Archive for the ‘English Opening’ Category

The Fabulous 00s: The 2005 US Open

June 20, 2007

I needed to win to qualify for the 2006 US Championship. For a while, everything was going well!

IM M. Ginsburg – IM A. Simutowe US Open 2005, Phoenix, AZ

English 1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 d5 (Grünfeld-like)

1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e3!? 5. g3 is much more common but the text has its points.

5…Nc6 6. Bb5!? This move is actually quite dangerous.

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6…Ndb4?

A very weak move. 6…Nxc3 7. bxc3 Bd7 is acceptable with a small white edge after 8. O-O e6 9. d4 Bd6 10. Rb1 cxd4 11. cxd4 Rc8. SM Patrick Hummel managed a draw in this line versus me, Las Vegas 2002(?) – I will try to find that game score.

7. d4 Of course. The black knight on b4 is just dangling now.

7…cxd4 8. exd4 a6 9. Ba4 b5 10. Bb3 Bf5 11. O-O Na5?! Highly dubious – nothing is out on the kingside in a flagrant violation of opening principles.

12. Bg5! An extremely strong move! A move like 12…f6, while obviously disgusting, is one of black’s only moves now to avoid a quick loss.

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12… h6? Falling into the trap. 12… Nxb3? 13. Qxb3 is also really bad.

13. Ne5! The point! The black e-pawn is pinned so the sudden hit on f7 induces grave concessions. In fact, as black stated after the game, he was lucky that he didn’t have to resign straightaway (he overlooked 13. Ne5).

13… Nxb3 14. Qxb3 Be6 Forced.

15. Qxb4 hxg5 And now white needs to take a think and figure out the way to win. It stands to reason there should be something really good here.

 

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16. Rfe1?

Wrong! White had the much stronger 16. a4! as GM Christiansen pointed out to me later. Black is way behind in development and his structure collapses. The variations can be quite beautiful: 16. a4 Qd6 (16… bxa4 17. Qxa4+ Bd7 18. Qc4 e6 19. Rxa6 Rxa6 20. Qxa6 f6 21. Nxd7 Qxd7 22. Nb5 Kf7 23. Rc1 Kg6 24. h3 and wins) 17. Qa5! bxa4 (17… Bc4 18. Nxb5 Bxb5 19. axb5 f6 20. Ng4 Qxd4 21. h3 f5 22. Rfd1 Qe4 23. Re1 Qd5 24.Ne3 Qe5 25. Qa4 Rh4 26. b4 wins) 18. Qxa4+ Bd7 19. Nb5!! and this is not the last fantastic move in this variation! Let’s pause here to look at the situation:

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Position after 19. Nb5!! (Analysis) This is the kind of position that GM Christiansen would really enjoy. Continuing, 19…Qb8 20. Qc4 Bxb5 (20…Qxb5 21. Qf7+ Kd8 22. Qf3! Rc8 23. Nf7+ Ke8 24. Nxh8 wins mundanely) 21. Qxf7+ Kd8 22.Qd5+ Ke8 23. Rfc1! Ra7 24. Rxa6!! Fabulous! For the second time in this line, white has landed a heavy, heavy blow.

Let’s look at it:

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Position after 24. Rxa6!! (Analysis)

Follow along now: 24. Rxa6!! Rxa6 (24…Bxa6 25. Qf7+ Kd8 26 Nc6+) 25. Qxb5!! Yes! 25…Qxb5 26. Rc8 mate. White gave up almost every piece , is a queen and rook down, and delivers a pure mate! This would have made it into a book of chess miniatures!

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Position after 26. Rc8 mate (analysis).

 

Back to the text. 16. Rfe1? as played is very bad, it gives black time to develop. It doesn’t throw away the edge yet, but the beautiful mating patterns above hopefully illustrate the strength of 16. a4!

16..Bd5 17. Nxd5 Qxd5 18. Qb3?? What the heck is this? Trading queens is a horrific decision. My brain must have been switched off. Note that it gives black an easy way to develop – the classic definition of a soft move according to GM Stohl – and a very weak move!

18. a4! is still strong. For example, 18… e6 19.Qc3 Bd6 20. axb5 Qxb5 21. Qe3 Qxb2 22. Qxg5 O-O 23. Qh4 Qc2 and white is better.)

18… Qxb3 My opponent must have been thanking his lucky stars. 19. axb3 Rh6!

Ugh! I completely missed this move, which gives black a good game! He develops smoothly and I can make no threats! I could sense the game going downhill and I couldn’t believe it – what happened to my initiative??

20. h3 Rd6 21. Nf3 e6 22. Rec1 Be7 23. Rc5? 23. Kf1! is much better. I am shellshocked.

