Archive for the ‘Ruy Lopez’ Category

The Fabulous 10’s: Channeling A Vague Memory of a Friedel Game

February 10, 2011

A Familiar Schliemann

An ICC Blitz game in which I had to recall a miniature victory by White  where Josh Friedel beat Ray Kaufman convincingly in a Schliemann.   All I “knew” was that I had seen it via the USCL web page.  But, clearly, I had not (see below).

I tried to follow it!

IM Aries 2- GM Mandragoro  Schliemann

Before we start, a little about GM Mandragoro:

1: Account of GM Gerhard Schebler.Greetings from Duisburg Germany to everyone
2: No Takebacks please,i will never ask you too.
3: I am a chessteacher now for about 19 years and new students are always
wellcome :o)
4: I am still looking for a chessclub in France,Austria and maybe in your
country too.
5: Since i saw the film “Money as debt” i got interested in the biggest secret
called “capitalism”
6: No mass media is mentioning the biggest problem of our times.”exponential
7: “We can change”Obama said but can we change the system without seeing
another war?
8: Fur kleinere Einsichten :o)besucht bitte :Liebeangelamerkel de.Es lonht
9: There is much more truth inside of chess than in real life but maybe “we
can change”
10: When the nature strikes back we shouldnt ask why.Development doesnt always
mean progress !G.S.

Postscript Feb. 22, 2011 – curious about some reader comments, I ran Rybka 4 on this game and inserted some Rybka 4 evaluations.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Qe2 fxe4 6. Nxe4 d5 7. Nxf6+
gxf6 8. d4 Bg7 9. dxe5 O-O 10. e6 Ne5 11. Bf4 c6 12. Nxe5!  (?! – Rybka 4)

A Good Idea!

This was the key idea I got from Friedel-R. Kaufman.  White hangs the bishop on b5 (ignoring the threat of Qa5+).  I do not see any reasonable continuation for black.  What has gone wrong?

Rybka 4 is not so optimistic.  It gives 12. Bd3! as the best move, +=, and this sacrifice leading to equality.  The unaesthetic variations backing up 12. Bd3! are not pleasing at all, whereas the enterprising text is great especially in blitz.  Caissic injustice?   So in conclusion this “key idea” I remembered from a prior game is only sufficient for a draw, if black is prepared.


13. Bxe5 cxb5 (!)  It turns out (see below) that Ray Kaufman captured on e5 here with the bishop, but black lost quickly in that game.  Clearly unplayable of course is 13…Qa5? 14. c3 Qxb5 15. Qg4! and wins.

Rybka 4 likes the text move 13…cxb5 and says black is equal here.

14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15. e7 Qa5+ 16. c3 Re8 17. O-O-O

Black’s king is just too exposed.  Something like this happened in the Friedel game. And after checking — indeed it did; the last (winning) move in the Friedel game was a rook lift!

Rybka 4 disagrees with all this.  It says both 17…Qc7 and 17…Qxa2 now are sufficient for equality!   Actually, it’s pretty clear that 17…Qc7! is a good move, since 18. Rhe1 (what else?) is met by 18…Qf4+ and now if 19. Kb1 Qe4+! gets the queens off and all danger disappears!

Qxa2 18. Qe5+ Kf7 19. Rhe1 b4 ? – Rybka 4

As a reader pointed out (see the Comments section), the ingenious 19..Qa1+! 20. Kc2 Qa4+ 21. Kb1 Qg4!! saves black (gives equal chances).  This is a very tough line for a human to find in blitz.

20. Rd4 (?!) {Black resigns} 1-0 As a curiosity, Rybka 4 gives 20. Rd3! as much stronger, although 20. Rd4 does win (takes longer).

I know a rook lift was employed too in the Friedel game.  OK enough vague memories, now I actually look up the Friedel game…

… … …

And … ta-dah!! Found it.  OK it wasn’t the USCL.  It was Foxwoods 2008!

