The Fabulous 00s: WGM Hou Yifan’s 8th Move Offends me to the Very Core of My Chess Being and Hanken foists some nonsense on CL Readers

Hou Yifan Offends and Wins

Corus “B” Wijk aan Zee 2009 [Round “12”] WGM Hou Yifan” (2571) – Vallejo Pons (2702)

Watch what young WGM Hou Yifan does in this game.  I could not believe it when I replayed it on ICC.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 g6 5. e5 Ng4 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. h3 Nh6 8. g4?

OMFG.  What a horrible move.  She gives up her light square bishop then opens up the d5-h1 diagonal to create a “fake bind” against the black knight on h6.  I wasn’t there, but Pons may have glanced at her with a pitying “you’re a beginner” look.  Pawns-don’t-move-backward.  The last time I saw a hideous lunge like this was the “fugly” Caro varation discussed in a prior post. The fact, as a commentator pointed out, that the move has scored well in Megabase 2008 means very little – it’s still incredibly unaesthetic.

So Fugly

So Fugly

Position after 8. g4? : Is Corus “B” a beginner’s sandbox? Then the game proceeded incomprehensibly (giving the false appearance of a smooth and logical white victory) which seems to have “tricked” newspaper columnists Peters and Kavalek by the Siren’s Song of the Final Result (a typical bias in the rushed day to day life of the newspaper writer).

8…Bg7 9. d3 f5 10. exf6 exf6 11. Qe2+ Kf7 12. Be3 Re8 13. O-O-O Kg8 14. d4 cxd4 15. Nxd4 Qc7 16. Rhe1 Nf7 17. Qc4 Qh2 18. Nce2 Qxh3 19. Nf4 Qxg4 20. Rg1 Qd7 21. Nde6 Qe7 22. Nxg7 Kxg7 23. Nh5+ Kh8 24. Bc5 Qe6 25. Rge1 Qxe1 26. Qxf7 Qxd1+ 27. Kxd1 Bg4+ 28. Kd2 Rad8+ 29. Kc3 Bxh5 30. Bd4 Rxd4 31. Qxe8+ 1-0 and the 2700-rated Pons had suffered a humiliating defeat.

My reaction at first when I played this continuation over is that Pons must have missed many ways to get a good game.  This was validated with Rybka 3 and indeed, Rybka found some really amazing resources for black.

Quiz for the readers:  how should black play after white’s 8th?  To help answer the question, what does 8. g4 do wrong?  Verbalizing the answer helps construct the responses.

1) It helps the player with the bishop pair try to open the game later with pawn breaks such as f6 or f5, or h5 after the N on h6 moves.  In addition, when the black king is safe and he breaks with f6, after white takes on f6, he can break again with f6-f5!  After the second break, black’s knight finds a great home on f7 attacking and defending.

Black only needs to be mindful to do this when his king has been secured (Pons forgot that).

2) It does not develop. Let’s now see the various ways black can react – by preserving dynamic potential and not letting his kingside pieces get hemmed in the “fake bind” of P/g4.  It’s a position where time is important, so black should try to do things with gain of time in order to wrest the initiative – a big factor with the latent power of the bishop pair.

And of course, king safety is a consideration – for both sides.   The “executive summary” is that black must try to expose the complex of weak squares that g2-g4 created. We start with the game moves 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 g6 5. e5 Ng4 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. h3 Nh6 8. g4? – I’m sorry, this move is just a lemon.

A.   8…Bg7 Safe and sound.  Pons played this. Let’s consider this last.

B.  8…Ng8!? Challenging.    Black dispenses with Bg7 and will hit right away with h7-h5 and we get some very unusual positions. Let’s see some sample lines. 8… Ng8 9. d3 h5 10. Rg1? (pretty much forced is 10. g5 Be6 11. Be3 Qd7 and now, e.g.,  12. Bxc5 Bxh3 13. Qe2 Bg4 and this is a position of “mutual ugliness” – for example, 14. Qe3 Bg7 15. d4 b6 16. Ba3 O-O-O and black is OK; there are other lines but black always has nice posts for his QB) 10… hxg4 11. hxg4 Nh6 12. g5 Nf5 and black has a great game.

C  8… c4!? Also very interesting.   Black dissolves his doubled pawns and retains the bishop pair for the time being. 8….c4!? 9. Qe2 Be6 10. Ng5 Going to nullify the bishop pair.  This sortie, moving a developed piece twice, fizzles out to equality. Note in passing Rybka 3 shows a truly amazing resource on the plausible 10. b3  cxb3 11. axb3 Bg7 12. d4 Ng8 13. Be3 h5 14. g5 Qd7 15. h4 Bg4 16. Rg1 Rh7!!  A fantastic, inhuman Rybka move 17. Rg3 e6 18. Ne4 Ne7 19. Nd6+ Kd8

kd8_sac

Position after 19…Kd8 (analysis).  Rybka steered for this position (!!). 20. Nxf7+ Kc7 21. Nd6 Nf5 22. Nxf5 Bxf5 23. Kf1 Bf8 24. c4 Rf7 and black has juicy  compensation – an incredible line where black connived to leave white with useless pieces by suckering the active knight deep to f7 where it was then exchanged.  Did anyone expect the mysterious R on h7 to get so active? It could only do so by luring the WN to f7 to win a pawn.  A fantastic and original conception.

