really needs to look for an advantage earlier in my view. The alternative at this juncture is 12. Nc2 , but having not lost time on …h6, Black is again well placed to meet this with 12…d5 13. cxd5 Nxd5. White might liquidate and open the queenside, but 14. Nxd5 Bxd5 15. Bxd5 Qxd5 16. b4 (improving over 16. Ne3?! Qe6 17. Qc1?! Nd4 18. Re1 Nb3 19. Qc2 a4! 20.Rbd1 b5 21. Bc1 f5, which saw Black’s initiative sweep all before it in Teske-De Firmian, Hamburg 1993, as noted in BUCO – it’s safe to say that White must pay more attention to the pawn breaks!) 16… axb4 17. axb4 cxb4 18. Nxb4 Nxb4 19. Rxb4 Rfc8 soon led to a draw in Paunovic-Cuenca Jimenez, Roquetas de Mar 2012; if White trades queens on b3, Black can invade on c2, but otherwise the second player should have enough counterplay, with … Bf8-c5 one idea, aiming for …e4 another.

12… b5 13. b3 Sensibly keeping it tight at the back, as in his game with Ianocichin. Instead 13. b4?! axb4 14. axb4 bxc4 15. dxc4 Nxb4 16. Nxb4 cxb4 17. Rxb4 Qc7 leaves c4 loose.
Also 13. Nxe7+ Nxe7 14. cxb5 Rxb5 15. b4 axb4 16. axb4 c4! also gives Black any advantage which is going.

13… h6 This little advance was inaccurate earlier, but now it makes sense to prepare …f5, since 13… f5?! 14. Bg5! is not what Black wants to do White increases his hold on the d5-square while setting up potential good knight versus bad bishop scenarios.
I was on my own by this point, but later discovered that the text was actually my recommendation in BUCO! In any event it makes sense to expand on the kingside, since Black can’t really do anything on the other wing: for instance, 13… b4 14. axb4 axb4 15.Nxe7+ Nxe7 16. Ra1and White is the side most likely to benefit from the open a-file.

15.f4! The position is starting to become double-edged.

14. Nc2 f5 15. f4! It makes sense to hold up Black’s advances on the kingside, just as we often see Black doing when the position is reversed; i.e. a Closed Sicilian is on the board. White has also tried 15. b4?! but axb4 16. axb4 bxc4 17. dxc4 e4! cut out the bishop on g2, with advantage to Black in Gershon-Eljanov, Kharkov 2002.

15… exf4!? A double-edged decision. Black reduces the immediate pressure on his centre and hopes that White’s king position will one day prove vulnerable, but in the meantime grants White a central majority. In the Closed Sicilian one sometimes sees the idea of Bf2, facilitating an exchange of knights, but here I wasn’t convinced by 15… Bf7 16. fxe5! when 16…dxe5 17. e4 leaves Black’s queenside looking a little overextended.
Consulting the database, one finds that on the few prior occasions this position was reached, Black often preferred another move I was considering, namely the semi-useful, semi-waiting move 15… Kh7!? Following 16. Qe1?! (I wasn’t too sure during the game about the positionally complex position arising from 16. e4 fxe4 17. Bxe4 and White might also follow suit with 16. Kh1!?) 16… a4! the point of Black’s play becomes clear; White’s pawn chain has been undermined. Espig-Borosova, Pardubice 2010, continued 17. bxa4 bxc4 18. dxc4 e4 (again we see this motif) 19. Nce3 Bxd5! 20. Nxd5 (or 20. cxd5 Nd4 with some initiative for the pawn) 20… Nxd5 21. cxd5 Ne7 22. Rb5 Nxd5 by when Black had regained her pawn and the experienced German Grandmaster was a little fortunate to later hold.