23…Rb6 24. Rc7 Bd8 25. Rc2 Rd6 26. Rc5 Rb8 27. Nxg5 Rxd4

White is flailing around and black improves his position methodically. A tragedy from my standpoint, but a deserved loss, since I made so many blunders after achieving a crushing game. The lesson? Be extra alert and spend extra time looking when it appears like there’s a chance to finish the opponent off quickly!

28. Nf3 Rd6 29. Kf1 Bf6 30. Ne5 Rbd8 31. Re1 Rd5 32. Rxd5 Rxd5 33. f4 Rd4 34. Nf3 Rxf4 35. Ra1 Rb4 36. Rxa6 g6 37. Ra8+ Ke7 38. Ra7+ Kf8 39. Nd2 Bxb2 40. Rc7 Be5 41. Rc8+ Kg7

0-1

It took me quite a while not to be really angry after this game. But it was all my fault! I couldn’t believe I let him get away with his anemic opening play. At least we see a nice mate in a variation! I wound up qualifying for the US Championship at the last possible moment, by defeating GM V. Georgiev in Las Vegas North American Open, December, 2005.

English 1. c4 c5 Fischer’s 8…Nf6-g4!?

June 17, 2007

IM M. Ginsburg – FM S. Kamberi

Arizona State Championship 2005, Sedona AZ

1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.g3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.0-0 0-0 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Ng4 Bobby Fischer’s pet move.

9.Nb3 A practical decision to avoid lengthy theory.

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9…d6 10.Bf4 Nge5 11.c5 White’s 10th and 11th get a collective ! exclamation mark for reaching a pleasant, risk-free position. GM Anatoly Karpov, never considered an opening expert, used to be a specialist in defusing opening surprises in this manner. 11…dxc5 12.Nxc5 Qb6 13.N5a4 Qa5 14.Qd5 White stays true to the safety-first policy. He is always ‘threatening’ to get an ending pull.

14…Qxd5 15.Nxd5 e6 16.Nc7 Rb8 17.Nb5 Playable is 17.Rfd1 b6 18.Nc3 Bb7 19.N7b5 Ba8 20.Rac1 Rbd8.

17…a6 18.Nd6 b5

Black keeps playing actively in the face of white’s attempts at keeping the game calm.

19.Nc3 b4 20.Nce4 Nd4
Black keeps going forward at the cost of giving up squares but soon there’s nothing constructive left to do. As chess logic dictacts, this is the moment when fortunes start to favor white. 21.Rae1 Rb6 22.Bxe5 Bxe5 23.Nc4 Rb5 24.e3 Nf5

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25.Rd1?!

The moment was right for the obvious 25.Nxe5! Rxe5 keeping black’s rook in a weird place and giving white much more active pieces. For example, 26.Rc1 Ra5 27.Rc7 Rxa2 28.Rfc1 Rxb2 29.Rxc8 Rxc8 30.Rxc8+ Kg7 31.Nc5 a5 32.Rc7 Kf8 33.Ra7 Ra2 34.Bc6 and white should win this easily. Still, the text doesn’t ruin things completely and white retains winning chances.

25…Bg7 26.Rd2 Bb7 27.Rfd1 Rd5 28.Ned6 Rxd2 29.Rxd2 Bxg2 30.Kxg2 Rd8 31.Nxf5 Rxd2 32.Nh6+ Bxh6 33.Nxd2 Bg7 34.b3 f5 35.Kf3 Kf7 36.Ke2 e5 37.e4 Ke6 38.Kd3 Bh6 39.Nc4 Bf8

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40.f3!?

This ending is actually very sharp. White has the interesting move 40.Ne3!? hoping for 40…Bc5? (40…fxe4+! is better – 41.Kxe4 Bc5 42.Ng4 Bd6 43.f3 Bb8 44.Nf2 g5 45.Nd3 Bd6 46.Nb2 Bc7) 41.Kc4! and now white has chances to win. For example, 41…Bf8! (41…Bxe3?? 42.fxe3 and white wins this ending easily) 42.exf5+ (42.f3 f4 43.gxf4 exf4 44.Nc2 g5 45.Nd4+ Kd6 46.h3 h5 with counterplay) 42…gxf5 43.Nc2 a5 and there is still work to do.

40…f4? A blunder at the time control. 40…h5! keeps the balance.

41.g4! h5 42.gxh5 gxh5 43.Ke2?? Throwing the win away. The difficult 43.Nb2!+-wins! For example,

43…Bc5 (43…Kf6 44.Kc4 Kg5 45.Nd3 Kh4 46.Nxe5 Kh3 47.Ng6 Bh6 48.e5 Bg5 49.e6 Kxh2 50.Kd5 h4 51.Ke4 h3 52.Kf5 Bd8 53.Kg4!+- Kg2 54.Nxf4+ Kf2 55.Nxh3+ Ke3 56.Nf4 Kd4 57.Kf5 winning) 44.Kc4 Bg1 45.h3 Kf6 46.Nd3 Bd4 47.Nxb4 Kg5 48.Nc6! Everything with gain of time.

