Archive for the ‘English Opening’ Category

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 00s: The NY International 2008 Part Deux

July 1, 2008

More Games, More Drama

Here’s a barnburner I played in Round 3 vs. GM Michael Rohde.

IM M. Ginsburg – GM M. Rohde  Round 3, Hedgehog

1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.O-O a6 7.Re1 Be7 8.e4 d6 9.d4 cxd4 10.Nxd4 Qc7 Of course the c4 pawn is not really hanging yet.  Black is just setting up a regular hedgehog piece placement.

11.Be3 Nbd7 12.f4 h5!? It’s a little unusual to do this at this exact juncture.  Some players like to go ….Rc8 and …Qb8 to attack the c-pawn “for real”.

13.Rc1!? 13. h3 is the most positionally careful but on this day I felt like throwing a knight into the middle (see move 14).

13…Ng4 14.Nd5! Maybe a TN!  It leads to what I think is a significant white edge.

Position after 14. Nd5!? – Maybe a TN!

14…exd5 15.cxd5 Qd8 16.Nc6 This is the point.  The pawn appearing on c6 will cause coordination problems for black.

16…Bxc6 17.dxc6 Nc5 18.c7?! Rather weak.  Correct is 18. Bd4! with excellent positional compensation.  This position merits careful examination to determine the ultimate worth of 14. Nd5.

18…Qxc7 19.b4 O-O 20.h3 Nxe3 21.Rxe3 h4!? If I were black, I would be more inclined to 21…g6!? but the text is positionally well motivated to gain more dark squares.

Position after 21…h4!? – the most aggressive choice.

22.bxc5 dxc5 23.Qg4 c4! Strong.

24.Kh1 b5 25.e5 Qb6 26.Re4! This is the only move to give black any problems.  Objectively black is better but it’s not easy with limited time to reach move 40.

26…Rad8 27.f5 Qh6 28.Rf1

Position after 28. Rf1.  Decision time.

28…Rfe8? In severe time trouble, black selects a nearly losing move. Correct is 28…f6! and black is much better.  The queenside majority is mobile.

29.f6 Bf8 30.e6! Naturally.

30…Rxe6 31.Rxe6 fxe6 32.Qxe6+ Kh8 33.Bd5! Rxd5 Pretty much necessary but now white has chances to win.

34.Qxd5 The position is now dangerous for black.

Position after 34. Qxd5.

34…hxg3?! 34…gxf6 looks better.  35. Rf5 could be met by 35…Qc1+.

35.Kg2? White gives away a pawn for no reason. Why on earth not first the natural 35. fxg7+ completely baring black’s king?  The queen and rook can then ‘bother” much more effectively and white has good chances to score the full point.

35…gxf6 Black’s king is now safe enough to draw.  Now both sides have very little time left and a set of fairly random moves appear on the board to get to move 40.

36.Rf5 Qg6 37.Rf4 Bh6 38.Qa8+ Kh7 39.Rg4 Qc2+ 40.Kxg3 Qd3+ 41.Kg2 Bg5 42.h4 Qe2+ 43.Kh3 A perpetual check is inevitable.

1/2-1/2 A tough struggle!

Last Round Thriller

IM Alfonse Almeida (2502, MEX) – IM M. Ginsburg  Round 9. Modern/Pirc

1.d4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bc4 In Round 1 IM Ron Burnett was successful with 4. Be3 c6!? 5. Qd2 b5!? playing black against IM Eli Vovsha.  The text move, the “Holmov Attack”, has been well studied by theory and is fairly harmless.

4…Nf6 5.Nge2 On the main move 5. Qe2, black has been doing well with the sharp 5…O-O!? 6. e5 Ne8, and the older 5…Nc6 6. e5 Nxd4 7. exf6 Nxe2 8. fxg7 Rg8 is not refuted either.  The text should yield zero.

5…O-O The simplest way is 5…Nxe4!, but I was somehow probably unjustifiably worried about 6. Bxf7+ Kxf7 7. Nxe4 with some nebulous ideas of Ng5+ and Nf4 targeting e6.  After the game, my opponent gave his intention as 6. Nxe4 but then 6…d5 7. Bd3 dxe4 8. Bxe4 and black is completely fine with white’s odd knight placement on e2.   After the text move, the game becomes very sharp.

6.f3 c6 7.a4 d5 8.Bb3 dxe4 9.fxe4 e5! The usual reaction in the center, reminiscent of the Fantasy Variation of the Caro-Kann (1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3!? dxe4 4. fxe4 e5!?)  meets with a very nice response from white.  When I played 9…e5, I had no idea what white was up to and I thought he was just worse.  This isn’t the case.


Position after 9. Bg5! – I did not expect this move.

10…exd4 11.Qxd4 Necessary and interesting.

11…Qxd4 12.Nxd4 Nbd7 13.Rf1! The only move to keep pressure.

13…h6 14.Bh4

Now I had a bit of a think.  If I accept the pawn gambit I come under heavy pressure.  I opted for something else…

14…Ng4? This move, anticipating 15. O-O-O?? Ne3! winning, would be great if it were not for white’s next!

Position after 14…Ng4? – White has a shot.

15.Ne6! The opportunistic Almeida would not miss this.  As a testament to “how good” my opening was, I can play on with some pressure even after this brutal shot.

15…fxe6 16.Bxe6 Kh7 17.Bxg4 Rxf1 18.Kxf1 Nc5 19.Bf3 Be6 20.Bf2 b6 Black is doing the best he can, but his compensation is insufficient.

21.a5 Re8 22.axb6 axb6 23.Ra7? A huge misstep!  White had the simple 23. Rd1 with the idea of Rd6; white should convert that position to victory.  It is OK if he loses the a-pawn at some juncture if that means black’s dark-squared bishop leaves the board. After the text, white’s rook proves to be out of play as black generates unexpected counterplay against white’s king!

23…Kg8 24.Rc7 Bc4+ 25.Kg1 Ra8! Suddenly Bxc3 and Ra1+ are threatened!  White has to self-tangle.

26.Nd1 From this point on, the gamescore makes no sense.  Here are the right moves.

26…Bb5! A nice defensive motif. White’s rook is in serious danger of being trapped with Bg7-e5!  He has to resort to extreme measures and black is now off the hook.

Position after 26…Bb5!  Black wriggles out.

27. Bg4 What else? 27…Be5 28. Rc8+ Rxc8 29. Bxc8 Be2! 30. Nc3 This position is drawn.  Black just has to be a little careful.  The two bishops never become a factor.

30…Bxc3 31. bxc3 Nxe4 32. Bxb6 Nxc3 33. Bd4 Ne4 34. Bd7 Bb5 Black’s bishop and knight coordinate well.  White’s king cannot approach to do damage.

35. Be6+ Kf8 36. Bg4 Kf7 37. h4 h5 38. Bf3 Nd2! 39. Kf3 White offers a draw in light of 39…Nxf3.  For some reason on the site, the game continues to move 60 and rooks reappear on the board rather magically. Even worse for me, white is recorded as winning..  In fact, the game ended here peacefully.


Round 3 Sickness

Just for the sick blunderfest fans among us (I know you’re one), here is Ehlvest-Liu from the 3rd round.

GM Jaan Ehlvest – NM Elliot Liu  King’s Indian Defense, Round 3.

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bg5 Bg7 4.e3 O-O 5.Be2 d6 6.c4 c5 7.Nc3 Soviet-style safety (SSS).   The chances are very high an American junior won’t know what to do.

7…h6 8.Bh4 g5 Here, the non-obvious 8…Qb6!? 9. Qd2 g5 10. Bg3 Bf5 is interesting on the grounds white would rather have his queen on c2, not d2.

9.Bg3 Nh5  The unusual 9…Qb6!? is interesting here too. 10. Qc2 Nc6 11. O-O-O Bd7 12. a3 Rfc8 with counterplay.

10.d5 f5 And here 10…Qa5 11. Nd2 Nxg3 12. hxg3 Bf5! offers an interesting game; black does not mind white weakening the dark squares considering his unopposed king bishop in the event of e3-e4.

11.Nd2 Nxg3 12.hxg3 Nd7 Offbeat but not ridiculous is 12…Na6!? 13. a3 Bd7!? 

13.Qc2 Nf6 14.f4 e6 15.fxg5 hxg5 16.dxe6 Bxe6 17.O-O-O Now, as if by magic, white has a strong initiative.  We have to credit white’s unusual system because the non-obvious variations above are all difficult to spot. After making some hackneyed KID moves (hunting down white’s QB and playing f5 to expose his own king) Black is in a very difficult situation.  GM Lein used to torture US Juniors in this line.  It must be a Soviet specialty. I did something like this as black against Lein Lone Pine ’80 (play rote moves and get a bad game) and also in my game I missed a win later when white overpressed.  Weird!

17…a6 18.g4! Qd7?! Since 18…fxg4 19. Bd3 is so bad for black, it’s hard to call it an improvement.  Nevertheless, the text puts the BQ on a very unfortunate square.

19.Rdf1 Now white is well on the road to victory with a huge edge.  I left the playing hall at this point having observed this dismal tableau for black.  But look what happens!  In fact, this phase might be characterized as a “hustle”  – Jaan starts missing win after win in the moves that follow; perhaps in the ‘anything wins’ mode?

19…fxg4 20.Bd3 The simple 20. Nd5! gets rid of black’s light square bishop and then the black king is fairly well toasted.  For example, 20…Bxd5 21. cxd5 b5 22. Bd3 is horrific for black.  For those who like tactics, here is a pleasing one:  21. cxd5 c4 22. Nxc4! Rac8 23. Kb1 b5 24. Bd3!! Rf7 25. Bh7+ Kf8 26. Nb6! splat!  The text move also gives white a big edge.

Position after 20. Bd3 — Something has gone very wrong from black’s point of view.

One of the things that makes Grandmasters strong is their vast experience with all kinds of opening systems.  Take for example the one Ehlvest played in this game (an old favorite of safety-first ex-World Champ Vassily Smyslov).  Liu played what so far seem to be quasi-normal moves and the diagram above looks like a simul crush.  I won’t embarrass either participant further with more diagrams, since the game degenerates now into an insane blunderfest.

20…Kf7 21. Run away!  But this shouldn’t have helped.

21.Nde4?! Ehlvest’s first (of many) failures to end the game in his favor quickly. 21. Bf5! is completely crushing.  Here’s a disgusting variation: 21. Bf5! Ke7 22. Bxe6 Qxe6 23. Qg6 Rf7 24. Rh7!  and black must resign in view of 24…Nxh7 25. Nd5+.  For sadists, examine the punching bag nature of 21. Bf5! Bxf5 22. Rxf5 Ke7 (what else?) 23. Rhf1 Qe6 24. Qd3 with total paralysis. 24…Rae8 25. Rxg5 Bh8 26. Rg6 Kd7 27. Nd5 Rf7 28. Rf4! Ref8 29. Re4! Nxe4 30. Nb6+!  (That devilish knight!) 30…Ke7 31. Rxe6+ and wins.

21…Ke7 22.Nxg5 Kd8 Necessary.

23.Bf5! Better late than never.

23…Bxf5 24.Rxf5 Kc7 25.Rd1? Extremely careless. 25. Rhf1 is overski:  25…Qe8 26. Qd3 Kc6 27. Nd5 and wins.  Black is paralyzed.

25…b6 26.Kb1 Rae8 White has bungled and almost his entire edge is gone.

27.e4 Qc6? Quite weak.  27…Kb8 is correct.

28.Rdf1?! Not the right timing.  28. Qf2! is right with a big edge after 28…Kb7 29. Qf4 or 28…Kb8 29. Qf4.

28…Kb7 29.a4?! 29. Nd5! is correct.

29…Nd7 30.Nd5 Rxf5? 30…Bd4 is much tougher.  The text allows a nice white win.

31.exf5 Nf6 32.Ne6?? White finishes it with 32. Nxf6 Bxf6 33. Nh7! – an elegant conclusion.  Black can limp on with 33…d5 (forced, any bishop move is crushed by f5-f6) 34. cxd5 Qd6 35. Nxf6 Qxf6 36. Qd3 and white should convert easily.  Was Ehlvest simply underestimating his young opponent after encountering very little resistance in the opening?

Bh8 33.Qd1? White is still winning after 33. Nec7 Rc8 (33…Re5 34. Nxf6 Bxf6 35. Nd5! also loses) 34. Rh1 Qd7 35. Nxf6 Bxf6 36. Nd5 Be5 37. e6! and wins.

33… b5 34.axb5? 34. Qb3! keeps a serious edge.

34…axb5 35.Qb3 35. Ndc7! is also strong here.  The weird thing is white is still better after the prior missed opportunities, but watch!

35…b4 36.Rh1?? A real lu-lu.  36.  Qd3! Nxd5 37. cxd5 Qa4 38. f6 b3 39. Qh7+!  Kb6 40. Qc7+ Ka6 41. Qxd6+ wins for white.  36…Kc8 is relatively best but white is still well on top. Clearly Ehlvest visualized something like this in his mind but his timing in the game is all vershimmelt.  36. Qd3 Kb8 is relatively best for black, but once again after 37. Ndc7! white is much better.

36..Nxd5 37.cxd5 Qd7 For the first time, black is back in it.  And here, 37…Qa6! was quite good with the idea of Ra8 and black is on the offense.

38.Qc4 Rc8? Time trouble?   38…Ra8! 39. Qxg4 Qb5!! 40. Qe4 Kb6!! and black has a huge attack!  But wait:  38….Ra8! 39. Rh7!! Qxh7 40. Qb5+ and a sudden perpetual check draw!   It would, of course, be difficult for white to reconcile himself to a draw after black’s opening butcheries.

39.Rh6 Ra8?! 39…Qa4! and white has to press the panic button with 40. Rh1 Ra8 41. Nxc5+! with a perpetual check, or 40…Kb6! (again this nice move) with a continued attack and no immediate draw.

40.Qe4?? White must have been in time trouble too.  40. f6!  is met by the nice bail-out sacrifice 40…Bxf6! 41. Rxf6 Qh7+ 42. Kc1 Qh1+ 43. Kc2 Qh1+ 44. Kb3 Qh3+ and this is a very pleasing perpetual check draw.

40…Qa4?? I am convinced, both sides were in serious time trouble.  Here, black had 40…Ra1+ 41. Kxa1 Qa4+ 42. Kb1 Qd1+ 43. Ka2 b3+ mating, or 41. Kc2 Qa4+ 42. Kd2 Bc3+! and now we’re in junior tactic land and black wins white’s queen for starters.

41.Nxc5+ Some good fortune for Ehlvest.  41…dxc5 42. Qe7+ is curtains. Lucky!  1-0

The moral of the story is, it’s not good to miss win after win.  One of them must be played!


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New York International 2008

June 25, 2008

The Basics

The first-ever New York International 2008, a nine round masters’ Swiss, was held at the venerable Marshall CC, on 23 W 10 St in Manhattan from June 21 to 25, 2008 and drew quite a strong field.   Dr. Frank Brady was in attendance and Nick Conticello and Steve Immitt directed.  Monroi coverage was intermittent.   GM Alejandro Ramirez (Costa Rica) and GM Jaan Ehlvest GM Mark Paragua wound up tying for first.   The last round was very exciting.  Ramirez ground down GM Sergey Erenburg in a superior rook and bishops of opposite colors ending with separated passed pawns. GM Mark Paragua could only draw Elliot Liu in a sharp Schveningen where Liu did an early bum’s rush with g2-g4 but still wound up tying for first and then defeated Ramirez in a tiebreak Armageddon blitz game.  Ehlvest beat Mackenzie Molner (who himself needed a win for a GM norm) — an interesting win on the black side of a Keres Attack that I will post later.  Yuri Lapshun and I were puzzling over Ehlvest’s Estonian scoresheet, but fortunately Steve Immitt had it on Monroi.   The strength of the event is evidenced by the fact that a mere 5 out of 9 was good enough for Molner’s norm.

