Archive for the ‘Sicilian Defense’ Category

The Fabulous 10s: Learning Tactics via ICC Blitz

June 19, 2011

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

Use them as tactical training devices.

Game 1.

Impitoyable (Unforgiven) vs Aries2  Game/5  Keres Attack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. Qxd4 e5 12. Qd1 Nb6!?

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

13. g6?!  This has to be too soon.

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

Black to play. Who's winning?

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

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

Game 2

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

Some more information about Logofet:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time to act and roll up Logofet.

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

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

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

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

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

Game 3

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

FM Drunkenight – IM Aries2   Benoni

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

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

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

Time to Strike

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

24. Bxd8 Rxe1 25. Bh4 Ne5!

Coup de Grace

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

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

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

Shindig Chess

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

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

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

Chess U News

Chess U on iTunes

Recent developments:
  • Frank Johnson will author Chess-Coach 101, 102, and 103 for his chess schools and beyond.
  • Kamran Shirazi’s paper bag of recent scoresheets has been located and Jones Murphy and Kamran will select 10 good recent Shirazis for packaging into Shirazi 201.
  • I am working on Tal 301, a labyrinth of complications as one might expect.
  • Mountaindog is working on Classics 101, the ten most famous games of all time.
  • Marcel Martinez is working on Middlegame 201, 10 of his interesting efforts vs. luminaries such as Conquest, Hess, etc.

The Fabulous 10s: Playing Celebrities Online

May 1, 2010

Today I played the real Roger Federer in a 5 minute game.  How do I know?  Because his name was RogerFederer and also because of the way the game went!

Aries2 vs Roger Federer  ICC 5 Minute Game  5/1/10

Sicilian Sveshnikov

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Nd5 Nxd5
8. exd5 Nb8 9. c4 Be7 10. Be2 O-O 11. O-O f5 12. c5 a6 13. cxd6 Bxd6 14.
Nxd6 Qxd6 15. Qc2 Nd7 16. Rd1 Nf6 17. Be3 Rd8 18. Rac1 f4 19. Bc5 Qd7 20.
Bb6 Re8 21. d6 e4 22. Qb3+ Qe6 23. Bc4 {Black resigns} 1-0

The defeated foe

Tennis analysis:

I smashed his return into the deep right corner; (12. c5!);  he ran after it and tried a feeble lob (18…f4) which I then smashed cross-court (21. d6) leaving him flailing.

And Over At Chess.Com

A historical brouhaha has broke out.  GM Serper wrote an instructional article on the Veresov (1. d4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bg5) and up pops “Prestwich” (ostensibly from Spain, or he likes Spanish flags) who writes:

“[…] To call the opening 1 d4 d5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Bg5 the Veresov is unhistorical and forms part of the legacy of Soviet intellectual imperialism. Although played earlier, this opening owes its development as part of modern chess to the “Hypermodern” players Breyer, Reti and Tartakower. The latter, a super-GM of his time, in particular deserves to have his name associated with this opening: Megabase has 19 games of his with it, the earliest played in 1922 (when Veresov – born 1912 – was probably still in short trousers) and the last in 1951. Many other strong players have a better (or equal but prior) claim than Veresov to have their name associated with this opening, notably the German IM Kurt Richter (a brilliant attacking player) who popularised the opening in the 1930s; books from that era usually called this Richter’s Opening. Megabase contains 21 of his games with it, the first in 1928. To compare, Veresov has 23 games with it in Megabase, the first in 1938. A further injustice was done to Richter by the Soviets, who named the popular Sicilian line 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bg5 after their player Rauser, yet much of the early development and testing was done by Richter.”

I don’t know how much of this is correct, but I think it’s easy to dispute the notion that Tartakower was a “super GM of his day”.  I think Tartakower was more of a coffee house player, extremely vulnerable in tournaments, who lost many one-sided games.  And is “unhistorical” a word?  I’ve heard of “Maoist Revisionism”, but this?


An ICC message I received: Protocol (23:01 10-May-10 EDT): Bill Hook, Captain of the championship Washington Plumbers team in the inaugural season of the National Chess League, winner of the first board individual gold medal in the 1980 chess Olympiad, author of Hooked on Chess, died May, 10, 2010.

I didn’t realize Bill Hook was so much into NYC coffeehouses, penny-ante gambling, and so on.  It was all revealed in his book!  I was into them… a generation or one and a half generations later!

Bill Hook and the Washington Plumbers

Click several times to enlarge.

Some classic personalities in this photo. Starting from left, masters Sam Greenlaw and Robert Eberlein helped out in key matches. Third from left, very strong master Charlie Powell scored a clutch win (figuring out immense complications in severe time trouble) vs Jack Peters in a semifinal round. Next to Charlie is team captain, BVI’s own Bill Hook. Next to Bill is one of the Meyer brothers, John Meyer. Next to John is senior master Larry Gilden with his hand in the plunger, a player with one of the highest ratings in the country in the early 1970s. As Charlie Hertan writes recalling 1972, “Senior masters were very rare in those days, and except for national tournaments like the U.S. Open or fledgling World Open, you wouldn’t expect to see more than one, sometimes two, at a weekend event. Larry Gilden was usually the top-ranked player, with a “monster” rating of about 2410.”

And for Something Different


Canadian IM Lawrence Day

The Fabulous 10s: Computer-Assisted Dragons

January 27, 2010

Or, Maybe, Computers NOT Assisting on Dragons in Holland

Random, bizarre move sequences appear on the board!  Or, maybe computers were NOT working – check the horrific blunder pair on moves 17 and 18!

[Event “Corus C”]

[Site “Wijk aan Zee NED”]

[Date “2010.01.26”]

[Round “9”]

[White “Li Chao”]

[Black “Robson,R”]

[Result “1-0”]

[WhiteElo “2604”]

[BlackElo “2570”]

[EventDate “2010.01.16”]

[ECO “B77”]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. h4 Ne5

Since Robson was leading the tournament, this opening choice was a terrible idea! Why don’t American players have safety openings?  Now, OTOH (on the other hand), young Ray gets bravery points.  But if the Dragon is not his regular opening (and it is not), it is a monumental and perverse task to “get used to” its idiosyncratic patterns.  It’s a one-of-a-kind death-defying choice.

11. Bb3 h5

Personally I’ve always regarded this move (I believe popularized by Soltis first, maybe others?) with suspicion.  It increases the force of Nd4-f5 sacrifices in many lines.

12. O-O-O Rc8 13. Bg5 Rc5 14. Kb1 b5 15. g4 hxg4

Dangerous Deviation Alert!

16. h5

Deviation alert!  16. Bxf6! is a very dangerous try here, eliminating black’s most important defensive piece!  16. Bxf6 Bxf6 17. h5 gxh5 18. Nf5! Nxf3 19. Qh6 Rxf5!! (only this way!) 20. Qg6+ with a perpetual check!  Wow!  If black avoids a perpetual with 20…Bg7?, after 21. exf5 white is much better.  The text is an old try and “discredited” in the sense white gets no advantage.  But maybe it caught black by surprise.  Note that 16. Bxf6 exf6? 17. h5 gxh5 18. Qh2! Nc4 19. Bxc4 bxc4 20. Qxd6! gives white a big advantage.

16…Nxh5 17. Nd5

Old Theory Quiz: Black's best defense is.... ?

17…Nf6? (??)

