Aalampour vs Aalampour (2020) - Sicilian Najdorf

Those who know me know that I am an avid chess player. However, one habit I particularly like to partake in is playing chess against myself. Contrary to common belief, playing chess against one's self does not necessarily always end in a draw - or at least it does not for me. In this entry, I will analyze a game where I played the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense. 

 

Before we delve into the next 49 moves, allow me to give a brief introduction about myself: I am a rather obsessive chess player who seeks to uphold the virtues of the Romantic era. Some of my inspirations include Paul Morphy, Mikhail Tal, and Bobby Fischer. The following game was played against myself with 30 minutes for each side, and with no increments. I do also like to exude a sense of humor during my games at times. I commonly do this by playing odd openings such as the Hammerschlag Variation of the Barnes Opening (1. f3 2. Kf2). I have also been trying to commit to unorthodox exchanges in an attempt to attain the initiative, however, I must say that I have not found this to be the most rudimentary of goals. Often times, my peculiar plans are dependent on a very specific sequence of moves, making it difficult to secure them a good fraction of the time. Most of these plans when evaluated by an engine would indicate that I am losing, however, I believe that there is a great psychological factor to my playing style that will never reflect in a chess engine. Without further ado, allow us to commence this analysis.

The Opening

White opens up with 1. e4 to which black responds with 1... c5, thereby making the opening of this game the Sicilian Defense (B20). What follows is the sequence to the famous Najdorf Variation, which consists of 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6. The intention behind black playing 5... a6 is that it takes away the b5 square for white, thereby sabotaging any plans to play Nb5 or Bb5+. The game continues on with 6. a4 Nc6 - a rather rare 6th move. It is common for white to continue on with a move like 6. Bg5 to which is typically responded with 6... e6 (also known as the "Classical Main Line"). From there on, it would be logical to continue with 7. f4 as 7. Qf3 can be met with 7... h6. After 7. f4, black can respond in a multitude of ways. From what I have noticed, it seems that 7... Qb6 is the most popular response. However, I myself do prefer a more exciting variation, with choices like 7... Nc6?! or 7... h6!?. The issue with playing 7... Nc6?! however is the risk that white will respond with 8. e5!. Black can still defend at this point with 8... dxe5 or 8... h6, threatening white's dark square bishop, but white is still doing slightly better in both positions. I am digressing at this point, but as white, I played 7. f4 e6 8. Be2 Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. Be3 Qc7 11. Qe1 Nxd4 12. Bxd4. After Bxd4, the game enters a middle game, with both sides having developed their pieces to an adequate extent.

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fig. 1 Move 6. a4

The Middlegame

At this point, black has a multitude of approaches to continue on. Black could take the aggressive route with 12... e5 or 12... d5 which would attack the center, or black could take the more subtle approach with a move like 12... Bd7 or 12... b6. In this position, however, I stuck with 12... e5, which was responded by a retreating of the bishop with 13. Be3. The game continues with 13... exf4 14. Bxf4 Be6 15. Qg3 Rfd8 16. Bh6 Qb6+ 17. Kh1 g6 18. Bg5 Rdc8 19. Rxf6. Note that black cannot take the rook on f6 because after Bxf6 white can proceed with a much strong structure with something like 20... h6 21. Bd3 Kh7 22. Rf1 Qb4 23. Nd5 Qxa4 24. Nb6 Qe8 25. Nxc8 Qxc8 26. Qxd6 Qb8 27. Qe7 b5 28. Bd4 Qf8 29. Qf6 Rd8 30. b3 Rd7. In a continuation like that, there would be little to no chance of black coming back, unless white commits a terrible blunder along the way. Because of this, black continued with 19... Qxb2, winning a pawn. White responded with 20. Raf1. In hindsight, perhaps a kicking of the Queen on b2 with Rb1 may have been a bit more beneficial, but I could not resist developing my attack as fast as possible. Black then takes the knight on c3 with 20... Rxc3, now putting pressure on white's queen. White plays 21. Qf4, tripling up the attackers on the f-file. The game continues with 21... Qa2 22. Rxg6+ hxg6 23. Bxe7 Qxc2!!. In a complicated position like this, Qxc2!! is the only move that does not put white at a significant advantage. The game continues with 24. Bd1 Qd3 25. Rg1! Rac8 26. Qh4! f5 27. Bf6 R3c7! 28. Qh6 Kf7! 29. exf5 Qxf5 30. Bb2 Qf2 31. Qg7+ Ke8 32. Qxg6+ Ke7! 33. Qg7+! Qf7!!, with black's offer of a queen exchange being the only viable option here. White declines the trade, and plays 34. Qd4. The game continues with 34... Rc4 35. Qd3 Qf5 36. Qe3 Rf4 37. Qd2 Rf1??. It is in my personal estimation that the move 37... Rf1?? here is a blunder, because it misses out on Bd5 or Kd7 ideas. While black is still better at this point, it is a shame that I was not able to fully take advantage of this position - after 37... Bd5 could follow something along the lines of 38. Bc1 Rxc1 39. Qxc1 Bxg2+ 40. Kxg2 Qg5+ 41. Kh1 Qd5+ 42. Bf3 Qxf3+, etc. Regardless, the game continues with 38. Bd4 Kd7 39. h3 Rg8 40. Rxf1 Qxf1+ 41. Kh2 Kc8? - another mistake I would argue for black as white can continue with Bf3 or even Qc3+ ideas, the former which was followed. After 42. Bf3 Bxh3 43. Qc3+ Kb8 44. gxh3 we now enter an endgame with a queen and rook against a queen and two bishops.

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fig. 2 Move 23... Qxc2!!

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fig. 3 Move 33... Qf7!!

The Endgame

Black responds with 44... Rf8! threatening the bishop on f3. After 45. Bg2 Qf4+ 46. Kh1 Qf7 47. Bg1 Rg8 48. Qd4 Qb3? 49. Qxd6+, black resigns and the game is deemed victorious for white. After 48. Qb3?, black's already rough position has deteriorated even more as it allows for white to take on d6 with check. White's pieces are in a far more advantageous position at this point, with a multitude of ideas for continuation. If black continued to play, there would only be two legal moves - Kc8 or Ka8. If black were to play Kc8, after 49... Kc8 50. Qc5+ Kd7 51. Qd4+ Kc8 52. Qe4 Rxg2 there is no real good move for black to play other than to sacrifice the rook on g8 for the bishop on g2, completely diminishing any chances of winning. If black decided to go for Ka8 instead, then white can play Qxa6+ perfectly fine because of the pin from the light square bishop. After 50. Qxa6+, black can only run for so long with something like 50... Kb8 51. Qa5 Kc8 52. Qf5+ Kd8 53. a5 Qc4 54. Bb6+ Ke7 55. Bc5+ Kd8 56. Kh2 Rxg2+ 57. Kxg2 Kc7 58. Bf2 Qc6+ 59. Kh2 Qd7 60. Qc5+ Kd8 61. h4 Qd3 62. h5 Kd7 63. Bg3 until receiving checkmate sooner or later. This concludes my analysis on this exciting game I had played! If you made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read this entry! I look forward to creating more chess-related entries like this in the near future.

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fig. 4 Move 48... Qb3?