Hardcore pawn action

Back in the days, I used to play a bit of chess – not to any great standard, but I entered a few tournaments and didn’t come last. Nearly last, yes, but not actually last.

But that was something like 25 years ago and I’ve barely touched a chess piece in anger since then, until recently when I was persuaded to have another go.

Happily, this coincided with the Kramnik-Anand world championship match and then the chess Olympiad in Dresden that finished just a couple of days ago, so I found myself getting sucked back in.

And, on chess.com I’ve found somewhere to play real live people online.

I’m still no better than respectable, I’ve forgotten almost all the opening theory I ever knew, and I’m prone to horrendous blunders – lost my queen through carelessness in a game against someone in Latvia – but I’ve won a few games, to my surprise and satisfaction.

This game, below, was the tie-breaker in a series of three I played with a chap in Portugal last night. It was genuinely thrilling stuff as the opposite-side castling allowed us both to launch attacks – and I got into serious time trouble at the end, forcing me to play without fully analysing the consequences.

I don’t claim it was a terribly good game and the play is probably riddled with errors on both sides, but it was enormous fun – so much so that I really wouldn’t have minded losing it.

I could get quite into this, you know…

[Event “Chess.com live chess”]
[Site “Chess.com”]
[Date “28 November, 2008”]
[Round “1”]
[White “Andy Darley, GBR”]
[Black “Joao Ferreira, POR”]
[Result “1-0”]
[WhiteElo “1267”]
[BlackElo “1224”]
[TimeControl “10 minutes each”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 {The Petroff Defence. Supposed to be drawish. Used to play it myself but can’t remember how it goes after so long has passed.} 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d3 {Symmetrical positions are supposed to favour the person to move next, so let’s provoke one.} Nf6 6. Bg5 Nc6 7. Qe2+ {To inconvenience him, and force him to clog up his position.} Be7 8. Nc3 O-O {Unpins his bishop.} 9. O-O-O {Opposite-side castling – let the fireworks begin!} Be6 10. b3 {Prevents Bxa2, at the cost of making the castled position somewhat draughty} d5
11. d4 Re8 12. Qd2 {With the idea of Bh6 gxh6 Qxh6, but there’s nothing to back up the queen at the moment – and if the black bishop gets on the diagonal and pins the white queen to the king it’s all over.} Ba3+ 13. Kb1 Nb4 {Black threatens, but can’t force an attack without disrupting the pawns first – I decided it was safe to ignore all this and build my attack instead.} 14. Bb5 c6 15. Bd3 {Another diagonal threatening the black king is occupied – but I now have less than a minute on the clock and my opponent has plenty of time.} h6 16. Be3 {I should have launched the attack now, but lacked the time to calculate the complications or the confidence to just get stuck in.} b5 17. Bxh6 {What the hell – I have maybe 40 seconds left, I’m under attack on the queen’s side – best to just go for it.} g6 {Obviously doesn’t fancy gxh6 Qxh6.} 18. Ne5 Qa5 19. Nxg6 {Hoping for fxg6 Bxg6, but I have no idea what to do after that.} Nxd3 {Probably the move that lost him the game.} 20. Qxd3 {A much better square for the queen!} Bb4
21. Ne7+ {Making room for the queen to invade – the check means black has no opportunity to take preventative measures.} Rxe7 22. Qg3+ Kh7 23. Qg7# {Checkmate, with just 25 seconds left on my clock.} 1-0