Archive for the ‘Slav Defense’ Category

The Fabulous 00s: Different Ways to Engage Tactically

May 14, 2009

This just in from Round 6 US Championship action.   A crazy struggle where it would appear pre-game computer cycles played a major role.
GM L. Christiansen – IM R. Robson  Slav Crazy (Computer-Oriented) Gambit Line

1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 d5 Different Way to Play #1: It’s quite possible now to play a tactical, attacking game (!) after 3. cxd5 as Kasparov showed many times.  The computer would play less of a role.

3. d4 c6 Different Way to Play #2: And here, Khalifman used to have good results with the soft, slow-motion gambit of 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. g3!? dxc4 6. Bg2.  Shabalov tried this line vs. Sevillano and lost in an earlier round of the ’09 Championship, but the opening was not to blame.  That line offers a rich mother-lode for human creativity.

4. e4 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Qxd4 7. Bxb4 Qxe4+ 8. Ne2 Na6 Both players are following a fairly narrow mainline in this insanely tactical, inhuman (thus computer-oriented) melee.

9. Bf8 Ne7 10. Bxg7 Nb4 11. Qd6 Nc2+ 12. Kd2 Nxa1 13. Bxh8 Qc2+ 14. Ke1 Qxc4 15. Nc3 Qb4 Cute, but computer ho-hum, black exploits the fork on c2 to move the queen to this active square.

16. Qd2 e5 Does anyone doubt that at least one of the players had this in the computer before the game? 

17. Qc1 Bg4! The best.  I doubt black has had to think on his own yet. Rybka 3.1 says this is equal.

Addendum May 16, 2009:  IM Fluffy reminded me to say this is good prep by Robson, the article is not a knock on Robson.

Computer Chess

Computer Chess

18. f3? In a not very illumating computer “finding”, Rybka 3.1 likes 18. h3 but at the same time believes black is OK after 18. h3. The mainline is a humorous, absurd, repetition draw: 18…Bh5 19. g4 Bg6 20. Qxa1 Qf4! 21. Ne2 Qb4+ 22. Nc3 Qf4! 23. Ne2 and drawn!   Note that 21…Qe4?! is met by 22. f3! Qxf3 23. Rg1 and white has an edge.

18…Bxf3! Not very difficult but pleasing.  White’s king loses protection.  

19. Bf6 19. gxf3 Qh4+ 20. Ke2 Ng6! 21. Qxa1 O-O-O gives black a big attack.  Queen and knight is a very dangerous attacking duo.

19…Nd5 20. Bxe5? A fatal second miscue.  20. gxf3 Nxf6 21. Qxa1 O-O-O with a black edge but not yet decisive was necessary.

20…Qe7! Now white’s king cannot get out of the danger zone and no more resistance is possible.  A depressing result of the battle of computers. Perhaps black’s computer had been going a lot longer on this variation.   Psychologically, the two deviations given at the start of the game would yield better chances versus a tactical junior than engaging in a full-on irrational position computer war.

21. gxf3 Qxe5+ 22. Kf2 Qd4+ 23. Kg3 Ne3 24. Bh3 Nac2 25. Nd1 f5 26. Nxe3 f4+ 27. Kf2 fxe3+ 28. Kg3 Qd6+ 29. f4 Qd3 30. Rd1 Qg6+ 31. Kf3 Qh5+
32. Bg4 Qxh2 33. Rd6 Qf2+ 34. Ke4 e2 35. Bxe2 Qxe2+ 36. Kf5 Ke7
0-1

Kind of a depressing game in general where the “gee, look at that moves” were prepared already.   To put it another way, not much work at the board for black to achieve a winning game versus a strong player. I’d rather have both players on their own devices in an original, not analyzed setting, to create something nice in this important tournament.

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The Fabulous 00s: The 2008 Chicago Open in Wheeling!

May 26, 2008

A Top-Rate Hotel

The Westin North Shore in Wheeling, IL was a really fantastic venue for the Chicago Open, with excellent restaurants and a 2nd floor sushi-martini lounge called “R/T Lounge” open into the wee hours (not so easy to find, but tour-guide Kurt Stein let me on to the secret and there we (me, Kurt, and Simone Sobel) had some funky sushi rolls and exotic ‘tini’ variants in the wee hours following my annoying Round 3 Shulman loss.

The tournament was strong with many tough battles. And an inadvertently funny sign announcing John Donaldson lectures!

Metaphysical Announcement

I am guessing the hotel didn’t know the term”IM” so wrote “I am”. Very metaphysical – the sign as a person!

Some Games

Here are two tough games vs Yuri Shulman and Irina Zenyuk. In the first game, I lost an agonizing rook ending to new US Champion Yuri Shulman in Round 3, wasting a great novelty in a Slav. When I can face the game score, I will post it here. Let’s go through the grim task of seeing it.

M. Ginsburg – GM Y. Shulman Chicago Open 2008, Round 3. Slav Defense

1. c4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxc4 5. Qa4+ Nbd7 6. e4!? A very interesting start point for opening research. It’s no simple matter to lead a prepared GM off the beaten track and retain decent chances. But that is what this line actually does.

6…c6 White was triumphant in Hebden-Bryson Glasgow 1995 after the somewhat passive 6…Be7 7. Nbd2!? O-O 8. Bxc4. Black can also try 6…a6 7. Bxc4 Rb8?!, but this looks odd. White should be better after the simple 8. Qc2. However, after 8. Bd3?! b5 black came on top in Akesson-Agrest, Gothenburg 2006. Black also has 6…c5!? and this might be his best option. Hebden could only draw Wells in Catalan Bay 2004 with 7. Nbd2 a6 8. Bxc4 Rb8 9. Qc2 b5. The immediate 7. Bxc4 cxd4 doesn’t give much either. The text contains the audacious idea of an early queen raid but it looks very suspicious.

7. Qxc4 Qb6!? Very Dlugy-esque. Hitting e4 and b2; a very materialistic approach reminiscent of young Max Dlugy in his heyday. The problem, though, is that the gambit of the b2 pawn gives white with his accelerated development very good chances and black’s queen is going to a very strange, offside, place.

8. Nbd2! White can also gambit with 8. Nc3 Qxb2 9. Rb1 Qa3 10. Bd3 Nb6 11. Qb3 Qxb3 12. Rxb3 Be7 13. O-O O-O 14. h3 with decent compensation. I had ideas of a later Nd2xc4 eyeing d6. I like the N/d2 placement better.

8… Qxb2 9. Rb1 Qa3 10. Bd3 h6 11. Bf4 Be7 12. Bc7! This sortie is a good disruptive idea to keep the black queen in a holding pen.

12…O-O 13. O-O Nb6 14. Qc2 Qa4 Black’s lonely and isolated queen makes a very bad impression.

Position after 14…Qa4. How to Proceed?

15. Qc3?

A very unfortunate choice, wasting my novelty and condemning white to an uphill fight in a bad ending. To create a sensational upset, the position demands 15. Rb3! to keep the queens on. White overlooked in the game that black can now trade queens. After, for example, 15…Bd7 16. e5! Nfd5 17. Bd6 Bxd6 (If black does not take, Nd2-e4 gives a huge bind) 18. exd6 and now black has defensive problems with the cutoff queen. The ugly 18…f5 at least avoids 19. Ne5? Qxd4, but donates squares permanently to white.

Or, for example, 18….Rfd8 19. Ne4 Nb4 20. Qe2 Nxd3 21. Rxd3 and white has a huge attack. Black’s remaining pieces are onlookers. If 21… f6? (this deserves a diagram):

Position after 21…f6? (Analysis)

White has the nice double knight sacrifice 22. Nxf6+!! gxf6 23. Ne5 and wins! (23…f5 24. Qh5 Be8 25. Rg3+ Kh7 26. Nf7! and mate.) It’s not often that a double knight sacrifice occurs in practical play.

Another plausible try, 21… Be8 is swept away by an exciting tactical line: 22. Ne5 Nd7 23. Nxd7 Bxd7 24. Nf6+!! Kf8 25. Qe4 Be8 26. Nh7+ Kg8 27. Rg3 Rxd6 28. Qe5 Qxd4

Position after 28…Qxd4 (analysis). White concludes nicely.

29. Rxg7+ Kh8 30. Nf6!! Kxg7 31. Nxe8 double + Kf8 32. Qxd6+ Qxd6 33. Nxd6 and by virtuoso tactics, white is up a piece and should convert.

Finally, a passive move such as 15…Re8 does not solve the problem of the errant queen. White can play 16. Qb2 Bd7 17. Ne5! for example, with a big initiative.

15… Nfd5! The usual phenomenon of white noticing this key resource the moment after executing his lemon 15th occurred in this game. White now acquires the familiar sick feeling of knowing the game has drifted into an unpleasant course and there won’t be an attack any more.

16. exd5 Nxd5 17. Qa5 Qxa5 18. Bxa5 b6 19. Ne5 At least I win the c6 pawn back but I have a bad ending. Not the fearsome attack I had imagined and should have maintained with my 8. Nbd2 gambit.

19...bxa5 20. Nxc6 Bd8 21. Rfc1 Bd7 22. Nxd8 Rfxd8 23. Be4 Rac8 24. Bxd5 exd5 25. Rc5 Rxc5 26. dxc5 Rc8 27. Rc1 Bb5! A tactical motif to round up white’s c-pawn. White battles on.

28. f3 Bc4 29. Kf2 Rxc5 30. Ke3 Rb5 31. Nxc4 dxc4 32. Rc2 g5 33. Kd4 In the game, I thought I now had enough activity with the centralized king. It isn’t so; I don’t have quite enough due to a latent kingside offensive with pawns, king, and rook that black can undertake while I am kept busy with black’s extra and scattered queenside pawns. By the way, the bid for activity with 33. Rxc4 is inadequate after 33…Rb2 34. Ra4 Rxg2 35. Rxa5 Rxh2 36. Rxa7 h5 37. a4 h4 and black is too fast.

33… Rb4 34. Kc3 Again, 34. Rxc4? Rb2 will not save the game for white.

34… Kg7 Black has the simple aim of king side attack and white cannot stop it. The black rook can always enter quickly with Rb4-b1-h1.

35. Re2 Kf6

36. Re8? It was necessary to wait with e.g. 36. Rd2 Ke7 37. Re2+ Kd6 38. Rd2+ Ke6 39. Re2+ Kf5 40. Rd2 Ra4 41. Re2 f6 42. Kb2 Rb4+ 43. Kc3 h5 44. Rd2 but it’s no fun at all.

36… Rb1 Decisive.

37. Re2 Rc1+ 38. Kb2 Rh1 39. h3 Kf5 40. Rc2 Rg1 41. g4+ Kf4 42. Rxc4+ Kxf3 43. Rc7 Kg3 44. Rxf7 Kxh3 Sick and tired, white resigned.

0-1

Also in Round 3, this barn-burner where black wasted tons of chances:

GM Alex Shabalov – GM Dashzeveg Shavadorj King’s Indian

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Nd2 a5 10.a3 Nd7 11.Rb1 f5 12.b4 Kh8 13.Qc2 Ng8 14.exf5 gxf5 15.f4 axb4 15…Ne7 is the most common. Also seen is 15…exf4. The text is less popular.

16.axb4 c6 TN I could not find this in BigBase. Most popular is 16…exf4 followed by 16…e4 and then 16…Ne7 and 16…Ngf6.

17.Kh1?! Rybka says 17. Nf3! e4 18. Ng5! with an edge.

17…Ndf6?! 17…Ne7! is tougher.

18.dxc6 bxc6 19.c5! exf4 20.Nc4 d5 21.Nb6 Ra7 22.Bd3? Black has a terrible game after either 22. Nxc8 or the direct 22. b5.

22…Ne4 23.Ne2 Ngf6 24.Bxf4?! 24. Nd4 offers a small edge.

24…Ng4 Now it’s about equal.

25.Ng1? Very bad. Necessary is 25. Nxc8 Qxc8 26. b5 Ngf2+ 27. Kg1 Nxd3 28. Qxd3 Nxc5 29. Qc2 and it is about even.

25...Ra3 I was watching at this point and Shavadorj was blitzing out his obvious and strong moves. Shabalov seemed distinctly uncomfortable with defending and was well behind on the clock. I was most surprised later to see ‘1-0’ on the wallchart. Let’s see the ‘accident’.

26.Nh3 Be6 The temporary weirdness with 26…Bb7!? gives black a small edge.

27.Rf3 Ra7 Black was no doubt reluctant to retreat this rook although he retains better chances. Interesting is 27…d4!? and if 28. Bxe4? Ra2! Zwischenzug! 29. Qd3 fxe4 30. Qxe4 Bf5! and black will win.

28.Rbf1 Bf6? Much stronger is 28…Bd4! and if 29. Rd1 Qf6! retains the edge.

29.Bc1 Rg7?! 29…Re8! =+.

30.Nf4 It is about even again.

Bf7 31.Bb2 Rfg8 32.Bxe4? The pendulum swings back to black. 32. b5 or the static 32. g3 were both better.

32…dxe4 33.Rg3 h6? Black waffles again. Strong was 33…e3! and for example, 34. Kg1 Qd2 with an edge. In all lines black is better.

