Archive for the ‘Chess Opening Theory’ Category

The Fabulous 10s: Learning Tactics via ICC Blitz

June 19, 2011

Here are three very interesting 5 minute games I contested recently on ICC.

Use them as tactical training devices.

Game 1.

Impitoyable (Unforgiven) vs Aries2  Game/5  Keres Attack

Here’s more information about the Frenchman Impitoyable from his ICC finger notes:

Information about Impitoyable (Last disconnected Sun Jun 19 2011 15:10):

              rating [need] win  loss  draw total   best
Wild            2206  [1]   645   143    31   819   2301 (03-Jan-2011)
Loser’s         2037  [4]  1360   529    55  1944   2232 (10-Jul-2008)
Bughouse        1915  [6]    23    15     0    38   2011 (30-Nov-2006)
Crazyhouse      2244  [6]   863   307     0  1170   2307 (16-Feb-2008)
Bullet          2516  [8]  1229   543    83  1855   2706 (27-May-2008)
Blitz           3091  [8]   750   459   133  1342   3175 (29-Sep-2009)
Standard        2657  [6]   184    29    12   225   2682 (19-Nov-2010)
5-minute        2614       1237   445   181  1863   2726 (14-Oct-2009)
1-minute        2570  [8]  1493   945   121  2559   2570 (27-Jun-2010)
15-minute       2475         89     5     2    96   2475 (19-Jun-2011)
3-minute        2356        433   183    56   672   2519 (17-Apr-2011)
45-minute       1692  [4]     1     0     0     1                      
Chess960        2093        457   130    31   618   2213 (14-Jul-2010)

 1: “Impitoyable” : french title for the film “Unforgiven”, by and with C.
  Eastwood (and G. Hackman, R. Harris, M. Freeman …) ; but “impitoyable”
  means rather “pityless” or “mercyless” ; I will nevertheless accept takebacks
  for obvious mouseslips and ask for them … only in that case of course.
 2: International Master since 1996 ; maths teacher since 2001.
 3: Can you queen your f-pawn as early as move 18 playing black ? See my
  liblist, game Index 4 !
 4: You may improve your play in knights endings by analysing my defeat versus
  Vidocq, game numbre 16.
 5: You don’t get a chance each day to play as Morphy did at the Sevilla Opera.
  Egor Geroev-2 had this chance, see my  lybrary game number 18 (after 15 …
  Qxb5 16 Nc7+! ; Rxc7 17 Rd8 it’s exactly the same mate !)

He has a very good score against me overall.  I was looking to improve my statistics by following an obscure recommendation of Kasparov and Nikitin versus the popular Keres Attack.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. g4 Nc6 7. g5 Nd7 8. Be3 Be7 9. h4 O-O 10. Qd2

Often times white likes to put his queen out on the aggressive h5 square.  Then, black can follow the same plan as in the game!

10…Nxd4  Part of a sequence that gives black freedom of movement.

11. Qxd4 e5 12. Qd1 Nb6!?

The interesting proposal of Kasparov and Nikitin from an ancient book on the Scheveningen.   White can opt to eat this horse with Be3xb6 to gain control of d5 but that move is definitely not on most attacking players’ radar screens.  They just want to give mate.

13. g6?!  This has to be too soon.

13…hxg6 14. h5 g5 15. Qf3 g4 16. Qg3 Be6 17. O-O-O Rc8 18. Be2 Rxc3! 19. bxc3

Black to play. Who's winning?

19…d5 20. Bxg4 Ba3+ 21. Kd2 Nc4+ 22. Ke2 Nxe3 23. fxe3 Qc8 24. Rhg1 Qxc3 25. Bxe6 Qxc2+ 26. Rd2 Qc4+ 27. Kd1 Qa4+ 28. Rc2 {Black resigns} 1-0

Why do I award black’s 18th move an exclamation point and then go on to lose in short order?  That’s the puzzle for you – identify the beautiful missed black win!  Immediately after the game I had the feeling I had blown a promising position but I didn’t know how promising until I checked with Rybka 4.  Embarrassing, black was totally winning!

Game 2

Let’s follow this embarrassing blown win with another embarrassing blown win, shall we?  This time we are dominating and crushing Logofet.

Some more information about Logofet:

Information about Logofet (Last disconnected Sun Jun 19 2011 12:08):

              rating [need] win  loss  draw total   best
Crazyhouse      1798  [6]     0     2     0     2                      
Bullet          2252  [8]   155   203    30   388   2433 (30-Jan-2006)
Blitz           2749       1404  1703   342  3449   3022 (21-Mar-2008)
Standard        2637  [6]     4     2     0     6                      
5-minute        2588       2563  1459   410  4432   2624 (30-Mar-2009)
1-minute        2250       4538  3640   525  8703   2508 (21-Aug-2009)
15-minute       1953  [4]     3     0     0     3                      
3-minute        1873  [8]     1     0     0     1         

I seem to remember that Logofet is GM Alex Lenderman.  Let’s see the game.

1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 b6 3. Nc3 Bb7 4. e4 d6 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Nf6 7. Bd3 e6 8.
O-O Be7 9. Qe2 Nbd7 10. b3 O-O 11. Bb2

I love this attacking set up vs. the Hedgehog.  GM Nunn extolled its virtues way back in the early 1980s in a Philips & Drew tournament book.

I always show campers a forced win I missed vs GM Yudasin as well as a one-sided win over Teddy Coleman in the exact same line.  White’s pieces are all supremely active and pointed at black’s king.

Nc5 12. Bc2 Rc8 13. Rad1 Qc7 14. f4 a6 15. Rf3! g6 16. Rh3 Rfe8

It’s time to act and roll up Logofet.

17. e5! dxe5 18. fxe5 Nfd7 19. b4! Qxe5

19...Qxe5 Black's last gasp, or is it?

A forced sacrifice.  Dismal, but true.   Now I go nuts and hand my hand on a silver platter.

20. bxc5 Bxc5 21. Qxe5 Nxe5 22. Ne4 Nxc4 23. Nf6+ Kf8 24. Ba1 Red8 25. Rf1 Rxd4 26.
Bxd4 Bxd4+ 27. Kh1 Bxf6 28. Rxf6 Kg7 29. Rf2 Bd5 {White forfeits on time}

Challenge for the readers – point out the several wins I missed.  As a bonus, point out the easiest and most crushing of all the missed wins.

Game 3

Lest we get the impression I am always blowing winning positions, here is one where a nice tactic emerged and I also got the point.

FM Drunkenight – IM Aries2   Benoni

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 g6 4. d4 Bg7 5. e4 O-O 6. Be2 c5 7. O-O Bg4 8. d5 a6 9. Be3 Nbd7 10. Nd2 Bxe2 11. Qxe2 Qc7 12. Kh1 Rae8 13. f4 e6

This basic setup with a-rook on e8 I got from some obscure Spassky games dating back to the 1960s.

14. Rae1 exd5 15. exd5 Qb6 16. b3 Qb4 17. Ncb1 Ne4 18. Qd3 Ndf6 19. f5 Nxd2 20. Bxd2 Qb6 21. Nc3 Ng4 22. Ne4 Qd8 23. Bg5

Time to Strike

23…Rxe4!  A comprehensive refutation of white’s pin operation.

24. Bxd8 Rxe1 25. Bh4 Ne5!

Coup de Grace

This was a very pleasing move to play at the end of the combination!  A very unusual overloading where white’s queen cannot stay in touch with the rook.  Of course, White can resign now.  He played on, since it is blitz.

26. Rxe1 Nxd3 27. Re7 gxf5 28. Rxb7 Nc1 29. Rb6 Nxa2 30. Rxd6 Nb4 31. Rd7 Be5 32. Be7 Rc8 33. d6 Nc6 34. Rb7 Nxe7 35. dxe7 Re8 36. Ra7 Kg7 37. Rxa6 Rxe7 38. Rc6 Bd4 39. g3 Rb7 40. Kg2 Rxb3 41. Kh3 Rc3 42. Rc7 Rxc4 43. Rd7 Bf6 44. Rd6 Rd4
45. Rc6 c4 46. Rc7 Re4 47. Rc8 c3 48. Rc6 Re2 49. Rc5 c2 50. Rc4 Bb2
{White resigns}

Good times!  Well in Game 3.  Not in Games 1 or 2.

Shindig Chess

On June 14, an online tournament was held.  These GM players won in a five-round game/15 event:

Robert Hess 4.5
Giorgi Kacheishvili 4.5
Alex Lenderman4.5
Baadur Jobava 4.5
Bartosz Socko  4.5
There were 15 players in all.  I don’t know how the pairings were done, but guess how many of the winners I played?  1?  2?   No  3?  4?  No.
I played all the winner!  Every round, I was playing one of the above-mentioned guys!  A world record?  Never before seen in tournament play?  I think so!  Instead of dwelling on my bad result, here’s a great blitz game I played:
IM Aries2 – GM Baadur Jobava (GEO)
Mark Baadur
1 ♘f3 ♞f6
2 ♙c4 ♟g6
3 ♘c3 ♝g7
4 ♙e4 ♟d6
5 ♙d4 ♚0-0
6 ♗e2 ♞a6
7 ♔0-0 ♟e5
8 ♖e1 ♟c6
9 ♖b1 ♞c7
10 ♙d5 ♟cxd5
11 ♙cxd5 ♞h5
12 ♙g3 ♟f5
13 ♘d2 ♞f6
14 ♙f3 ♟h5
15 ♙a4 ♟h4
16 ♘c4 ♟hxg3
17 ♙hxg3 ♞h5
18 ♔g2 ♞e8
19 ♖h1 ♟f4
20 ♙g4 ♞g3
21 ♖h3 ♞f6
22 ♖xg3 ♟fxg3
23 ♔xg3 ♞e8
24 ♗e3 ♜f7
25 ♕g1 ♝f6
26 ♗xa7 ♜xa7
27 ♕xa7 ♟b5
28 ♕xf7+ ♚xf7
29 ♘xb5 ♝g5
30 ♖h1 ♚g7
31 ♙b4 ♝a6
32 ♘ba3 ♝xc4
33 ♘xc4 ♞f6
34 ♙b5 ♞d7
35 ♙a5 ♞c5
36 ♙a6 ♛b8
37 ♖a1 ♞b3
38 ♙a7 ♛h8
39 ♙a8Q ♝f4+
40 ♔f2 ♛h4+
41 ♔f1 ♛h1+
42 ♔f2 ♞xa1
43 ♘xd6 ♛h2+
44 ♔f1 ♛h3+
45 ♔f2 ♛h2+
46 ♔f1 ♛h1+
47 ♔f2 ♛h2+
48 ♔f1 ♛h3+
49 ♔f2 ♛g3+
50 ♔f1 ♛h3+
51 ♔f2 ♛g3+
52 ♔f1 ♛h3+
Time Remaining: 00:46 Time Remaining: 00:04

Draw  (this is the way Shindig outputted the game and emailed it to me).

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Recent developments:
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The Fabulous 10s: Copper State International

June 10, 2010

Copper State, Version 2!

The second installment of Danny Rensch’s Copper State International was a big success, especially for norm hunters.  The event was made possible by the generous support of John Lalonde and his Abstrax, Inc. playing site in Mesa, AZ.

Mackenzie Molner made a 2nd GM norm with a superb score of 6/9 in the “A” group round-robin and what a bunch of games he played!  In the “B” Swiss, numerous norms were made too.  All the games posted here are from the Monroi website.

GM Timur Gareev (left) watches as Mackenzie Molner shows him the last round Bartholomew-Molner game that gave Mackenzie a GM norm

Here’s Molner’s last round game, a romantic 19th century Evans Gambit!

[Site “Mesa, Arizona”]
[Date “2010.06.09”]
[Round “9”]
[White “Molner, Mackenzie”]
[Black “Bartholomew, John”]
[Result “1-0”]
[WhiteELO “2439”]
[WhiteTitle “”]
[BlackELO “2451”]
[BlackTitle “IM”]
[Source “MonRoi”]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4

GM Nigel Short did much to bring this opening back at top-level.  Kasparov has also toyed with it.

4…Bxb4 As is well known, this gambit must be accepted.  Declining gives white an edge.