[Event “Foxwoods Open”]
[Site “Connecticut”]
[Date “2008.03.21”]
[EventDate “2008.??.??”]
[Round “5”]
[Result “1-0”]
[White “Joshua E Friedel”]
[Black “Raymond S Kaufman”]
[ECO “C63”]
[WhiteElo “2531”]
[BlackElo “2369”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 4. Nc3 fxe4 5. Nxe4 Nf6 6. Qe2
d5 7. Nxf6+ gxf6 8. d4 Bg7 9. dxe5 O-O 10. e6 Ne5 11. Bf4 c6
12. Nxe5 fxe5 13. Bxe5 Bxe5 14. Qxe5 Qa5+ 15. c3 Qxb5 16. Qg5+
Kh8 17. e7 Re8 18. O-O-O Qc4 19. Qf6+ Kg8 20. Rhe1 Qxa2
21. Re5 1-0

This pair of games leaves me wondering about the Schliemann, it can’t be this bad for black, can it?


The Fabulous 10s: The Fine Art of Chess Nihilism

April 13, 2010

The Fine Art of Trying for Nothing At All

IM Levon Altounian recently qualified for the 2010 US Championship by winning an online State Champions qualifier on the ICC.  I have had experience in this event, winning a West qualifier (a bunch of 3 0 games) a few years ago only to stumble in a playoff vs. Connecticut master Ted McHugh.  Indeed, online ICC games of any importance are very nervy affairs.

Altounian’s toughest match was the semi-final vs the Northern California champion, IM Sam Shankland.  Two games were contested at the time control of Game in 25 minutes with a 3 second increment.

In this two-game mini-match, Altounian showed how “doing nothing” (chess nihilism) is actually a dangerous weapon, especially in faster time controls. If the opponent doesn’t react well to “nothing”, then technique takes over.

I think the times on ICC are accurate so I will use them in this story.

Game 1.

L. Altounian (Arizona)  –  S Shankland ( NoCal )   G/25 + 3 sec increment

1. e4!?

A surprise!   Levon doesn’t play his usual Catalan!  I can imagine that before this game Altounian worked out riskless sidelines to respond to any black move.


A surprise from Shankland!  I would have expected 1…c5 then some riskless move from white such as 2. c3 and a probable draw.   Black’s surprise move results in a good game for him!

2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. Nc3 This knight does not look happy here!

What a strange move!  An excellent example of nihilism.  White simply says “I’m trying for nothing, let’s just make some more moves.”

5…f6 This move is perfectly good.

Also fine is the active 5… Bc5!? 6. Nxe5 (6. d3 Qe7 7. Be3 Bxe3 8. fxe3 Nf6 9. O-O O-O =) 6… Qg5 7. d4 Qxg2 8. Qf3 (8. Rf1? Bh3 wins)  Qxf3 9. Nxf3 Bb4 =.

6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 c5! Why not?  White gets a very awkward formation.

8. Nde2 Qxd1+ 9. Nxd1

This is playing for a win?! No.. it’s playing for a non-loss!

Playing for a non-loss!

However I will be bold here and say white could, in fact, lose this!  This just means chess is not an easy game and white can’t force a draw so easily.

9…Bd7 I would definitely prefer 9…Be6 to keep the d-file open after castles long.  Then, if as in the game 10. Bf4 O-O-O 11. Ne3 Ne7 12. f3 g5! 13. Bg3 Bg7!  and black is very happy with the latent power of the bishop pair.  All of black’s pieces are very active.  If we were to talk about “winning chances for black” in an exchange Ruy Lopez, this would be it.  In the game, transferring the bishop from d7 to c6 is also good and gives black nice tactical motifs shortly.

10. Bf4 O-O-O 11. Ne3 Bc6 12. f3

To ...g7-g5 or not to ...g7-g5?

I can imagine black was very confident here.  He also had, as in the previous note, the immediate 12… g5! 13. Bg3 Ne7 14. h4 (on other moves, black is doing well) 14…g4! 15. Nxg4 f5! with fantastic compensation.   14…Bg7 was also fine for black in this line.

12…Ne7 13. Kf2 g6 Black may have been reluctant to weaken squares, but the space grabbing 13… g5 was still good.    At this point, black had 18 minutes left and white had 22 minutes left.  This means that white may have been better off playing 13. h4! before Kf2.

