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