[Event "2003 U.S. Open"]
[Site "Los Angeles"]
[Date "2003.08.11"]
[Round "8"]
[White "West, Vanessa"]
[WhiteElo "2041"]
[Black "Aigner, Michael"]
[BlackElo "2277"]
[Result "0-1"]

© 2003 Michael Aigner (annotations for November/December 2003 issue of CalChess Journal)

Round 8 was the big merge when the various schedules of the US Open came together. I was playing my eighth game in four days, while my opponent had her first eight rounds spread out at a game a day. West is a talented junior ranked among the top girls in the country who had a successful tournament, scoring 50% against eight masters.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. a4

This move avoids the Marshall gambit of the Ruy Lopez, which Black can choose to play with 8.c3 d5.

8... Bb7 9. d3

Against IM Odondoo Ganbold in round 2, West played 9.Nc3?! Nd4 10.Ba2 b4 11. Nd5 Nxd5 12.exd5 Nxf3+ 13.Qxf3 Bd6 14.d3 f5 with advantage to Black.

9... d6 10. Nbd2 Nd7 11. c4?!

This move cannot be recommended strictly on positional grounds. White's light squared bishop never returns to the game.

11... b4 12. a5 Nc5 13. Nf1 f5!

Since White lags in development, Black immediately opens lines to the enemy king.

14. exf5 Rxf5 15. Bc2 Rxf3!

Building up the attack with 15... Qf8 allows counterplay after 16.d4 Rxf3 17.dxc5 Rxf2 18.Be4 dxc5 19.Qh5. The exchange sacrifice is justified strictly by the activity of Black's pieces relative to their White counterparts.

16. Qxf3 Nd4 17. Qd1 b3 18. Bb1

All of White's pieces sit idle on the back rank! Black must act swiftly, lest White capture the b3 pawn and succeed in developing.

18... Nce6 19. Be3 Bg5 20. Nd2 Qe8!

While it threatens a battery on the long diagonal after Qc6, the real point of Black's move is to hasten the queen to the kingside.

21. Nxb3?

Strictly speaking, this move loses by force. But White's task is no easier even after she closes the long diagonal with 21.Ne4 Bf4.

21... Qg6 22. Nxd4 Bxe3 23. Nf3 Nf4!?

Winning instantly is 23... Bd4! 24.Nh4 Qg5 25.Nf3 Bxf3 26.Qxf3 Rf8. On the other hand, I wouldn't have been able to leave three pieces en prise at once if I had seen this win.

24. Nh4

Alternatively, 24.g3 Nh3+ 25.Kg2 Nxf2 26.Qb3 Bxf3+ 27.Kxf3 Bd4 leaves the White king on life support.

24... Nh3+ 25. Kf1 Qf6 26. Nf3 Bd4

My cousin Fritz screams for Nxf2, but I'm only human and worried about losing a piece somewhere. The text wins easily enough.

27. c5

Desperately seeking counterplay based on the fork Qb3+. It is easy to miss even a simple counterthreat when focusing strictly on checkmate.

27... Kh8 28. cxd6 cxd6 29. Qe2

White can return the exchange with either 29.Re3 Rf8 30.Qd2 Bxe3 31.Qxe3 Qe6 32.Ba2 Qg4 33.gxh3 Qh3+ 34.Ke1 Bxf3 or 29.Ra4 Nxf2 30.Qe2 Ng4 31.Rxd4 Nh2+ 32.Kf2 Nxf3 33.gxf3 exd4. Black simply has too much pressure against f2 and f3.

29... Rf8 30. Rc1

Amusing is 30.Nxd4 Qxf2+ 31.Qxf2 Rxf2#.

30... Nf4 31. Qd2 Bxf3 32. gxf3 Qg5 0-1

White must surrender her queen to prevent an immediate checkmate. Please also see my game in the next round against GM Pavel Blatny.