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Player: United  KeSetoKaibaChessHere Gold Member Subject: Winning The Losing Fight By Resignation!

2021-02-01 14:45:46
Winning The Losing Fight By Resignation!

This famous game is sometimes dubbed, “Ignatz is bliss.” I’ve heard this game called this by multiple sources, but this old game has more to offer than just the surprising ending. Let us examine closer, shall we?

The featured game is from the 1902 Monte Carlo event. This is round one on February 3rd. Ignatz von Popiel has the White pieces and Georg Marco has the Black pieces.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 The Philidor Defense was more popular in 1902 than nowadays. The e5 pawn is attacked, so Black must usually defend it; in the Philidor Defense, Black choses to defend it with a pawn. There is nothing wrong with this move, but developing a piece with a move such as 2…Nc6 tends to be favored. Additionally, the …d6 move looks a bit passive for central control, but there is nothing wrong with approach.

3. Bc4 c6 3. d4 to instantly contest the center is the most common continuation by far; according to my opening database, 3. d4 has been played about four times as often as 3. Bc4. Most common does not necessarily mean it is best though. 3. Bc4 does develop a piece whereas 3. d4 does not. This 3. Bc4 line is by all means still “mainline” - it is just simply not as trodden as 3. d4. In fact, fairly recently, this exact position after 3. Bc4 c6 has been reached. The 2014 chess game Durarbayli, V. (2590) - Glek I. (2438) continued:

4. d3 Be7 5. Bb3 Nf6 6. c3 O-O 7. Nbd2 Nbd7 8. O-O Nc5 9. Bc2 Ne6 and White eventually won after preparing the d4 pawn push in the center.

This opening was also employed by the world elite in 1996 by Anand Viswanathan (2725) - Ivanchuk Vassily (2735). That game went this way with d4 pushed earlier:

4. d4 Nd7 5. O-O Be7 6. dxe5 dxe5 7. Ng5 Bxg5 8. Qh5 Qe7 9. Qxg5 Qxg5 10. Bxg5 Nc5 and somewhat surprisingly, this opening line has been explored before. This is one line of the Philidor Defense: Hanham Variation, Steiner Variation. From here, the White pieces score very well; however, this particular game ended in a draw.

Let us now return to the featured game to see an alternative to 3. d3 and 3. d4.

4. Nc3 Be7 5. d4 Nd7 6. Be3 Ngf6 Both sides simply continue with sound developing moves while also contesting the center.

7. Qe2 Qc7 8. Ng5 O-O As we shall soon see, White is planning on aiming a lot of pieces at Black’s Kingside and is not afraid of advancing the f-pawn, since the castled King (Kingside castling) would place a Rook on the semi-open f-file. This is a risky idea. White’s f-pawn, g-pawn and h-pawn are the “home pawns” that should stay close to the castled King if possible.

9. f4 b5 10. Bd3 a6 11. O-O Bb7 As White continues with the forementioned plan, Black gains Queenside space with …b5 and plays …a6 to secure it. White is playing on the Kingside and Black is playing on the Queenside. Right now, I’d slightly favor Black. Mostly because Black can freely advance the pawns on their sphere of influence, but White can’t push their Kingside pawns as easily. The Kingside castled King means that pushing Kingside pawns won’t come without further consequences.

12. Rae1 h6 12. Rae1 is a logical move to get the Rook active (might help support the center, or anticipate and opening d-file if the d4 pawn captures on e5). However, a nice alternative would have been 12. a4. The idea behind this route is greatly connected to pawn structure, but the plan is simple. Black playing …b5 was strong, but the b5 pawn is jutting out a bit. 12. a4 would strike at this pawn with the Rook already behind it for support (on a1). Giving White an a-file for the Rook isn’t something Black wants to do. 12. a4 then practically forces 12…b4.

A sample line may be: 12. a4 b4 13. dxe5 dxe5 14. Nb1 c5 and White has provoked Black’s Queenside pawns into advancing further. The Knight on b1 is only temporary. The Knight plans Nd2 and Nc4 to thematically blockade the pawns with a solid position.

