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James O'Fee at the Williamson Shield

James O'Fee at the Williamson Shield

James O'Fee returned to competitive chess after a break of about 10 years, when playing in the Ulster Intermediate Championship (which he had won in 1987) a couple of months ago. Both in that tournament and in his League games for Bangor, he felt he was very rusty. However, in the Williamson Shield he showed that he is rapidly getting back to his old form. Below he describes his tournament.

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Lowry O'Reilly,H - O'Fee,J [E00] Williamson Shield Belfast (Round 1), 25.01.2003
[Notes by James O'Fee]


1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Bg5 A favourite with Hannah from the Trompowsky stable - she repeated this opening in later rounds. 3...h6 4.Bh4 c5 5.e3 Qa5+?! 6.Qd2 Qxd2+ With the Queens off, at least Black's coming Kingside pawn weaknesses will be more difficult to exploit. 7.Nxd2 g5 8.Bg3 cxd4 9.exd4 Nc6 10.Ngf3 d5 11.c5!? Hannah makes a bold choice. 11...Bg7 12.Nb3 Ne4 13.Be5 Nxe5 14.Nxe5 Bd7 15.f3 Nf6 16.Rc1 Rc8 17.Bd3 Bc6


Hannah has the better of the opening and Black is struggling for equality. 18.h4 Nd7 19.Nxc6 Rxc6 20.Ke2 e5! The thematic break. 21.dxe5 Bxe5 22.Rc2 Re6 23.Kf1 Ke7 24.Kf2 Kf6 25.g3 Kg7 26.hxg5 hxg5 27.Rxh8 Kxh8 White has the better pawn structure, better King position, and a possible outside passed pawn - but she should not overlook the potential of Black's isolated central pawn. 28.Re2 Rh6 29.Kg2 Bf6 30.Re8+ Kg7 31.Ra8 Bxb2 32.Rxa7 Ne5 33.Bb5 Rf6 34.Rxb7 d4 35.Na5 White's pieces are now clustered on the Queenside to force c6, while Black's gather in the centre. 35.Nd2 was probably better. 35...Rxf3 36.c6 Rc3 37.c7 Rc2+ 38.Kf1 d3 39.Ba4 Rc1+ 40.Kg2 Bd4 Black's pieces have now assumed threatening central or attacking posts. White may already be lost, despite the pawn on the 7th rank. 41.g4 d2


42.Rb4 Rg1+ 43.Kh2 If White had played 43.Kh3 she would have managed to queen her pawn, but mate would still have followed through 43...Bf2 44.c8Q Rg3+ 45.Kh2 Nf3+ 46.Kh1 Rg1# 43...Nf3+ 44.Kh3 Bf2 Mate comes through 46. any Rg3. 0-1

O'Fee,J - Holmes,M [D26] Williamson Shield Belfast (Round 2), 25.01.2003
[Notes by James O'Fee]


1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c5 5.e3 e6 6.Bxc4 a6 7.a4 cxd4 8.exd4 Be7 9.0-0 0-0 10.d5 If I had been playing a different opponent, I'd have kept this card up my sleeve for a while and played a strengthening move. As played, the move has the merit of opening the diagonal a2-g8 for my Bishop. Times 0.13 - 0.12 (Time control Game/90) 10...exd5 11.Nxd5 Nxd5 12.Bxd5 Nc6 13.h3 A move Kasparov likes in similar positions, although it loses time. 13...Bf6 14.Bb3 Qc7 Times 0.26 - 0.25. 15.Qc2 With an awkward pin on the knight. 15...g6 Defends against 16.Ng5, and with the threat of 16...Bf5, but I get my retaliation in first. 16.Bh6 Bf5 Times 0.28 - 0.28. 17.Qc5


