Thanks to the efforts of GM Hikaru Nakamura, the English Opening Mikenas Attack 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4!? has experienced a Renaissance. I experimented with this opening in the 1980s and it’s a refreshing change of pace. Here is an example from the National Open Las Vegas 2005 tournament.
IM M. Ginsburg – FM I. Somogyi (HUN)
1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4 d5 The other main line is 3…c5 4. e5 Ng8 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. d4 cxd4 7. Nxd4 Nxe5, a complicated pawn sac. We will deal with this gambit in a separate installment.
4. e5 d4 5. exf6 dxc3 6. bxc3 Qxf6 7. Nf3 c5 8. Bd3!
This is the key paradoxical move (bishops don’t normally block center pawns) that Nakamura used to score a quick win over GM Pablo Zarnicki, HB Global Challenge 2005. In that game, black had played 7…e5 but the idea is the same after 7….c5 or 7….e5. White won in only 22 moves (Zarnicki responded 7….e5 8. Bd3! 8…Bg4 but could not solve his problems). Not knowing this plan, previously I played 7. d4?! and GM Petr Kiriakov quickly reached a =+ position with 7…e5! and I had to battle to draw, Las Vegas 2005.
I like GM Igor Stohl’s books. In his book 50 Instructive Chess Masterpieces, Igor speaks about moves that are too soft. 8. d4 is one of those soft moves that poses no problems and gives black easy development. 8. Bd3 is not soft! White doesn’t show his hand very quickly and even better, has a definite plan to improve his chances (post the Bishop on e4, then play d2-d4).
8…Nc6 9. O-O Bd6 10. Be4 Bd7 11. d4 (Only now d2-d4 happens, after the bishop positioned beautifully in the middle on the e4 square). 11…Qe7 12. Rb1 Rb8 13. Re1 b6 14. Bg5 14. d5 immediately is also strong.
14…f6 15. d5 Nd8 16. dxe6 Nxe6 17. Be3 Rd8 18. Nh4 g6 19. Bh6 Kf7 White’s advantage assumes very serious proportions.
20. Nf5! Crushing, obvious, but nice. 20…gxf5 21. Qh5+ Kg8 22. Bd5 Black is caught in a fatal pin and his king is in a box. 22…Qf7 23. Qxf5 Re8 24. Re4 Black can resign barring one last miracle. Note that 24. Qg4+ also wins even faster: 24…Qg6 25. Rxe6! and black must resign.
24…Qg6 Nothing else to try.
Now white has the simplest of wins. Do you see it?
25. Rg4?? The miracle happens! 25. Rxe6! forces instant resignation thanks to 25…Qxf5 26. Rxe8 double check and mate! This elementary tactic was evidently not on white’s agenda as he apparently was focused on winning the black queen, which in this position was the worst thing to do. The moral of the story is never let up on your concentration even when the position looks like anything wins. Finish the opponent off and give no chances!
25…Kf7! How incredibly embarrassing! Black connects his rooks, wins back material, and is OK now. 26. Rxg6 hxg6 27. Qh3 Bf4 White didn’t want this!
28. Bxf4 Rxh3 29. gxh3 Kxg7 30. Bg3 Ng5 31. h4 Ne4 32. Rc1 Nxg3 33. hxg3 Re2 Black has fully equalized and only has to navigate a few minor obstacles now…
34. Ra1 Rc2 35. a4 Rxc3 36. a5 Posing the last problem. 36…b5?? Black commits a horrible blunder and white will wind up winning after all! 36…Bg4 maintained equality.
37. Re1! Black must now lose a key pawn! 37…Kf8 38. cxb5 Bxb5 39. Re6! Kg7 40. Re7+ Kh6 41. Rxa7 Ra3 42. g4! Keeping black’s king in the box (for the second time this game!). White now easily wins.
42…Ra4 43. f3 Bc4 44. Bxc4 Rxc4 45. Rf7 Rf4 46. g5+ The final touch. If 46…Kh5 47. Rh7 mate, or 46…fxg5 and white reaches a K & P ending and queens his remote pawn. Black resigns. 1-0
White was very fortunate that his major gaffe on move 25 did not throw away the win.