13. Nf3 Ng4?! Dubious at the very least; Black should use this chance to strike at the center with 13…c5! This does a few things. Most obviously, it contests the White center. However, examining even deeper: opening up lines in the center favors Black because White has ambitiously played f2-f4. This is not a big deal if the center is closed, but could be trouble if the center isn’t locked up. Only after 13…c5! does 13…Ng4 seem logical, since the Knight exchanging itself for the e3 Bishop translates into White’s dark-squares being potentially weak. White needs this dark-squared Bishop to help defend the dark-squares (and especially the a7-g1 diagonal with f2-f4 played).

14. Nd1 c5 With Nd1, White creatively plans to relocate the Knight as the game text will soon reveal. However, Black playing …c5 isn’t as strong now because White has a tactical escape in 14. Nxe5!

White could now play 14. Nxe5! (tactically possible due to the Queen discovered attack on the g4 Knight) Nxe3 15. Nxd7 Nxg2 16. Qxg2 Qxd7 17. Kh1 and White has not only calmly moved the King out of the dangerous diagonal (a7-g1), but they have also succeeded in trading down material, so Black has less of an army to attack with. Concepts like weak diagonals on an exposed King mean a lot more in the middlegame stage, but may not be too salient in an endgame situation.

15. c3 exd4 16. cxd4 Nxe3 17. Nxe3 cxd4 18. Nxd4 Nc5 19. Nef5 Bf6 After a lot of forcing blows in the center, White’s Knight from the d1 retreat is now perched actively on f5, but Black most certainly made progress in competing for the center. Compare this position to the position before 14. Nd1 and it is clear how much White’s central influence has been chipped away.

The game state appears roughly equal. An interesting, but long, continuation might be:

20. e5!? (interesting, but leads to an endgame that also appears equal, so perhaps White choose against this to fight for a bigger advantage elsewhere) dxe5 21. fxe5 Bxe5 22. Qxe5 Qxe5 23. Rxe5 Nxd3 (tactically justifying the previous moves of the sequence) 24. Re3 Nxb2 25. Rg3 Kh8 and despite Black up by two pawns, the game state looks about even. 26. Nxg7 would have to be prepared to meet 26…Rg8, but then 27. Rxf7 Bd5 and the material balance would be restored to equality with nothing truly accomplished by either side - other than trading down further into an endgame situation where a draw is even more likely. At worst, the two Rooks from both parties may invoke a perpetual check on the exposed enemy King in some lines (both Kings don’t have much shelter), so it is pragmatically difficult for either side to gain enough of an advantage to win the game.

20. Bb1 Rfe8 The previous alternative was long and forcing with not much more than a draw likely. Perhaps both players calculated this deep, or perhaps they simply avoided it on intuition. What we can say for certain is that the game text keeps the chess game in the middlegame stage longer and both sides have more possibilities to fight for a win.

21. Qf3 Ne6 22. Nxe6 fxe6 23. Qb3 Kh8 White has been tactically protecting the f5 Knight with some jousting around (such as after 23. Qb3, the Knight is immune to capture because the e6 pawn is pinned to the King), but they will have to move it sooner or later.

24. Ng3 Bd4+ Although not really much of an issue (since the White King appears safer on h1 anyway), perhaps White playing 24. Ne3 was more accurate to block the check via d4. How much this impacts the game has remain to be seen, but it does seem nice in theory if White prevents the check because it gives Black less meaningful options. In practice, 24. Ne3 or 24. Ng3 is probably of little difference.

25. Kh1 Qc4 26. Qd1 Bxb2 I believe White correctly declined the Queen exchange. The White Queen may be more active from d1 than Black’s Queen on c4. From the d1 square, White may go to h5 with Kingside attacking potential or alternatively support play in the center via the d-file.

27. Qxd6?! Rad8 Although natural for White to regain the material by taking on d6, it is probably inaccurate or even a mistake. The problem is exactly the game text move: 27…Rad8 kicks the Queen on now Black has great central pressure with both Rooks on the central files.

