Missing a golden chance

One of my various chess hobbies is collecting missed opportunities with a special instructive or artistic interest which otherwise would likely to be lost or even never to be known.

Occasionally such episodes pop up in my own games too on either side of the board. Last Saturday I happened to be on the lucky side when my team of Wageningen was hosted by Max Euwe club in the city of Enschede, for the second round of the Dutch competition. We were lucky to win 6.5: 3.5 in order to seize an early lead in our first division group (second in the Netherland to the supreme Meesterklas) with the only draw scored on my own board in a rather unusual way.

Emerging the opening with an appealing position as black, I went for what now looks as a too slow plan and following a couple of unfortunate decisions I even ended up in the following highly suspicious position:

White declined the obvious 39.Rxb5 in view of 39…Bxg2 40.Kxg2 Qc6+ and chose to win the very same pawn in a “safer” manner. He continued 39.Re8+ Rxe8 40.Qxe8+ Kg7 41.Qxb5 to realize that following 41…Qf4! 42.Qxb7 Qc1+ 43.Kf2 Qe3+ 44.Kf1 Qc1+ Ke2 Qe3+ 45.Kd1 Qc1+ it’s just a draw by perpetual check.

At the post mortem however it all of a sudden downed on me that 39.Rxb5! was white’s right choice after all as 39…Bxg2?? Is in fact a fatal blunder owing to: 40. Kxg2! Qc6+ 41.Qe4! Qxb5 42.Qg6+! and wins. My teammate GM Jan Timman, who was attending this post mortem, shared the opinion that quite a few strong players might have easily missed this pitfall, especially under time pressure.

A selection of missed opportunities by experienced players from recent events may be found in my column Beware: Brilliancy! In the magazine New in Chess. Quite a few strong players, grandmasters included, told me that they regularly use it as training material to diminish the number of future such incidents in both their own and their pupils’ games. A pick up of surprising oversights from Tromso Olympiad has recently been published in 7/ 2014 issue of the leading magazine. Don’t miss a brilliant opportunity to improve on the masters!

Posted: November 2 - 2014

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