October 2016

Mon 3rd: Can You See Whats Going to Happen Yet?
Wed 5th: Jailbreak
Fri 14th: Variation on two themes
Sat 15th: Patience
Sat 15th: Hanging on
Sun 16th: Digging In
Sun 16th: Going for Glory
Fri 21st: Making Life Difficult
Sat 22nd: Clear Skies for Sahara Dawn
Sat 22nd: Life in the Slow Lane
Sun 23rd: Return of the Theme
Sun 23rd: Spoiling Tactics
Wed 26th: Petunias

Mon 3rd: Can You See Whats Going to Happen Yet?
Do you believe in ESP? No, I don't either, except in my dreams, when anything goes. Yet it has to be said there are times when I feel an opponent's mistake coming. Not just that he's struggling and sooner or later will drop a clanger, but that he's about to play a particular move he's going to regret.

Such was the case in RR's game against Steve Hill, which we join for move 14 with the players having just exchanged pawns on d5 following a fairly formless opening which Fritz dignifies by labelling English.

RR v Steve Hill after 13 ... exd5

r4rk1/pb1q1pb1/1pp2np1/3pB3/5P2/1PN1PB2/P2P2PP/R2Q1RK1 w
So can you see what is going to happen yet? Here goes
14 Rc1 Anything more natural than putting a rook on a half open file?

14 ... Rc8 And an apparently natural response which RR felt coming despite being worthy of ??. Why? The game continued:

15 Bxf6 Bxf6, 16 Bg4 winning the exchange, and providing a big enough buffer against future inaccuracies to win the game too.
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Wed 5th: Jailbreak
One has to be honest and admit that if you get into a mess at the chessboard, it is your own fault. Play better moves and it doesn't happen. But it does happen, rumour has it, to us all, and then it remains to see what medicine our opponent forces us to take.

In this game RR finds himself with white against Cheddleton's leading junior, Jacob Boswell, and after 8 moves the game is poised for interesting play on opposing wings.

RR v Jacob Boswell after 8 ... Qe8

rnb1qrk1/ppp1b1pp/3p1n2/4pp2/1PP5/2NPPN2/P3BPPP/R1BQ1RK1 w
Qb3 is attractive, developing the dark squared bishop can't be bad, whilst a3 has virtues too, protecting the c-pawn. Instead RR came up with

9 Nd5 Bd8, 10 Nxf6+ Bxf6, 11 e4. No development, exchanging a piece by moving it 3 times, and then offering the opportunity for black to speed up his attack by removing his f-pawn. Somehow I don't think you'll find that in any book on how to play the game.

11 ... Qg6, 12 Qc2 RR misses the opportunity to get his knight out of the line of fire with Nd4, where it won't die because of the threat of Bh5 against the black queen.

12 ... fxe4, 13 dxe4 Nc6, 14 Rb1 Bh3, 15 Ne1 Nd4
16 Qd3 Bh4 (diagram left)
RR v Jacob Boswell after 16 ... Bh4

The white queen is overworked, protecting the e4 pawn, e2 bishop and wanting to take the h3 bishop. Meanwhile I've no threats of my own, and can foresee a doubling of black rooks of the f-file. A calmer analysis also shows that a further retreat, Bd1, and the defence if not exactly textbook is still quite solid, putting the question to black as to exactly how he intends to make his entry. However RR was far from calm, and decided to put pressure on the h3 bishop by removing the king from the queen's line of attack:

17 Kh1 Unfortunately this fatally reduces the protection of the f2 pawn.
17 ... Rxf2, 18 Rxf2 Bxf2 and the knight will not be maintaining its protection against the mate for long. Fortunately (for RR) that is not how it went. Instead:

17 ... Bxf2, 18 gxh3 and black's attack has gone.

18 ... Bh4 Maybe slightly better is Nxe2, removing a defender and releasing the d4 square for the bishop, but material down it is understandable to wish to keep the remaining material on.

19 Nf3 Now it's RR calling the tune, and although as per usual he doesn't find the best continuations throughout, Jacob feels forced to call it a day on move 38 with my silicon co-commentator assessing a double digit advantage to white.

Truely a case of getting out of jail. Or remission from the black cancer that threatened to overrun white.
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Fri 14th: Variation on two themes
With three early season wins under his belt (the first is written up under September), RR trundled off to Crewe in a reasonably optimistic frame of mind, where he found himself playing Richard Szwajkun in round 1. We join the game with RR having just played an ill-judged f4 in a position in which he has some backward pawns to pressurize but a weak c4 pawn of his own.