And when I left, GM Becerra was still slogging for a top prize, torturing IM Sarkar in an objectively drawn ending (R  and rook pawn against Bishop and rook pawn) but in sudden death anything can happen, and in fact did, since I see Becerra won it (rather improbably).

Here was a position from Becerra-Sarkar from when I was watching.

Excerpt from Becerra-Sarkar (black to move)

The first move that occurred to me was …h6.  This pawn, if immune, destroys any white winning hopes!  And it does appear immune.   But Sarkar didn’t do it.  I did not understand why Sarkar did not build an impregnable defensive line with ….h7-h6!.  After this move, white can certainly attack the pawn on h6 but he can never take it with either king or rook and hope to win, because the e-pawn will move to e2, opening up a discovered attack.  The e-pawn will cost white’s rook and it will be a draw. I see absolutely no winning attempt for white after …h6!.

In the game, Sarkar *never* played h6.  Furthermore, when his king was boxed in, he felt it necessary to give up his passed pawn entirely by playing e3-e2 to give the bishop room.  The position then became problem-like with white able to set up various zugzwang motifs.  White did win eventually in a game important for the final standings.  The moral in sudden-death:  locate one iron-clad draw and go for it!  Waffling around just leads to trouble  This advice also applied to an early round.  Blogster Jon Jacobs was playing GM Mark Paragua and had a great game throughout.  After some Paragua trickery, black won an ending narrowly. the game became dead drawn, but Jacobs was low on time.  Paragua tried one last attempt and Jacobs could not orient himself to go for the iron-clad drawing formation. I will post that excerpt shortly; it is instructive.

In the game, white tried to retain an extra pawn when in fact by letting it go he would reach the draw.  Note that the opportunistic Paragua needed this little bit of luck here and in other games (every tournament winner does!) to wind up in the top spots.  Here is the game; it is instructive.

Jon Jacobs – Mark Paragua, Round 1.  Reti Opening.

1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c6 3.Bg2 Bg4 4.O-O Nd7 5.d4 e6 6.Bf4 Ngf6 7.Nbd2 Qb6 8.c4 Bxf3 9.Nxf3 dxc4 10.Qc2 Nd5 11.Bd2 Qa6 12.Rfc1 b5? Of course this is terrible. Tournament winners need luck in the first round!  12…Bb4 would keep the game in reasonable boundaries.

13.b3?! Black has a horrible game after 13. a4! Qb7 14. axb5 axb5 15. Ng5!.   In fact, white also has 15. b3! Rc8 16. e4 Nb4 17. Qb1 with enormous pressure.  A pleasant choice!  The problem for black is that his light square bishop, so sorely needed for the light square defense in the face of white’s mobile center, is not on the board anymore. The text keeps an edge but less than 13. a4!.  Here’s another instructive line.  13. a4! Qb6 14. axb5 cxb5 15. b3! cxb3 16. Qb3 and black not long for this world.  A possible defense 16…Be7 is crushed by 17. e4 N5f6 18. Ba5! Qa6 (18…Qb8 19. Nh4 wins; 18…Qb7 19. Rc7 wins) 19. e5 (19. Ne5 also wins) 19…Nd5 20. Nd2! and white wins.  Black can’t get out of the bind.

13…Ba3 14.bxc4! Of course.  White has a big edge.  Just not as big as the previous note.

14…Bxc1 15.cxd5 Bxd2 16.dxc6 Nb6 17.Nxd2 O-O 18.Rb1? Strong is 18. Ne4! Nd5 19. Nd6. For example, 19…Rad8 20. Qc5! Nc7 21. Nb7 with a huge bind.

18…Rac8 19.Qb3 Nd5?? Very weak.  Correct is 19…Rfd8! 20. e3 Nd5 and black is better and the same verdict is true for 20. Qd3 Nd5.

20.e4 Oops!  Black allows the P/c6 to live and he will be suffering.

20…Nc7 21.d5 Rfd8 22.Nf1 White has a big edge again.

22…Qb6 23.Ne3 Qc5 24.h4?! The most efficient is 24. Qb2! with the idea of Rc1.

24…a5 25.h5 This pawn demonstration was uncalled for.  Once again, 25. Qb2!

25…h6?! 25….b4!

26.Qd1 26. Qb2!

26…a4 26…b4!

27.Rc1 Qa3 28.Rc2 Ne8? Black carelessly allows a surprising shot.  I suspect he was playing on his opponent’s time shortage.   He had to hunker down with 28…Qe7! with a defensible game.


White had 29. e5! exd5 30. Bh3! d4 31. Bxc8 d3 32. Rd2 with a huge edge. Or, 30…Rc7? 31. Nxd5 and white will win in short order.

29…Qb4 30.Qd3 Nc7 31.Rd2 Qd6?! An unforced retreat.  Better was 31…a3! leaving the queen in the nice b4 spot .

32.Qd4! f6 33.Rd3?! Too hesitant. This is probably time trouble.  The aggressive 33. f4! is extremely strong.  Black has a terrible game after 33…exd5 34. exd5 or 34. Bh3! Qxc6 35. Rc2! Qe8 36. exd5.

33…Na6?! 33…Re8 is a tougher defense.

34.Qa7 The careful 34. Rd1 also leaves white better with the idea of the strong Bf1-h3!

34…Nb4 34…Nc5  35. dxe6 Nxd3 36. Qf7+ transposes to the game.

35.dxe6! 35. Rd1! also gives white a big edge.  For example, 35…Ra8 36. Qb6 Rdb8 37. Qd4 Nxa2? 38. Bh3! and white wins.  This Bh3! idea is always very annoying for black.  The text is fine too but a little tricky.

35…Nxd3 36.Qf7+  Kh8 37.Nf5 Qf8 38.Qxf8 Rxf8 39.Bxd3?? Must be time trouble.  39. e7! first is winning for white with accurate play.  The reason is 39…Rfe8 (39…Rg8 40. Bxd3 is great for white too) 40. Bxd3! and black cannot take on c6. The following variation is nice: 40…b4! 41. Nd6! Rxe7 42. Nxc8 Rc7 (optically black has play, but white controls the board) 43. Nb6! b3 44. axb3 cxb3 45. Na4! Rxc6 46. Kf1! Rc1+ 47. Ke2 Ra1 48. Nc3 and white coordinates fantastically and should win.

39…Rxc6 40.e7 Rb8! The opportunistic Paragua has chances to get an edge again in this crazy game.  Did I mention tournament winner’s luck?

41.Bxb5 Re6 42.Bxa4 Rxe4 43.Bc6 Re5 44.g4?? One has to feel sorry for white missing so many nice things in the game.   The beautiful 44. Nh4!! is a great move.  After 44…Re1+, for example, 45. Kg2 black is completely stymied and if the best he can do is 45…g6 46. Nxg6+ Kg8 it’s clear only white has chances. Note also that after 45…Kh7? 46. Ng6! and black is totally tied up!  If Paragua was playing white and had the luxury of all his extra time in the sudden death, he would bring the point home with something like 46…f5 47. f4! Re3 48. Kh3 Re2 49. g4! and white is making progress.

44…Rb1+ 45.Kg2 Rbe1! Paragua is not going to let white wriggle around anymore.  His plan is inexorable.

46.Kg3 Kg8 47.Kf4 Rxf5 48.Kxf5 Re5 49.Kf4 Rxe7 50.Bd5 Kf8 51.Bc4 Re5 52.Bb3 Ke7 53.Bc4 Kd6 54.Bb3 Kc5 55.Bf7 Kd4 56.Bb3 f5! I didn’t comment on the previous chaotic adventures, which looked incredibly suspicious for black. At the time I thought this was holdable for white, but he cannot organize a king run to the queenside in time without dropping the weak kingside pawns. Of course this position is fine for white, but the text for black unexpectedly works. Let’s see this position.

Position after 56…f5! – “Winning Try” ??? Black does indeed win

57.gxf5 I am surprised to say there is no defense even with this limited material. . White must have been totally disoriented and makes the worst response to black’s  attempt. Black had the idea if 57. g5, black has 57…Re4+ 58. Kxf5 Re5+ 59. Kg6 Rxg5+ and continues to fight.  But after Even 57. f3! does not save it. , keeping the pawn chain, here is the idea:   white will play gxf5 now if black lets him.  There is no more Re4+.  Suppose 57. f3! fxg4 58. fxg4.  Well, there is no win.  White can simply play his bishop from b3 to g8 and back again just waiting.  If black gets too cute, g4-g5 will be possible in some lines and that will draw immediately as too many pawns leave the board.   I don’t see any winning attempt for black. Note the similarities between this  exchange-down should-be-drawn game and the last round Sarkar exchange-down should-be-drawn bungle above – if iron-clad draws are passed up, letting the other side continue to fight, time pressure will decide the outcome!

Here is a sample line.  57. f3 fxg4 58. fxg4 Rb5! 59. Be6 Rb1! and black prevents g4-g5.  White will have to give ground with 60. Bb3 Rf1+ 61. Kg3 Ke4 62. Be6 Rf3+ 63. Kh4 Kf4 and black is on the road to winning since g5 is ruled out and the a-pawn is going nowhere.   Continuing, 64. Bb3 Rg3 65. Be6 Rg1! 66. Kh3 Rh1+ 67. Kg2 Re1! illustrates the zugzwang theme where white cannot hang on to both a2 and g4.

MG Note 6/29/08:  Jacobs offers a winning plan for black after 57. f3 in his comments.  The ending is very instructive and it appears white cannot hold it!  Black can get to the key dark squares using his king and rook and white’s a-pawn is immobile – if it advances, it will be lost.   A drawing formation is white’s king guarding a-pawn and white bishop parked on f5 but that requires too many moves and he can’t achieve it.

57…Re4+ 58.Kg3 Ke5 Black’s main point.  White’s king is cut off and black can angle to make a passed pawn.

59.Be6 Rb4 60.Bd7 Rd4 61.Be6 Rd1 62.Kg2 Kf4 63.Bb3 Rc1 64.Be6 Kg5 65.Bf7 Kxf5 66.Kg3 Rc3 67.f3 Kg5 68.Be8 Ra3 69.Bf7 Ra4 70.Kf2 Ra7 0-1 As referenced above, tournament winner’s luck!

Sergey Erenburg, a solid GM, simply made too many draws and then had the last round disappoinment against the focused, well-playing, Ramirez.

Mackenzie Molner and Elliot Liu made IM norms.  Elliot in particular made an improbable comeback after losing early to Vovsha and (in an absurd mutual blunder-fest) to Ehlvest, beating among others IM Almeida, GM Palermo, and GM R. Gonzales in a surprising run.   In the R. Gonzales game, Reinier was unrecognizable, losing quickly as white in a King’s Indian Attack (too much talking on the stairwell with buddies?).

I won a game in Round 1 vs NM Roy Greenberg then went luke-warm, drawing Reinier Gonzales, Dean Ippolito, Sergey Erenburg, Michael Rohde, and Alfonse Almeida.  I sustained one loss to Justin Sarkar.

Here’s a tough Round 4 battle.

GM S. Erenburg – IM M. Ginsburg, Round 4.  Sicilian Pelikan

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bf4 e5 8.Bg5 a6 9.Na3 Be6 10.Nc4 Rc8!? I was successful with a TN in this unusual system defeating future GM Joel Benajmin in 1981! That game made its way into Batsford Chess Openings, in a section ghost-authored by Jon Tisdall and me.

11.Ne3 If this game is evidence, 11. Nd5!? is more critical.  However, I did succeed against Richard Costigan in the 1981 Pan-Am Intercollegiate after 11. Nd5 Bxd5 12. exd5 (12. Qxd5!?) Ne7.

11…Qb6! This is the real TN in the 11. Ne3 system, introduced before Sergey was born!  (Sergey is 26).

Position after 11…Qb6!  (TN in 1981)

12.Rb1 If 12. Bxf6, Qxb2! first is fine for black.   For example, 13. Ned5 Bxd5 14. Nxd5 Nb4! (a very strong in-between move) 15. Bd3 (forced) 15…Nxd5 16. exd5 Qc3+! and black, by inconveniencing white’s king, is fireproof.  The most likely result is a draw but black is not in danger.

12…Nxe4! The point and an easy move to miss!

13.Nxe4 h6 14.Bc4 If 14. Bh4 Qb4+! regains the piece through this unusual piece line-up on the fourth rank.  A very strange tactic!  In the 1981 game, Joel played 14. c3 and gained some compensation for the pawn after 14…hxg5 15. Bc4 Nd8! 16. Bb3  Be7 although black is fine there.

14…Bxc4 15.Nxc4 Qb4+ 16.Ncd2 hxg5 17.c3 Qb5 18.Qg4 Rd8 19.c4 Qb6 20.Qxg5 d5! Completely equalizing by removing any “holes” the white knights might jump to; now I just have to be a little careful in the ending, but black’s position is very solid.

21.cxd5 Rxd5 22.O-O Qd8 23.Qxd8 Kxd8 24.Rfd1 f6 25.Nc3 Rd7 26.Nb3 Rh4! Using the open h-file.

27.a3 Rc4 28.Nd5 Bc5 29.Rd2 Ba7 30.Rbd1 Nd4 31.Ne3 Rcc7 32.Nxd4 Bxd4 33.Kf1 Bxe3 34.fxe3 White thought about the pawn ending here, but there’s nothing in it since there is no distant pawn majority.

34…Rxd2 35.Rxd2 Ke7 36.Kf2 f5 37.e4 g6 38.Kf3 Ke6 39.g3 Rc4 40.exf5 gxf5 41.h4 Rg4 42.Rh2 Kf6 43.h5 e4+ 44.Kf2 Rg7 45.h6 Rh7 At this point, white needs to play the “bail out” drawing continuation of the game or lose ignominously.

46.g4 f4 47.Rh5 Kg6 48.Rf5! Not 48. Re5?? Kxh6 49. Rxe4 Kg5! and black wins.

48…Rxh6 49.Rxf4 Rh2 50.Ke3 Rxb2 51.Rxe4 Kg5 1/2-1/2

I recouped a little bit with a second victory:

Here it is, an amusing game vs NM Pavel Treger (2247).

IM M. Ginsburg – NM P. Treger   English Opening  Round 8

I had just come off a bad loss to IM Sarkar in round 7 and was looking to recover.

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 e4? 4. Ng5 b5 A dubious gambit popularized by Juan Bellon in the 1970s.

Position after 4….b5 – An unsound gambit.  But he’s already committed by his bad third move 3….e4?

Early experiences for white saw some games with 5. cxb5? d5 and black’s play is fully justified.  Unfortunately there is a hidden total refutation.

5. d3! This is it.  Both 5….bxc4 6. Ngxe4 and 5…exd3 6. cxb5 are bad for black.

5….exd3 6. cxb5 h6 7. Nf3 dxe2 8. Bxe2 White is hugely better.

8…Bb7 9. O-O Bd6? Now it gets worse.  Black blocks his own d-pawn and puts himself in virtual zugzwang.

