Chess Notes

Weekly chess column

From the German professional league’s harvest of games comes this unusual effort from Indian Grandmaster Pentala Harikrishna vs. former British champion David Howell. The match got barely into the middle game when Harikrishna suddenly sacrificed his rook for a mere knight. The sacrifice was nowhere near the Black’s king side, although Harikrishna did get back a mere pawn at h6 he had sufficient compensation. However Howell, normally an attacking player, was forced into a defensive posture instead of mounting his own counter-play. He eventually yielded another pawn and Harikrishna emerged with the better position.

German Bundesliga, 2012-13

Pentala Harikrishna (2688)

vs. David W. L. Howell (2634)

SC Eppingen vs. SG Trier

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. d3 Bg7 6. Bd2 Nc6 7. g3 e5 8. Bg2 Nde7 9. O-O O-O By transposition we’re reached yet another amorphous English opening position which has many features of a reversed Sicilian. 10. Rc1 h6 11. Ne4 Heading for c5, with pressure on b7. 11. … b6? A logical move, trying to keep the knight off of c5, but one that faces an almost immediate refutation. When I first saw this, I was sure that it was no good as it seemed very much out of place and right I was. I could only find two games that reached this position. One continued 11. … Nf5 and the other went 11. … a5 both led to interesting struggles. 12. Rxc6!!(Diagram) This must have been a real shock to Black’s nervous system. The point of this did not come completely clear to me until White’s next. 12. … Nxc6 13. Qc1! Now, White gets a pawn for the exchange, along with lots of play against Black’s king. It would seem that David Howell is having a hard time combining top-flight chess with getting a college education (He is currently a student at Eastbourne College in England.) 13… Ne7? Not best. Greatly startled, Black fails to find the best defense. Better is either 13. … Bb7 or 13. … Bd7 with good chances for survival. 14. Bxh6 Bxh6? Inviting White’s queen so close to your king, can’t be good. 14. … f6 seems to keep White’s advantage to a minimum. 15. Qxh6 Nf5 Black had high hopes for this move but he is going to be disappointed. 16. Qd2 Qe7 To protect the e-pawn. The apparently better 16. … f6 runs into 17. g4 and then g5 but Black may survive a little bit longer. 17. g4! Overlooked or not properly appreciated by Black. Now, White’s queen comes back to h6 with vengeance. 17. … Nd6 18. Nxd6 cxd6 19. Qh6 With many threats, primarily 20. Ng5. 19. … Bb7 20. Ng5 f6 Forced 21. Qxg6+ Kh8 22. Bxb7 Qxb7 23. Ne6 Rf7 With two pawns for the exchange and with Black’s king so exposed, White is well on his way to winning. 24. Rc1 Black is almost zugzwang after this move. For example: after 24. … Re8, then 25. Rc7! RxR 26. QxR+ Kh2 27. Ne8+ winning. 24. … Rh7 25. Qxf6+ Now it is 3 pawns for the exchange 25. … Kg8 26. Ng5 Rd7 27. Qe6+ Kh8 28. Ne4 Not only attacking the d-pawn but also aiming the knight at f6, i.e.; 28. … Rad8 29. Qh6+ Kg8 (29. … Rh7 drops the rook on d8 to Qf6+) 30. Nf6+ 28. …Rg7 29. Nxd6 Qd7 30. Qxd7 Rxd7 31. Rc6 Rg8 32. f3 Tired of losing pawns, Black gave up; 1-0