I was looking for some revenge here because my opponent had won our only previous encounter. When an opportunity arose for an interesting knight sacrifice, it didn't take me long to make the big decision. Because Black could have resigned on move 25 I have decided to call this game a miniature, even though it went slightly over the limit!
Scoones,D - Neufahrt,G
Labour Day Open, Victoria 1989
English Opening A10
1.c4 g6 2.Nc3 Bg7 3.g3 c6 4.Bg2 d6 5.d4 Nd7 6.e3 f5?!
This is not the best reaction to White's restrained system of development. It is unlikely that Black will successfully challenge White on the central light squares and there are even fewer prospects of getting in an effective break with ...f5-f4. Preferable was 6...Ngf6.
7.Nge2 e5 8.b3 Ne7 9.a4?!
An unnecessary precaution. Today I would play an immediate 9.Ba3 and now: a) 9...exd4 10.exd4 Nf6 11.0-0 0-0 12.Re1; or b) 9...Nf6 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.Qxd8+ Kxd8 12.Rd1+ Ke8 13.Bd6; with advantage to White in both cases.
Rather ambitious since White is well-placed to attack Black's pawn centre. It was better to castle first and decide on a plan later.
Black meets the attack on his advanced e-pawn by building up his pawn centre. There were two other approaches: a) ignoring the attack and seeking active play with 10...0–0 11.fxe4 fxe4 12.Nxe4 d5, but after 13.Nf2 there might not be enough compensation for the pawn; b) exchanging on f3 and giving White a backward e-pawn with 10...exf3 11.Bxf3 Nf6, but this allows White to retain an edge after 12.0–0 0–0 13.Qd3 Qc7 14.Ba3 Bd7 15.b4. The move in the game is best, if only because it is the most consistent.
11.cxd5 cxd5 12.Ba3 Nf6 13.Nf4!?
With this move White threatens to win the d-pawn with 14.Bxe7 – unless Black is willing to displace his king. Neufahrt decides to call White's bluff. But who is bluffing whom?
After 14.Bxe7 Kxe7! 15.Nfe2 Kf7 Black's king position is a minor inconvenience that is more than compensated by his strong pawn centre. But White's true intention was the move in the game, offering the sacrifice of a piece for interesting play.
Black is not forced to accept the offer. Playable is 14...fxe4 15.Nh5 0-0 16.0-0 Be6, although White can perhaps maintain some initiative with 17.Nb5. In view of what happens in the game, this was what Black should have played. But Neufahrt is never one to back down from a challenge!
In making this sacrifice I did not calculate all of the variations to the end. It was enough to see that in the major lines White must have sufficient compensation for the piece. Add to this the multitude of threats and the practical difficulties imposed by the clock and it was clear that Black's defensive task would be a difficult one.
This would be the best move if Black had already castled. In that case the exchange on e4 would not be a good idea for White because of the weakened light squares around his king. It was better to play 15...Ng4, when there are two main variations: a) 16.exf4 Ne3 (stronger than 16...Be6 17.Qd3 0–0 18.h3 Nh6 19.Bxe7 Qxe7 20.Bxd5 etc.) 17.Qh5+ Ng6 18.Kf2 Nxg2 19.Kxg2 a6 20.Rac1; b) 16.Bxe7 Qxe7 17.Nxd5 Qf7 18.exf4 Be6 19.Qd3 0–0 20.Nc3 Bxb3 21.h3 Nh6 22.Rb1 Bc4 23.Qe3 Rab8 24.Kf2. In both cases White has good compensation for the sacrificed piece.
16.Bxe4 fxe4 17.Qh5+ Ng6
Exchanging queens with 17...Kf8 18.gxf4 Qe8 19.Qxe8+ Kxe8 does not bring Black any happiness after 20.Bxe7 Kxe7 21.Nxd5+ Kd8 22.Rc1 Bf5 23.Rg1 Bf8 24.Rg5.
If 18...Qa5 19.Rc1 Bd7 20.0–0 Bc6 then 21.Bc5 Bf8 22.b4 Qd8 23.Bxf8 Rxf8 24.f5 with a winning position for White.
Black is ahead in material and under some pressure so it's very natural to want to exchange pieces. But a defender's tactical operations must be accurate and this one is nothing of the kind. A better try was 19...Qg4 20.Nd6+ Kd8 21.Qxg4 Bxg4 and now White can keep the advantage with 22.h3! (stronger than 22.Nxb7+) 22...Bf3 23.Rh2!
Black must have overlooked this retort. The pawn cannot be captured because of Nb5-c7+, winning the queen.
20...Qd8 21.Bxf8 Kxf8
No better was 21...Rxf8 22.f5 and along with his other advantages White recovers the sacrificed piece.
22.f5 a6 23.fxg6 axb5 24.0–0+ Kg8
Or 24...Ke7 25.Rf7+ Kd6 26.Rc1, slamming all the doors on the Black king.
25.g7! Kxg7 26.Rf7+ 1–0
This loss must have dented my opponent's morale because I won all the rest of our encounters. As Larsen once wrote, some games bring more than one point!