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My non-losing streak continues!

April 24, 2012

Without any other half point byes showing up, I would have been paired against IM Jay Richard Bonin last night–not impossible to survive, but certainly close to it. Fortunately, a bunch of other players showed up taking half point byes in round 1, so I “only” was paired against Benjamin Katz (FIDE 2130, USCF 2172). Let’s just say I’m proud of everything in this game except moves 5 and 6…

Benjamin Katz (FIDE 2130, USCF 2172) vs. Brian Beck (FIDE UNR, USCF 1790)
MCC FIDE Mondays Apr-May 2012, Rd 2
Sicilian Defense, Smith-Morra Gambit (B21)

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 d6 5. Bc4 Nf6? 6. e5!

As is probably obvious from the fact that I played 5. … Nf6?, this was my first time playing against the Smith-Morra (I played the Caro-Kann throughout my scholastic career, but the sharper and more open Sicilian fits my style much better). Of course 6. … dxe5?? would lose instantly to 7. Bxf7+!! Kxf7 8. Qxd8. 6. … Nfd7 turns out to be the best, and really only move, but I got scared off from variations involving 7. e6; turns out that with White not having a knight on f3 yet, the attack fizzles and black equalizes. So instead, I play

6. … Qc7?

I analyzed out 7. Bb5+ Nfd7 8. Nd5 Qd8 over the board, thinking it looked really ugly but less ugly than the immediate Nfd7. Turns out I was wrong, because after 9. Bg5!, white’s attack is devastating. Fortunately, Ben also doesn’t see it (Chessbase indicates that he doesn’t normally play the Smith-Morra), and instead plays

7. Qb3? d5!

The only move that saves the position for black, giving back the pawn to shut down white’s attack. The discovered attack against e5 stops white’s aggressive responses, and he has to settle for taking back the pawn and letting me finish developing.

8. Bb5+ Nfd7 9. Qxd5 e6 10. Qe4 a6!

Black strikes back, and removes all of white’s potential tactics involving Nb5, a stronger approach than the immediate Nc6. Black takes the initiative, and develops the remaining pieces with tempo:

11. Bxd7 Bxd7 12. Nf3 Bc6 13. Qe2 Nd7

13. … Bxf3 is better according to Fritz, forcing white to weaken his kingside to save his e-pawn.

14. Bf4 Bb4 15. O-O Bxc3 16. bxc3 Bb5!

And now White has to throw away his c pawn to keep the exchange:

17. c4 Qxc4 18. Qe3 Qc5 19. Rfd1 Qxe3 20. Bxe3

20. … Be2!

Removing the defender on e5, though it turns out white has a zwischenzug allowing him to avoid losing another pawn:

21. Rdb1 Bxf3 22. gxf3 Nxe5 23. f4! Nc4 24. Rxb7 Nxe3 25. fxe3 O-O 26. Rc1

Hoping for 26. … Rfc8? after which 27. Rxc8 Rxc8 28. Ra7 wins the pawn and leaves white with the better endgame. I see it, though, and play instead

26. … Rfb8 27. Rd7 Rd8 1/2-1/2

Agreed to a draw; black can play 27. … Rb2 instead safely, but the pawn structure will make it very hard for black to turn it into a win. If I were feeling better and didn’t have work the next day, maybe I’d plug away for another 2 hours to try to catch white in a mistake, but here I’ll take the draw and head home.

With that, my streak continues; I haven’t lost an OTB game since my first comeback game against FM Asa Hoffman back in February (and no shame in that loss, certainly). And next time, I’ll know how to play the black side of the Smith-Morra.


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