Round 1 – Corcoran v Wainwright – Analysis

This is the first game of the 6-game match between friends and rivals Gary Corcoran and Andrew Wainwright. Gary had the white pieces and was looking to put an early dent in Andy’s ambitions. The time control for these games is as normal for the Bradford leagues – 37 moves in 75 minutes, then 15 minutes to finish.

The Smith-Morra Gambit Declined

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 Both players decided not to budge from what they normally play.

3…d3 Andy decided to decline Gary’s Morra Gambit! Declining the gambit indicates that Black is not willing to confront and refute it but rather just get out of the opening alive and play a game of chess. 3… dxc3 4. Nxc3 is the critical test of this opening where white secures quick development of his pieces in return for his sacrificed pawn.

4. Bxd3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Both sides have many options of how to develop their pieces. What Gary chooses is absolutely fine. Another common idea is to play a Marcozy Bind setup by playing c3-c4, Nc3, Nf3 or Ne2 and f4

5…d6 6. h3 g6 7. O-O Bg7 8. Be3 e6?! I’m not sure this move is necessary here. It blocks in the c8-bishop and weakens d6. However is does prepare d6-d5 and allows the knight to come to e7.

9. Na3 Preparing to come to b5 or c4 and pressure the weakness that Andy has just prepared.

9…a6 Another weakening move. This does prevent Nb5, but ensures that Nc4 comes with even more potency.

10. Nc4 Nge7 10… b5 11. Nb6 Rb8 12. Nxc8 Qxc8 Andy said he considered going in for this but eventually rejected it as he thought it would weaken his queenside too much. This position is certainly more pleasant to play for White.

11. Bb6 Qd7 There is no doubt that Gary has won the opening battle. He has more space, control of squares on the queenside and the c8 bishop will not see much action for a while!

12. Qe2 O-O 13. Rad1 d5 Black must get this thrust in, otherwise 8…e6 is pointless.

Maintain the tension!

14 .exd5?! This releases the tension too easily. Whenever you make an exchange, you should have a good reason to do it. Otherwise, it is often best just to leave the tension and build up the pressure. White is in control of this trade and can perform it when he wants. 14. Bb1 and the pin on the d-file is very annoying. This is similar to the game except that Black cannot play Qe6 in this position like he did in the game.

14… exd5 15. Bb1 Qe6 This is an important resource for Black which highlights another good principle: if you have less space than your opponent, you should try to trade pieces so you have fewer pieces to move around in your limited space.

16. Qxe6 (16. Ne3 keeps the queens on, but I am not sure that this is any better than the game.)

16… Bxe6 16… fxe6 was also possible. This ensures that Black does not have an isolated queen pawn (IQP). However, Black’s bishop is blocked in and the e-pawn might prove to be weak.

17. Ne3 h6 18. Rfe1 Rfe8 19. Nd4 In the next few moves, Gary’s play is a bit planless and any advantage he had disappears. 19. a4 intending Ba2, Rd2 and Red1 attacking the IQP seems to make more sense. Black will struggle to defend this pawn as he is unable to put any of his rooks on d8. It’s actually quite difficult to find any sensible moves for Black here.

19… Nxd4 20. Bxd4 Around this point the players had some interesting Latvian folk music accompanying their game from the upstairs hall!

20…Nc6 21. Bxg7 Kxg7 22. f4 f5 Prevents white playing f4-f5.

23. Kf2 Rad8? 23… Red8 was necessary to defend the pawn.

Why was Andy's last move, 23...Rad8 a mistake?

24. g4 24. Nxd5! Bxd5 25. Rxe8 Rxe8 26. Rxd5 and White is just a clear pawn up.

24… fxg4 25. hxg4 Bf7 26. Nc2 Rxe1 27. Rxe1 d4 28.cxd4 Nxd4 This position has petered out and is now pretty drawish. However, in very good spirit they both continue to fight for the full point. The rest of this game is a great illustration that even in seemingly dead positions like this, all three results are genuinely possible. We are humans, not robots. There was tension, nervousness and the clock to deal with for both players.

