Decline the Blumenfeld!
I have seen quite a few Blumenfelds recently and some of them worked quite well (Molner’s win as black vs Shankland, actually winning a brilliancy prize game at the Copper State International, Mesa, 2010) but I must conclude that white does very well DECLINING this particular gambit. ACCEPTING gives black a central preponderance with some not-so-vague attacking chances (see Alekhine’s famous win over Tarrasch, Bad Pistyan 1922) and DECLINING, in most cases, just gives black an ugly structure and white easy development, to boot! An easy call! I am surprised people accept these days because declining is so good. I will be the first to admit that black SHOULD have insufficient compensation for the pawn if white accepts, but practically speaking I enjoy the structures that come out the recommended declining lines we see in this article.
Let’s see the powerful DECLINING. 🙂
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 b5?! If chess were this simple…. 🙂
5. Bg5! The ueber-powerful DECLINING. 🙂 Now we follow, for a while, the very convincing treatment of GM Kaidanov vs. GM Ray Robson, US Championship, St. Louis, 2010. Perplexingly, Kaidanov went wrong at the very moment of victory and only drew. A lucky escape for young Robson.
This position is already bad for black. I first suspected this fact when a Blumenfeld theme tournament was run in Holland (alluded to in a GM Hans Ree’s article in New in Chess) and black encountered very heavy weather in the complex of variations following 5. Bg5!.
Declining in order to win the game is not only a clever psychological ploy; it also follows the French proverb, “Reculer pour mieux avancer!” (retreat for a better attack!). Conversely, declining gives black ZERO attacking chances and white EXCELLENT chances for a major positional pull. Enough said!
5…Qa5+ This move is tricky, but no more than that. Black’s choices are limited, though. I probably don’t need to convince you too much that 5…h6? is outright weak and 5….d6 also leads to a white advantage. Let me know if you don’t know why. Do you have any other black moves you would like to try? It won’t help, white is convincingly better in all lines. The text move should get black in a lot of trouble.
See the comments section for the turgid try (has the practical effect of limiting white’s advantage, though) 5…b4.
6. Nc3! Very strong, and a move unjustly ignored by most theoretical works. Other interposition moves are weaker. Now white has a clear edge in all lines. Very surprisingly, though, Kaidanov goes wrong ON THE VERY NEXT MOVE ruining his powerful 6th.
6…Ne4? Yuck. Robson played this lemon violating the well-known precept against moving pieces twice in the opening. Doubly bad because this horse is really the only minor piece out there so far. 6…b4 is objectively stronger, but I don’t need to try too hard to convince you that black’s position is not good after the obvious 7. Bxf6 gxf6 8. Ne4. Let me know if you think black is all right there and I will give you a few more lines.
7. Bd2? No!!!! Arghhh! GM Kaidanov plays a shocking lemon in return ruining, for the most part, his fantastic position.
The bust to 6…Ne4? is the easy (and worse, known from theory) 7. cxb5!
Black is much worse in all lines. I would expect any GM to win handily. The variations are clear:
7. cxb5! Nxg5 (very instructive is the bust to even weaker 7… Bb7? which is 8. dxe6 fxe6 9. Bd2 Nxd2 10. Nxd2 d5 11. e4! and it’s totally lost for black as in Borovikov,V (2472)-Sharapov,E (2387)/Sevastopol 2000) 8. Nxg5 Be7 9. Qd2 and white has a big plus.
Or, 7. cxb5! Nxc3 8. bxc3 Qxc3+ 9. Bd2 Qf6 10. e4 and white, again, has a big plus and should win. I will let the reader work out the powerful reply to the lame Benko-like move 7. cxb5 a6?! here. Warning: in a prior game, white went wrong after 7. cxb5 a6 but as a clue, white has a big, big improvement right away (if you find that prior game, which might put you off course a little bit).
Here is the prior game: 7. cxb5! a6?! 8. Bd2! (only now!) Nxd2 (forced) 9. Nxd2! axb5 (nothing better) and now… what’s the right move?
In the prior game, the careless 10. e4? was played. Unfortunately after 10. e4? c4! black has equal chances. Replace the tenth move lemon with something stronger, readers. Do you see it? It results in a big white edge. This is the final link in the chain proving 5. Bg5! is strong!
The Divergence 5. Bg5! d6!?
White, of course, can play 6. dxe6 and look forward to an edge. However, also interesting is 6. cxb5!?.
There might follow 6…Qa5+ (What else? 6…exd5? 7. Bxf6 is terrible for black; 6…h6 7. Bxf6 Qxf6 8. Nc3 is a solid white edge, and the lame “Benko move” 6…a6? is outright weak due to 7. e4! Be7 8. Nc3 with a big white plus) 7. Bd2 Qxb5 8. Nc3 (with white gaining so much time on black’s queen he must be better) 8…Qb7 (relatively speaking the best placement for black’s queen which is not a good advertisement for his position; of course 8…Qxb2?? fails to 9. Rb1 followed by Nb5 and white wins) 9. e4 exd5 10. exd5 Be7 (note that 10…Nxd5? 11. Qa4+ Nd7 12. Nxd5 Qxd5 13. Bb5+ loses for black. 11. Bb5+ Bd7 12. Bc4 and white is better.
For reader enjoyment, let me take one of these lines further:
5…d6 6. cxb5! a6? 7. e4! Be7 8. Nc3 exd5 9. Bxf6! (hyper-accurate!) 9…Bxf6 10. Qxd5 Ra7 11. e5! (a surprising unusual breakthrough!) 11…dxe5 (11…Be6 12. Qxd6 wins for white) 12. Qxc5 Rc7 (12…Rd7 13. Be2 wins) 13. Qe3 (or 13. Qb4 which is also quite good) 13…O-O 14. Rd1 and black is in very bad shape.
Dark days for the Blumenfeld, indeed!
Reader comments welcome.