Archive for the ‘Alexander Shabalov’ Category

The Fabulous 10s: Weirdness in St Louis (US Championship Round 2)

May 15, 2010

Round 2 Jitters

The official St Louis chess club web page says (in a caption of a photo of Kraai wearing an old-timey hat),

“GM Jesse Kraai played the higher-rated GM Varuzhan Akobian to a draw in round two.”  As a good citizen, I wrote it so they could correct it.

Weirdly, Kraai missed a good chance to resist at the very end!

Check it out:

[Event “2010 U.S. Championship”]
[Site “Saint Louis”]
[Round “2”]
[White “Akobian, Varuzhan”]
[Black “Kraai, Jesse”]
[Result “1-0”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 Why on earth would Kraai play a Benoni, an opening antithetical to his style?  Just a rhetorical question.  Look at the problems Akobian had with solid Slav’s in the World Team! However, it worked out well for black up to a point given white’s bizarre moves… let’s see it….

4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. g3 Bg7 8. Bg2 O-O 9. O-O Re8 10. Nd2 a6 11. a4 Nbd7 12. Nc4 Ne5 13. Na3 Bd7 14. Bf4 Nh5 15. Bxe5?! Chess is not so easy.  This should offer nothing.

15…Bxe5 16. Nc4 b5 16…Nf6 is fine for black.  Nothing wrong with the text move.

17. Nxe5 Rxe5 18. e4 Re8 19. Re1 Nf6 I think most routine Benoni players would immediately go for 19…b4! 20. Nb1 f5! 21. Nd2 Nf6! which is completely fine for black.   We should ask Vugar Gashimov what he’d do.

20. Qd2 Qb6?! 20…Ng4! is strong.  After 21. f4 Qb6! black is in no way worse.  However, both players keep playing second-rate moves and a strange roller-coaster ensues.

21. a5 Qd8 22. f4 b4 23. Nd1 Qb8 24. Nf2 Ra7 25. h3? Too slow.  25. Re3!

25…Bc8 26. Re3 26. Nd3!

26…Rae7 27. Rae1 Bb7 27…Nd7!

28. b3 Qd8 29. Kh2 29. e5! and take back on e5 with a rook is quite good for white.

29…Qa8 30. Qb2? 30. e5! is crushing.  It’s very unusual for Akobian to make so many second-rate moves in one game.

30….Nxd5! 31. Ng4 Nxe3???

31…Nc3! and quite amazingly white is held to a small plus after 32. Nf6+ Kf8 33. Nxe8 Qxe8.  For example, 34. Qd2 Qd8 35. e5 Bxg2 36. exd6 Rxe3 37. Qxe3 Qxd6! (37….Bc6?? 38. Qxc5!) and white will have to work hard.

To account for this blunder, Black said he was bothered by his premature draw in round 1.  It’s a long tournament!

32. Nh6+ 1-0

Deathly Hex Hat - must burn it

The hat looks like a Greg Shahade Porkpie special. It’s gotta go. 🙂   I suggest the Lucky Pen (Fedorowicz won the NY Open once with a Lucky Pen!) instead.  It will get Kraai on a lengthy winning streak.

One More Game from Round 2

Further chaos on a higher board…

[Event “2010 U.S. Championship”]
[Site “Saint Louis”]
[Round “2.1”]

[White “Nakamura, Hikaru”]
[Black “Hess, Robert L”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A17”]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 c5 5. a3 Bxc3 6. Qxc3 O-O 7. b4 d6 8. Bb2
b6 9. g3 Bb7 10. Bg2 Nbd7 11. O-O Rc8 12. d3 Rc7?!
Gearing up to a faulty idea.

Example better line: 12… h6 13. e4 Qe7 14. Rfe1 Rfe8 15. b5 Ra8 16. a4 a5! and it’s OK for black.

13. e4 Qa8 14. Qd2 Rfc8 15. Nh4 b5? This doesn’t work at all.   American juniors almost always have a very tough thing doing nothing in particular.   And, among modern GMs, active Walter Browne lost a lot of games lashing out like this.