Maybe my theory is out of date, but 17…Re8! 18. Rxh5 gxh5 19. Qh2 (as in an old Short game, Short-Mandl Germany 1986 where black botched the defense and went down in flames) is met by 19…gxf3! 20. Qxh5 Bg4! and black holds.  This happened in a game Lagumina – Magalotti, Forli 1991 and black indeed drew.

Note that also in the precomputer era, 19. Qh2 Rc4? 20. Bxc4 bxc4 21. Qxh5 with a big white edge happened in Karpov-Sznapik, Dubai 1986 Olympiad.

The computer shows no advantage for white after 17…Re8! – readers?

The game move looks really bad; i.e. immediately losing.  Is it possible Robson was making stuff up in this, the sharpest of all opening choices?

18. Bh6??

A monumental blunder in return. It’s impossible to say what Chao was thinking.   The guy is rated 2604 and he misses a win that any schoolboy would play – capture, capture, and mate!  Isn’t that the entire point of the Yugoslav Attack?

The elementary 18. Nxf6+ wins easily. If 18…Bxf6 19. Qh2! simply checkmates black. If 18…exf6 19. Bh6! forces 19…Bh8, since 19…f5 is crushed by 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Qh6+ Kf6 22. f4 and wins. After 19…Bh8, white wins with the easy 20. Bxf8 Qxf8 21. Qh2 Qg7 22. fxg4 Bxg4 23. Rdg1 and wins.

What was in the water in this game? (or the Dutch pea soup?)

18…Nxd5 19. Bxg7 Kxg7 20. Qh6+ Kf6

Did Chao miss the king could run? Embarrassing! But look what happens!

21. exd5 Nxf3 22. Ne2?

22. Nxf3 keeps the balance.  Now Chao has overstepped even the bounds of an even game!


22…Bf5 consolidates and wins for black without too much trouble!

23. dxe6 Bxe6 24. Qf4+ Rf5 25. Qxg4 Kg7 26. Bxe6 fxe6 27. Nd4 Nxd4 28. Qxd4+ e5 29. Qxa7+ R8f7 30. Qe3 Qg5 31. Qd3 Qf6
32. a3 Rf2 33. Qh3 Qf5?

Apparently black was down to increments.  33…Kg8! was bad  (but not losing) for him after 34. Rxd6 Rf1+ 35. Rd1! but it was forced.  But doesn’t white’s play over the last few moves look pretty random?  Maybe he was in time trouble too.

34. Qh8+ Mate 1-0

For the gawking observers, what the HELL was going on this opening? Will we ever know?

The Fabulous 00s: USCL Week 8

October 20, 2009

Scorpions Sting Again; ICC Kibitzers Hopelessly Confused

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

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

Pasalic (CHI) – Rensch (ARZ)  Sicilian Najdorf

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

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

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

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

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

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

36…fxe4 37.Qb7+ Kh6 38.Qxe4

White has control

White has control

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

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

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


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

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

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

White to Play. Quiz Time (analysis)

White to Play. Quiz Time (analysis)

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

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

39…Bxe5 40.Qxe5 Qxe5 41.Rxe5 Rxb3

Yermolinsky Sets Us Straight

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

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


Moment of Truth

Moment of Truth


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

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

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

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

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

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

What Else is New?

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

The Fabulous 00s: USCL Week 6 Opening of the Week (OOTW)

October 8, 2009

The Inscrutable Chinese Dragon

I guess we could say it’s a gambit of structure (backward pawn on d6 after black moves e7-e5) for activity.  It’s not to my taste at all, but so far this USCL season Shabalov has tried it versus Kudrin and Kiewra just tried it versus Bick.  And black so far stands at 1-1.

Let’s see these games.

John Bick (TEN) – Keaton Kiewra (DAL)  Chinese Dragon

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. O-O-O Rb8 The characteristic move of the Chinese Dragon.  In 1974-5, Paul Whitehead (upholding black) and Jay Whitehead (upholding white) were debating the merits of the other mainlines in countless blitz games at the San Francisco Mechanics Chess Club with 10…Rc8 and 10….Qa5 and ….Rfc8.

Chinese, anyone?

Chinese, anyone?

In defense of the Chinese, I think it makes more sense than …a7-a6 which Magnus Carlsen tried a few times (notably getting crushed by Topalov).  In case you were wondering how it got its name, Gallagher writes about its dubious origins in the 2002 NIC magazine.  Some journalist just happened to be in China…

11. Bb3 Na5

When the Chinese Dragon first got on the radar in 2002, Chris Ward tried 11… Ne5.  An unimpressed Joe Gallagher wrote in NIC magazine “I do not predict a bright and glittering future for the Chinese Dragon.”  Nevertheless, that game Gallagher-Ward British Ch. 2002 ended in a draw after  12. f4 (12. Bh6 Bxh6 13.
Qxh6 b5 14. Nd5 Nxd5 15. exd5 a5 16. Nc6 Bxc6 17. dxc6 e6 18. h4 a4 is an unsound piece sac for white — 19. h5 Qf6 20. hxg6 Qxg6 21. Qxg6+ hxg6 22. Bxe6 fxe6 23. Rxd6 Kf7 and black is better.

Also possible is 12. h4 b5 13. h5 Nc4 14. Bxc4 bxc4 15. h6 Bh8 16. Nf5 Bxf5! (not 16…gxf5?? 17. Bb6! winning)  17. exf5 Qa5 18. fxg6 Ne4 19. fxe4 Qxa2! (the tempting at first glance 19…Rxb2? 20. g7! wins for white) 20. Nxa2 Bxb2+ 21. Kb1 Bc3+ with a humorous draw!

12… Neg4 13. Bg1 b5 14. h3 b4 15. hxg4 bxc3 16. Qxc3 Rc8 17. Qg3 Bxg4 18. Re1 Qa5 19. c3 e5 20.
fxe5 dxe5 21. Nf3 Rxc3+!  Not very hard to see but nevertheless a pleasing drawing combination from Chris Ward, Dragon aficionado.

22. bxc3 Qxc3+ 23. Kb1 Rc8 24. Bxa7 Qd3+ 25. Kb2 Qc3+ 26. Kb1 Qd3+ 27. Kb2 Qc3+ {And drawn, Gallagher-Ward British CH 2002.})

Conclusion:  11…Ne5 needs re-examination because the way this game goes isn’t very pleasant for black.

12. Bh6 Bxh6

It’s not risky per se to have the white queen drawn out to h6, but it can always go back and black has not gained time. 12… b5 13. Nd5 Nxb3+ 14. Nxb3 Bxh6 15. Qxh6 doesn’t look too different from the game and black has problems.

13. Qxh6 b5 The weird gambit 13… e5 14. Nde2 b5? (marginally better 14… Nxb3+ {Kurnosov-Pavlovic, Hastings 2009 but black faced the usual difficulties and white won} was played in Zambrana-Yuan, Sao Paulo 2008.  White then played the lemon 15. h4? and lost but he should have taken on d6 with an edge.

14. Nd5! Of course!   This is a key moment.

Decisions, Decisions

Decisions, Decisions

14…e6?! As Shabalov played against Kudrin earlier in the USCL year, but this position is just suffering for black.  Die-hard Chinese-ites will play 14….e5 here and claim near-equality.  And maybe they are right – it’s hard to break down black’s game.  Afterthought: the move 14…e5 15. Nf5!? is interesting here and worth careful examination; white might keep a small plus. I don’t know how much 15. Nf5!? has been analyzed elsewhere; better ask Golubev. 🙂

From black’s point of view, it’s worth also looking at 14…Nxb3+.  This is actually transposing, usually, to 14…e5.  Then, 15. Nxb3 e5 is best met with 16. Nxf6+ Qxf6 17. h4!? or the simple 17. Kb1 and white has a small edge.  Instead,  Robson played 16. h4?! against Papp in Spice(B) 2009, and Papp gained equality after 16…Nxd5 17. Rxd5 Rb6.  Papp lost later after weakening himself unnecessarily with …g6-g5? on the solid kingside and falling prey to a tactic.  Conclusion:  this is the last spot for black to avoid getting  a lasting disadvantage with either 14….e5 or 14…Nxb3 (these two often converge).  We’ll have to ask Golubev what he thinks.

