Missed opportunity

The very welcome news that the ICU is offering two norm events in Tralee in April brought back memories of other recent norm events and opportunities. One such event was the City of Dublin IM Norm Tournament 2011. No norms were achieved; Stephen Brady finished on 6/9, ½ point short of recording his first IM norm.

Stephen had one missed opportunity, late in the event, that I have never seen pointed out. In his game in the penultimate round, as Black against the Scottish IM Stephen Burns-Mannion, the following position was reached after White’s 81. Bc6-b5.

Burns-Mannion - Brady, City of Dublin IM Norm Tournament 2011
Burns-Mannion – Brady
City of Dublin IM Norm 2011

Stephen now played 81… Kc3?, after which the Lomonosov tablebases show that there is no win; the game dragged on to move 112 before the draw was agreed.

But in the diagrammed position, there was a momentary opportunity for a knockout blow. After 81… Nd5! (and if 82. Ba6 Nc7 etc.), Black wins a second pawn or liquidates into an easily won pawn ending. White’s best appears to be 82. Kf1, but after 82… Ne3+! it’s hopeless, e.g., 83. Ke2 Nxc4 84. Be8 g2! 85. Kf2 Ne3 and White can resign.

[Click to replay the full game.]

[Update, January 27, 2017: It later occurred to me that the ‘etc.’ above was too casual: Black is indeed winning but it’s not a simple matter of being two pawns up, since the g-pawn will soon drop. After 81… Nd5! 82. Ba6 Nc7, if we placed the white king on g1 it would be a draw, whereas on e1 White is lost. The difference? On e1 White will be one tempo short of being able to stop the b-pawn. So: 83. Bc8 Kxc4 84. Kf1 (84. Bd7 Nd5) 84… b5 85. Kg2 b4 86. Kxg3 b3 87. Kf3 Kd3! (the only move to win; 87… b3? 88. Ke2 b2 89. Bf5 Kc3 90. Kd1; 87… Kc3? 88. Ke2 Kc2 89. Bf5+ Kc1 90. Kd3 b2 91. Kc3) 88. Bf5+ Kd2 89. Ke4 Nb5 90. Kd5 Na3 91. Kc5 b2 92. Kb4 Nc2+. In the game, once the white king got to g1 it was never going to be possible to set up the same opportunity.]

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