16. cxb5 c4 17. dxc4 Bxe4 18. f3 Bb7 19. Rfc1(?!) Easily winning was 19. Qxd6 Rxc4 20. Rf2 Bd5 21. Rd1 and white dominates.
19… Rxc4 20. Rxc4 Rxc4 21. Bf1 Rc8 22. Qxd6 h6
22… Bxf3 looks like a better try.  Now white is totally winning again, but the game is not free of further adventures – see the weird reciprocal blunder on move 33.

23. Rc1 Rxc1 24. Bxc1 g5 25. Ng2 Bxf3 26. Be3 Nb6 27. Bd4 Qd5 28. Qxd5 Nfxd5 29. Ne1 Bd1 30. Nd3 f6 31. Nb2 Bb3 32. Bg2 Kf7 33. Kf2? A serious lapse that is answered by a blunder in return.  Crushing was 33. Bxd5! with the study-like point:  33… exd5 34. a4! Nxa4 35. Bxa7! and wins, very nice!

33… e5?? A really bad blunder.  33… Nc8!  and black can hope for a draw.  For example, 34. a4 Nxb4 35. Bb7 Nd6 36. Bf3 Nc8 37. Bh5+ Kg7 38. a5 Nd5 39. Be8 Nc7 40. Bd7 Nd6 41. Bxa7 Ndxb5 42. Bb8 Bd5 and white has a tiny edge.

34. Bxd5+ Bxd5 35. Bxb6 axb6 36. Na4 f5 37. Nxb6 Ke6 38. a4 If you are curious, yes, 38. Nxd5 wins too.

38…f4 39. a5 Bh1 40. Kg1 Bf3 41. a6 e4 42. Nc4 e3 43. b6 1-0

Let’s See One More

Moving back to a lower board, more jitters!

[Event “2010 U.S. Championship”]
[Site “Saint Louis”]
[Round “2.8”]

[White “Bhat, Vinay S”]
[Black “Kudrin, Sergey”]

[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “D89”]

This game featured some incredible and very difficult to find missed opportunities for white behind the scenes.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8.
Ne2 O-O 9. O-O Nc6 10. Be3 Bg4 11. f3 Na5 12. Bd3 cxd4 13. cxd4 Be6 14. d5 Bxa1
15. Qxa1 f6 16. Bh6 Re8 17. Qd4 Bd7 18. e5
Not a very impressive line, white is soon put in the position of having to find only moves to equalize.

Qb6 19. Qxb6 axb6 20. e6 Ba4 21. Nc3
b5 22. Nxb5?
The first miss.  The brilliant 22. d6!! exd6 23. Re1!  establishes enough domination to hold the balance.  For example, 22…Nc6 (23… Nc4 24. Nd5 f5 25. f4 Kh8 26. Nf6 Nb2 27. Bf1 Rec8 28. a3 b4 29. axb4 Nc4 30. Bd3 Bb5 31. e7 d5 32. Nxd5 Be8) 24. Nd5 f5 25. Bf4 Ne5 26. Bxe5 dxe5 27. Rxe5 Kg7 28. Nc7 and draws.  The maximum coordination established by 22. d6!! is truly remarkable.

22… Red8 23. Nc3 Bc6 24. Be4 Be8 25. Rb1 Rac8 26. Bd2 Nc4 27. Be1 f5? A serious blunder!

27…Nd6 leaves black better.   I can only guess black didn’t see white’s possible reaction.

A Missed Miracle

28. Bd3? Oh no!  White misses a truly incredible shot.   But it takes deep calculation and a keen sense of adventure to take the plunge on it…. do you see it?

It’s 28. Rxb7!! fxe4 29. fxe4 and feast your eyes on this domination!   White is a full rook down… well he has some pawns…. but here’s the kicker – he’s not worse!

First of all, the lame 29…Kf8? loses to  the nice “carom billiards shot” 30. Bh4.
Secondly, 29… g5 30. Rxe7 Bg6 31. Bf2 Re8 32. Rd7 Ne5 33. Bd4 Rxc3 34. Bxe5 is fine for white too. In no line is white worse.  But it was hard to see! The connected pawns set up a mighty force giving plenty of compensation for the oodles of lost material.  It’s really unusual to see how helpless black’s forces are.