34.Nh3 Be6? Again, 34…Bxb2 35. Qxb2 e3! 36. Qc3 Kh7! and black is better.

35.Nf4 Bf7 36.Nh3 Be6 37.Rd1 Qe7 38.Nf4 Bxb2 39.Qxb2 Kh7 39…Bf7 is more accurate.

40.Kg1 e3 41.Rf1 Rd8?? A really bad blunder. The simple 41…Bf7 keeps level chances.

42.h3! Black must have missed something simple because now he is just losing.

42…Rd2 43.Qc3 From here on out, white plays only Rybka’s top recommendations to finish at more than 4 computer points ahead!

43…e2 44.Re1 Rd1 45.hxg4 Qh4 46.Nxe2 Rxe1 47.Qxe1 Rxg4 48.Qc3 Rxg3 49.Nxg3 f4 50.Ne2 Bf5 51.Qd2 1-0

Poor Dashzeveg Shavadorj. He played too quickly when I was watching.  The Kasparovian ‘monster with a thousand eyes’ imitation didn’t pan out.

Fortified by some midnight eel rolls in the R/T Lounge, I battled on the next morning:

Irina Zenyuk – M. Ginsburg Round 4. Benoni.

1. d4 g6 2. Nf3 Bg7 3. c4 d6 4. e4 Bg4 5. d5!? An interesting response.

5…c5 6. Nc3 Nf6 7. Be2 O-O 8. O-O a6 9. a4 Nbd7 10. Be3 Bxf3 11. gxf3!? Very aggressive. It’s a structural concession but white hopes to repair it with f3-f4 later, then f4-f5, then the other f-pawn, and so on. But is there time for all this?

11…Qc7 12. f4 e6 13. Bd3 exd5 14. cxd5 Rfe8 15. Qf3

Position after 15. Qf3.

15…Rac8?! I show superficial familiarity with the structure. It makes the most sense in standard Modern Benoni style to get on with queenside counterplay: 15… c4! 16. Bc2 Nc5 17. Bd4 (17. a5 Nfd7) 17… Nh5! (I did not consider this move during the game) 18. Bxg7 Kxg7 19. Kh1 (19. f5 Qe7! and black is better) 19… Qb6! 20. Rfb1 (or 20. Rab1!? Nf6!? 21. Qe3 Qa7!? with counterplay) 20…Nb3 21. Bxb3 Qxb3 and black has good counterplay. It just wasn’t on my radar to offer the exchange of the g7 bishop and I didn’t want to hand over the d4 square so easily (with 15…c4). In this exact position, with doubled white f-pawns, the bishop trade is a good idea to hold up the rear f-pawn’s advance (establish a dark square blockade between them, an advanced positional concept! So deep as to be a David Bronstein concept, or a Broncept!) On the other hand, the premature tactical adventure 17…Nfxe4? 18. Bxg7 Nd2 19. Qd1 Nxf1 20. Bd4 just doesn’t work.

16. Kh1 Qb6 17. Rfb1 Nh5 18. a5 Qd8 19. Rg1 Kh8!? 19… c4 20. Bc2 Qe7 is again possible but the rather arcane-looking text move is fine.

20. Qh3 Rc7?! I want to use this rook on my 2nd rank to defend, but surprisingly strong is the immediate 20…Bd4! with good chances. White would have to find 21. Ra4! (a hard move to find in time pressure) 21…Bxe3 22. fxe3 to keep equality. Weaker moves such as 21. Rae1? or 22. Raf1? are met by 21…Ndf6! with a large edge to black. Unfortunately, the idea of Bg7-d4 only occurred to me a little later and by then white had greatly improved her position.

21. f5 Qe7 Now, 21…Bd4 22. Bg5! gives black problems.

22. fxg6 fxg6 23. f4 Bd4 24. Raf1 Qg7? 24…Rf8!? 25. Rg5!? Bf6!? with murky play — all tough moves in time pressure.

25. e5! I am a little slow in getting my best defensive structure and White is doing all the right things to make black’s position loose.

25…Bxe3 26. Qxe3 dxe5 27. f5 e4 Black might as well try this clearance but it’s not looking good.

28. fxg6 hxg6 29. Nxe4?! I think simpler is 29. Bxe4 Ndf6 30. Qf3 and white is much better.

29…c4 30. Bc2 Ndf6 31. Qf3 Rf8 32. Nd6?! White should just play 32. d6 and that should be winning. For example, 32…Rc6 33. Qc3! and black is paralyzed. Here’s an exceptionally beautiful variation that can arise: 33…Nh7 (trying to free, but it loses spectactularly!) 34. Rxf8+ Nxf8 35. Rxg6!! Study-like!

Position after 35. Rxg6!! (analysis) – a beautiful winning line.

35…Qxc3 36. bxc3 Nxg6 37. d7!, queening the pawn, and wins! Wasn’t that nice? The text move actually is not bad either, since white could have won anyway as we shall see – but it’s more complicated and in time trouble, that is not good.

32…Qe7 33. Rxg6!? This is tactically correct but not the best. Both sides go a little crazy now in mutual time pressure. White also had 33. Bxg6 with an edge or the snazzier and stronger 33. Nxb7!! Rxb7 34. d6! Qh7 (nothing else) 35. Bxg6 and white wins.

33…Qxd6 34. Rh6+

Position after 34. Rh6+ — An important decision point.

34…Kg7? Neither side has much time to make it to move 40. This is a tactical blunder. Correct is 34… Kg8! and now not 35. Qg2+? Rg7 36. Bh7+ with a perpetual check draw on both king moves to h8 or f7, but instead the very strong 35. Bf5! Re8 36. Be6+ Rxe6 37. dxe6 Qd3 38. Rxf6 Nxf6 39. Qxf6 Qe4+ 40. Qf3 Qxe6 41. Rg1+ and white is well on top, a clear pawn up in a queen ending. For some reason, I was focused on attacking the white rook on h6 with my king and never considered moving to g8. The conclusion is that 33. Rxg6! is fully sound.

35. Rg6+? In time trouble, white misses the knockout 35. Rxh5!! Nxh5 36. Qg4+ Kh8 37. Qxh5+ with Mate in 13! — 37…Kg8 38. Rg1+ Rg7 39. Qh7+ Kf7 40. Rxg7+ and you get the picture. So this game can be safely classified as a ‘lucky escape’ for me. I didn’t make use of some rather large chances offered on move 15 and 20 and drifted into this really bad situation.

35… Kh8 36. Rh6+ Kg7? Once again the blunder but both players were just playing the repetition moves now.

37. Rg6+? It was too much to ask white to re-orient with almost no time and find 37. Rxh5! winning.

1/2-1/2

A very exciting battle.

And Something Else Artistic

Some art painted by a chess player, Iva Davis.

The chess part of the brain is linked, in some people, to artistic talent! I cannot draw at all, personally.

The Fabulous 00s: Some Chess Theory from the Tulsa US Championship Qualifier

April 18, 2008

The March 2008 Tulsa, Oklahoma US Championship Qualifier had some interesting games from the perspective of chess theory. Let’s see some of these perpetual time pressure games (G/90 + 30 sec increment). Endings suffered, and opening familiarity rose to the foreground. See this background post for some Tulsa “glamor shots.”

GM Alex Yermolinksy – NM Movses Movsisyan, Round 2. Gruenfeld Defense.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be3 cxd4 Here, 8…Qa5 and 8…O-O are the most popular. Strangely, black plays a burst of natural but rare moves and emerges with a good game!

9.cxd4 Bg4 9…Qa5+ 10. Qd2 Qxd2+ was a quick draw in Groszpeter-Farago, Bibinje 2006, but white has a small edge after 11. Kxd2 Nc6 12. Rb1 (12. Rc1 was played).

10.Be2 Nc6 11.d5 (What else?) 11…Ne5 12.Nxe5 Bxe2 13.Qxe2 Bxe5

Position after 13…Bxe5.

14.Rd1?! Previously, the lame 14. Qb5+? Qd7 led nowhere in Gorshkov-Zilberstein, Sverdlovsk 1979, and drawn in 30 moves. However, 14. Rc1! looks more useful than the artificial text move. After all, 14. Rc1! Qa5+ 15. Qd2 Qxd2+ 16. Kxd2 with f2-f4 coming is a solid ending edge for white.

14…Qa5+ 15.Bd2 Qa4! With simple moves, black has achieved a good game against the experienced grandmaster. Note that Yermo provided several good wins of his vs. the Gruenfeld in his book “The Road to Chess Improvement.” This indicates that black’s particular Gruenfeld choice in this game warrants further study. Well, maybe not, since white did have the stronger 14. Rc1! in the game.

16.Bh6 Qb4+ After 16…Rc8 17. O-O Rc2, black has full equality. For example, 18. Qd3 Rxa2 19. Rc1 Ra3 20. Qe2 Ra2 21. Qf3 Ra3 is a perpetual attack on the queen and draw.

17.Kf1 Rc8 18.g3 Rc4 19.Re1 Bc3 19…Qa4! eyeing c2 is strong. Then, 20. Kg2 f6 makes an escape hatch for black’s king and once again he is happy.

20.Rc1 Rxe4?? Black ruins everything with a dreadful tactical oversight. 20…b5 was fine. For example, 21. f3 Be5 22. Kf2 Kd7! with equality.

21.Qc2 Rc4 22.Bg7! Oops. Undoubtedly overlooked by black. The rest of the game is technique.

22…Bxg7 23.Qxc4 Qxc4 24.Rxc4 Kd7 25.f4 b5 26.Rc6 Rb8 27.Ke2 b4 28.Ra6 Rb7 29.Rb1 Bc3 30.Kd3 Rc7 31.Rc1 Rc5 32.Rxa7+ Kd6 33.Ke2 33. a3 is a simple win. 33…Rxd5+ 34. Kc4! Rd4+ 35. Kb3 Rd3 36. axb4! Bd4+ 37. Kc4! does the trick. The text is fine too. White will win this.

33…Rxd5 34.Rd1 Rxd1 35.Kxd1 Bd4 36.Rb7 Bc5 37.Ke2 Kc6 38.Rb8 Kd5 39.Kd3 e5 40.fxe5 Kxe5 41.Rb7 Ke6 42.g4 Bd6 43.h3 h6 44.Ke4 f5+ 45.gxf5 gxf5+ 46.Kf3 Be7 47.Rb8 Kf6 48.Rg8 Bd6 49.h4! Iron-clad. 49…Kf7 50.Rg2 Be7 51.h5 Bg5 52.Rc2 Ke6 53.Rc6 Kd5 54.Rb6 Kc5 55.Rg6 Bd2 56.Ke2 Bc1 57.Rf6 Kb5 58.Rxf5 Ka4 59.Kd3 Bb2 60.Kc4 Bc3 61.Rd5 Ka3 62.Rd6 Kxa2 63.Rxh6 Bd2 64.Rd6 Bc3 65.h6 Kb2 66.h7 Kc2 67.Rh6 Bh8 68.Kxb4 Kd3 69.Re6 1-0

IM Blas Lugo – GM Jesse Kraai Round 4, French Exchange


1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4!? 5.Nxe4 Be7
A favorite treatment of GM Evgeny Bareev. This is not as quiet as it appears since the kings wind up on opposite sides often. It has the advantage of avoiding many long mainline theory variations.

6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Nf3 Nd7

Position after 7….Nd7. Decision Time.

8.Qd2 Maybe it’s just me, but I think a planned Bishop placement on d3 warrants a queen on e2 more than a queen on d2. For example, 8. Bd3 O-O 9. Qe2 c5!? 10. O-O-O cxd4 11. h4!? with ultra sharp play (eventually drawn) in Sutovsky-Ivanchuk, Moscow 2002. Both this plan and the text have been seen in dozens of games, of course.

8…O-O 9.O-O-O Be7 10.Bd3 b6 11.Kb1 The primitive 11. h4 turned out to be too slow in Suetin-Bareev, Hastings 1991, and black won after 11…Bb7 12 Kb1 Nf6. To give a counter-example, White won after 11. h4 Bb7 12. c3!? Nf6 13. Neg5 Bxf3 14. gxf3, but this position is equal after 14…Qd5. Black played 14…Kh8?! and lost in Topalov-Dreev, Linares 1995. The text move, on the other hand, also doesn’t promise much – only 3 draws in Chessbase’s BigBase. A more dangerous try is 11. Neg5!? which hopes for 11…h6? — after 11. Neg5 h6?, white scored +4 =0 -0 in ChessBase!

Position after 11. Neg5!? (Analysis). Black has to be careful.

