Richard Sutton 1938 - 2009


Problem: Black to play and mate in 3.

Otago and New Zealand lost a fine player when Richard Sutton passed away last month. Richard was greatly respected within the New Zealand Chess fraternity, not just for his strength, but for his sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct. A FIDE Master, New Zealand Master, US Master and life member of the Otago Chess Club, Richard had many more chess acomplishments behind him. He was one the first generation of domestic players to rise up and challenge the dominance of Estonian-born emigre, the great Ortvin Sarapu. Richard won his first New Zealand Championship in Christchurch in 1963 (equal first with Sarapu) and won two more national titles in 1971 and 72, as well as the New Zealand Correspondence Championship in 1970. He represented New Zealand at the 1966 Zonal tournament in Auckland (narrowly missing out on the IM title) and 1972 Chess Olympiad in Skopje, Yugolslavia.

Richard's playing style could be described as dashing. He preferred classical openings, combining a sound theoretical knowledge with a preference for attack. Many of his games have appeared in this column over the years and it would be an impossible task to select just one that does justice to his skill as a player. So today's game is one previously unpublished from 2004 when Richard had a surge in results to earn the FIDE Master title. The game was played in the final round of the South Island Championship in Dunedin, with Richard needing a win against a worthy opponent in NZ Master Tony Dowden. Richard's incisive victory with the black pieces to win the second of his two SI championship titles shows not only the retention of his skill late in life, but the mark of a true champion: The ability to play well when it mattered.

1. e4 c5
2. Nc3 d6
3. g3 Nc6
4. Bg2 g6
5. d3 Bg7
6. Be3 Rb8
The Closed Sicilian can be very tricky for Black if he commits his kingside too early, becoming the target of a dangerous attack. So Black makes early preparations for his queenside counterplay.
7. Nge2 Nd4
8. Nc1?! ---
White is confused by his opponent's move order and plays for a set-up that might be seen after say 8 O-O e6 9 Qd2 Ne7 10 Nc1 O-O 11 Nd1 b6 12 c3 Ndc6 13 Bh6 d5 14 Bxg7 Kxg7 etc. Sutton is alert and switches to a line where the knight's absence from the kingside is missed.
8. --- Nf6!
9. h3 O-O
10. Qd2 e5
11. f4?! ---
Misplaced aggression. White should castle and play to evict the d4 knight by 12 Nd1 followed by c3. Black now takes over the initiative.
11. --- Nh5!
12. Bf2 ---
If 12 N1e2 to defend the g-pawn then 12 ... Nxe2 13 Nxe2 exf4 14 gxf4 Bxb2 winning a pawn.
12. --- exf4
13. gxf4 f5!
Another possibilty was to win a rook and two pawns for two pieces with 13... Nxf4! 14 Qxf4 Nxc2+ 15 Kd2 Nxa1, but Richard is understandably reluctant to give up his marauding knights with White's king starting to look homeless! Black immobilises, undermines and rounds up the weak f4 pawn.
14. Nd5 fxe4
15. dxe4 Be6
16. c3 Bxd5
17. exd5 Nxf4
18. cxd4 ---
Finally ridding himself of the powerfully placed knight. But it is too late to save his broken postion.
18. --- Nxg2+
19. Kd1 Qf6!
White resigns as he must lose more material to Black's queen invasion: The attacked bishop has no good square (20 Be3 Qf3+) and if either 20 Rf1 Qf3+ 21 Qe2 Bxd4! 22 Qxf3 Rxf3 23 Ke2 Rbf8 24 Nd3 c4! wins the bishop or 20 Nd3 Qf3+ 21 Kc2 Rbe8 and the threat of 22 ... Re2 wins at least the exchange. Richard had more spectacular games appear in this column, but in this one he made winning with Black in under 20 moves look almost easy.

Solution: 1 ... Rf2+!! 2 Qxf2 (2 Kg1 Qf3! and 3... Qg2# or Qh1#) Qh5+ 3 Kg1 Qh1#.