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Margins

August 18, 2010

To win a big tournament, good play will get you a long way, but you also need to same some luck and margins on your side. For me, lack of accuracy in converting good positions led to me trailing the pack (a.k.a. Andreikin) for too long. Against Marcin Sieciechowicz in the 6th round, I had an excellent opportunity to play the perfect game, but unfortunately I couldn’t find the correct continuation. However, even if I did, I might not have won the game! We enter the game after some major exchanges on c4:

Sieciechowicz – Hammer

Here I missed the forcing continuation 32…b5 33.Nd6 Bxb2 34.Nxb5 a6! 35.Nc7 Bxa3 36.Nxa6 Bd6! which offers excellent winning chances as white will feel very uncomfortable with a knight trapped on a6, and therefore he might avoid this variation. But it turns out that even trapping white’s knight is insufficient for a win! White continues 37.h3 to stop black from getting in a good pawn structure. Playing g3 instead would allow black to have an important spare tempo, enabling g4 at an opportune moment, thereby taking the opposition, which we will see is very important. After h3, black will approach the queenside to take the knight. 37…Kf6 38.Ke2 and now black tries being tricky with 38…Ke6 as if he gets the opposition, he will manage to outflank white. And as I’m writing this, I just discovered that white has a draw with 39.g3 as well as my main idea, but stick with me. White goes 39.Kd2 so that 39…Kd5 is answered by 40.Kd3 Now black will have to move one of the pawns to win white’s knight, as on Kc6, white has Kc4 rescuing the knight, while g4 can always be met by hg4 fg4 Ke3, since with the black pawn on g3, white has a fortress with a king on f1 even after the knight is lost. Therefore black goes 40…f4 but that gives white’s king access to black’s kingside pawns. Play continues 41.Ke2 Kc4 42.Kf3 Kb5 43.Kg4 Kxa6 44.Kxg5 Kb5 45.Kf5 Kc5 46.h4 Kd4 47.h5 Ke3 48.h6 Bc5 49.h7 Bd4 And we reach the following position:

Black has achieved everything he wanted. He won the knight on a6. He managed to keep one of his pawns. He stopped white’s passed pawn with the bishop. And yet, the position is still a draw! Try for yourself!

Pawn to b5 in the first position certainly was much, much better than what I played (g4), but it seems that if white is so bold as to allow his knight to be trapped on a6, he will achieve a draw anyway!

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