16. gxf4 Bf7 Creating the possibility after all of a timely exchange of knights. Flicking on a couple of engines, I can’t help but be unimpressed with their suggestion of 16… Re8. Yes, rook to the open file, but Black is hardly attacking e2 here. Following 17. e4 b4 18. a4 Nd4 19. Kh1 Nxd5 20. cxd5 Bf7 Black is apparently ‘better’, but I would definitely take White here, despite the hole on d4 and the backward pawn on b3. The problem is finding a good plan for Black, solid though he is, whereas White can try to slowly advance on the kingside, perhaps beginning with 21. Be1.

17. Kh1 Ghasi decides to place his king on a safer square, while freeing up the possibility of attacking with a rook down the g-file one day. After 17. e4 fxe4 18. dxe4 I was hoping that the thematic, undermining thrust 18…a4 would prove strong, and had in reserve 18… bxc4 19. bxc4 Nxd5 20. cxd5 Nd4 when Black’s light-squared bishop is misplaced, but White might prove to be overextended – compare the game.

17… bxc4! Another big decision, but the correct one I believe. Black needs to obtain some counterplay and the computer’s suggestion of 17… Nxd5 18. cxd5 Ne7?! would not be the way to go. It may produce an assessment of ‘-0.21′ (a hard term to fathom in any case in my view), but just look at Black’s minor pieces! White is undoubtedly somewhat for choice after 19. e4.

18. bxc4! The logical and most challenging recapture. Instead 18. dxc4 Nxd5 19. cxd5 Nd4 20. Nxd4 (20. Ne3 Re8 21. Re1 Nb5! is also pretty pleasant for Black) 20… Bxd4 21. e3 Bf6, while still quite solid for White, would have been quite comfortable for me. Black’s king is quite safe and he can aim to combine pressure on the b-file with a timely advance of the a-pawn.

18…a4! “The battle has sharpened and turned into a battle for outposts on the b-file”

18… a4! The battle has sharpened and turned into a battle for outposts on the b-file. I move quickly to secure control of the b3 point. 19. Bc3 As an example of how the position can suddenly flare into life, just consider the line 19. Nc3 Qd7!? (19… Rxb1 20. Qxb1 Qa5 would be the simple approach) 20. Nxa4 Rxb1 21. Qxb1 Rb8 22. Qa2 Na5 23. Nc3 d5! 24. cxd5 Rb3 with complications that might turn out to leave both members of White’s royalty embarrassed. Ghasi first prefers to exchange off Black’s raking bishop.

19… Nxd5 There was no going back by now – having said ‘A’ and ‘B’, and started on the path of activity and counterplay, Black must say ‘C’. 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. cxd5 Na5 And so Black’s knight is set to land on b3, but will it radiate influence there or prove misplaced as the centre opens up? I wasn’t entirely sure during the game, but hoped that the possibilities of …Nd2 and …Nd4 would at least carry some nuisance value. 22. Rxb8 Qxb8 23. Qa1+ Kh7!? A provocation. Black’s king can easily prove misplaced here should he go …g6-g5 or the position open with e4 fxe4; Bxe4, but with my opponent beginning to run low on time I wanted to avoid the potential early halt to proceedings which was available with 23… Kg8 24. Qf6 (of course, White too can continue the struggle here, such as with 24. Rg1 Nb3 25. Qc3 Qd8 26. e4) 24… Be8 25. Qe6+ Bf7 26. Qf6.

23…Kh7 Neither side was merely playing for a draw!

24. Rb1 This may only seem to help Black’s queen and knight, but White no doubt wanted to avoid 24. e4?! Qb3 when 25. Ne1 Bg8! is a neat retreat to leave White’s structure more of a weakness than a strength.
Of course, 24. Qf6? Bxd5 25. Qe7+ Rf7 had to be avoided and 24. Qc3 Qb3! 25. Qxa5 Qxc2 26. Qc7 Qxe2 27. Qxd6 was a line I was frantically calculating. Indeed, I was a little scared about the d-pawn here, but after 27…Kg8! Black’s kingside is secure and 28. Qxc5 Qxd3 should be good for him, since the d-pawn is actually rather weak: if 29. d6?! Rd8
However, White is undoubtedly a little worse in the game and while he may be already, perhaps he would have done better here with 24. Rg1!? Nb3 25. Qc3 Qd8 26. e4 when the rook is at least more actively placed than in the game.

