ch20out-harts-nws The diagram position was reached after Black's 26th move in the game Collinson-Martin in Sunday's round of the Smith & Williamson Young Masters. The most natural move for White is 27. Rfe1, supporting the knight on e4, and thinking of a later attack on the isolated e-pawn, but it allows the rooks to be forked by Nc2. Trying the same idea with the other rook also fails: 27. Rae1 Bb5 traps the rook on f1. Another desirable move, 27. f3 is also impossible, because it opens the diagonal allowing a fatal discovered check from the knight.
White played 27. Rac1, putting the rook on an open file and guarding c2 to prepare Rfe1. All very nice, but it abandons the defence of a3 and also leaves the rook vulnerable to a check on e2. After 27 . . . Qa6] White was in trouble. Apart from Qxa3, the threat is 28 . . . Bxe4 29. Nxe4 Ne2+, which rules out 28. Rc3. Understandably reluctant to play Ra1, White continued 28. Nd6? Re6 29. Ndf5 when Black won with an attractive combination: 29 . . . Rxf5] 30. Nxf5 Ne2+ 31. Kh1 Bxg2+] and White resigned, since 32. Kxg2 Nf4+ wins his queen.
So how should White play? With the knight on e4 neighing for support, 27. Kh1 is tempting, to get the king off the diagonal, but Nc2 is embarrassing since 28. Ra2 loses to Bxe4. Equally, 27. Nc5 runs into trouble against 27 . . . Nc2 28. Ra2 Nxa3 29. Rxa3 Qxb4. In view of all this, White must consider 27. Qd1, planning to meet Rd8 with Kh1, which may be the best answer to a tricky positional problem.