But there’s a curiosity here: in Volokitin-P.H. Nielsen, Germany 2004, the game went 11. Neg5 h6 12. Bh7+ Kh8 13. Be4 which at first glance looks good for white. However, upon reflection doesn’t it look like black missed 13…hxg5 14. Bxa8 g4! and the threat of Be7-g5 wins material? We will come back to this. In the game, black played 13…Bxg5 14. Nxg5 Rb8 and lost. However, he was doing OK after 15. Nf3 Nf6 16. Bc6 Qd6 17. Ne5 Ng4! 18. Nxg4 Qc6 – he only lost due to later middlegame miscues. The truth about 13…hxg5? is revealed in another example, J. Polgar – F. Berkes, Budapest 2003, white introduced an incredible gambit: 12. Bh7+ Kh8 13. Be4 hxg5? 14. g4!! (not the greedy 14. Bxa8?) and now black faces complex problems. White stops black from playing g5-g4 and prepares to open the h-file. In the game, black lost after 14…Rb8 15. h4 g6 16. hxg5+ Kg7 17. Qf4 and white crashed through. The question is, can black live after 14. g4? Let’s take a look. First of all, 14….Ba6 15. h4! gxh4 16. g5! is crushing. For example, 16…Kg8 17. Rxh4 f5 (What else?) 18. Bc6 Rc8 19. Rdh1 Kf7 20. d5! and wins. Let’s go back to Berkes’s choice, 14…Rb8. 15. h4 and first we see that 15…gxh4? is bad: 16. g5 g6 17. Rxh4+ Kg7 18. Rdh1 Rg8 19. Rh7+ Kf8 20. Qf4! and wins.

So we go to Berkes choice, 15…g6 16. hxg5+ Kg7 17. Qf4. This is critical. We first notice that 17…Ba6 is crushed by a typical Judit Polgar brute-force tactic 18. Rh7+!! Kxh7 19. Qh2+ Kg8 20. Rh1 Bxg5+ 21. Nxg5 Qxg5+ 22. f4! and wins. We also notice that Berkes’s choice, 17…Bb7?, was crushed by the same tactic.

what about 17…Rh8!? – trying to defend on the h-file. There follows 18. Rxh8 Qxh8 (forced) 19. Ne5! and now black cannot take: 19…Nxe5? 20. Qxe5+ Kg8 21. Qxc7 Bxg5+ 22. Kb1 and the rook on b8 is trapped; white wins. And after 19…Qe8 20. Rh1! the lethal threat of 21. Nxf7! is introduced. Black still cannot take on e5 and hence is lost.

Going back to the beginning, 11. Neg5!? is best met by 11…Bxg5! and now 12. Qxg5 Qxg5+ 13. Nxg5 Nf6 is dead equal. Or, 12. Nxg5 Nf6 and black is OK and even won in B. Lopez-Kraai, San Diego 2004. That game continued 13. Qf4 Bb7 14. Rhe1 Qd6!? and here white disdained an equal ending after 15. Qxd6, opting for 15. Qh4 h6 16. Nf3 (16. Ne4! equal) Bxf3 17. gxf3 Nd5 18. Re4, eventually getting into trouble with the weak d4 pawn. White tried 13. h4!? in Sax-Dizdar, Celje 2003, and black reacted suspiciously with 13…c5?! 14. dxc5 Qd5 15. Kb1? Qxc5 equal. But white missed 15. Qf4!! Qxa2 16. Nxh7! Nxh7 17. Qe4 Nf6 18. Qxa8 Qa1+ 19. Kd2 Qxb2 20. Qxa7 and white keeps a small plus. Stronger is 13. h4 Bb7! and black is fine.

11…Bb7 12.Qf4 c5 In Sindik-Dizdar, Pula 1993, black introduced an idea similar to the game a little earlier: 12…Qb8!? 13. Qg3 c5! with good play. White can improve with 13. Ne5! c5 14. Bb5! Nf6 with sharp play after 15. Nxf6+ Bxf6 16. Rhe1 and now the Korchnoi pawn grab 16…Bxg2!?

13.dxc5 Qb8! Gambits in opposite-castled king positions are effective even in the ending! This is particularly true in the “perpetual time pressure” time control of G/90+30 sec. This motif, although it has been seen before, is ingenious and disconcerting for white. There is no more attack and white has to switch gears (notoriously difficult) to a defensive up-a-pawn but under pressure mode.

Position after 13….Qb8! – A gambit to reach an ending!

14.Qxb8 Raxb8 15.cxb6 Nxb6 16.b3? Correct is the solid but not particularly easy to find 16. Ned2! and then a defensive hunkering down. This would not create the glaring c3 weakness in the game. White would then have enough counter-chances.

16…Na4! Very unpleasant to meet in this time control. White probably overlooked this. The c3 square is now home for black’s knight.

17.Rde1 Bxe4 18.Bxe4 Nc3+ 19.Kb2 Bf6 This position is terrible for white.

20.Bd3 Ne4 21.Kb1 Nxf2 22.Rhf1 Nxd3 23.cxd3 Rfd8 24.Re3 a5 25.Ne5 Rd5? Correct is 25…Bxe5 26. Rxe5 a4! and black is on top. For example, 27. Kc2 axb3+ 28. axb3 Ra8 29. Kc3 Ra2 with a huge initiative.

26.Nc6 Rb7 27.Rg3 Kf8 28.Rf4! White is doing the right things now to get back in the game.

28...Be5 29.Nxe5 Rxe5 30.Rc4 f5 31.Rf3? 31. Kc1!

31…Ke7 31…Re2! is strong. 32.Rf2 Rd7 33.Kc2 Red5 34.Rf3 Kf6 35.Kc3 g5 36.d4? 36. h4! to reduce the number of pawns.

36…f4 37.a3 Kf5 Now black is gaining control again with his monstrously active king.

38.Rc5? White had to wait with 38. Rf2. The pseudo-active text is crushed.

38…g4 39.Rf1 e5! White probably underestimated this.

40.Rxd5 Rxd5 41.dxe5 Rxe5 42.Kd2 h5 43.b4 axb4 44.axb4 h4 45.Rb1 f3 46.gxf3 gxf3 47.b5 Kg4! The key move. White is lost.

48.b6 f2 49.b7 Re8 50.Rb4+ Kh3 51.Rb3 Kg2 52.b8Q Rxb8 53.Rxb8 f1Q 54.Re8 0-1

In more Round 4 action:

GM John Fedorowicz – FM Michael Langer Modern Benoni

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nf3 g6 7.Nd2 Nbd7 8.e4 Bg7 9.Be2 O-O 10.O-O Re8 11.a4 Ne5 12.Qc2 g5 13.Ra3 Fischer defeated the lame 13. Nf3?! Nxf3+ 14. Bxf3 h6 in Gligoric-Fischer, Palma de Mallorca 1970 Interzonal. White has equality here but Gligoric soon made a fatal tactical miscue. The text move is an idea of Petrosian’s; but will it “work” along the 3rd rank or get stuck?

Position after 13. Ra3. How useful will this rook be?

13…g4 14.Nd1 Ng6!? The very interesting 14…Nh5!? was seen in Antunac-Y. Gruenfeld, New York 1981, and black managed to win eventually. The game proceeded 15. Ne3 Nf4 16. Bd1 and black was very active. If 15. Re1 Nf4 16. Bf1 Neg6 and black is also OK and drew in 23 moves, Karolyi-Poloch, Leipzip 1984. The most active move, 15. f4!?, might be good for white but prior games misplayed both sides: 15…gxf3 16. Nxf3 Ng6?! 17. Ng5? (17. Bg5! with edge) and drawn eventually, Koualty-Renet Marseille 1988. Or 16…Nxf3+ 17. Bxf3 (17. Raxf3 is a white edge) 17…Be5?? 18. g3?? and white even lost in 40 moves, Nowak-Pokojowczyk Zielona Gora 1982. Black’s 17th move was complete bluff and white could win with the very nice 18. Bxh5 Qh4 19. Rg3+! (Ouch!) 19…Bxg3 20. Bxf7+ Kg7 21. hxg3 Qxe4 22. Bh6+!! Kxh6 23. Qc1+! Kg7 24. Qg5+ and now black must lose his queen with the sad 24…Qg6 – so it’s resignable.

Tentative Conclusion: 15. f4! is the best move after 14…Nh5!?

The natural move 14…Bd7!? is also very interesting. White gets in trouble after the lemon 15. Bb5? Bxb5 16. axb5 Qb6!. No edge for white is to be seen in this position. After the text move, black has enough counter-chances as well.

15.Ne3

Position after 15. Ne3.

15…Qe7?! 15…Nf4! is a good choice. Witness the nifty defusing tactic: 16. Bb5 Bd7! 17. Bxd7 (apparently gaining the monster square f5 for the knight) 17…Ne2+!! 18. Kh1 Qxd7 19. Nf5 Nd4! with equality. A very nice defensive motif. There is also 16. Bc4 and here is a crazy repetition draw line: 16. Bc4 Bd7 17. f3!? gxf3 18. Rxf3 Bh6 19. Kh1 Bg5 20. Rg3 N6h5 21. Rf3 Nf6 22. Rg3. Unforced, but you get the idea. Putting the queen opposite the white rook (soon to arrive on e1) will have nasty consequences in the game.

16.Bb5 Rd8 17.a5 Not much is accomplished by 17. f4 gxf3 18. Rxf3 a6 19. Bd3 Ne5 with equality.

17…Nf4 17…a6 is possible. If 18. Ba4 Nf4 19. Re1 with a small white edge.

18.Re1 h5 19.Qd1 h4? Again, the careful 19….a6 is good to include. For example, 20. Bf1 Re8 and all is well. More dangerous is 20. Ba4! Rb8 21. Bc2! with a latent attack in the works. The impulsive text is an example of going overboard in a Modern Benoni. Just because the opening is an active choice does not mean every single move has to be maximally active even at the cost of weakening.

20.Nf5! The punishment. Black’s king is too weak now.

20…Bxf5 21.exf5 Qf8 22.Ne4 N4xd5 23.Bg5 Note that 23. a6! is crushing.

23…Nxe4 24.Rxe4 Nf6 25.Bxf6 25. Re1 with the idea of Bxh4 would win easily also.

25…Bxf6 26.Rxg4+ Kh7 27.Qd5 Black is paralyzed.

27…Qe7 28.Re3 Qc7 29.Rxh4+ 29. Qe4 with the idea of 30. Rxh4+ was total butchery. The text also wins quickly.

29…Bxh4 30.f6 Kg6 31.Re7? 31. Bd3+ is a fast forced mate. 31…Kxf6 32. Qf5+ Kg7 33. Qh7+ Kf6 34. Qh6 mate. Accuracy is often a victim at this crazy time control (or maybe white was playing on black’s clock). Of course, the text wins easily as well.

31…Qxe7 32.fxe7 Bxe7 33.Bc4 Rf8 34.Qe4 Kf6 35.Qh4 Ke5 36.Qxe7 Kd4 37.Bf1 1-0

Let’s move on to a real barn burner between two strong Grandmasters.

Round 5. GM Goldin – GM Yermolinsky Slav Defense

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Be4 7.f3 Bg6 8.Qb3 Qc7

Position after 8…Qc7. To 9. g4 or not to 9. g4.

9.Bd2 GM Vadim Milov, a connoisseur of opening theory, played 9. g4!? here and won after 9…Be7 10. g5!? Nfd7 (10…dxc4!) 11. Nxg6 hxg6 12. f4 f6? (12…dxc4!) 13. Bd2 with a big edge; Milov-Rogozenko, Istanbul 2000. If black had played the correct dxc4! on either move 10 or move 12, he would have had equal chances. Goldin’s natural move has also been seen.

9…Be7 10.Nxg6 Karpov got nowhere with 10. g3 Bh5! and drawn in 31 moves, Karpov-Bacrot Cannes 2000. 10. cxd5!? looks stronger. After 10…cxd5 11. Nxg6 hxg6 12. Bd3 Nc6 13. O-O-O, black missed the mirror move 13…O-O-O! and lapsed with 13…a6, going on to lose in Malakhov-Volkov, Sochi 2004.

10…hxg6

Position after 10…hxg6. A very critical moment. To cackle or not to cackle?

11.Rc1 This is an important moment. Van Wely was successful twice (vs. Volkov and Sokolov) with 11. O-O-O! here. For example, 11. O-O-O Nbd7 12. cxd5! Nxd5 13. Kb1 Nxc3+ 14. Bxc3 and white is clearly better (Van Wely-Sokolov, Amsterdam 2002, and 1-0, 55 moves. Or, 11. O-O-O a6 12. Kb1 dxc4 13. Bxc4 b5 14. Bd3 Rxh2 and here, 15. Ne4! is strong with white advantage (15. g4?! was played, but white won a long game anyway, Van Wely-Volkov, Panormo 2002, 1-0, 79). After 11. O-O-O, 11…dxc4!? looks critical. 12. Bxc4 b5 13. Be2!? a6 14. Kb1?! was Tregubov-Bareev, and black won a tough struggle, 0-1 40 moves, Venacu 2006. It’s easy to find improvements for white. First of all, in the game, 14. e4! is strong (14…Rxh2? 15. e5! with a big edge). Secondly, the more active 13. Bd3!? (with Nc3-e4 ideas) is a tricky try one move earlier. Black’s position is very dangerous after 13…Rxh2 14. Qc2!. Conclusion: 11. O-O-O! is strong!

11…Nbd7 12.cxd5 exd5 12…Nxd5! is fine for black. For example, 13. e4 Nxc3 14. bxc3 Bh4+! (the point!) and black is happy.

13.e4 13. g3 Bd6 got white nowhere in Chiburdanidze-Zhukova, Istanbul 2000, and drawn in 16 moves.