10. Nd4 g6 A horrible weakening but Nd4-f5 cannot be tolerated.  Black is lost.

11. Bf3 Qc8 12. Re1+ Kf8  13. b3! The b2-h8 diagonal beckons.

13…Bb4  14. Bb2 d5 A panic reaction to try to seal things up and develop.  White does not give black a chance.

15. Nc6!  Bxc6 16. Qd4! In the style of FJ Marshall. This lethal zwischenzug is immediately decisive.  Black’s king will find no refuges.


Position after 16…Be7.  Crunch time.

17. Rxe7! Of course.  Black could resign.  But Treger likes to play until mate.

17…Kxe7 18. Nxd5+ Of course white also has 18. Re1+ winning.  However, it is always necessary to choose one win in a game.  Amusingly, 18. Qxf6+ Kxf6 19. Nxd5 double check is ALMOST forced mate in the ancient style of FJ Marshall. It comes close, but no cigar.

18…Nxd5 19. Ba3+! Keeping black’s king in the deadly central zone.

19…Kd8 Other moves such as 19…Kd7? 20. bxc6+ lose even faster.  Now black hopes to toddle on with 20. Qxh8+ Kd7 (where white wins of course) – but white has better.

20. Bxd5! Black’s king is toast.  Treger, since he plays until mate, now plays a move to maximize the game’s length.

Position after 20. Bxd5 – Black to play and maximize the game assuming he plays until mate

20…..Qg4 This doesn’t ruin the game because more humorous motifs occur.  The problem was that 20…Bxd5 21. Qf6+ is mate next move.

21. Qxg4 Bxd5 22. Rd1 c6 23. bxc6 Kc7 Did I mention Treger never resigns?

24. Qf4+ Kc8 25. Rxd5 Re8 Black threatens mate!  His first threat!

26. Kf1 f5 27. Qd6 a6 28. c7 Kb7

29. cxb8=R+! There was no queen handy.  Underpromotion!  A total game!

29…Raxb8 30. Qd7+ Ka8 31. Qc6+ Rb7 32. Qxe8+ Rb8 33. Qc6+ Rb7 34. Rd8+ Ka7 35. Bc5+ Rb6

At this point I stopped to take inventory of all the mates in one.

How many mates?

I played the most obtuse one.  The readers should not get the idea this tournament was a kindergarten, in fact there were many hard fought games among GMs Erenburg, Palermo, Ramirez, Kudrin, Gonzales, etc.

36. Qd7 mate.  1-0

Here’s round 1 vs NM Roy Greenberg.  Factoid:  Jay Bonin revealed he went to college with Roy.

Roy Greenberg (2245 FIDE) – M. Ginsburg.  Round 1, Nimzo Indian.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 c5 5. e3? Yuck!   To get anywhere, white must play 5. d5.

Position after 5. e3?

5….cxd4 Of course black is also better after 5…d5.

6. exd4 d5 7. a3 Bxc3+ Very playable is the more aggressive 7…Bd6.

8. bxc3 Qa5 9. Bd2 O-O 10. cxd5 Qxd5!? 11. Bd3 e5  12. Ne2 exd4 13. c4! The best chance to make some confusion.  White gains some compensation with a small king-side initiative.

13…Qd8 14. O-O Nc6 15. Rc1 Re8 16. Bg5 Qa5!? The most radical way to break the pin.  Black accepts the deformation of the pawn structure to gain some key dark squares, in particular e3 for his rook.

17. Bxf6 gxf6 18. Ng3 Re3! 19. Be4 Qc5 20. Kh1 Ne7 21. Qd2? Too passive.  Black now gains a huge initiative by cementing the rook on e3.

21…f5 22. Bb1 Be6 23. Rfd1 Re8 24. a4 Nc6 25. Nf1 f4! 26. Qc2 For the time being, white leaves the rook alone but he can’t ignore it for long.

26…f5 27. Qf2 Qe5! Centralization.

28. Qh4 Re7 29. Nxe3 fxe3 30. f4 Qg7 31. Rf1 Qg4 Getting the queens off gives black a great ending with monster passed pawns.

32. Qf6 Qg6 33. Qh4 Rg7 34. g4? A hallucination which speeds white’s demise.  But it’s black for choice anyway with the center passers.

34…Qxg4  35. Qxg4 Rxg4 36. h3 Rg7 37. Rfd1 Kf7 White can’t move anything and could have resigned.

38. Bd3 Kf6 39. Be2 Rd7 40. Kg2 Nb4! The knight coordinates ideally with the black bishop from here.

41. Bd3 Bf7! With nasty threats.

42. Kf1 a5! Cementing the knight.  Games are not usually this pleasant.

43. c5 Nominally an error but it didn’t matter.

43…Bb3  0-1

Watch this spot.  I will post games vs GM Rohde, GM Erenburg, IM Sarkar, IM Almeida, IM Ippolito, and more.

Postscript:  Marshall’s Head and What’s the Most Peculiar Thing?

From this E. Vicary report at US Chess Online, we have quiz problem #9:

9. What’s peculiar about the bust of Frank Marshall on display at his namesake chess club?

Vicary’s Solution

Someone stuck rhinestones in Frank’s eyes many years ago, reportedly to “make him look prettier.” They have never been removed.

Well, I wouldn’t say that’s the most peculiar thingMore peculiar (perhaps!) is that a crew of maniacs stole the head in the 1980s, causing a general freak-out amongst the Board of Directors.  Then the maniacs crept back in a few weeks later (again using an open window) with the heavy head in tow – perhaps having deemed it was not of general interest.   However, in attempting to put it back where it belonged, they stepped on a glass coffee table and broke it.  More general freak-out occurred.   It was grand nevertheless to see FJ’s head back on its pedestal. 

The Fabulous 80s: NYC’s ‘Bar Point’ Club and its 1980 FIDE International

January 19, 2008

Chess and Music

The Bar Point Club, on 14th street and 6th Avenue, New York City, was an extremely busy chess locus in the early 1980s. It was owned by a backgammon player for some time (readers, I have forgotten his name) and after that, noted chess organizer and politician Bill Goichberg owned it; after that Peter Malick (a card player, and associate of Wayne Kramer from the MC5 60’s Detroit rock group) took over. I only know that Peter knew Kramer because I met, to my shock, Wayne Kramer face to face in one of the crazy late Bar Point nights. I could come up with nothing more clever than “I really like the MC5” and Wayne retorted “Small world”, turned on his heel, and walked off. The Bar Point went defunct for rent non-payment in the the mid 1980s – no more quads, no more IM and GM tournaments, no more back-room poker where I used to play heads-up with Howie Lederer. Sometimes after (or before) a poker skirmish I would then do battle in chess in the front room with Howard (he was a USCF expert).

A Few Words on a Pure Gambling Game: Backgammon

As a side comment on backgammon – this gambling game with “checkers”, dice, and the “doubling cube” could be very profitable to those more skilled than their wealthy but deluded opponents. For exampe, IM Jay Whitehead made thousands in one night playing the owner of a New York City Greenwich Village jazz club owner (one of the major clubs, for example Village Gate, the detail escapes me), and then was generous enough to fund a trip for me and him to play in Lugano, Switzerland 1984 where I played, among other people, ex-WC Boris Spassky. I know the winnings was in the thousands because he woke me up in the middle of the night to help him count the fifites and hundreds that were bulging out of every one of his pants and shirt pockets. Poker is has some similarities with the vast pool of weaker players but the complicated-to-use-properly backgammon doubling cube, rewards more immediately the better analyst. Besides, it’s nice to own a nice Moroccan or Syrian artisan backgammon set. You could also play the simpler Turkish backgammon variant shesh-besh (with no doubling cube).

Some Actual Chess

In 1980 I made my 2nd IM norm with a strong finish. Let’s see some of the games.

Round 1. Bar Point International I

IM Margeir Petursson (ICE) – M. Ginsburg

Of course my opponent went on to become a famous Icelandic Grandmaster and also a very successful lawyer businessman.

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4 d5 4. e5 Ne4 5. Nxe4 Much safer is 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. Qc2, but then black has the surprising 6…Ng5!! TN – I used this to draw strong Canadian Kevin Spraggett in Toronto 1983. For example, 7. Nxg5 Qxg5 8. d4 Qh4 9. cxd5 Nxd4 10. Qd1 exd5 11. Nxd5 (11. Be3 Nf5 12. Nxd5 Bb4+ 13. Bd2 Qe4+ 14. Be2 Bxd2+ 15. Qxd2 Qxe5 and it’s equal. I don’t remember who showed me 6…Ng5!! TN, but it’s a really good novelty. Maybe I was the first to play it?

5… dxe4 6. Qg4 f5!? TN Black can also play 6… Bd7 7. Qxe4 Na6 8. Nf3 Bc6 9. Qb1 Nc5 10. d3 Nd7 11. d4 Bb4+ 12. Bd2 Bxd2+ 13. Nxd2 O-O 14. b4 a6 15. a4 Nb6 16. b5 with a total mess. The text move, 6…f5!?, is a novelty with great surprise value. Was I the first to play it? Again, I don’t remember who showed me. I was staying with Tisdall and Fedorowicz at the time; so maybe one of them.


Position after 6….f5!? TN. Who showed me this? Is this the first time it was played?

7. exf6 Qxf6 8. Qxe4 Nothing comes of 8. Nh3 Nc6 9. Be2 Qf5.

8… Nc6 9. Nf3 Bc5 10. Bd3? Much stronger is 10. Be2 e5 11. O-O Bf5 12. Qd5 Bb6 13. d4 Nxd4 14. Nxd4 Bxd4 15. Bh5+ g6 with a murky game.

10… Bd7 11. O-O O-O-O 12. Bc2 Nb4 13. Bd1?! Slightly more natural is 13. Bb1 Bc6 14. Qe5 b6 15. Qxf6 gxf6 16. Ne1 Rhg8 17. g3 Bb7 18. d3 Bd4 and black has a nice game.

13… Bc6 14. Qe5 Nd3 15. Qxf6 gxf6


Position after 15…gxf6. White is hog-tied.

The novelty in the opening could not have succeeded more. White is paralyzed and black should have no trouble winning this.

16. a3 a5?! The right move is 16… Rhg8! 17. b4 Bd4 18. Rb1 Be4! (I missed this move) 19. g3 Bxf2+ 20. Kg2 Bd4 and black is easily winning.

17. b4 axb4 Black can also play 17… Nxc1 18. bxc5 (18. Rxc1 axb4 19. d4 Bxf3 20. Bxf3 Rxd4 21. axb4 Bxb4) 18… Nd3 and he stands well.

18. axb4 Bxb4 19. Bc2 19. Ba3 Bxa3 20. Rxa3 Rhg8 21. g3 Nb2 is good for black, but not a decisive edge.

19… b6 20. Ba3 Rhg8 21. Bxd3 Bxf3 22. g3 Bxd2 23. Bc2 f5?! Once again I miss an easy and rather primitive variation: 23… Bc3 24. Rab1 Be2 25. Rfc1 Bd2 trapping the rook and wins.

24. Rfb1 Rg4 25. c5 bxc5 26. Bxc5 Rc4 27. Bb3 Rxc5 28. Bxe6+ Rd7 29. Ra2 Bc3 30. Ra3 Here, white lost on time; fortunate for me because I had been showing shaky technique so far.


Black is on top, but not totally winning. For example, 30…Bd5 31. Bxf5 Bf6 32. g4 Kd8 33. Bxd7 Kxd7 34. Rd1 Bg5 35. h4 Be7 36. Rf3 Kc8 37. Rf5 c6 and the game goes on, with black having an edge but it remains to see if I can convert it.

In Round 4 I encountered New England junior Jim Rizzitano. I include the ratings at that time as a historical curiosity.

Mark Ginsburg – NM James Rizzitano (2352 USCF, 2225 FIDE) Round 4. Leningrad Dutch.

1. c4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. d4 d6 7. Nc3 Nc6?! Of all the Leningrad Dutch lines, (7….c6 8. d5! MG-Sarkar US Ch 2006, 7….Qe8 MG-Bareev Naestved 1988 are popular) this one is the most positionally suspect.

8. d5 Ne5 9. Qb3 Ned7 Perhaps a little better is 9…Nxf3+ 10. Bxf3 Nd7 11. Bg2 Nc5 12. Qc2 and white keeps some edge. GM Anderssson as white managed to beat De la Villa Garcia, Pamplona 1998, in 43 moves in this line.

10. Qc2 Nc5 11. b4! Although many moves have been seen here, the text is obvious and strong.

11…Nce4 12. Bb2 This position has been seen OTB in other games; it simply favors white.

12…e5 Aagard-Rewitz, Aarhus 1999, saw 12…c5 13. dxc6 bxc6 14. Nxe4 fxe4 15. Nd4 and white has an edge. Aagard won in 40 moves. The double-double “A” is very aesthetic: Aagard played in Aarhus. 🙂 Black also was unsuccessful with 12…Nxc3 13. Bxc3 Bd7 14. Nd4 Qc8 15. Rac1 c6 16. dxc6 bxc6 17. b5 c5 18. Nc6 and white won in 48 moves, Haba-Trapl, Czechoslovakia 1994.

13. dxe6 Nxc3 14. Bxc3 Bxe6 15. Rad1 Qe7 16. Ng5 White did absolutely nothing clever and he has a huge edge. That means black’s opening was poor.

16…c6 17. b5 Bd7 18. Qd3 Ne8 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. Qd4+ Kg8 21. h4 h6 22. Nh3 Kh7 23. Rfe1 Rd8 24. e4 Qf7 25. exf5 Bxf5 26. Nf4 The easiest was 26. Qxa7 Nc7 27. Qb6.

26… Rc8 27. Bf3 Ng7 28. Qxd6 Qxc4 29. bxc6 bxc6


Position after 29…bxc6. White to play and win.

30. Re7? A tactically alert player would find the immediately decisive and aesthetic 30. h5! gxh5 (30… g5 31. Ng6 Rfe8 32. Qf6 wins) 31. Re7 Rf7 32. Bd5! (interference theme!) and wins.

30… Qc3 31. Qd4 Once again, 31. h5! g5 (31… gxh5 32. Nxh5 and wins) 32. Ne6 Bxe6 33. Qxe6 Rxf3 34. Rdd7 Rxg3+ 35. Kh2 Rh3+ 36. Qxh3 Qxh3+ 37. Kxh3 Rg8 38. Rxa7 wins.

31… Qxd4 32. Rxd4 Kg8 33. Rxa7 Rf7 34. Rxf7 Kxf7 35. Rd6 c5 The last chance was 35… g5 36. hxg5 hxg5 37. Ne2 and it’s not all over yet.

36. Nxg6! c4 37. Bd5+ Ne6 38. Nf4 c3 39. Rxe6 c2 40. Rc6+ Ke7 41. Rxc8 Bxc8 42. Ne2 Bf5 43. Nc1 1-0

Middle Round Disasters

All was not sweetness and light. I suffered a nasty reverse playing the white pieces versus Icelandic future Grandmaster and World Championship candidate Johann Hjartarson. Recall that Hjartarson defeated Korchnoi in a match! And then I threw away a completely won game and lost ignominiously to the eventual tournament winner, now sadly retired from OTB play to pontificate and author various tomes, IM John Watson. It took GM Larry Evans in a newspaper column to rudely show me the winning line. Readers will commiserate when they see the diagrams tell the woeful story of the Watson game.

Round 5.