RR v Richard Szwajkun after 21 f4

3rr1k1/2q3pp/1p1p2b1/p1p1np2/P1P1PP2/BQP5/3RB1PP/3R2K1 b
Fortunately Richard was nervous of playing Ng4, fearing the removal of his good steed, though the sequence
21 ... Ng4, 22 Bxg4 fxg4, 23 f5 results in a very passive position for white. Instead we had

21 ... Nc6 and with a faint premonition of possible disaster for black

22 exf5 Bxf5, 23 Bc1 Re6, 24 Rde8 Another premonition proved accurate ...

24 ... Bd5 ... and another exchange to add to my early season collection!

Another dozen moves were played, but here was no way back for black. 1-0 to our hero.
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Sat 15th: Patience
"Patience is a virtue" is a saying that applies to chess as much as in real life. Indeed probably more games are lost through a misplaced desire to do something than through any other cause. Round 2 at Crewe saw RR playing black against Roger Greatorex in an English four knights, an opening with plenty of options for both sides, equating to plenty of opportunities to play moves which whilst not blunders, result in the dissipation of any acquired positional advantage.

1 c4 e5, 2 Nc3 Nf6, 3 Nf3 Nc6, 4 e3 Be7, 5 d4 exd4
6 exd4 d5, 7 cxd5 Nxd5

Roger Greatorex v RR after 7 ... Nxd5

All immensely natural, but not forced. Black has the isolated queen pawn to target, but has less freedom of movement of pieces because of the power said pawn has over c5 and particularly e5.

8 Bc4 Nb6, 9 Bd3 No doubt there are cavemen who swear by Bxf7+ at this point, but they should be destined to be swearing at such choice of move by the end of the resulting game.

9 ... O-O, 10 O-O Nb4 looking to establish a blockader on d5, a standard counter to the isolated d-pawn, though taking action directed at the pawn itself with Bf6 is probably preferable.

11 Be4 c6, 12 Ne5 N4d5, 13 f4 More support for the knight, or the start of a kingside attack? Time will tell.

13 ... Nf6, 14 Bf3 Be6 diagram right.

Roger Greatorex v RR after 14 ... Be6

One of the big battles in chess is to get a position in which you feel comfortable and the opponent doesn't even if an objective assessment is of an equal (or nearly so) position. I don't know how Roger felt here, but RR was content. Black can happily place pieces on d5 knowing that every exchange of pieces leaves white's IQP more exposed. Meanwhile other pieceplay is not greatly constrained. OK, there is no immediate threat to do mischief to white, but in return what is he up to?

15 g4 He's up to a kingside attack.

15 ... Bd5, 16 Nxd5 Nfxd5, 17 Bxd5 Qxd5 The first exchange was expected, the second not. Surely 17 g5 was more in tune with the kingside attack idea. It begins to look like g4 was a simple lashing out, a loss of patience with no conviction behind it. Now black's queen takes up a dominant position, freeing d8 for a rook to exert more pressure against the IQP.

18 Be3 Rad8, 19 Qc2 f6, 20 Nf3 Bd6, 21 b3 Rde8 RR now turns his attention to taking over the e-file. Nought wrong with such a plan, though Qe6 forking bishop and g-pawn provides more rapid gratification.

22 Rae1 Re6 preparing a doubling of rooks. Much stronger is Bb4, provided black sees that after Re2 he should seek to take advantage of the pinned bishop by placing the queen on the e-file, as the rook is now only defended once. Another missed opportunity, but RR still has the initiative.

Roger Greatorex v RR after 22 ... Re6

23 Bd2 Qd3 would have maintained material equality (as would Qf2 and one or two other moves), at the expense of allowing RR to increase pressure down the e-file.

23 Rxe1 White has a choice of recaptures: with the rook loses the knight, with the bishop loses the f-pawn, and with the knight loses the d-pawn. And the choice was ...

24 Nxe1 Qxd4+, 25 Kg2 Nd5, 26 Qd3 Qxd3 Typical RR. Keeping the queens on is stronger since the white position is much looser than black's, but heading for a won endgame is one of RR's favourite pastimes. Now to make sure he wins it.