14. Rad1 Bg7 15. h4 h6 Black could play nihilistically here with 15…Rxd1 16. Rxd1 Re8 (doing nothing) and be all right.  The problem for white is if the game opens, the bishop pair comes into their own.

16. g4 f5 Sharpening the play.  Black has 15 minutes left and white has 20 minutes left.  Objectively, black is still fine but it’s not easy in a fast game.

17. gxf5

Key Moment

17…Bxb2? The position is tricky. Correct is simply 17…gxf5. If 18. exf5? Rdf8! is very good for black due to 19. Ng3 Bxb2 with a black edge.   If 18.  Rxd8+ Rxd8 19. exf5 Rf8! again is correct. Black is OK in this line after, for example, 20. Rg1 Bf6! hitting h4.  Since the position has just become unexpectedly sharp, this miscue has severe consequences.

18. Rxd8+ Rxd8 Essentially forced. 18…Kxd8 runs into 19. Nc4 Bf6 20. Be5! with a big edge.

19. c3? Winning is the brute force 19. fxg6 Nxg6 20. Bxh6, for example 20…Rh8 21. Bg5 and the pawns roll.  It is natural for a human in a fast time control to go for the “piece trap” but this should have squandered much of the edge.

19… gxf5 20. Rb1 fxe4 21. fxe4 Ba3?! Here it’s important to get rid of white’s h-pawn.  Thus 21… Ng6! 22. Rxb2 (22. h5?? Nxf4 wins for black due to Rd2+ next) 22… Nxh4 23. Bxh6 Bxe4 and black can fight on and with reduced pawns retain decent chances of the draw.

22. Rb3 Bxe4 22….Ng6 again with the aim of eliminating white’s dangerous h-pawn.

23. Rxa3 Ng6 24. h5 Since white’s h-pawn lives, the battle is concluded.  A very tough loss for black after such a nice opening.

24…Nxf4 25. Nxf4 Rf8 26. Kg3 Rg8+ 27. Kh4 Rf8 28. Ng6 Rf6 29. Ng4  Rb6 30. Ne7+ Kd8 31. Ng8 Bf3 32. N8xh6 Kc8 33. Ra5 Rb2 34. Rxc5 Rxa2 35. Rf5 Bd1 36. Rf1 Be2 37. Rf2 Rc2 38. Nf5 Bd3 39. Rxc2 Bxc2 40. Kg5 1-0

The next game was conducted shortly after this one, and it’s very tough to reorient and bounce back at full strength.  In the second game, playing black, Altounian showed, well, an ingenious opening preparation for these conditions.

Game 2

S. Shankland – L. Altounian  QGA Strange Sideline

1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e3 Be6 This had to be a surprise.  An unusual sideline!


4. Nf3 In an action game my first thought would be to get the c-pawn rounded up with 4. Na3!? for example 4… Nc6 5. Nxc4 Qd5 6. Nf3. Not sure how much it offers, but it’s safe and no time spent on the clock.   The knight on c4 participates usefully.

4… Nf6 5. Nbd2 c5 6. Ng5 Bd5 7. e4 h6 I would hazard a guess that this was “main preparation” for Levon within this rare QGA sideline. As it turns out, the R/h8 finds useful work on its original file!

8. exd5 hxg5 9. Bxc4 cxd4 10. Nf3 g4 11. Ne5 Previously seen was 11. Nxd4 Rh5 12. Qb3 and it was about equal (but white went on to win in   1-0 Hansen,C-Zagema,W/Hinnerup 1979.

11… Nbd7 12. Qxd4 Nxe5 13. Qxe5 a6 14. O-O e6! The fact that this move is possible means black solved his problems effectively.

15. Bf4 Rh5! 16. Qe2 Bd6 It all goes like clockwork.

17. Bg3 Bxg3 18. fxg3 18. hxg3 Qe7 19. dxe6 O-O-O 20. exf7 Rdh8 is a typical mating pattern that white, of course, avoids.

