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British Championship Qualifiers Square Up (19.01.2013.)

This game was played in a Devon league match last weekend. Both players have qualified for this year’s British Championship, and Mackle was jointly West of England Champion in 2011. Notes kindly supplied by the winner.

White: Dominic Mackle (202). Black: John Stephens (192).

Semi-Slav Defence – [D44]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 dxc4 The Botvinnik Variation. 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 11.exf6 Bb7 12.g3 c5 13.d5 Qb6 14.Bg2 0–0–0 15.0–0 b4 16.Rb1 Qa6 17.dxe6 Bxg2 18.e7 Bxf1 A fantastic position, yet well-known to theory. 19.Qd5 The latest idea in this line. White is a rook and bishop down, but rather than capture one of Black’s 3 en prise pieces he introduces new threats. 19…Bh6 Black must connect his rooks. 20.Bxh6 Bd3 21.Ne4 The latest idea is for White to play for the following endgame viz. 21.Qa8+ Nb8 22.exd8Q+ Rxd8 23.Re1 bxc3 24.Bf4 Qb6 25.bxc3 Bf5 26.f3 Be6 27.g4 Bd5 28.Qxb8+ Qxb8 29.Bxb8 Kxb8 This endgame is the reason for the decline in this line of the Botvinnik. White is better, but a win would be difficult to find over the board. 21…Bxe4 22.Qxe4 Rde8 23.Bf4? Better is 23.Bg7! 23…Qb7 Black must grab control of this diagonal. 24.Qxc4 24…Rxh2 25.f3 If 25.Kxh2 Rh8+ 26.Kg1 26…Rh1#. 25…Rhh8 Better is 25…Reh8! 26.e8=Q+ Rxe8 27.Kxh2 Qxf3 28.Qa6+ Kd8 and White runs out of checks and Black’s dual threats of  of Ra8+ and Re2+ are decisive. 26.Rd1 In post-game analysis 26.Kg2 seemed stronger. 26…Rh1+ 27.Kxh1 Qxf3+ 28.Kg1 Qxd1+ 29.Kg2 Qa4 30.Qd5 30…Qb5 31.Qa8+ Nb8 32.Bxb8 Qb7+ 33.Qxb7+ Kxb7 34.Be5 34.Bxa7! was the move to find. If 34…Kxa7?? 35.g4 c4 36.g5 Rg8 37.Kf3 Rc8 38.g6 c3 39.gxf7 c2 40.e8Q c1Q 41.Qa4+ Kb6 42.Qxb4+ Ka7 43.f8Q winning for White. 34…Kc6 35.Kf3 Kd5 More accurate was 35…Kd7 when the king assists in covering e8 and freeing up the rook to support his queenside pawns. 36.Kf4 Ke6 37.g4 c4 38.g5 a5 39.Bc7 a4 White now has only seconds for his next move and manages to find one of the only moves that loses straight away.  40.Ba5?? 40.Ke4 is the critical move as the rook must support the queenside pawns whilst keeping an eye on the g5-g6 break. 40…c3 41.bxc3 b3 42.axb3 axb3 The pawn cannot be stopped. 0–1

Last week’s problem was solved by 1.Ba3!

In this game from last year’s British Championship, how did Keith Arkell (W) finish off his opponent quickly?

White to play and win

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