IM John Watson – M. Ginsburg English Opening

1. c4 John’s fearsome specialty. Not a bad move; I used it myself in numerous Mikenas Attack encounters (1. c4 Nf6 2. nc3 e6 3. e4!?, later taken up by Nakamura, e.g. Nakamura-Zarnicki 1-0 HB Global Chess Challenge, Minneapolis 2005).

1…Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. g3 e6 4. Nf3 b6 5. e4 Bb7 6. d3 d5? A really bad move. 6…Nc6 is fine for black.

7. cxd5 exd5 8. e5 Nfd7 Black has handled the first phase very poorly.


Position after 8…Nfd7. Black has a very poor game.

9. d4? A miscue in return. The surprising 9. Bh3! is extremely good for white. For example, 9…d4 10. Ne4 Bd5 11. O-O Be7 12. e6! fxe6 13. Nfg5 with strong pressure.

9…cxd4 Now black is OK again.

10. Nxd4 Nxe5?! This pawn grab looks and is too risky. The more sedate 10…Bc5 and much more sensible is quite playable for black.

11. Bb5+ Nbd7 12. Qe2 White had 12. Bf4! Bd6 13. O-O O-O 14. Nf5! with a big plus.

12…Qe7 13. O-O O-O-O 14. Be3 Kb8 15. a4 This idea is not bad,; 15. Rae1 is another valid way to handle the position.

15…g6?! The inaccuracy festival continues. This is rather slow. Correct is the challenging 15…Qf6!, e.g. 16. a5? Bc5! threatening to eat on d4 then fork on f3 with Nf3+. In that position, Black is fine and even has chances to gain the initiative. White should play 16. Bxd7! Rxd7 17. Bf4 Bd6 18. Ncb5 g5 18. Bxg5! Qxg5 20. Nxd6 with some advantage.

16. a5 Bg7


Position after 16…Bg7. Time to act.

17. b3?! Hesitant and weak. Correct is the simple 17. axb6 Nxb6 18. Ba6 and white has a big edge. And on 17….axb6? 18. Bf4! eyeing Nc6+ is completely crushing, e.g. 18…Qd6 19. Ba6 Bc6 20. Ncb5! and white wins. Also strong is the evident 17. a6! Ba8 18. Rfe1 with a bind.

17… bxa5? Another error. 17…Rc8! is correct, e.g. 18. Rfc1 Qb4! to lure the rook to a4: 19. Ra4 Qe7 and black is holding the position. Now 20. axb6 Nxb6 would hit the rook on a4 and let black have room to breathe (and defend).

18. Rfc1?! White had the tempting 18. f4! and black has to walk a narrow path just to not lose right away. He has to play 18…a6! (18…Ng4? 19. Nc6+ Bxc6 20. Bxa7+ wins) 19. Ba4 Rc8! 20. Rac1 Rc7! (Black must acquiesce to the inevitable loss of a piece; he has some pawns for it) 21. fxe5 Nxe5 and black is worse but not lost.

18…Rc8 19. Rxa5?! 19. f4! will transpose to the above note after 19…a6! 20. Ba4 Rc7! 21. fxe5 and white enjoys a sizeable plus.

19… Rxc3! This seems like desperation but in fact it’s black’s best try.

20. Rxc3 Qb4 21. Ra2? The situation is confusing. 21. Bd2 Qxd4 (21…Qxa5 22. Rc8+ is good for white) 22. Ra4 Qb6 23. Be3 Nf3+ 24. Qxf3 d4 25. Qf4+ Be5 26. Bxd4 Bxf4 27. Bxb6 Nxb6 28. Rxf4 Nd5 29. Rcf3 Nxf4 30. Rxf4 Rd8 31. f3 f5 32. g4 is a crazy sample line that fizzles into a draw. Still, the text is an outright blunder. White must have overlooked something.

21… Qxc3 22. Bxd7 Qd3! Strong! Black now has some hopes of getting the upper hand. This is the kind of move that white may have overlooked in preliminary calculations; now he gets really rattled.

23. Qe1?? A really bad blunder. Correct is 23. Bb5! Qxe2 24. Bxe2 Re8 25. Kf1 with a level game, or 25. Nb5 Nc6 26. Nxa7 Nb4 again with a draw. White must have hallucinated a mate or something, but this clunker just drops a piece.

23…Nxd7! I don’t know why I indicated 23… Qxd4? as good in my scorepad after the game. That move only seems to draw: 24. Bxd4 Nf3+ 25. Kf1 Nxe1 26. Bxg7 Rd8 27. Be5+ Ka8 28. Kxe1 Rxd7 29. Bd4 Bc6 and it’s equal. The text grabs a free piece and the game should be all over.

24. Bf4+ A last check before white has to give up.


Position after 24. Bf4+. One last “puzzle” to solve, and I fail ignominiously.

24…Kc8??? What the heck – a mutual hallucination? Maybe I was low on time, but my scorepad doesn’t have the times in it. Did Watson give off weird mental vibes after his irrational 23rd that I “caught” and “echoed?” Only a while after the game (I was really eager to forget it) did I read GM Larry Evans column that “informed me” that 24… Ka8 would win. White doesn’t have any threats, let alone a potential mate. Could I have overlooked that 25. Qa5 Bxd4 guards a7? It is true that backward diagonal moves are often overlooked … More likely, I thought the desperado 25. Rxa7+ “worked”. In reality, 25. Rxa7+ Kxa7 26. Qa5+ Ba6 27. Qc7+ Ka8 28. Qc6+ Bb7 29. Qa4+ Qa6 also wins for black. Pretty simple stuff. Whatever the case, the text is suicide and after white’s next, it is clear black loses many pieces all with check. Did I really do this, move my king to a losing square when the other square obviously wins? Yes, I did!

25. Qc1+ I’m losing. A serious blow to my IM norm chances. Boo! I am now losing to John Freakin’ Watson.

25…Kd8 26. Qc7+ Ke8 27. Re2+ Ne5 28. Bxe5 Bxe5 29. Qxe5+ Kd7 30. Qe7+ Kc8 31. Rc2+ Kb8 32. Qe5+ 1-0 Ugh! I was really angry. Time to rebound! The winner of this game won the tournament, with a big score of 8.5 out of 11, reaffirming the adage ‘winners make their own luck’.

Theory Interlude: Blowing Kudrin’s Mind in a Dragon

In the eighth round, I had the opportunity to surprise Kudrin with a TN in the Dragon. This doesn’t happen often to the well-prepared Sergey. He employed my TN with white the next year!

M. Ginsburg – Sergey Kudrin, Round 8 Sicilian Dragon, Yugoslav Attack.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 The Yugoslav attack. The only real way to deal with this opening. Anatoly Karpov had some beautiful wins with it, including a famous Informant masterpiece over Viktor Korchnoi (WC Match), in this variation.

7…O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. O-O-O! This move cuts down on the amount of material white has to know. For that reason, it has high practical value.

9…Nxd4 A whole different story is 9… d5 10. exd5 Nxd5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Bd4 e5 13. Bc5 Be6 14. Bc4 Re8 15. Ne4 h6 16. g4 f5 17. gxf5 gxf5 18. Rhg1 Kh7 19. Qg2 and white won, 1-0 Fedorov,V (2425)-Eletsky,E/Oviedo 1993. There have been many games in this line, and current thinking is that white has a small edge.

10. Bxd4 Be6 11. Nd5 White can try 11. Kb1 Qc7 12. Bb5 a6 13. Ba4 b5 14. Bb3 b4 15. Na4 Rab8 16. h4 [If 16. Bxe6 fxe6 17. b3 Qc6 18. h4 Rfd8? (Better is 18… Nh5 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. Qe3 h6 21. g4 Nf4 with equality) 19. g4 e5 20. Bb2 h6 21. g5 Nh5 22. gxh6 Bf6 23. c4 Nf4 and white won, 1-0 Nijboer,F (2534)-Janssen,R (2445), Wijk aan Zee 1999.] As Bernard Zuckerman told me, 11. Bb5? right away is really bad: 11…Qa5 12. Ba4 Rfc8! and white cannot complete his defensive idea and is hence lost (BZ). The computer verifies Bernie. For example, 13. Bb3 Bxb3 14. axb3 Qa1+ 15. Nb1 a5! and black has a big plus.

11… Bxd5 12. exd5 Qc7 13. Kb1 Rac8 (13… Rfc8 14. Rc1 a6 15. h4 e5? 16. dxe6 fxe6 17. g4 Qf7 18. h5 e5 19. hxg6 hxg6 20. Be3 d5 21. Bh6 Bh8 22. Qh2 Nh7 23. Bd3 Rc6 and white won, Kuzmin,G (2495)-Alterman,B/Voroshilovgrad 1989.

14. Rc1! TN


Position after my novelty 14. Rc1! TN

I know this is a good move, because Kudrin adopted it as white the next year, 1981! I also have vague memories of discussing this move with someone (perhaps they told me about it) but I am not sure about that. Previously seen was the anemic 14. c4? b5! 15. Rc1 (15. b3 bxc4 16. bxc4 Rb8+ 17. Ka1 Rb6 18. Be2 Rfb8 19. Rb1 Nd7 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Qd4+ Kg8 22. Rxb6 Rxb6 23. Rb1 Rxb1+ 24. Kxb1 Qa5 and black went on to win, 0-1 Dhar Barua,S (2225)-Shaw,J (2390)/Manchester 1997. 15… Rb8 1/2-1/2 Bertok,M-Vidmar,M/Ljubljana 1955.

14… a6 The passive 14… Nd7 is good for white: 15. Bxg7 Kxg7 16. h4 Nf6 (16… h5 17. g4 Rh8 18. Qd4+ f6 19. Qxa7) 17. h5 gxh5? (17… Nxh5 18. g4 Nf6 19. Qh6+ Kg8 20. Bd3 Qc5 21. g5 Qe3 22. f4! Qxf4 23. Rcf1! wins) 18. Bd3 {1-0 Smeets,J (2311)-Didderen,G/Hyerois 2001}

15. c4! Also playable is 15. h4 e5 16. dxe6 fxe6 17. g4 e5? (Correct is 17… Qc6 18. Be2 Nd5 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. h5 Nf4) 18. Be3 Qc6 19. Be2 Nd5 20. h5 Nxe3 21. Qxe3 Qc5 22. Qb3+ d5 23. hxg6 hxg6 24. Rcd1 Rfd8 25. Bd3 and white won, S. Kudrin (!) Mark,D (2256)/Palo Alto 1981. This game proves the worth of the 14th move novelty! The position on the board now is simply good for white.

15… Rfe8 The rash ‘breakout’ 15…b5? 16. cxb5 Qxc1+ 17. Qxc1 Rxc1+ 18. Kxc1 Rc8+ 19. Kb1 Nxd5 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. bxa6 is obviously very good for white.

16. Bd3 e6 17. dxe6 fxe6 and I had a huge edge with the bishop pair and black’s hanging pawns. Unfortunately, I only drew eventually and I can’t find the scoresheet. The fact that Sergey used this as white in the very next year is heart-warming (a fact I didn’t know until I looked it up recently).


The Exciting Conclusion of the Tournament

So in the last two rounds I needed a perfect 2-0 score to get the norm. In the next to last round I was black against future IM Walter Shipman and in the last round I was white against future FM Dan Shapiro. Well, I got the job done very smoothly and easily against the normally stodgy and solid Shipman. But the Shapiro game was another story. I posted them in a separate installment – the last game in particular, a nervy norm game, was not for the faint of heart.

The Fabulous 00s: The 2004 Arizona State Championship

December 20, 2007

The 2004 round robin invitational event, called the Colonel Webb Memorial, was held in Mesa, Arizona at Steve Kamp’s home. Steve is Danny Rensch’s grand-dad. I tied for first with Angelina Belapovskaya, and strangely enough, every game I played was interesting. Let’s see them.

Round 1.

WGM A. Belapovskaya – IM M. Ginsburg  Az. State Champ., May 2004.

1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 Bg7 3. g3 d6 4. d4 Nd7 5. Bg2 e5 6. Nf3 Ngf6 7. O-O O-O 8. b3 This move is a little slow.

8…exd4 9. Nxd4 c6 I’ve liked this standard formation in the g2-g3 King’s Indian since my early days – see the Danny King game from Eeklo, Belgium 1983.

10. Bb2 Re8 11. Qc2 Qe7 12. Rad1 h5! A useful space gaining idea. Black is OK.


Position after 12…h5! – Chances are Balanced

13. Bc1 h4 14. Bg5 hxg3 15. hxg3 Qf8 Directly 15…Nc5 is fine too. The chances are about even.

16. b4 a6?! This is a Lasker-like provocation. Black sees that a white knight getting to b6 doesn’t do much, but this isn’t entirely true. The immediate 16…Ne5 was fine.

Strangely, I applied this idea of …a6 and …h5 together to a game I played soon afterward in the National Open 2004, gaining a solid draw as black vs. GM Dmitry Gurevich. He, too, went for the slow treatment with 12. b3 and I just had to remember some motifs.

D. Gurevich – M. Ginsburg, National Open June 2004. 1. Nf3 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. c4 d6 4. g3 Nd7 5. Bg2 Ngf6 6. O-O O-O 7. Qc2 e5 8. Rd1 Re8 9. h3 exd4 10. Nxd4 c6 11. Nc3 Qe7 12. b3 a6 (12… Nc5 13. b4 Nce4 14. Nxe4 Nxe4 15. Bb2 is another way to play)13. Bb2 h5!? The same idea as the Belopovskaya game.  14. Nf3 (14. Qd2 h4 15. gxh4 Nc5 is OK) 14… Nc5 15. b4 (15. e3 Bf5 16. Qe2 a5 17. Rac1 Qd7 18. Kh2 Qe7 19. Nd4 Bd7 and it’s about equal)  15… Bf5 16. Qc1 Nce4 17. Nxe4 Bxe4 18. a4 d5  Agreed drawn.  1/2-1/2.  Play might continue 19. c5 h4! 20. gxh4 a5! with an equal game.

It’s funny how sometimes opening variations occur in clumps when tournaments occur back to back. It helps  the practical results because memory is fresh.

17. Na4 Ne5 18. Nb6 Rb8 19. Qd2 The only way to test black is 19. c5!? d5 and here white has a tiny edge.

19…Nfd7 20. Nxd7 Bxd7 21. Rc1 21. Qc1 Be6 22. Nxe6 Rxe6 is possible. Even so, 23. Bh3 f5 leads nowhere.

21… Be6 Here, the rather ugly 21…f6 is completely OK. For example, 22. Bf4 g5! 23. Bxe5 dxe5 24. Nb3 Bf5 and it’s equal.

22. Nxe6 Rxe6 23. Rfd1 Rbe8 24. b5 axb5 25. cxb5 d5 At the time, I thought I should simply be better here. But matters aren’t so simple.

26. bxc6 The immediate 26. e4 is fine too.

26…bxc6 27. e4


Position after 27. e4 – Nothing Concrete is Apparent 

27…Nc4 27….d4!? 28. f4 f6!? gets crazy but it’s still equal after 29. fxe5 or 29. f5. The text looks really nice for black but it all evaporates in short order.

28. Qc2 Na3 29. Qa4 Ra8 30. Qb3 dxe4 31. Qb7 Black’s terrible pawns mean he has no real winning chances.

31…Rb8 32. Qa6 Ra8 33. Qb7 Qe8 34. Bh3 Rb8 35. Qa6 Ra8 36. Qb7 Rb8 37. Qa6 Ra8 As the computer shows, this was an unusually accurate game by both players. It never deviated much from dead even. My lifetime score vs Angelina moves to two hard-fought draws. The next time I saw her, she was selling homes in my (Tucson AZ) area!