The Knight pin is still there. Any move by the threatened Black Rook, say to c8 and Black's weakness on f7 begins to throb. 17...Bxb2 A pawn disappears in the cause of attack. Naturally White will sacrifice a Rook for the black-squared Bishop, in order to deliver mate, e.g. 17...Rfc8 18.Rac1 Bxb2 19.Rc3 Bxc3 20.Qxc3 and mate on g7 will follow. Michael thinks for 12 minutes before taking the proferred pawn. Times 0.36 - 0.40. 18.Rac1 Bg7 19.Bxg7 Kxg7 20.Ng5? Folly! 20.Qc3+ Kg8 21.Qf6 Rad8 22.Qb2 and White has a clear advantage. 20...h6 21.Qc3+ Qe5 22.Nf3 Qxc3 23.Rxc3 Times 0.45 - 0.53 23...Rad8 24.Re1 Rfe8 25.Rce3 Rxe3 26.Rxe3 Kf6 27.g4 Times 0.52 - 0.57. 27...Be6 28.Bc2 Nd4 29.Be4 b6 30.Bd3 a5 White has succeeded in his plan of immobilising the Black Queenside majority. 31.Kg2 Nxf3 32.Kxf3 Rd4 33.Bb5 Ke7 34.Rc3 Bd5+ 35.Kg3 Rb4 Threatening 36...Bb3 winning the a4-pawn. 36.h4 Rb3 Black hastens to exchange Rooks. White has threats on the kingside, and 36...Bb3 is met by 37.Rc7+ 37.Rxb3 Bxb3 38.g5 hxg5 39.hxg5 Kd6 40.Kf4 Bd5 41.Be8 Times 0.70 - 0.82. 41...Bc4 42.Ke4 Ke6 43.f4 Bd5+ 44.Kd4 Bg2 45.Bb5 f6 46.gxf6 Kxf6 47.Be8 Bf3 48.Bd7 Bd1 49.Kd5 Ke7 50.Bb5 Bc2 51.Kc6 Kf6 52.Kxb6 Kf5 53.Kxa5 Kxf4 Holmes was down to 3 minutes on his clock, while I had much more. I offered a draw at this point, which Michael accepted. White is no worse and the game is a dead draw. Either player can sacrifice his Bishop for the other's passed pawn. If Bishops are exchanged, the pawns queen after each other. The three players in a class above all other competitors were Tom Clarke, Stephen Scannell and Michael Holmes. This was the only game where any of the "Big Three" dropped a point, or half-point, to the lower-rated players. 1/2-1/2

O'Fee,J - O'Donnell,D [A57] Williamson Shield Belfast (Round 4), 26.01.2003
[Notes by James O'Fee]


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.a4 Qa5+ 5.Bd2 b4 6.g3 d6 7.Bg2 g6 8.e4 Nbd7 9.Qc2 Bg7 10.h3 Rb8 11.f4 0-0 12.Ne2 Qd8 13.0-0 Ba6 14.a5 Ne8 15.Be3 b3! Times 0.21 - 0.43


16.Qc1 f5 17.Nd2 fxe4 18.Nxe4 Ndf6 19.Ng5 Nc7 20.f5 Rb4 21.fxg6 h6 22.Nf7 Qe8 Times 0.33 - 0.58


23.Bxh6 Rxc4 24.Nc3 Rxf7 25.gxf7+ Qxf7 26.Bxg7 Qxg7 27.Qe3 Rxc3 28.Qxc3 Bxf1 29.Rxf1 Nfxd5 30.Qxb3 Qd4+ 31.Kh2 Kg7 32.Rd1 1-0

MacDonald,F - O'Fee,J [C05] Williamson Shield Belfast (Round 5), 26.01.2003


1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ndf3 cxd4?! An early mistake, making White's task a little easier. White can rarely capture on c5 profitably, so it is better for Black to maintain the tension as long as possible. And he is denying himself the opportunity of the advance c4, which would have been good in this variation! 8.cxd4 Qb6 9.a3!? A surprise. I wasn't familiar with this move, expecting the normal 9 g3. Now 9...c4 would be a good reply - there is an analogous position in the Advance Variation - but this possibility is no longer available. The right reply is 9...a5!, preventing White's 10th and claiming space on the queenside. 9...Be7? 10.b4! a6 11.Be3 f6 12.Bf2 0-0 13.Bd3 fxe5 14.fxe5


White enjoys a huge space advantage. Black's pieces are in a tangle and the nature of the centre reduces his mobility and ability to switch forces from one wing to the other. If Black continues routinely, he will be strangled and probably succumb to a K-side attack. I was looking for another way, a sacrificial way. White's King is in the centre, he needs a couple of moves to castle, while a Black Rook already controls the f-file. 14...Nxb4 15.axb4 Bxb4+?! Unfortunately the centre pawns are invulnerable, so it has to be the wing pawns. A piece for the a & b pawns plus preventing White from castling. The Black passed connected a- & b-pawns will be useful in the endgame, if there is an endgame. But before the endgame, God has placed the middlegame. Probably Black doesn't have enough compensation, but he has chances. And White started to use up a lot of time on the clock trying to find the best way. (Times 0.20 - 0.20) 16.Kf1 Nb8 Unfortunately, Black needs to untangle his pieces. It takes several moves before he is fully developed. Meanwhile White's kingside threats begin. 17.g3 Nc6 18.Kg2 White's King has walked to safety. 18...h6 19.Bc2 Ne7 Times 0.44 - 0.32. 20.h4 36 minutes left. 20...Bd7 21.g4 Rac8 At last Black has got his pieces out, and his Rooks control the two open files, giving him some counterplay against White's raging kingside attack. 22.Ne2 Be8 23.h5 Bb5 24.Bd3 Nc6 45 minutes left. 25.g5