Knight endings look simple, but they require long and accurate calculations

29. Rd1 Ne6 30. Rxd8 Nxd8 31. Nd4 Bd5 32. Ke3 Nc6 33. a3 Kf6 33… Nxd4 34.Kxd4 Gary was unduly pessimistic about this option for Black. Gary was worried about being unable to stop h5-h4-h3-h2-h1 due to his badly placed Bishop. However, white has enough time to bring his bishop back into the game. Furthermore, Black can’t create a passed h-pawn without allowing White to create a passed f-pawn which will provide counterplay. 34…Bf3 35. g5 h5 Gary is right that this position is easier to play for Black, as White cannot really enter any King and pawn endings. However, he can create his own passed pawn and chances are about even. 36. f5 gxf5 37. Bxf5

34. Nf3 Kg7 35. Be4 Bxe4 36. Kxe4 Knight endings are very similar to pawn endings. Any initiative can prove decisive, one tempo can change the evaluation from a win to a draw.

36…Kf7 37. Kd5 37. f5 gxf5+ 38. Kxf5 prevents Black from obtaining the outside passed pawn.

37… h5 In king and pawn endings, outside passed pawns are a big advantage. The same principle applies in knight endings as they take a long time to move from one side of the board to the other. You will see a great example of this later on in this game!

38. gxh5?! (38. g5 This is an easier way of preventing infiltration by Black’s king and knight.)

38… gxh5 39. Kd6 Kf6 40. Nh4? Andy admitted after the game that he missed this move, preventing Black’s king from infiltrating. However, this move is actually a blunder and Black can now win.

Are you be able to calculate 40...Ne7 to a win?

40…Na5? A knight on the rim is dim! (40… Ne7! Intending to trade knights and get a winning King and Pawn ending. Of course, this move is incredibly difficult to play, as it requires deep and precise calculation as it allows white to win the queenside pawns. At this point, both sides had less than 15 minutes to play the entire game. Andy may well have played this if he had more time to calculate White’s counter-attack. Of course if white chose to play passively with 43.Kd4, he could just go into that knowing he had all the winning chances. 41. Kc5 (41. Kc7 This gains a tempo on the variation with 41.Kc5 and 43.Kb6, but this gain of tempo actually helps Black to trap the Knight. 41…Ng6 42. Ng2 Kf5 43. Kxb7 Nxf4 44. Ne3+ Ke4 45. Nf1 Kf3 46. Kxa6 Kf2 47. Nh2 Kg2 48. b4 Kxh2 49. b5 (49. Kb5 h4 50. a4 h3 51. a5 Kg3 52. a6 h2 53. a7 h1=Q -+) 49… h4 50. b6 Ne6  51. Kb7 Kg2 52. Kc8 Nc5 -+) 41… Ng6 Forking the knight and pawn. 42. Ng2 Kf5 43. Kd4 This is a sample line, both sides do have other options. Eventually white will just be forced to defend the Queenside pawns and stop Black from queening himself, which is an impossible task. (43. Kb6 The counter-attack doesn’t work, e.g. 43…Nxf4 44.Ne3+ Ke4 45. Nf1 h4 46. Kxb7 Kf3 47. Kxa6 Kf2 48. Nh2 Nd5 The knight must keep an eye on white’s pawns (48… Kg2 49. Ng4 h3?? 50. b4 Nd5 51. b5 Kg3 52. Ne3! Nxe3 (52… h2  53. Nf1+ Kg2 54. Nxh2 Kxh2 +-) 53. b6 h2 54. b7 h1=Q 55. b8=Q+ =) 49. b4 Kg2 50. Ng4 Kg3 51. b5 Kxg4 52. b6 Nxb6 53. Kxb6) 43… Nxf4 44. Ne3+ Kg5 45. Ke4 h4 46. Kf3 Nd3 47. Nd1 (47. b4 Ne1+ 48. Kf2 Kf4 49. Nd5+ (49. Nc4 Nc2) 49… Ke5 50. Ne3 Nd3+ 51. Ke2 (51. Kg2 b5 and Black will mop up on the Queenside.) 51… Ke4 52. Nc4 h3 53. Kf1 and Black will stretch white both ways and win on the Queenside.) 47… Kf5 Black will just wait for white to make a concession, then pounce. 48. Kg2 (48. Ne3+ Ke5 49. b3 Kd4 all these lines a very similar.) 48… Ke4 49. Kh3 Kd4 50. Kxh4 Kc4)