5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 exd4 7.Qb3 Qe7 8.O-O Bb6 9.cxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 Bxd4 11.Nc3 Nf6 12.Bg5 c6 13.Rad1 Qe5 14.Bxf7 Kd8 15.Ne2 Bc5 16.Bf4 Qxe4 17.Qg3 Rf8 18.Nc3 Qf5 19.Rde1 d6 20.Qxg7 Nd7 21.Bg5 Kc7 22.Re7 Bd4 23.Qxf8 Qxg5 24.Ne4 Qf4 25.Qe8 Be5 26.Ng3 Kb6 27.Rxd7 Bxd7 28.Qxd7 Rf8 29.Bh5 d5 30.Qxh7 Qd2 31.Bf3 Bxg3 32.hxg3 Ka6 33.Qe7 1-0

Weirdly, earlier in the tournament Bartholomew playing black lost to Stopa in… a similar Evans.  But in that game Stopa was dead lost and only Bartholomew’s time trouble made him go wrong.

And from Round 3, a game that won Molner the brilliancy prize (this prize covered both A and B sections):

[Site “Mesa, Arizona”]
[Date “2010.06.05”]
[Round “3”]
[White “Shankland, Samuel”]
[Black “Molner, Mackenzie”]
[Result “0-1”]
[WhiteELO “2507”]
[WhiteTitle “IM”]
[BlackELO “2439”]
[BlackTitle “”]
[Source “MonRoi”]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.d5 b5?!

The Blumenfeld “enjoys” a terrible reputation theoretically.

5.dxe6 This is one of those gambits that White does not need to take. In fact, the text move gives Molner what he wants; activity.

Strong, for example, is the straightforward 5. Bg5! (long known to be a dangerous weapon) 5…Qa5+  (the turgid 5…b4 is tougher, but leads to ugly formations where white has a2-a3 at his convenience) 6. Nc3! – surprisingly strong and not the focal point of most Blumenfeld theory.

Quick Development to Challenge the Blumenfeld

Now, it’s not fun for black.  For example, the impulsive 6…Ne4? (6…b4 7. Bxf6 gxf6 8. Ne4 is an uphill struggle for black with white enjoying a nagging plus) and now 7. cxb5! as white SHOULD have played in Kaidanov versus Robson, US Ch 2010, and other games.  White is better in all lines after 7. cxb5!.  This rather little known line is quite powerful versus the Blumenfeld.  One example line: 7. cxb5 a6 8. Bd2! (always, this) 8…Nxd2 9. Nxd2 axb5 10. e3! (not 10. e4? c4=, as occurred in a prior game) 10..c4 11. Qh5! – a devastating blow.  White wins after all moves, including the tricky try 11…Ba3!? 12. dxe6 dxe6 13. Nxc4! and the smoke clears with white a clean pawn ahead.

5…fxe6 6.cxb5 a6 7.bxa6 Bxa6 8.g3 Nc6 9.Nc3 Be7 10.e4? (10. Bh3!?) 10…Qb6 11.Be2 White’s 8. g3 now does not make sense at all.

11…Bxe2 12.Qxe2 Nd4 13.Nxd4?! (13. Qd1 Nb3! 14. Rb1 and white holds) 13…cxd4 14.Nd1 Qa5?! (14…d5! 15. exd5 Bb4+! is very strong)

15.Bd2 Bb4 16.f3 O-O 17.a3 Bxd2 18.Qxd2 Qa6 19.Qxd4 d5 20.e5 Nd7 21.Kf2? White misses a great chance for an edge with 21. f4! – for example, 21. f4! Rac8 22. Ne3! Nc5 23. Rd1 and now 23…Ne4? is met by 24. Nxd5!, winning for white.

21…Rac8 22.Ne3 Nc5 23.Rae1 Nb3? A serious blunder in an otherwise snappy game.  23…Qd3! is crushing. 24. Rd1 Ne4+ 25. Kg2 Rc2+!! forces mate!

24.Qd1 Qb7 Now white is right back in the game!

25.f4? The right move, not easy to find, is 25. Rhf1!

25…d4 26.Nc2 g5! Black’s attack flares up again!

27.Nb4 gxf4 28.g4? The final miscue. 28. Rhf1 was relatively best with a small black edge.

28…d3! Now Molner is in total control.

29.Qf3 Qb6+ 30.Kg2 Nd2 31.Qxd3 Qb7+ 32.Kh3 Nf3! Winning.

33.g5 Rcd8 34.Qa6 Nxg5+ 35.Kg4 Qf3+ Forces mate after 36. Kxg5 Rf5+.  A very imperfect game but exciting and unusual.


A very creative treatment in the Blumenfeld and an impressive relentless hunt of white’s king!

More Chess

A rout by IM Pruess playing black over a strong GM!

[Site “Mesa, Arizona”]
[Date “2010.06.06”]
[Round “5”]
[White “Panchanathan, Magesh”]
[Black “Pruess, David”]
[Result “0-1”]
[WhiteELO “2549”]
[WhiteTitle “GM”]
[BlackELO “2361”]
[BlackTitle “IM”]
[Source “MonRoi”]

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 c6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Ne5 Nbd7 7.Nxc4 Qc7 8.g3 e5 9.dxe5 Nxe5 10.Bf4 Nfd7 11.Bg2 g5 12.Bxe5 Nxe5 13.Nxe5 Qxe5 14.O-O Be6 15.a5 a6 16.e4 h5 17.Nd5 O-O-O 18.f4 gxf4 19.gxf4 Qg7 20.Nb6 Kc7 21.Qe2 Bb4 22.f5 Rd2 23.Qf3 Rg8 24.Qf4 Rd6 25.Qf3 Rd3 0-1

A last round rout by Pruess over the tournament leader GM Fridman!  Fridman had been leading by a full point but this shocking defeat sent him back to a three-way tie for first.  Fridman recovered and won the blitz playoff (over GMs Kacheishvili and Kekelidze).

[Site “Mesa, Arizona”]
[Date “2010.06.09”]
[Round “9”]
[White “Pruess, David”]
[Black “Fridman, Daniel”]
[Result “1-0”]
[WhiteELO “2361”]
[WhiteTitle “IM”]
[BlackELO “2654”]
[BlackTitle “GM”]
[Source “MonRoi”]

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3 dxe4

As Pruess tells it, he wanted to see black play 3….e6 as he was in the mood to just play that closed game.  In the game, Fridman goes a much riskier route (Fridman has even written about this in magazines) but gets annihilated!    3….Qb6!? is all the rage and favored by Georgian grandmasters.  For example,  the recent game annotated in New In Chess, Nepomniatchi – Jobava saw 3…Qb6!? 4. a4!? with insanity.

4.fxe4 e5 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Bc4 Nd7 7.O-O Ngf6 8.Bg5 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 Qb6 10.Nd2 Qxd4 11.Kh1 b5 12.Bb3 Be7 13.Rad1 Qb6 14.Qf5 Rd8 15.Nf3 g6 16.Nxe5!

It’s so pleasing to land an elementary and decisive tactical blow like this versus a tough professional who competes in the top German Bundesliga!  How often does it happen?  Not often!

Rf8 17.Qf4 Nxe5 18.Qxe5 Rxd1 19.Rxd1 Ng8 20.Bxe7 Nxe7 21.Qd6 Rg8 22.Qd7 Kf8 23.Bxf7 Kxf7 24.Rf1 Kg7 25.Qxe7 Kh6 26.Rf3 1-0

Here’s a smooth effort by GM Amanov, a contender for best game prize.

[Site “Mesa, Arizona”]
[Date “2010.06.06”]
[Round “5”]
[White “Amanov, Mesgen”]
[Black “Bercys, Salvijus”]
[Result “1-0”]
[WhiteELO “2479”]
[WhiteTitle “GM”]
[BlackELO “2427”]
[BlackTitle “IM”]
[Source “MonRoi”]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2 Bb7 10.O-O Nbd7 11.Ne5 Bg7 12.Qc2 h5 13.Nxd7 Nxd7 14.Rad1 e5 15.dxe5 Qe7 16.e6 Qxe6 17.Rd6 Qe7 18.Rfd1 Nc5 19.R6d2 Be5 20.b4 cxb3 21.axb3 Bxg3 22.hxg3 a5 23.e5 Qxe5 24.Bxb5 O-O 25.Bc4 Kg7 26.Re2 Qf6 27.Re3 Ba6 28.Bxa6 Rxa6 29.Rf3 Qg6 30.Qe2!

Incredibly strong.  The rook on a6 is tied to the knight on c5; the knight cannot move, but the queen by force picks up the knight!  Black cannot defend it!

Kg8 31.Qc4 1-0

And the actual winner of the Best Game prize was this nice game by veteran IM Nikolai Andrianov, coming off a three year period of no chess!   His victim, talented young player IM Jacek Stopa, was one of the pre-event favorites by rating, but had a horrible start.  He recovered somewhat in the 2nd half.

[Site “Mesa, Arizona”]
[Date “2010.06.04”]
[Round “2”]
[White “Andrianov, Nikolai”]
[Black “Stopa, Jacek”]
[Result “1-0”]
[WhiteELO “2409”]
[WhiteTitle “IM”]
[BlackELO “2474”]
[BlackTitle “IM”]
[Source “MonRoi”]

1.Nf3 e6 2.b3 b6 3.g3 Bb7 4.Bg2 f5 5.Bb2 Nf6 6.O-O Be7 7.d4 O-O 8.c4 Qe8 9.Nc3 Ne4 10.d5 Na6 11.Nd4 Qg6 12.Nxe4 fxe4 13.dxe6 c5 14.Nf5 Qxe6 15.Nxg7 Qc6 16.Nh5 Bg5 17.h4 Be7 18.e3 Rf7 19.Qd2 h6 20.Rad1 Rd8 21.Qc3 Kh7 22.Rd5 Qe6 23.Nf4 1-0

My own play was unconvincing.  I made  solid draws as black vs GM Yermolinsky and IM Altounian but early on I had an incredible miss, one that I definitely thought about after it was over.

[Site “Mesa, Arizona”]
[Date “2010.06.04”]
[Round “2”]
[White “Ginsburg, Mark”]
[Black “Troff, Kayden”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[WhiteELO “2393”]
[WhiteTitle “IM”]
[BlackELO “2201”]
[BlackTitle “”]
[Source “MonRoi”]

1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.e3 Bg7 5.d4 cxd4 6.exd4 d6 7.d5 Ne5 8.Nxe5 Bxe5 9.Be2 Bd7?! 10.O-O Rc8?! 11.Be3 Qa5? This queenside demonstration greatly worsens black’s position, losing multiple tempi, and these are important tempi helping white with the break that he wants, c4-c5.

12.a3 Nf6? Leaving the bishop out to dry.

13.b4 Qc7 14.Rc1 a5 15.f4 White also had Nb5-d4 with a huge advantage.

Bxc3 16.Rxc3 axb4 17.axb4 h5 18.Bd4 With this forever bishop, white is winning easily.

Rg8 19.Re1 Kf8 20.Bf1 Bf5 21.Rce3 h4 Black is making rather aimless moves all over the board.  Well, he has to, he’s almost in total zugzwang already. But an important principle comes to mind:  if black has played very weakly so far (far below his published rating) he has to be good at something!  And that something in this game is resourcefulness in lost games.  Still, the position has put black well over the edge into losing territory.  White’s next elementary tactical blow requires only a small amount of accuracy.

22.Rxe7 One way to win. Another elementary win is 22. Qe2 and e7 collapses.    I am not sure why I did not look at the obvious 22. Qe2.  After 22. Qe2 black has to resign.

22…Qxe7 23.Rxe7 Kxe7 24.Qe1+ Ne4 25.Bd3

25. c5! wins.    25. c5! Rge8 26. Qxh4+ Kf8 27. cxd6 and black collapses. The text also wins.

25…Rge8 26.Qxh4+? What a bad move! The first simple miss.  26. Bxe4 Kf8 (forced) 27. Qxh4 Rxe4 28. Bf6! Ke8 and now do you see it?  I thought black’s king was running so I didn’t go for this line, but here white wins easily. The answer is the nice quiet move 27. Qh7! (I overlooked this) and the threat of Qg8+ and Qxf7 is unstoppable and wins immediately.

26…Kd7 Black takes his chance to run in another direction but this should have been hopeless.  For some reason, I started playing quickly for no reason and let him totally escape. Quite an upsetting turn of events.  From this point forward, my calculation ability was non-existent!

27.c5! Of course.  White is still winning.  So far, so good.

27…dxc5 28.Bb5+? White doesn’t understand that better is 28. bxc5! Nxc5 29. Bb5+ Kd6 30. g4! and wins. For example, 30…Bd7 31. Qf6+! (this is why white needs to get the black knight away from e4!) 31…Kc7 32. Bxc5! and wins.

28…Kd6 29.Be5+?? A terrible blunder.  If white had paused a little, there are two wins remaining.  Win 1.  29. Bxc5+ Nxc5 30. Qf6+ (this resource was never on my radar) 30…Kxd5 31. Bxe8 Rxe8 32. Qxf7+ and wins.  Win 2.   29. bxc5+ Nxc5 30. g4! and wins decisive material.