Round 2.

IM M. Ginsburg – NM P. Garrett (2266)


1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. cxd5 Nxd5 4. Nf3 g6 5. Qb3! Nb6 6. d4 Bg7 7. Bf4 Be6 8. Qc2 O-O 9. Rd1 c6 10. e3


Position after 10. e3 – White is solid

This is a really safe way of playing against the Gruenfeld that 1. c4 players can enjoy – it’s very hard to get this from 1. d4. I experimented with this line vs GM V. Mihalevski and got a great game in Las Vegas in this very same decade – I will post that later. It was sort of a tragedy because I lost control in time-trouble. But I still like this anti-Gruenfeld treatment!

10…a5 11. Be2 Na6 12. O-O h6 13. Be5! A thematic bit of annoyance confronts black.

13…f6?! And it produces this weakening reaction! The g6-pawn is now very sickly.

14. Bg3 Kh7 15. h4 Bf5 16. e4 Bg4 17. a3 Nc7 18. Ng5+! fxg5 19. Bxg4 Black will really miss his light-squared bishop.

19…gxh4 20. Bxh4 Rf4? A false trail. The rook’s position here helps white and in a few moves black is totally pushed back with nothing left to undertake.

21. f3 h5 22. Ne2 Rf8 23. Bh3 Nb5 24. Bf2 Nd6 25. Be6! This bishop completely paralyzes black.
25…Bh6 26. f4!

“Hanging f4” but crashing through to the black king. Everything happens now with gain of time.


Position after 26. f4! – White has a decisive attack

26…Bxf4 Hopeless, but black was lost anyway.

27. e5 Nb5 28. Nxf4 Rxf4 29. Be3! All very simple. Black’s formation collapses, white gets to the 7th with his rook, and the black king is mated.
29… Nc7 30. Bf7 Rg4 31. Bxg6+ Kh8 32. Rf7 1-0

After this win, I was in good shape heading into round 3. But pride goes before the fall, and I lost convincingly to FM Danny Rensch.

Round 3.

FM D. Rensch – IM M. Ginsburg Sicilian English Attack

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Be3 a6 7. Qd2 Nge7!? An interesting idea to get out of the main English Attack variations.

8. Nb3 Ng6 9. O-O-O Be7 10. f4 b5 11. g3 Bb7 12. Bg2 Na5! I’ve known how important it is to get this knight off since my drawn game with GM Becerra, Las Vegas 2001.

13. Nxa5 Qxa5 14. Kb1 Rc8 15. h4 h5 Yes, this all looks weird, but black has his chances.


Position after 15…h5 – A strange tableau

16. Rhf1 Rc4  Black has excellent activity.

17. Bd4 In a higher sense, this move simply loses material for insufficient compensation. Practically, it is a reasonable gambit.

17…b4 18. Ne2 e5 19. Bg1 Bxe4! It’s correct to accept the offered center pawn. However, as is often the case, “winning” a pawn leaves holes that the opponent can exploit. Here, the light squares become tender.

20. Bxe4 Rxe4 21. Qd3 f5 22. Qf3 The key moment.  Black should be doing well with the monster rook on e4 but care is required.


Position after 22. Qf3 – A Key Moment

22…Qb5?? Black was doing really well up to now, but makes a bad miscue in the sharp situation. Necessary was the fairly evident 22… Qc7! 23. fxe5 Nxe5 24. Qxf5? (24. Qg2 g6! is solid, supporting the important f5-pawn, e.g. 25. Nf4 Qb7 26. Nd5 O-O with a fine game) 24… Rxe2 and black will triumph with all the key squares guarded. It is often the case when white sharpens the situation in the Sicilian, he is rewarded with black’s failure to orient to strange surroundings, and that’s what happened here.

23. fxe5  This is, of course, strong.

23…Qxe2?? A further and even worse miscue. Black cannot grab this horse.

 24. Qxf5 Black could have resigned already! Such is life in sharp Sicilians. I can’t explain what I missed, but it must have been something simple.  “Total disorientation” must have been the order of the day.

24…Nxe5 25. Qc8+ Bd8 26. Bb6 Ke7 27. Qb8 d5 28. Bc5+ Ke8 29. Qd6 Qg4 30. Qxd5 1-0

And so I am relegated to an even score after 3 rounds and my prospects of winning this event do not look good. I have to win my final two, with the last one being against Arizona veteran Robert Rowley!


But first I had to overcome Spencer Lower and his “solid Slav” in Round 4.

IM M. Ginsburg – NM S. Lower, Round 4   Slav, 4. Qc2!?

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Qc2 g6(!) 5. Bf4 Bg7 6. Nbd2 This bizarre and sluggish treatment is unlikely to attract followers. Correct is 6. e3! as analyzed in detail in one of my chess theory posts.  White has a small edge there, so black is probably advised to try the crazy sideline 5…Na6!? to aim at b4, as analyzed in length in the article discussing Ginsburg-Filipovich, Midwest Masters 1994, 1/2.

6…O-O 7. e3 Bf5 8. Qb3 Qb6 9. c5 Qxb3 10. axb3 Nbd7 11. h3 Ne4 12. b4 f6 13.Nb3 e5 14. Bh2 I prefer white now simply because some constructive ideas suggest themselves.

14…a6 15. Be2 Rfe8 16. O-O Rac8 17. Rfd1 Re7 18. Na5 Rc7 Moving into the latent pin from h2 to c7 looks like something white can exploit.

19. Ne1? Very weak. White gets an edge with the obvious 19. g4 Be6 20. Kg2 Rf7 and only now 21. Ne1.

19… Ng5 20. h4 Nf7 21. Nb3 Rc8 22. Nd3 Black is fine.

22…Bxd3? Weak, surrendering the bishop pair for no reason.

23. Bxd3 e4 24. Bxa6!? Impossible for a human to resist, gaining a pawn phalanx, but frowned upon by the machine! At the time, I thought it was the decisive breakthrough.

24…bxa6 25. Rxa6 f5 26. Rda1 Bf6 27. Na5 Nd8 28. Bd6 Rf7 29. g3 Be7 30. Bf4 Kg7 31. Ra3 h6 32. b5 It sure looks very good for white, doesn’t it? But computers can offer some harsh truth.


32…Bxc5? A panicky counter-sacrifice that tosses the game away. The computer points out the difficult defense 32…cxb5 33. Rb3 g5 34. hxg5 hxg5 35. Bd6 Bxd6 36. Rxd6 Nf6 37.Rxb5 Ne8 (Still looks good for white!) 38. Rdb6 Nc7! 39. Rb8 Rxb8 40. Rxb8 Nde6!! establishing the all important blockade, and getting counterplay with the imminent …f5-f4. A triumph of a logical defensive scheme. The game might continue 41. b4 f4 42. gxf4 gxf4 43. Nc6! (the only move to draw!!) 43…fxe3 44. fxe3 Rf3 45. b5 Rxe3 46. b6 Na6 47. Ra8 Naxc5 48. dxc5 Nxc5 49. Ra5 Rb3! 50. Rxc5 Rxb6 and draws. An amazing variation. After the text, black loses horribly to the all controlling, all-seeing, and uncontestable white bishop that parks itself on d4 and the unstoppable passed pawns.

33. dxc5 Nxc5 34. Nxc6! Maybe black overlooked this simple in-between move. It’s all over.

34…Nxa6 35. Be5+ Kg8 36. Nxd8 Rxd8 37. bxa6 Ra8 38. Bd4 Rc7 39. a7



So it came time for the last round. I believe that Angelina in Round 4 narrowly escaped versus my opponent, veteran many-time Arizona champ Robert Rowley.

Round 5. IM M. Ginsburg – NM Robert Rowley. Irregular Opening, 1. g3. “Rat Reversed”.


1. g3 c5 2. Bg2 Nc6 3. d3 g6 4. h4!? Nf6 5. Nc3!? Bg7 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bd2 d5 8. Nh3 b6 9. h5!? All very avant-garde. Duncan Suttles and Raymond Keene, practitioners of the “Rat” as black (this looks like a Rat reversed) would have approved. In the game, white gains a center pawn for a wing pawn (a small accomplishment) but black isn’t much worse, if at all.

9…Nxh5 10. Nxd5 Bb7 11. Qc1 Qd7 12. e4 O-O-O 13. a4 e6 14. Ne3 a5 15. Nc4 Qc7 16. Nf4 Nf6 17. Ne2 Ng4 18. Bf4 Nge5 Black is defending solidly and it’s hard work to get anywhere.

19. Nc3 Nd4 20. Bxe5 Bxe5 21. f4 Bg7 22. Nb5!? Nxb5 23. axb5 White’s idea is to gain the c4 square for a ‘forever’ knight. In the game, this plan works, but only with black’s cooperation.

23…f5 24. Qe3 g5 If 24… Kb8 25. O-O-O Qd7 26. Nxb6 Bxb2+ 27. Kxb2 Qxb5+ 28. Ka2 Qxb6 29. exf5! white is on top.

25. c3 gxf4 26. gxf4 e5 This is OK, but black also had 26… fxe4 27. Bxe4 Bd5 or 26… Kb8 27. O-O-O e5 or 27…a4, in all cases with decent chances.

27. O-O-O fxe4? Black had to play 27…exf4! 28. Qh3 Kb8! 29. Qxf5 Rhf8 with a playable game.

28. Bxe4 exf4 29. Qf3!


Black must have missed this resource. White gets an enormous bind on the white squares that translates into a direct attack on the black king. Black now faces a very unpleasant defensive situation, and on top of everything else, he is low on time.

29…Bxe4 30. Qxe4 Kb8 31. Rhg1 Bf6 32. Rg6 Rdf8 33. Qe6 Bd8 34. Ne5 Ka7 35. Nc6+ Kb7 36. Qd5 Kc8 37. Nxa5 More direct was 37. Nxd8! Rxd8 38. Qa8+ Qb8 39. Qa6+ Kd7 40. Rxb6 and wins, but the text is good enough.

37… bxa5 38. Rc6 f3 39. Rf1 h5 40. b6 Qxc6 41. Qxc6+ Kb8 42. Qxc5 Kb7 43. Qxa5 Bxb6 44. Qd5+ Kc7 45. Rxf3 Rxf3 46. Qxf3 Rd8 47. d4 1-0



So the smoke cleared and WGM Belapovskaya and I won the event jointly with 3.5 out of 5.





3 Decades of a Variation

October 1, 2007

I have always been interested in sidelines, particularly in Gruenfeld structures. Here are two games spanning 27 years on the same theme.

Let’s start with the happier, and more recent, game.

IM M. Ginsburg – NM Ralph Zimmer

North American Open, Las Vegas, NV 12/28/05

1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 (?!) Purists believe this move order is slightly inaccurate. However, it might not be true – see the Ibragimov game mentioned in the note to the 8th move and if you believe in black’s position, try it out. The text gets ?! in some books, but it may not be necessarily so.

4. e3! Nf6 The text is correct, preparing a Gruenfeld-like d7-d5 advance. A further inaccuracy, which is important to mention because it occurs frequently, is 4….Bg7?!. White then plays the simple 5. d4 cxd4 6. exd4 d6 7. d5! and stands seriously better. For example, 7…Ne5 8. Nxe5 Bxe5 9. Bd3 Bd7 10. O-O Nf6 11. h3 O-O 12. Be3 a6 13. Rc1 Bd7 14. Na4! b5 15. Nb6 Rb8 16. Nxd7 Nxd7 17. cxb5 axb5 18. b4! with a nice bind, M. Ginsburg-Gilruth, Harry Nelson Pillsbury Open New England, 1987. White duly won in 46 moves.

5. d4 cxd4 5…d6 6. d5! with a small white edge is playable.


In 1989 I faced Senior Master S.C. Sahu (2417) at the Manhattan Chess Club and had a pleasant experience: 6. d5 Ne5 (6…Ng8 just admits opening failure) 7. Nxe5 Bxe5 8. e4 Nf6 9. Bd3 Ng4? The Rybka-approved line, 9…Bd7 10. O-O Qb6!? 11. h3 O-O, looks highly unnatural but the text is simply bad. 10. h3 Nf6 11. Bh6 Rg8 12. Qd2 Qa5 13. f4 Bd4 14. Nb5! Bf2+ 15. Ke2 Qxd2+ 16. Kxd2 Kd8 17. e5 Ne8 18. Rhf1 a6 19. Nxd6! White wins easily. 19…Nxd6 20. Rxf2 Nf5 21. Bg5 h6 22. Bxf5 gxf5 23. Bxh6 f6 24. d6 Be6 25. dxe7+ Kxe7 26. exf6+ Kf7 27. Bg5 Rad8+ 28. Kc3 Rd4 29. b3 Rgd8 30. Re1 b5 31. Rfe2 R8d6 32. g4 bxc4 33. gxf5 Rd3+ 34. Kb2 c3+ 35. Ka3 Bxf5 36. Re7+ Kg6 37. Rg7+ Kh5 38. f7 Rd8 39. Bxd8 Rxd8 40. Rg8 1-0


6. exd4 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Bc4 Nxc3? It is this move that is seriously wrong. Here, 8…Nb6 is the only correct move in my opinion. Play might proceed 9. Bb3 Bg7 10. Be3!? (10. d5 Na5 is nothing) 10…O-O 11. O-O Na5 12. Bc2 Nac4 13. Bg5!? with murky play, Ibragimov-Kedrov, Moscow 1996. Black lost this game, but he’s OK here and only lost via blunders in the middlegame.

9. Qb3!


The first important moment. The zwischenzug text is accurate, because 9…Ne4? 10. Bxf7+ Kd7 11. Qe6+ and 12. Qxe4 is clearly out of the question. I had this game in a 1993 USATE playoff and won easily. The position is very good for white.

9…e6 10. bxc3 Na5 10…Bd7 11. Bb5! (or 11. Bd3 right away, for example 11…Qb6 12. O-O Qxb3 13. axb3 Bg7 14. Ba3 and white is much better, and won, in Charbonneau-Tan, Oropesa del Mar 2001) 11…a6 12. Be2 Na5 13. Qc2 b5 14. O-O is very good for white. In the next game, we will see the semi-insane “gambit” 10….Bd7 11. d5??! (THEORETICAL LEMON, TL) Na5 12. dxe6 relying on the fact that the queen is immune for the time being. However, as we shall see, 12…fxe6 is basically the refutation of this “junior” attack. See the second game for more on this crazy line.

Black can also try 10…Bg7. But after 11. Ba3, stopping castling, white is better. For example, 11…Bf8 (what else?) 12. Bxf8! Kxf8 13. O-O and white is much better. Note for historical purposes the American future GM Ken Rogoff played the fine 12. Bb5!? here and stood better, but lost due to a later blunder vs. the Frenchman Huguet in Malaga 1970. 12. Bb5 was also seen in a drawn Botvinnik-Petrosian game, Moscow 1983. Another good move is 12. O-O! and white also stands better here.

11. Bb5+ Bd7 12. Qa4 Nc6 13. d5! 13. O-O is good for white, and the well motivated attacking text aims for even more. Clearance sacrifices, exposing the enemy king, are always extremely difficult to meet in practical play.


13…exd5 14. O-O Be7 15. Bh6 f6? A much better try is 15… Qa5 16. Qb3 O-O-O 17. c4 d4 18. Ng5 Bf8 19. Bxf8 Rhxf8 20. c5 Qc7 and black stays afloat. The text weakens e6 severely and could have had fatal consequences in the near-term.