15. Nxf6 Qxf6 16. h4 Qg7 17. Qg5! Excellent, as Kudrin played against Shabalov.  Black is under pressure.   This move pinpoints black’s positional deficiencies and is exactly why I don’t like the 14…e6?! line for black.


It’s hard to recommend anything.  What do the waiting 17…Rb7 or 17…Rfe8 accomplish?  Shabalov played 17…Qe5 18. Ne2 Bc6 19. Rd2 Rfd8 20. Rhd1 Nb7 (clearly black is suffering) 21. Nf4 a5 22. a3 Re8 and here Kudrin could have capped his fine play with the powerful 23 .Qxe5! dxe5 24. Nd3 f6 (forced) 25. g4! and white will break up black’s king side structure with a winning edge. This nice sequence is hard to see in the rapid USCL time control.  Unfortunately, Kudrin went wrong with 23. Nd3? Qxg5 24. hxg5 Kg7 25. e5 Red8 26. exd6 Rxd6 27. Ne5 (white is still better) 27…Rxd2 28. Rxd2 Be8 and now he missed another shot to keep the edge, 29. Ng4! stopping h6.

After Kudrin’s second lemon, 29. Ba2? h6! black was fine and went on to turn the tables in a key match victory, Kudrin (PHI) – Shabalov (TEN) USCL 2009.

18. Bxc4 bxc4 19. h5?! 19. Qe7! looks good.

19…c3?! Leaving the pawn on c4 is stronger, for example 19…Rb7 preparing to double on the b-file.

20. b3 Now the c3 pawn is a goner.

20…Rb4  21. h6 21. Qe3 also kept a big edge for white.

21…Qh8 22. Ne2 Rb6 23. Ng3? The easiest win is 23. e5! d5 24. Nxc3.

23… Rb5? 23…Bb5 was the toughest.  Anyway, we’re far afield from the opening now, so we will show the rest rapidly.

24. Qe7 Qe5 25. Qxd7 Ra5 26. a4 Easiest was 26. Kb1! Qxg3 27. Qxd6 since the game motif 27… Qxg2 is met by 28. Qd4! e5 29. Qxc3 and wins.

26…Qxg3 27. Qxd6 Qxg2 28. Qd4 Qg5+ 29. Kb1 Qe5 30. Ka2  Qxd4 31. Rxd4 f5 32. Rc4 fxe4 33. fxe4 Rh5 34. Rxh5 gxh5 35. Rxc3 h4 36. b4 Rf4 37. Re3 Kf7 38. Kb3 Kg6 39. b5 Kxh6 40. a5 Rf1 41. Kc4 Kg5 42. Rb3 Rf8 43. b6 axb6 44. axb6 Kg4 45. b7 Rb8 46. Kc5 h3 47. Kc6 h2 48. Rb1 Rg8 49. Kc7 Rg7+ 50. Kb6 Rg8 51. Ka7 Kf3 52. b8=Q Rxb8 53. Kxb8 h5 54. c4 Kxe4 55. Rd1! 1-0

Sveshnikov Postscript: Further Weirdness

I’m not understanding why Herman in Herman (NY) – Uesugi (BAL) USCL Week 6 diverged from Martinez-Uesugi USCL 2009 Week 4 in his Sveshnikov matchup in Week 6. After all, maybe Uesugi had not read yet the refutation!

And for Something Different

Clouds whipping around an Island, Mon

Clouds whipping around an Island, Mon

The Karman Votices, a cloud weather pattern as viewed by a satellite.

The Fabulous 70s: The National Chess League

October 6, 2009

Before the current-day US Chess League, we had the National Chess League played with telephones!  (pre-Web).  Runners would relay the moves with lingo like “Baker echo 7” (Be7).  Often times, a move was mis-relayed causing the game to back up and restart.  Games could take hours with the relay delays, although nominally the time control was G/1 hour with no increment.

Here are 3 amusing contests from the 1979 season, including one from the playoffs.

IM Dumitru Ghizdavu (CLE) – Mark Ginsburg (DC)  Sicilian Scheveningen, 4/22/79

I would hazard a guess my opponent hies from Romania.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 e6 6. Be3 a6 7. f4 b5 8. Qf3 Bb7 9. Bd3 Nbd7 10. g4 b4 A wild line very popular at the time.

11. Nce2 e5 12. Nb3 h5!?

Wild Stuff

Wild Stuff

13. g5 Ng4 14. f5 Nxe3 15. Qxe3 a5 16. O-O-O a4 17. Nd2 d5!? 18. exd5 Bc5 19. Qg3 Bxd5 20. Be4 Bxa2 21. Bc6

Key Moment

Key Moment

21…Rc8? I totally missed 21… O-O! 22. Ne4? (22. f6 Rc8  unclear) 22… Qb6 23. Bxd7 Be3+ 24. Nd2 Rfd8! and black wins.

22. Bxa4 O-O 23. Ne4 Qb6 24. Rxd7 Be3+ 25. Kd1 Rfd8 Still, I generate play against white’s floating king.

26. Ke1 Rxd7 27. Nf6+ Kh8 28. Nxd7 Qa7 29. b3 Rxc2 30. Qf3 Bxb3! The craziness continues.  Quite a game!

31. Qxh5+ Kg8 32. g6

Key Moment Deux

Key Moment Deux

32…Bh6? I don’t think I had a lot of time left.

This second blunder is fatal.  I could have survived with  the wild sac (consistent with the rest of the game) 32… Rxe2+! 33. Kxe2 (33. Qxe2 Bxa4 34. gxf7+ Kxf7 35. Nxe5+ Kg8 36. Qc4+ Kh7 37. Qxb4 Bc2 38. Qc3 Bxf5) 33… Bc4+ 34. Kf3 Bd5+ 35. Kg4 Bh6)

33. Bxb3 Qa1+ 34. Kf2 Qd4+ 35. Kg3 Bf4+ 36. Kh3 Qd3+

I should have at least tried 36… Qe3+ hoping for 37. Ng3??  Rxh2+! 38. Rxh2 Qxg3 mate but it is hard to believe Ghizdavu would fall into that one.

37. Kh4 Bg5+ 38. Qxg5 Qe4+ 39. Qg4 Qxh1 40. gxf7+  1-0

In an amusing postscript, Ghizdavu recently popped up on the Arizona Scorpions USCL blog (see Comments section) announcing he’s moved to …. surprise ….. Surprise, AZ!   I would have to guess that DC won this Cleveland match but I didn’t record the individual board results.

M. Ginsburg (DC) – Julius Loftsson (LA)  Sicilian Taimanov 3/18/79

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nb5 d6 6. c4 Nf6 7. N5c3

Unusual and tried by Ljubojevic sporadically.