24… Nb3 25. Qc3 Qd8! The position has various Benoni characteristics, so putting the queen in touch with the h4-square while preparing to halt e4-e5 due to …dxe5; fxe5 Bxd5 felt right. I wasn’t convinced by 25… Qc7 26. e4 Rb8, although I had missed the idea of 27. e5? (27. Qf6! does, however, look quite scary) 27… Nd4!.

26. e4 The battle really is hotting up. Will White have time to go Ne3-c4 and blow Black away in the centre, or can the second player grab enough counterplay and show that his restricted bishop isn’t any worse than its opposite number? …Re8?! Played in preparation of my next, but this restrictive move feels wrong, and with hindsight we can definitely say that it was. My initial intention had been 26… Qh4, but I suddenly became worried by 27. Ne3!? Qxf4 28. Nc4 when …fxe4?! (28… Nd4 29. Rf1 Qg4 30. Nxd6 f4! improves and leads to a rather unclear situation after 31. h3 Qg3 32. Qe1) 29. dxe4 leaves White set to exploit the open kingside lines.
I was also worried about White’s active ideas after 26… fxe4! 27. dxe4 Be8!, but improving the bishop while hitting f4 thus was likely correct. Then, for instance, if 28. Rf1 (28. f5 gxf5 29. exf5 Bd7! 30. Ne3 Qg5 is at least OK for Black) 28… g5! 29. f5 Qf6 30. Qxf6 Rxf6 31. Ne3 Bb5 and while all three results remain, Black must be slightly for choice thanks to his current blockade.

27.Rf1! Despite the mass of complications, both sides have played very well. With time trouble looming, who would come out on top?

27. Rf1! This strong prophylactic move came as a surprise, but since it didn’t stop my intention I wasn’t too unhappy… I had been expecting 27. Ne3 Qh4 28. Nc4 when the calm …Rd8 should hold Black’s position together: for example, 29. Rf1 Nd4 30. Nxd6!? Rxd6 31. Qxc5 Ne2! 32. Qxd6 Ng3+ 33. Kg1 Ne2+ and it’s perpetual check.

27… c4! This is nowhere near as strong as I hoped it might be during the game, but was in any case essential. Black must seize some counterplay; he would just be squashed after 27… Re7?! 28. Ne3 Nd4 29. Nc4 and if …Rb7 30. Qa5! Qxa5 31. Nxa5 when White’s central pawn mass should prove somewhat the more relevant.

28. dxc4 Already down to his last five minutes, Ghasi plays the obvious capture, and perhaps he hadn’t seen the undermining thrust coming? Critical must be 28.exf5!? when best play might continue …cxd3 (during the game I was mainly looking at 28… gxf5?!, although I didn’t have time to work out the line 29. dxc4 (somewhat stronger is the useful intermediate move 29. Rg1!) 29… Qh4 before Ghasi moved; Black has definite practical chances here, as shown by the trap 30. Nd4 Qf6! 31. Rd1?! Bh5) 29. Qxd3 gxf5! (Black can get away with this, although I suspect had this position arisen I might have punted 29… Nc5 30. fxg6+ Bxg6 31. Qc3 Bf5 with some practical chances, such as after 32. Ne3 Bd3, but objectively surely not enough compensation) 30. Bh3 (30. Qxf5+? Bg6 wins the knight) 30… Qf6 31. Bxf5+ (or 31. Qxf5+ Qxf5 32. Bxf5+ Kg7 and d5 falls) 31… Kh8 and White is not particularly well coordinated, allowing Black good counterplay with, say, 32. Bg4 Nc5 33. Qd1 Re4)

28… fxe4 29. Ne3 Qh4!? Probing. 30. Qb4?! The start of a bad plan, but White had likely underestimated the forthcoming exchange of queens. With little time it wasn’t easy to evaluate the consequences of 30. f5! Rb8 and then whether to trade or push, but this would have been more challenging to face.