28… Ne3! And white loses prosaically.  Too bad!

29. Rxb7 Nxd5 30. Nxd5 Rxd5 31. Be2 Re5 32. Kf1 Rxe6 33. Rb4 Bf7 34. a4 Rc2 35. Bd3 Rc1 36. Be2 Re5 37. Rd4 Be6 38. Kf2 Rc2 39. Rd2 Rxd2 40. Bxd2 Rd5 41. Be3 Kf8 42. Bb6 Rd2 43. Ke1 Rc2 44. f4 Bc4 45. Bf3 e6 46. g3 Rxh2 47. Bf2 Bd5 48. Bd1 Ke7 49. a5 Bb7 50. Kf1 Bg2+ 51. Ke2 Rh1 52. Kd2 Bb7 53. Bb6 h6 54. Be2 Ra1 55. Ke3 Ra3+ 56. Kd4 Rxg3 57. a6 Bxa6 58. Bxa6 h5 59. Ke5 h4 60. Bf2 Rh3 61. Bc4 Rh2 62. Bg1 Rg2 63. Bc5+ Kf7 64. Bxe6+ Kg7 65. Be7 Re2+ 66. Kd6 Rxe6+ 0-1

OK One More

[Event “2010 U.S. Championship”]
[Site “Saint Louis”]
[Round “2.7”]
[White “Shabalov, Alexander”]
[Black “Finegold, Benjamin”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “D10”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 a6 5. b3 Bf5 6. Nf3 e6 7. Be2 Bb4 8. Bd2 Ba3
9. Nh4 Be4 10. Nxe4 Nxe4 11. Nf3 Nd7 12. O-O O-O 13. Be1 a5 14. Qc2 Qe7 15. Nd2
f5 16. Nb1 Bd6 17. f3 Nef6 18. Nc3 Kh8 19. Bf2 Rac8 20. Rad1 Qf7 21. Bd3 Qh5
22. Bg3 Bxg3 23. hxg3 Qg5 24. Qf2 Nh5(?!)

Very strong is the powerful and aesthetic central shot 24… Ne4!!.  White can only grovel to equalize after that move.  25. Nxe4 (I cannot resist showing a mating line after 25. Bxe4 fxe4 26. f4? Qf5 27. Ne2 Nf6 28. Qe1 Ng4 29. Qd2 Qh5 30. Rfe1 Qh2+ 31. Kf1 c5 32. Rc1 cxd4 33. exd4 e3 34. Qc3 g5! 35. Rc2 gxf4 36. gxf4 dxc4 37. bxc4 e5!! 38. dxe5 Qh1+ and already the computer sees a long forced mate, here it is for enjoyment:  39. Ng1 Rxf4+ 40. Ke2 Rd8 41. e6+ Kg8 42. Qd3 Qxg2+ 43. Kd1 Rxd3+ 44. Kc1 Qd2+ 45. Rxd2 exd2+ 46. Kd1 Nf2+ 47. Kc2 Rxc4+ 48. Kb2 Rb4+ 49. Kc2 dxe1=N+ 50. Kc1 Rd1mate!)   Returning to the better 25. Nxe4, 25… dxe4 26. Be2 Nf6 27. f4 Qg6 28. c5 equal.

The game move is actually not bad and white immediately blunders.

25. g4? What’s this? Shabba goes a little bonkers, losing a pawn for nothing.  25. Ne2 was necessary.

25…fxg4 26. f4 Qf6?
Any computer will tell you the “carom shot” 26… Qe7 27. g3 Qb4! is very strong with a distinct edge to black.

27. g3 c5? 28. cxd5 cxd4 29. Ne4! And black has self-destructed.  Too bad!
dxe3 30. Qxe3 Qh6 31. Nd6 exd5 32. Nxc8 Rxc8 33. Bf5 Qd6 34. Qe6 Qc5+ 35. Kh2
Nhf6 36. Rc1 Qf8 37. Rxc8 Qxc8 38. Qe7 h5 39. Re1 h4 40. Bxd7 hxg3+ 41. Kxg3
Qc3+ 42. Re3 Qc2 43. Bxg4 Qb1 44. Re1 Qd3+ 45. Qe3 Ne4+ 46. Kg2 1-0