18… Qb6+ 19. Rf2 e5 20. Re1 O-O-O 21. Qe3  Qxe3 22. Rxe3 e4 23. Bb3 Rdh8 24. Rc2+ Kd7 25. Rec3 Kd6? The most accurate here is 25… Ne8.
26. Rc7 e3 27. Rxb7 Nxd5 28. h4?
Last chance for white (remember he has to win to level the match) is 28. Rxf7! Rxh2 29. Kf1! averting mate.  Then for example, 29…g6 30. Bxd5 Kxd5 31. Rd7+ Ke5 32. Re7+ Kd4 33. Rc3 and white can fight on perhaps gaining a full point if black miscues.

28… gxh3 Now black wins with no problems. 29. Ra7 (29. Rxf7 hxg2 30. Kxg2 Rh2+ 31. Kf1 Rxc2 32. Bxc2 Rh1+ 33. Ke2 Rh2+ 34. Kd1 Rd2+ 35. Kc1 Nb4 36. Bb1 Rxb2 wins) 29… hxg2 30. Rxa6+ Ke5 31. Kxg2 (31. Ra5 Rh1+ 32. Kxg2 R8h2+ 33. Kf3 Rf1+ 34. Kg4 Rxc2 wins) 31… Rh2+ 32. Kf3 Rxc2 33. Bxc2 Rh2 0-1

The rare sideline worked out very well for black!  In the finals, Levon faced NM Damir Studen from Georgia (no, not Soviet Georgia) and won fairly easily, so this Western battle was definitely his toughest test.

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And for Something Different

WFM Irina Gevorgian

The Fabulous 00s: USCL Week 7 Opening of the Week (OOTW)

October 19, 2009

Let’s explore an interesting junior battle.

Gerald Larson (TEN) – Trevor Magness (CHI)  USCL Week 7

Ruy Lopez Exchange

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.0-0 Bg4 6.h3 (?!)

Let’s try NOT doing h3 yet (this committal move gives black a ready-made lever on the kingside).  I’m going to recommend here 6. d3!? Qf6 7. Nbd2 O-O-O 8. a4!? awaiting events.  For example, 8. a4 g5 9. h3 Bh5 10. Qe2! Kb8 11. g4! Bg6 12. Nc4! and white has an edge.  Delaying h2-h3 looks foxier. It also probably has the advantage of taking black out of the well-known channels.

6…h5! Of course! Known to be bad for white now is 7. hxg4 hxg4.

I enjoy junior games.  There will always be the sharpest twist on the most innocuous starting positions.  No theoretical verdict has been reached on this line.  Let’s see what happened…

7.d3 Qf6 8.Nbd2 Ne7 9.Re1 Ng6 White is fairly tied up now due to the pressure on f3.  His next move alters the structure but he could also eat on g4 at this moment.

Key Moment

Key Moment


After the only optically risky 10. hxg4!? hxg4 11. Nh2? Bc5! black had a big edge and won in Fressinet-Kazhgaleyev, Paris 1996.  Correct is 11. g3! and white holds after some adventure: 11. g3! Bc5 12. Nb3! Bb6 (Looks terrible for white, doesn’t it?  But… white escapes!) 13. Bg5 Qxf3 14. Qxf3 gxf3 15. Nd2 f6 16. Be3 Ba5! 17. c3 O-O-O 18. Rad1!! Rxd3 19. Nc4! and draws!

10…Nf4 11.dxe5

I guess it’s too much to ask for the nice trap 11. hxg4 hxg4 12. Nh2 Nxg2!! winning, as has occurred in a bunch of games.

11…Qg6! 12.Nh4! The only way to hold the balance!  Still, black can and should have posed problems before white reaches safety.

12…Bxd1 13.Nxg6 Nxg6 14.Rxd1 0-0-0 15.e6 fxe6 The foxy 15…f6!? is perfectly possible but it’s still equal.  15…f6!? has the virtue of keeping things relatively speaking more complicated.

16.Re1 Bb4?! 16…Ne5! sets practical problems and black has the easier time of it.  The text forces white to make a useful move.  Anyway, we’re far afield of the opening now — black’s setup passed the theoretical test!

