Leningrad Players: What’s with them?
Maybe they are just masochistic. They get such bad positions in the opening! Here is GM Onischuk (2736 USCF!) creating for himself a dreadful position right out of the gate then somehow winning a miniature. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Hughes, Tylor 2293 – Onischuk, Alexander 2736
US Championship, Round 2 Leningrad Dutch, Bad Subvariation [E81]
Young Tyler had just defeated Boris Gulko in a sharp struggle in Round 1. Gulko did not pay attention to the axiom “trade queens against a junior” and fell prey to tactics. He is going for a second upset in a row. With black’s assistance, he becomes well-positioned immediately to get it!
1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 d6 4. Nh3! g6 5. c3! An excellent sequence of moves from young Hughes. Qd1-b3 becomes intensely annoying. Antoneta Stefanova crushed Mikhail Gurevich in an analogous setup, Gibraltar 2008.
5… e5?! This move admits a bad game However, the more natural 5… Bg7 6. O-O c6 (to ward off Qb3) 7. Nd2 O-O 8. Qb3+ d5 (what else?) 9. Nf4 is a simple edge for white. Black outrates white by more than 400 points. But at this stage, if we had to guess blind, we would assign the higher-rated player the white pieces.
6. dxe5 dxe5 7. Qxd8+ White doesn’t even need this move (which 99.9% of scholastic players would play). He can play the strong 7. Qb3! (the primary idea of the setup) 7…e4 (7… c6 8. Ng5 Qe7 9. O-O h6 10. Nf3 Be6 11. c4 Bc8 12. Rd1 Nbd7 13. Nc3 Bg7 14. Nh4! is great for white; a motif well worth remembering to hit the weakened kingside pawns) 8. O-O Bg7 9. Rd1 Qe7 10. Na3 with a big edge. It’s just an embarrassment of riches for young Hughes. The text doesn’t ruin anything; see the note to white’s 9th.
7… Kxd8 8. Nd2 Bd6 9. e4?! Again, white doesn’t need this. He maintains a big edge with the simple 9. Nc4! Ke7– see next diagram.
Position after 9…Ke7 (analysis)
10. Nxd6 (or the equivalent 10. Bh6 Rd8 11. O-O-O) 10… cxd6 11. Bh6 Rd8 12. O-O-O Nc6 13. Rd2 Be6 14. Kb1 Ng4 15. Bg5+ Nf6 16. Rhd1 and black is suffering. White has the initiative and the bishop pair, what more could a player want from an opening? Back to the drawing board for Leningrad players.
9… Nc6 10. exf5 gxf5 11. Nc4 Ke7 12. Bxc6?! White could have done without this.
12…bxc6 13. f4 e4 14. Be3 Indicated was 14. Ne5 c5 15. b3 Bb7 but now black has no problems.
14… c5 15. Nxd6? Positional butchery, fixing black’s pawns. White’s moves didn’t fit together. The rest of the game is no fun at all for white.
15…cxd6 16. c4 h5 17. O-O-O? The last straw, castling into a winning attack for black. White might as well put his knight somewhere more useful with 17. Ng5 and try to tough it out with a significant disadvantage. However, black would likely win with no problems given white’s planless shuffling.
17… Ng4 17… Be6 also wins quite easily. Onischuk must have been totally shocked at this incredibly rapid reversal of fortunes. Might he try this setup again? I would like to see that.
18. Bd2 Be6 19. Bc3 Rhb8 20. b3 a5 21. Rd2 a4 22. Rb2 axb3 23. Rxb3 Bxc4 24. Rxb8 Rxb8 25. a4 d5 0-1
It seems unjust that white should lose so quickly from such a great move order in the opening. On the other hand, if we believe in chess underlying logic, we can just say that white’s play was completely disjointed after receiving such a great edge on move 6.
The Next Time
The next time this variation appears on the board, I want someone to repeat Hughes’ crafty setup and get things done!
In Other Round 2 News
In the what-the-hell-is-this category, we have Sevillano-Lawton. Play this game over for some good ol-timey wincing including a “what?” result. And to what can we attribute Shabalov’s 2nd consecutive loss? Perhaps someone is hexing him. Old Fox Joel Benjamin somehow benefited from a Krush Kollapse (TM) and Gulko also went down to an improbable second defeat. Hess’s win over Becerra was enjoyable but Christiansen seems off-form so far. Someone from the Old Guard needs to step up.
In Unrelated News
It’s over 100 degrees in Tucson, AZ currently in the daytimes. I found this package outside.