29…Rxe5 What am I doing? 30.fxe5 Kxd5 31.g4? Yet another terrible move blitzed out.  31. Qe7 keeps good winning chances.  For example, 31. Qe7 cxb4 32. Qxf7+ and white will also pick up b4 and should convert the win.

31…Be6 Now all the wins have disappeared.  What an amazing number of bad blunders to not win!

32.Qe7 cxb4 33.Bd3 Kxe5 34.Qxb4 Nd6 35.Kf2 Bc4 36.Qe1 Kd5 37.Qe3 Bxd3 38.Qxd3 Ke6 39.h4 Rc4 40.Kf3 b5 41.h5 gxh5 42.gxh5 Nf5 43.Qd8 Rh4 44.Qe8 1/2-1/2

In a later round I played another little talented kid and  played better, but only won one rating point.  That’s the problem playing little kids.

[Site “Mesa, Arizona”]
[Date “2010.06.07”]
[Round “6”]
[White “Gurevich, Daniel”]
[Black “Ginsburg, Mark”]
[Result “0-1”]
[WhiteELO “2007”]
[WhiteTitle “”]
[BlackELO “2393”]
[BlackTitle “IM”]
[Source “MonRoi”]

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.f4 a6 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.g3 d5 6.d3 Nf6 7.e5 Nd7 8.Bg2 Be7 9.O-O O-O 10.g4 b5 11.Qe1 b4 12.Ne2 f6 13.exf6 Nxf6 14.g5 Nh5 15.Qh4 g6 16.Ng3 Ng7 17.Bd2 Bd6

White never took his chance to play c2-c3 or c2-c4 in the early stages of the game, moves he needed to get chances.

18.h3 Ra7 19.Nh2 h5! Stopping the obvious threat of Nh2-g4. Now white’s king side pawns are fixed awkwardly. 20.Nf3 Raf7 21.Ne2 Nf5 22.Qf2 Qc7 23.Nh4 Nxh4 24.Qxh4 Nd4! Simple chess.  The f4 point collapses and the game.

25.Nxd4 cxd4 26.Rf2 Bxf4 27.Bxf4 Rxf4 28.Qg3 h4 29.Qh2 Qe5 30.Rxf4 Rxf4 31.Kh1 Qxg5 32.Rg1 Qf6 33.Re1 Kg7 34.Qg1 Rf2 35.Qh2 Qf4 36.Qxf4 Rxf4 37.Rc1 e5 38.c4 dxc3 39.bxc3 Bf5 40.cxb4 Rxb4 41.Bxd5 Bxd3 42.Re1 Rb1 0-1

In the fourth round, I was astounded to see this discredited opening appear:

[Site “Mesa, Arizona”]
[Date “2010.06.06”]
[Round “4”]
[White “Pruess, David”]
[Black “Ravichandran, Siddharth”]
[Result “0-1”]
[WhiteELO “2361”]
[WhiteTitle “IM”]
[BlackELO “2454”]
[BlackTitle “”]
[Source “MonRoi”]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Qb6? Amazing brinkmanship and a move I thought was unplayable!  Joel Benjamin annotated the game Hess-Lapshun in US Chess Online but both players were not familiar with that.   In the online notes, the variation is just kaput for black. Ravichandran had apparently consulted some other theory source.  Ravichandran said after the game he wanted to catch white by surprise with this.  Well, it’s a shock for sure.

White starts out responding in the best way.

6.e5! Correct and natural enough.

6…Bc5 Black blitzed this out; he has no choice.

7.Be3!? This move is not bad.   Hess found the more forcing 7. Nd4-b5! and now Lapshun lost miserably with 7…Ng8.  In fact other players have lost this miniature too.  The f2 pawn is untakeable.  Why?  The variations are nice.

For fun, look at 7. Ndb5! Bxf2+ 8. Ke2 (8. Kd2?? Qe3 mate would be embarrassing!) 8…Nd5 9. Nd6+ Ke7 10. Nxd5+ exd5 11. Qd5 Rf8 12. Bg5+f6 13. exf6 gxf6 14. Qe5+!! and forced mate!

For completeness, 7. Ndb5! Bxf2+ 8. Ke2 Ng4 9. h3! Ng4 and now white goes on a king walk to win: 10. Nd6+! Ke7 11. hxg4 Qf2+ 12. Kd3 Nc6 and now white can win a brilliancy prize: 13. Nf5+!! exf5 14. Nd5+ Kf8 15. Be3! and wins!  If black put his king on f8 in this line, white can vary with 13. Nce4! and wins a piece.

I asked Ravichandran after the game and he said he intended 7….a6.  Apparently his theoretical source points to that.  Well, it’s the best move!

Pruess said after the game (separately) he was concerned about the 7…a6 resource since 8. Nd6+ is not clear.

Some junior at the tournament ran 7….a6 through an engine and told me later on that 7…a6 8. Qf3! (a resource not seen by Pruess but known to his opponent) is strong.  Computer power! Nevertheless, 8. Qf3 Nd5 9. Nxd5 exd5 10. Nc3 Bb4! and black can fight on with a worse, but defensible, position.  What did we learn?  Not much, except that black in this game was successful with the early brinkmanship!

7…Nd5 8.Nxd5 exd5 9.Nf5? A big lemon.  White must have miscalculated something.

After the strong 9. Nb5! white can still fight for an edge.  9…Bxe3 10. fxe3 Qxe3+? 11. Qe2 is terrible for black. He loses after, e.g., 11…Qxe2+ 12. Bxe2 Na6 13. Nd6+ Ke7 14. O-O Rf8 15. Nf5+ and wins.  Needless to say, taking on e3 is not forced. 10..O-O 11. Qd4! leaves white with an edge but again black can defend.   Another example line:  9. Nb5! O-O 10. Bxc5 Qxc5 11. Qd2 a6 12. Nd6 Nc6 13. O-O-O with a white plus.

Qxb2 10.Nxg7 At this stage, it was impossible to realize the computer recommendation of 10. Bd4 is stronger with equal chances.

Kd8 11.Bg5+? The real losing move.  White must have been totally disoriented and thinking about earlier missed chances. After this white is just dead.  11. Be2 Bxe3 12. fxe3 and white can play that position and have good prospects to draw.  11. Be2 Bb4+? is bad: 12. Kf1 and black can’t take on e5 due to Bd4.

Kc7 12.Bf4  Qc3+ A lethal intermediate check well known to Sveshnikov lovers, this occurs in many early Be6 lines of the Sveshnikov forcing white to do acrobatics.

13.Bd2 The problem is that 13. Ke2 Qc4+ 14. Kf3 Qe4+ 15. Kg3 Bxf2+!  wins.

13…Qxe5 14.Be2 Qxg7 15.O-O d6 16.Bf3 Be6 17.c4 dxc4 18.Qa4 Nd7 19.Qb5 Rab8 20.Ba5 b6 21.Qc6 Kd8 22.Rad1 bxa5 0-1

So this dubious variation is marginally playable and in the game above, even netted black a quick victory!  It seems a little unjust.

Something Different: Endgame Quiz

Consider this position from Berczes-Horvath  Zalakarosi 2010:

Black to play.

Can black draw?   If so, how many drawing moves are there?

GM Alejandro Ramirez (center) recycles girls

The Fabulous 00s: Death of the Main-Line Ulvestad

December 31, 2009

Ulvestad – What is This?!

Some analysis of recent Friedel games caused me to double-check analysis of what looks to me to be a highly dubious opening: the Ulvestad!

In particular, Michael Goeller’s notes to MacKinnon – Friedel Edmonton 2009.

Here is what I consider the bust of the “Main Line” Ulvestad.  Goeller pointed me to some analysis from a book by “Pinski” but I think white can overcome it, as follows:

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 3…Bc5 according to Karpov. There is something to be said for posting the bishop on the c5-f2 diagonal!

4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 b5 Putting a dangling pawn out on b5 is cute, 1800’s Romanticism and all that, but doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

6. Bf1 Nd4 The cold-shower computer hates, and I think quite rightly, the move 6…h6?! as in Zierk-Friedel, Las Vegas 2009, but we’ll consider that bust separately. There now follows a series of moves that results in black’s king going to d8.  Technicians are laughing.

7. c3 Nxd5 8. cxd4 Qxg5 9. Bxb5+ Kd8

K on d8, what the heck is this??

I am not a big “two knights guy” but the king on d8 makes for a very unhealthy impression.  If white can castle (and he can), then it should be lights out.  If I was guaranteed before the game black would wheel out this [insert perjorative], I would become a huge fan of 3. Bc4 – but there is the answer 3…Bc5!

10. Qf3 Bb7 11. O-O Rb8

The best try but black is hanging together by the proverbial thread. In a fast time limit USCL game, black (who didn’t have doughnuts, coffee, and/or both) played the immediately losing 11… e4? and white was most happy to reply 12. Qh3! winning.  That nasty reply threatens mate on d7. 12…Bc8  (this forced undevelopment is taking the already ridiculous Ulvestad to new lows) 13. d3! Qf6 (13… Nf4 14. Bxf4 Qxf4 15. Qe3 wins) 14. Qh5 Qxd4 15. dxe4 and white won quickly, Charbonneau – Schneider, USCL 2009.  To illustrate what a complete short-circuit 11…e4? was, the simple 12. Qxe4 also wins (and is the materialistic computer’s preferred choice) as black has no follow-up.

12. dxe5! Friedel escaped this crummy situation and even won after 12. d3? Qg6! in the MacKinnon game referenced at the start of this article. As Goeller points out, 12. d3? is “a known error since at least Leonhardt – Englund, Stockholm 1908.”

12…Ne3 The plausible 12…Nb4 13. d4! wins for white. The nasty point is 13…Qxc1 14. Qxf7! blammo.

13. Qh3! Threatening mate on d7 and forcing black’s reply. Already I think white is completely winning.  Take that, Ulvestad fans.

White wins. Oh, the Soviet boredom.

The matter is now up to plain old Soviet-style technique.  And it’s not difficult.  Black is now in the iron grip of a Smyslov or a Botvinnik or a Petrosian.

13…Qxg2+ 14. Qxg2 Nxg2

An elementary blunder is 14..Bxg2? 15. fxe3 and wins since B/b5 guards f1.

15. d4 Nh4 Alternatives are no better.  For example, 15… Be7 16. Be2 Nh4 17. Rd1 Nf3+ 18. Bxf3 Bxf3 19. Rd3 Be4 20. Rg3 and white should gather the point.

Note: I draw readers’ attention to a comment I just received:

“A possible improvement for Black could be 15…f6 as played in Chemeris(2265)-Petkov(2484) in 2008, where Black obtained some nice play after 16.Nc3, Nh4: 17.Be2, Nf3+; 18.Bxf3, Bxf3: 19.Re1, Rb4: 20. Re3, Bb7: 21. Ne2, fxe5: 22.dxe5, Bc5 with clear compensation.”

However,  15…f6 16. Be2! followed by f2-f4 wins easily for white.  Once f3 is under control, black’s compensation disappears and it’s smooth sailing for white.

16. Bg5+ Be7 17. Bxh4 Bxh4 18. Nc3 Bf3 19. Rab1! Goeller told me that Pinski gives 19. b3 here, following up for black with a similar …Rg6+ sac idea.  In any event, it looks like this position is a simple win for white – the Rg6+ idea does not work. Here is why:

19…Rb6 20. Bd3 Rg6+(?) Not good at all, but what else? – I consider this move only to bust Pinski; other moves that don’t lose material are stronger but white is left with a big plus and should convert.

21. Bxg6 hxg6 22. Rfe1! A simple defense, preparing Ne4.  I think black is totally lost.

White wins

22…Bg5 22… Rh5 23. Ne4! just wins.  23… Rf5 24. Ng3 Rf4 25. Re3 and wins.

23. Rbd1!! The star defensive concept which any technician would find immediately.  The timely return of some material is always the receipe to break a premature “attack”.  Worse still for black, the Pinski  …Rg6 “adventure” just resulted in mass simplification making white’s ending task easier.

23…Bf4 Depressing for black is 23… Bxd1 24. Rxd1 Bf4 25. Ne2! and wins.

24. Rd3!  Bxh2+ 25. Kf1 Bb7 26. Ne2 and wins!  Note how Nc3-e2 is so strong defensively in these lines.

Conclusion: the main line Ulvestad is hopelessly unsound.

