A Misadventure with the Kan

National Open, Las Vegas, NV 2007. Round 5.

IM J. Friedel – IM M. Ginsburg

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Nc3


5…Qc7 There is a school of thought that argues for the risky and provocative 5…b5!? here.

6. Bd3! By far the most dangerous line. 6. g3 Bb4 leads to a much quieter game. White’s idea is very simple: to castle, play in some order f2-f4, Bc1-d2, Qe2, Rae1, and aim for the space gaining and aggressive attacking try e4-e5. Knowing that this is fact is one of white’s ONLY ideas in this setup, black should devise a plan that defuses e4-e5.

6…Nf6 7. O-O Bc5!? Not a bad idea to drive the centralized knight away. However, keeping it there can help black in defusing the e4-e5 break! The reason being, when white plays Bc1-d2 (not guarding the N/d4), black in later positions can put a rook on the d-file. This effectively rules out e4-e5 until white repositions the knight with, e.g., Nd4-f3, but this isn’t convincing.

8. Nb3 Ba7? But this is wrong. Clearly correct is 8…Be7! helping to defend the king. This was played in the last round of the same tournament, Becerra-Serper, and black won! That game continued 9. f4 d6 10. Qf3 Nbd7 11. Bd2 b5 12. a4 (still theory) 12…b4 13. Na2 a5 14. Nd4 Bb7 15. Nb5 Qb8 and black was OK.

9. Bg5! d6 10. Bxf6! Very simple. White gets his pieces out very fast now and keeps the black king under pressure. Black has totally failed in his experiment already.

10…gxf6 11. Qg4! (Menacing 12. Qg7). 11…Ke7? A sorry move. Since it wasn’t forced, it is a blunder. Black would be better off sacking the h-pawn (assuming white wants to take it) in order to castle long and seek chances in a position with kings on opposite sides). Now it’s a one-sided game.

12. Qh4 Nc6 13. Kh1 h5 14. f4 Bd7 Black is really asking for it by his pointless play. White wastes no time in the punishment.

15. e5! dxe5 16. Ne4 Rh6 17. fxe5 Qxe5 18. Rae1 White’s play is straightforward and reminiscent of a one-sided simul game. Black has one last trick though.
18…Qxb2 I don’t see any other move.

19. c3 Rg8! This is the only thing left to try. Otherwise, white wins with a direct attack.

20. Re2 Rg4 21. Qxg4 hxg4 22. Rxb2 White probably thought he was just up a rook. However, black has some strange positional compensation with his advanced pawns, control of the a7-g1 diagonal and further creeping moves like Ne5, g3, or Bb8. And he even has two extra pawns here!

All of this was played very quickly. See the diagram for the scenario. Now black for no reason played his next quickly as well pretending everything is under control. A ridiculous decision! In a position like this, there are often hidden chances. It is time to take a big think!


What would you play as black?

22….f5? Wrong! This gives white a critical tempo to threaten a winning simplification. It is much trickier and better to invert the moves with 22…Ne5! hitting the white bishop and keeping f6-f5 in reserve. Black has several attacking ideas here and the game is not over yet. Black can make trouble with the bishop pair and especially the uncontested black-square bishop and the semi-cornered white king. One of the ideas later on is a pawn wedge with g3 and a follow-up of Ne5-g4. If white decides to put his knight on g3, then it is susceptible to Bb8 in many lines. Many a swiss system game has been rescued by a player staying alert to his chances. After the text, white keeps control by a key tempo and it really is all over.

23. Nec5 Of course. Only now did black realize that his intended 23…Ne5 is met by the obvious 24. Bxf5! giving back some material but depriving black of the all-important bishop pair. Continuing, 24. Bxf5 gxf5 25. Re2! with Nxd7 to follow wins very easily. Given this, black is properly mortified to realize he has no chances. 23…Be8 24. Re2 Bb8 25. Bxf5 Black can resign already. 25…Ne5 26. Rfe1 Kf6 27. Be4 g3 28. h3 Bb5 29. Re3 Ng4 I have no idea why I was still playing here. 30. Rf3+ Kg7 31. Bxb7 and black finally, mercifully, resigned.


A sad end to black’s attacking dreams. In a later installment, we’ll look at much more solid structures to deal with white’s attacking setup (Nc3, Bd3).

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