27 Nxd3 Re8, 28 Kf3 Kf7, 29 h3 a5, 30 Rc1 Ra8, 31 Nc5 Bxc5
32 Rxc5 a4, 33 b4 Nc7, 34 Rc4 Nb5, 35 h4 Rd8, 36 Ke3 f5
37 gxf5 Rd7, 38 Re4 Nd6 0-1 as white is destined to lose the exchange.
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Sat 15th: Hanging on
Round 3, white against Daniel Rowan, with two other players being on 2/2, including former Newcastle member James Rothwell. We join the game after nine moves in the sort of position that you've seen many times before, matching the many reasonable move sequences that can create it.

RR v Daniel Rowan after 9 ... b6

r1bqr1k1/p3bppp/1pn1pn2/2pp4/2PP4/1P2PN2/1B1NBPPP/R2Q1RK1 w

10 cxd5 exd5, 11 Bb5 Bb7, 12 Ne5 Rc8, 13 Qe2 Bd6
14 f4 cxd4, 15 exd4 Re7 It becomes apparent that RR's earlier pin of the c6 knight against the rook has achieved nothing. Indeed black is about to double rooks on the c-file. Not that this in itself should cause a problem as these can be forced off with a rook to c1. More important is to keep blacks minor pieces at bay with a3, which unfortunately RR omits.

16 Rac1 Rec7, 17 Bxc6 Bxc6, 18 Ndf3 Qe8 19 Qf2 The white pieces are becoming increasingly passive.

19 ... Bb5, 20 Rxc7 Rxc7, 21 Rc1 Rxc1+, 22 Bxc1 Qc8, 23 Qb2

RR v Daniel Rowan after 23 Qb2

Lots of exchanges, but RR is still doing little more than sitting their waiting for black to find a way into his position.

23 ... Ne4, 24 Ng5 Ne1 would have been a better attempt at continuing to sit on the position and creating a safe retreat for the e5 knight. With the text move black has
24 ... f6, 25 Nxe4 dxe4, 26 Nc4 Bxc4, 27 bxc4 Qxc4 leaving him a pawn up with better pieces.
Also available is 24 ... Qc3 and white's positions collapses.
Fortunately for RR, Daniel chose another line:

24 ... Nxg5, 25 fxg5 Qf5, 26 Qf2

RR v Daniel Rowan after 26 Qf2

Now black has an attack on his f-pawn to worry about. Can he create a stronger attack on white's king? Try playing on from
26 ... Qb1, 27 Qxf7+ Kh8, 28 Qf4 Ba3, 29 Nd3
Both sides seem to be living one move from disaster. No surprise that Daniel picked a more comfortable line:

26 ... Qxf2+, 27 Kxf2 Kf8, 28 g3 Ke7, 29 Bf4 Ke6, 30 Ke3 Be8 ½-½

RR emerged unscathed apart from mental damage caused by stress.
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Sun 16th: Digging In
So to round 4, often the cruellest round in which hopes of glory are extinquished leaving a round 5 anti-climax. How would it be for RR. The charts show him to be in a 5-way tie on 2½/3, and getting the upfloat against the sole leader, a certain James Rothwell. Neither of us was surprised that the game was a Scandinavian.

1. e4 d5, 2 exd5 Nf6, 3 Nf3 Nxd5, 4 d4 Bf5, 5 Bc4 e6
6 O-O Be7, 7 Re1

James Rothwell v RR after 7 Re1

There are many ways of playing the Scandinavian; RR elected to try a sit and outlast the opponent variation, not the sort of stuff designed to enthuse the spectators

7 ... c6, 8 a3 Nd7, 9 Bf1 O-O, 10 c4 N5f6, 11 Nc3 Nb6 A small inaccuracy as this move, relinquishing all current control over e5, can be played anytime, whereas if Qc7 not played now it may get played at all. However at the time RR did not want to deal with the immediate complications of d5 with his dark square bishop undefended.

12 h3 h6 Deeming a safe square for his bishop more important than Qc7.

13 Bf4 Rc8, 14 Qd2 Nh5, 15 Be3 Nf6, 16 Bf4 Nh7 Going badly wrong, for some strange reason fearing a sac on h6.

17 Rad1 g5, 18 Bh2 Bf6 Nf6 must be better, but with no properly planned continuation from g5, that pawn shove would have been best left unplayed.

19 Ne5 Bxe5, 20 Rxe5 Qd7, 21 c5 Nd5, 22 Nxd5 exd5

James Rothwell v RR after 22 ... exd5

White controls the open file and has the bishop pair, so is presumably calling the tune. His subsequent decision to break the bishop pair seems a little strange.

