Archive for the ‘Smith-Morra’ Category

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.

Postscript

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

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The Fabulous 00s: A New Chess.FM Segment

June 11, 2008

Upholding the Sicilian – A new Chess.FM Segment

I am preparing a series of ICC Chess.FM lectures on “Upholding the Sicilian” (1. e4 c5) against various unusual white tries. John Henderson is producing the series and Andy MacFarland is the production engineer.

The first two segments are devoted to the Smith-Morra gambit (1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3).

Using games I have collected and analyzed, I collate and distill the findings to give the best black responses in each case. Some of the games are historical classics (Smith-Evans, San Antonio 1972; Fischer-Korchnoi Buenos Aires 1960) and some are brand new analyses created by me working in conjunction with my faithful friend Rybka. In some lines, black can even turn the tables and attack white’s king!

I have collected the various findings at the end of ‘aries’ library on ICC.

Dovetailing with “Manest” (Alex Lenderman) Lectures

The Smith-Morra segment is particularly interesting because it dovetails into another set of Chess.FM lectures given by IM Alex Lenderman. In his segments, he presents the Smith-Morra from the white side. I focus on black’s resources and in combination we do have a very interesting “360 degree” look at this interesting gambit.

Future Plans and Website Feedback

In the future, I will develop and present research on the Alapin (1. e4 c5 2. c3), the Grand Prix Attack (1. e4 c5 2. f4, or 1. e4 c5 2. nc3 Nc6 3. f4), the Moscow (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+) and more.

I will devote space on this website for reader feedback so we can grow the analysis tree.

Unrelated Photos of the Day

The 1985 Columbia University Pan-Am Squad

Mystery IMs

The Fabulous 00s: The 2007 Miami International Open

October 5, 2007

When my good Word Press blog buddy FM Marcel Martinez (we cross-link, you see [wink wink]) told me about the First International Miami Chess Open, how could I resist? This event, organized by IM Blas Lugo, drew a host of good players: Mikhalevski, Becerra, Izoria, Shabalov, Nakamura, G. Hernandez, A. Zapata, and more.

The actual venue was a convention center next to the Sheraton hotel, itself close to the Miami airport. The venue had some quirks. First of all, cell phones went off all the time, and the people answering (usually kibitizers or players strolling around from lower sections) chose to answer in normal voices, not whispers! Secondly, sometimes the occasional mambo or Star Spangled Banner would erupt from an adjacent ballroom, and this happened in one amusing instance when Becerra and I had under 30 seconds in the not-for-the-faint-of-heart time control of G/90 + 30 second increment per move.

The games themselves were very interesting, and some were of high quality despite the constant rushing brought by the “gambling” time control. I gather this is a ‘normal’ time control now in FIDE events. It’s nuts! It ruins all complicated endings. And for what, to save a little time to go to Starbucks or the hotel bar?

Here are some of my efforts and I will also add some special games that I witnessed. By the way, you can find most of the games online at the Monroi site (but not the quicker schedule early games; only after the merge).

Snubbed by the Monroi Lady

The Monroi lady was busy running around taking pictures, but when I visited that weird site (replete with world clocks and electronic license tickets) I was surprised to see my games piloted by a faceless (photoless) individual whereas my opponent always had an actual, real, photo. I feel so left out and so anonymous, Monroi lady! I’m sorry I didn’t use your little box to record my games! Can we start again? Take my picture, Monroi lady (sniffle). Don’t leave me faceless, Monroi lady!

Let’s start with two smooth victories as White. In the first, I defuse a sharp junior by taking him out of his comfort zone – I steer the game into a Kramnikian bishop-pair torture structure.

IM M. Ginsburg – NM Corey Acor

G/90 + 30 sec increment per move

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. g3(!) My opponent astounded me after the game by relating that he was already improvising now. So the exclamation point for this fortuitous turn of events. Apparently he was most ready for 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5!? – I’m usually a 1. c4 player and I wouldn’t enjoy seeing a Budapest on the board. Someone like IM Finegold, booked to gills versus the Budapest, would enjoy it very much.