Readers, any improvements?   I think we should go back to Karpov’s 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5! 🙂


GM Yozhik – IM Aries2   Ruy Lopez Cozio Madness

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nge7 4. Nc3 Ng6 5. h4 Nf4 6. d4 exd4 7. Nd5 Ne6


8. Ng5 h6 9. Qh5 Wow! This surprising move actually forces a draw in a bizarre way.

9…g6 10. Qf3 hxg5 11. Nf6+ Ke7 12. Nd5+ Ke8 13. Nf6+ Ke7 14. Nd5+ Ke8 15. Nf6+ Ke7 {Game drawn by repetition} 1/2-1/2

After the game I was in for another shocker: white told me he planned to continue with b2-b3!

Absolutely classic! When have you seen Ng8-e7-g6-f4-e6 before in the opening? 

An Indecent Proposal from China

I think the term “supper league” was the first signal all was not well in this email I received recently.

The CHONGQING LIFAN FOOTBALL CLUB intends to invite experienced coaches/players/expatriate capable of rendering expertise services the chinese national team and there clubs in the chinese supper league divison.their enthusiasm fed by huge media coverage.

To coach and provide leadership instruction to the chinese national team.
*Development of team strategies; analyze performance of football team and adjust strategies as needed.
*Coordinate team travel arrangements.
*Scouting and recruiting more players into the national team.
*Coordinate coaches clinic; supervise dress code for staff and team members.

Education and Experience:
Bachelor’s degree in relevant field,
SALARY: US$29,000.00, Monthly, can be transferred to any Bank or Country of your choice and all transfers must be made in conformity with the existing tax situation in China.
CONTRACT DURATION: 48 months (Liable for upward review depending on your commitment and expertise)
The Management hereby inform that you are to INCUR all expenses associated with the processing of your relevant papers for commencement of work.
The chinese football association will disburse Six (6) months Upfront salaries and relocation expenses on confirmation of your required documentation (including immigration papers) from the relevant authorities here in China

We hereby inform that if this Offer is acceptable to you, you are requested to send us an acceptance letter with your passport photograph via email, and your C.V/RESUME to enable us proceed with relevant processing.
We await your response in this regard.
Mr Cho Ti

Captain Christopher Pike before he was Pike


And in News from Denmark

Le roi est mort. Vive le roi.

The Fabulous 00s: USCL Week 8

October 20, 2009

Scorpions Sting Again; ICC Kibitzers Hopelessly Confused

Well, the Scorpions did it again!  They squeaked by the Chicago Blaze 2.5 – 1.5

Let’s see a very important ending on board 3 where Mehmed Pasalic (CHI) was battling Danny Rensch. A very dramatic battle with several key, instructive moments.

Pasalic (CHI) – Rensch (ARZ)  Sicilian Najdorf

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.f4 e5 7.Nf3 Nbd7 8.Bd3 b5 9.0-0 Bb7 10.Qe2 Be7 11.Kh1 g6?! I don’t understand this move. I would just cackle. I can do …g6 later, usually as a reaction to white’s probe Nf3-h4 move.

12.fxe5 dxe5 13.Bh6 Ng4 14.Bd2 Nc5 15.Rad1?! After something like 15. h3 h5 16. a3, black’s knight is just hanging in limbo on g4 and white is better.

15…Nxd3 16.cxd3 b4 17.Nb1 h5 18.Be1 Qb6 19.Bf2 Nxf2+ 20.Rxf2 Qe6 21.Nbd2 0-0 22.Nc4 f6 Black’s kingside pawns look funny but white doesn’t have the right pieces on the board to exploit it.

23.Qe3 Kg7 24.Rc2 Rfc8 25.h3 a5 26.b3 a4 27.Qe1 Rd8 28.Re2 Ba6 29.Rc2 Bxc4 More foxy is 29…axb3 30. axb3 Rac8 and black can decide when or if to play Bxc4.

30.dxc4 axb3 31.axb3 Rxd1 32.Qxd1 f5 33.Re2 Rd8 34.Qe1 Bf6? 34…f4 kept the balance.

35.Qxb4 Rd3 36.Qb8! This is strong and black might have underestimated it.

36…fxe4 37.Qb7+ Kh6 38.Qxe4

White has control

White has control

After an up and down game, white is starting to assert himself.   It is starting to get really interesting, and this is when I started watching. It didn’t look good.

This is a good moment to pause due to a tactical nuance.

Here ICC kibitzers initially were calling for black to take on b3:  38…Rxb3.  Another kibitzer pointed out that this was not playable due to “38…Rxb3 39. Nd4!” so we thought it was unplayable. But go a little deeper!    39. Nd4 Rxh3+!! (a fantastic resource!) 40. Kg1 (40. gxh3? Qxh3+ and black is not worse at all) 40…Qb6! and black is only a little worse!


Both sides were running low on time.  Here white missed two clean wins.

The easiest, as pointed out by IM D. Fernandez, was 39. Rd2!!  Rxd2 40. Qe3+ Kg7 41. Nxd2 and white is completely winning, maintaining the e4 blockade.

The second choice, and very popular in ICC kibitzing (but inferior to Fernandez’s move but it’s harder to work out), was the more complicated 39. b4. After 39…Rd1+ 40. Re1 Rxe1+ 41. Qxe1 e4 it’s time for another interesting quiz.   What’s best here?  Answer to be posted later.

White to Play. Quiz Time (analysis)

White to Play. Quiz Time (analysis)

Position after 41….e4; White to play and win (analysis).  Can you solve it?

39.Nxe5?! White bypasses both of those wins, but as we shall see, this should have been winning too.

39…Bxe5 40.Qxe5 Qxe5 41.Rxe5 Rxb3

Yermolinsky Sets Us Straight

Most ICC kibitzers felt this was totally drawn.  Only GM Yermolinsky was wise enough to enlighten us – see comment to white’s 43rd move.

42.h4! The correct first step to fix the g6 pawn.


Moment of Truth

Moment of Truth


Only GM Yermolinsky recognized this as a blunder.  He laid out a winning plan that is foolproof and brilliant in its simplicity.  In hindsight obvious, but he is the only one that saw it among the gawking multitudes.  Put pawn on c5, he said, and prepare then put pawn on g3, and Rook on g5 holding everything, and move king to queenside.  Indeed, that pins black’s king to g6, and black is helpless against the white king shepherding the c-pawn.  A fantastic, simple in hindsight, and very aesthetic plan!  Black is completely powerless to stop its realization.

Clearly Pasalic missed it, but so did most of the ICC kibitzers.

43…Rc2 44.Rc7 Rd2 45.Kh2 Rd4! By bothering white’s kingside pawns, the black rook “latches on” and prevents any further progress. The Scorpions win the match by the narrow 2.5 – 1.5 margin!

46.g3 Rd3 47.c5 Rd2+ 48.Kg1 Rc2 49.Rc8 Kg7 50.Rc6 Kf7 51.Kf1 Kg7 52.Rc8 Kf6 53.c6 Kf5 54.c7 Kg4 55.Rg8 Rxc7 56.Rxg6+ Kf3 57.Kg1 Rc2 58.Rb6 Kxg3 59.Rb3+ Kxh4 60.Rb4+ Kg3 61.Rb3+ Kg4 62.Rb4+ Kg3 63.Rb3+ Kg4 64.Rb4+ Kg3 Game drawn by repetition 1/2-1/2

Wow!  A great fighting, titantic battle in the best USCL tradition!

Last year, I, too, held a draw in a bad game vs Pasalic to win a CHI-ARZ match.  Chicago must be getting tired of us!

What Else is New?

I’m involved in a fierce smutty movie debate with a female chess player on Facebook. Fear not, gentle reader — our debate is not smutty – only the movie is.

The Fabulous 00s: USCL Week 5 OOTW

October 1, 2009

USCL Week 5 Opening of the Week

The Foxy Rauser Deviation, as practiced by IM Albert Kapengut many times and also me at Lone Pine 1980.  Albert used it most recently on the NJKO USCL team to defeat IM M. Pasalic of the Chicago Blaze in USCL Week 5 action.  Let’s see the “historical game” first to gain perspective.  Interestingly, I was playing a typically well-prepared representative of the former Soviet Union and against this type of player, “eccentric” early deviations are not a surprise!

Mark Ginsburg – IM Vitaly Zaltsman Lone Pine 1980.  Sicilian Rauser, Foxy Deviation

In this tournament, held shortly before my 21st birthday, I was mired in disappointment and blunders with only a nice win over John Grefe to my credit in a “Lenderman-special” Neanderthal Ruy Lopez Cordel defense with an early Qd8-f6.  When I say “Lenderman-special” I mean that it has been tried by Lenderman and also it’s very bad. 🙂

It’s very funny to think that my “eccentric” Sicilian gambit in the Zaltsman game would resurface in a USCL game featuring veteran IM Albert Kapengut in his win over Chicago IM M. Pasalic. No wonder Zaltsman blitzed off his first 15 moves – it must be in Soviet academies!

1. Nf3 c5 2. e4 Nc6 3. Nc3 d6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Nf6 6. Be3



White is being foxy (inviting black’s game response) and a little naive because this move is absolutely nothing theoretically.

6…Ng4 Tasty!  White gets what he wants!  This move aims for adventure and risk. Kapengut passes by this point in his brief annotations without comment.  But a serious argument must be made for the simple 6… e5!? aiming for Be6 and d5 liquidation.  7. Nb3 (7. Nxc6 bxc6 8. Bc4 Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. Qd3 Be6 11. Rad1 Ng4 12. Bd2 Qb6 13. Bb3 Nf6 and white has zero) 7… Be6 8. Qd2 (8. Be2 d5! 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxd5 Qxd5 11. Qxd5 Bxd5
12. O-O O-O-O is totally level) 8… d5 9. exd5 Nxd5  and once again I do not see any edge.  In fact, I think Joel Benjamin played this way versus me in some tournament, once. 🙂 For example, 10. Nxd5 (10. O-O-O?  Bb4! 11. Bd3 Bxc3 12. bxc3 Qc7 13. Bc5 O-O-O! is just structurally horrible for white) 10… Qxd5 11. Qxd5 Bxd5 12. O-O-O O-O-O 13. c4 Be6 14. Rxd8+ Kxd8 15. Nc5 Bxc5 16. Bxc5 and white had zero in
Nakamura,H (2452)-Zilka,S (2182)/Oropesa del Mar 2001 although as you might guess Hikaru tricked his lower rated opponent in the ending .

Conclusion:  I don’t see anything wrong with 6. Be3 e5!? which takes the fun out of white’s schemes.

7. Bb5

See the comment suggestion for another playable move, 7. Bg5 — a minature Nakamura win over Fernandez in Bermuda 2002 that John Fernandez masochistically supplied.

7…Nxe3 8. fxe3 Bd7 9. Bxc6?! This is my choice in the Zaltsman game.

Due to black’s improvement on move 10 in my game, I think my move offers very little.

Kapengut chose the more foxy 9. O-O.  I will return to Kapengut’s choice after the Zaltsman game.

9… bxc6 10. O-O e6 (10… e5 {This logical move looks good!} 11. Qf3 f6 12. Nf5 g6 13. Ng3 Be7 and black was a little better and went on to win; Meszaros,A (2310)-Groszpeter,A (2495)/Hungary 1992/EXT 2000})

11. e5 If 11. Qf3 Qf6 12. Qe2 Qg5! makes sense and black stands well.

11… Be7 12. exd6 Bxd6 13. Ne4? A blunder but by this point white has very little.  13. Nf3 Qc7 14. Qd4 e5 15. Qh4 O-O 16. Ne4 f6 is not promising.

13… Bxh2+!  Ooopsie. Since I was young, I didn’t care about this blunder very much.  Sure enough, not too many moves later, Zaltsman was totally confused and white was winning! 🙂  I was completely amazed to see in the database a white win featuring this antique blunder of mine; Skjoldborg wound up winning vs. J. Christiansen, Copenhagen 2003, but of course it had nothing to do with this blunder. 🙂

14. Kh1 Qh4 15. Nf6+ gxf6 16. Nf3 Qg3 17. Nxh2 Rg8 18. Qe2 Rg6 19. Rf3 Qe5 20. Rd1 Rd8 The greedy 20… Rh6! 21. Rf4 Qxb2! 22. Rfd4 Rd8 23. Qd2 Qb7 and black should win.

21. Rh3 h6 22. e4 c5 Black is drifting!  Again 22… Qxb2.

23. Rhd3 Ke7 24. Nf3 Qc7 25. c4 Rgg8 26. e5! Ut-oh, white is asserting himself!

26…fxe5 27. Qxe5 Qxe5 28. Nxe5 Ba4 29. Rxd8 Rxd8 30. Rxd8 Kxd8 31. Nxf7+ Ke7 32. Nxh6 Bd1 33. Kh2 Kf6 34. Kg3 Ke5?

