Tit-for-tat Chess Game in Magna, Utah

I enjoyed playing two games with my new friend in Magna, Utah, the other day. In the one I label tit-for-tat, I was White. Tactics can be learned from a chess book, but experience over-the-board refines the learning process. This game well illustrates the use of a skewer, in fact on two occasions, and the same kind: bishop-versus-queen-and-rook. The close proximity of these two skewers is memorable: White’s move #15 and Black’s #16.

1) c4      e5

2) Nc3  c6

Whitcomb is White; after two moves

Diagram-1  after Black’s c6

I have one chess book that includes an early c6 in the English: page 670 of the 14th edition of Modern Chess Openings, column 17. I only learned that after the game, however, and was improvising my response over-the-board in this game. But that variation in the book includes Black moving e5 (after preparing that pawn advance with Nf6). It appears to me that c6 is premature on the second move of the game. The opening went differently here, with my opponent soon playing Qc7, not like the variation in the book.

3) Nf3     . . . .

We now see the disadvantage of Black’s c6 on the second move. The e-pawn cannot advance to e4, in contrast to variations in which Black moves Nf6 before c6. Yet it’s now attacked and needs to be defended.

3) . . . .    Qc7

JDW versus Karl

Diagram-2  after Qc7

My opponent appears to have protected that pawn well. But now he cannot advance his other center pawn to d5 (if it were his move), which seems to have been the original purpose of c6. I could now have moved d4, but I was more conservative, moving that pawn only one square forward.

4) d3    Bb4

5) Qc2  Nf6

6) a3     Bd6

not the best arrangement for Black

Diagram-3  after Bd6

This looks like the wrong place for Black’s dark-squared bishop. It blocks his d-pawn, and what was the purpose of the pawn at c6 except to advance the d-pawn? My opponent’s queen-side pieces now have no good squares for development.

7) g3     b6

8) Bg2  h6

9) O-O  O-O

White will now move d4

Diagram-4

I now felt comfortable breaking open the position with d4. Exchanging that pawn for my opponent’s e-pawn would give him no advantage on the diagonal with his queen and bishop, for it runs up against that angled brick wall of my kingside pawn formation.

I was hoping to exchange my knight at f3 for my opponent’s dark-squared bishop. That might allow me to move Bf4 with tempo, possibly taking advantage of a hole at d6. I saw that if he captured exd4 I might place my knight on f5, although on looking at it after the game that placement did not look as good.

10) d4    . . . .

JDW moved d4

Diagram-5  after White’s d4

After I advanced my d-pawn, I think my opponent should have captured it. After recapturing with my knight, that outpost at f5 is not that ideal if Black places his bishop at e5. Black’s development is hampered, to be sure, but I have not yet found the best place for my dark-squared bishop.

10) . . . .    Ba6

11) dxe5   Bxe5

12) Nxe5  Qxe5

White will now move Bf4

Diagram-6

I now saw an opportunity to develop my dark-squared bishop with tempo. But I also saw the possibility of soon placing that bishop on d6, occupying that hole. I could worry about defending the c4 pawn latter, if that were needed.

13) Bf4    Qe7

He started to put the queen on e6 but changed his mind. Maybe his first thought was better. The black queen and the rook at f8 are now on the same diagonal, which brings up a skewer from the white bishop.

14) Rfd1    Bxc4

I did not look deeply into this position, assuming my skewer would win the exchange, which would be more than enough compensation for the pawn loss. I failed to realize that my opponent could also set up a similar skewer: tit-for-tat.

White will move Bd6

Diagram-7

I now skewered Black’s queen and rook with Bd6. I had overlooked, however, the same kind of tactic available to my opponent. Notice my queen and my rook at d1. They are also subject to a potential skewer. Here comes tit-for-tat.

15) Bd6    Qe6

two-sided skewer

Diagram-8

At this point, I was oblivious to the other side of the skewer tactic: My opponent could do the same thing to me.

16) Bxf8    Bb3

tit-for-tat skewers

Diagram-9  after Black’s Bb3

White will now have to move the queen and expose a rook, just as Black did two moves earlier. But Black does not really win a pawn with these exchanges.

17) Qd2    Bxd1

18) Bxg7  . . . .

This is called, in the book Chess Tactics for Kids (by grandmaster Murray Chandler) a desperado sacrifice. If I had instead just captured the bishop at d1, then my bishop at f1 would have been captured as well, ending the exchanges with my opponent up a pawn. By capturing the pawn at g7, I regained a pawn after losing one a few moves earlier.

18) . . . .    Kxg7

19) Rxd1  d5

Whitcomb versus Karl

Diagram-10  after Black’s d5

In diagram-10, it looks like Black has gotten some control of the center. After nineteen moves, the queen-side is not yet developed, but that can soon be remedied after Nbd8. Yet White is bearing down on the center with every piece except the king. I don’t know why I missed it, but on my twentieth move I could have broken apart the center with e4. I advanced that pawn to the fourth rank a move later, but why did I not do that now?

20) e3     Nbd7

21) e4     . . . .

Black to move

Diagram-11  after White moved e4

Surely Black should capture my pawn at e4, if he does not want to lose a pawn. He appears to have acted instinctively, however, because of my queen and rook bearing down on his knight on d8. He allowed me to win a pawn and still keep up some pressure.

Notice that black will not win a pawn by capturing my e4 pawn with his knight, for after Black moves Nxe4 I could capture his knight with mine, and then after he recaptures with dxe4 I would move Qxd7, winning a piece.

My opponent would still have problems after moving 21) . . . . dxe4, for I could have pinned his knight at f6 with 22) Qd4, but it would probably have been better than what followed after his next move.

21) . . . .    Rd8

This appears on the surface to relieve pressure, as the rook now protects that knight. But it creates another problem in a few moves, for the knight on d7 becomes pinned.

22) exd5  Nxd5

23) Bxd5  cxd5

24) Qxd5  . . . .

White is a pawn ahead

Diagram-12  after White moved Qxd5

After all those exchanges, I came out a pawn ahead, with my opponent’s knight pinned. Yet even with the exchanging of queens, his position does not look hopeless. Without the queens, the black king can try come to the rescue of that knight by aiming for e7. I could move my rook to d6 first, so he might have to sacrifice his h-pawn to free his knight and rook. Yet while I was capturing that pawn at h6, could the black rook and knight successfully attack my queenside pawns? I did not see that far ahead.

But my opponent made a blunder and this chess game was over soon.

24) . . . .    Qg4

25) Qd4+ Nf6?

26) Qxg4+ Nxg4

27) Rxd8   Black resigned

Without my opponent’s mistake on the 25th move, it could have been a close endgame struggle. With all that said, I have learned from this game.

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‘Beat That Kid in Chess’ may be the only book of its kind for beginners, in that it regularly uses ‘nearly identical positions’

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