30… Nc5 31. Qb6 Qd8! 32. Qxd8?! After 32. Qb2!? Nd3 33. Qd4 Qh4 34. Qa7 Re7 35. Qxa4 Rb7 the initiative is undoubtedly with Black, although the machine feels that White can cling on, beginning with 36. Qa8.

31…Qd8 Richard shows excellent judgement by entering an endgame that is excellent for him, perhaps contrary to first glances at the position.

32… Rxd8 33. Rb1 The position Ghasi must have initially assessed favourably. Yes, Black’s knight is well placed, but his passed pawn is superbly blockaded and his rook and bishop inferior to their counterparts. Thankfully before whisking my queen back to d8, I had realised that Black had one main advantage, a favourite one of Bronstein at that – the move.

33…g5! Breaking out. Suddenly White has to be careful that Black’s king doesn’t march across and take up a great post on e5. 34. fxg5 hxg5 35. Rb6 Bh5?! Time trouble begins to take its toll. Consistent would have been 35… Kg6 when the king is on its way and after 36. Bh3 Kf6 37. Ng4+ Ke7 38. Ne3 Bg6 39. Bf5 Bh5 White has some defending to do, and must avoid 40. Bg4? Bxg4 41. Nxg4 Rf8 with some initiative for Black.

35.Rb6 King activity is an important endgame theme

36. Bh3! White seizes the chance to activate his long dormant bishop. 36…Kg6! I saw that 36… Bg6 would keep things under control, but then spotted a way to activate my king and having spent most of my final couple of minutes on it, went for it! 37. Nf5 g4 The point of Black’s play. He will lose d6, but his king will advance while White’s bishop is driven backwards.

38. Nxd6 Kg5 39. Bf1 g3! Jettisoning another pawn to prevent White from placing his bishop on an effective square, e2. Almost from nowhere Black has seized a powerful initiative. 40. hxg3 e3 41. g4? Played after long thought. This rather smacks of panic, although it’s possible that Ghasi couldn’t fully believe in the strength of the following king march. I was somewhat more concerned with 41. Kg1! Rf8 42. Rb2! when White’s defences are tight and I was surprised Ghasi didn’t play this. Perhaps he didn’t like 42…Bf3 followed by …Kg4, but after 43. Rh2 (43. Be2 Kg4 44. Bxf3+ Kxf3 45. Nb5 is another idea, aiming to sacrifice the knight for the e-pawn, such as with …Nb3 46. Nc3 Nd2 47. Rb7 Nxc4 48. Rb4 Rc8 49. Rxa4 when I doubt Black can win) 43… Kg4 44. Nb5 Kxg3 45. Nd4 White maintains a firm blockade of the e2-square and I haven’t been able to find a great continuation for Black, although he is most certainly not worse and still has some practical chances after 45…Bg4 46. Rg2+ Kf4 47. Ne2+ Bxe2 48. Bxe2 Ne4

40…e3 Time control has been reached. Black is two pawns down but has a more active king and a dangerous advanced passed pawn.

41… Rf8! Hitting the bishop and enabling Black to capture on g4 without losing the rook to a fork.

42. Nf5 Kxg4 43. Nxe3+ Kf3 The point of Black’s play – his king wants to join in the mating attack!

44. Nc2 There were two alternatives:
(a) 44. Ng2 Kf2 costs White a piece and after 45.Rb2+ Kxf1 46. Ne3+ Ke1 Black should be able to win.
(b) 44. Nd1 Kg3 and if 45. Ne3 Rf3 46. Rh6 Bg4! also costs White a piece.

45.Bh3! Ghasi is putting up strong resistance against Richard’s fierce mating attack.