34… Be2 is a tougher try.  35. b3 Bd3 36. Kf4 Bb1 and the struggle continues. 

35. Nf7+ Kd4 36. Kf4 Kd3 37. g4 Kc2 38. b4 cxb4 39. c5 a5 40. c6 Be2 41. c7 Ba6 42. g5 a4 43. g6 b3 44. axb3 a3 45. g7 a2 46. g8=Q a1=Q 47. Qg6+ Kxb3 48. Qxe6+ Kc2 49. Nd6 Qf1+ 50. Ke5 Kc3 51. Ne4+ Kb4 52. Qb6+?

Here wa a nice win. 52. Qd6+! Ka5 53. Qa3+ Kb5 54. Qc5+ Ka4 55. Qb6; also winning was 52. Qe7+ Ka4 53. Nc5+ Kb5 54. Nxa6.

52… Qb5+ 53. Qxb5+ Kxb5 54. Kd6 Bc8 55. Nf6 Kb6 56. Nd5+ Kb7 57. Ke7 Bh3 58. Kd8 Kc6! I can’t break the blockade!  59. Nf4 Bg4 60. Ne2 Kd6 61. Nd4 Bh3 62. Nf3 Bg4 63. Ng5 Kc6 64. Nh7 Bh3 65. Nf6 Bf5 66. Ne8 Bh3 1/2-1/2

A titanic Lone Pine (in Death Valley, CA) Wild West blunderfest!

Now, back to the Kapengut game.

Recall 9. O-O was played in Kapengut-Pasalic.  The first interesting point: 9…g6 is less bad than prior evidence suggests.  It’s not good; just not losing. 🙂

9. O-O g6 10. Bxc6 bxc6 11. Qf3 f6 12. e5 dxe5 13. Nxc6 Qc8 14. Nxe5 fxe5 15. Qf7+ Kd8 16. Rad1 has been seen in practice, and in a prior game the losing 16…Kc7?? was played.    Far better is the clever 16… Bh6 and black has significant defensive resources.

The game went on 9. O-O e6 10. Bxc6 bxc6



The absolutely critical moment.   Kapengut played a move that leads to equal chances.

11. Qf3 Qf6 12. Qe2 and here Pasalic played the passive 12…Qd8? and white got the upper hand with a trick that is thematic for this variation, the e4-e5 break.  Much stronger is 12…Qg5! with the simple point of stopping white’s e4-e5 trick that occurred after 12…Qd8?.  As you might guess, 12…Qg5! has been seen in lots of games with decent black results.  From Kapengut’s own experience, after 13. Rf3 Qc5!? the game was about level but black managed to win eventually in Kapengut-Giorgadze 1969.  Alternatively 13.  Rf3 Be7 is also level and eventually drawn in Kapengut-A. Ivanov Minsk 1985.

Going back to move 11, the immediate break 11. e5!? is interesting and has been tried many times.   Recall I tried it in the Zaltsman game. 11…dxe5? 12. Qh5! is a big edge to white and 11…d5 12. Qf3 Qe7 13. b4! looks familiar with a white plus.

The correct move which took Vitaly about 10 microseconds to find is 11…Be7! 12. exd6 Bxd6 and it’s about equal.

The problem with 11. Qf3 is that it gave black that pesky improvement on move 12.  But the problem with 11. e5 is black has this “well known Soviet” equalizing technique.

Overall conclusion:  black can survive the 6…Ng4 adventure but again, 6…e5 looks simpler.

I would be interested to know reader experiences in this tricky line.


The Fabulous 00s: 2009 USCL Round 1 Openings Roundup

September 3, 2009

Week 1 Noteworthy USCL Openings

In Week 1 2009 USCL opening theory action, I will defer Scorpions Games analysis to Levon Altounian and Alejandro Ramirez. I’ll just look at other games around the league.

By the way we got some “film” from the Scorpions playing site in Round 1.

Zaremba (QNS)-Esserman (BOS)  Dutch Defense Anti-Curdo

1.d4  f5  2.Nc3 A recent SOS article talked about the humorous gambit 2. Qd3!? d6 (or 2…d5) 3. g4!? fxg4 4. h3 with light square compensation.  I don’t know what the 2. Qd3 variation is called, but it’s funny.

2… Nf6  3.Bg5  d5  4.Bxf6  exf6  5.e3  Be6  6.Bd3 An old Anti-Curdo weapon from the 1980s aimed to take the fun out of it for black; I managed to beat John in a lengthy game in some New England Swiss.  Across the ocean, Winants and Jadoul in Belgium enjoyed this system too.  In fact, Winants even beat Z. Polgar once on the black side of it at Amsterdam 1990. Objectively, it is good for a safe if tiny edge.  White has to watch out for black’s “shattered” pawns becoming mobile in the middlegame and advancing.

6… Qd7  7.Nge2  Nc6  8.a3

Time for a black plan

Time for a black plan

8…Ne7 This self-blocking move is probably not the strongest, although it has been played by GM Arteshes Minasian.    GM Spraggett played more strongly vs Huss (2380) in Zaragoza 1996 with 8…O-O-O! 9.  Na4?! (white is probably advised not to do this and play instead 9. Nf4) 9…Kb8!  (note how black doesn’t give white any easy attacking toe-holds on the queenside) 10. b4 Qe8! and with careful play Spraggett has equalized and went on to win.

9.b3?! Stronger is 9. Nf4 Bf7 10. h4.  White is preparing Na4 to attack the black king once it goes queenside, but the crux of the matter is that it shouldn’t go there in these changed circumstances.

9…Bf7 Black could play the interesting 9…a6!?and then 10…Ng6 covering c5 versus knight leaps and preparing kingside play.

10.Na4  0-0-0? This is the major strategical miscue.  After 10…b6! keeping the knight out black is all right.  There might follow 11. c4 g6! preparing Bg7 and castles short with good counter-chances. In the game, white built up a decisive attack against the very lonely black king.

11.c4  Kb8  12.Qc2  g6  13.0-0  h5  14.c5 and white scored a crushing attacking victory.

Perelshteyn (BOS) – Vovsha (QNS)  Modern Defense

1.d4  d6  2.Nf3  Bg4  3.c4  Bxf3  4.exf3 Taking toward the center with 4. gxf3 merits serious consideration.

4…Nd7  5.Nc3  g6 Not a bad setup.

6.Be3  c6  7.Qd2  Bg7  8.Be2 It is more aggressive and possibly more promising to put this bishop on d3 since in the game black achieves equal chances soon.

8…Nb6  9.d5  Nf6  10.dxc6  bxc6  11.0-0  0-0  12.Rac1  d5! Black is fine.



13.b3  e5? Asking too much.  Black had the equalizing 13…dxc4!.  If 14. bxc4 Qxd2 15. Bxd2 Rfd8 16. Be3 Ne8! holds up Rfd1 and prepares Rab8 and Nc7 with equality.  If 14. Qxd8 Rfxd8 it simply transposes. The game is equal.

14.cxd5  cxd5  15.Bc5! and white went on to win.

Ludwig (DAL) – Lopez (MIA)  King’s Indian Saemisch

1.d4  Nf6  2.c4  g6  3.Nc3  Bg7  4.e4  d6  5.f3  0-0  6.Nge2  Nbd7  7.Be3  c5  8.Qd2  Qa5  9.d5  a6  10.Nc1 A common knight regrouping in Benonis but it’s not clear how much it offers.

Decision Time

Decision Time

10…Rb8 (?!) This move may not be necessary.  Black has the surprising 10…Ne5!? with the idea 11. Be2 Bd7 12. f4 Neg4 13. Nb3 Qc7 14. Bg1 (not keeping this bishop automatically gives black a good game) 14…b5! (just in time!) 15. h3 b4! and by hitting the e-pawn black has a good game.

11.Nb3  Qb4  12.Qc2  Ne5  13.a3  Qb6  14.Be2  e6  15.0-0  exd5  16.cxd5  Qc7  17.a4  Bd7 If 17…Nh5 then 18. g4! Nhf6 19. h3!  is a good answer.

18.h3?! 18. a5 looks natural and good.

18….b5  19.Nd2  Rfe8 19…b4 20. Nd1 is similar to the game.

20.Rfe1  b4  21.Nd1  Bc8  22.Rc1  Ned7? The typical Benoni device 22…b3! gives black good counterplay here.  Look at this nice shot: 22…b3! 23. Nxb3? Nxd5!! 24. exd5 Bf5! and white must play 25. Qd2 Rxb3 and black is better.  And after 23. Qb1 Rb4! black is obviously not complaining either.  Black is all right after the game move, but 22…b3! was stronger.

Here is the rest of the chaotic game in which Lopez “slimed” his opponent out of a winning position.

Friedel (SF) – Serper (SEA)  French Defense

1.e4 e6 A surprising departure from Serper’s favorite Kan. Although he lost to Friedel last year in the USCL with this, he also defeated GM Becerra in a nice game.

2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Be7 Shades of Bareev. I’ve been encountering this a lot on the ICC so it must be the new rage.

5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Bd3 Nxe4 7.Bxe4 c5 8.0-0 Nd7 9.c3 0-0 10.Bc2 Qc7 11.Re1 Rd8 12.Qd3 Nf8  13.Qe4

Bertholee Power!

Bertholee Power!

13…cxd4? After the correct move 13…Bd7!  2360-rated R. Bertholee  playing black had equality and held a draw vs highly ranked GM Lev Psakhis, Amsterdam 1990.

14.Nxd4 White has a plus now.

Bd7 15.a4 a6 16.a5 Be8 17.h4 Rd5 18.Bb3 Rxa5?? Black can’t do that!  A very bad blunder from Serper. He has to go back to d7 or d8 with a bad game.

19.Rxa5? Not Friedel’s day. 19. Bf4 won for white. 19. Bf4 Qc5 20. Rxa5 Qxa5 21. Qxb7 Qd8 22. Rd1! wins as black’s queen is aesthetically caught in a crossfire.  White still has a big plus after the game move.

19…Qxa5 20.Qxb7 Qd8 21.h5 Bf6 22.Bf4 h6 23.Bc2 The paralyzing 23. Bd6! was strong.

23…a5 24.Qe4 24. Nc6! Qc8 25. Ne7+! is terrible for black.  Here is the rest of the game where Serper refuted an unsound sacrifice. The noteworthy thing about the opening is the improvement mentioned for black on move 13.

Bryan Smith (PHI) – Peter Bereolos (TEN)  Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Nd7 12.Nbd2 exd4 13.cxd4 Nc6 14.d5 Nce5 15.a4 Rb8 16.axb5 axb5 17.Nh2

So far, so good from black’s point of view.


This move should have been total suicide. From an equal game this horrible weakening?    There was no danger here.  For example, 17…Re8 18. f4 Ng6 with equality.   17…Bb7 is also fine with similar play.  Black was acting as if f2-f4 had to prevented at all costs but this certainly is not the case.

18.Ndf1 18. Qh5! is very strong.  When black makes the ugly move f6, white can go back later to e2 or d1 with his queen and carry on.   After 18…Qe8 19. Ndf1 he’ll have to play f6 and suffer.  The game move is fine too.

18…Kh8 19.Ng3 Rg8 20.Ng4? Black’s position is revolting after the obvious 20. Nf5.  After, e.g. 20…c4 21. Be3 or 20..Bf8 21. Bd2 white should win in short order.

20…Nxg4 21.hxg4 Bf6 22.Nf5 Ne5 23.Ra3 Bxf5  and black held a draw in a game Philly really needed.

Kudrin (PHI) – Shabalov (TEN)  Sicilian Dragon

1.e4  c5  2.Nf3  d6  3.d4  cxd4  4.Nxd4  Nf6  5.Nc3  g6  6.Be3  Bg7  7.f3  0-0  8.Qd2  Nc6  9.Bc4  Bd7  10.0-0-0  Rb8 When I first saw the “Chinese Dragon” in the pages of New in Ches, GM Gallagher heaped scorn on it.  Yet he only drew GM Chris Ward.   Since Kudrin plays the Dragon a lot, this is a funny opening choice.

11.Bb3  Na5  12.Bh6  Bxh6  13.Qxh6  b5  14.Nd5! GM Emmanuel Berg got nowhere with 14. h4 e5! with equality, Berg-P. Carlsson Halstahammar 2003.

14…e6  15.Nxf6+  Qxf6  16.h4  Qg7  17.Qg5!