16. Rfe1 Kf7


17. Qf4? The text looks and is absurd. The best move is extremely simple-minded 17. Rad1!. This position is a good test of attacking abilities. Those with a quick eye will recognize that 17…Be6 is smashed (note in passing that 17…a6 18. Bc4!! dxc4 19. Qxc4+ Ke8 20. Bg7 Rf8 21. Qh4 Rf7 22. Qxh7 Rxg7 23. Qxg7 wins, for example 23…Ne5 24. Qg8+ Bf8 25. Qxg6+ Ke7 26. Nxe5 Be6 27. Qf7+ Bxf7 28. Ng6 mate which is especially gruesome) by 18. Rxe6!! which is completely crushing. Once the white squares fall, the black king is cornered. 18…Kxe6 19. Bc4 and white wins shortly.

17… Bf5 18. Rad1 Bd6 19. Qd2 Ne7 19… Be7 20. Qb2 threatening c4 is very good for white.

20. Nd4 Bg4 21. Rb1 Curiously, 21. Qe3! is strong here.

21…a6 22. Be2 Bc8 23. Bd1 Re8 24. Bb3 Bc5 25. h3?! Here, 25. c4! Bxd4 is met by the surprising zwischenzug 26. cxd5! (26. Qxd4 is also good, but this is stronger) and white is much better.

25… Bxd4 26. Qxd4 Be6?? A bad blunder. Necessary is 26…b5! 27. Rbd1 with a white edge but nothing decisive yet. Now we have yet another tactical exercise with the same solution!


27. g4?? A blunder in return. 27. Rxe6!!, a thematic blow we’ve already seen above, wins nicely. For example, 27…Kxe6 28. Qe4+ Kf7 29. Rd1! is a very pleasing double pin and black is paralyzed and loses shortly. For example, 29…f5 (equally bad is 29… g5 30. Rxd5 Nxd5 31. Bxd5+ Qxd5 32. Qxd5+ Kg6 33. Bxg5 fxg5 34. Qxb7 and wins) 30. Rxd5! fxe4 31. Rf5 double checkmate is a nice geometric spectacle.

27…Nc6 28. Qf4 Qb8 Now black is right back in the game. Also acceptable is 28… Kg8 29. Re3 g5 30. Qg3 Bf7 31. Rxe8+ Qxe8 32. f4 d4.

29. Qd2 Qd6 The position is about level.

30. Bf4 Qd7? 30…Ne5! is rock solid for equality.

31. Re3 Now, 31. Rxe6! Kxe6 is still a good try: 32. Bg3 Ne5 33. Bxe5 fxe5 34. Bxd5+ Qxd5 35. Rb6+ Qc6 36. Rxc6+ bxc6 37. f4 exf4 38. Qxf4 Re7 39. g5! with some winning chances for white. It stands to reason that white is still blind to this possibility.

31… Kg7 32. Bh6+ 32. Rbe1 Bf7 33. Bh6+ is a small edge to white.

32… Kh8 33. Qe2 Ne5 This is fine. Also fine is 33… Bf7.

34. Re1 Bf7 35. g5 Nc4?! Solid is 35… Kg8 36. gxf6 Nc4 37. Bxc4 Rxe3 38. Qxe3 dxc4 and black is fine.

36. Bxc4? Very weak. 36. Re7! poses some problems for black.

36…Rxe3 37. Qxe3 dxc4?! Another inaccuracy. But black had no time and cannot be criticized. In fact, at this moment, black forfeited on time still a few moves shy of the time control at move 40. A good defense was 37… Re8 38. Qd2 Rxe1+ 39. Qxe1 dxc4 40. gxf6 Qe6 and it’s completely drawn.


After the weak text, white could find 38. Qb6 Qc6 39. Qxc6 bxc6 40. Re7 Kg8 41. gxf6 a5 42. a4 with a rather unpleasant ending for black.


Now let’s go back to my 1978 game in the ECI Youth tournament, Sas Van Gent, Holland. This is the tournament where I met the personable British youth player Suzzane Wood! Note her first name is not misspelled.

M. Ginsburg – NM Erik Pedersen (DEN)

ECI Sas Van Gent, Holland August 1978

1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 4. e3 Nf6 5. d4 cxd4 6. exd4 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Bc4 Nxc3 9. Qb3! So far, as above.

9…e6 10. bxc3 Bd7!? Pedersen’s specialty, he played it another European tournament – Groningen 1978 (perhaps later, I’m not sure about that). However, the position is good for white!

11. d5??! THEORETICAL LEMON, TL. 11. Bb5, 11. Be2, and 11. Bd3 are all very good for white. 11. Be2 Na5 12. Qc2 Qc7 13. Ne5! (13. O-O is also good for white) Rc8 14. Bd2? (14. Rb1! or even the simple 14. Nxd7 Qxd7 15. O-O and white is better) 14…Bg7 15. f4? (15. Qe4!) and white even lost with this bad structural weakening, Grinberg-Pederson, Groningen 1978. See the first game for other examples of white doing well here.

12…Na5 12. dxe6 My “amazing point.”


12…fxe6! Oh. He had that? I had “expected” 12…Nxb3?? 13. exf7+ Ke7 14. Bg5+ Kd6 15. Rd1+ Nd4 16. Bxd8 Rxd8 17. Nxd4 and I win easily. A very naive “junior” assessment. The text is the start of a very cold shower.

13. Qd1 What else? This is my “secondary point” – that 13….Nxc4 14. Qd4 “wins the piece back”.

Time for another tactical quiz. What’s black’s best move?


13…Bg7? Wrong. The text is winning (and black did win the rather long, drawn-out ending after 14. Be2 Bxc3+), however black had better: (quiz solution:) 13…Nxc4 14. Qd4 Ba4!! A very unusual and crushing shot! Black can safely leave a couple of pieces hanging. 15. Qxh8 Qd1 mate is unplayable and so is 15. Qxc4 Qd1 mate, so black remains a piece up!

At any rate, black had no problem converting the pawn up ending in about 50 moves (he correctly didn’t accept the exchange sac on a1 and just played an ending with one pawn more).





The Fabulous 70s: Almost Beating Yasser Part 1

September 20, 2007

Preamble: The US Junior Open 1974

The first time I met Yasser Seirawan it was August 1974 at the Franklin & Marshall College in rural Lancaster, Pennsylvania, site of the 1974 US Junior Open. This tourney, full of nascent stars such as Michael Rohde and John Fedorowicz (and yes, Steve Odendahl) was won by obscure New Mexico master Spencer Lucas whose specialty, as I recall, was the Alekhine’s Defense. This was my first chess trip out of town (I hailed from Bethesda, MD) and Greyhound Bus Lines lost my luggage for the duration of the event.

MG Addendum 5/14/08:  Dana MacKenzie writes that Yasser was “the top-rated player […] a 14-year-old with a rating of 2315. […]  I never got within a mile of playing on the top boards, but I still remember this player’s calm, unflappable demeanor. He had curly hair and an angelic face that looked rather girlish, but I doubt that anybody teased him about it in this crowd, because nobody teases the #1 guy in the tournament.

I don’t think Yasser’s rating was that high in Lancaster.  Readers will need to check this.  Yasser was a very peppy kid, on the small side, but I don’t think he was the pre-event favorite.  In fact, I remember Spencer Lucas, a low master, as having a stratospheric rating.

Oddities from the 1974 Junior Open Tournament

In one bizarre turn of events, Fedorowicz lost to a kid dressed in a burlap sack (because John forgot where he was going to move after a long break brought on by President Nixon resigning; TD Leroy Dubeck ordered everyone’s clocks stopped for quite a while!). In another oddity, young Phil (Flippy) Goulding from Maryland castled queenside illegally vs Michael Rohde (a black knight on b2(!) covered the d1 square!), said “J’adoube” very audibly, uncastled, then moved his King to a random square, remaining two pawns down as white and dead lost in an Alekhine’s. Flippy drew that game after the shocking un-castle (and almost won it).

Yasser was a small yet energetic kid with a big afro who would jump up and exclaim “Hi-yer, I’m Yass-er!” Flash forward 4 years and we find ourselves in a much more serious event.

Flash Forward 4 Years to 1978

It’s now August 1978 and US Junior Championship Invitational in Memphis, TN. One of the big Kahunas was the unflappable and dapper (and much more grown-up!) Yasser Seirawan from Seattle. With a towering 2452 rating, he was indeed the one to beat. When the game started, we were both at “plus one” and needed to move up.


Yasser is third from left; I am second from right. Click to enlarge.

Mark Ginsburg (2339) – Yasser Seirawan (2452)

US Junior Invitational 1978, Round 4 40/150 then adjournment

English Opening

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4!? d5 3…c5 4. e5 Ng8 is a whole different story. In any event, it’s good psychology to make a player face his own favorite opening – Yasser has scored numerous impressive wins with the English.

4. e5 d4 5. exf6 dxc3 6. bxc3 Qxf6 7. d4 The inversion 7. Nf3! with the idea of e.g. 7…c5 Bd3!? 9. O-O Bd6 10. Be4! with an edge, as in Ginsburg-Somogyi Las Vegas 2005, was not known yet. Also see 7. Nf3 e5 8. Bd3! and white won a nice quick game in Nakamura-Zarnicki, Minneapolis 2005.

7…b6 8. Nf3 In some game from Yasser’s early career, I believe he was successful playing white with the offbeat 8. Nh3!?

7…Bb7 9. Be2 Bd6 10. Qa4+ Bc6 11. Qc2 (0:37) Qg6!


Yasser defuses my harmless 10th and 11th moves and gets the queens off.

12. Qxg6 hxg6 13. Be3 Nd7 14. O-O-O Bb7 (0:29) 15. h3 The position is about equal.

15…c5!? (0:41) A risky strategic commitment. White gladly advances with d4-d5 and black has no chance to bother white’s shielded c-pawns. In addition, white will gain a lot of space on the kingside. 15…O-O or 15…a6 are safe.

16. d5 e5 Perfectly playable is 16…exd5 17. cxd5 Nf6 18. Bb5+ Kf8 19. c4 Rc8. The text is fine too; it just leads to a more blocked position.

17. Ng5 f5? (1:04) Correct is 17…Nf6 and it’s about level.

18. f3 Very strong is 18. g4! right away. 18…f4 19. Bd2 b5 20. Rhe1 and white is better. The slow text is still a bit better for white.

18…Nf8 19. Bd3 Bc8 20. Rde1 Ke7 21. h4 Bd7 22. Re2 Again, 22. g4 is strong.

22…Nh7! 23. Nxh7 Rxh7 24. Bg5+ Kf7 Black is all right again.

25. g4 (1:34) Rhh8 Perfectly reasonable is 25… Rf8 26. Rg2 Be7 and black holds.

26. h5 Rae8?! More accurate is 26… Raf8 27. Rg2 gxh5 28. gxh5 Rh7. Also, 26…gxh5 is fine for black.

27. Rg2 Kf8? Relatively best is 27… gxh5 28. gxf5! with a small white advantage.

28. h6! Kf7? Black must have been totally confused by white’s unusual space gaining ‘pawn storm’. More challenging is 28… gxh6 29. Bxh6+ or 29. Rxh6, in both cases with a white edge but nothing decisive yet.

29. h7! (1:56) Now white has a winning bind! It’s quite unusual for a master strategist such as Yasser to fall behind strategically, but that is what happened. Only white can ruin his own game now – I have a free rein on all sides of the board.


29…Be7 30. Bxe7 Rxe7 31. Bc2 Kf6 32. Kd2 The immediate 32. g5+ Kf7 33. Kd2 Ree8 34. Re2 b5 35. Bb3 a6 36. Kd3 bxc4+ 37. Bxc4 Bb5 38. a4 Bxa4 39. Bxa6 is quite winning.

32… f4 33. g5+ Kf7 34. Re2 Be8 (2:15) 35. Kc1 Kf8 36. Kb2 Kf7 There is nothing for black to do but sit and wait for the axe to fall. Seirawan himself has won many games tying his opponent up hand and foot.

37. Ka3 Bd7 38. Ba4 Ke8 39. Rhe1 Rxh7 40. Rxe5 Rxe5 41. Rxe5+ Kd8 42. Bxd7 Kxd7 (2:35) The sealed move. Yes, we had dinner-break adjournments in the 1970s. Black’s position is completely hopeless.

43. Re4! (2:29) More accurate than 43. Re6 Rh3.

43… Rh4 44. Ka4 a6


45. Re6 Winning is the fairly obvious 45. a3 and black has no move left (zugzwang). For example, 45…Rh5 46. Rxf4 Rxg5 47. Rf7+ Kc8 48. Rxg7 Rg3 49. Kb3 g5 50. a4 Kb8 51. a5 bxa5 52. Ka4 Rxf3 53. Kxa5 Rf6 54. Rxg5 Kc8 55. Rg7 Kb8 56. Re7 Rf3 57. Kxa6 Rxc3 58. Kb6 and wins. The text is winning too. It’s very hard to see how white could not win this.

45… Rh3 46. Rxb6 46. Rxg6 is also winning: Rxf3 47. Rxg7+ Kd6 48. Rg6+ Kc7 49. Rf6 Rg3 50. g6 f3 51. kb3 f2 52. Rxf2 Rxg6 53. Rf7+ Kb8 (53…Kd6 54. Ra7 wins) 54. a4 threatening a5.

46…Rxf3 47. Rxa6 Re3 47… Rxc3 48. Ra7+ Ke8 49. d6 Rd3 50. Re7+ Kf8 51. Re4 Rd4 52. d7 Rxd7 53. Rxf4+ Ke7 54. Kb5 wins. When this game was played, I believed the text 47…Re3 to be some kind of ingenious resource and I started to get nervous, which is ridiculous of course.

48. Ra7+! White doesn’t fall for the trick 48. Rxg6 Re7! and the f-pawn is a major nuisance. It should be all over now.

48…Ke8 Black, as a Harvard freshman once wrote in a political science essay, “is at the very brink of Agamemnon.”


49. Ra8+?? This is one of those moments where I look at the old scoresheet and cannot believe what I am reading. One of the “issues” was that I went out with Fedorowicz during the adjournment break and Yasser stayed inside, “working”. But of course there’s nothing to work on. In any event, if I had even briefly looked at the adjournment, I would have not gone up this blind alley and played the obvious 49. Rxg7 f3 50. Rxg6 and black can resign, for example 50…Rxc3 51. Kxb5 and the game is over. Believe it or not, I had not calculated the capture on move 50, believing my opponent’s f-pawn would be a problem in this variation. Since it is not, (pawn g5 guards Rf6 to stop the enemy pawn), white just wins with the numerous extra pawns. The text draws!

49… Ke7 What a gruesome turn of events. Now black’s f-pawn really is a problem! The rest of the game is simply white flailing around trying to win an unwinnable game. What an incredible botch!