The Fabulous 00s: The North American Open 2008

December 31, 2008

This amusing annual Bill Goichberg event (always at the Bally’s hotel, Las Vegas) was, well… amusing again.   In one droll episode, NM Zimbeck arrived late for a game with SM Bryant.  Zimbeck bashes out 1. d4 without filling in the player names or the move on his scoresheet and Bryant plays 1… Nf6.  Zimbeck continues to not keep score and emphatically blitzes out one of the worst moves possible, 2. f3.  I found it quite droll that this move merited not keeping score.  To continue with the drollity, in his middlegame Zimbeck was visited by a lady friend who seemed to be tubercular, emitting continuous coughs that were not alleviated by a cough drop.  Since I was right next to all this, it was good theater – except I #$%*#* drew Rubshamen.  I will present the Rubshamen game so you see the irritation.

The chess for me was hard slogging.  Many of the lower rated masters, such as the Champion of Hawaii (!) Rubshamen (2260), defended doggedly coming up with many defensive resources (in both the G/75 and the 40/2 games).  Lower rated players must be getting stronger?

I played in four such tiring G/75 games (2.5 out of 4), drew the aforementioned agonizing superior middlegame vs. Rubshamen by transposing into the wrong ending, then recouped somewhat in the last two rounds with a win over ICC personality “f-pawn” (Aigner) and a rather fortunate draw with black against tough GM Cicak (2664) in the last round, so finishing with 4.5 out of 7.    Let’s see a sharp Round 2 struggle versus GM Alex Shabalov.

Ginsburg – GM Shabalov NAO 08, Round 2.  G/75.   1…b6.

The last time and only time I played Alex, Reno 1992 (one of my three blacks in a row courtesy of the bizarre Weikel “policy” of occasionally awarding three blacks in a row for no reason in critical last rounds – Weikel defended the policy by bellowing incoherently at the top of his lungs), he misplayed as white and I took a draw in a winning position, not realizing it was winning.  I was chided by Bruce Leverett in the chess newsgroups (remember those, they were big in 1992). Time for the second game.

1. c4 b6 2. d4 e6 3. a3 f5 I had pleasant memories of this offbeat variation from my Hammer game. Of course, remembering prior games precisely is not always easy. And not everyone would sacrifice early like Jon Ludwig.

4. Nc3 Nf6 5. d5 Ba6 A strange move, but in the wise words of GM Hellers, “you have to do something.”  It was indicative of my state of mind that I considered 6. e4!? seriously here – I mut have been in crazy attack mode. In the end, I settled for a good, solid, move.  But in fact 6. e4!? is fine, since 6…fxe4! (note that black is worse in the nice forcing sequence after 6…Nxe4? 7. Nxe4 fxe4 8. Qh5+ g6 9. Qe5 Rg8 10. dxe6 Nc6 11. exd7++ Kxd7 12. Qd5+ Bd6 13. Be2!) 7. dxe6 dxe6 8. Qxd8+ is just equal.


Position after 5…Ba6

6. Qa4 exd5 The subtleties of this variation are beyond me.  As black, I would not do this (yet) and play 6…Bd6 instead.  The risky 6…Bc5 is also available. 

7. cxd5 Bd6 8. Bf4! An unusual set-up (Qa4 protecting f4) allows this trade which is to white’s advantage.

8…Qe7 Not absurd is 9…O-O!? 10. Bxd6 cxd6 10. Nf3 Qc8!?.

9. Bxd6 Qxd6 10. Rd1! No reason to put the king on the open queenside.  10…O-O 11. Nf3 Re8 12. e3! Bxf1 13. Kxf1 Ne4! The best way to keep activity but white has an edge. 14. Nb5 Qc5 15. Qb3! White is getting alarming attacking chances.



Position after 15…Kh8.  Go for the throat?

16. d6? I am too excited to make a direct attack in this action game.  As Shabalov mentioned after the game, the simple g2-g3 and Kf1-g2 keeps a very solid edge for white. For example, 16. g3 Na6 17. Kg2 c6 18. dxc6 dxc6 19. Nbd4 and black’s position is very bad.

