(1) Ftacnik,L - Addison,J [E15]
Simul Charleston CC, 14.06.2007

Most players only rarely get the opportunity to play a Grandmaster, whether in a tournament or at an exhibition, so it is important to get the most out of the experience. A game with a GM is almost always a valuable chess lesson if we are willing to look closely enough to learn it. ` ` From my simultaneous loss against GM Lev Alburt, I learned: "If a GM allows you a draw by repetition, TAKE IT!" From my tournament loss to GM Alex Sherzer, I learned "Even if a GM is having an off day, if you make enough bad moves he will beat you like a chicken-killing dog." When GM Lubosh Ftacnik gave an exhibition in Charleston this summer, I hoped to learn more:

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 b6 3.c4 e6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Qc2 Bb4+ 6.Nbd2
The Grandmaster is not out for a theoretical duel in these exhibitions. He's not going to play his latest innovation because, with today's instant online publication, all his rivals could see it before he has a chance to use it on them! He only wishes, in an exhibition, to play simple moves until the inevitable weeding-out of the weaker players leaves him in a speed-chess battle with the survivors. In such a case, the advantage is with the Grandmaster, of course.

6...0-0 7.Bg2 Bb7
[7...d5 is a good alternative here or on the next move.]

8.0-0 c5 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.e4 d6
[10...d5!? was also playable: 11.e5 Nfd7 12.cxd5 Bxd5 13.Ne4 Nc6 14.Nxc5 Nxc5 15.Ng5 g6 and Black is holding on.]

11.a3 a5!
Necessary, but good. Black should now be able to freely complete development. It was already too late for the alternative [11...d5 after 12.b4 Be7 13.cxd5 exd5 14.e5 Nfd7 when Black has lost both space and time in moving his pieces to worse positions, and White enjoys a comfortable development and initiative. (14...Ne4 15.Nd4!+/- ) ]

12.b3 Qc7
[Better was 12...Nc6! and Black stands very well - for instance, 13.Bb2 Nd7! 14.Rad1 Qe7 15.Rfe1 Rac8 when despite White's central Ps, Black is better placed.]

13.Bb2 Nbd7
[13...Nc6 was still better]

14.Rac1 Rac8 15.Nd4 Rfd8 16.Nb5 Qb8 17.Bc3
[17.Rcd1 Qa8= ]

Seeking to resolve the center. More ambitious was [17...Ba6!? keeping White off balance]

18.exd5 exd5 19.Qf5 dxc4
[19...d4!? with the idea of eliminating the isolated QP, was also worthy of consideration, but the number of competitors was dwindling and Ftacnik was coming around ever faster. He had generously waived the "three passes" limit usually imposed on players, but one could wave him by only so many times . . . 20.Nxd4 Bxg2 21.Kxg2 Bxa3 22.Rce1 when White retains an edge due to his better-placed Queen and Nd4.]

20.Nxc4 Bxg2 21.Kxg2 Qa8+ 22.Qf3
It is here I should have listened to my own counsel, as the first article in this series dealt with the "Queen-less middlegame" and the poison it can contain. It is not that exchanging here leaves Black poorly placed at all; he could still defend the position. Rather, the Queenless middlegame presents few opportunities for active play, while also bringing White's King out to an active square where he will be well positioned for the ending.

[22...Ne4 might not be objectively better, but it offers Black more counterplay. Whether facing a GM or a novice, more counterplay is generally better. Not to say I would have declined a safe drawing line, had one been available - but with no such chance, it's always better to seek more play for one's self.]

23.Kxf3 Nd5 24.Bb2 N7f6?!
[24...Be7! 25.Rfd1 Nc5 should have easily held the balance, as Black's centralized Knights are very strong. That I didn't seriously consider this showed an old weakness: the reticence to take away protection from a weak P. b6 would have been adequately covered, even without the Bc5.]

25.Rfd1 Kf8
[Better was 25...Be7 This time, I rejected this move because of a hallucination! I feared 26.Bxf6 Bxf6 27.Rxd5 Rxd5 28.Nxb6 missing, of course, the fact that White's Rc1 is hanging and Black would emerge ahead the Exchange. White would have retained an advantage in any case, though.]

26.Be5 Ne8?!
[26...Rd7 was slightly better 27.Nxa5 bxa5 28.Bd4 Ne7 29.Bxf6 Rxd1 30.Bxe7+ Kxe7 31.Rxd1 Rb8 32.a4+/- when Black at least has some hope of holding a draw]

27.Na7 f6?
[27...Ra8 was better, but still losing: 28.Nc6 Rd7 29.Nb8! and wins]

28.Nxc8 fxe5 29.N8xb6 e4+ 30.Ke2 Nef6 31.Nxd5 Ng4 32.Nde3
around this time I noticed I was down a whole Rook, and resigned! 1-0