4….c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5?! 5…..exd5, reaching a Tarrasch, is more reliable.

6. Bg2 Nc6 7. O-O Nf6 It is already difficult to suggest solid black continuations.

8. dxc5! White has no objection at all to reach a superior queenless middelgame.

8…Qxd1 9. Rxd1 Bxc5 10. a3 e5? Much too loose. White will be able to snipe at the center pawns effectively with the bishops. Black has to stay compact and hunker down.

acor1.png

11. Nc3 (0:18) Be6 (0:59) 12. b4 Bb6 13. e3! Extremely strong. White takes away key squares and resumes the harrassment of black’s center next.

13…Rc8 This optically good mechanical move (rook to semi open file) turns out to not help black at all so he might have wanted to castle here instead.

14. Bb2 O-O 15. Na4! (0:44) As simple as that, the position is now winning for white. A black ….Be6-b3 turns out to be a pseudo-threat. Black’s center is under intolerable pressure.

15…Bb3 Nothing else to do, but the text is insufficient. 15…Bc7 16. Nc5 is crushing – see a similar knight maneuver motif in my Glenn Bady game that immediately follows this one.

16. Nxb6 axb6 16…Bxd1 17. Nxc8 simply results in black losing a center pawn after the mass exchanges 17…Bxf3 18. Bxf3 Rxc8 19. Bxc6 – white wins easily.

17. Rdc1 (0:51) Nd7 (1:28) 18. Nd2! This maneuver is exceedingly strong. The knight travels to d6 via e4 and black is totally paralyzed. To make matters worse, he has virtually no time left. Not a pleasant situation.

18….Be6 19. Ne4 Rb8 (1:29) 20. Nd6 Nd8 21. Rc7 f6 As black, I might have given up here. In fact, yeah, I would have given up. It’s just no fun.

22. Rd1 f5 23. Bd5 Nf6 The rest is just black blitzing and white scooping up material as it is left en prise.

24. Bxe6 Nxe6 25. Re7 Ng5 26. Nxf5 Rf7 27. h4 Black had no time to think anymore.

acor2.png

27…Nh3+ 28. Kg2 Ng4 An amusing blitz tactic, but white has time left to figure out that 29. Kxh3?? is met by 29…Nxf2+. The knights get into an incredible tangle now, but the situation was mucho hopeless (do you like my Spanish?) of course.

29. Rxf7 Kxf7 30. f3 Ngf2 31. Rd2 g6 32. Nd6+ Ke6 33. Ne4 Once one pair of knights goes off, the other black knight is lost. Black recognized his plight and immediately resigned although he had built up a small bank of reserve time due to the 30 second per move increment.

1-0

Here’s a related effort versus Expert Glenn Bady (2137) from an earlier round. Readers will notice some common motifs.

IM Mark Ginsburg – Glenn Bady Miami Open 2007

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bc5 5.d3 d5? Highly suspect in conjunction with black’s previous move. 5…d6 is stronger, but the bishop is still exposed out on c5.
6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Bg2 Nde7 White will be able to take advantage of this passive placement.

8.O-O O-O 9.Bd2 a6 10.Rc1 Ba7 11.a3 h6 12.b4 Bg4 13.Na4 The strange-looking 13. Be3!? is a try here and is a bit of a positional trap. If black takes on e3 (the wrong choice, strengthening white’s center), 13…Bxe3?! 14. fxe3 Nf5 15. Qd2 white can hope for some edge. Better is not taking and playing 13…Qd7 14. Bxa7 Rxa7 15. Na4 b6! keeping the knight out of c5. Play could continue 16. Re1 Bxf3! 17. Bxf3 a5! with excellent chances for full equality. Since most players would play to double white’s pawns with 13. Be3 Bxe3?!, this move is well worth considering.