Going back to the move 10. Ng5, 10… Qd4! gums up the works. 11. Nxe6 fxe6 12. Qe4 O-O-O 13. Qxd4 Rxd4 14. d3 cxd3 15. Be3 Rd7 16. cxd3 Nf7 17. d4 c5 18. Rc1 cxd4 19. Nb5+ Kb8 20. Bxd4 (On 20. Nxd4 black has the cool 20…Bh6!  totally equalizing.  For example, 21. Nxe6 (21. Bxh6? Rxd4 22. Be3 Ra4  and black is on top) 21… Bxe3 22. fxe3 Nxe5 and it’s equal) 20… b6 and again this is equal.

Let’s go back to (A), 8…Bg7, as played by Pons.  Nothing wrong with this.  It develops and prepares castling. 9. d3 f5?!  Pons played this but there was no rush.  He could have simply castled with a fine game.  Once his king is safe, he can break with no qualms and black will being work against white’s weak squares. For example, 9… O-O 10. Be3 f6!  and it’s surprisingly safe to “lose” the c5 pawn.  White is way behind in development. In fact, this line is very easy to find and I’m surprised Pons did not do it.

f6_sac

Position after 9…f6! – not even a sacrifice.

A1.  11. Bxc5 fxe5 and black cannot complain.

A2.  11. exf6 exf6 12. Bxc5?!  Prima facie, very risky.   (12. Qd2 Nf7 13. O-O-O Qa5 14. Kb1 f5 15. gxf5 Bxf5 16. Nd5 Qd8 17. Nc3 b6 and black is fine, or 12. O-O f5 13. g5 Nf7 14. Bxc5 Re8 15. h4 Qa5 16. Bd4 Bxd4 17. Nxd4 Qb4 18. Nce2 c5! and black is doing well) 12… Re8+ 13. Be3 f5! 14. g5 f4 15. gxh6 Bxh6 and black is on top) The above sample lines give a rich idea of black’s resources.

Even in the game Pons was fully OK until later. Going back to the Pons game, his miscue was not fatal. After 10. exf6 exf6 11. Qe2+ Kf7 12. Be3 Re8 13. O-O-O Kg8 14. d4  he made a more serious misstep with 14…cxd4? opening the game at the wrong moment.  He had the rather simple 14… f5! 15. dxc5 Qe7!  with excellent play.  After, for example, 16. g5 Nf7 17. Qe1 (17. Rhe1??  Bxc3! 18. bxc3 f4 ooops!) 17… Ne5 18. Nxe5 Bxe5 and black has great activity.

Returning the the Pons game, 15. Nxd4 Qc7 16. Rhe1 Nf7 17. Qc4 Qh2 18. Nce2 Qxh3 19. Nf4 Qxg4 20. Rg1 Qd7 21. Nde6 Qe7?  Here is where he missed his last chance.  He had  21… b5!? hoping white will follow the tactical course in the game. After the tactical shot 21…b5!?, if 22. Qc3 b4 23. Qc4? (wrongly following the actual game’s tactics; 23. Qxb4! is correct with a white plus) 23… Qe7 24. Nxg7 Kxg7 25. Nh5+ Kh8 26. Bc5 Qe6 27. Rge1 Qxe1 and now if white plays as in the game, 28. Qxf7??  backfires horribly and gets White mated to 28… Qxd1+ 29. Kxd1 Bg4+ 30. Kd2 Rad8+ and the pawn on b4 plays a key part hemming in the white king.  So white would have to play 28. Rxe1 with a complex struggle.  After this missed final chance, Pons did indeed go down the drain.

Chess Life Editor Asleep at the Switch: Hanken allowed to write chess comments unedited and CL Suffers!

Jerry Hanken annotations cannot be passed through to the readership unedited!  In a recent February 2009 CL, Hanken “annotates” a main line Dragon.  But he goes horribly awry, puzzled over the main line move.    This would be bad analysis in even a state magazine; I hate to be the bearer of really sickening news, but here is what he wrote, incredibly enough, on page 29 of the 2/09 CL.