16…cxd6 17. h4 a6 Another good move here is 17… f4! with a sample variation 18. Rd5 Qc6 19. exf4 Qc1+ 20. Rd1 Qc5 21. Nfd4 Nc6 22. Qd3 Rac8 23. Rh3 d5 and it’s balanced.

18. Nbd4? Another mistake.  18. Rd5! is clearly right.  18… Qc1+
19. Rd1 Qc5 repeats, and 18….Qc6 19. Nc3! (I did not see this move) is a white edge as the dangerous N/e4 is eliminated, freeing the WN on f3 to do damage.  Black should therefore give the check to repeat.   If black does not repeat with 18…Qc1+ 19. Rd1 Qc6?, then 20. Nbd4 Qc5 21. Ng5! is crushing.  For example, 21…Nxg5 22. hxg5 Nc6 23. g6 h6 24. Rxh6+! (a typical attacking idea) 24…gxh6 25. Qf7 and wins.

18… Nc6 19. Ng5 Re7! Excellent play.  I didn’t see this which explains the prior mistake. If white gives a check on f7, black takes, takes on d4, and invades with the queen, winning.

20. Ne2 Rf8 21. Nf4? Again, I am too focused on attack against the BK when it’s high time to figure out the best ending to hold.  A better try is 21. Rd5 but black has the nice and aesthetic shot 21…Re5!! keeping a small edge.  On the other hand, the move I saw, 21… Na5 22. Rxc5 Nxb3 23. Rc7 Nf6 24. g3 Re5 25. Nc3 Rc5 26. Ra7 a5 is about equal.

21… Na5 22. Qd5 Nc4 Of course.  Black’s once dormant knight is now a powerhouse on c4.

23. h5?? Completing the ‘attack suicide’.   White can only stay in the game with 23. Nxe4 fxe4 24. Qxc5 dxc5 25. b3 Nxa3 26. Ra1 Nb5 27. Rxa6 Rb8 and although black is better, much work remains.  It’s important in action games to resist like this.

23… Nxe3+! Did I really expect 23… Nxg5 24. Ng6+ hxg6 25. hxg6+ mating?  Absurd. since 23…Ng3+ also won easily for black.

24. fxe3 Ng3+ and white resigned  0-1 in view of ruinous material loss.  Since each G/75 game followed the prior one by a short span you can see how much nervous energy is lost in the course of a single day.  Still, many players such as Shavadorj, Ehlvest, etc., tried their luck in this format.

Here is one of the tough slog G/75 games versus Show Kitagami (2075).

Ginsburg – Kitagami Round 4 (G/75) King’s Indian Averbakh

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Be2 O-O 6. Bg5 c5 7. d5 h6 8. Be3 e6 9. Qd2 exd5 10. exd5 Kh7 11. h3 b5?! A good way to make counter-play in an action game, although it is not objectively good.

12. cxb5 a6 13. Nf3 axb5 14. Bxb5 Na6 15. O-O Nc7 16.Bc4? (It was criminal for white to miss 16. Bc6! Rb8 17. Rfe1 Bb7 18. Rab1 Nfxd5 19. Bxd5 Bxc3 20. bxc3 Bxd5 21. Bxh6 and white should win.)

16… Rb8 17. Rfe1 Nd7 18. a3 (18. Rac1 Nb6 19. Bb3 Re8 20. Bf4!) 18… Nb6 19. Ba2 Ba6 20. Rab1 (Again good for white was 20. Bf4! Nc4 21. Bxc4 Bxc4 22. Re4 Bxc3 23. Qxc3 Bxd5 24. Bxh6) 20… Nc4 21. Bxc4 Bxc4 22. b4! cxb4 23. Rxb4 Rxb4 24. axb4 Even so, this is good for white.

24…Qa8 25. Bd4! Bxd4 26. Qxd4 Bxd5 27. Re7 (The strong move 27. Nh4!  never occurred to me)

27… Bxf3 28. gxf3 Ne6 29. Qf6 Ng5 30. Ne4 Kg8 31. Kg2 By far the simplest was 31. Nxg5 hxg5 32. b5! and this is clearly good for white.
31… Nxe4 32. fxe4 Qb8 A truly amazing variation was behind the scenes.  32… d5! is a good move. If  the tempting 33. e5 (33. b5! dxe4 34. b6! is stronger)  33….d4+  34. Kh2 Qd8? (34… Qb8! is correct but the text has the merit of a fantastic combination coming up) 35. e6 d3  and now study this position.  White to play and win.  The solution is really incredible.

