The Fabulous 10s: The Thing from Two Centuries Ago

Vienna Space Oddity

Hikaru Nakamura laid down what apparently was a fantastic bluff vs Alexander Onischuk in Round 4 of the US Chess Championship in St. Louis.   A bluff in the sense that Onischuk could have forced a favorable ending as black!  Let’s see how.

[Event “US Chess Championship”]
[Site “St. Louis”]
[Date “2010.05.17”]
[Round “4”]
[White “GM_Nakamura”]
[Black “GM_Onischuk”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[WhiteElo “2733”]
[BlackElo “2687”]
[Opening “Vienna gambit”]
[ECO “C29”]
[NIC “VG.03”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. f4 d5 4. exd5(?) Wow!  This just looks bad after black’s response.  In the past, white has tried 4. fxe5 Nxe4 5. Qf3!? which looks pretty silly but actually contains some venom.  There is no reason to suspect Onischuk would not be prepared for that try, though.  However, it’s a legitimate try while this… is not.🙂

4. exd5 - Revolting!

4…Nxd5 5. fxe5 Having said “A” white must say this “B” since 5. Nxd5, although played by many old-timers in European pastry cafes, is just horrible.

5…Nxc3 6. bxc3 Qh4+ This is a “winning attempt” for white?

7. Ke2 Bg4+! The cowardly 7…Qe4+? to regain the pawn is inferior.  Most players, even not particularly aggressive ones, will prefer the text which is quite a bit stronger.

8. Nf3 Nc6 9. Qe1! White is too smart to play the weak 9. d4? as occurred in Hamppe-Steinitz, 1859!   Black castled long in that game and won.  He could also play Be7 and castle short.  In either event, f7-f6 will pry open roads to the white king!

9…Qh5 ! Playable is the strange switch 9…Bxf3+!? 10. gxf3 Qa4! but black goes the more natural attacking route.

10. Kd1 Good for a laugh.  This was occurring on the top board of the US Championship!

Black to play and get the better side of a draw

10…Nxe5? A very strange black stumble.  The reason we won’t see this line anymore is 10…Bxf3+ 11. gxf3 Qxf3+ 12. Be2 Qd5! and 13. d4?? is unplayable due to the elementary 13…Nxd4.  But if d4 is not playable, white has problems!  Black retains a comfortable plus.  Let’s go a little further.   12…Qd5! 13. Rf1 (best) O-O-O! 14. Bf3 Qxe5 15. Bxc6 (what else?) Qxe1+ 16. Kxe1 bxc6 17. Rxf7 Bd6 and it’s not easy for white.  His pieces except for the lone rook intruder are totally undeveloped.  Black is better in that ending.   I think any of the old masters would have played this way without hesitation (choose from Emanuel Lasker, Botvinnik, Capablanca, Alekhine, Rubenstein).  Onischuk’s game move is bizarre and not good.

11. Be2! Suddenly white is completely OK  even with chances to get an edge if black is not careful!

11…O-O-O?! 11…Bd6 was playable and a bit stronger also but black is no better than equal in any line.

12. Nxe5 Bxe2+ 13. Qxe2 Qxe2+ 14. Kxe2 Re8 15. d4 f6 16. Be3 fxe5 17. d5! Apparently IM Shirazi won a game like this in the past with white… if Shirazi played it, it’s unsound!  (see note to black’s 10th move).

17…Bd6 18. c4 b6 19. a4 Rhf8 20. a5 Kd7 21. Kd3(?!) To play for a win, white had to try 21. Reb1 with the idea of 21…e4 22. axb6 axb6 23. Ra7!.

21…Rf6 22. Rhf1 e4+ 23. Ke2 Bxh2 24. Rxf6 gxf6 25. Rh1 Bd6 26. Rxh7+ Re7 27. Rh8 Rg7 28. Kf1 Bc5 29. axb6 axb6 30. Bxc5 {Game drawn} 1/2-1/2

Well, what can we say?  Onischuk played aggressively then switched to less aggressively and made a draw.  If he had played the best way on move 10 it would be white struggling.  A successful bluff to gain a half-point with even chances for more (see note to white 21st move)!

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