A Ljubo Special

A Ljubo Special

7…Be7 8. Be2 O-O 9. O-O b6 10. Bf4 Bb7 11. Nd2 a6 12. Re1 Rc8 13. Rc1 Ne5 14. Bg3 Qc7
15. b4 Qb8 16. Qb3 Bc6 17. f4 Ng6 18. h4?!
A very junior move. All my pawn advances come to naught and black is fine.

Rfd8 19. h5 Nf8 20. a4?! a5! I have no idea why I played my 20th.

21. bxa5 bxa5 22. Bf3 N8d7

Time for a Horrific Blunder

Time for a Horrific Blunder

23. e5?? Utter confusion on my part. A really ugly and mistimed advance that should have just handed black the game.

23… dxe5 24. fxe5 Bxf3 25. Qxb8 Nxb8 26. Nxf3 Nxh5 27. Bh2 Rxc4 I shed some pawns with no compensation.  Can you envision white winning?  No?  But look what happens.

"White to play and win"

"White to play and win"

28. Ne4 Rxc1 29. Rxc1 g6?!

Simplest was 29… Na6 stopping any play; e.g.  30. Nd6 g6 and black wins.

30. Rc7 Nd7 31. Nd4 Nc5?

Black had the nice 31… Bc5! 32. Nxc5 Nxc5 33. Rxc5 Rxd4 34. Rxa5 g5 and he should win.

32. Nd6 Bxd6? Another mistake and this one is serious enough to turn the game completely around.  32… Bg5! 33. Rxc5 Be3+ 34. Kf1 Bxd4 35. Rxa5 Ng7 36. Ke2 Nf5 37. Ra6 Rb8 and black is better.  He was probably in time trouble.

33. exd6 Ne4 Black is also losing after 33… Na6 34. Nc6 Rf8 35. d7 Nxc7 36. Bxc7 Nf6 37. Ne7+ Kg7 38. d8=Q Rxd8 39. Bxd8

34. d7 1-0

I think that DC won this match as well against LA.

So we got into the playoffs and here is a game from the Semi-Finals, DC versus the strong Berkeley Squad.  This time around I did record individual board results (see below).

IM Julio Kaplan (Berkeley Riots) – M. Ginsburg (DC Plumbers)  King’s Indian, 4 Pawns Attack, Benko-Gambit-esque

If you are wondering about the Plumbers name, look up the White House Plumbers and the notorious Watergate Scandal that occurred during President Nixon’s reign of terror.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 g6 4. Nc3 d6 5. e4 Bg7 6. f4 O-O 7. Nf3 b5

Believe it or not, at the time I notated this as “!”  It works out well in the game but white was very compliant, opening lines up for black.

8. cxb5 a6 9. e5?! Former World Junior Champ Kaplan is aggressive, but I don’t like this at all.

9…dxe5 10. fxe5 Ng4 11. Bf4 Nd7 12. bxa6 Ndxe5 Black has a great game now.

Big Plus Already!  What can go wrong?

Big Plus Already! What can go wrong?

13. Nxe5 Nxe5 14. Qd2 c4! I’m playing well!  These motifs are obvious to Benko players but I was totally on my own.

15. Bxe5 Bxe5 16. Bxc4 Qc7 17. Be2 Bxa6 18. Bxa6 Rxa6 19. O-O Bxh2+ 20. Kh1 Be5 21. Rf3 Rf6 22. Rxf6 Bxf6 23. Ne4 Bg7 24. Re1 Rd8 25. Nc3 Qc4 26. Re3? A huge lemon, of course, but white had a bad game.

Qf1+ 27. Kh2 Bh6 As simple as that, black is winning.  But remember a kid is playing an ending, and accidents can happen to kids.

Yay.  I win?

Yay. I win?

28. Re1 Bxd2 29. Rxf1 Bxc3 30. bxc3 Rxd5 31. Rf2 e5 32. a4 Rc5 33. Rc2 Rc4 34. Ra2 Rxc3
35. a5 Rc7 36. a6 Ra7 37. Kg3 f6 38. Kf3 Kf7 39. Ke4 Ke6 40. g4

Is it possible not to win?

Is it possible not to win?

It’s hard to conceive of black not winning this position.


Easier is 40… h5 41. gxh5 gxh5 42. Kd3 Kd5 43. Ra5+ Kc6 44. Ke4 Kb6 and after dealing with the white pawn there are no obstacles for black.

41. gxf5+ gxf5+ 42. Kf3 h5 43. Ra1 Kf6 44. Ra2 h4? Completely off my radar was the simple 44… f4! 45. Ke4 h4 46. Ra5 h3 47. Rxe5 Rh7 48. Rf5+ Kg6 and black wins, since the h1-a8 diagonal skewer is decisive.

45. Ra1 Ra8?? Did I really do that?  What a nonsensical blunder. Well by now it was obvious I was incompetent so I doubt another stronger move would have “won” for me.

46. a7 h3 47. Kg3 e4 48. Kxh3 Kg5 49. Ra5 Kf4 50. Kg2 Kg4 51. Ra4 f4 52. Rxe4 Rxa7 53. Re8 Ra2+ 54. Kg1 Kf3 55. Rf8 Ra5 56. Rf7 Ra1+ 57. Kh2 Rf1 58. Ra7 Re1 59. Rf7 Re5 60. Kg1 Rg5+
61. Kf1 1/2-1/2
Quelle desastre!

Here are the board results:

DC                     –       Berkeley

Mark Diesen   0   John Grefe

future IM Steve Odendahl 0  Paul Whitehead (I commented that Odendahl stood much better and went nuts)

Larry Kaufman  1  Jay Whitehead

Richard Delaune 1/2  Cornelius

John Meyer 0  DeFirmian (I noted that John lost on time with a queen versus a rook!)

So we lost this Semi-Final match 2 to 4.

And for Something Different

World Open 1985

World Open 1985

Vince McCambridge (right) and a fan, World Open, 1985.

Military History, Anyone?

Is anyone awake at the Pentagon?

This Afghanistan story of heavy American casualties from

“The battle Saturday in which eight U.S. troops were killed was so fierce that, at one point, U.S. forces had to fall back as attackers breached the perimeter of their base, a U.S. military official with knowledge of the latest intelligence reports on the incident said.

Forward Operating Base Keating, seen in 2007, is surrounded by tall ridge lines.

Forward Operating Base Keating, seen in 2007, is surrounded by tall ridge lines.

The new revelations about the battle that engulfed Forward Operating Base Keating in Kamdesh District are a further indication of how pinned down and outmanned the troops were at the remote outpost. The base, in an eastern Afghanistan valley, was surrounded by ridge lines where the insurgents were able to fire down at U.S. and Afghan troops.

The facility had been scheduled to be closed within days, CNN has learned. The closing is part of a wider effort by the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, to cede remote outposts and consolidate troops in more populated areas to better protect Afghan civilians.”

It’s hard to believe that we haven’t learned our lesson from famous failures in the past to hold remote outposts.  A classic siege, Dien Bien Phu, saw the French try to hold a similar, ridiculously located, forward base to great cost.  Read “Hell in a Very Small Place” by Bernard Fall for that incredible account. I attach more information about this amazing book at the bottom of this article.  Even the USA’s own President, LBJ, when fortifying the ludicrous outpost Khe Sanh in Vietnam said “I don’t want another damn DIN BIN FOO.”

Why did we try to keep and hold a new DIN BIN FOO in Afghanistan?  A failed strategy cannot work if you fast-forward it in time.  This is the theme of the classic book of repetitious military failure throughout the ages, “The March of Folly” by Barbara Tuchman.  Hello, Pentagon?  Once agin:  we don’t want another damn DIN BIN FOO.  Forward, remote operating bases are sitting ducks.