23 Bd3 Bxd3, 24 Qxd3 Rce8, 25 Rde1 Rxe5, 26 Rxe5 Re8, 27 Qe3 Rxe5
28 Qxe5 These exchanges as is so often the case have helped the defender (RR here) by reducing the options, but RR must be careful not to allow a back row check.

28 ... Qd8, 29 Qf5 Kg7 (29 Nf8, using a dark square whilst he can must be better for creating later winning chances)

30 Bd6 Qe8, 31 Be5+ f6, 32 Bd6 Nf8, 33 Bxf8+ Qxf8, 34 Qe6 Qd8 RR would prefer not going into the last round a half point behind a leader he has already played, so keeping the queens on seems paramount. After all
34 ... Qf7, 35 Qxf7 Kxf7, 36 g4 and how does one win?

35 Kf1 Qc7, 36 g3 b6, 37 b4 bxc5, 38 dxc5 a6 RR has allowed significant weaknesses in his pawn structure in order to obtain a passed pawn, and he can no longer play Qf7 to get the queens off. But the position is no longer liable to become blocked.

James Rothwell v RR after 38 ... a6

39 Qe3 Qb7 Qe5, 40 Qd3 and then what?

40 Ke2 Kf7 With time beginning to run out the players are relying on judgement as much as calculation. Very dangerous in an endgame. RR elects to take the use of e6/7/8 away from white.

41 Kd2 Qb5 42 Qf3 Qc4 RR is committed to getting his queen behind enemy lines even though it concedes a check.

43 Qh5+ Kg7, 44 Qe8 Qd4+, 45 Ke1 Qe5+ The queens come off. is black's passed pawn enough?

46 Qxe5 fxe5, 47 a4 Kf6 RR was relying on earlier calculations to keep him safe on the queenside. Has he miscalculated? No it's James who's counting has gone astray and determined the outcome.

48 b5 cxb5, 49 axb5 axb5, 50 c6 Ke6 0-1

Not an exhibit of great quality, and in the later stages RR allowed his desire to win to overrule playing with the draw in hand. But he reached the final round as joint leader of two, with five players a half-point behind. Looks like if he doesn't want to risk being part of a big pile joint first on 4/5 the final round will be another game in which playing to win will be the only item on his agenda.
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Sun 16th: Going for Glory
Sun 16th: Going for Glory
Crewe last round, with RR playing his co-leader with white. Straight to the (non-standard) action.

1 Nf3 Nf6, 2 c4 g6, 3 b4 d5, 4 cxd5 Qxd5, 5 Nc3 Qd6
6 Nb5 Not the most efficient way of offering the pawn (e3 is better), but it should make black wonder if RR has made a mistake.

RR v John Gorman after 12 ... e6

6 ... Qb6, 7 e3 a6, 8 Nc3 Qxb4, 9 Rb1 Qd6, 10 Qb3 Bg7
11 Ba3 Qd8, 12 Bc4 e6

So what does white have for his pawn? Six developed pieces to two. On a three tempi equals a pawn basis, white white certainly has value. How far are the two sides from connecting their rooks (a sign of full development)? White one move. Black has to play say b4 and Bb7 (counts one move because of the gain in tempo of the pawn push), Nc6 and on to e7, 0-0 and Qd7. Five moves, four behind white.

RR v John Gorman after 6 Nb5

But how to take advantage as white's pieces are not really swarming around the black king. It is so easy to let positional advantages dissipate, leaving the material disparity as the permanent feature. A stronger player may regard it as a panic reaction, but RR decided to sac a piece for a fistful of pawns with intent to crush black beneath a subsequent pawn roll.

13 Ng5 Bf8, 14 Bxe6 fxe6, 15 Nxe6 Bxe6, 16 Qxe6+ Be7
17 Rxb7 Qd7, 18 Qxe7+ Qxe7, 19 Bxe7 Kxe7 20 Rxc7+ Nbd7

RR v John Gorman after 20 ... Nbd7

As planned RR has ended up with three pawns for the piece with good prospects of acquiring three connected passed pawns in the centre. The downside is that black has pawns on both wings, and with fewer pieces white may struggle to control these. Both sides have to answer the question as to whose advantage, if either, it would be to remove further pieces.