13…dxe4 14.fxe4 Rxh2 14….Rd8! is perfectly good for black. The text is OK too but chances are still balanced. We are now out of book and it’s …. about even.

15.Rxh2 Qxh2 16.Qxb7 The computer move 16. e5 is playable. One humorous line is 16…Nxe5!? 17. dxe5 Qxe5+ 18. Kd1 Rd8 19. Qxb7?? Qf4! and wins.

16…Rb8 17.Qxc6 Rxb2 18.Nb5 Qh4+ 19.Kd1 Qf2

Position after 19…Qf2. White falls on his own Claymore.

20.Qa8+?? A horrific blunder that loses on the spot. 20. Qc8+! is drawn. For example, 20…Bd8 21. Be2 Qg1+ 22. Be1 Qe3 (or 22…Nxe4 23. Nc7+ Ke7 24. Nd5+ with a perpetual check) 23. Rc2! (guarded by the queen!) Rb1+ 24. Rc1 Rb2 25. Rc2 with a repetition. White must have missed something very simple.

20…Bd8 21.Be2 Qg1 22.Be1 Qxg2 Oops. There is no 23. Rc2 defense because the white queen is on a8, not c8. So white could already resign.

23.Bd2 Qg1 24.Be1 Qe3 25.Rc8 25. Nc7+ Ke7 is just a spite check.

25…Qxe2+ 26.Kc1 White has seen enough and resigns before black can play 26…Rxb5. An unusual collapse on Goldin’s part.

0-1

Here’s an important last round game – the winner qualified for the US Championship (to be held also in Tulsa). Once again the Gruenfeld triumphed.

IM Salvijus Bercys – GM John Fedorowicz Round 7, Gruenfeld Defense

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be3 Qa5 For 8…cxd4, see Yermolinsky-Movsisyan discussed above.

9.Qd2 O-O 10.Rc1 The most popular, but 10. Rb1 is a major alternative. Statistically, 10. Rb1 scores a little better.

10…Rd8 11.d5 e6 12.c4 Qxd2 13.Nxd2 b6 14.Be2 Na6 15.O-O GM Khenkin is a proponent of the weird 15. Nb1!?. After 15. Nb1 f5 16. f3 fxe4 17. fxe4 Bb2 18. Rd1 exd5 19. cxd5 Re8 the chances were balanced and the game was drawn in 24 moves, Khenkin-Gutman Bad Wiessee 2002.

15…Nb4 Still the mainline, we are following 18 games in ChessBase. Nevertheless, the position appears to promise zero for white so it’s a mystery why it has occurred so often.

16.a3 Na2 Black’s knight wanderings are actually very logical. White has proven nothing in practice starting from this point.

Position after 16…Na2. White has nothing.

17.Rc2 Nc3 18.Bd3 White plays a slightly less common move now. The most common move is the awkward looking 18. Bf3. However, black won after 18. Bf3 exd5 19. cxd5?? (19. exd5! Bf5 20. Rcc1 equal) 19…Ba6 20. Rfc1 Ne2+ 21. Bxe2 Bxe2 22. f3 Bd3 with an obvious advantage, R. Stone – Ilya Gurevich, Chicago 1992.

18…Ba6 19.Bg5 Some white players have preferred 19. Nb1? here, but it’s just a blunder after 19…exd5 20. Nxc3 d4 with a big black edge after 21. Nd5 dxe3 22. fxe3 Be5.

Position after 19. Bg5. Time for a surprise!

19…exd5!? TN I have not been able to locate this move, hence I am labeling it a Theoretical Novelty (TN). Previously seen was 19…Rd7!? and black has quite a good game. For example, 19…Rd7 20. Rfc1 h6 21. Bf4 exd5 22. Rxc3 Bxc3 23. Rxc3 g5 24. Bg3 dxc4 25. Nxc4 Rd4 26. Bf1 Rad8 27. f4?? Rxe4 and black went on to win, Tunik – Timofeev, St. Petersburg 2002. 27. f3! of course was correct with an equal game. The conclusion is that the entire line is harmless. White has to seek improvements earlier.

At this point, according to Monroi, black had spent 1 minute and 30 seconds executing all these moves! The sacrifice is made even more attractive by the fact black is not risking anything. His position is very solid after white grabs the exchange with the bishop pair and an extra pawn.

20.Bxd8 White, surprised, took 8 minutes on this and now had 1:02 remaining.

20…Rxd8 21.exd5 Nxd5 22.Re1 Nf4 23.Bf1? Passive. White only spent one minute on this clunker. 23. Be4! is clearly stronger. White is in no danger after 23…Ne6 24. Nf3 Bf6 25. g3. Or, 23…Nd3? 24. Bxd3 Rxd3 25. Re8+ and white is too active.

23…Ne6 24.Nb3 Weird. 24. Nf3 is more natural.

24…Bb7 25.a4?! White’s moves are all connected to a poor plan of queenside action. He could have still bailed out with 25. Rd2 and a likely draw.

25…a5 26.Ra2 Bc3 27.Rc1 Bb4 28.f3?! 28. Be2, guarding d1 and contemplating Rd1, looks better.

28…Bc6 29.Kf2 Kg7 30.Be2 Nd4 31.Nxd4 cxd4 32.Bd3 Re8 33.Be4? This move, losing a key pawn, is too cavalier and should just lose. Most players would just wait. However, black reacts inaccurately to give white one more chance on move 40.

33…Bxe4 34.fxe4 Rxe4 35.Rd1 Bc5 36.Rd3 f5 37.Re2 Kf6?! The clever 37….g5! is stronger here to rule out the white possibility mentioned in the note to white’s 40th move.

38.h3 h5?! And here, black had 38…Rf4+ and a later …g5, or 38…g5 right away. The idea is to take away h3-h4 for white.

39.Kf3 Ke5

Position after 39…Ke5. Last Chance.

40.Rd1? The last chance to resist was 40. h4! to hold black up on the kingside. White might even be able to hold the position with careful play; it’s up to black to demonstrate progress.

40…g5! Now it’s really all over. The rest is torture.

41.Rd3 Bb4 42.Rd1 Bc5 43.Rd3 g4+ 44.Kf2 h4 45.Kf1 Bb4 46.Rd1 Rxe2?! The simplest is 46… gxh3 47. gxh3 f4 with total domination.

47.Kxe2 Ke4 48.Rf1? Very bad. White has to try to hold the 3rd rank with 48. Rd3 and make black demonstrate a plan.

48…d3+ 49.Kd1 gxh3 50.gxh3 f4 51.Rg1 f3 52.Rg6 f2 53.Rf6 Bc5 White is paralyzed and gives up.

0-1

The Fabulous 00s: The 2008 US Championship Qualifier in Tulsa, OK

March 30, 2008

Tulsa!

The 2008 Qualifier was held in a restaurant-less roadside motel. Here’s a picture of a sushi train in the eponymously named nearby eaterie, Sushi Train.  See this post for some chess theory from the event.

sushi_train.jpg

The Sushi Train Comin’ to Getcha

Sushi Train was a hoot. The train circles the patrons continuously and it’s just one big fish pig-out. Ilya Gurevich and I used to go to a place in Japantown, San Francisco, with a similar (but smaller and less fancy) train. Sushi Train’s train was gaily decorated and had a little signal and warning bar that raised and lowered. It even had a locomotive with a little guy in there and a train-repair car! Of course, food critics might say “Fish in Tulsa??”

To get to Sushi Train, it was necessary to cross several major intersections. Chess players were often seen clutching their equipment bags and running for their life after “overlooking” some people had a green left turn arrow. Other attractions in the area included KMart, Chili’s, a boobie barn named “Tabu” and a rock music nightclub in the playing site. The playing site, some sort of Best Western, had no restaurant, opting for a rather bizarre “club only” option. Here’s a picture of the boobie barn which was conveniently located near a diamond wholesaler that was going out of business. Thus, a possible course of action is to pick up a 70% discounted diamond then head over to Tabu with some nice tips for the dancers in the form of loose stones.

boobie_barn.jpg

The Boobie Barn “Tabu” it’s the hut under the Forced Liquidation Sign

Chess?

My own games were a dismal collection. After the “high” of Foxwoods, I had a “bummer”. Too many games packed into each day, an endless assortment of bad take out food (Fedorowicz looked at my gruel-like soup that I was slurping out of a styrofoam container and said “Looks Good”) and a nerve-wracking time control (G/90 + 30 sec delay) led to numerous shall we say sub-optimal resuls. For example, in Round 1 I lost to Coleman. FM Teddy Coleman? No, an expert, Maxx Coleman. My ingenious opening combination led to the immediate loss of a piece which he of course overlooked. The blunder fest continued with me walking into a knight fork. Bravo! After a few wins, I pulled up lame again with a loss to a candidate master, overlooking a one-mover in a slightly superior ending with no losing chances. Bravo!

There were a few chessic things worth mentioning.

Hanken Parts with the Dude

Round 1 saw a wipeout – GM Alex Yermolinsky dropped the People’s Elbow on Jerry Hanken when Jerry ignored every basic opening principle. You can’t do that against GMs. Hanken “parted with the Dude” (his own King) in short order on the white side of a Catalan, which is rather difficult to do.

Jerry Hanken – GM Alex Yermolinsky Round 1. A Catalan Not to Be Emulated.

1.c4 e6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.Qa4 Nbd7 6.O-O a6 7.Qxc4 b5 8.Qc2 Bb7 9.d4 c5 10.Bg5 I believe this position was discussed in GM Beliavsky’s autobiography, Uncompromising Chess. But not the way this game develops.

10…Rc8 11.Qd1 h6 12.Bc1?? Ugh. Never anti-develop versus a GM.

12…Qb6 13.Nc3 cxd4 14.Qxd4 Bc5 15.Qh4 Ke7 16.g4 Ugh. 16…g5 17.Qh3 Qc7 18.Ne1 Ne5 19.Bf3 Rcg8 20.Nd3 Nxf3 21.exf3 Bd6 22.Ne4 Nxe4 23.fxe4 Bxe4 24.Ne1 h5 25.f3 Grotesque. A computer would have resigned. 25…hxg4 26.Bxg5 Rxg5 27.Qxh8 gxf3 0-1 I haven’t seen such senseless butchery since watching the CNN evening news.

Squelching the Moptop

Then in Round 2 we had a very instructional sequence. IM Josh Friedel in a very Russian-styled (think Lein of the old days) game neutralized and then tortured young Daniel Naroditsky when Daniel played a very slow King’s Indian “Attack” as white and then horribly weakened his own f4 square with an instructive positional mistake. That is a very youthful mistake; once a youth makes it, he or she remembers and it tends not to happen again! Trips to Russia will teach one how to play in that grand CCCP-torture mode. Here is the game:

FM Daniel Naroditsky – IM Josh Friedel Round 2 King’s Indian “Attack”

1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c6 Many Russians play 2…Bg4 right away here.

3.Bg2 Bg4 4.O-O Nd7 5.d3 e5 6.Nbd2 Ngf6 7.e4 Bd6 8.c3 O-O 9.Qc2 Re8 10.h3 Bh5 11.Re1 Bf8 12.a4 a5 13.Nf1 This already is a bit suspect. What’s the horse doing?

13…dxe4 14.dxe4 Nc5 15.g4?? The moptop plays a dreadful move that causes no end of torture for himself.

15…Bg6 16.Ng3 Qd3! Of course. Now it’s cake for black. White just isn’t having any fun at all; why is the word ‘attack’ in this opening treatment?

17.Qxd3 Nxd3 18.Re2 Nd7 19.Nh4 N7c5 20.Be3 Rad8 21.Nxg6 hxg6 22.Nf1 Nb3 23.Rb1 Bc5 24.Bf3 Bxe3 25.Rxe3 Nf4

Total domination. A slightly older kid might resign right now with such a bishop battling such a knight.

26.Kh2 Nd2 27.Nxd2 Rxd2 28.Kg3 g5 29.b4 axb4 30.Rxb4 Re7 31.Rb6 Red7 32.Re1 Rc2 33.Rb3 Ne6 34.Rd1 Rxd1 35.Bxd1 Rc1 36.Bf3 Nc5 37.Ra3 Rc2 38.a5 Kf8 39.Bg2 Rb2 40.f3 Rb3 41.Ra2 Rxc3 42.Kf2 Rc4 43.a6 bxa6 44.Bf1 Ra4 45.Rc2 Ra5 46.Rb2 Ke7 47.Rb8 Ra2 48.Kg3 Ra3 49.Kg2 a5 50.Ra8 f6 51.Ra7 Kd6 52.Rxg7 Rc3 53.Rf7 Nd7 54.Ba6 a4 55.Bc8 Nb6 56.Bf5 a3 57.Rxf6 Kc5 58.Rf7 Nc4 59.Ra7 Rc2 60.Kg3 Ne3 61.f4 Nf1 62.Kf3 gxf4 0-1

Greed Should Not Be Good

In Round 3, a perplexing situation arose in a Sicilian versus NM Erik Santarius:

E. Santarius (2203) – IM M. Ginsburg Tulsa Qualifier, Round 3. Sicilian Scheveningen.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 I am gaining confidence with this move after the epic Becerra encounter from Foxwoods 2008.

