Saturday, 25 May 2013

What Did We Miss? (Solution)

Saunders - Staples
London League 1979

White to play

Here's the answer to my poser from yesterday. You'll recall that the game went 22 Ng3 Bg6, and I asked you what both players had missed.

A couple of people on Twitter suggested 22...Nxh3+ after the move played (22 Ng3) and it's a very logical try. However, this is an example of pattern recognition leading us astray. I can't recall what I was thinking about when I played 22 Ng3 but I expect I also looked at 22...Nxh3+ and decided my move was worth the risk as there is no immediate mate on the horizon. After 23 gxh3 Qxh3 24 Nxh5 Qxh5 25 Bd1! it is not at all obvious how Black prosecutes his attack.

But instead of 22...Nxh3+, Black has the surprising 22...Bf3!! which turns out to be unanswerable. White cannot take with the queen because of 23...Nxh3+ discovering an attack on the queen, while capturing with the pawn loses to 23...Qxh3 and once again White has to surrender his queen to stop mate.

Those are the main tactics but what can White do if he can't capture? The g2 pawn will fall next move and with it all remaining hope of defending the kingside. White's position collapses like a house of cards.

In retrospect I can only wish that my opponent had played it so that I could have resigned immediately and accompanied him across the road to the Old King Lud pub across the road from the (then) London League venue at St Brides' Institute in order to enjoy extra drinking time for our post-mortem session (I'm sure we ended up there anyway but pubs closed at ludicrously early hours in those days).

Bf3, to win the g2 pawn, is quite an unusual motif, and what made it harder to see was the distraction of a more familiar idea which needed analysing. I'll have some more examples from my old scorebooks very soon.