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Analysis Diagram after 48. Nc6!

48…Bb2 49.a4 Kh4 50.b4 Kxh3 51.b5 axb5+ 52.axb5 Kg3 53.b6 h4 54.b7 h3 55.b8Q and wins. A nice variation!

43…Bc5 44.Kf1 This retreat is hopeless from a winning attempt standpoint. 44…Be7 45.Kg2 Bf6 46.Nb6 Bd8 47.Nd5 a5

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The position is totally dead due to white’s bad miscue on move 43. The variation after 43. Nb2! is a good example of how a short-range knight, in certain open positions, can still triumph over the long-range bishop.

1/2-1/2

English Opening, Mikenas Attack

June 17, 2007

Thanks to the efforts of GM Hikaru Nakamura, the English Opening Mikenas Attack 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4!? has experienced a Renaissance. I experimented with this opening in the 1980s and it’s a refreshing change of pace. Here is an example from the National Open Las Vegas 2005 tournament.

IM M. Ginsburg – FM I. Somogyi (HUN)

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4 d5 The other main line is 3…c5 4. e5 Ng8 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. d4 cxd4 7. Nxd4 Nxe5, a complicated pawn sac. We will deal with this gambit in a separate installment.

4. e5 d4 5. exf6 dxc3 6. bxc3 Qxf6 7. Nf3 c5 8. Bd3!

This is the key paradoxical move (bishops don’t normally block center pawns) that Nakamura used to score a quick win over GM Pablo Zarnicki, HB Global Challenge 2005. In that game, black had played 7…e5 but the idea is the same after 7….c5 or 7….e5. White won in only 22 moves (Zarnicki responded 7….e5 8. Bd3! 8…Bg4 but could not solve his problems). Not knowing this plan, previously I played 7. d4?! and GM Petr Kiriakov quickly reached a =+ position with 7…e5! and I had to battle to draw, Las Vegas 2005.

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I like GM Igor Stohl’s books. In his book 50 Instructive Chess Masterpieces, Igor speaks about moves that are too soft. 8. d4 is one of those soft moves that poses no problems and gives black easy development. 8. Bd3 is not soft! White doesn’t show his hand very quickly and even better, has a definite plan to improve his chances (post the Bishop on e4, then play d2-d4).

8…Nc6 9. O-O Bd6 10. Be4 Bd7 11. d4 (Only now d2-d4 happens, after the bishop positioned beautifully in the middle on the e4 square). 11…Qe7 12. Rb1 Rb8 13. Re1 b6 14. Bg5 14. d5 immediately is also strong.

14…f6 15. d5 Nd8 16. dxe6 Nxe6 17. Be3 Rd8 18. Nh4 g6 19. Bh6 Kf7 White’s advantage assumes very serious proportions.

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20. Nf5! Crushing, obvious, but nice. 20…gxf5 21. Qh5+ Kg8 22. Bd5 Black is caught in a fatal pin and his king is in a box. 22…Qf7 23. Qxf5 Re8 24. Re4 Black can resign barring one last miracle. Note that 24. Qg4+ also wins even faster: 24…Qg6 25. Rxe6! and black must resign.

24…Qg6 Nothing else to try.

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Now white has the simplest of wins. Do you see it?

25. Rg4?? The miracle happens! 25. Rxe6! forces instant resignation thanks to 25…Qxf5 26. Rxe8 double check and mate! This elementary tactic was evidently not on white’s agenda as he apparently was focused on winning the black queen, which in this position was the worst thing to do. The moral of the story is never let up on your concentration even when the position looks like anything wins. Finish the opponent off and give no chances!

25…Kf7! How incredibly embarrassing! Black connects his rooks, wins back material, and is OK now. 26. Rxg6 hxg6 27. Qh3 Bf4 White didn’t want this!

28. Bxf4 Rxh3 29. gxh3 Kxg7 30. Bg3 Ng5 31. h4 Ne4 32. Rc1 Nxg3 33. hxg3 Re2 Black has fully equalized and only has to navigate a few minor obstacles now…

34. Ra1 Rc2 35. a4 Rxc3 36. a5 Posing the last problem. 36…b5?? Black commits a horrible blunder and white will wind up winning after all! 36…Bg4 maintained equality.

37. Re1! Black must now lose a key pawn! 37…Kf8 38. cxb5 Bxb5 39. Re6! Kg7 40. Re7+ Kh6 41. Rxa7 Ra3 42. g4! Keeping black’s king in the box (for the second time this game!). White now easily wins.

42…Ra4 43. f3 Bc4 44. Bxc4 Rxc4 45. Rf7 Rf4 46. g5+ The final touch. If 46…Kh5 47. Rh7 mate, or 46…fxg5 and white reaches a K & P ending and queens his remote pawn. Black resigns. 1-0

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White was very fortunate that his major gaffe on move 25 did not throw away the win.