If we are going to be in a far-away country trying our hand at “World Police” (that didn’t work too well for the British in the early 20th century), we might as well learn from prior military disasters.

More on “Hell in a Very Small Place”

From Amazon,

“he siege of Dien Bien Phu, in which a guerrilla force of Viet Minh destroyed a technologically superior French colonial army, must rank with Waterloo, Gettysburg, Midway, Stalingrad, and Tet as one of the decisive battles in military history. Not only did Dien Bien Phu put an end to French imperial efforts in Indo-china, but it also convinced the Viet Minh, when they came to power in Communist North Vietnam, that similar tactics would prevail in their war with the United States. As an American army officer told Bernard Fall during the Vietnam War: ”What we’re doing here basically is, we’re exorcising Dien Bien Phu.”Bernard Fall in this monumental work has written an exhaustive, revelatory, and vivid account of the battle, leading the reader from the conference rooms of the U.S. State Department to the French Foreign Office to the front lines of Indo-China and the strategy sessions led by General Giap and Ho Chi Minh. Among the many historical curiosities here disclosed is evidence that then-Secretary of State John Foster Dulles offered atomic bombs to the beleaguered French, and that then-Senator Lyndon Johnson played a key role in defeating a proposal to aid the French with critical air support. Without U. S. aid, the fortress at Dien Bien Phu fell on the very day that the cease-fire conference opened in Geneva.Based on hitherto unavailable documentation from the French Defense Ministry, and replete with detailed maps of the many assaults, Hell in a Very Small Place is a first-rate military history. But even more powerful is the political wisdom it imparts about a war that was not only the beginning of the end of the French colonial empire but a rehearsal for American involvement in Vietnam.”

Tragically, the author Bernard Fall died while embedded with Marines in South Vietnam in 1967.

The Fabulous 00s: USCL Week 5 OOTW

October 1, 2009

USCL Week 5 Opening of the Week

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

7. Bb5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, back to the Kapengut game.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Fabulous 00s: The Smith-Morra, again?

September 26, 2009

Dealing with the Smith-Morra Again

The recent USCL Week 4 GOTW Esserman-Bartell put the Smith-Morra on the map yet again!  I thought it was dead and gone ever since Smith-Evans and Smith-Mecking, San Antonio 1972.

The Flexible Variation

After listening carefully to Manest (Alex Lenderman) material presented on ICC Chess.FM, I came up with improvements for black in what I think should be the main line of defense,

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3

Losing a Center Pawn for....

Losing a Center Pawn for....

White gambits a center pawn for space and a lead in development. If black can catch up in development without making any concessions, he will be left with that extra pawn.  The best defensive lines always involve being careful not to make concessions.

3…dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Bc4 d6 6. Nf3

And now I term the “Flexible Variation” the careful 6…a6!? leaving the option of Bc8-g4 open.  It is very appealing to me not to shut in the B/c8 quite yet.  However and of course, thousands of games have seen black defend with an early e7-e6 as well.  The “Flexible Variation” was espoused by GM Evans all those moon ago (tournament book, San Antonio, 1972).

A manuscript in PDF format on the Flexible Variation (Lenderman white suggestions  with my additional lines) has been very popular with thousands of downloads. The amusing thing about many of the lines in the manuscript is that black manages to get an attack on the white king when white overpresses, a highly unusual occurrence in this variation!   I think this is the way to play that is the soundest coupled with the most chances for counter-attack and victory.  However, there is a more solid option, namely…

The Solid Gulko Defense

We note in the Esserman-Bartell game, black chose to shut in the B/c8 with an early ….e6 which is perfectly sound if he plays accurately.  In fact, a Lenderman-Gulko game did see black play the right way so we should mention it.  I have no doubt that Gulko’s defense was taught to thousands of school kids in Soviet chess academies but since we don’t have those, Bartell was left out in the proverbial cold.

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Bc4 d6 6. Nf3 e6 7. Qe2 Be7 Note Gulko plays e6 and Be7 before Nf6.

8. O-O Nf6 9. Rd1 e5 and now Lenderman went wrong with the illogical 10. Bb5? Bg4 11. Qc4 O-O 12. Bxc6 Rc8 and white had a bad game.  Gulko duly won. I think this was a World Open a few years back…?

The question is, what does black do if white plays normally?

Well, let’s say he gears up with a3 and b4 as Esserman played in the Bartell game.

10. a3 O-O 11. b4 Be6! Black is smart to not play a6 yet.  It is much more important to get development completed fast to check what white is up to.  This well-timed …Bc8-e6 is just in time to neutralize white.

As Solid as Gulko

As Solid as Gulko

And now… nothing is really going on!

12. Bxe6 fxe6 13. Qa2 Qd7 is actually slightly better for black since 14. Ng5 Nd8! leads nowhere; and on 12. Nd5 black has the luxury of ignoring it and playing 12…Rc8!.   This is smart because white gets nowhere with 13. Nxe7+ Qxe7 winning the bishop pair but getting rid of his own most active piece and black is quite solid with an extra pawn.

Note in the Bartell game black incautiously took on d5 at a bad moment, after wasting time with Bc8-d7-e6, and got driven completely back and flattened.  He also didn’t want or need the move b7-b5.

Conclusion:  The Gulko Defense is smart because we dispense with …a6 and get on with development to neutralize white’s initiative.

Overall Conclusion:  It’s a tossup to play solidly (the Gulko Defense) or try the sharp counterattacking ideas in my “Improved Manest Flexible Variation” which starts with 6…a6 reserving the possibility later of …Bc8-g4.  The latter variation probably offers more winning chances and so appealing to Sicilian players….

2nd Overall Conclusion:  Any Sicilian Player needs to be ready with one of these.

Lesson by Analogy

Take a quick look at the Esserman-Bartell game score.

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 d6 6.Bc4 e6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Qe2 Nf6 9.Rd1 e5 10.Be3 0-0 11.Rac1 Bd7 12.a3 a6 13.b4 b5 14.Bb3 Be6 (obvious time-wasting, much better and perfectly playable was 14…Rc8!  Black can always do Be6 later if need be, without tactical problems) 15.Nd5 Bxd5? (15…Rc8! is still the most careful! After, e.g., 16. h3 (what else?) now black can safely play 16…Bxd5 17. exd5 Nb8 with a fighting middlegame in prospect, 18. Nxe5?? fails to 18…Rxc1.  The fact that the BR is on c8 makes all the difference.) 16.exd5 Nb8? Despite the earlier inaccuracies, this is really the huge blunder.  16…Na7! and 17. Nxe5? does not work due to 17…dxe5 18. d6 Bxd6 19. Bc5 Nc8!.   After, e.g., 17. h3 Qd7 black is not by any means losing.  It’s not optically nice with the N on a7 but at least he has an extra center pawn.

17.Nxe5! It’s gone already but it was pleasing to GOTW judges.  They don’t like defense or a well-contested game except for, apparently, Michael Aigner and Greg Shahade judging from the post-GOTW commentary.

17…dxe5 18.d6 Bxd6 19.Bc5 Bxc5 20.Rxd8 Bxf2+ 21.Qxf2 Rxd8 22.g4 a5 23.g5 Nfd7 24.Qxf7+ Kh8 25.Qe7 Rf8 26.Qxf8+ Nxf8 27.Rc8 Black resigns 1-0

Given our discussion of the Gulko defense, where is the key improvement?  Yes, you guessed it, 11…Be6! is the right move.