6. Bd3 Unusual and a little clunky and self-blocking. 6…Nc6! This must be the right reaction.

7. Be3 7. Nxc6 bxc6 promises zero.

7….Be7 8. f3 O-O 9. Qe2 Nxd4! A standard freeing strategem.

10. Bxd4 e5 11. Be3 Be6 Black has his share of the center and the chances are balanced. After all, white has not even managed to castle in either direction yet. But now the game takes a very strange turn.

12. Bc4!? Rc8 13. Bxe6?! I would prefer 13. Bb3 keeping an eye on things. I had no idea what he was up to at this point but it was really the next move that was the absolute shocker.

13…fxe6 14. Bxa7??! Oh. My. God. Did he really take that pawn? Never would I have guessed that any opponent no matter what rating would take this pawn. I don’t usually look at my opponent, but this time I had to take a quick glance to see if he had gone non compos mentis. He looked normal so my sanity check didn’t work. The text seemed at the time to be totally nuts and/or the product of a bad computer program circa 1990. Can he really do that? At the time, I thought “No way!”. He’s not castled, I have possibilities of Rxc3 and Qa5 with a subsequent d6-d5 breakout, or b6 trapping the guy long-term, or Qa5 right away keeping b6 in reserve, or d6-d5 right away keeping Rxc3 and Qa5 in reserve. So many juicy and titillating choices! Running computer programs on the position is a real mother-lode of interesting possibilities now, so in practical terms his pawn snatch really puts the onus on me to be accurate in a very limited time setting (Game/90 + 30 sec delay was the time control).

The variations now are incredible – the hunt for punishment for this move takes a number of twists and turns.

Readers: I will complete this game post soon; for the time being, just look and decide what you think is Black’s best here. Can I punish this audacious, un-castled, pawn grab? Signs point to yes, yes? So what’s the right move?

santo_0.png

Position after 14. Bxa7??! – How to punish the greed?

Before posting the rest, I will just note that the game was drawn, with black barely holding a bad ending with R&active N vs RR.

4/3/08: As promised, here is the rest of the game.

14…Rxc3? Not a good reaction. First of all, black has 14… b6!? – a good move and ambitious. 15. Qa6 (15. Nb5 Qd7 16. a4 Ra8 17. a5 bxa5 18. Rxa5 Rfb8!! Black would need good tactics to see this move way ahead of time. Black is now slightly better. 19. O-O Rb7 20. c4 Bd8 21. Ra6 Rbxa7 22. Nxa7 Rxa7 23. Rxa7 Qxa7+ 24. Kh1 Bb6 25. b4 Bd4 26. b5 Nd7 and black is very good. Or, 15. a4 Rxc3! 16. bxc3 Qc7 17. Qe3 Qxa7 18. a5 Nd7 19. O-O d5 and again black is doing well. I did not see the shot on my 14th move. Returning to 15. Qa6, 15… Nd7 16. a4 Bh4+!? (16… Rxc3 17. bxc3 Qc7 18. Ke2 Qxc3! The strongest. Black is a little better.) 17. g3 Rxf3 18. a5 Re3+ 19. Kf2 Nc5 20. Qb5 Qg5 and now let’s show a nice sample variation: 21. Ne2 Nxe4+ 22. Kg2 Nxg3 23. hxg3 Rxg3+ 24. Kf2 Qe3+ 25. Kf1 Rf3+ 26. Kg2 Qf2 mate.

Black also has the tantalizing 14… d5?! – at the time, I thought about this move quite a bit with the idea of Rxc3 next. However, white maintains an edge if I take the n/c3 next turn and I did not understand that. There might follow 15. exd5 exd5! This simple recapture never occurred to me. It’s about equal. (I had focused on 15… Rxc3? 16. bxc3 Qa5 and this is refuted by 17. Qxe5! Qxa7 18. Qxe6+ Rf7 19. Rd1 and White is simply better here. Black has no avenues of attack.) 16. O-O-O (An important variation is 16. O-O!? b6 17. Nb5 Bc5+ 18. Kh1 e4 19. a4 Nh5 A very nice slow-motion positional move, ignoring the queenside piece formation. 20. g3 (20. a5 Nf4 21. Qd1 e3 22. Nc3 bxa5 23. Bxc5 Rxc5 24. Re1 d4 25. Ne2 Ne6 26. Qd3 Qd6 27. Kg1 Rg5 28. Qe4 Rb8 29. b3 Re5) 20… Qd7 21. f4 Qh3 with a mess.

Returning to 16. O-O-O, 16… Rxc3 17. bxc3 Qa5 18. Bf2 Qxc3 19. Kb1 Qb4+ 20. Kc1 Qa3+ 21. Kb1 Bb4?? loses, 22. Qxe5 Bc3 23. Qe6+ Kh8 24. Qb6 Cold shower! White wins. This means black should take the perpetual check draw.

There also is 14… Qa5 , a fine, solid choice. White has to play 15. Bf2 — if 15. Qe3?? Nd7! and oops! White loses the bishop on a7 and the game. I don’t even think I saw this simple possibility – it’s a nice trap.

White has another inferior choice, 15. Be3?! This is dubious, but it takes sharp vision to know why. The answer is 15… d5! and NOT 15… Rxc3?? 16. Bd2! – oops!

After 15….d5!, 16. Bd2 Qc5 17. exd5 exd5 : in this bizarre scenario, white cannot castle in either direction. If the greedy 18. Qxe5? Bd6 19. Qf5 Rce8+ 20. Kd1 (20. Kf1 Ne4! wins) 20… Qf2! and White’s position crumbles. For example, 21. Qg5 (21. Qh3 d4 22. Ne4 Nxe4 23. fxe4 Rxe4 24. Qd3 Qxg2 25. Re1 Qg4+ 26. Kc1 Rxe1+ 27. Bxe1 Bf4+ 28. Kb1 Re8 {A total rout; white must resign.}) 21…Re5 22. Qg3 Re1+ 23. Bxe1 Qd4+ 24. Kc1 Bxg3 25. Bxg3 Qc4!! A beautiful tactic. It shows how black has to open the game versus the loose, uncastled, WK in order to win.

Returning to the game,

15. bxc3 Qa5 16. Qe3! d5 17. a4 Qb5 This position is worse for black than I thought during the game.

18. Bc7?! Indicated is 18. a4 Qc4 (18… Qc6 19. O-O d4 20. Bxd4! exd4 21. cxd4! and white is much better – black’s minor pieces have no perspectives) 19. Qd3 Qc6 20. Ba5 with white edge.

18… Nd7? Correct is 18… dxe4! with full counterplay. This simple move was simply not on my radar.

19. exd5 exd5 20. a4? The grab 20. Bxe5! is correct and black cannot exploit the WK. White should win that.

20…Qc6 21. Ba5 e4 22. Bb4 Bh4+ 23. Kd1 Re8 24. Rf1 Bf6 25. a5 h6? Bad move! This game really showed a lot of inaccuracies in such a short time, on both sides.

Correct is 25… Ne5! and black is all right.: 26. Qc5 (26. fxe4 dxe4 27. Qc5 Qe6 28. Kc1 Nc4 29. Qh5 e3 30. Qe2 Rc8 {Full positional compensation.}) 26… Qe6 27. Re1 Nc4 28. Qb5 Bg5 29. Qxb7 Ne3+ 30. Kc1 exf3 31. Kb2 f2 32. Rxe3 Bxe3 33. a6 Qf7 and it is equal.

26. f4! Of course. White has control again.

26…Rc8 27. Rf2 Qc4 28. Qe2 Bxc3 29. Qxc4 Rxc4 30. Bxc3 Rxc3 31. Rb1 e3 32. Rf3 Nc5 33. Rb4 Kf7 34. f5 Kf6 Of course black should lose but in this crazy time control (G/90 + 30 sec increment), well played endings are impossible.

35. Rg4 Ra3 36. Ke2 Rxa5 37. Rxe3 Ra2 38. Rc3 Ne4 39. Rc7 Kxf5 40. Rgxg7 b5 41. Kd3 Ra1 42. Ke2 b4 43. Rgf7+ Ke5 44. Rf1 Ra2 45. Re1 Kd4 46. Kf3 Nc3 47. Rc1 Ra6 48. Rf7 Re6 49. Rf4+ Kc5 50. Ra1 d4 51. Ra5+ Kc4 52. Rff5? In time pressure, white missed 52. Ra8! Re3+ 53. Kg4 Re2 54. Rc8+ Kd5 55. Rd8+ Kc5 56. Rf5+ Kc6 57. Rxd4 Rxg2+ 58. Kh3 Rxc2 59. Rc4+ Kd7 60. Rxb4 and wins. Not an easy variation.

52… Re3+ Immediately equal was 52… b3 53. cxb3+ Kxb3 =

53. Kg4 b3 54. cxb3+ Kxb3 55. Rf2 d3 56. Ra6 Ne4 Black tricks himself with 56… h5+ 57. Kxh5 Ne4 58. Rf8 d2 59. Rd8 Re2 60. Rc6 Nc3 61. Rd3!! and wins.

57. Kf4 Re1 58. Re6?! White can dance around and eventually prevail with 58. Rf3 Nc5 59. Rc6 Kb4 60. Rf2 Nb3 61. Rb6+Kc4 62. Rd6 Kc3 63. Rd8 Nc5 64. Kg4 Re2 65. Kf3. However, he had very little time and decided to go for the easy draw.

58… Nxf2 59. Rxe1 d2 60. Rf1 Kc3 61. g4 Kd3 62. Kf3 d1=Q+ 63. Rxd1+ Nxd1 64. h4 Ne3 65. Kf4 Ng2+ 66. Kf5 Nxh4+ 67. Kf6 Nf3 68. Kg6 1/2-1/2 Almost to the proverbial last pawn.

Dealing with the Semi-Slav Harshly

In the entire Tulsa event, I had one bright spot in a game vs. Conrad Holt:

IM M. Ginsburg – C. Holt, Tulsa Qualifier 2008. Round 4. Slav Defense.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. g3!? I like this gambit idea without the knight yet on c3. Magnus Carlsen had some nice wins with this line recently. In particular, I believe he dispatched the veteran GM Lajos Portisch rather convincingly.

4…Bf5 5. Bg2 e6 6. O-O Nbd7 7. Nc3 Bd6 8. Nh4 Bg4 9. h3 Bh5 It’s useful to put bishop a little offside. White shouldn’t go crazy, though, and expose his own king to attack.

10. Qb3 Rb8 10…Qb6 11. c5! is no fun at all for black. After 11…Qxb3 12. axb3, b3-b4-b5 happens.

11. cxd5! The right moment. Now black cannot take back with a pawn and so must take with the knight, and this concedes white a big center.

holt_0.png

Position after 11. cxd5! – I am at least doing something right this tournament.

11…Nxd5 12. e4 Nxc3 13. bxc3 O-O 14. f4 b5 15. Nf3 Bxf3 White forced this concession. The two bishops will become very powerful when the game opens up.

16. Bxf3 c5 Black is doing his best to make counterplay. Now I hatch a very strong idea to defuse black’s principal idea of b5-b4.

17. e5 Be7 18. f5! The key idea. White must attack quickly and open the game for the bishops.

holt_1.png

Position after 18. f5! – Hurry-up offense.

18…exf5?! I would prefer not taking although white is clearly better. The text gives up the d5 outpost.

19. Bf4! g5? Suicide and a move I did not really expect to see. Any other move defending against e6 would be better.

20. Be3 b4 21. Qc2! Black is now toast due to the threat of Qxf5 and Be4, mating. The rest of the game is a mop-up with the bishop pair showing some stylish variations near the end.

21…Qb6 22. Qxf5 Qe6 23. Qe4! The threat of Bg4 is lethal.

23…Qxh3 24. Rf2 Qh6 25. Bg4 Rbd8 Now, with a big time edge, I got confused. Can I win/mate with 26. Rh2 Qg7 27. Bf5 h6 28. Kg2 with the idea of doubling rooks on the h-file and jettisoning my c- and d-pawns? Suppose I calculate wrong? Things get kind of sharp. More perplexing, after black takes on c3 and proceeds to take on d4, I might be able to recapture on d4. But this doubling on the h-file looked so primitive! In the end, I decided just to advance my monster center pawn duo.

26. d5 (!) The simplest. 26…Rfe8 To guard against d6 winning the bishop.

27. Raf1 Bd6 28. e6! Crushing.

28…fxe6 29. Bxe6+ Kh8 30. cxb4! It’s always nice to be able to afford moves like this. White is simply playing to get on the a1-h8 diagonal.

30…Bxg3 31. bxc5 So obvious it does not merit an exclamation. 31…Bxf2+ 32. Rxf2 Nf6

holt_2.png

Position after 32…Nf6

33. Bd4! A little embarrassing would be 33. Rxf6? Qxf6 34. Bd4 Rxe6! – a nice and unusual trick exploiting various pins – allowing black to play on after 35. Bxf6+ Rxf6 36. Qe7 Rdf8. White might win, but why bother? The text puts black in a terminal bind.

33…Rf8 34. c6 Qg7 35. Qe5 Nh5 36. c7! With utter destruction. Black resigned. If only my other Tulsa games were coherent.

1-0

More Photos!

