Flirting With Victory

Flirting With Victory

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of the ChessGuides blog.  For those of you who don’t know 2020 has been an incredible year for online chess.  Most recently thanks to “The Queen’s Gambit”, online chess is experiencing an explosion in popularity: up 40% in 2020 alone.

It is a modern miracle what can be done through online chess.  The world’s Master Chess players are playing each other every day rather than once a year or less due to travel necessity.  Even more, children and everyday people can play the world’s best right in their own home!  Personally, I am by no means an expert chess player, so to play well – much less win – against the world’s experts is an accomplishment to me.  This past April, I had a chance and was flirting with victory in a blitz game against a National Master from Cuba.

Blitz chess is all about intuition.  The small amount of allotted time per player leaves little room for calculation.  A moment here, a moment there…but not a moment too long.  This game, each player had 3 minutes total, and the game happened to last 33 moves.  At the end of the game, each player had about 45 seconds remaining, meaning each move averaged about 4 seconds.  Not much time to think!! The game was action-packed, a staple in the Polish Opening.  Back to the game, put yourself in my shoes:
It is move #29 with White to play, and we are at this critical position:

FEN: 4r1k1/4rp2/2R3pp/3pq2n/2nN4/4PP1P/2Q2KP1/2R2N2 w – – 1 29


Position Analysis:  I am on the move as White.  Material is totally equal. We have about 75 seconds remaining on our clock and the opponent only has 50 seconds.  Black appears to have a safer king and just played 28. …Qe5, preparing an overwhelming attack against e3 with total control of “e” file. How can White alleviate pressure?  What real threats does our opponent have, what threats can we create?  Note: Re1 does not create or neutralize threats, ….Nf4! and Black is still attacking.   See if you can find the only winning idea in this position for White.

In the game I did not want to spend too much time, feeling my 25 second advantage on the clock was enough to enter a drawn endgame that maybe I could win on time.  I played 29. Qc3, a waiting move, wanting to open a square for the knight, c2.  This was refuted quickly by the great player from Cuba, with 29. …Nxe3  30. Nxe3 ….Qg3+ and on move 33 I resigned.

Solution:  29. Rxc4! ….dxc4 (only move) 30.  Nc6  ….Qe6   31. Nxe7+ ….. Qxe7  32. Qxc4

We see that the rook sacrifice on c4 opens the c6 square for White’s d4 knight to deliver a fork!  We also forced Black’s pawn onto White’s strong “c” file – winning the exchange!  Simultaneously, two attackers of the e3 square are eliminated, the c4 knight and the rook on e7! Black’s threats did not happen in time, and now White is playing to win.

Although a loss, this game is still one of my personal favorites. It shows anyone can play with the big kids on the block, and learn a thing or two along the way. This is amplified with today’s online chess world.  Playing chess from home – having fun and learning with the best – is a path to personal development.  I was fortunate to learn chess as a child, and the game continues to bring joy and opportunity for growth. By expanding our perspective on the chess board – recognizing new patterns – we train our brain to expand perspective and consider new decision trees.  Add in time pressure, and you have the perfect game to hone critical thinking.

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