Sevillano – Khachiyan  American Open 2008 Dragon MAINLINE – BUT VIRGIN TERRITORY FOR HANKEN

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cd 4. N:d4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 Nc6 8. Qd2 O-O 9. O-O-O d5 10. exd5 Nxd5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 This position has occurred in thousands of master games. Yet Hanken acts like he’s never seen it before. Sevillano played the normal and strong move 12. Bd4!.  Hanken, led astray by the RESULT of the game (a common blunder by would-be commentators, but CL desparately needs better), says “White’s move here is hard to understand.   He yields one tempo for what?” What an incredibly bad comment.  White, obviously, is shutting down the h8-a1 diagonal after the game continuation 12…e5 13. Bc5.  As master games have shown, white scores better than 50% from here, keeping the diagonal shut and black’s counterplay on the queenside, in most cases, is insufficient.  Check, for example, Friedel – Harper, Foxwoods ’08.  And many other games. White is not yielding a tempo.  He makes black block the diagonal, then repositions the bishop.    It is normal, strong, and postionally motivated.  A brief glance by any master would “reveal” this elementary conclusion. Someone MUST supervise Hanken’s comments or else there is no hope for CL.

Conclusion:  CL Editor, you must check Hanken’s chess notes and pass them off to a competent second set of eyeballs!  The net effect, as it stands, is that CL continues to be a laughingstock in the chess world.  It used to be different with Gligoric and Benko and Kavalek writing lengthy, thoughtful, articles.  Reclaim chess accuracy in the notes!

If you agree, I would think a letter to the CL Editor is in order.  Changes need to happen.

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7 Responses to “The Fabulous 00s: WGM Hou Yifan’s 8th Move Offends me to the Very Core of My Chess Being and Hanken foists some nonsense on CL Readers”

  1. Richard Reich Says:

    Strangely, there are over 40 games with g4 in Megabase 2008, with a plus score for white.

    Oooh. This will be extra instructive!

  2. Richard Reich Says:

    Jack Peters annotates this game in the February 8, 2009 LA Times.
    No mention of the ugliness of g4.

    Hou herself annotates the game in New In Chess Magazine – no mention of the obvious drawbacks of g2-g4.
    Pons reaction was so second-rate I am surprised nobody objected.

  3. Scourge Says:

    Black needs to be thinking “control the center” and “light squares”.

    8…Be6 9.d3 Bg7 10. Ne4 0-0 11.Be3 (11.Nxc5? Qa5+) 12.Qe2 f5 and it’s the kind of equality where White can be ill at ease.

    I don’t think that 8.g4 deserves “??” though. It’s clearly got a nice dose of poison.

    Here are the two themes.

    A) With the black king secure, f6 will force exf6 gxf6. Then black will immediately play f5 forcing g5, after which f7 is a beautiful landing spot for the knight.

    B) Another way to go is the immediate Ng8 which, after h5, will again force g5. This will give permanent nice spots for black’s queen bishop and the game becomes very sharp.

  4. Richard Reich Says:

    Jack Peters annotates this game in the February 8, 2009 LA Times.
    No mention of the ugliness of g4. Ditto for Kavalek in the Washington Post 2/2/9.

    Newspaper columnists don’t have much time to write. In addition, the result of the game often leads to a not very close examination of the early proceedings. Still, 8. g4? is very ugly. I would expect positional specialists such as, e.g. Aronian, Leko, Anand to recoil in error from this unforced weakening.
    Curiously, the stronger in defense the player the more likely, I think, they will find 8. g4? repellent.

    There are two good ways for black to play. Stay tuned.

    More to the point, are you, Dear Reader, offended? 🙂

  5. Otis Says:

    RE: the Dragon…

    Was the reference game intended to be Friedel-Harper Foxwoods ’08?

    Right. I think white is just better. These days, black is seeking other ways.

  6. gopal Says:

    Finally somebody says what needs to be said about hanken. He is truly an atrocious writer and I don’t even know why cl lets this [perjorative term replaced by ‘buffoon’] contribute…

    In the 1970s, Burt Hochberg was the editor. Every issue had thought provoking articles by world-class authors. For example, GM Svetozar Gligoric’s game of the month presented current and valuable theory. At some point, Chess Life apparently made the decision to cut corners and it went downhill. We now have GM Lev Alburt, a player with decades of experience and lessons he should be able to impart to the readership, authoring articles with a value approaching nil. We can reverse this but we need a can-do, active, editor.. Simply screen the writing and edit it for chess content. And re-think the column mix to bring back the instructive value.

  7. Leon Shernoff Says:

    Dude,
    she did it again! — both the early h3-g4 thing, and beating a 2600 player. Must be a 2600 thing…

    http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=7137

    The move order is different now. Play over the Pons game from the original post and pay attention to black’s nice missed resource 8…c4!
    In general, g4 lunges usually backfire because “every Russian schoolboy” knows pawns don’t go backward. However these two players were Chinese.
    General comment: it doesn’t matter what a person’s rating is to analyze a given position. Specific comment: the move order in the new game makes a little more sense for white. Didactic exercise: turn the board around and find an early big black improvement! I’ll post that soon.

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