Some Tulsa-ites (Tulsites?) (Tulsians?) (Tulipers?) (Tulsonians?) have a social conscience!

Tulsans against the War

A Tulsonian Makes Her Stand

Grandmaster Goldin doesn’t know what to do order in the fast food grill joint! (inconveniently, across a frontage road from the site, but for $2 Tulsa burgers, this is the place.

Goldin in the Grill Joint

What the Hell is this Strange Menu? Emu Burger? Yak Filet?

Tulsa had a strange habit of putting micro-ads into the scrub grass. These little signs only attracted the attention of vagrants, transients, and chess players staggering along the highway frontage road.

Here are some of the odd signs.

4 Handed Massage?!

Intriguing. I will call.

Trees are Good

Oh Yeah! Tulsa supports the Occasional Tree Amongst the Billboards!

Even More Chess!

There were many interesting games played.

Here’s a fascinating tangle from Round 4.

IM Blas Lugo – GM Jesse Kraai French Exchange


1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4!? 5.Nxe4 Be7
A favorite treatment of GM Evgeny Bareev. This is not as quiet as it appears since the kings wind up on opposite sides often. It has the advantage of avoiding many long mainline theory variations.

6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.Qd2 O-O 9.O-O-O Be7 10.Bd3 b6 11.Kb1 The primitive 11. h4 turned out to be too slow in Suetin-Bareev, Hastings 1991, and black won after 11…Bb7 12 Kb1 Nf6. To give a counter-example, White won after 11. h4 Bb7 12. c3!? Nf6 13. Neg5 Bxf3 14. gxf3, but this position is equal after 14…Qd5. Black played 14…Kh8?! and lost in Topalov-Dreev, Linares 1995. The text move, on the other hand, also doesn’t promise much – only 3 draws in Chessbase’s BigBase. A more dangerous try is 11. Neg5!? which hopes for 11…h6? — after 11. Neg5 h6?, white scored +4 =0 -0 in ChessBase! But there’s a curiosity here: in Volokitin-P.H. Nielsen, Germany 2004, the game went 11. Neg5 h6 12. Bh7+ Kh8 13. Be4 which at first glance looks good for white. However, at first glance black missed 13…hxg5 14. Bxa8 g4! and the threat of Be7-g5 wins material for black! In the game, black played 13…Bxg5 14. Nxg5 Rb8 and lost. However, he was doing OK after 15. Nf3 Nf6 16. Bc6 Qd6 17. Ne5 Ng4! 18. Nxg4 Qc6 – he only lost due to later middlegame miscues. The truth about 13…hxg5? is revealed in another example, J. Polgar – F. Berkes, Budapest 2003, white introduced an incredible gambit: 12. Bh7+ Kh8 13. Be4 hxg5? 14. g4!! (not the greedy 14. Bxa8?) and now black faces complex problems. White stops black from playing g5-g4 and prepares to open the h-file. In the game, black lost after 14…Rb8 15. h4 g6 16. hxg5+ Kg7 17. Qf4 and white crashed through. The question is, can black live after 14. g4? Let’s take a look. First of all, 14….Ba6 15. h4! gxh4 16. g5! is crushing. For example, 16…Kg8 17. Rxh4 f5 (What else?) 18. Bc6 Rc8 19. Rdh1 Kf7 20. d5! and wins. Let’s go back to Berkes’s choice, 14…Rb8. 15. h4 and first we see that 15…gxh4? is bad: 16. g5 g6 17. Rxh4+ Kg7 18. Rdh1 Rg8 19. Rh7+ Kf8 20. Qf4! and wins.

So we go to Berkes choice, 15…g6 16. hxg5+ Kg7 17. Qf4. This is critical. We first notice that 17…Ba6 is crushed by a typical Judit Polgar brute-force tactic 18. Rh7+!! Kxh7 19. Qh2+ Kg8 20. Rh1 Bxg5+ 21. Nxg5 Qxg5+ 22. f4! and wins. We also notice that Berkes’s choice, 17…Bb7?, was crushed by the same tactic.

what about 17…Rh8!? – trying to defend on the h-file. There follows 18. Rxh8 Qxh8 (forced) 19. Ne5! and now black cannot take: 19…Nxe5? 20. Qxe5+ Kg8 21. Qxc7 Bxg5+ 22. Kb1 and the rook on b8 is trapped; white wins. And after 19…Qe8 20. Rh1! the lethal threat of 21. Nxf7! is introduced. Black still cannot take on e5 and hence is lost.

Going back to the beginning, 11. Neg5!? is best met by 11…Bxg5! and now 12. Qxg5 Qxg5+ 13. Nxg5 Nf6 is dead equal. Or, 12. Nxg5 Nf6 and black is OK and even won in B. Lopez-Kraai, San Diego 2004. That game continued 13. Qf4 Bb7 14. Rhe1 Qd6!? and here white disdained an equal ending after 15. Qxd6, opting for 15. Qh4 h6 16. Nf3 (16. Ne4! equal) Bxf3 17. gxf3 Nd5 18. Re4, eventually getting into trouble with the weak d4 pawn. White tried 13. h4!? in Sax-Dizdar, Celje 2003, and black reacted suspiciously with 13…c5?! 14. dxc5 Qd5 15. Kb1? Qxc5 equal. But white missed 15. Qf4!! Qxa2 16. Nxh7! Nxh7 17. Qe4 Nf6 18. Qxa8 Qa1+ 19. Kd2 Qxb2 20. Qxa7 and white keeps a small plus. Stronger is 13. h4 Bb7! and black is fine.

11…Bb7 12.Qf4 c5 In Sindik-Dizdar, Pula 1993, black introduced an idea similar to the game: 12…Qb8!? 13. Qg3 c5! with good play. White can improve with 13. Ne5! c5 14. Bb5! Nf6 with sharp play after 15. Nxf6+ Bxf6 16. Rhe1 and now the Korchnoi pawn grab 16…Bxg2!?

13.dxc5 Qb8! Gambits in opposite-castled king positions are effective even in the ending! This is particularly true in the “perpetual time pressure” time control of G/90+30 sec.

14.Qxb8 Raxb8 15.cxb6 Nxb6 16.b3? Correct is the solid 16. Ned2! and hunkering down. This would not create the c3 weakness in the game.

16…Na4! Very unpleasant to meet in this time control. White probably overlooked this.

17.Rde1 Bxe4 18.Bxe4 Nc3+ 19.Kb2 Bf6 This position is terrible for white.

20.Bd3 Ne4 21.Kb1 Nxf2 22.Rhf1 Nxd3 23.cxd3 Rfd8 24.Re3 a5 25.Ne5 Rd5? Correct is 25…Bxe5 26. Rxe5 a4! and black is on top. For example, 27. Kc2 axb3+ 28. axb3 Ra8 29. Kc3 Ra2 with a huge initiative.

26.Nc6 Rb7 27.Rg3 Kf8 28.Rf4! White is doing the right things now to get back in the game.

28...Be5 29.Nxe5 Rxe5 30.Rc4 f5 31.Rf3? 31. Kc1!

31…Ke7 31…Re2! is strong. 32.Rf2 Rd7 33.Kc2 Red5 34.Rf3 Kf6 35.Kc3 g5 36.d4? 36. h4! to reduce the number of pawns.

36…f4 37.a3 Kf5 Now black is gaining control again with his monstrously active king.

38.Rc5? White had to wait with 38. Rf2. The pseudo-active text is crushed.

38…g4 39.Rf1 e5! White probably underestimated this.

40.Rxd5 Rxd5 41.dxe5 Rxe5 42.Kd2 h5 43.b4 axb4 44.axb4 h4 45.Rb1 f3 46.gxf3 gxf3 47.b5 Kg4! The key move. White is lost.

48.b6 f2 49.b7 Re8 50.Rb4+ Kh3 51.Rb3 Kg2 52.b8Q Rxb8 53.Rxb8 f1Q 54.Re8 0-1

The Fabulous 00s: The Magic and Delight of Foxxxwoods, Connecticut

March 20, 2008

Nostalgia First

Here’s a photo from Lone Pine 80. Note the fancy name tags.

I have the black pieces and I’m playing Lev Alburt (who had recently defected from the USSR) and in the background is future IM Steve Odendahl from Maryland. It looks like we’re playing in a brick penitentiary but that was in fact the Lone Pine, CA, playing hall. See this post for more Lone Pine games and photos. The actual Alburt game was very exciting and featured the bizarre 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 e4 5. Ng5 Bf5 6. g4!? Old Indian sub-variation. It’s called the “Ukrainian Variation” in some books. My lifetime record with this: unclear then lost (Alburt), clearly better then lost (Benjamin), slightly better then lost (Dlugy), and somewhat worse then won (Ashley).

lonepine80.jpg

Lev Alburt playing a hippie, Lone Pine 1980. The Ukrainian Variation is about to unfold.

Fun At Foxwoods!

Now that we have Lone Pine out of our system (it is sadly defunct), we have to find a “new” Lone Pine. Bill Goichberg’s Foxwoods tournament is quite the spectacular event, at the massive Pequot Indian tribal casino complex.

The Open section just got underway Wednesday, March 19, 2008. I noticed in the hallway stalwart Manhattanites Jay Bonin and Nick Conticello. I also spotted in Round 1 blast from the past British Grandmaster Keith Arkell! And a Grandmaster I played when he was a little kid, Mark Paragua from the Philippines.

Some Games

My first game was rather humorous:

IM M. Ginsburg – O. Iwu (2190) Slav, 5…Na6

1. c4 c6 My opponent was 47 minutes tardy. A note for norm hunters: a forfeit in a 9 round Swiss destroys all norm hopes. 2. d4 d5 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Na6!? An old favorite of Hort and Smyslov.

iwu_0.png

5…Na6. It’s been tried by the greats.

6. e4 Bg4 Strangely, 6…Be6!? is interesting here. 7. Ng5 Qd7 is playable.

7. Bxc4 e6 8. Be3 Nb4 9. a5! Black should not be allowed to play the cementing …a7-a5.

9… Be7?!

Black should have taken this chance for 9…Bxf3 doubling the white pawns and leading to only a small edge for white. Still, after 10. gxf3 Be7 11. Ra4! white is better.

10. Be2! O-O 11. O-O Qc7 12. Qb3 b5 13. a6 Rac8 14. Rfc1 Qb8 15. h3 Bh5 16. g4! Bg6 17. Ne5! Now white’s edge is increasing.

iwu_1.png


Position after 17. Ne5!

17… Rfd8 18. g5 Nd7 19. Nxg6 White had the strong alternative 19. Nxd7! Rxd7 20. h4! with an obvious edge after 20…h6 or 20…h5 21. gxh6, as my opponent pointed out after the game, but I was focused on exploiting the white squares as occurred in the game.

19…hxg6 20. Rd1? 20. Kg2 is the most accurate here. The text allows a bizarre equalizing shot for black on move 21.

20…Nb6 21. h4 Na8? Fiddling while Rome burns. This idea of rounding up the a6 pawn is way too slow and white proceeds to destroy black’s king position. Surprisingly, black has the shot 21…Nc4! here with equality. If white is not careful he can even be worse after 22. Bxc4? bxc4 23. Qxc4 Nc2 24. Rab1 Nxe3 and ooops! The black queen is coming to g3 with check and utter ruination. If white had played the suggested 20th move, 20. Kg2!, the g3 square is covered and none of this works. The moral is, when advancing pawns in front of one’s own king, watch out for these types of surprise tactics!

22. h5 Nc7? 22….gxh5 23. g6! is the point! GM Bologan butchered me once with this motif and the painful memory is not easily forgotten. Still, 22…gxh5 was forced and the text loses quickly.

23. hxg6 Nbxa6 24. gxf7+ Kxf7 25. g6+! White had another nice win: 25. Rxa6! Nxa6 26. g6+ transposing, or even 26. Bh5+ g6 27. Bxg6+ and wins.

25…Kxg6 Everything is hopeless already. 25…Ke8 26. Rxa6 crushes black.

26. Rxa6 Nxa6 27. Qxe6+ Bf6 28. Bh5+! A nice finishing shot. 28…Kxh5 29. Qf7+ (29. Qf5+ wins similarly) 29… Kg4 (or Kh4) 30. Kg2 mates. Or, 28….Kh7 leads to a famous chimney mating pattern after 29. Bf7!. Of course, 28. e5 won too but the mating attack text is way more aesthetic.

iwu_final.png

Position after 28. Bh5+! – mate is forced.

Black resigned.

1-0

In other first round weirdness, Chris Williams beat Shabalov as black when Alex hung his key center pawn.

The second round also saw strangeness:

FM N. Rogers – IM M. Ginsburg Sicilian Paulsen

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Nc3 a6 4. d4 4. g3!? is a very dangerous try that I like. I used it against GM Emil Anka in Las Vegas and only drew, but white has good chances. Dmitry Schneider beat me in a tough game, Miami Chess International 2007, with the line 4. g3 b5 5. d3!? – I like the more crazy aggressive 4. g3 b5 5. Bg2 Bb7 6. d4 to try to sac with an early Nc3-d5 in many positions. I had one positive experience defending, defeating Omar Cartagena as black in San Francisco Dake Memorial 1999, but overall it’s a good try.