A hard-to-spot improvement for White was 27. e5! and offering another pawn. Declining the pawn sacrifice with 27…Qd5 runs into 28. Qc2 being irksome due to attacking the c2 Bishop and eyeing the h7 square to harass the enemy monarch.

Black accepting the pawn sacrifice may look something like this:

27. e5! dxe5 28. Qg4 and now White infiltrates the Black Kingside fortification. The b1 Bishop is a great attacking piece from afar. Either 28…exf4? 29. Rxf4 or 28…Kg8 29. Qg6 look good for White. At the very least, White has nice compensation for the second pawn. Also note that the White pawn capturing e5 from f4 unleashes the f-file for White’s Rook. This combined with the Qh7+ threat may spell checkmate with proper technique.

28. Qb6 Rd7 29. Qf2 Bd4 30. Qf3 Rf8 The game result is still up in the air. Either side might come out victorious; it is fairly easy to see how either side could slip up with both Kings having little shelter and both factions still having the Queen on the chess board.

31. Rc1 Qb4 31. Rc1 or 31. Qg4 both seem good for White. However, Black has options as well. The two Bishops in the endgame can be especially powerful. In this case, they may prove potent because the open board position here.

32. Qd3 e5 33. fxe5 Rxf1+? The in-between check is tempting, but simply 33…Rdd8 kept the game equal. Now White will have the open f-file. If 33…Rdd8 then Black is still contesting the open f-file. For instance, 33…Rdd8 34. Rxf8 Qxf8 and Black has control of the open f-file. The Black Rook capture with 34…Rxf8? is usually good, but here it would be a mistake; White then has 35. e6 and the passed pawn is simply too dangerous. The Queen on f8 would be better placed to defend against the passer.

34. Rxf1 Qe7?? It is difficult to defend consistent pressure in a collapsing position like this. White is up a pawn in an endgame and the e5 pawn has dangerous possibilities since it is a passed pawn. 34…Qe7?? is a blunder; the plan was to protect the Rook so …Bxe5 could be played at some point without dropping the d7 Rook.

35. Nf5 Qxe5 35. Nf5 is winning as well, but 35. e6! was even stronger. The point being that it harasses the d7 Rook. The pawn on e6 is immune to capture since the Queen taking it would be decoyed away from the f8 square. This variation highlights this concept:

35. e6! Qxe6 36. Rxf8 Kh7 37. e5+ g6 38. Rf6 and Black might as well resign. The threat is Qxg6+ and 38…Qe8 fails to 39. Rxg6 since the b1 Bishop makes the Queen and Bishop battery decisive.

36. Rd1!? Interesting because it was strong enough to get the opponent to resign. It appears as if Black is dropping the d4 Bishop and a Bishop move would set the d7 Rook up to be lost.

1-0 As the article title foreshadows, 36. Rd1?? is actually a game changing blunder! Black resigned in a now winning position. The critical move to find is the brilliant 36…Bg1!! Now checkmate by …Qxh2# means that White does not have time to take the d7 Rook. Further resistance might look like:

36…Bg1!! 37. Kxg1 Rxd3 38. Bxd3 Bxe4 but White losing the Queen is too much material lost to put up an adequate endgame fight. Let us say:

39. Bxe4 Qxe4 40. Ng3 Qc2 and even the most stubborn fighter will realize that White has no real chance of swindling a win, or draw, against a strong player with the Black pieces here.

Another futile attempt at defense is 37. Qg3?? to prevent checkmate, but 37…Rxd1 is simply picking up the Rook for nothing. Black’s g1 Bishop moving is now a discovered check and White is caught in a mating net that is unescapable.

This game is one example of how one may win the losing fight by resignation, but 36…Bg1!! was a tricky move to find. The key was to think creatively and search for a stronger threat than losing a piece. Checkmate is certainly more valuable than any piece! Resigning in winning positions isn’t something one strives to do, but it is something most all strong chess players have done at one point or another. Even chess grandmasters sometimes mis-judge a position. Before deciding to resign, take one last glance at counterplay ideas; who knows? Perhaps a creative last stand can save the game!
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