11...Be6!  The Right Defense!

11...Be6! The Right Defense!

In defense of white’s opening choice, after 11…Be6! the wild wing lunge 12. b4! (something Esserman likes to play) black is only equal after 12…Nxb4 or 12…Bxc4; no trace of an advantage.  The game will fizzle out and sail into Draw Harbour.  There are some other kooky lines here too.  After 11…Be6 12. Bxe6 fxe6 white again can try the wild 13. b4 – a move I’ve seen Esserman play in similar situations.  Black can defend with 13…Ng4! 14. Bc5 Qe8! 15. Bxd6 Bxd6 16. Rd6 Qe7! lining up the rook and the b4 pawn.  Or, 13…Ng4! 14. b5 Nxe3! 15. Qxe3? Nd4! and black stands well due to the tactical point 16. Nxd4 Bg5! – OUCH!  Better would be 15. fxe3 Na5 16. Nxe5 and at least white got his pawn back at the cost of structure.  That position is equal after 16…Qe8 or 16…Bg5.

Finally, a variation from Outer Absurdistan: 11…Be6! 12. Bd5 Ng4 13. Bc5!? Nf6 14. Be3 Ng4 repeating!  Black can also risk 12…Qe8 to play on or tempt white into the amusing 12…Bxd5 13. exd5 Nb8 and hope white plays 14. Nxe5 analogous to the Bartell game.  If 14. Nxe5 the whole thing might blow up in white’s face: 14…dxe5 15. d6 Bxd6 16. Bc5?? Bxc5 17. Rxd8 Rxd8 18. Qxe5 Bxf2!+ (This old tactical chestnut!) and black wins.  Or, 16. Nb5 Ne8 17. Bc5 Nc6! and black is better.  Bartell unfortunately allowed really one of the only structures where the Nxe5 trick works. Usually it backfires as in these lines.


I am particularly interested in reader comments on the Flexible Variation PDF manuscript.

The Fabulous 00s: Week 2 USCL Opening of the Week (OOTW)

September 12, 2009


In a GM matchup from round 2, we have Pascal Charbonneau (NY) tangling with GM Gregory Serper (SEA) in my favorite variation, the Sicilian Kan.  Surprisingly, Serper goes wrong early and Charbonneau won convincingly.  This sharp Sicilian Kan is this week’s Opening of the Week (OOTW) and we can learn a lot about move orders, nuances, and getting past the opening for black!

The raw game score:

Charbonneau (NY)-Serper (SEA)   Sicilian Kan

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.0-0 d6 7.c4 Be7 8.Nc3 0-0 9.Qe2 Re8?! 10.Kh1 b6 11.f4 Bb7 12.Bd2
This rather primitive set-up is the favorite set-up across all rating ranges when I play ICC blitz. Therefore, black should be ready for it.

12…Qc7? Oops!  An unfortunate choice that sends black down the drain.

Just to show that the Kan poses problems in quick play, here is a quick digression M. Ginsburg – D. Gurevich, G/30 Champs., Milwaukee, WI, 2002.
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? 14. e5!

Oops! Black has forgotten about this possibility in a turn of events eerily similar to the current game we are analyzing.

14…dxe5 15. fxe5 Bc5 16. Na4!

White is winning.
16… Nxe5 17. Qxe5 Bd6 18. Qe2 Qc7 19. Rxf6 Bxh2+ 20. Kh1 Qg3 21. Rxf7!  The easiest. 21… Kxf7 22. Qh5+ Ke7 23. Qxh2 Qxh2+ 24. Kxh2 1-0 Dmitry didn’t have a chance after his miscue on move 13.

In another digression, just to show the Kan can create the pre-conditions for an upset, here is the great GM Dzindzihashvili taking too many chances and fumbling the ball against a young, inexperienced player in Chicago 1979.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O d6 7. c4 g6?! 8. Nc3 Bg7 9. Bg5 Nbd7 10. Kh1 b6 11. f4 Qc7 12. f5 gxf5 13. exf5 e5 14. Ne6! fxe6 15. fxe6 O-O 16. e7! Bb7 17. exf8=Q+ and white went on to win, M. Ginsburg – R. Dzindzihashvili, Chicago Masters/Experts 1979.

A final digression showing the dangers, with apologies to Viktor Korchnoi who clearly wasn’t fully awake that day,

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Bc5 6. Nb3 Ba7 7. c4 Nc6 8. O-O Qh4? 9. N1d2 Nge7 10. c5!  Yuck! 10…Ne5 11. Be2 b6 12. f4 N5c6 13. Nc4 bxc5 14. g3 Qh6 15. f5 Qf6 16. fxe6 Qxe6 17. Nd6+ Kf8 18. Bc4 1-0 Calvo-Korchnoi, Havana Olympiad 1966.

But fear not, Kan supporters.  This cagey opening can, and should, live!
Returning to Charbonneau-Serper, white strikes with the obvious but pleasing

13.e5! Nfd7 14.f5! … and White is completely winning already.  A very depressing opening tableau for black.

14…Nxe5 15.fxe6 Bf6 16.Nd5 Bxd5 17.cxd5 Nxd3 18.Qxd3 fxe6 19.Nxe6 Qf7 20.Qg3 Ra7 21.Bc3 Nd7 22.Qxd6 Qe7 23.Qg3 Bxc3 24.bxc3 Nc5 25.Rae1 Nxe6 26.Rxe6 Qd8 27.Qe3 Rae7 28.Qxb6 Qxb6 29.Rxb6 Rc7 30.d6 Rf7 31.Kg1 a5 32.c4 Rxf1+ 33.Kxf1 Kf7 34.c5 Ke6 35.Rb7 Kd5 36.Rc7 Black resigns 1-0

So what happened?  Serper didn’t react properly to Charbonneau’s common club-player plan of Bd2 and e5 (often with Rae1 thrown in).  The trick is that Bd2 tangles white’s minor pieces up on the d-file and black has to be ready to find tactical chances to exploit that tangle.

Let’s explore this a little bit more.   First, we take as already on the board black’s 9th move which looks a little fancy (delaying queenside development), but is OK.  White has just played 12. Bc1-d2 with obvious intentions.

Position after White's 12th move in Charbonneau-Serper

Position after White's 12th move in Charbonneau-Serper

Here, as we know, Serper played 12…Qc7? which loses for tactical reasons.

To exploit the tangle on the d-file after e4-e5, there are two black methods – placing a rook on d8 (after Qc7), or using the queen herself from d8.  Black can’t do the first method here, since he’s already played the slow 9…Re8.  So he needs to let the queen sit on d8 a little while longer to hold up e5.  After looking at this second method, we’ll return to the game a bit earlier and indicate how black can use the first method with a more crafty move order.

Let’s see it. 12…Nbd7! The first point is after the natural build-up 13. Rae1, black has the surprising 13…Nf8! and white’s e5 is definitely not playable. So white has to resort to slow methods and black has time to mobilize his whole army – the dream of the Hedgehog player who seeks to punch later in the middlegame.   But what about the immediate 13. e5!? which certainly looks dangerous? This is critical, but black can hold.

12…Nbd7! 13. e5!?  dxe5 14. fxe5 Nc5! There is no time for half-measures.  This is a solid defense.  Interestingly, there is another sharp defense here, 14…Bc5!? — after the plausible 14…Bc5!? 15. exf6?! Bxd4 16. fxg7 f5! black is all right.  However, after the accurate 15. Nf3! black has problems.