13…Re8 14.Nc5 Qc8 15.a4 (?!) Things are looking very good, at least optically, for white. He is making progress on his agenda. However at this exact moment black has an interesting and hidden defense; therefore the careful 15. Re1 should have been considered nullifying the positional threat of Bg4-h3.

bady1.png

15…Rb8? A human move and a natural instinct to defend b7 without giving up the “lurking” bishop so carefully nestled away on a7. The computer finds an ingenious and dispassionate resource 15…Bxc5! 16. Rxc5 b6! 17. Rc4 Be6! driving the rook back. Then, after 18. Rc1 Bh3! 19. Qc2 Bxg2 20. Kxg2 b5! black can use the b7-g2 diagonal and he is close to equality. A really fantastic, anti-positional, counter-intuitive, and amazing computer variation to give black positional advantages of his own starting from a point where it looked like white was calling all the shots.

16.Re1! Getting back on the right course. This avoids the simplification threat ….Bg4-h3 and waits.

16…Ng6? I didn’t have long to wait. The text blunders a pawn. However, a move like 16…Qf5 leaves white on top as well. There simply isn’t anything meaningful to organize on the kingside and white is too active.

17.Nxa6! bxa6 18.Rxc6 Re6 19.Rc4 Rf6 20.Qc2 c6 21.Rc1 Bd7 Black’s position is a structural ruin.

bady2.png

22.Be1! I thought for a while and found this excellent regrouping which really winds the game up efficiently. This is important in crazy time controls like the one in Miami. White prepares Nf3-d2-e4 and black is helpless due to his numerous structural weaknesses. This unstoppable and very strong knight maneuver is very similar to the Acor game above (white moves 18 through 20). I only found this move after some cogitation; my original plan was 22. Be3?! but rushing to simplify, at the cost of some pawn structure disfigurement (although the pawns can be straightened, maybe, with a later d3-d4) is definitely second-best.

22… Qe8 23.Nd2 Ne7 24.Ne4 Rg6 25.Nc5 Bxc5 Once this bishop goes off the board, it’s smooth sailing for white.

26.Rxc5 Nd5? Makes it easier but of course black was losing anyway.

27.b5! axb5 28.axb5 Nf4 29.bxc6 Bg4 30.c7! Rc8 Forced. There’s no time to take a pawn: 30…Nxe2+ 31. Qxe2! Bxe2 32. cxb8=Q Qxb8 33. Rc8+ and white is up a piece.

31.f3 Bd7 32.gxf4 Bh3 33.Bg3! Bxg2 34.Rxe5! An effective zwischenzug. White remains a piece up.

1-0

Now here’s an interesting draw vs NM Marc Esserman – he was White in a topical Smith-Morra gambit.

NM Marc Esserman – IM Mark Ginsburg

Smith-Morra Gambit, Sicilian Defense

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.c3 dxc3 5.Nxc3 Nc6 6.Bc4 d6 7.O-O Nf6 8.Qe2 Be7 9.Rd1 e5

I don’t normally play this defense but it suddenly occurred to me to maybe use the d4 square later for my N on c6. I usually get the variation 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Bc4 d6 6. Nf3 a6!? and play that way. This is something new for me.  Philosophically, black has just handed over the d5 square but the f-rook is not ideally placed for white on d1. Black should be OK on the theory he hasn’t done anything really stupid yet.  “Book” lines bear this out.

10.Be3 O-O 11.Rac1  I am unable to determine how stupid or conversely playable 11. Bc5 is. In some minor games 11. Bc5 a6(!) occurred.

11…a6  Maybe this move is not so great. The immediate 11…Be6 looks sound.

12.b4!? An interesting space gaining move. Black is getting squeezed a little.  The obvious try 12. Nd5 can be met by 12…Nxd5 13. Bxd5 Bg4 or 13…Nb4 in both cases with a reasonable game.  Historical note: GM Nemet played the blunder 12. Nd5 Nxd5 13. Bxd5 Be6?? here which loses to 14. Bxc6 bxc6 15. Nxe5!; however his amateur opponent played 14. Rd2?? instead and lost, Caldelari-Nemet, Baden 1997. Again the odd move 12. Bc5 is possible; 12. Bc5 b6!? 13. Ba3 Rc8 with approximate equality.

