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Knights Workshop Helped Me Win

By Jeff Caveney

The workshop with IM Smiatankin I attended a couple months ago helped me beat FM Stamnov at the November Knights Quest Tournament. Smiatankin emphasized the importance of regular practice solving tactics puzzles, and the winning tactic I found vs. Stamnov looked just like the kind of puzzle I've been solving in practice since hearing Smiatankin's advice. Here is the game: Stamnov was dominating the game until he missed and I found 23.c5! and the threat of the Qc4+ fork wins material. A few more tactical fireworks on moves 27-30 gave me a completely winning position a piece up.

White: Jeff Caveney (2138)
Black: Alexander Stamnov (2200)

Knights Quest tournament
Open section
Round 4
November 1, 2009

Notes by Jeff Caveney

Stamnov was a perfect 3-0 going into this last round game, while I was 2-1 -- expert and former master Gregory Bungo beat me in Round 2. Stamnov beat Bungo in Round 3. So I needed a win to tie for 1st in the tournament. Bungo won his last round game and also finished 3-1. 

Stamnov still won the 1st place trophy on tiebreaks, Bungo 2nd, and me 3rd. Usually early round wins and later losses, even though they can be frustrating, give you better tiebreaks than early losses and later wins, because with early wins you face tougher opponents the whole tournament.

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 c6 4.c4 e6 5.Nc3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.Be2 O-O 8.O-O b6

Stamnov avoids the line 8...dxc4: he beat me with it a few years ago, but I beat him with it this summer.

9.b3 Bb7 10.Bb2 Rc8 11.Rad1 Qc7 12.h3

Maybe this cautious move was an unnecessary waste of time.

12...a6 13.Rfe1 c5 14.dxc5 Nxc5 15.Qb1

This is definitely a mistake. I was dreaming of a combination like 15.cxd5 exd5 16.Ng5 h6 17.Nxd5 Bxd5 18.Bxf6, but 18...hxg5 19.Rxd5 gxf6 refutes that idea. In my frustration I neglected to realize I should have played 15.cxd5 first anyway before making a move like Qb1.


Now White has a miserable position no matter what I do.


16.Bxc4 allowed 16...Bxf3 17.gxf3 breaking up my pawns. But now my queenside pawns are weak and broken up, and the Black knight on c5 is an untouchable blockading monster.

16...Rfd8 17.Ba1 Nfe4 18.Nxe4 Bxe4 19.Qb2 f6 20.Nd4 e5 21.Nb3 Na4 22.Qc1 Qe7

Black misses a hidden threat. 21...Na4 22.Qc1 looked like Black's knight kicking the White queen around, but those two moves inadvertently set up an unexpected threat. After the game Stamnov suggested either 22...Bg6 or 22...Bb7 and Black keeps his huge advantage. But with the bishop left hanging loose on e4...


White threatens Qc4+ forking the Black king, bishop on e4, and knight on a4.


If 23...Nxc5 24.Qc4+ Kh8 25.Nxc5 and 26.Qxe4, or 24...Qf7 25.Nxc5 Qxc4 26.Bxc4+ Kh8 27.Nxe4. Stamnov's move is best, giving up the exchange instead of a whole piece.

24.Nxc5 Nxc5 25.Bxa6

Again using the fork threat 25...Nxa6 26.Qc4+ to win another pawn.

25...Kh8 26.Bf1

All White's pieces are on the back rank! But as Tal said: a bishop on the back rank is developed if it doesn't interfere with the connection of the rooks.

26...Bc6 27.Bd4

Now the game gets complicated again with a lot of tactics. Both players ignore each other's threats and create their own threats.

27...Ba4 28.Bxc5 Bxd1 29.Bxb6 Rb8 30.Rxd1 g6

At the end of all the tactics, there is this little detail: If Black tried to get his piece back with 30...Rxb6, at first he can defend his back rank with 31.Qc8+ Qf8 32.Qxf8+ Bxf8. But then White has 33.Rd8, and the only try to save his bishop 33...Kg8 loses to 34.Bc4+ Kh8 35.Rxf8 mate! This final detail is the difference between the last 8 moves of tactics leading to an equal position or a whole piece up for White. Just what you should expect from master/expert level chess! Stamnov saw all this and had to play 30...g6 to give his king some room on the back rank. But now White just moves his bishop on b6 to safety and stays a piece up.

31.Ba5 Ra8 32.Qc6

Even when a piece up, always look for opportunities to counterattack instead of retreat or defend!

32...Rxa5 33.Rxd6 Ra7

White was threatening 34.Qc8+ Kg7 35.Rd7 pinning and winning the Black queen.

34.Rxf6 Rxa2 35.Re6 Qf7 36.Qe8+ Kg7 37.Re7 Qxe7 38.Qxe7+ and White won in a few more moves 1-0.
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