One big exclam to cover all of white’s prior moves; he has a safe edge now.  Black is not helped now by 17…Nxb3+ 18. Nxb3! Rb6 19. h5! with a plus.

17… Qe5  18.Ne2! Give yourself tactical skill points if you noticed white could have played the unusual 18. Qxe5 dxe5 19. Nf5!? here and give yourself positional skill points if you notice black is OK in the resulting position.

18…Bc6  19.Rd2?! The bizarre 19. Nf4! is very strong, threatening to trade queens and play Nd3!

19…Rfd8  20.Rhd1  Nb7  21.Nf4! Still a good idea.  21…a5  22.a3  Re8? 22…a4! is stronger with only a small white edge.

23.Nd3? White would have a huge plus after 23. Qxe5! dxe5 24. Nd3! f6 (forced) 25. g4! and he controls the board.  With the game move he only has a small edge, and unfortunately for Philadelphia   Black went on to score a lengthy, dramatic victory in a tough ending.

And Did You Know?

In NIC magazine, GM Rustam Kasimzhdanov indicates his favorite movie is David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. This is a bizarre choice for favorite movie, as I wouldn’t even rate it highly among Lynch’s own oeuvres.

A Final Shot

Enjoy the image.


The Fabulous 00s: Championing Dubious Systems

May 20, 2009

Say What?

A lot of authors champion some pretty bad things.  A duo of Dutch  amateurs champion a passive Philidor-type system starting with 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 and call it the “Black Lion” for reasons that are not clear on the surface.  It looks more like zebra meat a lion might enjoy as a snack.   A review by Arne Moll points out some of the authors’ analysis biases. In a worse vein,  German amateur Stefan Buecker used to champion the hideous Vulture (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 Ne4?) and subjectively bias the lines so that black was on top more often that not.  And I won’t even talk about what American blogger “Dana M.” is espousing in terms of opening systems.

Moving up the ranks of respectability in terms of both author and subject matter, GM Victor Moskalenko champions the Budapest (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5) in a recent book. What’s there to say?  Black relies on piece play without pawns in front, in violation of Kasparov’s famous attacking edicts.  I guess black is hoping white messes up, because it certainly looks like a safe += in the mainlines. Just to prove its tricky nature, though,I tried it as black versus an IM and was rewarded with a lucky win in ICC Blitz.   In passing, the Albin (1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5) is fairly tough to break too, as GM Morozevich has proven in many games.   The Budapest and Albin are both apparently better than their long-standing reputations.

Event “ICC 5 0”]
[Site “Internet Chess Club”]
[Date “2009.05.20”]
[Round “-“]
[White “IM Dali”]
[Black “aries2”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ICCResult “White resigns”]
[WhiteElo “2291”]
[BlackElo “2421”]
[Opening “Budapest: Adler variation”]
[ECO “A52”]
[NIC “QG.01”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 Moskalenko’s Fabulous Move.

3. dxe5 Ng4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. e3 White opts for the common, slow treatment, but since he hasn’t done anything wrong and black’s just floating out there in the center, I would be happy as white.   Slow pawn expansion should punish the dancing knights.

5…Ngxe5 6. Nc3 Bb4 7. Bd2 O-O 8. a3?! This cannot promise much. Quite interesting is 8. Nxe5 Nxe5 9. f4!? Nc6 10. Nd5! and white can claim a small edge.  Is this line a novelty?

8…Bxc3 9. Bxc3 d6 10. Be2 Be6 10…Nxf3+ is quite a reasonable alternative and black might be able to reaches full equality.  For example, 11. Bxf3 Ne5 12. Be2 Be6 13. b3 Qf6! 14. Rc1 Qg6 15. O-O Bh3 16. Bf3 Rfe8 and it’s balanced.

11. b3 a5 11…Qf6!? is interesting here.  12. Rc1 Qg6! and with this typical transfer, it’s equal.

12. a4 I wouldn’t be in a rush to do this as white but it doesn’t seem bad.

12…b6?! Once again black misses the Qf6! motif.

13. Nd4 Just 13. O-O first and wait and see.

13…Bd7?! Black misses the more active 13…Qg5! =.

14. O-O After numerous imprecisions, white now has a stable edge.

14…Qe7 15. Nb5 Rac8 16. Qd2 Rfe8 17. Rae1 What can black do?  17. Rad1 is also unpleasant.

17…Ng6 17…Ng4 18. Qb2! is not fun.

18. Bd3 Nce5 19. Bc2 White is gearing up for the central pawn blitz so I have to do something.


19…Nf3+?! OK.  Here we go.  I’m attacking without any pawns.  Chess principles say this cannot work.

20.  gxf3 Nh4 21. Kh1 Forced but good.



22. Qd5 This is fine.  To give us the satisfied feeling that chess principles are not broken in this game, those with sharp tactical vision see 22. Qd1! and now both 22…Bc6 23. e4! interference theme! and 22…Bg4 23. Rg1! are terrible for black. White should win after 22. Qd1!.  The presence of two good moves for white at this juncture mean black’s 19th was hopelessly unsound.

22…Bg4 23. Rg1 Qh4 Of no use is 23…c6 24. Qd3! Qh4 25. Qxh7+!  winning.

24. Rg2 Nxe1? Slightly better is 24…Re5 25. Bxe5 Nxg1 26. Bxg7! and white should win.

25. Qd4! Crushing!

25…Re5 26. Rxg4? A bad gaffe in blitz and where the game starts to turn 180 degrees.  After 26. Bxe1 black can resign.

26…Qxf2 27. Be4? A typical blitz collapse. White had to play 27. Bxe1 but black can play on there and doesn’t need to take a draw.

27…Nf3 28. Bxf3 Qf1+ 29. Rg1 Qxf3+ 30. Rg2 Rg5!


A nice finale.  The double threat on g2 and Qf1+ decides.

31. Qd2 Qf1+ {White resigns}

And the Next Stop on this Train is….


Now That’s a Dome!


Happy Marriage of Princeton and Yale: Sotomayor!

Referring to the recent Obama Supreme Court nominee, traditional conservative CNN windbag columnist Ruben Navarette writes, “How about on sheer qualifications? Sotomayor sure has them. Raised by her mother after her father died, Sotomayor graduated from Princeton University summa cum laude and from Yale Law School.”  He goes on to note, “radio talk show host [pill-popper] Rush Limbaugh called her “an affirmative action case extraordinaire,” although affirmative action doesn’t help you graduate summa cum laude from an Ivy League university.”   This is a good point, I hope “Rush” (what a name!) takes notice. I was not an affirmative action case and had a miserable GPA because the student union building also doubled as pizza and beer; New Jersey was a “18” state for drinking at the time.  I also noticed that critics routinely omitted the honors; I presume on purpose. An example of the omission: dogmatic conservative columnist Jeffrey Rosen rushes to omit by saying “She was raised by her mother, a nurse, and went to Princeton and then Yale Law School.”   Nice foxy omission, Jeff but it’s not going to work; she will get confirmed in a landslide.  At the very least, critics should get the bio right before falling over themselves to attack the candidate on the grounds of ethnic favoritism.  Postscript:  Newt Gingrich ‘tweeted’ (sorry, Newt is a cretin racist name) “White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.”   Newt?  Does this withered prune fellow have any credibility?   Did some young fascist Republican show him how to Tweet?  I can’t fathom the guy even logging on.  “Newt” and “Rush” are amusing cretin hillbilly names – quite predictable they would spew vitriol more often than not.   We could switch them around, two new hate-filled personas “Nush” and “Rewt”.   VIVA this happy union of Princeton and Yale.   It reaffirms an earlier post regarding Yale’s excellent graduate programs and Princeton’s tigerhold in the undergraduate arena.

Postscript 5/28/09:  Ed Rollins, Chairman of the RNC, agrees!:

“There can be no debate over her qualifications. Her lifetime achievements in the academic world, in the legal world and the judicial world are unchallengeable. If that was the only measure, she would be confirmed unanimously.

That isn’t going to happen! We are into full-bore political battle within the Republican Party, with conservatives and pragmatists arguing over what are the best tactics to stop the direction that this young president and his congressional allies are taking us.

But I just offer a word of caution. The confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor is not the battle to be waged and it won’t be won.”

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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

February 5, 2009

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


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.


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.

The Fabulous 00s: The North American Open 2008

December 31, 2008

This amusing annual Bill Goichberg event (always at the Bally’s hotel, Las Vegas) was, well… amusing again.   In one droll episode, NM Zimbeck arrived late for a game with SM Bryant.  Zimbeck bashes out 1. d4 without filling in the player names or the move on his scoresheet and Bryant plays 1… Nf6.  Zimbeck continues to not keep score and emphatically blitzes out one of the worst moves possible, 2. f3.  I found it quite droll that this move merited not keeping score.  To continue with the drollity, in his middlegame Zimbeck was visited by a lady friend who seemed to be tubercular, emitting continuous coughs that were not alleviated by a cough drop.  Since I was right next to all this, it was good theater – except I #$%*#* drew Rubshamen.  I will present the Rubshamen game so you see the irritation.

The chess for me was hard slogging.  Many of the lower rated masters, such as the Champion of Hawaii (!) Rubshamen (2260), defended doggedly coming up with many defensive resources (in both the G/75 and the 40/2 games).  Lower rated players must be getting stronger?

I played in four such tiring G/75 games (2.5 out of 4), drew the aforementioned agonizing superior middlegame vs. Rubshamen by transposing into the wrong ending, then recouped somewhat in the last two rounds with a win over ICC personality “f-pawn” (Aigner) and a rather fortunate draw with black against tough GM Cicak (2664) in the last round, so finishing with 4.5 out of 7.    Let’s see a sharp Round 2 struggle versus GM Alex Shabalov.

Ginsburg – GM Shabalov NAO 08, Round 2.  G/75.   1…b6.

The last time and only time I played Alex, Reno 1992 (one of my three blacks in a row courtesy of the bizarre Weikel “policy” of occasionally awarding three blacks in a row for no reason in critical last rounds – Weikel defended the policy by bellowing incoherently at the top of his lungs), he misplayed as white and I took a draw in a winning position, not realizing it was winning.  I was chided by Bruce Leverett in the chess newsgroups (remember those, they were big in 1992). Time for the second game.

1. c4 b6 2. d4 e6 3. a3 f5 I had pleasant memories of this offbeat variation from my Hammer game. Of course, remembering prior games precisely is not always easy. And not everyone would sacrifice early like Jon Ludwig.

4. Nc3 Nf6 5. d5 Ba6 A strange move, but in the wise words of GM Hellers, “you have to do something.”  It was indicative of my state of mind that I considered 6. e4!? seriously here – I mut have been in crazy attack mode. In the end, I settled for a good, solid, move.  But in fact 6. e4!? is fine, since 6…fxe4! (note that black is worse in the nice forcing sequence after 6…Nxe4? 7. Nxe4 fxe4 8. Qh5+ g6 9. Qe5 Rg8 10. dxe6 Nc6 11. exd7++ Kxd7 12. Qd5+ Bd6 13. Be2!) 7. dxe6 dxe6 8. Qxd8+ is just equal.


Position after 5…Ba6

6. Qa4 exd5 The subtleties of this variation are beyond me.  As black, I would not do this (yet) and play 6…Bd6 instead.  The risky 6…Bc5 is also available. 

7. cxd5 Bd6 8. Bf4! An unusual set-up (Qa4 protecting f4) allows this trade which is to white’s advantage.

8…Qe7 Not absurd is 9…O-O!? 10. Bxd6 cxd6 10. Nf3 Qc8!?.

9. Bxd6 Qxd6 10. Rd1! No reason to put the king on the open queenside.  10…O-O 11. Nf3 Re8 12. e3! Bxf1 13. Kxf1 Ne4! The best way to keep activity but white has an edge. 14. Nb5 Qc5 15. Qb3! White is getting alarming attacking chances.



Position after 15…Kh8.  Go for the throat?

16. d6? I am too excited to make a direct attack in this action game.  As Shabalov mentioned after the game, the simple g2-g3 and Kf1-g2 keeps a very solid edge for white. For example, 16. g3 Na6 17. Kg2 c6 18. dxc6 dxc6 19. Nbd4 and black’s position is very bad.

16…cxd6 17. h4 a6 Another good move here is 17… f4! with a sample variation 18. Rd5 Qc6 19. exf4 Qc1+ 20. Rd1 Qc5 21. Nfd4 Nc6 22. Qd3 Rac8 23. Rh3 d5 and it’s balanced.