A entirely different line is 12. a3!? – in a historical footnote, 12. a3 Bd7 13. b4 Rc8 14. Rd2 Ng4 15. Nd5 Nxe3 16. Qxe3 b5 17. Bb3 Bg4?? 18. Rdc2 and white won, Robert Shean-Peter Winston, US Open 1972.  Black missed the ingenious zwischenzug 17….Nd4!! 18. Rxc8 Nxf3 CHECK 19. Qxf3 Bxc8 with full equality. A rare early Peter Winston game score that I found by blind chance in ChessBase. 

12…Bg4  Consistent; reducing the defenders on d4.  12…Be6 is oddly playable though: 13. Bxe6 fxe6 14. Ng5 Qd7 15. Na4 looks scary aiming for the hole on b6, but black has 15…Nd4! 16. Bxd4 Qxa4 17. Bc3 Rfc8! (stopping Qc4) 18. Nxe6 a5! with the point that 19. bxa5 is met by 19….Qxe4 and black is OK.  A good example of strange “long-distance” piece coordination. 

13.a3 Rc8 14.Bb3 h6 Playable is 14…Qe8 getting out of the way.  I was already planning my strange and not very good concept introduced by my 16th move.

15.h3

 esser1.png

An important moment.

15…Bxf3?!  Not the best.   For no particularly good reason, I shied away from 15…Be6!? 16. Bxe6 fxe6 17. Qa2! because this move looked fearsome during the game. However, after the simple 17…Kf7! (not 17…Qd7? 18. Na4!) the try 18. Nh4 is met by the surprising 18…Ng4! – for example 19. Nf5 Nxe3 20. fxe3 Qd7 and black is somewhat better. Or, 19. Ng6!? Kxg6 20. hxg4 Kf7! and again black has some edge.  Another white move, 18. Na4, is met by the simple 18…Qe8 19. Nb6 Rd8 and nothing is apparent for white. Since black did not see this, he opts for the safer but weaker surrender of the two bishops and keeps working to try to gain control of d4. An interesting but flawed “secondary” defensive concept.  Another possibility, 15…Bh5!?, looked risky to me (in fact, it is risky to put the bishop offside after 16. g4 but let’s see….) After 16. g4 Bg6 the situation is murky. For example, the tactical white trick 17. Nh4 Bxe4 18. Nxe4 Nxe4 19. Ng6 gives black a chance to sacrifice: 19…Ng5! 20. Nxf8 Qxf8 (or 20…Bxf8) 21. Kg2 (21. Bxg5? Bxg5 with Nd4 coming; black edge) 21…Ne6 with a complex game where white might be a little better but there’s still a whole game ahead. 

16.Qxf3 Nh7?! With some ideas of Bg5, trading off a key piece.  However it “ignores the obvious.”

17.Rc2!? Logical; preventing the trade.  However white had the primitive 17. Nd5! Bg5 18. Bb6! Qd7 19. Rc3! with huge pressure. It’s not losing after 19…Nf6 20. Rcd3 Nxd5 21. Rxd5 Be7 22. a4!, but it’s no fun at all. (22….Nxb4 23. Rxe5 with a big edge).

17…Kh8?  Here I had the stronger 17…Bg5! and if 18. Bc5 dxc5! 19. Rxd8 Rcxd8 and white has to go through contortions to deal with Nd4. Black has good compensation for the queen.  An example variation is 20. Ne2 (20. Qg3 might be better; 20. Qg3 Nd4 21. Rb2 cxb4 22. axb4 Bf4 23. Qh4 Nxb3 24. Rxb3 Nf6 with approximate equality) 20…cxb4 21. Bd5? (21. axb4! Nf6! with a solid game; not 21…Nxb4? 22. Rc7 Nf6 23. Bxf7+! with an edge) 21…a5 22. Qb3 Nf6 23. Bxc6 bxc6 24. Rxc6 bxa3 and black is completely OK.  More importantly, I have good chances of getting the initiative in that position (25. Qxa3? Rd1+ 26. Kh2 Nxe4 is just bad; 25. Rc4 Rd2! is not that great either). It is very important when defending against a speculative gambit to seek an opportunity to counter-sacrifice and get aggressive.

