SOLOMON Kenneth (2339)
ABDELNABBI Imed (2484)

Africa Individual (9)
Abuja, 2003

This was the last round of the African Individual Championships and also the last game to finish on the top four boards. The result of this game would determine the candidate for the FIDE World Knockout championships. My opponent lead me by half a point and just needed a draw. I could never be satisfied with a draw as I needed a full point in order to qualify. Besides as a youngster I was trained never to take short draws. Psychologically, this was no easy task. I laid in bed nervously tossing and turning unable to fall asleep. It was the fear of defeat that kept me up all night. Even so, through all the stress I was in the mood to fight and give it my best.

1. d4 e6 2. c4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 Be7 5. Bg5 O-O 6. e3 h6 7. Bh4 b6 8. Bd3! In my opinion this is the best way for white to pose black problems in the QGD. 8... Bb7 9. O-O Nbd7 10. Qe2 c5 11. Bg3 cxd4 12. exd4 dxc4 13. Bxc4 Nh5 14. Rad1?! Better was 14. d5! Nxg3 15. hxg3! (During the game I considered 15. fxg3?! with tactical ideas related to black's f7-point. I then looked at 15... exd5 16. Nxd5 Bc5+ 17. Kh1 and white is better but I rejected d5 due to a feeling that I might be missing something concrete. In fact the paradoxical 16...Re8! condemns 17.fg. Black's rook leaves the defence of the f7-point to confront the white Queen! Note that the f7-point is immune from any attack from the bishop and rook due to the fact that both white knights are impeding them.) 15... Bc5 (15... Re8 16. Rad1 and there's no discovered check.) 16. Rad1 with the advantage to white. 14... Nxg3 15. fxg3 Going against the laws of positional chess but the decision was purely psychological. 15... Nf6 16. Ne5 Nd5? Tactical oversights often occur when one is mentally drained. After all, we played the 11-round team event which was a 25-minute rapid event, then the 9-round blitz which started the previous day and ended the morning before this game. Plus this was the ninth round of a 90-minute game. Correct was 16... Bb4 with advantage to black. 17. Nxf7 Qd7 18. Ne5 Qe8 19. Bb5?! Like Fritz I'm always tempted to win material. Best was 19. Qe4! Rd8 20. Bd3 when my opponent would soon have to resign. After releasing the bishop on b5 I realized that a tough battle will be the consequences of my mistake. 19... Qd8 20. Nc6 As a result of my mistake on move 19, I had to consume a lot of time and energy on this obvious move. I had foreseen the coming endgame, and evaluated that white had winning chances, but it was the presence of opposite-coloured bishops that caused the hesitation! 20... Bxc6 21. Qxe6+ Kh8 22. Bxc6 Nxc3 23. bxc3 Rc8 24. Rxf8+ Qxf8 25. Rf1 Bf6 26. Kh1 The text move loses a tempo. Better was 26. h4! 26... Qg8 27. Re1 Qxe6 28. Rxe6 Kg8 29. h4!

Clearing the way for the King to manuever into the battlefield later via h2-h3-g4 etc., but the exclamation mark is for the restriction of the enemy bishop! 29... Kf7 30. Bd5 Kf8 31. Re3 b5 32. Be6 Rc7 33. Bb3! b4?

My opponent thought for awhile before making this mistake. While he was thinking the move 33... a5 worried me. It turns out that white is clearly winning after 34. a4! For example, 34... bxa4 (34... b4 35. cxb4 axb4 36. d5 Rc3 37. Rf3! followed by Kh2-h3-g4-h5 etc. ()) 35. Bxa4 Re7 36. Rd3 (36. Rxe7 Kxe7 37. Kg1 Ke6 38. Bb3+! Kf5 39. Bd5) 36... Re1+ 37. Kh2 Ra1 38. Bb5 a4 39. Re3 Kf7 (39... a3 40. Re8+ Kf7 41. Ra8) 40. Be8+ Kf8 41. Bg6 Be7 42. d5! Rd1 43. Rf3+ Bf6 (43... Kg8 44. Rf7) 44. c4 Best was 33... a6 with a passive but stubborn defense. 34. cxb4 Bxd4 35. Rd3?! Time pressure. Correct was 35. Re4 Bf6 36. Bc4 35... Be5 36. Kh2 Ke7 37. Kh3 Rc3 38. Rf3 Kd6 39. Rxc3? 39. b5 Kc5 40. a4 Kb4 and now only 41. Rxc3 39... Bxc3 40. b5 Be1 41. Kg4 Bf2 42. Kf4 Be1 43. Bc4 Kc5 44. Bd3 Kb6? 44... Kb4 draws easily but here we were both in time trouble. 45. Kg4! At this stage most of the players and spectators were watching the game and whispered to one another draw. After playing the text I was convinced that I was going to win. 45... Bf2 46. a4 Be1 47. Kh3 Ka5 48. Bc2 Kb4 49. g4 Kc5?? Last mistake. 49... g5 draws. 50. g5 hxg5 51. h5!

51... Kd6 If 51... Bc3 52. Kg4 Bf6 53. Kf5 Kd6 54. h6 wins. 52. Kg4 Bd2 53. Kf5 Ke7 54. g4 Bf4 55. a5 Bc7 56. b6 axb6 57. a6 Bb8 58. Ba4! Whith the threat of Bb5, Kxg5, Kf5, g5, h6 followed by manuevering the King to b7. 58... b5 59. Bxb5 Ba7 60. Kxg5 Kf8 61. Bc4 Bd4 62. Kg6 There were many to congratualate me after the game, but the biggest surprise I ever got was being told I am an International Master! 1-0 [Solomon K.]

Game(s) in PGN