1. e4 In keeping with my promise to myself to play 1.e4 as often as possible this season.
1... Nf6 Of the many possible replies to 1.e4 this is one of the options that can turn into tremendous fun on the chess battlefield. I decided upon the line I wanted to play - and had in mind the great Emory Tate. He played uncompromising chess, win lose or draw and I was in the mood for just that.
2. e5 Nd5 3. c4 Nb6 4. a4 No holds barred.
4... a5 5. Ra3!? [#] And here it is. The Tate Variation of the Alekhine's Defence. Tate first played it in the 1988 U.S. Air Force Championships. He was quoted as saying with glee "I made all these pawn moves, put my rook on a3 and then moved it over to g3". Now we can all agree that I am flying in the face of common sense and chess protocol. Moving so many pawns and bringing a rook into play on the fifth move is something that a child would do. Yet this is chess, and chess is wonderful. There are no rules to being yourself and being creative, so let us upset the Puritans and have some fun. I note that no less than Anna Muzychuk has essayed this variation before in her younger years.
5... d6 6. exd6 exd6 7. d4 d5 The rook on a3 is now attacked.
8. c5 Which I why I played 7.d4, to support this advance.
8... N6d7 9. Rg3 [#] And there he is. The rampant rook sets his sights on g7. One of the main points is this. People play openings that they are comfortable with and they understand not just the moves but general positions and themes. In this line (as just one example) the fox is well and truly dumped amongst the chickens. Players won't be used to a rook bearing down the g-file at such an early stage in the Alekhine's. Black cannot play ...Be7 now because the pawn on g7 dies. It's about upsetting the opponent's rhythm, whilst trying not to compromise your own understanding of what's going on. I mean, all of this might be rubbish - but at my level in a league game in Rugby on a dark, cold evening it is well worth a try. Besides, it is fun - pure, unadulterated fun.
9... Nf6 [#] This knight has gone from g8 to f6, d5, b6, d7 and right back to f6 in the first 9 moves. Lovely geometry. Yet, White still only has one Major piece developed. The weirdness and charm of chess can never be fathomed.
10. Nc3 g6 I guess Black is trying to work out what to do with his king. Is it the fact that in the Alekhine's Black is used to castling? Yet here, remember the rook on g3.
11. Bg5 11. Qe2+ was the other move I was thinking of playing. 11... Be7 (11... Qe7 12. Nb5)
11... Bg7 12. h4 Maybe not best but my mindset was on destruction. Ina way this move also 'develops' my rook on h1 as it can come into play.
12... O-O 13. Be2 c6 Possibly a waste of tempo - so important in chess.
14. h5 I promise I did not think about GM Simon Williams or AlphaZero with this pawn push. All I thought about was infiltration and killing Royalty.
14... Bf5 15. hxg6 15. h6 Bh8 16. Re3=
15... Bxg6 [#] I invite the reader to mentally remove everything off the g-file except for the king and rook. This is how I was thinking about the game. The g-pawn has gone. If you showed this to a beginner they might have difficulty working out how it had 'disappeared' but it is easy to see how much of a nuisance that rook is on g3.
16. Nh3?! I wanted to attack of course but I also heard the wisdom of Caissa in my head and elected to bring out my full army before going for the kill. If I could have seen a direct way to take an advantage without playing the knight move, I would have done something else of course.
16. Nf3 I saw this square of course but wanted the knight on f4.
16... Qe8 Fair enough. This pins my bishop to the king but on the downside it does keep his rook on f8. I was aware that I had the move Re3 at almost any time but I wanted to leave it with those latent threats on the g-file. I felt that if my attack did not work then Black would improve quickly. My d-pawn is weak and my Q-side as a whole is just lose. I needed to focus everything aginst the Black king.
17. Bxf6 34 left. I am not sure this is correct. Each time I remove one of my pieces it is one less unit to attack with. That said I wanted also to remove a defender of his. Swings and roundabouts. The key to chess is which pieces to keep on and which to take off.
17... Bxf6 53 left.
18. Nf4 I have options with this horse. It might even be useful going to h5 at some point.
18... Nd7 Understandable. Black gets his final Q-side minor piece into play. If he had a couple of moves he could play his bishop to g7 and knight to f6 and he would be fine - but as I said, tempo is everything and we must make the most of every move.
19. Kf1 After a good think. I am pleased to note that the engine concurs.
19... Qe7 20. Bd3 [#] left.
20. Qd3 Was my other thought but it's carapace of beauty is very thin. 20... Bg7 Now what? I must move my queen or take the bishop on g6.
20... Rae8? 43 left. The engine gives 20...Bg7 as the best move but after this it swings wildly from even to +3 for White.
21. Ncxd5?! It was time. Who sang the song "It's now or never?" It looked right, and I was getting short of time. Predictably the engine wants to pour freezing cold water over my lovely move and play the best one instead which was...
21. Rxh7!! Now for a long but pretty forcing and highly interesting line. 21... Kxh7 (21... Bg7 22. Nxg6 fxg6 23. Bxg6 still wining for White.)
22. Nxg6 fxg6 23. Qh5+ Kg8 24. Qxg6+ Qg7 25. Qh7+ Kf7 26. Rxg7+ Bxg7 27. Bg6+ Kf6 28. Bf5 Rf7 29. Qg6+ Ke7 30. Bxd7 Kxd7 31. Qxf7+ Re7 winning for White.
21... cxd5 22. Nxd5 [#]
22... Qd8?? The losing move.
22... Qe6 is the only move and the one I expected. 23. Nc7 Qe7 24. Nxe8 Rxe8 25. Rhh3
23. Qh5! It is rare that I get the opportunity to play a move like this so I was chuffed. Again, note how much damage that rook on g3 has done, without it having to budge from there.
23... Bg7 It's now mate in 6. Can you do it dear reader?
23... Re1+ Only move. 24. Kxe1 Re8+ Freeing up the f8 square for the king. 25. Kf1
24. Bxg6 14 left. This is fine but I missed the mate in 6.
24. Qxh7+ Bxh7 25. Bxh7+ Kh8 26. Be4+! A key sqaure as it prevents Black from playing Re1+ 26... Kg8 27. Rh7! wow. Mate in 1 or two moves regardless now. 27... Qf6 28. Nxf6+ Nxf6 29. Rgxg7# I wish I had seen that!
24... fxg6 41 left.
24... Re1+ Again was the only move to prevent mate.
25. Qxh7+ Kf7 26. Qxg6+ [#] That rook on g3 is still earning it's corn, supporting the queen and ending the battle. If there was a vote for 'Man of the Match' it would surely be given to this rook. It defended and attacked. It threatened and supported - all from one square.