The Classic 00s 2005: Battles in the Sonoran Desert

Note to reader: if you’re looking for the E. Vicary analysis insanity it is here.  Also, the most recently edited historical article:  The Manhattan Chess Club Memoirs.

The Ye Olde Pueblo in Tucson Arizona always attracts its share of feisty desert battlers. And warm it is in July in Tucson.

Mark Ginsburg – Leo Martinez Alekhine’s Defense, 5…c6

This game features a little-known sideline in the Alekhine’s Defense that has a definite right to exist.

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. Be2 c6!? Worth close study.


6. O-O A very popular try here is 6. Ng5!? Bf5 (Black might want to prefer 6… Bxe2 7. Qxe2 dxe5 8. dxe5 e6 9. O-O Nd7 10. c4 Ne7 11. Nc3 h6 12. Nf3 Qc7 13. Re1 O-O-O! 14. b4 g5 15. Bb2 Ng6 16. Ne4 g4! and black won the opening discussion in Markzon,G (2267)-Szmetan,J (2408)/Buenos Aires 2003/CBM 097) 7. Bd3 Bxd3 8. Qxd3 h6 9. Nf3 e6 10. O-O dxe5 11. dxe5 Nd7 12. Rd1 Qc7 13. c4 N5b6 14. Qe2 g5 15. h3 Bg7 16. Re1 Nc8 17. b3 Ne7 18. Ba3 c5 19. Nc3 a6 20. Ne4 O-O 21. Bb2 Ng6 22. Nf6+! Bxf6 23. exf6 Qf4 24. Rad1 Rad8 25. Nh2! Kh7 26. Ng4 e5 27. Rd5! and white was on his famous opponent like a pitbull on a poodle, and went on to win in Book – Reshevsky, Kemeri 1937. Finally, there are advocates of the more sedate plan 6. c4!? Nc7 (or 6…Nb6) 7. exd6 to steer play in a different direction.

6… Bxf3! The point. Black saddles white with a weak e5-pawn and hopes to prove the bishop pair are not very worthy.

7. Bxf3 dxe5 8. dxe5 e6 9. Qe2 Nd7 10. b3 The more active 10. c4 Ne7 11. Bg4 Qc7 12. f4 O-O-O 13. Be3 does not give anything at all in view of 13…g5!! TN and black is slightly better! In an old game, black actually preferred 13…Nf5? 14. Bxf5 exf5 and was worse in Gligoric-Vidmar, Novi Sad, 1945. Vidmar actually won that game after a grotesque Gliga blunder at a moment where white was winning but that’s moot in this article. Also possible is 10. Re1 Qc7 (10…Bc5!? is interesting here) 11. g3 Bc5 12. Nd2 O-O (The riskier 12…O-O-O is also playable) 13. Bg2 a5 14. Nf3 (14. c4 Ne7 and black is fine) 14…b5 15. Qe4 (15. a4 b4 looks OK for black) 15… Rfb8 16. Bd2 a4 17. h4 b4 18. Rad1 Qb6 19. Re2 Nf8 20. Bh3 Rd8 21. Rc1 and the players agreed to a draw, Leko,P -Onischuk,A Wijk aan Zee 1995. Note that black is better in the final position after, for example, 21…a3 2. b3 Ra7 with the idea of doubling on the d-file. White has no compensating attack.

10… Qc7 The more active 10…Bc5!? 11. Bb2 Nf4 12. Qe4 Qg5 13. Kh1 Ng6 gives black a fine game.

11. Bb2 Nf4 12. Qe4 Ng6 13. Re1 a5 Here black can play 13… Rd8 14. a3 Bc5 15. Bh5 O-O 16. b4 Qb6 17. Rf1 Be7 with an acceptable position.

14. a3 Rd8 15. b4 Qb6?! Unnatural. Better is 15… Be7.

16. Bc3 axb4 16…Be7 17. bxa5 Qc7 is only a little better for white.

17. axb4


17…c5?? A losing blunder. Black overlooked white’s reply. He had to play 17… Be7.

18. b5! Qxb5 19. Na3! The knight gains ideal squares with gain of tempo.

19…Qc6 Everything is hopeless. For example, 19…Qb6 20. Reb1 Qc6 21. Qe1 Qa4 22. Nb5 Qxc2 23. Be4 winning the queen.

20. Qxc6 bxc6 21. Bxc6 Nf4 22. Nb5 White’s pieces flood in and black is forced to lose heavy material.

22…Rc8 23. Bb7 Rb8 24. Ra7 Nd5 25. Bc6 Rd8 26. Ba5


Conclusion: despite the result, this variation is worth more careful study, as it represents a very solid way of playing for black!

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