The solution:

36. f4! (36. exf7+?? Kh7 37. f4 Qc8 38. Qd4 Qc2+ 39. Kg3 d2 40. Rd7 Qb3+ 41. Kg2 d1=Q 42. Qxd1 Qxb4 and it’s drawn) 36… d2 37. exf7+
Kh7 38. f5 gxf5 (38… Qb8+ loses more slowly and less elegantly)

39. Qxf5+ Kg7 40. Qg4+ Kh7 and now let’s pause again.  White to play and mate.  The stunning conclusion:

41. Qg8+!! Rxg8 42. f8=N double check!! Kh8 43. Rh7 mate!  Wow!  That mating pattern is not often seen!

Returning to the prosaic game, with both sides low on time,

33. Qd4 Qd8 34. Qa7 Re8!! (Escaping the bind elegantly) 35. Rxf7 (35. Rxe8+ Qxe8 36. Qb7 Qd8 37. Qd5 Qb6 38. b5 Kf8 and black is fighting)

35… Qg5+ 36. Kf3 Qh5+ 37. Ke3 Qe5 (Black misses a great blow, 37…Qxh3+ 38. f3 Rxe4+!! 39. Kxe4 Qe6+ 40. Kd4 Qxf7 41. Qxf7+ Kxf7 42. b5 Ke6) 38.  Rf4 Qe6! I had actually forgotten about this simple defense. 39. Qd4 Qxh3+ 40. Rf3 Qf1 41. Rf6 Qe1+ 42. Kf4 Qc1+ 43. Qe3 g5+ 44. Kf5 Re5+ 45. Kg6 and this crazy position the players descended into blitz chess chaos and I eventually won somehow.

Here’s the round 6 Aigner game in which I find myself once more permanently fighting against the Leningrad Dutch (I’ve previously discussed games with Fishbein, Guillermo Rey, Jack Young on this site).

Ginsburg – NM Aigner   NAO Round 6 40/2

1. d4 f5 Tigran Petrosian exclaimed “What a delight!  I love playing against the Dutch” when he faced Bent Larsen in San Antonio 1972.  I concur.

2. g3 No crazy gambit with 2. Nc3 d5 3. e4!? dxe4 4. Bf4! for me today, although white does get good play.  See my strange Fishbein game. Also well motivated is 2. Nc3 d5 3. Bg5.

2…Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nf3 There is a strong argument for the well-motivated and solid 4. Nh3! Bg7 5. c3! here, blunting the black bishop and preparing e2-e4.  For example, 5…O-O 6. Qb3+! d5 7. Nf4 e6
8. h4 c5 9. h5 gxh5 and white was better and went on to win, Hebden,M (2530)-Motwani,P (2470)/London 1990}  See also former Women’s Champ Antonia Stefanova’s crushing defeat over veteran GM Mikhail Gurevich in this line at Gibraltar 2008.  I played over this amazingly one-sided game in NIC magazine with great interest – an off-day for Gurevich who has scored many wins in this system.   Antonia did without c3 and just went right for the caveman h2-h4-h5.  Gurevich at one point had a fully acceptable game but succumbed quickly to the onslaught.

4… Bg7 5. O-O d6 6. c4 O-O 7. Nc3 Qe8 8. Qb3 More than twenty years ago I greatly surprised IM (!) Evgeny Bareev in Naestved, Denmark with 8. Nd5 Nxd5 9. cxd5 Qb5 10. e4! TN (my TN; other moves are totally harmless) and after 10…fxe4 11. Ng5! wild complications ensued.  For example, 11…Qxd5?! (he did not play this) 12. Bxe4 Qb5 13. a4 Qb4 14. a5 and white has dangerous threats. Students should look at this line some more as it has many resources for both sides.  Of course, it’s an amazing blitz weapon!  There’s no way black can navigate this position easily.  One of white’s ideas is the crude Bg2xe4, followed by Ng5xh7 and Qh5+ tearing black’s king apart.