15. exf6 Bxf6 16. Rxf6! I think it’s very plausible to think that aggressive Charbonneau would steer for this apparently devastating attack.   Besides, on any other white move, black simply regains the piece with a very good game.  However, black has resources here.

Which way to take back?

Which way to take back?

Position after 16. Rxf6! – Analysis

The key for black is psychological – don’t lose your head when it appears your king is getting ripped apart!  Objectively black is all right.  The correct recapture is 16…Qxf6!.  No points for 16…gxf6? 17. Qg4+ Kh8 18. Bxh7!! and the king IS getting ripped apart; white wins elegantly after 18…Kxh7 19. Rf1!! f5 20. Nxf5! – what a pleasure it is for white to play all these moves! – and black has no defense.

So we have on the analysis board 16…Qxf6!

After this, black can look forward to what former WC Boris Spassky valued most highly; piece activity.  His coordinated activity saves him after, for example, 17. Nf3 Nxd3 18. Qxd3 Rac8 or 17. Nb3 Nxd3 18. Qxd3 e5!.  In many variations, this mobile e-pawn generates plenty of play.  Overall, chances are balanced in this sharp fight of two minors against the rook.

Let’s see a nice sample variation on the analysis board.

16…Qxf6! 17. Nf3 Nxd3 18. Qxd3 Rac8 19. Rf1 Qf5! – a very pretty defensive resource.

Nice defense!

Nice defense!

After 20. Qe2 Qc2! black is hassling white big-time, and after 20. Qxf5 exf5 21. b3 Rcd8 you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to observe all black’s pieces are running on all cylinders with level chances.

Conclusion:  Serper’s slow 9…Re8 is indeed playable but he needed to be alert after white’s 12th and find this narrow road.

Let’s go back and try to set up black’s other method to deal with e4-e5, by placing a rook on d8.  How to arrange this before white blows up the center?   Here’s how to do it for all you Kan explorers in the audience:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.0-0 d6 7.c4 Be7 8.Nc3 b6 (no castles just yet) 9. f4 Bb7 10. Bd2 Nbd7 11. Qe2 Qc7 12. Rae1 and we reach a key moment.

Black has to be careful

Black has to be careful

As any good beginner’s book will tell you, be extra-careful when your king is not yet castled.  Thus the principle idea of Ra8-d8, while good strategically here, is bad tactically.  12…Rad8? 13. Nd5! (the punishment) 13…exd5 14. exd5 Nc5 15. Bc2! and white is totally winning.  Black wants to play Rd8, to hold up the e5 advance, but has to get the move order right.  Thus correct here is the apparently dangerous 12…O-O! first.  Let’s see it.  The testing line to calculate, of course, is the e4-e5 push.  With white’s king on g1, and not yet on h1, black has additional tactical possibilities.  And this, in fact, is what justifies 12…O-O!.

12…O-O! 13. e5?! dxe5 14. fxe5 Bc5! Threatening d4 WITH CHECK  and this is the saving nuance. 15. Rf4 What else? No going back now. White is already hoisted by his own petard.

15…Nxe5! A common tactical trick when there’s a d-file tangle.  Kan players must always keep this trick in mind. 16. Qxe5 Qxe5 17. Rxe5 Rad8! and white is caught in a set of lethal pins, since 18. Rxc5 bxc5 does not help!  Seattle wins the game and the match!

Going back, 12…O-O 13. Kh1 allows black to realize his principle idea with 13…Rad8! and the game is level!

Conclusion:  black can achieve the R to d8 “method” to hold up e4-e5 in this white setup but must be wary of move-order tricks and traps.

Overall conclusion:  the Sicilian Kan lives!

The Fabulous 00s: Drunken Madness at NH Rising Stars Tournament

August 27, 2009

Madness, I tell you, Madness (or Sickness)

In Nakamura-Ljuobjevic  NH Rising Stars Tournament (in progress, Amsterdam, Holland), white fell into a move order trap that I have committed while drunk in ICC blitz.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Bg7 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bc4 Qa5 8. Nb3? Excitable GM Ljubojevic must have fallen off his chair as white falls into a dusty, old, move-order trap.  Note that Ljubojevic was my personal chess hero in the 1970s for his crazy openings and extreme tactics.  Play over, for example, two Ljubo demolitions of GM Lev Alburt.   Alekhine’s Defense Demolition #1 (Malta Olympiad, 1980) and  Alekhine’s Defense Demolition #2, even nicer, NY Open 1985.

Correct is 8. O-O and if 8…Ng4?! (8… d6 9. h3 O-O 10. Bb3 Bd7  is normal with such players as Tal drawing the black side)  9. Qxg4 Nxd4 10. Nd5! guarantees white an edge, and white went on to win, in Ciric,D-Ilievski,D/Novi Sad 1965.  And 8. O-O has the added benefit of being able to keep a complicated game!

8… Qb4! I have had the same sinking feeling as white in ICC blitz.

No Way Out

No Way Out

9. Bd3 Note here there is the interesting gambit which I did not spot at all, 9. Nd2!? Qxb2 10. Nb5 which in no way is worse than the game move.   For example, GM Zapata drew A. Hoffman at Santos 2001. Objectively, the gambit isn’t good but it offers more complexity.

9… Nxe4 10. Bxe4 Bxc3+ 11. bxc3 Qxe4 Now white is just down a center pawn and the position is simplified.  In the radio blog interview, Nakamura tried to pass this off as prep.  I would do the same, white’s 8th move is a nice cupcake for black. Admittedly, Ljubo does make some mistakes coming up, but this position is just not good for white (and not too many chances to complicate, either).

12. O-O d6 After 12… O-O black is comfortably better.  For example, 13. Re1 Qh4 (13… Qc4! 14. Nd4 d6 and yes, White is worse:  aries2-totalfish, icc 5 0 blitz, 7/8/08.  White duly lost.  One of my drunken blitz disasters.

13. Re1 Qg4?! In these lines, 13… Qc4 is always the strongest keeping maximum eye on the important center light squares.

14. f3 Qh5?! Again, the queen should like to nest on c4!

15. Qd2 Be6 16. Nd4 Nxd4 17. Bxd4 Rg8?! Much simpler and stronger was 17… O-O with an instructive sample line 18. a4 a6! 19. Rab1 b5! 20. axb5 axb5 21. Qd3 Bc4 22. Qe4 e5 and black is developing a big initiative.

18. a4! Naka finds his chance and the game is equal!

18…g5 19. Rab1 b6 20. h3 Qg6 21. a5 h5 22. axb6 axb6 23. Rxb6 g4 24. fxg4 hxg4 25. h4 Qh5 25…g3! is a good move after which it’s equal but easy to play for black.

26. Qe2 Rc8 The nice trap here was 26… Qxh4?? 27. Qb5+ Kf8 28. Rb8+ Bc8 29. Rxa8 Qxe1+ 30. Qf1 Qe6 31. Qe2! Qf5 32. Qa6! and white wins.  Very geometric.

27. Reb1 Qxh4 28. Rb8 g3 29. Qb5+? The key moment.  29. Rxc8+ leads to a drawn game.

29… Kf8 30. Qc6 Qg4 31. Rxc8+ Bxc8 32. Rf1 Rg6 33. Rf4 Qd7 34. Qe4 Kg8 Here, black misses the incisive 34… f5 !35. Qd5 e6 36. Qc4 e5 37. Rh4 Kg7 38. Bb6 f4!