21 Ke2 Rhc8, 22 Rxc8 Rxc8, 23 Rb1 Rb8, 24 Rxb8 Nxb8, 25 f3 Kd6
26 d4 Nd5, 27 Nxd5 Kxd5, 28 Kd3 Nd7, 29 e4+ Kc6, 30 Kc4 g5
31 g3 h5, 32 f4 Inaccurate. d5+ gives white a square for his king should black play Nb6+

32 ... gxf4, 33 d5+ Kc7, 34 gxf4 Nf6, 35 e5 Ng4, 36 h3 Nf2 Unnecessary as white won't be taking the knight

37 h4 Ne4, 38 f5 Nd2+, 39 Kc5 Ne4+, 40 Kd4 Nd2, 41 Ke3 Nc4+
42 Kf4 Kd8, 43 f6 Ke8, 44 e6 Kf8, 45 Kg5 Ke8, 46 Kxh5 Ne3
47 d6 Nf5, 48 d7+ Kd8, 49 Kg6 Nxh4+, 50 Kf7 Nf5, 51 e7+ 1-0

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Fri 21st: Making Life Difficult
"It seemed a good idea at the time" is the only reason we are able to give for some of our choices of move, many of which make life rather more difficult than planned. RR started deviating from the sensible early in his first round game at Scarborough against John Sugden.
RR v John Sugden after 5 ... e6

1 Nf3 d5, 2 c4 c6, 3 e3 Nf6, 4 b3 Bf5, 5 Bb2 e6 A position that RR has reached on more than one occasion, this time he felt reluctant to play the normal Be2 or Nc3, so came up with

6 Nh4 Bg4 Oops, this is not a line where black had to play Bg6. Amongst his many faults RR hates admitting errors, so instead of retreating the knight or offering the exchange of bishops, he comes up with

7 f3 Bh5 Hmm. The h4 knight is looking very silly, doing no job and having no retreat. Trying to kick the bishop away with g4 runs into Nxg4 with discovered attack against the h4 knight. A mess.

8 g3 Nbd7, 9 Be2 Bd6, 10 O-O Qe7 Crisis survived, but John looks like a man intending to castle long and throw his kingside at white. Getting the knight out of the line of fire with Ng2 has virtues, but it would be the arrival of the black h-pawn that would really cause problems. There's time to develop the queen's knight.

11 Nc3 O-O-O, 12 a3 (slow) Rdg8

RR v John Sugden after 12 ... Rdg8

Now RR realises that black has no desirable recapture on d5 - using the e-pawn frees up f5 for white's bad knight, the c-pawn opens a file against his king and the knight allows white Nxd5 putting the question again. So:

13 cxd5 Nxd5, 14 Nxd5 cxd5, 15 b4 Kb8, 16 Qb3 there is much to be said for f4 at this juncture, with probable exchange of light squared bishops.

16 ... Rc8

RR v John Sugden after 16 ... Rc8

17 Ng2 Having not created a hole on f3 for the knight, RR decides to bring it slowly back into the game. More importantly, whilst the knight remains on h4, the g7 pawn is poisoned.

17 ... Be5 Surely f6 is a better way of blunting white's dark square bishop and preparing for further expansion either in the centre or on the kingside.

18 a4 Bxb2, 19 Qxb2 Qf6, 20 Qb3 RR wishes to keep the queens on but feels uncomfortable with the pawn structure after d4, which I imagine is a superior choice.

20 ... h6, 21 a5 Bg6, 22 Rfc1 Another daft move which fails to keep enemy pieces out of c2 because of the queen threat against the a1 rook. Thus Ra2 or Rac1 would have been better, but still not as good as continuing the pawn advance with b5 even though that would cede c5 to black.

22 ... Qe7 Black too is unaware of the plot.
23 a6 b6, 24 Bb5 Rxc1+, 25 Rxc1 Rc8, 26 Rxc8+ Kxc8
27 Qc3+ Kb8, 28 Nf4 (Qxg7 must be better)
28 ... Nf6 29 Ne2 Qc7, 30 Nd4 Qxc3, 31 dxc3 e5 To have any chance black needs to just sit and do nothing. After this move RR switches to mopping up mode:

