(1) Anthony Ker - Matthew Barlow
118th NZ Championship (2), 03.01.2011

1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 e6
The most solid move. Black locks in his light squared bishop and concentrates on getting his kingside mobilized. [4...Nf6 5.Nf3 Bg4 leads to more dynamic positions.]

5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Be3 cxd4 7.cxd4 Be7 8.Nc3 Qd8
It may seem odd to drop the queen back to her home square, but this is where she is safest. Other moves such as Qd6 or Qa5 are playable but her majesty may become a target for White's pieces.

9.Bd3 0-0 10.0-0 Nbd7
[10...Nc6 is the main move but after 11.a3 it is not so easy to maneuver the knight to d5.]

11.Bc2 Nb6 12.Qd3
White hopes his queen-bishop battery will force a weakness in Black's kingside.

12...Nbd5 13.Nxd5 Qxd5 14.Bg5
With a small threat :-)

Weakness forced! Now to infiltrate...

15.Rfe1 Qd8
The queen was in the way. This move frees up d5 for the other knight.

After ...g6 the b1-h7 diagonal is less exciting. The bishop's new targets are e6/f7 and/or possibly supporting a d5 pawn break.


White avoids exchanges. His space advantage is more valuable with more pieces on the board.

17...Re8 18.Ne5 Bf8 19.Qf3!
Hoping for [19.Qf3 Bxh6? 20.Qxf7+ Kh8 21.Bxd5 exd5 22.Nxg6+ and White wins]

The best reply. White can no longer avoid the exchanges.

20.Qxf6 Nxf6 21.Bxf8 Rxf8?
But here Black errs. [21...Kxf8 was superior, bringing the king closer to the center and keeping the rook active. ...Re7 is an important resource but instead Black "deactivates" his rook.]

White has a lead in development and his rook has an open pathway to c7

22...b6 23.Rc7 Nd5 24.Bxd5 exd5 25.Nc6!
A powerful move. From here the knight dominates Black's position, attacking the a pawn and controlling the back rank. Note that neither rook can oppose on c8 because of Ne7+. I remember losing a game to GM Drazen Sermek in similar fashion when a Black knight landed on c3 and paralyzed my rooks.

Best. Trying to save the a-pawn will only make things worse: [25...a5 26.Ne7+ and 26...-- 27.Nxd5 hitting b6.]

I had to decide whether to capture with the knight or the rook. The knight is better - after [26.Rxa7 Rxa7 27.Nxa7 Ra8 28.Re7 Kf8 29.Rb7 Re8 Black has counterplay.]

26...Rfe8 27.Re3
Definitely not [27.Kf1?? Bd3+! From e3 White blocks the e-file and prevents the Black rooks from becoming active]

27...Re4 28.Rxe4 dxe4 29.Kf1 Rd8 30.Nc6 Rd6 31.d5
A little tactic to cement White's advantage. The pawn is immune because of Ne7+

31...Kg7 32.Nb4
Another terrific square for the knight. From here the a and d-pawns are protected, Black's b-pawn blockaded and c2 covered.

32...Rd7 33.Rc6
Black's rook is passive, White's active. Why exchange?

Yet another black pawn lands on a white square. Black's bishop is bad (blocked by pawns) and he has no control over the black squares.

The coast is clear. Time for the king to emerge!

34...Rb7 35.Ke3 Bd7 36.Rc3 f5 37.Kd4 Kf6 38.Ra3
Black has beaten the rook back down the c-file but there is another way in.

38...g5 39.Ra6+ Kf7 40.Ke5 Kg7
Contrast the activity of the two monarchs. White's king is invading while Black's is oscillating.

Resigns 1-0