Here's the game, which notes based on those Robin was kind enough to send us. Kind enough, and brave enough to do without computer assistance! All my additions are of the more cowardly sort.
White: Jonathan Rowson
Black: Robin Haldane
Robin: "I was happy when White opened with the Ruy Lopez as I thought there would be more chance of a tactical game than if he had started 1. c4, 1. d4 or 1. Nf3."
1...e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Bxc6
Robin: "6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. Qe1 is a line that Les Pickett recommended in the 1970s in a long defunct magazine called Chessman Quarterly. It looks innocuous but forces Black on the defensive."
6...dxc6 7. Qe1 Nd7 8. b3 O-O 9. Bb2 Bd6 10. d3 Qe7 11. Nbd2 b5 12. a4 Bb7
Robin: "Afterwards Jonathan thought his idea of 13. g3 followed by 14. Nh4 was too slow. It helped my idea of rushing the f pawn forward."
13...c5 14. Nh4 g6 15. Qe3 f5
Robin: "Instead of 16. axb5 he said afterwards he was considering something like 16. exf5 gxf5 17. f4 when I would have played 17...exf4 18. Qxe7 Bxe7 19. Rf4 Bg5 when after 20. Raf1 White would get some play for the exchange but I think I would have been happy with my position."
ejh: This is so, but the computer likes 17.Qh6 instead
when ....f4 is met by g4, with knights going to e4 and/or f5. This isn't a disaster though, it's just better for White than fighting for a draw the exchange down.
16. axb5 f4 17. Qe2 axb5 18. Ng2 Qe6 19. Kh1 Rxa1 20. Rxa1 c4 21. gxf4 exf4 22. bxc4 f3 23. Nxf3 Qh3 24. Nge1
Robin: "The crucial position arrived after 24. Nge1."
So it did.
Robin: "I had the option between playing 24...Rf5, 24...Rf4 or 24...g5. I think 24...g5 would have been the right choice."
ejh: After 24...g5 best play seems to be 25. c5 Nxc5 26. Be5 Bxe5 27. Nxe5 Bxe4+! 28. dxe4 Qc3 29.Rb1 Qxe5 which is drawish, but maybe loseable by either side.
24...Rf5! is the move: ...Rh5 is a terrible threat and White's only option is 25. Ra6 trying either to deflect one bishop (and hence gain time to take the rook) or hack off the other (25...Rh5 26. Rxd6 cxd6 27. Qe3 and the computer reckons one queen or the other will give perpetual). So 25...Bf4 preserving the bishop and then White attacks it again with 26. Bc1
with a messy outcome but one in which despite a two-pawn advantage - in the diagram position, anyway - it's White who's going to have to work for the draw.
Robin chose the third option!
24...Rf4?! 25. Ng1?
ejh: 25. Ra7! Nc5 26. Rxb7! Nxb7 27. cxb5
with three pawns for the exchange and the threat of d4+e5 closing the file on Black's attack.
But now White's in trouble.
25...Rxe4! 26. Nxh3 Rxe2+
So much trouble he's lucky he's not lost.
27. Kg1 bxc4 28. dxc4 Re4 29. f3 Rxc4 30. Rd1 Draw agreed?!
Robin: "In the final position White offered a draw. I think Black is better but after say 30...Ne5 it would be very difficult to convert it into a win so it would have been rude not to accept the draw."
ejh: Maybe, but even if there weren't better moves than 30...Ne5, if we play, say 31. Bxe5 Bxe5 32. Rd8+ Kg7 33. Rd7+ Kh6 34.Nf2
while I can see what Robin means, I can also see two big bishops on an open board and personally I might have played on a bit.
But Robin is more polite than me. Congratulations to him on his draw against a grandmaster and thanks again for the notes.
(I am informed that it is Len Pickett rather than Les. Thanks.)
It was recommended to me once that a defence to the Pickett system and similar ideas was the long-winded plan of retreating the Nd7 to b8, playing c6 to c5, followed by Nb8-c6 with the idea of controlling d4 or dropping the Knight in.
Checking the database, you don't actually have to play Nd7 immediately . 7. .. c5 can be played, to meet Nxe5 with Qd4.
I wonder why Rowson chose that opening, but he did play the delayed capture on c6 in a few games as a junior, getting on for twenty years ago.
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