Monday, 17 October 2016

h7 is a place

White to play and fail to win.

Jones-Swiercz, Millionaire Monday final, first game: White is winning after 66. Re8 though after 66...f4+ 67. Kf2 Rd2+ he needed to play either of the two moves that won rather than selecting the only one (and hence the Worst Move On The Board) which did not.

I'm not sure what ghosts he saw after 68. Kf1 - it's perhaps easier to see where they might appear after 68. Ke1 Rxg2, though they're just ghosts all the same - but anyway Gawain chose 68. Kg1??

which in setting White up for a check on g2 gives Black just enough time to come round with 68...Kh4 69. e7 Kg3. Now, having selected the only move that drew rather than won, Gawain had to select the only move that drew rather than lost. Unhappily he preferred 70. Rd8?? to 70. Kf1.

Subsequently losing the two game mini-match cost him half the $30,000 prize that he would have got for winning.

He could have made life easier for himself had he spotted that in our original position

he could win trivially with 66. Rh7+! which fatally diverts the knight after 66...Nxh7 67. e7 and the pawn promotes. I reckon a grandmaster would feel he ought to see a move like that. But it ain't easy under pressure.

Anyway I was looking at the denouement a couple of days afterwards and it reminded me of a recent disaster of my own - indeed, a diaster of my own making. The position concerned doesn't really resemble Gawain's game very much but certain themes (pawn going to e7, knight and the h7 square) were enough for me to make the connection immediately. The most important shared element, though by a distance, is the trauma involved.

It was the Prague Summer Open, round seven, I'd beaten a grandmaster in round one and I seemed to be in the best form I'd found for years. Having played against a 2200+ player as if he were the one outgraded by 150 points, I found myself in a position where the win, you would think, is clear.

Horton-Izandlis, Prague Summer Open 2016 round seven. Position after 25...Ke7-e8.

So it is, and in fact there are many moves that win, albeit taking the rook is the most obvious - and the one I'd planned. But I saw ghosts. What ghosts precisely, I can't say: that's the nature of ghosts. But 26. Nxf8 Qc6+ 27. Kh3 and I worried about  the queen or the knight going to f3, with possibilities (I thought) of a perpetual check - possibilities created by moving the knight from the h7 square, where it had protected g5.

There's not much in this and if you look at it now, you'll see this, almost as easily as a computer sees it. In all probability I'd have seen it myself had there been only one piece that could come to f3, and hence only one line of play to consider.

But the existence of two possibilities was fatal: being short of time and suffering from a propensity to panic, I couldn't make myself concentrate on finding the way through and found myself thrashing around for an alternative way of winning to the rook capture, one that also averts the danger of losing the pawn on e6. That led me to 26. e7

attacking the rook, which has no move that doesn't lose the queen or worse.

Clever, but stupid, since after 26...Qc6+ 27. Kh3 the rook can move

and that's the end of the game.

Shocking. I've played nine games since and not won any of them. I hope Gawain finds it easier to recover.

1 comment:

Andrew B. said...

Looking for the win in the original position, I didn't see the immediate Rh7+, but saw the related 66.Nf6+ Kh6, 67.Rh7+ Nxh7, 68.Nxh7 Rd8 (Kxh7 loses to e7), 69.e7 Re8, 70.Nf6 Rxe7, 71.Ng8+, which I thought was rather nice. Unfortunately Black has the rather better 68...Kg7.