[Event "LERA Memorial Day Class Expert"]
[Site "Sunnyvale"]
[Date "1998.05.24"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Childress, Jason"]
[WhiteElo "1962"]
[Black "Aigner, Michael"]
[BlackElo "2094"]
[Result "0-1"]


© 1998 Michael Aigner

This game was played on top board of the expert section in round 3 of the tourney. Both players were in a three-way tie for the lead with two wins on the first day. White was playing in the expert section for the first time, and had already soundly defeated two opponents. The following miniature is a classic example case of murder on the long diagonal. Black was awarded the expert section brilliancy prize for his efforts.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3

The game has entered the pianissimo, or "quiet", variation of the Giuoco Piano. However, this name is a misnomer for the tactical battle that erupted on this chessboard.

5... O-O 6. O-O

So far, both sides have been playing standard moves.

6... d5?!

More common at this point is d6. The text seeks to prematurely open the center instead of developing pieces first. In post-mortem analysis, white mentioned a Grandmaster game in which black was soundly defeated after playing d5 (unfortunately, we did not have the moves of this game). However, proving an advantage at the amateur level in an over-the-board tournament is much more difficult than in the Grandmaster or correspondence arenas.

7. exd5 Nxd5 8. b4

This move undermines black's hold in the center. Since the knight on c6 is the lone defender of the critical e5 pawn, it seems logical to force it to move. The main disadvantage of b4 is that c3 becomes a target for black.

8... Be7!

It is exactly this weakness that black plans to try to exploit. Moving the bishop to b6 is rather passive and useless as an immediate attack on f2 is unlikely. Instead, black prepares to swing his bishop to the a1-h8 diagonal in the event that the e5 pawn is captured.

9. b5 Na5 10. Nxe5 Bf6 11. f4?

White must defend his knight without creating additional weaknesses, in this case around his king. Most precise is 11. Qh5 Bxe5 (11... Nxc4 12. dxc4 g6? 13. Nxg6 hxg6 14. Qxd5) 12. Qxe5 Nb6 13. Na3 Naxc4 14. dxc4. Another try is 11. Re1 Re8 12. f4 where now the tactics don't work as well: 12... Nxc3? 13. Bxf7+ Kf8 14. Nxc3 Qd4+ 15. Be3 Qxc3 16. Bxe8 and white is winning.

11... Nxc3!

This cute temporary piece sacrifice gives black an edge he never relinquishes.

12. Nxc3 Qd4+ 13. Kh1 Bxe5!

It is crucial that black capture this knight before trading on c4 and taking on c3. If black instead plays the immediate Nxc4, white obtains unnecessary play and uses it to expose black's king: 13... Nxc4 14. Nxc4! Qxc3 15. Bb2 Qb4 16. Bxf6 gxf6.

14. fxe5 Nxc4 15. dxc4 Qxc3 16. Qf3?

White panics in the face of all of black's threats. However, 16. Bf4 Qxc4 17. a4 retains significant drawing chances while covering up weaknesses.

16... Qxa1 17. Ba3 Qxe5

Black, realizing he's soon to be two or three pawns up (c4 falls), chooses to centralize his queen where she can defend against kingside attacks instead of greedily capturing on a2.

18. Bxf8 Be6 19. Bb4 Bxc4 20. Qxb7? Bd5 21. Qa6 0-1

White resigned after playing Qa6 since both Qb2 and Qe4 win immediately for black. In playing his 20th move, he thought that 21. Qxa8 would trade into a pawn down bishops of opposite color endgame. However, it was all an illusion, since 21. Qxa8 Bxa8 22. Re1 Qxb5 easily avoids the back rank mate.

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