Sunday Chessbrunch #10: Summer’s End
It’s been a bit of hectic summer.
For non-chess reasons, I was preoccupied with the World Cup. Amidst and then after that, work has taken up a lot of my time. Indeed, the new position I took in May has meant that my weekends are pretty much spoken for — which is why I haven’t competed in any tournaments.
I’ve also been trying to focus on self-care. Which, for me, means getting enough sleep and spending time with friends.
I’ve been plenty active in chess, though! My queer chess meetup folded, but in lieu of that I’ve been regularly attending a weekly Thursday night chess club at a brewery taproom near my house. I’m still playing correspondence games with Benjamin and others. I’ve been watching a lot of chess streams on Twitch. And I’ve been following some major tournaments this summer — including the Sinquefield Cup. Watching this game unfold — and seeing Magnus Carlsen try to stunt on his World Championship challenger Fabiano Caruana and have it massively backfire — was an absolutely delight.
(Incidentally, I am really looking forward to the World Championship match in November.)
I have a few things coming up with work and personal stuff that’s going to keep me busy, but I’m going to try and get back into a rhythm with these weekly columns. I also want to play at least one more tournament before the end of the year.
It’s hard finding a balance.
Benjamin Dionysus vs James Bridget Gordon, Chicago 2018
- d4 d5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. f3 Bf5 4. Bg5
The Curse of the Spanish Bishop!
4. …Nbd7 5. e3 c5 6. Bb5
6. …cxd4 7. exd4 Qa5 8. Qe2 a6 9. g4
This is when the game started to get weird.
6. …Bg6 10. Bxf6 gxf6 11. Bxd7+ Kxd7
Benjamin’s goal in the opening and middle game was to prevent me from castling, hoping to introduce a vulnerability that he can exploit later in the game. It worked — it required trading off two minor pieces, but I was indeed forced to move my king to resolve a check, forfeiting my right to castle and leaving my king vulnerable on the seventh rank.
Theoretically this gave him a significant advantage.
Unfortunately, he threw it away with his next move. Castling queenside did not leave him as secure as he hoped it would. Within two moves, I’ll have my queen, the bishop pair, and a rook pointed right at his king. I’ll also manage to nestle my king in a pawn structure that makes him relatively safe, despite being unable to castle.
12. …e6 13. Qe1 Rc8 14. f4 Bb4
I had expected the game to turn into a slog at this point. Benjamin would see the threat and redeploy pieces to neutralize my attack on his king. It would be a real fight, but one that Benjamin could conceivably survive.
I did not expect Benjamin to just ignore the threat.
It wasn’t a mistake, per se. Benjamin had a plan — a kingside pawnstorm to break up the protective wall around my king, then launch his queen into the breach and set everything on fire. On its own, it was a solid enough idea.
He just didn’t have enough time.
Sacrificing a piece to blow up his pawn wall and force his king to run. I offered up the rook because I reasoned the bishop would be more useful in the next few moves.
Benjamin decided it was a trap. It was, but not one he could afford to ignore.
And yet that’s exactly what he did.
(This is where Stockfish says Benjamin lost the game.)
16. …Qxa2 17. fxg6 Rd3 18. c3 Qa1+ 19. Kc2 Qxd1# 0–1
Sometimes the only way to beat a trap is to walk into it.
Solution to puzzle: 1. …Bd6+! White only has one legal move: 2. Kh1. Black delivers mate with Rxh3#.