41. Kc5 Now it is white who has all the winning chances.

41…b5?!  (41… Nc6 42. Kb6 Ne7 43. Kxb7 Ng6 44. Ng2 Kf5 45. Kxa6 Nxf4 46. Nxf4 Kxf4 47.b4 h4 48. b5 h3 49. b6 h2 50. b7 h1=Q 51. b8=Q+ This ending is a theoretical draw, but white can play for the next 100 moves and try to win if he wants! Black must send his king towards the drawing zone in the g1-g2-h1-h2 corner. I won’t try explain it here, there are plenty of endgame books out there if you want to find out more!)

42. Kb6 Now white is winning.

42…Nc4+ 43. Kxa6 Nxb2 (43… Nd6 The last chance to defend. 44. Kb6 Nf5 45. Nf3 h4 46. Nxh4  Nxh4 47. Kxb5 Black’s forces are too far away to stop white’s pawns from queening.)

44. Kxb5 Gary was now down to about 4 minutes remaining, Andy was on about 6.

44…Nd3 45. f5 Kg5

What is white's cleanest way of reaching a won position here?

46. a4!! This took a lot of calculation and left Gary with less than 3 minutes left.

46…Ne5 Andy now realised he was lost and hoped he could swindle something based on Gary’s lack of time and having the notoriously tricky knight.

47. a5 Kxh4 48. a6 Kg5 49. a7 Kxf5 50. a8=Q The cold-hearted tablebases say that this is mate in 18. Knights are horrible pieces to play against as white can drop his queen at any moment if he is not careful.

50…h4 51. Qg2 Ng4 52. Kc5 At this point, Gary had less than two minutes, Andy had less than five

How could Gary have finished Andy off here?

52…Kf4 53. Kd4 Kf5 54. Qf3+ Kg5 55. Ke4 Nf6+ 56. Ke3 Ng4+ 57. Ke2 Nh2 58. Qh3?! This was Gary’s clear-cut chance to eliminate Black’s knight. (58. Qg2+ Ng4 59. Kf3 +-)

58… Ng4 59. Kf3 Ne5+ 60. Kg2 Ng4 61. Qf3 Ne5 62. Qe3+ Gary has played very natural moves, but it is now only mate in 20 from here! This shows how difficult this ending is to play.

62…Kf5 63.Kh3 Ke6 64. Qh6+ Kd5 65. Qxh4 Nc4 66. Kg3 Ne5 67. Qg5 Ke4 68. Qf4+ Kd5 69. Qe3 Nc4 70. Qd3+ Kc5 71. Kf4 Nd6 72. Ke5 Nc4+ 73. Ke6 Kb4 74. Qd4 Kb5 75. Kd5 Nb6+ 76. Kd6 Nc4+ 77. Kd7 Kb4 78. Kc6 Kb3 79. Kb5 Nb2 A knight is often very badly placed on a “fianchettoed” square.

The final position

80. Qe3+80. Qd2 forces Black’s king to the edge of the board. 80…Ka3 81. Qc2 Ka2 82. Kb4 Ka1 83. Kb3 Nd3 84. Qa2#

80…Kc2 81. Kb4 Nd3+ 82. Kc4 Nb2+ 83. Kb4 Nd3+ 84. Ka4 Kc3 With less than 10 seconds on Gary’s clock, a draw was agreed. A very hard fought game from both sides. The game ebbed and flowed, it was highly entertaining to watch and a draw was probably a fair result for both sides. Stay tuned for another five equally exciting games in the coming weeks!


Analysis by Andy Bak. You can download the PGN including the analysis by clicking the link below.

Download PGN

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Features editor for the Yorkshire Chess website. I collate and write atricles about all the latest chess activities in Yorkshire and beyond. I've also been known to shove some pieces myself from time to time!

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