18.Ne2 Qd7 19.Ng3 Nd4 Now this is the “panic” button, because white is amassing a fearsome attack. But it’s already bad for black; I missed a big chance on move 17.

20.Bxd4 Rxc2?  This is a blunder but 20…exd4 21. Qf5! is also horrible for black. For example, 21…Nf6 22. Rxc8 Qxc8 23. Qxc8 Rxc8 24. Bxf7 and white wins easily. I noticed the text move was a gross tactical oversight the moment I took the rook – a common phenomenon.

21.Bxc2?  White thinks for a little bit and then plays this lemon. Both sides miss the obvious tactic 21. Bxe5! and white has a big edge. The variations are clear: 21…Rc6 22. Nf5 f6 (disgusting) 23.Qg3 Ng5 24. Bd4! and black,  a rook up, does not have the faintest hope of surviving. Moves like Bd5 and h4 are coming up.  Or, 21. Bxe5 f6 22. Bxd6! (the simple 22. Bc3 Rxc3 23. Qxc3 also wins for white) Bxd6 23. Bxc2 Ng5 24. Qd3 Rd8 25. Nf5 Nf7 26. e5! and white wins.  Or the tragicomic 21. Bxe5 Rc7 22. Nh5 f6 23. Nf4! Qe8 24. Bd4 Ng5 25. Qg4 and black has no hope of surviving.

21..exd4 22.Rxd4 Bf6 23.Rd3  Be5  White still has uncomfortable pressure (as would be the case with 23…Ng5).  

24.Qe3 Qc7  The disgusting 24…Bxg3, going into total passivity, was relatively speaking one of the better moves.

25.Bb3 Rc8 I thought that this held up f2-f4, believing that 26. f4 Qc1+ won the pawn on f4.  Once again I make an elementary tactical oversight – maybe too much mambo in the next room over?

26.Ne2?  My thinking was flawed but once again white believes me.  26. f4! is very strong: 26…Qc1+ 27. Qxc1 Rxc1+ 28. Kf2! and since 28…Bxf4? 29. Ne2! wins for white, black has a terrible game.  For example, 28…Bb2 29. Rxd6 and wins. Another losing line is 26. f4! Bb2 27. Nf5! Qc1+ 28. Qxc1 Rxc1+ 29. Kf2 Bxa3 30. Nxd6 and wins.

26…Nf6 27.g3? These pawn moves in front of white’s king are a concession.  27. Rd2 with the idea of 27. Rc2 was much stronger. For example, 27. Rd2 d5?! 28. Rc2 Qd7 29. Rxc8+ Qxc8 30. f4 with a big edge.

27… Bb2 28.a4 Qe7! 29.f3 d5! This active defensive sequence saves the day.

30.exd5 Qxb4 31.Qd2  It appeared that white was reaching for 31. d6?? but of course then 31…Qe1+ 32. Kg2 Re8! would just win. White retracted his hand and played the sensible move.

31…Qxd2 32.Rxd2 Be5 33.Kg2 Kg8 34.Rd3 Kf8 35.f4 Bd6 36.Kf3 g6? If black hurries with his N to c5, he can even play for a win in this drawish ending, given the crazy time control. For example, 36…Nd7 37. Nd4 Nc5 38. Re3 g6 and black can keep playing although objectively of course it is still level.

37. Nc3  With this knight arriving soon on e4, there is nothing left to play for.

1/2-1/2

A very interesting Smith-Morra theory game.  Further analysis is required on 15…Be6!? or 15…Bh5!?.