Games from the Maritimes

Manley-Dorrance, Nova Scotia Open 2022

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This past weekend was the return to the chess calendar of the Nova Scotia Open for the first time since 2019, and the first over the board CFC event in Nova Scotia since February of 2020. Despite the long gap, the event was highly successful, drawing 36 players including several playing in their first event. Competitively, the tournament would be decided in the final round, by the following game:

[Event "Nova Scotia Open"]
[Site "Fredericton"]
[Date "2022.05.15"]
[Round "5.1"]
[White "Manley, Jason"]
[Black "Dorrance, Adam"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B22"]
[WhiteElo "2197"]
[BlackElo "2379"]
[Annotator "Manley,Jason"]
[PlyCount "90"]

{(Notes: May 17/22) Entering the final round of the Nova Scotia Open, I was
off to a great tournament so far, with a 4-0 record and a half pont lead. It
was all going to come down to the toughest test of all in the last round,
however, as I was set to face top seed NM Adam Dorrance, who was tied for
second with Jerjis Kapra at 3.5, in the final round. This was our fifth
standard tournament game, with Adam having 3 wins and one draw from the prior
four.} 1. Nf3 c5 2. e4 {A transpositional line that I played to try and make
my way into a Sicilian rather than the Caro-Kann Adam had played against me
the last time I had tried e4. This opening decision drives the style of game,
and having faced a number of Sicilians in recent events, I felt more
comfortable with those positions heading into this game than those in the Caro.
} e6 3. c3 {And here we move into a Delayed Alapin, an opening that I felt
gave me a good solid position to build from.} Nf6 4. e5 Nd5 5. d4 cxd4 6. cxd4
d6 7. Nc3 {Bc4 is an alternate line here, and considering some of the
difficulties awaiting White, would likely have been a better choice.} Nxc3 8.
bxc3 Qc7 {Adam keeps the pressure up on the centre, forcing White to continue
to react early in the game.} 9. Bd2 Nd7 10. exd6 {Conceding the centre. Black
has equalized already, as White would be better advised to play Ng5 here,
looking to cycle the knight to e4, in order to fight for the advantage.} Bxd6
11. Bd3 b6 12. O-O Bb7 {Did I say equalized? Black's development looks very
comfortable, and his bishops bearing down on the White kingside and the weaker
White pawn structure suggest that Black is actually a bit better.} 13. h3 h6
14. Qe2 O-O 15. Rfe1 {
White focuses on holding up e5, but that's going to be easier said than done.}
Rad8 {A strong move. White is now prevented from playing Ne5 owing to losing a
pawn through the opening of the d-file, leaving me floundering for a plan. I
decided to opt for central play based on c4-d5.} 16. Rac1 Rfe8 17. c4 {
? A clear mistake. Bb5 would have been a better move, although Black was still
carrying the play in that line.} e5 {! Strong and well-timed. I had planned to
counter e5 with d5, but it was only when I reached this position that I
realized just how much trouble I had gotten myself into, as the threat of e4
is much stronger than I had realized, as the pin against the queen will be
deadly. Instead, I'm forced to abandon e4 and find my pieces start to get tied
in knots.} 18. Bb1 e4 {exd4 deserves strong consideration here, as while White
can claim two rooks for the queen with Qxe8+, Black's pieces are much better
positioned for the ensuing position. Now White can scramble together something
resembling a defense.} 19. Nh4 Bh2+ 20. Kh1 Bf4 21. Be3 {White is solid for
now, but Black retains an edge from his stronger pieces and better space.} Nf6
22. d5 {?! I had dreams of Nf5-d4 from here, but that was awfully optimistic.
Nf5 immediately, looking to follow with a bishop exchange and returning the
knight to e3, avoids the ensuing loosening of the kingside.} (22. Nf5 Bc8 23.
Qd2 Bxe3 24. Nxe3 {
And Black is still better but White should be able to survive this.}) 22... Bc8
23. g4 {Pushing the g-pawn is the only way to secure the knight's escape.
White's king position is disturbingly loose now, however.} Bg5 24. Bxg5 {
A key decision, and potentially the wrong one. After Ng2, I was concerned about
the possibility of Nh7-g5 pressing on h3 and the fine knight outpost of f3,
but opening the h-file while trading off arguably White's best placed piece
feels in hindsight to be too high a price to pay for avoiding that.} hxg5 25.
Ng2 Ba6 {Adam shifts the focus of the game to the White pawns. There was
another option, however:} (25... Nxg4 26. hxg4 Rd6 {With a vicious attack.
Black looks much better here, as White's options are limited and returning
material is inevitable.}) 26. Qc2 Rc8 27. Qa4 {The only resource White has,
hoping to use d6 to escae into an ending with drawing chances.} Qb7 28. Ne3 {
White has locked down some defenses now, and may be able to escape this yet.
As far as the tournament situation went, Jerjis had found himself in a knight
ending with roughly balanced pawn structure while this game was moving through
the middlegame, with a draw looking all but inevitable, meaning that a Black
win would clinch the event, while a draw would clinch for White.} g6 {
Keeping the knight out of f5. Rc5 deserved consideration here, however,
continuing to build up the pressure on c4.} 29. Qa3 {
Qd1-d4 was a better way to reach the long diagonal.} Rc5 30. Qb2 Qe7 31. Qd4
Qd6 32. Ng2 {?! After a long defense, White starts to crack. I was worried
about Qf4-f3 as a threat, but the control of the long diagonal by White's
queen helps neutralize Black's attempts at kingside play through that avenue.
Nf1-g3 or d2 was a much better knight reposition, looking to press and capture
e4.} Rec8 33. Bxe4 {?? And this is the miscalculation that breaks White
completely. Acknowledging the mistake and returning the knight to e3 was
White's only move, although after b5 Black still has an edge.} Rxc4 34. Rxc4
Rxc4 35. Qd3 Nxe4 {Of course. I had missed that Rxe4 was impossible here owing
to Rc1+. White is completely lost, and the game sprints to a conclusion.} 36.
Kg1 Nf6 37. Qf3 Bb7 38. Ne3 Rc5 39. h4 Bxd5 40. Nxd5 Rxd5 41. h5 Qf4 42. Re8+
Nxe8 43. Qxd5 Qxg4+ 44. Kf1 Qh3+ 45. Ke1 Qe6+ {
And I resigned, as Adam became the 2022 Nova Scotia Open Champion!} 0-1
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