Iznogoud - Liardet

"Vinciperdi" (stalemate=draw)
AISE XVth Championship, 1996
Correspondence game

1.e3 b5 I feared that 1...e6, favoured at this time by most of the good players, would lead to tactical lines (like for instance the Dipilato attack 2.b4 Bxb4 3.Qxg4 Bxd2 4.Qxg7 Bxe3 5.Bxe3). 2.Bxb5 e6 3.Bxd7 Nxd7? 3...Bxd7 is a better line. After the text move, 4.c4 and 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c4 Bxd2 6.Bxd2 both lead to a slight edge for White. Moreover, 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c4 Bxd2 6.Nxd2! is now known to lead to a (very complicated) white win. 4.b4 Bxb4 5.Qg4? Tactical lines arising anyway... 5...Bxd2 6.Qxg7 Qxe3 As it is well-known, the two other legal moves are losing. 7.fxe3 This was a little surprise, as 7.Bxe3 seemed to lead to the most complicated position. However, after the text move Black has to go for a queen duet, as 7...Ne7 8.Qxh7 Rxh7 9.e4! Rxh2 10.Rxh2 leaves him with a very bad position. 7...Qh4 Objectively speaking the best move, but not the most pleasant to play against a computer... 8.Qxf7! Again a surprise for me, and this time a really bad one! As 8.Qxg8 Rxg8 and 8.Qxh7 Qxh7 are not very attractive, I was convinced that Iznogoud would play 8.Qxh8, giving Black the best chances after 8...Qxe1 as the black queen has many more options than the white one. Now again Black can avoid the queen duet by playing 8...Qxf7, but only to allow White to take a clear edge by 9.g3! Qxg3 10.hxg3 Nh6 11.Rxh6 Rd8 12.Rxe6 Kxe6 13.Bb2, or 11...Kg7 12.Rxh7 Kxh7 13.e4. 8...Qxe1 Again the best move, but I was less and less optimistic about the game result. After 9.Qxe8, the position was going to be a total mess...

9.Qxg8?? Iznogoud’s only, but very serious mistake, due to a bad evaluation function. 9...Rxg8! As a general principle, the king is a very strong piece, so one really can’t allow the opponent to end a queen duet being a king up. Now White has no way to achieve a clean-up and will have a desperate position after parrying Black’s immediate threats. 10.Nd2 Rxg2 11.Nh3 Qxd2 12.Bxd2 Rxh2 13.Rxh2 Here we are. Black’s pieces are not very well coordinated, but White’s Bd2 and Rh2 are terrible. For instance Black will win if he manages to deflect Pe3, so two good plans are Nf8-g6 and pushing the king towards the kingside. 13...Kf7! With the direct threat of 14...Kf6; here I thought that victory was close. 13...Nf8?! instead would have allowed 14.Rg2 getting rid of the bad rook. 14.c4 Winning some space for the defence. 14...Nf8 15.Re2 Iznogoud points out that the other moves would lose to 15...Ng6.

At this point I was quite proud to notice that the seemingly powerful - and planned! - 15...Ng6? would fall into a clever trap : 16.Be1!! and Black would have nothing better than to retreat, as he gets only a draw with 16...Nh4 (16...Nf4 17.exf4) 17.Bxh4 Ke7 18.Bxe7 c5 19.Bxc5 Rb8 20.Bxa7 Rb3 21.axb3 Ba6 22.Rxa6 h5 23.Rxe6 h4 =. Let us recall that this game was played according to the italian rules (stalemate=draw), while the international rules give the win for the stalemated player. 15...Kf6! So the king is needed for attack. The threat is 16...Kg5 17.Nxg5 Ba6! 18.Nxe6 (or 18.Nxh7) Bxc4 19.Nxf8 Bxa2 and wins. 16.c5! And of course not 16.Nf2? Kg5! The text move is also directed against 16...Ke5? 17.e4! Kxe4 18.Rxe4 and now 18...Nd7 doesn’t work any more. Thus there is no direct win for Black, but he can win White’s only useful piece: the Nh3. 16...Ng6 17.Ng5 The only move : if 17.Nf4? or 17.Nf2? then 17...N(x)f4 18.exf4 Kf5! 19.Rxe6 Kxf4 20.Bxf4 Bxe6 21.Bxc7 Bxa2 22.Rxa2 Rf8 23.Rxa7 Rf4 24.Bxf4 h6#. 17...Kxg5 18.Be1 18...Nf4 was threatened. With the text move White can get rid of his bad bishop, but is left with two bad rooks! According to Iznogoud, 18.Bb4!? may have been a better chance. 18...e5 The Bc8 finally comes into play. Now 19...Kf4 threatens to win, and so does 19...Be6 as Iznogoud points out. 19.Rc2 h5 Putting the pawn on a better square and considering 20...h4, but this will not be needed. At this point I was still very unsure whether a win could be achieved against Iznogoud’s precise defence. 20.Bf2 This loses by force. Here Iznogoud more or less thought he was losing but considered this move as the best practical chance.

Black to play and win!

The winning idea took me a lot of time to figure out. What was to be found was not a direct combination, but a plan making Black’s queenside come to life and eventually dominating the two white rooks.

20...a5!! 21.a3 21.a4 makes no difference, and 21.Bh4 Kxh4 22.Re2 doesn’t help because of 22...Kg5, threatening 23...Kf4 and forcing the white rook back to c2. 21...Ra6! After this move Iznogoud already saw the forced loss and resigned : 0-1.

Because of the threat 22...Rb6 the Rc2 has to move away, but then Black plays Rb6 anyway, unblocking his § c7. This proves to be enough to put White into total Zugzwang, as can be seen in the two following variations:

White to play and lose!