Annotated Game #1 from the 1998 New York Open

annotations by NM Steve Mayer

Beckman,Klaus (2280) - Aleksandrov,Aleks (2615) [A00]

1998 New York Open (Round 1) (Bd 12),   16.03.1998

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3

White adopts a sound opening strategy. He avoids getting into a "memory contest" with a much higher-rated opponent, but he also bypasses the "trap of affectation" by sticking with a positionally sound setup.

3...c5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 d5

Aleksandrov takes on what can be termed a "classical" formation. Some grandmasters would prefer to retain a more flexible central pawn formation.

6.Nbd2 Qc7 7.0–0 Bd7 8.Qe2 a6 9.a3!?

[9.e4 cxd4 10.Nxd4 (10.cxd4 Nb4 is simply very good for Black.) 10...Nxd4 11.cxd4 dxe4 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Qxe4 Bd6 14.Qh4; 9.dxc5!? Bxc5 10.e4 is the more typical approach in the in the Colle.]

9...Be7 10.dxc5 Bxc5 11.b4 Bd6 12.c4 Ne5 13.Bb2 dxc4 14.Bxc4 Nxc4 15.Nxc4 0–0 16.Nxd6 Qxd6 17.Rfd1

[17.Bxf6 gxf6 18.Rfd1 Qe7 unbalances the position. White may be better but Beckman prefers to keep a symmetrical pawn structure and opposite colored bishops. ]

17...Qe7 18.Be5 Bb5 19.Qb2 Rfd8 20.Rac1 Ne8 21.Bd4 f6

An interesting approach; Black plays to gain space in the center. Objectively, the position is even, but that doesn't mean that a working GM should "take the round off" and agree to a draw via woodchopping.

22.Bc5 Qf7 23.Qb3 e5 24.Qxf7+ Kxf7

Black has more space and the better placed king. It's at this point that White needed to draw up a plan that would allow him to maintain the balance. Instead, "something" goes wrong over the next few moves.

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25.h3 Rac8 26.Ne1 Rxd1 27.Rxd1 Nc7 28.Ra1 Ba4 29.Nd3 Nd5 30.Nb2

A pair of rooks have come off but White's knight at b2 "tells the rest of the story." There can be no doubt at this point that Aleksandrov was anticipating a win, although he certainly recognized that plenty of work remains to be done.

30...Bb3 31.e4 Nc3 32.f3 Ne2+ 33.Kf2

Beckman brings his king closer to the center. However, he needs to be careful that his kingside pawns don't get gobbled up eventually by the Black bishop.

33...Nf4 34.Rc1 Rc6 35.Be3 Bc2 36.Bc5 Bb3 37.Be3 Rxc1

Although it has "felt" for some time as if Beckman is in trouble, he has actually done an excellent job of recovering from his lack of a plan between moves 25-30. Aleksandrov would have preferred to retain a pair of rooks but he decides to pose a last series of riddles for White in the knight nd opposite colored bishop ending.

38.Bxc1 Ne6 39.Be3 Ke7 40.Nd3 Bc4 41.Nc5 Nd8 42.g3 Kd6 43.Na4 Kc6 44.Nc3 Ne6 45.h4 Nd4 46.f4 Nc2 47.Bc1 exf4 48.gxf4 g6 49.Bb2 Bd3 50.Ne2??

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Beckman has passed all the tests so far, but now he decides on a very bad move. Practically anything ‘reasonable’ would likely have held the draw here.

50....Bxe4 51.Nd4+ Nxd4 52.Bxd4 Kb5

Whoops! White allowed himself to be misled by the opposite colored bishops. (I’m assuming that’s why he blundered a pawn at move 50.) But there is just too much in the position and he could already have resigned with a clear conscience, as a3 will soon be "terminated with extreme prejudice" by the Black king.

53.Ke3 f5 54. Bc5 Kc4 55. Kd2 b5 56. Ke3 a5 57. Kd2 a4