The time has come. Black must do something, otherwise he succumbs to the White kingside attack. But notice how exposed the White King has become, with his pawn cover thrown recklessly forward, and notice that the Black pieces all occupy good positions. So, despite the material deficit of a piece already - 25...Rxf3 26.Kxf3 Black is now a whole Rook down, giving up the exchange for half of White's formidable pawn centre. As Fred remarked afterwards, 'You're trying to frighten me.' (White has now 10 minutes left). 26...Rf8+ David McAlister observes that the alternative 26...Nxe5+! wins brilliantly viz. 27.dxe5 (27.Kg2 Nxd3) 27...Rf8+ 28.Nf4 (28.Kg4 Qxf2 with all sorts of threats) 28...Rxf4+ 29.Kxf4 Qxf2+ 30.Qf3 hxg5+ 31.Kg4 Qd4+ 32.Kg3 Bxd3 "and White will never survive" (analysis by David McAlister); I would add to this analysis after 26...Nxe5+ 27.dxe5 (if 27.Kg2 Nxd3 Black is up in material with a continuing attack. White's Queen & 2 Rooks still remain on their home squares.) 27...Rf8+ 28.Nf4 Rxf4+ 29.Kxf4 Qxf2+ 30.Qf3 (if 30.Kg4 Qg2+ 31.Kf4 (31.Kh4 hxg5#) 31...hxg5+ 32.Ke3 Bc5#) 30...hxg5+ 31.Kg4 Qd4+ 32.Kg3 Bxd3 and in this position there is the threat of 33...Be4 winning the Queen or mating. White must move one of his rooks to e1 to cover. In either case, Black can follow up with 33.Rhe1 (or 35.Rae1) 33...Bxe1+ 34.Rxe1 Qh4+ 35.Kg2 Be4 36.Rxe4 Qxe4 37.Qxe4 dxe4 where Black is 4 pawns (!) to the good in the ending and wins easily. In fact, I considered longingly the follow-up 26...Nxe5+! but didn't see the spectacular second exchange sacrifice which wins. A lost brilliancy! 27.Kg2 Nxe5 28.Bxb5 Ng4 29.Bg1 Qxb5 The disadvantage of this capture is that it places the Black Queen on a White square, which the White Queen defends. Fred suggested 29...axb5 but that mobilises the dormant White Rook a1, giving that piece an open file. (Time remaining 0.05 - 0.34). 30.Ng3 Bd6 31.Rh4 Fred is now in blitz mode, while I have plenty of time. 31...Bxg3 32.Kxg3 e5 33.Rxg4 e4 34.Rf4 Rc8 35.gxh6 The alternative 35.Rc1 looks good. 35...Rc3+ 36.Kh4 Qd7 37.Qg4?? 37.Rg4 is winning. The move played should lose. White now had 2 minutes left. 37...Qe7+ 38.Qg5 Rh3+ 39.Kg4 Rg3+ 40.Kxg3 Having avoided taking the rook on the 39th move, I thought Fred would take the draw by repetition. 40...Qxg5+


Material is now fairly even, black has many pawns, thje white King is exposed, and Fred is very short of time. I should win. 41.Rg4 Qxh5?? A dreadful blunder, without any time pressure. 41...Qxh6 wins! 42.hxg7 Qh1 43.Rf1 1-0

O'Fee,J - Lynch,J [D31] Williamson Shield Belfast (Round 6), 26.01.2003
[Notes by James O'Fee]


1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.cxd5 exd5 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bf4 Bf5 6.Qb3?! Probably better is 6.e3 Qb6 7.Qc1 (or 7.Qb3) but I didn't want to play this rather unnatural move. 6...Qb6 7.Qxb6 axb6 8.e3 Nf6 9.Nf3 Bb4 10.Nd2 0-0 11.a3 Be7 12.Be2 Nbd7 13.h3 Rfe8 14.0-0 Bf8 15.Rfc1 h6 16.b4?! b5 17.Nb3 Times 0.25 - 0.18. 17...Bh7 18.Ra2 Ra7 19.Rca1 Rea8 20.f3 Nb6 21.Nc5 Bxc5 22.dxc5 Nc4 23.Bxc4 dxc4


