Thriving in balanced positions

Thriving in balanced positions

Chess Checks

Thriving in balanced positions

For beginners, the positions most difficult to handle in a chess game are the ones where things are balanced and apparently nothing seems to be happening — there are no fancy sacrifices, combinations or checkmates in sight. The masters most often relish these type of positions and resort to internal manoeuvring of pieces and try to increase their grip on the squares of the board.

In the game which follows, Black lets slip his guard in such an even appearing positions and a harmless pawn move turns into a blunder and loss of the game.
White: Larry Mark Christiansen (2595) – Black: Gerald Hertneck (2530)
Munich, 1992

Slav Defence

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Nh4
White could have played 6.e3 or even 6.Ne5 here
6. ..Bg6
Black did have options like 6...Bc8 or 6. ..Bg4
7.Nxg6. If 7.e3 Bd3
7...hxg6 8.e3. If 8.e4 e5 9.Be3 Nbd7 10.Bxc4 exd4 11.Bxd4 Bc5 12.Bxc5 Nxc5 13.Qe2 Qc7 14.g3 0–0–0 15.0–0
8...e6. If 8. ... Nbd7  9.Bxc4e6 and if 8...e5 9.Bxc4 exd4 10.exd4
9.Bxc4 Bb4 10.0–0 Nbd7 11.Qe2 Qa5 12.Na2. A rather odd place for the knight. White could have lent support with 12.Qc2 Nb6  13.Be2 0-0  And if 12.e4 Qh5 (12...Bxc3 13.bxc3 Qxc3 14.Bb2 Qa5 15.e5 Nd5 16.Ba3) 13.Qxh5 Rxh5 14.f3
12...Qxa4 13.e4
If 13.Nxb4 Qxa1 14.Na2 Qb1 15.g4 g5 And if 13.b3 Qa5 14.Nxb4 Qxa1 15.Bd2 Qa5 16.Nxc6 Qc7
13...Qa5. If 13...Be7 14.Bd2 Qc2 15.Nc3 And if 13...Nxe4 14.b3 (14.Qxe4 Bd6) And if 13...b5 14.Bd3  d5  (14.b3 Qa5 15.Nxb4 Qxa1 16.Bb2 Qa5 17.Nxc6 Qc7
14.Nxb4 Qxb4. If 14...Qxa1 15.Na2 Qb1 16.f3
15.Rd1. The correct continuation is  15.b3 b5 (15...Qd6 16.e5 Qxd4 17.exf6 Qxa1 18.Bb2 Qa5 19.fxg7 Rg8 20.Bxe6) 16.Ba3 Qa5
15...Nxe4 16.Bxe6 fxe6. Going for exchanges when it would have been better to strengthen his castle with 16...Ndf6 17.Ba2 0–0 And if  16...Qd6 17.Bh3 (17.Bxd7+ Kxd7 18.Qxe4 Qxh2+ 19.Kf1 Rae8) And if 16...Qe7 17.Bxd7+ Kxd7 18.d5
17.Qxe4 Kf7 18.Ra3
An interesting move!
18. ..Nf6 19.Qf3 Rh5 20.Rb3 Qe7 21.Bf4
Finally the bishop  enters the warfare. If 21.g4 Rd5 22.g5 Rf5
21...Rd5 22.Be5 Rh8 23.Re1 Kg8 24.Qg3 Kf7 25.Qf3 Kg8 26.h3

Diagram 1

26. .. a6. Just when the game appears evenly balanced, Black blunders! He can continue with 26. ..Kh7  28.Qc3 Rc8
27.Bxf6 gxf6 28.Qg4 Kf7 29.Rxe6 Qd7
If 29...Qxe6 30.Rxb7+ Qe7 31.Rxe7+ Kxe7 32.Qxg6 with advantage for White
30.Rbe3. Doubling the rooks and making things even more difficult for Black!
30. ..Rd6 31.d5. Another interesting move!
31. ..Rxd5. If 31...cxd5 32.Rxf6+ Kxf6 33.Qd4+ Kf7 34.Qxh8
Now tripling forces along the file. If 32.Qe2 Re5
If 32...Re5 33.Rxf6+
33.Re7+ Kf6
Position is difficult for Black but the correct move here is 33.Kf8
34.Qb4 Rd1+ 35.Kh2 Qd4
Another blunder which quickly brings about Black’s downfall. The better move was 35...Qd6+ 36.f4 c5 (36...Qxb4 37.R3e6 checkmate) 37.Qc4 (37.Qxc5 Qxf4+ 38.Rg3 Rxh3+) 37...Rd5 38.R3e5 Rd8 39.Qe2
36.R7 e6+ Kg5 37.Qe7+ Kh5 38.g4+ fxg4 39.R3e5+

Diagram 2

Black to play and win
1... Ng3+ 2.hxg3 Rf6 3.Rxf2 exf2 and White cannot avoid checkmate after 4. ..Rh6