Captain Chess
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Seductive Tactics that Work but Elude your Weak Mind

May 16th, 2018

Last weekend I took part in a national championship cycle tournament. It was a Swiss sub-2200 event of seven rounds. My goal was five points. Sadly, I ended just short of the coast. This is not to say I hadn’t my chances as we’re about to see.

The last round found me with four points and at the white side of the board. My young opponent (11) was CM Sebastián Melián (1567), runner-up in his category at the South American Chess Festival 2017 celebrated in Paraguay. I knew it would be a hard game.

Duba-Melián, III Clasificatorio Mayor 2018 (7), position after 22…Qd8

The game developed as a Scandinavian in which I was anxious to try an interesting trap shown in Dana Mackenzie’s superb blog. Unfortunately for me, Melián side-stepped the move order I was expecting and as a result we followed the main line. I cannot complain about the opening though.

I managed to weak black’s king pawn structure, double rooks, I enjoy the quite-well-placed bishop pair and my queen is aiming at the enemy as well. In the above position, I spent some fifteen minutes considering the rook sac on e6. All looked terrific in my mind so I just went for it sure that it will work. 23.Rxe6!

If you prefer to solve all the nuances by yourself stop reading now and open your eyes. I had covered two possible continuations: 23…fxe6 and 23…Nd5, the latter being the best for Black. In case of 23…fxe6 I was absolutely certain it led to the victory. Instead, should my opponent choose 23…Nd5 then I could take on d5 and start increasing the pressure on e7. 23…fxe6

position after 23…fxe6

It was my opportunity to strike hard. Before going for the sac I considered to continue with 24.Bxe6+ but didn’t find a clear continuation. So in the above position I instantly replied 24.Qxg6? which was my original plan. All right, I’m threatening mate on g7 but unbelievably Black has the precise 24…Bf8! when after 25.Bxe6+ Rxe6 26.Qxe6+ Kh7 White is not mating (not 26…Kh8?? 27.Qh6#).

Instead, 24.Bxe6! was the way to do it! As said, I originally considered this move but discarded it because of 24…Kh7 when I failed to realize that after 25.Bf7! Black is in great danger. For example 25…Bg5 26.Rxe8 Qd1+ 27.Re1 Qh5 28.Re6 and the king won’t survive without returning material. In case of 25…g4 then 26.Qf3! is just too strong: 26…g6 27.Bxg6+! Kxg6 28.Re6+ Bf6 29.Rxf6+ and mate is unavoidable. In the game, after I erred with 24.Qxg6? Melián chose the natural 24…Bf6? which allowed 25.Rxe6!

position after 25.Rxe6

Black’s position isn’t enviable indeed. Honestly, I thought I was winning by force before I realized that 25…Nd5! complicates matters. It was a bit naïve of me to expect something like 25…Rxe6? 26.Bxe6+ and mate. Or maybe 25…Qd1+? 26.Re1+!. Still, after the text I can fight with 26.Bxf6 when Qd7 (of course not 26…Nxf6? 27.Rxe8#) was like a bucket of water on my face.

position after 26…Qd7

At this moment I got confused, exhausted, depressed and finally hopeless. I had less than ten minutes on the clock and checkmate is nowhere to be seen. My first reaction was to play 27.Rxe8? Rxe8 28.Bc3 which I did and ended with just two pawns for the exchange.

Before going for the text I briefly analyzed 27.Bxg7! but refused to believe there was something for me on 27…Rxe6 28.Bf6+ Kf8. Here, I miserably failed to go a bit further to notice that Black can’t avoid mate after 29.Qh6+!!. As I’ve read somewhere: ‘Go on and give that check Sir, it well could be checkmate’.

position after 28.Bc3

From this point onwards I took all the decisions to sealed my defeat. I proposed that queens abandon the board which I shouldn’t, I exchanged a bishop for a knight that let me without counter-play and finally managed to advance all the wrong pawns. Of course, this is not to say Sebastián Melián did nothing to deserve his victory. On the contrary, he played excellent chess and demonstrated that he’s a great fighter, as I myself told his mother after the game.

It was an interesting game that let me with this bitter taste on the mouth. It’s been two nights dreaming of the position. I expect Caissa to soothe her anger tonight.

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