White has been outplayed in the opening, and Black has a strong protected passed pawn! "A passed pawn is a criminal that must be kept under lock and key" [Nimzowitsch]. 24.Be5 Nd7 25.Bd4 Bd3 Before 26.e4 removes the possibility! 26.Kf2 Nf8 27.e4 Ne6 28.Be5 f6 29.Bd6 Nd4 30.h4 Nc2 Attacking the a3 pawn three times, while it is defended only twice, but White - although walking a tightrope - has prepared a counter. 31.Rc1! Nd4 Now if 31...Nxa3 32.Rca1 pinning the Knight - 32...Nc2 33.Rxa7 Nxa1 34.Rxa8+ wins for White; if 31...Rxa3 32.Rcxc2 Bxc2 33.Rxc2 Rb3 34.e5 Raa3 35.Ne4 fxe5 (or 35...Rxb4 36.e6) 36.Bxe5 is unclear. Black didn't like this, clearly, but nonetheless he should have gone in for these uncertainties. Now he drifts into a passive position 32.a4!


The right time. The threat is 33.a5, so Black must take on a4. He cannot apparently retake with a Rook, because of the Nc3. So b5xa4 is forced, winning a pawn. The two passed pawns a4 and c4, although they look fearsome, in reality are weak and need constant protection.


32...bxa4 33.f4! White seeks counterplay in the centre by threatening to create his own passed pawn. The immobile b7-pawn now becomes a major factor. It hinders Black communication by the Black rooks on the 7th rank, while the White Rooks can move freely along the 1st and 2nd ranks. (31 minutes left.) 33...Nb3 The Black Knight heads for an impressive-looking outpost, but only forces the White c1-Rook to a better square. 34.Re1 a3 The sixth rank! But the White Knight and Rooks are able to maintain the blockade. 35.e5 fxe5 36.fxe5 The white passed pawn emerges from the chrysalis. Black must now divert forces from the queenside to deal with the threat. 36...Re8 37.Ke3 The b3-Knight is now trapped and has no moves. The noble outpost has turned into a prison. Meanwhile Black's other pieces, the two Rooks and the Bishop, are tied to defensive duties. 37...Re6 38.Ne4 Ra8 39.g4 Kf7 40.Rf2+ Kg8 If 40...Ke8 41.Rf8+ Kd7 42.Rxa8 wins 41.Nc3 The Changing of the Guard. 41...Kh7 Black has despaired of the win and offers a draw at this point. White smiles. 42.Ra2 Kh8 43.h5 Kh7 Black is now so tied-up that he can only mark time. This part of the game reminds me of Schlechter-Janowski, Paris 1900, the first master game that my father ever showed me. (Black has 36 minutes left) 44.Ne4 Kh8 45.Rg1 White has 19 minutes left. 45...Kh7 46.Nf2 This is White's first winning try. The h5-pawn and the black King on h7 cut off retreat squares for the bishop. The idea is to exchange the White Knight for the Black Bishop and the c4-pawn. The Black Knight, deprived of the pawn that gives him support, would then fall for nothing. 46...Bc2! Black finds a counter. 47.Ne4 If 47.Rxc2 a2 and White must give up a Rook for the a-pawn. 47...Bd3 48.g5


Plan B. The g-pawn advances and tears away the pawn-screen protecting the Black King. (Time remaining 0.15 - 0.30). 48...Kh8 49.gxh6 gxh6 50.Nf6 Bf5 51.Rxa3 Rae8 The a8-Rook is overloaded. If 51...Rxa3 then 52.Rg8# 52.Nxe8 Rxe8 A positional advantage is converted into a material advantage. White is an exchange to the good, besides the attack. 53.Rf1 Be6 54.Ra7 c3 Desperation. The threat is easily dealt with. 55.Kd3 White has 8 minutes left. 55...Rg8 Threat Rg3+ with counterplay. 56.Rf8 "Suppress counterplay!" 56...c2 57.Kxc2 Nd4+ At last the Knight has escaped from his jailers, at the cost of the second passed pawn. (Black has 12 minutes left). 58.Kd3 Nb5 59.Rxb7 Rxf8 60.Bxf8 Bf5+ 61.Ke3 Nc3 62.Kf4 Bh7 63.Bxh6 Ne2+ [David McAlister's solution to the end of the game, to whom thanks.] 64.Kg4 Avoid forks! 64...Nc3 65.Bg5 Nd5 66.Bf6+ Kg8 67.Kg5 Ne3 68.Rg7+ Kh8 Or 68...Kf8 69.Rxh7 69.Rg6# 1-0 Towards the end, I had less than 5 minutes and was not recording moves fully. I hope, however, that the reconstruction is a reasonable representation of play. Earlier I was under positional pressure, fell behind on the clock, and was under some time pressure as well, so that my recording of moves was rather sloppy.

Photograph of the O'Fee - Lynch game by Damien Lavery


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