35. Be3 e5 36. Rf1 f5 37. Qc4+ Qe6 38. Qc7 f4 39. Qd8+ Kg7? More accurate was 39… Kh7! 40. Bb6 Bb7! 41. c4 f3 42. Qh4+ Rh6 43. Qxg3 fxg2 and black wins.

40. Ra1 Rf6 41. Bb6 Bb7 42. Ra7 Qd5 43. Qd7+ Kh6 44. Qh3+ Kg5 45. Ra1 Rf8 46. Be3 Kg6?! This will win eventually, but a real bone-crushing blow here was 46… Qxg2+! 47. Qxg2 Bxg2 48. Kxg2 fxe3 49. Kxg3 e4 50. Re1 Rf3+ 51. Kg2 Kf4 52. Re2 Rg3+ 53. Kf1 Kf3 and white must resign!

Black could also greedily grab, 46… fxe3 47. Qxg3+ Kh6 48. Qh3+ Kg7 49. Qg4+ Kf6 50. Rf1+ Ke7 51. Qg5+ Ke8 52. Qg6+ Rf7 53.
Qg8+ Ke7 54. Rxf7+ Qxf7 55. Qg5+ Kd7 56. Qxe3 Qd5 57. Qf2 Qxg2+ 58. Qxg2 Bxg2 and he will win.  But 46…Qxg2+! was by far the most aesthetic and convincing win.

47. c4 (47. Qg4+ Kf7 48. Qh5+ Ke7 49. Qh7+ Rf7 50. Qh4+ Ke8 51. Qh8+ Kd7) 47… Qe4 48. Bb6 Kg5 0-1

The Never Ending Tactical Amusement of ICC Blitz

Now let’s see some blitz tactics.

vcs (2343) – aries2  King’s Indian Defense

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 O-O 5. h3 d6 6. Bg5 Nc6 7. d5 Ne5 8. f4?! A little too soon.
Ned7 9. Nf3 c6 10. Bd3 Qb6 11. Qd2 Nc5 12. Bc2
Black to play and amazingly enough from this normal-looking position, win!

Black to play and Win

Black to play and Win

12…cxd5? Wrong!   The harsh computer points out 12….Nxd5!! winning!

13. cxd5 Qxb2 14. O-O Qb4? (14…Qb6) 15. Rab1 Qa5 16. e5 dxe5 17. fxe5 Nfd7 18. Rb5 and now white is just better.  Oh well.

18…Qa3 19. Bxe7 Re8 20. Bd6 a6 21. Nb1 Qxa2 22. Rxc5 Nxc5 23. Bxc5 Bxe5 24. Nxe5 Rxe5 25. Bxg6 Qxd2 26.
Bxf7+ Kg7 27. Nxd2 Rf5 28. Rxf5 Bxf5 29. Bh5 a5 30. Nc4 a4 31. Nb6 Ra6 32. Be2 Ra5 33. Bd4+ Kf7 34. d6 a3 35. Bc4+ Ke8 36. Ba2 Rb5 37. g4 Bd7 38. Kf2
Rb4 39. Ke3 h5 40. gxh5 Bxh3 41. h6 Rb5 42. h7 Rh5 43. h8=Q+ Rxh8 44. Bxh8 Kd8 45. Bf7 {Black resigns} 1-0

And yet another fantastic blitz tactical set of puzzles:

IM Aries2 – IM Porkchopstamer  ICC Blitz 5/0    Modern Defense

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 a6 4. h4 d5!? Very frisky!

5. exd5 Nf6 6. Bg5 Nxd5 7. h5 Well, I’m happy.  Black now eggs me on to a piece sac, and we clearly have different ideas about it.

7…h6 Precipitating the crisis.

Sacking against the Pork

Sacking against the Pork

8 . hxg6! hxg5 9. gxf7+ Kf8 10. Rxh8+ Bxh8 11. Qh5 Bg7 12. Nf3 g4 So here we are.  White to play, what’s the best move?  What’s the correct result?

White's gotta be precise here

White's gotta be precise here

13. Ng5? This natural move is wrong!  I am so focused on the possibility of Nh7+ later, I miss the right move.

The crushing move as Rybka rudely mentions is 13. Ne5!! and it never entered my sphere of attention!   Take a look:  13…Nxc3 (13… Bxe5 14. dxe5 Nxc3 (14… Nc6 15. Qg6 e6 16. Qg8+ Ke7 17. Nxd5+ exd5 18. Qg7 Qf8 19. Qf6+ Kd7 20. O-O-O Ne7 21. Be2 wins beautifully by complete paralysis) 15. Qh7 and wins prosaically) 14. Qh7 e6 15. Qg8+ Ke7 16. Qxg7 and wins)

13… Nf6 14. Qg6 Nc6 15. Bc4? Again, I miss a nice shot. 15. Nce4!! Nxd4 16. Nxf6 exf6 17. Nh7+ Ke7 18. O-O-O Bf8 19. Qxf6+ Kd7 20. Nxf8+ Qxf8 21. Rxd4+ Qd6 22.
f8=Q and wins)

15… e6 16. Bxe6 Ne7 17. Qd3 Bh6 18. Nh7+ (18. Nce4 Kg7 (18… Nxe4? 19. Nh7+ Kg7 20. f8=Q+ Qxf8 21. Nxf8 wins) 19. Bxc8 Bxg5 20. Bxb7 Nxe4 21. Qxe4 Rb8
22. Qxg4 Ng6 23. Bxa6 Rxb2 24. Bd3 Nf4 25. Be4)

18… Nxh7 19. Qxh7 Bxe6? And now it’s black’s turn to miss an absolutely beautiful shot.  19…Bd2+!!  would have won the day for him! Continuing, 20. Kxd2 Qxd4+ 21. Ke1 Bxe6 22. Rd1 Qe5+ 23. Kf1 Bxf7 and it’s all over – an incredible defense!

20. Qxh6+ Kxf7 21. Ne4 Bf5 22. Ng5+ Kg8 23. O-O-O?! (23. Ne6! Bxe6 24. Qxe6+ Kg7 25. Qe5+ Kf7 26. Qf4+ Kg7 27. Qe5+ Kf7 28. Qf4+ and I salvage a draw.

23… Qd6! Black finds the right moves, but don’t pay attention to the rest, it’s just a crazy blitz scramble now.

24. Qh4 Qg6 25. Rh1 Kf8 26. Qh8+ Ng8 27. f4 Re8 28. Nh7+ Ke7 29. Qe5+ Kd8 30. Qc5 Kc8 31. Ng5 Nf6 32. Rd1 Ne4 33. Nxe4 Bxe4 34. Qg5 Qe6 35. d5 Kb8 36. dxe6 Bxg2 37. Qg6 Bd5 38. Qxe8+ Ka7 39. Qe7 Bc6 40. f5 Be8 41. f6 Bh5 42. Qf8 g3 43. f7 g2 44. Qg7 g1=Q 45. Qxg1+ 1-0

Award for the Wealthiest Strongest Player I’ve Never Heard Of

A bizarre CNN money article on Chris Flowers.

In high school Flowers was a math whiz and a chess champion.”

“Sure, he enjoys outdoor activities: He likes to sail near his vacation home in North Haven, Maine, and he recently returned from a sailing trip off the coast of Croatia. But it seems no accident that he prefers chess — a contemplative, intense mind teaser of a pastime — to the social staples of banking, golf and tennis.”   Yes, the social staple of “banking” is quite the social hobby (huh, who is writing this stuff??).

Maybe it’s this guy (from rating list):

14051263 (FL) 2009-11-30   975P  1077P  FLOWERS, CHRISTOPHER M