The Thrill of the Simul: my Experience Drawing a GM at a Simul Event

 Louis Lima  7/3/2006  5 comments 

In 2002 I flew to Reno to play my very first large tournament ever. It was the “20th Annual Western State Open”. The main reason I participated in this event was because one of my dreams at the time was to play in a simultaneous exhibition and be able to beat or draw the GM. The tournament offered the opportunity to play a clock simul against IM John Donaldson, and a non-clock simul against GM Andy Soltis. At the time I had a rating of 1540 with the US Chess Federation.

Mr. Donaldson played the Maroczy Bind against my Sicilian and was strangled in less than 30 moves. Unfazed by my loss, I faced GM Andy Soltis the next evening. I am very proud of this game not only because I was able to obtain a draw, but because I was able to find the right defensive moves and noticed all of his tactical threats. It was also one of the first times I planned a series of moves based on a specific idea (trapping his rook along the h-file).

Sicilian Defense

Sozin System

GM Andy Soltis
Louis Lima (1540)

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. Nge2 Nc6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Nf6 6. Bc4 g6?!

I used to enjoy playing the Dragon and was trying, perhaps a little too hard, to steer the game along those channels.

7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. e5

The first threat of the game. At the time I thought I had blundered and lost the game with 6... g6 remembering the trap 8... dxe5 9. Bxf7 Kxf7 10. Qxd8 which some players have fallen for, including two 2100 rated players according to my chess database! Now I know that the 6... g6 line is playable. Emanuel Lasker who “fell” for this trap (According to T.Harding in the “Sicilian Sozin”) was able to draw against Carl Schelecter at the 10th World Chess Championship. Bobby Fischer once finished off a player at a simul in 1964 after 8... Nd7?! 9. exd6 exd6 10. 0-0 d5 11. Nxd5! Nc5 (11... cxd5 12. Qxd5 threatening mate on f7 and the undefended rook on a8) 12. Qd4 cxd5 13. Bb5+ Bd7 14. Bxd7+ Qxd7 15. Qxh8 f5 16. Re1+ Ne6 17. Qf6 1-0.

8... Ng4 9. e6 It took me some horrifying seconds to find 9... f5, simultaneously protecting the f pawn and the Knight on g4. I should have seen all this before playing 8... Ng4. 10. 0–0 Bg7 11. h3 Nf6 12. Re1 0-0 13. Bf4

Threatening 14. Bxd6 exd6 15. e7+ discovery check winning the Queen or 14. Bxd6 Qxd6 15. Qxd6 Qxd6 16. e7+ winning the Rook and d pawn for the Bishop.

13... Ne8

13... d5!? was an interesting alternative. For instance, if 14. Bb3 then 14... Ne4 and perhaps play against White’s overextended e pawn. I was mistakenly concerned about the weakening of the h1-a8 diagonal which I thought could also prevent me from making use of the b file with my rook later on. White, however, had very different plans on the part of the board that mattered.

14. Qd2 Kh8

This move gets me away from the x-ray attack by the Bishop on b3, as White could renew the discovery threat after Rad1. My main purpose for this move, however, was to begin building pressure on the e pawn by moves like Rf6, Ng7, and Qg8 in conjunction with the Bishop on c8. This piece arrangement also allowed me to get the Queen’s help in staving mate along the h-file a few moves later.

15. Bh6 Bxh6 16. Qxh6 Ng7 17. Rad1 Rf6 18. Rd4 Bxe6 19. Rh4 Qg8 20. Bxe6 Rxe6 21. Rxe6 Nxe6 (21... Qxe6?? 22. Qxh7#) 22. Qe3

White’s e pawn has fallen and his Kingside attack came up short. Now White has to waste time extricating his pieces off the h-file to more useful positions. 22. Qe3 seems an effective move. It ties up my Queen to the defense of the Knight while keeping a vigil on the weak f pawn. Another plan for White could have been to shift the Rook over to the queenside and contest the b file.

Here I began a long think and remember having to pass twice when Mr.Soltis came by my board, which he graciously accepted. I wanted to trap his Rook and was calculating ways of achieving this.

22... f4 23. Qe4 h5!?

Sacrificing a pawn in order to gain time to prevent any escape squares for the Rook, and to begin preparing g5 and Qc7. The move is not so obvious to find, as one usually does not push the pawn cover of one’s King when a Rook is directly behind it!

24. Qxc6?!

After 24. Ne2 Rf8 25. Nxf4 Rxf4 26. Rxf4 Nxf4 27. Qxf4 Qe6 White gets his pawn back but with a slightly better pawn configuration of two islands versus three of mine. The Queens being on the board though, seem to make this a very drawish position.

24... Rc8

My plan to trap the Rook involved placing the Queen on c7 to defend the h pawn after g5. Thus, I did not want to leave the Rook undefended. Perhaps a better temporizing move would have been 24... Rb8!? Attacking the queenside pawns. If 25. g3 then c3 would be weak.

25. Qe4 Qf7 26. Ne2?!

26. Nd5 seems to accomplish the same goal of pressuring the f pawn, while being placed on a more active position.

26... g5–+ 27. Rxh5+ Qxh5 28. Qxe6 Rxc2 29. Nc3 Rc1+?!

Here I missed an opportunity to force White into a more defensive position by 29... Qh4 30. Nd1 Rc1 31. Qe2, and now have a variety of moves to choose from such as 31... Qh7 threatening 32... Qb1, or 31... g4 (32. Qxg4?? Qxg4 33. hxg4 losing the Knight).

30. Kh2 g4 31. Qxe7 gxh3?!

Here I had the chance to swap off the Queens after 31... g3+ 32. fxg3 fxg3+ 33. Kxg3 Qe5+ 34. Qxe5+ dxe5 35. Nd5 but was unsure about the resulting material imbalance.

32. Qf6+ Kg8 33. Qe6+ Kh8

Later on after the game I found a way to make some headway. After 33... Qf7 34. Qc8+ Kg7 35. gxh3 Qg6 36. Qb7+ Kh6 was another possibility that I missed.

34. Qf6+= Kg8


Mr. Soltis made his made his last move and offered me a draw, which I accepted when he returned to my board. The tournament would begin the next morning, but I had already gotten my draw against one of my favorite chess authors, and that is all that counted then.


 nasmichael 7/10/2006 

Wonderfully done! Thank you for documenting the experience. Adds to the chess culture.

 amyrigo 8/12/2006

nice. excellent report and very instructive.

 Philip 9/2/2006 

Impressive and thorough. I like this article thank you again.

 deadlyduck 1/20/2007

On your 31st move, could you try playing f3 instead of gxh3? If it is playable ( and doesn't allow a perpetual check) this looks like a difficult move to have to face in time pressure.

 Games Freak 2/26/2007 

Very very nice. I loved it. I'm sure you put up more of a challenge than me lol.
Nice of you to document your experiences Louis


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