This was the first and only time I played a 2560 FIDE-rated IM.  The game with Bareev is presented in detail here.

By the way, I picked up Bareev and Levitov’s book “From London to Elista” at the NAO Bookstore and it’s amazingly good.

8…Na6! White is hoping for black to execute his plan and … get a lost game with 8… e5?? 9. c5+ Kh8 10. cxd6 cxd6 11. Nb5! Qe7 12. Nxd6! and wins.


Position after 8…Na6 – an important moment.

9. Qa3?! The try 9. Ng5!? is very dangerous.   The tricky 9…e5  10. dxe5 Nc5?? backfires horribly – 11. exf6!! Nxb3 12. Bd5+! and white is better.

Another very serious move is 9. Rd1! and white is somewhat better.  Objectively 9. Rd1! may be the best. The moves Qb3 and Rd1 taken together are very logical to anticipate black’s telegraphed e7-e5 break.  The text prepares b2-b4 but leaving the c-pawn alone gives black fairly easy to find counter-chances.

9… c6 9… Qf7 is well met by 10. d5 h6 11. Be3 Ng4 12. Bd2 Nc5 13. h3 Nf6 14.  Ne5!! TN  (in a tournament game white missed this tactic) 14…Qe8 15. Nb5 Na6 16. Nd3 c6 17. dxc6 bxc6 18. Nc3 and white is much better.

10. b4 Nc7 10… e5 looks to best met by  11. dxe5 dxe5 12. b5! with white initiative.  Black is better off with the text move to activate the offside knight.

11. Bb2 Be6 Surprisingly here 11… e5!? is tactically feasible. If 12. dxe5 (12. e3  is not ridiculous) 12… dxe5 13. Qa5 and here the double-attack on c7 and e5 looks dangerous….but, 13…Qe7! is an effective answer.  If  14. Qxe5 (14. Nxe5 Ne4 15. Nxe4 fxe4 16. Rab1 Rf5! 17. Bxe4 Rxe5 18. Bxe5 Bxe5 and black is doing well) 14… Qxb4 and again black is fine.  In a similar Dutch position Viktor Korchnoi indeed did use the c7 and e5 double attack to quickly defeat Sergey Dolmatov as Viktor explains in his “Best Games” series.

12. d5?! A little crazy.  My eyes were burning from the lengthy games I had conducted previously in this tournament and I could not bear another slog.   If 12. Nd2 d5 13. c5 Ne4 14. Nf3 Qd8 15. e3 a5 black is fine and the game is locked up and turgid.

12… cxd5 13. Ng5 13. Nd4?? is just a blunder due to 13…Bf7!.

13… dxc4 14. Nxe6 Nxe6 15. Bxb7 Rb8 16. Bg2 I don’t eat with the queen on a7 because nasty pins can occur with the queen and bishop lined up.  The plan was long-term compensation with the bishops but it’s not correct.

16…Nd4! 17. Rac1 Ne4! 18. Nxe4? An unsound adventure.  Correct is 18. Kh1 and white can fight on although it’s uphill.

18… Nxe2+ Black also had 18… Nb5!?, which I had not forseen in my moribund state.   Fortunately white can hold with 19. Qe3 Bxb2
20. Ng5 c3!? (20… Bxc1? 21. Rxc1 e5 22. Bd5+ Kh8 23. Rxc4 Qe7 24. Rh4 h5 25. Ne6  and this variation is nice because white builds up an attack out of nowhere with the funny Rc4-h4 motif) 21. a4 Nc7 22. Qxa7 and the game toddles on.

19. Kh1


Position after 19. Kh1.  Black has a winning path.

19…Bxb2? A clear and serious misstep.  Correct is 19… Nxc1! 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Ng5 and my anemic calculations only went this far anticipating an attack on black’s king, a clear case of hope-chess.  The computer quickly shows 21…Nd3! cutting off white’s queen for the moment. If 22. Ne6+ (22. Qc3+ Rf6 23. Qxc4 Nxb4 and black wins) 22… Kh6! and this is the ultimate cold shower; black is winning.  Now white is on the b2-h8 diagonal and black’s king is in big trouble.