50. Ra7+ Ke8 51. Rb7 f3 52. Rb1 Kd7 53. Kb3 f2 54. Rf1 Re2 55. a4 Kc7 56. a5 Rd2 57. Ka4 Rb2 58. Rd1 Re2 59. Rf1 Rb2 60. Ka3 Rd2 61. Kb3 Kb7 62. Ka4 Ka6 63. d6 Ra2+ 64. Kb3 Rd2 65. d7 Rxd7 66. Rxf2 Kxa5 67. Re2 Rb7+ 68. Kc2 Rb6 69. Re7 Rc6 70. Rxg7 Re6 71. Kd3 Ka4 72. Rd7 Kb3 73. Rb7+ Ka3 74. Rd7 Kb3 75. Rd5 Rc6 76. Rd8 Re6 77. Rb8+ Ka3 78. Kc2 Re2+ 79. Kd3 1/2-1/2

It was very ignominious to have to face the rest of the players the next day and offer fumbling explanations regarding the half point on the crosstable.

In Part II, we’ll examine another “bring Yasser back from the precipice”, World Open 1984, where my position was just as winning. D’oh!

The Fabulous 70s: The National Chess League

September 16, 2007

The National Chess League was a precursor of today’s US Chess League. We played with telephones (no Internet!) and “runners” relayed moves on physical boards to the phone operators. Often a move was not relayed right, causing extensive delays. Operators used military jargon like “Bishop to Echo Four”. Even with a few minutes left on the clock, it was more like triple that amount with the exorbitant relay delays. So 40 moves in 1 hour wasn’t so fast.

Here is a game from the 1978 Finals. My DC squad “Washington Plumbers”, named after the Watergate scandal, was quite strong but so were our opponents, the “Berkeley Riots”. The match was played at a small chess club in Georgetown (Northwest Washington) called “It’s Your Move” (now defunct). The end of this article has the match results.

Mark Ginsburg (2353, Washington Plumbers) – GM Larry Christiansen (2508, Berkeley Riots) 5/17/78 40/1

1. c4 c6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. b3?! I was scared of my strong opponent. Larry had made GM directly, skipping IM. It was handy, though, to play “anonymously” in a phone setting. It made the encounter a little more surreal and random. In fact, later on Larry admitted he had no memory of this game. Phone matches are indeed much more forgettable than OTB encounters.

3…d6 4. d4 Nbd7 5. Bb2 e5! A nice, inventive, move!


6. dxe5 dxe5 7. e3 It looks and is really scary (read that as bad) to grab the pawn. 7. Bxe5 Nxe5! 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. Nxe5 Bb4+! 10. Nd2 (10. Kd1 Ne4 11. Nd3 Kc7 12. a3 Bc5 13. e3 Rd8 14. Kc2 Bf5 with a huge attack) 10… Ne4 11. Nef3 Bg4 12. a3 Bc3 13. Rc1 Ke7 is overwhelming for black.

Even worse is 7. Nxe5?? Bb4+ 8. Nd2 Nxe5 9. Bxe5 Ne4 10. Bf4 Qd4 with total destruction. For example, 11. Be3 Nxd2 12. Bxd4 Nf3 double checkmate! Imagine that finale in a team game with your teammates staring piteously at you.

7… Bb4+ 8. Nbd2 e4 9. Nd4 Ne5 10. a3 Bg4

Larry has always favored easy piece play. And he has it.

11. Qc2 Bxd2+ 12. Qxd2 O-O 13. h3 Bh5 14. Nf5?! A surprising shot is 14. Ne6! Qxd2+ 15. Kxd2 Nxc4+ 16. Bxc4 fxe6 17. Bxe6+ Bf7 18. Bxf7+ Kxf7 and it’s about equal. The text shoots into the darkness.

14… Re8 15. Bc3 White is playing very timidly.


15…Nd3+? A stumble. 15…Bg6 and 15…Nfd7 are both quite good for black. The text gives white a surprising shot on move 17.

16. Bxd3 exd3 16…Qxd3 17. g4 Bg6 18. Nxg7! (the point!) is very good for white.

17. f3?? Terrible. If a good player gives you something, take it. 17. Nxg7! is obviously a shot that both players overlooked. 17…Kxg7 18. g4 Kf8 19. Bb4+ Kg7 20. gxh5 Ne4 21. Rg1+ Kh8 22. Qb2+ f6 23. O-O-O and white is way on top.

17… Bg6 18. g4 Bxf5 19. gxf5 White is more or less OK now but he could have had more.

19…Qe7?! The most accurate is 19…Nh5 right away; for example 20. O-O-O Qe7! hitting various pawns.

20. Kf2?! A better try is 20. Rg1! Nh5 21. e4, hoping for 21…Qh4+ 22. Qf2 Qe7 23. f6!! Nxf6 24. Rxg7+!! Kxg7 25. Qg1+! Kf8 26. Bb4 winning the queen and the game or 25…Kh8 26. Qg5 winning. A good demonstration of the power of the queen.

20… Nh5 [38] 21. h4 Rad8 22. Rag1 f6 23. b4 b5 23… Qd7 24. e4 Qf7 25. c5 b6 is good for black. 23…c5 is also good. White has very little to undertake.

24. c5 [40] Rd5 Again, 24… Qd7 25. e4 Qf7 is good for black.

25. Rg4 Rxf5 Black can just wait with 25… Kh8 26. e4 Rdd8 with some plus, or 25… a5 26. e4 Rd7 again with some plus. The text is good too; black retains the advantage (see note to move 27).

26. Qxd3 Rd5 27. Bd4


27…Qf7?! Strongest is 27… f5! 28. Rg5 f4. Here is a nice line: 29. Rxd5 cxd5! 30. exf4 Nxf4 31. Qxb5 Ne2! 32. Qd3 Qc7! and wins.

28. Qc3 [51] f5 29. Rxg7+! [54] White has to seek practical chances and might as well try this. Very good for black is 29. Rg2 f4! 30. e4 Ng3 31. Rhg1 Qd7! 32. Rxg3 fxg3+ 33. Ke3 Qh3! and white can’t handle the infiltration.

29… Nxg7 30. Bxg7 Re6 [57] Clearly weak is 30… Qxg7?? 31. Rg1 Qxg1+ 32. Kxg1 Re6 33. Kf2 Rde5 34. Qd3 Rxe3 35. Qxf5 and white has good winning chances.

31. h5?? Necessary was 31. Rg1 Rg6 32. Rxg6 Qxg6 33. Bd4 Qh5 34. Kg3 Kf7 and black has good winning chances. The text was just nerves (this was the league finals).

31… Qd7?? Having very little time left, black misses the interference-theme tactic 31… Qxg7 32. Rg1 Rg6! where he would be up a rook and a disappointed white would have to resign (with the usual crowd of staring teammates taking pity).

32. Bd4 f4 33. Rg1+ Kf8 34. Rg4! [57] Posing the most problems as we near the first time control. Unexpectedly, this move brings results.


34…fxe3+?? In severe time pressure, black tosses it all away. The careful 34… Rxh5! 35. Rxf4+ Ke8 36. Rg4 Qf7! denies white access points. This line is not easy to see with a minute or so to move 40. After 37.e4 Rh2+ 38. Ke3 Rh3 39. Rf4 Qg6 it’s not quite over, but black of course keeps good chances to win.

35. Bxe3 Multiple diagonals are now open and black’s king is cornered.

35…Qf7 Suddenly everything is hopeless. If 35… Rde5 36. Bh6+! Ke7 (36… Rxh6 37. Qxe5 Qe6 38. Qg7+ Ke8 39. Re4 wins) 37. Rg7+ Ke8 38. Rxd7 Kxd7 39. Bf4 Re2+ 40. Kg3 wins) Or, 35… Ree5 36. Bh6+ Ke8 37. Rg8+ wins.

36. Qh8+ Ke7 37. Rg7 Rxh5 38. Rxf7+ Kxf7 39. Bd4 Rh2+ 40. Kg3 Reh6 41. Qg7+ Ke6 42. Qg4+ Ke7 43. Qe4+ Kf7 44. Qf5+ Ke7 45. Bf6+ 1-0


All was not sweetness and light for our team, though.

Final results:

Washington Plumbers Result Berkeley Riots
Mark Diesen 0 James Tarjan
Mark Ginsburg 1 Larry Christiansen
Eugene Meyer 0 Julio Kaplan
Steve Odendahl 1/2 Nick De Firmian
Robin Spital 1/2 Paul Whitehead
John Meyer 1/2 Jay Whitehead

As can be seen, Berkeley narrowly won the match, 3 1/2 – 2 1/2. Historical amusement: they played the kid Whitehead brothers (I had seen these kids play Dragons against one another at the Mechanics Institute way back in 1974; Paul taking the black side). As the roster shows, our team hero, strong Virginia master Charlie Powell did not play that match. Throughout the season, he had scored clutch win after clutch win. I will try to find some of his NCL heroics. I don’t have records of any of the other finals games – perhaps a reader can supply some. In an addendum to the dramatis personae of this match, Robin Spital recently surfaced on ICC – he teaches Physics in a Florida prep school.

Before we leave the National Chess League, let’s recap a prior 1978 match between Los Angeles and Washington DC. I played the following interesting game versus NM Alan Pollard in the telephone match on May 3rd, 1978.

National Chess League (telephone match)

Alan Pollard, LA (2373) – Mark Ginsburg (Washington Plumbers), 2353.

Sicilian Kan 40/1, then 20 moves in 30 minutes, then adjourn

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O Qc7 7. Be3 d6 8. c4 Nbd7 9. Nc3 b6 10. f4 Be7 11. Rc1 g6

According to my understanding at the time, ….g6 was OK if white had already committed his bishop to e3.

12. b4 O-O 13. a3 Re8 14. Qf3 Bb7 15. Qh3 Bf8 16. Nf3 Here white has the very dangerous 16. f5!? but black can hold on after 16…exf5 17. exf5 Ne5 18. Be2 Bg7 19. fxg6 hxg6 20. Bh6 Bh8 21. Qh4 Ned7.

16… Bg7 17. Bd4 Rac8 18. Qh4 Qd8 19. Rce1 White’s play is a little incoherent over the past few moves and black now has a good game.


19…e5 A completely valid and solid defense is 19… Nh5! 20. Bxg7 Qxh4 defusing the situation. Then, 21. Nxh4 Nxg7 22. Na4 e5 23. f5 g5 24. Nf3 h6 25. Rd1 Red8 is simply equal. The text is trying for more.

20. fxe5 Nxe5 21. Bxe5! It looks strange to give up the bishop, but it’s the best move here.

21…dxe5 22. Rd1 Qe7? 22…Nh5! was far superior with only a small disadvantage.

23. Qf2 Ng4?! It’s unsound to give up the b6 pawn, but white has to find the refutation – no easy task in a 40/1 game.

24. Qxb6 Bh6 25. Rfe1? White stumbles badly. He had the crushing 25. c5! Be3+ 26. Kh1 Rc6 27. Qa5 Nf2+ 28. Rxf2 Bxf2 29. Nd5 and black is not long for this world. Similarly, 25…Ne3 26. Bxa6 is also decisive. The move 25. c5! is obvious once one sees that losing the exchange is not a big deal with the queenside pawns ready to roll and the d5 square available for the WN on c3.

25…Rc6 26. Qa7 Rc7 27. Qb6 A sample alternative here is 27. Kh1 Bxe4 28. Qg1 Bxd3 29. Nd5 Qd6 30. Nxc7 Qxc7 31. Rxd3 Qxc4 32. Rd4 Qc8 33. Rxg4 Qxg4 34. Nxe5 with a level game.

27… Rc6 28. Qa7 Rf6!? Bravely avoiding the repetition draw. Of course it’s a thin line between brave and foolhardy.


29. Nd5 Bxd5 30. Qxe7 Rxe7 31. cxd5 Be3+ 32. Kf1 Bf2 33. Re2? The logical 33. Rc1! gives white a substantial edge.


33…Ne3+?! This move is a little craven and also not very good. 33… Bd4!? is another and better way to try to bottle white up. Then, 34. Ke1 Bc3+ 35. Nd2 Bd4 36. Rc1 Bf2+ 37. Kd1 Ne3+ 38. Rxe3 Bxe3 39. Rc8+ Kg7 40. Nc4 Bd4 41. Na5 Rf2 42. Bxa6 Rxg2 43. Bb5 is good for white but difficult to see over the board.

34. Rxe3 Superior was 34. Kxf2! Nxd1+ 35. Ke1 leaving white with an edge.

34…Bxe3 35. Ke2 Ba7 36. Rc1 Rd6 37. Rc8+ Kg7 38. Nd2 Bd4 39. Nc4 Rf6! Black is just in time to generate serious counterplay on the f-file.

40. d6 Rd7 At this stage, both players got 30 more minutes for the next 20 moves. keep in mind the very long telephone relay-delay. Effectively, it was more like 45 minutes of thinking time for the next 20 moves.

41. a4? A very bad blunder. 41. Bc2!, with the idea of Bc2-a4, liquidates the game into a drawn ending after the inevitable Rdxf6 or Rfxd6. 41. Ne3 was also safe and completely equal.

41…Rf2+ Black is now winning but it will take some calculation to bring the point home, not an easy task at this time control.

42. Kd1 Rxg2 43. b5 axb5 44. axb5 Rxh2 [69] The complete destruction of white’s kingside should have been decisive.

45. Rc7 Rd8 46. d7


46…Ra2? Black in turn fumbles the ball. Of course I can play 46… h5 but after 47. b6 Ra8 48. Bb1 the position is murky. The winning move, by no means easy, was 46…g5! In that case, white’s desperate counter-measures with 47. Nd6 are simply ignored! 46…g5 47. Nd6 g4! 48. Nb7 g3!! 49. Nxd8 g2 50. Ne6+ Kh6 and wins – an exceptionally nice variation. This is a good example of where concrete calculation can bring the point home – although …g5 is on the surface ugly (giving the f5 square to white’s knight) – the poor position of the WK means that the g-pawn can safely rush up. The specter of white’s advancing passed pawns must have caused this panic reaction.

47. b6 Raa8 [79] This incredibly passive sequence, transferring an active rook on the 7th rank to a passive location on the first rank, is of course by no means a winning attempt. White is now totally OK again. This crazy see-saw game is once again in balance.

48. b7 Rab8 49. Rc8 h5 If 49… f6 50. Nd6! forcing 50…Ba7 and black is not really getting anywhere.

50. Na5 [83] Bb6 51. Nc4 Bd4 52. Ke2 g5 53. Na5 Bb6 54. Nc6 Rxb7 55. Nxd8 Rxd7 56. Nc6 Rc7! The easiest way to steer for a draw and an end to this nutty game before any unfortunate accidents occur.

57. Rxc7 Bxc7 58. Ne7 g4 59. Kf2 Kh6 [89] 60. Kg3 [88] Kg5 At this stage, my scorepad indicates the game was adjudicated (?). However it must have been declared drawn as well – neither side can do anything.


Here were the final match results. The Andersson-Peters game was funny. Andersson was led into our venue, the tiny chess shop in Georgetown (was it called ‘It’s Your Move’?), and his clock read 4:59. I think he was in town for his Volvo exhibition match versus GM Lubosh Kavalek (Kavalek won that match easily – the match took place in a Volvo dealership showroom!). Ulf thought it was G/1 Minute (!!) game and started bashing out moves in his pet …Nf6 Nxf6+ exf6 Caro Kann. On move 15, he noticed others were thinking and he then realized it was actually a 40 moves in an hour game! He then slowed down just a tiny bit and won an ending (of course, starting in an equal position) effortlessly vs IM John (Jack) Peters. Our team won by the narrowest of margins thanks especially to the 2 Meyer Brothers.