4…cxd4 5. Nxd4 Qc7 6. Bd3 Nf6 7. O-O b5 Black has to play very actively or else white will just aim for the rote buildup with Qe2, f4, Bd2, Rae1, and break with e4-e5.

8. Qe2 Bb7!? I saw Charbonneau do this against De Firmian in a similar position; black does not fear 9. e5 Nd5. Pascal won that game which is a good advertisement. Weaker would be 8…d6?! which gives white a free hand.

9. Bg5 b4 10. Nd1 Be7 11. c3 h6! 12. Bh4 Nc6! I have fully equalized.

13. Rc1? I had seen the possibility of this happening but was surprised to see it appear on the board.

13…Nxd4 White resigns — the rook on c1 became unguarded when the bishop moves to h4 on move 12. Note the clumsy knight on d1.

0-1

In other second round news of note, Lenderman once again tried his lousy Smith-Morra gambit; NM Dougherty from Canada was doing well for a while but when I left the playing hall after my exertions Dougherty seemed to be losing the handle of things. Gulko should give a world-wide web lecture on the black side of this gambit.

Round 3.

I was white against GM Eugene Perelshteyn and he surprised me with a variation of the King’s Indian I had never seen before.

IM M. Ginsburg – GM E. Perelshteyn King’s Indian Defense, 6…Na6 line

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. d4 O-O 6. Be2 Na6 7. O-O e5 8. Re1 Bg4 9. Be3

Statistically, 9. d5 is the most popular move but the text move is also very common. White can also try for a small ending edge with 9. dxe5!? dxe5 10. Be3 Re8 11. a3 or 10…Qxd1 11. Rexd1, in both cases a little bit better for white. A fairly recent example with 9. d5 Nc5 10. Qc2 a5 11. Bg5 h6 12. Bh4 Qc8!? and drawn in 30 moves, Alekseev-Nakamura, Santo Domingo 2003.

9…Bxf3 White can claim a small but nagging and pleasant edge after 9…exd4 10. Nxd4 Bxe2 11. Qxe2 Nc5 12. f3 a5 13. Ndb5!. Black was also unsuccessful in this line with 12…Nh5?! 13. Rad1 Ne6 14. Nxe6 fxe6 15, c5! (obvious but nice), and white was much better and won in 35 moves, V. Popov – I. Saric, Saint Vincent 2005.

10. Bxf3 exd4 11. Bxd4 Nb4!? This line came as a complete surprise. What am I supposed to do? I have all sorts of candidate moves: 12. c5, 12. e5, 12. Nd5. All interesting with pros and cons to each. For example, 12. e5 Nd7!? with strangeness. I have noticed Perelshteyn likes openings, such as the Bogo-Indian, where black can try to seize the dark squares. And that’s what’s happening here. I have to be careful. It is not often that I am surprised by something new to me so early.

perel_1.png

Position after 11…Nb4!? – relatively uncharted waters

12. Nd5?! I don’t love this move. I will have to check the alternatives here. Postscript after the tournament: in fact, it appears 12. e5! is right. If 12…Nd7? 13. Bxb7 Rb8 14. Be4! is rather strong. Therefore my thinking during the game was very flawed; black can’t do that. And if the passive 12…dxe5 13. Bxe5 Nd3, 14. Bxc7! guarantees an edge – for example 14…Qxc7 15. Qxd3 Rad8 16. Bd5!. The feeble alternative 13…Qc8? 14. Qb3! would be even worse. In the database, for some reason Hecht played the weak 12. Be3? Nd7 and the game was drawn, Hecht-Bjelobrk, Queenstown 2006. And Arlandi played the same weak move 12. Be3? and won vs. Bjelobrk, in Mount Buller 2005, but it’s clearly in my opinion not the right choice. My other consideration in the game, 12. c5!?, is pretty good after 12…Nc6 13. cxd6! cxd6 14. Be3 and white has the easier game but not 13. Be3?! dxc5 14. Bxc5 Re8 and white has nothing. Or, 13…Qxd6!? 14. Be3 Qb4 15. Qb3 a5 16. Rad1 also with a small edge.

Conclusion: The move 12. e5!? offers good chances for an edge; the move I played in the game is not good and black is fine. 12. c5 looks less after 12…Nc6 13. cxd6 but it’s also nice for white. I only see two games in the database and they both have the non-informative move 12. Be3?.

12…Nc6 13. Bc3 Re8 and black had more or less equalized. The game continued and black actually wound up a pawn up but it was 3 on 2 on the same side of the board and I held a draw in sudden death.

Actually it got very sharp briefly:

14. Rc1 Ne5 15. Nxf6+ Bxf6 16. Bg4!? This strange move puts an odd spin on things. It’s a total bluff; black can play 16…Nxg4 17. Qxg4 and white has nothing after 17…Be5.

16… c5!? This move is fine too.

17. f4 Nc6?! 17…Nxg4 18. Qxg4 Bxc3 is fine for black. For example, 19. Rxc3 Qf6! is very awkward for white to meet; his pawns are loose. Counter-intuitively, this simplification represents black’s best winning chance.

18. e5! White is fine again.

perel_2.png

Position after 18. e5! – white has enough control again

18…dxe5 19. Bd7 The ‘point’, but how good is it? It turns out to be good enough for equality. I offered a ‘probe draw’ which of course black turned down. He is not risking anything.

19…Re7 20. Bxc6 bxc6 At least I have gotten rid of the knight that was eyeing all the dark squares.

21. Qxd8 I have other moves here. I wanted to stay “simple”. For example, 21. fxe5 Bg7 22. Qxd8+ Rxd8 23. Rc2 with boring equality.

21…Rxd8 22. Rcd1! Rde8!? The last chance to let white do something wrong. 22…Rxd1 23. Rxd1 Re6 24. Re1 e4 25. Bxf6 Rxf6 26. Rxe4 is dead equal. But white has a strong reply (which he misses).

23. fxe5? 23. Rd6? exf4! is horrible, black can try to win after 24. Rxe7 Bxe7 25. Rxc6 Bf8. But obviously best is 23. Kf2! guarding against black rook invasions. Why am I rushing to make a capture I can make later? As a matter of fact, it is black who has to be careful after 23. Kf2! – for example, 23… Kg7? 24. Rd6 Re6 25. Rxe6 Rxe6 26. fxe5 Bg5 27. Kf3 and white can try to win! Black can achieve a draw with 23…Bg7 24. fxe5 Bxe5 25. Bxe5 Rxe5 26. Rxe5 Rxe5 27. Rd7 Rh5 28. h3 Rf5+ 29. Ke3 Re5+ 30. Kd3 Rg5 31. g4 h5! and draw.

23…Bxe5 24. Bxe5 Rxe5 25. Rxe5 Rxe5 26. Rd7 This is drawn; white just needs to be a little careful. But there was no reason to be a pawn down – it was very poor play to miss the easy 22. Kf2! guarding against rook entry points.

26… Re1+ 27. Kf2 Rb1 28. Rxa7 Rxb2+ 29. Kf3 Rc2 30. Ra6 Rxc3+ 31. Kf2 Rxc4 32. Rxa6 h5 33. a4 Rxa4 34. Rxc5 Kg7 35. Rb5 h4 36. h3! and white held on. Easier said than done in a SD/1 finishing time control.

1/2-1/2, 77 moves.

On the board next to me, GM Darmen Sadvastakov convincingly beat GM Mark Paragua on the white side of a Be3 e5 Najdorf.

Round 4.

GM Becerra  – IM Ginsburg  Keres Attack, Sicilian Scheveningen

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. g4!? Nc6 7. g5 Nd7 8. Rg1! A flexible choice.  White prepares Rg1-g3!? to meet black’s principal idea of Nd7-e5.   These lines are discussed in more detail in a separate theoretical post on my site. Black, it seems, can actually go ahead and try 8…Ne5!? 9. Rg3 – the rook lift is not the end of the discussion.

bec_0.png

Position after 8. Rg1!

8…Nb6 This is Plan “B” to gain a foothold in the center with …d6-d5.

9. h4 d5 10. Bb5 Bd7 11. exd5 exd5 12. Be3 Bb4   13. Nxc6! Well-timed.  White gains d4 for operations.

13…Bxc6 The alternative, 13…Bxc3+?!, looks very passive.

14. Bxc6+ bxc6 15. Qd4!

bec_1.png

Position after 15. Qd4! – Don’t panic yet.

15…Qe7!  Not time to panic yet.  Sacrificing a pawn gives black a compact game with chances for counterplay.  Alternatives are much weaker.

16. Qxg7 O-O-O 17. O-O-O Rhg8 18. Qd4 Nc4 19. Kb1 Rge8 20. Bc1 Qb7 21. Ka1 A remarkable defensive construction.  Personally I would not go for this plan (19. Kb1, 21. Ka1). Black retains some counterplay with his next move.

21…Qb6 22. Qf6! Black’s pieces are somewhat uncoordinated.

bec_2.png

Position after 22. Qf6! – I am getting stretched thin.

22…Rd7 23. Rge1 Rde7 24. Rxe7 Rxe7 25. a3 Bxc3 At this stage, I have nothing better than the craven recovery of the pawn minus.

26. Qxc3 Qxf2 27. b3 Ne5 28. Be3 Qf3! Black always plays for activity. 29. Re1 Re6 30. Qd2 Kd7! Setting up a crafty trick.  Do you see it?

31. Bxa7 Nc4!! There it is.   A lateral “pin” of the b3 pawn (Qf3 eyes a3 pawn makes this work) means the knight is untouchable. All at once, black is fine.  This was a particularly nice move to execute with only 3 minutes left to move 40.  Not only is black safe, it’s not a big chore anymore to make all 40 moves.  The last time I played Julio, I had no such luck in as black in a balanced but complicated Sicilian game and went wrong in time pressure, losing in the Miami International 2007.

bec_3.png

Position after the “miracle” 31…Nc4!!

The real exclamation marks belong to the moves just before this (setting it up).   After a brief cogitation, white steers the game into equality.

32. Qb4 Rxe1 33. Qxe1 Nxa3 34. Kb2 Nb5 The knight always finds nice places to hop.

35. Bc5 Qe4 Preventing white’s queen from getting in. The ending is equal.

36. Qxe4 dxe4 37. c4 Nc7 38. Kc3 Ne6 39. Ba3 c5! The simplest. 40. b4 cxb4 41. Bxb4 Kc6 42. Kd2 Nd4 43. Ke3

bec_4.png

Position after 43. Ke3.  A little care needed.

43…Nf5+!

Black should, of course, avoid the horrific blunder 43…Nc2+?? 44. Kxe4 Nxb4 45. Kf5  where only white can win with 2 distant passed pawns versus a knight.

44. Kf4 White avoids taking on e4 for a move, but since there is no zugzwang such niceties don’t matter.

44…Nxh4 45. Kxe4 Ng6 46. Kf5 Nh4+ 47. Ke5 Nf3+ Latching on to the g5 pawn and assuring the draw.

48. Kf6 Kb6 Forced but quite sufficient. There is no zugzwang (black king can shuttle between b6 and c6) so white cannot undertake anything.  All the pawns will leave the board soon.

49. Be7 Kc6 50. Kxf7 And, in view of 50…Nxg5 51. Bxg5 Kc5 eliminating the last pawn, the players agreed to a draw.  A well played and tough struggle.

1/2 – 1/2

More Games Shortly

I’m traveling now but look at that space shortly for some more interesting games I played:

A loss to GM A. Ivanov, Round 5. I was white in a Nf3, Bc4 “attack” versus the Pirc.  I started the opening badly, then confused him enough to reach a defensible but bad ending, then overlooked mate in 2!   Well, players are allowed one bad game per event (my rule).Here’s a picture of GM Ivanov who fell asleep at the closing party, St. Maarten (French side, town of Marigot) May 1992.

ivanov92.jpg

My vanquisher in Round 5, GM Alexander Ivanov – St. Maarten, May 1992

A win vs FM Ilya Figler, Round 6, as black in a King’s Indian.

A loss to GM K. Arkell (ENG), Round 7, in a very similar King’s Indian! (I was black again). He reminded me that he beat me in Lloyds Bank 1981 (more than a quarter century ago, tempus fugit), where he was a lowly rated junior and I was a newly minted IM. Horrors! Apparently, I said at the time (probably to Odendahl) after the game, “I just lost to some Ark-kole.” I don’t remember that, but it sounds plausibly witty. The rematch was very interesting and I will post it soon here.

A smooth win vs FM M. Dougherty (CAN) in Round 8, I was white in a Semi-Slav and whipped out a Lajos Portisch specialty TN. So now I had 5 out of 8. Out of contention for a GM norm, I flew back to Chicago in lieu of the glory of round 9 to prepare for the drudgery of a new work day on Monday. If I had won Round 9. 6-3 might have won some sort of small prize but this event was tiring enough! 4 GM opponents were really a tough slog. I had a performance rating of 2483 FIDE which is pretty good and got my USCF rating part of the way toward my peak of 2578 (now it’s at 2433). How the mighty have fallen.

I note in passing I ran into David Parker at the tournament. He reminded me that he was my roommate in Storrs, CT, US Junior Open 1976! I had no memory of this. These little “memory aides” (people telling me things) really help a lot!