17.c3 Bc5 18.Nb3 Bb6 19.Be3 Rd3 20.Bxb6 cxb6 21.Rad1 Rhd8 22.Rxd3 Rxd3 23.g3 Kd7 24.Kf1 Ke7 25.Ke2 Rd8 26.Rd1 Rxd1 27.Kxd1 Ne5 28.Nc1 Nf7 29.h4 Kd6 30.Ke2 c5 31.Nd3 g5 32.hxg5 Nxg5 33.f3 Nh7 34.e5+ Kd5 35.Ke3 b5 36.Kf4 a5 37.Nf2 a4 38.Ne4 Kc4 39.Ke3 b4 40.Nd6+ Kd5 41.f4 b6 42.c4+ Kc6 43.Ke4 Kd7 44.Kd3 Nf8 45.Ne4 Ke7 46.Nf6 h4 47.gxh4 Ng6 48.h5 Nxf4+ 49.Ke4 Ne2 50.h6 Kf7 51.Nd7 Nc3+ 52.Kd3 Nxa2 53.Nxb6 a3 54.bxa3 bxa3 55.Nd7 Nb4+ 56.Kc3 a2 57.Kb2 Kg6 58.Nxc5 Kxh6 59.Nxe6 Nd3+ 60.Kxa2 Nxe5 61.c5 Kg6 62.Kb3 Kf6 63.Nd4 Ke7 64.Ka4 Kd7 65.Kb5 Kc7 66.Ne6+ Kb7 67.Nf4 Kc7 Game drawn by mutual agreement 1/2-1/2

And Did You Know?

For those curious about iPhone chess engines….

flyer tells you: hi…tried Shredder vs. Hiarcs (both on iPhone)…Hiarcs won!

tell flyer u can play engine vs engine on a phone?
(told flyer)

flyer tells you: my friend’s vs. mine!

The Fabulous 00s: The Opening Will Be the Modern Steinitz

May 15, 2009

Robert Hess’s self-declared weapon of choice is the Modern Steinitz as he stated in a recent Chess Life Online interview, “I’m not afraid to play that line (the Steinitz Deferred) against anyone..” It’s a curious preferred variation for a junior, but we have to remember that Kenny Regan used to like Bird’s Defense (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nd4).

Josh Friedel’s weapon of choice is 1. e4 although in recent times he’s tried a few other moves, following in Anand’s footsteps.  Let’s see what happened when they met at the US Championship.  The game in fact propelled Hess into a 4-way tie for the lead with 5/7.

GM Josh Friedel – IM (GM-elect) Robert Hess  US Championship Round 7, Modern Steinitz Varation, Ruy Lopez

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. O-O Bd7 6. d4!?

Decision Point

Decision Point

Already notable. 6. c3 is seen far more often by a factor of almost 3 to 1.  From Hess’s practice, we have  Krivenstov-Hess, Las Vegas 2006 with white simplifying and exchanging on e5 shortly:  6.c3 Nge7 7.d4 Ng6 8.Re1 Be7  9.Nbd2 h6 10.Nf1 Bg5 11.Ne3 Bxe3 12.Bxe3 0-0 13.dxe5  1/2.  Not very illuminating when white gives up trying after a few moves.  6. c3 does look to be the most principled and really shouldn’t lead to a quick draw.   However we have to assume that Friedel’s choice was based on significant human and computer prep time since Hess telegraphs this one, narrow, variation.

In a more recent Hess example with c2-c3, Yap chose the main alternate plan and closed the center quickly but came to a bad end, Yap-Hess World Open 2007:   6. c3 Nge7 7.d4 Ng6 8.d5 Nb8  9.Bxd7+ Nxd7 10.c4 Be7 11.Nc3 h6 12.Be3 Bg5 13.Qd2 Bxe3 14.Qxe3 Nf4 15.Ne2 Nxe2+ 16.Qxe2 0-0  17.b4 f5 18.exf5 Rxf5 19.Rac1 a5 20.a3 axb4 21.axb4 Ra3 22.Nd2 Qh4 23.g3 Qd4 24.Ne4 Nf6 25.Nxf6+ Rxf6 26.Rfd1 Qb6 27.Qb2 Qa6 28.Rd2 Rff3 29.Qb1 Rab3 30.Qg6 Qa3 31.Rdc2 Qxb4 32.c5 Rf7 33.cxd6 Qxd6 34.Qe6 Rb6 35.Qc8+ Kh7 36.Rxc7 Qxd5 37.Rxf7 Qxf7 38.Qg4 Qg6 39.Qe2 Rb1 40.Rxb1 Qxb1+ 41.Kg2 b5 42.Qxe5 b4 43.f4 Qc2+ 44.Kh3 Qc8+ 45.f5 b3 46.Qb5 Qc2 47.Qd5 b2 48.Qe6 Qc5 49.Qg6+ Kg8 50.Qe8+ Qf8 51.Qb5 Qf6 52.Kg2 Kh7 53.Kh3 Qd4 54.Qe8 Qb6 0-1.