32 Nc6+ Ka8, 33 Nxe5 h5, 34 Kf2 Kb8, 35 Ke2 Kc7
36 Kd2 Kb8, 37 Bc6 Kc7, 38 Bb7 Ne8, 39 Nxg6 fxg6
40 Bxd5 Kd6, 41 Bf7 Nf6, 42 Bxg6 1-0 Black calls time 4 pawns down. Eventually a winning start to the congress, but a far from efficient one, hindered particularly by the "it seemed a good idea at the time" Nh4.
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Sat 22nd: Clear Skies for Sahara Dawn
The action on the board in some games seems pretty unremarkable, with both players declining to take risks or allow the build up of too much tension. Such a game was RR's round 2 match at Scarborough against James McDonnell, again with white. This is not to say that the game was uninteresting to play, but creating an informative write-up would take more time than RR currently has to spare. So for the anoraks and terminably bored amongst you, I'll just give the moves and allow you to work out who missed the biggest opportunities:

1 Nf3 d5, 2 c4 c6, 3 e3 Nf6, 4 b3 Bg4, 5 Bb2 Nbd7
6 h3 Bf5, 7 Be2 a6, 8 O-O h6, 9 d3 e6, 10 Nbd2 Bg6
11 Ne5 Nxe5, 12 Bxe5 Bd6, 13 f4 Bc5, 14 d4 Bb4, 15 Bxf6 Qxf6
16 Qc1 Bxd2, 17 Qxd2 Qe7, 18 c5 O-O, 19 b4 Be4, 20 a4 f6
21 Bd3 Bxd3, 22 Qxd3 e5, 23 Rfe1 Rae8, 24 Qd2 exf4, 25 exf4 Qd7
26 Kf2 Rxe1, 27 Rxe1 Re8, 28 g4 Kf7, 29 Rxe8 Qxe8, 30 Qe3 Qxe3+
31 Kxe3 g5, 32 f5 1/2-1/2
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Sat 22nd: Life in the Slow Lane
RR is currently going through one of his "slowly slowly catchee monkey" phases, not helped, by an inability to spot chances when they arise. His first black at Scarborough is another example of a game which is best described as should rather than merely could have been shorter. We join it after 14 moves of turgid play in which RR has set up a "prove you can find your way in" pawn structure and white has through c3 rather than c4 indicated his approach will be safety first.

Rostislav Raychev v RR after 14 ... Rac8

2r2rk1/pp1nqppp/2p1pb2/8/3P1B2/2PQ1N2/PP3PPP/3R1RK1 w
More manoeuvres:
15 Ne5 Rfd8, 16 Nc4 Nf8, 17 Qf3 Ng6, 18 Bg3 Rd7 19 Ne5 Hitting rooks is fun, but here it simply serves to help blacks plans in the centre.

19 ...Bxe5, 20 Bxe5 Rd5, 21 Bg3 Rcd8, 22 Rd3
Rostislav Raychev v RR after 22 Rd3

22 ... c5 This sort of thrust against a pinned d-pawn is a common theme in positions with half open files.

23 Rfd1 c4 But this push is not. Increasing the pressure with Qd7 must be better. White will be tied to the defence of the pawn whether he diverts black's c-pawn with
b4 cxb4, cxb4 or not.

24 Re3 Qd7, 25 Rde1 Qa4, 26 a3 Rb5, 27 R3e2 Rdd5 28 Qg4 Rg5
Rostislav Raychev v RR after 28 ... Rg5

Played this move and immediately started sweating. What if 29 Rxe6?
Now 29 ... Rxg4, 30 Re8+ Nf8, 31 Rxf8+ Kxf8, 32 Bd6+ Kg8, 33 Rd8#. Later analysis showed that black can survive by playing Rbe5 allowing the black queen to cover e8 rather than taking the white queen, but I'm far from convinced that I'd find this at the board, probably choosing to make an escape square with h5 or h6, but still getting stuffed. Fortunately white didn't like his queen being attacked, and this moment of danger passed. Instead there followed plenty more moves of the nudge-nudge wink-wink variety.

29 Qe4 Qa6, 30 Rd2 Rgd5, 31 Qe2 Rb3, 32 Red1 Qc6, 33 Re1= Rg5
34 f3 Qd5, 35 Qe4 Rb6, 36 Qxd5 Rxd5, 37 Bc7 Rc6, 38 Bg3 f6
39 Kf2 Kf7, 40 Ree2 h5, 41 h4 Rc8, 42 Re1 a6, 43 Rde2 Re8
44 Kf1 f5, 45 f4 Very happy to see this as we seem to be heading for a good knight v bad bishop ending. But the rooks need to come off for this, which means opening up a file or two on the queenside without allowing white into RR's position. Being somewhat short of expert, RR didn't know the best way to achieve this, so inevitably took the long road.