The Fabulous 00s: Crazy Slav Theory

December 22, 2007

Who said the Slav is boring? Here is a crazy sac line. Well, the *main* game is a short draw. But there are lots of insane variations nestled inside, like a Russian doll-within-a-doll Matrioshka!

Let’s see it.

IM Mark Ginsburg – NM David Filipovich (CAN) Chicago Midwest Masters 5/04

I first met my opponent in Quebec 1980, an infamous tournament where Sammy Reshevsky, in a bad position and in time trouble, riddled me with 5 consecutive draw offers – I got so annoyed I blundered and wanted to shake the little man very vigorously.

1. c4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Qc2 White is trying to avoid mainline Slav lines. Black can simply play 4….dxc4!? here with good chances of equality, or go for the Gruenfeld structure with 4…g6. In that case, the most testing move is 5. Bf4 and now black has the chance to play a very interesting move, 5…Na6!? A very interesting sideline. Let’s look at it in some detail.

slavna6_start.png

Position after our Slav “Sideline” 5…Na6!? – What’s going on?

The “solid” but rather uninspiring 5… Bg7 can be met by the “also solid” 6. e3 O-O 7. Nc3 Na6 8. cxd5 Nb4 9. Qd2 Nbxd5 10. Be5! Bh6 11. h3 Be6 12. Be2 Qa5 13. O-O Nxc3 14. Qxc3 Qb6 15. Bc4 and white nursed a small edge to victory, 1-0 Tukmakov,V (2570)-Mariotti,S (2475)/Las Palmas 1978.

6. cxd5? A totally lame move. Also really lame was 6. Nbd2? as played in Ginsburg-Lower, Az. St. Ch. 2004 a few weeks before this game. I won that game, but it had nothing to do with the opening. I really hadn’t studied it!

Correct is 6. e3 Bf5 7. Qb3 and now we get to a key position.

Black can choose from

1. the “gambit” 7…Nb4?,

2. the “speculative” 7…Bxb1?!,

3. or the sensible and apparently new 7….Qb6! – is this really a novelty? No, it’s no novelty; as David Filipovich points out in his comments, 7…Qb6 didn’t do well in games he has seen.

We need to dismiss the first two.

The first thing we have to know here is that 7….Nb4? is totally unsound. The second thing is we have to know why!

slavna6_nb4.png

Position after 7…Nb4? (Analysis). We have to deal with this tricky bad move.

7… Nb4? 8. Qxb4! The only way to refute something is to take what the opponent gives you.

8…e5 9. Qxb7

Now black has two tries, both of which are quite insufficient.

slav_start.png

Position after 9. Qxb7. White is just winning.

Variation A. 9…. exf4? (loses more simply than the alternative)

Variation B. 9….Rb8

Variation A.

The rather primitive try 9…exf4? 10. Ne5! wins for white (remember this!) ,e.g. 10… Bd7 11. Nxd7 Nxd7 12. Qxc6 fxe3 13. Nc3! This is the most accurate. (Humans are tempted by 13. fxe3?! which is OK but less accurate; 13…Rb8 14. Qxd5 Rxb2 15. Bd3! with a white edge – but not 15. Be2? Bb4+ 16. Kd1? (16. Kf2! and white king is out of the danger zone; white is still better) 16…O-O with a huge black initiative, IM Richard Delaune-NM Alexopoulous Philadelphia 1994 and shortly white’s king expired …. 0-1. Black winning the cited game in an upset is an example of the shock and surprise value of placing the horse en prise on move 7.

But again, remember 13. Nc3! is strongest. Don’t be scared of the various hanging pawns. It’s more important to get the guys out of the felt box.

slav_del.png

Position after 13. Nc3! Analysis. Remember, don’t worry about the f2-pawn!

Continuing,

13. Nc3! exf2+ (No better is 13… Rb8 14. c5 exf2+ 15. Kxf2 Rxb2+ 16. Kf3 Qf6+ 17. Qxf6 Nxf6 18. Bd3 Be7 19. Rhb1 Rxb1 20. Rxb1 O-O 21. Rb7 Bd8 22. Rxa7 and wins easily) 14. Kxf2 Qh4+ 15. Kf3 Qf6+ 16. Qxf6 Nxf6 17. c5 and black has a terrible game. 13… Rb8 14. Qxd5 (14. Nc3 Rxb2 15. c5 Rc2 16. Ne4 Qh4+ 17. Ng3 Qf6 18. Qxf6 Nxf6 19. Bd3 Rxg2 20. Be2 and the black rook is trapped! White wins.)

Variation B.

Let’s go back to 9….Rb8. 10. Qxa7! This is the right choice. 10. Qa6? is simply bad and 10. Qxc6+!? leads to crazy and unnecessary complications after the queen sac line 10… Bd7 11. Qxf6!? Qxf6 12. Bxe5 Qb6 13. b3 Bb4+ 14. Nbd2 (14. Kd1 is maybe best; 14… O-O 15. Bxb8 Rxb8 16. cxd5 and the computer likes white, but it looks scary to play!) and eventually black won in Alburt-Shabalov, Parsippany 1996.

So after 9….Rb8 remember that 10. Qxa7! is the best move. Now, the try 10… exf4 is refuted by our familiar 11. Ne5! and white wins easily. This may explain why this line is not seen nowadays. For example, 11…Bd7 12. cxd5! (white actually lost after 12. Bd3 fxe3 13. O-O Rxb2 14. fxe3 Bh6 15. Rxf6? A bad misstep by the Swedish GM Akesson in a game vs. GM Hector, Sweden 2004. The brutal 15. Nc3 is correct!

slav_del2.png

White is going to win after the cold shower variation 15…Bxe3+? 16. Kh1 O-O 17. Nd1!! and wins. It’s worth remembering that if white gets his king to safety, it is likely he’ll win in this set of variations – he can afford pitching pawns left and right because black’s structure is so compromised.

If black does not grab on e3, it transpires that his errant rook on b2 gets in trouble:

15… O-O 16. Rae1 Rd2 (what else?) 17. cxd5 cxd5 18. Qa3! Ng4 19. Qc1 Rxd3 20. Nxd3 Qh4 21. h3 Nxe3 22. Rxe3 Qxd4 23. Rff3, featuring a weird piece line-up, White wins.

Going back to the game, after 15. Rxf6? Qxf6 and poor Akesson was worse now; …. 0-1, Akesson-Hector Sweden 2004. Typical Hector to swindle/win with a very dreadful opening choice.

12… cxd5 13. Nc3! Another familiar motif. White gives up the b2 pawn to speed his agenda. 13…Rxb2 (13… fxe3 14. Nxd7 exf2+ 15. Kxf2 Rxb2+ (15… Nxd7 16. Re1+ Be7 17. Nxd5 wins) 16. Kg1 Nxd7 17. Re1+ Be7 18. Nxd5 O-O 19. Nxe7+ Kg7 and white will be able to convert the material edge into victory.

If the greedy pawn grab 13… Rxb2 14. Nxd7 Nxd7 15. Bb5 Bb4 16. O-O! This is a very important tactic to remember!

slav_del3.png

Position after 16. O-O! One of the winning tactics in white’s arsenal in this line!

16…Bxc3 (what else?) 17. Bxd7+ Qxd7 18. Qa8+ Qd8 19. Qc6+ Ke7 20. Qxc3! and with a nice bit of tactics, white wins this middlegame.

 

It is time to draw a conclusion: ater 6. e3 Bf5 7. Qb3, 7…Nb4? is totally unsound.

Let’s go back to 6. e3 Bf5 7. Qb3. We’ve seen 7….Nb4? is actually rather ridiculous and loses. Now let’s see 7…Bxb1?!, tested by Shabalov unsuccessfully: 8. Qxb7 Qa5+ 9. Nd2 Rd8 10. Qxc6+ Nd7 11. Qb5 (11. Rxb1! Nb4 12. Qb5! White wins easily!) and Epishin went on to win, but it took some time. … 1-0 Epishin,V (2465)-Shabalov,A (2425)/Tbilisi 1989.

Black of course can try the simple 7…Qb6!? here.  However, David Filipovich sent me some games where white did well:  8. Nc3 Nh5 9. Be5 f6 10. Bg3 Nxg3 11. hxg3 += and 1-0, 47, Spraggett, K. – Zysk, R. Dortmund 1984.  Or, 8. Nc3 Nb4?! 9. c5! Nd3 (9…Nc2+?? 10. Qxc2 wins) 10. Bxd3 Qxb3 11. axb3 Bxd3 12. Ne5 += and 1-0, 23, Skembris-Titov, EU-ch, 1992.

In my game, after the lame (but not new)

6. cxd5?, 6… Nb4 7. Qb3 Nbxd5 8. Be5 Qb6 9. Nbd2 was totally equal. White also tried 9. Qxb6 axb6 10. Nc3 Nxc3 11. bxc3 and got nothing after the game 11… Be6 (11… Bg7 12. e3 Bf5 or even 11…Ra3 are both very good for black as well). White actually won later but it had nothing to do with this position, 1-0 Kosic,D (2415)-Lazic,M (2495)/San Benedetto 1990.

9… Bg7 10. e4 Qxb3 11. Nxb3 Nb4 12. Bxf6 exf6 13. Kd2

fil_final.png

Position after 13. Kd2. White has nothing.

I have zero here; even worse, the most obvious move 13…f5 is very scary looking. Strangely, white can hold the balance here in what appears to be a bad position: 14. e5 Be6 15. a3! Bh6+ (15…Nd5 16. Nc5 =; 15…Bxb3 16. axb4 =) 16. Kc3 Nd5+ (16…Bxb3 17. axb4 =) 17. Kc2 b6 (to keep a knight out of c5) 18. h4! and white is all right. Over the board it just looks scary and bad after 13…f5 but with accurate play white can neutralize the two bishops.

1/2-1/2

 

What conclusion? 5….Na6 is indeed somewhat dubious. After 6. e3 Bf5 7. Qb3, black’s relative best is 7…Qb6 and not one of the crazy gambit ideas.  Even so, he is not quite equal. In my game, 6. cxd5 promised zero.

Slav Chebanenko 4…a6

June 17, 2007

IM M. Ginsburg – H. Itkis US Open 2005, Phoenix, AZ

1. c4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 a6 The Chebanenko variation, popular at the top levels. 5. cxd5 I am interested in “proving” that white can play for an advantage with this move after ….a6. The rationale? The dark squares on the black queenside (b6) have been slightly weakened. Theory disagrees with this rationale. My “back-door” rationale is to try to achieve the attacking formation in the brilliant game Portisch-Petrosian, Moscow 1967, which white won in 24 moves. Note in that game defensive specialist Tigran didn’t waste time with a7-a6 yet still went down the drain quickly.
5…cxd5 6. Bf4 Nc6

itkis0.png

This position looks like it should offer white something due to the semi-wasted a7-a6 move. Perhaps 7. Ne5!? – I really want to reach a formation like Portisch-Petrosian mentioned above.

7. e3?! This cannot offer anything. 7…Bg4! By pinning the dangerous white knight, black removes all danger.

8. Qb3 Na5 9. Qc2 Bxf3 Black has equalized easily.

10. gxf3 e6 11. Bd3 Bd6 12. Bg3 Rc8 13. Bh4 b5 14. Rg1 Kf8 15. Qe2 Bb4? There was nothing wrong with 15…Bxh2! here! 16. Rc1 Nc4 16…Bxc3+ is about equal.

17. Kf1 Qa5 17…Nb6 was solid here.

18. Kg2 Rg8?! Nothing wrong with 18…Nxb2 19. Qxb2 Bxc3 20. Qb3 b4 with approximate equality.

19. Kh1 h6? Here, black has the strange and strong resource 19…g5! with the idea 20. Bxg5 Rxg5! 21. Rxg5 Nxb2 22. Qxb2 Ba3 23. Qb3 Bxc1 with equality.

20. f4 Now out of nowhere white has a menacing initiative.

20… Ke7 21. f5 Nxb2 Too late! Now white has a strong counter tactically.

22. Nxd5+! exd5 23. Qxb2 Ba3 24. Rxc8 Rxc8 24…Bxb2 25. Rxg8 is pretty hopeless.

25. Qb3 Rc3? 25…b4 was necessary with white keeping a big plus.

26. Qxd5! Something has clearly gone wrong for black and white gathers too many pawns now.  26…Rxd3? 27. Qe4+ is not playable for black.

26…Qd8 27.Qxd8+ 27. Qg2 wins also (again, 27…Rxd3?? 28. Qe4+ wins). 27…Kxd8 28. Bb1

itkis1.png

28…Kd7 29. Rxg7 Rc1+ 30. Rg1 Rxg1+ 31. Kxg1 This is completely hopeless for black.

31…Nd5 32. Bc2!

Relocating to the favorable b3-g8 diagonal.

32…Nc3 33. Bb3 Ke8 34. Bf6 a5 35. d5 Hitting the knight with a discovered attack. White does everything with gain of time.

35…Ne4 36. Bg7 h5 37. Bc2 Nd6 38. e4 a4 39. e5 Nc4 40. e6 fxe6 41. fxe6 and black resigned.

1-0