44… Kf2 45.Bh3! Again, Ghasi finds the best defence… 45…Bg4? …and I falter, despite having plenty of time left. The text was actually played after some thought, but I should have looked deeper. Indeed, 45… Rh8! would have done the trick: 46. Rf6+ Bf3+ 47. Kh2 Ne4 and the threat of …Nd2-f1 is decisive, which is I fear the point I missed.

46. Rh6! And not, of course, 46. Bxg4?? Rh8+ followed by mate. 46… Kg3 47. Bg2 The only move, but a good one. Of course, the bishop was taboo due to mate on f1. 47…Re8 I wanted to control the e3-square, as well as e2 and e1, and so avoided 47… Rb8 48. Ne3 Here I don’t think that Black is winning (and neither is he after the text!), although White would still have to defend with care after 48…Rb3 49. Nf1+ Kf4 50. Rc6 Nd7, with 51. c5 Rxa3 52. Rc7! being an active and good start.

48. Rg6 The obvious defence. White will return the exchange to buy his king some breathing space. A move which completely escaped my attention during the game was 48. Bf1!? but this is pretty logical, keeping the rook out of e2. Following 48…Ne4 (if 48… Kf2 49. Bh3) 49. Rh2 Ng5 50. d6 Nf3 51. Rg2+ Kf4 52. Rxg4+! Kxg4 53. Kg2! White’s king is safe and his extra pawns give him enough to draw.

48… Nd3! The best try. Ghasi had prepared to meet 48… Re2 with the fiendish 49. Bf3! After 49…Rh2+ 50. Kg1 Rxc2 51. Bxg4 Rc1+ White has only one move, but it’s a good one: 52. Bd1+ Kf4 53. Rf6+ Ke5 54. Rf1 Rxc4 and Black hasn’t any winning chances.

50…Kxg4 Time trouble is once again looming. If Ghasi can fend off the attack, he will likely have a draw.

49. d6 Nf4 50. Rxg4+! The only move. It doesn’t take long to realise that 50. Rg7? Kf2 is completely hopeless for White: 51. Rh7 Nxg2 52. d7 Rd8with an easy win.

50… Kxg4 51. c5?? After such a complicated endgame, Ghasi was again down to under two minutes (until move 60), and collapses. The right move was 51. Bc6! when after 51…Rh8+ (even here 51… Re2? is well met by 52. Bf3+!) (and if 51… Rd8 52. d7 White’s d-pawn is secure and his king safe enough: for instance 52…Kg3 53. Kg1 Ne6 54. Bxa4 Nc5 55. Bc6 and Black hasn’t really anything better than 55…Nxd7 and a draw offer) 52. Kg1 Kg3 53. d7 (53. Nd4 Rf8 54. Bd7! should also do the trick) 53… Ne6 (or 53… Rf8!? when White has only one move, but it’s sufficient: 54. Kf1!) 54. Kf1 Nc5 55. Nb4 it’s hard to believe that Black has any winning chances whatsoever.

51… Kg3! Possibly White had underestimated this. The king returns to the fray and Black wins, even though White can force home one of his pawns. 52. d7 Rd8 53. Bh3!? It’s too late for 53. Bc6 on account of 53…Ne2 followed by mate on the h-file, and 53. c6 Ne2 also decides.

53…Nxh3 54. c6 Rf8 54… Rh8 55. c7 Nf2+ 56. Kg1 Rh1# would also have done the trick.

55. Ne3 Rf2! Black either mates on h2 or f1. 0-1

About Richard Palliser


York-based International Master Richard Palliser is a former British Rapidplay Champion, and is employed by Everyman Chess, for whom he has written works on a variety of openings which many players rely upon.
Richard also coaches some of Yorkshire’s best juniors, and his simultaneous exhibitions are always popular events.


Yorkshire Chess would like to personally thank all our guest writers for their wonderful contributions. If you would like to publish your article on Yorkshire Chess please see our guest post page: link

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