20. Qxb2 Nxc1 21. Ng5! Nd3 22. Qd4! This position I considered to be completely hopeless for black due to the numerous threats but
the computer still finds moves.

22… h6? Collapse.  Another lemon is 22… e5 (black was reaching for this move then retracted his hand) as 23. Qxc4+ Kh8 24. Qc7! kills.

The toughest is the natural 22…Nxb4 23. a3! (23. Ne6?? Rf6) 23… h6 24. Ne6 Rf6 25. axb4 Rxb4 and the machine shows black can fight on although of course white is better.  The game ended prosaically.

23. Bd5+ Qf7 24. Bxf7+ 1-0

Study Material – The Gibraltar Upset

[Event "Gibraltar"]
[EventDate "2008.01.22"]
[Round "2"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Antoaneta Stefanova"]
[Black "Mikhail Gurevich"]
[ECO "A81"]
[WhiteElo "2464"]
[BlackElo "2607"]

1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Nh3 g6 4. Nf4 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. h4 Nc6 7. h5 g5 8. h6 Bh8 9. Nd3 Nxd4 10. Bxg5 Ne6 11. Bh4 d5 12. Nd2 c6 Black is actually OK here and only tosses the game away later. 13. c4 Ne4 14. cxd5 cxd5 15. Nf3 Qd6 16. Qb3 Bd7 17. Nf4 Bc6 18. Nxe6 Qxe6 19. Rd1 a5 20. Nd4 Qf7 21. g4 Bxd4?! 22. Rxd4 e5? 23. gxf5 exd4 24. Bxe4 Rae8 25. Qg3+ Kh8 Now it’s very obvious black’s king is too exposed.  He probably underestimated his opponent.

26. Bd3 b5 27. Qf4 Qa7 28. Qd6 Qf7 29. Rg1 b4 30. Rg7 Qh5 31. Rg8+! 1-0 A brutal finale.

Elsewhere on the Internet – No Comeback for Bad Bird’s

I noted with horror from Michael Goeller that attempts were being made in some quarters to rehabilitate some pretty bad variations of the Bird Defense to the Ruy Lopez.

Fortunately (for chess logic) it’s easy to see they are no good.

For example, 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nd4?! (a move that doesn’t make much sense) 4. Nxd4 exd4 5. O-O g6? was one such bad line presented as perhaps OK. But it’s not.  White has the simple move 6. c3! (not considered in the article, where 6 d3 is called the “main line”).  Yet the extremely simple and logical  6. c3! is clearly strong.  After 6…dxc3 7. Nxc3 Bg7 8. d4 black has a horrible game.    Openings genius Kenny Regan in the 1970s was actually the paragon of Bird enthusiasts but he kept to the straight and narrow with …Bc5 and …c6  lines.

After 6. c3! Bg7 white can swing for the fences with 7. e5 but then with 7…Nh6! black holds on.    After 6…Bg7 with the straightforward 7. cxd4! Bxd4 it’s not hard to see the floating black bishop is not going to bode well.    The best there is 8. d3! (deferring Nc3 because it’s not certain the N belongs there) and white is well on top, scoring 100% in the database examples I have. Even more amusingly, there is a second way for white.  The TN 7. Qa4! c6 8. Bd3 is also very good for white.  For example, 8….b5 9. Qb3 Ne7 10. a4! and white is having a lot of fun.

Conclusion:  5….g6? is terrible.

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.


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!


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.


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.


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


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!


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!


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


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.



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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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

The Classic 90s: Lloyds Bank 1991

September 3, 2007

Lloyds Bank 1991 was a hoot. Taking place in its typical venue (Cumberland Hotel, Marble Arch, London, England [near Hyde Park]) lots of strong players participated.


Here is Alexei Shirov (2610) with the white pieces (foreground, left) tangling with fellow Latvian Alex Shabalov (2535 at the time). It looks like Shirov is having a good time – it appears the game is actually over judging from the official ChessBase game score: 1. a4 1/2-1/2..

At the rear left, that looks a lot like GM Igor Novikov who now resides in the USA. Center, right, it’s future GM Mark Hebden from England.