Rostislav Raychev v RR after 45 f4

45 ... Nf8, 46 Kf2 Nd7, 47 Ke3 Nf6, 48 Kf3 Ne4, 49 Bf2 Rh8
50 g3 Rhd8, 51 Be3 Rb5, 52 Rc2 a5, 53 Rd1 Nf6, 54 Bd2 Nd5
55 Be3 Rb3, 56 Re2 Rd6, 57 Bc1 Nb6 b5 and then b4 would have been pretty effective in achieving RR's aims, but he ground on with his alternative inferior approach.

58 Rdd2 Na4, 59 Kf2 b5, 60 Rc2 Nb6, 61 Re5 Rd5, 62 Ree2 b4
63 axb4 axb4, 64 Bd2 Na4, 65 cxb4 Nxb2

Rostislav Raychev v RR after 65 ... Nxb2

White has two isolated pawns to worry about, a g-pawn needing protection and an enemy knight liable to jump around at will. Surely black is better. By now both sides were short of time and not keeping the score and I am unable to accurately recreate the remaining moves which saw RR bring his king over to the queenside and force the c-pawn through. 0-1
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Sun 23rd: Return of the Theme
The dominant theme of RR's season seems to win the exchange, win the game, though perhaps more accurately it could be stated concede the exchange, lose the game.

Dave Cole v RR after 12 0-0

The variation here is that it is RR commiting suicide:
12 ... Ne8, 13 Be7

Like the band on the Titanic, RR played on, but for all the effect his efforts had he might as well have resigned immediately. Ne8 proved a pretty effective way of bringing an end to RR's hopes of a podium finish at the congress.
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Sun 23rd: Spoiling Tactics
So to the last round at Scarborough, in which RR had white against Keith Palmer. Even the stodgiest players, amongst whose numbers RR can definitely be found, enjoy landing a tactical blow, but its amazing just how often such blows are incomplete, with an escape clause ready to be implemented should the intended victim spot a spoiling move.

We join the game after black's eleventh move. RR has an isolated d-pawn, so would prefer to prevent black establishing a blockading piece on d5. Consequently he wants to keep his bishop on the a2g8 diagonal.

RR v Keith Palmer after 11 ... Rc8

2rq1rk1/pp1bbppp/2n1pn2/8/2BP1B2/2N2N2/PP2QPPP/R3R1K1 w
12 a3 setting the scene for an attempted tactical blow for black

12 ... Na5 13 Ba2 Bxa3 Never saw that coming. The bishop retreat has left the b-pawn overloaded. But luck is on RR's side; a spoiling move is available:

14 Bxe6 Bxe6, 15 Rxa3 and material equality is retained

15 ... Re8, 16 Be5 Nc6 An attempt to be clever with
16 ... Bc4 fails as white has
17 Bxf6 Rxe2, 18 Bxd8 Rxe1+, 19 Nxe1 Rxd8, 20 Rxa5 Rxd4 and white now even has time to play
21 Rxa7 because of the immediate mate threat it creates, so he emerges a piece and pawn ahead. Yes, RR was ready to play this.

Back with the game, black has set up a tactical blow for white

RR v Keith Palmer after 16 ... Nc6

17 Bxf6 Qxf6, 18 d5 yippee, a fork Bd7 trying to spoil with the help of a discovered attack against the white queen. This spoiling tactic doesn't work as the game continued

19 Ne4 Qg6, 20 dxc6 Bxc6 and white has won material. Instead black should have tried

18 ... Nd4 19 Nxd4 Bd7 and white's queen is overloaded trying to protect both the e1 rook and the d4 knight so black immediately gets the piece back.

21 Re3 f5, 22 Qc4+ Kh8, 23 Neg5 h6, 24 Nf7+ Kh7, 25 N3g5+ Kg8
26 Ne5+ Kh8, 27 Nxg6# 1-0
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Wed 26th: Petunias
Wed 26th: Petunias
The bowl of petunias in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy may have had only a small non-speaking part, but did have the thought "Oh no, not again", which seems particularly appropriate for RR's early season games. Today's effort sees RR with white against Chris Rhodes in the Open Cup, and we join the game after RR's fifteenth move with our hero having gained both space and development advantages.