18. Nbd4? Another mistake.  18. Rd5! is clearly right.  18… Qc1+
19. Rd1 Qc5 repeats, and 18….Qc6 19. Nc3! (I did not see this move) is a white edge as the dangerous N/e4 is eliminated, freeing the WN on f3 to do damage.  Black should therefore give the check to repeat.   If black does not repeat with 18…Qc1+ 19. Rd1 Qc6?, then 20. Nbd4 Qc5 21. Ng5! is crushing.  For example, 21…Nxg5 22. hxg5 Nc6 23. g6 h6 24. Rxh6+! (a typical attacking idea) 24…gxh6 25. Qf7 and wins.

18… Nc6 19. Ng5 Re7! Excellent play.  I didn’t see this which explains the prior mistake. If white gives a check on f7, black takes, takes on d4, and invades with the queen, winning.

20. Ne2 Rf8 21. Nf4? Again, I am too focused on attack against the BK when it’s high time to figure out the best ending to hold.  A better try is 21. Rd5 but black has the nice and aesthetic shot 21…Re5!! keeping a small edge.  On the other hand, the move I saw, 21… Na5 22. Rxc5 Nxb3 23. Rc7 Nf6 24. g3 Re5 25. Nc3 Rc5 26. Ra7 a5 is about equal.

21… Na5 22. Qd5 Nc4 Of course.  Black’s once dormant knight is now a powerhouse on c4.

23. h5?? Completing the ‘attack suicide’.   White can only stay in the game with 23. Nxe4 fxe4 24. Qxc5 dxc5 25. b3 Nxa3 26. Ra1 Nb5 27. Rxa6 Rb8 and although black is better, much work remains.  It’s important in action games to resist like this.

23… Nxe3+! Did I really expect 23… Nxg5 24. Ng6+ hxg6 25. hxg6+ mating?  Absurd. since 23…Ng3+ also won easily for black.

24. fxe3 Ng3+ and white resigned  0-1 in view of ruinous material loss.  Since each G/75 game followed the prior one by a short span you can see how much nervous energy is lost in the course of a single day.  Still, many players such as Shavadorj, Ehlvest, etc., tried their luck in this format.

Here is one of the tough slog G/75 games versus Show Kitagami (2075).

Ginsburg – Kitagami Round 4 (G/75) King’s Indian Averbakh

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2 O-O 6. Bg5 c5 7. d5 h6 8. Be3 e6 9. Qd2 exd5 10. exd5 Kh7 11. h3 b5?! A good way to make counter-play in an action game, although it is not objectively good.

12. cxb5 a6 13. Nf3 axb5 14. Bxb5 Na6 15. O-O Nc7 16.Bc4? (It was criminal for white to miss 16. Bc6! Rb8 17. Rfe1 Bb7 18. Rab1 Nfxd5 19. Bxd5 Bxc3 20. bxc3 Bxd5 21. Bxh6 and white should win.)

16… Rb8 17. Rfe1 Nd7 18. a3 (18. Rac1 Nb6 19. Bb3 Re8 20. Bf4!) 18… Nb6 19. Ba2 Ba6 20. Rab1 (Again good for white was 20. Bf4! Nc4 21. Bxc4 Bxc4 22. Re4 Bxc3 23. Qxc3 Bxd5 24. Bxh6) 20… Nc4 21. Bxc4 Bxc4 22. b4! cxb4 23. Rxb4 Rxb4 24. axb4 Even so, this is good for white.

24…Qa8 25. Bd4! Bxd4 26. Qxd4 Bxd5 27. Re7 (The strong move 27. Nh4!  never occurred to me)

27… Bxf3 28. gxf3 Ne6 29. Qf6 Ng5 30. Ne4 Kg8 31. Kg2 By far the simplest was 31. Nxg5 hxg5 32. b5! and this is clearly good for white.
31… Nxe4 32. fxe4 Qb8 A truly amazing variation was behind the scenes.  32… d5! is a good move. If  the tempting 33. e5 (33. b5! dxe4 34. b6! is stronger)  33….d4+  34. Kh2 Qd8? (34… Qb8! is correct but the text has the merit of a fantastic combination coming up) 35. e6 d3  and now study this position.  White to play and win.  The solution is really incredible.

The solution:

36. f4! (36. exf7+?? Kh7 37. f4 Qc8 38. Qd4 Qc2+ 39. Kg3 d2 40. Rd7 Qb3+ 41. Kg2 d1=Q 42. Qxd1 Qxb4 and it’s drawn) 36… d2 37. exf7+
Kh7 38. f5 gxf5 (38… Qb8+ loses more slowly and less elegantly)

39. Qxf5+ Kg7 40. Qg4+ Kh7 and now let’s pause again.  White to play and mate.  The stunning conclusion:

41. Qg8+!! Rxg8 42. f8=N double check!! Kh8 43. Rh7 mate!  Wow!  That mating pattern is not often seen!

Returning to the prosaic game, with both sides low on time,

33. Qd4 Qd8 34. Qa7 Re8!! (Escaping the bind elegantly) 35. Rxf7 (35. Rxe8+ Qxe8 36. Qb7 Qd8 37. Qd5 Qb6 38. b5 Kf8 and black is fighting)

35… Qg5+ 36. Kf3 Qh5+ 37. Ke3 Qe5 (Black misses a great blow, 37…Qxh3+ 38. f3 Rxe4+!! 39. Kxe4 Qe6+ 40. Kd4 Qxf7 41. Qxf7+ Kxf7 42. b5 Ke6) 38.  Rf4 Qe6! I had actually forgotten about this simple defense. 39. Qd4 Qxh3+ 40. Rf3 Qf1 41. Rf6 Qe1+ 42. Kf4 Qc1+ 43. Qe3 g5+ 44. Kf5 Re5+ 45. Kg6 and this crazy position the players descended into blitz chess chaos and I eventually won somehow.

Here’s the round 6 Aigner game in which I find myself once more permanently fighting against the Leningrad Dutch (I’ve previously discussed games with Fishbein, Guillermo Rey, Jack Young on this site).

Ginsburg – NM Aigner   NAO Round 6 40/2

1. d4 f5 Tigran Petrosian exclaimed “What a delight!  I love playing against the Dutch” when he faced Bent Larsen in San Antonio 1972.  I concur.

2. g3 No crazy gambit with 2. Nc3 d5 3. e4!? dxe4 4. Bf4! for me today, although white does get good play.  See my strange Fishbein game. Also well motivated is 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bg5.

2…Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nf3 There is a strong argument for the well-motivated and solid 4. Nh3! Bg7 5. c3! here, blunting the black bishop and preparing e2-e4.  For example, 5…O-O 6. Qb3+! d5 7. Nf4 e6
8. h4 c5 9. h5 gxh5 and white was better and went on to win, Hebden,M (2530)-Motwani,P (2470)/London 1990}  See also former Women’s Champ Antonia Stefanova’s crushing defeat over veteran GM Mikhail Gurevich in this line at Gibraltar 2008.  I played over this amazingly one-sided game in NIC magazine with great interest – an off-day for Gurevich who has scored many wins in this system.   Antonia did without c3 and just went right for the caveman h2-h4-h5.  Gurevich at one point had a fully acceptable game but succumbed quickly to the onslaught.

4… Bg7 5. O-O d6 6. c4 O-O 7. Nc3 Qe8 8. Qb3 More than twenty years ago I greatly surprised IM (!) Evgeny Bareev in Naestved, Denmark with 8. Nd5 Nxd5 9. cxd5 Qb5 10. e4! TN (my TN; other moves are totally harmless) and after 10…fxe4 11. Ng5! wild complications ensued.  For example, 11…Qxd5?! (he did not play this) 12. Bxe4 Qb5 13. a4 Qb4 14. a5 and white has dangerous threats. Students should look at this line some more as it has many resources for both sides.  Of course, it’s an amazing blitz weapon!  There’s no way black can navigate this position easily.  One of white’s ideas is the crude Bg2xe4, followed by Ng5xh7 and Qh5+ tearing black’s king apart.

This was the first and only time I played a 2560 FIDE-rated IM.  The game with Bareev is presented in detail here.

By the way, I picked up Bareev and Levitov’s book “From London to Elista” at the NAO Bookstore and it’s amazingly good.

8…Na6! White is hoping for black to execute his plan and … get a lost game with 8… e5?? 9. c5+ Kh8 10. cxd6 cxd6 11. Nb5! Qe7 12. Nxd6! and wins.


Position after 8…Na6 – an important moment.

9. Qa3?! The try 9. Ng5!? is very dangerous.   The tricky 9…e5  10. dxe5 Nc5?? backfires horribly – 11. exf6!! Nxb3 12. Bd5+! and white is better.

Another very serious move is 9. Rd1! and white is somewhat better.  Objectively 9. Rd1! may be the best. The moves Qb3 and Rd1 taken together are very logical to anticipate black’s telegraphed e7-e5 break.  The text prepares b2-b4 but leaving the c-pawn alone gives black fairly easy to find counter-chances.

9… c6 9… Qf7 is well met by 10. d5 h6 11. Be3 Ng4 12. Bd2 Nc5 13. h3 Nf6 14.  Ne5!! TN  (in a tournament game white missed this tactic) 14…Qe8 15. Nb5 Na6 16. Nd3 c6 17. dxc6 bxc6 18. Nc3 and white is much better.

10. b4 Nc7 10… e5 looks to best met by  11. dxe5 dxe5 12. b5! with white initiative.  Black is better off with the text move to activate the offside knight.

11. Bb2 Be6 Surprisingly here 11… e5!? is tactically feasible. If 12. dxe5 (12. e3  is not ridiculous) 12… dxe5 13. Qa5 and here the double-attack on c7 and e5 looks dangerous….but, 13…Qe7! is an effective answer.  If  14. Qxe5 (14. Nxe5 Ne4 15. Nxe4 fxe4 16. Rab1 Rf5! 17. Bxe4 Rxe5 18. Bxe5 Bxe5 and black is doing well) 14… Qxb4 and again black is fine.  In a similar Dutch position Viktor Korchnoi indeed did use the c7 and e5 double attack to quickly defeat Sergey Dolmatov as Viktor explains in his “Best Games” series.

12. d5?! A little crazy.  My eyes were burning from the lengthy games I had conducted previously in this tournament and I could not bear another slog.   If 12. Nd2 d5 13. c5 Ne4 14. Nf3 Qd8 15. e3 a5 black is fine and the game is locked up and turgid.

12… cxd5 13. Ng5 13. Nd4?? is just a blunder due to 13…Bf7!.

13… dxc4 14. Nxe6 Nxe6 15. Bxb7 Rb8 16. Bg2 I don’t eat with the queen on a7 because nasty pins can occur with the queen and bishop lined up.  The plan was long-term compensation with the bishops but it’s not correct.

16…Nd4! 17. Rac1 Ne4! 18. Nxe4? An unsound adventure.  Correct is 18. Kh1 and white can fight on although it’s uphill.

18… Nxe2+ Black also had 18… Nb5!?, which I had not forseen in my moribund state.   Fortunately white can hold with 19. Qe3 Bxb2
20. Ng5 c3!? (20… Bxc1? 21. Rxc1 e5 22. Bd5+ Kh8 23. Rxc4 Qe7 24. Rh4 h5 25. Ne6  and this variation is nice because white builds up an attack out of nowhere with the funny Rc4-h4 motif) 21. a4 Nc7 22. Qxa7 and the game toddles on.

19. Kh1


Position after 19. Kh1.  Black has a winning path.

19…Bxb2? A clear and serious misstep.  Correct is 19… Nxc1! 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Ng5 and my anemic calculations only went this far anticipating an attack on black’s king, a clear case of hope-chess.  The computer quickly shows 21…Nd3! cutting off white’s queen for the moment. If 22. Ne6+ (22. Qc3+ Rf6 23. Qxc4 Nxb4 and black wins) 22… Kh6! and this is the ultimate cold shower; black is winning.  Now white is on the b2-h8 diagonal and black’s king is in big trouble.

20. Qxb2 Nxc1 21. Ng5! Nd3 22. Qd4! This position I considered to be completely hopeless for black due to the numerous threats but
the computer still finds moves.

22… h6? Collapse.  Another lemon is 22… e5 (black was reaching for this move then retracted his hand) as 23. Qxc4+ Kh8 24. Qc7! kills.

The toughest is the natural 22…Nxb4 23. a3! (23. Ne6?? Rf6) 23… h6 24. Ne6 Rf6 25. axb4 Rxb4 and the machine shows black can fight on although of course white is better.  The game ended prosaically.

