A few issues ago, I promised to submit my last round game from Goa against Jürgen Magnusson. It was a strange scenario, as neither of us had anything to play for, both of us being on 4.5/9. Pride was at stake and since we had been good naturedly teasing each other during the tournament, everybody was somehow expecting a quick draw offer to come from one of us. But as the game progressed, move 12 was reached and it became apparent that we were not going to settle for a bow out draw but a fight was on the cards!
Magnusson was probably the strongest VI player around in the early 90's and although still a very strong 2300 plus player, he has somewhat deteriorated in recent times. No matter though, a strong opponent was still confronting me –
Pre-match analysis saw a line he played against Krylov in the early rounds, where he had Krylov on the ropes and fighting for his life. Some interesting opening preparation was made but Magnusson, suspecting this, bowed out of the obviously prepared theory I had planned.
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 c5 6 f3 d6 7 e4 Nc6 8 Be3
I'm not that impressed with this move all in all. I think the bishop should stay at home until it is clear as to where he belongs. On c1, the bishop leaves its options open. The game strategy is obvious. Black intends to put all his pawns on dark squares and ensure that the light coloured bishops are reduced to pawns. White must lever open the centre with f3-f4 thrusts and the c1 bishop must be used to aid that. Also, Ra2 ideas swinging across the 2nd rank have to be kept in the offing. White wants to get Bd3 in and Ne2, but the d4 pawn is left hanging. However, Black is naturally going to challenge the d4 pawn even more and eventually ask it to advance or to exchange itself. Waiting for the decision is probably not the best for White and he should commit himself immediately with 8 d5 and after 8 -Na5, 9 Bd3 is possible.
The text-move only invites Black to solidify his pawn structure, put his pawns on more dark squares and facilitate the bishop's path to attack the weakened c4 pawn, which is the focus of Black's game.
8 -b6 9 Bd3 e5 10 d5
If White was intent on holding the tension in the centre, then he should carry on in such a vein. See below for opening references.
10 -Na5 11 Ne2 Ba6
Castling here is certainly a plan for Black. However, I had more ambitious intentions here and the immediate pressure on the c4 pawn is rather uncomfortable for White. It was about now that it was clear that an early draw was not going to occur!
12 Ng3 Qd7 13 Qe2 h5!?
The critical position has now arisen. Having now decided that the draw was not an option, turning my mind to winning the game became my objective. A long thought was taken over this move, but the correct decision was finally made.
Black has to carry on in his aggressive manner. The threat of Qa4 and the rounding up of the c-pawn is too strong for White to ignore. The big question is though where the white king belongs. Leaving him in the centre seems to be best although that is a hard decision to make. For Black, the king safety is another matter. On the king-side, he would be vulnerable to attacks after the pawn lever f3-f4. Ideas like Nf5 and Bg5 for White would be very annoying to deal with. As the queen-side is blockaded, Black can hide his king over there since the knight on a5 is not going to be dislodged very quickly.
Therefore, Black begins immediately to pressure the white king-side. The launching of the pawns threatens to gain space and drive the white pieces backward. The white bishop pair is actually of no worth here as both bishops are pretty rubbish. It will take a long time before any of them can come into their true strength and will never do so whilst the pawn structure is so blockaded.