RR v Chris Rhodes after 15 dxc5

rnb1r1k1/ppq1ppbp/3p2p1/2P5/1PP5/PQ2P3/1B1NBPPP/2R2RK1 b
The dark squared bishops are fated to suffer mutual destruction, but first black has to recapture on c5 as he cannot afford BxB, cxd6 resulting in the net loss of a pawn.

15 ... dxc5, 16 Bf3 It must be better for white to instigate the exchange of bishops as this leaves the black king on g7 and hence white with the useful option of checking on the long diagonal should it later be needed.

16 ... Bxb2, 17 Qxb2 Nd7, 18 g3 Rb8, 19 Ne4 Ne5 Too interested in his own plans, RR has created weaknesses around his king for his bishop to control, so doesn't want to allow his bishop to be exchanged for the black knight. Nor does he want those white squares around the king to be abandoned, so

20 Bg2 Nd3 Petunias! There goes another exchange. Of course had RR started the exchange of dark squared bishops his queen would still have been safely on b3. this looks like being far from RR's finest hour.

21 Qc3 (21 Qc2 Nxc1, 22 Nxc5 and at least white gets a pawn for the exchange)

21 ... Nxc1, 22 Rxc1 can't take the pawn because of the fork on e2

22 ... b6

RR v Chris Rhodes after 22 ... b6

This is not a position for sitting on and hoping that black will let one off the hook, and the d-file is not something white can easily contest, so all white has are vague queen and knight threats against the black king, and the possibility of pretending he has a more general kingside attack. 23 f3 Rd8, 24 Nf2 Bb7, 25 Ng4 f6, 26 Nf2 Rd6
27 Bh3 Rbd8 (27 Bxf3 28 e4 and the bishop can't get out)
28 e4 Bc8, 29 Bxc8 Qxc8, 30 e5 fxe5, 31 Ng4 Qe6, 32 Nxe5 Rd1+ Qh3 would have been going home time

33 Rxd1 Rxd1+, 34 Kg2 Rd4, 35 f4 Qd6
36 Ng4 Qc6+, 37 Kf2 Qd7, 38 Ne5 Qe6

RR v Chris Rhodes after 38 ... Qe6

Maybe RR can play Kg2 here and draw because of the strength of his immovable knight on e5, but the pawn structures are still too fluid for me to say this would succeed with any great conviction.

39 Qf3 Kg7, 40 Qc3 Kg8, 41 Qe3 Qf5, 42 Kf3 Qh5+
43 Ng4 e5, 44 bxc5 e4+, 45 Kf2 Qxc5 ,46 Kg2 Qxc4
47 Ne5 Qc2+, 48 Kh3 Qc8+, 49 g4 Qc5, 50 Kh4 Ra4

RR v Chris Rhodes after 50 ... Ra4

With his material advantage mounting almost as quickly as the sands of time were disappearing there is no surprise that black wishes to exchange queens and increase pressure on the a-pawn, but RR declined to cooperate:

51 Qb3+ Rc4, 52 Qxc4+ Qxc4, 53 Nxc4 and the rest is a mopping-up exercise:

53 ... b5, 54 Nd6 a6, 55 Nxe4 Kf7, 56 Kg3 h6, 57 h4 a5
58 Nd6+ Ke6, 59 Nxb5 Kd5, 60 Nc3+ Kc4, 61 Nb1 Kb3, 62 h5 gxh5
63 gxh5 Kc4, 64 Kf3 Kd5, 65 Ke3 Ke6, 66 Ke4 Kf6, 67 Nc3 1-0

So this was a variation of the season's theme of exchange losses in which the victim got lucky and escaped to victory.

The final sting in the tail is what didn't happen at the end. Return to move 51 and suppose that black abandons his rook and plays Kg7 instead. Qf7+ looks fun, but there is no immediate mate as the black queen covers f8. White then may well choose to take the rook, and we have

51 ... Kg7, 52 Qxa4 Qf2+, 53 Kh3 Kg5 is not an option for those wishing not to be mated

53 ... Qf1+, 54 Kg3 Qe1+, draw as white cannot escape the checks.

To win white has to find
52 Qf7+ Kh8, 53 Qe8+ Kg7, 54 Qd7+ Kg8 55 Qxa4 so that he can play Kg5 after Qf2+. Would RR have found this. We'll never know, but Qb3+ was definitely played with intent to grab the rook, and RR too had little tiime to consider alternatives.
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