23. Bd5+ Qf7 24. Bxf7+ 1-0

Study Material – The Gibraltar Upset

[Event "Gibraltar"]
[EventDate "2008.01.22"]
[Round "2"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Antoaneta Stefanova"]
[Black "Mikhail Gurevich"]
[ECO "A81"]
[WhiteElo "2464"]
[BlackElo "2607"]

1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Nh3 g6 4. Nf4 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. h4 Nc6 7. h5 g5 8. h6 Bh8 9. Nd3 Nxd4 10. Bxg5 Ne6 11. Bh4 d5 12. Nd2 c6 Black is actually OK here and only tosses the game away later. 13. c4 Ne4 14. cxd5 cxd5 15. Nf3 Qd6 16. Qb3 Bd7 17. Nf4 Bc6 18. Nxe6 Qxe6 19. Rd1 a5 20. Nd4 Qf7 21. g4 Bxd4?! 22. Rxd4 e5? 23. gxf5 exd4 24. Bxe4 Rae8 25. Qg3+ Kh8 Now it’s very obvious black’s king is too exposed.  He probably underestimated his opponent.

26. Bd3 b5 27. Qf4 Qa7 28. Qd6 Qf7 29. Rg1 b4 30. Rg7 Qh5 31. Rg8+! 1-0 A brutal finale.

Elsewhere on the Internet – No Comeback for Bad Bird’s

I noted with horror from Michael Goeller that attempts were being made in some quarters to rehabilitate some pretty bad variations of the Bird Defense to the Ruy Lopez.

Fortunately (for chess logic) it’s easy to see they are no good.

For example, 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nd4?! (a move that doesn’t make much sense) 4. Nxd4 exd4 5. O-O g6? was one such bad line presented as perhaps OK. But it’s not.  White has the simple move 6. c3! (not considered in the article, where 6 d3 is called the “main line”).  Yet the extremely simple and logical  6. c3! is clearly strong.  After 6…dxc3 7. Nxc3 Bg7 8. d4 black has a horrible game.    Openings genius Kenny Regan in the 1970s was actually the paragon of Bird enthusiasts but he kept to the straight and narrow with …Bc5 and …c6  lines.

After 6. c3! Bg7 white can swing for the fences with 7. e5 but then with 7…Nh6! black holds on.    After 6…Bg7 with the straightforward 7. cxd4! Bxd4 it’s not hard to see the floating black bishop is not going to bode well.    The best there is 8. d3! (deferring Nc3 because it’s not certain the N belongs there) and white is well on top, scoring 100% in the database examples I have. Even more amusingly, there is a second way for white.  The TN 7. Qa4! c6 8. Bd3 is also very good for white.  For example, 8….b5 9. Qb3 Ne7 10. a4! and white is having a lot of fun.

Conclusion:  5….g6? is terrible.

The Fabulous 70s: Trying to Make the Early Bishop Move Work

January 5, 2008

In the 1970s, I spent a lot of time (with some help from future IM Steve Odendahl) trying to make this work:

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4!?


Position after 5…Bb4!? – the so-called “Pin Variation”.

I was particularly interested in 6. e5 Nd5 7. Qg4 g5!? with bizarre complications. Unfortunately the computer shows this is not very good (details shortly). Interestingly, the computer (Rybka in this case; sometimes I use Fritz) does have a good answer for the response advocated by theory: 6. e5 Nd5 7. Bd2. After 7…Nxc3 8. bxc3 Be7 9. Qg4, the computer plays 9….g6 (not 9…O-O?! 10. Bh6 and black has insufficient compensation for the exchange) and has some cleverness in store – see below. The situation is very sharp with white hoping to prove attacking chances outweigh the damaged structure. ICC tests are ongoing.

In the meantime let’s see some analysis.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4

Variation “Zero” (an early ‘digression’ sideline): 6. Nb5!? Note I don’t write 6. Ndb5 because the c-knight is pinned!


Position after 6. Nb5!? – an early digression.

Before we get into the main move, 6. e5, first we have to look at 6. Nb5!? – an interesting try. Very safe but rather static for black then is 6…O-O 7. a3 Bxc3+ 8. Nxc3 d5 9. Bd3 (or 9. exd5 exd5 10. Bd3 Re8+ 11. Ne2 Nc6 with equality) 9…d4 10. Ne2 Nc6 11. O-O e5 with an equal game. For more dynamism, my ICC blitz reaction move, 7…Ba5!? is riskier but playable and better to play for a win. It just looks nicer to keep this bishop. For example, 8. b4 Bb6 9. e5 Ne8 and it’s not clear what white has, since 10. Bd3? a6! 11. Nd6 Nxd6 12. exd6 Qf6! is good for black (although white won a minor league game, S. Schubert-T. Geissler, Bochum 1992, after some bad blunders by black later).

Black can also immediately grab but it’s risky: 6…Nxe4?! 7. Qg4! Nxc3 8. bxc3 Bf8 9. Qg3! and white has more than enough compensation.

Conclusion: on 6. Nb5!? black should play 6…O-O and then on 7. a3 he can decide to go simple with 7…Bxc3+ or go complex with 7…Ba5. In both cases, he is fine.

Variation Zero-2: An Even Rarer Early Digression Sideline. 6. Bd3. White is not hoping for anything special; he just wants to avoid black’s preparation after 6. e5. IM Bobby83 likes to play this on ICC. More on this move later.

Let’s go ahead now and look at the main move, 6. e5.

6. e5 Nd5 A preliminary comment. This position does not look so bad for black. Therefore, I predict a revisiting of black’s chances in over the board play as, inevitably, strong players resuscitate forgotten lines with computers. White has some major tries now.

The first thing to notice is that

A. 7. a3 gives nothing: 8…Bxc3+ 8. bxc3 Qc7 9. Nb5 Qxe5+ 10. Qe2 Qxe2+ (note that 10..Qf6 is playable too) and black has no problems; in fact agreed drawn at this point in 1/2-1/2 Alzate,D (2419)-Pazos,P (2363)/Medellin 2000. A possible humorous and realistic continuation is 11. Bxe2 a6 12. c4 axb5 13. cxd5 exd5 with a fantastic rare pawn formation and of course… equality since black’s ruined formation gives him no real chances despite the pawns to the plus.


Position after 13…exd5. The rare “Expanded Pawn Square” formation. It’s equal!

B. Let’s try 7. Qg4. The best reply is 7…g6 -there is insufficient compensation after 7…O-O?! 8. Bh6 g6 9. Bxf8, as has been shown many times, although some points were scored from the black side in early (For example, Julian Hodgson) due to surprise value. And, unfortunately, my 70’s funkiness of 7…g5?!! (TN) is met by 8. Ndb5! and black has a bad game after 8…Nc6 9. Qxg5! Qxg5 10. Bxg5 O-O 11. Bd2 and white keeps an edge.

Let’s go back to 7. Qg4 g6. White has three common responses; the first one being the least important.

B0. 8. a3 – slow. Black’s best reponse is 8…Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Qc7! 10. Qg3 (what else?) and now black can play 10…Nxc3 11. Bd2 Ne4! or 11. Bd3 Nc6! in both cases with an OK game. For example, 11. Bd3 Nc6 12. Nxc6 Qxc6 13. Bh6 b6! 14. O-O Bb7 with equal chances. Previously, the weak 10…a6? (Czerniak-Van Scheltinga, Helsinki 1952, 1-0 was played). Black also has the somewhat weaker 10…Qxc3+?! 11. Qxc3 Nxc3 12. Bd2 and now 12…Ne4! is correct with a very small white edge and not 12…Nd5? 13. Nb5 and white was on top and won convincingly in Toth-Blasko Fuzesabony 1994.

B1. 8. Qg3 which looks and is slow – but not quite as slow as 8. a3, since it does guard e5.

B2. 8. Bd2 – more logical.

Let’s go through each of these in turn.

Variation B1, 8. Qg3


Position after 8. Qg3.

B1. 8. Qg3 Nc6! This is correct and not 8…Nxc3? 9. bxc3 Be7 10. Bh6 and white has an edge. If 9. Ndb5?! O-O 10. Bh6 a6! 11. Bxf8 Qxf8 and black is getting huge compensation, for example 12. Nd6 f6! 13. Nxc8 Rxc8 14. exf6? Nd4! and black is way on top.

So white should play the more sensible 9. Nxc6 and we reach an important position. 9….dxc6 is OK, but kind of boring, after 10. Bd2 Qa5 11. Be2 Nxc3 12. bxc3 Be7 13. O-O O-O. More dynamic is 9…bxc6!?, for example 10. Bc4 Qa5 11. Bd2 Ba6! with balanced play. Or, 10. Bh6? Qa5! and black is just better: 11. Bd2 (crawling retreat) 11…O-O with an edge, or 11. Kd2? craziness, refuted by 11…Qc5! and the threat of 12…Nxc3 coupled by 13…Qd4+ next will win for black.

Conclusion in Variation B1: 8. Qg3 is harmless and is defused by 8….Nc6!

Variation B2, 8. Bd2


Position after 8. Bd2.

Let’s look at Variation B2, 8. Bd2. Black should play 8…O-O and now there is a large branch. Let’s see some lines.

B20. 9. Qg3 Nc6! transposes to variation B1 and black is happy.

B21. 9. a3?! Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 f5! gives white a bad structure.

The crazy looking but not bad

B22. 9. h4!? is met by the calm 9…d6! 10. h5 dxe5 11. hxg6 fxg6 12. Nf3 Bxc3 13. bxc3 Nc6 14. Bd3 Qf6 and black has sufficient defensive chances. Black also has an alternate defense: 9. h4 Nc6!? 10. Nxc6 dxc6 11. h5 Qc7!? to guard laterally.

On the developing move

B23. 9. Bd3!?, black is advised to play 9…d6! 10. exd6 (or the slow 10. Nf3 Nc6 with equal chances) and then play 10…e5! – looks fine. For example, 11. Nf5 Bxf5 12. Bxf5 Bxc3 13. bxc3 Qxd6 and white has nothing. Chigorin would enjoy his knights here.

A trap to avoid: On 9. Bd3, not 9…Qa5 10. O-O Nxc3 11. a3!! Nxe2+ 12. Qxe2 Bxd2 13. Nb3 and white has an edge! – a fantastic tactical shot.

Another possibility: the weird

B24. 9. Bc4?! is met by the simple two-step 9…d6 10. Nde2 Nxc3 11. Nxc3 d5! – for example, 12. Be2 Nc6 13. f4 f6! and black is doing well. Similarly, 12. Bb3 Nc6 13. O-O-O Qc7 14. f4 Nd4! and black is again fine. On the other hand, the frisky 10…dxe5 11. O-O-O Nc6 12. Bh6 f5 13. Qg3! is dangerous. It’s important to leave white with a bad structure and very few attacking chances.

Finally, we have to consider the primitive capture that displaces white’s own king to weaken only temporarily black’s pawns.

B25. 9. Nxd5?! Bxd2+ 10. Kxd2 exd5. As you might imagine, black has no problems. For example, 11. Qf4 Nc6 = or 11. Bd3 d6 12. Qf4 dxe5 13. Qxe5 Nd7 =.

Conclusion: in variation B2, 8. Bd2 O-O, black has to be very alert because there are numerous attacking tries, each with specific defensive responses. No easy day at the office, but black has enough resources.

In the next post, I will look at Variation C, the main line, which is 7. Bd2.

My original 1970’s notes on 6. e5 Nd5 7. Qg4 g5?! are on tiny pieces of Hotel Lombard (New York City) stationery! This is a good illustration of pre-computer work, very disheveled.

The only organized pre-computer person I saw was backgammon and poker-player IM Elliott Winslow. His notes were in micro-small handwriting with a fine-tip pen – incredibly precise and legible even in tiny (I would say 6 pt. font) writing. He would put incredible margin notes into ECO’s and Informants. What a diligent worker! I wonder how many important TNs came from his writings (one cannot say ‘scribblings’).

Similarly, others have tried another audacious early bishop maneuver to get active on the c5-f2 diagonal and dispense with the “Kan” preventative …a7-a6:

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5!?


Position after the cheeky 4…Bc5!? – The Basman-Sale Variation

We’ll have to discuss this one too because the two tries are thematically linked.

Watch this space for the discussion. For now, simply notice that forcing variations are great in blitz. The chances are high that a rare variation will catch the opposition by surprise, even if they are dubious. Which of the two lines above is ‘superior’ objectively? Hard to say. It might turn out to be the Pin Variation. That’s one of the things we will figure out as the discussion grows. Does this (4…Bc5) have a name? News bulletin as of January 12, 2008: according to chessmanitoba, this is called the Basman-Sale variation (see comments).
Readers: send in any games that are interesting with the Pin Variation or the Early Bc5 Bishop Sortie lines.