Let’s return to the 6. c3 plan after we get through the Friedel game.

6…Nxd4!? Changing from Robson-Hess, SPICE Cup 2009, where black played 6…Nge7 7. d5 Nb8 8. Bxd7 Nxd7 9. c4 thus white not losing a tempo with c2-c3.  That game continued  9…Ng6 10. Nc3 Be7 11. Be3 h6 12. b4 Bg5 and now Robson came up lame with 13. Qd2?! Bxe3 14. fxe3?! Nh4 and white had nothing – the game was quickly drawn.   Instead, white should play the fairly evident 13. Nxg5! hxg5 and now decide between 14. c5!? and 14. g3!?.  In both cases, white has good chances for an opening edge. It is not suprising Hess seeks a different way in the current game. It is a natural assumption Friedel spent some time improving on Robson-Hess elaborating on 13. Nxg5!, so it’s very good that black deviated here.

7. Bxd7+ Qxd7 8. Nxd4 exd4 9. Qxd4 Ne7 Yes, white can claim a small edge here.

10. Nc3 Nc6 11. Qd3 Be7 12. Nd5 O-O 13. Bd2 Rae8 14. Bc3 Bd8

This is the first critical moment of the game.

Key Moment - What Rook goes where?

Key Moment - What Rook goes where?

15. Rfe1?! The question of which rook goes where is always difficult.  It’s likely white missed a chance here with the indicated 15. f4! f5 (what else?) 16. e5! (not 16.  Rae1? fxe4 = with the f4 pawn just sticking out) and this position offers white some initiative.  For example, 16…Re6 17. Rae1! Qf7 18. Qc4! Rfe8 19. Qb3! – an excellent sequence to keep a little something.  This line gives Friedel’s choice of 6. d4 support.

15…Ne5 16. Qg3 Ng6 17. Rad1 f6 18. h4?! Correct is just waiting and reshuffling with something like 18. Qd3 or 18. Bb4.

18…f5 19. exf5 Black is very happy after 19. h5 f4!

19…Qxf5 But now it’s just initiative for free for black, hitting white’s weak pawns.

20. Rxe8 Rxe8 21. Ne3 Qf7 21…Qh5 is also strong.

22. Rd4 h5 23. a4 Re6 24. a5 Bf6 24…c6! is good too.

25. Ra4?! 25. Rb4 c5! isn’t fun for white.  But he should have tried it as 26. Rc4! Rxe3 27. fxe3 Qxc4 28. Qxg6 holds.  The text leads to a very serious pawn structure weakening.

25…Bxc3 26. bxc3 Rf6 27. f3 A chance was 27. Rb4 c6 and try to confuse with 28. Qg5 (28…Rxf2 29. Rxb7) although 28…Nf4 keeps an edge.

27…Nf4 28. Kf2 Ne6?! 28…c6, idea ….d5, keeping N on f4, seems more accurate.

29. Rb4 Nc5 30. Qh3? The losing moment.  30. Qg5! held the position.

30…Qa2?! Strong, but computer likes 30…c6! even more since white is helpless to undertake anything at all after 31. Qc8+ Kh7.  For example, 32. Ke2 Qe7 with the idea of Qe5.

31. Kg3? It was no fun but white had to try the ending after 31. Qc8+ Kh7 32. Qxc7 Nd3+ 33. Ke2 Nxb4 34. cxb4 Qf7 35. Qxf7 Rxf7.  There are some faint hopes of survival.

31…Qa1 Too many threats.

32. Qc8+ Rf8 33. Qxc7 Qxc3 34. Rxb7 Qe1+ 35. Kh2 Nxb7 36. Qxb7 0-1