Washington Plumbers Result Los Angeles
GM Ulf Andersson 1 IM John Peters
IM Mark Diesen 0 Julius Loftsson
Mark Ginsburg Adjourned and … 1/2 Alan Pollard
Eugene Meyer Adjourned and … 1 Kent
Steve Odendahl 0 S Jones
John Meyer 1 Tibor Weinberger

The Classic 2000s: Battling the Hedgehog

September 15, 2007

The Hedgehog is a prickly animal. Let’s see a couple of aggressive anti-Hedgehog systems which I’ve tried vs NMs, IMs, and GMs alike.

IM Mark Ginsburg vs NM Teddy Coleman

2006 World Open, Philadelphia, PA

1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 e6 4. g3 b6 5. Bg2 Bb7 6. O-O Be7 7. Re1 d6 This is the mainline Hedgehog where White has fianchettoed his king bishop. See the next game for a different idea, the placement of the Bishop on d3 (only possible in certain move orders). 7…d5 is a solid move here and worthy of serious attention. It is good to learn those positions as a nice change of pace because black gets a much bigger piece of the center than usual.


8. e4 a6 9. d4 cxd4 10. Nxd4 Qc7 11. Be3 O-O 12. Rc1 Nbd7 13. f4
The only way to try to punish black is by grabbing this space. Needless to say, white should not spend time guarding the c-pawn which is immune for the moment.


13… Rfd8?! Unnatural. 13…Rfe8!? is a better rook move; white should then react similarly with 14. g4. However, the strongest according to current thinking is 13…h5!? It’s very strange to move a pawn in front of one’s king, but black argues that it’s more important to hold up the g4 advance. After 13…h5!? 14. h3 Rfe8 15.f5 Bd8!? black holds on. White can play more sharply with 13…h5!? 14. f5!? but black again retains decent chances with 14…Ng4! – as of this writing, 13…h5!? has not been refuted.

14. g4!? Black’s minor pieces are in a tangle and white wants to push them around. Strangely, the move 14. f5! may be stronger here. White gets a clear plus after 14…e5 15. Nd5.

14…Nc5 15. Bf2 d5? This move, always a possibility in Hedgehogs, doesn’t work here for tactical reasons. 15…Nfd7 was necessary; 16. b4 Nf8!? awaiting events.

16. exd5 Qxf4 17. Bg3? 17. b4 is a clean win. 17…Qxg4 18. bxc5 Bxc5 19. Na4! finishes it.

17…Qxg4 18. b4


18… Qxd1? The last chance was 18…Qg6 19. bxc5 Bxc5 but after 20. Na4!, white should win.

19. Rcxd1 Ncd7 20. d6! Very obvious but an important tactical motif to remember.

20…Bxd6 21. Bxb7 Bxb4 22. Nc6 Bxc3 23. Re3 Ba5 24. Nxd8?! 24. Red3! is the correct move, winning quickly.

24…Rxd8 25. Red3 b5 26. cxb5! There was a chance to go wrong here: 26. c5?? Nd5! and black escapes.

26…axb5 27. Bc6 A fatal pin. Black wriggles a little more but it’s over.


27… Bb6+ 28. Bf2 Bxf2+ 29. Kxf2 Ng4+ 30. Kg3 Nge5 31. Rxd7 Nxd7 32. Bxb5


Here’s a similar story with a similar happy ending from Switzerland (Lenk) 2000.


IM Ginsburg – NM F. Epiney Lenk 2000

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. Nf3 e6 4. g3 b6 5. Bg2 Bb7 6. O-O a6 7. Re1 d6 8. e4 Be7 9. d4 cxd4 10. Nxd4 Qc7 11. Be3 Nbd7 12. Rc1 O-O 13. f4 Rac8 Diverging from the Coleman game above.

14. g4  The immediate 14. f5 e5 15. Nd5 Qd8 is not particularly effective.  White has to try the text to get somewhere.

14…Rfd8?  This is weak.  But 14…Nc5 does not help matters after 15. Bf2. For example, 14..Nc5 15. Bf2 h5 16. gxh5 Kh7 17. b4 Ncd7 18. e5 dxe5 19. fxe5 Ng8 20. h6 Nxh6 21. Ndb5 axb5 22. Nxb5 Qb8 23. Qxd7 Bxg2 24. Qxe7 Bc6 25. Nd6 Nf5 26. Nxf5 exf5 27. Qh4+ Kg8 28. Rc3 and wins.  Another logical try, 14…g6, is met by 15. g5 Nh5 (15…Ne8 is passive, for example 16. Bh3 Ng7 17. f5! with a large edge) 16. f5 Ne5 17. b3 Qd7 18. Bh3! and white has a big plus.

15. g5! Ne8 16. f5!  Of course. Once black gives up the key light squares, it’s all over.

16…exf5 17. Nd5 Bxd5 18. cxd5 Qb7 19. Nc6  Ne5 20. exf5 Rd7 21. Bf4 f6 22. Bxe5 fxe5 23. f6!  Total paralysis.

23…gxf6 24. Qg4 f5 25. Qxf5 Ng7 26. Nxe7+ Rxe7 27. Rxc8+ 1-0

A very smooth and effortless victory.

Things are not always so easy. IM Roussel-Roozman tried the same approach vs IM (GM-elect) Jesse Kraai and lost. (in the …h5 line).


Here’s a wild affair where I battled veteran GM Leonid Yudasin in a related line.

However, in this line I put my KB on d3 and I don’t fianchetto it – an extra opportunity white gets in the move order Yudasin adopted.


IM Mark Ginsburg – GM Leonid Yudasin World Open 2003

1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 b6 4. e4! d6 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Bb7 7. Bd3! This is the more aggressive formation white can get, exploiting black’s slow first moves.

7…Nbd7 8. O-O e6 9. Qe2 Be7 10. b3 O-O 11. Bb2 a6

11..Ne5!? 12. Bc2 Ng6!? is an interesting possibility to ‘change the usual course of events’.

12. f4 Re8 13. Rad1 Qc7 14. Kh1 Bf8 15. Nf3! White is getting his pieces to very dangerous squares; every piece is working which is nice when one has attacking ambitions.

15…g6 This position has been seen before. I didn’t know that; if I did, I might have known the right move!

This is the key moment.


16. Bb1? No!!! The right move is 16. e5! Nh5 17. Be4! ignoring the knight attack on f4. White is better in all lines. This was proven in Ambroz-Summermatter, Bad Ragaz 1997. Black played 17…d5 18. exd5 Nxf4 19. Qd2 and white was better and went on to win. Note that 16. e5 dxe5? 17. fxe5 Nh5 18. Be4! is even worse; and after 17. Be4! Nxf4?? is a gross blunder due to 18. exd6! winning in all lines (18…Bxd6?? 19. Qd2 wins right away). It is very important to remember this positionally very strong maneuver (e5 clearance then Be4).

16…Rad8! Black consolidates, defusing e4-e5. White lost his chance.

17. Ng5 Bg7 18. e5 dxe5 19. fxe5 Nxe5 20. Rxd8 20. Nb5!? right away is interesting.

20…Rxd8 21. Nb5 axb5 22. Bxe5 Qe7 23. cxb5 h6 24. Nf3 Qc5 Black is fine now, and white has less time. Not a pleasant situation.

25. Qc4? Not good. However, there were no easy ways to play.

25…Qxc4 26. bxc4 Rc8 27. Bd3 Nd7 28. Bd6 Nc5 29. Bxc5 Rxc5 30. Nd2 Rc8 31. Nb3 Rd8 32. Rd1 Bf8 Black has a really nice and solid ending advantage now. White does not offer very serious resistance.

33. Be2 Ra8 34. Rd2 Bb4! 35. Rb2 Be4! Accurate.

36. Bf3 Rd8 37. Kg1 Bd3 38. c5 bxc5 39. b6 Bc3 40. Rf2 c4! White has no hope left.

41. Nc5 Bd4 42. Nxd3 Bxb6 43. Kf1 Bxf2 44. Nxf2 c3 45. Be4 Rd2 46. Ke1 f5 47. Bd3 Rxa2 48. Bc4 Rxf2 0-1

A good technical ending by Yudasin but disappointing for me because I bungled a promising attacking position.

Let’s see a third game, from a Swiss in Switzerland (!), where this setup did better.

Mark Ginsburg vs Thomas Saladin
Lenk Open 2000, Lenk Switzerland

Lenk is a very pretty postcard-type town high in the Swiss Alps. The 2000 event saw Tukmakov, Gheorghiu, Grozpeter, and a host of other strong players competing for not so much cash, but it definitely was a good time. I was working in Basel at the time.

1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 b6 4. e4 d6 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Bb7 7. Bd3! I get my preferred set-up.

7…e6 8. O-O


8… Nc6?! 8…Nbd7, as in the Yudasin game, is to be preferred. White now gains time to further his plans.

9. Nxc6! Bxc6 10. b3 a6 11. Bb2 Be7 12. Qe2 Bb7 13. f4! O-O


14. Rf3 g6 15. Rh3 Nd7 16. a4! White keeps black bottled up.

16…Bf6 17. Rd1 Rc8 By simple means, white has acquired a large advantage – space and initiative.


18. Bc2 Qc7 19. Rhd3 Black cannot meet well this regrouping.

19…Be7 20. e5! d5 Desperation already; this move is refuted.

21. cxd5 exd5 22. Rxd5 Bxd5 23. Nxd5 Bc5+ 24. Kh1 Qc6 25. Be4 Qe6 26. b4 Bxb4 27. Nxb4 Qc4 28. Bd3 Qxb4 29. e6! A nice breakthrough.

29…Nc5 30. e7! Excelsior!

30…Rfe8 31. Qe5 f6


32. Qxf6! This quickly forces mate.

32…Rxe7 33. Qh8+ Kf7 34. Qg7+ Ke8 35. Bxg6+ 1-0

Isn’t it funny how a good setup versus a GM sometimes doesn’t do as well as the same setup versus a lesser light? Well, sometimes it works. Here’s a quick win over D. Gurevich in the Milwaukee, WI G/30 champs, 2002.

IM Ginsburg – GM D. Gurevich G/30 Milwaukee WI 12/02

1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 b6 3. Nc3 Bb7 4. e4 d6 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Nf6
7. Bd3! e6 8. O-O Nbd7 9. Qe2 a6 10. b3 Be7 11. Bb2 O-O
12. Rad1 Re8 13. f4 Bf8?
Careless. In this G/30 encounter, black simply forgets his N is embarrassed after white’s next.

14. e5 dxe5 15. fxe5 Bc5 16. Na4! The motif we know from the Coleman game, above. Black’s game is hopeless.

16…Nxe5 17. Qxe5 Bd6 18. Qe2 Qc7 19. Rxf6! In G/30, it’s better to force matters and keep the initiative to make sure no surprises happen.

19…Bxh2+ 20. Kh1 Qg3 21. Rxf7! It’s always pleasant to continue to take things with an en prise piece.

21…Kxf7 22. Qh5+ Ke7 23. Qxh2 Qxh2+ 24. Kxh2 1-0


Summary: if white plays aggressively versus the Hedgehog, there are good chances to cause concrete defensive problems early on – a good thing!

The Fabulous 70s Part 6: US Amateur Teams

June 25, 2007

English Opening, 1. c4 c5, Four Knights Variation

Amateur Teams were always a nice event in the year’s calendar. Taking place in February, with only trophies (no cash) as prizes, there was nevertheless fantastic attendance in most year. In the 1970s, some of these happened in Atlantic City (pre-casino!). Innovative organizer Denis Barry (1929-2003) was the brain behind the event. In later years, it split into the 4-region format that we have today.

Here is a relic going way back to 1977.

Mark Ginsburg (2165) vs Richard Costigan (2308)
US Team Championship, New Jersey 1977

My opponent was one of the Costigan brothers (Richard, Thomas, William) and I would wind up playing them many times in my career. Richard became an IM and I tangled with NM Thomas in the US Junior Closed in Memphis, TN, 1978. Later this year (November 1977) I would score a ‘breakout’ performance and win a strong open in NYC, moving up to 2350, but since this was only February 1977 I was still in the Expert range.

1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. e4 e6 5. Be2!?


An interesting semi-waiting move in the style of Little Sammy Reshevsky. Of course, this should offer nothing for White but is good psychologically if the opponent oversteps the bounds of safety.

5…d5 5…Qb6!? is a good dynamic alternative here. The text is more static but not bad.

6. exd5 exd5 7. d4 dxc4? A bad positional mistake. 7….cxd4 is safe. Then, 8. Nxd4 dxc4 9. Be3 and 9. Nxc6 are both equal.

8. d5 Nb4 Leads to a bad position, but so do 8…Na5 9. Bf4 and 8…Nd4 9. Nxd4 cxd4 10. Qxd4.

9. Bxc4 Bf5

Something has gone seriously wrong and black’s knight is horribly offside on b4.

10. O-O Be7? 10…Bd6, while not pleasant, kept the game going.

11. Bf4 Now White has a decisive edge.

11…Nh5 12. Be5! O-O 13. a3 Na6


14. h3? The peculiar retreat, not normally on players’ radar screens, 14. Ne1! is immediately decisive. Take a look, it’s not often such a retreat is so strong. If 14…Bg6 (what else? 14…Nf6? 15. d6!) 15. f4! simply wins a piece.

14…Qd7? Black had to try 14…Bf6 to play on. Now white can go “straight up the middle” and score a quick KO.

15. Bb5! Qc8 16. d6 Rd8 17. dxe7 A totally obvious pseudo queen sacrifice. It would be hard to find a player who would NOT play it, so it does not deserve an exclamation point.

17…Rxd1 18. Raxd1 1-0


Black cannot handle e7-e8 and gives up.


To disabuse you of the notion that I was strong, here is a very weak effort from the same event.


E. Melman vs Mark Ginsburg
US Team Championship, New Jersey 1977

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be3?

This move does not work versus the Kan. I have faced this blunder in countless tournament games.  White cannot get an English Attack.

6…Bb4 7. Qd2 Nf6 8. Bd3 d5 9. f3?

Another bad blunder. White loses a piece. NM Renard Anderson at least found 9. exd5 versus me Las Vegas 2003, but Black of course has no problems and I went on to win.  Granted, there were insane complications in that game, and it will appear in a 2000’s installment.


9… e5 10. Nde2 d4!

Black should now win easily.

11. Nxd4 exd4 12. Bxd4 Nbd7?

12…Nc6! is by far the easiest. 13. Bxf6 gxf6 doesn’t help white at all. An upcoming Nc6-e5 will put white in a rapid tomb.

13. O-O-O O-O 14. Qg5 Bc5?

A typical youth blunder.


15. Nd5 Qc6 16. Bxc5 Qxc5 17. Nxf6+

Greeaaaat. I lose my piece back and should lose now. Fortunately, white (a low-rated player) cannot convert.

Kh8 18. Qxc5 Nxc5 19. Nd5 Bd7 20. Nb6 Rad8


21. Bc4 Be6 22. Rxd8 Rxd8 23. Rd1 Rxd1+ 24. Kxd1 Kg8 25. Kd2 Kf8 26. Kc3 Ke7 27. Kd4 Bxc4 28. Kxc4 Ne6


White proceeds to blow it.

29. g3??

His position was so good this blunder doesn’t lose!

29…Ng5 30. f4 Nxe4 31. Kd5 Nf6+ 32. Kc5 Ne4+ 33. Kd4 Nf2 34. c4 Ng4 35. h3 Nf2 36. h4 h5 37. Nd5+ Ke6 38. Ne3 f5 39. b4 Ne4 40. Nf1 Kd6 41. Kd3 g6 42. Kd4 1/2-1/2