GM Bartel’s Lesson on Initiative and Activity

Grandmaster Mateusz Bartel walked through a double round robin tournament that finished yesterday in Slovakia. The average player rating was 2570, visit Chessdom for a full report. The same report contains game analysis that Mateusz kindly provided. Some of his insights are invaluable!

The fireworks have ensued right after the opening and the game was very dynamic. I decided to repost Mateusz’s commentary here because the R+N vs R+B endgame is very instructive. (Download in PGN)

Mateusz Bartel (2601) – Lubomir Ftacnik (2559) [B80]

31st Banicky Kahanec Prievidza (6), 08.05.2009

[Annotations by Mateusz Bartel]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Be3 a6 7.f3 b5 8.Qd2 b4 9.Na4 Nbd7 10.Bc4 Qa5 11.Bb3 Bb7 12.c4

Interesting decision. White is fighting against d5 and at the same time prepares new options for defending the knight on a4, if necessary.


Good reply. Worse is 12…bxc3 13.Nxc3 Be7 14.0-0 0-0 (14…Rc8!?) 15.Nd5 Bd8 16.Qxa5 Bxa5 17.Ne7+ Kh8 18.Ndc6 black has some problems, but this position is playable.


It is possible that better was 13.Qc2 but I was not convinced that white can be better after 13…Nxb3 14.axb3

13…dxc5 14.Ne2 Rd8?!

My opponent was a bit too optimistic with this move. Much better was 14…Be7 15.0-0 Rd8 16.Qe1 and position is equal.

15.Qc2 Bd6?

Again, much better was 15…Be7 16.Ba4+ (16.e5 Nd7 17.f4 Bxg2 18.Rg1 Bh3) 16…Nd7 17.0-0-0 Qc7


16.Ba4+ is not giving too much after 16…Nd7! 17.0-0-0 Ke7! and surprisingly, with king in the centre black is perfectly safe.

16…Qc7 17.Ba4+ Bc6!

Worse was 17…Ke7 18.Rd2 Be5 19.Rhd1 and black pieces are almost paralyzed.


During the game I was convinced that this is winning. To my surprise it’s not.

18…Bxe5 19.Bxc5 a5

Good decision. Both players missed 19…Rc8!? but this is probably not enough 20.Bxb4 Nd5 21.Bd2 0-0 22.Bxc6 Qxc6 23.b3 and black has some initiative, however I believe white should be better.


Risky move. I made it because I still believed in my position. 20.Rxd8+ Kxd8 21.Rd1+ Kc8 22.Bxc6 Qxc6


Black is ok also after 20…Bxf4+ 21.Nxf4 Qxf4+ 22.Kb1 Qc7 23.Rxd8+ Kxd8 24.Rd1+ Kc8 25.Bd6 Qb7

21.Qxa4+ Nd7 22.Rxd7!?

Interesting idea. I think I played this because… of my not very good calculations. I was just pretty sure that this is winning!

22…Rxd7 23.Rd1 Bf6

23…Bxf4+ was possible, but position is far from clear 24.Nxf4 Qxf4+ 25.Kb1 Qe4+ (25…Qc7 26.Bb6 Qb7 27.Bxa5 h5 28.Bxb4) 26.Ka1 Qb7 27.Bd6 f5 28.c5 Qa6 29.a3! and after this strong move, discovered by my girlfriend, WGM Marta Przezdziecka, it looks that white still has some initiative, e.g. 29…Qe2 30.c6! Ra7 (30…Rxd6 31.Rxd6 0-0! 32.Ka2 is more or less equal.) 31.Bb8! Re7 32.c7+ Kf7 33.axb4


Serious blunder. The most logical was prophylactic 24.Kb1! and it looks like the game could have finished as a draw: 24…Qb7 (24…Qxc5 25.Qxd7+ is much worse, as in the game.) 25.Rd3!? Kd8 26.Rxd7+ Qxd7 27.Qxa5+ Kc8 28.Qa8+ white has nothing more than the perpetual.


Big mistake. Surprisingly, black was…winning after 24…Be7! 25.Bb6 Qxc4+ 26.Rc2 Qa6 (the move which my opponent missed) 27.Rc7 0-0! (the move which I missed!) 28.Qxd7 Bd8! and here white has nothing better than to suffer in a position without pawn after 29.Nd4 Qxb6 30.Rc6 Qb8

25.Qxd7+ Kf8 26.Qd6+ Qxd6 27.Rxd6

White should be much better, because of the superior rook, but it is not that simple.


Much stronger was active 27…g5! and it’s hard to find win for white.

28.Ra6 Rc8?

This is probably the final blunder. Black was obliged to to fight for the activity… The computer shows logical 28…Rd8! 29.b3 Bc3 now white must play the rook endgame and I am not sure if it is winning!

29.b3 Rc5

Now black is without any counterplay whatsoever.

30.Ng3 [30.Kc2!?] 30…Bd4 31.Ne4?

It was better not to hurry and activate the king by 31.Kd2 but I overlooked that after 31…f5 I have very strong maneuver: 32.Ne2 Bf6 33.Nc1 which is very effective when rook on c5 is limited by the f5 pawn.


The rook is active again!


First of all – activity! 32.h3 Rh4 33.g3 Rxh3 34.c5 f5 35.Ra7+ Ke8 36.Nd6+ Kd8 is nothing more than perpetual.

32…Rxh2 33.Kd3 Bg1

This is serious mistake. Black’s last chance was playing 33…f5 34.Kxd4 (34.Ng5 Bf6 35.Nxe6 (35.c5 Bxg5 36.Ra7+ (36.fxg5 e5) 36…Kf6 37.fxg5+ Ke5; 35…Rxg2 36.Nc7 Rxa2 37.Nd5+ Kf7 38.c5 Rb2 39.c6 Rxb3+ 40.Kd2 Rb2+; 34…fxe4 35.Rxa5 Rxg2 36.Kxe4 and this endgame is better for white but with accurate play it should be draw.


Bishop is now cut off and white can attack opponent’s king!


This is losing immediately. 34…Kd7, but after 35.Kc4 Be3! 36.Kb5 Bxf4 37.c6+ Ke7 38.Ra7+ Kf8 39.g3 Be5 40.Rxa5! white is winning anyway.

35.Ra7+! Kf8?

Both players thought that 35…Ke8 is hopeless for black, but of course computers show that this is not so easy: 36.Nd6+ Kd8 37.Nxf7+ Kc8 38.Nd6+ Kd8! Only here! 39.Ne4 and because of the weak king and advanced white pawn, black is much worse, but still with practical chances for a draw.


Strong move which clinches full point.

36…f5 37.Nd6! Bxa7 38.c7 Rg3+ 39.Ke2 Ke7 40.c8Q Kxd6 41.Qa6+ Kd5 42.Qxa7 Rg2+ 43.Kf3 Rxa2 44.Qd7+ Kc5 45.Qc7+ 1-0

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